Title: Burn Up In Flames
Day/Theme: November nineteenth | villains in love (late)
Character/Pairing: Azula/Ty Lee
Summary: "Remember where your loyalties lie," Azula said. Azula/Ty Lee in years and fragments.
A/N: For Laur! Merry Christmas! The original title was actually 'c'mon baby, be my bad girlfriend' (as a slightly edited form of a Garbage song) It's slightly AU in events, but not too much so. It's also bit fragmented at times, Um, no spoilers, and a lighter take considering it's Azula.
When she was young, Ty Lee wanted to be queen. Not the ruling, iron-fisted type, but the adoring, silk-wearing kind. It was a temporary dream, the kind one discarded as they grew older and looked back at with bemusement later on. She had a hidden desire to be swept off her feet by some handsome prince and carried off to a castle where she would live to the end of her fairytale.
She assumed it was what every little girl wanted. Her sisters, all near identical mirrors of herself all wished for this. She thought that while Mai would sigh and roll her eyes at such things, she had the same dreams with Zuko. Her aura always turned a shade of bright pink around him, almost the same color that was flushing her cheeks.
She made the mistake of once mentioning it to Azula, a silly thing. Back then she told Azula everything, a habit she'd never quite managed to free herself from entirely, even though she knew to tread carefully around Azula. One misstep and she would be burned.
"That," Azula said coolly, "Would be called a consort., or perhaps a concubine. Not a queen."
Ty Lee was still to innocent to understand the connotations of the words, that she'd be chained to someone, her body as their favorite pastime. She thought things like consort and concubine meant things like best friends, but with more kissing and less crowns.
"Then when you rule will I be your consort?"
Azula smirked, already aged beyond her years. She knew the meanings of words and the cruelties they could convey, and what cruelties she could convey with them.
"I'll allow that," Azula said imperiously. "But you have to be submissive."
"I can be very submissive. – Whatever that means!"
"That means you'll have to follow my every order," Azula said.
"I can do that!" Ty Lee chirped.
Then, as children are wont to do, she went home announced to her entire family that when she grew up, she was going to be Azula's concubine. Had it been anyone but the Fire Lord's daughter, this might have become a family anecdote to be brought up at every gathering.
Ty Lee grew up to popular. Bubbly and happy, she could ignite parities with her acts and mere presence. She drew many male admirers, they liked her openness and how she could laugh at anything they'd say. They liked how she was like refined sunshine, and the soft curves of her body. Few of them realized how easily she could knock them down and leave them unconscious, their chi walled up, their limbs nigh useless. Some of them had notions of saving her, a ditzy, damsel to be caught at will.
Sometimes Ty Lee even let them think that. She didn't have to dominate everyone around her like Azula did. She could smile coyly at them and knew how to flirt, just like her sisters before her had taught her. An eyeflutter, a starry gaze– these were the things most men were weak to. They liked being admired, but Azula preferred to be the one being admired. When men told of their skills in battle, she told of her own, greater ones. She'd have challenged them to one-on-one combat if possible. Azula's attempts at 'flirting' resembled arm-wrestling, and she always had the upper hand.
Mai never bothered with such gatherings. They bored her, thus she would stay at one corner and drink the spicysweet Firefruit juice. The glass would be held languidly, as Mai did everything. At least unless Prince Zuko was there. Then she would seem just as bored and uncaring, but Ty Lee knew her well enough to know that she was sneaking glances from the corner of her vision. She drank in Zuko's presence, her held glass would shake and her disinterest rang false for once.
But tonight Prince Zuko was off atoning and Mai was just as disinterested as ever. Ty Lee held the interest of several boys, most notably a handsome young high-ranking youth named Chang. He was built like an acrobat, and had even shown some of his better lifting skills. When she told of her dreams, he whispered possible futures for them. A dynamic group, one to awe the crowds together. They'd make circus history and paint their name out for generations to come.
He lead her out to night air where the darkness could cover lover's trysts and the stars and moon could illuminate their faces just enough to see those constellations reflected in each other's eyes. His arm was around her waist, his eyes were only on her. Ty Lee giggled and felt lightheaded, buoyant, even.
Ty Lee had lost sight of Azula in the crowd, but caught her again on the terrace. She looked just as stunning in her crimson, two-piece dress with gold armlets and bracelets over satin black gloves. She looked regal, as if the day for her to ascend the throne had already arrived.
"Azula, I didn't know you were out here, did you bring a boyfriend too?"
