It's half past one in the morning. I've got a headache. But: there is a chapter :)

Not proofread - I'm apologize for my grammar. It's longer than I usually write but I enjoyed it. There will be another part, I've decided - I didn't want it to get too long, y'know, because I like to keep people waiting. Hope you enoy!

Also, happy 2017! Almost forgot it, lol.

It had been a long, long day.

Chief Beifong had kept him a few hours longer. To finish a report, she'd said. Just do it, she'd said. I don't feel like doing it, she hadn't said.

It had already been dark when he finally was able to close the office. Having placed the report on Beifong's desk, Mako was finally done, and could finally go home.

Little did he know that his evening wouldn't end there.

When he arrived at home, an envelope was lying on the doormat. He'd almost tripped over it. As he picked up the thick envelope to examine it, a small note fell off. He caught it before it'd fluttered to the ground.

'Be quick with deciding. General Iroh wants an answer within three days.'

His heart skipped a beat.

As he closed the door behind him and stumbled further into the apartment, turning on lights on his way in, he kept his eyes on the envelope. His name was written in red ink. Perfect calligraphy. He threw his keys onto the coffee table. Kept the envelope in his hand as he walked to the kitchen area to make himself coffee.

As he heated up the water, his eyes were on the envelope. As he poured the water into a cup and stirred the CABBAGE CORP INSTANT COFFEE through it, he couldn't keep his gaze of the envelope. The red ink seemed to be calling him.

He walked towards the seating area, placed his coffee on the table, and sat down. Then he opened it.

There was a thick packet of paper inside. At least four pages of good quality paper. He pried it out of the envelope and folded it open, immediately greeted by the symbols. Eyes tired of reading them over and over again at the office, they danced across the paper.

They were written neatly, pressed onto the fibres with a typewriter. Tight, black rows of words. The content was official.

It was a contract, Mako noticed.

He had no last name. Most people didn't. They'd had the chance, though. For not too much money people were able to create a last name. Bolin had suggested they'd make it fire or ferret or maybe even both but no, Mako had countered that. No way they'd be named the same as their pro-bending group.

And so, the greeting read 'Dear sir Mako,'.

It would've been funny, if his heart hadn't been racing at the speed of light for what was to come.

He read the thing through. The insignia of the United Nations was just above the space for the signatures and it seemed to pierce his soul.

Mako swallowed and closed his eyes briefly, before rereading the letter. The message was clear: General Iroh, the Crown Prince of the Fire Nation, wanted him to join the army. His signature, wide and elaborate, was written on the bottom left of the paper. On the right, there was space for his.

Three days to make up his mind.

He read the contract again. He reread and reread and reread until his eyes were burning and his head was hurting.

A position in the army.

Hands shaking and fingers trembling, he reached out at the envelope and peeked in to see if there was anything else – and there was. A small, thin piece of paper, folded. He reached in and pulled it out of the envelope. Folding it open, Mako let his eyes fall on the neat handwriting.

'Dear Mako,

This may come to a shock. I'm terribly sorry if I've just given you a heart-attack.

Truth is, I'm very impressed by you, officer. Your bending, your endurance, your sense of leadership – they're all highly developed. I would love to have you join the Forces. I know it's a hard decision. Don't worry, you won't insult me if you refuse. It's a big change, joining the army, so think about it well.

Please contact me as soon as possible with an answer. Though I'll still be here for a while, I need to know quickly, so that if you refuse I have time to find another person.

Awaiting your reply,

Iroh, Crown Prince of the Fire Nation, General of the United Forces.'

Mako blinked. Blinked again. Then-

"MAKO! You won't believe this!"

Bolin burst into their apartment with an excited squeal and slammed the door. Mako almost knocked his cup of coffee to the ground and opened his mouth to yell some kind of angry insult at his little brother, but the earthbender beat him to speaking.

"The Fire Ferrets've been asked to play at the Fire Nation Palace!"

Mako blinked. "What-"

"I know right! I had the same reaction." Bolin goes and sits on the coffee table – right on the contract – and hands Mako the letter. "Read!" he urges his older brother, before grabbing the cup of coffee and slurping it down.

Mako is too tired to protest and quickly scans over the document, eyes resting at the royal insignia at the bottom. A smile tugs at his lips.

"That's great, Bo." He tries to pump as much enthusiasm as possible into the words, and he manages to turn his smile into a grin. "Congratulations."

"Thanks!" Bolin is beaming, eyes sparkling and cheeks dimpled. He slams the empty cup back onto the table, rips the paper from Mako's hands and begins reading it again. "I still can't really believe it. It's like I'm dreaming."

Dreaming. That's a nice way to describe their situation right now – it feels as if the world isn't real. So many opportunities, so much love. It seemed crazy that before avatar Korra tumbled herself into their world four years ago, they were still living above the pro-bending stadium, in their own little circle, struggling to stay out of the underworld of Republic City. He sighed.

