A/N: Originally, this was going to be a drabble in my Sexy Week series, under the title of 'Shower.' However, I got really...really...into it, and before long, it had expanded into something far too big and too good to stick into a drabble series. Also, this is based around the one line Mai has in the 'Going Home Again' comic. She remarks how, "a lot of things have changed since the days where I used to throw mud in your face." This line intrigued me, and so a large chunk of this fic is based on...throwing mud in Zuko's face. I'm thinking I might do a mud fight between mini-Zuko and Mai during their childhood, as clearly, she's done it before, judging by her remark.

Anyway, it's a big 'un, I won't lie, but it's also a good 'un. As always, clicky-clicky on that Review button...I'm very proud of how this one turned out. Enjoy!

If there was one thing that could be said about Fire Nation winters, it was that it rained. All the time. Non-stop. Relentlessly, endlessly, except for the occasional five-minute pauses that sometimes dotted the otherwise drenched landscape.

The people of the Capital City heaved inward groans and tightly shut their doors and windows, hustling out to the stores for provisions whenever they could during the dry spells, loading up on as much as they possibly could so as not to have to make a journey out into the rain at a later time. They tucked in close around their firesides, hoarding themselves away like badger-moles in a cave to wait out the long, rainy season before poking their faces out into the warm sun of spring.

Personally, Mai loved the rain. That wasn't because it made the atmosphere gray and dreary, as Ty Lee liked to tease her by saying. Far from it.

Mai loved the sight of it pouring down outside her window, how it made the whole word smell fresh and clean and new again, and how it sounded pounding away at the roof and walls of the palace, a steady, constant thudding. There was just something about it that she found both peaceful and arousing at the same time.

Somehow, the lovemaking sessions between her and Zuko were a thousand times more intimate with the sound of the falling rain in her ears and with him filling up every other one of her senses, the intermittent clap of thunder or flash of lighting only adding to the experience.

It was nothing but exhilarating, but the rain wasn't good for just livening her body up—it came with other benefits too.

Dressed in a comfy pair of pants (swiped from Zuko, to be exact) and a baggy, short-sleeved tunic, the most ragged clothes that she could find, Mai snuck her way outside and into the courtyard, her and Zuko's courtyard, leaving behind the shelter from the rain that the corridor around the perimeter offered and plunging out into the chilly wetness of the outdoors.

Shivering slightly at the sudden sting of cold water, she sloshed her way barefoot through the now sopping grass, shuddering instinctively as she did so. She really did hate to get dirty…but this was worth it. This was beyond worth it.

Mai paused a minute to pull her long dark hair out of her face and back into a messy bun, just to keep it out of the way. This was some nasty work she was going to get involved in, and she had to keep the one vanity that she had, her hair, safe.

With a quick glance over her shoulder to ensure that her victim wasn't approaching, Mai bent down alongside the roots of a massive apple tree, its branches trembling and swaying in the shower. At the base of the tree, a large puddle of sorts had formed, the rainwater water mixing with the earth to creature a murky pool. Holding back a shudder (it was for a good cause, no, it was for a wonderful cause) Mai reached into the pool and seized ahold of a big, thick clump of the mud that had congealed at the bottom of it, dropping it onto the grass beside her.

She repeated this process several times, scooping out handful after handful of the thick, gooey sludge (each time suppressing a groan or shiver) and adding it to the pile, until a decent-sized hoard of mud had been formed.

Mai wiped her hands off as best as she could on the grass, instinct getting the best of her even though she knew they were only going to get messy again. With more one quick check to ensure that her target wasn't here yet, Mai moved her little stack to a harder to spot location, directly at her feet beside her feet as she leaned against the railing, her upper body leaning into the dryness the covered walkway offered, waiting for him to appear. From her position, he would never be able to see the collection of sludge she was hiding…the 'surprise' she told him she had waiting for him outside.

