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In The Dark There Is Light

Chapter Text

Korra waited impatiently at the guard station. She had never been a very patient person, even after mastering the art of meditation.Though, to be fair her meditation instructor could be quick to a short fuse as well. Tenzin liked to claim he was in balance, but Korra knew just how far to push for the Airbending Master to snap. Oftentimes with the most humorous show of display. Korra knew she could have the same short fuse, and she had wondered on more than one occasion if this was a trait Aang had passed down not only to the Avatar, but to his children as well.

Today was not one of those days when Korra pondered what traits might have been passed down. She had put this day off for a very long time. In her defense, the Avatar responsibilities towards healing the void between the human and spirit worlds had become increasingly difficult. This was just another excuse. A year ago, she had promised to help reform Kuvira. Actually, it was contingent upon her possible release that she work with the Avatar to achieve balance again. The former dictator would never be completely free, but a parolled life was better than being locked away in a wooden cage for the rest of her life.

Six months ago, Korra had sent word to Republic City that she was ready to begin counseling their most high profiled prisoner. She knew Kuvira was allowed visitors and correspondence, though limited, but Korra never heard from the woman herself. A week after her first message, she was sent word from the Warden that Kuvira was refusing visitors at the moment. The Avatar shrugged it off, hoping the decision was due on the part of self-reflection and acceptance. A few weeks later, when she requested again to see the prisoner and told the same, she was not so convinced. When the Chief of Police, Lin Beifong finally told her personally that Kuvira had refused any visitors since the day after her sentencing, Korra decided it was time to personally drop in.

Her presence was not warmly received. It seemed as though nearly every single prison guard had been personally affected by Kuvira’s actions as the Great Uniter. If not personally, than a family member or close friend, and every single one looked as though they held a grudge. Just the mere mention of Kuvira by name raised tension levels astronomically. Had she not been so worried, Korra would have commented on it. Instead, she stood with her arms crossed in uncomfortable silence while she waited impatiently for the guard to return.

Behind her, someone cleared their throat. Korra glanced over her shoulder, not really giving her full attention to the newcomer. The Warden was standing there, flanked by two of his officers. The Warden stood resolute, but his officers betrayed themselves as they moved from foot to foot just ever so slightly. Apparently, metal bending was a requirement for working this unit. Nerves of steel were not.

“I’m grateful for the backup and all, but I’m just here to talk to Kuvira. I don’t plan on fighting anybody.” Korra told them as she turned to face the group.

“I’m afraid you are wasting your time, Avatar Korra. Prisoner 2889 refuses all visitors. I thought you would have come to this conclusion when your other requests were rejected.” The Warden was a short, stocky man with dark hair and grey eyes. Korra didn’t know if he was a Bender or just employed them, but his maintenance of the prison facility had always been top notch. In fact, Chief Beifong had been known to give the man what would, for her anyways, pass as a compliment.

“Yeah, well it’s not a request this time. I’m seeing Kuvira whether she likes it or not.” Korra found her tone already on the offensive. Not that she was actually annoyed by the Warden or his officers. The root of her annoyance was Kuvira herself, but unfortunately the woman in question was not present. These poor fools would be the beneficiaries of her poor composure.

“Avatar Korra, as much as I find prisoner rights and their advocates annoying, Prisoner 2889 does have the right to refuse visitors. We cannot compel a visit.” The Warden responded evenly. Korra was more certain than ever he was not a fan of Kuvira’s.

She took a step closer, perhaps more menacingly than she meant when the officers shifted as if ready for a strike. “Look here, Warden. I was given permission to work with Kuvira while she is being held prisoner.”

The Warden stood his ground, “Perhaps you should re-examine what the term prisoner means, Avatar Korra. Prisoner 2889 would not be in our most secure maximum facility had her atrocities not been severe. If she does not wish to have visitors, who am I to encourage her any privileges?”

Korra felt her fists ball. All at once she could feel the elements surrounding her. The air they were breathing, the earth below her feet, the heat of the room, and the water flowing in and out of the pipes in the building. Her heightened sense only signified she was angry, and the Avatar State usually followed her anger.

“Perhaps I should remind you that every prisoner has the capacity for reformation, Warden.” Korra was gritting her teeth now.

“And you should remember the barbarism Prisoner 2889 inflicted on the Earth Kingdom, and even yourself, Avatar Korra.” The corners of his mouth twitched upwards as if he were going to smile, but then remained stoic. Those words were all it took for Korra to lose what was left of her composure.

“Maybe I should remind you what it is the Avatar is capable of you jack--”

Another throat clearing interrupted what was certain to be a stunning back and forth of elementary name calling. Both Korra and the Warden turned to see Chief Lin Beifong standing in the hallway in full uniform, her arms crossed over her chest and one eyebrow raised questioningly at the pair.

“Are you two about done?” She barked at them, narrowing her eyes as if daring them to respond with something other than the word ‘Yes’.

“Chief, what can I do for you?” The Warden turned his attention fully to Chief Beifong while his officers still eyed Korra nervously.

“I’m here to speak with Kuvira.” Lin glanced to Korra before looking back to the Warden.

The man cleared his throat again, but this time much gentler and with a smile, “I do apologize, Chief, but as I was just explaining to Avatar Korra, Prisoner 2889 is refusing visitors at this point in time.”

He was about to go on, but Lin held up a hand to silence him. She took a few steps forward, closing the gap between herself and the others occupying the hallway.

“Which is her personal right. However, my visit is for police business, and as we both know a prisoner cannot refuse a request for questioning.” She didn’t break eye contact with the Warden, staring him down in the intimidating fashion that was definitely a Beifong inheritance. When the Warden opened his mouth for a rebuttal, Lin leaned ever so slightly forward and the Warden instantly turned, barking orders to his officers. When the hallway was clear, Lin leaned towards Korra, “Of course, prisoners also have the right to remain silent, so there is a very good chance she won’t speak.”

Korra looked puzzled, “Then why on earth are you going to question her?”

“I’m not.” Lin turned and began walking towards the interrogation room. Korra stood for a moment, trying to piece together the information just handed to her. When it finally clicked in her brain, she jogged after the police Chief.

After what seemed like hours, the metal wall of the interrogation room slid open. Five guards stood around a figure shackled to a platinum rod resting on her shoulders. Her arms were spread to either end of the rod. Her wrists were shackled tightly to each end in order to negate proper bending technique. The sound of platinum chains against the stone floor could be heard with each shuffling step Kuvira took.

When the two guards in the very front stepped to either side, Korra gasped. The sight was awful. She wasn’t quite sure what she was expecting, but it certainly was not the broken shell of a human being barely standing before her.

“Prisoner 2889, sit!” One of the guards ordered, pulling the chair out a respectable distance. Kuvira shuffled forward and sat down rather stiffly. Korra and Lin watched as one guard unlocked her wrists, one by one, and transferred them into the platinum cuffs on the table. The others stood at the ready to intervene should the former Great Uniter try anything funny. Kuvira didn’t though. Her arms hung limply as each one was moved. Once the new cuffs were in place with her hands securely tied to the platinum table, and the guards had filed out of the room, the young woman leaned back in the chair. A small wheezing escaped her lips that did not go unnoticed. Neither did the multiple bruises in a variation of colors and swelling.

“So,” Kuvira rasped, her head hanging low as she stared at her feet, “You found a loophole for visitors.”

Chapter Text

Six months after the first attack, she received her first visitor request. She hadn’t expected Su to be the first. She had been so matter-of-fact when Lin had placed the cuffs on Kuvira’s wrists.

“You’re going to answer for everything you’ve done.” Hadn’t those been her final words during that fateful day? She no longer saw Kuvira as a daughter, let alone a protege. The young woman was pretty certain Su only saw her as an enemy now. A fascist commander with a black, hardened heart.2 years had passed since the farce of a hearing had occurred. It would not have taken a hearing at all if the damn lawyer had allowed Kuvira to plead guilty. He had been a fan of hers from the Earth Kingdom, and one of only a few lawyers willing to represent her. He had been...efficient enough. Somehow, he had convinced the court that a life sentence was too harsh. How? She had no idea. Her alarmingly increasing hostilities towards her opposition should have easily sealed her fate. Whatever deal had been worked out behind closed doors--she had not cared to join them, not really caring about her future--had seemed to work in her favor.

22 years with a mandatory of 5 served before the possibility of parole. Parole could possibly be granted if, and only if she worked on rehabilitation with the Avatar. The verdict had been a shock to Kuvira. Her expectation of rotting away in the deepest, darkest prison Republic City could find was shattered. Then again, so was she. It wouldn’t matter where they stuck her. Kuvira had already sentenced herself internally.

Her self-imposed penance would be solitude. Plenty of quiet time to internally reflect upon her misdeeds leading up to this point in her life. How could she have been so blinded by power? She had turned against the family who had taken her in so easily. Worse yet, she convinced their eldest son to do the same, and then inevitably she betrayed him when attempting to kill the Avatar. Possibly her most horrible atrocity had been the death of Hiroshi Sato. It was an unforgivable act that was worth a lot more than 22 years behind bars.

If no one was willing to impose a just punishment, then Kuvira would do it herself. She was disgusted with herself, even if others believed she deserved a second chance. The reality was Kuvira didn’t believe she deserved the compassion of anyone. She deserved to die in a cell, away from the rest of the world she only seemed to hurt. Her guards seemed to pick up on her line of thinking, and they were more than happy to indulge her.

The beatings started slowly at first. She had two guards, Hashi and Zuka, with legitimate claims of how their families had been affected by her campaign. The first time they had actually entered her cell was for a contraband check. Kuvira knew it was a ruse from the beginning, seeing as she hadn’t been out of her cell since the door was first locked. She didn’t fight them back, though. These guards were simply completing what Republic City had failed to do.

Hashi and Zuka had left her in relatively decent state. Possibly a few broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder. She was sure there was some internal bleeding, but there was no way to know for sure without summoning a healer. They were smart to stay away from her face, however. If no one could see the injury, then there was no need to suspect.

After that, her beatings became routine on a weekly basis. Sometimes they were mild, other days they were harsh depending on the guards’ moods. They would allow her to heal just enough before sending her back into a world of constant pain.

The mocking had to be the hardest to take. When she returned her reply, a firm no, Hashi had laughed at her through the bars on the small opening of her cell door.

“What? The Great Uniter doesn’t have time for a chat with her Mommy? Too busy planning your next great conquest?”

Kuvira could only bite her tongue. Her silence had caused her next beating that night. In all honesty, her silence had caused all her beatings from then on out. The guards antagonized her, wishing for a response. They wanted to illicit some kind of reaction from the woman who had caused so much turmoil. Kuvira wouldn’t give them one, so their anger came from their fists against her body.

The second visitor request had been from Korra. Again, Kuvira had denied the request. She knew full well why the Avatar wanted to see her. Rehabilitation. She laughed at the thought. There were no redeemable qualities left in her, and the last thing she needed was to waste the Avatar’s time. That evening she had received another savage beating.

For the next year and a half this is what happened. Kuvira would refuse all visitor requests. Her guards would find the tiniest reasons to take a baton to her ribs, and she wouldn’t fight back. This would be her own self-inflicted punishment for a never ending penance.

Last night had been different, though. Hashi and Zuka weren’t alone when they opened her cell door. Three newcomers, including the Warden entered the cell, and Kuvira knew she was in for a rather harsh predicament.

“Prisoner 2889, for being the quietest prisoner I have, you certainly cause a lot of ruckus.” The Warden told her as he paced in front of the guards, each holding their plastic batons in clenched fists.

“I don’t want trouble.” Kuvira rasps out, slowly lowering herself onto her bruised knees. She makes sure to keep her hands visible and at her sides.

