Avatar: The Last Airbender / Fanfiction

The Invitation (Power Struggle, Chapter 5)

Chapter 5

Tenna had to hand it to her daughter–she never wasted the chance to make a dramatic entrance. Not that Mica was hard to miss. The sputtering hunk-of-junk satomobile that Asami had given her was loud. Like piss-off-an-entire-neighborhood loud. Or in their case, since Tenna and Bolin’s home was on the rural outskirts of Republic City and they didn’t have any neighbors, rile-up-every-eel-hound-in-her-kennel loud.

“Well, I guess Mica’s back. And only two hours late for dinner.” Bolin’s brother raised a weary eyebrow at her from across the kitchen table as he checked his watch. “Where was she this whole time?”

“Do you really need to ask?” Tenna mumbled.

Mako frowned. Bolin had invited him over for dinner, which was nice. Until Mica ignored her curfew, that is. Now Tenna got to watch Mako make uncomfortable well-don’t-just-stand-there-you’re-her-parents-do-something faces at her and her husband.

“It’s that kid Dino again, isn’t it?” he asked before Tenna could stop him. Flames, Mako had crap timing. Behind them a dish shattered. Tenna was on her feet a heartbeat later–remnants of the old battle instincts drilled into her during her years as a “weapon.” Not that it mattered. The damage was already done. Bolin stood in the kitchen doorway, a tea tray clattering in his fisted hands.

“Err,” he growled under his breath. “That punk. What does she even see in him?”

Tenna steadied the tray, whisking it away before more china suffered. “Here, let me take that while you grab the broom.” She knew exactly what her daughter saw in him. Dino was handsome, smooth-talking, rebellious–every wild-hearted teenage girl’s dream. And Mica was as wild as they came. The trouble was there was a side to Dino that Mica refused to see. And that side was going to break her heart.

Tenna set the tray down while Bolin huffed back to the kitchen to fetch a broom and dustpan for the saucepan that didn’t survive.

“Well, she obviously sees something good in him,” Mako offered. Trying to make amends for opening his mouth in the first place. “Maybe he’s just a little rough around the edges? I mean, we were street toughs once, too.”

“I wish that were the case,” said Tenna, avoiding Mako’s eyes as she shifted cups and plates from the tray to the table. “But he’s just using her.”

Mako stared. “You’re sure?”

Tenna nodded solemnly. She hoped she was wrong. More than anything she wanted to be. But her weapon training had taught her how to read body language as easily as books. One look into that boy’s eyes and she knew him for the schemer he was. And Mica… she was head-over-heels in love with him.

“It’s pretty obvious, even without my training,” Tenna said at last.

Mako frowned. “Have you told her?”

Tenna snorted. Now that was an ignorant question, especially coming from Mako who knew better.

“No, Mako. I thought I’d keep it to myself,” she replied with exaggerated sarcasm. “Of course I’ve told her.”

“We both have,” added Bolin defensively as he came back in and knelt to sweep the shards of broken plate into the dustpan. He knitted his brows and pulled his mouth into a tight line. “But Mica’s so stubborn, she doesn’t want to listen.”

Mako crossed his arms. “Sounds to me like you need to make her listen.”

Ugh. Mako was using that tone again. The one that was criticizing without actually criticizing. Flames, she hated when he did that. Seriously, Mako, if it was really that easy don’t you think we would have done that by now?

Bolin saw her frustration and he made a point to pause in his sweeping to pass her the pretty-please-don’t-strangle-my-brother look before he headed back into the kitchen.

Tenna, meanwhile, forced herself to smile as she poured tea and offered the steaming cup to her brother-in-law before pouring one for Bolin and herself. Arrogance aside, Mako meant well. He did. But he was also a cop trying to use his cop logic, which wasn’t helpful when it came to Mica. Pushing her wouldn’t make her change, it would only compel Mica to push back even harder than before. Tenna knew this because Mica was like her in that way. Blunt orders just didn’t sit well.

Speaking of that…

“You’re late,” Tenna said louder then necessary two seconds before Mica strolled through the door. Her daughter jumped.

“Flames, Mom! You know I hate it when you do that.”

“Watch your language, young lady,” Mako snapped.

Mica rolled her eyes. “And ‘hi’ to you too, Uncle Mako.” She slung her backpack onto the nearest unoccupied chair then made a beeline to the kitchen. She emerged a few minutes later, a plate in each hand, one piled high with greens, the other with noodles and sauce. Bolin followed close behind her, carrying the tall glass of milk and a half a loaf of bread Mica didn’t have room to carry.

She ate vigorously while Tenna and Bolin and Mako sipped at their tea and made small talk about important things like the weather, the ridiculous plots of Cabbage Corp’s PB shows, and of course, all the stupid things Mako’s newest rookie cops did.

“So…” Mako attempted to engage Mica after her eating had slowed a bit. “…how’s school?”

As if teenagers really wanted to talk about school.

Sure enough Mica barely looked up. “Boring.”

