After dumping his books on the counter, Katara had a handful of uninterrupted seconds to study him, seconds she took full advantage of. The few, fleeting glances she’d stolen while hiding among musty textbooks afforded her the knowledge that he wasn’t unattractive, and now, she had the chance to confirm said assessment. 

His face was relaxed, handsome, with slender features and a full pout. His eyes slid across the paperwork in time with his neat, black script. They were a pretty gold color, like honey or amber, and they seemed to flicker with whatever emotion he felt at any given moment. As if she needed that to read him— his one ink-colored brow was more expressive than both of hers combined. 

It crooked upwards now, with his question. Katara blinked, a tell-tale flush spreading across her cheeks. He wasn’t looking at her, though; she hadn’t been caught staring. 

“I’m, um…”  Katara cleared her throat as her attention slid away, gathering herself into what she hoped was a poised young woman, not the abrasive mess he’d met minutes earlier. 

“I’m about ten minutes from here, maybe fifteen,” she said, a casual shrug accompanying her answer. “It’s not too far to walk, and I don’t—” Katara paused, scanning the library’s main floor one last time. “I don’t see him anymore. No need for me to keep inconveniencing you.” 

Zuko slid the paper back across the counter for the librarian to input his information in the system and used the same motion to turn and look at her. A flush dusted her dark cheeks and though it was attractive, it was more surprising than anything. It was like a switch had flipped and the brash young woman who’d stepped definitively–and literally–in his path had suddenly been replaced by someone else. He wondered at that, watching her startlingly blue eyes move from him and back across the library.

He gave as casual a shrug as he could muster. Zuko knew himself well enough that in a tight spot that called for decisive action, he was a good choice, but in a regular social situation, he came up sorely lacking. Especially now that he’d noticed the way her hair curled to frame her face, and how attractive the dark blue of her necklace looked against the hollow of collarbone. He could cut their interaction off now–she’d given him an ample chance to do just that, but…

Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, but Zuko didn’t want to part ways with her just yet. He wasn’t quite sure just how much of that was noble–she’d literally used him as a human wall to duck away from an angry ex–and how much was him simply wanting to know her name. So, against his better judgement he threw caution to the wind.

“I mean, if you want. I won’t keep you. But, I don’t mind giving you a ride,” he added, then hesitated, realizing how that might come out. “Or just walk you where you need to go.” No that didn’t come out quite right either. Letting out a soft, deflated noise, he briefly closed his eyes to will away his foot-in-mouth syndrome. Just spit it out Zuko. “What I’m trying to say is I wouldn’t mind having some help with these books to my car, and it’s a nice night either way?” And to make sure said angry ex doesn’t creep on you, he neglected to say out loud, which was the bigger reason behind him offering, but by that point he felt that tacking on more things would just make him seem creepy. Or an idiot. Either way, both were bad and if he’d learned anything by this point in his life, it was to shut up before his mouth got him into more trouble. That was a lesson he was intimately familiar with, and he did not care for any kind of repeat of it.

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