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Title: Rebuilding Lives
Fandom: Legend of Korra
Rating: PG
Genre: Drama
Words: 7850
Notes/Warnings: A missing scene (or a lot of them) from the finale. Spoils everything. Also shows canon ships (and since the finale resolves the Asami/Mako/Korra love triangle, I'm not mentioning them).
Summary: Republic City needs to be rebuilt, but so do the lives of Avatar Korra and her friends.
Disclaimer: The Legend of Korra copyright Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko/Nickelodeon and this derivative work was created without permission.

The Tale of Pema and Rohan

It was a comfortable cell -- the Equalists knew she had given birth recently, after all -- but it was still a cell. And three of her children were not in it. Pema held Rohan as he slept, more for her own comfort than his. He'd finally stopped crying and she was about ready to collapse on the mattress from exhaustion.

But she couldn't sleep. She still heard Jinora and Ikki and Meelo's voices screaming as Tenzin tried futilely to get the children away. Pema had lurched unsteadily to her feet to join him, but all she could manage to do was to stagger around until a pair of Equalists had grabbed her. Useless. Worse than useless.

She knew she was being silly; no one expected a woman who had just given birth to be able to fight, even if she was a trained air acolyte. It was why Lin had accompanied them, and why Tenzin had tried to draw the pursuit. Why Jinora and Ikki had stood in front of Meelo. They were a family; they protected one another.

Rohan stirred, and Pema looked at his face, so much like her other children when they were born, but still different enough that she knew he would grow into his own person. She remembered telling Katara that she'd hoped he'd be 'normal'. A terrible way of putting it, especially in front of the children, and she regretted it now. Jinora, and Ikki, and Meelo all were normal. Their normal was gliders and breezing through the corridors like a flock of lemurs. Having them grounded might be easier, but it would be wrong. And maybe Rohan would be like his sisters and brother, and maybe he would be like her sister's children. Or he might shock them all and be a waterbender or an earthbender. But he would be normal, whatever normal was for him.

Though right now she wanted him to be the strongest airbender ever, just to spite Amon and the people who hurt her children, and that fury scared her. She slowed her breathing, focusing on meditation and the smell of clean newborn.

She must have drifted to sleep, curled up on the mattress, back to the door, because the next thing she heard was the door scrape against the floor. A guard -- the woman guard from earlier -- called out. "Mealtime." Pema stayed still, but the guard must have noticed the change in her breathing or posture. "Come on," she said, "we don't want you to get sick."

Pema heard footsteps on the stone and felt the guard leaning over her. "Are you all right?" Pema didn't think, just pushed out at where she thought the other woman was, and managed to shove her shoulder into the other woman's chin. It hurt, but the woman fell over, cracking her head on the floor. The sound woke Rohan, who started crying.

Pema clutched him. "Shh, baby." She was afraid to glance at the door. If it was open, it could be a chance to escape. A slim chance, given Rohan was working up to full volume and she felt queasy from the movement. But she'd have to take the chance; for her son, if nothing else.

She already heard footsteps down the hall, even over Rohan's wails, and the other guards shouting. Pema rose unsteadily to her feet and finally looked at the door. Closed. Of course. But maybe she could slip past when the guards opened it to check on her. She crouched by the door hinges, still rocking Rohan in an attempt to soothe him. Someone was sounding an alarm -- were the reinforcements from the military already here? It couldn't be because of one downed guard.

She heard some thuds and smelled the discharge of the guards' electric weapons. Then hands turning keys in the lock and wrenching the door open. "Pema?"

The voice was one she'd recognize anywhere, one she knew all the nuances of. "Tenzin!" Pema stood up, throwing an arm around her husband. Even Rohan seemed to calm at the sound of his father's voice. Tenzin didn't have his staff, but was holding a length of metal pipe in a similar matter, one he nearly dropped to embrace her.

"Mom!" Behind him, came all three of her other children, crowding around her like turtle-ducklings, asking her if she was all right, and if Rohan was okay, and giving an incomprehensible account of what had happened since the Equalists had separated them. "Whoa, Mom, did you knock out the guard by yourself?" Ikki asked. "That's awesome!"

"You shouldn't underestimate your mother, dear." Pema forced herself to break the hug, so she could examine them. This looked like a rescue. What she couldn't tell was how Tenzin had broken them free… and if Amon had hurt any of her babies, or her husband. The children seemed in high spirits, at least. "Is…"

"Korra and Mako had broken in to the Arena, where we were taken," Tenzin informed her, in that tone that said he was proud of his student and would tell her so, once he was done fuming over the fact Korra had put herself into danger for him, and that he was scared for her. "She's in pursuit of Amon. She says that he's a Waterbender -- his technique is based on bloodbending." He shifted impatiently, and Pema could tell that it had been hard for him to leave Korra there, even with the desire to protect the family. Korra was family too, another person risking herself for them.

