The nightmares began in Zaofu. Pema knew, intellectually, that her family was safe, Tenzin and Korra were recovering in hospital, but every night, her dreaming mind conjured up screams of agony and endless winding caves from which there was no escape.
She took to dozing in the sunlight, resting her head on Lin's lap, or in the hospital, in the uncomfortable chair beside Tenzin's bed.
"Bad dreams?" he asked.
Pema smiled. "You too?"
"It's normal," said Lin. She was leaning against the wall, draped in robes of grey and green. "It'll pass."
But she appeared at the door of Pema's guest house late that night, after the children had gone to bed.
"I thought you might be tired of sleeping alone," she said. "I know I am."
Pema pulled her into a deep kiss.
"I missed you, too," she said.
This time, when the nightmare came, she woke up in Lin's arms.
"It's okay," Lin was whispering, stroking Pema's tangled hair. "You're okay."
Pema drew a shaky breath.
"I just need -- the kids--"
"Go," said Lin.
By the time she had confirmed that the kids were all sleeping -- Meelo was curled up on the floor with his lemur -- Lin had made a pot of tea. They sat outside to drink it.
"You should talk about it," said Lin. "Isn't that what you told me?"
"It's not the same," said Pema, resting her head on Lin's shoulder. "You were beaten and tortured by Equalists. You … earned your nightmares."
Lin snorted. "It's not a competition," she said. "Take it from someone who's seen a lot of shit. Your kids and friends were held hostage by terrorists, your husband was nearly beaten to death, and then we all got to watch a kid we like and admire being tortured." She was absently tracing a line up Pema's inner arm, wrist to elbow. "No one's going to fault you for having bad dreams."
"I feel silly."
"Don't." Lin raised Pema's hand to her lips. "You and Tenzin helped me so much when I lost my bending. At least let me return the favour."
In the morning, the kids took Lin's presence in stride. Ikki lingered by her side long enough to say, "Opal was really surprised when I told her that you and my mom and dad are friends. Did you know her mom thought you hated them? What kind of sister gets that wrong? I know everything about Jinora."
"Not true," called Jinora, and Ikki left them to follow her sister and brothers in to breakfast.
"There's an acupuncturist in the city," said Lin. "Knows his stuff. You might feel better if you see him."
"The guy who had you trying to fight your sister to the death?"
Lin sighed. "My niece has a big mouth."
"I'll feel better when Tenzin's out of hospital and we're on our way home," said Pema. "No offence to Suyin, but this place is weird if you're a non-bender."
"I don't like it, either," Lin admitted. "I'm not saying I prefer a city with some crime, but this place is--"
At the hospital, Pema found Tenzin up and -- carefully -- walking. He greeted her with a tight hug.
"You look so much better," said Pema when he finally let her go. "Are they discharging you?"
"After lunch. Kya and Bumi, too."
Tenzin hesitated. "No."
The poison's damage was too extensive, Tonraq explained over dinner. It had torn through Korra's system, straining her organs and leaving her weak and in pain.
"I want to take her home, to the South Pole," he said.
"If anyone can help her, it's Mom," Kya agreed.
"It's such a long journey, though," said Su.
"I'll go with her," said Kya. "As soon as she's discharged, we'll take her back to Republic City, and from there, we'll take a ship south."
"Thank you," said Tonraq.
Pema found Asami in the garden, sitting on the ground beneath a tree.
She jumped, wiping her eyes.
"I didn't hear you coming," she said.
"I guessed. Are you okay?"
"Fine. Here, let me--" Asami took Rohan while Pema sat down. "I'm just worried about Korra, I guess."
"I know. We all are."
"It's not--" Asami raked her fingers through her hair. It was the closest Pema had ever come to seeing her disheveled. "This … thing you and Tenzin have with Lin. I know you guys keep it quiet, but -- how did you know?"
"I can't speak for Lin or Tenzin--"
"No, you," said Asami. "You were married for nearly fifteen years, you had kids, you seemed really happy."
"I was. I have a great marriage."
"But there must have been a point where you looked at Beifong, and realised you wanted her, too. Weren't you surprised?"
"A little," Pema admitted.
"Because Lin's a woman?"
"Well, yes," said Pema thoughtfully, "but that wasn't all of it. We weren't friends, you see. We'd barely spoken to each other before we wound up in an Equalist prison together. We needed each other in there, and we kept on needing each other afterwards. Need … turned into want, I guess." She looked at Asami. "You know, Korra might surprise you."
"I didn't -- I mean -- that is--" It was hard to tell in the darkness, but Pema thought Asami was blushing. "She's got bigger problems than a friend with a crush."
"Give her time." Pema squeezed Asami's arm. "She deserves to be happy. So do you."
This time, Lin appeared before the kids went to bed, and even tolerated a sticky hug from Meelo -- who had been eating pumpkin cakes -- for a whole fifteen seconds.
When the kids had finally gone to bed, she exchanged a lingering kiss with Tenzin, and let Pema lead them both into the bedroom. Their lovemaking was tender, if not explosive, and when Pema finally fell asleep, it was with the knowledge that her family was, at last, complete again.
This time, it wasn't her own nightmare that woke her, but Tenzin's. Pema shifted, wrapping her arms around him, whispering, "It's okay, we're all okay."
"The children," he mumbled when he had his breathing under control.
"They're fine," said Lin, sitting up. "Your family's safe, I promise."
"Come on." Pema took his hand. "See for yourself."
She felt Lin's eyes on them as they left the bedroom. Glancing back, she saw Lin smile, and get up to make another pot of tea.