She stifled a giggle at the thought of her plan, and had to shake her head at herself. Only a few months ago, she wouldn't have giggled (even the word was stupid) at anything. The last time she had honestly, full-heartedly laughed was during her night in Ba Sing Se with Zuko, after he had been knocked into a fountain thanks to another scheme she had hatched and had proceeded to chase her all over town. That night she had made a comment, a statement just before kissing him, and up until the rainy season started a month back, she had not fully thought about it.

Now though, seemed like the perfect time to expand upon it.

Things were different now. She was different now. And what better way to celebrate that than a way such as this?

Mai was jolted out of her thoughts by Zuko's voice, husky and inquisitive, calling from down the corridor, "Mai?"

She instinctively straightened up a notch, her body responding to him on its own, even if it was just the mere sound of his voice. The sight of him striding over to her, a playfully confused look on his features and his hair falling in its messy dark mop around his face caused her heartbeat to quicken, and she curled her bare toes in the grass as if to remind herself to hold back, to stay in place where she was.

"Mai…" Zuko continued to approach her, his pace increasing when he caught sight of her, as if his feet could simply not wait to take him to her. "What's all this about?"

Mai held up a hand to stop him, and he obeyed, his feet coming to a halt mid-stride. He raised his eyebrow, looking even more puzzled than before. She almost laughed at the utterly confused expression on his face, and held his golden gaze as she slowly slid from her seat on the railing.

"Zuko…" She began, her voice soft, the wonderfully gentle yet sensual pitch that sent shivers up his spine every time she spoke with it (especially when she said his name), "Do you remember that night in Ba Sing Se? Our 'date'?"

"How could I forget?" Zuko remarked with a teasing roll of his eyes. "You almost got me killed."

Mai waved this insignificant detail away, and carried on with her little speech. "Well…do you remember how I told you that a lot of things had changed since the days when I used to throw mud in your face? But not everything had?"

"Of course…" A warm smile spread out across his face. "That was just before we kissed…and it's true, nothing had changed between us then, and it never will."

Mai couldn't help but smirk, eyes shining as she remarked, "You may want to rethink that…"

Before he could register just what her words meant, before he could ask her to explain any further, she had already scooped up a handful of mud and flung it head-long at him. As everything that Mai threw, it landed right on target.

Mud spread across the entire front of his body, and he jumped back in alarm, yelling an oath as he did so. Mai couldn't help the laugh that escaped from her lips as he looked down, nothing but shock on his features now. She lobbed another glob at him while his head was down, successfully causing the sludge to splatter in the ends of his hair.

His head jerked up, annoyance flashing across his face like lightning as he growled, "Mai! What was—what are you-"

"Some things never change, Zuko," She reminded him breezily, pitching another clump at him.

This time, he was ready for it, and successfully maneuvered out of the way, golden eyes now blazing with the light of a mock-battle.

"All right then…if that's how you want it."

Mai shrieked as he advanced towards her, gathering as much of her mud as she could before dancing backwards, away from his snatching arms. He growled in frustration at her evasion of him, and she had to laugh again, wildly chucking another lump at his head.

It hit again, but this time, he bent down and began gathering his own pile of sludge, as quickly and as efficiently as he could. Mai didn't throw any more of her own collection, wanting to see it for as long as possible, but stepped a few paces backward, watching him suspiciously.

Zuko stood back up, a far larger pile than her's in his arms, and looked at her with an almost predatory gleam in his eyes, a smile spreading across his face as he gathered a clump in his hand.

"You wouldn't d-"

Mai was interrupted by a splatter of mud hitting her in the chest.

She stared down at herself as if it were her own blood and not mud on the front of her shirt, and jerked her gaze back up to meet him, half-laughing, half-shrieking as she cried, "You got my shirt dirty!"

"You did that yourself," He shot back, indicating with a grin that mud streaks already on her tunic.

"It's not the same!" Mai insisted, holding back the full-blown laughter threatening to escape from her. "It's not the same at all!"

"Then why don't you make me sorry for it?" Zuko shot at her, a challenging smirk on his face, and that was all it took.

