So I shamelessly neglected this story for years. I can make no apologies, I screwed up. My life changed, and I just stopped wanting to do fanfic and explore my original works. I had no inspiration to write and I got busy with life. I became a lawyer, worked in a foreign country and began a whole new life. But today, on the train, I got an amazing review and decided to give you some form of an ending.
Thank you for all your kind words. This chapter is dedicated to all my readers.
I'm coming home, I'm coming home
Tell the world I'm coming home
Let the rain wash away
All the pain of yesterday
I know my kingdom awaits
And they've forgiven my mistakes
I'm coming home, I'm coming home
Tell the world that I'm coming-Diddy
28 months since the last chapter
They called him "Old Man Jie." He couldn't remember how he got the name, but after three years, it was his name. Or at least the name of the person he had become.
He was a man who had lost everything and now, found comfort working in a tea shop. He served the finest brews for miles, everyone said so. It was the one thing still right in his life.
He could never be happy again, but he enjoyed the quiet of life in this harbor town. He liked walking the beaches alone with his thoughts. He liked the simple meals he purchased in the market. He liked his small and bare apartment, where he could return to sleep and dream of the loved ones gone forever.
He had shut himself from the world. He chatted and flirted with the villagers, but he had closed off his heart. He had lost too much to ever try again.
Still, he couldn't help but envy every father with a son. He would watch and his heart would ache mercilessly. How he would give everything for a moment of such sweetness of filial joy. He would search every face, wondering insanely if one could be his long-lost child.
No. Lu Ten was dead. Ozai had made sure of it, as he had made sure of trying to kill him. At first, Iroh had wanted revenge, but the thought had faded quickly. Let Ozai fight wars, he would retire to a peaceful life. Still, the loss of his son made peace so very elusive.
Today, it was especially painful. He had been shopping in the marketplace when a Water Tribe Warrior came in with his son. Something about the boy made him think of his own son. Perhaps because it was the day of Lu Ten's birthday, a time that always brought him misery.
"I'll carry that for you," the boy said merrily, taking a package. He looked about fifteen, the same age Lu Ten would have been.
"I'm not that old, Shaya," the Tribesman said, ruffling his son's hair. He should buy his son a hair tie, poor thing looked like a sheep-hog with his hair in his face. "You don't need to fuss over me."
The two laughed merrily and Iroh reminded himself this could not be his Lu Ten. First, this was clearly a Water Tribe youth named Shaya with his father.
Second, he remembered his sweet boy, but he knew Lu Ten had been arrogant and spoiled. His little dragon would never have sacrificed his proud dignity to serve others. How fortunate was that tribesman to have such a fine son? "Can I run any errands for you?" Shaya said sweetly.
The tribesman patted his son's head affectionately. "No thanks, pup," he said and handed him a coin. "Go buy yourself a treat. It is your birthday."
Could it be possible? His hands shook as he tried to put the thought out of his head. It was a coincidence and nothing more.
Unfortunately, he had moved so close that he bumped into Shaya. In the surprise, his basket dropped from his hands. "Apologies, sir," Shaya said, his tone polite and humble, further cementing the hopelessness of this well-mannered peasant being his long-lost son. "Allow me to help."
As he bent down to help Shaya, he saw his eyes through the curtain of hair. Now Iroh truly shook with surprise. They were not blue or gray or brown like a normal Water Tribesman. They were golden, a golden that only came from the Fire Nation.
It could have been the child of some poor abused woman, and a soldier who had disgraced himself. But few had eyes that gold, that purely aureate. Shaya didn't even seem to notice and handed the basket back to him. "Have a good day, sir," he said.
"Shaya, come along, we must be going," the tribesman said, looking nervously at him. "We need to get back to the ship." The boy obediently followed, not even looking back. This could be any reason, but he had to try. What did he have to lose but that false hope?
"Leaves from the vine," he began singing and watched the boy freeze in place. Only one boy knew that song and by his reaction, he clearly was responding. "Falling so slow."
The water tribesman looked panicked. "Shaya, come," he said, grabbing the boy's hand. "Back to the ship now."
