Title: Two Benders and a Baby: Iroh
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Summary: Iroh catches up to his boy.
Notes: I will take requests when I can think of something to write. That is, if someone wants a sequel or what-have-you, I usually give it serious consideration, but I only write if I can actually get a handle on what I want to do with it. So feel free to request. You might not get it, but if you don't, it's not because I didn't give it a go. This came far too easily, but it also doesn't really . . . I'unno. I don't want to overthink my lighter fare, so I'm not going to write this to death, but it feels not quite right.
Iroh hadn't known what to think when he found Zuko's note. Really, the boy ought to know better than leaving a note that read, "Uncle, I just wound up with (several words crossed out vehemently enough that he simply couldn't read them) a responsibility I can't leave. Don't worry, I'm fine. I'm sorry I didn't listen to you more, Zuko."
Really, what did that even mean?
His contacts within the White Lotus were able to reassure him that they'd seen his nephew, but beyond that, there was very little information. Eventually, however, the most curious rumours made their way to Iroh's ears. First, of his nephew having fallen in with the Avatar's little group, which made Iroh all the more curious as to how his nephew had finally come to a sensible decision on his direction in life. The second set of rumours, that Zuko had become married to the waterbending girl, made Iroh very determined to find his nephew. He needed to know what was going on from the ostrich horse's mouth.
He followed his nephew, tracking the boy all over, only to wind up with the invading force at Ba Sing Se. Sneaking through the encampment, he was finally caught. "So, old friend," said his captor, "What brings you here?"
"Pakku, you never change, do you?" Iroh said with a smile. "As to that, I heard Zuko was here. I have been most worried about my nephew since he left me with nothing but a note, a few months ago."
Pakku got an irritated look on his face. "Your nephew had better watch his step," groused the waterbending master. "If I so much as catch a hint that he's hurt my favourite student, he'll be buried in an iceberg before he can so much as blink."
Iroh's eyes widened, and he couldn't help grinning a little. "So the rumours are true? He has married the girl – what's her name again?"
"Katara," Pakku said, still looking sour. "Kanna's granddaughter is named Katara." His face became even more dour as he added, "And they aren't married yet. Chief Hakoda came storming into the camp yesterday, demanding sages and all sorts of things."
Iroh's eyebrows shot up. "Zuko is getting married? When?"
Pakku made a face. "In an hour," he said. "If it weren't for the child, I suspect Hakoda would have pressured them both to wait, but-"
"Where is he?" demanded Iroh. He had raised Zuko better than that. To get the Water Tribe girl into such a condition, in the middle of a war, when the Avatar needed her, it was appalling.
"The warriors' tents down there," Pakku said, pointing. "But-"
Iroh ignored him and hurried off. Soon enough he heard a familiar voice, young but raspy, saying, "Really Toph? You had to tell her father that? He was happy pretending Sokka hadn't said anything about our . . . personal encounters."
"Not the point," a girl replied. "Just because you and Katara are embarrassed to admit that you're going at it like weasel rabbits doesn't mean you're not. He should know that."
"But telling him I'm the only person Katara would let . . ." his nephew cut himself off. "That was way too far, Toph."
The girl didn't reply to Zuko however. She said, "Who's out there?" and suddenly Iroh was up to his neck in dirt.
His nephew came racing out of the tent, dressed in something that was a vague amalgam of Water Tribe and Earth Kingdom formal clothing, followed by a girl dressed in green and white in bare feet. "Who – Uncle?" his nephew said. "Toph, let him out."
"Your uncle?" said the girl. Immediately she moved her arms and Iroh found himself back on his feet. "The one you keep saying you wanted at the wedding?" She grinned. "That's lucky."
Iroh was surprised when his nephew ignored all the dignity he used to be so concerned with maintaining, and simply threw himself at Iroh, pulling the older man into a hug. "I missed you, Uncle," said the boy.
"I missed you as well," Iroh murmured into his hair. He stood for a moment, simply relieved he had not lost his other son. Then he pulled back, affixing a stern look on his face. "Now what is this I hear about a baby?" he demanded of Zuko. "I thought I had taught you better than to get a young lady into such a delicate condition-"
The girl, Toph, burst into raucous laughter. "Sugar Queen? Delicate?"
Zuko shot her an annoyed look. "He thinks I got Katara pregnant," he said to her irritably.
"Oh, I know," Toph said with a snort. "Doesn't mean the thought of her as being delicate isn't funny."
Iroh felt a sense of relief. As much as he wanted grandchildren, he didn't want them to be born into such a state of crisis as this. "To what, was Pakku referring then, when he mentioned a child?" Iroh asked.
His question was answered by the sound of a burbling baby shrieking, "Dada!"
The Avatar's Water Tribe friend, the boy, had arrived, carrying a baby at arm's length. The reason for it became clear when he got close enough for the smell to reach Iroh's nose. "Take. Her."
Zuko sighed. "You're still not dressed for the wedding. I am. Is there some reason you can't change her?"
"Dada!" shrieked the little girl, reaching for Zuko, who sighed and took her, settling her in his arms with ease.
"If I have to go to my own wedding smelling like Yangchen does right now, I will never forgive you, Sokka."
Iroh raised an eyebrow, suddenly garnering the attention of the baby. Her eyes went wide and she turned to stare at Iroh. He obligingly made a face at her. The little girl grinned, then made a fair approximation of that face back. "What's he doing here?" the boy Sokka asked.
