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First light. A golden glow hovers behind his eyelids, and he becomes aware of the gravel pressing into his face, the weary ache in his limbs, the pain in his ribs when he breathes. Bolin snuggles closer to him, each soft snore a present in its own right. Mako smells the ash on his scarf overpowering the scent of Daddy; it terrifies him, and his rapid heartbeat causes his brother to stir.

Before he can awaken, Mako rises, cataloguing the surroundings and making note of where they are: An alleyway of some sort, his neck cramping from being pressed up against a stone wall for so long. He mutters a quick thank-you to the spirits, as Mommy taught him to do. Bolin's stomach rumbles audibly, his older brother's responding a minute later. His hand twitches, and a flash of fire filling his palm drifts across his mind.

"C-cold," his brother mumbles in his sleep, his breathing becoming irregular, and Mako crouches next to him, flexing the fingers of his right hand, trying to bring back that feeling of warmth. Wrapping the scarf more tightly around his neck, he thinks of the stranger danger man who has thankfully not followed them. That thing in his innards twists and coils, and an angry heat, a rage he has never sensed before, builds in his chest, enlarging in spirals with every inhalation and exhalation. It spreads throughout his body, humming with strength and potential, scaring him even as it empowers him. Hesitantly Mako holds his hand out, scarcely daring to breath, and concentrates the core of his being into his palm, grunting out, "Hnah!" After a moment of nothing, of crushing disappointment, he feels the heat and sees the shadows cast off by the lick of flame curling around his fingers.

"Daddy." The word is almost silent. "I'm like you."

His voice comforts him, but his brother settling back into a steady rhythm, guided by the warmth from the fire, comforts him infinitely more.

His stomach growls again. Mako carefully, quietly, instinctively drags Bolin to the end of the alley, shrugging off his outer layer of clothing and covering his brother with it, leaving himself only the scarf and his pyjamas to keep warm. Then he thinks of breakfast. He doesn't know where home is, but it's nowhere around here, though he does recognise the sounds of a nearby bazaar or flea market. Breakfast.

"Bo, I'll be right back." He turns to leave, but his brother's abrupt gasp is enough to stop him.

"Don't go away." Bolin lurches to his feet, knocking into Mako, and shakes his head, his messy hair flying every which way. A catlike grin graces his lips. "I want to come with you. Are we going on an adventure?"

Mako swallows. Getting cake. "Yes, Bo, an adventure."

The earthbender claps. "Let's go!" He touches his hand to his belly. "After eating, please." The last word is pronounced pweash.

"Come on. There's a bazaar right around the corner."

Bolin giggles. "That sounds weird."

He takes his brother's hand. "Come on, Bo. Ssh. Can you play the Quiet Game?"

The bazaar takes them a few minutes to reach. Mako avoids the main streets: A voice in his head instructs him not to be seen, lest the stranger danger man return. Bolin fidgets, walking away several times, but his brother tightens his hold, refusing to let the earthbender from his sight. A cacophony of colour greets him, as does an impenetrable fortress of sound, ranging from the hawking of wares to the loud bartering of a sale about to be made. Pieces of paper or coins are passed about. His mind vaguely connects them to cost, but his hunger and Bolin's insistence bring him to cautiously approach a fruit vendor, a young girl wearing a torn red dress and adorned with a phoenix tail, her fingers curled around the handle of an unwieldy wooden cart. Her piercing golden eyes reveal a kindness behind them.

His younger brother grabs one of the ash bananas, but the girl slaps him and returns the banana to her cart. "I wanted that!" Bolin looks as though he's about to throw a tantrum; Mako knows that nothing can stop his brother once he gets going. "I'm hungry. I haven't eaten in fifty years! A hundred! I was just woken up from an iceberg!"

"Whoa, there, Avatar Aang," the girl replies with a smile. "You want food, you have to pay."

"Pay?" Mako echoes. "With what?"

He doesn't like her expression, a combination of disgust and pity, directed at him. "With yuans. Money. You know. Are you stupid?"

"We don't have any yuans." He's aware of his brother's tempest about to unfurl and rage across the land. "Please? One banana, and we'll leave you in peace."

The girl snorts and pushes her cart menacingly towards the brothers. "Get out of my way and stop wasting my time." Her voice doubles in volume, the personality drained and replaced with a professional cold. "Fruit! Fruit! Ash bananas, moon peaches, blood oranges, fresh from the vine, fresh from the tree! Fruit! Fruit!"

Bolin stomps his foot. "Mako, I'm hungry. I'm so hungry I could eat an entire veggie." His nose wrinkles, the tempest for a moment averted. "Well, not a veggie. But you know what I mean."

Mako does, but he wishes he didn't. He wishes Daddy could hug him, right now, and tell him what to do.

But Daddy can't.

He has to be the strong one now, for his brother.

"I'm hungry."

"I know. Run."

Listening to him for once, the earthbender dives for the nearest exit, and Mako lowers his eyelids until he can feel his eyelashes brush his skin. "I'm sorry."

The girl notices the stolen fruit only after she counts her profits for the day and realises she no longer has enough for the rent.

Several blocks away, two brothers split an armful of ash bananas, the grey skins dropping to the ground like their dreams.

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