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.

It had been a day of leisurely cruising back towards the capital. The waves were light which meant Azula was free to stand on the deck overlooking the ocean without fear of being drenched by the ocean. It was calming, in its own way. Predictable. Azula had spent much time at sea, she trusted it. So much so that she knew when pesky captains didn't know what they were talking about when they babbled on about certain tides not allowing a boat to go into port.

Though, if she were being honest with herself, she had a very difficult time being calm. At first she had thought the honeymoon would have eased her nerves. Time alone with her daddy, her protector. But it hadn't worked. She felt just as apprehensive on ember island as she did in the palace where she'd left.

Azula craved security. Not the physical kind, no, she had plenty of that. The kind that Ty Lee might assign a color in her mystical auras. The feeling of security you get when you satisfactorily complete a mission, the feeling of security you get when you graduate with honors. The security that comes with know that you've done everything you needed to do, fulfilled every expectation put on you. The kind of security her daddy gave her, sometimes.

During their honeymoon she had been worried about fulfilling her expectations as a wife. Now, as they approached their home, she was worried about her expectations as the Phoenix Queen.

But one thing had remained a constant throughout.

Her brother Zuko was sitting there, in a cell somewhere. Whether he knew it or not, there was a noose around his neck. His father, Azula's daddy, wanted him dead for his crimes.

It was Azula's duty as a wife to support her husband's decisions, but it was also her duty to her brother to keep him safe. Zuko was a fool. He had never really been a threat. Now his precious girlfriend was a slave and his friends dead or missing. Sure, if he had been a commoner he would have deserved to die the moment he entered father's chambers during the eclipse. But Zuko was royalty. And Zuko was family. He deserved a second and third and fourth chance, even if giving them ruffled a few feathers.

So Azula's duties were in conflict. But it was more than that. Daddy's decision was wrong. Not in the moral or ethical sense, but in a practical one too. He often sought to kill people who had slighted him, even if they weren't threats anymore. Even if they could be useful. Even if their death would achieve nothing. Forgiving Zuko made the Phoenix King far more powerful than killing him. Everyone knows that with royalty comes the power to kill. But not everyone knew that it came with the power to forgive.

But if Azula were being honest, really honest - it was more than that. She wanted him to live. And when it came right down to it, that was enough.

So she left the deck, taking the stairs down below to find her father.

"Daddy." she said softly, before changing her tone. "We need to talk."

Ozai, whom had been trying to take a nap though hadn't fallen asleep just yet, opened his eyes to the sight of his beautiful daughter and wife. "Hm? What is it, Azula?" he grumbled, only slightly annoyed.

Agni, she looked good enough to eat...

Of course, he could only wonder what it was she might want to talk about. It was all so strange, the way a woman's mind worked. He didn't understand. That made him angry, sometimes.

He hoped that whatever this was, it was something tangible. Not a discussion about feelings or... things of that nature. Feelings made him angry, too. Not to mention left Azula exasperated and in tears more than half the time.

He resisted the urge to sigh. "Daddy's here," he reassured, sitting up in bed, his hand reaching out to take hers.

Azula put her hands behind her back, leaving Ozai's hand out in the air. "It's about Zuko" she said simply.

"Zuko?" he asked, his temper flaring the instant he heard the name, repeating it as thought it were a curse. "What about the traitor?"


Why did she want to talk about Zuko? Spirits be damned, he wished he could just be rid of him already. Ozai was sick to death of hearing that name.


Azula couldn't help but feel apprehensive as soon as she saw her father's temper flare. Her instinct was to back off and say it was nothing. To bring up something more pleasing to him. But she resisted. Azula had looked many strong men in the eye and told them what's what, brought them to their knees. This was no different.


Okay. That was a lie.


This was different, very different. Ozai wasn't just a strong man, he was the Phoenix King. And he wasn't just the Phoenix King, he was her father and husband.


But Azula needed to do this nonetheless.


"Killing him is unnecessary." she said matter-of-factly.


"Unnecessary?!" Ozai practically laughed. He couldn't believe his ears. "Need I remind you that he and the water bitch tried to kill you on the day of your coronation! Need I remind you that he aided the Avatar and his band of miscreants in their attempts to overthrow me! He's a traitor, and an enemy to the Fire Nation! His crimes shall not go unpunished!" he exclaimed.


Had she gone mad?


