There are some things in life that are said out of hurt, or out of anger. Most of the time it's just the hearts way of getting the words out when it's been bruised too many times. Sometimes things could be patched up, and the heart can forget it was ever hurt, yet this wasn't one of those times.
She wished she had never said those words to him…
Shouts of fear from all around. Smoke surrounding them. The sound of thunder resonating in his ears. Where was the storm? Pain in his side. Red. So much red… More screams, one sticking out more than the others. The pain… Spirits the pain. A pair of bright lights staring at him and then…
The young Firebender was sitting alone at the fountain, the water trickling out speaking to him in soft whispers. Gentle breezes tickled him in the face, carrying the familiar scent of the bustling city life and… wait, what was that? Something in the back of his head was trying to resurface but as soon as he tried to remember it was gone, carried off on the wind.
Slowly, he stood up from his spot at the fountain, taking in the surroundings. It was a place he once held dear to his heart, yet as he looked around he didn't feel the guilt or pain like usual but instead…peace. Why was that, he wondered? This was the place he had come to with his family when they were younger for picnics. Just right over the hill was where they would all sit. Close enough o the water for him and his brother to throw bread at the friendly turtleducks yet in the shade for his parents to rest against the tree and keep a watchful eye on the brothers.
A smile found its way on Mako's face and before he knew it, he was halfway over the hill on his way to their tree. Once there, he looked out at the pond, it's mirror surface glittering with the setting sun. This place held many fond memories for the young man, yet it also brought up terrible ones.
It was here that he and his brother spent the first couple years of their lives, wanting to be close to what they had left of their parents. It was here he had waited with the Avatar when the equalists kidnapped Bolin. It was here so many years ago he begged his parents to go through the park at night after a probending match.
It was here he had to stand by and watch helplessly from the sidelines, as his parents were shot down in front of him in cold blood.
The young Firebender leaned against the tree, its rough bark scratching the back of his neck and poking his side painfully. He moved around until he was comfortable. It took a moment of gazing at the pond silently to register he was alone here at the park. No vendors, no protesters, nothing. Where was everyone? Just as he was about to get up and investigate, someone called his name.
"Mako!! Mako please, say with us!! Stay with me!!"
Korra had turned her back for a few seconds. Just barely 5 seconds!! There was so much smoke around her that she was having a difficult time breathing let alone seeing when she heard it. A loud crack in the air, almost like canon fire. She heard Bolin yell his name, heard all the panic in his voice. She cleared up enough of the smoke with her bending just to see his knees buckle underneath him, his hands at his side coming up red. An equalist behind him held something in their hand, some kind of strange metal contraption, before they turned around and took off running in the opposite direction. Korra felt her eyes water when he hit the ground, shocked at the sight of his blood. Spirits, there was so much of it all over him. She watched it start to pool around his stomach before she lost it. Her ears filled with the sound of rushing water, her vision blurring slightly as she went into the Avatar state.
That was the last thing she remembered before coming to, surrounded by frantic medics. She could hear Bolin shouting something, his voice catching on every other word.
"Save him!! Use a healer for Agni's sake!! I don't care what the cost is, just do it please!! I can't lose him. Not my brother…" he sobbed, his face covered in filth and grime as the tears he had fought so hard to hold back started to roll down his cheeks. Her heart picking up, Korra made her way over to the crying earthbender, her own eyes watering again at the sight before her.
Just a few feet from them both lay their firebending friend, his complexion taking on a gray hue. Waterbenders surrounded him as they tried to heal his wound, muttering amongst themselves.
"…doesn't look good…"
"Too close to his spine.."
"…lucky to have made it this long…"
"Not long now…"
Korra practically threw herself at his side, her tears falling rapidly. She grabbed his bloodied hand and held it tight.
"Mako!! Mako please, don't leave us!! Don't leave me!! Mako!!"
Another faint breeze tickled his nose, the smell of… gah, what was that? It was lilac. Or maybe lavender… orchid? His mind raced as he looked all around, trying to find the source of the voice.
