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|More from Kugumi||Family||G||None||One-Shot|
|Shadows are Still Silhouettes |
Art by & ShOrtSh4dow
July 19th, 2013
And Shadows never die.
Written for Ty's One-Shot Competition.
|"We were orphans out on the street; I did what I had to do to survive and protect my little brother."|
|— Mako in The Revelation|
A crying boy in a red scarf apologizing over and over to a younger tot with a curly strand of disobedient hair. That was how Shady Shin would forever remember this couple of street urchins. They were tucked away in the shadows of Fire Lord Zuko's statue outside of the Central City Station—which, thanks to the invention of Satomobiles, was being used less and less—and a frustrated Shin was on his way back to the hideout after failing to complete a job on Lightning Bolt Zolt's behalf. Shin may never know what caused him to pull over in front of the station that day, but things that Shin couldn't explain he just accepted.
This was one of those things.
And he was never the same man.
"Hey!" He gruffly called to them from the window of his hot rod, "What's his problem?"
He wasn't referring to one boy or the other, just asking something generic to get their attention. The scarf around the older boy's neck contrasted brightly against the dull and dirty street clothes he wore, and in a quick moment, anger flashed over the tear stained face that turned to greet the gangster. "Nothing! Leave us alone!" the child shouted, simultaneously summoning a fireball into his hand.
Shin perked a brow and gave a light sigh of exasperation. Obviously there was something wrong. Ordinarily Shin would not have even batted an eyelash in their direction; this area was always crawling with runaways and orphans, and these two looked no different than any of the others. Such a vibrant shade of scarlet was rarely seen on these streets, though—much less by those who were young enough to cry in public. Still, the boy's amber eyes were fighting to hold back his tears in the presence of a stranger, and the Triple Threat felt compelled to find out why. Shin removed his key from the ignition port of his vehicle and placed it in his pocket before exiting to confront the spunky one. "C'mon, Kid, put that light out," Shin advised with a frown as he sauntered up to the boy that barely reached his waist in height, "I ain't here to play games."
What exactly was he there for? Shin mentally ignored that question, instead taking a brief moment to peek at the pudgy boy. He wasn't crying, he just seemed stunned by the burned arm he was favoring. Ah, Shin thought, it makes sense now.
He watched the firebender's face visibly struggle with his options, but finally, he extinguished the flame. Shin knelt down to meet the boy's eyes, which had started tearing up again. He didn't need to ask why the boy was crying; the disappointment radiating from him was tangible. It was a feeling that Shin had been reacquainted with earlier this very day: it was called failure. Shin's voice was even and cool as he spoke to the boy in font of him, "You got a name, Kid?"
He nodded his head and wiped away a few sniffles on one of his moth-eaten sleeves, "It's Mako."
"And who's your friend?"
"He's my brother... Bolin."
Mako's words were somewhat hard to discern from the sobbing and the breaths that were caught in his throat. A deep crease formed on the gangster's forehead, a promise of something more permanent in the future. He rubbed the back of his neck in thought and moved his attention to the clouds drifting slowly overhead. Man, this was a pain. "Should I heal him?" Shin asked flippantly, not even bothering to look at Mako this time.
"I burned him."
For the first time since he had joined the thug life, Shin cracked a smile.
Being a Triple Threat Recruiter, Shin was able to read a person quickly—even if that person was a child. From his observations, Shin was already aware that Mako had been the one responsible for the burns on his brother's arm. Of course, there was no way for Mako to have known that. Shin looked at Mako again and kept his eyes locked on him as he rose to his full height. "If you burned him, then maybe you should be the one to heal him?" Shin's smile remained on his face, "Or else put aside your pride to ask for help."
The next thing that Mako did surprised Shin, because it showed a maturity that was beyond the boy's years: Mako sat on his knees and bowed to the waterbender. "Please!" Mako's nose was almost touching the polluted ground, "I-I can't."
"Tch." Shin took a few steps past Mako, "Get up. Nobody likes a brown-noser."
Mako obeyed and the gangster got down on one knee again, this time in front of the green-eyed boy with the quivering lower lip. He gestured for the boy's arm, and Bolin looked to Mako for approval before he would willingly give up his arm to Shin. Mako nodded at his brother, and Shin drained his pouch of water to use on the burn wound. The skill of healing was important, especially for a gangster. Shin was particularly gifted at healing broken bones, but he'd done his fair share of healing burns as well. Within a few minutes nothing remained of the mark on Bolin's arm, and he was mystified by the glowing water that retreated into a pouch on Shin's belt. "Didn't your father tell you to be careful when you play with fire?" Shin warned Mako nonchalantly.
Mako didn't answer. He clutched his scarf tightly and his gaze fell to his feet. Shin decided Mako didn't need to answer him; The silence said everything. He rested a hand on Mako's head. He could always recruit them? Nah. A crybaby like this kid wouldn't last long in the Triple Threats, but maybe with a little help Mako's malleable young mind could still be of some use to the gang? "I'm Shady Shin of the Triple Threats. If you come with me, I can be the shadow to your fire," he grinned at the young brothers again, "but I can never be the replacement to your father."
He didn't even look to see if they were following his long strides as he made his way back to his waiting hot rod—he didn't need to. What concern was it of his if they trailed him or not?
He was not their father.
For the collective works of the author, go here.