Wounds Both Old and New

Summary: After her escape from Amon, Team Avatar and Tenzin decide to allow Korra to stay briefly with former police chief Lin Bei Fong in order to be near the hospital and hide from Amon and the Equalists. After Korra wakes, an unlikely bond begins to form.

Disclaimer: You know I don't own The Legend of Korra because if I did, Lin and Korra would be together, or at least bffs.

Pairings: Lin/Korra ("Korralin")

Author's Notes: My muses are incorrigible bastards.

Also, I wrote this before I saw June 16th's episode. Just...keep that in mind, I guess.


The sound of a weak moan drifted into the kitchen from the bedroom, signaling to Lin that Korra had woken at last. The girl had slept for nearly eighteen hours solid, by Lin's estimation. After the older Fire Ferret boy—Mako, if Lin recalled correctly—had placed Korra in Oogi's saddle, the entire assembled group flew on Oogi's back to the hospital to have Korra examined. For after Korra had first been transferred from the back of her polar bear-dog to the sky bison, she had ostensibly tried to answer Lin's question about how she escaped. She mumbled disjointedly about receiving a message from the spirit world, being locked in a box, Tarrlok's bending being taken by Amon, Tarrlok's father…and being bloodbent. She eventually kept repeating "bloodbending" and "Tarrlok" amidst words too garbled and quiet to understand, then dissolved into tears. Korra's three friends had surrounded her, all wearing expressions of concern that devolved into panic when Korra fell quiet, as if asleep, and couldn't be woken.

Once at the hospital, though, the doctors had found only minor cuts and bruises on Korra, and she regained consciousness and begged to be allowed to sleep. The doctors recommended that Korra rest for at least 48 hours, particularly in light of how exhausted a body could become after being subjected to bloodbending. One of them suggested that Korra be kept for overnight observation, but considering the fact that Amon was still at large and might have tracked Korra back to Republic City, the five of them (Tenzin, Asami, the Fire Ferret boys, and Lin herself) agreed that Korra should be kept, at least temporarily, somewhere unpredictable.

That was how the responsibility of watching over the fatigued avatar fell to Lin. Her apartment was close to the hospital in case Korra would later need an emergency visit, and of course Lin could be trusted to keep Korra safe at all costs. Later, Lin would wonder why she had volunteered to watch over Korra. At the time, she had herself convinced that it was purely out of practicality; Air Temple Island and the hospital were the first two places Amon would look for Korra, and Lin was the only one of the group not living on Air Temple Island. Tenzin had weakly suggested that Lin check herself back into the hospital, but she had silenced him with a glare.

Lin had carried Korra up the two flights of stairs herself despite her remaining injuries. Her right arm seemed to be screaming in pain, and her cracked ribs had not stopped aching since they had resulted from her body being slammed into the floor of the Equalist base under the Sato mansion. She probably could have benefited from some help carrying Korra's unconscious body, but she had already done plenty of damage to herself that night by infiltrating the Equalist compound despite still being wounded; it could hardly get much worse. But she didn't want to see anyone carrying the evidence of her failure. Korra was beautifully built, equal parts femininity and power, but she felt so dead and weak in Lin's arms that carrying her was impossible to enjoy.

Lin Bei Fong had not shed a tear in years, but she felt close to it as she laid Korra's limp body down on her bed. First came her repeated failures to thwart Amon, then she had been too late to save her metalbenders from having their bending taken away, and now she had failed to save Korra. Miraculously—or perhaps not; Korra was clearly immensely talented, far more so than Lin had previously thought—the girl had escaped from both Tarrlok and Amon. But it had obviously taken a heavy toll on her. Being subjected to Tarrlok's bloodbending had been one of the most terrifying, painful feelings of Lin's life, and spirits only knew how much of it Korra had been subjected to.

Well, she might be about to find out now that Korra was awake. Lin put down her spoon next to the bowl of koi-salmon soup that she had been trying (and mostly failing) to eat and got up to see to Korra. The girl was trying to sit up and looking around, disoriented. "Chief?" Korra slurred as Lin walked in. "W…where am I?"

Lin had been plagued by lingering feelings of guilt since her decision to resign from the police force, but she felt a fresh stab of the unwelcome feeling shoot through her chest. As imperative as it was to conceal Korra from Amon, if there was one thing Korra needed at the moment, it was company. The company of her friends, most likely; people she loved and trusted, people who knew how to comfort her. Lin had saved Korra from falling to her death twice when they had battled the Equalists at the pro bending arena, but she had been hard on Korra since her first day in Republic City when Lin had misjudged Korra as a spoiled, headstrong brat who was used to getting away with anything because she was the avatar. Aside from any of the Equalists, Lin was likely the last person Korra wanted to see.

"That would be just Lin Bei Fong now, avatar." Lin tried to soften her voice as much as possible. "You've been through quite the ordeal. What is the last thing you remember?"

Korra managed to sit up and support her back against the headboard. Her hair was unkempt, her face pale, her eyes sunken…and still, she was lovely. Why did the avatar have to be so damn lovely? "Um…I…" Korra shook her head, as if clearing mental spiderwebs. "The hospital. Is that…is that where I am?"

"We were afraid Amon might be able to find you if you stayed there, so…you are in my apartment. It isn't far from the hospital." Lin had been standing in the doorway, keeping a good distance from Korra. Unsure of how to proceed but fairly certain staying away was a poor idea, Lin walked to her bedside.

"It hurts," Korra whispered, sinking back down onto the mattress. Lin suppressed the sudden wave of affection that threatened to overcome her as she watched the avatar slump, looking defeated and broken. "My head hurts. My heart hurts. Everything hurts."

Lin judged that exact moment a bad time to talk about the health risks of having one's blood bent. "You have slept for a very long time. Your headache might be due to hunger." Lin paused. "There is hot soup of you want any."

"Okay…yeah, food. Okay." Korra's voice was barely audible. Lin quickly exited and returned with a tray bearing a bowl of the same soup Lin had been eating as well as a tall glass of water. The doctors had said Korra needed to stay very well hydrated. "Thanks." Korra struggled to sit up and support herself against the headboard; Lin slipped a pillow in between Korra's back and the headboard to make it easer. "I've never felt like this before," Korra whispered. "I feel so weak."

