Title: The Long Way Round
Author: fembuck
Fandom: Avatar: The Legend of Korra
Pairing: Lin Beifong/Kya II, Kyalin
Rating: Mature
Words: 8622
Summary: Kya and Lin have a talk after a friends and family dinner on Air Temple Island.
Note: Takes place after the events of Book 4.

xxx

Lin stepped out onto the porch of the Air Temple's main building and sighed softly, her eyes closing in pleasure as she stretched. Dinner had been a pleasant affair, but sitting cross-legged on the floor for hours had been murder on her back. It was fine for the kids, but Lin didn't know how the adult airbenders and air acolytes did it every day. She'd held out for as long as she could, but when her back muscles started to twitch, she'd slipped outside so that she could stretch where nobody could see her (or comment on how she was no longer a spring chicken hawk).

"Sneaking away?"

Lin's eyes fluttered open as the raspy voice reached her ears. 'Kya,' she thought, and her lips twitched up slightly though she didn't quite smile.

A couple of months before, Lin might have been surprised about Kya following her out onto the porch, but since Kya had returned to Republic City to help out at the city's overcrowded healing clinic's, whenever Lin had come to dinner on the island, Kya had taken to joining her when she temporarily fled from the noise and commotion of the communal spaces.

At first they had just stood on the porch or sat on the steps and enjoyed the night breeze, sometimes talking, sometimes not. But as the encounters had become more regular, they started to wander on some nights, walking through the courtyard, or even venturing down to the beach or into the woods for walks along the paths. On a few occasions they'd even seen each other in the city when Kya stopped by the department's temporary headquarters to tempt Lin out for lunch on the days she worked the clinic down the street.

For the first time in close to thirty years, the sound of Kya's voice was not foreign to Lin's ears, and Lin found that she was glad for it … even if Kya did like to tease her.

"Getting some fresh air," Lin corrected as she turned around to face Kya.

"Oh," Kya breathed out in a tone that made it clear she didn't believe Lin's response in the slightest. "See, I thought your back might have been bugging you since you were out here stretching like a cat deer, but clearly I was mistaken," she continued as she stepped out onto the porch to join Lin, a teasing little smile tugging up her lips when Lin turned to glower at her. "You should let me work on you for an hour or so," Kya said softly as she gazed out into the inky night like Lin. "I can help. I might not be my mom, but I'm a pretty good healer."

"I don't doubt it," Lin replied sincerely as she looked over at Kya.

Kya's tone was light and the comment was phrased teasingly, but as the daughter of a legend, Lin knew that Kya's words carried weight. They'd often discussed the burden of being the children of Very Important People when they were teenagers. They'd commiserated in lengthy ranting sessions about missed birthdays, and broken promises, and being pushed out of frame when reporters wanted to take pictures of the people who mattered. It had been decades since they'd had one of those talks, but Lin still felt the weight of being Toph Beifong's daughter and there was no doubt in her mind that Kya still struggled with her legacy too.

"I might take you up on that offer actually," Lin continued when a particularly painful spasm forced her to arch her back again in a desperate attempt to alleviate the discomfort. "I'm not as young as I used to be."

She hated to admit it, but there was no denying that she didn't bounce back from extreme physical exertion as well as she used to, and the past couple of months had put a lot of physical demands on her body. There was a lot of clean up to be done in the ruins of what had been downtown Republic City. A lot of metal had been bent, and twisted, and littered throughout the streets as a result of Kuvira's rampage, and that metal needed to be dealt with. Metalbenders could accomplish in a matter of minutes what took non-benders hours to complete, and so Lin and many of her metalbending officers had been volunteering with cleanup crews when they were not on duty.

"Yeah, there's a lot of that going around these days," Kya replied dryly, twirling a lock of grey hair around her finger.

The movement drew Lin's eyes over to Kya and before she was really aware of what she was doing, Lin found her gaze dipping to take in all of Kya's body. Kya's figure was fuller than it had been when they were girls, but she was as trim as she had been in her twenties and if it hadn't been for her hair, Lin figured Kya probably would have been able to pass for being fifteen years younger than she actually was. Kya's face was still mostly unlined, and her blue eyes shone with the same warmth and humor that had lit them when they were kids. As was inevitable, Kya had aged, but she was still youthful.

"You're holding up pretty good," Lin commented, drawing her eyes back up to Kya's face just in time to see the corners of her lips curl up into an amused smile. "I mean, you're still very …" Lin continued in a slightly flustered tone, only to pause when she realized she didn't quite know how to continue.

Lin wondered if she might be able to get away with simply letting the sentence hang, but Kya arched a curious eyebrow at her, staring at her expectantly, and Lin sighed softly, knowing she was going to have to push forward.

"Tight," Lin breathed out resigning herself to the fact that her brain was not going summon a better word for her.

Kya was silent for a moment after Lin spoke, but then she smiled widely and started to laugh, and if Lin had been weaker person she would have bent a hole into the earth in front of her and leapt in.

"You always had a way with words," Kya breathed out affectionately once she'd gotten her chuckles under control.

