If you need me call me
For a moment there was complete and utter silence in the bar and then like a flood gate being opened almost every body started yelling…at once…at Korra…making it very hard to understand what their saying. Korra crossed her arms and sighed, after five years of bar tending and dealing with the less than desirable portion of the population Korra was unfazed by people yelling at her. At least none of them were trying to cope a feel or ogle her chest. She glanced over at the clock and wondered how long they could keep it up before their voices would finally give out. She took another deep breath and started to ponder what exactly they were yelling at her for since with all of them yelling she hadn't the foggiest clue.
Iroh gritted his teeth as he rushed to finish changing so he could give Korra the back up she was probably sorely lacking at the moment. He thanked the spirits that there was a small bathroom off the office and he could remove most of the make up on his face. Taking his hair down and pulling it back up in it's usual pony tale he walked back in to the bar having only taken about ten minutes to change and remove the make up.
He stopped in surprise to see that while much of the group was yelling at Korra she seemed unfazed by it. She glanced over at Iroh and gave a shrug in an 'I've had harder nights' kind of way. Iroh looked at the two people sitting at the bar not yelling at Korra. Mako, and Wu all sat silently looking at their glasses like men trying desperately to ignore people yelling. Mako was the first to realize Iroh was standing there while Wu seemed to be deep in thought. Well as deep in thought as he could be. Mako gave a weak smile and nod of recognition as Iroh walked over to the pair.
"Hello there detective."
The detective let out a long breath before talking. "So…how have you been General?"
"I've been good, you know trying not to be found. I guess I should be happy with five years." Iroh leaned against the counter and signed to Korra if she needed help. She signed back that she didn't and to have fun catching up. He looked at Mako five years had not changed him too much but the scar along the side of his face made Iroh cringe a little. Why was it all ways his family causing the nasty scars? "You?"
Mako shrugged. "Eh, it's complicated but you know not too bad." He looked over at the argument happening a few yards away. "Does she need any help?"
"Nah, I asked. She's fine, she'll signal if she needs back up. So still working at a detective?"Mako grimaced. "Kind of." He pointed to Wu who was currently draining his glass. "I'm his body guard.""You poor man. Has he gotten any better with age?"
Mako chuckled. "My three year old has better manors and he keeps setting the drapes on fire!"Iroh laughed. "So you're a dad now huh? Son or daughter? Hopefully a fire bender if the drapes are in danger of incineration."
Mako smiled. "Son, and yes Link's a Fire Bender just like me." Mako moved to pulled something out of his back pocket. "I've actually got a picture of him." He handed Iroh the picture. It was of a little boy about three playing in the sand. "I took him to Ember Island about a month ago, he loved knocking over people's sand castles."
Iroh smiled and handed the picture back. "He's handsome just like his father." Iroh noticed absence of a ring on Mako's left hand. "So it was just you and him?"
Mako nodded. "Yeah, that's kind of been that way for a while now. I mean Asami lives with us now but it's not the same since she's in the guest room and not in my room like it used to be before the devorce." Mako bit his lip clearly uncomfortable with the topic. "So Korra mentioned that she was married. Are you the lucky man?"
Iroh held up his left hand. "Guilty."
"Five years got married literally the first day we came here."
Mako let out a whistle. "And you still look sane and rested. I'm going to guess you don't have any children."
Iroh smirked and pulled out a picture of Korra and Sona from his own pocket. "Appearances can be deceiving detective." He handed the picture to Mako.
Mako looked at the picture silent for a moment. "Is that why you didn't come back? Even after the White Lotus was taken down?"
Iroh looked at Mako quizzically. "That White Lotus is no more? I hadn't heard that. This city doesn't get much news of the out side world but, yes I wanted to protect Sona and be there for her. Two things I doubted I could do in Republic City. It might be selfish but it's been the main motivation in staying here. I don't want to be absent in her life."
Mako looked back down at the picture. "I don't think it's selfish. I would do anything to protect my son even if it means recreating my whole life some where…" He looked around the room and couldn't hide his disgust. "like this place." He looked down. "Sorry I didn't mean to sound-"
"Judge-y?" Iroh chuckled. "I know this is place is not exactly the expected realm of a prince but as one who has fallen from grace this place is paradise." He looked back at Korra who still had not managed to get a word in edge wise while the other's still voiced their grievances unaware that Iroh was standing a few yards away. "So what are they all yelling about?"Mako sighed. "Different things all varying in the amount Korra is actually responsible for. Tonraq is upset that she let him and her mother think her dead for five years."
Iroh nodded. "Yeah, that's understandable I can only imagine how angry my father is about that."
Mako shrugged. "I think he's more worried that you won't forgive him for how he failed to protect you and the rest of your siblings from being pawns but… he might be a little angry after seeing you in that get up."
