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 Beifong 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. I do think that, canonically, Lin cares very much about Korra.
Pairings: Lin/Korra ("Korralin")
Author's Notes: So I thought it made sense to have a conclusion to this after what happened in the finale.
Lin Beifong should have been happy.
The airbenders were safe. Amon was gone. Peace in Republic City had been restored. There was even talk of her being re-hired as chief of police. And her bending was back. She tried not to let on how much it mattered to her that her bending had been returned to her. She was sure only other benders would understand how traumatic it had been to have her bending removed. For the split second it had taken Amon to remove her bending, it had felt like her veins were on fire, as if her soul were being wrenched out through her spine. And after her bending was gone...the earth did not speak to her anymore. It was like walking about on the cold corpse of a lover. Worse, it felt like part of her was gone, as if she had lost her ability to speak or taste. While she had temporarily been the same as a non-bender, she felt that it was analogous to there being two types of people—say, some with two arms, some with four—and someone with four arms had had two amputated without anesthesia. Did it not still hurt? Was it not still a massive adjustment? Feeling the earth breathe under her bare feet was like being alive again. When Korra had returned her bending...Lin didn't have words for it. She, of course, couldn't remember what it was like the first time, but when she felt the spiritual energy flowing from Korra's healing hands back into her body, she couldn't help but think that it felt like being born.
But none of it was thanks to her. After Amon had blocked her ability to bend, she had been locked away in an Equalist prison. She had tried to escape. Almost made it out once, but she had been electrocuted into unconsciousness. It had been Tenzin who found her and woken her up, and immediately after that she had found out that her sacrifice had been for nothing. Tenzin and his family had been captured anyway. Korra's bending was gone. When she had seen Korra without her bending, empty-eyed and dejected, she had barely been able to keep from sweeping the girl into her arms and telling her she wouldn't rest until she had tortured Amon into revealing how to reverse what he had done to Korra.
But now Amon was missing. She had failed Korra.
The greatest evidence that she had failed Korra was that she was dating the Fire Ferret boy. Lin hadn't spoken to Korra since the girl returned her bending. That was when she had suspected something was wrong. After she had tested out the return of her bending, Korra had just made a little bow. No embrace. Not even any eye contact. She had found out from the Sato girl—Asami; a bright, courageous young woman who obviously didn't deserve any of the awful things that had happened to her—that Mako had left her for Korra.
Lin knew she shouldn't have been surprised. She had actively wanted Korra to lose interest in her. Any relationship other than friendship between them could only end in disaster. So why was she so damn...sad that Korra didn't want her anymore? Perhaps because Korra had seemed so warm and sincere, almost loving, the one night they were together. At least Lin had refused to sleep with Korra that night.
Lin told herself she would be doing this even if she didn't still have frustrating, lingering feelings of attachment to Korra. But as she stood on the deck of the ferry taking her to Air Temple Island, she couldn't unravel the knot in her stomach. Nobody knew she was coming, so there was nobody there to greet her. That was just as well. Even without her uniform, the White Lotus guards recognized her and let her in.
Korra did a very good impression of being happy to see her. "Hey, Lin! Wow, you look so pretty. You should wear earthbender robes more often."
Don't lie to me, Lin almost said, but instead she got right to business. Not to mention the fact that she couldn't detect any trace of deception from Korra despite the obvious lie rattled her. Lin knew she looked like absolute hell. "Have you returned anyone's bending since you did mine?"
Korra shrugged. "I wish. The city council is trying to set up some kind of registry for all the benders that were attacked by Amon so I can do a certain number of bending returns each day. I'm still...really working on the avatar state. The White Lotus think it might be too stressful for me to return too many people's bending in one day."
"Well, did they give you a limit?" Lin asked crisply.
"Um...no, not yet."
"My officers have been without their bending for too long. I wasn't fast enough to stop Amon, and...I want them to have their bending back." Lin could only pray that Korra didn't sense the multiple meanings of her not being fast enough to stop Amon.
Korra's face lit up; Lin had to look away. Damn those beautiful eyes of yours, Korra. "Yeah, sure! I've been feeling really useless lately since they won't let me return any bending."
"Good. Most of them are down at the station right now."
"Can we go now, then?"
Lin told herself Korra didn't actually sound happy to spend time with her. She was glad to be useful, that was all.
"If Tenzin will allow it."
Korra shrugged. "Eh, if he doesn't, I can sneak out."
Lin chose not to reply to that. It turned out that Tenzin was all right with Korra leaving to return the bending of several of the former metalbending policemen. Korra and Lin left together and, much to Lin's chagrin, nobody came with them. Worse, Korra wanted to ride her polar bear dog. It was faster than walking, but Lin had to hold on to Korra. It would have been torture to wrap her arms around the girl, so she held on to the sleeves of Korra's jacket. Korra, of course, mentioned it: "Lin, are you really uncomfortable holding on to me after what the two of us did?"
You little fool, Lin almost said, but instead she replied "I'm fine like this, thanks" as coldly as she could manage. Let Korra have a taste of her own medicine.
Most of Lin's police force had been at the station since their bending had been taken away. Lin wouldn't have said something so maudlin out loud for any sum, but the metalbenders in her precinct were very much like a family. After they lost their bending, most of them needed each other more than they needed anyone outside the police force. Lin hadn't been there for them, either. She had visited them once after breaking them out of the Equalist base. Lately, she seemed to be failing everybody who had once cared about her.
