Korra meets Asami Sato for the first time when, two months into her freshman year of college, she gets to the rink an hour and a half early for some extra practice. She messed up her footwork on some drills the day before, and while no one made a big deal about it, she knows she’ll have to do better if she ever wants to move up the lineup.
By the time she laces up her skates and gets down to the ice, there’s already someone there. They have on a helmet, full body spandex, and the weirdest skates Korra has ever seen, and they’re skating big, fast circles around cones set up along the length of the rink.
Korra didn’t know the school had any short track skaters, so instead of being too annoyed, she stays behind the boards and watches the person skate. She doesn’t know much about short track beyond what she’s seen on TV, but she knows they must be making adjustments after each lap, smoothing out the tiniest wrinkles in their movements. It’s the same reason Korra is here, the same reason why every athlete dedicated to their sport puts in every extra hour of practice.
They’re so fast, and so sure of each movement that it makes Korra breathless just watching them.
By the time they coast to a stop and straighten up, Korra is leaning against the boards, a little hypnotized. She wonders how they don’t get dizzy with all those circles.
Then they reach up, take off their helmet, and shake their hair free from its low bun and—
Korra would recognize that undercut anywhere. She may not follow short track religiously, but almost everyone has heard of Asami Sato, the youngest woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal in any short track distance. And not just one, but two at this past year’s Games, when she was only eighteen.
Korra maybe has a bit of a crush. She also has no idea what Asami Sato is doing training at a college rink in the middle-of-nowhere, Wisconsin. Asami probably has sponsors lined up from here to the Gulf of Mexico, and she could have access to the best training facilities in the world.
That’s when Asami notices her.
Her smile is even more beautiful in person.
“Oh!” she says, skating closer. How is her makeup perfect after a workout like that? “I’m so sorry, I didn’t go over my time, did I?”
Korra shakes her head, feeling more than a little tongue tied.
Asami looks amused, now. Korra wishes she had her stick with her so she could at least have something to do with her hands. But she doesn’t, because she’s here to focus on her footwork, so she figures she’ll just have to woman up instead.
Asami beats her to it, saying, “I’ll get out of your hair then.” She turns, catches sight of the rink, and seems to realize how torn up the ice is from her practice. “Oh.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Korra manages, and she’s thankful she sounds somewhat unruffled. She throws in a smirk, too, for good measure, when Asami glances at her. “I know the guy who runs the zamboni. Bolin will have it fixed up in no time.”
She even helps Asami gather up her cones, and doesn’t miss the way Asami eyes her hockey skates.
And then Asami is gone, heading down the tunnel with a lingering smile sent over her shoulder.
Korra sighs, wistfully, and then doesn’t let herself waste any more time. She goes to find Bolin, figuring that’s the end of that.
And it is, except it really isn’t, because she and Asami keep running into each other at the rink, and then in the only good coffee shop on campus, and then one day Korra wakes up enough during her 8:00 AM Intro to Theatre class to realize that Asami is sitting right next to her.
She has to check her face for drool—there’s none, thank fuck—and then she tries to pretend like she’s actually paying attention and has any idea what the professor means by pac cans and thrust stages.
After, Korra turns to Asami and gives her a smile. Asami smiles back, one eyebrow raised.
“Did you actually get any of that? Or,” she taps one finger on her neat and legible notes. What little Korra managed to get down looks more like a cat picked up a pen and tried to write; she’s gonna have no idea what it means come finals. “Would you like to borrow mine?”
Korra glances from the finger to Asami’s smirk and back to the finger.
Woman up, she tells herself.
“Maybe we could go over them over coffee?” she asks, and then immediately has to resist the urge to smash her face on the desk. What a dumbass thing to say.
Asami looks charmed rather than put off, though, so Korra just goes with it.
It’s not until they’re about two people away from the front of the line that Korra remembers to say, “I hope you know I meant this as a date. And not like a study date, but like. A date… date.”
Oh my god, she tells herself. Way to sound like Mako.
She’s contemplating just throwing herself out the window to save herself any further embarrassment—they aren’t that high off the ground, and she can see a tree, she’d probably be fine—when Asami curls her hand around Korra’s.
Korra whips her head around and stares at her. Asami smiles, and tucks a piece of hair behind her ear with her free hand.
“I was hoping that was what you meant,” she says, and leans over to press a kiss to Korra’s cheek.
Korra’s blushing when she orders their coffees, but that’s alright.
It’s hard to make time for dates when both people are extremely dedicated athletes, and one an Olympian to boot, with rigorous courses on top of that. Asami is an engineering major, for crying out loud, and Korra’s counseling classes are no joke either. Add to that practices, traveling around the country for games, for Korra, and traveling around the world, for Asami’s competitions, and it makes for a severe lack of free time.
