perfect places

theadamantdaughter:

teaandcrowns:

theadamantdaughter:

teaandcrowns:

theadamantdaughter‌:

last

Fuck. He was hot. She was definitely in trouble.

Every time he touched the console, shifted gears, turned the steering wheel, her attention shot straight to his arms. There was no hiding how she appreciated him— the way his forearms flexed with the slightest application of strength, the assured grip of his hands. Her heart jumped to her throat when she thought of those hands on her waist.

Yep. Trouble.

It was ridiculous that she liked watching him drive; idiotic that she smiled at his confidence and felt her stomach flip as he picked a spot, mentioned his house, walked and welcomed her to his Sunday spot with a gorgeous smile.  

“You come here often, then?” Katara teased, dipping her shoulder with a playful laugh. “Every Sunday?” 

She enjoyed the color that blossomed on his cheeks, how it spread to his ears. She made herself swear on all that was sacred that she would not randomly, accidentally, or coincidentally bump into him here. Ever.

As they entered—with Zuko very respectfully holding the door and letting her pass in front of him—a chipper waitress greeted them and led them to 70s-style booth against the windows. It was sunny out, filling the spot with a warm glow. Zuko’s eyes flashed a pretty, honeyed color and Katara flipped her menu up in front of her face before she got caught staring.

“So, you live out in the country…” she prompted, wondering if she’d ever have the chance to see his place. “…or just far enough to have a bit of space and a driveway?” Katara’s blue eyes peeked over the menu at him. “Any roommates?”

Zuko looked up in time to catch the flash of her eyes, and the answer that had been forming in his mind fled momentarily. She was so easy. No ulterior motive to conversations, no hidden agendas, no subtly prodding to try and get him to slip up so she could hold information over his head later. She just… made conversation. Like a normal person. Conversation to which he should answer soon.

“Ah—my family has a house in the country,” he admitted. “But I don’t live there. Haven’t lived with them for years, actually. I live further out to the edge of the city.”

He lowered his gaze back down to the menu in his hands, though he didn’t need to look at it; he already knew what he wanted. A fond smile tugged up one corner of his mouth. “No roommates, luckily. It’s my uncle’s old place. He has a cafe not too far from here and moved into an apartment above it. But, he’s owned the other place for years now, so he let me move into it.” It wasn’t a fancy affair, just a small, single story rancher with two bedrooms, but it was all his and he didn’t have to owe anything to his father to live there.

A young waitress different than the one who seated them came by. She had volumes of dark hair pulled haphazardly into two thick braids on either side of her head, and a tattoo of a white deer with a few words in simple Hanjul script running down her arm.

“Your usual?” she asked Zuko brightly, not even bothering to look up as she was already writing it down.

“You know me, Ming,” he replied. “Thanks.”

She nodded, then finally looked up and spotted Katara. “Oh! I almost didn’t see you there,” she said, laughing. “I’m not used to seeing Zuko come in with anybody anymore.”

Zuko slid his gaze over toward the wall, feeling embarrassed heat rise in his cheeks. “Come on…”

Ming grinned and waved vaguely at him. “You know I think it was for the best, anyway. We’ve talked that to death. But! What can I get you?” Her pen hovered over the order booklet as she looked at Katara, expectant.

“You… didn’t see me?” Something uncomfortable settled in Katara’s stomach, but she swallowed it quickly. 

There was history here. Clearly. She didn’t think it was between Zuko and Ming, and it wasn’t any of her business. She didn’t want to pry… even though it put her in the incredibly awkward position of wondering if she was forcing herself on Zuko. 

She did all but force him to sleep over.

Katara folded her menu shut and handed it off to Ming. “Coffee’s fine,” she said. “A little cream and sugar to go with it.” If there was a figurative cloud having over Zuko’s love life, she certainly didn’t want to make the assumption that this was a date… or have Zuko feel obligated to pay. And, with only about $3 to her name, she’d have to wait ‘til she was home to eat. 

After watching Ming go, her attention drifted back to Zuko. The topic of his house came back to her. It seemed a harmless enough subject to dance around. 

“So… your uncle’s place, no roommates.” Katara folded her arms on the table. “Any pets? Or… hobbies?” 

