He had regretted his decision, Pema’s good cooking sending him in to a comfortable laziness which made him weak to her gentle pleas. “It’s just for one day,” the words repeated in his head as he watched Tenzin and his wife fly away, “You’ll be fine - they love you!” As he headed up the tall steps to where the children would be waiting, he cursed himself for being so biased towards fruit pies…
The sun was beginning to set across the bay and there still was no sign of a sky bison up above. Bolin sighed, but not for the reasons he had thought.
The dreaded day had been filled with playful lemurs, swimming with polarbear dogs, and chasing ferrets; they had built sandcastles and fought pretend pirates and even taught him to how to dance; they cooked noodles and seaweed soup and after their picnic in the sun, they had all fallen asleep under a tree in the garden.
"Hey… Bolin?" The quiet voice stirred him from his thoughts, and he glanced down at the boy snuggled against his chest.
"Can you stay here forever?"
His eyes danced over to the girls nestled beneath his other arm, their faces settled into gentle smiles, Pabu curled up in the youngest’s arms. He felt Naga’s chest rise and fall under his back, her tail slowly swishing beside him in the grass.
Even though he never really had a family beyond that of his brother, he knew what love felt like, and there in that moment, he knew Pema was right.
He moved to stand, lifting the little airbenders up with him so careful not to wake them. He walked to their rooms and placed the girls in their beds, Pabu refusing to leave his new friend. He then pried Meelo’s arms from around his neck and tucked him in, kissing his forehead as would his father, the slightest twinge of sadness in his heart when he heard him say goodnight.
He headed towards his own room across the compound, a smile still lingering on his face, and as he neared his quarters, he remembered Meelo’s question.
"Yeah," he chuckled, sliding the screen door closed behind him, "Why not…"