The crowds lined the streets for the funeral procession in silent mourning. Ever since Kuvira's invasion, the people of Republic City had truly banded together to support each other. Seven ostrich horses pulled metal wagons that carried precious cargo. Behind the wagons marched the entirety of the Republic City Police Department. Lin Beifong walked beside President Raiko and soon to be Assistant Chief Roan.
The procession moved relatively silently to the Republic City Police Station. Normally, such a funeral would be held at City Hall, but many felt that the temporary building the President had been using was not formal enough. There had been mixed reactions to holding the funeral in front of the scene of the crime, but in the end, Lin had insisted that they had served as police officers and they would be honored as police officers.
It seemed the entire city had turned out to honor the fallen. A large crowd had gathered around the temporary stage that sat in front of Toph Beifong's grand statue. Waiting on the stage were members of Republic City's Council, as well as Tenzin, Izumi, and Korra. The front few rows were reserved for the families of those who had died, and the rest of the force had filled in the rest of the area. The Air Nation had provided airbenders to work security so no officer would have to miss the ceremony.
President Raiko went straight to the podium, leaving Lin and Roan to fall into line beside Tenzin. Lin looked even more stiff and uncomfortable than usual. Tenzin reached out to touch her arm when she came to sit beside him, as if to ground her to the stage. But she threw her shoulders back to straighten her armor and sat down. The guilt was eating her alive, but Lin was damned to see this funeral through.
President Raiko began his opening speech, praising the Police Force and Republic City. Lin was not a stranger to public speaking and normally did not worry about addressing a crowd. It also was not the first time she had attended the funeral of one of her officers. But the combination of both, along with the knowledge that somehow their deaths were her fault was turning her stomach. No matter how many people tried to tell her there was nothing she could have done to save them, the notion wasn't sinking in.
Her own words to Zuko just a week ago kept coming back to her, about how her officers knew they had a dangerous job and how their deaths were a small price to pay, instead of an entire war with The Order. She was the one who had agreed to help Zuko and the White Lotus. When Lin made the decision, she hadn't expected The Order to take on the entire police force. Lin had always thought they would come for her directly, and alone. Obviously, she had miscalculated. That miscalculation had cost the lives of seven of her officers.
Pari, Han, Lee, Ming, Suma, Yuke, and Saikhan.
As she looked into the crowd, her eyes found Saikhan's wife, Miyang. She was sitting with her son and his husband, holding her youngest granddaughter in her lap. Miyang had found her at the precinct earlier in the morning.
"How are you?" A feminine voice asked from behind her. Lin was in one of the interrogation rooms going over her prepared speech. It wasn't long, but she wanted to make sure she got it right.
"I feel like I should be asking you that," replied Lin in a gruffer voice than she intended.
"We knew the risks. Just like you do. My husband loved his job and I loved him. Right now, I'm taking things one day at a time." Miyang walked over to Lin, but hesitated. "I'd like to hug you, but I realized that isn't really something you do. So, I will guilt you into hugging me by saying that Saikhan would be very amused by it."
The beginnings of a smirk tugged at Lin's cheek. Setting her speech down, Lin crossed the rest of the space between them. Miyang gave a sad smile and wrapped her arms around Lin's shoulders. Like many of the spouses of metalbending officers, Miyang knew how to manage around the uniform. Lin leaned into her, allowing her own arms to come to rest on Miyang's hips. When Miyang pulled away, there were tears pooling in her eyes.
Lin cleared her throat and murmured, "He died fighting for a good cause. I know it may not seem like it, but the people that killed him were trying to throw the entire world back into chaos."
"He died defending the officers who worked for him and for this city. I can make peace with that. Can you?"
She wasn't sure how to make peace with it.
President Raiko was finishing up his speech and Lin turned her attention to the back of his head. She needed to focus. This wasn't about her; this was about her officers. They deserved a proper memorial and she was going to make sure this city said goodbye properly. Polite clapping signaled the end of the president's speech.