The remnants of her metalbending force seemed genuinely glad to see her, despite the fact that many of them still had that hollow look in their eyes that seemed to haunt every bender who had had their bending removed by Amon. All of them still called her "Chief".
"I have a surprise," Lin announced. "Avatar Korra has learned how to reverse the false bending removal practiced by the terrorist Amon. She has restored my bending."
There was polite applause, even a few cheers. Korra made a little gesture of both obeisance and acknowledgement that Lin didn't recognize; she assumed it was a Water Tribe thing. Lin continued. "I have brought her here to do the same for you."
That got some real cheers; apparently they thought having their bending returned was cause to break decorum. Lin couldn't help but agree.
Korra spoke up. "I'd love to restore your bending, but I'd appreciate it if you guys could, you know, not spread it around that I've giving back bending. The city council wants to organize bending restoration, but..." She turned to Lin and smiled. That smile made Lin feel as if someone had kicked her in the stomach. "Chief Beifong didn't want any of you to have to be without bending any longer. And, yes, I said 'Chief'. I think she'll always be the Chief in our hearts. Right?"
The most resounding cheer yet, then. Lin bowed politely, trying not to think of how she didn't deserve their loyalty.
They were part of an elite police force, so naturally they lined up quickly and efficiently—and in alphabetical order—to receive their bending back. Lin watched their faces carefully as Korra's healing touch returned a part of them they had come to treasure. Some of them looked stunned when their connection to the earth was reestablished. Some of them looked overjoyed. Some of them looked relieved. Soon enough, the ones who had received their bending back were practicing, extending and controlling the metal coils in the gauntlets some of them had left lying around (none of them were wearing their armor; it was immensely difficult to get off and on without metalbending). Lin prayed none of them would ask her to join in, but she was not so lucky.
"Chief, you have your bending back, right? Show us!"
That was one of her captains, an immensely talented young man who had idolized Lin from the first day he signed up for the metalbending task force. When Korra had restored his bending, he had looked so elated he might cry. Several of the others looked at her expectantly, too polite to echo the request but obviously agreeing.
Lin's throat went dry. She could think of no legitimate-sounding reason why she might decline, but she was not about to tell her men about her current state. "I...I would prefer not to at the moment. I will see all of you soon." She bowed one last time and exited hastily, feeling the curious stares on her back.
Lin closed her eyes in agony. Korra was following her. Lin ignored the young avatar, but Korra caught up with her.
"Lin, what's wrong?" Korra laid a hand on Lin's shoulder; Lin shrugged it off. "You're acting weird."
"You would dare to ask me that?" Lin hissed. "I have thought of you as many things—irresponsible, impetuous, hotheaded—but I never knew you were such a fool."
Korra looked hurt. Good, Lin thought savagely. "Come on, Lin, talk to me. What's bothering you?"
"Well, since you want to know so terribly, I feel completely worthless at the moment. I couldn't stop Amon from de-bending my police officers. I failed to save you from Tarrlok. I failed to defend the airbending family twice; in fact, I had to be saved by a small boy who was bending his bowel movements. I gave up my bending for Tenzin's family, for you, and the airbenders were still captured and you still had your bending taken away. You restored my bending, but I can't help but feel I don't deserve it back."
"Oh, Lin..." Before Lin could stop her, Korra reached out and hugged her. Lin told her arms not to wrap around the girl in return; they did not listen to her. Spirits, it felt good to hold Korra. Lin had forgotten how beautiful and strong Korra's body was, how comforting it was to hold her. "You tried so hard. Tenzin told me about how you took down a whole airship all by yourself. You're amazing."
Lin tried to let go of Korra and failed. Instead, she rested her cheek on top of the girl's head. Korra, thinking she was succeeding in comforting Lin instead of causing her turmoil, began stroking Lin's back with one hand. "It's okay, Lin. I've got you."
That falsity was the impetus Lin needed. She shoved Korra away from her. "Perhaps worst of all, I have been played for an utter imbecile."
Korra blinked. "You mean, by Amon when he wanted to shut down the pro bending arena?"
"Are you really so foolish?" Lin burst out. "Either you're a complete idiot or you think I am. I mean by you. I don't even know why I'm surprised. I knew you would regret begging me to be your lover. I only said I would be because I wasn't expecting to survive the final showdown with Amon. Tell me, Korra, when I was captured by the Equalists, did you think they had killed me? Did that thought please you because you wouldn't have to deal with the awkwardness of telling me you were ashamed that you'd expressed interest in me?"
"No, not at all! I was worried about you!" Korra insisted, tears springing to her eyes.
"But you did lie to me," Lin snapped.
"I wouldn't lie to you!"
"'I don't know if there's anything I wouldn't do to make you happy', wasn't it?" Lin's imitation was cruel and uncannily accurate. Korra began crying in earnest when she heard it, but Lin pressed on. "If you had any consideration for my happiness, any at all, you wouldn't have thrown yourself at the Fire Ferret boy and not spoken to me after you chased off Amon. So what were you trying to do that night? Did you want the bragging rights of having seduced Lin Beifong? Or were you just addled from Tarrlok bloodbending you?"
"Lin, I'm sorry. I never meant to hurt you. It's just that Mako approached me right after I'd gotten my bending back, and I was so happy..."
