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November 13th, 2012

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03:04 pm - i watched avatar

Ty Lee ends up visiting Azula in full Kyoshi regalia, partly because the opportunity catches her by surprise and partly because she does most things in Kyoshi dress, these days.

“So you’ve adopted real clownpaint,” says Azula, briefly. Ty Lee can see the shape of her arms inside the straightjacket— straightdress?— but it’s still easy to imagine, or worry, that this is just Azula’s head, attached to a belted dummy and hair growing unbound. Azula once had thin wrists and elongated forearms, elbows that defied description, and you could map mountains with her knuckly fists. Now her hands must be tucked to her sides, bracing her ribs against some interior pressure. It seems like a shame. But she can see that the attendants, in their pressed uniforms, are keeping an eye on Azula’s mouth. She can’t begrudge them wanting to lock away the hungry white palms.

Ty Lee takes out her fan, and with some care snaps it to its full spread. She holds it next to her white face. “You don’t think it suits me?” she says. Mai would probably roll her eyes, but Ty Lee still cares about Azula’s opinion, even though she knows it might be best if she were as remote and kind as Mai, who has already visited Azula twice and come back both times with scratches around her unpainted mouth. Azula has always compelled Ty Lee, not a good thing but not a bad thing either. Every performer knows that art is born of limitation as much as ability. If Ty Lee will have to spend the rest of her life accounting for Azula’s pull, that doesn’t mean she should waste time being afraid. She has seen girls fall to their deaths or, worse, to the end of their lives. She knows how it starts, in the legs or the grip or the whistling void, and she doesn’t fear it at all.

“It makes you look like a panda coon,” says Azula. “That unfortunate red.”

“You used to like red, Azula,” says Ty Lee. She gets down on her knees so that her face is level with Azula’s hidden stomach, with the buckle that sits on folds of pale hip-hugging cloth. It means she has to look up to meet Azula’s eyes, which is what Azula will notice; it also means she can keep her chin high. Her fan shivers like breathing steel on her knee. “Don’t you remember? Fire Nation colors.”

Something flickers in Azula’s eyes. “That was before the Fire Nation reached its final incarnation as a joke.”

“No one’s laughing,” says Ty Lee, “except you,” and then Azula does smile.

“Well, and who would believe that the madwoman has a sense of humor?” she inquires, rhetorically or maybe regretfully, thinking perhaps of all the comedians she would have banished once she was Fire Lord. Azula would have been good for the arts. Azula says, “You used to think I was funny.”

There is a silence like the haze over flame.

“Because I don’t have such a great sense of humor, either,” says Ty Lee, finally. It’s true. In the first days of the reconstruction she was invited to policy meetings, but only Zuko laughed when she suggested starting another war to unite the people, and these days Zuko laughs at everything, despite himself, his anger not chased from his skin but pushed to the edges of him by some expanding, transparent joy. It would work, of course. A war against dangerous animals, or the spirit world, or aliens: it would seal up wounds and give her and her new sisterhood lots to do. She can see why the problems would outweigh the benefits, but she just wants to try out the cool new moves Suki taught her. And she too misses the sound of bodies falling to her will. It was fun. It’s still fun, drinking way too much tea and taking care of the cute animals and cute boys who have started filling up the palace, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t remember what it felt like to attack, suddenly and totally, bursting out of silence onto the nerves of people who had no defenses against her. She’s tried to talk to Mai about it, but Mai looked first indifferent and then, horrifyingly, sad, her mouth twisting on one side in a weak attempt to make pity look bitter. I can throw knives at leaves, said Mai, which was a silly lie, and even if it hadn’t been, what good was that to Ty Lee? Where on a leaf could you locate the spine?

So that’s why she came here, she supposes, but now she knows that it’s no good, that she can’t expect Azula to reminisce with her about the bad old days! For Azula their lonely, coordinated missions aren’t even things to be remembered: an unfortunately necessary task, nothing more, imposed on her by her father and by her brother’s incompetence, a combination which one way or another was the wellspring of most of her life. Azula, if she’s coaxed into nostalgia, will talk about her coronation-that-wasn’t, or her supremacy after Zuko’s banishment, or how much her mother didn’t love her. Ty Lee cares about all that, even if her own mother couldn’t spell her name and would never have singled her out enough to cast her as a monster; but caring isn’t the same thing as wanting, and neither of them equals need.

“What a sad weakness in a court jester,” says Azula. She jerks her head so suddenly that her chin dips down to her shapeless collar and all her hair slumps forward, down her high shoulders, in little hands and arms of black which sunlight veins with blue.

(3 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:November 13th, 2012 09:35 pm (UTC)

hello stranger

Wars against aliens are the best. I advise that one.
[User Picture]
Date:November 13th, 2012 09:39 pm (UTC)

Re: hello stranger

Adrian Veidt shows up in the strangest places.
Date:November 14th, 2012 01:57 am (UTC)
Oooh, briliiant and devastating and perfect even with a small boy burbling in my ear.

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