I said Friday, and here we are. Here it is. Because I think it helps the flow, chapters here will be two combined of the ones I wrote on tumblr, also edited, tweaked a little. As one last note, I wrote a different Amon in this fic than I did in my other fic. This Amon is less unstable. (I think it's one of the best things about him as a character, that he's so mysterious that there's all this room for headcanons and interpretations.)
Without further ado, LET'S AMORRALOK SHIT UP
Korra heard Tarrlok moving outside; he'd gone up half the stairs and then come back down to pace. For hours. It was grating on her nerves, and she had bitten her tongue at least once to stop herself shouting at him. She was bad at being patient, though, and sooner or later she was going to snap, and then he'd have something to worry about.
A door crashed open upstairs, and Korra shot up so fast that she hit her head with a loud clang. "Ow!" she said, rubbing at her head. "Ow."
"Be quiet," Tarrlok snapped, sounding… afraid? Korra perked up. Maybe it was Tenzin and the others! They'd already found her! She opened her mouth to shout for them—and then the cage was opening, opening up, and proper light was falling across her face. She blinked, blinded by it, and when the dots cleared she was looking up into Tarrlok's face. "Get out," he said, tense. "It's Amon."
Korra's stomach seemed to fall bodily out of her, the swooping feeling in her belly acutely uncomfortable. "No," she said distantly, incredibly. "It can't be." Tarrlok sneered at her, straightening his clothes compulsively—he was nervous too, she noticed, oh good—and turned away, standing in a smooth, powerful waterbending stance.
"It is. Get ready to fight. I let you out for a reason, Avatar."
The door to the basement crashed open, and Korra looked up sickly to see him standing in it, haloed by the light. "The Avatar and Councilman Tarrlok. Odd company," Amon remarked, sounding very dryly entertained. Turning to the Equalists, he said, "I'll take care of him. Deal with the Avatar. Do not underestimate her." Korra looked around urgently. This was too close, this place. There was no space to fight, she had no water. She had to get away. Run. Her pride protested, and she quashed it. There was no time for pride here.
As the Equalists came down the stairs, Korra hissed "Jump" to Tarrlok; she should at least warn him, even if he was a turd. He turned to her, looking irritated and arrogant and exasperated.
"Do what—?" he began, and then Korra brought down her foot as hard as she could on the packed earth underneath her to send the floor bucking and rippling. The stairs groaned and twisted sideways, and she hoped that she'd sent Amon flying but didn't wait to find out. She didn't look for Tarrlok either, running blindly.
It was freezing outside; the wind whistled over her skin. Blind panic ricocheted through her, making her stumble, propelling her onwards although her legs began instantly to burn painfully with anxiety. Her ears strained for the sound of footsteps. Nothing. Nothing. She hoped, with every fibre of her being, but the growing voice of fear told her she wasn't going to be so lucky. Everything hurt. She couldn't stop. She had to keep going, keep going. If she stopped she was lost.
Something that sounded like thunder echoed behind her, and Korra made the mistake of turning, craning her neck to see. Instantly, her legs buckled underneath her and she fell, tumbling headlong down the snowy hill. She crashed, her skin ripping and tearing with impact as she hit things—things that felt like rocks, trees, a whole mountain—and ground to a halt. Weakly, determined, she pulled herself to her feet, to see what looked like an avalanche coming down the hill at her. She felt the blood drain out of her head with shock, stumbled again and fell against the tree. An avalanche.
Korra breathed in to steady herself, and raised her arms to bend. She could survive an avalanche. There were stories. It had been done. By masters, something whispered to her. She refused to listen. No, no, she was not going to die alone on this hill, it was not going to happen, it couldn't. As it came closer, she saw something in the middle. She squinted, distracted momentarily by surprise, and saw a human being in there—Amon? For a moment, she couldn't reconcile the image; was he trying to outrun the avalanche? Surely not. He couldn't be that fast—
She looked closer, arms dropping to her side in shock. He was bending the snow. He wasn't outrunning the avalanche—he was making it. Amon was a bender—that wasn't possible, though—but she was seeing it right in front of her, and now damn, the avalanche was on her and she was without protection—
Her body moved automatically, snapping into autopilot, and she decided to run again. A normal person wouldn't have a hope, but if she propelled herself forward… Bending the snow around her feet, Korra skidded off. She could make ice—but what if she slipped, no, not a good idea, better to go on this way, push herself on—but he was gaining on her. Taking in the freezing air had become painful at some point, and she wheezed, nearly choking on her own spit in panic. With a moment of dreadful simplicity, she knew that she'd lost, and the avalanche came down on her head.
