Written from a prompt from (and as a gift for) Amira Elizabeth quite a while ago, though I am only now getting around to posting. Set after Season 4, no spoilers.
For those interested, this is kinda-storta setting up a very loose plot that my next longer plot-driven story will follow. I am still working on it, though the first chapter will likely be posted in the next few weeks.
"Oh, Lin – Lin – you are here!"
Kya shouldered her way through the crowd of people mingling in the lobby of Zaofu's elegant theater, reaching out for her arm the moment she was close enough. "Su told me you were coming, but I didn't believe her. You haven't been here in ages!"
Lin shrugged, not sure what to say, but she wasn't given much of a chance anyway as Kya hooked their elbows and tugged her away. She had no choice but to follow as she was dragged toward the exhibition hall and through the throngs of nicely-dressed people around them.
"Isn't this exciting?" Kya asked. "Su's company's first performance since Zaofu was rebuilt, she must be so proud."
They had come to the magnificent double doors, crafted out of finely polished metal and reflecting back the many lights strung up along the high ceilings, and Lin pulled her arm away enough to walk into the auditorium on her own behind her friend. Many people were already seated, and several looked up as they wound their way up to the Beifong family box.
Kya laughed, pausing to dig her elbow into Lin's ribs. "They're all staring at you, lady."
"Don't be ridiculous!" Lin snapped. Her temper was shorter than she had meant it to be - she didn't exactly want to be here at all - and she frowned without offering an apology.
She had received an invitation to this recital months ago and had initially tried to give her condolences on not being able to attend, but Suyin had called her directly and refused to take no for an answer. Lin was given no other option but to travel out here, somewhat against her will - and better judgement - to see this performance. Su had never been so insistent that she come to one before, and Lin could not help but wonder if there was some ulterior motive to her presence here. Though really, of course there was.
"It's true," Kya said with a chuckle, bringing her back to the moment just as they reached the top of their stairs. "You look lovely, you know. I haven't seen you in anything but your armor in - what, it has to be at least ten years."
"Oh, hush. You're never home enough to see me, you have no room to comment."
"The entire world is my home, Lin," Kya sang sweetly.
They sat, and Kya reached for her arm again, leaning against her just as Suyin did, and began talking of her travels, blissfully describing all the places she had been over the last few years and how Lin should join her next time. Lin gave her friend half her attention, discreetly lowering her eyes down to her choice of attire. A dark green silk dress with a high collar and long sleeves, with a handcrafted metal belt around her waist. Was it really so different from her normal wear that people would stare? The attention did not make her uncomfortable, necessarily - she was used to attention being on her - but it was a bit startling, knowing these people were suddenly seeing her, Lin, and not Chief Beifong.
She scowled slightly, tuning back into Kya going on about a magnificent waterfall she had stumbled upon in the mountains, as the door at the back of the box opened and Suyin's family came inside from a back hallway. Baatar and his sons filed inside, dressed in their own finery, and Opal came in behind them. The moment her eyes landed on Lin, she broke into a huge grin.
"Aunt Lin!" she cried happily, breaking around her father and brothers to rush toward her. Lin opened her arms, accepting Opal's embrace with her own. "I didn't know you were coming," the teenager said, "but I'm so happy to see you! You look so pretty!"
Kya smirked and Lin made a face at her over Opal's shoulder.
"Have you seen Mom yet?" Opal asked, pulling away to meet Lin's eyes. "I know it means a lot to her that you're here, it really does. She choreographed this dance for you, it's wonderful you get to see it on opening night."
"For me? She wrote this for me?" Lin looked between Kya and Opal, surprised. Suddenly her sister's stubborn behavior made sense, and the little pit in her stomach eased its hold. "I didn't know that."
"Oh, maybe it was supposed to be a surprise," Opal said, rather stricken as her face fell, and Kya reached over to touch her arm.
"It's all right, dear, don't worry. She would have figured it all out in about two minutes, anyway."
"You knew," Lin hissed to Kya as Opal went to take her seat beside her family at the front of the box. She leaned to the side to poke her hard in the shoulder. "This whole time, you knew exactly what Suyin was doing, luring me out here. Why didn't she just tell me? Why is this some big secret?"
"Oh, Lin," she replied with a little laugh. "It is not a secret - it is a surprise. Suyin did this as a gift for you. I cannot believe you let these kids call you 'aunt'," she added in jest, pushing Lin's hand away with a flourish. "Tenzin's children must be green with envy, you practically scold them when they do the same!"
The lights began to dim and she did not have a chance to respond again. Dancers came onto the stage below, bathed in the lights cast upon them, and the show began. It was a beautiful performance, Lin could not deny that, and by the end she found herself quite enthralled. Both she and Suyin had danced, growing up. Aang had encouraged all the children to dance, to express themselves through movement, whether it be with their bending and forms or simply for the pure joy of the feeling, and his own joy for it was truly contagious. Suyin had taken to it like none of the others did, and this here was evidence she had never lost her own passion.
