AN: I'm back, with the final installment of Father Figures, from Hakoda's POV! I've always loved Hakoda/Zuko Father/Son relationship stories. So I decided to try writing one myself! Hopefully I don't fail too badly. Enjoy!
Oh and this takes place between The Boiling Rock and The Southern Raiders.
I can not deny that my children have changed from the people I knew when I left to fight the war. And this change is smacking me in the face right now, as I watch my children and their friends eat dinner.
Katara acts as the mother of the group. She is probably the most responsible of the group, yet she, in herself, does not have the most responsibility to bear. Aang, expected by almost everyone to master all four elements and win the 100 year war against the Fire Nation, does. And since the Avatar's waterbending training is the second most advanced of the four, following air, she seems to have been dedicating herself to making sure everyone stays fed, healthy, and in good enough spirits. She keeps everyone functioning.
Sokka is the fun uncle, always full of jokes and keeping everyone laughing. While Katara works to keep everyone in good enough moods by comforting them, Sokka does it unknowingly, his natural personality doing all the work for him. But everyone in their little group knows better than to underestimate him. In fact, they look up to him when they need to know where to go, what to do, and plans in general. Apparently he once used to even have a schedule. In his own free time, he trains, sometimes by himself and sometimes "swordbending" with Zuko. He keeps the group laughing.
I could not be prouder of my children. I am proud of who they've become, and happy they've found such great friends.
In the small group, all of the members seem to have a role. Katara as mother, Sokka as fun uncle, Toph as tough-but-well-meaning sister, and Aang as the innocent younger brother. Even new member Suki has a role, as the strong-yet-kind aunt. Each person- child really- has a role. Except for one.
Ex-Fire Prince Zuko.
I have been with the Gaang, as my son calls it, for a grand total of two hours, but it's fairly obvious that the firebender is still an outsider. I don't know exactly when or how he joined the group, but if busting into a Fire Nation prison on a rescue mission doesn't prove where your loyalties lie, I don't know what does.
So I'm not quite sure why my Katara keeps sending the boy glares or making passive-aggressive digs at him whenever the opportunity arises. I do not remember her ever being this way. The rest are more receptive than her though. Sokka, Aang and Toph attempt to get him to join the conversation- their only results being short, quiet answers- and Suki and the three Earth Kingdom boys I have yet to learn the names of are courteous to him. Even Chit Sang is polite enough to the prince... most likely because of the rescue.
"And while we were all talking about how to get to the warden, Suki was all like run, climb, backflip, punch, kick! We looked up and she had the warden gagged with his hands behind his back!" Sokka is regaling the group with the tale of how the quartet had escaped the Boiling Rock.
Suki blushed at the praise, Katara smiled at her brother's methods of storytelling, and the rest of the group just laughed. Well everyone except Zuko. He hasn't quite been saying or doing anything for awhile. I look over to where he was and find that he isn't there anymore. Well, that'd probably explain why he was so quiet.
Not wanting to ruin Sokka's moment but wondering where the Fire Nation boy went, I slip away quietly from the group. I was on the edge to begin with, so it wasn't hard, and the kids' laughter covers up the sound of my footsteps leaving. Toph, however, does seem to notice that I'm leaving and sends a discreet look in my general direction, but doesn't say anything. With her earth bending abilities, she probably noticed when Zuko left, and figured I was going after him.
My guess is confirmed when I feel a small indent in the earth appear in front of me. It's an arrow, leading to a staircase that leads to the roof, or floor depending on how you think of it, of the temple. I nod to her in thanks and head in the direction she was pointing me to.
When I get to the roof I find Zuko on its edge, dangling his feet off of the side. I walk loudly as not to startle him (although I do not think a person like Zuko is easily startled) and take a seat beside him.
"Hey," I say to him, trying to sound as approachable as possible
"What're you doing up here instead of with the group?" I ask him.
He sighs reluctantly, but after a minute he answers. "Needed time to think. Sides, I was at the Boiling Rock, I already know what happened. The real question is what you are doing up here."
Well, I guess there's no small talk with this kid.
"I wanted to see if you were okay," I explain.
"Well I'm okay," he snaps, "so you can leave me alone now."
"I don't think you're okay," I answer him. "And I would like to know what's bothering you. You are part of a team now. And you can't keep distancing yourself from your team... it will only hurt everyone in the long run."
Zuko's voice comes out as even less than a whisper. I'm surprised I can even hear it. "It just hurts. Seeing you and Katara and Sokka being a family and knowing I can never have that."
He sounds so broken it hurts me to even hear him admit that. I know it is useless to tell him his biological family will be like mine, but he could have another kind of family.
"Listen Zuko," I say, looking at him look at his legs, "Aang woke up in the South Pole one day and his entire people, including his family, was dead. Toph's parents barely knew who she was, and no one else knew her parents had a daughter. I don't know about Suki's family, but considering she lives with the Kyoshi warriors, I'd say they aren't around. Katara and Sokka lost their mother, than lost me for the past two years while I was out fighting. And yet they all found a family who loves and cares for them: each other. And now they've invited you into that family, and it's time for you to finally join."
Zuko looks guilty, but resolved. With stiff determination mixed with hope, he stands up, gives me a nod, and walks downstairs.
Iroh and Ursa were still his family, but there was no reason he couldn't have a second, new family as well.
AN: And that is the end of Father Figures! I hope you guys enjoyed!