Author: Passionworks PM
Belated birthday present for TrueThinker. Envy conceals itself within the heart of the most tattered of human beings. And it can only emerge through the scars that mar the flesh...Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Romance - Azula - Words: 3,765 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 2 - Published: 06-14-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6052461
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: This is a belated (extremely belated, might it be said) birthday gift for TrueThinker (considering her birthday was in May)… I'm sorry I couldn't get this to you sooner, chica! But I do hope you had a wonderful birthday!
I think you'll really like this one (or, at least I can hope). It's Ozula and Zhaozula – very appropriate subject matter! I look forward to seeing what you think!
This piece shows three sides of jealousy, all angling at the position of Azula's romantic affections.
I do apologize for the OOC-ness of Azula. But, as the wonderfully wise Nikkel said to me, "It wouldn't be the first time."
The bedroom is blackened as light fails to hit the entrance from the distant halls. Shadows lack exposure, for they are blanketed by the stillness. They dare not to stir, flit, or prance, as if they are inclined by instinct to protect those who dwell amongst them. Here, two figures sit; only the sounds of their simultaneous exhales can be heard.
The silence renders itself broken. "Azula, don't you believe that your father will question your whereabouts?" Zhao asks the princess nervously, holding back a breath, though the uneasiness in his voice is a false representation of how he truly feels at the moment. "Especially now, since you should be attending the ball?"
"Zhao, you should know my father is a man of politics, not a glorified sitter," Princess Azula snarls at him. She then follows the admiral's eyes and looks down at her low-cut dress, where a garnet necklace is dangling between her breasts. She carefully removes it, cupping it in the palm of her hand.
"We are going to get caught in here. He'll immediately suspect you to be with me. I sure he's aware that something is going on between the two of us."
"So what?" The princess sets the necklace into her jewelry box; it is laced with golden corners and beautiful, fiery patterns on its lid. She traces her finger along it, enjoying the coldness of it on the tip of her skin. "We haven't done anything."
"Yeah? Do you expect him to believe that?" Zhao asks with brows furrowed. He sets himself on the edge of Azula's king-sized bed, his foot neurotically twitching on the finely carpeted floor.
"No, I don't." The fourteen-year-old firebender presses her upper back against the dresser, laying her arms across the flat top, allowing her wrists to hang limply; her dangling fingertips peck at the front. She sharply flips her hair from her face, letting the mass of tresses trickle like water down her back. "Still, he can't prove that anything unlawful has occurred between us."
Zhao swallows. "Why can't he?"
Quizzically, Azula studies the confused male's face, eying his age lines. She understands where this conversation is leading to at once. And it does not unnerve her in the least. "Zhao, dear," she starts, now pulling herself into an upright position, "do you honestly believe that I am virginal? Father stole away my innocence years ago. He cannot prove that you even touched me, or even looked at me, for that matter."
He offers an awkward glance, evidently stunned by Azula's random admission. He avoids contact with the subject, as if too embarrassed to acknowledge it. "If he discovers this, I'm sure he can prove the latter."
Azula shakes her head dismissively and extends her left arm out in front of her, examining her nails –nails perfectly polished and sharpened to kill.
"Let him," she finally utters softly, though her voice shows no signs of defeat or regression. "Let him discover his own daughter's disobedience."
"I don't think you truly want that to happen."
"Really?" The princess sharply turns to him. "And why might you say that?"
"You love your father…" He recognizes that this was probably the wrong thing to say to the princess, especially when she is in one of her many moods. "Or, at least you probably respect his authority."
"Zhao, you are not in the position to make such immature presumptions."
"There is nothing immature about what I have said." He stands now, providing just the slightest gap between the princess and himself. "Can't a man worry for someone other than himself? I've seen you in courtyard with your father.
"I do believe you fear him…"
Azula's eyes widen, her dim pupils brightening. She feels her cheeks blush just under the utmost layer of her skin. Her embarrassment is heated, almost like a fever peaking.
"I –I don't fear my father," is her falsely defiant answer. Her tone cracks like a faltering vocalist attempting to reach the highest string of notes. She miserably lacks success.
"Yes you do."
Zhao's hand slides across her cheek, taking some of the heat out of her. She calms down briefly, allowing her face to press against his palm like a newborn practicing the rooting reflex. His hand leisurely slithers down the curves of her neck and to her shoulders, where he welcomes the princess to a gracious embrace. She accepts it, pushing herself against his robed chest.
At this point, Azula is not up to crying, but she's sure she's allowed a tear or two to fall. She internally curses herself –only after the pity seems to fade.
