It wasn't until much, much later that Azula finally realized the truth: she was all alone now.
It was so simple, really, and the fact of the matter broke her in ways she never knew a person could break. It changed her more than anything, and to Azula change was scary. The Princess of the Fire Nation was not a person of change—nothing in her life had affected her so much, especially not so easily.
When her cousin Luten had died, she had merely shrugged and walked on, her biggest concern at the time was that Father now had a larger chance at becoming Fire Lord. When her mother vanished, Azula merely used it as an extra taunt to use on Zuko, never severing that emotional tie (perhaps one had never been there in the first place, who knew?).
And when grandfather died and Father became Fire Lord? Well, she was happy, to be true, (now she had a chance to take the throne away from Zuko), but did she care? Not really, no. Azula never cared—not even when Zuko, her low-life, idiot of a brother, the only obstacle in her path to ultimate power, was banished. It pleased her that her brother was gone and out of her way, securing her place as Fire Lady, but it didn't change her at all. The only thing different about the overbearing Princess was she walked with a little more grace and flattered herself a little bit more, her arrogance just a little more overbearing than normal.
Really, Azula was just the same as she had ever been: confident, powerful, beautiful, and all while being just a tiny bit terrifying, but that was how she liked it. She never wanted to be one of those stupid, sniveling Princess you hear about in fairy tales, the ones whose greatest concern is marrying Prince Charming and finding just the right shoes to go with that dress at the ball. Azula hated those stories, especially when her mother told them, because Mother always had this God-awful way of saying things, telling you things, that made them and everything in the world seem perfect and beautiful, when in reality it was merely weak and worthless. Azula did not want to be weak, did not want to be fragile, and certainly did not want to break.
Which is why when Mai, her cherished and beloved childhood friend, died (at the hands of the Avatar's blind little girlfriend no less, who, incidentally, was trying to stop Azula from taking her lover away, but failed), Azula did not cry. Not one tear was shed for Mai, not one single word of mourning for her dear old friend escaped from the Fire Princess's lips, in both private and in public. To do so would have shown a weakness, and not even in remembrance of Mai, for all her companionship, advice, and loyalty, deserved to bring out such in Azula.
Not even Ty Lee's betrayal brought out a response from Azula. Really, Ty Lee's betrayal was inevitable, almost as much as Zuko's. The bright, pink, and bubbly girl might have been a close friend of Azula's during their childhood, what with all the cartwheels and twirls and surprisingly useful acrobatics disguised as play they did, but the problem resided in the fact that Ty Lee had stayed that way. Even after she ran away, (to join the circus, of all the silly and absolutely ridiculous things to do!) and it was years until she saw her again, Ty Lee was still the same. She was still innocent, still naïve, and still so damn oblivious to the chaos and destruction that she was help causing.
Or so Azula thought. Apparently Ty Lee wasn't as blind or naïve as she liked to act, for it must not have taken much for the Avatar and his rowdy gang of misfits (her brother among them) to convince the Princess's friend to join them in their ranks. She imagined that it only took a few simple words (killing is wrong), a few simple gestures (Can't you see that you're hurting people?), perhaps a few equally simple examples (I've turned my back on the Fire Nation and I'm the crown Prince, don't you think you can as well?) or maybe it was a different sort of incisive altogether (she always did fancy that boy with the boomerang) that took Ty Lee away, she would never know at this point.
When she finally confronted her former friend about her betrayal, Ty Lee's answer had shocked her.
"Oh, stop it, Azula!" Ty Lee had screeched, her arms crossed dutifully in anger. "Stop acting like you care!"
When asked what she meant by that, Ty Lee was more than happy to explain.
"You've never cared, Azula. Not about me, not even about Mai. We were always just tools to you."
No you weren't, she wanted to say, but for some reasons the words could not escape her mouth. (Emotion is a weakness.) All that was left was stone-cold silence and a hardened glare. (I am not weak; I will be strong.)
Ty Lee had simply cried. "You don't even care now, do you, Azula? It's just about power to you. You don't understand the concept of friendship, or love, or even family, do you?"
I understand family, her mind spoke but her mouth refused, thinking of her father. I understand love, she had thought quietly, though could think up no real example. I thought I understood friendship but I guess you've set out to prove me wrong.
All the while, Azula had remained silent while Ty Lee quietly sobbed. "All you've ever cared about, all you've ever wanted has been to become the Fire Lord. All the lies you've told, all the deaths you've helped cause…It's all been for one single purpose, only one end goal, hasn't it?" Azula nodded slowly, the closest thing to a reaction Ty Lee would ever get out of her any more.
She wiped the tears off of her face and looked Azula in the eyes one last time. It was the last time Azula would ever speak to Ty Lee, yet she knew at the time what the girl had to say was important, but when the words finally came they were unexpected.
"I hope you win." Ty Lee spoke quietly. Azula gapped at her. "I hope you win, I hope you become the Fire Lady." Azula shook her head, was she dreaming? "I hope you become the Fire Lady, and I hope it's worth it. I hope all the lives lost, all the chances taken and broken, all the pain, all the suffering…I just hope it will all be worth it to you in the end."
She said no more after that, merely turned and walked away, leaving Azula to soak in what she had said.
It began to rain.
