Okay, here it is...the FINAL CHAPTER. Many feels were had writing this...plus I just saw "Kuvira's Gambit" and I have to wait for Friday to see what happens and I am dying because SPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERS oh my god she blew them up are they okay?! So I am like...dying right now...is this my punishment for using so many cliffhangers myself, Avatar writers? THAT HARDLY SEEMS FAIR.
Anyway, I want to thank everyone for reading and the kinds reviews I have received. I have really appreciated all the support. So here is the final chapter, I hope you enjoy. I was going to include an epilogue but I think I will just leave it here for now. Enjoy the bro feels!
After the rehabilitation room events, Bolin was required to stay in bed for two days. Dr Kai Yin wasn't angry, but worried about Bolin's condition. However, Bolin's resolve had been restored, and his optimism greatly increased. The intravenous drip was replaced with oral medicine, which controlled the pain. He worked with Chinzu, slowly, to walk across the frame, and every time he made it a little easier. He was taken outside again, and permitted to bend earth under strict supervision. He made great strides with it everyday. He wasn't comfortable with bending lava yet, physically and emotionally, but Chinzu assured him she would help him when he was ready. Mako hardly left Bolin's side, and the staff seemed to have entered into a silent agreement to pretend not to notice the fire ferret tail that could be seen sticking out of cupboards or from under beds whenever they were in the room.
A week went by, and Dr Kai Yin came in to Bolin's room and told them the great news. Bolin could be discharged. Mako shook the doctor's hand while Bolin hugged his nurse. There were happy tears all around, as the staff had come to love Bolin, and he had survived so much. They even brought up a little cake, decorated beautifully with white and green icing, which Bolin and Mako shared with everyone. As they celebrated and talked, there was a knock at the door.
All eyes turned, and it was Korra and Tenzin.
"Korra! Tenzin!" Bolin beamed. "Guess what! I can leave tomorrow! I don't have to stay in the hospital anymore!" Korra smiled, but there was something weighted in the corners of her mouth. She refused a slice of cake that was offered, and looked at Tenzin. He cleared his throat and approached the two brothers.
"Bolin, that's wonderful," he said in a slow, measured voice. Bolin's face fell a little.
"What's going on?" he asked. Tenzin cleared his throat again, and addressed the room.
"Last night, Lin and Korra finally executed the plan to save Suyin and the others. It was a success, but they gave us grave intel about Kuvira's plan. Kuvira has managed to build a functioning spirit weapon, and will be making a move on Republic City in two weeks. Korra, myself, and the President have finally agreed that no matter what, Kuvira needs to know about the potential danger the weapon has for herself and her army, in terms of what happened to Bolin. Ethically, we have no other choice, as innocent lives are at stake on both sides. We sent her a message, and she agreed to meet us, so we are travelling by airship to meet her near Zhaofu. We are not telling her we know of her plan to attack yet, we hope to get the city evacuated before that. We do not know if Kuvira will actually listen. I wouldn't be surprised if she tried to use this meeting to force us to surrender. But we have to go in, fully prepared to fight our way out."
"But she's crazy!" Bolin said, gripping the edge of his bed. "She's not going to listen, you won't make it out!"
"I know it is dangerous, but we have to try," said Korra. She smiled and hugged Bolin. "I'm really happy you're going to be okay. And don't worry, we won't let Kuvira get us." Bolin hugged Korra back, tightly, and nodded, but didn't seem convinced. Mako hugged Korra too.
"What about the evacuation?" he asked.
"Lin and Wu are going to be in charge of it, with Asami's help."
"Where will everyone be going?" asked Dr Kai Yin, and the hospital staff nodded, questions about the other patients being murmured.
"The evacuation at this point is just a precaution, and the destination is the Southern Water Tribe lands," said Tenzin. "As for the hospital, Varrick has said he will provide ships with complete capability of moving all of your patients and their needs. But we don't need to do that yet. We will talk to the hospital administrators about remaining on standby in case of this being needed."
"So...what about Bolin?" Mako asked. "Where do we go?" Although Bolin was well enough to leave, he was by no means able to make such a long journey, even on a decked-out ship. He wanted to be near the hospital, just in case. Tenzin put a warm hand on Mako's shoulder.
"Your grandmother and other family will be leaving Asami's house and are going to be part of the first wave of evacuations," Tenzin sensed Mako stiffen, and smiled comfortingly. "You and Bolin are more than welcome on Air Temple Island."
Mako thought about it, and it seemed suitable. Near enough to the hospital but not in immediate danger from Kuvira. If they had to leave for the South Pole, they could do that quickly too. And the Air Acolytes were a valuable protection. Mako graciously accepted, and it was agreed. They were to leave tomorrow.
