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His claws curled into a fist of fire, the beast strikes her. Her cry of pain generates motion in Mako, making a dash towards the door, Bolin behind him. "You're dead, bitch." The phrase causes the firebender to turn around for a moment, his own betrayal—his running away—bitter on his tongue. Hai has crumpled to the floor, her arms dangling at inhuman angles, blood trickling down her legs as her stomach shudders.

"What—have—you—done—to—me?" she gasps out.

"Shut you up, you lying whore." He moves to strike her again, and Mako sends a bolt of blaze behind him, hot enough to cause him to stop, if only for a moment. Then he runs, heart racing, breath ragged, terror rushing through him, twisting his innards and torching any rational thought in his mind beyond get away, get away, get away. The guards ignore them as though the brothers are pesky flies flying about rather than fugitives fleeing from fear, and he's thankful the spirits have shown this small sign of help to their hopeless situation. Metal melts in his mouth, ire and iron interweaving into inferno that escapes, lighting their path through the menacing warehouse, no longer empty as it is choking, no longer a seemingly safe place as it is dangerous as death.

Bars of steel wrap around his shoulders, his bones nearly breaking, the pain pulverising his attempts at evasion, and Bolin's hand slips from his, his brother tripping and falling. Mako tries to spin about, blood boiling into explosive flame, but it dies out the instant it appears, and the beast's claws gouging gashes into his flesh. "I'll have you first," he purrs, his groping hands grasping at the collar of Mako's shirt and ripping it from his body; the cool air somehow burning his heated skin. The beast's glare meanders over him, centring on his pants, as a flare of light at the leg lets him know the clothing is charring to a crisp until he stands there naked but for his scarf, his sternum screeching from the agony of his heartbeat, his entire world little but blood on his lips, blood on his brow where he hit the floor, blood soon to be all over him once the beast has broken him like shattering glass. "I like it when my bitches fight. Fight me."

The words are the last spark of life within him, and once they leave, he is nothing. "I'm sorry, Bolin."

The ground underneath the vile thing lifts, knocking him backwards and throwing him across the room. Not quite painfully the pads of Bolin's fingers snag the back of Mako's hand. "Brother, hurry! Brother?"

Already the beast is beginning to rise, and this time the guards approach the brothers, their leader's wishes finally concerning him.

Mako inspires and embraces Bolin, picking up him. "Bo," he says with a voice no longer his, "earthbend us into the ground. We're playing hide and seek."

The heat of the firebenders around them is traded for the chill under the surface. Boots stampede over their heads, but Mako merely clutches his brother more tightly, praying the darkness will not hurt them, suffocate them, put them to sleep, and he regulates his breathing, forcing his pulse to stabilise. "Can you earthbend us forward?"

Bolin is shaking. The firebender can sense his brother's eyes darting nervously back and forth, his fear of the shadows rendering him dumb and blind. "W-where?"

"Forward. Home."

But the earthbender does nothing except wrap his fingers around whatever parts of Mako he can reach, tears drenching the firebender's chest.

"Bo. Bo, listen to me. I need you to focus. Do you want Mommy and Daddy to bring you cake?" Once more he doesn't comprehend how calm he is, the emotion drained from him and into the rock around them. "Please, Bo, I'm right here with you, and I won't let anything hurt you, or me, or us, okay?" Somewhere above them, the beast snarls for an earthbender. He gently takes Bolin's wrist and holds the hand to a smooth slab of stone. "Earthbend that away and behind us. I'll walk."

Quivering, shivering, shuddering, Bolin flutters his fingers, and the stone slowly slides deeper underground. Nudging his brother comfortingly, Mako steps over it, slipping slightly on the moistness in this world beneath the world. "Again, Bo. Please. Remember, Mommy and Daddy are getting cake, Bo. Remember that. Please. For me."

Once more the rock removes itself from the road, rumbling out of reach. Mako continues, his eyelids lowered, his every movement a master of motion, his ears trained on the trouble over the top of the tunnel, waiting the word warning them of impeding danger, yet fortunately the great escape is well. He assumes. Perhaps no one can name one of the earthbenders from the ensemble employed by the Agni Kais. Maybe the spirits are watching over them.

It is within the bounds of imagination to wonder if Mommy and Daddy aren't truly getting cake, and that is the image compelling him to keep pushing on.

At last, Mako can no longer listen to footsteps. Any more time in the endless night shall surely destroy them. For a moment he lingers, considering his options, but, nodding to himself, he tells his brother to earthbend the roof. "Can we go up, Bo?"

Seconds span in silence.

Saffron sunlight spears pain into his eyes when it pours into the passageway. He fumbles as he clutches the mouth of the tunnel, hauling himself up, shards of stone cutting his bare skin, his brother tumbling onto the ground. Mako blinks rapidly, adjusting to his surroundings, and noting with a start that they are on grass next to a pond. The park? Few living beings are around. Besides, a shrub sprouts centimetres away, shading the refugees from roving gazes.

"Where's Hai?"

The scarf unravels, long enough to cover his sitting frame. "I don't know, Bo." His cheeks are wet. "I don't know anything anymore."

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