A/N: Welcome to my first Legend of Korra fanfiction: "A Brother's Presence". I had a fun time writing it, even if it is sad, so I hope you enjoy! I love this show so far and Bolin is my favorite character, so I wanted to write a story about Mako and Bolin growing up on the street. This is a One-Shot in 3rd person POV.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra.
~A Brother's Presence~
There is a boy…
Kneeling on the street.
His brother lies next to him…
Unmoving. Still as death.
And as the boy bows his head, the tears begin to flow.
Please, not Bolin. Not my brother.
He's all I have left.
It had started a day previously on the streets of Republic City.
Winter was quickly approaching, and for Mako and Bolin, this meant nothing but trouble. They had been living on the streets for a little over a year now, and their first experience with the dreaded season had been far worse than imaginable. They had barely made it by, living off whatever they could dig out of the trash, huddling around fires supplied by Mako for as long as they possibly could, barely making it through each day. Mako barely had enough energy in those days to firebend to keep him and his brother warm. But somehow, they had made it.
So they had been a bit more careful this year, taking the time to save up what little extra food they had and store it away for when there would be none available. They even saved up enough money to buy scarves; used, ragged ones, but scarves nonetheless. Bolin had been ecstatic, wearing the green cloth around his neck like it was a gold metal. The sight of his little brother being so happy about something so simple made Mako feel joyful and sick at the same time.
It was morning time and the wind was getting colder and colder as it rustled the two boys' hair. Mako was behind a restaurant the two boys were familiar with, and knew the owner wasn't cruel enough to shoo them away. The nine year-old was picking through the garbage, trying to find something that him and his brother could eat for dinner that night. So far, he hadn't had much luck, only managing to salvage some moldy bread and dirty pieces of lettuce. Scowling, Mako removed himself from the garbage, just as he heard the familiar pitter-patter of feet on the pavement behind him. He turned and saw his six year-old brother, Bolin, walking towards him in a zombie-like fashion.
Mako frowned in concern at the look on Bolin's face. "What's wrong?" he asked sternly.
The little earthbender stared at the ground, tugging at his dirty scarf. "I… I lost my breakfast," he moaned.
It took Mako a second to realize that Bolin meant he had thrown it up. He frowned. "I thought that fruit looked fine, though. I didn't get sick… maybe you got a bad piece?"
"Yeah, maybe…" Bolin mused. Mako didn't like how his brother's usually happy-go-lucky tone sounded at the moment.
"Are you feeling alright, Bo?" Mako crouched down in front of the smaller child to get a better look at his face. It came as no comfort when he saw it was beaded with sweat.
"'M Fine!" Bolin declared, scowling like a stubborn child does. He even stamped his foot, leaving a foot-shaped hole in the pavement as a result of his earthbending.
"Alright, if you say so," Mako said slowly, standing upright again. "C'mon, there's nothing on this side of the city, let's go check by the piers."
Bolin nodded and Mako took his brother's hand in his own. Together, the brothers started towards the piers, where they could usually find something rotten to eat if they got very desperate.
They never made it.
Mako knew something was very wrong when he had to start tugging at Bolin's hand to keep him from falling behind. Bolin always liked to keep up with his brother, sometimes running ahead, playfully yelling at his older brother to chase him or race him or some other nonsense. Today, Bolin could barely keep up, and he remained silent the whole time. His hand was also hot, and wet with his own sweat. Mako decided to stop.
He turned on his younger brother, trying to mask his worry. "Alright, Bolin, tell me what's wrong."
"I told you, nothing's wrong! I'm fine!" But even as he said it, Mako could see his face grow paler, his bright green eyes grow duller.
"Bolin…" Mako trailed off in a warning tone, the way he would whenever Bolin wasn't listening to him.
Bolin bit his lip and looked at the ground. "Alright, so I don't feel great… but it's nothing to worry about, really!" He looked desperately into Mako's copper eyes. "We need food for dinner, so don't worry about me!"
I'm always worrying about you…, Mako thought, but instead he sighed. "Alright, we'll worry about it after we find some food. But then we're going right back to the shelter so you can rest, okay?"
Bolin smiled and nodded, but every movement was missing its usual energy.
As much as he hated to do it, Mako forced himself to push all concerns for his brother out of his head for now and focus on feeding Bolin tonight instead. Mako hardly ever worried about feeding himself; Bolin was always top on the list of priorities.
They hardly took twenty more steps before Bolin fell.
He stumbled, tripping over an invisible object. Mako felt Bolin's hand being ripped from his own, and then Bolin was on the cold floor, his elbows scraped and bleeding idly. Mako was at his side in an instant.
