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“Good morning, Chief.”

“Mornin’, Chief.”

“Chief.”

Lin was making her way through the police station, politely nodding at any officer passing by. She arrived right on time, and not slightly early like every morning, since Tenzin insisted she eats her breakfast at home and not in the car as per usual.

“Good morning, Chief Beifong!”

“Morning, Officer Kun.”

“You know, it still feels weird to say. It’s like your old ma is back once again.” the officer joked.

“It’s been a month and a half already.” she heard herself say already, when she actually meant only. Time did not fly by when you had this much work to do.

“I know, I just remember how you used to come here after school, so-”

“I’ll have to stop you, Kun. Can we keep it professional?”

“Why do you think I called you Chief Beifong and not Teeny-Linny?”

“Alright… Where are we on the park murders?”

“I… Good. If you could be more specific…” he suddenly got a bit avoidant.

“The murders that happened in the park. It’s… right there in the name.”

“Sure, sure…”

“Did we arrest anyone? Find some leads?”

“Definitely. I arrested some gentlemen, but unfortunately I had to let them all go since all of them had alibies.”

“Kun! The case is getting cold. I want something I can say to the press by the end of- Hold it right there!” Lin spotted a man trying to sneak past her while she was talking to Kun, “Detective Lan.”

“Chief… I was just looking for you. Has anyone told you-” the young man was interrupted.

“The strangler downtown.”

“Oh, yes. Of course. I found… Nothing. I found nothing.”

“Well, that is unacceptable.”

“It’s not my fault, Chief. This case… It’s unsolvable.”

“I told you not to use that word around me. Nothing is unsolvable. This afternoon I will accompany you on the investigation to show you just that.”

“Yes, thank you, Chief. There’s also one more thing. There is a man in your office who demanded to see you as soon as you came in. Alright, I’ll leave you to it.” the detective said and tried walking away.

“Lan, wait! What did I tell you about this? Everyone wants the chief on their case, but I just don’t have the time. You can’t let anyone off the street just waltz in like-”

“He said it was a personal matter. Some family related business and I didn’t want to pry.”

“Family?”

“Yes. He asked for you personally, he wouldn’t talk to anyone else.”

Lin took a deep breath and dismissed the detective since she had no choice but to deal with the guest on her own. She assumed it was some old friend of her mom that needed a favor, Spirits knew that happened a lot. But whatever it was, Lin entered her office determined to get it all over with as quickly as possible.

She studied the face of the man she found sitting in her office, but she couldn’t place him. He didn’t look at all familiar and she rarely forgot a face. He didn’t notice her at first, since he was cleaning his thick glasses, but when he finally did, he immediately stood up and extended a hand.

He had a messenger bag on him, loaded with papers, so he reminded Lin of those experts they had to hire to help with cases sometimes.

“Chief. Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.” he muttered and sat back down in front of her desk.

“Well, I hardly had a choice, since you’re in my office.” she sat down as well, “You said this was a family matter?”

“Yes. It’s about your sister, Suyin.”

Lin sighed and took out a form of sorts, “Alright, if you wish to report a crime, I’ll need your name and address.”

“It’s Baatar, but I don’t think you-”

“I see, now just the address and the type of crime my sister committed.”

“You really don’t understand, I’m not from the city. I came here to find you.”

“Sir, this is the Republic City Police Station. We deal with crimes committed in Republic City.”

“No, you… Can I start over?” Baatar asked and took Lin’s silence as a yes, “Good Morning, I’m Baatar, your sister’s husband.”

“Oh, Su…”

Lin had to admit, this was new, even for Suyin. Married! Who even was this doofus?

“We live together in Zaofu in the Earth Kingdom, but she went missing two days ago.”

“With all due respect, are you sure she didn’t just leave?” Lin asked.

“No, my Su wouldn’t do something like that.”

“You didn’t have a fight the day before? A disagreement? Because my sister can be-”

“No! She’s my wife, we’re in love, we have two beautiful children and a third one on the way… She did not leave us!” Baatar raised his voice, before realizing how rude it was, “I’m sorry… I’ve been under a lot of stress. I’m scared for Su, that’s why I came.”

“Su? Two kids?” Lin felt like they were talking about two entirely different people.

“Yes, she sends you letters all the time… Unless, you don’t open them.” he stopped and looked at Lin’s face expression, “Oh, Spirits you really didn’t read any of them?”

Baatar unbuttoned his bag and dragged out several photos to show Lin.

“This is our oldest, Baatar Junior and this little guy is Huan…” Baatar pointed to the photos, “And this is the most recent photo I could find of Su. It was the day we found out about our third.”

“Wait, wait!” Lin pushed the photos away from her, “I appreciate that, but if this alleged crime happened in this Zaofu you mentioned, I don’t see how I can be of any help.”

“I came to you because Su talked so much about you and what a good cop you are.” he took out another stack of photos and started looking for something, “I need help because I think I know where Su is. This is Zaofu.”

He placed another photo in front of her, showing a couple of really tall, metal skyscrapers.

“We started building it almost nine years ago, but now we’re expanding. Suyin purchased the land fairly, but there is a neighboring village that claims it’s rightfully theirs. We’ve been quarreling with them for some time now. They’ve robbed us multiple times since that, vandalized our buildings, but never something like this.”

“Let me guess, you can’t prove any of it? That’s why you can’t report them?”

“Exactly.”

“And your people haven’t done anything to retaliate? Anything that could cause this sudden change in tactics?”

“No. Not except for a few heated arguments. And this…” Baatar put another photo on the desk, this time of a little girl, “That’s Kuvira. She’s an orphan from that village that we took in a few months ago. She was severely neglected when she came to us, but I think they might have understood that as us stealing their people.”

“That’s a reasonable theory, but you don’t have any proof.” Lin shook her head.

“I know, but I don’t want them on trial. I just want Su safe home.”

“If you’re looking for someone for a rescue mission, why didn’t you contact my mother? She’d be perfect.”

“No one knows where she is... And we only met once… And she scares me.” Baatar reluctantly admitted, “I also thought about asking the Avatar, but everyone knows he’s been sick for a while now. Unless, you know how to find Toph?”

“No. No… I haven’t talked to her in a few years.”

Ever since Toph retired from the force, she’s been roaming the world. She would resurface somewhere occasionally, but most of the time no one knew where to even begin looking for her. No, this man was right. Lin was all he had.

“Fine.” Lin said after a pause, “I’ll go to Zaofu with you.”

“Yes! Thank you! Thank you so much…” Baatar stood up to shake her hand again.

“But I’ll go there to gather evidence that will help you present your case to the proper authorities. There will be no amateur rescue attempts, or anything similar. Understood?”

“Yes, crystal clear. Thank you.”

oooooooooo

“Are you sure you don’t want me there with you?” Tenzin asked, while helping Lin find her passport in her office. He ran down to the station as soon as he heard she’ll be leaving.

“I’m sure.” she reached behind the couch and pulled out the piece of paper, “Got it!”

“Alright, I accidentally have mine with me too. Let’s go.”

“That’s sweet, but I know you have to be here for your dad.” she walked to him and put her hands around his neck.

“You’re right.” he pulled her closer to wrap his hands around her waist, “But I’ll miss you. You call me if you need backup”

“Backup…”

“What? Isn’t that how you say it?”

“It is. But this is Su. She probably just got involved with some bad people and it’s come back to bite her. Wouldn’t be the first time… I took three vacation days, should be all done by then.”

“Spirits know, you have vacation days to spare…”

“And what is that supposed to mean, Tenzin?” she smiled, “You feeling left out?”

“I might. I just want to see more of you, is that such a crime?”

“Not a crime, no. I’ll tell you what… When I come back, we’re going somewhere for a few days. Wherever you and Oogi want to take me. Sounds good?”

“Sounds great.” he leaned forward and kissed her.

Lin was the one to pull away since she noticed Baatar in the hallway waiting for her.

“I love you, but I gotta go.” she whispered, still in his embrace.

“Love you too. Go get them.” Tenzin took a step back and handed her the suitcase.

“Alright, Mr. Baatar, if we want to make our boat I suggest you get going.” Lin said, walking by Su’s husband, “Are you alright?”

He just stared at her with a really unusual look on his face for a few seconds before saying, “You’re different.”

“From Su? Yeah, a lot. It’s hard to imagine we’re even related.” Lin started moving down the hall and he followed after lagging his bags.

