Title: best intentions
Fandom: Legend of Korra
Summary: AU. Who'd have thought the Future Industries CEO masquerading as the Equalist leader, and the youngest nonbender son of Yakone would share their lowest point.
A/N: For amosami week day 4 prompt ‘illness.’ I...skipped day 3 because 'Lackadaisy' stumped me. Let’s see if I can do this basic AU premise across all the days: a sort of age/role reversal between the two combined with other AU elements. Also, some info on ages in this fic: Amon=17, Asami=27, Tarrlok=27, Yakone still alive, Hiroshi and his wife dead, rest of cast should be canon ages. And Asami Sato with a secret identity, so as the Equalist leader, her code name is The General.
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to the Legend of Korra.
The constant ache that had plagued Amon as if he were ill himself eased back once Tarrlok woke up. The older man was delirious, but he recognized him. They talked.
"Is it gone?"
"I don't know. Maybe. Everyone says you haven't bent since...but everything will be fine. Don't worry."
"The General said it would be gone."
"Never mind her," he said, and was embarrased to find a weird crack in his voice at the thought of her.
Amon stopped, pulled away from his conflicting emotions: reassuring his brother; being relieved at the thought that he could never bloodbend him again, though Yakone had not ordered Tarrlok to do so in ages; why in spirits' names had his voice cracked at the mention of the Equalist leader? But in the here and now, Tarrlok's eyes looked glazed, not really seeing Amon. The teen wondered if he were seeing instead the General, her white mask with green eyes staring unblinkingly back in his mind.
"Tarrlok, what do you mean?"
His older brother closed his eyes, sank further into the pillow. "I asked the General to remove my bending. She promised, she promised, she promised...."
When Tarrlok slept again and the General returned for her daily visit after the healers had made their rounds, Amon tried to draw her into the corner of the infirmary.
"Did Tarrlok willingly volunteer to have his bending removed?"
Without even a hesitant blink, the General said, "Yes."
Though the teen exploded, he still tried to keep his voice down. He did not want to wake Tarrlok. "Why did you use him as a guinea pig-ham when he volunteered?! Is that how you treat any and all benders that want to give up what you call their 'curse,' with experimentation?!"
"Unfortunately, there simply aren't enough benders volunteering to be cleansed–"
"And no wonder, if that's what you do with them–!"
"Not so, Tarrlok is the first."
"Didn't you even think that the heir to one of the city's worst crime lords would've worked better as a symbol cleansed in front of everyone?! Especially when his father was cleansed by Avatar Aang himself?!"
Was that...respect, in the General's green eyes? A more careful look at him, her attention finally raised, her interest piqued? It reminded Amon of Yakone. His stomach lurched...but at least the Equalist leader's eyes were pretty. And the teen's stomach lurched even more at that stupid hormonal thought. His stomach threatened to drop when she leaned toward him, arms folded behind her back as usual. Amon leaned back, trying not to blush, trying not to take in the scent of her perfume.
"But as you said before, Yakone would not answer a ransom for Tarrlok," she said silkily, then leaned back, and the teen regained enough composure to narrow his eyes at her. "And perhaps I was curious to see if the child of a cleansed bender would respond better to the formula."
The General nodded to Tarrlok's bed, and Amon reluctantly followed her gaze. "So far, it seems to be working. He's still alive. No one else has last so long."
And then Amon was left to think about escape again, for he and Tarrlok.
Thoughts of freedom from the underground base were premature, for Tarrlok seemed to have a relapse.
Amon and the General were back in the infirmary corner again. The teen was yelling now.
"This experiment is a failure, but my brother doesn't have to die for it! Please please, let me try a waterbender healer–"
"I've already given my answer."
"You have to reconsider!"
"I have to do nothing."
The teen continued to rage, unable to even try to keep his composure any longer.
Asami focused on weathering out the adolescent's rage. She was impressed he had kept his full temper in check for this long.
As he shouted and entreated her, out of the corner of her eye, Asami saw Tarrlok stir. It wasn't snapping away from a feverish nightmare, just groggily blinking awake. But she saw Yakone's firstborn furrow his brow at his younger brother. Asami saw him mouth a confused, "Amon?"
"–you train your people–"
Asami's eyes darted back to Amon. "–you train them all to avoid killing benders in combat as much as possible–why why can't you show the same mercy to your test subjects, to my brother?!"
She saw Tarrlok out of the corner of her eye again, stretch up on the bed, repeated a confused "Amon?" in a slightly louder voice.
"You keep looking at Tarrlok, have you changed your mind?" Asami almost blinked, almost startled at Amon suddenly grabbing for composure again when lowering his voice in one hitching breath.
She faced the teen again. "No."
Asami had been waiting for this ever since the teen refused to leave his brother's side–his fist darted out. Asami deflected and gripped and twisted, and pinned the teen's arm behind his back. The boy stomped on her foot and slammed his head into her masked face–she felt something crack, heard wood splinter–Asami felt her own spark of temper rise, and kept her grip, and pushed–Amon shouted as she dislocated his shoulder–
The Equalist leader's eyes widened, she felt Amon stiffen beneath her grasp, as Tarrlok swept a hand and a wave of fire swept toward them.
Asami instinctively threw Amon to the side and shielded him with her body. She felt the heat, so close, and for a moment she remembered the way the atmosphere was when her parents were killed....
