Hello everyone! For those of you who follow my other stories, I swear this is the last new one! This will be my tenth ongoing story in my Baby Universe as it has been so aptly named.
For anyone that has not read my other works, welcome! I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I did writing it! I tried to follow the timeline as accurately as possible but since no one knows Lu Ten's age, I had to just make a rough guess.
Note: This is set just after Iroh went off to lay siege to Ba Sing Se.
Ursa smiled encouragingly at the pained woman in front of her. "You are doing wonderfully, Meilin. The baby is almost out."
Meilin looked wearily up at Ursa. Her black hair was plastered to her forehead and her normally light amber eyes were darkened with pain. "Promise me you'll take care of my baby until Lu Ten comes back."
Ursa held Meilin's hand tightly in hers. "I will. I promise. What do you want to name your baby?"
Meilin screamed as the midwife ordered her to push again. "If it's a boy, name him Li. If it's a girl, name her Lan."
As the midwife wrapped the crying baby in a towel, Ursa felt Meilin's hand go limp. She looked sadly at Meilin's pale face. She took the baby from the midwife and cooed to the wailing child. "Shhh…don't cry little Lan."
A young Zuko stood on his tiptoes to better see the small child in his mother's arms. "What happened to Cousin Meilin?"
Ursa shook her head. "I'm afraid she didn't make it, Zuko. I'm going to take care of Lan until her father gets back." She smiled weakly at her son. "Will you hold your baby cousin while I go speak with your grandfather?"
Zuko carefully took the small bundle into his arms. He tilted his head to the side as his amber eyes connected with Lan's. He grinned at her. "Hi Cousin Lan. I'm your cousin, Zuko. My mom is gonna take care of you so you'll be more like my little sister than my cousin. Well, at least until your dad gets back. Then he'll take care of you and you'll be my cousin again."
"You know she can't understand a word you're saying." Azula sauntered over. She frowned down at Lan. "She's nothing special. I was a cuter baby than her."
Lan began crying as soon as Azula's face came into her view.
Zuko held Lan tighter to him. "Stop it! You're scaring her."
"My goodness what is going on out here?" Ursa came back into the room. She gently took Lan from Zuko and cooed to her. "Your grandfather wants to meet you." She smiled at her two children and motioned for them to follow her. She led the children into the Fire Lord's throne room where Ozai was already kneeling before Azulon.
Azulon smiled when Ursa entered. "Let me see my great-granddaughter." He held his arms out and took Lan from Ursa. "Hello there, Little One. My, you have your father's eyes. You'll be an excellent fire bender, just like him."
Lan tilted her head to the side. What strange people these were. She liked this one though. He seemed nice enough. Sad, but nice. The little boy that had been talking to her earlier was her favorite so far. He had a really pretty smile. He would be her favorite person, she decided. The lady that had been holding her had been really nice too. Was that her mother? No. Her voice was different. Then, where was her mother? She wanted to see her. She began to cry.
Ursa took Lan back for Azulon. "I'll go feed her. She must be hungry by now."
Zuko stood up, bowed deeply to his grandfather, and scampered after his mother. "Can I help, Mother?"
Lan stopped crying when she heard Zuko's voice. She couldn't remember what his name was. She was certain the nice lady had said it before.
Ursa smiled at Zuko. "Of course, Zuko."
Zuko. Lan smiled. That was her favorite person's name. Zuko. As soon as she could speak, that would be her first word.
As Ursa sat down, Zuko was beside her in an instant. He watched carefully as his mother fed the tiny baby a bottle of milk. "I wanna try!"
Ursa hesitated before moving out of the chair and motioning Zuko to sit down. "Be very careful with her, Zuko."
"I will!" Zuko grinned excitedly as he held Lan in his arms and fed her the bottle. "I can't wait for you to meet your daddy and your grandpa. Your grandpa is my uncle. His name is Iroh. You'll like him. He's funny."
Lan happily slurped down the milk being offered to her. The way Zuko was talking, she couldn't wait to meet her father and grandfather. If they were as amazing as Zuko made them out to be, she was sure she would love them just as much as she did Zuko.
"Mom! Look at Lan!" Zuko crouched on his knees in the garden, his arms extended. "Come on, Lan. Show Mom."
A now one year old Lan sat a few feet away from Zuko. She tilted her head to the side before placing her hands in front of herself and slowly pulling herself to her feet. On shaky legs, she slowly made her way over to the awaiting prince. She beamed proudly up at Zuko when she finally reached him. "'Uko!"
Ursa smiled as she knelt beside the two. "That's wonderful, Lan." She smoothed the baby's wild hair down. "I think it's time for a bath young lady."
"Mama!" Lan said happily as she allowed Ursa to take her from Zuko.
