ice_of_dreams: (desolate)
[personal profile] ice_of_dreams
Story Title: Like Moths to the Flame
Rating: R/M
Pair ups: Mai/Zuko
Summary:
Mai wants the world to know that the Fire Lord has chosen her, but Zuko resists the way she wants to go about it.

Warnings: Just a little tie me up, tie me down. Some innuendo. Nothing explicit. And post season 3.

Set after Control. However that's an NC-17 fic, and if you're uncomfortable with that, a completely sanitized version of that fic can be foundhere and of course this fic can stand alone. Sort of like Zuko.



Disclaimer:Avatar: The Last Airbender sprouted from the brilliant minds of Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, and is owned by Nickelodeon. I'm borrowing Mai and Zuko for a while. I promise I'll return them with no bleeding this time and just slightly sore wrists.


Like Moths to the Flame



Sometimes, Zuko just lay down on Mai's lap soaking the sun in the afternoon. It was quite lazy, and something he could only indulge in at least once in a week. But he liked keeping her company when she was reading or throwing knives.

She wasn't demanding when he wanted time alone. But one hand always trailed along his spine, or his cheek, or was mussing his hair. She never noticed doing it, but Mai was starved for contact. She loved touching him, even when she wasn't aware of it.

These types of days lulled him into settling peace, so he didn't quite catch her suggestion the first time. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"

She waited patiently until she had all of his attention. And she was sure she was going to get it. Zuko always focused his attention, especially on her. "I said, you should burn me a little."

He scrambled up to a sitting position and looked at her. No, she didn't have that maniacal look in her eye. She looked determined and utterly serious. "Are you crazy? I've been so careful of you! You have such nice skin and..." he trailed off at her deadpan look.

Her skin was smooth, alabaster. If she was naked in the evening, he swore it could glow in the moonlight. It was a body his flame almost worshipped. Down to the small birthmark on her hip. The dark, dark mole at the base of her spine, where her back met her ass. It was marble, and he was an artist. She was a goddess, and he was her supplicant. She couldn't be serious.

She brought the scroll she was reading to his face and showed him a small design. It was a Fire Nation emblem, probably Sozin's because it had the comet prominently in it. "Something like this, you know, but small. But large enough that when people see they're going to know I'm yours."

"Are you asking me to — to, brand you?" he asked her incredulously. He felt sick. She was usually so careful with him. She never touched things that could make him queasy. She pushed his boundaries, but she'd never asked something that could break him. This could shatter him completely.

"Well that's one way of putting it," her tone was flat now as she dropped her hand towards the grass. She raised her shoulder. As if she didn't care. But he'd learned that the more deadpan she was, the more that things mattered to her.

"No, Mai, No..." he brought his hand up to hide his scar. Sometimes when he looked at the mirror and covered his face, he could see it whole again. He wanted her to see that. How to explain that she would understand? "This is a brand my father gave me. And it hurt like hell when he gave it, and I don't want to hurt you. What you're asking me, it's almost like you're asking me to be my father."

He had a larger scar on his chest, the one from Azula, but that wasn't quite the same. She reached out to cup his hand. She scooted closer then settled her forehead against his. "Does it hurt now?"

He shook his head. Sometimes, there were twinges of pain from it. And it didn't feel like the rest of his skin. The large patch of skin could feel pressure but it couldn't feel light touch. And when you pressed it hard enough, it could feel pain. On any other part of his body pressure was a heavy thing, but on his face it was sharp and stinging. Like his father burned away the good feelings and left all of the bad. It was dark and it was ugly, and he'd accepted that it was part of him, but he wanted her spared of it. "I don't want to do it, Mai."

She considered, using her other hand to hold his neck as she looked him in the eye. "Is that a hard boundary, soldier?"

He swallowed. When she referred to him like that, she wasn't asking as Mai. She was asking as his Queen. They used it for sexual games, but she used it to dominate him too. It forced him to consider what he was going to say, because she would take it seriously. But he couldn't answer off-handedly; he had to know her side of it too. Maybe he could live with it. "Do you want it badly? Why do you want to do it?"

