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The Fire Lord and his family were sitting around the palace dining table on the evening of the Fire Festival. The Avatar and his friends also gathered around the table, engaging in cheerful discussion. One woman at the table was particularly quiet. Ursa, the Fire Lord’s mother sat quietly as she drew her food around her plate. The Fire Festival was her favorite holiday but no amount of dragon candles and mochi would distract her from the fact that something was missing.

Speaking of mochi, her youngest daughter mashed hers into her plate as she listened to the stories of the older children around the table. Avatar Aang was telling the story of the battle of Wulong Forest and how he took down the previous Fire Lord, Ursa’s ex husband. Her current husband listened intently, asking questions at all the right times. Maybe it was a means of reparations for him.

“It’s truly a sight to behold, isn’t it?” A cheerful and clear voice whispered into Ursa’s ear. She turned to her ex brother-in-law, who had traveled all the way from Ba Sing Se just to spend the holiday with his nephew.

“The lights?” she said shakily, knowing that wasn’t what he was talking about.

“I meant a cheerful scene in the palace. It’s been a long time since the whole family gathered at this table and had a grand time,” he said, smiling.

“Iroh,” she said, looking him in the eye, “the whole family isn’t here.”

“My brother will never be free,” he said bitterly, “from himself nor the prison. And my son has perished. We should be with those we can.”

“You forget my daughter,” Ursa said sternly.

“We have no idea her whereabouts and she is somewhere out there needing her mother.” Iroh frowned and looked at her with pity in his eyes.

“I do not know my niece well but I know this,” he said, “Azula has a way of getting what she needs. What she wants too.”

“What are you guys talking about?” Zuko, Ursa’s son asked light heartedly.
The heads at the table all turned their way.

“Family things,” Iroh said calmly, with his charming smile.

“Azula,” Ursa said, no trace of humor in her voice. An uncomfortable silence drifted across the table. Katara, the water bender, turned her nose to the air as her brother scratched the back of his head.
Fire Lord Zuko cleared his throat.

“Oh,” he said, now picking at his own food. His girlfriend, Mai, squeezed his hand underneath the table.

“What about her?” she asked in her usual monotone voice.

“I don’t know,” Ursa said, looking cautiously around the table. An annoyed looking girl with chestnut hair glared her way. “I wish she was here is all. This is her favorite holiday.”

“She should of thought of that before throwing people in jail,” the glaring girl said, gritting her teeth. Mai snorted.

“Suki,” Zuko said warily.
Alas, Ursa put her hands up to surrender.

“Just a thought,” she said. “You asked anyway.”

The table eventually moved on and more discussion came and went underway. Sokka and Zuko had a long discussion regarding Master Piandao’s teaching skills. That was when a handmaiden burst into the room and pushed past the guards over to the Fire Lord.

“Sakura, what is it?” he asked, irritation leaking through his voice. She bent down to ear level with him and said something in hushed whispers.

“I was readjusting the lanterns in Illah hall when I heard a thud out the door. Princess Azula’s body is in there right now.”

Fire Lord Zuko said nothing to his guests as he excused himself from the table.

There were only three people in the room when Zuko burst through the grand doors of Illah hall: the royal family physician, the royal family pharmacist, and his sister.

“Get my mother,” he said to Sakura in a steady tone. The handmaiden returned shortly after with Ursa following behind.

Ursa gasped in horror at the condition of her daughter. Azula laid on the ground, dark hair fanning around her face, dried blood stains from her nose to the top of her swollen lip. Bruises riddled her body and her legs contorted in a disturbing position. Obviously broken.

“My lord, I’m sure you’d like this handled quietly so we can quickly move from here to the-“

Ursa didn’t let the physician finish before letting out a blood curdling scream. Everyone left at the dining table obviously followed the scream to the dance hall. Zuko and the pharmacist did their best to hide Azula’s body from view. Only the water tribe siblings were able to get a good look.

“She looks like she got run over by an ox-mule,” Sokka joked. His sister gave him a disapproving look.

“I can heal her,” Katara said.

Zuko sighed in relief, remembering his friend's powerful abilities.

“Let’s get her to the clinic first,” he said grabbing Azula’s upper body.

“I never said I would,” Katara said with a biting tone. “I really shouldn’t.”

“Katara, she needs you,” Zuko pleaded.

“Just like how you needed me. Aang too. All because of her.” The young Fire Lord took a look at his mother, an emotional wreck being awkwardly consoled by her husband. Ikem’s last encounter with his step daughter had been deadly, and he didn’t know anything about her really.

“Katara, I’ll give you anything,” Zuko said, gesturing to Ursa. The water bender breathed a heavy sigh.

“I’ll do it for you and Lady Ursa,” she muttered. “I’m not carrying her to the clinic, so someone better grab her body.” Iroh and his nephew grabbed Azula by her arms and legs and carried her to the other room.

“What do you think happened to her?” Sokka asked. The Fire Lord and his friends surrounded Azula and Katara in the clinic. The former’s body was responding well to the healing. Though she would need to be in casts for several weeks.

“Looking at the trauma,” the physician answered, “somebody deliberately broke her legs and she may have had a seizure.”

“No,” a soft voice muttered. All attention in the room turned to the girl in the hospital bed. “I won’t do it...you can’t have me.” Everyone watched as she shifted uncomfortably in the bed.

“Azula,” Ursa said, walking over to the bed.

“Open your eyes, it’s me.” She gently nudged her body.

“Please don’t do that,” Katara said, readjusting Azula’s body.

“Sorry.”

“It’s fine. The body should be positioned perfectly for healing to do its best is all,” Katara explained. One particular readjustment on Azula’s left leg made a sound.

“I’ve done everything I can.She’s clearly still alive, so I’ll let the doctor do what he needs to.”

The Fire Lord and his mother sat by the princess’ bed all throughout the night, but eventually sleep caught up to them and they fell into a deep slumber.

If they were awake, they would have noticed Azula watching the both of them.

Chapter Text

Azula hated the sea. More specifically being in it. It made her bones lethargic and she could neither see nor hear properly underneath its cruel waters.

Azula loved the ground. She loved how it stood strong beneath her feet, and she never had to worry about anything inside it or the ground beneath her falling. The only thing she hated more than a water bender was an earth bender.

Azula didn’t know how to feel about sleepwalking. She’d been doing it since she was fourteen. She was steady on the ground, but she wasn’t quite there , much like being underwater. It was the same as always. Azula emerged from her room at the strangest hours, gliding through the halls like a spirit in her night gown, bare footed.

Since she returned home, Ursa watched her sleep every night. Even if her legs weren’t actually broken, and she would be fine as long as she wore the stupid bandages recommended.

The first night Ursa witnessed her sleepwalk, she ended up following her around the whole palace until Azula stopped and sat down on a grate, legs crossed. Ursa l, not knowing whether or not to wake her, sat down and stroked Azula’s hair until the younger girl put her head in her mother’s lap.

“I WON! YOU CHEATED AND I WON! YOU LIAR!” Azula growled and grunted in her sleep.

“Azula,” Ursa whispered softly, trying to stir her daughter awake. “Azula!” The princess’ amber eyes fluttered open.

“Why are you here?” she said in a biting tone. Those were the first words Azula had uttered to her mother since she saw her in the palace, with her old face.

“I followed you. Are you okay?” Ursa asked, grabbing her daughter’s hand.

“Like you care,” she said, yanking her hand away.

“You’re my daughter, of course I care.”

“Just stay away from me,” Azula said, a sneer marking her face. She got up from the grate and walked back into the house, not bothering to wait for her mother.

After years of intensive training, Azula possessed great stamina. The nights varied, but she always managed to walk for anywhere between two and four hours.

Ahma Lee, a palace guard, accidentally left the back entrance open. Tonight, Azula would be walking down an entirely different path.

The streets of Caldera were almost silent at this hour, and they were definitely empty. The only objects noticing Azula were the lanterns over her head.

If Azula were awake, she would have noticed the large koi pond in front of her. She wasn’t. In a fraction of a second, Azula was waist deep, upside down in the water.

After flailing around until she was on the right side up, Azula climbed out of the pond and wrangled her night robe.

She was awake now. She should have trudged back to the palace and entered her bedroom without a word. But she didn’t want to go back to that forsaken house which was no longer her home?

Since she came back, everything seemed to be frozen. She wasn’t allowed to leave on her own accord, and everyone was watching her like a fire hawk.

The Avatar greeted her in a friendly manner, but his water bender girlfriend and the rest of his friends were incredibly weary of the Fire princess.

Her brother did what he could to satisfy both parties. But she hated the condescending way he looked at her now. Like she was an out of control child.

The only person actively trying to talk to her was the one person she didn’t wish to speak to. Ursa hammered her daughter with questions, asking her how she’d survived for so long and trying to get her to remember how she ended up at the palace.

Ursa’s husband made it a point to avoid his stepdaughter and keep his own daughter out of harm's way as well. And that was that.

They all watched Azula. They watched her take her meals to her bedroom chambers, they watched her read quietly while they engaged in boisterous conversation, and they especially watched her while she used fire.

No one took the time to show her what the Fire Nation looked like after two years. Tonight, she would find out by herself.

She wandered for about a half hour, tasting food off of unoccupied stalls and trying on pieces of jewelry. Touching the lanterns she was able to reach (barely any)and leaping between high and low ground.

One would think the princess of the Fire Nation would know the Fire Nation. Not Azula. Up until she traveled with her brother and his friends in search of her mother, she’d gone just about everywhere by palanquin.

Rustle

The Fire bender’s eyes widened for half a second before she regained her composure.

“If there’s anyone here you’d be better off exposing yourself,” she said, summoning a blue flame in her hand.

“I’ve fought my fair share of fire benders, your highness,” a firm and slightly gruff voice pierced the silence. Azula turned her head sharply, glaring into the dark purple sky.

A tall man with brown skin and dark eyes came into her view, holding a donkey horse by the reins.

“Master Piandao,” Azula spat, “why are you here?”

“I could ask you the same thing, Princess Azula. I never expected her highness to be out past curfew and soaked for that matter. But I’m happy to see you too.”

“You’re a liar,” she said in a cold tone. “You were one of the men who liberated Ba Sing Se. You walked right over the honor of Crown Prince Lu Ten.”

He raised his hands in an earnest manner. “I cannot apologize for justice your highness, but forgive me anyway. Allow me to repay you. A young woman like you shouldn’t be out at night, and my house is not very far away with my donkey horse.

“Spirits help me before I go anywhere with you on that Agni forsaken animal,” she said, scoffing.

“If there’s anything I know about Firelord Zuko, it’s that he has a caring heart. It wouldn’t please him to know that his sister is out alone at night for any peasant to lay their hands on.”

“I can defend myself,” she said, looking at the ground.

“From a person, I have no doubt,” Piandao said, mounting the donkey horse, “but if you wish to catch an illness from your wet clothing I’ll have to contact your brother first.”

Without another word, the princess mounted the back of the donkey horse. It would have been nice, being on a strong, comfortable animal while viewing the town she should have explored long ago.

“So, how are you Azula?” Piandao said, keeping his eyes on the road ahead. What was she supposed to say? She was missing at least three weeks worth of memories, even after the healing and treatments she was receiving her body ached, and she couldn't talk to anyone. But he didn’t need to know that.

Taking an abrupt turn, he said, “Very well, you don’t have to respond.”

Before she could stop herself she said, “Does it matter?” Master Piandao twisted his neck to meet her in the eye.

“It always matters,” he said with a fire behind his eyes. Oh.

“I’m fine.” He gave her a sympathetic nod, but they both knew she was lying.

Azula vaguely remembered Piandao’s large white home and its dark orange roofs. She had been there a couple times with Ursa to pick up her brother, who trained with the master years ago. Together they mounted off the donkey horse and made their way to the door.

“Draw her a bath, Akemi,” Master Piandao said, after knocking on the door in an elaborate sequence. The servant gestured for her to follow him upstairs.

The baths room was big and sparsely decorated, much unlike the elaborate ones in the palace.

Removing her damp clothing, she surveyed the room. After an assassination attempt on her uncle in her childhood, she secretly always had the feeling she was being watched.

The water was hot, and decorated with lavender petals. She cautiously dipped her pinkie toe in, before entering and letting the water rise up to her shoulder.

“Ah,” she said, breathing a sigh of relief as she let her dark hair loose.

There was one special thing about the room though. It’s walls were all covered from head to toe in magnificent murals. Azula wondered if Piandao did them himself. They all looked magical, like places Azula knew didn’t exist. Some were so abstract that the princess saw different things at once.

“A trick of the light, maybe.”

She brought her legs to her knees and rested her chin on them. She didn’t have perfect experience with baths. The ones at the institution had been dirty and the nurses had forced her into them. When she arrived the week before, her mother bathed her several times when her legs were in too much pain, and it was the worst experience of her life.

“Whatever happened out there, whatever happened that kept us separated, you can tell me,” she would say as she scrubbed Azula’s back and ladled water through her hair.

It made her skin crawl. Where was she when Azula was chained to the ground like a fox dog? Off with her lover in some Agni forsaken off the map town. Her mind was on fire, her body in an unending rage while some other girl was being tucked into bed by her mother.

“Why don’t you go play house with your own family,” Azula said one time, “I can wash myself.” Ursa didn’t bathe her after that.

She rang the bell and a young woman was quick to bring her two towels. Azula made sure to avoid both eye contact and the mirror while wrapping them around her body and hair.

“Master Piandao requests that you join him in the dining room,” the woman said, handing her a robe that was a little too big.

“Who eats dinner at this time,” Azula said, walking into the nicely lit dining room. Master Piandao looked up from his paper.

“I do not,” he said, “but I have no idea whether you’ve eaten so I had Akemi fix you a plate in case you were hungry.” He gestured to a plate across the table.

“You don’t have to treat me like this,” she said as she slipped into a chair.

“It is the job of the people to serve their princess,” he said as he drew his quill softly over the crinkled paper. “You know that, don’t you?”

“Nobody serves you when you’re moving on foot house to house looking for something to eat.”

“You asked them, and none of them would give you anything?”

“I demanded what was mine as their princess and they all denied me,” she said, gritting her teeth. Master Piandao frowned.

“Maybe they didn’t recognize you, your highness. You’ve been gone for a long time. But you needed the rest.” It was Azula’s turn to frown.

“Rest?” she asked. The Dragon Cove mental institution gave her anything but rest.

He nodded. “I couldn’t understand why you would still be upset that I helped your uncle liberate the city of Ba Sing Se.”

“What isn’t there to be upset about?” she asked, glaring.

“I know that you live there now, with your uncle. You help him serve tea and what not.” Azula’s blood boiled at the realization.

“That’s a lie. I don’t know who told you that. Following the Agni Kai that I won by law, I was locked away to rot at the Dragon Cove mental asylum, where the amount of food and privilege you get is based on your obedience.”

Looking taken aback Master Piandao said, “Then tell me in your own words, Princess Azula, where have you been?”

“Who cares,” she said, scoffing.

“I do,” he said sincerely, “I want to hear the truth. Not whatever it is that your family seems to have been feeding the nation.”

“The nation buys it because it doesn’t care either,” she said flatly. “They don’t care that I would get only twenty minutes of sleep a night. That there was no real way to keep track of time, to the point that I sometimes forgot who I was. They don’t like me. The people.” It’s okay, I don’t either.

“For the past two years, people have still hung lanterns and sang songs to honor you. What makes you think that?”

“I’m surprised my brother would let them. He thinks I’m the bad guy. The root of all his problems. And maybe I am. I don't care either way, I did what I was told, what I was supposed to.”

“The nation still isn’t particularly fond of your brother. There will always be questions surrounding how he got the throne.”

“It’s simple,” he cheated and brought his water peasant. “She’s the one who defeated me, he never could’ve done such a thing.”

