Written for a prompt at ficbending on LJ.
There was a man on fire next to his bed, and Bolin fell out the other side to scramble away.
"Mako!" Bolin shouted. "Dad!"
"I'm here," he heard Mako say, pulling Bolin away from the man writhing in flames on the floor. He turned away and covered his ears, and tried not to pee in fear when he saw tears down Mako's face.
"Who is he?" Bolin asked. "We have to help him! Mom and Dad-"
"They're dead," Mako said hoarsely, and Bolin stared, shaking his head and uncovering his ears because he can't have heard that right. "Bolin, come on! We have to get out of here, now!"
Bolin clutched desperately at his brother's sleep tunic with his chubby fingers as they ran out the door. "Dad's not dead!" he shouted, moving the stones beneath their feet to make Mako stop. "We have to go back! We have to-"
"I'm sorry," Mako said, grabbing onto Bolin's collar and dragging him away. "Let's go!"
There was a loud thud and Bolin turned to see the man on fire stumbling down the small hallway after them, flames and hood and hair covering his face as he made choked sounds, like he didn't have enough air to scream.
"Get away from him!" Mako screamed at the man, holding out his hand and throwing fireballs at the man, who stumbled and fell under the onslaught. "Murderer! You sick-"
His words were lost to more flames, and Bolin twisted into another doorway, only to stop and stare at the bed. At the blood-covered woman in it, her sightless eyes locked onto the ceiling.
There was so much blood, everywhere - the sheets were stained with it. The stains would take ages to get out, they were so dirty, she hated dirty sheets.
"Mommy?" Bolin asked. She didn't wake up. "Mommy!" he screamed, but she didn't move. He'd help her clean the sheets, even though he hated laundry, he'd help her clean all the sheets in the house if she would just wake up-
"Come on," Mako shouted, leaning into the room and yanking Bolin out by his arm. "We need to get out of here. Now!"
Bolin couldn't look away, stumbling along after Mako as they ran, the burning man smoldering on the kitchen floor before they were out the front door, on the streets, running down through the dark with their way lit by a flame in Mako's hand.
They didn't stop for several blocks, the farthest Bolin had ever been from home without Mom or Dad there with him. Mako dragged Bolin into an alleyway, and when he finally stopped, Bolin pressed his face into Mako's stomach.
"What happened to them?" Bolin cried, Mako's sleepshirt already getting wet from his tears. Mom and Dad couldn't be dead. This had to be a nightmare.
"A bad man," Mako said breathlessly. "A sick man."
Bolin held onto his big brother tightly, his arms still too short to wrap around him completely.
"What's going to happen?" he asked. "What do we do?"
"I don't know," Mako said, and that was scarier than anything. Except maybe whoever killed Mom and Dad, the burning man. At six years old, Mako was twice Bolin's age, and he alwaysknew what to do, he always had a plan. "But don't worry, okay? I'll think of something."
Bolin held on even tighter to his brother and cried.
Bolin was staring groggily at his bowl of porridge in the front room when Mako shuffled in, only to stop and stare at him in surprise. "You're up early." Then Mako narrowed his eyes. "Did you sneak out or something?"
"No, dude," Bolin said, smiling at his brother and live-in alarm clock. Sometimes he wondered how much of Mako's morning-person attitude was being a firebender and how much was just him being Mako. "Had a bad dream."
"Uh huh," Mako said dubiously.
"About the night Mom and Dad died," Bolin added. Mako stared, before abruptly his face went blank as he nodded and moved towards their little food chest.
"What about it?" Mako asked as he poured some tap water into the teapot.
"Nothing, just - seeing the Dancing Dragons' accident yesterday, when their earthbender was on fire...reminded me of their killer, y'know?"
Mako gave a neutral grunt and started shuffling through their tea packets, picking one and putting it in the water, before putting his hands around the small pot and heating it up. "Are you going to be okay in training?" he asked.
"Yeah, yeah," Bolin said, watching Mako's red, almost glowing fingers as steam started to come out of the pot.
"So you guys just...ran?" Korra asked later that day, her voice coming from just behind his shoulder.
"Yeah," Bolin said, moving the disc in the tight, carefully controlled circle, perfectly counter to the water Korra was moving in the same ring around them. "Next morning we could barely walk, our feet were so scratched up. We were in such a rush we hadn't even grabbed our shoes."
"I'm not surprised," Korra said, her back pressing into his as they carefully positioned their ankles to twist around each other without breaking the smooth movement of their elements. "If that man was still in your house. Who was he?"
"We don't know," Bolin said. "We went back the next morning, but burning man was gone."
"Did they ever find your dad's body?" Korra asked.
