Hey. You'll probably notice that Aqualoner adn I tend to release things close to each other. The reason for this is that I am a shameless follower, and once I read the story she sent me to edit, I get inspired. Go read all of her stories, and try to deny the fact that she makes people want to write!

That being said, I asked her to edit this story, and by some great amount of luck on my part, she agreed. You are fantastic, Aqua!

Disclaimer: Please, as if I could ever create anything as mind-blowingly great as Avatar.

Cracks in the Armour

You've never been anything but perfect.

(perfect, poised, princess. words that inspire fear, inspire terror, but not loyalty, no never loyalty, and not love either.)

(My own mother thought I was a monster.)

You're Daddy's girl, Daddy's princess, Daddy's tool, a razor-edge sword made of diamond, swathed in silk and gem stones from the Earth Kingdom you conquered.

(where Uncle failed and Zuko fell and all the world belonged to you. you'll give your brother the glory, why risk your neck if that bald brat is still breathing somewhere? let Zuko have his moment in the spotlight; you gained what he craves a lifetime and a half ago.)

(Then all that glory would turn to shame, and foolishness.)

Let the old fat man rot in prison, for all you care. He means nothing to you. He's a traitor and a failure and a fool and he may or may not have succeeded in corrupting Zuko.

(he went with Zuko when he left, and you didn't see either of them for years. not like it matters to you, but still, they are family and is it so impossible to believe that maybe they do mean something to you after all? you suppose that maybe it is, so you lock Uncle away in a high tower where he can't change Zuko anymore and can't take your only brother away from you.)

(I'm just watching out for you.)

Because even though you're perfect and even though you're Father's favourite and even though you've spent your life as nothing more or else than the envy of the Fire Nation, you're still a human girl, and much as you clamp down on it, you do have a heart and it broke a little when Mother vanished (but Zuko was always her favourite, so it didn't matter so much), and again when Father sent Zuko away (but not enough to stop him) and a little more when Uncle went with him (but you'd gotten used to the ache so you managed to ignore it).

(and you feel it crumble just a little bit more in your chest when Mai makes her stand and looks at you with eyes you've never seen before. because down under all the fire and lightning and blaze she is still your friend and you don't want to hurt her, but your pride demands it, demands that she be punished for defying you and you know you'll listen to it, because your pride has always come before your heart. and distantly, you wonder how much more your heart can take.)

(No, you miscalculated! You should've feared me more!)

And then Ty Lee taps your body with the lightest of flicks, and you fall to the ground.

(and once again, everyone picks Zuko over you, and it isn't fair because you're the prodigy and you're the princess and you're the one who spent a lifetime being loyal and fierce and strong and perfect, so they should be picking you, not him. they should pick Azula, just once, just once in your whole life, someone who actually means something should pick you, because you're tired of it, tired of scaring people, tired of instilling fear, tired of being Daddy's tool. you want someone to save you, someone, anyone, to reach back when you reach out, but no one is because they've all chosen Zuko, who's run away and been disgraced and is going to help save the goddamn world and everyone in it except you!)

You glare and snarl and send them away just like your pride demands, and silently wonder why no one thinks you're worth saving.

(not Uncle, who took Zuko away from you with brave last stands and good morals and an iron will in a courageous heart.)

(not Mother, who killed and destroyed and wrecked everything just to keep her precious baby boy safe, as her daughter sat in the shadows and watched.)

(not Mai, who's heart is stronger than anyone gave her credit for, and finally accepted the bravery that love allotted her to stand against you.)

(and certainly not Zuko, who ran off to join the Avatar and bring balance back to a world that's forgotten how to stand on its own two feet, and abandoned you by his own choice, not Father's.)

You don't look at them as the guards lead them away, and you don't look to the shore where you're positive Zuko has stolen your balloon (just like he stole your mother, stole your uncle, stole your friends and stole himself), for fear of what you may do.

(But it still hurt.)

(And your heart breaks, just like it's waited your whole life to do.)

Because a truly 'evil' (through-and-through) person is almost impossible to find. So here is a a little 'Azula redemption'.