AN: I am seriously waffling back and forth on whether of not to make this into more than just a one-shot. Mehadi is an OC of mine that I have been developing and modifying for a year and a half now, and I'm sort of attached.
Anyway, here is a slightly AU version of the Legend of Korra episode from Season Three called "The Terror Within." I have a story plan for the rest of season three to the end of season four if you are interested. I think you will enjoy it.
Earth. Fire. Water. Air.
When I was still a little girl, my mother was killed in a freak accident in the city of Zaofu. I was lucky enough to have Suyin Beifong and her family take me in when I needed help. Overtime, I learned the great skills of metal and earth, and joined the guard force of the city to try to repay Suyin back for all of her kind work. I worked my way to the top, and became the best of the best.
My life was pretty good, overall. I was even in love with somebody who I never expected to love me back...but that all changed when my best friend turned my world upside-down.
Hold on- let me take you back to where it all started going downhill. You might recognize most of the elements of this tale, but not a lot of my side. And it's my side that is the most important. I'm the one that knows everything, about her, from her thoughts to her deepest and darkest desires.
And I'm the one who was the most destroyed when she became corrupted with greed and power. The one cast aside as if twelve years of friendship meant absolutely nothing at all in the end. The one who was left with a broken heart and an impossible decision to make.
My name is Mehadi, and this is my story of Kuvira: The Great Uniter.
Chapter One: The Red Lotus
"Take care of yourself, Opal," I told the younger girl, giving her a small hug as she prepared to board the airship that would take her on her journey to master the element of Air. I was so proud of her and her newfound ability, and I knew that she would do amazing things one day. "You're going to be an amazing bender."
"You're so sweet!" she gave me a slightly nervous smile and pulled away, heading up the metal ramp into the vessel. It slowly began to rise behind her, obscuring our view of Suyin's only daughter until she appeared in the window.
It was going to be odd without Opal here. She really was such a kind soul, and her presence here in Zaofu always could bring a smile to my face.
Her family all crowded in front of my best friend and I, waving and calling out to Opal as the ship slowly lifted off of the platform. I could just barely make out Huan standing with the rest of his family, and my eyes lingered on him with an air of wistfulness. My feelings always seemed to betray me around the artist.
The Avatar and her friends joined them and successfully brought me back to earth by standing behind the Beifongs and obscuring my view of Huan's figure. I flushed, turning away quickly while they watched the airship fade away until Opal was finally gone from view.
Beside me, Kuvira pulled out her radio.
"Lock it down for the night," Kuvira commanded, looking satisfied as unit two began to raise the metal domes that surrounded the city.
The setting sun became obscured by the gleaming sheets as the city became completely sealed up, casting a faint but beautiful reddish glow over our faces. One by one, the Beifong family and their guests turned around to head inside, leaving the two of us standing watch as our guards finished sealing up.
Kuvira stretched her neck, cracking it slightly. "Patrol is going to be extended today. Suyin's orders."
I groaned pitifully, already feeling exhausted. "But we've been pulling all-nighters for over a week now! If Zaheer and the Red Lotus were going to attack, wouldn't they have done it by now?"
"Would it make you feel better to know that we're covering the guest estate together? We might even get to talk to the Avatar!" she gave me a wry smile that I rolled my eyes at. "Oh, lighten up. At least we have good company this time."
We started walking in the same direction that Suyin's family had headed in.
"That's true. Last night I was paired with a complete imbecile, I swear. He didn't even know how to work his radio, for spirits sake!"
Kuvira snorted, pulling out her radio once more. "Units three and four, I want you covering the main estate. At the first sign of trouble, I expect a proper report. Units two and five, you're on city patrol. Don't screw it up."
We set off on patrol together.
"So, how's Baatar Jr.?" I suddenly asked, guffawing when Kuvira nearly jumped out of her skin, cheeks flaming red.
"Wha- I have no idea what you're talking about!"
"Sure you don't," I snickered, dodging her punch to my shoulder. She was so obviously smitten with that boy that it made me sick sometimes. "That's why you're blushing, isn't it?"
Her cheeks burned brightly in the faint light, and I almost felt bad at giving her such a hard time. Almost. "And how's Huan doing?"
That shut me up, and I started blushing myself. Even the mere mention of Suyin's son could get me all flustered. "Don't change the subject!"
She stuck her tongue out at me, and I joined her in laughing.
We walked in silence for a good while after that, just enjoying each other's company. Ever since I had been taken in by the Beifongs, Kuvira and I had gotten along famously. Perhaps it was the fact that we were both orphans, or maybe it was just that we were meant to be friends.
