|Queen of Apology
Author: whutnot PM
After her breakdown, Azula behaves as the model prisoner in hopes to get out. When her brother goes easy on her, she thinks he is a fool for giving her a second chance. That is until a certain acrobat enters her life again.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Hurt/Comfort - Azula & Ty Lee - Chapters: 7 - Words: 33,195 - Reviews: 72 - Favs: 103 - Follows: 159 - Updated: 05-31-12 - Published: 04-15-12 - id: 8028106
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AN: So I finally got around to getting this chapter done! yay! I'm sorry to keep you guys waiting for so long. This chapter gave me a lot of trouble.
Thanks to Incidental Villainess for being my beta
It's been hours. Shouldn't she be awake by now? That was Azula's voice, Ty Lee was certain.
These things can take time. This time a female voice she did not recognize. Both were fuzzy in her ears, as if coming from very far away, or spoken through glass. She sustained some serious injuries. I can only do so much.
Azula, you should go get some sleep. Iroh now. You've had a hard day. We can watch over Ty Lee.
No. I'm not leaving her. The words sent a pleasant flutter through Ty Lee's heart. She cracked open her eyes, taking in the ceiling of the Jasmine Dragon. She wondered how Azula had gotten her there. The firebender was much too frail still to have carried her the entire way. Azula may have put on muscle and weight, but she was far from healthy still, and the fight would have taken a lot out of her.
Ty Lee shuddered as she remembered her last moments of consciousness. She could still see the man's face leaning over her, could still hear Azula's enraged shouts as she struggled to get free. After that, it was all a blank. With cold dread, she wondered what had happened. Had that earthbender….had he…..?
She chose not to think about it. Not yet, anyway. Her side ached fiercely, and she just wanted to go back to her nice tent and sleep. Then she remembered that she had planned on leaving with Azula before that explosion changed everything.
"Zula?" Ty Lee's voice came out weak and thin, but the firebender heard her and was at her side almost instantly.
"Just stay still, Ty Lee," she instructed, her voice not as gentle as the acrobat would have hoped, but still much warmer than it normally was. "You're still injured. This useless waterbender wasn't able to completely heal you. You have a few broken ribs and a lot of bruising. There were some…internal injuries, as well."
"Zula, did he….?" Ty Lee hesitated, not sure if she wanted the answer to her question. "Did he…."
"No." Ty Lee thought that something akin to nausea crossed over Azula's face for a brief moment, but it passed too quickly for her to be sure. "I was able to break free and stop him."
"You saved me."
"He should have known not to lay his filthy Earth Kingdom hands on a Fire Nation noble," Azula said.
"Ty Lee?" The other woman in the room, a middle aged waterbender, came forward. "My name's Rakura, and I'm a healer. Can you tell me if you're in any pain?"
"Yeah. My ribs are really sore, and my face hurts." The constant ache was hard to ignore.
"Your cheekbone was fractured slightly, but I've healed that," Rakura said. "There will be some tenderness for a few days. As for your ribs, I will see if I can do more now."
Ty Lee watched as she gathered the water from her pouch, bending it so that it pooled around her hands. Ty Lee did not know much about how waterbenders healed, but as Rakura's hands passed over her side, some of the tightness and pain was relieved. "Is that better?"
"Yes, much." Ty Lee flashed a smile to show her appreciation, and received a small one in return. Azula scowled at the exchange, which somehow only served to make Ty Lee feel even better. Then she saw that Azula's hands were bandaged.
"Zula! Your hands!"
"It's nothing. I'm fine." The former Princess crossed her arms, but Ty Lee saw that her jaw set just a little tighter as her injured hands brushed against her arms.
"She managed to give herself quite a few serious burns," Rakura informed Ty Lee, giving Azula an exasperated look.
Burned? Azula had never been burned. She was master of the flame, the best firebending prodigy to have ever existed.
"It's not important," Azula said dismissively.
"I imagine she did it breaking free of that earthbender's bonds," Rakura continued. "But she won't tell us exactly."
"Because it's really none of your business," Azula said. "All you need to do is insure that Ty Lee is alright."
"Did you let her heal you, Azula?" Ty Lee knew that the firebender could be ridiculously stubborn when it came to her pride.
"Of course. My hands are beautiful. I would never let them scar." She tossed her head airily. "Not that this hack could completely fix the damage."
"They'll be fine with time, Azula," the waterbender said, the exasperation in her voice as well as her face now.
