Hello, everyone. This is a request by hobytla1, who wanted to see something about Mai and Iroh. I want to thank him/her for trusting me with this. I hope this is what he/she was looking for. :) Enjoy.
Mai hadn't really thought of going to meetings with Zuko—it never occurred to her. But now, as she leaned against a wall out of the throne room for what seemed like centuries, she couldn't help but wish she was in there. The guards standing by the door of the throne room shot her strange looks, not really understanding how she stood over there for hours. Mai didn't understand either.
Truth is that the young knife-thrower was worried about Zuko. Taking control of a nearly destroyed world in your hands was no easy task, especially when people didn't trust you anymore. Sure, the Avatar helped a lot, but he didn't have to deal with the mistrust, the disbelief, the suspicions and the wry comments that people directed at Zuko.
Despite the thickness of the double doors, she could hear a loud argument going on. Mai sighed. "What are they talking about for so many hours, anyway?" She muttered to herself, knowing that if she participated in the meeting, she would have ran out of things to say.
She pulled out a sharp knife from her sleeve and proceeded to twirl it around with experienced moves. Understandably, the nearby guards gulped in fear.
After what seemed like forever, the massive doors burst open and a frustrated Zuko stormed out, almost failing to see her when he passed by.
"Hey, slow down." Mai said dryly, when he passed near her.
"Mai!" He exclaimed, his eyes losing a bit of his previous anger. "You've been waiting here all this time?"
The black-haired girl just shrugged. "I was curious." She lied, not admitting that she was just worried about him. "How did it go?"
"How do you think?" He snapped, his anger returning when he thought about the meeting. He immediately regretted speaking so harshly to her. However, he was too out of his mind to apologize. "All I do is try and still no one's happy."
Mai noticed his sharp tone but didn't say anything. Grabbing his hand, she tugged him down the corridor, leading him to the gardens. He always seemed to relax there. "Just give them some time." She suggested, as they walked. "It's difficult for them to adapt to these new conditions. How would you react?" She tried to reason, making an effort to calm him down.
Zuko, however, didn't seem to calm down. If anything, he seemed to become more furious. Snatching his hand out of her grip, he took a step back. "How would I react? Do you have any idea how difficult it was for me to 'adapt to the new conditions' when my own father banished me? A thirteen year old boy!" The new Firelord shouted, his voice echoing in the dark corridor. "And despite everything I've been through, I'm here—trying to help everyone." He mentally reminded himself that Mai wasn't to blame for the turn his life had taken. The pressure he had been put under, however, wouldn't let him think straight.
Mai seemed taken aback by his words and tone. She placed a slender hand on his arm in an attempt to make him calm down. Feeling his muscles tense under her hand, her brow furrowed in concern and a little bit of hurt. "Zuko—I'm just trying to help." She muttered, knowing that his outburst wasn't actually directed to her.
He, of course, knew that Mai was only trying to make him feel better. He let out an exasperated sigh, being angry with himself rather than his girlfriend. Not wanting to hurt her any further, he turned around to leave. "Ugh, forget it." He muttered.
Mai frowned and crossed her arms in front of her chest angrily, as she watched him storm off towards the gardens. "Ugh. What's wrong with him?" She muttered to herself.
A sad sigh behind her made her realize that she wasn't alone. She looked behind her shoulder—her fingers curling around one of her knives, just in case—only to see Iroh. "My nephew can be quite harsh at times." He pointed out, his eyes closing with regret.
Having calmed down, Mai turned around to face the former general. "I don't know what to say to him, anymore."
The tea maker nodded. "This matter requires a lot of explaining. Why don't we have some tea?"
Glancing at the doors from which Zuko had disappeared, Mai wondered if following after him was a better idea. Iroh, noticing her hesitation—despite the fact that she had tried to hide it—quickly added: "It's best that we leave him alone for now. He's probably pondering over his words."
Sighing, the young knife-thrower nodded in agreement and followed the former general towards his room.
Mai's eyes followed the swirl of the green liquid in the small cup she had cradled in her pale hands. She noticed that her hands shook slightly but she couldn't tell whether it was from her nerves or exhaustion. Whatever the cause, she hated the small—almost unnoticeable—movement. Being one of those people that kept their feelings bottled up inside, she despised everything that gave her emotions away.
"Zuko did mention that you make great tea." She said with a small smile, taking a sip only to find out that her boyfriend's words were, indeed, true.
Iroh smiled. "Making tea does not require skill but love."
Mai let out a small chuckle. "It's very good." She complimented, taking another sip.
Silence fell on the room after that, apart from the sound of the two drinking their tea. Mai tried hard not to fidget; she didn't really know what to say next and it made her nervous. She refused to show it, though. Luckily for her, Iroh didn't notice.
The tea maker had arrived in the Fire Nation capital that very morning, just a couple of days after Ozai's defeat. Being in the guidance of his uncle, Zuko found it easier to cooperate with the hectic situation. His father's and grandfather's doings had left the world scarred and it would require a huge amount of effort to correct their past mistakes. His uncle's support was really helpful.