She was knocked explosively off her feet and the snow beat down on her. If she cried out, it was utterly lost amongst the roaring, and she choked, and she gave herself over to abject panic, knowing that she was screaming and unable to hear it. She wouldn't die here, killed by Amon—a waterbender—and then everything became still and she could hear herself, shrieking like a child. She was abruptly cut off when a hole was punched above her, the snow around her becoming compact and icy to hold her like a cocoon.
Korra looked up into Amon's masked visage, and her throat went dry. "You," she croaked, hoarse from screaming. "You're a… a waterbender, you've been lying—" Halted by a fit of painful coughing, she bent over with the pain in her chest. "Lying all this time," she managed to gasp, "lying to everyone—"
"Be quiet," he said, his voice still and calm. "I assume you recognise that this time, there will be no getting away, unless you consider dying here a victory."
"You're not going to leave me here," she said, nearly throwing herself to her feet in panic and abruptly collapsing again. Calm down, she told herself. Breathe. You can't think like this. Be smart. You can't outfight him like this, so be smart. "You wouldn't leave me here," she added, sounding a little less frightened.
"I could," he said simply, nearly bored. That had to be an act. Being so casual about a major block to his plans didn't fit, somehow. He was trying to scare her. "But I'm not going to. No, you'd make a much better hostage." Korra shivered, remembering Tarrlok's words about taking her as a hostage. She almost preferred that to this—maybe with Tarrlok, she would have had a chance of escaping, but with all the Equalists—calm down, she repeated to herself. You can freak out later. "Don't fight. It would be pointless." She glared up at him, and considered spitting. She discarded that as a bad idea. Spitting upwards would mean basically spitting on herself. It could wait.
Without warning, the snow underneath her rose, propelling her violently up through the hole—her left shoulder hitting the snow, compacted hard as rock—into the dim light of the forest. Amon looked utterly unruffled by the chase, to her disgust. She was in an awful state, her hair half out of its arrangement, clothes ripped and skin torn in places by her fall. Abruptly, while she was glumly considering her appearance, he leapt forward and stabbed at her with his hands, violently jabbing points on her body. Korra knew what had happened, but tried anyway; her bending was gone.
Roughly, he grabbed her arm and began to drag her along with him. "Hey," she protested, feeling the tiredness course through her, the result of all the adrenaline kicking in, "hey, I can walk by myself!" He would actually pull her over if this continued, she thought, definitely not going to say that. She could not handle falling on her butt in front of someone who terrified her. It would just be… too humiliating.
"I am aware of that," he said. "This simplifies things, however." Korra's legs nearly buckled underneath her with tiredness, at the pace he was setting, and she growled impatiently at her own weakness. "Be quiet," he repeated, sounding as if he was being pushed towards somewhere that it would be better not to push, and Korra made sure that any stumbles after those were quieter. When she fell to her knees, gasping with the pain and the frustration and the irritation, tears building in her eyes, he stopped. She blinked rapidly, trying to clear the tears and be defiant and strong. He looked down at her, utterly impassive in the mask, and exhaled. Just that noise put her on edge. It was a noise that spoke of patience reaching limits, attempts to keep calm. Korra made an attempt to get back to her feet, proud, and fell straight back down, cursing. His grip on her arm remained bruising, and yanked her already injured shoulder agonisingly.
Amon exhaled long and hard, and picked her bodily up, throwing her over his shoulders. "Hey!" she said, shocked out of her reticence. "Hey, stop it! I can walk—I will walk—put me down." She petered out tearfully, swallowing to keep her composure, fragmented and tattered as it was.
"I will render you unconscious if you can't be quiet," he said, and she shut her mouth mutinously. "If you can't walk so that we'll be back before tomorrow, then I will carry you, unless you genuinely wish to die out here." It was excruciatingly uncomfortable riding along over his shoulders; his shoulder pads digging into her, and his hands holding on too tightly. Her head bobbed merrily along, all the blood rushing giddily into her extremities. Now that she'd stopped moving she simply felt awful, and every step of the walk back—however much faster it admittedly was—jolted through what felt like her very bones.