Lin stood with as much confidence she could muster. President Raiko turned to shake her hand and then she took his place at the podium. All eyes were on the Chief of Police now. Lin took a deep breath and started speaking.
In the crowd, Kya listened to her lover speak. Lin was clear and to the point, thanking her officers for their sacrifice and honoring their dedication. Sitting next to Kya, Su looked as nervous as Kya felt. Both had tried to convince Lin not to speak, but she wouldn't listen. Of course, Kya knew that Lin would never have allowed the funerals to take place without her. She hoped that Lin could find peace in the attack by laying her officers to rest properly.
Applause met the end of the speech and Kya let out a sigh of relief. It was over. People started standing up around her, a soft murmur of conversation sweeping over the crowd. A little tug on her dress caused Kya to look down. Rohan held up his tiny hands. "Auntie. Up."
"Use your words and say please," said Pema halfheartedly, trying to keep an eye on Meelo as he spun off.
Rohan frowned and slowly said, "Auntie, pick up, please."
Kya swept him into her arms and gave her nephew a little kiss on the forehead. When she looked back to the stage, most people had moved into the crowd. She spotted Tenzin's bald head for a brief moment, but she couldn't see Lin at all. Situating Rohan on her hip, she asked Su, "Do you see Lin?"
"Hmm?" She had been in a conversation with Asami about improving the domes in Zaofu. Su looked around the crowd, her frown matching Kya. "She was on the stage with Tenzin."
"Daddy!" Rohan wiggled in Kya's arms.
Looking over her shoulder, Kya saw her brother approaching, but Lin wasn't with him. Before Kya could get the words out, Su asked, "Where's Lin?"
"She's…" Tenzin turned around and the back to the group. "I swear she was right behind me."
"You just left her by herself?" asked Su accusatorily.
Tenzin huffed a bit, but a glare from his wife silenced him. Kya handed him his son and started to walk into the crowd, but Korra grabbed her arm. "No, you stay where we can find you. The rest of us will fan out and try to find her."
"Lin's a grown woman, I'm sure she's fine." Pema glared at Tenzin as soon as the words left his mouth. With a sigh, he said, "I'll cover the area to the left of the stage."
"Boys, take the center," ordered Su, "I'll go to the right with Opal and Bolin. Jinora, can you and Ikki cover the area closest to the precinct. Korra and Asami will go over to the press area."
The group split up, leaving Kya with Pema. Kya wasn't even sure why she was worried. There were a million reasons that Lin didn't follow Tenzin over to the group after the funeral was over and not all of them were bad. It wasn't as if the last time Kya didn't know where Lin was, she was being tortured. The anxiety was starting again. This was a funeral; there was no screaming, no fighting, no risk of losing her. She took a couple of deep breaths and looked into the sea of faces, hoping to see the one she wanted.
Across the crowd, Mako tried to keep an eye on the Chief as Raiko and a few council members swarmed around her. Lin's shoulders were stiffer than usual, even under her metal armor. Her jaw was tight as if she were holding back the urge to punch a few of the councilors. He should probably get her out of there. Pushing his way through the other officers, Mako headed in her direction while thinking of a good excuse to pull her away from the President.
Steps away from the group, the Beifong twins appeared on either side of him. Mako still could not tell them apart, even though Bolin had tried to tell him. It was something about they way they parted their hair or something. One of them slapped him on the shoulder and asked, "What's the plan to get her away from those airheads?"
"Well, I was trying to think of some sort of emergency or work-related problem, but we're at a funeral. What could possibly be going on? And I'm pretty sure Raiko doesn't like me already."
"He's not my president," muttered a bored voice behind Mako. Huan sauntered past his brothers and Mako to approach the closest councilman. "I have several inquiries about the art scene here in Republic City."
The twins followed their brother's lead, forcing themselves into the conversation. Lin looked bewildered at the appearance of her nephews, but they eased between her and the rest of the group. Mako took the opportunity to grab her arm and usher her away.
"What in the flameo is going on?" asked Lin, but she allowed Mako to lead her away from Raiko and the others.
