Title: all a dream
Fandom: The Legend of Korra
Summary: AU. Half-crack, half-serious. Amon is a bloodbender in his worst dreams.
A/N: S1 Finale AU, so this fic is set before it and after ep. 10. Since this is all AU with a fanon backstory, going with my fanon that Amon's just 10 years older than Korra, and the Lieutenant is older than him. Thanks to overlithe and pteropus717 for some beta feedback. Thanks to everyone tumblr who checked out/reblogged/'liked' the preview for this fic.
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to the Legend of Korra.
"No, no, no..."
"Sir, wake up, come on, Sir, Amon—"
"No no no—!"
Finally the scarred revolutionary bolted awake, gasping for air. The Lieutenant took him by the shoulders, his leader was shaking so bad. Amon covered his face.
The Lieutenant had been patrolling the halls of the Air Temple, restless, even after finally successfully getting Amon to sleep. Some success, when his leader's rest was spoiled by nightmares.
"The bloodbender dream again?"
"I bent your blood, I lifted you up, I twisted you up and then tossed you aside like you were nothing—"
Amon's voice cracked, and the Lieutenant tightened his hold on the younger man. "That was only a dream."
His leader shook him off, scrambling for something.
"Damn it, there's no mirror, I need a mirror—"
Amon laughed, hysterical. "I never have mirrors, and a bowl of water won't do—"
Another mad laugh. "—no, of course not. Lieutenant, look at me, please."
The Lieutenant obeyed without question.
"I have scars, yes?"
"What the hell do you think you're picking at? Also something you really should stop doing right now," the Lieutenant snapped at Amon, whose hands were tense and scrambling over the burn scars on his face.
"They're not paint, not make-up, right?"
His leader laughed, his voice cracking again in hysteria. "Oh, don't mind me, Lieutenant—just your great leader, having a breakdown on the eve of revolution!" Amon's voice was filled with sarcasm and bitterness and instability.
"Going without sleep for days will do that to you," the Lieutenant pointed out. Though he had to admit he sensed Amon's discomfort with taking up residence in the Air Temple, sleeping in the acolyte rooms. (They and none of the other Equalists wanted to touch the bedroom of Councilman Tenzin and his wife.)
Amon plopped back done, hiding his face in a pillow.
The Lieutenant heard his leader say something muffled into the fabric.
Amon stiffly raised his head, and said, "Do you ever wonder?"
"About the bloodbender dream I have? You do wonder, don't you?"
The Lieutenant sat down beside Amon on the bed.
"Sometimes, yes, especially when I learned it was a recurring nightmare."
Amon seemed to hesitate, before saying, "Do you remember Sari and her earthbender sister? What I said about it?"
"Yes, and I remember quite a few of our people being surprised—Shang even said it was too lenient of you. Those who had benders in their family agreed with you."
"That was the voice of experience."
"Oh." The Lieutenant blinked. "What?"
"After the...fire, I was taken in by another family. I gained a new older brother, and he was a waterbender."
Amon's dark brown eyes narrowed in the dark, burning. The implication was heavy in the air between him and his Lieutenant. Amon immediately snapped, "It was never his fault, his father made him—"
The revolutionary stopped, squeezing out a sigh.
"Made him bloodbend you?"
"Yes." Amon closed his eyes, and said in a low voice, "But his father was no bender."
The Lieutenant's eyes darted down to Amon's hands fisting in the bed covers. "Lieutenant, I—I wish to apologize. For not telling you everything about my past."
The Lieutenant stared flatly at him. "Amon, do you remember how long it took you to mention your family in front of everyone—?"
"I could no longer stand the thought of them being utterly forgotten in this world!" Amon snarled, banging a fist on the bedside table, making the pocketwatch on the tabletop shake, the uniform mask rattling inside the drawer.
The Lieutenant stayed very still, waiting for Amon to compose himself. The revolutionary leader slowly removed his fist from the desk, and neatly folded his hands in his lap as he sat up, hunched over.
"What's wrong, Sir?" The Lieutenant asked in a soft voice.
"I've kept something from you that was relevant. I need to...remedy that."
Amon took one more breath, then said, "Yakone didn't die 42 years ago."
The Lieutenant's eyes widened at that.
"Yakone adopted me. Tarrlok is his son, and I'm his adopted brother."
The Lieutenant's eyes immediately darted to the attic upstairs. His eyes leveled back, locking with Amon's. "So. That's why you have him locked up and chiblocked every hour or so, instead of just removing his bending. Because he's your brother." The Lieutenant's voice was very flat. Then he exploded. "He's one of the worst benders abusing his power—!"
"I know!" Amon put his face into his hands. "I know." He whispered low, bitter. "I'm a hypocrite. I'm risking yours and everyone else's lives." His voice heightened, "But I couldn't...I had planned to, but when it came right down to it, I just—I couldn't bring myself to take it away from him, not after—"
Amon shook his head. "Yakone only ever really cared about his bending. Tarrlok wanted so badly to please his father, and he just—he's just so deeply bound to it, I was just...I didn't know how he would react to losing it. If he could—could bring himself to continue on without it."
"Reports have suggested people cleansed of their bending are mostly in varying states of despair, but none have killed themselves over it."
"Tarrlok is—would be different."
"Or so you worry about."
The Lieutenant held his tongue. Amon never vented like this, like a person. Never spoke of such human connection. The Lieutenant felt his leader needed this. He'd hold his own reservations until later.
The older man felt something twist in his chest when Amon made a sound somewhere between a strangled sob and a sigh. "What do you think I should do?"