Either way, it wasn't long before we became very close. Even a good twelve years later, we still were best friends. We did most everything together, except for dancing. I was utterly pathetic at keeping my balance. Kuvira could do it well enough for the both of us.
It was well into the night when I heard an odd noise behind us. In an instant, I was on high alert, years and years of training leaving me a well-oiled machine ready for combat. Spinning around, I froze, eyes peeled for the slightest thing that may be off.
"What is it?" Kuvira hissed at me, craning her neck to peer over my shoulder with her eyes narrowed. "Did you see something?"
"No, but I heard something," I whispered, dropping into a low crouch. Unease was trickling over my body, raising gooseflesh on my skin. The air was completely still, and eerily silent. Even the tiger-toads weren't croaking their usual nighttime sonata. "Something's not right."
Cursing, she fell into a fighting stance beside me. "I feel it too. But what-"
Muffled yelling suddenly sounded from across the yard. The words were indiscernible, but it got the message across just fine- something was terribly wrong. Without another word, we were sprinting in that direction, legs flying underneath us. The blood was roaring in my ears as my heart pumped furiously, ready for battle.
A door to one of the guest houses flew open with a loud bang, and we could see two figures clad in white tank-tops and pajama bottoms burst outside. I was nearest, and could hear one of them yelling for help as he threw a blast of fire at someone hidden in the shadows.
"Let her go!" He shouted, his companion launching boulders at the same location. Another gust of fire, this one coming from their opponents, intercepted the fire blast as a tentacle of water overtook the mound of earth. More counter-attacks followed, and the two dove behind a pillar close to us as a massive elemental blast slammed against it.
"They've got Korra!"
I swore violently, putting on another burst of speed. This was exactly what we had been trying to prevent by doing all of these extra patrols. Somehow- somewhere along the line- somebody had missed something crucial- and now we were paying for it.
Behind me, as she ran, Kuvira ordered one of the units to get a spotlight down on the courtyard immediately. They delivered without hesitation, the set of blinding lights illuminating five figures huddled together, one of them thrown over someone's shoulders. At the same time, a wailing alarm began to sound, echoing deafeningly on the metal domes above.
Under the light of the spotlights, I could see the identity of the person front and center. My blood ran cold in my veins as I continued to run forward, refusing to show the fear that churned my insides into mush on my determined face.
"It's Zaheer! Call for all backup to get down to the Guest Wing, immediately! And somebody wake Suyin!"
A tall woman from the back of the group suddenly shot two huge simultaneous blasts of firebending so powerful that it nearly broke the sound barrier at the two guards shining beacons down at them, and hit her target dead on. I could hear the panicked yells of our guards as they tried to avoid the massive explosion. The sudden contrast of light to dark was disorienting, but I didn't slow down at all in my plight. I was all but upon the intruders now, and I dodged a third attack by the mysterious figure. The powerful blast spun around my cartwheeling body to smash into the pillar, sending the boys flying as they yelled in surprise.
"Release her immediately!" I commanded, shooting out my metal cables while using my agility to propel myself into a powerful leap. I was aiming for the waterbender of the group with her deadly tentacles of ice and water, but Zaheer had other plans. As I flew forward with my cables snapping angrily, he flicked his staff at me and sent me flying backward as a massive gust of air hit me square in the chest.
Disoriented and winded, I tumbled through the air until my back slammed into the nearest solid object- which just so happened to the guest house where the two men were now huddled with the Avatar's other friend- who had come to their aide. My head hit the wall with a sickening crack! that rivaled the clanging of my armor, and my eyes were forced shut of their own accord from the impact.
A pained moan took my breath away as I slid down the wall and landed in a crumpled heap on the ground below, head spinning.
Less than a second later, I could hear Kuvira yelp in surprise as what sounded like water smashed into her, sending her sliding halfway towards where I was lying, dazed and confused. It only took a few seconds for her to climb back up to her feet and sprint back towards the fight.
Though it felt like the ground was spinning beneath me, I pushed myself up into a crouch, knowing that Kuvira needed me. I swayed as my head pounded, and when I pressed my hands to my hair I could feel the stickiness of blood. How bad the injury was, I didn't know- and I didn't have time to wait around and find out. The sense of urgency to return to the fight rose as the sounds of battle did, and that filled me with adrenaline. I struggled to get back on my feet.
"Here." I opened my eyes to see that the guy who had alerted us to the Avatar's abduction had bridged the distance between us, and was offering me his hand as support. I accepted it, and he helped me to my feet slowly, waiting until I was steady before releasing me.
