AN: New story in honor of the premier of Season Three, and of course, to keep those Zutara hopes high! Don't worry guys, Maiko was way too rushed to ever become something serious, we'll all see soon enough!
Mai knew she was dreaming, because things like these only happened in dreams. One moment she was on top of the world, she was home in the Fire Nation, she was in love and it seemed as if the man she loved, loved her back.
She had never known Zuko so gentle before; so tender when she kissed him, or open when she spoke to him. He held her hand when they walked, and even picked flowers for her on occasion. He was polite and kind, everything Mai had always dreamed he would be. The only thing Mai sometimes noticed was the far away look he got when she was with him, but she assumed it was just the emotional desperation from his lonely years away coming back to haunt him. Mai understood, and she kissed him until his eyes focused on her again. Mai was happy.
Then the Avatar stormed the Fire Nation, and took the castle. The Fire Lord was defeated, and Azula was banished, but Zuko was left in place as the new Fire Lord. Mai was still happy, it had been the previous Fire Lord who had sent her family to Omashu, and separated her from her familiar life, and she had faith that Zuko would make an excellent Fire Lord. Not to mention, Mai was proud to think, as things were going, it looked as if she would be the new Fire Lady. But then she came, following the Avatar faithfully like a dog. The trashy peasant with dark skin and blue eyes and brown hair, a girl so insignificant that Mai didn't even bother to learn her name. And yet, this meaningless girl affected Zuko. Her very presence seemed to enrage him at first, and then he spoke to no one for days, locking himself up in his study while the nameless girl brooded by herself in the gardens. Mai couldn't understand how such a small person could cause such a reaction in Zuko, so when he finally let her near again, Mai put it aside as Zuko being moody.
But he wasn't the same. He still spent time with Mai, but he was less and less physical. She had to prompt the handholding, the hugs, the kisses that were becoming few and far between. Zuko was distant; he always seemed distracted, like he was somewhere else and no really with her. And as time went on, Zuko began to spend time with the peasant. They spoke together often, walking in circles in the courtyard, but as Mai had learned this girl was the representative from the South Pole, she thought nothing of it. Nor of the way she caught Zuko smiling at the girl on occasion, like they shared a secret.
Mai still didn't let t bother her. She knew she was meant to be with Zuko, and it was just a matter of time before he realized that as well.
But then, Mai woke up alone one night to the sound of a softly closing door, and fear clenched her heart. She rose silently and followed, soft footsteps on tiled floors. She followed him through winding corridors and down the gentle slope of the steps that led into the courtyard cast in eerie moonlight, sharpening the details of all the leaves on the trees. She hid in the shadows, watching as he crossed the grass until he stood by the pond. Until he reached the thin, delicate figure that awaited him under the cover of a cloak. She watched until he touched her, held her face and kissed her unlike he had ever kissed Mai. It was fierce and gentle and so full of emotion that Mai could almost feel the passion in it at a difference.
Mai watched until the moonlight reflected blue eyes and bolts of dark brown hair, and then Mai fled, fled from what she had always feared and never known until then.
Mai knew she was dreaming, because things like this only happened in dreams, no, only happened in nightmares. Mai just needed to figure out how to control her dream, her nightmare, and she could turn it back around. Mai floundered for the control as she watched her beautiful dream melt into darkness. She watched numbly, as if a whole other person, as Zuko told her the truth. She searched as she watched the blue-eyed girl's stomach grow round; as she watched Zuko's eyes grow softer and softer at the sight. She sought the control as babies turned into toddlers and then children, as Zuko's hair began to grey, and her own hands became arthritic. She hunted for it as the nameless woman lived out her life, the life Mai had once been promised, growing older and gaining more wrinkles and yet still drawing the soft smiles from Zuko.
Through all of it, Mai searched relentlessly, and yet, no matter how hard she tried to regain her dream, the control never came.