“I don’t think he sees it that way, your highness,” Piandao said matter of factly. “Whatever it is between the two of you, you should know. Everyone is the good guy of their own story.”

“It’s dawn, Master Piandao,” Azula said. The deepest blue covered the sky. “I should go before a servant notices my absence. No one else will.” He nodded.

“Very well.”

Azula stalked through the streets on her way home, fists clenched as anger burned through her veins.

“Where have you been?!” A raspy voice intoxicated with rage filled the air. The palace doorsteps were now in her view.

“Azula!” The princess spun around and glared at her mother.

“What?” she said, venom seeping through her voice. Ursa pretended not to notice as she ran over to her daughter and pulled her into a tight hug.

“Where did you go?” she asked, burying her face in Azula’s shoulder. “I thought you left us again.”

“It’s a sucky feeling isn’t it?”

“Azula, don’t start.” The Fire Lord’s friends had followed him outside.

“Hooray,” she said, in an exaggerated manner. “Zuzu and his friends have found me.”

“You aren’t allowed to leave the palace,” he said. “Where were you?”

“Were you sleepwalking again? You weren’t in your room when I came to check, dear.” The water tribesman behind Zuko stifled a laugh.

“If you’re so worried about my whereabouts Zuko, hire better guards than the ones from the royal guild or those fan loving Earth Kingdom girls. One of them left the back entrance open.”

“So?” Katara said. “That doesn’t tell us where you went.”

“I woke up on Fire Lily avenue, and Master Piandao happened to be around. We went back to his house.”

“We’ll have to thank him,” Ursa said.

“I’m sure he’d love to see Zuzu, and figure out why you’ve been lying to our nation.”

“I’m not lying about anything,” he said, balling his fists.

“Except for me,” Azula replied, not meeting his eye. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m awfully tired.”

Chapter Text

“Breathe,” Ursa commanded. She was watching her daughter, trying to pick apart the phrases she muttered in her sleep when Azula began to thrash on the bed. After waking up on her sweat and a cold glass of water, Azula sat up on her mattress panting heavily.

“Do you want to tell me what happened? Can we talk about it?” Ursa asked, eyeing her daughter with concern. Azula threw her feet over her bed and walked to a corner in her room, ignoring her mother.

No one had touched the mirror since Azula broke it. Zuko remembered the maids asking him what they should bring to Azula in the asylum and what they should dispose of. He told them to leave her room exactly as it was.

Azula had seen it once more when she returned from the asylum. But she hadn’t bothered to clean up then. She didn’t know she wouldn’t return home for another four months.

Now, her reflection stood in front of her, mocking her of her failure. All day she would be mocked and reminded of the day she lost everything. She remembered the hallucination that looked like her mother telling her that she loved her. Then she looked in the background of the mirror and saw the one she had now. That one, the real one, had never said such a thing.

“Get out,” Azula said, staring at the dusted glass shards at her feet.

“Azula, if you need to say-”

Fury and tears ready to leave her eyes, she screamed at her mother. “I SAID GO!” she yelled, turning to face Ursa.

Ursa held her night robe close as she made her way back to her own room, the echo of Azula’s voice swarming her head.

In the morning, they said nothing to each other as they both watched the Zuko and his friends prepare to leave.

“Mom, are you sure you don’t want to come?” Zuko asked. “Uncle would be very happy to see you. Kiyi would probably want to see the Earth Kingdom too.”

Ursa’s daughter jumped at the mention of her name.

“We could go,Mommy, can we please go?”

“Maybe next year, your sister is still healing. She’s not fit to travel.”

“I don’t care if you decide to go. It’s not like Uncle wants me anywhere near him anyway.” Almost immediately after Azula had been accounted for in the palace, Iroh left for Ba Sing Se.

“Maybe not,” Zuko said, “but Master Piandao wanted to see you for some odd reason. You could get it out of the way now.”

“If we go,” Azula said, crossing her arms, “then we go by airship. I hated riding on that thing.”

“He’s not a thing,” the avatar said, petting his bison.

“And there isn’t room for you on here anyway,” Katara said, glaring at the Fire princess.

The way to the Earth Kingdom was much faster than airship. Ursa and her family arrived hours before the avatar.

“Ursa! What a lovely surprise!” Iroh exclaimed. He enveloped Ursa in a warm hug.

“It’s great to see you too Iroh,” Ursa said.

“Little Kiyi, you’ve grown so much!” Iroh picked the young girl up and spun her around. Azula detested everything about the scene today. After nodding to Ikem, Iroh finally caught eyes with his niece.

“Iroh,” she said, not letting him get a word in before taking a seat in the corner of the shop.

“Azula,” Ursa said, trying to break the tension between the two, why don’t you help me do some baking. I’m sure some pastries would go great with Iroh’s tea. You remember don’t you?”

Of course she remembered. She had the photographic memory of her mother teaching her how to make confections from her hometown because it was the only thing they enjoyed together. She also remembered Ozai arguing with Ursa and telling her that it was taking Azula “out of her role”.Ursa didn’t need to know that.

“I’m afraid you’ll have to reteach me,” she said dryly.

Ursa and Azula worked for hours with flour and eggs and sugar. They were on their last batch of tea cakes when Aang landed with his bison. Kiyi squealed as she ran out to greet them.

“Zuzu! You’re back! And now you can tell me stories while we eat the tea cakes!”

The later group strode into the tea shop. Sure enough, Ursa, Azula, and the tea cakes were in the kitchen.

“Where’s Azula?” Zuko asked. Azula popped her head out from under a kitchen counter with a second tray full of tea cakes.

A groan escaped Sokka’s lips. “She made them? I’m not hungry.” Toph and Suki snickered while a frown painted Ursa’s face.

“Well then,” she said gently. “I watched her the whole time, but if you don’t want any-”

“It’s alright, Lady Ursa. We’ll try your food,” Aang said, taking a bite once Azula set the tray down.

Azula bore holes into the avatar as he took a bite of her dish. There was a pregnant pause.

“These are really good,” he said with a cheerful smile.

“Iroh, we’ve arrived!” Jeong Jeong and Piandao entered the tea shop with bottles and glasses of alcoholic beverages.

“Then I guess that means we can start the celebration,” Iroh said, grinning from ear to ear.

“Today marks two years of liberation for Ba Sing Se, and liberation for the world.”

“Iroh,” the small, black haired girl said, “you’ve never really explained how you liberated Ba Sing Se.” Nods and cheers went through the room.

“You mean the story,” I said, puffing out his chest, “of how the white lotus used just their wit and bending to free a city from the clutches of war. Sit down, and I shall tell you.”

“I’ll make the tea,” Zuko said.

 

While her uncle exaggerated and aggregated a story she had no interest in hearing, Azula picked at her nails.

“Hey,” Ursa whispered, nudging her child. “I wanted to apologize for pushing you earlier. You don’t have to tell me anything. I understand that this is a hard day for you.”

“Do you?” Azula said, looking at her mother. “

Ursa nodded, resting a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “You lost the Agni Kai with your brother, and later had to be admitted to a mental health facility.”

“I didn’t just lose an Agni Kai,” Azula said, standing up straight. “ And it was an asylum. Not a health facility. Father abandoned me, his daughter, for glory. Everyone betrayed me and even after I gave Zuko everything he showed up with the water peasant to take the crown.”

“Azula-”

“No,” she said, voice rising above a whisper. “That crown should be mine. I burned him so I won. But I’ve accepted that I’ll never get what I deserve. I just don’t need to be reminded of it annually.”

Azula’s body stiffed intensely as her mother hugged her body.

“You should be out there, not in this stuffy kitchen.”

She did her best to quietly enter the room, but the attention still went to her.

“Ah, my niece,” Iroh said, “have you come to hear the tale for yourself?”

“I have no interest in hearing about you destroying the army you once served in the name of glory, Uncle.”

“This is a surprise,” Iroh said, but Azula could see the calm anger in his eyes despite the smile he wore on his face. “Despite your history of treachery, I never expected you would disrespect two elders in their presence.”

A heavy veil of discomfort covered the room. Piandao coughed into his elbow and Ursa buried her head in her hands.

“I have a history of incredible loyalty to my country. At least I know my title. I’m the princess of the Fire Nation, nowhere else. And I disrespected you and you only. If you freed this city for justice you wouldn’t own a tea shop and profit off the economy of the very city you tried to burn to the ground.”

The water bender gasped as her brother put his hands over his mouth.

“You are yet to answer for your own crimes, Princess Azula,” Iroh said, his smile gone but maintaining composure. “There must be a price for capturing this city.”

“Then you pay it first,” looking her uncle right in the eye. “I executed a bloodless coup in the name of Crown Prince Lu Ten, and you took tens of thousands of lives for six. hundred. days.”

“You did everything for yourself and nothing for my son!” Iroh said, anger now visible on his face.

“Then why did I wear his armor? You know that’s the custom for vengeance, or have you been so drunk out of your roots drinking tea-”

“Azula that’s enough!” Zuko exclaimed, raising his hand in the air.

“Don’t bother Zuko, she may have just forgotten how to speak to her elders properly in that institution. It must have been terribly hard. Being sedated and dragged out of your home to where you need to be.”

“You know, General Iroh, you really are a hypocrite,” Azula said, laughing in disbelief. “You preach love and peace but you’ve hated your own niece since before she could walk. All I’ve ever been to you is an obstacle in Zuko’s path to glory. At least I had reason. You’ve seen what happens to Ozai’s children when they disobey. I was tired. I didn’t have it in me to keep fighting, or to go with grace. Neither did you after finding out my father had usurped the throne. But now you’re parading around like a hero.”

“Azula, do you think now is the time for this?” Ursa asked.

“How could you mock the army you used to say was brave?”

“You should leave, Azula,” Iroh said. “You bring negative energy wherever you go.”

“I never asked to come here,” Azula said, sneering, “and I never wanted to come home. As soon as I get my memory back I’m running away from all of you.”

Before anyone could say anything else, she ran out the door and down the streets of the upper ring.

Chapter Text

Azula used to love it when people were scared of her. It meant she was in control, and she loved control. She hated being controlled.

But then fear and control stopped being synonymous. The staff at Dragon Cove were most definitely afraid of Azula, but she had virtually no power. She knew she’d brought at least some sort of trauma to the avatar and his friends, but they were always ready to take her on.

Even her ex- friend, Mai, seemed to have no fear when it came to Azula. Probably because she knew her boyfriend would come rushing to her aid.

Azula pretended not to notice her stepfather staring at her as she ate her breakfast. He had his hands behind his back, and she could swear he wanted to say something to her. He would have to work up the courage.

“Um, Azula,” he said finally, clearing his throat.

She looked up and pointed her chopsticks at him. “That’s no way to address me,” she said.

“Sorry. Princess Azula, Master Piandao is at the door. He says he would like to speak to you.” Ikem seemed kind enough. Maybe she shouldn’t have bothered to correct him. But he was still the reason her parents couldn’t have a happy marriage.

Sure enough, Master Piandao stood at the door.

“Your highness,” Master Piandao said, a small smile on his face. “I was hoping to discuss some matters with you two days ago in Ba Sing Se. But obviously, things didn’t go as planned.”

“Well I’m here now,” she said, looking at her nails, “so we can discuss.”

“Walk with me, will you?” he asked, gesturing to the street behind him. She followed him out into the hot Fire Nation heat.

“Did you know, Your Highness,” Piandao said, “that it was you that I originally asked your father to train. You showed great talent from a young age.”

“You make no sense, Master Piandao,” Azula said in a confused tone. “My father would never have taken an opportunity from me and given it to my brother.”

“He never saw it as an opportunity,” Piandao replied. “The man had no value for non bending abilities. He said he didn’t want you wasting your time on skills you would never use on the battlefield. But your brother was different. He said he might just need to learn another weapon judging by the way his firebending was progressing.”

“Why does it matter now?” Azula asked, staring at the ground. “I’m still a master firebender. Levels ahead of my brother. I always will be.”

“It matters now,” Piandao answered, “because we are in peace times. I still think that you’d enjoy learning the ways of the sword.”

“I wouldn’t,” Azula said. “But if it means escaping the watchful eyes of the palace I’ll give it a try. But this isn’t the route to your home, Master Piandao, and I don’t understand why you’re holding a basket of fruit in your hand.”

“You’re right, Princess Azula,” Piandao said, smiling to himself. “Today, we’re going somewhere else.”

 

A refugee camp is not what she imagined.

“No,” she said as soon as they walked into the camp. “I don’t help poor people.”

“You’re a princess,” Piandao said, scratching his beard, “but you don’t help your people. Reminds me of a general who mocks his old army.” Azula crossed and uncrossed her arms.

“You like Uncle,” she said quietly.

“I like you too,” Piandao replied. “But you’re the one who brought up hypocrisy in Ba Sing Se.”

She sighed rather loudly. “Well I’m here already.”

“Then follow me,” Piandao said, walking over to a woman and her two children. A very young boy, and girl who looked to be only a few years younger than Azula.

“Your Highness,” Piandao said, gesturing to the people in front of him, “this is the Huang family. They were disgraced after Hiromi and her husband refused to let their daughter fight in the war.”

“Princess Azula!” the woman exclaimed as she bowed. “We wouldn’t let them have little Riyeko. If old men wish to declare war then old men should fight!”

“What I don’t understand is why you’re telling me this,” Azula said coldly. “If you are still unable to see past gender then you’re right where you should be.”

“Your highness, it was never about gender,” Hiromi said, voice trembling. “Riyeko is a child. I would never let her endure the cruelties of war before she even experienced youth.”

What was this woman trying to insinuate? Azula looked around the camp. It was mostly women and their children.

“My father sent me on my first mission a month after my fourteenth birthday. At sixteen I’ve accomplished more than any soldier will in their whole life. Your selfishness has hindered your child’s potential.”

“Maybe she’s right,” a small voice said. Riyeko looked up at the princess. “Could I have done all that you did? Would I have been conquering cities and summoning lightning from the sky?”

“What can you do now Your Highness?” Hiromi asked, shrugging. “Wartime is over. Peacetime is here. What do you do with yourself now?”

“We should leave now, Master Piandao,” Azula said. She could feel the lightning buzzing through her veins.

“Come back, Princess Azula,” Riyeko said as Azula and Piandao walked through the door. “We thought you were gone.”

Piandao was silent on the walk to his home and their arrival.

“If I upset you Master Piandao,” Azula said, closing the door behind her, “then you are at fault. I told you I didn’t wish to be there.

“Did you wish to go on a mission and bring your brother and uncle home as prisoners?”

“I didn’t come here to be insulted,” Azula said, clenching her jaw. “If you aren’t going to train me then I’ll be on my merry way.”

“It was a simple question, Your Highness,” he said, looking her in the eye. “You question everyone and their ways but your father. What sort of hold does he have on you?”

“I know that my father doesn’t care about me, I don’t need to be reminded. But we share the same views. And he did what he needed to make me the best soldier on the field.”

“Those views have done nothing for the country. I know that you know that. It’s okay to be in doubt of the truths you’re defending. Now, let me teach you the ways of the sword.”

“I don’t care about the stupid sword,” Azula said, sneering.

Piandao ignored the nasty look on her face. “I’m a master of many weapons. What is it that you wish to learn?”

“I- I don’t know,” she said, voice faltering. “This whole thing is idiotic. I want to go home.”

Walking back to the door Piandao said, “Your weapon is an extension of yourself. Try to learn who you are Azula, then when you’re ready, you can tell what you wish to learn.”

 

The walk back home that evening was full of thought. Azula was a creature of war. Just having a hard time blending into a world of peace. But how come every part of her identity has to be tied to the war. Uncle was a brilliant general who also happened to like tea.

Thoughts ran through her mind as she entered the palace. Ursa greeted her at the door.

“How did your conversation go?” she asked.

“When I was younger,” Azula said, ignoring her mother’s question, “did I have any interests?” Ursa frowned.

