By Jonah

They meet again at a fork in the road, between her village and another, and Zuko thinks he has never been so careless.

It is the emuhorse to recognize her first, making a happy, familiar noise as it pulls against its reigns to reach her. Song steps back in surprise, clutching her satchel in front of her as if for protection, before recognition dawns on her, and she's holding her hand out to pet it before Zuko can ever pull the reigns back.

It is then that Iroh chooses to keep his mouth shut, and Zuko finds himself thinking his uncle's timing cannot be any worse.

Song recognizes them too, of course, but acts without a sense of familiarity. She's smiling and petting the animal like they've done her no wrong, and Zuko feels a little part of himself die. He wants to tell her many things, most of them dealing with apologies, others wanting to cry out his defense. But he can't seem to find the words for any of them, so instead he stands like an idiot and hopes she doesn't hate him as much as she should.

She notices the leg he's been favoring and her healer's eye can already tell he'd hurt it trying to spear-fish, so she smiles and says, "Some corsa berry should take the pain away."

He thinks, You couldn't be more wrong, but he nods anyway, because he figures he owes her that at least.

Behind him, Iroh pokes the back of his chest, and the words fly out as if they'd been hiding there all along:

"I'm sorry."

Song's smile is unwavering, the kindness in her eyes still blinding.

"But if you eat too many, they'll give you a bit of vertigo."

She walks away before Zuko can ever take back his words.