After Boiling Rock, Sokka talks to Zuko after Katara insults him. He learns a lot about the ex-Fire Nation Prince. One-Shot Katara bashing
Sokka and Katara both latched onto their father, giving him a warm welcome. Suki and Hakoda received so much of the attention that nobody noticed a certain banished Prince vanish. Nobody but Hakoda that is and he was busy having the life nearly squeezed out of him by his two children. He was planning on talking to the young fire-bender after dinner.
Katara whipped up the best dinner in months to celebrate her father's return. Everyone was gathered around the fire, chatting amicably. Zuko was the only one silent.
Sokka and Hakoda were telling stories about the Water Tribe and good memories about their family. It was depressing Zuko. He was lost in thought when Sokka said his name. "What? I'm sorry." He asked. Hakoda shot him a concerned look but repeated the question.
"What's your happiest childhood memory, Zuko?" He asked the boy again. Zuko furrowed his brow and bit his lip. He met the older warrior's eyes and Hakoda saw a deep pain in the golden depths.
"I don't have any happy childhood memories." Zuko answered. He looked back at his hands, very much aware of everyone's stares. Katara chuckled darkly.
"Maybe that's why you're screwed up. You're father favored your sister." She meant for this to barb Zuko into doing something he might regret.
The fire they were all sitting around burned with a greater intensity and flared slightly. Zuko took a deep breath and it died down. He was beyond caring what Katara thought of him. He was still pissed at her. His voice was laced with indefinable emotions.
"Let's see you grow up where you're constantly ridiculed for not being good enough. You're always being told that you're worthless no matter how hard you try. You wouldn't survive Katara. You're too stuck-up." Zuko said. He was staring at her with such intensity that she was almost afraid.
"So you blame bad parenting skills?" Katara huffed and rolled her eyes. The fire exploded upward suddenly and left a giant scorch mark on the ceiling. Zuko was shaking with uncontrollable anger. He was radiating such a heat that Toph and Haru had to back away to avoid getting burned. Katara was a little afraid now. Zuko knew this and smirked sadly. He was radiating anger.
"You want to know bad parenting skills, Katara. My father banished me for trying to defend others. He scarred my face and sent me on a futile trip to capture the Avatar. So excuse me if I have issues." Zuko said. His voice was full of mixed emotions: anger, sadness and regret being the most prominent. He got up quickly and disappeared into the shadows. The fire died.
Everyone had shocked expressions on their faces. Suki was the first to speak. She had tears running down her face. "Who could do that to a little kid? An innocent?" she asked in disbelief. Toph answered her.
"A cruel, evil man. It's no wonder Zuko's so emotionally messed up. He had no childhood. He has no family." She sounded like she was about to cry as well. Sokka had a horrified look on his face that Hakoda matched.
"I still don't think that's an excuse. He's still Fire Nation. He can't be trusted, especially not around Aang. He's evil, all fire-benders are." Katara said bitterly. Everyone glared at her. They definitely weren't on her side.
Aang stood up and moved away from her. Hakoda looked down at his daughter with disappointed eyes. He shook his head. "What, you're going to side with him, Dad? He's the enemy!" Katara said heatedly. Sokka just shook his head as well.
"I may not know much about Zuko but there is one thing I do know." Hakoda began in a soft and sorrowful voice. "No matter how bad his upbringing was, he still turned out to be a good person. You Katara on the other hand haven't. In case you've forgotten Katara, it's because of Zuko and Sokka that Suki, Chit Sang and I are alive and healthy. He risked his life and freedom to get us out, and do you know why? Because his friend asked for help. If he were as evil as you claim, he wouldn't have helped Sokka. You on the other hand were raised in a loving environment and you're bitter. Your mother would be ashamed." he said and lowered his head to stare into the fire. Katara's eyes watered up and she ran to her room and slammed the door. Everyone was silent for another moment.
"What do you mean Zuko risked his freedom to help me Dad? I know we both risked our lives but I don't understand." Sokka asked his father. Hakoda looked at his son and gave a gentle smile.
