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The boy looks confused for a moment. "Aren't you Red Monsoons?" he asks. Mako notices the boy's arm shifting behind his back, and he steps forward, the sewer air dank and frigid. "That kid said you were from the triad."
The firebender narrows his eyes. "Why did you heal me?"
"He said you were from the triad, I told you." The pale waterbender licks his lips with an emotion Mako can't pin down: Nervously? Predatorily? Uncertainly? "And he had money on him."
Mako glances at Bolin from the corner of his eye. "Money? Where did you . . . ah, of course." He has no idea, but that can be discussed later, after he gets the two of them out of this mess. He inhales, and his lungs fill with rank air harboured in the dark, the cold gone from foreign to inhuman as the smooth motions of the boy potentially blocking their escape.
"You're not from the Red Monsoons." The boy's grey eyes glitter dangerously. "He's bends earth; you, fire. I knew it."
"You must be stupid," Bolin interjects, popping out from behind Mako. "I don't even know what the Red Monsoons is, but we're from the triad, just like you asked!"
The boy lets out a high-pitched squeal of a laugh that grates the firebender's ears and causes him to stumble back, his hands over his ears. In an instant, the water from the bathtub is in the air, formed into spikes of ice. His eyes widen, and he frantically punches out, forming a wheel of flame to instantly melt the ice. The taste of copper in his mouth, he unleashes a fiery kick in the boy's direction, sending him into the wall, and grabs Bolin's hand. "Go!"
Mako's gaze is fixed on what appears to the exit, a shallow shortening of the shadow compared to the rest of the cave. A splash of water sends a jolt of vigilance through him, the tentacle of liquid wrapping itself around his ankle, jerking him back abruptly.
"Oh no. No one messes with Red Monsoon territory." His shirt comes up, the rough stone scratching his chest and stomach as he's dragged along the ground, scrabbling for purchase, his fingernails torn off by the jagged rock. In a last-ditch effort Mako spins himself about and stares at the pale waterbender, thrusting his arms forward. A shield of ice blocks the flame; the boy smirks.
"Stay away from my big brother!" The firebender snaps his head backwards in time to see Bolin lift earth up and toss it at the waterbender, who fluidly dodges them, but in the diversion Mako kicks the boy a face-full of fire. The waterbender's cry of pain shatters his eardrums, the agony shooting through his skull and down his back, the base of his spin cold as ice. Bolin's hand clasps his shoulder. "Mako?"
The firebender struggles to his feet. "Bo." He scans the situation: The waterbender down, straining back up, at the far end of the cave. The brothers at the front of the cave, a few metres away from the exit. The ceiling, glistening with moisture. Inspiration hits him like a rock to the head, and he glances at Bolin, whose emerald eyes brighten. They nod to each other. "Bring the house down."
The earthbender closes his fist. The ceiling shakes. Another, and a few cracks appear, each one twisting and reaching towards the waterbender, now on all fours, covering his face with his hands.
"No." The boy's moan flows over them as surf over the barren shore. "No. You wouldn't."
Bolin hesitates for a moment. Mako lowers his eyelids, turns away, crosses his arms over his chest, half of him shrieking to force his brother to do it, to protect them, to ensure a safe escape, half of him begging him to stop Bolin.
No more noise. His brother, still pausing, quivering with the power to potentially end someone's life.
Mako feels Bolin grasp his hand. "Come on, Mako! Run!" He looks back for a moment at the shaking body of the waterbender who could yet again attack them and keep them from freedom, and he wonders what to do. But then his brother is pulling him on. "Mako! Come on!"
His feet pound into the ground, every step another step to escape, to freedom, to the only sort of safety the street can provide: Opportunity. Every footfall nearly causes him to slip on the slick floor, the wetness slowing his escape from the cave, but at least the end of it is in sight, the blue glow changing to a sickly green that whispers of death and disease, the cave widening into a vast circle, like a massive maw opening to swallow them whole. He hears the dull roar of water, and his gaze flickers to the roof: Patterns of blue and green light, like waves. His revelation knocks the wind out of him.
His brother gazes back at him, their fingers interlaced. "Mako? What's wr—"
Bolin steps from the lip, his legs pedalling the emptiness for a moment, and then he is gone in the darkness, his scream cleaving the heavy air. His hand. His hand. Mako twists backwards, Bolin's life in his grasp, and grabs his brother's arm with his other hand as well, keeping him up. "Bo!" His brother's scream is never-ending. The firebender feels himself slide, his heels ripped up, blood welling from the wounds. "Bo! You have to earthbend yourself back up! Bo!"
"I—can't—" his brother gasps out, the words bounding and rebounding off the walls of the sewer, and Mako picks up the sound of speaking somewhere below them.
His feet are slipping. It's too wet, a watery world, a watery grave.
Bolin screams again, and Mako slides to the edge of the lip, his worst fears confirmed: Below them is nothing but the sloshing sewer river, the darkness too great to determine the drop.
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