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Beach Day

Title: Beach Day
Author: iceprincessd
Rating: G
Prompt: Actions (#2 Laugh)
Characters/Pairing: Iroh + Lu Ten, Zuko, Azula
Warnings: none, pre-show
Summary: Apples never fell far from their trees.
Author’s Note: I probably messed up with the ages, but I’ve put Lu Ten as eleven years older than Zuko and Zuko a year older than Azula here.

Iroh sat back and watched his niece and nephew play in the sand along with his son. Ember Island was always a favorite retreat of his, far away from the palace and its stifling protocol and procedures, especially during the height of summer. There, he would have been trying unsuccessfully to avoid running a finger around the sweaty collar of his shirt to try and get an errant puff of cool air to circulate around his skin. Here, he was able to bask under the shade of an umbrella, sip refreshingly cool drinks, and keep one eye on the children laughing in the surf while keeping the other firmly glued on the pai sho board at his side.

“That gambit won’t work,” he admonished, sliding another of his tiles onto the board. “You should have attacked from the west.”

“Perhaps I’m lulling you into a false sense of security,” Ursa joked, propping her chin on her hands. “One of these days, I’m going to beat you when you least expect it.”

He laughed. “Knowing you, I don’t expect anything less.” His concentration was jerked from the board at the distressed cry coming a few feet away. Both parents looked to their children. Lu Ten was holding a shrieking four-year old Azula away from a smoking pile in the sand.

“She killed it!” Zuko was yelling, running up to his mother, clearly upset. A year older than his sister, Zuko held back the tears that were threatening to spill over his eyes. “I was going to bring it home tonight and she killed it.”

“It was a spider-crab, Father,” Lu Ten explained, Azula still in his arms. His free hand cupped her foot. “She got too close and it pinched her. It was an accident.”

Ursa stood up and inspected her daughter’s foot. “It doesn’t seem to have broken the skin,” she said, reaching out to get Azula from Lu Ten. Azula sniffled and buried her face against her mother’s neck, but Iroh saw the triumphant little smirk she gave Zuko behind their mother’s back. Zuko made a noise as if he were going to protest, but Ursa reached out and took his hand. “Come on, let’s get back to the house and clean your sister up.”

“It wasn’t really an accident,” Lu Ten said when he and Iroh were alone. He sat down next to his father and cleared away the pai sho board for a fresh game.

“Somehow, I didn’t think it had been.” He frowned and glanced at the still burning crab. Thinking back to his own youth, he remembered Ozai taunting the wildlife in the same manner. Sometimes, apples didn’t fall far from their trees.

“I just said it was because I didn’t want to upset Aunt Ursa.” At sixteen, Lu Ten reminded Iroh of a taller version of himself. “And Azula was already screaming; it wouldn’t do if I took Zuko’s side either. She would have just screamed even louder.”

“Diplomatic of you.”

Lu Ten shrugged. “They’re not my children; I don’t really have a say in how they act.” He set out a white lotus tile in the center of the board. “It was the crab’s nature to nip at whatever was provoking it. It probably thought her foot was food.”

Iroh placed another tile. His son was learning; if he wasn’t careful, he’d wind up losing to him. “Still, I can’t help but feel sorry for Zuko.”

“I know.” Lu Ten frowned when his father blocked a move. “That’s why I’m going to make it up to him with something from the markets. It won’t be alive, but I saw some nice carvings of local animals at one of the stalls.”

Iroh looked up at Lu Ten. His son was busy concentrating on the board in front of him, his dark hair falling into his eyes. Reaching out, Iroh tucked the errant strands behind his ear and patted his cheek like he used to when he was younger.

No, apples did not fall far from their trees; Lu Ten was as thoughtful and considerate as his mother had been.

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