Young Mako stood in his bedroom, examining the newspaper he held in his hands. The front page displayed a large picture of two men dressed in pro-bending suits smiling at the camera and showing off their bending skills. Mako grinned admiringly, reading the article. He could hear his mother humming softly from the kitchen as she washed the dishes, clinks and clanks mixing with the fizz of the water. In the next room, a playful growl from his father rang out, followed by Bolin's laughter. Mako smiled to himself. Maybe he would join them later.
Suddenly, a crash was heard, followed by a feminine scream and the shattering of a dish.
"Mom," Mako whispered to himself, dropping the newspaper and turning towards his door. He heard heavy footsteps of his father, and light slaps of Bolin's feet hitting the floor as he followed. Mako quickly opened the door and rushed towards the kitchen.
"Mako, get your brother!" his dad shouted. Mako's eyes widened as he examined the situation he was in. His father was taking up a fighting stance, glaring at a man whose face was covered with a black ski mask. Behind the man was Mako's mother, on the floor next to a shattered dish, staring wide-eyed with fear.
"Leave Mom alone!" Bolin shouted furiously, taking a stomp forward.
"Bolin!" Mako shouted, grabbing his younger brother's arm and pulling him behind him. "Don't do anything!"
"Give me all of your money, and your wife lives," the man's husky voice growled, throwing a bit of fire their mother's way. She gasped, crawling backwards until her back was against the wall. The moment flame lit the air, their father jumped forward and punched the man's chest.
"Dad!" Mako shouted, Bolin screaming and gripping Mako's arm tightly. The mugger threw a flame-filled punch forward, but missed, giving their father an opening. He punched the mugger's side, grabbed a handful of his shirt, and slammed him against the wall next to him.
"Run outside and try to get help!" their father shouted, turning to his two kids.
"But Dad…" Mako began, grabbing Bolin's hand tightly in his own hand. He tried to take a few steps back, but found that he was frozen in his tracks. Tears of fear began to prick at his eyes, his throat tight and his heart racing. He took in uneven breathes and began to shake softly. Bolin was already in tears, clawing his nails into Mako's hand.
When he'd turned to look at Mako and Bolin, their father hadn't noticed that the mugger was grabbing something from his pocket. When he saw the glint of a blade, Bolin screamed.
"Watch out!" Mako exclaimed a bit too late. The mugger jabbed their father in the stomach, causing him to lose his grip in shock. When his grip loosened, the man kicked their father's chest until he slammed into the ground.
"Do something!" Bolin shouted, shaking Mako's arm helplessly. Mako wanted to do something, use his own fire-bending skills against the mugger, but he couldn't move at all. His father was on the ground, stomach bleeding, and eyes wide. He was vulnerable to the man who had an intention on killing them, and to see his strong father vulnerable was something that knocked the air out of him and left him breathless. He was frozen in his tracks, and all he could do was watch with wide, tear-filled eyes.
The man pressed a foot on their father's chest, grunting. "You had your chance," he hissed, throwing his hands up and filling the air with fire. The fire caught on the curtains, the wooden furniture, and soon, the majority of the room was in flames. Bolin shrieked and their mother screamed, and they all watched in terror.
"Stop!" their mother shouted.
"Shut up!" the mugger growled, sending fire her way. The fire managed to hit her in the face. She screamed, covering her face with shaky hands as she curled up into a ball.
"Mom!" the two brothers screamed.
"Boys, run," their father grunted. The man glared at him, kneeled down, and wrapped his hand around their father's neck.
"Run!" both their mother and father shouted. The mugger's hand lit up in flames, engulfing their father's face in an orange hell.
His father's scream, along with the heat in the room, and his mother's sobbing, was what finally got his feet moving.
Mako grabbed Bolin's hand tightly and began to run, nearly tripping over something in the hallway. He looked back and saw a familiar red cloth. Before it could be attacked with fire as well, he grabbed it and pulled his screaming brother out of the house.
"What are you doing? We have to go back! We have to go back! Dad! Mom! Daaad! Mooom!" Mako didn't say a word, but kept leading Bolin far from their house as it slowly began to be surrounded by fire.
When he reached the other side of the city, he finally decided to stop. He dragged Bolin into an alley and hid behind a dumpster, panting and wiping away hot tears from his cheeks.
"W-why? W-why did he do it, Mako?" Bolin shrieked, shaking Mako's arm angrily. "Why did he kill them?" He jumped into Mako's arms, sobbing into his brother's chest as Mako wrapped his arms around his brother. Mako finally began to let out all of the feelings he was keeping in his tight chest; the fear of the mugger; the sadness of their parents' death; the anger of not being able to do anything. He cried silently, but tried to seem strong for his sobbing brother.
Bolin took in a sharp breath and pushed his brother away, glaring angrily at him.
