This is my first Avatar: the Last Airbender fic. I've always loved the show, and upon yet another re-watch of the series with a friend of mine that had never seen it, I decided to write a fanfic. Being a ShizNat writer, myself, and also dabbling in KnM, I thought it would be great fun to do a TyZula fic.
Disclaimer: Avatar the Last Airbender is not mine.
Prison is a cage of lies.
They all lied to her. The doctors. The guards. Her brother. Her hallucinations. All of them, naught but a seething mass of lies like so many insects swarming when their nest has been disrupted. They came to her and spoke and she was forced to listen for, as much as she wished it, she could not close her ears or her mind. Why could they not see that she just wanted to be left alone? Why could they not see that she just wanted it all to end?
The thought of such dulcet finality, continually denied her, yet so close she could taste on the tongue like a bitter-sweet draught of dark honey, drove her mad. It was torture, and they claimed to be helping her. They did not understand. They could not understand. And she envied their shallow intellects.
She was cursed, truly cursed. Not with insanity. No. That label was reserved only for the weak. She was cursed with raw ability and mental acuity the likes of which were unfathomable. Genius is a close friend of madness: two sides of the same coin. It takes but one tiny flick of the thumb to turn the metal face.
Thoughts plagued her. Memories hounded her through the sleepless nights, the starless nights. She could still see the pity painted on Zuko's face and upon the face of his water-bending peasant. The way they had looked at her made her feel sick. It was the same look her mother had given her every time she had acted out of malice, every time she had unwittingly followed in her father's footsteps. Her mother had reprimanded her upon occasion, but she was impervious to such feeble attempts at reformation. That look, however, that damnable look haunted her.
Even now, it lingered in the eyes of every visitor to her cell, be it friend or foe. They looked at her but they did not see her. They saw her downfall. They saw her wallowing in the rancid stench of her own failure, a ghost of her former glory. Nothing but a ghost, a transient transparency, a reminder of life's more fleeting qualities. The marvelous citadel of her prior self had been eradicated, led into swift ruin. Down to the last stone, the last block of foundation. All that remained was an ashen pit of charred recollections, like a forest glade gone up in smoke.
And, for that, they pitied her.
Two years. Two long, fruitless years had passed and not once had she seen outside of her windowless cell. She had forgotten what the wind felt like on her cheeks, ripping through her glossy mane of black hair. She had forgotten the scent of earth, still damp from spring rains, being warmed by crepuscular rays, striking boldly through the clouds to grace the earth once more, to make it burgeon with new life begat from the fierce flames of the merciless sun. She had forgotten the smooth texture of silk, how it would drag across her skin. She had forgotten the familiar ache in her muscles gained from hard work, familiar and so satisfying. She had forgotten her confidence, her rage, her cool collection of thoughts to soothe an otherwise searing demeanor, a wild will thrashing and champing at the bit, jerking the reins of control from her hands and trampling her own person with sharp, lashing hooves.
All that was left was an empty shell. A shell filled with lies.
Movements outside in the narrow passageway beyond the door of her cell. Amber eyes flicked to the door, narrow, suspicious, burning too brilliantly, like liquid gold caught in a crucible, shimmering hot and bright. She sat upon the stone floor, leaning against the wall. The thinly padded bed beside her sat neglected. One knee was bent and her arm was draped lazily across it, slender wrist bent, fingers held loose and sculpted. A certain regality lingered in her very stature despite the rough maroon cloth of her simply, prison-issued tunic - such proclivities, so strongly ingrained, could never truly be snuffed out. It lived in the arrogant slant of her shoulders, the haughty tilt of her chin, the piercing quality of her gaze. Thick leather straps bound her wrists and ankles; her iron chains had been exchanged for these more yielding restrictions when it became apparent a year into her captivity that she would no longer struggle. It was an unwanted concession, a so-called act of kindness that made her jaw clench. It felt like being a bound animal given a treat and a pat on the head because she had been such a good little girl. She would have preferred the chains.
Muffled footsteps could be detected outside and abruptly the heavy door to her cell opened, admitting a feeble ray of flickering light before it was shut away once more. She did not look over to see who had entered. She knew who it was, and she wished he would leave.
"Azula," came the mild greeting.
She could feel his eyes on her, boring into her like awls. She did not answer him. She never did.
There came from his direction a weary sigh, "I see you're still not speaking."
Don't look at me, she wanted to snarl, Don't you dare look at me like that.
He ignored her silent command and continued, voice low and gruff as was its wont, "The medics and I agree that staying here is doing you no good. We've tried different methods, but nothing seems to be working. They inform me that you've made great progress in your time here, that your transition from having fits and raving hallucinations to being catatonic to then being lucid like this is astonishing. But you've reached a point where this place will no longer allow you to proceed."
At this, she held back a disdainful glower. As though she wanted to "proceed"! What folly! Mother surely must have dropped him on his head!
"And that's why I've decided to give you an opportunity.
I'm going to let you out, Azula. But my generosity has its limitations. you need a secure environment, secluded and isolated. You need to be reintroduced to the idea of people, of socialisation."
Like socialising a dog, she thought bitterly, or perhaps a wolf.
His voice droned on and she prayed to Agni that this was all some sort of cruel nightmare, "I'm sending you to Kyoshi Island. There, the warriors can watch over you. They have agreed to take you under their wing provided that you follow their laws. I won't be sending any medics with you; I think you're beyond such things now. You need to find yourself again and perhaps this way a bit of time, freedom and a friendly face or two will allow you to do so.
The world has changed, Azula, and with more help and a little luck, so can you."
She flatly refused to respond, to even acknowledge his presence.
Then, in a squeal of rusted hinges, the door opened once more, and Zuko was gone.
I hope you liked it! Feel free to drop me a review or a PM. I'm always open to suggestions.