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Title: Steam
Word Count: 1482
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Ozai has a hot bath, and Hakoda doesn't.



Hakoda had been cleaned and scrubbed to within an inch of his life, and only through the worst sort of underhanded fighting had he kept the Fire Nation servants from taking the decorations out of his hair. Then he'd all but been bounded and gagged while they wrestled him into silver-lined red linen clothes. Whoever had made them had clearly patterned them after his normal gear, then altered the designs to fall in more closely with Fire Nation fashions.

The head of household servants studied him, then raised his eyes briefly towards the ceiling. "At least we don't insult the Firelord by sending you to him in rags."

So. Ozai wanted him. Again.

"Take him. Lock him in, but if you chain him down... On your heads be it." The head of household servants gestured extravagantly and turned away.

The two guards behind Hakoda grabbed him by the shoulders and hauled him to his feet. It only took a few strides for him to be walking on his own. They hauled him through the palace, avoiding the public corridors, until they came to an ancient wooden door engraved with Old Fire symbols. One of the guards unlocked it with a well-worn key, then he was pushed inside.

Hakoda only had a brief moment to take in the room before the door was shut, and he was plunged into darkness. Carefully, he took two steps forward and one step to the side, then closed his eyes and waited.

To a man of the Fire Nation, the darkness was impenetrable. However, Hakoda had several times observed that he saw in the dark better than any of the Firefolk. Slowly, his eyes adjusted to the gloom.

Two other doors led into the room, small though it was. From the light creeping in around the edges, he could make out a slightly raised wooden platform with a large irregular basin of water in the middle. A bath.

The far door pushed open, and Hakoda slitted his eyes from the light. Someone walked in, he heard the rustle of cloth against skin, and then the door was pulled to once more.

He hardly dared open his eyes to look at the other man when candles flared all around the room. A sweet honeyed scent filled the air, and when Hakoda could look at the lights without pain, he felt a begrudging wonder.

Tall golden tapers rose from elaborate glass candlesticks. Thick cream pillars rested on the platforms of black iron sculptures that curled like wisps of smoke. Tiny candles hardly large enough to heat a cup of tea doubled-ringed the bath, resting directly on the wooden platform.

In the candlelight, stood Ozai.

He stood barefoot on the granite floor, dressed lighter than Hakoda had ever seen him before. A thin silk robe in the same deep red and gold of his formal robes covered him, clinging to his skin as he moved. He wore no jewelry, not even the golden flame that symbolized his office. The candlelight gilded his skin and burnished his hair.

A bare flick of those mad golden eyes was all Hakoda received in acknowledgment.

The red robe slid down Ozai's shoulders and dropped to the floor with a soft sound. And for the first time, Hakoda registered the scars. A faded purple stab-wound near his right shoulder. Thin white lines that blended with his whole skin, except for the slight shininess in the candlelight. Long patches of too-shiny, puckered skin curled up Ozai's legs, too large to be anything but burn scars.

"Your father thought you needed to learn respect, too?"

Ozai glanced at him. "My father would never have wasted his time to teach me anything."

So saying, the Firelord stepped up onto the wooden platform. The polished red wood shone in the candlelight, and faintly, Hakoda could detect another scent under the honeyed smell of the candles. It was simply built, a raised step around the basin of the bath, and the natural beauty of the woodgrain displayed at its best.

Ozai paused at the edge of the basin, and Hakoda wondered what exactly he was here for. Every previous summons from the Firelord had included strict instructions. This, however... This broke the pattern.

He suspected he wouldn't like whatever came of this.

Ozai stepped onto the first step inside the bath, and steam exploded from the water.

It curled around Ozai as he stepped all the way into the bath and sat on one of the steps. The Firelord leaned against the rim of the basin, fingertips brushing against tiny candles. His eyes closed as he made shameless sounds of indulgence.

