Ooh, Iron Will prompts, yay! Thanks, anon!
Hm, let’s see…
The title you’ve given me is very much opposite of Iron Will. Or, rather, an AU!Iron Will in which Tetsuki’s strength of character… isn’t all that strong?
Which would harken to the Fire Nation!Tetsuki AU, but just saying Bend and Break is the title of the Fire Nation!Tetsuki AU is a hug cop out.
So a specific story within the FN!Tetsuki AU… like… outside POVs of FN!Tetsuki while she’s on her travels.
I have two in mind, but I think for a full fic three or more would be better.
So the first one would be Jet’s POV. Because, like in Iron Will canon, Tetsuki does stumble upon the Freedom Fighters, if a bit later, and with her own agenda in mind.
She’s not one of the “founding members,” but she did learn manipulation in the Fire Nation court at Azula’s side, so when she joins them she gains the same amount of influence fairly easily. She doesn’t tell them not to attack Fire Nation settlements/soldiers–frankly, if they can’t handle themselves against a bunch of unruly Earth Kingdom children, they don’t deserve to be part of Azula’s future empire–but she does whisper in their ears ambitions of grandeur. After all, the Fire Nation can easily wipe away tales of fallen squadrons and failed colonies–the Freedom Fighters won’t make a mark like that.
But if they went after the Fire Nation prince? Well… there’s only one of those… and he HAS been traveling around the world on a fool’s errand. Strike the Fire Nation where they’re most vulnerable, she says, end the monarchy before it can solidify their hold over the entire world.
Jet isn’t immune to the idea.
Instead of like in Iron Will canon, where the Freedom Fighters grow and become unwieldy, in this AU, they slim down, become more ruthless. They’re on the hunt for a Fire Nation prince–they don’t have time for kindness among their members, can’t afford to be weighed down by kids who can’t contribute, can’t fight–and soon they’ve been whittled down to a small group. The core members, as it were. Leaner and more effective, which means far fewer people to be betrayed when the truth of Tetsuki’s heritage comes around (of course Zuko recognizes one of his sister’s friends, even if she is wearing Earth Kingdom colors and surrounded by Earth Kingdom teens)
She’s ruined the Freedom Fighters by giving them exactly what they want…
… but before that would be the other POV I have in mind–and I’m not sure why I didn’t say that first, but the Jet/Freedom Fighter POV just had a very nice dramatic reveal to it that it came to mind first. Specifically, the bounty hunter June, aka ZhuEn, Tetsuki’s older sister.
And unlike in Iron Will canon, in which Tetsuki doesn’t reunite with her sister until the last few episodes of the series (or post canon, even) the two of them meet pretty early on in AU!Tetsuki’s travels… mostly because Tetsuki actively seeks her out in the beginning.
Mostly because, while she did have some bounty hunting and survival lessons from their father before their grandparents took her for their own, she didn’t have nearly enough to be effective. And there’s some emotional drama, maybe, because June is just like: my lost little sister has found her way to me but all she wants is to learn bounty hunting and she doesn’t care at all that our father died but I haven’t seen her in years, etc. etc.
Whereas Tetsuki is like: our father made it perfectly clear how much he valued me when he gave me to our grandparents, so I don’t see why I should care about what happened to him, but I just wanted to see if you’d be willing to teach me, I have some foundation, I can pay you if that’s the problem just consider it a strictly business relationship, after all it’s not like you argued much if at all for father to keep me.
And then it’s like, “I was just a teenager, Tetsuki, what could I have done then?” and Tetsuki’s like, “And I was a child–your sister!–you should have fought for me!”
And, really, I don’t think there’s much in the way of resolving it. Maybe June, knowing this is the closest she will ever get to her sister after everything that’s happened, does agree to take her on as an apprentice for a year–which is how Tetsuki gets her training in the AU–or maybe she doesn’t because that’d hurt more, and so Tetsuki leaves immediately because if June won’t teach her then what’s the point of staying, which June immediately regrets?
I dunno. Emotional drama.
I’m unsure who the other outside POVs of FN!Tetsuki would be, anon, but those two in particular fit the “Bend and Break” title best.