Okay, let's get this little tidbit out of the way first:
I posted this story once before, back in August-September or thereabouts. At the time I was dealing with some personal struggles (my grandma's passing, amongst other things) and took this down due to my then-anxiety. After much consideration I've decided to repost this story under a different name. I'll also be posting in much slower pieces-and shorter length chunks at that.
Anyways, I hope you come along for the ride, and the description for this is below, and below that the first chapter.
Description: After his fall from grace, Tahno faces many hardships, from scrutiny to heartbreaking losses, and after six months have passed, he's contemplating ending it all. His efforts to end his life are thwarted by a motorcycle-bound cop that just happens to be passing by when he attempts to jump into the waters of one of Republic City's water channels. An officer he happens to be familiar with—an ex-rival from a former life.
The rescue effort brings the former waterbender to Air Temple Island, and leads him down a path involving spirits, the Avatar, Hiroshi Sato, a plan that could bring the world into chaos—and his own redemption.
Picks up six months after the conclusion of Book 1. Diverges away from that point on from Book 2 into an original storyline.
Word count: in total over 200,000
Rating: M (will contain some moral issues, instances of sexual content (my first actual attempt at something of this level), and some violence and language (more so rated for sexual content and swearing, not so much the violence.)
Pairings: (Lets just say it covers the gamut) the list of all instances and eventual pairings:instances/mentions of Masami, slight Tahnorra (if you look for it, more in later chapters), little bit of one-sided Jinora/Tahno, starts off with Makorra, Tahno/Ming, Shaozu/OC, eventual Korrasami and Tahko, BolEska, Pemzin.
Note: the book 2 characters that appear in this are probably pretty OOC, as I was avoiding b2 spoilers when I was writing this to keep the idea original. Besides characters, there are other OOC plot moments from the initial book 2 release, so forgive these please. I'm kind of fond of my interpretations of the characters and events, and hope they won't be minded too much (hell, Unalaq isn't even represented as a villain in this, so talk about completely OOC, huh?) Just thought I'd bring that up as a warning. Most of them don't show up till later (sadly, no Varrick, sorry!), although a couple (Kya) become early pivotal plot runners.
Pain—harsh impact with the rough textured wall, worn hands grabbing, twisting— "Please, please! I'll give you whatever you want! Money, whatever—just take it!"
A pitiful cry made by a voice that was shaking, terrified—desperate. A voice that was usually so strong, so proud, so often with a tinge of superiority—it was now a voice reduced to begging, pleading.
More twisting—and with a harsh shove, the owner of the voice's back was now being pressed against the rough surface of the wall by those same rough hands. The hands of an individual caught up in vengeance.
"It's not money I want from the likes of you." The man's voice dripped with fury. "It's payback for what you've done wrong. That's what I want from you."
Pitiful cries could be heard echoing off the walls of that narrow alleyway, pleading for mercy. But the sounds of bustling traffic on the streets and walkways muffled the pleas to those oblivious passersby who happened by the outside of that alleyway. The broken young man recognized that his efforts were futile; nobody was going to step in and help him.
The desperate young man struggled to break from this other person's hold, but theirs was too strong—and he too weak against their likes. The way the other man now had him restrained— he realized there was no opportunity for him to break for freedom.
"Please, I beg of you—don't do this!"
"After what you've done—you don't deserve sympathy." The spoken words were dripping with venom and deep-seated hatred. The tone in which the words were uttered held their own conviction—there was no sympathy held by this individual in regards to his victim. "You only deserve whatever's coming your way; it's the way karma works. Besides," The man's lips curled up into a twisted smirk. "You might actually enjoy this."
"Please! I'm sorry for what I've done!" the young man's eyes were pleading, rimming with tears. He struggled—even knowing the effort was futile, but his wrists were held fast by their restraints. "You don't have to do this!"
The captive young man looked pleadingly into his captor's eyes, trying to gain some semblance of sympathy. But the effort was fruitless, as the man's eyes were glazed over— possessed even—and sightless to his exact existence. As if seeing right through his captive and seeing something else in his place—
Loud taps from water dripping nearby were accentuated in the intensity of the moment; his ice blue eyes shot open to their fullest extent in horror when he realized his pleas were only falling on deaf ears. Tears poured down his face in vast numbers from those wide ice blues. They were genuine tears—tears he had no control over as they continued to wet his face and drip from his chin.
He heard his assailant throwing words at him—nasty-sounding, unpleasant words practically right in his face—but his mind wouldn't allow him to register them. His mind was too fraught over what he was going through—weighed down by the full gravity of the situation as it began to sink in.
The tears continued to flow even as those once vivid ice blues clenched themselves shut; barely a moment after they were closed he felt the abrupt onset of extreme pain, intensified by a sharp yank of his hair—
Tears struck the surface of the waters pooling below the bridge; beams of sunlight had been dancing upon those peacefully stirring waters before the droplets had struck the fluid's tension. Now, those beams danced upon the ripples created in the impact, enriching a show that enchanted the fixation of the observer's gaze.
The observer's ice-blue irises watched those gracefully churning currents with unadulterated agony, pain still lingering for the young man at thoughts of what he used to be capable of doing. Thoughts of the loss of the very talent he used to possess that could control the current of those flowing pools beneath his feet—the ability to bend that fluid element to his own will. Several months had nearly passed by since the incident that led to the loss of that innate ability, what to him had felt like the wrenching away of a part of his very soul.
Before that day, he had been heading down a path full of promise: the promise of fame, fortune—of fans and admirers and a secure, cushy future lying before him. The proud captain of a four-time championship probending team...he and his two teammates had been living the high life.
How he had been a fool to believe that it would last.
Those same devoted admirers and fans that had followed he and his teammates in their heyday—he now found them casting looks of pity his way whenever he managed to pass them by. He would hear them murmuring their sympathies as they cast short glances in his direction—he didn't want their sympathy or their pity. But as much as their thoughts and actions harshly stung the once proud young man, it didn't hurt as much as the ire some of his former competition directed his way—
As he thought about those glory days and the rude awakening that caused it all to crumble, he recognized that he and his teammates hadn't been model competitors in the probending arena. Some of those people that hadn't been fans of he or his team, or just the whole probending establishment altogether—from time to time they called him out on their performance in the arena. Cheaters, losers, frauds: he had heard those words and many other more derogatory slurs thrown his way by spiteful folk livid by he and his teammates' actions during the probending tournament.