There was a mad rush to gather around the dancers and Suyin - their director - after the show was over, and Lin watched from her seat above as the crowd grew and dwindled away. Her family and Kya left the box as well in search of her, but Lin remained where she was, waiting. Su would come to her, she was quite certain.
She only had to wait twenty minutes before Kya returned, Suyin just behind her.
"Oh, Lin, you're here!" her sister cried happily, coming forward quickly to take her into a tight embrace. She held to her for several seconds before letting go enough to lean back and see her face. "You look lovely as ever," she said, though the words didn't carry the genuine affection Kya's did.
Lin looked over at her friend, wondering if she had noticed the change in tone, but Kya was sitting on a plush receiving couch by the door flipping through a ladies' catalogue, her legs crossed and one foot flipping her shoe on and off impatiently. Lin's eyes slid away from her and back to Su, who was still studying her face. She reached out a delicate finger and touched her scars, withdrawing again completely a moment later before Lin could unconsciously recoil from her.
"A shame these have not faded over the years," she murmured, gaze snapping from the discolored skin back up to Lin's. She smiled and very quickly changed the subject. "Have you been enjoying yourself, then? What did you think of the performance?"
"The composition was brilliant," Lin said truthfully. She stepped back, looking already for her handbag. It had fallen at some point in the dark, and she wanted it so she could leave. "The balance of light and dark with the lighting, and the way you had the dancers -" She found her bag wedged under her chair and knelt as gracefully as she could to grab the beaded strap. "The way you had the dancers flow from one of the stage to the other so consistently was perfect."
Suyin beamed at her praise and raised her hands to clasp before her chest. "It was perfect, wasn't it. Yes, yes, it was. I'm so proud of them all, they are such accomplished performers. I adore every last one of them. You should come meet them, Lin!" she suggested with a wide smile. "We're having a celebratory dinner tonight, just now, come with me!"
The invitation seemed far too planned, coming as did, and Lin had the distinct feeling her sister wanted her there only to show off as some sort of accomplishment in itself, and the thought made her uncomfortable. Everything to Su was calculated, a tool to be used to her advantage - even if it was only going to be showing Lin off to her friends as her esteemed sister, leading force in Republic City, or other such nonsense. Power, is all it was. A means of power.
This time Kya came forward and put her hand on Suyin's shoulder. "I wish we could, little Su, but Lin and I have plans bright and early tomorrow morning. We're going on a hike into the mountains to explore the beauty around your incredible city before she has to leave. Aren't we, Lin?"
Trying very hard to hide the irritation from her face at the cost of her 'rescue', Lin nodded and gave a reserved smile to them both. "Yes," she said softly. "That marvelous trek through the mountains. How could I have ever forgotten."
"Very well," Suyin said cheerily, though Lin could hear the agitation behind the concession. "How about breakfast, then?" she asked instead, this offer real and not based on anything but a true desire to spend time with her. "I can show you on my map some lovely places to visit."
"I think I can manage that while Kya packs some bags for us to take," Lin said, shooting the other woman a glare. Kya just shrugged, smiling back at her.
"Wonderful. I will see you in the morning, then."
Suyin hugged her again, and then Kya, and left the room to find her family for the dinner party. Kya came over and took Lin's arm the way she had before, leaning her head against her friend's for just a moment before tugging at her so she'd move toward the door. "You make things so awkward," she said, "with you and your sister."
"Me!" Lin snapped, looking at her angrily. "I do nothing of the sort! It's her -" But then she saw Kya grinning and realized her words were meant as a goad. She jerked her arm away and shoved at her shoulder. "You're a terrible instigator, you know that?"
Kya laughed airily, reaching for her in apology. "I know, I know. Tenzin is the one who soothes things over, I only stir them up. I can't help it." She fell silent for a moment before saying, "She's jealous of you. Did you realize, growing up?"
"Suyin? Jealous of me? Please." Lin waved her hand dismissively and scoffed at the notion. "I don't believe that for a second."
"Everyone always used to say that you were the beauty of the Beifong daughters, Lin. Suyin was the sassy one, you were the lovely one. And -" she continued before she could be interrupted in a wave of irritable words, "and smart, of course. You both always have been. But you should have heard the gossip on the island when we were teenagers, about how you got all the looks from your grandmother and - well, certainly from your father. Everyone knew you were going to be gorgeous. Suyin knew it, too, and all she had to fall back on amongst that gossip were the same people talking about how feisty she was."
"I...I didn't know people used to talk like that."
"Of course you didn't!" Kya said with an appreciative grin. "You never had time for any crap like that, or any interest. You were just like my mom. And your mom, in that regard. Gossip wasn't your thing. It was Su's, and the crowd she fell in with."
Lin didn't respond. She listened half-heartedly as Kya launched into a story about a mystical cavernous well that was supposed to be somewhere up in the mountains they would be venturing through tomorrow, instead replaying what she had just learned through her mind more than she was paying attention. One more thing to drive the wedge between her and her sister deeper, that she had never even known was there.
Or, perhaps, one more thing to be used to repair the damage between them more thoroughly now that she understood yet another cause.