let's play a game

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Azula is eight years old when she makes fire for the first time. She's a prodigy, her father's Generals whisper, the perfect candidate for the next Fire Lord.

A smirk stretches at her lips, and even at such a young age, she is vicious and vindictive, her father's daughter. Fire Lord Azule has a nice ring to it. Her flames die out, and she bows to her trainer before skipping away, humming, wandering straight past the gossiping military men.

If only Zuko wasn't the oldest, one murmurs woefully, just loud enough for her to hear.

Azula's smirk drops, face growing devoid of any emotion. Fire Lord Zuko, she thinks disdainfully, sneering.

That night, she tries (unsuccessfully) to kill her brother for the first time.

Azula, Ursa shrieks, fawning over Zuko, you almost burned him.

Azula looks down at her feet, hair hiding her wicked grin. I was only playing, mother, she says.

Zuko shoots her a wounded look, like he can't believe she'd just tried to set his entire room on fire, with him locked in it.

Ursa makes a disbelieving noise, and shoos her out of the room.

Azula skips away, hands clasped behind her back.

Fire Lord Azula, she muses.

A pretty title, don't you think?

Wanna play a game? she asks Zuko, eyes swimming with mischief.

What game? he questions, suspicious.

It's called 'Fire Lord', she singsongs. I bet I'll win.

His eyes darken, and his mouth stretches into a grim line. I don't want to play, Azula, he says.

She watches him walk away, wonders if she could work up enough fire to burn his entire body from ten feet away. You're already playing, Zuko, she thinks, turning away.

Azula laughs at his new scar, gleeful. You'd make an ugly Fire Lord, she thinks, giggling.

She celebrates with her father's wine when her brother is banished a week later, sent on a quest he has no hope of ever conquering. She sits in his room, running her hands over his deep red sheets. He never deserved this room, right across from her father and—

not her mother's room. Not anymore.

The taste of metallic fills her mouth as her lower lip splits, courtesy of her teeth. She wonders where Ursa has disappeared to. Would she ever know? It had been weeks. She swallows the bitter taste, and falls into a drunken sleep on Zuko's bed.

Her final fleeting thought before she drifts away is: I'm one step closer to becoming Fire Lord Azula.

She falls asleep with a smile on her sharp, angled face.

She wants to watch it all burn.

Azula snaps her fingers, flames lighting at the tip of her thumb. The flames dance across her knuckles. She watches the Avatar, the little bald boy, and his friends battle it out, or attempt to, with Ty Lee and Mai.

Zuko is somewhere in the fray, blasting fire, smoke rising to the sky above.

Azula spies him then, and she grins, red flames turning blue. She jumps from her perch, kicking a wall of fire towards her brother.

It wasn't her fault they couldn't take the heat.

Come with me, Zuko, she says, a simpering smile staining her lips. Come back to the Fire Nation.

Zuko drops his swords, tips of his blades against the dirt below them. Okay, he says, sounding defeated. It's a glorious tone.

She smiles winningly, wrapping him in a hug. Over his shoulder, she grins into the dark cave. She'll have her chance to wrap her hands around his throat in time.

Azula, Ursa whispers, the only sound in the dark throne room.

Monster, is all Azula hears.

And when her blue fire, mixed with sparks and a shocking blue streak of lightning, strikes her brother in the center of his chest, she only dimly regrets it.

She's won now, don't you see?

The rest is a mad mad mad blur, and she's hitting the floor, the scent of sea water in the air. Her head smacks the ground, hard, and it's black.

She screams madly when a nurse tells her Zuko has been crowned Fire Lord. She shakes in her padded cell, hands tugging at her hair.

I was going to be Fire Lord Azula, she thinks. I was going to be

It dawns on her.

She's lost.

fin.