Again, these are not in any kind of order other than post war unless stated otherwise.
Lin had an assigned area of rooms to clean in the royal family's private quarters. This honor was a total of thirty rooms. Only two were commonly occupied and soon it would only be one, once her Fire Lord married Lady Mai. When that happened, she'd only have to clean theirs and the rooms of whatever dignitaries happened to come by.
Lin fought off a wave of despair. Not because she so loved cleaning, but because of her Fire Lord's impending marriage. Her head knew that it was ridiculous to even think of catching her Fire Lord's notice. She had lovely, straight dark hair, but then Lady Mai's was lovelier. Her hair, in Lin's own opinion, was her only physical redeeming factor. Lady Mai was beautiful and duh, a noble. On top of being plain in face, she was a servant. Still, her head couldn't stop her heart from leading her to fantasies or her little trips through her Fire Lord's quarters for souvenirs. She tried to explain to Mika that it was not stealing, but…collecting.
'No reason…though there is this shaman woman who travels with the circus and specializes in love charms!'
'Dear, you need help.'
She was not obsessed. She was…extremely interested. To illegal proportions.
As it was, Lin was hoping to hurry the cleaning of the fiancée's room so that she could get to the potential groom's room. Usually, Lady Mai was never in her room at this time of day, but training overruled that thought and she knocked.
"Who is it?" the lady's deep, almost sultry voice asked.
That was another thing. Lin's voice couldn't do sultry. She'd once her that woman sigh. Just sigh. It was the most sensual thing she'd ever heard in her life. And she resented Mai for that sensuality, like she wasn't even trying. And for agreeing to marry her Fire Lord, but she really couldn't blame her too much for that one.
"It's Lin! I'm here to clean the – Eep!"
She let out a squeal when the door slammed open and Lady Mai dragged her in with a very strong grip. Well, the room was rather a mess. The bed was undone, there were clothes thrown every which way, the wardrobe was open, and a chair was overturned.
"You have to help me," Lady Mai ordered.
Her voice held a different quality than her normal monotone. It was…worried? Slightly concerned? Mildly upset?
Maybe there's an assassin! Then she won't be able to marry my Fire Lord! Oh, wait…she probably killed him which means I'll have to clean up the blood. Darn it.
"Of course, my lady. I am here to serve," Lin responded like the good servant she was, bowing low and being submissive.
"What is it you need?" she smiled at her.
"I need you to help me find my engagement ring."
For a long moment, Lin stared at her, smile frozen in place and unblinking. Lady Mai stared right back, a slightly arched brow the only indication of emotion on her face. As to what the emotion was, probably annoyance at the moment.
Oh, no, she didn't!
"Of course, my lady. Where did you have it last?"
The Nerve of that woman! How could you lose something given to you by Fire Lord Zuko himself?
"I was in here getting dressed. I had it on while I was putting on my knives and I didn't notice it was gone until I was about to leave."
"I see. What clothes were you wearing ?"
"These here," she flicked her hand at the pile of clothes next to the vanity that had not makeup, but knives, many, many knives, on top. "Look through them if you want, but I already did."
"Well, once more won't hurt," Lin grinned at the lady's retreating back before dropping to her knees before the mound of robes.
She scowled at them and methodically picked through them as slowly as she could and still make it look like she was doing it.
Maybe he won't want to marry her then. And in his heartbroken state, I'll bring him all sorts of treats from the kitchen and we'll get to talking and once he realizes what a great comfort I've been to him he'll fall in love with me and kiss me and we'll get married and have four children and be happy and I'll never lose the ring!
With that happy thought, Lin turned to glance at the lady's progress. Seated on her bottom at the foot of her bed, she'd paused from her own search and was frowning at the wall. She suddenly turned a heated gaze at Lin as if she knew what she was thinking. Lin's smile almost slipped until she remembered that was impossible.
"I'm sure we'll find it in no time," Lin assured her before turning back around and with utter glee, slowly picking at the fine robes piled on the floor.
An hour later, the room had been torn apart and put back together again. At this point, Lin was beginning to wonder if Lady Mai might not be at fault and someone actually stole it from her. But then, she most likely would have noticed, what with it being on her finger. And…she would have killed the thief more than likely. Lin prayed to Agni that no one would ever do such a thing in her area. Better that they be killed in the kitchen so Haruhi could clean it.
Lady Mai sank onto the edge of her bed
"That ring belonged to Zuko's mother. If it was just any other ring, it wouldn't have mattered but he just had to give me one that belong to his mother and that makes it important and I just lost it."
Oh. She feels bad…Well, she should!
"It will be all right, my lady."
For me! You are so out of here!
"No, it's not. I'm going to have to tell Zuko. He'll try to pretend that it doesn't bother him but it will. Even if he was a good actor, I know him too well."
…Why is she talking so much? I didn't think she talked this much.
"And losing treasured family heirlooms is such a great way to start a marriage, right?"
Maybe she's one of those people who talk when they're upset. Uncle Kairo was like that. At least she doesn't talk to herself like he did.
The lady sighed, stood up straight, and smoothed out her robes.
"Well, the sooner I get it over with, the sooner we can move on, right?"
"Of course," Lin chirped happily.
The sooner he dumps you, the sooner I move in!
And it was with that happy thought that Lin watched Lady Mai depart from the room, wishing her luck –the bad kind – promising to finish cleaning the room and keep an eye out for the ring. Once the door was shut and Lin counted to fifteen, her smile turned sly and she reached in and pulled a golden ring with a solitaire ruby from out of her chest binding.