'Hello? Is anyone there?' he asked, then smacked himself. Of course, someone was there. He felt foolish for even asking it.
A soft chuckle came from a few yards away, so he set off in what he hoped was the right direction.
'Hello? Where are you?'
'Over here, my little prince.'
Mako stumbled, his heart skipping a beat. That wasn't something he heard in years. The only one who called him that was…
Suddenly the memories all came rushing back to him. Korra. The fight. The pain in his side. All that red. The scent on the breeze…
It was jasmine. He remembered it well now. It was something he associated home with. Love. Warmth. Happiness.
The perfume. The name. The voice.
They were rushed to the nearest hospital, working on trying to get the object out of Mako's side without doing more damage. Bolin, after much convincing, was off to the island to get Tenzin and Asami. Korra refused to let Mako's hand go. It was starting to get cold. That wasn't right, he's a Firebender. Where was his warmth? Where was his spark?
When they finally arrived, the doctors and healers were already on standby, waiting for this particular patient. It took several orderlies to pry Korra off Mako and to hold her down while they rushed her friend away. She screamed, fought, threw punches and tried to bend any element at them. When the others showed, Tenzin took her in his arms. The strong embrace of a concerned father and mentor that held her close as she collapsed, sobbing into his chest.
Guilt racked her body with each cry. This was her fault. If she had forced him to stay behind. If she had been closer. If she hadn't frozen at the sight of his blood, his face looking at her full of pain and shock. If only she hadn't said those words to him before going into battle. If only…
Hours passed. They group all stayed in the chairs the staff provided. Asami had cried herself to sleep, leaning up against Bolin. Oh, Bo… he looked so lost, so broken as Spirits only knew what was going through his head then. Tenzin was by Korra's side, keeping a firm hand on her shoulder all the while. Their little family was all waiting impatiently for news of any kind. The hours continued to creep along slowly.
If only she hadn't hesitated to help him.
If only she could take those words back now.
He couldn't believe it. There she was, sitting at the edge of the fountain right where he had just been, smiling up at him. Her green eyes were alight with joy as she stood up and walked towards him. She reached up and brushed the back of her hand against his cheek, wiping away the tear that had started to fall without his knowledge.
Mako was shocked beyond words. After all these years, he was able to see her again. She looked as young and beautiful as the day her and his father had---
The puzzle pieces clicked into place.
More tears started to fall and her smile turned from joyful to pained.
'Oh, my little prince…' she whispered, reaching up and wrapping both arms around his shoulders. The scent of her jasmine perfume filled his senses as he hesitantly wrapped his around her waist, crying into her shoulder as she consoled him. He couldn't remember the last time he had done this.
'I'm dead, aren't I?' he asked, half hoping her to lie to him. They pulled away and she looked into his eyes, tears in her own.
'No. Not yet. You have a choice to make, son,' she wiped another tear away from his face then smiled, 'you look so much like your father…'
'Maybe so, but he has your tender heart dear,' came another, deeper voice from their side. Mako looked at an almost spitting image of himself, right down to the golden eyes and half smirk.
'Dad…' slowly he let go of his mom and embraced his dad. They held on for a few minutes before his dad held him at arm's length, smiling proudly.
'Look at you. I didn't know a grown man such as yourself would start crying like a little child. And I see you still have that ratty old thing, too!' His dad teased, tugging playfully at the fraying edge. A small chuckle escaped Mako's mouth at his dad joking, wiping at his eyes furiously. This was something he had only dreamt of for years and yet…
This should have been perfect. Nothing should have been bothering Mako but he just couldn't stop the tears from falling, no matter how many times he wiped them away.
'Mom… Dad…. I-I-I can't go with you. I'm not ready. Bolin…Asami…Korra,' he said, wiping feverishly at his eyes. They shared a look before looking back at him, both wearing the same sad smile. One of understanding and heartache.
'Before anything happens, I have to let you know. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. That night on our way home I said something to you that's haunted me for years—'
'Mako, it's ok. We understand…' his dad started, but his son held his hand up.
