In many ways, it felt like she was learning to be a sister all over again.
Not like Suyin had wanted things to go the way they had. She had her fair share of regrets and she suspected that Lin did, too, but life was what it was. Now, well into her middle-age (even though she hated to admit that), Suyin found herself unusually nervous as she walked towards the small townhouse. Lin lived in the ground floor apartment…and had done so for what felt to Suyin like eternity. It was a nice-enough apartment, very practically located close to Police Headquarters and sufficiently inconspicuous, so that people wouldn’t bother Lin. Still, Suyin didn’t really like the place. Of course, she was not going to impose her taste on anyone… but she secretly wished that Lin would let do her just a few renovations, make the whole place a little lighter, a little friendlier…
As she entered the courtyard that separated the house from the bustling street, Su suddenly doubted all of her good intentions. She sat down on a little bench close to the main door, placing the small paper bag she was carrying carefully next to her. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea, maybe she should stay out of things…
Her sister’s initial reaction to the news of Tenzin’s divorce had been a typical one – as in, Lin hadn’t reacted very much at all. After that, they hadn’t spoken about it anymore. The newspapers had filled every inch of their pages with malicious gossip about the airbender for weeks – but Lin had ignored the topic completely whenever Su had tried to bring it up over the phone.
Su’s first reaction when she had heard about Tenzin and Pema’s upcoming divorce had been an unkind episode of schadenfreude…but she wasn’t the girl she had once been; and the mean feelings had quickly been replaced by pity for the family because of the very public ordeal they were about to go through…and by worry for Lin.
Naturally, she hadn’t been there for Lin when Tenzin and her sister had broken up. Su had learnt about it weeks later, via an old magazine that was laying around in a shady bar in the oasis she and the sandbenders she had been travelling with were stopping at. Nevertheless, no matter how distanced they had been at that time, she remembered feeling anger and concern. Not enough to turn around though – that was one of her regrets.
Lin and Tenzin had been a thing for as long as Su could remember. Obviously not always in a romantic way but some of Su’s first memories of Lin featured Tenzin. They had always been together, practicing their bending or diligently doing their homework or sitting in the shade of a tree, both reading books, occasionally pointing some interesting fact out to the other.
Su nearly chuckled as a vivid memory of a young Tenzin, racing around a furious Lin on an airscooter to avoid her earthbending manoeuvres, resurfaced. As soon as they had hit teenagerhood, it had become obvious to everyone that they were not meant to remain just friends…except to them. There had been years filled with awkward glances and red faces and ‘accidental’ touches. Su had, at that point, been very much absorbed in her own life…which was why she didn’t know exactly how they had ended up together. She had never thought to ask, she realised. Another regret, maybe. She did, however, remember Lin coming home a little later than usual from bending practice, cheeks flushed, a rarely-seen smile on her lips. Su had teased her and Lin had wanted to get angry – but she had been too happy, too in love, to really pay attention to her little sister. Even as the relationship progressed, that smile didn’t seem to leave Lin’s face when she was around him. Su had never understood her sister’s behaviour around Tenzin…until she had met Baatar.
As far as Su knew, Tenzin and Lin had been destined to marry and spend eternity with each other, being boringly happy. They were a good match – he had a way of calming her temper, she had a way of easing his seemingly endless worries. The articles had never said what exactly had gotten between them (though there had been many, definitely incorrect guesses about salacious affairs). From the sparse conversations she had had with Lin about it, Su figured that ultimately, the responsibilities life had burdened them with had steered them in different directions.
Tenzin had married Pema shockingly quickly after the breakup. She was a perfectly pleasant person…but Su had failed to warm up to the woman, even though she had tried hard not to project any of her own guilt onto her.
Pema was no Lin though, which was presumably what had attracted Tenzin to her…there it was again, the unnecessary meanness. If anyone deserved to be disliked for all of this, it was Tenzin. Then again, Su had never been able to actively dislike the guy. Sure, she found him a little boring and not particularly attractive (really, that beard was ridiculous and she couldn’t quite fathom what made Lin go all starry-eyed when she was near him)…but she also knew him to be kind-hearted and hard-working and reliable.
