Author's Notes: This isn't part of my 30 Kisses set, because this doesn't have a Maiko kiss. But it still has Maiko. And Dangerous Ladies OT3-ing.
Premise:A week after the Day of Black Sun, Mai falls ill. Ty Lee and Azula watch over her. (Mailee, Azulee, Maiko, Maizula)
Disclaimer:Avatardoesn't belong to me. Zuko and Mai belong with each other… though Mai fits well with Azula and Ty Lee too.
Seven days after the Day of Black Sun, Mai fell ill.
That day, Ty Lee arrived at Mai's front steps just as Azula was stepping down from the royal palanquin. Ty Lee hastened to her side and they both started up the steps.
"Is that a gift for Mai?" Ty Lee asked, indicating the lacquered black box one of the imperial servants behind them was carrying. She and Azula had implicitly agreed to visit Mai every day ever since the Day of Black Sun, the day that Zuko left. Since then, Mai's aura had been harder to read than ever, the gray haze fully obscuring the emotions she kept guarded. To Ty Lee, it looked unbearably bleak. Azula had started bringing their friend some tokens, perhaps to make her feel better.
"Yes," Azula said.
"What is it?" She wished that she had thought of bringing a gift too. Azula's gifts were always so tasteful, it was surely a joy to receive them. Mai's aura didn't give away her reactions, but she had written thank-you notes for every single one.
"A big fancy fruit tart… with rose petals on top." Azula's grin was inexplicably smug. As usual, she was as dazzling as the sun at high noon, the reds and golds of her aura burning fiercely.
"Wow, sounds delicious! What's in it?"
"But Mai prefers strawberries," Ty Lee pointed out, but Azula ignored her. "Does Zuko like raspberries?" Azula's carefree shrug and tilted glance confirmed it. She frowned worriedly. "Azula, are you sure that's such a good idea?"
"Oh, of course it is, Ty Lee," Azula said breezily with a nonchalant wave of her hand. "Eating his favorite tart will make Mai feel closer to Zuzu and she won't miss him as much."
Ty Lee tugged at her hair doubtfully. "Well if you're sure…"
"Of course I'm sure."
The head matron waited for them beside the front door, on her knees, her gaze turned to the floor. "Sincerest apologies, Princess Azula. The young Lady of the house is still in her chambers." Azula flicked a finger and she stood up to escort them to Mai's suite.
Two maids kneeled on either side of the door, both bearing trays. They both touched their noses to the ground when they saw Azula, then turned to the head matron, entreating.
"Madam Suni, we are very sorry, the young Lady still has not had either her breakfast or her lunch," said one.
"Do you mean to say that the young Lady has not eaten anything?!" The matron demanded.
"While we were preparing her bath, I think I saw the young Lady eating some of the spiced apple that the Princess Azula had brought the other day," said the other. "But she has not allowed us in her chambers since."
"Excuse me," Azula interrupted authoritatively. "Do you mean to say that you have not checked on Mai all this time?"
The two maids bowed to her again. "We had no choice, Princess. The young Lady has forbidden us to enter her chambers without her invitation. We have been required to wait until she sees fit to open her doors."
"I will take care of this," Azula declared, and she knocked briskly on the ornate double doors, calling to their friend. "Mai? I am going to enter now, and I expect to find you behaving like a sensible young lady of the aristocracy." She pushed open the double doors and beckoned Ty Lee and the rest of the entourage to enter. "Honestly Mai, stop acting like a child, it is bad enough when Zuzu does it and now you too—" Azula halted so suddenly that Ty Lee bumped into her.
Ty Lee followed Azula's stare and gasped. "Mai! Are you okay?!"
Mai lied sprawled on the floor, unconscious, pieces of a broken vase and the bouquet of red spider lilies Azula gave her the previous day scattered in a puddle of water beside her. Her loose hair fanned out behind her, silky raven wings. Trays clattered on the floor as the servants of the manor scurried to their young mistress' aid.
"What should we do, Azula?" Ty Lee was frightened: Mai barely had any discernable aura. Almost as if she were…
The princess snapped from her mild shock and turned to the palace servants and threw out her arm imperiously, golden eyes flashing. "Well, what are you waiting for?" They rushed to help the maids, except for the gift bearer—Azula snatched the box from him and issued a command. "To the healer's hospice in the palace, now!"
A fever, nothing too serious as long as she is kept well-watched and given all the prescribed medicine at all the prescribed times, according to the healer. He gave the maids some medicinal tea to boil before going to the kitchen to prepare an herbal soup.
