Pairing:
A Tahnorrlok Fanfiction, with side Borra and Masami

Rating: K+

Summary: Tahno's been registered for the Task Force, Korra is not amused. Tarrlok does not let her see the light of day, no time for probending, no time for goofing off. Why is she constantly entertained by two arrogant men? - Episode 4 AU.

A/N: I promise Tahno will finally have some interaction with Korra next chappie. This chapter's been giving me a bit of hell, there was like a moment for three days where I attempted working on the chapter but I couldn't write anything at all...I'm still surprised I got this done.

Chapter 4

The stench of concentrated sweat sets Tahno's senses on edge. He swipes the punching bag before him in order to distract his nose - sweat collects at his brow, it becomes impossible to ignore the fact he is close to dehydration. He bends a stream of water into his face, feeling cool, feeling refreshed. His throat is parched and so he summons another line of water from the sterile barrel by his side to quench his thirst.

The Pro-bending championship is in the back of his mind, he wants it to be his primal focus, but knows it is impossible. The previous weeks have had an impounding shock and a challenge. Going from insulting commoners on an hourly basis, to bottling every thought on his mind, his withdrawal from the world, was not a voluntary choice. He had no choice. Tarrlok was on his back.

Tahno flips his hair out of his face, the damp bangs stick like glue from the mixture of sweat and water. His mouth thins, glaring at the Future Industries punching bag before him, hands by his sides covered in light vinyl to protect from injuries, and he punches.

Punch after punch, feels good, it is a way for him to alleviate anger, to tell the world that he will come out on top. He smirks at the thought, hope that one day all the pressure on his shoulders will just disappear and he can be a free man.

Being forced into the Task Force was merely another burden, an oppressive burden – but something that could be maintained to fit in his daily schedule, unlike his new emotions of anxiety and lack of contentment, prior to joining the Task Force; pressures of being an athlete had overrun his mind. Being the best, entertaining crowds, pleasing fans, and selling dignity to the media – it was and still is tedious, but it had kept his mind occupied distracted from discovering such emotion, now that the heat of it had died along with his will to express insecurities and complaints, he constantly felt empty.

He desires for self-satisfaction, but can never achieve it. He is never given the time to discover inner-peace – if that even existed. He was drudging through the weeks on animosity. A brief flash of the Avatar crosses his mind as he punches up a storm, she seems so sure of herself, in everything she does, and is satisfied by the tiniest of praise. He was immersed and shrouded with praise every hour for his role in Pro-Bending, but never felt accomplished. He remembers the tiny feeling of contentment he felt when he had attempted to help the Avatar out of her slump. A few words out of a dictionary had helped him to hold out for another week. He liked that feeling.

One final swing of his right fist and he calls it an afternoon. There were other things to attend, Tuesdays meant Task Force training. He is tired, but pulls through; he hates to show any sign of weakness or personal interest outside his arrogant facade. He would turn up to the training dojo on Shui Boulevard where the members congregate.

He holds the black bag in his grip, stopping it from moving and nestles his head on it, he levels his breathing before being brought to reality by the vulgar smell of sweat –time for a shower. He glances at the analogue clock against the wall and notices he has fifteen minutes to have a quick shower and meet his manager outside. Not wasting a minute he grabs his belongings and tramples into the isolated shower. One thing about being exclusive, he enjoys, he can ask for a private training room plus shower for free, partitioned off from the shared training arenas for the other Pro-bending teams – Suckers!

Stripped of clothing he floods himself in hot water, covered from the waist down by a parted wall, the water pounding away at his pressure points he relaxes against the cold of the tiles. Hair running down his face, he daydreams under the influence of the pattering drops.

Growing in the swamps was difficult, outdated technology, over-relaxed neighbours, no entertainment, and few straightforward waterbending teachers. Tahno hated the swamps. He wanted out as a child. Out of the lax environment and into a growing metropolis where people were determined to be different. His wish was granted after some hazy business between his parents and smugglers within Republic City, only glimpses and guesses he had gathered through his childhood. It was through that particular shady history of his folk, that Tarrlok had obtained a point over him – A point to blackmail him in order to join the Task Force. His mind blurred over the details from over a week ago, not interested in reliving the day he was called to city hall for interrogation.

