what the heckie was that book 3 finale I’m in pieces. So here’s aftermath makorra back at air temple island. this one’s for alice since….I broke my promise and wrote this fic before the other one..I’m scUM.
“Can you take this to Korra?”
Mako looks down at a tray of food unlikely to be found at air temple island: seal jerky, chicken soup, apple slices covered in cinnamon sugar, a big salad of green veggies, and some smoothie he can’t identify. Pema goes out of her way to make Korra meals high in protein and calories to try and get some of her strength back, which means she tries her handle in cooking meat. It’s been awhile, and her first attempt at seal jerky is burned, but Tenzin steps in to help since he remembers just how Katara used to make it.
It’s a tray of good food, but he doubts Korra will eat much of it.
“Sure,” and he barely hears his own voice as he takes the tray off the kitchen counter and starts to meander through the halls of the temple—walls that don’t move, walls that don’t burn. He gets a little claustrophobic in their home, but he doesn’t tell anyone. Bolin seems to pick up on it though, and he usually walks with Mako to and from places, if only to calm his constantly fraying nerves.
Korra’s taken Jinora’s room, as it has the biggest window for her to look out. Jinora doesn’t mind, even moves some of her favorite books down to wheelchair level in case Korra ever feels up to reading. But as far as Mako and anyone else can tell, the books have gone untouched.
He knocks twice and calls her name before he just lets himself in. After a week of the same routine, Mako’s learns she won’t answer.
Instantly, he feels guilty when he finds her asleep; he doesn’t want to wake her, not when her recuperation is so crucial. But Pema made it clear that they have to wake her up and make her eat, otherwise she’s not going to get much better. Almost at a tiptoe, he comes up to her bed and sets the tray on her nightstand before he drags a chair from the corner beside her. He gets close, almost too close, he supposes, contemplating the best way to wake her up. Eventually he slips off one of his gloves and cards his fingers very gently through her hair.
It takes maybe three minutes, but her blue eyes open, slow and heavy. She’s as quiet as someone sleeping, but doesn’t look like she gets a wink of it. She doesn’t say anything, only looks at him. “Hey,” he whispers, and his voice cracks on the single word. “Lunch time.”
She lets him help her sit up in her bed, fluff the pillows around her back and neck. “Looks like it’s solid foods today, huh? Well, sorta. There’s still some soup,” he huffs out the last part as he moves to put the tray in her lap. “Seal jerky might be a little hard to stomach but Pema made it just in case you want it.”
Korra stares straight down at her food, not moving.
Mako hasn’t done this. It’s been Lin, Pema or Asami coming in to help her eat and he hasn’t done this. He knows Korra, headstrong and stubborn, and he wonders how hard it must be to see herself like this, to have others help her do things she used to be able to do on her own. “Umm,” he fumbles on his own thoughts, “What—what do you want first?” He picks up the soup and the tray of fruit.
He can’t stop his face from falling. “Asami had to go to work. She’ll be back this afternoon.” He bites his lips as her eyes seem to get even duller. “If you really need her, I can try to call her for you.”
“No,” she rasps out. “It’s fine.” Again, he offers the food, one in each hand. “I’m not hungry.”
There’s a sigh that escapes before he catches himself. It’s important he doesn’t try and get too frustrated with her. “Korra, you need to eat.” When she doesn’t reply Mako leans in a bit, his head falling. “Please?” he begs lightly.
She sighs, something he can only see in the rise and fall of her chest. “My arms hurt,” she tells him and for a minute, Mako doesn’t understand but he eventually pieces it all together. He sets the apples down and holds the bowl of soup, now comfortably warm in the palm of his hands. He takes a spoonful, represses the urge to blow on it outright, and carefully spoons it into her mouth.
“Is it too hot?” he asks, giving her another spoonful. “Or maybe too cold? I could try to heat it up, but I might set it on fire,” it’s supposed to be a joke, something Bolin could say that might make her smile, but it’s half-assed at best.
“It’s fine,” she mumbles, and there’s silence as Mako finishes feeding her the bowl of soup. At the last of it, he gets a little too much on the spoon and it spills out as his normally steady hand shakes. Some of it dribbles onto the heel of his hand and down his wrist, but most of it dribbles down Korra’s lips and onto her shirt.
“Shoot,” Mako hisses and he looks for a napkin on the tray. There isn’t one, so he has to make do with unrolling his sleeve and using that to wipe her mouth. It’s probably not very clean and might even smell, but Korra doesn’t say anything about it. “Sorry.” His hand lingers, fingers aching to smooth the bags under her eyes; he wishes that were a possibility. Instead, he reaches up and pushes her hair out of her clammy forehead.