When they at last arrived back at the house in the woods, she was ready to faint, or ready to fall asleep and never wake up and maybe this would all be a nightmare. The expression of the Lieutenant, though, obscenely pleased to see her trussed up like some animal for a roast, was too… hurtful to have dreamt up. Korra would never have dreamed of that expression being on somebody's face. Sure, she'd never liked him and she sure as hell didn't care about him, but it was… uncomfortable seeing someone else be that pleased about her being beaten up.
Amon dropped Korra to the ground, and she curled into a ball there, trying to make herself as small as possible. Conversation occurred, somewhere over her head; she heard none of it. Hands lifted her up and the ground swooped out from underneath her, the stars cascading over her like a waterfall. She was tired. She wanted to go home, but the hands that held her were cruel and they lifted her as if they were holding a child, swinging her around with abandon. A clang startled her out of some of the fatigued stupor, and she blinked, clearing the fog. It was a van, an armoured van, and they were putting her into it.
"No," she said weakly, and "no" again. She was ignored utterly, and carelessly thrown into the back. The floor was smooth and polished and Korra skidded across it, unable to stop herself, until she hit something relatively soft. There was a grunt, echoing oddly around the tiny space, and then the doors closed with a forbidding slam and the van began to move.
"So you didn't get away," Tarrlok said, sounding just as tired as she felt, but strangely pleased. "Good. You don't deserve to get away scot-free. Good." Korra didn't say anything. She stared at the walls. Metal. That wasn't a weapon. Korra had never learned how to metalbend—and, oh, she was forgetting that he'd blocked her chi paths anyway. There was no way that she could bend at the moment. Why hadn't he taken her bending away? she wondered helplessly. In that moment, he could have; she'd been utterly incapacitated. Why hadn't he done it? Had Tarrlok had his bending taken away? She glanced at Tarrlok, and realised with a jolt that she was still lying against him, and then it instantly became deathly uncomfortable and she had to move right then.
Feebly, Korra flopped about a little. She hadn't really gone anywhere. Not too discouraged, she tried again, but it was as if all the energy in her had gone, completely spent. She was limp as a noodle, with no power in any of her muscles. But this was horrible and strange, lying this close to a human being that she was fairly sure she loathed, or at least really really didn't like. She'd never been this close to anyone, really, not for an extended period of time, and Tarrlok… he was about forty!
Glumly, Korra realised that she was just going to have to deal with it. One last try—wasn't going to get her anywhere—and then she'd give up the ghost and accept her lot. Just one last try. This time, she flopped slightly more energetically, but went no further. In any case, the van turned a corner at the moment and she slid right back with a grunt of irritation to hit Tarrlok again. "Stop wiggling," he said irritably, and she considered with horror what she might be doing by wiggling about. She stopped, scowling, blushing hideously profusely, and grumpily tried to accept her lot. She wasn't very good at it.
It wasn't long before the doors were opening again, and someone laughed coarsely—some man that Korra didn't know—and hands were pulling her forward again. "The Avatar and the Councilman got a bit cosy," he called to someone Korra couldn't see, her head lolling back, and that person laughed as well. "Where am I going with this?" This, she thought, unable to hide her dismay. That person thought of her as an object; she'd been demoted even from Avatar, a function, to… a thing. They were probably going to throw her straight into prison and let her rot there. Uneasily, she remembered Katara's tale about Hama, and the days of the brutality of the Imperial Fire Nation; this didn't seem like it was going to be much better.
"I'll take them both," Amon said, that smooth, deep voice sending shivers up her spine. "They will be my private responsibility."
"You sure?" the Lieutenant called, sounding further off. Korra was tired of not being able to see anything, and tried to push forward. Instead she simply fell, only supported by the arms of the man holding her up, and hit the floor with a resounding thud. Muffled laughter greeted this, quiet and smothered, and she burned with indignation.
"I'm sure." She was being passed from person to person. "If you could help me transporting the Councilman, however, I'd be grateful." He was slightly less… high with these people, less grand. It was odd. She'd never really thought of him as a person, but here he was having conversations with people, not big speeches, and… ugh, it was too strange. She didn't like it. She'd rather that he remained the mask.
Tarrlok didn't protest either; they had both temporarily given up their dignity. There was no point in fighting for it. Their enemies had too much power at the moment to even try something.
It was dark, wherever they were, lamps shining out the only light from the walls. They moved through pools of brightness into the shade again, and the rhythm nearly lulled Korra to sleep. She was so tired. Was she ever going to see home again? No, no, she couldn't cry right now, she couldn't afford to think of that. Think of… nice things. Or at least, pleasant things. Things that weren't here and now and this situation.
