THE BLUE DRAGON
Zhao smirked at the (not so) missing princess; even on her own, she stood ready to fight him, despite his years of experience and sheer power.
It was the oddest things that set her off- this time was a bag of chalk, something her guardian had taught her to use before sneaking over rooftops and up walls- Azula clutched the bag to her chest and sobbed.
There was something to be said for traveling with a firebender, particularly one who preferred getting up early and taking care of little chores like tending the camp fire and starting breakfast.
"For a firebender," Sokka said, "you're not all that bad."
Azula coughed and caught Katara's braid before the other girl could walk any further, "You don't want to go that way," she said, "Sokka and Suki are alone- and they'd like to stay that way."
Azula wasn't going to pretend to be something she wasn't, and Long Feng didn't quite dare insult Aang or his companions just yet, so the Dai Li came up with some nonsense rigmarole of cleansing herself of Ozai's influence; at the end of the week, she was ready to kill for so much as a scrap of meat, but had to admit- her hair hadn't ever been that clean before.
Some part of Azula still rebelled at the idea of the Fire Sages betraying them, but all it took was one glance at her guardian's stance and she whirled to follow her friends, not even needing his scream of get out of here!
"You mean your country outlawed dancing," Aang asks, and all Azula can do is close her eyes.
There was one thing to do, and only one: defeat Ozai- anything else would be the proverbial icing on the cake, though when Azula said that, she ended up having to promise Sokka that they'd have a real cake anyways.
There was something to be said about a twelve year old a century out of time, who carried the weight of the world on his shoulders as though it didn't even exist- but Azula would leave that to Katara, since the waterbender somehow managed to keep from becoming utterly cloying.
"What do you mean she's having a baby?" "Azula, don't faint!"
Azula pinched the bridge of her nose, and grabbed Aang by the collar, "let me explain, it's not that you're a vegetarian that we have problems with, it's that you assume anyone who eats meat is disgusting that we have a problem with."
Long Feng is smiling, a nasty little smirk matched with the sickening gleam in his eyes, and Azula can't smack the expression off his face because her wrists are bound to the chair arms, and then he leans forward and starts saying the worst things, lies, she knows they're lies, because no one can beat her in lying, he's wrong, he's wrong, he'swrong-
Katara takes a swig from Azula's tea cup, and promptly spits it out; "How can you stand it with this much sugar?" she asks, and the firebender just shrugs.
Ironically, of everyone in the group, it is the princess who can masquerade easily as an Earth Kingdom peasant; everyone else has calluses in the wrong places.
The last straw for Katara was finding him pinning Azula to a tree by her neck, and later, when Azula was explaining how he'd surprised her, Katara had to force herself not to go after that jerk and freeze a collar around his neck, see how he'd like it!
Azula knelt beside Toph, sliding her fingers over the girl's hair, gently murmuring an old lullaby her guardian had used to sing.
Aang shot up into the air, arrows glowing so bright as to be blinding, knocking back Ozai's attacks one after the other without fail.
What was shouted across the ocean was only whispered in the Fire Islands: the Avatar was back, and traveling with the princess!
'As above, so below', and nearly everyone was praying for Ozai to be overthrown; with that much force behind Her, Agni found it pathetically easy to reach out and tweak Ozai's firebending, draining his power, and letting the Avatar take it without killing the tyrant.
Sokka couldn't stop grinning, ever since some farmer had walked up to Azula, grabbed her by the shoulders, and kissed her- he grinned even more when, in response to her stammered question as to who the hell he was and what did he think he was doing, the farmer just grinned, shrugged, and said "Isn't it obvious?"
"Fire isn't- it isn't an ebb and flow, it isn't the solidity of rock, it isn't the gust and breeze of air, Aang, it's a rhythm, the same as your heart, and the trick is to learn how to listen to it without being overwhelmed."
The spirit world was weird, Aang thought, but not quite as weird as meeting Azula's brother- who wasn't eight, anymore, and didn't look like the cute, harmless kid she carried a miniature painting of.
It was a small image embroidered in the hem of a skirt, or carved into a wall, or etched in window glass; subtle but always there, the old sign for freedom.
Sokka leaned over and muttered in Azula's ear, "So what's this parade about," and Azula whispered back, "the death of Avatar Roku- don't tell Aang."
Aang catches her wrist, and looks up, gray eyes big and soulful and who can snap at him when he looks like that; then he speaks, and her breath catches in her throat, because- "I've seen you're brother, and he's okay, he loves you and misses you and wants me to tell you that or he'll kick me in the back of the head until I'm seeing triple."
Captain Jee's ship is below them, and falling back fast; Aang urges his air bison ever faster, ever higher, and Azula finally can't hold it in and begins to laugh.
The New Palace, a worthless pile Ozai had built in the last year of his rein, has been cleared out of all valuables; Azula knows no one else understands why she's enjoying burning the place to the ground, but that's family history and best left in the past.
At noon, to great cheering, Azula stepped forward and accepted the Fire Lord's crown, raised it high, and lowered it into her topknot.
No one knew why, after the comet, Azula's flames switched from blue to gold, but whenever the Avatar or any of the Fire Sages were asked, they simply coughed, said that clearly Agni was happy with her new mortal voice, and left it at that.