This was written for the lovely Miss Amira Elizabeth. She wanted to see a glimpse of what happened once Lin and Tenzin were more public with their relationship, so this is definitely set not long after Warrior Raging inside that same timeline.
And just throwing this out there for all you wonderful Lin fans - Amira Elizabeth is an incredible artist, for those who do not already know of her. She was a great help for some aspects of this story because of that, in fact. I'm going to put a link to her Tumblr on my profile here, for anyone who wants to take a look at the amazing talent she has.
"Lin?" Tenzin knocked on her doorframe as he said her name, and she looked up from the forms she was filling in at her desk. She smiled widely at him, a gesture he took as a welcome to come inside.
It was difficult to keep the pleasure at seeing him from her voice, even though they had only parted that morning. He came fully into her office and reached for her hand, bringing it to his lips to kiss her knuckles so she didn't have to stand from her chair and distract herself from work. Not too much, at any rate.
"Couldn't wait until tomorrow to see me again?" she joked.
"How could I?" He grinned and released her fingers, leaning back against the desk beside her.
Even with the way things had so quickly progressed after Tenzin's marriage with Pema disintegrated, they still only allowed themselves a few nights a week together – mostly to acclimate to the very new and very real circumstances of their relationship. Jumping back into the way it had been years before, when Pema was nothing but an acolyte, would not be good for either of them. And so, while Tenzin did visit her very often while she was working even when he was not staying with her that evening, seeing him now was truly a pleasant surprise. She reached for him again, wanting to touch him and twining their fingers together.
"I come with gifts this afternoon," he told her, rubbing his thumb over the back of her hand. "Well, an offer more than a gift, I suppose. The composer you love, Sanuk? A quartet is performing his work this evening at Symphony Hall. The Air Nation's private box is still free, it's ours if you would like to go."
"That sounds lovely," she said truthfully, though he still heard the faint hesitation to the words.
"You're busy," he supplied, face falling sadly.
Lin took a breath and let it out again quickly, meeting his eyes and not letting him look away. "No," she said simply. "No, I promised you I would not let my work interfere with us the way it used to and I won't. I'd like to go. I want to go."
"It will be wonderful, Lin," Tenzin whispered happily, drawing her hand up to press his lips to her wrist above the edge of her armor. "Thank you. I can come pick you up at seven, will that be all right?"
"Perfect. Tenzin?" she called softly as he began to stand to walk away. He turned to look at her and she released her hand from his to instead reach up toward his face, brushing her fingertips along his cheek as best she could as she continued to sit until he leaned closer, enough for her to kiss him gently on the lips. "I'll see you soon."
It was only several hours after he left, once her mind was wandering over something not important at all, that she realized with a start this would be the first event she and Tenzin would be attending together since word of his divorce from Pema became public knowledge. Rumors had immediately flown, of course, that he had left his wife for her and, regardless of whether that was true or not, the two of them had done what damage control they could for their - mostly her own - public faces by not flaunting their relationship to the city.
And now, here she had agreed to attend this show, where all the higher echelons of upper class would be gathered for the evening, without fully thinking about it. All, really, because she loved the composer and hadn't heard his work performed in so long. That thought, of facing such harsh judgment from her peers, followed her home through the rainy evening until she finally stood in front of her large closet with a scowl tugging her lips and eyebrows downward. It had been years, truly, since she'd had an event she wanted to actually dress up for, and she had been looking forward to this until the fluster of dealing with backlash caught her so unaware.
Lin's eyes skimmed quickly over the rows of clothing, suddenly at a loss.
She was certainly not lacking something to wear. Contrary to the popular belief that she ate, slept, and lived only in her armor, she did, actually, have a closet filled with beautiful things. She had simply not had an occasion to wear any of them in...well, a very long while. Perhaps it was because she lost the desire to put forth the effort into her appearance after Tenzin left years ago, preferring to keep to what was easy with her uniform, but before then, when they were attending galas and balls and dinners every week, she dressed the part very easily.