"I take it that my nephew didn't like the meeting's outcome?" Iroh inquired, breaking the—what seemed to him—comfortable silence.
Mai shook her head. "He's being put under a lot of pressure." She stated simply. Despite the fact that she was still angry at him, she couldn't help but feel sadness for her boyfriend.
Iroh smiled bitterly. "Zuko is quite persistent when it comes to things he wants to accomplish." The old general closed his eyes in sadness, mentally accusing his brother for the miserable memories he left his son with. "He has a tendency to want to prove his worth. Sometimes he forgets to treat those who already see his value with respect."
"That's no excuse." Mai noted. "I know he's been through a lot, but I was just trying to help. I'm starting to get tired of how he treats me, sometimes."
Iroh sighed. "My brother's behavior had a negative impact on my nephew." The former general replied, his tone bearing a sad note. Iroh had lost his own son in one of the war's many battles. He had learnt to appreciate what he had. Ozai, on the other hand, was always greedy, always craving for more. "Zuko always tried to gain his approval. During his banishment, he spent every minute filling his head with pure hatred for himself. No matter how much I tried, he couldn't find beauty in the world."
Mai lowered her eyes. Zuko had never really said much to her about his banishment—it was difficult for him to talk about it. And she had never pushed the matter any further. But hearing those words from Iroh—who had experienced it firsthand—made her feel pain for her boyfriend.
"For years, his life revolved around one thing: killing the Avatar." Iroh went on explaining. "Filling a thirteen year old boy's head with the thought of murder can have terrible consequences. All of his decisions led him to awful places and scarred him even further." The tea maker closed his eyes, as if the thought of the old Zuko was too painful. "Now, he's afraid of making any decisions."
"I—I didn't know." Mai said, mentally cursing her voice for cracking. "He never talks about his banishment."
"Zuko has good in him. Lots of it. He just needs the right guidance—that's why I'm grateful he has you in his life."
Mai smiled at Iroh, her previous anger already forgotten. "I'll try to help all I can."
Iroh nodded, his golden eyes—that reminded Mai too much of Zuko—gleaming. "I know and I'm grateful. Zuko's grateful, too." He smiled. "The way he acts is because he's afraid of losing the people he loves, afraid of pushing them away. During his banishment, he thought about you, Mai. He never admitted it, but you were the only thing that kept him sane." Iroh had a way with people. Very often, he could figure out what they were thinking.
Mai grinned but quickly covered it, going back to her emotionless façade. "I think I'll go find him, now." She informed, making Iroh smile in delight. "Thank you for tea, Iroh. It was delicious."
"Anytime, my dear."
As Zuko sat near the turtle-duck pond, leaning against the trunk of the huge tree above him, he couldn't help but think about the things he had said to Mai. What's gotten into me? It's not like any of this is her fault—she's just trying to help.
"I'm such an idiot." He muttered, throwing a chunk of bread in the water angrily. He watched as the small ducks swam quickly towards the dull food and swallowed it down hungrily. "A big idiot."
A voice next to him made him jump in surprise, nearly landing him in the small pool. "Well, that was a bit harsh."
"Mai!" The new Firelord exclaimed, as his girlfriend walked closer and sat next to him. His hand immediately found its way to hers and he held onto her slender fingers for life. "I'm sorry—I didn't mean to say those things. At least, not to you." As he looked into her copper eyes he noticed that their usual coldness and the anger he had expected was gone, and had instead been replaced by concern.
"Zuko, I understand what you've been through." She said softly, placing a half-gloved hand on his scarred cheek. Her fingertips felt good on Zuko's hot skin. "But the past is the past—you've got to let go if you want to build a future."
Sighing, Zuko closed his eyes and rested his forehead against hers. "I know. But whenever I'm about to make a decision, all my past mistakes just come to my mind. It's hard."
"I know." Mai agreed. "I want you to talk to me, Zuko. I want to know whenever you have a problem. I want to help."
Zuko opened his amber eyes, smiling. He was always grateful that she was there and supported him, no matter what he did. "You do help."
Mai rolled her eyes. "Promise me."
Zuko smiled. "I promise."
Mai smiled back. "Good." Without wasting any more time, Mai's fingers found their way to Zuko's hair as she pushed his lips to hers. Zuko sighed into her mouth, relaxing for the first time in a while. Their lips moved in synchronization, expressing everything to each other that they couldn't with words.
From the distance, Iroh looked at the couple and smiled to himself. "Tea solves everything."
So, as I said, this was a request. I loved the idea and I tried to make the best out of it. I have a feeling that Zuko's outburst is a bit out of character, but anyways.
I loved the last line, by the way! xD
I want to say a big thank you to NinjaKick. Yes, she's my new beta because sometimes I do some stupid mistakes. She gave me some awesome suggestions for this chapter.
Anyways, check out the rest of my Maiko stories. Let me remind you that you can request anything you like about Maiko.
I'm also on deviantART as Doritos1996.
And, tomorrow, I'll start working on the next chapter of Through the Fire.
Thanks everyone for reading.
Please, please, please review—it really means a lot. Writing a chapter takes days, while writing a review takes only some minutes :)