When the door juddered open, she was jerked out what must have been a dizzy, dull doze. She tried to squint ahead, but it was dark—and when somebody flicked a light on, it was suddenly too bright. She turned her head away, blinking to dispel the dots dancing in front of her eyes. Amon moved forwards again, and then she was being dropped altogether down—support disappeared for a moment, and she fell through the air, arms flailing out for help, one hitting him—onto something… soft-ish. A bed? It was a bed, she realised, spreading her hands weakly across it. Amon was already moving away, and she watched him go sleepily, to stand in the middle of the room. The Lieutenant was dumping Tarrlok across the room, with considerably more contempt, onto another bed.
Korra looked from one side of the room to the other, mouth open in dismay. "You can't leave me here with him," she protested, voice thin and cracking like a little girl's.
"The prison cells are always open," the Lieutenant said viciously, and she turned away. That face, so full of loathing, was too hard to look at.
"You may leave," Amon said evenly to him. "My thanks." Grumbling under his breath, the Lieutenant—did he even have a name?—departed with dark looks at both of them. Tarrlok had moved to sit up with some presence on his bed, staring calmly at Amon. He'd regained some of his composure, it seemed. "You will both remain here until I see fit," their captor said quite coolly. "Fighting will be punished. Damage to the premises is frowned upon. Behave, and you may see conditions improve."
"What are you keeping us here for?" Korra burst out with, flinging herself up to sitting and regretting it instantly by the way that her head swum. "What are you doing—with him—I can't stay with him!"
Amon ignored her totally. "There is a bathroom through that door," he continued, pointing to a small door set between the beds in the otherwise fairly empty room. "Please use it. You are both in appalling condition."
"I'm not taking any baths while I'm sharing a room with him!" Korra cried. "Put me in a prison cell. See if I care! I'm not sharing a room with him."
"Flattered, to be sure," Tarrlok said dryly, quietly, and she glared at him.
"Shut up," she snapped viciously. "This is all your fault, and you know it."
"I seem to recall that you were the one who attacked me."
"You arrested my friends!"
Amon cut through their bickering like a parent with squabbling children. "Do you object so much, Avatar?"
"Yes," Korra said, her mouth set in a mulish line. "I do. Throw me in prison, I don't care."
"Don't be foolish," Tarrlok warned her cautiously. She simply threw him a loathing glare, and crossed her arms mutinously across her chest.
"Regrettably for you, I would prefer to keep a close eye on the both of you. You will not be moving out of this room. Attempt to co-exist, at the very least. Fighting will be punished." He stood there, almost bored, definitely sounding it, patronising and spouting nonsense at her. Korra scowled. She wasn't staying with Tarrlok.
"I can't share a bathroom with him, though," she said, clutching at straws. "I can't."
"Why?" Amon inquired, turning towards her. It was curious; even though she couldn't his face, the force of his gaze was almost a physical thing. "Is it your modesty? Are you so squeamish?" Korra nodded stubbornly. She could have sworn that she heard a sigh, and waited, on edge, for his retribution. "I don't have time for these childish games," he said eventually, irritation clearly coming through in his tone. "Is this something you're absolutely unwilling to bear?" She nodded again, more rigorously. "Very well, then."
He strode across the room and Korra squawked, undignified, in surprise. "I told you not to be foolish," Tarrlok murmured, sounding merely exasperated, as Amon physically dragged her into the next room.
"Hey! What are you doing? Let me go! Hey!" Korra sputtered, weak legs nearly giving out entirely. She was too tired, way too panicked and frightened out of her mind but filtering it through cockiness so that she wasn't screaming her head off at the fact that Amon had his hand locked around her arm— The sound of water started up, and she had a second to look around in confusion before she was pushed firmly into a stream of freezing cold water. Korra shrieked, and babbled incoherent things, probably swearing uncontrollably, trying to get away once more. Amon's hands held her there, until in her panic she managed to inhale some of the water and turned to coughing violently, the fight going out of her. The water became even colder, and Korra stood there, sopping, keeping herself up only through sheer force of will.
He kept her there for minutes under the water, until she was soaked, and then turned it off. She was frozen, shivering, when he yanked her back out again. He dragged her back into the other room, where Tarrlok remained sitting upright on his bed with only a mildly curious, smooth expression—politician, Korra thought, channelling loathing into that word—and once again she was being shoved back down.
