Disclaimer: Avatar the Last Airbender is not my property; this is a work of fan fiction, I in no way claim ownership of anything in this story.
In the Cover of Night
Chapter One- The Sickness
Mai paced at the dock, her nerves far past any measurement she knew. Zuko had been ill nearly a month. She had sent word to the Waterbender a week after the Palace Healers said they could do nothing more for him. Katara and the Avatar sent word they were on their way a week prior.
All she had left to do was wait and to pray that he would not die. She had things to tell him, things she never admitted to any one, things she had kept from him, things he deserved to know.
Tears ran down her cheeks as the sun set. Perhaps they would arrive the next day.
She made her way to the Firelord's rooms, which had become nothing more than a healer's tent. All sorts of medicines and powders lined the table. Incense burned day and night, prayer scrolls, charms and statues cluttered Zuko's bed table. When modern medicine had failed the sages were called, chanting ensued for days. Mai remembered giving up most of her hope in that moment.
That was until she heard word back from Katara; she hadn't spoken with the woman in nearly six years.
She had been married to the Avatar for four years. For some reason Zuko declined to attend the wedding. When Mai brought up the fact that the couple had journeyed from the Southern Air Temple to attend their nuptials, he acted like a child, refusing without any type of explanation. They stopped receiving letters from Aang and Katara after that.
Mai received news every now and again, mostly by way of Kyoshi Island and her correspondence with Ty Lee, who was still part of group of elite warriors. That was how she learned of the wedding of Suki and Sokka, and how she heard word of Katara's miscarriage that happened a year before. Apparently it caused the young woman serious damage and she could no longer produce children. Mai had sent her their condolences, but never heard a word back, and she didn't blame them.
She looked down at her husband and brushed his black hair from his face. He had lost so much weight, his cheek bones very prominent, his arms had lost their tone and ribs were visible. If he got over the sickness, would his body heal from the damage the illness had caused? She placed her head in her hands and began to weep.
A knock came to the door that pulled her from her thoughts.
"Your visitors have arrived, my Lady," the older woman in red said clearly. Mai was out of her seat and running to the front of the palace before the woman could take a breath.
"Thank Agni," she said as she approached them, slightly out of breath.
The Avatar was very tall, a head taller than Mai herself and he towered over Katara. He was still bald, but he was built, she could see it by the way he carried his shoulders, with his chest so pushed out from his excess of muscle that he was unable to hunch like an awkward teen.
The petite young woman seemed very much the same, she was slightly taller and had a fuller figure, but she still had much youth in her face. Except the eyes, Mai noticed, there was an indescribable sadness there that chilled her bones.
They both simultaneously removed their traveling cloaks and Katara stepped forward with an intent look.
"Welcome," Mai managed, motioning for them to follow. "Can you see him now?" she asked Katara.
"Of course," she said in a quiet voice.
They walked in silence to Zuko, he was still taking shallow breaths, then coughing and wheezing.
"I need to know all his conditions," Katara told her in a firm voice. The confidence in her voice calmed Mai immensely.
"Fever, vomiting, sweating. It started out a simple headache. He hasn't been awake for days; he just sleeps all the time. He hasn't left his bed for nearly two weeks."
Katara took all that in and stared at the Firelord a moment. She then looked around at all the clutter and sighed. Walking over to the window she opened the drapes and let in the cold night air.
"Have the servant cart away all of this junk. Get rid of that incense, and all the candles in this room," she said this and Mai immediately called a servant. "Zuko needs fresh air; his lungs are extremely weak right now."
Katara then walked back to the bed and placed a hand on Zuko's fevered brow. Her cool touch caused Zuko to stir.
"Zuko," she whispered in his ear. "Stay with us Zuko, we need you to stay here," Katara said then leaned closer to his ear, whispering something else she could not hear.
He muttered something in his sleep. Mai could not distinguish it but she smiled. It was more responsive then he'd been all week.
Pulling water from the basin next to his bed Katara placed the water around her fingers and pressed them to his forehead. Then very gently she put a very thin strip of the glowing liquid into his mouth that she held open with her other hand. He coughed, but she kept at it, moving the liquid deeper into his chest.
Katara took a deep breath and the water glowed stronger, so bright they could see the liquid in Zuko's chest. Closing her eyes she breathed one more time, and then pulled the strip out of his mouth. Instead of the clear water that had gone in, it was now nearly black, and had a thick layer of mucus around it.
"An infection," she told them as the set the contaminated water into the chamber pot.
The Firelord coughed violently as his eyes opened.
"Katara," he said struggling. "I heard your voice, I knew it was you."
"Hello Zuko," she said calmly, with slight affection in her tone. She reached up and brushed his hair from his face, much like Mai had minutes before. She stayed like that, with her hand on his face, softly rubbing his scar. Mai cast a glance at the Avatar who had an unreadable look on his face. What did he think of his wife being in such close contact with the Firelord?
Mai cleared her throat loudly. Katara turned with an almost annoyed look on her face. Zuko had already drifted back to sleep.
"Will he be alright?"
"In time, I think he should be fine," she looked back down at her patient with sad eyes. "It may take a while for him to get his old strength back, but in time, yes," she finished.
"Will you stay, and heal him?" Mai asked, the girl nodded immediately.
"I owe it to him," was all she could say.
"I'll prepare you a room then?" she asked.
"Two rooms, if you don't mind," Aang told her, she did not imagine the coldness in his voice.
"Alright," Mai answered them, suddenly feeling extremely uncomfortable in the room with the two of them.
Aang left the room then and Mai followed silently. She cast one last look at the forlorn water bender, who still stared down at the Firelord, completely lost in thought.
/So this is my new fanfic, it's a little different than my other one. It's rated M, because I plan to make it pretty smutty, even if the first chapter is rather innocent. It deals with the idea of adultery, so if you aren't comfortable with the idea of spouses cheating on one another, don't read it. This is sort of just a warm up, future chapters will have more meat to them, so don't worry. Read and review, I love hearing what you all think! /