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Rebuilding Lives

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It was a comfortable cell -- the Equalists knew she had given birth recently, after all -- but it was still a cell. And three of her children were not in it. Pema held Rohan as he slept, more for her own comfort than his. He'd finally stopped crying and she was about ready to collapse on the mattress from exhaustion.

But she couldn't sleep. She still heard Jinora and Ikki and Meelo's voices screaming as Tenzin tried futilely to get the children away. Pema had lurched unsteadily to her feet to join him, but all she could manage to do was to stagger around until a pair of Equalists had grabbed her. Useless. Worse than useless.

She knew she was being silly; no one expected a woman who had just given birth to be able to fight, even if she was a trained air acolyte. It was why Lin had accompanied them, and why Tenzin had tried to draw the pursuit. Why Jinora and Ikki had stood in front of Meelo. They were a family; they protected one another.

Rohan stirred, and Pema looked at his face, so much like her other children when they were born, but still different enough that she knew he would grow into his own person. She remembered telling Katara that she'd hoped he'd be 'normal'. A terrible way of putting it, especially in front of the children, and she regretted it now. Jinora, and Ikki, and Meelo all were normal. Their normal was gliders and breezing through the corridors like a flock of lemurs. Having them grounded might be easier, but it would be wrong. And maybe Rohan would be like his sisters and brother, and maybe he would be like her sister's children. Or he might shock them all and be a waterbender or an earthbender. But he would be normal, whatever normal was for him.

Though right now she wanted him to be the strongest airbender ever, just to spite Amon and the people who hurt her children, and that fury scared her. She slowed her breathing, focusing on meditation and the smell of clean newborn.

She must have drifted to sleep, curled up on the mattress, back to the door, because the next thing she heard was the door scrape against the floor. A guard -- the woman guard from earlier -- called out. "Mealtime." Pema stayed still, but the guard must have noticed the change in her breathing or posture. "Come on," she said, "we don't want you to get sick."

Pema heard footsteps on the stone and felt the guard leaning over her. "Are you all right?" Pema didn't think, just pushed out at where she thought the other woman was, and managed to shove her shoulder into the other woman's chin. It hurt, but the woman fell over, cracking her head on the floor. The sound woke Rohan, who started crying.

Pema clutched him. "Shh, baby." She was afraid to glance at the door. If it was open, it could be a chance to escape. A slim chance, given Rohan was working up to full volume and she felt queasy from the movement. But she'd have to take the chance; for her son, if nothing else.

She already heard footsteps down the hall, even over Rohan's wails, and the other guards shouting. Pema rose unsteadily to her feet and finally looked at the door. Closed. Of course. But maybe she could slip past when the guards opened it to check on her. She crouched by the door hinges, still rocking Rohan in an attempt to soothe him. Someone was sounding an alarm -- were the reinforcements from the military already here? It couldn't be because of one downed guard.

She heard some thuds and smelled the discharge of the guards' electric weapons. Then hands turning keys in the lock and wrenching the door open. "Pema?"

The voice was one she'd recognize anywhere, one she knew all the nuances of. "Tenzin!" Pema stood up, throwing an arm around her husband. Even Rohan seemed to calm at the sound of his father's voice. Tenzin didn't have his staff, but was holding a length of metal pipe in a similar matter, one he nearly dropped to embrace her.

"Mom!" Behind him, came all three of her other children, crowding around her like turtle-ducklings, asking her if she was all right, and if Rohan was okay, and giving an incomprehensible account of what had happened since the Equalists had separated them. "Whoa, Mom, did you knock out the guard by yourself?" Ikki asked. "That's awesome!"

"You shouldn't underestimate your mother, dear." Pema forced herself to break the hug, so she could examine them. This looked like a rescue. What she couldn't tell was how Tenzin had broken them free… and if Amon had hurt any of her babies, or her husband. The children seemed in high spirits, at least. "Is…"

"Korra and Mako had broken in to the Arena, where we were taken," Tenzin informed her, in that tone that said he was proud of his student and would tell her so, once he was done fuming over the fact Korra had put herself into danger for him, and that he was scared for her. "She's in pursuit of Amon. She says that he's a Waterbender -- his technique is based on bloodbending." He shifted impatiently, and Pema could tell that it had been hard for him to leave Korra there, even with the desire to protect the family. Korra was family too, another person risking herself for them.

"We'll have to thank her when we meet up at home," Pema said, trying to force a smile on her face. "Now, you all were rescuing me right?" she said, like it was just a game of pretend. Maybe if they focused hard on it, it would end like all their games had, with everyone safe and the worst trouble being a minor squabble over who would get the last sweet.