Title: The Conscience of a Prince
Author: Birgitt Schuknecht
Fandom: due South
Disclaimer: The characters used in the following story are not mine. I
do not make any money out of this. It's written for fun and for the fans
of the show.
Spoilers: inspired by "The Deal" (sequel to "Conscience of a Knight")
The Conscience of a Prince
by Birgitt Schuknecht
Author's note: This is the third instalment of my "Conscience"-cycle.
It's inspired by the ep "The Deal". "Conscience of a Prince" follows
after "Conscience of a Knight".
"Frankie! Frankie!" I can hear my sister calling my name, but I don't
have any intention to answer her. It's quite all right to lie on my bed,
waiting. She will come up eventually. What would be the point to get up?
I'm still tired, although I've slept for nearly twelve hours. I look
over to the alarm clock, it's a quarter past ten. Sunshine streams into
my room through the closed shutters, creating strange patterns on the
walls. I close my eyes again.
Now I can hear my sister’s steps on the stairs. She will be here any
moment now. When she sees that I'm still in bed, she'll drag me out of
it. Irene is two years younger than me, but she is quite determined for
such a little girl. Sometimes I think she's the only person in the world
who does not fear me - apart from my father and Charlie, of course. But
even the thought of Irene pulling me out of my bed does not give me
enough strength to get out of this... safe place on my own. Perhaps I'm
just waiting for her to make me leave my bed and my room.
As long as I stay in bed I won't have to face my father. I know that he
wants to see me. And I know that he has discussed everything that
happened last night with Charlie. They will have a plan ready. Maybe
they've even carried it out by now. Charlie is quite... efficient.
He works for my father. And he is the only one my father trusts
completely. Sometimes I think he likes Charlie better than me. But I am
his only son! I couldn't stand if he liked Charlie better than me. I'd
love to know for certain... But Father never tells me. All he says is.
"Remember, Francesco, one day you'll be responsible here. I expect you
to follow your destination. You will have to give up many things other
children have, in order to become the man I want you to become. But you
will gain power. Power and influence. Would you like that?"
It's only now that I understand what he means with those words. The
first time I heard them was when I became a student at the local school.
I didn't answer him then, because I had no answer. All I could do was
staring at him and feeling small and lonely. I did not want to go to
school, I'd preferred to stay at home. People at home did everything I
wanted them to do. My nanny, my mother, all the servants in the house.
Father's employees, too. Except Charlie and Irene of course. And I
wanted it to stay it that way. Going to school meant that I had to face
new people who wouldn't treat me... properly.
But after a few days at school I realised how wrong I had been. And it
gave me a first impression what Father had meant with his words. The
other kids and also the teachers treated me with respect. And they
feared what I could do to them. I don't know how it worked, but it did,
even if I didn't understand it. All people seemed eager to please me.
Well, not all. There was one who didn't respect me. And he still
doesn't. Ray Vecchio. The thought of him brings me back to the present.
I'll have to get down eventually. And Irene will be here in a minute, I
hear her steps in the hallway now. The moment the door opens I'm getting
dressed. I finish closing the last buttons of my white shirt and tuck it
into my jeans.
My sister's face is slightly flushed and she has difficulties to catch
her breath. She must have run most of way up. Finally she brings out,
"F... Frankie, Father wants to see y... you. Now, he said." I bend down
to put on my sneakers. When I'm all ready I go over to Irene who still
stands at the open door.
"I know he's waiting. But I was so tired..." I interrupt myself, annoyed
that I try to explain my behaviour to my little sister. Irene ever has
this effect on me. Then I usually get angry with myself, and her of
course. But she never fears me when I yell at her. And I don't dare to
slap her, or something. After all, she is a Zuko.
I take her by her shoulders and steer her out of the room. We go down to
our father's study in silence. Maybe she feels that I'm quite nervous
now. She once told me that she doesn't like to go into Father's rooms.
They are so dark and large. And she doesn't like Charlie. Although she
never shows her fear. Sometimes I cannot avoid admiring her courage.
"You do not need to come with me," I tell her now, but I like the idea
that she will stay with me all the same. And I'm not disappointed. She
shakes her head and looks up to me. Her dark hair is a bit unruly, but
that doesn't do any harm to her prettiness. All the time there is a
sparkle in her equally dark eyes. I have seen her crying only once, and
in the wake of it, the sparkle in her eyes was gone for some time. That
was when our mother died, three years ago. I cried myself then and the
night after Irene came into my room. I let her into my bed, pretending
to be her caring big brother. But I was glad she came. I feared to
sleep, because I hated to have nightmares.