“No, I meant different than what Su described.”

“Well, I can’t imagine she had anything nice to say about me.”

oooooooooo

“…and the dining hall is through here. Our chef is one of the best in the world. But you’ll see that for yourself as it is lunch time.” Baatar insisted on giving Lin a tour of their city and their manner. It was all very impressive, Lin had to admit, but that was not why she was here.

“Thank you, but I think my time would be better spent talking to the guards.”

“Alright, then. I’ll show you to one of our most spacious rooms, you’ll unpack and then we’ll see about gathering all the guards.”

“Again, thank you, but I just need a room where I can interrogate guards and write reports, like an office.”

“I could give you Su’s office. It’s connected to one of the guest rooms.”

“Perfect, lead the way.”

“But don’t you want to eat first? And the boys are probably there as well. They’re going to be so excited to meet their aunt.” he noticed Lin looked away, “You do want to meet them, don’t you?”

“I do. The thing is… I’m here to work and find Suyin. Maybe it would be best if no one knew who I was.” Lin didn’t feel good saying it, but it needed to be done.

“But it will take ten minutes… You’re family.”

“This is not a social visit. Now where can I find the office?” Lin could sense she hurt him in some way, but his feelings were not what mattered at that moment.

Baatar showed her where she’ll be working and she instructed him to send in all the guards, one by one, starting with the ones who say Suyin last.

The interviews didn’t take long since none of the people she met knew anything of value. The three guards that saw Su last were perhaps the most useless of them all, since they were supposed to secure her on her morning walk, but failed to keep visual contact at all times.

Lin asked to talk to Kuvira next, hoping the child might have some information about the village that could be useful. For some reason she was expecting a shy kid, hiding behind Baatar’s robe, but Kuvira was anything but.

She entered the room after Baatar, closed the door, sat directly in front of Lin’s desk and made direct eye contact.

“Kuvira, this is my friend. She’s a police officer from Republic City and she has a couple of questions for you.” Baatar stood next to the girl in case she needed support, but she didn’t look like she would.

“A police chief, actually.” Lin corrected, “I just need to know some details about how you ended up here, Kuvira. When did you first meet her, Baatar?”

“Um… It was a few months ago… I was really busy working on the domes…”

“Three months, two weeks.” Kuvira interrupted him.

Lin wrote it down. At least the child was useful.

“And how old are you?”

“Eight years, six months.”

“I see. And when did you get the papers approved, Baatar?” Lin asked, but got only some incomprehensible mumbles as an answer, “Baatar, focus. Can I see Kuvira’s adoption papers?”

“We don’t… Exactly have those…”

“What do you mean? You said you adopted her.”

“No, I said we took her in.”

Lin couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“Kuvira, would you please go get yourself something to drink and then come back here?” she said and the little girl nodded and obeyed, confused as to why the situation got so tense.

“Are you serious?!” Lin stood up when the girl left, “You didn’t adopt her?! You didn’t check with anyone before taking a little girl into your home?!”

“She’s an orphan. She needed our help.” Baatar backed away a few steps.

“I should have known… This has Suyin written all over it! This is not the glory time of Avatar Aang, it is 153, you cannot take children just because you want to! There are laws against that and people who will throw you in prison for it.”

“I… I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, be better than that! Do you understand that if we report those people there for taking Su, they can report you for this? You and Su could be going to prison and Kuvira would be forced back to wherever she escaped from.”

“No, that can’t happen…”

“But it will, Baatar. If we don’t do something…” Lin rubbed her forehead, “If I don’t do something.”

“Please, fix it! We have to find Su! She’s pregnant and-”

“Shh.” Lin shushed Baatar and made a bending move to open the door. It reviled that Kuvira was on the other side listening with a glass of juice in one hand. Never try to eavesdrop on an earthbender…

“Kuvira, you shouldn’t be here.” Baatar said.

“You said find Su. Is Su lost?” she asked and Baatar just froze in place.

“I’m here to find her.” Lin said all of a sudden, “We don’t know where she is, but I am good at finding people.”

“You said she was on a trip.” the little girl looked to Baatar.

“I didn’t want you kids to worry.”

“So I shouldn’t tell anyone else? Like a secret?”

“Exactly.” Baatar smiled down at her.

“I do still have to ask you about how your parents died.” Lin cut in.

“Don’t you think we shouldn’t press that issue?” Baatar asked.

“Baatar, I have to know.” Lin sat back down and readied her paper, “How did you lose your parents, Kuvira?”

“I never met my dad. He died when I was two. And my mother… A year ago she got really sick and her heart stopped working…” the little girl explained.

“I understand. And then I presume you were put in some kind of a children’s home?”

“Yes. There’s an orphanage… There were a lot of kids there, too much, but none were earthbenders like me. And one day this older boy asked me if I knew why that was. And when I said no, he told me how all the earthbenders were sold to go defend the king…”

“The Dai Li…” Lin accidentally said aloud.

“So I got scared and I ran away…” Kuvira finished and looked down at her shoes.

“And who found you?”

“Our son did. Junior.” Baatar cut in, “Maybe this has been enough questions for one day…”

Both adults noticed Kuvira suddenly became a bit unresponsive, so they decided they would continue this another day if it was necessary. Lin, of course, wanted to ask a lot more questions about the village itself, but decided it wasn’t the right time.

oooooooooo

Lin went through all the statements she took that day and didn’t even realize as the rest of the day flew by. She was still no closer to finding her sister, but sometime around midnight she decided to pick it up again in the morning. She started putting away her things, but noticed the desk was cluttered with various documents Su left behind.

Lin picked one paper up and immediately recognized Su’s handwriting. How could she not? She was forced to help her with homework for years, since their mom couldn’t. No one ever asked Lin if she wanted to spend hours looking at Su’s girly handwriting.

What was this?! Was she missing that brat? Oh, no…

Lin put the letter down. If this was a real missing persons case, she would certainly go through the victim’s home and her belongings looking for clues. Yes, that was what she was doing… Looking for evidence.

As far as Lin was concerned it wasn’t her sister, it was just some woman. Some pregnant mother of two…

Lin moved her gaze to the shelves. As expected, they were filled with books just for show, with a few that actually looked like they were used, and small metal figurines Su probably made with her bending. Lin remembered her sister always liked to make those to decorate her room.

But every police officer knew the most important thing to look over were the photos and Suyin had plenty on display. A few with friends, some of them clearly pirates. A couple of photos from Zaofu’s first days. But mostly they were family photos. There was no Kuvira, but there were a dozen framed photos of both Baatar Jr. and Huan. At least Lin knew her nephews’ names now... And of course there was a photo of Su’s wedding and a photo of the whole family.

Lin found all of that to be too much and moved over to the desk to keep doing police work, not pining over how she never went to her sister’s wedding. Sadly, nothing she found gave any clue as to where Su could be. Lin was ransacking the furthest drawers when she came across a familiar photo.

She remembered exactly where and when it was taken. Su’s first day of school, Katara showed up at their place with a camera and took this in front of their apartment. It managed to capture all three of the Beifongs with matching scowls on their faces, as none of them wanted to take that picture.

Lin always thought Katara kept it, it made no sense Su ended up with it. Lin remembered everything about that morning perfectly. Before they stepped out the door and into Katara’s photo trap, they were all eating breakfast together and Su asked about a million questions in the span of ten minutes. Lin also remembered their mother giving her a lecture on how she needs to look out for her little sister in school. Protect her from the older kids, show her around, make sure she didn’t get lost…

Lin felt her throat tighten. She was fighting back tears when a knock on the door snapped her out of it.

“Come in.” Lin said and watched as Kuvira peeked just her head in through the door. The girl’s long black hair was now out of her usual braid and reached all the way to her waist.

“Did you remember something you want to tell me, Kuvira?”

“No.”

“Well, it’s late, you should be sleeping.” Lin was disappointed.

“I know. I’m just scared… Can I be here with you, please?” Kuvira still didn’t enter.

“I gave the guards detailed instructions on how to secure the building, I assure you we are as safe here as we are ever going to be…”

“I’m scared for Su.”

“Oh… Go on then, come in.”

Kuvira closed the door after her and walked to Su’s desk to see what Lin was up to. She was still in her pajamas for the failed sleep attempt.

“Did you find out where she is yet?” she asked.

“Sadly, no. Not yet. But I’m working on it.”

“Why are you going through Su’s things?” Kuvira asked before thinking about it, “You’re hoping she left something here that will tell you where she is!”

