sorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorry I had to write my bachelor thesis sorrysorrysorrysorry
Iroh stared at his grandfather. He shouldn't have been surprised; of course the former Fire Lord would have been invited to the coronation party. Iroh had simply expected Zuko not to attend. It had been some time since Iroh had last seen his grandfather and yet, they both seemed the same. Zuko opened his arms, and Iroh took a step forward and hugged him as if he were just a boy again.
"I have missed you. Your mother keeps sending me letters about you. I don't quite know how she manages to send them to me as I'm always going somewhere new but…" Zuko trailed off and shrugged. Iroh smiled. "Mother is quite extraordinary in many ways, her ability to find her loved ones anywhere being one of them", he mused. He then caught a glimpse of Bolin as Korra and her escorts were announced and finally entered the great hall. As if sensing Iroh's gaze, Bolin's eyes turned to meet his. There was a hint of vulnerability on his face, simply a flash, and then Bolin forced himself to look away. They began performing a salute to the new king, a bending demonstration using all the elements.
"I see you've delved into the matters of the heart once more. Your mother will be thrilled."
"How do you even—", Iroh started, but seeing Zuko's suggestively raised eyebrow, he gave up before finishing. "Yes. A while back, actually. But what I really want to talk to you about are not my romantic entanglements, but the army. Grandpa, I think I'm not right for the army." Iroh only erred on the side of familiar with Zuko when he was confiding in him, so Zuko knew that when he used the word 'grandpa', he needed to take Iroh seriously. He nodded, and Iroh continued.
"Bolin- that's the boy over there- has helped me realize that I don't really know who I am. At all. I think I need to go travelling like you have and discover who I am outside of this family and the army. I'm asking your permission to leave."
"You don't need my permission for anything grandson, least of all to follow your heart. You should rebel a little. Even as a teenager you were always so well-behaved. I told your mother it was down-right queer for a boy to be so nice at that age. Do you know what I did when I was a teenager?!"
"Grandpa, everyone knows what you did as a teenager."
Zuko gave him a wry smile. "I suppose they do." He sighed. "I think you should go. It's good of you to go. Will you go with the boy over there?"
"No. I've messed too much of his life already and I think he's starting to realize there's not much of me to love. He asked me for my favorite color and I just sat there dumb-founded. I'm just a creation of the army. There's nothing that makes me unique."
"I doubt you're in that bad of a shape. But seriously, some rebelling would be good for you."
Iroh nodded. He noticed Zuko looking at him, fighting back laughter. "You act as though I'm telling you to drop by the market on the way home. We're talking about your life! Show some passion. Just a smidgeon. Please?" Zuko looked at him expectantly, and Iroh politely nodded again. Zuko raised his hands to his cheeks. "Ugh, you're hopeless." He then seemed to have an idea. "I think you should talk to Mai about this."
"Yes. She doesn't talk about it often, but she had a similar problem growing up. Maybe slightly different, since for her it was at her parents request, whereas you….well, your mother is forceful but she isn't that bad. I think you may have raised yourself to be a bit sheltered. I think Mai could give you some great advice on this."
"Why didn't you take her with you on your travels?"
"Her knees are not so good anymore, so she told me to travel and then come back to her. I think I still have some strength left in me. I do miss her terribly."
Iroh smiled. "I think I will go see her. Thank you, grandfather", he said, resuming his usual armor of politeness. He then noticed Bolin approaching him.
"Care to dance?" Bolin asked him as soon as he reached Iroh and his grandfather. He then noted Zuko's presence. "Unless you are—", he started, looking at Zuko.
"Bolin, meet my grandfather, the former Fire Lord Zuko. Grandfather, this is Bolin, the earthbender of the new team Avatar."
Bolin blinked. He then opened his mouth but nothing came out. He then settled on a stiff bow and then darted off. Iroh sighed. "Well, I have to say goodbye to him as well. Have a safe journey, grandfather." "And you, grandson."
Iroh reached Bolin just as he was about to leave the hall. He was mumbling to himself "oh sure, a fire lord would have nooooo problem with me going out with his son. absolutely noooo problem at all."
"Bolin, I'm…I'm leaving."
Bolin seemed to forget everything about Zuko and he turned to look at Iroh. "The party?" He asked with a hopeful voice. Iroh felt sick.
"No. Well, that too, but I'm leaving the army to find out who I am."
"Because of what I said before? I didn't mean…"
"No, you were right. I need to find an Iroh that exists outside of the army."
"So, you're coming with me? Or us?" Bolin's face lit up at that. Iroh felt worse than before.
"No. I can't date you if I don't know who I am. I'm really sorry that I messed up your life. I hope you can find a good man who will love you in a way that I couldn't."
Bolin grabbed him by his collar and kissed him hard. Iroh was surprised, but then obediently opened his lips and responded to the other man's lust. Bolin lead him away from the hall and eventually, to his bed. (Actually Korra's bed). They quickly got undressed and simply enjoyed each other's bodies. Iroh thought about stopping, he really did, but then decided that this was something they both needed. It was almost violent how they handled each other, but it never resembled Iroh's first lover's brutality.
The next morning Iroh woke up before Bolin. He got dressed and left the room. He gave his resignation letter to one of his men. He then gathered some things to help him on his journey and exited the palace.
He was almost at the gates of the city when he heard a crumbling sound from beneath his feet, and saw Bolin skating towards him on earth he had bent to move him forward.
Bolin smoothly landed next to Iroh, who didn't have enough time to say anything before Bolin punched him so hard that he flew back several feet. Iroh rubbed his jaw as he watched Bolin head back to the palace, and hid a smile. 'Hopefully now he's over me. Or someday will be', he thought.
He left the great city of Ba Sing Se to head…somewhere. For once in his life, he didn't know where he was going. And wasn't that something special.
End (to be followed by an epilogue)