A/N: Set during Book 1 / Episode 9 "Out of the Past" with a very simple 'what if' – What if the Equalist that Mako interrogated didn't know that Tarrlok lied. What if he simply refused to talk?
And what if, for once, Bolin got to rescue his brother?
As per usual, I make no claim to Avatar: Legend of Korra. I did have a good time writing this and hope you have a good time reading it.
Behind Green Eyes
Mako groaned, feeling the metallic taste of blood coat his teeth.
This place smelled like concrete and mold, with the faint damp of the underground. Forcing his eyes open sent a wave of pain through his temples, but at least he could see. A sickly orange-tinted glow cast by a bulbous carbon filament light spread across the room. Or was it a cell?
One movement and Mako was sure of the latter. His efforts to stretch were rewarded by a throbbing pain and a slow sticky dribble of blood rolling through his palms from raw wrists. Sitting on a metal chair he found his ankles bound to the legs and his hands bound tightly behind him. Bound with wire instead of rope, it cut into his flesh and told him that his captors had experience with binding firebenders.
Fear and resolve sank into his aching form as he blinked away the sap-sticky fog from his eyes. He vaguely remembered the back alley fight and the Equalist glove shoved into his back before the world went cold. Inwardly he cursed himself. Tenzin had told him not to go searching for Korra on his own. Asami had backed Tenzin up, though at the time he dismissed it as a jealous move on her part. He insisted that he was only going to follow up on what they saw in the council chamber, and that no harm could come from it. But even Bolin had weighed in, noting if they were going to seek Korra they should do it in the morning. Together. It was something he would have said. Something he should have said.
Something he should have listened to.
There was a scraping sound of a door opening, and the sharp cracking of polished heels on an unpolished floor. Mako strained against his bonds and stretched his neck to see who was coming. His stomach twisted in nausea, expecting a blank white mask to enter his vision.
The face he saw was almost worse.
"You know, I have had a lot of time to think about what you did to my daughter." Hiroshi Sato's mouth was drawn in a thin line of rage.
"What I did to your daughter? We never did anything to her! Asami did what she wanted to do." The firebender growled back, having to crane his neck painfully far to the left to even begin to look Hiroshi in the eyes.
Sato paused, punctuating the silence with a crackle of lightening as he pulled on a glove and tested the connections. "Are you blaming her?" the tone could have frozen the hair off of a tiger seal in a tropical zoo.
"No! I'm not. I'm saying she made her own choices and she never did anything wrong." His brows furrowed in frustration as he rolled his wrists against his bonds, testing their strength.
He earned a sharp pain in his arms, fresh blood rolling down his bound hands for his efforts. Hiroshi moved languidly to the back of the chair. "Never did anything wrong? A girl of her upbringing working with gutter filth like you?" He choked out a dark laugh, "Tell me you didn't coerce her."
"We didn't coerce her!" Mako bit out sharply.
Rage pouring across his face Hiroshi grabbed the chair frame, letting his gauntlets pour out their electrical attack. He picked the chair up, balancing it on the front two legs until Mako slid off balance, held only by his arms and the wires binding them together. "Liar!" he screamed, slamming the back legs of the chair against the concrete floor. "You will never speak such lies about my daughter!"
White hot electricity surged through the chair, enough to burn any exposed skin lying against the metal leaving bright pink welts. Mako's voice escaped his stubborn lips in a guttural gasp. It was just enough to provoke an indulgent smile to spawn across his captor's face.
The chair smashed back to earth once again and Hiroshi stepped back. Mako was only foggily aware that the electricity stopped too. His body sagged forward, bloody wrists burning with agony while his chest rasped for air. He almost forced out the words 'I am not a liar' but the pain made him think better of it. He was still awake, the indirect shock had assured that, meaning Hiroshi had some sort of twisted plan and he wasn't going to play into it. He had been baited once, this time he bit his tongue.
Mr. Sato walked around his captive in a wide, slow circle. "You know, I have not told Amon you are here. Yet." He waited until amber eyes rose to meet him and he twisted his face into a snarling smile. "We have much to talk about."
"So talk." Mako sucked in a short breath. Despite the taste of blood in his mouth his breathing came easily. He concentrated on the next few breaths, remembering an old training mantra from the pro bending arena: if you can breathe you can bend fire.
The boots beat out an interminable rhythm on the floor as Hiroshi Sato paced, like a clock winding down and losing time. "I want to know where she is. I want to know what you did to her that made her follow you. And I want her to watch when we finally break you." He paused, finally looking the firebender in the eye, "for her own good, you know. She needs to have closure on this folly of her life."
Mako gave a guttered gasp of anger, but held his tongue. Escape was his priority, and he was sure that arguing was not his way out of this. He tested the wire binding his hands once again, finding only a shred of leeway. But where there was breath there was heat, and where there was heat there was flexibility…
"What is this? No snappy comebacks? I'm ashamed." Hiroshi's bushy brows drew together, throwing his eyes into malevolent shadows.
Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Mako had managed to heat his fingertips to a slight glow, curling them to touch the wire. Wincing at the sudden flare of heat, he forced himself to keep a straight face and focus on Hiroshi. "I have nothing to say to you."
"No, I suppose you don't" Mr. Sato took a moment to adjust his spectacles and lean in to Mako's face. "You don't have a leg to stand on, do you?"
The firebender stayed still, biting back pain until he heard one tiny, encouraging snap and the binding on his hands started to unwind. "Maybe I don't need a leg to stand on." In one sudden move he leaned forward on the chair, bringing both hands forward in a roaring ball of fire. He pushed himself towards the exit while driving Hiroshi back. Now if he could only get his legs free…
"You swine!" the older man roared, his gloves flaring into electric light.
"I don't think I'm the animal here!" the firebender yelled back, his own lightning curling around his hands, determined to release it before Hiroshi got to him. He steeled his will and stretched his arm out.
In a flash he felt his entire body jerk backwards, as blue lightning hit the roof of the cell and coursed across the walls. The light fixture exploded in a shower of red-orange sparks. White spots flew across his vision and when he tried to take in a breath and figure out what went wrong Mako found he couldn't breathe.
His hands flew to his throat, clawing at something. A strap of leather - maybe a belt? Whatever, it was wrapped around his neck and held by an Equalist wearing those eerie gold goggles. Realization and fear coursed through his veins. His scarf was gone. That alone made him feel naked and vulnerable, more than the leather wrapped around his exposed neck. He gasped as the pressure released for a second and then the Equalist yanked him back harder, off balance.
The chair tumbled over backwards with Mako's legs still tied in place. Disoriented and wheezing for air, the back of his head impacted with the cold concrete ground in a deafening crack. He felt blood rush to his ears and his already dim world spun around him. He tried to call enough flame to his hands to see something… anything.
Light flared, but not the comforting orange of fire. Hiroshi Sato's face was silhouetted in the crass blue-green glow of his electro-gauntlets. He grinned like a shark contemplating its dinner and grabbed the legs of the chair.
Mako clenched his teeth together as electricity coursed through his body; desperate to move, desperate to breathe, desperate to not give that man the satisfaction of hearing him scream.
But someone was screaming as the world went black and he feared it was him.