"Lin you know this doesn't count."
"I'm out of the station aren't I?" snapped Lin, not looking up from the pile of reports on the kitchen table.
"Doing your reports at home does not count as 'taking the evening off'."
Lin ignored her, and Kya sighed in frustration. She'd come back to Republic City just six months after Tenzin and Pema's wedding to act as midwife in the birth of her niece, which judging from the time constraints she was expecting to be a tragic affair. Much to Kya's surprise, Jinora's birth had not been painfully premature; in fact, Jinora had appeared to be a little late, judging from her size. Then, when it became apparent Pema had been pregnant long before the wedding, or else Jinora was some kind of miracle child, she had gone to her mother. She suspected Katara had known about Pema's pregnancy since before the wedding, but had kept quiet for Tenzin's sake. Now of course, Jinora's birth was being celebrated across the city, and Tenzin had urged Kya to visit the one person who would be inevitably reeling from the celebrations. She'd complied more for Lin's sake than that of her brother, and even then it was only after seeing Lin by chance at City Hall, after she'd been forced to attend one of Tenzin's god-awful Council meetings. She'd looked such a state Kya had gone over to her right there.
"Fine. If you're going to be like this then I guess I can't stop you."
She sat down on the chair opposite Lin. To be honest, it was a miracle the metal bender had listened to her advice at all, but then she did have the leverage of being one of the world's foremost healers. Even Lin couldn't argue with that. Glancing around the room, Kya took note of just how spartan it was. Not only that, but, like the rest of Lin's house, it surprisingly small. On her payroll Lin could probably afford somewhere far more up-market, and in a much nicer neighbourhood. Not that here was anything wrong with where she lived at the moment, but, it just didn't seem to quite fit the esteem that being one of the City's leading officials demanded.
Kya drew her attention back to Lin as she flipped the page she had just finished scrawling on from one pile to the other. The policewoman still looked dreadful. She had clearly not been sleeping, but on top of that she'd obviously lost a lot of weight too - there was a solid inch between the collar of her armour and her neck. When Kya had seen her at the wedding she honestly hadn't looked too bad - considering her partner of over a decade was marrying someone else within just two months of ending their relationship - but the water bender assumed that with Jinora's birth only six months after that, the inescapable conclusion had hit Lin like a ton of bricks. It was no wonder she was against Kya's interference; this total dedication to her work was probably the only thing keeping her afloat.
"Have you had anything to eat?" she inquired.
A muted grunt was all she got in reply.
"Well," she said brightly. "How about I make you something now?"
"I'll take that as a yes."
She got up and began rummaging through the cupboards. Finding nothing but plates, she poked her nose into the fridge - it contained a pint of week-old milk and a pack of beer. Kya frowned and turn back to the woman at the table.
"Lin this is ridiculous. Have you got any food in at all?"
"Sure I have," she peered round from her seat to look in the fridge. "I've got, uh-"
"Look it doesn't matter. I never cook and I get all my meals at the station for free anyway," came the hasty reply as Lin turned back to her papers.
"It does matter Lin. You've looked terrible these past few months and- "
"Oh great, thanks."
"Look, we're just worried about you okay?"
"Oh? And who does 'we' compromise of exactly?"
Kya stuttered and closed the fridge.
"Well, um, I'm sure Toph-"
"Mum left the week after the marriage to go live with a stupid badgermole colony," Lin spat, angrily flipping over another page and putting on to the pile next to her. "Guess again."
"Katara's worried about you."
"Yes, I'm sure with her granddaughter and training the new avatar she's very concerned with my health. Not to mention I know she went back to the South Pole yesterday without visiting, so don't even try that one."
Kya sucked in her cheeks; she knew exactly the corner Lin was trying to force her into.
"And um, well, Tenzin's been worried too."
Lin looked up from her notes, her composure almost slipping as she desperately tried to cover-up her obvious emotion with the bitter retort she felt Kya deserved.
