Bolin had been hurt. That was all that was racing through the general's mind at this point in time.
The earth-bender had been fending off some rebel gang high in the mountains with Iroh and his group of soldiers when things got rough. Iroh and Bolin had run after the leader of the gang deep into the forest.
The pair thought they had him cornered, but with one small error by Iroh, the gang leader had hit Bolin with a large blast of fire. The teen crumpled to the ground and Iroh felt strange at the sight. His heart started to beat faster and he felt anger bubble up in his chest.
With a few angered offensive moves, Iroh knocked the man unconscious. After quickly tying him up to prevent escape, the general ran over to Bolin. The clothing on the teen's back was black and scorched.
"Bolin?" he nervously, but hurriedly asked.
The earth-bender mumbled and began to pick himself up. Iroh moved in to help.
"We need to get you to a healer quickly."
The wounded teen gave a smoky cough, "You gonna fly us out?"
Iroh shook his head, "Too much weight. This place is remote, so we have to bring back that asshole, too."
Bolin looked up at the man in surprise; he had never heard such foul language from him. He was obviously that upset for being so inconvenienced.
"Sorry I got hit, sir. I should have tried harder."
Glaring at him, the general spoke, "It wasn't your fault and you know it. I was the one who got too distracted."
The teen blushed. So, he had been angry at himself. That was a relief to Bolin…sort of.
Iroh surveyed the area, "On this side of the mountain there's usually many downed planes. We should look for one. It'll be the fastest way back."
Bolin then started to walk around, but the general held him still.
"You are in no condition to walk…get on my back."
His rough authority made the teen obey and he was glad he did so because getting off his feet helped reduce the pain he felt.
Iroh grabbed the ropes of the captured gang leader and tugged him along the ground.
It wasn't long until they came across a battered up, but still flyable plane. Iroh set Bolin in the cockpit before he took a few minutes to fix the engine up.
"Didn't know you were an engineer," Bolin mused, trying to distract himself from the pain of his back.
The teen saw from the rearview mirror as the general smirked during his reply, "I have to know many things to be a proper commander of many people."
Iroh then shut the engine opening of the plane and hauled the gang leader into back seat of the plane. Bolin got up to climb into that seat to give the general the cockpit.
"Where do you think you're going?"
The teen stopped mid-painful-climb to point at the back seat with the unconscious man in it.
Iroh frowned as he got into the cockpit, "You are sitting in the front with me."
"Won't it be hard for you to drive?"
"Won't it be hard for you to live if you fall out of the plane? You will be thrown around like a doll in the back. Now sit on my lap."
Bolin slowly lowered himself down onto the man's lap. The general gave a worried sigh as part of his view was that was the burnt, crispy clothing on the other's back. He pushed the guilt aside as he slid his arms around the teen to start the engine.
The teen sucked in air as the other's arms slid along his sides.
"Sorry," Iroh mumbled.
Bolin didn't want to admit to himself that the contact had felt comforting and not painful.
They were soon in the air with a very bumpy start, but Iroh held the wounded teammate close and still as possible. They made it a few miles before the engine could be heard sputtering.
"Damn," Iroh murmured.
Bolin resisted the urge to shiver at the breath that trickled across the back of his neck from the man's mouth.
"We are going to have to land," the general sighed, dejectedly.
Iroh did his best to make the landing smooth, but it wasn't that easy with dense trees covering the ground. Bolin cried out as he was jostled from their final hit. The plane was lodged half way up in the trees and the general had to carry down his two unable passengers down.
"Looks like we're not getting you to a healer any time soon."
The earth-bender tried to stand up straighter, "It's not that bad. Don't worry."
The general raised an eyebrow, but changed to the subject, "It's getting late, so we should just stay here and rest for the night…I'll go get some fire wood. You stay here and don't do anything, got it?"
Bolin gave him a salute and a humorous smile through the pain, "Yes, sir."
Iroh rolled his eyes as he headed off.
It wasn't that the man found Bolin to be annoying, it was just that he knew the teen had a horrible life and the fact that he could still be happy confused the general.
Picking up a few dried logs, he wondered if he could ever be that happy, that carefree.
.A large plant caught his eye and he remembered a healing cream he could make from it. He pulled off a good deal of leaves and headed back to Bolin. He was surprised to see that the teen had managed to set up a comfortable looking camp.
The earth-bender had used his abilities to create a large tent of rock and the start of a fire pit. Bolin was currently resting against the makeshift home, his eyes drifting open and close.
Iroh was quick to get the supplies he had collected to use. He started a fire, got some water purified, gave some to Bolin, and then started on making the ointment for the burn.
"Lean over," Iroh suggested as he walked over with a pile of green cream in some of the cloth he had ripped from his shirt.
