Disclaimer: I do not own Legend of Korra. Byrke and all of those people do.
By Techno Skittles
"You've really pissed her off this time, Bro," Bolin said as the two bending brothers watched Korra tear out of the gym, steam literally coming off of her skin. (She was soaking wet and decided to firebend it off instead of using waterbending.) Mutters of curses were spoken under her breath, getting fainter as she put more distance between her and the cause of her anger. Said cause just shrugged carelessly at Bolin's statement and glared at Korra's retreating form, not really in the mood to be buddy-buddy with her either.
"It's not my fault she can't control her temper," he said simply, walking off to the side of the gym to get a drink of water. "She shouldn't pout and get angry over every little thing I say."
Bolin walked over to his brother and plopped down on one of the benches. "Yeah, but a little encouragement from you wouldn't hurt."
"She should toughen up."
"But she's the Avatar. I'm sure she's tough enough," Bolin argued, getting upset over Mako's passiveness. He did not want to lose another teammate, especially since she was the Avatar. She'd been trained by the best of the best which gave them a huge advantage to dangle over the other teams' heads. Not to mention, she was pretty cool herself and was a breath of fresh air after dealing with his elder brother's stuffy brooding all of the time.
"Exactly. She's the Avatar. Technically, I'm being soft on her compared to what she's used to. She shouldn't complain."
Bolin sighed and leaned back, knowing there wasn't any use trying to get through his brother's thick skull. Once Mako was convinced he was right, there wasn't any changing it. But for Korra, the championship, and the chance of having his first real friend, Bolin was willing to walk on a tightrope in just his underwear wearing a blindfold over a pit of Equalists quipped with their lightning rods.
Hopefully, it wouldn't come to those extremes.
"Well could you at least consider being nice? I've heard people respond better to that than constantly berating them. In fact, I'm almost positive there are studies on this kind of stuff."
"And they also say that people learn by discipline," Mako countered.
"I think you've gone over your limit, Mako."
The firebender shook his head and slammed his water bottle down, doing his best to maintain his patience. It wasn't often he thought of his brother as a pest, but when he did it showed drastically.
"Well how else am I supposed to handle her? She doesn't listen to me, Bolin! All she does if go off and does whatever she wants and that will cost us dearly in the tournament!" he yelled, turning and giving the earthbender a heated glare. He didn't mean to scream at Bolin; he'd done nothing to deserve Mako's anger. But he was so frustrated and Bolin was there because Korra had run off to spirits know where. The media and his fans always described his techniques and his personality as "cool under fire" because he could handle stress and tight situations with a calm and cool head and he didn't lose his temper quickly like the average firebender. But everyone had their breaking point.
Unfortunately for Mako, he was a breath's away from the edge.
"What do you want me to do? Encourage her beahavior?"
Bolin shrugged and exhaled deeply, closing his eyes. "Well yelling at her isn't exactly a great plan either." Mako was a little envious at how calm he was while he himself was strung-out on the thinnest wire in the universe. That was on fire. Connected to explosives.
"So I'm assuming you have a better one?"
A nervous laugh told Mako he didn't. He inhaled deeply, taking his time and concentrated on calming down. Just breathe in and breathe out. He was cool-under-fire, the chilliest firebender alive, he would not let some seventeen-year-old girl's mood swings break him.
The process for calming down was a lot harder than it should've been.
"Well, actually no I don't," Bolin admitted sheepishly. "But you can start out by apologizing to Korra. Then build up from there. Don't yell so much –"
"She doesn't listen otherwise."
"Give her time to process this stuff –"
"We don't have time."
"…And would it kill you to give her genuine compliments once in awhile?"
Mako huffed and crossed his arms. "If I do that she won't work as hard."
Bolin looked at him with a blank expression, something that look comical on the jokester's normally smiling face. "Do you have an excuse for everything?"
"Bolin, you know –"
"No! I don't know! Okay? You've been so hard on Korra ever since she joined our team and she's trying her best to get your approval! She's been trying to impress you this whole time and prove she's capable of being a pro-bender!" Bolin shouted. Thick tension hung in the air as the two brothers stared at each other: one in disbelief and the other in annoyance. Mako almost never saw this side of Bolin and seeing it come out now made him almost consider going easier on Korra.
"I'm training her, Bolin. If she can't handle it, she's welcome to leave anytime she wants," Mako said quietly, his disbelief simmering back to annoyance to match his brother's glare.