“No pets, either,” Zuko said. “But I’ve got a nice pond within walking distance where there’s always lots of ducks and old people.” A wry smile teased across his mouth, remembering when his uncle first showed him the place and took him for a walk around the grounds and nearby places. He hadn’t cared much at the time, circumstances being what they were, but now he’d come to appreciate them more.

“I don’t know if you’d really call it a hobby, but… I train and teach at Combat Sports a lot. It’s mixed martial arts, and some extra. What about you? You just moved in, but anything you do to pass the time—other than Pride and Prejudice?” The wryness of his smile turned into something more genuine and teasing. It was then he noticed her bowed shoulders, the way she was slightly hunched in on herself. He hesitated a beat, trying to read her. Something had shifted in her demeanor between them walking in and her ordering, and he tried to figure out exactly what.

“Hey,” he said suddenly, leaning his arms on the table in an almost mirror to her. “I thought you would have liked waffles?”

She kept her shrug slow and lazy. “I changed my mind about being hungry. The coffee will keep me full until it’s time to run.” Managing a smile, Katara attempted to brush off her mood. In any case, it was… extremely out of place for her to be affected by his friends or story. 

“That’s something I like to do,” she addressed his question. “Running. Clears the mind… I used to train in martial arts, too, but I haven’t found a gym I like, though my friend runs one, so I could try that out…” She was rambling. Katara bit her lip as color flooded her cheeks. 

And, fortunately, Ming saved her from rambling any more of her whole life story by bring her coffee, the order complete with a saucer of cream and some sugar packets. 

She dumped a packet in, poured in some cream too, and stirred it absently. The spoon clinked against the ceramic, covering her silence until she went on. “I also like dancing. I’ve learned a lot of different styles. I’m hoping to take that up again soon, but I need real work first.” Katara looked up thoughtfully, “Unless work could involve dancing… I don’t know. We’ll see.” 

“Dance? Really? That’s not a typical hand-and-hand with forensics.” She stirred her coffee and Zuko added two packets of sugar to his, but with no cream.

He watched her most closely now—not that he was having difficulty keeping his eyes on her to begin with—but something was still clearly off. Zuko wracked his brain for anything he could have said that would have deflated the moment so much. The ride here was pleasant, and she seemed so enthusiastic about having waffles, about having breakfast with him. The thought had stirred a nervous fluttering in his stomach he had to work to quash. It wasn’t as if they’d done… much. But, she’d smiled so sleepily at him and it was as if his whole world focus zeroed in on the curve of her mouth, and the sweetness of her eyes. He couldn’t have left then, couldn’t tear himself away.

Now, though, the atmosphere had shifted. It was less like an airy spring morning and more like the vague pressure of a storm that couldn’t decide if it truly wanted to build or not. At least, that’s how it felt in the booth where they sat. Unspoken tension that lingered between people was not something Zuko had been naturally inclined to notice, but he certainly had learned to become attuned to it, between his father and his ex. He wanted to press her again about the waffles—there was something there about them, beneath her surface dismissal, but he couldn’t think of a tactful way to broach it. And, he suspected his instinct to simply and bluntly ask would not be very well received.

Well, he had her for at least a cup of coffee. Maybe an opening would present itself, or he could convince her to actually eat. Especially after how much they’d had to drink the night before. He chewed on his bottom lip quickly to suppress the frown that wanted to form. He lifted his gaze back up from his coffee to her, alighting on the blue of her eyes; he was struck again momentarily by their clarity. Yeah, a corner of his mind mused, he could get used to breakfast with her real easy.

So the smile he gave her was easy and subdued. “What kind of dance do you like? Or would like to get into?”

bleeding gold

theadamantdaughter:

teaandcrowns:

theadamantdaughter‌:

last

The gardens were truly beautiful, even more so in the gilded moonlight. It sparkled off the scattered ponds and made the stream glisten. It caught dew on flowers, made the white lilies stand out in the near dark. With so much to study around her, Katara didn’t notice the extended silence between herself and her betrothed, until he stopped halfway across a bridge and leaned on the rail.

He asked her something.

She blinked, slowly pulling from her thoughts, filtering through her nerves to find a coherent answer.

“The dinner was lovely,” Katara said, flashing a modest smile. “I especially enjoyed the roast duck. I’m happy with my room, as well.” She lifted her arms marginally, gesturing to the gown he’d left on her bed. “And you have excellent taste, my Prince.”

