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Author Topic: The Phoenix Unbound (Ozai POV fic, set after The Search)  (Read 595 times)

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Offline Michifer

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The Phoenix Unbound (Ozai POV fic, set after The Search)
« on: January 02, 2015, 05:05:19 PM »
Title: The Phoenix Unbound
Author: Michifer (Alcanis on AO3)
Rating: T - Character death and generally dark tone.
Summary: Set after The Search and The Rift. The upcoming comic, Smoke and Shadow, will deal with the New Ozai Society, this is what I'd like to see (although I doubt it will be this dark).
Ozai's POV for most of the part - a look into his twisted mind. He gets a chance to regain his throne, at least temporarily, but he's a shadow of his old self, constantly battling his inner demons.


(click to show/hide)One day, instead of his son, a familiar figure appeared at the usual time, graceful as ever, barely aged since he last saw her.
“What do you want?” Ozai glared at her.
“I brought you some tea.”
“Like I’m going to drink anything you have touched.” If she thought he was going to be polite, she was wrong. “Marrying someone else while I’m still breathing? That’s low even for you. How do the people like that the Fire Lord’s mother is a bigamist?”
She didn’t answer that.
“Why did you come here, Ursa?” He didn’t want to see her. Their marriage was a complete failure and it was easier to blame it all on her when she wasn’t around and didn’t look at him like she could see into his very soul. Like she knew every dirty secret he’s been hiding.
He should have had her executed, not banished.
“Stop staring at me!”
“Why does it bother you so much?” she asked quietly. “Do you finally feel some remorse for ruining our children’s life and our marriage?”
“It was you who kept sending letters to that peasant!” He grabbed the iron bars, sneering at her. “It was you who turned me against our son!”
“You keep lying to yourself if that makes you feel better, Ozai.”
Why was she so unnervingly calm and cold?
“You cheated on me!”
“Only after you made it clear you didn’t want me anymore.”
“We are still married. The Fire Sages didn’t sewer our bond.”
“What kind of marriage is where you kidnap a woman from her family and her true love and treat her like property? You never loved me, Ozai. You only love yourself. I was just a prize to you.”
He didn’t have a good comeback to that.
“So?” He asked after a while. “What’s it gonna be? A poisoned hairpin? A hidden dagger?”
“I did not come to kill you.”
“You would make a pretty widow. Would you even mourn for me? Oh, I bet you would, for the public.”
“You are just as paranoid as your daughter. I didn’t put anything in your tea. I just wanted to see if you changed at all. If losing your bending humbled you.”
“I will get out of here one day” Ozai hissed. “And I won’t need any bending to kill your so-called husband and your bastard.”
He was satisfied to finally see some emotion on her, a glint of fear in her eyes.
“Oh, you are still afraid of me” he purred. “I’ll let you watch when I choke the life from them.”
Ursa struggled to find words.
“You will never get out of here.”
“Go on, double the guards. Run to your son and tell him I threatened you. Maybe he’ll have me thrown into a deeper dungeon. But remember my words. One day I will take everything you hold dear.” He laughed.
“You have lost your mind.”
“Oh, no, my dear. But you will.”
“Dream all you want” she said coldly. “Nothing changes the fact you are a pathetic shell of who you once were. A phoenix who can’t even fly anymore.”
“Get out” he breathed.
She looked into his eyes. “You are dead inside.”
“Get out!” Now he was yelling, so loud that the guards came running to make sure Ursa was alright.
She put on her cold, queenly mask again and left, only sparing him a pitying glance.
He was seething with rage even hours later. No one could get under his skin like this woman.
Because she was right.

