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March 10, 2016
-"Jinora, Aunt Lin just called me, she wanted to know if you were out last night," Pema asked over the table while Jinora was munching away at her breakfast.
It was just like she had expected, and thus, planned for. Unfortunately, Jin was the one taking charge over the defense of this one. "What are you talking about? I was here, you know that. I went to bed early because I was tired. Why would she ask?"
-"Because she chased someone with your posture and your hoodie out of the North Point Mall late last night, and wants to rule you out as a suspect. I told her that was ludicrous, and that you were home. Are you going to make me a liar?"
Jin had trouble not laughing. "Are you kidding me? What would I be doing at the mall at such a time that the police would be chasing me out?"
-"Trespassing. Look, Jinora, I don't want to believe her, but she was fairly adamant that it was you."
"Mom, you know that I wouldn't do that." (Though Jin would, but Pema wasn't privy to that little detail.) "So she saw someone in comfortable clothes that I have as well, which are made by the million in China, and that automatically makes it me?"
Pema sighed. "Alright, I suppose that's true. You finish your breakfast now, I'll take you and your sister to school in a bit."
Jinora nodded, and turned back to her breakfast. In reality, she hated lying to her mother, but it was almost like she couldn't stop herself this time. Covering up the truth about being in bed while actually being out on the streets was one thing, but straight up lying about it, and making her own aunt Lin seem incompetent by association? That's a whole new level.
What scared her was that it seemed like she was only half in control over what she'd just said. Jin was starting to make her way into Jinora's everyday life, and that wasn't a development she would be embracing anytime soon.
Jinora was definitely not looking forward to what she was about to do, but it had to happen. "Kai, got a minute?" she asked as class was just done, and they were starting the first break.
-"Sure, what's up?"
"I want to start on our project, today if you don't have anything else."
He raised an unconvinced eyebrow and scoffed. "Already? Gyatso, we have over a month to finish that, no rush whatsoever."
She was almost expecting that for a reply, but actually hearing it did make her sigh. "Unlike you, I don't procrastinate until the very last moment so that I can get a merely passable grade. Do you have time after school or not?"
Kai thought for a moment, before nodding. "Yeah, I can make that. Your place?"
Now it was Jinora's turn to scoff. "Yeah right, and give my sister ammunition for the next half decade? I think not. Your place."
-"No. Fucking. Way." It fell silent between them, given how decisively Kai had said that. It was obvious he didn't want anyone there, and Jinora was kind of waiting for an explanation, but it never came. "So..." he continued after a while. "Library?"
She shook her head. "People want to work there in peace and quiet, it'd be kind of rude to go sit there and hold an interview. I'll ask a teacher who actually likes me for a classroom. I'll text you the details."
Jinora kept her word, and had managed to persuade her chemistry teacher, Ms. Izumi, into letting them use her classroom for the afternoon, provided they wouldn't make a mess of it. A simple text to Kai, who she still didn't see the use of storing in her phonebook, and the meet was set.
A glance at her watch confirmed it. Fifteen minutes. He was fifteen minutes late, and they should have been out of their last class at the same time, even though they didn't share it.
With a frustrated groan, she smacked her glasses onto the table and rubbed her eyes, and reached for her phone in her bag. Jinora was beyond caring that she wasn't allowed to use her phone in here, she was just going to call him what the hell was taking him so long.
At that precise moment, Kai stepped inside, smug smirk lining his face. "You're not supposed to use that in school, you know."
She wasn't amused. "You're late."
-"Relax, I was working ahead, doing some preparations." He opened his bag, pulling a piece of paper out of a folder. "There you go, an opinionated article on a classmate I wouldn't normally socialize with."
Jinora took it from him, fairly convinced it wouldn't even be close to the specifications Tarrlok had given them. "You do realize that if a teacher gives you a month to finish an assignment, you're kind of obliged to use all that time?"
Kai scoffed, while Jinora started a quick scan of what he'd written down. "I'm not obliged to do anything," he simply shrugged.
"You are obliged to do better than this, this is rubbish. Grammar is all over the map, sentence construction is off, not to mention that you didn't even get some basic facts right. Simplest example: my full name isn't Jinora Gyatso, if you'd have asked, you'd have known that I have a middle name." She slid the paper across the table. "Start over, and this time, get it right."
He rolled his eyes. "What is the point? Tarrlok's going to fail us either way. Opinions in an article? You and me together? This is his chance to fuck us over big time, no matter what. We could write something better than the Ulysses and Odyssey combined and he'd still find a way to pull the rug out from under us."
By now, Jinora's patience was really being pushed to its very limit. "You listen to me, and you listen well," she started in a dangerously low voice. "In the thirteen or so years that I have been going to school, I have never handed in an assignment that I didn't do my best for. If you want to leave it at this, you go ahead, but then I'll hand in a blank sheet of paper, and fail us both. Sure, my parents will be pissed, but I'm just gonna throw you under the bus, they'll understand. My grade can take a hit like that, can yours?"
His silence was more than enough confirmation for Jinora, so she stood up, towering over him for the first time in her life. "We are going to do this project, and we are going to do it right. You are going to throw this thing away, and start over, doing it my way. We're going to write a piece so good that Tarrlok will kiss the ground on which we walk, and if it fails because he hates us, so be it, but I want us to fucking TRY!" she yelled, prodding her finger into his chest.
Her rare display of fury worked, as Jinora saw a twinge of real fear in Kai's eyes. She backed up a few paces, letting a fragile silence fall between them. "I am prepared to give you a shot here," she said, much calmer now, almost quietly, in fact. "Meet me halfway." In truth, her heart was pounding in her throat, because this was the first time Jin had gotten away from her outside of the skatepark. Jinora would have never yelled at someone like that, but somehow, Kai managed to push her that far.
-"Okay," he hesitantly said after a very long pause. "I'll work with you. Where do you want to start?"
Jinora smiled, knowing full well she had him marching to her beat.
Quick note: that last scene of Jinora yelling at Kai was inspired by a similar scene in House of Cards, season three, episode two. I've spent my weekend binging the fourth season, and it's a show you should absolutely go and see right now.
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