Title: misbegotten son(s)

Fandom: The Legend of Korra

Summary: An adolescent Tarrlok tries to heal a badly burned child.

A/N: Tarrlok's backstory roughly based on this theory here at post/24281699688/an-analysis-of-the-flashbacks.

Disclaimer: I own nothing related to the Legend of Korra.

A fourteen-year-old Tarrlok wondered why Yakone had brought in a small little corpse. Then the thing breathed, and the adolescent startled.

"Tarrlok," his father ordered, "Stabilize this child."

By the way Yakone observed him closely, Tarrlok guessed his father was testing how well he could heal with waterbending again. Trying not to be unnerved and wanting to prove at the very least that he was adequate in a case as severe as this, Tarrlok did his best for the burned child.

He'd hoped the brat would stay knocked out, but Tarrlok's waterbending must've been too clumsy. The moaning and the whimpering and sharp cries grew too much for the adolescent's nerves that he took a minute to shut him up by cutting off enough blood to throw the child back into unconsciousness.

Tarrlok leaned back when it was done, panting with his eyes closed shut, cold sweat soaking his shirt. Physical and emotional stress had done a number on him.

"Well?"

"I t-think he'll live—I mean he will live. I don't know if there's anything I can do for his—his face."

Tarrlok was left with the sinking paranoid feeling that if Yakone could still bend, he could fix it or make it actually bearable to look at, if he had felt so inclined.

###

The brat's name was Amon.

"Is my family okay?"

"All dead," Yakone answered.

Tarrlok's eyes darted from his father to the boy. That really could not have been the best way to break the news. It was even news to Tarrlok himself, the very first thing Yakone had said about where the hell the kid came from.

But Amon didn't make a horrible racket. He just looked shocked, disbelieving, his eyes impossibly wide (and whole, clearly he'd closed them against the fire and that had been enough protection).

"That's—what?"

"You heard me," Yakone said bluntly. "Your family is dead. I assume that was your family I found dead in the wreckage, seven bodies in all."

Tarrlok's eyes darted to the boy's bandaged hands, curling tight in the blanket.

Tarrlok himself felt distinctly like the third wheel, and rather wanted to get the hell out, but for some reason he stayed rooted to the floor. Perhaps it was a horrible fascination and curiosity about the boy he'd just healed.

"You're wrong," Amon choked out in a very small voice that Tarrlok could barely hear.

Yakone grunted. "Mark my words, boy, there's nothing for you left back there."

###

It wasn't like the kid could go back and check anytime soon anyway.

His father kept Tarrlok working on Amon's recovery. Yakone used the burned boy to lecture on the body and the blood's pathways and such. Rather typical stuff for Tarrlok, actually. But he was surprised when his father quizzed the child too, checking to see if he listened when he was conscious. Even more surprising, Amon had; he was able to accurately answer Yakone's questions most of the time. To Tarrlok's chagrin and strange jealousy, he realized Amon answered such questions better than he had when he was the brat's age.

Whenever Tarrlok took a break from their current home's makeshift infirmary to go down to the village, upon his return, he'd find the tail end of his father's conversation with Amon. Always a slow burn persuasion that he was telling the truth, that Amon had been the only survivor he found. Once he'd caught Amon finishing the conversation with Yakone, admitting to what exactly happened: the farm, the firebender, the extortion, the attack, the fact that his family could be all gone, as Yakone said.

###

Worse were the nights when Amon screamed from the nightmares and kept Tarrlok up. And somehow, more often than not, those always fell on the nights that were supposed to be free for Tarrlok, that his father just allowed him to sleep through instead of training in waterbending during its opportune time. And Tarrlok did like that sort of training, there was a certain new energy then—but that was a lot of nights kept awake, and he wanted some to just sleep through. He wanted sleep. Just sleep.

And now there was this brat shrieking in the night. Tarrlok had no idea how his father's sleep fared.

Some nights when Amon kept him up, Tarrlok would just go outside and train more. At least his father would be pleased, and his anger and forced awareness were channeled into something more useful.

But more and more the adolescent was running on empty.

"You're getting sloppy," his father sneered after slipping through Tarrlok's bending so easily and effortlessly hitting all the right points to block his chi. Yakone had also hit the right pressure points to leave him immobile for a few agonizing minutes. Humiliation hitting a crescendo when his father had literally kicked him when he was down, one quick pointed strike to his chest that cracked a rib. Afterward Tarrlok could barely muster the energy to properly heal his own chest with waterbending. He bandaged himself, and applied the bruise cream.