Lin allowed herself to lightly touch Korra's hair. "Eat. You'll feel better. Also…do you take tea?"

"Um…I like it, I just don't drink it a lot. Not habitually, I guess."

"There's a tea shop in Ba Sing Se called the Jasmine Dragon that was…well, started by General Iroh. You might have heard of him."

"Yeah…the Dragon of the West. He's…um…the current leader of the Fire Nation's great-uncle, right?"

"Yes. The Jasmine Dragon began exporting some of its tea blends, There's a black tea blend called 'rejuvenation' that might help perk you up."

Korra nodded. "That sounds good." She bent over her soup, picking up her spoon. "Thank you," she added, as if it took an effort to remember to be thankful.

"Don't mention it, kid." Lin could barely believe she'd said that. That was exactly what she had said when she had saved Korra, which was of course not something to thank for; she never would have let her die, and not just because she was the avatar. Was she trying to remind Korra that she had once done something other than be harsh and cold to her? Rather than wait to see Korra's reaction to that foolish statement, Lin retreated into the kitchen to set about making the tea. She could use a hot cup of black tea herself. With the stress of being police chief, she had been tempted many a time to have herself a glass of wine when she returned home for the night, but instead she had discovered the Jasmine Dragon herbal blends. Some nights, she consumed three large mugs of tea in an hour. Since she ordinarily drank tea at night, she didn't have many of the black or white blends, but she had a few, and at the moment she would have given about anything for a steaming cup of "blackcurrant breeze" black tea.

When both teas were steeped, Lin brought both cups of tea into the bedroom, where Korra was doggedly attempting to eat her soup, but her hand was trembling so hard she could barely control the spoon. "Would you…like to drink your tea first? That might be easier."

Korra looked up at Lin with an expression that could only be described as "crestfallen". "I can't…I can barely move. Does bloodbending usually do this?"

Lin set Korra's tea down on the tray. "I don't know," she confessed. "Tarrlok used bloodbending to knock me and your friends and Tenzin unconscious, but we didn't suffer…as adverse effects."

Korra tried again to lift the spoon to her mouth, with her face only a few inches from the bowl. Her hand was still shaking, and the soup began to spill back into the bowl; unable to watch Korra suffer like that any more, Lin steadied Korra's wrist with a hand to help her actually get the soup into her mouth.

"Thanks," Korra mumbled. "Um…can I maybe have this in a mug? Until I'm a little more steady?"

Lin picked up Korra's bowl of soup and shortly returned with, as requested, an oversized mug filled with another ladle-full of soup as first portion had gone cold.

"I'm sorry I'm being such a pain." Korra slumped over the tray. "I don't know what's wrong with me. I don't know if it's the bloodbending, or I'm tired, or I'm hungry…I don't know, did Tarrlok do something permanent?"

Lin laid a hand on Korra's shoulder. "You were asleep for most of last night, so I don't know if you recall, but the doctor said you were just exhausted. There shouldn't be any…permanent damage." Lin heard her voice trail off as she caught sight of the cuts on Korra's cheek for at least the fifth time. Lin had seen many injuries in her time, and the injuries on Korra's face looked as if they had been made by either ice or a brutal waterbending attack. Would they scar? If they did, Korra would have scars much like Lin's. Lin wasn't sure how exactly she felt about that.

Korra lifted the mug of soup with both hands and this time was able to actually consume some of it. She sighed deeply, as if in satisfaction. "This is really good. Did you make it?"

"Yes. I've gotten very used to cooking for myself, so I've become fairly decent at it." Why had she said that? Lin was not one to wallow in self-pity. Hadn't she gone after both Korra and her metalbending squad while still injured instead of lying in the hospital thinking about how Republic City was falling into shambles thanks to her? That would have accomplished nothing, so she hadn't done it.

Fortunately, Korra didn't seem to be hearing her; she was too busy enjoying her soup. "You must have a lot of mugs."

"Well, they are very useful." Hoping Korra wouldn't feel like Lin was invading her space, Lin sat down on one corner of the mattress and began sipping her own tea. She tried and failed to stop looking at Korra over the rim of her teacup. "So, avatar…your pro bending teammate. The older boy. He is very protective of you."

Korra took a small break from steadily drinking her soup to reply. "Yeah, he's kind of a protective guy. You should see him with his brother. They were mixed up with the Triple Threat Triad a while ago, so Mako is always really careful to keep people he cares about out of trouble. I guess maybe he's starting to think of me as his little sister too, or something."

"That isn't the way he looked at you," Lin pointed out. The same way I'm trying far too hard not to look at you right now. "I saw him kiss the Sato girl, but he seemed hell-bent on finding you. Perhaps this is too forward of me, but…do you find him romantically interesting?" Please say yes. Please say yes and get me to stop thinking about how even with your hair all tousled from sleep, it still frames your cheekbones so damn perfectly.

Korra sighed. "I…I used to. But he's with Asami. I mean…I kissed him once, and I just didn't…it just didn't feel like I wanted it to." She looked up guiltily. "I guess that was too much…I could have just said yes or no."

Lin shrugged, trying to ignore the fact that Korra had brought up the concept of how it felt to kiss someone she found attractive. "You answered me." She noticed Korra hadn't touched her tea. "Do you not like your tea?"

"I like it, I'd just…I think I'd like it better with some sugar. I know it's weird for someone from the water tribe, but I've developed a real sweet tooth since I came to Republic City."

"I can bring you some." Lin got up to return to the kitchen yet again.

"Wait…um…Ms. Bei Fong?"

Lin didn't particularly want to be reminded of her lack of title at the moment, but mostly, Korra could use her given name if she wanted. "You may call me Lin."

"Okay…Lin. Um…you don't have to, you know. Wait on me. It's…I mean, maybe you resigned, but you were the chief of police, and you're…well, you're kind of imposing. It just feels weird to have you…taking care of me, I guess."

Lin paused for a moment, trying to make sure she would later be able to recall the sound of Korra speaking her given name. "Do you remember when I said that protecting Republic City is all I care about?"

