Kuebiko

BY : Death_Rattle
Category: Avatar - The Last Airbender > AU/AR - Alternate Universe/Alternate Reality
Dragon prints: 5257
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 night was calm and clear. The breeze was light and warm - Azula shivered slightly nonetheless, feigning discomfort.

"Cold?" the Phoenix King wrapped his arms around his spawn, exuding warmth from his inner fire.

"They love us" he said suddenly. "They adore you. They adore me. They adore us. You heard them, did you not? You're a great hero to the Fire Nation." he placed his head against hers.

As always, Ozai's embrace provided comfort to his daughter. "But of course" she replied, acknowledging what her husband had said. Indeed, the Royal Couple were nothing short of adored by an utterly captivated, awe-struck audience.

You're a great hero to the Fire Nation

Azula perked up, her father's words causing an effect even more powerful than that of the peasant's adoration.

"As are you, My Love. Befitting that our subjects should recognize your greatness."

"We'll be the best remembered rulers for generations to come" the Phoenix King echoed the sentiment. "Nobody will remember the likes of Sozin and Azulon when we're responsible for ending the Avatar, ending all chaos in the world and establishing order. Breaking down the foolish taboos of the past and the ridiculous notion of Harmony and Separation. Our covenant will last an eternity." he held her tighter.

"And Zuko" he added. "He will be remembered as the fool that he is, if he is to be remembered at all." A pause. "No longer will anyone doubt that you're my true heir. Those voices have been thoroughly silenced" he finished, bitterly remembering all those who continued to support that fool's claim simply because he was born first and the male heir.

"Just as well" Azula smirked. "Zuzu would have made a shit Fire Lord and we all know it. Of course, you were the first to know. What gave it away?"

"What didn't?" the Phoenix King chuckled.

"He lacked the spark in his eyes. I thought he wouldn't even be a bender at first. Your mother convinced me to give him a chance." he ran a hand through her hair. "A big mistake, obviously"

A pause.

"He was weak. Even you knew it. Even as a child, when anyone challenged his honor he would back down like a coward. He had his first flame after his fifth year. After you had done so despite being two years younger. And..." he shook his head, as if in disgust. "Ursa coddled him every damn step of the way. As did brother, when he was around." he loosened his grip, and looked off in the distance, as if to ponder something. "He didn't understand what was necessary. He thought being Firelord was about being kind and compassionate. He wasn't like you or me. He was defective, he inherited Ursa's coddling disease, thinking that the strong should protect the weak - rather than dominate"

Azula thought on her husband and father's words for a moment before speaking. "That's just it: he is defective. You tried to show him the way but... he never took those lessons to heart, not once" she said, appearing rather pensive as well. "You mustn't blame yourself," she offered. "I listened; I learned. And now, I rule by your side while the world bows to me. And that's no divine intervention or coincidence either..."

She continued. "...Zuzu's always babbled on and on about luck and Agni-given talent - spirits, I swear I can still hear him whining as we speak!"

"You're so unfair" Ozai mocked in a high pitched voice, before breaking into a hearty laugh at the absurdity of it all. "I wonder if the poor boy will ever realize that it's the world that's unfair."

Azula, too enjoyed a laugh at her brother's expense. "I sincerely doubt that."

A pause.

Once again hopeful that she would receive physical affection in response, Azula shivered.

"Daddy?"

His little girl was again shivering - her dress indeed ill suited for the outside cold. "Here" he said, wrapping his arms around her once again, cupping her hands with his own to create a small red flame in front of her waist - quickly morphing blue as his daughter's inner fire complemented his own.

"How foolish of me to leave you alone in the cold, what with your current state of dress"

She stared down at the flame, mesmerized. A chill ran down her spine and this time, it was a real one.

"Planning to have a look at what's on underneath?" Azula pressed herself against Ozai. "That is my reward, isn't it? Mm, you'll just have to keep me warm then, Daddy."

"Be patient my daughter, your reward will come at the right time, and in the right place." was all the Phoenix King said.

⁂⁂⁂

Katara didn't exactly know what the the Phoenix King really wanted out of her - and she supposed that was the point. At least she was allowed out of the damned box and away from him. The waterbender shivered involuntarily remembering the moment that he grabbed her.

"That will be 2 silver and 7 coppers, Miss" said a woman who was clearly disgusted at the dark-skinned girl.

"Um, it's for the..." she paused for a second, wishing she could actually pay this woman despite her obvious prejudice. Katara wondered if Ozai actually paid for anything. "It's for the Phoenix King" she said dully, pointing to the poster, which barely resembled her.

"Right, and I'm the long lost Queen Mother" the woman mocked disbelievingly. "No pay, no booze"

Jeez which rock did you just crawl out from under

"Agni, don't you know who this is?!" exclaimed a young man, rushing forth from a small crowd that had formed around the concession stands. "It's Katara, the waterbender! She serves Phoenix Queen Azula, you'd do well to honor her request!"

Said waterbender breathed a sigh of relief and a shivered with apprehension at the same time. She had fanboys now. Great.

