The last chapter! I truly did enjoy writing this, and I want to thank every one of you who has read along with me from the start. Readers, I write for you.
And my reviewers: Secret River Fan, avatarfanlin, Free-Spirited Dreamer, DarkPriestessOfHyrule, MistressIsAlwaysFirst9, Somebody knows, ATLAlover3, Gigimomo, Amira Elizabeth, anyone who may review only the last chapter – you are all wonderful. Thank you, truly.
Similar to what I did with Silence of the Sound, I do have a little prequel one-shot to pair with this, which will be posted in a few days. Otherwise…well, Warrior Raging is finished.
As before, I am still happy to take any Lin/Tenzin requests. Please send me a message if you have one or two.
Enjoy the final chapter, all, and I'll see you in the next story!
Sunlight was bright against her eyelids. Lin turned her face away from the beam, not wanting it to continue disturbing her. An ache radiated up through her body from her core even at that small movement and she stopped quickly at the throbbing. Heaviness weighed on her through a thick haze, limbs heavy. She had no idea where she was.
The voice called her from the hazy darkness and she pushed herself toward it, wanting to get out of the uncomfortable shell she was so suddenly drowning in.
"Are you waking up, Lin?" the familiar voice asked again, and this time she felt pressure as someone picked up her hand.
She held onto that feeling, slowly able to tear herself away from the fog to open her eyes. Whitewashed walls began to come into focus, wooden ceilings above, and wide, curtained windows. The hospital. She was in the hospital, but she couldn't remember – wait. Jinta. He had opened a hole in her armor and…and stabbed her through it. Memories began to filter back, some more quickly than others.
Her eyes slid from the ceiling back to the windows, and then to a person sitting beside her in a chair near the bed.
Suyin beamed back at her, teary-eyed and red-faced. She squeezed Lin's hand tightly in hers, bringing it up to her chest. "Thank the spirits, Lin, we thought you weren't going to come back to us." She kissed the back of her knuckles. "The poison on that sword, it was something the healers had never seen before."
"Poison?" Lin rasped, trying to focus on Su.
"It completely coated the blade that horrible man impaled you with," she explained, her eyes watering as she put into words what was obviously something painful for her to think about. Lin was just having a difficult time following what was going on at all and she blinked slowly. "It was manufactured specifically to stop blood from clotting and prevent it from carrying air through your body. It got into your organs, they all started to shut down. Oh, Lin, you almost died."
"What are you doing here?"
Suyin laughed, a wet sound through her tears, and she released her hand back down to the blankets. "You really aren't understanding any of this right now, are you?"
Lin was, to an extent, but she didn't exactly care right then. She just blinked again, trying to keep her eyes open and on her sister when she felt that darkness calling again to bring her back into sleep. "You've been unconscious for almost six days. Tenzin called me, he thought I should – thought I should come, just in case."
"Tenzin," Lin murmured the moment she absorbed his name, "I want Tenzin, please."
"Well," Su grumbled, standing from her chair, "at least you said 'please'. I thought you'd be happy to see me!" There was no venom to the barb, though, and she leaned down to kiss Lin's forehead. "He hasn't left your side the entire time, except to sleep or get food – which is where he went just now. He will be thrilled when he sees you awake. Give me just a minute, I'll go get him. Oh, Mom is here, too, by the way."
Suyin left the room and Lin closed her eyes again, giving in to the weight closing in over her. It was only after a few beats the rest of her sister's words about Toph sunk in without really leaving an impact through the fog clouding her mind, other than a vague sense of dread. Or perhaps simply confusion. It felt like both only a moment and an entire lifetime when she distantly heard the door open, light, familiar footsteps swift across the smooth wooden floors.
She forced herself to look, and this time she saw Tenzin standing a few paces away. The second her eyes found his, he broke into a huge smile, tears gathering to fall over his cheeks until they caught in his beard. "Everyone is crying today," Lin muttered, a hint of wry amusement to her tone. "I don't get it, did something bad happen?"
