A new perspective on Azula and Zuko's post-Sozin's Comet relationship. Features a questionably reformed Azula, but nothing is as it seems! *queue ominous music*

It kind of acts as a thesis for who I think Azula became… mentally ill but…functional. I hope you like it!

This is a sprawling epic of a oneshot so be forewarned… I hope the lyrics added in there aren't too confusing, if they are, what the hell, skip them. They are from a song called "Handcuffs" by the band Brand New. Their meaning is very controversial among fans, but I think the main idea is wanting to hurt someone, but ultimately being unable to. Whatever you think they mean, the song really sets a tone for this piece. So check it out, because I didn't include the whole thing.

There had been a time when she had been scared of things.

Things that go bump in the night and things she didn't understand.

Surely there had been a time when she had been jolted awake by horrifying nightmares of catastrophic proportions. Dreams that would traumatize her and leave her screaming and crying, terrified that someday her worst fears would be realized. That had been during simpler times when the sky had been blue and the earth had been brown and the fires had still burned orange among the embers.

But Princess Azula stopped looking for monsters under her bed when she realized they were inside of her.

The only thing she had feared for a long time was failure, and that had never even been within the realm of possibility. She couldn't create any situation in her brilliant mind where it was even likely that she could fail, so she dismissed the notion from her thoughts and fixated on other things. Her father had cultivated her brilliant mind, but for some reason everything she did had never been good enough for her mother. Ozai had praised her firebending feats of mass destruction and everything else she did while Ursa had chided her.

Eventually we all become what our parents tell us we are.

I'd arrest you if I had handcuffs

I'd arrest you if I had the time

I'd throw you down in the backseat

as if you'd committed a terrible crime.

There were three rules of firebending: control, control, control. This rule applied to more things in life than she could have ever expected when her first sifu had explained this concept. By the time she had lost her own control, her brother was still attached to her strings. It had been so ridiculously effortless to convince him he was weak when they were young. Despite everything he still feared her. He feared her insanity and her unpredictability and somehow she still managed to control him.

Azula was constantly changing the sound of his name. She called to him like a siren over a raging sea. Her voice entwined him, restrained him, suffocated him. There was an ocean between them, and yet he still heard her.

He had come to realize he had two sisters on that island. The first was calm and collected and would greet him begrudgingly when he attempted to visit her. The second would lie on the floor with her long hair spread around her chaotically. Maybe she was ignoring him; maybe she didn't even realize he was there, whatever the case, this sister rarely acknowledged him. When she did, he didn't soon forget it.

"Zuzu!" She would laugh malevolently, tracing an icy fingertip across his chest.

"Zuko." She would roll her eyes apathetically, a trace of something like concern in her voice

"Zuzu…" She would drone, glaring at him.

"Zuko." She would intone fervently with a hint of something dark and feral in her eyes.

He wished Azula would stop and just decide who she was already- decide who he was already. Sometimes he was her worst enemy, other times he was all she had left. She never slept, she refused to eat and she caused interminable issues for the staff taking care of her.

He constantly received disheartening reports from her attendants and he wished all of it would end and that she would just cease to exist.

But he never really worried; she had no where to go anyway.

She haunted his dreams now.

"Fire Lord- come to pity his pathetic wretched sister?" She laughed mirthlessly.

Azula awoke in a bed of blue flames, or so she imagined. The fire consumed her body without harming her. Never the less she felt tattered and frayed and found it increasingly more difficult to ignore the unchanging ache of things. Summoning every ounce of strength she still possessed, she opened her eyes. She had no sense of how much time had passed, but she had a general idea of where she was.

He let me live. She thought with vague disbelief. He has cast me out of my palace so that I can see just how far I have fallen out of his favor.

She would rot eternally in this place because he was weak, and miserable, and did not posses the courage to kill her. This was surely his fault, and in due time he would learn that. Everything was always his fault.

