Stress.

Since I only have time for one piece this year, combining with the prompt "write a Maikka date during which neither party speaks to each other".

You wouldn't say you were stressed. Sure, you were trying to run an entire city, trying to act as the only representative of your tribe, as well as having people assume it's your job to look after the interests of every non-bender in the city, trying to come up with ways to justify never talking to that guy from that shipping company ever again (it's definitely not your fault that you want to kill that guy), trying to ignore the nagging guilt that says the other council members are only listening to you because you're That Guy That Hangs Out With Aang (and you are never ever ever going to wonder exactly how corrupt your new city is, that both you and Toph more or less run the place, nope, never thinking about that ever again), and also trying to deal with the fact that your girlfriend is on the other side of the world (it hurts, after a while. It's a weight around your ankle you're so used to dragging some days you don't even notice it, but it's there, and it's awful).

Okay so you're under stress. You knew the risks when Aang arm-wrestled you into the job.

But it's nice when you get the letter- urgent summons from Fire Lord Zuko. Which was actually less clear than it sounded- 'urgent summons' from Zuko might mean 'hey guys it's time for another camping trip' just as easily as it might mean 'please help Azula got out again. Send men with big pointy sticks asap.' You're not too concerned, though. The wooden tile in your pocket would've told you if there was an actual emergency going on (also massively shady, a councillor part of a worldwide secret society stop thinking about that stop thinking about that.)

So when the letter comes- and it comes flanked by two big guys in red, making it extra official, and so ensuring that nobody at City Hall is going to even think about stopping you- you can hardly believe your luck. You're going to get out of here! And nobody can say a word about it!

Your second thought is 'I really hope Zuko's managed to keep this a secret'. You don't have a lot of opportunities to get the drop on her, and you'd better make the most of this one.

That thought occupies you all the way to the docks- right now you've got space to plan, and you're gonna make the most of it.

This thought, however, is blown out of the water when you take the time to examine the note a little more closely.

It's not Zuko's handwriting. It's his seal, it's his signature, but that is definitely not his handwriting. It's Mai's. She forged an official summons from the Fire Lord just to get you out of the office. The best way she can think of to get you to relax is to kidnap you and drag you off to the Fire Nation. You have to laugh. You used to have nightmares about that.

It's a three-day trip, and you're pretty sure you don't sit still the entire time.

Her house is dark, and empty.

Well. The servants are gone, and the lights are out. It's not the same as 'dark and empty', you guess. You've seen your share (so much more than your share) of dark and empty houses, and this isn't the same. It feels intentional.

The fact that there's a light coming from under one of the doors kind of helps, too.

The light is an invitation, that much is pretty obvious. You know way, way better than to just accept an invitation like that out of hand by now. The fact that it's your girlfriend extending it really doesn't change that as much as you might have expected it to. Maybe it's something to do with all those times she tried to kill you.

So you're a little more cautious heading up the hallway than you could be. Pressing your ear up to the door, all you can hear for a few seconds is a soft bubble of water, then, after a few seconds, the soft slide of silk on velvet.

You open the door, and incense and smoke worries its way up your nose, and your eyes blink in the muted light, and Mai's there, sitting on a low sofa, bare feet curled up beside her, eyes lidded, head lying back, the barest trace of a smile on her lips. Her head swings up as you take a step into the room, hair falling over her eyes like a veil, and she smirks, nodding to a spot on the sofa next to her.

You most definitely don't need to be told twice. You collapse on the sofa so readily you practically bounce, and with anyone else that might've killed the mood, but Mai just snorts at you a little, rolls her eyes, and hands you something slim and black.

You notice for the first time the ornate brass hookah sitting on a low table in front of you- the source of both the bubbling sound and the smell- and the stem Mai is offering. Well, why not? She went to all this trouble.

You've actually never tried this before, and you're pretty sure you're going to look like an idiot in a couple of seconds. That's okay, though, you've gotten looking like an idiot down to a science. You take the stem, grasp it between your lips, and manfully inhale.

Naturally, you practically cough your lungs across the room. Mai uses the distraction to pluck the stem from your hand. Once you've got yourself under control, she raises an eyebrow at you, but you're not fooled. She knows you're adorable.

She raises the stem, and grips it right at the edge of her mouth, inhaling, and holding the smoke in for a long moment before exhaling the smoke in a great arc, curling upwards towards the ceiling. Her shoulders go slack, and she languidly flicks the stem back at you.

The second hit, and this time it would be bad if you choked. But you've always been a quick study. So you take the offered stem, and for a second you think maybe she's forgotten that she set this up so you'd be less on edge.

The smoke tickles its way down your throat, and you copy her, holding your breath for a long heartbeat before exhaling it and huh.

Yeah, she didn't forget. Should've known better than to question it. The smoke billows and bubbles out of your mouth, thick and delicate like a bundle of spiderwebs, but the heat remains, like you've breathed too deep in a steam-room, and you just sort of flop backwards and spend the next few seconds just focusing on all the weird little tingly things that breathing is doing to the roof of your mouth.

Mai plucks the stem out of your hand, scowling at you, but you just sort of half-shrug, only one shoulder really committing to the idea. You can't be expected to remember everything on your second try.

You just sit and look at her. Smoke pouring out of both nostrils, reclining like the smuggest dragon in history, eyes lidded but still looking at you, hair down, slipping down her back and across her shoulders, black and shiny and liquid, and you're pretty sure you're starting to stare, but you can't help it. Even now, she's poise and grace and the very clear message that she could annihilate you seven different ways with a blink, and wherever she is, she's always the most fascinating person in the room.

You are stupidly in love with this girl.

She takes another hit, rolls her eyes back for a second, then smiles, mouth still closed around a lungful of scented smoke.

You blame the smoke for your increasingly stupid reflexes- she can still get the drop on you when she wants, but normally you can at least see her move before she's on top of you and your hands are resting on her thighs and her fingertips are curling around the line of your jaw and your muscle memory knows how this goes but hey, it'd be really great if she opened her mouth right about now.

She's got that look on her face, that I-get-the-joke-and-it's-on-you look, and you're about to break the spell and just start begging when she leans forward and almost-kisses you and her mouth opens and the rolling breath of smoke she had been holding in pours from her lungs into yours and oh.

You make an abrupt decision, aided by the way she's shifting in your lap- the way one hand is idly fiddling with the tie in your hair- by the bitter-sweet incense in your lungs- the way her gold, heavy-lidded eyes are smirking at you through the haze of smoke: you decide that you're both wearing way too many clothes for this next part.

You deliberately shift your hands, slipping them upwards to slide under her shirt- your fingertips prickle against bare skin already laced with sweat, and above you Mai lets out an interested "hmm?". The first sound she's made all evening (you have definitely got to change that).

(On balance), your last coherent thought echoes as she starts undoing the buttons on your shirt with practised efficiency (you should probably get out of the office more often.)