Title: Guiding Lights
Summary: Let us consider after the Wolfbats lose their bending. It would not be out of the question to think they would see the Fire Ferrets sooner rather than later. A cache of drabbles.
Warning: Check the rating people, the big M means mature content not suited for anyone under sixteen. There is slash, sex, mild-violence, angst and this has hints at the clip for episode 7. Also, I used a lot of different writing styles here.
Disclaimer: I don't own Legend of Korra, or Avatar or the characters and can make no money from writing this.
Dedication: Towards AngryChair, who likes Mako/Tahno. I am not of the mind to put them straight off into a relationship, but I'm of the mind to give hints.
"We're wasting time. I must free you at once."
First: That in which Bolin finds Shaozu standing too far on the edge of a rail off a bridge-:-
Walking across the bridge that led to the half rebuilt building of the pro-bending arena had, much to Bolin's astonishment—eating a sweet-cracker stick covered in candy and chocolate, a little bag of food in paper carrier in hand to bring back and cook for Mako and Korra after they trained up a little that evening and if Mako wasn't too busy sucking face with Asami—not been as mundane as he had silently hoped it would be. There were no worries, as far as he could tell for the lack of Equalists lurking about like tens of thousands of skittering roaches and beetles with those creepy helmets, but, actually, something that could be deemed worse in circumstances of the ordinary.
It appeared that, walking along the smooth stone and copper that crested over a river that was quite good for scenery and quite lousy if one fell, Bolin was to come upon a completely sloshed, crying individual. Just sitting on the railing and staring down on the craggy section of water where the bridge caused a build-up of rock and wood that shifted in the right moments to make rather sharp points; skewers that could render any jumper paralyzed and then dead on impact.
These aspects of the person, by themselves, might not have had to amount to much. A person is depressed—and looking like they'd slept on a sewer grate, and smelling like they'd bathed in moonshine—so they go out for a night on the town that is followed by going to a bridge over troubled waters to take in the sights. So, Bolin takes the image with a proverbial grain of salt before walking over with a normal pace to comment on the lovely view and make a suggestion to get off the bridge (not in any suggestive way) and, hey, could he walk the guy home?
However, ignoring the crying might not have been a good thing as the—slightly familiar—man then whispers something Bolin can't hear and promptly shifts forward and begins falling.
Bolin hears himself take in a breath and then his bag in dropped to the ground, his arms are swinging in a rush of muscle reflex and before the guy has dropped more than a foot, the bridge around the edge towards the water that the man had tried to jump off shifts perfectly into the form of an alcove. A bowl of stone that holds the unfortunate, suicidal individual dazed as a fox-heron shot at and then caught in the hand before Bolin rushes over and pulls him up by the scruff back over the rail and onto the main of the bridge, yelling about safety and anything else he can think of until the man—boy, same age as Bolin himself—looks him in the eye and then the Earthbender knows he cannot leave the other just alone. Alone at that moment would be bad and possibly counter-productive to Bolin's messing with the bridge structure to save Shaozu.
(Yes, Bolin will remember and say this person's name out loud when he gets his own head in order and out of the constant reel of "oh spirits, he was going to kill himself, I can't believe he almost…gotta get him off the bridge in a better way than stepping off it like that…yes, getting off the bridge right now…")
The other (former, and the word is awful and just makes Bolin feel worse so he won't think it or say it out loud) bender just blinks at Bolin when he picks up the bag he dropped in his effort to rescue the other, unspeaking as he then picked the other up like a sack of potatoes, slung him over his shoulder and started off to wherever he had been heading earlier.
Shaozu didn't say anything. What could he say when the Earthbender was just speaking his mind out loud and had saved the (former) Firebender from filleting himself in the river?
Actually he'd be fine just letting Bolin (oh, right, the Earthbender Fire Ferret that was a bit of a fool; or so Tahno had said before they'd been royally bent over by Amon) drag him wherever he wanted. He was actually very comfortable.
Neither of them noticed that Bolin had forgotten to reassemble the bridge's edge.
Second: That in which Korra discovers that Ming can really hold his liquor-:-
It is an odd feeling, not being able to out-drink a former bender that for all purposes should be an enemy just for being a friend of Tahno before they'd seen each other again in the police station, but it is not a bad feeling. Just odd.