But Azula wasn't smiling. Her expression was a dark and that ever present composure was strained to the limits. She gave Chang the kind of glare that could set wood alight. Lesser men might have trembled beneath it. Chang was either more braver or more stupid than most.
"Find someone else to watch the stars with. She's needed elsewhere," Azula said.
"We're a little busy here, come back later," Chang said. He smiled a sort of fearless, self-assured grin. Ty Lee's smile grew a lot more strained. She tittered nervously.
Blue flares exploded from Azula's fingertips searing her black gloves into ashes. She was at once a warrior queen and an avenging goddess. She smirked, amused and annoyed at once at this peon who dared question her command.
"I believe you misunderstood the nature of this, it was not a suggestion."
Chang's self-assurance evaporated in the firelight. He backed away, palms waving the sign of non-violence, peace, and submission as he left. All his muscle could hardly withstand the molten heat of those bare flames that licked and played at her command.
"How quaint," she said. "How romantic." Azula's lips upturned in a sneer as she said the last word, as if the mere mention caused her nothing but revulsion.
"But, Azula— I was just watching the stars, we weren't even doing anything," Ty Lee protested.
"Hasn't anyone ever told you to not go far on the first date? Boys will just use you and throw you away." Azula was close, closer than she had thought it would be. Her lips were at Ty Lee's ear, her fingers were lifting Ty Lee's chin.
"Use it to your advantage."
All Ty Lee could hear was use it to my advantage.
Azula cupped her chin. This was no gentle gesture, those long, elegant nails dug in like claws and Azula's eyes burned gold and catlike. There was a fierce menacing gleam within them; it was like watching fire devouring wood. The bark turning black, the crackling as the fire completely overtook an inferior force. Such a force was entrancing and deadly. She could not have broken free even if she wanted to.
"Don't forget where your loyalties lie," Azula said.
Ty Lee felt dizzy, sort of like the first time she'd been kissed but with a sprinkling of fear at the edges. It was a mix of pleasant and painful and her spine tingled just as much– more than when Chang had touched her.
"Besides, Chang isn't the type you should playing around with."
"What? I don't understand what you mean? He's an acrobat, just like me—"
"He uses people. Takes them to bed and then casts them aside. In the morning you'd be no more interesting to him than an old pair of socks." She said this so casually, without inflection, as if it bored her.
The realization stunned Ty Lee. Had Azula been protecting her all this time? Azula stared down at her flawless nails and brushed aside the last blackened remains of her gloves. Mai had once said that Ty Lee was prone to giving people too much of a chance. That she attributed good things where there were none. Ty Lee hoped for the best and ignored the worst in people, true. She always looked for sunshine even when it was raining.
But then Azula would do something, something like this cloaked in all her own Azula ways and Ty Lee knew that even sometimes you couldn't quite see things as clearly, that didn't mean they weren't there. Like auras, or rainbows.
Weird, it felt more natural out here with Azula than with Chang. Her heart had the same sort of pittery-pattery feeling, but with more knowing. Even though she'd known Azula all her life, Azula was unexpected and just as exciting or mysterious as the romantic heroes in the kinds of novels Ty Lee had been borrowing from her sister since she was small.
"Azula– Thanks for saving me out there," Ty Lee said. She threw her arms around her friend and didn't cared a bit if her dress crinkled or her makeup smudged.
Azula wasn't one to return hugs, but she relaxed slightly and placed her arms around Ty Lee in a stiff, awkward embrace. Azula never got the hang of these affectionate type of things. The first time Ty Lee had hugged her friend, Azula had done little more than freeze with her hands rigidly at her sides. A few years had passed and maybe one day Azula would be the one to start giving the hugs. A very long day away indeed, but Ty Lee thought Azula might just manage to pull it off if she really tried hard.
When Ty Lee finally stepped back, Azula cleared her throat. "We're moving out tomorrow. Go get some sleep," Azula said.
Azula returned to her quarters. Her bangles clinked with every proud, unfailing step.
Azula had a fascination with fire that was so intrinsic, it was as if she had to implement flames into her every detail. She lit candles to burn even in daylight hours and after dressing she would steal the flame and let it play over her fingertips. A maroon incense stick was lit and grey smoke lifted up. The ember burned as the clouds rose. It was an strong, exotic scent, the kind that overpowered the senses. Much like Azula herself.
