I lost a bet to Aqua, and so I had to write a Maiko for her. But with my being a Zutarian, I found myself quite unable to do a full out Maiko proper justice. Instead, I decided to create a Mai and Katara friendship piece. I thought of several ways to do this before I settled on the 20 Truths format, which I find myself enjoying very much. So here you have it, Mai and Katara's friendship in twenty truths. And bear in mind as you read this that this is a Zutarian writing a Maiko/Kataang. Don't judge me too harshly.

Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar. If I did, the romance would have been left ambiguous.

Twenty Truths About Mai and Katara

1.Right before he is crowned Fire Lord, Zuko introduces Mai to Katara.

(They've met before, amid battle and lightning and ice and silver. Mai forces herself not to slip the knife she has pressed against her skin in her sleeve into her accurate and waiting hand. It's stupid, she tells herself, to attack an ally, even if the last few months that ally has been an enemy you acknowledged and admired.)

2.After the coronation, Mai takes Katara for a walk around the palace.

(This is Zuko's plan, Mai realizes absentmindedly as the two search for common ground. He wants his girlfriend and his best friend to get along, to be friends, because Mai knows that if it came down to it, Zuko would never be able to choose. He loves her, Mai knows this, but he loves Katara too, in a different way, but just as strongly. And Zuko's never been too sharp with decision-making.)

3.Surprisingly, the two get along fantastically.

(Katara has learned on her travels that sometimes silence is the best conversation. She is not chatty and bubbly, like Ty Lee, but neither is she cold and risky, like Azula. She is both, calm and collected, and sweet and perky, all at once. Mai finds this fascinating, and she goes out of her way to find Katara on the days the girl is free, just so she can enjoy the balance between silence and talking that the girl seems to instinctively know.)

4.The first time Katara teases Mai about Zuko, the pale girl flushes, and Katara laughs for the first time.

(Mai finds that she likes Katara's laughter, because it is soft and gentle and inviting. It isn't Azula's dark chuckle, or Ty Lee's over done, incredibly forced guffawing. It is warm, and it is open, and Mai finds herself laughing along with Katara over the stupid things that she never found funny before Katara pointed them out.)

5.The first time Mai visits Azula in her cell, she takes Katara with her.

(Azula breathes blue-white flame from her mouth, and spits twisted, cruel words at her, but Mai and Katara look on, unimpressed. Katara looks Azula dead in the eye, and whispers those fateful words: " I pity you." and before either of them know it, Azula is screaming lightning and bleeding fire, and shrieking and burning and cursing them both to the Spirits and beyond.)

6.Katara heals the minor burn on Mai's hand afterwards.

(She pushed the Waterbender aside for no reason other than that her body moved on its own. This is what she tells Katara. The truth is something deeper and darker and it's not something she's quite willing to share just yet. Mai remembers how she wasn't there to save him when Zuko got his scar, how she failed him on the day of his banishment. She looks over at Azula's weeping mass of flesh, and decides she'll never stand idle again.)

7.When Katara leaves to return to her home, Mai is there to wish her goodbye.

(She moves out of the circle of Zuko's arms, and presses a flash of silver into the dark hand. It's the first dagger she ever threw at the other girl, when they met in Omashu as enemies. The metal is cool, even in the heat of the Fire Nation, and it fits oddly into Katara's hands. Mai looks at her, at the blue eyes and the curly hair and the browned skin, looks at the girl who is so different from her, and smiles as she realizes for the first time that Katara is beautiful.)

8." I want to see her again," Mai whispers to Zuko as they leave the dock, " before we get married."

(Because Katara has been a better friend to her in two weeks than Azula has been her whole life. Katara listens and Katara's laugh is nice and Katara knows that friendship doesn't involve fear or hatred or anger. With Katara, Mai finds she doesn't have to be silent, or glumly, or happy, or strong. She can simply be a teenaged girl, which is something no one, not even Zuko, has let Mai be for a long time. And she begins to think that maybe, just maybe, they aren't so different after all.)

9.A few months later, Katara and her father welcome the Fire Lord and his fiancée to the Southern Water Tribe.

(It's grown since he last saw it, Zuko tells her, but Mai is barely listening, because she's staring out at the endless fields of ice and snow that stretch on forever. She's looking at the mountain made of crystal and the sparkling peaks rushing up to meet the sky. She breathes in and the air is sharp and hard, like one of her knives. She shivers as she stares at the perfect blue water, and Zuko wraps his arms around her and warms her with his bending.)

10.She's become accustomed to the fact that Katara is an affectionate person; therefore the tight hug she receives on the dock is only a mild surprise.

(Katara is dressed in fur and blue, her hair whipped back by the artic wind and her cheeks stung to pink in the frigid air. As Zuko and Chief Hakoda exchange pleasantries, Katara coils her arms through Mai's and laughs at her far-too-thin Fire Nation coat. She gives a tug, and then Mai is walking towards a house sculpted of snow to get an authentic Water Tribe parka to ward off the chill.)

11.The visit ends with promises to meet at The Jasmine Dragon in Ba Sing Se in a few weeks, and the gift of a thick, blue parka Katara spent weeks sewing just for her.

