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"Mako! Mako? Makooo?" The words carry far out over the park, his voice loud to stir a flock of zebra loons that take to the skies, their frantic neighing accompanied by a cacophony of hoof beats and wing flaps. His new shoes dangling from his right hand, Bolin lifts the left to cup it over his mouth. "Mako!"
The woman with the pink scarf follows him, wiping her glasses on a rag. "I do not believe that he is there, my poor dear. Are you certain that he was with you yesterday?"
"I don't know how long it's been." Bolin steps on a scrap of newspaper and pauses, glancing down. A photo showing a photograph of a young, confident woman in metal armour greets. Shrugging, he lifts his foot and allows the paper to soar away. "I think it was yesterday though. You ever get one of those moments where you think it was yesterday but it wasn't because you fell asleep during the day and then it was all dark and you don't know if it's the next day or it was just all cloudy or dark or something like that?"
"I am not sure I know to what you refer." The woman tries a smile. "Yet I fear he is not here."
Bolin shakes his head and dashes forward, dirt packing with each impact. "Heh heh, that rhymed. But I know he is! Somewhere here, or there, or over on that bend." Something clicks in his mind. "I got it! The pond!" Without checking to see if she is trailing after him or not, he takes off at a run, bending the earth to aid him with each push-off. The soil is soon swapped with squelching silt, the reeds cutting into his pads, the mud cooling the wound prior to its pain. A lone turtle duck quacks and waddles off, the streak of red on its shell bringing the picture of Mako's scarf to drift the sea of his conscious, looking for a thought with which to connect. Love. Warm. Safe.
Landing on the very edge of the pool, the earthbender looks to and fro, but his brother isn't here or there or anywhere. "Maybe it's the wrong one." A grey, rubbery half-circle sticking out of the bank attracts his attention. Once he has grasped it tightly, he pulls, jerking it from the ground: The half-dissolved remains of his tattered shoes. "Oh. It's the right one. He must have gone back to the bush. I bet that's what happened."
"My dear, wait up!"
"I can't! I got to find him!"
The struggle upstream is alleviated by his bending, and he zips along rapidly, coming out to a rock jutting out over the river, the exact place where he and Mako jumped in that initial time. Several eel pigeons clear from it, electricity jolting from the featherless areas on their talons. But his brother isn't here either. Not even a trace can be found. At once his hand slips into his pocket, desperate to feel the Satomobile screw that soothed him those nine months they spent starving on the street, the days hotter than fire, the nights colder than ice. Somehow he misses those months, with the cold leftovers discovered in dumpsters and the scraps of takeout filched off benches, because in those months it was just him and Mako, the two of them together, inseparable, now and forever.
"Mako? Makooo? Mako, where are you? I need you. Mako?" The more he says it, the more the word loses its meaning, passes into nothing but sound, like getting cake, muttered over and over and over again, turning into a jumble of syllables that comfort him without him truly understanding why. His knees are cold; he has fallen into the cool silt, fingers digging through the dirt as though seeking clues. "Mako!"
A touch on his shoulder. Bolin spins around, mud splattering, his ears pricked to the sound of his brother's timbre. But it is merely the woman in the pink scarf, wringing her hands. "Oh, my dear, your brother is nowhere at all. At least he is not present in this park. Perhaps we should return home?"
Bolin blinks. "But we haven't found Mako yet," he objects, wobbling as he stands. "And we can't leave without Mako, right?"
". . . I do not hold faith that your brother is in this world anymore." The corners of her lips twitch. "Come, let us go. He is safe now, in the Spirit World, as all good children are."
"He's not in the Spirit World. That's for spirits and Avatars." The earthbender pouts. "He's not a spirit or an Avatar."
She adjusts the scarf, pulling it away from her neck. "I insist we go."
"I don't want to go." Before the woman can answer, a dark shape flits overheard, wings spread wide. The lizard crow lands heavily next to Bolin, his beady eyes staring into the latter's spirit. A pink, featherless V marking his chest, he caws and turns, ruffling what feathers he does have. A zebra loon neighs from far off, but another caw silence the striped creature. "Hey, I recognise you! You're that lizard crow Mako liked!"
"Your brother speaks to lizard crows?" she repeats dubiously.
Bolin squats and holds out his hand. "I do recognise you! You're the one with the footsie that's gone missing. This one." He reaches out to poke it, but the animal snaps at his fingers, and he draws back. "I'm sorry, friend. What are you trying to tell me? Do you know where Mako is?" The lizard crow very slowly dips his head, touching his beak to his chest. "Can you take me?"
"This is not the best plan." The woman frowns. "We could contact the police, request that they search for him. My dear? Bolin? Bolin, come back this instant!"
A cloud of dust is the only sign left that the earthbender and the lizard crow have ever been in her reach.
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