A different take on Ozai. May or may not be accurate. I do not care. It's just one way the series could end, making Zula the ultimate bad-guy-thingy. Minor Zutaraness. Enjoy and review. Merry Christmas as well!Firelight
There it was again. The steady cough, the violent shakes, the slow and painful cooling of his body…the fire in him is dying out. He can feel it. And he knows he's not far behind it.
Then the knock, "M'lord, there's someone here to see you."
He throws a fireball at the door, knowing it does him no good; the messenger will stay until he gives the message. "I don't want any visitors today, so whoever it is, you can tell them to go home."
The messenger winces. "You might want to make an exception, M'lord."
Gods, why was he surrounded by idiots? "I am ill. I do not want to see anyone." Or rather, he doesn't want anyone to see him. To see how far he has fallen, to see the Great Fire Lord Ozai shattered and broken by mere mortal sickness.
The messenger frowns. "It's your brother, sir."
"Let him in," He says against his better judgment. Within seconds the messenger is gone, and the fire lord is left alone with the shadows of his dying flame. Iroh was here. It unnerved him a little at how excited he was that his older brother had come to see him in his dying days. He had not seen the elder son since…since…
Since you banished Zuko. His conscious replied. He winced. Thinking of his only son was not what he wanted to do in his final days. In fact, most days he tried to pretend he did not have a son; it made it so much easier than remembering he ruined his life. He brought it on himself. He reasoned, but failed. It was funny how that lie had worked on him so many times before, but now was just that---a lie.
A calm hand is on his shoulder. "You look like hell." A familiar voice teases, and for a moment, he can pretend he's not here. For a moment, they are kids again, and he's sickly and Iroh is teasing him like he always does.
But it only lasts a moment. "I came as soon as I heard you were ill."
The younger brother looks to his elder, studying him as hard as he can. A little grayer, a little balder, and just a pinch thinner---maybe it's just his eyes---but otherwise, the same Iroh that left him---how long now? Five years ago. Five years ago since he's seen his brother.
Five years since he's seen his son.
"Is Zuko with you?" His voice is scratching and weak, but he doesn't care. He hasn't said Zuko's name in so long, he's almost forgotten it, but not at the same time. He wouldn't forget Zuko. Never Zuko. His only son, the only thing he had left that reminded him of her. He has Zula, sure, but Zula, rest her soul, is the spitting image of him, while Zuko is just like her.
Is that why you banished him? Because you couldn't stand looking at the almost mirror reflection of your wife, your Lian, every day that you had to get rid of him?
He doesn't answer that question. He never does.
A part of him is amazed that this, being the first time he's spoke with Iroh in five years, and the first thing he brings up is Zuko.
If Iroh is as surprised, he doesn't show it. Instead, he just stares in his steady, calm manner that Ozai grew up around, but this time, there's something else, too. A bitterness, a heartfelt sorrow grew in his brother's eyes. As if to say, you had your chance and you lost it.
Ozai winces. Iroh doesn't notice.
"Hard for him to come with me when he's still banished from his own kingdom." A part of him laughs at the irony, while the other part of him wants to cry in regret.
"He---I'm surprised. I didn't think he would listen to me."
Iroh stares at him. "Why wouldn't he listen to you, Ozai? He's spent his entire life listening to you."
Neither brother speaks for a moment, and the silence is killing the younger. Please, he begs the spirits, let me get through with this.
Luckily, Iroh's not one for silence either. "He's never going to do what you asked him to, you know." He says it plainly.
What had he asked him to do? "The Avatar…" He stops, remembering. "I didn't think that he would." He says, his voice near silence, laced heavily with regret.
"No," Iroh begins, a heavenly fire still burning strong in his eyes. "He can do it. But he won't."
Silence again, this time, not as long.
"He's not on your side anymore, Ozai." Iroh continues. "He hasn't been for three years. Possibly before that. He may have never been on your side. I'm not sure." The elder brother glows. "He follows the Avatar now. He taught the child firebending, and now leads an army of rebel firebenders against your cause."
That would explain the rumor he heard about a young firebender who was one of the Avatar's companions. Never, in all of his years, would he have thought it was Zuko. Never would he have thought his son would betray him.
What did you think was going to happen? You all but abandoned him as soon as Lian died!
But he doesn't answer. He never does.
"He got married." To this, the Fire Lord's ears perk up.
"Really? To who?"
"No one you'd know." Iroh answers. Then he continues. "A waterbender from the Southern Tribe. A very sweet girl. Beautiful, too."
Although he doesn't say it, Ozai knows what his brother means to say. "You'd like her if you would get to know her past the fact that she's a waterbender."
"A waterbender, aye? Interesting." He mutters beneath his breath. A quiet It's your fault, you drove him to it plays out in his head, but he ignores it. "I'd like to meet her." He says suddenly, and surprises himself by realizing it's true. He doesn't know what's worse: the fact that his son married a waterbender, or the fact that he's genuine when he says he wants to meet her.
"I wouldn't advise it," Iroh says lightly. "As she could probably kick your butt." He pauses. "And it's not a good idea to tick off pregnant women."
Wait a minute… "She's pregnant?"
Iroh nods. "With Zuko's child, yes." He smiles warmly for the first time since he came back to the Fire Nation. "You're going to be a grandfather, Ozai."
No. He wants to yell. Or rather, he wants Zuko to be there right now so he could give his son a good thrashing. Zuko is young—he shouldn't even know what sex means much less be having children.
Good lord, he was going to be a grandfather. That was scary.
Before he can control it, the coughs begin again; the shivering returns, and the coldness he feels despite the heat of the room numbs him until he can barely breathe. He remembers all to well why his brother is here.
"I'm dying, Iroh."
A pause. "I know."
There's a desolation he feels, a horrible, sinking revelation that he's never realized before. He's dying.
He's dying, and he's going to die without saying goodbye to his son.
"Iroh, please." He begins with a shady cough. "Tell him I'm sorry. Tell him I wish him well. Tell him to come home, I don't care if he has the Avatar or not."
"Tell him yourself." Iroh stammers, and for the first time in his life, Ozai realizes his brother is angry. Calm, quiet Iroh was angry. At him.
"I can't. I'm dying." He says sadly, hoping his brother understands.
"Then I guess he won't know, then." Iroh says, with finality in his voice that answers any questions Ozai might've had of where Iroh's loyalty lied.
"Why?" He begs softly. "Why are you doing this to me? I'm your brother, Iroh!"
"Yeah, and for once in his life, your son is happy. I'm not going to ruin that for him." He says quietly. "If you want to find him, he's in the Southern Water Tribe with Katara, living happily ever after. If you left at this moment you might make it there in time to see your grandchild's birth. I know I plan to."
He turns and leaves, leaving Ozai to his thoughts. The firelight around him begins the flicker and sputter, but it's not the Fire Lord's doing. The Fire Lord was already gone.
A/N: I'm evil. I'll leave the ending up to your own perspective: whether Ozai dies or whether he follows Iroh to find Zuko. Your choice. Think of it as a freebee. Sorry if some of the characters seem OoC, but that's how I imagined they would react in that sort of situation, so there. Please review. They heal the soul.