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"Pardon?" Mai asked the plump woman standing in front of her. She had tried to follow the conversation of the nobles with whom she was standing but there was such a whir of activity that Mai found her eyes and ears darting about the room.

The woman smiled pleasantly and touched the gold sash on her red silk dress. "I was asking you your opinion of the Earth King in Omashu where your father was governor. Do you believe that King Bumi will prove to be a powerful ally or a formidable opponent to our new Fire Lord?"

Mai honestly had no opinion on the matter and wished to tell the woman as much; however, she was an old friend of the family and as such Mai was obligated to entertain her. As Mai strained to quickly recall anything of importance relating to those torturous months in which she lived in Omashu, she furtively scanned the crowd for Zuko. Catching the glint of light from the diadem which now adorned his hair, Mai hastily replied. "King Bumi is a rather mysterious and intriguing figure to not only we of the Fire Nation, but also to his own people. He is more calculating than the most skilled Pa Sho player and whatever action or inaction he makes will be one that is beneficial for the peace and prosperity of his nation. I believe that as long as the Fire Lord's actions prove equitable, King Bumi will be a powerful ally in the long rebuilding process which awaits us."

Impressed with Mai's politically informed answer, the noblewoman commented on how proud her father must be to have raised such an elegant, well-bred daughter. Mai inwardly cringed at the well intentioned compliment, but outwardly plastered on an obsequious smile. Just then Zuko and Mai's eyes met. They had barely had two minutes alone since his coronation that afternoon and the party which they were presently attending was so crowded with people of every nation vying for his attention that Mai was beginning to feel claustrophobic. He smiled weakly at her and she knew that he was enjoying the celebration as much as she. Mai bent her right arm so that her hand rested gently on the nape of her neck. Then, slowly, Mai drug her hand around her neck and allowed it to linger on her collar bone before dropping it back to her side. Zuko raised his eyebrow in response and Mai, in an almost imperceptible motion, nodded her head.

"Lady Ming, will you excuse me please?"

"Certainly dear. Do give my regards to your lovely parents."

"Of course" Mai said with a polite bow and she turned and exited the ball room.

Mai walked slowly along the well lit corridor and was surprised to see the number of guests mingling outside of the ball room and milling into the courtyard. After walking 15 or 20 paces, Mai stopped and looked over her shoulder. Zuko was just exiting through the ball room's solid gold doors. Mai dawdled, marveling at a tapestry she had seen hundreds of times before as she heard Zuko exchange pleasantries with the guests. She did not begin walking again until she heard him bid them good night. This halting pace continued for a while as there were many important individuals to greet. Finally, Mai rounded a corner and slipped into a room unnoticed. Eying it she found it to be the antechamber to a meeting room. Two low couches, both upholstered in a deep crimson red fabric, faced one another, in the center of the room and on either side of a small table were positioned two high back chairs. Mai noticed that in addition to the Fire Nation tapestry which was hung on the wall facing the entrance, there was a portrait of the former Fire Lord Ozai. With one of the throwing knives secreted on her body, Mai cut the canvas from its frame rolled it up for Zuko to later do with it as he chose. Then, locking the door leading to the meeting room, she sighed and waited.

Mai was reclining on one of the low couches when Zuko entered the room five minutes later. He closed and latched the door she had left ajar for him to find her.

"Thanks for saving me" he said, exasperation clinging to his words. He gave her his signature goofy grin and loosened the collar of the stiff ceremonial robes he was presently donning. Mai shook her head ever so slightly and he stopped.

"Your welcome, but I didn't do it for you. I did it for me" Mai teased and pushed up on her elbows; she wanted him to come nearer. "I wasn't sure you'd remember."

"There was no way I could forget." Mai was never one for expressing herself verbally but in the short time they spent together upon his return to the Fire Nation, Zuko had discovered that Mai used other methods to communicate her needs, wants, and desires that were just as effective. The two had even gone so far as to establish gestures of time, place, and urgency. Mai had been the first to use their code in public. Zuko had been shocked and pretended he didn't see it at first. But Mai was bored and persistent and when she had left, he followed.

Zuko walked over to Mai, and sitting down in front of her, rested his hands on either side of her slight frame. He leaned in and kissed her and she slung her arms around his neck. Pulling him closer to her, Mai's hands deftly unfastened the collar of Zuko's robes while he fumbled in the dark discarding unnecessary garments in a feverish frenzy.

"Have you missed me as much as I've missed you?" Mai panted between rough kisses. She knew that he did. She could feel it in the heat from his lips, the slight pressure of his hand at the curve of her hip, and the insistence he pressed against her thigh, but she wanted to hear him say it.

"More." His voice was low and coarse, and in that instant Mai gasped as she felt him close the last bit of space that separated their two bodies. Beyond the small dark space Mai could faintly hear the music wafting out of the ball room, but the only rhythm she could feel was his.

Thanks for reading; I hope you found it enjoyable. Please R&R! Its-Maiko-Bitches