“Not that I can remember,” Ursa said, biting her lip. “Most of your time was spent in school or firebending lessons. Why?”

Azula stormed past her mother and was on her way to her room when her mother warned her.

“Go the other way! Your brother’s in a court meeting!”

She didn’t go the other way. She should be in there anyway. She briefly passed the open door but no one seemed to notice.

“Princess Azula!” A booming voice called from what was once the war room. Her blood boiled as soon as she saw the man who addressed her.

Advisor Zheng was a haughty man, about fifteen years Azula’s senior. The second youngest man in court, second only to the Fire Lord himself. He’d had a weird thing for Azula since she began to show up in court meetings at thirteen. She’d heard him ask Ozai for her hand when she became of age at least three times. Now, he gestured for her to come over.

This was incredibly awkward. The Avatar and his friends were invited to the meeting as well. International affairs.

“Advisor Zheng,” Azula said, addressing him coldly.

“The beauty of the Fire Nation has graced us with her presence. If only your father had let you rest your pretty head instead of engaging in male activities such as war.”

Katara looked up from the water kilt she was fidgeting with. “Male activities?”

“I’ll have you know, Advisor Zheng. I have more territory and less casualties under my belt than you do,” Azula said, glaring at the man. “The only thing male about war is the savagery and bloodshed. Strategy and planning are just things a woman can do better.”

“Well,” Zuko said, “you’ve seen the princess. Azula, you can be on your-“

“And I suppose that’s why you let your father run your beautiful brain mad with power. It’s alright, I’m sure you can still bear some gorgeous children.”

In an instant, a fire dagger blazed in Azula’s left hand.

“Do you feel like repeating what you said, advisor?” Azula asked, breathing down his neck.

“Azula!” Zuko said, red in the face. “That’s enough! Leave now!”

She snarled at her brother. “Because that seems fair,” she said, storming out of the room. She was really getting tired of being asked to leave places.

Chapter Text

Ursa and Zuko had the turtleduck pond. Sure, Ozai could pass through the peristilyium and Azula could play with her friends near the apple tree, but it was a safe haven shared between mother and son. The whole palace knew this. Only Ozai knew about Azula’s place. Zuko had always assumed that Azula learned things to impress their dad and show him up. In reality, Azula just really liked to read.

The palace library was second only to Wan Shi Tong’s, with scrolls of all different genres. Even after the war, Azula had only conquered about a third of the library. Today, Azula hid in the back corner reading the comforting tale of Love Amongst the Dragons for what may have been the hundredth time. She still hadn’t chosen a weapon, and therefore hadn’t seen Piandao since the day before. She’d also barely uttered a word to her brother after the court room fiasco.

The library was the safest place to be. Her place.

“Hey, do you know where I can find anything else on Chin the Conqueror?” a male voice said. He didn’t expect to see a pair of almond shaped amber eyes.

“Excuse me?” Azula asked, lowering the scroll. It was the water tribesman. His bright blue eyes stared back at her with curiosity. “Why are you talking to me?”

“Because I didn’t know I’d be talking to you,” he said. “I’ll be on my way.”

“I’ve never met a savage that liked to learn,” Azula said, smirking.

“And until yesterday, I’d never seen a princess be escorted out of council,” he retorted.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” she said under her breath.

“It’s not like you held a dagger to a man’s throat,” he said, scoffing.

“Sokka, or whatever it is you call yourself,” Azula said, standing up, “you need to leave now.”

“What if I don’t want to? I’ll stay on my side and you stay on yours, sound fair?” he asked.

“You don’t understand,” she said, laughing to herself. “There are no ‘sides’. This is my one place in the palace. Go find your fan-loving girlfriend and galavant around the palace somewhere else. I’m not in the mood to be insulted by an ice muncher.”

“Take a joke, princess,” he said, raising up his arms. It was almost as if he was amused by her. “I can agree that Advisor Zheng is a big piece of trash. Also, Suki and I broke up months ago.” Azula wasn’t sure why she was pleased to hear that.

“Whatever,” she said, “now leave!” She shoved him lightly, but he didn’t budge.

“We could make a deal,” he said, “you tell me where I can find those scrolls, and I’ll tell you anything you could find useful.”

“You have nothing I want,” she said, crossing her arms.

“I heard you were gonna train with Master Piandao,” Sokka said. “I could give you tips or something.” She didn’t care. He couldn’t tell her anything except…

“Tell me about your weapons,” she said, pointing behind him. “I know you carry a boomerang in that bag on your back.”

“Boomerang?” he asked, confused. Nonetheless he drew the weapon out into the open.
“I must admit,” Azula said, not taking her eyes away from the boomerang, “you’re very skilled with it. But it’s a strange weapon.”

“That’s because it wasn’t always a weapon,” he said, looking fondly at the weapon. “This is a returning boomerang, not one for hunting.”

“I see,” she said, nodding to herself, “but war makes a weapon out of all things.” They made eye contact.

“Yeah,” Sokka said, a small smile appearing on his face. “I used to have a sword too, made out of a meteorite. I lost during Sozin’s Comet. Fighting against your father’s fleet.” She heard the bitter tone in her voice. “Why do you care anyway?”

“Master Piandao wants me to choose a weapon to train with,” Azula said. “I was just curious to know why you chose yours.”
“Well now you know,” he said, sighing. “Now will you finally help me with-” Azula pushed Sokka to the side and rushed to the front of the library, where a servant was in the middle of sweeping.

A red burn mark in the shape of a flame, trickling down the servants forearm. Azula grabbed it abruptly, and stared at it for a long time, trembling.

“Azula,” Sokka said, following her to the front of the library, “is everything alright?”

She slapped the servant, who let out a shout.

“Azula!”

“Who are you,” Azula said, voice shaking. The servant yanked her hand away and took off in the palace. Azula and Sokka wasted no time in chasing her all the way to the palace museum. A tall and wide window brought generous amounts of light to the room. The servant ran straight to it.

“Forget you, Princess Azula,” the servant said. She grabbed the princess by her abdomen and used all her strength to drag her to the window. Just then, a boomerang hit her square in the back of her head, and she fell to the ground.

“I won’t ask again,” Azula said, lightning at her fingertips. “Who. Are. You.”

The servant grunted in response, slowly standing up. “May he burn forever,” he said, before hoisting Azula up by the legs, gaining momentum to throw her out the window. A highly charged bolt of lightning coursed through him, but only after Sokka, using his strength, was able to rip the princess away, and push the servant through the glass.
They both panted heavily, before finally looking at each other.

“That,” Sokka said, pointing to the window, “is not your average servant.”

“He’s not a servant at all. I remember him. And I know that mark. I don’t know where, but I do.”

“We should probably tell Zuko,” he said.

“But we aren’t going to.”

“I am.”

“Don’t!” Azula exclaimed. He looked at her with concern. “Please don’t.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Because,” she said, closing her eyes, “Zuko never wanted me home. No one in my family did. And I understand, because I’ve never been the best sister, and I was a monster of a child. But if Zuko found out that I was a danger to our family again...I don’t know.”

“Oh,” he said under his breath. “You’ve done a lot of bad things Azula, and I have my doubts that you’ve changed, but you shouldn’t have to act a certain way just to feel safe with your family.” The uncomfortable truth.

“But I do,” she said bitterly. “I’m a princess, not a prince. We don’t get to mess up.”
They sat in a comfortable silence for some time.

“Azula,” Sokka said, “What’s that?” He pointed to a weapon mounted on a wall.

“It’s Fire Lady Ilah’s bow and arrow. She wasn’t a bender, but she was a brilliant archer. She trained the Yuyan archers, the best in the Fire Nation.”

Sokka raised an eyebrow. “The Fire Lady can’t firebend?”

“Of course,” Azula replied. “The men of the royal family don’t marry firebenders. It’s bad for their ego.”

“But you’re a girl and a bender,” he said.

“It was very unexpected,” Azula said, pride lingering in her voice. “The royal family hadn’t had a girl born into the family in over four generations. Zuko thinks that he’s the one that fought for his place here. But I’ve had to prove myself since I was born. If Zuko had been the firebender my father wanted, who knows where I’d be.”

They admired the bow and arrow in its magnificence. It’s limbs were roughly crafted with perfect ivory, and the middle part was made from molten gold. The arrows themselves were a jet black, with ivory points and golden quills. They were held in a burgundy quiver lined with gold. The royal family insignia branded in all three parts of the weapon.

“You should take it,” Sokka said.

“I could never do such a thing,” she said, standing up. “We should go.”

“You said you needed a weapon. It’s an artifact of the royal family, a female member at that.”
“I don’t know,” Azula said, chewing the inside of her lip.

“It was just a suggestion. You don’t have to-”

In an instant the glass surrounding Ilah’s bow and arrow was now dispersed along the floor.

“I changed my mind,” Azula said, as they left the museum.

Piandao had never seen the princess so eager when she entered his house.

“Master Piandao,” she said, fidgeting with something behind her back, “I’ve chosen my weapon.”

She presented the weapon on the floor before him and bowed. “It was my grandmother’s.”

“I know,” he said, staring in awe. “It’s an excellent choice. I think it will suit you very well.”

“I thought so too, and I was thinking-”

“I was thinking something too, Your Highness,” he said. “I was hoping that you would see more of yourself with my training. That you would see yourself outside of war. Showing you how to use more weapons won’t do that.”

Blood rushed through Azula’s ears. What was he trying to say?

“You mean,” she said, voice rising in pitch, “you won’t train me anymore?”

“I never said that,” Piandao replied. “I won’t go back on my word. But if I am going to make you an archer, I’ll make you an artist as well.” She sighed in relief.

“Oh. Okay then.”

“Art first.”

Piandao’s art room was the most colorful place Azula had ever seen. Everything in the Fire Nation was some variant of red, gold, and yellow. One painting alone had every color you could imagine.

“All of these works are yours?” Azula asked.

“Some of them are from the best artists around the world,” he said. “You could be one of them some day.”

“Of course I could,” she said arrogantly, “now let’s get started.”

“Pick up a brush. Paint anything.”

Azula knew the basics of painting. Like most things, she was just naturally good at it. She drew the fire lily on a table, carefully. Each stroke, color, and angle had the touch of Azula’s perfection.

“So,” Piandao said, “how are things back at the palace.”

“Fine for everyone but me,” Azula said, gritting her teeth, “Advisor Zheng harassed me in the war room yesterday evening and my brother did nothing about it.”

“Let me understand, Your Highness,” Piandao said.

“Don’t bother,” she replied, “he has duties and didn’t want to be disrespectful or whatever.”

“I would never have said that, Azula,” Piandao said, resting a hand on her shoulder. “You earned your place in court, and even if you don’t have it at the moment, you should never be disrespected like that.”

“Things aren’t all bad, though,” she said, finishing up the painting. “I talked to Sokka, the snow peasant in the library today. It was sort of enjoyable. I almost didn’t want to insult him. I still hate that he took out our best fleet though, it’s very confusing.”

Piandao smiled to himself. “I know you think you have to go through some great journey to have the instinct to do good things Azula. But sometimes people, we do it because we might be, well…”

She paused mid stroke. “Well what?”

“Well, lonely,” he continued. “Maybe you just want a friend, or to word it better, you don’t want to drive him away.”

“Incorrect. Also, I’m done,” Azula said, setting down the brush. Piandao stared at the fire lily on the canvas.

“Tell me about your work,” he said.

“I used three different shades of orange, I blended the blue and yellow for a green, and my fingers for the background,” she said, showing him her blue palms for proof.

“Why?”

“Because that’s how I get the most realistic look.”

“Azula, anyone could draw a fire lily,” Piandao said shaking his head. “Where is the meaning? It doesn’t make anyone feel anything. And that’s the difference between art, and a painting.”

“So?”

He sighed. “It’s not your fault. Things are straight forward in combat. It’s why I left the army. Life becomes a lot brighter when you live outside the confines of war.

 

“Well then,” she said, scrunching her face. “So I should become a deserter in order to spark my creative genius.” He ignored her and replaced the canvas.

“Try again.”

“Zuko,” Ursa said as she adjusted her son’s robes. “Care to tell me why you and your sister aren’t speaking?”

“Things between Kiyi and I are fine,” Zuko said nonchalantly. His mother looked at him with a disapproving stare.

“I mean Azula,” she said, “I heard something happened in the council meeting.”

When Zuko explained the events of the day before to his mother, Ursa wore a look of disappointment.

“And you didn’t do anything?” she asked.

“I told her to leave,” he said, not looking at his mother. “Look, we just finished today’s meeting, and everything with Advisor Zheng is under control.”

“I’m not worried about Advisor Zheng,” Ursa said, standing up straight. “Advisor Zheng isn’t my daughter. But you will talk to him before he leaves.”

“You don’t understand, mother. As soon as people found out Azula was home, Advisor Zheng came to me with proof of an...agreement between him and Father.”
Ursa’s golden eyes widened. “What sort of agreement?” The Fire Lord put his mouth to his mother’s ear. Her hands immediately ran cold.

Azula had just arrived home when the council members began filing out. Her mind was full of thoughts. Piandao had told her stories of his life while traveling the world. Azula knew her duties. But she just couldn’t remember ever getting a choice in the important parts of her life. Now her only joy came from literature and running off to Piandao’s castle. Every significant memory of her life was crafted by...her father. Only for her to be left behind on Sozin’s Comet. She used herself as a decoy for an army, laid down her life for him. But she was now realizing all she’d ever been was a weapon of war and a tool for glory.

She spotted Sokka walking out in the middle of a conversation with his sister and the avatar. They caught eyes and he smiled at her.

“So you talk to Sokka now?”

“And what of it?” she asked, turning to face the Fire Lord.

“I don’t suppose you turned your life around last night and realized your wrongdoings. Leave him out of your schemes, Azula.”

“No way, Zuzu,” she said, lips curling at the ends. “Piandao thinks this is good news. Apparently I don’t have the heart to just wake up and realize that I’ve ‘lost my way’. But he thinks I could be a better person so I don’t end up a lonely old woman without friends, family, or lovers. I’m not a twin like Lo and Li. I could convince Kiyi to wither away with me though.” The Fire Lord shook his head in disbelief.

“Whatever,” he said. “I just wanted to apologize for what went down in the council room yesterday. I shouldn’t have let Advisor Zheng talk to you like that.”

“It’s fine,” she said, looking at the ground. “Court is hard. Father never did anything either. I should go before he sees me.”

Too late.

“It’s a lovely afternoon, Azula. We should go on a stroll once the palace clears out,” a husky voice breathed down her.

“Step away from me now, Advisor Zheng,” Azula said, balling her fists.

“You know, I love it when you wear dresses,” he said, gently tugging on the burgundy fabric. “I can see your perfect long legs that way.” His heavy cologne reeked through Azula’s nose.
The Fire Lord pushed Advisor Zheng’s hand away. “If my sister tells you to step away from her,” he said. “Then you really shouldn’t get closer.”

“This family is no fun,” Advisor Zheng said, stroking his beard. “It’s a good thing the agreement was made before Firelord Ozai’s imprisonment. Say, Fire Lord Zuko, how old is your sister now?”

“That’s not of your concern,” Zuko said, sneering.

“I’ll do the math myself,” Zheng replied, growling. “She caught my eye almost three years ago, that was about two years after you were exiled…” he smirked devilishly.

“Why does any of that matter?” Azula asked, looking at her brother. But he wouldn’t meet her eyes.

“You’re sixteen years old, Princess Azula,” Zheng said, eyes gleaming with joy. “The time has come, my betrothed. Princess Azula shall be my wife before the new year!” The Advisor’s thunderous voice blared through the corridor, drawing the attention of the councilmen and the avatar and his friends.

Azula had never been so afraid in her life, not even when she raised her voice at her father. She’d also never felt more betrayed.

