Zuko reread Katara's letter for the hundredth time. She asked him to remind Pema to take care of herself, to tell Jinora stories about when they were younger, to make sure Ikki and Meelo don't interrupt him while he did that, to remind Tenzin that Korra doesn't respond well to strict teaching techniques but not to be too easy on her because she needs to learn airbending and to be patient with Korra and use positive reassurance (all Zuko could think of was when Katara was telling him the same things about Aang), offer to take Korra out for meat because she was sure Korra would be craving it by now (must be a Southern Water Tribe thing, he thought), and to make sure those teammates of hers were treating her nicely and to threaten the boys if they weren't. The last part sounded almost fun but he was sure it wouldn't be needed. From what he'd seen of Korra when he visited the South Pole years ago and what Katara told him he's pretty sure Korra had probably already threatened them. He sighed and tucked the letter back into his pocket as his ship entered Yue Bay. His travels took him everywhere but he always made a point to stop in Republic City. It helped that he also wrote to Tenzin quite often and had a standing invitation to stay on Air Temple Island.
Zuko arrived on Air Temple Island by way of one of the smaller boats he kept on his ship while the main one was anchored in the bay specifically out of the way of the shipping lanes; the rest of his crew made their way to Republic City.
"Uncle Zuko good to see you again," Tenzin greeted Zuko with a one armed hug.
"You too Tenzin. How's Pema doing?"
Tenzin sighed. "Going to be annoyed that my mother, I'm sure, gave you instructions to check up on her."
Zuko held up his hands in defeat. "I've learned to always do what Katara asks, it's better for my health." Tenzin nodded.
"Korra's teammates are joining us for dinner as well," Tenzin said as they began walking up to the main Temple. Zuko made a noncommittal noise and nodded. At least I won't have to seek them out on my own, Zuko thought.
They walked the rest of the way in silence. As they reached the door to the dinning room Tenzin said "everyone is already here," before opening the door.
Immediately a yellow blur flew at Zuko. It stopped right in front of him and Zuko, her eyes wide and a small smile on her face. "You must be Fire Lord Zuko," she said. "I'm Jinora and I've read all about your adventures and I want to talk to you about everything especially-" a second yellow blur landed next to her and opened her mouth.
"How did you get that scar on your face? Did you know Grandfather?" She blurted out.
"Ikki why do you always have to interrupt me!" Jinora accused as she crossed her arms.
"I'm not interrupting you I'm just asking questions. You get to ask questions all the time!" Ikki complained.
"Enough you two," Pema scolded from her seat before Meelo could get involved too. "Apologize to your sister and sit down."
"Sorry," they said in unison. Zuko tried very hard not to laugh. Korra, he noticed, was trying to push two boys towards him. Well not really boys, but Zuko considered anyone the same age as his grandchildren 'boys and girls.' Korra bowed then elbowed the shorter of the two to do the same. He then elbowed the taller one. "Avatar Korra," he intoned formally.
"Fire Lord Zuko," she replied. The boys mumbled the same, looking slightly uncomfortable.
He straightened. "I'll call you Korra if you call me Zuko."
"Deal! And this is Bolin," she gestured to the shorter one, "and Mako."
"You're on the Fire Ferrets? That's the team you joined?"
"You follow pro-bending, sir?" Bolin asked.
"When I can. I haven't been able to recently, though. You've made the tournament I assume?"
"Sure have, thanks to Korra," he slapped her on the back.
"You can tell the story while we eat, the food is getting cold," Pema told them while doling out food to her children.
Zuko took a seat with Tenzin to his left and Korra to his right. On Korra's other side sat the brothers and the girls next to them. Pema sat on Tenzin's other side with Meelo next to her. Jinora kept giving him awestruck looks while the brothers' avoided him.
"Can you tell me stories after dinner?" Jinora finally asked.
"Of course I can. As long as it's not past your bed time," Zuko and Jinora both turned towards Tenzin.
"Please Daddy?" She begged.
"As long as it's not too late," Tenzin relented. "And your brother and sister and listen too."
"Fine," Jinora pouted.
They resumed eating. Bolin shifted slightly in his seat.
"So-" Zuko began looking at the boys.
"Your statue is really nice," Bolin blurted out.
"Uh, thank you?" Zuko rubbed the back of his neck, not sure what to say.
"Especially when its cold, the fire keeps the area warm."
"Bolin!" Mako hissed.
