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May 28th, 2016
"Just my luck..." Jinora muttered, resigning herself to the fact that she'd be spending quite a while here. Her mother had to take Ikki to mid-week gymnastics practice, which meant that she could normally take the bus home, but in amazing stroke of bad luck, she had misread the time.
Normally, Jinora would spend some time in the library, where she could study in peace without having any one of her siblings (Ikki being the most likely contender, and Jinora's patience with her sister was wearing thin,) before having to go catch the last bus home. Unfortunately, what she didn't know, was that today's bus driver was in something of a rush, and left five minutes early, leaving Jinora stranded.
Her mother was out with Ikki and would be until dinner, and her father would have to drive all the way across town to get from City Hall to their school which is why it was typically Pema to take Jinora and Ikki to and from school.
With a sigh, Jinora sat down on a low wall, knowing that she'd have to wait until Ikki came out of gym practice that she could call her mother for a ride home.
Just as she had taken out her books again (the library had closed for the day and the weather was nice anyway), a familiar voice drew her attention. "What's a girl like you doing in a place like this?" Kai, asked a cigarette already between his lips. With his nimble fingers, he quickly lit it, blowing out the first puff of smoke, deliberately away from Jinora.
"Well, I'm stuffed. The last bus left early, and both of my folks are busy. Looks like I'm gonna be enjoying myself here for a while."
-"Don't enjoy yourself too much," he replied with a slanted smirk.
"Shut up." He held the pack of cigarettes out to her, like he was actually offering her a smoke. "No thanks," she sarcastically said, feeling the frustration build again. Even though they had been more amicable since their English project finished, mutual respect being the driving force behind that, the hatchet wasn't so easily buried with nearly a decade of adversity between them.
-"What were you still doing here this late?"
Jinora scoffed. "Studying in the library, actually making myself useful, as opposed to someone." He made his typical 'fair enough'-face, which was enough to make her ask. "What about you?"
-"Detention, turns out that Unalaq wasn't impressed with my traffic-excuse." Kai took another drag of his cigarette, looking like he was stalling. Jinora let him, turning back to her homework, something she had to read. "Gyatso," he said, and she looked up, slightly curious. "I could give you a ride home."
Jinora looked up, then over to his motorcycle (she hated that thing so much,) and then back to him. (Repeat three times.) "Are you being serious here?"
-"You helped me get an A for English, and then you covered for me last week with that cop... I owe you, and I hate owing people."
"And you figure a ride on that death-trap would settle the score?"
Kai simply shrugged. "You can always wait here for your parents to come pick you up, or I can have you home in 10 minutes."
She hesitated to make another snarky remark, because his offer was appealing. At least, the results were. (Jinora wasn't a fan of the phrase 'the ends justify the means', but Jin was.) The choice was simple: get home early on a motorcycle, or wait here for her parents for God knows how long?
She was contemplating the issue for so long, that Kai got tired of waiting and climbed onto his bike, revving the engine up once. "Wait!" she yelled, making a decision that she might just come to regret. "I'll take you up on that offer." She quickly walked up to him, stuffing the last of her books back into her backpack, and he tossed his helmet at Jinora for her to wear. "What will you have?" she asked, unsure whether or not she should take it.
-"Extra motivation not to crash," he simply retorted, putting on a pair of sunglasses. "Relax, Gyatso, I know what I'm doing."
Reluctantly, Jinora put the helmet on, and sat down behind him, cautiously putting her hands on his sides. "You're going to have to hold on better than that." He threw a look over his shoulder and grabbed her hands, folding them over his stomach.
She was glad she had decided to wear her denim jacket today, that would at least be a little sturdier that a thin layer of fabric, should they fall. What's more, (and she really hated to admit this one) being pressed up against Kai like this was kind of... nice. It reminded her of that night in her room where they had nearly kissed, had it not been for her busted ribs.
Feeling the bike pull away, albeit more gentle than Kai would usually do, and she was glad he made her hold on a bit tighter, because this was weird. Actually feeling the lean of the bike without having to work for it was a little awkward at first, but a few turns in she quickly learned to look past Kai's head and anticipate the corners.