In a way he felt like maybe he deserved it, but at the same time—he also felt that he didn't. He stood at the ledge of that bridge overlooking the water, reflecting on everything that had happened to him in the span of the past several months.
He once believed that he could prove to himself that he was above contemplating such thoughts as suicide; even after being practically broken and cast away from his life the way it was in it's former glory, he thought to gather up the broken pieces and try to make something of himself with this new identity he had to accept was his. Live his life as an ex-bender— nonbender.
But it wasn't an easy transition; he had had to stumble and reach his lowest points before he could even begin to look up—forward. Struggle—that's what he had done—struggle—
He had struggled through many a sleepless night fighting with nightmares of Amon having him restrained at center stage while he begged and pleaded with the masked madman to spare him. He struggled even more with the thoughts of being pushed off the platform into the foreboding waters several feet below—how he, in a state of shock, had almost not gathered his wits together enough to swim to the surface when his head sunk below it. He couldn't help thinking about how that watery moat could have almost become the place where he spent his last breath. It scared him to think he had almost drowned in that all too familiar pooling of water.
But what had been the most mentally taxing for him were the types of ridicule he received
from those that hadn't been fond of him or his accomplishments. He contemplated over the gravity of that and everything else as he kept his eyes trained on the water below.
The getaway vehicle veered around the sharp turn at the intersection ahead, hugging the curb tightly as its tires squealed and pedestrians scrambled out of the way to avoid getting hit.
Mako made a mental note to make sure he made a cleaner turn than the criminals he was pursuing, to prove to himself and the onlookers that he wasn't going to be as reckless as those waterbending outlaws were willing to be. He made the turn a few seconds later, as cleanly as he had mentally told himself to be, and with little error.
The criminals he was pursuing were waterbenders who had abused their bending abilities to take advantage of an honest shopkeeper who was going about his usual routine, trying to sell his wares. The trio had stolen several goods from the merchant's shop, roughing up the shopkeeper before taking off with the stolen goods in tow.
After the Amon incident, more emphasis was put on protecting law-abiding citizens—both benders and nonbenders alike—from being abused by the reckless behavior of benders using their talents against them, whether it was from them causing mischief or all out breaking the law. Mako knew how the criminal minds from the dark underbelly of the city thought, giving him an advantage in understanding their motives so he could act more swiftly and smoothly to counter them. That knowledge had proven very useful when he had accepted the position as a law enforcement officer.
While Korra was away on her spiritual quest—an Avatar duty Mako wasn't able to personally get involved in—and his brother Bolin kept busy running the probending team the other two had left him to tackle, Mako kept busy by devoting himself heavily to his job. It was all he could do to keep from worrying about Korra's safety or about Bolin being able to handle the responsibility they dumped on him when they departed from the team to tackle other external issues. He often worried that they'd unceremoniously dumped too much responsibility on the young earthbender's plate; would Bolin be able to handle all the pressure or end up failing miserably?
Mako was taken from his thoughts when a water whip almost wiped him clear from his cycle. He managed to avoid it by swerving to the side. The back hatch of the getaway vehicle was hanging open; the delinquent waterbenders were bracing themselves at the opening, trying to use their elemental ability in an effort to knock their pursuer off their trail to make a cleaner getaway. Their efforts caused the vehicle to swing to and fro, barely missing a few startled pedestrians that happened to be unfortunate to come near their path.
Mako kept his eyes glued on the vehicle he was pursuing ahead of him; he was quickly closing the distance between him and the water-manipulating outlaws ahead of him.
The vehicle with the trio of law-breaking benders in it veered around another sharp curve, heading down an avenue towards the waterways that cut through the city nearby. Mako had surmised that they might resort to this tactic, that they would try to use the water running in those channels to their advantage to distract him while making a clean getaway. But Mako wasn't about to allow these waterbending punks get the best of him; being an ex-probender, he knew how to skillfully avoid and evade any water attack they might throw his way.
As his cycle reached the entrance to the bridge the unlawful waterbenders were already halfway across, Mako caught sight of something familiar standing by the ledge. He didn't get a chance to ponder this familiar presence any further because the waterbenders were in full attack mode on him by now, much like he predicted they would be. Pushing those thoughts of familiarity to the back of his mind, Mako continued his pursuit of the waterbending criminals until they were apprehended.
Every which way, there were cans and bottles strewn about. The tabletop was stained with amber and rouge juices—contents from spilled over beer cans and wine bottles. The rest of the room was a haphazard mess caught in chaotic disarray. In the middle of all that chaos one figure lay slumped against the wall, mind disoriented and only barely aware of the surroundings.
A door shifted, the sound of cans crunching being emitted from a source entering through the partially blocked entryway. The slumped figure wasn't of the mindset to invest much thought or interest in the noises being produced, or the individual causing them. His mind was far distanced from the awareness of the surroundings of that room, instead wallowing in the sorrows of his own inner torment.
There came a splash of spilled liquid as the footsteps crashed nearby, now too near to ignore. The only acknowledgement that slumped figure administered was a quick glance upwards; bringing his gaze down as quickly as it had risen.
"Geez—I can't believe you keep doing this to yourself!"
"Ming, damn it—you're making my head hurt. Can't you speak more quietly?"
"Your head wouldn't be hurting and your ears wouldn't be so sensitive if you didn't have so much to drink!" Ice blue eyes looked up at Ming standing there, his face contorted in frustration—albeit the fact that everything to his sight was a little blurry.
"It's my way of dealing with everything that's happened, so just shut up about it, will ya?"
"We're all in the same boat, dealing with the same issues you are—but you don't see either me or Shaozu drowning our sorrows down with liquor, do you?" He felt his teammate's hand rest softly on his shoulder blade. His blurred icy blues shot up. "It doesn't have to be this way. We can get through this together. If you're willing to put in the effort on your part, I'll put in some of my own." Even to his blurred vision, he could see Ming's reassuring smile.
