Chapter 1: Midnight Surprises
As the dark shape swung atop the cramp streets. Black tendrils shooting out and curling around wires that hung like vines between buildings. Lamp posts used for turns. And when she ran out of things to grapple onto such as when they came to the wide birth around the town square the figure would run along the roof top of a building, so much that a permanent scuff mark had formed a trail, till they leapt off the end and found the long pole with the elegant flag a symbol of the four nations coming together. The insignias of all four elements, air, water, fire, and earth. No lines of separation just each of the elements standing side by side in gold lines on a green background.
Continuing its journey the figure was sandwiched between the bright lights below and the concealed black beauty above. It had been so many months, not since the last trip to the beach house the figure owned, had they seen the true sky. Glimmering with a thousand souls. While sitting in the sand. A blanket to keep the chill away. And the warmth of the person they held most precious. Mid swing the smell of fresh fish caught by the wind made the figures nose peak. All they could think of, as it continued to go through the motions on its way home, was the sight of brown skin, water colored eye's, and that voice still scratchy even after so many years; yet, oh so sweet to have whispered in an ear. She was the figure's little penguin no matter how old the women would ever be.
Taking the alley way because it was the day when all the clothes lines would be empty; a nice short cut when available. The figure paid no mind to the lives of those held in the windows it passed. The clothing the figure wore gleamed as did the tendrils. And the figure was no longer simply just a human shape. But became a feminine women. Flicking her arms as metal cables shot out and were expertly controlled by her will. The metal armor flexing to the curves of her figure. As she brought her hips up letting the cables be pulled back into hiding at her wrists. She fell to the ground. The street bellow seemed to respond to the figure an quelled her descent. Silent she strode on. Careful not to wake those resting for the madness that was to come with the waking sun. Far less worse than what happened at night, thought the women.
The parallel scars on the women's right cheek were illuminated by the light above a bulky metallic door. Well oiled hinges slide magically open with a wave of her hand. The women leaned her drooping body into the door. No lights on. No lights needed. With grace reclaimed when the door closed. The women navigated through the house. Out of the living room with the same old earth kingdom green colored couch. With the rock sculptures on the mantel behind it; Including some added sculptures that shined like crystal even when light failed to touch them. A penguin. Badgermole. And one of a little girl with no shoes. Hair, that the women remembers always being a shocking mess in the morning, done up in a large bun. One hand gripping her side. The other had a gentlemen's pinky picking at the grin on her face.
The women's lips parted to reveal white teeth. She could not remember having dry eyes the rest of her birthday after that gift. Clinging to it like a child would it's favorite toy. As she interacted with her guests. With another year under her belt she felt her image slipping more so that day. Even allowing her senior detective, Mako, to see her in such a state. Along with anyone else for that fact; especially Tenzin and Pema. The insufferable women she once tried to have locked away for stealing her man had the most insidious intentions when she snapped the picture of her little penguin and her.
Straddling the floor under the archway to the bedroom. The women, at the sudden memory, felt herself pulled back. To the living room. The mantle behind the couch. She reached out a hand, glossing over the sculptures, to a brass frame. Forever locked in the moment of time. Dimly able to be seen in the dark of the room. Yet she didn't need to see to know what moment had been captured. The women who held the picture had been dressed in a simple china dress as she held the gift. Tears running down her cheeks as brown arms were wrapped around her neck. Her little penguin's insatiable smile.
The need to see her loved one took hold. The picture was placed back with gentle and loving care. Now making it through the archway and to the door. A steady hand gripped the half open door. Lifting a foot the metal plates on the sole of her shoe retracted and she set the uninhibited appendage on the cool wooden floor. Feeling the wood beneath her foot. She extended her senses into the room. Able to see, if only a bit hazily, the entirety of it from the dresser to the futon which held a beating heart.
The women hesitated. She could see her loved one was awake; unfortunately. Her outline was sitting up in bed. A hand she had felt stroking her a thousand times before was working on something in her lap. And that's when the second image came into focus. Another heart was beating in the bedroom. A miniscule. Fragile beat. Wrapped in the sheets as well that were around the others waist.
A dark arm flew up to shield the women's eyes when the light suddenly turned on. As blotches in her vision subsided she looked to the source of the disturbance. "Lin." She said with mouth wide open. Surprised by the sudden intrusion. Well, she shouldn't of been considering they shared the apartment.
"Korra." The women said tight jawed. "What's the meaning of this?" The response was not what the younger women had hoped for. What should she of expected though? She hadn't really planned what to say to her older lover when the women returned home from work. Korra was never one for plans.
Lin couldn't see what was buried in the blankets, but she could still sense it. When she closed her eyes the shape was distinctly...the blankets shifted. The thing inside them squirmed. It was awake now. Heart thumping wildly in its tiny chest. Or was that Lin's own doing the heavy thumping. What was she to do in this situation? Nothing could ever prepare her for what her little penguin had deemed fit to bring home. She never even thought she would make a good mother; not like her mom had been. Warm and caring. Strict when needed. Lin thought of herself as cold, almost, one hundred percent of the time. Especially at work. And only towards Korra was she able to show a fraction of the love she felt the women deserved. She could never do this with a...
A gurgle broke the silence between the two women. Lin saw her lover take her eyes away from her and it broke something inside. To see those blue eyes show that elegant and loving face to someone else.
Foot steps signaled a hesitant approach. The women in the bed wouldn't turn to look at the shadow hovering over her. So she occupied herself. Engulfing the tiny hands in her own. Manipulating the sausage fingers into little poses. Peace signs and little guns. She even made the pew-pew sounds. To which she received a deep chuckle from the figure hovering over her.
