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is it too late (to come on home)

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“Uh— can I help you?”

Kya looked up at the source of the voice. The daze that was threatening to make her fall asleep on a bench in the middle of the Police Headquarters made her blink a couple of times before she could recognize Mako, who was looking at her with apprehension.

“Oh, hello Mako. I was just waiting for the Chief to come out of her office, but I guess I’m more tired than I thought.”

“Do you need her for a personal matter or—”

“Personal.”

Mako looked at the clock on the opposite wall of the lobby. “I hadn’t realized it was so late. I doubt the Chief has, either. I’ll tell her you’re here.”

Kya smiled at him. “Thank you.”

“No problem.”

Mako nodded curtly and walked away. Kya watched him as he knocked lightly on the door of Lin’s office then let himself in without waiting for an answer. Being the Chief’s favorite detective had its perks, she thought wryly. Anyone else doing that could expect a good telling-off. Kya sighed and rubbed her eyes; she half expected one herself.

It had been one of the first things they had agreed upon at the beginning of their relationship: Lin’s work and her personal life must remain separate. That had suited Kya just fine, although she suspected that that resolution would crumble at the first signs of a threat against Lin’s family. Or Tenzin’s. Or Korra, Asami or Mako. Still, Kya wasn’t supposed to show up at the Police Headquarters building in the middle of the night but what else could she have done when Lin wasn't home earlier that evening? It hadn’t helped that it had started to rain while she was on her way.

Kya yawned. Well, no point in dwelling on it now. What was done was done.

Suddenly, the office door burst open and a rather tired-looking Lin appeared then stopped short as soon as she registered Kya’s presence in the lobby.

“Hi,” said Kya, attempting a smile.

“I thought Mako was messing with me, honestly. When did you land in Republic City?”

Kya glanced at Mako, who had materialized at Lin’s side. “Three hours ago.”

“You could’ve knocked.”

“I didn’t want to disturb you. Besides, I thought you would come out of your office sooner.”

“Busy day.” Lin passed a hand on her eyes for a moment. “But I might as well head home now. You too, Mako.”

“I’d like to finish this report first, Chief.”

“Alright, do what you want,” she relented, dismissing him with a gesture.

Mako took his leave then, and Lin and Kya were left alone in the dimly lit lobby. The silence was tense but Kya didn’t dare break it, afraid of saying the wrong thing.

Finally, Lin spoke. “I didn’t expect you until tomorrow.”

“Apparently the ship I boarded had some kind of new engine, so the journey was half a day shorter than usual.” Kya paused, then added, quieter: “I’m sorry I came here, but I didn’t find you at home and—”

Lin grimaced, and raised a hand. “Let’s talk about this elsewhere.” Kya had expected anger, but Lin’s voice carried only exhaustion. “Did you leave your stuff downstairs?” Kya nodded. “Then go pick it up. I’ll find you outside.”

True to her words, Lin was waiting for her just outside the building, leaning on the wall and already wrapped in her coat. Kya balanced the sack she had brought on her shoulder, then hurried up to her.

Lin looked at her for a moment. “Have you had dinner?”

“Yes, while I was on the way. You?”

“Yes, in the office.” Lin scanned the surroundings briefly. “Let’s go then.”

Kya was relieved that it had stopped raining. She wasn’t really in the mood to bend the rain out of the way again. Lin’s brisk walking pace required a bit of adjustment on her part, but soon Kya was on her side. Any topic of conversation seemed to elude her, so she remained silent, focusing instead on the way the city lights reflected on every wet surface, and how the puddles reflecting the sky appeared like eerie, purple spots on the ground. Ever since the spirit portal had been blasted open downtown, Kya could hardly reconcile this Republic City with the memories of the place she had grew up in.

Kya scolded herself. She really was getting old if she was beginning to think that anything in her youth had been better than how things were now.

“If you walk that close to the road you’ll get wet next time a car passes through.”

Kya looked at Lin, amused at that warning. “Poor little me, lost in the big city so far away from the savage Southern Water Tribe.”

