spoilers: complete a:tla and ouat AU, so. you're probably safe if you've watched the shows at all.
summary: fire lady regina has heard the whispers of some girl avatar, golden haired and angry. they can't be true.
notes: ...this is totally hoshinekoyasha's fault, for her birthday. b, i h8 u for this and i'm never writing fic again. (this one broke my brain. no more a:tla AU's ever pls) also it's still before 12 your time so i'm not late, HA. mind you this was in between stupid stressing about comm and that stupidly hard exam SO THERE. (ilu really)
there is war for the ten years between avatars.
the fire nation remembers the cycle, knows their nation hosts the next avatar but for those ten years there is nothing of him, her, no one knows.
(the truth of it is: even during the previous avatar's tenure the stirrings of war were beginning.
avatar daniel was little more than a boy when he died)
fire-lady regina first hears the whispers; a fire-starter, a blur of fire nation crimson and gold headed for capital city, angry and strong, teasing earth and air and water from her fingertips. they can't be true, regina knows.
her mother made sure of that.
prince henry escapes the safety of the capital and returns weeks, months later, the woman in tow. she is young, younger than she has any right to be--as young--
too young, regina is certain.
"emma," she says, voice clipped and blunt. "my name is emma."
the fire constantly churning in regina's belly quakes for an instant before burning up her throat, before searching for an escape, before emma's eyes glow white.
the woman-girl opens her mouth and light spills out. "avatar emma," she says, her voice ancient and terrible. "i am avatar emma."
(just a some girl for all that, regina thinks, terrified and angry)
outside the fire palace, war rages. capital city is lit from the inside, emma spilling blinding light from her body as she pulls fire in one hand and pushes water from the other. regina's soldiers fight against the entire world.
henry hides and regina fights back.
it was always going to end like this.
the fire lord's wife dies when regina is fifteen.
regina falls in love with a boy once.
these two events are connected.
lady cora pushes regina further and further in court, after. princess snow, cannier than her ten years should give her, sees everything but says nothing. fire lord leopold might be kind and gracious but every aristocrat taking residence within the palace knows how his moods or his very position on the throne could change at any moment.
fire lord leopold is in full mourning, and the presence of fresh-faced, tear-stained regina moves him like nothing else. she wears her mourning like her skin, full black dresses, anguish on her face, death in her eyes.
it never occurs to fire lord leopold to wonder where her grief might be, if she was too young to have been close to the fire lady.
cora brings regina closer and closer to fire lord leopold, arranging outings with him or with princess snow, and within the fortnight regina is betrothed.
"how respectful my betrothed is," leopold calls out to his court, "to refrain from celebration of this joyous occasion in deference to my dearly departed wife." regina still stands mute at the head of court, cracks a smile only when cora gestures angrily, and nervously fingers a gold chain around her neck. "fire lady blanche was a great woman," regina says quietly, "and she will be missed."
it's not fire lady blanche regina misses, but no one really knows that.
(please mother, please don't do this, we just want to live in the earth kingdom, we just want peace—)
avatar daniel lives in the fire nation for a spell, learning firebending from a master. cora is the undisputed master of the fre nation, teaching the avatar and her daughter in the same fashion. regina picks up firebending with more ease than daniel but cora pays no mind to that right up until the moment regina's fire roasts her.
that's getting ahead of the story, of course. spoilers, you see? the thing of it is, regina and daniel fall in love. regina is fifteen and cora knows she has her whole life ahead of her, ahead of a poor avatar—prestigious, but the boy is still that, still a boy—and daniel has the audacity to ask for regina's hand to henry.
cora tells regina she is to marry the fire lord, and regina runs away. she runs away—runs from her mother, and gets dragged back, by the hair, kicking and screaming, dragged back. daniel is a fresh memory by then, just a casualty lost in the forest around the mills country home.
(daniel was—daniel's eyes glow white, earth singing at his fingertips. regina is at her mother's feet, the ground turned to deep shadow in the unearthly glow from daniel's body, from cora's cherry-red flames.
regina screams, no no no please mother, but daniel still rises in the air, skin glowing in the night and cora still aims her fire at the luminescent heart of him. regina screams and screams but daniel falls like every human, every trace of spirit escaped from his body, every light extinguished, like a concussive blast felt around every kingdom, like every hope has gone from the world, like the cycle of avatars just shattered)
regina's wedding to leopold is a muted, dark affair. regina stands at the front of a priest, a tiny figure in dark colors and darker hair, fire lord leopold a giant man in comparison, resplendent in crimson and gold.
