Cards on the Table
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All Are Equal



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Crashing Down From High

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Woman With a Plan

When Jinora stepped back into the apartment, her mother was sitting at the dinner table, facing the door. The young girl had trouble not breaking down into tears at the sight, but Pema remained perfectly composed when she saw her daughter finally walking through the door again.

"Hey, Mom," she started in a small voice.

-"Hey, sweetheart," Pema replied, giving her a small smile. "Sit down. I think it's about time we talked." Her voice was completely calm, which was actually kind of frightening. Jinora complied, sitting down at the head of the table, facing away from the door. "Jinora, you have been lying to me. Now I don't mind at all that you keep secrets, I know what that's like. I was your age once, and you don't have to share your every move with me." She paused for a long time and took a deep breath. "But when you disappear in the middle of the night, you don't show up at school, and then Korra calls and says she can't tell me what happened to you, that is where I draw the line. So I am going to ask you this once: what did you do?"

Jinora chuckled, as she couldn't help but find the sad irony funny. "Everything you told me not to." She thought for a moment, before pulling out the box of cigarettes from her pocket, fidgeting with one under the table. "Where are Ikki, Meelo, and Rohan?"

-"Meelo and Rohan are asleep, I arranged for Ikki to stay with a friend until late tonight. Why do you want to know?"

"Because this is going to take more than a five-minute conversation."

Another silence. "What are you playing with?" Pema asked after a while.

Jinora sighed. "Well shit, with everything you're about to learn, I guess this won't matter." She stuck the cigarette between her lips, and quickly lit it before her mother could even protest. Much to her surprise, there was not so much as a hint of disappointment on Pema's face. "You're not going to say anything?"

-"I'm going to let you do the talking on this one, seeing how you have plenty to talk about. Why don't you start with where you went last night?"

"I'd rather start from the beginning." Jinora took a long drag of her cigarette, ultimately exhaling the smoke again. "I'm a criminal, Mom." This did make her mother sigh. The Airbender pulled out her gun, placing it on the table between them. "This is where I go at night. I sell drugs. That is what I do. And in case you're still not clear, I'm the one giving us the cash every week."

-"I take it that's not the full beginning?"

"No." And then she spilled it. The entire story, from how she started, ended up with the Glide, beat up Toza, even how she shot Kai. Pema was calm all the way through, and she only asked for things she wasn't clear on. There was no judgment from her side whatsoever. It took her nearly two full hours to get through the entire thing, going through half her pack of cigarettes in the meantime. Ultimately, Jinora landed at what happened last night, and that was where she started to hesitate and fell silent.

-"You've been quiet for a long time," Pema eventually remarked.

The young girl was about to speak up when Ikki burst into the apartment. "Hey, Mom, I - whoa," she interrupted herself, while Jinora slowly turned around to face her little sister. "Jin, why are you smoking? And what's with the long face?"

-"Ikki, go to your room and get to bed," Pema sternly ordered.

-"But... but..."

Pema sighed and stood up. "Ikki, do what I say." She groaned, but did comply, and gingerly walked over to their room.

Her mother sat down again, trying to take it all in. "Screw it, give me one of those," she said, gesturing to the box of cigarettes.

"But you don't smoke."

-"I used to, but I quit when I became pregnant with you. Let's have 'em."

Jinora raised an unconvinced eyebrow, but decided she wasn't really in a position to refuse, so she slid the box and her lighter over to her mother, who quickly lit one up. "Our little secret," she said, winking at her daughter. It put a faint smile on Jinora's face, whose spirits dropped again when she realized what she was about to disclose.

-"So..." Pema said after taking a long and content drag from her cigarette. "What happened last night?"

This was the point where Jinora lost her resolve. She broke down into a quiet sob at first, but once the first tear had fallen the floodgates opened. Pema slid her chair closer, pulling her daughter into a tight hug. Neither of them knew how long they sat there like that, but it was quite long. Eventually, it was Pema who spoke up again. "Sweetheart, I hate seeing you like this. Whatever it is, I promise you, I will help you over it."

Jinora took a deep breath, wiping her tears dry with her sleeve. "I..." She sighed again. "Mom, I killed someone." Pema didn't say anything. She put the side of her fist in front of her mouth, not out of shock or surprise, but more out of what appeared to almost be acceptance.

After a while, Jinora started talking again. She told her what happened, how Iroh had forced her into a corner, and that there was basically no other way out. She wasn't even making an attempt to justify it by saying that Zaheer was the worse criminal here, because truth be told, Jinora wasn't even very sure about that herself anymore.

