She's Come Undone

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

Warnings: Speculation, Spoilers up to Season Three

AN: For Avatar_500 over on LJ. The prompt was #16: Mad.

She doesn't recognize him. Not now. Not anymore.

Her eyes are glassy and dull, and he supposes that's from the medicines. She doesn't even react as he sits in the nearest chair and watches her play with her dolls. Most of them look as though they've been carried through a warzone. Some without limbs. Others without heads. But none of them are scorched, which is the only difference from when they were younger.

Her smile's that of her child self though, but it's cracked around the edges now. No longer sharp. Broken.

Her hair is brittle and uncombed as it slides across her shoulders. She doesn't wear it up anymore, not after she used the ribbon to strangle the turtle-ducks the others here keep as pets. The color is still the same, however. Still the same dark color as his own.

Her fingernails are bitten to the quick, but there's blood crusted underneath. He doesn't think it'll ever wash off.

He watches her for an eternity before finally moving, and very slowly, he eases from his chair and comes closer. Inch by agonizing inch until he's kneeling on the floor next to her. She still hasn't looked at him. Hasn't even acknowledged his existence.

"Azula, do you know who I am?" he asks in a voice reserved for the people he loves most. "Do you remember me?"

She pauses then and glances up as if only just noticing him. He can see that shadow of her former self behind her gaze as she studies him for a moment. She tilts her head to the side ever so slightly, and her eyes narrow.

But then, she abruptly sucks in a breath and recoils.

"Lu Ten," she whispers, and it's filled with horror. "Lu Ten… You're dead! Dead! The wall got you. It did. Ba Sing Se is crashing down. You're dead!"

She's nearly shrieking but suddenly quiets. Her eyes are just a gold ring surrounding a pupil, and he can see his reflection as she leans forward until their foreheads nearly touch. He catches her arm if only to keep her from falling over.

"Lu Ten… Cousin… Help me." And her voice is the closest to begging that he's ever heard. "Please help me. I don't… I don't know where I am. I don't know what's happening. Please…"

He doesn't know what to say. What to do. He can only grip her elbow and feel her arm go slack. Only watch as her gaze loses focus and she slips from his grasp. Only stare as she begins to hum.

Azula rocks back and forth then. Sings to herself about blood and fire and death in a voice that belongs to a girl and not a woman.

Zuko says nothing. He just sits with his sister and brushes her hair back from her eyes.

Ever Hopeful,