"Yeah?" his friend's face leaned in closer so he was able to see him better. There was a momentary pause—a hesitance to speak, and then...a hefty sigh.
"I-I'm not just drinking because of what Amon did to me. It's not just about losing my bending—at least...not entirely. Something else's happened, and I—I think I-I need to tell somebody else about it." Ming knelt down on his knees, his hand never leaving his friend's shoulder. He lost that smile he had been wearing a moment before when he heard the crack in the other young man's voice. He shifted to an expression of extreme concern, eyes forever watching his friend.
"Whatever it is, you can tell me Tahno. I'm not going to criticize you. I'm your best friend; being there for each other—that's what best friends do."
The young man who normally carried himself with a haughty sort of attitude, whose ice-blue irises were usually intense and filled with pride—crumbled right there on the spot, sobbing heavily in the comforting arms of his close teammate. Ming allowed him time to clear his mind of his despair and intoxication before he expected to get an explanation out of him.
Ming eventually got that explanation, and after some time passed and his distressed friend managed to piece himself back together, they worked together to get the place back in order. After that, Ming helped him get out of that cloud of depression he'd been suffering under, and
helped him find work to keep his mind busy with—as well as pay the bills. Their championship pot winnings were running sparse, and it wouldn't be long before the three were out of funds, and therefore on the streets. And if there was something none of the trio could handle...it was ending up homeless.
Ming had helped him to rise from his lowest point and move on forward, helped him move away from his drinking problems so that he could become more functional again. Even through fighting with his own demons over the whole ordeal involving Amon, the former earthbender put himself out there to ensure that Tahno didn't fall back into those bad habits that could have cost him everything.
But where was Ming now? Where was he when he was needed the most? He wasn't there, that's what—and he hadn't been there for practically a month now.
Apparently the ex-earthbender hadn't been holding up as well as he made it appear. That had become most apparent when Tahno came home one night after an exhaustive night on the job and found a note resting on the table—which had then led to the grisly discovery in the next room over, hanging at the end of a rope.
Damn you Ming—how could you leave me like this? He thought to himself angrily as the tears slipped from the corners of his eyes to fall down to the watery depths below. We were going to work this out together, damn it! How could you decide to leave me after all that you'd done for me—huh? How in spirits name could you be so selfish?
Ming had been the one to help him face water again. He had gone a week isolating himself from the substance before the former earthbender—after telling his friend he stunk—had practically dragged him into the shower stall—albeit fully clothed—and forced him to face the wrath of the water pouring down on him. He then resorted to drowning his sorrows in liquor. That other incident had happened during the earlier part of that time span, which had led to him drinking even heavier. And then Ming—playing the hero, the all-mighty savior—came along and pulled him from those depressive patterns.
And now...Ming was gone, dead. It might have been that the former earthbender had been dead inside the day their bending was stripped from the trio; Tahno could never be certain of that fact, considering he'd been so absorbed in his own inner turmoil to even bother noticing that his close friend was also struggling.
Tahno—I know I said we'd get through this together, but I can't deal with the torment anymore. Even if you won't admit it—it's got to be easier for you. Water might be present all around, but there are ways of avoiding it when you need to. Earth—I couldn't avoid seeing it everywhere. The granite countertops in the kitchen, the stone walkways that lead along the streets...hell—the bridges I have to cross over every day are made of earth. It's just...too much. I can only hope that someday you'll understand, and can move on for yourself. You deserve happiness—even if you won't admit to yourself that you do. And don't take this as me trying to insult you—I'm not doing this because of you and nothing you've done has led me to this point. If anything...you made these last few months more bearable for me, and...I want you to know that I really appreciated that...
Ming had left a fairly lengthy note as a last testament to his life before he ceased it away at his own doing. He had gone on to mention something about keeping close with Shaozu, as well as a segment dedicated directly to the former firebender, but Tahno only focused on the part that had been directed towards him.
—You made these last few months more bearable for me, and...I want you to know that I really appreciated that—
The former waterbender broke down into a fit of sobbing, not caring then if anyone noticed anymore. The tears flowed freely and in vast quantities down his face to hit the surface of the waters below.
He was seized from his sobbing when the water from below rose up from the depths in an unnatural arc and whipped itself at a motorcycle bound officer. Tahno was dumbfounded by the maneuver; it took several moments for him to gather his wits and comprehend what really had just happened.
By the time the former waterbender became coherent of the situation, the motorcyclist had avoided the watery strike aimed his direction. As the pursuit moved out of his peripheral and hearing range, he turned back to face the ledge he'd been standing at before, drawn back into the thoughts he'd previously been preoccupied with. He remained completely oblivious to the fact that the motorcyclist had taken notice of him, or the fact that the cycle-bound officer was familiar to him.
"Those waterbenders were being rather persistent, and it was pretty obvious they didn't want to be caught," Mako remarked to his superior after giving his statement of the details on the chase and apprehend. The man, an earthbender who looked young for his forty years of age with his short dark hair lacking even one trace of gray, gave a short laugh before producing a hearty responding smile. His name was Ishio, and he was a pretty easy person to get along with.
Following Lin Beifong's reinstatement as chief after Saikhan chose to resign due to his performance during the Equalist invasion—so he claimed upon departure from the position—Ishio had taken the vacated position as captain on the police force. Ishio was a fairly sufficient metalbender, but he preferred not to resort to using the ability unless he really had to. It was his philosophy, in light of the Anti-bending movement, to limit the use of it as much as possible to remain on fair terms with both factions of the population—benders and nonbenders.
"So it would seem," Ishio stated humorously. "Good job keeping on their trail. That's one more set of criminals we can safely say are off the streets." He clapped one large hand on the young firebender's shoulder before he left to check in with the other officers that held the apprehended benders captive. Mako watched him trail off for a moment longer before heading back towards his bike to take off. The chase had been a long and hard one, and he'd earned a well-needed break.
He headed back along the same course he had come through the city in his pursuit of those three waterbending thieves, taking the route at a casual pace. He waved to a few people at a stop before he was given the signal to pass through the intersection and on his way.