"You can leave if you wish to," she says almost submissively. She is afraid to let him see her in this condition, so cornered and tremendously alone. Plus, it is her main objective to avoid the subject Zhao has just presented to her. "I shouldn't hold you back as I have. It is just that this will be the last time I shall see you before you head off for the Northern Water Tribe."
The admiral's lips brush against her ear as he whispers, "Is this why you left the ball in such a rush, to see me, to talk to me about this? My leave, of all things?"
Azula squirms from Zhao's burly arms like a baby wiggling in a bundle. Not answering him, she sends a sweeping hand to her eyelashes, wiping at them and removing anything she may have shed. Finding nothing but dried streaks, she cocks her head at him, exposing her now heavily dilated pupils. Her look is a strange conjuring of both innocence and depression –that sort of expression that stands for a lack of understanding, an expression of marked confusion.
"Are you," Zhao starts, hesitating, "trying to say that you somehow love me, Princess? Love me over your father?"
"Is there anything wrong with that?" The young woman bites her lip and clutches a shaky fist to her bosom.
"No, but I find it a bit odd." He looks to the door; light seems to be creeping in ever so slightly from the corridor. The doorframe is now illuminated, the wooden lining ejecting a fleshy hue, but darker, more like rosin deriving from the sap of pine trees. "You are not one to openly form attachments. Something to do with your cold demeanor, you once told me –back when I made my first attempts to court you a good few years back."
Her face hardens, but she emits a tacky, insidious laugh. Her tongue clicks as if Zhao is nothing more than a schoolboy in need of a lesson. It is as if she has now turned the page on her emotions, leaving her episode of sadness behind her like words forgotten. "Oh, reminiscing on those days, are you, Zhao?" she inquires, now without fault in her voice. She haughtily steps forward. "Tell me; are you now suddenly envious of my father for having me as his lover? I'm curious about the subject of your own feelings, since you seem so interested in mine."
She pauses, raises her brow and winks. "To be honest, I think you are."
Ozai's black beard twists between his straight-edged fingers like string looped through a needle. His enchanting honey eyes roam across his chamber, taking in the stillness he sees, capturing it like a snapshot. Uncurling his digits, he taps them at the colossal gold arms of his throne, striking the tune of his boredom.
He mutters a defeated breath.
"You requested my presence, milord?" a dim figure calls out from the elegant aegis that marks the royal entrance.
"Oh, good, good. Yes, do come in, Admiral."
Admiral Zhao splits the robe-like flap to the side, slipping into the chamber as if emerging from a hollow womb and penetrating the light of the earth. Striding gallantly, he clears his throat, and, in a lofty tone, says, "I hope I am not impeding upon your time, sir."
"You are not," Ozai gently replies. He stretches his arm from his frame, opening his palm and assigning the admiral a spot at the war table. "I have been expecting you. Please, do sit."
Zhao sits down and folds his legs, waiting good-naturedly for any further instruction from his lord.
"Would you mind it if I came down to the table, Zhao?"
"Whatever you prefer is fine by me, milord."
"Right. I shall join you, then."
Ozai rises from the throne in one fine, swift motion. Swishing his crimson robe, he pretentiously steps down from the podium, his visage carrying a devious smile.
"So, Lord Ozai," Zhao courtly states, folding his hands together and setting them against the stilted table, "what, may I ask, is the reason you have called me down?"
Ozai hastily frowns. His eyes seem to darken in his newfound annoyance, or, at least they seem to lose their bright gradient.
"You know very well why I have called you down here, you pompous ass!"
Steam licks at the Firelord's nostrils like a dragon poised but subdued. He exhales, sending some of the heat out through his mouth. He can just taste his smoldering breath on his palette.
The now flustered admiral ascends from the floorboards. He snorts. "Milord, why the sudden change in attitude? Whatever is the matter with you?"
"How dare you question me! You sit back down right now."
The admiral grumbles to himself and sits. Coughing into his fist, he stares upward, silently hoping the Firelord would hurry on with this ill-mannered meeting.
"Last evening, Zhao."
"Any specifics, sir?" Zhao asks, suddenly exposing a deceitful grin.
"Is there any reason for you to be smiling like that, Admiral? Is there something you wish to tell me?"
"Currently, given the situation, no. You have not informed me of anything, milord." The corners of Admiral Zhao's thick lips fall back.
"You mean to tell me that you don't recall the ball held last night?" He is raising his voice –it echoes about the room.
"Oh, yes," Zhao gleefully admits. "It was an honor to be in attendance."
"As rewarding as that sounds," Ozai retorts, "the honor was not mine."
