Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender.
It's a pretty awesome show. Everyone should watch it.
Author's Note: Takes place after the comic Rebound. Not necessarily a required read since there are little snippets of the important happenings in the fic itself.
Mai gave him a week. No, she didn't tell him, nor did she give any hints, but she figured a week would be enough. But a week came, and then two, and now it was almost two months, and still no Zuko asking to be forgiven and if she could take him back.
Not even an emissary of peace between the two of them, maybe Ty Lee or even Suki.
She was never a fan of the whole male chivalry thing, but she was never a fan of mundane tasks of the courts, too. But she took them on, for Zuko. She wasn't even Fire Lady, though she assumed that their relationship would lead to their marriage, yet she took on tasks that a Fire Lady would normally do.
Like keep his household organized.
Supply him with better bodyguards, people strong and trust worthy.
Make sure he has enough to eat.
Processing the prisoners of war (with much help from her Uncle).
Royal stables cleaned.
The needs of the displaced Fire nation residents, including communing with them.
Turtleducks (who amazingly survived the lack of attention from Ozai and Azula) fed.
Servants paid on time.
That kind of stuff. She sighed, just remembering all those tasks, that, although mundane, kept her busy while Zuko was out doing Fire Lord stuff. Full support from his girlfriend.
What she didn't expect was the secrets that involved being Fire Lord. The discussion they had, frank and blunt, and how he had the audacity to order her to stay was the final straw. All this time, Mai had been the one trying her best to keep their relationship going. From their reunion back in Ba Sing Se, to their fight in Ember Island (though he did show some effort, so that might not count, or maybe a partial count), to her saving him from Azula after he broke up with her via letter and then locked her up in a cell, and then to coming straight to him as soon as she was free (no help to him, by the way) and resuming their relationship.
All those times, Mai had been the one to initiate their reunion.
And the last two times, he had been the one to leave her. The first by letter, and the last at the hands of his psychotic fire happy sister, who could have easily killed her on the spot, by the way.
And she still was the one to seek him out.
And by the keeping secrets thing, she has had enough and decided that she would be the one to leave him.
Not permanently, just long enough to send a message.
She thought that he'd seek her out in about a week. Maybe less, but he was the Fire Lord and she can't be too selfish about his time, so she figured a week would be enough. He did have dire international businesses to attend to.
Was it so hard to send a Kyoshi warrior with some flowers? Or chocolates?
Not that she was someone who liked flowers or chocolates, especially since she's been spending her day surrounded by them. It still makes her shudder.
Maybe fruit tarts, with rose petals. He should remember how fond she is of those tarts.
But no one came, nothing came, and almost two months have passed.
Ty Lee knew where she was, she had told her about her Aunt when she left. She knows that some of the stewards knew where she was, she had sent them letters and instructions on how to deal with the duties she left behind, especially the ones pertaining to the charities for the people of the fire nation and prisoners of war.
Surely Zuko would have asked some of them. She had made Ty Lee swear not to outright mention it or offer the information at random, but she did give her permission to tell him where she was when he asks.
When, not if, because he surely will.
He must ask, she told her friend, Then you tell him.
She fought the urge to throw her knives, just because Tom-Tom was playing nearby. Instead, she stared at the picture of her and Zuko again.
"Mai?" She looked up to see her brother, standing beside her, his cute pudgy face looking worriedly at her. "Are you okay, Mai?"
She patted his head "Yes Tom-Tom, I'm fine." She managed to give him a smile, that he returned whole heartedly. Satisfied, he went back to his coloring.
Mai never imagined she'd grow fond of her brother, but she can't let her father fill him with lies about the current Fire Nation regime. Not just because it was Zuko, but because Ozai was wrong. She had already sent a letter to Ty Lee leading them to the warehouse yesterday, so they should be raiding the area soon enough.
She watched Tom-Tom draw his pictures, and couldn't help but smile.
She still hasn't returned Tom-Tom to their mother, because she knew her father would be there, and her parents seemed to not be in a hurry to get their son back. Aunt Mura had talked to her mother about it, but all her Aunt told her was that it was okay for them to have Tom-Tom for a while. It seems like her mother was a bit too busy trying to reestablish her social status as a Lady of the Fire Nation.
"Mai" It was her Aunt Mura, calling her from the storefront below. She gave Tom-Tom a pat on his head as she went down the stairs.
"Yes Auntie?" She said as she went through the curtains to the store.
Her Aunt, married to her favorite Uncle (Warden of the Boiling Rock prison), smiled brightly at her "You've got a visitor!"
Mai's heart skipped a beat. So he was a few months late, but at least he's there.
Ty Lee, in her full Kyoshi regalia, peeked through the rows of flowers and waved enthusiastically at her.
Or at least had sent Ty Lee as a peace ambassador.
The acrobat hugged her tightly, squeezing the air out of her "I'm sorry I took so long to visit you!"
Mai patted the girl's back, "It's fine Ty" she said smiling, though not as big as her friend. She peeked behind Ty Lee, trying to see what gifts Zuko had sent. But only Ty Lee was there.