-"So that's how it is," Pema ultimately said once her daughter had stopped again. "Is that why you didn't come home last night?"

"Something like that." Jinora let out another sigh. "Short version: got drunk, got laid, got high." After elaborating on that part as well, it fell silent again. They both lit up another cigarette, and Jinora started to wonder. "Mom, why aren't you furious? It's not like I'm some sort of petty dealer who got weed to sell at a party, I sold heaviest drugs in town! People have been killed for what I sell, by what I sell, and I killed someone for it myself!"

Pema sighed and puffed out a bit of smoke. "I was very angry at you, Jinora, and I was very worried. But then I started thinking about the timing of everything. You started disappearing right after you caught me and Toza, yet when the money flow started, you were gone only less often. I definitely had my suspicions of what you were up to, but I never thought it would be this bad. And I blame myself for not seeing it, and not acting sooner. This is my fault as much as it is yours. I forced your hand and let you play it out."

Always there to take care of you. "No. This was my choice, not yours. You didn't tell me to get into the drug business, hell, you told me to stay away from it. And yet I still did it."

-"And I didn't stop you. She sighed. "I love you very much Jinora, and I hate seeing you like this, in this..." Pema paused for a moment. "Situation... that you got yourself into. That I let you get yourself into. And if I'm very honest with myself, I didn't do it because the money was so tempting, even if I knew deep down that it was probably you giving it to us. But we needed it, every penny of it, so I didn't take any action."

Jinora sighed. "Well, too bad it's coming to an end then."

-"What do you mean?"

"I'm out," she firmly stated. "Mom, I used the drugs that I sell. How would Iroh ever trust me to walk around with it again, selling it instead of putting it up my arm? There is only one thing left for me to do: stop him before he kills me."

This made her mother's eyes grow wide with fear. "He put a kill order out on you?"

"Well, if he hasn't already, he will soon. I know too much, and I would remain alive, I'd be a liability. Korra is working on how we can take him, because he is good, and our list of allies is short." Jinora took a deep breath. "If it all goes to plan, Korra might take over his operation, keep the flow of money going."

-"Jinora, you have enough blood on your hands. I don't want you to do anything that you would regret."

"It's too late for that. Besides, as long as he is alive, you are in danger as well. Once Korra and I take him out, we're in the clear. This is my mess, and I don't want anything to happen to you because of it. And maybe after that, things will go back to normal."

Her mother took another deep breath, trying to grasp the situation. You are basically telling her you're going to kill someone. What the fuck did you expect, a pat on the back and her well-wishes?! "Is it normal, Jinora? Because from where I'm sitting, 16 year old girls should be worrying about their homework and what they're going to wear on their next date, not plotting murders."

"Be that as it may, I have to protect you, and if that's at the cost of Iroh... Well, I don't think it's a huge loss for the world."

-"So now you are starting to become careless with the value of a human life? Is that it?"

Jinora sighed. "Of course not. But if I have to make the choice between him and us, I choose us. At least give me that." She could see that her mother was contemplating saying 'but if', but she didn't, it wouldn't solve anything anyway, so she might as well not.

Pema thought long and hard. "This is nothing like you, Jinora. I didn't raise a girl who would even consider killing someone, let alone think up a plot with Korra." She looked Jinora square in the eyes, as if she was trying to figure out what she was thinking. "What are you aiming for here?" Iroh's head, preferably. "My blessing or something?"

"No, that's not it. I just..." She sighed. "I have to do this, Mom. You are in danger as long as I don't."

-"I won't condone this, Jinora. I cannot possibly agree with you killing someone, even if it is to protect us." Pema paused for a long time. "That being said, I won't stop you either. This does not mean I'm okay with this, but I don't believe you would lie to me about something like this. So I will let you do this for now, and after that, you stop it. All of it, money or no money. I want this thing out of my house," she said, pointing to the gun, "and you are of course grounded indefinitely."

Jinora chuckled. "Goes without saying, really." At least some things will never change. She smiled sincerely. "Thanks, Mom. I'm gonna fix this whole mess, I promise."

All Are Equal
Act I
Welcome to the SuckWorking ConditionsA Pair of ThreesLike Selling Ice CreamMore Equal Than Others
Act II
The First AirbenderAll Quiet in the Dragon FlatsStick the LandingBack Alley BrawlDate Night
Soldier of MisfortuneMaking a ChoiceIt Takes a TollCrashing Down From HighCards on the Table
Act IV
Woman With a PlanBattle of the Dragon FlatsA Sister's SacrificeA Year and a Half Later

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