Zuko gritted his teeth. "My uncle is here, I assume, to see me," he replied.
He made a quick decision. "Miss Toph, perhaps you would allow me and my nephew some time to ourselves?" he asked. "Zuko, let me have the young lady." He scooped the baby out of his nephew's arms. "I have had much practice at handling babies, and I am not dressed in finery to be ruined by her."
Toph, it turned out, was able to take hints, and dragged the Water Tribe boy off, leaving Iroh to change the baby and interrogate his nephew. "When was it, over the past three years," Iroh demanded, "That you had time to find a young lady to-"
His nephew sighed voluminously. "I didn't, Uncle. I found Yangchen. Do you remember the Nomad massacre site we ran across a few months ago?"
Iroh nodded. "Yes, what-" he was interrupted by the little girl waving a hand and sending herself flying backwards off the table. His nephew caught her without even blinking.
"How many times do I have to tell you not to do that?" he scolded the girl. "I don't care how much fun you think it is, you won't find it fun the first time no one's able to catch you."
She burbled nonsense at Zuko, and Iroh smiled to see his nephew getting wrapped around her chubby little fingers. "You collected her then?" Iroh asked. "What did you do with her? Why didn't you tell me?"
As he changed the baby, Iroh heard the story of the last several months. When he'd finished his story, Zuko said, "Uncle, I know I don't have the right to ask you, but would you stand in for father at the wedding?"
Blinking away tears of joy, Iroh smiled happily at his nephew. "Oh, Zuko. Of course. I am so proud of you."
A moment later, Yangchen was protesting being squished between the two as they hugged. "Sorry, sweetheart," Zuko said, and plucked her from her newly minted grandfather's arms. "So, let's get you introduced right. Yangchen, this is your great-uncle Iroh." He smiled at Iroh. "Uncle, my . . . I guess, daughter."
Yangchen squinted at Iroh a long moment, then declared, firmly, "Unca!"
"You are a daddy's girl, aren't you?" said the Water Tribe boy who had apparently ignored Toph and come back. "Katara's not going to be happy. She's been trying to get Yangchen to call her Mama for a while."
Iroh plucked the girl from Zuko's hands again, and said, "Well, I am most pleased. Zuko, I will expect many brothers and sisters for this little one the moment the war is over."
"That won't be a problem," Sokka said, sourly. "They're certainly practicing for it enough."
"Sokka!" Zuko exclaimed, sounding scandalised.
"Excellent!" Iroh told them as he swept off to the visibly decorated area the wedding was clearly supposed to take place in. "Then there will be no trouble in getting me my grandbabies."
"Uncle!" wailed Zuko, sounding much like he had at twelve, when someone had upset his supposed dignity.
Iroh ignored him, marching off with the baby. He had a daughter-in-law to meet.
"Wow," he heard Sokka saying. "You weren't kidding about your uncle."
He arrived at the wedding site, and spotted the Water Tribe girl that travelled with the Avatar. "Katara, I presume?" he asked.
"Yes," she said. "What . . ." she seemed to come to a realisation. "You're Zuko's uncle," she said. "I remember you always travelled with him." She smiled at him. "I'm glad you're here. He was pretty unhappy that I'd have my Dad and Sokka and half the Tribe with me for the wedding, and all he'd have is us."
Yangchen chose to speak, "Unca!" she shouted, waving her little arms in the air.
Katara glared at the baby. "That's just . . . I get all chapped feeding you, I have to put up with explaining to everyone, including Pakku, that I wasn't indiscreet because of you, and you can't even call me 'Mama'?" she said to the little girl.
Yangchen just burbled happily and reached for Katara, who sighed and took her from Iroh. "Do not worry," Iroh said with a smile to her, "She will call you mother in time."
"Katara?" said an older man, "It's nearly time."
"Oh, Dad," Katara turned and smiled at the Water Tribesman who'd approached. "This is General Iroh, Zuko's uncle. General, this is my father, Chief Hakoda of the Southern Water Tribe."
Iroh sized up the other man for a moment, as Hakoda did him. "Perhaps, when the wedding is over," Hakoda said to him as they clasped arms, "We can discuss the tactics of our invasion."
Understanding this to be the warrior's way of indicating his acceptance, Iroh nodded. "I would be most pleased." Then he clapped his hands. "Now we must get my nephew and your daughter married," he said eagerly. "I have been waiting for a very long time for Zuko to develop an interest in something other than training," he said. "I must encourage him."
The wedding wasn't the perfect ceremony that months of planning and the full budget of the royal treasury could create, but that didn't matter in the least to Iroh. Zuko had found his way and a family for himself. That was the important thing.
As he sat, cuddling the baby and hogging her from her maternal grandfather, and maternal step-great-grandfather, while the newlyweds danced together, he also admitted to himself that he'd been quite worried he'd never get grandchildren. Trust Zuko to go overboard with getting a wife and child the way he had with his training. Hopefully this meant that when the war was over he'd have half a dozen little water and firebenders to spoil.
"Stop hogging her," Pakku complained. "I need to make sure she has some moderating influence in her life."
Hakoda snorted. "She's my granddaughter. I don't see why I keep losing to you two old men."
The three men argued happily about who should get to hold the baby more, enjoying this joyful respite from everything.