Fanfiction Contest Through Darker eyes
Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Behind Amber Eyes
By Kelly Lynn Doyle
Azula always lies. Azula always lies. I could still hear him saying those words in his nasally little kid voice, crying like the pathetic wimp he always was. I could hear them echoing, forcing themselves into my consciousness as I watched that water tribe bitch heal him, my hands chained behind me like I was some sort of animal. Or some sort of monster, like I knew everyone thought me to be.
Everything I had done to get where I was seemed to boil into me then, watching her eyes light up with relief as Zuko moved, as I failed yet again to do what my father had wanted. I had tried so hard
so hard to put myself in a position to be superior to him in every way so that father could see who was the rightful heir to the throne, and here it came burning down on me leaving nothing but a rain of ash. I couldn't help the fire that came pouring out of me, the shriek that escaped me as this unacceptable helplessness buried itself inside. I had lost
to the banished prince and his girl
I had lost, and for that I would burn.
I could feel the heat of his disappointment already wafting over me as my brother and the girl lost interest in my outbursts and began to walk away.
"Zuko, you coward!" My throat burned, the words coming out hoarse. He didn't turn to look back, but I saw him pause. "If you leave me like this and father finds out he will kill you himself!"
The girl tugged on his hand and they continued walking. I let out a scream that lit the courtyard with blue fire. But still nothing.
"Zuko!" The word collapsed into a sob as their footsteps faded into silence. All I could hear was the sound of the water beneath me, my own breathing. The crackling of fires that clung to life around the courtyard.
My breath quickened, and I tried yet again to pull on these chains. My exertion caused me to shout out as my hands became bloody, so I gave up. I felt the stinging in my wrists distantly, as the emptiness closed in, suffocated. I wanted to shout for help, but knew there was no one around to hear me.
No one around
because of me.
I felt tears coming to my eyes again, counting the ways father would be disappointed in me. I lost to Zuko. I banished the palace staff. I
no. He could not be mad at me for telling Zuko about mother. He deserved to know
just as I deserved to know. I deserved to know everything
I was to be the heir to the throne
me, not Zuko, not Zuko.
The way you treat your older brother
I could hear mother's voice, echoing past a lullaby in my head, past the burning I was engulfed in. I thought I had raised you better.
"Don't try to guilt me now, mother, it is way too late for that." I hissed, tears dripping through the grate beneath me to be lost in flowing water.
My Azula. I know you love your brother. Why hurt him? That haunted whispering continued.
"Because it is my throne
I don't care about him
it's my THRONE!" My voice ended in a shout that lingered for seconds that seemed to stretch into infinity.
It was never your throne
"Shut up! Shut up! If daddy could take it, so can I!" The words came out of my mouth and I felt awful saying them, and I didn't know why.
"So can I
" I repeated at a whisper, feeling like my wet hair plastered to my face was suffocating me, like the armor I wore was smothering me in its weight, in its responsibility. I knew I had treated him horribly. Not that he deserved any better, of course, but I still knew it was horrible. I would see the pain in his eyes and laugh, even over a part of me that wanted to empathize. I did everything in my power to snuff that part of me out, turn it to ash to blow away in the wind. Empathy would not get me my throne. Empathy would get me nowhere. Zuko was weak, he was always weak, and it was my duty to take advantage of that whenever possible. Even when I knew how much it would hurt him.
Especially when I knew.
It seemed like everything I did to him wasn't enough. Constantly ridiculing him for being rejected where I was accepted, for being worse where I excelled. It wasn't enough for me to chase him in his exile, to rub his failures in his face, to give him false hope just to crush him even deeper into the ground. It was never enough to silence the voice in me
Zuko, you're my brother and I love you. A sob escaped me as I felt like everything he failed at were my own failures. I knew there was not one ounce of love for me left in him, and it was completely my fault. I had alienated him from me. I had alienated the whole world from myself.
And what did I have to show for it?
"Stop it, Azula. You know that father will beat that kid, kill Zuko, and you'll get your throne. Everything will be as you wanted."