"I'm not going to lose a friend because of your head harded-ness," Bolin retaliated.
Mako was shocked into silence.
The Fire Ferrets have gone through many waterbenders, too much for either of their liking, but never had Bolin considered any of them a friend. He was polite as always, picking them up when they got especially pissed at Mako (but after awhile he figured it was pointless to do so). But eventually, Mako scared every single one of them away. While it disappointed both of the brothers dearly each time, they both learned to eventually get over it and moved onto look for a new replacement.
So to see Bolin go out of his way to stand up for this particular waterbender, this girl, the Avatar…well, it stunned him to say the least. His brother was a pretty easy-going guy, but he was nowhere near ready to let this one go and he wasn't about to allow Mako drive her away either. He had even called her "a friend". In such a short amount of time, she'd already been presented with such an affectionate title that even their longest-kept teammate (five weeks) hadn't earned.
For some odd reason or another, Mako was impressed on how much she achieved.
Who knows? Maybe his little brother had even developed a crush on the young waterbender. It was an endearing thought.
Mako sighed and sat next to Bolin, leaning back and tilting his head to face the ceiling. Ever since they were orphaned as kids, Mako always looked out for his brother. He made sure he was fed before himself, had decent clothing, and his health was as high up as a nine-year-old could keep it. Bolin's happiness came before his own, no matter how uncomfortable it caused him to be sometimes. He would always spoil his little brother the best he could in their conditions on the streets, and even now he would attempt to keep his brother content and happy.
What Bolin wanted, Bolin got.
Bolin wanted Korra, Bolin would get Korra.
Fighting against his screaming pride that warned him not to go through with this, Mako exhaled slowly. "Okay. I give. I'll apologize and all that other stuff."
The speed of light was nothing compared to how quickly Bolin dropped his serious expression for a more hopeful one. "Really? You mean it?"
Mako chuckled at his brother's childishness. "Yeah, why not? I'll apologize to Korra and bring her back. Cut back on the yelling a bit." He shrugged and folded his hands behind his head. He smiled at the sound of Bolin's shouts of gleeful victory and closed his eyes, glad to have that over with. He'd say sorry, promise not to act like a jerk all of the time, keep Bolin happy, and then they'd win the tournament.
Piece of cake.
That thought didn't last long however.
"…How exactly do you apologize?"
Bolin sighed and smacked his forehead.
He could not believe he'd let Bolin drag him into this.
"Why so gloomy, Bro? This is for Korra!"
Bolin sighed and side-stepped a passer-by, glancing at the shops as they passed them. "You promised you would be nice to her."
"Yes. To her. As in to her face."
The earthbender turned this over in his head before shrugging. "It's a start, I guess."
Republic City's downtown marketplace was as bustling as ever, lined with merchant carts and small, family-owned shops, other shoppers swarmed down the sidewalk and road, looking for good buys and hopping from stand to stand. He remembered this place from his childhood – after all, this was the hot spot to steal hot food without being noticed. But now, being in the middle of all of it instead of off in the shadows, he felt suffocated. People brushed against him as they passed and bumped into his shoulder, not even turning around to mutter a quick apology. Everyone was either in too much of a rush or of in their own worlds.
It was exciting and irritating at the same time.
"Tell me again why we're buying her something," Mako grumbled as two young kids ran into his legs and nearly knocked him over.
"Because! You're apologizing to her! It's just…nice," Bolin answered, eyeing the cart to his left for a few seconds before turning around, looking elsewhere.
"I thought a good 'I'm sorry' would suffice," Mako muttered to himself, but the earthbender picked up on it.
"Hey, you asked me for advice, I'm giving you advice. And part of it is to buy her something nice. So keep looking!"
Someone yelled back to watch where he was going. "And what exactly am I looking for?"
Bolin poked out his lower lip in thought, something that reminded him heavily of Korra. Oh spirits, she was beginning to influence him. "I don't know," he finally admitted, giving the crowd a quick sweep. "I was just kind of waiting for something to scream out at me."
Mako was about to point out how weak that method was and all of the gaps it had when some merchant right beside him screamed (possibly bursting his eardrum as well), "Come and get some Water Tribe get-up! Jewelry, coats, pelts, you name it! All shipped directly from the North and South Poles!"
Bolin's face lit up and he pushed past his brother with a wide grin plastered on his face. "Perfect!"