"Thank you," I told him sincerely, not waiting for a reply before tearing off after my co-captain. I could hear him protesting that I was injured behind me, but I ignored it as I poured all of my energy into the speed of my running.
The sounds of battle ahead of me escalated even further, and I knew that Kuvira must be gaining ground. I set of at a run, following the path of debris until I had burst into the main courtyard. Suyin Beifong and her sister Lin had arrived on the scene in my absence, with the twins Wei and Wing at their side, and they were all working tirelessly with the guards. As I approached, they all bent heavy metal sheets at the Red Lotus, encasing them in an unescapable box.
I reached Kuvira's side just as she bent the last sheet up and over their heads. "We have you surrounded! It's over, release the Avatar immediately!"
Falling into a crouch by her side, I added, "You're outnumbered five to one. Don't make this more difficult for yourselves!"
Behind us, I could hear the sounds of running feet, probably the three friends of the Avatar coming to assist, but I was distracted by the sudden heat wave that washed over the courtyard. I looked down in confusion, feeling the ground rumbling beneath my feet.
Before I even knew what was happening, a red hot glow appeared under the lowest metal plates, creeping quickly across the grass that surrounded our enemies. My eyes widened as I realized what it was.
"Lava!" I yelped, grabbing a stunned Kuvira around the waist clumsily before using my metal cables to propel us both backwards in a backflip, leaping to safer- and much cooler- ground. Lin realized what was happening at the same instant I did, and propelled herself backwards with a massive earth pillar.
The other guards were slow on the uptake, but followed our lead, various exclamations echoing from their lips as they dove for cover.
I could hear one of the Avatar's friends exclaim excitedly from beside me- Kuvira and I had landed at their flank upon retreat- with a sort of childlike joy, "No way! That guy's lavabending! That's awesome-"
I threw him an annoyed look, and he looked sheepish. "-ly bad for us."
Lin muttered something angrily under her breath at his antics, but I couldn't make it out over the sound of the plates sinking into the brand new moat of lava. The foursome on the little island took battle positions, elements at the ready.
I steeled myself for the battle, and I knew that this would be one that would go down in history.
Without signal, the frenzy began. I couldn't tell you who took the first shot- whether it was friend or foe, metal or fire, earth or air, or any combination of them. Kuvira and I split up instantly, knowing that our power would do more good if dispersed among the battlefield.
Metal shields were flying through the air, water was crushing boulders into mud, and fire was scorching the very air that we breathed. While I didn't exactly love the circumstances for this battle, I sure did love fighting in one.
I attacked endlessly, shooting metal cables and daggers at any of the intruders without rest, hoping to catch one of them in a blind spot. All that I earned for my trouble was a terrible barrage of the elements, sending me in a deadly tango of handstands and leaping flips in order to avoid getting killed.
Breathing heavily, I threw myself behind a hastily constructed rock barrier, needing a moment to catch my breath. An attack of lava caused me to flee much sooner than I'd have liked, but it did manage to save the life of one of my new guards- who was not watching his back like he should have been and had been singled out as a target by the woman who could create horrific firebending explosions.
"Watch out!" I dove sideways, tackling him and pressing him into the ground as the blast missed us by inches. "Don't you dare lose focus now! These guys are out to kill!"
Zaheer began to wave his staff in a circular fashion, gathering the dust and smoke that rose from the lava pit in a cover of darkness for the Red Lotus. I started in the direction, but was distracted by a burst of lava shooting towards me. I had to fall backwards into a leaping handstand that sent me somersaulting through the air and out of range, and when I got my bearings again Kuvira had rushed towards my side and used her cables to capture Zaheer and pull him onto our land.
The lavabender tried to retaliate with a molten boulder launch, and I used a metal plate to shield Kuvira's unprotected back from his attack as she moved to engage Zaheer.
"I got him!" Kuvira yelled over at me, waving me off as I started to come to her aid. "Rescue the Avatar! I'm okay!"
Biting my lip anxiously, I spun around and yelled for our forces to bear arms and come to my aid. If I was going to rescue Korra, I couldn't do it alone. These guys were deadly- just getting into Zaofu undetected proved that.
When a small group of them had congregated around me, I swiftly bent up a shield of earth to protect us as I turned to them. Not more than a few feet away, Lin and the trio were huddled behind a metal plate, launching attacks at the Red Lotus whenever they had an opening.
I turned to my troops, anger and frustration making my tone sharp.
"When this is over, one of you is going to answer the pressing question of which of you screwed this up and allowed them to get in," I glowered at them, and they shrank back in fear. "But right now, we have more important things to worry about."