Lin huffed irritably in response and returned her gaze to the empty courtyard the porch looked out onto. No one had ever accused her of being a poet, but Kya had always had a way of making her more tongue-tied than usual. Kya was still taller than her, and lovely enough to stop traffic, but they hadn't been teenagers for a very long time and it frustrated Lin that so many years later Kya could still fluster her so easily.

"Oh, don't be like that," Kya said softly, leaning towards Lin until their shoulders bumped together. "Thank you," she continued sincerely as she straightened up again. "That was very kind of you to say. And, if you'll allow me to return the compliment, from what I can tell from that uniform you seem to live in, you still have a very impressive musculature."

Lin glanced over at Kya, wondering if she was being teased, but Kya's gaze was open and the genuine appreciation that shone through in them brought a blush to Lin's cheeks. Lin was used to hearing that she was a hell of a metalbender, or a stand up Chief, but compliments like the one Kya had just paid her were rare and Lin found herself lifting her shoulders in a modest shrug in response, as if maintaining the body she had at the age she had it at was nothing.

Kya observed Lin thoughtfully for a moment as the younger woman went back to gazing at the empty courtyard. There was a teasing comment on the tip of her tongue, but as much as she enjoyed making Lin blush, she didn't want to risk pushing Lin into shutting down on her. When they were younger, getting Lin to spend time with her hadn't been a difficult task. Kya had been outgoing, like Bumi, but her personality had never been as overpoweringly animated as her older brother's. She'd been gregarious enough to invite Lin out hiking, or swimming, or for a stroll through one of the mainland markets, but she'd also been calm enough spend hours around Lin without getting on the younger woman's nerves. Their friendship had been easy as kids, but their relationship as adults had been … strained. Kya wasn't sure if it was Lin's improved relationship with Su (and getting to know her extended family) that was responsible for the softening of Lin's general demeanor, but whatever the cause, Kya was grateful for the change. Not only did Lin seem happier than she had for a very long time, but Kya's overtures of friendship were finally being met with words instead of grunts and indifference, and Kya wasn't willing to jeopardize that for the sake of an okay joke.

"Are you staying on the island tonight?" Kya asked, breaking the mostly comfortable silence that had fallen between them.

She could see the light of the ferry in the distance, about half an hour away based on where it was positioned in the bay. If Lin was heading back into the city, she'd have to make her goodbyes soon, but if not, Kya thought that she might be able to coax Lin into staying in her company for a little bit longer.

"Yeah," Lin half-muttered, half-grunted. "Training with Korra in the morning," she continued before Kya could ask.

"Good," Kya said decisively.

"Good?" Lin questioned, arching an eyebrow at the other woman.

"Yes, good," Kya replied. "It gives you an excuse to actually look after yourself by having a session with me tonight."

Lin's brows knitted together and her lips thinned until her expression could only be described as a 'thinking frown'. This was generally not a very promising expression, but Lin surprised Kya by dipping her head down, nodding her agreement to Kya before she murmured, "Yeah, okay. My back really is killing me. Thanks."

"Okay then," Kya exclaimed, smiling happily, "I promise, you won't regret it. When I'm done with you, you'll feel like a new woman," she promised, reaching out to take Lin's hand so she could give it a bolstering squeeze.

Lin looked down at their joined hands dubiously, but she did not attempt to remove her hand from Kya's. The touch had surprised her, but it wasn't unpleasant, and so when Kya tugged on their hands to lead Lin towards her room, Lin allowed herself to be led.

xxx

Kya only released Lin's hand when they made it into her room and she had to set about lighting some candles.

"If they haven't electrified your room yet, I'm sure Asami could get you a couple Future Industries lamps," Lin observed wryly as Kya went about her task.

"Ha ha," Kya muttered, more amused by Lin's grumpy comment than anything. "Air Temple Island is actually fully modern now, as you know. I just happen to like candlelight … and it's also much easier to work in."

"How so?" Lin asked as Kya finished with her campaign of candle lighting and looked over at her.

"Artificial light is too intense. It's important to be calm and centered when waterhealing, and those bulbs burning into my eyeballs like dark fire magic, well it doesn't exactly inspire feelings of tranquility," Kya replied as she slipped off her boots. "You should get undressed."

Lin's brows knitted together uncertainly as she watched Kya.

"I can't waterbend through armour, Chief," Kya explained lightly as she gazed at Lin curiously. "You're not feeling shy, are you?" she asked a moment later, biting down on her bottom lip to stop her smile from growing when Lin's eyes narrowed at her. "We used to change around each other all the time."

"That was a long time ago," Lin muttered.

"True," Kya acknowledged. "But we've still got all the same parts."

"I know that," Lin groused as she scowled at the other woman.

A response was on the tip of Kya's tongue, but she bit it back. Lin was getting defensive and poking at her when she was in a mood like that only led to trouble.

"I really can't help you if don't take off at least some of that," Kya finally said, waving lazing at Lin's heavily armoured body. "There's no reason to be embarrassed," she continued softly, seeking to reassure Lin though she wasn't quite certain why Lin was apprehensive.

"I'm not embarrassed," Lin replied immediately, an affronted look coming onto her face as she turned to look at Kya.

