Rivulets streamed down his defined abdomen as he finished his last rep. He reached down for the towel with a smirk. Disgusting how he has to wipe away this moisture, before he could just bend the sweat off his body. Tahno was trying to fill in the part of his soul that had been stripped from him when Amon took his bending. Since he could no longer bend he focused on building his mundane body into something better. He grimaced at the Wolfbats poster hanging on his wall, his own face smirking at him with arrogance.
No more Wolfbats, no more probending. They had all lost it. Not that their fans cared. They had been caught cheating in the final match and after he had his bending ripped from him all his friends had abandoned him like he was a disease they could catch. He was a nobody now.
This time of isolation he had been fighting in the underground circuit. There had always been a circle of non-bender fighters but Bei Fong had tried to shut them down so many times they decided to go underground. After pro-bending this was the next best thing for Tahno to work at.
He flexed his muscles in the mirror and smiled a little. Before his body was thin and wiry like the northern water benders, but now he had the brawny thickness of a southerner. His pale skin still refused to tan but that's how it had always been. He had the skills of a waterbender but he didn't look the part.
Moving to the window he throws on his shirt and looks down at the rally below. His breath catches in his throat when he sees her. Korra. He loved listening to her speak. He could see all of the elements in her body with every word she said. Fire in her eyes, the earth in her steadiness, air in her tone and water in her soul. She was the Avatar.
He spots Mako in his police uniform next to the podium. Psh. Why would the Avatar ever think twice about some stripped, ex bender when she could have a lightning bending cop? That's why he had to leave. He couldn't let her see him like that. In the short time they had been together Tahno had fallen for Korra hard. It was if their souls were connected through the water that they manipulated. Now that he didn't have that connection how would she bond with him? She needed a bender, not some broken soul.
Irritated for having let his thoughts wander too far into his heart he heads out back to where his driver has the Satomobile idling.
"Where to sir?"
"Let's go visiting."
"What do you want to do tonight sweetie?"
Tahno groans as he hears the pet name. He hates when she calls him sickly sweet names like that but she helps fill the silence and loneliness, which will do. For now.
"I don't know Asami. And I don't really care."
She comes from behind the privacy screen with a twist of hurt on her face. He knows he's being an ass but that's how he is. She knows that. It's his defense mechanism now. Before he had his bending but now he has nothing but a snarky attitude that used to be charming.
"I guess we can just stay in and watch a mover in down in the theater? Verrick has a new one out."
"Yeah sure." He huffs without meaning to sound rude.
She moves back behind the screen and he can hear her sob softly. Ugh. Korra would never cry in secret like that. She would kick his ass and serve it to him on a platter. That's what he lov…no, he wasn't going to go there.
He sighs as he gets up, knowing he should apologize. Asami has been his friend since they were in diapers and she doesn't deserve this from him. They used to be like brother and sister. Asami had been the only person he trusted after Amon. She was the only one who he had told about where he was and what he was doing. He had even changed his name to fight on the circuit. As far as anyone knew Tahno didn't exist. Nothing has been the same though.
Tahno frowns as he thinks back to the night that he regrets now more than ever. Asami had come over to his apartment with tears streaming down her face after Mako dumped her for Korra. But that's why he did it. The thought that Korra was with someone else drove him over the edge. So he had let Asami in that night and their friendship had moved into something darker than brother sister territory.
"Look Asami, I'm sorry."
Sniff. "I know you are. I know why you're so angry and I'm sorry I can't fix it. I'm sorry I can't be who you want me to be but at least I'm here so stop taking it out on me. Ok?"
He was taken aback by her sudden assertiveness but he wasn't about to let her know that. Moving away from the screen he shrugged and said "Yeah. Let's go watch this mover."
Korra sighed and leaned back against Mako. He was snoring away on his couch in the apartment he shared with Bolin. Restoring bending took a lot out of her and she was especially tired after the peace rally earlier today. Being the Avatar was hard work but at least she had her team to help her out. However tonight she just wanted to be alone.
Even as she lay there with Mako it was someone else who was occupying her thoughts. She pulled out the list of Republic City citizens who had been victims of Amon and looked for his name. Tahno. It had been over a year. No one had heard from or seen him. At least not the people she had talked to. At this point she wasn't even sure he wanted to be found. She knew she would have to find him eventually and restore his bending but she wasn't sure she could even look at him. From the outside she appeared strong but she was weak when it came to how she felt.
