"Thanks for the thought Mako," Lin said, emptying her drawer to a cardboard box. "But there's nothing much to move. I've already sent most of the belongings in a transport service."
"Come on Chief," Mako persisted. "You've already turned down your staff's help. "There must be something we can do."
Lin couldn't believe how persistent Mako could be. She had decided to retire from the force and take on the much awaited position as the Dean of Beifong Metal bending academy. Beifong country house was not more than a fifteen minutes walk away from the academy. So, Lin decided it's time she moved there, a leisurely and spacious home away from Republic city's never ending bustle, but not too far that she couldn't drop by, and buy her favorite tea from Republic-Porters if she wanted to. Her staff had volunteered to help her move, but Lin had respectfully turned the help down.
"I cannot let you carry my stuff like common deer-bulls, besides the new chief needs all of you and the force's mobiles to be available if a situation occurs." She had pointed out.
Mako kept bugging Lin, until it became annoying. "Fine!" Lin grumbled reluctantly to get Mako off her back. "There's some china, few kitchen equipment and some small furniture that need packing."
"Great." Mako said happily. "This evening then!"
Lin, who was expecting only Mako and Korra, was surprised to find Tenzin and Asami too, standing on her apartment door step that evening.
Tenzin, who was still resenting Lin's decision to retire the force so early, gave her a half smile while Korra waved furiously behind him.
"I-I wasn't expecting you two" Lin said looking from Asami to Tenzin.
"Yet here we are." Asami said genially, walking in to the big apartment across the threshold, closely followed by the rest.
"Bumi and Kya are dusting off the country house with Opal and the kids." Tenzin said as he walked past Lin.
"But-" Lin started. "They found the spare key right under the granite badgermole. Kya called." Tenzin replied. Lin looked apprehensive momentarily, but quickly recovered.
The apartment looked almost empty without the luxurious furniture it sported up until few days back. "What are we packing?" Mako asked looking around. "There's nothing really." Lin said. "Check the cupboards and kitchen. News papers are over there." She pointed to a stack of newspapers by a corner stand.
"Is your wardrobe all packed?" Korra asked walking towards Lin's bedroom.
"No. I-" Lin started again. "We got it." Korra said hopping towards the room, dragging Asami with her.
"Use the big black suitcase by the towel rack." Lin shouted after them, stepping towards the kitchen to make some tea.
Few photographs were cautiously stacked near the staircase. Tenzin knelt beside them, dragging a bunch of news papers towards him. He began to wrap the photos one by one in the newspapers. There were only a handful of pictures. Four year old Lin holding an infant Su while sitting on Toph's lap, the grin on her face identical to the one on Toph's. Lin sitting on Sokka's shoulder while Toph held up a toddler Su, standing right next to Katara, who leaned against Aang. Bumi was making a face while a delighted Kya peeped from behind Aang's bold head. Tenzin looked at himself in the photo, tall for the age of 7 and frowning at Bumi with a disapproving look. There was a one of Toph, in her Police chief uniform, and one of Lin graduating from the academy. All seemed to be covered in years of dust and left neglected.
Tenzin finished wrapping them and opened the cupboard under the stairs to see what's in it. Few bottles of floor cleaners and air fresheners were there, together with what looked like a dozen of old journals, pell-mell on the shelves. Journals turned out to be Lin's scrap books, where she kept the media follow-ups of her cases secured. Tenzin was about to close the door after stacking the content of the cupboard in to a box when he saw the bottom most shell had a wooden crate, so covered in dust, it was merely distinguishable. He drew it out and opened the lid. In it was another set of photo graphs. Tenzin's heart sank seeing them. There was one of teenage Lin, holding hands with much younger Tenzin, grinning like idiots, a one of Lin pointing at Tenzin's forehead on the day he got his tattoos. One of Lin embraced in Tenzin's lanky arms, they both were dressed up, on the day of their engagement, he remembered, and another of Tenzin holding Lin bridal style, Lin's arms wrapped around his neck, both their heads thrown backwards in a mirthful laughter. The glass of the frame of that photo was broken as if someone had smashed it in anger. Most of the other photos in the crate looked pretty harassed as well.
