AN: Okay - ever since Azula's Posse showed up, I've loved Mai/Ty Lee (possibly due to its resembling Paine/Rikku from FF10. Also, it shortens to MaiTy! My favourite cocktail!) But due to Mai hooking up with Zuko as well as general feelings of unworthiness, it's taken me this long to write something about them. So! Here is a short fic. It is kind of messy. But I'm pretty happy with it overall. ...Note that Azula's lines at the end may be overly harsh, but having thought of them, I had to keep them in.
GIRL'S NIGHT IN
All is not well in the Fire Nation. In fact, things are sort of falling apart.
Azula is not only crueler than usual, she's less stable; all smug smiles one moment and blind rage the next. Even her hair is constantly out of place. And she won't talk about Zuko except to make specifically cutting remarks to Mai.
Mai herself wouldn't leave her room for the first day and a half. When she finally came out it was only to steal a portrait of Zuko from the palace and use it for target practice in the orchid garden.
Ty Lee can't handle it when things get complicated like this. Everybody's all depressed and on edge, every silence is awkward. She's totally bummed. When she had to come with Azula she told herself at least things were going to be interesting. And they have been. But at first it just felt like a weird game; now, somehow, it's gotten serious.
Nothing is fun anymore.
Of course it sucks that Zuko's turned traitor and everything, but he wasn't really around that long anyway. How hard can it be to forget about it and relax already? If this mood doesn't let up soon, she's going to go nuts.
At first she had hoped things would blow over on their own. Life has taught her that they usually do, one way or another. But it doesn't look like anybody else is planning to make their own fun, and as Azula always said, if you want something done you'd better do it yourself.
So she's thought of a plan. Something they used to do when they were in school together, that always cheered her up when she was feeling down.
The servants have been called. The dishes have been ordered. The room has been arranged.
It's time for a slumber party.
On one level she knows her plan is silly. After all, it's not going to bring Zuko back or bring glory to the Fire Nation. But at best, it's going to makes Azula a little less crazy, and cheer up Mai - and that's not silly at all. Maybe things will resume some semblance of normal.
Besides, she really needs her nails done. And you can't do that without a friend.
Her plan hits a snag when Azula breezes into the room just after nine. "I'm only here for a moment, I can't stay." Ty Lee looks up from the floor, where she's been doing tumbles. "Father has organized an emergency War Council." She smirks. There's pride in her eyes, or maybe it's just arrogance. "And I am sitting at his right hand."
"...So you're blowing us off to go to some stupid meeting?"
"In a word, yes."
Ty Lee pouts. "But we're your friends! And you promised!" She lowers her voice a little, so Mai, who is in lounging on the couch with her hair down, can't hear them. "You know how Mai's been lately. This could totally cheer her up. It's gonna be so much fun! Come on, aren't we more important than a War Council?"
"Hm." Azula pretends to think for a moment. "No, I don't think so." Then she turns to the door. "But don't worry, I'll swing by afterwards if I have the time. I might even bring you a souvenir."
Well, there goes one third of the party.
As Azula walks away, though, Ty Lee can't help but feel a little relieved even through her disappointment. Azula is so unpredictable. It's true that it probably would have been more fun with her too, but on the other hand, she could have done something, or said something, and spoiled the whole night.
"Well." She sighs, then turns to Mai with a wistful little smile. "I guess it's just the two of us, huh? So, uh, what do you want to do?"
There's a bowl of fruit on the table. Mai picks up a yellow pear, takes a bite, frowns, and sets it back down. "I don't know."
"I found us this girl who does really good manicures!" Ty Lee vaults over the couch to scrutinize Mai's nails. "I mean, not to be rude, but you could really use a touch-up, Mai... your cuticles look so sore."
Mai shrugs. "I've been biting them."
"Oh, no way, you shouldn't! I mean, you have to take care of your hands, they're one of your best features, after all..." Ty Lee feels more secure now that she has a trivial topic of conversation. There's a bell on the table, and she rings it once, twice, calling for servants to bring them some handcream.
The night has begun.
At first Mai acts cold. But after a while she seems to get into the spirit of the night a little, or at least pretends she has so Ty Lee doesn't feel as ridiculous. They get some servants to do their nails, and flip through fashion watercolours, and eat fruit and meat buns and probably Azula's weight in fried dough.
"What do you think of this?" asks Ty Lee. She points to a deep red dress in one of the pictures. "Gorgeous, huh?"
Mai shrugs her shoulders. "It's not really your style."
"No," and now Ty Lee feels a little stupid, "I meant, for you."