His thoughts wandered back to the events at that first bridge he'd reached during the chase; he had just managed to avoid getting struck by the water whip one of the waterbenders had conjured from the river channel running underneath the bridge. He figured himself lucky that he'd managed to avoid it just in the nick of time, as the maneuver had come very close to knocking him right off his cycle. His thoughts wandered then to a figure he'd seen standing there—one he'd caught a brief glimpse of as he'd driven by. An expression of sheer shock crossing those all-too familiar features—
Just as Mako was coming to the realization that he knew whom that figure was, he approached that very same bridge his thoughts had been occupied with a mere moment before. And on that very same bridge, the figure still existed, in the same spot—like he hadn't moved from it since they'd crossed paths earlier.
There was a chance that he hadn't, Mako reasoned, as he slowed his cycle to a stop and he drew closer to the lone male figure looming there at the ledge. It had been several months since he'd seen the young man's face or heard his name, but Mako was certain he was the same person he suspected him to be.
The water below had been still for some time, those waterbending criminals having moved off to somewhere else to wreck havoc long before. Tahno watched his reflection dance across the peaceful ripples on the surface, seeing a stranger staring back at him. The man in the reflection was not how he remembered himself, the person he was when he was happy—when he felt whole. He saw a man who was worn, tired—at the end of his rope.
And that he was. He was tired, unhappy, and had been for some time now. Ming's departure had taken a lot out of him, and Shaozu had been so busy with his newfound love—a former fan of theirs that the ex-firebender had found something genuine with. Shaozu was so totally enamored with his new love, a sweet girl who was a more recent transplant to the city from the countryside somewhere in the Earth Kingdom that he had little time to interact with the former waterbender anymore.
The distance had created an unwanted sense of isolation—isolation that Tahno wasn't used to and never liked. He used to live for the limelight, shine as the one the spotlight solely focused on—and when all that went away and he found himself alone...it left him feeling fractured inside.
His mind had been contemplating ending it all since the night Ming took his own life, but it hadn't culminated to the point where he was ready to pull it off until this point—until he stepped up to this ledge and pondered over everything that had happened in the last several months. Now—he knew he was ready to make that last leap, let the water that he felt had forsaken him claim him for itself and make his last moments one with the element he once felt his destiny had been intertwined with.
The sound of a motorcycle pulling up nearby barely registered to his awareness, his mind solely focused on joining with the waters below. He was more focused on his actions in that very moment—his hands grasping onto the edge of the railing of the bridge, helping to hoist him up so his feet were standing squarely on the narrow, rocky surface, and then gain his balance as he planned his next move to play out his last scene in life to his own specifications.
He thought he'd had it all so planned out—only to be broken from his suicidal trance at the sound of a familiar voice coming from behind him. The voice had caught his attention—and cost him his concentration.
Tahno turned to see his former rival, the firebender from the Fire Ferrets, standing there looking bewildered as his auburn eyes stared in the former waterbender's direction. The abrupt move and his bewilderment cost Tahno his balance, causing him to become unsteady on the ledge, his arms flailing about in an instinctive attempt to gain it back.
From behind, Mako could tell that the man wasn't quite the same as he used to be. His hair didn't have that distinctive bounce or sheen that the firebender recalled it having. It was, by contrast, looking dull and lifeless, not kempt and well maintained like he remembered. He dismounted from his cycle to get a closer glimpse, to confirm his suspicions.
"Hey, is that you Tahn—" The words had barely slipped from his lips when Mako watched with horror as the suspected former waterbender hoisted himself up onto the bridge railing and steadied his footing on it. Uncertain whether the former Wolfbat was just going to perch himself up there—or if he meant to jump—Mako's mind was racing at the possibilities. Sure—he and Tahno had not been on the best terms with one another, but that didn't mean that the firebender wanted to see the former waterbender make an attempt at ending his life—
"Hey, what do you think you're doing?" Mako's exclamation had the raven-haired man doing an abrupt turn his direction in alarm, his distinguishing facial features contorted in shock as his eyes landed on his former rival. The initial shock had sent the former waterbender teetering on the ledge, his arms wind-milling in an instinctive attempt to regain his balance. He didn't have much luck, and plunged over the edge and directly into the waters below.
Without really thinking about it, Mako jumped in after him, making sure to strike the surface at a different angle from where Tahno had hit. The strike of the water's surface was sharp and shocking to the senses, but Mako recovered quickly and began searching the depths of the channel for the submerged raven-haired man.
The waterway was clear enough for him to see under the surface, so it was just a matter of locating where the former waterbender had sunk and then swimming in that general direction to make a grab for him before he drowned. It took some searching, but Mako eventually found him several feet down, floating lifelessly.
Mako reasoned that the drop had rendered the other man unconscious, hence why he'd sunk so quickly and hadn't made an attempt to resurface. He was certain that Tahno was at the very least a decent swimmer; even with his bending gone, the former waterbender had grown up surrounded by water, and certainly still had a personal connection with the element. A person's bending could be stripped from them, but their connection with their element never really left them.
Mako took the several strides that were needed to close the distance between he and the unconscious man, reaching out then and successfully grabbing for the ex-waterbender's arm and slowly dragging him up to the surface. It felt like an eternity before they both broke the surface, and Mako had to struggle to keep Tahno's heavy weight from sinking back under. He looked around desperately for a ledge nearby that he could push the other man's weight up and onto, almost losing hope before discovering an outcropping nearby, to his relief. Mako swam as quickly as he could with the other man in tow towards that outcropping, feeling a wave of relief rush through him as he got the former waterbender successfully up on the ledge.
Mako joined him up on that ledge, taking a moment to gather his breath before checking on the other's condition. The former waterbender's pale features were even paler than usual, and he wasn't breathing. Mako checked for a pulse, feeling somewhat relieved that there was one—albeit the fact that it was beating weakly. Mako struggled to figure out what to do next, when he heard a commotion coming from the bridge.
"Did he jump?"
"I think that man just saved the other one from drowning..."
"I wonder if that one guy even wanted to be saved..."
"Sshh—don't make assumptions!"
