Zutara Week 2012, Day 3—
Transcend: (verb) To rise above or go beyond; overpass; exceed
There are limits, set by society, that people of high class must obey. It matters not if you are a lowly lord, barely considered royalty, or the highest Fire Lord. There are rules to be obeyed and laws of aristocracy to follow. To disregard them would be social suicide; would be like begging to be dethroned by someone who will, in fact, follow the set confinements. The limits were sometimes easy to follow, second nature like using the fork placed farthest to the left for salads and the spoon with the most bulbous head for soup. Easy, simple things.
There were harder things as well: Which crown to where to what place. No, that one was too expensive with which to go to the slums with, it might get stolen. No, that one was too heavy to go to a simple dinner with friends. Don't forget to part your hair to the left; the right is for casual occasions. Don't forget to look a lady in the eyes when dancing with her; avoiding her eyes could mean you are bored with her. Don't hold a lady too close; that could spark up a flame of rumors. Invite lords and their ladies over, lest you seem disinterested.
Most were easy to keep straight in the Fire Lord's mind; the were easily categorized and stored in the filing cabinets of his mind, ready for use whenever they should be needed. He'd been taught well by his mother and his nannies, taught the ways of the world he would one day soon enter. He had not been unprepared for the mannerisms of a noble society; he had been part of it before his thirteenth summer. And even when he was banished, he had kept his pompous air of Fire Nation Prince. He'd insisted that his crew used those same demeanor when dining with their Prince.
It was only as he started traveling only with his uncle that Zuko had started to forget them. He'd started to forget not to put his elbows on the tables and how to use a soup spoon. But it all came rushing back when he started traveling with his sister. The necessity of such mannerisms became much more important as he started realizing that Azula had never forgotten them and how much these quirks were valued. They were held to higher esteem than he'd ever held them on his ship.
But those demeanor began to fall from memory again as he started to travel with the Avatar. There were no need for such mannerisms such as those in Fire Nation royalty. They were a big, comfortable family. There was no need to remember not to put your elbows on the table because oftentimes there were no tables. Who cared if he parted his hair on the wrong side? He was just lucky to have brushed his hair. He had grown out of those mannerisms after a few weeks with what the Southern Water Tribesman affectionately and idiotically christened the "gAang," and then the "BoomerAang," and once again "Team Avatar."
Zuko himself liked, at first, to call it the gAang himself, simply because it was the first name he heard Sokka refer to them as. The dethroned prince had fallen, although somewhat uneasily, into the routine of the gAang. He'd given each a persona to match with their family-like structure. Katara was the strict, loving mother. Sokka had been the less-hilarious-than-he-thought uncle. Toph was the strong, independent child that every family had. Aang was the much-too-clingy momma's boy, who was loved regardless. It was hard not to love them, eventually. And soon Zuko had unknowingly fallen into the father-figure role that needed to be filled.
In taking on that father role, he'd done what was expected of "parents." He'd fallen in love with the mother. It was a warm, slow feeling first. Like taking a sip of firelily wine—just one sip. He found himself looking forward to seeing Katara again. He found himself working hard to milk a laugh from her sweet, plump lips—even just a grin. Then he found himself tempted to touch her, finding any exuse to dance his fingers across her skin, even just to brush her hair away from her face. He found that touching her lit a fire underneath his skin that even he, a talented firebender, couldn't understand. He found himself staring at her lips, watching as they brushed together as she spoke, eagerly imagining what they would taste like—sweet seaweed and flowers, he imagined. He found himself awaiting her every word and opening up for her like he'd never done fore anyone else. Near the end, he needed her like he needed air.
Perhaps if, throughout that time, the Fire Nation royalty's limits and laws had fallen away, meaningless in the presence of much more important matters. Maybe if they'd held more importance in his life as a traitor, he wouldn't have had to brake the rules when he grew. Those strictly set limits had to be surpassed one day, however. Because there was one unbending law that had long been part of Fire Nation rank. That rule had been set in place to ensure the purity of the Fire Lord's line. There were lines draw in the way of marriage. Royalty could not marry outside their Nation, for the sake of purity in the Fire Lord's line.
That law of society was one not easily broken. Not easily forgiven. It was a limit set by nobility; there was no law against it, per se, but it was incredibly taboo.
Zuko, however, was not one stopped by disapproval. He'd stopped being so long ago. He had the stubbornness of a bear-mule and was relentlessness. He had happily, excitedly, and nervously asked for Katara's hand in marriage. His joy was unparallelled when she said yes and, instead of placing a diamond ring on her tan and elegant finger, he'd clasped a necklace around her slender neck. Ignoring yet another limit set for him.
Looking back now, as he held Katara's wife and watched his daughter walk down the aisle, he saw that in transcending those limits, he'd provided for himself a life better than the life he would have had if he'd married a boring Fire Nation lady. No, his Katara was perfect. He simply couldn't imagine having married someone picked out for him by society. He loved Katara and every single part of her. He loved his life and everything it meant to be with Katara. And he would transcend the limits set by the glitterati.
Transcending the limits had become Fire Lord Zuko's idea of happiness.
I know it isn't very Zutara-y, but tell me what you think.