Family Bonds

A fanfiction by Velkyn Karma

Summary: The brothers have a lot of talents, but a bizarre one in particular stands out to Korra. Written for Bromotions week. Prompt: Link. Family/friendship only, although Korra's relationship with Mako is mentioned very briefly at the end.

Note: From Korra's POV, but it's really more about the brothers. I guess it's also mildly AU, under the assumption that Team Avatar managed to do more than one day's worth of patrols.

Warnings: One swear, I think. That's it.

Disclaimer: I do not own, or pretend to own, Legend of Korra or any of its subsequent characters, plots or other ideas. That right belongs solely to Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino. The only thing that belongs to me here is the concept for the story.

Korra had never had any siblings before, which made it sort of entertaining for her to watch the odd quirks between Mako and Bolin whenever they interacted. She'd heard about brothers and sisters bickering one minute and understanding each other the next, but she'd never experienced it firsthand, and joining the Fire Ferrets opened her up to a whole new experience of familial interaction.

And they definitely did all the things she'd heard about, or witnessed here and there. They got along pretty well, for the most part, fooling around, swapping stories and jokes, ribbing each other good-naturedly. But they'd occasionally get into arguments—often about stupidly laughable things—or give each other the cold shoulder, or shove each other around a bit. It never lasted long, and Korra always got the impression that even the stupid points of contention between the brothers weren't really solid enough to break the bond they had...even if occasionally she wanted to smack their heads together to speed up the process.

But by far the strangest thing she observed with the two of them was the odd connectivity they had...their strange ability to communicate and coordinate without words, in almost any given situation.

She first noticed it during their probending matches. The three of them would practice plays and coordinate offenses and defenses, but inevitably something would happen in the ring to throw the moves off, and then it was all up to improvisation to make sure you made it through the round. Mako and Bolin seemed to improvise shockingly well with each other, covering each others' backs easily as though they'd practiced the moves until they were ingrained in muscle when Korra knew they'd never used those forms before. Bolin would duck just in time for Mako to kick a fiery bolt right over his head, mere inches from singeing his hair, to take down an opponent preparing for earth and not flames. A water whip would strike at Mako's side, and he wouldn't even bother to dodge, just keep punching fire blasts while Bolin casually stomped a disc up from the ground to shield his brother.

"That was amazing!" Korra would say enthusiastically, after every match. "Man, how did you guys know how to do that at just the right moment?"

To which the brothers would inevitably exchange glances, shrug, and answer, "I don't know. We just knew."

Which really wasn't the answer Korra wanted, and she would always press for a better explanation. The brothers had yet to be able to give her one, which was frustrating as hell. She eventually chalked it up to combat instinct and left it at that.

But she started realizing that the brothers' bizarre connection extended beyond just the probending ring. It first became obvious to her when Mako found her on Air Temple Island, not too long after she'd joined the team, asking if Bolin had come by. When she'd answered no, his slightly relaxed demeanor immediately shifted to one of anxiety, and the next thing she knew she was helping him hunt down his brother.

While heading to the mainland she'd asked him again why he was so sure Bolin was in trouble, and not just out getting a bowl of noodles or hanging out at the park or something. Mako's only response had been, "Something just doesn't seem right. I'll just feel better when I find him." Not long after that they'd unearthed the information that Bolin was about to get caught in a turf war, and later that he'd been caught by the Equalists; Mako's instinct had been right after all.

Even then Korra would have chalked it up to coincidence. Except, now that she knew what to look for, it wasn't the only time the brothers seemed to instinctively know when something was wrong with the other, even when they weren't together. There had been that one time when Mako had taken a double-shift at the power plant generating lightning, and ended up giving himself a mild fever from too much advanced firebending in too short a time. Bolin had been visiting Korra on the island that day, and became inexplicably anxious for no reason at all, returning home early only to find his brother passed out on the couch. Mako always seemed to know when his brother was feeling depressed and knew exactly which one of Bolin's haunts to track him down at in order to bring him home. Bolin returned the favor by inevitably doing something silly or thoughtful for his older brother when Mako grew surlier and more irritable than usual. It was like they were connected on some level, and Korra really wasn't sure what to make of it.

And once she noticed that, it was like the evidence just wouldn't stop coming. Whenever Korra got ready to head off and deal with Amon's cronies alone, or insisted on handling something a certain way, the two of them would exchange quick glances before instantly double-teaming her on why her ideas weren't good ones. It was like they had entire conversations with a simple glance, a raised eyebrow, or a slight twist to the mouth, and they knew how to back each other up in almost any argument. Bolin's cheerful confidence was perfectly supplemented with Mako's common sense and caution, and inevitably they ended up doing things the brothers' way instead unless Korra employed all of her stubbornness.