“Yes, I’m looking for evidence.”

“Can I help?” Kuvira’s face lit up and she started looking around, “What is that in your hand?”

“Just a photo. Not helpful.” Not helpful at all, Lin thought.

“I know that one.” Kuvira pulled the photo from Lin’s hand, “This is Su and this is her mom, Toph Beifong, the Mother of Metalbending and the best earthbender in the world. And this is Su’s sister Lin. She’s a police officer in-”

The little girl suddenly stopped and stared at Lin. Then at the picture and then finally at Lin once more, while a huge grin appeared on her face.

“Yes, it’s me.” Lin couldn’t help, but smile slightly, seeing how excited the girl was at her revelation.

“You’re Su’s sister?! You’re Toph’s daughter too?! Oh, man, you are going to find Su in no time! And she’ll be so happy to see you! And, and…” Kuvira got really excited, but then noticed the expression on Lin’s face.

“I’m sorry. You must miss her so much…” Kuvira sat down opposite Lin, “She told me you two didn’t see each other for ten years.”

“That’s… True.” Lin didn’t like how prying the girl was.

“Why?”

“We fought a lot.”

“You could always apologize to each other.”

“No, I don’t think that’ll happen. But I’ll still do anything I can to find her.” Lin put the photo back where she found it, “I’d like it if you didn’t tell your brothers who I am.”

“They’re not my brothers.”

“Of course.” Lin sighed, “Would you please return to your bed now? I’ll go talk to people in the village tomorrow. You don’t have to worry.”

“But I wanna stay here and hear stories about when Su was little.” Kuvira begged.

“What’s there to tell? She was a pain in my butt. She loved dancing, drawing and girly stuff like that. She always had a lot of friends and an incredible talent for getting into trouble…”

Kuvira chuckled at that. Lin wished she was joking, but Su did always manage to find trouble wherever she went. When they were kids at least Lin was always there to bail her out. And the one time she wouldn’t, their mother did.

And who was going to bail her out this time?

 

Chapter Text

 

When the first rays of sunshine made their way into Lin’s room, she was already up and half-way through her morning workout session. She had a long tradition of getting up earlier than everyone and training off some of her stress. Unfortunately, that morning the stress proved to be impervious to any kind of exercise.

She was close to finishing when she was interrupted by knocking.

“Who is it?”

“Kuvira.”

“Come in.” Lin said, “What do you want, kid?”

Kuvira couldn’t answer immediately since she was stunned seeing Lin doing one-armed push-ups while simultaneously using her bending to raise and lower her metal-frame bed.

“So cool…” Kuvira mumbled to herself.

“What’s that?”

“Baatar sent me. He wants you to have breakfast with all of us.” Kuvira smiled as she followed the bed with her gaze.

“Can it wait? I have to finish my left…”

“Yeah, sure.” Kuvira paused, “Do you always do that thing with the bed?”

“At home I have weights.” Lin picked up the pace, “You need anything else?”

“No… Can I wait here with you?”

“Sure.”

oooooooooo

In a few minutes Kuvira led Lin to the dining room where Baatar and the kids were already half done eating. Lin took the only available seat, not realizing it was probably Su’s before it was too late. She started eating in silence, a bit surprised that little Junior, who was seated right next to her, didn’t pay the slightest bit of attention to her. Guess, Kuvira got her used to a lot of questions and pleas.

“Junior, this is my good friend. She’s the Chief of police in Republic City.” Baatar said.

“Like Grandma was?” the boy asked.

“Exactly like- Huan, no! Stay in your seat!” Baatar got up to chase the smaller child, covered in fruit juice.

“They took the fruit platter away…” Kuvira sighed.

“That’s what happens when we are late to breakfast.” Baatar said.

“Here, I saved you a mango since I know you like them.” Junior blushed slightly.

“Thanks.” Kuvira accepted it, but kept all her attention on Baatar’s chase after Huan.

The boy was very close to making it out of the room when Lin waved her hand and a wall of earth blocked his way.

“Thank you.” Baatar told Lin when he finally had the little trouble-maker in his arms. Just like Su, Lin thought…

“Now eat your food like a good boy.” Baatar secured Huan in his chair.

“No.” the boy shook his head.

“Come on, buddy.”

“I want mommy!”

“I told you mommy is not here right now. Please, buddy, just try it.”

All eyes were focused on Huan at that moment so no one noticed a guard entered the room. He said nothing, just ran to Baatar and whispered something into his ear.

“Dad, when is Mom coming back from her trip? Dad?” Junior asked, but his dad just stared into the distance for a few seconds and then followed the guard out of the room.

“Just feed the kids, Chief.” he added from the hallway.

“No, Baatar, you can’t just leave me with-” Lin stopped, seeing Baatar was far gone, and sighed before turning around to look at the kids.

“No, you don’t.” Lin noticed that Huan was trying to undo the buckles on his chair again and bended them back closed. Huan responded by crying and waving his hands around.

“I give up, how does Su do this?” Lin turned to Kuvira.

“He needs his song.” the little girl said like it was obvious.

“What song?” Lin asked.

“Suyin always sings him a special song when she’s feeding him.”

“So do it.”

“I don’t know the song.” Kuvira turned to Baatar and Lin followed her lead.

“OK… I’ll do the Vegetable Song…” he got up, defeated, “But don’t you dare make fun of me for it later.”

“Never.” Kuvira shrugged.

oooooooooo

“Baatar, what’s happening?” Lin finally found him in the gardens.

“You left the kids alone?”

“Spirits, no! The cook showed up. Kuvira said it’s OK.” she noticed a piece of paper in his hand, “What’s that?”

“Ransom note. It’s from the people that took Suyin.”

Lin grabbed the paper out of his hands and started reading.

“If they think we are just going to roll over and give them your land, they have another thing comin-”

“Read till the end. They want Kuvira back too. They’ll hurt Su... And they know I can’t go to the police because Kuvira is not officially adopted.” Baatar covered his face with his palms.

“I know you’re worried, but we cannot give a little girl over to people who would do something like this.” Lin finished the letter and tried to calm herself down as well.

“There’s nothing we can do!”

“I’ll go down to the village and start busting down doors until I find her. How big can this place be?” Lin looked over Baatar’s shoulder, since there was a nice view of the first few houses of the village. It was rather large.

“If they saw you, they’d just move her further away. Or hurt her.”

“Then I’ll go talk to them and set new terms. But I won’t trade people.”

“This is a disaster! I can’t believe the only way to get my wife and unborn child back is to give a little girl to some truly horrible people!” Baatar crumpled the paper and threw it away only to realize Kuvira was standing not that far from them, listening to everything. Her cheeks were streaked with tears and she started running in the opposite direction.

Lin hated that she didn’t sense the girl with her bending even earlier.

“You try to find out who brought the letter. I’ll go find her.” she said and ran into the house. There she stomped her foot on the floor a couple of times before she felt where Kuvira was hiding.

She found the little girl sobbing under the desk in Su’s office.

“Kuvira, would you please come out?” Lin asked as softly as she could manage. Talking people down really wasn’t her thing. She usually let the younger officers handle that. If only Tenzin was here…

She took the girl’s silence as a no and crouched down next to the table.

“Listen, kid, what Baatar was saying out there-”

“What’s gonna happen to Su?” the girl asked.

“I’ll figure something out, you’ll see. We’re not giving you over to them.”

“But she’s your sister and Baatar’s wife… You love her and I’m just-”

“I’m a police officer. And when I became a police officer I vowed to protect everyone, especially those who have no one else to fight for them.” Lin’s words seemed to be working, since Kuvira stopped crying, “I promise you, I won’t let anything bad happen to you. No one will take you away.”

Lin put out a hand and Kuvira took it. As soon as they were both standing Kuvira ran into Lin and hugged her waist. The Chief didn’t really know how to respond so she gave the girl a pat on the head.

oooooooooo

“You did good, Lin.” Tenzin said over the radio, “Which one did you use?”

“The one about why I became a police officer.” Lin talked into the machine.

“That’s a good one. See? You’ve got this.”

“You wrote that speech for me, Tez. I’m no closer to finding Su than I was when I came here…”

You calmed that girl down. Baatar is lucky to have you there. He can’t think right now, but he would be so lost without your help.”

“Thank you, Tenzin. Really.” she closed her eyes for a few seconds imagining he was there next to her.

