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|A Year and a Half Later|
-"Come on, Gyatso, time for your transfer," the guard said.
"Yeah," she blankly responded. Truth be told, Jinora knew this had been coming. She turned 18 yesterday, and therefore, would be moved out of the juvenile prison. As by miracle, she wasn't sentenced to maximum security, as her lawyer defended the hell out of her, and managed to get her acquitted of the murder of Zaheer. She got eight years with the possibility of parole for all her other crimes, which was still pretty good, as she found out. Half of her fellow inmates were doing more time for crimes less severe.
That did present her with an issue, though: she was the one who sold Iroh out to the police, and a lot of rats went down with the ship. Most of them were men, so that was fine, but the female ones, she'd face them sooner or later. Some ended up in a maximum security prison, but she also heard rumors that a few of Iroh's crew ended up right in the place where she was going: Taku Federal Correctional Facility for Women, minimum security wing. This should be fun.
Going through processing was humiliating, but that wasn't something she hadn't been expecting. Getting all of her things in the right place was just a matter of time, but Jinora was wary. She knew there would be people gunning for her, she just didn't know how quickly they would come for her.
Jinora was on a stroll in the yard, first day there. It was just after lunch, and she wanted to clear her head. The past year had actually been a productive one for her, because it turned out, you're allowed to study in prison. She used the time she had well, and managed to burn through her high school and her SAT's, pass them both with flying colors. She thought about trying for a college degree, though her original plan of trying for med school would fall through no matter what. Maybe a legal degree? She could actually try to help out people like herself, promising young people being forced into crime by poverty. Those were a dime a dozen in this city, and she'd doubt that would be turned over completely by the time she got out again.
Before she could contemplate the issue any longer she was pulled aside by one of her fellow prisoners, pushing her against the wall with her hand clamped firmly over Jinora's mouth. "You're the reason I'm in here, bitch," she spat, inches away from her face. "You sold us all out, not just Iroh. You fucked us all over!"
Finally, the shock subsided, and Jinora managed to get a good look at her attacker. She was just a girl, maybe a few years older than her, and she was wearing a bandana over her left eye. Her hair was a choppy mess, and she was holding a makeshift knife to Jinora's throat.
She used the hand holding the knife to pull up the bandana, revealing a scarred, blind left eye. "This is what happened to me when the police came. I figure... an eye for an eye..."
Jinora tried to fight back, but her attacker was too strong, so it was no use. Her breathing became increasingly shallow as the girl slowly inched the knife up, nearly pressing it against her left eye. "I'm gonna enjoy this..."
Suddenly, someone grabbed her from behind, forcing the knife against its owner's throat, while she was still holding it. "Touch her again and it'll be the last thing you ever do," a low voice warned her. The knife was ripped away from her throat, Jinora was released, and the girl who attacked her was shoved to the side, revealing her savior, which left Jinora feeling utterly confused.
-"Get out of here, Adi," she spat, still holding on to Adi's knife. The attacker ran off, but Jinora was still unable to grasp it all.
Her unofficial older sister held out her hand and pulled Jinora to her feet. "Looks like I'm still covering your ass," she smirked, and they fell into a deep hug, before they sauntered off, strolling down to the edge of the yard.
"What happened to you? How did you end up in here?"
Korra thought for a while. "Well, I was picked up at the border while I was making my run for Zaofu. Turns out, I was carrying about 15.000 yuans, and you're only allowed to carry 10." She chuckled. "It's almost ironic: I spend half a decade doing Iroh's dirty work, running drugs, beating up people who won't work with us, killing people in his way, and the thing that lands me in jail is a technicality."
"But... My testimony..." Jinora started, but Korra quickly silenced her.
-"Wasn't your fault. I knew I was screwed the moment they asked me to come with them. Outside of your testimony, they couldn't find any proof. I took the ferry to Senlin, and got rid of all guns on the way, so they couldn't use those to prove I was there. Iroh torched the coffee place before Beifong picked him up, but the manifests we took, combined with your testimony, was enough to convict him. Your testimony only put me in an awkward position when it came to the raid on the Red Lotus, but because your gun was the only one they could recover, since Iroh also changed his, they couldn't put the gun in my hand. Iroh is taking the blame for all four of those."
"Holy shit..." Jinora mumbled. "Looks like we got away with murder, and not in the figure of speech."
Korra chuckled. "Yep. We got off easy."
The younger girl thought for a while. "Say Korra, there's one thing I've been wondering. How did you end up on the fire escape the day that..." She hesitated to finish that sentence, but Korra knew what she meant.