(Mai looks out at the waves the ship makes in the mirror surface of the water, and then over to the snow, where Katara is running along, waving and smiling and shouting nonsense to them. She feels Zuko raise his hand and shout back that he'll see her soon, and Mai finds her own hand waving back before she even realizes it. Mai takes one last look at the fading ice cliffs as the captain takes the ship out to sea, and breathes in the scent of the chill.)

12.When Zuko walks up to them in his uncle's teashop, and asks what they're doing, Mai surprises everyone by telling him it's girl talk, and none of his business.

(This is the truth; it is girl talk because Mai has just seen Aang and Katara kiss before the setting sun. Katara's entire face is red, and the blush is seeping down onto her neck, and Mai feels light and airy even though she's had three fruit tarts, and two cups of warm tea, and she wants to tease her friend. It isn't her response that startles everyone, but the fact that she delivered it with a bright, playful smile.)

13.When she and Zuko set a date for their wedding, Mai insists on sending a letter with her invitation to Katara and her family.

(The letter attached is filled with anxiety and panic and all the fear only a bride-to-be can feel. The letter begs Katara to come ahead of everyone so that she and Mai can spend time just sitting in the garden, feeding the turtleducks and laughing at things that aren't really half as funny as they are when the two girls are together. In the postscript, under all the bundle of nerves Mai has managed to convey in ink, is the order for Katara to be her bridesmaid.)

14.Katara arrives in a flurry of blue and waves, streaking up into the harbour on a block of ice from a small cargo ship that is passing through.

(She marches into Mai's room, soaking wet and smiling, and shoo's Zuko out, telling him it's girl time and he'd better not get in the way of female bonding. If Mai wasn't so delighted to see her, she'd be in stitches about how quickly Zuko jumps to obey the Water Tribe girl. When they hug, Mai gets her dress wet, and her hair is sticking to her neck. Katara smells of fish and travel, and has arrived with little luggage other than what she is wearing. Mai has never been happier to see anyone in her life.)

15.Ty Lee arrives on the barge Zuko sent to Kyoshi Island to pick her up with presents in hand and three boyfriends to carry them all.

(Katara looks on in shock as three good looking boys scurry around at Ty Lee's beck and call, but Mai assures her, with no little amount of amusement, that for Ty Lee, it's a step down from her standard. Katara shudders, and Mai laughs again, the warm, open laugh Katara taught her, and drags the other girl over to see Ty Lee.)

16.Katara dances with them when they run out of things to talk about.

(Azula never did. Azula was always solo, always the center, with Mai and Ty Lee twisting in the background, never to be seen, and never to run the risk of outshining the princess. But Katara spins and twists with them, coiling her water over and around them, but never touching them. Ty Lee flips and twirls and spins her Kyoshi fans proudly in the Fire Nation sun. Mai flicks cool silver into the air and makes the wind whirr with her dagger-filled hands. They dance and dance until they fall down, exhausted and light-headed, and when Ty Lee expresses her wish that they'd met Katara before they'd met Azula, Mai agrees wholeheartedly.)

17.On the day of her wedding, Katara braids Mai's hair.

(She wakes up early to stand next to Mai as the other girl frets and worries and wrings her pale wrists in fear. Katara shushes her, and Mai suddenly feels like a child again, lost and scared and alone. But then Katara is behind her, combing her hair and running her fingers through it, and talking in a soothing, soft voice that made Mai remember how to breathe. As she walks down the aisle to Zuko, Mai hears whispers stirring the crowd, and holds her head up high. Her hair, twisted into a Water Tribe braid, gleams in the firelight.)

18.After months of chasing after him, Mai and Ty Lee finally confront the Avatar.

(They corner him in the stables as he is feeding his giant, sky legged bison. Ty Lee is momentarily distracted by the furry beast, and rushes up to pet it and coo over it, and give it its hay. Mai rolls her eyes and faces the confused little airbender. She puts on her poker face and tells the Avatar that Katara is a very important friend. And if he hurts her, Ty Lee pipes up from behind the beast, her pretty face just peeking up over the fur. Then they will hurt him, Mai finishes with steel in her voice. The Avatar nods, his eyes wide, and the two leave, secretly grinning as they leave at the sight of the all mighty Avatar cowering before two teenaged girls.)

19.The morning she returns from her honeymoon, Mai throws her arms around Katara and whispers " Thank you.".

(She's seen the scar on her husband's stomach, a star shaped insignia that Azula blazed onto his skin with heat and electricity. She's pushed and pushed until he finally told her the story, and as she tightens her grip in Katara, the knowledge that maybe they were never so different to begin with strikes home at last.)

20.When they both arrive at Kyoshi Island for her brother's wedding, Katara is wearing a different necklace.

(But her blush at Mai's teasing still extends down her neck, and Mai laughs once again, her arm curled around Katara's and her face aglow with delight. Ty Lee gathers them up a moment later and they dance their deadly dance at the reception for all the guests, spinning and twisting and flashing and smiling until Mai realizes that this is what friendship is supposed to feel like. Katara grins at her, panting, and offers Mai a drink. Mai declines, gripping her water, and Katara's gaze goes from playful to knowing in a split second. She pulls Mai into a half hug and insists that when the time comes, Mai will have Katara at her side.)

When Mai gives birth to a squalling son, she names him Kazu; partly for his father, and partly for the friend who midwifed him.

Well, there you have it.