“Is there really no way Baatar can adopt that girl right now?” he asked.

“No. The Earth Kingdom is new to adoption laws. I suspect the waiting list is at least a month long to even get your case reviewed.”

“And there’s no way around it?”

“No, unless I get a special document from the Queen herself… And I don’t see that happening.” Lin sighed loudly, “Since the girl was almost sold to the Dai Li.”

“How about the laws in Republic City? Su’s a citizen.”

“I actually wanted to talk to you about that… Someone would have to go to the council and talk to the Earth Kingdom representative. Get their written approval.”

“I can do that! Just tell me what to ask for.” Tenzin’s voice jumped suddenly.

“But it wouldn’t work since Su’s missing and can’t sign it.” Lin paused to take a deep breath, “I’ve thought about it and I think I should sign it. If you’re OK with it.”

There were a couple seconds of silence from Tenzin’s side, which to Lin felt like a lifetime.

“Are you sure? You’ve always made it clear you don’t want to be a mother.”

“I know, but that was about some hypothetical child… This is about a real live girl that really needs my help. Tenzin, I can’t just let them take her away...”

“I understand.”

“I guess we could find another person from Republic City to take her, but that would take time we don’t have. And how could we be sure that person could be trusted-”

“Lin! I agree. But you’re not signing that thing without me. We’re adopting her.”

“Thank you.” she breathed a sigh of relief.

“I’ll go down to City Hall right now and get all the papers ready. After that it’ll take me and Oogi just a few hours to reach you. You keep working Su’s case…”

“So that the second we sign we can send the police here on those people.”

“Exactly. And I’ll take Kuvira back to Republic City, away from it all. We can talk about how all of this is going to work after everyone’s safe.”

“Agreed. We’ll figure it out.”

“For what it’s worth, I’m really proud of you, Lin. I’ll leave right now.”

“Tenzin, wait! I have to talk to her about it, right?”

“You should, definitely. Listen, she’s probably really scared right now. Take a knee, get down to her level, it’ll help, and just give her the truth. And don’t forget to say that this is a long-term solution. When we do this she never has to go back to that orphanage.”

“I’ll try.”

oooooooooo

After Lin was finished with the radio she set out to find Baatar and ask him how far he’d gotten with investigating where the letter came from. She couldn’t imagine it was very far, but it was good for him to keep busy. He wasn’t hard to locate since he was in his office, but when Lin walked in she realized he was sobbing at his desk.

Since he was a grown man, she briefly considered just leaving the room and letting him get his emotions in check, but for better or for worse, he was the only backup she had.

“You have to get it together.” she said coldly.

“I’m trying… I’m trying… I just keep thinking what if something happens to Su.”

“Every second you spend whining about that is a second you could spend trying to save her.”

“You’re right. You’re right…” he looked like he was better for a second, just before bursting into tears again, “I’m so useless! Poor Su with such a pathetic husband…”

Lin searched her mind, trying to remember the perfect Tenzin speech for this situation. He helped her come up with a bunch of them a while back after she got a pretty bad review concerning her people skills. But right at that moment she couldn’t remember a thing. Guess, she’d have to improvise…

She pulled up a chair to sit next to Baatar and made eye contact.

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” she was beginning to realize how she got that terrible review.

“If I was stronger, I’d…”

“Stop! You assessed you couldn’t handle the problem on your own, you went in search of help, you somehow talked me into taking on the case… You are not useless, Baatar. If I- When I find Su it will all be thanks to you.”

“But I can’t handle this anymore! I can’t give them Kuvira, because what kind of man would that make me? But I can’t do nothing, because what kind of husband does that?”

“I think I have a solution. You remember my boyfriend? I just talked to him and the two of us will adopt Kuvira. She’ll be safe.”

“But what if they hurt Su because we took Kuvira away? I can’t live with that! I can’t deal with the boys on my own. I need her…”

“Baatar, you know those letters Su sends me?”

“Every two months, for as long as I know her, yes.”

“Well, I did read some of them. When she first went away, when we stopped talking, I read every one. I would get crazy with worry if one was a few days late, which they often were…” Lin smiled slightly, remembering, “I read all about her days with the circus and living with the sandbenders and you know why? I was terrified she was out there alone and something would happen to her. But I stopped reading the day she wrote about you.”

“What did it say?”

“I read how she described you and I immediately knew you’d be sticking around. I stopped worrying because I knew she settled down and was in good hands now.”

“And after spending two days with me, do you still think I’m good for your sister?”

“Without a doubt.”

After hearing that, Baatar leaned forward to hug Lin without any warning. She realized this was hard for him so she let him have this one, if just for a few seconds.

“This means so much to me. Especially because, and this might come as a shock to you, I don’t think your mother likes me very much.”

“Shocking.”

oooooooooo

Knowing full well that the only thing she could do was wait for Tenzin to arrive, Lin dove into some of the papers she found on Su’s desk. The ransom letter was untraceable, if the guards were to be believed, so she needed something else to keep busy. The documents have by now been completely useless, but she still hoped she might find something predicting the attack on her sister. Maybe a threat or a warning of some kind.

She was just beginning to feel frustrated by the lack of results when Kuvira carefully opened the door, holding her notebooks.

“Can I come in?” the girl asked and got a nod. She sat opposite Lin and placed her notebooks on the desk.

“What’s that?” Lin asked and saw the girl’s face light up since the Chief was showing interest in her for a change.

“I have a mountain of homework to do.” Kuvira took out her worksheet and started concentrating on it.

“Math?”

“Yes. It’s the worst.”

“Agreed.” Lin remembered she probably wouldn’t have graduated when she did if Sokka didn’t help her with calculous. She watched Kuvira frown at the questions on the paper for a few moments.

“Is that blood on your hand?” Lin noticed.

Kuvira looked at her palm and saw a stream of blood running form where it was bandaged.

“I was practicing my bending and I tripped and scratched it up.”

“Your teacher didn’t give you the day off, because of everything?”

“Suyin’s my teacher. I haven’t practiced since she disappeared and, I guess, I missed it.”

“You really shouldn’t push yourself when you’re alone. You could get hurt.”

“I thought Suyin’d be happy I kept my form while she was away. I’m sorry…”

“How about metalbending? Did you get it at all yet?”

“No.” the girl frowned, “I can’t get it on my own, but Su says she’ll teach me when it’s time to teach Huan.”

“But he’s three. That’s going to take years.” Lin said and the girl shrugged, “After you’re done I could go throw some spoons and forks around the yard with you.”

“Yes, please!” Kuvira smiled wide before remembering why Lin was really here, “But shouldn’t you be trying to find Su?”

“We think we have a solution now. I’ll tell you all about it… Later.” Lin said and Kuvira went back to her homework. They both worked in silence from that moment on, with short interruptions when Kuvira couldn’t remember something from the multiplication table.

Lin was never one to beat around the bush, but right now she couldn’t bring herself to talk to the girl. She had every indication it would go well. The girl liked her, wanted to spend time with her every chance she got and accepted any suggestion Lin made. But still, Lin wanted to come up with the right way to phrase everything.

She couldn’t just say Pack up your bags, I’m your new mom now… Could she?

Lin didn’t get to interview her mom, she was just stuck with her…

“Listen, kid…” she started, but then gave up on the sentence she came up with. At least she now had Kuvira’s undivided attention.

Lin got up since she didn’t want a desk between them when she talked to her. Then she walked over to where the girl was sitting and kneeled down, just like Tenzin suggested.

“You know how I live in Republic City…” Lin started and the girl nodded, “Well, I have a boyfriend there. His name is Tenzin, he’s-”

“The Avatar’s son!”

“Yes.” Lin smiled, “He’s the only person in the world who’s just an airbender. He’s also really sweet and makes the best macaroons you’ve ever tasted… I talked to him about what we can do to help you and we both decided we’d like to officially adopt you.”

Lin made a little pause, allowing Kuvira to process it.

“That means you’d go with him to Republic City in a few hours and then live there with the two of us. You’d never have to go back to that kids’ home. No one would be able to take you, just as I promised. It’s what’s best for Suyin, too. It would save her. So what do you say?”

“No, thank you.” Kuvira said carefully and immediately got out of her chair to pick up her notebooks. Lin felt like she was stabbed.

“Kuvira, I’m not sure you understand…”

“I do. I like it here and I don’t want to leave.” Kuvira said, almost without an expression and after taking all her stuff, left the room, leaving Lin kneeling on the floor.