Their battle went on for what felt like and could easily have been hours, the sounds of their laughter, taunts, and yells pulsing over the steady thrum of the rain around them. Before long, each was covered in splashes of mud from the head to the toes and breathing hard, faces flushed and chests aching from so much laughter.

"Truce…" Zuko called weakly, a big, goofy, Aang-worthy grin on his lips as he fell over onto his back in the soaked grass, not seeming to care much how wet and muddy the ground was—that was obviously not a concern.

"Fair enough," Mai agreed, and moved so she was sprawled on top of him, their noses brushing.

She merely listened to the sound of his breathing and the pound of rain for a moment, and felt quite like she could close her eyes and take a nap right here and right now. Zuko however, seemed to be having none of that.

"I still can't believe you of all people would start something like this," He chuckled lightly, sliding a strand of Mai's long hair (which had fallen out of its messy bun and was now dangling around her flushed face) behind her ear and touching her cheek with his frigid fingertips. "You hate getting dirty."

"It was worth it," Mai smiled, a slow, lazy, smile, and pressed her lips to his.

He returned the kiss with fever, one hand tangling itself in her dark hair, the other trailing down her side to slip underneath her tunic, his hand splaying across the bare skin of her lower back.

She pulled away from the kiss to press her lips to his jaw and then down his neck, making sure to hit the weak spot just below his ear, before taking his earlobe into her mouth and giving it a light nip.

Zuko made the tiniest of all mewling sounds, tilting his head back and closing his eyes at the sensation of the gentle way she was now sucking on it, the action, as simple as it was, sending a little jolt up his spine.

"Mai…" He breathed her name, and if she hadn't been so close to him, the sound of the rain would have drowned it out.

She moved her head up, capturing his lips for another searing kiss again, her hands sliding downwards to slip underneath his own shirt. That was all the invitation he needed.

Zuko gently pulled her away for a moment, shifting slightly so they were both on the ground, and lifted her arms above her head. He pulled the tunic off as slowly as he could, torturing and yet thrilling himself at the same time as inch by inch of creamy skin was exposed before her breasts rolled free, rose pink nipples already erect with the combination of the chill and her arousal.

He couldn't help but murmur her name again, a shudder racking through each of their bodies as he kissed her lips once more, before trailing his mouth down the long, graceful column of her neck and collarbone. He kissed down the valley between her breasts, over every inch of the mounds themselves but never where she wanted, no, needed, him to.

"Zuko…" Mai begged him, her voice shaky with the moans she was doing her best to hold back. "Zuko, please…"

The sound of her pleading with him and his own desire overrode the urge to take this as long as he could, and he heeded her silent urge, taking one pert nipple into his mouth as he used his opposite hand to tease the other one, pinching and rolling it between his fingers.

She gasped and squeezed her eyes shut, a tremor coursing through her body that was the complete and total opposite of the shivers she had given earlier over her disgust with the mud. His body was heating up, she could feel it even through the layer of his clothes, and she knew it was because he was just as aroused as she.

With one last gentle squeeze of her breasts, he moved his mouth downwards across the flat plane of her stomach, planting a kiss against her belly button and abdomen, before stopping just shy of the waistband of her pants.

By now, Mai was practically burning between her legs, a familiar warm wetness forming there that made her desire tangible. Still, she seized ahold of the hem of his own shirt and tugged it off of him, throwing it away to join her own, and ran her hands up and down his chest, a path she had blazed a hundred times before. And yet, each time she ran it again, it continued to amaze her.

Zuko groaned into the skin of her abdomen, and she glided her long fingers across his shoulders and down his back instead, tracing the line of his spine with one delicate nail. The sensation sent another shiver through him, and the hard, insistent heat she felt pressed up against her hip told her as much.

He couldn't take it any longer—he grabbed onto the waistband of her undergarments and slid them down and off, chucking them behind him. One arm hooked around her waist, the other hand slid up one of her long, graceful legs, stopping when it got to her inner thigh.

