Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender
This is a story about Zuko and Azula from when they were young. I have always thought that she wasn't corrupted until much later in life- in this, she is five, and he is seven. Enjoy.
Zuko was laying in his bed under the cool silk sheets when he heard his door crack open. He looked up and saw Azula- she was rubbing the sleep from her eyes, her short black hair was all messy on one side as if she'd been sleeping, and her small feet stopped uncertainly at the entrance to his room. He sat up, annoyed at being interrupted.
"What do you want, Azu?" he asked, his voice brunt and cold. He watched her bite her lip silently and comb her short fingers through her hair, but she didn't answer. Her toes were gripping the red carpet as she looked at the floor, and he asked her again. "Hey, what do you want?" His voice was insistent, she always did this, woke him up, refused to talk and just stood there until he laid back down. She never made a sound, never cried or anything- he knew she was probably just doing it to annoy him.
"Stupid baby," he taunted, and her eyes shot up as her mouth opened just a bit. She was always picking on him and playing tricks on him, and she could make sparks just as well as he could, and he was two years older. "Why don't you go get Father, maybe he wants to get woke up by you in the middle of the night." He watched curiously as she distractedly put her right hand on her left forearm and pinched it, hard. She bit her lip harder, and he got out of bed, uneasily watching his baby sister clamping her nails into her own skin.
"Azu. Hey, Azu, stop it!" he yelled, and grabbed her hand. She released her skin, and in the light from the hallway he could see where she'd done it before- small white scars, little scabs and raised skin, some of them were even bleeding. "Why do you do that?" he asked her, and she tilted her head down silently. She only talked to him when Father was around. She ignored him around Mother, and even with their dad she was mean. but still- she looked sad, and lonely, and he clumsily patted her shoulder. She looked up, and for the first time in a long time, her golden eyes were shiny like she was about to cry.
"Zuzu," she started, then hesitated. Her voice was tiny in the large room, it echoed faintly, and he tilted his head- she sounded so different. Abruptly she turned away and walked out of his room, her steps small and meek in the grandeur of the hall. Curious, he followed her back to her room, right down the hall from their parent's room. Only then could he hear the shouts coming from their bedroom. Zuko could her his mother speaking urgently.
"She's an innocent little girl, Ozai, not some piece of clay you can mold to fit your schedule and-"
"Be quiet!" His father's voice whipped out venomously, "You have no idea what you are saying! She is my daughter and I will not allow her to be-"
"Be what? Be what, Ozai? You want her to turn into the monster that you make her out to be? Why do you think she picks on Zuko? Why do you think she tried to make sparks until she collapsed because she saw how you honored your son for it?" Zuko's stomach turned as he looked down at Azula, saw how hard she was pinching her skin and slapped her hand away, noticing the dark red smear that followed her fingers as her nails scraped down her arm.
Their father scoffed, "I now know I shouldn't have honored him, if his little sister can upstage him then-"
"STOP! You are ruining them! You're pitting them against each other- This is not some war, this is our family!" There was a crash, and he heard his mother cry out in pain. His father was suddenly speaking too low for them to hear, and the siblings listened as Ozai's voice began a crescendo into a howl of rage. His mother screamed again, and suddenly all was silent in the room down the hall.
"Azula, has this happened before tonight?" he asked her in hushed tones, and she nodded, letting her tears flow freely now, breathing in short little gasps as if it hurt her to take in full breaths.
"They think I'm a monster," she whimpered, and he hugged her, letting her small hands bunch his robe behind his back as she held on for dear life. He felt horrible and queasy. Every time this had happened, she'd come to him and he had sent her away to get her back for her cruel jokes during the day. And it was his fault that she had hurt herself, he could just tell. "I found out stuff. Daddy doesn't love me, really, and Mom is scared of him and loves you more than me. And you… you don't like me either," she finished in a small voice, and he pulled back a little bit to look at her. She wasn't so perfect now with her eyes red and puffy and her hair all messed up, and he felt like this was how she really was inside, instead of the mini-me of their father. He grabbed her hand and pulled her out of her room and she followed him obediently to his chambers.
"From now on, you can sleep in here when you need to, okay?" he said, feeling sort of proud of himself. She looked up at him in confusion as he awkwardly kissed the top of her head like his mom did whenever he was hurt, and then he went to the curtains and ripped off strips from the bottom and wound them around her arm, around the cuts and pinches she'd made with her pointy nails and kissed the bandage too, feeling a little foolish. She watched this slowly and silently, and when he pulled a blanket and pillow off his bed and laid down on the floor, she stood off to one side, tugging at her night gown and rubbing her sore eyes.
Zuko looked at Azula. Azu looked at Zuzu, and he raised his eyebrows. "You're supposed to get in the bed, that's what gentlemen do when ladies aren't comfy." he said, his voice full of authority, and she scrambled to his side, giving him a quick hug then curling up under his covers. "Azu?" he asked, and she mumbled something. "I don't hate you. And you're not a monster, and Mom and Dad do love you." he said, blushing, feeling very guilty but not quite knowing why. He knew he was lying, and he felt like apologizing for no reason at all.
There was silence, and then she rolled over, facing him. "It hurts." she whispered, and then took a deep, shuddering breath. "But… thanks Zuzu." she said, and then her voice got a little stronger. "But you're still a dumb-dumb," she said, and quickly rolled over and squished her eyes shut. He sighed in frustration but didn't bother replying. within minutes they were both asleep, and the next morning, Ozai strode into his son's room, about to wake him for firebending lessons, and instead found Azula curled into a tiny ball, burrowed under his covers while the Prince slept on the floor.
His eyes narrowed, and he pulled his son up roughly off the ground without saying a word, leaving his daughter in her peaceful dreams as he raged at Zuko. The young boy sat in his chair, keeping his eyes locked on the Fire Lord's moving lips, but wondered to himself why he wasn't allowed to care for his baby sister. In that moment he was glad that it was him who bore the force of their father's anger instead of Azula- she'd already punished herself enough, and even if she woke up and acted the same way as ever, he felt like he'd helped her, and a few hurled curses from his dad wasn't going to change that.
This turned out way longer than I originally thought- I'm toying around with the idea of maybe chronicling Azula's and Zuko's childhood, including their gradual split as well as their relationship with their parents. Please review and tell me what you think. Thanks for reading, and if you like my style of writing, check out my profile and read my other stories!