“Did you hear that, boys?” The Warden laughed, “The Great Uniter has finally found her voice! Just in time for the Avatar’s forced visit.”

Kuvira did look up at that comment. Avatar Korra? Had she heard it right? Why would she be coming here? Kuvira had declined every visitor request, and despite being a prisoner, she knew her rights. She could not be compelled to speak with just anyone who wanted to visit her.

Kuvira lowered her head almost immediately, closing her eyes, “I have nothing to say to the Avatar, Warden. Nothing.” It was her emphasis on the word ‘Nothing’ that conveyed the true meaning. She wasn’t going to speak of any of the beatings or other harassments during her imprisonment. She would keep her mouth shut.

The Warden sneered, but Kuvira didn’t look up. He walked over to her, grabbed her chin roughly and forced her face to look at him. Kuvira’s eyes opened, but there wasn’t much of anything left in them. “We’re going to make sure you don’t speak at all, Great Uniter.”

When he released her chin, he pushed her backwards hard. Kuvira landed on her back against the platinum floor of her cell. She looked up to see the four young guards advancing towards her, batons at the ready. The Warden closed the cell door with himself on the other side, giving one last glance before shutting the wooden shutter on the small opening to the door. Kuvira had enough time to curl in on herself before the first blow landed.

Now she was sitting in front of Avatar Korra and Chief Lin Beifong, unaware of what time it was let alone what day. It was evident from the guard switch as she was led from her cell the Warden hadn’t anticipated the Chief of Police to be present. The older man was suddenly a little more nervous in regards to the appearance of his highest profile prisoner. He’d even ordered fresh water to her cell for her to clean up some. Kuvira had complied if only to get the metallic taste of blood from her mouth.

Once she was in fresh clothes, she was shackled and then led in a procession down the hallways. The Warden kept close step behind them. She couldn’t help but notice the sharp intake of breath when Lin and Korra first saw her. Then she was sitting in a chair facing the two women, one her capturer and the other her proposed redemptioner.

Chapter Text

“Lin?” Korra wasn’t sure how to respond. She was halfway between heartbroken and angry. Despite her growing control and mindfulness, Korra still hadn’t fully mastered her control of the Avatar State. Anger always seemed to be a major trigger, and right now she was boiling.

“Calm down.” Lin replied as she crossed the room, “I’ll handle this.”

“There’s nothing to handle, Chief Beifong.” Kuvira piped up, almost mumbling her response through split lips, “They will tell you I attacked first and they were just defending themselves.”

Lin turned her head and stopped midstride. Korra’s mouth was gaping at the statement. “And if I choose not to believe the obvious lie?”

“It won’t matter. I won’t disagree with them.” Kuvira said apathetically. She tried to shrugs her shoulders but winced and clinched her jaw.

Lin cleared her throat, “Even if you do, every single person involved used excessive force. That is something I do not tolerate. Be a martyr all you want, Kid. No one is above the law.” The older woman pulled the door to the interrogation room open and stalked out into the hall, barking orders that were muffled once she shut the door again.

“Why would you protect them, Kuvira? Why would you subject yourself to this kind of torture?” Her expression was so earnest, the former Dictator couldn’t bring herself to meet it.

After what seemed like an extreme amount of time without anything being said, Korra sighed and decided to switch the topic. “Why have you refused any visitations?”

Silence again. Korra decided to pull out the big guns, “Su is worried about you. She said every single one of her requests was turned down.”

That got a reaction. Kuvira’s head raised and she locked eyes with the Avatar. Though her face remained expressionless, Korra could see a flicker of a scared child behind her fern green eyes. Surely, mentioning Su would start some sort of dialogue.

“Suyin believes I am where I deserve to be. I can hardly imagine she is satisfied with the outcome of my trial.” There was no bitterness in her words. Possibly a hint of sorrow and regret, but Korra could not detect any ill will towards the Metal Clan Matriarch. She frowned at Kuvira’s interpretation of her friend.

“Su is the one who pleaded with me to speak to you as soon as I could. It may have taken her a moment, but her and Bataar Jr. are the biggest champions of your rehabilitation.” Korra hadn’t expected shock. Perhaps rebuff of the thought, maybe even wariness, but not shock.

Kuvira’s eyes widened as much as they could at the sound of Bataar’s name. In truth, though she wouldn’t tell anyone, in her 2 years of imprisonment, he had been the only one she had managed to write. She loved him, and she always would, but their lives were on two separate paths. Truthfully, she didn’t know if Bataar loved her still or not. After what she did to him and his family, she wouldn’t blame him if he hated her for the rest of his life. On the off chance he didn’t, Kuvira needed him to know how sorry she was. She needed him to make the most of his life and leave her in his past. To convey all that in a letter had been possibly one of the hardest things she had ever done, but it was a debt to be owed.

Now, the Avatar was telling her Bataar was in favor of her rehabilitation. That he had pleaded with Korra to come to her sooner. She was unsure if this was truth or a clever ploy to get her to talk.

As if sensing her confusion, Korra continued, “They came with me, you know. Su and Battaar. They’re in Republic City. They were hopeful our meeting would go well, and you would consent to see them.”

For a split second, Korra was hopeful. She could see the wheels turning in Kuvira’s head. When the other woman let her head fall again, she sighed in disappointment.

“I’m afraid you’re all wasting your time, Avatar. You should go. Tell them to go home.”

Korra was about to protest when the door slammed open again. Lin stormed inside and began to unlock the platinum bonds that tied Kuvira to the table. Korra stood up, brow furrowed as sirens began to wail outside. Kuvira let out a wheezing groan as Lin pulled her up and slipped one of her arms over her shoulders.

“Lin?” Korra rounded the table, taking Kuvira’s other arm and doing the same.

“You’re dumber than I thought, Kid.” Lin was speaking to the semi-conscious woman between them, “This whole place is now under investigation. I’m taking you to a healer, but I swear if you try anything…” The threat was ever present whenever Lin spoke.

Kuvira simply laughed, until that laugh turned into a cough which produced a tinge of red on her lips. “What am I going to do, Chief? Kill myself before they have a chance to?” Before Korra or Lin could have her elaborate, Kuvira had slipped into unconsciousness.

Korra looked up at Lin, “What do we do, Chief?”

“We get her to a healer, and then I interrogate every single guard in this prison.”

Chapter Text

“2 years!” The high, yet smoothly flowing voice could be heard throughout the hallways of the hospital, “2 years and no one noticed!”

“Keep your voice down, would you?” A lower, much harsher tone replied, “You’re going to disturb patients, and they’re already sick.”

“How can you be so calm about this? It happened on your watch!”

There was no beat before a response. No quick remark to quiet the other, but a loud thump like metal on metal that reverberated down the walls. To anyone in the hallway, the action was enough to stop them in their tracks and question if an earthquake had just hit. Older sister glared at younger sister, jaw set in annoyance.

“I am well aware of what happened, Suyin. There is an ongoing investigation, and the perpetrators will be dealt with. In the meantime, why don’t you let me worry about my job and you can worry about...what is she to you anyways?”

Su looked at her sister scandalously. “Why would you even ask that?”

Lin crossed her arms and shrugged with a smirk on her face, “Well, you went from Adoptive Mother to Mentor to Mortal Enemy during the course of her life. What would you call it now?”

For a few minutes, there was nothing but silence. Su stared at her sister, blinking maybe once or twice as she contemplated her answer. If she were being honest, she wasn’t entirely sure what her relationship to the former Great Uniter was. She knew she still cared for the young woman. She still wished to help her, and she hated seeing her in such bad conditions. Whatever they were to each other now, Suyin knew they were no longer enemies.

After the silence had gone on for one minute longer than was comfortable, Lin sighed and opened her mouth to speak. She was cut off by a hoarse voice, almost too soft to hear.

“Jailer.” It was a simple word, and enough of a noise to make both women turn towards the bed where the injured prisoner was assumedly asleep. Kuvira’s eyes were still closed, her breathing still labored despite the Healer’s attempts to fix the broken ribs.

Suyin was next to the bed in seconds. She resisted the urge to reach out and take Kuvira’s hand, but she sat closely to the bed, brushing a strand of freshly washed hair from the woman’s face. It was not a harsh touch, but it wasn’t quite as warm as a Mother to a child might be. Su took in the healing bruises that covered the woman’s face down her neck and across her chest and shoulders.

“You’re awake. Good.” Lin stated matter-of-factly. She stood at the foot of the bed, arms crossed, “At least I don’t have to charge anyone with murder.”

“Lin!” Su barked at her sister, adding a glare for good measure.

The Chief merely shrugged, “What? It’s true, and it’s a damn miracle you’re alive, Kid. The last beating you took-- they could have killed you.”

Su was not blind to the way Kuvira shrinked away from the presence of both women. She turned her head from them both as her eyes slowly opened. Instead of meeting anybody’s eyes, she gazed emotionless at the pitcher of water and basin on the table beside her bed. This was certainly not the Kuvira she had known in Zaofou. She wasn’t even the same remorseful Kuvira from the trial 2 years ago. This...this was a shell, an utterly broken person the likes of which Su and Lin had never seen before.

“They should have killed me.” She sounded so steadfast and resolute. Su felt the tears burning as they threatened to fall. She couldn’t find the words to respond.

“I told you, Kid, be a martyr all you want, but it helps no one in this case. Those guards responsible for your injuries will be processed and punished according to the law.”

Kuvira turned her head to look at the Chief, her eyes void of any emotion, but jaw set in determination. “I am answering for everything I have done.”

The words, though spoken softly, rang loud in the hospital room. Suyin’s mouth hung open in shock. She recognized the words. They were the last thing she had said to Kuvira before the trial. The older woman hadn’t realized the impact they must have had on the former leader. Su looked back at Lin, once again at a loss as to how to respond.

Lin pinched the bridge of her nose. Dealing with the Avatar and her friends was bad enough. The level of immaturity that could arise on any given day could easily give her a migraine. This young woman, though, and her stubbornness had broken through migraine territory. “Look, Kid, that’s great, but I’ll tell you right now these guards are going to answer for everything they’ve done as well.”

“They only carried out a punishment fit for my crime, and I will testify I antagonized each instance. I hurt those guards worse than they could ever hurt me. I deserve this, and I know you both agree that I do. Trying to make me believe otherwise is far crueler than anything those guards could inflict.” She turned her head to face the pitcher and basin again, her face becoming expressionless once more. Lin motioned for Su to follow her outside the room so they could speak privately.

The hallway was mostly deserted. Lin had requisitioned nearly an entire wing of the hospital solely for a high profile patient. The fewer people who knew where Kuvira was, the better. Mako and Bolin were the only two she trusted to keep guard at the end of the hall, monitoring everyone coming and going. At least for the moment Suyin refused to leave Kuvira’s room.

Once they were outside, Lin folded her arms in tradition, and scowled. “If she says she instigated each beating, all I can do is fire a fourth of my prison staff for extended use of excessive force. They will lose their jobs, but won’t be brought up on charges.”

Su sighed and lifted a hand to her forehead. Shaking her head slightly as she closed her eyes, the younger Beifong could feel her resolve wavering. Like any mother, helpless to their child’s actions, she was beginning to crumble. The wall she had put in place so many years ago when Kuvira first left Zaofou had first been cracked when the young woman had easily and readily accepted responsibility of her actions. Another crack appeared the first time Kuvira declined visitation, a subsequent crack each time thereafter. Su’s eyes had been opened to her former protégés thinking when the Avatar had spoken with her shortly after Kuvira’s arrest. She had begun to realize the role she had played in the young woman’s abandonment issues, and it had left her heartbroken. The Metal Clan matriarch wanted nothing more than to mend their bond, but Kuvira didn’t make it easy.