'Dad please, I have to say this. When we were coming home I was so upset with you both. I said those three words that hurt so much, but I didn't mean them. The last thing I ever said to you was 'I hate you'. I wish I could have taken it back and said how much—'dammit why wouldn't the tears stop? This was the moment he had been waiting for and for some reason the words just didn't want to come out. Instead, he kept repeating the same thing over and over again.
'I didn't mean it…. I didn't mean it….'
"I didn't mean it," she whispered to herself. Gone were the tears, in their place a numbing feeling that had engulfed her entire body. It had been over 6 hours and there hadn't been a single word on Mako's condition. Tenzin had escorted Asami back to the island so she would rest. Bolin and Korra refused to move from their spots, insisting that they be there in case he got out of surgery.
The earthbender was sitting across from her, his gaze slowly falling on her.
"Didn't mean what, Korra?" he asked, exhaustion and worry evident in his voice. She looked at him, debating on telling him in his condition. Would he blow up on her like his brother? If so, she deserved it. She sighed and rubbed her eyes.
"Before we went to the warehouse, Mako and I kinda got into another fight—"
"Yeah, I was there. Nothing new," he said, the corners of his lips tugging up.
"Bo, this was different. I…. I said some things that I didn't mean. I said them out of hurt and now…now he's in there and all I can think about is what I told him." Now the tears were trying to come back, but she held them off. She would rather be numb than feel the pain again. The earthbender looked at her suspiciously, his curiosity getting the better of him. Slowly, he moved over the side of his friend and placed a hand on her shoulder. He knew that everyone was taking this rough. Hell, he was the perfect case of that, but he knew this girl and his brother had a special bond. One that they tried to deny for months now.
"Korra, you know you can tell me anything. I won't get upset."
She looked at him from the corner of her eye, saw the genuine concerned expression and knew he was telling the truth.
"Bo… I told him….I said I hated him," she muttered, feeling a tear roll down her cheek. The numb shroud she had encased herself in was starting to wash away with each tear that had started falling, and she hated it. The thought of possibly losing Mako came over her and she chocked on a sob. She was caught off guard as she was pulled back into the arms of her friend, holding her against his chest tightly.
"I think we all know that's not the truth. There's no need to feel guilty or upset either. When he wakes up, you can tell him the truth, because let's face it, everyone is getting a little old of this 'denial' game you two have been playing for months now," he tried to joke, and was rewarded with a snort from the waterbender.
"I'm not denying anything. He gets on my nerves, he's an annoying hothead who thinks he's a know-it-all, and he—"
"Feels the same way about you," he finished.
They sat there in silence for a few minutes until she said one word.
"Asami…" Bolin frowned, not knowing how to approach this subject. So, he just rocked her back and forth gently, just like his parents had done for him so many years ago. Just like his brother had done countless of times after their deaths.
"We'll think of something, but right now you should rest. You look like something a badgermole dug up," again he was rewarded with a snort.
"Actually, I'm going to go get some air. I'll be back." With that, she broke free of his embrace and walked out the door.
The morning air welcomed her, the light of the sun warming her. Any other day, this would have been a great morning to train, to meditate, and to take Naga out for a stroll. All she could think of was the Firebender inside and if he would make it to see another sunrise like this. Her thoughts went back to the night before and to their fight.
The island was the ideal picture of tranquility to anyone on the mainland. The sun was just starting to set behind the tallest tower, casting shadows out onto the sea's mirror-like reflection. However, to those who lived on the island it was anything but. The resident waterbender and Firebender were having a fight about the equalist movement and the plan to take out a base tonight. Again. The others tried to tone it out as much as possible until Korra threw a handful of food at his head, which caused the other kids to follow the act and cause an all out food fight. While Tenzin tried to restore peace at the dinner table, Pema pushed them outside and ordered them to clear their heads.
They walked in silence, brushing bits of food out of their hair and off their clothes. It wasn't until they were almost at the docks when Mako spoke up.
"We should wait for a couple days, Korra."