"What's wrong, bro?" Mako lifted his gaze to meet Bolin's, who had a concerned look in his eyes. "Is everything alright?"

"Everything's fine, Bo. I'm just… tired." He shot Bolin a small smile. "And you're sitting on my papers."

"Oh." Bolin stood up, sheepishly grinning, and turned to sit next to him on the couch. "What're you working on?"

Mako stared at the bottom of general Iroh's letter.

'Awaiting your reply,

Iroh, Crown Prince of the Fire Nation, General of the United Forces.'

"Is that-" Bolin blinked a few times and leaned a bit closer, "General Iroh's autograph?"

Mako nodded silently.

"Spirits, Mako." Bolin grinned at him. "I know the generals cool and all – but I didn't know you were a fan."

"Shut it, Bo." Mako picked the letter and the contract from the table. "He's asked me something."

"Asked you what?"

Bolin was met by silence.

"Come'n, Mako. Tell me. It can't be that bad." Bolin laughed half-heartedly, getting a bit nervous by his brother's silence.

Mako shot a glance at his brother and observed his face. Slightly worried frown; big, green eyes; upturned nose; small smile. Would it be okay to tell him?

"Well, if you're just gonna keep quiet, don't mind me giving Pabu a bath." Bolin stood up from the sofa and walked towards the kitchen area, no doubt to heat up some water.

Mako redirected his gaze towards the letter. "I'm very impressed by you, officer". General Iroh was impressed by him. By him. Iroh, the guy who took down like fifteen planes on his own, the guy whose grandfather literally saved the world from being transformed into ash, was impressed by Mako.

A smile was tugging at his lips and his heart was racing in his chest.

"Hey Bo," he called out. "How'd you feel if I joined the army?"

Iroh hadn't been expecting anyone.

He was busying himself with endless piles of reports. He didn't hate the job – it had to be done, and if he were to be Fire Lord soon he'd have to it even more – but it was annoying, hard work. His hand ached when he finally would be finished; which he wouldn't, he predicted, as it was almost midnight and he still had more than half to go.

No, he hadn't been expecting anyone. Imagine his surprise when someone knocked on his door.

"Yes?" he asked, a tad-bit suspicious. Usually, none of the marines on the ship bothered him – especially this late at night. Though he highly doubted it was an assassin.

The door opened. "General Iroh, good evening, sir."

It was Mako. The twenty-two year old stood in the doorway, hat nervously clutched in his hand. His hair was carefully brushed into position, very similar to Iroh's, he noted, and his eyes darted around the room.

"Can I come in? Great." He said, before Iroh could say anything. A smile tugged at Iroh's lips – the similarity with that afternoon was stunning.

"Since you're here, I assume you have an answer?" Iroh predicted, putting his pen away. He made the pile of finished papers a little neater and looked questionably at the boy, who nodded slowly.

"Not yet, General."

"Oh?" Iroh raised his eyebrows. "Then why the visit? Because I really need to-"

"Why'd you join the army?" Mako blurted out. He took a seat at the other side of the desk without asking for permission, still clutching his hat. "I mean, you're the Crown Prince, aren't you? Surely you also had other jobs you could've done? More safe jobs?"

Iroh was stunned into a silence. "I suppose," he then said, unblinking, "but I wanted to."

"But why?" Mako leaned forward. He was frowning in confusion. "Why did you join?"

He'd been asked that question just a few times; by his little sister, his mother, and his grandmother. His sister didn't want him to leave, his mother didn't want him to die, and his grandmother was just concerned he was pushed into it by her son. Every time, he answered the same thing: "For myself."

"For yourself?" Mako was more than surprised.

Iroh nodded. He paused for a few seconds. "You drink, Mako?"

He nodded silently, and leaned back into the chair, fiddling with the fabric of the hat. Iroh stood up and opened a cabinet – quickly grabbed a bottle of some sort of rum. "Nothing too strong, please, I still need to get home."

Iroh smiled slightly, snatching two small glasses from the cabinet. "Didn't think you'd be a lightweight," he spoke, popping the bottle open and pouring the liquid into the glasses.

"I'm not," Mako retorted childishly. He accepted the glass Iroh gave him and took a sip, slightly wrinkling his nose.

Iroh sat down. "I needed discipline. I was a spoiled little prince. I realised I couldn't lead a country if I didn't learn to fight for what I wanted, so I joined the army."

"Did your family agree?"

"No," Iroh answered slowly, "no, they didn't. At least, most of them didn't. My grandfather agreed with my, told me to find my own path. We usually agree on such things. And my father promised to watch over me. I was placed in his ship not long after joining." He was tempted to down it in one go, but decided against it, taking a small sip instead.

"Isn't your father Admiral Bumi?"

"Why, yes." Once again, Mako had managed to surprise him. "How'd you know?"

"He talks about you, sometimes." Mako answered. "When he's had too much to drink."

