Today was the first time she had really smiled since they separated. She had plenty to smile about at the moment. The entire force cheered her as she made her way around the station. It was her lie detecting skills, a skill only she and her late mother had perfected, that had lead to cracking the Sato murder case. The press conference was about to begin outside on the steps, in the shadow of her mother's statue. Steeling herself for the cameras, she affixed her serious face with an authoritative scowl she saved especially for reporters. She rounded the corner and spotted captain of industry, Hiroshi Sato, looking gravely out the window at the gathering throng of newsmen.
Before she could speak, she felt something squeezing her mid-section. Looking down she was met with the innocent wet eyes of his daughter, Asami. Lin's face faltered. The only experience she had with children was with Kya's kids. All the time spent with them would never prepare her for looking into the face of a girl whose mother had been taken so cruelly at such a tender age.
"Thank you," she said in a sweet bell-like voice. Lin studied her face for a moment, then somewhat stiffly pat her head. She wasn't sure what to say that might sound reassuring or motherly. Following an instinct she didn't know she had, she crouched down to Asami's eye-level and placed a hand on her face.
"I'm so sorry," she told the girl genuinely. Asami thrust herself forward without thought and clung to Lin's neck. She was startled by this affection, but also felt as if this feeling may have been missing from her before. Perhaps she could make a decent mother, Lin considered as she rubbed Asami's back.
"One minute, Chief," Saikhan informed her. Lin extracted herself from Asami's arms and stood.
"Are you sure you want her out there with us, Mr. Sato?" Lin asked the man at the window.
"I think its important for Asami to be there," he explained absently. Lin looked at the girl who appeared frightened by the pressure she was being asked to endure. "If you get scared, just squeeze my hand," Lin whispered to her. Asami nodded.
Three questions into the conference, Lin felt Asami's small hand slip into her own large one. Each squeeze coincided with Lin's commanding voice cutting a reporter short with the declaration of "Next question." As they re-entered the station, Lin gave Hiroshi a judgmental look. He was entirely in his own world. If by some twist of fate she ever ended up having a child, she would never leave them to suffer alone in this way.
Tenzin was feeling supremely foolish. He pulled his menu in front of his face in an attempt to disguise how uncomfortable he felt. It was written in the line of his brow clearly- he'd never had much of a poker face. Lin always used to tease him about that. He sighed.
"I think it's upside down," a soft voice informed him from across the table. He pulled the menu down and looked at Pema curiously.
"I'm sorry. What did you say?" he asked.
"Your menu. It's upside down," Pema reiterated looking vaguely annoyed.
"Oh. Right," he acknowledged with a self deprecating laugh, flipping his menu right side up again. He held it in front of his face and closed his eyes. This was a mistake. He thought it would be nice to get out. Go out into the world, have a date. It wasn't long before Tenzin realized he wasn't cut out for this sort of thing. The ferry boat ride to the mainland passed in almost complete silence. They had found so much to talk about before, back when he was with Lin. Now, having placed the pressure-inducing title of "date" upon their outing things had become awkward.
Three weeks had gone by since Lin moved out of their house and out of his life. His head told him it was for the best, but his heart was sabotaging his logical mind. He was, for all intents and purposes alone on the island. His mother had completed her move to the Southern Water Tribe to train the Avatar and his siblings had said their farewells and gone back to their lives, but Tenzin was settling into something entirely new- life without Lin. He spent every night in bed wishing she were there. He missed everything about her. He had begun to fantasize about her in a way that he hadn't done since he was a teenager. He found himself recalling the most minute details in his memories of her, nostalgic for all the good times they spent together. It wasn't just the simple kisses and whispered words he longed for either. Oddly, he found himself yearning for the worst parts of her. He missed her scowl, he missed her foul mouth, he missed how she shouted at the radio as if the distorted voice coming from inside were personally attacking her. Worst of all perhaps, was how he was reduced to tears when he entered his front door and remembered her boots were no longer there to trip him. Sprits, he hated tripping over those stupid boots.
"Have you two decided what you want?" the waitress asked, interrupting his train of thought.