Mako's mind was bombarded by the sources of many voices and what he needed to do next to revive the unconscious man spread out lifeless there by his side. He didn't want to kill Tahno in the process of saving him, regardless of what he thought of him—
The air was filled with the sounds of crackling static. Everywhere, all around—members of the audience were being electrocuted at the touch of the Equalists' shocking gloves.
The whole compound was caught in chaos, cries of shock and fear coming from every corner of the arena. The trio bound to center stage could only stand there and stare wide-eyed as everything around them fell apart.
And then—he appeared.
Amon—a man with supernatural grace in every move he made. The leader of the Equalists— the man managed to maneuver his way effortlessly around every attack thrown his way. It wasn't long before the bending trio was captured and restrained at the hands of Amon and his constituents.
Fear ran through every grain of the trio's molecules—especially those of the leader, the team's waterbender. He'd heard rumors of what Amon was planning on doing—had claimed he was capable of—but had scoffed it off as deliriums of a madman. Here, now though—he couldn't deny the man of the ability anymore—not when he was about to become one of the man's next victims—
He could feel the energy being tapped from his being as the man forced his thumb against the waterbender's forehead. No matters of crying for mercy had wavered the man's resolve to finish the task at hand, and it had led up to this moment—the moment that would change everything—
Amon's actions had left the now former waterbender lightheaded and weak. He barely consciously caught the screams coming from the audience and the crashes all around. He was solely focused on a set of gruff hands hauling him over towards the ledge of the platform. He couldn't struggle to get out of those hands' grip, too weak to fight with the source to prevent them from launching him over the ledge towards the waters laying below—
Oh—how he dreaded that drop, those waters looming now within his sight. He didn't have the strength to do much, but he had enough to widen his eyes to their deepest extent. Those widened ice blues were frozen on the ominous fluid element churning with signs of activity below. Frightened beyond measure of meeting up with the tensed surface of that free-flowing liquid below—
Those gruff hands launched him off the platform without a care, and he fell. It felt like a lifetime between the time those hands released him and his body struck the surface. An eternity in freefall—
Impact; air knocked out from his lungs—senses shocked beyond comprehension. Sinking, sinking, sinking—
It took so long to click—almost too long. He was drowning, and if he didn't act immediately, they'd be calling this pool his watery grave. The thought triggered his sensibilities, and he managed to kick his legs, move his arms in an effort to thrust himself up towards the surface. His lungs burned—screaming for air. The lack of oxygen almost went to his head, almost caused to him to hesitate—but the thought of that pool becoming his place of death kept him motivated to keep moving. It could only be a little farther to the surface—
"Is he ever gonna come to? Huh, huh? He's been lying there like a ragdoll for way too long!"
"Sometimes it takes time for somebody to recover from an accident like the one he was in."
"I wonder if he'd wake up if a put a smelly sock under his nose. It worked when I tried it on dad."
"Ew, no—do not even think about doing that to him! Let him rest! He's been through a really rough ordeal, and the healer said he needs time to recuperate."
"Aw, Jinora—you're no fun! He would be so much happier if he were awake! I could show him around the island, introduce him to the flying lemurs, and—"
"The sock will wake him! I know it will!"
"Meelo, I already told you—that's gross, and that's also not very nice! He's a guest here, and you don't treat guests like that!"
"Ugh, did I get kidnapped and taken to Munchkin Island?" Tahno muttered irritably as everything started coming into focus. He opened his eyes, welcoming—or not—the sight of three youths hovering above his face, watching him inquisitively. He inclined slowly, feeling a raging migraine coming on. He clenched his eyes shut to deal with it; all the whispered voices of the three children did nothing to bring him relief.
"Munchkins—really?" The eldest of the two girls commented, sounding a little perturbed by his remark. "I might still be young, but I'm not that young."
"What's a munchkin? I bet I know what it is!" the younger girl Tahno already knew was going to grate his nerves, as she already was starting to now. "It means we're happy doesn't it? I'm really, really happy, so that would be so fitting! Especially now that you've finally woken up, strange pretty boy!" Apparently his irritation was visibly expressed, because the eldest seemed to take note of it.
"Ikki, why don't you take Meelo with you and go get Dad and that handsome firebending boy? They wanted to be informed when he finally awoke," the eldest said to her younger sister. The younger girl, obviously Ikki, made a face, but quickly brightened up with a smile.
"Yes, yes, I'll go do that! C'mon Meelo, let's go get daddy!" Ikki took her younger brother's hand in hers and practically dragged the boy out of the room along with her. When they were long gone, Tahno enjoyed the insetting silence. The remaining girl, who had to be Jinora, sat still in her chair, her eyes watching him closely.
"What? Like what you see?" Tahno teased, trying to keep up his usual facade. The girl just stared straight back at him without saying a word for several long moments.
"I've seen you somewhere before," Jinora finally spoke, breaking that unnerving silence. "Have you ever been photographed for a newspaper, or attended one of the festivities my dad's taken me to at all? I don't know what it is, but you look familiar."
"I used to be a probender, before I had my bending stripped anyways," Tahno replied, bitter. "Well-known—four championships, fans hanging off me in hordes. I was part of the White Falls Wolfbats. Had my picture and everything in the newspaper and all over town. My life was good...until Amon showed up."
"I think I remember who you are now," Jinora stated, leaning in to study his face more closely. "I remember Korra mentioning you once. The poor waterbender who had his bending stripped during the championship tournament. Tahno, I think she said it was? Is that right?"
"You got that right, kid," Tahno tried to keep up the facade of his older self—that self-confident, sassy image that he used to embody. He fell somewhat short though, and ended up just frowning.
"You look like you're lost," Jinora noted, somewhat sadly. "You should've come to Air Temple Island sooner."
"Why would that be?" Tahno shot the young airbender an odd expression, a look that stated 'what the hell do you mean by that?' But before she could give him a straight answer—or just an answer at all—that energetic little pipsqueak boisterously burst through the door again with her little brother—equally as annoying—closely trailing behind her. A moment after the two loud children burst back onto the scene, their father and a certain familiar firebender entered the room.