Mai was in bed, her pale cheeks flushed pink, her breathing quick and shallow. The chaotic swirl of colors around her gave away her inner turmoil, sleep robbing her of her ability to hide her emotions. Azula folded her hands on top of her blanket, and then placed a spider lily between them. The bright red hue made her skin look all the more pallid.
Ty Lee arranged the rest of the flowers in a new vase. Their meaning was lost on her, she had never been conversant in the language of flowers, preferring the spoken word to convey her sentiments. Still, they were very pretty.
"How awful," she sighed. "To catch a fever during the summer, it's no fun at all."
"Don't you remember how, when we were children, Mai used to fall ill every summer?" Azula said, tapping her cheek thoughtfully.
"But that was a long time ago!" Ty Lee said. "Mai is much healthier now."
"Staying out in the cold summer night, forsaking sleep to watch and wait for an unlikely return, for seven nights straight… it is very likely to make one fall ill."
"You think that's what Mai has been doing?" She scowled and clenched her fist. The next time she saw Zuko, she was going to grind him to paste.
"I know that's what Mai has been doing," Azula sniffed knowingly. "She has done it on a summer once before, and fell ill much like she has now."
"What? When?" Ty Lee asked, before she could realize that she might not want to know the answer.
"It was when you ran away," Azula replied immediately. "You know how she never really got over Zuzu's banishment no matter how much she pretended not to care, and she couldn't take to have one more person leaving her. And then you upped and left—left her to join the circus, of all things. She climbed to the rim of the crater every night, hoping to see you coming back." She smirked. "Of course, Mai wouldn't normally admit such things, but she told me, while she was delirious from the fever and I stayed beside her. Her parents were too busy taking care of Tom-Tom and scolding her for pining for 'that dishonorable, dreadfully scarred prince' and associating 'with the likes of that troublesome Ty Lee' to sympathize with her."
"You stayed with her. That's… good," Ty Lee whispered. "At least she wasn't completely alone."
"Anyway, we might as well eat the tart instead of letting it go stale, as the healer is going to forbid Mai from eating anything good anyway." The princess motioned at the palace servants, and they laid two plates and pairs of chopsticks on Mai's breakfast table and cut the tart in halves.
Ty Lee joined Azula at the table and ate with little enthusiasm, cramming the portions of tart in her mouth and chewing mechanically. She didn't know about Azula, but she didn't feel closer to Zuko while eating the tart. Which was too bad, since she did wish he was close enough for her to punch.
It was a summer too, that time Azula had tricked Zuko into falling in the fountain with Mai. Ty Lee giggled at their flushed cheeks and embarrassed anger and at the fact that their auras, which she had just started being able to see, were so very pink. But she regretted it the next day, when she went to Mai's house and found out she had caught a fever.
Ty Lee continued to the palace without Mai and explained her absence to the princess, who was annoyed at missing one playmate. After finding out that Mai was sick though, Azula insisted that they visit the patient. "Let's bring Zuko," she said. "Maybe if he kisses her, she'll get better."
"Oh, oh—because his love will cure her, right?" Ty Lee gushed.
"No silly, because he might catch the fever from her. They say if you give your fever to someone else you'll get well."
They walked the gardens and walkways in search of Zuko. They found him in the eastern gardens, entering the shrine to the Divine Fire. "Is he going to wish to get better at Firebending again?" Azula asked aloud. "As if that will work!"
They sneaked inside and hid behind a pillar to spy on him. He poured a bottle of attar of roses, likely given by Princess Ursa, over the kindling before lighting it. He laid an assortment of offerings on the altar: a basket of ripe apples, a set of cast-metal toy soldiers, a canister of expensive jasmine tea, and a bouquet of morning glories. Then he bowed, hands locked perfectly in position while he prayed. She can see flickers of his aura, a deep red tinged with warm gold.
"Mistress Svaha, I
came here before always to ask you to ask Master Agni to make me a
better firebender. I won't ask that today. Instead, please…
perfectIknowshe'sAzula'sfriendbutIdon'twanthertobesickeverIthinkIreallyreallylikeher." He stopped to regain his breath before speaking again. "Please Mistress Svaha… and Master Agni too. I promise I won't wish to be a better firebender anymore. I'll just work really hard to get better at firebending, and I'll be your most loyal and hardworking disciple, and I'll be the best prince in the world, and I'll always listen to my mother and obey my father, and I'll even play with my little sister. Please." He lowered his bow before straightening up and turning around to exit the shrine.