She sighed with frustration at herself and walked into the closet, reaching for the cord to turn on the overhead light. It cast a dim glow over dresses and pants and shirts, shoes and bags, the elegantly crafted chest where she kept her jewelry locked away.
Perhaps this could be fun after all, regardless of the people likely to be staring all night.
With determination now, Lin aimed for the pale green dress she had been thinking of most of the afternoon, pulling it from the rack between two others patiently awaiting her attention for another day. The light caught on the small pearls sewn into the silver detailing, subtle with the leaves twisting along their embroidered vines and lending exactly the kind of easy elegance she wanted.
She used her bending to pull the zip up the side as she adjusted the modestly thin straps along her shoulders, pleased to see the gently ruffled edge along the bottom still fell where she remembered at her calves.
She heard her front door unlock and, knowing it was Tenzin letting himself inside, she called to him before he could begin looking for her. His response was muffled, something along the lines of hello. "You're right on time," she said with a smile as he came into the room to see her.
"And you," he said, coming to stop in the doorway in surprise, "look amazing."
"I'm not even ready yet," she said with an indifferent wave of her hand, but she grinned at him again anyway. "Could you get my shoes, please?" she asked, already walking back into the closet herself to retrieve the jewelry box. "The dark green heels, the ones with the straps. No, Tenzin, the leather ones, not the - oh, here." She shoved the box into his hands instead and bent to pick up the shoes she was after.
"Sorry," he said with a little laugh that she echoed easily. "Your beauty has me completely bamboozled."
"You are so full of it." Lin watched him from the corner of her eye, noticing for the first time his own choice of a fine crimson traveling cloak edged in gold-hued satin still worn over whatever traditional garments he found in his closet. She smiled. "Has it gotten colder outside, then?" she asked, gesturing toward the cloak.
"A bit. I was thinking we could get a car to take us to the hall, it might be just a bit too chilly to walk in the rain."
She nodded her agreement, opening the chest to study the jewelry she had collected over the years. After a moment of thought, she settled on a thin silver cuff bracelet and pulled out a lovely silver necklace with small freshwater pearls strung along the strands. She handed the ends to Tenzin wordlessly, and he took them without hesitation as she turned to put her back to him.
He easily laid the chain over her chest and latched it at the base of her neck. "I love it when you let me help you finish getting ready," he murmured, leaning forward so the words brushed across her ear.
She just smirked and pushed him away, already looking for the matching earrings and a clip for her hair. "Time to leave, isn't it?"
The unease from before began to creep back to itch through her limbs as they neared the vast music hall at the city center. Tenzin exited the car and held the door open for her to follow and she did slowly, not wanting to draw attention to them both just yet as she took in the many people glittering in their finery as they mounted the stairs in great groups of opulence. Republic City's wealth, all gathered to mingle. Some were truly there for the music, certainly, but others were only attending for the company. She had not been among these people of her own free will in so long she could not remember the last party.
"Lin?" Tenzin said softly, bringing her attention back to him. He had extended his hand to her, waiting patiently, and she slid her fingers into his to allow him to draw her close. "Why are you suddenly so nervous?" he asked with a little chuckle, hooking his elbow gently around hers as they began to walk toward the golden entrance. "Surely you don't dislike everyone here that much?"
The heat of his body was soothing through the chill of the evening and, despite her current misgivings with the situation, she sidled closer to take as much comfort as she could before they reached the view of people ahead. "It hasn't occurred to you, has it, that this is the first time we're…I don't know, showing ourselves together in public?"
His steps faltered just slightly as this sunk in, and he looked at her briefly with wide eyes. "It's not, is it? It can't be, we've gone to dinner -"
"We've brought food home," Lin corrected gently, "so I could work, among other things. No, Tenzin, this is our – what, our debut?" She laughed then, remembering the first time they had done this years and years ago. She had been even more nervous in her twenties, when Katara threw a large party in their honor, though she knew what she was feeling now stemmed more from unnecessary shame with surrounding circumstances than anything. "No, not a debut. This is us facing the firing squad, showering us with scathing looks and vicious rumors. Such fun, isn't it?"