And it was true. Embarrassment was not what made her hesitate to strip down. It was the fact that her face wasn't the only place with scars that gave her pause. Despite the position she and her mother both held as the Chief of police, policing in Republic City and much of the United Kingdoms was still seen as man's work, and Lin had spent a lifetime defending her choice to dedicate her life to it instead of some nice, safe profession that left plenty of time and energy for a family. The scars on her body, and the danger they spoke of, often led people to question her as to whether she was certain policing was something she wanted to keep putting herself through, and Lin was tired of having the same offensive conversation over and over again. Kya, given her own life choices, wasn't likely to question her about being unmarried and childless in her fifties, but words of concern were a possibly and Lin was in no mood to have to justify her life.

"I'm not," Lin repeated militantly when Kya's expression turned dubious.

"Then strip," Kya said, crossing her arms challengingly.

"Are you going to watch?" Lin asked prissily when Kya made no move to look away.

"Thought I might," Kya replied, making Lin frown. "I've always wondered how your armour works. Satisfy my curiosity, won't you?" Kya asked sweetly, holding her hands up in front of her face pleadingly.

Lin huffed irritably, but did not argue. "It's not much of a show," she sighed.

"That's okay. I'm a simple woman. It doesn't take much to entertain me," Kya replied and Lin couldn't help smiling a bit.

"I can recall a couple dozen boys that found you very hard to entertain," Lin commented, remembering back to when they were teenagers.

On Air Temple Island there was really no one to bother them except for Bumi, but when they spent time together in the city, Kya had almost always ended up being trailed by moony eyed, drooling boys. It hadn't surprised Lin that Kya had ended up with a fan following wherever she went. Lin had eyes after all and was very aware of just how stunning Kya was. What had baffled Lin at the time had been Kya's complete indifference to the attention. There were girls at their school who would have sold their faces to Koh for a fraction of male attention Kya received, but Kya had always been unaffected.

"Boys," Kya sighed, waving her hand in front of her dismissively, "The poor things. They never realized they were trying to metalbend platinum."

Lin's eyebrows lifted at the comment and Kya rolled her eyes at her.

"Don't give me that face," Kya mumbled, holding Lin's eyes steadily. "Everyone knew … or at least had their suspicions. My perpetual singlehood was the Elephant Koi in the middle of the room everyone noticed but never talked about."

"A girl like you is only single if she wants to be," Lin murmured in response, repeating something Toph had said ages ago when Lin had expressed confusion about the fact that Kya (beautiful, warm, funny, smart, fierce, friendly Kya) was never attached to anyone.

Lin had been just sheltered enough at the time that she hadn't quite understood the subtext of her mother's response. She'd figured that Toph had simply meant that when Kya met a boy who was actually interesting that she would choose not to be single anymore. A few months after Kya had left to wander the Kingdoms however, Lin had come to understood what Toph had really meant.

Bumi had been home on leave from the United Forces, and he had dragged Lin and Tenzin out into the city for a night of drinking (or more accurately a night of Lin and Bumi drinking while Tenzin acted as their self-appointed chaperon). After getting kicked out of two bars thanks to Bumi's big mouth, the group had found their way to Bamboo Park, and as they lay on the grass staring up at the stars, Lin had found herself wondering out loud what Kya might have been up to at that moment.

Bumi had laughed in response and said, "She's in Ba Sing Se, she's probably the happiest girl in the world." Tenzin had glared at him, but Bumi hadn't been bothered by it and had immediately started to sing, "The girls in the city, they look so pretty, and they kiss so sweet, that's why she really wants to meet the girls from Ba Sing Se!"

Lin hadn't understood a first, and she had almost asked Bumi why Kya would be happy being surrounded by pretty girls, but then Tenzin had very primly said, "The girls that song is about are not the sort you should be wishing for your sister to get close to," and Bumi had made a disparaging noise in this throat and had shoved Tenzin before replying, "She's young, she's allowed to have some fun! Kya needs a Ms. Right Now … or ten, not a Ms. Right," and finally Lin came to understood why Kya (beautiful, warm, funny, smart, fierce, friendly Kya) had turned down every boy who had ever asked her out.

"I didn't quite want to be single," Kya sighed, gazing at Lin for a few seconds before she breathed out heavily and looked away, the path their conversation had taken making her realize that Lin actually might have had a reason besides embarrassment for not wanting to undress while she was watching. "Don't worry about the show," Kya murmured in a more subdued tone as she turned her back to Lin. "Go on and get ready, then lay down on the bed," she continued as she walked towards an empty bowl and a jug of water that sat on a small table by the window at the back of the room. "I've got a few things to prepare and then I'll join you."

"Kya," Lin called out instinctively, moved to speak by the melancholy that had come into the waterbender's eyes and tone.

Kya's back tensed, but she turned to face Lin, and when she did Lin lifted her arms and bent the armour around her torso and legs away from her body before carefully guiding the metal plates down to the ground.

"I told you it wasn't much to see," Lin said, now standing only in her plain uniform pants and a white tank top.

"I thought it was neat," Kya replied softly, her eyes crinkling at the sides as a sweet smile touched her lips. "Thanks," she added, sounding surprisingly serious.

