For Private Fire, who has a birthday in the wonderful month of October; the story is a token of my gratitude to her for all the support she has given both me and my stories. She's a good friend. And, for those who are not yet aware, PF has a quality story called 'Breaking the Promise'. She works so hard on this fanfic and it does not get enough attention. So how about you check it out and maybe even give it some love.
I took the title from the Tori Amos song of the same name. She speaks of 'sweet communion' in both a religious and sexual sense. I see the bond between Mai and Zuko as a sweet communion as well.
Oh, and the basic story concept is PF's idea and she was not averse to the adult content.
Body and Soul
The day was sunny and warm, the sky the kind of blue that when you stared at it, made you want to soar. Zuko stood at the window wearing only knee length sleeping pants. Despite the heat, he wrapped sculpted arms about himself and shivered. He glanced over at the bed. Mai stirred beneath the scarlet sheet, turned over on her side and appraised her husband with bleary eyes.
"Sorry…." He gestured at Mai, the bed, the outside, as if apologizing for everything wrong in the world.
"It's okay." She spoke softly, tenderly, terrified that anything loud or rough might shatter him; delicate glass beneath someone's boots.
Tumbling out of the bed, she made her way to the window and slid her arms about Zuko's waist, pressing herself into his back. With that one gesture, Mai tried to convey her love, her sorrow, her sympathy, her own terrible ache.
He had been up most of the night, pacing and worrying, wondering what words he could possibly say at his uncle's funeral. So Mai had corralled him and brought him back to their bed, doing her best to bring him slumber. He had promised to sleep in, forget about the day's worries and just rest. But sleep couldn't be forced and he refused to drink any kind of sleep aide concocted by the palace herbalist. Maybe he didn't want to give up dominion over his own body. There was precious little else in the world he could control. Mai understood that. She understood it all but she hated to see him so very, very tired and so very, very despondent.
"I couldn't, Mai."
"Shh," she soothed. "I know, I know." She relinquished her hold on his waist and moved around to face him. Cupping his cheek, she moved her thumb along the rough stubble that darkened the pale skin of cheeks and chin. "You need a bath. And you need to eat. I'll take care of everything."
He knew that she hurt too. Iroh and Mai had been close. But somehow, the morass of his own grief kept pulling him down, further and further, until he found himself barely able to breathe sometimes. It wasn't fair to Mai. She needed and deserved comfort too. And she wasn't getting it. There was guilt then as well and that combined with his pain, crippled Zuko almost completely.
But she seemed to welcome his intense need for her now during this terrible time; he took from her and she gave willingly. No words were exchanged. They were unnecessary. Zuko, despite the cloudy haze of his grief, had never loved her more.
The Fire Lady led Zuko by the hand, like a small child, into the spacious bathroom. She began to fill the tub and ordered him to heat the water.
"Hot," she demanded.
He obeyed, his movements all reflex and instinct. Mai added oils to the water, wonderful smelling things that were supposed to relax and soothe both body and mind. Zuko stood by the tub, staring into the water, his face blank, eyes far away and sad, so sad.
"Come here." Mai urged him back toward her with that gritty voice. It stirred something in Zuko, some other instinct. She pulled down his sleep pants. Zuko lifted his feet automatically. He stood naked before her, partially aroused. Mai swallowed hard and tried not to stare. "Bath first," she muttered. "Then maybe another one."
She slipped off her own nightgown and they were on equal footing then. Zuko eyed her like some starving animal and a hand reached out to brush against her breast. Mai gasped at his touch and felt that very familiar wetness between her thighs. It filled her with wonder how close she was to arousal every moment she spent with Zuko. Her love for him was so vast and so deep, her desire for him and for his body so intense, it almost swallowed her whole. That profound want didn't make her less an individual; no, her immersion in Zuko's being and he in hers, somehow made her more Mai, a better Mai, the Mai she years ago hoped that she would become.
"I know. Into the bath first; let me take care of you."
The tub was large enough to fit them both comfortably with lots of room to spare. Mai ladled water onto Zuko's head until his hair was completely wet. She chose a shampoo then, something with a vaguely masculine scent, and put some in the palm of her hand. She rubbed her hands together, forming a thick lather, then gently massaged Zuko's scalp. He groaned and leaned his head forward, into Mai's touch. Her hands moved downward then, through the length of his hair, making certain it was clean.
"Okay?" she asked. Mai tilted his head back up and kissed him full on the lips. She could feel his hardness against her and stroked it with touches lighter than a sweet spring breeze.
He trembled and let out a breath, a long shuddering sigh that broke Mai's heart. Tears stood out in his eyes. She kissed each one as it fell, tasting them with her tongue, making them a part of herself.
"Let me rinse your hair out; then I'll get to the rest of you." She ladled warm water over Zuko's head. "Heat the water some more." Mai felt cold all of a sudden, even so close to Zuko's natural heat.
The Fire Lord called up that inner fire and suddenly the water felt like a hot spring. The warmth seeped into Mai's muscles and bones, easing some of the discomfort she felt. Ever since word of Iroh's death had arrived, the young woman had pushed down her stress and her worry and her sorrow, focusing all her attention on Zuko. He was like a needy child, taking and taking without thought and she gave with grace. Her husband needed her now more than he ever had and she was not about to abandon him. Her pain could wait.