Tenzin rushed to her side, not bothering to find Suyin's vacated chair as he took her face into his hands, leaning down to kiss her on the lips without hesitation or consideration for how exposed they were here. She could feel the dampness of his tears against her skin, fresh and hours old, and wished her arms would cooperate to reach up for him. Instead they remained heavy as stone beside her as he moved his mouth to her cheek, her jaw, her neck, back to her cheek and up to her forehead, unable to stop touching her.
She turned her head to find his again, seeking his touch as much as he wanted to give it, and he pressed his lips to hers once more. She opened her mouth slightly, drawing him in, and finally got one hand to lift sluggishly up to curl over his wrist.
"So that's why you wanted to see Tenzin," Suyin said slyly from the doorway, where she was leaning against the frame with her arms crossed. "Mom told me about whatever it is you two are doing. Guess she was right. Damn, Lin, I owe her seventy yuan. I personally thought you had more self-control than that."
The fog was slowly starting to ebb away, leaving her much more clearheaded than she had been when she first came to, and she glared at her sister. "You're making bets about me, too? What the bloody spirits is wrong with this family?"
Su didn't answer, though she at least had the decency to divert her gaze to her already clean fingernails. Tenzin pulled away from her, his face flushed with a pleased reddish hue, and Lin turned her attention back to him, her hand still on his wrist. "Tenzin," she murmured to bring his eyes to hers. "The man who did this, Jinta – he was arrested, wasn't he? There were officers everywhere, he couldn't have gotten away."
He and Suyin shared a quick glance that was not lost on her. "What?" she pressed, starting to get agitated quickly at being left out like a child. "Surely he did not get out of that room."
"No," Tenzin confirmed, taking a moment to clear his throat. "He was taken into custody immediately."
"Then why are you suddenly so afraid?" she asked. "I might be out of it, but I can still feel your heart beating itself out of your chest." She looked at Suyin herself now, but she was looking to Tenzin, as well, waiting for him to answer this question.
"He was executed yesterday," he whispered.
"What?" Lin exclaimed, aghast. She tried to sit up in the bed, but Tenzin quickly put his hands on her shoulders to still her. "We have never allowed an execution here, never. Your father – Aang wanted this city to be a place of peace, not one where - Why on earth…fuck, Tenzin."
"Raiko overruled me. I tried, Lin, I did. Jinta's trial was held the day after you were admitted, before anyone know whether you would survive -"
"That is hardly even attempted murder!" Lin interrupted angrily, speaking over him and ignoring the obvious pain in his voice. "Cowardice, coming at me like he did, but certainly not a crime worthy of -"
"Be that as it may," he continued calmly as he could, "he confessed to nearly half the murders the Clan orchestrated since they took power, all between him and the Waterbender you killed in battle. Taking your life, he said, would be his…his crowing achievement. He hated you." The words made his face pinch with real fury, and she slid her hand up his wrist to close around his fingers. He squeezed them tightly. "They wouldn't let me sit on the trial council, but it came back fully against him in less than a day. Raiko took several hours to decide the final ruling, and I did everything I could to convince him to spare Jinta's life. He called me – well, he called me a 'pacifist who cared more about the life of a murderer than the life of our Chief of Police' and that was that."
Suyin snorted. "If only he could have seen you just a minute ago, sucking her face off with your wife at home. I'm sure that would have changed his opinion on your feelings toward the esteemed Chief of Police."
Lin opened her mouth to retort, but the words died on her tongue when, very suddenly, she remembered the conversation she'd had with Jinora just before leaving the station for Milau's home. Tenzin had no idea she knew of what he had done, everything had happened so quickly. She didn't respond, though he noticed her hesitation. He brought her hand to his mouth, pressing his lips to her palm.
"Suyin said our mother is here," Lin said instead, wishing to change the subject. That was the only one she could think of to grasp at, but she took it anyway. "Why?"
Tenzin looked back at Su, who shrugged and came fully into the room to reclaim her chair. "I would assume to see you," he replied.
"No," Suyin said, scooting the chair closer to the bed to be better included in their conversation. "She had just arrived in Zaofu when I got Tenzin's call, about you being in such bad shape. She did come of her own free will, though," she added as an afterthought, her head turned to the side as she leaned over to rest it in her open hand. "She may actually have been worried, she didn't talk most of the way."