Lin did a pretty good job of keeping her emotions in check up to that point, but this time the tears just escaped. She sat on the floor and went through it all in her head once more.

It made no sense. Why wouldn’t Kuvira want them to adopt her?! Lin knew she couldn’t possibly imagine what that girl had gone through, but this decision just seemed off. Probably for the best, she thought, I’d be a terrible mother anyway

Maybe Su said something to her before all this, that’s why she didn’t trust Lin… Or maybe Kuvira just liked Su so much she didn’t want to leave… Either way, they were without a solution again.

What kind of orphan doesn’t want to be adopted? Lin had a parent looking after her and she still at times wished someone adopted her… But this wasn’t about her, Lin realized she was being selfish. She didn’t matter in this situation. She had to think about Kuvira and how she was going to keep her safe now. This was not about her, it was about Kuvira.

That was it!

Lin wiped her tears and quickly ran downstairs where she ran into Baatar.

“Kuvira! Where is she?” she asked in a hurry.

“You just missed her. She said she was going to play outside for a while.” Baatar seemed confused.

“Where? Show me where you last saw her!”

“What is this about?”

“Now, Baatar!”

Realizing this was serious, he led her into the gardens and showed her the spot where Kuvira liked to go and practice earthbending. Unfortunately, she wasn’t there. Lin wasted no time and used her seismic sense to locate her. She indeed was in the gardens, but in the part that was being rebuilt, on top of a giant metal crane.

“What the hell is she doing up there?” Baatar followed after Lin. She didn’t answer, but pointed into the distance in front of them. Far past Zaofu, on top of one of the first houses of the village, there was a light blinking unevenly.

“That light. She’s communicating with someone. We have to go get her!” Lin got ready to climb the crane when she realized Baatar didn’t follow.

“It’s better if you go, I really can’t handle heights…”

Lin ignored him and climbed up to Kuvira in just a few seconds, thanks to her cables. She found the girl using a piece of glass to reflect the sunlight towards the village in a pattern.

“Kuvira, stop!” Lin made her presence known, startling the girl into dropping her glass, “You’re coming with me.”

“No, I didn’t…” Kuvira muttered, taking a step away from Lin and towards the edge.

“Stop! Don’t move.” Lin was so focused on the present she couldn’t bring any of Tenzin’s speeches to mind, “I’m coming to you.”

“Don’t!” Kuvira took another two steps towards the end of the crane and only then realized how close she was to falling. The look of terror on her face was obvious.

“Look at me! Don’t look down. I’m not gonna let you fall, kid.”

Kuvira just nodded as a response. She tried to maintain eye contact while Lin slowly walked closer, but just as the Chief was getting close, Kuvira looked down. The girl lost her balance almost immediately and started plummeting towards the ground.

Baatar, who had to watch all of this unfold from afar, closed his eyes, expecting the worst. He heard Kuvira’s scream and then nothing. When he opened his eyes he saw Lin in the air, one of her cables holding Kuvira and the other clinging to the crane.

 

Chapter Text

“Get in.” Lin led Kuvira up to Su’s office by her hand, only letting go of her when they were inside, “Sit down.”

“What is going on? What was she doing? What do you know?” Baatar came in a few seconds after the two of them.

“She’s working for them.” Lin said.

“I didn’t… They made me… I didn’t know what to do…” Kuvira sobbed so much she had trouble catching her breath, “You have to believe me…”

“Cut the act.” Lin said coldly and, to Baatar’s big surprise, the girl stopped crying immediately. She calmed her breaths, wiped her tears and made direct eye contact with the Chief.

“Fine. You found out.” Nothing about the way Kuvira was looking at Lin said scared little girl.

“You found out what, Lin? You were lying, Kuvira?” Baatar was still painfully confused.

“I asked her if she wanted to be adopted and she said no.” Lin started, “I was rocking my mind, trying to figure out what I did wrong, what about me could have possibly made you dislike me… But then I realized this wasn’t about me at all. It was about you. What kind of orphan doesn’t want to be adopted?”

“What are you saying?” Baatar asked.

“She’s not an orphan. Where’re your parents, kid? Was it them sending you coded messages?”

“Yes.”

“Did they send you here, tell you to lie to Su and Baatar?”

“Yes.”

Baatar ran a hand through his hair and looked away, “I can’t listen to this.”

“I didn’t know they were going to take Suyin. I didn’t think anyone would get hurt.” Kuvira talked, but no one seemed to be listening, “They said I have to do it. Lin?”

“Quiet, Kuvira.” Lin turned around to talk to Baatar, “They planned all of this. Kuvira was sent as a spy to study your habits and report back. That’s how they knew where Su would be that morning. That’s how they knew about the adoption papers.”

“But what parents would send their child into- We treated her well, but there was no guarantee we would. Who teaches a child this?” Baatar cleaned his glasses to distract himself.

“Sadly, I’ve seen this before. There are kids her age who do everything from selling drugs to actually killing people. It’s tragic, but it happens.”

“Hey, I’m still here. I can help you.” Kuvira got their attention back, “I can tell them whatever you’d like using our code.”

“And why would we believe you? Everything you’ve told us up to two minutes ago has been a lie.” Lin was getting more pissed by the second.

“Is Kuvira even your name?” Baatar asked.

“Yes. It wasn’t all a lie.” Kuvira started, “I told you that stuff about the orphanage because that’s the story my mom made me memorize. I tried not lying every chance I got. I ended up really liking it here and I don’t want Su to get hurt. That’s why I want to help you.”

“You know your parents, do you think they’d really hurt Su?” Lin crouched next to the girl.

“They’re- We’re bandits. There is nothing they wouldn’t do.” Kuvira made a pause, “The only reason we’re doing this is because I messed up while we were robbing the village rich guy. They caught us and my parents offered we’d get their land dispute settled in exchange for our lives and some money.”

“So the whole village is in on it?” Lin asked.

“They just know we’re taking care of it. I doubt my parents told anyone the exact plan.”

“So we give them what they want…” Baatar said.

“No. Are you kidding?” Lin turned to him, “We finally know who we’re up against and you want to give up? No, we’re getting Su back, and keeping your land, and pressing charges.”

“If you want my help,” Kuvira cut in, “You have to return me to my parents and let us go.”

“Of course, I meant the people who ordered all of this.” Lin lied. She couldn’t let any criminals walk away from this, but she couldn’t very well tell the girl that, just as she was about to start cooperating.

“Great. And I really am sorry, Baatar.” Kuvira said before turning to Lin again, “What do you want me to say to my parents?”

“Find out where they’re holding Su.” Lin said like it was no big deal.

“Wait, wait… There is no way they’d trust me with that.”

“You’re a smart kid. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” Lin smirked, “Like you figured out how to get information out of me.”

“I said I’m sorry. I had to keep reporting how far you were in your search. But not everything was a lie… Toph really is my biggest hero. And I had no idea you were Su’s sister, I just stumbled onto that.” Kuvira smiled.

Lin took the girl’s hand again and started leading her back to the crane. She held her hand to make sure she didn’t run off. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than cuffing an eight-year-old.

“How did you know I hated Math?” Lin asked on the way, “You specifically came to me to complain about it.”

“When you asked me how old I was, you were trying to figure out when I was born. You did the math on a piece of paper and not in your head like all other adults.” the girl smirked proudly.

“Perceptive. That’s a good skill for a police officer.”

“No, thank you. Even though, it did take you less than two days to figure me out while they lived with me for months and didn’t have a clue.”

“They’re just trusting, that’s all it is.” Lin paused, “I’m just saying if you don’t want to go back to your parents, you don’t have to. We can find someone to take you.”

“Well, I wanna go back. My parents are probably missing me and they’ll be so proud when I tell them I fixed everything. When those people get arrested and we go free.”

Lin nodded even though she knew she’d have to try and arrest Kuvira’s parents by any means necessary. They were already half way there when she remembered the girl would need glass to send her message.

Lin left Kuvira in Baatar’s hands, with strict instructions to not let go of her hand under any circumstances, while she ran to the house to find what she needed. She was gone for no more than ten minutes, but it was enough for Baatar to run into problems.

“Look!” Kuvira yelled suddenly and pointed at the sky.

“Nice try, Missy, but that’s not going to work.” Baatar answered. He kept reminding himself she was not to be trusted.

“No, really. It’s a sky bison!”

