Chapter 7;

The Imitation Game

"What do you…" Aang stood up straight and forgot about fighting. A young woman was standing in front of him, just as shocked as he was.

"Who are you and what are you doing in my room?" she demanded.

"I don't know what I'm doing here. Someone just brought me to this room when they got me out of the ship and – who are you?" Aang was completely puzzled.

"So you're the Avatar! Figures. I guess it's not your fault you got put in here, but since I don't know who's fault it is, I'm gonna blame you," her voice was steady and her face was set and determined, but she acted like she was about to laugh. Aang wasn't sure what was funny about their conversation, but he brushed that doubtful feeling aside and smiled.

"My name is Aang."

"I know," she replied, then with a wink, "This isn't my room – I just work here." A small tray with a sandwich, an apple, and a glass of milk was handed to him and the girl walked away laughing hysterically. This concerned Aang, but he was hungry. So once again, he pushed his feelings of doubt aside and started eating.


Zuko lay on his bed, staring up at the ceiling. He was relieved that the Avatar was all right, but he couldn't get over the fact that the Fire Lord had remarried and no one had told him. "Uncle," Zuko called. The old man walked in with a smile and Zuko stood up. "When did the Fire Lord get married?"

Iroh laughed at his nephew's question and set down his cup of tea. "He never officially got married to this new queen."

Staring bug-eyed at his ancient uncle, Zuko shouted, "What are you talking about? He…"

"They eloped. Almost six years ago, actually. Ozai and one of your mother's sisters left for a remote island off the coast of the Fire Nation. Everyone assumed it was work-related, but your mother knew better. Upon returning to the Fire Nation, people had their suspicions, but Ozai convinced everyone that it wasn't true. Everyone, that is, except Ursa."

This news hit Zuko hard. He wasn't sure how much of Iroh's story was true – he'd been lied to by his uncle before. What made him so sure Iroh wasn't lying again? "When was the kid born?" Zuko was referring to Meeko, whose name he couldn't remember.

"About a month after you left the Fire Nation," Iroh seemed very amused by all of this, but Zuko couldn't see why.

"How could I not have heard about this? I was living under the same roof as him; wouldn't I have known if my own father was getting remarried? And even if I didn't, there's no way he could hide a pregnant queen in the palace. It was a big place, but not that big," Zuko was having trouble believing all of this.

"Your mother did a very good job of protecting you from these kinds of things."


"No! Well, yes, but no. She hid a lot from you, but it was all for your own good. If she'd thought it was better for you to know, someone would've told you."

Zuko sat back down on his bed. "Thank you Uncle. You can go now." Iroh picked up his cup of tea and left the room.


Meeko sat on the middle of his floor. In his tiny hand, he clutched a small toy soldier. A group of the little men lay scattered around him. Normally, Meeko loved these toys. Now, however, all he could think about was how to get out of his room. No matter how hard he tried, people kept shoving him back into the spacious room. All of his toys were practically new, and he had plenty of them. Still, none of them were very entertaining. Meeko had always gotten what he wanted before; why couldn't he go see Zuko? That's what he wanted. And that was what he was going to get.

For the third time that day, Meeko crawled over to the large, heavy door of his room. Standing up slowly, he groped for the cold handle. Just a couple more inches and he would have it…

Someone knocked on the door. Meeko threw himself down and grabbed a stuffed platypus-bear, pretending he'd been playing with it the whole time. His mother walked in, looked around quickly, then smiled down at her little son. "It's time for dinner," her reassuring voice filled the room. A small white hand reached down towards Meeko and grabbed his own gently. The tall woman picked up the young prince and took him off to the dining hall.


Zuko picked at his food. He hadn't wanted to come down to dinner, but his uncle had insisted that it would be ungracious of him to refuse. So there he was; trying to appear grateful and failing miserably. "This is delicious," Iroh's voice rang through the silence.

"Thank you, but you should really thank Lana. She always cooks our meals," the young queen smiled.

Meeko had been staring this entire time at Zuko. Although he was hungry, Zuko wasn't eating, so he wouldn't either.

"Meeko, darling, is something the matter? You're not eating. Are you feeling all right?" the frail woman put a pale hand against her child's forehead. "What are you staring at?"

"Nothing, mommy," he glanced down at his untouched plate of food. "I'm feeling fine."

Zuko looked up for the first time in the meal. For once in his life, he almost felt sorry for Meeko. He made sure he shook that feeling off as soon as it entered his head.

Although he wasn't really hungry, Zuko took one bite of his food. Meeko took one bite. Zuko took a drink of water. Meeko did too. Zuko asked to be excused. Iroh glared. That was the end of the imitation game for a while, though Zuko had a feeling Meeko would also ask to be excused.

Only about two minutes after Zuko got to his room, there was a feeble knock on the door. "Come in."

The door opened very slowly. A small, round face peered into the dark room. "Hello," the little boy whispered.

"Hello," Zuko's voice was a lot deeper and louder, which intimidated the young child.

Both of them waited.

"What do you want?" never had Zuko been a patient person.

"I just wanted to know where you were going," came the pathetic reply.

"I came here," he paused, "Anything else?"

"No," disappointment swallowed Meeko's immature voice and tears sprang into his eyes.

"Then goodnight."

"Goodnight," Meeko sighed before he shied out of the room. Zuko was getting a little tired of baby-sitting.

Later that evening, Zuko couldn't help but wonder if he was over-reacting. Having a little brother could be fun; it would give him something to do. Besides, Meeko was just about the only person he'd ever known who actually looked up to him. Not like there was a good reason for anyone to follow Zuko's example, but he was still flattered nonetheless.

It didn't take Zuko long to figure out all of the bad points of having a younger sibling. Azula was already ten times as good at everything as he'd ever be. He didn't want to put up with another child protégé. Still, Meeko couldn't firebend and he wasn't the brightest. He didn't really want to like Meeko, but he didn't seem to have a choice. Although he hated a lot of his uncle's morals, he couldn't help but consider that Meeko was family…

A/N: It took me FOREVER to finish this friggen chapter. I haven't been keeping up with my fanfics lately (duh). I'm so lazy sometimes…