And here we go, the final part of my trilogy. I hope you enjoy reading it, because I had a lot of fun writing. Azula is, honestly, very fun to write once you can get into her head. I liked redeeming her, and can only hope that she gets some kind of redemption in the cannon.

Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar.

I got Aqualoner to beta for me once again, and now I will beg you all to go read her stories after you finish with this.

Breaking the Armour

You're a fool, and you know it.

(you've been a fool your whole life, picking pride time and time again over the things you told yourself never mattered, but were the only things that made life worthwhile. you've destroyed and conquered and terrorized and broken, and never once has that ever satisfied the cruel, singular sound of your heart beating in your chest. you've waited your whole life to understand what happiness feels like because all your pride has ever won you is pain and loneliness, because who will be willing to stand next to someone whose heart was cut out of her chest as a child by the father who wanted a perfect tool?)

(My own mother thought I was a monster.) And now, I think I'm finally ready to prove her wrong.

But you're tired of it, so tired of it all! You don't want to be a tool anymore; you don't want to dance to your Father's drum anymore. You want to be a girl again; you want to be human again. You want to prove that you are just as capable as anyone in this bloody, war torn world of changing and standing up for your beliefs.

(you remember the Earth Kingdom's last stand: brave men decked out in green, with faces fierce and eyes unyielding. you laughed along with Daddy, and never told anyone that the tears streaming from your face weren't from your mirth, but from the shock that bravery still existed. you recall the battle where the Water Tribe warriors stood their ground and beat the navy back by the sheer force of their will alone. you scowled along with Daddy, and never breathed a word about the fact that your face was flushed with quiet pride, not anger, because there was still some strength to be found in the world. you think back on the stories of the massacre of the Air Nomads and smirk along with Daddy, not mentioning that your lips curled with distaste, not delight, because attacking people who refuse to fight back isn't tactical; it's cowardly.)

(Then all that glory would turn to shame, and foolishness.) But strength doesn't, and courage is courage no matter what the circumstances.

So Father fires his lightning and instinctively you know Zuko won't move, won't dodge, because if he does the pretty little waterbender is a goner. And you know Zuko, better than he thinks you do, better than anyone believes you can. He is your brother and you know him so you know he's more than ready to die for the people he loves because he's always been the strong one, always been the brave one, always been the sacrifice.

(and you've hidden yourself behind lightning and fire and ferocity. you've made a wall out of your claws and teeth and words, like the dragons of old. you never let anyone close to you, and by the time you wanted them there, no one was willing to even try. you've been reaching your hand out into empty space for longer than you dare to remember, but now someone has finally reached back, has finally held your hand and grounded you to yourself, and for the first time, you remember what love feels like, and your lightning stops and the fire dims and your wall crashes down around you. because Zuko has finally picked you over him, and you think it's time you picked your heart over your pride.)

(I'm just watching out for you.) I always have been; you're my brother and I love you.

You move before you even know what's going on and Zuko is thrown to the side and then there is a crackling sound. And then there is pain and heat and dear Agni, it feels like your very blood is boiling under your skin. You writhe and scream and pray and beg and twist in mid-air, because the furious electricity pumping through your body is holding you off the ground, and distantly, you hear Zuko scream your name.

(and you smile. because he sounds so sad, and he sounds so lost, and he wants to save you, wants to protect you, wants you to be okay, and it's enough. he loves you, loves despite everything you've done to him, loves you despite all the pain you've put him through, loves you despite all your flaws and habits and cruelties solely because you are his sister and he is your brother and he's always believed he should love you. and now, finally, at the end of it all, you're willing to let him.)

(No, you miscalculated! You should've feared me more!) I'm tired of scaring and being scared. No more, Father, no more.

The crackle finally stops and you tumble like a rag doll to the cold floor below, like you did on the metal rooftops of the Boiling Rock what seems like eons ago. But this time there is no Ty Lee who tapped your pressure points and no Mai with silver clutched in her fingers. Instead there is your furious father and a stunned waterbender and your brother rushes up and catches you in his arms and distantly, you hear him beg you to stay, to hold on just a little longer, to not leave him, not go away, Agni, 'Zula stay with me!

(but you're almost gone. Zuko is warm, and his heart is going steady and strong in his chest, and he's looking at you with desperate eyes, because he loves you, and you've let him in, and at long last, your heart pushes past the chains and silences the pride that shrieking at you for throwing your life away for your failure brother. but you laugh to yourself and reach up with your hand. and Zuko takes and holds it close and whispers your name in the way you've been waiting your whole life to hear. and you smile, because there is a blackness around the edge of your sight, and all the sounds of the battle are fading, and all you can see is your brother, holding your hand and telling you he loves you, and you think that maybe this is what peace feels like.)

(But it still hurt.) Only it doesn't; at least, not so badly anymore.

" I was born with the luck, Zu-Zu. You always made your own."

(And when your heart stops beating, it's whole.)

Well, there you have it.