Title: My Last Breath
Word count: 1568 Rating: G Warnings: mild violence, implied ideas and some abstractness
Notes: Well, I'm about the worst procrastinator ever. I promised Jean from DH (Distant Horizons; an Avatar forum) that I'd do a one-shot swap thing with her (It was supposed to be Soko—but I don't know if mine is as Soko as she may have wanted; whoops); she wrote her drabble for me months ago, and though I started mine at the same time, it's only now that I finished it and finally posted it here. Enjoy, because though it might have taken me long (I had writers block :P), I think it's a pretty good looooong one-shot.
My Last Breath
The noise woke her out of her frenzied sleep. She had been tumbling about from nightmares and felt a bit of relief to be woken from them.
The noise came louder this time, sounded more urgent. She stumbled out of bed, grabbing a lantern for light before walking quickly to the door.
"Li, is that you?" She asked quietly as she opened the door. "Oh!" She said with surprise upon seeing who was on her doorstep at that time of night. Not just anyone, but a teenage girl, dressed in dark robes was standing in front of her. Song couldn't be sure, but the clothes looked almost reddish to her. Butt that didn't matter, for she was instantly drawn to the girl's cruel smile and her eyes glimmering fiercely in the moonlight.
"Not who you were expecting, huh?" The girl's cruel smile intensified in the dim light. Song opened her mouth and was about to reply when the girl cut her off.
"Well, you'll just have to settle for me." The girl looked around the house to the landscape behind her, almost as if she was admiring the view.
"Who are you? Why are you here?" Song managed to squeak out. The girl turned her gaze back to Song, and it took all of her willpower not to turn away from the girl's deathly gaze.
"You don't know who I am? You can't see the resemblance?"
Song was confused for a moment, wondering who the heck the girl could be. Who did she know with black hair, pale skin and amber like eyes…Suddenly her face was contorted into one of shock as she realized who the girl was talking about.
"Li!" She murmured softly, more to herself than anything. But the girl heard, a smirk appearing on her face.
"Is that what he told you his name was? It's a pity Zuzu was never a good liar," The girl said with a laugh. Song's confusion must have appeared on her face, because the girl's smirk turned into a frown when she realized that Song truly did not understand.
"You don't get it, do you?" The question was rhetorical, but yet something in the way the girl said it compelled Song to feel a need to answer it—though she kept silent in the end.
The girl continued on, her gaze fixed on Song.
"The guy and older man you met, only a few days ago according to a man who lives nearby, are wanted men." She held up a wanted poster with Li and Mushi's pictures on it. Their names, though, were what surprised Song. For they were ones she had heard of, but had never known to be theirs.
"Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation and his uncle Iroh, the Dragon of the West." They said it at the same time, though Song's was much more quiet, in a more shocked way whereas the girl's was more snide, more in a way that Song could only describe as disrespectful.
"Then that makes you…" Song trailed off, the girl then finishing for her.
"Princess Azula of the Fire Nation." Song stepped back a bit, only to bump into her door that she hadn't known she had closed.
"And you won't be going anywhere without answering my questions."
The Princess' smile grew wider with every passing moment, her joy increasing. Song's head was already whirling with the new information she had learned and she still had a headache from her nightmares, the ever vivid pictures in her mind. As such, it took all of her strength to stay standing and not back down from Azula's steely gaze.
But her resolve was weakening with every passing second, and soon it became too much to bare.
Song looked away.
"Scared, huh?" The princess' haughty voice was quiet as to not disturb the neighbors, and yet it was as if she was yelling at Song, ridiculing her for something she didn't know she had done.
Song cringed, but did not answer.
"Good, you should be." Azula said, her smirk widening ever more.
"What do you want?" Song asked weakly.
"What do I want?" The princess paused here as if pondering the question, her gaze drifting. "I want a lot of things, though the first comes to mind is for you to answer my questions," Azula's eyes flashed as they snapped back to Song. "I want to know where my traitor of a brother and uncle are headed," she said with an icy tone. Azula's face then softened to an almost innocent expression, but Song had seen too much of her to be fooled.