Korra nodded.

"You are the avatar. As badly as I want to take down Amon without the restrictions of the laws that are in place…you are likely the city's greatest hope right now. So if you want sugar in your tea and are too exhausted to move from being abducted by a heartless bastard and escaping a complete monster, I will bring you sugar for your tea."

Lin could have sworn that Korra blushed. Spirits, she looked adorable when she did that. "Okay." Lin brought a bowl of sugar to Korra and stirred a spoonful into the teacup. "Thanks." Korra took a sip. "Mmm, much better."

Lin sat down beside Korra and returned to sipping her tea. At least with Korra right next to her, it was less tempting to sneak glances at the girl lest she be noticed. Why did she have to be drawn to Korra? Was she determined to send her life down in flames? Already Republic City was going straight to hell thanks to her incompetence in the face of the Equalist threat. But at least she had tried. Some in the city might still hold her in high regard for her effort, and her metalbenders (no, spirits, her former metalbenders…what would their lives be now? Was there nothing she could do for them after failing to rescue them in time?) still respected her. But if anyone found out she had a perverse interest in a seventeen-year-old—specifically a seventeen-year-old girl, and the avatar to boot—that would be the nail in the coffin of the Bei Fong reputation. All her mother's hard work, practically erased because Lin had been born with a propensity for abnormal attractions. Lin's grip tightened on her teacup. All right, it likely wouldn't be that severe, but it would be a blow to Lin's reputation, and the more ignorant of Republic City might blame Toph for raising Lin wrong or some other foolishness.

"Hey…Lin?"

"Yes, avatar?"

"You can call me Korra."

"All right."

"Um…you look kind of upset. Are you okay? I mean…you were injured by the Equalists, and then…well, from what I could hear last night, you kind of led the way into the base and fought chi blockers…"

"I'm fine." That was the single biggest lie Lin had ever told. Her arm was still killing her, and her ribs throbbed incessantly even under the bandage she was wearing. In addition to that, her muscles ached from the previous day's exertions; after she had discovered Korra was missing, she had suited up and run to the prison without stretching or even hydrating herself, and her body was very displeased. She literally ached to lie down and sleep, but Korra might need something. And of course, now that Korra had called her attention to her injuries, she could feel her cracked ribs more acutely than ever, sending constant undulating waves of pain through her torso. "I think…I think I have to visit the water closet."

Lin left her teacup on Korra's tray and went straight to the indoor water closet, the only place where she might have some privacy if Korra were to get up and wander. Still, she was so distracted she left the door cracked; it wasn't as if Korra could be sidetracked from her soup. Lin quickly undid the tie on her green earthbender's robes and let them fall to the floor, scrambling to undo the bandages wrapped tightly around her midsection. As the bandages came loose, Lin let out a sigh, not sure if the pain in her ribs had abated or become worse. The bandages coming off was something of a relief for her bruised skin, but her ribs may have been complaining. Lin sank to the floor, hoping to further appease her overworked body by loosening her breast bindings.

Lin was so distracted by the pain her injuries were causing her that she hadn't noticed she had been completely wrong about Korra wanting to stay in bed. Korra had been enjoying her soup immensely, but she knew something was wrong when Lin ran off immediately after being asked about her injuries. So when Lin disappeared, Korra pushed her tray of food away and tried to stand up. Her extremities had mostly stopped shaking, and she doubted she could thread a needle or write calligraphy at that point, but her equilibrium seemed to be all right. She followed Lin, feeling much steadier after a few steps. She found the interior water closet (surely Lin must have inherited much money from Toph Bei Fong to be able to afford one of those), the door left slightly open, and there was movement inside. Hoping Lin was all right, Korra positioned herself so she could see; and the first thing she noticed was Lin's pale, exposed back, because her light skin was covered in massive bruises. Nearly her entire right side looked covered in the mottled blue to brown of ruptured tiny blood vessels.

"You're hurt!" Korra burst out, pushing the door aside.

Lin scrambled to cover herself with her fallen robe. "Spirits, Korra! Have you ever heard of knocking?"

"But you're covered in bruises!"

"Why aren't you in bed?" Lin demanded.

"Why aren't you?" countered Korra. "Look at you! It looks like it hurts to move!"

"They're just bruises." Lin tried to get her robe back on without exposing herself at all to Korra.

"Just bruises, huh?" With a flick of one hand, Korra pulled a stream of water from a lavabo in the corner.

"Korra, you shouldn't be bending. You shouldn't even be standing up. Last night, I was afraid you would slip into a coma."

Korra ignored Lin's admonition, choosing to kneel next to her on the floor and press the hand surrounded by water to Lin's wounded side. The water began to glow palely with healing energy. "I might be young, but I'm not stupid. And I'm one of the best waterbending healers in the Southern Water Tribe. Four of your ribs are cracked."

"Korra…" Lin's protest was cut off when she felt something quite new: the sensation of Korra's waterbending directing her chi to the damaged tissue. It was slightly painful, but mostly it tingled and felt somewhat cold. Lin clenched her teeth to keep from moaning. "It feels like…a healthy version of bloodbending."

"It kind of is. Hang on…I've only done a few bone heals, and one of your ribs is snapped clean through." Korra sighed. "I can't believe you came after me when you were still so hurt."

"It's not as if you're so special," Lin snapped, being harsh to cover up the lie. "I thought if I found you, I would also find my men. Not that it mattered. Amon had already taken their bending."

"Lin, I know you don't…you don't like me. But you did care about…about finding me, right?" Korra sounded hurt. To her credit, there wasn't even the slightest hiccup in the flow of energy knitting her bones back together. Spirits, it felt good; much more rejuvenating than even the best Jasmine Dragon tea blends.

"Of course I was concerned about you. You're the avatar. It would have been a disaster if Amon had taken your bending," said Lin crisply, struggling to keep her voice even.