"Mako, this is the first thing we've heard about Amon and his group in days!"
"Exactly! It could be a trap! For once, just use your head before rushing into things like this—"
"I do think! I think about you and your brother! I think about saving Tenzin and his family and the city! That's all I think about and that's why I'm doing all of this Mako! It's my job!" she yelled, throwing her hands up in the air.
"It may be your job, but that doesn't mean you have to act like a brainless idiot! What if you got hurt? What if you're captured and have your bending taken away? Then what, Korra? Answer me that!" he asked, staring into her blue eyes. He secretly loved the way they darkened when she was angry, how her face would get flushed. They held eye contact for a few seconds before she looked away and huffed.
"I'll be fine. In fact, I think you and the others should stay—"
"No. No, absolutely not! See this is what I mean! You think you can do this on your own but you can't. You need help Korra and we're here to help you bring Amon down." He stepped forward and grabbed her shoulders, turning her around to face him.
"Look, you're a stubborn, hard headed brat at times but I…. I really don't know what I would do if you got hurt, or worse. The only reason I want to go with you on these crazy missions is to make sure nothing happens to you. The world needs the Avatar… and I need you," he whispered, letting the words tumble out before he could catch himself. 'Well, too late now,' he thought nervously.
However, he wasn't expecting her reaction.
She shoved him away, shaking her head and frowning.
"Dammit Mako! Why do you have to say something like that? You can't go back and forth with Asami and me like this! It's not fair to her and it's hurting me. Spirits, you need to make up your mind!" then she said something she instantly wished she could take back, " I…. I hate you!!"
It was deathly quiet as soon as those words were out in the open. She needed to do something before he could hear her heart breaking at her own mistake, but she wasn't given the chance. For a brief moment, he looked hurt but he masked it quickly. His stare was cold, and he looked off to the side.
"I'll tell Bolin to get ready. We all leave within the hour," and with that, he walked past her, heading back to the temple. He had made it over the hill before he heard her sob into the night, and he ached to go back to her, to take her in his arms and hold her tight….
He kept walking away, both hearts breaking with each step he took.
Korra walked back inside to the waiting room, wiping her fresh wet eyes. She smiled softly at the sight of Bolin sprawled across half the chairs, snoring heavily. Taking her spot in front of the operating room, she waited, going over in her mind what she would say to her friend when he woke up. No longer was there doubt in her mind. He would wake up, or else she would go to the Spirit world herself and drag him back. And that was the truth.
Mako heard a soft whisper behind him, but when he turned there was no one there. He felt a hand on his shoulder and he turned back around to see his parents. His mother quickly wrapped him in another hug while his dad squeezed his shoulder firmly, tears in both their eyes.
'Son, we know. You were 8 years old then, and you didn't know any better. Look at how proud you've made us with what all you've accomplished. You took such care of your brother, you're both amazing benders—'
'Of course they are! Look who they parents are,' his dad joked, stroking his chin with his free hand. His mother laughed and let go of Mako to smack his dad's chest.
'You've caught the eye of an equally powerful bender—'
'She's a keeper,' his dad winked. Mako felt his face flush a little.
'My point is to not regret the actions of that night son, for it's made you and your brother into the young men you are today and for that, we are so proud of you both,' his mom finished. His dad let go of his shoulder to ruffle his hair.
'We miss you both,' Mako mumbled after fixing his hair where his dad had messed it up. At this, his mother had to turn into her husband's embrace, and he looked at his son with such pain and longing.
'We know, and we're sorry we left you with so much responsibility. If there was anything we could do to change things we would, but we all must learn to accept how things are. Just know we are always watching out for you and no matter what, we will always love you.'
The young Firebender looked at his parents again, remembering all their times together long ago when he heard the faint whisper carried through the wind again. It sounded like a… cry? Who was crying?
'You need to go back, Mako. She's waiting for you,' his dad said sadly, while his mother quickly took him into her arms again, fussing over his hair and straightening his scarf. He walked a few feet away from them before turning around and taking one last look at his parents. His mother's stubborn curl and friendly smile, his dad's warm eyes and cocky grin much like his own. After all this time he was finally able to say those words he had wanted to tell them for years.