I have nightmares quite often. Not every night, no. But every time my
father holds me a lecture. He says that it's part of my education. All
his employees spy on me and report to him afterwards. And the most...
observant man is Charlie. There's nothing I can hide from him. And then
I have to face my father again. His green eyes seem to look into my very
heart and soul. And his look chills me. And I always have nightmares
That is another reason for me to feel uncomfortable Ray Vecchio. I know
it's kind of silly, but Ray has green eyes - like my father. No, that's
not right. They are different, very different. My father's eyes are kind
of dead compared to Ray's. His eyes sparkle with golden specks in them.
But they are green and that reminds me of my father. And then Ray’s
behaviour. He's in the same class with me. At first I thought he would
be my friend like all the others were. But he rejected me right from the
I couldn't allow this. I'm Frankie Zuko. I'm not to be ignored. And
that's what Ray tried to do. But I showed him different. And I would
have won him over in the end weren't it for the betrayal of Marco
Mitrani. This little shit. Both of them. If they'd treated me different
yesterday wouldn't have happened. I'm not to blame for it. I had to
defend my rights. And I'm sure Father will see this. He was angry last
night when I told him what happened at the school yard. At first I
thought he'd slap me. But he didn't. He just sent me to bed. I had
difficulties to sleep. I feared to have nightmares. But in the end I
must have dozed off. And I didn't have a nightmare.
Now! This is curious. It's just now that I realise that I slept well. No
dreams or even nightmares I could remember. When I woke this morning I
was still a little tired, but not exhausted from tossing the whole
night. I glance over to Irene as we go down the stairs, both of us
walking very slowly. I stop and Irene turns to look at me. "What is it,
Frankie?" Her voice is calm, shows no strain at all. Again I'm forced to
wonder where she gets all her spirit from.
"Nothing, I'm just thinking." With that I settle down on the next step.
And Irene sits down beside me, leaning her head on my right arm. I try
to concentrate. No nightmares. I had no nightmares. After what I did to
Marco. After my father lectured on me. No nightmares. Maybe... Just
maybe everything I did last night was right. Slowly I nod. Yes. Those
two little creeps wouldn't dare to challenge me again. Not Marco. And
not Ray. Both should know their place now. If Marco lives that is.
Perhaps I was a little hard on him. But he deserved it. And after I'd
started to bash him I could not stop before I saw his eyes go dead.
What did I feel? Didn't I feel right? Well, at first, I didn't think at
all. No, it was just a... an instinct to snatch the ball from Carlo and
attack Marco. But when I saw Marco's eyes losing contact with reality I
felt... good. Powerful. I could decide if I wanted to kill him. Or not.
I controlled his life. And Ray could not stop me. I silenced him as
well. When I was finished with Marco I looked up at Ray. His eyes were
wide open. He stared at Marco, I think, but I do not believe that he was
taking in what he was staring at. I remember that a little shudder ran
down my spine. Just for a moment. Then I felt good again.
I decided to leave and stood. The basketball was still in my hands. I
went over to Ray and pressed the ball on him. He snatched it,
automatically I guess, since his eyes were still on Marco. There was
nothing more I had to do. I scanned the faces of the other kids. All
seemed to have the same expression. Shock. And fear. Even Carlo.
Especially Carlo. He was the only one who dared to speak to me. "Why did
ya do that, Frankie? Ya killed him. We must call an ambulance." When he
tried to go for help, I held him back with ease. "Carlo, don't. They
will be found. Eventually. That does not have to bother us." I remember
clearly now the calmness of my voice. That seemed to break the spell the
kids were under. They gathered before me. "We go now. All of us." I made
a little pause. "Well, nearly all of us." With a smile on my lips I made
my way to the gates. And all the time I was sure that the others would
follow me. And so they did.
I crossed the basketball field, the others in tow. Then I saw the
janitor. My heart gave a little start, but I regained control almost in
the next second. He's nothing to you, Frankie, I told myself. When I
came up to him, I saw that he was trembling. And his face showed shock
and fear. I was pleased that he was no different from the kids behind
me. Good. Very good. "Good evening, Mr. Putrami. You might call the
ambulance. There has been a little accident." I went on, never looking
The air of triumph did not leave me when I came home. I went straight to
my father's study, knowing that he would be there. He was surprised to
see me, when I entered, after he answered my knock. He was alone for
once. That was very well with me. Carefully I closed the door.
"What happened, Francesco? How do you dare come in here dirty and
sweaty? You look as if you’re just coming from a basketball game." I
noted with satisfaction that he did know about my favourite sport. "I
do, Father. I had some business with Marco Mitrani and Ray Vecchio."