"Mako." Lin spat out the name as if it were poisonous. "He pursued you even though he and Asami Sato were together, didn't he? And you kissed him even though you had promised yourself to me." Lin sniffed. "Well...I suppose the two of you are perfectly matched. I wish you joy."
Lin turned to leave, but suddenly Korra's arms were around her waist and the girl's face was pressed between her shoulder blades. "Please don't leave me," Korra begged.
"You can't leave a place you've never been." Lin tried to pry Korra's arms away from her.
"I screwed up, I know, but I'm sorry! I never meant to hurt you! I love you, Lin!"
With a cry of mingled pain and sorrow, Lin tore loose from Korra's embrace and slapped the young avatar across the face. "Don't insult me with your lies! You don't give a pigeon-rat's ass about me, and you never did. How could you? How could you possibly have any interest in an old, plain has-been when you have a young firebender panting at your heels? Even though he seems to have a wandering heart...never mind that I would have been loyal to you."
"Lin, I know you can use your seismic sense to tell if people are lying, so you know I'm telling the truth! I love you. I just...I love Mako too. I didn't know it was possible, but I can't choose between the two of you. I mean, with Mako, we're two clueless teenagers trying to figure everything out and trying to hold on to each other, but you're completely different. You're accomplished and kind of intimidating, but you make me feel safe and special." Korra paused to pull a fistful of water from a nearby puddle and heal her cheek, where a bruise had been burgeoning. Lin felt a stab of guilt. "I was scared to talk to you after Mako and I got together. I thought you'd be mad."
"You're damn right I am!"
"I was so happy when you showed up at the air temple today. I was hoping we could talk and get back together."
"We never. Were. Together," snarled Lin through clenched teeth.
"Are you just mad at me because of Mako, or are you mad because I screwed up your bending? Why didn't you tell me earlier that you couldn't metalbend?"
Ah. So it had been that obvious. "Because there is nothing you can do. My metalbending will return in time." Lin closed her eyes. "It could be worse. After Tenzin, I could bend nothing at all for two months. Not even pebbles."
Korra looked mortified. "Wait...so I didn't mess up when I gave your bending back? You can't metalbend because...because I hurt your feelings?"
"You might say that," said Lin icily.
"Lin, I'm so sorry. I know I screwed up. I should have told Mako I needed to talk to you before saying I'd go out with him." Korra was crying so hard Lin could barely understand her.
"So you could let me down gently?" asked Lin bitterly.
Korra replied miserably, "No, so I could make sure we were together. And then if Mako wasn't okay with that, then I wouldn't go out with him. But I want to be with both of you. I want both of you in my life. I want to date both of you. Is that...a thing? I feel like I could be with more than one person at a time and love all of them."
Korra was starting to make sense. Lin took a deep breath. "Yes, some people are like that. It is often frowned upon, but Republic City is fairly progressive and it is sometimes condoned."
"I was so dumb. I don't want to lose you. I keep thinking about the night I stayed with you, how I got to kiss you and everything you did for me...it kills me to think that might never happen again."
Lin was barefoot—she had been since Korra restored her bending—and she could feel that Korra was telling the truth. She leaned forward to kiss the cheek she had slapped, even though it was damp with tears. Korra pulled her into a crushing embrace. "Please give me another chance, Lin. I know I'm a dumb seventeen-year-old who has spent all her time training and has no idea what she's doing with her feelings and her love life. But I do know that I care about you, and I want you to teach me metalbending and drink tea with me and be the first person I sleep with..."
Lin kissed the top of Korra's head. "I will give you a second chance. But I hope you have learned something. Someone who doesn't understand that you are seventeen and still learning about relationships would not have given you a second chance."
"Oh, Lin..." Korra dropped several kisses on Lin's neck. Lin shivered; Korra must have remembered that Lin very much enjoyed having her neck kissed.
"Oh, right...you like this, don't you?" Korra dropped a kiss on the curve where Lin's shoulder rounded into her neck.
"You manipulative little thing...I already said yes."
Korra immediately pulled back, looking wounded. "I'm sorry."
"No..." Lin touched Korra's cheek. "It's my fault. After so many years of cleaning up the scum of this city, I suppose...I've become fairly jaded. You're young, and more innocent than I keep assuming."
"By which you mean I screwed up," said Korra with a rueful smile.
"Perhaps." Lin kissed Korra's forehead, linking her fingers behind the small of the girl's back. "I know you are having to learn a tremendous amount in a short time and at a young age. And..." Lin took a deep breath. "If you want me to be there for you during this difficult time, then I will be."
Korra bit her lip shyly. Lin thought that she would never cease to be surprised at Korra's diffidence in matters of sex and romance. "Can I kiss you?"
In response, Lin tilted her head forward slightly, her eyes closing as Korra's lips met hers.
Korra's hands ran hungrily up and down Lin's back, tracing the curves and planes she loved so much. She moaned against Lin's mouth as she felt Lin do the same, fingertips running over her spine. They shared several deep, warm kisses, and Korra could have sworn she felt the tip of Lin's tongue brush hers. She had never been soul kissed before and found herself enjoying it immensely.
"I missed you," Korra whispered. "I missed you so much."
"I missed you too." Lin gathered Korra into her arms, stroking the girl's neck.