“You could have at least come up with a better lie.” Baatar said before hearing a voice from behind.

“Excuse me, where can I find Lin?”

He turned around and recognized Tenzin from the one conversation he saw him have with Lin. That seemed to be so long ago now…

“She’s inside. She’ll be back in a minute.” he explained, while Tenzin completely ignored him and focused on the girl next to him.

“You must be Kuvira.” the airbender said, kneeling next to her and extending a hand, “Lin’s told me so much about you. It’s great to finally meet you.”

Kuvira smiled back at him and tried to get her hand free from Baatar to shake hands. Getting a look from Tenzin, Baatar let go of her.

“You’re really the Avatar’s son?” she asked, while shaking hands.

“Yeah. You’ll probably go meet him with me, right after this.”

“Do some airbending!” Kuvira just couldn’t stop smiling.

“Well, I could do this one thing I know…” Tenzin said and then quickly pulled two marbles out of his pocket and did the trick his father taught him.

“Tenzin, what are you doing?!” Lin yelled from far away and ran to them.

“What?” Tenzin was confused when he saw Lin grab Kuvira’s hand as soon as possible.

“I’m under kiddie arrest…” Kuvira said and turned to Lin, “You see, he let me go and I didn’t run anywhere. I’m on your side.”

“The plan changed, Tenzin.” Lin ignored the girl completely, “We’re not adopting her, she’s working for them.”

“The people who kidnapped Suyin?”

“I’ll explain on the way.” Lin said and continued walking to the crane.

She followed a few meters after Kuvira as she climbed. Then Lin used one of her cables to tether the girl to the top of the structure. No falling this time.

Kuvira took the mirror Lin brought and started the conversation by telling her parents Lin already knew where Su was hiding. The girl translated every word of the conversation to Lin and Tenzin while she slowly asked more questions, finally figuring out where Su was being held.

oooooooooo

“The mill is here, near the river.” Kuvira pointed at a spot on the map she drew them, “That’s where Su is. And my dad thinks you think Su is here. The abandoned farm.”

The adults were all gathered around the desk in Suyin’s office, listening carefully.

“So we agreed.” Lin started, “Baatar and I will go to the farm, since they know about us, but we’ll take a few guards to help us catch them. At the same time, Tenzin will retrieve Su from the mill, which should have less security.”

“Can’t I go with Tenzin to see Su?” Baatar asked.

“No, it’s far too risky. They will immediately be suspicious if you’re not at the fake spot.” Lin said.

“Don’t worry, I can handle whatever they have over there. Su will be fine.” Tenzin reassured him.

“This better not be a trap, Kuvira.” Lin warned, “Or the deal is off.”

“It’s not.” the girl said, “I mean they think it is, but that’s the point. They’re probably setting a trap for you at the farm right now.”

“Alright. We leave now.” Lin got up from the table and Tenzin followed her lead.

“So, who’s taking me?” Kuvira asked.

“I’m sorry, kid, but we can’t trust you. You’re staying put until we have Su back.”

“That’s not fair! Lin! Take me with you and you can pretend you’ll kill me if they don’t give up. We do that sketch all the time…”

“They’d never believe I’d kill an innocent child. You’re staying here. We need to pretend like we don’t know anything about them. Baatar, that means if they threaten Su, you have to act like you really think they still have her. Be desperate.”

“I can do that.”

oooooooooo

It didn’t take Lin and Baatar long to reach the abandoned farm Kuvira showed them on the map. They brought a dozen Zaofu guards with them, but they were all trying to remain hidden for as long as possible.

Lin was just about to get suspicious when a man, roughly her age, blocked her way to the farm house.

“Excuse me.” she tried to surpass him, but he wouldn’t let her.

“Bold of you to show up here without the ransom.” the man said, “You must not care about your sister too much.”

“It’s him, Lin!” Baatar feigned surprise like they agreed. The Chief tried to apprehend the man, who she assumed must be Kuvira’s father, but he dodged all her attacks and took a few steps back. Then he whistled and a dozen bandit-looking gentlemen showed themselves to Lin and Baatar.

“You cannot win this, cop.” Kuvira’s dad said, “And now, you’ve just added a hundred golden pieces to our demands.”

“Of course, we’ll do anything.” Baatar pretended to buckle.

“No. How do we even know you still have her? Show us Suyin.” Lin demanded.

“If you ever try to pull something like this again, you’ll get a little part of her mailed to you.” the man smirked to seem threatening, “I can’t show her to you since she’s not here. I am, and will always be, one step in front of you.”

“You do seem to know an awful lot about me, having never met me before. What are you hiding, Mister…”

“Liwei.”

That was it. That was the conformation. That was Kuvira’s father’s name.

“If I were you, Chief Beifong,” he added, getting real close to Lin’s face, “I would worry less about me and more about delivering what I asked for in the 23 hours you have left. The land rights, the money and the girl. That’s the only way you’ll see your sister again.”

Liwei turned around and started walking away, since he made his point. But Lin wasn’t done with him yet.

“I expected Yun to be here, too.” she said and Liwei suddenly stopped.

“How do you know my wife?”

“Well, it’s more than blind luck.”

That was the signal she agreed on with the guards so when they heard it, they all ran out of hiding. Liwei immediately figured out Lin set a trap for him so he wouldn’t be able to threaten Su when she arrests him. He signaled his men to fight back and tried to get away.

His men were earthbenders, unlike him, but Lin took most of them down easily. She was just about to catch him with her cables when he shot one of the guards with an arrow. In the second it took Lin to react and shield them with a wall of earth, he shot another one of her men.

Liwei knew exactly how to shoot so that the men were wounded, not killed.

“You can give up and take them to find help, or just let them bleed out here.” he yelled.

Lin gave her men the signal to retreat, but ran after Liwei herself.

“Stop! We have your daughter, she’s under special protection, if you run, you’ll never see her again. We’ll send her far away from here if you don’t turn yourself in right now!”

oooooooooo

At the same time Tenzin was arriving at the mill where Su was actually being held. He approached the building carefully, but the only man he encountered outside was an old miller.

“Drop your weapon or I will be compelled to use force!” Tenzin yelled, jumping from behind a corner with his glider pointing at the old man.

The man dropped the basket he was carrying and put his hands in the air. Perhaps Tenzin overestimated his involvement in all this.

“Get out of here, Sir. For your own good.” Tenzin said next and the miller took his things and ran away.

Tenzin checked the area surrounding the mill once again, carefully, but found no one standing guard. Lin told him security might not be high, but this was just ridiculous. It was way too easy to find the mill and enter it, even the door was unlocked. Inside, Tenzin quickly laid eyes on Suyin, tied up, gagged and sitting in the corner. On the other side of the room, there was another woman, who also had her hands tied.

As soon as she saw him, Su started moving around and trying to speak, but it was all incomprehensible because of the gag.

“You have to help her, I think she might be in pain.” the other tied-up woman said and Tenzin hurried to untie Suyin and see if she was hurt. But as soon as he turned his back, he felt a projectile coming towards him with his airbending. He ducked and saw an arrow hit the wall in front of him.

He turned and realized the other woman wasn’t tied up and had a crossbow pointed at him.

Suyin managed to get free of her gag and yell, “She’s the one that kidnapped me, Tenzin!”

Upon hearing this, Tenzin blew another arrow out of his way and used an air blast to push the woman to the opposing wall.

“I am walking out of here!” she yelled and pointed the weapon at Suyin, “Or she gets it!”

“Fine, fine… Go. I just want her.” Tenzin said and the woman, who he didn’t know was Kuvira’s mother, left.

“Oh, Tenzin, thank you!” Su hugged him as soon as he sprung her free from the platinum chains, “What are you even doing here?”

“Baatar called me. He came to find me when you went missing.” Tenzin promised Lin he wouldn’t mention her, but it somehow felt wrong to play the hero when he didn’t deserve it. He carefully helped Su up onto her feet.

“Well, thank you for dropping everything and flying here for me. You saved me. Saved us.” she ran a hand over her already quite visible baby bump.

“Did they hurt you?”

“No… They did however, show me escape attempts weren’t an option.” she touched a bruise on her face.

“Let’s get you to a healer.” Tenzin offered to let her lean on him as they walk home.

“Lin didn’t come?” Su asked, trying to seem like she didn’t care, but Tenzin knew her better than that.

