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I Made a Difference to That One

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Easing out of sleep the next morning, Kya rolled over into the warmth at her side and opened her eyes to find Lin already awake and watching her with a fond expression. Like everything about her, the gaze was intense and unflinching, and Kya found her own face growing warm under the scrutiny. “Morning,” she murmured after a moment.

“Good morning,” Lin replied. Her voice was husky with sleep. She reached over and tucked a bit of Kya’s hair behind her ear, and for a fleeting moment Kya was self-conscious about what she’d been told in the past was an impressive bed head. The softness in the way Lin trailed her hand down her shoulder and arm after quickly chased her worries away.

“Did you sleep well?”

“I did,” Lin said. They sat still for a few more moments, just staring at each other. Kya swept her eyes over Lin’s hair where it lay fanned out across the pillow. Even in the morning, the gunmetal grey waves flowed elegantly. She couldn’t help but remember how the thick, almost coarse strands had felt in her hands the night before. “Thank you,” Lin whispered, pulling her out of her reverie.

Kya frowned, confused. “What for?”

Lin reached up again to run a finger over the furrow between Kya’s brows, smoothing it out. “For last night. For going slow with me.” She paused for a moment, and a current of sadness swept through her eyes, but it faded into almost fascination as she continued tracing Kya’s features. “Not everyone is so understanding, but you… You make me feel…” she blushed and looked down at the space between them. “I saw you get worried last night and I just wanted to tell you that I see it. What you’re doing, to try and make me feel comfortable. And I do. So, just. Thank you. For being so patient.”

Kya took a deep breath and resolutely reminded herself that it was too early to start crying. “Lin,” she breathed, reaching up and covering her hand with her own. The gratefulness in Lin’s eyes when she looked back up was as overwhelming as reassurance that her fears about pushing were unfounded. She’d always made it a point to conduct herself in a way that made those around her comfortable, it was just part of who she was, but she couldn’t remember the last time someone had so explicitly thanked her for doing it. That Lin was the one to do so somehow made it all the more profound.

Not for the first time, Kya wondered who hurt this incredible woman. Who ever could have been willing to. “You’re welcome,” she said, because anything else felt like it would invalidate what Lin had told her. “Thank you for telling me. I know I tend to come on strong, and I’ve been nervous about rushing you-”

Lin immediately started shaking her head. “Don’t be. You’re-”

Kya continued over her protest. “It means a lot that you took the time to acknowledge that. And it helps to know that I’m not.” She leaned forward and pressed a soft kiss against Lin’s lips, one that she eagerly accepted and returned. Kya almost let herself fall to distraction over it before she remembered the time. She pulled back just far enough to kiss the tip of Lin’s nose. Lin’s face scrunched up in consternation over the act and Kya laughed out loud at her. “As much as I’d love to lay here and just cuddle all day, we may want to get going. Especially if you want to stop at your place to change,” she pointed out, rolling over and pushing herself to her feet.

Despite the fact that they had managed to wrangle the morning off, they were both too important to be able to escape for the full day without extensive notice. And since their days off didn’t line up, they’d decided to plan their day at the Center for Lin’s rather than Kya’s. At the time, it had seemed like the best course of action, but she couldn’t help but regret it now.

Lin heaved a heavy sigh. “I suppose you’re right. I doubt it would be appreciated if I showed up to the station in civvies.” She pushed herself up on her elbows and then into sitting up, and Kya watched appreciatively as she did.

“Besides, you got to see my apartment. It’s only fair that I get to see where the great Chief Lin Beifong lives,” she pointed out with a grin. Lin rolled her eyes, huffing once more that it really wasn’t that big a deal as they got dressed and got ready for the day. After a quick breakfast, they were off, taking Lin’s car once again since Kya had left her truck at Yue. Kya watched out the window with interest as they wound their way into one of the smaller seaside districts, and raised her eyebrows when they pulled up to the security gate of a neighborhood she’d known existed but had only visited a handful of times.