But they manage. Most of their dates end up being study sessions in one of their dorm rooms, with breaks for snacks and Netflix and chill, if you catch her drift.
It’s difficult, but absolutely worth it to Korra. She loves watching Asami solve a complicated homework question, and the way her face lights up when she knows she has the answer, just as much as she loves looking up from the ice during a game to see Asami banging her fists against the glass, wearing one of Korra’s extra jerseys.
She especially loves when they can both squeeze into one of their twin-sized beds, tangling their legs together and just being. It’s uncomfortable, with elbows in places they shouldn’t be and limbs falling asleep, and Korra inevitably ends up with Asami’s hair in her mouth, but it’s still perfect.
Korra doesn’t play for Team Canada in the 2014 Olympics. She isn’t even named to the national team’s centralization roster for the season, but it still sucks when they release the final roster and her name isn’t on it. She’s one of the best defenders in the college game right now, but that isn’t enough. It’s hard, to watch some of her teammates and her competitors withdraw their collegiate eligibility for the year so they can go play full time, at the highest level possible for a woman, and know that they’ll still be able to come back next year and have that extra season of playing time before they have to give it up for good.
It’s Korra’s senior year. The 2014 Games were her only chance to play on the world stage, because she knows this is it for her. She loves hockey—more than anything, some days—but you can’t make a living as a female hockey player. And she’s studying to be a social worker, which is important, a lot more important than hockey.
But still. She would have given anything to skate in Sochi—to maybe sneak away at some point and watch Asami skate in her second Games, where she’s the favorite for the gold in the 500 and 1,000-meter races—but it wasn’t meant to be, so she’s not going to waste time sighing over something that’ll never happen. Not when she has to figure out a way to stream the short track and hockey events at the same time. Not when she’ll be graduating in two months, and have to hang up her skates more or less for good, after that.
At least, that’s what she thinks—that she’ll be done after playoffs are over, except for rec games on the weekends if she’s lucky—until Coach Katara pulls her aside one day after practice. Korra taps her stick on the ice as she skates over to the boards by the bench where Katara is waiting. She’s trying to think, but there weren’t any glaring mistakes made by any of the players today that Korra would need to know about as captain.
But then again, Katara has been coaching for longer than Korra has been alive, and she was one of the trailblazers for professional women’s hockey, back when no one thought they could play at the same level as the men. She’s pretty much a legend, and Korra still has no idea why she’s coaching college hockey in the middle of nowhere when she could definitely have a job for any Olympics team she wanted. It’s entirely possible that she noticed a mistake—maybe even something Korra did?—that no one else would.
So when Katara asks, “Have you thought at all about signing with any of the CWHL teams?” Korra nearly trips over her skates.
The CWHL is time-consuming, and doesn’t even pay, but it’s hockey. The next step below the Olympics and the World Cup, if you’re a woman. Katara helped found the CWHL.
Korra has honestly never considered it.
“You think they’d want me?” she asks, after spitting out her mouth guard.
Katara smiles serenely, the same smile that she always used when a man tried to condescend to her or tell her she was wrong. Korra gulps.
“I have it on good authority that the Blades definitely interested,” she says, and then laughs at the face Korra makes.
“No offense to Boston, but no thanks,” is all Korra says, trying not to sound too rude. There is absolutely no way she’s living in Boston.
“I thought not.” Katara’s smile morphs into a smirk, the one that means trouble. “Well, my son, Tenzin—I’m sure you remember him?” Of course Korra remembers that time she met one of the best hockey players of the of the 90’s, who just so happened to be the son of one of the best hockey players and one of the best figure skaters of all time.
How is this even her life?
“He’s coaching the Stars now, if you haven’t heard,” Katara says. Yes, Korra has heard. Yes, Korra has an idea where this is going, and she really, really likes it. “He’s seen you play, and he thinks you’d be a good fit with his team.”
Korra has to take a minute to glance down at the ice between her skates. She taps her stick again.
It would be so much work, full time practices and twenty-eight games a season, not to mention a job because they won’t pay their players, and she’d have to talk to Asami. They haven’t made post-graduation plans yet, but moving to Montreal probably doesn’t fit with Asami’s, which would mean they’d have to be apart.
But she wants this. So she looks Katara in the eye and says, “I wouldn’t just be making the decision for me.” Katara nods. She doesn’t look surprised. Korra continues. “But I’m definitely interested.”
Katara smiles and nods approvingly.
That night, Korra curls up with her laptop and some cold pizza to watch Asami’s qualifying race for the 500m.