"We'll have to thank her when we meet up at home," Pema said, trying to force a smile on her face. "Now, you all were rescuing me right?" she said, like it was just a game of pretend. Maybe if they focused hard on it, it would end like all their games had, with everyone safe and the worst trouble being a minor squabble over who would get the last sweet.

The Tale of Tenzin and Bumi

It had been less than a full day since Bumi arrived with the second fleet, and Tenzin was already counting the hours until things were secure enough for him to leave.

Pema was gracious enough, as ever, and the children love their uncle. Maybe a bit too much -- he already had to stop Bumi from telling the stories about the Seaweed Incident, lest one of the children try to duplicate it. Thankfully, Bumi himself was still on the job of securing Republic City with General Iroh, and Tenzin had his own work with cleanup.

Cleanup both of their house, and of the city. They hadn't located the other Councilors yet. So, as much as Tenzin would prefer the simple task of making their house livable again with Pema and the acolytes, he was put into a position where he was the closest thing the city had to leadership. Lin had gathered what she could find of the police force and was working with Iroh and Bumi. The Equalists had taken out many of the triad members in their purges, but some of the triad members had gone to ground and were finally emerging into a city where there simply weren't enough officers who could subdue benders, and the United Republic of Nations' marines the Bumi had brought were not used to police work.

More difficult were the last Equalists themselves. Or maybe they weren't Equalists at all, but non-benders from the slums, using salvaged Equalist equipment against the gangs. Illegal, but Tenzin couldn't blame people trying to defend their homes and families.

On the other hand, the fact none of the people would talk to him or the soldiers about where the problem areas were was frustrating him. He'd considered sending Korra out to mediate -- she was the Avatar, and had the respect of that position -- but… he was worried about her. After the euphoria of airbending and deposing Amon, her loss had sunk in and he didn't want to push her towards an acceptance she might not be ready for.

"Are you still working?" Bumi breezed into Tenzin's office like a typhoon, already picking up papers to examine them and place them out of order. "It's a beautiful winter day and the kids want to go flying, but can't find where the Equalists hid their gliders."

Tenzin privately suspected that any obvious airbender tools had been destroyed in contempt, and he'd have to show the girls how to make their own gliders. And he worried about the children leaving the island, especially since none of them could take an adult with them on their glider, and Bumi was neither an airbender who could fly with them, nor a waterbender who could keep pace in the ocean below without a motorboat. "The city won't run itself," Tenzin answered. "Don't you have your own duties to attend to?"

Then he paused. Bumi had a reputation: the child of the Avatar and a master waterbender, who refused to let what otherwise might be seen as a disability in a family of benders define him. He could swim nearly as well as Kya, and had tested the gliders developed by the Northern Air Temple mechanics, often keeping up with Tenzin when they were both young. He was probably the most prominent non-bender in the URN's military, maybe in the entire government since their uncle retired. And… well, most people actually liked him for some reason.

"I can help the children find their gliders, if you can do a favor for me," Tenzin answered.

"I already told Pema that the last time I did laundry, it all ended up Meelo-sized," Bumi answered.

Tenzin sighed. "No, Bumi. I need you to go talk to the neighborhoods about crime rates. Many of them are turning to vigilanteism and we'd prefer if they'd work with the police and the emergency teams rather than refusing to cooperate." Getting them to trust the police and soldiers again was the first priority; he wasn't going to ask them to disarm until they knew their families would be safe.

"You can't ask Linnie?" Bumi asked. Tenzin imagined what Lin would do to his brother if she heard that childish nickname from him.

"I think you'd be in a better position than her, but you should coordinate with her." And he did recall that Lin's patience for Bumi could easily wear thin when they didn't have a plan. "And, as much as I hate to admit it, you do have a way with people."

Bumi nodded and threw an arm around Tenzin's shoulder, despite Tenzin's best efforts to discreetly dodge it. "Just a matter of knowing how to relax, Bro."

The Tale of Jinora and Ikki

"We should take Korra flying," Ikki said once Dad had found their gliders and helped them repair them.

"Dad said not to bother Korra," Jinora told her sister. She could understand why: she had been really scared when Amon had captured them and had taken all of them, even Meelo, to the arena. How much scarier was it to actually have Amon do it?

"It'll cheer her up! You can't be sad when you're flying; it's a law."

