Chapter 1: Korra: Anniversary
She spends the eve of her birthday practicing at the Pro-Bending arena, then in the brothers' apartment in the attic.
"Why would you want to spend your birthday in the attic, anyway?" Bolin had asked her after he had granted her permission to stay with them. She had asked him and Mako after their practice session, in the locker room, where the air was stuffy and humid and smelled faintly of sweat. Not that Korra minded it much.
"Because," she replied, plopping down on a bench, "I was born the day after Avatar Aang died. So if tomorrow is my birthday, today is the anniversary of Avatar Aang's death. I don't really feel like being around Tenzin and his family while they're sulking around and mourning."
Mako took off his helmet and shrugged. "Fair enough. I hope you don't mind the couch, though, because it's all that we've got."
Of course, Korra didn't complain.
Korra finds herself unable to sleep tonight. It was rare for her; she would usually be asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. But now, in the middle of the night, she finds herself sitting on the sill of the attic window, gaze set to Air Temple Island.
"Hey," a voice says behind her, "that's my spot." The voice catches Korra by surprise, and she tears her eyes off of the island and onto the figure standing behind her.
Mako chuckles at Korra's reaction and sits down beside her. "Can't sleep?"
"Nope." Korra shakes her head."You can't either?"
"Nah," Mako says, "I can never seem to fall asleep, though." He looks at her, though his eyes don't quite meet hers. "So…uh, happy birthday."
Korra shrugs. "Thanks," she says blandly, turning her head and returning her stare to Air Temple Island.
"What? Don't like birthdays?"
Korra exhales, a long and heavy sigh escaping her lips. "Well, they're not all that bad. I mean, when I lived at the compound in the Southern Water Tribe, I didn't have to train, and I got to see my parents and have dinner with them, and Sifu Katara always made me a cake and stuff, but…it was always awkward. I mean, Sifu and the White Lotus members who knew Avatar Aang were in mourning just the day before it, and then when my birthday came around, it didn't feel—I don't know—welcome. It never felt like my birthday, always the anniversary of Avatar Aang's death, you know?"
Mako puts a hand on her shoulder. "I get it." He sighs. "I've never liked birthdays much, either."
"Yeah, but you weren't born the day after the most powerful man in the world died," she pouts.
"True, true," Mako says. "But, uh, think of it this way: yeah, it sucks that Avatar Aang died since you know his family and all and now you have to live up to his legacy and stuff—"
"—not helping, Mako," Korra snaps with a roll of her eyes.
"Okay, okay, let me finish. Well, uh…if he didn't die, you wouldn't get to be the Avatar, and then…well…you would never have even come to Republic City in the first place, and you would have never met me—us! Me and Bolin...that is," he finishes lamely. "Does that make you feel better?"
Korra smiles. "A little." She pushes herself off of the sill and back into the apartment, heading toward the couch. "Well, I'm gonna try and get some sleep," she says, back turned to Mako. "Good night."
Mako wishes her a good night, and Korra falls asleep almost as soon as her head reaches the pillow Bolin had lent her.
In the morning, she wakes up to a small, crudely iced cake in front of her.
Drowsily, she picks it up, noticing the characters of her name smeared in blue icing over the top. She walks into the kitchen, where Bolin is making breakfast and Mako is reading the newspaper and asks, "who made this?"
Bolin smiles and says, "it's not much, but we figured you should have something."
"So you made it?"
Bolin laughs, a thick, hearty sound. "Actually," he says, gesturing to his brother, "Mako over here did." Mako's face turns almost as red as his scarf as he places a hand over his forehead.
Korra can't help but giggle. "Well thanks, Mako."
Mako just glares at Korra and grunts, "well, aren't you going to eat it?" Korra rolls her eyes playfully and sits down beside him. She elbows him in the ribs, taking it as a "you're welcome."
Chapter 2: Tenzin: Discovery
Tenzin doesn't learn about the Hundred Year War until he is eight.
I figured that because of Tenzin's family, he would know details of the war from a young age, but I figure he has to have a lot of the details explained to him at some point.
Of course, he isn't told everything at once, but he's most likely told a lot.
Tenzin doesn't learn about the Hundred Year War until he is eight.
Of course, he had heard the basic details and snippets of talk of it on the streets—"I'll say, the Fire Nation hasn't been the same since the war's end," "you think you have it bad? I served in the Hundred Year War, and you don't hear me complaining!"—but never the genocide of his father's (and his) people, never the millions of deaths or his parents' own close calls with death, or the reason for Uncle Zuko's scar and the man who gave it to him.
