“Are you all right?”
He is standing in the doorway of her room and she is sitting still in a chair by the window. She is so still.
He asks his question hesitantly, softly, as if speaking too loud would startle her. She turns her head to stare at him for a moment then returns her gaze to the view of the courtyard outside without uttering a word.
“I-I’m sorry, Lin, that was a stupid question. How are you feeling?”
She sighs, uncrosses her legs and turns her body towards him.
“How do you think, Tenzin?”
It is his turn to sigh.
“Look, Lin, I’m just trying to— ”
“I know. I’m being rude. But then again, haven’t I always been?”
Instead of a verbal response Tenzin simply moves across the room to sit gently on the bed opposite her.
“It must be hard for you. Especially as more time goes on.” The silence following his words stretches as Tenzin watches Lin attempt to assemble the thoughts racing in her mind that can’t seem to find their way out.
“It seems more real, old friend,” she finally says, and when she does her voice seems so tired and hollow. Despite the sun streaming in from the open window, her skin looks translucent and sickly. The shadows under her eyes are now the color of her hair. “The more days that go by the more I realize I’m never going to be able to earth—”
She half chokes on the word, unable to get it out. Stopping, her head tilts down so her hair falls forward, hiding her eyes, allowing the sun to glint on the strands of bright wiry gray that have slowly infiltrated her dark natural waves.
“I’m never going to be able to earthb—” she tries again but it ends in a sob this time. The sun catches the little drops of moisture as they fall down onto her legs. “Earthb—” Tenzin stares, watching Lin as she hisses in a breath and finally spits out through her gritted teeth, “earthbend again.”
It is like her body is trying to curl itself together in the chair. Her back is hunched over, her rapidly rising and falling chest nearly touching her knees. Her fists are gripping the wood on the side of the chair so tightly her knuckles are stark white.
“Lin…” Tenzin reaches out to put a hand on her should and watches as her muscles stiffen even further.
“I am— was an earthbender,” she stumbles over the tenses and he watches the flash of pain dart across her brow and then her mouth twists into a bitter smile, “and do you know how fucking sick I am of feeling rock under my feet?”
Tenzin is at a loss for what to say as he watches her shoulder spasm once as her body is wracked with a silent sob. She then takes in a shuttering breath and when she looks up at him her eyes are clouded with tears.
“I miss flying the most,” she whispers and her clear green eyes are heartbreaking and so, so beautiful.
Tenzin sits up straighter on the bed.
“Would you like to fly again, Lin?” He asks. His voice is stronger now. Her back straightens out a bit as she looks up at him again, her lips parted slightly.
“I’ll take you flying.”
She crosses her legs as she sits in Oogi’s back. She’s unused to the rise and fall of the animal below her as he breathes.
“Ready?” Tenzin asks back.
“Yes,” Lin responds, gazing across the Air Temple complex, the buildings and the trees and beyond that, the harbor of Republic City.
“Oogi, yip, yip.”
At the command, the sky bison slowly begins to rise into the air, slowly further and further, higher and higher. Lin closes her eyes, suddenly not wanting to see, not wanted to feel the sky if it is not metal holding her up. Minutes pass.
“Lin?” Tenzin’s voice stirs her from her thoughts. “We’re up now.”
Slowly, Lin blinks open her eyes and everything is blue. The sky is so vast and empty. She can only barely see and edge when she peers over and her eyes fall on the barely-visible seam of the ocean and the sky. Far below she can see Air Temple Island and the statue of Avatar Aang and it all looks so small from up here.
“Do you want to stand up?”
Lin looks over at him, startled.
Tenzin sighs, a small smile playing on his face.
“Stand up, Lin.”
She stares back at him, and after a moment it is evident that he wasn’t kidding. So slowly, she uncrosses her legs and lifts herself to her feet. The air is so calm and so still. And then…
And suddenly they are moving, they are zooming through the air high up above all of Republic City and—
There it is…the wind in her hair again.
She had almost forgotten the feeling.
Tears spring to her eyes as she remembers this and it is almost too much to bear.
And she can almost feel the perpetually changing tension of the metal chords and the creak of them as they constantly shift to support her as she flies through space.
She can feel the freedom and the air and the way it tug her arms this way and that. She can hear the roar of the wind as it whistles past her and feel the gusts twisting her hair around her face in a wild cloud and whipping across her bare cheeks.
It is just so close.
She lets out a wild yell of triumph that is ripped from her lips by the wind as they fly and streams out behind them like metal chords from her back in beautiful black strands.
She is high up in the air and she can feel again.
“Thank you, Tenzin.” She doesn’t know if her whisper reaches him or is snatched by the wind and carried into the sky beyond them. “Thank you.”
Because she can close her eyes and it’s almost…almost like she is flying.