?

Log in

 
 
25 July 2009 @ 02:49 am
Faustian Genie [Jun x Azula]  
Title: Faustian Genie
Pairing: jun x azula
Fandom: Avatar the Last Airbender
Genre: Friendship, Romance, Supernatural
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 3,008

A/N: Semi-sequel to The Scars Told Her So. You don't need to read the other fic to understand this, but this story might tie up loose ends in the other one.

Faustian Genie

 

They never appreciated her, no matter how much she tried, how much she sacrificed for their petty banes and blights. She had a gift, noticed the potential young, and honed it into a spectacular, exquisite creation. (Jun could steal anything, track anyone, and annihilation followed her anywhere.) She wasn’t unkind. She just couldn’t stand not getting paid.

 

(She did warn them before they jauntily signed the contract, a binding Faustian oath.) But still, they were miserly (miserable in their old bones and thousand-year-steaming vendettas). And they kicked her out, exiled like a common criminal. The shame.

 

And so, she will wreck their village to the ground. It’s nothing personal, nothing—

 

“No hard feelings, eh?”

 

No response.

 

“Just…my code of honor, you know? If I let you get away with it, then I’ll have to do it for everyone else.”

 

She tossed the torch, lit up the communal hall in flames.

 

(From the ashes, she will salvage the buried treasures. Gold and jewels. Fire burned, but did not engulf absolutely.)

 

-

 

The next village was much smarter—heard the stories—and welcomed her services with a trunk-full of baubles and trinkets and other delicious goodies. They bought her love (and silence) and never thought there would be hell to pay (in the aftermath).

 

“These are incredible. Thank you,” Jun’s eyes glistened over, hands danced (sprinted hysterically) across coins and pearls.

 

She sized them up expertly: measured their worth with epicurean astuteness and recherché refinement.

 

And said, “I’ll rid you bastards of anything you want. I’ll hunt any lowlife down, just name the name.”

 

“Princess Azula!”

 

Jun laughed, what a funny joke. “The ‘Princess Azula’? The one who was imprisoned and sentenced to get chopped? Right. Why would she be here of all places?”

 

The old man shuffled his feet, obviously embarrassed. She almost pitied him.

 

“She, well, she was imprisoned here, I mean in the mountains, behind our village. I—uh, I was in charge. But she escaped two months ago! No one knows how. She couldn’t Firebend anymore, she—”

 

“Save your breath. I don’t care. A deal’s a deal. I get my money, and you get your man…girl.”

 

“Oh thank you, thank you!”

 

 – a goddess, how auspicious, how wondrous!

 

Jun shrugged.

 

 – whatever

 

The prison warden (old geezer) pointed northwest, or what Jun deciphered as in that general direction (his hand wouldn’t stop shaking). So, she mounted Nyla gracefully—beauty before brawn—and leapt over boulders and streams.

 

This is gonna be a piece of cake.

 

-

 

Her first thought had been: find a girl who looked enough like “Princess Azula” and exchange her over for another sack of golden ingots.

 

She asked around, de-crumpled a soggy, torn-up portrait and waved it in strangers’ passing-by faces.

 

“Hey you! Come here, now.”

 

(No need for small talk. There’s no time.)

 

-

 

Weeks passed and nothing. Jun was beginning to get just a little frustrated. She did not fail—just inconceivable—and this was not going to be her first fiasco. Dégringolade led to degeneration…she won’t focus on that.

 

-

 

“I might be able to help.”

 

Yeah right, you’re an ugly whore, a fat one too.

 

“Really? Do tell, Miss.”

 

“I said I might, but a few coins will help stir my memory.”

 

Like hell that will happen.

 

“Two copper coins and you give me a place and time.”

 

“Three towns over, the only inn you can find—White Lo-something—I was there a few days ago, and I saw a woman who looked just like that.”

 

“Thanks, and as a tip, wash your face. And maybe the rest of you too.”

 

Bitch.

 

-

 

At the inn, Jun tossed back her long hair, ordered a hard draft of blistering ale, and barked an instruction to prepare the best room in the house. (Jun traveled in style.) The clerk backed away in fright, considered shouting for the master to handle things, but realized otherwise. (He was already in trouble for the mysterious theft five days ago.)

 

“I hope everything is to your liking, ma’am?”

 

“No. This table is filthy, but never mind that. Take a look at her, have you seen her?”

 

He scratched his chin, wondering what game she was playing at.

 

“I know she’s a looker, but quit gawking and answer me.”

 

“I’m not sure. There are so many customers around here, that…it just becomes a jumble after a while.”

 

“Well, I’m going to give your brain an even worse ‘jumble’ so stop stalling. Have you seen her or not?”

 

“Why didn’t you say so directly! Of course I’ve seen her. She’s still in town, living in the room a door down from you.”