It's not until he hears a harsh gasp resonate through the house from his parents' room that he learns anything about it.
He stands outside his parents' room, his father's back facing him. Aang sobs into the shoulder of his mother, who has one hand on the back of his head and the other rubbing his back soothingly She murmurs, "it's okay, sweetie, it's okay. We're safe; it was just a dream. We're okay," repeatedly. The sobs become more infrequent, and Katara kisses the top of his head and exhales. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Aang nods. "Sure," he replies shakily, lifting his head.
Tenzin's mother gives his father a small smile, taking his hand. But it isn't until she and Aang get out of their bed that they notice Tenzin standing in the doorway. "Come on, I'll make you some tea. We don't want to wake the—Tenzin!"
Aang stares at his son for a moment, eyes wide, then relaxes slightly, sitting down on his knees in front of Tenzin. He puts a hand on his shoulder. Tenzin notices that it's still trembling. "When did you wake up?"
Tenzin stares back at his father. "Well, I heard you, and I thought you were in trouble..."
Aang smiles in an attempt to be reassuring. Tenzin sees through it; he still looks shaken. "No trouble, son. I just a bad dream, that's all."
"What was it about?" Tenzin asks innocently.
His parents share a fervent glance, then Aang sighs. "Well, I guess now is as good a time as any, Katara." He turns his attention back to Tenzin, his expression softening.
He takes Tenzin's hand and starts to lead him down to the kitchen. "How much do you know about the Hundred Year War, Tenzin?"
And with that, Aang and Katara tell him all that they can bear to reveal to him about the war at his age, at about two in the morning over a pot of jasmine tea.
Chapter 3: Mako: Stance
Korra uses the hands-on approach to fix Mako's stance.
“Your stance is off.” It’s the only thing she says as she enters the training room, where Mako has been practicing for the past half hour.
Mako rolls his eyes. “And you’re late. Can we move on from the criticism and start practicing?”
“You really want to fight me with that form?” Korra asks, raising an eyebrow.
“Korra, this is the stance I always fight in. It hasn’t failed me yet.”
She scoffs. “Yeah, but it’s wrong. My Firebending sifu would have you flat on your back in two seconds with it.” She walks behind behind Mako. “Here.”
Before Mako is even aware of what is happening, her chest is pressed against his back, her hands grasping his arms. He prays that she can’t feel his heartbeat quicken, that his head won’t turn in the wrong direction to reveal to her how red his face is becoming, that he won’t trip and fall and make an ass out of himself in front of her yet again, and he feels her moving his arms into a position that’s foreign to him as his mind works. She kicks at his feet to widen his stance. She moves his right leg back and brings his left to the front.
And then she puts her head in the crook of his neck to check her work and adjust his forearms and hands, and as Korra’s hands make contact with his wrists, Mako doesn’t think he can handle this anymore. He feels flustered and bothered and his tongue turns to dry clay in his mouth.
Korra smirks. “And that’s how a Firebender should stand.” Her head is still in the crook of his neck as she brings her hands to his shoulders. “Got it?”
Oh, she’s doing it on purpose!
Mako tries to form words, but they die in his throat. “Uh…I…ah. Y-yeah.”
Chapter 4: Bolin: Worry
Bolin is concerned, even when his brother won't let him be.
"Don't worry about it."
It's his brother's most commonly used phrase.
But despite whatever Mako says, his brother is one of the few things that Bolin does worry about. He's aware that his brother looks out and takes care of him at all costs, even at his own expense. He thinks that Bolin can't tell that when he rations out their meals, Bolin receives a significantly larger portion, leaving Mako with only a meager amount of food scraps. Bolin points this out to Mako one night, and he simply shakes his head and huffs, "don't worry about it, bro. Eat up."
He never did gain back all of the weight he lost on the streets.
And then there's the way Mako would attempt to mask sickness. When he starts to come down with an illness, he trudges along with a dry, hacking cough or a high fever, but when Bolin would suggest that they get help, Mako tells him curtly, "it's nothing. Don't worry about it."
But then he would always work himself to exhaustion, and his body would give out; he passes out while he and Bolin walk from odd job to odd job, in alleyways, in the middle of the streets. Anywhere, at random.
Every time, Bolin sets his unconscious brother down in an alleyway on top of his thin blanket, one of the only comforts the boy has, and wets his jacket with murky water from a nearby puddle, the only water source available to him, and places it over his brother's burning forehead.
And at those times, when he is exposed to the elements of the city in nothing more than his undershirt and thin pair of pants and his brother is out cold with a sweltering fever, all that there was left for Bolin to do was "worry about it."
