Fic: Tu Quoque [Azula, Lin]
Title: Tu Quoque
Summary: Lin and Azula get in some valuable bonding time. Or at least, that’s their cover story, should Toph ever ask.
Notes: I have so much headcanon for the Azutoph + Lin family unit. So. Much. Even if I do think Azula is really difficult to write. Also, everything I know about martial arts and children I learned from Wikipedia. Since I finished this late at night, there may be more mistakes than usual. Feel free to drop me a line if you have any comments or criticisms.
“I don’t believe you.”
“Oh, Lin. How many times have I lied to you?”
“I don’t know—”
“Then we’re done with this line of inquiry.”
“—because I can’t count that high.”
“I think you should be less concerned with how often I lie to you and more concerned with how often you believe me.”
“Well, I don’t now, so there.”
“Clearly, your judgment needs work. I am telling the truth. For once.”
“… Azula, there’s no way you’re going to convince me you can fly.”
“Hold on,” Azula said.
“I’m holding on,” Lin muttered into her shoulder. She was clinging to Azula’s back like a baby lemurbat as the firebender ran through several forms, getting used to the weight of a twelve year old girl. She balanced easily on one leg, extending the other in a slowed down crescent kick, before sliding into a deep swallow stance.
“Tighter. Just think about what could happen if you slip off while I’m several hundred feet in the air.”
Lin was almost certain Azula wasn’t going to jump off the cliff, but just in case, she reaffirmed her grip on the makeshift harness. It wasn’t much of a harness—just two ropes tied crosswise around Azula’s torso—but Lin’s arms and legs were wrapped securely around the firebender’s chest and belly, respectively, in addition to being hooked between the rope and Azula’s body.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a human body fall three hundred feet straight down. Think of how educa—”
Lin rolled her eyes. “Are you going to fly anytime soon?”
Azula straightened out of a lunge and bounced on the tips of her toes a few times. The crackle of dead leaves under her feet seemed unusually loud to Lin. “If you insist,” Azula said. She leaned forward, left knee bent, right leg extended back, like a runner at the starting block, and Lin didn’t need to see her face to know she was smirking. She gulped, legs tightening around Azula’s waist involuntarily.
For longer than strictly necessary, Azula stayed in that position. Then she took off at a dead run, right for the edge of the cliff.
Oh, god, Lin thought, she’s actually going to jump.
She had enough time to think several words not spoken in polite company before Azula launched herself off the side of a mountain.
They hung in the air for an impossibly long second. This was a really stupid idea, the sensible part of Lin’s brain informed her. Where were you earlier? Lin replied. The second ended before she could think of a response.
Falling! Falling! Lin’s stomach felt like it was trailing two feet behind her and her arms and legs had locked up around Azula as the ground approached very, very quickly. The wind whipped past, deafeningly loud, and Lin blinked away tears. There were an alarming number of tall, spiky trees right below them that looked like they would be very, very painful to crash into.
Falling! Falling! Falli—
A wave of heat blasted over her back and with a jerk that made Lin’s neck crack, they were moving forward, almost perpendicular to the cliff face.
Not falling? Flying? I’m flying!
Azula made some sort of adjustment with her arms and legs. Lin watched, dumbfounded, as the trees and long rocky slope of the mountain receded below them.
“You can fly!” Lin shouted. Most of the words were lost in the wind or muffled by Azula’s shoulder, but she heard Lin, or heard the astonishment in her voice.
“Of course I can fly!” she called back. The sliver of her face visible to Lin radiated self-satisfaction. Lin was about to retort when it hit her: she was flying.
How were they doing that again? And why was her back so hot? Lin turned her head, trying to figure out where the heat was coming from. She didn’t need to look far or even stretch her neck to see long plumes of blue flames propelling them high into the air.
Lin found she had so many questions she could barely choose one to ask. “Where did you learn that?” she asked, twisting to get a better look at the jets.
Azula raised her arms to a forty-five degree angle to the line of her body and let out another flash of fire from her palms. Lin barely had time to be curious before they spun into a dizzying corkscrew that had her squeezing her eyes shut and pressing her face into the reassuring solidity of Azula’s shoulder.
“You’re at least four hundred feet in the air,” Azula said, leveling out, “and you want to ask me about bending.”
That was a very good point, Lin decided. Resolving to save the myriad of questions for later, she began craning her neck around, trying to absorb as much of the view as she could.
And what a view it was. Lin had no idea how high up they were, but it was cold—and uncomfortably hot—and windy and magnificent.
A small part of her, probably the earthbender part, was absolutely terrified. The rest of her, however, was absolutely smitten.
They were level with the snow-capped tips of the mountains and Lin could see to what seemed like the edge of the world. The trees and roads were so small from up here; the roads and band of a river, miles away, looked like fine threads in a giant’s tapestry with the wagons and boats upon them like ants. At the same time, the mountain range made Lin feel tiny now that she could see the long chains of ridges and peaks spreading far into the north.