Not this, his head answered. Out loud he told her he would like the vegetarian ramen. Pema ordered mango curry. Their conversation was stilted. They had a nice flow going for a moment- exchanges occurring in fairly quick succession- until Pema mentioned that as a little girl she dreamed of riding Republic City's famous monorail one day. Tenzin coughed in surprise, almost projecting his ramen in her direction. As a councilman, he voted on building that monorail when it was nothing but an engineers' daydream. Supremely foolish might have been an understatement. Pema was so young. He looked at her remorsefully, feeling guilty for taking her out and subjecting her to this awkward experience.
The ferry ride back to the island was strained, Pema wore her disappointment openly with her chin resting on one hand, elbow propped up on the side rail. The situation had gone from bad to worse when they made their way back from the restaurant and passed a paper boy waving excitedly.
"Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Sato case solved!" the stack of papers beside him read:
KILLER CAUGHT! CHIEF BEIFONG CRACKS SATO MURDER CASE WIDE OPEN!
Lin's face smirked up at them from the front page and Pema didn't miss Tenzin's wistful glance. Now on the ferry, Tenzin moved to stand beside her, gripping the railing himself and leaning over to match her level.
"I'm sorry, Pema," he began, "I don't think I was quite ready for...this," he explained gesturing at the space between them.
She nodded, eyes making a study of the water lapping against the boat. "I'm sorry too," she sighed. Back on the island they each went their separate ways.
In his home alone, Tenzin unfolded the broadsheet paper that was waiting on his doorstep and read the details of Lin's success. Turning the page, a photo caught his eye. Page A3 featured a small picture of Hiroshi Sato, widower. However, the subject of this photo was lost on Tenzin as he stared at the background where he spotted the Chief of Police holding the hand of Sato's little girl.
Tenzin awoke the following morning with Lin on his mind. Not that it was a new feeling, he'd been waking in the morning and in the middle of the night with some fleeting dream of her washing away like footprints in sand as he gained consciousness. Today was slightly different in that he had also dreamed of his father. It was a meaningless dream, in it Aang had given Tenzin a fruit pie and gone back to meditating. Not a word was spoken, no noteworthy action was taken, but Tenzin couldn't get it out of his mind all morning. He revisited a conversation they had when Tenzin was in his early twenties.
"What was it like being the only airbender left in the world?" Tenzin inquired as they sailed along on Appa's back. Aang looked distant for a moment.
"Lonely," his father replied. "lonely at first."
"Until I was born?"
Aang smiled, but shook his head. "I was never lonely again after I married your mother."
"What if I hadn't been an airbender?" Tenzin followed.
"Your Mom and I never cared about whether or not you kids had bending ability or not, it was just a happy surprise that you happened to be an airbender," Aang recounted. He eyed his son critically. "What are you really asking, Tenzin?"
He wished he would have continued that conversation. It was too late now, and the last airbender in existence prepared his tea as he pondered his father's words. Did his father ever worry about continuing the airbending race or was that a never a concern? If his mother had not produced an airbender, would it have mattered? The more he thought about it, the more he wondered what his own chances might be. He could very well have ten children and all of them non-benders. The Air Nomads had been considered obsolete for one hundred years and the world kept spinning. Would it be considered entirely selfish to put his love for Lin before an entire race of people, or would history view it as a romantic sacrifice?
Deciding, Tenzin pulled his cloak around his shoulders and headed for the door. He couldn't live this way anymore, he was going down to the station today to see her. His legacy might be as the last, but it would be one of love as well.
As he opened the door to leave, he heard the phone ring. Sighing, he headed back into the house, hoping it wasn't something that might change his course.
"Tenzin? Hi, it's Pema. I'm sorry to call you, but I don't have family here and I didn't know who else to call..." she explained quickly in a fragile voice.
"Pema it's ok. What is wrong? Where are you?" He questioned frantically trying to keep up with her. It looked as if his visit to Lin would have to wait until dinner.
"I'm at Police Headquarters," she replied. In that case, maybe he would meet his lunch deadline.
"What are you doing there?"
"I was...I was arrested," Pema explained sounding on the verge of tears.
"Arrested? For what?" he questioned incredulous.
"I don't want to say, it's too embarrassing," her voice echoed in the earpiece.
"Wait right there, Pema. I'll be down to get you shortly. Don't worry," he told her confidently hanging up the phone.
As he made his way across the city he wondered what in the world the kind-hearted Pema would possibly get arrested for.