Mako looked up to the sky, wondering if the universe got its kicks out of proving him wrong, before turning around to join his brother at the cart. Traditional Water Tribe trinkets were lined up on shelves and piled in glass jars. Thick-looking coats hung down from the top of the cart, joined by pelts and robes. Bolin was already poking around at the merchandise, seeming to weigh each option out carefully in his mind.
"What do you think, Mako?"
The firebender shook his head roughly around, snapping out of his daze. "What?"
Bolin rolled his eyes. "I asked you about what we should get for her." He gestured to the cart. "There's a ton of stuff here."
"So just picking something then."
"I'm not the one apologizing to her."
He had him there. Mako grumbled his discomfort and started to skim the cart, looking for something, anything really, to end this bout of torture. But his task was near impossible with how much junk was strewn everywhere. Hair pieces here, combs over there, a half-finished pelt on the back of the cart, ingredients for water tribe dishes, pouches hanging off of the sides, wool robes and shawls hanging in front of his face…where did it all end?
After a few more minutes of looking at the same things over and over, Mako sighed. "Why don't we just go to another cart? I'm sure we'll find something else for her." He looked around the market at the many other carts, going on and on for what seemed to be miles. The thought of going through all of them was a nightmare, but so was staying at this junk heap. Korra may be a water tribe girl, but he couldn't find anything that she'd probably like. That was mainly due to the fact that he didn't know much about her in the first place (besides her temper), let alone what her personal preferences were, but we digress. Even so, nothing here…suited her well. At least nothing that she didn't already have.
"But I'm sure our best bet is getting something from here," Bolin argued. "It'll make her feel more at home if we get her something like this. She's been talking about the South Pole lately." He picked up a carving knife and turned it over to examine the blade. "I think she's a little homesick."
Mako bit back a rude "Well she should go back then" comment and pressed his lips together, straining to remain quiet. Instead, he focused again on the cart, sifting through the different tribal objects looking for something that would have a chance of making Korra's crystal blue eyes light up and shine at the sight of it. It would have to bring a bright smile to her face, one that made it glow with pure joy and she would look up at him with such gratitude and forgiveness –
"I've got it!"
Mako snapped out his (embarrassing) daydream, wondering where in the world that came from and looked over at a triumphant Bolin holding a small trinket in his hand as if it were sent by the spirits themselves.
A simple necklace.
Mako scooted closer to him and peered down at the small piece of jewelry, one eyebrow raised skeptically. "You sure she'll like that?"
Bolin shrugged. "Sure, why not? Normally girls go crazy over jewelry, and it helps that this is from the Water Tribe."
"But I don't think it's fair to categorize Korra with other girls," Mako pointed out. He didn't mean for it to come out as harsh and rude as it did and shrugged apologetically when Bolin swerved to face him. Bolin accepted the silent apology without questions and went back to studying the necklace.
It wasn't much. All it really consisted of was a short, thick band that looked like it would wrap snuggly around the throat like a choker. Hanging from the band was a single circular charm that seemed to be made from a soft metal with intricate designs carved into it. On this one, there were two swirls curling towards three waves with one long line curved around all of it.
"I don't see what there is to hate about it. Even if Korra is sort of a tomboy."
Mako shrugged. "Whatever. We'll get that then."
Bolin smiled and waved for the merchant's attention. "Excuse me, sir! How much for this necklace?"
The merchant squinted at the necklace over his wire-rimmed glasses before breaking out a scraggly-toothed grin. "Aha! One of my finer items. So who's the lucky lady?"
Bolin smiled back while Mako crossed his arms and brooded off to the side. He just wanted to purchase the dumb thing and get back home, not start up a conversation with the salesman. Sometimes Bolin was just too friendly.
"A good friend of ours," Bolin answered cheerfully.
The merchant nodded eagerly, picking up the necklace from Bolin's hands with great care and held it close as if cradling a small child. "And who is presenting it to her?"
Bolin jabbed a thumb in his direction and Mako perked up instantly. "My brother."
The merchant faced him with a warm, crinkled smile and placed the necklace in his hands. "She'll love it, especially if she's from the Water Tribe."
Bolin nodded. "Yep. She's a waterbender, too. In fact, she's the Avatar."
Grey, bushy eyebrows shot up on his wrinkled forehead. "The Avatar?" he exclaimed breathless. "That was mighty fast. I figured it'd take a little longer to tie that woman down," he muttered.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?"
