She was not Chief Bei Fong. She was not Toph Beifong's daughter, a natural-born metalbender. She was not Aang's favorite 'niece' or Tenzin's ex-girlfriend.
She was Lin.
She had spent years being those other people. Ambition and pride and legacy had pushed her as far as she was willing to go.
She had lost the only man she loved to a normal, quiet, soft girl.
She had lost her career to Tarrlok.
Her officers and their bending abilities to Amon.
She had avoided the truth. She knew that, that was how she avoided it. Continuously ignored Tenzin, being cold to him, to his wife. Ignored his children to the point of forcing a smile while a child wreaked havoc in one room of the City Hall and everyone else was in chaos.
She knew their names of course. The children, the Avatar, and the Avatar's friends.
Not just because she was the Chief, although that helped.
But she was a part of a family. Her aunts and uncles in bond if not blood, ruled entire sections of the world. They built this city in unity. She was raised on the stories of what her mother and extended family was doing when they were teenagers.
You do not simply leave that world, no matter how cold you have become, how much ignorance you plead.
When Avatar Aang passed, she waited with baited breath, waiting to hear the new Avatar's name, so of course she recognized the girl when she barged in to Republic City.
And at that moment, when she saw the new Avatar, she felt something slip, something change, and she knew a new era was beginning. Premonition, maybe? Understanding of what an Avatar was, probably.
And watching the Avatar battle Amon's men during the championships had reminded her suddenly of one of the other stories from her mother's war. One that wasn't as well-known, because it was easily forgotten.
Sometimes, the Avatar needed help. That's why there were always friends, guarding over the Avatar, teaching the Avatar.
Sometimes, saving the Avatar.
So that the Avatar could save everyone else.
And of course, she had never forgotten that only Tenzin bore his father's gift of air. And that gift passed to his children.
She had never forgotten Aang's face as he taught his son the airbending forms, all but extinct at the time.
Airbending would not die out on her watch.
And in just a few weeks, years of bitterness and dislike, and disappointment faded away, because there was so much more to worry about.
So much more to fight for.
And in a moment that even Lin recognizes as awkward, Tenzin asks for her help. Asks her to protect his family.
And for a moment she doesn't understand why he even asked.
Where else would she be?
She can hear the tightness of Pema's voice, the worry at finding them alone together. She remembers how Tenzin did love her, once upon a time, and then Pema came along, so for a moment, she delights in the other woman's worry. But after the children are resting and it is just Lin and Pema, Lin says simply, "I could never have done this."
Pema blinks, but doesn't pretend not to understand, which Lin respects her for. "There have been moments when I wondered if I could do it."
Lin remembers her mother's pep talks, her uncles pep talks, and her aunts gentle advice about everything ranging from earthbending to boys to politics. "How did you?"
Pema considers a moment. "I believe we all have a path to follow. And this is mine."
It is simple, and direct, and there is pride in her voice, and not just a touch of possessiveness.
Lin grinned, and she thought it probably caught Pema off-guard, because they had never shared more than bitter words. Lin looked down at herself, her uniform, thought of her mother's legacy.
"This is yours," Lin said, sipped her tea and sat back, and played with her metal whip absently. "And this is mine."
There is a moment when she is fighting the chi blockers when she really believes she is about to be defeated. And then the children appear.
These are not her children, but she couldn't be prouder if they were.
These are airbenders, and a slight chill goes down her back at a thought. If they can do what they have done, now as children, what will they be when they grow up.
Alive, she told herself as she watched Tenzin holding his new son. They will be alive.
Airbending would not die out on her watch.
It is her mantra.
As they fly through the air she knows what she has to do, even before the plan forms in her mind. Her mother once went head to head with airships, and won.
But she is not her mother. She knows this, and a flicker of apprehension flows through her before she looks at the airbenders. She knows these children. She knows Tenzin and Pema, and they are necessary to the children.
And without these children, Aang's legacy dies. She loved Aang as a father, once upon a time. He was her favorite uncle.
But, right now, she was not Chief Bei Fong. She was not Toph Beifong's daughter, a natural-born metalbender. She was not Aang's favorite 'niece' or Tenzin's ex-girlfriend.
She heard it that last moment, when Tenzin turns, blurting out her name in horror.
She was Lin. She was her own legacy.
And she jumped.
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