Chapter 5: Pema: Introduction
Pema meets Tenzin for the first time.
The first time she meets Tenzin is at the United Republic's university.
It is just under a month after Avatar Aang's death. Tenzin holds a lecture about Air Nomad culture, while Pema, a second-year student, frantically jots down notes about everything she finds interesting—which is almost everything.
After the lecture, the Airbending master strides out of the lecture hall, and she rushes out behind him.
His head turns to stare at her for a moment before he briskly whips his head back and continues to walk forward. He exhales. "I'm sorry, young lady, but if you're going to send your condolences, I'm not very interested."
He walks quickly, and Pema takes great strides in order to keep up with him, nearly tripping over her own feet a few times. "No, no," she says, sounding slightly winded, "nothing like that—I mean, your father was a great man, but actually, I'm studying world cultures, but I've taken interest in the Air Nomad culture and, well, I have some additional questions."
Tenzin stops walking. Pema catches her breath. "Such as…?"
"Well," Pema begins, "you covered ancient artifacts and rituals, but I was wondering if you could tell me about the Air Temples and the nomads' customs. Oh, and the Air Acolytes, if it wouldn't be too much of a hassle."
Tenzin offers her a small smile. "No hassle at all," he says, turning and walking back to the lecture hall. "Right this way."
She grins, appreciating the change of heart. "Thank you, sir. My name is Pema, by the way."
Chapter 6: Katara: Reminiscence
As with most of these chapters, this was written before 1x04 or 1x05 aired, so the characterization or continuity might be off in certain places as of those episodes. Be warned!
Every so often, Katara receives a letter from Korra. Usually, they are brief and simple, and Katara suspects she writes them in between adventures: outings with her friends (Mako and Bolin, she'd mentioned), Airbending training (which were long and tedious to the Avatar), fighting Equalists (which she admitted, only to Katara and on one occasion, Tenzin, never ceased to fill her with terror), playing in Pro-Bending matches (much to her son's chagrin). The writing was casual and highly personal, like their relationship usually was, all the same.
So when a White Lotus guard hands her Korra's latest letter, she is not expecting much, though the prospect of hearing from her former student brightens her day all the same.
She opens the letter, surprised to find writing from the very top of the parchment scroll to the very bottom.
Airbending training has been getting better, believe it or not. I can finally get through those damn gates in one piece, and then get them to spin with Airbending now! It's not much, but hey, it's a start.
Also, we won the Pro-Bending tournament, so Mako and Bolin can pay their rent and don't have to worry about money for a while—I told you about how they used to live on the streets, right, Sifu?
Oh and also, Mako? Weepiest. Drunk. Ever. Damn it, you can't take that guy anywhere! Okay, that's a lie, he's a good friend, even though he sucks at talking to people and makes an ass out of himself a lot.
(But…I might actually like him…which is kind of a strange and terrible feeling.)
But moving on to something more important:
I talked to Aang for the first time. It was while I was sleeping last night, I guess he summoned me into the Spirit World or however that works? Well anyway, we talked for a while. He wishes he could have met Pema and been at their wedding, and then meet Ikki, Jinora, and Meelo. And then somehow, he got to the topic of love and how "I see you've been spending a lot of time with that Mako boy, Korra…" and then he suggested that I take him penguin sledding, of all things. I'm still not sure if he was joking or not, but I told him that the only penguins in Republic City belong to the zoo, and I'd rather not be arrested by Chief Bei Fong for the second time this month, and that Mako would probably pee his pants if he had to get on back of a penguin, anyway. (Though I'm sure it's an in-joke between the two of you, because he started talking about you right after he said it. In which case…you sure know how to pick 'em, Sifu.)
He told me to tell you that he misses you. A lot. And I'm sure that you miss him just as much. He went on to say that he had this selfish wish that you'd join him soon, even though your family and I would miss you when you…go. But I think it's selfish of me to not want you and Aang to see each other again, because that means that you'd just be gone and then…I'd miss you an awful lot, Sifu.
Well, I think it's about time I shut up, so I'll write to you another time.
Katara rolls the parchment back up and smiles a small, reminiscent smile, feeling tears well up in her eyes.
Chapter 7: Katara: Beginnings
Katara may hate the Avatar Cycle, but she can't bring herself to hate Aang's successor.
Cycles are a thing of nature—the water, her own element, moves through the earth in one, the seasons shift and change in a tireless circle—and Katara knows this.
But it doesn’t make the Avatar Cycle any less painful.