She tore into another hunk of bread. Something she had to chew. Clever girl. She knew Mako couldn’t stand talking and chewing at the same time.

“Well, I’ve got some news that’s definitely not boring,” Bolin piped up, drawing Mica’s eye. “Your dad and uncle have been asked to sit right up front at the Firelord’s coronation tomorrow! Everyone’s gonna be there. Your Aunts Korra and Asami. Your Uncle Varrick. Oh, and the royal family, of course. Your mom and Firelord Izumi are old friends, you know.” He elbowed Tenna gently in the ribs for emphasis, even though this was hardly a family secret.

“Great. I hope you guys have fun.”

“Actually, we were all invited. That means you’re coming too, Mica,” Mako pointed out in a no-nonsense tone. That stirred a reaction. Tenna caught the glint of Mica’s mismatched eyes. Challenging.

“No thanks,” said Mica.

Tenna glanced around the table. Bolin looked disappointed that Mica wasn’t as thrilled about all this as he was.

“Oh, come on Mica. It will be fun,” Bolin promised.

Mica snorted. “Spending a holiday hanging out with my boyfriend is fun. Spending that day shoving my way through crowds of sweaty people to spend hours listening to some Fire Sage drone on about the lives of every Firelord that ever lived just so General Iroh can get a crown? Not so much.”

Mako was flat out furious. He narrowed his eyes. “But this is history in the making!”

“Fire Nation history. And we don’t live in the Fire Nation, Uncle Mako.”

“That doesn’t mean it isn’t important,” Mako snapped. “My mother came here from the Fire Nation. So did your mom. Heck, if it wasn’t for Firelord Izumi, your parents would have never met.”

True enough. Though Mako made things sound much more simple and romantic than they actually were.

In this case, Tenna supposed his version sounded better than, I first met your father when I was working as a living weapon for a rogue gang of bloodbenders. They had captured him in order to lure your Aunt Korra to her death. After I served him a romantic dinner in his cage and had a little scuffle with Aunt Korra, your father swept me off my feet and took be back to the palace, after which I held a dagger to his throat and threatened to kill him…

Mica rolled her eyes, uninspired. “Whatever. I’m still not going.”

“You know, I’ve had it up to here with your disrespect–”

He never did learn, did he? Tenna spoke up, interrupting before Mako could assume the lecturing stance. “Suit yourself, Mica. But if that’s the case, I’ll need your car keys.”

The room went quiet. Mako looked stunned. Bolin confused. Mica suspicious.

Her daughter raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

“To drive there, obviously.”

“But… you don’t know how to drive, Mom.”

“Actually I do,” she said, smooth as silk. “I’ve been getting lessons from your Aunt Korra.”

Tenna saw her daughter’s mouth twitch as the words sank in. Saw her eyes searching, trying to decide if her mother was lying…and if she was willing to risk the consequences if not.

“Can’t you get Uncle Mako to drive you?”

“Uncle Mako’s going to be busy organizing security. Right, Mako?” She shot him a fierce and knowing look.

Mako stiffened in his chair. “Um… yes, that’s right. I’m going to be much too busy.”

“Dad?” Mica looked to her father, though judging from the look in her eyes, imagining him behind the wheel was almost as unnerving as picturing Tenna there.

“Actually, I was thinking of leaving a bit early. You know, scope things out, make sure no one tries to be sneaky and steal Team Avatar’s seats.”

That was new. Though, admittedly, not unlike her husband. The wife in Tenna wanted to roll her eyes just like Mica and assure Bolin that “no one is going to try and steal your seats, dear.” But the mother in her acted instead, assuring Mica calmly with just the right amount of guilt mixed in. “Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. Really.

Mica sighed, shoulders sinking in resignation. “Fine mom. If it means that much to you, I guess… I can drive you.”

“Thank you,” said Tenna.

Mica harrumphed and pushed herself out from the table. “Well, guess I better go pick out something to wear to this thing.” She plucked her backpack from the chair beside her and slung it roughly over her back as she started to leave. “Later, Uncle Mako.”

“Bye,” he said, for lack of something better. He had a sort of shell-shocked look about him. Probably wondering how the heck Tenna managed to accomplish what she did without once raising her voice. Not that she wouldn’t, if it came down to that.

“Nothing too short, Mica,” Bolin called after her in his sternest fatherly voice, which really wasn’t very stern at all. “I mean it.”

“Yeah, yeah,” echoed Mica’s fading voice.

Tenna rubbed her eyes. Mica had left her dishes where they sat, she noticed. One last small act of defiance to bolster her wounded pride, no doubt. Stubborn child. Ah, well. At least the fight was over.

And yet part of her couldn’t help but feel guilty. The way she had to manipulate Mica– was she really any better than that punk Dino? Tenna grimaced at the thought.

If Mica would just listen. Would just behave and quit being so blasted stubborn I wouldn’t have to resort to this. She fumed silently as she set to work clearing the table. Then again, if Mica wasn’t stubborn, she wouldn’t be who she was. And that was far worse.

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