Skin Deep

Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar: The Last Airbender. Sadly enough.

Warnings: Speculation, Spoilers

AN: For Avatar_500 over on LJ. The prompt was #12: Devour.

Her smile is easy and bright. Vapid. Empty. Like there's nothing inside and she's just pretending. As if there's no one present, just a shadow shaped like a person.

She's not a little girl lost. A child never found. She's a girl who doesn't even truly exist. One among a half dozen others. Lost in the shuffle. Unimportant. Unnoticed. Unwanted. Should've been more than one of the crowd. Should've been the son her parents always wanted.

Empty-headed. Full of nothing but air and fluff.

Empty body. Little more than a grinning doll. No spirit within.

Empty life. No spark. No flare. No fire. Nothing.

Not like Azula, who blazes like the sun. Not like Mai, who's still on the surface but so deep within.

Ty Lee wants to be like them. Wants to pull that intensity into herself. Wants to consume that energy and taste that glow. To keep taking in anything and everything and everyone until that void inside is finally filled.

Air and water and earth and fire. Her friends and her family and strangers, too. That woman over there. That boy playing in the distance. Azula as she strides over, aura red. Full of power and heat and the scorch of death.

Ty Lee wants all of that, too. Can feel that desire thrum inside of her as Azula marches up, promising vengeance and pain with every step. Her voice is harsh and demanding, but the threats are like white noise as Ty Lee basks in the energy thrown her way. They don't mean anything really. The potential for harm is such a little thing; she can't hurt someone who doesn't truly feel. Who can have blood bead on her skin and only notice in passing. Who is too busy drinking down that fire as fast as it comes.

And really, for someone so smart, Azula sees so little. And understands even less. Not herself. Or her brother. Or even the two girls always at her back. One full of knives and the other full of emptiness.

But Azula is starting to see more than she did before, and she stops her rant before it can even really begin. Her eyes are narrowed slits, suspicious as moisture dots her brow.

Ty Lee is all innocence and light, however. Just sunshine and giggles. A mirror that reflects and not a window looking in. She offers Azula her best and most winning smile. She tilts her head, scrunches her nose, and looks her directly in the eye. Allows a mere glimpse of all that isn't inside.

The other girl just stares, hands curling into fists, and very slowly turns around. Her shoulders are squared, and her back is stiff. Chin lifted. Demeanor proud.

And Ty Lee is still smiling when she sees Azula's hands tremble as she walks away.

Ever Hopeful,