This request was written for JessE1224.
Set after the end of season 4 with slight spoilers.
The last request in my queue, so if you have one yourself feel free to send me a message here! I do have a handful of my own to finish up (or start) as well; hopefully those will be ready to share soon.
Lin stood in the large open courtyard in front of the police precinct, hands on her hips as she surveyed the construction under way to repair the damage that had been wrought during the battle with Kuvira's army two months before. Much had been done to restore the building during that time and she was pleased with the progress the masons and stoneworkers had made so far to the foundation and structural support. The rest, once this part was finished, was purely for looks, something she hadn't given a terrible amount of thought to beyond "make it the way it was".
Men and women scaled the walls around the scaffolding halfway up the side, sealing the day's work with a cement-like mixture to keep the large new stones securely in place around the support beams that had been placed earlier. She was itching to get up there herself, place her hands on the rocks and feel the work through her senses. But she had told the foreman she wouldn't, that she would stay out of their way unless her Earthbending was needed among the skills they already had.
She sighed and turned her head down, eyes looking over the work they had done weeks previous to the base of the building. Maybe on her way out, once everyone was gone. Just a quick check through the building with the cornerstone. A light touch, really, no one would know.
"It looks wonderful."
Lin glanced around, having been so caught in her thoughts she hadn't heard Tenzin's approach. She gave him a grin, one side of her mouth pulling upward. "Coming along nicely, isn't it? Just luck, really, we weren't on the side that was completely destroyed."
"Yes. Everyone seems to be settling into the temporary housing just fine, thankfully," Tenzin said conversationally. "We should have the first block of new apartments ready for people to start moving into by the end of the week."
She felt him watching her as she nodded and met his eyes again. "Was there something you wanted?"
"Oh, yes." Tenzin opened his cloak to pull out a roll of parchment, tied neatly with a red string and a metallic imprint of the city's crest attached to the knot. "The president would like your signature on this. It's the newest zoning agreement for the residential areas to the south. Do you have a moment?"
Lin took the paper, sliding the string off and unrolling it to read over the contents. "Why does he even care what I think at this point?" she growled, frowning as she saw the new zones had gone much wider than anticipated. "He's just going to push forward with this anyway, whether I sign the damned thing or not. Look at this, does he not realize he's coming awfully close to the ocean here? The earth will erode away within twenty years."
"I told him the same thing," Tenzin said softly, his voice holding his own frustrations on the matter. "He won't listen to me, either. He just wants this done and the new homes finished."
She huffed angrily. "I'm not signing this."
"I was hoping you wouldn't." Tenzin's lips quirked as he handed her an inkpen, pulled from the same pocket as she scroll. She snatched it and drew a deliberate line diagonally through where her signature was supposed to go, using his upper arm to bear down on so the mark would be clear.
"Tell him to move the whole zone north, closer to the mountains and our border with the Earth Kingdom. We'll have to build over rockier terrain, but with Earthbenders the work won't take much longer – and the structures will actually survive."
He took the scroll back from her, rolling it again and tying it tightly with the string. "Perhaps you could tell him yourself?"
"I don't have time," Lin said, sounding weary for the first time during their conversation. "Otherwise I would have given Raiko an earful already. Sorry, Tenzin, you're going to have to play messenger a while longer."
He looked at her closely, not surprised when she didn't look back at him again. The lines around her mouth were tight, color staining the skin under her eyes, cheeks and lips pale. She knew she appeared tired, and, truthfully, she was. Running the city during a war was strenuous, yes. Running the city as it rebuilt itself after a war was purely exhausting. The panic and chaos of impending death was gone, certainly, but now came the unending days and nights of helplessness as weight settled in, realizing how much there was to do to keep people safe while their home continued to fall apart before it got better.
"Can I get you some tea?" Tenzin asked softly. He put his hand on her shoulder, finally bringing her fatigued stare back to his as she let her guard down.
"No, thank you," she said. "Just…keep the president occupied enough that he doesn't bother me himself. I don't have the stamina to deal with him and the rising crime rate at the moment, not to mention the countless other things that always need my attention."
Tenzin smiled supportively at her, leaving his hand where it was. "I can do that."
"I appreciate it."