Unlike him, her posture remained formal as she conversed. Katara kept her back to the water, her attention astutely on him. Folding her hands in front of her legs, she hoped she posed as the perfect lady. Like his mother.

Stealing a glance in Lady Ursa’s direction, a tremor of self-awareness ran through her. She wasn’t as tall, wasn’t as graceful— La knew, Katara wouldn’t have the same luck flashing a radiant smile at a man to get something she desired. And, that stood without mentioned her lacking knowledge of An-kadai.

Fidgeting ever so slightly, she searched from something—anything—to fill the quiet. She settled, eventually, on some of the simpler phrases; her tutor often required she tell personal stories to grasp words and pronunciation.

“Do you like walking in the gardens?” Katara asked, a tilt to her head. “When I was younger, my grandfather kept a greenhouse— it was the closet we could ever come to such greenery in the South Pole. I used to spend most of my time there.”

Zuko’s face lit up listening to her. He was starting to grow concerned that she wouldn’t want to open up at all—perhaps a silly notion, considering she’d only just arrived and they hadn’t had any time together. Still, he feared that since this was a purely political marriage that she might not want anything to do with him beyond perfunctory duties. If that’s what it turned out to be, he would live with that; he had no real other choice. But… Zuko wanted her to like him, and he wanted to like her, too.

Thankfully, his mother had always made the best suggestions, and this one was no different. It was the perfect solution of getting them away from the pressures of their fathers (if Zuko had read that situation correctly, and he thought he had), but still operate under propriety. If he shifted his gaze beyond Katara, he could see his mother making her slow, meandering way up to where they stood on the bridge. She would never break her promise to Katara’s father to keep an eye on them—and, he suspected, she wanted just as much to make sure they had a chaperone—but she still allowed them time to start to get to know one another.

“I love the gardens,” he told her, watching her intently. He’d never paid much attention to other Water Tribe visitors in Caldera City, but Zuko was struck now by the small differences in the way she moved and held herself. It wasn’t something he felt he could even begin to describe, but there was a definite difference. He wondered if it came more from her life growing up in the South Pole, or from her waterbending.

That reminded him. “We’ve actually got a waterways system here you might like. All the major gardens have at least one pond, and they’re all interconnected by smaller streams fed by this lake, all flowing into one another.” Though he’d started out enthusiastically, his tone diminished into shyness as he continued. “Maybe… you’d like to see them? The flow of water is something important… right? I mean, to a waterbender?”

Her eyes betrayed her panic, widening as her breath caught. “How do you—?” 

Of course. The gardens. He must’ve seen her teaching Takaani. He must’ve watched a while, too, to have overhead the conversation about listening to the water’s natural push and pull.  

The one thing she was told not to do… she’d broken her father’s rule, and been spotted by her betrothed, nonetheless. 

It was an effort to keep her composure. Her insides lined with hot, liquid fear. Would he tell her father? Would he call off their engagement? All it took was one stupid move, and Katara may have ruined everything. 

“I was only trying to help my sister,” she blurted, looking at the prince now with wide, terrified eyes. “She- she’ll have a master, back at home, but… I fear their personalities may clash. Takaani is sweet, but naive. I wanted her to leave with some final tips, for bending and navigating Master Hama’s lessons.” 

Managing to pull her eyes from his, Katara turned in the same direction, facing the water. She hoped she’d look at ease; she had to be failing miserable. Was failing miserable. At all of this. 

She buried her shaking hands deep within her wide sleeves. “It won’t happen again,” Katara promised. “I know I’m a guest here. I won’t push the boundaries of my welcome.” 

At first, Zuko simply stared at her. She acted as if he’d caught her with her hands full of candied orangepeach blossoms and was about to admonish her for it. Several beats of silence passed between them before Zuko found his voice again.

“I–I didn’t mean it like that,” he said. Only I could make her waterbending come out like an insult. Was there something in Tribe custom against wedded women waterbending? He didn’t know and frantically tried to rake his memory for anything. “It’s not a bad thing here,” he tried to explain, “in the Fire Nation. Bending, I mean. And, the gardens aren’t sacred or anything; you can use the water here.”

