Red Son Rising
Summary: One-shot – It was the day of Ozai's execution and he couldn't be prouder of his son.
Author's Notes: I honestly think that the only way Zuko could ever earn Ozai's respect was if he did something like this.
Disclaimer: I do not own any characters featured in this story. They all belong to Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko.
Red Son Rising
In the Fire Nation, executions take place at sunset.
It is a symbolic ritual meant to display the connection between the ending of a life and the ending of a day. The executed must kneel before the setting sun and watch as it sets. Then, right before the last rays of light disappear over the horizon, the executed bows and loses their head.
Ozai doesn't care much for traditions but he finds and appreciates the beauty in this one, even if he is experiencing it personally.
The affair is a private one. Only a handful of guards and nobles are allowed to watch from the podium ten feet away. He recognizes some of them—the neutral ones who he could never persuade to his side but could never get rid of either—and for some reason it doesn't surprise him that they joined the new Fire Lord.
He does not see Azula though he knows she's alive. Healed up and lost in her own mind, but alive nonetheless. She is no threat now that she is insane so there is no reason to execute her.
Ozai feels a large amount of disgust and anger that his once beautiful and gifted daughter could fall so easily and deeply. There is a small amount of sadness and guilt but like most things it is overshadowed by his anger.
Finally, waiting for him at the alter, stands Iroh and Zuko.
His brother is older and more worn than he last saw him. There is a twenty year difference between them and it has never been more obvious than now. His solemn eyes meet Ozai for a moment and when they do he cannot help but compare the weathered, lined face before him to the young, arrogant one from his childhood. He finds the drastic difference between the two unsettling.
The next person his eyes land on is Zuko. His son wears a perfect mask of complete indifference and when their eyes meet there is not even a flicker of emotion in them. The little boy who once looked up at him in fear and adoration is now a cold and aristocratic man who is about to put his father to death in order to secure his claim on the throne that is rightfully his.
And Ozai couldn't be more relieved.
Despite his mother's coddling and uncle's brainwashing, Zuko was still Ozai's son. Hidden beneath those shy smiles and warm words was a ruthless power that clung to Ozai, Azula, and even Iroh once. This power was the same power that Ozai and Iroh had inherited from Azulon, who had in turn gotten it from his own father. A power that had been burned and enraged by Ozai and cooled and tempered by the hardships of the world. A power that would lead the Fire Nation forward as the strongest nation in the world because in the end no amount of hugs and tea could change the blood that ran in Zuko's veins.
Zuko probably didn't see it yet. Maybe even Iroh was still oblivious to the truth. But Ozai saw it. Saw it and recognized the fact that his throne and kingdom was in good hands now. And that was why he could bow to the sun and face his end without regrets or shame.
It was the day of Ozai's execution and he couldn't be prouder of his son.