Jinora gave her sister a look. "Fine, but if she tells us to go away, we go flying on our own." Dad probably wouldn't let them go alone. This was even the first time they could walk around on the island without a grown-up, and they were only allowed out if they stayed together. Meelo had thrown a tantrum when they left him behind, until Uncle Bumi took him on a 'secret mission'.

"Right, right," Ikki said, grabbing the gliders. When Jinora held out her hand, Ikki tossed her her glider.


"I'm being careful!" Ikki said, and ran off, so Jinora had to follow her so they both wouldn't get into trouble.

Korra was sitting with Naga's head in her lap and skritching her ears. She didn't even look up when the girls came up to her. "Hey Korra!" the two of them said in unison.

"Come flying with us!" Ikki said. "Now that you're an airbender, you should learn how."

"It's not that hard," Jinora said. "And if you fall, you can swim and Naga can come help." She nearly said 'and you're a waterbender too', but she stopped before mentioning that. Korra wasn't a waterbender right now, and it would be bad to remind her. But Jinora was old enough to think a bit before she spoke, unlike Ikki.

"I don't really want to go flying, girls," Korra said flatly. "You just go on without me."

"But, Korra!" Ikki said. "Dad probably won't let us go without a grown up, and you're close enough!" Jinora was surprised her sister had figured that bit out.

Korra looked up and smiled, but it wasn't a real smile. "Fine. Come on, Naga."

The polar bear-dog followed the three girls to the cliff overlooking the bay and Jinora opened her glider, and handed the one they'd brought for Korra to her. "Even without airbending, the glider will let you glide -- you only need to make the wind lift you up. Like this." She turned, and dropped off the cliff, using the speed from the fall to turn into horizontal velocity. Skimming over the waves, feeling the cold spray of the winter seas soak into her clothing, it felt like she was part of the wind. She turned, bending the air to carry her up and back to Korra. "Did you see what I did?"

"I think so…" Korra said. "I know this is me and all, but are you sure the best way to learn this is by cliff-diving? Somehow I don't think this is how your dad taught you."

"He didn't really teach us," Jinora said, looking down. It was a bit embarrassing, and she was a lot more mature now than she was back then.

"We found his old glider in the attic and borrowed it," Ikki explained. "The tree we got stuck in wasn't that large."

Korra actually laughed at that. "Okay, let's do this."

The Tale of Iroh

Iroh remembers listening to his grandfather's tales of the war.

Iroh couldn't remember not knowing his grandfather's story. In some ways, it was the story of the Fire Nation of grandfather's generation: a nation that had been raised by conquerers to be conquerers or else, who turned their backs on that past and became something better, something more just. There were still factions who embraced the old ways, who took Great-Grandfather Ozai and Great-Aunt Azula as martyrs, who had looked on the nascent Equalist movement as a result of the current Royal Family's weakness. But most people had instead embraced the ideal of peace, of harmony between the elements, of a military that did more work protecting merchants from pirates than against another nation.

Military tactics had changed since his grandfather's day, but slowly. Ships were more efficient, and had space for earth and waterbenders. Tanks benefited from the developments that made satomobiles into things a family could afford, but they were still tanks. Even airships -- which weren't adopted until late in the war -- were the same basic design. The old Fire Nation had used them as troop transports, and as platforms for aerial firebenders, but gas bags were fragile and combustable, and the airships maneuvered like a drunken sky bison. Unlike Sato's powered gliders.

Those had caught them all by surprise, and Iroh knew that they would change things. What he didn't know was how. He studied the plans that they'd found, not quite making sense of how they worked. He'd gained a basic understanding by having to fight them, but that had been by necessity. He could ask Asami Sato for assistance: they were hers now, but he didn't know if the old man's mechanical genius had been passed to his daughter along with her truly remarkable driving skills.

He'd looked out the window, catching a flash of red as Tenzin's daughters played with their own airbending gliders. Those Iroh understood: they were just kites, augmented by bending. You could even build a glider that could be flown by someone without airbending; the Northern Air Temple designed those, and Iroh suspected some of the Air Acolytes here had their own. He could even imagine using one with his firebending, though it would be a wild ride. Not unlike some of the desperate attempts he'd done to retake the city. "Are they really just kites with engines?" It couldn't be that simple. But it really was: the engine gave enough lift to fly, and the genius was in making an engine light enough that it could lift itself.

Tenzin interrupted him. "I hope you aren't thinking of building those… those things." He gestured at the documents.