Taking a sponge next, Mai scrubbed Zuko's body, gathering up the suds from the surface of the water and rubbing them into his pale skin. She paid special attention to the scar on his torso, that angry starburst Azula had given him. Dropping the sponge, she inched forward and kissed Zuko's stomach. Her lips moved upward and across the breadth of his chest. She took one nipple into her mouth and then the other, enjoying the pleased sounds that Zuko uttered. His beautiful gold eyes were closed; and yes, they were both beautiful to Mai, the perfect one and the damaged one, both an integral part of this man she loved more than reason permitted.
One hand crept below the water, fingertips walking along a firm thigh, until they reached Zuko's manhood. She stroked again, her movements rougher this time. Zuko arched his back and smacked his head against the edge of the marble tub. His eyes flew open. They were clear and focused and all they saw were Mai's lips, parted slightly, pink and kissable. He took over.
He attacked her mouth first, kissing her savagely, thrusting his tongue in and out, a parody of intercourse. His hands cupped her breasts; they squeezed hard, fingers pinching the nipples. Mai moaned into his mouth and pushed herself against him, eager for as much contact as possible. Desperate now to get inside Mai, Zuko grabbed her by the waist and hauled her out of the tub, depositing her on her hands and knees. Water sloshed up over the edge and onto the tile floor, miniature tidal waves.
Her knees hurt, digging into the unresisting floor, and water dripped from her body, hesitating at the ends of her hair and her nipples before letting go and hitting the gleaming tiles with soft plopping noises. Zuko's hands on Mai's hips were insistent and powerful; his fingertips dug into the flesh, leaving bruises. Her husband entered her without further preamble, filling her completely before pulling out and then pounding into her again. His hands grew warmer with every thrust and soon the heat on Mai's tender flesh was almost unbearable.
She bit her lip and endured, and some part of her enjoyed the pain; combined with the pleasure of Zuko's member ratcheting in and out, in and out, the stimulation to that amazing bundle of nerves, the seat of sexual ecstasy for women, and his overwhelming need and desire for her, the heat provided an intense counterpoint.
Her whole body flushed and felt warm and Mai knew that her climax was imminent. Eager now for her release, she met Zuko's thrusts with her own, slamming her behind back into Zuko. He grunted at the forcefulness of her movements and gripped her even harder. Mai began to tremble. Her muscles twitched and her heart beat like that of a scared rabbit's. Overcome by the sheer physical joy and the connection with her husband, Mai wept.
Zuko spilled his seed inside her moments later. Calmed, he placed kisses along her spine, stopping at each little bump, careful not to forget one. He eased himself out and pulled her on top of him, kissing her mouth then and her cheeks, her eyes and her forehead. He brushed back her hair and told her with his eyes how much she meant to him, how much she was adored and cherished.
They almost forgot about Iroh's death, lying together, limbs combined, sated and tired. Mai didn't want to mention it. She wanted to push the knowledge aside. Today could be like those other days when Iroh still lived; sweet and untainted by grief. But that was childish and irresponsible. Zuko needed to accept and move forward, tortuous though that process might be.
"Zuko," she whispered in his ear.
She led him back into the bath and they both cleaned up. Dressed in simple clothes, Mai ordered breakfast and coaxed food into her husband.
"Iroh's gone. He's really gone."
Zuko broke down and sobbed. Every pained sound wrenched at Mai's heart. Her own cheeks were damp once more. Cradling him close, Mai brought his head to her shoulder, smoothing down his hair like she might a distraught child's.
"I know and it's terrible and I miss him, Zuko."
He continued to cry.
Iroh had been ill for a while and Zuko had insisted he come back to the Fire Nation to be close to his family. They hadn't spoken of death, but it loomed, a ravenous spectre never satisfied, always looking for more. And when Iroh finally succumbed, after a gallant battle, Zuko broke.
It was Mai who sent letters to those who needed to know. Mai arranged the ceremony. Mai planned their trip to the Earth Kingdom where some of Iroh's ashes would be placed with those of Lu Ten. Mai kept Zuko sane.
But after the small gathering of those closest to Iroh endured the burning ritual, The Fire Lord emerged from beneath the heavy pall of grief, clear eyed and determined. He no longer worried about what to say when they buried a tiny, beautiful urn in the palace gardens, beneath a simple stone bearing Iroh's name.
It wouldn't matter to Iroh if Zuko made some flowery, eloquent speech praising the man's accomplishments. He put no worth in such things. So Zuko spoke directly from his soul. His words were unrehearsed and spontaneous and moved everyone much more so than any rehearsed speech ever could.
When the others had left, and they were alone with their grief once more, Mai and Zuko remained in the gardens. They sat together on the soft grass, warmed by the sun, shoulders touching, looking at the stone.
"Are you okay?" Zuko let his hand rest on his wife's thigh for a moment. "You, well, I was so needy. Do you need to be needy now?"
His words were stumbling and sweet, so typical of Zuko. Mai rolled her eyes but she blinked back tears too. "Yeah," she answered. "I need to be needy."
"Then take…..I'm here."