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Full Circle

Title: Full Circle
Author: iceprincessd
Rating: G
Prompt: Quotes (#3 “This is the way the world ends” – T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”)
Characters/Pairing: Iroh + Lu Ten, Zuko
Warnings: Character death, set during flashback events in Zuko Alone
Summary: After this door slammed shut, he didn’t know if there even was a window to open.
Author's Note: Iroh + Lu Ten claim complete.


He stood with his back to the tree overlooking the ocean. Twenty-one years ago he had stood in the exact same place, the urn in his hands heavy and the scent of his wife’s ashes on the wind. The landscape remained unchanged, and he stared down at the new urn he held, cradled in his arms as if it were an infant. He had scattered his son’s ashes hours ago, but he couldn’t bring himself to let go and walk away just yet. He was keenly aware of the talk behind his back, just as he had been all those years ago. And just as he had been then, he couldn’t bring himself to care what others thought of him. This time, instead of the whispered gossip of how he had shut down after his wife’s death, talk had turned to not only his failure at not capturing Ba Sing Se, but how his disgrace had caused his father to appoint Ozai as the next Fire Lord.

He shut his eyes and turned his head away. He had received the news of his father’s sudden death as soon as he had stepped foot back on his home soil. The trip back home was silent, letting him digest all the new information that had come his way. Kneeling before the curtain of flame, Iroh’s pledge of loyalty to his brother had been accepted and he had been allowed to stay. Iroh thought that it had been generous; Ozai could have easily banished him.

“So, this is the way the world ends,” he murmured to himself, opening his eyes and staring at the urn in his arms. His beloved son was gone, his father as well. He had been stripped of his rank, the title of Prince now going to his nephew. His brother was Fire Lord, and Ursa was nowhere to be found. His countrymen might have believed the story that Ozai gave them as to why he had become the heir to their father’s title, but Iroh didn’t buy it for one second. The complete lack of mourning for both his father and his missing wife told him that something was not right, but Iroh was powerless to do anything about it.

And with his father gone, there was no one to tell him when his period of mourning for his lost son was over. He held the urn closer to his chest, thinking that it was ironic that when Lu Ten first came into the world, Iroh hadn’t wanted anything to do with him. Now, he couldn’t even begin to contemplate how he would go on without him.

“Forgive me, my boy,” he said, tears blurring his vision. “I couldn’t help you.” It wasn’t hard to go back to that day, to the stench of burnt earth and blood from the battlefield. They had gotten close enough that Iroh could practically taste victory; the end of the siege was within his grasp. The day’s battle had been particularly fierce, their lines slowly pushing through the Earth Kingdom’s defenses.

It had been a miracle that he had even found Lu Ten alive. His injuries were so severe – stones bent into arrow points had pierced his armor in so many places, and there had been so much blood – that it was impossible to move him. And even though the light was already fading from his eyes, Lu Ten had still gripped his sword tight in one hand and held his other weakly out to fire on whatever enemy he thought Iroh might have been. Once he had realized that it was his father in front of him, he had reached out, his hand searching for Iroh’s.

There hadn’t even been time to say goodbye. Iroh had shouted for help, his hand cupping Lu Ten’s face, the other gripping his son’s hand tightly, as if the strength of his hold alone would keep him alive. “Everything is going to be all right,” he had assured him, panic creeping into his voice, even as he tried to keep the emotion in check.

Lu Ten had looked up at him and nodded. “I know.” He had squeezed Iroh’s hand once, then his fingers went slack, his breath leaving his body with a gentle sigh and his eyes closing as if he were merely asleep. The soldiers he had shouted for found Iroh holding his son’s body close to him, oblivious of the blood that stained his clothes. He had looked up at them and with a final kiss to his son’s forehead, he had stood up and walked away. If anyone had asked him where he had gone, he wouldn’t have been able to tell them. All he remembered was that one moment he had been at his son’s side and that the next he had been stumbling away from the battlefield. When he finally made his way back, the officers under him had looked at him as if he were insane, but they followed his orders to retreat without question.

“Uncle?” The sound of his nephew’s voice broke Iroh away from his thoughts.

“Yes, Prince Zuko?” It felt strange to call his nephew by his full title, but protocol demanded it.

Zuko stood near the tree, looking lost in his white mourning clothes. “I…” he started, frowning as he tried to find the right words. “I’m sorry about cousin Lu Ten.”

“Thank you.”

“I wanted to thank you for the knife,” Zuko told him haltingly, words tripping over his tongue as if unsure that they were appropriate for the situation. “I really like it.”

“That’s good. Lu Ten…” His fingers ran over the urn. “He thought that you might like it.” His throat tightened and the words came out thicker than he had meant them to. They stood there and looked at the other, not knowing what else to say.

Zuko broke the silence. “My mother is gone.” The boy’s chin quivered, but he didn’t cry.

Iroh looked down at his nephew. He put aside his own grief and saw a child that had just been dealt a great loss and didn’t know exactly how to deal with it. His mind once again went to shut doors and windows that were waiting to be opened. Turning, he gently set his son’s urn down against the roots of the tree, leaving it there with one last touch, his fingers smoothing over the polished surface just like they used to smooth Lu Ten’s hair away from his face as a child. “I’m sorry.”

He had meant to hug his nephew to comfort him, but as Zuko’s tears soaked into the material of Iroh’s tunic, he couldn’t help but wonder if the tight grip the boy had around his neck was meant to comfort him as well. “Come,” he said, leaning back and wiping at his eye with a knuckle. He took a breath and was surprised to find that his chest didn’t feel as heavy as it had been. “Let’s get out of this wind.”

They made their way down the hill, Iroh’s hand on Zuko’s shoulder. At the bottom, Iroh glanced back up at the tree that had witnessed so many moments in his life, first with his wife and then later with his son. He didn’t say goodbye to either of them, because he knew that one day he would see them again.

Until then, he and his nephew would find their way through their grief and eventually move on, but at least they wouldn’t have to do it alone.

End.

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