“She just made Chief, so she couldn’t just leave the city. But she wanted to…” Tenzin hated lying, but he made a promise. If those two would just talk like normal people…

“You don’t have to cover for her, I know she wouldn’t come for me. Mom was exactly the same way with that job… I just hoped that somehow Lin still cared what happens to me. But I’m glad you’re here.”

“She does care, she just-”

“Tenzin, stop. You don’t have to justify her. Just tell me… How is she?”

“She’s great. She’s spread a bit thin with the new job, but she can handle it.”

“That’s all cause of you, Tenzin. You keep her centered. She’s lucky to have you.”

“We’re both pretty lucky.” he smiled to himself.

“I’m just glad she hasn’t cut everyone out of her life. You’re good for her and…” Su winced suddenly and stopped walking. She was obviously experiencing some kind of pain.

“How about we worry about you for now?”

oooooooooo

While the two operations were happening, Kuvira was stuck, locked in Suyin’s office with a dozen guards outside. She was a bit pissed at first, but then she remembered what her mother always taught her. There is no place that is unescapable, you just need to use your head.

And Kuvira did, or at least tried to, but all her plans came to the same thing. She needed to figure out metalbending right there and then. She tried it a couple of times before in her lifetime, but that day she really gave it her all. She stared into the lock for hours imitating moves she saw Suyin and the guards do. No effect. The metal wouldn’t budge.

“Come on, Kuvira!” she told herself, “Like Toph. Do it like Toph!”

She jumped and did the move once again, but this time she slipped and hit the floor with her head, hard. At that exact moment the door opened and Lin ran in to help Kuvira up from the floor.

“What are you doing?!” Lin kneeled down next to the girl and checked her for injuries, “Every time I turn around you’re trying to hurt yourself.”

“I’m sorry, Lin.” Kuvira couldn’t believe how worried the Chief looked, “So when can I see my mom and dad?”

“Listen, kid… I only saw your dad and we couldn’t catch him. He wounded two people. It’s bad.”

“He didn’t know… You should have told him you had me.”

“I did. I told him the only way to see you again was to come with me and he…”

“Left? He left me…” Kuvira pulled away from Lin, “But you didn’t see my mom. My mom will come pick me up, you’ll see.”

“Come in, Lin! Lin, pick up!” they could both hear Tenzin’s voice over the radio in the room, so Lin answered back.

“What’s going on, Tenzin? Is it done?”

“Yeah, I just turned Suyin over to Baatar and the healers. She’s a little shuck up, but OK.”

Lin felt like a giant bolder got lifted from her heart.

“That’s great…” she took a deep breath to calm herself and saw Kuvira giving her a look, “How about Kuvira’s mother?”

“I’m afraid she ran off after trying to kill me. Sorry.”

“You saved Su. That’s important. Over and out.”

Lin stepped away from the desk and saw tears began collecting in Kuvira’s eyes.

“No matter what happens, Kuvira, we’ll find you a home somewhere. I told Baatar not to tell Su about your involvement. You can stay right here if you want.”

“But I want my mom and dad!” Kuvira let her tears flow as she sat back onto the floor.

Lin wanted nothing more than to kneel down and comfort the girl, but as she was about to go organize a manhunt for her parents, it seemed a bit… Hypocritical at best.

“Stay here.” Lin said finally and instructed two guards to watch her.

She wanted nothing more than to get the monsters that would put a little girl through this for their own profit. They didn’t deserve to walk away from this… No! Not after putting her sister in the hospital. No after toying with their child like that! They were going to rot for the rest of their days, she’d make sure with the local police, even if it was the last thing she did.

Lin was in the middle of giving her instructions to the guards when Baatar Jr. ran out of nowhere yelling.

“Chief! I can’t find Kuvira anywhere!”

“What happened, Junior?” she asked.

“I wanted to take Kuvira to see Mom and she was gone.” Junior explained and immediately took Lin to Suyin’s office.

Lin suspected the girl’s parents right away, but both guards were still there, standing guard.

“What happened here? Speak, man!” she confronted one of them, “Kuvira was supposed to be your responsibility.”

“She wanted to go to the bathroom.”

“And you let her go alone?!” Lin shoved the man away and told Junior to go be with his parents.

She hit the ground with her foot a few times, trying to check if she could sense Kuvira anywhere on the premises. But she couldn’t. The downstairs bathroom had a substantial hole on the wall, so Lin ran there to investigate. There was no doubt, Kuvira bended that open herself. Her parents weren’t benders.

She ran away… Damn it!

Lin didn’t think there was time to alert anyone, she just followed after Kuvira through the hole and into the woods. It was going to be night in a few hours and she couldn’t let her be out there alone in the dark.

Damn it, kid!

 

Chapter Text

 

Lin ran through the forest as fast as she could, while keeping her armor open on her feet. She needed her seismic sense to point her in the direction Kuvira was, as fast as possible. It didn’t make sense the girl would run towards the woods and not the village, but maybe she knew something Lin didn’t.

When Lin finally sensed Kuvira running, it wasn’t hard to catch up to her. Lin didn’t make her presence known because she had a hunch the girl knew exactly where she was going. Lin only met her two days ago, but she didn’t seem like the type of kid to just run off to nowhere.

Lin wasn’t very familiar with the geography around Zaofu, but she did notice they were following a river, which meant they were bound to reach the shore soon. And when they did, Kuvira would have nowhere else to run. Maybe she didn’t know where she was going after all…

Kuvira finally reached the edge of the water and stood there shortly to catch her breath while looking around like she was expecting to find something. This has gone on far enough for Lin’s taste, maybe she should just show herself and end all this…

Lin was considering it, when Kuvira started running again, leading the Chief to a small pier with two people loading bags onto a little boat.

Lin recognized Kuvira’s dad standing on the boat and readying it for a journey while the woman checking the bags and throwing them to the boat seemed to be Kuvira’s mother, Yun. Lin stayed hidden in the tree line, while Kuvira ran right up to her mother who was just getting the last supplies off the shore.

“Mommy!” Kuvira hugged Yun’s waist surprising both her parents so much they drew weapons, “I found you…”

“Kuvira, what are you doing here?” Yun asked, putting away her sword. She was surprised by how different her daughter looked all cleaned up and dressed in expensive clothing.

Lin was standing close enough to hear what they were saying, but not close enough to arrest them without risking her safety or Kuvira’s.

“I ran away so I could come with you! I remembered this place and I knew you’d be here.” Kuvira hugged her mother one more time, “Didn’t you miss me?”

“You sold us out, baby. You told them everything.” Yun pulled her daughter away.

“No… No, they figured it out.”

“You help set a trap for us. They almost got us.”

“No, I made a deal so we’d all go free.” Kuvira couldn’t believe they didn’t understand. All she did, she did for them. To be with them again.

“They tricked you, stupid!” Liwei cut in.

“Li, don’t…” Yun tried.

“Don’t, what?” he said and turned to his daughter, “You failed. Again. We ended up in this mess because you got caught then too. Remember?”

“I didn’t want to kill that man.” she said, almost embarrassed.

“You’re right, she’ll never learn…” Yun told her husband and then stroked Kuvira’s chin, “The damn bending is wasted on you…”

“I thought having a bender would be useful, too.” Li added and loaded the last bag when Yun tossed it.

“I can do better. I swear!” Kuvira said.

“No, baby. You’re staying here. We can’t have you slowing us down.”

“I’ll do anything you want! I’ll learn!” It broke Lin to have to listen to Kuvira beg while tears already changed the tone of her voice.

“Please take me with you! Mom, I’ll be better! Please!” Kuvira reached for her mother’s hand only to be pushed back violently. Yun turned around to walk away, but something hit the back of her neck. She turned back and saw Kuvira used her bending to throw a small rock.

“Stop it, Kuvira!” she yelled and shoved her daughter so hard Kuvira fell to the ground, slamming her palms into the beginning of the metal pier. The girl just stayed down, crying and keeping her gaze on the metal.

Yun was walking down the pier when she felt Kuvira slam her hands on the metal again, this time making it shake unnaturally strong. Lin could feel it in her feet all the way from there.

“Stop that!” her dad yelled, but it was too late. Kuvira stood back up realizing she just metalbended and she could do it again. She moved her hands and the pier shook even harder, making it difficult for her mother to stand. She fell and the metal wrapped around her feet.

“Kuvira!” Yun yelled, “Li, do something!”

Liwei reached for his bow and pointed it at his daughter, pulling back the string.

