A/N: I've been wanting to write something like this since Bill Rinaldi acknowledged my crack otp in a Tumblr post. (He "revealed" that Lin's father was Azula, though the "how" was a really complicated story.)
I've tried to keep Azula as in-character as possible without making her a horrible parent. This takes place after at least twenty years of therapy. So we have that.
"Lin? Lin where are you?"
The girl snuffles and shifts her weight to a lower step. She curls into herself like a tigerdillo. The pads of her parents' footfalls move closer.
Tip. Tap. Tip. Tiny vibrations. Soft as an airbender.
"There you are, Little one."
She feels long, bony fingers playing with the soft hairs at the back of her neck. Lin looks up to see the uneasy smile and flickering golden eyes.
With a sigh too old for her age, she unfurls from her curled state. Lin leans closer into her "father"s touch. Warm arms that smell like thunderstorms and ginseng tuck her into the safety of her parent's chest.
"The girls at the academy think I'm weird and scary. They make fun of me. Say I'm too much like a boy and that I'll end up marrying a girl because I have two moms."
With other people, Lin feels hearts begin to hammer when they're angry, with her momma the heart becomes chillingly slow. Rhythmic. Calm.
Shortened nails scrape at the fabric of her shirt.
"A lot of girls from the Earth Kingdom are taught to be quiet, and nice, and gentle. Subservient to men. It's a sad hang-up they have here that really should have been wiped out by the Fire Nation colonists. The men clearly felt a degree of comfort in knowing their cozy positions were safe from strong women. But no matter, Lin. You aren't afraid to be as strong as you are and show everyone."
Lin scrubs at her eyes, ashamed at showing weakness. She's glad Mommy isn't here.
"But, I want to have friends. I want to like boys. They're saying things about me that aren't true."
Azula makes soft hushing noises and rocks her child with a hum.
"Lin. Girls like that don't make real friends anyway. Real friends are hard to come by. They're the ones who won't be intimidated by you. Intimidation is a good tool. If the other girls fear you they will not be so quick to upset you. Do not let your guard down around them."
She sees the malleable shell around her child hardening and feels a rush of pride. This girl will be stronger than she or even her wife. This girl will be loyal and brave. Her Little Sapling.
"No one wants to eat or play with me."
"What about the avatar's children? Young Tenzin likes playing with you. So do your cousins."
"It's different. They're family. They have to like me."
That makes her mother laugh. A jarring, harsh sound that gets a little hysterical at the end.
"Oh if only you could see how your uncle and I used to fight."
Lin knows about how people talk about her Momma. It's weird, everyone sees her Momma as some kind of monster. She's not. She's Lin's Momma. If her parents hadn't told her, she wouldn't believe the stories of how her Momma killed Uncle Aang. Especially not now when they drink tea and play Pai Sho every second Thursday.
"I know how hard it is to not have any friends. Your mother and I... both weren't very popular at your age. I'm the last person who should be giving advice on making friends."
Lin's tears are dry now, they've left sticky tracks along her shiny cheeks. She wipes her nose on her sleeve. Azula winces at the sight.
"Just. Just know that no matter what you do or who you end up marrying, I love you. I'll always love you and always be proud of you. Your mother too."
These words are important to Azula. They're the words that would have saved her a psychotic break. It's what every child needs to hear. That they are important. Special. Loved.
"Come on, Sapling. Let's go get some sweet buns and meet your mother at the station."