"Bolin? Bolin!" he yelled frantically when he saw his brother's eyes were closed.
In a moment they fluttered open, revealing cloudy, glass-like orbs that had once been the curious eyes of a child. They found Mako and looked scared. "I… I fell," the six year-old declared, trying to push himself up.
Mako grabbed him under the armpits and helped him up slowly, then brought him over to a wooden bench that was conveniently located next to where Bolin had fallen. Mako sat his younger brother down carefully, not bothering to hide his worry this time. "Bolin, are you hurt?" he asked.
The earthbender looked like he hadn't slept in years. "Just my elbows," he mumbled.
"What happened?" Mako demanded.
"I just… fell." Bolin looked up at his brother. He looked terrified. "Everything went dark and it was scary, Mako!"
"You must have fainted…" Mako hissed to himself. Was his brother dehydrated? They had drunk plenty of water this morning. Then again, he had wretched up most of his breakfast. Was he really that sick? Mako swallowed a lump that had formed in his throat. "We have to go back to the shelter now, okay?"
"B-but, the food-"
"The food can wait!" Mako hissed. "Can you walk?"
Bolin paused a moment before whispering, "I'm very dizzy."
If circumstances had not been so serious, Mako would have laughed at the idea of an earthbender being dizzy. "Alright, get on my back, then."
Bolin did as he was told, and soon Mako was piggy-backing his brother through the streets of Republic City and back to the shed they had called home for the past few weeks. His brother was a lot heavier than he looked, being the earthbender that he was, but Mako stayed strong and carried his brother the whole way back to the shed. By then, the wind had picked up and Mako felt chilled to the bone, only warmed by the very high fever Bolin was running. The firebender gritted his teeth and picked up the pace.
When they got there, Mako brought Bolin inside. The air wasn't any warmer there, since the windows had no glass and the door had been broken down, but at least they were sheltered from the wind. He set his brother down on their makeshift bed, which was really just a pile of blankets they had gathered up in the past year. Bolin looked even worse than he had a few minutes previously; he was as pale as a sheet and was now panting. Mako tried to keep worry off his face; he didn't want Bolin to get upset. He had to remain calm for his brother.
"I'm thirsty," Bolin told his brother quietly, and Mako was at the tap immediately (which was really just the nozzle of a hose protruding out of the wall), and filled up a small bowl. He brought it back to his brother, who gulped it down quickly. Mako watched him warily.
"How are you feeling?" the firebender asked after Bolin was done drinking.
"A little better," Bolin smiled. "See? I'm fine! We should go look for dinner now, so-"
"No, Bolin," Mako hissed. "You're really sick. If you feel okay enough to stay here by yourself, I can go out and find some food, but you need to stay here and rest, understood?"
Bolin pouted but nonetheless replied, "Yeah, okay, Mako."
Mako stood up, his eyes never leaving his sick brother. "Alright, I'll be back in an hour or so. Try to get some rest and holler if you need me."
Bolin nodded. His eyelids started to droop.
Mako slowly backed out of the old shed. His eyes never wavered from Bolin until the earth bender was completely out of sight. When he was, Mako turned on his heels and started sprinting back towards the pier. Not only would he return home quickly, he decided, but he'd even try his best to find a great meal for Bolin tonight. Mako was sure he'd feel better by then.
When Mako returned barely under an hour later, a whole loaf of onion bread in his hand and a rare smile on his face, he was happy to see his brother was fast asleep and breathing evenly. The small earthbender even looked sort of peaceful, sprawled across the pile of blankets with a strand of drool hanging out of his open mouth. The sun was setting and Mako quietly prepared a meal of onion bread, water, and more of the fruit they had eaten for breakfast. He even toasted the bread with his firebending, and without burning it once! Compared to their usual meals this one was like a feast, and Mako couldn't wait to see the look on Bolin's face when he woke up.
However, the sun had already long since set and Bolin still hadn't woken up yet. He must be really tired, Mako thought, so I shouldn't wake him up. He can always have this food for breakfast. So, after snacking on some of the toast but saving the rest for his brother, Mako propped himself up against a wall next to where Bolin was sleeping and started to doze off. Soon he was fast asleep.
He woke sometime after midnight but before sunrise to the sound of quiet whimpering. Mako groggily opened his eyes, arching his sore back to stretch. When he realized the sound that had woke him up was coming from Bolin, Mako was at his side in an instant, a small flame in hand so he could see.
Bolin, who had looked so much better before Mako had gone to sleep, was now curled up in a tight ball, his face clammy and pale. He was whimpering and shaking.
"Bolin?" Mako whispered, voice full of fear. "Bolin!" He said it a bit louder this time, beginning to shake his brother with the hand that wasn't holding the flame. "C'mon, Bolin, wake up, what's wrong?"
