And now, because it had to be done; Ozai's death.
Asamiya knew her dad had always told her to stay away from her grandfather, that he was dangerous, but looking at him now, weak from years in a prison (that was the one thing that conflicted Zuko. His father was the only person to date, a good fifteen years since the official end of the war, that had been imprisoned in the prison tower for more than a week for some minor offense. It bothered the Fire Lord, because he'd always tried to be nothing like his father, but was there anything else he could do? Ozai had lost his bending, that was true, but he was still strong enough to be a threat), she couln't see it.
In her ten years, Asamiya had never questioned her father's actions and decisions, and she certainly wasn't going to now. She'd never liked her grandfather. Perhaps that was because she could still remember when he'd hurt her. No one realized that Ozai could still create heat, if not flames. So, when Zuko had brought his three-year-old daughter down to the dungeons, hoping that his father had changed, he had had no idea that she'd get hurt. Ozai had managed to get the princess by the neck, raising the temperature of his hand, until he'd burned her sensitive little neck. Of course, Katara had healed Asamiya, but it was no secret that Zuko had never forgiven Ozai. For months, he'd had his daughter staying right at his side through everything, and it was then that he started impressing on her that she never go near her grandfather alone.
Ozai stared blankly at the dark-skinned young girl beside him. She looked so much like his Azula. But her hair was different, and her skin was darker. Though her face was practically the same in shape, the similarities ended with the physical. She had the pathetic softness in her eyes that Zuko had. But the longer grandfather and granddaughter looked at each other, the more that softness in the young eyes of the crown princess faded into hardened hate.
"Are you sorry?" she asked flatly, her round face tilting to one side as she regarded her grandfather with something similar to disgust. She'd never forgiven him either. Not for what he'd done to her, but for what he'd done to her father - her best friend.
Ozai scoffed weakly, thinking she meant for burning her. He would never be sorry for giving the little half-breed rat what she'd deserved - her, her pathetic father, or her peasant mother. He was proud of what he'd done. He'd shone her who was really strong. He'd done what he wanted, Zuko had held back. For a second, after he'd burned his son's precious little bratling, and the fool had had him at his mercy, Ozai had thought Zuko would actually scar him, as he had been scarred so long ago. But he hadn't done it. He'd retreated at a single whimper from the little runt hiding behind his robes. And she still looked runty; small, and delicate-looking, she seemed as pathetically fragile as his son had at her age.
"Are you sorry for hurting my dad?" the young princess clarified, her eyes cold.
That caught Ozai off guard. But it was funny. This kid was just as worthless and weak as her father. If she was the heir to the throne, Agni help his country. But Ozai didn't understand. He didn't know that this scrawny little kid would one day be a loved, treasured ruler.
"Tell your pathetic -" Ozai broke off into coughing fit, and his breath came ragged. For a split second, Asamiya felt sorry for him. No one should die sick and believing they were alone.
Frustrated tears came quickly to her eyes. Why did things have be like this? Why did her grandfather - someone she should have been able to love, and laugh with - have to be so full of hate? Asamiya may not have understood much about human nature, war, evil, and death yet, but she understood enough, that it hurt that even on what was most likely his deathbed, her grandfather refused to change.
Behind the princess, the doors to the prison infirmary opened, and Zuko walked in, relieved to have found his daughter, but a tad disappointed in her for having come to this place. Hadn't he told her to stay away from her grandfather? That he was dangerous? But, then again, Ozai was far beyond bending in his condition. And he wasn't in any sort of shape to hurt Asamiya either.
"Sweetheart, what are you doing here?" the Fire Lord asked, walking into the room. Asamiya broke out of the almost-trance she'd been in, that had her staring, transfixed, sort of, at her dying grandfather, and turned into her father's arms. And then the emotions came back, and the princess shook; she was in the same room as someone who was dying. Now that she was thinking of it, it scared her.
Zuko looked over at his father, who was still watching the two of them, but the ex-Fire Lord's eyes had glazed over, and there was no life left in them. The Fire Lord pressed his daughter's head closer to his chest, praying to any and all spirits that she wouldn't open her eyes and see her first sight of death. She was only ten, after all.
Ozai's funeral was private, and Zuko lit the pyre with a simple flick of his wrist, not giving his father's body the satisfaction of a direct look, as he glanced side-long at the burning body. But somewhere, deep inside, there was still a little boy who cried for his dad. A little boy who still held faith that one day, his father would look at him and smile as he pulled him into a tight embrace, telling him he loved him. On that day, though, the little boy accepted that Ozai would never love him, and turned away, dissipating, and taking with it any remnants of the young Zuko that would have done anything, gone to any length - even betrayal - to win his father's love.
That need for love instead turned its focus on his very pregnant wife, his two children, and the rest of his living family; his uncle, his brother-in-law and his wife, their children, and the Avatar's family. If he couldn't have his father telling him he loved him, he'd get that sort of love from his true family; a family of adults, who had once been a pack of misfits, and their children. And as Katara, Roh, Iroh, and Asamiya all hugged him tightly, and the others joined in, Zuko smiled. Because this was much better than what his life would have been had he chosen his father's love over what was right.
Heh, I really liked writing this chapter, does that make me morbid? Anyway, I hope you guys like it. Review, please!