So this, right here, is my fortieth posted story for Legend of Korra. All save about five are Lin/Tenzin, so I think it is safe to say that not only have I now written more for this fandom than any other, I have also written more for this specific ship than any other I have been a part of. Of course, in my mind this is deserving of something sweet and fluffy.
A request, as well, for SunMoon. This may or may not turn into a series of "firsts" for Lin and Tenzin; for now it is only this one shot. Set well before the series begins, when Lin is sixteen and Tenzin seventeen.
Summer Heat and Heartbeats
Tenzin gazed longingly at the shaved ice in Lin's hand as she plopped beside him in the grass, hidden away in a secluded corner of the large park in the city. It was blisteringly hot, but both had wanted to escape their parents - and Tenzin from the island for an hour or so - and they'd decided to meet here regardless of the heat. "Did you bring any for me?" he asked, a note of real whine to his voice.
"Sorry," Lin laughed, digging her spoon into the little paper bowl and taking a big bite. "Didn't have enough money on me for two," she said around her mouthful.
He gave her a truly sad look and she just chuckled, holding the spoon out. He took it gleefully with a widening smile, leaning close and taking some for himself as she held the bowl. The ice melted delightfully in his mouth, cool and tasting of fresh fruit juice. Lemon, Lin's favorite flavor for these ices, though he didn't mind the tartness so long as he had the chill to stave off the heat.
"Come on, Tenzin, did you really think I wasn't going to share?"
"'Course I thought you would," he muttered, but he blushed slightly despite his fading bluster.
Lin handed the bowl to him to continue eating before lying back in the plush summer grass. They were shaded here by a large tree, out of sight from other people enjoying the park, few though they were that day due to the brilliant late afternoon sun, and she stared up at the fanning branches and leaves. "Hot today, isn't it?"
She smiled to herself, feeling his thudding pulse through the earth under her. She pressed her palm flat to the ground to feel it better, pulling it into her senses. He'd been growing more and more flustered around her the last few months. Not all the time, but every so often his pulse would jump and he would start giving her one-word answers, stealing glances at her from the corner of his eyes and quickly away again all while his heart beat wildly. She was pretty sure he thought she hadn't noticed. Honestly, though, much as she enjoyed his squirming she wasn't very sure what to do about it when her own heart was tempted to do the same whenever she was close to him like this.
"Your mom and dad making you crazy?" she asked in an effort to draw him into conversation again. As amusing as this new behavior was, she didn't come out here to sweat is silence. It really was too hot for that.
Tenzin looked over at her, blinking as her question pierced through whatever haze he'd found himself in, thinking of the shaved ice and of her. "Oh," he said quickly when he suddenly understood. "Oh, yeah. Some new acolytes are arriving next week, a bunch of old men. Mom is going completely over the top cleaning every inch of the island while dad wants me to meditate with him all day to get ready for all the glorious meditation we'll do when they get here. They're basically pulling me both ways and getting upset with I try to help one over the other."
Lin frowned, frustrated on his behalf. "What about Bumi and Kya? Aren't they doing anything?"
"Kya is, anyway. She's helping Mom clean." He laughed lightly, lowering his head to look at the grass. "You know how she is about meditation, she'd rather do just about anything else."
"These acolytes aren't even staying," Tenzin muttered, moving the spoon around in the melting ice. Lin sat up to take the bowl away, extracting the spoon gently from his hand to have another bite before the entire thing vanished into lukewarm liquid. She didn't miss the way his heart did that weird jump when her fingers brushed his, but she didn't say anything as he continued, picking at a few pieces of grass now.
"Sometimes...sometimes I feel like my dad's trophy. You know what I mean?" He glanced at her for a moment, meeting her understanding eyes and then casting his down again. "These people are only coming to see me, the famous Airbending son of Aang. And my dad isn't doing anything about it, he's letting them come ogle at me."
"Have you talked to him about this, about the trophy thing?"
Lin set the bowl down on the ground between them and, using it almost as an excuse, put her hand over his where it was still messing with the grass. She had been wanting to find a reason to hold his hand for several weeks now, and this seemed like as good a time as any to try. His cheeks flushed and she dropped her gaze from his face quickly in a small wave of embarrassment, but she didn't move her hand. She could tell it comforted him, the touch, even if his heart was going crazy again.
He couldn't look at her, either, and he just shook his head in response to her question. "I don't know what I would even say to him that he would actually listen to. I'm just being ridiculous, aren't I?"
"No, Tenzin, you're not being ridiculous at all." With a fair amount of effort, she brought her eyes up again and found him watching her shyly from his periphery, pretending to focus on the leaves above them instead. For some reason this made color run into her face and she felt her ears warming. "It's not ridiculous," she said again, ignoring the warmth as something silly itself. "But I don't blame you for not saying anything. My mom would just laugh at me, if I were in your place."
They both knew that the likelihood of Toph ever holding Lin up like a trophy was next to none, but she still understood where Tenzin was coming from with his frustrations and disappointments. She startled when his hand abruptly moved under hers, turning so their palms were pressed together, and he wrapped his fingers over the top of her hand tightly. Her eyes darted down, looking at their clasped hands in the grass with surprise, and when her gaze came up again she met his clearly.