Iroh hobbled over. "Please…may I speak to you alone…" he begged, his voice choked with sobs. "Lulu…"
"I don't know who Lulu is, but this is my son and we need to be going," the tribesman said, but the boy refused to move. "Shaya, now."
"Father?" Lu Ten said, his eyes raised to him. Iroh only had a second to glance at his son, before Lu Ten launched himself into his arms. Iroh held his son close, drinking in the sight and smell and feel of his baby boy, who had grown into such a fine person. He let out a breath of pain he had been holding for two years. "Father."
Iroh stroked his hair. "My son," he whispered, before turning to the tribesman who was looking shocked. "We better talk in private."
"Yes…I think it's best," the tribesman said, looking nervous. "Please, return to our ship. We have much to discuss."
"Hakoda adopted us, and we've lived here ever since," Lu Ten explained, nestled in his father's arm. "Aunt Kya and Uncle Hakoda are amazing. Kya is a great cook, her seal blubber stew is amazing. Zuko and Sokka and Katara are the three terrors of the village, always getting into trouble. The six of us, we' have so much fun penguin sledding. Oh, and cousin Shinta taught me how to hunt. I killed two elephant walruses, all on my own. I even received my ice dodging mark, the mark of the wise. I have to tell you all about the new friend we made last month. It was incredible."
Iroh stroked his son's hair. "I never thought I would see you again," he said. "When Ozai tried to have me assassinated, I let him believe he succeeded. I gave up hope. But to have you and Zuko alive?"
"We're very alive. Hakoda says we're just full of fire," Lu Ten said, laughing. He was chatting like a young boy, and Iroh could see his joy. "Right, Uncle 'koda?"
Hakoda cleared his throat. "I think we have some matters to discuss," he said.
Iroh bowed his head. "I owe everything to you, Master Hakoda. You have restored me to life. You showed mercy snd honor beyond any man I have ever known, to take in your enemy's children and teach them with such kindness and love," he said. "To return to me my son and nephew, I am in your debt for life."
Hakoda frowned. "It was my honor, General. However, I have kept them safe for three years and they are my responsibility. I fear that if they remain with you, you will be discovered. Separated, no one will piece it together but…your brother won't let the three of you live."
Lu Ten paled, and Iroh braced for a tantrum. "I want to stay with my father with all my heart, but I trust your judgment," he said instead, humbly. His eyes had filled with tears. Was this really his son? How could his spoiled princeling have become such a fine young man? "I know how much is at stake."
"You have raised him well. Of course, I leave him and Zuko to your guardianship," Iroh said. His son and nephew were safer in the South Pole., less chance of being discovered. "But…perhaps you could visit once in a while?" Just knowing the two boys were alive and well would sustain him.
"Yes, could we?" Lu Ten asked, laying his head on Iroh's shoulder. "Just for a few hours a year?"
"It's too far from the North Pole," Hakoda said. "My tribe is relocating to the North for protection. Once there, we won't be able to visit often. It's the safest place for us."
Yes, behind the walls of ice was the safest place for his son to hide. "I understand."
"Well…actually, I have another idea. We don't need a tea shop in the Water Tribe, but we could use a brewmaster. We don't have much but…we would be honored to share it," Hakoda said. "If you're willing to leave, of course."
Iroh smiled. "It would be my honor," he said. "I have always wanted to see the Water Tribe."
"Do you need to go back for anything?" Hakoda asked, clearly relishing the joy on Lu Ten's face.
Iroh shook his head, holding Lu Ten close. "I have everything I need here," he said."So, tell me about this new friend?"
"He's an Airbender named Aang and he has a flying Bison. We found him frozen in the ice, I melted his glacier accidentally while practicing bending with Zuko. We are going to the North Pole to find him a water bending teacher."
"Yes. The Avatar has come back. And he's going to set things right," Lu Ten said. "When we come back to the fleet, you will have to meet him."
An end…and a beginning…
Thank you for everything. Original works are in the process and I hope you discover them as well someday! And I hope this gives closure!