“When you have a job like mine, you start to value the extra security,” Lin explained sheepishly when she gave her a mockingly impressed look.

The realization hit Kya like a bucket of cold water. Lin’s job wasn’t just important, it was dangerous, even off the clock. She knew crime rates in Republic City were relatively low, in large part thanks to Lin herself, but it still made sense that someone in her position would have enemies. “I’ll bet,” she said softly.

“Oh, please don’t worry about it,” Lin exclaimed, glancing at her. “I doubt that anything would actually happen, I just like to be careful.”

Kya was about to respond, but lost her comment when Lin pulled into the first driveway on a street just off the main thoroughfare. The house wasn’t particularly large, but it was certainly bigger than her apartment, and from what Kya could see, it was on the water. “You been holding out on me, Beifong?” She questioned.

Lin chuckled nervously as they stepped out of the car. “Not on purpose,” she pointed out. “Maybe if your truck didn’t strike me as a rolling death trap, I’d have made you come pick me up a few times.” There was no heat in her teasing. Lin had been the one driving to nearly everything they’d done together, though Kya had a bit of an inkling her truck wasn’t the only reason for it. The police chief just automatically stepped into that position.

“I’ll have you know, she’s in complete truck health,” she said haughtily. “Just because she has character-”

“Is that what they’re calling it these days?” Lin interrupted dryly. Kya didn’t bother arguing further, overcome by curiosity as Lin unlocked and swung open the door. There was no real entryway, the house immediately opening up into a spacious area that functioned as a living room, dining room, and kitchen all in one. The space was sparsely equipped and knowing Lin, Kya would have bet the entirety of her wallet that it had come furnished. But evidence of the police chief was everywhere, as well; it was in the single framed photo of Lin and what looked like a few of the officers from that first training, in the nearly-empty jar of pretzels on the end table, in the glint of a rather high-end voice-activated speaker beside the television. “Lin, it’s lovely,” she said in disbelief. She stopped to examine a series of three paintings along one wall, a composite scene of a tranquil-looking forest.

She started by exploring the only hallway, surreptitiously glancing back at Lin every few minutes to make sure she was okay with Kya’s snooping. Busy in the kitchen putting away a rack of dried dishes, she didn’t seem to mind in the least. The farthest room looked like a guest room, about as stark as the rest of the house, but Kya also found a well-lit office space lined with books on two of the walls. She was curious about the titles, but not knowing if Lin had any confidential work out on the desk, she resolved to investigate later and hurried back out to the living room.

“That’s it, I live here now,” she declared, throwing herself flat on the couch. “I’m not leaving. You’re stuck with me.” She reached up to tug the blanket sitting on the back of the couch down and buried her face in the luxurious softness of it. There were a handful more folded in a crate beside the opposite couch, and one in a pile on the armchair. It said something Kya didn’t quite know that stoic Lin Beifong had an extensive collection of fluffy blankets, but she could already imagine the pair of them bundling up underneath one on a chilly day.

She heard a laugh from the kitchen. “I don’t think I’d call it ‘stuck with you,’ but it’s nice to know you approve.” The statement was almost warmer than the blanket. Kya pulled it off her face to smile at her and one of the large picture windows caught her eye.

“Is that you- Spirits, look at your yard !” She jumped up off the couch and raced to the patio door. The outdoor space wasn’t particularly large, but it was well-organized with a patio table, pool, and set of brick steps leading down to a short dock along a canal. “Lin, you don’t have a boat !”

Lin stepped outside behind her, rubbing at the back of her neck. “Is it silly that I just really liked the view?” She asked sheepishly. Kya glanced out at the water, seeing the canal end not far off by dumping into the bay. Her mind’s eye conjured up a picture of Lin, morning coffee in hand, sitting in one of the wooden chairs there and watching the morning mist rise off the water. For just a moment, the anxiousness crept up in the back of her mind again. Was thinking that way too forward? She was literally seeing Lin’s house for the first time and already thinking of how nice her plant collection would look against the wood fence. Don’t, she reminded herself. Lin told you already, she’s okay with how you’re acting. She even said not to call it ‘stuck with you.’

