|In the Pale Moonlight
Author: PristinelyUngifted PM
A tale of two lovers who realized everything too late. This story begins with Lin and Tarrlok's first meeting, and goes through the entirety of S1 of Legend of Korra. Completely canon compliant, it offers a different interpretation of events.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Chief Lin Beifong & Tarrlok - Chapters: 5 - Words: 11,162 - Reviews: 17 - Favs: 12 - Follows: 10 - Updated: 09-29-12 - Published: 08-11-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8418960
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Note: Lines you recognize are from episodes of Legend of Korra.
Part V: The Scratches On the Floor
Tarrlok woke in a dingy cell. His clothes were dirty and torn, and his long hair was tangled. It took him several long moments to remember what had happened.
Amon had found the place where Tarrlok was keeping Korra. They fought. Tarrlok used bloodbending.
And Amon resisted.
Then Tarrlok's muscles where twitching, pain shooting through his limbs with every throb of his heart. It had been a long time since he felt it, but he recognized the sensation.
Amon was a bloodbender. A bloodbender capable of using bloodbending without a full moon.
A bloodbender stronger than Tarrlok himself.
There was the sound of footsteps.
Tarrlok looked up to see familiar eyes staring at him from behind a white mask.
"Hello, brother," Tarrlok said.
Noatok stared for a long time. Tarrlok stared back, unflinching.
Then Noatok left as silently as he came.
Tarrlok realized that his brother had taken his bending away when he tried to escape. The Equalists guarding his cell merely laughed at his attempts to control them with bloodbending, one going so far as to suggest that he should have been a dancer.
The comment reminded Tarrlok of Lin.
He shuddered, his skin crawling and muscles trembling from the aftereffects of Noatok's bloodbending grip. He closed his eyes, reliving it, the sickening sensation of muscles and veins shuddering.
Tarrlok had used bloodbending on Lin.
His head spun.
Stomach churning, Tarrlok rushed to the bucket they had placed inside his cell, bending over it just as he heaved, bringing up all the gruel and water he had been given to eat in the past few days.
The guards mocked him for being so upset over the loss of his bending. Tarrlok ignored their jibes, sinking to his knees as his hands started to shake harder.
How could he have done that to her? What was he thinking?
Unsteady on his feet, he crawled to the tin pitcher of water sitting on the floor on the opposite side of his cell, intending to rinse his mouth and splash some on his face.
His reflection in the surface of the water made him pause. He had somehow never noticed it before.
He looked just like Yakone.
Noatok became a frequent visitor to Tarrlok's cell. He was clothed in black from head to toe, the mask of Amon obscuring his face. Tarrlok never saw more than Noatok's eyes, but knew it was him by the way he moved, and the way he cared for Tarrlok, prisoner though he was.
The guards began to make sure that Tarrlok was a bit cleaner, and had more generous food and water rations once it became clear that it displeased Amon for Councilman Tarrlok to be without.
Tarrlok spoke during their visits, though Noatok never did. He talked about their childhood. Their father. Asked where Noatok had been, all these years. Told his brother about the life he had built in the city, and the mistakes he had made.
Though she was never far from his mind, Tarrlok never mentioned Lin. She was a powerful bender, and sure to cross Noatok at some point. She would never run. Not Lin.
Tarrlok wasn't sure whether speaking of her would gain her protection, or make her a target in Amon's eyes. And if she had already been killed, or had her bending taken… he didn't want to know. He needed to believe she was out there, free, and whole.
So he kept silent.
Tarrlok knew that the city was under siege. At times he could hear distant explosions caused by the fighting on the streets. He could feel vibrations overhead, shaking his cell. War machines, he had to assume. He had no way of gauging the level of conflict, but he had a vague sense that Amon's forces were winning.
Every day there seemed to be more Equalists swarming through the underground tunnels where Tarrlok was being kept. And they were no longer just extremists. He saw average citizens being led by hardened rebels, on their way to be trained by Chi Blocking Masters.