"Well, yeah, I'm the avatar, but…that never seemed to matter to you." Lin felt Korra's healing touch move to her upper right arm, where another bruise began shrinking under the silvery glow. "I mean, when I first got here, you made sure to treat me just like an ordinary citizen." Lin could tell that Korra was trying and failing to inject some levity into her voice. "I guess…I guess I thought…maybe you cared about me. Just for me." Lin heard Korra's voice catch. "Tarrlok said…Tarrlok said I was just a half-baked Avatar anyway. It was only just when he had me in that metal box that I was finally able to get what Aang was trying to say to me from the spirit world, and I could have gotten out if I could metalbend…" Lin's arm healed, Korra's hands fell away. "So yeah, I guess I'm a terrible avatar and I'm no good otherwise."

Lin could see out of her peripheral vision that Korra was openly crying now. Lin could have kicked herself. She didn't want Korra to know about her perverse interest—Korra didn't need anything else causing her distress—but she certainly didn't want to hurt Korra's feelings. She shrugged her robe back on and rested a hand on Korra's shoulder. "Both of those statements are completely untrue. The idea that I don't like you is also untrue."

Korra looked up at Lin with tear-filled eyes. Tear-filled, wide, blue eyes. Damn those beautiful, expressive things. "I thought…"

Lin let her hand trail down to Korra's and squeezed gently, like what had happened after she had rescued Korra in the pro bending arena. "I at first thought that you were spoiled and self-centered. I was wrong." Lin paused. "I see now that…you are very brave. And determined, and…so much stronger than I had previously thought."

Korra blinked back some of her tears. "Really?"

"Really." Lin walked back toward her bedroom, still holding Korra's hand. "You shouldn't have bothered to heal me. You should be in bed, and not bending." Korra followed.

"Katara taught me how to heal. If you have powerful healing skills and see somebody badly injured, you should help. And those bruises…I just wanted to make sure you were okay."

"Get back into bed."

Korra sighed and climbed back under the covers. "Are you still hurt at all?"

"Just some more bruises."

"Do you mean real bruises or the 'I actually have a broken bone but I'm going to pretend it's just a bruise' bruises?"

"Both." Lin smiled grimly. "I may have a bone bruise."

Korra made a moue. "I should be able to heal that. Where?"

"I was thrown rather…roughly on my left side. You saw the broken ribs."

Korra paused to take a sip of her tea. "So…what, your shoulder is hurt?"

Lin clenched her teeth. She wanted Korra to keep healing her, of course…but she didn't want to know what unfortunate reaction she might have to Korra touching her in any way that approached intimacy. Korra healing her ribs had been bad (or rather, incredibly pleasant) enough. "No, it's…it's just a bruise on my hip bone."

"Okay, lie down. I'll take care of it."

Fighting mixed feelings of apprehension and anticipation, Lin lay down on her right side. Korra crawled over to her and started undoing the tie on Lin's robe.

"What are you doing?" Lin pulled away.

"I can't heal you through your robe," Korra protested.

Lin closed her eyes. "Fine," she grumbled.

Korra untied Lin's robe and, much to Lin's horror, pulled the sleeve off so the garment fell completely off of the former police chief's body. Lin tried to cover herself with her arms—she had never readjusted her breast bindings, and they were beginning to fall off—but mostly she felt her heart pounding wildly at the thought that Korra was actually undressing her.

"Come on, Lin. I'm trying to heal you and we're both women. You don't have to hide from me. Besides, I pretty much saw everything when we were in the washroom."

"Korra!"

One look at Korra's face told Lin that she was joking because she was still trying to recover from getting her feelings hurt. Korra avoided Lin's eyes, though, instead choosing to pull back Lin's loose trousers from her bruised hip bone. "Ooh, that looks painful. Hang on…" Korra pulled the water from her cup of tea, sifting out the tea leaves to press her hands to Lin's hip. Lin bit back a groan as the cool, soothing healing energy seeped into her wounded bone. "Better?" Korra slid her palm up Lin's side, over the ribs she had healed earlier. "Oh, I think I left a couple bruises…sorry…"

Lin's eyes drifted shut as Korra's soft, therapeutic touch glided over her skin. The pleasantly odd sensation of being healed with waterbending dissipated, leaving only Korra's strong, lightly calloused hand repeatedly stoking her side. After wondering briefly if she had fallen asleep and was dreaming, Lin asked, "Korra, is there any medicinal purpose to this?"

"Huh?" Korra asked distantly.

"What exactly are you doing?"

"Oh…" Korra's hand came to rest on Lin's shoulder. "Sorry…I just…I guess I got distracted." Korra pulled away and lay down. "I guess it's kind of…stupid…"

Lin sat up hesitantly, pulling her robe up to her chest just in case Korra was still looking at her. Korra was lying on her side, facing away from Lin, eyes closed seemingly to keep more tears from falling.

"Korra?"

"At least I can still heal."

"What do you mean?" Lin crawled over to where the young avatar lay. "Did Amon try to take your bending?"

"No, I just…" Korra curled into a ball. "I used to think I was so good at bending, and that I was all ready to be the avatar…but Tarrlok…he picked me up with bloodbending, and it hurt, and I was so scared, and I thought I'd never see Republic City again…I couldn't do anything! If I could have gone into the avatar state, I could have stopped Tarrlok from bloodbending me, and if I could have listened to Aang earlier, I would have known Tarrlok was Yakone's son and made sure somebody stopped him…"

"Tarrlok is Yakone's son?"

"Mm-hmm." Korra began to sob openly. "I was so scared."

Lin lost a minor battle with her self-control; she pulled the ornaments from Korra's hair and sifted her fingers through the loose dark mane. "Korra, if it means anything…I was afraid for you too. I wanted to find my men, I did, but it was the knowledge that you were missing that made me get up and come after you even though moving hurt. I lied before. You are special."

Korra rolled onto her other side, turning the full force of her trembling blue gaze on Lin. "Really?" she whispered. "I mean, you're so strong and amazing, and…and you're so beautiful…"

That took Lin aback. "Wait…what? Everyone thinks I'm…far too harsh, and impossible to be around, and…and certainly not beautiful."

Korra reached up and touched her fingertips to the scars on Lin's cheek. "I think you're gorgeous. If…if these cuts on my face end up scarring and it looks like your scars, I'd be honored."