Steam continued to rise from the bath, filling the small room and misting over the glass candlesticks. It hung in the air until Hakoda felt like he was trying to breath through a thunderstorm and sweat prickled along his scalp. It reminded him painfully of a sweatbath with his fellow Water Tribesman, and he indulged himself by closing his eyes to imagine that was where he was. Back on an Earth Kingdom beach with Bato and the others.

A smooth slip like heavy wind over water, and Hakoda opened his eyes to see Ozai kneeling in the bath, water up to his throat. His hair spread out in the water behind him in a dark cloud, and his beard was clearly trying to do the same. The expression on the Firelord's face was... blissful.

His mind shied away from the other comparision he wanted to make, just like he had ignored aspects of Ozai's nudity to concentrate on the scars.

Hakoda raised his eyes to the candles, letting everything fade into a dim glow. The scent of the wood creeped underneath the honey-smell of the candles, and he let his attention drift from the Firelord back to the Earth Kingdom. Two years ranging up and down the coasts, thwarting the Fire Nation Navy where they could, holding back the soldiers one more day, one more hour from the Earth Kingdom. Because every hour the Fire Nation stayed there was another hour his children were safe.

He heard a swirl in the water, and his eyes darted back to the Firelord.

Ozai looked back, mad eyes molten in the candlelight.

No one else seemed to see it, that subtle madness in the back of the Firelord's eyes. People said he had to be insane, even the servants whispered it. Mad or divine. But no one _saw_ it.

To Hakoda, it was a madness in chains. It would never run wild, and there would be no caprice in Ozai. But there would also never be the limits that men _needed_.

Or maybe he imagined it. Maybe he couldn't see a person who would mutilate his own son over something so trivial as anything but a madman.

The Firelord raised one hand from the bath, running it over his hair, leaving droplets of water that glittered in his crown. The movement of the gesture, the subtle slide of muscle under skin, the flickering dim light of the candles, reminded Hakoda exactly how little power he had here. As long as he didn't fight back, Ozai wouldn't lift a hand against him.

If he tried to kill the Firelord, Katara and Sokka would become orphans without even a body to grieve over.

Without the firebending, he would have risked it. Just the chance to end everything himself, here and now... But he couldn't even imagine Ozai without his firebending.

Nor could he imagine the Firelord's golden eyes clear of madness.

Ozai stood, inhaling sharply at the cold air, and water fell from his hair in a steady stream, dripped down his body. The heat of the bath had reddened his skin, and his scars stood out like fresh wounds. This time, Hakoda studied them more closely, and he realized how old all of the scars were. Had it been so long since Ozai fought- Or so long since anyone had managed to touch him?

The Firelord stepped out of the bath, and steam flashed around him like a small cloud. When it cleared, Ozai stood perfectly dry, his skin still raw from the heat, and his hair tousled and tangled. Briefly, Hakoda wondered what it would take to see the Firelord's hair like that ever again.

He pulled on another red and gold silk robe that had been laid out, settling it loose around his shoulders to give it the length to conceal the scars on his legs. Then he walked to the threshold of the third door and pushed it open.

Not once did he spare a glance for Hakoda.

Ozai paused before stepping out of the room and lightly blew out air. All of the candles went dark, and the Firelord left, shutting the door behind himself.

Hakoda sat in the steamy darkness and wondered what the hell that had been all about.

-End-
Title: Steam
Word Count: 1482
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Ozai has a hot bath, and Hakoda doesn't.

This story is about two-thirds shameless self-indulgence, one-third Ozai character portrait from Hakoda's point-of-view. It's also the first AtLA fic I ever wrote. I still love it.

Takes place sometime between "Day of Black Sun" and "Boiling Rock".
:iconskysongma:
SkysongMA Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2010  Student Writer
Hmmm. Sexy without being crass or OOC. I like it.
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:iconchaos2112:
Chaos2112 Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2010
Thank you! It was interesting to write - trying to be sensual, pseudo-canonical, and IC. I really need to get back to try to write pseudo-canonical IC Hakoda/Ozai. They are very handsome together.
Reply
:iconskysongma:
SkysongMA Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2010  Student Writer
So they are, so they are. :heart:
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