Title: Observations and Realizations

Disclaimer: Avatar: The Last Airbender does not belong to me. I play with the characters only for my own amusement.

Rating: G

Summary: Mai will not be the footnote of someone else's story. Set a few years post finale. References Mai/Zuko, Katara/Aang, Katara/Zuko.

Constructive criticism always welcomed.

They dance around each other, never touching but never truly apart. I could wander the entire reception hall, onto a balcony and back again and he wouldn't notice I had been gone. But when the music ends and the waterbender takes three steps away and moves behind a pillar, he tenses. He speaks to a nobleman about inconsequential things. He doesn't relax until he sees her again.

I wonder if he realizes he does that.

I wonder if he will let himself realize.

The waterbender is no better. When the night began, she entered at the Avatar's side. They parted moments later, to spread their message of peace – of course. But as he smiles and charms the dowagers, she moves ever closer to Zuko. She speaks in support of the Fire Lord as much as the Avatar. Their cause is the same. Her words are only natural.

But I can hear the difference.

Can the Avatar? Does he see what I see?

I see a future where this scene repeats a thousand times. Where I marry Zuko and she the Avatar and at our every meeting, she will go to Zuko and he to her. Zuko will promise me she is only a good friend. And he may even think he means it as he tells her all the things he will never tell with me, and hears the words she will never tell with the Avatar.

I doubt he will sleep with her. That would be dishonorable and it will never occur to him there is more than one way to be unfaithful. Zuko lives by his honor.

I hate his honor.

Because his honor demands that he chooses me. I was his girlfriend, the proper Fire Nation lady he deserted before joining the Avatar. Yet I loved him enough to go to prison for him and in return he will not leave me. That is the story he knows.

He was always a bit slow when it came to people.

Oh, I love him. That day at Boiling Rock, I learned I could love someone enough to stand my ground and not obey from fear. For the first time, I lived for my beliefs and no one else's.

I found freedom there and self respect. I will not forget those lessons out of some misguided belief he will someday love me back the way I deserve. I am no spineless girl who exists only for her man and forgives him thoughtlessly when all he does is take and not give.

I am not that weakling. It's time to end this.

He can run off and court his waterbender. Or honor the claim of an Avatar who does not notice his lady watches another. He can marry some simpering noblewoman who cares only for her title and nothing for the days her husband's eyes look south with longing.

I do not care. I must not care. I am Lady Mai, master of the senbon, and I will never be less.