Agni, he was doing an awful job of trying to fix his mistake. It didn’t help that he wasn’t sure why she’d balked at his mention. Was it because of some Water Tribe custom? Was it because she thought the gardens were a sacred place? Was it because she was in an unfamiliar land and thought her waterbending would insult him?

All his ideas of practicing with her seemed ridiculous now. What if she didn’t want to? How could he tell her he wanted to learn more about her, that he didn’t want her to leave all her customs at the door when they married? What if… what if she didn’t want to share that part of her with him?

Zuko’s chest tightened, and his stomach twisted. The roast duck might have been cooked to perfection, but duck was a greasy, rich meat, and it now sat unpleasantly in him. He swallowed, let out a warm breath, tried to release some of the tension with a quick dash of fire meditation technique.

Slowly, he reached out for her hand, but stopped short of touching her. He didn’t know if they were there yet.

Kiinuk,” he said in halting, though correct Aisu-kei, “Wō kaujimak zhe bushi nauk ipvit tian’ommak, zhishi…Please. I know this is not where you were born, but… He gave her a small, hopeful smile, then switched to his native tongue. “I hope that with time it will become home for you, too.”

perfect places

theadamantdaughter:

teaandcrowns:

theadamantdaughter‌:

last

Fuck. He was hot. She was definitely in trouble.

Every time he touched the console, shifted gears, turned the steering wheel, her attention shot straight to his arms. There was no hiding how she appreciated him— the way his forearms flexed with the slightest application of strength, the assured grip of his hands. Her heart jumped to her throat when she thought of those hands on her waist.

Yep. Trouble.

It was ridiculous that she liked watching him drive; idiotic that she smiled at his confidence and felt her stomach flip as he picked a spot, mentioned his house, walked and welcomed her to his Sunday spot with a gorgeous smile.  

“You come here often, then?” Katara teased, dipping her shoulder with a playful laugh. “Every Sunday?” 

She enjoyed the color that blossomed on his cheeks, how it spread to his ears. She made herself swear on all that was sacred that she would not randomly, accidentally, or coincidentally bump into him here. Ever.

As they entered—with Zuko very respectfully holding the door and letting her pass in front of him—a chipper waitress greeted them and led them to 70s-style booth against the windows. It was sunny out, filling the spot with a warm glow. Zuko’s eyes flashed a pretty, honeyed color and Katara flipped her menu up in front of her face before she got caught staring.

“So, you live out in the country…” she prompted, wondering if she’d ever have the chance to see his place. “…or just far enough to have a bit of space and a driveway?” Katara’s blue eyes peeked over the menu at him. “Any roommates?”

Zuko looked up in time to catch the flash of her eyes, and the answer that had been forming in his mind fled momentarily. She was so easy. No ulterior motive to conversations, no hidden agendas, no subtly prodding to try and get him to slip up so she could hold information over his head later. She just… made conversation. Like a normal person. Conversation to which he should answer soon.

“Ah—my family has a house in the country,” he admitted. “But I don’t live there. Haven’t lived with them for years, actually. I live further out to the edge of the city.”

He lowered his gaze back down to the menu in his hands, though he didn’t need to look at it; he already knew what he wanted. A fond smile tugged up one corner of his mouth. “No roommates, luckily. It’s my uncle’s old place. He has a cafe not too far from here and moved into an apartment above it. But, he’s owned the other place for years now, so he let me move into it.” It wasn’t a fancy affair, just a small, single story rancher with two bedrooms, but it was all his and he didn’t have to owe anything to his father to live there.

A young waitress different than the one who seated them came by. She had volumes of dark hair pulled haphazardly into two thick braids on either side of her head, and a tattoo of a white deer with a few words in simple Hanjul script running down her arm.

“Your usual?” she asked Zuko brightly, not even bothering to look up as she was already writing it down.

“You know me, Ming,” he replied. “Thanks.”

She nodded, then finally looked up and spotted Katara. “Oh! I almost didn’t see you there,” she said, laughing. “I’m not used to seeing Zuko come in with anybody anymore.”

Zuko slid his gaze over toward the wall, feeling embarrassed heat rise in his cheeks. “Come on…”

Ming grinned and waved vaguely at him. “You know I think it was for the best, anyway. We’ve talked that to death. But! What can I get you?” Her pen hovered over the order booklet as she looked at Katara, expectant.