"Oh." Mai's apathy gives way to something almost like surprise. "Yeah. It's okay, I guess."
Ty Lee laughs. "Oh, no, come on! It's perfect!"
She keeps on like this about stupid things: a new hairstyle she saw, or meeting someone from their school days in the Merchant's District. She carefully avoids mention of who's hooked up with who in the local social circle. Mai so doesn't need that right now.
It's easier than she thought it would be. In fact, things go so well that Ty Lee starts to let her guard down. Maybe she's accomplished her mission. Mai hasn't sighed once tonight, which is downright amazing. She might have gotten sick of being depressed. She might be ready to go back to normal. Ty Lee can only hope.
"Aw," she says in distress, reaching into the bowl for another piece of fried dough and not finding one. She takes a look at the lanterns, they've almost burned down to the bottom, even though the servants have been by already once to replace them. "Wow, it's getting late."
"You wanna go to bed?" asks Mai.
Ty Lee shakes her head. "No," she says, and then feels guilty, because maybe Mai's getting annoyed with her or really tired or something. "Why? Do you?"
"What do you wanna do?"
"I don't know."
Ty Lee thinks it over for a moment. "Hey, I have an idea! I could give you a massage!" She's noticed a lot of blockage in Mai's meridians lately. Not that she pays that much attention to Mai's body. "I give killer massages."
"If you mean that literally, I'll pass."
Ordinarily Ty Lee would protest this sarcasm, but tonight she just smiles. There's the Mai she knows.
"No, really," she says, and she beckons to Mai to come sit on the pillow in front of her. "I learned to do this from one of the other acrobats in the circus." And that's not all she learned, but now's not a good time to think about that. "It's sort of the same principle as in battle, but instead of blocking your pressure points, I'm going to be releasing them."
Mai's shoulders are tense, and the flow of energy through her body is totally stagnant. She begins to knead carefully at the pressure points there until she can feel them responding to her touch.
As she continues, Mai seems more relaxed, and Ty Lee gets more and more nervous. It's like the energy in the room is changing. Some of the lamps have burnt out, leaving the smell of smoke and a soft, mysterious half-light. It's not the right kind of atmosphere.
She becomes aware of each rise and fall of Mai's chest. She has complete access to Mai's pressure points. If she wanted she could paralyze her any time. It's a little humbling that Mai is okay with letting her do this, especially given how Mai usually treats bodily contact, and how recently she's been burned. In some way, it makes things... weird. Tense.
Half-intentionally she pokes hard at a particularly stiff point at the base of Mai's spine. Mai gives a little hiss and her body stiffens up, and she wishes immediately she hadn't.
"Sorry, was that...?"
Mai shakes her head. "No." She lets out a breath, and the pressure in her shoulders seems to ease a little bit.
So Ty Lee keeps going, searching out the points of most resistance with her fingers, pressing them slowly but surely into softness. But it's hard to do this sort of thing when Mai's got a heavy satin nightrobe draped across her shoulders.
"Hey, uh, so Mai!" She chuckles a little, awkwardly. "...This would work better if your robe was off?"
The moment the words are out of her mouth she wants to take them back. It was supposed to be just a joke, to make things less intense, but it came out all wrong; too much like a come-on, not like something you'd say at a normal slumber party at all. And she wants things to be normal.
"Yeah, that's fine," says Mai.
Ty Lee was really not expecting that. And it's really not a good sign that her breath just quickened.
Because it's true that she wants things to be normal. She really does. But it's complicated, because that's not all she wants. She wants to hang out with Mai the way they did sometimes at school, or before Zuko came back, just the two of them doing stuff together. She wants Mai to maybe be less apathetic, maybe smile more often.
Most of all she wants for Mai to notice her, look at her. And smile at her. She wants Mai to feel about her, even if it's just a little while, even if it's just a little bit.
With her heart in her throat she reaches around to undo the sash of Mai's nightrobe. It falls from her shoulders. For a moment she thinks that she'll just continue with the massage, but her fingers seem clumsy, frozen.
Instead she leans in and presses her cheek to the top of Mai's spine; just her cheek, nothing more. The skin there is warm and downed lightly with hair. Weirdly, she feels like she might cry.
"What are you doing," says Mai, and Ty Lee jumps back as she turns around.
She has seen Mai naked before; quick, embarrassing glances in dressing rooms and steambaths that she could only hope went unnoticed. This is the first time she has been willing to look directly. But she gets the feeling that somehow tonight it will be okay. Timidly she raises her eyes.
