AN: I do not own.

Tarrlok's heart is pounding in his ears. Air drags uneven down his throat. It feels like a knife is being hammered into his spine where he landed. This isn't something he can focus on.

Korra advances, won't stop, fire crackling across her fingertips. He has nowhere to go, no time to stand, no water to bend except—

She stops, and he realizes belatedly that it's because he's told her to.

Asked.

Begged.

He wants to be nothing, to be gone, to be unseen as the Avatar bares her teeth at him, proceeds like nothing so much as a wild animal.

"Give me one good reason, Councilman."

I'll have to bloodbend you.

"I…" He can't take his eyes off of her, this feral gleaming creature breathing hard and furious and he can't bend, can't let her win, can't sit here because every second brings her closer and the closer she gets the less he can do to defend himself she will kill him, she will if he doesn't—

"It's murder?"

She has the front of his shirt, he's being pulled forward and in one fluid motion smashed back into the floor so hard his vision momentarily darkens then bursts into color that leaves him gasping blinking bleeding at the base of his skull and there is stone wrapping around his wrists, pinning him in place like an insect it's too late to bloodbend now Noatak never would have had this problem and she's kneeling, straddling him, palms and fingers digging into his shoulders so hard it hurts it hurts his elbows are drawing in as much as they can but there is nowhere to go and no way to protect himself.

"You coward," hisses Korra in his ear, and he flinches, thinks I could have killled you, your life is only so much water sloshing in a sack of flesh and bone I could have twisted you crushed you torn you and

again, he slams into the floor.


"WAKE UP!"

His face stings, his head must be falling apart in pieces terror slithers and unfurls itself in his stomach writhing worm-like coil after coil his breath comes in shudders now her hand is raised to slap him again she stops.

She stops.

"Let them go, Tarrlok. All of them."

He laughs, and it shakes through him he's shaking she must feel him shaking he can't stop the world is blurry and unfocused and there is blood sticking to his hair it slips spreads pools eventually he wheezes because she's crushing his ribs and he smiles at her.

"I can't."

She snarls, loud and guttural, drags hands through his hair and pulls hard—he cries out despite himself.

She's leaning close now.

"You think you can get away with this? You are nothing, Tarrlok—just a weak man preying on people weaker than you."

"I'm not weak."

It comes out quickly, and during the brief span before she meets his eye he hopes so much that she didn't hear him, that she missed this mistake but she notices. Of course she notices.

Korra smiles unpleasantly. Her voice is full of faux-sweetness, softer still. "Ooooh, am I bothering you?" She wraps her hand tighter in his hair, begins to tug.

He whimpers, curses himself for doing it.

"Good," she hums lightly, "It's true. You're a joke. You couldn't stop me if you wanted to."

"Korra, please…" He sees his father, his brother each looking down on him—mirrors to each other, mirrors to her.

"Be quiet," says Korra, casually. She chuckles. "Did you honestly think you could beat me? The Avatar?" She moves her hand to his chest, presses there. "I could destroy you in a heartbeat."

"Do it," he says, and he's vaguely relieved when his voice doesn't waver.

You're using your power to oppress and intimidate people.

Korra hesitates. Then, at once, her eyes widen and she's scrambling back, off, away from him. With a thud she releases his hands. He tries to sit but the world spins, slides sideways. He stays down.

You are weak.

He hears rather than sees Korra run for the door, slam it on her way out. Part of him considers that this encounter will only strengthen his cause. Paint the Avatar a public enemy like any other.

Most of him simply remains, trembling, hollow and unsatisfied, waiting on the ground for someone to find him.