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Fanon:Keep (Scarf)

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Mako leaps away from his brother, his hands flying to his chest to feel to make sure his own shirt isn't moving. His head snapping up, he stares at Bolin, protectiveness and concern bidding him to point at the earthbender's outfit.. "Bo, there's something in your—"

Red and white pokes out of Bolin's collar. Ears. A twitching nose. The boy laughs loudly and gently grasps the creature's torso to pull him out of his shirt. A fire ferret. "See, this is who I was telling about, Pabu," he chatters to the animal, which tilts its head to one side. Mako glances left and right at the people looking incredulously at the young boy speaking to a pet like it could understand, some of them smiling, others clearly seconds away from jeering. Grabbing his brother's hand, the firebender drags him along the sidewalk, ignoring him as he jabbers on. "This is Mako, my brother. Pabu, say hi. Mako's my guardian spirit, did you know that?"

Pabu. Bolin had to go and name it, didn't he? At the mention of himself as a guardian spirit, Mako pauses for a moment, then continues, running his right elbow over the bulge in his pocket to ensure the filched fruits are still there. There's no way Mako is going to let his brother keep some thing he found. Or worse, stole.

"Anyway, Mako, this is Pabu. He's mine." Bolin rubs his nose against the fire ferret's; the firebender winces and leads the two of them towards an alley where they can speak. He stops in front of the corpse of an elephant rat decapitated, no doubt, by a closing dumpster, trying to decide if it's edible or not. Reminding himself of the fruit and of the food taken from the triad, Mako turns away from the body and fixes his gaze on Bolin, who is currently being tasted by the fire ferret.

He quickly dredges up everything Mom and Dad have ever said on the subject of pets and stray animals. "We can't keep it," he declares firmly, crossing his arms. "It might have worms." Not that he knows what those are. "Or ray-bees."

"What's a ray-bee?" Bolin asks in-between tickling the fire ferret and embracing it fiercely; the firebender is about to interject when he notices how imaginably happy his brother is, his grin the widest Mako has ever seen, the eyes the brightest.

He doesn't remember the last time Bolin looked so unbelievably overjoyed, so engrossed, so alive.

No, he does. The morning he turned up on their doorstep, and Bolin was talking about the cake he wanted for his birthday. The words are stamped forever in his memory: "Chocolate, and vanilla, and mint, all with fudge and nuts and chocolate and more chocolate on top."

But somehow this little fire ferret has made him happy again.

He inhales, steadying himself, and teeters back and forth on the brink of decision for a moment or two before sighing. "All right, Bolin, who gave that to you?"

"Gave?" Bolin cocks his head to one side. "I found 'im all by myself," he declares proudly. "He was in a box." The earthbender giggles when Pabu—the fire ferret, Mako tells himself—licks his cheek, then sneezes. Hurriedly he adds, "It said for free, so I wasn't stealing nothing."

"A box?" Mako repeats dubiously, arching his eyebrows. He exhales slowly and touches his scarf, pleading for the patience and the strength to deal with his brother. "What does that mean?"

Bolin shrugs. "There was a little box full of fire ferrets." Gasping, the earthbender puts his hands over the animal's triangular ears and drops his voice down to a whisper. "He's all alone, like we are."

The firebender furrows his brow. "But you said it was fu—"

"His brothers are getting cake," he says quietly.

Mako's eyes widen, his chest tightening, his throat constricting.



Getting cake.

"He's all alone." Bolin's eyes are wet, more like pools of green than anything else. "He didn't have anyone else in the whole world who loved him and took care him and made sure he never went hungry. But now he's got me. Just like how I've got you."

Mako swallows.

"You had the chance to be a big brother," the earthbender remarks seriously, lowering his arms for a moment, his palms still over the fire ferret's ears. "It's my turn. I've always wanted a little brother."

He opens his mouth to respond, but whatever words he wanted to say—words of we don't need another mouth to feed and it could get us sick and it was in a box of dead things—are stuck in his throat, his tongue refusing to move, his heart hammering painfully against his sternum.

"Please, Mako?" Bolin sniffles, then blinks as if surprised by his own idea. Sliding his hands to the fire ferret's sides, he hooks his thumbs underneath the creature's arms to flail its limbs about, his timbre ringing out a full octave higher. "I want to stay with Bolin!" he says squeakily. "I want him to be my big brother and I want him to hug me and stay with me so we can have fun together forever. Please please please?"

A murmur in his mind tells him to say no, tells him that it's a terrible idea, tells him he'll end up with nothing but tears and fears and broken promises.

He recognises it, faintly, as the voice of logic, the voice of reason.

And yet . . .

Bolin's sheer joy . . .

He won't listen, not this time. This time, it's not about better safe than sorry. This time, it's about his brother's happiness.

"Fine." Mako sighs. "You can keep him. But he's your responsibility."

Bolin screams aloud and throws himself onto the firebender, squeezing him into a tight hug. "Thank you thank you thank you. I won't disappoint you, promise. Love you, bro."

He embraces his little brother back. "Love you too."

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