She let him go, and then lay back on the grass staring up at the leaves of the Royal Flame tree that shadowed their garden. The leaves were small, but were currently interspersed with the little red flowers that had earned its name, with its orange center. "It's hard for me to care about a lot of things. Everything is intense with you Zuko. And that's all right. I bank your flames and you kindle mine. But I want everyone to know that I belong to you. Despite the fact that I don't seem to care. I do care about you."

She spoke romance when she said things like this. Mai may look like she didn't feel, but she felt strongly. Under that cool facade, Mai felt the world through this veil. When she was with him, he felt like he tore her shields, forcing her to feel too much. But she knew that, she accepted it. There was something liberating about being with someone who only cared about you. He knew Mai would never tire of him, because it was against her nature to care for too many. She depended on him that way. And he depended on her because of it.

She banked his flames. She helped him maintain control. He lost control with her, but she controlled him. Control flowed from both of them pushing and pulling like the moon pulled the tides. He was sure any other lover would have been scarred. Irreparably, irrevocably scarred, because only Mai could tame him. Some firebenders hurt the ones they love frequently. Because they lose control. She made sure that when he lost control she snapped him back to it.

"I know that," Zuko protested. He found space to press against her side, lying down facing her, watching her watch the sky. He wanted his love to be enough for her. "We don't need to tell the world about it. I don't need you to care about the world Mai. It's enough for me that you care about me."

"Is it, really?" She turned to look at him. "We're marrying Zuko. And we've had the luxury of pretending that the world doesn't exist outside the both of us because we've been separate entities. But when I marry you, people are going to expect me to care about them. I knew that when we decided to do this. I knew that when I decided to become the consort to the Fire Lord.

"But this court.... It's always going to remember that I'm aloof, that I'm cold to them. The ladies will try harder to proposition you. A Royal Mistress is a much sought after position Zuko, and second wife, first consort, they'll want those positions. They'll remember that I'm cold, and they'll think they're better."

"Nobody would dare proposition me!" Zuko raged. He saw red. There hadn't been any royal mistresses. His father didn't have any, and Sozin didn't have any. But maybe he'd been too young to care or to see or to understand. The Fire Lord's suites are massive and he had consorts rooms. He just hadn't bothered to populate it because Mai was with him. Mai was enough for him. He didn't care if the scrolls say spending yang in different women and gaining yin would promote health and foster immortality.

Mai smiled a little, tugged on a stray lock of hair that fell out of his topknot. "You're so dense. Everyone wants to get into the Fire Lord's bed. They smile behind little fans and talk innuendos which you masterfully ignore because you don't know." And because theirs was a culture that allowed it.

He spluttered for a moment. When that died down he went back to his previous protest. He would. He had a one track mind. "That still doesn't explain why you want a brand!"

"Because it would remind them that you chose me. That I'm yours. That you burn enough for me to burn me." She wanted it enough to plead for it. She felt strongly about this. "And when you're with your third concubine, and your fourth, I would remember the pain of this and I would remember to feel something when you don't remember me anymore."

"No, Mai, I would never——" He swallowed several times willing his tongue to work. He found that he couldn't. He hadn't found the right words. He didn't understand why she didn't understand. He didn't understand why she trusted court politics more than him. He loved her enough not to hurt her. He loved her enough to stay.

She touched his lips with her fingers, silencing him. "There's no definite stone set in court. They might ask it of you. I might not be able to produce children. You just don't know." Unspoken was the fact that he'd already left her twice. And the fact that as Fire Lord, his advisers had the ability to force her into a unilateral divorce. The mere objection to him taking a concubine is ground for divorce. "You love your honor more than you love me. I understand. And it hurts, but I always knew Zuko wouldn't be Zuko otherwise."

How could she even think that? Because he'd left her twice. But Agni, Mai! I've left a lot of things behind before. I've left people before, uncle, mother... but I've always come back for you. She'd given him a blow that he didn't think he could recover from. Mai... Mai, you do know how to flay a man's soul.

