Mai stood at the door, leaning against its frame. She let her eyes roam over the figure that stood a few feet away. Just a few feet.
A few days ago, when she would be locked inside that cold cell, she would be angry at him for leaving her behind, for not giving her the opportunity to choose to go with him. But right now, she couldn't care less. Because she knew that he had been so close to dying and just the thought made her want to run at him and keep him in her arms.
She observed as he struggled to put on his robe, his muscles tense under his pale skin. She had never regretted the decision of saving him; she had never regretted standing up against Azula. Knowing that he was safe was the only thing that kept her composed during her imprisonment.
When she heard him moan in pain, she decided to let him know that she was there. "You need some help with that?" She asked, taking some steps closer. She couldn't help the smile that appeared on her face when he turned around eagerly.
"Mai!" A smile spread across his face and he couldn't contain the urge to run to her and take her in his arms. "You're okay!" He said with a relieved sigh. He was aware of what his sister was capable of. She wouldn't show mercy even when it came to her friends. After the events at the boiling rock, Zuko would always stay awake at night, thinking if he had done the right thing for leaving Mai deal with Azula. The scenario that she could have killed Maihis Mai, the only person that he loved with all of his heart beside his unclecrossed his mind more than once and it made his heart ache. But now she was here. With him. And that was all that mattered. "They let you out of prison?"
His eyes stayed focused on the smile that had settled on her lips and he let her help him with the red robe. Tying the sash around his waist, her fingers brushed against his skin. He shuddered at the touch that he had missed so much during those long weeks away from her. "My uncle pulled some strings." She told him casually, as if they were talking about weather. "And it doesn't hurt when the new Firelord is your boyfriend."
Zuko's smile widened at the last word and his head was filled with doubts and hopes. "So does this mean you don't hate me anymore?" He asked, his voice dripping with hope.
"I think it means
" Mai started, her cheeks turning into a bright red. Zuko thought that it was a good look on herthe striking contrast between her blush and the paleness of her skin made her even more beautiful. "I actually kind of like you."
Zuko's eyes gleamed with happiness. He knew that this was a big confession from a girl that hardly expressed herself. And he knew that going from 'I don't hate you' to 'like you' was a big step.
Aching for her touch, his hands found their way to the back of her head as she cupped his neck. His lips landed on hers and none of them would have noticed even if there was another war going on. He had missed the feeling of her lips, soft and delicate against his. He had missed everything about herthe feeling of her silky hair between his fingers, the feeling of her soft skin under his rough fingertips, her vanilla scent, the taste of her lips. He had missed everything.
"But don't you ever, ever break up with me again." She threatened when they finally pulled apart, every word accompanied by a jab of her index finger on his shoulder.
He smiled uneasily and when he saw her teasing smile, he pulled her in his arms, hugging her close to his heart. Right now, he couldn't care less for the pain. "I wouldn't even if you wanted me to." He answered, smiling contently.
Yes, he had left her behind to protect her. He had lived as a traitor long enough to know the consequences and he didn't want this life for her. He didn't want people to point at her and accuse her like they did with him. No, he loved her to much to do this to her.
Some minutes passed like this, with them hugging, when Mai finally sighed, taking a step back. She looked down at the bandages on his chest and frowned, her fingers caressing the white fabric. "I can't believe I almost lost you." She whispered, her eyes gleaming with unshed tears. "If it weren't for Katara you
" She trailed off, unable to say the words.
Zuko took her hands in his, running his thumbs across her knuckles. "Hey, I'm alive." He said, hoping that those small words would give her some comfort. He still couldn't wrap his mind around the idea of how much she cared.
"I know and that's all that matters." She snuggled closer to his chest again, as he held her right hand above his heart.
That was when her sleeve slid down, revealing her wrist. He gasped when he saw that the usually perfect pale skin had been replaced by purplish and yellowish bruises. "Mai." He whispered brokenly, tracing the injured skin with his fingertips.
Mai winced a bit in pain but quickly composed herself. "I was tied on a wall with chains. What did you expect?"
Just the thought that she had been hurteven when it was so minorit made him want to kill Azula and slap himself for not being there to prevent this.
"Azula is going to pay for this." He promised, kissing the bruised skin. "I can't believe you went through all of these for me." He whispered, resting his forehead on hers.
"It was worth it." She whispered back and kissed him again, before he had time to say anything else.
This kiss was more passionate and it expressed everything that words couldn't say. It was intoxicating and it left both of them craving for more.
When they pulled back, Mai took a step back. "You need to get ready for the coronation." She said with a disappointed sigh. "I'll see you later." With that, she started walking out of the room.
"Mai!" Zuko's voice stopped her and she looked behind her shoulder. "I kind of like you, too." He said, earning a big smile. Love was more like it, but he kept it for a more special occasion.
The evening left Zuko with a new discovery: Dreams did come true, after all.