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.

The days were long, monotony tinged with foreboding. The nights were even longer, tossing and turning in between seemingly random intervals of sleep's much welcome respite upon a lumpy, musty-smelling bedroll.

Just how long had she been here anyway? It felt like forever, although any guard or fellow prisoner's guess was as good as hers.

Sighing languidly, Mai surveyed the mess hall which had taken on its usual state of pandemonium due to its usual shortage of food rations. With a confident swagger that could rival that of the Phoenix King himself, she shoved toward the front of the line which in all honesty, scarcely qualified as a line. There was little rhyme or reason, just people (some hardened criminals, others harmless) fighting amongst themselves, ready to claw eachother's eyes out for what amounted to table scraps.

Securing said table scraps as she always did, Mai returned to her friend who had been waiting patiently.

"Mai!" the acrobat rushed up to her declawed assassin, almost making her drop what she had brought - wrapping her in a hug as she did every time Mai returned, even though she had only been away for a few minutes. "Everyone's auras are so... colorful today."

Though Ty Lee was quite adept at determining people's emotions, she was rarely in the loop when it came to affairs in the Boiling Rock. "Did something happen?"

"Let's sit," Mai suggested. With that, the pair took to a nearby corner and sat cross-legged.

"Word is, there's a new warden in town" the raven-haired girl explained, splitting a piece of stale bread into equal parts. She then offered one to the brunette. "Guess my uncle isn't coming back any time soon."

"Oh" she replied simply, accepting Mai's meager offering. Ty Lee didn't know much about wardens and prisons, but she could see how that would cause such a commotion. Ever since Azula left nobody had seen Mai's uncle, and the new person who had succeeded him had been pretty shy.

But there was more. She could see Mai's deceptive aura, swirling with scarlet turmoil and indigo shadows. Ty Lee hated when she was like that.

"Do you think he's okay?" she asked with honest concern.

In between a morsel of dry, crumbling bread and a spoonful of foul-smelling soup broth, Mai answered "I don't know." She frowned. "No one talks about him much."

"I understand" Ty Lee nodded. While she knew the assassin was hardly a family woman, she was on good terms with her uncle. To Mai, it would have been just another thing that Azula took from her. Though the acrobat was hardly spiritual, she gave silent prayers to Agni each night for her and everything she had left. She was strong. Mai looked out for Ty Lee. But as each day passed, she grew worried that her strength may one day run out.

It was a familiar maelstrom of color, she could see that now. Beyond the deceptive scarlets and indigos, the idle greys and the depressive darks, she could see a familiar color. The very same she saw when Mai was told the news about Zuko.

"...but there's something else, isn't there" she said matter-of-factly.

Mai sighed her trademark sigh.

She has a right to know

"Yes" was all that she could manage, at least initially. How does one deliver news such as this anyhow?

Oh, guess what, Ty Lee?! The love of your life just married her dad!

"Azula...," words rattled around in her head, each sounding as insensitive and uncaring as the next. "...have you heard anything about Azula lately?"

The acrobat didn't need to see auras to see Mai's hesitance - though they certainly helped. The dark colors retreated and were overcome by a blooming uncertain yellow, accentuated just slightly by the dark cyans of fear and disappointment.

It was bad news. Ty Lee hated bad news. Everyone thinks that Mai loves delivering the dull and dreary, but they're wrong. Her unease was as clear as day.

"No" she managed, her head practically shrinking into her shoulders in expectation of whatever Mai was going to say. "Not since last time"

"Well...," Although the revelation had in no way been a shock to her, Mai could predict its effects upon Ty Lee with absolute certainty. "...I have." Eyes the color of watered down honey flickered toward the cold, unforgiving metal floor.

"She got married."

It was a strange feeling, watching your own aura fade from the pinks and whites of normal, the darkness taking over - her aura becoming dreary and dark just like Mai's was.

"Oh" she said. It was all she could manage in the moment.

It wasn't like Ty Lee hadn't thought about it, but... it hadn't even been two months. Azula hadn't even had a birthday since they had last seen eachother, and she was already... Oh, agni. The acrobat would follow the Fire Princess across the earth - and she did. Azula had returned on that fateful spring day, to the place where she had hidden from all the scheming and unrequited love that came with being a noble girl. She had even said no but Azula wouldn't take that for an answer. Ty Lee really thought she had come back for her after all that time.