They were just weeks away from the wedding. Was he so dense that he never really felt this much unrest from Mai? He buried his face in her hair. Fire blossoms. He pulled her up. It was the middle of the day. He'd sought her out because he'd just finished a meeting with his war ministers. They always caused him headaches. That and because he hadn't paid her bride price yet, they were going through the motions slowly because there was only so much wedding traditions that could be fit in the Fire Lord's schedule.

He forced himself to consider her words. Because this was Mai. And because he loved her, he wanted to consider what she wanted. He undressed her slowly behind that large Royal Flame tree that hid this little part of the garden from the rest of the palace and admired her waxen skin.

He trailed his fingers, over her neck, her nape, her breast, her hip. Touching was his compass when he was with her. She didn't flinch. Mai was the perfect statue when she wanted to be. "If we were to do it, where would you want it?"

She gathered her hair and exposed the back of her neck to him. It was a spot he favored touching with her. He kissed her softly there now. She shuddered. He flicked open a small flame in his palm and brought it close to her. She didn't flinch. Mai was not a bender, but she didn't balk when fire was brought close. She looked at him then started to touch him, feeling her way through the arm that held his flame. When her fingers were near his hand, she closed her hands over the fire and brought his hand against her lips kissing the knuckles slowly, looking him directly in the eye.

He'd extinguished the flame before her hand closed on his palm, but he'd been more scared than she was. She rubbed her cheek against his knuckles. "That's why I'm not scared of it, Zuko. You wouldn't hurt me on purpose."

But you'd hurt me by doing it. Maybe she didn't understand that he'd lose part of himself if he did something to damage her. She brought him closer for a kiss. He kissed her. She clung to him, as if she just hadn't scared him. As if she just hadn't hurt him.

He broke off the kiss. She leaned forward, missing his touch. A little empty that he'd left her. He fetched her clothes and draped it around her. "Who is it, Mai? Who's been hurting you?"

She looked away. She wouldn't have asked if someone wasn't bothering her with it. He swore. Then he pulled her towards the palace. "Zuko——" she protested weakly. She wasn't fully dressed. He looked at her. Her clothes were all untied but she was completely covered.

He ended up carrying her. She protested, but he didn't listen to it much. They ignored a lot of each other's protests, he noticed. She thought they would end up in his room, but he'd deposited her in his study. He took her clothes off again. This time she put her hands on her hip in indignation.

"It couldn't be Lady Ning Chai Chun and Lady Yee is too old. And frankly Lady Sou-Ching is too butt ugly to insinuate that she could warm my bed," he ticked off different names, but she was stoic. "Lord Jiang? No?" He snapped his fingers. "Lady Hania. Has to be." He opened a large walk in closet and emptied out the area, stuffing piles of paper into another closet. Once he was certain the space was tolerable he looked at her.

He held out his palm. "Knives, Mai."

She gave them up with little resistance. He kissed her again. She glared at him. "You're planning to tie me up, in this closet, for the entire day, aren't you?"

"I love how you think, Mai." He cut her dress into little pieces with her knives and proceeded to do as she suggested. He rarely tied Mai up; she was usually the one tying him down. But she appreciated not being able to move. Being physically restrained was sometimes more liberating than being free. "Just think. I'll be over at that desk thinking about you and I'll try to have self control while I meet all of these people who've been causing you trouble."

"I want you now, Zuko." But she knew that they were fragile enough together as it is. And they wouldn't come together while there was hurt. She understood the need for him to do it alone too; else she would be struggling more. If it seemed like she was dictating him, the ladies would think that he was too weak to rule. If it seemed like he was ignoring her, the ladies would think they had a clear chance with him. Balance.

"And we must learn patience, Mai," he reminded her as he arranged her in his closet. He threaded loose cloths she was bound with through hooks that at one time could have held clothes but were now holding more than enough paperwork. He looked at her bound in his closet, tilted his head, tested the bindings and asked, "Would this be uncomfortable, this position?"

She tested it. Her arms were held up over her head, but the bonds were supporting it, and the walls of the closet were small enough to rest against it. He'd jammed what was left of her clothes at her back as a cushion. She was sitting, but her thighs were permanently spread apart by the cloth too. She shook her head. "You'd see everything in the room through the slats of the cabinet. I used to hide here before. Try to be silent, Mai. We're one upping them, and I really, really don't want to gag you."

