Summary: AU as of Episode 9, written after the release of that episode. Amon never shows up, and Tarrlok succeeds in his plan to escape Republic City and take Korra with him as a hostage. This piece was originally posted on my tumblr account.

Rating: M (eventually)

Pairing: Korra x Tarrlok, kind of.

The vision of Republic City as it was forty-two years ago fades away, and Korra closes her eyes, her head spinning. "Aang," she whispers, drained. All the breath leaves her body in an exhausted sigh, and she leans back against the wall of her cage, gripping her head in frustration and closing her eyes tight. This whole time, Aang had been trying to warn her about Tarrlok, and she had been too stupid to see the truth. If she had been able to get in touch with him earlier, through meditation (as Tenzin had always been urging her to do) none of this would have happened. She would be at home on Air Temple Island, rather than abducted and locked up in a tiny box in the middle of nowhere.

The sound of the door slamming open and shut jolts her out of the brief spell of self-loathing, and Korra scrambles to her feet hastily, craning her neck in an attempt to see out of the top of the box. The smallest ray of hope blossoms inside her, that maybe her prayers have been answered and Tenzin or Beifong found out the truth and discovered Tarrlok's little mountain hideout-

But then that hope is dashed when she sees that it's actually Tarrlok, storming down the creaking stairs, and there's a brief moment of confusion - shouldn't he be at work right now? Unless…

"My life is a disaster now, thanks to you," he snarls, voice thick with barely repressed fury. His footfalls are heavy and his breathing is erratic, as he makes his way closer to her prison.

Something has gone wrong with his master plan, obviously, and a satisfied little smirk touches the corners of Korra's lips. What a drama queen. But what goes around comes around. It's about time that he got what was coming to him. "So, your little bloodbending secret's out?" she asks, a wave of vindictive pleasure sweeping over her at the thought.

Tarrlok just growls like an angry wolf, the few remaining vestiges of his former cool composure shattered, and it sounds like he's stomping around the basement in agitation. It's all the answer Korra needs…and it reminds her of the other answer she had received today. "And I know how you were able to bloodbend me without a full moon," she begins, making no effort to conceal the disgust in her voice. "You're Yakone's son, aren't you?"

The sound of Tarrlok's footsteps abruptly stops. He sighs, after a few moments, and when he finally speaks, his voice is low and tightly controlled. "I was his son. But in order to win Republic City, I had to become someone else. My father failed because he tried to rule the city from its rotten underbelly." He pauses, the anger getting the best of him. "My plan was perfect. I was to be the city's savior, but you - you ruined everything!"

Like all Water Tribe children, she had been taught never to bait or approach an injured animal. They look vulnerable and defeated, her father would always tell her, but they're still desperate to survive, and that makes them twice as vicious when they snap. Perhaps the same principle applies here, but she's too carried away in reveling in Tarrlok's pain to take heed. It's an exhilarating feeling - sweet revenge - knowing that regardless of the circumstances, she is the one directly responsible for his fall.

"Forget it, Tarrlok," Korra says coldly. "It's over. Everybody knows what you are now. They'll come after you, and you have nowhere to go."

Footsteps, again, and suddenly, her chest tightens with foreboding. She can practically feel the wheels turning in his head.

"Oh, no," Tarrlok replies softly, dangerously, and it makes her cold all over, in a way that only Amon's voice had, until now. "No, I'll escape, and start a new life…and you are coming as my hostage."

It takes a few moments for his last words to sink in, and Korra blinks, stunned. She takes a step back, the flight part of her subconscious fight or flight instinct kicking in, but she just collides, hard, with the back wall of the box. Her mind explodes in tumult and confusion, and she punches a massive burst of flame at the opposite wall, out of sheer panic. It's futile - the fire just bounces off the wall and ricochets around the tiny, confined space, searing her skin with its heat.

