I drank two cups of coffee today and had a nervous spurt of creative energy, so I'm posting a series of drabbles and any other little bitties and ditties I come up with at these spazztastic moments. These will be separate from my Avatar universe stories (Ho'Wan, Deathly, The Gift, & Bent) unless otherwise stated. As always, I welcome reviews, requests, flames, insights, and so forth.

I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender

Simple Fare
Cook paced nervously in his tiny kitchen, absently wiping surfaces with a damp rag and cleaning his collection of knives and cleavers. The heavy kitchen door opened with a loud clang and he looked up sharply.

"Well…?" He asked furtively of the serving man poking his head through the door frame.

The man shook his head silently.

Cook sighed and sullenly jammed the chef's knife point down into the thick round cutting board. Meal number 99, and still no response from the exiled prince.

He reviewed the evening's dinner in his mind: stewed ginger beef, roast pheasant with preserved pickled plums, mouth-watering crabmeat-stuffed mushroom caps, savoury lobster and scallions in white wine sauce, fragrant jasmine-scented rice…

"Did he even notice how I carved the pineapple pieces to look like little piggies in the sweet and sour pork stir-fry?" Cook asked despairingly.

The servant shook his head again and quietly retreated.

Cook didn't understand what he was doing wrong. He was preparing all the delights the prince had been accustomed to in the palace. That same day, he had served poached eggs with salmon roe and dill sauce with fresh, warm flatbread for breakfast. At lunch, the boy was brought stuffed, steamed winter melon with tofu and smoked pork, scallops, and abalone, and a piping hot bowl of shark fin soup.

The boy sent half of every meal back uneaten. Cook knew that for a growing young man, this was unusual and unhealthy. But what could he do about it? He had done his best to make every meal tantalizing and nutritious, and still the boy would only pick at his food until the much less picky General Iroh allowed his nephew to leave the table and slink off into his darkened room.

Three months of this. Three months of begging and bullying vendors for the finest quality ingredients fit to feed a prince. Three months of long hours spent cooking in a hot, cramped navy ship kitchen. Three months of silence from the scarred, exiled boy.

All he wanted to hear was a simple, "Mmm, yummy," or "Thanks, that was delicious." Was that so much to ask?

Frustrated, Cook began preparing the troops' rough meal: brown rice, steamed fish, garlic and greens, winter melon soup, and for dessert, red bean sweets. At least the soldiers and crew appreciated his talents. He himself would eat whatever the prince sent back, sharing the excess with the others, who all quietly disapproved of the brooding prince's waste of food.

Of course, none of the crew would dare to admonish the surly and hot-tempered 14-year-old. That was his Uncle Iroh's job.

Cook settled into the soothing routine of his art as he diced the melon, crushed garlic, sliced ginger, and prepared the soup. The kitchen slowly filled with the subtle aromas of home cooking, and as he worked, he daydreamed about his mother showing him the proper way to fillet a grouper. She had taught him all he knew about the culinary arts, demonstrating all the secrets and special techniques passed down through the generations.

Whenever he cooked, he thought of her, and he wasn't the only one who waxed nostalgic: troops would often poke their heads in and remark how much the smell of his cooking reminded them of home, of families left behind, of mothers or fathers or relatives long dead who "used to cook that exact same thing."

Absorbed in his work over the steaming pots and woks, Cook didn't hear the door creak open.

"What smells so good in here?" A husky voice came.

Cook turned and was shocked to see Prince Zuko peeking into the kitchen. The young man was licking his chops, his gold eyes bright, inquisitive, and… hungry.