lizbee: (LoK: Lin and Su)
[personal profile] lizbee
Title: Balancing Act
Author: LizBee
Fandom: Legend of Korra
Characters and Pairings: Lin/Pema/Tenzin; Suyin
Rating: Teen
Notes: Set between "Old Wounds" and "The Terror Within". I was going to try to finish a totally different fic today (I ... think I have my fic mojo back?) but then I sent [personal profile] sohotrightnow a link to my Lin/Pema/Tenzin series and accidentally added to it. No regrets.
Content warning: Once again, I have shamelessly resorted to an in vino hard liquor veritas cliche, and apologise to all the fictional livers I've damaged. Also, I don't know quite how to label this, but there's a bit about cultural differences being manipulated to justify genocide (thanks, Sozin) which I feel like people might want a heads-up about?

Summary: Su asks Lin if she's seeing anyone. The answer is a little complicated.



Balancing Act
by LizBee

Late – after Korra and her friends had finally gone to bed – Su turned up at the door of Lin's guest house with two glasses and a bottle of the strongest baiju on the estate. She pushed past Lin and, sitting down, poured two drinks. She pushed the second cup towards Lin, who was still standing in the doorway, her arms crossed.

"Have a drink," Su said, "and tell me why you nearly bit my head off when I asked if you were seeing anyone."

Lin stayed where she was, saying nothing.

"If you want me to leave," Su said, "you'll have to use your words."

Lin pursed her lips, but remained silent, so Su swallowed the contents of her cup and poured herself a second.

"If you were single, you would have said so." Su drained her second cup, repressing a shudder. The strongest baiju on the estate was also the roughest. But it would be worth it, if Lin opened up. Provided she didn't drink it all first. "If you're not single, then you're keeping it quiet."

"For a reason."

It was less a heartfelt admission than an irritated grunt, but Su would take what she could get. She motioned encouragingly towards Lin's drink. With a show of reluctance, Lin peeled herself away from the doorway, closed the front door and sat down opposite Su, picking up her cup but not putting it to her lips.

"Married?" Su asked.

Lin nodded. Her ears, Su was interested to see, were red.

"Take a drink," she suggested. "It'll make it easier."

"Hmph." But Lin swallowed, then coughed, her eyes wide. "What, you own a whole city, but you can't afford decent liquor?"

"I got it from the undergardener. Traded two bottles of White Jade Baiju."

"You got played."

"Says the woman sleeping with a married man."

And that surprised Su – her sister had always seemed conservative, more or less attached to Tenzin from puberty, openly critical of their mother's indiscriminate taste in lovers. Frankly, Lin had been a twenty-two-year-old prude.

But it had been thirty years since she could say she knew Lin, and Koh knew she had changed. So she sipped her drink and said, "I'm sorry, that came out wrong. I didn't mean--"

"To judge? Why not? I would." Lin emptied her cup, refilled it, emptied it again and said, "They're both married. My … to each other. They're married."

"Oh." Su blinked. "Oh."

Lin gave her a little smile and filled Su's cup, then her own.

"I don't think I've had baiju this bad since I first made detective."

"Don't change the subject, Lin."

"Did your gardener distill this herself? Are we going to wake up blind?"

"Lin!"

"What? You asked if I'm seeing anyone, now you know."

"Why all the secrecy? How does the song go? 'Anything goes in Republic City'?"

"Not quite." Lin sniffed suspiciously at her drink, then pushed it aside and went to fill up the water jug. When she returned, she passed Su a glass and said, "I like my privacy."

Su would never let on to her younger, harder-drinking self, but the water was a relief.

"I guess it's hard, the entire world knowing you got dumped by the Avatar's son."

Lin scowled, but for once, she didn't take the bait.

"It wasn't great," was all she said. "And my – we don't really have a name for what we are. But there's … politics. You know."

"I do – wait. Lin." Su stood up, hands on her hips. "Lin Beifong, are you sleeping with the Raikos?"

"What?"

It was a long time since Su had seen her sister smile, let alone throw back her head and laugh.

"You think – Raiko? That I'd even – and Buttercup? Su!"

"Who else? Izumi and the Prince Consort? Senna and Tonraq?" Now Su had the giggles. "The Earth Queen?"

"Su. Su! Suyin!" Lin grabbed her hands, her grip tight enough to pull Su back from the edge of hysteria. "Look, I'll tell you, but you have to promise--"

"I promise."

"Swear it," Lin growled.

"On Zaofu's domes."

"You can't even tell Mom."

"Lin, don't keep me in suspense!"

A smile touched Lin's lips, and she leaned in close.

"Pema and Tenzin," she said softly.

Laughter fell away, replaced by amazement. Su sat up straight, adjusted her robes and said, "Pema and Tenzin?"

Lin gave her an awkward little shrug. Her cheeks were as pink as the afternoon Su got home from her dance class early and found her sister in bed with--

"Tenzin!" Su wanted to laugh again. "I heard you destroyed half of Air Temple Island when he left you!"

"Just a few walls!"

"Or--" Su gaped at her sister. "Was the whole break up a fake? So he could marry Pema and have kids, and--"

"And what, keep me around as a – a concubine? Please. Pema wouldn't have put up with that. Neither would I."

"So … how long has it been going on?"

"About seven months? Maybe eight?" There was that blush again. "It's still new. Maybe it won't last."

"But you seem happy."

Lin smiled into her water glass.

"I am," she said.

