Tahno couldn't help himself. His mind lingered on the possibility, the what-if.
What if Korra had saved him? What would have happened then?
He would have been eternally grateful, forever in debt.
He probably would have followed her to the ends of the earth.
He would have irrevocably fallen in love with her.
Tahno understood the type of person he was: he was conceited, sleazy, manipulative. He had no qualms in dirtying his hands in order to prove he was the best. Hell, the refs had told his team beforehand they could play as dirty as they wanted and they wouldn't get called. They probably wanted to preserve the Wolfbats' legacy and Tahno had no reason to disagree with him. He wanted the fame, the attention, the money; it was why he escaped from the Swamps in the first place. To make a name for himself, to escape the dull, unsatisfying life of sweeping through swamps, hunting for food, and sleeping in trees.
He had wanted the fame, desired and craved it like the waterbending he mastered to get this far. The tabloids could say whatever the hell they wanted about him, he had earned his glory.
But he knew also the type of person he could be. He knew and understood compassion. He knew and understood love, kindness, and sacrifice. He knew and understood these principles. He just didn't care for them; he was selfish and unkind to everyone and anyone that couldn't advance him to higher places. What were those emotions to someone who, with a snap of their fingers, could have the world on a platter. He didn't need to be kind. He didn't need to love or be loved. He had earned the right to be an egomaniac and no one would dare question it.
But he had never expected to be in a predicament where the one part of him that was so central to his identity, to his way of life, would be ripped right out of him.
In that moment, as Amon's rough hand descended to meet his forehead, Tahno's inner voice pleaded for the Avatar to save him. She was the peacekeeper of this world. The one that restored balance. Surely, if anyone could save him in this moment, she would.
But she never came. And Tahno felt his very soul being cast out and sucked back in him within a single touch. His eyes glazed over as he was kicked off the platform, as he trudged through the water towards the dry concrete. Never in his life had he felt so out of place as he watched the Avatar and the Chief of Police go after the man and his crew that he taken something so central to him. Never had he felt so terrified as he watched the Avatar descend into the Arena, coming closer and closer to slamming her back on the platform. Never had he felt so relieved as the Chief of Police grabbed a hold of her and landed her to safety.
Never had he felt the need to ask someone for forgiveness in that very moment.
Tahno tried so hard to deny that these new emotions existed. Tried so hard to deny his bending was gone.
But Tahno, while great at manipulating and lying to others, had never been great at lying to himself.
Tahno was not the same. Could never be the same. Even if by some miracle his bending was restored, he could never reject these new feelings, this part of his life.
He could never deny how small he was in the scheme of things. That he was just a tool for the advancement of either cause. A villain who received his just desserts to the equalists; a martyr who paid the ultimate price to the benders. No one saw him as a person anymore. Not the Chief of Police, not the Airbending Master, not the Council, not Toza, and not even his so-called friends. He was tainted to everyone.
Except to the Avatar.
She had been the first person to talk to him like he was still something of value. She even apologized, regardless of what he done to her in the past.
She, who had been nothing but brash and abrasive to him. She, who had seen him as nothing more than a target for her own frustrations…saw the person underneath in his time of weakness.
The Avatar…Korra…for all she had been to him before, was nothing but understanding and compassionate in his time of desperation. Nothing but kind. Nothing but wonderful as she tried to perform her duties as the Avatar, the one to restore balance to the world.
It was then Tahno realized as he lied awake on his bed, sleepless for the sixth night in the row that no matter what had happened in the attack, the same outcome would have occurred. Already occurred.
He would have fallen in love with Korra anyway.