To combat the feeling, she stepped back and wrapped an arm around Lin’s waist. “I don’t think it’s silly at all. I think you’re a genius.” Lin smiled and laid her head against her shoulder. Yep, Kya could definitely see herself getting used to this space.

Though Kya had been kidding about an immediate immigration to Lin’s house, but two weeks later, it was a close thing. Her truck had a space beside Lin’s car, her toothbrush stayed almost permanently on the bathroom counter, and a box of her favorite tea had appeared on the counter as a surprise one morning. One of her wetsuits was currently hanging out to dry on the patio. She hopped out of her truck in the graying evening light, bounding up to the front door and startling when she found it locked. Kya frowned. Lin’s car was in the driveway and the window shades were open, so she was clearly home. After a few rounds of knocking, she gave in and pulled out her keys.

Lin had given her a spare key early on, a small gesture that spoke volumes for the painfully private woman. Kya had yet to use it, mostly out of respect for that privacy and because Lin always left the door open for her, but this time her instincts told her something wasn’t right. She let herself inside, calling out for Lin but not too loud on the off-chance she was asleep. The obvious places- kitchen, living room, office- were all empty, and Kya was about to head toward Lin’s bedroom when she caught a glimpse of her in the window.

Lin was sitting in one of the chairs out on the dock, slumped forward with her elbows on her knees. She appeared to be looking out toward the bay. Kya opened the patio door and stepped outside, but got no reaction. “Lin?” she called when she got closer.

By the way she jumped, it was clear Lin hadn’t heard her approach. “Kya! I must have lost track of time-” She started to stand, but Kya waved her off.

“Don’t get up,” she said quickly, dropping into the chair beside Lin. “Is something wrong?”

Lin sighed and let her head fall forward again. “It’s not really anything, just a… a rough day at work,” she admitted.

Kya sent her a sympathetic look and reached out to cover her hand with her own. “Can you talk about it?”

Lin hesitated for a moment, thinking it over but clearly torn. “The case is closed,” she said slowly. “I’m just… I mean, you know, I’m not that great at… whatever you call it.”

“I’d call it ‘talking about your feelings,’” she teased gently, trying to lighten Lin’s mood a bit. “What happened on the case? Start there.”

“Car wreck. Drunk driver hit a teen in a Kia head-on and the kid didn’t make it,” Lin stated bluntly. Kya rubbed her thumb over her knuckles.

“That’s awful,” she said. There wasn’t much else to say about something like that.

Lin nodded and took a deep breath. “It’s not that abnormal a situation, but the kid… I had to tell his family. It shook up some old memories, is all.” She kept her focus on the bay as she spoke, eyes fixed on something that probably wasn’t there. Kya could practically see a scene playing out in her mind, and she tried to reconcile respecting Lin’s boundaries with being desperate to know what had made her look so haunted.

“Were you in a car accident?” She asked tentatively, when it became clear that Lin wasn’t going to continue the explanation on her own.

“Car wreck,” the police chief corrected immediately. Kya would have been lying if she said she understood the semantics, but it didn’t seem like the time to ask. “I… yeah, same situation, when I was twenty-two. That’s where I-” She cut herself off by waving a hand in the vague direction of her right cheek. When she looked at the jagged pair of scars there, Kya could see Lin’s jaw working the way it always did when she wanted a conversation to end sooner than later.

She decided to risk one more question before changing the subject and sparing Lin further stress. “How bad was it?” It was a broad enough question that Lin could give as much or as little detail as she wanted.

Lin’s hand moved to hold onto Kya’s, taking her by surprise. “I don’t remember a ton, just hazy bits and pain.” Kya’s stomach sank as she imagined Lin in that situation, hurt and confused with two fresh gaping slashes across her much-younger face. “I ended up in the hospital for two weeks, but I lucked out and kept the eye.”

