Prompt: Zhao/Azula - "Deceit is a friendly game we play. Of course I never said I would play fair."
Warnings: umm non graphic mentionings of sex. This is also set in an AU universe. (go here for more information on the AU).
Summary: Zhao did not think he would ever fall in love.
Zhao always considered himself a careful man. Especially when it came to matters of the heart. He knew how the romantic mind of a woman worked. And he knew how to manipulate that romantic mind. The right words flowed easily. Romantic gestures were simple token services, meant to keep those he deemed useful enamored to him until their usefulness had been exhausted. No woman ever truly took Zhao Xiang seriously. “And those that do,” he would say often, “Are foolish victims of their own heart.”
This was how, he learned, he was going to make it to the top.
This was how it was with him, that is until he met Azula Dao Le. Despite her tiny frame, her very presence commanded respect and Zhao did not not find it harmful that she was quite pleasing to look at. The second born of Ozai Dao Le had certainly commanded and kept his attention.
Their rather complex romance began one seemingly normal evening when Ozai invited Zhao to a party, not as security. But as Azula's escort. It was to remain formal and professional. But Zhao found it rather difficult to maintain composure when she was so insistent on pressing herself closer to him as they danced. Or when she pulled him away from the rest of the party, to venture into the yard where very few guests lingered. “The air was much sweeter now that there were no degenerates polluting it.” She remarked and it caused Zhao to look at her curiously.
“Do you think yourself some kind of princess?” He asked, a hint of mockery disguised by his rather casual look in her direction.
She cut her golden eyes at him and curled her red lips into a smirk. It was devious, cunning. And Zhao found it difficult to focus on her eyes as opposed to those curled lips. “I am. However did you guess, my dear Mr. Xiang?”
“Tell me then, Princess, what do you see when you look into a mirror?”
Azula shrugged her shoulders and answered simply. “Power.”
Zhao believes now, when he remembers that evening, that was when he fell. Not into love, exactly. But into an emotion best described as two parts attraction and one part “what might someday be.”
He learned quickly that Azula Dao Le was efficient and cold and precise. And rightly named heir to Le Inc. Ozai had every reason to be proud of his Princess. The wheels in Zhao's head had begun to turn after that evening ended and he saw her the following morning, stationed outside of her father's office, the phone pressed against her ear. And he smirked, when their gazes met and she winked at him.
An idea had grown and blossomed by the workday's end and Zhao knew exactly how he would attain that power he so (rightfully) sought. Azula Dao Le was the key. She would remove every obstacle and unlock every door of opportunity for him. And all he had to do was trip the Infallible Princess. Love, or something very similar to it, was every woman's shortcoming. Zhao had learned to play love's game very early. And he would make Miss Dao Le his next pawn.
Azula liked to play games, Zhao realized. Not games in a traditional sense. She toyed so casually with the emotions of people and then effectively cast them aside when she no longer found them to be amusing and her fancy had been caught by another individual. Zhao liked that about her. They were more similar than he cared to think on.
And yet it was this similarity dismissed any guilt he felt the first time he kissed her. He thought this to be an unspoken agreement, in which they would mutually use each other for the other's benefit. Besides, she had quite eagerly returned the kiss and had seemingly conveyed that she wanted this, almost as much he did. Though that was something Zhao would never admit.
He felt no guilt when she began showing up, rather unexpectedly, in his office at the Dao Le manse. Nor when her small hands quickly, and efficiently removed his clothes. Or when he pressed her into the desk.
This game he had taken on had become dangerous over time. It was gradual and went almost unnoticed until Zhao made an uncharacteristic move. It was a simple gesture and yet the results had the most profound effect on the firebender. He had bought Azula a flower, as was his normal custom. This nuance was their signal to indicate a meeting was to take place that evening. And when he carefully placed the long stem rose on her desk with the red satin ribbon, Zhao found he wished she were there to see him.
He wished to see her expression when she realized whom it was from and to watch that realization settle into a gentle curve of her lip. It was not a smile by any means, but it was a semblance of one and it did ungainly things to Zhao's heart. It was a flutterly feeling, something he had not felt before. And he did not like it.
Azula Dao Le was, without a doubt, a very influential young lady. He had not expected things to turn out the way they had. Le Inc had become almost within his grasp. From his standpoint, he could reach out and touch it. He was not going to let...whatever this was that Azula had done to him change it. He was going to remain strong willed and would not be brought to his knees by this petty emotion, “Love”.
He would get everything he deserved: Le Inc, Power, and a complacent princess who would bend to his every whim. She would not break him. Love would not be more powerful than his desire for power. He would not be weak. And yet, when he saw her coming, the flower in her hand, he slowly began to realize that he had lost. He had, effectively, become a foolish victim of his own heart.