Submission to Zai Week Day 4

She hated him at that moment more than she felt for anything. Not when he'd left, but after she cried and wailed until her voice was gone. It was when it sunk in that he was gone, that he'd left her. Unlike every other time, she knew for certain he would never come back.

He'd always wanted her to feel more. To express her emotions. To take off her masks and be real, if for no one else but him. And she'd done it. She'd destroyed every mask she'd crafted since childhood, trained to do so by her mother so she would always be the perfect little lady. Merely a porcelain doll to be seen, flawless, and unheard. She'd done it for him. Now she was writhing in their bed, screaming her head off at him for leaving and cursing his name, and Agni for not doing anything about, and that woman.

He wasn't going to smile with her or laugh with her or hold her. She couldn't tell him that she loved him anymore which was odd because she was sure that she hated him for putting this gaping hole in her heart. She wasn't sure if he'd cut it out with his swords or if he shot a fire bolt through it, but Agni, it hurt.

In her mind, her hatred was logical and justifiable. He'd made her feel things, made her live. She felt happy and wonderful when he was near, irritable and lonely when he wasn't around. After all the years they'd been together, she still couldn't find the words to really capture what it was she felt when he touched her. Now he was gone. And she could still feel things. Just the things she felt from him not being around though and intesified.

Chief among her new emotions was pain, closely followed by despair, hatred, and a host of others that she didn't quite recognize. It was not as if she could just go back to being the girl she used to be. That girl who could numb herself to everything didn't exist anymore.

She stayed in their room – it can't be our room if he isn't here. It's just me. Why did you leave? – thinking through all of her emotions because she couldn't do anything else and prayed that she would just shut down soon. A familiar sensation snaked through her: Betrayal greeted her like a fog settling into the forefront of her mind, letting Anger and Resentment hide in its robes. She'd believed him when he told her that he wouldn't leave her again. He promised. He was a liar. Oh, I love you, Mai. I'll never leave you, Mai. You're mine forever, Mai. She'd been a fool to believe him. He was a better liar then Azula ever gave him credit for. It had been the perfect lie though because even he'd believed it.

Until that woman came. She'd been beautiful. Dark brown hair done up intricately, jewels adorning a smooth neck, and grace flowed from her. Her tanned skin and turquoise eyes had given her exotic appeal that most of the men gathered at the party had noticed. Zuko hadn't. He'd paid her no mind at all. She was determined though. That woman had already determined that she would have him and she wove through the crowds that seemingly parted for her, picking up a flute of wine as she went. She tapped him on the shoulder and he looked at her with a quizzical gaze. She smiled at him and he was hers. A smile from a pretty face and a flick of her wrist was all it took to take him from me. The wine went to the tips of her fingers and hardened into ice more sleek than any steel the Fire Nation could ever make and slashed his throat. The woman's smile never faltered, not even when two stilettos were embedded in between her pretty eyes. As Mai kneeled by him, she was unmindful of everyone running and screaming around her. All she could see was that the woman was gone, and then Zuko followed her. He left her alone as she cried and begged him not leave her. Her pleas fell on deaf ears. His golden eyes stared at nothing. She had stared at her heart where it lay dead on the floor and wondered why she was still breathing.

She still wondered it now.

After the funeral, they all visited her.

Iroh came. He spoke to her, something about the spirit of our loved ones watching over us, always being with us. She doesn't know what he said. Then he wept and she understood everything his words could not convey.

Katara came with Ty Lee and Toph and sat with her. None spoke. Ty Lee held her hand. They didn't cry, yet they mourned together.

Sokka came. He sat quietly. If she'd been all together in her right mind, she would have found it disturbing. His silence was broken when he began to sob loudly for the loss of his brother. She saw nothing unusual that this warrior would utterly fall apart at the death of one that he once called his enemy. She let him cry.

Aang came. He told her it would be alright. He said that it would always hurt a little, but eventually, she'd be able to see past the pain and being comforted by his memory. She paid no heed to the wise words of the Avatar. She listened to the words of a young man who'd lost his entire people, who knew some of what she was going through. The entire time he spoke, his words were broken with his tears. Mai thought that she should do something for him. She just didn't know what.

Mai would have welcomed the numb, never-ending boredom from her youth. Even thought of meeting her throat with one of her own blades. Anything to end all of this torture Zuko was putting her through. One thing stopped her though.

One of the maids brought the two-year old boy to his mother two days after she stopped eating. She'd set the toddler down on the bed next to his mother and backed up a few steps, watching carefully. He flopped onto his back and pulled at his mother's loose strands of hair as she lay listlessly one the bed.

"Hi!" he chirped happily.

Mai blinked and her eyes focused on him.


"Wea Daddy?"

She was quiet a long moment, staring at the familiar golden eyes on her little prince's face.

"Daddy's gone, baby," her voice rasped roughly. "He's not coming back."

The child looked at her, not comprehending her words fully. They were so silly. Why wouldn't Daddy come back? He always did. He did understand that his mother was sad. So he did what Mama and Daddy did for him when he was sad. He scooted over and gave his mother a wet, baby kiss on the lips.

He giggled and hid his face in his hands, playing shy. A small, barely there smile flicked across her lips. She slowly sat up and cradled her baby close.

"Daddy's not coming back," she murmured as she rocked him back and forth. "But we'll forgive him for that someday. Hm?"

"'Kay," he said, automatically responding to the question. "Wanna eat."

"Okay, baby."

Fire Lady Mai stood with her back straight, head held high, as she walked out of her chambers for the first time since the funeral, wearing a long, night robe and the Prince Din on her hip. She had to get her baby fed, maybe something for herself as well. She had to live.

A/N: The 'i' in Din is a long 'i' sound, making it sound like Dean. I dedicate this to Lord Shade and his poor, poor flash drive.

I can't believe I killed Zuko. I mean, I love Zuko. Wow. I knew I could do serious but not depressing though there is a spark of hope at the end, sort of. I really like it. What do you think? Was it any good? Did it make you sad? Did it flow right?

I would have warned you about the character death but that would have given it away. Did anyone think that Zuko had actually left Mai? I was trying to convey that purposely and I'd like to know if I succeeded.

A fact that's even sadder than this fic is that I don't own avatar.

Please review this. I don't usually beg, but I am because I really wanna know what y'all think about this.