edit: hey guys, thank you for the lovely reviews! i realize my ages are off, now with ep. 3. also-it has been brought to my attention that Toza might be a waterbender? i made him earth, because he had a whole lot of muscle. either way, enjoy the story :)
and: Bolin is two years younger than Mako in my head!canon.
a/n: i like run-on sentences and angst. and mako. so this is his life. plus makorra.
please read and review :)
The sound of the Satomobile as it clatters by is startling; he steps back automatically, further into the shadows, practically crushing his brother between his back and the wall. He hears the cry of protest, but his heart is still pounding and his eyes are still wide so it takes him a moment to pluck up his courage to step forward again, and when he does Bolin is crying, nose an ugly shade of red. He should try to comfort him but he doesn't know how. Doesn't know how, that was Mama's job, doesn't—
He squeezes the small hand in his own more tightly, vice-like, slipping a little because of heat and sweat and nervousness.
The smell of food drifts towards them from across the roadway. He licks his lips, because he can't remember the last time they ate. Bolin is crying harder, and he can't tell if it's because of the smell or because of his grip. He shakes the hand gently and says, "Ready to eat?" vaguely aware of the stares as people pass the rail thin boy and his starving brother.
Mako nods back.
The road clears enough that he can make out the other sidewalk, so he takes a breath and then moves, the voice of his mother—the voice—mother—echoing in his ear (look both ways before crossing streets, Mako) but too late—
The first honk is long and sends him tumbling forward, swinging Bolin out in front of him, causing the little boy to stagger. He can feel the wind on his back as the vehicle passes, and then there is another coming from the opposite direction, blaring its horn. He pulls Bolin back, crushing him against his chest as it hurdles past, driver yelling. His heart pounds; he feels sick, but the road is clear, so he sprints, even though his legs hurt like fire.
All the while, Mako does not let go of the hand.
They reach the other sidewalk. The stares have increased. He doesn't care. The food is so close he can taste it, his dry mouth opening automatically. He stumbles forward, dragging his brother (who just won't stop crying) and finds the red-tented cart, the irritable old woman behind it, and—
(—we don't steal, Mako—)
—and he reaches for as much as he can carry in his dirty little hand, turns, and runs, pulling his brother into an alley and away from the screaming. The shouts echo behind them:
His brother is wrapped in the only blanket, squashed against him, pretending to sleep; Mako can tell it's pretend because Bolin keeps opening his eyes when he thinks no one is looking. The sky is the dark of mid-winter, the river frosted over, a glaring, icy white. He's full from a feast of scraps but scraps aren't enough, never enough, especially with the fire he's got going in his right hand, continuously, a low, bright-burning orange that lights up the underside of the bridge.
Kids pass, street rats like him, looking for a place to stay for the night, attracted like moths to the flame in his hand, the promised warmth, but too many vagabonds is too much trouble and too much trouble is the metalbenders, so they pass, staring longingly at the glow, the warmth, which is entirely for his brother, curled up at his side. Mako glares through the dark.
Something in his eyes makes them move on.
He trips, sprawls (stupid, stupid) and the food in his hands presses uncomfortably against his chest, the tarts smashed, the meat dirt-stained. His jacket is now sticky with their dinner, his knee is scraped, his elbow jarred, but these things are the least of his problems.
The metalbenders will be on him faster than he can blink.
He rolls to his back and sees Officer Beifong, face split wide in a grin of triumph ("Gotcha, urchins!"), and he knows he should run, get up, but he can't seem to let go of the food—
The earth bucks, rolls, and Lin Beifong is thrown headfirst by the unexpected attack into the street, pulled back quickly by one of her comrades as a Satomobile trundles past. He wastes no time, scrabbling to his feet, knee bleeding and arm aching, turning sharp into the alley where his brother is waiting, wide-eyed, and all he can manage is, "Did you do that, Bolin?"
His little brother smiles.
Pro-Bending is just beginning to take hold of the city. They painted crude lines in chalk on an empty road, the look-outs tasked with shouting for cars, and the little waterbending boy with the perpetual cold stands to the side, claps his hand, and shouts "Go!"
