A few years later Iroh returned to Republic City one last time. He was a changed man. When before he had always seemed quite rigid and unapproachable to the people around him, now-a-days his demeanor was much more relaxed. He smiled often and didn't shy away from laughing. His appearance had changed too. He now sported long dark soft locks of hair, when before he kept his hair trimmed according to the army's regulations. His own mother might not have recognized him if it were not for the ever determined look in his dark eyes.
He had travelled the world and seen unimaginable things, both cruel and divine, and had learned where he stood between the two. He had come to realize what love was and how precious it was in a world where nothing was ever certain. He had made friends, lost them because of a mistake he had made, cried over it and moved on. Thoughts of Bolin were never far from his mind, and he had now decided that he was now in a place where he could truly love Bolin in the way he deserved to be loved. So he had made his way to Republic City. It was 8 in the morning, and the streets seemed deserted. Nothing about the town seemed particularly welcoming. It was even a bit chilly, just to make the atmosphere more unwelcoming.
After Iroh had roamed the city center for a while, suddenly one of the doors opened and a large group of children entered the streets. They were followed by their teacher, a young handsome man that Iroh immediately recognized. Iroh froze. Bolin began to usher the children in his direction, so it was too late to hide or turn around. When the children reached Iroh, Bolin shouted from the back: "Now, greet the nice man like we practiced at the orphanage." The children chanted in unison "Good morning!" and waved their hands as they went by. Iroh nodded at them and prepared himself mentally for Bolin. Just as Bolin was about to reach him, however, he heard a shout from behind Bolin. "Hun, don't forget Kia's medicine." A thin tall man with sandy hair and freckles handed Bolin a pouch and leaned in to kiss him. Iroh didn't know how to react but he felt a twinge inside his heart. He suspected that the two had been together for some time as they already seemed quite comfortable with each other and the kiss didn't need to be overly passionate in order to show care to the other person. Bolin soon broke the kiss, thanked his lover for the pouch and briefly greeted Iroh in his turn. He didn't seem to know it was Iroh at all.
As Bolin and the children walked away from Iroh in the direction of a park most likely, Iroh nodded to Bolin's lover who returned the greeting and returned to the orphanage. He appeared to be painting the walls that seemed to be in a desperate need of a repaint. Iroh helped him paint the walls for a while. He gave the other man a fake name and left before Bolin and the children returned. He didn't stop at any cafes or restaurants as he went. The road was his home now.