night at the theater
She denied anything was up, which was a response that Howl half-expected to hear, but it hurt him to see her say it anyway. Somewhere, deep down, Howl wished that Korra would be willing to tell him what was bothering her, why she seemed to despise the play with such fervor that was beyond her usual hatred.
But, she continued to surprise him. Through gritted teeth, she offered an explanation that love couldn’t be seen in the way it was displayed on stage, as simple and true, as weathering through any storm or tragedy. Howl knew that Korra was saying was partial truth, but couldn’t help but feel that the majority of it was a lie as well. A lie that she was telling herself to feel better, maybe, he wasn’t exactly sure. Something told Howl that he had missed a fair bit in Korra’s life as of late.
Though it was understandable.
“Well, yeah, of course love isn’t…exactly like that,” he ran a hand through his hair and glanced back towards the door that would lead back to the cool darkness of the theater. “It’s hardly ever as melodramatic and…well, I won’t say beautiful, because you’ll gag.”
Howl smiled in apology. “But you’re acting like it doesn’t exist at all, instead of pretending that it doesn’t exist…simply.”
Beautiful. Much as she did roll her eyes even at the passing mention, even she had to cede… She’d heard enough love stories in her life to know that, indeed, when it was true love, it was supposed to be that.
For now, that irritation was blistering to the surface, sharp with a sudden, “What’s the point if it’s hard?” Master Katara’s stories now seemed like fairy tales, meeting her soulmate at fourteen, never having a doubt, the worst ‘obstacle’ between them being simply that they were thrust into the heart of an inherited war. It made it seem like if it was meant to be it would just magically fall into place—
Korra couldn’t believe that anymore.
Her annoyance, however, wasn’t at the young man in front of her now, and for his sake, that edge softened, the fist at her side loosened, deigned instead to brush that wayward lock of hair from between her eyes. “I just— Aren’t you supposed to know? I kept working on airbending because I knew I’d do it.” Eventually. One day. It was her destiny.
But this love business had no certainty. And while she wouldn’t go so far as to say she was in love at the moment, “When does it being hard just mean… they’re not the one?” She didn’t get to have a script.
night at the theater
The words Korra spoke about true love not working out like it was on the stage below them worried Howl, along with how she was sinking lower and lower in her seat. If she lowered herself any further, she wouldn’t be able to see the set. Deciding that they should probably stick it out a bit longer, Howl nervously focused on the scene playing out.
As the ship finally seemed to be about to sink, the romance on stage slowly became more and more melodramatic. It tugged at Howl’s heartstrings, or it would in most situations, but at the moment his mind was focused on his less-than-pleased companion. He saw Korra gag as a joke, and though this wasn’t out of the usual for the Avatar, something still seemed…off.
“Come on,” Howl slowly rose from his seat, ignoring the new stream of hisses from the woman behind him. He grabbed Korra’s wrist and pulled her out of her own seat as well, then up the aisle out into the bright lobby. Temporarily blinded by the light pouring down on them, Howl blinked then let go of Korra’s wrist.
“What’s up?” He sighed. “I know this play isn’t your thing, but you seem especially annoyed by it.”
Maybe she would have come to appreciate the stark and simplistic beauty of a sheet of metal shaken to echo like thunder, or the way a waterbender worked magic in mist and manufactured rainfall to make the scene that much more convincing. The storm was magnificent; it was controlled but detailed. Yes, she would have liked that.
But they really would never know just how far that enjoyment could have taken root, because everything else was putting a damper on her spirit. Howl noticed, he took it into his own hands, and at the censure of that other theater-goer, dragged her out. She merely had the decency not to struggle with him.
Besides, she wasn’t exactly sold on the play at that point anyway.
“Nothing’s up.” It was down, way down. Down so far she’d buried it beneath everything else she had to do—like win a pro-bending Championship title, and bring a stop to the Equalists. Everything else could get ignored in favor.
“I just know,” from experience almost slipped out unbidden but she managed to bite it back, clipping it on the tip of her tongue as she twisted to conclude, “love’s not whatever that was on stage. It’s… a lot more complicated than that.” The latter was offered through gritted teeth. Now, she was simply trying not to give herself away too greatly.
night at the theater
Howl’s hearing was surprising sometimes, but it was good for being a guard. Though the words on the stage were clearly heard due to good projection, his ears picked up on Korra’s mutterings next to him. He ignored the ‘Give me a break’ in good conscience, as Howl was aware that romance really wasn’t Korra’s thing. Wrapped up in the drama on the stage, the heroine’s monologue of her love for the hero’s hair caused a single tear to roll down his cheek.
“It’s so romantic, don’t you think—” Howl may be addressing it more to thin air than to Korra, as he’s cut off by Korra’s comment by how awful the play was. A frown spread across his features and he glanced towards the Avatar, surprised by how she seemed anxious over what she was watching.
With a pause, Howl glanced back towards the stage, just as the hero and heroine removed themselves from their embrace. The cheers from the audience below suggested the two had just shared their first kiss, and though Howl was disappointed that he missed the moment, Korra was brought slightly more forward in his mind.
“Maybe it’ll get better later?” He said it a bit too loudly, causing an elderly woman seated behind him to hiss at him. Howl sent a sympathetic smile towards the woman, who glared daggers, then looked back at Korra. He brought his voice to a whisper now, and leaned towards her. “You alright?”