“Greasy,” Korra tells him, and he retracts his hand immediately. He doesn’t think his hand is that warm or clammy, but then again, he’s always wearing gloves so what does he know? “No,” she tells him, as if reading his mind. Even sick she could read him like a book. “Not you. Me. I need a bath.”
Again, he touches her hair and truth be told it is quite greasy. Baths are something Lin and Asami have been in charge of. Or at least, Mako assumes as much. When was the last time she’d gotten a bath? “D’you want one? I can get Lin. Or…” He bites his tongue as soon as the thought pops into his head.
But even in her state, Korra presses at his little slip up. “Or?”
Mako’s face feels like it’s on fire. “I can help you,” he tells her. He doesn’t want to make her uncomfortable, nor does he want to ignore her needs so he adds, “B-but only if you want!” This is terribly awkward. “I could at least wash your hair for you? I don’t mind, honest.”
Tired, her eyes slide shut, but she nods. “Wash my hair, please?”
He whispers out an “Of course,” before he goes to get her wheel chair in the corner of the room; he spins it around to roll it towards the bedside only to see her with her arms barely up in the air.
The fact that she doesn’t want the wheelchair doesn’t surprise him.
So, he ditches the wheelchair and walks back over, peeling back the covers. There are bruises everywhere and he’s afraid of even touching her—it looks like it would hurt. But he hooks one arm underneath her knees and leans down so she can encircle her arms around his neck, and he walks down to the washroom.
Mako tries varying types of steps on the short trip there to try and not bob her up and down. He ends up adapting some weird march type step that his him rolling his feet to keep his upper body from moving; something he noticed Bumi had a habit of doing.
In the washroom, he finds a small chair that looks like something Asami had put there; it also looks like Ikki or Meelo have gotten to it, judging by the shades of Asami’s lipstick on the upholstery. Luckily, the chair has enough back support for Korra, so Mako sets her on there, her back to the sink. (It involves him putting himself in an awkward position on the tile floor, something he wishes Korra would laugh at.) Because he doesn’t want her to crane her head back that far, he slips off his grey tunic entirely, leaving him in his white undershirt, and balls it up as a make-shift pillow to fill the space. After he takes off his other glove, he makes sure his tone is gentle and says, “Tilt your head back.” He takes extra care to make sure the tunic stays on the hard edges of the sink.
He finds some of Asami’s shampoo and once he rinses her hair out, he starts to gently lather it in; it smells familiar, but he can’t describe it any other than “spicy”. To him, it just smells like Asami. Mako misses the ocean scent that seemed to linger in Korra’s hair from all her morning swims.
The silence is painful so Mako decides that maybe talking to himself will make her feel more normal. Maybe, it would help. “Where does Asami get all this stuff? Smells like she imports it straight from the Fire Nation capital itself.” He rambles on after that, taking extra time to massage her scalp, in case it helps. He doesn’t even know if she has a headache, but the look on her face says it’s that and more.
Once he’s sure he’s gotten all of her hair, he gets a pail and fills it up with warm water and carefully pours it over her hair, rinsing out the shampoo. Looking around for a bottle of conditioner, he empties out what little is left and slicks a bit of that through her hair. Again, he’s careful to use warm water to rinse out the conditioner before he tilts her head back up and grabs a clean towel from the shelf in the corner.
“Let’s get it all wrapped up,” Mako mumbles, more of determined statement than anything else. He’s seen Asami dry her hair by wrapping the towel in this twisty knot on her head, but as he tries to do it himself, he finds it’s a lot harder than it looks. But Korra doesn’t say anything as he tries once, twice, seven times and he could kick himself in the face. Asami would do such a better job than him at all this. She could wash her hair and give her a bath, not to mention she could probably do all of it without the awkward silences.
After what feels like fifteen attempts, Mako kinda-sorta gets all Korra’s hair wrapped up. But as he carries her back to the room, his sad excuse for a wrap falls to the floor and he feels ashamed. When he sets her back in her bed, he sets her to the far end, near the wall, before he grabs the brush on the corner nightstand. “Here, I’ll brush your hair.”
Trying to find a way to brush her hair from behind proves tough, and Mako ends up pushing Korra up a bit and wiggling behind her in her bed. He presses his back to the headboard and scoots her around so she’s sitting up between his legs. He can’t brush her hair with her head against his chest, so he uses a pillow as leverage.
It’s still pretty wet, drops clinging onto the teeth of the brush, but it combs easily. He doesn’t want her to go back to bed with wet hair, so he puts two finger in his mouth and lets out a sharp whistle. Seconds later, Ikki comes running into the room, lingering at the doorway. She looks…apprehensive; afraid to approach Korra in case of making anything worse. Korra notices and looks away, and Mako’s heart sinks.