The woman gave both of them long looks before she waved her arm up in the air. "Whatever." she relented. "Tell Phoenix Queen Azula that maybe she should pay for her drinks with all that gold of hers."

Katara turned to the man, bottles still in hand, no longer paying the woman any mind (though she did happen to agree with that belief of hers, despite the disapproving look the man was giving).

"Thanks"

"You're very welcome!" the man replied, still enthusiastic as ever. "My name is Mao. Pleased to meet you, Miss Katara!" he bowed his head, offering due respect (which for him was the same amount he would offer any other, native of the Fire Isles or no, much to the waterbender's apparent confusion).

A short pause.

Mao stared, seemingly mesmerized.

"By Agni, you're so lucky the Phoenix Queen forgave you for your transgressions!" he hesitated. "Er, sorry, it's just..." he trailed off. "Ah well, no matter."

"Long may she reign!" he quickly added, as though prompted by a cue card. "Tell me, are you the only foreign-born palace servant? Forgive my curiosity, I'm merely interested in the minority perspective."

"Um..." she stammered, managing an awkward fist-and-open palm show of respect in them. "I think so" she finally answered, trying not to think about the first thing he had said (was she lucky that Azula had 'forgiven' her? Perhaps so, she relented. Though sometimes Katara couldn't help but entertain that she'd be better off back in her cell.)

"...interested in the minority perspective?" she queried, having never heard such a series of words strung together.

"The perspective of those born outside the mainland, in other words, the Fire Nation's racial and ethnic minorities. I believe it is essential to the growth and eventual survival of our society. Perhaps all of your people - water tribe people, that is - may be integrated as you have been," Mao explained. "Without the need for loss of identity through systematic assimilation, of course!" he gestured toward Katara's obviously water tribe hairstyle.

The waterbender briefly considered whether the man before her was crazy or not. She wasn't even aware that systematic assimilation were actual words. Not ones that she had ever been taught, though she supposed maybe it was one of those educated nobility things. "...integrated?" she barely asked, her mind catching up to the absolute bombardment of words the man had sent at her. Was he talking about turning the rest of her people into...?

She did her best to keep a smile and a straight face.

"Yes, just hear me out!" Mao affirmed, ignorant of the simple fact that Katara had understood naught but a few words throughout his ramblings. "The Phoenix Queen herself accepted you, after all."

"Pay that woman no mind" he looked toward the middle-aged woman who'd given her a hard time only moments ago. "In time, the rest of us will accept you and your people as valuable members of our society."

A pause.

"Still...," Mao began. "...it's quite remarkable, really. Why do you suppose the Phoenix Queen forgave and accepted you into her good graces after... after what you did?"

Oh yeah I'm just the pinnacle of evil for trying to heal Zuko after he got struck by lightning. Totally unforgivable!, she mocked within the confines of her own mind, wondering what would happen to her if she challenged the narrative to the play (or to him was probably the better question. The Dai Li probably weren't above disappearing those who had forbidden knowledge).

She thought for a moment, thinking back to the events previous. To all the spats and quick talks that had all been compressed in the last 3 weeks. To the comb on her pillow.

"Azula's a more understanding woman than most people would expect. She was willing to give me a second chance" she said, surprised that the words actually rang with some modicum of truth.

Maybe she really is better off in her cell.

"Interesting..." Mao mumbled, more to himself than the waterbender. "I take it you'll be returning to the Caldera along with the Phoenix King and Queen?" he asked, prompting Katara to nod her head in agreement. He offered an honest smile. "I work in the Capital City, the cultural center to be exact. Perhaps... we could write letters to one another?"

"Uhm... I don't think Az- The Phoenix Queen would be okay with that. Actually, I should be going!" she said quickly, the syllables mashed together towards the end of the sentence. "Nice meeting you!" she said as she turned and left unceremoniously, her level of raw discomfort already at an absolute maximum.

Katara pondered the man. As strange as he was... familiar. The wide eyed enthusiasm and idealism that came with having not seen the world like she had done. Hope that everything would just... work out.

Maybe Katara needed a bit more of that, she thought, feeling a slight pang of regret as she walked farther away from the man.

⁂⁂⁂

Golden eyes went wide with shock: Katara had not yet returned. Damn that snow peasant to Koh's lair, Azula thought. Father will have her head for such insolence!

In desperation, she clung to her Phoenix King and pulled him close, hopeful that he would not notice the empty seat. "I want you...," Father and daughter were soon locked in a passionate kiss.

"...please don't make me wait too long, Daddy" Azula whispered once their kiss broke.

"I won't. I promise" Ozai assured, the deception completely opaque to him as his hand wandered downwards to her well-formed ass. "I think you'll rather like what I have in mind." he said, not noticing the reason for the delay walking into the royal box behind his back.

