BY : Death_Rattle
Category: Avatar - The Last Airbender > AU/AR - Alternate Universe/Alternate Reality
Dragon prints: 5256
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Avatar: the Last Airbender or any of the characters. I do not profit from my writing.

Katara had effectively functioned as a maid for many people in her lifetime. Whether as a member of the southern tribe, or traveling with Aang, the 'motherly' duties always seemed to fall to her. Of course, at the southern water tribe or traveling with Aang, she had been more than happy to take on the responsibility and help her friends and family. But this? Combing the hair (amongst many things that low-born girls simply do for themselves) of the Phoenix Queen so that she looked presentable for... whatever it was they planned to do tonight... Katara shuddered at the thought. It was hard for the waterbender to feel any meaning in what she was doing. Azula's fire-blade wasn't around her neck as she worked, but it may as well have been.

Speaking of which, one thing Katara did not expect was the lack of guards. The only other person that had even been in the room was Ming, one of the other palace servants. Though she had left once Her Highness's nails were finished. Katara gritted her teeth. Barely 24 hours and the pain was starting to seep into her thoughts. A burn across the cheek, or atop the feet, every time you say 'Azula' instead of 'Your Highness'... well, eventually you start thinking it. Was this how it worked in the Fire Nation? They just repressed everyone until they knew nothing, save for how to be mindless drones? Katara would never let that happen to herself.

Azula's hair hadn't been ripped or pulled at, it had been cut, as if you had given a hog-monkey a pair of scissors. Katara restrained a laugh as she allowed herself to imagine Azula (however briefly) being at the mercy of a scissor-wielding hog-monkey. Whatever it was, the silence was deafening. Was this how it would be forever, what Azula wanted? Tending silently to her needs until the end of days, never saying a word, never feeling? She had been burned three times today already but Katara's desire to feel anything outweighed fear of retribution.

Katara grabbed the tie as she continued thinking. Of course, she didn't need to be obtuse about it. If she really was going to serve the fire bitch (Katara secretly wished she shared Toph's talent for impromptu nicknaming right about now) until the end of their days, then it made no sense to anger her if she didn't have to, as much as she absolutely loathed the idea of being nice to her. The waterbender sighed.

"Your Highness, may I ask what happened to your hair?"

It was jarring, a sour note in her otherwise immaculate symphony of silence.

What happened to your hair? What happened to your hair? What happened to your hair?

She had cut it-

She had cut her own hair, haphazardly hacked away sleek, obsidian perfection as though it were nothing at all- and why?


Azula herself could scarcely recall... She had just... done it. Furthermore, just who did this filthy peasant believe she was? Where did she get off asking such things- things that were no concern of hers! Why in Agni's name did common people have to be so ignorant? It was painful. Truly, only a servant would be simple-minded enough to manage such rudeness, such uncouth behavior- and without even trying, to boot! Father did not speak of her hair, nor its current state. Such trivial things mattered not - Father thought she was beautiful, he had said so himself!

Well, of course he'd say that. He made you... And he gets to fuck you whenever he wants! Daddy's a bit biased, don't you think?

Pushing away (banishing!) that voice, having resolved instead to humor the water-wench, Azula replied "I cut it."

Beautiful... beautiful... she was beautiful. She was perfect. She was a queen.

Except you're not beautiful or perfect at all- not anymore! Look at yourself... you're losing it. Everyone can see. Agni, it's ruined and you hardly even remember... you're crazy! Ruined - that beautiful, beautiful hair... what a shame. You're all ruined now.

"I know, it looks terrible-


-Hideous. I'm hideous."

Befitting. Monsters are supposed to be hideous.

"Now, will you just... shut up! No more stupid questions," the Phoenix Queen hissed.

It was true, her hair was in pretty terrible shape, and still would probably turn heads even after it had been made as shapely as possible (Katara estimated it would take at least two months before all the ends would be able to be evened out). But what surprised the waterbender is how readily Azula admitted such, and the fact that she received a few harsh words instead of her usual punishment. Not only that, but she had cut it herself? Katara was simply flabbergasted. She didn't know what to make of that. On the field, when Azula attacked them at Omashu, again within the reaches of Gaoling... the drill, in the catacombs beneath Ba Sing Se... and yet again at the western air temple- her appearance had been simply immaculate. What happened? She wanted to ask, but of course.... no more stupid questions. That was an order which Katara decided it would be best to follow for the moment.

The Fire Lord's crown. She had imagined, if she ever even touched the thing, it would be something to do with Zuko and not his sister. Slipping the cold metal into her hair was like betraying him. Four days ago she had come to stop this from happening and yet, here she was bowing down.

