Seduction: Part 2
Azula heard his scream long before she even saw the door to his room. It was a wild sound, one that she found hard to believe was coming from the same boy she'd spoken to the day before. It was as if he were being tortured, as if his very soul was being ripped from his body; and when he screamed again, the sound made her blood run cold. She quickened her steps, half-expecting to see him dismembered and bloodied, and wished she hadn't wasted her time caring for him when he'd end up useless anyway.
What she didn't expect was to find him safe in his bed, but thrashing about in the throes of some horrific nightmare. He screamed until he ran out of breath, then he screamed some more when he regained it. His handsome face was contorted in an expression of horror and pain that had her recoiling. As his mouth moved, she realized he wasn't just screaming—he was calling for his mother. Irritation crossed her features before she squared her shoulders and grabbed at his arms with strong hands.
"Jet," she said firmly, shaking him. "Jet, wake up. You're dreaming."
Sweat had soaked through his pajamas and the sheets were a tangle around his limbs/,/ as he fought against her and some imaginary foe. Azula gritted her teeth when one of his flailing fists nearly made contact with her face and she tightened her grip on his arms, her nails digging into his flesh.
"JET," she yelled loudly in his ear. "WAKE UP."
His body froze and his gray eyes flew open, unfocused, in shock. A startled gasp escaped his lips and he fell back onto the bed, his muscles suddenly slack. Azula nearly fell on top of him, but she let go of him before that could happen, and she caught herself on the edge of the bed. She pushed back an errant strand of hair that had fallen into her face, her eyes narrowed as she waited for the boy to get his wits back.
When his eyes didn't focus on her and his breath didn't slow, she hesitantly put a hand forward and touched his shoulder.
"Jet," she said.
Slowly, his gaze slid over to her, but she saw nothing in his eyes, not even recognition. He was awake, but he was still in the grip of his nightmare. Azula started to raise her hand to slap him and bring him back to the world of the living, but then he blinked. Even though the fear hadn't gone from his face, she saw that he was looking at her.
And the hate she saw there surprised her, even though she told herself that it shouldn't have.
"Throw me out into the street or leave me here to starve to death, I don't care," he spat at her. "I won't have anything to do with Ozai's fucking daughter."
"Are you sure about that?" she responded archly, his words bouncing off her like arrows on armor. "You can barely move, and you're about as dangerous as a baby. Ba Sing Se is crawling with Fire Nation soldiers. You'll be dead in less than five minutes."
"Better I die out there, than be kept in here like your pet."
"Don't you think I have a good reason for keeping you alive?" Azula countered, struggling to keep her tone even, while she wanted nothing more than to turn his bones into ash.
Jet's eyes were like two black holes in a face that was suddenly pale. The corded muscles of his neck stood out in sharp relief, as he pushed himself up to a seated position, so that he could thrust his face in hers.
"Get the hell away from me," he said, his spit hitting her cheek.
The sharp crack of her palm connecting with his flesh had all the power of a lightning strike. She had him on his back in the next second, her hand hot and on his neck, her nails digging into his skin. He cried out from the pain that she was sure was shooting across his chest, but she couldn't care less.
"Ungrateful peasant," she hissed. "The reason you haven't succeeded in any of your attacks against the Fire Nation is because you're stupid and impatient. I'm giving you a chance to hit back and to make it stick, but you're throwing it in my face because you're letting your heart lead where your head should."
"Why do you need me around so badly, your Highness?" he gasped, straining against her grip. "Is it because I won't be missed? Are you going to throw me to the front lines at your bidding, like your own personal toy soldier?"
"Yes," she said, her face inches from her. "That's exactly what I'm going to do."
Azula squeezed his neck until her nails drew blood, then she let go. With a trembling hand, he wiped at the blood, the madness not yet gone from his eyes.
"You killed my family. I saw them burn."
"I did no such thing," she said archly. "I had nothing to do with your family."
Blowing out an impatient breath, Azula turned her back on him.
"When you're ready to listen to what I have to say, we'll talk, but I won't waste my time on you while you're like this," she said evenly. "Ask yourself why I'm helping you Jet, and think about what you know of me. I'm not a woman who'll waste her time and risk her position just to have a...companion. We might come from different places, but our goals aren't so different. Think about what I can get you, what I have in my power. Believe it or not, your brain is probably the most powerful weapon you have."