"You can't do this!" Korra yells, her voice cracking with emotion. The place that Tarrlok had chosen to hide her was unexpectedly close to Republic City, close enough that it was possiblethat Tenzin and the others could find her. But if he takes her away - Tenzin can't leave Republic City, Naga can't swim across an entire ocean, her mom and dad and Mako and Bolin don't have the resources to search for her, Beifong is just one person -

"You'll never get away with it!" she tries, anyway, hoping in vain to appeal to some sense of self-preservation - because really, she's never heard of anyone who's ever successfully captured and held the Avatar for longer than a few days.

But then again, a small, dark voice speaks up inside her, those were fully realized Avatars, not failures, half-baked Avatars in training, who can't even get into the Avatar State.

Tarrlok actually laughs, and it's just as unsettling as that inner voice. She can tell that the same thought has occurred to him. "Oh, I can. And I will."

The lock clicks before she's ready for it, and the cell door swings open. Korra lunges forward, her fist igniting with flame again, but before it can even blossom and burst forth, Tarrlok raises his hand, his fingers twitching in that terrible, unnatural way. She fights against his control with every fiber of her being, even more than she had last time, but the flame still dies.

Korra's muscles, tendons, and ligaments all seize up violently, flooding her body with crippling pain that leaves her utterly paralyzed. Even the tears that well up in her eyes don't spill over, instead blurring her vision with a watery haze, and pure, unadulterated hatred rises in her chest like bile. Even Amon hadn't made her feel this powerless.

Through the tears, Korra can faintly make out the slightly yellowed piece of paper that Tarrlok holds in one hand as he advances toward her. She only has time for the briefest moment of confusion before he strikes, as quickly as a snake, his fingers digging into pressure points at her arm, back, neck-

Korra crumples to the ground, the bloodbending's hold on her abruptly released. She feels hollow and empty in a different way now, stripped, and she stares up at Tarrlok incredulously. She wills her legs to move, to curl under her and push her up, so she can at least try to make a run for it, but it feels like her muscles have turned to water. "You - you blocked my chi?"

He sneers, dropping the diagram of human anatomy and chi points, which had evidently been ripped out of some book. "Your powers of observation never cease to amaze me, Avatar." Tarrlok pulls her up roughly, his hand curling around the back of her neck. The diagram, lying discarded on the floor, reminds her of lessons with Master Katara; reminds her that enough pressure to certain points at the back of the neck can cause instant unconsciousness, coma, even death.

"Move," Tarrlok orders sharply. "This might be a struggle for you, but don't try anything rash. You will regret it."

It kills her, acting like a dog on a leash, but for the moment, at least, she has no other choice. And it beats the trip down here, where he had used his bloodbending to turn her into a puppet. Korra lets him guide her out of the cell and up the basement stairs, and as the upper level of the house slowly comes into view, she wishes bitterly that, in some freak coincidence, Amon and the Equalists had managed to follow Tarrlok here. Even the Equalists couldn't face the two of them together. If they concentrated on Tarrlok, she could escape, somehow.

But her hopes are futile, again. The upper level of the decrepit house in the mountains is empty and silent as the grave. She's not usually a skittish person, but it's an eerie place, dark, largely empty, and fallen into disrepair. There are cobwebs on the corners of the hallway and the floorboards creak with every step Korra takes, and she thinks she sees a rat scurry into a small hole in the wall. Tarrlok stops in front of one of the closed doors and opens it, pushing her into a dusty, obviously long-abandoned bedroom, before locking the door behind them.

All of the muscles in Korra's body tense up in preparation for a fight, her gaze rapidly jumping around the room. Her palms are wet with cold sweat and her heart is beating abnormally fast, and the fear she feels now - at considering why Tarrlok has bought her here, to this bedroom, of all places - is unlike anything she's ever felt before. But there's a heavy, ornate lamp on a side table she can use for a bludgeoning tool, and if she has to, she can tear the old mirror away from the dresser and hit him with it. There's a pillow on the bed that can easily be used to smother somebody, and the clothes in the closet can serve the same purpose.