"You'll have to ask Miss Sato about that, I'm afraid," Iroh replied. "They're her machines now. I'm honestly surprised the northerners didn't think of these first." He made a note in the margins to talk to the diplomats, see if Hiroshi Sato had visited up there. Or if any designs were missing. "They'll be able to figure it out now that they know it's possible."

"I don't mind if they do," Tenzin said. "They won't use them to chase down my family." He sighed. "Not that I think Asami would, either, but… you're right. Others will try to build these. I only hope that this has sated everyone's thirst for blood."

Iroh nodded. "And, now that people aren't trying to invade the city, I'm sure Miss Sato is already thinking of what other things people might use a powered glider for, so she can sell them." He certainly was, though he wouldn't tell Tenzin that.

The Tale of Lin

Lin felt useless.

Bad enough when rescuing her people from Amon had left her injured and hadn't done them any good, or when her assault on Amon's airship had only bought Tenzin and his family a short lead, not the escape she'd hoped. Now she was stuck at a desk while others walked her streets, keeping her people safe.

She could get up and assist, but without her bending, she was just another warm body. Her officers knew their beats well enough to direct the military benders to problem areas. As if the whole damn city wasn't a problem area waiting to happen. She was stuck with the dispatchers, trying to cover as much ground as she could, a general leading from behind instead of at the front, where she belonged.

She eyed the note Tenzin had left her. The White Lotus was chartering a ship to the South Pole; if anyone could figure out the bit of bloodbending Amon was doing, it was Katara. Korra was heading down; after all, she was the Avatar. Tenzin thought that Lin should come too. He'd written it in dispassionate terms, noting that Katara had healed Lin often when she was a child, so the familiarity might help her get a handle on the problem. Lin figured that he was being an idiot and blaming himself for her failures; she'd gotten damn sick of how he danced around problems like that.

Still, at this rate, she might as well be useless in a place she hadn't seen in a long time.

"You wanted to see me, Chief Beifong?"

Lin looked up at the young woman, and tried to restore her face to something approaching neutrality. Lin didn't want Asami Sato to think Lin's bad mood was at all her doing. Miss Sato was facing enough bullshit that Lin had to give her bodyguards because some people couldn't accept that the daughter of an Equalist wasn't the same thing as an Equalist herself. For crying out loud, Sato had laid an airstrip to waste and had to fight off her own damn father; one would think that would earn her a little goodwill from some people.

"Yes. Thank you for coming to see me." Lin replied, trying to keep an even tone. "From what I hear, the lawyers have been keeping you busy."

"My fa-" Asami stopped, and took a deep breath. "I know a bit about law; it helped me find good people to handle the transfers of Future Industries' patents and assets." Given how long Hiroshi Sato was due to spend behind bars, it only made sense for Asami to take over. The lawyers were mostly to make it nice and legal.

Lin nodded, trying to frame things in her mind. Corporate law wasn't her strong point. "Do you… I understand that some of your company's developments were seized by the military."

Asami met Lin's gaze. "Some of the property my father gave to Amon and the Equalists was. My lawyers maintain that the plans and manufacturing equipment are not in violation of any laws, so should be returned. Or compensated." The last bit was said a bit offhand. Lin could guess why; it was tainted by her father's fanaticism, but Lin assumed Future Industries would need cash reserves until they could disassociate themselves from the Equalists. For families and friends of benders, a Cabbage Car might seem more appealing than a Satomobile for a long time.

Which gave Lin an opening. "The Republic City police would be interested in some of the hand-held devices your father invented." She grimaced. "If you can make them look less like Equalist equipment and more in line with our uniforms." It could help Future Industries' image problem and finances. And it would let Lin outfit her people with something more than than fists and truncheons and less lethal than swords. Those that were willing to come back -- she'd offered retirement and pensions to any officer who had lost his or her bending, the same as with anyone wounded in the line of duty. Of course, she wasn't taking retirement, as crippled as she was.

If her mother had ever heard her talking about being crippled like it was some kind of pity party, she would kick her from here to the Pole. It was a good thing that mind-reading was not an Earthbending ability.

Asami grinned. "That we can do. Shall I go talk to your accountants?"

Lin waved a hand. "Yes, yes. I'm sure they'll put together all the reasons why I'm going to be over-budget because we didn't plan for an invasion this fiscal year."

Maybe that was a good reason to go visit Auntie Katara. Budgeting was one of her least favorite things that didn't get people killed, and she could inflict it on Saikon. He had wanted to be chief, after all.