No, it makes it more painful, because the world can go on, the new Avatar can be sought out and brought forth to fill the void her husband’s death left in the world, and it’s all just a part of nature, blunt and painful and far too candid for her to accept.
She hates it, loathes it with every fiber of her being, but she can’t seem to hate Korra when she is face-to-face with her husband’s successor for the first time.
She meets the girl for the first time shortly after she is revealed by the White Lotus to be the Avatar, when four years—four long years, but it’s still too soon to bring the new Avatar into the light, in her mind—have passed since Aang’s death.
Katara isn’t sure if she wants to hate her or not, to be frank, but the girl’s blue eyes pore into her own, wide and mystified and, for whatever reason, the expression is hauntingly familiar, a ghost of the expression her late husband had frequently worn when he was young. When they had first met.
Katara kneels, the snow crunching against her knees as the settle on the ground, and she is eye-level with Korra.
“My name’s Katara,” she says shakily to the young Avatar, “I trained you in Waterbending once, little Avatar,” Katara explains as she rests her hands against Korra’s tiny arms with a small smile, “and now, I’m going to train you again.”
Chapter 8: Mako and Bolin: Accusation
Mako knows how much Bolin hates to be called a baby, but he's willing to if it'll save both of their skins.
Mako’s hands grasp the wire fence, the metal digging painfully into his raw, reddening hands. He pants as he moves himself up and snatches the wire in front of him.
He dares to look down, only to see the shopkeeper advancing, carrying a bat and swearing loudly at the brothers for stealing from his cart. Bolin is perched, nearly motionless, at the bottom of the fence.
Mako groans and rolls his amber eyes. “Bo, hurry it up!”
Mako glares down at his brother, eyes narrow and unamused. “Of course you can. Just climb the fence and we’re in the clear.”
The fence shakes beneath him, and Mako sees Bolin inch his way up the fence gradually. He raises an eyebrow at his brother in annoyance. “That’s hurrying?”
Bolin pouts, his body shaking with fear, eyes anxious and wide. “I don’t want to fall down!”
We don’t have time for this! Mako scoffs as he looks down once more, only to see that the shopkeeper is advancing, gaining on them, running to the fence and directly toward them. He tries his hardest not to panic right then and there—if the shopkeeper, angry and alert, caught up to them, who knows how much trouble they’ll get into?
And then, Mako has an idea.
It’s not one he’s proud of—he knows how much his brother hates for anyone to belittle him, how sensitive he is over being called a baby—but if it’s going to save his ass, Mako figures, Bolin will thank him in the long run.
“Hey Bo,” Mako calls, “don’t be such a baby!”
“I am not a baby!” Bolin shouts back defiantly.
And with that, to Mako’s relief, Bolin furrows his brow as a look of determination washes over him. He tears at the wire under him and climbs without a sign of the fear that had previously consumed him, as fast as his small body can move.
Mako just smiles, shakes his head in amusement, and scales the fence alongside his brother.
Chapter 9: Korra: Ending
It almost looks like she’s sleeping, until Korra notices how her skin, once dark and rosy and full of life and warmth, is turning ashen and taut.
God, I'm so rusty. But it's been too long since I've posted anything here, so I might as well post this here.
It almost looks like she’s sleeping, until Korra notices how her skin, once dark and rosy and full of life and warmth, is turning ashen and taut. Flushed cheeks are replaced with a pallor that, even through the brown skin, strikes Korra as pale. Katara’s skin, still against the hand that she holds so tenderly, turns cold.
I won’t cry, she swears as she clutches onto her sifu’s hand even tighter. I won’t do it.
A ringing fills her ears as she waits, waits in vain for her sifu’s chest to rise once more, fighting for breath. She doesn’t hear the hushed chatter from outside the room, and she doesn’t want to. Tenzin, her own son never got to say a proper goodbye to Katara, and it seems unfair that Korra did.
She doesn’t deserve to cry over Katara’s body when her own son doesn’t get to.
All Korra can find it in herself to do is sit, hand around Katara’s limp, cool hand, and fight back the tears welling in her eyes.
She hardly notices when the door behind her creaks open, and light floods into the darkened room.
She doesn’t look up when she feels hands press down lightly on her shoulders.
I won’t cry. I can’t cry, I can’t—
Tenzin’s voice is raw and thick—like he’s choking back a sob. His hands shake, and she feels it against her shoulders.
He sits beside her, and Korra breaks as son and pupil mourn together. Tenzin can only cry silently as he pulls Korra into a hug, the young Avatar’s head falling against his chest, her body heaves with each sob.