Ty Lee has pretty much recovered from Azula, a few years after the war is over. That's what she tells herself, and anyone else who asks. When boys ask about previous boyfriends, she gives them a nervous giggle and says, yes, there was someone during the war, but it turned out badly.
When they press, she says: “She's in a mental hospital now,” and doesn't go on dates with them anymore. She feels mean doing it, but she doesn't like the questions that inevitably follow. “She?” most of them ask, and either they're put off or a little too interested in that. Or they want more and more details, and Ty Lee finally gives them a big cheery grin and tells them: “She was the princess of the Fire Nation, and she was a sociopath. She sent me to prison when I tried to keep her from killing her brother, and she terrified me a lot of the time. But the sex was fantastic.”
Funny enough- no one's ever asked her on another date after that.
Ty Lee almost liked it better when Azula was around to be mean for her. Azula took particular glee in it, so Ty Lee could just stand by and beam. It was a partnership of sorts. Now Ty Lee has to be mean for herself, and she is tired of that almost before she starts.
Things don't go any better when she tries to date girls. First of all, all the ones she meets seem to be interested only in boys, which is just no fun. And second, the ones who are actually interested are always looking around as if afraid they'll be caught by someone. Maybe it's an Earth Kingdom thing. In the Fire Nation, no one ever cared. As long as you eventually married and had children, no one really minded if a woman had a girlfriend or two on the side. After all, it wasn't like anyone was going to get pregnant over it.
So Ty Lee hasn't had sex with anyone else since Azula threw her in prison, and she is really annoyed by that. Especially because the part about the sex being fantastic was completely true, for all that they were both a little too young and that Azula had steadily sapped the pink from Ty Lee’s aura.
She supposes she could have slept with one or two of the boys she was dating, before the whole Azula thing came up, but she doesn't want to earn a reputation as easy, and Kyoshi is a small island.
Also, she'd much rather sleep with a girl. In theory, she likes boys, too. She's slept with them before. She enjoyed it at the time. But the thing about boys is, they just aren't as pretty, and the sex is never as good with a boy as it was with Azula. So Ty Lee would rather date another woman, all things considered. If only she could find one.
The other Kyoshi warriors don't seem to have this problem. But then, the other Kyoshi warriors are all straight and, perhaps even more importantly, they're Earth Kingdom girls in the Earth Kingdom. They know all the rules and how to go about things. They simper when they're supposed to simper and insult when they mean to insult, and there is very little miscommunication. Whereas Ty Lee seems to barge into things half-prepared and make a muddle, and she kind of wishes she were back in the circus where she knows she would be able to find a boy or a girl for the night any time she wanted.
She watches Suki, especially- imagines what Suki's hair would feel like under her hands, how her lips would feel against Ty Lee's own. And all mixed up with that desire is the feeling that maybe if Suki wanted her- if anyone wanted her- it would be like belonging on this island for real, the way Azula wanting her made Ty Lee belong when they were chasing the Avatar. It's been four years since joining the Kyoshi Warriors, and Ty Lee still feels like an outsider sometimes. She hasn't even seen Mai since a few years ago, when Mai had come to stay for a couple of months after she and Zuko had broken up.
Meanwhile, Suki has Sokka, and Koko has her boy in the village, and every other warrior either has someone or doesn't want one. And Ty Lee is alone.
And then Suki goes out on her rotation in the southern Earth Kingdom- they've been taking it in shifts to patrol the worst parts of the southern Earth Kingdom ever since the end of the war, to help keep peace now that the soldiers have pretty much all gone home- and when Suki comes back, a couple months later, she and Sokka have broken up again.
Ty Lee knows it will only be a matter of time before Suki gets back together with Sokka again. They’ve broken up at least three times before that Ty Lee knows about. But then Ty Lee goes on her own rotation, and comes back, and Suki is still single. Ty Lee watches with interest because although she tells herself she's given up hope, some part of her brain and heart never listens, and she notes each gaze that comes her way with pathetic longing, hanging around Suki and laughing at all of her jokes and just... hoping.
Still, she doesn't expect it when Suki pins her against a wall and kisses her senseless when they're alone after practice one day. She's caught off-guard and unprepared. She even squeals a bit.
