Summer had hit Republic City with a vengeance.
Mako wasn't one to complain, though. After all the time he and Bolin had spent on the streets, he'd come to cherish the heat. A lot of his memory of those years had faded away, but some impressions were sharp. Smells, feelings. He remembered those hard winters they had spent, the two of them cuddling together at night underneath their bridge in the park to get out of the wind as much as they could. Countless nights Bolin would doze off with his head on Mako's shoulder, his teeth chattering so loudly that Mako couldn't sleep.
Awake and on edge, he would stoke the fire with his bending, eyes wary of any shadows.
He spent his time thinking of summer. Of not feeling cold, not feeling scared. Of the food carts rolling around in the streets that he could steal from. Of the bright green leaves and hot sun blazing overhead. Of the warm river that he and Bolin would swim in, the fish nipping at their toes. Of the flowers blooming all through the park, especially the ones that loved the shade.
He tried not to think about it too much. It made him sad.
Other sad-eyed homeless kids, mostly non-benders, would occasionally try to mooch off them. They'd try to hide in the shadows, hoping to catch a flash of warmth from the fire. Mako always noticed them, though. He didn't care about them, and he certainly didn't want them around. The more people around, the more noticeable they'd be, and the greater chance that the police would come and take Bolin away from him. Those moments when he thought about the possibility of losing his brother, his eyes would well up with tears, and he'd have to shove his face into the big red scarf he'd stolen so nobody could hear him crying.
Mako had a simple tactic for dealing with this, a way to handle these people who threatened him. He would light a fire in his palm, hold it to close to his face so he was certain the other kid could see his anger. With his eyebrows arched down, and his yellow eyes glowing with the light of the flames, he looked menacing.
"Leave," he'd threaten simply, his voice a whisper so he wouldn't wake Bolin. The kid would scurry away, and he would pull Bolin closer to him, trying to calm his brother's shivering.
Mako was seven.
It'd been many, many years since those days, but he still remembered the feeling of a chill that will never leave, no matter how many fires he'd lit or how closely he'd snuggled with Bolin or how tightly he'd wrapped his scarf around his neck. He remembered, so he would never complain about the heat.
Korra, however, was a different story, and Mako felt that he would never hear the end of it as the two of them rode Naga around Republic City Park. Korra wanted her polar-bear dog to get some exercise that consisted of something other than chasing the ring-tailed lemurs around Air Temple Island, but she'd been regretting it as soon as the three of them left.
"It's so hot!" she complained to nobody in particular for the umpteenth time. "Why are there no clouds?" She wiped her face with her arm before leaning forward on Naga. She said sweetly in Naga's ear, "Girl, do you know why there are no clouds today? Aren't you hot?"
Naga barked twice and continued panting, clearly uncomfortable with the heat. The top of her fur was absorbing the heat of the sun, so Mako couldn't think how hot she felt underneath it all.
Korra leaned back and turned to Mako. "I'm hot…" she groaned.
"I know," he said. He was very conscious of her proximity. He could smell her hair she was sitting so close in front of him. Floral. It reminded him of summers under the bridge.
"Let's get in the shade for a bit. There's a place to sit over there," Mako said, pointing towards a tree across the way.
"Yes!" Korra said, urging Naga to get there as soon as possible. When they arrived, she jumped right off before Naga had even stopped and lay in the grass. Mako climbed off after Naga had laid down herself and sat next to Korra, his back against the tree. Did she want him to lie next to her? Would she hold his hand if he did? Was she gonna be mad that he wasn't lying down next her? Or did she want him to stay put? He leaned forward and leaned back three times, unsure of where Korra wanted him to go and even more unsure of where he wanted to go before giving up and resting against the tree.
Bolin was so much smoother when it came to the ladies.
"How do you stand this heat?" she asked him, her eyes closed. Naga panted at their side.
"It's just something I learned to love," he admitted, not wanting to get into details. Not right then, anyway. He wasn't ready to share his past, not fully. "I love summer."
"I love summer back home. Where it's actually cold and I'm not sweating like a flying boar. Winter's even better."
"How do you stand the cold?"
She leaned her head back in the grass to look up at him smirking down at her. "It's just something I learned to love," she said with a smile.
Mako picked up one of the sticks next to him. "Does Naga fetch?" he asked Korra, shaking the stick above her head to catch her attention.
"Of course! We haven't played in awhile, either. Those damn lemurs always get to the stick first."
Mako threw the stick into the river, and Naga bounded after it, splashing happily in the water as she swam to get it. It wasn't until Naga started running back with the stick in her mouth that Mako realized that this was the spot that he and Bolin had hung around when they were kids. This was the river they swam in. Just to the right was the bridge they'd slept under.
He never expected to be sitting here with anyone other than Bolin. And frankly, he had never expected to spend any real time alone with anyone other than Bolin. It had just never happened before.