Lieutenant closed his eyes, knowing the power he had at this very moment. He knew he could tell Amon that he had to remove Tarrlok's bending, and he would do it, unquestioningly. Lieutenant knew that was the best option for the cause. But what of Amon's emotional state and sanity? He had understood, but personally disliked how much Amon focused on making himself more of an Idea than a man. And here was one human thing Amon couldn't force away; could the Lieutenant really take that away from Amon?
Sighing, the Lieutenant finally said. "I want you to tell me everything your remember from tonight's dream. Your thoughts on it, why you thought you dreamt it, how it relates to your brother—just everything relevant to your past and current state of mind. I can't properly advise you otherwise."
And you really need to get everything—or almost all of it—out in the open right now, since this could be the one chance I get to convince you.
Amon blinked slowly at him, brown eyes wide. Then he nodded.
He opened his mouth to speak—then hesitated. "Should I start from the beginning?" Then Amon frowned. "Actually, it's...unusually detailed, and yet...not, at the same time—it doesn't all add up, though I could be forgetting parts of the dream...and it's strangely...omniscient, or my perception is even more off than I thought—"
The Lieutenant interrupted Amon's rambling. "From the beginning sounds good."
"All right. The Avatar and her firebender ally had stolen some Equalist uniforms and were observing a rally thrown by Hiroshi."
"Acceptable plan. How'd they get the uniforms in the first place?"
The Lieutenant blinked, then shrugged. "Dream logic."
"The Avatar is impatient for action—"
"Hmmph, wasn't so impatient when she ran off from the cabin—"
"Are you really bringing up the time you and the others failed to capture her?"
Lips twitching into a small smirk, the Lieutenant found an exasperated Amon better than a rather unhinged and drained one.
"The Avatar and her companions, including Asami, are hiding underground in one of the slums."
The Lieutenant noticed Amon's sudden frown.
"Gommu was there."
The Lieutenant blinked. "The ex-navy guy?" He remembered a younger Amon giving food to the vagabond once and having a very lengthy and rambling discussion with him. Later despite his expressed neutrality, Gommu still served as a useful source of intel, depending on the right amount of coin or food given.
"Yes, assisting the Avatar, which isn't so surprising. But then he made this inane claim about benders and nonbenders getting along, and that was only inane because the context was just...suspicious, like he was implying only at rock bottom can we get along. Now that didn't really sound like Gommu."
"Well, this is your head, Amon—do you think that's true?"
Amon blew out a frustrated breath, rubbing the back of his neck. "There are some historical texts and anecdotes that suggest there was less of a divide between benders and nonbenders during the war, when there was a common enemy to be had."
"And without that, we turn on each other. Lovely."
The Lieutenant's leader frowned, picking at a pillow corner.
"The dream gets stranger—Asami and the firebender and the Avatar are...spirits, I've been overhearing Tomoe's love dramas on the radio too much. And paid too much attention to the idle gossip she adds to her intelligence reports."
"What is it?" The Lieutenant asked teasingly, remembering days Amon spent on paperwork while in the next room over the younger recruits listened to the radio, including Tomoe and her stories.
"I know Hiroshi expressed distaste in Asami with that firebender, and that would imply they are...well, together. But there seemed to be friction between the two, with that firebender expressing too much interest in the Avatar."
The Lieutenant laughed.
"Yes, moving on," Amon growled, and the Lieutenant shook his head.
"No no, this is too good, you actually listened to Tomoe's rambling about a love square brewing between the Avatar and her companions—"
Amon rolled his eyes, and the Lieutenant's mirth grew. "What happens, does the firebender declare his undying love to the Avatar? They get married in the South Pole?"
"...Yes, actually. Except the marriage part. But they were in the South Pole."
The Lieutenant stifled another laugh behind his hand.
"Didn't even explicitly end his relationship with Asami or explain what was going on or apologize to her on bended knee," Amon grumbled.
"You are indeed a romantic, Amon."
His leader's eyes sharpened, and he seemed to actually huff. "Anyway, the dream flashes to more of a memory, that of removing the bending of the White Lotus guards and the metalbenders earlier today. And then General Iroh and the United Forces arrive."
The Lieutenant nodded. "Tomoe's intelligence report about their impending arrival this morning."
"Surprisingly empty of any gossip."
"Give it time, she'll be adding the general to make a love pentagon."
"Anyway, it's the United Forces against our planes."
"And how does it go?"
"Well enough. Hiroshi's flying. We suffer some losses, but it seems like there are no casualties, and the fleet is defeated. But General Iroh does escape."
"Good omen, then."
Amon scowled. "I'd rather not think any of this as a premonition."
"It's not like you're going to suddenly develop bending powers, Sir."
"Well, most people didn't think anyone could suddenly remove bending, now could they?" Amon snapped back, his tone acidic. He rubbed his eyes. "Excuse me for being unreasonable."
"No offense taken. Please continue."
"The Avatar, Asami and their team, plus the general, regroup in the slum. General Iroh has Gommu send a message to Commander Bumi to not approach the city, not until they deal with our planes."
"The Avatar refuses to go and wants to face me instead, following her gut instinct."
"That makes less sense."
"And yet the others go along with that, even if they protested some. At least they split up into two groups. Asami, the General, that earthbender and the polarbeardog will deal with the planes—"
"While the Avatar and the firebender go to the Air Temple to face me."
"—and Team Idiocy."
"The team that gets through sheer dumb luck—you'll see, their plan manages to pull through."
The Lieutenant leaned back against the wall the bed rested against. "I wait in suspense."