“You,” she said, turning to face her brother. Rage and disgust filled her voice. “You knew!”

“Azula,” Zuko said, backing up slowly, “please calm down. I just recently got the news.”

Zheng counted his fingers. I believe we discussed the matter about 2 weeks ag-”

A bolt of lightning sent the advisor’s body to the ground. Several people rushed to his aid.

“You wanted to be the Fire Lord so bad,” Azula said, gnashing her teeth, “fix this immediately!”

“Don’t you think I’ve been trying Azula?” Zuko asked, exasperated. “Maybe the people still like you, but the court is calling for me to-”

“I’ll burn the court to the ground!” she exclaimed, pushing all objects in her way. “It’s all old men who fight and lie for power. They all want to feel tall and big meanwhile they’re sucking the life out of everyone. They all want to be winners when someone has to pay the price! Me! I’m exhausted, Zuko!”
Finally getting the hint, people moved out of the way for Azula as she made her way to the front of the palace.

“Azula, stop now!” Zuko said, trying to grab his sister. “I don’t want to admit you again!” She froze in her footsteps. Admit her? To the asylum?

“How dare you threaten me!” she said, pushing back through the crowd. The Fire Lord’s guards came to his side. “Do you think being Fire Lord was my only dream? I have hopes too, Zuko. I have my own thoughts and feelings. All of them pushed to the side for you! The only reason I have a mother now is because you got what you wanted! You got what you wanted even though I built all this!” Face red as a tomato, body shaking, Azula continued her destruction of the palace. Plaques, lamps, and tables all fell to the floor and broke as Azula went on her rampage.

“If you stop now,” Zuko said, “I’ll give you whatever you want.” Anything?

“I DON’T CARE!” she scram at the top of her lungs. She pointed to Ozai’s portrait next to the other Fire Lords. “HE TOOK EVERYTHING FROM ME AND YOU ALL LET HIM! I was the child! Everyone, someone, was supposed to protect me!” Azula, tears streaming down her face, set fire to Ozai’s portrait.

“AZULA STOP!” The Fire Lord had finally lost his patience, and grabbed his sister by the arm. She fell to her knees.

“Why?” she asked, choking on her tears, “I have nothing left!” Then no one knew what to say. Soon she would even lose her family and become a bride to a man she did not love, with only her fire to keep her warm.

Chapter Text

“Don’t you dare,” he said, venom seeping through his serpent like voice. Azula stiffened immediately after her father entered her bedroom.

“Good afternoon, Father,” Azula said to the reflection in the mirror.

“Drop them.” The scissors clattered to the floor. “I know the truth. You visited him.” He was right. Following the agni kai, Ozai had instructed his daughter to forget her brother from her mind. She agreed. He caught her bringing the boy supplies after sunset.

“I was only saying goodbye, Father,” she said, trying to maintain steadiness within her voice.

“I told you not to say goodbye,” he said, scowling.

“My apologies,” she said, staring straight ahead. Ozai’s smile didn’t meet his eyes. It never did.

“Azula dear,” he said, taking a seat on her bed. “You and I are the same. Don’t you agree?”

“I suppose so.” He gestured for her to go towards him.

“Talented individuals, damned by the order of their birth,” he said. Azula nodded.

“But just like my brother’s treachery and cowardice caught up to him, your own brother has paid the price for being weak. I have given him a chance to redeem himself, but the chance is slim. You will rise from the ashes, and you will be my heir.” There was joy and fear in Azula’s heart. To be Fire Lord was her biggest dream, but she knew it would take blood, sweat, and tears to be the best heir she could be.

She’d wanted to cut her hair for Zuko, to make him feel better about shaving his own. Not that it mattered, it wasn’t like she would ever see him again.
Azula hadn’t moved in five days. She sat, legs crossed, back hunched, and on the floor. Hands in her lap as she stared at her father’s tarnished portrait. She also hadn’t spoken. No one could really blame her, and everyone made it a point to stay away from her. Everyone but Ursa.

“Azula,” she said, putting both hands on her daughter’s shoulders. “Please say something, anything.” Azula slowly glanced to the side then went back to staring.

“I know that you’re scared right now, and you don’t want this. I don’t want this for you either. And let me promise you that I’ll do everything in my power to get you out of that arrangement. I didn’t know about it, I swear. There was nothing I could’ve done to prevent this.”

“Get away from me,” she said, staring straight ahead. “You could have prevented this if you were here. I’m tired of you. You make me sick. I’m not a mess for you to fix or clean up. And even if I was, you had your chance.”

“If-if that’s how you feel, Azula,” Ursa said, wiping a tear. She forced herself to not feel anything when her mother walked away.

“Hello,” a tiny voice hit Azula’s ears.

Since Azula came home, she’d paid no mind to her half-sister. She knew the girl loved dolls and their brother.

“What do you want, Kiyi?” she asked, exasperated.
“Get up,” Kiyi whined. “No one’s had time to play with me, and I know you’re hungry.” She was right. Azula was famished, but she didn’t have it in her to eat.

"Go away, Kiyi.”

The little girl stomped her feet. “Mommy says you’re my sister and I should like you, but I don’t,” she said, scowling. “You aren’t nice, and all you do is make Mommy sad and Zuzu upset. I wish...I wish you never showed up!” She backed up, knowing the wrath of her older sister.

For the first time in a long time, Azula laughed. The kind of laugh that makes one’s body shake. Eventually, the laughs turned into sobs. Kiyi was right. She brought turmoil and misery back to the palace without even trying, and if she’d never showed up, Zheng would be marrying some nobleman’s daughter instead of her.

Big brown eyes met Azula’s amber ones.

“Azula?”

“Please help me up, Kiyi,” she said, wiping tears on her dress. A tiny hand extended itself.

“I wanna be like you when I grow up,” Kiyi whispered.

“Kiyi,” Azula said, eyes widening, “you just said you didn’t like me.”

“I don’t, but you’re really pretty, and you’re a princess. You’re the only one who can out-fight Zuzu,” she said, nonchalantly.

“Out-fight isn’t a word,” Azula said, smiling to herself. “I think you mean defeat. And princess or not, you’re still a member of the royal family.” More than I am, she thought.

“You look like mommy too,” Kiyi said quietly. Azula had always tried to avoid that accusation, by putting her hair up or wearing makeup, but it still came up all the time. So she ignored it usually, but she could hear a sadness in her younger sister’s voice.

“So?”

“I used to look like mommy,” Kiyi said, staring at the ground. Then it hit Azula. Their mother had spent a period of her life with a different face. Kiyi was probably feeling hurt to lose that one thing her and her mother shared.

“Well I used to look like you,” Azula said. It was true. “So maybe you’ll look like me when you get older, and then you’ll look like our mother.”

“Kiyi!” Ikem rushed into the area, and picked his daughter up. “Your mother is looking for you,” he said, not looking at the princess. Sure enough, Ursa stood in the corner of the room, waving her youngest child over.

A sick feeling formed in Azula’s stomach. Ikem was always watching his daughter, she knew it was because of her.

She’d almost killed the girl’s mother in front of her, and kidnapped her a little while later.

Yes. She knew why Ikem didn’t like her. He was afraid, and protecting his daughter.

Her mother, however, was a different story. Hard at work to make sure her youngest daughter didn’t turn out like her first.

Azula didn’t care. Her heart ached and her mouth quivered, but she didn’t care.

“The bow and arrow is not a weapon of strength, but precision,” Piandao said, watching his pupil. The string of the bow aligned perfectly with Azula’s nose as she took deep breaths, focusing on the target.

“I know everything about precision,” she muttered to herself. Grinding the wet dirt beneath her, Azula readied her aim. The bullseye was perfectly in her reach.

A fire hawk swooped down on the tree above the bullseye, where a nest lay with three chicks. Two of them ran behind the mother’s back. One did not. The mother hawk cried a sound and shrill cry, spreading her wings out in front of all her children.

It revolted Azula.

“Your Highness!” Piandao exclaimed. “There is no pride in slaying an innocent creature. I asked you to hit the bullseye.”

“She chose to protect her child,” Azula said, glaring at the dead bird. “She should’ve ensured the safety of the other two.”

“Azula, what are you going on about?” Piandao said, running his hands across his face.

“I shot her right in the heart,” Azula said, plucking the arrow out of the fire hawk’s chest. “No second chances. She won’t be coming back.”

 

“Azula?” Sokka had been taking a casual stroll in the Fire Lily fields when he heard soft sobbing. He followed the cries to the center of the field, where he saw a mess of dark hair and red robes.

“Whoever you are,” she said, sniffling, “leave now.”

“It seems like every time we meet you want me gone,” Sokka said, chuckling.

She brought her head up immediately, smoothing down her hair.

“Look,” Sokka said, “I know what you’re going through, with the arranged marriage and everything. I knew a princess in an arranged marriage.”

“What?” she asked, raising an eyebrow. “I’m the only princess of all the nations.”

“You are now,” he said, with a sad look on his face. “Her name was Princess Yue of the Northern Water Tribe. We had something special, but she was engaged.”

“What you had,” Azula said, wiping her nose, “was an affair.”

“She didn’t want to be engaged, and you don’t either. Would you have turned down love because of an official agreement.”

“It’s more than that. I want Zuko to find a way to stop this, but I know he won’t. Like I told you, the royal family doesn’t have any girls. It’s all trial and error with me. I am of marrying age, and I have no other suitors.”

“You know,” Sokka said, rubbing his chin, “I’m sure the engagement could at least be stalled if Advisor Zheng had some sort of competition.”

“Brilliant!” Azula exclaimed, eyes lighting up, “you could challenge Advisor Zheng for my hand! We wouldn’teven have to get engaged!”

“Whoa,” Sokka said, holding out his hands, “I can’t. You’re Zuko’s little sister, but I can’t do that to my family, I can’t do that to my tribe.”

“Oh,” she said, staring at the fire lilies. Sokka bent down and ripped one out of the ground.

“Here,” he said, placing the fire lily in Azula’s lap. “Don’t give up hope, that’s something Katara would say. We should go.”

She shook her head. “I’m not done thinking. By the way, thanks.” He raised an eyebrow.

“For saving my life the other day.” He nodded before walking off. It was nice, talking to him, but it wasn’t why she was out in the fields.

Ursa really hoped her daughter hadn’t gone into another state of catatonia. But it was pouring rain outside, and Azula sat still in the fire lily fields. Eventually she went out to join her.

“Azula,” Ursa said, slowly approaching her second child. “I know you don’t want me around right now but-”

“You were right,” Azula said, staring ahead. “After all these years, I am a monster.”

“I never called you that,” Ursa said softly.

“You know,” Azula said, turning her head, “Master Piandao was so upset this afternoon, during training. I killed a bird. I never killed anything before. Except for the avatar, but his girlfriend relieved me of that crime. I should probably tell her-”

“Azula,” Ursa said, sitting down beside her daughter. “Are you okay? You’ll get sick if you stay out here any longer.”

“Oh,” Azula said, scoffing, “Now you care if I’m sick. You know, I don’t think I was always a monster.”

“You still aren’t,” Ursa said, petting Azula’s hair. “Your father made you act like one.”

“Maybe,” Azula said softly. “But I can’t help but to blame you too sometimes. At least Father gave me attention. Even when I was good, you thought I was just mimicking Zuko. And maybe I was. It always worked when he did it. What was I supposed to do? Keep trying until you suddenly liked me?”

“Oh Azula,” Ursa said, wrapping her arms around her daughter and pulling her close. “I always liked you, loved you even more. You’re brilliant, talented, and beautiful.”

“Don’t you think I want to believe that?” Azula said, looking her mother in the eye. “Maybe you left me early but even after nine years I didn’t have any good memories to carry with me. And you show up right after I’ve lost my mind. No, I lost my mind because of you.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I could manage as long as I never looked at myself. I only saw you in reflections, but who wants to look at the mother who can’t prove her love?”

“Being a mother is so hard, Azula.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Because you need me,” Ursa said, “Zuko needed me then, and you need me now.”

“I needed you then too!” Azula exclaimed. “You didn’t see that I never had a father outside training or bragging over my accomplishments? You didn’t see the pain, the manipulation? I know I didn’t but you were the adult for Agni’s sake. You were supposed to know. And help me out of it.”

“I’m sorry, Azula,” Ursa said, tears brimming in her eyes. “I’m sorry I didn’t take you from this horrible place. I’m sorry I didn’t see your pain.”

“Whatever you did see,” Azula said, staring at her bare toes, “you saw it in me. And you decided that it wasn’t worth fighting for.”

“Azula-”

“All I wanted-absolutely all I wanted was to feel like a child. ‘Good morning Azula’, ‘How was your day, Azula?’ or best of all, ‘Are you okay, Azula?’”

“This is my fault.”

“Yes! It is,” Azula said. “I didn’t get any of that, I didn’t even get goodbye. And now you’re back and want to help me escape an arranged marriage.”

“Azula,” Ursa said, pushing a wet clump of hair behind Azula’s ear. “I love you more than life itself. I love all my children like that. I remember when you were born, how happy I was to have another girl in the palace.”

“That didn’t go as planned,” Azula said, laughing to herself.

“No,” Ursa said, smiling, “but I always felt that connection with you. You’ve had to pave your own way. And even though I had my hand in making it hard, I must say it’s a beautiful pathway.”

“Really?” Azula said, sounding just like a child.

“Yes,” Ursa said. “I’m not going to let some old man take it all from you either. I know what it’s like to be forced into a marriage, and I’ll lose my life before I let you go through the same-”

Ursa was pulled into a deep hug by her daughter, who cried into her shoulder. Azula had no idea what might happen to her, and she still didn’t understand what had already happened to her. But what she did finally know was that she had a mother who loved her.

A woman with a flame shaped burn mark watched from afar.

Chapter Text

Zuko,

I hope to find that you’re enjoying your fourteenth birthday. Despite your um, circumstances.
Anyway, I’ve sent you the finest robes of the season, so you can search for the avatar in style. Hopefully you haven’t grown too much at sea.
Zuko, do you really think you’re coming back home? If our father and his own couldn’t find the avatar, what makes you the one to do so? I’m only saying this because I think you’d be smarter to start your own life wherever you are. Whatever you decide, stay safe, Zuzu.

Regards,
Princess Azula of the Fire Nation

The paper became intensely hot as it dissipated in Ozai’s hands. He’d never considered that his wife and daughter had anything in common. Yet Azula was like her mother, writing away to people she’d specifically been asked not to contact.

Meanwhile, Azula lay asleep in the treehouse about two miles away. She remembered Zuko’s birthday the previous year. There was a celebration fit for a prince, but for Zuko it was another year he’d ages without his mother. Azula had baked the same foods Ursa used to and they sat up in the treehouse sharing the meal.

Iroh had built the treehouse for Lu Ten, who invited Azula up there when Ursa and Zuko were by the pond and she hadn’t run off to the library. When Ursa left, Azula invited her brother to join her there too. For Lu Ten.

Still, it was her treehouse. It was where she went after school on the day her mom had disappeared. It was where she had gone on the night of Zuko’s Agni Kai when after had made his awkward ‘you and I are the same’ speech. The treehouse was still a tree, and it’d had its own accidents.

“Jump, Azula!” Azula’s brother and uncle waited on the ground. Princess Azula, descendant of Agni himself, was afraid of heights.

Azula never jumped. Instead her older brother, brave as he was, climbed halfway up the unstable ladder and grabbed Azula by her chubby toddler legs. Steadying herself using his shoulders, Azula made it safely to the ground.

It was also where she dragged herself, body aching, when she needed to hide from her brother.

“Father,” Azula said, running to the Fire Lord’s bunker. “My plan was a perfect success. I distracted this water tribesman and his friends for even longer than needed.”

“Father?!” Azula entered the room to see her father on the ground, hair and crown disheveled. “Who did this to you?” She extended her hand out to her father’s. He didn’t take it.