“You… didn’t see me?” Something uncomfortable settled in Katara’s stomach, but she swallowed it quickly. 

There was history here. Clearly. She didn’t think it was between Zuko and Ming, and it wasn’t any of her business. She didn’t want to pry… even though it put her in the incredibly awkward position of wondering if she was forcing herself on Zuko. 

She did all but force him to sleep over.

Katara folded her menu shut and handed it off to Ming. “Coffee’s fine,” she said. “A little cream and sugar to go with it.” If there was a figurative cloud having over Zuko’s love life, she certainly didn’t want to make the assumption that this was a date… or have Zuko feel obligated to pay. And, with only about $3 to her name, she’d have to wait ‘til she was home to eat. 

After watching Ming go, her attention drifted back to Zuko. The topic of his house came back to her. It seemed a harmless enough subject to dance around. 

“So… your uncle’s place, no roommates.” Katara folded her arms on the table. “Any pets? Or… hobbies?” 

“No pets, either,” Zuko said. “But I’ve got a nice pond within walking distance where there’s always lots of ducks and old people.” A wry smile teased across his mouth, remembering when his uncle first showed him the place and took him for a walk around the grounds and nearby places. He hadn’t cared much at the time, circumstances being what they were, but now he’d come to appreciate them more.

“I don’t know if you’d really call it a hobby, but… I train and teach at Combat Sports a lot. It’s mixed martial arts, and some extra. What about you? You just moved in, but anything you do to pass the time—other than Pride and Prejudice?” The wryness of his smile turned into something more genuine and teasing. It was then he noticed her bowed shoulders, the way she was slightly hunched in on herself. He hesitated a beat, trying to read her. Something had shifted in her demeanor between them walking in and her ordering, and he tried to figure out exactly what.

“Hey,” he said suddenly, leaning his arms on the table in an almost mirror to her. “I thought you would have liked waffles?”

perfect places

theadamantdaughter‌:

last

Fuck. He was hot. She was definitely in trouble.

Every time he touched the console, shifted gears, turned the steering wheel, her attention shot straight to his arms. There was no hiding how she appreciated him— the way his forearms flexed with the slightest application of strength, the assured grip of his hands. Her heart jumped to her throat when she thought of those hands on her waist.

Yep. Trouble.

It was ridiculous that she liked watching him drive; idiotic that she smiled at his confidence and felt her stomach flip as he picked a spot, mentioned his house, walked and welcomed her to his Sunday spot with a gorgeous smile.  

“You come here often, then?” Katara teased, dipping her shoulder with a playful laugh. “Every Sunday?” 

She enjoyed the color that blossomed on his cheeks, how it spread to his ears. She made herself swear on all that was sacred that she would not randomly, accidentally, or coincidentally bump into him here. Ever.

As they entered—with Zuko very respectfully holding the door and letting her pass in front of him—a chipper waitress greeted them and led them to 70s-style booth against the windows. It was sunny out, filling the spot with a warm glow. Zuko’s eyes flashed a pretty, honeyed color and Katara flipped her menu up in front of her face before she got caught staring.

“So, you live out in the country…” she prompted, wondering if she’d ever have the chance to see his place. “…or just far enough to have a bit of space and a driveway?” Katara’s blue eyes peeked over the menu at him. “Any roommates?”

Zuko looked up in time to catch the flash of her eyes, and the answer that had been forming in his mind fled momentarily. She was so easy. No ulterior motive to conversations, no hidden agendas, no subtly prodding to try and get him to slip up so she could hold information over his head later. She just… made conversation. Like a normal person. Conversation to which he should answer soon.

“Ah—my family has a house in the country,” he admitted. “But I don’t live there. Haven’t lived with them for years, actually. I live further out to the edge of the city.”

He lowered his gaze back down to the menu in his hands, though he didn’t need to look at it; he already knew what he wanted. A fond smile tugged up one corner of his mouth. “No roommates, luckily. It’s my uncle’s old place. He has a cafe not too far from here and moved into an apartment above it. But, he’s owned the other place for years now, so he let me move into it.” It wasn’t a fancy affair, just a small, single story rancher with two bedrooms, but it was all his and he didn’t have to owe anything to his father to live there.

