When She Smiles
Tenzin wrinkled his nose peering around his motherâ€™s leg toward the pair. His mother was talking to the woman, and the girl stood before her looking important, imposing. He had seen her before, she was always with the police chief, always looking like she knew what was going on and how to deal with it; just like the blind chief of police.
Bumi had told him she was serious, all serious all the time. Kya had said it too, Kya said she wasnâ€™t much fun to play with. They would know, they had been in Republic City with their mother while he was at the Southern Air Temple with their father learning Airbending. He had missed a lot during the past year.
She acted like Toph; that much he could tell just by looking at her. She stood like her too, feet set apart, hands behind her back, looking ahead; up toward his mother. Occasionally she looked down at him, but quickly turned back to his mother. Kya and Bumi were probably right, she wouldnâ€™t be much fun to play with, but it was either her or following his mother around while she did errands.
â€śLin, you remember Tenzin,â€ť his mother pulled him forward out from behind her legs, she would see him.
â€śHe was the one who left with Avatar Aang,â€ť she looked to him like she was sizing him up. â€śHeâ€™s short too.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m not short,â€ť he challenged standing up straighter and glaring over at Lin.
â€śSo can you bend, or are you a nonbender like your brother and uncle,â€ť she had this smirk on her face.
â€śIâ€™m an Airbender.â€ť
â€śAnother Twinkle Toes huh,â€ť she smiled crossing her arms, Tenzin nodded. â€śCan you fly yet? I love when Avatar Aang takes me for a ride on his glider.â€ť
â€śI canâ€™t support two people,â€ť he flushed slightly rubbing the back of his neck.
â€śItâ€™s okay,â€ť she seemed a little let down.
â€śWe can go for a ride on Appa though, Dad will be in meetings all afternoon.â€ť He liked it when she smiled; she didnâ€™t seem that bad when she smiled.
â€śTenzin, you should probably ask your father before you take Appa,â€ť his mother caught him as he tried to run off.
â€śI will mom,â€ť he wriggled out of his motherâ€™s hands and took off down the street with Lin.
He was thirteen and he had almost mastered Airbending, his father had told him so. He even had his own flying bison so he could travel wherever he wanted when he wanted; mainly it was going with Kya and Bumi to the South Pole to see their grandfather. But the thing was that he could go where he wanted.
And he could take Lin with him.
Bumi still made fun of him for hanging out with her, said he must have a taken a few too many hits to the head learning how to fly. But he didnâ€™t care, Lin was fun to be around; they just got each other, in a way heâ€™d never been able to with his siblings.
â€śTenzin,â€ť she had been with her mother, learning metal bending. â€śI did it, just like mom!â€ť
â€śThatâ€™s amazing Lin, I told you youâ€™d get it,â€ť she tackled him in a hug.
Tenzin was glad they had finally finished construction on Air Temple Island, it meant he could stay in Republic City and practice bending with Avatar Aang; it meant he could see Lin every day.
â€śSo what have you been doing today, I asked Kya where you were and she said you were working on something,â€ť she pulled away from him with a smile on her face, her green eyes searching his face.
â€śDad was teaching me another technique, Iâ€™ve reached the thirty-first tier in Airbending,â€ť he answered.
â€śIt seems that all we ever do is practice,â€ť she commented fully separating from him; he wished she hadnâ€™t.
â€śWe always said weâ€™d be the best.â€ť
â€śLike you have any competition,â€ť she grinned as they started toward the noodle shop they normally ate at.
â€śI have to compete with all the future Airbenders,â€ť
â€śYou donâ€™t have my mother,â€ť Lin returned jokingly. â€śIf itâ€™s not perfect the first time, itâ€™s not perfect it at all.â€ť
â€śWell she did create metalbending,â€ť Tenzin couldnâ€™t hold a straight face as the jib, something the two of them had joked about for almost six years.
â€śAnd your dad is the Avatar, weâ€™re both at a disadvantage.â€ť
â€śAt least weâ€™re at that disadvantage together.â€ť
â€śI guess, hey,â€ť she caught his arm just as he was opening the door into the noodle shop, â€śwhy donâ€™t we go to this new place I heard about. They serve the same food as the shops in the Upper Ring of Ba Sing Se.â€ť
Tenzin let the door swing shut as he was led away by Lin, he didnâ€™t even really like the food from Ba Sing Se but he really like spending time with Lin. And he was about to leave with his father again.
Four years doesnâ€™t seem all that long in retrospect, but when you just end four years it seems like an eternity. He had been in Republic City sixteen times in the last four years and had only been there for a day; he hadnâ€™t seen Lin any of those times.
â€śTenzin, Iâ€™m liking your arrow,â€ť Bumi couldnâ€™t speak quietly, and he had a horrible habit of tackling on first sight. â€śItâ€™s like youâ€™re not the same person anymore,â€ť he mocked pretending to wipe a tear from his eye.
â€śLet him go Bumi, I want to see his tattoo,â€ť Kya pushed her brother aside to catch Tenzin in a strangle hold, inspecting his shaved head with the new mastery tattoo. â€śHuh, I expected it to be cooler,â€ť she grinned holding Tenzinâ€™s neck tighter, â€śmore like dadâ€™s.â€ť
â€śKya let go, itâ€™s just like dadâ€™s, all of them are exactly like dadâ€™s arrows,â€ť he strained to get out of his sisterâ€™s grip.
