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|Meet 'N' Greet|
July 9th, 2017
Normally, Kai was pretty mature. Okay, he did some childish nonsense with his friends every now and again that made Jinora roll her eyes, but when he was with her, he usually acted his age.
'Usually' being the operative form there. "Christ, Kai, can you stop acting like a five-year old? I get the feeling Neron would be easier to take shopping."
Kai chuckled but also looked resigned. "Jinora, this is the third store we've gone into and none of them had what you want."
Jinora sighed. "I know, but I just want this to work, okay?"
-"You really think your parents are that shallow, that they'll judge me based on my clothes?"
"You only get one shot at a first impression. They're well on their way to deciding that they don't like you, so the least we can do is catch them off guard." She turned around to face him, looking up because of their height difference. "I know you don't care, but I do. I want my parents to like you. So please? Do this for me."
Kai loudly sighed. "Fine, fine. But only because you look so sweet right now."
Jinora chuckled. "Good enough for me. Come on." She dragged him into yet another store, reasonably convinced they'd have suits here. It wasn't like she was going to make him wear a full three-piece, just a shirt and jacket. As per Jinora's instructions, Kai had come in his best jeans, which were a nice shade of grey, so it would work out fine.
After some more browsing, Jinora finally found what she was looking for: a white dress shirt. "There we go, hold this." She could have berated him for his obvious eye-roll, but just as quickly decided it wasn't worth it. Instead, she moved over to the section of suit jackets, and quickly picked out a simple black one that looked like it was about the right size. "What do you think?"
-"That I don't have a choice."
Jinora laughed. "Trust me, when you try them on, you'll feel different. Go on, I'll wait here."
Kai disappeared into the fitting room and came out a few minutes later, and Jinora would be lying to herself if she said that she couldn't feel a wave of heat roll over her, because fucking hell, did he look good. Kai normally had a fairly slender build, but the jacket made him look slightly broader than he normally was. The white shirt underneath was fine, and made a lovely contrast against his dark skin. "Okay, you look really good," she immediately commented.
-"I'm wearing a monkey suit, are you kidding me? This is a joke, and an uncomfortable one at that." He tried crossing his arms, but couldn't even make his elbows touch each other.
"Kai, trust me, it makes you look super handsome."
He sighed. "I'm just having a hard time seeing it," he said, looking at himself in the floor-length mirror. "This isn't me, you know what I mean?"
Jinora nodded. "I do, but it means a lot to me that you're trying this."
-"I don't think you do. What you're trying to do is present a picture of me to your parents that they want to see, not what is actually going on. That's what got us in this mess in the first place."
This was actually a good point, and it suddenly had Jinora doubting herself. "That's true, but you also have to make a good first impression. If there has ever been a good time to use the phrase 'between a rock and a hard place', now would be it."
-"Babe, I get that, but I'm not sure that solving the issue of lying to your parents can be solved by putting on another act."
Jinora thought for a moment. "Then how about I play along with you?" This seemed to confuse Kai, so she quickly clarified. "Tell you what: if you wear that on Saturday, I'll wear a dress, okay?"
He perked up at this. "You in a dress? Well, I certainly like that prospect. You got a deal."
(Bribery saves the day.)
Today, of all days, Jinora had overslept. Part of that was because last night was good fun at the skate park, it was Friday, and watching a drunk Bolin faceplant was hilarious once they had determined he hadn't broken his nose, though Kai didn't wait for that.
Jinora didn't drink at all, because she didn't want to have a hangover today. It was going to be hard enough to get through today in one piece without additional challenges like that, because Kai was on his way. It was a frantic scramble of yelling Meelo out of the shower, berating Ikki for barging into her room again while Jinora was still in her underwear, and trying to fend off her mother who wanted her help preparing for Kai's arrival when she really had to be ready.
It was going to be quite hot today, so Jinora had decided to keep her promise and wear a lovely blue summer dress and stylish flats. She was putting the finishing touches on her outfit when she heard the bell ring. That was definitely Kai, and she wasn't there to open the door.
(Fuck.) Her room was in the far corner of the house, meaning that no way in hell could she make it to the front door before someone else.
"Let it be Mom... Let it be Mom..." Jinora whispered to herself as she made her way through the house as quick as she could, but it just wasn't meant to be.
Right before she made it though, she heard the door open. As it turns out, it was actually her father who was letting Kai in, and even from the side, Jinora could see the surprise on his face as he saw Kai standing there, looking fantastic in his jacket. "Ah, Mr. Gyatso, nice to meet you," he said, holding out his hand.
-"Umm... Likewise," Tenzin said, unable to shake the daze.