He didn't think it would be necessary, but Mai loved to be threatened sometimes. And heat sparked in her eyes when she suggested it. He wanted her there because he needed her to keep him sane through what he was going to do. And she needed to see how he was going to treat all of them.

He closed the cabinet door. She'd see everything in the room. He cleaned up the mess he'd done with the scrolls and called out to one of his personal servants to bring in the set of aristocrats he wanted. Then he sat behind his desk to wait for them.

The first lady arrived, and now that Mai had ripped the veil out of his eyes, he observed her for what she truly was. He didn't know how he'd stand to be in their presence again after this. Not without Mai. He was going to get married, and how was he going to juggle the politics of their power with the need to keep himself sane?

"My lord, how delightful that you wanted to meet with me today," she was slightly breathless, and he wasn't sure if it was because she had rushed to meet the summons, or because she wanted to look alluring. Zuko supposed it didn't matter either way. "Would you want to handle my pearls again?"

He gripped his desk almost painfully. Damnit, it wasn't even that subtle. He heard Mai's hiss across the room. "I'm not interested in your jewelry, Lady Hania. I think it's time you see to that industry though. Your parents are overlooking a fishing village just north of here. I would be pleased if you take your knowledge of your pearls and enlighten them there."

"Oh but, my lord, it would be so dreadfully boring there without your stimulating company. Who would I offer all of the cream I've made?" She pouted and leaned forward. Zuko heard Mai growl, but Hania through self-preservation or through ignorance, didn't seem to notice. It would do a lot of world of good for Lady Hania, if Mai and her knives didn't get close to her right now. He could warn Hania off Mai, but that might just prompt Mai to kill the woman now. Regardless of Mai's state of undress. And Hania hadn't crossed an uncrossable line. She'd made life uncomfortable, but it wasn't grounds enough to banish people. "Maybe I could stay here in the palace and entertain you. I make wonderful Fire Blood Soup. I'm sure Lady Mai would appreciate the help."

Zuko did not want to try to decipher what the sentences meant. He knew if he figured it out, he might just kill someone. Things might start exploding. Tonight. In this room. And Mai was not going to prove a restraining influence. He counted to ten. When that didn't help him, he tried for a higher number. He gave up when Hania opened her mouth again, and he headed her off.

"Mai and I dance around each other likes moths to a flame, Lady Hania. When we're with each other, I'm afraid, there is no one else. We consume each other completely that there's nothing left to give." He gathered himself. He hadn't meant to say that. It had left him vulnerable to Hania in some way because he had bared his love for Mai. He had wanted to tell that to Mai, but she was relegated to hearing it second hand. "I would really appreciate it if you take the time to look at the jewels in that village, Lady Hania. With your discerning eye, I would learn enough from that industry."

She pouted. Okay it was time to dismiss her before she thought of another proposition. Or if she got desperate enough to try to touch him. He wasn't sure Mai was up to seeing him touched by someone else right now. "Thank you for your time, Lady Hania, please tell my steward to wait a couple more minutes before he sends the next one in?"

She rose gracefully from her chair. Gave him what he supposed was a sultry look, but to him looked like she had indigestion, and left the room.

He opened the closet. Mai lunged at him. To his credit the bonds held. "Damn it, Zuko. I hate seeing her with you."

"Kiss me to make me feel clean again?" he pleaded before leaning in towards her to take what he'd asked. He breathed in her clean scent and he took from her what peace the other woman had stolen. "Agni wept, Mai, how am I going to get through this without you?"

"It is the reason why I am currently tied in your closet," Mai reminded him as he kissed her neck. He bit her hard there in reprimand and rubbed at the red discoloration he left. He smiled.

"That and I was scared that now that I've forced the issue you'd start hurting them," he joked. She must have had urges to do it before. All bets were off now that it was acknowledged openly between them.

