Korra raced around the rink, twirling and spinning around like the talented ice skater she was. Around her, people of every age and size skated in the spacious rink of Republic City Park. Snow surrounded them all, cold nipping at their cheeks, but no one paid it any mind they were all having too much fun, enraptured in their friends and families.
The Avatar was glad to be back in her natural element though the winters in Republic City were nowhere near as harsh at the ones in the South Pole, they were still pretty cold. And she loved it! Skating up to her Earthbending friend, she did a circle around the leisurely skating Bolin.
"Hey," she said, skating in tow with him then. "Don't you just love skating?"
"Definitely," he nodded at her, "we should do this more often I forgot how much fun it is, considering this is the first time I've gone in years. I'm surprised I still remember how, actually."
She laughed, and took his hand and spun them around then, causing Bolin to chuckle, too. When they stopped spinning, Korra noticed they were quickly approaching the entrance of the skating rink, where the seating area was. She saw Mako sitting there, arms wrapped around him as he glared off to the side moodily. She smiled in his direction before telling Bolin she was going to try to convince the Firebender to go skating again. Bolin was about to hold her back to keep her from further annoying his brother, but she skated away from him breezily.
"Mako," she leaned over the ledge of the rink and gave him a look. "Have you changed your mind yet?"
"Am I a Waterbender?" he deadpanned, not bothering to look at her.
Korra raised an eyebrow at him. "Uh, no?"
"There you go," he grumbled, shivering into his thick winter jacket. There were few things in the world the Firebender really, truly disliked, but he abhorred wintertime. The days were shorter, meaning the sun was out less and so he was naturally less powerful, and the fact that he was surrounded by the cold obviously didn't sit well with the burning Firebender. It didn't help that his mother had passed away in the winter months or that he was reminded of the miserable times he and his brother spent freezing on the streets when they were younger, either...
"C'mon," she pleaded. "It's fun, Mako, and while I know that isn't necessarily a field you're acquainted with, you should at least try it. So, please, come out with"
"No, Korra," he turned now, and glared at her. "I've skated before. And I don't like. I'm not going to subject myself to something I don't like, got it?" he snapped.
Korra didn't seemed fazed by his snip normally she'd fight back, but right now, surrounded by glimmering snow and the calming coolness of winter, she couldn't find it in her Water Tribe roots to get irritated. "Yeah, well, you haven't skated with me!" she directed her thumb at her chest, grinning at him. When he gave her an unimpressed look, she frowned. "Fine. You're loss, you grump."
She turned and skated away then, feeling her elated mood drop just a bit. She heard him sigh behind her before skating back to Bolin.
Pointing back at Mako, she whispered to the Earthbender, "What's his problem with skating, anyway?"
"He can't," Bolin said simply, giving her a look. Korra blinked at him, as though someone not being able to skate was an impossible notion. She snorted, incredulous, but Bolin said it again, "He doesn't know how to skate, Korra."
She stopped laughing then, noticing his serious look. "But he told me he's been skating before and"
"Doesn't mean he knows how to automatically skate," Bolin stated, tugging his jacket around him.
"I thought he just didn't, well... like ice, or something dumb like that," Korra shrugged, feeling a bit guilty at her pushing. She turned to Bolin then, skating a bit in front of him. "How come you know how to skate and he doesn't, then?"
Bolin skated slower then and gave her a sigh, signalling the explanation was one of those kinds. Those kinds of things involved information from the brothers' difficult past things they didn't like to bring up or explain. Mako was lock-tight on his and Bolin's past, but the Earthbender was a little more open about it, and so that's how Korra knew things that Mako didn't want her to know, that she didn't bring up.
"My father taught me," he looked away from her, a sad smile forming on his face at the memory. "All of us used to love us. Even our Firebending mother and Mako. When we first were learning how to, Mako was so excited about it, but after getting on the ice, he just couldn't get the hang of it. He was uneasy and stiff and all he would do was fall but still, he enjoyed it, because it was with his family. But, uh... our father... after he died, Mako hated the idea of skating, and his falling didn't help. He still does." Bolin's gaze was distance at all the sad recollections, but there was also a tinge of happiness in his voice at the fondness of his memories. He remembered holding hands with his mother and father as they circled the rink, his cheeks rosy from the nipping wind, but he didn't care. He was as free as a bird, and he loved it. Bolin snapped back into his old cheery self almost instantly, though, and giving her a smile, he said, "But you didn't hear that from me." The Earthbender skated forward then, leaving the Avatar to herself to think.
Korra blinked in the direction of Mako, who was glowering at the ground. She didn't just feel guilty about pushing skating on him anymore, but downright cruel in a way. If skating held such bitter memories for him associating them with his father's death and all her forcing him to come and then begging him to skate was in no way helping him with them. She looked back at Mako, whose mouth was set in a hard line as he watched his brother skate, carefree, around the rink. He didn't look annoyed anymore, but miserable.