"Tch – no one understands anything," Tahno grits his teeth, his arms sliding up the tiled wall in aggravation. His voice fills distant to him. Shrugging off the notion he concludes his laid back shower with a quick scrubbing of his hair and heads out.

The young man strolls to the emergency exit, the only escape from fan girls. He takes a turn into a narrow alleyway which leads him to a no-through road. Parked by the curb is a black formal private automobile, his manager's vehicle. He tenses as his hand grazes the car door, there's no reason to be intimidated, shakes the nerves off and sighs hopelessly at the thought, there was no need to fear a blood relative – right? The manager and uncle who had taken him into custody after his parents had been accused of illegal activity; he opens the door carefully and slides in the rear passenger seat. Barely a glimpse of acknowledgement on behalf of the manager dressed in black, Tahno rests his eyes on his fidgeting fingers.

Silence.

There are times when he wants to kick back, yell, shout, be the kid he never had the chance to be. His perspective of the world was not positive, those regretful moments escalate into primitive exaggerations, he imagines kicking and screaming abruptly in the middle of the road, causing chaos, and messing up the order for the sake of getting back at the society that shaped him. His fingers lace, and he looks up.

His manager is middle aged, gels his hair back sleekly, wears expensive sunglasses and parades a finely trimmed Balbo.

"Uncle Verlin"

"Manager."

Tahno glares at the back of the driver seat. His mouth snarls and he shifts, straightening up to conjure confidence.

"Did you see Town Hall yet about the charges?"

"Town Hall is not being co-operative."

"What happened?"

"Nothing that concerns you."

No nothing concerns me at all, despite the fact you and my father were the ones that caused this mess I'm now trapped in, Tahno bites the inside of his cheek – hard, bottling things up has become a discouraging habit.

Tahno assumes the manager is not paying mind to his frustration, it was common. He never initiated conversation, only ordered tasks. He never cared, only guaranteed Tahno's presence during scheduled appearances. He never praised, only scolded. He was not a nephew to his uncle, rather a tool to make money.

To distract his mind, Tahno notices a gossip magazine in the front passenger seat, one that does not strangely have his face on it; he stretches forward in an attempt to grab it. Tahno fails the first time, the seatbelt restricting him and makes another attempt. He pulls his arms out from under the top leverage, and takes a deep breath before stretching out as far as possible, now the magazine is in his grasp.

It looks like a cheap magazine; he wonders why his uncle would have this in the car. He takes a glance at the cover and understands why. The front cover displays a pretentious image of Councilman Tarrlok beside an absent minded Korra, both of shots from old photoshoots he notices and is about to discourage the magazine for a lowly peasant form of entertainment, when the words 'Easy Catch! Avatar Takes the Bait' are highlighted and peak his interest. He reads that there is more about the story on page eleven.

Flipping right away to the source, Tahno muses; his eyebrows rise tremendously as he holds the magazine higher to his face in the act of judging whether the images are legit or fake. A photo collage of Councilman Tarrlok and Korra by the beach on several angles are taken, spread out over a double page. He absorbs the material, soaking in humiliation and embarrassment, attempting to retain his cool, when he is not able to contain it, he outright laughs at the media's scandal.

Uncle Verlin sighs temperamentally.

"One would expect one's subject would carry the intelligence to not laugh at such nonsense."

His grey eyes meet with Tahno's in the rearview mirror. Tahno attempts to wipe away a tear of laughter without smudging his eyeliner. For a brief second, the young waterbender believes he sees welcome or sympathy, but shrugs it for pity as they part their ways, casually ignoring a connection that is tied by blood. The manager's eyes fall back on the road and Tahno's back on the magazine.