Korra sat on the bed, stunned into silence, painfully cold and tired. "Modesty is a luxury," Amon said softly, threateningly, his voice reverberating through her. "Are you able to bear the indignity of sharing a bathroom?" Slowly, burning with anger and pride, Korra made herself nod. She swallowed to try and make it go down easier. "Good," he said, and the shiver that ran through her was nothing to do with the cold. She was so tired of being afraid of him. He… terrified her, the very thought of him as well as the physical reality. "Goodbye." And he walked out of the room, shutting the door with a dull click that must be a lock bolting them in.
"Well," Tarrlok mused, breaking the silence and sounding remarkably calm, "It could be worse." Korra looked over at him, ready to cry, furious and frightened and physically exhausted.
"How could it be worse?" she asked through gritted teeth, imagining kicking him in the groin.
"Could be bunk-beds."
Korra was going to go round the bend sometime soon. The tedium didn't seem to be getting to him, lying on his bed with his hands behind his head, legs crossed casually. He kept humming, utterly tunelessly. Korra hated humming. Tarrlok was unbearable to begin with. Together the two made one painful combo, and all she wanted to do was sleep.
She must have drifted off, because she found herself jerking awake as the door opened to reveal an elderly man, who bowed shallowly and straightened up to look right ahead, avoiding eye contact with either of them. "Councilman Tarrlok and Avatar Korra," he announced, "you will be dining with Amon tonight."
"What," Korra said flatly, sitting up.
She was ignored. "These clothes are provided for you. Our leader said"—he hesitated—"those who are unclean won't be eating." Studiously looking at the floor, he neatly dropped two different sets of clothing onto the bed. Korra stared at them.
"But how can he eat with us without taking off the mask—?" she began irritably, cut off abruptly by the servant.
"You have roughly two hours," he said, bowing again and hurrying from the room as if he could bear to be there no longer. Korra threw her clothing at the closing door in a petulant huff, and turned to Tarrlok to see if he thought this was as ridiculous as she did. He was still lying there, not having moved at all, the only change a slightly more thoughtful expression. Then he caught her gaze and she looked away instantly, crossing her arms.
"Well," he announced, making her jump—he'd been so quiet this whole time—"if you don't mind, I'll be taking the shower first." She looked back up again, her mouth open. He got to his feet with ease, rolling elegantly off the bed to pad across the floor. Korra shifted back automatically, her distrust wrestling with disbelief as to whether she wanted to engage with him at all or whether she was going to ask him what the hell he thought he was doing. Disbelief won, and she scooted back forwards again—didn't want him thinking that she was afraid of him, after all—to perch on the edge of the bed.
"You can't be serious," she said shortly.
Tarrlok looked back at her as he opened the door to the bathroom, shrugging. "I, for one, feel revolting in what I'm wearing currently. If you want to stay in your own filth, if that makes you happy, then you do that. I am going to shower and turn up looking my best. Clothes can be as good as armour. Not that you'd know that, with what you wear…" He began to take off his jacket, and Korra struggled with her options again, this time between protesting or remaining quiet. Modesty is a luxury, Amon's voice echoed in her head, and she sank down onto the covers, grumbling all she wanted inside her own mind where nobody could tell her off. Tarrlok threw the jacket back onto his bed, where it slid slowly off the floor, and Korra stared at the carpet pattern.
Don't look, she told herself as the noises of rustling fabric echoed around the room. Don't look, don't look don't look aaaargh you looked. She had glanced over just in time to see him taking off his shirt and aaaargh he was way too in-shape for someone way older than she was—her gaze flitted over his back, muscles shifting smoothly—she was only trying to know her enemy, it was perfectly natural to want to know how strong he was so that she could fight him—but oh whoa he was in-shape. Even she didn't have muscles that defined—
He had turned to face her with an expression that she was fairly sure was purely dodgy. She herself had no way of telling because she was currently fixated on the floor, her face burning red. Wasn't he about double her age? Okay, he was muscled, it was understandable that she'd be kind of hypnotised by that because she didn't see that many shirtless men ever in the South Pole, it had just surprised her—she hadn't even seen Mako shirtless, not really—and she was tired anyway, she wasn't feeling well. Yeah. That was about right. It was all fine.
"If you stare," he drawled, opening the door to the shower and interrupting her internal monologue, "am I allowed to stare back?"