"Okay. Good." Ty Lee felt her eyes drooping. "I'm kind of tired."
"That's to be expected," Rakura said. "You're body has been through a lot, and even with my help, healing is taking a lot out of it. If you feel like going back to sleep, do so."
"Kay." She let her eyes flutter shut, drifting off again, Azula still standing next to her.
Arguing voices woke her some time later, and she blearily opened her eyes to see several official looking guards debating heatedly with Iroh and Azula. Rakura was standing next to the table where Ty Lee was, watching with a tightened jaw and a frown.
"Sir, I'm afraid that I have no choice," one of the guards said, holding a pair of handcuffs. "She's accused of murdering two Earth Kingdom citizens. The third probably won't make it."
"It was self-defense," Azula spat. "What was I supposed to do? Let them rape me and my friend? If you idiots could do your jobs right, I wouldn't have had to kill them."
"One of the corpses was burned beyond recognition. That sounds excessive for self-defense."
"Dead is dead," Azula sneered. "Does it matter how dead he is?"
"Azula, let me handle this," Iroh cut in with a warning look. "Officer, can't you see that my niece and her friend were both injured? That has to give credit to her story."
"We can't take any chances. Not with this one. We know all about her. I'm going to have to take her in."
"You can be assured the Fire Lord will be hearing about this," Iroh said, but Ty Lee wasn't looking at him. She was looking at Azula who was standing rigidly next to her uncle, her muscles tense and her eyes wide.
"In? You can't. You can't lock me up again. I just did what I had to!" She was starting to crack. The careful façade she wore was slipping in the face of returning to a cell. "I couldn't let them kill us. I couldn't let her die!" Ty Lee almost gasped at the admission. Ty Lee's death had actually frightened the firebender, so much so that Azula had admitted it in front of an audience.
"Until we can verify your story, you have to come with us."
"I won't. You'll have to force me." Azula dropped into a firebending stance, and Ty Lee could tell that this would end badly.
The former Princess, turned her head to look at Ty Lee, but kept an eye on the guards.
"Don't do this, Azula," Ty Lee begged. "Please."
"They're going to take me back there."
Ty Lee groaned, pushing herself up on her elbows. "I know, but it's just for a little while. We didn't do anything wrong. It'll be okay. I promise." Azula looked like a caged animal, her eyes wide and crazed, but she kept them locked on Ty Lee now, as though clinging to her words.
"I can't, Ty. I can't….I'll lose it." It was as though there was no one else in the room. Just the two of them.
"I'll be there with you." It was a bold statement, but she would not let them take Azula alone. "If you take her, you're taking me, too."
"You're not being charged for anything, Miss," the head guard said. "Just the Princess."
"I was there, too!" Ty lee protested, not pointing out that Azula wasn't a princess anymore. "You can't prove that Azula was the one to kill them."
"They were burned to death, and we know you're not a bender."
"Well….I could have paralyzed them for her." Ty Lee did not know what to do, but she knew she had to do something. "You can't prove I didn't."
The guard sighed. "Fine. We'll take you both." He waved his hand dismissively, and his companions moved to cuff Ty Lee and Azula.
"Ty Lee, you're not healed yet," Rakura protested. "You need to stay here and rest."
"I'll be fine," Ty Lee said softly, allowing the guard to put on the metal cuffs. "Azula needs me."
Normally, the former Princess would have snapped back that she most certainly did not need Ty Lee, but instead, she was almost unrecognizable in her fear. She had herself placed behind Iroh, with her uncle between her and the guards, her body coiled and tense, ready to either fight or flee at a moment's notice. With some effort, Ty Lee hopped up from the table to stand next to Azula.
"Azula, please let the man put the handcuffs on you. I'll be with you the whole way. I'm not leaving you."
Azula nodded and held out her hands, her body relaxing ever so slightly.
The guard tentatively restrained her, obviously quite scared that she would attack at any moment.
"I demand to go with them," Iroh said. "I am responsible for Azula, so I will be there to defend her. She acted in self-defense, and we will prove this. I would ask that you see if Toph Bei Fong is available. She is accomplished at telling when someone is lying, and she has no love for my niece. You can be sure she will be an impartial judge."
"That's not my call," the guard replied. "I just follow orders. You can come down with us, but you'll have to ask my supervisor about Bei Fong."