Tenzin wet his lips, nervous now himself. "Should we leave?"
"I want to see this concert," she muttered, "and we have to face them all eventually. Come on."
Whispers began immediately, erupting around them the moment they entered the throng of people. Lin held her head high, eyes cool as she gazed around to meet surprised stares. She could feel Tenzin's heartbeat fluttering, and she placed her other hand on his arm where it was still hooked with hers. He relaxed slightly at the supportive touch. His box wasn't far, the stairway that led to the personal hallway was just on the other side of the crowd.
Her fluster faded quickly even under the glares and scarcely hidden conversations. Lin was happy. It was a feeling she hadn't recognized at first, shoved down deep where she had been so wary of letting it out, but she noticed it very suddenly then with him beside her.
"Good evening, Master Tenzin."
They paused in their steps, so close to the stairs, and turned to see President Raiko and his wife walking toward them. Tenzin gave him a small, polite bow – Lin merely inclined her head – and grinned at him. "President Raiko," Tenzin said pleasantly, "I didn't know you were attending the performance tonight."
"Clearly," Raiko said, his eyes darting to Lin.
Her lips puckered in immediate agitation but Tenzin's hand moving to the small of her back stopped any words she may have shared. People stopping mingling nearby, obviously listening and not doing much to hide it. Tenzin cleared his throat in a valiant effort to break the tension that had so quickly fallen over them. "Would you like to sit with us?" he offered politely. "Our box is large and we only have the two seats."
Raiko looked at him again, face sour. "No, thank you. We're sitting in the Royal Suite."
"We're hosting a private party," his wife added in an attempt to make them feel terrible about themselves for not being invited.
"Oh, that's quite all right," Lin returned quickly, almost demure, "Tenzin and I will just have a little private party of our own upstairs, no need to worry." Buttercup's face flamed at the insinuation – as did Tenzin's – though Raiko frowned angrily at them.
"I will not tolerate such scandal -"
"The only scandal, President, is the one you are creating," she snapped, her patience breaking. All of the nervousness and anxiety she had felt before was gone, replaced now by anger and pure frustration at the treatment they were receiving. "There is nothing more to this – to the two of us – than what you see right here. No more than that. Now if you don't mind -" She snatched Tenzin's hand and clutched it tightly with hers, eyes furious as she met Raiko's. "We would like to take our seats."
Lin tugged Tenzin around and they walked away, continuing toward the stairs. "The nerve of that man," she muttered under her breath, trying to release her irritation under the continued stares of onlookers.
"The life of being public figures," Tenzin agreed, his voice soft to match her displeasure. "Nothing we do is private, despite our best efforts."
She frowned, not responding as they made their way up to the box and far from prying eyes. Their conversation eventually turned to lesser things - the case she was working on, the swift turn in the weather, Jinora and Opal leaving for the Northern Air Temple. Lin shifted in her plush chair, finding a comfortable position and bringing herself a bit closer, their shoulders brushing.
"It won't always be like this," she said softly just as the lights overhead began to dim. "These people - they just need something new to talk about and we'll fade from the spotlight."
"This right now is worse than it was when we started dating in our twenties," Tenzin murmured with a small laugh, turning his head to kiss her hair.
"I was thinking the same thing not too long ago."
"But Lin," he said, and she looked at him when she felt his eyes on her through the darkness. "I do not care a bit what any of them say about us, not as long as you are with me."
She smiled at him and touched his cheek, cupping his face in her hand as the quartet on stage began to play their very first notes. She lifted herself slightly from her seat to plant a kiss on his lips before falling away again. "You're pretty great yourself, Airhead."