Of course. The coronation. I must just be exhausted, Katara thought to herself as she wondered why she had neglected the obvious. Pristine perfection, then she cut it before the coronation. Not a coincidence. But why?, she was left to wonder. It didn't make any sense. Zuko had once said that being Fire Lord was all Azula wanted. Fuck, she had fought a duel (considering it was on the day of the comet... quite possibly to the death) for it! But... no, Katara was missing something, that was sure. But as much as she didn't want to care, she knew that Azula wasn't happy- on the day of her own coronation. Enough so to go on insane ramblings and cut her hair... well, like a madwoman.

Katara dared not ask Azula about any of this, but it was at least something to think about other than if Aang was dead, or how the Phoenix Queen wanted her damned hair- how the Phoenix King wanted his wife (no, not yet) … his lover? … and daughter (ugh!) to look - pretty as a porcelain doll.

But she had a hunch. She just had to try it. Even if Azula might actually burn her this time (though ostensibly, she wasn't about to ask a stupid question...)

"So, what about your wedding?" she asked, trying to drain every possible hint of disgust from her voice. "Have you thought about what you're going to wear?"

It was not a stupid question, objectively. In fact, it was a perfectly reasonable one... the Phoenix Queen merely happened to lack words, ideas- anything that could be considered a rational response. How could she not know such a thing? The day of her- their wedding would only be the single most important (not to mention happiest!) day of her- their lives and yet, she had not spared so much as a passing thought toward what she might be wearing on this momentous (historic, no doubt!) occasion!? By the flame of Agni, she was in desperate need of-

A trip to the royal spa! Yes, therein was the problem... she was stressed beyond belief!

"Funny... I'm not even sure what I'm going to wear," Azula admitted, followed by a languid sigh. "I've been so wound up, I feel like I could just- snap. And, well... Father keeps me quite busy. Day and night... no rest for the wicked!"

'I feel like I could just snap', yeah no kidding, Katara mused. For once, she agreed with Azula on all points.

"Of course" was all Katara could say, neglecting the 'Your Highness' at the end by accident. "Well, in the Water Tribes it's different, obviously. But when a southern girl gets married generally she'll make a long dress out of pelts she's responsible for catching, with the help of one of the men in her family. It's sort of a symbol of what she has to offer to the union, with each dress being unique to the wearer, usually embroidered with their family symbols and..." Tui, I'm rambling about marriage traditions to Azula...

"I guess what I mean is that it's really personal to you, Your Highness" she finished, remembering the title this time.

What do I have to offer this union?- Azula thought, briefly.

"Fire Nation brides wear white and red. My mother did, I think," she mentioned, offhandedly, then allowed herself a small chuckle at the thought of prim and proper Ursa and that positively scandalized expression she used to make when perpetuating gossips.

"I wish my mother could be here. I would kill to see the look on her face if she actually showed up to our wedding!"

And then it happened. The Phoenix Queen laughed. She really laughed- not because something terrible had happened, or because little Zuzu had gotten himself hurt but simply because... it was funny. Her sides were hurting and she could hardly breathe, tears were welling up in the corners her eyes... All the while she pictured Ursa, red-faced and indignant, absolutely disgusted - worrying herself into a panic about what people would think withal! Angry. She would be angry, of course. Maybe even-


Your Mother..., Katara nearly grimaced once more. The thought of Azula's scenario also drew out a mix of feelings in her, but for nowhere near the same reasons. Witnessing your daughter marry your husband..., Katara couldn't even imagine. Though she might have been resigned to it a second ago, the very notion made her want to vomit.

At least she had gotten something out of Azula that wasn't an evil smirk, a snarl, or outright indifference. For what that was worth.

Once Azula had stopped laughing, Katara tried to push it out of her mind as she fixed her collar before moving onto her face. Intimidating as ever, she noted. "Well, white and red don't seem like your colors, so why don't you break tradition?" she offered, bypassing the question which was actually burning on her mind which was where the hell is your mother, anyway? Gone all your life, by the looks of you...

Azula gasped, loudly and most insincere, pretending that such a suggestion had startled her.

"Break tradition? Oh dear!" she exclaimed, wide-eyed, mouth agape. "Whatever shall the Fire Sages say? Whatever shall my father say?"

This union was to be anything but traditional, that much was for certain. As such, why should she look like every other bride, like every other woman- like Mother? She was not just any woman. And she most certainly was not her mother, nor would she ever be - nor did she want to be! She was Phoenix Queen Azula: The One And Only, The Great, The Beautiful, The Powerful, The Terrible - Daughter of Phoenix King Ozai, Conqueror of Ba Sing Se, Hero of the One Hundred Year War... And she was a fucking force of nature!

It should be- "Blue" Azula declared, golden eyes ablaze.

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