Ty Lee relaxed at the mention of Toph. The earthbending master would know that they were telling the truth. Well, she would be able to tell that Ty Lee was telling the truth. Azula was a master liar, though Ty Lee didn't know if she could still fool Toph. She was not exactly stable at the moment.
"See? It's gonna be okay, Zula." Ty Lee followed behind the guard, her body still sore from her ordeal, and motioned for Azula to do the same. The former princess seemed to have regained herself again, and she took a deep breath as she and Ty Lee filed into the coach with the guards. Iroh promised to follow right behind them, and Ty Lee nodded while Azula stared resolutely out the window. She was trembling ever so slightly, not enough for anyone but Ty Lee to notice.
"Because of who you are and all the politics involved, we're taking you to the palace," the guard explained. Azula gave no indication that she had heard.
"Oh, okay," Ty Lee answered. "Can I ask that you keep us together. It's just that she might get….difficult if I'm not there." Ty Lee thought it very likely that Azula would try to kill her guards and escape if they were separated.
"We'll see." He eyed Azula, and Ty Lee knew that they would want to keep her as calm as possible. She also knew that if they knew who she was, then they would not make the mistake of underestimating her. They knew how smart she was, and no one but Ty Lee and Iroh knew how unstable she was at the moment, how unlikely she would be to actually come up with a viable plan. Azula had calmed herself somewhat, but Ty Lee could see that her eyes were still too wide, her breathing still too quick and shallow, and her body still too tense.
The ride to the palace was quiet from then on, with Azula sitting still and silent, and Ty Lee keeping a close eye on her. The former princess occasionally closed her eyes and pursed her lips, and Ty Lee wondered if she was seeing one of her apparitions. Was it her mother or her grandfather? Or both maybe? They would need Azula to be in her right mind to defend them since Ty Lee had been unconscious for some of the incident. If Azula broke down and lost it during their interrogation, then she had no hope. They would either ship her back to the Fire Nation where she would be sent right back to the loony bin, or they would imprison her in the Earth Kingdom.
They could execute her.
Ty Lee shuddered, pushing the thought from her mind. That would not happen. They had done nothing wrong. Well, Azula had been out without supervision, and she had been planning on fleeing, but those things seemed small in the face of the fact that several earthbenders had tried to kill them. Weren't they? Would whoever they had to answer to see it that way? She didn't know. Probably not. Even if she had not faced the same kind of charges as Azula after the war, Ty Lee was still somewhat responsible for a lot of atrocities against the Earth Kingdom.
"Alright, everyone out," the guard said, making Ty Lee realize that they had arrived. She awkwardly hopped out of the coach, hindered by her shackled hands. She looked behind her to keep as much eye contact with Azula as she could, but the firebender had her face set in indifferent stone. Azula, of course, was as graceful as ever as she got out. True to his word, Iroh pulled up right behind them, nodding reassuringly to Ty Lee. With him were the earthbender Mo and Rakura. All of them were marched inside, where Azula and Ty Lee were placed in a holding cell, still cuffed.
"Mo, you stay here with them while I go see if I can find out who's in charge," Iroh instructed. He and Rakura left, leaving Ty Lee and Azula with the Earth Kingdom guards and Mo. Azula sat cross-legged in the center of the cell, letting her hands rest in her lap and closing her eyes. She was, Ty Lee realized, meditating. Rather than disturb her, Ty Lee practiced what acrobatic moves she could with her hands bound, ignoring the way it made her ribs protest. She was sitting with her feet resting on her head when Iroh returned with a very official looking man. Azula cracked open an eye, and then stood.
"Azula, this is Captain Yang. He's in charge of your case."
"Well, I certainly hope he's competent."
"You're just as charming as everyone said," Yang drawled, looking completely unimpressed with the firebender. "I'm here to take your statements. We'll do this again in two days if Toph Bei Fong decides that you are worth her time. She's very busy in the colonies helping the Avatar and the Fire Lord establish the United Republic. If she can verify your story, then you'll be free to go."
"And if not?" Azula asked.
"Then there's not much hope of you leaving here." He raised a brow at her, his face clearly saying how he felt about the firebender. Ty Lee wondered if he had been personally affected by Azula's actions in the war. Probably.
"I'd ask that should I be found guilty, that my penalty would be death," Azula said, holding her head high, looking every bit as royal as her blood.
"Hush, Ty Lee."