A blast of fire threatened to knock our wall over, and I fortified it with an abandoned metal plate. Next to us, Suyin did the same as a curved blast of fire nearly ambushed her sister. I shot her and the twins a fleeting glance as they dove for cover behind the new wall she had just created and fortified.
I shut my eyes as my guards huddled around me, trying to think of how we were going to rescue the Avatar. Korra was in a deadly situation, and the sooner we got her out of there the better it would be for all of us. We just had to be able to make it over that death trap of a moat…
"Alright. Hong Li and I are going to use metal plates to cross the moat. The rest of you need to defend our backs while drawing their fire and attention away from us. The Avatar is counting on us to rescue her. Understood?"
"Yes, Captain Mehadi."
I ground my teeth into my mouth, steeling my nerves. "Disperse!"
They scattered immediately, leaving Hong Li and I crouching behind the earthen block. I could hear the sounds of the guards' metalbending and deflecting attacks, accompanied with random cries of shock or pain. The constant barrage of attacks stopped on our wall as they successfully captured the attention of the intruders.
I turned to look at Hong Li. He looked completely terrified, but determined to help, which I was extremely grateful for. "When we move, you need to follow my lead exactly, or you will be taken out."
He nodded, his jaw set tightly. I cracked my knuckles savagely, bouncing slightly in my crouched position to ready my muscles.
Carefully, I edged over on the ground so I could just barely peek my head out from behind it. The lavabender, who I had determined to be the worst of our problems, was currently distracted by two of my guards throwing metal blades at him left and right. His attention was firmly not on the two of us, and that meant that it was the perfect time to move.
I jerked my arm behind me sharply in combat communication, darting out at a sprint from behind our safe cover. Several guards came running to flank me, ready to deflect any attacks that might come my way. However, I ignored them and kept my gaze steady on what I could see of Avatar Korra, crumpled on the ground and partially obscured by smoke. She looked unharmed, but it might not stay that way if the tyrants refused to yield.
Taking advantage of our clear path, I swept my arms in a firm motion, bending a sheet of metal near my feet in a way that it lay vertically across the first half of the molten moat. A second shield commanded by Li landed on top of mine, creating an accessible ramp for us to cross the deadly river.
I tore across the first part of the bridge, feet pounding louder than I expected on the metal plates. The sound made me swear violently as I realized it had alerted my enemies to our position, and my eyes locked onto the menacing glare of the lavabender when he spun around and spotted us.
He gave me a sinister smile, and my blood ran cold.
I forced myself to continue putting one foot in front of the other, desperate to get to the solid ground before he could launch an attack. I was all but flying now, moving faster than I'd ever moved before in my life.
But I was too late.
The lavabender turned away from us and swept his arms up in our direction, and suddenly I wasn't running anymore. A blast of lava shot up underneath the metal plates below both my feet and Li's, sending us flying up into the air with the sheer power of it. Terror seized me, and I could hear Hong Li's cries of fear echoing with my own piercing scream as we both were tossed sideways through the air like ragdolls in opposite directions.
I yelled as I tried to get my bearings, but it was impossible to tell which way was up and which way was down with the thick plumes of smoke enveloping my senses. Once I lost momentum and was no longer being propelled upwards, I did my best to brace my body for landing. My heart was pounding so loud in my head that I could have sworn it was audible, and fear made me feel like my veins were encased in ice as I started my terrifying descent downwards.
This was not going to be pleasant.
I'd like to think that I was relatively tough in nature, but no amount of toughness or preparation could've stopped my drawn-out shriek of agony as I slammed into the ground at a breathtaking speed. My shoulder took the brunt of my weight, snapping and collapsing under my body when it plowed into the dirt. The pain was so bad that I might've passed out for a brief moment, hazy black waves skipping across my vision.
A barrage of slurred oaths coupled with whimpers of pain spewed from my clenched lips, wavering as I shook involuntarily. I'd definitely broken something in my shoulder… and possibly my arm as well. This wasn't the first time I'd been hurt in a battle, but I'd never felt such an acute amount of pain before. It was so intense that I started to feel disconnected from my body, and wondered if I was going into shock.
I tried to sit up, knowing that the Avatar was counting on us to protect her. Even such a simple motion caused my shoulder to burn with white hot pain that was so intense that I nearly blacked out again. My stomach twisted sickeningly, and I gave up, letting my head fall to the ground with another cry of pain, this one softer than the others.
My radio, clipped securely to my belt, had somehow survived the massive fall I had just taken. It came to life in a burst of static that was barely audible over my own racing pulse. "Captain! Captain Mehadi, are you alright? Please respond."
