Bolin and Jinora are officially dating now, though Bolin finds that dating feels like such a juvenile term.
Dating is what kids in secondary school do; the term doesn’t encompass everything that he feels for Jinora. He likes to know that they can be together, and he can kiss her whenever he feels like it. He likes being with her and watching her practice her Airbending moves. He likes every single quirk that she has and even though he finds some irritating, it’s irritating in a cute way. (He feels like a sap for even thinking that.)
Besides, they haven’t even been on a date yet. Can they even call themselves official?
Korra thinks that there’s an obvious solution to this problem: “Ask her out, Bolin. Seriously, do I have to spell things out here because seriously.”
Bolin has to admit that for once, Korra has given him helpful romantic advice. Usually it’s just weird things about swimming with giant koi-fish, giving Jinora a panda lily, and penguin sledding. Bolin doesn’t even know. For one thing, the giant koi-fish are in the Kyoshi waters, what the heck is a panda lily (Jinora’s not partial to flowers anyway), and he’d probably freeze in the North/South pole before he could take Jinora penguin sledding.
He doesn’t even know what kind of date to take Jinora out on. She doesn’t eat meat, as a result of her Air Nomad upbringing, and she’s not very into watching the latest films. The only thing that he thinks she might go for is taking her to the bookstore. But what kind of date is that?
Bolin settles for a picnic; Jinora likes being outdoors, whether she’s training, meditating, or reading underneath a shady tree. A picnic sounds like an ideal first date to Bolin.
There’s only one problem: Bolin can’t cook.
…Well, maybe it won’t be a big problem. Mako can cook, so he’ll just pop over to his little house on Air Temple Island for dinner and stare at Mako making food.
“It won’t be creepy at all. Mako will totally understand,” Bolin reassures himself aloud, “It’s for Jinora’s sake.”
Mako totally doesn’t understand.
“Why don’t you just take her out?” He asks, blinking at his younger brother slowly. “I know she’s a vegetarian—or is she vegan?—but I’m pretty sure there are restaurants in town that don’t have meat dishes.”
“Well, it’s not just that,” Bolin admits. “I want it to be perfect, and what if the meal’s late or burnt or something?” His green eyes widen. “Or what if the waiter’s rude or the meal suck or she’s allergic to—“
“Bolin, Jinora’s not allergic to anything.” Mako interrupts, a smile playing on his lips. “Agni, this is the best day ever.”
“Oh bro…” Bolin places both hands on Mako’s shoulders and looks him in the eye. “I’m so sorry your life is so sad that my love life makes your day.” Bolin shakes his head. “But Mako, you have to realise that you have a pretty good life—“
Mako makes an indiscernible noise. (Hm, now that Bolin thinks about it, everyone they know does that a lot.) “Not that.” His brother is back into his shell of manly-McManliness, which is also known as Mako-is-socially-awkward. “I mean,” The smile’s back. “You finally care enough about a girl to actually worry about your first date with her.”
Bolin feels offended, but then when he opens his mouth to object to Mako’s statement, he pauses. Mako’s right; he’s never really cared enough to want to make the first date perfect, and in the past, why would he?
The girls he used to date when he was younger were either starstruck fans that wouldn’t have noticed if the restaurant fell down around them or girls that were just using him because he was semi-famous. They didn’t ever make him care enough because he knew that they didn’t care enough. With Asami, he sort-of cared but didn’t really. He liked Asami well enough, but to be honest, she was the one to plan out their first date. He didn’t have a part in it at all, except to show up.
But with Jinora, it’s like he thinks he might die if he screws this up. He cares so much, it’s ridiculous. It’s different than all the other first dates that he’s had to plan before because he loves her. He wants to make this an unforgettable first date, the date she’ll tell their grandchildren about. (‘I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself there.’)
“So you’ll help me then?” Bolin asks hopefully.
“I’ll help you.” Mako wants to roll his eyes, but then Korra walks in, and he bends down to kiss her on the cheek. “Good morning.”
“Blehh.” His wife answers, and at Mako’s somewhat-offended look, punches him on the shoulder softly. “Oh, you know I didn’t mean you were ‘blehh’. There’s just never any sleep anymore since I had the twins and spirits, I just want a full night’s sleep.”
“Did you drop them off at the Temple with Ikki and Meelo?” Mako asks. When Korra nods, he nudges her in the general direction of their bedroom. “Go take a nap; I’m teaching Bolin how to make Jinora dinner.”
Korra flashes Bolin the grin that he’s named ‘The Lion-Shark Grin of Scariness’. Bolin thanks the spirits that Korra decides to say nothing for once as she stands on tiptoe to press her lips briefly to Mako’s before trudging off to bed.