"You are most definitely, a moron," Mai said, but her golden eyes were starting to get glassy and she leaned back towards the closet. "Zuko, stop, you're not going to have time for more." She groaned as he found her pulse at the other side of her neck. "Oh Agni, you're going to keep torturing me after every woman aren't you?"

"You should have told me earlier about it, Mai." He bit down at the juncture of her neck and collar bone. She groaned, then he licked the spot to soothe it. "It's a punishment too."

There was a scratch on the door, so Zuko pulled apart from Mai, kissed her one last time and closed the walk in closet. He heard her muffled curse as he straightened and went back to his chair. He took a deep breath and called out, "Come in."

oOo


She didn't know how many he had on the damnable list of his. Lady Hania was the only one who he'd sent away. He had managed to express to everyone else that he was clearly off limits. Not that they'd stop trying, but he was being less vague now that he knew.

It was touching that he thought of her that way. But laws on concubinage were in place to keep the line alive. She didn't see Zuko entertaining hundreds and thousands of concubines. But if he wanted he could.

He had come back after every one. He saw to her needs, rearranged her when he thought she was uncomfortable. He kissed her like there was no one waiting for them. He kissed her and kept her on the edge for him. He treated her like a cleansing flame, as if she purified his soul.

As though she'd summoned him by thinking of it, he opened the closet door again. He untied her and massaged her arms. "Mai, Mai, what good is being Fire Lord if I can't get what I want? Let's make tons of children." He pressed at her stomach. "Let's not give them reason to see this match as bad."

"Yes, Fire Lord. Let's go to bed," Mai ordered as she snuggled deeply into is arms. She was only wearing her underclothes. He might as well carry her to his rooms. She opened her eyes a fraction, she shouldn't forget this part. "And Zuko?"

"Hmm?" He asked as he took his outer robe off and draped her with it before carrying her in his arms.

"I'm sorry," Mai mumbled. She shouldn't have asked about the burn. It was irresponsible, and she should have known him better than that.

"I know, fire of my heart," Zuko answered softly as he kissed her forehead. All was forgiven. "I know."

Previous || Masterpost || Next

Non NC-17 Timeline || Next





Author's Notes

Oh... god. I don't know how this ended up like this. I just really wanted for Mai to ask for a burn mark. I mean it seemed like a logical idea, and some fics do have Mai getting burned by Zuko's flame during the heat of the moment. But Zuko resisted the idea so badly.

I was afraid I was going to break him if Mai pushed. This wasn't an irrational fear in Zuko. He understood the power of his flame, he wasn't scared of the flame, and he wasn't scared without BASIS with regard to hurting Mai. I just couldn't see Zuko burning anyone after his father did it to him, and it wouldn't have been logical for Mai to push for it when he had good reasons not to.

AND it was supposed to be Mai's turn today. I was thinking already of all the nice things that they could do when she demanded this of him. Gah. I should have just demanded Zuko to ask Mai to burn him, to cover up all his scars. Because he wants her mark instead... .... hmmm.... well... there's an idea. *frustrated huff*

They ended up hurting me a lot. And it ended up not being a smutty fic at all! *stomps feet*

The reason why I wanted to write MaixZuko was because there was not enough smut of them around. And they started fine because they wanted each other so badly. Now they just want to cuddle. *hmph* :)

But Mai's concerns are also valid. Concubinage was a large part of Chinese culture until around the 1940's so, there are a couple of movies that I've seen that deal with it.

And I think I over did it with the fire metaphors. Uhuh.

Oh, and I also have this nasty scar on my leg. I fell down the steps and skinned my leg really bad, it needed stitches but I didn't know and let it heal over without said stitches. So yeah. Scars do feel like that. Go figure.

And lastly: Royal Poinciana Flame trees do exist. I have one just outside my window. It blooms every summer. Very good nice Flamey tree.

Date: 2010-09-27 05:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ixmythot.livejournal.com
And even more beyond words, do I find myself after this. I was worried at first, Mai's obsession over branding, but every little bit after that was perfect in how it dealt with that. Poor Zuko, so unused to court intrigue. Poor Mai, so unused to how overprotective Zuko is of her, and of appearing to be like Ozai or Sozin. Poor cleaning staff, for having to clean and replace so many pairs of clothing the two mess up.