"Mmm...muscles..." Korra continued petting Lin's back.
"I hope that's not all you missed about me."
Korra nuzzled Lin's shoulder. "Okay, I missed your muscles, but I missed a lot more. I missed your voice. I missed your lips. I missed the way you're harsh with me, but you can also be kind of sweet. I missed how comfortable I am with you. I missed how safe I feel when you're holding me."
Lin sighed. "Point taken. Or...points, rather."
"As cozy as you are, we kind of left your metalbenders waiting."
"Right...because they are metalbenders again, thanks to you." Lin released Korra from their hug and slipped a hand into hers. They walked back to the precinct, where the policemen were still waiting.
"Is everything okay, Chief?" asked the man who had asked Lin to demonstrate the return of her bending.
Lin slid into a metalbending stance and made a swift, knife-like movement with both her arms, elbows locked in place for half a second before her forearms snapped into place. All the metal cables in the room shot out of their gauntlets and into the air; Lin made a lightning-fast series of hand motions and the cables intertwined with each other into an elaborate pattern that looked like a chandelier, decorated with loops and spirals. Lin carefully lowered the contraption to the floor to polite applause, many of the cops grinning so hard their faces might break.
"This isn't everyone," said Lin, looking around. "Where's Hyung? Where's Nandi?"
"Officer Nandi has been with her husband since she lost her bending," said the captain. "Hyung is staying with his sister. Yap, Wu, and Riko are in their parents' houses, and Sima is still in the hospital."
Lin looked around. "That's almost everyone. Where is Kapu?"
Several of the officers looked either down or away. Nobody answered.
"What's wrong? Where is Kapu?" Korra heard concern creeping into Lin's voice and rested a hand on her shoulder.
"Chief..." One of the men Korra had not heard speak before stood up. There were tears in his eyes. "Kapu thought his bending would be gone forever. It was too much for him, and he...he...jumped in front of a Satomobile. He was killed instantly."
Lin paused only for a moment. "So it was a suicide."
"Eyewitnesses saw him jump, yes, ma'am." A tear rolled down the officer's face. "His father was contacted in the Northern Water Tribe. He's on his way to Republic City now."
Lin nodded slowly. "After his parents get here, I'll make sure there's a memorial service. And if the city council won't fund it because of how he died, I'll pay for it myself."
"Thank you, Chief." The young officer was crying openly now, but bravely keeping his voice stable.
"Qannik, may I speak to you privately?"
The man nodded. Lin led him out of the room with a hand on his shoulder. They came back after a few minutes.
"I should be going now," said Lin. "Captain Gu Xiang, make sure you contact me when Hyung, Yap, Wu, Nandi, Riko, and Sima are available. I'll bring the avatar back to return their bending as well."
"Yeah, I want to help," Korra piped up.
Lin and Korra left. Korra held Lin's hand, and when they climbed onto Naga's back, Lin wrapped her arms tightly around Korra's waist and pressed her face into the girl's hair. "Lin?" Korra asked gently. "Who was that guy? Qannik? I mean, I know he's one of your officers, but..." Korra trailed off.
"Mo Li Kapu and Sook Qannik are cousins. Were cousins. Mo Li's father and Sook's father grew up together in the Northern Water Tribe. They moved to Republic City, and they married a pair of sisters who are both earthbenders. Sook's mother died last year of consumption and his father moved back to the North Pole. He was an only child. Now that Mo Li is dead, he has no one." Korra thought she felt a sob shake Lin's body. "Why didn't I get there in time? I let that monster take their bending. If Mo Li hadn't had his bending removed..."
"Lin, honey..." Korra picked up one of Lin's hands and kissed it. "It wasn't your fault."
"That isn't going to bring Mo Li Kapu back."
"You seem to really care about your officers," said Korra softly.
Lin was quiet for a moment before speaking. "I told Sook to go home to his family. I thought...perhaps he had friends, or other cousins. He told me that he was with his family." Korra felt Lin shake her head. "I just told you that. I've never told anybody that."
"Told anybody what?"
"That my precinct...it's like a family. You must be awfully special, Korra."
"I won't fail you again," Korra promised softly.
"I don't have the best track record either in terms of not failing you." Lin tightened her arms around the girl.
"Do you want me to say something at Kapu's memorial service? You know, as the avatar?"
Lin tried to kiss Korra's shoulder, but the polar bear dog ride was too bumpy. "I would like that. There's such a stigma around suicide. Mo Li was a good man. A good officer. He deserves to be remembered properly, not just by how he died."
"I do hope you get reinstated as police chief. Saikhan turned out to be such a chicken-lizard."
"I never saw that in him." Lin sighed. "But I wouldn't have expected Mo Li to kill himself after losing his bending either. I'll have to write a speech..."
They had reached the ferry dock.
"Oh...I'm sorry, Lin. I didn't ask where you wanted to be dropped off. I remember you live near the hospital, but I was still kind of out of it when I went back to the air temple the morning after the night we spent together."
"It's all right. I wanted to talk to you." Korra dismounted from Naga's back. Lin was glad to see that Korra didn't patronize her by helping her down, but after Lin was steady on her feet, Korra wrapped her arms around Lin's waist and kissed her. "I should go. When can I see you again?"
"I should come to Air Temple Island. We should talk more about...whether or not we'll go on dates in public, who we tell about our relationship...that sort of thing."