As she skated past him again, their eyes met for a brief second, before he turned away. Korra frowned, thinking. If he had been so excited the first time around... who was to say he couldn't be happy again? He just needed a little practice with a little patience, and he'd be a fine skater in no time! Korra grinned then, and picked up her pace, an idea popping into her head as she did. She knew what she could do to help the Firebender, but it'd have to wait until everyone was gone...
Approximately three hours passed, and while Korra felt bad for forcing Mako to stay outside that long and wait for her, it was necessary if her plan was going to work. They had come to the rink later in the day, around six o'clock, and so now, at ten, the sky having darkened signficantly, people were beginning to leave the park and the ice rink. Smiling, Korra thought to herself, Perfect...
She continued to skate about until everyone was completely gone even Bolin, who had stopped skating an hour before in favour of walking off with a cute girl he'd met. When she saw the last people a mother and her little girl return their skates and scoot away, she skated to the little entrance and walked into the sitting area with her skates on and sat next to the Firebender. He was shivering uncontrollably, and Korra felt bad once again, but her previous idea then re-entered her head and she felt confident in keeping him there again.
"What size are your feet?" she asked him quickly.
Absentmindedly, his brain too cold to comprehend what she was trying to do by asking him this, he answered, "Eleven." He stopped then as his brain registered what she had inquired, but she was already walking back into the small building where the owner was, unimpressed that these two teenagers were still here. He watched her talk to him through the window, the owner's frown turn into a smile, and then pass her two cups of something and a set of skates that she paid for quickly before exiting the building and joining him again.
Korra smiled softly at him and he felt his face heat up as she placed one of the cups in his hand. It was startlingly warm, and he noticed by its smell that it was hot chocolate. He hadn't known that they had sold hot beverages there, or he'd have gotten himself some before... He sipped at the drink slowly but happily, feeling the numbness in his face fade away. "Thank you."
Korra nodded at him and sipped at her own before holding up the skates in front of him. "One more try?"
"No, Korra," he told her forcefully, frowning. "I"
"There's no one here to see you fall, you know," she told him, and he looked at her quickly, seeing a glint in her eyes. His face flushed again, but not out of her looking at him, but out of the fact that she knew that he couldn't skate. Damn his brother sometimes...
He looked around, as though the landscape held an excuse for him to use, before his eyes landed on the building Korra had exited, and he saw the business hours sign. Pointing at it, he said, "The skating rink is closing soon, Korra. So we can't."
"Actually," she moved closer to him, "I asked if we could stay a bit longer, and he told me it was okay as long as we didn't trash the place."
Mako swallowed then how was he supposed to get out of this one? He wasn't about to just leave Korra behind Equalists had been going after her left, right and centre when she was alone, and so he wanted to be around to help her if they came at her again. He simply shook his head and was about to refuse again when Korra frowned and placed her hand on his.
"I just want to spend some time with you, Mako," she told him genuinely. It was true the Avatar didn't get too much time alone with the Firebender, while she got tons with Bolin. What better time than now?
Mako went bright red and he suddenly felt too warm, but didn't pull away from her. He looked over at her and caught her pleading gaze and he felt his feelings for her begin to override his pride. A few more seconds passed, and he sighed heavily, snatching the skates from her hand and bending down to put them on. "Fine!" he mumbled, "but don't expect me to like it. I suck at skating."
Korra jumped up and smiled brightly, before going back to the entrance and waiting for him there. Mako tightened his skates and stood up wobbly, before slowly making his way over to Korra. He glared at his feet when his ankle buckled suddenly and he almost tumbled down. Korra caught him, before taking his arm and pulling him out on the ice slowly.
Immediately, Mako felt uneasy about it all. It helped that no one was there to see the stoic Firebender fumble around, but he still felt his pride dropping when Korra would giggle good-naturedly at him. This was just downright degrading! He gave her a sharp look the next time she laughed at him, and she stopped, smiling at him encouragingly.
"I... I want to go the edge," he said after a few moments, pushing away from her and narrowly making his way there. He scooted ahead slowly while Korra followed him. He looked forward pointedly, not wishing to get distracted by her, but instead he just nicked his skate on an uneven piece of ice and tumbled forward, catching himself before he fell.
Korra stopped and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Are you okay?" she asked hurriedly, giving him a concerned look. He met her eyes accidentally, and felt himself blush in utter mortification. Standing up straight, he turned around and made for the entrance.
"I'm done with this!" he threw the hand that wasn't holding the ledge up, frustrated. "I can't skate all I do is fall!" He heard her skate up behind him and place a hand on his arm, but he shrugged it off and kept going. The almost-fall had caused a rush of memories to enter his mind happy memories of before his father died and his mother got sick, when his parents would help him up and laugh when he fell, making it okay. Bitter ones filled his head, too, like later on when one parent was gone and the other one was almost there, and all skating his father's favourite pastime reminded him was of the late man, how people would laugh at him for falling and how no one was there to help him up, or how he had to deny his baby brother the simple pleasure of skating because he hated it so much. Skating reminded him of a happier time that he would never get to experience again.