"Well, where is she, then?" Lin asked, looking between them both.
"On the island," Tenzin supplied, "torturing Bolin and making my wi – Pema blush like a schoolgirl every chance she gets. Pema hadn't met her before, your mother is having a field day."
"So basically causing mayhem and making everyone miserable, as she does," Suyin said with a laugh. "She repaired your armor." This was said softly, and Lin stared at her sister as she spoke. This act, insignificant though it may seem, had more weight than anything else Toph may have done. "It still needs to be polished, but she repaired every dent and scrape, no matter how small. The hole is completely gone."
"She's never done that before," Lin whispered in genuine surprise, "she always told us an officer's armor was their own responsibility."
"Yes," Su agreed quietly, giving her a small smile. She sat straight again and reached out to brush her knuckles over Lin's cheek, leaning forward to kiss her there before standing. "There were handfuls of people clamoring to get in here, but the healers would only let Tenzin and me in your room while you were ill," she explained, her voice back to its normal, chipper tone. "I should probably go spread the word that you're awake and doing just fine now so everyone will finally calm down."
Milau's trial began only a few days later.
Lin begged to be released from the hospital at least during the day to attend, but she was given a very strict no – and so she demanded Tenzin leave her side, which he had been loath to do, in order observe the proceedings for her. He would return in the evenings long enough to give her the detailed notes he had taken for her benefit, as well as his own insight on how things were progressing, before leaving again to be with his family. Or with his children, at any rate. Her time with him was so sparse in those few days that they did not have time to speak on any more personal matters than the trial and so she did not press the matter with Pema, instead waiting for him to bring it up himself. She knew he would as soon as he was ready.
During Tenzin's absence, Suyin distracted her from her confinement as best she could with a pai sho board scavenged from somewhere in the building or various card games between healing sessions, catching her up on all the gossip she did not really care to follow. Toph never came to visit her, though she couldn't find it in herself to be surprised. All her mother did was send word with Su that her armor had been sent home before she wheedled Opal into flying her to the Fire Nation. Suyin herself left not long after.
The healing continued marvelously once the toxins had been fully extracted, and by the end of the week she was finally released from her so-called prison with a clean bill of health.
The bright afternoon sun beat down on her, warming her skin through the chilly air as she walked outside to meet Tenzin, who was waiting for her by the doors. He reached for her arm, linking his together through hers as though they were going on a pleasant stroll through the streets the way they had so many times when they were younger. Their elbows fit together easily without the metal barrier of her armor, and she leaned a bit closer at the contact.
"Are you ready to go home?" he asked her with a wide smile.
"Very," she replied, turning her head to look at him. "If they kept me there any longer, I may have gone out a window in the middle of the night."
"I've been by a few times, to water your plants and dust," he told her as they began to walk. "And to bring some fresh food for your icebox, some of it needed to be replaced yesterday. I also changed the sheets. They still seemed rather clean, but I figured it would be nice for you to sleep in your own bed with fresh linens as well."
"That was very kind, Tenzin, thank you." It truly was kind, and the gesture behind his open willingness to help made her heart swell.
Several minutes passed in silence before he said, "I also – well, I also brought a few of my own things. If, of course, you would like me to stay with you for a few days. I've not been presumptuous enough to unpack, but I certainly want to."
She gave him a little grin, reaching for the keys that should have been in the pocket of her jacket as they reached her door. They weren't there, and she hesitated for just a moment in bafflement when he handed her own keyring to her with an amused apology. Her grin turned into a true smile, and she unlocked the door to let them both inside. He had drawn the curtains away from the windows to let the light come in, and her home welcomed her back as though it missed her as much as she missed it.
Tenzin began to walk away toward the kitchen to gather something for their lunch, and Lin reached out to grab his wrist before he could fully leave her side. He turned to look at her, his expression open and expectant.
"I'd like you to stay," she said clearly.
He suddenly dropped her gaze and, as he did, she felt his pulse hammer with anxiety. Her eyebrows narrowed in concern and she took a step closer. "Tenzin?"