"I told you to hush!" Azula glared at the acrobat, obviously furious at being interrupted and contradicted in front of everyone. "I will not be locked up again. If I am to face punishment for a crime of which I am innocent, then I would rather die than sit in a cell the rest of my life." Ty Lee was certain that she was the only to see the fear in Azula's eyes. She was so calm and collected now, so much like her old self, but the acrobat knew it was not the true Azula any longer.
"I'm sure that can be arranged," Yang said. "A lot of people wanted it to happen four years ago. I doubt there will be any protests."
"Azula, are you sure that is what you want?" Iroh asked. "I'm sure your brother can get you some sort of-"
"I've made my decision," the former princess said, cutting off her uncle. "No need to bring Zuzu into it."
"If you insist."
Ty Lee would have preferred if Iroh tried harder to convince Azula to change her mind, but they both knew that the former princess would not fare well in prison. The end result would likely be the same, and Ty Lee shuddered at the thought.
"Now that that's settled, tell me, Princess Azula, what were you doing in the Lower Ring to begin with?"
"I was in the Middle Ring with my escort, going to the market to retrieve some things for my uncle."
"Only the one guard?" Yang turned to look questioningly at Iroh.
"Azula has proven that she is not going to run off at a moment's notice," he lied easily. "She has had plenty of opportunities. Mo is an accomplished earthbender, and is capable enough to handle her."
"Alright, so you were in the Middle Ring. What happened next?"
"We were shopping when the explosion happened." Azula's lids were drooped, giving her an air of great boredom. "By the way, have you found who was responsible? Because I would think something of that magnitude would be a little more of a priority than one little firebender."
"We're still working on it, not that it's any of your concern." Yang looked a little miffed. "How did you get to the Lower Ring?"
"In all the confusion, I got separated from what's his face, and I knew that Ty Lee would be near the explosion." She lazily inspected her nails, her body relaxed to all but the trained eye. "I would have tried to find my chaperone first, but there was no time. I could tell there were a lot of fires, and Ty Lee is not a bender, so I was …..concerned for her safety. So I went to the Lower Ring. When I found her, we started making our way back to the Jasmine Dragon, but we were attacked. A man recognized me. He had been in the Dai Li, and had resented my take over. It seems he wanted to take his revenge. We were off the main path, and it seemed very much like a set up to me."
"You think that he planned this?"
"Perhaps so. It was quite the coincidence that so many former Dai Li agents were in one place, wasn't it?" She arched a brow at Yang. "There were six total."
"How could you know they were all Dai Li?"
"I am very familiar with how they fight," Azula reminded him. "It was quite obvious, really. I knew those moves."
"I know the reputation of the Dai Li," Yang said. "I've seen them fight. You can't expect me to believe that you fought them off."
Azula actually laughed, one that sent a chill down Ty Lee's spine. "I thought you knew who I am."
"I also know that you haven't firebended in years."
"I am the best there is, disregarding my ….esteemed uncle here. I was able to fend them off. Not without injury, though." Azula's casual façade dropped for a moment as she glanced at Ty Lee. "I used lighting to kill one man. It was the fastest way. Ty Lee was restrained. She was not ready for them like I was. I knocked several more unconscious, but the last one was able to catch me from behind, like a coward. He had us both pinned to the ground. As he was readying himself to rape Ty Lee, I was able to break free from my restraints. I sustained severe burns from doing so, in case you needed evidence." She stuck out her bandaged hands and jerked her head towards Rakura. "She can attest to our injuries."
Yang inclined his head to the waterbender.
"Ty Lee did come in with severe injuries," Rakura said. "Several broken ribs, facial fracture, and internal bleeding. And Azula's hands were also severely burned. The medical evidence supports her story."
"Very well. Continue."
"When I broke free, I turned my flames on the man. I did not stop until I was sure he was dead. I am not…." Azula gritted her teeth and looked over at Ty Lee again. "I am not as strong as I once was, so I did not want to risk him getting back up. Hence his unrecognizable state."
Ty Lee wanted to hug Azula, to comfort her for admitting something that she would never have admitted before. Her weakness. Perhaps no one else in the room knew what this meant for Azula, who had never been anything but perfect, but Ty Lee knew that had to have been one of the hardest things Azula had ever had to admit. From the way Iroh looked at her, Ty Lee could tell that he had some inkling of what Azula had just said, of what that meant, but he kept quiet.
"A shop keeper helped me carry Ty Lee back to the Jasmine Dragon," Azula continued. "My uncle called up this waterbender to heal her. And then your people showed up."