A young waitress different than the one who seated them came by. She had volumes of dark hair pulled haphazardly into two thick braids on either side of her head, and a tattoo of a white deer with a few words in simple Hanjul script running down her arm.

“Your usual?” she asked Zuko brightly, not even bothering to look up as she was already writing it down.

“You know me, Ming,” he replied. “Thanks.”

She nodded, then finally looked up and spotted Katara. “Oh! I almost didn’t see you there,” she said, laughing. “I’m not used to seeing Zuko come in with anybody anymore.”

Zuko slid his gaze over toward the wall, feeling embarrassed heat rise in his cheeks. “Come on…”

Ming grinned and waved vaguely at him. “You know I think it was for the best, anyway. We’ve talked that to death. But! What can I get you?” Her pen hovered over the order booklet as she looked at Katara, expectant.

bleeding gold

theadamantdaughter‌:

last

The gardens were truly beautiful, even more so in the gilded moonlight. It sparkled off the scattered ponds and made the stream glisten. It caught dew on flowers, made the white lilies stand out in the near dark. With so much to study around her, Katara didn’t notice the extended silence between herself and her betrothed, until he stopped halfway across a bridge and leaned on the rail.

He asked her something.

She blinked, slowly pulling from her thoughts, filtering through her nerves to find a coherent answer.

“The dinner was lovely,” Katara said, flashing a modest smile. “I especially enjoyed the roast duck. I’m happy with my room, as well.” She lifted her arms marginally, gesturing to the gown he’d left on her bed. “And you have excellent taste, my Prince.”

Unlike him, her posture remained formal as she conversed. Katara kept her back to the water, her attention astutely on him. Folding her hands in front of her legs, she hoped she posed as the perfect lady. Like his mother.

Stealing a glance in Lady Ursa’s direction, a tremor of self-awareness ran through her. She wasn’t as tall, wasn’t as graceful— La knew, Katara wouldn’t have the same luck flashing a radiant smile at a man to get something she desired. And, that stood without mentioned her lacking knowledge of An-kadai.

Fidgeting ever so slightly, she searched from something—anything—to fill the quiet. She settled, eventually, on some of the simpler phrases; her tutor often required she tell personal stories to grasp words and pronunciation.

“Do you like walking in the gardens?” Katara asked, a tilt to her head. “When I was younger, my grandfather kept a greenhouse— it was the closet we could ever come to such greenery in the South Pole. I used to spend most of my time there.”

Zuko’s face lit up listening to her. He was starting to grow concerned that she wouldn’t want to open up at all—perhaps a silly notion, considering she’d only just arrived and they hadn’t had any time together. Still, he feared that since this was a purely political marriage that she might not want anything to do with him beyond perfunctory duties. If that’s what it turned out to be, he would live with that; he had no real other choice. But… Zuko wanted her to like him, and he wanted to like her, too.

Thankfully, his mother had always made the best suggestions, and this one was no different. It was the perfect solution of getting them away from the pressures of their fathers (if Zuko had read that situation correctly, and he thought he had), but still operate under propriety. If he shifted his gaze beyond Katara, he could see his mother making her slow, meandering way up to where they stood on the bridge. She would never break her promise to Katara’s father to keep an eye on them—and, he suspected, she wanted just as much to make sure they had a chaperone—but she still allowed them time to start to get to know one another.

“I love the gardens,” he told her, watching her intently. He’d never paid much attention to other Water Tribe visitors in Caldera City, but Zuko was struck now by the small differences in the way she moved and held herself. It wasn’t something he felt he could even begin to describe, but there was a definite difference. He wondered if it came more from her life growing up in the South Pole, or from her waterbending.

That reminded him. “We’ve actually got a waterways system here you might like. All the major gardens have at least one pond, and they’re all interconnected by smaller streams fed by this lake, all flowing into one another.” Though he’d started out enthusiastically, his tone diminished into shyness as he continued. “Maybe… you’d like to see them? The flow of water is something important… right? I mean, to a waterbender?”

theadamantdaughter:

teaandcrowns:

@theadamantdaughter​ | continued from here

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.”

@theadamantdaughter​ | continued from here

As she shivered against him, Zuko let out a slow breath and raised his body 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.”