Breath caught in her slender throat at the innocent proposition— less so in regard to the context, but in the rasp that it was delivered. Words such as those struck her ears time and time again, were written on the ring she forced back, the tears she plead he was unable to shed.
“What do you mean by old times?” She began coldly, “For it to be like old times we’d have to be fighting, and you’d have to be lying about—” Stop it, Mai. No use in digging up old graves. Swallowing hard on the thought, the anger boiling in her chest, she turned with a sour grimace, “Fine.”
What in Agni’s name would Ty Lee say? It had been a few weeks since their relationship had grown into anything notable, but perhaps it was best to keep from Zuko’s attention. “Sit down… I’ll make the tea. You’re terrible at it.”
He followed her direction, compliant to sit, but his lips opened to protest her statement; he resented anyone who insisted his tea-making skills hadn’t in the least improved. However, the quip fell short, and instead a hapless sigh escaped his lips, “Fine.”
Instead, he scowled at her previous statement—that the culmination of their past, their ‘old times’, consisted of fighting and lying. If that were the case, he certainly wouldn’t be here. That segment of their relationship was but a crack in a more profound tie they shared. Though he wouldn’t dare remind her of that now—he could hardly bear the thought of reminding himself.
Zuko swallowed as he crossed his ankles beneath the table, not watching her prepare the tea—he idly wondered if she would remember the way he preferred his drink prepared: dried green leaves over steaming water, a cane of sugar, and a dash of cinnamon.
Rigidly she rose from her seated position, unsure whether to catch his gaze or remain disconnected. All too soon, the silence between them was breached in a cough, a light clearing of an otherwise constricted throat— Agni, why did he come now?
“Well, with all this nothing lying around, I’m not sure I can fit you into my schedule.” Hazy golden eyes wandered up his familiar figure; the recognizable build, the set of his jaw, the heart wrenching scar upon his cheek. “Did Mom just let you in—? Or have you taken to the life of crime and simply break in?”
There was something in her tone that made his chest twitch, if only because he was amused that her demeanor had hardly changed in the long months they had spent apart.
“Yeah,” he answered in a short breath he wasn’t aware he was holding in. “If I wanted to break in I’d just come through your window.” He swayed awkwardly on his feet as his eyes remained downturned. “But you wouldn’t like that.”
And he was suddenly feeling as if she didn’t want him here at all; perhaps he should follow those wishes as well. If he were in a considerate, he would have left then. “I wanted to know if you’d share a pot of tea. With me…like old times?” he tried.
So, this was it. Eventually one side had to cave, give in to the other and visit— if only for a short while.
But that wouldn’t make it easy.
If there was a word to describe the feeling of his name on her lips, Zuko would not be able to conjure it. A wave of memories crashed down around him at all at once.
“Mai,” he breathed, incapable of looking her directly in the eye as he spoke. “You aren’t—am I interrupting anything?”
I’m sorry you had to find out this way, but I’m leaving.