Just then, Mako was aware of loud footsteps coming from outside the small building. Suddenly on high alert, Mako tensed up, one hand still on his brother's shoulder, the other balled up into a fist, fire blazing around it. As Mako watched, three men stumbled into the open doorway, cackling like hyena-bats. The air around them reeked of alcohol. When one of them saw Mako and Bolin, his sneer only grew wider. Mako stood up immediately, getting into a defensive stance, his hands already igniting with his element.
The three men, however, apparently didn't find the nine year-old very intimidating. "Hey, kid," the one in front drawled, sneering at the boy. "What are you doing in our home?"
Mako kept all fear hidden as he replied, "It's not yours, it's ours. We've been here for weeks!"
"Oh!" the one in front cried sarcastically. "Well, then I guess it's ours now!" The men started cackling again, and Mako's heart started racing.
"You can't just come in here and take our home!" Mako cried at them, baring his teeth. His hands stayed ignited.
"Oh, but we can," the second man said. "You're not the only bender here, kid," and suddenly all three men's hands lit on fire; fire that looked a lot more powerful that what Mako was capable of.
The boy's eyes widened. They had him trapped, now. There was no way he could take them and protect Bolin at the same time. He did what he hated to do most: beg. "Please," Mako said, eyes still wide. The fire on his hands went out. "Please, my little brother's very sick, we need shelter…"
"Alright, I'll tell you what," the man in front mused. "If you get you and your snot-nosed brother outta here, we let you keep those blankets and…" the man's eyes drifted around the room, "and that food you have there," he finished, motioning towards the small meal Mako had prepared. "But if you say one more word, take one more minute to leave, we keep it all and burn you two to a crisp!" As if to emphasize this, the fire around the man's hands roared to an even greater size. Mako could feel the heat on his face.
He didn't have another choice. As quickly as possible, Mako grabbed the blankets from underneath and around his brother and wrapped up the food. Then he came back to his brother and tried to get him up. Bolin only moaned and swatted Mako's hands away in response.
"Bolin, listen, you need to get up," Mako whispered desperately to his unresponsive brother. "Please, Bolin, get up."
Bolin shook his head and kept his eyes tight shut.
"C'mon, kid…" Mako heard one of the men hiss from behind him.
Not having any other options, Mako, summoning all the strength he had, wrapped his free arm around Bolin's chest and started dragging him towards the door. The drunk and dangerous men watched in content as the two brothers somehow made it to the door, staggered outside, and disappeared into the darkness.
The second they got outside they were greeted by a cold and unforgivable wind that prickled their faces and chilled their bones. Mako dragged his brother around a corner and then stopped, laying Bolin down and sliding down the brick wall into a sitting position next to the earthbender. He had to take a second to stop shaking. If those men hadn't been benders… no, if they hadn't been firebenders, Mako wouldn't have been so scared. He was used to dealing with thugs like that by now. But firebender thugs… just like the ones who had…
More whimpering from Bolin snapped Mako back to reality. He had to keep him warm. So he took the blankets, unwrapping the food he had saved, and covered Bolin with them, saving none for himself. He knew this probably wasn't helping Bolin's fever, but it was better than him freezing to death.
"Mako…" Bolin suddenly whimpered, making Mako jump back in surprise. Mako was back at his side an instant later, grabbing onto Bolin's hand and staring into his brother's face anxiously.
"It's alright, Bolin, I'm right here," Mako said, trying to keep his voice even.
"I won't. I promise."
Bolin finally opened his eyes a little. They were cloudy and dull. His breathing was uneven and raspy. "I can hear her…" he whispered softly, and Mako had to lean in to hear his brother properly. Bolin continued, "I can hear Mommy screaming, Mako…" he started crying and Mako had to bite his lip to keep from doing the same.
"It's okay, Bolin, it's not real…" Mako whispered back, squeezing his ill brother's hand.
"It won't stop, Mako."
"Hush, Bolin, it's alright…"
"Mako…" And as the fire bender watched, Bolin closed his eyes and suddenly went limp. He stopped shaking. He stopped moving.
Mako's world seemed to end that very second. He felt the floor fall out from under him and leave him to fall, fall, fall away into nothing. Nothing but him and his brother who was no longer moving. Mako wasn't aware that he started shaking or that his hands had begun to heat up rapidly, uncontrollably. He wasn't aware of the cold wind of the sounds of the satomobiles zooming by. All he was aware of was him. And. His. Brother.
And when his mind caught up to what happened, he kneeled over his brother, doubled over, and started crying.
