He is vividly aware of the fact that everyone thinks he is an idiot. Maybe he really is. He had heard enough times that the most foolish were the ones who played the fool and lost. Was he losing? There at her desk, in her chair, with her responsibilities he truly felt as if he had lost and was now in purgatory.

He was an idiot.

'It won't be easy, but don't let em see you flinch'. Somehow it had seemed like a manageable task back when he had been standing over the Chief, slack-jawed at the unexpected resignation. Beifongs did not give in so he had known immediately that it had not just been her injuries, though that was the excuse he had thrown to the press. No, there had been more.

They had not always been friends; far from it in fact. Back when he had still been climbing up the ladder, he had thought that the uniform his chief wore was just one passed down from mother to daughter. He regretted how long it had taken him to realize that that had never been the case.

Lin Beifong worked twice as hard for everything she could have simply asked for. It was as natural for her to stubborn as to metal-bend. Now he just admired that she had taken him into her small trusted circle. Well, maybe less now than he had a few weeks ago, even days ago... Presently, he wanted to march into her room or where ever she was, because he did not buy her being hurt, and demand she take her job back.

But, then again, she had trusted him with her metal-benders. Her precious police force who were in essence all she seemed to care about. They were the reason she had endured far past the point that anyone less would have stopped at. She lived to protect Republic City and so, he would continue on too. Not because he shared her narrowed ideals, but because he knew they were right. She was always right in her own way.

He picked up the latest report, not even bothering to read it. In his mind, he was still replaying the events of the day before he had become chief. Somehow his title amused him. He was as much chief as Tarrlok was humanitarian. Those under him knew it too. They had mutely accepted the announcement, but later, the gossip had filtered in that they thought he was every bit the puppet he played to be.

This was a game after all; a political war between hidden parties and fiery flames. Lin had been burnt and so needed to brush herself off and figure out who was really fanning the growing fires. And he was the loyal gatekeeper, eager to negotiate simply because she had looked up from her bed with those sad green eyes and asked him to.

He was an idiot. An idiot for believing he could be a good puppet and still come out supporting the Avatar. An idiot for letting her convince him that this would work. And of course an idiot for falling head over heels for his superior officer.

He winced, not liking the internal workings of his mind. It was not being kind.

"Chief?"

At first he did not look up. Why should he? It was not his title. But then again, it was. As unwanted as an axe-wielding-assassin and yet as equally impossible to control, Fate had dealt him a cruel hand and he had to play it. He had never been good at games. Lin had won every round they had ever played. Maybe that was why she had smirked at him as he bowed and left her in peace.

He looked up and squared his jaw. Maybe there was still time for him to climb out on top. Before the building fell and his heart gave out to the mounting stress, he would really become Chief Saikhan. He followed the aide out and chuckled to himself. Ah, there was a joke she would like. He always did know how to make her laugh.

'Don't you dare think you're not going to make it. I've seen you take on worse.' Regardless of whether or not he thought her trust was unfounded, his steps lightened and he forced himself to not tackle the approaching figure of Tarrlok. There would be a time for splintering every one of the water bender's teeth out, but for now, it was all smiles and waves. He could get though this game. Sooner or later, there always was an ending.