*

The only thing that kept his spirit fighting was the rumours that Zuko’s rule wasn’t as stable as he wished it would be. One of the new guards whispered him small fragments of news when she brought his meals.
There is a movement in your name, and their numbers are growing.
They will put you back on the throne.
There is unrest in the capital, my lord. Soon, the coup will happen.
At first he dismissed these rumours as part of some cruel game Ursa was playing. She was trying to get his hopes up, he told himself, only to break him.
But eventually he had to believe.
And one day, the doors of his prison opened. The intruders all wore hoods but he recognized their leader, the general who took Omashu. A nonbender, but a talented man who earned his position.
For the first time in over a year, Ozai was treated with the respect he was used to as the Fire Lord. They even brought him new clothes.
His first request was for a mirror. He wanted to see how much prison had affected him.
He had lost weight even though they had been feeing him properly - better than he did with Iroh. He had always been thin but now he looked sick, too pale, his features too sharp. There were a few gray strands in his black hair.
He was a shadow of himself.
But he would get his revenge. Maybe it would fill the void inside, that terrible emptiness that filled him ever since the Avatar ripped his bending from him.
“I need a sword” he told the general.
“Of course, my lord.”
He never bothered much with swordfighting. He didn’t need it and he considered it inferior. But now he had to rely on weapons - and he realized he wouldn’t stand a change against Zuko, even if his son didn’t use bending. The boy had been a natural with his twin swords, although Ozai would never have admitted he was proud of him. And him? He only knew the basic moves. He relied on his bending all his life.
But he couldn’t admit his doubts to these loyal people.
The general kept talking. They had the capital, Zuko was off at the colonies. The former colonies, he thought. Another sign of weakness that his son let go of those lands.
Deep down, he knew the rebellion would eventually fail. But it didn’t matter. All that mattered was to paint that blade red with the blood of those who betrayed him. The Avatar and the rest of his son’s friends needed time to get here. And they will be too late.
He looked at the sword more fondly now. It was of medium length, straight, double-bladed, and most importantly, sharp. 
I’m coming, my dear wife, he thought, and he smiled.

*

It was dawn, a bit chilly, the sun just starting to rise. Not many people were on the strets other thn the conspirators.
“Take my to my wife” he told the general when they reached the palace. “I have to settle a few things before I take my throne again.”
There was something in his voice that made the man tremble.
Of course Ursa would live in her old chambers. Of course she would take that peasant here, love him where she used to love her husband. Ozai now wondered if she had been thinking about him every time they were together. You hated me. You never wanted my touch.
They were asleep, embracing each other, in a way she had never been with him. This was the first time he really looked at the other man. What did she see in him? Was he more handsome? No, not really. What could a poor actor give her that the Fire Lord couldn’t? Ozai showered her in gifts. He thought it would make her happy. He hoped she would smile genuinely, just once, or kiss him without being asked to do it. But she had always remained cold and distant, and it had slowly driven him mad.
And now, seeing her so close, so intimate with his rival, he had lost it completely. He drew his sword with sharp, metallic clang. It woke them up. The man had looked at him in confusion, still groggy from sleep, but all he cared for was the look of complete and utter terror in Ursa’s eyes. She couldn’t even make a sound.
The former actor got up, looked around - probably searching for a weapon and finding none - and that was when Ozai came swooping down at him like a bird of prey. He didn’t care that Ikem was unarmed. His vision blurred and he just stabbed again and again. He heard Ursa screaming but it barely registered. He only stopped when his rival lay motionless on the floor. Everything seemed to slow down around him.
Then he spotted a little girl, holding a doll, staring at him with wide eyes. The general grabbed his arm but he brushed him off and took a step toward her, raising his sword.

*

Zuko was about to leave for home when the messenger hawk arrived, the short letter telling about unrest and something in the works. The New Ozai Society was mentioned again.
“We will go with you” Aang said. “It’s time to deal with this problem before it escalates into something really bad.”
“Thank you, but I can handle...”
“No buts!” Toph chimed in. “I haven’t beaten up anyone in two weeks. Time to teach those conspirators who’s boss, am I right?”
“Do I have a say in he matter?”
“Nope” Sokka said. He was mostly looking forward to seeing Suki again.
“Fine” Zuko sighed as they climbed on Appa.
“Maybe we can solve it peacefully” Aang said once they were in the air.
“Like you did with giant spirit guy?” Sokka asked.
“I didn’t mean to destroy him!”
“They are just a bunch of my father’s loyal subjects.” Zuko mused. “He probably doesn’t even know about the movement.”
“Don’t underestimate him” Aang said.