"See dad? He's awake, just like I told you he was!" energetic little Ikki was like a spark that couldn't be contained. She approached the ex-bender's bed, sitting down on the end of it— uninvited—and began pointing out that detail like she was showing off a piece of art. Tahno couldn't wait until the moment that girl was shown out just so he could get some peace in her absence. And it was evidently showing.
"Ikki, take Meelo with you and go outside and play," their father instructed his boisterous younger daughter. "I think this young man needs some quiet time. He's obviously had quite the day."
"Aw, but I wanted to tell him all about how Mako was like his gallant savior who came to his rescue when he was going to drown. And I also wanted to tell him how Mako had to kiss him in order to save him and everything!" Ikki protested. In the background, the young firebender noticeably blanched in response to the young girl's ramblings.
"I think you can wait until later to fill him in on all that," her father informed her, the blood vessel at his temple obviously pulsing, but being the good father he was trying to be, he held back. "Run along now—he and I need some time to have a private discussion."
Ikki caught the ultimatum in his words and quieted down some. "C'mon Meelo, let's go play in the courtyard and chase the lemurs!" Once again the little boy was being dragged from the room by his hyperactive older sister, which left the room once again in a state of peace and quiet.
"Jinora, why don't you go and see if your mother needs any help with Rohan," their father turned his attention towards the older, quieter girl. She didn't give him a vocal protest, only offering an acknowledging nod before departing the room. Once she was gone, that left the bedbound ex-bender in the company of the kids' father and the young firebender.
"So, go ahead—tell me the story of how I ended up here. And don't leave out any of the gory details," Tahno remarked with a sarcastic laugh.
"You were going to jump from the ledge of that bridge I found you on, and when you fell in, I jumped in and saved you—simple as that," The firebender spoke up, a frown on his face. "And I didn't kiss you, if you're wondering about that. I resorted to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to save your sorry ass. I can only hope I didn't make a mistake doing that."
"From what Mako's been telling me about the incident, it appeared that you were trying to commit suicide," The older man spoke. "Is there any truth in that statement?"
"What if there was, old man? W-what if that's what I'd intended to do all along?" Tahno struggled to sound nonchalant about the whole thing, but his voice cracking halfway in gave him away.
"Considering what you've been through, and for the sake of my own philosophies and a few other factors, I have to keep you here under observation until I can be certain you won't make another attempt at that," The older man told him flat out, with a sense of sincere sympathy carrying in his voice. It would have been a touching sentiment really, but the thought of being held there against his will didn't settle well for the former waterbender.
"You can't keep me here! What about my job? How am I going to be able to support myself and earn a paycheck if I'm locked up on this spiritsawful island?" Tahno exclaimed rather loudly, anguish and frustration expressed in both the words he spoke and very visibly on his face. It took all he could muster to hold back the tears that wanted to escape from the corners of his icy blue eyes. "I don't have probending anymore, so I have to make some kind of means for myself—and I can't do that while I'm caged up on some island!"
"I'll have a talk with your boss, work things out for you," The older man assured him sincerely. "Your actions on the bridge usually would have landed you in a jail cell or facing charges at the very least, but, considering what you've been through, I deemed keeping you here to be a better option—especially when considering the circumstances that led you here in the first place. In the meantime—make the island your home. You're welcome to explore, but until I can feel safe you're not going to end up doing something drastic—I require that you have somebody following you around just to be on the safe side. I didn't bring you here to recuperate only to have you hurt yourself again—or worse."
"What do you expect me to do with my time while I'm trapped here, old man? Huh?" Tahno had quieted himself down, but he was still visibly trembling. At first it appeared as if the older man didn't have an answer, but he eventually sighed heavily and gave him one.
"Take some time to do some inner reflecting," he suggested, adding, "Discover what the source of your distress is and work it out. If it has something to do with what Amon did to you...find peace in the fact that eventually you'll get that all sorted out." In a more stern tone, he continued with, "And it's not proper for you to refer to me as old man. If you can't be formal, at the very least you can call me by my proper name—which is Tenzin." That blood vessel at his temple continued to pulse, but the man—being an airbender—had embraced taking the more relaxed course. "You could also help out with some duties on the island if you ever feel the need to earn your keep, but it's the philosophy here at Air Temple Island that we keep our doors open to anyone who needs a place to stay." Tenzin's eyes focused hard on the young man. "Anything else I need to address?"
"No—I think you addressed all my concerns," Tahno remarked. Tenzin rolled his eyes before turning towards the door to make his exit. When he was gone, that left the ex-waterbender alone with the young firebender.
"Look how far the mighty have fallen," the first words spoken in the older airbender's absence, and they had come from that young firebender—Mako. With his arms crossed over his chest, he carried on. "From what Korra told me about her run-in with you at the station, she seemed to suggest that you were broken. I just never expected it could be this bad."
"Well, Fireboy—life hasn't exactly been a picnic since Amon came along and showed me up on stage," Tahno remarked.
"What happened exactly that led you to being suicidal anyways?" Mako questioned him, adding, "From what I remember about you before the Amon incident, you were a selfish, egotistical jerk who did whatever it took to win in competition while probending—cheating being one of your more notable offenses. When you weren't in the arena doing it, you were going out and about the town flaunting your big ego and fame. What could've happened since then that made you forget all about that and attempt to take the easy way out?"
"A lot of shit happened to me—that's what!" Tahno shot back at him, icy blues going glacial. "It all fell apart for me after I lost my bending! If you were put through half of what I've been through since then, I bet you'd be contemplating the same thoughts too!"
"Losing my bending would be the least of my problems!" Mako retorted in return. "I've been dealt a few bad hands in my life, but I managed. If I lost my bending, I'd learn to deal. I'd turn to the people who care about me and seek support from them, instead of taking the selfish way out like you attempted to!"
"Selfish?" Tahno shrilled. "You wanna know something, Fireboy? I don't have anyone to turn to in order to get that support you think would be all I'd need to get over what I've been dealt!"
"What happened to all those fans?" Mako questioned him.
"Those idiots?" Tahno cocked an eyebrow, scoffing derisively. "They jumped ship when we weren't important enough for them anymore."