He took them over the freeway, and this was where things got interesting, because the on-ramp was preposterously short here, while the speed limit was 60 miles an hour. This meant Kai had to open up the throttle, and give it some noise.
Despite it being impossible that it was a very powerful engine (cost of fuel, insurance, and all that), the bike sped up like a bat out of hell. Jinora found herself clamping on to Kai a little tighter than she already was, mostly because he seemed to have a cavalier disregard of both the speed limit and the phrase 'keep your lane'.
Despite this, Jinora had to admit, this was exciting. She could feel the wind rush past her, and despite the fact that part of her was scared beyond belief, she also couldn't remember the last thing that had made her feel like this, this... alive. Not even completing that half spiral all those weeks ago came close to this.
It was over way too soon. She knew that it was a pretty straight shot from the freeway exit Kai took to her house, at least, at the speeds he was riding. It wasn't long before they pulled up right in front of her house. She got off, and handed Kai his helmet back. "Thanks." Again, his hand brushed past hers, and neither one of them seemed to mind.
-"You're welcome." Jinora was about to walk back into the house, but Kai stopped her. "Gyatso," he started, but then he started hesitating. "I've been meaning to ask you... Why'd you do it?"
"What do you mean?"
-"Why did you kiss me last week?"
Jinora smiled, having already expected this question to come sooner. "Korra told me Mako was a massive stick-in-the-mud, even compared to me. Figured public displays of affection would make him very uncomfortable."
Kai chuckled, but when he took off his sunglasses, his eyes betrayed a more serious expression. (First time for everything.) "Fair enough, but that's not what I meant. I get why you kissed me, I just don't get why you bothered with it in the first place."
At this, Jinora didn't really know what to say. Part of her wanted to see him get in trouble for getting high in public, for getting on her nerves all the time, and just for his massive ego in general. But she now also knew that when he put his mind to something, he could be very diligent, hard-working, and committed. He protects the people he truly cares about, but he would never show that to the outside world. "You showed me your true colors, both during and after English. That side of you didn't deserve to be locked in a holding cell while you sobered up." The corners of her mouth tugged up slightly. "The other side of you however, that could do with a little bit of discipline."
Kai laughed as well, and for the first time since they met all those years ago, Jinora felt comfortable with him. She had let her guard down, whether she liked it or not.
-"I think I better get going," he said. "Wouldn't want to arouse suspicion."
Jinora chuckled. "Yeah, I think that would be best. See you later, Kai."
-"Later, Jin." With that, he put his helmet on, and gently rode off, making sure to keep engine noise down here in a residential area.
Much to her own surprise, she stared after him, right up until the moment that he made the corner and disappeared from view. This was when Jinora sighed and decided to go back inside. No one was home yet, so it was quiet, which was nice for a change. Normally, there was always activity somewhere in the house, mostly because of her rambunctious siblings.
Jinora used the moment of silence to her advantage. She poured herself a glass of juice, before falling flat on the couch, where the big question popped up in her head: how did she really feel about Kai?
He could still get on her nerves like no one else, that much was obvious, but unlike what she would have said a few months ago, that wasn't the full story anymore.
It wasn't just the attraction, at least, she didn't think it was. It was still there, that much was certain. Hell, if anything, it was there more so than it had ever been. The worrying thing was that it seemed to run more than skin-deep now, which had been the case for all those years.
Their last kiss popped into her mind again. Did she really mind that much, kissing him to provide a decent distraction? Hell, she hadn't even benefitted from it, it was solely to cover his ass. The kiss itself was rubbish, but the idea behind it wasn't.
Thinking back to their first kiss, that was different. True, it was annoying, he blackmailed her into it, but it sure was a good kiss, and part of her wanted to have another one just like it.
As soon as this thought entered her mind, she choked on her juice and shot up. "Oh God..." Jinora mumbled, as she realized what that meant.
She was falling for Kai.
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