That was when she first started finding that weird link annoying. Two against one just wasn't fair, dammit, especially when they did it like pros.

Though admittedly it was amusing to watch them use those same skills on others, to great effect. When they started hunting the streets of Republic City as Team Avatar, Korra and Asami got more than one laugh out of watching the boys run circles around nosey citizens and even the occasional metalbending officer, whenever anybody inquired a little too much into why they were loitering on the streets listening to police scanners or careening down roads maybe just a touch over the city's speed limits. The brothers would inevitably give the questioner an observant once-over, exchange one of those conversation-glances, and begin feeding them stories to get Team Avatar out of trouble.

Bolin inevitably fielded all of the especially suspicious types and the officers; his innocent look and genuine cheerful behavior always put them at ease as he explained their concerns for bending relatives or the rush to get home before dark so they wouldn't be out when Equalists attacked. Mako handled the more nervous and gullible types, and although he was never anything less than polite his no-nonsense tone and indifferent attitude as he explained that they were undercover cops or hinted at connections to any number of Triads usually put the curious off, and they scurried away. Whatever the case, each brother backed up the main speaker's pack of lies with instant, believably delivered lies of their own, and although each story was different Korra was amazed at how easily the two kept track of them, without once getting caught in the mess.

"Where did you guys learn this stuff?" Korra asked once, as soon as Asami was allowed to pull away—exactly at the speed limit—from a no-longer-suspicious officer to head in the direction of the latest distress call again.

"Around," was Mako's curt not-really-an-answer, and "Well, we sort of had to pick it up," was Bolin's oddly quiet one, which was enough for Korra to put together that it was a skill learned on the streets. She didn't push further, but it started to make her wonder if maybe, just maybe, that strange link the brothers had was born out of necessity, and not just blood.

She was definitely sure of it when Asami told her about the sneezing trick Mako and Bolin had effortlessly pulled back when they'd first discovered her father's alliance with Amon. A skill like that wasn't developed just for the hell of it. And it wasn't the only time, either. When they'd been in hiding below the streets, Mako and Bolin had adjusted to the life instantly and worked together seamlessly to keep the place hidden, trick or distract threats away from the area, or even just keep some of the homeless kids entertained with their back-and-forth antics. It wasn't really hard to figure out where they'd learned to use minor earth and firebending tricks to subtly trip up threats, superheat metals to keep enemies from approaching, hide evidence of living, blind or startle opponents, or simply as an additional tool for smooth-talking their way into our out of something, but neither of the boys liked to talk about it much, and Korra didn't press them.

But the final straw came after the whole mess with Amon was over with, her bending was restored, and she was getting used to the feeling of having an actual boyfriend during their visit to the South Pole. Korra was taking them on a quick tour of some of the surrounding tundra, and they'd paused to watch a small gathering of arctic foxhares foraging a little ways away, when Mako abruptly said, "Don't even think about it, bro. Besides, how would Pabu feel?"

Bolin looked sheepish, and said, "I figured they could be friends—well, you're probably right."

"He didn't even say anything," Korra said, bewildered by the casual exchange. "Or do anything. How the hell do you know what he was thinking?" She gave Mako a scrutinizing, suspicious look.

He shrugged. "I don't know. I just knew. Older brother instinct?"

She threw up her hands. "I don't get it!" she finally said. "This sibling thing, it makes no sense! You guys know what the other one is always doing, you talk by just looking at each other, and now you hear each others' thoughts! Why don't you just start finishing each others' sentences already?"

The boys exchanged that look, the one Korra was starting to recognize all too well; even if she still couldn't figure what they were saying with it, she knew that she was about to lose on something. Then Mako gave a very tiny smirk. "I suppose we could," he began.

"But people tend to find that annoying," Bolin added brightly, with a huge grin on his face.

"Of course, if the Avatar says we can—"

"—then we might as well—"

"—since it's really not a smart idea to piss off the master of all elements—"

"—especially when the stories are pretty clear on how that's a bad idea!"

Korra scowled at them as they laughed, and proved just how much of a bad idea it was to piss off an Avatar by shoving them both in a snowbank.

I don't even know. It's not as good as I was hoping for it to be, but I'll post it anyway, I guess.