Azulon's decision was final, Prince Zuko, son of Prince Ozai and Princess Ursa was scheduled to be executed the next day at the hands of his father. When Ursa heard the news she pleaded with Azulon to change Ozai's punishment to something different and that Zuko was innocent of his father's crimes and didn't deserve to pay. Azulon wouldn't budge on the matter and Ursa realized there wasn't much she could do unless she wanted to risk losing her other child as well. Ursa spent the night in Zuko's room with Zuko, cradling him as she tried to make every last second count.
"Please! I don't want to die!" Zuko pleads to his father and Grandfather once he has realized what's going on, "Shut up, boy!" barks Ozai but Zuko doesn't shut up. "What have I done wrong?" Zuko asks as he sobs, he doesn't care if he looks weak, he's got nothing left to lose. "You've done nothing wrong, your father has and he must be punished." Azulon states matter of factly "I don't want to die… I don't want to die… I don't wanna die." Zuko begs, Azula smirks at seeing her brother suffer already rejoicing at the thought of being an only child while Ursa is in tears. Ursa wants to say something but if she does both Azula and her could die as well.
Azulon looks at Ozai and does a small nod signaling for Ozai to do it. Ozai lights Zuko on fire planning to burn him to death. Azulon looks emotionless while Ursa looks horrified, Zuko is trying his best to use his firebending to protect himself but the flames lick his skin. Zuko's screams can be heard throughout the palace but the staff are well aware of what's happening and know not to interrupt.
Iroh has returned early, he wanted to travel the world after finding out that Lu Ten wasn't in the spirit world but something in his gut told him that he needed to return home. The palace was quiet at first, the staff bowed to him and took care of his things. Then a loud scream can be heard, Iroh worried runs toward where the scream is coming from. The guards try to prevent him from entering the room but Iroh pushes them aside and throws open the door. Iroh is horrified at seeing his younger brother seemingly trying to burn Zuko alive. He instantly rushes over and puts the flames out while shoves Ozai away. He stands protectively in front of Zuko who is a little burnt but seems to be ok. "WHAT ON EARTH DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING OZAI?" Iroh bellows, Iroh is angry, he's more than angry he's furious.
Azulon doesn't interrupt and wants to see how this ends. "Step aside Iroh, I have been ordered to kill Zuko." Iroh refuses to step aside, glaring right at Ozai. "You will not lay a hand on him, Ozai." Iroh says with determination, too focused on saving Zuko to fully pick up what Ozai said. "I won't allow it! You may think your son is worthless but I don't! I care for him! I love him and I will protect him with my life!" He gets into a fighting position ready to attack if Ozai dares try. "What would father think!? When he finds out you tried to kill your own son?" Ozai laughs hysterically "Father was the one that ordered it!" Iroh's eyes widen and he realizes that Azulon has been in this room the whole time.
"HOW COULD YOU!?" Iroh points to Azulon, not caring at that point that he is yelling at his father/Fire Lord. "How could you commend your own grandson to die!?" "He challenged your birthright." Azulon states." "And so you chose to punish an innocent child for his father's crime?" Iroh asks. "Ozai needed to pay, he needed to feel the pain of losing a firstborn son." Azulon explains. Iroh just shakes his head, not bothering to waste more of his time and effort.
Iroh turns to Zuko and kneels so he can get a closer look at his son/nephew. Even though there are burns all over his body they aren't severe enough to scar. "Your burns aren't severe enough to scar but we should still get them treated." Notes Iroh as he leads Zuko out of the room. "I'm fine, really," Zuko says, not wanting to burden his uncle. "Zuko…" Iroh calls out to him in a warning tone that says the discussion wasn't up for debate. Zuko gulps and quickly complies with his uncle having just seen how scary his uncle could be and not wanting to be at the receiving end. Iroh takes a second to glare at both Azulon and Ozai before fully leaving the room.
Iroh leads Zuko down the halls to the infirmary. There is an awkward silence between them until Zuko speaks up, "I'm sorry about Lu Ten, you must be devastated." "I am after I found out about his death I couldn't continue the siege. It made me realize that the war is making everyone suffer. Every day more and more people lose their lives in vain." They arrive and the nurses rush to look at Zuko's burns. After Zuko is all bandaged up Iroh shows him to a bedroom in an area he doesn't recognize. Zuko looks at his uncle confused, Iroh starts explaining his reasons for bringing Zuko here "Zuko, I think it's best if you stay with me for a while at least. I fear you may be endangered if you continue living with Ozai." As much as Zuko wants to argue he can't help but agree, if it wasn't for his uncle his father would have killed him today and if he is willing to try to kill him once who's to say he won't try again. "Ok, uncle, I think I feel much safer with you anyway," Zuko admits. Iroh has some servants go to Zuko's old room to get all his things and bring them to his new room.
