Mai Sequel – Part 2
Reflections on an Engagement
Author's Note: JillRG planted the seed for this sequel so I have to give her credit. Once an idea gets in my head, I'm doomed to write it.
Aang and Katara
The difference between autumn in the Fire Nation and autumn in the North Pole was astounding. Aang's breath billowed out in front of him as he walked to Appa's stall. He shivered as dark storm clouds momentarily blocked out the sun.
A thick blue parka with just the hint of a face poking out of its hood approached the avatar with a scroll in his hand.
"This letter just arrived for you, Avatar Aang. It's from the Firelord."
"Thanks," Aang replied cheerily.
He placed the scroll inside his robe, leaving it for later. Now it was time to visit Appa and give him his lunch. Katara was busy giving a healing lesson to both boys and girls. She would be back at the ice house they shared shortly and they would read the letter together.
Their trip to the Northern Water Tribe had been extended, mostly because of Katara and the friendships she had formed. She felt comfortable there now, almost a part of the tribe. Still, Aang had avatar business to attend to in the Earth Kingdom and they would leave in a few days.
As he fed Appa, stroking the bison's soft white fur, his thoughts turned to Zuko and Mai. He was still amazed sometimes how everything worked out. The couple had been their enemies, and now they were dear friends. Besides Katara, Aang considered Zuko his best friend. Something about starting off as adversaries made their relationship stronger.
Seeing Zuko, the once tortured, angry young man, so much calmer and at peace with himself made Aang feel happy. Zuko's job was stressful and he still hadn't found his mother, but everyone had some problems.
"I'll see you later, buddy," the avatar whispered softly to the bison, giving the animal a final scratch behind the ears.
He left the stall and walked quickly back to the frozen house. Once inside he tended to the fire, making sure the space was warm and cozy for Katara. The waterbender burst into the house, eyes alight with excitement.
"Aang," she cried. "Class was incredible. Everyone was so enthusiastic, even the boys."
"That's great, Katara," Aang enthused.
"Hey, what's in your hand?" the blue-eyed girl asked.
"Oh, it's a letter from Zuko. I was waiting for you so we could read it together."
The avatar opened the scroll. Katara, still a bit taller than Aang, stood behind him and read over his shoulder. Her lips moved as she scanned the page.
"A wedding," she shrieked. "I'm so excited. Zuko is getting married. Can you believe it, Aang?"
"Well, yeah. He and Mai have been together for more than two years. And they love each other. But I'm excited too. Zuko wants me to stand up for him. Did you read that? The Firelord and the avatar, just like Sozin and Roku."
"I'll bet Mai could use some help. Zuko's useless at that sort of thing. I'm going to write her now. She only has six months to plan everything. This isn't an ordinary wedding, Aang. This is the Firelord's wedding."
"They'll have lots of people to help them, Katara."
"I know, but none of those people are friends."
Katara stopped for a minute, her face twisted in thought.
"Do you know what this means, Aang?"
"No," the avatar replied, a confused look on his face.
"It means that soon there will be a baby. Can you imagine how cute Zuko's and Mai's baby will be?"
"Slow down, Katara," Aang urged as he tried to repress a grin. "Maybe they want to wait a while."
"No, I have a feeling about it."
Aang looked at Katara with amusement and wondered just how excited she would be about her own wedding.
"I suppose I'll have to ask her one day," he said under his breath.
Sokka and Suki and Ty Lee
Sokka had finally left the South Pole and joined Suki on Kyoshi Island. They were relaxing in the warriors' training building after a strenuous workout. Ty Lee, her long braid bouncing, ran through the open door a letter in her hand.
"Slow down, Ty Lee," Suki admonished.
The red head leaned back against the wall and stretched her legs out in front of her.
"Yeah, Ty Lee," Sokka added. "You really need to learn how to relax like me."
The Water Tribe warrior smirked and draped his arm around Suki's shoulders, eyeing his girlfriend suggestively. Suki smacked him soundly on the arm and looked apologetically at Ty Lee.
"But, Sokka, it's a letter from Zuko and Mai."
"Yeah, so what; they probably just have work for us to do."