Lin scoffed. “Suit yourself.”

Perhaps the silence was grinding on everyone’s nerves. “How come you had to stay in your office that long?”

“There was a violent confrontation between triads early this morning. There were casualties and a lot of property damage. No bystanders involved, luckily.”

“I see. You had to answer a lot of phone calls, I take it.”

“You have no idea.”

Kya was no longer a stranger to Lin’s work routine. Dealing with city administrators and politicians represented a good part of Lin’s duties as Chief of Police, and she hadn’t held that position for more than ten years for nothing. Lin was good with politics, Kya had been surprised to discover, and she had a nagging suspicion it was due to Lin’s ability to compartmentalize her feelings in a chillingly effective manner. Still, Lin was only human and long days of meetings and angry phone calls always left her tired and snappish.

“I’m pretty sure it was some idiot’s mistake,” Lin continued, unaware of Kya’s musings. “None of the triads really want bloodshed for the time being. Anyway, unless the detectives manage to make someone talk in the middle of the night, I don’t want to think about it until tomorrow morning.”

“You look exhausted,” said Kya, trying to convey her concern.

Lin glanced at her. “Yes, well. You look tired yourself.”

“I almost fell asleep on that bench outside your office,” Kya admitted.

“And that one’s really uncomfortable, even for Headquarters’ standards,” replied Lin with a smirk.

They took one last turn, and found themselves walking along the street where Lin’s new apartment was located. The blocks of new buildings in this part of the city looked pretty much all the same in Kya’s opinion, but the reconstruction’s efforts had had to be fast more than creative.

“I didn’t even ask. Do you have to go back to Air Temple Island?” asked Lin, suddenly.

“I don’t. Actually, Tenzin doesn’t know I’m in the city.”

Lin stared at her, surprised.

“Well, it was fine for me to visit often when there was still a need for healers from the other nations in the refugees’ camps, but that’s not the case anymore so—” Kya made a dismissive gesture with her free hand. “I don’t want Tenzin on my case, since I’m supposed to look after mom, you know.”

“But what do you plan to do if you meet, I don’t know, Jinora or even Tenzin himself while you’re here?”

“Speaks the woman who tried to hide from her sister in Zaofu,” Kya retorted playfully.

Lin rolled her eyes. “That isn’t the point.”

“I’ll probably say that I had urgent stuff to take care of and didn’t want to bother the Air Acolytes or something. It’s not like Tenzin doesn’t sigh in relief every time I leave.” Kya frowned at her own haste in justifying herself. It wasn’t something she had done only for her own sake. “Have you changed your mind about not telling him about us?”

“What? No,” replied Lin quickly.

“I thought not. If I told him, he would figure out that something was up.”

Lin remained silent at that. They walked quietly again, and soon Kya couldn’t shake the feeling that she’d said something wrong and upset Lin. Kya frowned again; she hadn’t even told her the big news yet.

As they waited for the elevator inside the apartment building Lin’s discomfort became even more noticeable: she was reluctant to meet her eyes or even get near her. The crossed arms during the ride up almost made Kya roll her eyes.

Inside her apartment, Lin tossed her keys in a ceramic plate on one of the shelves and closed the door behind Kya. Then she started taking off her coat, still ignoring her. Kya dropped her sack on the floor, ready to be done with the charade. She took a long breath, trying to let go of her own irritation.

“Lin.”

“What,” she snapped.

“Thank you for having me,” Kya said softly.

That made Lin pause, although she didn’t turn to face Kya. She was still unsure about what had caused Lin to close off but they hadn’t been in a relationship for so long without Kya learning a few things about the other woman.

“I missed you,” Kya said in the same tone.

Lin hung her coat on the wall hang, slowly. She seemed to consider something, then walked back to where Kya was standing, picking up both her hands in hers. She was still not quite meeting Kya’s eyes, but their finger were interlacing.