Lin's throat went dry. "Korra…are you certain you aren't just reaching out to me because you were so afraid for your life yesterday? And because you're feeling a bit…insecure…at the moment?"

Korra reached up to wrap her arms around Lin, but since Lin refused to be drawn into the embrace, she ended up with her hands clinging to Lin's shoulders. "I'm sorry. I know I'm acting all over the place. I just…okay, I want to be close to you because I'm scared and you make me feel safe."

"What would you be doing if you were with your friends?" Lin countered gently.

"Probably asking for a group hug." Korra smiled tremulously. "Come on, Lin, can I please have a hug? I know it's not really…your style." Lin did give hugs. Rarely, but she did. Since Korra had asked, Lin gathered Korra into her arms. With strength that Lin knew Korra possessed but had not expected her to use, Korra flung both arms around Lin and pulled her down to the mattress. "Mmm…" Korra nuzzled her face into Lin's neck. "You're so strong…and cozy…"

Lin squirmed, trying to adjust to the sudden shift in position. "Korra, are you sure this is appropriate?"

"I don't care," Korra mumbled. "I need a hug right now, okay?"

Lin sighed. Korra seemed to care more about being comforted than Lin's indecent state of dress. Korra might regret it later, but right now it did seem that she needed to be held and told everything was all right. So Lin let Korra cling to her, and even allowed herself to run one hand through Korra's hair and lightly scratch her scalp. Lin was not the type to say everything was all right, though, so instead she chose to say "If Amon so much as touches you, I'll cut his balls off and stuff them down his throat."

Korra laughed, but she still sounded pained.

"Are you all right?"

"I don't know if I can do this, Lin," Korra mumbled. "I think Aang might be telling me I need to enter the avatar state to defeat Amon. But I'm not even close to that! I haven't even visited the spirit world! I'm a lousy avatar. Tenzin's right, I should be meditating and trying to get in touch with the other avatars so they can help me instead of pro bending. I can't do this myself."

"Tenzin said that?" Lin knew perfectly well that Tenzin could be harsh, but outright meanness was unlike him.

"No, just that I need to be able to meditate. And he was starting to be okay with me pro bending, but I was all in his face with 'I need to learn modern styles of bending, not how to commune with the spirit world' and I was wrong." Korra's arms tightened around Lin. "And now all of Republic City needs me—benders, non-benders, everybody—and I'm just so scared. I'm no match for Amon! I can't do this alone!"

"You aren't alone, Korra," said Lin softly.

"But I can't communicate with the other avatars!" Korra sobbed.

"That isn't what I mean." Lin paused to let Korra compose herself a little. "Remember what I said the night we discovered the factory under the Sato estate?"

Korra sniffled. "That…that you had to find your metalbending cops outside the law?"

"That, yes…but also that I would have to take down Amon without the restrictions of following the current laws as well. I've been dedicated to the justice system for…ages. But when Amon showed up, he operated in a way that…well, it calls for an entirely different—and much smaller—set of rules. And the justice system doesn't have time to catch up. So while I was furious at you for your reckless vigilantism at first…"

"Hey!"

"…there is a time and a place to set aside the system in order to stop someone who is truly evil. And that, I fear is what we'll have to do to stop Amon. And yes, Korra, I said we, not you."

"Really?" Korra whispered, pulling back from their embrace enough to look Lin in the eyes.

"Really. If I have to break half the current laws of Republic City—laws I helped write—to protect you, I will."

For a moment, Korra simply looked at Lin with an expression of unsubtle gratitude. Then, without warning, she lunged forward and kissed Lin soundly on the mouth.

For a few moments, Lin indulged her, stroking her hair and even kissing her in return. As desperately as Korra needed affection at the moment—and as long as it had been since Lin had kissed a beautiful woman—Lin didn't want Korra to end up doing anything she regretted. If they were going to take on Amon together, there couldn't be any…wrinkles in their relationship.

Korra whined as Lin gently pushed her away. "What? Am I a bad kisser?"

"Why are you doing this?"

"Because I want to kiss you." Korra tried to pull Lin into another kiss, but Lin turned her head away.

"I mean, why do you want to kiss me? I'm fifty years old, Korra. I'm almost three times your age. You think you're stumbling as the avatar? I'm the woman who failed Republic City. After all my mother did for this city, I have allowed it to fall into shambles. Had I stayed with the police force, Tarrlok would have had me forced out and I never would have found my men. Since I left, Tarrlok immediately began treating non-benders like second-class citizens, and it didn't matter that I went after my men because Amon had already taken their bending. I may be in good shape for my age, but you should be interested in some pretty young pro bender who isn't staining her family name. Or perhaps you're only coming after me because I have the same color eyes as the Sato girl and you're pretending I'm someone I'm not. Either way, I fail to see how you can bring yourself to even look at me right now." The words tumbled out of Lin's mouth like a waterfall, completely separate from what she had planned to say. Lin Bei Fong was not one to wallow in self-pity or seek consolation from anyone. The last time she had asked someone to comfort her when she was upset was when she had gone crying to her mother when Tenzin had ended her hopes for ever having a relationship with a man and she had consigned herself to a life of secret, unfulfilling trysts with other women.

"Oh, Lin…" Korra breathed, reaching up to stroke Lin's face and tuck a few strands of hair behind her ear. "You're amazing. When we were on top of the pro bending area fighting the Equalists…I didn't notice until later when I started thinking about it, but…I don't think I can think of you as old after seeing you move like that! You're such an incredible fighter, and you saved my life twice…" Before Lin could stop her, Korra leaned up and gave her a tiny kiss. "You were hard on me at first—I mean, I started trying to airbend in anger at a picture of you—but…well, I was wrong about you too. I don't think you failed Republic City. You tried. Amon was just…just sneakier. I don't think anyone could have stopped him."

"Well, that wouldn't help you airbend. Airbending is too peaceful a discipline to be motivated by hatred."

"I never hated you." Korra kissed Lin again. "And I always…"—another kiss—"…thought you were…"—and another—"…beautiful."