"No," she snapped, all her calm forgotten. He shrugged, and she threw herself onto her front, burying her head into the pillow. The shower started up, and she felt safe to sit up again, only to catch sight of the door still open with a full view into the bathroom—
Growling underneath her breath, she got up and stomped across the room to shut the door with a resounding slam. Listening out to hear something in reply—a yelp, a laugh, a shout—she deduced that it was safe and no retribution would be coming, and lay down to try and meditate. There was nothing else to do in this place. She actually made some process, trying to clear her mind and calm herself down, establish a cool centre to draw on in moments of temper, until the door to the bathroom banged open again against the wall and Tarrlok emerged.
His chest was hairy, she observed—totally clinically, absolutely impartially—and then she grabbed her change of clothing from where it lay discarded and fled into the steamed up ensuite, slamming the door once more.
The clothes were all right, nothing too awful in terms of aesthetics—frills, lace, ruffles were absent—but they were uncomfortable, and that was Korra's major criterion when it came to clothing. She sat bolt upright in a folding chair that she'd unearthed from below the bed, attempting to meditate and failing miserably. It was a little too tight around the chest, which meant that she was having some trouble breathing. It did cover everything, which she was glad for, but it was clearly made for somebody with a much lesser bust.
It was Water Tribe apparel, which she found puzzling but did appreciate at least a little; Tarrlok too was wearing fancy Water Tribe clothing, Northern-style for the both of them. She wouldn't have expected that, though. Perhaps at best she would have expected Amon or the person who had chosen—she didn't think that he had done it personally, somehow—the sort of fusion style that the people of Republic City wore, the mixing and matching of colours and patterns. Being given something that was nearly her own culture was thoughtful on a level that seemed odd.
She was ready to ricochet off the walls by the time someone came to collect them, ready to knock out that man and flee regardless of not knowing the location or what she was going to do at all. To her disappointment, it was not the servant at the door but a group of Equalists; one warned her not to move, and blocked her chi before she could have even actually started forwards. Okay, she wasn't going to be running around without her bending, that didn't seem at all clever. For now, she subsided, grumbling, and shuffled along in the middle of their guard. Tarrlok offered her his arm. She sniffed and turned away with her nose in the air, and saw him shrug to himself out of the corner of her eye. He was still trying to get them to be allies. She wasn't ready to be his ally any time soon. He was a stinking pile of dung that had kidnapped her and nearly whisked her away altogether.
They were ushered through a grand pair of doors, wide open to reveal a relatively simple but well decorated dining room beyond. The table must be worth a fortune, she noted, looking over the carvings. That was good, careful work. Where had he got it? It was long, probably intended to sit a generous number of people, set only for three places. Two were roughly halfway down, facing each other, empty, and the third was at the very head of the table—occupied by Amon.
Korra's question about his mask was answered; he had swapped it for a different one, which covered the majority of his face but left his mouth, only his mouth, open to the air. That mouth was currently curled into a small smile as Tarrlok came to a graceful halt and Korra stumbled over her skirts. She glared at him, heart hammering in her chest. You're not afraid, she told herself, and then when it became apparent that that was a silly lie, she added, it's okay to be scared. They waited on his whim, and Korra tried to breathe more deeply. She didn't think it was possible but she was irrationally determined that he wouldn't hear her pulse, so irregular and speedy, signalling her discomfort.
"Please, sit," he said, after a moment that felt far too long. Korra stumbled again, this time over Tarrlok on her way to the table.
"Do you mind?" she hissed, forgetting herself for a moment in sheer irritation. He glowered back at her and she nearly, nearly stuck out her tongue until she remembered where she was, and who was sitting up at the end of the table. Instead, she sat down with her best attempt at demureness, smoothing out imaginary crinkles in her skirts and looking at the place set for her. The chopsticks weren't the disposable sort you got in the street; these looked expensive, and her sense that this was all far too strange and off-kilter grew.
The Equalists departed at a glance from Amon, one splitting off to go in a different direction, and Korra watched them with her heart sinking further in her chest. She'd rather have that chase all over again than this, this weird faux politeness where they all had to sit around awkwardly and eat dinner together. Still, she thought as her stomach rumbled, at least he was feeding them. She was hungry from all the exhaustion of the chase.
"I see that you're still not getting along," Amon remarked, breaking the silence so suddenly that Korra jumped. "I would have thought that allying would be more to your advantage, but it is amusing that you remain at each other's throats…" Korra sat, more and more ill at ease, twisting her hands in her lap. Tarrlok was sitting perfectly still, she saw with a glance, poised and polite as if he were at a public party, paying careful attention to their host. "As long as there's no damage to property, snipe at each other all you want. Preferably not over dinner, however…"
"What are you doing?" Korra blurted out before she could think it through, clapping her hands over her face as soon as the words had left it.