Bolin shook his head. "Mako refused to go near the house after that. I hung around for a bit, but Dad never came back. My mom was a firebender and she was- my dad wouldn't have stood a chance. He wasn't a bender."
"I'm so sorry," Korra said sympathetically, as she and Bolin positioned their shoulders for the hard part of this move.
Bolin didn't say anything at first, focusing on the twist-strike of the new move. They pulled it off, though they'd still need more practice before they could use it in a match.
"Thanks," Bolin said as they cleared the muddy debris. "It's good to have someone to talk to."
"What about Mako?" she asked.
"He hates talking about that night," Bolin said. He paused. "We never found our dad's body or the attacker's, and I think that's what makes Mako worry that...that he might've killed the man."
"Worried?" she asked incredulously.
Bolin shrugged. "Mako doesn't want to be a killer."
Korra thought about it a moment and slowly nodded. "So how'd you guys end up on the streets?"
"We ended up in an orphanage a little while," Bolin said. "But it was overrun, and when we heard that siblings sometimes ended up separated, we just left and looked after ourselves."
"Well I'm glad you guys came through okay in the end," Korra said.
"Yeah," Bolin said. "Now let's try that new move before Mako comes back and yells at us."
Mako waited until they were done talking, until they were doing the new set of moves Korra had come up with, before heading out into the practice gym.
"Not bad," Mako said as he watched them. "Now let's try it with me."
And Mako threw himself into learning the new formation, trying not to think about the night he lost his father.
If only the man actually had been killed.
Mako smiled at Korra during a brief pause in the fight, before turning and whipping a thin but hotline of flame around two mooks attacking them, sending them reeling away. The two turned back, but four more fireballs from behind him sent them running.
The Equalists made a grave mistake attacking a pro-bending party. Mako and the two firebenders moved into a line formation and shot rapid fire punches at the Equalists. To his right a bunch of waterbenders were rounding out the skirmish with whips of water and drinks, and to the left Korra, Bolin, and a bunch of other earthbenders were using a series of walls to push the Equalists down the street.
"Let's get them around the corner!" Korra called back to him, using a water whip to get an equalist away from Bolin. "We can chase them off in one go!"
And for a while, the plan worked. The three groups slowly melded into one, and by the time they approached the street corner, they were all fighting together, and the Equalists were running with their tail between their legs. And just around the corner-
A small army of Equalists was waiting for them.
And at the front was none other than Amon.
There was a brief pause, before the masked man raised his arm and brought it down, and chaos exploded.
There were torrents of water surrounding him, fire flashing through the night and small rocks zipping by at nearly impossible speeds. There were flashes from lightning rods all around him, and inexplicably from cameras on the rooftops. Reporters, the damn vultures-
And then there were metalbending cops descending from a blimp and into the fray, creating a third side to this massive street riot as they tried to subdue Equalist and bender alike - though especially the Equalists.
"Chief!" Mako shouted in warning when he spotted Bei Fong nearby, and she ducked below two Equalists before whirling around in a fury of metal cables, downing them both with one move.
"Thanks," she said gruffly. "But don't think you're off the hook."
Mako was about to respond, when he saw a nearly impossible sight - Amon, barely ten feet away, stumbling as he subdued two waterbenders at once. Bei Fong saw him at the same time, and they both moved in, just in time for Amon to turn around and see the attack.
Mako stumbled at that, wondering- no, not how the man knew his name. He was famous enough for that to not be a question. But the man's greeting had sounded oddly...intimate. As if he knew Mako.
Before he could mull on it, Amon struck out at them.
Bei Fong dodged and ended up focusing on two other Equalists, and Mako was facing Amon alone.
The man certainly knew how to fight, but however good he was, Mako was better, and it wasn't long before Mako was close enough and hit hard enough to knock off that mask.
As the metal mask clattered against the stone below, Amon was fell to his knees, before slowly raising his face to Mako.
For a moment, the only portion of his face Mako could see was scar tissue, but the man turned his head, until Mako could see the whole thing at once.
And his guts promptly froze as he took it all in.
Mako stared in horror at the scarred but familiar face, memories more than a decade old resurfaced with violent intensity.
The man spat blood onto the ground, before looking up at him.
"Good to see you again, Mako," he drawled out with false sincerity.
"Dad?" he asked.
Several of the people near them stumbled in shock, faltering in the flow of their fights before resuming, and out of the corner of his eye he could see Bei Fong looking between them.
"You always were hot-headed, but I suppose I should have seen that coming," the man said, before launching up from the ground at him, and on instinct Mako dodged beneath the man's fist.
And with that attack, the decade old rage came back.
