BY : Death_Rattle
Category: Avatar - The Last Airbender > AU/AR - Alternate Universe/Alternate Reality
Dragon prints: 5257
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Avatar: the Last Airbender or any of the characters. I do not profit from my writing.

It never ceased to surprise Katara just what one could grow to hope for. A few days ago, she had been dreading coming to Ember Island. Now, returning to the estate was a welcome respite from... all that. How anyone actually liked those two was completely beyond the waterbender. And yet, on the beach, the cries of delight seemed unending as more and more people came upon the Royal Couple (thankfully, more than a few sensible souls looked on father and daughter with disgust rather than pride). The reverences only increased when the two decided to win an easy victory in a game of Kuai ball, which somehow managed to attract an even larger crowd. (and Katara could swear sometimes Ozai was... posing for them, as if the man couldn't get any more icky).

But at least she was at 'home' now, where she didn't have to stand nearby, always in earshot listening to their disgusting affections - all the while catering to them as people gave her dirty looks (as if she had done something wrong!).

Of course, that also meant readying the Phoenix Queen for her dinner with her father. Though at this point, Katara would have taken anything. At the very least, it meant she could talk to someone without her vocabulary being entirely comprised of 'Yes, Your Highness'... though there was still a decent amount of that, she thought to herself as she readied her things.

She took a deep breath and tried not to sound as exasperated and defeated as she felt. "Your Highness, you have sand in your hair, I'll need to wash it. Have you thought about what you're going to wear?"

Indeed, the Phoenix Queen had put forth some thought as to what she may be wearing this evening ...Granted, her mind was not set on anything in particular. She only knew she needed to look good - she needed to look beautiful, nay irresistible! Tonight, she must be irresistible. Azula recalled, with some sadness, this morning's failed attempts to capture the Phoenix King's attentions...

But of course, she was allowed to display her body now. She was allowed to flaunt herself ...Only Father (and perhaps the water bitch, although she didn't matter) would be looking at her - no commoners and their filthy stares! Whatever she should choose to wear (if anything at all!) would be for Daddy's eyes - just the way he liked it.

"Yes, I have thought about it...,"

Sighing heavily, Azula examined her fingernails - they would need attention, too, she resolved - as the water-wench set to work on her hair... which she'd been instructed to do with no more than a simple gesture of the hand. Her new servant was a quick learner, the Phoenix Queen would give credit where credit was due.

"...and I require your assistance. Tonight, I want to look good enough to eat."

Of course you do.

The waterbender sighed inwardly at her Mistress as she continued her work. And here I thought she had a life outside of pleasing this guy. Every other word out of the Phoenix Queen's mouth. Ozai. Husband. Father. Phoenix King. Daddy. You couldn't hold down a conversation with her without her mentioning him. Tui... you couldn't talk about her without mentioning him. The two were inseparable, and not in a good way.

Definitely not in a good way

Katara was an outsider. She didn't know all the how or why it was this way. Only things she had heard from Zuko and little bits she had garnered from the Phoenix Queen. Many pins to the icy lock. But Katara knew Ozai was at it's rotten core, just like almost everything else. When they had first met - waterbender and Phoenix Queen - really met, in the cell, it seemed like forever ago now, she had thought she could at least somewhat understand her. Both of them, warriors - women who grew up in a war that had fought since long before they were born. People who wanted to be a part of something, do their duty - for their family, their nation, their friends. In that respect, Katara had respected the Fire Princess (even though she was an evil bitch who mistook torture for playtime, brother for enemy, and most of all, people for things).

But now... she was no warrior. She bowed to parasites like Ozai instead of standing up to them. Katara couldn't help wondering what Azula would be like had she been born in the northern tribe. She'd fit right in, a cynical voice in her mind said. Katara sent it away. It wasn't true - she had felt pain like everyone else.

"Well, My Queen..." she finally said, part of her in fear - fear beaten by a determined curiosity. "Why don't you consider something more.... modest?"

A stupid question with an important answer.


Had the snow savage misunderstood that unfortunate little 'incident' she'd witnessed earlier? Perhaps... was she being deliberately obtuse...?