Korra found her mind wandering from earlier that day in the police station, to wandering in the memory of walking into Narook's looking for the former Waterbender, to finding instead one of Tahno's Wolfbat teammate in a far corner of the joint pouring himself shot after shot of strong liquor, to sitting down with…Ming, right, that was his name…and somehow or other ending up in a drinking game.
For someone who had lost his bending—probably permanently—Ming was actually a fairly friendly guy. With Korra being sloshed (which meant really, really, really drunk as far as she could process without throwing up in that moment on herself, on the alley's brickwork sidewalks, or on Ming) she had discovered that, for someone who out with Tahno when he was an ass, he was actually a fair bit of a gentleman. When she'd had to stop on the fourteenth shot of alcohol and he'd been finishing his twenty-seventh, he'd paid the tab and asked if he should take her home.
When Korra had declined, but found herself unable to walk on her own—the room had spun out and around her vision along with the feeling of nausea—out of Narook's, she had found him walking beside her and she had smiled and asked if he could walk her to Mako and Bolin's place. He'd understood her muttering and slurred speech (somehow) and nodded, slinging the Avatar's arm over his (very broad, Spirits he was tall) shoulder, following her directions and some of his own since she had obviously gotten mixed up in her drunken fog and he had gone to the partially rebuilt Pro-Bending arena a few days ago just to see if he could.
"You know, you're actually…niiiice…" Korra slurred, Ming flinching a little as she spun out of his grip and almost hit a building's corner before he snatched her back over to himself, taking note that she spun just like a ballerina before he shook his head to dispel the thought, the Pro-Bending building in sight. Ming was relieved to see the light on in the second floor window that the Bending Brother's apartment attached to.
"Thank you," Ming nodded, his own mild buzz fading in and out as they entered the building and found the stairs to the floor about, tightening his grip just a little so Korra didn't wind up falling over the rails.
Third: That in which Mako saves Tahno from getting his ass kicked by a bunch of bending gang members-:-
It didn't surprise Mako that Tahno had enemies that happened to be gang members back from when he was a pro-bender and a complete jackass. It didn't even surprise him that the gang members were benders and taking advantage of Tahno being powerless and alone in a dark alley well after midnight. It did surprise Mako, however, when the Firebender was run into by the former Waterbender and Mako saw terror in silver-blue eyes and Mako wanted to help when he heard cat-calls and laughter.
Tahno already had injuries to his face and upper torso (Mako could see Tahno's lip split in two places, a blackness forming at the ridge of his jaw, a tear along Tahno's shirt that showed blood flow) that didn't look so good to Mako even if it was in the dark with no light but that given by a half moon and a few small flames held by Firebender gang members after Tahno.
Instinct was what Mako reacted to by pulling Tahno behind him (gentle, gentle, the man was injured for Spirits' sake) and making good use of being a Pro-Bender in his own right. What little of a fight there was before the gang members dispersed was not memorable. Mako didn't even break a sweat.
Left alone in the real dark (the moon had been covered by clouds in the fifteen minutes of fighting, of course) left Mako to light a little ball of fire in his hand and turn back to Tahno gripping his injured arm—not his face, which was a surprise but not a barb Mako would make aloud—seeming without anything to say.
When Mako opened his mouth (with nothing to say, but it usually just came out when it came out, whatever with happened whether he put hard thought in it or not), Tahno interrupted whatever was going to come out. Words Mako never thought Tahno would say entered the atmosphere with no bite and Tahno's voice coming with no arrogance, just sedate acceptance.
It seems impossible for Tahno to say anything else, because there's a very good chance that he has no idea what to say that would not offend the bender that not only just saved his ass, but the bender who he'd insulted as a street rat on a number of occasions. Mako noted that Tahno didn't seem to want to look Mako in the eye and he looked…well, humble seemed appropriate, but didn't quite fit.
Sighing, Mako pinched onto Tahno's shirt and started leading him to Bolin and his own place of residence, "Come on, let's get those injuries looked at."
Fourth: That in which the Wolfbats wake up in a pile to the Fire Ferrets making breakfast-:-
There was an animal sleeping on Tahno's chest, in a strange apartment he had never been in, on a couch Tahno was apparently sharing with Shaozu, Ming sitting in an easy chair beside the couch, the scent of bacon drifting through the air and making him feel a little less lousy with the bruises forming along his ribs and upper torso.
