Title: Panning for Fish Scales
Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Summary: The orb which becomes the moon does not forget where it came from.
Azula rolled her shoulders, stretching the aching muscles in her arms and back. They'd been kind enough to unshackle her wrists from each other, but her jailers didn't allow her to roam the boundaries of her cell. Her right wrist was always pinned fast to the wall, while her left arm was tethered by a long chain.
She could feel lanterns flickering, on the very edge of her awareness. A ragged hole in the ceiling allowed light to filter in, but they never brought so much as a candle near her.
Azula twisted against her bonds. It would be hours before her next meal arrived, but she shrieked anyway. "You fools can't keep me here forever!"
There was a scraping echo in the corridor, like a blade being dragged against the stone walls. Azula stilled; she wondered.
When Mai appeared, she didn't bother acting surprised. "Traitor," she observed. Mai didn't even twitch.
"Fire Lady," she replied.
Azula bared her teeth. "Have you come to beg forgiveness?" She raised her chin.
Mai didn't smile; she rarely did. She stared at Azula for a long moment, then turned her back and walked away.
Azula lost track of the days and nights. Uncle Iroh and the Avatar appeared once, their hushed murmurs preceding them down the corridor. They tried to talk to her, as if she was some child, not the rightful Fire Lord. Uncle Iroh approached her, brushed a lock of hair from her face.
She spat on him, jerked at her bonds.
He didn't react, but kept his attention on her as he spoke to the Avatar. "What you did to my brother--"
"Not again." The Avatar shook his head, his eyes sad as he looked at Azula. "Not if I have a choice."
Uncle Iroh stepped back, and Azula ground her teeth. Hating the need, she asked, "Is my father still alive?"
The Avatar blinked, and Uncle Iroh looked away.
The sound of footsteps woke Azula. She chafed her wrists against her bonds again, the metal cool against her sore skin. She tilted her head to listen. The steps were too light to be one of the guards, someone wearing sandals instead of boots. She didn't hear the clatter of clay or wood, so it wasn't a meal, either.
"Is that you, Zu-Zu?" she called out, pitching her voice sweetly. "It's about time you paid me a visit."
The steps came closer, and with difficulty, she tucked one ankle under her knee, affecting nonchalance. She could feel a lantern-flame, drawing closer. Her blood sang for it.
"Release my hands, and I'll greet you properly," she promised.
A shadow fell into her cell, and her next taunt died in her throat.
"Hello, Azula," her visitor said.
Azula shivered in her bonds. "Mother."
A/N: Title and summary adapted from Lily Chan's Where there is a river. Link courtesy of breathe_poetry.