(cora cannot be found—there is a pile of ashes in a jar is regina's room she doesn't discard of until after her wedding night, but the woman-cora, master-cora cannot be found)
snow holds the rings and watches the proceedings with too-knowing eyes, and regina could love this little girl, whose eyes are the same shade of green as her late mother's, as daniel's; regina could love snow dearly if she didn't know it was snow who had told cora of her plan to run away.
(it has to be said, of course, that cora is a master manipulator: not many can resist her, least of all a ten year old girl)
regina marries leopold and elsewhere in the world, an avatar is born.
(that's not true)
when emma swan is ten years old, she wakes in the middle of her night to her entire body burning. her fingertips glow cherry-red and then freeze into icy tips and she's screaming and screaming and then—hours, days later—it stops.
she opens her green, green eyes and august booth is startled at the lack of color, the moonlight-glow trapped in her eyes for a second.
"my head is killing me" she says softly, and faints straight away.
daniel the stable boy, daniel the avatar is dead, and emma—emma is not. one night she went to sleep a fledgling firebender in a kingdom of earthbenders and the next—well, the next she could earthbend, and waterbend and airbend besides.
emma doesn't show the street kids around her her powers—no need to invite trouble—and she works at making august forget anything happened.
they grow up in the ba sing se slums. emma kisses august one night and kisses the tea-shop girl the next, anything to forget the humming of fire and water and earth and air under her skin.
(it's not that she doesn't practice all the elements, because emma's scared shitless about what it all means but emma isn't stupid; she trains at them all, in as much as she can. eventually august helps her with earthbending—by far the easiest element after her natural firebending—and she can pick up air with little difficulty, but it's water that bothers her. it's sluggish under her skin, in her veins. everything in her rejects its fluidity and emma is graceless in even attempting waterbending)
she never enters the avatar state, in those five years.
war has been brewing forever, emma thinks sometimes. the earth kingdom is always the first to hear of war, being so much closer to the fire nation than the other nations, and in lower city they hear everything.
the birth of prince henry, tiny and dark haired, not unlike the dark-haired princess; the death of fire lord leopold; fire lady regina gathering power around her fist, ruling hard and exiling the beloved princess (she can't be any older than emma herself, emma can't believe—); princess snow's arrival in the earth kingdom, unannounced, unknown to any but lower city.
emma has to see this princess, this soft-heart, and is startled at the similar face, the same green eyes, the same chin. snow is shocked but emma laughs instead, saying she's not the first war orphan in the earth kingdom to have a royal father.
snow gets over her shock quickly enough, and emma takes to her like a fish to water. snow's easy to love, emma reasons, and she teaches her petty thievery—all the things needed to survive lower city. snow blooms there, dirty clothes and everything, looking for all the world just like every sixteen year old lower city girl—and emma falls in easy company, a thick as thieves.
the prince runs away. emma snorts at that, but snow frowns and says he's looking for her. "he was always looking for the avatar" she says, "and people know now. they come to you"
it's even true—people have noticed who she is, what she can do. they ask her to lead armies, to train others but emma doesn't want it doesn't remotely think she can do it. the earth kingdom is perpetually at war with the fire nation but emma wants no part, leave them all to burn she thinks and ignores the furious yelling in her head, avatar daniel hissing she needs to save regina. the fire lady, emma snorts at him; she doesn't need saving, everyone needs saving from her. snow is their leader, their savior. emma lends her legitimacy but the truth is she's never wanted this, never asked for this.
(to the surprise of no one: prince henry finds them)
"come on dear" regina taunts, "is that the best you can do?" the flames that flicker at her fingers are electric blue, and emma is terrified witless but stands firm.
emma spits blood, clenching ice around her fist. she rushes towards regina, "god do you ever just shut up." regina laughs, dark and cruel, even as she weaves around emma's fists and emma's fire and emma's ice.
