As she shivered against him, Zuko let out a slow breath and raised his boy temperature, exhaling thin streams of smoke through his nose. It was entirely understandable, double-guessing her actions—or inactions—to her mother’s murderer. Zuko’s blood still boiled at the thought.
His arms draped around her, her own tucked between their bodies, he said, his voice quiet, “You made a really tough decision when you faced him. It’s not easy to do that.”
“I feel like—” Her fingers tightened between them, gathering his tunic in her fists as she searched from something tangible to grasp. “—like I let my mom down, like I was too weak to defend her.”
The Southern tribe viewed justice and vengeance as synonymous, and not only had Katara failed in that, she’d proven, once again, that she was too fragile, too frightened, to protect the ones she loved. The thunder crashed outside, lightning illuminating the interior of Zuko’s tent and her tear stained face.
She felt like a little girl, again. “I don’t know how to face Sokka, or my dad. How do I tell them I found my mother’s killer and let him live?”
Above her head, Zuko’s lips pressed into a thin line. Though her words were different, they said something he was intimately familiar with. I don’t want to be a failure to my family. Unconsciously, his arms tightened around her; his heart beat steadily beneath where her hands fisted his hippari.
“You’ve done more than anyone else,” Zuko said. “You stood and faced him. That’s more than either Sokka or your father have done. You’re not weak, Katara,” he went on, stressing the sentiment so he hoped she understood he meant what he said. “You’re the strongest person I know, and the bravest.” He paused, a breath hanging in the space between them.
“If your mother was anything like mine, I think she’d be really proud.”