Lin's shoulders lifted to shrug the words off, but she stopped herself before following through with it and instead awkwardly muttered, "Sure," uncertain what else to say, but not wanting to dismiss Kya's heartfelt thanks.

"You'll uh, need to take the tank top off too," Kya said lightly, though she made a point of turning back towards the bowl and jug as spoke. "I'm not a laundry service, you know," she continued playfully as she crouched down in front of the table and began to pour the water from the jug into the bowl.

That earned a huff of laughter from Lin, and the sound brought a smile to Kya's lips.

After that the room descended into silence for a minute as Lin stripped off her top and Kya prepared the water for the session. Then, when the bed squeaked faintly, signalling that Lin had settled herself on it, Kya picked up the bowl of water and turned towards the bed, ready to begin.

Kya found Lin as she thought she would, lying face down on the bed. The earthbender's eyes were closed, but Lin could easily hear Kya's footsteps as she walked towards her, and she was acutely aware of when Kya's steps abruptly stopped halfway to her. When that happened, Lin was certain that Kya had finally gotten a clear look at her back and the scarred skin that told the tales of violence her armour hadn't been strong enough to protect her from. Lin's body tensed in anticipation of Kya's response, but mercifully Kya continued towards her without comment.

"I'm going to touch you," Kya warned as she knelt by the side of the bed and rested the bowl of water on the floor beside her. "I need to feel where the knotting is so I know what areas of your back to concentrate on."

"Okay," Lin breathed out, and then Kya's hands were on her skin, warm and gentle as they carefully glided over the muscled plains of her back.

Kya's fingers continued to trail over Lin's skin for a few minutes, gently testing and prodding, and then she bent the water out of the bowl beside her and began to hum softly as started on her true work.

"Hippie," Lin muttered minutes later, already sounding more relaxed than Kya could recall hearing her as an adult even though they were still at the beginning of the session.

"Quiet you," Kya breathed out, "or I'll start singing," she threatened with a smile that Lin could not see, though she could hear the playfulness in Kya's voice.

"That's not exactly a threat. You've always had a nice voice," Lin murmured, surprising Kya with the compliment.

"You're just saying that because I'm being nice to you," Kya said as she worked the water over Lin's back, her features becoming increasingly illuminated by blue light as more of her chi flowed into the water.

"You always had a nice voice," Lin repeated, "even if I used to complain about the ridiculous lyrics," she added, acknowledging that she had sometimes complained in the past when Kya had shared the nomad songs she'd learned her from her Uncle Sokka with her.

"Oh, don't let the cave-in get you down.

Don't let the falling rocks turn your smile into a frown.

When the tunnels are darkest that's when you need a clown," Kya sang, carrying the tune well, though that couldn't save Lin's ears from the inanity of the words she was saying.

"Perfect example," Lin said when Kya's singing ceased. 'Need a clown,' Lin mentally grumbled to herself. 'More like that's when you need an earthbender, or at the very least a badgermole.'

"Well, you can rest easy, Chief. Since torturing you will only make you tenser, I promise not to sing silly songs at you," Kya promised.

Lin considered Kya's words for a moment, and found that they disappointed her. She really did like the sound of Kya's singing voice, and though she was loath to admit it, hearing Kya sing just now had relaxed her, reminding her of the warm, lazy days of their childhood.

"I don't mind," Lin said eventually, catching Kya by surprise once more. "You can sing if you want. I'll just concentrate on your voice instead of what you're saying," she continued, the strangely sweet words bringing a tender smile to Kya's lips.

"Are you sure?" Kya asked. She loved singing nomad songs and usually she was desperate for an audience, but on Air Temple Island she actually had willing listeners in Meelo, Ikki and Jinora, which meant that she could resist the urge if Lin was just trying to be nice.

"I'm sure," Lin replied. "Knock yourself out."

"Well, who am I to look a gift ostrich horse in the mouth," Kya breathed out. "Even if you're lost you can't, Lose the love because it's in your heart…" Kya began to sing, and though Lin would deny it if anyone were to ask, a content smile touched her lips as she closed her eyes and listened to Kya's sweet voice.

xxx

Lin wasn't sure how much time had passed when her eyes fluttered back open and she became fully aware of her surroundings again, but she was very aware of how good she felt. She'd known she'd been putting a lot of pressure on her body, and that she always carried around a certain about of stress, but she hadn't realized just how much low-level pain she gotten used to carrying around with her until it was gone.

"Welcome back."

Kya's voice was warm and sweet, and Lin thought that it was a very pleasant sound to wake up to.

"I fell asleep?" Lin asked, though the answer to her question was pretty clear.

"Only for a little while at the end," Kya murmured, "which is a good thing actually. I was able to work out the last of the knots once you fully relaxed. How do you feel?"

"Great," Lin replied honestly. "I haven't felt this good in a very long time. I think you should have 'Master' before your name too."

