I Want You to Stay
"Don't speak," the deadly voice hissed in her ear as a cold hand pressed to her mouth.
Korra forced herself not to react at once like her old self would have. It had only been a year since she had left her home in the South Pole and begun her new life in Republic City, but what a year of transformations it had been. She would be patient. She would not act now and think later. She would size up this strange opponent from the dark, moonlit park before giving him what was coming to him.
"I don't mean you any harm," he continued, still barely perceptible.
You better hope I don't mean you any, Korra thought to herself, tensely exhaling through her nose.
"I need your help, but we can't talk here."
The hand dropped away and the person stepped back, allowing Korra to whip around and face the source of the whispering voice. For a second her mind went blank. It was Tahno, but it wasn't. He looked so different. The last time she saw him was when he had been among hundreds of others all clamoring to her to get their bending restored. He had seemed so grateful when she did give it back to him, so full of hope and promise as water once again obeyed his commands, but then she had not seen him again. Not until now, weeks later.
He was a mess, that was for certain. Grime and blood covered his skin, and his clothes were torn, but that wasn't even what made her falter. There was fear in the eyes half hidden behind his lank locks and a tense anxiety in the way he kept glancing around them. He held himself as though he was ready to spring into action and defend himself at any moment, or run for his life. "Will you come with me?" he asked.
The look on his face said everything his words weren't. He was in trouble. Desperate trouble. And she was his last hope.
She didn't think long about it, but just responded on her first instinct. "Yes."
She let him grab her hand and pull her along quickly as they ran through the shadows of the park. Soon they were out of the wooded area and weaving through alleys and stairways in a part of the city Korra had never been in. They finally stopped at a dead end that looked to her like all the other alleyways they had just been through, but Tahno seemed to recognize where they were and even relaxed a little.
"We should be safe here for the time being."
"What do you mean 'safe'?" Korra demanded, still remembering to keep her voice down. "What's going on?"
"It's the Monsoons," he replied as his back slumped against the brick wall. "I've gotten in pretty deep with them."
"As in the Red Monsoons? The gang made up of only waterbenders?" she asked as he nodded. "And are you really surprised you wound up in danger getting involved with them?" she snapped derisively, her shocked expression tuning into a scowl.
"Look, I didn't know what else to do," he shot right back at her. "A few months ago I had gone from years of scraping my way to the top to absolutely nothing. I had nothing left to lose and no one left who cared what happened to me anymore. But the Monsoons offered me a place to belong even though I had nothing to offer them in return. Or… at least," he paused for a moment to stare at the ground. "Nothing I could offer yet. But they've since found use for me."
"Because you can bend again?" she said, more placidly this time. She couldn't judge him for whatever desperation had driven him to. She remembered Mako's story about when he and Bolin had been on the streets.
"Partly," Tahno answered, also calming his tone. "It's complicated." He straightened himself and met her eyes again. He now seemed to her the way he had at the police station not so long ago. Weary, meek, almost broken, but still with an inch of pride left. Never completely without it. "I know I've made a stupid mistake. Believe me, I know. I've already tried to get out. I'll spare you the details of what they did to me the first time I tried to talk my way out of their services."
"Don't worry about sparing me" Korra said, her concern heightening as her gut twisted with the thought of him being tortured by thugs. "Are you hurt right now?"
"No. That's the great thing about the Red Monsoons; they can beat you half to death and then heal you afterwards to keep you fresh for whatever it is they want you for," he said with a shrug.
She shook her head in confusion. "How can there even be that many gang members left? I didn't give any of them their bending back."
"Because Amon had mostly managed to catch Triple Threats. They used to be the most powerful gang in Republic City as well as the most ostentatious, but that's what made them bigger targets. The Monsoons were always quieter, and now they're the most prominent and the most dangerous; they've been taking over all the old Triple Threat territory like vulture wasps."
"Okay, well, if you would be willing to come forward, maybe I could get a taskforce going. With Tenzin and Beifong's help-"
"That's not going to work. You don't understand, something's about to happen. Soon. They're planning to take out the councilman from the Southern Water Tribe."
"What?! You mean assassinate him? Why?" Korra demanded, feeling a protective surge arise.
"I'm not even entirely sure what the end goal is, but I think it's mostly power lust. They've got the city's underbelly and now they want government control. Tarrlok's replacement for the Northern Tribe is already a Monsoon. They want the Southern seat too."
"I can't believe this."
"You have to. I know you don't want to, and you probably don't want to believe what else I've been a part of lately, but I'm trying to atone now. Help me stop them."
"When is this supposed to happen?"
"Tonight. In less than an hour, to be precise."
"What will we have to do?"
"We have to act fast, and we'll have to break a few laws."
Korra's heart was pounding as her eyes widened with understanding. Everything about this was wrong. It was Tahno, for spirits' sake. How could she trust him? But if he was right, an innocent man could die very soon. Breaking laws? Well, she wasn't a stranger to that, but she had been trying to turn a new leaf, be the kind of Avatar the world could look up to, depend on.
One more look in Tahno's eyes, and she knew what she wanted to do, and her strong eagerness had her realizing how dangerous his pull was. She had felt it the first time they met. Wrong, dark, sinful. Why did every meeting with this guy result in a battle within herself? But right now she had no time to weigh options.