It was Suyin, and I struggled to reach the device to respond. Initially, my ingenious plan involved putting on a brave face and shrugging it off like it was nothing, but even pushing the button made me whimper in blinding agony, which Suyin was able to hear over the radio.
"Captain Mehadi, is that you?"
"…Hghn…Cap…Captain Mehadi r-reporting."
"Are you alright? We saw you get blasted but lost visual…where are you?
I couldn't hold back a shuddering sob of pain when I took a breath to respond. "I don't…ugh...don't think…I…argh…n-no."
"Stay with me, Mehadi! We're locating your position. Don't move, it's going-"
I groaned over her last words, the hand-held radio slipping from my limp grasp. The sound sputtered before turning into pure static once more. Around me, the battle was still raging on, fiery and passionate. As I lay on the ground trying to breathe through varying waves of nausea and agony, a massive, fiery boulder slammed into the ground close by.
My stomach couldn't take it any longer, and it took all of my willpower to force my way through the pain and make it onto my side before I started to vomit, gagging and choking on the burning liquid as it came up.
When I shakily ran the back of my hand across my soiled lips to cleanse them in the aftermath, it came away speckled with dark red blood. My head spun at its sight, and I fell backwards in a daze as blackness teased the edges of my vision.
It was all I could do to stay on the edges of consciousness, my eyes too heavy to keep open any longer.
Eventually, I could hear footsteps hurrying towards me from a distance, as well as voices.
"Oh, thank the spirits, there she is!"
"Go check on him, make sure he's alright. I can get her."
The runners disbanded, and a single set of feet hurried towards me. It took everything that I had within me, but I managed to pry my heavy lids open slightly. I couldn't see anything at first- my vision blurry and unfocused- probably due to the effects of a concussion. I had hit my head several times so far this evening.
I forced myself to blink rapidly, trying to make sense of who stood before me. Slowly, the pale face of Huan appeared, looking bored as ever, and I groaned, my face burning as red as a tomato as I let my eyes slide shut again. Out of all the people to find me like this, and it just had to be him.
Spirits, this was mortifying.
"Huan? What...what are you doing here, it's not safe," I whimpered shakily, wanting nothing more than to sink into the ground and die right now. This was not how someone wanted their crush to find them like. "You could…you could get killed."
As if to prove my point, a lava blast hit the ground close enough that I could feel its heatwave. I nearly gagged again, but did my best to hold back what was left of the contents of my stomach.
"Nice to see you, too," Huan snorted, rolling his eyes in that way that I found so endearing while he crouched down beside me. I opened my eyes just enough to see his handsome- but currently filthy and sweaty- face with his hair an absolute mess on the unshaved side peering down at me, causing my heart to stutter traitorously. "Spirits, you sure took a hell of a beating this time, Mehadi."
"Agreed," I moaned, still blushing like a schoolgirl. "Just help me get up, will you?"
"Yeah… I don't think that's such a good idea," Huan told me, watching as I tried valiantly to sit up. "Hey- woah!"
If he hadn't grabbed my arm, I would've slammed back into the ground, a powerful wave of dizziness causing me to lose my sense of up and down. However, his sudden touch was enough to make me want to scream in agony.
Any other time, I would have been pleased to have him touching me, but now it just made me feel like I was going to faint. Even though I had clamped my lips shut violently, it wasn't enough to mask the horrified squeak of pain that I made at the sensation.
"Sorry, sorry," Huan sounded panicked now, his usual sarcastic mask shattering under pressure. He used his free hand to push his sweaty hair out of his eyes, and to me he had never looked better. "But I have to get you out of here. Can I….um, pick you up?"
I groaned, shutting my eyes once before forcing them open again as my chest heaved in pain, completely spent in his trembling grip. "Go….go ahead."
"Alright, here we go," He laced one hand carefully underneath my knees and the other around to my back before pulling me into his arms and off of the ground in one swift motion.
I flinched once before my eyes rolled back into their sockets involuntarily, my head falling back limply as he carefully cradled me against his chest. I could faintly hear him apologizing profusely, but the words were covered by the scream of agony that I couldn't hold back any longer.
Black spots popped out from behind my closed eyelids, obscuring what little light I could see from the still raging battle as the sound faded away.
I had some odd, distorted sense that time was passing, but it was as if I was experiencing it from an underwater world. My body was beyond my command, and at the mercy of whoever the person cradling me in their arms was as they moved. Though I was virtually helpless and would normally be panicking at my lack of control, for some reason I was undisturbed.