"Ha! Oh yes, I'm sure your dear brother is far too busy with his new lady wife to think about me. Or does the fact they've been shagging for nine months mean it's considered a standard practice for him now days?"
The water bender winced and backed-up against the kitchen counter, trying to get out of collateral-damage range before Lin blew.
"Lin, we, we all agree what my brother did to you wasn't fair, just-"
"Fair!?" screeched Lin, standing up and knocking her chair back entirely. "Is that all you've got to say to me!? You have no idea what your brother put me through. 'Oh hi Lin I've been seeing one of the air acolytes for the past month so um guess we can't see each other anymore and, by the way, me and her are getting married next month so here's your invitation.' And all you can say is it wasn't fair!? Don't patronise me."
Lin stopped to catch her breath, fists still on the table where she had slammed them after her mock-Tenzin impression. To Lin's amazement, Kya did not shout back. Nor did she turn and flee as any sensible person would. Instead, all she did was meet Lin's glare with a small, sad smile, before calmly make her way back to the seat opposite. This reaction - or lack of - caught Lin of guard completely, and as her mind back-tracked, she felt a hot flush embarrassment creeping up on her. She bent down and snatched the chair off the floor, rearranging herself and sitting back down, before grabbing the pen off the desk where she left it.
"Lin," said Kya softly.
The metal bender began scrawling over the sheets again, head bowed.
The pen rushed over the paper as she struggled to maintain legible handwriting.
"Lin, it's okay."
Still no reply.
Kya reached out a put her hand over Lin's steadying it until it she stopped writing.
Lin lifted her head and buried it in her free hand, leaning on her elbows. She did not, however, pull away from Kya's grasp.
"It's pathetic," she whispered.
"No, it's not. Of course it's not, what on earth would give you that idea?"
"Oh I don't know," said Lin, pulling her hand from her face, revealing the tiny tears which had been pricking at the corner of her eyes. "A grown woman crying over something like this? A grown woman, with a career, and respect, crying over the decision of some stupid little man?"
Kya grinned. At least Lin's sarcasm would make it through this.
"You know," she glanced over at the incomplete report on the top of the pile. "I don't think that uh-" She squinted at the page. "Gin-Lee would think you're pathetic."
"I wasn't even the one to bring him in."
"Yes well," said Kya, patting Lin's hand as she stood up. "It was your training that got him captured, wasn't it?"
She turned to leave, but Lin reached up and took hold of her hand, tugging her back.
"Look, I'm, I'm sorry for shouting at you. It's just, it's been-"
She sighed and pulled her hand off of Kya's, relinquishing the vice-like grip.
"It's been rough," she finally conceded.
Kya gave Lin an appreciative smile.
"Don't mention it."
"There's a parcel for you Chief!"
Lin looked up from her work, having refused to open the door, despite the tentative knocking of the boy on desk duty.
"Has it gone through security?"
"Fine. Bring it in then."
Lin shuffled the papers to one side as the officer gingerly opened the door and walked to her. He shoved the parcel out in front of him, and Lin took it suspiciously. She fumbled with the brown string until she found the label, and glanced up at the fidgety officer in front of her, who was staring down at the package, a slight blush on his face.
"Is there a reason you're still here?"
Lin frowned at his back as he departed from the room - she could've sworn she heard him stifle a laugh. Her lips set in a thin line, before she turned her attention back to the label.
Hope this helps!
PS. I'm back in Republic City for the New Year, I bet you'll be
Her glare could've burnt holes through the wrapping. The whole of the station's security team would have seen that - she'd kill Kya next time she saw her.
Sighing, Lin began to carefully rip the packaging, until 'The Homeowner's Cook Book' fell onto her lap. She looked through it inauspiciously, trying to find the simplest recipe she could. Truth be told she was a terrible cook, but if Kya wanted food poisoning that was her choice. The policewoman thumbed the corner of the pages, stopping at the simplest set of instructions in the book. Kya would probably turn-up whether she protested or not, and it probably wouldn't be the end of the world if she stopped relying so excessively on the station's canteen food.