“Azula,” he said, voice uncharacteristically soft. He cupped her face with one hand.

“Yes,” she said in a barely audible whisper. His nails dug dangerously deep into her skin, ready to draw blood.

“Is there anything you want to tell me?” The color drained from her skin. “About the avatar?” Azula weighed her options. Lie again, or face consequences right now. Wait.

“Where’s Zuko?”

“Answer the question,” Ozai said through gritted teeth.

“He didn’t kill the avatar,” she said, averting her eyes. “Zuko didn’t kill the avatar. I did.”

“Now,” he said, stroking his beard. “Why would you lie to me?”

“Zuko didn’t think you would accept him back,” she said, voice trembling, “I wanted him to have his place back home. I wanted him to be safe.” He brought Azula’s ear to his lips.

“You did a stupid thing,” he said extremely slowly. “Once, Azula, I too had an older brother. Do you know what happened to him?”

“Iroh?” she said, raising an eyebrow. “He’s a retired general. In prison now.”

“He’s a failed general! Rotting in chains now. Because everyone gave him what he wanted. Even Zuko let his uncle have control of his mind. And now, you’ve given your own brother what he wanted. How weak.”

“I didn’t hand it to him,” Azula said, tongue dry, “he helped me in Ba Sing Se. I offered him redemption for his loyalty-” Ozai’s strong hand came across his daughter’s face. He ripped her hand away from her face before she could even relax, and pulled her forward again.

“So you gave him what he didn’t ask for,” he said, snarling. “Are you his servant? Getting close to the crown only to hand it off for false brothership. Would you rather be a concubine? Is that it?” She whimpered. And that loyalty you talk of is gone. Your brother has left you.” Azula’s blood ran cold.

“What?”

“Yes,” Ozai said. He laughed to himself. “He did an adorable little speech, talking of how he would join the avatar in defeating me. This is his fault you know. He’s made his hatred for me clear. And left you with me. What does that mean?” She swallowed loudly as a tear ran down his cheek.

“You mustn't cry now, darling,” Ozai said, carefully wiping the tear with his thumb. “I would never do that. Leave you. You look just like your mother when you weep. But this time I offer redemption for your treason. I’ll count, you run. Don’t let me catch you.”

“WHERE. ARE. YOU!” Azula shielded her ears from Ozai’s bellowing. The smell of her own vomit traveled from the ground up to the tree house. She drank water, years old, praying to the spirits and Agni that her father didn’t find her.

Nightfall came. Azula’s guard let down so there was room for her thoughts. She never expected this. Their relationship had been hanging by a thread, her and Zuko’s. But she’d never thought the thread would break. She should have seen it. He couldn’t make up his mind on anything since he returned. Guilt over their uncle had eaten him alive. But what about her?

Didn’t he feel any guilt leaving her behind? No. Azula knew it. He’d made his choice and endangered her in the process. Exactly three months ago, she brought him to their home as a hero. She was happy, thinking he chose her. Once again, Azula was an only child. And this time she would celebrate.

‘AZULAAAAA!”

“No!”

“I have no business watching three useless animals,” Azula said, staring at the nest.

“They aren’t useless,” Piandao said. “Or they wouldn't have been if they got the chance to learn how to fly.”

“That’s not my fault,” Azula said, scowling. “Ugly little things.”

“It is your fault, Azula,” Piandao said, rolling his eyes. “You killed their mother. And you will take care of them if you want to continue training.”

“I don’t have time!” Azula exclaimed. “I’m supposed to learn the arrow, make ‘good’ art, and escape marriage?!” Piandao raised an eyebrow.

“Whatever that means,” Piandao said, “you will be a mother to these birds. Dismissed.”

“I can’t believe it’s already time to leave the Fire Nation,” Aang said. The avatar and his friends were casually dispersed across the palace living room.

“Yeah,” Katara said, “but the world needs you, sweetie.”

“You think Zuko will be fine without us?” Toph asked, picking between her toes.

“Or Azula?” Sokka asked. The other five people in the room turned to him.

“Why do you care?” Suki said, looking at her fingernails.

“Sokka’s just been reminded of another princess. You know, with Azula’s...situation,” Katara said.

“Oh,” Suki said, “Yue. That girl who Sokka reserves full moons for.”

“It’s not like that,” Sokka said, exasperated.

“No need to explain yourself. It’s not like we’re together anymore.”

“Katara.” A new voice entered the living room. It was dead silent as Azula walked towards the water bender, wearing a large shawl, a large green book in her hand.

“Yes?” Katara wore a weary expression, for good reason.

“I found this in the library. It’s a book on healing.”

“She doesn’t need your help,” Suki said, glaring.

“No;” Azula said, removing a shawl. Three small birds fell to the ground and scrambled to their feet. Katara gasped. The earth bender laughed.

“Oh,” Katara said softly, “I’m not sure how to help with-” The same bird but much larger fell to the ground with a thud.

“That.”

“Baby fire hawks!” the avatar exclaimed.

“I killed their mother,” Azula said, crossing her arms.

“No surprise there,” Suki said.

“Piandao wants me to take care of her children. Reparations or something. I told him I could get their mother back.”

“You can?” Toph asked.

“No,” Azula said, pointing at Katara, “but I figured you could. Then I went to the library, and saw something on using Fire to heal.”

“I highly doubt that’s possible,” Sokka said.

“None of your non bender skepticism,” Azula said, shooing him away. Her brows furrowed and she chewed her lip in concentration. Sokka found it oddly endearing.

“I have to go um, sharpen my boomerang,” he said, then quickly left the room.

“Wow,” Toph said, snickering, “that came out wrong.” Azula laid the bird corpse at Katara’s feet.

“What do you want me to do? I heal wounds, I don’t resurrect the dead.”

“Nothing,” Azula said, hands over the bird’s wound. Tell me what to do,”

“This won’t work, Azula.”

“Just tell me what to do!”

“Place the water-fire above the injured area.” The feathers below burned to a crisp.

“I forgot,” Azula said, “the book said not to do that with fire.”

“Now,” Katara said, move both hands all over the area of the wound. Don’t stop, and concentrate on the chi of the animal. Direct all your fire’s energy to the wound and finally-”

“SQAAWWWK!”

Katara shrieked loudly and Azula jumped back from the bird. Even Suki sat up straight.

“It worked!” Then the bird fell flat again and the light left its eyes.

“It’s dead again,” Azula whined.

“Azula,” Katara said, hands on her mouth, “You’re a healer!”

“Who cares? I needed to be a healer years ago.”

“What?”

“If I had known about this, Zuko wouldn’t have been seeing our father in the mirror for the past six years of his life.”

“Oh, Azula,” Katara said softly.

“I’m pretty sure he hates me now,” Azula said, gathering the chicks. “But when I was eleven I could never have imagined him disappearing for three years.”

“And now?” Suki asked.

“We were children then,” Azula said, smiling to herself. “Before he was banished, Zuko had a huge target on his back. He used to lock himself in the bathrooms to avoid our father, even just for a moment.”

“Can you tell us,” Katara asked nervously, “how Zuko got his scar?”

“It’s not my story to tell,” Azula said, “but I do remember sneaking out of my bedroom window to the infirmary. I remember his screams as the doctors did whatever someone does in that situation. I remember uncle telling me to leave. I think he was angry. I smiled at first. I didn’t know what was about to happen. But when it did, there was this feeling of insurmountable fear in my body.”

“So?” Katara asked. “What did you do?”

“I kept smiling,” Azula said, looking at the ground. “Keep smiling if you’d like to keep all of your face.”

“Oh.”

“Anyway,” Azula said, “it’s fine. He has Kiyi now.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Katara asked, eyes widening.

“It means,” Azula said, “he was happy while I was gone. He’ll be happy when I’m gone again.”

“When will you be gone again?”

“Once I get my memory back,” Azula said. “I’ll leave Zheng at the altar and never show up in the Fire Nation again.”

“Who’s never showing up to the Fire Nation?” The Fire Lord himself asked.

“No one,” Azula said. “What do you want?”
“I talked to Zheng about the engagement,” he said.

“And?” Azula asked, eyes lighting up.

“He wants to announce your engagement to the world at a party next week. Father is the only person who can fix this, Azula. I’m sorry.” She pushed him to the side and ran out the room.

 

“Azula!” The Fire Lord called out to his sister. The princess’ family had looked for her for about four hours.

“We’ve looked everywhere, Zuko,” Ursa said, rubbing her cold hands together. “Do you think she left again?” Then, like the spirits blessed him, Zuko came to a conclusion.

“I know exactly where she is,” he said.

Zuko heard soft sobs as he approached the treehouse.

“Azula?” Zuko asked, hoisting himself up into the open door.

“You know,” she said, “I’ve done so much for you. And you can’t do this one thing for me.”

“Actually,” Zuko said, clenching his jaw, “I’m working a lot harder than I need to.” Azula grabbed the back of her shirt and pulled down the elastic low enough to see a bright red dragon.

“Do you know what this is?” she asked.

“A tattoo?”

“Look closer.” A burn mark. The idea was brilliant.

“You left me with him,” she said, voice cracking. “Right after you decided he was a monster, you left me with him.”

“Azula-”

“Because you think I’m a monster. You think I’m the root of all your problems, when I’m the one who solves all of them. Grandfather wants you dead? Warn you and mom. Want your title and home back? I defied father’s order directly for you. I wanted my brother back. And he left me again. Then you locked me up in that awful institution. You didn’t even visit.”
“And you never wrote any letters.”

“Father told me not to. But I did anyway. I found out after you left that he’d been incinerating them.”

“Oh.”

“This was our place,” Azula said. “Now I can barely talk to you.”

“I wanted to help you,” Zuko said under his breath.

“I was too scared to let you.”

“Well, let me do it now. I’ll do anything. I’m not letting some senile old man marry my sister.”

“Isn’t a senile old man your best friend?” she asked, smiling.

“Seriously, Azula.”

“I want to see him.”

“Father?”

“Yes. I know I’m probably not-”

“Okay.”

“Okay?” Zuko nodded.

“We’re so messed up, but I’m glad we made it out.”

“I did?”

“Azula,” Zuko said, running a hand through his hair, “sometimes I don’t even think I did it.”

“Well you did,” she said, putting an arm around him. “I thought you were weak, and you would never amount to anything. But if you ask me now, I think you’ve amounted to everything.”

The Firelord and princess hugged for the first time in over a decade.

Chapter Text

He prayed to the spirits that she didn’t see him. He wouldn’t have to pray if he just walked away. But since he spoke to Azula in the library on that fateful day, something had sparked within him.

For someone who’d try to stab him, tried to fry his sister, and successfully fried his friend, Sokka was awfully gentle with her. He’d tried to blame it on her situation. Arranged marriages were Yue’s thing.

But every time he saw her practice her fire bending, he ate his food a little slower. He’d seen bending, and he’d seen Azula’s intense blue flames about a thousand times. Why did he care to watch her fight her brother at dawn each day? Fighting was Suki’s thing. Zuko had caught him once.

“Sokka?” he’d said. The water tribesman cursed himself. He thought he had done a good job hiding behind a pillar. He’d got to see the princess put her absolute everything into a simple sparring match.

“Hey,” Sokka said awkwardly. The Fire Lord crossed his pale arms.

“I know you didn’t come out to watch me,” he said, staring intensely with his one good eye.

“Well,” Sokka said, scratching the back of his head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I could never see Azula that way.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Zuko asked, glaring. “You already talk to her, is she not pretty enough for your liking?”

“No!” Sokka exclaimed. “I mean, yes! Look, Azula is beautiful-”

“Watch your mouth.”

“What I mean,” Sokka said, “is that you have a very beautiful sister. But we’d be an...interesting couple.”

“Which is exactly why you came out here to watch her.”

“The girl’s got cool flames,” Sokka said, trying to justify himself. “Besides, she really isn’t my type.”

“I heard you were with a princess a while ago-”

“Yes, but Yue wasn’t anything like-”

“And Suki’s a warrior,” the Fire Lord said, a small smile on his face. It was fun seeing Sokka get worked up.

“Zuko what are you-”

“Azula is both of those things. Making her exactly your type. But it doesn’t matter. She can’t even remember how she got to Caldera, and between that and everything going on with Advisor Zheng, you really shouldn’t complicate her life even more.”

Zuko and Sokka hadn’t talked about that day since it happened, but each time Sokka found himself alone with Azula, Zuko showed up soon after.

Now, they were finally alone. Not that Azula knew.

She’d been taking care of three chicks for about a week now. The whole palace knew about the princess and her baby hawks.

To him, the scene in front of Sokka’s eyes was perfect. The princess wore her hair half up half down, and gently ladled water over the chicks in a bird bath.

She was breathtakingly beautiful. Long, dark hair flowed down her back and two pieces in the front framed her ivory face. Her eyes were a honey shade of amber, looking mellow under long black lashes. She wore a small smile on her cherry red lips.

“Are you watching her?” Sokka looked down at his left side to see a little girl staring back.

“Kiyi, I mean this in the nicest way possible, but go away. Please.”

“Yeah Kiyi,” the princess said, glaring at her little sister. “Go away.” The six year old balled her fists and ran to her mother.

“How long have you known I was here?” Sokka asked.

“As long as you’ve been here,” Azula replied.

“It’s funny,” Sokka said, “because I’m pretty sure Zuko mentioned you hating birds once.”

“He’s wrong,” Azula said. “The only bird I hate is the turtle duck...also I killed their mother.” Sokka couldn’t help but burst out laughing.

“I’m not joking,” she said, running her index finger down the feathers of one bird. “You can leave now, tell your friends what a psycho I am. But they’ve already heard.”

“Is that what you think I do every time we finish talking?” She nodded.

“Now, are you going to continue staring intensely from afar or are you going to help me wash these chicks?” Sokka grabbed a chick from behind and pushed it down into the water.

“No!”Azula exclaimed, shoving Sokka out the way. “Do it gently. And don’t drown them.” She grabbed the back of his hand softly and guided him through the motions of cupping the water and letting it trickle onto the bird.

“This is easy,” he said quietly.

“It’s also over,” Azula replied. “But they like their heads rubbed, so now we do that.” He watched as Azula moved a red nailed, perfectly manicured thumb over the white heads of the bird.

“What are their names?” Azula may have been responsible for the chicks now, but he saw the joy she got from being their caretaker.

“Mochi,” she said, smiling to herself, “Zuzu, and-”

He didn’t mean to do it. Yes, Sokka had no idea how one hand had ended up in Azula’s hair and the other on her waist. And Azula was clueless as to why she held Sokka’s face in her hand as he kissed her fervently. But she was the first to pull away.

“My chicks aren’t allowed to view that sort of content,” she said, playfully covering the eyes of the one named Mochi.

“My apologies for scaring them,” Sokka said, chuckling. “So you named a bird after your brother?”

“Just so the next time he gets upset when I call him that, I can say I wasn’t talking to him.

“SPIRITS, SOKKA!” Katara exclaimed. The water bender stood with a red face and a smirking little girl at her side.

“Good afternoon, Katara,” Azula said, drying her hands with steam. “Sokka and I were washing-”

“Save it, Azula!” Katara said. “I saw you two! What the heck is going on?”

“Sweetie?” the avatar asked. He walked out into the garden with Zuko. The Fire Lord’s mouth turned into a straight line as soon as he saw the scene. “What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong,” Katara said, taking a deep breath, “is that I was on my way to tell Azula some great news when Kiyi tells me to follow her. We walk into the garden and Sokka and Azula are sucking each other's faces off!”

“I thought I told you,” Zuko said, pale skin becoming increasingly red, “to stay away from Azula.”

“You knew about this?!” Katara exclaimed.

“Why would you tell him that?” Azula asked, glaring at her brother.