"Yeah he chased me two levels and a few blocks I don't think he's happy with me at the moment.""He's probably still happy you're alive, incidentally he's been sitting in the corner over there watching us with commander Bumi. Apparently they don't have anything to yell at Korra."
Iroh looked over at the man who had once been his super hero. Now he was a graying man tiered and looking more then just a bit bitter. Iroh signaled to his father to join them. Karrem stood up and started to walk over while Bumi sat back to observe the scene from a safe distance. "He's aged so much." Iroh commented under his breath.
"Five years will do that to a person, you and Korra have changed a lot too. You're starting to look like the pictures of your grandfather." Mako leaned back and continued to explain why the other people where yelling as Karrem was taking his sweet time to walk over. "Tenzin and Lin are both stressing how much Korra has been needed in the world. Bolin is blaming her for him working for Kuvira, I'm not sure how that really works but that's his issue. And last, and certainly the problem Korra is responsible for the least, Asami is blaming Korra for our failed marriage."
Karrem leaned against the counter. "How does that even work? Korra wasn't there for that and Asami was the one that cheated and wanted the divorce?"
Mako took a drink. "Exactly, Korra wasn't there for her to talk to her and talk her out of making dumb rash decisions at least that's Asami's logic. I don't subscribe to that view point."
Iroh frowned. "That's not fair to Korra. It's like me blaming Fire Lord Ozia for a hangover because he wasn't there to stop me from chugging vodka."
The detective shrugged. "That's the way of the world isn't it? Your death has been used as the rally call for a civil war. It's amazing how easy it is for the dead or absent to become the scapegoat or symbol. Whether realistically you could have or not it's easy to blame you for the failed plans of others or to be the embodiment of an idea."
Karrem sighed. "Wise words detective."
Mako shrugged. "It's just stuff you pick up on when you're a single dad and everyone of your friends is gone or divorcing you. You start to think of all the things that would be better if blank was here…but eventually I realized that they weren't there, so why put the burden on them?" He looked from Iroh to Karrem. "And this is where I take my leave. You two need to talk." He stood and slid the picture to in front of Karrem before walking over to sit next to Bumi. "And I would suggest at a lower volume then the other's in this place."
Karrem studied the picture for a moment before speaking. What little anger the man still had dissipating like mist in the sun's rays. "She has your eyes and smile." He glanced over at Korra. "And her mother's beauty."
"Thanks I think so too. Before you say anything more I just want to explain that we stayed because we wanted to protect her, not because I was bitter or hated you. There were a few times we thought of trying to contact some of you but then news of the civil war or another tragedy caused by one of my brothers and…."
"And you couldn't risk you're little girl's life." Karrem nodded. "I can respect that, I would have done the same. She would have been in grate danger the moment your brothers learned of her."
"I can't speak for Rohku, but Zechi wouldn't even blink at the thought of killing her."
Karrem sighed heavily. "My dear youngest son, Rohku too may prove to be a threat to her life and yours. These five years have shown a darkness in his character that I still cannot fathom." He looked back down at the picture. "What is my granddaughter's name?"
"Beautiful." Karrem smiled.
Iroh glanced up at the clock. "Would you like to meet her?"
He motioned to his father to door and they left the bar leaving Korra to face everyone else after signing to her what he was doing. In reply she just shrugged. Iroh wasn't sure what his father would do now that they were away from the group. Even though his father knew why he had stayed Iroh was still expecting a lecture about his choice of employment. So when the older man started to laugh he was completely baffled. "Father? Are you ok?"
"I was just thinking about the show you ran out of." Karrem leaned against Iroh. "You've got to be the first one in my family's line that's actually funny! I was trying so hard not to crack up and give you stern look while you were on stage and every time I tried to; that outfit or something you said would just crack me up. I don't even know how I managed to glare at you! And the look of terror on your face! I haven't seen you look so scared since that haunted house I took you a Fey to when you were six!" Karrem leaned against a streetlight still smiling. "Ah good times."
Iroh looked at his father like he had lost his mind. "What the hell did Ming-I mean Korra put in your drink? You haven't looked and acted this relaxed and happy in years."
Karrem stopped laughing and shook his head. "Sorry, this is a serious moment but you really did manage to crack me up. I mean I was so distraught about your death and everything that has happened and then the hope of you actually being alive." He sighed. "I was so afraid you'd be angry at me or worse some sickly person just barely hanging on to life, possibly addicted to something and the first time I see you," His eyes became misty. "It was like watching that little play you and your siblings put on and you being shoved out on stage all over again. Well it was a little different but still reminded me of that."
Iroh smiled. "I had almost forgotten about that." He started to walk. "Come on, I really do need to get home before the baby sitter goes over time and gives me hell for being late."