Everything will be as I wanted, as I planned. I repeated the phrase until its words were meaningless, the stars slowly spinning above me, the moon coming into view above the courtyard roof. The moon filled me with hatred that surged out of me in shudders and tears. I wanted to fill the world with my fire, my lightning. But I lay helpless, the moon silently laughing at me, its voice that of a young woman.
I lost track of time watching the moon and the stars before footsteps and quiet talking hit my ears, jerking me out of my trance. I turned to look, and the Avatar and my brother approached.
"Zuko?" I tried to shout, but my voice only released a strangled whisper. The Avatar was still alive, and I knew that my father was then dead. "How could you let him kill daddy?"
He eyed me with disgust, but the Avatar's face was nauseatingly serene.
"No one has had to die this night." The Avatar said softly. His lie stung me like acid.
"If you've come to have the Avatar kill me, Zuko, you're more of a coward than I thought." I tried to sound menacing but the fire was gone from my voice and it involuntarily shook with my fear.
"It would be no better than you deserve." He hissed, and I looked up at his face, his scar, the pain still in his eyes more than I could endure.
"I deserve the world." I replied, summoning all the strength I could muster from my aching body. "I deserve the throne, I deserve the people's respect, I deserve your humility!" My voice ended in a screech, and Zuko gave me a look that I had given him countless times. Pitiless contempt.
"Go ahead Aang, I've had enough of this." He said quietly.
As the Avatar stepped forward, a look of ridiculous calmness still plastered on his face, I gasped as I looked around uselessly for anything that could help me. My eyes settled back on my brother's face, and the love for him I had tried so long to bury out of my existence came flooding back into me.
" I began weakly. I felt pathetic, I felt like everything I had ridiculed. "Zuko, I'm sorry
"Liar." He whispered, and tears came to my eyes. The Avatar touched my forehead, and then my chest, and I cried freely.
"Zuko, I love you"
And then it began, and I was filled with a blue light that drowned out my paralyzing fear and replaced it with a numbness that I didn't understand. I could feel nothing, I could see nothing, and I knew he was killing me. I tried to fight back by blowing fire into his face but I was paralyzed in place, and in this world of blue and white light I couldn't feel my body anymore, I couldn't feel myself.
Just when I thought it would end and I would enter the blackness of eternity, the world settled back into my senses and I took in a gasping breath. I looked aroundI was still in the courtyard, I was still chained to the grate, my brother and the Avatar were still in front of me.
Yet everything looked and felt completely different.
"What did you do?" I managed, my voice sounding foreign to me.
"You can no longer hurt anyone." The Avatar said calmly. "You are no longer a bender."
I wanted to scream
I wanted to laugh in his face and shout that he was lying, but the needed emotions did not come. I swallowed and looked up at Zuko, hoping uselessly that he would feel some compassion for the terror that was slowly seeping into me. But he did and said nothing.
Two Dai Li guards approached and unchained me. I knew the fire inside me would have made me demand the guards obey me, their previous ruler. I would have attacked them with my new freedom, attacked the Avatar. But the fire inside me had been put out, the smoke still swirling through my senses.
The Avatar hadn't killed me, but I felt dead anyway. And it was my own fault. The guards led me away and I complied. I felt filthy, I felt useless, and I felt it was all no better than I deserved for everything I did to those I cared about.
I wished the Avatar had killed me, but I hadn't even the strength to call him out for his cowardice. As the guards took me out of the courtyard, I cried silently for the life I lost, for the throne that should have been mine.
Zuko watched her get taken away, and Aang began putting the last lingering fires out, moving quickly and silently as he worked. Zuko thought about what his sister had said before Aang bended her spirit, and it shook him to his core.
"Okay, that will have to do for now." Aang said, smiling at him. "Let's regroup with the others. We have a lot of work to do the next few days, the next few weeks, even."
Aang turned away and started following the Dai Li. Zuko remained where he stood, looking around at the charred courtyard, feeling drained after the battle he had endured, his sister's lightning causing a lingering pain to throb through him.
He tried to swallow down a lump that had settled in his throat, and found himself choking down emotions he never thought he'd have.
"I love you too, Azula." He said, his voice shaking. Taking a deep breath, he left the courtyard, knowing these weren't the first steps toward fulfilling his destiny, but the last.