Notes: So, um, I had a lot of feelings about the finale. On the one hand, I loved it. On the other hand, I wanted Korra and Lin to have to work a little to get their bending back. And I wanted more Lin in general. Apparently, I wanted both of these things enough to start my first longer-than-a-oneshot story in years.
Unbendable: The Book of Earth
Chapter I: The Seeds of Hope
The first tear slipped down her cheek as she stood at the edge of the cliff and wondered, just for the briefest instant, if the world would be better with a new Avatar. Then the rest of the tears came and Korra sank into the snow, sobbing earnestly as she buried her face in her arms.
Quiet footsteps crunched the snow behind her. Korra lifted her head, seeing the telltale yellow and orange out of the corner of her eye.
She rubbed at her face. "Not now, Tenzin. I just want to be left alone."
"But you called me here."
She knew that voice. Korra inhaled swiftly, her eyes widening in surprise as she turned. "Aang?" she breathed.
"You've finally connected with your spiritual self." He inclined his head to her with a smile. "We've been waiting for you."
"But—but how?" she said. "Why now?"
"When we hit our lowest point, we are open to the greatest change," he said serenely.
"I... don't know what that means," Korra admitted.
Aang's calm didn't waver. Behind him, she saw shadows of green, of blue, of red, stark against the snow. "You've only stumbled. You can find your way again."
She hesitated, hardly daring to hope. "You mean—you mean I can get my bending back? I can become the Avatar again?"
"It will be a long journey." Aang touched a finger to the center of her forehead. His touch sent energy rolling straight down her spine. "We're here when you need us, Avatar Korra."
Then they were gone, brushed away by the wind.
It was a long, slow trudge through the snow back to her parents house. Korra dismounted Naga only once, near the water's edge. She flung the force of her will at the sea, hoping—Aang had said—maybe, just maybe—but the water was calm.
She buried her face in Naga's side in despair.
The house was still full of people when she returned. She ignored the concern on their faces.
"I found Aang," she announced. "He told me I haven't completely lost my bending."
And with that, she turned and headed to her room, where she curled up on her bed and cried some more.
Eventually, there was a sharp knock at the door.
Korra sniffled. "Go away, Tenzin."
She stiffened, hesitating, but the next knock was insistent. With a sigh, she dried her eyes on her sleeve and went to the door. "Chief Bei Fong?"
Bei Fong stood frowning in the doorway with her arms folded across her chest. "May I come in?"
Korra stood back to let her pass. For a moment they stood there and regarded each other in silence. The corner of Bei Fong's lip quirked upwards. "Rough week, huh, kid?" she said finally.
"I would say you have no idea," Korra said, "but I think you do, in fact, have some idea."
"That's why I'm here." The woman had an... intense stare, even when her eyes were dark with exhaustion. Korra wondered if Bei Fong felt as wobbly as she did, as if her entire center of balance had shifted and she hadn't yet learned to walk again. "Aang told you that you haven't truly lost your bending?"
"He told me I just have to find it again." Korra shook her head. "Whatever that means."
"Did he—" Bei Fong pursed her lips. "Do you suppose it's the same for the rest of us, then?"
"I don't—maybe?" Korra hesitated. Which would be worse, to say yes when there was no hope, or to say no when there was?
"Maybe is... enough." Bei Fong was still frowning, but thoughtfully. "I know an earthbender. She will train me. If you wish, she will train you too."
"Train me?" Korra repeated.
"Train you," Bei Fong said firmly. "Unless you know another way."
"Tenzin would say meditation," Korra said, after a moment's consideration. "And patience."
Bei Fong snorted, the corners of her lips curving into the smallest of smiles. "That's the first laugh I've had all week," she said. "It might work for you, though. You're the Avatar."
"If that's all, Aang could've told me." Korra frowned. "It's going to be harder than that, isn't it."
"I'm afraid so," Bei Fong said, not unkindly. She laid a hand on Korra's shoulder. "You don't have to come with me but I promise you, there is no one who can teach you better."
"But—" Korra bit her lip. But what if it's not enough? What if I'm not enough? But Bei Fong wasn't Tenzin, and Korra couldn't confide in her.
"Just think about it," Bei Fong said. "I mean to return to Republic City with Tenzin and his family in the morning and begin this little adventure directly afterwards. I know it's not much time for you to decide."
"No, I—I—" Korra squared her shoulders. "I'll do it. I'm coming with you."
"That's the spirit." Bei Fong smiled, pleased, and somehow Korra found it in her to smile a little, too.
When they told the others, Tenzin was worried.
"Lin," he said, turning her name into a sigh. "Are you sure that this is—"
"Quite sure," Bei Fong said firmly.
"Oh, hush, dear." Pema laid a hand on her husband's arm. "I think it's a great idea, and they don't need your permission. Stop fussing."
"The Earth Kingdom," Bolin said, stroking Pabu's tail. The fire ferret was curled around his neck. "I'm jealous. All the greatest earthbenders come from the Earth Kingdom."
"You don't say." Asami rolled her eyes, but the effect was ruined by her smile. She leaned back against the far wall of the house.
Bolin shrugged. "Hey, can we all come?"
"I, um—" Korra glanced at Bei Fong. The woman looked decidedly unpleased at the prospect of an international field trip with three extra teenagers in tow.
"No," Asami answered for them. "We can't. Or at least, I can't." She straightened, lifting her chin. "My father nearly destroyed Republic City. I owe it to the people there to help rebuild it."
"You aren't responsible for what your father did," Mako protested.
"Maybe not," she said, in a tone that held no room for argument. "But I'm staying in Republic City."
"Then you two should stay," Korra said to Mako and Bolin, as much as she wanted to drag them all along no matter what Bei Fong said. "Republic City needs all the help it can get."
"Just... be careful, will you?" Tenzin looked at her and Bei Fong in turn. Behind his back, Pema rolled her eyes and shook her head.
"Nothing will happen to Korra while she's with Lin," she said firmly. "They'll be fine. Now get some rest, all of you. It's a long trip back to Republic City."