Summary: For Zuko was not the only with scars. ZukoTyLee
Disclaimer: You know the drill, all rights are reserved to those magical people who picked up the pen and wrote Avatar.
A/N: After not updating in, well, forever, I was so excited to write this idea that popped in my head. Yeah, I know, ANOTHER Zuko/TyLee? Well, I like the pairing, so shush. It was a real joy to write, and personally one of my favorite things I've written up to date (I hope that doesn't sound arrogant. D: ). I didn't add it in with the Memories&Laughter Ty Luko oneshots because I felt this one could stand on it's own. I hope you enjoy!
Scars of Obedience
Ever since the incident, it was hard for Zuko to look at his appearance head on. He'd walk by a reflection, in the corner of his eyes perhaps catching a glimpse of himself. That was the most he had ever gotten to a full on glance. When ever he did accidentally stand in front of the mirror a few more seconds than normal, the outcome was never pretty.
That's exactly what happened on that night. Zuko was alone in his bedroom, putting on his black velvet robe from just walking from the hot springs. Mai was away visiting her parents while getting her knives sharpened, so he'd be to himself. He had more important things to worry about then who he'd sleep with that night. Tomorrow he'd have to meet with the annual League of Nations; something Aang had created for all nations to attend to keep the peace. All the leaders of each nation would be brought to a particular place. (The place changed everytime; this time it was in Ba Sing Se) It was a yearly thing, so it was a special event that required proper etiquette and attire. Which was why he made his royal sewers fix him up the finest of robes to wear - custom made. It had taken some weeks, and they finally accomplished it that day.
He remembered how the garment looked - still encased in his mind. It was powerful and vibrant colors (for the fire nation had those qualities), with his robe bold red silk fabric and sharp golden embroidery. Underneath would be his satin black that caught you into its deep, rich color, with pants to match its fine tone. It screamed majestic and magnificent, making itself known that only a person of authority could wear. Fire Lord Zuko was the only deemable person, or at least he'd tell himself. He had grown somewhat arrogant when the fitting for the piece came. It made him feel tremendous strength, despite it containing no superpowers.
I hope Aang pisses his pants when he sees me, he smirked. He needed to envision the moment when he'd amble his way in - long powerful strides. The leader of the Fire Nation would be known without him even uttering a word; they'd just know. Without thinking, and feeling a bit big headed, he made his way to his full view mirror. It wasn't exactly his mirror for it was Mai's constant nagging whenever she was in there that made him place one in his room. He finally realized why the mirror was solely there for Mai and Mai alone.
Before he even had time to prop up his chin, smirk in his usual way while standing tall, his curve of his lips turned downward. His eyes immediately focused on one thing. The scar. It was so large and prominent, threatening to cover his whole face. Dark, rough colors surrounded his eyes that hid, and it was as though you could still feel the burn, still smell flesh on fire. The hideous scar. Could he even remember what he looked like before? He faintly reasoned that he used to get compliments, how he had his mother's soft face - his father's sharp, golden eyes. Now everything handsome about him was enveloped with discolored skin. The hideous scar that would never go away, forcing him to remember his childhood whenever he looked at himself. The anger flared up inside of him and his fists clenched before smashing his reflection with one blow. The mirror shattered upon contact as some pieces of the glass pierced and stayed on his hand. He seethed at the throbbing pain, but he didn't care so long as he watched the mirror crumble.
The crash of the mirror, though he didn't notice from his own pounding wound, echoed from out of his bed quarters and to the halls. A minute later, tiny padded feet scurried down the hall. Zuko remained where he was, hardened eyes still looking at the space where the mirror once was. Fingers grasped his door, opened it with ease, and a head stuck out.
"Zuzu, is everything alright?" No answer. The acrobat bounded inside the room, closing the door behind her. Ty Lee only saw the her friend standing in place, and in front of him a broken mirror. She didn't see the whole picture. "Oh, it looks like you've accidentally broke it. Here! I'll help -"
"It's fine," was Zuko's response. He didn't turn to her. Ty Lee was persistent, and came over to him, despite his words. When she was next to him, she was about to bend over to pick up some of the sharp glass, when a streak of red caught her eye near him. Her eyes widened.
"Zuko?" The acrobat reached out and gripped his hand. He didn't resist as she stood up straigt to inspect his bloodied hand. Cuts and scrapes all around his flesh, and her own hands were stained from touching it. Her eyebrows furrowed, looking at Zuko's blank stare down at her, then back at the hand. "Zuko," she repeated numbly. "L-let's go clean this up."
Some ten minutes passed, and both Ty Lee and Zuko were now seated at the edge of his bed. She was done with cleaning off the blood, as well as making the wounds cease to bleed by putting pressure on them. Ty Lee currently had Zuko's hand on her lap, bandaging it with cloth. As she was wrapping it, there was silence. Zuko still had yet to say a word with his facial features never changing and Ty Lee fumbled with anything she was going to say. She wasn't known for handling these situations well. It wasn't everyday people would go hitting their mirrors.
"You really shouldn't go breaking those kinds of things," Ty Lee laughed lightly as she broke the silence. "Too many years of bad luck."