She was sliding the door open when she heard him moving.
And if she hadn't turned, the sharpened stake he'd thrown at her would have gone through her neck.
Azula pointed two fingers at him and shot a thin line of fire at the blankets still tangled around his legs. As she walked away, she could hear him yelling curses, heard what was probably his body hitting the floor, and wondered if she would find anyone in the room the next day.
Jet wrapped his arms tightly around himself. Every breath he took felt like a knife on his side as he leaned his head back against the wall, sweat dripping from every pore. He had tried to run, but hadn't been able to make it out of the room. He hadn't even been able to open the door because it hurt to move his arms, so all he could do was sit where he'd fallen.
The smoke from the fire Azula had started finally cleared. He didn't know what time it was, or even what day it was, but by his groggy count, he guessed that a day had passed. He kept losing consciousness, and when his eyes were open, all he could think was the pain that had frozen him in place.
He was still angry with her, and hate was a tight ball in his chest that only got tighter when he though of her and her family. Yet, her words continued to tease him, and the temptation she'd dangled in front of his face—a chance at revenge—only got more enticing with each passing second.
And that only made him hate her even more, and himself for even considering it.
But what choice did he have? He didn't want to die, that had become clear when he didn't use the stake that he'd sharpened on himself, and instead, threw it at her. Even though it meant playing nice with an enemy, he would do it to buy himself some time. Through the haze of pain and darker emotions, the more logical, saner part of Jet's mind knew that she was offering him a chance that he couldn't pass up...at least, not before he'd thought it out completely.
Why did she want to hit back at the Fire Nation anyway? She was the princess, the daughter of the Fire Lord. She could have anything she wanted. Well, almost anything...
Jet remembered their earlier conversations, when she'd confessed to wanting her inheritance, and he let out a humorless laugh that made his ribs ache. So, it came down to that. She wanted the throne and she needed him to get her there. For all her pretty words and duplicity, her motivation was as simple as it got. He didn't know what he could do though, and from what he knew of her, he wasn't so sure if she'd be a better replacement for Ozai, than her brother would be. Like Li, or rather, Zuko, Azula had lied, hiding her true intentions behind kindness. Jet wouldn't let them fool him again.
Leaning his head against the wall, he forced himself to breathe slowly when pain zigzagged across his body. He'd forgotten what it was like to be healthy and well, he didn't need a mirror to know that he looked as terrible as he felt. Sweat covered him from head to toe, and he reeked of smoke. Cursing Azula under his breath, he silently willed her to return, so that he could get a brief respite from his suffering.
The hours crawled past and his stomach clenched with hunger, but still no Azula. There were no shadows to tell him the time, but his body told him that he wasn't going to last for much longer. He seesawed between hating her and needing her, between wanting to die and wanting to live; his thoughts become scattered and pointless. His hands laid limply on either side of him, his head lolled from side to side, and every move he made hurt. He was thirsty, he was tired, he was in pain, and there seemed to be no end to the cycle. Even though he slept, he woke up feeling more tired than he had before. He talked to himself to keep his sanity, but then he would forget what he was trying to say. His thoughts became less complex until all he could think of were three words.
Betrayal. Revenge. Azula.
Sometime during his haze, he became aware of another presence in the room. He opened his eyes to find Azula sitting on the bed across from him, her legs crossed at the knee, a serene expression on her face.
"You look like hell," she remarked.
"Please..." he said hoarsely. "Azula..."
Her eyes narrowing, Azula stood and knelt by his side. She took his chin in her hand so that she could look into his eyes.
"What do you want, Jet," she said in a low voice, her words a seductive hum that echoed in his head. "Tell me what you want."
"Help me," he whispered. "Help me."
The smile that curved her lips was terrible and beautiful. Her fingers caressed his face and gently, she helped him lean back against the wall again. Her other hand brought up a cup of tea to his lips, which he drank greedily.
"I'm glad you came around, Jet," she said softly. "I think that we'll work very well together."
