i created the sound of madness
She feels the sharp sting of the needle as they sedate her, and then—
"You can't lock me up in here forever, Zuzu." she calls, head banging backwards against the cement wall. She searches around the small square cell wildly, looking for any means of escape. There are none.
She continues to taunt her brother, push all of his buttons. She can't see him, but she can hear his raspy breathing from behind her cell door. "Let me out of here, brother, and we can rule together. I don't belong in this madhouse."
He's silent, "Zuko?" she questions, voice rising into a screeching octave, "Answer me!"
She hears his footsteps as he walks away, and she slumps forward, tugging at the chains that tether her to the wall. "Zuko?" she calls again, voice soft.
"Don't leave." she pleads to no one.
He comes everyday, sits outside of her cell. She hears the whisper of paper, and knows he's reading.
He's sitting outside of her cell.
She's outraged. She tugs at her chains, lighting sparks at her fingertips. Her fire isn't blue, it's red. She doesn't understand why. Her flames are pitiful, and they fizzle out after a few seconds, though she tries to make them last. "Are you going to talk to me?" she spits at her brother, raging. Sparks fly from her fingers, but they never catch.
His footsteps sound, and she knows he's walking away again. She slumps against the wall, curling into herself. Her hair is greasy against her scalp, her stomach growls, she feels itchy. Her head falls back against the wall, and she stares up at the dark ceiling, counts the cobwebs and waits for Zuko to return the next morning.
She wakes to the sound of her cell door opening, and she scurried backwards, as far away from the door as she can. She's curled up on the floor beside her bed. She hates the bed.
Light filters in from the open door, and Avatar Aang flies in on an air ball. He greets her cheerfully before he sits down in front of her, eyes closing. She stares at him, mouth falling open. "Get out." she spits, kicking out at him.
"Shh." he orders, eyes staying shut, "I'm meditating."
She surprises herself by doing as he says.
The next person to visit her is Mai.
She's been in the cell for weeks, lying on the floor, counting from one to a thousand over and over. She's surprised to see Mai, but she doesn't show it. She hasn't gotten over the betrayal. I love Zuko more than I fear you.
She turns away from Mai, eyes on the wall.
"Azula," Mai sighs, sounding utterly bored, but Azula knows better. She can hear Mai's voice cracking, hear the desperation.
She ignores Mai, and the dark-haired girl leaves and doesn't look back.
Zuko is back, but this time he's reading in her cell.
"You look terrible." the Waterbender tells her, hands on her hips, "And when was the last time you had a bath?"
Azula glares at her, ignores her.
The Waterbender shrugs, pulls a key from around her neck, and undoes her chains. She stares down at her free hands, and the other girl waits, waits to see if flames will shoot from her fingertips.
They don't, and Azula says, "I'm hungry."
The Waterbender and another girl, a Kyoshi Warrior, get her into a bath. They wash her hair and fill her bath water with bubbles. She hates the bubbles, but their fingers in her hair remind her of something long ago: her mother, when she was very young, brushing her hair just after a bath. She clamps her eyes shut, wills Ursa away.
They wrap a towel around her, carry her to a new room. It's not a cell, but rather, another room in the Palace. New Fire Nation robes are laid out on the bed, waiting for her.
The Waterbender—Katara, and Suki help her dress. She doesn't know why she can't do it herself, but she can't make her arms or legs move. She doesn't understand. Why are they being so kind?
"I wouldn't have shown you the same kindness." she states as Katara tightens the belt of her tunic. "I would have kept you locked up forever."
Katara's eyes level with hers, "And that's the difference between you and I." she says.
She's sad to watch the two girls go. They're the most pleasant company she's had since she'd been locked up. She sits on her new bed, wet hair clinging to her shoulders. The satin sheets below her are a welcome change from the cold hard floor of her cell.
She smooths her hands over the sheets, and doesn't hear the door open.
Zuko steps in, without his scrolls. He doesn't say anything. He stares at her for a long moment, and then, slowly, clambers into the bed behind her. Before she can screech and order him not to touch her, his fingers brush through her hair, just like they had when she was six years old and she'd had a nightmare, to frightened to crawl into her mother and father's bed—Ozai would have laughed, called her weak—so she crawled into Zuko's instead.
Her face scrunches up, and something wet cascades down her cheek. Her shaking fingers touch the wetness. It's a tear, she realizes, and she doesn't know how to feel about that. She can't remember the last time she'd cried.
Zuko continues to brush her hair, and one by one, the tears she's held in for years slip down her cheeks.
It feels good.
"I was going to kill you." she whispers, "I was going to win the Agni Kai."
I wanted to win.
"You're my sister, Azula." he breathes then, speaking for the first time, "You're my sister."
Aang visits her again.
Mai comes, and they have tea together.
Ty Lee tags along.
She's curled under her sheets, hands clenched into fists. She should be the Fire Lord. The crown is all wrong on Zuko's head. It belongs to her. She should be wearing it. She could just rip it from his head. It—
He's your brother, Azula. Ursa whispers in the darkness.
Sokka and Toph mill about the room, putting on some sort of play for her. Her chin rests in her hand, "Is it your mission in life to annoy me?" she asks, boredom lacing her voice.
Toph shakes a finger at her, "Shut up, Lightning Rod." she sounds offended.
Azula smiles into her hand.
Ty Lee waves a pink tunic in her face, begs her to try it on.
She doesn't know how much time has passed since Sozin's comet. She doesn't particularly care, either.
Zuko reads to her from a scroll, Katara braids her hair, Aang blows air into her face, Toph complains, Sokka falls off the edge of the bed, Ty Lee cartwheels across the room, Mai sighs, Suki traces shapes across her sheets, and Azula sits between them all.
She stares down at her hands for a long moment, knows she could destroy all of them with a single blast, she could be her father's daughter again. She could claim her throne.
Instead, she leans back on her pillows, and lets Zuko's low rasp send her to sleep.