Tenzin was holding the photo with the broken glass when Lin walked in to the hall, carrying a tray of tea and placed it on the stool, Mako followed her with a buddle of wrapped china.
"Anything useful in there?" Lin asked, looking his way. She saw what Tenzin was holding and looked taken aback. She stayed there just staring at the photograph for a moment before walked up to Tenzin and took it from his hands. She threw it back to the crate unceremoniously and closed the lid.
"Ï forgot about that stupid crate." She mumbled. "Come have some tea."
Mako awkwardly polished a small vase he was holding, in his sleeve, as he slipped away towards the room where Korra and Asami were, busy packing Lin's wardrobe. They were halfway done. Asami was folding Lin's clothes while Korra threw them on to the bed. Mako wandered in the room boxing Lin's collection of books. Korra óoh'ed suddenly, grabbing dusty old package from the hood beneath the ceiling.
Asami and Mako quickly gathered around Korra as she took out a handsome music box from within it. She walked in to the middle of the room and placed it on the floor. The music box looked expensive with the jades glistering around the cylindrical podium, on which stood a marble winged boar, ready to soar. The podium bore an inscription 'Congratulations my little Badgermole! - From mom with love'.
Korra shared look with the other two before slowly keying the music box on. It started playing a harmonious music, the most wonderful and relaxing melody Korra had ever heard. All three of them stared at the twirling winged boar, mesmerized by the music that filled the room. Lin suddenly marched in, a look of complete shock on her face, closely followed by Tenzin, panic all over his features. Lin simply directed her gaze towards the music box for few seconds and then shot a glare at the trio sitting around it. She snapped her fingers and the music box stopped dead.
Grabbing her overcoat from the coat rack, Lin walked out of the house without saying another word to anyone.
"Lin!" Korra shouted after her. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to-"
Tenzin gave Korra a disapproving look and disappeared through the door. Asami sighed, standing up, the music box in hand. "This must have had a history." She said glancing at the music box. Asami gasped seeing another inscription on the other side of the podium. 'I hope It'll be an Earthbender '.
They sat in Lin's room for another half an hour, not daring to discuss the music box. Asami finished packing Lin's clothes with little help from Korra, who kept face-palming, muttering 'stupid stupid stupid'. Mako finished packing up the rest of Lin's belongings and they waited, hoping that Tenzin would not leave them to Lin.
Tenzin returned after a while, his mood grave. "Load Oogie's saddle." He said to Mako. "We are taking them to Beifong country house."
"Where is the Chief?"Mako dared to ask.
"She'll join us shortly." Tenzin replied curtly.
"Look Tenzin," Korra said coming forth. "I am so sorry! Didn't mean to pry!"
Tenzin sighed heavily. "The damaged is done Korra. That melody cut opened a healed wound."
Lin didn't show up at the country house at all. Tenzin and the rest delivered Lin's belongings there, cleaned the house and furnished. They waited till nightfall but Lin still didn't show up.
"Why don't you take the kids to the temple?" Kya asked looking at the teenagers among them.
"But what about-" Korra started.
"I'm not sure this is the right time for you to apologize even if Lin comes home at all!" Kya said eyeing Korra. "She'll give you the chance eventually."
Korra's shoulders dropped. "Fine." She said defeated. "I feel awful. I didn't know Lin was to be a mother."
"It was a tragic accident" Kya mumbled. "Lin was never the same after the baby-"
"Oogie is ready" Tenzin said loudly, interrupting their discussion.
"I'll go to the bending-ring." Bumi said waving at Oogie was high up in the sky.
"I'll look in the Kung's Tavern." Kya volunteered. "She'd probably be there."
"I'll look around." Tenzin sighed.
Tenzin glided around the city, looking for Lin. She had earthbended him to a nearby wall, earlier that evening, when he tried to stop her from leaving.
She was not in the memorial park, not in her office, nor in the police gymnasium, practicing herself to senselessness.