 

“Perfect. As for that theft you’ve been so worried about? It’s the maid who works the morning shift. Nyla smelled her out.”

 

-

 

Princess Azula scraped off the bandages covering her cheeks, her once mesmerizingly enchanting cheeks, dewy skin soft and pale. A face that could collapse nations.

 

And now, half of it was covered in molten agony, in perpetual revulsion, dying in desire for retribution. She had paid enough for her Transgressions Against The State—whatever state was left under her brother’s benevolent despotism. Father dead, Mother (well, best not to contemplate that woman), and Zu-Zu on the throne.

 

Her throne, which she will reclaim in due time. All a matter of fortitude.

 

Life was a complex puzzle, of waiting and un-waiting, of time lapses and brutal intents. But for now, she will wait, will suffer this through with dignity. And when she emerged—gauzed-swathes peeled off—she would fling at them a well deserved coup de grace.

 

(She had planned it since birth; it was hammered in stone, in prophesy.)

 

Azula continued to hum, not suspecting anything, not worried, not human (anymore).

 

-

 

Jun decided in early childhood that preemptive strikes only worked if they originated from a vantage point. And from where she stood, she had the advantage on Princess Azula.

 

“This one is for the little chick that never fled the coup.”

 

 – and this one was for the princess who cried execution

 

(It was funny how no customer had ever specified “dead or alive.”)

 

-

 

Azula never slept, hadn’t drifted into stupid slumber—the living death that only fools dared embrace—since her immurement.

 

(and a thump goes thundering in the silenced night)

 

She forced herself to light a fire (old habits were difficult to unlearn), meek and weak. It failed to ignite in her palm (frail, Zuko, you’re useless!). No matter, she had a back-up. (Lesson number one, Azula, always have a second plan ready.)

 

-

 

Jun sidestepped a tomcat purring in her path, frowned at the nuisance, but decided euthanasia wasn’t exactly her forte.

 

-

 

If she had been anyone else, she wouldn’t have heard it.

 

A professional, an assassin of the highest caliber. No sound reverberated, no footfalls echoed cataclysmically (that called for eternal damnation), no gutsy, labored, don’t-kill-me! breathing. Nearly ghostlike, but not skilled enough.

 

Azula recommenced her charade. A sleeping princess was an ideal princess.

 

-

 

Jun wasn’t stupid. She knew the girl wasn’t sleeping. Taken to be an idiot? She carefully held out the knife—already unsheathed, polished metal was so unnecessarily cumbersome—and plunged.

 

Hard.

 

Nothing. No shouts, no pain. How odd, what a bizarre coincidence: there seemed to be a tip pointing at her neck too.

 

-

 

“Thought you were going to sneak up on me?”

 

Jun lied, “Yes.”

 

Azula smiled gruesomely, one side of her face drooping slightly, “Parlor tricks, silly girl, can’t get the job done properly.”

 

“And what job is that?”

 

“Killing me of course!”

 

“Really? Was I going to?”

 

-

 

She sat with the scarred Princess Azula, amused and wry. Azula did the talking, and Jun listened (pretending not to be fascinated). Nonchalant, half-quirked shrugs and dismissive replies. Azula didn’t buy it.

 

“You don’t need to fake interest. I know you’re interested. You’re gripped.”

 

“That’s funny. Why would I ever be interested in you.”

 

“Because I’m Princess Azula.”

 

Was Princess Azula. And now, you’re just nobody. So if you’ll excuse me, I think I will go to bed.”

 

“If you say so. But you’ll be back tomorrow.”

 

“Why is that?”

 

“You’re not someone who gives up easily,” (not like her brother).

 

Jun grinned back, vampishly white teeth glaring luridly against the pitch-black painted walls. Shadows sifted through the curtains (almost blood imbrued and honest but not quite, something lacking). It was already morning, and Jun stifled a yawn.

 

(She was guilelessly ensnared.)

 

-

 

In the morning (Jun refused to cater to anyone else’s demands—utterly irrational and humiliating) Azula set out with a solitary, noble bundle strapped across her shoulders and a mind emphasizing revenge. Concave stomach, partially starved, heightened meditative senses. Pure lean muscle and meanness, serpentine with a forked tongue dipped in silver.

 

“So you gonna be okay, Princess?”

 

“Of course. I’m Princess Azula.”

 

Jun laughed, valued a good sardonic, caustic retort. She could snarl out a few lines too.  “Bye then, was nice to meet you.”

 

“Likewise,” more sarcasm.

 

Azula’s boots fell into stride, click-clack, mocking the cadence of horseshoed hooves. Like a hellhorse enraged and rearing, Azula marched on gloriously. Let loose her hair, blowing back, whiplashing her neck and face.

