Lin's steel clad boots clanked loudly on the bridge of Suyin's airship. It was dark outside, resulting in the corridors being dimly lit. Lin gently rasped her knuckles on the door at the end of the hall, and pushed it open when she heard a soft come in.
Lin found Kya on top of the bed, with her injured foot elevated on a pillow, a cool compress on her forehead and Opal sitting in a chair next to her, reading a book. "Aunt Lin, is there something I can help you with?"
Lin saw the airbender about to stand but quickly placed a hand on her shoulder to keep her in place. "You're fine kid." Lin removed her hand and with a swift wave of her hands, the armour on her chest was removed and placed neatly next to the door with her boots and steel sleeves followed closely behind, leaving her in a white tank that hid various bruises and black baggy pants that were hiding their own stories. The earthbender's voice was uncharacteristically soft as she spoke. "What are you reading?"
"A poetry book I found in the draw. I couldn't sleep, and Kya said she wouldn't mind if I read to her."
Lin's gaze dropped to her niece's hands, which were visibly shaking as she held the book. The officer moved from her position behind Opal to sit on the bed in front of her, and took the young woman's hands in her own, steadying them. "It's okay. You're safe."
A tear trailed down Opal's face, but she tried to smile through it. "I know I am. I just, I've never felt this level of fear before. Seeing Bumi, Tenzin," she looked down at the waterbender lying on the bed, staring at Lin's back, "Kya, beaten like that, it scared me knowing that you and mum could have ended up in the same position or worse. What if that happened to me too?"
"I wish I could tell you it will never happen but I promise you, I will try my damnedest to make sure no one hurts you."
"Thanks Aunty Lin." The airbender smiled when she felt the older woman wipe away her tears with her thumbs. "Do you want me to leave?"
"Of course not. Besides, even if I did, all the rooms are full and you would have nowhere to go."
"That," Kya reached out and gently touched Opal's knee, "and I would kick her out with you."
Lin looked down at the waterbender with a soft smile. "Good to see your horrible sense of humour wasn't damaged."
"And it would appear yours is still intact. Your niece is lovely by the way, shame I couldn't meet her sooner."
Opal blushed at the compliment. "Thanks Kya but mum told me you moved to the South to be with Katara before I was even born, so you and I would have never met."
Kya turned her attention to Lin who was trying to look anywhere but at the waterbender. Kya glared. "You never told them?"
"You haven't told your family, save for Bumi, either, so why on earth would I tell mine?"
"Tell us what?" Su stood in the doorway, rubbing at her eyes which had large bags under them.
"Nothing." Lin looked down at Kya, daring her to talk.
"Yeah, it's nothing. You look tired Su."
The metalbender stretched her arms above her head and yawned. "I am." She moved to the other side of the bed and laid down, resting her head on Kya's, thankfully uninjured, shoulder, and she gave her sister a smile. "Remember when the three of us would have sleepovers just like this, telling stories and gossiping about boys."
Opal placed the book down on the nightstand and pulled her knees up to her chest. "That sounds like so much fun. Can we do it?"
"Talk about boys?" Her mother asked with a cocked eyebrow. "Well you like Bolin, I'm in love with this man known as your father," She jerked her thumb to the two older women on the bed, "I can't say much for these two."
Kya looked pointedly at Lin with a smirk playing on her lips. "No boys for me."
"None for me either."
Opal sat up and placed her hands in her lap. "But Kya, aren't you wearing a betrothal necklace?"
Kya stared at Lin and tilted her head to the side. "I am."
"So who's the lucky guy?"
"Lin, I'm telling them."
Lin sighed. "Fine."
"Tell us what?" Suyin pouted. "You guys always did this to me when we were kids. Keeping things from me now when I'm an adult, it's ridiculous."
"Su, Opal, Lin and I are married."
"Divorced." Lin correct, causing a shift in emotion to sweep across her family member's faces, from happy, to confused.
"What?!" Suyin, now sitting up, was the first to speak. "You were married and are now divorced?"
"It's not as simple as it sounds." Kya sighed. "Lin and I were married, and in my personal opinion are still married, but twenty years ago, Lin went for the position of police Chief and was shot down numerous times by the council. We kept our marriage a secret because same sex marriage was new to the city, yet somehow the members found out and one of them managed to convince the others that having a same sex, married, and female in charge would bring chaos.
"The Air Nation's council member did the right thing by telling us why Lin wasn't being given the position, so we made the conscious decision of uncoupling. We just never took the time to re-marry." Kya reached out and grasped Lin's hand. "We still love each other and I spend one week out of every month in Republic city with Lin."