*

Ozai was about to strike when Ursa threw herself in his way. He couldn’t stop and she cried out in pain. Even as Ozai tried to change direction, he still cut deeply into her shoulder. The sight of blood finally made him snap out of his trance, his eyes widening with fear as he realised what he had done. “No! Ursa!” The sword fell from his hand and he caught her as she collapsed. “Get healers!” he yelled at his escort. “Now!” He frantically tried to stop the bleeding.
People were running but he only had eyes for his wife. She was in shock, staring at him like a wounded bird at a predator.
He carried her back to the bed, gently putting her down and tore off one of his long, flowing sleeves to press on the wound.
It started to dawn to him that he was about to murder a young child in cold blood. And he nearly killed the one person he cared about because he was so blinded by his rage.
“Ursa, I... I didn’t mean to...” He couldn’t find the right words. No one ever taught him how to apologize. How could he even hope for forgiveness? He butchered her lover - he still refused to think of that man as her husband - and he would have done the same to her daughter.
Have I really sank this low?
He didn’t know how much time had passed until the Fire Sages arrived and he was led out of the room by the general.
He was shaking.
“My lord. You should take a bath” The man had probably been talking to him for a while. “And change.”
His robe was torn and splattered with blood. He slowly nodded.
He didn’t notice the general’s daughter watching them from the shadows.
After taking a much-needed bath and putting on clean clothes, he had finally calmed down enough to try and keep it together. He couldn’t show weakness in front of his followers. As he sat on his old throne again and listened to their cheering, his mind wandered. Pointless. This entire conspiracy is a fool’s mission.
He tried to get those thoughts out of his head.

*

Hours later, one of the Fire Sages approached him. “My Lord. The Princess will live.”
“Has she said anything?”
“No, my lord. She seems to still be under shock.”
“Take care of her and make sure no harm comes to her or the child.” Was it shame he was feeling? Regret? No. He had never known regret.
“The actor?”
“What should we do with his body?” the sage asked.
Throw it to the dogs, he wanted to scream. But something held him back. As much as he hated that man, he didn’t want to cause Ursa more pain. “Prepare him for burial. Quietly.”
“Yes, my lord.”
He was alone in the thone room again. Cold, no more flames around the throne. Just like him. Ever since he had lost his bending, he’d always been cold.
The general’s men were off securing the city. They knew that Zuko would return sooner or later, and they wanted to strike first.
Ozai wished he had company. The silence started to weigh on him, the dimly lit, huge room with its shadows reminded him too much of his prison. But his pride forbid him to call for someone.
When he heard footsteps, he lifted his head, hoping the general had returned with news. When he saw the silhouette of the tall, gaunt old man, the blood froze in his veins.
“You are dead!”
“You should know” the vision answered. “You were the one who murdered me.”
“Go away!”
Azulon gave a short, dry laugh. “You think I’m really here?” And he faded into nothingness.
Ozai tried to calm down. It’s not real. I’m just tired, that’s why I’m seeing things. I’m not going mad. I’m not going mad.
He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on breathing.
Then he almost screamed when he felt a cool touch on his cheek, barely more than a soft breeze. A woman was standing in front of him. He only knew her from paintings. His mother who died when he was two.
“What do you want? You were never here for me! Why come now?”
She just watched him sadly.
“I’m sorry you had to grow up without ever knowing love.”
“I don’t need love! All I needed was loyalty, but my own son and brother turned against me!”
“They did what was right, but they still care about you.”
“No, they don’t!” he yelled at the empty room. Ilah was gone.
But he knew she was right. Zuko cared. He never understood why. A smart Fire Lord would have had him assassinated long ago. If the roles were reversed, he would have done it. As long as he was alive, his mere existence was a threat to Zuko’s reign. Even if this coup fails, there would be people who would call his son an usurper.
Why did that boy still care about him, why did he pay him visits and bring him tea? He simply couldn’t comprehend how Zuko’s mind worked. His son was too soft, but in the long run, he was the only option. Azula disappeared into the wilderness. He wanted Zuko to be a worthy leader, but that wasn’t going to happen unless the boy hardened his heart and learned what power truly meant.

