A/N: This was written for the avatar100, but it is a bit long, and I thought some people here might enjoy it, so I submitted it here.
It's his favorite memory.
He doesn't really know why it's his favorite—it's so simple and yet, so beautiful, that it touches his heart every time he remembers. Every time he thinks of it, he hates his brother just a bit more, yet at the same time, is ever so grateful, for without his brother's hatred and spite for his son, Iroh would never have gotten to know the nephew he loves so dearly.
It begins something like this:
It's possibly the worst time in his life. His son is dead. His wife, a few short weeks later, has killed herself, and he is on the verge of doing the same. The knife in his hand has gone cold, and he's shaking, and he's scared yet oh so determined to take his own life. Do it. He tells himself. Now you'll be with Ri and Yun again. You'll be with your family again. But the steel of the knife is cold, so bitterly cold, and Iroh has never been cold before. It's wrong, the cold, because it's against his nature's element, and that's what makes the steel of the knife hurt so much.
Then, there's a voice.
"Uncle, are you in here?" The voice is so small and gentle and kind that, for a moment, Iroh can't place it. It's fragile and innocent, the opposite of what he is, and importantly, the voice is warm.
"Zuko." He whispers, wondering what his nephew is doing. He does not want the child to see him like this. "Go on, Zuko. Go play with your father and your sister." He says as gently as he can muster. No innocent child should see this, not even his nephew.
The little child does not listen, and instead, comes closer. "Father's busy teaching Zula firestuff." He mumbles. "I was wondering if you wanted to play, Uncle."
"I'm sure your father will play with you soon, Zuko." Iroh says coldly. "Please leave, Zuko." But the child doesn't. He just stays, holding a stuffed dragon that had been given to him by his know dead mother.
"Alright, Uncle." He says quietly, and with the smallest of steps, walks away.
Iroh feels the most sudden pang of guilt. He's alone, he thinks. Zuko is alone. He frowns heavily. Just like me.
He puts the knife down and follows his nephew. "I thought you didn't want to play, Uncle?"
Iroh smiles for the first time in weeks. "I think I just need to be reminded how."
And to Iroh, that play lessonwas the best decisionhe ever made.