When Asami comes in first, absolutely killing the competition, Korra throws the pizza halfway across the room, she’s so excited. Then, before she can think too hard about it, she pulls out her phone and leaves Asami a voicemail, one that starts with, “Hey baby! Awesome race! I was actually calling because coach talked to me today, and, well, she had this idea…”
Asami sweeps the international competition in the 2014-15 season, and takes the gold in both her races at the World Cup in Erzurum. Korra is stuck working on her Master’s classes in Montreal, watching shitty live streams on YouTube. Being a poor grad student sucks.
A month later, Korra goes to the 2015 Women’s World Cup, after a whole season of playing with the Stars. They lose to the United States in the gold medal game, and the stadium is less than half full, but Asami is in the stands and Korra is playing for her country, so it doesn’t matter.
After the game, Korra finds Asami and kisses her silly.
“You didn’t tell me you were going to make it!” she says, giddy despite the loss. She kisses Asami some more, until Asami laughs and pushes Korra’s face away so she can answer.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Asami says, and then laughs again at her own joke.
It sort of makes Korra feel like a shitty girlfriend, because she hasn’t been to one of Asami’s races since their sophomore year of college, but then Asami kisses the tip of her nose.
“It’s okay,” she tells Korra, and Korra gives her another kiss for understanding.
When she graduates with her Master’s degree in social work, Asami is the first person Korra looks for in the crowd, seated next to Korra’s parents and half of her teammates, now known as Les Canadiennes. She did it. She’s going to help people, and she’ll keep playing hockey all the while.
And later that night, when both Korra and Asami try to propose, it’s hard to remember her excitement over being handed that diploma, because this is so much better.
They get married in the spring.
Korra’s parents walk her down the aisle, and then walk right back down in order to walk Asami too. Bolin acts as Asami’s best man and Korra’s teammate, Opal, is Korra’s. Mako cries like a baby, though he won’t admit it. So does Tenzin, and Korra’s parents, and half of the other guests in attendance.
Korra can’t even make fun of them at the reception, because she teared up a little too as they exchanged their vows.
For their first dance, Korra pulls Asami close and they waltz around the dance floor, trading whispers that no one else can hear. Asami is even taller than normal in her heels, so Korra takes the opportunity to pretend to grope her awesome skater’s thighs. Asami retaliates by actually groping Korra’s hockey butt.
Korra sweeps Asami into a low dip, and then kisses her senseless to the whistles of the assembled crowd.
This is her life, and it’s perfect.
Korra is asleep when Team Canada announces the finalized roster for the 2018 Olympic Games. Coach Beifong makes Tenzin look like Korra’s high school coach, expecting nothing less than perfection and ruthless about it.
It’s understandable, of course, because playing for the national team is no laughing matter, but Korra has been all over the western half of the continent in the past two weeks, playing the Americans—and beating them—twice, and then some of the club teams in Western Canada. She manages to sneak away for a day in order to watch Asami’s qualifying races for Team U.S.A.
It’s always incredible, to see her wife compete in person, and win. Asami will be ranked first for the United States going into the Olympics, and she’ll be competing against many of the women she beat in the World Cup last year.
But it also makes for a busy week, which is why Korra sleeps through the phone call from Beifong, and the ones from her parents and Katara and her teammates.
She only wakes up to the sound of Asami’s ringtone.
“‘Lo?” She says, face still half smushed into the pillow.
“Korra,” Asami says. Her voice is honey sweet and slow. She’s still in Salt Lake City, and Korra misses her fiercely. “Congrats, sweetie.”
Korra responds with an elegant, “Wha?”
Asami snorts. “Did I wake you?”
Korra makes a sort of mmm sound and rolls over onto her back. She’s almost feeling awake now.
“So why am I being congratulated?”
“Well, I’m not sure I should ruin the surprise now,” Asami says.
“No,” Korra says. She blinks at the ceiling. The paint is cracking. “I can’t imagine a better way of finding out… whatever it is, than from you.”
Asami hums at that. “You old softie.”
They’re quiet for a minute, just listening to the one another breathe on the other end of the phone.
Then, Asami says, “They released the roster.”
“Oh.” It’s the only thing Korra can say. She knows, logically, that Asami wouldn’t have opened with congrats if it wasn’t good news, but she’s still nervous. There’s a possibility, however slim, that she was cut.
“You made it,” Asami tells her.
Korra lays there, alone in their king-sized bed, staring at the ceiling. She doesn’t bother to wipe away the hot tears tracking down the sides of her face. She wishes Asami was here.
“I made it,” she whispers.
“You did, sweetie.”