"Lin -" He shook his head, looking at her with a shimmer of fear in his eyes and then away again quickly. "I should have told you this sooner, I'm so sorry I haven't yet – Pema and I -"
Lin interrupted his stream of words with a finger to his lips, moving it to his chin to bring his head up out of its bowed turn so he would look at her fully. "I know, Tenzin, it's all right. Jinora," she supplied before he could ask. "That daughter of yours, she's as sharp as you are. She heard you and Pema talking and came to – well, I suppose she came to confront me about it instead of you. We left on somewhat decent terms just before I took my officers to Milau's home for the arrest."
He seemed both relieved and upset by this revelation, and she pressed her palm to his cheek. "I had no idea she knew as much as she did, she never told me," he murmured. "I've spoken with the children as openly as I could, Pema and I both have, but – did she really hear our conversation as it was happening? Is she all right?"
"It's been two weeks since I spoke with her," Lin answered honestly, "and I would like to do so again because I left with the impression she had more to ask, though yes, she seemed to handle it as well as any child her age could. She understands more than I gave her credit for."
Her words calmed much of his apprehension and, feeling his heartbeat begin to change, she gently raised her other hand and brushed her fingers along the side of his head. "Oh, Tenzin," she whispered. "I love you, very much." It wasn't quite what she had wanted to say, but she was having difficulty finding the right way to articulate exactly how she was feeling – the exhilaration, the amazement, at what he had done to be with her. It was an act far larger than she had ever imagined him making, and the idea of it all was still almost a dream.
"How are you feeling?" he asked, veering the conversation away from where it had been quite suddenly. The sentiment behind his question was sincere, however, and she grinned at him, willing to let the previous subject go for the moment.
"Like it never happened," she said. "Really," she added at his dubious look, and she pulled away slightly to grasp the hem of her shirt and pull it up just above her bellybutton to reveal the sculpted muscle of her abdomen and a very thin, almost invisible, line of pink off to the side. "See, look, the scar is already almost gone. I can't feel it at all. I'm completely fine now."
Tenzin reached out a hand to press two timid fingers to the mark, seeing it for the first time. His eyebrows came together as he studied it carefully, and Lin took his hand, pressing it flat against her stomach and moving it gently to her side and away from the old wound. His skin warmed against hers. "Take me to bed," she whispered.
His eyes rose to hers, misplaced concern blossoming there. "Are you feeling ill? Are you ti-"
"Tenzin," she murmured with a small, airy laugh, stepping closer to push a leg between his so she could press her entire front against his body. She kissed the corner of his mouth, then drew her lips over his jaw to nip at his ear. "Take me," she repeated lowly, "to bed."
He didn't need to be told again.
Lin's desk, it appeared, had been turned into a shrine during her absence. Flowers, incense, stubs of lit candles, bits of food and money, small prayers written on folded parchment, paper lanterns in various colors – there were so many that some had tumbled to the floor, where others had come along to neaten the pile and add to it. She stopped in her doorway to stare at the mass of items in surprise, blinking at it and unsure of what to do at the obvious outpouring of devotion and love toward her.
Hutou came in just a moment later, her usual morning cup of black tea in his hand with the log from the previous night for her to look over as she always did.
"Did – did all of this come from my officers?" she asked him.
"Most did," he replied with a gentle smile. "Some others came from people in the city. They asked permission to come up and leave things for your wellbeing. Truly, it only took about a day before your desktop became overwhelmed, but I wasn't sure where to start directing everyone to leave their items when they wanted them somewhere so personal to you in the hopes their prayers would better reach your ailing spirit."
"I see," Lin said rather breathlessly. "What in the world am I supposed to do with all this now?"
"I can have someone fetch a crate for you to have it packed away," Hutou offered as she took her tea from him.
"Yes, do that please."
She took a seat on the small sofa set against the far wall, seeing as her desk was very out of commission, and began to read through the thick log from not only the previous night, but those from the nearly two weeks she had been gone. It seemed everything had mostly returned to normal, for which she was grateful.
It was only thirty minutes later a knock on her doorframe brought her attention up, and she saw Tenzin standing there in some of his finer robes. "Are you ready?" he asked.