Kya smiled at the compliment, not used to receiving so many of them in such quick succession from Lin (or anyone else for that matter). She planned on returning the sentiment by complimenting Lin on being a surprisingly good patient, but before she had time to speak, Lin sat up and Kya found herself confronted with parts of Lin Beifong she had never seen before. Where moments before her eyes had rested on bare back, Kya's vision was now filled with defined stomach muscles and wonderfully full breasts peaked by pink, tantalizing firm nipples, and the sight left her momentarily enthralled.

"I-" Kya began roughly, her face heating with embarrassment as she averted her eyes from Lin's bare chest. "I'm glad I could help," she continued awkwardly as she stared down at the once again full bowl of water resting beside her on the floor. "I'll uh," Kya went on reaching for bowl, "just let you get dressed," she finished before standing and making her way back over to the table by the window.

It had only been visible for a moment before Kya turned from her, but Lin had seen the blush that coloured Kya's cheeks, and as Kya knelt before the small table by the window, Lin's own cheeks flushed in surprise when she realized that her nudity was the cause of Kya's momentary lapse in composure.

Kya's attraction to women was something that Lin had known about for over three decades, but in all of that time it had never occurred to Lin that Kya might have been attracted to her. What Bumi had revealed to her about Kya that night in Bamboo Park so many years ago had struck a chord with Lin, and in the weeks that followed Lin had reflected on her own feelings and realized that while she did not have a singular attraction to women, she was attracted to women, and that she had likely had a crush on Kya for most of her life. However, at the time Lin hadn't been able to fathom that Kya (beautiful, warm, funny, smart, fierce, friendly Kya) might also have harboured feelings for her, an awkward and surly teen who was three years her junior.

Lin slipped off of the bed and moved to retrieve her tank top as her mind drifted back to the past, questioning the unfavourable conclusion she had come to all those years ago about Kya's interest, or rather lack of interest, in her.

As Lin slipped her tank top back over her head, she remembered how much Kya had touched her when they younger, how Kya used to hug her even if it had only been a day or two since they'd seen each other, how she liked to hold Lin's hand as they strolled through the market or along the beach, how she'd drawn Lin's legs into her lap when they'd been stretched out on Toph's couch reading or listening to radio shows together. Lin thought about how soft Kya's voice had been when she'd said, "I'm going to miss you," that night in Lin's room when Kya had told her that she was leaving Republic City for a while to travel and 'find herself'. Lin remembered the strained smile of congratulations Kya had given when she learned that Lin and Tenzin had started dating when she had returned to Republic City for one of her brief stays a couple years into her wanderings abroad.

As Kya opened her bedroom window and looked out on the water, Lin turned to watch her and thought about how Kya had always made an effort to spend time with her, even after her relationship with Tenzin had ended and Lin had become standoffish with anyone who shared Tenzin's traitorous blood. She'd dismissed Kya harshly a few times in the years that followed her split with Tenzin, yet Kya had persisted, trying to coax Lin out to dinner a few times after UnaVatuu had been vanquished, and then finally following Lin out onto the porch for a chat just two months before.

Dressed once more, though she remained devoid of her armour, Lin walked towards Kya and lifted her hand to rest on the healer's shoulder.

"Thanks again," Lin began, her tone a little stiff though it was completely sincere. "My back and I really appreciate it."

Kya's hand lifted to cover Lin's, and she murmured, "Anytime," before slipping her hand off of Lin's and turning. "Honestly," Kya added once they were facing each other. "Call me if you need to. I hate the thought of you being in pain."

Lin dipped her head down at that, touched by the words but embarrassed. What Kya had said was sweet, but it had been a long time since something like that had been directed at Lin, and the thoughtfulness of it made her a little self-conscious. People cared about her, Lin knew that; Su, Opal, Korra, Tenzin, the air children, Mako and Bolin … her mom, they all cared. But there was something more intimate about the concern Kya displayed for her, and Lin realized, always had displayed for her.

"Kya," Lin began awkwardly, her body betraying her unease by shifting nervously, "I…"

"Have to go?" Kya supplied for her softly, her eyes shifting away from Lin's downturned face to gaze out into the interior of her room.

She'd tried to cover her reaction to Lin's nudity, but she knew Lin had noticed the lingering look, so it didn't come as a surprise to Kya that the younger woman was ready to make her goodbyes.

"No," Lin said immediately, "I mean, I guess I should eventually since I'm in your room and you'd probably like to go to sleep at some point, but that's not what I was going to say."

"No?" Kya breathed out as her eyes shifted back over to Lin curiously.

"No," Lin confirmed, straightening her back and tugging on her tank top lightly as a look of determination came into her eyes that made it look very much like she was preparing for battle. "I wanted to say I … appreciate your concern. I know I don't always make it easy to care, or to express care. I'm aware that I can be surly. But, contrary to popular belief, I do have feelings, and I wanted you to know that I care about you too, and that I've truly enjoyed spending time with you again."

A bright smile touched Kya's lips when Lin finished speaking, and as stressful as actually expressing her feelings in words had been, seeing Kya's smile more than made up for the effort as far as Lin was concerned.

"I'm glad," Kya said softly. "I've always enjoyed your company, but I uh … I was beginning to worry that I might be, I don't know, crowding you, I guess," she continued a little bashfully. "Though it's hard for me to fathom, I've learned over the years that not everybody finds my company as delightful as they ought to."