"Very well." Yang turned to look at Ty Lee. "Your turn. We would normally take your statements separately, but since General Iroh has such…sway, I have forgone that. So, tell me, what do you remember?"
"Um…well, it was right before a show, and I was…getting ready to perform." Ty Lee tried her best not to look at Azula and to keep her voice steady as she lied. Her heart sank as she realized that if Toph Bei Fong did come, she would easily be able to tell that Ty Lee was lying, and that she and Azula had been planning on leaving. She swallowed and continued. "And then there was the explosion, and everything happened so fast. Everyone was running everywhere and I was trying to help get animals out, and then I saw Azula, and she was yelling my name and…and I joined her. Then we started walking back, and we got lost because of all the confusion. And then those earthbenders attacked us. I fell down and I couldn't move cause my hands and feet were all trapped in earth. And Azula….Azula protected me as best she could, but there were so many. She fought them off, and used lighting on one of them, and then one came up behind us and he knocked her down and trapped her. And then he….he…" Ty Lee shuddered at the memory.
"Ty Lee," Azula said softly, surprising everyone. "You don't have to."
"I do, Zula. I can't let you go to prison for this when all you were doing was protecting me." Ty Lee took a deep breath. "First he had a knife, and he was going to kill me, I guess. I don't know. But then he decided that he was going to make…he said he wanted us to suffer for everything the Fire Nation had done. And he was going to…to rape me, and I was so scared." Her body began trembling slightly, and she saw Azula's eyebrows twitch as the former princess struggled to keep her expression neutral. "I can't remember much of what happened after that, but I know that he…kicked me a lot, and that he hit my face, and then it's all kind of fuzzy for a while and then…I can't remember anything after that."
"And that's when you killed him?" Yang asked, addressing Azula again.
"I see." He thought for a moment before nodding. "Very well. We'll take your story under consideration. Iroh, I would ask that I speak to Mo here alone and see if he can corroborate Azula's story."
"Of course," Iroh said easily. Ty Lee almost let her panic show on her face, but neither Iroh nor Azula seemed concerned, so she kept her composure. Yang led Mo out of the holding area, leaving Iroh, Rakura, and a few guards with Azula and Ty Lee. The water bender spoke quietly to one of the guards who nodded after a moment. They walked over, and he let the waterbender into the cell.
"Ty Lee, I would like to check your injuries again," she explained. "I would have liked for you to have been more rested before coming down here, but this is the best I can get."
"Oh, okay." Ty Lee let her assess the fading injuries, wincing slightly as the waterbender pressed against her still bruised ribs.
"Alright, it's looking pretty good, but I want you to take it as easy as you can, okay? That means no acrobatics."
"But they help me relax. I'm no good at meditation like Azula is."
"The more you move around, the longer it will take for you to heal," Rakura explained. "The choice is yours, I suppose."
"Ty Lee, just listen to her," Azula said, her cold demeanor dropping slightly now that Yang was gone. "You've been hurt enough."
"Okay, Zula." She sat down, folding her legs under her. The guard escorted Rakura back out, locking the cell door behind him. "I'll take it easy." Azula nodded and settled back into her meditation position.
"Will you two be okay tonight?" Iroh asked. "I'm not allowed to stay with you, but I will fight that if you need me to."
"We'll be fine, Uncle," Azula said dismissively. Ty Lee was not so sure, and she was worried that Azula would lose it if they were in there too long.
"Okay. I will return tomorrow. Hopefully Toph will come and be able to get you two out of here."
"Don't count on it," Azula said, closing her eyes. "Bei Fong hates me. She's got no reason to help us."
"Toph doesn't hate me," Ty Lee said. "I got to know her after I got out of prison. And she adores your uncle."
"We'll see. Now if you don't mind, I'd like to see if I can get some rest."
"Course, Zula." Ty Lee shrugged at Iroh as Azula shut them out. The acrobat wondered if this was Azula's way of dealing with her apparitions. She knew that Azula had been talking to them earlier, before she had realized that Ty Lee had found her. From the sounds of it, there had been two people appearing to the former princess. That really worried Ty Lee, who had thought that Azula was getting better. Clearly, she was just getting better at hiding her symptoms. If they got out of this, Ty Lee promised herself that she would risk Azula's wrath and talk to the firebender about her problem. It couldn't be healthy to keep it all to herself.
In the meantime, Ty Lee prayed to Agni that Toph Bei Fong would take pity on them.