"Don't be such a cynic," Suki chastised as her blue eyes narrowed.
"I'm only going by experience. Usually, people write when they want something or need help."
"That's not true," the acrobatic Fire Nation girl responded. "Mai writes me a lot and she doesn't ask for anything."
"That's true, Sokka. She writes me too and she's never asked for help."
"Hmmmph," Sokka complained. "I bet it's Zuko with some Firelord trouble. Just wait and see."
"You know, if we actually read the letter it would help," Suki declared, giving Ty Lee a knowing glance.
"Oh, yeah," Ty Lee replied.
The grey-eyed girl pulled at the scarlet ribbon as she sat down beside the other two. She began to read, holding the paper so that only she could see. Sokka gave her a nudge.
Ty Lee held the scroll out so that everyone could read. Her eyes grew huge and she shrieked joyously. Grabbing Sokka by the shoulders, she shook the young man vigorously until his head bobbed back and forth.
"They're getting married, they're getting married," she chanted.
"Wow, he finally proposed," Suki added dryly.
She gave Sokka a sly look but the warrior was oblivious. He stroked his chin with its fine display of stubble and looked at the two young women.
"See, I told you," he declared. "Work; we have to dress up, we have to buy gifts, we have to make speeches."
The blue clad man was showered with blows from small but powerful fists.
"Okay, okay," he surrendered. "I'm just joking. Honestly, I think it's great. I wonder if Zuko needs help picking out accessories. I could go shopping for him."
Suki and Ty Lee left the wooden building arm in arm talking in enthusiastic whispers about the impending wedding.
"Hey, wait for me!" Sokka whined.
Iroh and Toph
It was autumn in Ba Sing Se. The air had a bit of a bite to it and the sky was different from the one that hung over the city during summer. It was indecisive, torn; one side could be filled with dark, ominous clouds, raindrops leaving them in cold splatters, while the other was radiant with sunshine.
Iroh opened his teashop door and took a big gulp of cool air.
"Just think, Toph," he said, looking over his shoulder at the girl who sat inside slurping tea and hungrily eating breakfast. "I'll be even busier now that fall is here. People will need a good cup of tea to warm their spirits and their bodies."
The earthbender, now living permanently in the Earth Kingdom visited the former Dragon of the West once every few months, staying for two or three days. The Jasmine Dragon was a place of rest and rejuvenation for the entire gaang.
"Yeah," she replied. "You might need to hire even more help."
Iroh shut the door. He walked over to Toph's table and poured himself a steaming cup of licorice tea.
"Ah," the teamaker sighed as he breathed in the tantalizing scent, "wonderful."
"You sure do get excited about tea," Toph retorted.
"Tea is so much more than just leaf water," Iroh responded with a twinkle in his eye. "Tea is a metaphor for many things."
"Okaaay," she answered hesitantly, "if you say so."
They sat in amiable silence for a few minutes, each lost in their own thoughts.
"Someone's coming," Toph stated.
A knock sounded on the door shortly after and Iroh got up to answer it. A messenger wearing crisp dark green robes handed Iroh a scroll.
"Thank you, sir," Iroh said and the messenger bowed.
"Looks like it's from Zuko and Mai," he stated happily.
"Well, what's it say?" the fifteen year old asked impatiently.
"Hang on, young lady," Iroh chastised gently.
He unrolled the letter, taking his time. He scanned the brief note and his face lit up with happiness.
"Guess what, Toph?"
"I don't know. Did Zuko burn the palace down?" she joked.
"Zuko and Mai are getting married in the spring. He was hinting in his letters, looking for advice but I didn't know he would propose right away."
"Ha," Toph barked out a laugh. "I wish I could have been there. Zuko popping the question would be hilarious."
"Now, Toph, I'm sure it was a very decent proposal."
"Maybe," the earthbender conceded. "He sure has it bad for Mai. And she has it just as bad for him. I know. I lived with them for three months, remember."
Iroh chuckled merrily and shook his head at the girl's comments.
"Yes, they're very affectionate."
"Affectionate doesn't quite describe them, Iroh. Geez, they're practically married already."