He gathered the hottest flame he could and blasted it all at the man, trying to unleash an inferno on the man - the monster - as he turned and zipped through the flames, fire-proof coat heavily singed but intact until Mako shoved him back with another slew of flames, unleashing everything he had on Amon.
Amon slipped through and jabbed his left arm into submission, and as it hung limply by his side Mako channeled even more of his chi into his other hand.
He knew firebending from rage was dangerous, but as he and Amon flew around each other, both striking and dodging, all Mako could think of was his mom's mutilated body, and the sight of his man poised over a young, sleeping Bolin with a knife in the air, ready to bring it down before Mako had attacked him.
"I should've killed you when I had the chance," Amon snarled when Mako whirled away from another strike with the lightning rod.
The rest of the fight, the rest of the street, and all the other people faded away as Mako lost himself in the rage, the fury that his father would hurt his family, how he and Bolin had been left to fend for themselves at such a young age, how they had nearly died so many times and been through so much strife because of him.
And when they finally seemed to start making a nice life for themselves, this man started the Equalist movement, plunging their world back into darkness.
"I was about to say the same thing," Mako growled, feeling all that white-hot-hurt pool in his fingers as he started moving, rounding out his motion and letting the chi collect and crackle, drawing power from his own pain and from all the shock sticks nearby - even Amon's.
By the time Amon realized what Mako was doing, it was too late - he ran forward with the shock stick aloft, but this time, instead of dodging it, Mako grabbed it, wrapping his two fingers around the prods at the end and letting all that power push back and flood down the rod into Amon. Mako wasn't completely immune, smelling charred flesh and knew some of it was his own - but he couldn't care less, watching the source of all of his life's miseries scream before collapsing.
Mako stumbled away, falling to his knees, before groaning as he saw two more Equalists leaping towards them, apparently having avoided the main fight but now moving forward. The metalbenders struck out, but most were busy raising people up into the blimps. Mako tried to stand, but bringing down Amon - Dad- had taken everything out of him, and when he could see Bolin safe behind two metal benders holding him back from the monster beside him, Mako couldn't find the energy in him to keep going.
One of the Equalists released a smoke bomb, and Mako felt familiar hands - Korra - dragging him away from the smoke as it spread, people coughing and choking around them, until Bei Fong shouted, "Somebody clear the smoke!"
Korra did, using what little airbender she had combined with whips of water and dust to corral and clear the smoke.
Unsurprisingly the last few Equalists, and Amon, were gone.
Mako stared at the spot Amon had fallen as Bei Fong started shouting orders and Bolin, finally let go, approached them.
"Was that...was that really Dad?" Bolin asked in shock.
Mako just nodded numbly.
"But...but he died, the night mom-"
"He's the one who killed Mom," Mako rasped.
Korra lifted him up by his useless arm, draping it over her shoulders and holding onto his hand as she wrapped her other arm around his waist.
"He...the man in my room was him?" Bolin asked. "But-"
"You were only three," Mako said, shaking his head. "When I saw you didn't know...I couldn't tell you. Dad was as good as dead to us anyway." He laughed bitterly.
"You burned him," Bolin said, though his voice was distant as he obviously tried to piece together his memories of that night.
"Come on," Korra said, clearly struggling for the right words to say and thankfully opting not to say anything. "Let's go, we'll sort this out later."
Mako nodded and started limping forward, only now realizing how many people were still on the ground, how many of them had heard him...how many were pitying them, open faces hiding nothing. If Mako weren't still reeling over discovering his own father was the enemy, was Amon, he'd be furious.
As it was, he just wanted to go home.
In The End
"You didn't need to stay," Bolin said the next morning when he woke to see Korra still leaning against the wall on the other side of Mako where she'd fallen asleep last night after coming home with them.
"Yes I did," Korra said she said lowly, shifting carefully on the pallet. "You guys need somebody to watch you. Besides, after last night, the Lotus guards are sticking close - they kept an eye out for all three of us."
Bolin nodded, tightening his grip around Mako. "Do you think he'll talk about...everything?"
"No," Mako answered, startling them both with his voice muffled by Korra's thigh.
"You might not get a choice," Korra said. "Lin let you come home last night because of how much of a wreck we were, but she's going to want to bring you back in to ask questions about your dad."
"I still can't believe Amon is our dad," Bolin mumbled.
"He's not," Mako snapped, pushing himself up and out of their grip. "He stopped being our dad the moment he killed Mom and tried to kill you."
"Lin just wants to know more about him," Korra said carefully.
"I don't remember anything besides what he looks like," Mako said. "I don't even know his real name. He was always just 'Dad' for us - if I learned his name back then, I forgot it."
"I don't really remember him at all," Bolin admitted, leaning into Korra as Mako stood up. "I don't remember either of my parents very clearly."
