Avatar doth not belongeth to me.
Raising a good son was hard enough. Lu Ten, despite his mistakes and flaws is a good son to Iroh.
Raising a nephew who's broken, battered, and dumped by his own father was another thing. It wasn't as if he could control the way Ozai raised his children. They lived in different castle quarters and he was about seven years older than Ozai. It was not as if they bonded much during their childhood. When he was drinking rice wine, Ozai still suckled his nursemaid's milk.
He snipped another leaf.
If he were Zuko and Azula's father, he might have been able to make the family much happier.
He used to sneak Lu Ten to get iced treats from the waterbender prisoners. Lu Ten was raised to be kind to everybody, even to his own enemy. Iroh's logic was what could happen now might be different in the future. Lu Ten wasn't confined all the time in the castle walls, Lu Ten had commoners as friends. Lu Ten's best friend is the cook's son. Lu Ten's fiance, Xiao Mei was a paraplegic fire bender whose father was a merchant.
Speaking of women...
Did Ozai actually had the eunuchs taught Zuko about courting?
Iroh wondered what exactly happened in Zuko's date. He didn't seem to enjoy it much but he had said "It was nice."
He wishes he knew what happened.
Later on that night, Zuko stepped into a place that looked similar to the teahouse where he was working but decorated more lavishly. The shop sign read "Tin Ha-Ton"
When he came in, he was shocked.
"Hello Cousin Zuzu!"
It was Lu Ten, in the flesh.
He pinched his arms.
"It is a dream.", his cousin confirmed.
"Wh-wha-what are you doing here in my dreams?"
"I can travel from dream to dream. Anyway, I came here to see I am really dissapointed in you.", said Lu Ten bluntly. He looked unimpressed.
"Son of Ozai and Ursa, grandson of Azulon and nephew of Iroh, Dragon of The West couldn't even get any girls after all this three years of puberty?"
Zuko rolled his eyes. Lu Ten may be his favorite family member aside from Iroh, but he is very blunt. Lu Ten was much older than him, and much to his chagrin he adopted Azula's nickname for him. Lu Ten was his first firebending tutor.
"First cousin, I think that is hardly an important issue.", Zuko retorted formally, looking annoyed.
"You are MY cousin!That's an important issue for me!"
Zuko looked non-plussed. "...why?"
"Because Dragon of The West isn't called the Dragon for nothing! He was popular with the ladies as well.", Lu Ten explained, almost hyperventilating. His cousin's cluelessness was exasperating. How can one lived life as a teenager without thinking much about the opposite sex was beyond him. Lu Ten was a ladies' man, and so was his father. And now that Zuko became Iroh's default "son" and he wasn't attracting much attention from the opposite sex...well...that was a shame.
"Look, Cousin Zuko, you've tangled with many attractive females, how come you have not slept with any of them is beyond me."
"Women aren't really much of my priority now.", Zuko answered shortly. A cup of tea magically appeared in his hands. He sipped it.
"Is that why you performed so pathetically with that Jin girl?"
Zuko's tea spilled all over his shirt.
"WHAT!H-..how... that --THAT WASN'T... I...", he protested, blushing madly.
"And lady Jun...whooh, whatta woman.", Lu Ten continued, as he fanned himself. Then his tone changed. "You screwed that one up too."
"SHE WAS JUST A BOUNTY HUNTER!"
"Whatever. Father thinks she was something else.", casually Lu Ten interjected.
Zuko blushed. That was too much information.
"You had a fiance didn't you, First Cousin?", Zuko asked, desparately trying to steer away the conversation somewhere else.
"Yes, but that was after I've had my share of fun!", Lu Ten jabbed back.
"Uncle really misses you, you know.", Zuko tried again.
"I know. Last week was my birthday. He visited me. "
Zuko's face contorted. He totally forgot about Lu Ten's mourning day. He sighed deeply. How Iroh managed to forgive him was beyond his comprehension. He bowed down to Lu Ten.
"Happy belated birthday. I'm sorry I forgot to come."
"It does not matter. I don't age anymore.", Lu Ten was grinning ear to ear. Zuko hadn't lost his honour at all. He was still the same.
"Anyway, you failed with Miss Song. And you stole her ostrich-horse to boot. That was low, too low for you cousin."
Zuko hung his head. Not only he failed to steer away the conversation to something safer, he was brought to a subject he was not comfortable to talk about at all. He wasn't even sure himself why he had done that. Normally he would be far more honorable than that.
Lu Ten could read the guilt on Zuko's face. It was a fluke, and he knew it. He shouldn't have mentioned hte ostrich-horse.
"If I were you I wouldn't want to be with her either. She is too...weak. I can see she couldn't bend either of us." He winked twice and nudged at Zuko.
Zuko murmured "Er...thanks...?" Why oh why does the universe have to hate him so. He had enough shock from living asa Prince to a peasant, and now women? Nobody really gave him a break.
"The only thing I find that is worth mentioning is Lady Katara of the Southern Water Tribe."
Zuko looked at Lu Ten, unimpressed.
"First cousin, all we do is duel.", he told Lu Ten in a completely deadpan way.
"Yes, but you actually interacted with her. You brought back her mother's necklace, you chased her all the way to North Pole and you fought her there. She even asked to heal Father!"
"I chased the Avatar.", Zuko said automatically. "And she might want to kill Uncle anyway."
Lu Ten grinned. "You weren't."
Lu Ten's grin was even bigger. He already saw the future.
"My time here is short. It is almost morning, cousin. Fate has something in store. You will meet with the Avatar again."
Zuko looked slightly interested.
"And when that time comes, try to look around for a lake. It is very close to a Maple-Oak tree."
"Also, Lady Katara has no ill-intention the night when Father was injured."
Zuko blinked. "What do you mean, First Cousin?"
Lu Ten grinned. "You'll see. Send my regards to Father from me!"
"Wait, cousin Lu Ten!"
"What's the matter, Nephew?"
It was back at their simple hut in BaSing Se. The sun was shining brightly and Iroh was preparing breakfast.
Zuko sighed. He spake softly, "I saw Lu Ten."
"...what did he say?"
"He sends his regard to you.", he answered dreamily.
Iroh grinned. "Come on, Nephew. He must have said something more than that."
"Let me guess..."
Up on the heavens above, Ursa scolded Lu Ten.
"Lu Ten! You're setting him up to see his future wife bathing naked in a lake?That was crass!"
"Aw, come on Auntie Ursa, a little fun wouldn't hurt!"
Ursa rolled her eyes.
In the teashop, Zuko saw Katara walking by the district with the blind girl.
The only thing I find that is worth mentioning is Lady Katara of the Southern Water Tribe.
"Stupid Lu Ten.", he cursed under his breath.