"You know that's a futile gesture," Ozai said. "I must go and meet my family, and you shall come with me. Either with your hair up or not."
With a sigh, Sué began to tie her long hair into a tidy bun, "Ozai, we can't continue this depraved relationship if I'm to marry you."
"Why not? Your family doesn't mind."
"Fire Lords don't marry their mistresses; it isn't done. People will talk."
"I am the Fire Lord. Who are they to meddle in my loves and hates? Sué, throughout my career as prince, politician, and monarch, I've found many things to hate, but only one to love—you."
"Azula is my daughter."
She frowned at her reflection in the large mirror, "And Ursa."
"How many husbands do you know who banish their wives for treason? It wasn't out of passionate attachment."
"You could have burned her."
Ozai took her hand and kissed it. "When I say we'll be married, we shall. If I say we're through, you and I are through."
She rose. "If I decided to be trouble, how much trouble could I be?"
"At this moment I have all the enemies I need. Don't become one, too. Iroh's not even here yet, and already I can hear him singing treason. And that's Azula seething in the background. The buzzing underneath is Zuko."
"I know you plan to disinherit him."
"So does Zuko. So does Azula, and so does my brother. We're very frank about such matters."
"How is Iroh?"
"Decaying, I had hoped. Reports from the tower tell me to anticipate disappointment," he looked out the window. "And there's the barge. Let's go and look."
Sué resignedly took his arm.
The barge docked, and slowly, thanking the crew as he walked, the Dragon of the West, exited.
"The dragons didn't fly you, brother?" Ozai asked.
"They chased away the clouds, so I'd have a pleasant journey," Iroh replied. "I didn't want to get greedy. How kind of you to let me out of jail."
"Only for the holiday."
"As long as I get dusted off occasionally. Ah, here's Lady Sué."
She bowed nervously.
"No, no," Iroh embraced her. "Like this. I may be old, but I'm not fragile."
The faces of Zuko and Azula appeared behind their father, and Iroh released Sué.
"Ozai," he said. "You do have handsome children. Prince Zuko, try not to look so sullen, you'll look like a hog-sheep. And Azula—serene as ever I see."
"I won't kiss a traitor's hairy cheek," she sniffed.
Zuko growled, "What you kiss, little sister, is your business."
"Just remember that you still have no honor, Zuzu."
"You hardly know me since my journey—believe the stories."
"Now listen," Iroh stepped between his niece and nephew. "You can't both be Fire Lord."
"We can both try," Azula slouched forward, shrugging one shoulder.
Ozai tapped her on the back, and she stood up straight. "That makes you the type of children I want."
"It's no wonder… you used to make all the ladies Father suggested for you face you in a duel," Iroh mused, stroking his chin thoughtfully.
"I will be Fire Lord," Zuko declared. "I'll have my honor back, the Avatar, and the throne, and I won't give up anything. Not my birth-right."
He stalked back into the palace.
Ozai looked at Azula, whose eyes were glued on her brother. "Go in."
She jerkily turned to him, her eyes wide. "Did I do something wrong?"
"Go in and eat. And stand up straight!"
Azula ran to do her bidding, and Lady Sué shivered.
"I don't like your children," she said.
"You did like Lu Ten," Iroh reminded her.
The young woman moved closer to Ozai, although he gave her no sign of affection or protection. "There's no honor in hurting me—it's too easy."
"I still think of you as a daughter. You really think I could hurt you?"
"Iroh, with all your chi blocked!"
She turned and walked swiftly back inside.
Ozai smiled and turned to his older brother, "She is lovely, isn't she?"
"Yes. Very," Iroh sighed.
"She'll make an excellent queen."
"Yes. I suppose I shall have to let you out again for the wedding, won't I? Nothing in life is ever perfect."
"Nor should it be. A wedding would be nice, though. Prince Zuko could play the tsungi horn; he's quite skilled."
"I'll never let you out permanently."
"I know. You know you're only Fire Lord because I let you keep the throne."
Flame erupted around Ozai's hands. "That's a lie!"
"Yet you care," Iroh yawned. "Let's go in. I could do with a pot of tea."
The Fire Lord followed him into the palace. "If you oppose me, Iroh, I will burn you."