"Korra…" Lin sighed. The next time Korra leaned up to kiss her, Lin didn't protest or pull away; instead, she turned another little peck into a deep, warm kiss, feeling as if she were sinking into the young avatar's embrace like a stone into a pond. She even dared to lightly close her teeth over Korra's lower lip, earning a little sigh of pleasure from the girl. Korra's hands were pulling at her hair, sliding over her shoulders and back.

"I love your muscles," Korra whispered against Lin's mouth. "I don't think I could ever get tired of touching you."

Korra hooked one of her legs over Lin's hip; Lin took the opportunity to squeeze the steel-hard muscles in the back of Korra's thigh. Korra moaned heavily into Lin's mouth and Lin backed off immediately. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be." Korra trailed a hand down Lin's throat, suggestively moving below one collarbone. Lin stopped Korra's hand with her own and kissed the knuckles lightly.

"What exactly are you hoping happens between us tonight?"

Korra blushed and smiled a bit coyly. "I…I don't know. Whatever you're okay with. I was kind of hoping you'd take the lead, since I've never done this before."

"You really think I would jump to take advantage of a seventeen-year-old?"

"It's not taking advantage of me if I'm asking you for it," Korra nuzzled Lin's neck, leaving a stream of tiny kisses.

"Are you certain you haven't done this before?" Lin's eyes closed of their own volition again.

"Am I actually good at this?" Korra left a kiss behind Lin's ear.

"You are a good kisser, yes."

Korra squeezed Lin tightly. "So, um…can we just keep kissing and see what happens?"

"What does kissing have to do with you being afraid of taking on Amon?" Lin queried, raising one eyebrow.

"I just want to forget about that for a while." Korra kissed Lin's shoulder.

"I would love to keep kissing you, Korra, but…I think perhaps we should establish some ground rules."

Korra groaned. "Are you sure you resigned as police chief?"

"You've never done this before, right? I don't want to make you uncomfortable."

Korra thought about that. "Okay…yeah."

"Is there anything you know you would never be comfortable doing? Something common enough you want to point it out?" Lin stroked Korra's hair and waited for a response.

"Um…I don't…I don't really know much about this stuff. I don't even really know what two women can do in bed. So there's not really anything I want to say no to, because…yeah, I just don't know enough. I guess…I don't ever really want to not be facing whoever I'm in bed with. It sounds kind of less intimate."

Lin had no problem with that. "All right. How about…is there anything you would like to try?"

Lin felt a little shiver run through Korra's body. "Well…you make me feel really safe, and really comfortable. I guess I'm just…a little shy about asking."

"Hmm. Well, be aware I will refuse anything particularly serious tonight. You really should be resting, and physical intimacy can put quite a strain on the body…depending on how it goes."

"What about after tonight?" Korra whispered.

Lin immediately knew that Korra was asking about much more than bed business, but she ignored that aspect of the question. "I can still be your first, if you want. When you fall in love with someone and want to know how to please her, I can teach you."

"What if I just want to make love with you?"

"You won't," said Lin dismissively. Korra was stunning—perhaps the most beautiful woman Lin had ever kissed—but any desire Lin had to sleep with her was being quite effectively quashed by the idea that Korra did not seem like the type of person to maintain an interest in relationships. One couldn't live for fifty years and not begin to pick up on the way people's minds and hearts worked. Lin knew perfectly well that if she and Korra tried that sort of thing, she would initially refuse to fall in love with Korra, Korra would be insistent and idealistic and eventually wear Lin down by being so damn adorable and kind of heart, and then Korra's interest would fade. Korra would be too concerned about hurting Lin to break the relationship off, and then everything would explode in some terrible way; say, Lin would try to surprise Korra with a piece of gold or silver metalbent into a rose after a pro bending tournament, and she would catch sight of Korra in the changing rooms with a cute little 20-year-old pro bending fangirl's hands up her shirt. Or, worse, Korra would cry out a name that was not Lin's when they were in bed together. Tenzin all over again, except this time Lin would have no claim to Korra in the first place. "I know right now you're afraid of what may happen to you and the city when the day comes that you have to fight Amon. You might think that we will work more effectively together against Amon if we're a couple. But I doubt you will want anything from me romantically or sexually after tonight."

"How could I not?" Korra stroked the curve of Lin's hip. "I'd be lucky to be yours."

"We would have to hide our relationship. You seem to be very close to your friends, and you might have to keep it from them. Tenzin would…well, he would be furious with me, and likely he might struggle with teaching you airbending if the sight of you makes him think of me defiling you. And there are reasons I haven't had a lover in years. I work too hard. I'm terrible at relationships. I know you want someone to rely on and give you solace because being the avatar is stressful, but I cannot be that person. I can try to protect you. I can fight alongside you." Lin paused. "I think…I think you would be better off relying on your friends for support, and you might find some beautiful women to spend time with and distract you from your duties. I can't do either for you, at least not in the way you deserve. If you want me to comfort you tonight, fine, but anything long-term would end in misery for both of us."

Korra didn't speak again for a while. "But…but…can't we try? Please? I think you're selling yourself short. And…okay, I never really pictured myself being with somebody for a really long time, but…that was before I met you."

That sentence set off alarm bells in Lin's head. Love did not change people, even assuming Korra could somehow fall in love with Lin, and the idea that Korra thought anyone could be some kind of magical lover who changed the way she formed attachments was a bad sign.

"All right. But it's a horrible idea for you to start a relationship at this time, with the Equalist threat looming. If after we defeat Amon you still have an interest in me, then yes, we can try a relationship."