Tarrlok crosses the room in a few quick strides, picking up a long garment bag from where it lies draped across the back of a chair. He tosses it at her, and Korra catches it on instinct. "What's this?" she asks suspiciously, and then regrets it in the next moment, when he gives her a deadpan look.

"A live tiger seal, obviously."

Korra bites the inside of her cheek so hard that she almost draws blood, tearing at the plastic cover as viciously as she can and imagining that it's Tarrlok's face she's gouging open instead. Finally, she's confronted with a fur-lined Water Tribe dress just like the one her mom has, except that this one is royal purple, and she eyes it, confused.

"I think it's suitable for a recent immigrant from the Northern Water Tribe," Tarrlok says, by way of explanation, as he searches through the closet. "Don't you?"

Korra stares, speechless. Spirits, he's really going through with this. "Look," she bursts out, finally, inching closer to the lamp. "You can't make me do this!"

Tarrlok bloodbends her again without even turning around, dragging her away from the lamp and sending her flying to the other side of the room as if she weighs nothing more than a rag doll. "Clearly," he replies calmly, "I can. Now, you can either do this the easy way or the hard way."

The threat makes her hair stand on end, but Korra stands her ground, bracing herself against any impending bloodbending strikes. "I am not going to pay the price for your mistake," she says, unable to keep her voice from trembling with anger. "I'm not the one responsible for everything that happened. That was all you. You brought this on yourself!"

The fury Tarrlok feels at her words is almost as intense as it had been the night of their last confrontation, when the Avatar had actually dared to compare him to Amon, and he turns around to find her glaring at him fearlessly. "I did not," he replies, struggling to control his temper, and keep himself from bloodbending her into a state where she will be in no condition to argue.

"You did, because you were the one who started it!" Korra accuses, but she takes a small, subconscious step backward. "You attacked me in your office. I was just defending myself!"

"It was your defiance and refusal to cooperate that drove me to it," he snaps. "And the fact that you dared compare me to Amon, even though I've been fighting twice as much as you have to protect the city from him and his group of terrorists-"

"You are just as extreme as he is! Look at what you're doing now!" Korra yells back, incensed. "No matter what you do to me, I'm not going to take it back!"

Tarrlok's fingers curl into white-knuckled fists. "Has all of this taught you nothing?" he asks, his voice low and dangerous. "If you had just fallen into line when I politely asked you to, several times, both of our lives would have been proceeding as normal right now, rather than falling apart. You're just too proud to admit-"

"It has nothing to do with pride!" Korra steps forward, and he's not sure whether it's just his imagination, or if, for a split second, her eyes flash the ethereal blue of the Avatar State. "Your policies were oppressing the non-benders of Republic City! I have a duty to them too, and I will never, ever turn my back on people who need me!"

"I am sick and tired of your defiance, Avatar! You will cooperate, or-"

"Or what?" Korra fires back, more combative than anybody temporarily stripped of their bending and rendered a generally powerless opponent has the right to be. "You'll hurt me? I don't give a damn. I'm not going down without a fight."

They glare at each other, at an impasse, and just the sight of her, the cause of his tremendous fall from power and grace, makes Tarrlok burn with fury that's getting harder and harder to repress by the minute. The unexpected thought crosses his mind, that with very little effort, he can break her, he can teach her a lesson that she won't ever forget, punish her for all the havoc she's caused-

Tarrlok pushes the idea away in shock and revulsion, and it's a struggle to hide how unsettled it leaves him. He's never had such an uncharacteristic impulse before, and it's clear now that coming to this house had been a mistake. It's bought out the worst in him, and he should know better; the things he had witnessed and experienced growing up-

He can almost feel his mother's sad, reproachful gaze on his back. I am not Yakone, he reminds himself, shaken. I am not Yakone.

But the wary look on Korra's face as she eyes him is painfully reminiscent of a hundred other confrontations he had witnessed in this room, long ago, and Tarrlok is suddenly too weary to want to do this any longer. "…Just put on the dress," he says flatly, unable to bear looking at her for another instant. "We don't have any time to waste on unproductive arguments. I'll remind you, again, that you can do this the easy way or the hard way. The choice is yours."