Refreshments in hand, the theater's many patrons filed in in droves and returned to their seats, tittering with excitement over what was to happen next. The Royal Couple followed suit - after they were finished pawing at each other - making themselves comfortable within the privacy of the royal box. Which of course meant the Phoenix King securing his daughter's leash once more, ensuring that she wasn't going anywhere then offering her his - sore though he was much too proud to admit it - shoulder. Ozai resisted the urge to wince as Azula gladly took said offer.

The lights were dimmed, signaling an end to the play's intermission. Open curtains revealed a much more liberally lit stage as well as several men in green robes, appearing frantic.

"What are we to do?"

"We've looked everywhere!"

"Where is the Princess?!"

"There's no sign of her!"

The Phoenix King's younger (though rather less handsome) counterpart entered left stage covered in ash and with his silken wig appropriately mussed, prompting the 'Dai Li agents' to bow respectfully and immediately while the crowd cheered, celebrating their hero's return.

"Where is my daughter?!" the man demanded.

"We... we..." one faux agent stuttered.

"You what? Speak up, fool!"

"We don't know!" squeaked another.

"WHAT?!"

"There was a battle... the witch, she put some sort of curse on-" a green robed man began. Though he did not dare look his King in the eye.

"Please, your highness!" another interrupted. "The Princess is ill, confused and alone... she may be in grave danger! You must find her!"

And so, the great hero of the story wasted no time. He rushed off stage to the aid of his daughter and future wife, the curtains closing swiftly for dramatic effect.

It seemed nearly an eternity until the next scene began, the dimmed lights revealing the wounded princess laying against a casket in a place that the royals could recognize as a rather underinformed rendition of the dragonbone crypts. Her hair was still wild on her head, her clothes tattered, her demeanor that of someone who had just spent the night in the middle of a snowstorm.

"Azula...! Azula...! Azula...!" the man portraying her father called out. "...please?" he said in desperation to no one in particular.

"AZULA!"

For even more dramatic effect, a few props were destroyed (rather loudly) as the actor continued to feign distress. A ribbon of false fire strayed near the casket and the theater pyrotechnics flared, illuminating the stage with almost blinding levels of light just for a moment - though soon enough the lighting returned to appropriate levels of gloom and doom.

"...Azula?" Father approached his apparently shaken daughter. "My Little Princess" he knelt to the ground beside her and pulled her close.

The woman struggled immediately, before growing still and accepting the not-Phoenix King's touch. "Father" she mewled out weakly - such so that the audience could barely hear, her voice strained, her demeanor shaken and frigid.

He held her face in his hands. "Yes. I'm here, My Princess" His forehead pressed into hers. "Are you hurt?" he asked, softly.

"Zuko, he..." she managed looking away.

"That girl"

"she..."

The actress looked away, as if to hold back tears from the deathly silent crowd.

The actor only held her tighter. "What?" he asked, concern washing over his handsome face. "What did she do to you?" Gently, he cupped the young woman's chin and turned her face toward his once more. "I'm here" he repeated but with a bit more conviction this time.

"Whatever it is that the traitor or that vile sorceress has done, I will not allow such a thing to happen again."

"My mind... she..." the woman whimpered. "I see things"

"Nothing makes any sense, daddy"

"Hush, My Princess...," the faux Phoenix King soothed. "...everything makes sense. Everything is just as it should be. We've won; we're together."

"I love you, Azula. Trust in our love." He cradled the woman in his arms, lifting her with seemingly no effort as he stood up. "I shall make you my queen and lay the world at your feet."

"I do, father" the Fire Princess answered, her voice showing a resurgence of clarity, as the strong arms of the Phoenix King swept her up. "I do trust in you, I-"

"I do love you" she sobbed. "Brother, he... he tried to take it all away. He used magic on my mind. He wanted to take our love"

"Take our lo-" He shook his head. "No one can do that!" he exclaimed.

"Zuko is a fool to have tried. Still he will be dealt with accordingly... rest assured, My Love" The actress received a kiss upon the crown of her head. "Let's get you home where you belong. Would you like that?"

The real Phoenix King leaned back in his chair. "Do we really appear so... so..." he struggled to find his words. "weak? I feel like I'm listening to that friend of yours, what's her name..."

A pause.

"The pink one"

pink one?

Azula laughed.

"Ty Lee."

A pause.

"Her name's Ty Lee," she informed him. "And no. No, of course not." She continued, her tone light-hearted, although her true feelings were anything but. "Surely I don't need to tell you that the art of romance is all but lost on you... which I suppose is to be expected, owing to the fact that you have the emotional range of a thimble."

For a moment, the Phoenix Queen feared she'd said too much.

"You're merely a simple man with simple needs" she added, cautiously. "So basely ruled" she purred, giving her father's beard a light tug.

Ozai considered this a moment. "I suppose so." he nodded his head. "Very well. We can't have the peasants thinking of me as being so ignorant of the feminine arts, I suppose."

"I'm just glad you appreciate me for who I am"

Azula found herself taken aback by Ozai's words. However, she was inclined to agree. While at times, she wished the 'feminine arts' were not unknown to him... Ozai was Ozai. With a single look, he could render her speechless, make her shiver and shake, and her heart race so quickly she feared it would explode. No other man could claim such an honor nor would one - ever.

