Korra sighed, chewed at the end of her pen, stared up into the clear blue sky and finally back down to the mostly blank piece of paper in her lap. She had been sitting out on the grassy hill near the temple for an hour, and she had only managed to write two lines:
Thanks for being my mom.
Korra stared at the page and stuck her tongue out. Why did writing letters have to be so hard? Mother's Day had always been easy back at home; she'd just give her mom a hug and maybe catch her a particularly big fish as a present and call it a day. That just wasn't in the cards this year, what with her living in Republic City now, so a letter would have to do. She gave the end of the pen another irritated bite and place the tip against the page again, waiting for the perfect words to magically flow-
"What are you up to, teammate?"
Surprise made Korra's hand jerk, and the pen punched straight through the page. She growled in frustration and whipped her head around to see a very guilty looking Bolin.
"Ah, sorry about that," he said sheepishly. "Didn't mean to startle you."
"Don't worry about it," she sighed in defeat, "I'd barely written anything anyway. What are you doing over here today?"
He just shrugged and laughed. There was something strange, something unnatural about the sound. "Do I need an excuse to drop in on my favorite Fire Ferret?" He plopped down beside her in the grass. Up close she could see bags under his eyes, and his usually easy smile was strained.
"Your favorite? What about Mako?"
"He's my brother, doesn't count. He's on a different rating scale."
"How about Pabu?"
"…Alright, you tie with Pabu as my favorite. Sorry, nobody can beat my little buddy."
"Fair enough," she chuckled, but her smile died down when she noticed how obviously fake his cheer was. "Are you feeling okay?"
Bolin flashed a quick thumbs up. "I'm fine! Just a little tired. Mako was snoring all last night, kept me up!" He tore up a few blades of grass next to his leg and hastily changed the subject. "What were you writing?"
Korra wrinkled her nose at the ruined paper. "Just a letter to my mom, since it's Mother's Day and all. I probably should have sent this a while ago…it's gonna be way after Mother's Day by the time she gets it."
"Hey, better late than never. I'm sure she'll be happy to see you're thinking of her." He continued tearing up pieces of grass as his voice dropped and grew wistful.
A frown crossed Korra's face. Something was not right with Bolin. Well, whatever it was, time to get his mind off it. "Hey, trivia time. Do you know when Mother's Day was started?"
Bolin paused and scratched thoughtfully at his chin. "Can't say I do. History isn't really my strong suit."
"It's barely history. Avatar Aang started it as a present to his wife after she had their first kid. He thought she deserved a whole holiday for being a great mother." She grinned and looked back to the sky. "Katara used to tell me about that every single year. And her kids always send her great presents. Tenzin especially, he seems to take it really seriously."
"So I guess he and the kids are treating Pema like a queen today?"
"Oh yeah, breakfast in bed, flowers, the whole deal. Almost makes me jealous. 'Course, we always pulled all the stops for my mom too, but Tenzin really goes all out. And the kids made her a bunch of cute crafts too. I have no idea what Meelo made her, it just looked like he glued together all kinds of junk."
Bolin forced a sad little laugh and went back to ripping at the grass. "Yeah, I remember me and Mako doing that kind of thing for our mom too."
Korra froze as all the pieces finally came together. How could she have been so stupid? Of course Mother's Day would be hard for someone who had lost his mother. Of course he would be struggling. Why hadn't she guessed it sooner?
What was she supposed to say at a time like this? She had never been any good at comforting people or knowing the right thing to say. Bolin had stopped even pretending to smile and just sat silently at her side, shredding the bits of grass he had pulled up into green confetti. She couldn't just leave him alone, not now.
"What was your mom like?" she blurted out awkwardly, failing to think of anything better to say.
To her relief, his eyes softened at her question. "She was great," he said quietly. "I-I don't remember all that much about her, since I was only six when she…" He trailed off, then coughed and gathered himself back together. "But I do have a few good memories, and Mako told me all about her too. She was…really nice. She always had time for us, even when she was busy."
"She…sounds like a wonderful mom," Korra said when he fell silent again.
Bolin nodded and pulled his knees up to his chest. "She was. I…one of the few things I can remember is being held in her lap. I guess I must have been upset or scared or something, because she was just rocking me back and forth, and singing to me…" He turned his face away and gulped. "I-I miss her. Is that weird? I can hardly remember anything, but I still…"
"It's not weird at all!" Korra exclaimed. It must have come out a bit too loud; he suddenly turned to look at her, eyes troubled but thankfully dry. "It's not weird," she repeated, wishing she had something better to say. She didn't have any words, so she just put a hand on his shoulder and hoped that would say enough.
"Thanks," he murmured faintly, and then, "Do you wanna come see her with me?" There was a small tremor in his voice. "I-I mean, come visit her grave? Me and Mako usually go together, but his shift at the factory doesn't end until dark, and I figured I'd go bring Mom some flowers before the shops close and then come again with him later…"
"That sounds great," she said sincerely. "I'd be honored to meet your mom."
His smile was unsteady, but it was the most real one she had seen from him all day. Before she had time to react, he grabbed her shoulder and tugged her into a platypus bear hug. "Thanks," he said, and his voice was most definitely trembling now. "I know she would have loved you."