BY : Death_Rattle
Category: Avatar - The Last Airbender > AU/AR - Alternate Universe/Alternate Reality
Dragon prints: 5256
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Avatar: the Last Airbender or any of the characters. I do not profit from my writing.

The sun had already risen when the Phoenix King awoke, his daughter and wife-soon-to-be sleeping soundly with her head upon his chest. Ozai shook his head as he (with a bit more discretion than he was probably used to) slipped out of bed, blurred vision slowly clearing. The night previous truly had been one to remember... that is, it would be if he could remember anything but pieces of it.

Walking down the halls of his palace, the Phoenix King had a rare moment of consideration. There were whispers of course, there had been ever since that fateful day a year and a half ago, but he could sense that something had already begun to change - it was glorious. Whispers had turned into questions, and the festering of the peasant's wonderings were growing to a sizable proportion, Ozai just knew it. Soon they would all know, and would be made to respect the Phoenix King's union of fire. But there was someone who did not know, who had remained ignorant of just how deep his failure truly was this entire time. How Zuko must loathe himself now, sitting in that dark cell (to which Ozai would be certain to place his traitorous brother adjacent, pending his execution), having failed to defeat his little sister for the umpteenth time, having failed to teach the Avatar anything more than pitiful firebending, and knowing that the only one who could save him now was the father he claimed not to need or want. Ozai inhaled sharply. Today, too, would be a day worth remembering.

The Phoenix King peered through the bars. Asleep on the floor, drool spreading from his mouth... how utterly predictable. Even imprisoned, Zuko managed to be just as pathetic as ever. His chest bore an untended wound which Ozai knew to be lightning - Azula's work, no doubt. Befitting it was that both father and daughter will have left a scar once they were finished with the young fool.

"Wake up!"

Awaken the prince did indeed, with a start. And then, there came the pain- sharp, shooting pain, the blinding kind, that spread throughout his body. For an instant, it felt as though he were being electrocuted all over again and everything went dark, cold... he was frozen, swimming- drowning - lost to the north sea and burning from the inside out beneath her icy waves. His head was spinning, spinning beyond all control... heartbeat thrumming in his ears- boom boom boom boom - the drums of war! But the war was no more; the war was lost. He had lost ...The world had lost.

Straining, Prince Zuko lifted his head, only to find himself staring down the very last person on this planet whom he wished to see before the end - his Agni-forsaken father. Spirits be damned, what had he done in this life or any other to deserve such torment? Somehow, some way, this man ( this monster ) always managed to come out on top. Always. And why? He has asked, over and again. Why?

"Why are you here?"

"Why, I am a just father come to visit his son" Ozai mocked, before letting himself fall into a laugh. "Did you really believe you could win? Of course you did, those are exactly the lies that you believe so readily. And your sister? Trying to kill her during her moment of triumph?" he was angry now, outraged at what Zuko had done to his precious princess. If there was any truer truth in this world, it is that whatever is right and true, Zuko believed was wretched and false - the ultimate contrarian indicator. If one wanted to find what the world's greatest pleasures were, one only had to ask Zuko whence came the world's greatest pains. It wasn't as if such people were uncommon, but his son?

Ozai wished now more than ever that the whore's wretched lies had been true. It would have made everything easier. Instead, the young Prince Ozai, then Fire Lord, and now Phoenix King had to watch his own son fail to infinity, knowing it not only reflected the royal family, but himself as well.

"I didn't try-" Zuko began, biting his tongue before any protest would come to fruition.

What was the point? He was wrong. Azula was right. In their father's eyes, he was always wrong. And Azula? She was always right. Always smarter. Always stronger. Always better. Azula was born lucky; he was lucky to be born. Azula made Father proud. He made Father disappointed. He made everyone disappointed, really. Himself, perhaps, most of all.

"Yes, Father," he said, his once-bright golden gaze now dulled and downcast in shame. "I did. I believed that I could win."

"Does that make you... happy?" Zuko asked, fists clenching with righteous anger. And those eyes began to blaze with emotion, livening once more, as though awakened from the dead. His piercing stare burned straight through the hem of his father's robes, trailing up and onward until their eyes met. "I know it does. You don't have to tell me, I'm your son. It makes you happy to watch me fail and I have no idea why - it just does. You wanted this to happen."

"You're sick."

Ozai knelt down so that he was at eye level to Zuko, speaking with deadly slowness. "The only thing that makes me happy is that your escape during the day of black sun provided you time to learn one final lesson. One final lesson before the stain that you are on me, with your nonsense politic and string of failures, is removed forever."

The Prince was afraid to know, and even still he asked "What lesson is that, Father?"

"You can never defeat something that is simply greater than you" Ozai said simply, rising up. "Had you known your own worth, you may have had a place here. But instead..." he turned to leave.

"Do not expect me to make it quick. The death I offered in the tunnels would be mercy for you now. You don't deserve it. You will suffer a day for every second of damage you did to my daughter, my Phoenix Queen."

Phoenix Queen?!

Surely, he couldn't- oh, but he could. Indeed, he could. The bastard could do anything he pleased! Who would dare to try and stop him? Who could stop him now?

"You... you're insane!" Zuko accused, bile rising to his throat. "Your own daughter...? What's wrong with you!?" he roared.

Azula, his sister- his little sister - "Don't touch her, you sick bastard! Don't you dare!"

Ozai's laughing was borderline crazed now. "Would you rather have her for yourself? I never took you to be the jealous type, Zuko!"

"...don't worry" he began again, laughter subsiding somewhat as he gave a furious knock on the cell's outer door for the guard to open it. "I promise not to do anything that I haven't done before"

"How can you even live with yourself!? I wish that I'd put an end to your miserable existence when I had the chance!" Zuko called out in vain.

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