"The feeling is mutual" she admitted.

It was true (or so the Phoenix Queen thought). No other could possibly appreciate her for who she really was.

A monster, sounded an all too familiar voice from the deepest recesses of her mind, still ringing in her ears after all this time.

"I am your father." the Phoenix King said simply. "Of course I see you as you are - it's why our relationship is so pure. How could another man understand you, pleasure you like I have?"

A pause.

"The foolish ancients couldn't have been more wrong. The love between family isn't shameful - but rather the other way around. How can anyone stand to be so intimate with those they do not know?"

Azula considered this. Indeed, she could scarcely imagine allowing someone (other than her beloved father and husband, of course!) to touch her, surrendering control of her body and senses without implicit trust and understanding. The thought of some strange man doing what Daddy did to her was enough to make her want to be sick! She'd known her Daddy her whole life, she loved and trusted him like no other, she could never feel the same way about anybody else. Agni, she couldn't fathom how other women married and had children with men they'd known little more than a year - to her, it seemed no different than marrying a stranger and bearing his children!

"The notion is certainly beyond me" she scoffed. "Hm. If only every girl realized just what it is she's missing out on... wasting time with foolish little boys who fancy themselves men instead of letting daddy take care of her."

The waterbender sitting behind them had to hold back a laugh. Those two were just as mushy as the play made them out to be. Maybe even moreso. The actor and actress currently walking off the stage would probably feel laughably inaccurate if they knew just how sappy their counterparts actually were.

It was laughable.

Oh, Azula, I am the best husband to you because I'm old and useless and your father. Our love is so pure - I groomed you for it after all! Katara thought, half mocking, half resenting the man who had turned a boring night watching a boring play into a terrible night sitting next to a terrible man.

And to top it all off, the playwright wasn't done with her yet.

A prison cell. It was eerily familiar - except for the fact that the stagelights and not-quite-right props made it far less grim and dark than in reality. And that somehow the 'Katara' was still in pristine condition, the make-up caked on. The Azula walking on stage was fairly accurate however.

The Fire Princess stopped short of the sorceress.

"You did something to me"

"My brother used you against me. To make my mind frail." the Faux Princess explained. "I see... things because of you."

A pause.

"I could have you killed for what you've done"

"I know" she replied, simply. "Is that why you're here? Vengeance?" Once more, the raven haired young woman who was apparently portraying Katara looked up.

"I want to" she replied. "My brother was trying to destroy something very important for his own gain"

She turned to the audience.

"But you... you stopped fighting. My own brother tried to take my life. You, my enemy told him to stop. You beg for my mercy. Why"

"It was wrong, what he was doing-"

"What I did!" the actress exclaimed.

"It was wrong, cowardly - dishonorable!" she declared, more to the audience than to the woman standing across from her. "Zuko is a coward. He babbles on about honor, what's right and what's wrong but... he tricked me into helping him. He used me. He used the death of my family, my grief and vulnerability to his advantage. I was supposed to be his friend!"

"And you...," she continued. "...you're his sister, his own flesh and blood! Yet he'd throw you to the wolf-bats, or worse, if it meant getting what he wants!"

"You are the rightful ruler, the one true Fire Lord. Not Zuko."

"I believe you" the raven-haired girl replied. "Which I'll consider giving you a second chance. To prove to me and my people that your kind aren't all incorrigible savages who seek to destroy us from within." she turned again. "I offer redemption. Commit yourself to my service - and I'll see to it that your sorcery is forgiven"

"Yes, Your Highness" the other girl bowed her head respectfully as she clenched one fist and touched an open palm to it. "I pledge my eternal loyalty, as well as my service, to you, Fire Lord Azula," she declared. "Thank you. I will not squander a most gracious opportunity to redeem myself through the eyes of those whom I've wronged."

The audience roared an applause as the real Katara held back her own vomit.

"You know." The Phoenix King mused, absolutely disinterested with the farce playing out in front of him. "I think a rather special event will be unfolding very soon."

A pause.

"I wonder how they intend to do it justice"

"Objectively speaking, I'm sure they'll do just fine but..." Azula reflected upon their wedding day with a smile that simply could not be helped. She had felt like a queen then, truly. She'd looked the part just as well dressed in cerulean silks, a seemingly endless string of glittering golden feathers trailing behind her with every step until she stood before the nation then pledged her love for its king: her husband and father.

"I think we both know that nothing could compare to the happiest day of my life. Do forgive me if I'm a bit biased."

The Phoenix Queen leaned in for a kiss.

"I don't think anyone who was actually there would stand to disagree" he returned her kiss. "A joining that will be remembered for all time. The day the two most powerful in the world decided to defy the so-called natural laws. I don't think anyone could imagine a wedding more epic in scope then our own. No rendition could possibly do it justice - and no woman can match the beauty you bore on that day" he declared.

"The very air we were breathing was practically intoxicating" the Phoenix King concluded, finishing his drink.