“I’m sorry that happened,” Kya said honestly. “And that you’re having to remember it like this.”

Lin raised an eyebrow at her. “I’d hardly call it your fault, but thank you,” she said in a weak attempt at a joke. When it didn’t quite land, she sighed again. “Poor kid’s parents. Just makes you think…” Whatever the thought was, she didn’t say, her eyes going distant. After a beat, she shook herself and looked up at Kya with a small smile. “Anyway, enough about me. Why don’t we head inside and make dinner, and you can tell me about your day? How’s Ryokan doing?”

They stood, and Kya pulled Lin into her side so they could make their way back to the house with their arms wrapped around each other’s waists, and launched into an enthusiastic recount of that day’s antics at the center.

Dinner was a simple affair, and rather than stay up talking or watching, they found themselves getting ready for bed rather early. Lin had shed most of her gloom, but Kya could still catch the faraway look that came across her face when she thought Kya wasn’t looking. She seemed to relax a bit more when they settled into bed beside each other. Kya curled up behind her and told herself not to keep pushing.

She wasn’t sure how much later it was when she woke up alone. The light was out in the ensuite, but the bedroom door was open. Kya quietly made her way into the living room in search of her wayward girlfriend. She found Lin standing in front of the window. Her arms were wrapped around her middle, almost hugging herself, and her shoulders bore the same slump as earlier as she stared out into the darkness.

“Couldn’t sleep?”

Lin’s eyes flickered up to see Kya’s reflection, and she quickly turned around. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
Kya shook her head. “You didn’t.” Considering Lin for a long moment and coming to the conclusion she wouldn’t speak first, she offered, “Was it the crash?”

Lin shrugged. “Just a crazy dream, and I... I didn’t want to wake you,” she repeated.

“I wish you would have,” Kya told her honestly. She reached out to rest her hand on the scarred side of Lin’s face and brushed her thumb over that high cheekbone. Lin startled at the contact but didn’t pull away. “You know, you don’t have to hide when you’re upset.”

"I know that,” she admitted, averting her gaze. “But it’s my problem, you don’t have to lose sleep over it.”

"What if I want to?"

Lin blinked at her, uncomprehending. Kya used the hand on her cheek to draw her in for a kiss, and when that ended she wrapped her arms around her. Lin all but melted into the embrace. The difference in their heights left her face tucked perfectly into Kya’s collarbone. The pair of them fit together like cogs in a clock, spinning separately and entwined all at once, in perfect rhythm.

"You never think less of me for asking for help, or complaining about work,” Kya said, tightening her hold to make sure Lin was listening. “Please believe me when I say I would never think less of you."

She felt Lin give a silent exhale before the younger woman pressed herself even closer. "I love you." The words were small, barely a murmur, and hesitant enough that Kya could tell she was waiting to be rejected.

"I love you too," she replied immediately, unwilling to give Lin even a second to think she didn’t mean it. Hearing those words from Lin felt the same as standing on the bow of a boat as it raced on full plane across the water- a rush, bubbling up from the tips of her toes and expanding in her chest until she felt like she could jump overboard and sprint across the waves herself. Saying them back felt like coming up for air after the deepest dive she could manage.

Kya wondered for a moment if she had ever been in a relationship where she wasn’t the first one to say “I love you,” and decided the answer was no. That Lin had taken that step without any prompting seemed like the ultimate proof that she was as comfortable in the relationship as Kya was. She breathed in the scent of Lin’s hair and questioned for a moment how she had managed to live for so long without her. 



That morning, when Kya had invited her to stop by and see Ryo after work as a way to cheer her up, it had seemed like a romantic idea. Looking back, Lin wished she had remembered that she would have to spend all day reviewing case reports for the very car wreck that had triggered her bad mood. By the time she left, she’d wanted nothing more than to curl up with a cup of coffee and close her eyes, just for a moment. It was bad enough that she nearly called Kya to cancel, but the idea of being alone with her thoughts had been equally unappealing.

