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Penguin Sledding

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Delphine was still nervous of flying. Despite the fact that she now had a girlfriend (the word was still strange and exciting to think about) who now spent more time in the air than on the ground, despite the fact that Scott was probably the gentlest, most mellow Sky bison ever, despite the fact that she absolutely trusted that if she fell Cosima would catch her, despite all that she felt nervous in the air.

If she was completely honest with herself though, not all her anxiety came from the fact that they were drifting above the cloud line. She had never, never, done anything this impulsive before. Delphine had always strove to do exactly what was expected of her, obeying her parents, studying hard to become a water-bending master, one of the most powerful healers in the northern-tribes, even going as far as excepting a betrothal from a man she barely knew. Then Cosima had, literally, blown into her life. Colourful, chaotic Cosima, who felt plans were things that happened to other people, who was interested in everything, who seemed to understand everything about Delphine, things she didn't know herself. Cosima, who had convinced her to come travelling with her after knowing her for only three days, who had convinced her to leave her family, her job and the only hoe she had ever known behind in exchange for adventure. More than a month had passed, and still Delphine felt a nagging tug of guilt at the back of her mind, a tiny voice that questioned whether or not she had done the right thing.

As if she could read her mind, and Delphine would not have been entirely surprised if she could, Cosima twisted completely around in the saddle to give her one of the light-up-the-room grins that were the first thing Delphine had noticed about her. 'Come look,' she said, beckoning Delphine over to the front of the saddle where a break in the clouds meant they could look down to the world below. Rather than the ocean they had been passing over for days straight, Delphine saw a swathe a tundra that gave a sudden chest-tug of home sickness. 'The South Pole,' Cosima said, as proud as if she had laid it out for Delphine personally, 'home of fine culture, penguin sledding and a heck of a lot of snow.'

'Penguin sledding?' repeated Delphine, trying to look at the landscape without getting too near to the edge of the basket-like contraption mounted on Scott's back.

'Oh you are kidding me, right? They don't have penguin sledding at the North Pole?'

'We don't have penguins at the North Pole Cosima,' Delphine countered.

'All the more reason to take a turn, down Scott!' The last part was given at a shout, and Delphine felt herself thrown forward as the the Bison suddenly angled downwards. She ended up tangled around Cosima, and as they touched down she felt herself being scooped up by the smaller woman, who jumped lightly down to the ground. She gently put Delphine down on her feet then bowed low over her hand, as if they had been dancing at an elegant ball. Delphine allowed herself to grin at the silliness of it all, the strange place, her own nervousness, all of it seemed ridiculous at that moment. Cosima leaned in and kissed her lightly, 'you're beautiful,' she said, their smiles mirroring each other, 'my beautiful water-tribe girl. Come on!'

Cosima shifted from stillness to motion in a fluid turn, pelting down the hill they had landed on towards the shore of an inlet, totally trusting that Delphine would follow her. She did, of course, catching up quickly with the help of her longer legs and a lifetime experience of how to run in deep snow. Without realising it, they were racing, they breath coming in icy puffs, Cosima glancing over to Delphine every few seconds to flash a manic grin. They were getting closer and closer to the shore now, and she showed no sign of slowing down. Just as they reached the edge of the water Cosima laughed aloud, then pulled her staff from her back and flipped open her glider, jumping into the air and swooping low over the water. Instinctively, Delphine pushed out in front of her and ran onto the inlet surface. As she placed her feet the water froze, and she pushed on, covering the distance in bounds that betrayed how free she suddenly felt. She had studied the theory for this technique a lifetime ago, and she couldn't believe she had never felt the desire to try it, to test her limits in the way Cosima encouraged her to do every day.

As she reached the other side of the water she skidded to a stop, sending up a spray of ice shards that splattered Cosima just as she came to land. The air-bender shook her dreaded hair, splashing Delphine in the process then took off again, slower this time, but with the same manic energy as ever. They walked hand-in-hand, Cosima determined to point out everything that interested her, from clouds that looked like an earth-bender she had met once to the tracks of a tiny animal that Delphine identified as a hippopotamus shrew. Delphine, on the other hand, could not look away from Cosima for more than a second, not until they reached the plateau that was covered, seriously covered, with penguins.

Copying Cosima, Delphine moved slowly towards one of the awkward, bumbling creatures, scooped it up and clutched it tight to her chest. Then running, pelting towards the edge of a steep and icy incline. Then falling, sliding, tumbling carelessly forward, the speed was exhilarating and more than a little terrifying. Delphine couldn't stop herself from shouting out with excitement, a joyous cry that Cosima joined gleefully, their yells harmonising and echoing off the icy surfaces they shot past. She couldn't stop smiling, not even when they both ploughed into a snowdrift, the penguins running off as they attempted to disentangle limbs and brush snow from clothes. Flushed faces pressed together, Delphine kissed the tip of Cosima's reddened nose, feeling how icy it cold was under the slight roughness of her chapped lips.

'You're freezing,' she told Cosima reproachfully, wrapping her arms around her and resting her chin on her head, as Cosima nestled in closer to her chest.

'I know something we can do to warm up...'