No Earthbending in the House
Summary: As requested by a friend of mine, "a fic about Lin Bei Fong and her two mommies".
Disclaimer: If I owned Legend of Korra, Lin would have descape from the Equalists in the season finale and rescue Korra from being de-bending'd by tearing Amon's head off with her bare hands. Also, bender privilege and Korra being the link between the spirit and material worlds would have been addressed WAAAAAAY more. But they wouldn't show the first one on a kids' tv program and...well, they'd better address bender privilege and Korra's spiritual side...yeah, wherever I was going with this, I don't own the show.
Pairings: Toph Bei Fong/OC
Author's Notes: As mentioned above, this is a project a friend requested I write for her. We're both convinced Lin had two moms.
It was a simple domestic dispute, not the sort of thing the police chief was needed for, but Toph Bei Fong liked to stay present in the eyes of the people of Republic City to avoid a reputation as a distant higher-up resting on her laurels. Not to mention she was pushing hard for the construction of a battered women's shelter, and the more testimony she could get from women who had suffered abuse, the more likely the council would be to fund her project. The idea that women were still being mistreated in Republic City turned Toph's stomach—well, not really; it just made her want to knock some heads together—but protecting women who didn't have safe homes was a good start.
Two horse-drawn carriages arrived at the Song residence; one carrying Toph and two of her officers—Dinh and Uzida, both earnest but green—the other a barred, secure "perp carriage" in case an arrest had to be made. Seconds after Toph, Dinh and Uzida alit from their carriage, Toph heard—and felt—frantic footsteps. "Oh, it's the police, thank the spirits!" Toph recognized the voice; it was the neighbor who had heard the scuffle and called the station house. "Joon's really lost his Go pieces this time! I'm afraid he's going to kill Menghai!"
Toph nodded, thanked the neighbor for his concern, and motioned to her men to approch. Uzida, who had the most imposing voice of the three of them, pounded on the front door. "Joon Song! Open up!" he boomed.
Toph heard a woman sobbing inside as the footfalls approached the door. It swung open, but instead of any sort of greeting—even a "Hello, officers"—there was a furious shout of "You worthless quim! You called the police!" The loud crack of an open palm striking another person's face and the pained cry Menghai gave were evidence enough for Toph. She braced her stance—barefoot, always barefoot, although her officers' boots were all fitted with easy-removal soles—and found the places where Joon's feet stood. She lashed out with a single metal cable from her wrist; it caught the man's hand in the air and, when the cable retracted, pulled him to the floor. The letter of the law may have been a bit behind her on this, but domestic abuse did not happen when Toph Bei Fong was around.
Dinh had the cuffs on Joon in half a second, Uzida read him his rights, and the two men hustled the abuser out to the perp carriage, leaving Menghai standing in the kitchen, still sniffling. Toph held back a sigh. That was a common problem with newer officers; they were very enthusiastic about detaining and punishing criminals, but had no idea how to approach the much more delicate, difficult task of dealing with victims. It had taken Toph herself a bit of time to get used to that as well, but by now she was well-practiced.
"Mm-hmm." The sniffles subsided. "Wait...you're Toph Bei Fong!"
Toph smiled. "That's me."
"Thank you," Menghai whispered. "He was only using his fists, but I was so scared..."
"Just doing my job, Ma'am," said Toph warmly. "You should thank Mr. Pak. He's the one who called us. Without him..." Toph stopped herself to try to find the right words. Joking would be insensitive.
"...I'd have been toast," said Menghai, somewhat bitterly.
"That's a funny expression. Haven't heard that one before," replied Toph easily. "But Republic City needs more neighbors like him. Unfortunately, if you're going to press charges, a neighbor's testimony isn't enough. How about you come down to the station house and I find somebody to take your statement?"
"Um...since you're chief, do you not take...um...v-victim statements yourself?"
"Don't shy away from the V-word," Toph cautioned. "I find it's best to call things what they are. And no, I don't usually...but I can if you want."
"Well..." Toph sensed Menghai shuffling her feet. "I think I'd feel safest with you."
Toph beamed. She loved it when she made her citizens feel safe. "Okay, let's go."