But when he landed softly in front of Lin's apartment just to listen to that heartbreaking melody just once, he knew he found her. The very melody filled his ears as he walked in to the unlocked house. It was coming from Lin's room, where Asami had left it. As Tenzin peeped in, he saw his ex, sitting on the floor, her back against the wall, holding an almost empty bottle of sake, her eyes glued to the twirling winged boar. Couple of empty sake bottles lay unceremoniously besides her. Lin's head tilted as Tenzin entered the room. "Enter the daddy!" She hiccoughed, raising the sake bottle in hand.
Tenzin watched her empty the remaining little liquid in one gulp. Lin threw the bottle away and wobbled around, grabbing another in no time. Tenzin walked up to her and kneeled beside Lin.
He said, trying to take the sake bottle from her. Lin, even in her drunken state, managed to push him aside. "Go to hell!" She growled.
"For how much longer Lin?" Tenzin snapped. "Let it go!"
"None of your damn business councilman" Lin said, taking another sip. "Get out and leave me alone!"
"To do what?" Tenzin shot back. "Get wasted? No amount of sake bottles will bring back what we lost."
"Shut up!" Lin snapped, taking a wobbly step towards him. "You lost nothing! All you wanted was an airbendr, now you got four!" The words didn't form very well, but Tenzin heard the accusation. "So, why are you still here?"
Tenzin glared at her for a few seconds before he forcefully grabbed the sake bottle out of Lin's hand and smashed it. The ceramic bottle hit the twirling winged boar with a loud clatter and the music stopped dead.
"No!" Lin breathed, dropping down instantly and trying to assemble the broken music box in hysteria. Her hands been bruised by the broken ceramic repeatedly as she tried. Tenzin was shocked by his own anger, and what he did. He had just broken the last thing Lin had left of what she lost. He dropped down to her level and took both her hands in his. "Lin!"
"No! No no no!" She hissed, pushing him aside again. "Come on!" She mumbled to the music box, closing her eyes and flexing her fingers in an attempt to bend it back to its original form. Lin was not in a state of mind to be able to concentrate on anything more than two seconds. The broken pieces came together momentarily but scattered in an instant, sending Lin over the line. She punched the wooden floor hard in her frustration. "Please!" She cried, the first teardrop escaping her eyes.
Tenzin hurried towards her side and embraced her shaking form, successfully resisting her weak protesting. "I'll fix it! I'm sorry love, I promise!" he kept mumbling in her ear, until she finally stopped beating his chest with her bloodied hands. They fell limp either side of her body. Lin passed out in Tenzin's arms, alcohol finally taking her consciousness completely away.
Lin didn't remember much about the next day other than a raging headache and a healer's hand over her temple every time she awoke. She slept the through the day for the most part and when she finally came around, Korra was peeping to her face, her fingertips covered in glowing water and hovering at either side of Lin's forehead. Lin batted Korra's hand away and sat up, groaning at the unpleasant tingle in her head.
"Where am I?" She asked, looking around. She didn't need Korra's answer, however to know where she was. When her eyes fell on the familiar surroundings she knew.
"Hospital wing of the Temple, away from the kids and noises." Korra said, not meeting Lin's eyes.
"How did I_" Lin asked again.
"Tenzin found you in your old apartment, drunk as a raccoon-skunk" Korra replied, walking around Lin's bed and sitting down on the edge.
Events of last evening came flooding back to Lin's mind. She exhaled heavily.
"Lin," Korra mumbled. "Look, I'm sorry about yesterday, I didn't mean to pry, we didn't see the inscription about-"
Lin waved a dismissive hand. "It's fine." She said, not wanting to discuss anything. "I- I have a soft spot for that music box, that's all."
Korra took the hint. "I repaired it for you." She said walking towards the corner-stand and taking the mended music box to Lin. Lin let her eyes wandered on to it. The winged boar now looked more like a moose-lion with wings. "Sorry, this was the best I could do, it plays the same beautiful melody though, only took a simple metal twist." Korra scratched her head with a sheepish smile, offering the music box to Lin.