The Tale of Mako

Mako had been avoiding talking to Asami. Avoiding Asami in general, actually. Unfortunately, when Master Katara had requested Korra return to the South Pole, and Korra had asked them to come with her… well, there was only so much he could avoid someone on a ship. At least they didn't take Tenzin's sky bison: that would have been even more awkward. Whatever he said to Asami, he didn't want to have to say it in front of Bolin and Korra and Councillor Tenzin and Chief Beifong and the kids.

Truthfully, he was avoiding Asami because… well, feelings were hard. He really liked Korra, he might even love her, but Mako didn't not-like Asami. He even really liked her. Just… he was pretty sure it wasn't as much as Korra, but it was too much to not want to hurt her. It would had been better if he'd figured out all of this stuff about Korra before he'd ever met Asami. Maybe they still could have been friends, without… all this.

He'd tried to write a letter first. Many letters, actually. Which wasn't easy, given he was sharing a tiny cabin with Bolin, who kept looking over his shoulder. "Do you mind?" Mako said.

"What, no. What about your arrow?" Bolin pointed to something on the page. "You aren't becoming an air acolyte, are you, because I'm pretty sure only actual benders get the cool tattoos."

Mako stared at his writing. His handwriting wasn't that good, but he thought it was clear enough. "It says 'I've made a lot of mistakes'. Where are you…" He crumpled up the page, throwing it to the ground. Pabu darted out from his spot under the bunk to pounce on it and roll it back to his hiding place, chattering excitedly. Mako suspected the fire ferret was building a nest down there. He hated to waste the paper like that -- Pabu could find something less expensive to shred -- but Tenzin had offered him as much paper as he wanted when he asked.

Though, if he was writing so badly that even his own brother couldn't read it, maybe he should just muster the courage to talk to Asami in person instead of sending a note.

Finally, he just asked Bolin to tell Asami to meet him at the bow after lunch. Bolin had given him a hard time about not telling her himself, but Mako had pointed out that he was going to talk to Asami. Mako envied his brother's easygoingness -- Bolin was less likely to dance around a problem, even one like this. He'd taken Korra's feelings for Mako the best of all of them -- he'd been hurt by it, and hadn't hidden it, but a couple of conversations with both of them and he had dealt with it.

Bolin was a better brother than Mako deserved.

Asami was already there when he arrived. He hadn't seen her at lunch, but maybe she hadn't felt like eating. Mako hadn't much either, and had ignored Bolin's attempt to make conversation. Lunches were already pretty difficult, since half of the passengers didn't feel much like talking. It was getting so that only Tenzin and his family, and the ship's small crew were regularly eating together.

Mako felt like it should have been a gray day, with rain threatening, but it was bright sunlight instead, catching Asami's hair and making it shine. He felt a surge of… something complicated, full of guilt and attraction and confusion. Dammit, he couldn't keep doing this. It wasn't fair to Asami or to Korra, especially since Asami and Korra were friends. It also wasn't fair to himself; he couldn't be happy with either girl knowing he had left things unresolved with the other.

"Asami…" he said, not quite sure what to say next. He didn't want to hurt her -- had never wanted to hurt her -- but here he was.

"You're breaking up with me, aren't you?" She didn't meet his eyes, and he wasn't sure it was just the wind that made her face look red and her eyes watery.

"Um… yeah." Mako looked away, unable to meet her face either. "I'm sorry. I…"

"Mako, don't," Asami said. "Don't make excuses for this. You… you should have just did this as soon as you figured out what you felt about Korra."

"Yeah, I should have," Mako said. "It's just… I liked you both, and somehow I thought that because I started dating you first, that I should just… try not to think about Korra." It hadn't worked. Korra was his friend, and he'd liked spending time with her, and… well, he started to notice how much he liked her laugh, and how determined she was and how brave, and how she moved like she was water itself. But when he was with Asami, he saw her beauty, and how collected she was and how strong and brave she was. And when both of them were there, he felt like he was on a tightrope, trying to make sure he was… well, being a good friend and a good boyfriend at the same time. And, in the end, he'd failed at both.

"This isn't a race," Asami replied. "You couldn't claim a heart just by getting there first, or there would be a lot fewer tragic love stories."

"Is this a tragic love story?" Mako asked.

"Well, no one died," Asami said. "Jinora tells me that's an important part of tragic love stories." There was a hint of a smile there, but it felt forced.

Mako could understand. He wanted to make this moment go away, but at this point, the only way out was through. It was why he'd been avoiding this; this was the worst he'd felt when no one was hurt or dying or had their bending taken away. Or all those near misses they'd had. "I… um… can we still be friends?" He said it because that's what you said, and he did like Asami. He looked up, to see what her reaction was.