She scanned the page - it didn't seem too complicated. She'd have to get acquainted with her stove, but worse things had happened, and none of the ingredients looked that difficult to source. (Well, she assumed they wouldn't be too difficult to find, although given that she hadn't actually shopped at the market since becoming Chief it was more estimation than fact.) It did require a little bit of time to cook through, but she could fill that up easily. How far away was New Year? Two, three months? That was ample time to get at least one recipe under her belt, surely? Lin re-read the page, and nodded to herself. Yes, she could learn to cook this. No problem.
"Yes- yes thank you Katara, it's lovely to hear from you too. Yes, I- yes I know, I-"
Lin quietly drummed her fingers on the corner of the telephone box as she shifted the receiver from one ear to the other. She'd rung the water tribe's one telephone to try and figure out when exactly Kya would be arriving, only to be received by the over-zealous Katara, who was now trying to make up for over six month's lack of contact in the space of five minutes. It was testing Lin's patience; especially as she had put the mushrooms on about fifteen minutes ago, and the rice was just gaining heat. Trial and error had taught her that, despite The Homeowner's Cook Book insisting that they should cook for the same period of time, they actually needed to be fried for about ten minutes more than the rice. Of course, this meant that the mushrooms were currently running the risk of being hideously over-cooked, especially considering that towards the end they had the habit of soaking up all the butter and sticking to the pan if she didn't stir them. The rice, she had realised after staining the hob of her stove at least three times, needed to simmer, not boil per the books instructions, otherwise they spilled over the edge of the pan entirely.
"Yes, Katara, actually I was-," she huffed and tried a little more forcefully. "I needed to speak to Kya actually, is she there? Okay- th- yes that's great."
Lin gave a grateful sigh as Katara's voice disappeared off the end of the phone- Kya was 'just upstairs'. Not that Lin had ever thought igloo's had upstairs, but there was no end to the technological marvels that society was producing these days. She glanced back in the direction of the kitchen. Perhaps having the telephone installed in her hallway wasn't the best of ideas. It was awful to try and take notes against the wall, not to mention she couldn't see a clock from here so-
"Kya! Yes- Hello- Yes, it was lovely talking to your mother. Look I was just wondering when you were coming for New Years?"
Kya quipped her surprise down the phone.
"Oh. I didn't realise you would be so surprised," said Lin dryly, struck with the sudden horror that she had probably been under no obligation to receive Kya whatsoever.
"No, I'm not sure what I'm making yet- Well, I wouldn't have rung at all unless I thought you were expecting me- No, no it's okay I'm, uh, I'm looking forward to it too. Look- yes- yes, I would expect no less- look, just tell me when you're in Republic City- What do you mean you don't know?- Oh for Spirits' sake Kya you must know when you're going to be here- What's 'maybe around the 25th' suppose to mean- Look Kya, I can only take a certain number of days off a yea - Yes, yes I know it wouldn't be a whole day but - You must know when you're leaving at lea- Shit!" Her face contorted as she saw a thin stream of smoke filtering in through the kitchen. "What- No, I'm fine, I'm fine- look, I'll decide. I'll take the 3rd off, and then you'll definitely be down here- Good. Right- no I'm fine- just- I've got to go okay? I'll see you then."
She slammed the receiver down and sprinted into the kitchen. She turned the stove off, the now dripped water from the rice pan scalding her fingers as she did so, and threw open her shutters to survey the damage once the smoke wafted away. The rice had bubbled over the stove and was currently dripping down the front of the oven, and the mushrooms were singed beyond recognition. Lin shook her burnt fingers and sighed - this was her fifth attempt. Maybe she could just get someone else to cook for her, and then, leave the food? Kya wouldn't have to know, and there must be someone in the canteen kitchen who was scared enough of her to work during the holidays?
