Title: Fallen Leaves Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender Author: devilinthedetails Genre: Angst; General; Family. Characters: Iroh; Lu Ten. Summary: As the leaves fall, Iroh remembers his lost son. Author's Note: Written for the Autumn Bingo Challenge. The words I used were: Chill in the Air+Scarecrow+Changing Leaves+Pumpkin+Haystack. Fallen Leaves There was a chill in the autumn air that raised ruddy splotches on Iroh’s cheeks as he walked slow as grief along the fence-lined path that wound through the fields of his property now golden with harvest wheat. It was memory that made his feet heavy. The memory of his son toddling down this path, sticky fingers clutched between his. The memory of those same sticky fingers pointing at a man made from straw attached to a wooden pole and dressed in a broad-brimmed hat and a fieldhand’s tattered, discarded clothes. The memory of Lu Ten, back then plump as a pumpkin to be baked into a delicious spiced pie–pumpkin pies had been Lu Ten’s favorite dessert at harvest time, Iroh recalled and wondered if pumpkin pies would always taste like death to him now–asking him what the straw man was in the eager, curious tone of a child innocent to the world and its fears. Iroh remembered how he had smiled and explained that it was a scarecrow meant to frighten away any crows that might swoop down to steal the harvest crop. He’d tweaked Lu Ten’s nose in a teasing imitation of a crow’s biting beak as he’d said this. Now a different scarecrow stood on the pole, a scarecrow that looked sad and lonely in Iroh’s eyes. The sight of the scarecrow pained him, and he strode past it, his pace quickening, but the speed brought no relief from his sorrow, because as he continued, tall haystacks came into view. As he gazed out at the haystacks, he could hear Lu Ten’s laughter as he jumped and rolled in haystack after haystack echoing in his ears. The sound of childish delight rang like a condemnation inside him. A bitter reminder of how he had failed to protect his son at the impenetrable walls of Ba Sing Se–of how his son had died for his pride and determination to capture this greatest city of the Earth Kingdom because he’d once had a vision of conquering it. A vision that had once seemed so tangible to him but now mocked him for its elusiveness–for its stealing away of the only child Iroh had ever had. Never again would he hear Lu Ten’s laughter, Iroh thought, the notion rising like burning bile inside him. Swiping tears from his eyes with the cuffs of his tunic, he walked further along the path. Overhead, tree branches arched, their orange and red leaves filtering out the strongest rays of the sun. A bed of fallen leaves crunched beneath his feet, their rot cushioning his footsteps. Lu Ten had loved to pick up the brightest leaves, collecting them in a shelf on his bedroom wall, until their color completely faded. Changing leaves were a symbol of warriors in Fire Nation song and poetry, personifying in their glorious, radiant reds and oranges a solider’s fleeting pride and strength before falling to the ground. Iroh had once sung to Lu Ten about leaves from the vine falling and about brave soldier boys marching home. His brave soldier boy had never come marching home from his war. He never should have brought his brave solider boy to war and to the ill-fated siege of Ba Sing Se. It was his fault his brave soldier boy had failed to come marching home. He could only try to find his peace–his undeserved redemption–among these fallen leaves.