"The Avatar and the firebender reach the Temple, in disguise of course—"
"At least they have enough sense for that—"
"They see me leave the island via an airship. They run into you, and...you're completely fooled."
The Lieutenant frowned at Amon's smile, getting the distinct impression he was holding back a laugh.
"You even tell them I'll be at the arena, that they should go there for extra security."
"I see you've internalized my recent tendency for screw-ups."
"How can I not? Anyway, the Avatar knows another way into the temple. They enter the attic."
"Ah," was all the Lieutenant could say. It's either that or look up to where the attic is again, where Tarrlok is currently locked up in.
"The Avatar and Tarrlok talk, she asks if there are other prisoners in the temple. He says it is only him. The Avatar wonders what makes him so special."
Here we go.
"Tarrlok tells her that he's my brother. She and her ally are understandably surprised."
Amon was silent, and the Lieutenant almost pushed him to continue until Amon picked up on his own.
"Tarrlok tells her about his past, about me...but it's different."
"He starts with how Yakone escaped, with help from his former gang—via surgery that alters his face."
"...That doesn't sound possible."
"Not now, but eventually, it probably will be," Amon muttered, hand reaching for his scarred face. The Lieutenant felt like he could just kick himself.
"I was told Yakone escaped by faking his death, one of his gang associates being a firebender. They found some body—I don't know if it was already dead or if it had to be killed—burned it to a crisp, and made it seem like it was Yakone's. And so Yakone just had to stay low the old-fashioned way, though it helped that everyone thought him gone from his world."
"The Tarrlok in my dream then goes into how Yakone met his mother in the North Pole."
"You never mentioned her. Was she out of the picture when Yakone kidn—took you in?"
"Yes, she was dead by then. Yakone and Tarrlok barely spoke of her. All this information about her in my dream is clearly my own imagination...but even that's vague. Still sparse detail on her."
Amon managed a half-shrug, before continuing.
"Things get even more bizarre. In the dream, I...I'm actually Yakone's son by blood, his firstborn." Amon shuddered, and the Lieutenant grasped his shoulder.
"Obviously an issue there."
Amon growled. "You think?"
The Lieutenant shrugged. "We're having an impromptu and untrained therapy session here—being this blunt comes with the territory, I think. Did I mention 'untrained?'"
"Yes, you're a regular Wang Fire," Amon said in a low deadpan voice.
The Lieutenant's stab at mirth dropped. He said in an even lower, guttural voice, "Did you ever think of him as a father?"
"Never," Amon snarled, shaking the Lieutenant's hand away. "I already had a father, I told him—!"
"Did he ever regard you as any sort of son?"
The Lieutenant watched Amon's hands fist in the covers again. "I think he did. Another heir, at least. He did start my training in chiblocking. He did teach me much...I did see him as a teacher. A cruel one, but a teacher nonetheless." Amon faced the Lieutenant. "Yakone was never the type of man to give up. After losing his bending, he trained in other ways to defend himself. To intimidate. He'd been chiblocking nineteen years before he took me in, he was already very experienced by then. He seemed like a master to me—maybe he was, I've never been sure."
Amon shook himself. "Anyway, in the dream, Tarrlok is born three years later, so he's my younger brother...it's all very strange."
"How was Tarrlok as an older brother?" And it wasn't just an attempt at impromptu therapy, the Lieutenant was curious about the corrupt councilman.
"...Normal, I thought, when not...listening to his father. He reminded me of some of my other older brothers. I—at the time if I couldn't have my family back, I still wanted something, anything, to fill the...the hole they left behind," Amon said, struggling to explain everything to his Lieutenant. "Yakone frightened me then, and was cold, but Tarrlok...he would look after me, in his own way. Tell me stories—he was the one who taught me how to read and write."
The Lieutenant felt his stomach drop at the growing warmth in Amon's voice. At any other time and if it were about any other person, the Lieutenant would've been relieved by Amon acting more human, would've welcomed it, his leader needed to unwind more—but this was Tarrlok, a very real enemy who still had his bloodbending, even if it was being rigidly blocked right now.
"We would go down to the village, if we had set up camp in a more isolated but nearby area. He'd give me advice sometimes, especially about fighting, we would spar..."
Amon's eyes had grown distant.
"Though at first—I was only a small boy when Yakone brought me home, and he was an adolescent. Only when I was older could I really understand how strange it must've been for him, too, to suddenly have this little child underfoot, keeping him awake at night from bad dreams—"
Stopping, Amon fidgeted with his hands, and the Lieutenant found a very interesting spot on the wall to stare at, while giving Amon time to recover. "I...I latched on to him, yes. I wanted some semblance of family again. And Tarrlok was the closest to that."
Amon sighed. "Anyway, in the dream, Noatak—that was an alias Yakone had trained me to give to people outside of he and Tarrlok—is my real name. And I'm a waterbender too, just like Tarrlok. As you know. Except...Yakone in the dream calls me a prodigy. And I act like one. I act like...Tarrlok, when Yakone trained him to bloodbend. In reality."
"Tarrlok would..." Amon seemed to struggle to continue, and the Lieutenant waited. "All the training in the dream took place in the North Pole. Yakone took me there with Tarrlok once."
The Lieutenant noted a certain fond growl in Amon's voice.
"How was it? The North Pole?"
"Other than Yakone's training, it was good, overall. You should see it sometime."
"And my memories of it match much of the dream's setting, but it...just everything is flipped in the dream. Distorted. At the North Pole, Yakone had Tarrlok practice bloodbending on animals, and had me watch. Similar in the dream, but it was—well, both of us doing it. Tarrlok was so small in the dream, but recognizable. I never saw any family photos of Tarrlok at all, so I never could confirm what he looked like at that age, I don't know how I got the idea...but Tarrlok did always say I had a vivid imagination."
