Grief

A/N: I needed to write a LoK fic. Lin Beifong has become one of my all-time favorite characters. And Linzin is a favorite ship of mine. However, I could never tear Tenzin and Pema apart because I think they are a wonderful couple. I don't know why my first LoK fic was doomed to be so sad, but I really liked this piece. So I hope you do to.

It all happened before Lin could even comprehend that they were in danger. Tenzin and Opal were flying above her, gliding gracefully through the air. She had to admit the suits were a brilliant idea. The avatar and her friends were somewhere in front of them on the trail. The reason they were out in this forest continued to allude her. The avatar kept on about something they needed to find so Lin decided to tag along, siting extra protection for the still recovering avatar. In reality, she needed time out of the office and, not that she would ever admit it out loud, the company was nice as well.

Which is why she had her guard down; why she didn't hear them in the trees. Lin didn't even know anything was wrong until Tenzin fell violently to the ground with a figure in brown on top of him. Opal was shouting and Lin reached out immediately with her cables to grab the attacker off of her friend. As she threw the man back into a tree, Lin saw Opal fighting off two people at once and jumped to her niece's side.

It didn't take long for Lin and Opal to fight off their foes. As soon as her niece was safe, Lin instinctually began to sprint toward the sounds of the avatar and her friends fighting what she could only assume were more offenders. Lin glanced over her shoulder to see if Tenzin and Opal were following. What she saw behind her brought her body to a full stop. Opal was kneeling next to Tenzin, blood on her hands. The girl looked up from her mentor's body and her anguish caused Lin's heart to stop as she cried, "Aunt Lin!"

The sound of explosions and shouting behind her faded as the blood pounded in her ears. The blood wasn't from Opal. That only meant one thing: it was Tenzin's. Tenzin- her oldest friend. Tenzin- her first lover. Tenzin- her Tenzin! Lin could not remember crossing the ground to get to them, but next thing she knew she was kneeling beside them. Opal was trying to stem the blood that was gushing from Tenzin's chest with his cloak.

"Aunt Lin, he's losing blood too fast!" Opal was beginning to panic, but Lin didn't seem to hear her. There was a deep gash across the airbending master's chest. It ran from his right pectoral down across his abdomen. The man who had jumped on him must have had some sort of blade. By the time Lin processed what Opal was saying, she realized the young girl was right- he was losing too much blood. She had seen wounds similar to this on duty- on her officers as well as victims and suspects. Some survived, but the majority…

Lin couldn't bring herself to finish the thought. She looked into Tenzin's eyes and realized he had reached the same conclusion. He was dying and they both knew it. His face was extremely pale, but his eyes were steady as they locked on her. Lin had heard her fair share of death bed confessions and had passed on many last words to loved ones. But she wasn't sure she was ready for this. She wasn't sure she could carry Tenzin's last words to his family.

"Lin…" She shook her head, trying to tell him she wasn't up to this task. Lin didn't even realize she was holding his hand until he squeezed it. "Lin…look at me."

She wouldn't cry. Not right now- he needed her. Slowly, Lin reached over and pushed back Opal's desperate attempts to stop the bleeding. Her niece was beginning to panic, but Lin knew what she had to do for him now. "I'm here, Tenzin, I'm always here."

"My family-"

"They know how much you love them. Never doubt it, Tenzin."

He nodded, blinking back the pain. "They're so young. My children…they are the world to me, Lin. Jinora, Ikki, Meelo, and Rohan…"

"I know. They know. You are a wonderful father." Lin caressed his face. She pretended not to notice the smear of blood her fingers left on his skin.

"I need them to know that they don't…" Tenzin's body seized for a moment and it took several deep breathes for him to calm down and speak again. His voice was becoming hoarser with every word. "They don't have to be me…not like us, Lin. They can't turn out like us…I needed to be my father and you, your mother. They can't be like us…"

Lin felt her stomach drop at his words. She knew exactly what he meant. She thought about all the things they had given up; all the choices they had made to make it to this exact spot. Their lives could have been so much different. The pressures of being the Avatar's son and the first Metalbender's daughter had led them to become estranged and bitter with each other; and often with life, in Lin's case. "I'll tell them."

"Jinora will be the last Air Bending Master alive. She'll think she has to be responsible for the entire Air Nation….but she doesn't. There are others now…she can be herself…she doesn't have to be me." Tenzin took several shaking breaths. "Pema will guide them. Pema…oh Pema."

"Of course she will. They won't turn out like us, Tenzin. I promise."

Her words seemed to calm him. Tenzin's eyes flickered in and out of focus. A shaking hand reached out to brush her jawline. Lin caught his hand tenderly. "Lin, there are things I should have said…"

"You don't have to." Lin granted him this mercy and he seemed to understand. "Be at peace, my old friend."

Tenzin managed to smile and for a moment Lin was transported back in time. It was as if they were eight years old again and Tenzin had merely fallen from a tree they had been climbing. She had been so afraid he had hurt himself terribly, but when she got to his side, he just smiled up at her. Then hopped up on a gust of air, laughing at her concern. No cares, no worries, no airbending tattoos, no metal uniforms, no scars, no families: it was just the two of them.