Probably the concussion talking.
I floated in and out for awhile, the level and degree of pain throughout my body coming in waves. I could hear dim voices and unnamed sounds, but nothing truly registered in my mind until a sudden, renounced surge of pain trailed down my shoulder, causing my body to jerk oddly. Disoriented, my mind tried to make sense of what was going on, but it was almost too sluggish to even function.
I could still smell smoke lacing the air around me, and knew that I was still outside. The sounds of battle hadn't come back with awareness, however, and I wondered if it was over or not. Somebody was holding me down with gentle hands, although who I did not know. At some point, I must have been laid down, but I had no recollection of the event.
A sharp pain in my collarbone caused me to whimper and try to pull away from the hands. My mind was becoming clearer, and I began to process what was going on. I could feel the cool dirt on the back of my uncovered neck, and gooseflesh rose on my body underneath a layer of cold sweat.
I shifted on the ground, feeling foreign hands pressing my own into the dirt while another pair held my legs still. There was an uncomfortable sensation on my left side, and I struggled to get away from it and their firm grasps. I started to panic when my body didn't want to respond to my commands.
"She's waking up, can't you heal her any faster?"
"It always feels worse before it feels better, we're almost done-"
My eyes flew open and I screamed violently as an intense flash of pain burned through my body. I had never felt something as awful as this before, and I struggled to raise my head to see my surroundings, my eyes darting around in a panic.
An unfamiliar healer stood directly above me- doing something to my shoulder that was causing me the unbearable pain I was feeling- and Huan was kneeling beside me, his hands holding mine. I struggled to free myself from his grip, but either I was too weak or he too strong.
I couldn't form words- the pain was too horrific for my mind to function- and my eyes locked onto Huan's for a brief second, trying to convey my pleas for help. His face contorted into something heartbreaking that was so foreign on a face usually blank and cool, and that scared me even more than I was already. My last clear sight was his eyes welling over with fat tears as he watched me scream and writhe uncontrollably, before a sense of fuzziness began to overtake my body and the blood drained from my face.
Huan's suddenly panicked voice faded out as the pain reached a crescendo. "Somebody grab her head, I think she's about to-"
I faded into blissful, painless darkness.
When again I awoke, I was alone in my quarters, laid across my own bed. My entire body was sore and my mind exhausted, like I had just taken an intense beating or had worked out too hard at practice. It took a few moments for the events of the previous night to come back to me, and when it did I felt instantly awake and alert.
Wincing, I managed to pull myself into a sitting position, and swung my legs to dangle off the side of the bed. My shoulder didn't hurt nearly as bad as it had before, but it still throbbed painfully in a makeshift sling that was not mine as I moved, causing me to inhale sharply.
I wondered who had brought me back to my room. Probably Kuvira- she had been uninjured the last time that I saw her. Careful not to jar my arm, I pushed off of my bed and onto my feet, shifting for a moment as the blood came back to my limbs.
Someone had removed my guard armor but left my underclothes on, and for that I was thankful. For all I knew, Huan could have been the one to bring me back to my quarters to rest, and that thought brought another blush to the apples of my cheeks. I rolled my eyes as I slipped into my shoes- silently berating myself for thinking of that at a time like this- and headed slowly over to the door.
As I opened it, I caught a glimpse of Kuvira walking towards me, and my good shoulder sagged in relief. When she saw me, she halted, gesturing for me to come towards her.
"Oh good, you're okay! I have to bring you in for questioning."
"Excuse me?" I asked, slightly offended. "For what?"
"Just come with me, you didn't do anything wrong. It's just a formality." She held open the door for me as I gingerly stepped out of my room. Outside it was sunny, and looked to be about midday. "Suyin is questioning all of the guards for treason."
My already aching head spun at her words, not quite processing them. Kuvira saw me sway slightly, and she silently slipped her arm around my waist before shrugging my good arm around her neck in an unspoken display of affection and support. "Treason?"
"Zaheer got away," Kuvira told me, looking angry at herself. "I don't know how, nobody does. Suyin thinks it was an inside job, and she's furious."
I stopped in my tracks, turning my head towards her wide-eyed. Zaheer had gotten away, and I hadn't been there to help stop him when they needed me to. I had let everybody down. "The Avatar-"
"Is safe. Su and Lin were able to snatch her away from Zaheer after you got taken out."
I looked down, feeling guilt beat at every bone in my body. "This is all my fault for botching that plan, no wonder Suyin thinks that I betrayed her."
"Hey, those assholes were not playing fair," Kuvira shook her head in disgust. "Zaheer took me down shortly after you went, you know."