“Ikki,” Mako begins softly, “Would you mind helping me dry Korra’s hair?” Ikki nods and trots carefully into the room. “Be gentle,” Mako reminds her, but he figures she already knows.
It takes a few breeze like currents to get Korra’s hair to reasonably dry, but Ikki manages. “Thank you,” Korra rasps out, and Ikki makes some sort of squeaking noise.
“Y-you’re welcome! I hope you feel better,” it’s so different from the chatter he normally hears from her. Mako sees her eye the tray on the table. “Mom wants you to try and eat the apples. And maybe some of the vegetables too. They’ll make you big and strong again!”
Another sigh from Korra, only told through the rise and fall of her chest.
Ikki totters away quickly, leaving a draft in her wake. Mako again starts brushing her hair, ridding it of the few tangles the airbending caused. It’s quiet again and he hates it so he asks, “Does Asami or Lin do anything with your hair?”
He tries again. “What about your mom?”
She stiffens slightly.
He combs through her hair slowly, needlessly, only to keep things from being silent and still. “She’s coming, you know. She’ll be here tomorrow night.”
Korra nods. “I know.”
Again, he tries, because he won’t stop trying. “Did she ever do anything with your hair when you were a kid? Or have you worn it the same way all these years?”
Korra just shakes her head no, and Mako has to fight a sigh. But then, she says, “Master Katara used to braid my hair just like hers.”
“Oh,” Mako breathes, final putting the brush aside. He tries to visualize a braid going down her back, but it’s hard. So he’ll have to make one himself. “I can braid your hair, if you like.” He coughs. “It might keep your hair from getting less greasy.” He doesn’t know if that’s true, but it sounds like a good theory.
This time he demands a response (he’s not going to do it if she doesn’t want it), so he makes a clear question. “Would you like me to braid your hair?”
He gets to work immediately, drawing memories from when he was seven and he watched his mother braid her own hair just before she went to sleep. Three separate strands, alternate between them, weave under and over…it looks kinda bad, but not as bad as he thought; and at least he’s not knotting her hair.
“This looks really nice on you. You know, if I could braid worth a yuan,” he laughs at his bad joke. “If someone asks who braided it, blame it on Ikki!”
“Hey!” There’s a whine from the doorway and Mako looks to see a slightly dejected Ikki, her hands behind her back.
“I was kidding,” Mako laughs, and Ikki smiles a bit. She pulls her hands out from behind her and shows him two small flowers. “I found them out in the garden,” she announces proudly. “You should put them in her hair!”
Mako’s hand drifts down and squeezes Korra’s shoulder. “Sounds like a great idea, Ikki. What do you think, Korra?”
“They’re pretty,” Korra tells her as Ikki dashes over to put them in her lap. “Thank you.”
“Still not as pretty as you! Even when you’re sick!” Ikki promises, and even though she’s seven and she meant no harm, Mako sees what small trace of a smile is on Korra’s face disappear.
“Thank you,” Korra repeats, fainter.
Ikki lingers to correct Mako’s shoddy braid before she slips away, but not before she puts the browning apples in Korra’s lap. He’s happy when Korra actually grabs a slice and eats one. “She’s right you know,” Mako tells her, tearing off the long stem of a daisy and searching for a spot to put it. “Still not as pretty as you. Even when you are sick. You already look much better than you did a week ago.”
“I don’t feel much better,” Korra almost spats. “I must look terrible.”
Mako shakes his head. “You’re just recovering. We can all tell. Bruises are healing up, fever isn’t as high…” he puts the back of his hand to her forehead to clarify his point. “Give it some time. You’ll get back on your feet.”
“…I’m not so sure about that,” Korra rasps out.
It breaks his heart to see her lose such confidence in herself. “Why do you say that?”
He waits, using all the patience he has to not ask another question and lets her answer on her own terms. Eventually, she swallows thickly and says, “I can’t sleep.”
He puts the other flower in her braid, unsure of what to say. He doesn’t think there is anything to say, not from him, at least. “Are you in pain? Do you need something for it?”
She only leans back into the pillow, pushing and herself into his chest and repeats it. “I can’t sleep.”
It sounds desperate.
Mako feels useless and the detective in him wants to get to the bottom of her problems, to sniff out a solution, but he knows better than that. Interrogating her wouldn’t help, asking questions when she’s so tired seems overbearing, so Mako searches his brain for something suitable.
He comes up dry and he hates himself for it.
So he leans forward and drops a faint kiss to the top of her head, her hair still damp; when he breathes in, he smells foreign shampoo and hopes she’ll be able to swim again someday soon.
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