Kya smiled, then disentangled her hands, put them on Lin’s metal-covered hips and leaned in to kiss her, lightly, worried that the other woman would retreat in her shell again if she pushed too much. Lin didn’t pull away, and the kiss lingered. Lin’s arms went around Kya’s waist, hands on the small of her back. Despite the presence of the hard uniform and the sharp smell of oiled metal Kya let herself be wrapped up in the closeness, in the feeling of Lin welcoming her in her space again.

When they parted they were both smiling.

“Let me get out of this,” Lin whispered. “And then maybe we can talk.”

Kya reluctantly let her go to her bedroom to get changed, and as soon as Lin had disappeared from the hall she closed her eyes and sighed. She wished that the night could go in a different direction, preferably with few words exchanged, but Lin had unwittingly hit the nail on the head: they needed to talk. The subtle dread she had felt during her entire journey to Republic City and had refused to go away no matter how long she had meditated was back now, much stronger.

She needed to keep her hands busy.

Lin’s small kitchen was sparsely equipped, but Kya knew she’d find tea things there. She filled the kettle about halfway with tap water, then lit the stove and set the kettle on it. That task completed, she leaned with her back against the counter. She could remember the dozens of times she had repeated the same exact gestures in the past, in the exact same spot. She probably even knew the content of the wooden cupboards better than Lin herself, who had never been particularly interested in making use of the kitchen.

The irony of the situation wasn’t lost on Kya. Not too long ago she would have considered that kind of domesticity between them preposterous; she hadn't anticipated the way she had slowly but surely come to care for Lin. She had liked her from the beginning, of course, and trying to reconcile the serious teenager of her memories with the stern but vulnerable woman of the present had been a new and welcome experience. For a long time, though, Kya had believed that their odd relationship would inevitably crumble under the weight of their opposite personalities and the months spent apart.

What had happened instead were semi-regular visits to Republic City, an intimate knowledge of Lin’s quirks and habits, and the predicament she was in. She couldn’t just chalk it all up to a passing fondness and good sex anymore, Kya thought sourly. She was afraid, afraid of having made a mistake in growing to care for Lin and her opinion so much. She realized she was absentmindedly touching her necklace and sighed. It was better not to delve into that too much.

Lin entered the kitchen just as Kya was putting tea leaves in the steaming teapot. She wore only a tank top and pants, Kya noted with appreciation. She had also removed her make-up, and the circles under her eyes were even more apparent.

“Tea? At this time of the night?”

Kya turned her attention to the teapot. “You said earlier that we could talk, so I thought it might keep us awake.” She paused, looking for words that wouldn’t sound too ominous, then resigned herself to the obvious choice: “There’s something I need to tell you.”

Lin lifted one eyebrow, but didn’t voice any skepticism. “We can move to a less cramped room,” she declared finally, then took out two ceramic cups from one of the cabinets and moved to the adjacent living room. Kya followed, bringing the teapot with her.

“So what is it?” asked Lin, as soon as they sat down on the couch, tea things set down neatly on the low table in front of them.

Kya bent down a little, until her elbows were propped on her knees and her fingers interlaced. “Well, long story short— mom found out about us,” she said, not looking at Lin.

“What— Katara found out?” Lin stammered incredulously.

“Yes. Shortly before I left the compound to get on the boat.”

Lin scowled. “How?” she asked, anger spilling into her voice.

Kya took a deep breath, trying to remain calm. “Mom was writing to Tenzin, a few days ago, and when I told her not to mention my visit to Republic City in her letter— mom didn’t like the sound of that. Never could stand it when Tenzin and I fought. So I told her that I didn’t want him to know that I was dating someone in Republic City. Next thing I know, mom is asking me if this mysterious woman I’m seeing is you, Lin.”

Lin passed a hand on her face; Kya heard her murmur ‘Spirits’. She pressed on anyway: “I had to tell her then, that she was right. Mom said that she’s suspected it was someone she knew from the beginning, that the whole secrecy surrounding your identity wasn’t how I usually did things. Besides, she said that after a while she had recognized your handwriting on the envelopes of the letters you’ve sent me.”