'I love you both.'
It had been over 8 hours of intense operation. The metal object had shattered close to his spine, making metalbending the pieces out a dangerous task. They took their time and finally sent a doctor out to the group.
In the end they had managed to pull out all but one fragment due to it being too close to a bundle of nerves. The young doctor made a small joke about 'nerves of steel' and Bolin let out a tearful laugh. They moved him to another room but only one was allowed to see Mako. Everyone looked at one another, thinking this out. Should it be the brother, who almost lost what little family he had left? The girlfriend, who almost lost a lover? The girl who tried to save him herself? Although all equally worried the decided to let Korra in first. Bolin was sure he wouldn't be able to handle seeing his strong brother weak and so close to death and after considering this, Asami agreed. The waited out in the hallway while Korra hesitantly stood at his door.
Would she be able to see him in this condition? With a heavy heart and a gentle shove from the others, she made her way inside the room.
The sun was shining through the curtains, a soft beam of light hitting the space above Mako's head. His skin was as white as Naga's fur, his eyes sunken in slightly. He was shirtless and there were bandages wrapped around his waist. Korra felt ill at remembering what lay beneath them. Next to him on the little table was a small jar containing the shards. Tough guy souvenirs. She forced herself to look away from them and back to her teammate. Even after all the hell he went through the last several hours, he looked so at peace. Making her way to his side, she grabbed his hand and squeezed tightly.
"Hey cool guy," she muttered, her voice already shaking. She cleared her throat and continued.
"Listen, we're all here for you. Bo, Asami, even Tenzin. The doctors tried to get this… thing out of you but it broke up into tiny pieces. Most of it is out except for one piece but you can officially say you have nerves of steel, right?" she laughed, using the lame joke from earlier. What was she suppose to say here? I'm sorry you got hurt because of me? I wish you would've stayed away from this one fight? Please don't leave me because I have to tell you the truth? Her eyes prickled at that last thought. A world without Mako? She couldn't even try to imagine it. A sob escaped her throat and she shook her head.
"If only you could see how hard I'm crying. You'd get a kick out of it I'm sure of it…" by now the tears were falling, "Mako, I don't know if you can hear me or not… but please. Please stay with me…eeeee--- US!! Stay with us. Bolin needs you. Asami needs you, too….even I do. Especially me," now the tears and words wouldn't stop, "Mako please stay with me. I need you. I don't hate you, cool guy…. I l-lov—"
She stopped and looked at their entwined hands, watched as his fingers slowly closed around hers.
Outside, Asami stood by the door, hearing Korra's incomplete confession. She had come to speculate about it but it was the look in the Avatar's eyes when they were working on Mako that proved it to the Sato heiress. It hit her then that while she admired the Firebender, Korra was actually in love with him. And he loved the waterbender. A sad smile touched her lips. She should be upset or angry, but all she felt was acceptance. Happiness even. She should have figured this would have happened sometime or another, whether they saw it too or not.
"You did say it, you liar!"
"I did not! You were too tired and probably imagined it! Weirdo."
"Why are you being so difficult?!"
"I am not!!"
Bolin and Asami quietly laughed as they watched Korra and Mako argue again. It had been a couple of days after the Firebender's near death experience and although he was itching to get back home, he was forced to stay in the hospital for close observation. Korra has chosen to stay by his side constantly, using the excuse of not trusting one of the new female nurses assigned to Mako. He would shake his head, smiling and teasing her nonstop about being jealous.
"Think she'll say it again?" Bolin whispered to his friend, grinning like a fool at the sight before them. Asami shrugged, smiling as Korra started to hit a defenseless Mako with a pillow again.
"She did once. I don't see why she wouldn't again."
After years of grief and regret, the young Firebender had gotten the one thing he had wished for.
After hours of panic and regret, the Avatar got the thing she had secretly been wishing for.
They had been forgiven.