Korra's fingers curl into fists, and the rage boiling inside her is so powerful that she longs to breathe a torrent of fire at him. She has the suspicion that the hard way involves him bloodbending her into changing her clothes, and the thought makes her stomach turn. "Fine," she spits, already planning her escape. There's a window that she can easily shatter and jump through once she has a few moments to herself. "Will you leave so I can get dressed?"

Tarrlok pulls out a jacket-shirt-thing from the closet and regards it thoughtfully. It's old-fashioned, and looks like the one Councilman Sokka was wearing in her vision. "Just how stupid do you think I am, Avatar?" he inquires conversationally, although the muscles in his shoulders are still tense from their fight. "I'm not going anywhere."

The blood rushes to her face, the anger and humiliation so intense that it makes her dizzy, and it's a struggle to get the words out from between her gritted teeth. "Then at least turn around."

Thankfully, he does, without argument. Korra strips off her clothes and pulls on the dress as fast as she can, her face still burning, as she rips the price tag off and tosses it onto the bed. It feels weird, wearing a dress, but the fabric is fine and the fur warm. "I'm done," she says resentfully. The options for her escape are looking slimmer by the second, if he really doesn't intend on letting her out of his sight.

She glances over her shoulder to see Tarrlok wearing the new shirt and pulling the numerous ties from his long hair, freeing it from his signature three-ponytail style. Korra can't help but think back to Ikki's first words upon seeing him, and the thought makes her heart ache. If she knew then what she knows now, she would have listened to Ikki and kicked him off Air Temple Island right then and there.

"Now sit," Tarrlok orders, as if she were a dog, and he takes an ivory comb from the dresser and sets it down on the bed. "And do something less…distinctive…with your hair."

Korra remains motionless, her mind racing. Her chi's still blocked, and as long as he can bloodbend, physical attacks won't do her much good. Her only option is injuring his hands to the point where he can't bloodbend - maybe by breaking his fingers - but figuring out how to do it is the problem.

Tarrlok's eyes narrow in irritation, and there's a sudden, shattering pain in her kneecaps, making them give out under her. Korra lands on the bed hard, unable to hold back a quiet moan of pain. Reluctantly, she reaches up, pulling her hair ties free of her tangled hair, until it cascades in a mess down her shoulders and back. She barely recognizes the girl in the dusty mirror in front of her - slumped shoulders, reddened eyes, a long scratch across one cheekbone, defeated. Cornered. Powerless.

But it occurs to her, after a few slow strokes of the comb through her hair, that Tarrlok has a time limit. Everybody knows the truth about him now, including the police force, and it's only a matter of time until they discover this place in the mountains. It's his childhood home, she suspects, and Korra's skin crawls in revulsion when she realizes that this is probably the bedroom that Yakone shared with Tarrlok's mother. Despite - or perhaps because of - that, Tarrlok doesn't seem to be at ease here at all.

She runs the comb through her hair again slowly, with shaking hands, willing the police to already be on their way here. If she can buy some time-

Tarrlok sighs impatiently, confiscating the comb from her. "Honestly, Avatar," he says, his voice even colder than the winter winds outside, but at least he doesn't guess at the real motivation behind her glacial pace. "You would think that somebody would have taught you the basics of personal grooming."

He combs through her hair quickly and efficiently, ignoring her protests, and venting his considerable frustration with her in the way he pulls at the knots and tangles at her hair until she flinches, tears of discomfort springing to her eyes. "There," Tarrlok says finally, pulling open a drawer in the vanity in front of her to reveal a collection of hairpieces, ornaments, ties, and ribbons, all of which look like they haven't been touched in more than a decade. "Now do something with it."

