Okay so I'm rewriting history. When Aang found out that he was the Avatar he DID NOT run away. When the Southern Air Temple was attacked he went into the Avatar state, and destroyed the Fire Nation soldiers. He then went on to defend the rest of the Air Temples, and finally to defeat Fire Lord Sozin. Without his father's bad influence, Azulon grew up to be a kind and benevolent Fire Lord. As Fire Lord Azulon got older, Iroh realized that he didn't want to be Fire Lord. He gave up his claim to the throne to open his teashop in Ba Sing Se. His son Lu Ten decided to remain in the Fire Nation, but he did not want to be Fire Lord either. He devoted his life to helping his cousin Zuko become the best crown prince he could. Ozai became Fire Lord when Azulon died, and his reign has been blessed.
Without the constant raids, the Southern Water Tribe remained a splendid civilization. That meant however that they kept all of their old traditions. Katara has only been taught to use her water bending to heal, and now that she has reached sixteen her father is trying to marry her off. Sokka helps her escape, and now she is alone trying to make a life for herself in Ba Sing Se.
"Get out! You dirty little thief! I never want to see you around here again!" Katara stumbled as Old Lady Jin shoved her out of the tavern.
She hadn't stolen anything! Someone had put those things in her bag, but no one had believed her. She took one last look at the tavern that had given her her only means of survival. Old Lady Jin, the landlady was glaring at her from the doorway, and behind her was Judy. Judy was wearing a smug smile. She had done this! Katara knew that Judy didn't like her, but was she really that petty?
Yes, that self-satisfied smirk said, yes she was.
Iroh was down in the Lower Ring to meet a new tea supplier. He tried to buy his tea from men and women who really needed the money, so once a week he came down from his Upper Ring teashop, to buy from those in the Lower Ring who were struggling to get by.
As he walked away from the run down stall, carrying a crate of tea, Iroh was almost knocked over. Instinctively he reached out and grabbed the girl who had bumped into him.
"Please let me go! They're right behind me!" she screamed.
Iroh was concerned. She looked genuinely terrified. "Who's chasing you, my dear?"
"I didn't do anything wrong! I was just looking for a place to sleep! I didn't know I was trespassing!"
"Of course not, dear. Here, put on my hat, and hold this crate. You'll look like any other shop assistant. No one will pay any attention to you."
The girl pulled the wide-brimmed hat down to hid her face, and silently accepted the crate of tea. After checking that he could not see her face, Iroh said, "Good. Now just follow me and act natural."
Iroh led the girl through the maze of streets and alleys, until they reached the train station. Before the girl could protest, he had whisked her onto a train that would take them out of the Lower Ring. She was silent for the whole ride, but Iroh could tell that she was not happy. She obviously was used to doing things on her own, and did not take kindly to accepting help from a total stranger. When the train reached the Upper Ring, Iroh got up and gestured to the girl to follow him. She didn't move.
"Thank you for your help, but I don't need any more charity." She said charity as if it was the blackest curse she could think of. "I'll just catch the next train back to the Lower Ring."
"Suit yourself," Iroh said with a shrug, "but are you really going to make an old man carry that heavy box of tea all by himself?"
"You're hardly a feeble old man, but I guess not," she grumbled, following him from the station.
Iroh led the way through the broad streets. He subtly kept an eye on the girl, making sure she didn't get lost. As the passed posh businesses, and even more lavish houses, he could tell that she felt out of place. He hoped that those feelings would soon pass. He wanted to help this girl who reminded him so much of his son; kind and caring, but fiercely independent. Iroh sighed. It had been a while since he'd seen his son.
"Here we are!" Iroh brushed his sad thoughts aside when he saw his teashop come into view. He unlocked the door and he and the girl went inside. He sat down heavily at one of the tables. "Just put that crate behind the counter, and come have a seat."
She put the crate where he asked, but started walking towards the door. "Thanks for your help, but I'd better just be going."
"Well, you could do that, but you forget, I could turn you in," Iroh called out casually. "You have a choice. Sit and hear my proposition, or leave, and risk getting caught."
She paused for a moment before sitting down angrily. "Fine what do you want?"
"I want to make you an offer. Since my son went back to living with his aunt and uncle in the fire nation last year, I haven't had any help around this place. I would like to hire you as my assistant. You would have a place to stay and be able to learn to brew tea better than anyone in all four nations, and I wouldn't have to pick up shipments myself or run around waiting tables. What do you say?"
Her scowl deepened, and she said icily, "I don't want your charity."
"Oh no! You misunderstand me," Iroh assured her. "I am not offering charity, just a job. You will work for me, in exchange for a room over the shop, and a weekly wage. But just like any job, if you do not perform well you will be fired. I would really like if you would take the job so I don't have to interview a bunch of people. You'd be saving me a lot of time, and a major headache."
"If I agree to take the job, will you cut the crap and just be honest with me?"
"Of course!" Iroh was delighted that she was going to take the job.
The girl sat down with a huff. "So give me the real reason you want me to work here."
"You remind me of my son. I really haven't seen him in a year, and you remind me of him so much that I just had to at least offer to help you," Iroh said with a smile. "So what's your name?"
"Tara." She said simply.
"Well I'm Iroh. But you can call me uncle."
"Alright Uncle, what do you need me to do first?"