Please, he thought, please, not my brother. Not Bolin. You can't take him from me. You can't. This isn't fair. Please. He's all I have left.
But please is never enough.
Mako didn't think of actually checking for a pulse, or putting his head on his brother's chest to check if he was breathing. All he did was sob. And when he was done, he wrapped his brother in his arms, lied down, and fell asleep. He couldn't help it: he was oh, so tired.
Mako knew something was wrong the second he drifted back into consciousness. He felt warm but there was no sun shining onto him. There was no breeze. There were people talking but no sounds of any satomobiles. He was in a bed. Mako's eyes snapped open and he sat up.
He was in some kind of infirmary; he was lying in a small bed that was in line with many others. At first Mako couldn't remember any reason why he should be in a hospital. Then he remembered.
Mako's head spun to the right, then to the left. In the bed next to his there was a small figure under the covers, fast asleep and breathing evenly. Although Mako couldn't see the sleeper's face, he recognized the messy point of dark hair sticking out of the blankets.
Before Mako could even wonder what had happened, an older woman who he hadn't noticed before approached him, smiling. "Ah, you're finally awake!" she chimed, smiling a friendly smile. "How do you feel?"
Mako's mouth was open but it took him a few seconds to form words. Finally, he stuttered, "H-how did I get here? Who are you? Is my brother alright?"
The woman laughed lightly. "Don't worry, your brother is fine. My name is Karta and I own this infirmary. My daughter found you two last night and saw that your brother was very ill, so she brought you here." When she noticed the boy still looked scared, she added, "Don't worry, there's nothing to be afraid of."
"He's… alright?" Mako asked incredulously.
The women smiled and nodded. "He's lucky to be alive. Few can survive a fever that high… but it's gone down now, so don't worry."
Mako felt a huge weight lift off of his shoulders. "I thought… I thought…" He couldn't finish and shook his head. Bolin wasn't dead. It was okay. Everything was okay.
"Now, how do you feel? You were out cold when my daughter found you."
"I'm fine," Mako said. Then remembering his manners, he bowed shortly, still sitting in bed. "Thank you so much for treating my brother. I don't know what would have happened if you hadn't."
She smiled warmly. "It's my pleasure, little one. Oh, and there is one more thing: your brother has some mild burns on his hands that look new… do you know what happened?"
Mako felt his face turn red when he realized he had burnt Bolin's hands last night during his little fit. "Uh, no, sorry," he stuttered. No point in letting people know they were benders if they didn't have to. Some people didn't exactly appreciate them.
"That's quite alright, it's nothing serious… now, why don't you get some more rest until your brother wakes up?" Karta suggested.
Mako nodded and climbed back into bed. However, he couldn't even get his eyes to close. He felt too happy to rest. His brother was alive. He was alive and he was going to be okay.
Bolin and Mako, hand in hand (although Bolin's hands were now bandaged), left the small hospital about four hours later. Mako had felt bad about not being able to pay Karta for her favor, even though she insisted it was fine, so he let her keep the toasted loaf of onion bread her daughter had also brought back to the infirmary. She appreciated it greatly.
Now the two brothers were walking back into the center of the city, not really searching for anything in particular. Mako decided they'd start their search for new shelter once Bolin felt up to it. Now, the young earthbender was too tired, (as Karta warned he would be), so the two brothers stopped on the side of the road and sat, snacking on some fruit from yesterday.
"You really scared me, Bolin," Mako started, staring straight ahead as his brother munched on the fruit hungrily.
Bolin stopped eating and looked up. "I'm sorry, Mako." His large green eyes, which had gotten a lot brighter since he woke up, looked sad.
"Don't be sorry," Mako hissed back. "Just…" he was going to say 'don't do it again', but instead it came out as, "never leave me like that again."
Bolin smiled a toothy grin at his brother. "I promise, Mako, I won't if you won't!"
Mako smirked and hugged his recovering brother close, and the two stayed like that for some time longer, simply enjoying each other's pure presence.
As long as they had one another, they'd be just fine.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed it! If you did, please review! Reviews make my whole day better! Anonymous reviews are welcome, too!
I have more Legend of Korra stories planned (mostly about Bolin but I do take requests!), so stay tuned!
UPDATE: I hate to sound rude, so I apologize I do, but I'm a bit frustrated at the number of favorites this is getting compared to the number of reviews. Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely grateful for every favorite I get, but if you like it enough to favorite it, is it really that hard to take the two seconds it takes to leave a review? It doesn't even need to be that long, haha. I'm sorry, I'm not saying you have to, but if you like it than you should! I tend to judge how good my writing is based on number of reviews I get, not favorites, so if you like it please let me know! Thank you, I love you all.