"You're not leaving, are you?" Mai's tousled black hair peeked out from under the red silk sheets of her bed. She emerged more fully and then leaned on her elbow, resting her head in her hand. "You should eat breakfast."
Prince Zuko stood by the wide window and stared, as if in a trance, across the street to where the Fire Nation royal palace stood, red and daunting and mysterious. He was fully dressed already, though his hair remained loose. "I, uh, I don't know, Mai." When he turned to face her, his cheeks reddened.
Mai was naked beneath the sheets. He'd had a good view the night before and hadn't been embarrassed then. But somehow, in the early morning light, the expanse of pale skin, neck, shoulders, and just a hint of breasts, seemed more out of place. He shouldn't be seeing Mai like this, but Zuko couldn't tear his eyes away.
"I haven't changed from when we made love, have I?" the blades master inquired with a smirk. "Is there a new birthmark that I don't know about, or have I grown an extra breast?" Her lips twitched. Zuko's expression was hilarious and she wanted to laugh, but figured he wouldn't appreciate being mocked, even gently. Sometimes, he was far too sensitive.
"N, no, no, it's just that, everything looks different now, in the morning, I mean. Last night was like a dream." The prince shook his head and turned back to the window. His body, however, was very insistently telling him to join Mai on the bed.
He felt torn. Mai was his light, his support, the girl he loved, and yes, he did love her. She was whom he wanted to spend time with. Part of him wished with all his being that he and Mai could exist in a bubble, just them and a bed and food and water. There was a lot to say for a life like that. But it wasn't realistic, not for them or for anybody. Zuko was the Prince of the Fire Nation, heir to the throne. He was back home, labeled a hero, after three endless years of banishment. There must be something he should be doing. His father, Fire Lord Ozai, must want something from him. So, the palace called when he was at Mai's house and when he was at the palace, her silent house and her lips and her voice and her body beckoned him back.
"Do you need to go back? Is your father expecting you?"
That was just it. His time home had been spent brooding and verbally sparring with Azula (he always lost) and getting to know Mai again after all that time apart. His father wasn't training or instructing him in anything. Zuko felt essentially useless and unwanted. Nothing much had really changed. And the palace, still horribly empty feeling without the presence of his mother, did not feel like home. It felt more like a way station.
"No, I don't think so." He moved away from the window and sat on the edge of Mai's bed, his fingers loose in his lap.
"Good, then you're staying."
Mai sat up straight, stretching her arms over her head and yawning. The sheet dropped away from her body, exposing her breasts completely. Zuko swallowed hard a few times and beneath his hands, he stiffened.
"I'm staying," he repeated mindlessly, any sense of duty or country having evaporated completely. Mai was all that mattered. Mai was his world.
The young woman wriggled her way down the bed until she sat beside her lover. "We're going to eat something and then we're coming back here, back into bed." Her warm breath tickled his throat as she nuzzled against him. "You don't have any problems with that plan, I hope."
Zuko kissed her, softly at first and then with more passion. "No problem," he whispered and then kissed her again.
Maybe he had it wrong. Maybe home wasn't a palace or a house or a villa, a city or a country. Maybe home was wherever you were loved. His home was with Mai then, no matter where they ended up. That idea made him happy. It made him grin.
"What is it?" Mai asked, a smile gracing her own lovely features.
Zuko shrugged. "I just had a thought, a really great thought."
"Care to share it?"
"One day, when the time is right."
Mai was curious now but let it alone. "I was enjoying the kissing."
Brushing a bit of hair from her cheek, Zuko looked at her tenderly for a moment before diving back in. "I was enjoying it too," he stated and then gently pushed Mai onto her back.
They never did get breakfast.