Lin and Tenzin blushed fiercely together, though neither looked away this time.
She felt it unmistakably, in a very illuminating moment as she watched him, watched his eyes dart nervously over her face. They were sitting quite close together, and she could pick up the heat of his body through the blinding heat of summer air, something she had always done well to pay no notice to. But in that one moment of clarity, everything she had felt over the months – everything she had felt through him – clicked into place and she wanted to kiss him. Very badly, in fact, until that was all she could think about.
Tenzin's heart was beating much faster than it had so far that day, and she felt every thud through both their clasped hands and through the earth beneath her. It was his breath, though, as she leaned just the slightest bit closer to him, hitting her face in quick little bursts that made her own heart explode with anticipation in her chest.
Before she even realized what she was doing, Lin closed the small distance remaining between them and pressed her lips gently, clumsily, to his.
She pulled away first after just a second when Tenzin didn't move, and her eyebrows rose in horror at the blank expression on his face. Her stomach dropped, immediately ashamed of what she had done, and she regretted it completely in fear of having ruined their friendship just like that. "Oh, Tenzin, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry - I thought you wanted me to - I though you wanted - "
She felt an alarming lump rise in her throat and she quickly began to scramble to her feet, reaching for the bowl of melted ice and refusing to look at him.
"I'll just go, then, won't I? I won't bother you anymore. That was so stupid."
"Lin! Wait, please, don't go!" There was a ringing panic to his voice then, and she paused just long enough for him to grab her wrist as she stood. She finally glanced at him, cruelly furious with herself when tears burned and started to gather in her eyes. "Don't go," he entreated quietly, tugging at her until she timidly sat next to him again, uncomfortably on her bent legs.
"You weren't wrong, Lin," he told her earnestly. "I did want - I - I was just surprised, that's all. Really, really surprised."
She swallowed around the lump, which was refusing to go away despite her measured breathing, and continued not to look at him. "I don't want you to hate me," she grumbled. "I won't do that again, I promise."
"But – but I want you to do it again, Lin," Tenzin said, his cheeks burning. "I want to kiss you, too." He released her wrist and her fingers curled into her lap in a tight fist. He gazed at it, then at her face as he lifted a shaking hand to awkwardly touch her jaw. She clenched it, biting her teeth together at his touch, and forced her expression to relax when he gently turned her to look at him. It was clear he was not angry or upset, and she truly did relax then. "I could never hate you. And I really want to kiss you again."
"Okay," she whispered.
He watched her for another heartbeat before softly moving his hand along her face to draw her closer. Her eyes fluttered closed when their mouths met. It wasn't nearly as clumsy this time, or as frightening, but she felt her muscles start trembling anyway with the overwhelming sense of his nearness, of the newness of everything. She raised a hand to his cheek when his lips moved the tiniest bit against hers and then pulled back, space opening between them.
"I think I like kissing you," he murmured with a grin.
"I think I like kissing you, too," she returned, her hand gliding along the smooth skin of his face as she withdrew it.
Lin looked at him and leaned back a little ways, though still very close to him, and set her hands down in the grass to support her weight. "You can come sleep on my floor, if you want," she offered quietly to change the subject, "like you did last time some old geezers like these came to stay at the temple. Ma won't care as long as you don't wake her up coming in."
"My parents would be so mad if I asked," Tenzin mused, his fingers right beside hers in the grass and itching to take them.
"So don't ask. They won't notice if you just slip out in the middle of the night. Bumi does it all the time." She grinned at him, her lips lopsided. She was comfortable with him in a way she had never been before, as though a huge weight had been released from her chest to flutter about her body in a very pleasant way. She wanted to stay with him out here forever. "No pressure or anything, but the offer is there if you need it later after they've been here for a week."
"Thanks. Really, I appreciate it."
Her smile grew to reach her eyes, and his did as well. She figured they must have looked incredibly goofy, sitting there gawking at each other like that, and she shook her head, breaking the stare even if the smile stayed glued right in place. "Would you, um, like to get dinner?"
"You mean like – like a date, dinner?" he asked, the words tumbling out as his face turned bright red again. "Or, well, we could just get out of the heat, it really is hot out here, you said so yourself - "
"No, like a date. If...if you want."
"I want that very much."
She beamed at him, surprised by how incredibly happy those words made her. "We don't have to go anywhere super nice. That stall on Lily Street, he makes good noodles. Have you had them before? Oh, wait, of course you have." She laughed somewhat nervously, having to pause to find herself through the wispy haze in her mind. "We went there last week. We can find somewhere else."
"No, the stall sounds great. Honestly, I don't care where we go as long as I'm with you." He ducked his head as he spoke, but she could feel the truth through the earth and that same happiness filled her until she thought she might float away.
They got to their feet and, trying rather hard not to be obvious about it, Tenzin slid his hand into Lin's as they walked through the park toward the stall for dinner.