Bolin is knocked out almost immediately, because he still hasn't quite gotten the hang of earthbending. The girls who aren't playing, watching from the sidewalk, go to coo over him where he lies, half-dead at the end of the road, drowning in affection, but Mako—
These are the moments when life is worth living, with chalk lines and wild spurts and fire, like summer and warmth and a beating heart, shooting from his closed fists.
"You've wandered into our territory, punk."
"It's a public street."
"Yeah. Last I checked." He steps a little up and to the right so his brother is behind him. The road is empty because night has fallen; the only thing lit up is the Pro-Bending Arena, like a star in the distance, spotlights flickering back and forth. He hears the hot summer breeze blow between cracked, peeling buildings.
"Well, it ain't. You're in Triple Threat Triad territory." The first man leers, leaning forward. "And we don't take kindly to strangers."
"Bolin." Mako says, very calmly. "Why don't you go wait over there?"
"But I can—"
(Nine years of successfully living on the streets and the one time they leave their hideout to go sneak into a Pro-Bending match is the one time he has to come face to face with a bunch of idiots.
Damn his luck.)
"Oh-ho. You gonna fight us kid? All by your lonesome?" The first man has a mouth too wide for his face and eyes like a leopard seal-shark. "No baby brother to help?"
Mako bends his knees, twists his feet. With one hand he beckons them forward. The grin on his face is lopsided, nervous, and doesn't last long. The lead man scoffs, jerks his head forward, then:
The two men on either side spring forward in a wide arc. The first one reaches him from the left, vaulting from the sidewalk and into the empty road with a yell. Mako takes in the clenched fist, the fluid bend of the arm, the pouch of water, and sidesteps quickly, tipping a foot up against the waterbender's outstretched leg, ruining momentum and landing so that the other man chokes and collapses in a heap on the ground, liquid blue congealing like blood along the asphalt.
The ground shifts dangerously beneath his feet and he is thrown—earthbender—wheeling in the air, but he twists, punches, and the heat and flames dance before his eyes, heading in quick, short jabs at his opponent. He hits the ground hard, rolling to his feet, sending an arc of flame in a long kick towards the earthbender and punching through the water slice with a burst of heat. Smoke. Elbow to jaw. Palm to neck. Flame. Kick. Roll. Punch to stomach.
(And then there was one.)
Mako eyes the man at the end of the road, but he's tired. So tired. He remembers the meal he had at lunch and the image of cabbage, limp and damp from the garbage, almost makes him sick.
"You little brat."
"Bro, get out of there!"
The leader seems to remember that Mako is not the only boy on the street and turns towards the sidewalk with a grin—punch (fwoosh) punch (fwoosh)—
(—they are drawn to him like a moth to a flame but something in his eyes keeps them away—)
He doesn't know when or how but he moves, between the attack and Bolin, so the fire collects in his palm, warm and tickling and beating with life; he sends it back towards the leader with a roar, because he'll be damned if anyone, anyone, threatens his brother—
"Oi! What's this?"
"All I wanted was a nice, quiet evening stroll. And I get this. What are you punks doing in my street?"
The voice is old and scratchy and a little slurred. Mako straightens, eyes finding the speaker as Bolin rushes towards him, reaching for his arm like he's four again and there is food waiting on the other side of the road.
The bent man looks at him, his brother, and then surveys the scene of destruction, turning his sharp eyes on the last member of the Triple Threat Triad, clothes smoking, at the other end of the street. "You let that kid kick your butt, eh?"
"Stay out of this, old man."
"To hell with that. You think you're so brave, beatin' up on little kids?"
"I'm fifteen." Mako feels the need to interject, but no one but Bolin hears him (and he only laughs).
"I said, stay out of it!" The leader sends a jet of fire but anger sends it wild and Mako almost moves forward to defend, to do something, but the old man has his hands in the ground and is twisting, pulling, up, up, like it's made of clay, and the black asphalt rock that follows his movements is twice his size. He sends it hurtling down the street so that the man screams, trips, picks himself up, continues to scream, and runs straight into a sign advertising waterbending lessons, half-off.
The rock explodes near his ear.
Bolin finally lets go of Mako's arm in amazement, stumbling forward. "You're an earthbender! That was amazing!"
