Author's Note: This takes place after everyone arrives at the South Pole and after Korra and everyone learns that Katara cannot return bending. Use your imaginations and pretend that the scene with Korra getting her bending back and events surrounding it happened over a period of days.
"Lin, are you okay?"
Pema stood outside the closed door of Katara's second guest room, having heard groans and the occasional swear word uttered in frustration coming from within. She was growing concerned, not only for the woman in the guest room, but also because Meelo had a tendency to repeat everything he heard. The last thing Pema needed was him blurting out some of the things coming from the former metalbender's mouth.
"I can't get all the clasps undone." The older woman finally said, her voice muffled by the door.
"Let me in and I will help you."
Pema heard the woman sigh. "All right. Come in."
Seeing the sight before her when she opened the door, the young mother didn't know whether to laugh or feel sorry for Lin Beifong. The older woman was standing barefoot in the middle of the room, her silvery hair a sweaty mess of wild curls and tangles, and random pieces of her armor were laying around her.
"I can't get this off." The former policewoman tugged at the collar of the uniform. "There are clasps that hold all this together. Normally I'd just be able to bend this whole mess off, but...well...I..."
"...need some help getting the clasps undone." Pema finished, smiling gently.
After about thirty minutes, a few groans of frustration of her own, and two pairs of pliers, Pema was finally able to help Lin lift the chest and back pieces of her uniform off. The former policewoman was now clad only in her gray uniform pants, chest bindings, and a camisole that was bloodied and had burn marks. The younger woman gasped.
"Lin! Are you all right? What did they..."
The older woman silenced her with a look. "I'm fine. I don't want to talk about it."
She tried to pull the camisole over her head, gritting her teeth and wincing in pain.
"Lin, you are not fine."
"I told you..."
"Quit being so difficult. I am going to get a pair of scissors so we can get those off easier." Pema's voice was stern. "I swear, even my children don't argue this much with me."
Lin glared at the other woman as she left the room.
"I am not more difficult than those children." She muttered under her breath.
Pema came back a few moments later with a pair of scissors and standing behind Lin, she slowly began to cut away the older woman's camisole and chest bindings. She heard a gasp of pain as she gently pulled the soiled fabric away from the former metalbender's skin.
"I'm sorry. It's stuck to your wounds." Pema said.
After a few more minutes, she had the clothes cut completely and she gently pulled the rest of the fabric from Lin's back, letting the soiled garments fall to floor. Pema was a little surprised at how suddenly Lin seemed so delicate as she stood there, arms across her bare breasts and shivering. It was then the younger woman got a look at the full extent of Lin's injuries.
The policewoman's back, arms, and torso were a mess of bruises, cuts, and burns.
"Spirits..." Pema gasped.
"Yeah, Equalist hospitality." Lin hugged her arms closer to her chest. "They pried my armor off of me when they figured out it had clasps. Mother insisted when the armor was being designed that it had a way to be removed if the wearer was unconscious and couldn't bend."
The older woman sighed. "I think that's why I couldn't get it off now. They must have damaged the clasps."
"Oh Lin, I am so sorry. If we had known..."
"You would have done what? Pitied me?"
"No..." Pema sighed wearily. "We would have helped you sooner. We would have gotten you out of that armor. We would have helped your injuries. We didn't know what had happened to you after you were captured. All Tenzin said was that he found you near where I was being held prisoner and that Amon had taken your bending. And he didn't say anything about your injuries."
"That's because he didn't know. I had managed to get my armor back on before he found me." Lin looked at Pema, reaching out to put a hand on the younger woman's shoulder. "Look, I knew what I was in for when I jumped off Oogi. I knew I would lose my bending. And Amon's people were not afraid of electrocuting people, so I knew there was a possibility I could be tortured for information."
Pema watched as Lin's green eyes fill with tears, despair on her lovely face, the bravado fading.
"But when they told me you all had been captured as well, that felt worse than anything they had put me through." Lin said, her voice barely more than a whisper. She was once again holding both arms across her chest and she was trembling.
Without a word, the young mother unwound the red fabric that was draped about her torso and handed it to the older woman, who took it and gingerly wrapped it around her chest and back in an effort to cover up.
Both women stared at each other for a moment, years of animosity, anger, and hurt fading away. It was no longer the time for such things. They had been through so much, united against so much.
"I'll go get Katara..." Pema finally said, before turning to open the door.
"No!" Lin cried out. "Please don't. I can't let her see this. I can't let her see me like this!"
"Lin, you need a healer. Please let me get Katara." Pema's green eyes were tight with worry and concern. "Please. She would want to help you."
The older woman sighed, closed her eyes, and finally nodded, taking a seat on the floor as she felt her legs give out. She was so tired and battered, both emotionally and physically that she hadn't even realized younger woman had left the room until she heard Pema and Katara's voices in the hallway.
"Why didn't you come get me sooner?"
"I didn't know she was injured until we got her armor off. She didn't tell anyone."
Katara swept into the room and sat her healers' kit on the floor. She slowly knelt down in front of Lin and cupped the woman's face in her hands.
"Oh my brave girl..." The old woman kissed Lin's forehead and wiped away the few stray tears that fell. "You are so stubborn. Why didn't you tell anyone you were this hurt."
"I didn't save them. Amon still captured them and nearly took their bending. I failed. I failed the city, I failed my officers, and I failed Tenzin and the children. I tried to keep them all safe."
Pema sat on the bed, trying to blink back the tears that were threatening to fall. She couldn't believe that the former metalbender was feeling that way. She had seen Lin, without a thought to her own safety and well-being, leap from Oogi in an attempt to disable the airships. It wasn't her fault that unbeknownst to them, other airships had been patrolling the area and had zeroed in on their position upon receiving a distress call that at least one of the pursuing airships was disabled.
"I know you did." Katara said, gently. She brushed an errant lock of Lin's steel-gray hair from her eyes. "Tenzin told me what happened when you all fled the island."
"But nothing...you can't be earth and metal all the time, Lin. You are human and sometimes things, even when we do everything right, don't always work out. Fifty years old and I still have to remind you of this..." The waterbender said with a smile as she wrapped her arms around the trembling woman, knowing that the emotional wounds needed just as much tending to as the physical ones. "You put so much on yourself, Lin. You always have, even as a little girl. But I am so proud of you and I know your mother would have been as well."
After a few moments, Katara released the former metalbender and smiled at her, placing a wrinkled hand on her scarred cheek. "You might not believe it now, but things will be okay. You will go on, Korra will go on, and maybe one day we can find a way to make everyone whole again. It just might take some time."
The waterbender unpacked her healers' kit, uncorking the water skin and drawing the water out of it. It flowed around her hand, a faint bluish glow emanating from the liquid. She pressed the water against Lin's shoulder and upper arm and the woman visibly relaxed, the healing water cool against her damaged skin and tissues.
"You're right." Lin returned Katara's smile, feeling her body begin to heal. "We will go on."