The adolescent noted that Yakone changed Amon's bandages, and his temper flared, an inexplicable anger flashing before dying down, but not dissipating.

That night, Amon screamed from another nightmare. Exhaustion and anger now joined by pain from his bandaged chest finally made Tarrlok snap.

He had stepped into the screaming boy's room, and simply bent just so, and Amon was quiet.

But awake, Tarrlok made sure he was awake.

"Keep. It. Down." The adolescent did not raise his voice. The scarred boy looked at him with wide, watery eyes.

Tarrlok released him, and Amon was quiet the rest of the night. But other than the bloodbending and a new raw terror in the child, it was not unlike other times where Amon screamed from a nightmare. He would then did go quiet after that outburst, but Tarrlok could not find sleep again in the resulting silence before dawn arrived and the night utterly lost to the him. And so it went again even after that extreme action, Tarrlok could not get to sleep no matter how sprawled out he was on the bed, and soon he felt the sun on his back and his father's voice beckoning him to get up for morning practice.

But Amon was much quieter afterward, until the boy no longer made a peep. Tarrlok slept more soundly then. Yakone gave an approving nod at his training after such energy was renewed. But his comment about Amon's growing quiet and restraint with his nightmares was pleased and knowing and entirely directed at Tarrlok alone. The adolescent felt an uncommon surge of genuine joy at that particular show of approval from his father.

###

In the transition from bandages to cloth wrappings on his face, Amon had finally gotten a good luck at his scars.

The boy choked back a strangled shout when he caught Tarrlok's eye, resuming silence.

The adolescent was surprised. He hadn't even meant to shut the boy up again. Really, Tarrlok wouldn't have blamed Amon for screaming at his reflection. And it yet it was rather...informative, to know the boy still had that fear, and how it controlled his actions. Tarrlok filed the information away, for some later use, perhaps.

###

Yakone kept Amon around even when he was fully recovered, new scars notwithstanding. In fact, with the boy back in functional shape, Yakone and Tarrlok were back to their nomadic existence, now traveling with a third. Tarrlok didn't question his father, though he dearly wanted to.

He wasn't sure if Amon questioned Yakone either. Perhaps in private, but it was never something Tarrlok saw. Perhaps not, Amon was a young brat, he should be pretty malleable. And Yakone had the authoritative air to make anyone listen, whether it was the Red Monsoons he'd led before, or his only son. An orphan he pulled out of a fire should be no trouble to get under control, though Tarrlok had no idea why Yakone would want to. By now it was clear the boy could not bend. It seemed pointless to continue keeping him around. He'd just slow them down. What use could he be?

###

Tarrlok should have realized sooner that Yakone did not intend to leave Amon useless if he was to stay with them. He certainly hadn't with Tarrlok. Yakone began training the boy in earnest, sharing his knowledge of chiblocking and martial arts. When Tarrlok had been younger, his father had told him that the comprehensive study of waterbender healing and bloodbending had a lot of crossover with chiblocking, those disciplines requiring extensive knowledge of how the human body functioned. It had made it all the more easier for his father to make the jump between the two combat styles after Avatar Aang had removed his bending.

Still Tarrlok knew he missed it. Had preached that bending was still superior. It was an unspoken truth Tarrlok was Yakone's last link to bending, and had to be appropriately honed.

And Tarrlok himself...for so long he had wanted to please his father. And he truly was learning something very useful.

###

Watching Amon train was odd for Tarrlok. It felt sort of like seeing his younger self. Except the boy was largely quiet, only speaking when necessary, such as when answering Yakone, or when coming up with his own questions. And to Tarrlok's growing annoyance, though Amon did struggle with adjusting to combat training, he seemed to fight and absorb information faster than Tarrlok had ever done at that age. Though perhaps Tarrlok was just seeing things. Jealousy and all. He was unused to his father splitting his attention like this, and with no warning, Amon's arrival had been so damn random and out of the blue.

Yet there was a benefit for the brat taking away some of father's attention. Some pressure relieved, more free time to be had in the local village below their current mountain home. Not that this village had much per se; Tarrlok had seen better. But the seamstress' apprentice, Chihiro, was particularly lovely, with a pleasant laugh and an appealing figure to behold.

"Take Amon with you."

Even the brat had to intrude on that. Tarrlok obediently if grudgingly obeyed his father's orders.