“Whatever,” Katara said. “I came here because Lady Ursa told me to ask you if you wanted to go to Ember Island for your birthday.” Azula had completely forgotten about her birthday. In three days, the princess would be seventeen years old. What better way than to spend it partying on the beach with all her friends? Except that Azula hadn’t had friends since during the war, and was incredibly awkward at parties.

“No,” Azula said.

“Oh,” the avatar said, scratching the back of his neck. “This is awkward.”

“Why?” Azula asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Are you sure?” Zuko asked. “We figured you’d say yes…”

“So? What does that have to do with any of you?” Then it hit her. “Ohhh. You guys were planning to come along. Too bad. Unpack your bags.” The teens groaned. There was no changing the mind of the princess.

“I guess we can start packing to go home instead,” Sokka said. Azula’s eyes widened.

“You mean, you’re leaving soon?” she asked softly.

“He means we’re leaving soon,” Katara said.

“That doesn’t matter,” Zuko said, “you really might want to get out of town for awhile Azula.”

“Why?” she asked.

“Advisor Zheng got word that you were going to Ember Island. You know, since we assumed you’d wanna go, but you didn’t. Anyway, he thinks you’re trying to run away and wants to announce your engagement to the public as soon as possible.” Azula’s throat went dry and anger filled her bones.

“Enough! You’re all making the situation worse!” Azula exclaimed. “We’ll go to Ember Island, since I pretty much have to now, but first, I need to see someone.”

“Who?” Kiyi asked. They’d all forgotten she was there.

“My father.”

Chapter Text

Azula and her mother were drinking tea and talking to Zuko when Kiyi burst in, tears streaming down her face.

“Oh, sweetheart!” Ursa exclaimed, extending her arms. Kiyi took refuge in her mother for a moment before lifting up her pant leg. A deep purple bruise stained the young girl’s knee. Azula ignored the pang of jealousy she felt in her chest.

“My lady,” a maid said, entering the room. “Kiyi was playing with some of the other children in the palace daycare when she fell and bruised her knee.” Azula inspected the injury, and saw a perfect opportunity.

“Come here, you brat,” she said, picking up the young girl and placing her on her lap. Ursa smiled to herself until she saw blue flames grow in the older girl’s hand.

“What are you-”

“Are you gonna do the magic?” Kiyi asked, eyes wide.

“What magic?” Zuko asked.

Azula practiced the routine Katara had taught her and calmed herself as she waved the flames around directing the pain outwards from Kiyi’s shin. Slowly but surely, the injury became a reddish pink.

“That magic,” Kiyi said smiling. Ursa and Zuko’s jaws hung open.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” the Fire Lord said, shaking his head.

“It would if you picked up a book,” Azula said, setting Kiyi back on the ground.

“That is so useful, Azula!” Ursa exclaimed.
“I’m not a nurse,” Azula said, “the next time Kiyi injures herself she should crawl to the infirmary.”

“It would have been useful a long time ago,” Zuko said to himself.

“It’s a scar Zuko,” Azula said. “That’s what’s left behind.”

“Did the infirmary do a good job?” Ursa asked cautiously.

“He still has his right eye,” Azula said, “so they did something right. Father never trusted them. I learned from a book of herbs how to make all the necessary medicines. Saved his life once.”

“My book of herbs?” Ursa asked, eyes widening.

“Yes,” Azula said. “Nice poison recipe by the way. I always wondered if it did the trick.”
“When did you save his life?” Zuko asks.

“Fire Fever. He caught it the summer after you were banished, and we figured it would go away with time. You never would’ve been able to tell. He didn’t want anyone in court to know his body was weakening. But he always went to bed before the sun did, ate a little less, yelled a little more. At night, you could hear him having hysterical coughing fits.” Ursa and Zuko listened, but only felt sympathy for Azula. In their minds they both wished the illness had taken Ozai down before the avatar. She continued.

“I kept asking him subtle questions. About the line of succession. If Zuko would return home should an emergency occur, and whatnot. He never answered any of them. Until one night he couldn’t hide it anymore, and all the doctors of Caldera were gathered in the Fire Lord’s chambers. Nothing was working. I was lucky enough to be...exploring mother’s old bedchambers when I found the book.”

“How wonderful,” Zuko said dryly.

“It was an exact cure for Fire Fever. I’m assuming it’s a popular thing in Hira’a.It didn’t work at first, and he was angry. He told me everything was useless and that I should leave his sight. But I know him. He didn’t want that. And everytime I lifted a spoonful of the mixture to his mouth, he accepted it. I was angry too. I hated how weak he looked in front of me, his body begging for more of something a twelve year old cooked up in her bedroom in less than two hours. I should have left. But I took care of him. I don’t regret it.”

“Oh, Azula,” Ursa said, rubbing her daughter's shoulder.

“Do you regret it?” Zuko asked. Azula and Ursa turned in shock.

“Excuse me?” Azula said coldly.

“Well,” Zuko said, crossing his arms, “I guess that answers it.”

“I’m going to see him in less than an hour and you’re asking me questions like that.”

“About that,” Zuko said, “I’ve contacted Uncle. He’ll be waiting outside by the gates for you when you’re ready.”

“I’m ready now.”

“Princess Azula,” General Iroh said, keeping his voice steady.

“Hello, Uncle.”

“Before you do something as big as this. You should weigh the consequences.”

“I’ve weighed them.”

“Alright. We may not see eye to eye, princess, but you are fearless in all situations. Remember that.”

“Prince Ozai, there is someone to see you.”

It took all her strength not to crumble when she saw him. His frame was still large and elegant, but it was hollow. His hair tangled but not yet unkempt. His eyes though, were exactly the same: sending a thousand messages with each movement. They didn’t move at all when they saw her.

“It baffles me that they still address you by your title,” she said finally, sitting on the chair in front of his cell.

“That hasn’t been my title for seven years,” Ozai said. “I will always be Phoenix King Ozai.”

“You’re delusional.”

“Which one of us went to an asylum?”

“You know, you have no right to insult me anymore.”

“And why is that, Princess Azula?”

“Because I am an esteemed and sophisticated monarch. You are a lowly prisoner who can no longer even make his own light.”

“Is that what you think?” he asked, chuckling to himself. Then he slammed the bars with all his upper body strength, causing Azula to move her chair backwards.

“If you’re the monarch,” he said, voice dangerously low, “then why do I have control over your own fate?” Azula quickly blinked back the tears in her eyes.

“Father, what’s wrong with me?” she said quietly, voice trembling.

“Many things,” Ozai said, backing up.

“But you didn’t care,” Azula said, staring at the dirt covered floor. “I captured Ba Sing Se, I killed the avatar, and I protected our city from invaders. And you still left me behind.”

“You’re even lucky I gave you those tasks,” Ozai said, “You’re lucky-”

“No!” Azula exclaimed. “You’re lucky that I am the daughter Agni blessed a wretched man like you with. I spent so long trying to figure out why that wasn’t enough for you, and it’s because you’re unable to feel anything but greed and anger. And if you can’t love then by Agni who am I to you?”

“The best soldier in the Fire Nation army,” Ozai said, smiling to himself. “One I simply didn’t need at the battle of Wulong Forest.”

“Well the war is over,” Azula said, a tear trickling down her right cheek, “so leave this soldier alone. She has a home to get to. A family.”

“That soldier also has a father. And he has plans for her to bear the house of Zoryu powerful firebending heirs with Advisor Zheng. The war is over. And this is how she will remain beneficial to the royal family.”

Azula stood up and threw the chair across the room.

“I built everything under you,” Azula said, gripping the bars aggressively. “But it’s still mine. I’ll be married to Advisor Zheng no sooner than you’ll be the Phoenix King!”

“Goodbye, Princess Azula,” Ozai said, eerily running his hand over his daughter’s. “Have a lovely seventeenth birthday.” With a single gesture, every torch in the cell dissipated.

Chapter Text

Iroh had his own conversation with his brother. Azula never asked about it. They headed straight to the ship docks, where everyone else waited with their bags. No one spoke to Azula for some time, they knew it must have been a hard conversation.

Finally, Zuko broke the ice. “Are you okay?” he asked. She took a big inhale, ready to tell him of how their father was still a shell of a man. Instead she broke down sobbing. Zuko hugged her and she continued crying for some time. Eventually she calmed down and did tell them how her appointment with her father had gone.

“He doesn’t even deserve to be rotting,” Ursa said, shaking.

“What sort of man would do that to his own daughter?” Katara asked.

“My brother lost his way a long time ago,” Iroh said, stirring a cup of tea, “but arranged marriages are a Fire Nation tradition that goes back hundreds of years.”

“You’ve never been the one given away, Iroh,” Ursa said. “And regardless, there are rules.”

“Like what? Did your marriage meet the rules?” Azula asked.

“Unfortunately. Your father was thirty and I was twenty-one. Arranged marriages aren’t supposed to unify people any more than ten years apart.”

“So there,” Azula said, smirking. “Advisor Zheng is thirty-one. That’s like Father marrying you when you were sixteen.”

“He probably would have, had they found me earlier.”

“Age is of no use in terms of marriage and love,” Iroh said.

“That’s not love,” Sokka said.

“Yeah,” Zuko said, scoffing, “you’re really concerned about Azula and love.”

“He doesn’t need to be,” Azula said, mouth turning to a straight line. She jogged over to her room on the ship and locked the door.

A little while later she heard faint knocking.

“Leave me alone you brat!” Azula exclaimed, stuffing the scissors under her pillow.
“It’s me, Azula,” Sokka said. A couple seconds later the princess opened the door a small amount.

“You shouldn’t be here, Sokka,” she said. Her hair was a mess and it warmed Sokka’s heart. She tried to close the door but the water tribesman stuck his door in between.

“What happened?” he asked. “Everything was fine between us when we-”

“Kissed?” she asked. “Sokka, if something drastic doesn’t happen I will be someone’s wife before the new year. And that someone is not you, so I’m not going to engage in some sort of infatuation with you. I don’t even know why you would want to be hurt for a small period of bliss. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not a monster.”

“Oh,” Sokka said, trying to ignore the crushing pain in his chest. “That’s probably the right thing to do.” Azula nodded. “Anyway, I brought your chicks, and the stuff you use for them. I don’t know why, but if we’re gonna be gone for a week-” He spotted a golden blade gleaming from Azula’s sheets.

“That’s nothing,” she said. He still moved the blanket and tugged the scissors out from her pillow. Then he noticed her frazzled hair.

“I wasn’t gonna cut it,” she said, staring at her feet.

“I mean, it’s your hair,” Sokka said, “but why would you cut it?”

“It’s just something I do,” Azula said, sitting on her bed. “The first time was during Sozin’s comet, and I did it a few times in the institution. It used to be huge amounts. The other patients would call me Bangs. Now the trims aren’t really noticeable. It’s dumb, I know. Ruining my one good feature because I’m under stress.” Sokka sat on the bed as well.

“I don’t think it’s dumb,” Sokka said, taking her hand in his. “And if it’s how you keep under stress then you can cut mine instead.” That was the sweetest gesture anyone had ever done for the princess. “I need to shave the sides anyway.”

“I like them unshaved,” she said, laughing lightly. “Although, that wolf tail of yours could use some modifications.” She ran her hands over the sides of his scalp, feeling the thick and fuzzy surface.

She hugged him close, praying that no one opened the door and saw her displaying such affection. He smelled like sea salt and she buried her head in his shoulder.

“It doesn’t have to be over before it starts,” he said quietly.

“Constraining our feelings is the best thing for both of us, Sokka.”

“But if we really can’t do anything,” he said, “then why should we wait for it. You could know what a real relationship feels like before being stuck with that ass-hole for the rest of your life.”

“That would be incredibly disrespectful to the agreement,” she said softly.

“The agreement’s been incredibly disrespectful to you.”

“I’m going out to the hull again,” Azula said, standing up, “I had a dream last night I need to tell Zuko about. However long this lasts, we need to keep it out of the public. So nothing outside of closed doors.”

Sokka was left alone with his own thoughts. Everything with Azula had happened so fast, and it would be over before he knew it. If only there was some way they could have more time. Except that there was.

Ember Island was the same as ever. The group got off their ship and headed to their rooms. Zuko had told his family stories of how Team Avatar took refuge in their beach house, and Azula told them of the great time they had after the fall of Ba Sing Se.

“So this is the place you had your first kiss,” Sokka said nonchalantly.

“Yes, it is,” Azula replied. “He was an admiral’s son. Incredibly immature.”

“Well kids,” Ursa said. “I’ll clean this place up while you guys unpack.”

“Sounds good to me,” Toph said. The other teens went on their way.

“Azula,” Katara said, “I actually wanted to talk to you.”

“Me?” the princess asked.

“Walk with me.”

The girls wandered bare feet in the sand, talking about all sorts of things like healing and family.

“Azula,” Katara said, “I wanted to talk to you about Sokka.”

“I would never hurt-”
“I won’t give you the chance,” Katara said, jabbing her finger at the princess. “You can’t just hurt everybody and try to make friends now that you showed up without your memory and got a crush on my brother. Oh yeah, and now you want us to help you out of an arranged marriage when you should be away from society!”

Azula felt like the air was getting tighter. Katara was the one who’d shown her a new bending sub-element, who healed her when she first arrived and empathized with her over Zuko. But that was the way it was. People constantly luring her then turning their backs.

“I don’t need you to give me anything, peasant,” Azula said, glaring. “And I’m not trying to make friends either. Your brother kissed me, not the other way around. He’s clever enough to notice that the war is over. I like him. He likes me. There is no room for you in this relationship. You may have beaten me once, Katara, but I’m not crazy this time. And I can heal myself too.”

“You have to still be crazy if you think Sokka will even look at you once I tell him to stay away from you. And you’re out of your mind if you think he’ll even remember your name once we head back to the Southern Water Tribe. Or you’re married off to that old man. Both are right after this trip by the way. Whichever comes first. So happy birthday, Azula,” Katara said, smirking.

The princess was on the verge of tears. She didn’t need to be reminded of what was to come following her vacation. It was all a world away until Katara opened her big mouth.

“Azula, I didn’t mean to go that-” Azula veered off their course and through a maze of bushels. It was only a matter of time until she realized she was caught in an actual maze.

“Katara!” she eventually called out. “Zuko! Sokka!” The princess hissed in pain when her foot hit something incredibly hard. Azula gasped as she brushed away the last piece of moss.

When Azula was a child, she loved dragons. Even before she knew it well enough, she would ask her mother to take her to the library so she could get books on dragons. She would tell her father that when she was Fire Lord, she would have a dragon. He would smile to himself, and Ursa would whisper something in his ear. Until one day in a fit of anger Zuko had told her that she would never have a dragon because they were all dead. She got no sleep for three days.

A large, blueish purple egg gleamed, and Azula stared at it in awe.

“Do you hear that?” Sokka asked. Zuko, Aang, and Toph listened carefully.
“Nothing,” Zuko said.

“It’s Katara and Azula!” Toph exclaimed.

The trio reached Azula the same time Katara did.

“What happened?” Toph asked. “And I’m feeling some sort of life I’ve never felt before.”

“It’s the egg,” Azula said, pointing to the indigo orb.

“What the-” Zuko started.

“A dragon egg!” Aang exclaimed. “Azula, where did you find this?”

“Yeah, where?” Zuko asked, folding his arms.

“Where do you think, dum dum,” Azula said, rolling her eyes. “I tripped, and this lizard rock defeated my foot. It’s the last of its kind. Thanks to the Dragon of the West.”

Zuko and Aang scratched the backs of their necks.

“What?” Azula said, glaring.

“Let’s just get out of here,” Toph said.

“Where did you guys go?!” Suki exclaimed. She stared extra long at the sight of Azula limping and leaning onto Sokka’s shoulder.

“Azula got lost,” Sokka said, removing his arm from the princess’ waist. “We all went to find her.”

“Well I would’ve liked to know that beforehand.”

