Gentle as a Kitten
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I've always wanted do an Iroh POV so here it is.
"Remember, don't let him out of your sight, don't let him near sharp objects, don't let him kill Azula…."
I watched Ursa's mouth open and shut for a few more minutes trying my best to look alert and like I wasn't thinking about the best way to brew a pot of ginseng tea or more ingenious battle strategies for my PaiSho game.
"…bla, bla, blab, blabity, bla…"
I cocked my head to one side trying to refocus on her lecture. What was she talking about again? Oh yes, I remember now, she and Ozai were going to somewhere in the Fire Nation for an official visit and I was in charge of looking after her son, Prince Zuko. It should be an easy job for me. I had done a fine job raising Luten after all so this little lad would not be a problem. I thought vaguely about all the wonderful things I could introduce him too like how to enjoy watching the clouds or feeding the turtle-ducks or even the pleasure of a delicious cup of tea. I smiled to myself; I was looking forward to meeting the boy.
"…did you get all that or would you like me to write it down for you?"
Her speech ended abruptly and I was snapped cruelly back to reality.
"Err…" I mumbled with great intelligence (or rather, lack of it) still trying to collect myself and comprehend her long-winded instructions.
Her eyes became dangerous slits but softened again instantly as a little boy burst from the room and rocketed into her arms. From the first few seconds I had seen the prince, I could tell he was a loving and affectionate lad.
"Mummy and Daddy will be going away for a while but you promise to be a good boy for Uncle Iroh," Ursa told the six year old.
He nodded once whilst Ursa pried him gently from her arms as she was helped into the sedan chair waving merrily to me joining Ozai who nodded me goodbye. They departed grandly through the gates followed by a long procession of royal guards and elite warriors.
My gaze fell back to my nephew, Prince Zuko.
The small boy was stood with his back straight and his little chest puffed out in an attempt to make himself look threatening. He crossed his arms aggressively and glowered at me through fierce amber eyes.
A lesser man would have been scared by such a frightening look from a six year old but I was not a lesser man. I smiled warmly at my scowling nephew, whose frown deepened and his eyes narrowed further. My smile dropped a few inches but I was determined not to be intimidated by someone half my size and a quarter my girth. I held out my hand for him to shake. He looked at it once but didn't take it. In fact, his face darkened even more and I had the impression I was looking at an extremely viscous baby komodo rhino.
Uncertain of what to say, I stated the obvious.
"I am your Uncle Iroh."
The look of his face clearly showed that he wasn't impressed. His glower intensified and I was certain that he was burning a hole through my skull. I subconsciously raised a hand to the back of my head just to check whether it was still in tacked. Luckily, it was and so I could assure myself that Prince Zuko did not possess the inhuman power of laser eyes. Well, if the boy didn't want to warm up to me, there was no point of forcing it was there?
I left him standing there telling him that I'd be back in a few minutes while I left to make us a pot of tea. Nothing relaxed me more than a warm cup of ginseng and I was hoping it would have the same effect on my nephew.
Of course, when I returned though, Prince Zuko was nowhere to be found. I vaguely remembered Ursa saying something about not letting him stray out of sight and chided myself for not listening closer when I had the chance.
Setting the pot of tea and cups I was holding on a nearby bench, I searched high and low for the young prince, finding him in the last place that I would have thought to look – in a tree directly above where my now smashed pot of beloved tea sat on the table. I was quite sure that my nephew had something to do with its demise but decided not to mention it. I didn't want to fire him up.
"Where's Mum?" He demanded from five foot above me.
Strange, I was sure I had witnessed him giving Ursa a heartfelt farewell. The boy must suffer from short-term memory.
"Your mother and father have gone for an official visit and won't be back for a month so why don't you be a good little boy for me and come down from that tree and we can have a nice game of PaiSho," I coaxed.
Even from this distance I could see tears welling up in his eyes as I mentioned that his parents wouldn't be back for a month. That or the thought of Pai-Sho was frightening to him. How so, I had no idea.
Surprisingly he climbed down from the tree, slipping once or twice causing my stomach to lurch every time. I wasn't quite sure how I would explain to an irate Ozai and a furious Ursa that their only son, heir to the throne, Agni incarnated had fallen off a tree and was now flatter than a pancake. But even with that ominous thought in me head, I knew better than to distract the boy from his task. Once both his two small feet were planted firmly on the ground, he ran towards me and I opened my arms ready to envelope him in a comforting hug. I felt a rush of wind flap by me and whipped around just in time to see him charge past me towards to palace gates.