"Kai!" Jinora exclaimed, trying to get their attention.
He stepped inside, finally getting a good look at her. "Wow..." Kai said, a smile growing on his face. "You look beautiful."
A faint blush crept over Jinora's cheeks. "Thanks. Want to meet the rest of my family?"
-"That's what I'm here for."
Her father wouldn't be able to tell, but Jinora was. Over the months, she had found her way to the inside of his defenses. He was nervous as hell, and what he was showing was all an act. She pressed a quick and chaste kiss on his cheek, and then pulled him into the living room, ready to meet everyone else. It was just going to be tea for now, and maybe Kai and Jinora were going to head out afterwards, depending on how it would go.
When they got there, the first thing Pema did was eye Kai up, and couldn't help but an appreciative nod as she took in his appearance. (That worked precisely as planned.)
-"Well, don't you look handsome," she quickly commented. "I'm Pema, Jinora's mother."
-"I figured," Kai said, shaking her hand. "Kai Fong."
"Anyway, that's Meelo and Rohan," Jinora continued, quickly pulling him away and pointing out her two little brothers. "And you already know Ikki, at least from passing."
Her little sister was eyeing him up suspiciously. "Where's your jacket? And your piercing?"
-"What piercing?" he replied before turning back to back to Jinora to give her a wink. (This was going to be fun.)
-"The one you always have in your eyebrow! And you always wear a leather jacket, where has that gone?"
Kai just played along. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
-"Ikki, it's not nice to say things like that about people," her father piped up.
Ikki looked devastated, much to Jinora's satisfaction. "I... But... He..." At that point, she realized she wasn't going to win this one, so she just shut her mouth again and turned back to her phone.
-"How about we sit down?" Pema suggested, and they all sat down on the two sofas, Jinora next to Kai, obviously. "Kai, would you like some tea?"
He didn't have to think long. "Sure, thanks."
-"Jinora, could you give me a hand?" her mother sweetly asked.
Jin almost blurted out 'as long as there are witnesses', but caught that just in time. "Sure." As she walked out, Kai started showing some interest in what Rohan was doing, so that was going to end up fine for now.
Jinora started pouring a cup of tea for everyone, when her mother brought up the elephant in the room. "This was all you, wasn't it?"
A light blush crept over her face. "Well... not all me." Pema raised a skeptical eyebrow to that. "Okay, the clothes were, but I can't make him be good with Rohan. That's all him."
-"I'll be honest with you, Jinora, I think it's sweet that he's trying."
They soon stepped out with tea and cake for all those interested, and Jinora took her seat again next to Kai. She could even swear there was a hint of a smile on her father's face, given the interactions she missed.
Jinora was loving this. Everything was going exactly the way she had planned. His initial appearance had thrown every prejudice her parents had out the window, and from what she could tell, they were actually warming up to him.
Of course she should have seen that as a warning sign. She might as well have thrown the wrench in the works herself.
-"Hey, what's that tattoo behind your ear?" Rohan asked out loud as he walked behind the sofa Kai was sitting on. Jinora closed her eyes in defeat, because that had just undone everything. Her brother probably didn't mean anything by it, but was just curious. It was the only tattoo Kai had that wasn't covered by his clothes, and wasn't even visible in a normal conversation, and yet Rohan had managed to find it.
Her father was quick to turn his smile into a frown and raise an eyebrow. "Tattoo?"
Kai took a deep breath, knowing where this was going to lead. "It means 'stand', in Mandarin. I thought it was important to remind myself and everyone else of that."
Jinora basically held her breath, but it seemed that neither one was buying this. "And how many tattoos do you have?" Tenzin quickly asked.
-"FOUR?!" her father exclaimed in disbelief. (Yep. This was going to be a disaster. At least they tried.)
That thought was scarily accurate. Both of her parents basically grilled him on every little scrap of what Jinora had told them over the years in her surprisingly effective smear campaign. It definitely got under her skin quite quickly, but much to her surprise, Kai was being fairly blasé about it, almost like he didn't care. He just sat there, answering her parents' questions, though Jinora did notice that he was bending the truth a little left and right to leave her out.
-"And Jinora also mentioned that you have already been arrested three times," Pema finally brought up. It was the one she'd been waiting for.
-"I have," Kai admitted. "Never charged though, as they were only 'minor offenses' and posed no risk to anyone."
Ikki had also joined the action, because this was her chance to score a few free hits against her sister. "So the public intoxication the whole school heard about last year was nothing?"
-"Intoxication? Are you trying to get my daughter drunk?" Tenzin asked, clearly being less and less pleased with this as the conversation went on.
