“Uncle…” The 13 year old prince’s voice shook dangerously as he stared out the window with his uncovered eye, too afraid to meet Iroh’s gaze.
“Yes, my boy?” Iroh straightened with the robe he was packing held tensely in his hands. Zuko hadn’t cried in front of anyone since the loss of his mother, yet he seemed ready to do so now.
“Where will we go?” Zuko’s voice was just above a whisper. “He hasn’t been seen in a century, where do we…?”
“Don’t worry about that now. First, we will find a place for you to rest, to heal yourself.” Iroh threw the robe haphazardly into his trunk and joined his nephew by the window. “Both your body and your mind.”
“Uncle….uncle I’ve made a mistake.” Zuko fingered the edge of the bandage covering his burn. The wound was only days old, bloody and horrendously painful.
“It is never a mistake to do what you believe is right.” Iroh placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“No!” Zuko pulled away from the touch. “Not…” He touched the bottom edge of the bandage again. “this. Something else.”
“What’s going on?” Iroh put his hands out. “Tell me what you’re feeling, Zuko.”
“Do you remember when you took me to the beach and told me about….things?” Zuko sat down hard on the edge of his uncle’s bed.
“I suppose you are referring to romantic things.” A laugh rumbled in Iroh’s chest.
“You took me down to the beach and told me the legend of the sun spirit. About how it wanted to go to the Earth that it could see but not touch.”
“Yes, and with the help of the wind spirit he was able to visit the Earth for just one day in the form of a man. According to the legend it was on the very beach where you and I sat that he met a beautiful young firebender. A young man whom the spirit loved as soon as he saw him and who loved the spirit in return.” Iroh mused.
“The man and the spirit shared a single day together, and as the sun began to set, their love overwhelmed them.” Zuko continued.
“And they shared a single night of passion before the spirit left the Earth.” Iroh smiled. “I remember how embarrassed you were listening to that part.”
“But that’s not the end.” Zuko blushed.
“You’re right, the legend continues. It says that the young man soon realized that the spirit had changed him, changed his body. The sun spirit’s seed was inside of him and in this way he became the first of the Blessed Ones and the son he delivered had sunlight in his eyes. As he grew, it became obvious that he was the same as his Earthly father. He was presented by his family to the Firelord’s court and in time, became his lover. When he delivered the Firelord’s child several years later he sealed the Blessed One’s bloodline to the ruling family's.” Iroh finished the story, settling on to the bed next to his nephew.
“And ever since then, some of us have been born that way.” Zuko whispered.
“Yes, once in a generation a Blessed One still comes into our family. As I told you that day, I delivered my son Lu Ten from my own body, and some day you may do the same. We’ve known since your birth that you were touched by the sun spirit. Your mother asked me when you were still very young, to someday tell you and guide you through it.” Iroh placed a warm hand on Zuko’s back. “What makes you bring it up now?”
“Uncle Iroh….I” Zuko didn’t finish, tears poured thickly down his unbandaged cheek.
“Zuko.” Iroh’s head swam as he fit together the pieces, the emotions, the story. He didn’t want to think it, but when he looked down, he saw that Zuko’s hands were clutching his abdomen. “Are you carrying a child?”
“I’m so sorry.” Zuko sobbed helplessly, looking as small and fragile as the day he was born.
“Did someone hurt you?” Iroh grabbed his shoulders and forced Zuko to look him in the face. “Did someone force you?”
“No! No, it wasn’t like that. It was just…I didn’t really know how far it was going to go until….until it was happening.” Zuko stood up abruptly.
“Where? How long ago?” Iroh demanded.
“Nearly three months ago, with that Governor’s son from the colonies.” Zuko wrapped his arms tightly around his middle.
“Do you care for him?” Iroh sighed. “For the boy?”
“No, we were just…messing around…and things got out of control.” Zuko stared at the floor, unable to meet his Uncle’s gaze.
“Out of control? I think that’s understating it!” Iroh shouted. “Should I remind you that you are only thirteen years old! How long have you known?”
“I realized it about six weeks ago, when my cycle didn’t come.” Zuko admitted. Iroh jumped to his feet and grabbed Zuko by the arms.
“You agreed to an Agni Kai knowing there was a child in your belly?” Iroh felt his anger rising.
“I…I tried to tell my father.” Zuko swallowed thickly. “He told me that for me to carry an illegitimate child, and at this age, was just another reason for shame. He told me…that I should hope to lose it during the fight.”
“Ozai knows about the pregnancy?” Iroh released his grip on the boy.
“Yes, I told him I needed to see a healer who could help….people like me….as soon as my cycle didn’t come.” Zuko told him. “You were on Ember Island and I was scared to wait to tell someone and then he told me not to tell anybody, not even you or the healers.”
“You haven’t seen a healer then?” Iroh sighed.
“No, I think father was hoping I would miscarry it.” Zuko shook his head. “I…we couldn’t leave the Fire Nation without you knowing. You should stay Uncle, I’m a disgrace in so many ways. You shouldn’t have to join in my dishonor.”
“Zuko, now more than ever I must go with you. Your pregnancy will be challenging and painful, you will need someone to guide you through it. Besides,” He placed a hand over Zuko’s still flat stomach. “This child will be the closest I get to a grandbaby. I will not miss it.”
“Thank you Uncle.” Zuko collapsed wearily into the older man’s arms, wrapping him into an embrace.
“Zuko, let us leave this place.”