The next morning, there was a tearful goodbye at the hospital entrance. Bolin hugged each and every person who came to say goodbye. Amara wiped her eyes, and Chinzu promised to see him soon, as she would meet him on the island to continue his rehabilitation. He hugged Dr Kai Yin and said a weepy thank you, and Mako said goodbye to everyone as well, managing to fight back tears. Bolin was sent home with medicine, a wheelchair, and crutches to aid his walking. Bolin leant on the crutches now, his movements were slow and somewhat of a struggle, but he wanted to gain his strength back as soon as possible. Tenzin and Korra lifted him by air onto Oogi's back, and rested him on soft pillows and wrapped in blankets. Mako climbed aboard.
"Goodbye, every one!" called Bolin, waving. "Thank you!"
"We love you Bolin!" yelled one of the nurses, as they all waved back. Pabu emerged from underneath Bolin's blanket and waved his ringed tail, which made them laugh.
"Oogi, yip yip!" Tenzin shook the reigns, and Oogi rose in flight. The hospital became smaller and smaller as they rode on, Bolin waving to everyone the entire time. Soon it was gone, and Bolin turned to Mako. He was smiling, looking tired already, but breathing in the wind rushing through his hair and turning his cheeks bright. Mako tried to ignore the knot of worry in his stomach, about Kuvira and evacuations and weapons, and just enjoy the moment. Bolin was free.
Oogi landed to a group of Acolytes, in their red and orange jumpsuits, to receive him and his passengers. Bolin was gently lifted down and instantly surrounded by Pema, Ikki, Meelo, and a toddling Rohan.
"Here, let's go to your room," said Mako, preparing the wheelchair, but Bolin shook his head.
"I'd rather walk, and I am kind of hungry," he said. With Pema easing him along, he limped forward with Pabu on his shoulders.
"We have snacks and tea in the common room," she said kindly. Bolin grinned.
"You know me so well, Pema," he said. An Acolyte took the wheelchair from Mako and went to put it in Bolin's room with his other belongings.
"Bolin, Bolin! Tell us more about the secret spies in the hospital! Are they working for Kuvira?! Or the League of Nightmares?!" squealed Meelo. Bolin had obviously been sharing his elaborate tales with the young airbender. Bolin laughed, but soon stopped to focus on moving. Mako came up behind him, worried.
"Bolin, we can bring the snacks to your room, you need to go and lie down," he put a gentle hand on Bolin's arm. Bolin stopped and turned his head to Mako. His voice was low, so low only Mako heard it, and it suddenly and surprisingly fierce.
"I have just spent a month in bed, Mako. I'm not going to continue to do so."
With that he kept hobbling along with Pema at his side. Mako was dumbfounded. It appeared Bolin's stubborn streak was more than healthy. Mako wanted to insist, but Korra tapped him on the shoulder.
"We have to go now," she said, gesturing to Tenzin who had already remounted Oogi. "We're going to try and talk to Kuvira one last time."
"Be careful," said Mako. "It could be a trap."
"More than likely, but we'll be okay. You'll hear from us soon, we'll try and be back tonight."
They embraced and Korra jumped onto Oogi's back. They lifted into the sky to go and pick up the President. leaving Mako alone in the courtyard, a mild but slightly cool breeze billowing his clothes, and a cloudless blue sky over his head. Had he not been so worried, it would have been an entirely lovely day.
Bolin was settled in at the Air Temple. He was given a room that adjoined to Mako's through a door. All of his belongings were set in place, but he did not want to go to bed at all. He sat on a low sofa, hands resting on his torso, which was only lightly bandaged below his plain brown shirt. Mako watched him carefully, taking in every heavy breath or hidden wince, but Bolin seemed insistant on being out with the others. Mako supposed he couldn't blame him, and he thought if he had been so sick for a month, he would want to avoid going back to bed too.
Jinora took Mako on her sky bison, Pepper, back to Republic City. There was heightened security but all else seemed normal. He did a bit of shopping, picking up Bolin's favourite treats, before visiting Asami and his family and Wu. Asami was leaving for the factory with Varrick.
"Any word from Korra and the others, yet?" he asked. Asami shook her head.
"Not yet, but don't worry, Korra promised me she'd be in touch."
Wu was helping Mako's grandmother organize the large collection of family to prepare to evacuate. He hugged them all and told them Bolin was fine. Grandma was thrilled and sent her love, and promised she would visit as soon as possible. Mako was glad, and thought about how long him and Bolin had been alone, and how now they had a family. It was a strange but comforting sensation. He was also glad to see Wu having longer and longer streaks of not-being-a-jerk inbetween his usual selfish antics. He was heartened to see Mako, but disappointed to hear that the pigtailed nurse hadn't asked about him.