Ty Lee sat on the maroon covered bed as Azula brushed and looped her hair into a topknot. She popped another of the red fire candies into her mouth. Ty Lee preferred sweeter things, candy that didn't leave such a burning taste in her mouth that remained long after – like the scraping of long, elegant fingernails – But Azula preferred these. Azula could suck on them and be completely unaffected by the heat, her face blank as it burned against her tongue. Azula seemed invulnerable to fire of all kinds, she welcomed the updrafts and forest fires as if they were close friends. And true, the fire seemed to love her back with the same fervor. Ty Lee had once seen her walk over burning coals without so much as a flinch.
"Pass them here," Azula said.
Ty Lee pulled one out from the tin box (tin for anything less than metal would be burnt) and handed it over with her palms outstretched.
"No, from your mouth," Azula said, her voice sounding like a seductive purr.
Azula played games with them at times. Sometimes Mai and her had to do things to prove their loyalty such as passing through circles of burning wood or obeying whatever tyrannical whim came over her. Still, Azula had never crossed this boundary, everything was new territory and a brand new game.
Ty Lee placed the candy in her mouth and curled her tongue to make a cradle to keep from swallowing it. She moved as if in a trace. The flame on the candles swayed hypnotically at the vanity mirror and Azula was echoed and reflected with that living, breathing fire.
When their lips met, it was as if she had gripped the candle and the flame had seared through her skin. The kiss was nothing like the boys she has known. It was violent, lip-biting and teeth clacking. It was an explosion of heat and lust and desire and most of all power. The candy slipped between their lips, over their tongues as burning sweet tastes filtered through the pleasure. When they broke Ty Lee was panting and Azula was composed and satisfied. She stroked the back of Ty Lee's hair and lifted her chin until their eyes met. Azula said nothing, but her unrelenting, gold gaze said enough and far more than simple words could.
The boys never came very close these days.. Ty Lee missed them, at least a little. She liked their clumsy ways and the gifts they would bestow. She liked the happiness they felt when she was on their arm and looking back up at them. But she doesn't miss it that much, not as so much as she thought she would.
While being under Azula's command did not strictly prohibit fraternizing with the opposite gender, she didn't particularly encourage it either – especially if it didn't involve using female attributes to acquire information. Even when Mai and Zuko got together, at long last, Azula never stood in the way. Far be from it, she seemed amused with the match and took to drawing out Mai's weakness. With that weakness, she'd turn it into a strength, for Mai was dually wound into their family. With Zuko under her influence, Mai would never protest a thing she said. All Azula had to do was mention her brother in passing and Mai became far more compliant, and not simply for tedium's sake.
At Azula's side she could bask in the afterglow of victories. It was like little glowing fragments of Azula's success had blown from the wind and rested on her shoulders. But most of all, Ty Lee liked watching Azula in these situations. Her commander was born for power, and she commanded the respect and devotion of all around her.
Ty Lee never really wanted glory. She was fine with helping someone else's feats. Even if Azula only mentioned her as a competent and loyal soldier under my command Ty Lee was still happy.
She rarely mingled with Azula's groups for they were all of a higher station. They were generals and nobles who must be curried to Azula's side for when the right time arose. When out of sight, Azula would sneer and mock at their idiosyncracies. She was quite adept at such things, and could imitate the pitch of voice and exaggerate the expressions perfectly. If Ty Lee didn't know that Azula would refuse outright, she'd ask her to come to the circus with her and start a comedy act. She would dare say that Azula would even look quite dashing in the sparking circus suit.
"They're fools each and every one of them," Azula said. She led Ty Lee away from General Curmudgeon and his brainless, yet busty socialite wife.
Azula's hand was at the curve of Ty Lee's spine, leading her out to where refreshments could be gained and roving eyes wouldn't see.
Ty Lee giggled. "It feels like you're my boyfriend now."
Azula smirked. "You did promise to become my consort before."
"Oh, so I consort is like a 'boyfriend'? I thought you said it meant being submissive," Ty Lee said.
"It does," Azula said in the same purring voice that she had used the first time when they shared candy and well, kissed.
Azula traced her fingers over Ty Lee's lips. It was gentler than before, and the feel of her nails tickled more than hurt. It was on the verge between pain and pleasure, gentleness and dominion. It was possessive and almost tender.
"Being consort to a queen is even better," Azula said.
The coronation may have not arrived yet, but Azula was already wearing the crown. It was just not everyone could see it yet, like auras. Ty Lee saw that crown, that beautiful gold circlet that Azula was born to carry. She swore that consort, concubine, friend or lover, she'd make that crown a reality for all to see.