( past )
At first, he didn’t answer her.
He’d made the choice to give her whatever was left in the canteen despite the risk, because he felt like he still had some control over the situation here. Nevermind the fact that even with the barest amount of water under her command, she could probably kill him. The fact remained that he felt more comfortable if he knew she didn’t have much to control, and especially if she needed to drink it instead of murdering him with it.
Taking her to a stream outside seemed… foolish.
But, keeping her here and weakened was exactly the situation he’d rescued her from; it didn’t feel right to do it himself. It would also be breaking his promise to her, and Zuko wouldn’t even entertain that as an option. Unbidden, a dusty Earth Kingdom town filled his mind, along with a young boy there who’d taken the dagger Zuko gave him and threw the gift back in his face once he’d been revealed as a firebender.
He didn’t have to imagine how it felt to be hated for being who you were.
What he’d told her was true–he didn’t think that he was better, and he probably was the monster she accused him of being. But he wouldn’t go back on his word. He couldn’t trust her not to make good on her threat to flay him like a fish, but would he really be in so much more danger if she were around more water? What was really the difference between disembowelment with a shard of ice or drowning in six inches of running water if he ended up dead either way?
“There’s a stream nearby where you can wash up and… heal more,” he said, his throat stinging a little raw from talking so much at once after underuse. Still, he did not move the proffered jerky and kept his eyes on her. “But you need to eat something first. Unless you want to collapse halfway there and have me carry you the rest of the way.” As it was, she was so malnourished that he very well might end up having to help her even if she had eaten everything he’d set out for her.
Zuko had taken her from her imprisonment and told her he wouldn’t hurt her, and that included from negligence. He hadn’t given any thought that he might have to be a proactive participant in her recovery, but it was obvious to him now that he should have expected that; she’d been too mistreated for too long before. And if she chose to attack him again once she’d regained her strength… well, that was something he’d figure out how to deal with later. For now he just had to take it one step at a time–even if he had to drag her along with him, figuratively or no.