The animal—pelt smelling clean and a little like some kind of apricot soap, soft and fluffy—woke up with the smell itself and blinked at Tahno's crystalline blue eyes. Tahno said, "Hello…" before the thing leaned over and licked Tahno on the nose before hopping off of the former Waterbender's chest, onto Shaozu's head, across Ming's lap and into the kitchen.
"Okay," Tahno mumbled, rubbing the bags under his eyes before leaning up, carefully picking up Shaozu's head to place it where Tahno had been resting and wandering into the kitchen.
In the kitchen—a low light coming in from the window that was pale yellow, which meant it was way too early in the morning for Tahno to actually be awake; it was seven in the morning tops—were a pair of two young men a little younger than Tahno himself, making bacon and some sort of egg concoction that Tahno was a little suspicious about.
"…now, I'm not saying that the communication thing won't clear up, but you've really got to tell that to Korra and Asami before one of them kicks your ass. The kissing thing was bad enough, and Asami may not know about it, but she wi- Oh, hi Tahno." The Earthbender brother waved, finally noticing the former Waterbender as he stood in the doorway (absently cringing at marks on Tahno's face).
As pathetic as Tahno knew he looked, it didn't hurt him at all to wave back before voicing whatever came to his head and came out of his mouth, "Why are me and the other Wolfbats here?"
Mako shrugged, loading a plate with some bacon and ignoring the stuff Bolin was making to hand Tahno the plate, sitting the captain of the Wolfbats at the table, "Well, Ming fell asleep here after dragging in Korra from a little drinking game, you fell asleep while I was bandaging you and, uh…" Mako's eyes meandered over to Bolin, whom paused in making his eggs for a moment before going back to it.
"Bolin just happened to stumble on Shaozu when coming back from grocery gathering." Mako supplied, patting Tahno on the shoulder to go up to the loft where Tahno could hear some light snores.
Tahno glanced up after the captain of the Fire Ferrets and turned to Bolin, nibbling a piece of bacon.
Bolin looked uncomfortable and shrugged, flipping whatever was in his pan, "Uh, Ming brought Korra here and Mako was feeling generous enough to loan her his bed."
Fifth: That in which five months have passed and Tahno wants to try something after Asami breaks it off with Mako-:-
There is a scarce sort of breathing Tahno can hear all around the room like the ebb and flow of the ocean that the former bender has been able to experience again since losing his bending when Mako dragged Tahno to Tenzin's island to keep an eye on Korra in her training, protect her from Amon and the Firebender had taken Tahno into the water for a swim.
Soft, but calloused hands traced over the outline of Tahno's stomach and then down to his pelvic bone, pants tossed away more than half an hour ago during foreplay. They're warm and remind Tahno of rich, heated earth in one of the parks the city has when water sets in after rain and soaks into the senses; even more-so as the hands curl around Tahno's base and tugs gently, eliciting a hiss from the much thinner man. Mako grins delicately at the base of Tahno's shoulder, making a moist crescent with the tip of his tongue that Tahno memorizes right up until the hand moves him again, more heat pooling at the tip of Tahno's shaft that makes him almost cry.
If Tahno didn't know better, he would have thought it was Mako that had come up with this little endeavor to try new things, rather than Tahno himself.
Those thoughts vanish in a fine mist when Mako's other hand finds its way to Tahno's mouth and fingers enter to rub Tahno's strawberry tongue. Tahno happily salivates all over the fingers that taste like a heady combo of cinnamon, salt and ash.
"Take it easy," Mako whispers, removing his fingers—a line of Tahno's spit reaching ten inches before severing across Tahno's neck. Mako's fingertips graze Tahno's buttocks and then find there mark.
It's a flicker of more heat as they enter and Tahno wriggles similar to a beetle-fly larvae. Delicious.
Sixth: That in which Ming visits Air Temple Island to watch Korra in her lessons-:-
A wooshof air that peeks up into the sky and then comes back with enough force to shatter the sound barriers all around the world and crumple and cripple the moving wooden screen used for a target and practice that will probably save her one day from Amon's wrath on the streets.