"Or your teammates then? Why not turn to them for help instead of doing something as stupid as trying to kill yourself?" Mako argued.
Tahno's face reddened with anger. "I don't want to talk about it!" He snapped unexpectedly.
"What—your teammates or about how stupid it is that you think your only way out is killing yourself?" Mako questioned him heatedly.
"Everything—all of it!" Tahno retorted angrily. "If all you're going to do is stand here shooting insults my way and asking idiotic questions, I'd rather you left so I could be alone instead! I can't deal with the bullshit coming from you right now."
"I think I'd much rather do that," Mako retorted back in agreement. "Being around you right now is just grating my nerves!"
"So go on then, get out and leave me alone!" Tahno exclaimed in a mixture of fury and agony. "The door's that way—and you're more than welcome to it!"
"Gladly!" Mako snapped, stalking towards the door. "I hope you won't make me end up regretting saving your sorry ass after all!" He exited the room, leaving the former waterbender alone in the utter silence that set in upon the firebender's hasty departure.
Tahno waited until he was certain the firebender was out of range, and then broke down sobbing, thinking about the things that had brought him to this depressive state that he couldn't bother to talk to anybody else about. He didn't want their pity, and it wasn't in his nature to reach out to other people who didn't know him that well to ask for their help either. This was something he would have to deal with on his own.
Mako stalked down the halls angrily, thoughts churning in his head as he recalled the details of the whole ordeal with Tahno. It disgusted him that the ex-bender could want to give up so easily—especially with how he remembered him before the fact. The Wolfbats waterbender had been an ego-driven, prideful young man who emanated that and more from the very fabric of his being everywhere he went. It wasn't really that hard to pick up the pieces and start all over again. After the death of their parents, that's what Mako had had to do. Pick up the pieces, raise his brother on his own, and make sure that everything would be all right.
"Selfish little bastard..." Mako muttered to himself as he abruptly crossed paths with the head airbender of the island.
Tenzin shot him an odd look. "He could very well be that, but you don't know the whole story behind what he's been through, Mako. It's not proper to judge without all the facts."
"Airbender philosophy," Mako scoffed before settling on a serious expression. "So what're you planning to do with him? Do you think he'll get any better?"
"Only time will tell if he changes for the better or worse I'm afraid. Until then, I have to keep him here until I know the answer to that for sure," Tenzin replied pensively. "Do you think we should bother mentioning to him that Korra could give him back his bending, or should we hold off on that for the time being?"
"I seriously think Tahno needs to earn the right to get his bending back—or even the right to knowledge that he can get it back," Mako commented, frowning. "I think we should hold off telling him that until we can say for sure he's earned it. When we talked it over, Korra eventually agreed that he and his teammates hadn't when she first learned how to restore people's bending back to them."
"That's a bit harsh, but if that's how you feel about it—" Tenzin stalled momentarily to look the young firebender directly in the eye. "I'll hold back from informing him about it for the time being—on one condition."
"Condition?" Mako's eyes narrowed some. "What condition?"
"That you take some time to get to know the young man—see what makes up the personality behind that facade you're all familiar with," Tenzin informed him. The firebender shot him a serious glare. The older airbender tried to explain. "When we questioned him at the station the day after his incident with Amon, he was a completely different person from what I saw up there on the tournament platform. He seemed very torn up, and he looked like he hadn't gotten any good sleep at all the night before. His ego's been horribly bruised, and that's left him unusually fragile." Tenzin expressed a level of sadness in his eyes. "Don't judge a man by his past actions; only judge him by the actions he's going to make. Take that to thought and think about it long and hard." Tenzin started moving on his way.
"Where did you learn that philosophy?" Mako's voice stopped him abruptly in his footsteps; the older airbender turned to once again face the young firebender.
"My father taught it to me," Tenzin began to explain, going on with, "It refers to the relationship that formed between Avatar Aang and Firelord Zuko. Zuko made some mistakes in his past that left damaging effects on my father, mother and uncle, but in the end they managed to work through those issues and forge an everlasting friendship that helped to build much of what we see around now. Sometimes an enemy is just a misunderstood friend." He turned sideways, ready to head on his way, but added one more thing before he departed.
"Give him a chance to redeem himself. He might surprise you all in the end." Tenzin left him with those words of wisdom. Mako stood there for several long moments, contemplating over those words in his mind.
Tahno spent much of the rest of the afternoon secluded to the room he'd awoken in, only leaving when he had to take care of personal matters. He didn't really care to interact with the island's residents or plain out deal with people. Besides, every waking moment he was haunted by nightmares of his ordeal with Amon—the treacherous fall from that ledge into the waters below.
The incident on the bridge where the firebender had bothered to save him reawakened thoughts he believed he had buried. It ultimately left him feeling utterly miserable.
For the next week, Mako made sure to bring their guest food whenever Pema requested him to, which had been every meal during that time. The firebender had gone back to working short shifts during the day, taking breaks to check in on the former waterbender from time to time. He had his issues with the ex-bender, but it didn't prevent him from being curious about his condition. Would he change? Or would Tahno remain the same—day in and day out—until he had the chance to slip away and make another attempt on his life?
Maybe that was what kept Mako curious enough to check in on the ex-bender whenever he had the chance. He didn't want to see his life-saving attempt end up being something he'd done in vain.
Each time he showed up with the meal, Tahno was still alive. The ex-bender barely showed any interest in his presence, or tried faking sleep when he entered. Not very active, and with few words to spare for him, but otherwise—still living.
He didn't see much of anyone else outside his job as an officer. Bolin was heavily preoccupied with training his new teammates, who were taking some time to pick up the tips the earthbender was providing them with. It wasn't until a week after the incident did the two even see each for more than a few brief encounters.
And it would be over a chance visitation with the ex-bender that they would both end up really crossing paths with one another.
Tahno was curled up under the sheets, trying to keep his mind occupied with something that wasn't disturbing or nightmare inducing. While his attention was absorbed by his inner thoughts, he barely acknowledged the approach of solid footsteps.