*

When did it get dark?
The city was quiet. The general returned and he had nothing special to report.
“The Kyoshi Warriors?” Ozai asked, a sudden thought.
“We put them in jail before we even busted you out, my lord.” The man’s uncomfortable fidgeting suggested that he had already mentioned this earlier. It was impossible not to notice that the Fire Lord wasn’t in the best shape. His hair still hung loose as it had dried after the bath, he didn’t even bother brushing it. His eyes had a feverish glint.
“My lord” the general asked in a worried tone “have you had anything to eat since the morning?”
“Some fruit, I think.”
“You should get a proper meal.”
He knew the man was right. He retired to his old chambers and ordered the servants to bring them both tea and supper.
The worried look in the general’s eyes annoyed him.
They discussed strategy over tea. It reminded him of old times.
“What happened to that daughter of yours?”
“She turned on us. She’s obviously still pining after your son, my lord.”
“If Zuko has any brains, he realizes he needs her.” Ozai sipped his tea. “A woman who loves him that much is a rare treasure.”
He couldn’t hide the bitterness in his voice.
“Your wife...”
“Don’t speak about her.”
“Apologies, my lord.”
The general soon excused himself, saying he had to assign the guards for the night.
Ozai was alone again.
He wondered what might come at night if he had seen ghosts - or whatever they were - at day.
Sleep was out of question. He didn’t want to dream of his defeat yet again, didn’t want to feel that horrible sensation of the Avatar taking away his bending, and with it his once fiery spirit.
At first he thought the boy weak for letting him live. Now he knew it was anything but mercy.
But he refused to repent for his so called crimes. Everything he did was for his nation’s glory.
The only thing he regretted was hurting Ursa. Not just now - he started to realize he had never treated her like a person. She was just another trophy. A symbol of his power. Roku’s granddaughter, the perfect wife to bear his children.
Before he realized, he was walking toward her chambers.

*

She looked small in her bed, her shoulder covered in white bandages and she was holding her daughter close with her good arm. The little girl started to whimper in fear when she saw him. “Mama! Bad man came back!”
The sage who had been with them looked up.
“My lord, it would have been wiser not to visit...”
“I need to talk with my wife. Alone.” He raised his hands. “I’m unarmed.”
The sage still gave him a suspicious look but Ursa nodded. The old man carried the little girl outside, comforting her.
There was a long silence before Ursa spoke. She didn’t even look at him.
“Are you happy now?”
“No” he admitted.
“Did you come to force yourself on me?” Her eyes were finally on him, emotionless, dead.
He shook his head, horrified by the very idea. “I... I just wanted to talk with you.”
“Are we going to play this game again?”
“Ursa, I... I know I have ruined everything from the start. I had no idea how to be a decent husband.” He sighed. “I just wish I could go back and be kinder. I love you, and I know I have lost you forever. We never had a chance.”
She lifted her eyebrows. “Ozai, what happened to you? Is it possible that you have a conscience? You?”
He hesitated. How could he tell about his doubts, his fears? He never confided in anyone. But who else could he talk to? The general? He couldn’t let his guard down with him.
“I don’t know. But I feel bad for hurting you. I don’t know what’s going on with me. There is this... void. Ever since I lost my bending. I thought it could be filled if I had my revenge, but it’s just getting worse. I saw my father’s shadow, and my mother’s. I fear that I’m losing my mind.”
“No, I don’t think so. You are finally starting to see clearly. Try something when you go back to your chambers. Look into a mirror. Really look into it. Ask yourself what you see.”
“You are talking in riddles.”
“I’m trying to help.” There was something about her expression that made him uneasy.
“Ursa, I...”
“Don’t bother. An apology won’t solve anything.”
“What should I do?”
“That’s something you need to find your own answer to.”
“No one will hurt you or your child again” he said.
She nodded and looked away. The conversation was over.
“Farewell, Ursa” he said. Then he turned and left.

*

“Why aren’t you sleeping, Zuko?”
The have stopped on a small island for the night. Sokka was already snoring loudly and Aang curled up against Appa. Katara came over to the young Fire Lord who, as usual, was brooding.
“I have the feeling that something bad is happening.”
“Are you worried about the Ozai loyalists? I’m sure we can handle them.”
“No, it’s... My father.”
“He’s no longer a real threat.”
“He’s been different ever since my mom visited him a few months ago.”
“Good different or bad different?”
“I can’t tell. But she certainly still matters to him.”
Katara put a hand on his shoulder. “We’ll be there by morning.”
“It can’t come fast enough.”