Korra stares at the accessories, memories welling up inside her until she feels like she's going to be sick - how when she was really little, her dad would always style her hair, pulling it up in haphazard ponytails like his own, because she hated sitting still for her mom to comb and braid it. How she had loved Master Katara's hair loopies, from the first time she laid eyes on them, but in spite of hours of effort, she could never recreate them in her own hair. Her fingers were too clumsy to braid properly, no matter how much her mom had tried to teach her. For as long as she could remember, her signature three ponytails was the only thing she could ever manage. Even for that stupid gala that Tarrlok had thrown in her honor, Pema had sat her down and styled her hair, while Jinora and Ikki chattered happily about how pretty she looked in her dress, and how "that cute Firebender boy would fall in love with her the moment he saw her!"


Her movements wooden and mechanical, the Avatar separates her hair into two sections, one over each shoulder, and begins to braid it. Judging from her frown of concentration, it's taking a disproportionate amount of effort, even though her technique is inept, crooked, and messy at best. Something about watching her struggle - that sad look on her face, and her fingers' awkward movements through her own hair - while sitting here, of all places, brings back a surge of memories that Tarrlok usually tries to repress.

His throat tightens, and he takes hold of Korra's hair, more gently than he had before, but she still tenses up, as if expecting a strike. Tarrlok takes a deep breath, struggling to hold on to his composure. I am not Yakone, he reminds himself again, keeping the ghosts at bay - the darkness of his father, lurking within him, as well as his mother's spirit, which still seems to linger in this room.

"Let me," he says quietly, as he has a hundred times in the past.

Korra reluctantly complies, resting her hands in her lap, and Tarrlok glances away quickly, focusing his attention on the soft strands of hair. He braids her hair easily, tying both braids at the ends and then taking two pieces of purple ribbon from the drawer, winding them through the length of each braid. If she's surprised at all by his proficiency in styling, she doesn't show it, but when he steps back, allowing her to take a look in the mirror, she blinks several times, reaching up to touch her hair self-consciously. "My mom wears her hair just like this," she says quietly.

"So did mine."

Korra glances up at him, taken aback by the admission, but Tarrlok has already turned away, rummaging in one of the other drawers. He pulls out an old, carved rosewood box and sets it on the vanity in front of her, flipping it open to reveal an ancient array of cosmetics. There's powder in twenty different colors, pots of a paint-like substance, and several brushes in the middle, all of them shaped differently. She stares, at a loss, but then flinches as Tarrlok takes her face in his hand, none-too-gently turning her toward him.

"Get off," she protests, leaning back and shoving at his arms ineffectively. He just frowns and tightens his grip, taking one of the brushes and coating it in the purple powder.

"Hold still," Tarrlok instructs, "and close your eyes."

He bloodbends her into doing it anyway, and Korra hates how vulnerable she feels, as well as the sensation of the small, powder-covered brush, as it glides along the sensitive skin of her closed eyelids, painting them like a canvas. Then Tarrlok gets another brush, and dusts something onto her cheeks, and as much as she longs to take advantage of his closeness to lunge forward and grab his hands and break his fingers with pure, brute strength, or possibly bite them until they're too mangled to bend, it's impossible. She can't move a muscle.

For the first time, Korra wonders how Tarrlok came to be so knowledgeable about ladies' hair styling and cosmetic application. Then she thinks back to her vision of Yakone, and fights the urge to shudder. Somehow, she doesn't think that a person like that would ever be kind to his wife, and a man could hurt a woman in a thousand different ways even without bloodbending…perhaps even to the point where she needed her son's help to get ready for the day.

She's unprepared for the pity that wells up in her, and she pushes the thoughts away hastily. Tarrlok releases her then, from his grip and the bloodbending's hold. A quick glance in the mirror takes Korra by surprise. There's just a faint dusting of purple shadow on her eyelids and blush on her cheeks, enough to make her look, at first glance, a couple of years older than her age. That, in combination with the new hairstyle and the purple dress…

Korra swallows over her dry throat, trying to contain her nausea at how different she looks. Like somebody else entirely. Even he's not easily recognizable; the single ponytail and different clothes make him look more like a Water Tribe warrior than a fancy politician. The sickening realization hits her again, of the fact that Tarrlok's plan is one step closer to fruition, he doesn't seem to be changing his mind, and she's still more or less unable to stop him. It feels like she's an unwilling passenger on a satomobile that's just hopelessly spun out of control.

