Title: None But the Brave

Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender

Character/Pairing: Mai/Zuko


Word Count: 893

Summary/Description: Mai's not stupid, and she's not all that brave. But she knows that Zuko is worth it.

Warning/Spoilers:None. Season 2, maybe? IDK

A/N: 31 days, February 7th: virtue is the fount whence honour springs. My first Maiko, yey. I was originally going to interpret this theme on Zuko's side, but then I thought LET ME BE ORIGINAL. Yeah. Zuko is ten here, and Azula and the others are eight.

Disclaimer: I am not worthy of owning the sheer awesome that is ATLA.

For the most part, Zuko liked to keep to himself. If he wasn't training or with his mother or attending some obligatory royal function, he was alone, with his own thoughts, within his own mind. It didn't trouble him; the solitude suited him, in fact. People didn't bother him (except Azula, but that's what Azula did), and he didn't bother anyone, and it was best that way.

Sometimes, it got… lonely. But he didn't like to think about that.

Everyone else pretty much knew that the Prince liked to be left alone, so they did just that. This was why Zuko was caught entirely by surprise one afternoon as he was walking through the palace gardens to his Firebending lessons, and heard someone calling to him from the bushes.

"Hey! Get in here!"

Zuko turned, peering dubiously. He knew that no one would try to hurt him, not when there were so many palace guards nearby, but he was still hesitant about listening to voices that emanated from foliage.

"Hurry!" The voice sounded impatient, and this time, a hand shot out of the bushes to grab him by the wrist and pull. He didn't have any choice but to stumble forward.

He emerged on the other side, disgruntled. He brushed leaves and thorns off of his clothes, and then looked to see who it was that had pulled him.

It was a girl, with long dark hair and dark eyes. Upon closer inspection, he saw that it was a girl that he knew. Mai was a friend of Azula's from school; she had been coming to the palace to play for some years now. Most of the time, she seemed to bear an expression that suggested that she would much rather be somewhere else, but she nevertheless followed Azula wherever she went, along with the overly cheerful flippy girl. She was usually the one to stand in the background looking bored, while Azula tormented him in whatever way she fancied that day.

Right now, she didn't look bored, though. In fact, Zuko had no idea what she looked like, since she was staring determinedly at the ground.

Zuko fidgeted.

"Yeah?" he asked finally, figuring that there had to be a reason she had called him.

Mai looked up, finally meeting his eyes for a second or two. She was blushing, to his confusion.

"Listen…" she began, in her small bland voice. "Don't pass by the cedar tree on the way to the training arena. Pass someplace else."

Zuko looked at her confusedly.

"But… that's the fastest way there."

"I know, I know. Just… don't pass there, okay?" She glanced at him again.

Zuko didn't understand.

"You want me to… walk all the way around the palace and get there in fifteen minutes? When… I could continue the way I was going and get there in fifteen seconds?"

Mai scowled, and finally looked him full in the eyes.

"Don't exaggerate. And yes, that's exactly what I wanted you to do. Listen, don't ask me why, because I can't tell you, just… don't pass by that cedar tree."

Zuko opened his mouth to argue again, but she gritted her teeth and cut him off.


Zuko was still a lot confused for the most part, and a bit suspicious, but something in her voice told him that he should just listen to her. He wouldn't be late anyway; he still had twenty minutes before his afternoon lessons began.

"Alright, I guess." His eyes sidled to the side. "Bu uh, wh--"

"Don't worry about it; just go." Mai gave him a little shove in the right direction.

"…Does this have anything to do with Az--"


Zuko gave her one more uncertain look before walking off. He glanced back a few times, but was too far away to hear her quiet sigh of relief.

Azula tapped her foot impatiently, one hand planted on her hip. She glared at her surroundings, as if she took offense with it.

"Whereis he?" she finally snapped. The question was directly at Mai, seated on a rock, who was nearest to her. "He should have been here thirty minutes ago."

Mai shrugged as she played with a small ceremonial dagger that her father had given her for her last birthday.

"Beats me."

"Maybe he decided not to go to his lessons today, Azula," Ty Lee offered from her perch on the cedar tree.

"You weren't asked, Ty lee," Azula snapped, making the other girl quieten quickly. The Princess snapped her fingers, bending a small amount of fire on the tip. "Besides, Zuzu isn't such a rebel; he doesn't have it in him to skip his lessons."

No one spoke for a while. The two girls simply watched the Princess, waiting to see what would be her next course of action.

Azula didn't take long to decide.

"Well, if he's not going to show, it makes no sense us being here." She turned briskly on her heel. "Get down from there, Ty Lee, we're going to find something else to do. Come along, Mai."

The three girls walked out of the gardens, one behind the other, Princess Azula in the lead. Mai, still toying with the dagger, was the last to leave. As she slipped the blade into its hilt and pocketed it, her hand shook. Just a little.



Comments appreciated.