Characters: Iroh, Ozai, Li, Lo
Word Count: 500+
Summary: Iroh plays pai sho with his little brother to teach him patience and strategy.
Author's Notes: Ozai is about sixteen-seventeen here. Iroh is about thirty-seven.
Steam curls from the tea cup, and Iroh lifts it to his mouth to inhale the scent. Jasmine tea, brewed just how he likes it. There is not even the faintest trace of smoke and ashes in its smell, not even a drop of blood.
It's good to be back in civilized lands where the war does not intrude.
A pai sho board sits between him and his little brother. They are halfway through the game, and Iroh knows he will win. He knew he would win from Ozai's third move; he is disappointed in his brother's teachers. His little brother may not be intended to be a soldier, but Ozai should still have a better grasp of strategy and tactics. Disappointing. He is going to have to speak to Father about how lax Ozai's teachers have been.
Iroh studies the board. He could end the game in five moves, but that will teach his brother nothing. No, they're both best served if he plays below his skill and lets Ozai observe the progress of the game rather than crushing his brother.
He reaches out, picks up the yellow ship tile. The play is not the best he could make, but far from the worst.
Ozai fidgets, biting his lower lip as he stares at the board. His hand darts towards a piece, pauses, pulls back. He scowls, picks up his tea and scowls further. "You could have at least let me have coffee."
"Coffee is not a suitable drink for a boy your age," Iroh informs his little brother. Never mind that Ozai is old enough to be considered a man; he is only five years older than Iroh's own son.
"It would have made this more enjoyable," Ozai mutters into his cup.
Iroh politely pretends not to hear him and patiently waits for his brother to decide on his move.
"How was your game?" Li asks as Ozai strides back into his apartments.
The prince grins. "Wonderful. I lost."
The twins blink at him, their hands stilling on their embroidery.
"Badly," he adds. "Tell me there's coffee in here."
Lo nods to the carafe near the seat he long ago claimed as his.
"You lost," Li says. "Badly, you say. But surely you should be skilled enough to have at least made Prince Iroh work for his victory."
"To what purpose, Li?" Ozai asks as he pours himself a cup of coffee. The smell is wonderful, heady, the most perfect smell in the world. The taste is bitter and black, and he loves it for its contrast to the heavenly smell.
The twins stare at him, and he smiles behind the curl of steam.
"If I lose badly, he thinks me a fool," Ozai says with satisfaction. "He thinks I don't know strategy and tactics, that Azulon made a mistake in how I was trained. He tells Azulon, and Azulon hears how I don't know the things he's done his best to keep from me. Azulon is pleased and doesn't look so closely at what I do."
Slow smiles spread over the twins' faces.
"Clever boy," they say together, proud of him and pleased with him.
Ozai smiles like a cat in cream. "Cleverer than they think."