One of the secretaries from the police station was helping Toph go through the public records; specifically, the census. Toph had decided she wanted a child, preferably an earthbender, and was trying to figure out which proficient adult male earthbender to (politely) ask for provision of a male set of traits for Toph's child. Toph intended to raise her child as a single parent and give her the last name Bei Fong, of course. That was what was running through her head when she heard/felt the footsteps of Menghai Tao, née Menghai Song, approaching her front door. Toph held up a hand to hush the secretary and was at the front door right as Menghai knocked.
"Hullo, Ms. Tao."
"Oh...er...good afternoon. And you may call me Menghai. I mean, you did when you were taking my statement."
Toph thought about that. She had referred to Menghai with her given name when she had taken the woman's statement against Joon Song, but that had been months ago. Joon had been tried and sentenced, and Menghai had gone to stay with her sister after doing an anxious but admirable job on the witness stand. "Okay, Menghai. Did you need something? You still have somewhere to stay, right? The ground-breaking for the shelter isn't until next month."
"Um...well..." For some reason, Toph could sense Menghai's heartbeat increase. The most likely explanation for that was a lie, but there were various other indicators of dishonesty that Toph wasn't picking up. Was she nervous? Why would she be nervous? "I was wondering if...if there were any way I could help. With the shelter."
"That'd be great! We'll always need volunteers. Right now there's not much anyone can do that doesn't involve construction, but after the shelter goes up, there'll be more you can do. There'll be public announcements, okay?"
When Menghai hesitated, Toph kept going. "Was there something else you wanted?"
"Yes...erm..." Toph heard Menghai take a deep breath. "Would you like to go to dinner with me?"
Toph blinked. "...What?" Since the case had been closed, it wouldn't be inappropriate to spend personal time with Menghai, even though she had been the victim of a crime...but that had come out of nowhere. A very empty nowhere; Toph hadn't heard from Menghai since the trial. "Look, Menghai, I like you, but..."
"I've never done this before," Menghai gushed out. "I've been shy all my life. I've never...I've never even approached a woman, even though I've never been interested in men. And that's what got me into my relationship with Joon, because he was all pushy. And...well, you know how the last time Joon hit me, I lost my vision in one eye?"
"Right. The detached retina," said Toph gently. "That's what sealed the battery conviction."
"Well, I haven't been able to stop thinking about your blindness since I lost the sight in that one eye. And how you were able to help the Avatar and set up the metalbending police even though you're blind. And you probably saved my life." Toph was about to reply, but she heard Menghai inhale deeply again, as if gearing up for another speech. "You're inspiring. So as nervous as I am, as many days as it took for me to work up the courage to do this, here I am, on your doorstep, telling you I think you're fantastic."
"Well, I appreciate the praise, but it was the system that saved your life—and your neighbor—not me personally," Toph demurred.
"A system that you set up," Menghai corrected softly. "Chief Bei Fong...Toph...I'm sorry to bother you, but I...I guess...I'd really like to stay part of your life. Even if you don't have any, well, interest in me, I still want to help with the shelter." She chuckled nervously, once. "I don't even know if you're interested in women."
"Oh, I like women," Toph assured her. "A lot. The last time I was interested in a boy, I was twelve."
"Wow. Oh, wow. Do I have a date with Toph Bei Fong?"
"I think you do," Toph smiled.
"Oh...oh, spirits. Give me a moment..."
From what Toph could hear, it sounded like Menghai was trying to compose herself thanks to a mixture of surprise and happiness.
"You're cute," Toph observed with a grin. "Are you free tomorrow night?"
"Um, tomorrow night I'm babysitting my nephew. But...maybe the night after that? At sundown?" Menghai still sounded rather breathless.
"Yeah, that should work."
"So...um...where would you like to go? I'd guess you like Earth Kingdom food?"
"Great! Because I know this great Earth Kindgom place...The Silver Rice Bowl..."
"Oh yeah, I've been meaning to try that place."
"Good." Menghai paused, still shaking off her nervousness. Toph waited patiently. "So. Um. Do you do hugs?"
In response, Toph wrapped her arms tightly around Menghai's waist, picked her up, and swung her in a circle. Menghai was very small around the middle, almost frail; Toph loosened her grip slightly to put her down. "Yes. Yes, I do. You're going to have to get more comfortable with me if you want to buy me dinner, Squirt."