He holds back a chuckle taking another glimpse at the images, one particular one of Korra hugging Tarrlok. Korra's face is hidden in Tarrlok's nape, but Tarrlok is blatantly surprised from the advance. Tahno notes it is definitely Korra initiating the 'go forward' action. Hmm…if this were true, what were the two doing on a beach? This would be interesting to bring up during training, a devious grin forms as he rolls up the magazine and slips it in to his gym bag.

"I'm taking the magazine," Tahno alerts passively. The manager grunts in acknowledgement.

Tahno waltzes in to the dojo, closing the double doors on his way in. He stops by the locker rooms and notices a few of the other members hanging around the lockers. He overhears them talking about a new restaurant opening up on the next block over, he turns his head, pauses, and withdraws on the idea to comment – that anything within that part of town is rather cheap and not worth anyone's time, but he was not a commoner to know what they indulged in, so he let them enjoy their deluded excitement. Paying no more interest, he closes his locker door and heads into the central hall of the dojo.

Korra is absent he registers, most likely late, better to savour the magazine scandal for her arrival. Tarrlok begins to instruct the lesson.

"It is good to have everyone back for another week," he begins, "We had a raid, that surprised us all. We discovered aside from the Equalists rounding the streets at night, that there are Bloodbenders roaming our city. The awareness among the citizens has not submerged as of yet, and I would like to keep it that way, best to avoid panic and keep sanity. Our Chief of Police has been informed and is in the middle of investigation, all other matters have been kept private until safety is breached. Chief Bei Fong has concluded the bloodbenders to be members of the Red Monsoon Triad, as we originally assumed. Although there were no culprits found at the last raid. I would like to commend the team on their efforts. The timing and co-operation is to be applauded."

The members smile and look at one another enjoying the praise and respect. Tarrlok bows in recognition and continues.

"Now last week, I will admit was not the highlight, we did not get to see some Equalist justice and we fell on an empty source. But it did bring to my attention what the Task Force has been missing," Tarrlok scans the room, "Can anyone tell me what it might be?"

People stared worriedly at each other, some hesitated, and some were tongue-tied. Tarrlok sighs fetching no response, "Do not be discouraged by my possible disapproval."

"Brotherhood?" Yu Tan stands tall with amber eyes and a buzz cut. Tarrlok shakes his head disapprovingly. The member lowers his shoulders.

"Experience?" Another by the name of Mason suggests unsurely, hands turning to bare open palms out of confusion.

Tarrlok walks to the far right, and addresses from the corner, "One more guess."

Tahno is leaning against the wall bored out of his mind, arms folded over his torso. He listens when Wakon abruptly rants, "Women." His mouth draws into a thin line, tempted to chuckle, but holds it in when Tarrlok speaks up.

"That there team is the judgmental and stereotypical disrespect the Task Force practices," Tarrlok folds his arms crossly, he diverts his eyes from Wakon and on to the entire Force, "I will be spending this week engraving respect and discipline into your roots."

Wakon laughs defensively, "You are kidding right?"

"No, I do not joke," Tarrlok notifies sternly. Wakon snarls unrequitedly.

Ushering to the centre of the room, his arms lock by his side, "The lack of respect amongst members has dispelled any hope. Now I know who has and has not presented the traits and skills that are prescribed of a Task Force Officer, so those who are doing the right thing do not worry."

Amidst the lecture, Tarrlok meets eyes with Yu Tan, Mason, Tahno, and a few of the other courteous members, recognising and praising them for their respect. Then, orders: "Front and centre!"

The members shuffle into place, the centre of the room aligned, hands by sides and gaze falling on the far wall, avoiding the decisive glare Tarrlok is presenting.

"Republic City Council retains order under the democratic republic council team; each representative fairly represents a nation. Every member respectively prides itself on founding their values upon the oath and code of conduct prescribed by Avatar Aang and his comrades during their reign," Tarrlok speaks sternly, "One of the most honoured codes, is the treatment of comrades – to respect and tolerate each other, teamwork and understanding of others' beliefs and actions to be acknowledged."

