Bolin frantically pulled up a wall of earth, trying to slow the chi-blockers down. His older brother, Mako, stood beside him, his fist consumed in flame before he threw the fire around the edge of Bolin's wall.
"We need to get out of here, Mako! There's too many of them!" He grabbed Mako's arm, pulling him away from the wall. When the chi-blockers began to jump over it, Bolin pulled disks of earth from the ground below him, throwing them with all of his strength.
"What about Korra?"
"There's no time, Mako!" Just as Mako began to turn away from the fight, Bolin finally took another sweeping look around them.
The masked chi-blockers were gaining on them, dodging his earth disks and Mako's fire as if they were nothing. Their goggles glowed an eerie red in the light of Mako's fire. As the bug-like visages surrounded them, Bolin knew it was too late. He felt his legs stop moving as one of the chi-blockers got close enough to stab him in a pressure point. As he collapsed to the ground, he saw Mako stop and turn on his heel.
"Bolin!" There were flames everywhere. Bolin watched as his brother stood over him, trying to keep the rest of the chi-blockers away. When Mako fell to his knees, his bending extinguished by a chi-blocker's well-timed hit, Bolin knew it was over.
Mako opened his eyes first, dark red consuming his vision. Groaning, he sat up, pulling his scarf out of his face. An ache wracked him, certain points of his body hurting more than others. As he sat up, he noticed Bolin in the opposite corner, laying on his side.
Aches and pains forgotten, Mako rushed over to Bolin, turning him over. He wanted to call out his brother's name, but didn't want to alert their captors. He settled for shaking Bolin lightly. As far as he could tell, they were in a metal cell. If it were a wood cell, Mako could easily burn a way out of it. Metal, on the other hand...
"Mako...?" Bolin's rough voice brought Mako back to reality. Bolin sat up, putting a hand to his head. He looked around, his face falling. "Where's Korra?"
"I don't know - hopefully she got away. You think you could try to metal bend us out of here, bro?" Mako knew Bolin had never managed to make metal budge, but if there were ever a time for Bolin to learn metal bending...
Bolin set his jaw, putting his hands on the bottom of the floor. He closed his eyes, screwing his face up in concentration. "I don't think this is metal I can bend, Mako. I don't feel any impurities..."
"That's because it's a pure metal, young Earthbender... There are no impurities for you to bend."
Mako's blood ran cold. Bolin stiffened beside him. They both turned towards the voice as they scrambled to their feet. The man before them wore a white mask, its face twisted in a sinister, permanent frown. Instinctively, Mako stood between the man and his little brother, willing a flame to form around his fist.
The flame never came. "What do you want from us, Amon?" Make growled, trying to mask his panic as he spoke. He could feel Bolin tremble slightly beside him.
"Nothing much, Mako of the Fire Ferrets... You and your little brother have escaped for the last time. Your precious Avatar cannot save you now -"
"If you hurt Korra, I swear I'll take you down myself!" Bolin shouted, rooting his stance.
"Oh, don't worry, Bolin...she is safe - for now," Amon said, approaching the bars of the cell. "I have plans for the two of you. By the time I'm through with you, you'll wish that all I had done to you was take away your bending..."
Mako felt his palms begin to heat up. "Let Korra go, and we'll do whatever you want," he said, his heart slowing down in his chest. He needed to be calm. Needed to bring his hands closer to his chest if he wanted to pull this off without hurting himself or Bolin.
Amon's hands reached through the bars, striking Mako in the shoulder. Just as Mako felt the warmth in his palms, they cooled just as rapidly. "I don't intend to be electrocuted by lightning any time soon, Firebender." Amon's usually smooth tone was rough, biting. "What I dointend to do is to have you watch, helpless, as I torment your little brother. I'll have my Equalists take their turns with him, stripping him, forcing themselves on him."
