The sound was unfamiliar still, the rub of the chain on his neck noticeable, almost annoying. He could just take them off while he trained, he knew, but that seemed to defy the point. He'd get used to them. He had plenty of time, after all.
“Bolin, could I have a moment?”
In the shower, they were awkward. He had to lift the chain to scrub his neck, and it kept tangling in his fingers as he scrubbed his chest.
He could take them off here, he guessed. Iroh never wore them in the shower, just left them hanging on the hook in the bedroom beside the rest of his uniform.
But Iroh wasn't here.
“It's a silly tradition, among the military. I don't expect you know it, and I understand if you don't want to.”
When he was getting into uniform, he considered them for only a second before he tucked them under his shirt, before putting his jacket and helmet on. They certainly couldn't get in the way like this, tucked snugly against his chest, hanging right over his heart.
He wondered why they made them this length, if that was deliberate.
“Only, I've never asked anyone.”
He found himself playing with them, when he was sitting still. Unconsciously tugging on them or rubbing the two tags together. They were scratched, he saw, as he memorized every one, and wondered how they got there, if that was just the usual wear and tear.
He ran his fingers over the raised characters, until his fingers knew them by heart.
“And it's not like you actually have to wear them, if you don't want to.”
In his lonely bed, he kept stretching out by accident, forgetting he wasn't in his apartment, in the big bed. Which didn't explain why he kept expecting to feel his arm under his fingers, or why he kept waking up to silence, and being puzzled by it. His mind knew he was alone.
His heart still hadn't caught up with the rest of the class.
“I would just find it comforting, if you had them while I'm gone.”
Under the moonlight shining in his window, he traced the characters that made up Iroh's name, nationality, service number, and bending designation for the thousandth time.
Eighty-nine more nights, he counted. Over halfway there.