“I'm sorry,” Suki says, and goes bright red under her makeup. “I thought-“ and then Ty Lee gets over the surprise and pins Suki to the ground, green robes bright against the brown earth, and kisses her senseless, and before the hour is out they've sort of fallen into bed together, the makeup on both of their faces hopelessly smudged.
It's a new thing, and fragile, and Ty Lee doesn't expect a relationship out of it.
But she isn't exactly upset when Suki brings her a smallish sunflower, a few days later, and tucks it into Ty Lee's braid with a deft touch.
“It matches your hair ribbon,” Suki says. “I thought you might like it.”
Ty Lee has been wearing different colored hair ribbons to hold her braids, but she hadn’t realized that Suki noticed that.
“Thank you,” she says.
It looks pretty there, nestled into her hair. She checks in a mirror, later, craning her head to see it right. She likes the way yellow looks against her hair. It's a happy color.
The other warriors give the sunflowers appraising looks. “Did you find a boy in the village?” Koko asks. Ty Lee smiles. “Not a boy,” she says. And Koko makes a surprised face, but then she smiles.
Ty Lee’s aura is a brave, sunflower yellow.
Azula had never brought flowers for Ty Lee. She'd never been gentle or frivolous or kind. Ty Lee is a little uncertain about how to respond to gentleness, so it's a good thing she knows that Suki can be blunt and strong and sarcastic, too.
And Ty Lee thinks that maybe Suki’s sarcasm can be enough meanness for both of them, even if it isn’t very mean at all.
Ty Lee isn't sure what would be a nice gift to give in return for the sunflower, but she is sure that she wants to give something. She wanders the little market in the village, and doesn't see anything. There are little trinkets and fans and baubles, but they're all so ornamental, and that's not something that Ty Lee can see Suki enjoying. Suki's quarters are nearly bare, the walls and shelves uncluttered and undecorated. Her outfits, besides her uniform, are plain and unassuming. She doesn't wear much jewelry, and when she's not in uniform she wears no makeup. Ty Lee can't imagine her wanting any of the junk from these stalls.
In the end, Ty Lee buys a red flower- just one. If Suki doesn't like it, she can throw it away. It's just a little thing. It smells like perfume, though Ty Lee isn't exactly sure what it is. The flowers here are all different than the ones in the Fire Nation.
She leaves it on the table beside Suki's bed, uncertain and hopeful.
The next day, Suki has it tucked into the belt of her uniform- the only place there really was to tuck a flower, really. The red is vibrant against the dark armor. The other girls tease her, asking who her new boyfriend is, but Suki doesn’t tell them anything. She just gives Ty Lee a wicked grin and says, “Wouldn’t you all like to know?”
Suki’s aura is a bright happy pink, and Ty Lee is sure hers matches.
The sex that night is better than it ever was with Azula. Ty Lee is sore the next day, and has a couple of welcome bruises that have nothing to do with Kyoshi Warrior training.
(She only likes gentleness sometimes, after all)
Of course, that isn't the end of it. Ty Lee finds a little vase with a spray of blue blossoms next to her breakfast a few days later, each one delicate and bell-shaped. The other warriors coo a little, and look from her to Suki knowingly.
Ty Lee plants a kiss on Suki’s cheek, and feels brave as the girls coo more.
“You didn’t say your girl was Suki,” Koko says.
“Who says I'm her girl?” Suki says, and plants a slightly possessive kiss on Ty Lee's mouth.
Ty Lee likes to belong to someone. This time she thinks she has it right, though.
The next weeks Ty Lee wants to give Suki another present, to continue this thing they have been doing. She figures that's enough real flowers, though, so she buys some colored paper, and spends longer than she'd intended folding it.
The results aren't quite as good as she hoped. It's been quite a while since she's tried this- since back in the circus, when Ty Lee hadn’t quite learned the meaning of fear. Before Azula had found her and recruited her.
Still- the flowers are pretty enough, from the right angle.
She scatters them all over Suki's bed, and this time she isn’t scared of rejection. The next time she goes in, they are hanging from the ceiling on string, made into a colorful mobile. It hangs in a beam of sunshine, bright colors a pleasant contrast against the warm wood of the walls, frivolous and beautiful even if the flowers are a little misfolded.