Azula stood her ground. "I remember." she said. "And as the victim of his attack, surely I am the most capable person to decide what's the appropriate punishment." Azula said coldly. "The water bitch is repaying her crimes through service to the throne. I see no reason why Zuko shouldn't be given the same chance. I don't often agree with him. He's foolhardy, thick-headed, and apparently has a penchant for traitors." A pause as she took a breath. "But he is family. And that means something. You and I should know that better than anyone."


Ozai stood up from where he had been sitting, and stared Azula down. "Regardless of whatever foolish notions you may have, I say it is necessary that the traitor pay for his crimes with his life."


"Are you meaning to tell me that you are questioning my decision, Azula?" he asked directly.


Yes I'm questioning you. Of course I'm questioning you. Why in Agni's name do you think I brought this up!? For fun?


There was another part of Azula, the part of her that was birthed in that room. It said no.


No. No. No. No.


No daddy, I'm not questioning you, I'm just...


She listened to that voice.


"Sorry, daddy. I didn't mean to question you, I just..." she trailed off, wishing she could shrink as to appear less threatening to her father. "the thought of losing someone in our family, after losing everybody else..." she breathed in sharply through her nose to force a sniffle. "After brother is gone, you're the only family I'll have left." she said, suddenly embracing him.


Ozai was momentarily taken aback. He'd half expected her to take the bait, to say yes, I am questioning you. But she didn't.


He welcomed her embrace, wrapping his arms around her tightly.


"I'm the only family you need." he reassured her. "What has that good-for-nothing brother of yours ever done for you? Your whore of a mother? You don't need them." he released her. His strong hands descended upon her shoulders as he looked her straight in the eye. "I'm doing this for you. He hurt you. He tried to take everything from you. And he'd do it again if we gave him the opportunity. He can't be trusted."


"I suppose you're right." she said, not really sure how much she meant it. Her brother had caused her pain, this was true, she could remember that clear as day. But she could also remember the days where he posed no threat to her, when they were just siblings. His allies had been defeated, he was no threat. She wished they could just go back to that. And mother? She tried to tell herself that she could hate her... she called her a monster! But after everything that had happened, now that their family was in ruins and the world was on fire, she had to wonder if she was right.


Most of all, Azula felt alone. Her friends were in jail, her family was estranged, or in the process of being executed. And no matter how many times she embraced her husband that feeling of loneliness never went away.


"I just wish I didn't feel so alone." she said, the first honest word since her initial objection.




Ozai cocked an eyebrow in surprise. He was always there... they spent practically every waking minute together! Was that not enough for her?


"Alone?" he questioned, the notion beyond him.


A pause.


He noted his daughter's glum look. "You have me. Don't despair, nothing will stand in the way of us being together, not anymore," he said, hopeful he could make her forget all about Zuko and focus on what really mattered. "And soon enough, we'll make our own family - strong sons and beautiful daughters, as many as you want."


Azula sighed, hoping she really would forget so she could put this entire exchange behind her. But as she tried to forget about her brother's imminent demise, more and more thoughts surfaced. She just couldn't shake a feeling, a certain image.


"Daddy..." she began. "What if... what if one of our sons or daughters betrayed us, like Zuko did?"


Ozai was surprised Azula would even ask such a question. Surely she knew the answer already?


"They would be punished, Azula," he said. "Just as Zuko will be."


Silence for a moment.


"But you needn't worry about that. Our children would never betray us, not with such a wonderful mother raising them and no one around who could poison them against us."


A comforting thought, to be sure. The idea that Zuko's betrayal was just poisoning from Mother. That without her everything would have been alright. But there was something else. Her friends Mai and Ty Lee had betrayed her, and they had no weak mothers to coddle them with erroneous notions. Mai's betrayal could be blamed on secondhand poisoning from Zuko, she supposed, but that didn't explain Ty Lee. Maybe she was poisoned from a third, outside source? And that was where her treachery came from?


But the more Azula thought about it, the more she realized what a sad conclusion it was. If anyone could be a source of mental poison, if anyone could bring their children to betray them, then what would they do? Lock them in the palace every day of their lives, so that nobody could lay a hand on them? And then they too, would feel Azula's loneliness.


Azula couldn't bear the thought of killing her own child. If it came down to self-preservation, she would, of course, but what a waste it would be. To spend years raising them, teaching them, and loving them - only to end their life when they turn against you. If you can't trust your own child, then who can you? Should you make them shake in fear to keep them in line like the commoners?


There has to be a better way than that, Azula thought to herself.


"Of course, Daddy" she said, knowing such thoughts would just bring up another accusation of 'questioning'. "They'll be perfect." she lied.

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