"Actually...this is plenty comfortable." Menghai gave Toph a shy little squeeze in return. "So I have a nickname now. Is it true you still call Avatar Aang 'Twinkle-toes'?"
"Sometimes!" Toph let Menghai go. "So, it's a date. I'll see you in two days."
"Would you like me to come here? Or shall we meet there?"
"Let's meet there. I'll find you."
Despite Toph's blindness, Menghai believed that completely. "I'll see you there. Um...I can't wait."
"See you there. In a manner of speaking."
Menghai laughed politely and left. Toph went back inside. The secretary was gazing at her, puzzled; Toph heard the bewilderment in the resulting query "Chief? What was that?"
Toph smiled. "I have a date."
Menghai knew she was distracted, and wasn't sure if her scatterbrainedness was being forgiven because she was Toph's partner or because the new wing of the shelter had been her brainchild. Still, it was the grand opening. Not as big as the opening of the shelter itself, of course, but the new wing was gorgeous and fitted with the latest conveniences...not to mention it had been designed to be very secure. The rest of the shelter was slated for renovation with similar security measures. All the women in Republic City Women's Shelter were immensely grateful for the upgrade, and were in awe of Menghai's tireless fundraising efforts that had made the new wing possible...but still, Menghai was surprised that not one person had told her to wake up and pay attention.
Well, maybe they knew why she was distracted. Toph was approaching the end of the 9th month of her pregnancy, and it had taken moving earth and spirit world to make her stay home from the new wing's opening. Only Menghai's pleading for both Toph's and the baby's safety had worked, and Menghai had had to make her special puerh tea blend for Toph by hand. (They still joked that Toph had married Menghai for her tea, but only because they both knew that wasn't true.)
"Ms. Bei Fong?"
Menghai was jerked out of her reverie. Sometimes the women in the shelter called her Ms. Tao; other times, she was Ms. Bei Fong, never to be confused with Toph, who was always Chief Bei Fong. Menghai's and Toph's marriage wasn't legally binding, and that did confuse some people.
Akoona was a waterbender whose parents, who were of the Northern Water Tribe but had moved to Republic City, turned her out for wanting to marry a non-bender. After that, she had spent several years in the Red Monsoon Triad and had been relocated to the shelter after landing in the hospital; her gang member boyfriend had beaten her to within an inch of her life. Now, she was holding a telegram transcript, and despite her dark Water Tribe skin, she looked very flushed. "There's a telegram for you."
Menghai nodded. "All right, just catch your breath and read it to me."
Akoona took a deep breath. "It's from Chief Bei Fong." She began reading the message out loud. "Baby is coming. Stop. Off to hospital. Stop. Get your skinny butt here now, Squirt. Stop." Akoona looked up from the transcript. "It looks like you're going to be a mom."
Menghai was sure her eyes were wide as coins. "I have to go."
"Okay. I'll cover for you."
Menghai grabbed her jacket and bolted out the door. She nearly ran on foot to the hospital before realizing she could flag a taxi carriage. She did so, waving and shrieking, so wildly that a few carriages likely passed her because she looked completely mad. She lowered her voice slightly and one pulled up.
"Republic City Central Hospital—quick!" Menghai shouted as she clambered into the seat. "My w—um, my sister is in labor!"
"Right-o, Miss!" The cabbie cracked the reins over the cab horse's back; the horse whinnied and trotted forward. The ride to the hospital was short—the shelter had purposefully been built close to it—but to Menghai, it felt like an hour. She barely remembered to throw the fare in the general direction of the cabbie before dashing into the hospital. At the front desk, she gasped out, "I need Toph Bei Fong's room number. She's my wife."
The attendant blinked. "What?"
"Police Chief Toph Bei Fong. She's my wife, she's in labor, and she needs me."
The attendant leaned over to her coworker. "Please call security."
"I'm not crazy!" Menghai insisted. "I know the marriage isn't legally binding, but Toph's child is going to be mine too."
"Even if that is true, Miss, only kin is allowed in a birthing room."
"Please!" Menghai begged.
The attendant shrugged helplessly. "I'm sorry, Miss."
