Mako audibly ground his teeth as he desperately racked his thoughts for a word that rhymed with "love." This was impossible, and his brother was crazy. There was no way Korra would stop being irrational (or in other words, Korra) because he wrote her some lousy poem. And he somehow suspected the girl who prided herself on having a skull so hard she could knock out Equalists with it would not appreciate being compared to a dove.
Or being shoved. Or being given a glove.
Mako's pen frantically scribbled as he seized upon an idea.
"With her eyes as blue…as the skies…above."
Just as Mako finished writing, his brother Bolin strutted into the cozy apartment. The elder brother turned and smirked at the younger. Write her a poem, he had said. Nothing else makes a girl smile and blush the same way. If you can. I don't know if you're up to the challenge of good old-fashioned wooing, bro. A few days earlier, Mako would have just snorted and made some acerbic comment about his brother's advice. Let Bolin meet one or two cute girls who liked a probender with muscles and a good sense of humor and he thought he was a matchmaker. Well, so maybe it had been one or two dozen girls; it still didn't matter!
But that was days ago; it had been nearly a week since Korra had talked to him besides the monosyllabic words she gave him during probending practice, and Mako was getting anxious. Hence, his struggle with rhyming.
"Come see this, Bo. I've finally finished it. It's not too shabby, either." Mako's voice held a certain amount of nearly smug satisfaction. It had taken him hours to make, but it wasn't every day he surpassed his brother in smoothness with the ladies.
Bolin bounced over to see the other's handiwork, peering over the newly-minted bard's shoulder. But the observer sighed almost as soon as he started reading.
"No offense, bro, but this is crap."
Mako's expression of patient pride immediately melted to one of indignation. He had slaved for hours on this thing! Endured hand cramps and ink stains!
"What the heck, Bo? The rhymes are perfect, it flows smoothly, it—"
"You're missing the point, Mako. Poetry isn't about the number of syllables in each line, or the way the words rhyme and fit together. And it's definitely not about flattery, which is what this essentially is. This is technically good, which is why it's terrible. Good poetry is sincere and honest. It doesn't tell, it shows. Show Korra how you feel about her. Show her who she is to you. Then you'll have a good poem."
Mako wondered exactly when his brother had been corrupted by such romanticism. But, despite his irritation with being lectured, he had a sinking feeling that his brother was right. He had been trying to fill in the gap that had grown between him and Korra with empty words.
Spirits, I hate this kind of work. Maybe some leftover Equalists will burst in here and kill me. Sounds pretty good right now.
Grudgingly or not, Mako crumpled up the paper he had spent the day hunched over and began anew. Korra was worth it.
The next morning, a bleary-eyed Mako watched nervously as the Avatar shuffled into the practice gym with the impassiveness that had been the norm over the past week. Her face betrayed no emotion as it calmly surveyed the room and Mako, besides perhaps a general huffiness Mako put up to early morning practice. They commenced without a word, another tradition that had started nearly a week ago, when…
Korra was launched into the air and landed on the stone floor with a thud. She was up almost immediately and was quickly in the victorious Mako's face.
"Hey! What gives? We agreed to no blinding fire!"
Mako shrugged, still wearing an exuberant grin. "You were wearing your mask. It couldn't have hurt you. Besides, I thought we agreed to stick to one element. It's not like you need earthbending in a probending match anyway."
Korra scowled. "That's not the point. You need to be ready to respond to anything in a match, and that means earth and fire will be coming at you, not just water."
"Exactly. You need to be ready for anything in a probending match, including illegal moves like using fire to blind. Look at the match with the Wolfbats; we can't trust the refs."
Korra didn't seem to appreciate his point. "You could at least bother to act sorry."
Mako by now had lost the good humor that came with victory, and let his annoyance come through in his voice, speaking over Bolin, who was trying to make peace between them. "Why should I be sorry? You broke the rules first!"
