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"Very funny, Bo." The phrase is cliché, a staple of those radio dramas to which his parents enjoyed listening. "You're hiding in the bushes somewhere, aren't you? Waiting for me to find you. Come out." His brother doesn't appear; Mako frowns and wades through the shallow end of the pool, shards of reed stems slicing into the pads of his feet, and shakes the nearby vegetation with a hand, peeking about to search for Bolin, but the earthbender—unless he bent himself into the soil, which is carrying the jest a tad too far even for him—is nowhere to be seen.

Mentally, Mako retraces his steps. The pond, up the river, their temporary home. Up the river. Casting a wide berth around the bank where the corpse of the starved girl presumably resides, he makes his squelching and tedious way up the stream, forcing himself to be tranquil, serene, calm. "What would Daddy do?" The scarf fills his palm; he tugs on it several times, ensuring it is snug. "He would tell Mommy to calm down. He'd call. Bo! Bolin!" Overhead, the clouds darken, sagging with the promise of rain. "Bolin! Ow!"

Falling backwards, Mako rubs his wounded heel, but there's no puncture wound, luckily. There is a red mark, the impression of a small circular surface with a raised line on the centre. Eyes narrowing, he scours the mud, sifting through it with careful fingers when he is unable to discover the mystery object, and the search takes his mind off of the more important search, but he knows, somehow, that his brother is fine. The triads, as far as he thinks, wouldn't operate in a beautiful park like this; Bolin most likely went off after an iguana rabbit or a mockingjay somewhere and is giggling on how pretty it is. He'll come back. Mako nods to himself, the fabric slipping, the edge of the scarf trailing.

The grass springy under him, he crowns the hill, but Bolin isn't there, either. Sighing, the firebender sets himself to take a walk through the park: As soon as Bolin is hungry or tired, he will go rushing about questioning passers-by on the whereabouts of his brother, and then Mako will be able to hear his cries of panic and alarm and find him. It is as simple and easy as that.

Concern roils in his innards.

He sets himself upon making dinner.

By evening, the concern has spread.

The cold fish lies limply on a bed of leaves used as a makeshift plate, far removed from the hot bowls of rice and noodles, the baked goods, and the fresh meat of the Agni Kai Triad. Though it was a novelty and a blessed relief for the first few days, they can't live off of fish forever, but who is going to give them fruits, vegetables, milk, meat, everything else?

Perhaps joining a triad isn't such a bad idea. It merely has to be a good one, not one that will try to hurt him or Bolin again.


"He's going to be okay," Mako tells himself, folding himself in as tiny a space as he can manage, a flame flickering weakly in his palm. "He's going to be okay. Going to be okay. Going to be okay." The words are as real as getting cake, a broken mantra for his broken life. "Going to be okay." The imprint on his foot throbs; he presses it with his thumb, the pain ebbing and flowing. A shower of rain announces itself, water running down his face. He's not certain if what he feels is rain or tears. Through the breaks in the clouds, the stars shine on, oblivious to his pain and his grief. They would not notice if he died. They would not care. They don't shine for him or for any of the other uncountable children shuddering on street corners, trembling near trolley stops, anguishing in alleys, groaning in gutters, dying in dumpsters. They only shine for themselves. "Spirits, please, if you're out there, listen to me." A clap of lightning sears white in his vision, the thunder pounding his eardrums. "Whatever happens to me, make sure Bo is okay. Okay? Please?"



Somewhere, a badgerfrog croaks. A zebra loon neighs, its shadow black on the pale face of the moon. The clouds close, leaving him in a darkness almost as deep as that in his spirit.

His heel complains when he attempts to stand on it. His wet clothing stuck fast to his skin, Mako steps forward, intent on looking for Bolin, but the slick ground trips him. It splatters him, drenching him in cold and wet, and he lets out a moan, lying in the mud, shivering from the chill, refusing to weep no matter his place in life.

"I'm lost."


"Daddy, I wish you were here."


"Don't let me die like this."


Another moan. A death keel. It takes him a moment to realise it's his.


He pries himself from the mud with difficulty, the dirt clinging to his limbs, begging him to lie down and sleep in its frigid embrace.


Trying to firebend, he finds he can produce nearly nothing, the combination of freezing and rain weakening his power considerably. Barely, he crawls along the bank, the scarf dragging, the tip heavy with mud of its own. Pausing, he wraps it about his arm, ending at the wrist, and moves on, feeling like an infant without the ability to walk, reduced to this, but there is no Daddy happily waiting for him on the other side of the room, no Mommy proffering an embrace, nothing, nothing, nothing at all.

A small circular surface with a raised line on the centre jabs his palm. Inhaling, he picks it out from the soil, examining it in the glow of the ember on his thumb, anything stronger impossible.

A low sob chokes in his throat.

It's a glimmering black screw from a Satomobile.

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