"Business? What business?" I could tell by the impatience in his voice
that he wasn't very interested. He even looked down again on the papers
in his hand that he had been reading when I entered. Well, he would be
interested soon. I cleared my throat and explained what happened. With
satisfaction I registered that his eyes looked at me intently.
When I finished I still felt... content. That would show my father that
I could take care of my own matters. But my father seemed to think
different. He stood slowly and came around the desk he had been sitting
behind. He towered over me. And than the yelling started. It was like
blows. I tried to bring up my arms for protection, but he gripped them
hard with one hand and with the other hand he made me face him, cupping
my chin, lifting thus my head. It hurt.
But more so did the yelling. I did not try to understand what it was he
yelled, I only hoped that he would stop. I have no idea how long it
took. Suddenly he was behind his desk again, but not sitting down. His
voice was calm now, and it was if that outburst of rage never had
"Francesco, I'll take over now. You go to bed. I will talk with Charlie
and we will think of a way to set things right. Do you understand what
that can cost me? Us? Our family? You should know that Marco's father is
an business associate. You should know this. But you don't. Why is that?
Why don't you accept your heritage and start to live with the
responsibilities you have as my son? Go now. We will talk in the
I do not know how I left his study or how I ended up in bed, undressed
and ready to sleep. I do remember lying there, staring into nothingness,
trying to digest my father's reaction. Couldn't he see what I had
achieved? I feared to sleep. Surely I'd have more nightmares. And when I
woke up this morning I still had this feeling of dread. I feared to face
my father again.
But now, after I recalled the feeling of triumph from last night, after
I taught Marco and Ray a lesson, I do not understand why Father yelled
at me and what he told me about Marco's father. I was right in my doing.
I, Frankie Zuko had to prove that I'm to be respected. No matter the
price. And I will show my father, too. I stand up and start down the
stairs again. Irene nearly falls down from them. I forgot that she was
leaning on me. I just catch her in time.
"I go alone, Irene. I have to do this on my own. And don't worry, I will
be all right." I give her what I think is an encouraging smile and leave
her behind me. „Frankie?" Her voice sounds full of astonishment. I halt
and turn to her. „Show him!" And then she smiles and her eyes sparkle as
I have never seen it before.
„What?" I ask. Her smile even intensifies. „You know." And with that she
turns and runs up the stairs. I stand still for another moment and the
warmth I feel in me reaches my heart and my very soul. For the first
time in my whole life I feel right. And Father will have to see it, too.
As I expected Charlie is with him. He stands a few steps to the left of
my father, arms behind his back, ready to fall into action, whenever it
was needed. But I do not mind him being there. It’s easy to ignore him
this time. I look at my father, sitting behind his desk, his arms
crossed before him. Although it’s a brilliant day outside, the room is
dark as usual. Some curtains are drawn before the great window behind my
father. After entering I need some moments to get used to the sparse
All the time my father waits. He does not speak a single word. He does
not move. He just waits. I know what he is waiting for. An apology.
After waking up this morning the thought had me panic somewhat but now
I’m sure what I have to say. And I am grateful that my father leaves it
to me to open our „talk".
„Father, I am sorry about yesterday." I believe that I see the
beginnings of a smile flicker in his eyes, but I cannot be sure with the
little light in this room. For the first time I wonder if this a
deliberate set-up. „When I came to you to tell you about what happened
at the basketball court I gave you the wrong impression about the...
‘incident’." I know this will surprise him. And I’m proven right by the
tone with which he speaks his next words. „How so, Francesco? I thought
that you described it quite adequately."
I shake my head, determined to show my father that I and also he were
wrong about exactly this point. „No, Father. Before I came to you last
night, I felt I had done the right thing. But standing here to answer
you made me unsure about it. And your yelling even worsened it. But I
did think about it. Now I know it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t
an outburst of rage. Although I admit that I was... upset." Let’s see
how he takes this in.
Not well, I have to admit. „What are you trying to tell me, Francesco?
You nearly killed another boy and you feel that is was the right thing
to do?" With an effort he keeps his voice calm. „But you may try to
explain to me why bashing Marco Mitrani was the right thing to do!" He
leans back in his chair, placing his hands in his neck and waits for my
I shoot a short look over to Charlie. No reaction as far as I can see.