“She used to do this when she was a child,” Su spoke suddenly, catching Lin off guard though she would never admit it. “The children at school would pick on her, sometimes by name calling, other times things could escalate physically. It didn’t matter, Kuvira would never fight back. It was as if she believed she deserved such treatment. At least until I showed her she didn’t. I built her up, but I never quite made her feel worthy, even of my love.”

Su’s voice cracked when she turned and looked at her adoptive daughter lying so fragile, so broken in her hospital bed. Her hand quickly brushed a few tears from her cheeks before she continued, “And what little resolve I fostered in her growing up, I managed to break down so quickly. It’s like looking at the scared, volatile, self-destructive child I found so long ago.”

“Hey,” Lin placed a hand gently on her sister’s shoulder, “This isn’t all on you. We can only affect someone’s life as much as they let us. At some point, Kuvira became an adult. She chose her own path, regardless of her influences. You can’t take all the blame, Su.”

Su nodded silently. She brushes away her tears and steels her resolve once again, “I want to take her back to Zaofou. It’s the only place I know she will be safe.”

“That’s out of the question, Su, and you know it.” Lin sighs. She is in a bind, she knows it. Soon, her prison will be severely understaffed, and a high profile prisoner like Kuvira will require heavy guard presence. If only to keep the public assured of their safety. Both Lin and her sister knew the young woman likely wasn’t a threat anymore. She wasn’t much of anything anymore, but public perception was a greater influence than common sense.

“We can’t send her back in there!” Su’s expression was exasperated as her brain frantically searched for a way to protect her former protege, “You heard her! She won’t fight back, and you can’t trust the guards!”

Lin was about to let out a growling response when an alarm rang out. Both women were pushed out of the way as Healer’s ran into the secured room. The door was left open, and Lin took a step forward to see what was happening. Her eyes were drawn instantly to the broken picture frame on the wall, then the pool of red staining the sheets near Kuvira’s arm.

The young earthbender was fighting for control of her uninjured arm as one of the Healer’s tried to pin her hand down to the mattress. Lin could have kicked herself for not double checking for even the smallest bit of metal inside.

“No!” Kuvira struggled as best she could in her weakened and injured state, “Let me finish it! Let this end!”

Lin’s eyes widened as realization of the situation sunk in. Instantly, she blocked the doorway and subsequently her sister from witnessing the scene. It wasn’t until this exact moment that she realized just how broken Kuvira was.

“Lin, move! Let me in!” Su kept trying to push past her, but Lin wouldn’t budge.

The older Beifong sister turned her head towards her sister, eyes heavy with sadness, “You may be right, Su.”

Su stopped struggling to move past and looked up at her sister in confusion. “Right about what?”

“Zaofou may be the only place Kuvira is safe. Including from herself.”

Chapter Text

Since the trial, sleep had become more and more elusive. Even when she managed a few hours, it was restless and fitful. Since her ill-conceived notion to end it all, the Healers had been sedating her in an effort to keep her calm. Medicated sleep had to be the worst. Images flooded in and out of her mind in a haze, and she couldn’t hold onto a tangible thought for longer than it took to blink her eyes. Kuvira’s sleep wasn’t just restless right now, it was downright haunting.

The few times she had managed to pull herself awake, she had bolted upright in bed. The room would be swimming, and she could not focus. A hand would always gently guide her back down to the mattress, brush her hair from her eyes, and lay a cool cloth on her head. Then, Kuvira would drift back into another restless sleep, where her dreams would take over.

Kuvira wasn’t sure how long she’d been walking, or how far for that matter. When her parents had tossed her out--which was a weekly occurrence-- they hadn’t returned. Normally, they would come back round fo her when the drink had worn off, or their tempers had calmed. It never took longer than a few days. This tie, after the normal few days passed, Kuvira began to notice the regular passersby were watching her closely. They took in her tattered, shoeless appearance, and lack of a decent bath. When a pair of pedestrians exchanged looks and whispers, Kuvira knew it was time to move on. She wouldn’t be put in the orphanage again. If her parents didn’t want her, then they didn’t need to be able to claim her at the overcrowded home for kids later. She could take care of herself, after all. She practically did that already.

So, before someone could grab her, Kuvira clutched the bag in her arms to her chest as if it were the most precious thing in the world, and she ran. She didn’t stop running until she was far outside the city. Instinct told Kuvira to follow the train tracks in an attempt for guidance to the next town.

Now, though, she had been walking for what she assumed was days. Her feet were bloody and blistered. The sun had burned her skin red, and her knees threatened to give out with each step. Kuvira knew she needed shelter. She needed rest, and food if she could scrounge it. Some sort of cover in case anyone came across her.

Soon, the tracks led to a small wooded area. Near the incline, leading towards the metal rails were a patch of bushes. Kuvira made her way over as quickly as she could. The cover wasn’t much and was too near the tracks for her liking, but there weren’t any other options. Kuvira fell to her knees, but before just passing out, she managed to erect a crude shelter with what little earthbending she knew. She set her pack gently inside before letting the darkness take hold of her.

“Madam Beifong, I must insist you return to the train. My men can handle this.” Kuvira could hear a deep voice calling from somewhere nearby. She was too exhausted to open her eyes or move her limbs, but her ears seemed to work perfectly. Her hands, buried half deep in the fresh mud-- it must have rained at some point-- she could sense people nearing her.

“Nonsense, Mao.” A softer, more melodic voice spoke, “I am more than capable of a simple investigation. I am the one who saw...whatever it was in the first place.”

Kuvira could sense them nearing closer and closer. She began to panic. Her heart started racing as she willed her body to move. The moment she felt a hand against her shoulder, Kuvira used what strength she had left and flipped onto her back. Her eyes were wide and feral, half her face and hair caked in mud. She startled the woman and her guard as she let out a yell. Kuvira scrambled as far back as she could, the skin of her arms and face being ripped open by the thorny bushes.

“Hey! Hey, it’s alright,” The woman held one hand up to signal her guard not to move. Then she turned back towards Kuvira and knelt in the mud, her hands up with palms facing the child. She offered the warmest smile Kuvira had ever seen directed at her.

“We aren’t going to hurt you. Are we, Mao?” The woman’s eyes never left Kuvira, but the girl gave a tentative glance up towards the guard in time to see him huff in response. He did take a step back so as not to scare the child.

Kuvira reached up with a muddy hand and pushed the stray hairs from in front of her eyes. Her hair was already wet and muddy, a little extra dirt wouldn’t hurt. When she did this, the woman’s smile grew and she rested her hands in her lap.

“Well now, we can certainly see that beautiful face. My name is Suyin, but you can call me Su. What can I call you?”

Kuvira chanced a look at the guard and then back at Su. She opened her mouth as if to respond but then stopped. If this woman was connected enough to have a private guard and train, then she would certainly know how to contact the authorities regarding an abandoned child. Kuvira simply shut her mouth and turned her head, choosing to stare at the crude earth shelter she had made for her bag.

Su frowned, but took a patient, deep breath. “Are you a Bender? I used to make little huts like that for my dolls when I was your age. See?” She raised her hand and an almost identical structure rose on Kuvira’s other side. The little girl gasped and Su smiled again.

Kuvira was not used to seeing bending so close and personal. Whenever she had done the slightest bit of bending, the act would earn her a beating from her father. Neither of her parents were fond of Benders, and having a daughter for one was even worse. Kuvira had learned to fear her power, not enjoy it. For that reason, when Su took one of her metal bracelets and began to mold the metal, the girl shrank back in fear.

Su immediately stopped, “Oh no, sweetheart! It’s okay! I’m not going to hurt you.” That’s when she heard a muffled cry, high pitched and raw. Su knew that sound. She had heard it twice before in her lifetime, and hearing it coming from the bushes where an abandoned child sat huddled and scared, terrified her. Su immediately reached for the bundle inside the structure. Kuvira lunged for the bundle but wasn’t fast enough.

“No! Don’t touch!”

Su cradled the bundle in her arms before pulling piece of cloth down. A piercing cry sounded through the air as the incredibly thin baby stretched her arms. “Captain! We need the Healer now!”

Kuvira mustered all her strength and got to her feet. She reached out for the infant but stumbled forward. She opened her mouth…


Even medicated sleep couldn’t keep long forgotten memories away. Kuvira found herself sitting upright in bed, one arm outstretched as she reaches for a phantom child who wasn’t there.

Chapter Text

Su felt her face pale as the healer continued her review of the previous night. The fitful sleeping, the fever, the name Kuvira kept muttering incoherently… everything kept adding to the older woman’s frustration. She sighed and lifted a hand to her forehead, closing her eyes for a moment.

“Su?” Lin inquired, turning her head to her younger sister. They were in the middle of petitioning the President for a transfer of prisoner when Korra had called from the hospital. This time, when the fever had woken Kuvira up, it had taken two guards to secure the confused and rambling woman. She had been fighting the sedatives more consistently, which only resulted in her body weakening at a surprisingly rapid rate.

“Do you know who this—Kevari person is, Su?”

There was a moment of silence while everyone awaited the Metal Clan Matriarch’s answer. When she opened her eyes, Su could easily pick up on the annoyance on Lin’s face, but that was old hat for her. Korra was concerned as usual, and the Healer seemed both tired and at a loss as to how to help her patient. Su let out a deep breath and stood up from her chair, clasping her her hands in front of her.

“Kuvira is remembering her past. At least the pieces she locked away as a child.” She turned her head to the window on Kuvira’s door and took in her former protege’s gaunt form. Every so often, Kuvira would twitch, or her lips would move slightly as she muttered something. After a moment, Su turned back to the group and steeled herself for their reactions.

“Kevari was Kuvira’s baby sister.”

Su stayed silent once again. She was gauging the reactions around the room. Besides her and Baatar, no one else knew of the infant’s existence. Junior and Huan had been too little to remember, and Kuvira had been too sick and frail to remember much of her ordeal. The couple had done what they thought was for the best back then. Why put the girl through further heartbreak?

“Wait, wait, wait,” Korra shook her head as if trying to make the pieces of information fit together inside, “You’re telling us that Kuvira does actually have family out there? She isn’t as completely alone as she thinks?”

“No.” Su spoke quickly, not wanting anymore confusion to spread, “I’m telling you that Kuvira had a sister who passed away shortly after we found them.”

The older woman sighed and sat back down in her chair, brushing some gray hair from her face. Her eyes looked tired as they stung from the threat of tears. The past few days had taken their toll, and her already remorseful heart couldn’t take much more breaking. She had hoped for reconciliation with her adopted daughter, but the realizations being made would only cement their current estrangement.

“When Baatar and I found Kuvira, she was half dead. I didn’t even realize there was a baby with her until she cried. They both burned with fever, and the Healer said they had Hong Shan Fever. There was nothing we could do for Kevari. We were told she’d be sent to the nuns in Gaoling who would provide hospice care.” Su felt like she was reliving the heart wrenching decision made nearly two decades ago. She hadn’t known either child all that long, but being a mother it was easy to feel the sorrow. Kevari was dying and they were helpless against it.

“So you gave her away to spirits know where!” Korea’s eyes were wide with shock. “You have no idea what could have happened to the baby!”

“Korra…” Lin looked at Avatar with stern eyes after glancing to her sister. It was obvious to the Chief of Police, her sister had made an extremely difficult decision.

“No, Lin!” Korra responded, her anger starting to seep through, “You can’t just decide who is and isn’t worthy of help!”

“You don’t know the full story, Kid, so cool it.” Lin told her pointedly. Korra was about to respond when another Healer ran into the room.

“She’s awake...t-there’s a problem. She’s requesting Ms. Beifong.”