"You really don't need to do that."
The general remained silent as he started to peel back the scorched shirt to see the damage. It wasn't too extensive which was probably why Bolin could still move around. His back was heavily burned and the skin was lightly bleeding. Iroh washed the wound, laid down a layer of cream, and then ripped the inside of his jacket out to cover up the medicine.
Bolin sighed in appreciation, "Thanks, dude."
Iroh put on a bemused smile and then got up, "Let's get you to lie down."
The teen managed to get to his feet with help and got into his tent and back onto the ground. Iroh bunched up the remained parts of his jacket and propped up the other's head with it.
The general gave the fire another log and moved back into the tent to lie down next to Bolin. It was a cozy squeeze.
"Sorry I couldn't make it bigger," the earth-bender frowned, exhausted.
"It's going to get cold tonight so it's best to share heat anyway."
"Hm?" he asked, staring into the slowly darkening outside.
"Thanks for everything. You're super nice."
Iroh found himself chuckling, "It's nothing I wouldn't do for someone else."
They fell into silence and all that could be heard were the crickets and the crackling of the fire. Bolin shifted and rested his head on the man's shoulder. Iroh looked down to see the peaceful sleeping face of the teen.
The general found himself smiling. Being in the United Forces, he was always accompanied by tough, uncaring men. Bolin was definitely something special.
When Iroh awoke, he still felt the weight of Bolin's head on his shoulder. The same smile came back from last night and he gazed down. He turned a deep shade of red when he realized the teen was fully conscious and staring up at him with a beaming smile.
"Morning, sir," Bolin said softly with a warmness that was infectious.
The general couldn't bring himself to stop grinning like an idiot. That face just made him happy. Without thinking, he reached up and let his fingers glide along the other's jaw. Those big, innocent eyes got even bigger at the action, but he didn't object.
"While I would love to stay here for a while," Bolin giggled, "shouldn't we get going?"
Iroh pulled his hand away and cleared his throat, "Yes…right."
They both got up in unison, the general putting his arm around the other to help him up.
The lighthearted atmosphere changed when they exited the tent to find their hostage leaning over the bowl with water in it. His eyes grew wide and he cowered slightly. Iroh's body eased back from its instinctive fighting stance. He then noticed Bolin behind him looking anxious.
"Don't worry," he cooed and blushed when he realized how sickeningly sweet he had said that.
The teen looked away with a flushed face as well.
The hike back was thankfully easier than they had first thought. The soldiers were, of course, looking for him, so the party of three walked into one of their camps.
Everyone rushed over to take the gang leader away and check on the general. But he shooed them away and pointed them into the direction of Bolin. The teen was pulled away into a large white fabric tent to be healed.
Iroh stood right outside in case…well, he hoped that maybe Bolin would want him to keep him company later. The familiar face of Mako came running over.
"Is Bolin alright?" he questioned, worriedly.
"He's fine," Iroh answered without delay and strongly, to calm the brother.
The younger man gave a sigh, but then suddenly there was a yelp from within the medical tent. Mako tried to enter, but the guard stationed there blocked him.
"That's my brother in there," he growled, pissed.
The general grabbed his shoulder, "He'll be okay."
Mako was still antsy but didn't try to enter again. After a few minutes, the cloth of the doors were pulled back to encourage air flow. The two concerned men got to see the sight of Bolin laying stomach down on a cot with many other patients and healers around him.
His face seemed serene for all the bandages that were piled on his back.
The healer next to him bent down to talk to him. Iroh saw the teen's lips form his name. She nodded at this and walked to the entrance.
"Sir, he'd like to see you," she directed to the general.
Iroh forced his face to remain serious and he didn't dare to turn and look at Mako. He walked in and sat in a small seat next to the cot. When Bolin reached out an open hand, Iroh instantly grabbed it.
"Hurts like hell," Bolin whispered.
"It'll get easier," he frowned, squeezing the teen's hand.
"They said what you did helped it to not scar later on."
He would have loved to stay here, but he could feel Mako's eyes boring into his back.
"You know your brother is here. Would you like me to get him?"
"Oh, I know he's there," he chuckled weakly, "I would rather have you here. He'll just yell at me for an hour."
Iroh was flattered to hear that he was preferred, but it didn't feel right.
"Well, what you did was gutsy."
Bolin scoffed, "If I didn't go after you, you would have been hurt instead. Won't want the beloved general getting banged up."
The man shook his head and sighed, "You're choices are a bit skewed. I think I should get Mako over here to yell at you."
"No, no. Pleeassse, no," he whined.
Iroh laughed lightly, "Just teasing."
Bolin was surprised, "You? Teasing? This is a side of you I haven't seen."
The general could only give a small smile and wonder if Mako would come over and punch him for being so casual with his brother.