"You're intoxicating" she countered. A delicate hand came to rest just above his knee, slowly inching its way up as she said "I can't resist you."

"I was yours long before our wedding day."

"It's funny" he said, nodding his head in agreement. "I don't think they know that" The Phoenix King put a hand on her shoulder, pulling his daughter and wife closer - no longer paying attention to the opulent scene that had been set up just for them.

Azula laughed a little. "No, I don't think they do" she agreed, accepting her father's embrace. "Though perhaps the playwright merely decided to spare our public image. Can't have the peasants knowing just how lustful you are, can we?"

"Do you remember our first time, Daddy?" she whispered.

"I do" he said simply, his memory seeking backwards to that fateful day almost two years ago. "You were fixing your hair. One of those hopeless girls had ruined it"

"I was so...," she began, recalling that day herself. "...naïve. You know, I hadn't the faintest clue why you were there - or what you needed, when you said there was something you needed from me."

"Oh there was a need" he concurred. "You were impossible to resist. I had known you would be the one since the day you drew flame against your own master. You were perfection staring right back at me. Each day waiting was a day in agony."

"How much longer are you going to make me wait, Daddy?" Azula huffed, giving her Daddy that pouty little look of hers (which remained to date one the most useful weapons in her arsenal). When faced with a situation where she could not lie or make threats to get what she wanted, eliciting the other person's desire to appease her worked rather well.

"Well, haven't I earned my reward, yet?" she purred, expecting to be swept off her feet and carried away at any moment. Perhaps onto the balcony where they had spent the second intermission. Yes, that would do nicely...

The royal couple's onstage counterparts were engaged in a union of another kind, meanwhile.

"No, I don't intend to make you wait at all" Ozai growled, starting to undo her garments right then and there. "After all, we can't deny everyone a glimpse of what really happened, now can we?"

Azula gasped audibly. "Daddy-!"

In front of all these people?!

Ozai was not going to stop, that much was clear. He had no qualms about propriety and modesty, least of all when he wanted something. His wife and daughter knew all too well and that something, or someone rather was her.

"No, I suppose we can't..." Practiced hands revealed bright blue underclothes (which were soon removed from her as well) clinging to smooth, porcelain skin. "...th-that wouldn't be right of us." Azula shivered: a mixture of nervousness, arousal, and sudden lack of clothing.

The Phoenix King's strong hands latched on to his daughter, lifting her up while allowing her to straddle him around his waist. "No it absolutely wouldn't be" he managed, before biting down hard into Azula's neck, right above the collar he had gifted her only a few hours previous. The wood creaked as the Phoenix Queen's shoulder blades dug into the walls of the royal box, the oppressive force of her father holding her up as he undid his own robes.

"Now what is it that you want? Use your words"

"I-I want..." Azula's face burned. The great Phoenix Queen found herself at a loss for words. Kitten-sharp fingernails pressed into her father's back and Ozai's daughter could only squirm against him, timid as she had been their very first time.

Golden eyes flickered toward the royal box's third occupant who looked as though she would prefer jumping into a volcano than being subject to... to this. Of course, Katara had seen this before albeit to a lesser extent - what she'd witnessed earlier in the evening (or on the boat) would hardly compare.

Azula pushed the waterbender out of her mind, fearful gaze focusing instead upon her father. All of these people, she thought. Her heart was racing, pace quickening at an alarming rate.

Agni, they'll hear us... everyone will know what we're doing up here!

"I want you to fuck me."

She didn't care.

"Please, Daddy?"

Alright, maybe she did care. She just didn't care enough. She needed her Daddy, there was no denying it. She loved this... being pinned against the wall as he held her up (spirits, he was so strong) fully intent on taking what he wanted - provided she used her words just as he'd asked! And Daddy knew it too, he knew how his little girl needed him.

"Anything for you, my daughter." he spoke softly, into her ear. Not that he wouldn't have partaken in her regardless.

Ozai was an animal, and Azula was his prey. She was ready for him, her sex hot and wet from anticipation - his royal cock throbbing with readiness of his own. He was done stalking his target, done waiting for this. He pounced, thrusting his member inside of his daughter to the hilt with little warning - eliciting an immediate response. So be it, the Phoenix King wanted everyone to know what was going on inside the confines of the royal box, down to the last detail. He gave her no mercy, no quarter, his hips moving with haste - not allowing her a moment of rest as he went in for the kill, biting down hard. Her neck, collarbone, shoulder - all would show marks proving she was truly his.

Delicate hands moved to cover her mouth, to muffle (or at least lessen) helpless cries of pleasure. Futile, as she needed those hands to brace herself. Azula quickly became resolved toward the fact that every person in attendance would hear her scream as Ozai pounded into her. Nothing mattered, save for the all too familiar and much welcome sensation of him inside of her.

Father and daughter settled into a rhythm. He played her body like an instrument. "D-Don't s-stop!" Tight inner walls contracted around her Daddy's cock, her legs were turning to jelly, and all the while their close contact ensured that her clitoris was continually stimulated. Fingernails raked his back in desperation (though he did not experience any discomfort due to a layer of clothing).