Su had a million questions and didn't know where to begin. She settled for the obvious choice: "So how did this start?"

"It was after Amon's revolution. I lost my bending, wound up in an Equalist prison with Pema. I was … in a pretty bad way. I'd be dead if it wasn't for Pema. And then she kept on looking out for me. Before the revolution, we couldn't be in the same room. After..." Lin's gaze was far away. "We got on better after that."

"Lucky Tenzin."

Lin snorted and started to say something. Then stopped, not quite concealing her grin, and reached for the baiju.

"Now I'm curious," said Su.

"I'm not telling my baby sister about my sex life." Lin swallowed and added, "You already know too much."

"You're clearly dying to talk about it. Is it really a secret?"

"Well..." Lin tilted her head. "Bumi figured it out – but we figured that would happen, and Tenzin swore him to secrecy. And the kids know. At least, Ikki found us in bed last month. I thought she'd tell the whole island – she's got a mouth on her, that girl – but I think she only told Jinora and Meelo. Pema told Kya. As far as I know, that's it."

"So … Korra … Bolin … Mako...?"

"Oblivious."

"Wow."

"Teenagers, right?"

"Right." But something didn't sit right with Su. She frowned and said, "But I think you should tell Korra. She was telling me she feels like part of the family. I'd hate for her to feel like you didn't trust her."

Lin looked uncomfortable. "That's … not my call."

"Oh? Then whose is it?"

"Tenzin's afraid she'll lose respect for him if she knows. Something about 'the proper distance between master and student'."

"What a load of nonsense. I mean, he has four kids, she must know he's had sex."

"That's what I said." Lin sipped her drink. "But it's – look, I value my privacy, but Tenzin's..." She sighed, all amusement falling away. "Politics." Her voice was bleak.

Su reached out and took Lin's hand.

"Tell me about it," she said.

"Traditional Air Nomad marriages were complicated. People moved around, they might stay in the temples for years at a time, a lot of them didn't raise their own kids. And it was pretty normal to have multiple partners."

"I didn't realise Tenzin was such a radical."

Lin's exhalation was tinged with bitterness. "He'll deny it, but there's a bit of old-fashioned Water Tribe warrior in him, too. Anyway, Air Nomad family arrangements meant they were never quite accepted in the other Nations. Subverting families, seducing proper Earth Kingdom subjects, all that rubbish."

"Sure, I've read the romances." The free-spirited airbender carrying a noblewoman away for a sensuous whirlwind – pun intended – affair was an old cliché. Su used to leave those books lying pointedly around the house, just to see Lin blush when she found them.

"Well, it had a basis in fact. Throw in a few rumours about – oh, mind-altering incense, or weird rituals in the temples – you could justify almost anything. As Sozin proved."

"Ah."

"Tenzin's always been the solid family man. Nothing to criticise there." Lin was beginning to slur. "But now – people will talk."

"Let them." Su dismissed the gossip with a wave. "Who is he harming?"

"He's afraid it will undermine the Avatar."

"Korra can take care of herself."

"And now there are new airbenders." Lin emptied the bottle of baiju and drained her cup in one swallow. "Haven't had a chance to talk to him about that. But Pema and I – we know what he'll say."

"What does Pema want?"

Lin leaned back, tilting her face up to the light.

"She wants us. Openly. Fuck everyone else." She smiled. "Maybe not those exact words. But she has four kids, plus she runs Air Temple Island. She wants to take a night off. Go on a date. Hold hands at the movers. Kiss me in the park. Watch me kiss Tenzin." She trailed off. "It's hard." She straightened a little and scowled at Su. "I think I'm drunk."

"Hits you like an airship, that baiju." Su felt fine, but she was beginning to doubt her ability to stand up, let alone make it back to the main house.

"I hate you."

"Liar."

Lin pulled herself to her feet.

"I'm going to bed," she said. "You can stay here. Or whatever. It's your city, do what you want."

"I'm going. I think." Standing was successfully achieved. Su took a few careful steps to the door, then turned back.

"It is my city," she said. "There are no secrets in Zaofu. But we value privacy."

"Oh yeah?"

"There are lots of restaurants, and Varrick's building a great new mover palace. And parks all over the place. It's a great place to take someone for a date. Or someones."

Gently, firmly, Lin pushed her out the door.

"Good night, Su," she said, and closed it in her face.

But she was smiling as she did so, and Su almost danced back to the main house.


end

Date: 2017-02-06 06:03 am (UTC)
archangelbeth: An anthropomorphic feline face, with feathered wing ears, and glasses, in shades of gray. (Default)
From: [personal profile] archangelbeth
<3

Date: 2017-02-06 08:21 am (UTC)
mystefaction: A small girl reading a very large book (Default)
From: [personal profile] mystefaction
But she was smiling as she did so, and Su almost danced back to the main house.

This line is so cute! And the whole exchange about potential candidates had me laughing myself. :-D

I feel Pema keenly, and she's not even here.

(Did you mean "The Terror Within" for the end of the timeline?)

Date: 2017-02-07 05:49 am (UTC)
archangelbeth: Female Borg (10of30)
From: [personal profile] archangelbeth
...Romulans? *twitches a pointed ear*

Date: 2017-02-06 11:26 pm (UTC)
nonelvis: (LEGEND OF KORRA Lin)
From: [personal profile] nonelvis
I always say this, but it's always true: I love the way you write Lin. And cliché or no, Su using that baiju to get the truth out of her feels completely right.

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