"So I have another aunt?!" Opal clasped her hands together under her chin, trying to keep the air within, in check. "If you weren't hurt, I would hug you right now! I've always wanted an aunt to go shopping with."
Lin folded her arms across her chest and huffed. "Nice to know I can be replaced as the favourite aunt in just a matter of moments."
"Oh Aunt Lin, I didn't mean anything by it."
Lin held up a hand. "Save it."
"I'm sorry," the three women turned to Su who had her eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "It's going to take a while for me to wrap my head around it, but I have to ask, how, why?"
Kya observed Lin, who gave her a small nod. Letting out a deep breath, Kya began. "It was roughly eight months after Lin and Tenzin broke up, news is always slow to get to the South, especially when the two people involved are so private, but when the news finally leaked to the media, I was on the next boat to Republic City, whether Lin wanted me there or not.
"I arrived at Lin's around dusk, just in time to find her coming home from the night shift, wearing her trench coat and a bag of groceries in her arms. After much persuading, she finally let me inside. We talked about the force, about you and Toph, and about the breakup. She took off her trench after we had been inside for a few hours. And low and behold, stood before me was Lin, pregnant."
Suyin looked over at her sister who had her eyes closed and her head hung low. Su soon realised, this was not going to be the happy story she had hoped for.
"To say I was shocked," Kya continued, "would be an understatement. I will say though, at five months pregnant, she was still very beautiful. I stayed in the city, with the intentions to help with the birth but Lin helped me too with my own... issues.
"The father of the child was one of Bumi's subordinates who had died abroad on a rescue mission and hadn't known that Lin was pregnant. But it didn't matter, before time came to push we knew the baby was gone, Lin could feel it. I removed him from Lin in the comfort of her own home and we buried him in the graveyard under a tree. What followed was me calling every week to see how Lin was, and with time, she would call me, then I visited and we went out to dinner and that's when Lin made the first move and kissed me. She proposed six months later, not wanting to waste any more time."
Su looked at Lin, sadness in her eyes. "I had no idea. Did he have a name?"
"Yeah," Lin responded, "Kento, after his father."
"I thought you didn't want kids."
"I didn't. But whether I did or not never mattered, Katara surmised I was unable to carry kids after my tenth miscarriage with Tenzin. I had a training accident when I was in the academy which caused one of my ovaries to rupture and it affected my stupid uterus because I was either too stubborn or too proud, pick one, to have it attended to straight away."
Su's eyes shot up into her hairline. "Ten times?!"
"It never got any easier. It drained mine and Tenzin's relationship until we were just together for the sake of it. I knew it was doomed from the beginning but Kento was the longest of all the pregnancies. Long enough for a proper burial anyway. The shitty thing is, when Katara told me I could never carry to term, I was actually relieved."
Lin opened her eyes when she felt two sets of arms around her waist. She smiled to herself as she patted her sister and niece on their backs. "Thanks guys."
"I'm sorry for calling you bitter."
"It's fine. You hadn't known what had happened to me for thirty years."
"Why didn't mum tell me though? She would have known."
"She did know. I made her promise not to tell anyone."
"Nice to know she listens every now and then." Su pulled back, a smile on her face. "Enough with the sads, we need to plan your wedding, Chief."
Lin sat and listened intently as ideas were thrown back and forth, resisting the urge to roll her eyes whenever the colour pink was mentioned or the idea of matching wedding dresses was bought up.
The room soon became quiet once Opal fell asleep in her chair and Su asleep on her sister in-laws' chest, leaving Kya and Lin to their own devices. Lin silently walked over to the wardrobe, which was stocked with various quilts and two spare pillows, and placed them on the floor next to the bed. "This was nice."
"Yeah, it was." Lin replied softly as she gently took her niece into her arms before placing her down on the thick doona that acted as a mattress substitute. "Thanks for making me tell them by the way. I feel like it helped with a lot of repressed feelings."
"It's my job as your wife to make you do things you don't want to do, pretty sure that was one of your vows anyway."
"You can't use that to get out of everything, you know?"
Lin smiled as she placed a light blanket over her niece. "I might as well use it, by the sounds of it, I don't have a lot of time left as a single woman." She walked over to Kya and placed a kiss on her lips, sucking gently on her lower lip until she received a moan in response. "I'm so relieved you're safe. I love you."
"I love you too. Now get some rest, we'll be in Zaofu soon."
Lin nodded and she slid underneath the blanket with her niece, only to have the young airbender curl into her side. "Like mother like daughter."
"Yeah," Lin smiled, "it sucks."