"Maybe, but not right now, Mako," Asami said, still looking away. "I… I want to be sure when I talk to you that I remember all the fun we had, and not all the heartbreak. That goes for Korra, too. I like you both, but…" she shook her head. "Right now, not so much."

Mako nodded. "Right. I-" He wished things could have been different, that somehow he'd handled things better so the four of them could go back to being friends with no hard feelings. "Ah, thanks for listening to me, Asami. I'll just… leave you alone now."

He couldn't decide it was better or worse than he'd imagined it would be.

At least no one was dead.

The Tale of Bolin (and Meelo)

Bolin heard footsteps and crouched down inside the lifeboat. The tarp protecting the boat from rain and sea-spray should conceal him from the air, making it the perfect hiding place. But someone was tugging it aside, and he shifted, ready to run like an ostrich-horse as soon as it was uncovered.

"Bolin? What are you doing in there?"

Instead of the face he was expecting, he saw Asami, and tripped instead of springing gracefully into a run. She managed to steady him. "Sorry. Meelo and I were playing hide and- oh, nuts," he said as he heard the sound of much smaller footsteps.

"Unhand the maiden, scoundrel!" Meelo shouted and jumped at Bolin. Bolin managed to catch him -- barely -- without falling over or pulling Asami down.

"All right, you caught me!" Bolin said, while Asami tried to suppress a smile. "I surrender."

Meelo climbed onto Bolin's shoulders, and smiled at Asami. "And the day was saved!"

"What are you two doing?" Asami said.

"I told Pema I'd help out with the kids," Bolin said. "Which is mostly running around after them when Tenzin is resting from running around after them, and she's watching the baby." As he spoke, Meelo was clearly using his shoulders as a chance to check out the surrounding ocean. "I'm not very good at sitting still, and the crew won't let me shovel coal for the boilers or anything." And, well, everyone was so unhappy. Korra and the Chief were still coping with the loss of their bending, and Mako and Asami had their relationship drama. Spending time with Ikki and Meelo was about the only time Bolin saw actual smiling faces, even though he'd found out from Tenzin that Ikki was having nightmares, and Meelo had gone back to wetting the bed, and that Jinora had taken a sudden interest in staff practice that worried her father. But at least when he was playing games with the kids, it seemed like they felt better.

Bolin wished it was that simple with his brother, or Korra.

"Would you like to play with us?" Bolin asked. "There's plenty of games that take four or five people, if we can talk Jinora away from her books."

"Oh, yes, please!" Meelo added.

Asami appeared to be considering it. "Well, how can I say no to that?" she said.

"Ah, great. But we need to find Ikki first." Bolin said.

"Onward!" Meelo pointed. He grabbed at Bolin's hair. "Yip yip!"

Maybe Bolin couldn't magically make his friends feel better. But seeing Asami at least smiling again and talking to them instead of looking sad made him wonder if he could just try to make things better one person at a time.

The Tale of Asami

They had seen their first iceberg, but it had been the girls who had dragged Asami to the side of the ship to point it out, not Korra. Despite the fact she and Korra were sharing their tiny cabin, they hadn't said two words to one another for the whole trip, beyond things like 'pass the rice'.

Some of that was because Asami wasn't sure how to deal with Korra and Mako. Korra was her friend and a good person and she wanted to be happy that she had someone… but it was hard to be happy for Korra having a boyfriend, when he had been Asami's boyfriend. Korra also had Tenzin and his family looking out for her, and the radio operator had told them that Korra's parents would be meeting them when they docked close to the White Lotus camp that Sifu Katara was staying at.

Asami had Bolin, who was still trying to make her laugh, and the airbender kids who kept asking her to play with them, and Pema trying to be a mother to the entire ship… but she didn't have her family any more. Her father was still alive, but knowing that he was willing to hurt her friends… was willing to support people who would hurt a father in front of his children, hurt children… once she had learned that, it was hard to see the man who had read her bedtime stories, or taught her how to drive, or praised her the first time she was able to help him repair a satomobile. She sometimes wondered if it would have been easier if he had died, because then she wouldn't have to decide if she could forgive him.

She did want to forgive Korra and Mako, though, but not yet. Because… because there was a difference between being an idiot or having a crush on someone who was taken than being intentionally cruel. And, they were still her friends, the people who had taken her in when she had lost her home. Asami didn't know how to not feel sick around them, though.

Maybe she should have stayed home, and thrown herself into working on the company. She remembered it was what her father had done, after they'd lost Mom: though he'd always made time for her, he'd also spent his free hours in his workrooms or drawing plans at his desk. On the other hand, she didn't want to turn into her father, and let her grief poison her life so much that all benders became the one awful man who had killed her mother.