He turned his head in her direction, that mouth slowly curling into a sardonically amused smile. "Living dangerously," he said ironically, taking a sip from his glass. The wine looked like blood for a moment, oddly thin blood coursing around the rim of the glass. "Living dangerously," he repeated more quietly, more thoughtfully. Korra glanced over at Tarrlok to see how he was taking this and saw him frowning ever so slightly, leaning over the table. Then he shook his head and settled back again, expression resolving into that politely interested façade.
Thankfully, at that moment the food arrived and Korra dug into it with gusto, glad to have something with which to distract herself. Tarrlok looked repulsed at her behaviour; she scowled at him and made sure to eat even more enthusiastically. She didn't look at Amon, not sure that she wanted to know how he would react to her appalling table manners, and not really caring either way.
The downside to her prodigious appetite was that she finished far too early and sat there with nothing to do, staring hollowly at her absolutely empty bowl. It had been nice, she knew that much… but what had it actually been? She wasn't sure that she'd even registered what it was, not really tasted it. In fact, she felt faintly queasy now. She couldn't tell if it was the company or if it was that she'd just bolted a generous portion in roughly a minute. Korra bit her lip for a moment, then discarded it as a nervous tic—she couldn't look afraid, even if she was—and focused on her breathing instead.
"So," Tarrlok said conversationally, breaking the silence, "do you have any plans as far as we're concerned? I assume you won't be leaving us to rot after going to all the effort of capturing two… extremely high profile individuals." Korra heard the threat in there; not their threat, locked up and pretty much harmless, but the general, looming menace of their respective friends and allies. She blinked once, twice, three times in quick succession, powerfully curious about how Amon was going to react but so nervous about what he might do...
The strange, aloof man at the end of the table put down his chopsticks slowly, and Korra tensed. Was he getting ready to fight? When he spoke, however, his voice was just as smooth and calm as it ever was, very little emotion present at all. "Unfortunately for you," he replied, picking his chopsticks back up after a moment of reflection and taking a delicate bite of his food, "your friends are under the impression that your disappearances are linked, and nothing to do with the Equalists. A group led by the airbending master and Bei Fong broke into a base some time earlier, before you came into my custody, and are convinced that the Councilman is solely responsible for the Avatar's disappearance. Disappointing, I'm sure, but it means that rescue will not be coming any time soon." He smiled, smaller and more satisfied. It was incredibly disconcerting to see that there really was a man behind the mask, one who ate and smiled; one who had a sense of humour.
"You don't know them," Korra said, more quiet and less brash than she had been. "They'll find me. They won't stop until they find me."
"We'll see," Amon said, in a denigrating tone that told her exactly what he thought of that.
Tarrlok tried again. "I have money, you know." He leaned forward, trying to engage Amon. The other man didn't look away from Korra. She wished that he would. That tiny, pleased smile was really beginning to grate on her nerves. "I could pay you a hefty sum to release me. No reprisal, better laws for non-benders—I could repeal the curfew, for example. I have power. I can bring you what you want, if you let me go." His expression was far too earnest and ingratiating to be real.
"I don't want your money," Amon said, exhaling heavily. "It's not your power that I'm interested in, either."
"What is it, then?" Korra asked, fiddling with a napkin, shredding it underneath the table so that tiny flakes of tissue dropped around her legs like snow. "What do you want?"
"For now, that's private. Perhaps in some time, when I feel that you're… ready." Well, that sounded ominous. Korra made a face down at her lap. Abruptly, Amon rose from his seat, the chair shooting back against the wall. Tarrlok barely stirred, but Korra jumped again. "Stay for desert if you want," Amon muttered. "Perhaps—another time." He strode from the room, pushing through the double doors with an impressive sweep of his arms.
The silence that settled over the room was thick and thoughtful. Korra wondered, with curiosity so powerful that it was a physical ache, what on earth had made Amon suddenly disappear like that—if her friends really were chasing after a completely false lead—whether Tarrlok was at all trustworthy as an ally, if she should even consider it for her own wellbeing—
"Well, if there's desert we may as well as stay for it," Tarrlok said with an amicable, utterly false grin.
Korra woke from her sleep feeling uneasy again. Something had woken her. She didn't know what it was, but she knew being jerked from slumber; this wasn't a natural awakening. Then the groan echoed around for a second time—that was the sound that had woken her—and she sat bolt upright. Was someone else in here? Were they trying to frighten her? Just that noise had sent shivers over her—what was it?