Plus she was with Mako now. After Tahno disappeared she had to at least try and move on. She searched for him but it was no use and she had to let him go. It was Mako who had came to her then and helped her through everything. In time she started falling for him, though she now thinks it was just because she needed someone to replace the one she lost. He broke it off with Asami to be with her and now there is nothing but frosty tension between the Avatar and the socialite. Korra didn't really want Mako to end it to be with her but it's not her fault.
Korra wiggled herself free from Mako's sleeping deadweight and headed to air temple island. She needed to meditate and focus. If Tahno wanted to be found then he would have by now, she knew that. She also knew that the coldness in her heart wouldn't thaw until she found him.
Mako reaches for Korra in his sleep. His hand gropes at the air beside him. Waking up he realizes that he is alone on the couch in the cold, dark apartment he shares with Bolin. Korra must have snuck off again. He knows she had important things to do but he worried about her.
"Bo? Are you here?" He called to his brother, stretching as he got off the cold, hard couch.
No answer. Bolin's been so busy lately but Mako has no idea where he is or what he's actually doing. He just hopes it doesn't involve the Triple Threats. Bo had been in enough trouble and he was just a kid who needed to keep a clean head.
Mako goes to his desk and opens the drawer. He pulls out the box and opens it with a sigh. There were 18 letters in it, all from Asami. He hadn't read the latest one but he knew it would just be the same as the others. He knew how bad he had hurt her and he was deeply sorry for it. Breaking up with her was a dumb thing to do but he knew he would never have another chance to be with the Avatar. He loved being with Asami and he loves being with Korra. But it was a different kind of love. With Asami it was content, with Korra it was powerful.
He sits down with a heavy thump and fingers the unopened envelope of Asami's latest letter. Should he open it? Should he allow salt to be poured on his open wound again? It had been months and Asami still wasn't over it, he had apologized but there wasn't anything more he could do. Sighing he rips open the envelope and reads:
This will be the last letter you get from me. I don't know if you read the others or not but hope you read this one.
You broke my heart, I think you know that. You chose Korra over me. Who wouldn't? She is an amazing person (for a man thief that is). You deserve your chance of finding happiness with her.
I can finally say though that I am over you. I am with someone else now. Someone who makes me happy….That's what I deserve. I thought I could be happy with you but that obviously didn't work out. I'm with Tahno now. We're both happy. I think it makes it a lot easier since neither of us are benders. Benders have too much heart.
Tahno. Asami was with Tahno. Mako was floored. No matter what woman it was in his life they all end up getting hurt by this man. Mako had to clean Korra off the floor when Tahno disappeared, if she found out he has been with Asami this whole time…he doesn't know what'll happen. What he does know is that Korra cannot know that Tahno is in Republic City. He can't lose her. Again.
The sunlight beats down through the window, making him wince in his sleep. Tahno rolls over and grabs something solid. He pulls the warm body closer and murmurs sleepily "Korra."
Asami curls into a smaller ball, feeling his warmth against her back and starts crying silently. She cherishes these moments, when he seems almost happy again, even though they're meant for someone else. She knows she will never be the one he calls for in his sleep. Even though she always wanted to be.
She gets out of bed, slips on a robe and steps out onto the sunlit porch. As children they had played here so many times. Tahno was convinced he could teach her how to waterbend, even though he knew she was born with no bending ability. Asami smiles at the memory. They had grown up together and she knew everything about him. She knows how badly he's hurting and how much he still loves…her.
With Mako things were easy. They both liked each other and they both knew they were really only a stand in for someone they couldn't have but Asami had developed a love for Mako. She knew it wasn't fully reciprocated, but it ripped out her heart when he left her for Korra.
The only two people Asami has ever loved left her for Korra, but she had Tahno no and she wasn't going to let him go.
Korra stomped up the steps to Mako and Bolin's apartment. She was in a surprisingly good mood after an air bending lesson with Tenzin and Jinora. She was so close to mastering air bending, she could taste it.
Letting herself in she calls out "Mako? Bolin? Anyone home?!"
No one answers but she decides to raid the kitchen anyways. Training always leaves her hungry and she was sure the guys wouldn't mind.
