August 21, 2012
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She watched Korra walk into the room, her eyes just as empty as she herself had felt in those first few moments after the deed had been done. She supposed in some ways, it was even worse for the girl: after losing her ability to bend all the other elements, she had discovered she could still airbend. But the bitter truth that her connection with the other elements she had once possessed, ones she had learned from the moment she was a child and held as a part of her being, were gone forever. Even the best healer in the world couldn’t restore their connection.
Lin felt her own heart clench at the thought. Since Amon had taken her bending, she had stolidly worked to banish and feelings of loss, pain, or grief from her self, to accept the fact that they would not return and to live on as she must. Her earthbending had been her joy in life, but she had attacked the airship with the knowledge she would lose it, and at that moment had made her peace with it. That didn’t mean the wound still didn’t bleed. She met Korra’s eyes for a moment, exchanging the knowledge that no, it wouldn’t be alright in the end, but you had to soldier on anyways. Korra held the connection for a moment before closing her eyes and turning her head away.
As the Avatar – no longer – walked slowly from the room, the others fell into quiet whispers among themselves. How she must feel, how devastated, what they could do, any possible way to restore the connection to the spirit world, what would happen to the Avatar cycle.
Lin remained silent.
They knew they could never fully understand the pain Korra was in, but she could; she knew all of their suggestions might help in time, but at the moment none of them would make even an impression. She watched Mako go after Korra and almost stopped him, but didn’t speak. The boy would learn. There were some wounds words just didn’t make better. Tenzin followed him out, no doubt to comfort the boy when Korra demanded to be left alone. She closed her eyes, letting the babble of subdued voices wash over her.
She was lost in a world of hazy grey shadows, half-forgotten dreams and memories. She watched her mother metalbend as she tried out her new suit design, gracefully allowing the wires to coil out of her wrists and wrap around objects, allowing one to spike into the ceiling and pull herself up using it, to act as though weightless in the arena, able to see everything around her through the wires connected to the metal walls, floor, and beams that made up her training room.
That was what she aspired to be, a weightless being, supported by the very element that made up her soul, yet floating in the air. Not needing anything but her own skill to fly amongst everything above her, not depending on even gravity. To be able to see all around her with one pulse of power with nothing hidden from her eyes, to make an imprint of the world upon her soul.
That was earthbending.
That was what she had lost.
Lin was still sitting in the same room, letting her thoughts wander, when the tent flaps exploded inwards as Korra rushed into the room. No longer were her shoulders slumped in defeat, her eyes glassy and dull; she vibrated with purpose as her eyes glowed with determination, almost sparking with an otherworldly light. It was at that moment Lin allowed herself to begin to hope, that maybe, through some impossible chance of fate, she had…
“I can give it back.”
They gave Korra a day to recover; that day was the hardest length of time Lin had ever had to wait, and she knew herself not to be an impatient person. In her mind she knew the importance of not rushing the Avatar – wasn’t the fact she could do it at all a miracle? – but her body was vibrating with the need to feel that connection again, a need she had suppressed through all those long dark days after her bending had been taken.
It was just past dawn the next day when they all stood on the dais in front of the official building of the Southern Water Tribe. Lin refused to admit to herself that she was trembling as she knelt on one knee in front of the Avatar, closing her eyes as she felt Korra put one thumb on the center of her forehead – just as Amon had done – and the other on her breast bone, right over her heart. Even through the metal armor covering her chest, she could feel a tingle of recognition dancing under her skin for the power that flowed through Korra.
She watched as Korra closed her eyes for a moment and that power welled up inside the girl, watched as Korra’s eyes opened and glowed blue with the light she had seen so often in Aang’s, then closed her own eyes as she felt power and a sense of rightness begin to flood into her own body.
She could feel the connection welling up inside her again, radiating from the points at which Korra’s thumbs rested. It flooded her body, bringing the cells alive once more with the joy of knowing they existed not in an endless void, but rather in a sea of that which made up her being. The earth, its changes and moods, its solidness and security. Rising from her knees, she let the power flow through her, pooling in her hands as she squared her stance and lifted her arms, fists clenched. Surrounding the area they stood in rested a half circle of rocks; in that one instantaneous moment, she felt her power flow through them, outlining their shapes in her mind. The earth clamored its welcome to her, its willingness to do anything she asked. Pushing her arms upwards, she felt more than saw the stones all lift as one until the hovered above the earth they had rested on.
She was back.

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