This is a request for Secret River Fan. Something along the lines of Pema noticing Tenzin spending more time with Lin and saying something to him about it, is what she asked for, and hopefully I came pretty close to accomplishing that! I truly do not have anything against Pema, and if she had gotten more development during the show other than "mother" I may actually have liked her. So thinking about this side of Lin/Tenzin was rather hard.
Anyway. Probably set sometime after season 3, maybe 4?
Pema watched in contented silence as her husband brought several dirty dishes in from the dining room, setting them beside her at the sink where she was already hard at work scrubbing pots and pans. Meelo was standing on a stool at her side, up to his elbows in soapy water and a rough sponge clutched in his hand as he mimicked his mother by rubbing it across one of the bowls produced from the table.
"Not so hard, sweetheart," she guided gently, holding up her pot to show him how to handle the porcelain he had claimed as his. She smiled when he eased his strokes so the bowl was no longer in danger of chipping. "Would you like to join us, Tenzin?" she asked with a small chuckle before he could leave the room. "Looks like we're going to need someone to dry."
"Certainly," he agreed without further prompting, returning to pick up a dish towel and accepting the bowl from Meelo. The boy quickly reached for a plate to dunk under the suds. Tenzin dried the bowl and set it in the strainer above the sink, waiting patiently for the next dish - likely the pot from Pema.
They fell into a gentle routine until all the dishes were finished, clean and sitting to dry.
Meelo swept away from the sink, trailing soapy bubbles behind him as he rushed to sit at the kitchen table. Lin had given him one of her childhood books, a youthful mystery about robberies and jewels gifted to her by Katara so long ago, and he was anxious to know where the story led. Tenzin made to follow him, to see if he wanted to have the book read aloud, but Pema placed a slender hand on his elbow, stopping his steps.
He turned to look at her, open and accepting of whatever request she may have waiting, and her stomach began to ache. She withdrew her hand, smiling as best she could, before asking, "Where were you last night?"
Whatever he may have been expecting, that was apparently not a question among the many. His eyebrows rose, genuinely surprised. "At City Hall with Raiko and Lin, I could have sworn I called. Did I not?" His face fell then, upset. "I apologize if I worried you, I should have made sure Bao reminded me before it got too late, I will next time."
"No, I..." Pema paused, the ache in her stomach releasing for just a moment at his sincerity and then clenching again. "You did call. I just...came by and you weren't there, in your office or the main hall. President Raiko said you'd left."
Tenzin smiled widely at her. "You came by to see me? That was very kind, Pema, thank you. I think Lin and I stepped out for a late dinner - I'm not sure, maybe around ten?"
She nodded, trying to convince herself to let it go. She had shown up not long after ten, once the children had been settled into bed and Korra agreed to keep watch over them for her. And truly, even if he had been distant with her lately, perhaps it could be written off with how hard the president was leaning on him, the way the city was changing its political structures. Such stress. Nothing to do with someone else. She was suddenly very aware of her son, sitting just a few feet away and oblivious to what was going on.
"You would tell me, wouldn't you, if there was something we needed to discuss?" she asked plainly.
He leaned forward and kissed her forehead affectionately in answer, lingering there with his hand in her hair, before pulling away to join Meelo, who was quick to point to a picture in his new book with excitement.
Pema stood where he had left her, hands on the apron tied around her waist, and felt her small world closing in. She knew about his dinners with Lin every other week, he had never hidden those from her, and she was always more than happy to invite her here whenever she wanted to come. They had started to forge their own friendship over the years, and she viewed Lin as this - somewhat reserved - older sister, in a way, someone she could go to, trust with her secrets and her fears. Lin had even shared some of her own, few though they were.
But Lin was always Tenzin's first. His first everything.
If someone else had come into his life, if he was starting to become distant with her because of another person - the only other person that could be was Lin. The only person Pema knew she did not have a chance against, due to the place she held in Tenzin's heart.
She could feel him pulling away from her, leaving her, even though he was right there in front on her. But then, she realized with a distressing start, he may never have been fully hers to begin with.