 

She will never die. Immortality was a skill to be acquired (spine-snapping, slavishly slashed work and oceans of sweat).

 

“Careful out there, not everyone’s as nice as me.”

 

“Don’t worry. I can’t die.”

 

Guess we’re the same then. Jun waved one last farewell.

 

-

 

And now that the damned, detestable Princess departed, Jun was in a predicament.

 

She needed a body—preferably stiff and bluing prettily in sallow, sticky skin. And fast. The money was running out (she never carried much when hunting). And so, someone must die. Tonight.

 

-

 

An old woman called Hanna or Hamma (inconsequential) provided exceptional help: had a body dried and waiting. Jun relinquished the rest of her jostling silver and kicked Nyla into action.

 

The crippled hag (“the war had been hard” she complained valiantly) cackled and hacked. But Jun understood. They formed a kismet, and one day, she will be compensated in full. For now, money will suffice.

 

“She was my granddaughter. Died in childbirth.”

 

Jun nodded like she believed the lie. Corpse didn’t look a day older than eight (but decapitated bodies were rarely identified correctly).

 

-

 

The night before she arrived at Ba Sing Se, Jun could’ve sworn she saw a phantom. A lady dressed completely in white (the cliché) and held a bouquet in one hand and a blade in the other (oh god, the triple platitude).

 

Jun called out, growing maddeningly annoyed, and cracked her whip through the air, sending a low-pitched sibilance hissing across the field. The lady turned and walked, glided, whatever, over and said plain and easily—

 

“Shut up!” Jun shrieked.

 

And that was the end of that.

 

(And soon, Jun was apotheosized as a goddess—for whatever reason—was acclaimed and worshiped for exorcising a white-veiled demon. She couldn’t care less and was long gone and living the high life in the Earth Kingdom’s capital.)

 

-

 

Legends and gossip were one and the same. They both aggrandized the truth into meteoric proportions (Jun would know). She’s been a deity, a bandit, and a prostitute (that was hilarious). And once, when she tried to insist that she was just a bounty hunter, the drunken assholes howled in mirth.

 

So, she learned that it was better to ignore the taunts, the praises, the oblations (those she missed occasionally).

 

“Encomium exchanged economy, elementary!”

 

(chant ceased, applause wavered then drowned in its own spittle)

 

-

 

One day, Jun considered joining or marketing for a gang, much like when she was younger, but dispatched the possibility. She was so old now (what felt like infinity sapping away her strength) and maybe it was time to “settle down”. The cow (the mother) never stopped pissing her off, even a decade cold and rotten in her grave.

 

And then, as if by a sadistic miracle, she spotted Princess Azula (skeletal and possessed) waltzing down the street, down to some obscure teashop (but famous and expensive). Jun followed and discovered something unexpected.

 

“I’d say you were hitting on me,” stalking being the euphemism, “if I didn’t know better.”

 

“Maybe I am,” said Jun.

 

“I have no heart,” said Azula.

 

“Neither do I.”

 

-

 

Sleeping with Azula was surprising but pleasant.

 

Skinny and supple, the Princess contorted and twisted her body like a butterfly gymnast. She stretched her endless legs and unwound her arms, and enveloped Jun in a timeless cloud-like, bottled tight love (if it could be called that, Jun rolled her eyes).

 

“You know, I don’t even like you,” Azula commented, nose wrinkled in disbelief.

 

“That’s okay. Because I’m gorgeous,” and lonely but so are you.

 

Azula kissed her hard. Jun reciprocated because it was only polite, and she had been a duchess before mercenarily cleansing the countryside.

 

-

 

She had standards, and Jun fell short.

 

Was vulgar, was barbaric (Azula failed to remember her own animalistic claws and lightening fangs). And sometimes, Azula wanted to stab her, just to carve out her unbearable arrogance and penetrating stares. But Jun was all she had.

 

Beggars can’t be choosers! —Shut up.

 

And it had been almost-magical.

 

-

 

“So this is where we part again?”

 

“I’m not going to get myself killed,” and you’re sauntering towards Fire Nation soil.

 

“Neither am I,” Ba Sing Se is too boring to stay.

 

-

 

While Jun gave and gave (and took and took) and prospered from clients, Azula practiced diligently. She performed the basic breathing steps: in then out. And muttered curses under hot-heaven, bluntly moist air. Azula trained and trained, knew that one day she would get revenge.

 

Like an exotic genie sucked into its lamp, Azula shape-shifted from smoke to ashes to plasmatic wisps, and back into smoke. She retraced her steps (to the gilded genie palace she once called home).

 

Azula brought disaster with every spastically whistled tune.

 

-

 

The corpse became carrion for vultures.