"Okay." Korra kissed Lin again, ignoring the strange looks they were garnering. Korra sincerely hoped that nobody would happen to mention what they were currently seeing each other to Tenzin. "I'll talk to Mako as soon as I get back."
Lin swallowed hard. "Korra...what if Mako doesn't want you dating two people at once?"
Korra shrugged. "Well, he's not a very understanding boyfriend, then. But he should be able to listen to me if he does want to be my boyfriend." She softly touched Lin's scarred cheek. "I'm not losing you again. I won't give you any more of these, real or...or emotional. I promise."
Lin leaned forward to touch her forehead to Korra's. "Earlier, I said we never were together, so...that would mean there was nothing to lose. But...you know what my feelings for you did to my bending. You never lost me."
"Oh, Lin..." Korra nestled her face against Lin's throat. "I knew you were tough and that you really cared about your officers despite that...but I had no idea you could be such a big softie."
Lin pinched one of Korra's arms so hard she yelped. "Don't get too used to me being nice. And for the record...I act like this with exactly nobody else. Nobody. Not even when I was with Tenzin."
Korra leaned back to look solemnly at Lin's face. "I...I don't really know what to say. I guess...I'm glad you're as comfortable with me as I am with you."
Lin kissed Korra's forehead. "We're getting a lot of looks. We can talk later."
Korra nodded. "I love you."
Korra might as well have frozen her throat with waterbending. Lin rested a hand on the girl's neck, lightly stroking the skin with a thumbnail. "Korra...I..."
"You don't have to say it. How about I call you when I know Tenzin isn't around?"
Lin nodded. "Thank you."
That night, Mako surprised Korra by taking her out to dinner. He didn't have much money, so it was just a fairly nice noodle bar. She thanked him several times. They talked over their noodles, mostly about how much they missed pro bending, and how Korra wished Amon had been captured; Mako tried to comfort her by telling her there was nothing she could have done. Mako could tell Korra was upset about something; he thought it was Amon's escape, and kept insisting Korra had been brave and amazing and she would catch him someday. By the time they left, Korra was near to tears. Mako insisted on paying for both of them and led her out with an arm around her.
"I guess it's not Amon." Mako pulled her into a hug. "What's bothering you?"
Korra pressed her cheek to Mako's chest. "Mako...you know I love you, right?"
"Of course! I love you too." He still sounded puzzled.
"Have you ever thought about dating two people at once?" Korra forced the words out.
"No..." Mako took a step back and looked at Korra's face. "What are you talking about?"
Korra took a deep breath. She knew she was terrible at choosing the right words, but she would have to try. "I'm talking about...the fact that...I know you love me, and somebody else...also loves me."
Mako's eyes grew enormous. "Wha—? Are you breaking up with me?"
"No!" Korra cried out. "I want to stay with you! I just...don't want to have to choose between the two of you. I want—I need—both of you to be part of my life. That's why I asked about the...the dating two people thing. Because I want to date you, and I want to date...this other person."
Mako shook his head. "Who is this other person? It's not Bolin, is it? He would have told me..."
"No. It's...it's not Bolin."
"Well...is it Asami? She told me she was kind of interested in girls."
Korra bit her lower lip. "It's Lin. I mean, Chief Beifong. Lin Beifong. It's her."
Mako stepped back in shock. "Beifong? Korra...are you serious? She's too old for you!"
"I know!" Korra burst out. "She tried to convince me of that. But the night I stayed with her, after Tarrlok bloodbent me...she was so nice to me, and I saw she was hurt, and I healed her ribs...we ended up kissing. She didn't really want to. I mean, she wanted to, but she thought it was a bad idea."
"Korra, wait. Slow down. What happened? This was before we got together?"
Korra nodded. "Yeah. Like I said, the night I stayed with her, after I escaped from Tarrlok. I was so scared, and...she made me feel safe. We figured out we both had feelings for each other. She told me she was too old for me, and that she was scared she wouldn't be a good girlfriend. But I kind of...I made her promise that she'd go out with me if Amon was captured. And...I mean, she told me she'd do anything to protect me. She's still really torn up Amon took my bending and she wasn't there to protect me."
"And I'm not?" Mako shouted. "I was right there! I could have stopped Amon. I tried, but I couldn't. I watched him take your bending."
"I'm not trying to say...I just...I know you care, I'm just saying she...she was prepared to die for me. I can't ignore that."
"Korra..." Mako laid his hands on Korra's waist. "I get that she's probably lonely, but you don't have to feel...pressured. Should I talk to her?"
"I don't think you get it, and I don't think I'm doing a very good job explaining it. I told her I'd be with her, and then I got together with you. I basically cheated on her. She was heartbroken. She was too upset to metalbend today until I...um...apologized. And I love her too. That's what I'm trying to say. I love you, and I love Lin. And I want to be with both of you."
Mako looked more distressed than Korra had ever seen him. "Why didn't you tell me about this the night we got together? I know you had just gotten your bending back, but you still should have told me."
"I'm sorry! I'm so sorry. I feel like I broke Lin's heart and I don't want to break yours too. I just...I love both of you."
Mako pinched the bridge of his nose. "Korra...this is a lot to take in. I mean, you dating me and somebody else? And that somebody else is a 50-year-old woman?"