Though, I suppose it's understandable. Zuko, not having the freedom anymore that his friends now have, should get more rewards for having to rule an entire country.

Date: 2010-09-27 05:26 am (UTC)
ext_190683: (desolate)
From: [identity profile] ice-of-dreams.livejournal.com
Yeah, that's how I felt about it when I wrote it too. I was too worried about this little question of Mai's. It was also a response after I saw a fic of Mai being severely burned by Zuko's flame. I can't remember the fic's name. It was well written, but I just couldn't see it with Zuko.

He's s been groomed as the heir until 13 anyway. He couldn't have been taught about that side of politics when he was thirteen.

All too true.

Date: 2010-09-27 05:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yukinoomoni.livejournal.com
I actually think the way you have Zuko reacting to Mai's request is perfectly in character. He would be careful of his fire when with her, and he would resist marking her that way - his reactions to her request were perfect.

The thing with this ship is that there is a LOT of passionate sexiness... but also a lot of soft and sugary cuddling in the mix.

And the fic itself is sensual even without the actual feature of sex, all while addressing Mai's doubts and concerns and Zuko's reaction to them. Her fears, I find, are justified - and the way she handles them realistic - but Zuko's own response is also justified and realistic as well.

All in all, this was really well done. Thank you so much for sharing it!

Date: 2010-09-29 04:04 am (UTC)
ext_190683: (nabiki)
From: [identity profile] ice-of-dreams.livejournal.com
As I said, he resisted doing it sooo badly. :) I may have wanted to do it, but the character really, really didn't.

Thanks for the comments on the characterization in the fic. I actually wrote this because ficdom I always see Zuko getting doubts when they marry, but there's nothing on Mai's side of things. I'm pretty sure there are a lot of Zuko self doubting going on, but Mai probably has one or two as well.

And of course written on Chinese culture of concubinage which fanfiction has mainly just relegated to the side and pretty much ignored. It was largely still alive in teh early 1940's so there's no reason to pussyfoot around it. Zuko may not want concubines, but the fact remains that they're going to be wanting him. :)

:) Thanks for R&Ring. :)

Date: 2010-11-10 06:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dark-malignity.livejournal.com
nice :D

concubinage and children were two problems i would have liked to see addressed more often in fanverse XD

traditional javanese medicine says that thinness and paleness are usually indicative of "cold blood". this condition supposedly makes it hard for women to conceive. the solution is to eat heaty foods and do traditional massage to get the blood flowing.

TCM seems to have something similar going, where paleness and coldness is indivative of "not enough blood". the solution is to eat heaty foods and do acupuncture to get the blood flowing.

western tradition on the other hand, talks about large hips being condusive to childbearing.

so isnt it interesting that the Fire Lord is thin and pale with not much of a curve? (And that he seems like the monogamous type). I can already imagine the people at court freaking out. *grinz*

Date: 2010-11-10 06:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dark-malignity.livejournal.com
TYPO!!! i mean the Fire Lord's *woman*

LMAO the fire lord is thin and pale OTL OTL OTL

Date: 2010-11-10 07:02 pm (UTC)
ext_190683: (poison)
From: [identity profile] ice-of-dreams.livejournal.com
Haha ok. Thanks for the comments, they're really insightful. I should go and ask you if you know any justice fables/myths set in eastern society back in feudal times. I want to do a fic on that and I am STUMPED.

Date: 2010-11-10 07:00 pm (UTC)
ext_190683: (sex)
From: [identity profile] ice-of-dreams.livejournal.com
I think tis is mostly because Eastern medicine focuses on elements. In my couontry, traditional medicine needs to balance wind, fluids, heat, cold and a component not easily translatable but could be loosely defined as 'curses'. Mostly Western medicine has taken over practices here, that no one does traditional massages and herbal remedies except in really far flung areas.

Western tradition makes some sense because the wider hips does accomodate thebaby through the pelvis. CS indications include a small pelvis during pelvimetry.

Yeah Zuko infertile and only one kid. The scandal. Haha.

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