WOO. thanks for all the support, guys! you're fantastic. i've replied to everyone, as far as i can tell, and can't express enough just how much your feedback and encouragement means to me. it's all very uplifting and definitely fuels my drive to complete this series all the more. that being said, i'm still not sure how i feel about the chapters i'm coming up with, and i hope you guys enjoy this as much as the previous series installments. if you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to let me know c: i love hearing from you guys, and i love reading about your ideas! Fliick.
also, as many of you have asked; i have decided for this series to be strictly zuko-centric through and through, and so katara's sessions will not be included in any of the chapters. we will, however, get peeks of it through both narrative and aang and sokka during zuko's sessions c:
PS: there seems to be a glitch on the site that disables the option for editing stories, meaning chapters can't be added or fixed, and new stories can't be created. i've actually had this chapter done since saturday and have been trying to update it ever since. it turns out there is a manual way to fix the issue. if you go ahead to my profile, it'll tell you how. sorry for the extended wait, and hope you enjoy!
SOKKA'S FIELD GUIDE
A Three-Part Series
Part III : Attempting Murder Yet ?
THE SECOND SESSION: GENDER ROLES
The Patient is fuming, pacing the office as he waits for the arrival of the always late Therapist. He is clearly impatient and frustrated with himself, his marriage, and of course, his Therapist—
Zuko: (reading over the scribe's shoulder) Don't forget my growing irritation with the humble scribe.
—as well as the humble scribe.
Zuko: (sighs) This is getting me nowhere. If he doesn't walk through that door in three seconds, I'm leaving!
The Patient glares at the door. One. Two. Three.
Four. Five. Six. Seven.
Clearly the Patient does not know his numbers—
Zuko: I do know my numbers!
Sokka: (peers through the door tentatively)
Zuko: (turns on him like an angered bear-lioness)
Sokka: Zuko, I can explain—!
The door follows the same fate as last week's curtains.
Everything started out fantastic. After Zuko had profusely apologized for his inexplicable, misplaced and completely unjustified jealousy, Katara granted him pardon and life resumed in as merry a way as it could. In the mornings they would train with each other, assuming that Katara was not up making breakfast with the chefs, or offering medical aid to soldiers, or caring for the turtle-ducks in the pond and other womanly things. One morning in particular, when Katara arrived in the arena just as Zuko had finished sparring with a willing opponent, the Fire Lord offered a tired smile. "Morning."
Katara returned it with an apologetic one of her own and blew a strand of hair free from her face. "I'm sorry I missed our session," she began, removing her apron and hanging it over a railing, "there was a disaster in the kitchens. I've left them a recipe for Gran-Gran's famous stewed sea prunes and they were confused with the ingredients." A wrinkle of her nose brought the waterbender's brows together as she discarded her robes in favor of her undergarments for training. "Who would have guessed that substituting South Pole vegetation with Fire Nation spices would be disastrous?"
Zuko laughed, taking a rag to dry off his face, and peered at her through the fabrics. "Well, it's a good thing there was a strong woman around to clear up that mess," he said with apparent affection, sliding the cloth down his face and then up again to catch the sweat dripping from his hair-line. The firebender mussed up his hair before slinging the towel across his shoulders. "I can't imagine what the kitchens might have turned out to be without you."
For some reason, his waterbender didn't smile.
"What do you mean?" She asked, eyeing him with that look. The one that screamed approach with caution. The woman received no response aside from a stunned expression, and so she sighed, resting an impatient hand on her hip. "What do you mean, Zuko?"
He knew that position. It was her aggressive stance. Equivalent to the rearing pounce of a vengeful rhino-tiger. Agni, save me. Clearing his throat, the bender tried for a crooked smile. "What are you talking about?" Casual, cool, collected.
"I'm talking about you saying that a woman would be needed to keep a kitchen in order, Zuko," Katara stated fiercely, her face neutral, but her eyes burning with an inner fire the man had come to both fear and adore. "What did you mean by that, Zuko?"
She was using his name too often. That was a clear indicator that things were quickly going from bad to worse. "I…I didn't mean it like that, Katara," he made the mistake of stuttering. Zuko could have sworn that her mental state honed in on his fear like a cougar-vulture diving on a sun beaten morsel. Poor defenseless creature.
"Then how did you mean it."
At this point the Fire Lord's sparring partner had the good sense to high-tail it out of there.
Watching him go, Zuko gulped before getting a hold of himself. He was Fire Lord! What in hell could this feisty young woman do to undermine his authority? Yes, he was the ruler of the Fire Nation, a master bender in his own right. There was no way a pretty, spunky thing from the South Pole could make him scamper off and hide in the corner! And so, with a new resolve, the man straightened up, puffing his chest in male dominance, and returned her piercing gaze with confidence befitting a hero of sorts. The Champion of Male Superiority. "I meant what anyone could mean. Women are good in the kitchen."
He watched the color rise in her face, the tremors shake her entire body and prepared himself for the geyser that would explode…but it didn't come. Peering through his closed eyes (and when did he cringe in such fear, anyways?) to see a suspiciously calm Katara standing before him. Nothing was broken, frozen, or otherwise in a state in which it shouldn't be.
"We're not on the clock, Zuko."
"I know that, but you're the one who knows her best! How do you deal with it?"
Sokka heaved a disgruntled sigh, glancing over at the desperate bender. The hopeless look on Zuko's face was enough to soften the hardest of hearts, and so the warrior grudgingly set aside his hog-turkey leg and wiped the meaty residue from his lips with a napkin. "Alright look. I'll let you in on a little secret. Katara's…well, she's stubborn."