"maybe not," she says, slightly breathless, "but at least i know who my father is"
emma growls and her hands are a blur of ice and fire, entraping regina even as her eyes flicker white. "shut up" she says, and presses an ice-knife to regina's throat.
regina inhales and her smirk is so—stupid, so— "tell me, emma" she says, "how does it feel to know your father started the world on a war, to know you have a sister who right now is probably dying—"
she has no business looking appealing, her dark hair spilling across the darker tile, smirking up at emma. "how does it feel to know you have no parents because your darling father the king didn't deem your mother marriageable?"
emma's eyes flicker between white again, and she bears down on regina harder. "shut up" she hisses "just--stop talking you crazy, evil—"
(daniel is shouting in her mind, and emma doesn't love regina, doesn't even come close, but god the woman is intoxicating—)
regina surges up against emma's mouth, fire falling from her fingers as she buries her hands in emma's hair. the ice-knife at regina's throat has long since melted away. emma's hands are around regina's face, curled at her cheekbones even as she straightens away breathing hard. daniel is nowhere in her head and regina still looks—
emma exhales shakily and presses the ice-knife to the soft flesh below regina's jaw again.
"tell me why you started this war"
regina laughs around the ice and her eyes dart to the portrait of fire lord leopold. "i didn't start this," she says, "he did. he started the war and forced a baby in my belly and when i killed him his advisors wrenched the war further."
emma frowns and presses the knife harder. "why did you kill daniel?"
regina's mouth twitches into a snarl, "look into your memories harder little avatar, i did no such thing" she bucks under emma suddenly and emma blinks away her confusion.
"i have" emma says.
the fighting breaches the palace, it was always going to.
princess—fire lady—snow sits on the throne. prince henry is next to her, looking so much a little boy, just ten years old and watching the world fall apart around him. snow scans her court but there is no blonde haired woman there, just as she knew there wouldn't be. her rag tag group of rebels call for the fire lady's head, but there is no one to show them.
the world roars for their avatar and the deposed fire lady and they're both of them gone.
"you stupid girl" regina says after. emma snorts and says,
"it was all daniel—i thought he'd try to take over my body if i actually killed you"
daniel is whispering in her mind less and less. she's not the enemy here, you know she isn't. he told her his story—regina's story—in the year(s) before emma ever came to the fire nation. emma's the avatar, is the thing, and it's not just the fire nation who needed saving—they have snow, sweet and steel-backed snow, who would rule well. maybe she'd abdicate in favor of prince henry for prince james, who knew?
(regina had to be wrenched from henry, had to leave him with the safety of snow among the vipers of the fire nation court. regina sleeps in hard beds clutching at her pillow, and wakes up whispering henry, henry, henry. emma admires that, envies that; she's never seen such fierce love)
they hide wherever they can—or rather, emma hides regina. emma is still the avatar, still gets in the middle of everything—a teenage (southern) water tribe girl fighting tooth and nail to keep her son from his king grandfather, an earth kingdom girl accused of killing people in her village—but she hides regina. prince henry grows away from his mother, but they don't step foot in the fire nation.
(and emma doesn't hear daniel anymore, doesn't care what he thinks—but she loves regina on her own anyway. it's a stupid, fragile thing, born from knowing regina—crotchety, angry, terrible regina—and emma can't make sense of it. regina is difficult and rude and doesn't even like emma and emma falls in love with her anyway.)
(it's just—regina can be unexpectedly sweet sometimes, and her love is fierce when its there. at night, in their bed (they have long since gone past modesty and emma's shared her bed with other people her entire life, it doesn't mean anything until it does and even then it doesn't mean so much), the lines of the fire lady fall away and she's that fifteen year old girl, in love for the very first time, beautiful and sweet.
they fight more often than not and emma is a street girl at heart; she loves a good fight, and the first time she thinks gods i love you regina's smirking in her direction, taunting emma about anything and everything. her eyes are alight and her words aren't sharp enough to hurt, not anymore, and emma loves her, loves her more than she thought she could or would.)
regina swallows, "i don't...dislike you"
emma stares at regina. her lips twitch and she collapses against regina's bare shoulder, laughing. "gods regina is that your attempt at telling me you like me because let me tell you—"
regina is scowling at her, pulling away. emma muffles her laughter and chases her under the covers.
"what" regina says, muffled, facing away.
emma smiles at regina's back."i don't dislike you too")
eight years after the fire nation war, fire lady snow issues a pardon to regina. it doesn't matter, prince henry visits with regina and emma more often than not, neglecting his duties as the crown prince (snow is as indulgent as his mother, crown prince or not) and regina rolls her eyes at emma holding the thick paper.
"as if i need that" she says, "like i couldn't just go there anytime i want"
emma laughs and laughs and drags regina back to bed. that was about the reaction she expected anyway.