“Let her go, Kuvira!” he yelled, but Kuvira didn’t listen. She waved her hands and bolts started flying from the pier, making it even more unsteady.

The arrow started flying towards Kuvira, but before it could hit its target, Lin ran out of her hiding place and put herself between the girl and her attacker. Lin deflected the arrow without even moving her arms.

She didn’t really know she could do that. Before the shock subsided she had to redirect two more arrows Liwei fired in a hurry. He would have continued shooting if he wasn’t hit in the head by a bolt Kuvira sent flying towards him.

Lin looked back at the girl who was still crying and throwing any little piece of metal or rock she could bend towards her parents. The Chief used her cables to disarm Liwei and then took Kuvira into her arms and picked her up.

Kuvira struggled at first, kicked and screamed, but in a few seconds all the rocks and metal stopped flying. Lin made eye contact with Yun ask she got free from the metal and jumped onto the boat.

Lin didn’t even try stopping them. She held Kuvira tight, waiting for her to calm down.

“They’re getting away!” Kuvira screamed as her parents left the shore.

“I don’t care about them!” Lin yelled back, causing Kuvira to calm down finally.

oooooooooo

The two of them walked back to Zaofu together, but mostly in silence.

“Am I real arrested now?” Kuvira asked at one point.

“Are you wearing handcuffs?”

“No.”

“None of this is your fault. You did a bunch of bad things in a row, but it’s the adults’ fault. Su for being naive, your parents for putting you in danger, me for letting you walk up to two known criminals alone.” Lin regretted not stepping in sooner. A few more seconds and Kuvira could have been hurt.

“I wasn’t alone.”

Upon arriving at Zaofu, Kuvira was immediately given a room to get some rest as it was almost night time, while the adults decided on what would happen to her. She wasn’t allowed to leave so she attempted to get some sleep, but it proved almost impossible in her current state.

A few hours after the sun came out, the doors to her room unlocked and Lin came in quietly. She was wearing her armor, but without the metal sleeves and she didn’t look like she’d slept either. Kuvira sat up on her bed, but didn’t look directly at the Chief.

“Thank you.” Kuvira said, since during the night she was beginning to think she’d never get the chance.

Lin sat at the edge of the bed, so they both stared at the wall rather than each other.

“I got them.” Lin said finally, “Your parents. They got caught trying to lie their way into Omashu. They’re on their way to prison now.”

“I don’t care.” Kuvira lied, “They left me.”

“I know.”

“What’s gonna happen to me?”

“I talked to Baatar and… We’re going to forget everything that happened since I got here. He won’t tell Su you lied. You can keep living here, they’ll sign your paper.”

“Is Su gonna be OK?” Kuvira scooched over to Lin.

“Yeah, Tenzin says she’s good. The baby, too.”

Kuvira was quiet for a while before leaning into Lin’s arm carefully.

“You have to know,” the girl’s voice gave away she was at the brink of tears, “I’m very sorry for everything I did.”

When Lin moved, Kuvira though she was going to walk away, but Lin put her arm around the girl and quietly said, “I know, kid.”

“Was Su happy to see you again?” Kuvira asked after a few seconds.

“She didn’t see me. I told you we’re pretending none of this happened. If anyone asks, Tenzin is the one who saved her.”

“But why? She wouldn’t be angry at you if she knew what you did. You’re family.”

I don’t want to see her.”

“Oh, so you’re the one that’s angry.” Kuvira said and Lin pulled her arm away to rub her scar.

“You know how I got this?” Lin asked and Kuvira shook her head, “Su. She hurt me the last time we saw each other. And our mother tried to make it go away and said it was my fault. I stopped talking to both of them. I refuse to call people who hurt me my family. Tenzin is my family. His parents, who were always there for me growing up, they’re my family.”

“How about your dad?” Kuvira asked just as Lin was starting to think she was oversharing. It was a bit of a difficult topic for a child, but this girl had been though a lot herself.

“I only met him when I was fourteen and my mother would never discuss it with me to this day. I actually though he was a decent guy for like half an hour before he turned out to be a jerk who was even less interested in being a parent than my mother.”

“I’m sorry.” Kuvira looked up at Lin.

“I’m telling you this because I want you to be good for Baatar and Su. They’re really good parents and they would never hurt you or leave you.”

“But I want to go with you.” Kuvira said absolutely shocking Lin, “You offered it before you found out the truth. Can I still say yes?”

“Wouldn’t you rather stay here, with people who actually know what they’re doing? Su seems to enjoy this being-a-mother thing…”

“You said I choose who my family is. If I stay here, I’ll never be equal to their real kids. Please… I promise I’ll be good.”

“Kuvira, when someone is your parent, they’re your parent whatever you do.” Lin paused to look at the girl’s face, “I’ll go talk to Tenzin about it.”

Kuvira said nothing, just smiled wide.

“Don’t take that as a yes. Not yet.” Lin pointed a finger to make a point, but the girl was already celebrating in her mind.

When Lin got up to leave, Kuvira ran up to her to hug her waist again. Only this time Lin hugged back.

oooooooooo

Lin took a couple of minutes after leaving to think things over one more time. Yes, she wasn’t the most motherly person alive. Yes, her job kept her quite busy. But that didn’t mean she’d repeat her mother’s mistakes. She could be whoever she wanted to be.

When she finally left to find Tenzin she was sure he’d say yes. He’d just see it as a way to show her that they could have their own children someday. And who knew… Even that didn’t sound as crazy as it used to.

Lin entered her bedroom expecting to find Tenzin calling his mother to tell her he’ll be arriving home soon. But she found him kneeling on the floor, staring into nothing, with the radio still in his hand.

“Tenzin?” she asked carefully, not moving an inch.

Her voice seemingly brought him back from his trance. He looked up at her as tears started streaming down his face.

“My dad’s dead.” he barely managed to say.

“Oh, no…” she couldn’t stop herself from crying too, seeing him like this. She kneeled down next to him on the floor and put her hands around him.

She had no idea what she’d even say. She tried to search her mind for something hopeful, anything, but no words came out. She just cried with him, because Aang was her family too.

“I’m not ready for this, Lin…”

oooooooooo

About an hour later Lin was in the lobby, arranging Tenzin’s and her suitcases, before she could load them onto Oogi. She was already burning with guilt over Tenzin missing his father’s last moments, there was nothing that would stop her from getting him home to his mother now. She needed to clear out while Su was still in the hospital because she could not deal with her right now on top of everything.

Lin managed to stop crying already and went back to her usual stoic expression, but her face still gave away she’d been sobbing earlier.

“Guess what, Lin? I got the paper from Baatar.” Kuvira showed up waving the adoption document, “You can just sign it now and-”

Kuvira stopped immediately after seeing Lin had been crying.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“It looks like it’s not going to work out after all, kid. You’re not going with us.”

It hurt Lin to say it, but there was no way she could add a new child to everything the family was going through. Tenzin was completely out of it, and she could only assume Aang’s other kids were as well. Lin had to get home and take care of Katara. Someone had to track down Toph to let her know. A funeral had to be arranged. The world had to be told.

“What changed? What did Tenzin say? Did something happen to Su?” That was the only reason Kuvira could imagine for Lin crying.

Lin didn’t want to say it aloud, but the girl was owed an explanation. Lin kneeled down next to her and put both hands on her shoulders.

“Kuvira, something did happen… Tenzin’s dad was sick and we just got the news that he died.”

“The Avatar is dead? That’s it? What do we do without the Avatar?” Kuvira seemed more upset than Lin though she’d be.

“You’re old enough to know how it works. We’ll always have an avatar. The new one is already somewhere out there in the world. The only one who’s really gone for good is Tenzin’s dad.”

Kuvira stayed quiet as tears drained down her face.

“That’s why we can’t adopt you.” Lin said taking the paper from Kuvira’s hand and putting it on a table nearby, “But I promise you Su and Baatar will take such good care of you. It’s better for you anyway, I’d mess it up, for sure.”

“But I don’t want Su! I don’t want the new Avatar!”

“Calm down, Kuvira.” put a hand on the girl’s shoulder again.

“No! The new Avatar’s just a baby. He can’t protect us… He can’t do anything! It could take him decades to master all the elements… What if someone starts a war again? What if it happens tomorrow? Who’s gonna protect us?!”

“Look, kid… Sometimes we just have to protect ourselves.” Lin said and, seeing the girl had nothing to say, took the suitcases and walked out the door.