Amon paused, stepping away from the bars. His mask's expression seemed to change into a twisted sneer as he spoke, the lips of the mask never moving. The shadows of Amon's eyes locked onto Mako's as he continued to speak. "Once they're done, I will take him myself. I will force him to enjoy it - and at the point of climax, I will strip him of his bending... but only if he begs for his impurity to be removed."
Mako glanced at Bolin, whose eyes were growing wider and wider with each word. Amon walked along the edge of the cell. "Then I will torture him, driving him to the brink of insanity. You will be able to do nothing but watch, young Firebender. Once I'm done with your brother, I will turn around and do the same to you... I will keep you both just barely alive, barely human, just as you benders have done to us nonbenders. I'll take from you both until there's seemingly nothing left, then I will take your spirits. You both will totally belong to me. You'll be nothing. Useless to Avatar Korra, only shells of your former selves."
Amon glanced at the brothers one last time before turning on his heel, walking away from the metal bars. Bolin sank to his knees, trying to touch as much of the metal cage as possible. "There has to be a way...there has to be some impurities somewhere..." he muttered, rolling up his sleeves, closing his eyes. "We can get out of here, I know we can!"
Mako frowned, looking away from his brother. Instead, he sat down in the opposite corner, pulling the scarf over his face. Their father's scarf had saved them many times before, had helped them luck out of any sort of occasion, but Mako had a feeling that this time, their luck had fully run out. When Bolin's panicked sobs reached his ears, he knew Bolin felt it too. He let his father's scarf soak up his own tears as they stung at his eyes.
Once his own tears subsided, Mako got up and pulled Bolin close to him. "I'll protect you, Bo. Like I have since we were kids. Since we lost Mom and Dad, okay?" he whispered, failing to keep his own voice from shaking. Bolin's shaking shoulders seemed to slow their trembling as Bolin rested his head on Mako's shoulder.
"I trust you," Bolin managed. He pulled away from Mako, sitting beside his brother. He sat close enough to brush his elbows against Mako's. "We'll be okay, bro. Korra will come. Tenzin. Lin. Someone will stop Amon before it's - before we..."
Mako nodded, pulling the scarf off of his neck. He stretched the worn fabric out, closing his eyes as his parents' last moments played before him. He couldn't let Bolin suffer - he couldn't let Amon torture him. Death would be a kinder fate than leaving things up to Amon. "I don't... I don't think anyone's coming to save us, this time," he said after many moments of silence. Mako avoided Bolin's eyes.
"Do you think you could melt the metal with your firebending?"
"I can - I can try, when my bending is back," Mako answered. "But Amon'll likely be back before then."
Bolin's face fell as he nodded. Mako once again glanced at the scarf in his hands. "Bo...you said you trust me, right?"
Bolin nodded, raising an eyebrow at Mako. He sat still as Mako wrapped the scarf around his neck loosely, his eyes questioning. But he never stopped Mako as the scarf grew tighter around his neck. Mako's vision blurred, but he managed to blink the fresh tears away as he pulled the scarf as much as he could around Bolin's neck. His little brother's eyes bugged out of his head, his hands beginning to claw at the thick fabric.
"Shhh, Bolin, shhh. Calm down," Mako pleaded. "It's better this way. Please, forgive me." The tears kept coming, rolling down his face as he pulled harder, cutting off more and more of Bolin's air. He could hear Bolin try to breathe, he could feel his brother's hands try to pry his own away from the scarf, to loosen his hold.
But he wouldn't. This was better. This was better than letting Amon's henchmen rape and torture his little brother. This was better than letting Amon go anywhere near Bolin. This was better. This was better..
As Bolin began to struggle less and less, Mako dared to look him in the eye. There were tears, there were questions, but there was still trust. Even in his last moments, Bolin still trusted him. The man who failed to protect him. The same man who was killing him slowly with the only thing they had left from their parents. As the light faded from Bolin's eyes, Mako could faintly hear himself whisper I'm sorry over and over again.
They were the last words he had ever spoken.