Silently, I turned to look at Kuvira, knowing that everything necessary could be said without words. I squeezed her shoulder with my good hand, and she gave me a wry smile that showed me she was feeling the same things I was.
"Anyway, Suyin would never suspect you. She knows you're too much of a wimp to go all evil on her."
I stuck my tongue out at her in response, and we set off again at a painfully slow pace on the path from the guards' quarters towards the main estate, and in no time we were headed inside. The familiar setting of the Beifong house brought a warm feeling to my chest of happy preteen days, when Suyin had taken Kuvira and myself in and given us a home that both of us had been previously denied.
Kuvira took me through hallways that I hadn't been before, and stopped in front of a platinum plated door I didn't know existed until now. With three sharp raps on the sheeting, it opened, and I could see Suyin and Lin inside, as well as Avatar Korra and none other than Master Aiwei in the opposite corner.
I assumed that Aiwei was there due to his extraordinary truth seeing abilities. Kuvira had said that I was being brought in for questioning.
"Captain Mehadi, as requested," Kuvira led me over to the seat at the table across from Aiwei and helped me sit down. The trip had taken more out of me that I would have liked to admit, and I shut my eyes for a brief moment to try to catch my breath as well as restore my composure. I rested my arms on the metal surface, using them to hold my body up and prevent myself from tipping forward in exhaustion.
Suyin looked at my weary form with a soft expression, and I could see no anger or disgust in her eyes. "Thank you, Captain Kuvira. That will be all."
Kuvira bowed respectfully to her and her sister before taking her leave, throwing me a tentative smile as the door shut behind her. As soon as it had shut, I turned my attention onto Suyin with a questioning look, and she answered my unspoken inquiry.
"We're just going to ask you a few questions. If you answer them truthfully, there will be no problem."
"Okay," My voice was dry and misused, and I cleared my throat softly before covering a small yawn with the back of my hand. "Let's do it."
Aiwei leaned in closer to me, his eyes fixed on my own in his own unnerving fashion. It was difficult, but I managed to hold his gaze without breaking it.
"What is your full name, and where are you from?"
"My name is Captain Mehadi," I tried to make my voice sound strong and sure, but I was so exhausted that I'm sure it wasn't fooling anybody. It shook slightly on every word, and oozed weariness. "I was born here in Zaofu and was taken in by Suyin after the accident that killed my mother."
Aiwei deemed my first answer acceptable, and pressed on. "Where were you last night?"
"Last night I was on midnight patrol with my partner, Captain Kuvira. We were guarding the guest estate on extended hours as per special request from Suyin Beifong."
He raised an eyebrow at me. "And you have no knowledge of the people who tried to kidnap the Avatar, nor did you help them enter Zaofu in any way?"
"The only thing I know is that they are a group called the Red Lotus. Suyin informed me of that two nights before the attack. I didn't assist them in any way on their mission. I would never betray the Beifong family- I would rather die."
Satisfied, Aiwei turned in his chair to address Suyin. "She is not one of them. Every statement was nothing but the truth."
Suyin seemed to deflate like a hot air balloon, her shoulders slumping with relief. It was pleasing to see how happy she was about Aiwei's conclusion, and I felt my heart warm when she came over and ran an affectionate hand through my hair with a fond look on her face. "I didn't think so. Mehadi wouldn't betray me like that."
"Of course not," I spoke plainly, giving her a tired smile that turned into a wince of pain as my shoulder twinged. It was becoming quite clear to me that whatever the anonymous healer had done to me last night had not healed me completely. "You know that I would die before betraying you and your family."
"I heard that you just about almost did that," Avatar Korra spoke for the first time, and I turned to look at her- slowly as to not upset my injury.
She stood in the very back of the room, behind the Beifongs with her arms crossed and a grateful look on her face that was obviously sincere. "I don't know how to properly thank you for everything you did. I'm not sure I would be here right now if not for you and your soldiers."
I smiled sheepishly, almost bashful as I shrugged my shoulders in acknowledgement. It wasn't every day that the Avatar thanked you for saving her life, and I wasn't quite sure what to say.
However, the movement had been harsh, and I inhaled sharply while clutching my shoulder with my good arm, working my jaw viciously to take my mind off of the pan. I took a second to compose myself- not noticing Suyin's concerned expression- before responding.
"I tried my best. I'm just glad that you're alright."
At that moment, the door behind me opened, and I shifted my whole body in my seat to see who it was. I flushed pleasantly when my curious eyes met Huan's green ones, suddenly remembering how he had been the one to find and carry me to safety in the midst of battle. His normally cross expression softened when he made eye contact with me, causing Korra to shoot me a curious look- raised eyebrow and all.
