The phrase, so soft as it falls from Katara’s lips, crushes him with all the weight of Ba Sing Se’s walls. In some other world, this proclamation may’ve been sweet, but theirs is a world of famine, drought, and war. He is hardly nineteen. And, her? Neither a girl, nor a woman, but somewhere in between.
Zuko rises from their small bed, crosses their small apartment above their small teashop with small footsteps. He takes her small hands in his own, skimming across her knuckles with his thumbs.
“That’s…” He searches for better words, for comforting words, but he can’t find them. He’s terrified, same as her. “Not good.”
Katara shakes her head, “No.” And, he sees the start of tears forming on her lashes. He understands them: the relentless fear for the future. Everything around them is uncertain. How do they bring a child into it? She presses her lips together and looks at her bare toes. “We were so careful.”
“It happens, Katara. It’s no one’s fault.”
“What do we do, Zuko? Tell me what we do,” she demands. Her bright, blue eyes find his, devoid of any hope for the moment. She looks young, as young and scared as she was when they talked so in depth three years ago, on this tea shop’s front steps.
Zuko cups her chin, like he did then. He offers what little comfort he can, like he did then: a brush of his thumb over her lips, a bump of his nose against hers, a kiss above her brows.
“I can’t, Katara,” he whispers into her hairline. “It’s your decision. It’s your body.”
“But, I don’t—” Her fingers make fists of his green tunic. “Zuko, I—”
Her voice breaks around a sob. He’s quick to wipe her tears away, quick to soothe her worries.
“I can’t tell you what to do, Katara,” he says, holding her face in both his hands, fingers warmed with firebending. “But, I can tell you what I will do.”
He pecks her forehead, sighs against her skin, “I will wake up everyday. I will work hard. I will provide for you.” Zuko’s lips slide down her nose. “I will love you, more than I love myself. Come hell or high water. Come son or daughter.” He drops a hand to her belly. “Whatever you choose, Katara, I will keep loving you.”