Inspired by this.
He brushed sweat from his forehead as he bounced back on the ball of his left foot. This city got deathly cold in Republic City most nights, but this week was sweltering hot. Their coats and layers were tucked safely away in the bag that Bolin carried, and Mako had stripped down to an undershirt to take on the thugs.
It wasn’t the first fight he’d been in, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. The other people on the street saw kids and thought that would mean they were easy pickings. Clothes, food, shelter — they had to fight to keep what little they had accumulated. Too old to be cute or pitied anymore, and too young to be viewed as a legitimate threat. It was a difficult age.
Another punch, a kick followed by a gout of flame sent the would-be thieves running back down the alley. They would need to move soon, before the police came to arrest people for disturbing the peace — as if they had started it.
He wished he could say he’d made it so Bolin never had to fight, but it happened sometimes. Bolin was so good. He wanted to help his big brother in everything. He wanted to be a hero. He didn’t realize that Mako had no lines he was unwilling to cross, not if it was for Bolin’s sake. So far he had managed to avoid the Triad. It was one thing for Mako to be willing to do anything, he wouldn’t let that kind of scum anywhere near Bolin. It was getting harder though. Harder to get the things they needed to survive. A firebender from the Triad had approached him before. They offered a lot of things. Things that would make life easier. But it would mean letting Bolin get dirty or leaving Bolin. Neither was an option.
“Not bad kid. You ever consider putting that kind of skill to real use?”
Mako put himself between Bolin and the hunched old man that had managed to sneak up on him. A quick fist rubbed across his face ensured that he had managed to avoid getting a bloody nose from the fight. “Not interested in the Triad.”
He felt Bolin move in close behind him, no doubt trying to look intimidating, nothing either of them really accomplished right now. “Yeah! We don’t want anything to do with you!”
The old man looked surprised for a brief moment before snorting and breaking into a laugh, creaky old voice breaking on the harsh sound.
“What’s so funny!?”
“Ain’t got nothing to do with the Triad, kid.” He hooked a thumb over his shoulder pointing to the golden monument that was the pro-bending arena a few blocks away. “I’m Toza. Coach benders for the arena. An’ you look like you could be half decent. What d’ya say? Let me get a feel for if you’re any good, we might be able to work something out. It’ll be a free meal tonight either way.”
“Both of us?”
Toza squinted doubtfully past me to Bolin. “Only interested in fighters, kid.”
“We’re a set.” I squared my shoulders and glared as best I could. “It’s all or nothing.”
He wasn’t looking at me though, Toza was watching Bolin behind me as he answered, “Hmm. Interesting. Okay. We’ll see what you got, both of ya. Come on.”