From her island she could see the towers of Azulon, always just out of her reach.

The healers didn't know what to tell him or how to explain her sickness to him. When she had lost control she had lost her ability to firebend. The sheer power had infected her and rebelled against her body. With no where to go, the fire had polluted her very being.

The paranormal fever was gradually poisoning her; her attendants had doused her in ice cold water in an attempt to quell its progression. She had screamed in anger and frustration; perhaps even despair as the ocean water sizzled against her skin. She grabbed the lapels of a faceless attendant's coat, singeing them at the edges. "I want to die." She had hissed severely, staring into his eyes with raw desperation. "I want to die." She repeated adamantly, clearly even more crazed than usual. She had repeated the mantra; clinging to the words for security as her command over her own body disintegrated. Her cries had increasingly become more hysterical and eventually turned into screams.

Then it had disappeared as quickly as it had emerged, her skin ceased radiating cold blue light, she stopped shaking, her mysterious affliction left her and she was reduced to silence.

She was curled up facing the wall with a hospital blanket wrapped around her still form. The Fire Lord felt suddenly apprehensive as he set eyes on her dull shadow.

"Go away." She spat, before he even had the chance to announce himself. A beam of light invaded the darkened space as he stepped fully into the room. Of course she was awake. Zuko couldn't remember ever seeing her fully asleep.

"It's me-"She spun around to face him with nearly the same vicious expression she had worn the last time she had struck him with lightning. His breath caught in his throat.

"I know who you are; I spent 11 years of my life with you breaking into my room in the middle of the night to bother me about your petty emotions." She spoke the last word as though it was a curse. "You're probably here because you heard I was ill for a few days, well bad news. I'm still here, and I'm certainly not dying. So go back to your fucking palace." She said assertively, turning to face the wall and crossing her arms petulantly.

So it was the first sister he was speaking with today. She spoke in the same regal, measured voice he was familiar with. Normally she ended up screaming insults and pounding his chest with her fists in a drugged stupor. Eventually she would reduce herself to tears and collapse into a heap on the floor or do something equally unflattering. On good days she wouldn't even acknowledge his presence; she just laid in bed and stared listlessly at the wall. He contemplated this development for a moment.

"I came," he began calmly, "because I found mom."

She didn't reply.

"She wants to… see you."

Slowly, Azula began to chuckle. "And I suppose you are willing to grant her wish?" She turned to face him again with a wildly perfect grin splayed across her lips .Her long hair swept at the edges of her gaunt face. "You're going to let her see her beloved, dying daughter one last time?" She taunted him with every word and was succeeding at aggravating him beautifully.

She crept out into the light that peeked through the door. He clenched his fists reflexively. She looked like a wraith and there were lines framing her psychotic smirk that had not been there a few months before. He supposed she had always been underweight but now she was solely composed of skin and bones. He was ashamed that no one had cared about this possible slight to her health before she had been institutionalized.

"Why are you really here Zuzu? I'm sensing an ulterior motive… something more than a chance to please mother." She spat. He stood firm even though she continued to move closer. She moved out of the ray of light but her eyes still gleamed in the dark. "Is it… guilt?" She seemed to get some satisfaction from saying the word. She had begun to traipse around him like a jaguar waiting for its prey.

"Shut up."

"It's your fault she disappeared in the first place, isn't it?" She cooed.

"Shut. Up." He could feel the familiar sensation of rage creeping up the back of his throat as her assault continued. He looked down at one fist. It had begun to tremble.

"Poor baby Zuko, you just couldn't keep your mouth shut could you? If you had never spoken out against father she would never have been forced to leave, would she?"

His teeth clenched even though this comment made him realize that she was now chronologically impaired as well as unhinged. "That had nothing to do with it." She is just a diluted form of who she used to be. He reminded himself.

