AN: Written for prompt #12 - "The Youth Transformed" for 100_fairytales on Livejournal. Spoilers for 01x06. No spoilers are known beyond this episode. COMPLETE.
For the Last
As she felt the breeze slide through her hair, Korra's feet move ahead beyond the hesitation of her brain.
What the heck am I doing here? she wondered. Scowling, she still looked about the room with wonder, sweeping her gaze over the quiet, depressing lull of the bar. Moving through the doors, she stopped, spotting him as she knew she would. The air caressed her hair and cheeks again.
She didn't even like him. She should care less after he and his team had bought off the judges and beaten them horribly, claiming the championship when they didn't deserve it.
But he also didn't deserve to be stripped of his bending powers, she thought. Yet the voice in her head sounded like someone else's; as it had telling her to follow as she watched Tahno and his teammates walk out of the arena shaking, trying to slip out of the chaos caused by the police and crowds.
Her eyes followed him, feeling a slight pinch in her heart as he stumbled off, clenching his fists and trying hopelessly to retrieve what he had lost. She had seen no tears in his eyes, but she had felt the pain. When their eyes met across a chasm of noise and people, suddenly the world stalled between them.
Tahno was no longer that boy with the arrogant smile, the haughty quips, and the scores of girls clamoring around him. His teammates seemed just as broken, but when her eyes met Tahno's, a chill spiraled through Korra's body. She felt frightened for him, knowing that what had happened to him could easily happen to her.
Water was the first bending she'd ever learned. She'd basically known it in the womb, and water-bending, though only one of the elements she would ultimately master, was her first thought, an extension of herself, and losing that familiar surge through her bones and blood would be the same as losing both her arms and legs.
She could only imagine what Tahno felt, but she knew, she'd never really know his pain. She'd never really feel the loss, but it scared her that someday she could.
Korra had no reason to hate Tahno now. Not that she ever did before, but her temper got the better of her, and in judgment, Tahno was a jerk when he'd been their opponent. In fact, his notoriety was the bane of many benders, but hatred was something she couldn't bring herself to fall into.
She could already see Avatar Aang's face in her mind now: an Avatar brings people together, not divides them with hate. She would be a poor model of an Avatar if she choose to hate Tahno.
And as Avatar, now she felt responsible for him. She felt responsible for all benders, but Tahno had fallen far from the pedestal, and no matter what sins he'd committed before, taking away his bending for some kind of political posturing no less, was devastating and criminal.
It was unusual, but Korra wasn't surprised to find Tahno alone, nursing what it looked like a spiked tea. The owner of the tavern, of course, did not spike it and probably wouldn't serve Tahno anything he wasn't supposed to. Korra was sure Tahno had added something strong of his own accord, and whatever it was, it did nothing to improve Tahno's sour and mournful mood.
He looked up and saw Korra standing cautiously beside him, and his eyes sparked with fury at her presence. He snorted, the wind from his lips blowing the loose hair from his face.
"Come to gloat, little girl? I've lost my bending powers; it should make you happy. Karma and all that," he said with a forced, mocking laugh. He gulped a large mouthful of his drink, and Korra watched in silence as the liquid was swallowed down his thin throat.
"Tahno," Korra began, but he stopped her.
"Save it," he spat at her. He slammed his hand onto the table, and Korra jumped. Onlookers watched the duo with curiosity and awe. "You are supposed to be dealing with Amon, aren't you? Didn't you swear to take him down?"
Korra blinked at him. So he knew about that. Of course, why wouldn't he? The entirety of Republic City knew of it. Was he blaming her for Amon's appearance and assault?
"I understand if you blame me..." she started, trying to keep her cool as Tahno let out a dark laugh. Cool it, Korra, she told herself. She could feel her temper flare, but she couldn't blame him for being angry. Tahno had lost his bending - his lifeblood, and she was sure he could barely stand to be in his own skin - and being powerless, with not being able to feel the spirit of the water flow through his entire core.
"Blame you?" he said loudly, but then his voice fell to a choked whisper, and Korra wondered if he would cry. He didn't, but she could tell he was fighting it, trying keep his resolve in front of her.
Korra stepped closer holding out her hand.
"I don't blame you, Avatar," he said, biting on his own words as if they were poison to his soul. "I wish I could. I'm trying to blame you. It would be easy." He let out a long, defeated sigh and finished the rest of his drink. "No bender is stupid enough to blame you."
Korra braved another step, and her hand rested over his. She felt him tense underneath her palm, and she would not be offended if he snapped his hand away.
Tahno didn't. He looked down at her hand, shocked that she would even touch him. Not because he found her repulsive. No, more like he seemed astonished that she would even comfort him.
Korra was amazed herself. Not twenty-four hours ago she was shooting streams of water at his picture in their training room. She squeezed his hand, and suddenly, he gripped it, pulling her close against him. Korra's eyes went wide, and her other hand turned into a fist, ready for defensed.
Instead, Tahno brought her to his level, his eyes narrowed as he met hers. His lip curled, and his body seemed to be shaking.
"Korra, you have to get this guy. You have to beat him," he snarled at her, and when she expected him to yell at her and try to fight her, instead he called her to war and demanded that she right the wrongs, and do her duty as the Avatar to protect the benders that Amon was terrorizing.
Amazing, she thought and her eyes widened as Tahno stared at her, still shuddering with frustration and fury, and Korra could only imagine what was whirling around in this boy's mind. Her hand was still gripped in his, and she could feel his shaky breath against her cheek.
She opened her mouth, but Korra didn't know what she was going to say. She didn't know what she was going to do until Tahno made one more move or said one more thing.
"I wish I could do it myself," he said in a snort, and Tahno's lips curled again and it looked like he was holding back bile. "But it has to be you. It only can be you."
He released her now, but Korra didn't move back. She looked at him agape as he turned around to his empty drink and put money on the tavern's counter. He began to leave her, and when he threw her another glance, Korra automatically nodded.
Tahno, of all people, had hope in her. As the Avatar? She wondered if offering this small amount of kindness is what changed his mind about her. She thought that since he'd been stripped bare of his powers it had led him to some kind of epiphany.
Or, he'd lost everything, and he was desperate for vengeance, desperate for something he could no longer attain. He'd sinned and sold out the world to get to the top in those tournaments, and now that he was alone, the world owed him nothing. No one did.
Tahno was for once in his life, helpless, and Korra shivered at the thought of it. She knew that it was one of the worst feelings in the world.
Even worse for him, she imagined, that he had to rely on someone else to find his justice. Tahno had to rely on her, just as every other bender did, but she knew for him, who probably liked her as much as she had him, it wasn't easy and she was probably the last person he wanted to have faith in.
And because of that, Korra couldn't let him down.