A solitary tear crawled down her cheek. Was it arranged? Was she happy? Are they treating her well (and is she treating them well?). Do they love and care about eachother?

Does she still think about me?

She had a hundred questions Ty Lee doubted Mai could answer.

"Do you... do you think she's happy, Mai?"

"She thinks so, I'm sure" she replied, cryptically, knowing her friend would not understand the implications. Recalling the then-princess's fixation- nay obsession with pleasing her father, one could only suppose that she was satisfied at the very least.

Evidently, it was the wrong thing to say but... there was no right thing to say. No person in their right mind would possibly delight at the prospect of eternally bonding themselves to Ozai. No person in their right mind could be ever truly be happy with such a man. Then again... had Azula ever been in her right mind to begin with? Another question which her childhood friend did not have the answer to.

Mai embraced Ty Lee, wishing with all of her might that she could soothe away the ache in her heart.

She doesn't deserve this

The acrobat didn't say anything as their auras joined. She didn't want to say anything. Or more... she didn't want to ask anything.


Ty Lee knew the answer to the only question was something horrible. She didn't want to know, she didn't need to. She hated how she felt, how black and ugly her new color was. Knowing the answer would only make it all more cold and dark. She'd find out eventually. But not today. Bad news has to be taken one dose at a time, with good surrounding it.

She held on tightly.

"You miss her, don't you?" Mai asked, knowing very well what the answer to her question was.

There was once a point in time where the three of them had been inseparable, particularly Ty Lee and Azula. Why, the Princess (now Queen, ugh) could hardly go anywhere without the pink-clad acrobat following close behind.

Mai often wondered if Ty Lee regretted well... doing what she did. Given the chance, if she could take it all back and instead remain by Azula's side, would she? Had it really been worth it in the end?

Of course, Ty Lee hadn't said it since they had arrived. It just hadn't seemed right to say, after what happened. Mai didn't need to hear that she missed Azula - she had put them in here! But she did. A lot. Ty Lee wanted to go back to the way things were, where they were a team. Where she could dive under the covers and Azula would make her warm and tell her she'd protect them from whatever was in the night.

The things Mai said made sense on some level. Azula had said and done some pretty mean things. But no matter what she said Ty lee would never wholly believe that Azula really wanted to hurt them. She was just so focused on her missions and her orders that she forgot how other people felt sometimes. She did care about Ty Lee, she saw it in her aura. And if they did meet again, she had no doubt that Azula would be sorry.

It had been long enough, Ty Lee supposed. Mai was ready to hear her answer.

"Yeah." she affirmed. "I miss her." she said simply, doing her best to keep her voice steady. "I wish we could all be together again."

I wish we could all be together again

A part of Mai wished that, too. A foolish part, her mind scolded. Perhaps she was just missing being on the outside, eating something other than stale bread, sleeping in real bed...

"Do you-?"

A pause.

"Do you regret it? Now that we're here?" she finally asked, the guilt setting in. It was all because of her that Ty Lee had been forced to make that choice after all...

"Do you wish you'd done things differently? I understand if you do, really. I mean..." she trailed off.

Even with her head on her shoulder, she could see Mai's tumultuous aura. Swirling solid whites and yellows betraying her anxiety and guilt. "I think about it sometimes." she said honestly, knowing Mai would scarcely believe her if she didn't say so. "But I wouldn't. If Azula had..." she trailed off, not wanting to say that word. "...we wouldn't be a team anymore. It wouldn't be right." she finished.

"I love you Mai" she said.

"And I love you, Ty Lee" Mai replied, all the while wondering just how much danger she had truly been in that day.

Would Azula really have..?

"I hate this place" she added, speaking more to herself than anyone else.

Silence for a moment.

"What about you?" she asked. "What you did for Zuko, I mean."

Without missing a beat, Mai said "I don't regret it for a second."

"I'd do it again one thousand times if I had to."

A pause.

"I just worry it's all been for nothing."

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