She giggled maliciously. "Whatever, I'm sure you've found some way to blame yourself for everything that's happened. So now you're here and you want me to see her." She drawled, leaning against the window pane. "I bet you would unleash your deranged sister on the world because this mess is all your fault…I see you haven't changed." In a split irrational second he had trapped her against the window with a powerful arm.

Before he had a chance to rebuke her she began to giggle once more, staring up at the ceiling. The ruthless noise rendered him incapable of speaking and filled him with a cruel curiosity that he was unable to stave away. Why was she laughing?

"I win." She stated, staring at him directly.

"Your eyes…" He uttered in disbelief. Beneath her dark overgrown bangs her eyes blazed with bitter azure fire.

"You and I aren't so different, Zuzu." She whispered.

I'd break into a town's worth of houses,

And rob whole families blind

I'd do it to you like you do it to me

if I knew you'd get away fine

Zuko paced the corridors of the palace at night. Apparently when you inherited the throne you also inherited a brutal case of insomnia. Iroh had given him multiple types of tea that were supposed to help, but so far none had succeeded. Monsters still wandered into his dreams and they left him tossing and turning. Each passageway was sparsely lit and Zuko hadn't realized how far he had traveled into the vast labyrinth that was the palace. If he wasn't careful he would end up in the bunker beneath the city. As it was, he suspected he had already accidentally ended up in the basement. He didn't even recall leaving his rooms.

Close to the end of this particular hallway, a bright light radiated from a door that stood slightly ajar. He approached it and burst in without thinking.

"Well well, the Fire Lord comes to the kitchen to get his own midnight snacks. Who knew?" The subject of his nightmares sat before him casually; displaying her usual smirk.

"You're eating." He said, not bothering to hide the surprise in his tone.

"Don't tell Ursa, I would hate to lose a chance to agitate her."

"Is that your twisted way of convincing yourself she cares about you? By forcing her to worry about your health? That's a surprisingly passive aggressive approach."

"Shut up Dum-Dum and have some fire flakes." She hooked her foot under the leg of the chair beside her and shoved it toward her brother. It fell to the stone floor with a sickening clatter that echoed in the deserted kitchen.

He scowled at her disdainfully. "Must you destroy everything you touch?"

"It's a sturdy chair. Don't set your panties on fire." Favoring him with one of her calculated glances; she pushed the box of fire flakes toward him.

The day the disgraced princess of the fire nation returned to the capital city had been a quiet one. No one was informed of the event save a few trusted servants and members of the family. The servants had dressed her slender figure in luxuriant silks and for the first time in a long time, Azula opened her drawer containing a single stick of kohl and a tube of scarlet lipstick.

She was still reluctant to see their mother. Zuko had asked her why and she refused to answer. She didn't want to tell him that after the last time she had seen her mother, she had woken up screaming while being forced into restraints.

Ursa had welcomed her with open arms. Azula had reluctantly allowed herself to be embraced and kept her eyes on the floor. Zuko noted that she had kept her nose high in the air the entire time and the thin line her red lips had formed showed subtle signs of disapproval. After a few brusquely exchanged words, her attendants had retired her to her rooms.

Zuko decided that the meeting had meant nothing to his sister. They had known there wouldn't be anything objective or ordinary about their reunion. He wished he could show her just how much he had sacrificed for her sake- how much their family had been drained all in the name of the princess that was going nowhere fast.

"Progress." Ursa had smiled sadly at him.

"She ruins everything, she destroys everything; I don't know why I thought…" He nearly laughed in exasperation.

She placed a reassuring hand upon his forearm and silenced him. "We have blamed her for enough." Ursa said quietly. "We all have our own destinies." The dowager Fire Lady remarked. Zuko nodded. "Perhaps you were meant to bring peace to our land, but Azula was born to be blamed for our nation's previous faults. To the world, she represents a time of endless suffering and strife. No one could easily forget the fires of so great a war. If this is truly your sister's fate, then it is indeed a sad one."