He assumed it had all been Bolin's plan. After lunch with Tenzin's family on the island, Korra had invited both brothers to walk Naga in the park with her. Bolin had stretched his arms over his head and complained that he was too tired from all that delicious food Pema had made, and was just going to stay and hang with the kids, but he insisted that Mako go. If that wasn't enough, he'd given away an even bigger clue by snickering with Jinora and Ikki when Mako hesitantly put his hands on Korra's waist after climbing up on Naga behind her. Korra had to have heard them whispering to each other, and Mako flushed with embarrassment at the memory.
Those three… so ridiculous. He did not understand them.
Naga rushed back and dropped the stick in front of Mako, already wagging her tail and bopping up and down with anticipation. He tossed the stick again.
"She's loving it," Korra said.
"Back home, we love going out and just sprinting across the snow. Not even playing, just running."
Korra propped herself up on her elbows and turned to look at him. "I think that's one reason why I can't stand summer here. Besides it being disgustingly hot, that is. Back home, even in the summer, there's snow. I love the crunch of it, the feel of it falling on me in flakes."
Before, Mako would have said that he had zero interest in ever making snow's acquaintance, due to his aversion to the cold. But the way Korra's eyes brightened right then made it seem like he was missing something.
"I've never seen snow," Mako admitted.
"Seriously. I've lived in the city my whole life. It doesn't snow here."
"Wow," she said. "I can't imagine not having snow. Ever. It's beautiful."
He thought about that for a bit before responding.
"Flowers are beautiful."
She turned away from him again and rested her head back on the grass, closing her eyes. "It's not the same."
Naga returned and this time Korra chucked the stick into the river. She continued, "You know my favorite part?"
She raised her hands above her, like she was reaching for the sky. The summer weather may be have surrounded them, but her mind was back home, back with the winter cold. "When there's been a fresh snow, everything is white. Everything. When Naga and I go out of the compound, it's a like sea of white, so bright in front of us. And then when the sun shines down on it, it sparkles. It's so pure. And perfect. And I just love that. I love…" Her voice was sad then. Distant. It trailed off. She looked back at Mako again and laughed then, "Oh, man, I sound crazy."
"You're not crazy," he said smiling. "At least not about that."
"Hey!" She slapped his leg playfully.
She must not have noticed that he'd been watching her as she talked. She must not have realized that he saw the pain in her expression, the sorrow in her eyes as she talked about the snow.
The same way he remembered craving summer on those lonely nights with Bolin, he could tell that Korra wanted winter more than anything. She missed home, he could tell. And although she seemed happy here, there was something missing still. He wanted to make her smile. He wanted her to really and truly smile, something that he hadn't ever felt before.
But now he wasn't a self-centered kid under a bridge, putting all his efforts into his brother. It wasn't just the two of them anymore. Korra had come into his life, surprisingly, yes, but she was in it all the same. She'd started out in the shadows, but here she was, her lips smiling but her eyes so sad. But he didn't have to scare her away from his fire like he'd done with all those other kids wanting to be taken care of on those cold winter nights. He could care about her. He did, didn't he? He did care about her. If only he had some way to show her that… a way to make her feel better. He wished Bolin were here to help him decide what to do.
He looked at his old bridge and remembered.
"Stay here," he said, standing.
She opened her eyes. "Where are you going?"
He started walking to the same bridge that he had called home all those years ago. He glanced back and saw that Korra was sitting up against the tree now, staring at him. He reached the shade underneath the bridge, out of her line of sight, and saw the part of his old home that he longed for in the winter, that he dreamt of on those cold nights.
A cluster of moonflowers swayed in the breeze.
Their bright white petals stretched outward, loving the cool feel of the partial shade. He only hoped that they were as bright a white as the snow Korra loved and missed so much. He hoped a little piece of his old home helped her to not miss her own so much.
He yanked one up from the ground and held it behind his back as he returned to the tree. In the direct light of the sun, the petals closed up again. Naga was now lying down next to Korra, exhausted. Korra quickly bent the water off her fur and proceeded to pet her, looking up as Mako walked back.
"What was that about?"
Wordlessly, he knelt down and held the flower in front of him. As Korra grabbed it and pulled it back under the shade, it bloomed, its petals gorgeous and pure. He lay down in the grass.
Her eyes lit up, and she grinned.
"It's beautiful." She scooted down and lay next to him. "It's perfect."
He turned to look at her. She stared at him, still beaming, holding the flower to her chest. She reached out with her other hand and touched his, her fingers soft and gentle, which surprised him. The leaves rustled overhead. He laced his fingers between hers and squeezed her hand as he spoke:
a/n: Something sweet to vomit rainbows to. ;) I can't get enough Makorra, and I feel no shame. Anyway, hope you enjoyed! Please leave a review!
Korra © Bryke