Thankfully, the rehab yard hadn’t been all that busy. Kya had said something about a sea turtle release, which had taken a decent portion of the normal volunteers off-site. They’d been able to chat for a few moments, and Lin had watched as Ryokan was fed his evening meal. She always appreciated seeing Kya at work, and the young dolphin’s antics had helped lighten the anvil that seemed draped across her shoulders. But she was still exhausted, and found herself getting agitated as she waited for Kya to finish up cleaning the kitchen so that they could leave, to the point where even the sounds of traffic from the nearby highway were making her flinch when they grew too loud.

Well, there was probably a good reason that those sounds were putting her on edge. It was a constant reminder that no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t keep Republic City safe from everything. Stupid people were still going to make shitty decisions, and innocent people would still get hurt because of it, and days like this, she was all-too-familiar with that kind of pain. She rubbed at her forehead and willed the image of the boy’s mother’s expression out of her mind’s eye, adamantly refusing to let herself wonder if her own mother would have looked that upset. If maybe that would have gotten a reaction out of her.

“Um. Hi.” Lin looked up with an annoyed huff to see what moron had decided she looked approachable right now. Her stomach fell to the ground when she saw a too-familiar face standing in front of her. “Are you alright? You looked like you had a headache; I have some ibuprofen in my bag.”

She blinked hard and reminded herself that the awkward teen was Opal, not Su. It should have been obvious; not only had it been more than thirty years since either of them were teenagers, but Su had never looked awkward a day in her life. She’d never have been twisting her hands together or biting her lip the way her daughter currently was.

Lin narrowed her eyes. “I’m fine,” she said flatly, hoping the girl would drop it.

“Oh. Ok.” Her high voice grated on Lin’s nerves almost as much as the screeching tires. She could feel herself getting more angry by the second, her skin too warm and muscles locking up tight. She knew, logically, she had no reason to feel that way toward Opal, but the fact was getting harder and harder to remember the longer the teen hovered around. 

“Spit it out,” Lin finally growled, sensing Opal had more to say.

“I… I noticed that you’ve been hanging around the Center sometimes, now that you’re dating Kya, and I was wondering if maybe you wanted to, um… talk sometime? I grew up hearing a lot about you from my mom and Grandma Toph and I’ve always wanted to meet you, and I was hoping maybe you’d want to get to know me a bit, too?”

Lin frowned at her. That Su and Toph would have told this kid anything that would make her interested in talking to Lin was almost laughable. She was surprised Opal even knew who she was, some days, unless… Of course. “No. And you can tell your mother I don’t appreciate her putting you up to this, either.”

The teenager reeled back a bit. “I- Mom didn’t- I didn’t tell her that you…” She swallowed hard, and Lin glared as she picked up what smelled like a lie. “I know you don’t want a lot to do with our family, and I know we’re loud and overwhelming, but I thought-”

“Not. Interested,” Lin ground out through her teeth.

“-maybe, if I had a chance to-”

Lin physically felt the snap as her patience ran out. “ I said no! ” She shouted. “What part of that can you not understand?”

Opal’s eyes were as wide as saucers, wet with crocodile tears. “I- I’m sor-”
“Get out of here before I arrest you for harassment!”

“Lin!” She looked up as Kya came around the corner at the same time as Opal threw her hands over her face and ran off. “What is wrong with you?” Her girlfriend demanded.

Lin turned and flung her car door open. “Are you ready to go or not?”

Kya scowled, but seemed to know better than to argue as she got in on the passenger side. The ride back to Lin’s house was spent in tense silence as neither woman seemed willing to broach the subject in such close quarters. Other than an explosive sigh and the continued presence of the deep frown, Kya gave no indication of what she was thinking. By the time they parked, Lin had convinced herself that she most definitely did not feel guilty about what had transpired, and that maybe Kya would just let it go, but she was proven wrong when she stormed into the house well before Lin.