The entire room turned to stare at Su. The woman got to her feet slowly, her eyes tired and pained as she crossed the room towards the Healers. She had kept this to herself for too long. It was time to speak to Kuvira—about everything.

Inside the hospital room, Kuvira laid in her bed, propped up on one elbow which her free arm was outstretched. Her hand was facing a nurse, palm up as she directed a metal needle next to the woman’s neck. The position, and the bending, were obviously taking their toll on her.

Su entered the room slowly. Her eyes widened in surprise as she looked between Kuvira and the nurse. She simply walked to the chair next to Kuvira’s bed and sat down gently, folding her hands in her lap. After a moment, she gestured to the nurse.

“Are you going to let her go, or do you plan on this being your last act?” While her hand gestures to the nurse, her head nodded at the blood soaked bandage around the prisoner’s wrist on the bed. Kuvira glanced down and released her hold on the needle. It fell to the ground with a soft clatter. The young woman ran off as fast as she could while the former General was preoccupied with her wound.

Su reached to the medical stand next to the bed and grabbed some gauze. When she reached down to Kuvira’s wrist, the younger woman flinched away instinctively. Their eyes met—fern green wide and wild with fear, pistachio green sad and concerned. Su held her gaze while reaching for her arm as tenderly as she could.

Kuvira held her breath, her muscles tensed as Su took hold of her arm. She was prepared to pull back at any moment as she eyed her former mentor’s movements. The younger woman was surprised at the firm yet gentle touch while her bandage was changed.

“I’ll call for the Healer to help stop the bleeding.”

“No.” Kuvira’s voice was still raw from disuse. She felt the weakness of her body, the various areas that either throbbed or stabbed at her nerves with pain. She must have been in worse condition than she originally thought before the Avatar’s visit. Kuvira pulled her arm from Su’s gentle hold and the woman did not attempt to stop her. She simply folded her hands back into her lap after removing the bloodied bandages from the bed.

“You always did hate Healers.” Su leaned back in her chair, the hint of a smile playing on her lips, “Always determined to show how strong you could be.”

Silence returned to the room. Kuvira turned her gaze back to the wall opposite Su, her eyes glazing over as she looked at nothing in particular. In truth, she didn’t know what to say to Suyin. She hadn’t seen the woman since her trial, and had refused all visitations. The last words she had actually heard the matriarch say to her was that she would answer for her actions. There had been no tenderness or mercy in those words or how they were said. Kuvira was acutely aware of how Suyin Beifong felt about her.

Su sighed again, “You know, it does no good to purposefully make yourself worse. You’re strong, Kuvira, but you are not as strong as you think.”

Kuvira winced and closed her eyes when Su spoke her name. After another moment of silence, her brain filtered her words for the best response. “I don’t think I’m strong. I’m not weak either. I simply survive,” She slowly turned her face back to Su, green eyes devoid of emotion, “And I don’t need to survive anymore.”

Something akin to anger flashed across Su’s face. To the trained eye, hurt and fear could also be seen. Like any mother about to scold a child, Su leaned forward and her eyes narrowed just slightly, “I have had enough of this self righteous pity. This is not the young woman I raised.”

Whatever response Su was hoping for, laughter was not even in the realm of possibilities. Kuvira swept the hair from her face with her uninjured arm and stared at the older woman in disbelief. “But you didn’t raise me, Su. You trained me. You molded me into what you wanted in a metal bender. You were not my mother, and I was never your daughter.”

The words hurt more than any slap in the face ever could. Kuvira said them with such conviction, Su knew she must have felt them to be true for a very long time. What hurt worse was the fact that on some level, Su knew Kuvira was right. At what moment in their past had she stopped looking at Kuvira as more of a protege and less of a child in need of a family? Pinpointing an exact moment that she had failed in mothering the young woman was irrelevant. There were too many moments to choose from.

“I have made many mistakes when it has come to my children,” Su began softly, “And I am fully aware that my own ambitions blinded me to not just their needs, but yours as well. I do hope you can believe me when I say it was never my intention to leave you out of the fold. When we found you...Kuvira, we only wanted to provide you a home, a family.”

“But I had a family, didn’t I?” Kuvira cut in. She was only half asking. Her dreams had become more and more vivid as she remembered her painful and cruel childhood before meeting the Beifong family. She could recall her father’s fists reigning down for even the slightest infraction, or her mother’s hateful words if Kuvira stepped out of place even an inch. These people were not her family. She could never really consider them such. No, the person who was in the forethought of her mind was the only innocent person in her narrative. An innocent infant Kuvira had thought a hallucination brought on by illness. What made it worse was Su and Baatar seemed content to let her believe this lie, rather than tell her the truth.

The Great Uniter looked back at Su, and this time it was the older woman refusing to meet her gaze. This simple action gave Kuvira her answer. Kevari hadn’t been a dream or a hallucination. Kevari had been real, and she had been kept from her. All at once, Kuvira felt as if she had a passion again. She had a purpose. Somewhere, out in the Earth Kingdom, her sister was waiting for her. Surely, she could persevere for her, right?

Su, however, fully understood that the next few moments were not going to go well for anyone currently in the room. She could see the hopeful expression on Kuvira’s face. The renewal of her will to live reflected in her eyes as memories of a sister she hardly knew flooded her mind. Kuvira didn’t remember the full story, however, and Su was more than certain the truth would destroy her yet again. She couldn’t keep reality from the young woman, however. After all these years, she deserved to know how Kevari’s story had ended.

“Kuvira,” Her voice trembled slightly as she caught the other’s attention in a serious note, “There are some things I must tell you. Things you may have been too young or too sick to recall about your sister, but I need you to stay calm. If you can stay calm, I will tell you everything I know.”

Kuvira peered at the older woman, taking in her words and tone. It was unlike Su to lie to her. Even at their worst, the pair had always managed to be truthful towards each other. Deception was only a way to prolong their goals in the past, and Kuvira couldn’t see any advantage Su had in lying to her now. So, if not somewhat begrudgingly, Kuvira nodded in compliance.

“Then I’ll start at the beginning, when we found you all those years ago.”

“I’m not going to hurt her, sweetheart,” Su reassured the little girl desperately reaching for the infant in her arms, “I want to help you. Both of you.”

The skepticism on such a young child’s face was hard to ignore. Su could see by the way she recoiled on the balls of her feet, crouching low as if a feral animal, the girl was ready to fight by any means necessary. Just before she lunged with a growl on her lips, Mao caught the child by the waist and lifted her from the ground.

“Easy there, little one.” The guard was attempting to suppress a laugh on his lips. “You wouldn’t get far doing that.”

Kuvira was too tired to fight, but her eyes never left the infant in Su’s arms. The woman offered a reassuring smile before turning back to the train car’s door. Mao followed, Kuvira still in his arms.

Inside the train car, Baatar rose quickly from his position on a plush couch, a swaddled infant in his arms. There was a small form curled up under a thick blanket that rose and fell with steady breathing. Next to the couch was a playpen with another sleeping form, smaller than the first.

“I really wish you wouldn’t just jump off the train, Dear.” Baatar’s relieved expression gave way to the concern he had been feeling. When he realized what his wife was holding, his eyes went wide.

“This train needs to start moving now.” Su spoke clear and with an air of authority. Then, she turned to a second guard near the door to the connecting train car, “Shin, please let Kanan know we will be needing his assistance in the sleeper car.”

Su walked into the opposite compartment and set to work filling a basin with water while holding the infant securely in one arm. Mao entered behind her and gently sat her down on one of the big beds. When Su sat down next to her, she began stripping the in fant down to her diaper, observing the red rash traveling up her body, and the extreme temperature of her skin. Mao brought the basin to the bed and set it between Kuvira and Su. The child watched curiously as this woman manuevered her sister over the basin.

“Stop!” Kuvira’s arms stretched over the water basin, blocking the baby’s descent into the water. Her fearful eyes looked up at Su. She suddenly wondered what she had gotten herself into, and mentally chastised herself for following a stranger.

“It’s okay, honey,” Su couldn’t help but smile at the protectiveness the little girl was displaying, “The water will help reduce the fever.”

Kuvira took in her words and silence fell between them again. With her eyes never leaving Su’s face, she slowly drew her dirt covered arms back. The older woman took this as approval and gently set the baby in the water . She supported the infant with one arm, while her free hand scooped water onto her burning body.

The train car slid open again, making Kuvira jump back further onto the bed. Her overly jumpy nature didn’t go unnoticed by Su or the Healer who had just walked in. He was a middle aged man with round glasses. His hair was dark and pulled back into a braid that fell nearly to his waist. His robes were the same color green as Su’s, and he wore a metal collar around his neck that seemed to sit perfectly still as he walked towards the bed. Despite the distinct smell of sterile cleanliness, his eyes were remarkably kind as he kneeled in front of the bed to be eye level with the children.

“Well hello there, little one,” Even his smile was warm--something Kuvira was not accustomed to, “My name is Kanan. What is it I can call you?”

    Despite his gentleness, Kuvira still curled herself as small as she could go while still being within close proximity to her sister. Her refusal to answer didn’t seem to upset this new adult, and his response of a small chuckle was not a reaction she was used to receiving. He opened the bag he brought with him and pulled out several instruments.

    Without even having to look at her, Kanan explained, “These tools won’t hurt you at all, okay? They’re going to help me figure out how healthy you and your sister are, and if you need anything to help you feel better. Is that alright?”

    Slowly, Kuvira nodded. She was analyzing every movement and studying each adult’s reactions. Su found herself impressed by the focus of such a young, traumatized child. She offered the girl a smile and a nod as Kanan began his examination. He was gentle, and moved slowly so as not to startle either child. Twenty minutes later, his cursory examination was completed and his furrowed brow gave away the somber thoughts running through his mind. His eyes met Su’s with bleakness.

    “It looks to be Hong Shan Fever.” Before he could continue, Su held up her hand. She turned slightly towards Kuvira and smiled while swaddling the infant in her arms.

    “I’m going to talk to Kanan, okay? Will you hold your sister for a moment?” Kuvira immediately held her arms out, ready to take the baby back from these strangers. Su placed the baby gently in the child’s arms and made sure they were both secure before getting up. She guided Kanan towards the door where they continued to speak in hushed tones. Every so often, Kuvira would pick up bits and pieces if she listened intently enough.

    “It’s too late for the little one,” Kanan said gravely, “Her breathing is already affected, and her pulse is weak. Her heart just isn’t strong enough to survive.”

    Kuvira saw Su brush something from her cheek as she glanced back at the children, “And the older girl?”

    “She shows early symptoms of the fever. She’s good at hiding it, but her joints are hurting her, and her glands feel a little swollen. With proper rest and medication, I think she will make a full recovery. You must make up your mind soon, Ms. Beifong. She will develop the fever soon, and if it progresses too far, she will be beyond our help.”

    Su sighed and nodded. Hong Shan was highly contagious once the fever started. If left unmedicated, the illness would only spread. “Do what you need to, Kanan.”

    The Healer nodded and moved back to the children. Su watched from the door as he spoke calmly to Kuvira. Eventually, the child handed the baby to him and he proceeded to lay her on the bed, moving some pillows to either side so she couldn’t fall from the bed. Su watched intently as there was a small exchange between the two. Kuvira seemed very adultlike as she listened intently to what Kanan was explaining. She bore a brave, stiff upper lip when Su heard Kanan explain how sick the baby was. He didn’t go into too much detail, but he must have made his point because Kuvira fearlessly held out her arm when he took a syringe out. She didn’t budge an inch when he gave her an injection and then helped her lay back on the bed. When the little girl’s eyes closed, Kanan picked up the infant and turned to Su.

    “I gave her something to help her rest. She doesn’t need to be awake right now.” He looked sadly at the infant sleeping restlessly in his arms.