Later? How much later? How much more of this would there be? She’d already reached her limit and even she didn’t catch the first of what would undoubtedly be many, many kisses before the play was through.
He was on the verge of tears; she ignored the first because, beneath it all, he was her friend and she wasn’t going to give him grief for getting emotional—even if it did make her cringe a little. Was he going to be sniffling and sobbing? Spirits forbid, what if the characters died and she had to listen to Howl bawling the entire way back to the island?
The woman hissing was given an equal glare from her, before the look softened and Korra sank even further in her seat with a heave of a sigh. “Love doesn’t work like that. You don’t just see a person and— Ugh.”
Except there was just enough of an undertone to prove maybe she wished it did…
Further reflection on her revulsion was circumvented by the storm rolling in and those desperate lovers on stage clung to each other with even more melodramatic abandon. “Oh, ew,” she said, grimacing as she made a gagging gesture. Really, if she thought her ship was going to capsize, the last thing she’d do was grab the nearest person just to shove her tongue down their throat.
night at the theater
“I might be—” Howl began to respond, but the curtains down on the stage were pulled away to reveal a fairly intricate set. The lights above them dimmed, and intensified on stage under the figure of an actress in a rather elaborate dress. Around her, people hurried towards the set design of a large ship, and it was complete chaos.
The hero wandered onto the stage, however, under his own spotlight, a piece of paper in his hands. He accidentally bumped into the heroine, and he apologized profusely as she began to scold him—and then, suddenly, she stopped. Hero and heroine gazed into each other’s eyes, and Howl’s breath did a sharp intake.
It was love at first sight. He always loved those sort of scenarios.
Their loving gaze was brought short, however, when a tall, tanned figure wandered onto the stage. Howl’s eyes narrowed as he linked arms with the heroine, and said something like, “The ship’s about to board”, and led her away from the hero.
The hero stood there in shock for a moment, but then he hurried off stage, towards the ship in theory. Howl glanced down at his pamphlet again and failed to read about the antagonist in the dim lighting—but thankfully, for the first time, the hero’s name was spoken. Xiang.
“Come on, Xiang,” Howl whispered, rooting the hero on. He glanced towards Korra again hesitantly, knowing how she usually felt about romantic scenarios.
It took all of four minutes and twenty-seven seconds for Korra’s hopes about this play to come crashing down. She knew, or some level of her consciousness did, because for those four minutes and twenty-seven seconds her breath was in her throat and her eyes were wide and that grin was on her face—
Then she saw the way they looked at each other down there and something inside of her broke.
She thought she’d done such a good job shoring up the holes in her confidence breached by the romantic foibles of the past few days. She’d convinced herself all was well, that they could keep moving forward, that it would all be great… just like it had been once. Yet here and now there was that twist in her gut that reminded her how nice it had felt to, for a few fleeting seconds, have the boy of her dreams look at her just like that.
And she hated it. More than hated it, she went from grinning ear to ear to slumping back in her seat, those previously clutched hands smoothing over her knees as she muttered, “Give me a break.” Love was not like that.
Except in this play, it seemed like it was. The dramatic scenery and sound effects that would be building into a storm were nothing to the way the hero and heroine stole looks at each other in every scene, always seemingly just out of reach. When the woman finally began her soliloquy praising the man’s hairstyleKorra had had enough. “Spirits, this is awful,” she mumbled, without much regard for her companion for the evening.
night at the theater
Howl filtered through the play phamplet in interest, his eyes scanning over the names of the various actors and actresses that would be performing in the timeless romantic drama. Korra had for some reason wanted to see the play, which surprised the guardsman, as it wasn’t something that seemed to be her fancy. “A Fire Nation ship embarks for Republic City but is met by tragedy by a sudden storm…”
He read it out loud, and on second thought, it did seem like something she would like to see. Bit of destruction in there, or something like that. But the continuing sentences outlined a meaningful romance between a rich Fire Nation noble girl and a poor Republic City boy heading home to see his family he hadn’t visited in over a decade. Howl was almost tearing up at the summary, and with a sniff, he turned towards Korra in the seat next to him.
They hadn’t gotten the best seats in the house, up in a balcony and off to the side, but Howl figured they had a good enough view. Sound projection shouldn’t have been an issue either, considering how the theater was set up. “I’m surprised you wanted to see a play, actually,” Howl said to Korra. “Movies seemed more like your thing.”
Korra hadn’t even read the summary. The poster that publicized the play had shown an impressive tempest surrounding a ship and, sure, there were two miniscule people embracing on the deck in the picture, but for how small they were, they obviously couldn’t be that important. That was all it really took to hook her interest.
“Maybe I’ll see one someday,” she said, with just a hint of that left-favoring smile. She really didn’t think she needed to tell him that Master Tenzin would have never agreed to that; it was bad enough getting him to allow her going to a theater, where there were people, and lights, and suspicious movement could be more easily seen and avoided.
Besides, she wasn’t exactly the sitting still and watching something quietly all the way through type.
“Why, are you volunteering to take me to one of those next time?” But before that question could get its answer, sure enough the curtain was rolling back and she pressed a palm to her lips to signal that, for his sake more than anything, she was at least going to try to keep quiet so they could enjoy the show. It was the least she could do since he was doing her such a favor escorting her.
They’d just see how long it lasted.