â€śAlright, let him go Kya.â€ť
â€śDad,â€ť Kya released Tenzin, more or less dropping him in her rush to tackle their father.
Aang embraced his daughter and gave Bumi a good clap on the shoulder smiling, â€śwhat have you two been up to lately?â€ť
As Kya talked about what had been happening in Republic City Tenzin backed away from the three of them with his glider, heading for the dock. He wanted to see Lin.
She had changed a lot, he was sure he had as well, but the change in Lin; he could see that change. She had cut her hair short and wore it pulled back, he missed the long brunette hair she use let fall around her shoulders. She wore more formalized clothing now, nothing resembling the lose fitting green she had sporting during their childhood; and she was serious again.
â€śTenzin, I didnâ€™t realize you were coming back to Republic City,â€ť formal.
â€śI didnâ€™t know either,â€ť why was this weird?
They stood in silence for a few minutes, an awkward silence that he hadnâ€™t expected.
â€śIt was great seeing you again, but I have to go. Mother is expecting me,â€ť she raised her hand in farewell and turned away from him. It wasnâ€™t what he had expected this reunion to be like.
Four years is a long time.
He stood out in the pouring rain, completely drenched and miserable. But it would all be worth it, as soon as he saw Lin this whole afternoon would be worth all his suffering. It was times like this he was jealous of Kya, she just made a bubble or something to keep the water off her; all he could do was air himself off; but only after the rain stopped. It didnâ€™t look like the rain would be stopping anytime soon, and it didnâ€™t seem that Lin would be leaving anytime soon.
It will all be worth it, he reminded himself.
Finally she came out, he grinned seeing her. She was more like the old Lin, soft greens and Earthbending shoes. She turned down the street away from him, heading for the Police Headquarters to go see her mother. He followed after her, she didnâ€™t seem to mind that it was raining, it was like she didnâ€™t care water stood in the streets.
â€śLin,â€ť he shouted running up to her and catching her arm.
â€śTenzin, I donâ€™t have time,â€ť she pulled her arm away and continued walking. â€śMother is expecting me.â€ť
â€śLin,â€ť he grabbed her arm again and turned her around to face him.
This was it.
He kissed her.
â€śTenzin,â€ť she pulled away, searching his face for some reason, looking for some answer. â€śWe canâ€™t.â€ť
â€śWhy not? Why not try? We could be together,â€ť he wanted it. He wanted to be with her so much.
â€śIt just wouldnâ€™t work out,â€ť she pulled away again and left him, standing in the pouring rain.
â€śI think you should leave for a while, go hang in Ba Sing Se or something. Your depression is killing me,â€ť Bumi laid stretched out on the steps to the Temple playing with one of the flying lemurs.
â€śWhy donâ€™t you just be quiet,â€ť Tenzin snapped. He was tired of hearing his brother complain. There wasnâ€™t even anything really happening for him to have a reason to complain about.
â€śTouchy,â€ť Bumi laughed tossing leechi nuts up for the lemur to catch, laughing as the lemur turned a somersault. â€śI was only saying you should cheer up.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m leaving,â€ť Tenzin got up and left his brother to the lemurs. He needed to meditate anyway.
â€śTenzin! Why donâ€™t you go visit the Fire Lord, maybe he can help,â€ť he could sense the mockery in his brotherâ€™s comment, it just made his day worse.
Still fuming Tenzin made his way to one of his favorite places on the Island, it overlooked Yue Bay where a statue was being built in his fatherâ€™s honor. He had liked the spot before the monument project began, but he wished the statue wouldnâ€™t block his view of the ocean.
He settled taking a deep breath and looked out over the ocean and tried to focus on his meditation. After a few minutes and sighed and fell back on the ground, he couldnâ€™t focus on this! Why did Lin act the way she did? She was a completely different person than she had been when he left for his Mastery Tests. He was probably different too, but surely not as much as Lin.
They had always had a special relationship, it had been what made being in Republic City worth it, to see and be with one another.
At least, that was the way he felt about it.
â€śWhy doesnâ€™t she like me?â€ť
â€śBecause you talk to yourself,â€ť Tenzin flushed a little hearing his mother laugh behind him.
â€śMother,â€ť he sat up and made room for Katara to sit next to him.
â€śKya said youâ€™re having a little problem.â€ť
â€śReally, are you sure Bumi didnâ€™t bring it to your attention,â€ť he asked skeptically looking at his mother in his peripheral.
â€śI would have said it was Bumi if it had been Bumi. Now whatâ€™s wrong?â€ť
â€śNothing you could relate too,â€ť he muttered looking away from his mother looking for some distraction.
â€śTry me,â€ť his mother smiled in a way she normally saved for his father.
â€śI like someone and they donâ€™t like me back,â€ť he admitted.
â€śDid you tell them?â€ť
â€śThatâ€™s how Kya and Bumi know.â€ť He was right, she wouldnâ€™t know anything about this.
He sat in a comfortable silence with his mother for what felt like hours before his father found them. She didnâ€™t say anything to Aang about what he was going through and Tenzin preferred it that way. Maybe he could ask his father about this later.
He wasnâ€™t expecting it, he hadnâ€™t even know Lin was there. But she was and she kissed him, when she pulled back she was smiling.
â€śWe can try it,â€ť she smiled looking deep into his eyes. â€śI want to know where this goes,â€ť she smiled wrapping him in a hug.
He liked it when she smiled, she was beautiful when she smiled.
Hey jerks. Mind if I watch you two jerks do your jerkbending?