She nodded, finishing the last few sips of her tea and setting the cup down on the end table for Hutou to gather for her later. As she stood, he took in the amassed collection falling over her desk and he smiled widely. "I see quite a few people care very much about you," he said happily.
Lin just scowled at him. "I haven't been able to get any real work done, thanks to that mess," she muttered, reaching around him for her coat. But she couldn't help the note of pleased contentment from slipping into her words. It really did warm her, knowing people cared. She hadn't realized she mattered so much to so many. "It should be cleared away by the time we get back."
"That's good," he said for her benefit, offering her his arm. She took it without hesitation, allowing him to lead her from her office and out of the building.
Today was the final day of Milau's trial. Even if she hadn't been able to see the rest, Lin was absolutely going to be there to see the sitting council find her guilty. She and Tenzin found their seats in the packed chamber near the front, where he had the row reserved due to his seniority. His hand immediately found hers, squeezing her fingers tightly to let her know he was there regardless of the outcome.
Milau was already seated at her table, her lawyer looking troubled for the beginning of the verdict reading. She scanned the room, not paying attention to the man at her side, her dark blue eyes meeting Lin's. She glared, fury still present even after the time passed, and turned her head to stare straight ahead. Lin took a breath and looked ahead as well.
The trial council, a carefully selected group of two women and three men chosen specifically for this case, filed in from a back hallway only a minute or so later to take their seats at the front around the ornate curved table. The lawyers, Milau's defender and the city's prosecutor, stood from their chairs to greet them. Milau herself remain seated, impassive and silent, her expression now closed behind an inscrutable mask she had obviously worn for many years.
Lin, her hand still encased in Tenzin's, turned her attention to the council as the head brought his gavel down to bring quiet into the room. It fell quickly, and he spoke. "My colleagues and I have been thinking over the case presented to us carefully during the recess the last two days," he began, and Lin's fingers tightened unconsciously. "It is clear the woman brought before us is the culprit we have been looking for, and we have found her guilty of all crimes. Unless President Raiko finds her punishment to be otherwise, the five of us have determined she should be fated to spend the rest of her life in a high security ward with no contact with the outside world. However."
He paused here to find a piece of paper from his robes, and both Lin and Tenzin tensed, eyes sliding over to meet briefly in the stiff silence.
"We received an urgent notice from the Fire Nation late last night requesting her extradition to stand trial there for similar injustices and we have decided to grant the request. It is likely, Miss Milau," he said sternly as he looked directly at her, his voice hardening, "your punishment there for the crimes outlined will be far harsher than anything you would have faced here. If, for any reason, you find it fit to return to Republic City, you will be placed under our jurisdiction once more and will continue your sentence with us."
The man turned to the officers standing off to the side, gesturing for them to come forward and take her. "Authorities on behalf of the Fire Lord are on their way as we speak. In the meantime, you will be enjoying the hospitality of our own jail for a few hours more. This case is now closed."
He hit the gavel again and the trial council left the table first, leaving out the same hallway they entered through, then Milau out a side door under the custody of the police. The lawyers shook hands, the spectators slowly starting to mingle or walk away. Done, just like that. Lin didn't move.
"You did it," Tenzin leaned over to whisper in her ear. "You won."
She didn't respond, the whole situation rather surreal. There were still smaller trials going on - some that morning, even - for the many people found to be involved in the Clan, but the case, all of the cases related to them she had been working on for almost a year...it was over.
Tenzin did not mind her silence, understanding why she was unable to find the words, and she was deeply grateful to him for simply being there with her as she continued to sit on the hard wooden bench, the world moving swiftly around them on to the next big event. He brought their clasped hands to his mouth to press his lips very gently to her fingers in a chaste little kiss before lowering them to the seat again and though Lin knew several people saw, she didn't care.
For the first time in what felt like far too long, it seemed as though her life was finally coming back under her control. Everything that had been just out of reach was settling in around her, warming through her soul and opening to reveal a path she never thought she'd see again.
"Thank you, Tenzin," she said softly, "for coming so far with me."
"Anything for you, Lin. Anything at all."