"Why not, milord? Did something not go as planned?"
"A matter of fact, yes." The Firelord resumes stroking his beard with his fingers. Twisting the very tip, he contemplates his next move before the admiral. He steps forward, swift, but undoubtedly convoluted in movement. His left hand reaches out and an accusatory index finger sets itself squarely between Zhao's beady eyes. It holds itself in place; it is as unwavering as a knife blade waiting to cut flesh.
"I was informed that you took advantage of my daughter last night, Zhao. And do not deny it."
Zhao is flabbergasted. "I do deny it! I did nothing of the sort to her, sir."
"Then, what is it that you did?" There is a flicker of fire formulating at the very tip of Ozai's finger, sparkling like an electrical current.
"We were just talking, sir. I'm sure you witnessed many men discussing matters with her last night. Why am I the one who stands out to you?"
"Talking? You are lying." Ozai is clenching his other hand into a whitened, almost pulsating fist, tiny flames ejecting from his knuckles. "My sources tell me you did something far more sinister."
The admiral stands and grabs hold of his lord's wrist, pushing it back from his face.
"And, what would be your definition of sinister, milord?"
"I think you are already aware."
"I am, am I? Care to regale me, in case my memory has failed me?"
Drawing a defensive foot forward, Ozai growls, "Do you think that your rank entitles you to speaking so rudely with your lord? I can have your titled stripped, you know. You are nothing more than a worthless minion; I can easily find a replacement. Chan has more potential than you do, apparently, since he does not undermine authority by engaging in criminal relations with my daughter. Would you like to have your title slain just weeks after its instatement?"
"Uh, uh, no, sir, I would not."
Zhao grits his teeth, the muscles on his neck tensing in the heat of his stress.
With his instruction said, Ozai clears his throat and crosses his clothed arms. "Last night, there was a celebratory ball held in the palace that marked the anniversary of our takeover of the last of the Air Temples. Azula was present, my most respected men and their wives were present –I expected no form of foul play. Within an hour of your arrival, one of my guards informed me that you snuck out of the ballroom with my daughter and the both of you hid yourselves in her room. Care to explain this?"
"She wished to speak privately, with me alone, over the matters involving the upcoming usurpation of the Northern Water Tribe. We discussed strategic aspects of the mission, sir."
"Strategies, you say, Zhao?"
"Strategies and nothing more, Firelord Ozai."
"Well then, do you have any explanation as to why your conversation led to you taking advantage of Azula?"
"I certainly did not take advantage of her. I piously claim my innocence. I have a wife and grown son of my own; I don't need to amuse myself with outside relationships."
"I disagree. You told her you loved her."
"It was Azula herself who admitted to love. Not me, milord." His arms cross and meet his pectorals. He is correct in statement. He never admitted to any sort of affection towards the princess; he simply made a small suggestion of Azula's feelings.
"You blame Azula for what you have so openly done?" Ozai's eye widen in their sockets. Snarling, he trudges forward once more.
Zhao finds no intimidation. He finds his own form of strength. "Firelord Ozai, if –and only if –I took advantage of Azula, would it have made you…
Princess Azula considers her father to be nothing more than a common boar. The vulgarity of his actions reminds her of the average slob. He pleasures himself and leaves her tousled, broken, and naked amidst cold sheets. She often thinks of herself as a symbol of wrongdoing, a crime, like she is that bloodied corpse being examined by the glassy, shameless eye of a microscope. As a matter of fact, he has been keeping better watch over her lately, asking her pressing questions, addressing her in sly, suggestive tones. It only makes her more distant. There is no question that an embodiment of nothingness exists between them. It is a rift; with every advance he makes, it opens further, almost like a scab picked from a healing wound. In a valiant effort to mend itself, it repairs the layers, bit by bit, but an agitated scratch always penetrates it. And it swills, bleeding its tears until it hardens into a deeper gash.
Then, the process repeats, only to fail once more. And the injury just expands, inviting a variety of infections.
The Firelord is atop her now, pushing himself against her skeletal frame. He is looking her in the eyes, as if anticipating an admission statement, or possibly a simple slip of the tongue. He smirks, the corner of his lip tugging upward like the thread that levitates a lively puppet.
"Azula," he states in a venomous tone, "I missed your company at the ball last night. It was a shame you left."
This is another one of his tricks. He wants her to say something she will regret later.
Azula is hesitant to answer; her mouth opens, but her words stay locked at the very tip of her tongue. She emits a shameful sigh instead, swallowing her comments down her gullet.
"Come now, Azula," her father persists, "I'm sure you have a reason for leaving. Why can't you be honest with me?"