"I'm making breakfast," Mako said flatly, and left the bedroom.
Bolin and Korra looked at each other.
"He's going to need us," Bolin said.
"True. Are you okay?" she asked.
Bolin shrugged. "I don't - I don't remember much. That nightmare is the most of it, but...I don't remember my dad, so it's not...it's not connecting for me, that the man who raised me for the first three years of my life is now the enemy. Mako's been raising me for most of my life."
"That's probably why he's taking this so hard," Korra said as they got up and got dressed.
"I'll...I'll be fine," Bolin said, choosing his words carefully. "It's Mako I'm worried about."
In the other room, Mako was sitting at the table, completely motionless while staring at the newspaper sitting on it, brought in by one of the Lotus guards.
EQUALIST LEADER FIRE-FERRET BROTHERS' FATHER the headline blared, and on the front was a photograph of Amon lying prone on the street, his face hidden by his hair and burns but his mask laying right beside him, Mako kneeling in exhaustion just a few feet away.
Korra spared a moment to be impressed at how somebody had actually managed to be taking photos during the fight, before feeling angry at them for doing so, for standing by and exploiting her friend's grief.
Bolin carefully picked it up, and when Mako didn't respond, he started silently reading it, and Korra leaned over his shoulder to do the same.
"What does it say?" Mako finally asked quietly, voice sounding just a bit broken.
"Just...just what you said last night," Bolin said. "It talks about that, then it just goes on to describe the fight."
Mako shut his eyes. "So now the whole world knows."
"I'm sorry," Korra said.
"It's not your fault," Mako said darkly, finally getting up and grabbing the teapot.
"I'm sorry anyway," Korra said stubbornly.
"What are we going to do?" Bolin asked as he set the paper down. Mako froze where he was putting leaves in the pot, and Bolin was yet again drawn into the night of their parents' deaths...of their mother's death and father's betrayal. How, for the first time in Bolin's life Mako hadn't known what to do.
But they'd figured it out then and they would figure it out now.
"There's some speculation," Korra said, having continued to read the article. "About the effect this could have on the movement. Some Equalists might think of this as a reason to pity Amon, others might think he should step down if this is what his blood does, others are saying this his proof of his convictions...it could divide the Equalist movement."
Mako grunted but instead focused on making the tea.
For several moments, there was relative silence, broken only by the sounds of a city waking up around them, soothing in the early dawn.
"I could've killed him."
Bolin stared at Mako's back in surprise.
"That night," Mako added unnecessarily without looking up from his tea.
He looked over at Korra, and she was equally surprised to see him talking about this. Mako nevertalked about that night.
"Even after he tried to kill you in your sleep, I couldn't kill him. I burned him and I left him for dead and - I had the perfect chance."
"You were six," Korra said. "You can't - no one can expect a six year old to just kill their dad, no matter what else they did."
"My dad killed my mom!" Mako shouted, whirling around to face them. "My dad tried to kill my baby brother in his sleep! My dad is the leader of the Equalist movement that wants to kill us all! I- you- he...!"
Mako stopped and closed his eyes, burying his face in his palms as the tea pot and the jar of leaves lay forgotten on the floor beside him.
"I should've killed him," Mako said finally.
"It would've destroyed you, Bro," Bolin said. "We were so young - don't...don't worry about it. I'm glad you didn't."
"How can you be?" Mako said. "I couldn't even save Mom."
"You were six years old," Bolin said again.
"Look, Mako," Korra said. "I'm not going to say what you should or shouldn't have done, but...it's happened. You can't go back to change the past. We gotta move forward. This guy, whoever or whatever he is or was, leads a powerful movement that we all need to stop. This can be a big step forward to do that."
"You're my family," Bolin said. "Not him."
Mako looked up between them, and sighed, falling to his knees on the floor by the table. "I just...I had wondered for so long what happened to him. And for it to suddenly end up being this. It doesn't make sense. He- he loved us. He loved Mom and me and Bolin and cared for us, and then suddenly for the last few months he didn't, then...I just. I don't know."
"You were a kid," Korra said, reaching over to grasp his shoulder. "A kig going through something awful. But look at you. You came out alive and on top. Don't let your dad-"
"Amon," Bolin cut in.
"Don't let Amon win now by letting him into your head," she said, squeezing tight. "Don't let it get to you now."
"We'll get through this," Bolin said, clasping Mako's hand in his own.
Mako looked between Korra's hand on his shoulder and Bolin's fingers intertwined with his own.
"Yeah," he said finally, looking up at them with something resembling hope and determination in his eyes. "We will."
After typing out all 3800 of this fic in a day, my muses are tired and my fingers hurt, so please leave a review to kiss it better, and tell me what you think! :)