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The red and gold hairpiece is gone, as is the protruding stomach, but Mako would recognise the raven hair and hardened amber eyes from anywhere.


Her brownish-grey robes flapping behind her, she kneels down at the edge of the sewer and gestures for the brothers to come towards her. A splash somewhere in the sewage behind the barrel causes Mako to glance back, worried, but he can't see anything.

"Shark rat," Bolin says softly. "It was a shark rat." The firebender's heart, at last given some rest, speeds up once more; panicking, he reaches down to paddle through the water, his palms stinging from the sewage. "Mako I can see the fin."

The firebender turns back behind him, a flame blazing in his hand, and locates the brown fin dipping in and out of the green-tinged waters, diving under to slip past floating flotsam. Back at Hai. Back at the shark rat. If the predator is out for them, there's no way they'll make it to Hai, and the fire grows stronger.

"Don't do that!" Hai calls out, but Mako's only concern at the moment is getting away from the predator gliding towards them, the scaly tail flipping back and forth below the broken surface. He counts three seconds, raises his arm, and fires a bolt of flame.

The shark rat squeaks as the tongue of fire licks the water, and then the sewage explodes.

The detonation sends Mako, Bolin, and the now-smashed-in-half barrel flying into the wall; falling jerkily to the ground, the firebender dodges the rest of the debris and raises the barrel up in front of him and his brother for protect, bracing himself against it until a powerful grip snags it out of his grasp.

Hai glares at him. "You haven't learned anything, have you?"

Bolin leaps up, springing immediately up from the dangerous situation, and tackles Hai, squeezing her tightly. "Hai where have you been we haven't seen you in forever what's been going how are the babies?" he bursts out breathlessly. Mako notes the lack of a curve on her belly, and he has a sinking feeling that that memory of the beast and the blood might not have entailed a safe delivery. He remembers when Bolin was born; the amount of blood has seared the image into even his two-year-old mind. He sees the shiver run through Hai's form as she latches onto Bolin, then pushes him away.

"I lost them," the woman responds crudely.

The earthbender's eyes widen, his eyebrows slanting, his mouth making a strange squiggle motion as if torn between answering, frowning, and crying. Mako bows to her. "Thank you for saving us. Twice, now."

Hai snorts. "You're welcome. Now what the Spirit World are you doing down here?" She looks left and right, eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Don't tell me you've gotten tangled with the Red Monsoons."

"No." Mako helps Bolin up and gives him a one-armed embrace. "We are working with the Triple Threats, but they're not expecting . . . that out of us."

"Do you even know what that is?" She mimics the high-pitched break in his voice. "Why are you with a triad again? It's not even winter. You lasted barely a season without having to fall back on something?"

He touches the scar on his arm, the picture of the long and winding street on which his parents flashing in a blink. "I had to find my brother," he says quietly. "It wasn't by choice."

"I was lost!" Bolin breaks in. "There was this nice lady with a pink scarf—I got some money off of her like you taught me Mako—but I left because she said you weren't alive."

Staring at his brother, Mako hears the words but doesn't quite understand them. Hai puts a finger to her lip, shushing the earthbender, and looks severely at the older brother. "Where are you two going?"

"We were running numbers." He isn't sure why, but he drops his volume down to a whisper. For the first time, the thought hits him, and his gaze snaps to Bolin: Yes, the satchel is still snug around his brother's torso. "But there was a thief." The skin on his back crawls, the burn healed on the outside but not in his thoughts. "Bolin pulled a miracle. A waterbender healed me, I think."

"And we ended up out here," his brother finishes, pointing wildly at the edge of the sewer. "After we fell off from other there."

Almost sadly Hai shakes her head, rubbing her elbows. "Mako, you're, what, ten years old? And already you pick your words as seriously as a lawyer. I hate what the street does to children." Another snort. "Nah, there are no children on the street. Only those who grow up, and corpses. That's all you got and all you're ever going to get. Now come on. I'll get you outside."

Something in him causes him to pick up the remaining piece of barrel as well, hefting it over his shoulder like a shield. His veins constrict when he thinks of the Triple Threats. At least they have the numbers. Mako isn't certain how long he was unconscious, but it couldn't have been more than a few hours. If they hurry, maybe they won't be in as much trouble. He doesn't know how numbers work, but the girl with the throwing knives mentioned something about not being valid.

Their light burning in her hand, Hai leads them swiftly through the sewer, firebending at shark rats along the way, their charred bodies dropping into the sewage and drifting along. Their footsteps echo eerily in the darkness, their breathing amplified, but the Red Monsoons leave them alone. In fact, Mako sees no one else alive, though a handful of skeletons here or there are hidden in the corners, like skeletons in a closet.

The stale air carries weight on his eyelids, pressing down upon him, but he trudges forward, leaden limbs struggling to follow Hai.

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