The slow drip drip drip of the rain thinly caressed her skin, but she did not leave her place in the grassy meadow. Hands that had mastered fire at such an early age were now soaked in warm rainwater while thunder roared in the distance overhead. Her mind reeled when she saw the lightning strike the land ahead of her, seemingly moving towards her. Her eyes narrowed (I am not weak); she had mastered the cold flame but the world around her seemed to want to test her, to challenge her. Very well then, if the rain and the thunder wanted her to prove her worth than she would be more than willing to demonstrate it.
She threw her hands into a stance, readying herself physically.
I am the daughter of Ozai.
Her eyes searched the horizon, noting every speck of detail about her environment. She was preparing mentally.
I am Fire.
I am not weak like my mother, she thought vaguely of Ursa's quiet smile as she held Azula, at the time a little more than a squalling infant, as she cried during a roaring storm.
Or my cousin and Uncle, she remembered little of her cousin Luten, Zuko always hung around him not her, though she did remember the look on Uncle Iroh's face when he returned from Bai Sing Sei, looking like little more than a broken shell of his former self.
Or my brother, she thought of Zuko last, first as a child who looked at her in awe, in fear, and in hatred, and then as an adolescence who first instinct was to avoid her at all costs, and lastly as an adult (Was he so grown-up now that he was to be considered an adult? He still seemed like such a child to her…), fearless and unwavering in his beliefs and loyalties.
She watched as the lightning came closer, closer.
Focus, she told herself, readying her breathing…
…but for some reason that was hard to do, because Ty Lee's words—
All you've ever cared about is power, isn't it?
--were coming back to haunt her. Focus, you must focus! She chided her wandering mind, but to no avail.
You don't understand the concept of friendship, or love, or even family, do you?
"I do," She whispered out loud, though there were none to hear her. "I understand family, and love. Everything I have done, everything I will do, I have done for my father, because I love him. Because I want to make him proud."
What of friendship, then?
She thought back to Mai's death, her own uncaring eyes and nonchalant heart. She thought back to Ty Lee's betrayal, her impassiveness to which it happened, believing it to be inevitable.The lightning is coming closer.
So it was. She could see the lightning from afar as it came closer, closer…Goddamn it FOCUS, Azula!
…Closer, closer, until it was right before her. She bended her arm, preparing herself for the incoming lightning that was coming, coming…Great Spirits, what have I done?
She sat there for hours, possibly more, until the rain and the thunder and the damn lightning were all gone, now nothing more than a memory. The sun was still up and the gentleness of spring had taken over, drying her off and keeping her warm, although she could have easily used her firebending it felt good to let the sun dry her naturally.
She wasn't dead, though by all rights she should be dead; the lightning had struck her and she had been unable to bend it away. She had felt the electric jolt pass through her heart, though for some reason it did not kill or even injure her.
She spent the rest of her time during the storm trying to bend the lightning, but failed every single time. It should have been easy, should have been natural to her, but she couldn't. She could barely even firebend, struggling to hold even the smallest of sparks in her hand. She wondered quietly if the lightning had done something to her, wondered if it had disrupted her bending, but as the storm ended her fire became more powerful, until it was exactly as it had always been.
But she still could not bend the lightning she had once been so proud of.
A part of her knew why couldn't, but she refused to admit it.
Lightning is cold, deadly, and precise. It is not fueled by emotions like other forms of firebending, but rather the lack of emotion.
She was not weak.
In order to bend the lightning you must let go of your feelings.
She had no feelings.
Mother's gone. Why did she go? Why did she have to leave?
She was Princess Azula.
Zuko's gone too. Father banished him. I doubt I'll ever see him again…
The daughter of Fire Lord Ozai.
Mai's not breathing…she's not…No, she's not dead, she can't be dead! Look at her, she looks like she just sleeping. Wake up, Mai! Wake up!
Heir to the throne of the Fire Nation.
Now Ty Lee's gone, too.
And she was alone.
Completely, utterly, terrifyingly alone.
Why does everyone leave me?
She fell to the hard ground beneath her and cried.
Ever have a fanfic that you set out to write and somewhere along the line it starts to write itself instead? That's how this fanfic was to me. I struggled with the first seven hundred words, biting and cussing because I couldn't get it to flow right. Then somewhere it started to write itself, and this is the end result and I couldn't be happier with it.
Is it so wrong of me that I almost wanted to name this 'Azula Alone?'…probably. ;)
(psh, and they say Azula can't be redeemed! Lies, I say!)
Prompt I had:
- General, short prompt (some keywords): Springtime thunderstorm.
- Genre preferred, provide 3 choices: Fluff, hot action, mostly any kind of romance, or maybe deep drama, possibly humor, and plotbunnies can be rather fun, too. Backstories, too.
- Ships preferred (at least 3): Zuko/Azula, Sokka/Katara, Sokka/Aang, Azula/Zhao, Aang/Toph, Song/Zuko... Any one of them by themselves, 'cept Katara or Aang, probably...
- Rating preferred (G-NC17): Any
- Absolute No-Nos: Not really any. Whatever you're comfortable with I'll read and, probably, enjoy.
What they got:
-Genre: ANGST TO THE 1000TH DEGREE! But hey, you said drama and backstories. This counts, right?
-Ships: None, just Azula character study.
-Rating: PG-13, for character death and general insanity/REDEMPTION!
-Word Count: 2,120 (0o)
Hope this works for you, even though it isn't what you wanted exactly. I've found that I can't write incest, though believe me, I tried. I also can only write fluff for about three-hundred words before rocks fall and everyone dies.
I think my brain just exploded.