"I love both of you," said Korra lamely.
Mako turned away, his arms folded. "This is weird, Korra. This is really weird."
"So, do you...do you, like, not want to be together now?" Her chest tightened.
"Just...just answer a question for me, okay?"
"Anything!" Korra blurted.
Mako turned back to her. "Do you want to be with both me and Beifong because I alone am not enough, or not good enough?"
"No," Korra whispered. "No, Mako, that's not it at all. I'm in love with both of you. Really in love. That's what it is."
Mako scratched the back of his head. "Let's go back to Air Temple Island. Korra, I...I still love you. I'm not sure what I think about you dating me and Beifong. Give me the night to think about it, okay?"
"Okay. Whatever you need."
Mako put a hand on Korra's shoulder and squeezed. "Thanks. And thanks for telling me what's going on."
"Let him not be remembered by how he died, but how he lived. To reiterate, because I cannot say this enough, he was a loyal, hardworking officer and a good man, and the many years he spent living are much more important that what he did in the few seconds leading up to his death. So when you think of Officer Mo Li Kapu, think of his devotion to his city and his family...both his family of blood and his brothers and sisters in yellow and gray, the Republic City police force. Think of something he did to touch your life. Think of him as a hero. And above all...do not think of him as a coward." Lin gripped the sides of the lectern tightly. "Mo Li's parents have requested that in lieu of sympathy gifts, donations be given to the Wounded Warriors fund, which provides benefits for police officers who were forced to retire due to injuries. Thank you." Lin got down from the lectern and walked back to her seat as Saikhan got up to give closing remarks.
Korra was sitting next to her; when Lin sat down, Korra kissed her cheek.
"Korra, not in public," Lin whispered.
"You spoke beautifully," Korra whispered back.
After Saikhan dismissed the assembly, Lin knew there would be people who wanted to speak to her regarding Kapu's death and the speech she had given. She walked back up to the front, near the lectern, so stand next to Saikhan, who would surely be giving handshakes and such as well. They exchanged terse greetings; Lin still couldn't believe how weak-willed the man had turned out to be, and hadn't forgiven him for that. Usually Lin was an excellent judge of character. Her throat grew dry with something like anxiety as the well-wishers lined up; interacting with strangers had always been a weakness for her. She felt Korra lightly touch her elbow and couldn't help but feel stronger. She resisted the urge to put her arm around the girl's waist. She was wearing her metal uniform—not her insignia, because she hadn't worn that since her resignation, but dammit, she'd still earned the right to wear her police force armor—so she wouldn't have felt much. But it would have helped regardless.
Lin soon lost track of how many hands she shook, how many people she thanked when they pledged to donate to the Wounded Warriors or complimented her speech. There weren't even many people who spoke to her. There was still too much of a stigma surrounding suicide. When the stream of people stopped coming, Lin turned away. Korra followed her, calling after her. When they were out of sight, Lin stopped walking, allowing Korra to turn her around and hug her tightly. Since Lin was wearing her armor, it was not a comfortable hug, but it was still a blessed relief.
"I'm not going to say 'I know it's hard' or anything dumb like that. I can't imagine what you're going through. So I'm just going to hug you."
Lin couldn't persuade her mouth to form words, so she settled for kissing the top of Korra's head. Eventually she felt ready to go back, and she and Korra walked back to the dissipating crowd. Lin noticed that Korra was holding her hand, but she couldn't bring herself to care that she had forbidden Korra to do that in public.
Mako was waiting for Korra. He made a slight, polite bow to Lin. "I heard your speech, Chief. And I think it's really admirable that you paid for the service yourself."
"Thank you," said Lin, trying not to let any resentment creep into her voice. At least the boy was being civil. And according to Korra, he had come around to the idea of sharing Korra with Lin after only a little persuasion. "It's good to know someone not directly connected to the force appreciated it."
"Korra, Tenzin wants you back at the air temple. He says there are some important airbending lessons he wants you to get to today."
As Mako spoke, Lin surreptitiously retracted the sole of one of her armored boots. She could feel that Mako was lying. He just wanted to get Korra way from Lin. So Lin touched a small, formal kiss to the back of Korra's hand, trying to spare her the awkwardness of kissing her ill-fated side project in front of her number one lover, but Korra ruined that by giving Lin a tight hug and a kiss on the cheek. "I'll see you later, Lin."
"Good luck with your airbending lessons," said Lin bleakly. She might as well let Mako think he had gotten away with his lie. She turned away quickly, not wanting to see Korra under the arm of someone else. She found herself thinking that she couldn't begrudge Mako his little fib; after all, he had seen Lin and Korra holding hands.
Lin recognized the voice; it was Asami Sato. She turned to face the girl, trying to look more composed than she felt. "Good afternoon, Miss Sato."
Lin nodded. "Asami, then. Do you need something?"
"Korra told me about the service. I'm sorry to hear about your officer. Your speech was really...touching."
Lin smiled bitterly. "Enough people have told me that that I might start believing it."
"And I saw you with Korra."
Lin prayed the thought of "oh, damn" that ran through her head did not show on her face.
Asami looked nervous; she picked at her nail polish. "You aren't...thinking of leaving Korra, are you?"
The question surprised her. She had expected Korra's friend to be looking out for her and, as such, trying to persuade Lin to leave her alone. "No, of course not. I'd rather lose my bending again. Why?"