Ming continues to read the papers. Most of the talk is speculation about the Equalists and how they've had their sights set on some more prominent bending families as of late. There was even a threat to former Fire Lord Zuko's grandchildren and rumors of an attempted attack on Waterbending Master Katara down in the South Pole. Ming's dark skin wrinkles around the edge of his lips and his eyes flicker to Korra and her movements to take his mind off of the written words beneath his fingers.
She is almost perfect in her movements, but that is only because Tenzin is off on council business and she can focus on the task at hand, rather than his critical eyes. A sweep of an arm here, a walk that spins about like a ballerina flock Ming had once seen in concert with his family in White Falls, hair weaving as if to imitate a flag when she brings the sands up from around her ankles and the gold of the earth (he tries not to let the sight hurt him; and it doesn't as much as it did months ago) spins up-up-up, goes solid. The sand becomes a perfect construct of the clock tower at the center of Republic City and she looks proud, a smile crossing and sticking along her face worth more money than any could pay.
His smile does a poor imitation of hers, but it stays and the papers are forgotten.
Seventh: That in which Shaozu learns a different type of bending from Bolin-:-
Bolin was of the mind to just stop seeing Shaozu the morning after rescuing him from suicide when it became very apparent that the former firebender was in a severe depression that contained active violence granted upon his own form (there were burns on his hands that spoke volumes about the days after Amon's attack and trying to regain his own bending with candles and oil lamps and stove iron grills, as well as there being deep red, barely healed cuts along his wrists and upper arms that still had stitches attached from going to a non-bender for healing) as well as others when they got too close and pressed one of the many, many buttons that set Shaozu off. And, though Bolin would have liked to avoid the other altogether when after three weeks of getting to know each other Shaozu got a little manic and punched Bolin in the face, leaving the Earthbender with a black eye, he couldn't bring himself to do so.
Fact was, Bolin felt a little like he did around Mako when he was around Shaozu, but…different. It wasn't certain what it was—really, he didn't know since the only general emotions he felt for people he became attached to was either friendship or brotherly affection or the mild attraction he'd felt for Korra at some point but let go of immediately when he found her kissing his brother—but Bolin didn't let it go and it flared up whenever Shaozu opened up a little more.
("You know those moves you made as a Firebender? That could be a good way to kick ass even if you can't make fire. Worked on me, see?" "…I can't.")
When Mako let go of Asami and Korra became slightly infatuated with Ming, Bolin took note that Tahno had an eye for the Earthbender's brother and that left Bolin feeling a little be apt to keep an eye on Shaozu so not only could Bolin be sure that the former bender wouldn't hurt himself, but Bolin himself wouldn't be too lonely when everyone else was on a date of sorts.
This seemed to be a good thing, seeing as Shaozu, in the following weeks, seemed less apt to get angry at everything and he seemed to actually like spending time with Bolin (and Pabu, when Bolin wasn't in the room, as the little animal seemed to think Shaozu's head was an excellent place to use as a perch).
("I could teach you how to Earthbend without the real bending." "What would be the point to that?" "It's a fighting style and you need that. I don't want to see you getting into a fight you can't get out of because you're too stubborn for your own good." "Hn, maybe tomorrow.")
It's nothing short of a miracle in spades and diamonds when Shaozu starts coming around and takes Bolin up on the Earthbending lessons. Bolin doesn't question it the day the lighter, thinner, meaner boy comes over to Bolin and Mako's rebuilt home in the Pro-bending arena and says straight out, "Well? I'm here, let's get on with it."
Bolin doesn't even mind that he can't finish his breakfast and Pabu ends up eating his specially made eggs and cheese.
A month passes with some minor stops in starts in Bolin teaching Shaozu the finer points of Earthbender fighting styles. The former bender is actually fairly good at it, and Bolin enjoys the fact that Shaozu is becoming less angry with the world in a general kind of sense, the better he gets at fighting and the more he tries to continue helping the Avatar and her friends attempt to stop Amon and his activities.
Another month passes and…well, Bolin finds Shaozu in his bed completely out of his gourd wasted on (and here Bolin finds the inside of his head turned over with laughter even though it would never escape his lips with volume and sound) Flirt-Tinies from Happy Hour at a bar around the corner from the Pro-bending arena. Bolin ends up letting him stay the night and the next morning finds himself asking the former bender out to dinner.
Shaozu—seriously, really—says yes. After throwing up with Bolin holding his head straight above the Fabulous Bending Brothers' kitchen sink like an expert.