"Figures," Iroh mumbled, and a voice in the back of his head whispered something about hypocrisy. "My parents haven't had a very good relationship since dad let me join the Forces. Did you know my father hasn't even visited the Capital since his retirement, let alone the Fire Nation? I don't even know if they've corresponded through letters."

"Sounds fun."

"I'm not bothered by it," Iroh said, "I'm not bothered by it at all. It's their business, isn't it?"

Mako produced a weak laugh and Iroh smiled. He took a sip, swishing the liquid in his glass around for a bit.

"Haven't you got a family then?"

"I've got a six year old son. I was married." He wiggled the fingers of his right hand. "She cheated on me with my brother. They ran away together, and I haven't spoken or seen either of them since. My sister and mother care for my boy while I'm away."

Mako blinked, before taking a small sip. "You were married?"

Iroh laughed. "That's the second time I'm getting that reaction today. Is it that hard to believe that I'd get married?"

"Yes." Mako answered, a small smile on his face.

Grinning, Iroh put the glass to his lips and took another swig. "I must say," he began, after swallowing, "you're exactly how I expected you'd be."

Mako's eyes widened and he almost choked on the rum. After clearing his throat, he sniffed, and wiped his mouth. "What do you mean?"

An amused smile was playing around Iroh's lips. "We've never really talked, have we? I converse with Asami on a regular basis, though it's more like she rants about whatever is on her mind and I comment on it, I talk with Korra more than often since she likes me to practice with her, and I've even talked with your little brother, Bolin, once. After he stopped hyperventilating, that is, but we talked for about an hour." Iroh paused, cocking his head slightly to the left. "I've never truly spoken with you."

"I was – am, kind of intimidated by you, if I'm being honest." Mako confessed. "You're kind of, well, royal and I'm a- a-"

"A police officer?" Iroh suggested, a very dry tone to his voice.

"-a street rat."

"Wouldn't say that." He looked at Mako, who'd nervously downed his alcohol after he had spoken. "You know, one time, about ten years ago, the ship I was on was situated here in Republic City. It was a little holiday, so to speak. I set off into the city. Somehow I wandered into the backstreets, and got mugged."

Mako's head shot up, eyes widening. He grabbed the bottle and poured himself some more.

"I chased after him. My mugger was a boy, couldn't have been older than twelve. He was skinny and dressed in rags and extremely quick, though I managed to keep up with him. I even managed to make him believe at some point that he'd lost me. I kept shadowing him, even after he'd already spend some of my money on food. I followed him up until he entered a dirty alleyway. I was about to jump him and take my money back, until he called out for his brother. Then I realised, and I stepped away." Iroh eyed Mako, who had his eyes on the floor. "I suppose you know who that was, don't you?"

"Your money provided us with three weeks' worth of food." Mako was still looking at his shoes. "We hadn't eaten for three days straight before that. Well, Bolin hadn't. I'd been giving him my meals."

"I should've done something."

"It wasn't your job."

"But that doesn't mean I couldn't've done something."

Mako smiled weakly and straightened up. "Things worked out, didn't they?"

Iroh was silent and downed his drink.

"Weird turn of conversation, sir." He seemed to push himself to grin. "I came here to have you convince me to join, and here we are, talking about something that happened ten years ago."

"I do hope I have convinced you to join."

"For the most part, yes."

"What do you mean?"

Mako grinned again, for real this time. "I'm am extremely frightened of how chief Beifong is going to react."

Iroh started to laugh; he heard Mako laughing with him. "Aunt Lin indeed isn't what you'd call, a softie. I wish you luck, Officer."

"Aunt Lin?"

"I swear to Agni, Mako, don't tell her I called her that. Please."

Mako's eyes glinted in the yellow light of the lamps. "Only if you break the news to her."

Iroh smiled. "Blackmail, what a way. But hey, you have a deal." They shook hands, Mako grinning widely and Iroh with an amused smile.

"So, how was your youth in the Fire Nation?"


The night progressed quickly, too quickly for either of them to fathom. Suddenly, after hours of talking and memories and sharing experiences, it was the brink of dawn. One bottle had turned into two, and then into three, and the both of them were downing water, already feeling the headache they knew was going to make itself present in a few hours.

"So when do you want me to give her the news?"

Mako was trying to shake the intoxication out of his head. "Ehm, today? Preferably."

"Fine. Do you have the contract with you?" Mako fished paper out of his pocket and presented it to Iroh. The latter raised his eyebrows. "Did you sign it?"

Silently, Mako folded it open and smoothed it out. He held out his hand.

"Are you being serious-"

Mako didn't answer and Iroh sighed, placing a pen in Mako's hand. He signed it quickly. Mako's signature appeared small and unofficial next to his, Iroh noticed, but he didn't say anything and plucked the paper off his desk. "Great," he said, and he shot Mako a smile. "I'll come over this afternoon."

Mako nodded and smiled back. "That sounds good."