This one was written as a request for LadyBeiFong. A bit fluffier than what she asked for, I think, but I still truly enjoyed writing it and I hope you all enjoy reading it as well! Set during season three with teeny tiny spoilers mentioned in passing that you'll miss if you blink.
Also - I hope any of you out in Texas and Oklahoma right now are safe! This weather has been monstrous.
Have a wonderful evening!
Lin looked up at the knock on her door, gesturing mindlessly to unlatch the metal bolt so the person out there could come inside. She was already absorbed back in her file again by the time she heard the wood swish over the rug, her eyes picking up where she left off as she read over her captain's report of the lower precinct. "What," she asked sharply when whoever had come inside didn't speak right away.
"A bit of help, please?"
Her eyes flicked upward again to see Tenzin, hobbling inside her office with three boxes that smelled wonderfully of food. Her stomach immediately began to growl as the scents wafted through the office, and she got to her feet to come around her desk and take the smaller two from the top of the stack.
"What on earth are you doing?" she wondered with a small chuckle, setting the warm containers down on a round table by the wall and closing her door. "I wasn't expecting you!"
"No, I know," Tenzin demurred, not quite meeting her amused gaze as he set the last box down by the others on the table and removed his traveling cloak. Last remnants of snow fell from the creases to melt against the floor as he hung it on the hook beside her jacket.
"Well?" she pressed, reaching out to raise the lid of a small box to see red bean dumplings and two sets of cheap bamboo chopsticks wrapped in waxed paper. Not waiting for him to respond – and since these were obviously for her – she took the utensils and popped a dumpling, whole, into her watering mouth.
Tenzin shrugged somewhat shyly. "Dinner. For you. Well, us."
"Yes, I can see that."
She pulled out a chair by the table and sat, opening her arm for him to join her. "Why? It's after eleven, surely you've already eaten with your family. Not that I'm complaining, of course, I forgot about food entirely until you brought this in here." Sights set wholly on the growing feast, she uncovered noodles with peanut sauce in the largest box and various confections in the third, from chocolate-dipped fruit to mochi cakes to spice cakes.
A rather odd array of food, though one that pulled on strings of memory.
Before she could ask again why he had brought so much for the two of them, Tenzin sat in the chair across from her and said, "Pema is out of town this week and the children are in the Earth Kingdom. I figured we could dine together."
"Settling into being nomads, are they?" she asked absentmindedly, already aware Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo had been off with the other Airbenders for almost a month by then. Pema being gone was news, but she hadn't really paid it any notice. "I have plates in the cupboard where I keep my teapot, get some, would you?"
He hastened to comply, gathering two old porcelain plates and handing one to her as she returned. She began doling the sticky noodles out onto it, still mildly baffled but content to eat what he had brought.
"Thank you, really," she said softly. "I would have forgotten to have dinner until I got home hours from now, this was very kind."
"You're very welcome, Lin."
They ate in silence for several minutes. Lin could feel his eyes grazing over her every so often, though she wouldn't meet his gaze when it settled on her face before darting away again. He was nervous, being here with her now, though rather than annoy her, she was somewhat brought in by it. She smiled, keeping her eyes down.
"I think, Tenzin," she murmured after a few more seconds, "I know why you're here."
"I told you, I just thought -"
"It's our anniversary. Or would be, at any rate." She met his uneasy eyes and turned hers down once more, picking up a few noodles and dropping them to her plate again. "I remember what day it is, too."
His ears flushed, caught out, and he took a quick breath. "I'll go, if you'd like. You can keep the food, of course."
"No, stay." She reached her hand out across the table and touched his wrist, stopping him before he could set his dish down. Her fingers met skin where his sleeve had slid and her own cheeks reddened faintly, though she quickly recovered herself. "Besides, it looks like you remembered just about everything from our first real date, may as well share it all with me."
Tenzin smiled widely at her, taking his seat again and scooting closer to the table. His knees bumped hers, with what little space there was, but neither made mention of it. "Linshi's stall where we ate that night closed a while ago -"
"Seven years," Lin clarified with a single nod. "I used to stop there myself in – in recognition every year."
"You did?" He looked at her, completely surprised at her unexpected admission. She hadn't meant to tell him that, and she pursed her lips slightly. "I…I never knew that."
"You wouldn't, would you?" The question was harsher than she intended it to be and she covered her small burst by taking another dumpling. "No. I found another restaurant over on Lily Street, run by -"
"Linshi's daughter and her partner," Tenzin cut in. "That's where I bought all of this, they knew exactly who I was getting it for between the noodles and spice cakes. I found their little place about five years ago, their food is delicious. I've never seen you there."
"If I know I'm going to be late or not have time to eat, I ring over and ask them to make something for me," Lin admitted somewhat bashfully, not having imagined any of this was going to come out. She probably gave that restaurant more custom than her own kitchen by this point. "I either send someone over to pick it up for me or grab it myself on the way home. I should have recognized this sauce, it's my favorite."
"Yes," he agreed with a grin. "It has been for a long time. His daughter hasn't changed the recipe."
They fell quiet again, surrounded by their memories, before Tenzin whispered, "I would buy flowers every year and fly up to the mountains for an hour or so. Do you remember that little open-aired cave we found, high up looking over the ocean?" She was staring at him as he spoke, and she nodded at his question. "I'd take the flowers up there and sit for a while. Just long enough so no one would miss me and I could take time to…remember you."
Lin lowered her head, setting her plate in her lap. "We're certainly a pair, aren't we?" She ran her tongue over her teeth before adding softly, "I stopped. A few years back, when we…started speaking again."
"I did, as well," Tenzin told her just as quietly, the mood around them becoming somber. "It was as if – as if having you back in my life again soothed some of the pain of losing you."
"I feel the same. Say," she said brightly, looking up and banishing the seriousness of the previous few moments as she pulled a box forward. "I'm going to skip right to dessert. Is there chocolate-covered candied ginger in here? Or what about these spice cakes, are they rum-soaked or iced?"
He beamed at her, helping to dig through the sweets to find the ones she wanted. They whiled away the next two hours with one another, eating and chatting, and no longer dwelling on the past as they looked forward together.