When Shayera put her mind to something, she had a singular focus that no amount of outside noise or distraction could break through. She had used this focus while she was in the espionage wing of the Thanagarian military. Then, she used it in every fight and every trite monitor duty shift.
Now, she was calling on her superhuman focus yet again. But it wasn't for a battle No, this was something entirely different. Shayera Stewart was going to learn how to cook.
It all started when John made an off-handed remark about how he usually cooked for her. She was sitting next to him on the couch as he massaged her back, which was killing her from pregnancy hormones, while she thought through what he had said. Sure, the comment had been casual but did he mean something behind it? Shayera was hardly the domestic type but he had to know that.
"Do you like doing it?" She asked gingerly.
"The cooking," she clarified, watching his expression carefully.
He nodded noncommittally and told her, "Yeah, I guess."
She nodded, pressing her lips together as she chose not to respond. He easily read her silence and said, "I don't care that you don't cook, Shayera. It's not your thing. I get that."
"It's not my thing?" she repeated. "What do you mean it's not my thing?" He saw he was treading on dangerous ground and attempted to change the subject. Shayera, however, was having none of it. "You don't think I can cook!"
"Well, for the twelve years I have known you, I haven't seen you successfully cook once. Remember when you tried to make scrambled eggs a few years ago?"
"Just because I failed once doesn't mean I can't do it," she said, now in a complete huff as she wrenched herself from the couch.
"Shayera," He sighed, she was getting cranky again.
"I'm cooking," She announced. "From now on, I am going to cook dinner and show you that I can cook."
"Shay, we're barely here for dinner during the week" he reminded her gently. "And with Emma being a picky eater and you with your crazy cravings-"
"I am fully capable of cooking on the weekends," She interjected, nodding her head firmly. "Yes that's what I'll do. I will make dinners on Saturday and Sunday nights from now on."
"You don't have to do this," He said, leaning forward and capturing her hand with his own. "I don't care that we eat a lot of take out."
She was still a bit teed off at him but ran her thumb over the back of his hand, anyway. "You think I can't cook and I am going to prove you wrong."
The First Dinner
She chose Ina Garten to be her cooking guru this time, purely because her show was called Back to Basics. If the woman had an entire show teaching the basics, she had to be good. And basics was something Shayera could handle, could master.
Lemon Thyme Chicken.
She memorized the recipe, wanting to be in full control once she stepped into the kitchen. All the ingredients were bought and lined in an orderly fashion on the counter. She was prepared. She was ready. Last minute, though, she felt a flash of nerves and decided she wanted some company while she cooked. John was banned from the kitchen so she grabbed Emma's highchair and slipped her into her seat.
"Alright, Mommy is cooking for Daddy tonight," she said, putting the skillet on the stove and turning on the gas beneath it. "Because Daddy thinks I can't cook," she continued. "But I am going to prove him wrong."
She wandered over to the counter and picked up the chicken, prepared to dredge it. She thought the word was stupid sounding, like a few other English words, but cast her thoughts aside for the moment. She had Googled it. Youtubed it. Seen Ina Garten herself do it. She was ready to get into action. After properly dredging, she put the chicken breasts to the side and poured some oil into the pan. Next she added the chicken and she nodded succinctly when it sizzled properly.
Everything was going according to plan. She poured in the bit of wine and lemon juice, then set the timer. Wiping her hands on a hand towel she turned to Emma and said, "See? Mommy can cook."
The three of them sat at the kitchen table, Shayera and John cutting into their chicken while Emma dipped one pudgy hand into her small bowl of Cheerios. John glanced at the chicken, swallowing hard when he saw the pinkish tint of the meat. He looked up at Shayera and saw her staring at her chicken in much the same manner that he had. Her eyes rose to meet his and she pursed her lips into a frown as she stood and grabbed both of their plates.
"Not a word," she gruffly ordered.
She stuck John's in the microwave and took out her frustration on the machine's buttons. Behind her John filled his salad plate with the salad she had thrown together quickly. He took a large mouthful and chewed. His face contorted when he realized she must have mixed up the mustard and salad dressing. Forcing himself to swallow, he decided to pacify her. "Good salad, babe."
"Anyone can make salad," She huffed.
The Second Dinner
Okay, so the basics had proved a bit more difficult than she anticipated. Still, she was undaunted. Shayera was going to cook. There was no question, no discussion. She was going to cook and she was going to cook well.
Who could mess up pasta? Any culinary-challenged person could make pasta so she knew she could handle this. Her time in the kitchen was short this round but she brought Emma along for moral support again. She seemed to enjoy her prime seat, watching her mother and occasionally parroting back simple words.
"Doesn't it smell good Em?" She asked in Emma's direction.
"Good," She parroted in response.
Shayera grinned, stopping her cooking long enough to give her a quick kiss on her cheek. "That's right, Emma. Mommy is going to win tonight. She's going to prove she can cook."
"Mommy win," Emma said as Shayera lightly laughed.
"That's right, Mommy win."
"Smells good, Shay," John called from the living room.
"No talking," she called back. "You're going to jinx me."
"Ah!" she interrupted, "Shush!" She moved back to the stove and gave her pasta sauce a quick stir. He obeyed her call for silence and she rewarded him by saying, "Dinner will be ready in five minutes."
The pasta was cooked perfectly. The sauce was flavorful and complex or at least that's what Tyler Florence had said on the TV. But as she ate the pasta, chewing thoughtfully, she came to one devastating conclusion.
"Yours is better," she said, setting down her fork. "Your sauce comes out of a jar but yours tastes better!"
"I think it's good," he told her, pushing a piece of pasta around the plate to sop up more sauce. "Really, Shay, it's good."
She frowned. As far as she was concerned, she still had not proven herself as a cook.
The Last Supper
Baked chicken and rice.
The rice overflowed twice.
Losing track of time as she tended to that damn rice, the chicken burnt.
She hated cooking. Hated it. Hated it!
She sank to the floor, back and wings pressed against the oven. "John!"
"Am I allowed in your sanctuary?" He teased.
"Just get your behind over here Lantern," She growled. He came into the kitchen, stifling a laugh when he saw her sitting on the floor in defeat. Without hesitation he sat down beside her, laying a hand on her knee.
"So, Chinese or pizza?" He asked.
She sighed, "Chinese and I want extra eel heads for doing this."