-"I went through the coffee shop, used the crowd to disappear. Iroh is crazy, but he's still a soldier. He doesn't want half a dozen of his own patrons lying dead on the floor in collateral damage, so that bought me enough time to make it over to your place. I saw the door of your apartment had been kicked down, so I made my way over to the roof instead. I wasn't in time, because I was still working my way down when I heard the first gunshot." She was silent for a moment. "I'm sorry, Jinora. For what happened that day."
She shook her head. "Wasn't your fault. Hell, you were the hero. If it hadn't been for you, Tahno would have raped Ikki, me, maybe even my mom as well, and then he would have killed us all."
Another silence fell between them.
-"How are things with your family?" Korra cautiously asked.
Jinora sighed, and let her head rest against the fence. "I haven't heard from them since I went inside. I couldn't attend Meelo's funeral, because no one wanted to post bail for me, and my mom hates me. She probably still does, and the weirdest thing is, I don't blame her."
-"But Jin, she's your mother," the older girl softly said, running a hand through Jinora's hair. "That's nothing like the Pema I knew."
"I got Meelo killed, plain and simple. I may not have pulled the trigger, but it was all my fault. I don't deserve someone as good as her."
Korra didn't say anything. Jinora softly started snickering after a while, and Korra pulled her into another hug, making sure no one could see her cry.
Truth be told, she missed her mother immensely. In the past, Jinora had never gone more than a week without seeing her mother, and that was once, when she went on a school field trip. In actuality, it wasn't even a week, it was four nights and five days, but by now, she'd gone a year and a half without seeing her.
It was Jinora's definition of hell.
-"Hey." She looked up at Korra's blue eyes. "She will come around. It's not in her nature to hold grudges, especially against people she loves. Until then, we have to stick together, and we are going to win this one. Okay?"
Jinora nodded. "Sounds like a plan."
Two months later
-"Gyatso, you got a visitor."
Jinora looked up in surprise. "I don't get visitors."
The guard wasn't amused by this. "Well, you do now, so get your ass over to the visitor's area, otherwise I'll tell her to leave."
She took a deep breath, and made her way over to the small room that was buzzing with hushed conversations. It wasn't truly comfortable, as everyone else could hear what you were saying, and some people needed to discuss some very intimate things, as Jinora would be forced to once she saw who it was that had come to visit her.
"Hey, Mom," she said, upon sitting down at the table.
Pema managed a small albeit forced smile. "Hey Jinora."
It briefly fell silent. "Why did you come?" the younger girl asked. "You have no reason to, in fact, I wouldn't blame you if you'd tell me that you hate me, but I doubt that you'd come all the way out here just to say that."
Her mother smiled more sincerely this time around. "I didn't come here to tell you that I hate you. I wanted to, though." She took a deep breath. "For all this time, I wanted to hate you. After you were convicted, Ikki came home, crying her eyes out. She told me about the sentencing, but I remained stubborn. I wanted to blame you for all of this, because it was easy, and there was enough to deal with." She paused for a while. "I didn't want to face facts, and realize that I am also to blame for this, for the same reasons that we said all those months ago, around the dinner table. Meanwhile, I was denying Ikki and Rohan a chance to see their sister for eight years straight, and that weighed on them as well. They miss you, Jinora. Ikki refuses to agree with me that it was your fault, and we have been almost constantly fighting over it. Then, about two weeks ago, came a message on the news: Iroh had been executed. He'd been sentenced to death, and they briefly mentioned how it was because of your testimony that he was caught, and that the police, under the command of Detective Beifong, were finally able to clean up in the Dragon Flats. You made all that possible."
She paused for a moment, and sighed. "And there I still was, blaming you for something you wouldn't have wanted in a million years. For something that you nearly gave your life to try and prevent. That when I realized it: I love you, Jinora. I have loved you from the moment I first learned I was pregnant with you. I don't know if I can ever fully forgive you for what your actions caused, but I should at least try. And I don't blame you anymore. What happened to Meelo was the fault of a maniac, not yours."
A small smile appeared on Jinora's face. Even with all the shit you pulled, she's still on your side. "But everything I did... I destroyed everything you have worked so hard to accomplish!" Jinora paused for a moment, and her mother gave her a conceding nod. "You did everything you could, and did a great job raising four children, and because of my greed, I messed it all up."
-"Do you really think it was greed? You said you did it to protect me, and to secure a future for Ikki and Meelo, and hopefully yourself as well."
"And in the process, I got Meelo killed, scarred Ikki and Rohan for life, and..." This next one was going to be hard, as it would mean telling the full truth, so she took a deep breath to prepare herself. "And got my dumb ass pregnant."
