In retrospect, he probably should have seen it coming. Mako mistaking his question in the quiet silence of their attic apartment. The anger and tension simmering below the surface during their game against the Boarcupines. The way Korra looked without looking while Mako and Asami had their not-so-private moment in the arena ready room. He knows all this, but the knowledge doesn't dissolve the burning in his chest nor the sickening swoop in his stomach. It hurts and he hurts and it's all their fault.
Bolin knows he's not the strong one, has never been the strong one. He has never felt ashamed of his tears, though on occasion he has regretted the hurt they've caused his brother. Mako has sacrificed everything for him. Why couldn't Mako sacrifice this as well? The thought makes him feel small and childish, but those feelings are not enough to quell the bubbling roil of his hurt and anger and jealousy. He should have seen it coming.
The door to the apartment opens and Bolin can smell Asami's perfume and takeout noodles from where he lays on his bed in the loft above. Mako is quiet, alone, and Bolin's heart dives and beats faster all at the same time. Mako had said they'd be fine, they'd get through it, but Bolin can't help but feel the jitteriness in his limbs, the swinging jealousy, every time he looks at his older brother. It is new and different and he hates it.
"Bo, you here?" Mako's voice cuts through the silence. Bolin briefly considers ignoring him, but he's been childish enough already.
"Yeah, up here bro."
"I brought you noodles."
"Yeah?" Bolin pushes himself off the bed and pads to the railing. Looking over, he catches sight of his older brother, takeout bag in hand. Mako's face is neutral and stark, but his eyes are, as always, warm. Bolin sighs. "I'm coming down."
It's awkward and he hates it and he hates Mako and he hates Korra and he hates his pants as he pulls them up. He's never hated before and the thought makes him perversely happy. He runs his fingers through his hair and descends the iron staircase to the tiny kitchen below. Mako hands him the noodles and all that precious hate flows right out of him. They are brothers, after all.
Mako throws himself down on the couch as Bolin tears into his noodles. A lazy hand reaches out to scratch Pabu, who is curled up on the cushion, and the jealousy is pounding in Bolin's ears as he swallows. It's irrational and stupid, but the fire ferret is his and hasn't Mako taken enough already?
"So, you're sticking with Asami," Bolin says, his words dropping between the brothers like acid. Mako's hand stills and his eyes shift to take in his brother, eyebrows raised.
"But you like Korra?" Bolin's heart beats faster and the noodles he had so recently swallowed threaten to choke him. Mako's eyes narrow and his mouth twitches, but he doesn't respond immediately. It's an impossible situation for both of them.
"Yeah," Mako says quietly, after the pause had stretched across several seconds. The burning is back in Bolin's chest and he wonders idly whether this is what being a firebender feels like. He nods once.
"Bolin, I -"
"I said, okay," he says, harsher than maybe he had intended, but sharp and cool nonetheless. "So, the Wolfbats are going to be tough to beat. I think Tahno's got it in for Korra so we're going to have to strategize. Do you have a plan?"
Mako is silent for a moment longer, before he sighs and answers. The rest of the evening is spent discussing the upcoming match and by the time Bolin makes his way back upstairs, the knot in his chest has cooled somewhat. He dreams of earthbending and fire. Laughter and hate. Korra in a white dress, looking beautiful and strong and kissing his brother. His pillow is wet in the morning and he wonders if this is what it feels like to be a waterbender.