(i-i'm your opheliac)

At the prodding of his sister, his girlfriend, and all but one of his friends, he visits Azula. He's the last to do so, and judging from the stories he's heard about the other visits (she scorched half of Ty Lee's braid off, attacked Mai with her own knives, refused point-blank to acknowledge Zuko's presence, glared at Aang until he finally left, leveled some kind of ancient Fire Nation curse on Suki and all of her future progeny, and ended up in a shouting match with Katara so vehement that she had to be sedated and Katara spent a full week fuming over it), he does not have high hopes for his own visit.

"What is it with you people?" she growls when he walks through the door. "Am I some kind of sideshow freak you enjoy prodding at? Does it make you feel better to see how far I've fallen? What the hell do you want?"

"Nothing really," Sokka answers, lounging in the chair, "but my sister threatened me with some really nasty stuff if I didn't come visit, so here I am. Just ignore me, I'll ignore you, and then I can get her off my back. Deal?"

"Why should I help you?" she asks angrily, twisting her hand into the bed sheets and wishing that the stupid nurses hadn't been feeding her bending supressants. It would feel so, so good to watch him scream and writhe and flail desperately while trying to avoid the flames.

Sokka shrugs, apparently aware that she can't burn him to a crisp. "I can talk to the nurses and get you some more freedom? Or your brother, I guess, because it's up to him, right? So, be nice to me today and, I dunno, maybe you can go outside tomorrow. How's that sound?"

"Not good enough." She watches him carefully. Objectively speaking, he's handsome - for a Water Tribesman, that is. And he's much friendlier than the rest of them, or at least, he's more honest, and it's refreshing to meet someone who's honest after all this time. He groans.

"Come on, what do you want?"

Company, she thinks, for someone to just sit here and talk to me like a friend rather than a lunatic. But she won't tell him that. He doesn't need to know. "I don't know," she replies, "what do you have that I might want, hmm?"

He watches her carefully, and then shrugs. "Look, I'll talk to your brother and see what I can get for you. I don't know yet what that'll be. What do you want?"

She yawns pointedly and crosses her arms. "How long do you have to be here before you can escape and tell your sister that I'm an incurable maniac who made your life hell?" She half-expects him to deny that he's planning to do this, but instead, he tilts the chair back on two legs and props his feet up on her bed, much to her frustration.

"An hour, maybe? I've got to make it look like I tried."

His honesty is nice, but it only highlights the wall between them, and makes her feel lonelier. "Oh, just go away. They won't care."

He raises an eyebrow. "You've met my sister, right? She's got it into her head that we all need to make sure you... what did she say? 'Realize that we're on your side now' and 'want you to recover as fast as possible.' Yeah, I think that was it. And, apparently, to her, that means sitting here and hugging you or something." He examines his fingernails, and then looks up at her. "Don't take this the wrong way, but I'm not hugging you."

"Likewise," she sneers.

Silence stretches between them. For a long moment, she simply watches and waits for him to do something, and it seems like he's doing the same thing. Finally, he sighs.

"Oh, fine. How are you, Azula? Doing well?"

She scoffs. "I'm great," she replies coldly. "I just love it here in the madhouse, where I'm not allowed to bend and everyone flinches at the sight of me, and where I can't even get a decent cup of tea because I'm supposed to be recovering from some kind of terrible disease of the mind." She smiles as sweetly as possible. "I'm so glad to be here, where I'm not a menace to society. And that freedom nonsense just wasn't for me anyway."

"I get it," he says, making a face. "No need for sarcasm. It was just a question."

"It was a stupid question," she answers angrily. "Of course I'm not doing well. Idiot."

"I'm not an idiot," he replies testily, glaring. "I was trying to be nice."

"I don't want your kindness."

"Fine," he says, "I'll remember that. I hope you never get out of this place. The world is a safer place now that you're holed up in here. I can actually sleep at night, knowing that you aren't going to show up out of the blue and kill me while I'm sleeping. It's fantastic. My life is fantastic. Enjoy your stay."

He doesn't stand to leave, however, because he hasn't been here long enough. His words hit her like a slap in the face, but she's glad for it; hatred and fury she's good at, kindness she can't work with. "Oh, don't you worry," she says, smiling venomously, "I can still kill you in your sleep. Just give it a little time."

"Burn in hell."

She laughs outright at this. "Oh, I plan to. But first, I plan to make everyone around me miserable. Doesn't that sound fun?"

"Do you enjoy being a psychotic bitch?"

The joke is no longer funny. She glares at him, something unwanted rising in her chest, something that feels oddly like shame and hurt. She swallows it down, hard, and smirks falsely, "Maybe I love it. Maybe it's the most fun a girl can have."

"Thought so," he replies coolly, and she almost - almost - wishes that he had seen through her, that someone would see through her. But he doesn't, and no one else does, and all she feels is lonely, again.

"How's your family?" she asks, a burning need to make him hurt running through her veins, and without her firebending, her tongue is all she has. "Sister doing well? Father? Mother - oh, that's right... She's dead, isn't she? My countrymen killed her in cold blood - get it? Because it's cold in the Southern oceans where her bones are being picked apart by bottom-feeders."

Something glints in his eyes, but he counters her deftly. "Oh no, let's talk about your family. Your brother's got the throne you fought so hard for, your father is in jail, and oh! Your mother abandoned you. Isn't that nice?"

She grinds her teeth furiously, and forces a smile. She will not lose this fight. "I'll bet he laughed when he killed her, you know. Some stupid, weepy, pathetic peasant - to the leader of the Southern Raiders, she must have seemed so insignificant. Like a fly, to be swatted away. I'll bet she cried."

"At least my mother loved me," he responds coldly, striking her deep. She can't come up with a reply to him this time. He's won, and he knows it. He smirks at her, without any warmth or humor, and stands up to leave, bowing sardonically. "Have fun, Azula. May your days be long, and may you never leave this place."

She grins savagely. "And may your days be long and filled with fire," she replies, and he sneers.

A/N: This was supposed to be a one-shot, but it started to get away from me in part two, so I decided to expand it into a full fic. This part mostly just sets up the situation and the relationship. The plot hook comes in the next chapter. Tell me what you think. Also, the title and chapter titles are from the song "Opheliac" by Emilie Autumn.