"I find that hard to believe," Lin said, and Kya looked over at her searchingly, her expression far more serious than Lin was used to seeing.

"Do you?" Kya asked a few seconds later, looking away from Lin after she spoke, "Because you've done a pretty good job of avoiding me for the past two decades - the last couple of months notwithstanding."

Kya's tone was gentle enough not to be considered combative, but it was clear from her tone and her words that Lin's coldness over past twenty years had wounded her, and Lin looked away from her, ashamed.

"Did I …" Kya began before sighing. She was generally more adept at communicating than Lin, but the question she wanted to ask was one that had been on her mind for a very long time, and it was not one that was easily asked. "Was it something I did?" Kya finally asked, "To put you off me for so long?"

The question caught Lin by surprise. People were usually more than happy to pin Lin with one hundred percent of the blame for her defensive attitude, and she hadn't thought that Kya would be any different. That Kya had internalized the rift between, placing the cause for it on herself, came as a surprise to Lin, and deepened her shame.

"No, of course not," Lin replied immediately, trying to alleviate some of the pain she had unintentionally caused. "It wasn't you. It was Tenzin … well, what had happened with Tenzin. It doesn't make me proud to admit this, but I just … I couldn't look at any of you without thinking about what he'd done to me, and … it was unfair to punish you for his actions, I know, but … it just, I know it affected you, but it was nothing to do with you."

Kya nodded after Lin spoke, but it was a distracted motion, existing only to convey to Lin that Kya had heard her words. Lin had sought to reassure her with what she had said, but Kya was sure there was more to it than that, and she had to know. She had to know the rest.

"The distance between us started before that though," Kya finally said, looking over at Lin. "We were fine when I left, but after Bumi told you about … how I am, things changed," Kya continued softly, looking away from Lin once more.

Bumi had written to her that Lin had seemed to take the revelation in stride, but when Kya had returned to Republic City a few months later for a visit, Lin had been different with her. She had been awkward. When Kya had hugged her on the dock, Lin had stiffened in her arms, and when she'd tried to get Lin to sneak away down to the beach with her for a while, Lin had dragged Tenzin along to avoid being alone with her. Lin's eyes had skittered away from hers anytime Kya's had met hers, and any attempt at touching Lin casually the way she used to had been shied away from. Lin hadn't said anything derogatory to her about her sexuality, and she hadn't avoided her completely, but her reserve had felt like a rejection to Kya, and it had hurt her deeply.

"I hope you never felt like I was …" Kya paused, sighing softly, trying to figure out exactly what she wanted to say and how exactly to say it. "I knew you weren't like me, Lin. I was never trying to … I mean, I liked you, but I knew friendship was all that existed between us. I never expected more. Spending time with you was always enough … and for the record, that's all I'm hoping for now. So if you were worried, or are worried, about … whatever, you don't have to."

Lin exhaled shakily as Kya finished speaking, and then reached out for the other woman with a shaky hand, placing it lightly on Kya's shoulder.

"Kya," she breathed out, her voice little more than a whisper. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize how my behavior came across. I know there are a lot of small-minded bigots in the world, but I'm not nor have I ever been one of them. Who you love has never been an issue for me, I swear," Lin stated firmly, wanting no doubt to linger in Kya's mind as to that. "I understood how you felt more than you know."

"What does that mean?" Kya asked, finally tilting her head up so that she could see Lin's face again.

"Three years doesn't seem like much now, but when we were kids it seemed … significant," Lin began, nervous but determined to say what needed to be said. "You were always so tall, and confident, and mature…"

"Mature?" Kya questioned disbelievingly. "Very few people have accused me of that. Two weeks before I left Republic City I was still having armpit farting contests with Bumi."

Lin smiled at that. "You were always much better at it."

"Thank you," Kya murmured. "Mom was always so proud. Especially when we had competitions at Avatar events," she continued making Lin laugh.

"Okay, so maybe mature wasn't the right word," Lin said, starting again, "I just meant that I was always glad that you bothered with me. When we were little, you didn't really have a choice, but even when our parents stopped arranging play dates for all of us, you still stuck around. I suppose I just always felt like a kid around you, even when I was sixteen."

Kya shook her head at Lin in disbelief.

"You were never a kid even when you were a kid," Kya breathed out fondly. "You were always so responsible," she continued, watching Lin tenderly, "Especially after Su was born, not that she ever appreciated it. At sixteen you were probably more mature than I am now," Kya continued.

"I had to be," Lin said heavily.

"I know," Kya said softly, pausing only for a moment before she laid her hand on Lin's shoulder. "It's an admirable trait though, Lin. We can't all be hippies."

The weight of the world had resettled on Lin's shoulders as she thought about pressure Toph's unique brand of parenting had put on her as a teenager, but Kya had always had a way of lightening her mood and making her laugh, and thirty years had not changed that.

"I could sit around a campfire singing stupid nomad songs," Lin replied gruffly, though her eyes were shining teasingly when they met Kya's.