Her wise words caused pity to infect his stream of consciousness. He struggled to reply. "I…I just don't know what to do anymore. She's exhausted all of our options; I have nothing left to give her." He rubbed the purple half-moon beneath his good eye.

"I'm not sure she has anything left for you to take from her, either. She has lost everything."

Zuko sat down across from her hesitantly and accepted the container of fire flakes she had thrust toward him. She didn't acknowledge him further and seemed content to wash down her dry fire flakes with the contents of a blue glass.

"Where did you get that?" He indicated the intricately decorated bottle that was placed further down the preparation table from where they were sitting. She glared at him over the top of her glass. "You underestimate me" She communicated silently. Her new eyes scolded him.

"Tell me again how your eyes got that way?" He munched thoughtfully on a spoonful of flakes, tasting the bitter sting of metal against his chapped lips.

Azula shuddered momentarily as the alcohol took effect, and then proceeded to put her glass down. "I got really sick when I lost my ability to bend. That is the reason why they teach firebending children focus and control their power so early... to prevent us from incinerating ourselves. But then I conquered it, I got better, and when I woke up I had these as a souvenir. Don't ask me to explain it to you further, that's all I know about the matter." She tapped her vermillion nails against the hard wood expectantly, waiting for him to pester her further. He obliged.

"You know you're not supposed to be wandering around on your own."

"Neither should you. Who knows, all sorts of assassins could be lurking in dark corners… in kitchens…" She added with a sneer.

"You're incorrigible." He said in exasperation.

"That's why you'll send me back to my little jail on Ember Island where I can't embarrass you after Mommy has had enough of my company."

I'd drown all these crying babies

If I knew that their mothers wouldn't cry

I'd hold them down and I'd squeeze real soft

And let a piece of myself die

He had ordered the royal family's secluded beach house to be rehabilitated so she could live there as soon as Ozai had been imprisoned and he had been named acting fire lord. "You should take care of your sister, Zuko." Katara had told him gravely after they witnessed her horrific outburst. He knew she was right, but at that point he never expected that Azula would return to the palace.

"I sent you there because Ty Lee thought the environment would help you. It's you that would lock someone up to keep them from embarrassing you."

"Don't fool yourself. Had our roles been reversed, I would have killed you."

Neither one of them was going to deny it.

"And that's what really bothers you isn't it?" He said in revelation. "You don't understand why I let you live."

"You're right, I don't." She said smugly.

"This whole time you've been accusing me of doing things for you out of guilt and cowardice when really-"

"I've just been trying to figure out why you let me live." She finished his sentence, inspecting her perfect nails.

"I let you live because I'm not like you Azula, despite what you like to believe."

She leaned back and allowed her shoulders to rest elegantly against the back of her chair and didn't reply.

"Well why do you have the will to live now?" He challenged her haughty silence.

She sighed. "I live in spite of you, Zuzu. I was literally burning from the inside out but I brought myself back from the brink of death just to spite you." She replied venomously without missing a beat. His sister had the innate ability to make him want to strangle her. "What would you do without me?" A cruel smile swept across her face. It was a feature he was sure would never leave her, no matter how close to the borderline of "normal" she crept. "It's just you and me now."

"Being involved with someone you don't understand can be frustrating, especially when you know there is nothing you can do to prevent their behavior." Uncle Iroh had commented when he learned about Zuko's issues with his estranged sister. "Never the less, you of all people should believe in redemption."

He rolled his eyes and let her snide comments go over his head. "What's wrong with you anyway?" He retorted, sounding a little angrier than he would have liked.

"Oh, just general insanity." She let out a laugh that normally caused anyone within earshot to cringe.

"Are you trying to add "kleptomania" to your impressive insanity resume?" He asked, indicating her blue sweater fringed with rabbit-chipmunk fur. Azula had always been a sucker for quality materials.

