She awoke to the smell of bubbling fat and searing meat. The light wisps of smoke drifted into the bedroom, and she watched the currents dance highlighted. The air swirled in fascinating patterns, and Yang blew out a satisfied breath, her addition wiping the patterns clear. Pale legs kicked away blankets and padded lightly on the floor, lifting the sweat-filmed form of Yang to her wardrobe, from which she plucked a robe.
“You know you didn’t have to cook this morning.” Yang’s voice was crisp in the cool air of the house, her admonishment entering the kitchen a step ahead of her. She worked her hair into something approaching order, and with her hands occupied simply stood on the tips of her toes and planted her lips on the cheek of the man working over the stove. Tak didn’t move but for a smile, and continued to watch the seal bacon and kelp sizzle in the heavy iron pan.
“I figured you’d appreciate one more hot meal before you go save the world.”
Yang placed herself at the table, the rich baritone of her husband filling the small stone-walled room. It was a singer’s voice, from the lips of a poet and the face of a thespian. The familiar warmth burned in her heart, right where it should be. Bare feet wriggled on the wooded table, the airbending mistress stretching the fatigue from her joints as through a window the dawn light pooled into her home.
Her characteristic smirk was on her face as she rubbed sleep from her eyes. “I think I might have preferred waking up next to something warm. This season’s not sitting right with me.”
Tak plated the meal of seaweed and seasoned meat, and set the table quickly, sliding into a chair opposite his wife as Yang rested her feet in his lap. He spoke around a mouthful of his cooking, after a hum of satisfaction in his creation. He was the better cook of the two, there could be no doubt. “I’ll bear that in mind.” He no doubt would have quipped about her lack of appreciation of his culinary skills, but Yang’s ravenous attack of the food before her silenced any such witicism. “And I’m sure it will warm up soon.”
The meal passed quickly, the chat light. They’d danced this number a dozen times and more. At first, it had been tears, then passion, then frustration. Now, it was just life: Yang would leave, and they would miss each other, and their reunion would be all the sweeter. She went to pack as he did the dishes. The combination on the safe was their two birthdays, and the day of their wedding, and throwing the heavy metal door open she began to assemble the tools of her trade. She donned her traveling clothes, robbing her soul-mate any view of pale skin as she threw on thick woolen jacket and leather trousers. Her holsters went on next, the gleaming, deadly metal of machines that owed their existence, in part, at least, to her filling them snugly.
Strong arms wrapped around her as she reached for boxes of ammunition, the gentle weight of Tak resting on her shoulders as she was pulled into his chest. “Stay safe, Yang.” The fear was palpable in his voice, the worry deep. She realized he may not have slept.
His worry was infectious, and it weighed upon her. She ignited some bravado, sparking the confidence that both know was half-faked. “I always do, darling. I’ll bring you back a souvenir, and talk your ear off about the most recent Avatar.” His tightening squeeze told her what her lover thought of her reassuring words. She turned in grasp, and narrowed her eyes in severe certainty. “I’ll be back, Tak. I’d not let anything stop me. I promise.” She pulled him down to her, and kissed him, her packing forgotten. It could wait.
Yang stayed near one of the windows of the airship, leaning on her pack and rifle pressed into the wall of the vessel. She felt guilty, leaving the violence behind, the ubiquitous disgust at survival that gripped her at times like these. A hand rested on her hip holster, and she forced herself to be calm. She emptied her mind piece by piece, letting her irrationalities slip from her. There was nothing she could do, it was wrong to fuss. She concentrated on Blackburn, and on Shailesh, on Kazuno and on the Avatar. She swallowed her disappointment and dread as she regarded the link between the spirit world and humanity. The display had been flashy, sure, and it had been a good demonstration of raw power, but it had not be reassuring. Yang reminded herself that she was here to teach the Avatar how to fight, and that it would be pointless being present if she had nothing to teach.
She unslung her rifle, set it beside her pack against a wall, and pushed herself from her rest. Her foot taps rhythmically on the metal of the airship, her fingers drumming a descant on the pearl grip of her revolver. It looked to be her turn, and she wanted to give an accurate impression after silence and frustration perhaps colored the perception of her new comrades.
“It’s nice to be in such varied company for a change. I’m Yangchen, the airbender you’re stuck with.” She glanced at the Avatar, and forced her grin to her face. If there was one person her inventions would be hated by, it would be the avatar. Or a gaggle of master benders predisposed towards disliking firearms. She hoped her winning smile would cover for her offenses to their disciplines. “I’m sure we’ll make a great team, once we all get used to each other, and I look forward to drilling some sense into our reincarnated charge here.”