"Really?" Korra sounded breathless with excitement. Her alacrity nearly broke Lin's heart. Korra could defeat Amon—Lin truly believed that—but she was young, and barely ready. Lin would have to help. And after the way she had failed Republic City, helping Korra bring down Amon would be her only redemption…but she could never go back to the police force, not after what she had done to rescue her (former; oh, spirits, that still hurt) metalbenders and what she was prepared to do to keep Amon from harming Korra. There was nothing left for her, which was why she was willing to do anything and everything to protect Korra and her beloved city. She could already hear the announcement in Shiro Shinobi's distinctive voice: "After what appeared to be a truly brutal fight between the infamous Equalist leader known only as Amon and the spunky youngsters who now call themselves 'Team Avatar', avatar Korra has emerged a bit battered, but victorious. A grievously injured Amon was taken into custody today, and his followers have surrendered. Folks, it is a bright day for Republic City! This bright day has a bit of a dark cloud, though, ladies and gents; the mangled body of disgraced former police chief Lin Bei Fong was also recovered from the scene…" As a heroic sacrifice, she might be able to offer some inspiration. Korra would be upset, but she was much more resilient than she thought; she would bounce back quickly. And if Lin was lucky, perhaps she would be remembered with a statue like her mother, where Korra could leave a bouquet on the anniversary of her death for a few years until she stopped missing her. There were fates worth than death, of course…and although Lin's blood ran cold at the thought, she knew that if it were required of her, she would even give up her bending.

"Oh, Lin…" Korra interrupted Lin's stream of morbid thoughts by kissing her again. "That sounds so awesome. So…so can I ask for one thing from you tonight? Not going all the way. I think I would be too tired." She smiled wanly.

"Ask."

"Lin, will you…um…will you touch my chest?" Korra was blushing again.

"I will, if that is what you want," Lin murmured, sliding a hand beneath the pale blue top Korra was still wearing. She thought about asking Korra to undress, but she had always found something about touching a lover beneath her clothes pleasantly erotic. She felt Korra tremble as her palm curled gently around the girl's right breast, stroking her through the cloth bindings.

"Mmm…Lin…"

Lin moved closer, kneeling so she had both her hands available. If she was never going to be intimate with Korra again, she could at least make an effort this time. She pushed Korra's shirt up to just below the girl's collarbones, returning to her caresses on Korra's breasts. She watched Korra's face carefully as she changed her gentle ministrations from petting to kneading, heard the girl's low moan as her nipples hardened beneath Lin's hands.

"C-can I take my bindings off?"

"Of course."

Korra sat up and pulled the cloth wrappings from her chest. Her breasts were full and luscious, the perfect size for Lin's hands. Lin had never been with a woman from the water tribe, but she had guessed correctly that Korra's dark skin belied the fact that her nipples were a warm brown color. Korra looked up at Lin nervously, as if she feared Lin would be displeased with her.

"You have beautiful breasts, Korra." Lin went back to cradling and massaging the aforementioned parts of the young avatar's body, this time able to savor the delicious softness of the flesh she was touching. She couldn't help but smile as she simultaneously flicked each of Korra's nipples with her thumbs, earning another soft noise of pleasure.

"Spirits, Lin, that feels so good…"

"May I use my mouth?" Lin heard a touch of seductiveness slip into her voice and wondered where the spirit world that had come from.

"Yes, please!"

Reaching up to carefully stroke Korra's injured cheek, Lin replaced that hand with her lips. As Korra had never experienced this kind of intimacy before, Lin kissed the nipple a few times before introducing her tongue, using its top to circle the erect nub of flesh. Korra squealed as if Lin were kissing and licking a much different place. Lin felt Korra's hands tangle themselves in her hair.

"Oooh, how did you get so good at this?"

"Practice." Lin took Korra's nipple into her mouth again, suckling rhythmically, allowing her teeth to very lightly brush the sensitive skin.

"Mmm!" Korra arched her back, her hips bucking unexpectedly. "Oooh, Lin, you're making me so…so…oh, I don't even know, but I'm aching for you…I need you between my legs. Please. Please, I need you."

Lin sat back on her heels and Korra whined at the loss of contact. "Korra, I told you I would have to refuse. You need to rest. I have no idea what medical problems sexual climax not long after being terribly blood-bent could cause, but I don't want to hurt you."

"Lin! Please!" Korra begged, squirming as if the arousal she was experiencing were torturing her.

"I would love to pleasure you. But you deserve to have a much more special first time than this." Lin kissed Korra's forehead. "Try to calm down. The feeling will pass."

"That's just mean!" Korra whined.

Lin chose to ignore that. "I know your body has gotten excited. It feels like you need release. But tomorrow you'll be glad there was no…full-blown bed business."

Korra made a disappointed mewling sound and curled up into a ball again, pressing her legs together.

"I'm sorry." Lin lay down behind Korra, fitting her body to the younger woman's. Korra was still quivering with excitement. "I didn't mean for this to happen. I didn't know you were so…er, responsive."

"It's okay," Korra mumbled. "I get it. It just feels awful right now."

Lin reached over the girl's body to tenderly cover one of her breasts with a hand, a gesture meant to soothe rather than titillate. "At least you enjoyed what I was doing."

"It was amazing. I can only imagine how good you are at sex." Korra sighed.

"You won't always have to imagine." Lin felt a stab of guilt at the lie, but she supposed there was a slim chance that she would survive the battle with Amon and Korra would still want her afterward. If she lost her bending…well, that would be another story. Korra might try to take care of her, and Lin didn't know if she'd be able to refuse.

"Well…thank you. You certainly did what I asked!"

Lin noticed that Korra had mostly stopped shaking. "Would you like some more soup? Your heart was working fairly hard just now. I don't want to be responsible for causing the avatar any more problems with exhaustion."

"I'd rather cuddle."

"All right." Lin kissed Korra's hair. "Just let me know if you want anything."

"You mean besides you between my legs?"

"Korra."

Korra sighed. "I'm sorry. It's just…nobody has even made me feel like that. It's hard to just lie here and let it go."

Lin could feel that Korra's nipple was soft and placid beneath her hand. "Are you feeling any better?"

"I guess, but I don't know if 'better' is the right word. Being excited like that was kind of nice."

Lin slid her hand down to Korra's waist to pull her close. "It is getting late. Would you like to sleep? I can bring you something more comfortable to sleep in."

"Okay." Korra yawned. "Yeah, having sex might have been a bad idea. I really am sleepy. And I've only been awake a few hours."

"Being bloodbent as extensively as you were can be very harmful. You're lucky you're only exhausted." Lin gave Korra a small squeeze to demonstrate that she has glad for Korra's luck and the fact that she hadn't been badly hurt.

