"Something on your mind, Prince Zuko?"
Zuko starts, surprised. "Just Zuko. I stopped being the Prince when I left," he tells the man flatly. Hakoda nods, sitting down next to the young firebender, their feet dangling off of the edge and above the dark, bottomless chasm below.
"You didn't answer my question," Hakoda reminds Zuko after a few moments in silence.
The young man sighs. "Watching you with Sokka and Katara... It makes me wonder."
Zuko shrugs. "I don't know. But I can see in your eyes that you love them."
"Of course I love them," Hakoda replies, "They are my children."
Zuko frowns at this. "You would never hurt them?"
"Never intentionally. There have been times when I have hurt them, but I would never purposefully..." Hakoda trails off, his expression saddened. "I would never do to Sokka what Ozai did to you, if that's where this is going."
Zuko's eyes widen, surprised. "How did you know?" he asks, reaching up involuntarily to feel his scar.
"About what you were thinking or what Ozai did to you?"
"I knew what you were wondering because... Well, let's just call it a father's intuition. And as for what Ozai did to you? Many people have heard about the origin of your scar," Hakoda explains.
Zuko curses. "I never realized that my failures have been so well broadcasted," he mutters, scowling into the dark night.
"What Ozai did to you was wrong. I don't know what you did to make him think you deserved that. For him to burn off half of your face and then banish you? Jeez, son, what'd you do, kill somebody?"
For a moment, Zuko is unsure how to respond. Finally, he settles for the simple truth.
"I spoke out of turn."
The shocked silence that encompasses them is oppressive. Any words that Hakoda might consider saying catch in his throat. Meanwhile, the flame that is his paternal instinct roars indignantly within him.
That night, his desire to see the Firelord put in his place increases tenfold.
A/N: Please leave a quick review on your way out!