"Wh-what's wrong?" Mako asked, quickly wiping away his tears.
"Why didn't you do anything?" Bolin shouted, clenching his teeth.
"Bolin, I couldn't just-"
"Yes, you could! You could have helped Dad, but you didn't! Why didn't you do anything? You should have helped!" Mako simply stared at Bolin, his words jabbing at his chest. He honestly did hate himself for not doing anything, but he was overtaken by fear at the time. He was simply too weak to have done anything, but to have done nothing angered him.
"They're dead, and it's all your fault!"
"Don't talk to me!" Bolin hollered, giving his brother one last watery glare before stomping away a few feet and sitting down with his back against the brick wall. He hugged his knees to his chest tightly and closed his eyes, trying hard not to cry.
Mako stared at Bolin, not knowing what to do. Not only had his words hurt him, but Bolin was all he had left now. His parents' were dead, and his little brother was mad at him.
He was slowly losing everything.
He sat down against the alley's wall and wrapped his father's red scarf around his neck, staring at the dirty floor. Bolin would simmer down; all he needed to do was give him space. At least, that's what he hoped for.
The night was rough. It was cold, dark, and frightening to an eight and six-year-old, but still, Bolin refused to speak to Mako, even after Mako offered him a torn up blanket to keep him warm. Bolin took it silently, but uttered no words. Mako was left with only his father's scarf, which he wrapped around his arms and neck. It was little, but all he had for now.
Mako couldn't even sleep that night. He noticed that Bolin shook and breathed irregularly while he was sleeping, and would wake up with a silent gasp, followed by a silent fit of sobs. Surely, he was having nightmares. What they'd experience was going to haunt them this way for quite a while, and stay as a bad memory forever. The first time Bolin woke up, he looked over at Mako, and Mako hoped Bolin would get up and walk over to him, hugging him and telling him how scared he was so he could comfort him, but all he did was rest his head on the hard floor and try to get back to sleep.
Mako sighed, staring up at the skies. What were they to do?
Life on the streets was tough on the two young boys. They lived off of discarded food they hunted for, until it slowly resulted into stealing. Some people tried to steal what they had stolen, but Mako fought back with his fire-bending. He knew what he was doing was wrong, but he had to do anything he could to protect his little brother, his only family.
Everything he did, from stealing, to fighting, to building a house for them out of cardboard and discarded wood, still couldn't break Bolin's shell. He accepted the food, rags, and the house, but still stayed silent. He wouldn't speak to Mako, even after a week.
"He'll get over it soon," Mako thought to himself as he fixed their house. He looked back at Bolin, who was staring at him, but quickly looked away when he noticed Mako looking. "I hope. He's only six, of course he doesn't understand what happened… But… I've lost my parents. I can't… lose my little brother. He's all I've got. I can't lose him."
That night was the worst yet. Mako had noticed that gray clouds were gathering in the sky, and gathered old clothes for them to put over their heads and over the house in case it rained. When the night fell, soft rain began to fall from the sky, seeping through the holes of their house and soaking them through their rags. Gradually, the rain fell harder and harder. Somehow, Bolin was able to fall asleep, but was startled awake by a clash of thunder. He tried to go back to sleep, but started hearing more than thunder. He thought he heard footsteps, so he sat up and looked down the alley. All he saw was darkness. His mind played cruel tricks on him, though, and he was sure he saw a pair of red eyes glaring at him. Those eyes…
Was that the mugger?
Bolin quickly sat up and crawled over to his brother, who was sitting up with his eyes closed. His eyes shot open when he felt Bolin sit next to him and hug his stomach tightly.
"I'm scared," Bolin whispered, closing his eyes shut. Mako wrapped an arm around his little brother and rested his head on Bolin's.
"It's okay. It's just lightning," Mako mumbled back, glad that his brother was finally speaking to him.
"…I love you, big brother."
"I love you, too, little bro." Bolin opened his eyes and peered up at Mako. He didn't seem like he was mad at Bolin for holding a grudge. But still, he needed to apologize.
"I know it wasn't your fault."
"It's not your fault that they died… I was too scared to do anything, too," Bolin whispered, his voice croaking. His chest and throat were tight, and he was shaking.
"It's okay. Don't worry about it."
"I miss Mommy and Daddy," Bolin sobbed, breaking into tears. Mako turned to him and hugged him tightly, rubbing his back softly as the rain soaked them and thunder roared in the sky.
"I miss them too, Bo..."
"I'm sorry," Bolin coughed, shaking his head. "I'm sorry!"
"Shh, it's okay," Mako hummed lowly. "We've just got to stick together, okay?"
"Mhm," Bolin mumbled, sniffling softly. Slowly, he felt himself drifting away in the comfort of his older brother's arms.
That night was the first night Mako finally got some sleep.