The old man spits. "What was amazing was your brother there." Ocher meets dark black. (Mako thinks the grandpa looks like a saber-toothed gorilla but keeps his mouth shut.) "You ever been trained, kid?"
He shakes his head.
"You want to be trained?"
"You have a name?"
"Mako." He juts a chin at his brother. "This is Bolin."
"Toza." The old man grunts, canting his head. (Mako wonders why the metalbenders haven't been called; he hears Officer Beifong is Chief Beifong now.
"You got any parents?" Blunt. Toza doesn't look the least bit ashamed.
(—we don't steal, Mako, we look both ways, Mako and he can't remember the color of his mother's eyes or if his father had a beard—)
Bolin shakes his head.
"You got a home?"
(—there was under the bridge and in the alley behind the market and once even on the roof of the police station where no one ever thinks to look—)
(No. No, he doesn't see, no one sees, how could anyone see, at all. No.)
"Ever thought of a career in Pro-Bending?"
"What is that."
"Come on, bro, don't sound so excited!"
"Don't pout, just—what is it."
"It's a fire ferret! I found him, out in the garbage. Isn't he cool?"
"I fed him some of your dinner, I hope you don't mind. You were training and all, though. So."
"Take it back."
"He. It's a he."
"Take him back."
"I named him."
"So now he has a personality." Bolin whispers behind his hand, holding the little ferret away, as if afraid it would hear.
Mako runs a hand over his face with a groan.
"Plus he'll be a total chick magnet."
"You don't need anymore chicks."
"Bolin, just take him back." He sighs the weary sigh of older brothers (because it'll just be one more mouth to feed) but then Bolin turns toward him with the full force of his green eyes and says:
"Just—no, stop—ugh! Fine! We can keep the stupid ferret!"
"Did you hear that, Pabu?"
"You. Are crazy."
(You're the Avatar and I'm an idiot—
You're the and I'm an—
"You're an idiot." She whispers. "An idiot." He agrees. He's always agreed. The words of a month ago are floating foggily across the inside of his eyelids. It's so nice when he closes them; everything is so peaceful, and dark, and he could stay there and just sleep, sleep forever, except Korra is screaming, "Open your eyes, Mako! Mako, keep your eyes open!"
So he tries. For her.
Slowly, because it's hard, trying to think with the fire across his stomach and the blackness across his eyes, he wonders when this happened. When BolinMako became BolinMakoKorra.
And why he doesn't mind.
Will never mind.
With his eyes open the world is blurry, black around the edges. He groans, loudly, hands clutching at his stomach and coming away wet with blood, almost black in the moonlight.
"Why did you do it?" She's above him, olive-skinned and blue-eyed, and he thinks she might be crying (but he doesn't handle that well so maybe it's a trick of the light). "Why did you—"
(—Amon is there and she is turned and there is no way she will counter in time so he tries, flings himself forward, and the lightning cuts a path across his stomach and he falls, falls—)
He is six. He is hungry.
He is eight. He is cold.
He is nine. He is running.
He is twelve. He is playing.
He is fifteen. He is fighting.
He is eighteen. He is learning.
He is twenty-one.
He is falling.
(—the way she is headstrong and stubborn and powerful and beautiful and stupid and wonderful—)
"You're a waterbender!" Bolin is clutching his hair and bending forward and they are kids again (but no, they are older). "So heal him! Damn it, Korra, do something!"
"I can't!" She's crying. He can feel it on his face. Butterfly kisses. He closes his eyes but Korra shakes him roughly. "Mako! Keep your eyes open!" Then: "I could never—Katara said only some people—"
(Don't scream. It's only a nightmare, Bolin. You'll wake up soon.)
Korra looks into his eyes and he falls, hands still clutching his middle, and the small coherent part of him says dully, bluntly:
(You are dying.)
He was attracted like a moth to a flame because she burned, brightly, a roman candle exploding across the stars.
He keeps his eyes open for her.
(You are dying.)
He remembers a kiss, before this, before the battle and the fight; brief and short, his eyes wide and his heart beating whatdoido-pause-whatdoido; and all because we might not come back. (But no one ever believes that, not really. They always come back.)
He keeps his eyes open for her.
(You are dead.)