Lin had crossed her arms on her chest and was looking stubbornly at the floor. Kya put a hand on her shoulder, and Lin flinched at the touch like it had been electric, though she didn’t outright reject it. Kya’s insides sank.

“I can’t even imagine what she must have thought,” she murmured, sounding more dejected now than angry.

“Would you like to know?” Kya whispered, hoping that, like she had rehearsed in her head over and over, it might help Lin understand.

Lin looked at her then. Kya took that for a yes.

“She told me that she’d been surprised, at first, that she had thought you didn’t want anything more to do with our family, considering how things ended with Tenzin. She also said we’re clearly old enough to know what we’re doing but she still reminded me to be careful with you.” The memory of her mother’s words was still so fresh, she could still picture her serious expression when she’d uttered those words.

“Careful? What does that mean?”

“Basically, she warned me not to hurt you. Mom thinks we don't have a good track record when it comes to you, and I think she feels responsible for it.”

Lin frowned. “She shouldn’t.”

Kya knitted her brow, looking for a better way to explain. “Do you remember when you came to the South Pole last time, when you had lost your bending?” Lin nodded. Kya went on: “I think that was when she realized exactly how isolated you had become, after she left Republic City.”

“Aang had just died,” retorted Lin. “It was hardly her fault.”

“Yes, and shortly after that they found Korra, and then Jinora was born. She was distracted. But I know she feels she should have done more for you, that you were left behind and it shouldn’t have happened.”

There was silence after that. Lin sighed, and hung her head. “Katara always cared about us more than my mother ever showed,” she murmured, with the bite that Kya had learned to expect considering the topic. Another pause. “I haven’t kept in touch with Katara as much as I should have, either. I was embarrassed, I guess. And angry. It’s really not her fault any of this happened.”

It was clear that the topic of her mother had weighed heavily on Lin for a long time, with the way she was talking about it. Kya was dismayed that she had not thought of discussing it before, but the least she could do was try and help now. “You should be telling this to her, not me. Mom also said that if you want, you can come to visit us. She’d be happy to have you. Maybe you can clear the air once and for all.”

Lin snorted, in self-deprecation. “I was sure she resented me.”

“I don’t think mom ever resented you, even back when you and Tenzin ended things. She was just sad that it had all turned out such a mess after dad died. The grief made her feel like everything was falling apart around her, but she never blamed you, Lin.”

“Spirits,” Lin said again, covering her face.

“I’m sorry about all this, Lin,” Kya said sympathetically. “For what it’s worth, I believe mom should have tried to reach out to you sooner, but I think she was afraid of your rejection.”

Lin shook her head. “I’m not sure how I would have reacted if she had tried, either. I’m not great at this kind of thing, even now.”

“You don’t need to do anything you don’t want to,” Kya reassured her.

“I can’t leave things as they are,” retorted Lin.

“Still, you don’t have to decide anything right now.”

Lin covered Kya’s one hand that still was on her shoulder with her own, wordlessly.

“Are you angry? That she knows about our relationship?” Kya asked softly, after a moment.

Lin took a deep breath before answering, looking elsewhere. “I guess it was naive of us to expect that she wouldn’t figure it out on her own, after all this time,” she admitted, then looked Kya in the eyes. “It’s been two years.”

“It has,” confirmed Kya, relieved, even if the number loomed large in her head. She had repeated to herself over and over that years meant little when the time they had actually spent together was much less; but thinking that felt dishonest now.

“We’ve grown a bit careless. There aren’t that many people left that don’t know,” continued Lin, with a smirk. “Korra does. I’m pretty sure Opal has figured it out long ago, since Su keeps asking me about you even if I never told her anything. Now Katara. Even Mako tonight was giving me this weird look when he told me you were waiting outside my office.”

“His intuition has become much sharper since Korra and Asami got together,” commented Kya.

