Open Invitation, Chapter 2

Title: Open Invitation
Chapter: 2
Pairing: Broh (Iroh II/Bolin)
Length: ~1,500 words
Summary: Iroh takes great interest in Bolin and pursues it.  Bolin doesn’t know how to handle the attention.
Warnings: Be prepared for Bolin feels.

Previous Chapters: 1

That night, Bolin couldn’t sleep.  When he got back, he decided not to tell Mako and Korra about it after all.  Asami kept checking in on him, but he just told her he was fine and eventually she stopped. 

There was something about it, the meeting, that made Bolin unable to hate it.  He knew it should make him uneasy — the fact that he was a Fire Nation Prince, General of the United Forces and important as all hell.  Bolin was… well, Bolin.  He followed his brother around, screwed up a lot, and made people laugh.  He found that most of his unrest about it, though, was just nerves.

Mako was sleeping beside him, out cold, and Bolin sat up, rustling around in his coat that now doubled as a blanket for the note.  It probably wasn’t the General’s handwriting.  Well-dressed and come alone still turned his cheeks a little pink.  Maybe I shouldn’t have reacted like that… he wondered, then came to him the General’s comment.  Korra already had someone at her side.

Bolin wasn’t over the kiss, not really.  He held out that maybe Korra would choose him once she saw that Mako was staying with Asami, but things were shaken up and Bolin’s avoidance of conflict only proved to distance him from everyone.

Then Iroh came and called him interesting.  It was unsettling praise not because it came from Iroh, but because Bolin simply felt like he was the complete opposite.  Sure, he said funny things, and people found him fun — but interesting was Korra, who was the Avatar and came from way far south.  Interesting was Asami, whose rich father was an Equalist yet she defied him.  Interesting was Mako, who, parent-less and homeless, raised his little brother.

Bolin was a supplement to a story, the backside of a wall.  Not the hero, or the object, or the love interest (Korra made that clear).  But Iroh called him interesting.

“No,” Bolin whispered, tearing the note in half.  Now was not the time for these kinds of sentiments.  Now was war, and Korra needed Bolin to be at the top of his game.  With newfound determination, he laid back down in bed and forced himself to sleep.

The following morning found Bolin holding a second invite, lunchtime this time.  Come alone.  He only read it once, though, before he handed it back to the messenger (“Sorry!  Not your fault!”) and scurried away.

Asami found him later and asked, “Was that message from the General?”

“No,” Bolin answered quickly, glancing around to make sure Korra or Mako couldn’t hear.  “Well I mean yes, but I mean, well, he didn’t write it?”  He grinned, hoping Asami wouldn’t press it, but she just watched him expectantly, one hand on her hip, her eyebrow raised.  “Ah-ha, scary girl look.” 

“What’s going on?”

“He invited me to lunch.”

“And you turned him down?”

Bolin shrugged.  “I’m not interested,” he said, blushing.  “He’s handling Amon stuff without us.  There’s no reason for him to talk to me.”

“Bolin, is he bothering you?” Asami asked, crossing her arms over her chest.  “Tell me, maybe I can help.”

Bolin shook his head.  “It’s fine, Asami.  Thank you, though.  Hey, actually, have you seen Mako?”

“No.  He left with Korra a few hours ago.”

———————————————————

Iroh entered the holding room.  After Bolin rejected his invite for lunch, the General decided to take direct action.  In between meetings and phone calls and important planning for the war, he used the time he set aside for lunch with Bolin to speak with his brother.

“Good afternoon, you two,” he said with a gentleman’s bow.  “Interesting that both of you came.  The two of you seem quite inseparable these days.”

Mako looked to Korra then stepped forward.  “What do you want us for?  You made it clear you don’t want us in your way.”

“You bring up a very valid point, Mako,” the General afforded.  “Have a seat.  The tea is on its way.”

“No offense, but we’d rather not waste our time,” Korra said.  “Is this about Amon or not?”

“It’s about your brother, Mako,” Iroh said, his eyes on the firebender.

“Bolin?  What about him?”  Mako seemed less irritated than concerned, which Iroh found admirable.

“Another good question,” he answered.  “I had him here for dinner last night.”

“What?” Korra asked.  “Why?  He didn’t tell us that…”  As with Mako, Korra’s care seemed genuine, but it was equally misplaced.

