A/N: I don't like Zutara, so if that's what you came here for, leave. XD I also don't like Mai much, but I couldn't ignore the finale, so here I am with my little story-tribute to Zuko. I'm not sure how this will go, but I hope you enjoy!
Zuko paced rapidly around his chambers, trying desperately to control his temper. It isn't true. It can't be. Toph is blind…She can't know. There's no reason to trust her.
Except for that there was.
Mai had been acting strangely. More distant than she had been since the Avatar's Triumph. She was nearly back to her old self, but Zuko saw that there was more. She was not simply 'moping', as Sokka chose to describe it. She was…hiding.
Zuko clamped down on his suspicion, knowing it was only his foolish, jealous heart. But 3 days ago, Toph had claimed to overhear Mai with someone other than Zuko. Toph claimed that Mai was seeing someone else behind Zuko's back. The little Earth-Bender had heard Mai and the boy agree to meet again after three days had passed.
Three days had passed, and Zuko had carefully studied Mai's behavior. She was always affectionate to him, but her temper ran short. Small things bothered her, generally manifesting in the form of appearances. She fussed with other people's clothing and hair incessantly, insisting everything look perfect all the time. And when she thought no one was watching her, a small smile would grace her otherwise drawn features. Her dark eyes sparked, and Zuko could not fathom why these moments of happiness were not to be shared.
If Mai had left with this boy, she would have to come back past his bedchamber to return to her own. If she had left, he would hear her.
This is only to make sure Toph was wrong, Zuko thought. Mai would never do something like that. She loves me. And if she didn't, she would tell me. Of course she would. She's too smart to…to cheat on me. Even the mere thought filled Zuko with despair and rage. But she wouldn't. If I were to enter her room right now, she would be asleep in her bed, angry that I had woken her. A smile tugged at Zuko's lips as he pictured this thought, and there was a rustle outside his bedroom.
Zuko froze, forcing himself to acknowledge the thought that it may have only been the wind. Then came a deep, throaty chuckle and a giggle, along with feather-light whispers.
Zuko recognized the giggle. It belonged to Mai. He had never before heard the sound, but he knew it was her. Giggling. His fists clenched as he moved to press his ear against the thin door.
"…Zuko's chamber," he heard Mai whisper excitedly.
"Oh, is it?" a deep voice said, a voice Zuko did not recognize. Zuko felt his heart seize. No…
"Yes, so be quiet! We're almost back to my room," she whispered, still giggling insufferably. He then heard rustles that sounded like…like…
He flung the door wide, nearly slamming into the startled pair of lovers. Mai could not pretend that this was anything but what it looked like. Her arms were wrapped around a thick man's neck, while his tattooed, muscled arms gripped her waist. For endless seconds, Zuko stared at yet another betrayal.
"Zuko…" Mai began, beginning to disengage herself from the man.
"Stop." Zuko's voice was thick with rage. He could barely form an articulate thought, much less speak. "Why…" would you do this? "How…" long has this been going on? "What…" have I done to betray you? Eventually, he said, "Who is this?"
"Call me Blaze," the man said confidently, clearly unaffected by the fact that he had just been caught cheating with the Fire Lord's girlfriend. Zuko only glared for a moment, waiting for the man to realize that he could be thrown in prison for trespassing.
When 'Blaze' wasn't catching on, Zuko spoke. "Leave," he hissed, his tone pure venom. "I wish to speak to Mai."
"She's standing right here, buddy."
Zuko's eyes narrowed to slits. "Alone."
Blaze turned to Mai, his eyes shining with affection. "You can handle this guy, right?"
"Of course," she muttered, staring at the ground. Blaze cast one more wary glance at Zuko, and left. His footsteps echoed down the long hallway, but the sound of Zuko's heartbeat drowned out all but his thoughts. They stood in silence, Mai looking scared, Zuko nearly murderous.
The slamming door that signified Blaze's exit broke their trance.
"Why would you…Why would you do this?" His voice was strained. He wanted to yell and scream and demand that she explain herself. But he couldn't. He simply couldn't.
"Zuko, being your girlfriend is a lot of responsibility," she said lamely. Zuko knew she was trying to build to something, but he interrupted her.
"Being the Fire Lord is a lot of responsibility, Mai," he shot back.
"You were always doing something…I got lonely."
Stabbing pain. This is my fault? "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I was afraid of your temper," Mai said, almost flippantly. "I mean, come on, Zuko. What would you have done if I told you I was lonely because you were gone all the time?"
"I'll never know. You didn't give me that chance." Zuko's fury negated her argument. "How long have you been sneaking around behind my back?" Mai remained silent, hurt. "Please answer me." Zuko barely kept the pleading from his voice.
"Since before The Phoenix King fell. Blaze was a guard while I was in prison. He was very kind to me…" Mai's voice trailed off, leaving Zuko's imagination to fill in the blank. He didn't like what he saw.
"Why did you come back to me? Why did you want to be with me?" Zuko stared at the girl who had betrayed him so deeply.
"I thought…I thought I still did," she confessed, still refusing to make eye contact. "I still like being around you, but…not with you. Do you understand?" She glanced up to meet his gaze.
"I understand, Mai," Zuko lied. He stared at her for a few more moments, then turned to leave. "I hope you've found happiness," he said, his chamber door swiftly and silently separating him from the rest of the world. He fell onto his bed, somehow wishing the conversation had lasted longer. The brief exchange hadn't satisfied his need for closure, but there wasn't much more to be said. She had seen someone else behind his back, and she seemed much happier with this man than she had ever been before. The realization that he had only been holding her back stabbed worse than Mai's betrayal. He clenched his fists, trying not to scream. He wanted to run into her room and destroy everything in sight, then find Blaze and finish him off for good measure. He felt his Bending react within his core, the fire struggling to be let out.
Zuko clamped down hard on his aggression, seeking sleep and escape. He curled into a ball as a single tear slipped into his sheets.