Mako turns to Bolin. “What did you want to make for your little picnic?”
“Uhhh, food?” Bolin is utterly clueless about food except how to eat it. He knows how to make desserts, but that’s just because Mako doesn’t have a sweet tooth and if Bolin wanted dessert growing up, he’d have to make it himself.
His brother’s amber stare pierces him and makes Bolin feel like a little kid again, like Mako caught him sneaking a girl into their pro-bending matches for free. After a moment’s silence, Mako turns to go to the fridge, pulling out a couple baskets of vegetables and various, leafy things. He picks up a carrot and waves it in Bolin’s general direction.
“This,” Bolin’s never heard Mako sound so serious, “is a carrot.”
Bolin nods. “I’m well aware.”
“Good,” Mako washes the carrot, pulls out a peeling knife from the drawer, and begins peeling the vegetable. “Now we’re peeling it.”
“Can’t I peel it?” Bolin asks, confused as to why Mako’s doing the peeling instead of fobbing it off onto him.
“No,” Mako says, pausing in his peeling of the carrot to stare at his brother. “I don’t trust you with sharp things.”
“But I’ve peeled things for dessert-y things before!” Bolin protests indignantly.
“Nope,” Mako is indifferent to his protests. “You’re not touching anything that requires sharp objects. I forbid it.”
“I’m twenty-seven, I think I can handle a peeling knife.” His tone is disbelieving and smug at the same time.
Mako is still peeling the carrot as if Bolin hadn’t spoken. “You did ask Jinora to dinner, right?”
Green eyes widen and Bolin buries his face into his palms as he groans. “I did not.”
“Well go ask her. Right now.” Mako points out reasonably, and as Bolin slams the door on his way out, he mutters to himself, “You’re twenty-seven and you can’t handle making arrangements for your date without being prompted; I’m not trusting you with this meal.”
Jinora is, as usual, meditating when Bolin finds her. She opens one eye, glancing down at the Earthbender sprawled on the ground next to her. Bolin grins up at her, but she closes her eye again.
After five more minutes of complete silence, Jinora relaxes and opens her dark eyes. When Bolin grins up at her this time, she returns the smile. “Hello.”
“Hey.” Bolin sits up halfway, leaning on his elbow as he still smiles at Jinora. “So, we’ve established that the feelings are mutual, yes?”
“Yes.” Jinora agrees, laughing lightly. “Where is this going?”
“Let’s go out tonight, please?” Bolin sits up fully now, brushing a lock of her windswept hair behind her ear.
Jinora’s pale cheeks are flushed a light pink, but she still manages a teasing tone, “Are you asking me out?”
“I am.” Bolin responds, flicking her forehead lightly with his index finger. “I’m offering an evening of delicious food underneath the stars.”
“I didn’t know there were outdoor restaurants in the city.” Jinora frowns in thought. “None of the travel guides I’ve read ever mentioned them.”
“That’s because there aren’t any.” Bolin laughs.
Jinora’s puzzled. “But that would mean…”
A look of horror crosses her face, but luckily, Bolin catches onto what she’s thinking and hurries to salvage the situation. “Nononononono, I’m just stealing Mako’s food. I’m not cooking the meal.”
“Oh good,” Jinora visibly relaxes, but then flashes him an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, but you really can’t cook and I would like to not be puking my guts out for two hours.”
“I can bake.” Bolin offers, appealing to Jinora’s sweet tooth.
It works; she laughs and leans on his shoulder. “I know.”
They sit like that for a while, breathing in the fresh air and listening to the whistle of the wind and the chirping of the birds. Eventually, Bolin breaks the silence, “You never answered.”
“I didn’t?” Jinora asks, and when Bolin shakes his head, the corners of his lips quirk up in the tiniest of smiles. “Well, my answer is yes. Where are we meeting?”
“I’ll be at your place at eight.” Bolin leans away from Jinora. She gets the hint and sits up straight. He kisses her on the cheek with a purposeful loud smack that leaves her giggling and pushing him away, wiping her cheek with her sleeve as she does so. As he gets up and jogs back to Mako’s, he turns around briefly and waves at Jinora. “Bye Jin! See you at eight!”
“See you.” Jinora echoes, and she realises that she’s twiddling her fingers. Normally, she tries to stop it because it’s an easy indicator of how nervous she is, but this time, she smiles down at her hands and muses, “Bolin just asked me out on our first date.”
With a giggle, she collapses on the grass, kicking her limbs excitedly.
That night, Bolin does show up at precisely eight.
