chapter 2

Mako was just about to go look for Korra when he saw Bolin come through the front door. "Hey Bo." Bolin flinched and turned to look at him. He flashed him a smile that would've fooled anyone but Mako. "Hello."

Mako walked up to him and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Are you alright?" Mako noticed there was something on Bolin's neck. He grabbed Bolin's collar and pulled it to get a better look. "Shit, Bo, you're bleeding!"

"Oh, that. It's nothing."

"Come on, we have to clean it up." Mako pushed Bolin towards the kitchen.

"Where is everybody, anyway?" Bolin asked sheepishly as they walked.

"Korra is doing important Avatar stuff. Tenzin is out at a meeting and Pema decided to take the Airbender kids out for a picnic. It's just us."

"No Asami?"

"No, she lives at the mansion now, remember? She's now in charge of her father's business and needs to live closer to the office."

"Right." Bolin sighed and sat on one of the chairs. Mako found a rug and some water and took a seat next to him. "Do you ever think you might want to get back together with Asami?"

"Well...sometimes. But after I..."

"Cheated on her?"

Mako sighed. Bolin had lectured him on his transgression many times since the incident, and he was too tired for it now. "I'm together with Korra now. That's all that matters." He dampened the rug in the bowl of water and started cleaning Bolin's neck. "What the hell happened to you?"

"I was..." Mako could tell Bolin was trying to think of a lie. He had always been able to tell when his brother was lying.

"Did you get into a fight with someone? Or did something fall on you from one of the building ruins?"

"Yes. Definitely. The first one." Bolin looked a bit like a blowfish when he puckered his lips, trying to look extra honest. Mako wasn't falling for it.

"Did you have a fight with Iroh?" He was the first person that came to Mako's mind, as he had seen Bolin take off with him in the morning.

Bolin looked shocked for a moment. He then tried to make his face very still, and Mako knew he had hit a nerve. "So it was Iroh." Bolin looked away as Mako finished cleaning the wound. Once it was clear of blood, Mako could see that the wound looked more like a hickey that had been made in a rather violent way. But of course, that was impossible. Bolin was too young for anything like that.

Mako observed Bolin for a moment. He had a hickey on his neck, he was avoiding eye contact and his shirt was slightly torn. All of the details could have been explained away easily enough, when separate, but put together...

"Bo." Bolin finally turned to look at him. "Did Iroh..." he searched for the right words, but they simply didn't come to him. "...try to, you know, force himself on you?"

"No! I mean, we kissed, but then he started using...alright, maybe he was a bit forceful. I mean he came on a little too strong for me, so I told him to stop. And then I just kind of left."

Mako listened quietly. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah, yeah. Never better. Thanks for cleaning the wound."

"Don't mention it. Hey, I still have things to do before the day ends but would you like to go join Pema and the kids? They're at the usual spot in the shore. They should have a lot of food with them..." he added, knowing that Bolin couldn't resist sweets. He was right, as Bolin happily rushed away. Mako washed the bowl, that was now stained with blood and put the rug away. He then sighed. He still had things to do, alright.

While in Republic City, Iroh stayed with the rest of his fleet. They were camped out just outside the city. Iroh, being the general, had his own tent, but he could still hear everyone and everything that happened in the camp, making it difficult for him to sleep at night. He had just settled into reading his favorite book, when Mako entered his tent. For a moment he didn't realize why the man would've come to see him, but the sight of Mako's furious expression quickly connected the dots to him. Bolin's brother.

"What did you do to my brother?"

Iroh wasn't sure how much Mako knew, so he decided to play the uncaring general card that came so naturally to him. "I told him we shouldn't see each other anymore." As soon as the words came out of his mouth, Iroh knew that they had been the wrong words to say.

"So you were seeing him before? For how long?" Mako crossed his arms, looking as if he'd burst into flames any minute. "I said, how long were you seeing my little brother who also happens to be a minor?"

"Today was the first time anything happened, and it will also be the last. I told your brother he was too young for me, he didn't believe me and tried to convince me." Iroh turned away from Mako. He found it easier to concentrate when the younger Firebender wasn't trying to burn through him with his eyes.

"Don't try to turn this around and make it look like Bolin jumped you. He's a freaked out kid who came home bleeding!"

Iroh winced. "Is he alright?"

"Yeah, no thanks to you."

Iroh stared at the ground. "I'm sorry for what I did to your brother. It won't happen again. I've already arranged us to be assigned to different teams from now on. There should be no other reason for us to meet, would there?"

"Good. Stay away from him, or you and I are going to have a problem."

Iroh smiled, his back still turned to Mako. "I think I could beat you in a fight."

"Yes, but I'm not going to fight you, am I? I'm going to report you. Do you think the Fire Nation would still have you in their ranks if they heard about this?"

Iroh finally turned to face Mako. "Everybody in the camp already heard you shouting at me. You have nothing to hold against me. Good day."

Mako left the tent, and realized that everybody in the camp was staring at him and whispering about him to each other. Iroh had been right. For a moment Mako felt bad about potentially ruining Iroh's career, but then he remembered that Iroh deserved it.

Iroh went to bed. The good thing about his men whispering about him to each other was that they were more silent than usual, and that meant he had a chance to actually sleep for once. Before he drifted off to sleep, he thought about Bolin. The memory of the dark curly haired man teased him.

"It was not to be."