"I'm sure you're physically capable of it, yes," Kya replied and Lin's eyes narrowed at her for a moment, before she dissolved into another smile.

"I was trying to tell you something, you know," Lin said a few moments later, her gaze becoming serious again as she looked up at Kya.

"You were. Sorry for distracting you. It's just that it's so much fun," Kya replied as a teasing little smile touched her lips.

Lin gazed at her quietly for a moment, captivated by Kya's smile. There were things she had still planned on saying to Kya. She had wanted to explain that it was her own crush on Kya that had made her awkward with Kya when she had returned to Republic City for visits all those years ago. It had made Lin feel guilty to enjoy Kya's gentle touches when Kya didn't know how much she enjoyed them, or why. And later, it had made her feel ashamed when her heart skipped a beat at the sound of Kya's voice because she had been dating Tenzin. Kya had made her feel things she thought she shouldn't have felt, and she had dealt with it the same way she had always dealt with difficult emotions, by shutting down.

"There's no need to look so serious," Kya went on when Lin's eyes continued to study her intently. "I've always teased responsibly. I promise, you're mostly safe with me."

There were words that Lin wanted to speak, but words had never been her strong suit. Lin Beifong was and always had been a woman of action. She did not speak of doing things, she did them. She had risen to the top of the ranks of the Republic City Police Department not because she was good at kissing ass, but because she was good at kicking it. She had always been more comfortable 'doing' than she had been 'discussing', and age hadn't changed that.

There were words that Lin wanted to speak, but …

Kya gasped softly in surprise as Lin's lips pressed against her own, but she responded to the touch immediately, lifting her hands to take hold of Lin's face as she eagerly kissed her back. Lin released a soft sound of approval, and heat blazed through Kya's body. Lin's hand dropped down to Kya's waist, taking hold of it, and Kya moaned. Lin then used the firm hold she had on Kya to draw the older woman more tightly against her, and Kya responded to the possessive move by kissing Lin with increasing hunger.

When they finally broke apart, neither of them could say how long they had stood there making out like teenagers in the middle of Kya's room, but it was long enough that they were flushed, and breathless, and terribly aroused by the time they separated.

"Was that alright?" Lin asked as Kya gazed at her.

"You're a detective. You tell me," Kya replied, allowing her eyes to dip down to contemplate Lin's lips in a very obvious way.

"I think I should collect some more evidence before filling out my report," Lin breathed out before capturing Kya's lips in a heated kiss once again.

This time when their lips finally parted, Kya's hands had worked their way under Lin's tank top, allowing her fingers to trail over the powerfully muscled abdomen that had been hidden from her during their healing session, and Lin's hands had migrated from Kya's hips down to her wonderfully full ass.

"If I'd kissed you that night I told you I was leaving, would you have come with me?" Kya asked softly.

"Probably not," Lin replied honestly. She had been too desperate for her mother's approval at sixteen to have followed her heart and run off into the unknown with Kya. "But I would have wanted to," she continued wistfully. "And I certainly wouldn't have started dating your brother," she added a moment later, which brought a smile to Kya's lips. "If I'd kissed you, would you still have left?"

"Probably," Kya responded softly. "I felt so stifled here. I felt like if I didn't leave I would never escape from under my parents shadows long enough to feel the sun. But having kissed you now, I can say with certainty that if I had known that bliss then, I would definitely not have stayed away for so long," Kya continued, smiling at Lin gently when a blush reddened Lin's cheeks. "And just so you know," Kya went on a moment later, her voice and gaze now serious, "my wandering days are long over now."

Lin's eyelashes fluttered and she breathed in and out deeply as she considered Kya's words and the promise they held. They had missed the opportunity to explore the feelings that had existed between them when they were younger, but here and now, decades later they had been presented with another opportunity to try. Kya clearly wanted to, and as Lin closed her eyes and allowed herself a moment to enjoy the tender, intimate feeling of Kya's hand on her stomach, she knew that she wanted to try too.

"I'm glad," Lin finally breathed out as her eyes fluttered open again. "I'd miss you. I'd like for you to stay."

Kya's eyes softened upon hearing Lin's words, and Lin's cheeks flushed with heat as Kya's eyes continued to trace her features with great affection.

"Considering that we're in my bedroom," Kya murmured gently, "that should be my line, don't you think?"

Though her skin was still flushed, Lin met Kya's eyes again and held them firmly.

"Well, I'm waiting," she breathed out, and a large smile spread across Kya's lips.

"Would you like to stay the night, Lin?" Kya asked softly a moment later.

"I would," Lin replied certainly, and Kya exhaled shakily.

Kya's thumb stroked over Lin's stomach, causing Lin's eyelashes to flutter, and then Kya slowly drew her hand higher and higher underneath Lin's tank top until she was covering Lin's breast with her hand. Lin's eyes closed as Kya massaged her, and a soft, breathy sound of pleasure escaped from her a few seconds later when Kya's thumb brushed over her nipple. When Lin's eyes opened again and met Kya's blue gaze, there was no mistaking the desire in the earthbender's eyes, and Kya tilted her head down, bringing their lips together in a passionate kiss as she backed them towards her bed.

