Set after season 3, I think. I set a lot of my stories there, don't I? No idea where the idea for this one came from, truly, but it was written rather quickly in comparison to some others. Title and quote from "Secure Myself" by the Indigo Girls.
Solid to the Air I Breathe
Ragged down, worn to the skin
Warrior raging, have no fear
Lin pushed open one of the large windows behind her desk. A rush of chilly autumn air drove around her in tendrils, fighting briefly against the man-made heat of the building before overtaking it. The sky had been overcast all day and, even through the darkness of night, she could see the coming rain. The clouds would open in a matter of minutes. She took a silent moment to gaze out over the dimly lit city visible from her office high in the precinct. Even so late in the night some of the buildings blazed with gold, their lights reflected back up against the low-hanging cloud cover. Her home. Her charge. Her people.
Even still...there were days, short thoughts that came and went quickly through her mind, where she wished she could leave it all behind.
Her lips pursed into a small frown and she lowered her eyes to the hand-rolled cigarette held loosely in her fingers. She'd swiped it from a detective's desk a few minutes earlier, though he wouldn't notice its absence; he was forever handing these out to his fellows, and they were forever helping themselves when he was away. The match clutched beside it was his, too. A small habit she indulged in so rarely. She hadn't touched one of these in six months, nine months before that, and before that…she couldn't recall.
She and Tenzin used to joke, really, about how her only addiction was him.
Lin struck the match on the stone sill outside, using the flame to light the little cigarette as she took a deep drag on it. She didn't bother holding onto the smoke and let it all out in a quiet huff, leaning against the window to watch it fade out into the cold night air.
It didn't give her any satisfaction or relief, smoking. It was just that small excess she allowed herself every so often because she could. She felt nothing from it except nostalgia for her youth, and even that was faint now and not something she was clinging to with much desperation. Bumi was the one who had brought the cigarettes back, after his first year in the navy. The memory made her smile as she took another inhale, the scent reminding her a bit more clearly.
He'd held out a lit stick that summer afternoon in jest, not thinking she'd actually take it. When she did he hadn't been able to rescind his offer, instead having to watch in startled surprise as she took it from him without much restraint. But then, like now, she felt nothing. Bumi had laughed at her and she put the cigarette out in the dirt.
She frowned again.
"Spirits, Tenzin!" Lin spun around, the cigarette nearly dropping from her hand. She scowled at him standing in her open doorway, though it didn't hold much anger. "I didn't hear you coming. What are you doing here? It's after two."
He came fully inside, closing the space between them and leaning against the window beside her before answering. "Raiko," he said simply. "He roused me out of bed an hour ago. I came all the way out here only for him to have figured the situation out on his own before I arrived."
"That man," Lin muttered in agreement with the frustration in his voice.
She held the cigarette up in an imaginary sort of offering, knowing he wouldn't take it but still wanting to at least pretend to share her indulgence. As expected, he shook his head. She took one more breath through it before putting the lit end out against the sill. It was barely even a third gone but her boredom with the ritual others coveted had overcome whatever ritual of her own she'd been seeking. Pointless.
"Why not just go home?" she asked, using a finger to brush the warm ash off the stone to leave no trace of what she had been doing.
Tenzin shrugged, looking out on the view she had been taking in minutes earlier. "I assumed you'd be awake, too," he said so plainly it should have been obvious. He turned his head to smile at her.
"If you don't leave soon you'll get caught in the rain," Lin pointed out, not meeting his eyes. Her heart clenched when he looked at her like that. She could feel the heat of his body, so close to hers, and she kept her focus firmly on her ash-covered fingers in an attempt not to let her mind wander to where it wanted to go.
"That's all right."
His hand appeared in her narrow field of vision, covering her fingers to stop their fidgeting. She did look over at him then, taking in just how near he was when all it would take was the slightest movement from either of them for their legs or hips or shoulders to meet. This was addiction, she knew. Standing right there. More dangerous and more thrilling than any other she could imagine.
"Unless," he pressed gently, holding her gaze as his hand still covered hers, "you'd like me to leave?"
It was a genuine question. He would go if she asked him to, not overstaying his welcome in her life or overstepping any of the boundaries that were becoming more blurry with every passing day.
But the thought of him leaving her, even when she hadn't known he was coming to begin with, made her limbs pulse with adrenaline fueled by fear. She didn't understand it. Or at least, she didn't want to question her motives when doing so would harm too many other people. Instead, when she was with him she found herself living in the moment rather than thinking of the future. This was wrong, it was…but there were times she didn't care, when it was easier to let the facade fade away.
"No," she breathed. She moved her weight into one foot, bringing the side of her body to brush against his without further restraint. "Stay."
He responded to her touch, threading their fingers and leaning against her ever so slightly. "Rough day?" he asked again.
"If by 'rough' you mean 'normal', yes."
Lin grinned faintly, feeling the tensions between them shifting and relaxing into it as she turned her face back to see her city. The skyline was completely unchanged despite the subtle differences around her, quietly smoldering like a fire that had never been properly put out. There were flames ready to engulf her, if she would only let them.
"Tenzin," she murmured, "have you ever wanted to leave? Here, I mean, Republic City."
He was silent for a moment, and she could feel his thumb moving gently over her knuckle. "Sometimes." The admission was quiet, and he added, "I haven't thought about it seriously in a very long time. Not since…not since we discussed it together."
She nodded. Outside, the rain began to fall. Gently at first, little splatters to patter against the sill beside them, quickly giving way to large drops that soon hampered their view. Lin continued to stare out the open window, letting the passing mist of the rain dampen her skin. Tenzin pulled back slightly from the downpour, though he put his hand on her shoulder and leaned forward, resting his chin near her neck so he could press the side of his head against hers.
"Do you want to leave, Lin?"
"Sometimes," she said, giving him more or less the same answer she had received. His words were warm against her ear and she pressed back into him, the fire in her belly igniting dangerously.
"Don't go without me," he whispered.
He was still her addiction. All it took was him stepping back into her space again, those years ago, for the taste to come back. And, she knew as he inhaled deeply against her neck, she was his. She didn't want to be without him – words she hadn't admitted out loud, yet didn't have to because he felt the same. One misstep and their carefully constructed stream of lies, fed to the people around them so they could be with one another just one more time, would fall apart.
Sometimes, though, taken as she was in the moment…she simply didn't care. Let it happen, so long as he was with her at the end of it all.