"I'm glad it has some use then. So Mako," the older boy finally looked at him, "are you willing to show an old man some of your famous moves?"
"They're not famous," Mako replied.
"The way they were described on the radio they are Mr. Hat Trick," Korra teased.
"You'll have your own knock out at some point, if you show up for practice on time," Mako teased back.
"If they weren't so early I would."
"Mornings are nice, plus it's when your firebending is the strongest."
"You wouldn't say that if you let me have my rematch."
"You guys need to stop arguing about that!" Bolin interrupted.
"We're not arguing about it!" They said in unison then they blushed. Oh, Zuko thought looking at the two of them. I'm going to have to tell Katara about this.
"I could show you if you like, Sir. We have the gym in the morning and I gave Bolin and Korra the day off tomorrow."
"He's so generous about it when it's only because he made us come here earlier to train more today," Korra said pointing her finger at Mako.
"You still weren't paying attention to when you had two people attacking you," Mako grumbled.
"I get it!"
Zuko just sat back and smiled while listening to the two of them.
Zuko let out his finale breath as he finished the move. While there were moves he could no longer do (anything that involved springing back up from the floor was out) he was happy that he could still give Mako a run for his money. The boy moved differently than he expected but the basic moves were there.
"Korra's the only other bender I know that moves so," Mako trailed off, not wanting to say what he thought.
"Traditionally is what you mean. By the time the new styles started I was too old to change," Zuko told him stubbornly. Mako handed him a towel as they sat down to relax. "Korra is something else though," he added.
"She is. She's headstrong and naïve. She's determined and makes me want to tell her things," he sighed and put his head in his hands. "She's too good for me. She's the Avatar, and I'm just a poor, awkward idiot who can't even convey his feelings properly without sounding like a total prick."
"That's rough, buddy," Zuko said while patting Mako on the shoulder.
"Thanks but that's not going to help me."
"Girls are tricky sometimes. I can tell she likes you too, if that helps."
"Really?" Mako asked hopefully.
"The way you two argue like you're the only two people in the room kind of gives it away. Just don't break up with her in a letter. Or give her silly gifts she doesn't need."
"Who did you break up with in a letter?"
"Mai," Zuko said wistfully.
"Your wife? How did you get her to forgive you?"
"I promised not to break up with her again."
"That was all?"
"And apologize for locking her in a prison cell." Mako's eyes went wide. "Sometimes, kid, you have to apologize and admit you were wrong."
"What if you weren't wrong and she really does need to work on her team work but she makes good points?"
"Let her know she's right about some things and wrong about others. Telling her she's wrong all the time isn't going to get you anywhere."
"How did you tell Mai you liked her?"
"My sister set us up on a date. Come to think of it I never asked a girl out on a date."
"The only other girl I dated asked me. I also ran away after I kissed her. Don't do that," Zuko warned.
"I haven't even gotten to the kissing part yet."
"You might want to try not arguing with her before you do that."
"It's hard though, she makes me so frustrated."
"I'll bet part of that is the not kissing." Zuko smiled at Mako's blush. He'd bet the boy wanted a lot more than kissing at the moment too.
"Yeah there's that. Bolin is so much better at this than I am," Mako lamented.
"You could also talk to him too. I'm sure he wants you two to stop fighting as much as you do."
"I tried but his only advice was to just ambush her and 'stay locked in a room together until we're both to satisfied to move.'"
"Don't do that."
"I'm almost desperate enough to try."
"Do you know what the Avatar State is?" Mako shook his head. "It's something you don't want to be on the receiving end of. Trust me, I've been there."
"You want to go past kissing with a girl again?" Mako nodded. "Then don't follow your brother's advice. Now if he locks you and Korra in a room then at least she won't be mad at you and you could try something."
"I don't want to rely on that. What should I do?"
"Ask her out to tea."
"It's a date and everyone loves tea."
"Tea," Mako rubbed his chin thinking. "It couldn't hurt."
"And bring her a flower or something. Well maybe not a flower, Korra doesn't strike me as a girl who would like flowers."
"I'll try tea and flowers. Thank you, sir."
"Just call me Zuko."
"Ready to go again? I'll even go a little easy on you this time."
"Bring it on." Zuko smiled knowing that he was going to beat the kid this time.
Later that day he definitely did not spy on Mako asking Korra out to tea. He also did not laugh when Korra kissed Mako before taking the flowers from him and running back to her airbending training.