Lin chuckled at that. “I can’t blame him.”

They sat in silence again, then Lin decided to pour the tea for both of them.

“I’m afraid that the leaves have soaked for too long now,” Kya apologized.

Lin shrugged, then offered her one of the cups. Kya took it, and sipped the tea: it had indeed become bitter, but she didn’t mind. Lin cradled her cup in her hands, lost in thought. Kya let her take her time.

“It’s strange to think about it,” Lin said, finally, then drank her tea.

“About what?”

“That I could come visit you and Katara at the South Pole.”

Kya smiled at that, happy that Lin was considering it. “You just need to tell me when, and I’ll think about the rest,” she said, placing a hand on Lin’s thigh to give more credibility to her words.

“I will think about it. Although with my job I can’t make any promises, and it’s going to take time.” Her face hardened again. “Before then though, we need to talk to Tenzin.”

“What brought this on?” asked Kya, thrown again off-balance. “I was under the impression that that was the last thing you wanted to do.”

Lin glanced at her. “It wouldn’t be right if he had to learn it from someone else; I owe him that much, at least.”

“You don’t owe him anything,” countered Kya.

“It’s not just that,” Lin sighed. “Earlier, when you told me that Tenzin doesn’t know you’re here, I was— I don’t know. It feels like we’re sneaking around and hiding just to preserve his peace of mind. And now even Katara is caught in the lie. I’d rather let him know, and face his actual reaction, than continue this theater.”

So that was what was going through Lin’s mind earlier. “You really want to come out.”

Lin grimaced. “I’m not sure if it’s what I want, but it’s probably for the best. And I’m definitely not doing it tomorrow, nor this week,” she added hastily. “I need to think about it.”

Kya squeezed her knee lightly, then finished the tea. She ought to be glad that Lin had finally decided to take that step, but her uneasiness and worry were still there, despite their conversation going much better than expected. She poured herself more tea, bothered at her own inability to calm down.

“Are you alright?” Kya almost laughed at Lin’s concern.

“Yes. No.” Kya rubbed her forehead with her fingers and leaned back on the couch. “I don’t know. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but— it feels like I’m a little out of solid ground. I was so afraid you’d be outraged when I told you about mom, and now you’re suggesting we come out to Tenzin. It’s all a bit more than what I expected to deal with tonight.”

Lin was looking at her, eyes wide, clearly at a loss of what to say. Kya returned her gaze, a question forming in her head that she wouldn’t be able to escape anymore.

“After we tell my brothers, we will be together in everyone’s eyes. Officially. That’s a pretty big step to take, and there’s no coming back. Are we sure we want to do this?”

Lin was looking at her like she’d grown a second head. “Would you rather we don’t say anything?”

Kya shook her head. “I don’t mind telling them. I’m sure Bumi will just laugh about it and whatever Tenzin thinks, I can deal with it. I’m just wondering what it means for us.” Kya paused, but was unable to stop now that she had begun. “What happens if it doesn’t work and we need to break it off?”

“Kya.” The concern in Lin’s voice made her heart break.

She barreled on. “I don’t want it to happen. But since mom found out I’ve been asking myself that question over and over. I don’t have a good record when it comes to relationships. And after we tell everyone it’ll be worse, if something happens between us. Have you considered that?”

Lin knitted her brows, and placed her cup carefully on the table. “I have,” she replied, then pulled a face. “As you very well know, I don’t have exactly a good relationship history either.” She paused for a few seconds, twisting the cup on the surface of the table. “I don’t know what would happen if we broke it off. It could get nasty or maybe, if I learned anything in the last twenty years, I would realize something is wrong before too much resentment sets in.”

“It’s not a thing that only you get to decide,” replied Kya dubiously.

“I know. But you’re better than me at— feelings. Maybe, between the two of us, we won’t end up half sinking Air Temple Island,” she finished with a smirk.

Kya blinked, disbelieving her hears. “Did you just make a joke about your break-up with Tenzin?” she asked.