Mai's body is leaner than Azula's, but muscled, with a warrior's grace and a pronounced collarbone. Her skin is fair. Her breasts are small and high with flower-pink nipples. Butterflies gather in the pit of Ty Lee's stomach; she puts her hand to where Mai's heart beats in her ribcage, splaying her fingers.
"What are you doing," says Mai a second time. But her tone isn't accusing, only curious.
Ty Lee can't answer. She barely knows what she's doing. Without thinking she leans forward and crushes her mouth to Mai's in a kiss.
Mai doesn't kiss back, but she doesn't pull away, either, and that gives Ty Lee strength. Her kiss grows sloppier and more passionate. Her arms settle around Mai's bare waist, hands pressed into the hollow of her back. Mai stays stiff at first. Then, slowly, she raises her arm to run her hand down Ty Lee's braid.
It's just once. But it's enough to make Ty Lee feel like she's going crazy, and she squeezes her thighs together, hard. Her lips move from Mai's to the corner of her mouth and then to her neck, her shoulder. She undoes her own robe and shrugs it off.
This is really not how she thought things would go tonight. Really, it isn't. She just wanted things to be simple, and fun again. And she knows she'll probably regret this later. But Mai is so amazing, and she wants this so much, and maybe Mai doesn't want it but she's not saying no, and that means it's okay, right? She can't stop now. Not when she's this close.
Gently, carefully, she takes Mai's hand and guides it between her legs. "...Touch me," she whispers. "Mai, please."
That's a mistake.
"...I've gotta go." Mai's voice cracks. Whatever feeling there was in the room shatters. She pulls away, grabbing her nightrobe from its heap on the floor and tying the sash haphazardly.
Ty Lee winces. Her mind clears. The whole thing has taken less than a minute, but of all the stupid, reckless things she's done in her life, this may very well be the most ill-advised of all. "Mai, wait!" But it takes her a second to get her robe, and in that lost time Mai has her slippers on and is out the door. She stumbles after her, barefoot. "I didn't-"
But she has no way of finishing that sentence, and Mai turns a corner and disappears.
She just stands there stupidly for a while. It's a cold night, and the stones of the courtyard are freezing her feet, but the last thing she wants is to go back in that room. She tries standing on her hands instead, but that's even worse.
In the morning Mai is going to pretend nothing happened. If Mai ever talks to her again. If she doesn't just punch her, or worse, ignore her. All she wanted to do was cheer her up - she never expected this to happen - but it's too late to explain. She had one chance to try to say something to fix this mess, and she blew it.
"So, how was the slumber party?"
Azula stalks around the corner - and stalks is definitely the right word, like a hungry fox-panther. She looks as if she knows every secret of Ty Lee's heart. Which may very well be the case.
"...It.." And there she stops, unsure of how to continue.
"Oh, incidentally, I saw Mai on my way over. Did you try to fuck her?" Azula's brow furrows in mock confusion. "Or would you rather she fucked you? Sex with girls is so confusing, isn't it, Ty Lee?"
Ty Lee really wants to tell Azula to shut up. But that never goes over well. She bites her tongue instead.
Azula looks rather displeased at her silence. Probably she wanted Ty Lee to say something so that she could make some witty and hurtful remark back. Not that Azula needs set-up for a witty and hurtful remark: "Well, at least you like her. The closest Zuzu's ever come to desiring a woman is our mother."
"Please don't," says Ty Lee quietly.
But Azula doesn't stop. She never does, at times like these.
"You know she doesn't see you. Not really. Oh, I'm sure she likes you as much as she likes anyone... when she bothers to think of you. But now that she's got other things to worry about, that's not a whole lot anymore. And the rest of the time? Face it, Ty Lee, you're superfluous. You may as well not be there."
And the worst part is Ty Lee knows she's right. She's known it since she was little and thought Mai was the coolest girl ever, but Mai would usually play with her only when there was nothing more interesting to do.
Azula comes closer. Her smile is unnerving. "Poor Ty Lee," she says, sweetly. "I may be a bitch, but at least I pay attention to you sometimes. And that's all you really care about, isn't it." She holds out her hand. "Now come on, let's go."
And there is always the option of refusing. Because Ty Lee is almost sure that she might be a match for Azula, if she tried. But it's late and she's depressed and cold and kind of ashamed of herself and most of all, she just really, really doesn't want to be alone tonight. So she accepts Azula's hand and follows her out of the courtyard.
This is not how she wanted the night to go. But things just don't work out like you want them to, sometimes.