As if I should have expected anything else... „As I said, it was no mere
outburst of rage. He deserved it. He and Ray Vecchio. Maybe putting Ray
into place was even more important. Those two don’t respect me. And when
they disrespect me, they do so with the whole Zuko family. I - we -
can’t allow that. I had to set things right. And I did. I’m no longer a
kid, father. I am a man and what’s more, I’m a Zuko. You told me to
accept my responsibility, my future in this family, and in the...
business. I’m learning now what all this means. And last night was only
the beginning." I stop myself. More words would have come easily, but I
do not want to fall into babbling. Enough is said. Now it’s my father’s
During my little speech I took a few steps towards the desk before me
and placed my hands upon it, slightly leaning forward. Now I straighten
my back again and wait for my father to answer. He does not change his
posture. For a while he just looks at me. Than he swivels his chair
until I face its back. His voice sounds strangled. „You are right. The
report you gave me yesterday gave me a wrong impression about it. And
about you, Francesco. I need some time to think about what you just told
me. You may leave now."
This is victory. He didn’t yell at me again, what had surely been a
possibility. He has to think about it. I impressed him. With an effort I
suppress a smile and turn to leave. When I reach the door Charlie speaks
up. „Wait, Francesco! Mr. Zuko, won’t you inform your son about the
steps you’d taken so far in this matter?" I dare not to believe my ears.
Charlie seems to have accepted my new role as my father’s true son.
Time passes with another quality in my father’s study. It seems like
ages before he answers. Slowly he swivels his chair, facing me. I close
the door I already opened and go back to stand before him. „Charlie’s
right, of course. You have... the right to know what’s going on. When
you left for bed yesterday I sent some of my men over to the precinct.
They would have known by that time. And they did. I had them informed
that I take a personal interest in the horrible incident. They are
looking now for clues to press charges against Raymond Vecchio. And any
connection to our family will be ignored, apart from my genuine concern
for the safety in this neighbourhood."
I know he expects a comment from me on this. „I see. What good is it to
us, if they press charges against Ray? If Marco survives he will testify
and Ray’s name will be cleared. Marco will testify against me." It’s the
first time that I think about Marco’s state at all. If he survives... It
means nothing to me. „And there’s other evidence. The basketball..."
„That you left behind. Well, as I said, any connection with you will be
ignored. People will know the truth eventually, but that shouldn’t
bother you. There will be no one standing up in court to testify against
you or us. You should know that by now. Not even Marco, if he survives.
His condition is still serious, As is Ray’s. I called the hospital two
hours ago." He hesitates a moment before going on. „I will speak with
Marco’s father. The Mitranis will leave Chicago. With or without their
son, depending on his survival. I truly regret this, Mitrani was a
reliable partner. But there are other places where he will be of
advantage for this family. Luckily for us his influence in the last
years has quite lessened. You might remember, Francesco, that he could
make me keeping you away from his son and his friend some years ago. Now
he will do my bidding in this matter."
I nod, try to keep my anger back. If I could have dealt with those kids
five years ago, this would never have happened. „But you asked another
question, and the answer is much more important. There is something you
do not know. You have to know now. Sit." He gestures to the chair that
stands a few steps behind me. I pull it over and sit down, eager to hear
what he has to tell me. It’s the first time in my life that I sit in the
presence of my father.
„The Zukos and the Vecchios have a history. Both families lived here in
Chicago since several generations. And the Vecchio men worked for the
Zuko family. Ernesto Vecchio, Ray’s father, was no exception. But he was
different from his forefathers who had been loyal to us without
question. Ernesto... was different. He tried to... how would he have
phrased it, Charlie?" turning to the man behind him at those words.
Charlie smiles humourlessly at my father: „He tried to play in a
different league, Mr. Zuko." My father imitates Charlie’s smile, nodding
to himself. „Yes, that’s the way he would have described it. Francesco,
you and Ray were only four years old, when Ernesto Vecchio grabbed at a
piece from the cake that wasn’t meant for him. I had to take certain
actions. That is, Charlie took those actions. After that Ernesto became
rapidly the lowlife that you know now, Francesco. And now he pays the
respect that’s due to our family. But I see the same... rebelliousness
in his son now. I will stop this before history repeats itself. You are
right that showing Ray Vecchio his place was more important than
frightening off Marco."