Maybe he had been able to provide steadiness and joy in Lin’s life where Su and Toph had brought only turmoil and sadness.
Su was sure that Lin still cared for Tenzin, but she also knew that her sister was more than capable of pushing away feelings, burying them so deep that they only broke out in her darkest moments. Like when they had fought. Su felt a little sick as she remembered this oh-so-recent regretful instance… “No wonder Tenzin ended things with you” was what she had shouted.
That had hurt Lin, had pushed her over the edge…which had been the intended effect.
Su took a deep breath. There was no point in dwelling on the past. They had reconciled and having Lin back in her life was one of the most wonderful things to ever happen to her. Now, she was finally going to be there for her sister, like she should have been for all those years. A business trip to Republic City was the perfect opportunity to forcibly remove her sister from what Su suspected was some kind of self-destructive social isolation. All Lin had said after Su’s repeated prodding was that she “hadn’t spoken to Tenzin in weeks”. Her tone of voice had been sufficient to tell Su that Lin was upset and confused and devastated…she knew her sister well enough for that. Anger rose in Su. The bastard owed Lin an explanation…but that was besides the point.
None of it mattered, because Su was going to check on Lin now, over some breakfast she had picked up on the way, and she was going to make sure her sister would be okay again.
Lin didn’t open, even after Su had knocked multiple times. So, it was worse than she had feared. With a little metalbending, Su opened the door and sneaked in, putting the breakfast on the table, then making her way to Lin’s bedroom. She knew her sister had by now felt her presence through the floor…unless she was fast asleep but Su couldn’t remember the last time Lin had slept in, even if it was Saturday. Her sister was probably hiding under her covers, unwilling to speak to anyone…
Su’s determination returned in full force. Lin didn’t just need cheering up by a friend, Lin needed sisterly support…and she was going to get that, even if Su had to force the breakfast down her throat. “Lin, I know you’re in there being sad by yourself and I’ve come to end that”, she announced, knocking forcefully on the bedroom door.
“Su!”, Lin’s voice sounded from inside the bedroom, “stay out!” For a moment, Su hesitated. Lin’s voice was quite clear – she was clearly awake – but she didn’t sound sad or tired…she sounded panicky. This was probably just a ruse, to make her leave, Su decided – and that wasn’t going to happen this time around. “I’m not letting you bury yourself alive over this stupid monk!”, she replied, pushing open the door to the bedroom.
The sight was anything but what she had expected and made even the powerful Suyin Beifong freeze for a second. There was Lin, in her bed, her hair messy, cheeks flushed, quickly putting on a tanktop…and next to her was Tenzin who was hastily covering himself with rumpled sheets. Su thanked all of the available gods and spirits for the time she had spent sitting on the bench outside…or this would have been much, much more awkward.
“Stupid monk, huh”, Tenzin said, grinning a little, “thanks Suyin.”
“Spirits”, Su finally managed to say, “you people took less time than I thought.”
“Su”, Lin sighed exasperatedly and let herself fall back into the covers. Suyin didn’t fail to notice Tenzin’s hand reaching out to touch her, in a way that suggested it was more automatic than intentional. “If you tell anyone, I am burying you so deep underground not even you can bend your way out”, Lin growled. Su defensively raised her hands in response, still a little too shocked to tease her sister. “No need for violence”, Tenzin was grinning in an idiotically happy way that made Su want to both role her eyes but also grin back at him.
“Well, I brought breakfast”, Su felt a smirk on her own face, “I’ll leave it on the table. You guys look like people who could do with a little nourishment.” She turned around, only to be hit in the head with a pillow. Warmth spread in Suyin’s chest as she turned around and realised that it had been Lin who had thrown that pillow. There was that smile on her sister’s face, the one that reached her eyes, the one that was reserved for true bliss and genuine joy.
Tenzin also smiled at her and nodded briefly. It was clear to Su what he meant with that – he was thanking her for looking after Lin. She nodded back, still smiling, then walked out and closed the bedroom door behind herself.
They weren’t so different, she and Tenzin, Su realised. Both of them had failed to be loyal to Lin in the way she deserved…but then again, both of them were back now, determined to do better, to make up for their past failures and their regrets. Maybe that was what mattered most.