Tenzin burst through the doors of Lin's office, red-faced. "Solicitation?" he shouted as soon as the doors were apart. "Solicitation, Lin. Are you kidding me?"
The young officer that Tenzin had quite literally blown past came running in after him, "I'm sorry Chief Beifong! I told him you were busy," he pleaded.
Lin looked up from the papers she was working on, Saikhan crouched over her shoulder.
"It's okay, Lao," she said calmly without acknowledging her furious ex on the opposite side of her desk. She addressed Saikhan next, "Give us a minute?"
Saikhan looked relieved to extricate himself from this little domestic and left in a hurry, shutting the doors of her office as he went. Lin looked back down at her papers, scratching away as if she were completely alone.
"Have you lost your mind?" Tenzin demanded.
"She was loitering in a monorail station known as a hub for prostitution. Bringing her in for questioning was police procedure," Lin explained in a dull voice as she continued to write. Tenzin physically reeled back in frustration.
"The Chief of Police making a pedestrian arrest like that, Lin? Who are you kidding. You went after Pema because you're angry with me. You know her. You know she's not a prostitute," Tenzin shouted again, aggravation rising the longer Lin retained her cool.
Lin shrugged casually, "The only thing I really know about her is that she pursues men in relationships."
Tenzin sucked his teeth, hands hovering about his head as if poised to catch his brains should his skull explode out of anger. "She didn't steal me. She's not even my girlfriend," he spat out haltingly. "But if she were, this would be a case for abuse of police power."
Lin finally looked up at him, eyes shining with a hint of violence. She slammed her palms against her desk and rose from her seat, "Don't tell me how to do my job! I don't go into City Hall and tell you how to get outvoted!"
There she was- the feisty Lin he knew throwing herself right into the fray. Momentarily, he celebrated his ability to invoke her.
"Do you have any idea how insane you look, doing something like this?" he continued, never giving her insult a moment of his time.
"Do you have any idea how insane you look running around with a child?" she countered furiously, her voice having risen to match his own. Tenzin rubbed the top of his head in some futile effort to calm himself and release his seemingly endless supply of energy.
"Why do you do things like this, Lin?" he questioned deflating with a melancholy sigh. She narrowed her eyes at him as if daring him to explain what she had done wrong. "Do you know what I was doing this morning? Before I got the phone call to come pick her up?"
Lin pursed her lips and folded her arms, "I don't really want to know," she told him defiantly.
"I was leaving to come here- to take you out to lunch. To work things out," he admitted, finally losing his steam. Regret flashed in Lin's eyes and she glanced down at the photo of little Asami Sato in her case file. "But I realize now I made the right choice," Tenzin finished.
Regret was quickly replaced by obstinate pride as Lin straightened her back and scoffed bitterly at him, "Your choice? As if I would take you back after what you did."
Tenzin's face flushed again, "I didn't do anything to you. Stop acting like I cheated. I didn't," he insisted hotly.
"Sex isn't the only way to cheat on somebody, Tenzin," she told him coldly. Tenzin shook his head.
"This is pointless," he said throwing his hands up in defeat which caused a gust of wind to send Lin's files fluttering from her desk, "I'm leaving."
"What a surprise!" Lin shouted after him as the papers drifted to the floor around her. He slammed the doors shut behind him with an angry bang.
"You're free to go, Miss," a young officer informed Pema. Standing, she saw Tenzin who looked a little worse for wear.
"Thank you for coming to get me," she told him with a polite bow.
"I am so sorry this happened to you, Pema."
Pema gave him an empty smile, "Its ok. Just embarrassing."
"You are embarrassed?" Tenzin returned, eyebrows shooting up. "I am embarrassed. You shouldn't be in the middle of this. Let me make it up to you," he offered.
Pema looked up at him with doubtful eyes. "Are you sure?"
"I'd say I owe you dinner at least for this. And then I'd owe you dessert to make up for how awful dinner was the other night," he laughed. She gave him a grin that reached her eyes.
"It was pretty bad," she admitted with a giggle. Tenzin nodded and offered his arm to her.
"Where to? Your pick," he told her as she thread her arm through his, hooking elbows.
"Nowhere near that monorail station," she teased.
"Fair Enough," Tenzin replied as the exited the building to the bustling streets of Republic City.