"Tarrlok," Korra says, trying to keep her tone calm and level, reassuring and persuasive, but her voice shakes, and this time, it's not from anger. "Look. It's not too late. You don't have to do this."

He turns away, stalking to the other side of the room. "Yes, it is. I used bloodbending on the Avatar, a fellow councilman, the former and current chief of police, and three teenagers," he says quietly, the words heavy with - if not remorse, then self-loathing. In a matter of instants, as long as it had taken him to lose his temper the previous night, he had undone over a decade of hard work. "There's no future for me here any longer. I have no desire to spend the rest of my days in a jail cell."

Korra looks down at the floor, trying to keep control of her emotions. If it was Aang in her place, he would know what to say; how to talk Tarrlok down from this insane idea…but diplomacy has never been her strong point, and she's at a loss.

Tarrlok returns with a battered old folder and a box. He sets the box aside and pulls out two sheets of paper from the folder, and Korra recoils as she realizes that they're documentation sheets, which he obviously intends to falsify. His words in the basement, about needing to become 'someone else' to win Republic City, come to mind again, and she has the sinking suspicion that he's actually done this before. "Choose a name," he tells her impassively.

"No! I'm not going to be a part of this-"

"Pick a name or I will select one for you."

She feels trapped, trapped like a tiger seal in a hunter's net with no way out, and it's such an unprecedented feeling that it leaves her disoriented. "Senna," she mumbles, feeling her throat tighten and close over. The room spins. Spirits, is she ever going to see her mother again?

"Very nice. I suppose I'll make you nineteen…we don't want to turn any heads."

The words barely register. Tarrlok finishes her paperwork, blowing on the ink lightly to dry it, before setting it out of her reach. He goes through his just as quickly, and becomes Taruq of the Northern Water Tribe, thirty-four. "There," he decrees, satisfied, and Korra flexes her hands desperately, trying to force her bending to return with every fiber of her being, but it's still locked away somewhere beyond her reach. It's been at least half an hour since Tarrlok got back to the house and dragged her out of the basement, and nobody's found them yet, either. There's a scream building inside her, longing to escape, but it won't make it's way past her frozen lungs and it won't do her any good anyway.

Tarrlok picks up the box, and even though they're running out of time, he hesitates slightly before opening it. The mere sight of the necklace - the hand-carved purple-gray stone, the slightly frayed dark purple ribbon - still hurts, even after all these years. The last time he touched it was when he had removed it from his mother's body. It's beautiful, but it seems to radiate a dark aura, for all that it represents and all the memories it brings back.

He had never intended to use it, just to hold on to it, as a keepsake. Considering the end his mother met, having somebody else wear it is is a bad omen - but there's no time for anything else. He glances up at the girl standing across from him, whose gaze is fixed on the door as if she's contemplating one last, desperate escape attempt, and Tarrlok's chest tightens with misery and anger and regret and this is not what he hoped it would be; this is not how he envisioned it at all.

The thought that he can make another one for her someday is meager consolation, as Tarrlok removes the necklace from the box and offers it to Korra. "Here," he says quietly. "Put this on."

Korra's eyes widen with shock and revulsion as she realizes what it is, and she jumps back, as if burned. "What?" she exclaims, horrified. "Is that - no!"

"It's the only logical explanation for why we would be traveling and living together," Tarrlok explains impatiently, trying to ignore the inner voice telling him that if he hadn't ruined things, her reaction - someday in the future - wouldn't have been like this. "That's all it is."

He pulls back just in time to avoid a punch to the face. Before Korra can strike again, he paralyzes her with a single twist of his wrist. She has no choice but to stay still as he ties the necklace around her throat, as gently as he can. Her skin shivers beneath his touch, and when he releases her, she shudders, her body obviously feeling the strain of encountering bloodbending so many times in one day. "Don't do this," she says, her voice barely audible. "Please."