    “What do we do now?” Su feared the answer she might be given, but readied herself for the words anyways.

    “I know of a place in Gaoling where nuns tend to the sick. They will provide her with a safe and caring home until the fever has run its course.” Kanan had delivered many to the temple over the years.

    “Do we have to separate them? They’re all each other has in this world. It seems cruel.” Su ran her finger down the baby’s chubby cheek gently.

    “Ms. Beifong, you have three other children on this train, and one who is already in the beginning stages of Hong Shan. I realize how awful it seems, but there is nothing else we can do for this child. There are four others we can save. Reality, as harsh as it sounds, would seem to make the most favorable decision to protect four rather than risk losing them all.”

    Su knew he was right. She had three children, plus the baby’s sister to consider. If Kanan was right--he usually was-- and this child was too far gone, then she would have to make the difficult decision she now found herself presented with. That is what being a matriarch is all about, after all. Su nodded and wiped another tear from her cheek.

    “I’ll send money with you. A donation to the temple’s efforts, and enough for them to take care of her properly until…” Her voice cracked at the last part, and she found herself unable to say the words. Instead, Su shook her head and cleared her throat, “We don’t even know her name.”

    “She said the baby is called Kevari,” Kanan looked from the infant in his arms to Su, before nodding back towards the sleeping child in the bed, “And her name is Kuvira.”

    Su took a shaky breath as she remembered the heart wrenching memory from her past. She often wondered if she had made the right decision in sending Kevari away, but then she looked at her three eldest children all grown and healthy. Had they kept the sick baby, there’s no telling who else would have succumbed to Hong Shan Fever.

    “W-Why didn’t I remember her until now?” Kuvira’s bottom lip trembled, but she refused to break.

    “You had the fever for nearly three weeks,” Su told her, “There was a point that Kanan thought you may not survive either. By the fourth week, you were on the mend. When you finally woke up we were dealing with the trauma of the never brought her up. There was so much healing you needed to get through, I thought it best if you focused on yourself. Kanan said it was very possible you believed her to be a dream. We just never corrected you.”

    Kuvira’s fists balled up tightly until her knuckles turned white. She shut her eyes firmly until she saw spots against the darkness. After a few deep breaths, her hands released and her features softened. “Whatever you’ve done to me, misguided or not, I’ve returned tenfold with provocation.”

    Su was caught off guard by the rational response. It had been apparent several days ago, but this woman in front of her was definitely not the same Kuvira from two years ago. Su had expected anger, sadness, some sort of volatile display in response to the memory of her sister that had been kept from her. Instead, what Su found herself facing was the placid, passive adult version of the little girl she had found all those years ago.

    “Thank you,” Kuvira said suddenly, pulling Su from her thoughts. She raised an eyebrow inquisitively at the randomly placed gratitude. “For telling me the truth.”

    ‘For affirming I truly have nothing left in this world.’ Though Kuvira knew better than to speak the last part out loud. She knew the Beifong’s request for transfer was a futile effort, and she would not go back to being an animal in a cage. At some point, before the police could move her back to confinement, Kuvira would finish what she set out to do with the nail from the wall. Then the world would be rid of her. The Metal Clan would be rid of her. Su and her family would be rid of her, and life could go on.

Chapter Text

The young Captain heard the footsteps clapping against the boat deck long before the young sailor appeared. She could easily scold the young man for his needless and reckless approach. He seemed rather clumsy for a sailor, and she could only hope his job aboard the vessel didn’t prove to be a vital task. It would be a shame for her to have come all the way to Republic City only to be blown up or drowned by an incompetent child in uniform.

The young man stopped a good several paces away from the Captain, and shifted back and forth on his feet. He was anxious, and for good reason. Since the end of the 100 Years War, the nations’ militaries hadn’t necessarily left their native soils. Now, here on a United Republic vessel was a Fire Nation Captain in full garb.

“Can I help you, sailor?” She glanced back at him, squaring her shoulders in the red and black double breasted jacket with gold piping.

“Uh, right, Captain Kyo, Commander Botin asked me to let you know we should be docking just before sunset.” He was suddenly standing at attention as he relayed his message.

Kyo turned, glancing at the young man for a moment. The corners of her mouth turned upwards slightly. She knew she was intimidating, and she took great pride in this fact. She reached down and picked up her red and black helmet. When she stood up, helmet under her arm, she straightened her uniform and brushed her lengthy single, black braid from her shoulder.

“I suppose General Iroh will want to meet in the morning. No doubt he has some sort of evening plans to attend?”

“Yes, Captain. The General has sent word for you to go to the Regency. He has booked you a room.”

Kyo waved off the comment as she began to walk towards the cabins on the ship, “There is no need for a hotel. I can stay at the barracks like everyone else. I did not come all this way to stay in a fancy hotel while I wait.”

Kyo knew exactly how the Crown Prince operated when not on active command. When on leave from the military, General Iroh enjoyed a more political role. He was always making powerful connections with world leaders and other people of high influence. Kyo couldn’t blame him. Iroh would be Fire Lord one day, and connections made today would serve him well in the future. His actions did not show a spoiled Prince’s dealings, but a smooth political strategy he had no doubt picked up from his mother. Kyo simply had no tolerance for such misleading antics. She found social functions, especially those filled with politicians and dignitaries, awkward and annoying. There were far better undertakings she could be involved in anyways.

“I’m afraid the General insists, Ma’am.” The young man was visibly shifting on the balls of his feet now. He found himself suddenly in a very uncomfortable position with a Fire Nation Captain. He was also beginning to suspect that Captain Kyo and General Iroh had some sort of relationship prior to this upcoming meeting.

“His direct message to Commander Botin was to make sure you get to the hotel so you can, er, relax and, on loosening the bamboo shoved up your...well, you get it, right?”

Kyo could feel her cheeks flush and her heart hammered angrily in her chest. She kept her outward expression emotionless for the most part, “And can I assume General Iroh will be staying at this hotel as well?”

“Y-yes, Ma’am. The sailor nodded, “He always stays in the penthouse suite when not on duty.”

“Thank you.” Kyo simply gave him a nod as as she headed below deck to her cabin as swiftly as possible. She had some words she needed to piece together before she would kick down Iroh’s hotel room door.

Docking was a relatively uneventful affair. Kyo had decided to change into civilian clothes rather than draw attention to herself by parading through Republic City’s streets with a Fire Nation military uniform. Instead, she opted for a sleeveless green tunic with a pair of black slacks and knee-high black boots. She wore a crimson moto jacket that she had buttoned all the way up under her chin. Kyo had pinned her long braid in a bun on the back of her head to avoid getting it caught in the duffle she had hoisted onto one shoulder.

When the ramp had been lowered, Kyo swiftly made her way down and through the small crowd that had gathered at the docks. It was easy to blend in. She kept her distance and her head down so as to avoid eye contact with. Kyo didn’t want attention. She had been tasked with a job, and she meant to see it through. Though, coming to Republic City did have its upsides. Reuniting with old friends was only one of them, but old friends would have to wait. She had a duty to the Fire Lord, and she would complete the task at hand.

This would be her last mission for the Fire Nation’s Military. It was true, she owed the nation plenty. A navy vessel had taken her aboard as a refugee when she was six. She had been adopted into what one would consider a loving family, given a proper upbringing and education. Despite the only clue to her origin being her green eyes, they had loved her as their own, and were thrilled when she turned out to be not only an Earthbender, but a Lavabender as well. There was little between her and her Fire Nation companions now. The nation had proved to be generous and full of opportunities. More opportunities than Kyo knew kids like her ever received.

This nation was not her home, though. No matter how hard she tried, Kyo would never truly be one of them, and that would always be apparent. Never more so than in the military. However, from the day she came to the Capital Island, Kyo had never planned on staying forever. Yes, the opportunities she was presented with taught her well, but they were just a means to an end. Despite the duty she had to the Fire Lord, she had sworn an oath long before her feet touched the shores of the Fire Nation. She was older now, stronger even, and she could fulfill that oath given her training.

Lost in her thoughts as she walked down the dark streets, lit only by the dim lamps, Kyo did not pick up on the pair of boots following her. Rookie mistake, and one that could cost a life. She had been too busy reminiscing her plans to notice the boots had picked up their pace, nor did she clock the hand reaching for her elbow. The moment she felt fingers beginning to grip her, however, she reacted with brutal force. Kyo dropped her duffle and pivoted on one foot, breaking from the meager hold. She forced her forearm up under her assailant’s throat as he other hand pushed him into the side of a stone building. Her foot shifted on the ground, and the wall began to tremble as the figure sunk partially into the stone.

“You have exactly three seconds to explain why I shouldn’t leave you encased in this wall, so I’d start talking!”

There was laughter coming from the hooded man as he put his hands up in surrender. Kyo had to peer in the dim light to even catch a glimmer of recognition. She released her hold and allowed the man to fall forward, free from the stone wall. He set to work brushing the concrete dust from his blue slacks and the matching sleeveless hooded vest before lifted his still hooded head.

Kyo reached up and yanked the hood down. She let out an equally annoyed and relieved sigh when she saw the brown dreads and shaggy goatee. “Haruk! Damn it, I could have killed you!”

The tribesman let out a laugh, his blue eyes squinting as his cheeks rose high with his smile, “But you didn’t! You are getting slow, Kyo. I’ve been following you for nearly four blocks! Very sloppy.”

Kyo rolled her eyes and gave him a light punch in the arm. “I was busy. Which is more than I can say for you. I haven’t seen an updated list of recruits in almost a month. Tell me, have we dried up our options here, or do you just enjoy spending time with my hawk?”

Her tone had a way of keeping the lightheartedness of a joke, but with an underlying layer of venom. To those who wisely picked up on the subtle tone, they knew to be worried. Kyo was a master at deception, it was how she had survived for six years alone before being rescued by the Fire Nation. However, there were hidden depths even her adoptive parents and siblings couldn’t fathom. She had never spoken about her life prior to her rescue, and she had always made it quite clear she never would. Sometimes, though, they could see the damage done through the ruthlessness of her training, or the dark, distant look in her eyes when something suddenly snapped her back into the past. Kyo was dangerous during those moments. Haruk was competent in calming her sometimes when she got that way, but there was really only one person who could snap her back to reality.

“Hey, it wasn’t my idea.” Again, his hands were up in surrender. Haruk was trustworthy enough, and lying never suited him. Kyo really had no reason to doubt him, but his carefree approach to most everything in life irritated her more than usual today. Perhaps it was because she had just spent two days sailing on a United Forces naval ship with sailors she deemed undisciplined and timid.

“Oh no?” Kyo was simply taunting him now, “Then whose was it, because I remember telling Zen to fly to you and you alone. He isn’t very...trusting with other people.”

“Unless he knows them.” The voice was soft and almost sang the words with a simple melody. Kyo’s eyes widened as she leaned her head to the side slightly in order to look over Haruk’s shoulder. This was not a face she had expected to see. At least not in Republic City.

Kyo quickly sidestepped Haruk, “Reiza?” She blinked several times to make sure she wasn’t hallucinating from lack of sleep while sailing. She was surprised, albeit pleasantly, when the girl squealed in delight and ran to her, throwing her arms around her. When she didn’t feel any reciprocation, Reiza stepped back and looked up at green eyes in puzzlement.

“Well, I had expected you to be shocked, but not this much.” She frowned, her eyes lowering a little.

“I...Why are you…?” Kyo took a deep breath and forced herself into the present moment, “Reiza, why are you here? You’re supposed to be on expedition with your class to the Sun Warriors ancient city.”

Reiza shrugged, taking one of her two black braids in hand and twirling it. A sign she had done something mischievous that would surely get her into trouble, “I kinda jumped ship when we reached Ember Island and crossed straight over to Republic City. It was actually really easy.” The last part was more to herself than anyone else. When she looked up, Kyo had a hand to her face and was shaking her head.