"I—Noatak looked like Tarrlok when he bent the wolves and other animals. Closed off and..."
Amon stopped again, and the Lieutenant waited. "But it was the child Tarrlok in my dream that protested, even saying the same words I vaguely remember using."
"So you essentially dreamt that you and Tarrlok switched places?"
"...Something like that, it seems."
"...You truly believed Tarrlok disliked bloodbending?"
"I know it." Amon looked down. "I'm certain he hated hurting the animals and...others, when he was younger and even before I was born, as much as I had hated seeing him do it...and experiencing it..."
Amon's voice grew angrier. "But Yakone just told me another's pain didn't matter, he must've told Tarrlok that his whole life—how could Tarrlok not have turned into a m—"
The Lieutenant's leader flinched and looked away, hands clenced into fists again.
"A monster?" The Lieutenant pressed.
"Only because of bending." Amon whirled on him, eyes flashing, voice deathly low and choked with so much hate the Lieutenant felt a brief chill down his spine.
But his leader continued on in an eerily light voice, "The dream had Yakone order Noatak—me, to bend Tarrlok, my own brother. A younger, more innocent boy. I was just as monstrous, because I could bend, because I had that power, just because I could."
"A dream and nothing more," the Lieutenant reminded Amon. "And it seems that Noatak was obeying his father, just as much as your Tarrlok had before."
His leader's eyes narrowed. "After Noatak had obeyed, Yakone gave the same order to Tarrlok in the dream. He refused."
Amon went quiet again. The Lieutenant closed his eyes.
"Did your Tarrlok ever refuse his father?"
"...Never," Amon whispered, and the Lieutenant opened his eyes; something had sounded broken and hollow in his leader's voice.
"What happened next in the dream?"
"Yakone turned on Tarrlok. Noatak stepped in, bloodbending Yakone."
Amon shuddered. "I had dreamt about that moment alone, before...and I..."
The revolutionary leader broke off. The Lieutenant softly encouraged him. "You what?"
Amon hesitated, for a long time, and something in the Lieutenant's chest twisted for pushing this matter. But if this was something Amon would only regret never saying later...
"...I enjoyed them, for the most part."
The Lieutenant was silent, considering. Then he said, "It only seems natural."
Amon made a wordless snarl.
"When did you first have a dream like that?"
"When I was a boy. Some time after Yakone made Tarrlok bloodbend me. I suppose it broke up all the monotony of the nightmares. Either Tarrlok or I bloodbending Yakone in those dreams," Amon spat out. "But back to tonight's—Noatak asks Tarrlok to run away with him."
The Lieutenant noted Amon's eyes going distant again, flying somewhere far away once more.
"Tarrlok asks about what will happen to his mother. Noatak calls him weak, and leaves him behind, too."
"And did anything similar like that happen for real?"
"When Tarrlok was seventeen, and I seven, he ran away from Yakone. He had offered to take me with him. I refused." Amon bowed his head. "But he had never called me weak for staying. He'd been frustrated, and...hurt, even, but he never called me a weakling."
"But is that what you thought you were, Amon? For staying?"
"...Perhaps. I had never thought about it that way before, until tonight."
Why did you stay with Yakone—no, rephrase that question, to get to the heart of the matter. "Do you know why you stayed with Yakone? I thought you hated him, even then."
"Not enough to leave." Amon sighed. "I don't know what I was thinking then, even now. I did want to grow stronger, and Yakone was an efficient teacher, despite all his cruelty...or perhaps because of it." Amon rubbed his eyes. "I did fear Yakone not allowing me to go; there was something of a precedent for that."
The Lieutenant's jaw clenched at that, but Amon didn't seem to notice. He continued.
"I did not want Tarrlok to argue anymore with his father. I probably would be dead if Yakone had never plucked me from the fire. I thought Tarrlok needed and wanted time alone. That he wanted to get away from me as much as his father."
Amon's hand fell away from his eyes. "I just know that I should've left with him then." The scarred revolutionary fidgeted, uncomfortable. "Tarrlok in the dream ends up saying the same."
Shaking his head, Amon said, "But that is later. After Noatak—I run away and abandon Tarrlok, Yakone eventually dies. Not much is said about the mother. She was barely in it, she wasn't much of a figure, she didn't even know Yakone was training her son—'sons' in bloodbending, she never figured out that secret, she was useless, she—"
"She was long gone when you joined Tarrlok and Yakone. She was barely a figure of any importance to you. You never even met her," the Lieutenant pointed out.
Amon gave another sigh, the latest in a series of them. "And my dream reflects that." He shook his head. "I have no room to judge a dead woman I never even met."
"I don't think you've unsettled her spirit with your emotions running high," the Lieutenant said. "Is Yakone truly dead now, though?"
The Lieutenant felt his stomach sink at how stiff Amon became. "I don't know." His voice grew lower. "When I finally did leave with Tarrlok, I...I just have never seen him since then. Tarrlok never said if he knew what happened with him or not. Frankly, I didn't want to know." Amon gave a low laugh. "Foolish, isn't it?"
Eventually the Lieutenant answered, "No, not foolish."
Amon grunted. Then he continued. "In the dream, that is the end of Tarrlok's story. The Avatar says it's the saddest thing she's ever heard."
The Lieutenant barked out a laugh.
"Tarrlok explains that Noatak—I remove bending with bloodbending."
"How would that even work?"
"The dream does not specify."
"What happened to dream logic?"
