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Tonight I Wanna Cry

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Kya drops the plates into the cupboard with a bit less care than she probably should, but nothing breaks and the clatter makes her feel a little bit better. She slams the door shut for that simple satisfaction, too, before stomping her way into the living room and grabbing the laundry basket.

She and Lin have just had their first... well, not fight. More like disagreement.

Kya had brought up trying to schedule a date night, again, and Lin had been unable to give her a set date, again. They haven’t had a proper date since Kya moved in to Lin’s apartment a month ago. She’s really not asking for much, Kya thinks as she grumpily folds a set of leggings, just wants an evening out with her girlfriend. And Lin could at least have the decency to say that she’s busy, rather than hedging with another "I don’t know, Kya, I need to check my schedule..." and never following through. The date could be in a month, for all Kya cares, as long as there’s some acknowledgment it is going to happen.

After the fifth try, Kya had finally called her out on it. Lin had immediately gone on the defensive, which had in turn put Kya on the defensive. The conversation had devolved into snapping back and forth before Kya had thrown up her arms and declared it over. She’d gone back to putting away dishes, and Lin had stalked off to their bedroom to do something or other.

She folds the rest of the laundry in a huff, letting it fall slightly more rumpled than she knows Lin prefers. But when she’s finished, she crosses her arms and looks down at the piles and can’t bring herself to leave them. So she sighs heavily and refolds everything more neatly, and keeps thinking about Lin as she does. She knows Lin’s job is demanding. She had known that going into this. And yes, she’s frustrated, but there are more productive ways to go about explaining that then making veiled, vaguely-aggressive statements. Especially when dealing with Lin. Before Kya knows it, it’s been an hour since they had stormed away from each other, and she’s absentmindedly refolded the same tank top a dozen times.

Lin isn’t going to be the first one to apologize. She’s been working on her emotional constipation, and Kya’s been helping, but they’re not that far yet. So, picking up the folded laundry as an excuse, Kya makes her way to the bedroom.

Lin is sitting on the bed with her back to the door. She doesn’t say anything, and Kya breathes a sigh of relief. She had halfway expected to be thrown out before even making it through the door. Lin’s shoulders and back are absolutely rigid with tension. One of her hands is up by her face, as though she’s holding her forehead like she does when she has a headache.

"Um, hey," Kya greets eloquently. Just because she’s better at this than Lin doesn’t mean its easy. She crosses over to the wardrobe to put away the laundry. "Does your head feel okay?"

Lin doesn’t respond.

"Do you want me to get you some tea? Or do you want me to try and heal it?" Kya tries again. When she still receives no answer, she turns around and puts a hand on her hip. "Look, Lin, I know we argued but-"

She stops as she really looks at her girlfriend. From this angle, the side of Lin’s face is exposed. She’s grimacing, teeth clenched together and eyes shut tight against the actual tears that are running down her face. Her entire body is as tense as her back was; it doesn’t even look like she’s breathing. "Lin? Lin, Spirits, what-"

Kya is across the room in a heartbeat. She kneels beside the bed and rests a hand over Lin’s where its fisted into the comforter almost unnaturally tightly. Her heart aches as she realizes that rather than holding her forehead, Lin’s other hand is cradling her scars in a comfort habit she rarely allows herself.

The only thing that could possibly have caused this is their argument. Kya is more than willing to label it that if it has this much of an effect on Lin. She can count on one hand the number of times she’s seen her cry, nearly all of them as children. Back then, Lin crying had been an earth-shattering event. Literally. If she was upset enough to cry, the ground around her would quake with emotion. Air Temple Island still bears the scars. This... this isn’t that. Every inch of Lin is deathly still. There’s no sobs, no shaking, no shouting or storming or any of the things Kya once associated with an upset Lin. She wonders for a moment what in the world could have caused such a dramatic shift, but then realizes its unsurprising considering the Lin she knows now.

This Lin has spent years of her life constructing a steel wall around herself. Has crafted a nearly-perfect facade of the immovable chief. Has had to force her emotions aside time and time again to protect those around her and do her duty. This Lin holds herself stoic until her emotions are suffocated like a flame, until she can control them again and pretend they were never there in the first place. But even a trapped flame leaves smoke, and even stifled pain looses tears.

Kya’s heart shatters at the thought. "I’m sorry. I didn’t realize how much that upset you."

"I-" Lin tries, but she can’t seem to finish. "I’m fine-"

"You are not fine. I can practically feel your shoulders locking. And if it’s about anything other than our conversation, feel free to tell me otherwise."

Lin visibly takes a breath, forcing her features into a more neutral expression and avoiding Kya’s eyes. "I’m sorry," she says next. Her voice is so strained Kya’s own throat aches with sympathy. "You don’t have to stay. It’s not what you signed up for."

Spirits. Is that what this is about?

It’s too much. Kya moves up onto the bed, declares "I’m going to hug you," and gives her girlfriend ample time to move away before throwing her arms around her and tucking her into her chest. Lin doesn’t resist, but she doesn’t relax, either. "I’m not going anywhere. We had a fight, Lin. That doesn’t mean I’m leaving."

She’s met with silence. After a moment, she can feel Lin’s jaw shift as it clenches again. There’s the soft dampness of tears against her neck. Kya rests her chin atop Lin’s head. "It’s okay. You’re allowed to be upset about it. You’re allowed to cry, Love." She strokes a hand through Lin’s hair, and Lin lets out a shuddering breath. A fraction of the tension releases from her shoulders. Her arms eventually come up to grip at the back of Kya’s shirt. It’s not the breaking of the dam that Kya had secretly hoped for, but thirty years of habit are hard to unlearn in one night, so she counts it as a win that Lin is no longer actively trying to force her tears away.

Later, they’ll talk about it. Lin will tell her she’s sorry again, that she knows quality time is important to Kya but that a confidential issue at work has been keeping her too busy this month. That she’s been hedging the question because she’s afraid Kya will leave when she realizes just how little time Lin has. Kya will explain her worries, how she’s started to feel like Lin’s ignoring her concerns. That she knows there will be times that a case keeps Lin away, and that it’s okay as long as Lin is honest with her and just tells her about it. She’ll repeat, as many times as it takes, that even if Lin feels the need to hide from the rest of the world, she can’t hide her fears and emotions from Kya if they want this to work. That she doesn’t need to hide them from Kya anyways. There will be hugs and tea and compromises and hopefully some mind-blowing make-up sex. Lin may even promise to take a few days off to spend together after this case is closed.

For now, Kya holds her girlfriend, and rocks them back and forth, and silently curses the world that has beaten Lin into not being able to release her emotions, and keeps reassuring her that it’s okay to cry.