“Why wouldn’t I have dinner with an attractive young man?” Iroh asked.

“What?!”  Mako arms tensed and he took another step closer to Iroh. 

“I had invited him here in hope of courting him.”  Silence befell the room.  Korra brought a hand to the side of her face, thoughtful, and Mako let out a long breath through his nose.  “Yes, well, those reactions are very telling,” Iroh commented, taking a seat since the other two were just going to stand there.  “I don’t wish to back down, but it’s clear to me he has interest in Korra.  Since the two of your seem to be… working out so well.”  He waved for the tea.  “I hoped you could clear up that misunderstanding for me.”

“You stay away from him,” Mako said.

Iroh sighed.  “I was hoping you wouldn’t be the over-protective-brother type.  You see, the other thing I wanted was your permission.”

“This is what you’re doing instead of finding Amon?” Korra demanded, incredulous.

“And what of you two?  With your reconnaissance missions, and your exclusive partnership?  I said it was interesting that you came together because I had invited Mako only.  Don’t misunderstand me, Avatar: I find Bolin attractive.  But I don’t intend to mistreat him.  And I certainly don’t intend to ignore him.”  He frowned and crossed his arms, and helped himself to the tray of tea in front of him.  “This is calming.  Perhaps you should try some.”

Mako’s face reddened and he looked away from Korra.  “What’s your aim?” he asked, shamed by the General’s indirect accusations.

“Bolin is my aim.”

“No, I mean, what do you want with him?”

“I want to court him.”

Enraged, Mako grabbed the tea from Iroh’s hand and slammed it on the table.  “Just stay away from him, okay?”

Iroh sat back in the chair and looked up at the teenage boy before him.  Letting out a long breath, he rose slowly so that he was standing over him.  Their eyes locked, Mako’s angry, Iroh’s undecided.

“How boring,” the General said before as he walked away.  “Thank you for your input.”

———————————————————

Bolin looked up when he heard his brother shouting with Korra behind him, apparently trying to calm him.

“What a jerk!” Mako yelled, kicking in a box.  “I can’t believe he’d talk down to us like that!”

“Mako, he hasn’t that bad…”

“Who wasn’t that bad?” Bolin asked.  They both froze when they heard him.  He walked toward them, laughing nervously.  “You’re not talking about me, are you?”

“We’re talking about General Iroh,” Korra said, reaching across her stomach to hold her own wrist.  “Why didn’t you tell us you saw him?”

Bolin’s heart twisted.  “I- I don’t know,” he said quickly, feeling on the spot.  “I tried!  You were arguing, and I don’t know, I just…”

“You’re not seeing him again, are you?” Mako asked, moving toward Bolin to put a hand on his shoulder. 

“I told him no,” Bolin answered.

“Good.”  Mako sighed, apparently relieved.

“Wait, why is that good?” Bolin snapped.  He covered his mouth, unaccustomed to growing angry with his brother. 

“Because he’s a jerk,” Mako explained.  “And he’s a guy.  It’s disgusting.”

Bolin pulled back from Mako’s hand and took a step away.  “It’s not disgusting,” he defended, though he wasn’t sure why.  It wasn’t something he thought about before.  In fact, it hadn’t even occurred to him.  “Why is it disgusting?”

“Come on, Bolin, it doesn’t matter-”

“Yes it does matter!” Bolin shouted, surprised by himself again.  “Why is it disgusting?”  He threw his hands up.  “Is it disgusting because he thinks I’m interesting?  Or is it because you want him too?”  He felt his eyes begin to water.  “Are Avatar Korra and Asami Sato not enough?  You want the General of the United Forces too?”

“Bolin, what are you-?”

“I don’t know,” Bolin said, swallowing more tears.  “Just leave me alone!  And he’s not a jerk!”

Without giving Mako a chance to fight back, Bolin was already running off.  There weren’t very many places to go right now, in the middle of the war where he was in hiding.  He moved without thinking and found himself much, much later in front of the door he’d left last night.  He entered.

“Bolin, Sir.”  It was the same servant as last night.  He looked startled. 

“Where is the General?” he asked.

“In a meeting, Sir.”

Bolin sighed.  “Bring me some wine, good sir.  I’ll be waiting for him until he returns.”