"I believe you're already familiar with my bed," Kya joked when their legs bumped against the frame.

"We could be better acquainted," Lin teased back, her playful response making Kya smile, though the rough quality of her voice soon had Kya pushing lightly on her shoulders, encouraging Lin to lie down.

Lin obliged Kya's request, but not quite in the way Kya had in mind, and the waterbender soon found herself laughing in surprise and pleasure as Lin scooped her up into her strong arms and then lay her down on the mattress before settling herself on top of Kya.

"Wait, wait," Kya said breathlessly but urgently when Lin leaned down to kiss her.

Lin stopped immediately and her body tensed above Kya's uncertainly. She'd thought that Kya wanted to…

Kya reached up and stroked Lin's cheek softly. "Don't fret," she breathed out gently. "I just wanted you to lock the door," Kya continued, as her words and touches started to melt away the tension that had come into Lin's body. "Ikki likes to sneak in early in the morning to tell me about her dreams."

"How precious," Lin grumbled, drawing a smile to Kya's lips.

"It is," Kya agreed, even though Lin's words had been sarcastic. She really enjoyed hearing about the dream adventures Ikki got up to with Blueberry Spicehead – though she didn't so much enjoy the way Ikki flung herself on top of her when she entered the room, jostling Kya awake in the most jarring way possible. "Not enough to make me wish I'd had one," Kya continued, making Lin smile. "But still, pretty cute."

"If you say so," Lin muttered, but her grumpy response did not fool Kya for a moment. She'd seen Lin with Tenzin's kids over the past couple of months, and it was clear from her interactions with them that Lin cared for them a great deal. "Be right back," Lin continued a moment later, and then she paused for second, considering, before she ducked her head down and pressed a kiss against Kya's cheek.

Then, before Kya could coo at her or say something to embarrass her, Lin slipped off of Kya and the bed and made her way over to the door to lock it.

When Lin turned to make her way back to Kya, she found the older woman watching her with a gentle, though slightly mischievous smile, and as she slipped back onto the bed, she looked at Kya warily and said, "What?"

"Nothing," Kya breathed out, which caused Lin to arch a disbelieving eyebrow at her. "It's just … how funny would it be if you bump into Asami in the morning when you're both sneaking back to your rooms," Kya said, chuckling softly.

Ignoring the part about her sneaking back to her room like a naughty teenager, Lin looked down at Kya and muttered, "Honestly, who do they think they're fooling?"

"At this point, not even Meelo. But don't be so judgemental," Kya replied, reaching up again to brush her fingers over the soft skin of Lin's cheek. "They might not be fooling anyone, but they also figured things out thirty years earlier than us," she continued, the last part of her sentence earning a grudging huff from Lin. "They'll tell everyone when they're ready. But right now I think they're enjoying having a secret. And why not? It can be nice to have a secret, especially when it's one like this," Kya finished playfully before leaning up so that she could press her lips against Lin's.

"Do you think I might actually run into Asami?" Lin asked with some concern as she angled her head to the side to look at the door suspiciously, as if Asami was already out there, lurking, waiting. She had to put up with enough sass from Korra already. She didn't need the girl teasing her about doing a walk of shame too. "Maybe I should go back to my room tonig…" Lin continued thoughtfully, but her musings were interrupted by Kya.

"Don't even think about it. You're not dining and dashing," Kya interjected, earning an amused smile from Lin. "If you don't plan on treating me like a lady and actually spending the night with me, you can just leave right now."

Lin pretended to think about it for a moment which brought a pout to Kya's lips, a pout that Lin was only too happy to lean down and erase with a sweet kiss that turned increasingly passionate the longer their lips were pressed together.

"Hey Chief?" Kya husked minutes later.

"Mm," Lin murmured as she dipped her head down to kiss Kya's neck, nipping and sucking hotly at the warm, soft skin.

"Let's see some more of that impressive musculature," Kya breathed out as her fingers toyed with the bottom of Lin's tank top.

"Well," Lin drawled playfully, seeing an opportunity to tease Kya and seizing it. "Usually I'm the one giving the orders, but I was raised to respect my elders, so..."

That earned Lin a glare from Kya and a swat to the stomach, but when Lin reached down to begin stripping off her tank top, Kya forgave her and put her hands to good use helping Lin pull off her top.

"You're lucky you're cute," Kya husked as she tossed Lin's shirt onto the floor haphazardly and then wrapped her legs around Lin, using the hold to reverse their positions so that Lin was spread out on the mattress beneath her.

"Shouldn't that be you're lucky I'm cute?" Lin asked smugly as Kya's eyes roamed appreciatively over her naked chest, and though Kya wanted to glare at her again, she couldn't stop a wicked little smile from spreading across her lips, because Lin was right. Kya knew she was quite lucky to be in bed with such a fine specimen of woman.

"I hope you run into Asami in the morning," Kya teased nonetheless, not willing to let Lin win their verbal sparring match.

And then, as Lin's eyes started to narrow at her, Kya leaned down and brought their lips together as her hands found their way back to Lin's breasts, and for the next hour she proceeded to show Lin the most pleasurable of the benefits of dating an older woman.

The End