“It felt appropriate,” commented Lin. “Or maybe I’m just too tired to care. Listen,” she began, and turned towards Kya, looking at her with the full intensity of her attention, “we can talk more about this and we don’t need to decide anything tonight. It’s just that— I don’t know if things have changed or whatever. While you were away I thought long and hard about everything that can go wrong between us, that I can’t leave my job and neither can you leave the South Pole, that we’re really different people, and the history we have, our families— but every time I do I care less and less about all that. I can’t predict the future, but I still want to try and make this work, Kya.”

Lin’s expression was unguarded, vulnerable. Kya reached up and placed a hand on Lin’s cheek, stroking it lightly with her thumb. They had both been thinking similar things the entire time. That Lin had to be the one to confess her fears and hopes, as averse as she was to emotional conversations— Kya was humbled by Lin’s openness.

“Is it too much to ask for?” Lin murmured, diverting her eyes.

“No, no it’s not,” Kya answered quickly, her chest tightening. “I want it too, to make it work.” She took her hand back, and rubbed her forehead with it. “I’ve been thinking along the same lines for a while, you know. It’s only that— I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I shouldn’t focus on this so much, I know, but I can’t ignore that how I feel about you has changed, and I’m scared.”

“Changed how?” asked Lin tentatively.

Kya swallowed hard before taking the plunge. “I think I love you.”

There it was, what she had tried to put off for so long. Saying the word ‘love’ out loud was silly and redundant but Lin deserved to know.

“Kya—”

“I know, all the things I said about not getting too involved too fast and then it turns out I didn’t follow my own advice. I’m sorry.”

“I wouldn’t call two years ‘too fast’, Kya.” Lin said, then gently took Kya’s hand in hers. “I love you too.”

“Oh,” was all Kya managed to say.

Lin was skeptical of her reaction. “Are you really surprised? I thought I was the one who’s ‘incapable of deceiving even a platypus-bear’.”

Kya snorted, then started laughing in earnest. On an impulse she hugged Lin, tightly, and after a moment Lin’s arms enveloped her.

“We’re ridiculous,” Kya uttered, after the fit of giggles had come to an end. The tension in her chest had eased somehow, leaving incredulous delight in its wake. “And I really do love you.”

Lin then untangled herself, took Kya’s face in her hands and pulled her in for long kiss. Kya kissed her back eagerly, without restraint. When they parted, Kya half expected to open her eyes to a whole different world. She saw a tired, smiling Lin instead; Kya felt almost bashful.

Still, she knew not everything was solved with a bold declaration.

“We should really talk about this some more. About coming out, about us, and what we want from now on,” Kya said.

Lin sighed. “You’re right, we should. But— can it wait until tomorrow? If we start talking now I will end up falling asleep on this couch, and that won’t help.”

Kya felt her own weariness set on her shoulders again. “Alright. We have time,” she relented. Then she grinned: “But I hope we’ll get to do something else in the next ten days other than negotiate expectations.”

“With that face I’m sure you have a schedule already figured out,” commented Lin dryly. “But this reminds me— I found out a couple of places where we could go without worrying about privacy. If you’d like to go out with me.”

Kya chuckled. “You’re as romantic as ever. But yes, I would like to go out with you.”

“I’m glad,” Lin replied simply, with a small smile. She stood up and stretched her back, then wordlessly offered Kya a hand. She took it without hesitation, letting herself be lifted up on her feet. They brought the teapots and cups back in the kitchen and rinsed them in companionable silence. Lin was yawning openly at that point.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for bed.”

Kya smirked, her mind already filled with teasing replies to that line. Safe in the knowledge that her world hadn’t been completely uprooted that night, Kya reached up and kissed Lin again.

##

Kya shut the door of the car and shivered as the cold wind stopped its assault. She told the driver where they needed to go, then as the vehicle started moving she looked sideways at Lin. Even bundled against the cold, it was obvious how rigidly she was sitting, with her arms firmly crossed on her chest and a scowl on her face to complete the picture. Kya had seen that expression far too often lately, but with luck Lin wouldn’t be feeling so nervous much longer.