He wondered if they would have turned to Amon before Tarrlok had instituted his task forces and curfews. Maybe he was the reason things had gone so wrong, so quickly.
In the darkest hours of the night, he wondered if the Equalists were right.
But it wasn't until Amon had him moved that Tarrlok began to truly despair.
Equalists bound him hand and foot, and threw him in the back of a paddy wagon. He was taken to Air Temple Island, and imprisoned in the attic. There was a window.
Some might have seen it as kindness, but Tarrlok knew that his brother wanted him to watch as Republic City burned.
But that wasn't the reason he pressed himself to the back wall of his new cage, letting his tangled hair fall over his face to hide the tears gathering in his eyes…
Lin would have never willingly given up Air Temple Island to the Equalists. Not with the last airbenders at stake. That Tarrlok was imprisoned here now meant one of two things.
Lin had either been captured, and her bending taken, or she was dead.
Tarrlok wasn't sure which was worse.
Tarrlok was woken from a dream of soft skin and green eyes by the sound of voices. Blinking several times, he saw two figures in Equalist uniforms. But those voices were familiar…
"Korra?" he croaked.
"Tarrlok? Is that you?" The Avatar and her companion – was that one Mako or Bolin? Tarrlok still couldn't keep them straight – seemed to have trouble recognizing him. It was no wonder. The Tarrlok who had been Amon's prisoner for weeks was a great deal shabbier than the pampered councilman who had delighted in clothes and other fine things.
He was tempted to ask about Lin. Demands to know where she was, if she was safe flittered on the end of his tongue, but never quite made it past his lips. He wasn't sure why.
Maybe he was afraid of having his worst fears confirmed.
Maybe he felt he no longer deserved her. Had never deserved her.
So he didn't ask.
Instead, haunted by the betrayal in Lin's eyes, he told Korra everything she needed to know to defeat Noatok. He told her about their father, their mother, his brother's rage… The whole long, sad story.
He prayed it was enough.
As Korra and Mako left, leaving Tarrlok in his cell so that no one would know they had been there, Tarrlok hoped that one day, if she was still alive, Lin would hear his story, and maybe she would understand.
Spirits knew he didn't.
Lin was doing pushups in her jail cell when the door was blown off the hinges. Seconds later she heard Meelo, Tenzin's son, yelling.
"Hey chief!" one of her men called to her, tossing a metal armguard and its attached metal whip at her feet as he ran by.
Bending, Lin picked up the piece of armor, and put it on. It was difficult, fastening the catches one handed without the help of metalbending, but she managed. Finding the manual release just inside the titanium sleeve, she loosed the metal whip coiled inside the armor, and then experimentally flicked her wrist, sending the whip cracking through the air.
She wasn't a metalbender anymore, but with the way she managed her weapon as she helped free others trapped in the cells, few realized it.
"Lin, you're alright!" Tenzin called, running up with Pema in his arms.
Lin flinched away from the sight, but not because she was still uncomfortable with Tenzin and his wife. The strife in the city had done much to bring them all together again.
No, it wasn't the way Tenzin cradled his wife and new baby that set Lin's teeth on edge. It was the reminder of her own lover – Tarrlok – and all he had done.
"I can't find Tarrlok," Lin retorted, surprised when she realized she had been looking for him.
She didn't know whether she wanted to save him or kill him herself.
"Leave him," was Tenzin's unusually bloodthirsty response.
As an explosion rocked the hall they were standing in, Lin had no choice but to agree.
Swinging her metallic whip back so that it wrapped around her torso, Lin barked, "Follow me!"
Tarrlok scratched at the wooden floor of his prison, his fingers bloody as his skin tore, one of his nails ripped away. That didn't matter. Nothing much mattered anymore.
He could see the air machines and the fire in the sky from his little window. He knew the end was at hand. Whichever side won the clash screaming outside his cell, it didn't matter.
