Title: North
Author: amanda91
Rating: K
Words: 422
Genre: Gen
Chars: Zuko and Iroh
Summary: En route to the Northern Air Temple, Iroh finds a way to cheer Zuko up.

EDIT: It won first place! Spiffy banner on my LJ.


"Prince Zuko, you must see this."

"I don't want to."

Zuko heard a sigh and slow footsteps as his uncle crossed the room to where he lay, staring blankly at the ceiling with his uncovered eye. A warm, heavy hand rested on his shoulder. Uncle was tired—Zuko could hear it in his voice. He was tired because Zuko was exhausted yet sleepless and numb yet suffering, and because of all that had happened in the past three weeks.

"A bit of fresh air will do you good, my nephew. Just for a few minutes."

Zuko relented, but shrugged off Iroh's help to sit and then to stand, then reeled with dizziness so that he had to resort to leaning on him to keep from falling over. Uncle guided him to the door and tucked a rough boat cloak around his thin, hunched shoulders, citing the cold and wind out on the deck. Very carefully, they made their way outside into the clear Northern night.

The prince's eye widened. The black sky was illuminated with sheets of color, green and red and yellow with wisps of blue and purple, that shifted and danced almost like fire. But he'd never seen anything like it, no fire or trickery that could even compare to what he saw now.

"What is it?" he asked, wonder entering his voice against his will.

"It is the celestial lights, one of the great mysteries of the North," Iroh replied. "The Water Tribes believe that it is caused by dancing spirits. Others believe it comes from an ancient fox spirit throwing snow into the sky with his tail…"

"Which is true?"

"I don't know, my nephew. Both, maybe? Or neither."

Both of them were silent for a few moments. Suddenly overwhelmed by dizziness, Zuko shuddered and lowered his gaze. He squeezed his eye shut and willed himself to stay standing. Iroh held his gaunt frame closer, and he didn't pull away.

Once the spell had passed, he looked back at the old general. "Uncle? Where do you think it comes from?"

"I'm not entirely sure. Maybe the spirits send it. Perhaps it is a trick of the light…" He sighed, this time sounding almost wistful rather than weary. "But it always reminds me of the purest, most beautiful firebending… firebending harmony."

They fell silent again, just watching the lights ebb and flow, shifting and changing in the heavens. Zuko took a deep, shivering breath and closed his eye.

"I'm tired."

"I know. Let's get you inside where it's warm."