Asami did use their time on ship to learn about the engines driving them south, to listen to the sailors talk about hull shapes and the effects of saltwater on metal. An earthbender on board even told her one of her jobs was to use metalbending to check for weak patches, and she and Asami spent an afternoon chatting about metallurgy, long enough that Bolin had to come find her for dinner.

They had run into a bank of fog after dinner, and Tenzin, Lin and Pema were distracted keeping the girls and Meelo from leaving the ship to sculpt shapes in the air. It was Bolin and Mako's turn to clean up after their meal. Asami wandered towards the bow to see that Korra was already there. She had been staring out into the mist, one hand out. Even in the low light, Asami could see she had been airbending, but the shapes in the fog relaxed as Korra stood up. "I'm sorry. I didn't see you there. I'll go now."

Asami shook her head. "It's all right. I didn't mean to interrupt."

They both stood there awkwardly, neither wanting to force the other out. It was pretty stupid, actually, a part of Asami thought. She was hurt and Korra knew it, but she didn't want Korra to do anything about it because it wasn't really Korra's fault. "So, um… you're practicing airbending?"

Korra nodded. "It was why I went to Republic City to live with Tenzin, after all. And I've bent fog before, only…"

Only that was when she had been a waterbender. Asami wanted to apologize… but people had done the same thing when her mother had died. Before she left, people in the company were starting to speak about her father in the same way, like they couldn't bring him up without making her collapse into tears. Asami hated that. So she'd let Korra set the tone; if Korra was upset, Korra was good at telling people. Asami hoped that hadn't changed. "Is it that different? I know, that's probably a stupid question from a non-bender."

Korra looked surprised, like she hadn't expected Asami to say that. "Yeah, it's…" She looked away. "I keep trying to waterbend it instead of airbending it. It makes it easier to focus on the airbending without getting distracted but-"

"But it reminds you about what should be there," Asami said. About holes that never really got fully filled, just worn so the edges didn't catch you as much. She had her friends, but they didn't replace her parents. Korra had kept her airbending, but it didn't replace the other three bending arts.

"Yeah." Korra didn't say anything else, and Asami didn't press her. Instead, the two of them just watched the fog until they heard Tenzin trying to get Meelo down from the radio antennae.

The Tale of Katara

Of all the people assaulted by Amon, Katara had asked Lin and Korra to come meet her. She had been healing both of them for some time; Lin because any child of Toph Beifong would get into more scrapes than three ordinary children and Korra so the young waterbender could see how healing worked from the inside as well as the outside. Katara knew other masters were looking into the problem, but few had the direct connection she had with two of the victims.

If any one of the victims had the key, it would be Korra, since she had retained her latent ability to airbend. And, Katara had long accepted that the Avatar often broke the rules.

But Katara asked Lin to see her first. Maybe, for once, it would be simple. "Just lie down and try to relax. Is it too cold for you?"

"It's fine," Lin said. "Just hurry up. Please."

Katara reached for the water she kept for healing, letting it pool around her hands, and sensed the water flowing in Lin's body respond. Toph used to talk about how stone felt to her, and the closest Katara could come to the way the earthbender spoke was healing, feeling the pure water around her hands, the blood flowing through Lin, water suffusing every part of her, and intermingled with that, the energy of Lin's body. In a state like this, Katara had to wonder why no one had ever learned of bloodbending before Hama. Like this, Katara could feel the strength and resilience of the body and spirit, but also how delicate it was, how important it was to train one's healing ability as much as training in combat bending.

She was approaching a century now and she still was marveled by how her element looked and felt in its myriad forms.

Katara let her hands guide their water towards Lin's face, and the younger woman's eyelids fluttered as she felt the coolness. Katara could feel something there, a dark spot in a sense that wasn't vision. Not anything physical -- goodness knows, she'd worked on enough tumors and foreign objects to know what those felt like. She hadn't felt anything like this since… since she was a girl, healing Aang after Azula had struck him down under Bah Sing Sei. At the time, she thought it was the scar tissue that she couldn't get rid of; later, Aang had mentioned that one of his chakras had been temporarily blocked by the injury.

But Katara had learned a thing or two since the war. She closed her own eyes and reached for the energy, attempting to guide it to fill the dark spot and rejoin itself without harming Lin.

The spot in Lin's chi flow was like a severed limb; she could sense the ends, but couldn't will the connections to be made. Eventually, she had to give up and returned the water to its jar. Lin opened her eyes at the sound of the splash, and looked up at Katara.

