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Darkness lurking, swelling, feeding at the corners of his vision, growing, pooling.

He stands in the centre of a lake of shadow, his arms thrown out to the world.


Wraiths dance, spin.


Faster, faster, twirling tightly, beating like hearts, quickening as he runs towards them, his bare feet slamming against the ground, his breaths rapid, his pulse rapider, but the moment he touches them, they disappear, turn into dust carried away on the wicked and wild wind. He can't see their faces anymore, can't hear their voices, and he collapses to the earth, his every thought concentrated on the feeling of his brother's arms around him, of the bright red of the scarf.

The darkness rises up around him, spiralling about his ankles, legs, stomach, arms, mouth, until he can't breathe, the shadow like a cloth over his face, choking him, blinding him, rendering him unable to do anything, and he pushes and strains and—


His name.

His brother's voice.

The suffocating darkness peels away, his lungs filling with needed air, arms around him, his face crushed into warmth that smells of Daddy, wetness soaking his hair.


So much shaking.


He can't see anything. Can't hear beyond the beating of his brother's heart. Can't feel but for the rocking of Mako's body.

But it's enough.

It's enough, and it's enough, and it's enough.

"You're s-safe now." The timbre breaks on him as the waves breaking on the shores. Tears, Bolin realises. His brother is crying. So is he. Both of them. "I thought I'd l-lost you."

But he's not safe. Not yet. Struggling for a moment, he squirms out from Mako's reach, his fingers curling around his brother's wrists, and he senses a blanket—the darkness?—shifting under him. Tearing his gaze from the scarf, he jerks back and stares directly at Mako's face.

The hair. The cheekbones. The nose. The lips. The eyebrows.

Bolin's thumb presses under his brother's chin, causing Mako to open his eyes, a film of tears blurring the colour. But gold—bright molten gold—has been liquefied within them.

"Mako." Now the name is affixed to the truth. His brother. "You came back."

"Bo, I love you." A shiver runs through him, a tremor through stone, a ripple through water. "I would never leave you."

Bolin doesn't reply, only embraces his brother again. He can't care where they are, be it in the centre of a triad nest or in the den of an armadillo lion. He can't. All he knows is comfort and warmth and Mako.

And that's all he needs.

Following a lifetime held in the safest place he's ever been, Bolin allows himself a look around. Wrapped in a beige blanket, they're on a white cot in an otherwise grey room, a solitary window—a full moon glows brightly, framed by patterns of cloud—on the other wall. A lantern hangs on the ceiling, its light weak and yellowish, while a nightstand with a radio surprises him to the right, the grains in the wood hinting of memories of another nightstand, another radio, winters spent listening to many tones and chimes spring to life with the flicker of a finger, music pouring into the air crisp as a sheet of glass, Mommy's singing bringing heat into the room as nothing else. And Mako, joining her in his high alto, the sound swelling into a crescendo, an embarrassing crack on the highest note, a falseness that causes the family to burst into laughter, hugs and smiles the only currency they knew or cared about.

He has a desperate desire to snap the radio on and remember, but for some reason he can't recall the exact beam on Mommy's face. Ignoring what that might mean, he decides the room, wherever he is, is home. Mostly because Mako is here. But also because it's not cold or hot, and he doesn't feel the pain of hunger ripping his stomach into pieces.


"Where are we?"

"It doesn't matter." He bites his lip, and Bolin gazes at him serenely. Inside, he wants to run around and shake the bed and flip a table, screaming at the top of his lungs for his joy at seeing Mako again, but his limbs feel weighed down. Not in a bad way. In a sort of too-warm-to-move way.


"Where are we?" he asks again, softly this time.

His brother's throat vibrates. "I made a deal with one of the triads, brother, to get you back. The Triple Threats. They said that they knew where you were." He falters, and Bolin notes the purple under his eyes. Overhead, the lantern blinks, the light dimming, the blue of the night-time stealing over its golden glow. "It was the only thing—" Mako grasps his left arm suddenly, his elbow jabbing his brother in the belly, and winces. "—I could do. Please, forgive me. I'm so sorry."

He cocks his head and touches his brother's nose with a forefinger, then traces a line of wet down his cheek, a drop forming on the tip of his nail. "Why are you sorry?"

"What? You're not angry?" The fire in his eyes has died to be replaced with ash, but it kindles once more as Bolin brushes his brother's right hand, fingers still putting pressure on an apparent wound.

"What's wrong with your arm?"

He sees Mako's gaze move left, slipping from shoulder to elbow in a heartbeat. "I made a deal," he whispers again. "I made a deal . . ."

"It's okay," Bolin chirps, reaching up to ruffle his brother's hair. It's then that he notices his own has been cut short, somewhat unevenly, but the thought of Mako carefully firebending away the excess, the black locks dropping away into his lap as he works tirelessly on his sleeping brother, makes him grin. "As long as we're together, we're okay."

He's overjoyed to see Mako smile back, however slightly. "Bo?"

"Yes brother?"


"Happy seventh birthday."

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