|help_pakistan fic: "Where the Heart Is" - Zuko, Katara, Iroh, Others - PG
||[Oct. 18th, 2010|09:43 pm]
Title: Where the Heart Is
Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Characters: Zuko, Katara, Iroh, Others
Notes: This is fairly overdue by now; happiestwhen, you have my most profuse apologies! I have trouble raising the energy to write in this fandom anymore, although I managed to look over my previous (and only, till now) two pieces and borrowed some fire. Therefore, this piece is set in the same universe as All Roads Lead to Ba Sing Se and Subtle. It technically falls during the timeline of All Roads Lead to Ba Sing Se, as I'm expanding on an event that's mentioned only briefly. Reading it will therefore be somewhat essential to understanding one or two instances of who's who (i.e. OCs) and what's what (i.e. almost ten years have passed since canon) here.
Summary: Sometimes, searches end where they begin.
In Kya's absence, the palace seemed empty. The tiny, hot whirlwinds that she'd taken to setting loose in her mischievous, budding-bender's enthusiasm had all gone out. For this small mercy, the servants and the night-watch were grateful.
The Fire Lord was not.
"She'll hurt herself," Zuko said, fussing at one of his game-pieces without actually making a move. He had the annoying tendency to stall for as long as possible.
"Aang will make sure she doesn't," Katara reassured him, and then reconsidered the statement. "No, let me rephrase that: Toph will make sure she doesn't."
"If she doesn't tip over face-first," Zuko muttered under his breath.
Katara threw one of his pieces that she'd captured back at him.
"Be nice. Look, if you're that worried, let's leave for Omashu in the morning."
"No," Zuko sighed. "She needs the time away from home, needs to assert her independence. I remember what that's like. Important. Character-building."
Katara covered his hand, ever mindful that his own exile hadn't been by choice.
"We could shadow one of the squadrons searching for your mother. That way, we'd at least have protection. June can escort us to wherever the closest one is camped."
Beneath Katara's fingers, Zuko's tapped the board in irritated rhythm for a few moments before stilling, turning upward to lace with hers. "No," he said. "My heart couldn't take it, not right now. We'll leave for Ba Sing Se in the morning."
Katara grinned. Of all Zuko's bizarre relations, she was fondest of Iroh.
In Smellerbee's absence, the Jasmine Dragon was understaffed. The dear girl had been elated to hear news of a cousin who had survived the war, so she'd set out at once for the place that she'd once called home. Longshot had knelt and kissed her, asked her not to stay away too long. He'd packed her some rice-cakes for the road.
"Of course not," she'd whispered, and kissed him back.
Being a sensible proprietor, Iroh wasn't the sort to advertize when he required help.
He knew a keen eye and a steady pair of hands when he saw them, and, three days after Smellerbee's departure, he did. The woman was slender, almost frail, but by no means bent by her years. To Iroh's mind, she was younger than she looked: a face deeply lined, perhaps, but her eyes were fierce and clear. She'd been a victim of the plague, no doubt, with her hair veiled and all but her forehead, eyes, and the stately bridge of her nose covered in dull rose-colored silk. She ordered the house blend.
And her voice, her voice.
No small thanks to it—to her—business picked up again in no time. She was stern and gentle by turns, depending on what the clientele required. She handled young children and drunken rascals with equal grace, one thing that couldn't be said for Smellerbee. Iroh was certain they'd have made a fine team when the girl returned, if only...
Oh, if only she'd stay.
The royal entourage turned up a week later, bearing gifts and letters from home.
"These are from Azula," said Zuko, handing over a sizeable bundle.
"She'll make a fine writer one day," Iroh said. "All this practice she's getting!"
"Kya blended some tea for you," Katara sighed. "But she brewed and drank it all."
"As well she should have," replied Iroh, leading the Fire Lady inside. Zuko brought up the rear, fuming quietly; manners were something he still neglected from time to time. "There are some people I'd like you to meet," he said.
Longshot bowed, too terrified to speak, but Katara took him by the hand.
Tearfully, Ursa smiled at her son, beckoning him home to her arms.