"I almost didn't believe it when Mako told me that he rescued you from one of the city's water channels several days ago." The former waterbender almost jumped at the squeak of the door hinges and the sound of the young earthbender's voice coming from the entryway. Tahno abruptly sat up and turned his sharp glare in Bolin's direction, causing the earthbender to flinch slightly.
"Not quite the condescending smirk I was expecting, but whatever," Bolin eventually shrugged his shoulders as he took to a chair in the room. "So—I heard you jumped? Wanted to die or something?" The usually jovial earthbender looked poignant.
"What does it matter to you?" Tahno snipped at him. Bolin shook his head sadly, but didn't shoot back a retort.
"I used to think you were one nasty dude, but I never would've wanted you dead," Bolin expressed honestly. "You were always trash talking your competition and acting like you were so full of yourself—but I guess after a while I figured that was just a part of your competitive edge or something. Got the sense that maybe that wasn't what you were all about."
"Did the Uhvatar tell you about me too?" Tahno groaned as he fell back against the mattress and rolled over so the earthbender was out of his sight. He covered himself with the sheet in an attempt to block Bolin out of his thoughts, but it didn't do him much good.
He heard the earthbender sigh. "Can't you just call her Korra?" he stated, sounding agitated. Tahno removed the sheet from his face and sat up.
"Speaking of the Uhvatar, where is she?" Tahno made an attempt at showcasing one of his trademarked smirks. "Haven't seen her stop by at all. Is she still a little hesitant to visit me because of the offer at private lessons I made to her or something?"
"Why does it have to sound so perverted when you say that?" Bolin exclaimed, his hands shooting up in the air. "No, for your information—Korra's not avoiding you—she's not even here. She's on a spiritual quest."
"I don't think I need any further information," Tahno commented. Footsteps at the door brought their two pairs of eyes in that direction. In the doorway, the earthbender's older brother now stood, with a tray of something in his hands out in front of him.
"Bo—why are you in here bothering with him?" Mako asked his brother in an irritable tone. His eyes wandered from his brother to stare hard at the former waterbender for a few moments.
"I wanted to make sure you weren't messing with me when you told me you fished Tahno out of the river channel several days ago," Bolin explained, bringing his brother's eyes back towards him for a second. The younger brother eyed the tray in his older brother's grasp. "Bring him something to eat for supper?"
"Pema sent me up with his dinner," Mako told him. "She's worried our new guest will starve if we don't bring him something to eat."
"I think I'll show myself out so that you can get back to that bro," Bolin launched himself to his feet and practically sprinted for the door. "Enjoy your dinner, and welcome to Air Temple Island!" with a skip in his step he was out that door in a rush. Mako shook his head while rolling his eyes. He sighed and then looked again at the former waterbender. He walked over to the table beside the bed and set the tray down.
"I've been thinking about our spat from the other day," Mako began as he removed the lid from the tray. "And I think maybe...I was being a little harsh."
"A little?" Tahno scoffed, raising an eyebrow. "You seemed like you really wanted to push my buttons, Fireboy."
Mako closed his eyes and let out a frustrated sigh. He took a seat in the chair Bolin had recently vacated. "Look—I think I might've jumped on you too quickly about the whole suicide thing. I shouldn't have done that, and I wanted to apologize for that. Something Tenzin told me got me to thinking that...maybe there's more to the reason behind why you did it than just the loss of you bending, and—it was stupid of me to chew you out about the whole thing."
"You've got that right," Tahno remarked. The firebender twitched in agitation, but shrugged it off. "So—what did the lady of the house send up for me to eat this time?" Tahno's question had Mako looking from him to the plate he was indicating.
"An old Southern Water Tribe specialty," Mako replied. "I can only hope you're not going to raise your hand to your nose and say it stinks. That would be disrespectful to Pema, and she doesn't deserve that kind of treatment—especially from the likes of you."
"I won't turn my nose up to it, geez," Tahno remarked in frustration. "I might have had it good back during the glory days, but I didn't grow up in that kind of environment. I'm actually rather fond of good old fashioned Southern Water Tribe cuisine."
"You should enjoy it then, since Pema's an excellent cook," Mako stated. He looked down at his hands, grabbing at thoughts. "So...um—you said it's been rough for you since your ordeal with Amon. If all that's been going on since then has gotten to you to the point of you wanting to commit suicide because of it, why didn't you seek out help to deal with it or something? What about family—your old teammates? Why not turn to one of them? They could've helped you out with your issues. That's what I would've done if I were going through something traumatic."
Tahno had been cautiously making a grab for the dish the firebender had brought up for him, but he stopped what he was doing and slumped his shoulders. "I don't really have family I'd bother turning to, and I did turn to my teammates for help. I especially talked to Ming about everything. But Ming hasn't been around for me lately. He's gone, and Shaozu's got other people keeping him occupied—so it's not like he's got time for me or anything."
"Huh—you and Ming have some kind of falling out or something?" Mako inquired curiously. The ex-bender scowled quickly, but then forced a neutral expression across his features.
"Dead—he killed himself," Tahno replied, coming off sounding forcibly detached. Like the former bender would hurt too much to acknowledge it any more fully, Mako realized. "After what Amon did to all three of us...I guess it got to him the most, and he took the selfish way out. If he was going to be that way about it—then he's better off that way."
"So...did his choice impact your own decision to attempt to kill yourself?" Mako asked him. The former waterbender shot him a death glare.
"Why don't you just leave me alone so I can eat already!" Tahno shot back at him unexpectedly.
"Geez, if you're going to get that way with me for asking a simple question—I'd be better off doing just that!" Mako retorted, getting back on his feet. "Look—you can continue to be too proud of yourself to come looking for help, or you can be wary of asking for it because you don't trust anyone here enough to do so—but I'm not going to make any effort to do anything to help you out until you actually want it. " He quick paced it to the door, turning to face the ex-bender to say one more thing before he departed. "Enjoy your meal."
Tahno watched the firebender stalk his way out of the room before he eyed the tray of food again. He sighed.
"Might as well eat this before it gets cold," He reached out for the tray, looking at it and taking in a good whiff of the pleasant fragrance emanating from it. He took a bite of it, reminded of more enjoyable memories from his past for the first time in days.
"At least this will take my mind off all the other shit for a little while."