"Daddy-!"

The Phoenix Queen arched her spine, almost unnaturally so as though offering every inch of herself.

Azula's cries echoed throughout the theater, certainly causing bewilderment among the audience. The actors, bless their hearts, did their best to make the performance go on, their voices growing louder to compete with the actual royal couple. But their romantic speeches were lost on the audiences, who could now hear the real voices of the Phoenix King and Queen. Their lust, their furious thrusts. The true nature of their love.

The Phoenix Queen felt her father's grip lessen and his body shudder as he filled her with his release - the disgust from the water bitch, the bewilderment of the peasants, only serving to fuel his inner fire.

Their hairs meshed together as his head slumped against hers, their breathing both heavy, their inner fires - their very chi binding together. He looked into her eyes - his daughter was... he saw her need. The Phoenix King had not done his job, he hadn't given her the release that he had promised. He kissed her. "A moment, my daughter." A hand went through her hair before pressing down onto her again, holding her against the polished wooden paneling as he detached himself from her, replacing his own sex with the fingers. He reached inside of her, giving with his well-practiced fingers what he had failed to deliver previously.

Daughter held her father's gaze, smoldering passion akin to golden fire which threatened to burn the world around them. He brought her, writhing against his hand as she sung him a symphony to the tune of his touch.

Euphoria tore through every muscle, every nerve in her adolescent body and left her panting in the aftermath. "Th-thank you, Daddy" Azula managed, still gasping for air, unsure what direction was up or where she was- who she was if only for an instant. Spellbound, the Phoenix Queen could do nothing save for stare up at her King as her knees gave way and-

Alarmed, Azula came to her senses and quickly regained her bearings. Her eyes flickered toward her father's fingers, glistening and coated in their shared fluids. "Why don't you let your little girl take care of this mess?" she cooed, slowly bringing his hand up toward her mouth. Dutiful as ever, her warm tongue attended to what had been left behind.

"You're very welcome" he finally replied, taking Azula's chin in his hand and holding her head steady enough for a soft kiss. "You were a very good girl. And I reward good girls." Ozai smiled at the look in her eyes - the shake in her voice. The very weakness he had managed to induce in her.

"Now, let's not keep you here. My little girl needs to regain her strength" and in one swift motion the Phoenix King shrugged off his cloak and picked up his daughter in strong arms, The Phoenix Queen regaining some minor warmth and dignity from within the recesses of the fabric. Her head, sagging, eyes wandering to the water bitch who was looking the other way, evidently disgusted at their excursion. The wood creaked as Ozai carefully sat down, making sure to keep his daughter's extremities from impacting any of the hard surfaces that made up the seating. Finally, his hand wandered from shoulder to head, softly pulling her upright such that it came to rest on Ozai's own broad shoulders, his hot firebender breath giving Azula all the extra warmth the faint cloth around her could not.

The Phoenix Queen could only shiver, overwhelmed in every sense of the word, although she soon became blissfully content within the comfort and safety of her Daddy's lap. Ordinarily, Azula would have preferred to be fully clothed (especially somewhere so public) even still, she could hardly bring herself to be bothered. Not when she had her father and husband to keep her warm and protect her modesty.

And speaking of modesty, the Phoenix Queen laughed shamelessly, having heard her onstage counterpart alluding toward the fact that the newlywed royal couple's love for one another would finally be consummated. "Can you believe it, Daddy?! They're saying we didn't-!"

Azula couldn't help but to laugh once more, unable to finish the thought.

"Well we certainly showed them otherwise, hmm?" Ozai mused, watching the actors scurry offstage for the final scene.

The Phoenix King's eyebrows furrowed as the play showed no signs of being brought to a close, the stage crew still scurrying around to set yet another scene.

"Hmm..." he vocalized. "Have they not caught up with the present already?"

"What-?"

Azula's face fell as the actor portraying her brother was revealed, several men dressed as royal guards leading him toward center stage in what appeared to be cast-iron shackles. As the man struggled to walk, motion no doubt impeded by open wounds and bruises which were fake albeit highly convincing, the crowd jeered. Insults were hurled, as well as partially eaten bags of fire flakes acquired during intermissions.

Traitor!

Booooooooo

Damn the traitor to Koh's lair!

Off with his head!

The Phoenix King's face donned a smirk as he saw his lookalike arrived on stage.

The actor wasted no time. "This man, my son, is a traitor to our nation!" he bellowed, silencing the crowd's ramblings. "Every man in the Fire Nation who would dare to betray their own kin, their own countrymen, pays the ultimate price - and that applies even if that man is the Fire Lord's son"

the ultimate price

The Phoenix Queen blanched white as a sheet. Turning her attention away from the stage, she looked up at her King.

He was smiling.

Why wouldn't he be?