Korra laughs, and it’s a wet sound, but Asami doesn’t mention it.
“I miss you.”
“I miss you too, Korra,” Asami says, and then they’re laughing together, because they made it.
They write articles, of course, about them. Korra is the first Inuit woman to play on Canada’s Olympic hockey team. They’re a married couple competing for rival countries. Asami is going to her third Games, where she’s favored to win at least one gold.
Korra’s mom goes on a binge and sends every relevant headline their way, until Korra’s dad has to intervene.
If Korra was the type to be nervous, she most certainly would be now. But this is her game, and it’s been her game since she was four years old. She and Opal are arguably the best defensive pair in the world right now, and their goalie, Zhu Li, is meticulous, and their captain, Kuvira, could lead an army into battle with her strength of conviction alone.
So she’s not worried.
The Opening Ceremony is… indescribable. Korra walks with her teammates and just takes it in. She’s here.
The only way it could be better would be if she could walk with Asami.
It’s pretty fun to sneak Asami into Korra’s room later, though, and that almost makes up for it.
They win, and Korra is an Olympic gold medalist.
There’s some press after the game, and they ask Korra the standard questions, including, “How does it feel to be a gold medalist?”
Korra grins at them, not even sure who asked the question.
“It feels pretty great,” she admits. The grin turns into a smirk. “But it’s really not that impressive. Did you know that my wife has five Olympic gold medals?”
She misses her medal ceremony, because she’s standing in the athlete’s section, screaming at the top of her lungs during the women’s 1,000m short track finals.
Asami comes in first, and when she straightens up, her smile could rival the sun.
There’s much less sneaking involved that night, and Korra learns that Asami has a single room, which drastically alters their plans for the rest of the night, but neither of them are complaining.
Korra answers the phone without opening her eyes. “Yeah?”
“Korra,” her mom says, and despite the fact that she’s nearly thirty years old, the tone makes her cringe. “They’re saying on the news—”
“Mom,” Korra whines. “What did Dad and I tell you about that?”
“They’re saying,” her mom continues stubbornly. “That Asami is retiring this year? Does that mean she won’t be going to the Olympics?”
Korra sighs, and opens her eyes. The ceiling is the same as its always been. No, actually, she thinks the crack may have gotten bigger. They really should fix that.
She hasn’t felt this tired since Beifong’s training camp, four years ago.
“You know that with the baby, she’s been considering it.” Korra rolls over and checks the alarm clock; only 7:30 AM, which certainly isn’t the earlier her mom has called. But with how late she was up last night— “She worked hard for her degree, and she wants to do something with it.”
Her mom hums thoughtfully. Korra can imagine her, sitting in the kitchen and staring out at the lake, her tea going cold because she’s forgot about it again. “I just know how much she loves skating.”
“Yeah,” Korra sighs. “But we’ve been talking about this for a long time, and we aren’t getting any younger. You know I don’t play anymore.”
Her mom is quiet, expectant.
“Besides some rec games,” Korra admits. Her mom still doesn’t say anything. “And there was that one alumni game, but I swear that’s it.”
Her mom laughs. “Exactly. You’re just like your father. It’s in your blood. Asami is the same way.”
“Mom,” Korra says. She closes her eyes. “When it was just Ayla, I could manage by myself when ‘Sami was traveling and training, because Ayla is older. But with Mayumi, too—”
Korra sits up, and there’s Asami, wearing an old, soft robe and holding Mayumi on her hip. Her hair spills over her shoulders, long since grown out from the undercut she had when they first met, and Mayumi bats at it sleepily.
“Mom, I have to go,” she says, and they say their goodbyes. After she hangs up, Korra stands, leaving the phone on the bed.
Asami gives her a kiss, despite the fact that her breath is probably terrible. Mayumi wakes up enough to pat Korra’s cheek and babble something that might sound like mama, if one was feeling generous.
Korra steals another kiss, and then asks, “is Ayla up?”
Asami leans her forehead against Korra’s and huffs out a laugh. “She’s fifteen, of course she isn’t.”
Asami gives her a coy look, only slightly thwarted by the fact that Mayumi has woken up entirely and is now at patting her face.
“I was craving pancakes this morning,” she says.
Korra laughs and kisses Mayumi on the cheek.
“Your wish is my command, my dear.”
And so they go out into the kitchen, and Korra makes enough pancakes for all of them. Ayla wakes up late and shuffles into the kitchen as Asami finishes her coffee and Korra is giving Mayumi the last of her bottle.
Life goes on. They’re Olympic medalists, but they’re also moms and wives and daughters. They’re happy, and loved. And that’s the most important thing.