I'm new to this fandom and I've just finished watching the series, and, throughout, the relationship between Zuko and Azula intrigued me, I hope this does it justice. Set during the finale.
Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar.
Zuko watched her as she shrieked, crying, sending desperate bursts of blue flame through her mouth. Azula. His one and only sibling, his little sister.
"Zuzu?" The little four-year-old stood in the doorway of her big brother's room, shuffling her feet as the rain outside spattered against the walls.
"What now, Azula?" Zuko replied, voice sharp and annoyed, sitting up from where he lay under the red covers of his bed. The young girl said nothing for a moment, looking at her hands, wringing them together. The Fire Prince huffed, irked, it was just another one of her games. Just as Zuko was about to tell Azula to get out, there was a loud roar of thunder and the little Princess jumped and sprinted to him, wrapping her arms around his waist, hiding her face in his chest.
"Wha-?" He yelped, shocked. Never before had Azula sought him out. And, was she… trembling? Zuko had no idea what was going on. "Azula?" He asked, somewhat worriedly. The young girl gave no answer, only held on tighter as the thunder sounded even more loudly than before. The Prince looked down at his sister, considering, and he finally understood. "Are you afraid of the thunder, 'Zula?"
Even though he had figured it out, Zuko was still surprised to feel her nod into his chest. Azula did no often do this; she was always strong and independent, and had a mean streak to top it off. But, there were these rare times when she let him know that she was just a child, like him. So, instead of pushing her away like he had planned to, he wrapped his arms around her small frame with a sigh, patting her back awkwardly. "Don't worry, 'Zula, the thunder can't hurt you, 'specially not when I'm around."
"Okay, Zuzu." She replies, looking up at him with grateful hazel eyes. He pulls her up onto his large bed and she holds fast, eventually falling asleep against him, no longer plagued with worries about thunder storms.
Zuko watched as Azula pulled forward, trying to break free from the chains that held her down. She went from grunting to screeching and back again. Vaguely, he was aware of the hand Katara had placed on his arm, though whether she was trying to comfort him or hold him back, he had no idea.
All Zuko could do was stare at the broken shell that was his sister.
Eight-year-old Zuko sprinted through the courtyard, jumping over the obstacles that came across his path. He narrowly avoided crashing into one of the servants before he turned a left. Once he was safely around the corner, he smiled in triumph; he had won. Suddenly, a burst of fire ripped across the ground in front of him, the red flame tinged slightly blue and a giggle came from behind him.
Zuko jumped back and turned around, facing six-year-old Azula, who stepped deftly forward and tapped his shoulder.
"I got you, Zuzu! You're it!" She smiled gleefully.
"You cheated." He pouted in return, partially because his sister had won but also because he was envious of the fact her fire burned hotter and brighter than his own.
"There's no rule against bending." Azula replied smartly, putting her hands on her hips before childishly sticking out her tongue. Zuko reached out, as if to tag back but instead of tapping her shoulder as she had done, he reached for her hair and tugged at one of her brown locks.
"And now you're it again, 'Zula!" He exclaimed, running around as she screeched in indignation. The chase had begun again, and this time Zuko was determined to win.
Only, Zuko never had the chance to when he turned to see their father looking in disapproval at them with cruel, calculating eyes. The then-prince was quick to pull Azula away from her brother, holding her in a brutal embrace, a sick perversion of how a parent should hold their child. As Zuko watched his little sister being carried off by the man that fathered them both, he got an odd feeling that things would change, and not for the better.
Azula broke down into gut-wrenching sobs, and Zuko find himself pitying her, this girl who had strived for perfection, only to fall under its weight. Her cries made him ache to his core, the pain they brought almost worse than the shock of her lightning. This was not Azula, the strong-willed, fearsome, contemptuous, and punishing princess of the Fire Nation, nor was it his baby sister, the one who had stared up at him with big hazel eyes filled with quiet admiration. No, this girl was one he barely recognized.
And that's what hurt most of all.
As the years passed, Zuko found himself spending less and less time with Azula. They had been separated as their father believed his 'weakling' of a son was only holding his daughter, the prodigy, back. Zuko had no choice but to step away from his only sibling, only, when he did, he didn't realize that he would not only lose a playmate and friend, but that his sister would lose who she was. Each passing day, she became more and more ruthless, more into the picture-perfect Fire Princess their father wanted her to be.
One afternoon, practicing, Zuko kicked his foot high into the air, a burst of fire shooting from it, streaking through the sky until it died, having only gone half the distance it should have gone. Zuko grunted, annoyed, and tried again, getting the same result.
"Zuzu." Azula sneered, entering the ring where he was training. Zuko found himself beginning to hate that nickname. "I would applaud you for your effort, but that would imply I was actually impressed." Her smug face held no trace of any familiar emotion. Zuko glowered at her, anger rising. "Alas, it seems I simply don't the time to show how its done, brother; Father has called for us, we are to perform for Fire Lord Azulon, and, by we, I mean I." Her language was at odds with her young face, the smirk even more so.