Karrem nodded and fallowed his son. "So I know this might not be the time to ask but why'd you run when you saw me?"
"You looked so angry, I don't know I was scared. I mean I ran away from everyone one five years ago. I was/am a criminal wanted all over the world. Seeing you there, glairing at me I thought you hated me and my first instinct was to run."
"I could never hate you Iroh, I can't even hate your other siblings even after all the pain they've caused. The truth is I'm not even disappointed in you, which is not how I feel about your siblings, the way circumstances all stacked up I'm impressed that you're doing so well." Karrem looked at his son. "Even now, you look so much happier and healthier then you have in a long time. It's like you're five again. I mean it, ever since…" He stopped talking and looked down.
"Ever since what?"
"Nothing, forget I said anything."
"Ever since Aang severed my connection to the spirit world?"
Karrem looked at him surprised. "How? I thought you forgot all that happened."
"I did but Grandpa Sokka's spirit came to me one night and showed me what happened and why it happened." Iroh looked at his father. "Did I really change so much after that?"
"Yes." Karrem looked down. "Your Grandfathers only saw the good of the change and how you physically thrived but you still changed becoming more brooding and easily stressed. There always seemed to be less of you there and while I was happy you would live longer it didn't seem like you were you. But now-""Ming-er I mean Korra undid it and reestablished the link."
"How long ago?"
"About a month after we got here. That emptiness you saw was starting to eat away at me. Like you said after the connection was severed it really wasn't me just kind of an echo of me." Iroh shook his head. "What Aang did while probably the right move at the time but it severed my spirit from my physical body. Eventually that would destroy me too."
"And what happened after she repaired the link?"
"Well for a good week I kept running through my past lives trying to digest all of them in some form of a narrative. More then one occasion I called Ming-er-Korra a name from her past life and forgot my own name a lot. The people at work were convinced I was on something."
"And your bending? What happened to that?"
"I'm still primarily a fire bender but if I concentrate on my first life." He made some water in the street raised up and froze it, just for a second before letting melt back into a puddle. "I can water bend but I does take effort and definitely doesn't come as naturally as it used to."
"How are you even able to do that? Did any of your past lives poly bend?"
"No, nor were they aware of that they had lived the same life before. As close as Korra and I can figure it's because I had water tribe blood in me that made the strong connection to my first life that had the connection to all the other past lives and gave me the predisposition to bend both elements."
"So it's because I was your father that you suffered so much?" Karrem looked away. "Great."
Iroh put a hand on Karrem's shoulder. "No, because you were my father and I had that connection and I could break the cycle. Father, Korra and I's souls have been locked in a never-ending loop of premature death for centuries. Your blood actually saved me because I did have the connection and the ability to learn from my past lives." Iroh gave his father a weak smile. "I would not be alive if you weren't my father." The two stopped outside of an apartment door. "Now do you want to see the reason why Korra and I have lived so many lives?"
Karrem nodded and Iroh opened the door and, after talking to a young woman and handing her some money, lead Karrem in to a room where a little girl with brown skin and curls slept peacefully. Iroh kneeled down and kissed her on the temple. He looked up at Karrem. "This is Sona, she's my daughter and your granddaughter. Her soul has been in existence for thousands of years but she was only born four and a half years ago."
Sona opened her eyes hearing her father's voice. "Daddy?" She yawned. "Is mommy home too?"
"No, mommy's still working little one. Go back to sleep she'll be here in the morning."
"Who's that man behind you?"
"That's your grandfather, my dad."
The little girl looked at Karrem. "He looks more like mommy then you."
Iroh chuckled. "That's because I take after grandma." He kissed her forehead. "Now go back to sleep darling. I'll be in the other room should you need me." He looked over at Naga who was, as usual, at the foot of Sona's bed. "Good girl Naga watch over her."
Karrem didn't say anything until they were out of the room and the door was closed and even then he spoke with a hushed voice. "She's beautiful son, the picture doesn't do her justice. Four and a half huh?" Karrem raised his eyebrow in a knowing fashion.
Iroh nodded and blushed a little. "Yeah, don't tell Tonraq this but Korra and I did the math and Sona was probably conceived in Republic City."
Karrem chuckled. "Good job General.""That's almost exactly what she said when she told me she was pregnant."
"So a drag queen huh? I guess you've gotten over your fear of public embarrassment."
Iroh chuckled. "Oh, yeah that fear kind of died when at three in the afternoon I had an argument with a very pregnant Korra while in full drag in the middle of a grocery store. Compared to that really is there anything worse?"
Karrem smirked. "I doubt it. So Korra pregnant what was that like?"Iroh glanced at the clock. "Do you have an hour?"
Karrem couldn't help but laugh. "If you can fit all of it in a hour it wasn't that bad."
"I was going to spare you and give you the abridged version."