“Mom is going to kill me.” She took a breath and let it out, “You’re going back on the first boat tomorrow. It’s too dangerous here, and your teachers are probably worried sick!”

Reiza scoffed, “Are you kidding me? You need my help, you told me before you left on your assignment! Besides, you can’t make me go back!”

Kyo opened her mouth to respond, but shut it again quickly, “Unbelievable. Just...Oh just wait until Dad finds out! Mom may kill me, but Dad’s definitely going to teach you a lesson about running off!”

Haruk cleared his throat, one hand on top of his head as both girls turned to look at him, “Hey, not that I really want to get in the middle of...whatever this is, but two things real quick. One, we should get off the streets, and B, you should listen to the kid. She’s young, but she has some strategies on how to bring members together. All I’m saying is hear her out.” He took out a lily weed joint and lit it without any regard for the fact they are in public in a city with one of the most notorious police forces in the world.

Kyo looked back at the hopeful face Reiza now wore, and she sighed in defeat. Reiza always seemed to get her way. She was the only one Kyo would bend for. The younger girl knew exactly what that sigh meant and she squealed while hopping in place.

“You won’t regret this, Kyo! I swear! I told you I’d be useful to your group one day!”

Kyo held up a hand, her face deadly serious. Reiza froze. “Let’s get this straight right now. I will finish my mission for Fire Lord Izumi. I will hear you out about your ideas. Then, I will put you aboard a boat headed for Capital Island. Whether you’re in chains or not is up to you. Now, let me make this part perfectly clear, Reiza. You are not--you cannot be a part of this. It isn’t safe, and my soul would be torn to pieces if anything happened to you. Understand?”

There was silence for a moment as both women took in the words. Kyo knew the younger would understand. Maybe not tonight or tomorrow, but someday she would know why she was kept at arm’s length. Kyo’s plans and this group--they outdated Reiza, but somehow she had caught wind and began idolizing the objective over the years. Kyo had done her best to keep her as far from it as possible, but it had not worked. The more she pushed her back, the harder Reiza returned. She supposed that was what little sisters were like, though.

The silent look of understanding between two sisters was cut short as Haruk exhaled a cloud of white smoke, coughing slightly. He placed the joint between his lips again and inhaled only a little. Holding his breath he looked between the two women. “What?”

Kyo rolled her eyes and slipped an arm around Reiza’s shoulders. They began down the street, opposite from the Regency Hotel and towards the outer sections of the city. Haruk shrugged again, dipping down to pick up the forgotten duffle and followed the two at a decent distance while smoking his joint.

“Must have been something I said.”

Chapter Text

Kuvira didn’t look up when the door to her room opened. She had been staring out of the wooden barred window for most of the morning. It amused her slightly how they felt the need to at least feign captivity. Wooden bars were unmovable to her, but the concrete walls were not so lucky. Not that she had the strength or desire to attempt a breakout. She was tired of the world, and she was tired of unexpected visitors.

The Avatar had already attempted to speak with her twice. Su had practically set up a vigil either at her bedside or in the hallway by the door. In the days since her recent familial discovery, between the healing sessions and the nightmarish memories, Kuvira had refused to speak to anyone. She merely stared silently, or pretended to sleep unless the pain took over completely.

So, when her door opened for the fiftieth time today, she hardly took notice. She didn’t even jump when the sound of a chair being dragged to her bedside echoed from across the room. There were no more surprises to bring forth, and there were no more words to say. She had nothing left.

“They had told me you’ve grown despondent.”

Perhaps...just maybe there was one thing--one person who could still surprise her.

Kuvira felt a cold chill run up her spine, causing her to visibly shiver in response to the smooth, even voice that still rang in her ears. She continued staring out the window only because she was afraid to look at the person sitting next to her bed. She had not faced him in the two years since her sentencing. How could she? There was no amount of apologies to be given, or pardons to be begged that could ever heal what she had done to him.

“We both know you aren’t despondent. That’s your thinking face.” Baatar Jr. seemed completely relaxed. There was no hate or venom in his voice, and he carried on as if talking to an old friend.

After a few moments of silence passed between them, Junior shifted in his chair, resting his elbows on his knees. He leaned forward, trying to get a better look at her. Kuvira kept her head turned towards the window, but her eyes were now closed. Tears had begun to sting and threatened to fall if she didn’t close them.

“Talk to me, Kuvira.” His request was earnest. He had taken in her still bruised and broken appearance, her bandaged wrists, and bruised face. This was not the woman he remembered.

“Please,” His voice was almost at a pleading whisper, “Tell me what you’re thinking.”

This request struck a chord with Kuvira. Instantly, she knew his goal was a fact finding mission. He was there as a pawn, to use his connection to get her to open up. Were they afraid she was plotting escape? Perhaps another uprising? Her surrender had ensured the Great Uniter had no more followers. What could they possibly hope to learn from her now?

“I’m thinking how surprised I am Suyin allowed you to come here.” Once again,  her voice was raspy from little use. She had no edge, no energy behind her words. She simply stated facts.

“Mother doesn’t know I’m here. Korra asked me to come. She’s concerned for you, and I can see why.”

She couldn’t read him. Was he here out of spite? Was it love? No. There couldn’t be feelings of love any longer. She had sacrificed him. She had nearly killed him. He had to hate her, right?

“The Avatar should forget a lost cause.” Kuvira finally responded, her head lowering and eyes still closed, “All of you should.”

“So,” The tone that came was stiffer, perhaps harsher than he had intended, “You’ve been sitting in your own self pity the past few years, then?”

Kuvira’s head rose, and eyes opened, but she still did not look at him. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I don’t pity myself,” She said slowly, calculating her words, “I am simply accomplishing what the world leaders have failed to achieve; The punishment the people demand. The punishment I deserve.”

Again, silence. While Kuvira marinated over the words she had just spoken, she hazard a sideways glance at Junior. His face was a mix of emotions. He was processing not only her words, but his own emotions towards her and the situation. His next actions took her by surprise. Junior reached out and grabbed her hand, pulling up the sleeve of her hospital gown to expose her bandaged wrist. Kuvira tried to pull away, but his grip was firm, almost crushing her fingers.

“So you do plan on killing yourself!” Was he...angry? She had not expected this reaction. His voice was raised, and the tone caused Kuvira to visibly flinch away from him.

At her response, Junior softened and his grip eased on her hand, but still held firm. “Why?” It was a word that sounded strained coming out, and a question she wasn’t prepared for. Kuvira’s arm hung limp even in his grasp. She made no attempt to pull away.

“Because it is right.” Her voice was small, but firm. In her mind, this was what needed to be done. This was how she would rectify her wrongdoings. She would no longer be a burden nor would she be a concern. She would simply be removed from the world, and the world could keep moving forward.

“How is your death right? How would that ever be right? The world leaders would not have given you a chance for redemption if they thought you were beyond it!” Junior’s words were desperate, and for a moment Kuvira let herself believe that his affection was true. Then, reality set back in.

“You will never have the burden of understanding the true nature of people. You were raised in a loving family. Close, connected, cared for. Let me tell you something I learned very, very young. People do not change. No matter what they say, no matter what they do—People. Do. Not. Change. Not at their core. Good or bad. You and your family will be better off when I am gone. Things will be like they should have been before Su found me.” This time she did pull her arm from Junior’s hold and she turned back to the window. Perhaps this would be her last sunset, given any future opportunity, and if it was she intended on enjoying its beauty.

The sound of Junior’s chair on the floor as he got up did not surprise her, but the ache in her chest did. Some small, hidden part of her had silently held out hope he would stay, perhaps try to convince her otherwise. However, he seemed to have heard her thoroughly.

The gentle touch of fingers through her hair surprised Kuvira, and she instinctively turned towards him. It was a muscle memory to meet his touch. His small, sharp intake of breath at the extent of her injuries did not go unnoticed. Junior lowered his hand, running the outside of his fingers against her cheek as lightly as he could while holding her gaze. He couldn’t read her, but her eyes had lost their normal light. They seemed hollow, void of...anything, really.

“I suppose if that’s true, then one should be absolutely sure of who they are at their core so they can figure out if they have lost their way, or have found their way back home.”

Kuvira could no longer hold in her emotions. His eyes, his voice, his touch was too familiar and too gentle. She closed her eyes and leaned into his hand as a sob escaped her. Another and another followed until the young woman attempted to stifle herself by covering her face with her hands. With just a few short moments, Baatar was able to break her where others could not.

Junior moved to sit on the edge of the bed, and pulled Kuvira towards him by her shoulders. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her firmly yet gently, one hand on the back of her head, stroking her hair soothingly. At the beginning of their encounter, Junior hadn’t been certain he would be able to get through to her. Kuvira didn’t show her weaknesses to just anybody, and she always kept her emotions close. When he first entered her hospital room, he hadn’t been sure she had any feelings left. He was glad he was wrong.

Junior was actually happy the Avatar had asked for his help. After the battle, not only his Aunt and Mother, but Avatar Korra had fought for him with the courts. They had managed to get a sentence of probation with the condition he help Future Industries rebuild the city’s infrastructure. Junior had been more than happy to help. For the past two years, he had worked tirelessly to fix the damage he had helped cause. He had three more years left on his sentence, but even after he was committed to helping the city.

In the beginning, Junior had been so angry with his ex-fiancé. He was hurt and felt betrayed. He refused to understand why anyone would help Kuvira. To be truthful, he thought of her probably what she currently thought of herself. When Korra had come to his mother looking for help in reaching Kuvira, he was astounded by the matriarch’s openness to the situation. He was even more surprised when Korra had achieved in helping Suyin understand Kuvira’s way of thinking during those dark times. It was quite the feat for the young Avatar. Beifong’s weren’t so easily swayed once their minds were made up.

Junior was pulled from his thoughts when he felt a pair of hands on his chest, pushing him away. He pulled back and looked down at Kuvira as she began to push him away. When he refused to budge, only tightening his hold, she began struggling against him. Kuvira managed to push away, breaking free of his arms and scurrying to the edge of the bed, effectively tumbling off the side to the floor. Baatar was on his feet in an instant.

“Kuvira!” His voice was laced with concern, causing the young woman to clap her hands over her ears.

“Stop! Just stop !” Kuvira backed herself against the far wall, knees pulled up to her chest. She was shaking, and her heart felt as though it may burst from her chest. Why were they doing this to her? Why were the people she had wanted the most from as a child finally paying her the attention she craved so desperately? When everyone else in the world had written her off, they were here. She didn’t deserve their caring. Her sins spoke clearly, but they kept pressing.

“Kuvira, please…” Baatar crouched down in front of her. His hands slowly reached out, but Kuvira pushed him away.

“Leave me alone! Why can’t any of you just leave me alone?” Her head fell forward, resting against her knees as fresh tears fell. She was at the point of no return now. No matter how hard she tried to cap the bottle, she could not. “Why don’t you hate me?!”

Kuvira tensed again when she felt arms around her one more. She attempted to push him away again, but was losing the will to do so. After a few weak blows to his chest with closed fists, Kuvira simply slumped forward against him. Her hands grasped at his tunic, and she buried her face in the fabric.

“We’ve all made mistakes, ‘Vira,” Baatar spoke softly, nearly a whisper as he held her. His cheek rested against the top of her head, “And we’re all trying to make amends, but you have to try . Please, ‘Vira. Please, try.”

The pleading in his voice made her stiffen. She couldn’t understand why he cared or why he was being so gentle. Hadn’t she hurt him? Hadn’t she broken his heart? None of it made sense to her. Kuvira released his shirt from her hold and started pushing him away again. When Baatar refused to weaken his grip on her, Kuvira began to struggle. Frantically, she started pounding against his chest again, pushing herself backwards until she broke free from his arms.