"Surely you can tell me that…" Azula continued, in a sugar sweet voice.
Song looked down at her feet, her voice barely loud enough for Azula to hear, though it rose with every passing second, going to almost feverish pitches.
"I don't know. They left…" Song's voice cracked here, "…never telling me or my mother where they were headed. But maybe…" Song stopped, realizing she had said too much. Azula's evil grin widened, finally a piece of information she could use.
"You live with your mother, no?" Azula asked, not needing an answer. Song's mouth seemed to be stuck and she found herself unable to speak.
Azula continued on, her words growing softer, but with more intensity than before.
"She's a hard sleeper too; I can see it in your eyes. She wouldn't wake up if…there was an accident." Azula's voice had grown soft enough that Song had to strain to hear her words, but she heard them all the same, her breath catching on Azula's last few words. She wouldn't would she?
"Old people die all the time, whether it is from injury or fire. No one would suspect a thing." Azula's eyes gleamed for a moment, malice and anger seeping out of them. But one thing Song could not forget, would not forget through all the years of her life, was the hurt that lay hidden, far into the depths of the princess' eyes.
It cried out to her, and she was helpless to respond otherwise. Song felt the words falling from her lips, even as she saw what the outcome of her words would be.
"You've been hurt by the Fire Nation too, haven't you?" She said softly, compassion coming back into her voice.
Azula's eyes flashed with anger.
"How could you possibly know what has happened to me? You are a mere peasant, one who has yet to give me the information I asked for." Azula's voice was laced with venom as she turned the conversation back around to Song.
Song knew very well that her next words could very well cost her, her life, but she was in too far to stop now.
"You cared," she said softly, "You cared so much. And then one day you lost it all. You vowed never to care again, to never let anyone get close to you ever again." The bitterness in Song's voice echoed in the silence, and she looked down. Azula stood there, frozen and transfixed by Song's words, though her face remained a blank mask.
"If someone left your life, you told yourself it was no big deal. You didn't care, caring was for the weak and you were not weak." Song looked up slowly and caught Azula's calculating eyes.
"You're right…" Azula said slowly as she looked away. Song's eyes widened in surprise and she stared at Azula, shocked.
"I don't care," Azula said, her voice rising. "And so when I do this, I won't feel sorry at all." And before she could even begin to process what happened, Song felt herself crumple to the ground, her body falling down the porch steps as she landed in a heap away from the house, the shattered lantern rolling across the steps to land near the wood door.
She lifted her head weakly and with eyes unable to focus on the scene in front of her, watched as the flame, free from the broken lantern, sparked the edge of the door, proceeding to light it on fire. She watched as the whole house went up in flames before everything went black.
Weeks later she finds herself walking along the streets of Ba Sing Se when she sees them. Their clothes may be different, his hair grown out, but she recognizes them easily.
Song hurries into an alley nearby and watches as they walk past her, catching a bit of their conversation.
"…I can't believe it, after all these years I'm finally going home, and this time it's for real!" He says, tone ecstatic, though Song can't help but notice the smallest bit of guilt in it.
Azula smiles at him—the trademark smirk plastered on her face—and says, "Yes, father will be mighty pleased with your efforts. After everything, the Earth Kingdom has finally fallen." Zuko meets his sister's eyes before suddenly seeing the girl watching from the alley. (Song?)
His eyes widen as he stares in shock, frozen in his place, but quickly looks away when Azula asks him what it is that has gotten him so freaked out. It is only seconds before Azula looks in the direction of the alley. (I know my brother too well; he saw something and I'm going to find out exactly what.)
There is nothing there but blackness and after multiple attempts to pry it out of him they continue on their way, leaving the girl hidden in the darkness of the alley behind.
She watches them until they fade from view, turning away.
"I hope it was worth it," she says, her words floating away on the wind. I hope it was worth it…