At one point, Menghai would have slunk off to a waiting room, defeated. But she knew Toph wouldn't have done that. If she were the one giving birth, Toph would have done anything to get to her. So Menghai let her shoulders slump in mock surrender, and as soon as the attendant looked away, Menghai turned and dashed down the hallway. Since she and Toph had known the baby was coming soon, they had made sure to knew where in the hospital the birthing wing was. "TOPH!" Menghai hollered at the top of her longs, still running full tilt; she was little, but the small amount of weight she carried allowed her to sprint like mad. "Toph, honey! Where are you?" Menghai prayed that, if Toph didn't have her bare feet on the floor, she could still hear Menghai calling her.
Then Menghai felt it. The floor shaking slightly under her feet. She paused and listened intently; around a corner, she heard Toph's voice. "Menghai! Squirt, get in here!"
Menghai heard racing footsteps behind her—probably hospital security—and picked up her speed again. She swerved around the corner, and a few rooms down, there was Toph. The doctors already had her on a bed, her lower body covered with a sheet. Menghai winced; giving birth was stressful enough, but it must be traumatic for Toph to undergo that while being unable to see. "Is that you, Menghai?"
Toph would have sounded calm to anyone else, but Menghai could detect the note of panic in her voice. "I'm here, honey." Menghai scooted into the room and grabbed Toph's hand. Toph squeezed tightly.
"You can't be in here!" yelled one of the security officers, who had reached the doorway.
Toph's voice rang out, strained with pain but still strong. "She's my wife. I may not be able to see, but I can still earthbend. And metalbend. Psychically. Leave her alone or I'll start bending and any of you might end up with stalagmites up your asses!"
The two security officers looked flustered. No doubt they hadn't believed that Menghai was really with Toph, and of course nobody wanted to cross Toph Bei Fong. She might be chief of police, but she was also angry, wanting to be with her lover, and in labor. Who knew what she might do? So they backed up, muttering apologies. The doctor and nurse who were attending to Toph exchanged nervous glances. Menghai cemented their decision to not interfere with the question: "How is she?"
The nurse hesitated before replying to Menghai's question. "She's 8 centimeters dilated, probably about to transition."
The doctor gave the nurse a nasty look. "Lida! This is wrong!"
"So they're both women! So what? This is Toph Bei Fong's baby! She's still our patient!"
"Transition? Already?" Menghai gasped.
"She's a strong little one," Toph panted. "She wants out!"
"Miss Bei Fong, there's no way you can know your child is female," the doctor admonished.
"That's—Chief—dammit," Toph grunted. "And I know she's a girl!"
"Dr. Daeng!" the nurse cried out. "She's entered the transition!"
Toph groaned, "I told you she wants out."
Toph was sweating profusely. Menghai pulled her sleeve over her hand and tried to wipe the sweat from her brow. "You're doing great, honey."
Menghai winced as Toph squeezed her hand tightly. "Sorry if I'm hurting you, Squirt, but I need to hold on!"
"I get it," Menghai kissed Toph's forehead.
Toph's transition—the last dilation from 8 to 10 centimeters—lasted forty mintes, during thirty-nine of which Menghai was afraid her hand would fall off. When Toph suddenly groaned loud enough to knock the paint of the walls, Menghai jumped; so did Lida and Dr. Daeng.
"You're bearing down," said Dr. Daeng to Toph.
"I—fucking—know!" Toph howled. "I'm not trying to! Oh, spirits, I feel sick..." Toph turned on her side and retched several times, Menghai holding her gently by the shoulders. She struggled to get herself back under control and onto the table.
"Hang on, honey. Hang in there."
An earth-shattering groan erupted from Toph's throat again, and this time Toph actually did do some damage to the floor. A small crack appeared in four of the tiles. "I th-think I'm having a contraction!"
"You are. A good strong one. Keep it up!" Lida urged.
"That will happen pretty definitely!"
Toph's contractions came evenly spaced and strong. It was only an hour before a dark-haired little head started crowning.
"The baby's head is visible!" Dr. Daeng announced. Still holding Toph's hand, Menghai took a peek at the child making her entry into the world.
"She has so much hair! It's black like yours, honey."
"My little girl," Toph panted.
"Don't push so hard," Lida advised. "You'll tear yourself." Lida gave the doctor a disapproving look. "It should be your job to coach her."