"All right, there is that, but you honestly have no theories about it—?"
"Excuse me, I just woke up screaming minutes ago."
Amon managed to stay quiet a minute, back straight, before beginning, "Although—"
"See?" There was somewhat of a laugh in the Lieutenant's voice. "You are that analytical—"
"—with a combination of great knowledge of bloodbending, waterbending healing, the chakras and the pressure points, a bloodbender could possibly do that," Amon said, his voice a bit clipped and irritated.
"Anyway, the Avatar and the firebender believe exposing me as a waterbender and as lying the whole time would undermine our revolution."
"If that were true, it'd be damaging—but that wouldn't erase the problems that caused the revolution. And what about Hiroshi, there to step in?"
"And you, if need be." The Lieutenant nodded at Amon's assertion. "And there are others."
"So, what then? Does the Avatar free Tarrlok?"
"No, Tarrlok tells them to go ahead without him, in an attempt to make sure Noatak—I know nothing of their plan."
"And then the dream jumps to Asami and her team trying to take out our planes. They leave the polarbeardog behind."
"How does that go?"
"Our wireless electrical fences work very well."
The Lieutenant winced at the thought. "Asami..."
"I told Hiroshi he'd be with his daughter soon, but I'm hoping it doesn't come to that." Amon fidgeted. "She was your student, Lieutenant—"
"I wasn't her teacher under that name."
"—do you suppose she would walk blindly through a wireless fence?"
"She would wonder about it, but—"
"And she was still shocked?"
"Well, there you go. Wasn't like she was the only one."
"No, she wasn't, the rest of her team were electrocuted, too."
"Am I to assume you're going to beef up security at the air base?"
"And possibly treat even that part of this dream as a premonition?" Amon grumbled. "Maybe."
"How's the Avatar's 'genius' plan going?"
Amon scowled, but continued. "The Avatar and the firebender arrive in disguise. She makes her accusation. You wonder what nonsense this is—"
"Oh spirits, I see where this is going—"
"And I pull off my mask to show my scars to everyone. Though even those look different..."
"—or not. Huh. Seems like even in your dream Tarrlok lies."
Amon sighed. Fidgeted, again. It had been a long time since the Lieutenant had seen the younger man fidget this much.
"This makes the Avatar look rather bad in front of everyone."
The Lieutenant actually snickered at the image. "Ah, the poor wolf-lamb."
"She and the firebender try to flee—"
"—what else are they to do, none of them had really thought this plan through—"
"—didn't even entertain the possibility Tarrlok could be lying to them. Didn't Tarrlok kidnap the Avatar days ago? Did dream-her just forget all about that?"
"—apparently, now please let me finish."
The Lieutenant gave a lopsided smirk.
"Of course, go on, Sir."
His eyes crinkled, amused, as Amon started to look slightly embarrassed.
"Then I...I sound rather like a pure villain on a radio drama, the one where the bandit ties the maiden to the railroad tracks."
"Oh? How so?"
Amon actually mumbled something.
The Lieutenant couldn't hide the amusement in his voice. "What is it? Couldn't quite catch that."
"I truly don't remember it exactly, but something along the lines of, 'Leaving so soon, Avatar? You're going to miss the main event.'"
The Lieutenant blinked. "On one hand, I can see what you're getting at...but on the other hand, you really cannot turn off your voice." The older man shook his head, smirking. "I mean, what do you do? That still didn't sound half bad, though it really should've, based on the content—"
"Yes, well, after that I unveil that I do have Councilman Tenzin and his children tied up."
"...But we don't have them."
"Yes, I know, hence it being all a dream."
"But why are you dreaming that—?"
"You did suggest earlier that they would make ideal bait for the Avatar."
"You listened to that—you remembered—?"
"I always listen to you, and remember what you say. It's another matter entirely if I actually take your advice."
The Lieutenant smirked slightly. "Sorry, you seemed too distracted at the time." Then pressed Amon to continue.
"It...switches back to Asami in a cell. Hiroshi goes to see her. It—it does not go well."
"Is it exactly a private moment between them if it's all in your head?"
"It still feels like that. Suffice to say, they don't reconcile then."
"Rather hard to do when one of them's behind bars."
"You promised Hiroshi he'd see his daughter again. How exactly do you plan to do that?"
"...At least put her in a nice room. I can't see a way to avoid putting her under some form of house arrest until I knew she could be trusted, or at least wouldn't cause any harm. Or things are secure enough that she could be left alone." Amon shook his head. "It was an admittedly more emotional than rational promise. Rather...impulsive of me, actually."
"You've still got nothing on the Avatar in that regard."
Amon snorted. "Hiroshi is informed that the planes are ready. Asami and her group learn we know about Bumi's fleet and intend to attack. When Hiroshi leaves, the polarbeardog comes to free them, breaking down the metal bars."
"The planes are already taking off, but the General gives chase, actually managing to comandeer one of the planes in flight."
"And promptly crashes it into a cliff because he doesn't know how to fly it?"
"No, he manages to keep it aloft."
"Of course he does."
"He's not an instant expert with the machine—"
"He should've immediatley collided with a mountain—"
"Anyway, it is not as if he stays in the plane long. He knows how to use his firebending to fly."
Amon's voice turned rather bored. "It's all a rather thrilling sky battle, actually." Then a smile entered his voice. "At least he ends up knocking that ridiculous mask off Avatar Aang's face."
The Lieutenant rolled his eyes, but grinned. "You'll never letting that go, are you?"
"Not until Shinta and his brothers take that mask and everything down, it's undignified to desecrate that statue during a hangover."