"Zuko is probably the most wanted person in this world besides Aang. He risked a lot to help you, son." Hakoda said. He was proud of the young fire-bender. Sokka's eyes widened in realization.
"I've got to go talk to him." Sokka said, standing up. Toph spoke as he was walking away. "He's on the broken balcony. His heart rates going a mile a minute so be careful Sokka." She warned. Sokka nodded and walked off in that direction to find Zuko. He grabbed his blanket along the way, just in case. It was cold out.
Zuko left the group back at the campfire. He was crying by the time he got three steps away. Walking quickly, he retrated to the balcony where he sometimes hid to think.
Zuko felt as if there was a rock in chest. He had never told anybody about his face before. Now the entire group knew. He was tired, cold and felt like an emotional train wreck.
He collapsed against the wall and sobbed quietly into his arms. Everything that had caused him pain that had been buried resurfaced: his mother leaving, his father burning him, betraying Iroh, burning Toph. Zuko didn't even notice Sokka come up onto the balcony.
Sokka's mouth hit the floor. When Toph had said that Zuko's heart was racing, he had assumed he was taking out his anger on a defenseless wall or pillar. The last thing he expected was to see his new friend upset.
Zuko had his back pressed against the wall and his knees pulled up to his chest with his arms wrapped around them. He was sobbing brokenly, as if someone had crushed his heart, or ripped it out and stomped on it.
Sokka sat down next to Zuko. He noticed that the sobs were wracking Zuko's thin frame and he was shivering violently. He put the blanket around the pale teens shoulders. Zuko mouthed a thank you.
"I'm…I'm sorry." He stammered. "Everything's get-getting to m-me. I can't take it anymore." He had fresh tears rolling down his face as he said this. Sokka wrapped an arm around his shoulders and brought him into a hug. Zuko resisted at first but he was freezing and Sokka was warm. He choked on another sob.
"It's okay Zuko. I'm not going anywhere." Sokka said. Zuko started to cry freely. Sokka ignored the wetness on his shoulder and rubbed circles on Zuko's back. He was trying to do anything to help. It was tearing Sokka up inside to see someone he regarded as a brother crying.
After a while, Zuko regained control of himself. Sokka still had an arm wrapped around his shoulders. Zuko leaned closer to him, shivering violently. "Are you okay?" Sokka asked after a minute. He mentally slapped himself. That was a stupid question, of course Zuko wasn't okay. He was hurting.
"I will be. Thank you, Sokka." Zuko said. He was breathing shakily still and shuddering uncontrollably. Sokka looked at him with genuine concern.
"What's wrong? Are you alright?" Sokka asked. Zuko tried to laugh but it turned into a shudder. "There's nothing funny about this. You're shaking. That's serious." Zuko gave Sokka a small smile.
"I'll be fine. I just need to sleep. The freezer dropped my body temperature, which is dangerous for a fire-bender." He said. Sokka shot him a look. Zuko tried to shrug but couldn't stop shaking long enough to do it. He smiled at Sokka.
"I'm taking you to bed. And if you don't stay there until morning, I'll have Toph restrain you." Zuko just smiled softly.
Sokka stood up and pulled Zuko to his feet. Zuko was a little unsteady at first. His body didn't seem to want to balance. Sokka grabbed him by the shoulders and led him off the balcony so he didn't fall to his death. Zuko didn't protest to being led to him room.
Sokka laid the half-conscious prince down on the bed and wrapped another blanket around him. Zuko muttered a thank you before his breathing evened out and he fell asleep. Sokka grabbed a blanket and sat on the floor, keeping watch over him. Hakoda appeared in the doorway with Toph about an hour later.
"Your Dad wanted to see if you two were alright." She said quietly before leaving. Hakoda walked up to the Prince. He brushed his hair off of his forehead and sat down next to his son. Sokka shared the blanket with him.