„Then you accept what I said about yesterday?" I cannot retain myself
any longer. With a jump I rise from the chair, triumph swinging in my
voice. „NO!" The loudness of his yell makes me step back. „Sorry,
Francesco, I did not mean to yell. You have to see that bashing people
does not set things right. There are other means, as you will see. I am
sure now that you will be able to learn those things. And that is more I
could expect from you. I will be open to you, Francesco. I feared you
would disappoint me. But you showed me your potential. Not yesterday,
not by bashing Marco. No, you showed my this morning, standing up for
your belief. Although I still think it was wrong what you did... or
better, how you did it. But we have to use this... situation to our
advantage now. Which in this case means that we got a hold on Ray
Contradicting feelings are running wild through my mind. I’m proud to
hear my father talking like this to me. He accepts me as his son and
heir. But I struggle with what he has to say about Ray. It makes me...
jealous. What’s so important about him? He’s just another kid from the
neighbourhood. No, maybe not quite so... Somehow I have been fascinated
by him from the first time he rejected me in school. Nonetheless, „I
have to know what’s so important about Ray. He’s just a kid. And he
shouldn’t be a threat anymore."
Charlie gives a short laugh. My father looks at him sternly and he falls
silent. „Francesco, don’t you think that he will testify against you?" I
try to remember the state Ray was in when I left him with Marco. No way.
„Father, when you had seen him... No, I don’t think so. And you said
yourself he still isn’t stable yet. Maybe he never will be."
„Maybe he won’t. But what I know of Ray Vecchio tells me he is a
fighter. And there’s a good chance that he will make it. And then he
will testify. There’s a sure way to lessen the impact such a testimony
would have. It’s a great difference between the testimony of a witness
and that of a defendant..." My father gives me time to draw my own
conclusions. I ponder about it. He’s right. About Ray, about what people
would think... Poor Ray. That would... Oh God. I get excited.
„Father, now I see what you meant with other means, right? I do not have
to use my own hands, getting dirty in consequence. Of course, there are
other means... And you plan to use those on Ray? Maybe even setting an
example for others? They would know what happens to challenge the
Zukos..." My father started nodding as I slowly come out with my
thoughts. Now he gives me a radiant smile. „That’s it, Francesco,
finally you see..." He stands and comes round the desk to pull me into a
hug. It’s the first time in my life that he hugs me. This day is full of
first times... My father pulls back in the next moment, taking my head
in his hands. He places a kiss on my forehead. „Why don’t you go to your
room and rest for a while. This was hard on you and you’ll have to do a
lot of thinking still. We will see each other quite often in the time to
come. I will join you and your sister at one. We will eat together.
Maybe we can go out..."
I am thrilled. „That... I’d love to. And Irene too. What do you think,
can we go to Scarpetta’s?" He gives me another hug: „Scarpetta’s it is.
Going to my room was out of the question. This is a day to enjoy the
beauty of life. I informed Irene about the plans for lunch and she was
all game. She took off to find her nanny to discuss what she would wear
for the occasion. I went out into the garden behind the house, lying
down on the grass.
Now I try to cope with this morning’s outcome. It’s going to be hard,
but it’s worth the effort to live up to my father’s expectations. A few
hours ago I feared to speak to him, now I am accepted as what I really
am. His only son and heir. I marvel at the power he has. That I will
have one day.
Involuntarily my thoughts wander off to Ray. I cannot explain what
brings me ever back to him. Marco was never important. Of course he was
my rival in basketball, being the better player than Ray. He angered me,
but not in the way Ray Vecchio got under my skin. And Ray still does. My
father is right about him. He’s a fighter. Too much for his own good.
All the times he got himself into trouble... he has a twisted sense of
justice. Ray is convinced that only the weak had to be protected from
injustice, not the mighty, as he said once. He never would stand up for
me, but he does for others on countless occasions. And a testimony
against me would be just another example of his bravado in those
Ray... When my father’s plans work he will go down. Finally... There
were thousand of times when I just wished that: Ray Vecchio down. But a
part of me feels different. And it’s a strong feeling. I do not want him
hurt. At first, in school, all I wanted was becoming friends with him.
There is something about him that fascinates me. I have difficulties to
put this into coherent thoughts or even words. Ray Vecchio has a lot of
reason to guard himself, to be bottled up, to keep himself from the
company of others. Nonetheless when I look into his face all I see there
is openness. He tries to isolate himself, even from Marco at some times.
But a look into his eyes and you can see into his very soul. He cannot
hide his desires a little bit. I remember all those days when he tried
to keep himself away from the basketball court, pretending to study. But
his eyes, those gorgeous green eyes showed what he really wanted... But
he never spoke about it.
That courage impressed me then and that courage is still in him. Ray
Vecchio is the most alive and vibrant person I ever met. And even when
he opposes me the fire in him warms my soul. I dare not to imagine the
possibilities we would have if we were friends. But that is never to be.
Not when my father is finished with Ray Vecchio.
of this story