"Your little water bending friend said the color complimented my new eyes." Azula snorted. "Like I give a shit! It's bad enough I already slightly resemble a water tribe brat with these eyes. I presume it's supposed to be some sort of peace offering but I know she just pities me. Pity practically bursts out of her ears whenever she sees me. But… if I get a nice sweater out of it I won't complain. Of course, I still resent her like hell." Azula shrugged gracefully and drank the rest of her sake.

"Wonderful. It seems you shallowness has overcome your tendency to attack people on impulse. Spirits be praised." He said in a dull, but no less caustic tone. "It was incredibly gracious of her, considering you've tried to kill her multiple times." He added.

"I have tried to kill all of your friends multiple times. I guess you'll just have to NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY AND LET US ALL GET ON WITH OUR LIVES." He eyed the bottle of sake at the end of the table. The more time he spent with Azula the more inviting it became. "You are always such a drama queen." She pursed her lips in her signature pout. "It's a good thing you have such a boring girlfriend, it cuts back on your drama sources."

"Oh I'm the drama queen? That's it, back to Ember Island with you, you're clearly still delusional. Besides, any girlfriend I have would cause drama because YOU would try to do something nasty and distasteful to her!"

"Okay, so maybe I shouldn't have tried to kill Mai the moment I saw her, but what did you think was going to happen?"

The downside to letting Azula temporarily reside at the palace was that there was not much to keep her occupied. He occasionally permitted her to visit him in one of his various throne rooms. She would mostly stand in the shadows and make off hand remarks when he was receiving an audience. She became somewhat of a permanent fixture after her first month. No one paid her much attention; no one knew who she was.

Plenty of people had been put on trial for war crimes but Azula had been the exception. Those who knew her in a rather personal way had taken notice, but she looked different three years later, and no one ever put the pieces together.

He had been speaking to delegates for peace from the earth kingdom in one of these receiving rooms and had been bombarded with financial reports he had to review before a meeting with the treasury later that afternoon. Azula had accosted him and started complaining about something trivial. He had been studiously ignoring her when Mai had walked in.

Her back was turned to Mai but as soon as she had called her greeting Azula's breath stopped short. She tensed and carefully turned to face her. Mai realized she had made a grievous mistake.

"Azula…" She whispered, wide eyed in realization.

"Back stabbing bitch." She responded coolly. The guards stepped forward but she was too quick. Azula was tumbling through the air before the guards even had time to block her. But Mai was quick too. With a flick of a wrist and a flash of metal the knife was lodged into her collarbone. Azula wrenched the knife out of her flesh and threw it back at Mai's pale face before the blade even had time to settle. Mai evaded it successfully for the most part, but the edge still gracefully skimmed her cheek, drawing a stream of blood.

"I made you, Mai." Azula hissed as the guards promptly snatched her. "I didn't kill you when I had the chance because I expected it from you."

"That's right; I forgot you were a people person." Mai droned, using one of her long sleeves to stem the flow of blood.

"Now I know that you're not supposed to betray your friends." Blood was seeping out of the wound just above her heart and was soaking her through her robes rapidly.

"You didn't know who your friends were anymore."

"Control her." Zuko order the men.

"You should really invest in guards with better reflexes Dum Dum." She called to him amicably as they dragged her out the door.

"You could have restrained yourself." He replied gruffly.

"If you were in her situation what would you have done?" Mai sighed later that day while the royal physician was healing her cut.

"You can't possibly be defending her!"

"I'm not. I'm saying… I don't blame her." The healer removed his hand, the gash had closed, but a faint line remained. Perhaps his sadistic sister was aiming to give her a hideous scar just like his.

It's hard to be the better man.

When you forget you're trying.

It's hard to be the better man…

"That's almost impossible." Her smirk returned. Zuko tried his best to disregard her, she was so infuriating. "I wasn't expecting her to be at the palace anyway." She raised her eyebrows, daring him to ask why.

He took a deep breath and gritted his teeth. "Why?" He asked.

