This was written as a surprise gift for Amira Elizabeth and I wanted to get it, as well as the next chapter for All Their Light, posted while I still have internet access.
This includes her original character, but if you do not follow her on Tumblr and so do not know anything about him – that is completely okay! This little piece does not require you to know who this man is at all, as he is, in fact, a stranger to Lin at this point in time. Set after Book 1, I believe.
Tenzin will return soon, I promise! I do hope you all enjoy this, though.
Lin stood at the back of the room, watching as her officers found their stations for the evening and got their bearings. It wasn't a complicated job, but the space was large and many of the wealthy upper-class would be attending the opening in a few hours. She had to be sure she had every angle covered, to be able to see every inch of the art gallery and around the several large sculptures set throughout.
The two men in the room with her walked away to meet with their fellows, to compare notes about views and vantages, and she finally let herself look around for just a moment to actually see the art when before she had been so focused on working.
A sculpture at the far end of the hall caught her attention, a Southern Water Tribe woman carved from a slab of marble so white it almost seemed to glow in the late afternoon sunshine streaming in through the windows. Nearly forgetting herself, she walked toward it with a hand raised. The figure was not large, maybe only as tall as her forearm, and set on an elegant wooden pedestal that only enhanced the beautiful strokes of the artist's tools. Her fingers paused just a hair over the stone, longing to feel it under her skin when it was pulsing so close, to follow the veins of grey through the white, to touch the gentle carving of the face and hair and feel it come to life with her senses.
But she didn't do any of those things, recalling herself at the last moment and taking a step back.
"You can touch, if you'd like."
The voice startled her, so caught in her thoughts with the stone, and she looked around to see a man standing a few feet back watching her with an amused smile. "I don't mind," he continued. "Of all the people here, I know you won't harm it."
Lin hesitated for only a moment before very gently placing three fingertips on the cool marble, her eyes leaving the man's – he was obviously the artist – as she felt the energy of her element. "You're not a bender," she mused softly, moving her fingers lightly over the delicate curves and flows of the woman's robes.
"How can you tell?" he asked, genuinely curious. He came to her side, touching the statue on the other side as though he could feel what she felt.
"This stone hasn't known bending," she said simply, absorbed again in the energy shifting under her fingers. She withdrew them slowly. "And," she added with the slightest hint of a smile, "I can see chisel marks here, a bender would smooth those all away. I appreciate being able to see them, it is a true reminder of the work put into your art."
He smiled broadly at her, his lips parting to show his teeth. "You are correct!" he said heartily. "I am not a bender. I use my hands and my tools to create each of these. My name is Tai Jun," he told her, extending his hand for her to grasp. "I know who you are, of course, but it is a pleasure to actually meet you, Chief Beifong."
"You, as well," she said in return, meeting his eyes again as she dropped his hand. "I came to oversee the installation of security for your opening tonight, but your artwork truly is beautiful. It's an honor to see for myself."
"The honor," Tai said, his eyes sparkling as he grinned widely, "is knowing someone as talented as yourself appreciates my work. Will you be staying for the opening, then?"
Something in his tone gave her pause and, rather than immediately brush off the question, she fell silent for just a moment before answering. "I can't," she replied. "My presence is required elsewhere tonight. My work keeps me busy, I'm afraid."
"If I extend the invitation to you personally – would you please attend my gallery opening tonight?"
Lin raised an eyebrow, surprised by his boldness, but she gave him a small smile, a merest twitch of the lips. "I suppose I will see what I can do."
"I look forward to seeing you tonight, then, Chief."
He bowed respectfully and took a step back just as someone came to look for him, asking questions about the wine to be served. Lin watched him go, surprised at herself for even considering coming. It was a mistake, surely, to seek something like this – whatever this even was – out again, after everything she had already been through. Her heart was still healing and breaking with Tenzin near her again, perhaps she was simply weakening, looking for someone to turn to.
Or perhaps…perhaps this Tai Jun was exactly the person she needed.
She would find out that night.