*

Talking to her didn’t bring any relief. What was he even expecting? She had every right to hate him.
He took a scroll from the shelves to distract his mind with reading. It was some philosophical debate about spirits and death. Another useless gift from Iroh, he thought. He wasn’t interested in a story where a bunch of “wise” old men did nothing but talk. Soon, he gave up on it and reflexively wanted to light it on fire.
Of course, nothing happened.
Don’t break down. Don’t-
He took a deep breath and threw the scroll across the room.
“All talk and no deeds” he muttered. His mind went back to Ursa. How beautiful she was on their wedding day. How radiant.
He might as well take her advice, he thought.
He got up from his bed and walked over to the mirror. He used to do his hair here every morning.
Even after the quick glimpse in the morning, he didn’t know he looked this pale and exhausted. His hair framed his face like a curtain, longer than it had been in his days as the Fire Lord. He had been granted the luxury of a barber visiting him in prison, so his beard was kept in shape, but he never asked him to cut his hair. He sighed and tried to pull it back into a topknot, but he simply didn’t have the will to do it and there was nothing to hold it anyway. Zuko had stolen his crown.
Ask yourself what you see, he heard Ursa’s voice.
He stared at his face in the mirror.
Suddenly he was overwhelmed by an uncontrollable wrath. He smashed the glass with his hand, hitting it again and again until all but a small part was broken, falling in shards. His right hand was bleeding but he barely noticed.
He must have zoned out because the next thing he knew was servants and guards rushing in at the noise, having no idea what happened. He was kneeling on the floor, surrounded my glass. Someone was wrapping a white cloth around his hand and talking. Sounding worried. It was one of the sages.
He lied something about having lost balance and accidentally trying to support himself against the mirror. He didn’t care if they believed him.
He told them he wanted to rest just to get rid of them. The shards were cleaned away and he lay down on his bed.
Why did he listen to Ursa? Just what came over him to lose control like that?
His hand hurt and somehow, the pain brought him relief. Soon after, he fell into an uneasy sleep.

*

When he woke up, there were already news that Zuko was on his way back, and he was bringing his whole ragtag team.
Including the Avatar.
Ozai watched the general trying to look confident, talking about lines of defense.
“Just how are you planning to fight him? He’s a one-man army. General, I appreciate your bravery, but I couldn’t defeat him at my most powerful. What will you and your men accomplish?”
“We are fighting for you, my lord. Our rightful ruler.”
The man’s loyalty was touching. Foolish, but touching.
And maybe, just maybe, they could get Zuko.
And then what, a voice that sounded too much like Ursa asked. You would kill him? Are you really up to leading your nation? What about heirs? Would you take another wife, father more children, hoping they would be benders?
He looked around but she wasn’t present. Of course not. She didn’t want to see him.
Zuko will make a better ruler than you and you know that.
Before he could continue his discussion with the general, they got news that Zuko and the Avatar have landed in the port.

*

Mai was waiting for them. “Took you long enough.” She quickly told them what happened yesterday.
Zuko immediately wanted to rush and see if his mother and little sister were safe.
“They are. Deal with the defenses first. I can sneak Katara in.”
“Deal with the defenses? Fire Nation, here I come!” Toph started to generate a smaller earthquake. “Don’t just stand there, Twinkle Toes, I could use some help with this!”
Mai held Zuko back for a minute. "Zuko, your father is not well. I have been watching him for hours yesterday. He's falling apart. Speaking to people only he can see. He broke a mirror in his room last night."
"I thought getting his power back was all he wanted…"
"He doesn't seem to care. He just goes along with my father because he doesn't want to crush his dream. Maybe you can help him."
Mai left with Katara.
The rest of them quickly made the rebels realize that they were not ready for this, especially when Aang went into he Avatar state. The attackers already knew where the weak points were, and this time, they wouldn’t lose.
Soon, they had most of the rebels captured or incapacitated.
A messenger slipped away.
“Let him go” Zuko said when Sokka wanted to send his brand new boomerang after him. “Let my father know he had lost.”