They go to Aang and Katara's wedding together the a few months later, at the Southern Air Temple. There are tons of people there- friends and allies that the Avatar and his group had met during the war- kings, fortune tellers, members of the White Lotus, a group of Fire Nation youths, a band of wandering nomads, a bunch of people with gliders that Ty Lee assumes are new airbenders, and a merchant of cabbage. The temple is full of laughter and red lotuses, the sweet smell perfuming the air.
Katara's hair is woven into braids and tied up into an ornate beaded headdress, though she still has her hair loopies. She wears a long blue robe, a white Khata scarf and her mother's necklace. Ty Lee thinks she looks really pretty, all dressed up in Air Nomad-style clothing and Water Tribe blue. Aang fiddles with his Mala beads while standing in front of everyone, then flashes Katara a nervous grin.
Ty Lee cries when Aang and Katara exchange scarves. She may not be familiar with the exact ceremony they are following, but she knows a sentimental moment what she sees it.
Suki takes her hand and the moment is perfect.
Afterward, there is food and dancing. Katara and Aang spin around each other like they are in a fight, and Ty Lee thinks they are beautiful together.
Sokka looks a little awkward when Suki tells him that she and Ty Lee are together, but doesn't make a fuss about it, and he soon recovers in favor of enthusing about his efforts in reconnecting the Southern and Northern Water Tribes.
“I'm glad he's not too sad anymore,” Suki told Ty Lee, pulling her into the dancing. “I was worried that he would be uncomfortable seeing me with someone else.”
“Was it a bad break-up? Worse than all the other times you broke up?” Ty Lee asks, thinking of Sokka and Suki's on-and-off history.
Suki shakes her head. “We just weren't meant to last,” she said. “I think we both knew that, this time.”
The other couples make way for the two of them, backing of slightly in what might be discomfort. Ty Lee holds Suki a little further away, not wanting to cause a disruption at the wedding.
Katara and Aang are dancing nearby, and Katara catches sight of them. She breaks off the dance with Aang momentarily to give Ty Lee and Suki a hug. “I'm so glad you could both make it!” she said.
Ty Lee is a little surprised at Katara's warmth, considering that Suki is Sokka’s ex-girlfriend. But then, it’s been long enough to mend hurt feelings.
Aang grins at them. “You're make a really great couple,” he tells them, resuming his dance with Katara. Ty Lee smiles, and dances a little closer to Suki again, and if anyone disapproves, they don’t say anything.
She’s never really danced at all before this wedding, really. It was forbidden in the Fire Nation before Zuko took the throne, and when she’d finally left the Fire Nation, Azula... hadn’t exactly been the dancing type. After that, of course, she was free to do as she pleased. She still hadn’t tried.
Part of her thinks that maybe she looks a little silly, but Suki doesn’t seem to think she looks bad at all, so Ty Lee just keeps doing what feels natural, and doesn’t worry about what she looks like doing it.
The dancing ends and the eating begins. Ty Lee talks to several people, including Toph, who is sitting next to a Water Tribe girl and quite obviously hitting on her. The girl seems a bit oblivious, though. Ty Lee isn’t sure that Toph is going to make much headway.
But by the time Zuko arrives, several hours late, exhausted-looking and a little too thin, Toph and the Water Tribe girl have mysteriously disappeared. Zuko stays long enough to congratulate the bride and groom, and then one of his advisers whispers something in his ear, and Zuko leaves after being there for hardly any time at all.
Ty Lee thinks Zuko should have taken a little more time, for the wedding of two of his best friends. But then, she doesn't have a whole country to run.
Toph and the Water Tribe girl reappear after that, looking a little rumpled. Toph has a satisfied smirk on her face. Ty Lee gives them both a bright, happy grin and the Water Tribe girl blushes.
The festivities last until late that night, and then the guests start to retire to their rooms. Suki and Ty Lee fall asleep curled around each other, in the room they are sharing.
This whole relationship is a lot different than things were with Azula, but Ty Lee thinks, as she drifts off to sleep, that maybe now she really has recovered from Azula, because Azula made her frightened and Suki makes her brave, and Ty Lee has realized now that being brave is better.
Maybe Suki-and-Ty-Lee can be nothing at all like Azula-and-Ty-Lee. And maybe that’s how things should be.