Dr. Daeng pursed his lips. "Miss Bei Fong, you're going to want to start exhaling hard during your contractions."
"That's Chief!" yelled both Menghai and Toph. But Toph listened and, still squeezing Menghai's hand so hard Menghai thought it would never be usable again, handled one contraction, then another, then another.
"The baby's head is out!" Lida cried; Menghai snuck another peek at hers and Toph's child, but the girl was coming out face down. "Come on, Chief, one more push!"
Toph gritted her teeth and, with one last heave, Toph's little earthbender made her entry into the world. The infant shrieked, a loud, wet, healthy wail.
"Is she okay? How's my little girl?"
"Well, she is a girl," said Dr. Daeng. "Ten fingers, ten toes...and a healthy set of lungs."
Toph weakly held out both her arms. "Let me hold her."
"We have to cut the cord and take some measurements and notes," said Lida gently. "You did great. You'll get to hold your little girl soon."
Menghai carefully extricated her tormented hand from her lover's grip. "You did great, honey. You did great."
"Menghai? What does she look like?"
"All I saw was a full head of hair," said Menghai softly.
The doctor and nurse shuffled around for a short while, cutting the umbilical cord, measuring the child, removing the afterbirth and throwing it away after Toph underwent a few more contractions. "Forty-eight centimeters, just over two kilograms. She's small, but she appears very healthy." Dr. Daeng brought the squalling infant, now wrapped in a blanket, to Toph, who cradled the tiny girl in her arms, carefully supporting the head.
"Congratulations to you both," added Lida.
"Oh, Toph," Menghai sighed. "She's beautiful."
"Come on, Menghai, more specifics."
"Honey, you don't have any comparison for what I'm going to say. You don't know what colors are."
"I just gave birth, Squirt. Please indulge me."
The baby had stopped crying so hard and was only whimpering. Now that she had stopped screaming, her eyes opened.
"Well...she has your eyes, definitely, in terms of the shape. Not that this will mean anything, but the color is like yours, but...maybe a little darker? She's got a little round face, like you did when you were young. I think her hair is like yours too."
"It's so fuzzy." Toph touched it lightly. "Like a badgermole." She smiled. "Welcome to the world, little badgermole."
"Well, Toph, we talked about this. You get to pick the name after you meet her."
Toph lovingly touched the infant's face with her fingertips, learning its shape. For a moment, she didn't say anything.
"Any ideas, honey?"
Toph nodded. "Yes. I think I'll call her..."
The floor of the sitting room had, for the third time that year, been heavily damaged by a large hunk of rock that six-year-old Lin Bei Fong had pulled up from the foundation. Broken tiles were scattered all over the room, a layer of dust coated everything, and the offending rock had been carefully bent by Lin into a perfect sphere. As Menghai stood over her daughter, holding fistfuls of her own her as if ready to pull them out, Lin innocently let go of the earthen sphere and it rolled into a corner. "Lin, you know the rule! No earthbending in the house!"
"That rule is stinky!" Lin pouted. "There isn't rocks like this outside!"
"There aren't, my little badgermole." Toph walked into the room. She tapped one foot (which was bare, as usual) on the floor. "Looks like you did about as much damage as a tunneling badgermole this time, too."
"I like the rocks under the sitting room," Lin pouted. "They like me too. They move easier."
"I can't believe this!" Toph began.
"I know!" Menghai sighed. "We can't keep paying to replace this floor!"
"No, I mean I can't believe she can already tell the difference between the rock types in different rooms."
"Am I good at seismolology, Mama Toph?" Lin asked hopefully.
"Seismology, sweetie, and yes, you really are turning into a badgermole! Come over here so I can see if you've grown whiskers yet." Lin ran over to her earthbender mother and scrunched up her face as Toph tweaked her nose.
"Toph..." Menghai moaned. "I could use some support here!"
Toph sighed. "Okay. Menghai, there's still some of that emperor's puerh you taught me how to make in the kitchen. Why don't you pour yourself a cup, and I'll have a talk with Lin about appropriate times and places for bending?"
Menghai kneaded her sinuses with two fingertips of each hand. "Good idea." She ambled into the kitchen.
"You're really stressing out Mama Menghai with your tunneling, little badgermole," Toph admonished. "You know the rules."