*

“My lord, what do we do now?” the general asked.
“Go and surrender to them. Try to make up with your daughter. You are not beyond redemption yet.”
“What about you?”
Ozai laughed bitterly. “If Zuko thinks he can lock me in a cage again, he’s a bigger fool than I thought.”
“How will you get away? That blind girl can sense a mouse sneaking by from a mile, they say.”
“Don’t worry about me, general.”
The man bowed to him.
“My lord, it has been an honor serving you.”
Ozai returned his bow.
“It has been my honor to have a man as loyal as you.”
“I’ll try to keep them busy as long as I can.”
“That will be helpful.”
The general left.

*

In the end it was all really simple, Ozai thought as he put on pure white robes in his favourite room. Yesterday he had been a confused, guilt-ridden, hot mess. But Ursa was right. He could see clearly now.
He had three goals.
Hurt Zuko. Not physically, emotionally. As payback and a means to make him stronger. Didn’t his son always say suffering made him what he was today?
It was so sweet of the kid that he cared.
He tied the white silk sash to keep his robes in place. His right hand was still bandaged and didn’t work properly, but he managed.
Make sure the boy’s right to be Fire Lord would not be questioned again. For the good of the Fire Nation, there could be no division. If he had a say, he would have advised against this uprising from the start. Thankfully it didn’t do much harm.
Should he brush his hair? He thought for a moment then shrugged. Screw it.
He knelt in front of the small lacquered table, turning his back to the door, and lit the incense. He had a little time left to meditate before Zuko would arrive.
Instead of actually meditating, he remembered. A day on Ember Island, many years ago, when they were all happy. When he almost believed that Ursa felt something for him.
It hurt thinking about her. It still hurt. But soon, he would no longer have to deal with these feelings he didn’t understand. No more doubts. No more nightmares. No more terrible void inside him.
The third goal was to be free.

*

Mai's father kept talking after he surrendered, until Toph told him to cut it. She could tell he was trying to buy time. She put him in an earth cage for the time being.
Zuko and Aang left for the palace. Sokka and Toph went to free the Kyoshi warriors.
Zuko was surprised when he didn’t find his father in the throne room. “What game is he playing?”
“You think he’s in the bunker again?” Aang asked.
Zuko shook his head. “I don’t think so. Let's try his old chambers.”
Soon, they were in front of the right room. The doors were locked so Aang earthbent them out of frame.
Ozai didn’t turn to look at them. He was standing now, his flowing white robes and messy black hair made him look like a spirit.
But that didn’t explain why Zuko whispered “no” with a horrified expression. Aang wasn't that familiar with Fire Nation customs, but by his friend's reaction, he could tell something was very wrong.
“You need the Avatar to deal with a pathetic rebellion?” Ozai asked, still with his back to them.
“Father…"
Aang was expecting an attack. He didn't trust Ozai one bit, especially after hearing what he did to Ikem. The man was still dangerous.
"Zuko, be careful" he whispered.
"Father, don't."
Ozai finally turned around. There was something in his eyes that filled the Avatar with unease. He had seen this man overconfident, then terrified, then broken, but this expression was something new. Calm. Almost serene. An air of dignity around him. He looked more a king in his fall than ever before.
"This rebellion was not my doing. It was doomed from the start. But at least it gave me back my freedom and you won't take it from me again." Now Aang could see he was holding a ceremonial dagger, not unlike the one Zuko carried around with him. And he understood what Ozai was planning to do.
"Zuko, stop him!"
"Oh, no, he won't. He's too much of a coward to get me out of the way, but he knows I'm doing him a favour."
"Father, you don't have to do this."
Ozai glared at him with the usual disapproving look. "Tell me, Zuko, why can't you just give up on me? I have done nothing but made you suffer your whole life. Why do you still care?"
"Because you are my father, no matter what you did. And I want to save you."
"Save me!" He laughed wildly. "I'm already dead. There is nothing left to save." He looked at Aang with so much hate the boy took a step backwards. "You think what you did was mercy? What do you know of that terrible emptiness, that feeling your life force has been drained from you? The cold that won't ever stop because it comes from the inside?"
Aang swallowed. He didn't know about any of that.
"I had no idea…"
"Now you do. Sorry to shatter your ignorance, o mighty Avatar." Ozai turned away from him. "Could you give me some privacy, or is that too much to ask for?"
"I won't let you do this!" Zuko moved towards him.
He wasn't fast enough. Ozai raised the blade faster than a snake about to strike and drove it into his stomach to the hilt.
"NO!" Zuko screamed.
The former Fire Lord fell on his knees and struggled to make a horizontal cut but his injured hand failed him. Zuko caught him in his arms as he was about to collapse.
"I'll get Katara" Aang said. He felt like he was going to be sick.
"Don't you dare" Ozai was gasping for breath. "Stay and watch. Learn what happens… when your power gets to your head… and you think you can… decide… about life and death. You are… not.. omnipotent."
Zuko was in tears. He hadn't felt this helpless even at the darkest points of his exile. He held his father, the man who had wronged him in so many ways, and he still couldn't hate him.
Aang watched as bloodstains appeared on the white robes, slowly soaking through the fine material around the blade. Had he really violated his power? He thought he was doing the right thing when he spared the Fire Lord's life. Now he felt like a hypocrite. He was adamant in his principles, and yes, he was proud of himself that he had found an alternate way to defeat him. But ultimately he had still killed this man.