"I couldn't sleep well last night. I went to the kitchen to get myself a cup of tea, and Korra was there. Apparently she'd had a similar problem. She looked really upset. Frightened. So I asked her what was wrong, and she said she had had a nightmare. She dreamed that you had been killed by the Equalists. It seemed like...well, I'm probably reading too much into it, but she seemed really afraid of losing you."
Ah. So Asami was concerned for Korra, but not in the way Lin had thought. "That might be it, but more likely she was thinking of an angry comment I didn't mean." Lin ran a hand through her hair. "Damn sharp tongue getting me in trouble again. I'll have to apologize to her for that."
Asami nodded. "Good. I know Korra loves Mako, but...I think he still has some growing up to do before he's really ready for any relationships. He spent so long being almost like a parent to Bolin he never got a chance to do a lot of the...the growing up most teenagers experience."
"And you got to suffer through the growing pains," Lin pointed out.
Asami's shoulders slumped. "I'm a little afraid that Mako will do something to Korra like he did to me. He wasn't there for me when my father turned out to be an Equalist, and Korra needs someone right now. She needs you."
Lin shook her head. "You did not deserve to be treated in such a way, particularly after what you had to sacrifice to join forces with 'the new Team Avatar'."
Asami sighed sharply. "I wasn't aware...you knew that much."
"Korra told me what happened. And as distracted as I have been by Korra's various troubles, I am not entirely unobservant. I was a detective before I became chief of police, after all."
Asami wrapped her arms tightly around herself. "Korra also tells me you give good hugs."
Lin was not naturally affectionate, but Asami clearly needed support. "Not often. But I will make an exception for a friend of Korra's." Lin opened her arms and Asami walked into the embrace, resting her cheek against Lin's shoulder. Lin's armor was a bit of a hindrance, but Asami managed to find a comfortable way to stand while draping her arms around Lin's neck. It was very different from holding Korra; there was no sexual tension, no romantic spark. Just the closeness of a friend. It was comforting.
"I understand heartbreak. If you ever need to talk, perhaps over a cup of tea, you may seek me out." Lin touched Asami's hair lightly and let her go.
Asami managed a smile. "I'm partial to lapsang."
"I have quite a stash of lapsang souchong."
"Let's just make sure Korra doesn't end up jealous of me."
Lin smiled thinly. "I think she understands I have eyes only for her."
"And I'm rather set on steering clear of romantic entanglements for a while." Asami adjusted her jacket. "I should go. Mako and Korra are probably already back at Air Temple Island, or at least on a different ferry than the one I catch."
"Take care of yourself, Asami."
Korra's head lay in Lin's lap. Lin was sipping from a cup of oolong tea made from a blend Asami had given her, and Korra was attempting to read a scroll on airbending that Tenzin had assigned her for homework.
"Will you teach me metalbending?"
Lin sighed. "Korra, honey...we've talked about this. You need to focus on airbending right now."
"Why can't I learn airbending and metalbending at the same time?" Korra protested.
Lin put down her cup. "Several reasons. Airbending is an entirely new element for you, and you've been having trouble accessing it, am I right?"
Korra bit her lower lip. "Yes. I can produce it now, but it's harder. I accessed it because I needed it to protect Mako, but now...I can't reach that point again."
"So you need to work on that. Also, Tenzin is teaching you airbending. If you start learning metalbending from me, what's to stop you from being distracted entirely from airbending?"
"Nothing," said Korra with a grin. "You are very distracting."
"That's just my point. It's important that you learn airbending. And if you start training with me, I'm concerned Tenzin will start to suspect something."
"Can't you at least introduce me to the badgermoles?" Korra whined.
"I would love to introduce you to the badgermoles, but that will happen when I'm about to teach you my mother's style of earthbending because that is the best basis for metalbending. I will teach you metalbending after you have become a more proficient airbender."
"Don't whine. It's unflattering. And every time you act a decade younger than you actually are, you shake my faith in the fact that this relationship can work despite the age difference."
Korra sniffed. "I'm the avatar. I've lived tons of lives. You're a toddler compared to me."
"Right. Because you've had such an easy time communing with the rest of the avatars since Aang returned your bending," said Lin sharply.
Korra was quiet for a moment. "Yeah, I guess I need to be thinking about jumping off a cliff before I can call upon the spirit world. Aang has been able to talk to me directly since then, but I haven't been able to reach a meditative state deep enough to talk to him."
"That comment of mine was unnecessary." Lin bent over to kiss Korra's forehead. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't belittle your spiritual difficulties. Perhaps I can't teach you metalbending right away, but I might be able to help you with meditation."
Korra stroked Lin's cheek. "I just don't get airbending. I wish you were an airbender and you could teach me. Pro bending helped me more than Tenzin ever did with airbending. I want to work with you. I want to work on something I have a prayer of doing right."
Lin sighed. Korra could be incredibly immature, but at least she was able to calm down and think straight when it really mattered. "Is Aang helping you with airbending at all?"
"As much as he can. It's hard, with me being such a spiritual failure." Korra closed her eyes. "I almost wish he hadn't given me my bending back. Then maybe I could have learned how to contact the spirit world and gotten better at airbending and figured out how to energybend, and I wouldn't feel like...like...I cheated..." Korra sighed, tears beginning to seep out from behind her eyelids. "I guess...since I was wondering, you know...what it would feel like to die, and what it would like to be a permanent part of the spirit world...that's how I called Aang. Wishing I were dead was the most spiritual I'd ever felt."