At least Amon was on his best behavior, and was quiet as ever—so, the usual, actually. Tarrlok couldn't really blame the boy for trying to stick close to him. He'd done the same when they passed through villages, his covered face always attracting at least one wandering eye.

"Ah, Tarr—oh my, who's this? Your younger brother?" Chihiro put down her basket of cloth, looking at the boy closely.

Amon flinched, and Tarrlok rolled his eyes. "Adopted," he conceded. It was pretty much the truth, and not the harmful sort, not like oh, say, "my father is an infamous criminal whose bending was taken by Avatar Aang." Yeah, definitely not.

Chihiro cooed over the boy, which rather amused Tarrlok, especially since Amon became so flustered. And he found it effective, negotiating discounted cloth prices and even another date with the girl.

In a better mood, Tarrlok took Amon to more of the stalls, buying him sweets and a book that might interest the boy, remembering how much he'd liked reading at his age.

"Where are the pictures?" The boy said, as he flipped through the book.

Rolling his eyes, Tarrlok said, "In your head; you make them up."

Amon snapped the book shut, held it close and looked down at his feet.

Tarrlok blinked, then sighed. "You can't read, can you?"

The boy shook his head.

Tarrlok sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Right, farm boy."

He caught Amon's scowl, but made no further comment.

###

Yakone never said anything about it and Tarrlok nor Amon ever told him about the reading and writing lessons. It was weird for Tarrlok to be teaching anyone that sort of thing, but not exactly an excruciating process. Amon took to those lessons as well as he did with Yakone's training. He seemed to enjoy them too, a new light entering his eyes as he practiced his letters or sounded out the words.

###

Yakone did say something when he caught wind of Amon asking to spar with Tarrlok, who kept making excuses instead of giving a straight answer.

"So you think you're ready to take on a waterbender, whelp?" Yakone questioned the boy, who ducked his head, and again Tarrlok was left feeling stuck in the middle between them. He supposed it was a consequence of essentially being the waterbender and bloodbender in his father's place.

"Fine then. Go ahead."

The boy looked at Yakone with surprise, then ran off to get ready. Yakone whispered in his son's ear, "No quarter."

Tarrlok figured his father wasn't that serious, he had to give some. And apparently what he gave was adequate, for Yakone made no comment, just walked over to a groaning Amon on the floor and ordered him to tell him what he did wrong.

Yet that night Amon crept into Tarrlok's room, eagerly asking what he thought about the quick spar that day, what advice he had. The adolescent felt rather flattered the boy went to him for combat knowledge as well, not just his father.

###

On Tarrlok's fifteenth birthday, Yakone took Amon to that night's training session.

The adolescent blinked at the boy, confused. Amon looked just as baffled as he. At least more normal sleep patterns were the only concession Yakone made for Amon's age, and he had no waterbending that obviously required immediate night training. Brat was usually asleep while Tarrlok and his father sparred.

Tarrlok shook it off, though Amon still looked confused. The adolescent figured Yakone had decided Amon would join night training now. Good luck with that. Tarrlok had noticed that the boy looked as if he was about to fall asleep on his feet, and Tarrlok knew from personal experience how his father would react to that...

Yakone knelt down at Amon's side and whispered something in his ear. Immediately he looked much more awake, and looking at Tarrlok with eyes wide with terror. Tarrlok blinked again. Brat hadn't looked at him with such naked fear since the night he'd shut him up. Amon returned his gaze to Tarrlok's father, his eyes sharing that same fear.

Yakone just smiled, whispered something else in the boy's ear, patted his shoulder. He then stood up and addressed Tarrlok, whose back immediately stiffened to attention.

"Son, you've made some improvement in the forbidden arts, but you're still nowhere close to adequate."

Tarrlok forced back his scowl and focused hard on what his father was saying. "You've done some humans before, but I want you to leave this one alive tonight." And Yakone gently pushed a trembling Amon forward. "You've already done so before with him, though very subtle work—rather impressive, actually—I expect the same control now."

Looking down at Amon, rooted to the ground in terror, the adolescent felt some reluctance. The brat really wasn't so annoying. It was nice to have someone other than father at home. And in between fear that had been constrained to small bursts and currents, Amon had regarded Tarrlok with something like worship lately. The brat seemed so appreciative and pleased when they sparred and trained, and got to tag along on his trips to the village, seemed so grateful for the lessons in reading and writing.