After making a monster bowl of noodles she sits down at Mako's desk and notices an open drawer. She pulls out the box that Mako thinks she doesn't know about and rifles through the letters. She's read them all and doesn't mind that Mako keeps them. She looks at them and notices a new one on the pile. Balancing her bowl in her lap she begins to read when she is stopped short by a single word.
The bowl spills from her lap onto the floor and she doesn't even care that the broth is scalding her legs because Tahno is in Republic City. He is safe. She clenches the letter tightly in her hand and wonders why Mako would keep this from her. He knows how she feels about Tahno and she knows it is her duty as the Avatar to restore his bending. Suddenly she is furious at Mako for interfering with this aspect of her life. She throws the letter on the desk and ignites it with flame.
Walking to the door she knows she has to confront Mako, she has to find Tahno and she has to try and stop herself from killing Asami. The ice that was in her heart has started to melt and she can feel the water building inside her soul like a typhoon.
She paces around her room knotting a handkerchief in her hands over and over. She has never been the kind of person to speak up and say what's on her mind. After her father was sent to prison and she took over Future Industries though, Asami Sato had grown a pair. She was a business woman now and she had to learn how to talk tough.
It was Tahno that was teaching her this. But it was not a lesson she had wanted to learn from him. She was sick of having to compare herself to Korra all the time and never being enough for him. It was time he got over her once and for all so everyone could be happy. She grabs her keys off of the nightstand by the bed that Tahno had left early that morning and decided to go talk to him.
She knew he was at his gym and that he would be angry that she interrupted him but she didn't care. Not only were they friends but they were a couple now; she should be entitled to certain privileges as his girlfriend. This was a topic of conversation that couldn't wait any longer.
Today the speed bag just isn't fast enough to keep up with the anger pouring out of Tahno's fists. The fight was in two days and he needed to be ready. Fighting without his water was new territory and the last time he got his ass handed to him. Last time he was too focused on her.
He rips his shirt off in frustration, the sweat dripping from his body. Moving away from the speed bag to the bench he starts lifting. He knows he should have a spotter but he prefers to work out alone.
"You have to let her go. It's killing you not to," he hears a voice say. Asami walks over to the bench and wipes the sweat out of his eyes. He pushes her hand away angrily, irritated that she has interrupted his thoughts. Even more irritating was that she knew exactly what he was thinking about.
"You have to leave me alone. I will kill you if you don't," he said, mocking her tone. "You know I don't like company in here." He gets up and puts his shirt back on. This body isn't meant for her. He turns his back to her hoping she'll get the point and leave.
"I shouldn't be considered company to you Tahno! I'm your girlfriend!" Asami twists her face into a frown and moves toward him. He flinches away from her touch and she gasps a pang of hurt. "You chose to live this life away from everyone. You chose to confide in me and let me in, so why are you shutting me out now? I will never be her and you will never be happy until you let her go. You have to stop punishing yourself….and me."
He stands in silence. Tears stream down his face, mixing with the sweat and he knows he can't let her see that she is right. A minute passes and he hears her heels click out of the room.
His knees crumble and he falls onto his hands. Now that he is alone he can let it all out. Tahno sobs and for the first time since he lost his bending he feels reconnected to the water that still surges inside him. He has to let Korra go. He has to forget about her so he can move on and live again. And he has to be fair to Asami. She doesn't deserve this version of him. But he's not sure he's ready.
Wiping away the sweat and tears he powers through his workout doing rep after rep until his muscles burn and his fingers are bleeding. He knows he is going to be bruised and sore in the morning but he doesn't care. Maybe if he works hard enough he won't think of Korra tonight.
Exhausted, he finally falls into the small bed in the corner of his gym. His mind is blank for once and he is sure he will finally have a night of restful sleep
She wipes away her tears as she starts up the Satomobile. She doesn't understand why Tahno is so cruel sometimes. Actually she knows why, it's because of Korra. He is torturing herself over her. That's why she tried to talk to him.
She knows she shouldn't have interrupted him during his workout. He's been especially testy getting prepared for this fight. Maybe he'll calm down after his match and she can talk to him then. Pulling into her estate she sighs and wishes they could go out for dinner and talk.