She was trembling with her need, he could feel it, and, the better to torture the both of them, took his time when his fingers dared to venture in between her legs. He traced the soft, plump outer lips for a moment, loving the sounds of her whimpers as he did so, before dipping a finger into her.

Mai almost let loose with a cry at the sensation, but she somehow held it back, biting down on her bottom lip as hard as she could as he slowly pumped one finger in and out of her. She thought she could do it—she thought she could hold back the moan that was threatening to tear its way out of her.

She knew it was no use though, the moment he moved his mouth downwards and brought it to the tiny bundle of nerves that shot electricity through every fiber of her being.

"Zuko…" She couldn't help but half-sob, half-moan, her fingers tangling in his hair, holding him there, her desire running away with her.

The feeling of not one, but two of his fingers moving in and out of her and his lips sucking at her clitoris was too much for her to take—within a minute, she felt the tall-tale pressure winding inside her, building and building with each passing second until she felt as if she could die from it.

Zuko knew what he had to do bring her over the edge. He crooked his fingers inside her at just the right angle and gave a few more strokes, his mouth never once ceasing its movement, and something inside of Mai, the one thin line anchoring her to reality, snapped.

She screamed his name, lost amongst the sound of the rain, as her world went white for a moment. She lay there, whimpering and shaking slightly afterwards, and Zuko sat up a little, enough to take his hands and glide them along her trembling body, bringing her back down to Earth.

He kissed her again, and she could taste herself on his lips and tongue. That, and the warm and slick liquid she felt trickling down her inner thighs was enough to make her crave for more in a heartbeat.

Zuko was more than ready for her, and he slid his pants off to add to the rest of the pile. He only hesitated for a moment, looking back up at her like he did almost every time, like he was waiting for her permission.

She gave it to him in the form of seizing ahold of him and stroking, the sound of his quavering gasp reverberating throughout his entire body. That was all the permission he needed—with that, he was inside her.

It was nothing but bliss, nothing but total bliss for each of them, their bodies moving in sync with each other and their cries drowned out by the rain still pouring down around them. He moved in and out of her with all the ease but passion of a familiar lover, and buried his face in her neck when he came, screaming her name into her skin as he lost himself in her, and she in him.

They lay there for a minute, breathing heavily and their bodies still buzzing faintly in the aftermath, steam now rising off of his skin as the cool rain water collided with the heat of his body. His forehead was pressed to her's as they listened to the other's breath and the steady downpour, before finally, slowly, he pulled himself out of her.

Mai made a low humming noise deep in her throat, and wriggled up against him, pressing herself as tightly as she could to him. He pressed a kiss to her forehead and buried his lips in her wet hair then, breathing in the faint traces of her shampoo that hadn't been washed away by the rain or mud.

Each of them was now sprayed with even more mud, coating parts of their bodies like a second layer of skin and sliding off of them little by little as the rain washed them away.

Zuko laughed lazily at how filthy Mai was, and gazed down at her with nothing but a loving glow in his eyes as he asked, "Do you still think this was worth getting all muddy for?"

Mai glanced down at herself, easily the dirtiest she had ever been before in her life. Flashes of alabaster skin were becoming more and more visible as the rain washed the mud away, but honestly, she still felt disgusting.

Or at least, she would normally.

"Yes…" She murmured, wiping a small speck of mud off of Zuko's cheek and smiling up at him, before frowning and declaring with sudden venom, "But I'm still taking a bath after this."

Mai took a near 3-hour long bath the second they got back indoors, and afterwards, curled up in the warm, silky sheets of their bed and promptly fell asleep, damp, clean-smelling hair spread out across the pillow.

Zuko followed suit, taking a shower of his own before slipping on a pair of sleep pants and curling up next to her, twining his arms around her, loving the small, contented sigh that escaped her lips as she settled into him.

He glanced out the window, out at the gray sky and pouring rain, and thought to himself, just for a minute, that people really ought to reconsider the potential Fire Nation winters had to give before slipping off to sleep himself.