“‘Vira!” Baatar cried as he was knocked backwards, landing on his bottom, “Calm down…”

Kuvira had backed herself into a corner of the room, knelt down and hands on her head. She was trying to keep her tears from falling, and in the process she had begun to hyperventilate. Baatar stayed where he was, too shocked to move. He didn’t notice the door open, nor the footsteps rushing forward. His eyes were set on Kuvira that he didn’t comprehend the two healers attempting to hold her down.

“No! Get off!” Kuvira was struggling against both men with what little strength she had left. One had gripped her under the arms, lifting her to her feet while the other attempted to subdue her. Kuvira butted her head backwards, slamming into one’s nose. The man groaned, but his hold on her immediately release, and both toppled to the floor.

“What on earth!” The voice was unmistakable, and followed by quick footsteps. “Both of you, go! Now!”

“Ma’am, we can’t--” One of the men was cut off quickly by the increasingly stern voice.

“You can and you will leave. Now!”

Kuvira stayed crouched on the floor, her fists resting on either side of her head. Between recurring sedation and the vivid resurfacing memories, reality seemed to be a hard concept to grasp. She couldn’t understand why no one was listening to her. Why were the Beifong’s constantly at her bedside? Why didn’t they hate her?

Suyin slowly knelt onto the floor just off to Kuvira’s side. She was about to reach out and place her hand on the young woman’s shoulder, but thought better of the action. Apparently touching was a trigger for her at the moment, and Su needed her to calm down. Instead, the Matriarch was silent for a moment, her eyes darting towards Baatar where he continued to sit on the floor. With a knowing smile, she begins to hum softly.

The gentle melody pierced through the crowding thoughts in Kuvira’s head. Her breathing began to slow as she focused on the tune. It was familiar and it was comforting, like a good friend returning after a very long journey. Her mind began to relax as Kuvira began to rock gently back and forth to the song, allowing another flash of a forgotten past to enter her head.

There was something soft beneath her body, and cozy around her. There was an earthy smell permeating the air, There is a strange noise coming from somewhere, but Kuvira is too warm and comfortable to try and figure out where. She knows she can’t fake sleep forever, especially when she can practically feel a pair of eyes watching her. Then, there is movement. Fingertips brush a few strands of hair back from her forehead and the little girl’s eyes instantly open wide. With what strength she has left, the child rolls away from the hand and backs herself towards the edge of the bed. Had the wall of the train car not blocked her path, Kuvira would have surely fallen.

“It’s okay. You’re okay.” The humming had stopped, but the voice replacing the melody was just as soft. Kuvira looked up finally and saw the brown haired lady from before. She had gentle green eyes that seemed to sparkle as she smiled. It was a genuine caring smile. Something Kuvira was not used to being directed towards her.

“You gave us quite a scare, little one.” Su sat on the edge of the bed slowly, trying not to startle the child any further. “You’ve been asleep for days. I thought the fever might have taken you.”

Kuvira opened her mouth to speak but no words came out. Her throat was dry and felt swollen. If what this woman said was true, it must be part of her illness. She was determined, though, and tried to speak again despite the pain. She attempted to speak the infant’s name, but it only came out as one syllable, “Ka-”.

Su’s smile flashed sadly only for a second before becoming soft again, “You dreamed a great many things from the fever, I’m sure. You kept saying a name while you slept, but sweetheart, you were alone when we came across you.”

Had Kuvira been older, more wise, she would have caught on how the woman flinched almost imperceptibly when she told her it had been a dream. Children, however, are not trained to spot such minor details, and so she missed it. Her dream had felt so real. She could remember the sound of the infant, and the feel of the small bundle in her arms. Had she really made up such an elaborate life in her head?

As if sensing the internal struggle within the child, Su let out a half humming, half chuckling noise as she poured a small glass of water, “My name is Suyin. I’m the one who found you. Here. Drink.”

She held the glass out and watched quite intently the child’s next move. Kuvira seemed to be waging an internal war of trust. Suyin could only imagine what Kuvira’s life had been like. After the child had fallen asleep, the Healer had done a full examination. Scars, burns, even recent bruising had been uncovered, and it had taken all Su’s effort to keep from breaking down in front of her own family. How anyone could hurt a child was unfathomable.

Slowly, Kuvira reached for the glass. As she took hold, the train lurched and the glass slipped from her hand, spilling all over the bed. Instantly, Kuvira’s hands shot up to cover her head and she crouched as low as she possibly could.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Kuvira continued to repeat. She waited for the blow to the head, or for her arm to be jerked until she was standing upright. Neither came. Instead, she felt the bed dip slightly and the blankets rustle. Then, there was a form beside her, hands tentatively reached out, hovering just above the child’s small body. Then there was humming again. A simple, gentle tune that eased Kuvira’s racing heart. Slowly, her tension ebbed away, and her body relaxed. Once her hands lowered from her head, Kuvira felt Suyin’s fingers smoothing through her hair. A softer touch than she could ever remember having before. Soon, with her head in Su’s lap, her breathing evened out and she slipped into sleep once again.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Kuvira continued to mutter like a mantra to calm herself as she rocked back and forth in the corner of her hospital room. Her mind must be playing tricks on her. Su had never been so maternal towards her before. Right? Were these memories, or were they figments of a desperate child’s imagination?

“You have nothing to apologize for.” Came the familiar voice, and Kuvira flinched. Even kind words felt like a slap across her face. She did not deserve a kindness, and she still couldn’t figure out why people were acting like they cared for her.

Kuvira became acutely aware of the hand smoothing over her hair and she pulled back almost immediately. Straightening herself so she could look at the damage she had caused to the room, her eyes widened at the sight of blood on the floor. She searched the room looking for the injured until her eyes met Su’s.

As if reading the younger woman’s eyes, Su shook her head firmly, “No one was injured.” She pointed towards Kuvira, and the latter looked down, noticing the sopping mess of bandages around her injured wrist. She must have opened the cut during her struggle.

Su moved to start smoothing her hair again, but Kuvira pulled back and looked at the older woman firmly. “You shouldn’t be here. None of you should be here.”

There was a look on Su’s face. A determination Kuvira had witnessed her have with her biological children. During tantrums or unexplained bouts of frustrations, even when one was injured from simply tripping over their own feet as a child. Suyin would always take a deep breath, move to her child’s level with determination set in her eyes, and reassure them with firm yet gentle words. Kuvira had never been on the receiving end of this gesture. At least, not that she could remember. A firm scolding or possible encouragement for making Su proud, yes, but never a Mothering moment.

Su placed a hand on either side of Kuvira’s face. Her movements were tender but firm enough to portray her confidence in the movement. She brought Kuvira’s gaze up to meet her own and the younger woman found herself holding her breath. Partially in fear of what she  might say, partially in fear of what she might not say.

“I know listening to me hasn’t been a conventional method for the two of us, but I need you to hear me now, understand?” She was quiet for a moment until she saw a flicker of recognition in Kuvira’s eyes, and then continued, “I am not leaving you again. I am going to help you through this.”

Their eyes set on each other for a long moment. Su could see the gears turning in Kuvira’s head again. She could see the young woman trying to reason within herself. Su was reminded of the near-feral nature of the sickly child she was met with all those years ago.

The Metal Clan Matriarch felt her heart drop when Kuvira lowered her gaze and turned her face away. Su had seen many sides of humanity in her lifetime. She had even seen Kuvira develop through many of these phases throughout her life, but this current phase was new. Kuvira was just a shell of her former self, and for once Su had absolutely no idea how to  get through to her.

“You should go. Both of you.” Kuvira’s voice was barely above a whisper.

“Vira…” Junior’s voice was hoarse, but pushed through stunned silence.

“No.” Her tone was not harsh, it wasn’t even threatening, but it held firm. Her mind was made up on this matter. “Both of you need to leave. Do not come back here. My path was my own choosing and these are the consequences I must pay.”

She was sitting up straighter, her shoulders squared and a solid resignation steeled her eyes as she looked from her ex-fiance to her former mentor.

“No! I will not abandon you again!” Su’s voice cracked. Was that a glimmer of desperation Kuvira detected? A few years ago, she would have revelled in the older woman’s rattled cage. Today, Kuvira only wanted to soothe such notions.

“You didn’t abandon me before.” She put her hands on top of the other woman’s who was still cupping her own face. “I left you. I abandoned you. What was it you used to say to us as children? I made my bed, and now I will lay in it. This is where my path has led me. It is a road I wish no one else to walk. So now, it is time for you to leave.”

Su didn’t want to go. Even as Kuvira pushed her hands away and Junior took her by the shoulders. As he steered her towards the door, the older woman’s eyes never left her former charge. All she could think as the door closed behind them, was how she could have let all this happen. Time in all its glory had been so precious to her, had stolen so much from her too.

Chapter Text

“I didn’t think it was possible, but you’ve once again surprised me with an idiotic idea, Su.” Lin was slouched in one of her green armchairs situated in the large living room of her home. She hadn’t the chance to change out of her uniform before Su--backed by what looked like the entire Beifong clan--started pestering her. Lin had debated for a moment whether or not she could catapult them through her roof until her eyes found Kya.

Those deep blue eyes always had a calming effect on Lin, even as children. One look at the sparkle that seemed permanently fixed there, and the Chief felt an overwhelming sense of peace. In her opinion, Kya was the only reason there were not several Beifong-sized holes in her roof.

Instead of launching her family, Lin had silently agreed to listen if only one person spoke. It was then Su laid out the story of her and Junior’s visit to the hospital. How Kuvira’s mental state was in question and how the young woman seemed to have given up entirely. Then came the outlandish solution her younger sister had cooked up. Suyin actually wanted to petition the court to take Kuvira back to Zaofu.

“I don’t appreciate the tone, Lin.” Su replied as she sat in the mirroring armchair across the room. The two sisters were facing off.

“Didn’t think you would, but it still doesn’t matter and I don’t care.” She sat up and leaned forward, “There is no way the courts will allow you to take Kuvira home. I feel for her, Su. I do, but despite the prison situation she went through, she is still a criminal.”

“She was beaten daily in your prison and tried to kill herself, Lin! She has a better chance at rehabilitation if she is somewhere her protection is guaranteed.”

Lin scoffed as she got to her feet, “Kuvira is a prisoner, Su. She doesn’t get special treatment because you decide to play Mother. She has consistently rebuked help at every turn. Yours and the Avatar’s. There is no basis to seek or grant extradition.”

“Actually,” Opal’s soft voice cut through the sisters’ tension and reminded them they had an audience, “As an independent city state within the Earth Kingdom, Zaofu can request a separate trial apart from Republic City. Besides the damage done here, Kuvira all but destroyed the infrastructure of our home. Zaofu has more claim against her than Republic City.”

While Su looked pleased, Lin looked as if she had been slapped in the face. Opal was always the one person from Su’s overwhelming brood she could count on to jump in with reason. She could always use her words to make Su see Lin’s side of an argument, and she could do it so sweetly, too. A skill that had eluded Lin since Su’s birth. The elder Beifong was about to respond when she felt a hand grip her shoulder gently.

“Perhaps this is a situation the courts should just handle?” Kya looked from Su to Opal, and then landed on Lin. She stared at her, the corner of her mouth twitching up in a half smile. Lin stared back at her for a moment, her arms slowly uncrossing from over her chest.

“Fine. Submit your request to the courts. Let them decide, but don’t come crying to me when they say no.”