Father/uncle said that he should get some sleep, that it has been a long day for him. Zuko lies in his new bed staring at the ceiling. Zuko isn't sure he wants to go back and live with Ozai as for the first time in his life he feels safe. Zuko knows he will miss his mother and isn't sure if he can do this to her. When Zuko does fall asleep it's not a peaceful one like he was hoping, his dreams turn into nightmares of being roasted alive. He wakes up to find himself screaming at the top of his lungs. His uncle throws open the door calling out to him "Zuko? Zuko!? Are you ok? I heard you scream." Uncle looks at him and relaxes a bit seeing that he is physically fine.
He looks at his uncle before croaking out part of his dream. "There was fire everywhere… And everyone just stayed and watched me burn… Azula and dad even laughed… You… You didn't make it in time in my dream." He's sobbing into his uncle's chest when he finishes. "Uncle, please don't leave me alone…" Zuko pleads. "We could sleep together in my room if you'd like that," Iroh suggests. Zuko ponders the idea for a second before responding "I'd like that." Iroh carries his young nephew to his room and tucks him into his bed giving him a nighttime kiss on the forehead before laying down himself.
Iroh is the first to rise, rising with the sun like all firebenders tend to do, the first thing he does after stretching, is look at Zuko who is still sleeping peacefully. Zuko reminds him so much of his own son that he lost it's almost unbearable. Iroh has failed to protect his son, Lu Ten, he refuses to fail his second son/nephew, Zuko. A small voice interrupts his thoughts, "Dad?... I-...I mean uncle" A slight blush appears on Zuko's face after realizing what he said in his groggy state, Iroh chuckles a little and ruffles his hair.
Once they are both ready for the day they head to breakfast, Iroh notices that Zuko's staring off into the distance instead of eating breakfast. "Is something on your mind, my nephew?" Zuko snaps out of his thoughts and looks at his uncle "It's just that… What am I exactly to you?" Iroh tilts his head looking confused "What exactly do you mean?" Zuko looks down as if ashamed at what he said. "Nevermind... It was dumb." Iroh frowns but doesn't push him to answer "eat your breakfast Zuko, you're still a growing boy." he gently reminds Zuko, Zuko obliges after a couple more minutes of thinking.
Iroh enjoyed having his nephew living with him and the longer Zuko stayed the more comfortable he seemed to get. Within a few days, they got into a routine, at sunrise they would get up and get ready for the day then eat breakfast together. After breakfast they went to the palace gardens to go feed the turtle ducks, Iroh would help Zuko with his schooling, then it would be lunchtime, In the afternoon Zuko would practice his swordsmanship with Piandao and practice firebending, they would have afternoon tea, after tea time they usually played Pai Sho till dinner time. At night they would have a few hours of free time to do whatever they pleased before going to bed.
During the weeks of living with his uncle, Zuko felt like he was having the time of his life. Zuko never got this much attention from Ozai and Azula, they were always being mean to him, his mother was the only person that tended to keep him company. Zuko realizes that he hasn't heard from his family for weeks, even though Zuko doesn't really want to go back he's still curious about how they are doing. He hasn't seen Azulon, Ozai, Azula, or mother ever since he started to live with his Uncle.
He brings it up the next time he sees his uncle, "Uncle have you heard from grandfather, Ozai, my mom or Azula?" Over the past few weeks, Uncle has made him realize that Ozai never loved him, that his treatment of him was wrong and so Zuko stopped thinking of Ozai as his father. His uncle seems to think about his question for a moment before opening his mouth, "No, I haven't now that I think about it, it is a little strange that I haven't heard anything from my brother, Azula or Ursa. I know my father is trying to give me space so maybe he stopped Ozai from bothering us." Iroh concludes.
One day Iroh notices Zuko seems a bit more down than usual "Is there anything troubling you, my nephew? Have you been having more bad dreams? You know you can always come to me, right?" Zuko looks down contemplating what to say, "Uncle you're not trying to replace Lu Ten with me, right? Like you love me for me, right?" Iroh looks at Zuko with sorrow in his eyes, Zuko looks down in shame but Iroh grabs his chin and makes his nephew look at him. "There is nothing to be ashamed of my dear boy, I understand what you are feeling right now. Lu Ten will always be in my heart but I am not just taking care of you to pretend that Lu Ten's death never happened. I'm taking care of you because I love you Zuko, I love you like a second son, I always have." Zuko smiles a little upon hearing this.