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Fanon:Hold (Scarf)

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The room is bright. The desk, after half a year, is still exactly in place, the chair fixed behind it. A few furnishings have changed—or maybe Mako couldn't notice them the first time around—but now his gaze travels over the disarming vase of red and white flowers on the corner of the desk and the painting of a sailboat hung behind the chair. And something else: A framed photograph turned away from him, an object completely out of bounds for the so-called office of a man like Zolt.

He stands there quietly, his hands clasped in front of him, the scarf pulled up over his mouth and nose, his steady breaths warm against his cheeks, as though he were exhaling steam. It comforts him as he waits, his skin crawling in his trepidation and mounting fear, like a family of worms has settled within his flesh.

Nail dig into his shoulder. Wulin smiles at him, the tiniest hint of fear lurking in his eyes as well. Mako squints, but the fear disappears in an instant, transforming to nothing but hard emerald. "You'll be great, kid. Do some firebending, and you'll be great."

Before he can respond, Mako senses him approach. Zolt. The scar on his left arm twinges slightly, reminding him of its presence, and then the door opens with a bang, the wood trembling as it slams against the wall fiercely enough to cause Mako to wince from the noise. A wisp of smoke accompanying his entrance, Zolt glides in, his shoes barely touching the floor, a smirk quirking the corners of his mouth. Behind him walks a beautiful woman, her skin pale as the moon, her near lack of an outfit revealing more than Mako ever wanted to see, though he feels something curious steal through him at the sight of her. Zolt mutters something to her, his sneer widening, and she makes to slap him but flounces off to perch on the edge of the desk while the Triple Threat takes a seat in his chair, placing his elbows onto the wood, the glass in his right hand filled with a red liquid reminding Mako of blood.

"Well, Wulin, wha'cha got for me?" His speech is quick, rapid, a constant rattata of syllables.

A pressure between his shoulder blades forces Mako forward; he half-stumbles, catching himself on the desk, the edge pushing on the crease in his palm of his hands. "Mako," Wulin directs, his words layered carefully, a hidden meaning behind every one, "show him what you've got, kid."

He wants to ask how, why, what he should do, but Zolt merely swirls the liquid in the glass. "Well?"

Mako has to. The point of no return. No, not even that: The point of not being able to leave.

He recalls what Miza told him, about everything, the slightly cool air kissing his skin as he lifts his hands and prepares to bring heat. Not firebending. Heatbending.

He wonders if Zolt knows of the art.

Closing his eyes, he envisions the room in the form of heat. Himself, like fire, red and gold and orange, spilling out to the floor below him, composed of dark colours, of black, the lack of heat draining away whatever colors there were. Beyond that, up onto the desk, to the woman, to Zolt, to the painting of the sailboat on the wall, the material a different temperature than the rest of the room.

"Well? What, he's constipated?" Zolt snickers. "What's he doing?"

Mako fights to ignore the noise and sounds, focusing on the heat of the sailboat painting. No, he decides abruptly. On Zolt.

Zolt glows with the same force as Mako. Firebending. His inner heat, higher than everyone else's in the room, channeled into flame, the source of firebending not even the breath but the warmth inside his body.

Now Mako understands, and now he is lifting his arm, Daddy's song in his ear, and now he has splayed his fingers, each tip feeling the heat within Zolt's form, the red and gold and orange, and now he is closing his fist, grasping the heat.

All of the cold winter nights spent freezing in the street, the two brothers huddling together, a stray newspaper or cardboard box the sole shelter from the frigid claws. Or the warmth, even, of the other triad, of the Agni Kais, the snow always beyond the window, swirling in spirals of white, the virgin snowfall saying nothing, covering the world in muted hush, the silence lovely, dark, and deep.

But he is no longer afraid of the winter. He is no longer afraid of the cold. He is no longer afraid of the lizard crow with the missing foot.

And now he is pulling his arm back, and the heat is following, draining first from Zolt's toes and fingers, feet and hands, legs and arms and torso, leaving blue and silver and violet in place of red and gold and orange.

He feels Zolt's form shaking, shivering, writhing, his hands fluttering to his chest, pushing on the skin above his heart as though trying to make it beat, attempting to grasp the heat within him.

"Zolt?" Wulin's voice, surprisingly high-pitched. "Zolt, are you okay? Zolt, what's going on?"


In the palm of his hand, in his fingers, in himself, Mako holds Zolt's life. He could take him. In his mind's eye he sees Zolt shuddering on the desk, his life unraveling before his eyes, coming undone at the seams, about to break open like a rotted fruit. Wulin bolts towards him, intent on grasping Mako's shoulders, jerking him backwards from his fear, destroying his concentration.

He has an instant to decide before—

He drops his hands, the heat returning to Zolt's body, the string tying them together broken at last, and he drops to his knees, spent and exhausted, knowing that he is about to die.

But he doesn't.

"My apprentice." Zolt smirks. "We start training tomorrow."

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