"Sir, I do not mean to offend," Kronos speaks up, an unsure hand lifted by his side, "But why this all of a sudden?"

"Because of Korra, Kronos," Tarrlok responds, "I am going to be honest with all of you; the meaning behind all this is because of Avatar Korra."

Wakon and Tyrone stifle a few laughs, but Tarrlok's glare silences them.

"This is not a laughing matter Task Force," he authorises, "I am not accusing the entire Task Force, but some members have repeatedly committed offences, offences that they believe have gone unnoticed in my absence or are ignorant of. To name a few: Property vandalism, Private Property Trespassing, Disrespect amongst officers, and Unauthorised Gambling. Wakon I suggest you pay attention." Tarrlok joins his palms, "All these offences in relation to the latest treatment and humiliation of our comrade Avatar Korra. It takes confidence to hold your ground on a team that already looks down on you, now imagine that through the eyes of teenager, our team has not been doing their best to offer respect."

"We're really going to sit here and listen to this crap," Tyrone wavers, his hands beckon before him, "He's accusing us of these crimes we've never even heard of."

Tarrlok laughs, he laughs knowing how easy it is to humiliate his soldier but refrains and keeps calm.

"I woke up this morning to find my satomobile vandalised with inappropriate comments related to a recent incident that occurred exclusively during training," Tarrlok clarifies looking at the faces of his men to see who is cowering under the pressure, "Tyrone, I remember quite clearly you were absentmindedly parading the white spray can last week in the locker room and Wakon you are in no way related to the betting that has undergone behind Korra and I's backs?"

Wakon was caught about to retort, but no sound came out, rage written on his face and a mouth frozen, he is speechless. Tarrlok glances unbelievably in his direction, to raise the question – is he really willing to continue? The councilman smirks glorifying, crosses his arms and rears an eyebrow, "I thought so."

"Now, 'where is Korra in all this?' some of you may be thinking or wanting to add," Tarrlok's tone rises, pompous and callous, his hands extended by his side in an articulate manner, "That is easy to respond to. My partner has been adjourned for the week, some of you may deem it unfair, while others may not simply understand – nonetheless Korra has been mistreated with disrespect. The media is an issue that she will come to deal with in time, but I want to tackle one of the main faults of her distress."

"And that would be us," Tahno muses helplessly before smirking. The teenager challenges the councilman to a brief staring contest, what is the Councilman's real motive? Tahno contemplates on the thoughts while he lets Tarrlok carry on ambitiously. He will keep silent for now.

Tarrlok affirms nodding in acknowledgement, "Tahno is quite correct." He lifts his head slightly, "The point I want to send to you all is that Korra's contentment is the key to the city's success or failure." He rolls his head in a tiresome manner, and sighs – to the members his little gesture looks quite arrogant, as if his personal problems far outweigh their own. No clear mentions, but the implication is imprinted in their minds, the way they are being addressed, like incapable minors, creates offense to the officers, it results in a negative outlook of the Councilman's true intentions. "So out of this training session, I would like to attempt something new. Instead of the usual partnering and sparring warm up, each of you will individually take me on. One on one in a spar that will include aspects of respect, sportsmanship and a little bit of trivia, as bizarre as it sounds, it is something that will be prove to be effective. Now officers who shall be the first to take on the challenge."

Tarrlok bravely chuckles, radiating a face of confidence and paces in front of Wakon. The younger officer cowers inwardly, knees buckling under the Councilman's gaze, not feeling reassured under his chilling and smug gaze. The shaggy haired water bender worries behind blue eyes, Tarrlok addresses him, "Say Wakon," he then lowers his head to his height and toys with the victim's nerves, "I heard about the thirty yuans on my name. I must be pretty amusing to have such a student be so hung up on my private life."

Wakon gulps, but forces to keep it mute, he feels as if any sound can trigger an unenjoyable experience. Sadly, silence seems to apply the same effect, Tarrlok withdraws and Wakon hesitates to breathe. The Councilman is still on his back, he brings a hand to his chin in amusement, "I'm rather flattered about the attention, but I must confess, it strikes me as odd for someone to find entertainment in someone else's private life. Is there not something else you should be focused on while in training?"

