When Korra brings him and Bolin to meet her visiting water bending sifu, Katara, Mako is as nervous as he’s ever been. It’s not easy for Mako to meet new people. He’s not a gifted conversationalist, and his silence gives him an air of aloofness that tends to drive people away from him and towards his brother. Bolin doesn’t seem to mind too much. It’s easier when the people that he meets are unlikeable, and he doesn’t really care what they think about him. Curt replies work, and he’s not too worried about the lasting impact they’ll have on his relationship with that person. For Mako, it’s far more difficult to meet people that are kind and friendly, who want to like him and who he wants to like in return.
Not surprisingly, Katara is warm and affectionate when she meets the two brothers, giving them both appraising looks before pulling them down into hugs. She’s surprisingly strong for both her size and her old age.
“It’s an honor to meet you, Master Katara,” is the first thing that Mako says to her, and she laughs.
“Just call me Katara,” she smiles at him good-naturedly, “You must be Mako. A fire bender for my Korra seems appropriate.”
There’s a knowing and mischievous twinkle in Katara’s eyes, still bright and blue. Mako blushes, and Korra laughs, clapping him on the back.
“And you must be Bolin,” Katara says, and Bolin nods.
“Yep, that would be me. I’m the handsome brother. As you can see,” he replies, and Mako inwardly cringes.
It’s because of things like this that people like Bolin better. Joking with people that he doesn’t know isn’t something that Mako does; Bolin, however, cracks up nearly every person that he meets. It’s all Mako can do just to smile self deprecatingly as Korra and Katara laugh.
“It’s alright,” Katara tells him, patting his shoulder, “My brother always thought he was a real hot-shot too.”
The conversation rolls on, Mako keeping mostly to the sides of it, letting Korra and Bolin tell Katara about all their adventures and matches. Every so often Katara asks him if they’ve been exaggerating their tales, and he’ll either shake or nod his head in an answer. The bells sound eventually, calling them all to dinner.
Pema serves them a steaming hot meal, full of Korra and Katara’s favorite dish, Sea Prunes, which Mako and Bolin force down out of courtesy to their host. Everyone laughs and talks over dinner, and Mako watches Katara. He can see how much she has loved, years of laughter and worry etched on her face. He can see how much she loves Korra, although with every smile, Mako can sense a tinge of sadness and yearning. He wonders if she sees Avatar Aang’s old habits reflected in Korra’s mannerisms, or if when she reaches out and touches the young Avatar’s shoulder, she is remembering holding her husband’s hand. He wonders if it hurts.
Excusing himself, he leaves the dining room and goes outside. He knows that he won’t be missed.
The full moon is reflected on the calm water of the bay, and Mako fixes his gaze on the statue of Avatar Aang. What living in his shadow is like for Korra, Mako can only imagine. It’s not something that she talks about often.
“It’s a nice night, isn’t it?” comes Katara’s voice from behind him.
She shuffles forward so that they are standing next to each other.
“You don’t say much, do you?” her voice is still friendly and warm.
“I was just thinking.”
“I understand,” Katara says.
“Do you?” Mako looks up and meets her eyes.
“I saw you looking at Aang’s statue. You’re thinking about Korra, and how she can live up to his legacy. You’re sad because she doesn’t think that she can, and angry because other people think the same thing.”
“What Avatar Aang did was amazing, and nearly impossible,” Mako says, an edge creeping into his voice, “Expecting Korra to what he did is wrong. They’re not the same person.”
“No, they’re not,” Katara nods, “And it is wrong. You see, I was very sad for a long time, when Aang died, and when I began training Korra I was frustrated. I expected her to be just like him, and she wasn’t. I was disappointed and I was wrong to want Korra to be him. I love Korra very dearly, and I have complete faith in her ability to live up to the legacy of all the Avatars, not just Aang’s.”
Katara is gazing out over the bay, at the city. The lights glitter in the dark, and it’s beautiful, really beautiful.
“Does it make you sad?” he asks her hesitantly.
This isn’t the sort of thing he talks about with people that he’s just met, but there’s something special about Katara, something that connects with him in a way that most people can’t even after knowing him for months.
“Does what make me sad?” she asks, shifting her gaze away from the city.
“Looking at Korra and knowing that your husband is gone?”
The old water bending master smiles sadly at him.
“Sometimes. But everyone dies eventually. Losing people, it’s a part of life,” she explains serenely.
“But like, looking at Korra, and knowing that Aang is a part of her, somewhere deep inside of her? But that she’ll never be him?”
Suddenly, Mako’s voice is full of a fear that he didn’t know he had. It weighs heavy on him, and he can see Katara searching his face for a reason as to why he wants to know all these things.
“You’re not going to lose Korra any time soon, Mako,” Katara tells him, “You don’t have to worry.”
“But what if--”
“No what ifs,” she says sternly, “You two will have long and happy lives, and if one day, you find that she is gone and you remain, you will be sad at first. But you’ll see the new Avatar, and in them you’ll see Korra’s spark or temper, just like in Korra I saw Aang’s hope and laughter. And maybe you won’t love them how I love Korra, but maybe you will, and you can watch with pride as they grow up, and know that Korra is somewhere within them, guiding them through the world.”
Katara puts a hand on his shoulder.
“But this isn’t something you should think about for a long, long time. Korra is here now, and that’s what matters, isn’t it?” she says.
He turns so that he’s facing Katara directly. Her eyes crinkle as she smiles at him, and Mako knows that she’s right. Living in fear that he would one day lose Korra would mean that he’s already lost her. If he spends his days worrying about when she is no longer there, before he knows it he will have wasted all his time with her, and that, Mako tells himself, is not an option.
“Thank you, Katara,” he says, and he feels like he is speaking to a friend.
She pulls him into a hug, and he stoops over slightly because of his height, but Katara holds tight to him.
“It’s nothing,” Katara tells Mako, “Korra deserves the best, and you’re special; I can tell.”