"Who are you to say something like that, Father?" Azula growls in spite of herself. Gasping at her sudden eruption, she flinches, just waiting for him to send a malicious hand to her cheek, as he so often does when she disobeys his command.
Ozai does not slap her. He roughly grasps her chin, pulling her face to his.
"Are you suggesting that I lack integrity, when it is you who holds back now?"
She is quick to reply as she should: "I apologize, Father."
He releases her chin mercilessly, letting her head flail back to the pillow it was resting upon just seconds before.
"Do you expect me to find sincerity in your apology, Azula? After what you did last night?"
The princess yawns, pulling her arms up above her, fists clenching. "Am I not allowed to exit a party on my own terms? I was tired, went to my room, rested up –"
"With Zhao. Tell me why you had to have another man with you when you put yourself to rest."
He knows. She should have seen this coming.
She searches for an answer, probes her conscience for some sort of explanation to cover for the admiral.
The honest truth is her only solution. "Zhao followed me. I wished to speak with him about his departure."
That rift of nothingness swirls about in the form of pregnant silence. It filters the bedroom, seals the air, clogs the premises like a pore. Ozai breathes through the invisible mass, sending an alarming declaration to his daughter.
"Funny," he says with a stifled laugh, "Zhao told me a similar thing when I spoke to him earlier today."
"You spoke with him, Father?"
"Why, yes, of course I did. Do you think I would just allow his insolent act to go without reprimand, or some form of acknowledgement?"
He lifts himself off of her. As if blessed by a miracle, Azula feels the heaviness ease from her breastbone, like she's been pulled from a pressure-filled womb. Ozai stands up, pacing the perimeter of the bed. He does this when he is perturbed, she has noticed; he does it rarely, though, meaning he is seldom nervous.
"You told Zhao that you loved him." His tone has undoubtedly changed. "Is this true? Have I been wed a woman who loves another?"
"I didn't think you'd care less if I became romantically attached to Zhao."
He glowers at her like she's a child caught in an act. "I'll have you know that your presumption is wrong."
Azula pulls a crimson sheet to her breasts. The blanket spills from her chest in a manner that symbolizes her bleeding heart. "Your concern isn't out of love; I know that much, Father."
"Then what would it be out of? Pity, shame? Envy? That's what Zhao suggested; did you know that?"
"I did not," Azula answers unwaveringly. "Which do you think it is?"
"Envy," he repeats. The princess is aware that he did not hear her question –or care to answer it, for that matter. "Azula?"
She does not look up, and simply states, "I'm listening."
"Zhao is off to the Northern Water Tribe in a week."
"I am aware."
"Do you know why I instated him instead of my more experienced men?"
Azula frowns. "Spite, possibly. You saw him as competition and gave him a reason to stop seeing me."
Ozai sits back on the bed. It bounces upon his impact, the coiled springs creaking as if seized by a throbbing ache.
"No. I assigned the duty to him because there is little chance he will survive. He has this ridiculous notion that he will slay the moon. He's gone mad over it, like it is an obsession. His delirium is likely to render him distracted. He's an easy target. We will win over the Northern Water Tribe, but I doubt the men will return with their leading admiral."
"You want to kill an honorable man?"
"He slept with you; he is not honorable."
Azula tensed. "He did not. Like I said, we talked is all."
This conversation would bring forth no results; Ozai already learned that from Zhao. There was another question that had yet to be answered. "What is it that compelled you to choose his affections over mine, Azula?"
"So, you are envious of him," Azula says in realization.
"Why would I show envy towards a delusional man?"
"Yes, why would you?"
Indeed. Why would he? The princess hides the humiliation on her countenance. She turns onto her stomach and buries her face in her arms. It irks her. How two men could vie for her affections without any indication of concern for her opinions. She is cornered, concealed within the shadows of her pursuers. She sees herself as nothing more than game, the pelted quarry ogled by the archer's bloodstained arrow. The envy her father speaks so ill of is her own. She is the quintessential object of jealousy –Envy's human persona. Resentment is physical; it has blood and veins and a heart that beats. This heart is a capsulation of a fragile exterior. No longer is the muscle thick like leather and difficult to penetrate. It is as flimsy and weak as a liver: no matter how many times you try to seal the wounds shut, you end up with an indistinguishable mass of damaged tissue in the end. Useless tissue. This is the truth behind Envy. It holds limitations. Breathes them.
Azula stares blankly at one of her various yellowed bruises. Useless tissue. Those who encounter Envy leave their stitches behind like fingerprints; the wounds may heal but the scars still remain…