Korra didn't argue, but instead growled and began to walk off. Practice, apparently, was over. She yelled over her shoulder, "Well, fine, enjoy your victory!"
Mako had grudgingly apologized the next day, for which he was rewarded with indifference. Two days later, he apologized again, this time more earnestly. He wasn't used to the cold treatment from Korra, normally as passionate as any firebender. But days of chilly indifference had passed, and now here he was, tired from a night of writing, scratching out, and memorization. Sweating with the thought of losing her. As Korra looked at him more directly, any confidence he had had the night before evaporated, boiled away by that cerulean gaze.
Oh spirits, why did I let Bolin guide me!?
Training, luckily, went without incident, although Mako had noticed water Korra sent flying always seemed to be unnaturally cold, almost icy. Though Bolin never seemed to notice.
Here goes nothing. Wait, actually, here goes my dignity. At least I might make her laugh. Mako's face, however, showed little sign of his misgivings as he asked to have a private word with the Avatar. She walked off with him and, when they stopped, crossed her arms expectantly below her—
No, no, he had a job to do. Staring would not get him anywhere, except perhaps thrown out the window. Still…she was so beautiful. He had to start talking. Except now he was even more nervous.
Korra…I—I wanted to tell you, well, to say, uh, apologize again. And I mean, well, a week ago I was angry and you were—I mean both of us said things that…
Mako paused. This was not going the way he had planned. But somehow, Korra seemed a little less annoyed now. He swallowed, took a deep breath. She was listening, at least. It was now or never.
Korra, you're my bedrock
I need you more than air
It drives me crazy to be around you
But I'm crazy when you aren't there
That time when Tarrlok took you
I was close to losing my mind
To reach you faster, I hate to say,
I'd have left my own brother behind
I can't stop thinking about you
Not just your beauty and grace
But the way you laugh and think and live
The way a smile lights up your face
I wish I could find some way better
Than a poem to make amends
But I'll always love you, Avatar or not,
And be your steadfast friend.
Mako stopped, eyes fastened to the ground, a furious blush spreading across his cheeks. He wanted to look at Korra's face, but feared to see derision, or worse, amusement. The silence lengthened.
"Did you spend all night making that?" Korra's voice was decidedly neutral. A bad sign. Mako winced, his face turning a deeper shade of red. She had obviously noticed how tired he had been during practice. Or…she just knew him too well.
Mako finally looked up to answer, but didn't get out a sound. Korra's face was the picture of amusement. And…affection?
"You are a complete and utter dork, Mako."
He saw a smile break out on Korra's face before he was flat-out tackle-hugged by a laughing Avatar. He managed to steal a couple of quick kisses before she gasped out, "I'm sorry, Mako. I've been a jerk for a week and I was—"
He cut her off with another quick kiss. "You're my jerk."
She smiled. Spirits, she was beautiful when she did that. "You're my dork."
Out of the corner of his eye, Mako saw Bolin quietly walking out of the gym. He would be getting his brother's premium I told you so treatment tonight.
Staring into blue eyes, Mako somehow didn't seem to mind.
Yay, fluff. I never thought I would ever write anything like the preceding sentence (or the above), but here we are. Poor Mako. I can say that I had a very realistic source in depicting his frustration with poetry.
Before you comment, I know. You are so much better at poetry than I am. I have no understanding of the complexities, the subtleties, the meter, the blahblah blah. Constructive criticism is always welcomed, but don't go overboard on what I know is vastly unacceptable/terrible/a-blot-on-the-history-of-poe try. :)
I do NOT mean to say in the actual poem that Mako would have left his brother to the Equalists to find Korra. Only that he would have rushed ahead thoughtlessly to confront Tarrlok/the Equalists, without the others, in his mad haste.
Anyway, my question for you all is: is it too much? I felt like some of the dialogue and thoughts and perhaps a bit of the poem were not sufficiently in character. Agree/disagree? Comments? Your opinions matter (to me, but they may be horribly insignificant elsewhere)!