He wouldn't live to witness whatever order arose from the chaos of battle.
Hearing someone coming, Tarrlok scrabbled to pull his dirty blanket over the floor. When Noatok emerged from the ladder leading to the airy space where Tarrlok was being kept, Tarrlok was reclining leisurely on top of the fabric, his bloody hands hidden in his pockets.
Amon wasn't wearing his mask.
"Noatok," Tarrlok said, looking up at his brother.
"It's over, brother," Noatok spoke directly to Tarrlok for the first time. "I'm sorry for what I had to do to you."
"I'm doing this to protect you," Tarrlok insisted. "I know," Lin replied.
Tarrlok sighed, looking down at the floor, at the place he had carefully covered with his blanket. "Our father set us on this path. Fate caused us to collide." He looked up. "I should have left with you when we were boys."
"I thought about running away from home once," Tarrlok said to Lin. "I should have joined the circus."
There was a rattle of keys. Noatok pushed the cell door open. "Leave with me now. We have a second chance. We can start over, together."
"Dance with me?" Tarrlok smiled, pulling on Lin's hands.
"Please," Noatok's voice broke. "You are all I have left in the world."
Tarrlok stood and went with his brother.
It seemed like it should have been harder for the pair of them to make their way through the city. But without his mask, no one recognized Noatok as Amon, and Tarrlok hardly resembled the villainous councilman with his hair tangled and his clothes stained. They were just another pair of brothers, trying to stay together, trying to reach safety, trying to stay out of the fighting.
They reached the marina after only a few hours of working their way through the streets. Tarrlok hadn't had to sail for years, but he was of the Northern Water Tribe.
It was in his blood.
Soon waves were lapping against the sides of their small speedboat, the rocking of the sea soothing Tarrlok's nerves. Noatok stood at the prow, steering, while Tarrlok slouched at the stern, sprawled over the seat as he contemplated what he had set out to do.
He had never taken Lin sailing. He should have.
Noatok looked back at him, still possessed of his preternatural sense for gauging Tarrlok's moods.
"The two of us together again," Noatok said in that enthusiastic tone of voice he had always used to cheer Tarrlok up. "There's nothing we can't do!"
Lin shook her head. "Really helping someone – really caring for someone means doing it even when it's inconvenient for you."
"Yes, Noatak," Tarrlok mumbled, casting his eyes around the boat.
"Noatak. Huh," his brother smiled. "I had almost forgotten the sound of my own name."
Tarrlok's gaze caught on one of the Equalists' mechanized gloves, then darted to the boat's fuel cap. Both were in easy reach.
Moving silently and quickly, Tarrlok unscrewed the cap, and then slid his hand into the glove.
Everything he had done since arriving in Republic City had been selfish. Designed to serve his own vanity. He had lived a life of lies, even to – especially to – himself.
With this one act, he would atone. With this one act, he would be redeemed.
"It will be just like the good old days," Tarrlok promised.
Lin tossed her head back, the scars on her cheeks standing out as she laughed, and Tarrlok thought she was beautiful. "I'm the Chief of Police. Honesty is better."
He put his hand over the open gas tank of the boat, and activated the glove.
As soon as they had secured Air Temple Island, Lin headed directly for the cell where Korra and Mako had told her Tarrlok was being kept. She didn't know what she was going to say to him, but she knew it was going to be loud, and quite possibly involve every swear word she'd ever heard.
But when she climbed the ladder, her head snapping to the right, she didn't see anyone.
The barred door stood open, the cell empty.
Tarrlok was gone.
Escaped again, the devil.
Determined to find some clue as to his whereabouts, Lin searched the cell, overturning a pitcher of water, and kicking a tattered blanket aside.
There were scratches on the floor.
Kneeling, she traced her fingers over letters carved into the wood, stained along the edges with dried blood. Her hands shook, and she didn't know why. She read the words, and didn't understand why Tarrlok had left them there.
I loved her.