Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender
"My Lord, she is ready to see you."
Those simple words brought Zuko out of his dark thoughts. His mind had gone back three years, or more specifically, to the day his father had been brought down and his sister had gone crazy. His sister. That was his whole reason for visiting the asylum today; for his sister, Azula.
With a heavy heart, he stood up and stretched, his back aching from the straight backed chairs of the waiting room. Dr. Katashi, the asylum's chief doctor, stood next to a metal door, patiently awaiting him. His posture seemed to suggest that he was tired, and somewhat defeated. Zuko took that as meaning something bad had happened.
Careful to control his emotions, he strode towards the short man, his head high and proud. Appearances were everything in the society in which Zuko lived in. He, as his nation's leader, could not afford to appear weak, especially with all of the trouble going on in the colonies recently. "Thank-you doctor for allowing me to visit her today. I understand that you and your staff had to make a few special accommodations for my arrival. I appreciate that sentiment." He paused and took a deep breath. "May we proceed?"
As if he were almost impressed by Zuko's introduction, the doctor bowed his head lightly before pushing open the door. "Certainly, my Lord. Follow me." The Fire Lord did just that, stepping into the dimly lit hall behind the man. He looked back briefly though and took one last glimpse of the gray waiting room before the door clanged shut.
The pair walked in silence, each seeming to be lost in thought. The taller of the two, finally broke the silence. "How is she doing doctor? Is she progressing or regressing? Is that new medication working?" Though Zuko had grown wiser and more patient in the last few years, some of that teenage eagerness still existed. "Well, I wouldn't say that Azula is progressing OR regressing. For the past several months, she has remained in a vegetative state, only breaking that to mumble something completely incoherent. As for the new medication, it seems to have little to none effect on her. It hasn't stimulated her mind as we had originally thought it would."
"Oh." Zuko said, lapsing back into silence. Katashi's news wasn't that pleasing to his ears.
"Here we are my Lord; Azula's room." The two had stopped at the end of the hallway where there stood a lone door. It was a metal one with a small grate at the top to allow light in. Zuko was reminded of the prison doors from The Boiling Rock, a high security prison that resided on a dormant volcano… It certainly wasn't the cheeriest place.
The doctor, with small, gnarled hands, rapped on the door lightly, an action which omitted a dull thumping sound. "Azula, your brother is here to see you." Silence. "I believe that means, my Lord, that we may enter." Zuko began to wring his hands nervously as Katashi reached in his coat pocket for a key. This would be his first visit to his sister in a long time; a long enough time for him to be made felt guilty for not visiting.
Click. The doctor had stuck the key in the door and had turned it. This was it. There was no turning back now.
"Once you're in, I will close the door and await your return." Zuko nodded, his heart in his throat. He wasn't sure if he was ready to see the shell of the young lady who could manipulate almost anyone with ease. He wasn't sure if he was ready to what was left of a once gifted fire bending prodigy… He wasn't sure if he was ready to see his sister. Period.
"Whenever you're ready, my Lord." The Fire Lord nodded once more and pushed the door open.
As soon as he stepped in, the door closed behind him with a clank. Zuko would have jumped in surprise, but Katashi's ever-observing eyes were peering at him through the metal grate. Appearances were everything after all. "Azula?" he whispered, unable to see her in the darkness. The only source of light was a measly, glass-encased candle sitting on a round, decrepit-looking table. Zuko made a mental note to talk to Katashi about the quality of patients' rooms around here… Definitely.
Still disgusted by the room, he lit a small fire in the palm of his hands. It warmed Zuko, and made him feel alive in such a place as he was in, an asylum. He shuddered to think of the people who had to live here every day.
"Mother, why is he here? I don't want him in my room! He IS NOT welcome here!" The Fire Lord pivoted to the voice. The light of his fire fell on a bed in the corner. There sat Azula, a person once to be feared, now pitied.
"Get out of here Zuko! Mother said to! You must listen to her." The girl shrieked, pointing her fingers wildly to the wall. Zuko brightened his flame to see if she was pointing at anything on the wall in particular… There was nothing.
Something broke inside of him at that very moment, something very fragile. It pained him to see his sister so broken, so gone, and so, so, crazy. It was like the person sitting on the bed wasn't Azula anymore, not the Azula he knew at least…
"It's okay Zula," he said, reverting back to his old nickname for her. "Mother said I could stay."
"That's not fair!" Azula shrieked, pulling at her lank, brown hair. "Mother has always favored you! She has to make you go! She has to! This is my room!"
Zuko thought back to Katashi's words… Some vegetative state.
"But why Zula? I just want to talk with you." Zuko said, inching closer. His sister, seemingly scared at his forwardness, tucked herself into a fetal position, making herself as far as away from him as she could.
"But I don't want to talk to you! I hate you Zuko! I hate you!"
The words sliced him as though she had cut him with a dagger.
"You don't really mean that… Do you?" Zuko choked out as he ran a hand through his disheveled hair. He always did so when he was distressed.
"Yes I mean it! I hate you Brother! I do! I do!"
More daggers sliced through him, each white hot. Their burns lingered. The Fire Lord extinguished his flame in shock at the words.
Azula always lies.
Suddenly, Zuko was thrown back into the past. He was on his bed as a young boy, rocking back and forth, chanting something… His younger self was upset, upset enough to even cry. Not even his little teddy bear, which was lying next to him, could cheer him up. "Azula always lies. Azula always lies. Azula always lies…" That was what he was chanting. That had been his mantra for the time of his life spent with Azula.
Pulling himself back into the present, he took a good look at his sister, who was still curled in the corner of her bed. Her eyes, once sharp and cruel, were glazed over probably because of her medication. They looked confused and hurt. Her hair, once trimmed and brushed to perfection, was lank and wild. Azula's whole face, screamed misery, something Zuko was grieved to see.
"You don't hate me… Do you Zula?" he whispered softly before maneuvering himself lightly onto her bed. She cowered at his sudden closeness. "I do hate you! I do!" she screamed, beginning to rock back and forth.
Azula always lies.
"No, you don't. I know you don't." Zuko said gently before taking off his red cloak and draping it over the girl. She made no move to throw it off.
"Yes, I do!" she insisted, tears now streaming out of her eyes.
Zuko smiled, much to Azula's confusion. "I love you Zula. You're my sister and I love you."
"Liar!" she spat, twisting her face up into a malicious expression. Zuko was unfazed by it.
Azula always lies.
"No Zula; you're the liar." he said, before wrapping his strong arms around her.
"Get off me! Get off me! I hate you! I hate your guts! Now get off me!"
The princess swatted at his chest feebly, almost as if she weren't trying to get Zuko to stop hugging her.
Azula always lies.
Zuko only hugged her tighter, causing her to break down.
"I-I hate you Zuzu. I do."
"I know it…
Azula always lies.
Edited: 6/29/12 for grammatical problems and a few more minor flow problems.
A/N: Thanks to all those who have read and reviewed. I've appreciated it… A LOT!