Mako's inability to skate was, at first, made okay by his parents. They told him they would teach him and that he'd become a fabulous skater and he believed them. He never improved, but at least he was enjoying himself and was with his family. After his father died, he had decidedly begun to hate the sport, and when Bolin asked him to skate with him because their ill mother couldn't any longer, people's laughing at his falling didn't help his already-growing disdain for skating, either. Not only was falling and being unable to skate humiliating for him, ruining his pride, but falling became symbolic to Mako's life after his mother's death falling meant he was failing, and failing meant he was weak, and if he was weak he was going to lose his brother and everything else that mattered and if that happened then he'd be nothing but a husk of his former self. He couldn't let that happen and so he avoided the one thing that reminded him of it the most.
The bombardment of horrible memories caused tears to work their way into Mako's eyes, and he wiped them away with his gloved hand furiously. Great, as if almost falling in front of her wasn't enough, now she was going to see him cry!
Korra grabbed his hand and pulled him back around, her eyes bright in the moonlight. "Mako," her voice had quieted to a whisper. "You're not going to fall anymore I'm not going to let you." Her eyes flickered at him, and he swallowed, his heart thumping at the intense look she was giving him. "I promise you, Mako." There was more behind her words than what she was saying, and he knew that. Korra wanted to be there for Mako she wanted to be able to support him when no one else was there for him, because he was always the person doing the supporting. He needed someone there to be for him, and she was willing to be that someone.
He allowed her to pull him out the center of the rink, taking his other hand and holding them steadily. They stared at each other, an unspoken trust being sent between them, and for the first time that day, Mako allowed himself to smile at her as she spun them around in a slow circle.
A few more hours at passed it was nearly one in the morning now, and the park was deserted. Tenzin would be angry at Korra's absence, but it didn't matter she was having too much fun to care. The owner of the skating rink at told them they could just return the skates to him the next day, and left them at that.
Korra grinned brightly as Mako skated past her slowly but steadily, significantly distanced from the ledge. Though he still wasn't the best skater, obviously, he had definitely begun improving in the short amount of time they had been skating around. The Avatar knew it was because of his change in attitude he was much more open and positive now that he wasn't being scrutinized by other people.
The Firebender was even smiling, a genuine grin plastered to his rosy cheeks, and Korra had to admit he looked downright handsome when he wasn't scowling. He directed his glowing gaze at her and took her hands in his, skating them around and around. It had been so, so long since the Firebender had just had fun like he was then and with a friend, someone he trusted. He blushed as she cuddled into his jack-covered arm, intertwining their fingers and pulling him closer.
When they got to one end of the rink, Korra stopped them, and she pointed to the end, breaking away from him, both immediately missing the other's warmth. "I'm going to skate down there," she motioned, "and you're going to show me how much you've improved by getting across the entire rink without any help from me or the edge."
He nodded slowly at her, a confidence welling up inside him as she skated to the opposite side of the rink. He could do this, he could do this. When Korra got the other end, she thumbed up at him, which he returned before pushing off the ledge behind him and taking off. At first he was controlled and slow, but as he got closer to her and cockier as he went, he picked up speed. Before he knew what was happening, he noticed he was closer to Korra than he thought and crashed into her before he could stop.
He slammed the pair of them against the ledge, and Korra groaned. Mako pushed away from her slightly and placed his arms on either side of her on the ledge to steady himself. "I told you," he mumbled, "I'm a hazard."
She held her hands on her abdomen, where most of the impact had been made, before placing them on his chest and smiling. "We'll just have to teach how to stop, then."
Mako chuckled, before bringing his hands to her upper arms. It wasn't until this moment that they realized how close they were to each other, and they stared at each other, eyelids lulling closed as they leaned closer.
Feeling her breath against his lips, Mako's heart thumped wildly in his chest. Korra shifted her foot just slightly so she could angle her mouth against his better, but just as their lips were about to meet...
Korra's skate twisted the wrong way, and she tumbled down. Mako's reflexes were faster than her fall, though, and he wrapped his arms around her waist, preventing her butt from making contact with the ice. Pulling her up against him, he smiled tenderly at her and whispered, "I'm not going to let you fall, either, Korra. I'm here for you..."
Korra blinked at the Firebender, before her gaze softened and she straightened, wrapping her arms around his neck and embracing him, murmuring a 'thank you' into his coat. While Mako needed support, she did, too, all the same. Her duty to the world was a stressful one, and sometimes she doubted her abilities to protect it, but if she had him around to support her... she knew she could do it. She could feel it in her erratically beating heart.
The two stood there for a good amount of time, enjoying each others' warmth in the frigid air. The pair only stirred when Mako felt something fall on his cheek, and he pulled back to look up and find snowflakes falling from the sky lightly. He smiled to himself before joining back in the embrace he knew he'd begin to like skating again if he got to do it with her.
After a little while longer of hugging each other, they pulled back and decided it was time to return home for the night. And as they skated along of the edge of the rink one last time, holding hands, both knew they would never fall again, unless it was for each other.