"Did you know," he began again, abruptly changing the subject, "that Korra found a badger mole spirit near this new portal? She brought Jinora in a few days ago, they've been trying to get him to speak with them."
Lin gave him a look, her brow furrowed with confusion. "Is that so," she muttered, doing her best to sound interested when she truly wasn't. She turned her gaze back to the masons scaling the building, still feeling his hand resting on her shoulder.
"Indeed." Tenzin nodded with real enthusiasm. "They can't seem to tempt him out of his cave, though, it seems badger mole spirits are very similar to badger moles themselves. They enjoy staying underground and don't welcome others coming in uninvited."
"Did Korra find that out the hard way?" Lin couldn't help the little smile that quirked across her lips at the thought, even if it vanished again a moment later. Without waiting for a response, she continued with, "Why are you telling me this? I've already heard so much about the trip Korra and Asami took into the portal I may as well have gone myself. These tales are getting dull."
"Well, you see…"
Tenzin withdrew his hand, which caught her attention faster than his hesitating words. "You're asking for my help, aren't you."
It wasn't a question and he shrugged ineffectually. "Yes?" he said with a faint bit of hope.
Lin sighed, pursing her lips with the exhale for a moment as she tried to understand what he was laying out. "What, exactly, makes you think I would be of any use in this endeavor? I'm not exactly a very spiritual person." She used her fingers to make air quotes around the inflected word, rolling her eyes as she did.
"That's not the point," Tenzin said smoothly, seeing her exhaustion and feeling a bit of guilt for suddenly having added to it with his request. "Korra just thinks, perhaps, your presence might bring the spirit out when hers isn't quite enough."
"Why?" she scoffed. "Is this another your-mother-is-the-amazing-Toph-Beifong thing? Because if it is, the great Avatar can -"
"Because Korra admires you, Lin, and thinks your strength as an Earthbender might be what speaks to the spirit. Not your lineage." He glanced at her, watching as she crossed her arms. Her mouth was pulled down in a frown, but his words had stopped her angry retort. "And," he continued as easily as he could, "I think you could use a bit of a break here, if only for a few hours."
"A break," she repeated with a mocking snap to her voice. "I see. And when do you propose I do that? Between planning sting operations to break open that new gang or after I've told the president how bad his new housing project is? Or perhaps once my officers and I have finally finished cataloguing all the damage to the city center, since we're still not quite done with that, more things falling apart every day," she added with a derisive laugh.
"You just proved my point," Tenzin said, and the sadness in his tone made her uncomfortable with how true it all was.
"You're only trying to convince me so I won't realize I'm doing you and Korra – and your daughter, even – a favor," she grumbled, trying not to think about the idea of taking this supposed 'break' now that he had put it in her mind. The idea of getting away from this, just for a while, was appealing, even if she wouldn't outright acknowledge it. The Spirit World part, however…
"Would you be more open to the proposal if I accepted yes, it would, in fact, be a favor?" he asked with a small chuckle.
She could easily see now that, while he was trying to coax her toward helping Korra with this spirit as he openly said, his hidden agenda all along had been to get her away from working so hard. She smiled slightly, the thought warming through her as she realized how much he cared about her wellbeing.
"Fine," she finally relented softly, turning her gaze skyward and then slowly toward the portal glowing gently in the distance. "On the condition you come, as well."
Tenzin laughed. "Me? I thought you'd want me far away from watching you walk into the Spirit World."
Lin just shrugged, trying to get her running mind to settle into words. "Spiritual journeys have always been your dream," she said simply. "Ever since we were little. I saw how much it hurt you, not being able to enter the Spirit World then. So I want you to come with me now. It's only fair. I'll – I don't know, talk to? – Korra's spirit if you come with me. That's my deal."
"I accept your condition," he said quickly, smiling happily at her.
"Then I'll go." She returned his smile briefly before shifting her eyes away. "Though I can't believe I'm even going to be doing this at all. Going into the Spirit World, what am I thinking?"
Tenzin reached out for her hand and squeezed her fingers, bringing her gaze back to his as he released her. "Thank you." They grinned at one another again. "I know Korra will appreciate it and I…I will simply be looking forward to spending the time with you, and to finally sharing this little bit of childhood dreaming."
"Now that is something I can look forward to, as well."