AN- This is actually my first A:TLAB fic...up till now, I've been writing for FMA, but I've written SO MUCH--all for one paring, too--on the same show that it kinda felt like I was writing myself into a hole. So I decided to branch out. I was gonna do the same type of fic from Zuko's pov first, but I had a sudden urge to write for his dad instead...odd, but whatever.

I'm hoping this goes well, although it was tricky to write...any comments on how to keep Ozai in character better would be super-appreciated; I kinda feel like he sounds a bit too...'evil-obsessed-fanatic' here when I actually see him as very cool and calculating. Eh. Whatever--point is, all reviews welcome.

If this goes well, I'll probably end up writing something from Zuko's pov...


Afterthought

There are times when Lord Ozai almost forgets.

Almost. That boy's name has never faded fully, and he's not sure if it ever will.

Frankly, this just angers him even more—his traitor son manages to make his father seem foolishly sentimental even when he's thousands of miles away. How irritating it is, to constantly have to battle away the inane idea of 'nostalgia'….after all, the Fire Lord doesn't really miss the fool.

Oh, he misses the idea; misses the thought of having a male heir, the security of knowing his lineage would carry on. But he does not miss the actual being that is—was—his son. He does not long for Zuko's return.

Why should he? Azula is ten times more impressive as a fire bender then Zuko will ever be, will make a better ruler then that idiot brother of hers could ever dream of becoming. She is strong, determined, and most importantly, ruthless…she has a layer of cruelty buried inside of her that his first-born sorely lacks. Ozai has no doubts that Azula will bring the Fire Nation to untold glory. None at all.

(but there are times when his daughter scares even him with her utter depravity, and he loathes that feeling because he's much too powerful for petty fear.)

Yes, his country will be better off under Azula, there's no question about that. There's no question that Zuko has become nothing more then dead weight, a piece of carrion by the roadside just waiting for the vulture-hawks to find. The imbecile can struggle all he wants, but he will never catch the avatar, never return home, never prove himself…

And Ozai will never feel sorry for throwing him away.

The very idea of the mighty Fire Lord mourning the loss of his coward protégé is worth nothing but a laugh. Wasn't Ozai the one who unsympathetically snatched away his elder brother's place on the throne after Iroh's boy was killed? Wasn't he the one who scorned the general's grief as pathetic and disgraceful?

Wasn't he the one who didn't so much as sigh when his wife left?

(he didn't miss her either, of course, but for weeks after she abandoned him he couldn't look upon his son without betrayal and disgust curdling in his veins. That boy looked too much like his mother—his eyes were too innocent, too fresh. Azula, on the other hand, looked completely different; her features were hardened by some strange, self-created hatred, and for that Ozai was grateful.)

The Fire Lord does not think of his oldest, usually; he does not stop to ponder his whereabouts or what he's struggling through. To be honest, he doesn't care. He has no reason to. Love is for the foolish, remorse for the weak—there are no apologies turning rotten in his heart.

He has no regret.

(if anything, he has joy—that boy didn't look so much like Ursa with such a hideous scar erupting over his eye! 'You see?' Ozai wants to gloat sometimes, 'your precious child is ruined….there is nothing left.')

There are times, though, when he can't quite help but wonder what his wife would think of all this. Ah, such a quirk of fate this is….the mighty Azula is his daughter, the mighty Fire Nation his home, and yet Ozai is still nothing more then a lover scorned.

(realizing this makes him loath Zuko even harder….that boy always was his mother's son. Why should Ursa love him more then her own husband?

'How dare you leave me? Wasn't I good enough for you?')

He sneers at himself for wasting time questioning what Ursa would say about the ordeal….why should he care? That dishonorable woman, what place does she have in his heart anymore? He knows his decision to banish the prince was the right one….if anything, it was merciful! A truly heartless leader—the kind of leader Ozai is determined to become—would have punished such a disgraceful display at the Agni Kai with quick and merciless death. Zuko got lucky, the little maggot, considering what he did. The piece of scum groveled, for the gods' sake! Begged, like some humble peasant! How could any father love a creature who disgraced him so?

He never really loved his son, actually; even before he noticed just how much of a filthy worm the prince was, there was something about him that left a filthy taste in his father's mouth. There was something about that look in the boy's eyes that bothered him, to put it simply. As a child he was too open, too thoughtful, too repulsively lacking in honor; he was nothing a true heir to the Fire Nation throne should have been. He asked too many questions, even when he was only a speechless baby—Ozai quickly grew sick of that boy's piercing eyes following him endlessly, as if Zuko was some sort of god passing judgment.

The Fire Lord is infuriated by the idea—how dare that brat judge him! He's the ruler of the most powerful country in the world! If anyone is a god, it's him!

(Ozai trembles with fury at the thought of judgment….he has done nothing wrong, of course, but still he lashes out at anyone who would disapprove of his actions. Some small part of him fears the aftermath of being condemned…)

It doesn't matter, though. The Agni Kai showed Zuko his place, all right….it felt to the Fire Lord like divine judgment of a whole different variety, and it tasted deliciously sweet.

Zuko was weak. Zuko deserved what he got. Frailty has no place in Lord Ozai's kingdom, not even when it manifests itself in the heir to the throne. Gods, he had no choice but to exile the idiot, really—how could a creature that eager to 'do the right thing' ever rule such a war-hungry nation? The Fire Lord must be willing to dominate no matter what the cost; Zuko would probably avoid war like some spineless insect rather then dare to stand up straight and fight for what he wanted. How could someone who disliked warfare ever claim the throne?

Lord Ozai is nothing like his son. Ozai loves war. He loves the blinding heat of fire lurching from his hands, loves the smell of ash baked onto his robes. The thick, smoky stench that seeps throughout the palace reminds him of destruction—a delicate, glorious thing. Zuko is too tender-hearted, too naive, to ever appreciate that smell….to ever rejoice in one of nature's greatest pleasures: the knowledge that you are strong enough to end something as huge as life itself. What one could do with that strength!

Ursa wasn't his first love, truly. His first—and last—love will always be that bitter scent of chaos lying stagnant over the charred remains of a battlefield. For his own child to not be able to recognize that triumph….it's disgusting. He's glad the prince is gone.

(Ursa abandoned him, Zuko betrayed him…good riddance, he sneers, and refuses to yearn for either one.)

What's done is done, and Ozai will not look back. He will not mourn the tattered fragments of his family, because what use is family when he has the whole world in his grasp? He does not lament the loss of his son. He does not let it hold him back.

He does not miss Zuko. He never will.

(not even for an instant?)

AN-...Hm...yeah, this could be better. Oh well, hopefully when I get more used to the avatar fandom my work'll improve too.

...for the record, I have no idea if vulture-hawks are a real a:tlab species.