Katara heaved a small sigh as she watched her grandchildren play by the Pai Sho table in the garden. The elder woman had recently agreed to stay on Air Temple Island with Tenzin and his children, helping Pema in any way she could with their new son, Rohan. That day the responsibility of watching the older children while Pema and the baby rested fell on her shoulders; they could be very rowdy and needed constant supervision.
The elder woman leaned her head against her palm as she watched Ikki and Meelo practice their airbending. The young girl was trying to teach her brother how to better control the air scooter technique, but the precarious ball of air would always slip from his grasp, sending blasts of wind in every direction. She had to constantly remind Ikki and Meelo to try not to disturb their sister, Jinora, who was sitting quietly by herself, reading a book. Every now and then a loose breeze from one of her sibblings would make her lose her page, initiating a fit of giggles from Meelo and Ikki, a whine of displeasure from Jinora, and a scold from Katara. Finally Jinora snapped her book shut and walked away, her nose held high in a show of pride and dignity.
Katara felt a soft pang in her chest as the elder sibbling marched away. She reminded her so much of herself when she was young, travelling with the Avatar and her brother, Sokka. Though not the oldest, she tried her best to show that very same pride and dignity in the face of the boy's constant shenanigans. It was always her, Katara, who was the shining pillar that held the team in one piece.
Luckily she was able to pull herself out of her daydream before too much time had passed. She turned her head towards Ikki and Meelo, who immediately went from stifling their giggles to staring at their feet and fidgeting them awkwardly in a show of mock shame.
"I want you to go and apologize to your sister. Right now!" She hadn't meant to raise her voice, but her patience for the young ones had grown thin.
But the two children did not make a move towards their sister. Instead they seemed to be distracted by something happening behind their grandmother. Katara opened her mouth to scold them again when a soft gasp escaped from Ikki's mouth as a hand rest upon her grandmother's shoulder. Katara looked up; above her stood a tall, graying man whose deep smile lines seemed to intensify the grin he wore upon his face when looking at her. Though dulled with time and age, his amber colored eyes still caught the sunlight, causing them to shine like gold, just as they had done in his youth. His long gray hair draped down over his shoulders, tied in a topknot atop his head. But most striking of all was the red and purple colored scar that marred nearly the entire left half of his face, causing his left eye to appear squinty and misshapen.
Katara could not help but mimic the man's smile. "Zuko," she breathed his name in a shuddering whisper. The man's smile deepend as he held out his arms to her, still clutching a cup of tea in one of them. She stood and met his embrace.
"Katara, you're looking as beautiful as ever," he complemented as she pulled away from his hug. The elder woman gave a hoarse chuckle as a flash of pink tickled her cheeks.
"And you're looking more like your uncle than ever," she returned, motioning to his teacup. The former Fire Lord blushed as he lifted the cup to his lips, draining the last of the fragrant jasmine tea.
A sudden high pitch voice broke into the reunion. "Ewww! Old people flirting!" screeched Meelo as he tried to run away on his air scooter. But the ball slipped from beneath him, causing him to land on his rear with a thump. Ikki shrieked after him and followed suit. Katara couldn't help but pinch the bridge of her nose and shake her head slowly from side to side, as if to stave off a migraine.
Zuko chuckled. "What sweet grandchildren you have," he commented.
Katara couldn't help but scoff. "They're a pack of flying lemurs." But even as she spoke the words aloud, her heart melted as she watched little Ikki help her brother up, who quickly flung his arms around his sister in an affectionate embrace before running off with her, giggling as they went. The woman's pale blue eyes began to shimmer with tears. But she quickly wiped them away with the back of her hand before Zuko could notice.
But he had caught her, and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "I remember when mine was that young." He mused as he watched the two children play. Zuko only had one grandson. Iroh, a general of the United Forces. Like his namesake, Iroh was a thoughtful young man. Even as a boy, he gave off an air of seriousness and dignity. Part of it came from being an only child, with hardly anyone else his age to play around with in the Fire Kingdom, but part of it was also due to the fact that he descended from a line of very serious men. Zuko suddenly turned his head; even time and aging could not dull his excellent hearing enough for him to not hear the sound of small footsteps approaching from behind.
"Uncle Zuko!" Cried Jinora as she hugged the tall man's legs. The man gently pat the top of the small girl's head. "I've read about all of your adventures with Grangran and Aang." She bragged, beaming up at the older man.
Zuko raised a thinning gray eyebrow at the girl. "Is that so?" He probed, curious to see what the girl might have read about him.
Jinora stole a cautious glance at her grandmother before continuing. "Is it true that you and Grangran liked eachother?" She asked shyly, a hint of pink blossoming on her pale cheeks.
The two elders anwered at once. Katara stared at Zuko, her eyes asking the question that she was too afraid to ask, her mouth slightly agape. The man held the empty teacup to his lips to hide his smile, but he couldn't hide the flush that reached all the way to the tips of his ears. Jinora stood between them, tapping her two index fingers together awkwardly, trying not to look at either of them.
"Well, thats just what it said in the book! Uh, I think I hear mom calling. Coming mother!" Jinora quickly scampered away, unable to stifle a slight tee-hee as she ran behind a thick bush just within earshot of Katara and Zuko. Ikki and Meelo soon joined her, and the three of them began to spy on the older adults, all the while trying not to giggle or peep. Not that they could fool their wise and observant elders anyway. Even Katara could hear the soft hisses of shhh whenever Meelo or Ikki accidentally made a sound.
But she either decided to ignore them or just didn't feel like bothering. The elder woman placed her hands on her hips while giving Zuko a skeptical look. "Well, what?" She asked.
"I did sort of like you all of those years ago," he said into his teacup, a secretive smile curling across his lips.
"What? A pesant like me?" Katara gave a nervous chuckle as she teased the former Fire Lord.
Zuko stepped a little closer to the Water Tribe woman. "Oh please. Everyone knows that Katara of the Southern Water Tribe was one of the prettiest women in the world." His golden eyes shone warmly as they caught the afternoon sunlight.
"Was one of the prettiest?" She asked, poking him in the ribs with her elbow.
"Ok, still is." He confessed, giving her a quick peck on the cheek.
The children in the bush cried out in unison. "Ewwww!"
Author's notes: Zuko, you gray fox you!
I've had this idea brewing for a few days now. Just wanted to finish off a short bit before I went to work today.
The title might seem sort of weird to you (I know it is to me) Its refers to the phrase "skeletons in the closet", and I guess Zuko finally liberated his own closet of the last one in this bit. Hope you've found it as fun to read as I did to write it!