The old man shook his head. "Nothing, nothing at all. Anyway, normally I would charge a great deal of money for this, but since it's going to the Avatar, I'll only ask for 80 yuan."
Mako choked. "80 yuan?"
Bolin elbowed him with a pointed look and pointed to the necklace. "Come on, Mako. Just 80. I'll help pay."
"Do you know how much food this could buy?"
"I could buy a brand new wardrobe for the both of us!"
"That's a bit of a stretch."
"How is something so tiny, so expensive?"
"Just buy the necklace already!"
For the umpteenth time that day, Mako wondered just how he was dragged into this mess for one girl's forgiveness (which was still undecided whether she grant him with it or not). If it weren't for Bolin being so polite and flirtatious, he wasn't even sure if that girl would've ever even made it to that match.
His brother's charm would one day be the death of them.
Just rip off the band-aid. No harm, no gain. Just do it.
For the past five minutes or so, Mako had been cleaning up the gym but staring intently at the third team member. As he swept up broken earth discs into a pile of rock and dust, she was drying up her area using waterbending. Her pelt, shirt, and boots all laid messily on the bench off to the side, leaving her in her bindings and sweatpants. She was concentrated solely on her work, thankfully not noticing how much Mako was staring.
Bolin was off to the side chatting with Toza about earthbending techniques and defense mechanisms while sipping on his bottle of water. Occasionally, Mako caught his green eyes looking expectantly at him then Korra, urging him forth. All he did in response was shrug and continue to sweep.
All practice, Korra refused to speak to him. She ignored his greeting, hardly spared him a glance, and – scariest of all – she actually listened to him when they were running drills. Granted, it was the only time that day she listened to him, but even so, she didn't say a word.
She must've been livid.
Green eyes met amber once more.
Abandoning his cleaning, Mako walked over to the brunette on the other side of the room, hand worming its way inside of his pocket, fingering the necklace nervously.
Just rip it off.
Said girl paused briefly and peeked at him from the corner of her eye before going back to her task. He almost snapped at her to look at him because he had something to say to her, but decided this would be easier if her blue eyes were judging him. So he said nothing and started to scratch the back of his head anxiously and sighed.
No harm, no gain.
"So, um, Korra? About yesterday…"
Just do it.
"Mako, I really –"
Korra halted her speech, turning around fully to face him and put him under her watery gaze. Mako frowned, suddenly very self-concious and small under those eyes (even though technically he stood over her). Those hauntingly beautiful, blue eyes. They stared at him, burning holes into his brain, sending it into overdrive panic mode. Her nerves fried and his hand began trembling in his pocket. His heart pounded in his chest and his mouth went drier than cotton.
Why was this so difficult?
Korra looked up at him with softer eyes and he calmed down a bit. Okay. He could do this. For Bolin. For Korra. For the Fire Ferrets.
"I'm sorry for yesterday. I lost my temper and I got frustrated and ending up taking it out on you. It's a very stressful time…and I…me and Bolin…we need to win this. It means everything to us…to the both of us." He pulled out the necklace before she could respond and held it up in front of her face. He looked away when he felt his cheeks warm up, anything to avoid her eyes.
It was funny. Before he wanted to see them light up in joy when she received her gift, but now he was too chicken to even peek at her face.
"Here," he choked out. "Me and Bolin got this yesterday. Think of it as a welcoming gift and as part of my apology."
It was silent for a moment, neither of them saying a word and Mako's mind went crazy with questions. Was Bolin watching? Would she accept the apology? Or would she hate him forever?
"I can't take this," she said quietly.
Disappointment accompanied with the slightest annoyance washed over him and he turned to look at her. He expected to see disgust or hatred, but instead he was met with a blushing Korra whose eyes were darting around the room, landing on anything and everything but him.
"You don't like it, do you?" Mako asked, feeling a little smug at the possibility of being right. Take that, Bolin.
"Well…it's uh…uhm…pretty, I guess?" she stammered, zero-ing in on the necklace. It was like that for a few moments – she stared at the necklace with a look of contemplation and he watched her curiously. Then she shrugged and started to gnaw on her bottom lip. "Um…Mako?"
"Do you…do you know…what the necklace is supposed to mean?"
Mako looked down at the piece of jewelry in his hand in a new light and a strike of curiosity. The thought had never crossed his mind that this necklace was more than that, a necklace. He never could've fathomed there was some hidden meaning behind it. Perhaps that was why she was acting weird and so un-Korra-like?
