A/N: I think I'm genetically incapable of writing anything but Maiko or Zuko. I'm trying but it isn't working out, at least so far. So, here I am, back with the tried and true. This story continues Mai's and Zuko's journey together and is a sequel of sorts to 'Two No More'. The prologue is a set up for where they are time frame wise.
It was only a few hours past dawn and the heat was already oppressive. The air was still and heavy with moisture. Mai sighed as she looked at the limp green sheers that hung over the open windows. It seemed like forever since she had felt a breeze. The twenty one year old Fire Lady placed her feet on the floor and stood up, looking back at her still sleeping husband, Fire Lord Zuko. He twisted in his sleep, reaching for her absent body, and then carefully opened his golden eyes.
"It's still early," he grumbled. "Come back to bed."
"No," she replied tersely. "I don't feel like lying down anymore. Agni, I wish there were a breeze."
"If there were, it would just be hot," Zuko reasoned as he grudgingly got out of bed too.
"You can sleep longer if you want to," Mai stated.
"I can't sleep without you," Zuko replied simply with a shy smile.
The ebony haired woman bit back the smart remark that immediately sparked in her brain and found its way to her tongue. Zuko could be sappy but he was sincere.
"Well, let's enjoy a cup of tea before the twins wake up. We've probably got an hour."
The pair snuck off to the kitchen, looking around nervously like invaders in their own home, and made some piping hot jasmine tea. Zuko found some fresh rolls (the baking was done very early in the morning) and handed one to Mai. She spread butter and jam on it, and bit down hungrily.
Wiping his hand across sleep encrusted eyes, the Fire Lord watched his wife eat.
"What?" she asked.
"Nothing; you're hungry."
"Yeah, I'm hungry. Hand me another one please."
Grinning, he tossed another roll to his wife who repeated the same procedure. Zuko ate more slowly, interested in the sight before him more than his own appetite. Even slightly grumpy, sleep disheveled and wearing a very plain robe, Mai was the most beautiful woman in the world.
"So, what are you and the twins doing this morning?" he asked.
Ryuhito and Miyako, who celebrated their second birthday about a month earlier, were both active and curious and talking. They were a challenge for Mai and Zuko but a much loved and worthwhile one.
"I guess I'll take them out into the garden for awhile. I should let them wade around in the fountain."
"That's a good idea," Zuko replied. "They'll love it."
"Remember, I'm working with you this afternoon. Midori's watching the kids for three hours."
"I remember. I've got lots of good stuff for you to read."
"I highly doubt that," Mai replied dryly. "But at least I feel like an adult for awhile."
"Well, I suppose we should get back and see if they're awake yet."
The couple left the kitchen and walked back down the hall to their living quarters.
"Good morning, Shinji," Zuko said as he approached the nursery door. "Any noise from inside yet?"
"No, my lord," he replied.
"I'll just take a look anyway," the Fire Lord stated.
Shinji moved aside and Zuko pushed the door open. Mai and he entered the sun dappled room and peeked in the two small beds. Both children were beginning to stir. Zuko placed a kiss on each forehead and tickled both kids. Miyako laughed while Ryuhito said, "Stop, Dada!" in a very authoritative voice.
"Time to get up and have some breakfast," Mai informed the twins. "I'm taking you out to the garden when you're ready. I'll even let you jump in the fountain."
"K, Mama," Miyako said sleepily.
She rolled out of bed and fell onto the floor with a thump.
"Zuko, go get cleaned up and dressed. You've got a meeting soon. I'll take care of them."
"Thanks," he replied and gave Mai a kiss.
The knife thrower helped their children with the morning routine and accompanied them to the kitchen for their breakfast. When they were done, Mai took them to her room and put a few toys out for them so they could play while she washed and dressed. Then, taking each child by the hand, she guided them down corridors and out to the garden where they began to play immediately, overturning stones, picking up dirt, and chasing each other.
"Toph should be here," Mai said to herself. "They love playing in the dirt almost as much as she does."
Wiping the beads of perspiration from her forehead, Mai sat down under the apple tree and watched her children. Smiling, but just a bit frightened, she wondered what adding a newborn to the mix would do.