*

Ozai was in terrible pain but he desperately tried to keep what little dignity he had left. Don't scream. Don't show weakness.
He closed his eyes, trying to focus on taking slow breaths, but it hurt too much. He couldn't keep in a gasp.
He looked up at his son, the scar he had given him, the worried golden eyes, and he remembered that terrified little boy who begged for his forgiveness. And he wouldn't listen. I was truly a monster.
What use would it be to apologize now? He tried it with Ursa and completely failed. It was too late. His crimes against the boy were too severe.
The vague feelings of regret were not enough. He didn't know how to express them or act on them. 
Redemption was not for the likes of him.
"Zuko" he whispered.
"Yes, father?"
"Tell your mother…" Tell her what? There were no words that could make her forgive him. He just sighed. "No, it's pointless."
Time seemed to stand still.
He felt the hilt of the blade, grabbed it and yanked it out, hoping he would bleed to death faster.
There were no words. Nothing left to talk about.
"You'd be more comfortable on the bed…" Zuko said after a while, but when he tried to lift him, Ozai cried out in pain.
He clung to his son as his vision started to blur. His blood slowly collected into pool around them.
Why was it still not over?
It was too much, the pain didn't stop for a minute, every breath hurt, and he wanted nothing more than finally fall into the darkness.
He searched for the blade to finish the job, but couldn't find it.
When he heard the soft swishing of robes, he opened his eyes.
His wife was standing in front of him, and he hadn't been this happy in years. She came. It was his secret wish, to see her one more time, to hear her voice again. She didn't have to forgive. Her presence was enough.
"Ursa…" he whispered.
He tried to sit up with his last strength, reaching out for her.
He only touched thin air.
It was not real.
Ozai fell back in Zuko's arms with a sigh, and he lay still, with an expression of longing and sadness. The light was gone from his eyes.
It took his son a few moments to realize his heart had stopped beating.

Offline Water Lily

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Re: The Phoenix Unbound (Ozai POV fic, set after The Search)
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2015, 10:08:39 PM »
This...is...breath-taking. I absolutely love the way it was written. For once, it felt great losing myself into the mind of one of the most notorious villains of the Avatar world. Absolutely beautiful.

The bond between Ozai and Ursa had always been one of those I wanted to write about. I'm not sure if Ursa reuniting with her lover/husband Ikem was ideally the way I wanted their story to end. I always wondered if the former Fire Lord ever truly had feelings for Ursa. It was a great experience in getting another perspective of their relationship through your fic. Keep up the awesomeness!


~To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.~

Offline Michifer

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Re: The Phoenix Unbound (Ozai POV fic, set after The Search)
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2015, 12:49:16 PM »
Thanks :) I think even Ozai must have a weak point and that's probably his wife. He just doesn't know how to be a decent human being.

I kinda grew to like him while writing.

Offline Cassidy Alice

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Re: The Phoenix Unbound (Ozai POV fic, set after The Search)
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2015, 08:05:06 PM »
This is amazing! It's hard to find well-written fics about an anatagonist like this, but I think this was beautifully handled and I absolutely enjoyed reading it!

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