No. She shook the thought off abruptly. It would be wrong of her to drag the canteen staff in for her own purposes, especially considering they were the only station employees who had no means of requesting days off. Besides, Lin thought, shoving her burnt hand under the cold water tap, the less people who knew about this the better. How could she have been so stupid as to think Kya would actually enforce the visit? Trust Lin to miss the joke - that was the story of her whole rotten life. The policewoman bit her lip as the cold water hit her skin. Fine, whatever. She'd made a decision, and now she'd have to stick with it. Her gaze rested upon the demolished cooker. Three weeks. Three weeks until Kya arrived and she'd have this recipe sorted.
Lin nearly dropped the pan when she heard the doorbell ring.
"I, uh, I'm just coming!"
She put the pan back on the stove and hastily flipped the mushrooms with the spatula. They were so, so, close to being perfect. But then this was the most delicate part of the process, she couldn't afford to take her eyes off them for a second, and the rice was simmering nicely, but again if she left it too long the water would run out and the rice would stick to the bottom of the pan. She turned the heat down on the rice as she fretted over the mushrooms. This time she'd nailed it; nothing had overflowed, nothing had burned, and the oil hadn't even spat at her. It was perfect.
The doorbell went again.
"Just a second!" barked Lin, her annoyance obvious this time. You know what, Kya could deal with undercooked food if she wasn't willing to wait- she'd probably be oblivious to all the effort Lin had put in anyway.
The policewoman turned the gas off and wiped her hands on her trousers- the grey darkened where her hands touched, as the oil from the cooking rubbed off. She sighed and walked through the hall, passing the telephone and arriving promptly at the threshold. Stowing herself, Lin put on her best 'I-don't-completely-hate-this-situation' face as she opened the door.
"Kya!" she said with forced cheerfulness.
"I don't know what you were playing at, making me wait outside in this blizzard," Kya chastised, lips in a pout. Lin dropped her faux-joy in a heartbeat.
"The mushrooms were still cooking, I didn't want to leave them," she said flatly, closing the door before the 'blizzard' had a chance to launch itself into her home.
"Riiiiight," cooed Kya as she shook the snow off her coat and hanged it on the stand behind the door. "Of course you didn't."
"What are you insinuating?"
"Nothing," she replied, following her host through the hall and into the kitchen. "Just that Tenzin told me you were a terrible cook."
Lin narrowed her eyes as they entered the kitchen, keeping her back to Kya as she turned her attention to the stove. Kya sat down in one of the two chairs at the kitchen table unprompted, and examined the cutlery Lin had already put out,
"Did he also tell you to write that note?" she asked as she scraped the mushrooms off the pan and onto the two plates she has set out.
"What? No, why would he?"
Lin slammed the pan into the sink, and then dragged the pot of rice over.
"Oh, I don't know," she said, tipping the pan of rice through the strainer, and then bashing the bottom of the pot repeatedly when some of the rice refused to budge.
"To prove that I couldn't cook? That I couldn't look after myself?" she continued, voice raised.
She emptied the strainer onto the two bowls she'd set out earlier, spilling some of the rice onto the sideboard. "To prove to you he was right to leave someone who was obviously not fit to live with?" She slammed the plate in front of Kya, who looked on, dumbfounded.
"Well," said Lin, pulling her own chair out and landing on it with force. "You can tell him this. I can cook, I can take care of myself and-" She lifted her chopsticks and pointed them in Kya's direction. "I would be excellent to live with,"
"Sure," Kya stuttered, as Lin began to shovel the food into her mouth. "I'll, uh, I'll tell him."
"Good," replied Lin, with a mouth full of rice.
Kya began to pick at her food, neatly scooping the rice out of the bowl. Okay, so Tenzin was still definitely a subject to steer clear of - but at the fact Lin hadn't totally broken down did show progress was being made. And Lin had learned to cook, albeit basically, proving she was willing to listen to Kya's advice regarding her health beyond 'take an evening off'. Considering she had pushed even Katara away the one time she'd needed the healer's help following a particularly nasty run-in with a triple threat triad, that small fact was something to be marveled at alone. The water bender eyed Lin as she struggled to pick up a particularly fiddly mushroom. She'd actually been thinking about how to get Lin back on form since long before the policewoman had invited her for dinner - perhaps now, when Lin was cooling down from her latest huff, was the best time to bring it up?