Shadow shrinking away moving towards the large dresser with the winged boar carved in wood above the doors. Lin opened them and gestured with her hands. Buckles popped and the armor she wore was levitated off her and sent to hang itself up. Pale skin was revealed even further when the sweat stained shirt underneath was lifted over her head. Scars across her back. Some old, some not so; twisted as the muscles rippled putting on a fresh change of clothes. Simple sweats and a tank top. The normal modest sleeping attire.
Lin looked over her shoulder. Again disappointed when her little penguins attention was on her lap and not her. Korra always enjoyed watching her undress. She would not stand for this. It showed in her gruff addressing of the issue. "So, where did you get the kid from?"
Silence. Ignored in favor of playing with the 'brat' in her lap. Her posture was slumping. Head sinking lower. Korra was trying to avoid this. What did she expect Lin to do just shut her mouth and act as if this was normal. Oh yeah, we have a kid now. No.
"I didn't know what to do." She said quickly.
"She was alone. I couldn't just leave her."
Lin was on the bed in a split second. Forcing the girls face to look at her. She could see the wetness in her eyes but wasn't going to let it distract her. "What happened?" Hand refusing to let the grip loosen.
Korra was forced to recount her story with her eyes locked onto those of her badgermole. "I stumbled across a small house. Just outside the village..." She hastily began. Decided that wasn't the best way to start this off and began again. "I had heard about some spirits running amok outside town. So I'd thought I'd go an beat some sense into them." She grinned. However noticing her partners sober expression quelled her chipper outbreak. "When I got there I found the spirits. I...it was a tough battle." Korra was able to get her face out of Lin's grip to hike up her oversized night shirt to show the bandage on her side.
Lin reached out. "Does it hurt?" If she weren't in the situation that she was Lin would of been tempted to slide her hand a little lower; after all Korra only wore the shirt and nothing else. Lin always did something like that when her little penguin was injured. Make her feel better. The women had an incurable thought in her head that she should be able to handle anything because she was the avatar after all. Master of all four elements. Savoir of the people. The bridge between humans and spirits. Yet, one little scratch could take away that confidence that was usually exuded so easily. When the women had an injury it would stir thoughts of inadequacy. Cause Lin could tell how it weighted on her and Lin couldn't bear to see her little penguin act like that. But not now. Not with what Korra had done. Lin would make her face the pain this time.
Korra shook her head. "Just a bruise. Nothing to worry about. I healed the worst of it. I'm just keeping the bandage on so my clothes don't irritate it...So I took care of the spirits. Then I found the house. Oh Lin it was so horrible. Why would the spirits do that?" When Korra tried to seek comfort she was forced back. She blinked her tearing eyes.
"What about him?"
"Her." Korra corrected. Surely Lin could tell it was a girl by the pink pajama's it wore. A size to big they hung off the child. Because in her haste to get rid of the soiled clothes the kid had on before...Korra shook away the refreshed images in her mind. She stroked a lock of red hair ending just pass the Childs chubby cheeks. "I heard 'her' crying. Her parents must of hidden her before the spirits got to them. I found her underneath a basket." She cleaned what she could of the parents off the baby in a nearby stream. Wrapped her in a blanket and made the trek back to republic city.
"So you just decided to take her home? Keep her like a found puppy. Korra this is a child. There are places in republic city equipped to care for children in these kinds of situations." She reached out.
Wrapping her arms reflexively around the defenseless child; Korra held the baby to her chest.
Lin drew to her full height. Locked eyes with her lover. They glared for a few minutes time.
"Korra." Lin stretched out her hand. "Give me the child."
"I said no Lin!"
The child moaned at the loud noise near it's sensitive ears. Wailing and ragging it's tiny fists. Korra cupped it's head and jiggled it in her arms. "Now look what you've done."
Flabbergasted Lin belched. "What I've done. Korra, you don't just bring home a child out of nowhere and act like I'm the bad guy here. Now give him to me."
"Her." Korra corrected again.
"Fine-her. Give me her. I'll make sure she is placed in a good home for kids."
"Lin, we can't do that. Mako and Bolin have told me so many stories about those places. Why do you think they chose to live on the streets."
The baby had quieted down. So had the two adults. Lin's shoulders sagged as she watched the women in the bed rock herself and the baby back and forth. Her hold was iron. There was no way to separate the two at that point.
Lin approached. Korra held tighter. Holding up a hand in surrender the women sat cross legged near the edge of the bed. Leaning heavily on her hands for support. For so many years she had honed the skill set to not let things get to her. Sometimes she had to be the bad guy. That was a given. That was the law. But...yet, how could she do that in this situation. Spirits this was unfair, she thought.
"Why are you doing this Korra?"
"Because her parents are dead."
"And you think this is your responsibility?"
"I-I was the one who left the portal open."
"Yes you did." Lin agreed.
The women's dark cheeks were streaked with tears. Lin sighed. Leaned over an rubbed the top of her lovers head like she were petting the girls polar bear dog.
"Korra-my little penguin. This can't work. Every time you look at that kid you'll feel that pain. I won't let you live with that. If I have to. I will take that child from you by force. And you can hate me for the rest of this life and the next." Lin held out her hand and wiggled her fingers. Wiping the tears away Korra took her own hand and laced them together. They stayed with their hands interlocked in some sort of wrestling match. The hard and calloused fingers of Lin's gripped tighter. "However, If you're going to do this. Don't do this out of some sort of penance you think you owe. Do this because you want to love this child, and raise her as your own. I don't know how good of a mother I will be. But if this is what you want. Really want." Her look pleaded with her love. "I will do this with you. And love her as much as I love you."