They will never have a normal relationship. Asami knows that. As long as he is trying to stay in this half-form of hiding they will never go out on dates. That's what she misses most about dating Mako. They went dancing and to dinner, they were normal if not a little distant. Lately Asami had been asking herself if Tahno was worth missing out on all that. It's not like she'll ever get Mako back. He dumped her for the Avatar. He would never give her up. And Asami would never give up on Tahno, even though they would never be normal.
The water seems to flow out of his soul as he bends it into ice. A figure is taking shape but he has no idea what it is. He is too focused on the bending.
It was if he had never lost it and everything had been a horribly dark and cruel dream. He was a water bender. He was the captain of the Wolfbats. He was dating the Avatar! He was Tahno and no one could stop him when could bend water.
Suddenly the ice stopped around him and the water fell into puddles. He tried to bend it but nothing happened. He went through every bending motion he knew and the water would not obey him
"No…no! This isn't happening, this isn't real." His voice was barely a whisper. It was a dream. That had all been a dream.
He looked up at the ice figure he had created and was shocked to see the face of Korra staring down at him.
As soon as he said her name the icy Avatar came to life. Her eyes glowed blue and she spoke with a voice that trembled with thunder.
"Tahno. I have been searching for you. My heart has been frozen like the ice we can bend. Where are you?"
"You're not really Korra!" Tahno cried out, looking away from the ice. It hurt too much to see her face.
"I am Korra. I have been searching for you. I can heal you Tahno, you could bend again. I can thaw the ice in your heart."
"You need to leave me. You shouldn't see me like this! Don't you understand? I had to leave you because you are better than me, better than this body." Tahno was crying now, ashamed that she was seeing him like this.
"Find me Tahno. Find me so we can be together again." Korra raised one of her icy hands to Tahno's chest and another to his head. A blue and white light surged through her fingers and sent a shockwave through Tahno's body.
He looked up at the woman he loved and watched silently as she melted away. The tears froze on his face and he collapsed.
Tahno awoke with a start. The hot, sticky sweat from his workout had been replaced by a new cold and clammy sheen. He had had the dream again. It was different this time though. She had never touched him before. He moved his hands to his chest and head wishing that touch had been real. His mind started wondering what it could mean.
He didn't dwell on those thoughts too long. Asami was right; he needed to get over Korra. It was killing him. He pushed all thoughts of the Avatar out of his mind and fell into a restless sleep, unaware that he was softly calling out her name.
Korra jolts out of bed like she'd been touched with a hot poker. Her hair cascades around her shoulders and her heart races in her chest. It wasn't the first time she'd had this dream. It wasn't the first time she saw his face and wished she could reach out to him. It was the first time though that she had touched him. She twisted her hands and swore she could still feel his skin on her fingertips.
She walks to the water basin in her room and splashes some on her face. These days it almost felt wrong to bend her primal element knowing that somewhere out there he couldn't. But now she knows he is safe and he is in Republic City. She knows she can find him now.
The dream had left her feeling tired in the same way that restoring someone's bending ability did. In the past she had always woken up before actually touching him. She looks in the mirror at her tired face and wondered if their spirits were connected through the dream. Korra starts laughing nervously, afraid of what she was thinking. What if her Avatar spirit had restored Tahno's bending through the dream?
No. It was definitely crazy to think that. She had to touch him in the flesh. Even though she was the Avatar she wasn't in touch enough with her spiritual side to pull that off.
Silently she fights the tears that are threatening to spill from her eyes. She hated seeing him that way in the dream. More like nightmare. How had he become this broken person? The Tahno she loved was charming and arrogant (in the most flattering way), he was never so distraught. She could feel his pain in her heart and she knew she had to save him.
Korra climbed back into bed and held her pillow tight. Wishing it was the dark haired, pale skinned man she loved she held it close to her chest as she fell into a dreamless sleep. Her fingers were writing his name over and over and with each letter the water in the basin across the room rippled, creating endless miniature waves.
Mako sat at his desk, his mouth agape at the mess he had found. He knew it had been Korra. The bowl of noodles had been cold for a while and the letters on his desk were scorched and covered with ash. The one letter he wished she had never found was now a pile of soot.
He didn't even know how to process this. Now Korra knows. She knows about Tahno being in Republic City. And Mako knows she isn't going to rest until she finds him. A wave of shame and guilt washes over him. He should have just told her gently but he's selfish. If Korra found Tahno then they would be over. He loves her and doesn't want to lose her. He doesn't want to see her go through that kind of pain again.