Jinora sighed. "I didn't know about it until I got convicted, and once I got here, it took the prison doctor all of three minutes to figure it out."
At first, her mother didn't say anything. It took her quite a while to come to grips with this news, much like Jinora expected. "What did you do with it?"
"Had to get it aborted at 16 weeks. Mom, they would have taken it away from me the moment it's born. They would have to hand it over to you, as you are my closest living relative, and I couldn't burden you with a baby. You did a great job raising four children, and I fucked it all up in one foul swoop." It fell silent for a bit. "Even if I didn't say it as flat out like this, would you really want to be a grandmother before you hit 50?"
Pema sighed and leaned back into her chair. "No, I suppose I wouldn't want to be. I just hope you still think you made the right decision."
A dry chuckle was all that escaped from Jinora's lips. "I've had all the time in the world to think about it in here, especially since I haven't had a decent night's sleep since I got arrested. Besides, the chance of it having defects were big. I was wasted when I had sex with Kai, and then ran off to use heroin, and the thought of wanting it again appeared to me more than once in here." For a long time, it was silent between them. Her mother had to process such huge news, especially given the impact it had on Jinora. Ultimately, she had to break it. "Mom, I want children, eventually. But I want them with someone I love, when I can properly take care of them myself. I don't want it to be born from a colossal vodka-fueled mistake, and I definitely don't want it to spend the first six years of its life only seeing me an hour a week on Saturdays."
It was silent for a long time. "You got eight years."
-"Don't you think that's too little for what you did?"
"It is. Beifong took pity on me, and convinced her 500-yuans-an-hour-lawyer of a wife to take my case, and defend the hell out of me. Kya Winters, she managed to make me get away with murder. She claimed that the charge of murder in the first degree was nonsense, as I was forced to do it, and the jury agreed with that."
Pema chuckled, but it wasn't the good-hearted laugh that her mother usually had. It was more forced, and it was obvious to Jinora that whatever had been lost during her fight with Tahno wasn't coming back any time soon. "That's one way to do it," the mother said. Her expression changed to slightly more serious after this. "It's not fair that you're in here, Jinora. You didn't do any of what of what you did for your own benefit, you did it to protect us all, and that it backfired shouldn't land you in prison, especially because you gave them Iroh."
She thought about this for a moment. "Not fair," Jinora ultimately repeated. She looked around, and spotted the girl she was looking for. "You see the girl with the pigtails over my left shoulder? She was being systematically abused by her step-brother, but he was the parents' favorite, and they didn't do anything about it. One day, she had enough, went into her dad's study, and pulled out his gun. Hattrick to the chest, killed him instantly. But because there wasn't any direct emergency, and because she didn't have some hot-shot lawyer with 1200 yuan shoes, she ended up with 16 years of prison. Double of what I got, and I shot a man at point blank who never did anything to me, except for costing my criminal employer a bit of money." She briefly paused. "The system didn't cheat on me, I cheated the system."
-"Maybe you did, maybe you didn't, it's still too long for my taste."
"You really think so?"
Pema sighed. "You're my daughter, Jinora, despite everything your actions led to."
A loud buzz came from the desk, an they both turned to face the guard. "Visitation hour is nearly over, everybody say your goodbyes now." They both stood up, a little bit awkward, since neither really knew what to do.
"I..." Jinora hesitantly began, but decided there was a better way to formulate that sentence. "Thanks Mom. For coming, and for giving me a second chance."
-"Oh sweetheart... Come here," Pema said, and pulled her daughter into a tight hug. "I still love you, Jinora. Don't you ever forget that." They broke away, and gave each other a strained smile. "I'm coming back next week, and then I'm taking Ikki and Rohan with me."
"I'd like that." Jinora's smile turned a bit more genuine.
-"You take care of yourself until then, okay?"
"I will Mom, but I promise you, things could be worse."
-"What do you mean?"
Jinora smiled again. "In juvie, they gave us beige jumpsuits," she said, gesturing to her completely formless but orange prison outfit. "You always said it: orange is my color."
And that was it for All are Equal! Thank you, everyone, for reading it to the end, for all those who stuck with it all the way. It was a ton of fun writing it, and even though I don't necessarily know if I'd write something like this again, I definitely will continue writing.
Once again, special thanks to a few people:, for drawing Jinora as The Airbender (the eyes man, the eyes), , for writing the date between Kai and Jinora in chapter 10, and for doing the proofreading on quite a few chapters. You guys all rock!
Anyway, that's it for now, I hope you enjoyed the show, and I hope to see you all again at my other stories. Take care folks!
For the collective works of the author, go here.