Azula mentally chastised herself and considered, briefly, whether or not she'd been expecting anything different. The reality was, she had not been expecting much of anything as far as her brother was concerned.. foolish indeed. Ozai deemed death a necessary punishment for even lesser offenses and Zuko was far from his favorite person in the world, to put it mildly. Agni, he'd been waiting for an opportunity, searching for excuse after excuse to rid himself of his own son (for longer than his daughter cared to know, more than likely). And now? Her father had the perfect excuse as well as the opportunity. Who amongst their subjects could disagree should he decide to-?

She shook her head, as if to rattle the thought from her brain.

The frowns of the two women in the royal box only grew deeper with each laugh from the Phoenix King. Just when Katara thought her heart couldn't sink any more, it did. Azula wouldn't be able to keep her word, that much was clear. Katara's bargain for his life bought only temporary sanctuary - the Phoenix Queen wouldn't dare say no when her husband came knocking.

All of this for nothing, she thought to herself, the wish that she had died in that Tui-forsaken courtyard returning to the foreground of her mind, drowning out everything - Ozai's laughter, the crowd's cheering, even the obnoxious faux-thunder that sounded Zuko's demise.

She just wanted to curl up into blackness. To sleep. One by one the lights of hope in her world were slowly but surely winking out.

Clap. Clap. Clap

"Truly a performance." He laughed again, before sighing. This might have been the first play in this Agni-damned theater worth watching. Certainly an improvement, leagues better than the tired renditions of Love Amongst Dragons that whore used to drag everyone through. All plays should be like this. They would be, Ozai would make sure. A powerful tool for changing hearts and minds - for presenting fiction as fact on the stage.

The Phoenix King looked down at his daughter who was still resting on his shoulder, his golden eyes passing over her pale concern. And perhaps there's another performance that needs an encore, hmm? He contemplated silently, before resigning to the fact that he'd have to wait until the return to the lavish confines of their beach house.

"Mhm, indeed" Azula agreed, dutifully. Although her outward appearance suggested she'd regained much of her usual composure, the Phoenix Queen was reeling as a result of all that she had witnessed (namely a certain actor's untimely, onstage death). And to add insult to injury, her husband's reaction. Not that such a reaction had come as a shock of course, though it was upsetting nonetheless.

She shivered.

"Daddy?" Smoldering, golden eyes stared up at the Phoenix King. "Can I get dressed?" She smirked. "Or do you plan to carry me back to the estate like this?"

Ozai's face bore mock consideration for a deliberate moment before he spoke. "I think the commoners have heard quite enough from their queen today," he concluded, implicitly giving his daughter and wife permission to dress. "Besides..." He looked down on the scarlet cloak. "I hardly think your current state is suitable at all."

She laughed. "No, I wouldn't think so. Most unbecoming of a queen." Then, a sudden realization dawned on her.

Quick as a flash, Azula sprung into action, gathering her clothing up off the floor, clothing which had been haphazardly strewn about in a flurry of lust. Not a moment too soon, she reached the safety of their private washroom as the once-dimmed lights began to brighten, causing every patron in the theater to become clearly visible to one another.

"What do you think you're doing?" The Phoenix King barked at the slumped figure of the water bitch, immediately startled by his harsh voice. "Go and aid your master!" he growled, before looking down and picking up his soiled cloak, tossing it right at her.

"And fix that while you're at it. The temperature is quite unforgiving outside."

The dejected figure of Katara entered the small (though very well equipped) washroom where her Master was busy behind a dividing curtain.

Though it was practically customary by now to strike a conversation with the Phoenix Queen while the two worked together to restore her appearance, she remained silent as she fixed the cloth the Phoenix King had so nonchalantly thrown at her.

Azula, too, remained silent. Before long she emerged from behind the curtain in a semi-clothed state, a floral-patterned hanfu draped loosely over her body, both untied and unwrapped, revealing (very recently purchased) vibrant blue underclothes. She then came to stand in front of a full length mirror beside the waterbender. As delicate hands attended to her clothing, curious golden eyes peered over toward the wash basin.

The Phoenix Queen laughed, making no attempt to hide her reason for doing so.

"Did he really?"

"Yes," she answered simply, harshly, giving no titles. Having finally used her element to render the cloak entirely clean without so much having to run it over with her hands.

"He told me to aid you as well," Katara added with equal apathy as she carefully folded the cloth, treading lightly with her hands even though she had cleaned it moments before.

Noting the other girl's unusually sullen demeanor, Azula was reminded of Katara's first few days spent in servitude which had been forced as well as difficult (for all parties involved). Once she'd settled in and learned her place, however, things had been running much more smoothly. As such, the Phoenix Queen considered her words carefully.

"And here I was under the impression that you knew your place."

Silence for a moment.

"Make it easy on yourself, don't leave it up to the Phoenix King to tell you what you should or should not be doing."

Katara wanted to punch the woman. Well, not entirely accurate. She wanted to punch something. After, listening to what that man had been saying all night, after having been dragged through the mud both in person and in image. The amount of sheer fury in the waterbender's bones would make Admiral Zhao jealous. This morning she had been calm, maybe even peaceful. But the day had dragged on and on, it was as if the waterbender had spent the whole day standing in the middle of a hailstorm - sure, it wouldn't do anything, but Tui did it make her want to tackle down the sky spirit and wring its neck. And at the same time, the tiredness of hopelessness, the kind that makes you want to go to sleep and not wake up.