"Mother, Kuvira is sending the final guard up to be questioned as we speak." Huan didn't look away from me as he spoke, and an odd chill ran through my spine. I wished more than anything I could know what he was thinking, but the metalbending artist was notoriously difficult to read- as always.
"Thank you Huan," Su walked over to her second oldest son and patted his cheek in a motherly gesture that made him grumble under his breath. I had a hard time keeping a straight face watching him scowl over her attention, and was so preoccupied that I nearly missed what Suyin said next.
"-before you go back to your sculpting, would you mind assisting Mehadi to one of our spare bedrooms? I want her to be closer to the healer, since she is still in much discomfort."
I started to protest, my cheeks heating up in furious embarrassment. There was no changing Su's mind, however- once she decided something she rarely ever altered it.
"The walk back to your quarters is much too far. You're dead on your feet, you need to rest."
I stared at her for a moment, slowly closing my mouth in defeat and slumping slightly in the interrogation chair, slightly dazed from this turn of events. "Thank you, Suyin."
Eyes back on me, Huan came over to my side and offered me a hand to pull me up that I accepted with my good arm. He carefully pulled me to my feet, and wrapped his arm around my waist to steady me when the blood rushed to my head and I started to pitch forward in exhaustion.
The gentle pressure through my robes gave me a pleasant thrill, and my heart stuttered in response to feeling him touch me. It annoyed me beyond belief that my body could feel something like this while so obviously beaten down. It was almost like a betrayal.
The three women had started forward in concern when I started to tip over, but Huan waved them off. "I got her, no big deal."
If only he knew what a big deal it was to you, my traitorous brain snickered at me.
He led me out of the room, letting me choose a comfortable walking speed. Even after my balance had steadied and my head rush had died down, Huan didn't remove his arm from my waist, and I think I fell for him a little bit more at that protective gesture.
Spirits, I've lost my mind.
"How are you really feeling?" Huan finally asked me, breaking the silence as he led me through the many twisting halls of the Beifong Estate. I could feel his warmth through the close contact our bodies held, and it was almost sinful. "You were pretty out of it last time I saw you."
I shuddered violently and closed my eyes briefly as foggy flashes of my experience swam before me. When I reopened them, Huan was looking at me with concern in his wide, expressive eyes, and I gave him a fleeting look but did not respond before turning my head away slightly.
Even after I'd broken eye contact, I could still see him glancing at me from the edges of my vision, every so often running his free hand through the side of his shaggy mop of hair that was unshaved and grown out. I thought that he looked just as beautiful right now, groomed and well-dressed, as he did while disheveled and terrified last night in the midst of battle
I was so distracted by trying to eye Huan without being caught that I didn't even notice when he stopped- which threw me off balance and made my stumble slightly. Huan quickly wrapped his other arm around me, supporting me as I swayed dizzily. It was all I could do now to even stay on my feet- and I probably couldn't have without his support.
"Hey, just hang on for a little bit longer, I'll help you inside." Huan's voice, dripping with worry, broke through the fog that was creeping into the corners of my mind. "Can you walk?"
I mumbled what was supposed to be an affirmative answer, but it came out as nonsense. Sleep was numbing my mind, urging me to just curl up and sink into oblivion. I tried to respond to him again, but my knees buckled under me before I could do more than open my mouth.
Taking that as a no, Huan slipped one of his hands down from my hip to my legs before pulling me into his arms and off of the floor. I gave a low groan of pain at the motion, although it was not nearly as horrific as it was the previous night. Being conscious and able to support my head and neck on his collarbone probably helped as well.
Even though I was exhausted and my mind was shutting down, one of my last coherent thoughts as Huan carried me inside of the guest bedroom towards the canopy bed was of how remarkable it was that he- as skinny and lean as he was- could carry me as easily as if I was a ragdoll.
I found myself blurting out the first thing that popped into my mind as he slowly settled me down in the bed, helping me pull the covers up to my chest. "You're really sort of beautiful, did you know that?"
My eyes were fluttering shut on their own, but as they slid closed I could see his normally pale, blank face stretch into a cheeky smile- his hair falling down into his green eyes as he leant over me. As I drifted off to sleep, I could have sworn that I heard him whisper a nearly inaudible response before something soft and warm brushed my forehead, but I was probably just dreaming.
AN: This story has hours and hours of tears and sweat and hard work poured into it. It took me over a year to perfect this. I'd love to hear what you thought about it!