Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar.
It was always the little things that fascinated him.
True, he knew she was a Firebending prodigy, and respected her accordingly, for she was also his Firebending Master (her brother was occupied with leading rebel forces, and her uncle was right by his side, him and Mai both, so the duty of mentoring the young Avatar had fallen to her). He respected her abilities and what she was capable of.
But she could never forget how, on the very first day of his training, he had begged her to show him the blue fire—not to use it or teach him it, but to show it to him, without the risk of being burned. Unable to resist, she had complied, a flame flaring with life in the palm of her hand. He had stood there, fascinated by the swirling blues of the flames, before grinning.
That was the beginning of it.
Not long after this, the young Avatar came to the conclusion that his Firebending Master needed to know how to swim (perhaps he had gotten the idea since his Earthbending Master couldn't swim…), in case the time ever came that she was in water and no one was there to save her.
He was nearly burned for his kind thoughts, as she protested against this idea rather strongly. She was a Firebender, not a Waterbender. Water was not, and never would be, her comfort zone.
Somehow, he still managed to get her into the water. Maybe it was because he had said—softly and his voice full of respect—that she was his teacher and he didn't want to lose her. Maybe she really did have a death wish and wanted to swim.
Or maybe it was because he had looked at her with those eyes—eyes still full of childlike trust—and her heart melted and she couldn't say no.
She nearly drowned in her attempt—or at least, it felt like drowning, though he assured her that she'd only been submerged for a few minutes before panic had set in—but he had held on to her and held her steady, pulling her up so she could gasp and inhale shakily, letting her lean on him until she felt brave enough to go under again.
Water was not her comfort zone, and she was more then certain that she looked horribly ridiculous at her swimming attempt, but she couldn't say no.
It was a start.
There were others things, as well. Things she never really paid attention to, but things he always saw no matter what. Little things, he called them. And they fascinated him.
Like the times when he'd ask her to simply show him the blue flames; not to teach him, but just so he could see it. And she always complied, a blue flame flaring obediently to life in the palm of her hand while he gazed at the swirling colors with a sort of childlike awe.
There were also times when he'd wake her up, either to take her outside of the camp and point out the constellation of the stars, or early in the morning so she could watch the sunrise with him. There were times when he'd cut their sessions short just so he could continue teaching her how to swim, or involve her in a game of tag with Sokka, Toph, and Katara, or so they could watch the sunset.
He took the time to teach her how to feed a moon peach to Appa without getting nipped in the process, to show her the exact spot where Momo loved to have his ears scratched. She paid him back by being patient when he made a mistake, and being insightful enough to take him away from camp for a Firebending lesson when her brother did visit and Katara got stars in her eyes (though she really wasn't worried, she knew Mai knew how to guard what was hers).
It was the little things that fascinated him, and with him she slowly began to appreciate them for what they really were. Little things, unnoticeable things really, and yet you saw them when you stopped to look for them.
He always knew when to look for them, and for some reason he took the time to show her as well; the way he guided her hand so she could touch a spider web without breaking it, the way he took the time to point out all the constellations in the stars. It was the little things, the simple things, that he took pleasure from.
It was the little things that he took time to show her, and it was the little things that made her love him.
This story is my entry for the Azulaang Challenge:daydream11 vs. RadiantBeam. Our contest was to write a story about a crack ship (we chose Azulaang) and write a story for it. We've had six weeks and our deadline was Halloween Night, since Azulaang reminds us of it. Enjoy!
Read and review, please!