He only caught the first few words of what she said—I will make it home—and then Katara spoke too quickly for him to keep up. He caught a few words, adapt, grow, family, but it wasn’t quite enough for Zuko to grasp the gist of what she was trying to say. Adamantly, he wished he’d been more attentive in his lessons.
But, then color darkened her cheeks, clear even in the dim light of the moon and sporadic torches along the bridge. All at once, Zuko felt his heart pound in his chest, the simple blushing somehow solidifying the fact that she was here. The marriage that had been only discussed for just about a decade was now going to happen over the next few days. He couldn’t tell if he was excited or anxious, but either way he hoped it didn’t show on his face. Azula was forever making fun of him for wearing all his emotions on his sleeve; she always seemed able to know what he was thinking. A wave of worry swept through his stomach, nearly upsetting the rich roast duck he’d eaten. With his kind of luck, his betrothed would have the same uncanny ability to see right through him that Azula did.
For now, he did his best to push those thoughts away. Maybe she wasn’t—she’d already proven to not be as callus as his sister, in his opinion. He hesitantly allowed himself to hope for the best.
Then she mentioned her father, and he pressed his lips into a line before catching himself. The last thing Zuko wanted was for his future wife to be obediently in the background. None of the women in his family were like that, and he didn’t want Katara to be, either. Especially if he read Hakoda’s influence correctly.
Instead of saying anything about that, however, he hummed for a moment, just a soft noise in his throat. “The way I know it,” he said mildly, “it’s the river that shapes the earth. Not the other way around.”
By that time, his mother could dawdle no longer, and finally joined them on the bridge.
“The moon is so lovely on the water, isn’t it?” she asked them as she came up, giving them both plenty of time to finish up whatever conversation they were having before.
He watched Katara glance back at his mother, and resolved to learn her language more completely. The way her face lit up as soon as he spoke it was something he very much wanted to do again.