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ATLA: A Statue of Us (Mai, Ty Lee/Azula)

meredyd organized atla_ladyfest. I was assigned schellibie, who requested fic with Mai and Ty Lee/Azula, missing moments, and "we're living in a den of thieves."

Title: A Statue of Us
Author: voleuse
Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Characters: Mai, Ty Lee/Azula
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: We wear our scarves just like a noose.
Notes: Spoilers through the series finale



Mai skimmed her finger over the surface of her tea. It was barely lukewarm, and she dipped her finger deeper, ruffling the leaves at the bottom like seagrass. Her tutor had asked her to review the re-building reports from New Ozai, but there wasn't much to know. There were buildings, and they were destroyed, and they were being rebuilt.

She sighed, watching the tea leaves start to roil, and she yanked her finger back just as the tea boiled in its cup. "Very funny," she pronounced.

Azula laughed as she soared over the table, followed by Ty Lee, who danced over the beams on the ceiling before sailing down to sit next to Mai. "All you do is read reports," Ty Lee complained. "It can't be very fun."

"It's not," Mai replied, and swept the rolls into a pile before Azula could set them on fire. Again.

Azula narrowed her eyes as she approached, but a messenger ran in, interrupting whatever she was going to say. She adjusted her posture to the bearing Mai recognized as, kneel, scum!

But after the required obeisance to Azula, the messenger kneeled before Mai, his hands clenched around a sealed scroll.

"What is it?" Ty Lee asked.

Mai took the scroll from the messenger, waved him away before Azula could needle him for not groveling more. "It's from my uncle," she said, reading the seal. She flipped the wax away, unfolded the scroll, and she caught her breath. "He has Zuko."

"Excellent," Azula said. "Polish your little knives before we leave."

*


The Fire Nation conquered.

This was the truth fed to them, from birth to death. The Fire Nation conquered, and the other nations fought the inevitable.

Mai never questioned it, but she saw the messengers scurry in and out of her father's study, watched her father scurry to and from the Fire Lord's own chamber of council.

The Fire Nation conquered, but she knew it wasn't so easy as that. She never said so, because nobody else did.


*


Mai watched Zuko's gondola settle against the opposite cliff, just as Azula's landed beside her. Guards shouted, and Mai lowered her arms, let them take her. She felt the last five blades lining her sleeve, and she knew they wouldn't be enough to defeat Azula.

It didn't matter.

Azula poised to strike, and Mai drew a blade and braced herself for the burn, and when Ty Lee lashed her arms out, Mai couldn't process it, couldn't process Ty Lee choosing that last side. Ty Lee ran for her, all urgency, but the guards closed in again, and they could only surprise Azula twice.

Azula surprised Mai, too, because she didn't execute them on the spot.

*


Mai didn't laugh—not often, anyway—and spending her time with Azula and Ty Lee frequently made her feel more disgruntled than not. They cackled and giggled and plotted and played, and Mai went along with it because she was Azula's companion, and obedience was assumed.

As Azula assumed more power, Mai gained more freedom, even if it was just traveling with the princess as they hunted outlaws, or infiltrated the enemy, or oversaw yet another battle against upstarts in the Earth Kingdom. If she didn't care about the war as much as some others, well, loyalty was assumed.

At night, they camped under the broad canopy of trees. Azula complained about the lack of servants, and Ty Lee crooned about leaves and fresh air. Mai sharpened her blades, polished them in the firelight, and when Azula and Ty Lee murmured to each other, gasped, Mai closed her eyes.

Or so they assumed.


*


The guards brought them to one of the deeper, darker cells, and despite her rage, Azula followed calmly. She watched them shackle Mai's ankle to the wall, and Ty Lee's arms. Azula hit Mai twice in the stomach, and while Mai was doubled over, coughing, she heard Azula's footsteps skip sideways.

Ty Lee screamed, once, and then the footsteps retreated, and the door clanged shut.

"You okay?" Mai asked, her breath still shaky in her throat.

Ty Lee twisted against her shackles, then sighed. "I'll survive."

If she doesn't come back, Mai thought, and hoped she wouldn't. "Could we get some water in here?" she called out.

"What if she told them not to?" Ty Lee asked.

Mai smiled, grim. "My uncle's still the warden," she replied. She looked at Ty Lee's skin, still reddened. "Azula doesn't remember family."

The guards brought them water, and ointment for Ty Lee's burns, and a day later, when Azula had left, a key to unlock the shackles.

*


When they were children, Azula plucked Ty Lee from the ranks of their classmates like a pet. She pulled Ty Lee over to Mai's seat under the trees and grinned. "Ty Lee has six sisters," Azula crowed, "like a turtle duck."

Ty Lee frowned, opened her mouth, but then Azula slapped her on the arm. "Come on, let's race," she shrieked, and Mai watched the two of them tumble down the hill like acrobats. "Come on, Mai," Azula called back, and Mai stood, shook out her robes, and followed.

Mai ran fast, but they ran faster, and when she caught up with them, they were sparring in the fountain, hopping, twirling, kicking up water. Ty Lee was laughing, winning, and Mai saw Azula change her stance into something more familiar, more serious. Fire licked out from her fingers, scorching Ty Lee's sleeve before Mai cartwheeled in front of her, a blade deflecting the flame.

The game halted, and Ty Lee frowned over her burnt uniform. Mai heard her complaints, but focused on Azula, waiting to see how her whimsy would turn. She flipped the blade between her fingers, faster, as her tutors had taught her.

After a long moment, Azula relaxed her stance, and Mai slid the blade back into her sleeve. "You're good at somersaults," Mai said to Ty Lee, though she was careful not to turn her back to the princess.

"Yes," Azula said. "Do more." She settled onto the fountain's edge, her bearing imperial.

Ty Lee tied her sleeves back and flipped backwards, on to the next game, and Mai leaned back against the fountain, watching.


*


The day the war ended, a guard came to unlock their cell. She saluted Mai as she stepped back from the doorway, and there were no weapons in her hands. "Your uncle sent for a ship," the guard said.

Mai stretched her arms and squinted into the light.

"Did we win?" Ty Lee asked.

The guard stammered for a moment, and Mai shook her head, knowing.

"Is that bad?" Ty Lee said, but she was already smiling.

Mai laughed, because finally, they were free.


###

A/N: Title and summary adapted from Regina Spektor's Us.

Originally posted to atla_ladyfest.

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