"Well I never really thought this lifestyle would appeal to her. She was just dying to leave Omashu when her father was the governor. She couldn't bare the pomp and circumstance and the politics. She was nearly overjoyed when I went to retrieve her. "Please tell me you're here to kill me."" She mocked her former friend's forlorn tone. "I never expected her to end up bound to a place like this."

"Mai likes it just fine here at the palace and she's free to go where ever she wants." His hands curled into fists yet again.

"You don't know what she said when she thought it was over for good. You forget that I was left to pick up the pieces when you left to "protect" her." Azula's smile slowly widened. "That worked well when mom left to protect you, didn't it? You didn't resent her or anything- I'm sure you were grateful to know she absconded to an unknown location to "protect" you and leave you to your father's mercy. That certainly worked out well too didn't it?"

"Are you just trying to piss me off now?" Two can play that game. He got up and swiftly retrieved a teapot from one of the cupboards. It was why he had initially journeyed down here before he had been distracted.

"No, I'm informing you." It was typical of her to try and convince him that she was actually helping him. He filled the pot with water from a wayward pitcher. He placed it gently in his hand.

"Oh really?" Now it was his turn to be smug. The teapot began to steam moments later. Azula's features twisted for only a moment into a conflicted expression before she looked down at her bowl of fire flakes and went back to being completely collected.

The sound of shattering glass broke the silence as soon as he turned his back to her. He turned quickly to find her still perfectly composed, the only difference was that her blue drinking glass had fallen onto the stone floor. She had averted her gaze from him and the unfortunate piece of glassware. He placed the equipment for brewing tea on the table and assumed his former seat. Neither of them acknowledged the crushed glass. But Zuko knew that she had allowed herself to break her composure, albeit behind his back, for one precious moment.

"You don't know what Mai told me when you left to join the avatar and his band of merry orphans." She insisted, pushing a stray strand of hair away from her eyes. "What if she told me that you wouldn't have lasted anyway, she would rather do anything than adapt to a domestic life as the fire lord's wife. It's been three years; shouldn't you be happily married with three sons in line for the throne already?"

"It's not that easy."

I'd arrest you if I had handcuffs

I'd arrest you if I had the time

I'd wait for you outside the court room and taunt you

When all the appeals were declined

"Oh, poor Zuzu, I'm sorry it's not easy for you. I would be a better Fire Lord anyway." She grumbled, poking at her bowl.

"Sometimes I don't think you understand the absurd magnitude of what you tried to do."

"I did. Of course I did. Everyone here seems to be under the impression that I'm misled and misunderstood, but I assure you, I understood exactly what I was doing. My only regret is that rather embarrassing breakdown I had towards the end." She waved her hand in the air nonchalantly.

Zuko poured himself a cup of hot tea and pretended not to notice her staring at the heat enviously. "You always try and pass it off as a breakdown when clearly it was something… more significant than that." Azula rolled her eyes. She just loved how everyone danced around the fact that she was probably crazy.

"It WAS a breakdown, brother. It was a very stressful time for me. Plus I began to think that after all the time that I had spent being perfect I was still no better than you in Father's eyes. But at least Daddy always approved of everything I did."

Azula's voice was laced with a familiar poison that burned his skin and clouded his judgment. His knuckles turned white as he clenched the teacup between his fingers. He had a feeling it would soon be the second casualty of the night.

"It's amazing that I can still use that as leverage against you." She remarked upon noticing the change in his composure. "He was once revered for the respect he demanded; now he's just a man being chastised for his sins against humanity." She seemed to remind him. "Why do people even bother having children if their little bundles of joy always end up resenting them and blaming them for their life's failures?"

She had reached one snake-like arm out across the table and had started stirring his tea with a single finger without her brother noticing. Her head was thoughtfully propped up with her other arm.

"Sometimes people have to discover their true family… or they have to build one up from the ashes."