"Least Rui in PR was able to suppress the hangover part and put an acceptable spin on it."
"It's still humilating, that's my damned mask up there! That's where I draw the line of what my mask can be used for!"
Though Amon actually ranted like a normal exasperated man, the Lieutenant sobered up, his eyes carefully observing the scars.
Amon composed himself, then continued. "Now, Asami's instant piloting of a mech tank makes more sense, as they are not unlike a Future Industries forklift, Hiroshi had advocated such accessibility—anyway, the earthbender and the polarbeardog are destroying the air strips and fighting against more mech tanks. Meanwhile, Asami is in the hangar, destroying the remaining planes with her mech tank. Hiroshi confronts her. In his own mech tank."
Amon grew very still. "They fight. They...he..."
The revolutionary leader took a shuddering breath. "He actually tries to kill her." Amon closed his eyes.
"Hiroshi would never do that," the Lieutenant reassured Amon in a firm voice. "But you did dream it—are you worried about that? Or...something else?" The Lieutenant thought of Tarrlok, adopted older brother to his leader. Still a strange thought.
"I did not wish to tear families apart over this," Amon whispered. "But it's already happening. Hiroshi and Asami aren't the only ones to pick sides over each other. I've heard of no one choosing to kill their family over this yet, but..."
The revolutionary leader bowed his head.
"It was never going to be simple," the Lieutenant murmured in a soft voice. "Hiroshi doesn't succeed in your dream, does he?"
"No, the earthbender saves her." Amon's voice was hollow. "Hiroshi does not stop of his own accord." His voice almost haltingly leveled out. "And then Asami stops her father. It's not much of a victory to cheer over," Amon softly murmured.
The Lieutenant exhaled. "And the Avatar?"
"Back at the arena, the Avatar is suitably baited by the airbender hostages—so at least in the dream, you have a point—and she and the firebender strike. They free Tenzin and his children. They separate, and I chase the Avatar and the firebender down."
Amon's voice grew lower, slower, and the Lieutenant narrowed his eyes.
"I find them. I bloodbend them. I take the Avatar's bending away. You see the whole thing."
"...So, it did go where I thought it would."
"You finding out?"
"To an extent, it seemed like a predictable radio drama. Now, is that when—?"
"Yes, you—you confronted me, like you would if this was all true, if I was a—and I had—and then I...well, I already told you what I did." Amon couldn't look at the Lieutenant. "I don't even know if I killed you in that dream."
"Did you just dream of bloodbending me because it terrifies you so much?"
Amon stared at the Lieutenant a moment, then glanced away. The older man frowned. Finally he said in a low voice, "I remember finding you left for dead in that alley, when you were just a boy."
"Teenager," Amon softly snarled back.
"Semantics. You never told me what exactly happened then, and I never pried." Amon still said nothing. "But you should know that the healer thought the damage was from bloodbending. Your friend, Song, told me the same."
"...There was no Yakone," Amon murmured, and the Lieutenant noted just how tired and dutiful his leader sounded when shoving the answer out. "There was no Yakone, and Tarrlok still—we had argued, badly, very badly, and he—I—"
Amon grinded to a halt with a shuddering breath. "There, more incentive to just remove his bending, are you happy now—?" Then his leader cut himself off. "Now that was just petulant," he growled at himself.
"Just a reminder that you are younger than me, Sir," the Lieutenant said with a small grin tugging at his lips. He was regretting this whole conversation now. But there was not turning back now. Still, he could at least drop this point, for the moment.
The Lieutenant went back to the dream. "And then? What next in the dream, Amon?"
"The firebender lightningbends at me."
The Lieutenant blinked. Long and slow. "...Aren't you bloodbending him in the dream?"
"Yes." Amon blinked, too. "I think now is a good time for another aside explaining how I could resist Tarrlok's bloodbending, despite being a nonbender."
"Getting bloodbent that many times by Tarrlok in your youth ended up making it easier for you to resist?"
"...Yes, actually. I did try to train for it, but the, ah, best practice was always the most first-hand practical experience."
Hell of a way to describe being bloodbent by the older boy you looked up to as your brother, the Lieutenant bitterly thought.
"Did that firebender have such experience with bloodbending in the dream?"
"I don't know, I barely know the boy. Perhaps?"
"I doubt it."
"Either way, he manages to resist dream-me's bloodbending—"
"Where's the Avatar in all this?"
The Lieutenant actually laughed at how put out and disappointed Amon sounded when saying, "Lying useless on the floor after her bending's removed. I hope the real one's been educated by Asami in some nonbender combat training by now at the very least."
"Some worthy opponent."
"She is a 17-year-old girl," his leader added in a low bitter voice.
"So then, what, this firebender—" the Lieutenant chuckled again "—just powered through dream-you's bloodbending, and lightningbended you through the power of love—?"
"Such a romantic—"
"Does he gallantly carry her away?"
"...Yes, damn you. Though he's more terrified than gallant."
The Lieutenant practically cackled.
"This really is Tomoe's fault, the last thing I heard from her before you made me go to bed was her inane gossip about the Avatar and Asami and those ex-probenders—!"
"Whatever you say, Sir." Amon's hands twitched, and the Lieutenant suddenly remembered how Amon would actually flip him off when he was younger and they'd argue, or when the adolescent had been particularly incensed. "So the firebender saves the damsel in distress."
Amon snorted. "He doesn't resist dream-me's bloodbending much in the second go-around. I'm about to take his own bending—"
Amon stopped suddenly, blinking bat-owlishly.