"Can I change into…whatever it is you have for me to sleep in?"

"It's just a tunic. It should fit you all right." Lin kissed the top of Korra's head and got up. She rifled through her drawers until she found the sleeping tunic that she thought might fit Korra well. It was a pale blue that was very Water Tribe-esque. Korra was already asleep when Lin brought the tunic back to her, so Lin laid the garment down next to the sleeping girl, re-dressed herself, and retreated to her sitting room. She pulled one of her various books on the mental discipline involved in earthbending from one of her various bookshelves and devoted herself to reading it, hoping to get the memories of what had just passed between herself and Korra out of her head. A few hours later, the sun had set completely and darkness had fallen. Having finished several chapters, Lin re-shelved the book and went back to her bed, where Korra appeared peacefully asleep, although at some point she had put on the sleeping tunic, and her clothes lay in a pile on the floor.

Lin hesitated before climbing into bed beside Korra. As much as she wanted to sleep beside the young avatar—Lin had always found something incredibly soothing about sleeping in the same bed with someone you trusted—she didn't exactly trust herself. It hurt knowing Korra wanted her and she couldn't do a damn thing about it, either to dissuade her or to encourage her. But in the end, Lin lay down facing away from Korra, keeping at least a foot of distance between the two of them. Unfortunately, Korra hadn't been asleep; she turned over and scooted towards Lin, fitting her body to the curve of how Lin lay, trying to get comfortable enough to sleep. "Lin?"

Oh, no. "Yes, Korra?"

"I, um. I have this...I guess it's kind of a fantasy. I'm not really sure if it's sexual or not."

"Oh?" Lin asked warily. What the spirit world could that mean?

"Can we...can we cuddle? But without clothes?"

Suddenly Lin understood Korra's confusion. Being close to Korra's undressed body might be titillating under some circumstances, but Lin was too tired and too conflicted and too damn miserable to do anything about her fickle desire for Korra. Lin turned over to give her somewhat resigned answer. "All right. But...don't look at me."

Even in the low light, Korra's grin was unmistakable. She yanked off the tunic Lin had given her and wriggled out of the small pair of short pants that were popular as underwear in the Water Tribe. Lin tore her eyes away from the avatar's lush body and pulled the bedclothes over herself to hide before discarding her own robe. Korra wrapped her arms around Lin's waist and pulled her into a tight embrace. "Liiiiiin!" the girl whined in protest. "What's this?" Korra tugged at Lin's breast bindings.

"That would be my bindings. You said without clothes. You never said anything about taking off my undergarments."

Korra pulled on the cloth wrappings again, this time with the obvious intention of removing them. Lin's heart kicked into overdrive. "That's not fair. I mean, you got to kiss my breasts and everything."

"Yes, well, I enjoyed that." Lin knew she should stop Korra from continuing to unwrap her breast bindings, but she couldn't bring herself to do it.

"You're beautiful, Lin. Can you please take this off? Please? I just...I just want to feel close to you."

Lin sighed. Korra was too irresistible for her own good. "Fine." Lin sat up and, with some minor assistance from Korra, removed the cloth covering her breasts.

"Oh, Lin, you really are so beautiful..." Korra lightly brushed the back of one hand over Lin's chest; Lin recoiled.

"Didn't I tell you not to look?"

"I can't help it!" Korra protested. "You're perfect. It's like you're an oil painting of the most beautiful woman I could ever imagine."

Lin was about to accuse Korra of lying, but after she had learned seismology, one of the first things Toph had taught her was how to tell if people were lying by their heartbeat and other minute parts of body parlance. And Korra was telling the truth.

"I know you're being truthful, so...have you gone mad? Or did Tarrlok damage your eyes?"

Korra lifted up one hand and lit a tiny fire, no bigger than a decently sized candle flame.

"Korra! Are you trying to set my bed on fire?"

"My eyes are fine." Korra sat up and lightly stroked Lin's cheek with her free hand. "I love your eyes in this light. You know, there aren't many water tribe people with green eyes...they look like gems." Korra's fingertips brushed over Lin's mouth. "You have beautiful lips, too. I've been wanting to kiss you for ages. Your whole face. Your whole you. You're just...you're gorgeous."

Lin found herself blinking back tears. "Korra, please extinguish that flame so I can hold you."

This time, Korra wasn't the only one clinging. The gesture was mutual. Lin gripped Korra so tightly she was almost afraid of hurting the girl, but Korra didn't complain; she nestled her head under Lin's chin and dropped a few kisses on her neck. Lin's brain struggled for words to describe the sensation of Korra's skin pressed against her all over, but the only think of one single, inadequate noun: "bliss".

"Ohhh, Lin," Korra breathed. "I would make love to you if you wanted. There's...I don't know if there's anything I wouldn't do to make you happy."

Lin's protest about Korra being too tired for bed business died in her throat. What came out of her mouth was something that had nothing to do with her conscious mind and everything to do with the powerful feelings swelling in her chest. "Even if Amon tortures me to within an inch of my life, I'd never let him harm you. I would do anything to protect you."

"What happened to 'protecting Republic City is all I care about'?"

Lin knew Korra was teasing, but she couldn't help but reply seriously. "I care about protecting Republic City. I care about protecting benders, including Tenzin's family and your friends." She paused to run a long, gentle caress down the length of Korra's well-muscled back. "I do not care about protecting you only for Republic City anymore, or only because you are the avatar. I will protect you because I care about you. About Korra, the amazing young woman in my arms."

Korra pulled back form their tight embrace to kiss Lin full on the mouth. "I'm so tired. I never felt so scared as I did when Tarrlok bloodbent me, and I know Amon is coming...but you make me feel safe."

Lin could barely keep her eyes open, but she had to reply. "I will always keep you safe, Korra."


A/N: While I'm kind of proud of myself for calling the Heroic Sacrifice...*sniff* T_T From now on, June 16th shall go down in history as Lin Bei Fong day. Pema giving birth? Korra learning to be patient? Asami being way more petty and stroppy than her character deserves (except, okay, Mako's being insensitive)? Zuko's son(?) Iroh showing up? No, this episode was ALL ABOUT LIN.