I stood there stunned for a minute or two. Had I been so stupid as to expect he would accept comfort from me? I sighed at my foolishness before sprinting after Prince Zuko.
By the time I had arrived, heaving and out of breath, havoc had already ensued.
The poor palace guards, trained to be able to defeat and capture the stealthiest of assassins were completely clueless of how to restrain the six-year-old prince without risking injury on him. Prince Zuko was screaming for his mother whilst sending out spurts of uncontrolled flames in every direction. One of the guards had managed to grab the child around the waist and had lifted him off the ground. Apparently he hadn't been hold tightly enough because one of Prince Zuko's flailing feet had caught him in a place where the sun did not shine. I winced inwardly, my heart going out to the man. My nephew was instantly dropped as the poor guard reeled in pain. The other soldiers now, wearier of the little spitfire backed off slightly. Prince Zuko dived through a gap between them and made straight for the locked gate.
It was rather amusing watching the highly trained palace guards attempting hold back the young prince without making physical contact. They begged him to calm down but there pleas fell on deaf ears. After a while I saw it as my duty to lend my expertise on child control and joined the fray.
Grabbing hold of my nephew was easy but keeping him still was a different story. He kicked and scratched tirelessly, whilst screaming for his mother. The flames that constantly burst from his fists, feet, mouth and nostrils were much more powerful due to the frustration and anger of not being able to be with Ursa.
A poke in the eye, a bloodied nose and three missing tufts of hair later, not to mention the burns and scratches Prince Zuko had inflicted on the other guards; we managed to bind the struggling prince to an armchair (one or my favourite ones) in the lounge hoping that he would eventually wear himself out and fall asleep. We had finally grown tired of trying to gently persuade the little monster to settle down when he had practically bitten off one of the guard's fingers (the poor man was now in the sick ward having his hand tended too. Most likely he would be needing stitches).
It was times like this when I wished that Luten had been a bit more rebellious so I would have had some practice at putting out such a young but fiery temper.
I came back for my nephew an hour later praying to the gods that his outburst had cooled and for once my prayers were answered.
Prince Zuko's hostile gaze bored into my own but he ceased to struggle. I could understand his distress though. Binding him to the couch had been a little harsh but it was for our own safety. His face was tearstained and his eyes bloodshot but other than that he was uninjured apart from the few bruises from where he had been scooped up but then dropped.
I approached him gingerly and sat down by him. He of course attempted to wriggle away but the binds stopped him so he continued to fix me with his aggressive stare.
"I'm sorry Prince Zuko, but you'll have to be patient for your parents return. In the mean time, I want you to be on your best behavior."
An extremely feral snarl told me that he had no intention of being well behaved or even civil.
"How do you think your mother will react when she finds out what you've done today," I continued sternly.
He looked down, clearly regretting his actions, the aggression fading out of his posture. I was surprised that he now seemed almost human. He and Ursa were obviously very close and she was lucky to have such a caring son.
"I'm sorry," my nephew muttered still staring transfixed at the small rip on the hem of his tunic.
"Of course, what she doesn't know won't hurt her," I said, smirking. I think if I let this incident slip, Ursa would hold it against me forever.
Prince Zuko looked up and offered a small smile. The flames of resentment that had once burned in his eyes had died down. I reached out my hand to pat him on the head which he promptly attempted to bite. Honestly, was this a boy or a beast?
I undid his bonds but before I could make him promise to stay out of trouble, he was off in a flash darting through the door and out of sight.
It was going to be a very 'exciting' month I thought to myself as the inevitable crash of something most definitely valuable shattered on the ground, soon followed by my nephew's sheepish 'oops.'
Inspired by the simile; 'as gentle as a kitten.' What kind of stupid comparison is that? Since when has a kitten ever been anything but gentle? They run around and get in your way so you trip over them and they scratch and bite and break things. It's as bad as the simile 'he fell as softly as a tree.' I have never heard a tree fall softly!
Anyway, my first humour! Well, my first light hearted fic that doesn't involve angst. I hope you liked it. It was fun to write.