Rating: PG, for alcohol abuse.
Characters/Pairings: Tahno, Korra; unrequited Tahno --> Korra.
Summary: Prompted by hollywoodhaikus (uptown_side): I would actually be really interested in a Tahno-centric fic. We don't really know a lot about him, but what about some UST with Korra or coming to terms with his bending loss? — Korra has an important, life-changing theory, and needs a volunteer to test it.
A/N: I don't ship it, guys. I know a lot of people do, but I don't -- except like this, an unrequited feeling from Tahno, who's had this one huge brush with a goddess, and who will probably spend the rest of his life trying to come up with a way to make his previous actions up to her. Kind of the way I ship Jet/Katara, honestly. Title and cut-text are from the only decent song Limp Bizkit ever wrote, Rearranged.
When the Avatar appears beside him at the bar, flushed and out of breath like she's been running, a sheen of sweat on her brow and eyes alight with something he doesn't recognize, he doesn't even know where to begin thinking. She's haphazardly dressed, clothes clinging and asymmetrical in ways that invite late-night thinking, but it's her eyes that really draw him in. Wide. Dark-circled and red-rimmed. Brilliant summer-sea blue -- without a hint of derision or pity.
He tries to look a little less drunk, but he can't will away the reek of bourbon or his wavering posture, even in the face of a beautiful woman who has obviously rushed to find him in some dive bar at an unreasonable time of night. He doesn't even like bourbon, but it's the strongest liquor he can buy with the little money he still has saved; even so, the smell is starting to make him nauseous, or maybe it's just the 100-proof whiskey sitting heavy in his veins. She falters when she reaches him, takes a deep breath and stops like that, mouth open but wordless.
He bites his tongue to fight the rolling nausea, bitter shame, and half-formed desire to grab her by the shoulders and drag her down to his level and kiss her and keep her and make her make things right again because she's the Avatar and that's her job -- instead, he says:
"You come here for a reason, Avatar?" just barely sober enough not to slur but too drunk to "accidentally" mispronounce her title. She seems to make a decision -- literally pausing and nodding to herself -- and so plops down hard on the stool next to him, ordering a glass of water from the bartender in a low voice and waiting for it to arrive before turning her attention back to him.
"I have an idea," she says firmly, and he tries to listen to her, he does, but he can either focus on the flushed color in her face or the still-heaving chest under ill-fitting clothes or the soft clink of ice and water. He chooses her face, for little other reason than, it's closest. "But I need a volunteer."
"What happened to your..." he starts, pausing less for effect and more to make his tongue move like it's supposed to, "teammates?" His tone is dripping with disdain, or maybe just dripping.
"They can't help me with this," she tells him deliberately, weighing each word carefully, bright-as-pain eyes locked onto his. A spark unwillingly lights in his chest, a flicker of maybe...
"What do you need from me?" he asks, trying to sound flippant but mostly sounding drunk. She doesn't seem fazed.
"Just relax," she murmurs, bending the water out of her glass. The spark ignites into envy, black and scalding, and he swallows it down hard, chasing it with the last of his bourbon.
"All right," he replies tightly, drawing himself up as straight as he can. "Relaxed."
She wraps the water around her hands and holds them to his head, right above the temples, and for a moment, everything fades into a blue-white and ice-cold glow. When the world comes back into harsh focus, Korra is smiling like Korra always smiles, the most beautiful thing he thinks he's ever seen.
"I knew it," she whispers, and then pulls him in close, so close that he can see the flecks of gray in her eyes. "It's the crown chakra," she breathes, her hands and voice shaking with excitement. "It seemed so fishy to -- nevermind, listen, Amon can't energybend. You have to be a really, really powerful bender, that's what -- I've been told," she says, censoring herself. He's too drunk to care who told her what at this point, there's only three words that are sharp enough to pierce his drunken and hopeless haze. "He's not, he can't. But he blocked the crown chakra. It makes so much sense! The more scared you are, the the harder it's blocked, so he lays this on thick..." she trails off, glancing down, where her hand is still clutching his shirt and his hand is clutching her arm so tightly that it has to hurt.
He lets go abruptly. "You..." he starts, barely breathing, "you mean..."
"Talk to the Air Acolytes," she tells him in that same whisper, like she's divulging a dangerous secret -- which, he'll realize later, she is. "They can teach you all you need to know about chakras." Finally, she moves away, smiling brilliantly again, and he's too stunned to think, to be happy, to be hopeful, to be vaguely disappointed at how far she is and will always be from him. "I have to get back. Good luck!" she says, pulling him into a too-short hug and then leaving as suddenly as she came.
For several minutes, he just stares at the empty stool where Korra sat, where she rewrote his fate, the secret she searched through Republic City's seedy streets at three hours past midnight to tell him. Korra, the waterbender who outclassed him in front of the entire city and didn't even break a sweat. Korra, the whirlwind crashing through his city and upending everyone she passes. Korra, the Avatar. Korra, the woman.
The spark grows into a roaring fire, energetic hope, revitalization, a second chance.
"Thank you," he says, long after she's too far gone to hear him.