Was the water-wench mocking her?!

Impossible! No slave had the gall to mock a queen. Surely, it was the Phoenix Queen herself whom had misunderstood.

"Modest?" Azula asked incredulously, one angular eyebrow raised.

Silence for a moment.

Full lips contorted into a sly half-smile. "Daddy wouldn't like that very much. When it's just the two of us, he prefers me to be... not so modest," she explained.

A pause.

"That's just the way men are."

"Of course, Your Highness" Katara replied, surprised that Azula hadn't seen through her paper-thin act of innocence, though continuing her work as best she could, wording her next question. She took a deep breath. I guess there's no turning back now. "And what do you prefer?"

What did she prefer?

More questions?! Spirits be damned... that jumped up snow peasant and her questions!

"By the flame of Agni, I prefer when Phoenix King Ozai is happy - as should you!" Azula huffed, tone clipped and brows furrowed - a warning. "It's so much easier that way... you'd do well to learn."

"I know it's easier for me" Katara couldn't help but grow frustrated. She had a point to get across and it didn't matter if she earned a few more burns to do it - it certainly beat living this for the rest of her life (either then, or until she was driven insane) "But you're supposed to be his wife, the Phoenix Queen, Firelord, whatever. Why don't you stand up for yourself? You do everything he says, be the perfect little girl, but what does he do for you!?" Katara covered her mouth as she realized how much her voice had been raised, her eyes focusing on the back of her head - waiting for those golden eyes to turn around and deliver whatever pain satisfied them.

I don't regret anything, she said to herself despite how impossibly unsure she was. It would make it easier if she believed this was all for something.

Azula, the Great Phoenix Queen, gasped audibly. She was breathless, speechless... there were simply no words. It felt as though she had been slapped across the face, kicked in the stomach, doused in ice-cold water - and then finally, stabbed through the heart.

What does he do for you?

What does he do for you?

"HOW DARE YOU!?!?" Azula screamed, wild-eyed. Pouncing, like a ravenous tigerdillo, her pale hands closed around Katara's throat. "He gave me everything!" she shrieked, grip tightening menacingly. "Everything!" And those dangerous hands wrung the (apparently) defenseless girl's neck, jostled her about so violently she could no longer speak... could no longer struggle, breathe-

The Phoenix Queen stilled, suddenly, having regained control - then dropped her 'favorite' slave to the floor as one might drop a heavy sack of produce.

"Begone from my sight" she hissed, turning her back.

The waterbender couldn't stop herself from hitting the floor hard, blackness filling her vision, ears buzzing with the sound of death. She had been seconds away - the Phoenix Queen had stopped just in time for her to remain among the conscious - the living, even. Katara gasped allowing her lungs to fill with precious air. Above the buzzing and ringing she could hear her heavy heartbeat, rushing to pump the blood that kept her alive.

Katara had wanted to say something, she had wanted to say a lot of things. She wanted to scream. She wanted to tell her that there's nothing that could possibly be owed that's worth so much. She wanted to tell her that she was strong enough to stand up to him. But all such thoughts had been banished along with the blood in her head, the air in her lungs and the color in her face. Azula had hurt her, and Katara could tell that she had hurt Azula. What Katara really wanted to say most, above everything, was Sorry.

Instead she ran in fear, the pain of it all having driven the last fight from her.

The Phoenix Queen did not see the waterbender leave, though she heard her scamper away - fleeing like a whipped dog - just as she heard the sliding door snap shut. Withal, something within herself cracked wide open - she wept. In a crumpled heap atop the wooden floor, Azula wept and it was a sight most pitiful to behold, a sight which she was grateful that no one remained present to witness... yet some small part of her wished that she had not told the other girl to leave, that she had not been so cruel. That very same part of her wished that someone- anyone was there to hold her, give her words of comfort.

Wrong... Wrong... Wrong...!

That stupid, smiling little water bitch was wrong and- how dare she presume to know anything about her father... their marriage... their lives...?!

He gave me everything! He made me!

He made you, only to lock you up in a pretty cage and keep you for himself. He gave you nothing, really...

Nothing?! He gave me life.

He gave you life, and so he owns it?

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