Ursa sighed sadly. "Zuko, it's time for you and Azula's lessons. Get inside." She ushered her two children back into the palace before making her way towards Lan's bedroom. She didn't get very far before a messenger ran up to her. "What is it?" She asked as the messenger held a letter out to her. She adjusted Lan into one arm so she could read the note. Her eyes widened. "Oh no…"
Lan shifted in Ursa's arms. "Mama?"
"Thank you." She said softly to the messenger. She hurried away from Lan's room and made her way to the library where Zuko and Azula were having their lessons. She motioned the tutor out of the room. "Children…" she looked sadly at her son and daughter. "your cousin, Lu Ten, is dead."
While Azula remained indifferent, Zuko's face showed alarm. "What!? But…what about Lan? What's going to happen to her? Is Uncle Iroh okay?"
"Iroh will be returning shortly. Zuko, will you please watch Lan. I must go speak to the Fire Lord and your father." Ursa handed the confused child over to Zuko before leaving.
Zuko looked sadly down at Lan. "I'm sorry, Lan. You aren't going to get to meet your dad. He was really nice. You would've liked him."
Azula scoffed. "I can't believe Uncle is coming back. He should've stayed and finished his job."
"His son just died, Azula!" Zuko shouted angrily.
"So what?" She glared at Lan, whom was glaring at her. "Stop looking at me like that! It's not like you can understand me."
Lan pointed an accusing finger at Azula. "Meanie!"
Azula opened her mouth to retort before rolling her eyes. "I'm not going to lower myself to arguing with a baby." She stomped out of the library.
"'Uko?" Lan asked softly when she saw how sad he looked.
"Don't worry, Lan." Zuko grinned at her. "Even though your mom and dad are gone, I'll take care of you. I won't let anyone hurt you."
"Welcome back, Iroh." Ursa greeted with a sad smile.
Iroh inclined his head but said nothing. "May I see her?" He asked quietly.
Ursa led Iroh to Zuko's room where the two found Zuko trying to teach Lan how to play checkers. The child seemed more interested in eating the pieces than learning to play. The two looked up when they felt eyes on them.
Lan watched cautiously as Iroh approached her. Was this the man Zuko always talked about? What had he said his name was? This couldn't be the man though. Zuko always described him as being cheerful, with a smile on his face. The man kneeling beside her looked sad, as though he would cry at any moment. "'Roh?" She asked.
Zuko grinned at the astonished look on Iroh's face. "I told her about you, Uncle."
Iroh looked back at the small girl watching him with curious amber eyes. A smile broke onto his face as he scooped Lan up. "Yes," he said with joy in his voice. "I'm your Grandpa Iroh."
"She's coming with us?" Zuko asked incredulously. It was nighttime as he prepared to depart for his exile. How foolish he had been to challenge his father. He now had the scar to forever remind him of this.
Iroh grinned as he held his three year old granddaughter's hand in his. "Of course. I am her legal guardian. I can't possibly leave her. Besides, she wants to go with you."
Zuko glared down at Lan. "You need to stay here."
Lan shook her head, strands of black hair falling from her pigtails. "No! I'm going with Zuko and Grandpa!"
"No you aren't!"
"YES!" She shouted, stomping her foot for emphasis.
Iroh chuckled. "I don't think you'll be winning this argument, Zuko."
Zuko huffed in annoyance before kneeling down to Lan's level. "Listen, I'm not coming home for a long time. I'm going to be on this boat. You won't get to see the Fire Nation for a long time if you come with me."
Lan's grin matched her grandfather's. "That's okay. I wanna go with Zuko." She rushed forward suddenly, wrapping her tiny arms around Zuko's neck and hugging him tightly. "I love Zuko!"
Zuko looked helplessly at his uncle, finding only amusement in his uncle's eyes. With a sigh of resignation, he stood up with Lan in his arms. He glared half-heartedly at the child. "I don't want to hear any complaining if you get seasick."
Lan's eyes lit up. "I won't! I love you!"
Zuko carried Lan onto the ship, Iroh close behind them. The crew was already waiting to depart. Zuko continued to hold Lan as they watched the Fire Nation grow smaller and smaller as they went farther out to sea.
Lan frowned when she saw the sadness and longing in Zuko's eyes. She wrapped her tiny arms back around his neck and kissed his cheek. She couldn't convey her feelings in words but she hoped Zuko understood them. The smile he gave her said he did.
Don't be sad. No matter what, I'll take care of you.
Hmmm…can't tell if that was an abrupt ending or not. Sorry if it just kind of hopped around a lot. I just wanted to use this chapter to give a very brief glimpse at Lan's past. As the story progresses, gaps will be filled in and all. Please review and let me know your thoughts!