“So are we going to talk about this?” the veterinarian asked, crossing her arms and blatantly blocking the way into the bedroom. 

Lin glared at the ground as she made her way to the kitchen, dumping her keys on the counter and pouring out her water bottle. “What do you want to say?” She questioned.

“Lin, you cannot go around snapping at my volunteers like that. You were completely out of line!”

She gripped the bottle with white knuckles and scrubbed furiously at it with the dish sponge. “She’s my niece. I can say whatever I want.”

“You made the poor girl cry!” Ky cried indignantly.

“Then she should have listened the first time,” Lin snapped, throwing her water bottle down in frustration. Water splashed up out of the sink when she did, soaking the bottom half of her shirt. “Fuck!” She shut off the sink and dabbed at the spot uselessly with a dish towel. All she had wanted to do was lay down and take a fucking break, to not have to explain herself or her behavior for five fucking minutes, and the world- or more importantly Kya- seemed intent on stopping her.

Kya made a disbelieving sound and spluttered for a moment. Lin continued furiously rubbing at her shirt, not sure why she was even trying when she could just as easily toss it in the dryer and throw on a new one. If only Kya knew half of what she was talking about . “Look, I know you’ve had a hard week but that does not give you the right-”

As she listened, Lin could feel her ears grow cottony with anger, her girlfriend’s voice seeming farther away than it was. Her face felt hot, and her eyes stung. She threw the towel onto the counter and her hands up in the air. “It was Su, okay?” She shouted, storming toward the living room when the kitchen suddenly felt too small. 

Kya stilled for a moment before her eyes narrowed shrewdly. “What was Su?”

Lin immediately regretted saying anything, but she also knew that there was no backing out now. You don’t have to do this alone , she reminded herself. She said she wants to know. She balled her her hands into tight fists and spat the words out before she could chicken out. “The car wreck. It was Su.”

When she finally looked back at Kya, her face had become unreadable. She studied Lin for a long moment before turning on her heel and storming into the laundry room. For a moment, Lin panicked at the thought that she could actually be leaving, but she returned almost immediately with a full laundry basket on her hip. She slammed it down on the couch in front of Lin. “Fold,” she ordered, grabbing a pair of jeans off the top.
“What?” Lin questioned, unable to follow. Was Kya trying to tell her to stuff it, in some kind of passive-aggressive-but-still-productive way?

“You always try to hedge out of these conversations when you get overwhelmed, and I’ve let you, but Opal is one of my kids and so this involves me, too. You’re going to give me the full story and you’re going to occupy your hands while you talk so you don’t shut down.” Lin made a derisive sound in the back of her throat, absolutely not believing what she was hearing. Kya sent her a warning look, though, so she begrudgingly picked up a t-shirt. “Now, what the fuck happened between you and your sister?”

Lin glared at the laundry basket. "Tenzin didn’t tell you anything?" she asked skeptically. She didn’t know whether she was surprised or not when Kya shook her head in the negative. Her ex wasn’t exactly a gossip, but slip ups happened and to be honest, she wouldn’t have blamed Kya for asking him. It wasn’t specifically a secret, either. She just didn’t enjoy advertising the day her life had fallen apart. 

Turning back to the laundry in her hands, she sighed heavily. The anger she’d been clinging to for an hour seemed to slip through her hands like sand, leaving nothing but the familiar weariness this story always brought. "Growing up in Gaoling, it was just me, my mom and Su. There’s six years between her and I." She stopped to set aside the shirt she’d finished. "Mom was the chief of police there, so I basically raised us. Su hated it.”