"True," Iroh conceded, "but the ceremony is still very important to the Fire Nation people and to Zuko and Mai. They are looking forward to having all of us there to witness it. I'm so proud of him, Toph."
Iroh scrubbed at the corners of his eyes, rubbing away the accumulating moisture.
"Hey, big guy, don't get all emotional on me. It's great that they're getting married. And, heck, I'm proud of Zuko and of Mai."
"When I think of Zuko three or four years ago and then think of him now, I'm amazed. But then, he was always such a good, sweet boy. I think he found his true self again, Toph."
"I just thought of something," Toph declared. "Mai's gonna make me dress up again, isn't she?"
The once self-assured, steely and controlled princess of the Fire Nation lay on the simple cot staring at the wall. Her room was bare except for the bed and a hard wooden chair that lay on its side in the corner. She had thrown it there in a fit of anger. Azula considered burning the chair and watching it become a small pile of ashes on the cold stone floor. But, if she burned it, she wouldn't have a chair anymore. When she first arrived at the asylum, her room wasn't quite so empty.
The asylum had several levels, nine in fact, and Azula was at the top. Jumping to freedom was impossible. So she spent her days talking with healers who asked her stupid questions like "How do you feel about your brother?" or "How do you feel about your father, your mother, and your friends?" Were they that imbecilic? She hated them all, of course. Once, she had cared about her father, or at least cared about his approval. Her 'friends' were merely tools and her brother was an 'idiot' she loved to manipulate. Mother was a sore spot. On some level, Azula realized that. But she wouldn't admit it to these nobodies, these people who were so far beneath her, these people who proclaimed to understand so much.
She heard whispering sometimes. It was hard to differentiate between sounds existing only in her head and those of the 'real' world. Often, the Firelord (traitor!) was mentioned. Her brother did not deserve that lofty position. It should be hers. She was the smart one, the prodigy. She knew of military strategy and intimidation and ruling with fear. What did Zuko know? He knew love and softness and friendship and sacrifice. How could those things help him rule?
Love: According to the whispers of the cleaners and sweepers wandering the hall outside her locked door, Zuko recently proclaimed his love for Mai (backstabber!) very publicly. They were engaged to be married next spring.
Azula giggled softly to herself. If she were free, the things she would do. She pictured Zuko going up in flames, his fancy Firelord robes disintegrating around him and his eyes wide with surprise. He never had quite understood her capacity for causing pain. Mai would watch as her fiancé screamed in pain until he could scream no more. Then it would be her turn.
Her giggles became sobs. Why did Zuko have everything when she had nothing? Who loved her?
'So, my son is getting married,' Ozai thought.
He too had heard whispers. The guards in the prison just outside the caldera that contained the capitol city had spoken of the upcoming wedding. Unlike his daughter, Ozai knew the difference between his own thoughts and the talk of others. The former Firelord, a broken replica of a once proud and over confident man, hunkered down in the corner of his cell. His long dark hair hung over his dull gold eyes.
'He has almost everything now, but he doesn't have his mother. Ha, he keeps asking me for information that I don't have. I love watching the disappointment cross his face every time he leaves here. Ursa, you would be happy if you knew. Zuko was always your favorite. You always protected him, coddled him. Now he's the most powerful man in the country and he's in love, whatever that means.'
'I'm glad that I won't be able to see it. I don't want to see him happy with that knife thrower, Hoshi's daughter. He betrayed our nation. Now instead of ruling the world, we bow down to it and the avatar. Zuko……"
Mai and Zuko
"So do you think everyone knows yet?" Zuko questioned his fiancée.
"I'm pretty sure they've all got their letters by now," Mai replied.
"How do you think they reacted?" the Firelord pestered.
"Let's see," Mai thought, "joyful, excited, ecstatic, pleased, wondering how the wedding will affect him, overwhelmed, happy in a down to earth way."
"Wow, you're good, Mai."
The knife thrower just rolled her eyes and patted the Firelord on the arm.
"Don't you forget it," she warned.
Sort of a goofy entry; thanks for reading. Reviews are good.