The fire was still there, but Asami looked, and she felt Amon follow her gaze. Tarrlok's eyes were wide, his mouth slightly agape. Unsteadily he stepped fully onto the floor and off the bed, but with a stumbling step–when the earth lurched into a pillar the moment his toes touched the floor, Tarrlok jumped back. He did not land on the bed, but rather almost fell off it–Asami's grip tightened on Amon as he moved for his brother. Tarrlok put out a hand to catch his fall. Instead a burst of air exploded from his hand, and shoved him forward and on his feet.
"I...don't–" Tarrlok held his head, looked at his other hand, as if it betrayed him. Finally Amon broke out of Asami's grip, dashing for Tarrlok. Asami made to follow, but she suddenly felt her blood seize up. Her eyes caught Amon's first, freezing of his own will once he caught sight of her in a bloodbending grip. Then Asami's eyes darted to Tarrlok, his hand clawed, his eyes, unblinking, trained on her.
"You promised," he breathed.
"I did," Asami said, calming her chi and blood flow. She would break free at the right moment. "I thought it would work. Or you would die. I thought you'd be free of your bending either way." Asami's instinct was to lower her eyes, but she could not even do that minor insult to Tarrlok on top of everything else. "I did not anticipate this."
Asami felt despair once Tarrlok laughed–she could hear the slipping sanity there. "Clearly." His hand moved, and Asami braced herself, either to withstand or start moving.
Amon's stomach plunged. He stepped in front of his brother, one hand raised, ignoring his other dislocated shoulder and the hand hanging almost limp from there.
"No, we need her alive–"
Amon felt a split-second chill as Tarrlok focused such a hateful look on him, he'd only ever seen his brother give something like that to Yakone. And then he felt the horribly familiar bloodbending grip seize him, though it had been years the last time Tarrlok had done this to him. He would never forget that feeling, would he?
Amon tried to remain calm, though it didn't help that along with the bloodbending the fire was still raging and growing higher, and the earth was rising up and down like angry waves that steadily wrecked the infirmary, roaring gales of wind knocking down equipment. "Tarrlok, she's still the only one who can remove your bending–"
Tarrlok gave that horrible laugh again. "She had her chance."
"No formulas this time, no needles, she'll just–"
"How do you know she can remove it all? No no, she had her chance. She won't have another." Tarrlok gestured, and Amon shouted again as his shoulder was shoved back into place. Then the older man tossed Amon to the side. "Stay out of the way."
Tarrlok was about to close his fist. The General....
Amon threw a tray at him, charged him. No, the General could fix this, they did need her alive and intact....
"Damn it, Brat!" Tarrlok snarled, seizing him in another bloodbending grip.
Throat tightening, Amon fought and fought to move, when Tarrlok ordered his body to stop, stop–he'd endured this for years ever since he'd been a small child, ever since his mother and her family died, and all he had was Yakone and Tarrlok, Tarrlok and Yakone, Yakone had whispered in his ear that maybe Amon would get so used to it he'd shake it off–
Amon lurched forward, slamming to the floor on all fours. He gasped, struggling for air, and he stared at Tarrlok, both brothers shocked at what just happened. Dazedly, Amon realized Yakone would be pleased at being proven right.
Tarrlok must've been distracted enough, for the masked woman broke out of the bloodbending grip on her, darting for him. But he was fast, making Amon lurch up in another bloodbending grip, and the General freeze again.
The teen fought again, but weaker than last time, he couldn't somehow break out of that bloodbending grip again....
Amon's eyes widened as the General completely pulled away from Tarrlok's bloodbending grip, and just kept going. Tarrlok's eyes widened too–but a wall of earth leapt up in front of him, and the masked leader darted back.
"General!" Amon whirled around, finding the Lieutenant arriving with reinforcements.
And then it felt like the world exploded.
Amon ached all over. The earth felt broken beneath him, and he could make out smoke all around, could smell burnt flesh–he felt the urge to retch at that nightmarishly familiar scent.
"Brat!" He stilled as he heard Tarrlok call for him, his voice frenzied. "Brat! Amon!" Tarrlok's voice cracked. Amon struggled to get up.
He felt a hand on his shoulder, and looked to find the General, similarly lying like some discarded doll on the ground, as weak and struggling as he. Her mask was cracked. A part had fallen away, so that he could see her dark eyebrow, delicately curved and caked in blood. She pressed two fingers to his lips. Shush, she mimed.
The teen stared at her. He closed his eyes, slumped back down.
Then moved back up, and crawled to his brother. He managed to get to his knees before Tarrlok. For only a moment, then he slumped back down, the dark enveloping him just as Tarrlok's arms did. And yet the very last image was the fresh memory of the way the General had looked at him when advising him to be quiet.
Later, far later (or it felt like it), Asami found Amon again. He came to her again. He knelt before her again. Topside, this time, in another neighborhood ruined by Tarrlok, now called in frightened whispers the Other Avatar. It didn't help that the Avatar girl fought him back just as intensely.
"He won't listen to me," Amon said, his voice aged even more than what it had been before, exhaustion stopping it from becoming a completely dead monotone. "I can't do this alone." He bowed his head. "I need help."
Asami noted he looked beaten to hell. She saw new burns. Her own monotone was tainted by her own feeling, her own remorse. "I caused this."
"That's why I need your help."
Asami helped Amon to his feet.
A/N: Thanks for all the feedback and support. Hope you enjoyed.