"That's really presumptuous," Jinora came to Kai's defense. She was quickly getting sick of this. "He's not making me do anything, and besides, you heard him, nothing stuck!"
-"How is it not a real charge when it could have?"
-"They took me to the police station, because a few of my friends were drunk. I had to take a breathalyzer test, which didn't do anything, because I was under the legal limit and even if I wasn't, I wasn't driving or anything."
It was briefly silent after Kai's admission, but Jinora knew it wouldn't last. "And the other two?" her mother asked. (Goddammit.)
-"Trespassing. One of them, I'll admit, was my fault, the other was bull..." Jinora quickly elbowed him in the side before he could finish that. "Nonsense, because the plot of land was sold a week earlier and the owner hadn't put up signs yet, so they couldn't even charge us."
-"So it's someone else's fault. How surprising."
"Dad!" Jinora immediately protested. "That is really unfair and you know it."
Tenzin leaned back. "I think it's time that you go, Kai. I've heard enough."
He sighed and began to stand, but Jinora stopped him. "No. Kai, sit down. This is ridiculous. Kai has been nothing but polite and fair, even though you have practically been waterboarding him for the last half hour. He neatly dressed himself, and yes, that was my idea, but he still went with it, and came here in good faith. Ikki is using this to make me look bad, Mom is barely interested in listening to what he has to say, and Dad, you already made up your mind last week when you found out about us. And all awhile, the only one here making any effort to make this work is Kai! You know what, fuck this. This has all been a gigantic waste of time." Jinora paced off to the garden, slamming the kitchen door on an eerily silent living room.
She was fuming. Jin had completely taken over, ranting against her parents and once again mouthing off in front of everyone this time. She sat down on the swing set, which yeah, she was far too old for, but it was comfortable and it was in the sun.
After a few minutes, she saw Kai emerge from the back door as well and sat down on the swing next to her. "How come I never noticed you have freckles on your shoulders?" he asked, running his fingers over them.
Jinora chuckled. "Because I don't wear things that expose my shoulders very often. Plus, they get more noticeable when I'm in the sun."
Kai reached over and took her hand. "You should. I think they're cute."
"Really?" she asked, raising an eyebrow. "I don't like them. And you think everything about me is cute."
-"Wouldn't be dating you if I didn't."
After this, it fell silent between them for a bit. "I really screwed this up for us, didn't I?" Jinora asked.
Kai sighed. "I dunno. We probably never stood much of a chance to begin with. You pretty much said it; they'd already made up their minds."
"That was before I launched into a tirade against them. It can't have done us any good."
-"Don't be so pessimistic," Pema said, making them both look up.
"Mom," Jinora said, quickly untangling her hand from Kai's. (No need to get mushy in front of her parents.) "How much of that did you hear?"
-"Plenty. Kai, could I have a moment with my daughter?"
He looked over to Jinora, who nodded. "Sure, I'll wait out front," he said before walking off.
When Kai was out of earshot, Pema spoke up again. "Jinora, I'm sorry. You were right, we didn't give him a fair chance." She paused for a moment. "But can you really blame us?"
"Yeah, yeah, because I bad-mouthed him for so long, we've been over this," she sighed.
-"That's not what I mean." This actually made Jinora look up in surprise, because she didn't know where this was going. "Your father and I are worried that he'll have a bad influence on you, and it does look that way. You lied to us for so long, something you never did before, you're constantly fighting with Ikki, mouthing off against us, and it goes on. That does paint a certain image, and the timing points at Kai."
Jinora took a moment to think on this, because her mother had a point, even if that wasn't what was really going on. "Maybe, but it's not true. Me falling out with Ikki began before I started dating Kai, and even if it hadn't, he's been a moderating force on that. I have the texts to prove it." She suddenly got a bright idea. "Heck, Kai has been coming around since we started dating. He's more punctual, his grades are climbing, all that good stuff. It's more like I'm having an influence on him than vice versa."
Pema had to let this sink in, but then she nodded. "Okay. I'll talk to your father, make him see your side more. But I want your honesty, Jinora. No more lies."
This was a good offer, because Jinora didn't want to do that anyway. (No more than she had to because of the time she spent on her skateboard, but still.) "Okay, I can do that. Thanks, Mom."
Just a word to the wise for all guys reading this: you look better in a suit jacket. The one condition is that it's properly fitted, but if it is, it makes you look taller if you're short, broader if you're skinny, and slimmer if you're fat. Can't go wrong.
Also, if you're wondering why I'm still pretty slow even though I'm done with school for the year... Let's just say my bank account hasn't come out of the Steam Summer Sales unscathed.
For the collective works of the author, go here.