But spirits, even this much hesitation now earned his father's disapproval and shame. Unacceptable.

Tarrlok reminded himself of how Amon had kept him up at night before. Reminded himself of still current petty jealousies: Amon still seemed to learn faster and better than he had when he was his age, Amon was a nonbender like father was now, father just randomly brought him home and now split his attention between him and his only son, his real son. Reminded himself how even now Amon made him look weak in front of his father...

Still Tarrlok reminded himself control, control as he bent the boy to his knees. Still Amon struggled, and Tarrlok found himself not wanting to push back too hard, remembering his father's earlier order and how the brat had given him beads for his birthday this morning to tie into his hair.

The adolescent watched the boy clutch at the grass and quietly cry, eyes glaring and burning up at him. Tarrlok tried to ignore the pure hatred and rage and absolute helplessness roiling around inside them.

###

Tarrlok wasn't surprised when Amon ran away. Or tried to.

Yakone had brought him back, and after their 'talk,' his father practically dropped the boy at Tarrlok's feet. Tarrlok went about healing Amon again, and the boy's confusion was apparent, torn between being miserable and thankful.

"Tarrlok?"

"What?" The adolescent grumbled as he lay on a pallet next to Amon in the makeshift infirmary, back turned toward him. He thought the brat had finally fallen asleep.

"Where's your mom? I've never seen her."

"Dead."

"Sorry."

"Why? You weren't there," Tarrlok asked with genuine confusion.

"F-for what?"

Tarrlok was silent.

"How did she die?"

"She wasn't burned like yours, if you were wondering."

Back still facing the boy, Tarrlok practically heard Amon's flinch.

Tarrlok shut his eyes again. "I was about your age when she died though. And you're training in what killed her."

The adolescent heard Amon's breathing stop suddenly.

"One touch, and she was helpless, couldn't bend, couldn't move, and then...well, I think you know the rest."

The boy breathed again, but stayed silent, and Tarrlok went to sleep.

###

When he was better, Amon tried to run away again, and this time Tarrlok helped him.

"He'll be back," Yakone said, confident. Still Tarrlok waited for punishment, but father never said a word, was just more brutal in training, which was something manageable.

Father was right. Amon found his way back, hurt and tired and starving, weak.

"You have no place else to go," Yakone told the boy left crouching at his feet, Tarrlok silently watching.

"...No," Amon whispered, breathing harshly, his eyes red.

Yakone nodded, satisfied, and passed Amon to Tarrlok for healing.

Amon never said exactly what happened on his own, leaving it all to Tarrlok's wild imagination.

While tending to the boy's bruised back, Tarrlok carefully said. "You're young now...but when you're older—even a few years older—you can probably fend for yourself better then."

Amon bowed his head, and Tarrlok said nothing more.

###

Yakone told Amon a nonbender could be formidable, but still lose out to a master bender. Amon disagreed. At least the boy didn't bring up Tarrlok's mother, for which the adolescent was endlessly grateful for. He had no idea what his father would do if she was brought up.

Predictably, Yakone summoned Tarrlok.

The boy had gotten better, and so Tarrlok let him get a few hits in before employing something he'd always held back on Amon before. After knocking the boy away, Tarrlok gathered the water back to him and bent it into a sphere shielding him and blocking Amon's increasingly wild strikes. Rather than shaped like piercing shards, Tarrlok bent out a stream of ice pellets shooting for Amon. The shots were too wide for the boy to side-step and too closely spaced to properly dodge.

All he could do was defensively block. Tarrlok knew it was childish panic and instinct that compelled the boy to shut his eyes too. And so Amon blindly pressed forward. Tarrlok waited for Amon to give up, but the kid kept pushing ahead...

Catching his father's eye, Tarrlok frowned and bent a larger, faster fragment of ice more the size of a small boulder and sent it slamming into the boy, knocking him brutally down.

Tarrlok began to approach the moaning boy, scowling as he drew up the water to fix him, but Yakone spoke. "Make him get up, Tarrlok."

The adolescent sighed, and carefully bent Amon's blood. It was twilight, and the boy was too tired and hurt to resist much. But as Tarrlok bent his body upward into a kneeling position, Amon shot him that familiar bitter look.

###

"Tarrlok...would you still bend blood, if your father didn't want you to?"

"'What ifs' like that are pointless, Amon."

It was Tarrlok's only answer.

A/N: It was interesting trying to write teen!Tarrlok and kid!Amon and creepy Yakone.