Suddenly he's angry with Asami. Tahno hadn't been seen or heard from in a year. She had seen how Korra had fallen apart when he left. Why would she even bother telling Mako all this? It's as if she wanted to see them hurt. Mako had always thought that Asami wasn't the vindictive type but now he was starting to wonder.
He decides he has to go talk to her even though she is the last person he wants to see. Together they need to make sure that no one gets hurt, including themselves. If Asami really is with Tahno then she probably wouldn't want to see him and Korra back together either. It was time to put the past in the past and work as a team.
Knock knock knock.
Asami glances down at her watch and frowns at the time. There is only one person who it could be this late at night but she isn't in the mood for listening to some half-assed apology from Tahno right now. He had really hurt her earlier today and he can't be boyfriend only when he's in the mood. Scowling she gets up to answer the door.
"Look Tahno, I don't feel like…" she stops short as she opens the door and see's Mako. The last person she expected to see. "What are you doing here Mako?"
"We need to talk. About Tahno and Korra."
"Well I don't think Korra is any of my business and I don't think Tahno is any of yours."
"Cut it out Asami, we need to talk. If you didn't want me involved you shouldn't have even told me about him in the first place.
Asami sighs and opens the door wider to let him in. She had written that letter in a time of high emotion and stress, she honestly hadn't even expected him to read it. He had never responded to any of her other letters so why would he now? They move into the parlor and sit down. The frost between them is obvious and painful.
"You want to talk, so do it." She tried to act tough but it was hard not to be vulnerable around him.
"I'm just going to be straight with you. I don't want them seeing each other. Korra already knows about him because she read my letter. She was real messed up over him and she doesn't deserve to go through all that again. You need to promise me that you will help me keep them apart." Mako's eyes mist over and Asami is hurt. She was sure he had never cried over her.
"You know that we are all adults here. Korra should be able to see Tahno if she wants. And what does it matter to me if she gets hurt again? Nobody seemed to care when I was hurt!" Asami's voice breaks and she can't control the tears from spilling onto her cheeks. She is ashamed for showing this weakness.
"Do you want her to take him away from you? Do you want us both to be alone? She is the Avatar and she needs to focus on that! She doesn't need him coming into her life and ruining it again! I am sorry I hurt you Asami but we both know you always loved him! Now that you have him don't you want to keep him?"
"Of course I want to keep him! I wanted to keep you too! Tahno is the most important person in my life now and I will keep him away from Korra. But I'm not doing it for you. I'm doing this for him. He needs to get over her and you need to get over yourself. I think it's better if we don't talk either." Asami was hurt and she didn't care if he knew it or not. She was ready for both him and Korra to be out of her life.
"I think that would be best. Goodbye." Mako turns and leaves without a second glance.
Asami runs to her room and slams the door shut. It would be easy for her to keep Tahno away from Korra; he didn't want to see her anyway. It was going to be much harder for Mako to keep Korra away from Tahno. She smirked to herself and thought about the hard time the Avatar was sure to give Mako. He deserved it.
She let the ball of flame bounce gently on her palm, even though the fire inside was raging. She had been waiting for Mako to come home for hours. He is usually never out this late and she had no idea where he could be but she had to wait for him. This was something that needed to be talked about.
Her mess from the day before had been cleaned up she knows that he knows she saw the letter. She let the flame fly towards the door as soon as she saw it opening. Mako deflected it easily with his own firebending.
"Korra! What the…calm down!" he said, holding his hands up.
"Sit down! We need to talk!" Korra bounced another flame ball in her hand. She was definitely not in the mood for Mako's wishy washy peace tactics. "When were you planning on telling me that your ex-girlfriend has been hanging out with Tahno? When were you going to tell me that he is in Republic City? When Mako?"
Mako sees the pain and fire in her eyes and decides to tread lightly but tell the truth. "I wasn't going to tell you." He stops her from interrupting. "I wasn't going to tell you because I didn't want to see you get hurt again. Korra I care about you. A lot. And after he left you were a mess. I left Asami to be with you and take care of you. You are the Avatar and we need you to be your best. All the time. We can't afford to lose you to emotions again."