 

Jun left it to fester till the bones metamorphosed into sand. The desert retrieved and recycled its prize. Slowly but surely, it would come back to haunt her one day. But at this moment, she was invincible.

 

“Old hag was right.”

 

Irony was a capricious but assuring paramour.

 

-

 

The Fire Lord turned out to be extremely unimpressive.

 

Jun sat throughout their hour-long meeting completely bored, compelling herself to feign attention and nod at the appropriate moments. He droned on and on about his crazed sister (she’s obstinately obsessed with retaliation, you know!). And Jun thought: well, of course, you bombastic, corpulent cretin.

 

“Let me get this straight. You locked her up, had your beloved Avatar here strip her of her Bending, and you’re actually astonished that she wants to murder you all?”

 

“That’s not what I said!”

 

“But that’s what you meant. Hey, I’m not judging you here—and by the way, does your wife know you’re cheating on her with a dirty tribal peasant? I’m merely stating the facts, lover boy.”

 

“I—I!”

 

“I don’t care, and I won’t tell your wife, promise. But I’ll need the payment up front, everything you got.”

 

Vowed and bound (gagged) Zuko consented. She drove a hard bargain, but he was scared witless. It was good business, another day (another deal) sealed.

 

-

 

“Just get on with it.”

 

“Why would I do that, Princess?”

 

Jun retied the ropes, fastening them with sedulous patience and deft, motherly care.

 

-

 

Azula was a true poison artist (Jun had no clue where she picked up that trick).

 

The Princess was gone, and Jun had no choice. She coughed out the remaining miasmic mucous and screamed. She was despondent and mourning rightfully. It had been so flawless, and she couldn’t very well show up at Zuko’s door empty handed. He’d have an aneurysm, and it would be all her bloody fault that the Esteemed Fire Lord perished. Fuck, she was in a self-dug dilemma.

 

 But there—it was fate—a naked girl touring some forlorn, eponymously Lethal river of lethe during an odd hour of night. Like she’d been touched with amnesia. (Seriously, tryst were more trouble than their worth, only resulted in bloody hearts and evisceration.) And here was Jun, dagger already drawn, crouched behind the trees. She refrained from leaping in joy, how utterly childish.

 

It was like meant-to-be. Star-crossed, Jun could recite (poetry mitigated the suspense, assuaged inevitable hurt).

 

“Hello! Are you lost?” a sickeningly sweet smile appeared on Jun’s face.

 

-

 

No one could tell. This was Princess Azula through and through (before she lost all her remarkable looks).

 

A slice here, a cut there, and impeccable. Jun wiped away the beading sweat from her brow and stood back to admire her masterpiece. Into the hot pot you go! And Jun will profit prodigiously. The prodigal heir returns home at long last.

 

“I just grant wishes like they were words.” She was so kind and sensitive.

 

But wishes are—

 

-

 

Zuko poked and jabbed at the grotesquely mangled limbs and gorily headless torso. He pondered deeply (Jun tapped her feet, thinking he must be stupid beyond grief) and eventually, Zuko announced that it was indeed Azula. Jun sighed in relief.

 

“They have the same mole there,” he blushed pointing above her left breast.

 

Jun didn’t question how he knew that.

 

“Your money is all here.”

 

She accepted it, still not caring (not asking).

 

-

 

(and now that you’re free)

 

“You don’t owe me a thing,” because I know you.

 

“I won’t be in anyone’s debt,” it’s a pride thing, you understand.

 

“Just leave. If they catch you, we’re both going straight to the executioner,” where we’ll all gather around someday.

 

And they both knew: they’re devils without hearts. They needed no one (and everyone). In this world, they entered engagements not matrimonies, but they will meet again. It was destiny, was a malarial, baleful, beautiful misery. Jun never forgot and Azula never forgave.

 

They smiled and sneered, respectively, and saw themselves mirrored back in pooled open darkly lovely irises. Like twin constellations courting and playing and desperately in love, they will eternally find a middle ground.

 

(Devils and gods never die.)

 

adadsf
 
 
 
downjune: zukodownjune on July 25th, 2009 01:11 pm (UTC)
Marvelous! Beautiful and disturbing. I never rooted for Azula, but I kind of had to in this one. Thanks so much for posting!
neldluva: wicked neldneldluva on July 25th, 2009 10:19 pm (UTC)
That was amazingly perfect and beautiful. I love the almost-poetic quality of the prose. Excellent work. Thank you for the great read!
~*SASSQUATCH*~: red forest (avatar: tla)zempasuchil on January 16th, 2010 06:14 am (UTC)
CREEPY. Really creepy. Azula is somewhere between pathetic and impossibly badass. Jun, jun is pretty much just badass. This is pretty damn wow, the premise especially, but the sparse strong writing too, and I'm sad it doesn't have more reviews!