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Warning - Memory Lane!

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     Five years on the road, he'd been looking forward to visiting the Fire Kingdom again and spending some quality time with Zuko, but somebody didn't understand that 'giving a tour' didn't mean showing the stuff on the tourist guides. "Not that way, Aang! That's a bad hallway! I'm destroying it as soon as we can train an Earth bender-Fire bender joint team to move enough lava to melt it!"

     "But I love exploring stuff!" Aang ran ahead down the hallway, voice echoing off the steel and stone walls of the Fire Lord's castle. Zuko could say all he wanted that there was nothing to see, and even if there were, it wouldn't be fun, but an adventure was an adventure, and that made it fun. "Besides, it doesn't look so bad. Why are you planning to blast this wing off the map anyway?"

     "Because my family used to live here, and no one will go in to clean it. Seriously, Aang." Rows of torches flickered behind Zuko's head on either side all the way down the hall, sending golden gleams sparkling everywhere like wildfire. The scar raging all around his left eye and down onto his cheek was practically crimson in the shadows. "When I say we shouldn't 'explore' down here, it's because I've been down here before, and I know. The world will be better off when I've reduced this part of the house to ash and rebuilt it from the ground up. What happened to that speech you made about leaving the past behind?"

     He poked the now relatively seasoned Fire Lord in the chest, which was open to the poking because he'd thankfully left all his ceremonial armor in the royal dressing room. "You're hiding something."

     "Of course I'm hiding something! I'm hiding my family's old bedrooms! Because I don't want anyone to see them, which is why it's scheduled for demolition with extreme prejudice! I have tried getting people in there to just burn the stuff, and they won't stay long enough because it's creepy as hell! So please, when I tell you not to--" Aang saw from the twitch on Zuko's mouth that Zuko'd caught the start of of his whirlwhind dodge to the side, just a fraction of a second too late to do anything about it. "Aang! Damn it!"

     He rode a spinning ball of wind over the floor and across the walls with Zuko chasing him full-tilt, robes flying out behind him. Just like the old days. At least he could count on Zuko to never ask him to act dignified. And the first door was up there on the right...

     Letting the last gust of hair push him to his feet and through the door, where he found a what he'd call a fairly nice room, actually, if you liked crockery. And a faint hint of cinnamon. It looked like, once upon a time, there'd been swords hung from various fixtures that now sat empty, maybe a picture or a scroll in a couple places, but that was hardly out of place in the Fire Nation. As soon as he heard Zuko growling behind him, he said, "This definitely doesn't look so bad."

     "Yeah. Well. This was Uncle Iroh's room before he left. He said I shouldn't send the rest of the tea up to Ba Sing Se because it all would have gone stale by now, and then he spent the rest of the letter moping about how he couldn't bring all of it on the boat with him when we left."


     "Does that word even mean anything to you?"

     "Who's next?!"

     "Aang!" His friend grabbed him by the back of his collar, not about to get tricked by a whirlwind twice in a minute. A hand pointed over his shoulder at various doors down the hall. "That was Azula's room, with her collection of 'uniquely' shaped knives that she stored in doodles of her enemies. That was my mother's room, which my father filled to the ceiling with gravel before he walled it up. That's where my father kept his collection of dead butterflies. They keep going, all the way back to Sozin, because every generation kept not wanting to look at or clean out the previous families' rooms and just moved forward instead. Let's just go, and I can burn this down, and everyone will be happier."

     He turned around to look at the simple pleading grimace under the fancy imperial ponytail holder. "Sozin's room? Really?"

     "Maybe Azula was lying about the creepy dolls on spikes, maybe she wasn't, but I really don't see why we should check."

     This might be easier when Zuko was less wound up and possibly more drunk, so Aang switched tactics. A block wasn't the only thing he could dodge. "So do you have a room? I mean, that can't be creepy, right?"

     The Fire Lord hung his head and seemed to collapse under the weight of his sigh. "I had a model train set. That was my thing. And I kept it in a toy chest."