Azula adjusted her hands again and they swept across the sky in a long, graceful arc. Lin had never moved this fast before and if the wind hadn’t been making her eyes water painfully, she wouldn’t have dared blink. Provided Azula didn’t put them through anymore spirals, Lin felt like she could stay up here forever.
The change in direction allowed Lin to get a look at Republic City and the ocean spreading, like rippled glass, into the horizon. Her breath caught in her throat and she made a soft, awed noise. The closest thing she could compare it to was a geode her mother had given her on her seventh birthday: simultaneously geometric and chaotic.
The city glittered in the sun, fanning out around the bay in innumerable patterns and colors. Lin imagined it would take a lifetime in the air to familiarize herself with Republic City—the city her mother protected. A great surge of emotion rose in Lin’s throat and she found herself clutching hard at Azula as tears pricked at her eyes.
All too soon, though, Lin noticed a quiver in Azula’s arms and the intensity of the heat on her back began to diminish. The discomfort in her own body became more acute, too. The ropes were starting to cut off the circulation in Lin’s hands and feet in addition to chafing where her sleeves had ridden up.
Azula let the jets bank enough so they began to descend, buffeted slightly by gusts of wind. “Let’s see if I remember how to land,” she said conversationally.
Lin knew very well she wasn’t serious, but she eyed the ground nevertheless. Azula was aiming for a clearing, at least, about two miles from the outskirts of the city. Plenty of grass, Lin noticed.
Azula waited until about six feet above the ground before she killed the flames and they dropped like a boulder. She landed heavily, issuing a soft hiss Lin felt more than heard, and immediately cut the ropes with two short knives of fire, sending Lin tumbling in a numb heap onto her back. She lay for a moment, blinking at the sky and still feeling like she was in it, before the feeling returned to her lower legs and arms in stabbing pins and needles.
As much as she already missed the weightlessness and wind in her face, the earth felt infinitely firm and comforting under her back. Lin wobbled to her feet, more unsteady upon her own element than she could every remember feeling.
Azula was bent over a few feet away, hands on her knees, but she tossed her hair to the side, shooting Lin a crooked smirk.
“I told you I could fly,” she said, still smug even with windblown hair and ragged breathing.
Lin launched herself at Azula. They tumbled down together with a startled squawk from the firebender. “That was the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Lin said, hugging her with all the might in her skinny arms.
Azula let out a sigh but tolerated the embrace stiffly. Bracing herself with one hand on the ground behind her, she lifted them both up. Lin, sensing she was about to be pushed off, squeezed hard one last time. “Thanks,” she whispered and loosened her grip.
A hand rested on her head. “Whatever,” Azula grumbled. But she ruffled Lin’s hair gently and sat still for at least another full minute. Lin smiled so wide her face hurt.
“Now get off me,” she said eventually, pushing lightly on the side of Lin’s head. “I don’t need any more dirt on my clothes.”
Lin rolled her eyes but let go of Azula’s shoulders and staggered to her feet. Azula rose, far more smoothly, and made a show of brushing dirt and leaves off her pants. “Earthbenders,” she said, “no sense of decorum.” She had more words about earthbenders’ hygiene and manners—especially in comparison to the Fire Nation—as they began the long walk back to Republic City. Lin, in return, had endless questions about firebending.
At the edge of the forest, just before they were about to enter the suburbs, Azula paused. “You would’ve made a decent firebender,” she said, ruffling Lin’s hair again.
Lin bumped Azula’s side with her shoulder. “Maybe firebending isn’t that useless,” she said.
“Don’t underestimate the usefulness of destruction.” Seeing as how they’d had this conversation many times before, Lin chose not to argue, and they passed the rest of the journey home in moderate serenity.
“Well,” Toph said. “Look who’s here.” She stood from her loose-limbed sprawl on the steps of her home as Azula and Lin entered through the main gate.
“You’re looking positively radiant,” Azula replied. “Did you have much trouble getting your hair into that arrangement or is ‘birds’ nest’ its natural state of affairs?”
“You’re one to—nice try, Princess. Where’d you two go?”
“We went on a pilgrimage to Air Temple Island,” Azula said blandly, “where we had tea with that waterbender and discussed the best flower arrangements for spring weddings.”
“…Right.” Toph turned her face to her daughter. “Lin?”
“Uh.” Lin looked at Azula from the corner of her eye. The last time Azula had taken her out of the city, she and Toph had nearly come to blows. “I’ll tell you at dinner?” The scowl Toph directed at the firebender told Lin she hadn’t been successful in dodging the question.
“Nobody was hurt and no one died,” Azula said, flicking her hair dismissively. “By Bei Fong standards, it went splendidly.”
“Why are you still here? Don’t you have someone else to annoy?”
“Now that you mention it.” Azula made an artful bow that still managed to be sarcastic. “I’ll see again, ladies. Remind me to teach you how to lie to your mother, Lin,” she added. Lin sighed as her mother took an earthshaking step forward, but nodded goodbye to Azula.
“Door’s that away, Princess.”
“Which way, Blind Bandit?”
Needless to say, ‘Azula took me flying’ did not go over well with Toph.
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