Another shirt went into the pile, and Lin had to admit that Kya was right. Being able to do something with her hands while she spoke helped keep some distance between herself and the memories, and it gave her an excuse not to watch Kya’s reactions. “When she was seventeen, I got a phone call from a friend of hers saying she was absolutely trashed at a party. It wasn’t that shocking; she had a rebellious streak eight miles wide. They put her on, and I told her to stay right where she was and I’d come get her. I told her there would be no questions asked, that I’d never even bring it up again. I just didn’t want her to get hurt. She made it very clear that she didn’t want help from her square older sister. I told the friends to keep her there and went anyway. And her friends were useless, so Su got in her car anyway. We met halfway when she hit me head-on on a two-lane road."

Kya had gone still, and out of the corner of her eye Lin could see her reach for her hand before stopping herself. She continued folding and talking. "Su wasn’t hurt too bad. Drunk people usually aren’t."

"And you ended up in the hospital for two weeks,” Kya recalled.

Lin nodded at her. "Mom made the whole thing go away, which was fucked up for so many reasons," she added bitterly. The sting of disappointment still cut her to the quick thirty years later. Before then, she’d been so sure her Mom wasn’t that kind of cop . "But I guess Su’s life wasn’t ruined. Mom got on her case, and Su shaped up for a few weeks, but it didn’t last. I came home one day to find her drunk on the couch with two friends. I flipped out, because why wouldn’t I? And who comes out of the kitchen but my own mother, telling me I’m overreacting. Overreacting to a drunk sister who had just-" She cut herself off by angrily putting down another finished pair of leggings. "Anyway. I enrolled in the police academy here and moved out a week later. Haven’t really talked to Su since." It was true. The handful of times she’d had to interact with her sister had been strictly professional, usually at a conference or some city event. Su had tried reaching out a few times, but Lin hadn’t let herself listen to the voicemails too often. At this point, Su even knew better than to attempt to get an interview with Lin herself- one of them always had to send in a junior.

Kya was still watching her with those big, sad eyes. Lin reached out and picked up her hand, now that the story was done, and felt a gentle squeeze on her fingers. For some reason, that was what finally put tears in Lin’s eyes over an incident she told herself she’d gotten over ages ago. "Your mom?" Kya asked.

"A few times. Never for long."

"And neither of them ever-?"

"Apologized? No. Beifongs don’t do that," Lin admitted, the words like acid in her mouth.

Kya squeezed her hand again. "That doesn’t mean you didn’t deserve one."

Lin was silent for a moment, turning the words over in her head. The familiar weight of guilt lodged itself behind her tongue. “I shouldn’t have yelled at Opal, I know,” she eventually said. “But she kept asking and I’ve had to read reports of the case from every angle this week and she looks so much like Su…” She trailed off when her throat threatened to close up, reaching up with her free hand to cover her scars as she grimaced, index finger and thumb pressing against her temples. Despite her every effort, she felt a tear escape.

There was a long moment when Kya stayed quiet, and Lin braced herself for the lecture she considered inevitable. You just screamed at one of her friends, you should be able to handle a stupid car crash at work by now instead of letting your emotions get the better of you.

She suddenly found herself pulled forward into Kya’s arms. “You’re apologizing to Opal the next time you’re both at Yue,” Kya told her firmly. “She’s a good kid, and something tells me if she’d known about this she wouldn’t have kept asking.” That said, she rested her cheek against Lin’s head the way she had the night before, holding her just as gentle and just as close. Lin hardly dared to breathe for fear of pushing her away. “I’m sorry you’re having to deal with all this, but thank you for telling me. You didn’t deserve to be treated that way by Su or your mother, and I can’t imagine how it must feel to be confronted with it again after so long. I meant what I said- I’m right here to talk if you need to, or to just sit. I’m not going to let you deal with all of this alone.”

The tears had stopped prickling at her eyes, but Lin allowed herself to sink into the comfort she’d needed all day. She didn’t say much more, drained from such an emotional conversation, and Kya didn’t ask her to. The pains of Lin’s work and past, at least for now, stood aside to let her be.