Su nodded with a smile on her face, and her children looked hopeful. Even Kya was about to comment before Lin put her hand up to stop her. Kya frowned for a split second as they shared a silent conversation with their eyes. Lin was obviously angry, but she wouldn’t let Su have the satisfaction of seeing her argue with her girlfriend. Kya knew this song and dance perfectly well. They’d wait until company left, and then it would be a bunch of yelling--mostly on Lin’s part. Kya would fix it, though. She always did.

“I’m going to start some tea. Su, perhaps it is best if you take your win for the road?” She was smiling at the younger sister as she walked over and hugged her tightly. “You know how quickly Lin can change her mind.”

Su nodded as she accepted the embrace. Kya had always been her ally when it came to changing Lin's mind. Ever since she was a little girl and had more or less idolized the waterbender. When they parted, Su motioned for her brood to follow after. Lin didn't move, waiting until Kya had shut the door behind the family before she began bending her uniform off her body.

Kya kept her back to the other woman for a moment, readying herself for the fight to follow. When she had a firm grip on a neutral face, she turned. She knew she was right when she was met with narrowed eyes and hands on hips. Without another word, Kya swiftly moved towards the kitchen, taking a longer route around the couch to avoid close proximity to her girlfriend. Space between them kept her focus sharp, and let Lin blow off whatever steam she had left.

"I don't understand why you still side with her after all these years." Lin's tone was sharp, and she turned to follow Kya into the kitchen. She chose her perch against the doorframe, leaning heavily. The day had already been long enough without Su's ludicris request, only to lengthen even more when her own lover chimed in with an opposing--albeit logical--solution.  

Lin felt like she had as a teenager. Her little sister touting along behind her, making trouble everywhere she went. She would always attempt to make Su clean up her own messes. She would try to make the girl learn from her mistakes as a child, but Su would always run straight to Kya. She knew full well the waterbender, with her inherited motherly qualities, would take pity on her. Kya, very often, did take pity on her. She would tell Lin to be gentler with young Su, to be kinder to her. She would play right into the hands of a manipulative child, and it was always Lin who was left standing with the sting of a reprimand.

"I didn't side with anyone, Lin." Kya responded, lighting the stove with her flint rocks. She grabbed the kettle and moved to the sink to rinse it from the last use.

"You did," Lin pressed on, taking a step into the kitchen with her hands still on her hips, "You always side with Su. She gets into a tight spot and runs to you when I say no. She's been doing this since we were kids. Now is no different. She's using you to sway my answer!"

Kya sighed as she continued to busy herself at the sink. She had always known the sisterly bond had been strained to within breaking point, even with the two of them reuniting over the past few years. Lin and Su were always butting heads, and Spirits help her, Kya always seemed to find herself caught in the crossfire.

"So you're saying we shouldn't help Suyin and Korra in their efforts to rehabilitate Kuvira?" The words came out as soft as before, but if Lin had been listening carefully, she would have picked up on the underlying tone. “Are you saying she isn’t worth rehabilitating?”

"Has no one been paying attention? That girl doesn't want their help!" The words came out with more exasperation than she had intended. In the grand scheme of her role as Chief of Police, Lin arrested her perps, questioned them, gave her testimony at court, and then saw them transported to prison. She didn't involve herself in their personal lives. She only kept tabs on prisoners if they could serve a purpose in another case. Otherwise, once they were sentenced, Lin's job was done. If a prisoner sought redemption, forgiveness, or rehabilitation, that was on their own time.

"Have you been paying attention, Lin?" Kya asked pointedly. She still wasn't looking towards the metal bender, instead choosing to focus on the kettle in her hands, "Kuvira is not in a stable mindset. All Su is trying to do is protect her."

Lin scoffed, "All Su is trying to do is play Mother to a girl who is a self-proclaimed lost cause."

It was the wrong thing to say. The Chief realized that the instant the last syllable left her tongue. The sound of metal on metal echoed through the kitchen. Lin's eyes widened and her hands fell from her hips to lay limp at her sides. Almost immediately her mouth felt dry as she watched Kya grip the edge of the sink. The kettle now lay at the bottom, forgotten.

Kya took a few deep breaths, trying to abate the anger rising up in her chest. It wasn’t like her to be angry. She never showed such dark emotions. Her carefree and easy-going attitude was what quelled arguments between all sorts of people. She tried very hard to make herself as peaceful as possible, and could usually succeed. Except for tonight.

“You have no idea what your sister has sacrificed for Kuvira. You don’t know what she’s done to protect that girl.”

Lin raised an eyebrow inquisitively. Had she really just heard those words come from Kya’s mouth? This couldn’t be real, right? She was beginning to question if she was living in the same reality as everyone else in her life. Calloused hands found their perch on hips again, and Lin straightened herself back up to her full height.

“Are you serious?” It was a legitimate question at this juncture, “I know Su never formally adopted Kuvira. I know she lied about her younger sister for her entire life in Zaofu. I also know in the end, Su walked away from that girl just as easily as her biological parents, so tell me; Where exactly is the idea I’m missing here?”

The Chief’s words came out bitter and harsh. She hadn’t intended on using such a tone, but once she started speaking there was no stopping the words that came out. With each sentence she could see the hurt multiplying on her girlfriend’s face. There a split second when Lin wished she could have stopped herself. Rewind to when she first stepped into her home and was bombarded by her sister, niece, and nephews. She could react differently, maybe more helpful to their plight, and avoid this whole ugly mess all together. Sadly, that is not the way the real world works.

So now, Lin Beifong was standing face-to-face with her waterbending girlfriend, arguing over her little sister’s child rearing, and being amazed she wasn’t covered head to toe in water yet. She had internally braced herself for a barrage of cold spray from her faucet, but it never came. Instead, she was met with narrowed light blue eyes, and taut lips.

One thing Lin had learned over the past few years living as Kya’s girlfriend, was that Kya was an extremely passionate person. She laughed hard, she loved hard, and she loathed hard. Typically, her passion came out loudly and with beautiful expression. She could be annoyed, but after a few sharp words, Kya would be back to her normal carefree self. The time to worry, as Katara had always warned people, was when Kya became silent. If ever one was met with a scowl and silence, there would be hell to pay. Lin suddenly found herself wishing the Beifong fortune would be a better bargaining chip then it was.

Kya squared her shoulders and took a few steps forward, closing the distance between the two women. Her pointer finger poked into Lin’s chest as she leaned in closely.

“Maybe she didn’t adopt her, and perhaps she didn’t share Kuvira’s eagerness to unite the Earth Kingdom, but never judge her for making that decision to step back and let a child venture into the world. Did it backfire? Yes, and that is a relationship Su and Kuvira will have to fix in their own time. Who are we to judge the actions of a parent? Do you judge Toph?”

“Yes!” Lin’s eyes were wide as she tried to make sense of the rabbit holes Kya kept dragging her down, “I judge Toph’s parenting skills all the time! Do you think either Su or I turned out normal ?”

“Maybe not by society’s standards, but you grew up strong. You grew up knowing who you were, even if it took one of you a little longer to get there. Given that neither of you had a strong maternal influence in your life, I would say Su did the best with what she had.” Kya pulled back from Lin. Her cheeks were flushed and she knew she was rambling. She knew half of her conversation didn’t make sense as it was crammed together in one giant thought process. She didn’t care. Her point was simple: Neither child nor parent are beyond hope when they mess up.

“Kya...I don’t even know what we’re talking about anymore.” Lin shook her head and leaned back against the table, “Is this about Kuvira or Suyin, and why does it have you so upset?”

Kya didn’t respond right away. Instead, she shook her head and walked back into the living room and towards the stairs that lead to the master bedroom they currently shared. “Just forget it, Lin. I’m going to bed. Make sure you lock up.”

Lin stayed put, standing in silence until she heard the slam of the bedroom door. Letting out a deep breath she hadn’t realized she was holding in, Lin plopped down in one of the kitchen table chairs. She ran a hand through her hair and began going back over the argument she had just...possibly lost? Kuvira, in particular, was always a touchy subject. Mainly, because of all the damage and the direct threats to the Beifong family, but whenever the topic of parenting got involved it seemed to make Kya bristle. The only other time Lin had seen Kya this angry, the topic had fallen onto motherhood as well. Lin never pressed the subject. She knew better, and always let it go. Perhaps this time, like it had in the past, the argument would be dead by morning and they could get on with their lives.

Yes, Su was going to petition the courts to take Kuvira back to Zaofu. Yes, Lin was more than likely going to side with her, but that didn’t mean she had to make it easy for her little sister in the beginning.

Lin smirked. Her argument with Kya was unplanned and definitely not worth the small bit of satisfaction she received from messing with her sister. She shook her head and pushed up from the table, ready to turn in for the night when a knock on the door stopped her halfway through the living room. It wasn’t very late, but late enough to not expect visitors. Maybe she was hearing things?

Then there was another knock, more insistent this time in its raps. Lin crossed the rest of the room and stood a few paces from the door. Using her bending, she turned the knob and swung open the door, dropping into a defensive stance if needed.

A defensive stance was not needed, however. On the other side of the door, a very wide-eyed and surprised Avatar stood with a hand raised as if to knock again. She blinked a few times before her brain caught back up from it’s shock.

“There something I can do for you, Kid?” Lin grumbled as she crossed her arms and shifted on the balls of her feet. Korra seemed to take the question as more of an invitation and walk inside, closing the door behind her.

“Yeah. We have a problem.” The tone of her voice made Lin realize the seriousness of her words instantly. Lin motioned to the couch for the young woman to sit down, and then she took up residence in her armchair once again.

“What? What’s going on? Is it an attack? Riot? Do we need to get going?” Yes! Please! Something to take her away from the house and her angry (sometimes overly passive aggressive) girlfriend!

Korra just shook her head. “I’ve just come from the hospital, Lin. Kuvira actually requested to see me.”

Lin felt disappointment wash over her quickly, and she slumped backwards into the chair, “So? What exactly does that have to do with me?”

“While I was with her, she received a letter.” Korra began rummaging through her pockets before pulling out what looked like a very worn envelope with an old Earth Kingdom symbol scrawled on top. Lin took the envelope and looked at it intently.

“I’ve seen this before…” She was searching her memory, trying to figure out where the mark could be from. The Earth Kingdom was full of ancient symbols with multitudes of meanings to different cultures. Lin had come across many of them while visiting her Grandparents at the Beifong estate.

“It’s the symbol of the Warriors of Chin.” Korra piped up. She was met with an expression equal parts impressed and surprised by Lin.

“How do you know about the Warriors of Chin?” Lin was opening the envelope slowly so as not to disturb any evidence they may find should this lead to something more.

Korra shrugged. She still didn’t understand when people were surprised she could know things most likely kept in a book. “The White Lotus. I studied about the Warriors of Chin during my lessons on past Avatars. Of course, everyone knows the story of Avatar Kyoshi and the Chin the Conqueror, but the Warriors of Chin were long pushed into local folklore. They were supposed to be nothing more than a children’s story to warn against things like uprising and mutiny. Except a lot of the stories are true. There were always rumors a secret society still operated in the shadows, just biding their time, but the White Lotus never seemed too concerned.”

Lin had managed to open the envelope to reveal a single scrap of paper and a wooden Pai Sho tile contained within. She pulled both out and read the paper before handing it over to Korra while examining the wooden tile. One side was smooth and painted green with the symbol of the Earth Kingdom stamped across. When she turned it over, Lin was met with a terrifying war mask colored gold.

“I don’t think it’s rumor anymore, Kid.” She held the tile up for Korra to see while the younger woman read the scrap of paper.

“Unity through submission. Your reign shall begin again.”

“We definitely have a problem.” Korra felt the lump in her throat as she read the scrap of paper and then looked at the tile. Whatever or whoever was brewing out there in the shadows...they were about to come into the light, and they’d already chosen their leader.