"Just...if dream me removed bending with bloodbending...couldn't he have done it at a long distance? He would understandably do it reminiscient of Avatar Aang's when putting on a show, but there would be no reason to do that at this point..."
"You're trying to apply reason to this?"
Amon grumbled, then continued. "And finally the Avatar airbends."
"...I thought you took away her bending?"
"He did, you thought he did. And so did I!" Amon plopped flat against the bed, a hand over his face. "Nothing makes sense, Lieutenant." Amon's hand lowered to cover what was left of his nose and his ruined lips. "Though I suppose since she had not reached airbending yet, that was spared when I removed her control of earth, fire, water—and it was finally triggered—"
"...By a perceived threat to her boy toy and not her airbending Sifu and his children?"
"Nothing makes sense."
"Even that attempt at an explanation as to why her airbending was spared is far fetched."
"At least I tried. After the fact. The dream itself makes no comment about it. And to just suddenly and randomly airbend, when all reports suggest she's made little to no progress at this point—"
"Spirits, she wasn't efficient at it, was she? An instant expert?"
"She was proficient enough to quell dream-me's attack. Blew that Noatak out the window. Though dream-me has thrown out every idea of chiblocking, martial arts, and nonbender combat techniques to even support his movement in favor of bloodbending the hell out of everything once the secret's out."
"Why didn't dream-you—he bloodbend the randomly airbending Avatar?"
"No...she shook it off, too? Even without her waterbending?"
"I thought bloodbending was the ultimate dealbreaker in this dream, with only equivalent waterbending as a defense against it. Now every non-waterbender is fighting it off—hell, suddenly the Avatar can resist it after how many times of being bloodbent into submission? There is no way the number of times she's been bloodbended equal the number of times you were—"
"Who's applying reason to a dream, now?"
The Lieutenant snorted.
"I'm—Noatak is blasted out, straight into the bay. And—"
Amon's eyes narrowed, and he spat out the last part. "The scars were only paint, that washes off. And to avoid drowning he actually waterbends himself out. In front of everyone. Even Quin, that graduate student."
The Lieutenant snickered. "Your secret admirer was in your dream too?"
Pinching his nose, Amon snapped, "Please don't bring that up again—"
"His crush on you?"
"He supports the movement, not me."
"If that was the case, he would've been able to hold a conversation that one time you two met, instead of shutting up and turning red and letting you do all the talking—for once awkwarldy, I might add."
"I—he was simply shy."
"Not shy when he's protesting in the park."
"I still couldn't believe that was the protestor you and the others spoke of—he seemed too quiet—"
"Only in front of you, Sir."
Amon growled, while the Lieutenant smiled.
"Noatak flees, and the Avatar doesn't pursue him," the revolutionary leader continued stiffly. But his voice lowered, "He returns for Tarrlok in the dream. Tarrlok says he should've run away with Noatak when they were boys. Noatak says they can run away now. They do, and..."
Amon's voice began to break and trail off, and the Lieutenant patiently waited. "We take a boat. It's stocked with Equalist weapons. Noatak—dream-me is driving. Tarrlok is only a passenger. He's eyeing one of the shock gloves."
"He electrocutes dream-you?"
"...He takes the glove and ignites the ship's gas, blowing us both up. I can only assume we both died."
The Lieutenant swore, and Amon looked away, hands fisting into the bed covers once more.
The older man is suddenly struck by the thought that Amon isn't telling him everything about the nightmarish murder-suicide. "Dream Tarrlok took Noatak by surprise?"
"...No, not entirely. Noatak—dream-me wept, and looked aware. But still he did nothing. Not even to save Tarrlok..."
"And do you wish to save yours?"
"Of course," Amon said in a small voice. "I have to. Despite everything, regardless of the fact that I spent so long after...after our falling out denying it, he is my brother. And he is better than what Yakone tried to make him out to be, he isn't—"
"How can you be so sure?" The Lieutenant's eyes narrowed, and Amon grew suddenly very still. "Don't you think your judgment on this could be clouded? Would we be going into this if you truly believed all of that about Tarrlok?"
Amon said nothing, and the Lieutenant took his shoulder. "It's clear enough that you really think he would kill himself if he lost his bending—"
"That wasn't why he did it in the dream—"
"The context of the dream doesn't hold out here," the Lieutenant gently reminded Amon. "Tarrlok was never your younger brother, he was your elder. He never refused Yakone's order to bloodbend you. This is about what that dream meant. And I'm fairly certain it was about your fear of a suicidal Tarrlok. Even one driven to murder you, his own brother."
Amon shook off the Lieutenant's hand, looking away and growling out, "The last time we actually spoke, he practically disowned me." His voice lowered. "But I still...still am a fool for considering him family and wishing to spare him, help him—"
The revolutionary leader stopped, swinging out his legs from the bed so that they now touched the wood floor.
The Lieutenant asked, "Was that the end of the dream. You two died?"
Amon actually groaned. "No, it was not."
The Lieutenant moved to make room for Amon as he lowered himself back on the bed, though now half of him lay on it, his feet still touching the floor.
"The Avatar and all her friends just up and leave Republic City to go to the South Pole for Master Katara's help in regaining bending."
"...What about Republic City? Weren't our Equalists still in control and dream-you ousted as their leader?"
"I have no idea, the dream makes no comment on it, none of its players do. I suppose the combined absence of Hiroshi, you and myself was enough, but I just—nothing makes sense."
"This is what happens when you don't sleep for a week, Sir. I'm just thankful you didn't see that polarbeardog didn't break out into song."
"That would've been better."
"Now, I'm guessing Master Katara can randomly fix everything."