She took a deep breath.

Not the time and place. She wasn't going to let her anger and pain make her another pointless casualty of war.

"Of course," she managed without grinding her teeth in the process, before taking another breath. "Your Highness."

Although she'd had every intention of being helpful, Azula understood that she was doing more harm than good - quite the talent of hers concerning people and the complexities of their feelings, if she did say so herself.

"I only meant..." She took a deep breath. "...giving Daddy any opportunity, any at all, to point out what you're doing wrong is as good as asking to be miserable. He can and he will make your life a living nightmare - if tonight was any indication. And that was barely scratching the surface."

She smirked triumphantly. "However, there are benefits to my father's good graces as I am certain you are well aware."

A pause.

"One day, I may not be nearby with some conveniently timed excuse or distraction or faked illness. Do you understand?"

Certain benefits, right, the waterbender had to restrain herself from an eyeroll as she continued to calm down.

"I do," she answered, watching Azula studiously repair her appearance in front of a mirror, not even glancing at her as she did so.

Another deep breath. There was no need to be angry at the Phoenix Queen, not really. She was as much a slave to the situation as Katara was - at least, in this respect.

"I'm sorry," she said, almost surprised at the words as they came out of her mouth. "It's just..." she reached a hand into her bag and held out a stained glass bottle, anticipating a need. "That was a lot. Today was a lot," she finished simply.

I'm sorry

Azula found herself taken aback as well, perhaps even moreso than the waterbender for it seemed as though her apology had been sincere. She'd actually meant it.

"You are forgiven," the Phoenix Queen said, simply, despite the fact that she remained uncertain as to what exactly Katara's transgression was (other than righteous anger).

Today was a lot

"And... I know. I mean, I understand," she acknowledged as she ran her fingers through appropriately mussed obsidian locks in an attempt to make them appear more presentable. Azula then turned toward Katara. Evidently, both had noted the state of her cosmetics, smeared in some places and in others, faded.

"He's alright, by the way," Azula blurted out, seemingly randomly.

"He-he's alright?" the waterbender asked, in the moment not quite understanding what the Phoenix Queen meant, or who he was.

"Zuko," she clarified, her voice little more than a whisper now. Her golden gaze darted across the room, connecting with all four corners then becoming momentarily fixated upon the door, specifically the space beneath it. "He's being cared for. My agents have seen to that. As far as what the future holds, I can only guess. Presently, I've been playing for time."

"Does... does he know that I'm okay as well?" Katara asked tentatively, already relieved by the Phoenix Queen's revelation.

"Doubtful," Azula replied, disappointed she could not yet again be the bearer of good news.

Katara sighed. "Well... I'm glad he's alright. And thanks for telling me." She nodded with approval, while simultaneously reaching into her bag for the next item.

"Is there... a plan?"

Azula looked toward the door once more. Fear forced her into silence, told her to stop whatever it was they were doing-

treason

"I have no idea what you're talking about," she said, feigning ignorance and bewilderment (and doing a damned good job of it).

He might be listening

Phoenix Queen Azula emerged from the washroom, perfume and colored silks clinging to her skin - a marked improvement from various bodily fluids and her father's cloak. As well, her appearance had been restored to its usual pristine perfection. Not so much as one hair atop her head was out of place. Red lip paint and black kohl were a picture of precision, applied against the edge of a blade (or so it would seem).

"Did you miss me?" she purred, reaching for the bottle in her father's hand which she then kept for herself, offering him a smooth leather strip in exchange.

Upon closer inspection however, several imperfections were revealed... already blossoming bruises upon her neck (in addition to the existing ones) and across her collarbone, trailing on beneath her dress and marking both shoulders.

"Every minute was agony," Ozai mused, accepting his daughter's leash with an ever-firm hand.

"Shall we?" He showed her to the exit, and the cold air outside.

The royal couple walked - a feat which proved somewhat challenging for the Phoenix King who was obviously intoxicated - father leading the way with characteristic confidence as daughter trailed closely behind.

Azula shivered. "I'm cold, Daddy."

You're so not cold, Katara thought to herself, watching the firebending prodigy barely shivering among the humid Fire Nation air and the puddles of lukewam water that scattered the ground after today's flash-shower.

She sighed as she watched the Phoenix King pull his daughter and wife closer, obviously delighted at her state of apparent need.

Though this time, it was the waterbender's turn to smirk.

"Agh!"

The Phoenix King hit the pavement hard (almost taking his daughter with him, thanks to the leash connecting the two), his foot slipping on what used to be a puddle of water - if not for a little temporary elemental intervention turning it into transient ice with a disastrous result.

Even as Katara was given a call to help her drunk King stand up, she smiled the first honest smile for a long while. A small revenge for what he had done tonight - but a satisfying one all the same.



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