Marching to the promised land
Where the honey flows and takes you by the hand,
Pulls you down on your knees,
While you're down a pool appears.
The face in the water looks up,
And she shakes her head as if to say
That it's the last time you'll look like today.
Lin is not the kind of woman to pause and reminisce. She's not reflective, she's proactive. When she jumps from the sky bison's back, soars through that cutting razor-air and lets her bending rip and scream, she does not look at Tenzin and think, the man I used to love. She looks at Tenzin and thinks, the man I am going to save.
It all happens in such a whirlwind of moments. Her body moves without stimulus—the wires shoot from her fingertips because that's what they're supposed to do, not because she wills it. The metal hunks tear away from the airship and the smoke rises and pours and fills Lin's lungs, but she does not choke. 50 years and this is still where she feels at home. Her feet on cold, solid steel, her hands working the mold of the world around her.
Lin does not pause and reminisce. And perhaps that's why she isn't surprised when the electrocution shoots up her spine, seizes her chin and laughs in her face, spits into her eyes. Perhaps that's why she doesn't think of Tenzin's biting words of rejection, the words saying I belong with another woman, but instead of that little baby in his arms.
She feels her body go limp, watches the scene blur and swirl, gazes at her distant hands as they grope for metal and dirt. She can feel Amon's eyes on her back, and she is not afraid.
It doesn't take long for them to be face-to-face. The sweat on her forehead glues hair to her skin—hair bleached grey after years of unrelenting work, years of training, years of life. Amon stares at her, a coward behind that ludicrous mask, and she sees it in his look—he thinks he'll win. He truly thinks he can wheedle information out of her, Lin Bei Fong, and capture Korra without so much as a twist of his wrist.
"Tell me where the Avatar is," that slimy voice coaxes, "and I'll let you keep your bending."
Rain smacks against her face and her knees are crying out in agony—they hit the stone too hard. But she can still meet his gaze with equal defiance, with equal will and equal power.
"I won't tell you anything, you monster," she snarls.
She knows these are the deciding words. She knows these are the words that will change the rest of her life.
She also knows it's worth it.
He swirls behind her, a creature of darkness and mystery and tyranny, and Lin forgets him. She does not focus on that pale hand rising in the air, meeting the rain with a kiss of death. She does not watch it with fear—she does not watch it all. Instead, she finally permits herself to remember.
She thinks of the early days, mornings of stone-cold beauty in the heartlands, of morning sun bathing forests and fields, of entering Republic City that first time, fists clenched and eyes wide. She remembers bending that first gate so ferociously, when a school teacher tried to keep her out of recess. She remembers being young and lovely and listening to Toph, her mother. She remembers those blind eyes and seeing hands, those words so full of knowledge and pain and willpower like hurricanes. Biting wit, a humor to every phrase, a humor Lin had tried and failed to inherit.
She remembers being loved. Yes, Toph loved her and maybe that's the only reason Lin is as strong as she is now.
The Bei Fongs have no power of contact with the spirit world. That's for the Avatar's fresh mind and undiscovered might. But as Amon's hand presses down, as it slices through air and sky and water, Lin swears the stars open, crack like shells. She swears Toph—words strained and clogged—whispers into her ear:
"Close your eyes."
Like a good daughter, Lin obeys.
Eyes closed and skin moist, water trickling down, soothing scratches, cuts, bruises, Lin savors the last few seconds of bending. She thinks of Tenzin's children, their bravery, the wind cutting from their palms as her rock burst from the ground. She sits in the storm and squeezes her fingers together, and a thin trail of dust lifts into the air. It swims up her arm and plays between her joints, dances along her knuckles for one last song.
Then that freezing, hiding hand touches her brow and the dust falls. Her eyes are pulled open with the force of a scream. She feels arms around her waist, Toph's arms, and gasps from gritted teeth, yelling at her to hold on, Lin, hold on.
And she does hold on. Lin lets her body fall to the floor, lets her breastplate smack cobblestone, but she vows that Amon will not win. Republic City will not fall.
Toph did not let Republic City fall.
Sometimes, on rare occasions like these, Lin lets herself reminisce.