A/N: This story was based on an ask received on my tumblr (theorangestar) . You can go to /post/137331493654/i-say-im-going-to-answer-these-at-the-same-time] to see the tumblr version and the artwork that goes with it.
Bolin whimpered as he was yanked to his feet, cut from his bonds, and shoved into the spotlight. He watched helplessly as the other earthbender let out a strangled cry and collapsed; the crowd cheered as he twitched. Bolin's knees shook as the tall dark figure before him slowly turned so they stood face to face. The pale white and red mask, the black holes that stared into his soul: Amon.
Bolin's eyes darted across the room, but there was no way out; he was surrounded by Equalists and audience members on all sides, and he couldn't escape into the ground from this high on stage. He offered a nervous smile as he tapped his fingers together. "Uh… Hello, Amon, Sir. I think there's been a big misunderstanding." Amon said nothing as he slowly stalked towards Bolin. The teenager stumbled backwards; he could feel hundreds of pairs of eyes on him, waiting for him to do something. Equalists chuckled at the terrified earthbender.
"Aren't you going to fight back, bender?" Amon spat the last word, as if "bender" was a curse.
Fight back? How could he fight back? He was exhausted and terrified, he was surrounded by metal, and he barely knew how to use his other elements. This guy had taken out a triad boss and three high-ranking members without landing a single punch. Weakly he raised his fists into an earthbending stance, but he was visibly shaking.
His legs suddenly felt unnaturally heavy, as if someone was gripping his very bones to hold him down, and he tripped onto his backside. The Equalists offstage laughed harder, and some whoops echoed from the watching crowd.
"Pathetic. You're so consumed with the fear of losing your bending that you can't even defend yourself. But this won't be a problem for you anymore. I'll show them that they don't need to fear you. Once you've been equalized." His hand stretched out to the teenager's forehead.
Bolin felt time slow down as he stared at the hand. This was it. This was the end of his bending. What would he do now? How would he live? Bending was all he had. He'd never even gotten proper training! Some Avatar he was, losing bending before he could make more than a flame. And Mako — Oh, Mako! What would happened to him? He couldn't help protect him without his bending! He'd be alone, the Equalists would get him, they'd do the same to him, both brothers empty shells of their former selves. His heart leapt into his throat and his mind crashed. Dark dark dark no please don't take my bending you can't take it YOU CAN'T! YOU WON'T!
He blinked and saw white. Then he felt power.
Mako shoved his way through the crowd desperately as Amon got closer and closer to Bolin. He could see even from here that the boy was shaking. Where was Korra with the steam? Amon reached towards his baby brother, and Mako let out a strangled gasp in fear.
Suddenly Bolin's eyes glowed bright white, and Amon halted. The ground rumbled and split; pipes cracked and clanged in the walls; steam spewed forth into the chamber. The crowd screamed, and stampeded towards the exit. Mako just pushed through them towards the stage. What was happening? Bolin, what did you do?
Steam swirled around the two men onstage. Slowly Bolin started to float, surrounding himself in a ball of air. Columns of earth shot through the stage floor; a few of them started glowing red and slowly melted into lava, looking like giant rock candles. Amon watched Bolin clench and unclench his fists in time with the cracking floor. They stared each other down for a moment before the masked man disappeared in the steam cloud.
Bolin's bending didn't lighten up however. The building shook and bits of cement and plywood started falling from the ceiling. Mako clambered on stage, and Bolin's airbending blew away his hat. "Bolin!" he called over the noise. Bolin didn't recognize him, instead gasping for breath as he tried to calm down from this power storm.
Mako struggled with each step to get to his brother; the wind was so strong, he felt like he was battling a tornado. "Bolin! It's okay, it's me! It's Mako!"
Bolin perked up at that. He stared at the firebender, unblinking, although Mako wasn't sure that he could actually see him. It was hard to tell since Bo no longer had pupils. Finally Bolin answered. "Mako?" Mako almost jumped back in shock. Out of his brother's mouth not only came his own voice, but a hundred other voices, ancient and powerful, all speaking as one.
He swallowed once to gather his nerve before nodding. "Yeah, it's me, Bo." He held his arms up to Bolin, remaining calm. "I finally found you! You had me worried. I'm taking you home!"
Mako's familiar voice seemed to calm Bolin down; the wind became a breeze and the melting spires cooled and hardened into solid black rock. As he slowly floated to the ground, Mako reached and grasped Bolin's forearms. "That's it, Bro. You're okay. Korra's with me. We're gonna get you out of here, all right?"
Bolin's face scrunched up in pain, like he had the worst headache. "Amon…" the hundred voices echoed. "He didn't… you…"
Piecing together what Bolin was saying, Mako shook his head and gripped his brother harder. "No, Amon's gone. He didn't get me or you. We're okay."
Bolin eased a little before the building stopped shaking and the wind died. The blinding white light dimmed, and soon Mako could see the earthbender's green irises again. Bolin took a few shaky breaths before his eyes rolled in the back of his head, and he went limp in Mako's arms. The younger boy, unfortunately, was now much bigger and bulkier than when they were children; Mako's knees buckled under their combined weight, so he gently lowered them both to the floor and set Bolin in his lap.
Looking around, he saw the room was empty, save for the lingering steam. Everyone else had escaped, and while he was sure the audience wouldn't be back tonight, he couldn't say the same for the Equalists. Suddenly a girl was long brown hair and blue eyes popped out of the fog. "Mako!" she called as she made her way to the stage.
"Korra!" Mako cried, relieved. "We've gotta get Bolin out of here! The Equalists are probably regrouping, and they'll be back!"
She gaped at Mako as she pulled herself up to their level. "Are you not going to comment on what just happened? Bolin, he was glowing! And floating! That looked like… is he…!?"
Korra's loud exclamations woke Bolin from his quick nap. "Ugh…what? Mako? What… What was that?"
"The Avatar State."
The two boys looked over at her as she gazed in awe. "Oh, hi Korra," Bolin gave her a tired smile.
"That was just like the stories Master Katara used to tell me," Korra breathed. "Bolin…?"
Bolin shifted nervously in Mako's lap and sat up. "Uh, yeah. I'm the Avatar. Surprise!" He waved his hands for some flair, but then dropped them.
The brothers stared at Korra and waited for her reaction. They had never told anyone before about Bolin's status. That had been their secret since the day years ago Bolin discovered he could heal with water after Mako got caught in a nasty gang fight. The two knew they could be used against each other — or worse, be separated — if they were found out, but now their cover was blown. Everything depended on Korra's reaction.
To their shock, the waterbender doubled over in a burst of laughter. "Ha! Oh wow! I knew there was something special about you! Wow, I just helped save the Avatar!" After catching her breath, she straightened up and frowned. "Mako's right, though. We need to get out of here before Amon comes back." She held out her hand. "I'll take you back to my place. Councilman Tenzin and the acolytes will take care of you two. They're good people; you'll be safe there."
The boys shared a long glance. It had been so long since they trusted anyone but each other. Could they actually trust Korra? After all they had been through the past few days? No doubt.
"Okay," they answered in unison. Bolin grabbed Korra's hand, and both she and Mako pulled him to his feet.
"Come on, I spotted a way out of here while I was looking for the pipes. Naga will come get us." Together the three teenagers slipped through the shadows and disappeared into the night.