After making up and making out in the earnest, after the moon rose to its best imitation of a bloated fruit pie, after Mai’s breath slowed down to a fully relaxed almost but not quite sigh (purr??), then did Zuko’s question strike into hot summer air.
“How come you said ‘it’s over’ just like that?”
They had enjoyed at least five full minutes of silence before Zuko’s inquiry, enough to convince Mai that they had embarked on an unspoken agreement to enter the ritual of sleep. Granted, for all she knew, Zuko could have just been brooding and rethinking and replaying every decision-making moment from their day, or worse, his young life, but that wasn’t going to stop her from diving into sleep.
She wasn’t Azula. She was a mere mortal who (after several half-hearted volleyball sets to Azula, interactions with prototypical teenagers, an unforeseen heart to heart within her own group that will certainly come back to haunt them, and stress from dealing with an emotional, hormonal, confused boyfriend) really deserved the sleep.
She hoped Zuko had accidentally spoke out loud in a dream, and kept her eyes closed just in case.
Only when a pair of hands landed on either side of her shoulder did she force herself to stare into golden eyes that bore into the depth of her soul.
Zuko asked again. “Why was it so easy for you to say ‘it’s over’?”
She sighed for real this time and kept her eyes thin slits.
“Zuko, it’s been fun but it’s late. I was nearly asleep and dreaming of baby komodo rhinos. Must we do more psychoanalysis from an aberrant day that will clearly not transpire again lest we attempt pretend normal teenage life again?”
“On Prince’s honor. I promise to let you sleep after you answer. It’s just that, I can’t sleep when I have something on my mind that I can’t figure out. Every night it’s like my mind is battling a three-headed dragon and even on a rare night when I get past it, I get hung up on if it really was the best way to do it by maiming dragon head #2 in the eye which in turn causes the other two to cry in horror and erratically spray fire until they all kill each other, rather than maybe I should have just tiptoed away while they’re sleeping. I mean dragons are extinct you know…”
Mai’s hand landed on Zuko’s cheek in what was a halfway slap to snap him out of his circular torture, and a gentle cradle of the cheek to remind him of the sensual sensitivity that she is in fact, very capable of.
“The first thing you have to learn is to pick the right animal to lull yourself to sleep. The self-identifying eye maimed dragon is not going to cut it. What about komodo rhinos, or platypus bear?”
Gold eyes went wide. “You ARE getting to the root of this!”
“Yes,” she put both hands on his cheek, and after a flurry of kisses, pressed her forehead to his in an attempt to dream-link, and began her chant. “Platypus platypus platypus bear. Platypus platypus platypus bear. Mr. P Bear jumping up and down a hill… Mrs. P Bear swaying left and right a mill. Daughter P Bear laughing front and back a toe…”
“Is this a real lullaby or are you making this up?”
She let go of his cheeks in exasperation and turned away. “Good night Prince Zuko. Dream of bats for all I care.”
“Will you break up with me again in the beginning of an argument before I can even understand what we’re arguing about?”
“BLAH BLAH BLAH Zuko.”
“Look I know I talk so much nonsense it must sound like a lot of blah to you.”
“No Zuko, if you must know! I broke up with you because you called me a BLAH.”
"You couldn’t even be bothered to think of an intelligent or imaginative insult of me!”
“What am I supposed to have been doing? Incorporate thinking of original insults for my girlfriend in my daily katas?”
“It means maybe you don’t think of me much at all.”
“Nah, see that’s just… I mean I would hardly call ‘out of control, impatience and hot-headed’ an epic poem!”
“At least there’s more than one syllable and clearly identifies your personality flaws. Describe blah. What is it about me that is blah? Is it my face? My attitude? My knife-throwing?”
“No, definitely not your knife-throwing.”
“Is it my spirit? My essence? My soul?”
“Um. I thought you didn’t believe in aura-oriented things.”
“You’re setting me up for failure aren’t you?”
“You brought it up. Or try this on. Why don’t you take your time and come up with three coherent insults right now.”
“What?” she was sitting up in the bed they shared, and her eyebrows have undoubtedly shifted from their usual flat position to subtle arches.
Zuko yawned suddenly and pulled her back to bed, covering her with kisses. “I love it when you get angry.”
“Zuko…” Mai said warningly.
Another yawn, then he pressed his forehead against hers. “Tired now. You win. Platypus platypus platypus bear… Mr. P bear…” he chanted until he closed his eyes.
Mai shrugged, and unstuck her forehead from him, and stared at Zuko’s eyes squeezed pretend shut, and shrugged again.
“Whatever,” she yawned and made a cheek pillow with her hands and fell asleep.
Instead of three headed dragons and platypus bears, Zuko thought hard into the night the most fitting insult for his girlfriend, and right before almost falling asleep, decided that “blah,” unabashedly ambiguous and notably lyrical as it were, was the best tune he could come up with.
But wait, his almost drooping eyes shot wide open again, but why did she break up with him over a word again?