A roar shattered the uncomfortable stillness—a guttural scream. Korra cried out, the sound ripped from her in shock, and rocked to her feet. Her hands outstretched automatically, ready to punch holes in anything that threatened her, and then she realised that the noises were coming from Tarrlok's side of the room. Breathing hard, hard, hard, she untangled herself from her sheets and crept over in the dark. They had turned off the lights after they'd agreed to go to sleep, their first mutual decision without a fight—
Something dealt a powerful blow to her knee, and her legs went out from underneath her. She stifled curses, sure that that had been Tarrlok flailing—if this was all a joke then she was going to kill him, fighting punished be damned. Somehow, though, she didn't… she didn't think that this was a joke. He sounded… afraid, primally and childishly frightened. That was an infant speaking with the voice of a man. She shuddered as he began groaning again, and words emerged out of the mess of sound.
"No," he said, "…nooo," breath rattling in his chest. He must be thrashing about judging by the ripping that was coming from his general direction—damage to the premises is frowned upon—and she just wanted it to stop, he didn't sound right, he didn't sound human. She reached out for him, and was accordingly smacked in the arm. Damn, he was powerful, even in his sleep. It was understandable, given the muscles that she'd seen earlier. "Father," he said, nearly sobbing, "father—don't—don't want to—"
He hit her in the face as she tried to lean over where she thought he might be, and she knew that blow was going to bruise in the morning. Cursing, patience running out, she jumped onto the bed altogether and shouted back. "Tarrlok!" she bawled. "Wake up!" She found one arm and pinned it down, gritting her teeth as she was hauled about. "WAKE UP." Her voice was going hoarse, but she'd found the other arm—then he kicked her, shoving her off the bed altogether.
Inordinately furious, she rose up like an avenging spirit and pounced on him, her anger fuelling her in a way that simple irritation couldn't. The darkness had settled into gloom; she could make out his shape. This time, she pinioned his windmilling arms with ease and shouted right into his face. "TARRLOK," she bellowed. With a yell that was definitely him rather than the possessed shrieks he'd been screaming, he tried to get up and head butted her.
Lights danced in front of her line of sight, and Korra let go. She fell off the bed again, dizzily registering exasperation before she hit the floor heavily—her hands were still tightly gripping Tarrlok's arms, and she didn't let go as she fell, pulling him down with her and then they were both on the floor, sprawled across each other, and her head really hurt and this had better damned be worth it for all the pain.
"What?" he breathed, head somewhere near her shoulder. "…what's going on?"
"Good question," she said sourly. His nose brushed her chin, his hand skimming across her arm, and then he was rising up with a grunt of exertion. She watched his fuzzy outline from the floor, one hand to her poor aching head.
"Tell me what happened," he ordered, sounding more like his obnoxious self. She rolled her eyes, knowing that he couldn't see it, and sighed, pulling herself up with a great deal of effort. "How on earth did this happen?"
"You were having a nightmare or something," she said, scooting away from him so that they weren't quite so close. "Shouting. It was annoying," she added, scratching at her arm. "So I tried to wake you up. You hit me. A lot. Then you woke up. Will that do as a summary do or do you need a diagram?" He ignored her sarcasm, and if she squinted she could see him steadily getting to his feet, looming above her now.
"Shouting about what?" he asked. His voice was far too casual, one more act that Tarrlok couldn't quite manage convincingly. Korra considered it, though, and decided that she didn't want to be cruel about this. Yakone… he hadn't seemed like a very nice person, to say the least, and however unpleasant and disgusting Tarrlok was, he still had nightmares about the man—it crossed her mind that this might be a trick, and she was distracted for a moment… no, she'd heard him scream, and Tarrlok wasn't the best actor, it couldn't be a trick, he wasn't that good a liar.
She heard the intake, the hiss of breath, and then Tarrlok began to pace restlessly across the room. He was muttering things quietly to himself. "Father," he said, musing. She watched warily, but he seemed to have calmed down. "Father—Amon. Amon… how? No…"
Korra was tired. All she wanted was to go back to Air Temple Island and sleep in her own bed. Tarrlok was just pacing and pacing, and it was lulling her gently until she was drifting in and out—
"Tell nobody about this," he was hissing, and she was sure that this was real, he was shaking her. "Do you hear me? Nobody learns about my night time adventures—nobody."
Korra mumbled something to make him go away, and then everything was blessedly simply in sleep.