"How many days off a year do you take?"
"Oh," Lin dropped the mushroom into her plate in surprise at this quaint attempt at polite conversation."Well, I get two weeks off a year as police chief."
"I see," said Kya, "And how many days a year off do you actually take?"
"Well so far," said Lin with a smirk, "One afternoon shift."
"Lin, you know that's not what I meant! I mean how many days do you take off on average?"
"My work keeps me very busy Kya, you know that. Hell, that's part of the reason Tenzin said we broke up."
"Mhm," Kya replied, glossing over the mention of her brother. "But how many days off do you normally take?"
"I don't know," said Lin, picking up the stray mushroom. "Enough."
"And you work on national holidays too I take it?"
"Of course. Look, what are you getting at?"
Kya pursued her lips- it was time to drop the master plan.
"I think you should go to a spa."
The fungi flew out of Lin's chopsticks and landed against the wall.
"I think it would be good for you."
"Yes, because I absolutely adore being wrapped in kelp and shoved in a puddle of mud for three hours."
"Lin, that's not actually wha-"
"And besides," Lin continued, getting up to retrieve the mushroom, "Where on earth would I go? I certainly couldn't go to one of the spas in Republic City. No. Definitely not. It's a terrible suggestion I don't know why you brought it up."
"Well, there is a bathhouse quiet near to-"
"Kya I said no."
"Just hear me out, okay?"
Lin turned to put the mushroom in the bin, but said nothing.
"Good, thank you. It's a tiny little bathhouse, right on the borders of the Earth Kingdom, natural hot springs, veeery small, no one would know who you were, we certainly wouldn't run into anyone th-"
"We!? When on earth was there a 'we' involved!?"
"Well, I've got to make sure you actually go, don't I? It's the same with this," she gestured to the bowl in front of her. "It's one thing for you to tell me your eating, but there's no way of me actually knowing-"
"No! Definitely not! Even if they didn't know me," she continued in quieter tones, "they'd certainly know who you are, daughter of the almighty avatar."
Kya snorted, but did not fail to notice Lin had offered no word of protest against them travelling together.
"You'd be surprised."
"Right," replied Lin, lifting her own bowl off the table and carrying it to the sink. "And even if I did, for some unknown reason, think this was a good idea, how would we pay for it, hmm? You can't honestly expect me to believe you have any money."
"The owners owe me a favour," Kya said nonchalantly."And besides," she continued, leaning forward in a taunt, "You can't expect me to believe you spend all your money on rice."
Lin grunted and ran the tap, grabbing the dishcloth and beginning to scrub at the pans already in the sink.
"I could do that," the water bender offered cheerfully, after a moment of silence while Lin contemplated her options.
"No, no," Lin replied, "You're just fine; you leave your bowl right there I don't mind at all."
Kya picked up her bowl and carried it to the sink.
"Are you angry at me Lin?"
Lin gave her a seething sideways glance.
"Oh, for Spirits' sake, I only mentioned the hot springs. It's not like I asked you to go penguin sledding."
The policewoman grunted as she snatched Kya's bowl from her hands.
"I am a healer you know- this is advice from a medical professional. I'm concerned that if you keep on like this, you won't be able to perform to your best. You won't be able to serve this city as well as you could."
Lin flinched, and the water bender swallowed a smile, trying to hide her glee at having found a weak point in Lin's armour.
"I'll think about it."
A/N: Hi guys, I'm a little new this, so forgive me if my etiquette isn't up to scratch. This chapter is more of a conglomeration of ideas than one full piece, so um, it may seem little bit disjointed for that reason. Also, if you see any spelling mistakes please let me know and I will correct them! (I also feel I should point out I'm English so 'armour' does not count as a spelling mistake to me.) Other than that, enjoy, and um, I hope you stick around for the next chapter?