"I still say rules are stinky," muttered young Lin, crossing her arms.
Menghai came in with a steaming cup of puerh. "Oh, Toph. I wish you could see Lin's expression. That's the thundercloud face."
"Did you just say rules are stinky to the Chief of Police?" A touch of sternness crept into her voice.
Lin tried to correct herself. "Chief of Police rules are good. Mama rules are stinky if they mean I can't play with the fun rocks."
"Well, you know what else is stinky? The floor getting repaired again. This is the third time. You remember how long it took to get it repaired last time? Mama Menghai can see the damage and I can feel it, but you can do both."
Lin's shoulders slumped. "I'm sorry, Mama. The sitting room rocks are just so easy. It's like they want me to play with them. Don't they want you to play with them too? Or are you too old?"
Toph laughed and shook her head. "Every bender needs to learn self-control, my little badgermole. Look, I'm glad your senses are so developed. But if you want to practice bending different kinds of rocks, you should talk to me and I can take you somewhere with a lot of different ones. You'll need to bend really difficult rocks if you're ever going to learn to metalbend like Mama Toph."
Lin nodded sadly. "Okay, Mama Toph."
"You know there have to be consequences for completely tearing up the sitting room."
"Yes, Mama Toph."
"Lin," Menghai spoke up. "No fire flakes after dinner for a week. And no more earthbending unless Mama Toph is right there and has given you permission. Any earthbending without Mama Toph and there will be no fire flakes for a month."
Lin looked devastated. "But I love fire flakes!"
"It's only a week if you behave, little badgermole," Toph reminded her.
Lin gave a tiny sigh, suddenly looking ten times more serious and dejected than any six-year-old had any right to be. "Yes, Mama Toph."
"Now, give Mama Toph a hug."
Solemnly, Lin did.
"Give Mama Menghai a hug too, Lin." Menghai set down her cup of tea and opened her arms. Lin went to her and accepted the hug, still looking downbeat over the concept of a week of no freewheeling earthbending or fire flakes. "You know we love you, Lin-Lin," said Menghai. "We just need you to behave. It you get good enough at following rules, and really understanding which ones are stinky, then you can learn to enforce them and become police chief like Mama Toph."
Lin's eyes grew perfectly round, an ability she had certainly not inherited from Menghai but was very prone to copying. "You really think I could be chief, Mama?"
"Yes," said both Toph and Menghai at the same time.
"Don't forget, little badgermole, that you are a Bei Fong. And Bei Fongs can do anything," Toph intoned.
"Except earthbend in the house, Mama Toph," Lin corrected, her tiny face completely somber. "If I'm 'onna be police chief, I gotta practice rules."
Toph burst into laughter. "Why didn't we think of this the first two times she ripped up the floor?"
Menghai shrugged. "I don't know, but I hope it works out."
"It will, Mama Menghai," Lin promised. "It will."
A/N: Six-year-old Lin. I had way too much fun imagining this scenario.
Also...oh, seven hells, me and names. So many side characters with different Asian names. Legend of Korra really went wild with that ("Tenzin" and "Pema" are Tibetan, "Saikhan" is Mongol, "Mako" is Japanese, "Bolin" is Chinese, "Hasook" is Korean, "Ikki" is Uzbek, etc. etc.), so I followed suit. "Dinh" is Vietnamese, "Uzida" is Japanese Uchida but Fire Nation'd up, "Joon Song" is Korean, "Lida" is Hmong, and "Daeng" is Malay. I made up "Akoona" to sound Water Tribe/Inuit. "Menghai" is the name of a puerh tea factory in Yunnan province in China, which is why Menghai makes really awesome puerh tea. "Tao" is just a Chinese last name that I got out of a YA book about foot-binding.
Oh, and I got on my Korean soapbox just a tiny tiny bit with the name of Menghai's neighbor who called the police. I've been doing Tae Kwon Do for fourteen years and took three semesters of Korean in college. The vowel in the Korean surname "Park" is the same as an English tall "a", like the noise you make when getting a throat examination. The ugly American English "ARRRR" is not involved in that vowel. A more accurate transliteration would be "Pak" or "Bak".
Hmm? What was that? NO I'M NOT TELLING YOU WHO LIN'S FATHER IS. :P