Their youngest child is already in bed, but Meelo and Ikki are right there in the living room when Bolin arrives.
Meelo is eyeing Bolin as if he doesn’t trust him with Jinora, but Meelo does like Bolin sometimes, so Bolin’s not too sure. In a way, Meelo was responsible for the two of them even getting together in the first place, so he supposes that on some level, Meelo probably approves.
As for Ikki, she’s so excited for Jinora; she’s reverted to the Ikki of old: the one who talks at sixty miles per hour and says her train of thought.
“Where are you guys going? Did you ask her out? Are you guys going to the city? Where are you guys eating? What are you guys going to do? Are you going to see a film? Are you guys going to the bookstore? What about a walk? Are you guys going for a walk?”
Tenzin looks like he wants to say something, but Pema pokes him in the side and raises her eyebrow in a way that’s supposed to remind him of something, only no one but the two of them know what it’s about.
Pema’s all excitement and ecstatic, saying things like, “Oh, I always knew you two were meant to be!”
To which Tenzin mutters underneath his breath, “So you knew this when she was ten and he was eighteen?”
If Tenzin’s face turns curiously red when Pema ‘accidentally’ steps on his foot, Bolin’s certainly not the one to say anything.
Right after that, Jinora walks in with a large smile on her face. When she sees the rest of her family gathered around Bolin, she freezes. She makes a face and stomps past them, dragging Bolin out by the elbow.
“Uh, goodbye?” Bolin calls, waving a hand in slight confusion.
Everyone choruses, “Bye!”
When they’re safely out of the house, Bolin turns to Jinora and laughs. “What was that about?”
She rolls her eyes. “Saving you.” She nudges Bolin with her elbow, giving him a little smile.
“That’s cute,” Bolin smiles too, shaking his head as he does so. He holds his hand out to Jinora, who takes it. As they walk, he speaks again, “It’s not far from here.”
“Okay,” Jinora replies. She’s looking up at the sky and a smile spreads across her face at how beautiful it is. “Thanks for taking me out, Bolin.”
“It’s no problem,” Bolin pauses and looks at Jinora. Before they resume walking, he says hesitantly. “Being with you is never a problem.”
Jinora blinks, then makes a little noise of amusement. “Were you just…romantic?”
Bolin’s voice is teasing, “I’m known to have momentary lapses.”
“I can tell,” Jinora squeezes his hand lightly, and she’s shocked when he suddenly tugs her forward.
“Hey, it’s just over there!” Bolin says excitedly.
They run the rest of the way, and it’s all Jinora can do from hugging Bolin tightly. He’s spread a large blanket over the ground and there’s a large picnic basket sitting on it. It’s not a particularly dark night, so there’s no need for candles.
They sit down on the blanket, and Bolin starts unpacking the picnic basket. He hands a plate to Jinora and unwraps all the dishes so there’s a large variety before them. Bolin almost feels bad that Mako made all this—it’s a lot of food—but he doesn’t feel so bad when he remembers how Mako refused to let him touch any of it and only let him make dessert.
“I feel bad for Mako,” Jinora giggles, picking up a fork and filling her plate up. “It must have taken him a long time.”
“Not that long,” Bolin shrugs, laughing. When Jinora looks at him in confusion, he elaborates, “Korra was sleeping.”
“Ah,” Jinora shakes her head as she smiles. “That explains it.”
During dinner, the conversation is smooth and easy. It doesn’t feel any different than any other time than they’ve been with each other. Somehow, the thought makes Bolin ridiculously happy; it’s nice to know that he can be with her. It’s like nothing changed, but it did.
When Bolin unveils dessert—her favorite, fruit tarts—Jinora squeals in excitement before clearing her throat and blushing. It’s adorable, and Bolin says so. She blushes darker and reaches for the fruit tart.
When Bolin packs up the plates, Jinora helps him. They sit on the blanket for a long time, staring at the stars. It’s a beautiful night. The stars are shining so much brighter than they usually do, and the moon clothes everything in silver.
“Bolin?” Jinora asks quietly, and he turns to look at her. She smiles, almost shyly, as she continues. “Thank you.”
“Are you having fun?” Bolin nudges her, and she laughs.
“Yes, I am.” She kisses him lightly on the cheek. “You’re really sweet.”
“Good,” Bolin smiles back at her. “Because I love you, you know.”
“I know.” Jinora’s head migrates to lean on his shoulder, and they stare at the stars some more.
When Jinora looks up at the stars again, she sits up in excitement and points out a constellation that she’s read about. Bolin listens, and as he watches her face light up as she talks, he can’t help but think, ‘Man, I’m lucky to have her.’