"You looked like you needed an out."
"I…well…you know how Raiko is," grumbled Lin. Raiko had the best of intentions, but Lin really didn't want to spend the moments directly after holding a funeral for seven of her officers discussing politics. Lin didn't want to discuss politics on any normal day; but she especially didn't want to deal with their blabbering just days after being healed from days of torture.
"There you are!" Su's voice called from a few meters over. As nicely as possibly, she weaved through the crowd to get to Mako and Lin. Behind her were Opal and Bolin. "We've been looking for you."
"What? I'm fine," argued Lin as Su placed a hand on her sister's shoulder.
"Thank you, Mako." Su steered them in a different direction, seemingly where the rest of their group would be waiting. "Opal, go get Pepper."
Soon, they could see Kya, Pema, Tenzin, Jinora, and Ikki waiting for them. Kya took Su's place next to Lin as soon as she could. Her eyes met Lin's, but the other woman looked away quickly. Lin's body was so tense that her soreness was coming back, and her knee ached. "I'm fine. I don't need you all hovering. I need to…"
"Go home," finished Su almost aggressively. "You look exhausted, Lin. Tenzin can handle Raiko and Korra and Asami are handling the press. I'm sure your officers would understand that you need to leave. If not, Mako can make your excuses."
Lin looked as if she may argue, but it seemed the fight had gone out of her. She took Kya's hand and nodded, "Yeah. Alright."
"MAKE WAY!" Meelo appeared, shouting at the people around them. Above them, Opal was slowly landing Pepper nearby. "Sky bison landing! Sky bison landing!"
"I think that's our ride," murmured Kya, giving Lin's hand a squeeze and started to lead her toward the bison. "What do you say we get out of here?"
When they reached the bison, Opal was petting Pepper's nose. Lin slipped an arm around Kya's waist and with a little bit of effort bent the earth to launch them into the saddle. Lin settled down with a little pain in her back, but it was a relief to get off her knee. Kya climbed onto Pepper's head and took the reins, thanking Opal. The bison took off and headed into the city to Lin's apartment.
Neither woman spoke for the entire flight. Kya steered Pepper to hover just outside the balcony so that Lin could hop off. Kya followed and gave Pepper a little pat on the shoulder. "Go home, buddy. Go back to Opal."
Pepper gave a little hum and flew off toward Air Temple Island. Kya turned around to go into the apartment, but noticed Lin was staring off into the distance. She seemed to be entranced by the lights of the city. "Lin? Lin, honey? Are you alright?"
"I need a vacation."
"A what?" Kya had been convinced for years that Lin didn't know the word existed.
Lin turned away from the city to look at her. With a deep sigh, she repeated, "I need a vacation. I need to get out of this city. My mind is all over the place and I can't focus. I'm no good to my officers this way. I'm rattled…"
Kya placed a kiss on Lin's forehead. "Are you sure? I know you usually think the best way to get over anything is to bury yourself in your work. And it's worked for you for years…"
"Kya, I want you to take me over the world. I want to live your life for just a little while. I want you in my bed every night and I want to look beside me to see you standing there." Lin clasped both of Kya's hands in her own. She was trembling a little as she spoke. Kya was staring back in surprise, waiting for her to continue. "Take me away. Just you and me."
"I will go wherever you want, I promise," murmured Kya softly. She stepped in closer and pulled Lin into an embrace. Lin rested her head on Kya's shoulder as Kya continued speaking. "When they told me you were dead, I thought I would be facing the rest of my life without you. I still sometimes can't believe I'm holding you…I keep thinking I'm going to wake up and it'll be your funeral that I am attending. So, if you want to travel the world, I'll be the best guide you can find. And I promise you'll never wake up another day without me. I love you."
Lin pulled back enough to kiss her lover gently and say, "Let's go to bed. And in the morning, we can start making plans."
Hand in hand, the couple walked back into the apartment. Republic City's problems could wait. The world's problems could wait. For the time being, they could just be with each other.