"Lose me to emotions? Seriously? I can handle my emotions by myself. I am not a child that needs to be taken care of. Let me make my own decisions. Who are you to decide what I do with my life Mako? You're right I am the Avatar! And it is my DUTY to restore bending abilities to Amon's victims. Guess who was a victim? TAHNO! I have to find him."
"What if he doesn't want to be found Korra?" Mako's eyes sadden and he looks at her with a heaviness she hadn't seen before.
"Then he needs to tell me himself."
"Tahno. I need to talk to you. Will you please open the door?" Asami knocks on the door again and hears an irritated sigh from the other side. He was in a bad mood tonight, nothing new of course, but she needed to talk to him right now.
He opens the door but doesn't let her in. She looks past him and sees the mess in his apartment. Clothes were everywhere, takeout boxes spilling out of the trash bin. The old Tahno would never live like this. He had always been fashionable and clean. Now he was wearing a dingy white tank top and lounge pants. Struggling to find the courage she looks into his eyes.
"Are you going to let me in?"
"No. I'm not really in the talking mood at the moment so just say whatever it is you needed to say." He smirks at her with a hint of his old arrogance. "I was just getting ready to go to the gym so make it quick."
"Um…well. I actually wanted to talk to you about the fight. I know it's really important to you but….I don't think you should do it!" the last part comes out as a rush and Asami looks down at her feet, waiting to hear how he'd react.
"You want me to drop out of the fight? You want me to give up on the one thing that is keeping me going? You want me to quit the very thing that keeps me sane?!" He pounds his fist against the doorframe. She was afraid he would react like this.
"Just please…think about it. For me." She looks at him, proud of herself for not tearing up.
"Yeah. Think about."
He closes the door in her face and she can hear him kicking things in the apartment. She slumps to the ground and whispers "I thought I was the one keeping you going."
Instead of heading home after her talk with Tahno she decides to go to Future Industries headquarters to try out one of their new developments. Even with everything going on in her personal life she was still the head of the family company. Plus tinkering around with the products helped eased her mind.
She dives into a project full steam. Her thoughts strayed from Mako, Tahno and Korra to steam power and combustion engines. A wrench was clenched in her teeth when she heard footsteps. Tightening one last bolt she slid from under the lift and looked up at her visitor.
"Korra. Um…what are you doing here?" The Avatar's face was blank and Asami had no idea how this was going to go down. She hadn't seen Korra since shortly after her and Mako had gotten together and knowing that Korra knew about Tahno frightened Asami a little bit.
Korra's face crumpled and she cleared her throat. "I need to know where he is."
"I'm sorry. You need to know where who is? Do you mean Mako? I haven't seen him." She knew lying was risky but she had to play dumb.
"Knock it off Asami! You know exactly who I'm talking about! Where is…Tahno? I saw the letter you wrote to Mako. I know you guys are together. I don't care about any of that. I just need to see him. It's my duty as the Avatar to restore his bending." Korra looked away, but Asami could hear the hitch in her voice.
Asami turned away to try and buy time. She had no idea Korra was going to come to her so quickly, or so calmly. Mako had made it pretty clear that Korra couldn't know about Tahno and Asami didn't want her knowing as well. But what should she tell her?
"I don't know how to say this Korra. Um. That letter? That I wrote to Mako…it was a lie. I have no idea where Tahno might be. I haven't seen him since the match." She steadied her voice to hide the lie, not sure if Korra would believe her. Korra's face twisted and she looked like she was about to cry.
"Why? Why would you lie about something like that?" Korra had hurt written all over her face.
"I'm sorry Korra. I didn't know you would read the letter. I didn't know you still cared about him this much. I did it to make Mako jealous. I wanted him to see me with someone else and maybe…maybe he would want me back." Asami ducks her head in shame, partly for lying and partly because the last part was true. All her life she thought she had been in love with Tahno. When she was with Mako she had found a different kind of love, now she has he chance with Tahno and she realizes that this wasn't what she had wanted. Her love for Tahno was of a more familiar type. She still wants to make sure he is protected from heart ache again, that's why she is lying to the woman he loves.
"I…I guess I understand that. That was cruel though, you know? Just don't ever bring him into it again. If you hear anything about him…or from him, will you please let me know? We haven't been on the best terms but I think it's time we all start acting like a team again." Korra manages a weak smile and turns to leave.
"Korra?" the Avatar turns around. "I am really sorry."