"Oh I've missed you" Ty Lee said, as Mai pulled her to the back room, where they sat on a couch. However, Ty Lee kept her grip around Mai.
"I've missed you too" Mai said, trying to pry her off. She was waiting for her friend to mention her purpose of visiting, wishing in her heart that the Fire Lord had sent her, along with his sincere apology. Mai would have preferred he came himself, but again, the guy had duties.
She won't hold it against him.
"How have you been?" Ty Lee asked, looking up from her death grip.
"I've been well." Mai said "Working here has been better than I expected. How's the palace?" She can ask, can't she.
"We got your letter" Ty Lee said, her voice slightly muffled as she buried her face in Mai's side "We're planning a raid, scouting the area and stuff."
Mai nodded solemnly "I had hoped to be anonymous in that letter."
Ty Lee giggled "I know your handwriting silly, you can't just hide that from me." She tightened her hug around Mai "We miss you at the palace."
Mai felt her heart skip a beat again.
"Suki feels bad about ratting out on Zuko, she's really sorry for that, and the guy you left to manage the household really isn't doing a good job. He forgets to feed the turtleducks sometimes." Ty Lee said "You should come back."
Mai patted her friend's head, waiting for the whole spiel that Zuko's sorry and that Ty Lee was sent there to apologize on his behalf, waited for it with bated breath.
"Zuko misses you" Mai's ears perked up when Ty Lee said that "So come back to the palace, and get back together with him."
Ty Lee, it's not that easy" Mai thought about adding more, but instead waited for what Ty lee might say. Then realized what her friend had said. "I should get back together with him?"
Ty Lee nodded on her side "Just come back and talk to him, and get back together."
Mai's eyes widened ever so slightly, thankful that Ty Lee was currently clamped at her side and not looking at her face "I should go and talk to him?"
"Yeah" Ty Lee looked up at her with puppy eyes "I know he misses you Mai, he doesn't say it but his dingy aura shows it."
"Zuko didn't send you?" Mai couldn't hide the disappointment in her voice.
Ty Lee, who was as perceptive as usual, had a small frown "No" she said softly, almost a whisper "But that doesn't mean he doesn't miss you or anything."
Months. She gave him a week, and it has been months.
"He's just busy Mai" Ty Lee said, straightening up "That doesn't mean he doesn't miss you." She repeated, trying to sound convincing. "Just come back to the palace and talk to him" her voice pleading now "Please Mai."
Mai shook her head, trying to rearrange her thoughts.
So Zuko didn't send Ty Lee. Not that she didn't like her friend's company.
Her best friend.
Her friend who had saved her from Azula's wrath, and the her childhood boredom.
Mai hugged Ty Lee, surprising her "Let's not talk about Zuko. How have you been?"
Ty Lee looked like she wanted to pursue the conversation about Zuko further, so Mai smiled at her and patted her knee "I missed you Ty, what have you been up to?"
Naturally, the affectionate gesture that usually is nonexistent with the knife thrower, instantly worked on the acrobat, and she launched her talk about the nests of the turtleducks, and how she found a really cute boy that looks like the water tribe boy she was so fond of.
The two of them spent the afternoon talking about their new lives, and even had tea with Tom-Tom. Ty Lee was quite happy playing with the toddler, and Mai was quite happy spending time with her.
She had missed Ty Lee's enthusiasm, though she would never admit it to the girl. She didn't want her thinking that she had gone soft.
"You really should come back to the palace" Ty Lee said with those big gray pleading eyes. She had to go back to her duties, even if she wanted to stay for dinner.
"It was nice talking to you Ty" Mai said, skirting over the issue. She gave her friend one final hug, before the acrobat walked away, glancing back at the flower shop until she was too far away to do so. Mai smiled at this, watching as the acrobat was nothing more but a speck of green.
She sighed loudly as she went back in the shop. Her Aunt had a large smile on her face.
"That was nice, wasn't it?" She said, giving Mai a big hug "You looked so happy talking to Ty Lee."
Mai had to agree "Thank you Auntie." She said returning the hug. "Is it okay if I go take a bath?"
"Of course dear" Her Aunt said, puttering around her.
Mai nodded as she went up the stairs. A nice relaxing bath.
Mai sat in the tub, her knees tucked under her chin, her hair billowing out like tendrils all around her. As much as she enjoyed Ty Lee's visit, she still felt a twinge of sadness in knowing that Zuko hadn't even mentioned that he had missed her.
Just because he didn't say anything, it doesn't mean that he didn't miss you.
She took a deep breath and submerged her head under the water, eyes closed as she imagined his face. That smiling handsome face, even with the scar. Tears leaked out of her eyes, mingling with the bath water.
She could go back to the palace, talk to him and get back together with him.
With her Fire Lord.
She shook her head, as she rose up, taking another deep breath. She submerged her head again, trying to prevent the sobs that threatened to come out.
Just because he didn't say anything.
He's just busy.
Doesn't mean that he didn't miss you.
Her only regret would be the turtleducks. She would have to ask Ty Lee to remember their feedings.
End Part 1.