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Title: Practice
Author: iceprincessd
Rating: G
Prompt: Emotions (#8 Frenzy)
Characters/Pairing: Iroh + Lu Ten, kid!Zuko
Warnings: none, pre-show
Summary: “How did you get so good, cousin?”

Leaning back on the heels of his hands, Lu Ten stretched his legs out in front of him and watched his cousin go through his daily forms.

“Angle your foot out more, you’ll distribute your weight better,” he helpfully offered, watching as Zuko widened his stance and continued assaulting his invisible opponent with a frenzy of sword swings. The boy had taken an interest in swordsmanship and had asked Lu Ten if he could help with some basic moves. Lu Ten hadn’t minded; he had the afternoons free to do what he wished and Zuko was always eager to learn.

Besides, the pond that Zuko liked to practice by was a favorite spot for girls Lu Ten’s age to walk around. He definitely didn’t mind that at all.

Taking his attention from one of the aforementioned girls, he glanced back at his cousin. The wooden sword he had given Zuko to practice with had once belonged to him when he had been his cousin’s age. The blade was smooth with age yet bore several nicks and dents that no amount of sanding would take out. As a boy, Lu Ten hadn’t been exactly cautious with his practice swords, and they bore the marks from his opponents as consequence. That and he learned the hard way that the metal railings lining his home could not be chopped in two with anything made from wood.

“Here,” Lu Ten said, standing up and going to his cousin. “Hold it like this.” He took the blade from Zuko and assumed a stance that came easily to him from years of training.

“Now try to push me off balance,” he said, planting his feet firmly underneath himself. He grinned when Zuko shoved him as hard as he possibly could, putting all his slight weight against Lu Ten’s legs.

“Why aren’t you moving?”

“That’s because I angled my foot out. See?” He tapped his foot against the floor for emphasis. Swinging the sword once, he handed the hilt back to Zuko. “Mountains are not easily moved because they have such a firm grip on the ground.”

“I wish I could be as good as you,” he said, mirroring Lu Ten’s stance.

“You will; it just takes practice.” He reached down and ruffled Zuko’s hair. “I didn’t get to be this fantastic overnight, you know,” he joked. It had taken years and years of him learning from his various tutors and the occasional tip that his father’s friend Piando would give whenever he visited the palace twice a year. Now that he was old enough, he knew that the two men were part of some society or another, but he couldn’t figure out just yet what they were about. There were times that he hated the fact that the doors to his father’s library were so thick.

“You have Uncle to practice with, that’s why you’re so good.”

Lu Ten nodded. He and his father would often spar in the evenings, and Iroh did not believe in pulling any of his punches. Even though there were times that Lu Ten found himself sprawled across the training mat, it was exciting to know that he could go up against the Dragon of the West on a near daily basis.

That’s when he caught the barely concealed note of envy in Zuko’s voice. It wasn’t the fact that Lu Ten practiced with Iroh, it was the fact that Lu Ten practiced with his father that mattered. More often than not, Uncle Ozai could be found inside the war rooms and Grandfather Azulon’s hall of records where the laws of their country were kept more than he could be found with his family. The lack of attention that he gave his son was apparent, especially to one whose father acted in the exact opposite manner.

“And you’ll be good too, because you’ve got me to practice with.” Keeping his hand on Zuko’s shoulder, he gave him an encouraging smile, which Zuko retuned. “Come on, show me what else you’ve got.”

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