Note: Takes place in the time between the end of the battle with the Equalists and everyone traveling to see Katara.
"How you been, Iron Maiden?"
Lin turned to see Bumi standing in the doorway of the room Tenzin and Pema had given her to stay in on Air Temple Island until the chaos in the city had been dealt with. "That nickname was tired the first time you used it."
"Still a sourpuss, I see," he said cheerfully, having the audacity to wink at her.
In spite of herself, Lin felt her spirits lifting. The corners of her lips twitched ever so slightly.
But the feeling left as quickly as it came when Bumi fell silent. He still smiled, but there was a seriousness in his eyes that told her he knew.
He knew her bending was gone.
She turned away, pulling at the metal catches of her armor in frustration. The armor could be removed without metalbending in case of injury incapacitating the officer wearing it, but it was difficult to manage without help.
Lin was too proud to ask anyone.
Bumi stepped further into the room, and then his hands were on her, undoing the catches she would have trouble reaching. He didn't say a word, though Lin was expecting some half flirtatious quip.
"Thank you," she said stiffly, unused to this serious, understanding Bumi. He was supposed to be shouting nonsense and making her want to send him catapulting from the room. She knew that Bumi. She was comfortable with him.
"You don't have to worry, you know," he said casually, leaning against her bedside table and folding his arms.
She regarded him from the corner of her eye. "And why is that?"
He puffed his chest up, and then he was old familiar Bumi again, Tenzin's big brother, and her childhood friend and tormentor. "Because I'm going to protect you." He waggled his brows at her, tweaking up the ends of his beard devilishly with a twirl of his fingers. "Now that you can't bend, you've got me and my sword! Never fear!"
He punched the air with one arm, flexing his bicep.
Now that you can't bend.
Trust Bumi to be the one to say what no one else would.
What she wouldn't give to be able to make the earth beneath his feet quake, just to wipe that smug grin off his face. She settled for poking him in the chest, and telling him in no uncertain terms that she didn't need protection from him or anyone. She was still Lin Bei Fong.
She was still Lin Bei Fong.
Her eyes widened.
Bumi tossed his head back and laughed. "Now you're getting it!"
When she thanked him mere minutes before, her voice was stiff, her tone gruff. This time she was no less gruff, but her words were filled with warmth.
He ruined the moment by throwing his arms open wide and pulling Lin against his chest, her face pressed into his scruffy bearded cheek. "Now, how about a kiss!" He puckered up.
Lin discovered that she didn't need earthbending to knock Bumi on his rear.
But she didn't hit him as hard as she could have.