"He got too cold when he was locked in the freezer. It's my fault he feels like crap. He's cold." Sokka said. Hakoda laid a hand on Zuko's forehead. It was colder than it should be but he wasn't in any danger if they kept an eye on him.
"It's not your fault Sokka. He volunteered to help you. Your friend Toph told me a little bit about Zuko. He seems like a nice young man." Hakoda said in a hushed tone to his son. Sokka nodded his head and smiled.
"He's older than me but he's so bad at talking to people. I feel sorry for him even though he says I shouldn't." Sokka said. "Zuko's on our side Dad. Katara hates him because she blames him for Mom's death. She blames all the fire-benders." Sokka said. Hakoda frowned at what his son said. He looked at the sleeping Prince. Zuko looked so young when he was asleep. Almost like a child.
"He didn't have anything to do with it. Zuko would have been about your age at that time." Hakoda said. Zuko shifted in his sleep. Sokka watched him pull the blankets tighter around himself. Neither of them spoke until morning. They were leaning against the wall, Sokka asleep and Hakoda watching Zuko drowsily.
As soon as there was a hint of light outside, Zuko mumbled. Hakoda watched him curiously. Zuko sat up slowly and shook his head. He rubbed his good eye and blinked to clear them.
Zuko looked up and noticed Hakoda and Sokka sleeping there. He gently laid one blanket over them and elegantly folded the other. Setting it on the bed he left the room for a moment. He came back and noticed Hakoda watching him.
"Good morning Zuko." Hakoda said quietly. Zuko nodded and seemed unsure of what to say. He just sat down on his bed and pulled his feet up underneath him. Sokka woke up and decided to surprise them.
"Good morning guys." He said very suddenly and very loudly. Hakoda just looked at him but Zuko jumped and his fingertips sparked. Sokka and Hakoda shot him a look of concern but didn't say anything.
"Good morning." Zuko said quietly. He looked as if he wanted to say something more but was hesitant. Sokka nodded to encourage him. Zuko stammered a little. "Thank you...for bringing me back to my room. I'm sorry I messed up your family time." He said, avoiding their gaze. Sokka smiled at him.
"You can't intrude on family time if you're family." Sokka said. Hakoda smiled at his son. He knew what Sokka was trying to do. Zuko's head snapped up so fast it made Sokka's hurt thinking about it.
"What?" He whispered, almost inaudibly. Sokka stood up. He sat down on the bed next to Zuko and put an arm around Zuko's shoulders. Zuko stiffened but didn't protest.
"You helped save my father. You put your own life at risk to save someone you didn't know. That doesn't make you just a friend. That makes you family. You're my brother." Sokka said. Zuko's mouth fell open. He was speechless. Hakoda joined them on the bed.
"You're family now. So you know what that means?" Hakoda asked Zuko. Zuko's brow furrowed and he shook his head. "Group hugs. You get to have group hugs." He and Sokka embraced Zuko in a hug. Zuko was unsure of himself and hugged back hesitantly. They broke apart and sat there for a moment in silence before Sokka spoke.
"This still doesn't change the fact that I can whoop your ass at sword-fighting." Sokka said. Zuko's eyes sparked but not with anger. He had a mischievous grin suddenly.
"To do that you'd have to actually be able to use a sword." Zuko said. Sokka laughed but then realized what Zuko had said.
"Hey!" He shouted. Zuko laughed at the incredulous look on his face. Sokka stared at him strangely.
"What?" He asked nervously. Sokka grinned at him.
"I've never heard you laugh before. It's about time you got a sense of humor." Sokka said. Zuko rolled his eyes and looked at Sokka. He had a glint in his eyes and a smile on his face.
Zuko grabbed the pillow and hit Sokka in the face before laughing again. Sokka attacked him with the other pillow. This meant war.
So with feathers flying and high spirits, the trio made a mess of Zuko's room. Sokka promised to help him clean it up later but Zuko didn't believe that was going to happen. After all, little brothers are a pain in the ass.