This is something that has been running around in my mind for a while. No Tenzin in this one, just Lin being awesome as she is and Bolin being Bolin, though my regular Lin/Tenzin will return with the next post! Spoilers for late season 3 (and this story is set after that season).
Heroes and Masters
Lin looked away from the bay, where she had been waiting patiently on the dock for the next ferry to arrive to bring her back to the city from Air Temple Island, to see Bolin shuffling across the boards toward her. He was alone, no Mako or Opal nearby, and she turned as he neared.
"Hello, Bolin," she said, nodding at him politely. "Heading into Republic City as well?"
"Ah, no." He scuffed one foot across the dock, lowering his eyes for a moment before looking at her again. "I saw you walking down here and thought I'd, you know, say hi."
Lin turned away again, her eyes scanning the bay for the ferry. It wasn't in her line of sight yet, and was likely still another five minutes out at the least. She ran her tongue over her teeth inside her lips, feeling Bolin's awkwardness as her own. At least with Mako, awkward as he was himself, they could discuss work. All she and Bolin had in common was Earthbending, and she was well aware he'd had a bit of hero worship for her because of her name and her mother there for a while. People like that, who had eyes for her Beifong lineage, made her uncomfortable – even kids like him who didn't really know any better.
"Actually…" Bolin started speaking again, very hesitantly, and she kept her gaze out on the lightly churning waves as he found his words. "Actually, I wanted to ask you something. Or talk to you about it, I don't know if it's really a question, more like a musing of some kind, you know? But -"
"And what would that be?" she interrupted in a way she hoped was at least somewhat gentle. She wasn't in the mood for his anxious rambling, she didn't understand how Opal put up with it willingly.
"So I know you know I know Lavabending, right, or at least I figured out I could do it a few weeks ago up at the air temple when we were rescuing Master Tenzin, talk about pressure! But, well…" He rubbed his hand up into his hair nervously, and her eyes darted toward him and away again. His cheeks flushed slightly. "Well, see, I'm not too good at it yet, and I was wondering if…if you'd maybe – maybe help me?"
The flush turned crimson as she gazed fully at him in surprise. "Help you?" Lin repeated. "As in, teach you? I don't know how to Lavabend, Bolin."
He lowered his head, his cheeks entirely red as she spoke. "I know you can't teach me, teach me, like show me how it all works. But maybe you could give me some pointers, or help me with forms? Earthbending forms, Metalbending forms, anything, really. Because the only other Lavabender I've seen was that dude trying to kill me, and I can honestly say I was not paying much attention to what he was doing aside from…you know, trying to kill me."
The sincere way he was asking, as if he truly did want her, and only her, to help him learn tugged on her heart and she frowned at him as he dug the toe of his shoe against a nail sticking up through the wood. Her silence was making him even more nervous, and he shifted his weight from foot to foot, not looking at her now that his words were out between them.
"I'm not a teacher," she said quietly.
"But you're the most amazing Earthbender – sorry, Metalbender – both-bender – I know! If anyone can help me, you can." He raised his eyes slowly, his face fearing disappointment but still so hopeful. "Please, Chief? I don't have anyone else to ask."
Lin was silent for several more seconds, staring at him and thinking over his words, before sighing. "All right," she relented.
"Really?" Bolin's entire face lit with his smile. "You'll really help me?"
"Yes," she muttered, "but we're going to have to go out to the mountains somewhere. Can't risk you accidentally destroying anything here."
He pumped his fist into the air eagerly before turning to her with his arms wide.
"No," Lin interjected, her hand stamping firm on his chest when he came close with only two steps. "No hugging, no touching, no guests on our lessons, no first-name basis. Chief Beifong or Master Beifong, understood? I'm only giving you a few hours of my time, and we are doing this on my time. These are the ground rules, subject to change."
"Yes, ma'am! I mean, Chief! Chief Beifong!" Bolin stood up straight so her hand fell away and gave her an abrupt, though respectful, bow as he would his teacher. "Thank you! Have I said that yet? Thank you very much. I've never had a master before, this is so exciting! I had a coach for a little while, when I was doing Pro-Bending, but this -"
The ferry was starting to approach, far off as it chugged along, and she angled herself away from him, trying not to regret her decision. She knew he needed help with his newfound abilities, and she would do her best to give it. Until her patience wore thin, at any rate.
"I'm not your master, Bolin," she said stubbornly. "And I'm certainly not leading you to mastery yourself. You're doing that part on your own, and you're going to do it without me. I'm just going to make sure you don't hurt anyone or bring down half the city in the process."
"Got it! Master Beifong," he tacked on the end, giving her another bow and taking a few steps backward before turning and sprinting back up the dock to go in search of his friends.
The ferry was just beginning to dock, and she turned her weary gaze to it, watching the acolytes secure the bridge for passengers to disembark. She could still see Bolin rushing up the path when her eyes cut toward the steep incline toward the island, though, excitement clear in his posture, and she took a deep breath.
"What have I just agreed to?" she murmured to herself.