"Really. I hadn't realized."
"Hey buddy, if you want my advice, don't patronize me," the older man declared, pointing a single finger in warning. "Now, Katara is stubborn. Maybe even more stubborn than you are. And one of the many, many…many — geez you're in way over your head — things that annoys her is the fact that men gives roles and chores for women. She may be the mothering type but if you expect her to do anything because she's a girl, then La save you, because all hell will break loose."
"Yes, yes," Zuko snapped, already knowing as much about his own wife, "but what about after all hell has already broken loose?"
Sokka thought for a moment. "Well…usually she'd outright refuse to do what was asked, or expected, of her. I know one time, she was mending my pants, and the second I mentioned something about her being a woman, well, she threw my pants right back at me. Did she refuse to mend your pants?"
"You could say that," the Fire Lord said slowly, "Well it wasn't something she refused to do per se, but for simplicity's sake, let's say that yes, she didn't want to…mend my pants. Er—how did you get her to…do that?"
The warrior frowned, trying to understand the subtext and not at all liking where it was going. He resumed eating his hog-turkey, dismissing the conversation at once, "I begged and groveled and apologized for my male idiocy."
Zuko awoke at the crack of dawn, a habit that had eluded his routine for the past few weeks from fatigue. He felt old as he peeled himself from the covers and glanced fleetingly at the hunched over figure of his wife. She was curled up on the far side of the bed, facing the opposite direction, staunch and stubborn even in her sleep. He sighed before running a hand over his face in hopes of simply wiping away the tiredness, but to no avail. His eyelids insisted on closing, but the firebender willed himself to stand and, one step after the other, made his way out of the room, down the staircases, through winding corridors, and finally into the kitchens (but not without a few curses and bruises along the way).
Despite the early hour, there were already chefs stationed in the kitchens, setting to start their morning meals. Silence greeted the Fire Lord's entrance, and he must have been quite a sight. Hair a mess, robes sliding from his weary shoulders, bags beneath his eyes. He glared at the lot of them before trudging through the elaborate room and dismissing the small group with a wave of his hand.
Mixed whispers of admiration and respect breezed by him as they left, pots and pans still sitting on the countertops. Zuko sighed once again, desperate to return to bed, but the recent addition a cabinet stuffed with Southern Pole delicacies reminded him just why he was torturing himself in the first place.
"Stupid, grudge-bearing, over-reacting, sensitive, hard-headed…"
The list went on as he stalked over to the designated cabinet and thrust various ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
The Fire Lord ceased his evident attempt in cooking to look up, flour-faced and disheveled, partly singed and mostly purple in frustration, at the waterbender standing in the middle of the kitchen, arms crossed and eyes amused. He glared. "This is all your fault, you know," he growled, not wanting to face her and her feminine wiles. Failure was a constant friend of his, but in an instant where his masculinity and authority were both challenged, he was in no mood to humor anybody. Particularly not a certain smirking, belittling waterbender.
"Oh, really?" Katara reasoned, "How so?"
"If you weren't so sensitive about things I wouldn't have gotten up early to bother cooking you breakfast!"
"Why would you feel like you needed to cook me breakfast?" The young woman continued, much in the manner of feeding the right questions to a learning pupil.
Zuko frowned. "To show you that cooking isn't only done by women. And to show you how much I appreciate you…and stuff," he added in the end to reiterate his point that he was very much annoyed at the waterbender and her antics.
Katara smiled then, and shook her head. "Oh, Zuko…" she said in mock sympathy, approaching the impatient Fire Lord, "…it's always nice to be appreciated. Now why don't we get you cleaned up and bring the chefs back in to cook you a nice breakfast? You must be starving…"
"I am," he pouted, prompting a kiss from the waterbender. Zuko grinned at last, feeling victorious. "Does this mean you're not angry at me anymore?"
"Angry at you? For what?" Bewilderment crossed her face.
"For yesterday. That whole women being in the kitchen thing."
Katara laughed, "Zuko, I stopped being angry about that an hour after you left. Speaking of, you may want to approve some...renovations for the sparring arena."
"You wouldn't talk to me all day!"
She eyed him with a knowing look. "Zuko, we didn't see each other all day. You had council meetings until after dinner."
"But, but you wouldn't even kiss me goodnight! You slept on the other side of the bed!"
A shy smile broke across her features, "Well, that's because Sokka warned me to make you learn your lesson so that you wouldn't expect anything more of me simply because I'm a woman. Or, more specifically, your wife." Her brows lifted suggestively, hinting at the anticipated marital duties the rest of the nation expected. At the firebender's glare, she laughed again, ruffling his hair. "Oh come on, he's my older brother, what did you expect?"
"Let me get this straight. Sokka told you not to mend my pants?"
Katara blinked, "What?"
But Zuko stormed past her, "I'll show him who needs his pants mended!"
Zuko: Great session, Sokka, thanks, really relieved my stress!
This humble scribe would like to note that there are far more uses for pants than one might imagine. The Patient has a clear resourcefulness in his particular utilization.
The Therapist is tied up in his own pants. The good in this humble scribe would like to help him, but as he has reiterated time after time, this job is not to be involved in the sessions whatsoever. Scribes simply record the goings on.
Sokka: Aang! Aang! Would you quit writing and help me?
This humble scribe cannot do a thing. And perhaps the Therapist deserves it, interfering in matters not presented to him.
Sokka: COME ON AANG! THE SESSION IS OVER, QUIT WRITING AND UNTIE ME!
[ END SESSION ]