"Yes Sir!" Wakon whelps out of desperation, his words reduce to instinct – Tarrlok smiles in recognition. He has broken through his stubborn pride. Tyrone shakes his head in disagreement, the brunet spiked male younger than his friend by a year is displeased in his response, to fall and cower and so easily – how stupid!

"Officer Tyrone, what would be your opinion on the matter of privacy? When would you say the line is crossed? When does it become a breach of law?" Tarrlok has his eyes closed, relying on the uneven breathing of his officers to know his questions have them confused.

Tyrone does not respond, his mouth is drawn in a thin line. Tarrlok raises his eyebrows in alert of the silence, "Officer Tyrone."

The rebellious earthbender snaps, his bold pride catches Tarrlok's attention, "There's no need for all this! It's nothing but a waste of time."

Tarrlok exhales hot air impatiently, why were his officers keen on rebelling against his objectives, it was usually the younger ones he reasoned. Korra was the same, he just needed to be lenient, target their insecurities, tackle and conquer their fears with them and then be the friend that they seek – for a short time, until he gets what he needs, right now, he needed co-operation. And the only way to achieve it was through being co-operative himself, fair in judgment and to carry a lot of patience.

"What you feel is a waste of time Officer Tyrone, is not in fact, but rather a help to society. Something so small as fixing our own attributes for the greater may not seem significant early on, but you would be fooled to think otherwise," Tarrlok smiles reluctantly, his hands now folded behind his back, "You see Officers," he turns his focus to the masses, "The very nature and habits we live day to day by has been blinded by our wants. What you believe is innocent and minor compared to heavier issues in the world, can have a more drastic effect than you believe on others who slip your existence, how the officers of the law act outside, defines how the citizens believe they can live. Act like a fool and society will follow."

Tyrone and Tahno blanched uncomfortably at Tarrlok's words, their thoughts interrupted and reconfigured. For Tahno, the words hit harder, he had been told something similar in his childhood, and once again when called up by Tarrlok to assess the crimes of his relatives, although versed in a dictating manner, in subtext it was similar. Naturally, words of wisdom would be taking into consideration, but coming from a hypocrite, a man who spoke but did not follow his own words, made Tahno remember the pictures from the gossip magazine, what were Korra and Tarrlok doing alone. A scowl formed out of confusion, he kept the anger bottled and felt unrequited, he sometimes wished there was someone to tell these thoughts to without being judged. He would leave the anger for the punching bag.

The hypocrite continued instructing the session.

After an hour, the Task Force was by the wall, some leaning against it panting, others resting on their hands applying pressure and feeling the blood rush to their heads to numb the pain or simply lying against the plywood out of exhaustion. Tarrlok was exhausted himself; consecutive matches drew on his energy reserves. He winded his hands behind his head, walked with a relatively aligned spine and paced to push air back into his lungs, it was a good lesson, he mused at the thought and believed a ten minute break was reasonable. He could reflect on the different members of his force, he had gotten to know them individually through their fighting styles, he hadn't counted on it, but they had surprised him, and in the end it reassured him, that these select members were indeed his choice initially.

Tarrlok ran over his spar with Tyrone and assured that the young Officer still needed a bit more discipline to catch up with the level of respect of the others, but was not too far behind. Tahno, had been compliant, evenly matched with himself, and hatred was not a surprise, but battling with a – dare he say it – a 'pawn', fighting with the intent to kill out of resentment, the force felt through exchanging punches was a shock, his raw power seemed surprisingly stronger. Would his actions stimulate something that he would resent later on?

BANG!

For now that would have to be put on hold.

Tarrlok's eyes rise to the loud intrusion at the dojo's doors, standing abrasively with a scrunched up magazine in hand stood Korra, he scowls at the oncoming headache.

"TARRLOK!"

19/9/12