A/N: I wrote this during church today. I think that's a new low.
Rating for post-sex cuddling/makeouts and possible self-harm triggers; this takes place the night after Zuko's coronation.
AND YES, I AM TOTALLY WORKING ON THE NEXT CHAPTER OF THREE YEARS. *downs imaginary vodka*
"What about this one?" Mai's fingers move to the small pit in Zuko's left shoulder, testament of an old puncture wound.
"I was fifteen. It's from my first time as the Blue Spirit."
"I didn't know you did that more than once."
He chuckles and kisses her forehead. "Yeah. The first time didn't turn out so well for me. There was an explosion—wooden splinters. I got one three inches long stuck in my shoulder." Mai winces in sympathy. Her hand moves softly down his arm until she reaches the next scar.
Zuko has a lot of them. Everyone knows about the one on his face, of course. A few people know about the new star-shaped burn on his lower chest, which had so nearly been the last scar he'd ever receive. But most of them, souvenirs of a life spent fighting and bleeding and getting up to fight one more time, are known only to himself and Mai.
She traces her finger along the pale crescent on the back of his arm. "This one feels older," she murmurs into his neck.
"Bitten by a komodo rhino calf," he replies. "I was fourteen. Got hurt a lot back then."
Some are old, the wounds now only faded memories. Others are still fresh and pink, the flesh tender when touched. Zuko winces when she finds a slightly puffy slice on his ribs.
"Sparring with Sokka when Aang got tired of training." His eyes light up at the memory of simpler times, before the Comet and his coronation and Azula and the mess he immediately had to start wading though. "He said it was payback for the time I broke his spear when we, uh, first met. That was his forgiveness—he never brought up the past again."
She likes to see him smile. But his hands wander and he frowns slightly as his fingertips find a scar on her body, on her right side just above her hip. "Suki gave that to me," she says almost proudly. "It was her forgiveness, too. Blood for blood."
"Friends ever since."
They fall silent for a moment, just taking in each other's warmth and scent. It's been too long, much too long since the day before the Eclipse, the last night they spent together. Her hand slips under the covers to caress his thigh—he shivers a little and curls his fingers in her hair. Her touch is cool; she finds another old scar above his knee.
"Blue Spirit again," he says against her throat.
"First or second time?"
"First. Probably wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done…"
"Probably wasn't the dumbest, either." He laughs at this, and she presses her lips to his. Their fingers twine together—his thumb lingers over the tiny scar on the tip of her index finger. "I don't think I ever found this one," he says in a low voice.
"Ty Lee, Azula and I were 'blood sisters,'" she replies, breathless from the kiss. "At school. When we were kids."
"Hmm." His hand travels down her wrist, pauses when he reaches the ladder of now nearly-invisible lines on its delicate underside. His face darkens, and he is concerned as he looks into her eyes. Her breath catches, her pulse beats loudly and painfully. Her reflex is to pull away, but she forces herself not to—after all, she was the one, those first few nights in Ba Sing Se, who smoothed Zuko's shaggy hair back from his face and traced the puckered, leathery outline of the burn, whispering in his ear until he relaxed and no longer flinched away from her touch.
"I was thirteen," she says quietly to the question he asked but did not vocalize. "It was… a hard time for me."
"I know," he whispers. He kisses the scars, as if to take away all the pain that they represent. "It was a hard time for me, too."
"It's better now," she says at length, lips perking up at the corners.
He smiles again and pulls her closer. She buries her face between his neck and shoulder, breathing in the smell that she had missed so much, that she never knew she loved until she no longer had it.
It's a lot better now.