Tarrlok looks away, hardening his heart, as he rolls up their registration papers and sticks them in the inner pocket of his coat. "I gave you fair warning that you would regret your choice not to cooperate with me."

Korra takes a deep breath, trying to hold on to her temper, as Tarrlok pulls a pair of fur-lined lavender mittens out from the garment bag she had discarded earlier and hands them to her. "Put these on. It's cold outside."

She does so reluctantly, figuring that if she's going to take him down, she'll need hands that haven't been frozen and rendered useless by hypothermia. The second she has them on, he takes her by the hand and pulls her out of the room without taking a single look back. Luckily, there is still no sound of approaching police airships or satomobiles, and he scans the empty house to confirm that there are no clues that anyone can pick up as to where they are going now.

The wind outside howls through the trees, so bitingly cold that it's like a slap to the face. The snow is almost knee-deep and is getting thicker by the minute - it's no wonder that nobody has been able to track them down yet. Tarrlok clears a path for them with one effortless sweep of his hand, but then Korra suddenly stops dead, refusing to take another step. He turns, ready to deflect another useless protest or attack, or to knock her unconscious if she's going to be particularly aggressive, but he's unprepared for the look on her face - like a lost child - as she tugs on his hand again.

"At least let me bring Naga," she says, pleads, the words spilling out in a rush. "I can call her or whistle for her and she'll be here in less than half an hour. And I'll come along without fighting you if I can just have her with me, I promise, I swear."

Tarrlok hesitates momentarily, glancing into the woods. He's always considered the Avatar's polar bear-dog to be just another one of the dangerous weapons she has in her arsenal, but this doesn't sound like Korra trying to manipulate him into letting her have access to a secret weapon; it just sounds like a girl pleading for her beloved pet, the only vestige of familiarity she will have upon being forcibly taken to a new place. And the promise that she would behave if allowed to have the dog is tempting. Still…

"No," he replies flatly, turning away from her. "It's - it would be much too conspicuous. Everybody knows that Avatar Korra is the only person in history to have ever tamed a polar bear-dog."

"But I can't just abandon her here!" Korra protests, swiping at her eyes angrily, and her voice breaks. "She's my best friend, she's been with me for years, she'll be confused-"

She turns, trying to hide her tears from him, and Tarrlok rests his gloved hand on her shoulder, trying to comfort her. The last thing he needs on his hands is a seriously distraught Avatar. The odds that the emotional upheaval will trigger the Avatar state are slim, but he doesn't want to take chances, regardless. "Your dog will be fine," he assures Korra, his voice almost lost in the rush of the wind. "Tenzin will take care of her. He'll send her back to the South Pole, where she belongs. She can return to the wild, find a mate, and have a litter of cubs. She'll be happy. Even if she tries to find you and gets lost somewhere in the mountains, this area is full of wolfbears who will adopt her into their pack. She won't be alone."

Korra sniffles for a few moments, sounding completely heartbroken. Just when Tarrlok thinks she has calmed enough to continue, she whirls around with unbelievable speed and backhands him across the face. It's an unexpectedly strong, hard strike, even coated in soft mitten, and he staggers back several paces, the vision in his left eye fading to black.

Korra doesn't try to run. "I hate you," is all she says, softly and venomously.

She doesn't resist when he bloodbends her into unconsciousness, making it just painful enough to serve as a warning. Tarrlok catches Korra before she hits the ground, somewhat awkwardly lifting her into his arms and carrying her to the satomobile. He puts her in the passenger seat this time and buckles her in, and it just looks like she's sleeping.

Tarrlok glances back at the house one last time before getting into the satomobile. It's freezing inside, and he starts it up, turns the heat on, and shifts the car into drive, before guiding it onto the rocky path, and quickly leaving Republic City behind.

to be continued

Thank you for reading, and any and all feedback would be very much appreciated. :)