Lin did not take it from Korra's hand. "Do you like it?" She asked the young avatar.
Korra smiled. "It plays the most beautiful and harmonious music I've ever heard. It helps me relax." She said touching the key on the podium. "May I?"
"No" Lin said taking the music box from Korra. She gently dragged her thump over the two inscriptions around the podium, erasing them from the ceramic. "There," She offered it back to Korra. "You can have it."
Korra looked flabbergasted. "Lin, No!" She stammered. "I can't."
Lin 'tch'ed. "Just take it off my hands Korra." She said in a tired tone. Lin was exhausted. Since the accident that killed her unborn, after constantly beating herself up for not been more careful, after blaming Tenzin for been so casual about it, for simply suggesting they'd try again soon, after the furious argument she had with Tenzin, accusing him for just wanting to repopulate airbenders but not to have a love child, Lin had vowed that she'd never have kids again. She just wanted to let it go. But she couldn't, not when the constant reminder was there, playing what could have been their child's song.
Korra took the music box slowly from Lin. "Thanks. I'll take good care of it." She said, understanding written all over her face. "I'm sorry for your loss chief."
Lin nodded without uttering a single word. "I need to go." She said, trying to get off the bed.
"Kya might want to do a final check-up on you." Korra said gently pushing Lin back on to the bed. "You were in pretty bad shape when Tenzin brought you in last night. She went on a rampage on Tenzin, after hearing what happened. I'll tell her you are awake."
"No. It's fine." Lin got up anyways. "See you around Avatar".
"But-" Korra stuttered, walking after Lin, as she started towards the door, grabbing her overcoat from the coat rack. Korra didn't have to stop Lin as Tenzin walked in, sporting a black eye.
"You are awake" He said in alarm.
"Yes and leaving." Lin replied avoiding his eyes.
Korra slipped through the door, leaving them along.
"Lin, please, a word?!" Tenzin gestured towards the chairs besides the bed. Lin sighed and sat down.
"What happened to your eye?" She inquired.
"Bumi!" He said, sitting down on the other chair. "He wasn't pleased to learn what happened yesterday!"
Lin kept a stoic face. So, Tenzin went on. "I- I am sorry" he said. "I let my anger get the best of me. I shouldn't have broken the flying boar."
Lin still said nothing. "Lin!" He said leaning forward. "You were right! I didn't deserve you, I didn't deserve It."
Lin stood up, abruptly. "What's the point again?" She asked. "I'm sorry you had to deal with me last evening."
Tenzin followed her suit. He took both of Lin's bandaged hands in his. "I just wanted to let you know, that I've been a fool." He said tightening his grip as Lin tried to tug them back. "You were the best thing that ever happened to me and I was a fool to be blinded by my self-inflicted legacy and not to see it." He confessed. Lin, for the first time since yesterday, looked at him dead in the eyes.
"I came to listen to that melody last evening; I was so frustrated when I couldn't find you. I wanted to calm down. That melody left me heartbroken instead. I never stopped since we lost It, to think. But now that I had to relive that horrible day-"
"Tenzin, stop!" Lin said. "Tell me again? What's the point now?"
"The point is Lin," Tenzin persisted. "I never apologized for been a jerk; I disgraced the fatherhood for our unborn. " A silent tear escaped his grey eyes. "True, I fathered four, true I love them very much. But yesterday, I was reminded of my own crushing guilt. I couldn't save my love child."
Lin kept a stoic face yet her eyes were glistering. "I do not remember what I said last night." She said quietly. "But if accused you in any way, I'm sorry."
"No Lin, seeing you in so much pain, I understood how I felt, for the first time in sixteen years. This grief, this heartbreaking guilt, this missing part of my spirit…" Tenzin brought Lin's hands on to his chest. "I'm sorry I let you go through all of it alone. Will you forgive me?"
A tear escaped Lin's tired eyes as Tenzin watched. He took a step forward and hugged her tight. They stayed in each other's arms, for the first time in forever, sharing their grief.