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Breakfast is silent. Miza's mother serves them a plate of eggs. "Lizard crow," she confides, a frown etched on her face, unsure why her dear Mako and Bolin look so sullen. Mako feels odd and out of place without the familiar weight of the satchel by his side, but the numbers running game is over for now. He wishes he could have it back, could take it all back, but he guesses he can't. The firebending that saved the brothers on the streets is now the reason for the break of the status quo that has kept them safe for nearly a year. His chopsticks can't quite pick the meal up, and Mako drops them out of disgust, not of the slightly runny eggs but of himself.

Sitting cross-legged on the floor next to him, Miza looks up at him, her lips curved downwards, a lock of raven hair twisted between two fingers. Pretending not to care, Mako scoops the egg up with his right hand, wincing when it burns his palm, but he won't heatbend it. Not after what happened.

Bolin fiddles with his chopsticks absentmindedly, his hands unused to the utensils after so long without them. Mako watches him shift them back and forth from hand to hand until at last he settles on his left, the chopsticks clicking with a wet oozing noise as they grasp the end of the egg and flip it up; it lands unceremoniously on his face. Bolin tips his head back, poking his tongue out in concentration, and the egg slips into his mouth.

"Hey, Mako?"

Mako returns his gaze to the hot egg in his palm. His stomach gurgles, but each one he brings it to his lips, his throat dries, bile rising, burning. With a low sigh, he deposits it onto the plate, a pit in his stomach.


He glances up, his eyebrows knit together in his worry. Bolin is grinning, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. "What is it, Bolin?"

"Guess what day it is today, bro?" His brother jumps up, the plate of eggs flying from his lap, and he catches it with his earthbending, spinning it on his finger. "Guess guess!"

Tearing his thoughts away from the apprenticeship with Zolt looming over—he remembers the same the same feeling in another life, when he accidentally knocked over Daddy's telescope, a fracture running through the lens, and he cowered in his room under a blanket, praying that Daddy wouldn't notice when he came down, the same terrible pit in his stomach—Mako gazes at his brother, his mind rolling through his options. "I don't know, Bo."

Bolin waves at Miza's mother, who smiles and pulls out a tray of hot . . . dumplings? Mako frowns in confusion, his eyebrows knitting even more tightly together. His eyes bright with mirth and glee, his wide smile revealing his teeth—one of them, Mako notes, is loose, and he's surprised it hasn't fallen out already—Bolin grasps the tray and drops it in front of his older brother.

The smell is shockingly familiar, a fragrance from another life, another past, another Mako, seated by a kitchen table, inhaling the scent of his favourite meal in the world: Dumplings. The dumplings, crisped to a light brown instead of the usual greyish white, the inside a fantastic blend of meat and vegetable and spice and everything he could ever imagine wanting, his mouth watering from the very memory.

Not, not a memory.

There they are, in front of him, crisped to the same light brown. Mommy's voice is in his ear, her words soft, a hand lifting his chin. "I love you, Mako. No matter what else happens, remember that."

And there they are, the same dumplings, the same smell, the same almost everything.

Almost everything.

"Since Mommy and Daddy are getting cake," Bolin is saying, "I thought I could get you the best birthday present ever!"


The word makes Mako snap his head up, hyperventilating, his breaths suddenly quick and shallow and urgent.

Fire. Falling. Screaming. His parents. Grabbing. Heat. Heart. Yelling. Begging. Monster. Red. Scarf. Running. Confused. Scared. Lost.



"What did you say?" Mako's voice sounds choked off, silenced, the quiet nearly unbearable. "What did you say?"

Touch on his knee. He twists towards the feeling, the room spinning through his vision, and locks gazes with the ocean. Blue.


"Mako?" Bolin sniffs. "Mako, happy birthday. You're ten now. A whole three years older than me!" He pauses and glances at his hands, counting off on his fingers. "Yup, three."

The ocean.

The bay.


He remembers standing on the dock next to Daddy's canoe, looking out over the bay towards Air Temple Island, untying the string as Daddy pushed off through the choppy waters, the broad oars easily moving him onwards and onwards. Mako waved at him as he left, rowing out to Memorial Island, the statue of Avatar Aang keeping watch over the city. As Daddy disappeared from view, Mako sat down next to the post, wondering why he hadn't been brave enough to come with him.

The canoe.

The canoe, still tied to the dock, presumably bobbing safely on the water.

Mako's eyes widen, his rapid breath stopping within seconds, and suddenly he knows what he has to do.


He shakes his head to clear it and comes to, the blue of Miza's eyes replaced with the grey-black of a charred tray. Gasping, he drops it; it clatters to the floor, ash drifting off of it, and stares at his hands, the heat of recent fire still on them.

Bolin's face is contorted, his eyes wet, on the verge of tears. "You didn't like it!" A trail of snot dribbles down.

Mako clasps his hand. "No, Bo. I loved it. I'm sorry for burning them. Thank you."

His brother's mouth twitches into a grin. "R-really?"

"I love you, little bro."

Bolin's smile warms him as nothing else. "Love you back, big bro."

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