"Like I haven't had that already," was his abrupt reply. She didn't respond after that and continued to stare down at his hand she was fixing. So that's what he was thinking about. She had always known a glimmer of how he felt about his childhood. With Azula, Fire Lord Ozai, and missing mother, it wasn't the perfect sketched out life. Striving to be the best, to gain attention, and all to be overachieved or rejected by someone else. She could relate, even if he didn't know it. Ty Lee was quiet. There was some predicaments that even she knew would not be solved by cliche'd, everything-will-be-all-right words.
"I can understand your pain." There. She had said it - it was out in the open. Ty Lee could feel underneath her hand that his hand stiffened. The words must have struck a bullet in him. But he said nothing. So she tried again.
"Zuko, I know what you're going through -"
"No, you don't know anything!" He pulled back from Ty Lee's grasp which made her gasp from the abruptness, his hand she was bandaging searing in pain. However, his anger numbed it all. "All your life, you've been the perfect little girl whose gotten everything she's ever wanted. Pretty, innocent, happy, cheery, good at whatever you try, and men gape at you, how can you say you understand when you clearly don't?" His voice projected throughout the room and he glared down at the girl on his bed.
Ty Lee was silent, the first time Zuko ever had seen the acrobat speechless. "You're wrong," she finally managed to mumble out. She bit her lip, her hands fumbling along the edges of her shirt. When Zuko didn't respond to her, she continued.
"You're wrong," she repeated. "You're...you're not the only one with scars." Before the fire lord could open his mouth to question her, her small hands clutched the hem of her top and slowly lifted it up to reveal her sides. Like Ty Lee was, Zuko became speechless. Her sides were laced with thin cuts that lined up and down them, some stretching towards her stomach, and some being an inch in length. None looked fresh (or else he'd immdiately question them), but as though they were obtained years ago and the skin had tried to heal itself; forming layers of flesh discoloration. Scars. Each one varied in some form, some pink, some dark, and some appeared like they were obtained painfully.
He realized how suddenly she seemed so frail and tiny as she meekly showed him her scars, as though with one flick of Zuko's finger and she'd crumble down. As though she wanted to sink into his bed - to disappear. An odd behavior for the likes of her. He remembered how just hours ago she was skipping around, calling out her pet names to specific guards, trying to make "Zuzu" pretend he was a knight and she was a princess that needed to be saved (which, of course, he never complied too). Now all she could do was stare at the bed, refusing to look at him. This was the Ty Lee he never thought existed.
"Ty Lee," Zuko mumbled his shock and could only find himself staring at her wounds.
"When I first started at the circus, I knew I wanted to be an acrobat. They were so carefree, so graceful, so unique. I decided to let them teach me," she started, and her faced turned to the side. "What I didn't know is the harsh reality of it all. I was on the tight rope, and whenever I stumbled or didn't have the right posture, they'd whip me to fix it. I spent hours on training, trying to perfect it. But no one is perfect Zuko, and I'd was reminded that daily when I had to pay the consequences for it. Just like you, I was told I wasn't good enough, and that I should watch other - better - acrobats to get a glimspe of success."
Zuko bobbed open his mouth, then closed it back shut. What could he have possibly replied with? When he didn't respond, Ty Lee added, "I learned quickly in those months, but the memories I sustained will never be quick to forget."
The rest of the words that she could have told him were not needed. He came to the conclusions on his own, the thoughts was like him, not by personalities or likes, but by the emotions that were bound to their pasts. Of him never being the perfect son and Ty Lee, who was never the perfect acrobat. She had understood all along, and here he was, used to thinking that she was always the golden child. While he was the banished, black sheep in the family, their scars - they were the same. Did she ever look at herself the same way he did? Ever want to tear them away, wishing they would be removed, as though that'd give her a sense of comfort? Did she ever feel ugly? The way he did?
Thoughts swirled his head and he couldn't help himself. She flinched as his uncut hand slowly reached to her side. His coarse fingers brushed against her scars and he traced every one of them slowly. Her breaths were short and increased in numbers at his touch, but she let his hand outline her. The girl still couldn't look at him straight in the eye, which was fine because Zuko couldn't do that either. They stayed like that until Zuko was sure he touched every one. None made a sound. He finally brought his hands to his side.
"At least you're beautiful," he whispered in a hoarse voice, remembering the mirror incident all over again. Ty Lee dropped her shirt and let if fall over her sides.
"But Zuko..." She leaned closer towards Zuko, until her breath lightly touched his face. She placed her hand on his scar, fingers lightly tracing the outline of it. He closed both of his eyes, holding back emotions. He felt he'd always been unwanted, never good enough - like a beast that needed to be shunned. But all in all, he felt the emotion of being self conscious with Ty Lee confronting his most personal secrets. His most ugly past. All made into one scar. He didn't want her to see it. But he felt something unexpected as soft, warm lips fell onto his closed eyelid. He took a sudden breath in. She held that position for a minute as they both took in the moment, until she drew back slowly. Putting her hand over his, she looked him straight in the eye - the first time that entire night she did.
"...you are beautiful. In every single way."