Katara shook her head. "I'm sorry. Give me some time for a cup of tea, then send Korra in."

Lin stood up, stiffly. Katara didn't know if that was disappointment or old injuries. "Do you think you'll have luck with her?"

"I think if anyone can be healed, it will be Korra," Katara answered.

She made her tea, and sipped it. Tonight was the full moon; she had chosen that deliberately for its power, even if she couldn't waterbend during a full moon without thinking about Hama, and what Sokka had told her about what Yakone had called her. That she was a coward for declaring bloodbending a forbidden art. Of course, Katara knew what 'strength' meant to a man like Yakone: the ability to force others to do his bidding by any means necessary. Even Hama's strength was born of fear and anger: the fear and anger she felt towards the Fire Nation for what they'd done to her. Katara had sworn off using her bending to make others afraid of her, and had learned to control her temper.

But, healing under a full moon made her wonder, perhaps, if she had understood how bloodbending worked better, perhaps she could undo its damage. Or at least have seen Amon's technique for what it was before he used it on so many, perhaps even have been able to teach waterbenders a way to block it.

Or perhaps it was just hard for an old master to admit she didn't know everything about waterbending.

Katara swallowed the bitter dregs of her tea, and then went to call Korra in to work on a miracle.

The Tale of Korra

Having Mako tell her that he loved her was everything Korra thought she wanted, but it tasted like ashes in her mouth.

She didn't know what she could do. What she would do without her bending. Korra had spent over a decade mastering three elements and learning how to be an Avatar. For that matter, she hadn't even seen much of the world until she snuck off to Republic City, just read about it in books and listened to stories. She knew that other people in the Water Tribes did things like fished and grew seaweed and built boats and traded goods all over the world, but she didn't know the first thing about how to do any of those things. She didn't even learn how to drive a satomobile until Asami taught her. Mako and Bolin had had jobs other than being pro-benders… which was another thing she couldn't do, since there weren't any rules for airbenders to play.

Without her powers, what use was she to anyone? This was worse than being unable to airbend or meditate or connect to her past lives, worse than being afraid of Amon or defeated by Tarlokk. There she could at least pretend that eventually she'd fix the problems. This… if Master Katara said it was hopeless, it was. An Avatar might be able to fix it, but they were a little short on Avatars right now, weren't they?

Korra buried her head in her hands. She just… she didn't want to think about this now, but couldn't see how later would be any different. She'd read all the stories about what the Avatar should do, what past Avatars had done, but she wasn't sure how she could be that person when she was just Korra the mediocre beginning airbender, not Avatar Korra.

She didn't even know who Korra was when she wasn't Avatar Korra, she realized. Even goofing off with Bolin and Mako had been based on her bending. Was that all there was to her? It couldn't be it. She… she was something other than Avatar Korra, even if she didn't know who that was yet, and she was scared that it was someone she wouldn't want to be. She wanted someone who understood, who really understood.

She caught a flash of saffron and orange fabric out of the corner of her eye. "Go away, Tenzin. I just want to be left alone."

"But you called me here."

The voice was familiar, but it took Korra a moment to place it because she'd never heard it from the outside before. She stood up. "Aang."

"You have finally connected with your spiritual self."

Korra thought she'd just been feeling miserable. She somehow assumed there would be more to it than that. "How?"

"When we hit our lowest point, we are open to the greatest change."

Behind him, she saw other figures -- other Avatars -- appear. Roku and Kyoshi appeared distinct, but as they stretched further back, she couldn't make out all of them. She'd seen the records of Avatars, and read far too many dry history texts assigned by her White Lotus teachers, but suddenly she didn't feel alone. There were all these people who had the same powers she had been born with, and they had their own trials, and she could just reach into herself and ask for them.

Aang reached for her shoulder, and placed a hand on her forehead. Unlike Amon, his touch was warm and gentle, and Korra felt something…

… a rush of thought that it felt like she suddenly remembered, like seeing the Pole again. What the Avatar was was more than being a powerful bender, or the only one to master all the elements. More than the Avatar State and energybending and being unique. It was doing things like standing up for the non-benders of Republic City against Tarrlok, chasing down Amon even though he scared her more than anything… trying to fix problems even though that didn't take any special powers.

Those were things Korra could do. She'd never be the kind of diplomat Aang was, but Aang wasn't the same Avatar as Roku or Kyoshi either. She'd be Korra, a girl from the Southern Water Tribe who was born as the Avatar.

With that revelation, she almost didn't notice the return of her bending. Almost. For about two seconds.


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Becca Stareyes, Invoking Urania

December 2013

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