Just what had he gotten her?
"Ummm…no," he answered nervously.
Korra closed her eyes and exhaled in relief. Seeing her so relaxed made him want to relax too, but he couldn't have that satisfaction because he still didn't know what was going on. Although, to be honest he wasn't sure he really wanted to know.
"Thank the spirits! You really had me scared there, Mako," she said with a relieved smile.
"Korra…what does it mean?" Mako forced out.
At the sight of her suddenly nervous and blanched face, he regretted even thinking of the question. He opened his mouth to take it back. To tell her to forget about it. To say sorry for causing this entire situation. He'd just take the necklace back and they'd forget all about it. He didn't want to know anymore. He was better off ignorant.
"Well, um…traditionally in the water tribe…" she started, fidgeting with her hands. Briefly it crossed Mako's mind that Bolin must've been have a field day watching this at his expense. "A man will carve a necklace – like the one in your hand – and then…well…uhm…" The firebender did not like where this was going. At all.
Korra took a large calming breath. "Basically, it's how men propose Water Tribe style," she rushed out, giving him a sheepish grin.
He was going to kill Bolin.
Oh mighty spirits all he wanted was to apologize! Not propose! How did those two get mixed up anyway? And why did he allow himself to get mixed up in all of this?
"Korra, you know I wasn't…I didn't know…this wasn't meant to…all I wanted…and Bolin said…" Where did he begin to explain?
Korra laughed and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Chill, Mako! I know you didn't know about our traditions. Don't sweat it." After seeing how genuine and calm she was, Mako decided it was alright to let loose as well (a little bit). One day, they'd laughed about this (he hoped), so it was alright to relax, right?
"And, by the way, I accept your apology," she added. She smiled up at him and gripped his arm with both of her hands, tugging gently. "Now come on! I wanna show you that roundhouse water whip! I stayed up half the night perfecting it!" She quieted down, a pink tint painting her tan cheeks. "You were right. It's stronger when I flick my ankle and point my toe when I come around."
Mako smiled smugly, finding her shy defeat endearing. "Well, let's see what you got Avatar."
Korra smirked at him and let go of his arm. "Brace yourself, Mr. Hat Trick. This Avatar's got a few of her own tricks up her sleeves.
And by the way," she continued, looking back at the betrothal necklace. "When I'm proposed to, I want it to be hand-carved by the man doing the proposing. I prefer it when a man is willing to put in the work for me instead of buying it from some random merchant cart." She smiled up at him knowingly before trotting off to the middle of the gym, leaving Mako to wonder if she meant that generally or if she was hinting at something.
Years later, he presented her with a necklace again, this time with bandages wrapped around all but two fingers and a shy smile gracing his face.
And he remembered her bright smile and shining cerulean eyes as she said, "I see you stayed away from the merchant cart this time."
For all that is good and pure in the world I finished. XP I thought I never would. I started this about…two weeks ago. Finally uploading it.
So this little oneshot was inspired by a picture I saw on deviantart. Here's the link: justixoxo dot deviantart dot com / art / Accidentally-Proposed-294824548 My story's obviously different than the really short one she wrote, but I kind of figured that was the point of me re-writing it…
Mehh. I wanna write more Korra stuff but the ideas aren't coming to me. At least, none that really stand out…Help would be appreciated right about now.
Also, my engineering teacher decided it was a wonderful idea to start reading some of this aloud in class today. :/ I was done with my test and just sat there reading over it, trying to figure out what to write next, and he just comes up behind me and starts reading some of what I wrote and then asks me if it's for an English project.
On the plus side, it said I was good. :) But still….out loud? Dammit, I'm very self-conscious about my writing. ;_;
Quick fun fact: I was looking in my thesaurus (shut up I'm a word geek, deal with it) for a synonym for "apology" for the title. Because who wants to use a boring word like "apology" for a title? Not me.
So anyway, I have a computer dictionary/thesaurus (Webster actually) and it shows synonyms, antonyms, contrasting words and related words. I looked up "apology" and in the related words was "espousal" which means "betrothal", "wedding", and "marriage".
It was perfect, I tell you. Perfect.
Now, I realize that there are many definitions for apology and I used a slightly (or more than slightly if I wanna be truthful) context than it's used in this story, but I don't care. I like my title. :P So nyeh.
Until next time~!