Lin bit her lip and had to resist the urge to squeal but allowed herself to jump up and down with joy. She wanted to wear it now, but knowing how utterly stupid that would be at this time, tucked it back into safety. Quickly finishing her duties, she rushed out of the room eager to tell anyone – who wasn't Lady Mai. Knives. Duh. – what she'd found!
"Are you insane?" Mika all but yelled.
In retrospect, telling her cousin might not have been the best idea.
"You stole from Lady Mai?"
"Shh! Not so loud!" Lin cast a paranoid look around the small-in-palace-standards hall.
"How could you do something so stupid? Give it back!" she hissed at her.
"But…but I found it. Losers weeper, finders keepers," Lin pouted.
"It doesn't apply when you are asked to help find it and you could be killed if you don't return it!"
"She didn't ask; she dragged me into the room and I asked what she wanted. And Zuko would never let her kill me."
Mika slapped Lin across the face. Hard.
"He. Does. Not. Love. You! Okay? He doesn't even know you're alive! The only reason he wouldn't have you killed is because it kinda goes against the whole 'era of love and peace' thing."
"I love him!"
"No you don't! You just think you do because you're an idiot with a death wish. Plus, it's just wrong! It would never happen."
"If loving him is wrong, I don't want to be right!"
"Give it back or else!" Mika practically growled.
"Or else what?" Lin's tone turned petulant, and a little angry at being slapped. This was not something she was just going to let go. The ring was hers and with it, Zuko. There was nothing, nothing, Mika could say that would change her mind.
Her cousin drew herself up to her full height which fell short two inches of Lin's own and stared at her right in the eye.
"If you don't take that back right now, I'm gonna tell Granna."
"No, don't tell Granna! You can't! I'll take it back. See? This is me, taking it back," Lin was already backtracking to find Lady Mai.
She'd said she was going to talk to her Fire Lord. It was a little after noon. At this time, Lin knew that he would have already eaten and would have to get back to meeting very soon. Therefore, he'd be in the sun room across from the entry to the banquet hall in those mounds of cushions that still smelled like him after he left.
It took her no time to reach the doors and she paused outside to catch her breath and smooth her hair before she knocked. She received no reply. She opened the door with a frown, certain that he should still be here and eeped for the second time that day.
Her Fire Lord was there all right. And so was Lady Mai. And so was kissing! Not the quick, little peck on the lips type kissing either. Oh, no. That was trying-to-suck-each-other's-face-off type kissing. Not that she'd seen it before, but it was actually quite easy to recognize.
Five seconds after she eeped, the two reluctantly broke apart and looked her way. The look on Lady Mai's face was either a content smile or a content smirk. Either way, Lin wanted smack it off of her.
Then she realized something…Her Fire Lord was actually looking at her! Hoping her face hadn't turned into a scowl, she flipped into her happy servant persona.
"My lord," she said, bowing before him.
"What is it?" he asked and Lin suppressed the urge to shiver at the sound of his voice.
"It is for my lady. I found it not long after you left," she said, stepping forward to give Lady Mai the ring, and so thankful she'd had the sense to not slip it back into her bindings.
She stepped out of his embrace only enough to accept the ring wordlessly. Her narrow eyes looked up from the ring to Lin and she arched a brow. To her credit, Lin did not flinch.
Oh, Agni! She knows!
"Thank you so much, uh?" he frowned a little and at that moment, she would have done anything to get him to smile again. "I'm sorry. What's your name?"
"My name? It's…um…er…I…"
She couldn't seem to remember her name and at that moment, she would have given anything for Agni to just send down a fire ball and kill her now.
"Her name is Lin," Lady Mai supplied and Lin shot her a nervously, grateful look.
"Yes, Lin, my lord! My name is Lin."
"Thank you, Lin."
She could have died on the spot very happily. As it was, she was pretty sure her heart had stopped and started. Oh, how she wished her name had more than one syllable!
"It is my pleasure to serve you."
For a few moments, Lin simply stood there, smiling and basking in the glow of attention.
"Was that it?" her Fire Lord asked.
"Oh! Yes, that was it. Sorry. I'll go now," she backed up to the door, still staring at him, offered one more bow, and left.
The door clicked shut behind her and she practically floated through the halls back to Mika. She found her in the kitchen with Tao's sister, Haruhi. Lin went right up to Mika, grabbed her hands, and started jumping up down and squealing.
"What's wrong with her now?" Haruhi asked.
"How…am…I…supposed…to know?" Mika asked brokenly, her words being jarred with every one of Lin's bounces. "Ground her."
Haruhi reached out and took a solid hold on Lin's shoulders holding her on solid ground.
With a dreamy sigh and giggles, Lin released Mika who rubbed circulation back into her hands as Lin leaned against the counter and sank to the floor. Her hands came to rest on either of her softly blushing cheeks and she stared at something her friends could not see.
"He said my name."
Haruhi and Mika shared a glance and groaned. The Fire Lord didn't know it, but he'd just made things a whole lot worse.
A/N: Remember those fangirls that came outta nowhere when Zuko walked out of the palace that one time to go to Mai's house? And then at the beach? Lin is one of the types they didn't show. The servant. In his house doing his laundry.
I don't know what you would use in Asian culture to signify being engaged so I just stuck with the ring. Though there was a fic that said something about a comb, but then Mai's hair would have to be changed.
Lin is the cousin mentioned in the first chapter, by the by.
Next time: Aang and Zuko train while Tao, Mika, and Lin watch and comment. And Toph might show up, as suggested by Lord Shade and Paraxenos