It took her days to locate him afterwards. He'd flown far, farther than one who bore such a burden as his should've been able. She could taste his emotions on the air as she tracked him over the western seas. They were hot feelings, hot as the fire that burned in her belly, and they scorched her tongue and nostrils with the force of his grief, his guilt, and his rage. The roof of her mouth was seared by the agony of the betrayal he felt, the betrayal he thought her guilty of.

She wondered if he would forgive her, if he'd even listen to what she had to say. She would understand if he refused to give her a chance, not even she thought she deserved one.

The unmistakable scent of her mate wafted into her flared nostrils and open mouth and she looked down, startled. Below her the ruins of an ancient city sprawled, a once great civilization now decadent and forlorn. Even her species remembered the Sun Warriors, the ancestors of the modern Fire Nation, given the crux of their entire civilization by her own ancestors. Of course her Fang would seek his shelter here while he mourned. The thought would appeal to his ironic side: Mourning the loss of Roku in the place where the bonds between dragon and man were first formed. It gave her hope that perhaps beneath all the hurt and anger she could taste in his trail her mate was still there, as beautiful and fire bright as the first time they'd scented each other over the rough grasslands of their homeland.

With an elegant twist of her long body, she stilled the movement of her sapphire wings and glided over the abandoned stretch of the city. As she flew low another scent besides that of her wayward mate reached her glands and her yellow eyes widened in alarm. Humans! But it was impossible. She had been beside the very seat of human power her entire life and not once had her master mentioned that he had servants in this land. There was no way that he could've begun colonization here without her knowing. Unless he himself was unaware. And based on what she could decipher about these people from scent alone, the population was small and growing smaller by the day.

Remnants of a dying race.

She would leave them to die in peace; Fang was her main concern. Her only concern now that she had left Sozin's side.

She could see him now, curled in a courtyard nestled in the gaping maw of the crag that towered over the ancient city. There was a lone figure standing before him, a man dressed in ceremonial garb who turned to look at her as she touched down. She bristled as he looked between her and Fang and curled her lips in warning until the man backed away and disappeared.

A quiet huff of hot air pulled her attention back to her mate and her sharp gaze softened as she examined him. He was a wreck, his scales blackened by soot, his wings bleached by volcanic ash, and his once bright eyes now dull — the inner fire doused in the torrent of his emotions.

She approached him cautiously, her keen eyes scanning for any injuries he might have sustained in the disaster that had claimed Roku's life. His golden eyes watched her as she moved but he remained prone, the great spread of his body folded into an impossibly compact ball of pain.

"Fang," she nuzzled at his snout, felt the heat of his breath cascade over her brows as she lowered her head to peer into his hazy eyes. "Fang?"

He rumbled at her after a long moment of silence, his voice throaty and exhausted, "That name died with the master who gave it to me. Was that not what you wanted...?"

She stiffened and pulled back. "Please, forgive me. I never... It was not my intention," she choked suddenly. She felt like she couldn't breathe and wondered briefly if she'd died with Roku, with Fang, if the phantom taste of ash on her tongue was real. "I never wanted to hurt him!" She nosed her way beneath the fine line of his jaw desperately and crowed, "I never wanted to hurt you!"

She felt him swallow, the delicate skin of his throat tightening briefly with the motion. "Then...why? Tell me, Ran," he whispered brokenly.

"...Sozin, he. Please," Ran begged, hoping that he would understand that the duty that kept him in mourning for his master had bound her just as tightly to her own master's will. "I came here for you. I've left him... for... for you. Because of what he did," she added, wondering at how a beast as proud as herself had been brought low within the bonds of a love greater than she had ever felt for Sozin.

He raised his head at that and looked down at her. His gaze was unreadable and Ran found herself pinned beneath his scrutiny as if it was a physical weight bearing down on her — for all that she loved him, it likely was. Yes, his silence stole her breath and the crush of his stare collapsed her lungs before she could inhale. With a whimper Ran writhed closer in an attempt to escape from his piercing eyes, but he neatly thwarted her by bowing to rest his muzzle alongside hers.

Cheek to cheek, they peered at one another for an eternity before he rubbed against her affectionately with his red snout. When their gazes next met his eyes promised forever and sorry and I love you.

Not breaking their contact, Ran curled her body to mirror his and met his burning eyes with a fierce fire of her own. I love you, too.

She hissed, "It is just beginning, Cha."

And it was.

Miles away in a citadel that towered over a thriving city, a lone man looked to the future. A future where all he saw belonged to him. Where nothing could leave his side but by way of death. By killing one friend he had lost another and they would never be replaced. There would be no other Avatar and there would be no other dragons. The very skies would be brought to their knees by his might no matter that he could not reach them.

After all, airbenders had to fall eventually and dragons couldn't fly forever.

Miles away in a citadel where guilt couldn't touch him, Sozin smiled.

- - -

AN: Well, that was weird. Quite possibly the most angst I've ever written. It basically was inspired by a conversation with Superlazygirl about the recent episodes. I cracked a joke about dragon romance because of something Supie said and made up an AU summary. And so, an AU oneshot was born and it basically wrote itself.

So yes, in this fic Fang survived the volcanic eruption that killed Roku and is the red dragon (Cha?) in The Firebending Masters. While Sozin's unnamed blue dragon is the other dragon (Ran?) in that episode.

- - -

Over a century later, a stocky man with laugh lines at the corners of his eyes saw his heritage reflected back at him in twin gazes the same color as his own. The fire that they shared, the fire that transcended specie and time stayed his hand. And he remembered.

A lie gave him a title. That same lie gave them their forever once more. And Iroh, the Dragon of the West, wore his title with more honor and pride than any man who had won it honestly.