Kya leaned towards Lin. “Mom doesn’t bite, you know,” she joked. Well not as much as she once did, she amended in her head.

Lin glanced at her. “That’s not what I’m worried about,” she replied in a low voice.

“Then what is it?”

Lin grimaced, then lowered her head and sighed. “It’s nothing. It can’t be worse than the other night, anyway.”

Kya laughed. “I still think it went pretty well, all things considered.”

“Speak for yourself. I haven’t felt so embarrassed in years.”

Kya smiled, remembering the highlights of the dinner at Air Temple Island with her brothers, Tenzin’s family and Korra and Asami's unexpected participation. After a lot of debating and correspondence, she and Lin had decided to come out just before going to the South Pole together. Kya had thought it prudent to write to Pema to explain the situation in advance, even if only in broad strokes: her sister-in-law had found the exchange of letters very amusing, and had understood their wish to talk to Tenzin and Bumi in person.

Despite that, Kya had been tense almost as much as Lin, and as they had reached the island, even a little giddy. She had never really brought someone to meet the family before; she had never thought she would. Even without all the circumstances of Lin’s past relationship with Tenzin, it had been a momentous occasion. The presence of a delighted Korra had sealed the significance of the night even further.

Tenzin’s face as he saw the both of them arriving had been something to behold. Bumi had recovered much faster and laughed, admitting he had completely failed to notice what was going on. Her nieces and nephews, whose reaction Kya had been worried about, had seemed to take the news in stride: Meelo had made regular gagging noises, Rohan had been happy to be held by his aunt as usual, and Jinora and Ikki had been surprised but also very curious, immediately asking the questions everybody had been thinking but too afraid to ask.

That was why Kya had found herself suddenly recalling how she and Lin had started dating to an audience that included her giggling nieces, Korra grinning wide, Bumi laughing, Tenzin pretending he wasn’t listening, Lin blushing behind a hand and Asami and Pema trying very hard to remain serious at the entire display (and not always succeeding).

Unsurprisingly, Lin hadn’t relaxed all night. With dinner out of the way Kya had let her go speak to Tenzin alone, and when Lin had come back to find her outside she had looked somewhat more subdued. They had stood in front the view of Yue Bay and the spirit portal in peaceful silence for a while, each lost in their own thoughts.

“It’s strange where life ends up bringing you,” Lin commented. Kya had squeezed Lin’s right hand, not wanting to interrupt. “Tenzin told me not to worry about him,” Lin had continued, “but he said that our relationship was as a complete surprise. It might take time for him to adjust.”

“I’m sure he will eventually,” Kya had reassured her. “Korra has helped him become more flexible since he started mentoring her.”

Lin had nodded, with a far-off look in her eyes. “Years ago I would have never guessed she would end up changing all of our lives so much. The first time I met Korra, I was ready to resent her, to find every way she was different from Aang and hold it against her. Now I don’t know where I’d be, if it wasn’t for her. I wouldn’t even have my bending.”

The uncharacteristic confession hadn’t surprised Kya. Lin often made it known how much the Avatar still irritated her but she also liked and respected Korra deeply, although she would never admit it outright. “She has done things that even my father could never have,” Kya had agreed softly, matching Lin’s sincerity. “For the world, and for us too. Future generations will never have to deal with the pressure of being the last hope for the rebirth of an entire nation, and that’s all Korra’s doing. I just wish I could’ve done more for her when she needed it.”

Lin had looked at her with a raised eyebrow. “Maybe you did more than you realize.”

But before Kya could ask her what she meant, they had been called back inside, and the question had remained unanswered.

Back in the present, Lin was still sulking at her side. Maybe talking would help her unwind a little.

“Lin, what did you mean to say the other night?”

“What did I mean when?” she asked, startled out of her moody silence.

“When we were looking at the bay after you talked to Tenzin. You said that I had helped Korra more than I realized.”