Azula gave him a depreciating glance. "I'm a crazy incapacitated ex-princess that's been in and out of mental institutes for three years. Who would ever accept me into their family?" Neither of them knew what to say after she had pointed out something so blatantly truthful.

"Ty Lee has been trying to get you back since the moment you left. Have you even spoken to her?"

Azula, in a rare moment of sentimentality, sighed. "I should have known that of all people, Ty Lee would be the first to be willing to forgive me. That one gives out love too easily; often where it is unrequited and unappreciated."

Zuko had noticed this as well. "You may not realize it Zuko, but I'm your friend too." The pretty wide-eyed girl had told him honestly when he finally asked her why she betrayed Azula. The thought that she would ever consider herself his friend had never even crossed his mind until the moment she mentioned it, and he couldn't even begin to comprehend the sacrifices she had made that day in the name of friendship and love. He sipped his tea in acknowledgement.

"Why is it that we always end up being what our parents tell us we are? Even Ty Lee, who ran off to the circus to escape her 5 identical sisters ended up wearing identical uniforms with a different group of girls." Azula laughed at the irony maniacally. "Daddy told you that you were a failure, and you sure were for a while. Sometimes I think you still are. Mother said there was something wrong with me and there certainly was!"

Why did he bother to put up with her? Was he unknowingly a glutton for punishment?

"The same things that have influenced you have also influenced me." She reminded him. "Sometimes you like to pretend that I don't exist but I'm always with you. You know that I'm always there. You may have defeated me in a physical sense, but I haunt you, I follow you, and sometimes I control you."

"And how do you figure that?" He countered defiantly.

The scene fell away around him. The edges of his vision blackened and soon all he could see was a pair of electric blue eyes. He wasn't in a kitchen, he never had been. The familiar form of a blue dragon materialized to accompany the glowing orbs.

"Because you and I really aren't different at all."

An unknown force violently dragged Fire Lord Zuko from his sleep. By some amazing feat, he was able to keep himself from falling out of bed. He sat up suddenly, it was still dark outside. He ran his fingers through his scraggly hair, which had not yet recovered from months of haphazardly cutting it with a knife. Mai was still lying beside him silently with both hands crossed over her chest, looking perfectly bored as usual. Her pale skin reflected the light of the full moon pouring into the royal quarters. He sighed and got up without disturbing her.

He tried his hardest to banish the images of his sister from his head.

It was strange how often his dreams traversed the perimeter of reality.

Somewhere in the deepest recesses of his dreaming subconscious there lay an unforgivable girl; a girl he often ignored in reality. She knew everything about him and she always had. Even things he wasn't aware of himself. She knew his regrets, his desires, his fears and she was all too happy to reveal them to him.

He suppressed the sudden urge to laugh in spite of himself. Of course it hadn't been real; Azula would never drink so profusely, she would think it beneath her. For a moment he envisioned an imperfect Azula, not hopeless. Even though he knew it was nearly impossible.

For some reason he was willing to entertain the possibility of drawing the girl out eventually.

Faint splashing from the turtleduck pond below his window alerted him of the presence of his visiting waterbending friend, trying to perfect a new technique she had learned on her recent trip to the North. He may have walked down and joined her audience of turtleducks on a different night.

For now he thought he would get some fire flakes and perhaps a cup of tea from the kitchen where his sister would certainly not be waiting for him. Then maybe he would send a messenger hawk to Ember Island; after all, it was never a bad time to check up on Azula.

It's hard to be the better man.

When you forget you're trying.

It's hard to be the better man.

When you're still lying.

When you're still lying.

A/N: I really didn't know how this was going to end until I was almost finished with it. I guess the ending was in my subconscious the entire time…I suppose it's for you to decide what actually happened in real time and what was just a dream.

I'm not really too happy with this, it's obnoxiously long and you're an angel if you managed to get through it. It didn't really turn out like I wanted it to either.