Title: Airbender's Child: Other Perspectives
Disclaimer: I own nothing here that anyone recognises.
Rating: Call it a T for the sake of my not knowing what rating it'll actually be in the end.
Summary: Ursa started hating early.
Notes: So, here's the first of my alternate PoVs on the Airbender's Child series, it's a bit of something. Almost no dialogue, but I wasn't really able to get any in.
Ultimately, Ursa knew that she had to give that monster of a husband of hers a firebending child. He wouldn't, his whole family wouldn't expect any less. That said, she had felt such joy when she'd given birth and the first thing little Aiko had done was sneeze herself into the air.
This one was going differently, however. This child was coming too early, too fast and everything felt wrong. This one wasn't even going to have a chance. Then the child was brought forth, and he was small and weak and seemed to have no bending at all. All benders tended to accidentally cause some minor mayhem in the delivery room at birth. Her own mother said that she'd managed to knock the midwife over when she was born.
This one didn't seem to have any bending at all. Ursa looked down at him in his swaddling and sighed. He wasn't strong enough. Her little Zuko wasn't going to make it, and the fact that her airbending was strong enough to cull the firebending in his blood made her want him to make it all the more. She wanted her children, Aiko and Zuko both, to prove they could overcome their bad blood.
Ozai, that despicable firebender, had come by and utterly dismissed his own child because the baby was born ill. It made her sick that any man could do such a thing to his own children. It just went to show how fundamentally terrible they were as a people.
Night after night she'd sit beside his cradle, holding his tiny perfect hands in hers and hoping he'd be fine. Every breath in was a victory, and every wait between was a trough of despair. He was so little and handsome and perfect, she couldn't help but love him, even if he wasn't a bender.
Eventually he got better. It became clear he wasn't going to die and he could even travel. Ursa arranged to take him with her to her home enclave, intending to introduce him to his sister.
Aiko was enamoured of her little brother, chattering away a mile a minute about all the fun things she'd do with him once he was old enough to play with her properly, and how she was going to teach him bending. Ursa didn't have the heart to tell her daughter yet that the youngest member of their family would never bend.
She was forced to leave again, taking Zuko with her back to the palace. The trip back, however, was marred at the end by a storm. Zuko was understandably upset by the noise and discomfort of the quick dash through the rain. As they got inside, a sudden warmth at her chest made her look down. Zuko's face was scrunched up, and she would have thought it was adorable, if it weren't utterly clear what he was doing.
He was bending his swaddling warmer. It was an incredible display from a baby firebender, most of whom could only light the bedsheets on fire by accident.
Ozai was there to greet her. With a sense of detachment, barely clinging to a facade of calm, Ursa told him, "Your son, it seems, is a firebender after all."
"Is he?" the man asked. "How can you tell? Has he sparked?"
"No," she told him. "He's warming his blankets by himself."
Her husband snorted in disgust, but still took the time to look at his son. "At least he takes after me in looks," he said. Then he strode off.
By the time she got to the nursery with Zuko, Ursa was shaking. She passed him to his nurses and hurried away to think. She'd taken the boy to the enclave. He was too young to remember, and there would be no reason to take him now, but still . . .
Then a thought occurred to her. If she did this right, if she raised him right, perhaps there was a chance she could get a firebender with morals near or onto the throne. She could contact people about arranging a few assassinations once the boy was old enough to take the throne in any reasonable way. She paced her rooms, planning and thinking. Finally, however, she couldn't stand it anymore and went to look in on Zuko. He was sleeping, looking angelic, small and beautiful as he always did.
For a moment, Ursa considered the possibilities of raising him to be a good man. What a coup that would be, to raise a firebender to be a decent human being. Zuko shifted a little in his sleep, and she felt a smile on her lips. He was her son, he didn't have to be evil like his father.
Then he, as the firebenders called it, sparked. The little flame came off his fist, hitting the crib's side and causing a loud cracking noise to wake him. Frightened, he began to cry, and his nurses came running.
Ursa reached for him, but the sight of true proof that he was a firebender halted her hands. Zuko was reaching for her, but she backed away. She couldn't let herself get sucked in by weeping golden eyes.
She would raise him to be the best person he could be, and she would make sure that someday he took the throne. But he was a firebender. Good wasn't in his nature and there was nothing she could do about that. She straightened herself firmly and turned away. Best that she not become too attached.
Zuko was screaming in earnest now, clearly frightened and confused that his mother wasn't coming. She reminded herself that he was his father's son and that she couldn't afford to lose her detachment and start looking at firebenders as decent people. They were monsters and she'd given birth to a monster.
Her heart was bleeding as she walked away and she felt even sicker when Ozai told her how much he approved of her decision to strengthen their son by not coddling him.
Two years later, Azula was brought screaming and flaming everything within reach, into the world. When she burned her own mother, Ursa felt justified in her beliefs. For the first time that day she slapped Zuko when he got too noisy.
She was never going to fall for his crocodile tears again.