Lin brushed away a few tears from Korra's face. "I should have gone after you that day. You looked so devastated."
"'Devastated' is a good word." Korra smiled tremulously. "I heard you talking to Katara about restoring my bending."
"I was worried about you." Lin paused. "Have you felt like that since Aang restored your bending?"
"Felt like what?"
"Like you wanted to end your life," said Lin softly.
Korra sat up and climbed into Lin's lap. "No, I haven't. I mean, I've felt...disheartened...because I'm having so much trouble communicating with the other avatars. But never that...that low."
"Does Tenzin know how depressed you felt when you lost your bending?"
"No." Korra nestled her face against Lin's throat. "You're the first person I've told."
"You should tell him." Lin stroked Korra's hair. "He's trying to help you become more spiritual. He should know you were considering permanently joining the spirit world before you were able to call Aang to you."
Korra kissed Lin's neck. "I wish you were my mentor. Can you talk to Tenzin for me?"
"And let him know you revealed something so personal to me? He is likely already suspicious that you've spent so much time here."
"We're going to have to tell him sometime," Korra whispered.
Lin wrapped her arms around the girl. "I'm not looking forward to it."
"Can I stay with you tonight?"
"We haven't cuddled since the night I escaped from Tarrlok. I miss it. I miss feeling that close to you." Korra wasn't whining, but she sounded close to begging. "Please, Lin?"
Lin sighed. "All right. You may stay here tonight. But unless you finish reading that scroll, you'll be sleeping on the couch."
"What!?" Korra leaned back from their embrace, pouting.
Lin touched Korra's cheek. "Korra, Tenzin only agreed to let you study here because he thought I would be tough enough on you to force you to finish your reading no matter how much you complained. I know we have to tell Tenzin about our relationship soon, but I'd rather he find out about us that way rather than you mysteriously spending time with me and getting no airbending study done."
Korra nodded sadly. "Okay." She shifted position so her head was in Lin's lap again and took up her airbending scroll.
Lin stroked Korra's hair appreciatively. "If you want, I can help you with some meditation techniques tomorrow morning. We might as well prove there's a good reason related to your training for us to spend time together."
"One more kiss?" Korra turned her pleading blue eyes on Lin full force.
Lin groaned. "Damn those beautiful eyes of yours." She leaned over and gently kissed Korra several times.
"If you weren't such a good kisser, maybe I wouldn't pester you to kiss me so often." Korra paused. "Hey...Lin?"
"I can't stop...thinking about something."
Lin was about to tell her to focus on her scroll, but Korra looked so distressed that Lin decided to humor her. "What is it?"
"The night we first kissed. You said...you said if we tried anything long-term, it would 'end in misery for both of us'. Do you still think that?" Korra was biting her lips with anxiety.
Lin took a deep breath. "I...I don't know. But I do know I used to be utterly convinced a relationship between us couldn't work. And you have shown me otherwise."
Korra reached up to touch Lin's face again. "I'm scared, Lin. I really, really care about you. I don't want this to...to end badly."
Lin felt a twinge of guilt. If she were to be completely honest, she would tell Korra that she still thought the girl would lose interest in her before too long. "I won't break your heart."
"I know you won't. But I screwed up so bad when I kissed Mako after I'd asked you out, or whatever you call what I asked you for. I'm worried about hurting you by accident again, and losing you for good this time."
The hour was growing late, but despite the dimming light, the power Korra's quivering eyes held over Lin was undiminished. "Stop worrying." She stroked Korra's hair. "I said I'd be with you even though you are young and still learning. I said I'd be with you because you are young and still learning, remember? If you make another mistake, and you explain yourself to me...we'll work through it."
Korra sat up and wrapped her arms tightly around Lin's neck. "Thank you."
Lin kissed the top of Korra's head. "You're welcome. Now get back to your studies."
"Okay. Hey, Lin?"
"Korra, can't you focus for five seconds?" Lin sighed.
"I love you."
Lin trailed her fingers through Korra's hair. "Korra..."
"You don't have to say it back." Korra turned her head to the side and kissed Lin's thigh.
Lin bent over and kissed Korra between her eyes. "You don't have to stop saying it. I'll say it back. One day."
"Take your time, honey." Korra turned her attention—finally—back to the airbending scroll. "Now let me finish reading so I can cuddle the hell out of you."
Shaking her head and smiling, Lin picked up her cup of tea. It had gone somewhat lukewarm. She could have asked Korra to heat it, but for some reason, she was perfectly content with her tea. She had Korra in her lap—studying, for once—with the promise of the girl sleeping in her arms later. With Korra at her side, lukewarm tea was something she couldn't care less about. She had always scoffed at the idea of a person feeling stronger because he or she was in a relationship, but being with Korra...well, it put her at ease. She was afraid, yes—apparently she and Korra shared some fears about the fate of their relationship—but that didn't mean she couldn't enjoy what lay ahead for them.
A/N: OKAY, MUSES, that's it. This is a two-shot. Except for the series of short story-type things taking place later in Korra and Lin's relationship. Which will be called "Scars and Bandages". And should be up soon. *headdesk*