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|More from Theavatardemotivator||Family/Drama||PG-13 (13 and above)||Positive||None|
A picture swoops through his mind: Hot lizard crow, the meat glistening with juices, the dinner filling in a way fire flakes can't ever repeat.
But . . . it's a living creature. Something in his innards twists and coils at the thought of hurting it, something reaching back to the days before the streets.
Then his jaw tightens as memories of the lizard crow's mockery of his failures from his first few months desperately trying to protect Bolin.
He's not an eight-year-old kid anymore. He's ten, and he can bend.
The lizard crow cocks its head at him, its black eyes staring blankly upwards, and the firebender hesitates. No sudden movements. He'll have to be quick to catch the bird before it can escape. And before he can change his mind.
Closing his eyes, Mako concentrates the heat of his core into the palm of his right hand, lifting his arm and expelling it with full force. A few people around him scream, the crowd scattering. Instantly the lizard crow squawks and flutters up, landing heavily on another bench nearby, its stub of a leg flailing while it attempts to balance itself. Mako throws his arms up, sensing the creature's heat, the reds and oranges of the rapidly breathing lizard crow's body standing out strikingly against the more muted tones of the languid passers-by. Catching the bird's warmth in his fingertips, he steadily takes a step backwards, wondering if this is what he wants, if this is what he needs.
No, he doesn't need it.
But he wants it. He wants it more than he can tell, wants to smite the lizard crow where it stands for the pain of the past two years, wants to prove he can.
The lizard crow caws explosively, its desperation audible in its croaking voice, and it spreads its wings and leaps off the bench, the wind picking up the torn edges and flinging the bird onto the sidewalk, where it flails. Mako's teeth grind together; he takes another step back, the creature's heat steadily channeled away from it, steadily drawn towards him to dissipate into the air. He doesn't care where it goes, so long as it's not in the bird.
Cawing again, the lizard crow makes a final lunge away from Mako, its talons scrabbling against the sidewalk, its missing foot hindering its motions. As the last of its heat is stolen from its body, the creature opens its beak and lets out a scream so human it gives the firebender pause.
He narrows his eyes and clenches his hands into fists until his fingernails leave red crescents in the flesh of his palms. But he can't. Even for all of the hate built up at the stupid bird with its stupid mocking, he can't do it.
His arms fall to his sides.
With a squawk, the creature half-hobbles, half-flies away from him, several scruffy feathers falling out.
A passer-by grabs his shoulder; Mako spins around, jerking himself out of the powerful grip, and glares at the intrusion, some choice words already on the tip of his tongue. A glint of sunlight causes him to wince, but his eyes adjust, and suddenly he finds himself staring at a police officer.
The cop frowns, her light green eyes harder than emeralds. "Where are your parents?" she demands. "What are you doing out here by yourself? And why are you firebending? Are you hurt?"
Mako struggles to rein in his breathing. His lungs burn. "I'm fine," he chokes out around the sudden lump in his throat and the immotile lump that is his tongue. "My brother's waiting for me, officer. I need to get back to him."
"Why were you firebending?" the officer asks again. She scans him head to toe; the firebender sweats under the severity and weight of her gaze. "A street rat, aren't you?"
He considers her, droplets beading his brow from his fear. What if she takes him away? What will happen to Bolin? "No, ma'am," Mako lies, his throat constricting. "My brother is waiting for me. It's his birthday soon, and I was picking out a present."
"Then why were you firebending? And where are your parents?"
The firebender stiffens, a wave of terror rolling through him at the sound of Bolin's high-pitched tone. Skidding to a halt, Bolin hesitates long enough to glance at the lizard crow before turning towards Mako; the earthbender grabs his hand and pumps it up and down. "Mako, I was scared. Where were you?"
"I told you I was going to the market," the firebender hisses, thinking of some way, any way, to somehow get away from the officer prior to Bolin being able to say anything contradictory to what Mako has already told her. "Bo, what are you—"
Bolin seems to notice the officer for the first time. He gasps, his hand flying to his head as if trying to find a hat, and bows to her. Mako blinks, the cop doing the same. "Mommy says you always take your hat off in the presence of a lady," the earthbender says earnestly, "but I don't have one. I'm sorry."
After a moment, the officer smiles. Mako exhales in relief as she removes her hand from his shoulder. "Your parents taught you well. You can tell them that."
Bolin bobs his head up and down. "Thank you. I'll make sure to let Mommy know!"
To Mako's surprise, the cop nods curtly and walks away, his brother's cheerful optimism somehow melting away her gruffness. A grin graces his lips. "Thanks, Bo. C'mon, let's head back." He hugs Bolin gratefully.
And then something in Bolin's shirt squeaks and moves.
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