“Oh, that. I remember,” Lin said, a small smile forming on her lips.

“And?” insisted Kya.

“Well, you know. Korra worked out her feelings for Asami pretty fast. She never seemed confused.”

“As opposed to how you were confused when it came to me?”

Lin rolled her eyes at the jab. “Yes, alright, not among my brightest moments. But then I thought, maybe Korra did not have as many doubts because she’s known you all her life, and you’ve never made a mystery that you like women. It makes all the difference, having the right role models in your life.”

Kya was taken aback. She had never talked with Korra about something so personal as her sexuality, but it was true she never deliberately hid it either. The most surprising items were definitely the words ‘role model’.

“You’ve never told me anything like that before. ”

Lin looked alarmed. “I didn’t—”

Kya laughed. “Oh, Lin. I just didn’t know you considered me to be a role model,” she said, then after a moment added: “But I assumed you always knew too.”

“I did,” she admitted, “and it’s not like I’ve never met other gay people. But they were never close friends, and you left the city when I was little more than a kid. It always seemed something that wouldn’t affect me directly.” Lin sighed. “I was wrong.”

“It took time, even for me, to figure it out,” Kya said softly, placing a hand on the other woman’s forearm, gently, and soon Lin covered it with her own. That simple gesture filled Kya with the warm sensation she had come to associate with Lin herself, and she felt content to just be with her, even it was just in the back seat of south pole cab.

##

Katara came out to greet them not long after the car had stopped in front of the compound, despite the windy day. She was smiling, and the giddiness that Kya had felt on Air Temple Island resurfaced, like she was again barely twenty instead of sixty.

As soon as they got back their luggage, Kya hurried to greet her mother.

“Welcome back,” she said, and Kya hugged her. “How was the journey?”

“Not bad, for an autumn crossing,” Kya replied, then the sound of footsteps distracted her. Lin was at her side now, posture stiff but with a determined look in her eyes. She greeted Katara formally.

“Lin. It’s been a while,” she said, still smiling.

“It has,” admitted Lin, keeping her hands behind her back. “I’m sorry about that.”

“Luckily, we have time to catch up now. You look well.”

“Thanks. Likewise,” Lin replied, and Kya hid a smile behind her glove. A rush of affection compelled her to come to Lin’s rescue.

Katara anticipated her. “Tenzin called on the radio a couple of days ago.”

“Ah. He told you about our dinner at the Island, then,” said Kya.

“Yes. He also asked me how long I’ve known about you two. I think he felt a bit silly for not realizing it sooner, so I told him not to worry about it. But I’m glad you decided tell him.”

“It was Lin’s idea,” Kya declared, catching the other woman off guard.

“Uh— well. I thought he deserved to know,” Lin managed to say.

“Tenzin and Bumi were probably the only ones who hadn’t already guessed that we are a couple, anyway,” added Kya dryly.

Katara chuckled at that. Then one of the White Lotus guards still in service appeared from the front door, in a hurry.

“Master Katara! There’s a call for you from Harbor City.”

Katara closed her eyes briefly and sighed. “I’ll be there in a minute,” she said loud enough for the guard to hear. “You two go ahead inside,” she added in a softer tone, “I’ll catch up with you later.”

Kya nodded, and Katara looked at them both in turn. “I’m glad you’re both here,” she said, before leaving to attend the guard.

As soon as they were alone, Kya placed a hand on Lin’s shoulder. “Are you alright?”

“I think so,” said Lin, a bit dazed. Then she smiled, one of those unrestrained, deep smiles that so rarely appeared on her face. Kya felt Lin’s arms wrapping around her and didn’t hesitate to meet the other woman halfway in a deep, long kiss.

As the kiss ended, they remained close, foreheads touching. Kya shivered, the cold at odds with her swirling emotions. She really had brought Lin home with her.

“Shall we go inside?” she breathed, not trusting her voice enough to speak louder.

“We probably should,” answered Lin, softly.