Disclaimer: No money, no money is mine.
"Boys Will Be Boys"
Katara was used to boys.
Boys ate. A LOT. They ate even when they weren't really hungry, when they thought maybe their pinky finger was getting just a little tired, because they had to have endless energy in order to a) continue eating and b) keep up their massive egos. Because boys' egos were truly a thing to behold. And they all had to have huge egos because everyone else had a huge ego, and they had to constantly prove they were worthy of that ego, so they were constantly posturing and doing other ridiculous things that made girls sit on the sidelines, point, and giggle. Impressing the girls was the second most important part of being a boy (unless, of course, you didn't go that way, in which case you didn't quite qualify as a boy anyway, because you were much too nice).
After all, she traveled with her brother, and if Sokka wasn't a boy to end all boys, there wasn't one in the world. Aang was up there, except he was still just a kid, too, so his behavior was mostly excusable. And Katara knew how to deal with Sokka, and she figured if she could handle Sokka, she was more than ready to deal with their newest companions.
Even though Iroh was an old man, and the Dragon of the West, Katara quickly realized that he was, at heart, a boy who just happened to love shopping instead of manly posturing. (She wondered if that was what happened to boys when they grew up; but then again, there was something about Iroh she couldn't quite put her finger on, something that had happened to make him realize posturing wasn't the most important thing in life. She would have wished it on Sokka, except the only times she ever had this feeling were when Iroh walked around the city of Ba Sing Sei with a haunted look in his eyes.) He was good-natured and fun, and very willing to do whatever she asked, and she liked him very much.
Zuko, however, refused to be a boy.
It wasn't that he wasn't a boy. Oh, no, Zuko had all the elements of boydom: he and Sokka constantly clashed, especially when it came to who could out-eat the other. Though he was certainly quieter than he had been a few months before, his pride and ego stiffened his spine and made him nearly insufferable. He just refused to embrace it. He never engaged in the fun parts of being a boy (stuffing your face without caring about good manners, good-natured wrestling), never saw Katara's advice as motherly rather than intruding, and never acknowledged the fact that he didn't have to be a little ball of concentrated misery.
At first Katara tried. She really did. She wanted to make Zuko feel as much a part of the group as Iroh had made himself. She had about the same results as she did trying to convince Toph to help the group. Unlike Toph, Zuko never came around. He didn't do chores, he wouldn't sit with them during dinner, he—it was so frustrating she often stalked away to scream into whatever convenient muffler presented itself (a pillow, the wall, Sokka's shoulder, etc.).
So it was with great surprise that one morning she went into the kitchen after breakfast and discovered the exiled prince standing in front of the basin, staring out the window into the tiny courtyard behind their house. She almost said "hello" but caught herself at the last second, instead silently stepping around him to put the dirty dishes into the basin. He didn't move out of the way, so she shrugged and awkwardly reached around him to start the washing.
She took a dish out, and he said, "Would you like…assistance?"
She held the dish and stared at him. "Like what?" she asked finally.
He considered this, presenting her with a view of his scar as he looked out the window again. Finally, he suggested, "I could dry."
"I really don't need you to," she said, demonstrating by bending the water off the dish.
"Oh. Uncle said…well. I suppose you're much better at being in the kitchen, anyway."
Katara reined in a sigh and took the bait. "Meaning?"
"Being a girl and all. I believe it is customary for girls to be good in the kitchen."
He even had chauvinism (surprising, considering his sister…maybe it was just a peasant thing), for crying out loud. Boy! "Well, if that's what you think," she said, with the obligatory snap in her voice, "then fine. Dry the dishes."
She thought the old Zuko would've added an extra snide remark, but this one stepped aside, clearing the way for her to reach into the basin and start soaping down the bowls. While she had issues with people regarding dishwashing as strictly a woman's role, she herself enjoyed it, because she found the activity soothing, not just because it was a girly thing to do, because men were perfectly capable of washing dishes as well. She hoped Zuko was capable of drying them, though she was used to cleaning up after boys, too, if he turned out to drip water on the floor.
She handed the first clean dish off and he accepted it. Three seconds later he was frozen to the opposite wall while Katara dove to catch the bowl.
"...the hell?" he demanded, pushing against the thin layer that pinned him down.
"I could ask you the same thing," she shrieked. "What were you doing?"
"Drying the bowl off! Let me go!"
"Oh, right! Like you expect me to believe that!"
"What else would I have been doing?"
"Doing? Doing? You were FIREBENDING!"
"Of course I was firebending! I'm a firebender. It's what I do."
"But you don't go around firebending in people's kitchens!"
"It was just my firebreath. I was just trying to dry off the dish."
"Normal people use a towel."
"This way's fast—"
"Wait, what was I thinking? You're not normal."
"Hey, Katara, was there any jerky left over? 'Cause I totally—hey," Sokka said, bounding into the kitchen. He looked between his sister and the exiled prince, shrugged, and smirked at the hostage while his sister patiently handed over the extra jerky. He stuffed a piece in his mouth, said, "Thanks," and bounded away.
Zuko had managed to free an arm through sheer willpower (Sokka's smirk did that to boys), and because the ice wasn't that thick—it had only come from the basin. Katara quickly defrosted the rest of it and whipped it up over her head, holding her stance. The boy still looked arrogant and defensive. Time to take him down a notch.
"Where were we?" Katara asked, snapping the whip. "Oh, right. You were attempting to kill me under the guise of assisting me in the kitchen."
"I—what the—how do you come up with this stuff?"
"Don't get me started!" She was starting to enjoy this. "I know exactly what you were thinking in that evil little brain of yours. You want to kill me and then kidnap Aang while he's still in the throes of grief. How sick and twisted are you?"
Katara was used to boys.
Zuko was unused to girls.
And boy, did it show.