Zuko glared at her even more, but followed her as she turned to go.
Zuko wanted to turn away, but found he could not, no matter how much he wished to. He didn't want to see Azula like this, he realized, because for all that she had done, and how much he had hated her, she was still his sister just as he would always be her brother.
Nothing could change that.
Zuko screamed. It was all he could do as the fire burned him. He screamed for all he was worth, guttural cries of pure pain. It was agony, blistering agony. He thought that this could possibly be the worst feeling in the world, but knowing that it was his own father who was causing this pain was even worse.
Finally, the fire ran out of fuel and flickered out, but the deep burning pain stayed with him, holding him in its mocking grasp. He fell back, his young body unused to so much distress, and even in his agony, he felt himself drifting off, the world blackening blissfully.
Distantly, he felt a small, surprisingly calloused hand on his arm, clasping his arm in gentle yet rough grip and for a moment he thought he heard a whispered word.
Zuko finally ripped his eyes away from Azula's haggard form, ignoring the wetness in them. He looked down at his feet for a moment, indecisively. Taking in deep breath, he glanced to Katara beside him, seeing her looking back him, uncertainly.
Zuko looked at her, this imposter that called herself his sister, from where he stood across her, his hands raised to attack. She looked immaculate, as per usual, almost clinical. But, behind all the pomp and perfection, there was a girl who was to be feared. Her eyes held a scary calmness as she analyzed the world around her, smirking.
It was in that moment that Zuko realized that that little girl who was scared of thunder was truly gone.
Katara looked at him meaningfully, and Zuko nodded, knowing they should leave, should find out what Aang and the rest were up to, but it weighed heavy on his heart, having to leave now. He did not understand it, only moments before had Azula tried to kill him and Katara, and yet he could not bring himself to harm her any further, even though he was well within in his right. Letting out another sigh, he began backing away.
"Zuzu!" Came the shrill, desperate cry, the first intelligible word out of Azula's mouth since she had fallen. Zuko stopped short, shoulders hunching and looked back to his sister, the broken girl that she was now. "Zuzu." She repeated, looking at him with eerily familiar big eyes. "Zuzu, please." She begged, pleaded, but, for what, Zuko did not know, all he knew was that he had never seen his sister beg before, and it hurt in a way he could not explain.
The prince was aware of Katara beside him, looking at him curiously, waiting to see what he would do.
"Zuzu." This time the nickname was whispered, and Azula no longer forced her heavy gaze on him, instead she let her head lie motionless on the dirty ground, defeated. It was that look, that defeated look, the very same look that he had worn after his father had burned him, that did him in. Without thinking it over anymore, he approached her silently, until he was crouched in front of her. He did not say a thing, waiting for her to notice him. A moment later, Azula turned her eyes back to him and they shined in disbelief as she stared up at him. She shifted so she sat back on her knees, facing her brother.
"Zuzu?" She asked, her voice childlike, so much like all those years ago. For the slightest moment, Zuko saw something he thought was forever lost, he saw that little girl, his baby sister 'Zula staring at him with her wide eyes. He reached out, and very gently tugged at the end of her chopped hair, just as he had many times when they were younger. For a moment, Azula looked utterly confused and then recognition dawned on her face and she let out a wracking sob. She fell forward into him, hiding her face in his neck, causing him to freeze in shock. "Zuzu." She said the name over and over, almost like a prayer, the prayer of a girl teetering on the edge of insanity.
Hesitantly, Zuko lifted a hand to the back of her head, stroking her hair gently, attempting to ease her pain. He leaned his head on top of hers, trying to reassure himself that his was his 'Zula, that it was going to be alright even though he knew it would never be. Azula's body shook with the strength of her sobs but Zuko's grip was stronger as he held her to him and soon her tremors ended. He held onto her for a moment longer, and then softly pushed her back into a kneeling position, watching her carefully. His hand had moved to the the side of he heart-shaped face as she stared back at him with the hazel eyes they shared, confused and frightened.
Zuko sat crouched there with her, his sister, this fire without flame, for a while, not moving, trying to keep his hold on the little girl he now knew was inside. But as the minutes dragged on, her eyes grew dimmer and the chilling craziness began to reenter them. Suddenly, Azula roared and a long stream of blue flame escaped from her mouth, headed straight for him. Zuko narrowly avoided the fire, falling to his side and watching as it passed over him.
In the silence that reigned after the loud sizzle of the fire, Azula began shaking, cackling, hiccupping with the force of her frightening laughs. It broke his already battered heart to see the little girl leave her completely once again.
As Zuko stood and once again began his trek away from Azula all he heard was the continuing cackle that came from behind him. Katara joined him on his walk, still watching him carefully, waiting to see if he'd break like his sister.
A lone tear fell from his scarred eye, the only sign betraying his true feelings.
"Goodbye 'Zula." He whispered.
Thank you for reading and let me know what you think.