"I'm actually impressed."
"The Avatar can still airbend, but remains horribly distraught over losing the rest of her bending."
The Lieutenant sneered. "She's quite the hopeless wretch in your dream, isn't she?"
"Intelligence indicates bending is all they trained the Avatar in since she was four," Amon softly murmured. "I imagine her priorities are even more skewed than other benders.'"
The older man sneered again. "Other benders act like the living dead just as much, think they actually are lesser without their bending—spirits, what they must really think of us—"
"The Avatar wishes to be alone, but the firebender follows her."
"No sense of personal space for that one."
The Lieutenant's eyes widened as Amon finally snapped and flipped him off.
The older man cackled. "I haven't seen you do that since you were a boy—excuse me, a teenager—"
"The Avatar—the girl refuses him—"
"Because the last time she checked, the firebender was involved with Asami?"
"No, because she is no longer the Avatar. Her self-worth is that corrupted."
"And her awareness of Asami is apparently nonexistent."
"The girl—Korra runs off. She stands on a cliff side."
"...Spirits, another suicide—?"
"It was implied, but it doesn't happen. Avatar Aang finally shows up."
"How? What did the Avatar—the girl do? Was she meditating on that cliff face, I thought you said she was just standing—"
"She was. She was just standing. Crying."
"I'm really not sure. Avatar Aang just says she connected with her spiritual side when she was at her lowest point, as she was open to the most change then."
"...Being left with one out of four bending disciplines, apparently defeating all your enemies, and having a firebender admirer admit he wants you—all of that constitutes as her lowest point?"
"I don't get it either."
"Where does Avatar Aang get off calling that her lowest point? All the historical texts suggest he went through a hell of a lot more to get to his 'lowest point—'"
"That's not all."
"What else—no. No."
"...Yes, he returns her bending."
"No, that's just—he returns it to her, just like that?"
"She gives up, she cries, she does nothing, and Avatar Aang just shows up and returns her bending? Just like that?"
"Apparently. She enters a pitiful looking Avatar State that does no justice to the descriptions of Avatar Aang's in the history books. The firebender realizes she can bend again, they're sappy romantic cheats, and then the Avatar returns bending to presumably everyone who was cleansed, including the Chief of Police."
"So much for her 'Heroic Sacrifice' and defiance."
"I think the dream already negated that when it had us succeed in capturing the airbenders she was trying to help escape."
"Well, the Chief thanks the Avatar. Councilman Tenzin expresses pride in her. And then—"
Amon shuddered. Tried to spit out mechanically, "I'm flooded with images of Tarrlok burning alive in the explosion, and back to bloodbending you, but longer, prolonging it, breaking you and then throwing you away and—and—and then that's when you woke me up."
"Now what do you think I should do about Tarrlok?"
The Lieutenant glanced to the pocket watch on the bedside table. "Another 30 minutes until that thing goes off and lets you know Tarrlok needs to be chiblocked again."
Amon slowly nodded, hesitant, silently questioning. The Lieutenant sighed, shook his head. Then he stared straight into Amon's eyes. "You have it under control? This constant chiblocking?"
"Yes, he won't bend again under my watch. And I could make that more...permanent, as you know."
"As long as you've got it under control, there's no need. For the moment."
Amon stared at his Lieutenant, before bowing his head, acknowledging.
The Lieutenant sighed. "You're not going back to sleep are you?"
"Not tonight," Amon murmured as he opened the drawer and took out his mask. "Will you?"
"Not if you aren't." Was that the Lieutenant's vain attempt to get him to try for sleep again? But the older man knew and understood that Amon rarely went straight back to sleep after a nightmare.
"Spar with me, then?"
The Lieutenant blinked at his leader, quickly getting dressed. His voice hadn't been completely composed, letting the hopefulness leak out. He sounded so young. He's not even 30 yet, the Lieutenant reminded himself.
"Sure," the Lieutenant shrugged, just as Amon fitted the mask back on and turned back to look at him, ready.
A/N: Ah hah, I think I just also did Amon & Lieutenant fic in bed without any sexytimes, not even cuddling. I think that's a first in the fandom. Quite a few references to my other fic: Rui the PR Equalist first showed up in "multiple designs," though that fic is slightly out of continuity with this one. For more info in a narrative format on Amon and Tarrlok's background with Yakone, check out my "Misbegotten Sons", though it turns out of continuity with this fic come part 3. The Protestor Guy's name is based on his VA's. It's my headcanon that an icognito Lieutenant was one of Asami's self-defense teachers. The Lieutenant channels "BRAVE's" Merida in the wolf-lamb line ("BRAVE" was fun!).
For fun, he's behind-the-scenes brainstorming I kept saved, originally in an 'ask' to pteropus717:
Since it is partly cracky, I totally want a gag with Amon saying that nothing made sense and the Lieutenant pointing out that it's all dream logic, of course it doesn't make sense. And just more crack with Amon and Lt. actually commenting on the finale through the lens of examining the weirder aspects of his dream besides the Nightmare Fuel. I love exploring Amon's more human side; I could see as the revolution gets more tense, the stress is starting to pile up, he's losing it. tbc in ask 2
I like having the Lt. as older than Amon, and looking after him in his own way, especially with Amon being preoccupied with making himself more of an Idea for the cause, and the Lt. trying to remind him that he's still human and needs food/sleep/etc. still. LOL, my fanon got so deep, I was able to see Amon all the time as Tarrlok's adopted younger brother...but pretty much just that. Hard for me to accept canon. YES I love Equalists-as-dysfuntional-family! I'd love to see Amon/Lieu scenes~