“Would you have helped?” Azula asked, putting Sokka’s arm around her waist again.

“Azula!” Ursa exclaimed, rushing to the aid of her daughter. “Get in the chair. I’ll make something for the pain and then we can celebrate your birthday.”

After a bitter tasting herb and a bandage, Azula sat with the rest of the teens around an unlit campfire. With a deep inhale and quick gesture, they were illuminated by blue flames.

The group laughed and discussed everything under the moon. Ursa showed some of the baby portraits she’d found of Zuko and Azula while cleaning the house, much to the delight of Team Avatar. They of course had mochi, Azula’s favorite delicacy. She bonded with Sokka over the desert. But he noticed something was off about the princess. Even as she joined in on the storytelling and laughing, her demeanor was perfectly still.

As the night reached its peak, hours after Kiyi had been put to bed, the group dispersed to their respective rooms. Azula felt someone grab her wrist as she twisted the knob to her door.

“Can I help you?” she asked, staring up into icy blue eyes.

“Are you okay? If this is about Katara she was just looking out for me-”

“I’m fine, Sokka. I’m a sister too.” He followed her into her room.

“Alright then,” he said. But as he turned to leave, he heard the sound of a blade opening. He turned to see Azula positioning the scissors high up on her side fringe.

“Azula,” he said calmly, “I said you could cut mine.” She stopped and cursed herself for not making sure he was gone. He stepped towards her and let his wolf tail down.
“Really?” He looked down into her perfect amber eyes and pressed their noses together. Azula’s knees went weak as Sokka’s soft lips held onto her own. She ran her hands through his loose strands.

“Yeah,” he said, finally breaking away.

“I don’t want to anymore,” she said, setting the scissors down. “I was stressed because I have a secret. And I don’t even trust you with it, but I’ll lose my mind again if I don’t tell someone.”

"I have something to say first. I don't want this to be over by the New Year. If challenging Zheng is what it takes, I'll do it for you." Immense happiness fluttered through the princess' chest.

"It's dangerous Sokka. My nation can and will kill over this."

"I know. But you're worth it, Azula. Now what were you going to say?"

“After I saw my father, I got my memory back,” Azula said.

“How much?”

“Absolutely all of it.”

He didn’t do anything. Instead he crashed his lips against hers again and Azula bunched his shirt up in his hands as she desperately inhaled the smell of sea salt which she only smelled on him and loved so much. The mochi and cherries on Azula’s lip fed Sokka like he was starved and his heart rate soared as he held the princess in between his arms and cradled her head with one hand.

“Um," he said, breathing softly against her neck. "Do you wanna talk about it?” he asked. She nodded.

“Yes,” she said, smiling.

“So tell me Azula,” he said, breathless, “what the hell happened to you?”

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe you would put our whole family in danger,” Zuko said, pacing the room.

“This is exactly why I didn’t tell you,” Azula said, crossing her arms.

“And you knew!” Zuko exclaimed, pointing at Sokka.

“Hey,” Sokka said, putting his arms up, “it wasn’t my secret to tell.”

Team Avatar and Iroh sat in blankets in the living room of the royal family beach house after being called down by Azula and Sokka.

After the princess had told Sokka everything she remembered, he’d convinced her to tell the Fire Lord of the recent attack in the library.

“You got attacked, Sokka saved your life,” Suki said, tugging on her blankets. “Can we go to bed now.”

“Well, no,” Azula said through gritted teeth. “I only felt like telling you this Zuzu because after visiting father, I faced a revelation.”

“It was pretty big,” Sokka said.

“Zuko, I got my memory back. I can recall everything from the time I left with the Fire Warriors what was happening to me before I wound up outside the palace.” Gasps and looks of shock filled the room.

“Fire Warriors,” Suki said, snickering.

“They call themselves the Flame Society,” Azula said. “They’re for the people of the Fire Nation and the people only. The Fire Warriors abandoned me after I refused to help get some of them from your prisons. I was alone for a long time until I met a woman. She said she’d been watching me since I left the palace. She said I still had a shot at being Firelord. That you were the avatar’s puppet king, and I could serve the people of the Fire Nation.”

“And so my niece,” Iroh said, blowing on tea, “what did you do with this information?” The room waited desperately for her answer.

“Oh don’t look at me like that,” Azula said, rolling her eyes. “One of them was a scientist. Tenshi. She couldn’t bend but she knew so much about it. I learned how to do all sorts of amazing things from her. The other, Yumiko, wouldn’t leave me alone about ‘my part’. She kept reminding me of our nation’s suffering and said I would only have a shot if I took care of village problems and agriculture.”

“That still doesn’t explain why I ended up healing your mangled body,” Katara said.

“What was it doing in Caldera?” the avatar asked.

“After learning about what the commoners were going through, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t start help immediately. I am a princess after all. I told Tenshi that, and she pretended to be supportive. But when she took me home she doused me in Fire bender gasoline and mugged me.” The water tribesman squeezed her hand.

“So what does that have to do with the attack?” Toph asked.

“Tenshi is the library servant who I recognized,” Azula said, shuddering. “And the most elite members wear a flame shaped tattoo.”

“This is big news,” Iroh said. “We should all get some rest and discuss it in the morning.”

In the morning, everyone headed to the docks in awkward silence. Iroh was carefully making tea to prevent seasickness(and because he wanted tea) when Sokka approached him.

“General Iroh,” Sokka said, clearing his throat.

“Sokka,” Iroh said, smiling, “care for tea.” He shook his head.

“No,” he said, “I just had a thought. The Fire Nation is big on challenging, and honor or whatever, so it would mean something if I challenged Advisor Zheng for Azula’s hand. Right?”

“An engagement challenge you mean,” Iroh said, stroking his beard. “Well, it’s not that simple. An engagement challenge is usually between more than two people. And seeing as the princess is already engaged, Advisor Zheng would have to be willing to participate.”

“Well that’s a start,” Sokka said, walking away.

“You have a good heart,” Iroh said, “but your plan would be counterproductive. Princess Azula would still have a series of steps to complete to absolve herself of an engagement with you. And a water tribesman competing for the hand of the Fire Nation princess would raise many questions.”

“We’ll worry about that when we get to it,” Sokka said. Then he turned around. “And who said anything about absolving anything?”

The Fire Lord must have sent word, because the whole palace was on lock down when the group arrived. Every member of palace staff was lined up and being questioned. The imperial guard wrestled with a middle aged woman in the foyer of the palace.

“Yumiko,” Azula whispered under her breath.

“Azula!” the imposter scram. “Get them away from me. You scoundrel, finish what you started!” She lunged at the princess, who backed away quickly.

“You knew Tenshi’s intentions,” the princess said, hatred flicking off her tongue. “Now you know what it’s like to be assaulted. You made your bed and you will lie in it.”

“Firelord Sozin, may he burn forever, ruined the people, and you let your father do the same. Now you watch your brother neglect us! Fire is catching Princess Azula!”

“Really,” Azula said, smirking, “good thing I was born to control it.”

Chapter Text

Zuko had faced frustration in the court before. It was in the job description as Fire Lord. But he’d never had to talk up something so directly relate to his family, and he’d never faced someone as arrogant as Advisor Zheng.

“You wished to see me, my lord,” Adviser Zheng said, wearing a smirk as he sat in the deep red chair.

“Advisor Zheng,” Zuko said, clearing his throat. “My uncle and I have looked into your engagement with Azula.” The advisor laughed.

“Have the two of you began to prepare our honeymoon suite?” he asked.

“Advisor Zheng,” Iroh said, “I think your arrogance has made you forget who you are talking to. You are in the Firelord’s presence. And what we’ve found is that there are strict, traditional laws mde on how to hand off princesses in the royal family.”

“Tradition is old,” the advisor said, gripping the sides of his chair.

“It may have been forgotten due to the absence of female births within our family. But the princess should follow the traditions of her predecessors.”

“And so,” Zheng said, “what are these traditions?”

“An engagement challenge,” Zuko said, standing straight.

“Of what kind?” Zheng asked.

“The royal family will select suitors to compete for the hand of princess Azula,” Iroh explained.

Zheng said, standing up, “If you want me to prove myself worthy of my future wife, I can do that.”

As he shook hands with the Firelord and General, Advisor Zheng began to think of all the ways he would rid the competition.

Word around the palace spread fast of the princess and imposter servant. Which only made the true servants cautious of their princess.

Princess Azula sat on her mattress with her boyfriend, away from the gossip within the staff.

“What if it doesn't go well,” she said quietly.
“If Advisor Zheng doesn’t agree to the challenge, we’ll get rid of him,” Sokka said.

“Don’t you think that would be suspicious?” Azula said.

“You guys are royals,” he said, “Can’t you get away with that kind of thing?”

“Technically,” she mused, “but I’d rather he gets humiliated and moves on with his life. Just then a guard burst into the bedroom.

“Princess,” he said, “this is an anonymous message for you.” She took the letter from the guards hand and dismissed him.

“You may think you’re making progress,” Sokka read aloud, “but I have you right where I want you.”

“I don’t recognize this handwriting,” Azula said, standing up.

“We should tell Aang. The palace is on lockdown anyway and you need help.”

He hurried off to find the avatar.

“This just keeps getting worse,” the Firelord said, pacing Azula’s room. Team Avatar and the royal family had rushed to the princess after seeing the cryptic note.

“If someone’s after Azula,” Katara said, “it’s probably best if you guys don’t do the engagement challenge.”

“No,” Azula said. “The challenge is more important.”

“Then your life?” Sokka asked.

“I have no life anyway as the wife of the advisor.”

“So how will we do this then?” Ursa asked.

“Typically an engagement challenge consists of twelve suitors, and there are about four challenges. One to test loyalty, strength, honor, and wit,” Iroh said, holding up a finger.

“Advisor Zheng is already taking the place of one suitor,” Zuko said. Azula looked at Sokka intensely, waiting for him to say something.

“I’ll take another,” he said, looking at the princess.

“Sokka I won’t let you do that,” Katara said.

“The traditional challenges are accustomed around things only someone who grew up in the Fire Nation could possibly know.”

“Those ‘traditions’ haven’t been valid for two hundred years,” Azula said. “I think you’ll have to readjust them anyway. He’s the only person I want to win anyway.”

“Do the challenge and get it over with, Azula,” Zuko said, crossing his arms. “Whatever temporary infatuation you guys have going on can’t get in the way of this. Unless you wanna end up in Zheng’s honeymoon suite.”

“What?”

The palace remained on lockdown. But the royal family took heavily guarded trips around the Fire Nation to find the most eligible bachelors. Three days later, they were presented at the front of the palace.

It was well into the night when Azula stood in her finest robes on the balcony overlooking the royal plaza as nobles and commoners and peasants alike cheered below, ready to meet their potential princes. Food was being distributed and the streets were lit with the most beautiful candles. Azula had lit all the candles on the balcony ledge with her signature blue flames.

Her ex advisors, Lo and Li made the announcements for all the suitors.

“His name is Takibi, he was an admiral in the Fire Nation army at just 19, and led our troops safely into Ba Sing Se!” A tall and slender man held up the Ba Sing Se altered Fire Nation flag and grinned at the princess from below. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat as the rest of her family continued staring at her due to the mention of Ba Sing Se.

“He is Oshan, he is an armourer, and his father made Fire Lord Ozai’s armor for the battle of Wulong forest!” A short man with kind eyes wore an elaborate piece of armor. Azula would have thought nothing of it if it wasn’t obviously her face mold carved into his breastplates. The Fire Lord and his uncle snickered while Ursa gave them disapproving looks.

“They call him Taiyo the third, and he holds the title of strongest man in the Fire Nation!” A burly man with black eyes picked up three nearby women who squealed.

“I said muscular not beast like,” Azula hissed.

“You could say we had our fun with your selection,” Iroh said.

Four more men presented themselves, and Azula sat with a stone face as they all tried to make good first impressions.
“And they all want to be a prince of the Fire Nation?” she asked.

“We don’t talk about people that way, Azula,” Ursa said, “It would do you good to be kinder.

“He is NOT of Fire Nation blood, in fact his father is chief of the Southern Water Tribe! He was the leader in charge of defeating our fleet at the battle of Wulong forest, and is rumored to have attacked the princess on the Day of Black Sun! He is Sokka of the Southern Water Tribe!”

“How dare they announce him like that?!” Azula exclaimed.

“He did all of those things, Azula, I have no clue why you want him competing for your hand,” the Fire Lord said.

Gasps and boos filled the crowd until Sokka went onto the stage with his boomerang and the young girls started their cheering. Team Avatar(not Suki) cheered for the water tribesman.

“Go Sokka!” Kiyi cheered from above.

“Watch it,” Azula said, turning to her little sister. All her worries and anger melted when Sokka came into her view, and blew her a kiss. She got up and ran to catch it, smiling for the first time of the night. It wasn’t the only thing she caught. He threw his boomerang up in the air and she caught it, disrupting its flow. The flames were incredibly bright but it was Azula’s heart that was on fire.

“Azula,” Ursa said wearily.

“You’re to blame,” she said, shrugging, “you said it would do me good to be kinder. It did.” She hugged the boomerang to her chest as she sat back down.

“He’s the oldest in the competition, he already works alongside the royal family and is a powerful firebender. What a match, he’s Advisor Zheng!” The crowd erupted into cheers once again.

“So,” Sokka said, standing with the other suitors, “you guys are okay with a guy in his thirties trying to marry a seventeen year old but not someone from a different nation? Weird.”

“It’s not,” a young man with black hair and gray eyes said. “Anything to preserve the blood. I don’t like him either, but I’d rather a pedophile than someone who would give the princess mutt-” The man held his gushing nose and Sokka shook off his fist just as his announcement came on.

“He’s-”

“You wanna see what a real powerful firebender looks like?” The same man yelled over Lo and Li. The crowd focused on him just as he made a large streamline of fire to surround his pathway.

“I’m Katon,” he said, wiping blood with his sleeve, “from the colonies. I went to Ba Sing Se university, traveled the world, and saw some beauties. None could even compare to Princess Azula though.” He gathered a portion of his fire and tossed it into the candles lighting the balcony.

“My brother would’ve liked him,” Iroh remarked.

“You and me,” Katon said, looking Azula directly in the eye. He pointed to their fire mixture. “One flame.”

Chapter Text

Sokka couldn’t sleep. The other suitors had temporarily moved into the palace, and it made his skin crawl just knowing Katon had a chance at winning Azula’s hand.

“Stupid, show off introduction,” Sokka said, shifting uncomfortably in the bed. He held his breath as his door slowly creaked open.

“I had the feeling you were still up,” Azula said quietly entering his room.

“Azula,” he said. She looked perfect in her night robe with only the top of her hair tie in a loose ponytail. “Why are you still up anyway?”

“I was practicing my arrow outside.”

“You mean you haven’t gotten any sleep?”

“Tonight? No,” she said, sitting on the bed.

“Today was certainly eventful,” he said.

“Sokka, I heard about what happened with Katon,” she said, frowning.

“It wasn’t my fault. I brought up Zheng and he started talking about-” She silenced him with a soft kiss.

“I know it wasn’t,” she said.

“Does it matter though?” Sokka asked, holding her close. “He’s not half bad looking, he’s not a whole bunch of years older than you, and he’s a bender. He even did that whole ‘one flame’ trick.”

“I’ve seen the best firebenders in the world, he’s nothing to be impressed about,” Azula said. “You aren’t a whole bunch of years older than me either. Just one. And for a long time my two best friends were two non benders.”

“Doesn’t matter,” he muttered.

“I hope you come to realize that you have nothing to worry about,” she said, getting up from the bed. “Good night, Sokka.”

In the morning, the suitors gathered around their own table in the royal dining hall, and engaged in lighthearted discussion. Katon and Sokka sat on opposing ends of the table. Sokka glared fiercely, but Katon pretended not to notice and spoke with the men besides him.