"I still hate you," he said weakly, hating her, hating himself, but unable to turn away from her this last time.
"That's fine. I don't need you to love me. I just need you to keep your eye on your goal, so that we'll both get what we want at the end of this."
Azula picked up the bowl of soup she'd brought with her and lifted the spoon.
"Open up," she said. "You must be famished."
Over the bowl, Jet met her eyes, and for the first time in days, felt numb.
Azula didn't let the fact that he refused to meet her eyes bother her, but her fingers itched to grab his head and force him to look. It was like talking to a wall sometimes, but at least he wasn't trying to kill her. If she cared more, his listlessness would have worried her, but she supposed she needed to give the boy some time to recover from betraying his very reason for being.
Or maybe she should start calling him a man.
His injuries and the choices put before him had aged Jet. His face was lined and carried a weight that wasn't there before. Azula found it an interesting outcome, but didn't think it anything to watch. She'd beaten him, she could see it in his posture, and she'd seen it before in older, stronger men. She just hoped what happened here wouldn't affect him in the outside, where she needed him to be the rebel leader and clever warrior. She'd only wanted to convince him that they could work together, and hadn't wanted it to go this far, but he'd done it to himself. All she could do was wait it out, and hoped that in the end, she wouldn't have to kill him.
He didn't look at her when she sat down at his bedside, but he took the cup of tea she held out. He was healing a lot faster now, despite his state of mind, and also because she'd stopped poisoning his tea. A corner of her mouth curved upward. It hadn't hurt to have that extra little ingredient to help strengthen her case, because since she couldn't use her bending to force him to bow to her will, she was able to use his own body against him. After all, he was a man with nothing to lose...except his life.
"You're looking a lot better," she observed. "You'll be able to go within the week, I think."
"Shocking how quickly I'm healing," he muttered.
"You're young still, even if you do run with sharp objects and play with fire."
He sipped at his tea, his expression thoughtful.
"So, when are you going to tell me what you want with me?" he asked.
"See, that's the funny part," she said, curling her hand into a fist and resting her chin on it. "I'm not really sure what I want you to do yet."
Now, that was enough to make his eyes swing over to her. The tea in his cup sloshed over the rim, and stained the cream colored blanket lying over his lap.
"What?" he exclaimed.
"You're my secret weapon," she whispered, smiling as if she was imparting the secrets of the universe. "One day, I'm going to need you, and when that day comes, you're going to be able to destroy that thing that you hate so much. You're going to be able to make the Fire Nation burn the same way it made your family burn. You alone will have the power to bring the Fire Lord to his knees and you'll stand over his body, your revenge finally achieved."
"How the hell am I gonna do that?" he demanded, an old spark coming into his eyes. "You're crazy."
"Am I? It's all about timing, Jet. If we moved now, when the Fire Nation is at its strongest, we will lose. We'll have wasted all this time we've spent together. So, we wait. We wait for that time, when two people can bring down a kingdom older than the seas and the earth."
He stared at her and she wondered if he was going to try to break his cup over her head. She stared back, forcing her expression to harden and her eyes to go flat. He didn't respond, simply stared.
"You'll let me go with no guarantee that I'll come to you when you call," he finally said.
"That's right," she said. "Here's where trust comes in."
"You trust me?"
"No, but I do trust your hatred for the Fire Nation."
Jet leaned back against the headboard. Azula slid closer to him until she was pressed up against his arm, her lips brushing his ear.
"The Fire Lord will be at your mercy the way you were at mine," she whispered. "Remember that when you start to think you can say no to me."
In one fluid motion, she stood. She looked down at him, even as he looked up at her.
"I'm not coming back here after today," she said. "You can walk now, so you'll find the kitchen down the hall. There's enough food there to last you the week. After that, get out of here."
"How will I get in touch with you?" he asked.
"You won't. I'll find you."
"What if you can't find me?"
Azula's laugh was sharp.
"I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Good-bye, Jet," she said. "I'll see you again."
"Good-bye, Azula," he returned. "I'll try not to hold my breath until then."
They exchanged a look. Then, she left.
Author's Note: Thanks to flyawayohglory for putting on her beta hat to help me with this one.