It was getting late and Korra clearly wasn’t paying attention to anything that Mako had to say any more.
“Korra? Are you even listening?” he asked her, waving a hand in front of her face. She blinked.
“Sorry! I sort of spaced out for a minute. I’m listening, I promise!” she nodded, but couldn’t stifle a large yawn.
They were sitting on the floor in Korra’s room, where Mako had been trying to teach her several strategies and formations for their next match.
“You know, it’s late. I should go,” Mako said and started to get up.
“No!” Korra reached up and grabbed his arm, pulling him back down, “I’ll pay attention.”
Mako sat back down, crossing his legs. He knew that Korra wanted to learn, and that she was trying really hard, but she just had no patience and it frustrated him to no end. That was why he was out there on Air Temple Island trying to teach her the game plans, in a strictly Bolin-free environment. Every time he tried to teach her this stuff when Bolin was around, she and his brother would end up cavorting around the room, causing mayhem and being distractions for each other.
He didn’t mind normally, although sometimes he wished that he could have their easy relationship. Conflict was something that he’d rather avoid, but it seemed that he and Korra were always clashing about something or other. Bolin and Korra just got along so seamlessly that when they were together they couldn’t help goofing off. It wasn’t a problem until they had to really get down to it and teach Korra all that she needed to know about Pro-Bending. Then it became a distraction, and something that had to end.
Mako took a deep breath and began explaining their first strategy again, with Korra apparently listening intently. He had walked her through the hypothetical first five minutes of the match when there was an unexpected knock at the door.
“Come in!” called Korra, not bothering to get up.
The door opened, and Tenzin’s eldest daughter, Jinora, walked in. Immediately, it was clear that something was wrong. She looked like she had been crying, and as she walked over and sat down next to Korra, she wiped her eyes on her sleeves.
“Jinora! What’s wrong?” Korra asked, putting an arm around the girl.
She sniffled, and Mako could see her lip wobbling a little.
“R-remember that boy that I told you about?”
“He liked me back.”
“I don’t understand,” Korra said, “If he likes you back, then why are you crying?”
“He said that we could be boyfriend and girlfriend, and we were, but then today in school the teacher called on him and he gave the wrong answer, but I whispered the right one to him, and later he said that I made him look stupid by acting like I was smarter than him and that I can’t be his girlfriend anymore and that I was just a stupid bender and- and--”
Jinora burst into full sobs, and Korra pulled the girl into her lap and smoothed her hair down.
“Shhh, it’s alright,” Korra whispered, resting her chin on top of Jinora’s head.
She was still shaking with sobs, and Mako felt like he was intruding on a private moment. He moved to stand up, but Korra beckoned him back towards her, and he sat down right next to her.
“Boys are awful,” Korra told Jinora, who sniffled some more, “Really, sometimes I think we’d be better off without them. One day they’re the nicest guy in the world, and the next they’re acting like the biggest jerk in the city, and it sucks.”
For about half a second, she made eye contact with Mako, but instantly looked back down at Jinora.
“That boy sounds stupid, and stupid boys aren’t worth your time, right Mako?”
Jinora looked up at him with big, teary eyes. Reminded of all those nights that Bolin would come home upset about some girl or another, or even the times that his little brother just needed someone to hug, Mako scooted closer to Korra, and bent down so that he was at Jinora’s eye level.
“Korra’s right that boys are stupid and jerks, but one day, you’ll find a guy that you like, who likes you back and appreciates all the amazing things that you are, and you’re a lot of amazing things, Jinora. If a guy doesn’t like you for who you are, or wants you to change who you are for him, you’re better off without him, trust me,” Mako said with confidence.
“I’m not a dating expert,” Korra chimed in, “But that sounds about right to me.”
Jinora stopped crying.
“I guess he’s just a stupid boy after all,” she mumbled, “I don’t need him.”
“That’s the spirit!” Korra beamed at the younger girl. “One day, you’ll find someone just right for you, and he’ll be the luckiest boy in the world.”
Crawling out of Korra’s arms, Jinora turned and flung her arms around Mako’s neck.
“Thank you,” she said, eyes still watery as Mako patted her on the back. When she let go of him, she turned and hugged Korra again.
Wiping the tears off of her face, she got up, smiling weakly at the pair of them before exiting the room. Mako and Korra were left sitting shoulder to shoulder, leaning against her bed. They sat there for a while in an unusual silence, until Mako finally cleared his throat.
“I should probably get going,” he said, and stood.
Korra followed him out of the room, and the two of them walked down to the dock to wait for the next ferry to come and take him back to Republic City.
“You were really good back there, you know,” Korra said, prepping her elbow on the wooden railing, “I had no idea you were that good with kids.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve had a lot of practice,” he replied, joining her, “I never knew you could be so sweet with anyone.”
“Well, as soon as I find out who that little shit is, you can bet that I’ll drop by and teach him a lesson or two about being sweet.”
Mako rolled his eyes. Of course Korra would want to deal out vigilante justice to all the jerky boys in Republic City, probably starting with him, from the way she had been eyeing him during her little speech to Jinora.
“Or I could just send them all to charm school with your brother,” she mused thoughtfully, “I’m sure he’d have lots to teach them.”
Mako snorted loudly.
“I think the last thing the city needs is an army of children running around, trying to act like Bolin.”
“Yeah, I guess not. Maybe I’ll just send them all to you, since you’re so good at all this.”
She gestured vaguely.
To his surprise, Korra blushed a little.
“Boy advice. You were loads better than I was back there. I nearly died when Ikki and Jinora came to me before, but you were so calm!”
He shrugged, but smiled a little.
“I guess you were just taking that whole ‘cool under fire’ strategy out of the arena and transferring it to children’s dating,” Korra laughed, “I should probably take notes.”
“You really should.”
The ferry docked, and Mako headed down to board, Korra still walking with him.
After he got on, he turned around to ask her a question.
“Do you really think all guys are jerks?”
Korra screwed her face up like she was thinking really hard, and Mako rolled his eyes at the display.
“Nah,” she said finally, “Only you.”
Korra winked at Mako and walked back up the dock, leaving him standing at the boat’s railing, thinking about what the implications of that could possibly mean. It was gonna be a long ride back to the city.