"Come on," Azula told Ty Lee, pulling her along.
Outside they saw Princess Ursa approach Zuko, holding out a bouquet of gardenias with instructions to give them to Mai. Zuko shook his head and flailed his arms, his face as red as his robes. "No Mom, not gardenias! Gardenias are—they mean… And, and—I'm not going to visit her anyway, I-I-I have things to do you know!"
Princess Ursa rested her cheek on her hand. "That's too bad. I have heard from the healers that Mai's fever was worsening and I was hoping that a gift of flowers would console her." Her eyes darted sideways, giving the two girls a pensive glance. "My dears, would you mind visiting Mai with Koyu?"
"Cousin Koyu?" Azula asked.
"Ran Koyu?" Ty Lee clapped her hands cheerfully. "He's so cute! Does Ran Koyu want to visit Mai too, Princess Ursa?"
"Yes, Koyu asked cousin Korin and cousin-in-law Yuna to be allowed to visit Mai on their behalf. Perhaps he would like to give Mai these gardenias instead?"
"Cousin Koyu?!" Zuko frowned. He relieved Princess Ursa of the bouquet and started walking the path leading out of the palace. "What are you two waiting for, let's go!"
Ty Lee and Azula giggled as they followed Zuko. "It's a good thing you listened to Princess Ursa, or you would have already broken your promise," Ty Lee chirped.
Zuko turned to the girls, his eyes round. "You two were spying on me! If you tell anyone, I'll—"
"Stop overreacting, dum-dum." Azula rolled her eyes. "We're not telling anyone… if you do as you are told." She grinned mischievously.
He glowered suspiciously. "Do what?"
"Kiss Mai!" The girls chimed in unison.
Zuko nearly mutilated the bouquet as he brandished it in protest, red-faced from choking. "W-W-What??! Why, how—why do I have to do that?"
"So Mai will get better!" Ty Lee piped up.
"Everyone knows that you'll get better if you give someone else your fever." Azula waved a finger knowingly at her dubious brother's face. "You do want her to get better right? Then take her fever from her."
"That's crazy and stupid," Zuko grumbled. But after a few moments, he glanced at his sister, his face burning. "Would that really work?"
Ty Lee and Azula both broke into fits of laughter, much to the young prince's chagrin.
But when they got to Mai's room, she was already well enough to sit up and talk to them. "There's no need for kisses after all!" Ty Lee exclaimed as she threw her arms around the befuddled girl.
Behind his blushing face, Ty Lee thought that Zuko looked rather disappointed. He thrust the bouquet at Mai, muttering almost inaudibly. "For you… I hope you're feeling better."
Mai's eyes widened and her cheeks colored deeper than the fever flush when she saw the gardenias. "Thank you Prince Zuko," she murmured and shyly accepted the gift, and Ty Lee saw again how pink radiated from where their hands touched, tingeing their individual auras.
"What do gardenias mean?" Ty Lee whispered to Azula.
"Secret love," she whispered back, sticking out her tongue and making a gagging sound.
Ty Lee clasped her hands together. "That's so sweet! I want a boy to give me secret love flowers too."
Azula crossed her arms over her chest sulkily. "Boys are dumb. Who needs them?"
Ty Lee mused, scratching her cheek, then beamed at the princess. "Hmm, I guess I don't need boys, Azula, I already have you, and you're my most favorite person in the whole world!" She hugged Azula tightly then reached down to entwine her fingers with Azula's.
Azula sniffed exasperatedly, but didn't pull her hand away.
The daisy Ty Lee cradled in her hands was flawless and a pristine white, reflecting her pure intentions. She skipped on the way to the shrine, certain that she had found a way to make Mai better.
She had looked it up: daisies meant faith, and she hoped that once the Divine Fire saw that she had faith that they would make her friend well, then they would do just that.
When she walked up to the altar, the smoke rising from the fire smelled of sandalwood and a vase filled with yellow chrysanthemums was already laid on the red silk mantle. The royal crest was stamped with gold leaf on the black pottery.
Nevertheless she laid her humble daisy beside the lavish offering. When she fell on her knees, she found that she could only manage a few moments of distracted prayer before her mind wandered. "Please let Mai be well… I promise to, umm…"
She wondered what Azula could have pledged to the Divine Fire.
