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Untitled Avatar ficlet

because it wouldn't leave me alone. SPOILER ALERT FOR FINALE

And slight Mai/Zuko-ness. Ozai-centric fic that ran out of steam and got a quick one-way trip to the Fanfic Graveyard where it will likely stay instead of hanging out on my hard drive and collecting dust.


Alone in his cell, Ozai didn’t have an accurate way to tell time, save for when his small window darkened as the sun moved across the sky. Meals came three times a day; the food was far too generous both in portion and in quality than what was deserving of a war criminal, as he had been labeled. He didn’t know if it was because some of his countrymen were still loyal to the old regime or if his son was as softhearted as he knew him to be. He didn’t care either way.

***

His contact to the world outside consisted of one guard. At first, he chose to ignore the man, staring at the wall until whatever meal the man had with him was passed through the metal bars and he was left to his solitude once more.

“I see you like to see suffering,” he finally sneered one day, tired of being stared at.

“No, my Lord. I’ve come to offer you my services.”

Ozai watched as the guard knelt in front of the cell. The Avatar might have taken his bending from him, but there were other ways to regain his throne. “Tell me,” he asked, sitting up straighter than he had in months. “Are there others like you?”

***

The loud bang of metal doors made his eyes snap open. Footsteps echoed along the stone floor, too hurried to belong to his guard, too light for his son’s.

“It won’t work,” a girl’s voice said. “I won’t let it work.” Ah. The girl who had followed his daughter. Mai, wasn’t it?

“And what, may I ask, would you be referring to?”

He hid his disappointment when she threw something long and dark through the bars. The moon was full and the beams that came through his window illuminated the cell enough to let him see the long lock of hair now sprawled on the ground. He immediately recognized it as belonging to his guard.

“The only thing keeping him from killing you is his compassion,” she said through gritted teeth. “I don’t harbor such feelings. The guard was a warning.”

She spun neatly on her heel and made to leave. “How does it feel to be used again as someone’s weapon?” Ozai asked. “Though it appears that you’ve become his shield as well.”

“If I am, then it is because instead of being forced, I chose to be what I am.”

“Truthfully, Mai. Did you kill that man?”

She looked over her shoulder, her face blank and eyes emotionless. “What do you think?” The soft sound of her footsteps echoed in the silence, the heavy clang of the main door shutting and locking sounding oppressive to his ears.

The following morning, Ozai had his breakfast shoved through the bars, his new guard sneering in distaste. He resumed staring at the wall, his jaw clenching in anger.

***

With nothing else to occupy his time, he took to practicing his firebending forms. He went with the most complex ones that he knew, the ones that came to him as naturally as breathing and left him drenched in sweat. Each move was flawless, each strike as fluid as he knew that they would be.

The only thing was, every move lacked the surge of power that had once flowed through his veins, the fiery rush that he had taken for granted. Even the most rudimentary of moves, those that children were started on, produced the same results.

Rage at having the power once at his disposal taken away from him sent his fist flying at his cell wall. He heard bones breaking, but didn’t register any pain. His daily guard came and went, this time accompanied by another. The two of them spoke quietly about an upcoming solar eclipse and when it was expected to arrive.

“What does it matter?” he asked, his good hand pressing against the bones of the other. This time pain flared and the sensation was almost, but not quite the same as conjuring lightning. “Every day is an eclipse here.”

The guards did not comment.

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