AN: I've been grounded the past few weeks. And during that time, I craved some Zuko angst, and since I couldn't read any, I wrote some. Enjoy?

DISCLAIMER: I don't own Avatar: the Last Airbender.

Had it been anyone else, I would've considered mercy.

I admit (although this is not that much of a confession as it isn't much of a secret) that I hate my son.

Zuko had always been a particularly weak child, all the way from day one. I had let it go at first, figuring that he was simply a late starter and would be all that more powerful once he did start. I tried being kind about it.

That's when his sister was born. Azula was a natural, a prodigy, a child any father would be proud of, and a natural-born leader. Just like me. She was everything Zuko was not and, as I was starting to realize, would never be. And she was younger sibling, just as I was with Iroh. Azula was like me, strong and proud, and Zuko was like Iroh, soft, kind, and despicable.

And I began to hate him for it, just as I tarted to respect his sister for being like myself. So I began to think up plans to make myself Azulon's heir and, in turn, Azula my heir. When Azulon ordered me to kill Zuko, I considered things to be going better than expected. All I'd have to do then was take Iroh out of the picture.

Ursa: the second reason I hate Zuko. All of my plans were falling into place and pretty well too, might I add, but she ruined them. She ruined them just to save her pathetic excuse for a son. I had to banish my wife just because she felt the need to save whom which did not deserve to be saved.

That was when my anger turned violent.

Zuko had always tried to please me, and always failed. But having him looking up to me, admiring me, was almost like having my brother do the same. It was like having a koala-puppy follow me around begging for my affection. However, Zuko didn't deserve my affection, respect, or even attention. I didn't owe him anything and he owed me everything. And I took what he could give me: an outlet for my aggression.

It was darkly satisfying seeing the look in his eyes when I demanded he wait in his room after dinner because I wanted to talk to him. One eye conveyed fear while the other conveyed hop, two conflicting emotions in two conflicting eyes. And sure enough, when I got to the brat's room, he was pacing nervously, running his hands through his hair and utterly ruining his topknot. He tried to hide it when I came in by standing shock (stock?) still, but I wasn't fooled.

It was pleasuring berating him for being weak and useless, it was delightful to make him squirm and fidget and then admonishing him for doing so. I loved seeing the self-hate in his eyes, knowing that his opinion of himself matched my opinion of him.

Although nothing was quite as satisfying as having him prostrate before me, of his own free will even, and apologize for being such a horrible son. The act of submission just made me feel so powerful, even coming from such a weak child. The only thing that made me feel more powerful was kicking the kowtowing boy in the stomach.

It became an almost-nightly routine, and almost-nightly obsession on my part, a sweet addiction. Every night after dinner I would find him standing, frightened yet resigned (knowing that he deserved what he was coming) in his room. I would ask him why he was not bowing to his lord and he would instantly drop to the floor with an apology. (Eventually it came to the point where, as soon as he would see me in his room, he would drop his eyes and prostrate immediately. That was even better.) I would insult him some and punish him some, careful not to leave enough damage as to hinder his firebending (he had and has enough problems with that as is). And all the while he would apologize and apologize and apologize again. Everything was as it should be for about an hour every night after my evening meal.

However, the other 23 hours of the day Zuko wasn't anywhere near worth keeping around, even if it was fun to see him lower his eyes and squirm anytime he saw me, after dinner or not. So when he disrespected the general and was challenged to an Agni Kai by said general, I told my subordinate he could sit this one out, that I would face my son. I could get rid of the disgrace and secure the throne for Azula all in one fell swoop. But seeing him kneeling there like a coward in a fire duel just made me hate him more.

Had it been anyone else on that Agni Kai platform, save for maybe the Avatar himself, I would've at least considered mercy.

AN: Yeah, this was a little dark. Oh well. I wanted angst and I wrote some, maybe? Was that angst? I hope so… Leave a review please! Enough and I might post a second chapter, from Iroh's POV.