"She'll call me soon," he said. Okay, buddy, Mako thought to himself. He was preparing to leave, when he felt a familiar softness around his neck. His red scarf was encircling him. He turned and saw that Grandma had taken it off and slipped it over his head.
"Grandma?" said Mako, feeling the familiar scarlet under his fingers. "You should keep holding onto this for me..." She patted his cheek.
"We don't know what's going to happen in the next little while, and you may need a reminder of home and of us. Both you and Bolin."
Mako hugged her tightly, and didn't let go for sometime. Finally, though, they had to part, and Mako let the familiar scent of the scarf waft over him as he and Jinora flew home.
The day waned on, and the afternoon turned to evening, everyone waiting to hear from Korra and Tenzin. Pema, the children, Mako and Bolin ate dinner quietly, with Bolin insisting on sitting on the floor with everyone else and not on a chair or in his bed. Small talk was made, but each person felt their nerves dancing in their stomachs, so the food wasn't much of a priority. Dinner had been cleared away and the first stars had emerged in the blanket of night before they heard the familiar grunt of Oogi as he descended. Pema and the children ran to the courtyard to greet Tenzin. Mako could see Bolin was more tired than he let on, as although he turned his head eagerly, he didn't try to stand, recognizing how futile it would have been. Soon Pema walked in with Tenzin and Korra.
"How was it?" Mako asked tentatively. Korra scowled.
"She wouldn't listen," she said bitterly, helping herself to some tea. She and Tenzin wore worried lines on their faces.
"But she didn't try to trap you?" Bolin asked, leaning forward on the table, both in anticipation of the answer and to steady his body, which was beginning to tremble with weakness from sitting up for so long.
"Strangely enough, no," said Tenzin, joining them at the low table. "We told her what had happened to you, and she merely smiled and said we must be desperate if we thought stooping to such lies would stop her. She said we were lying about her having a weapon and about what it did to Bolin." Bolin bristled at this point, squeezing his fist tightly on the table. "We tried to convince her but she wouldn't have it. She finally told us to leave, and consider that meeting her final offer. Either we surrender the city, or she makes her move."
"She doesn't know we know she's got something bigger planned, so evacuations will proceed shortly," said Korra. "She knows that she has the upper hand right now, which is probably why she didn't trap us. She's enjoying toying with us too much, and watching us begin to bend to her will..."
Mako watched Bolin's face, which had become a storm cloud, a tempest of anger.
"When I see her, I'll end her," he muttered. An incredibly tiny part of Mako almost wanted to laugh at the ridiculousness of it, the idea of his brother, who could have been blown over by a leaf at this point, attempting to take on Kuvira. But Mako said nothing. Pema saw that Bolin was squeezing one eye shut and a tiny bead of sweat was forming under his hairline, and this was his tell that he was fighting pain.
"Bolin, it's time to go to bed," she said firmly, and very motherly. Bolin looked up, and opened his mouth to protest, but Mako had already come around to his side of the table, and put one of Bolin's arms around his neck and slowly raised him up.
"Ah-" came a sharp breath from Bolin, sore and stiff. Mako adjusted his crutches under each of his brother's arms and let Bolin, who realized he couldn't argue, say goodnight. In a slightly defeated voice, Bolin bid everyone a good night, and Mako helped him walk out at a slimesnail's pace.
Their bedrooms were on the ground floor, but the distance between them and the dining room was, for Bolin, infinitely far. He kept going on his crutches as long as he could, and stopped to take many breaks. The night had become even darker, lit only by the soft lamps that glowed like spirit orbs. Bolin leaned against a wall, catching his breath.
"...ow..." he whispered quietly, but Mako heard him.
"Bo, you've done really well today, but Dr Kai Yin said not to push it. Let me help, okay?" Mako phrased it as a question, but it wasn't really optional. There was no need to convince Bolin, though, who was exhausted and aching. He nodded breathlessly. Mako set down Bolin's crutches and scooped his brother up in his arms. Bolin had lost a bit of weight through his ordeal, but he was an earthbender; he was heavy, and bit his lip sheepishly in Mako's arms as his older brother clenched his jaw with the effort.
After helping Bolin wash and change into pajamas, he settled Bolin into the large, soft bed Tenzin had arranged for him, as getting on and off a futon mattress would have been too challenging. Mako sat on the edge of the bed while Bolin took some pain medication and drank a full glass of water. They sat in silence, when suddenly Bolin spoke.
"You have your scarf back?" he said curiously, only now noticing. Mako smiled, and slid it through his fingers, remembering how it was always perfect soft.
"Yeah, Grandma said I should keep if with me, to remind me...us...of our family,"
"Our family," Bolin repeated quietly. "And...Mom and Dad..."