The dark stain of red that continued to grow on the earth around them reminded her that they weren't young and carefree anymore. Tenzin wasn't going to rise again. He was dying; her best friend was dying and there was nothing she could do. Lin watched the unsteady rise and fall of his chest as he began to fade from this world.

"Lin. Lin, I get to see my dad again." Tenzin's face was calm and almost joyful at the thought of seeing Aang.

Lin could feel her chest tightening and knew she could no longer hold back the tears. Choking on her own emotions, she murmured, "Tell him hello for me."

Tenzin closed his eyes and breathed his last breath.

Opal, whom Lin had completely forgotten about, placed a bloody hand on Lin's shoulder. "Aunt Lin, the others are coming. What should I do?"

Lin just shook her head. Leaning forward, she placed a tender kiss on the point of the blue arrow on the fallen Airbender's forehead. Silent sobs began to shake her body as she leaned over the dead body of her best friend. Lin barely registered Opal's movements after that. The young woman must have met Korra, Asami, Mako, and Bolin a bit further up the path. There was considerable yelling and footsteps came running toward her and Tenzin's body.

Lin's breathing was unsteady as she stood. Everything around her was happening in slow motion. Korra had knelt next to Tenzin and Asami was somewhere near her, but all Lin wanted to do was get away from them. Tenzin was dead. She could no longer feel her heart. In fact, she may have just stood there in complete shock if her ears hadn't picked up Korra's question: "Who did this?"

Opal was talking- explaining what had happened. But Lin was seeing red. And blue and green and orange and every color in the visible spectrum. Her mind was lit up trying to compensate for the loss her heart had just experienced. Her body felt out her metal cable that was still wrapped around the man she had pulled off Tenzin. She reached out her hand and one of the metal bands she had on her wrist flew off and attached itself to the neck of the man struggling with his bonds.

Voices shouted behind her. They called her Chief, Beifong, Aunt; none of them Lin. Tenzin would have called her Lin and maybe she would have listened. Lin had killed people before, but not this deliberately. The metal around the murder's neck was cold on his skin, but it felt warm in Lin's control. The heat of it matched her anger. In fact, it was burning her. Instinct forced her to step back. Reality hit her as she finally noticed Mako standing in front of her. Lin's hand wasn't burned, but it hurt and Mako's wide eyes suggested he had something to do with it.

"Chief-" The poor kid's voice was trembling in fear as he stood before his boss. "You can't kill him. It wouldn't be right."

"Get out of the way, kid. That's an order." Fury had Lin shaking and she didn't want him in her way.

"What about justice, Aunt Lin?" Opal had blood all over her flight suit and hands. Lin's small maternal intuition made her feel the need to gather her niece in her arms and never let go. But grief was winning. She had to kill the man who murdered Tenzin.

A hand grabbed Lin's arm when she brought it back up again with every intention of finishing off the job. Whirling around, Lin stood face to face with the tear-stained face of the Avatar. "He wouldn't have wanted it."

Lin couldn't believe her ears. The hit first, ask questions later Avatar didn't want the blood of this murderer? Korra reached out her own hand to release the metal bar from around the man's neck.

"Tenzin was an airbending master. He practiced peace above all other things. It would be a dishonor to his memory to commit murder."

"He was murdered!" Lin couldn't believe that they were all against her. "What would you do with him then, hmm? Drag him back to Air Temple Island and present him to Tenzin's children? Here is the man who murdered your father in cold blood. Drag them through court? Answer the question of why he died at all? He was with the Avatar and the Chief of Police. How could you let him die? How could I have not done more to save him!?"

Before anyone could get over the shock of her outburst, the devastated cry of an air bison rang out in the silence. Oogi landed next to his companion and master. Everyone looked on as the air bison expressed his grief for his friend. Oogi raised his giant head to the sky and let out a roar.

Korra slowly approached the bison, resting her hand on the arrow on his head. "Us too, Oogi. Let's bring him home." Korra and Opal bend the air around them to raise Tenzin's body onto the saddle on Oogi's back. It was oddly serene to see the two airbenders he trained raise him into the air. Suspended over his air bison in a whirl of red cape, he looked at peace.

One by one, they all climbed aboard. The murderer dangled underneath the great bison, attached by a cable to the bottom of the saddle. Although the teenagers had agreed not to kill him, they didn't think he was worthy of riding in the saddle with Tenzin. Air Temple Island wasn't far and most of the trip was covered in silence.

Asami spoke as the temple came into view. "What do we tell them?"

"Leave that to me," said Lin. Five heads turned quickly in her direction. Lin scowled at their unconvinced looks. "I've done this before. I'm the Chief of Police. I know you kids think I don't have the ability to empathize, but this isn't my first time to deliver horrible news to someone I know personally. Just make sure his kids don't see him before I get to Pema."

Oogi landed in the deserted courtyard. Pema and two air alcoyltes wandered down from the main house. Lin took a deep breath and jumped down from Oogi. Pema looked confused. The group hadn't left on the air bison and she had not expected them to be back for another couple of hours. When Pema noticed that it wasn't her husband coming to greet her, but Lin Beifong, she knew something was wrong.

"What happened?" she asked when Lin got within speaking distance. It was then that Pema noticed the blood on Lin's hands and armor. The older woman had a look on her face that Pema had never seen before. Pema wasn't ready for Lin's next words.

"Pema, I regret to inform you…"