The door was slightly ajar and the sound of Mai's voice made Ty Lee halt. She peered in and saw Mai sitting up and Azula standing beside her bed. Awake as she was, her aura was again a haze of murky gray. It looks like her prayers had already worked… or else, Azula's had.
Now she really wanted to know what Azula could have pledged to the Divine Fire.
"What is that?" Mai asked, but the glance she spared the golden tureen held by the palace servant couldn't have been more disinterested.
"Just some slow-cooked soup to help restore your health," Azula said, motioning for the servant to ladle out a bowl.
"… What's in it?"
"Turtleducks, doves, white dragon tea leaves, among others." The princess waved away the servant as soon as he had set a bowl of soup on the tray before Mai. As Mai doubtfully poked at the soup with a spoon, Azula fussed with the red spider lilies displayed on the bedside table. "You have taken good care of them. They look almost as fresh as when they had been picked."
"Thank you for the flowers," Mai murmured. "They are beautiful… and appropriate."
"Hmm, appropriate?" Azula tucked one of the flowers behind Mai's ear and tilted her head in a show of mild surprise. "Whatever do you mean by that?"
"Red spider lilies, in the language of flowers: Abandonment, Lost Memory, Never to Meet Again."
"Oh dear, I must have fallen asleep in class when the instructor taught that one," Azula said blithely. "Their striking beauty suited you so, and I thought they meant something like 'Best Wishes' or 'Have a Good Day'."
"I'm sure," Mai muttered as she pushed the soup bowl away.
"Why do you keep that?" Ty Lee looked at where Azula was pointing and saw Zuko's letter, the red string replaced around the roll of parchment.
"The calligraphy is perfect," was Mai's simple reply.
"As well as it should be. Every night Dad would ask Zuzu where he had gone and he would always say that he had been practicing brush work with you." Azula smirked. "But then, that's court speak for something else much less boring."
For a moment, Ty Lee thought she saw Mai's aura flare as brightly as the rising sun, but it soon receded to its typical pale, tightly constricted state.
"Sorry, I was just trying to make you laugh." Azula's tone was anything but apologetic. She motioned for the servant to take away Mai's tray, and then sat on the edge of her bed.
"It's all right. I don't particularly wish to laugh right now." Mai plumped her pillows delicately, but did not lie down.
"I'm sorry that my brother left you… again."
Mai shrugged, her face acutely expressionless. "Everyone leaves sooner or later."
Azula threw her arms around the other girl's waist, shooting forward so forcefully that they both fell back on the bed. When she spoke her voice was muffled against Mai's hair. "No. I'm still here. And when everyone else has gone, I'll still be here." Her promise sounded a lot like a threat.
Yet Mai's eyes fluttered shut and she sank into her pillows, a faint golden glow seeping from the cloud of gray around her.
Ty Lee pulled away from the doorframe and leaned against the wall, her vision blurring as she stared at her feet.
I'm still here…
She blinked away her tears and tapped her chest. "So am I, this time."
Author's Notes (again): And so the scene that I had long dreaded, Zuko Writes Mai A Love Letter Apologizing And Saying Goodbye, has finally come to pass. I still think it was stupid of Zuko to leave his girlfriend with his evil sister. It's like he's just asking for Azula to use Mai against him. (Although of course, things are set up this way to maximize the tension and drama later on.) Anyway, the idea behind this fic is how Ty Lee would probably feel a little guilty of how she ran away when she realizes how much she hurt Mai by doing so, and how she would worry about Mai's feelings the second time Zuko has left the Fire Nation (and this time of his own accord). I can just see Ty Lee trying to make Mai feel better and thinking of how wonderful Azula is, completely oblivious (or wanting to be completely oblivious) to how the princess is making Mai's situation unbearable. I can also see Azula deliberately hurting Mai and yet having rare moments of what might be caring.
Don't flame me for the Maizula. Consider this: out of the three central figures in Mai's life (Zuko, Azula,Ty Lee--I'm not including her parents, they've influenced her in an entirely different and completely horrible way), Azula is the only one who hasn't abandoned her. That counts for something (though she IS evil, and she will endanger Mai again before the series is over).
I used flowers as gifts and offerings in this fic. I based the meanings on Hanakotoba (the Japanese flower language) instead of the Victorian flower language. The meanings are as follows:
Red Spider Lily: Abandonment, Lost Memory, Never to Meet Again
Morning Glory: Willful Promises
Gardenia: Secret Love (And yes, I will use it in one of the kisses fanfic in the future. XD)
Yellow Chrysanthemum: The Imperial Flower