"Yeah..." said Mako. He hadn't thought about them in a long time. The ache never truly went away. He saw Bolin quickly wipe his eyes and nose, and decided the last thing Bolin needed right now was to stress about anything, so he gently laid his brother down, depsite Bolin's weak assertion he could do it himself, and pulled the blanket up around his shoulders. Bolin's eyes began to droop, exhausted from the day of travel and activity and the effects of the pill he had taken.
"Goodnight, Bolin. Get some rest."
Mako turned off the dimly glowing lamp andlet himself out quietly through the door the connected to his room. He washed his face, and slipped into some pajama pants, but was too hot for a shirt. He carefully lay his scarf around his pillow, so he could breath in its scent all night, and flopped down onto the bed. Before he knew it, Mako too was fast asleep.
Mako awoke to horrible sobbing. He leapt up, subconciously grabbing the scarf, and bolted through the adjoining door to Bolin's room, his heart skipping beats as he heard the wailing from the other room.
Moonlight came casting down through the window in thick white beams, giving the bedroom a bluish glow. Bolin was sitting up in bed, his hands balled into fists and wiping large, shimmering tears from his eyes. He was crying like Mako had not seen him cry in a long time. A very long time. Since they were children. Mako ran to Bolin's bedside.
"Bolin, Bo, what's wrong?" he asked, looking over his brother for any injury. After the initial panic wore off, he could see Bolin didn't seem to be in pain, but he was still sobbing. "Bolin?" he asked again, as his younger brother pulled his hands away from his eyes, still heaving his choked gasps.
"I...I had a bad dream!" he cried. The voice that came out was not Bolin, former pro-bending champion, famous star of Nuktuk movers, powerful earth and lavabender of Team Avatar and ex-corporal in Kuvira, the Great Uniter's army. It was the voice of Bolin, homeless, six year-old orphan, who hadn't eaten in days. Mako shuddered. Bolin had a lot of nightmares back then. So did Mako. They had plenty to have nightmares about.
"Shhh, shhhhhh, Bolin, it's okay..." Mako gently took his brother's wrists and pulled his hands away from his face. He caressed Bolin's cheek, which was clammy, but Mako felt it was just from the nightmare sweat and not from a fever...thank goodness. Bolin couldn't seem to calm down at first. He was still shaking and wracked with sobs.
"Do you remember what it was about?" asked Mako. Bolin shook his head, tears spilling off his chin and landing on his lap, staining the blanket darkly in the moonlight. That didn't surprise Mako, Bolin had never been able to remember his dreams, good or bad, but whatever it had been had about had obviously been born of all the trauma Bolin had recently experienced. Mako felt there was nothing for it. He lifted the blanket and slid in next to his brother. He sat up, his back pressed against the cool wooden headboard, as Bolin curled up in his arms and leant on his chest, sobbing, both of them swathed in the stretch of scarlet cloth that still connected them with their family, their parents. After a while, Bolin's cries became softer, and his breathing evened. The pool of tears on Mako's chest faded. Mako had wrapped one of his arms around his brother's shoulders, and the other lit a tiny flame for the two of them to watch. They stared at it for a long time, clinging to each other.
"Mako?" Bolin finally spoke, his voice barely above a whisper.
"How are we going to survive?"
"Survive?" asked Mako. Did Bolin think they were on the streets? Was he hallucinating? Mako felt Bolin's skin under his hand. No fever. "What do you mean?"
Bolin sighed. He was lucid. "We have so many people with us now, Mako...Grandma and the others, Korra...Asami...Tenzin and the kids...but...Kuvira can take it all away...we could be alone again in a heartbeat. What if she wins? What if she takes you too!?" Bolin's voice was breaking with more tears, he was getting excited again. He tried to raise himself but couldn't manage the effort, and either way Mako pulled him back into his arms. He waited, shhing softly, for Bolin to stop crying again. The warm little firelight washed over them soothingly, and finally Mako spoke.
"Bo, I know you're scared. I was scared too. Kuvira nearly did take everything, when you almost died. I don't even want to think about it. But we can't live in fear. If we do that, Kuvira has already won."
Bolin sniffed wetly, squeezing Mako tighter. "But how?" he asked. "How do we keep going?"
"By remembering," said Mako. "By remembering that we have a family, and friends, and we have each other. Kuvira can bring her whole army, her whole weapon, and none of it will ever matter, because right now, in this moment..." Mako's voice trailed off. He felt the weight of his brother leaning against him, alive and real, and on the road to recovery. Kuvira hadn't won, and she never would, not so long as Mako had Bolin. Bolin tucked his head under Mako's chin, and let his older brother rest his head into Bolin's soft, thick black locks. A tear, mixed of everything Mako had felt the past month, fear, anger, sadness, relief, and joy, slipped down his cheek and into the sea of silky blackness.
"...why doesn't it matter, Mako?"
"Because," whispered Mako, hugging Bolin tightly and vowing to never let go, "you're home."