Zuko and Azula entered the dining hall with the imperial guard behind them, and all the guests and suitors made their most elegant bows.

“Today,” the Firelord said, “is the first day of the engagement challenge for the hand of Princess Azula.” The room erupted into applause.

“Historical research has been done to select the challenges, and I have great confidence that each of my suitors will handle them with grace,” Azula said, hands behind her back.

“The first of the challenges will begin in twenty minutes. We expect all suitors and guests out in the palace gardens.”

Sure enough, the suitors lined up in a neat row in the gardens.

“This is my favorite part of the palace,” Lady Ursa said, pacing its lush grounds. These firelilies go on for miles, but one is not like the others. It has been dyed a brilliant blue, in the likeness of my daughter’s flame. The man who brings her the fire lily will win the challenge *not* the one who finds it.”

“Begin,” Azula said, smirking.

The men moved in a frenzy, tearing through the beautiful bushels. Ursa buried her head in her hands.

“They’ll grow back, Mother,” Azula said. “But this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

One suitor, whose name Azula had yet to remember, stood in the center of the garden, inhaling the air with all the strength his lungs could offer. Soon after, he made a mad dash to an unscathed bush and ruffled through it.

“Ah ha!” he exclaimed, holding up a blue flower that caused the crowd to roar. All was well until Taiyo, the strong man whom Azula did in fact remember picked up the suitor and threw him to the side, causing him to drop the rose. Katon lunged forward and picked the rose up first. His lean frame allowed him to narrowly miss Taiyo and he sprinted to the princess.

Sokka stuck out a long leg just as Katon came close to Azula, and he fell face first onto the ground.

“Savage,” Katon muttered, spitting onto the dirt. Sokka swiftly grabbed the fire lily from the ground.

“You’ve got another nose bleed,” he said, grinning. Lucky for Sokka, he was close enough that no other suitor could stop him from getting to the princess.

Azula’s heart swelled with pride as her lover handed her the now wilted plant. The crowd wondered what Sokka whispered into her ear.

“You’re the only firelily worth fighting for,” he said gently. She hoped he didn’t notice her intense blush as she joined their hands and raised it to the air.

“Sokka of the Southern Water Tribe!” she exclaimed. “The winner of the first challenge!” A mixed sound of cheers and groans filled the crowd.

After the suitors cleaned themselves up, they took seats in the palace courtroom.

“This challenge,” Zuko said, “is to test your knowledge of the Fire Nation’s history. Some people may need more time than others, so I’ve had the questions written on scrolls. You have an hour to answer as many questions as possible.” After glancing at Sokka with pity, the Firelord left the room.

“How is this fair?” Sokka asked himself quietly as he put the quill to paper.

“This competition is meant for Fire Nation men,” Takibi said, looking up from his almost filled scroll. “No exceptions will be made for one poorly bred suitor.” The room burst into laughter.

“I don’t need exceptions,” Sokka said, hand gripping tighter around the quill, “I know Azula better than anyone else in this room.”

“Nonsense,” Advisor Zheng said, sneering, “I’ve had my eye on her since her first day in court.”

“Shut up, the both of you,” Katon said, flipping his paper over. “The only thing that matters in this is the challenges. She’ll be a distant memory to you both by the end of this.”

“I could never forget the softness of her hands as we danced at the finest of balls,” Zheng said smugly. “And I won’t have to.”

*And I could ever forget the softness of her lips, Sokka thought to himself.

Just then the Firelord reentered the room.

The challenges continued through the day and people came and went to watch its events. Only the first six were completed, but the winners were fairly chosen.

Iroh presented the results at the end of the day.

“The winner of the first challenge is Sokka of the Water Tribe,” he said. “The winner of the next challenge is Advisor Zheng.” The Advisor looked at Azula with a twinkle in his eye.

“The winner of both the third and fourth challenge,” Iroh continued, “is Katon.” The crowd went wild as the suitor kissed the cheeks of infants and old ladies alike.

“The winner of the fifth challenge is Sokka of the Water Tribe, and the winner of the final challenge is Oshan.”

“So who won?” Advisor Zheng spat.

“There are more challenges to come,” Iroh said, “but as of now Sokka and Katon are tied for the lead.”

“Just great,” Katon said, glaring at the water tribesman, “I’ll finish him off tomorrow.”

For the rest of the evening, the suitors were free to wander the palace and do as they pleased.

Azula stared intently at the object before her. The dragon egg had a large crack in it. She had no idea how long it’d been since the egg was laid, but it would hatch very soon. Hopefully it saw the princess’ closet as adequate space.

A knock on her door startled her.

“Who is interrupting?” she said, scowling.
“It’s Katon, Your Highness,” a muffled voice said,

She sighed as she locked her closet door and unlocked the entrance to her room.

“There are no more scheduled interactions this evening,” she said.

“I know,” he said, smirking. She took a step back as he forcefully entered her room. “Fit for a princess.”

“That’s what I am.”

“Is that what you want to be?” he asked, looking her in the eye.

“Are you questioning me?”

“No, princess,” he said, stepping back, “not at all. It’s just been awhile since our country heard from you. Especially for someone who was our girl on fire during the war.” She winced at the old title.

“The war is over,” she said, staring at the gorud.

“Then what are you still fighting?” he asked ever so quietly.

“You don’t know me,” she said, glaring at him. “So don’t pretend like you do.”

“I guess I don’t,” he agreed, “but I know the Fire Nation.”

“Great,” she said, scoffing, “and I’m guessing you think it was better when Father ruled it.”

“I never said that,” he said, smiling, “but I think it burned a lot brighter when its princess was at the front lines.”

“You should join the other suitors, Katon,” Azula said, chewing her bottom lip. “Supper will start soon.”

A natural wave of anger washed over Sokka as he made his way to the princess’ quarters and saw Katon leaving it.

“Don’t bother,” he said, “the princess wants everyone down for supper.” Sokka didn’t bother replying as he opened the door to Azula’s bedroom.

“Sokka,” she said, smiling, “I have something to show you-”

“What was he doing here?” Sokka asked, cutting her off.

“He just showed up,” she said, “now don’t interrupt me.”

“Azula,” Sokka said, running a hand across his face.

“There’s nothing I can do, Sokka,” Azula said. “We both signed up for this.”

“That doesn’t mean you have to get him in your room,” he said.

“I don’t care if he wins every challenge from here on out,” she said quietly, resting her head on Sokka’s chest. “You won this before it began.” Just then a large shriek erupted through the room and incessant thudding began.

“What the-”

“It’s the dragon,” Azula said, running over to her closet door. “Fetch the key on the nightstand for me.”

Sure enough, an indigo creature with wings and emerald reptilian eyes writhed on the floor in Azula’s closet.

“Is it dying?” Sokka asked.

“I don’t know! Call someone!” Azula said frantically. Finally, the winged serpent steadies itself and stares intensely at the princess.

But by then, Sokka is already on his way to the dining hall, and he has already seen Katon glaring at the doorway which Sokka never closed.

Chapter Text

Katon hated royals. One man claimed superiority and his family got to live the dream for generations following. They took everything from the people and made the people do everything for them.

And yet he was tied for the hand of a princess. Sickening. But if the royals couldn't be dismantled through the several riots and protests that occurred periodically through time, they should be dismantled from the inside.

He hated foreigners more. People who simply didn’t understand the concept of nationalism and meant to poison entire bloodlines. That bastard water tribesman, walking around like his head couldn't have been put on a mantle for display about 40 years ago. Katon would still have his head. And shave that ridiculous wolf tail. Only a matter of time.

He passed said time by enjoying a grasswood pipe in his room. That is, until he heard footsteps.

“Your Highness,” he said, staring ahead.

“Katon,” Azula said, “there you are. Something magnificent has happened. You should come and see.”

“I’ve seen it already princess.”

“No,” she said, raising an eyebrow, “I don’t think you have.”

“The dragon,” he said, staig into the eyes of the princess. “He hatched just as you were embracing your lover.”

Azula stiffened. “I didn’t know you were still there.”

“I don’t know how you or your family have planned this,” he said, the smoke on his breath passing through her ear, “but a deal is a deal. I’m going to win this thing. And you are going to be my bride. You already ran from Zheng, Azula. I’m sure your feet are getting tired.” The princess trembled in rage. “Now, let’s go see that dragon.”

“That’s exactly what he told you?” Katara exclaimed. Hours later, Azula sat with Katara, Ursa, Toph, and Suki and told them of the conversation she’d had with Katon.

“Word for word,” Azula said, drying her tears. “But I think something’s wrong. We’ve just met.”

“I knew something was wrong the moment I met your father,” Ursa said, shrugging.

“Maybe,” Toph said, “The night he got here, I asked him what he was doing and he said he was writing. That was true. But when I asked who he was writing to, he said he was writing to his mother. That was false.”

“Weird,” Ursa said. “It’s late and you girls need to sleep. I’ll discuss the matter with your brother and uncle in the morning.”

Lady Ursa kept her word. She was o her wy to speak to Zuko ad Iroh very early i the morning when she saw two suitors discussing with one of the palace kitchen staff. Except the kitchen staff never started cooking this early, and he wasn’t in uniform.

 

“It’s almost over,” Katon said, “tonight, I will win this competition once and for all.”

“You’re tied, Katon,” the other suitor said.

“The ice muncher is no match for me,” he said smugly.

“So then what?”

“So, I’m gonna be a prince of the Fire Nation,” he said, smirking. The chef’s eyes widened and Katon followed his gaze to see a mess of dark hair and long red robes turn the corner.

Ursa and Azula were both late to breakfast that morning.

“Katon needs to be stopped,” Ursa said as she sat down at the royal table.

“I know who he really is now,” Azula said, holding something in her hand.

“What are you guys going on about?” Zuko asked.

“I saw Katon talking about how he was about to win this competition with another suitor and one of the kitchen staff.”

“So?” Aang asked. “If he beats Sokka then he will.” His girlfriend elbowed him in the ribs.

“Aang,” Katara said, “Katon threatened Azula yesterday evening. We think he’s planning something.”

“I know he’s planning something,” Azula said, holding up a paper. “I found this in his room. It reads that he’s part of the flame society. They took advantage of the competition, and wanted to get one of their own into the royal family since I wouldn't do what they asked. My guess is that Katon would marry me and somehow find a way to get rid of Zuko so I’d become Fire Lady.``

“Wow,” Ursa said, gasping. “So what are we going to do?”

“It’s best if we do nothing,” Iroh said. “If he wins the challenge, no other suitor will have a chance. Then we can charge him for treason and be done with this once and for all.”

The last six challenges were intense, and the victories were evenly distributed. Before the sixth challenge, suitors rested up.

Ursa was walking in the halls when she felt someone grab her.

“I saw you this morning, Lady Ursa,” Katon said, “did you by chance go to my room?”

“I did no such thing, Katon,” Ursa said, “now please release your grip.”

“Let’s hope so,” he said in an eerily calm tone. “For your sake.”

The final challenge required all the suitors to meet in one of the palace sitting rooms.

“This is not a test of strength,” Iroh said, “but one of brilliance and strategy. You will each choose a pai sho partner, and you will engage in a tournament. Winner of the game wins the final challenge. Begin!”

The suitors scrambled to find partners that weren’t above their intelligence level and took their seats.

Soon enough, it was Sokka and Katon left to play the board game to the death.

“I’m surprised to see a barbarian who knows his strategy so well,” Katon said, sneering.

“I knew enough strategy to take down the Fire Lord’s fleet,” Sokka said, “I can handle an unchecked troublemaker.” Then the first move was made. Both parties proved to be formidable opponents, and the crowd held its breath watching the men make their moves. Eventually they accidentally beat themselves. Still, all the suitors presented themselves at Caldera square.

“This proves to be a draw,” Iroh said, eyes widening. “Seeing as the two of you have an equal number of victories, this competition is a tie.

“What?!” Katon said, snarling.

“Maybe Azula should finally get a choice in all this,” Sokka said.

“Are you sure,” Katon said, smirking, “I think others disagree.” Just then, dozens across the crowd whipped out weapons.

Chapter Text

The imperial guard moved quickly in front of the royal family, but Azula and Zuko readied their flames.

“The princess is mine!” Advisor Zheng roared. A rebel behind him slit his throat.

“That,” Katon said, pointing to the advisor, “is going to happen to the rest of you if you don’t obey me at this moment.”

“We can work through this, Katon,” the avatar said, “we don’t want anyone else to get hurt.”
“Work through what?” Katon snapped. “Generations of oppression in the name of war and power?”

“I know the war hurt the world,” the avatar continued, “but it’s over.”

“The war is just an example,” Katon said, pointing to Azula. “You think I really wanted to marry that blood thirsty harlot and become part of that criminal family?” The people gasped. “The Royal Family serves only itself, not the people. All the people ever wanted was someone who cared. Not a power hungry animal hellbent on burning the world, and certainly not a puppet king serving the avatar and the rest of the world without a mind of his own. The fallen woman we call a princess had the opportunity to be just that. But she’d rather turn herself into a Southern Water Tribe whor- ” Sokka’s fist charged through Katon’s mouth at magnificent speed, cracking one of his front teeth.

“Guards,” the firelord said, sneering, “arrest him. I’ll deal with you later.”

“I don’t think so,” Katon said.

Battles broke out between the rebels and guards as the citizens ran for their lives. Team Avatar fought them with ease, but it was a surprisingly large amount. The royal family was ushered away to an underground bunker.

“There’s no way I’m letting Zuko fight while I hide away like a coward,” Azula said.

“They’re here because of you,” Ursa said. “It’s not safe.”

“I’m their princess,” Azula said, “the people need to be protected.”

First she snuck into the palace during the midst of the battle and readied her prized weapon.

And so she went onto the battlefield with her brother and his friends. She fought several people she recognized, using both strategy and strength.

They were winning, by a lot. In no time the rebels would be gone and she wouldn’t be worried about an arranged marriage. It all fell apart when Iroh and Zuko were both gravely wounded by Katon.

“Scoundrel!” she shrieked. She shot Illah’s arrow straight into Katon’s stomach, but the damage was already done.

“Let them die, Azula,” Katon said, sputtering blood of his own. You can be a queen finally. What did they do but abandon you after the war? You could have it all.” She could finally stop looking for a place in the new world. Quell her inner child. Sokka wouldn’t even know and they could be together. But something told her that her place in the new world was not sitting on a throne.

 

“Katara!” she howled. She saw that the girl was too busy fighting to aid her brother and uncle. Azula had never healed deadly wounds before, only gave them. Still, she took a deep breath as she tilted her brother’s head to reveal the oozing wound on his neck. She was using all her energy to redirect his chi, she had to be. Still, nothing. Instead she tried the same on Iroh’s wound. It turned out to not be as deadly as she’d anticipated, and he got up.

“Take him to the bunker, I’ll finish them off,” she said, wiping tears. Iroh nodded and fought off rebels as he tried to leave the battlefield.

She was the last of them out on the square.Eventually the rebels were defeated and retreated, and Azula ran to the underground bunker as soon as she could.

“Where is he-” before she could finish her question she saw the boy coughing violently. Not thinking, she crushed him in a bear hug.

“I already can’t breathe, Azula,” he said, smiling.

“Zheng and Katon have both made their way to hell,” Sokka said, “so what do we do now?”
“Well,” Azula said, taking his hand, “I guess that makes you the winner…”

“They aren’t actually engaged, right?!” Katara exclaimed.

“It just means Sokka can do whatever with Azula’s hand in marriage,” Iroh said.

“You’ll drop it right?” Azula asked, hiding disappointment.

“Meh,” Sokka said, shrugging, “we’ll get to that later.” He put his arm around Azula’s waist and pulled her close.

“Now,” Ursa said, “you’re really home, with all of your memories and no more secret contracts.”

“It’s true,” Azula agreed. “Everything is just about perfect.”