Author's Note: Thanks for everyone reading. Oh, and if you like country music, Little Moments by Brad Paisley makes me think of Broh. Ok, bye ( and get ready to cry for this chapter lol )
The two were up early the next morning and caught the first ferry ride over to the Air Temple Island. There was a thick mist in the air as the sun rose. The island was silent as they walked around enjoying their time together before Iroh had work to do.
Once the sun had fully risen, the previous silence was broken by the sound of a radio playing a soft melody.
"Looks like everyone is waking up now," Bolin informed.
"Then, I should get going."
Iroh turned to see the two girls running over.
Jinora looked between the two men before speaking, "So, where were you last night, Bolin?"
"Umm…" Bolin stuttered.
"Did you two sleep well?" she continued with a very knowing smirk.
Iroh was stunned at the child's boldness, "What are you talking about, miss?"
Ikki spoke up now, "We totally didn't borrow daddy's secret clicky thing and listen to people from your ship talking about Bolin screaming like a mating cat raccoon."
"Shit," Bolin murmured under his breath, which only a surprised Iroh heard.
"Don't worry," Jinora winked, "I won't tell the others. This kind of reminds me of a book I read…" she sighed in remembrance, "It was so romantic."
Both males shared looks of disbelief.
Bolin barely had time to see the speaker before being pulled into a hug by him. Mako wasn't one for too much physical contact, but he had obviously been worried about his brother all night. When they pulled apart, Mako couldn't help but give Iroh the stink eye and Bolin gave a nervous laugh.
"This is way too loud for the morning," Korra announced her presence.
"Agreed," Asami followed her.
Mako smiled brightly at Korra and placed an arm around her waist, "You look lovely as always, sweetie."
Korra was influenced easily by his mood and said good morning to the rest of them.
"Meelo, stop that, please," Pema cooed as she walked outside with the boy and Tenzin.
The sound of loud and quick footfalls made everyone turn to look at the road that lead up to the building. There were two men dressed in uniform running forward. Iroh took a few steps to meet them and they bowed in front of him.
"But I thought you said you didn't have to do anything until later," Bolin said.
"I did," Iroh spoke, "What do you two have to report?"
The shorter of the two spoke, "There is a problem in the far west. They need reinforcements. It seems our hopes that there would be no other large Equalist groups are dashed."
Iroh hands fisted in anger, "Tell everyone to prepare to depart in three hours. I will be at the docks within the next hour. We must not waste time."
The two men bowed quickly before running off to spread the word.
Bolin's heart was ripped out of his chest at that point. This was something he always forced himself to think wouldn't ever happen. He was devastated that Iroh had to leave and possibly he might never come back. That he might die… Bolin shook the thought as he tried not to cry.
He felt the general's warm hand grip his tightly.
"I want to go with you," Korra demanded.
"Korra," Mako warned.
The general shook his head, "The city still needs you; we can't afford to lose it again."
Korra seemed satisfied with his straightforward explanation and nodded.
"Thank you for all of your hospitality," Iroh directed at the air-bending family.
They smiled with bitter sweetness.
The general turned with a nod and pulled Bolin along with him. When they were finally out of earshot, Iroh opened his mouth.
"I'm sorry that I can't stay," he croaked as though he was about to cry.
Bolin let a few of his own tears fall in response, "I know you are, but it's your duty."
They remained silent for the rest of the time back to the docks. The teen stayed close as Iroh called out orders to his men. The next two hours moved too fast for Bolin and he now had a death grip on the man's hand as he stared at the ground, tired of seeing the apologetic looks he would get from the crew.
He looked up to his lover and then he noticed the stillness. They were the last ones on the dock. It was time for the general to leave.
"I love you," Bolin blurted out, not knowing what else to say in this sort of situation.
Iroh caressed the teen's cheek and gave a sorrowful smile, "I love you, too."
Bolin breathed out of nose harshly in a snort, "Now, I know how a warrior's wife feels…it's a horrible thing to feel."
"Then, I suppose…would you mind terribly if I did something cliché?"
"Not at all," he sniffled.
The general slipped off one of his gloves and handed it over.
"Something to remember me by?"
Bolin weakly laughed again and held the glove to his chest, "I don't think I'll ever forget you…ever."
Sighing tiredly, the general leaned in and kissed him softly. They parted and stared silently at one another for a moment.
"Goodbye," Bolin whispered.
"No. More like…see you later."
Bolin did his best to give a smile as Iroh looked at him for the last time before boarding the ship. When the ships disappeared across the horizon, Bolin cried.
The next few days were the worse for him as he moped around the island. He didn't feel like practicing his bending or hanging out or eating or sleeping. He would spend his time alone softly stroking the general's glove in his hand. Everyone was worried and did their best to keep him as happy as they could.
On the fifth day without him, Bolin had taken to walking around the buildings. And as he pasted down a hallway, he heard the familiar giggling of two girls. When he rounded a corner he caught the sight of Ikki slipping into a door.
"Be quiet, Ikki."
"Sorry," she giggled.
Bolin headed over with mild curiosity and through a crack in the door he saw the girls at a table with a Morse code machine on it. Jinora wore headphones and was listening to the conversations others were having.
He opened the door, not bothering to knock and walked in closing the door behind him.
"Hey, Bolin," Ikki said without surprise.
The earth-bender sighed and sat down in an empty chair realizing that Ikki had led him here on purpose.
"What do you want?" Bolin spoke in a deadpan.
"Oh, here it is!" Jinora interrupted.
"Come over here," Ikki told him.
Bolin walked over and took Jinora's offered seat. The headphones were placed on his head and his ears were filled with fuzzy sounding clicks.
He sighed, irritated, "What is this?"
"It General Iroh," Jinora explained.
Bolin's eyes widened, "You mean this is what he's telling someone to message to someone else?"
"Yup," Ikki said, cheerfully.
The teen couldn't help but reach out and squeeze the both of them. Then, he returned to the faint clicking noises.
The girls entertained themselves for a while, but when the line finally went dead Bolin looked over to them.
Jinora turned off the transmitter, "Do you want to learn how to understand it?"
Bolin nodded happily and then was handed a thin manual. The girls spent a several minutes teaching him the idea of it and he got to memorizing and keeping his mind off of the bad things.
When it started getting dark, Jinora and Ikki sneaked out of their beds and got Bolin out of his. They had three small lanterns and ran into the small forest on the island with them. The girls explained a game they played with them that included the Morse code, so Bolin could practice. Their lantern lights flashed on and off as they talked in code to one another for the better part of the night.
Before they separated to go back to their rooms, Bolin hugged the both of them.
"Thank you for everything."
Bolin's mood was now changed and he was optimistic about things. Whenever he would yearn for Iroh, he would listen to the clicks and hear what he was doing and where he was. Some nights he would fall asleep at the desk waiting for just one more message or two before leaving. Bolin was sure Tenzin knew about him using his machine, but didn't say a word, to which he was thankful.
The teen as well spent his time, once again, trying to learn how to be a metal-bender. It never seemed to work no matter how hard he studied and practiced, but he kept up with it. He had even more respect for Korra and her patience with the first unsuccessfulness of her air-bending.
And just when Bolin was starting to feel emotionally drained, a new message was reported by a few simple clicks. The fleet was headed back to Republic City. Bolin just sat there and cried heavily. Iroh was coming back to him.