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|Best Hangover Ever 2|
March 21, 2017
Before you start reading this, there is a small but important change I made to Best Hangover Ever, which does spill over into this one. For full clarity, I suggest you read that again, but long story short, I decided Bolin wasn't a brilliant choice to be Jinora's fiancée, so I changed that. You'll catch on soon enough.
With that said, it's finally here, the biggest single thing I've ever written. I've been promising it for months now, and now it's ready. Enjoy!
Jinora knew that what she was doing was kind of sleazy, but then again, that's how she met Kai in the first place.
Ikki got her head yelled off by their parents when Jinora found the guts to tell them what had happened. Of course, her father couldn't help but be a little bit 'I told you so'-ish about the whole thing, but in general, they were very supportive. Kicking Skoochy out because of it was painful, though it was slightly satisfactory in a morbid kind of way. Jinora didn't like being vindictive, but for someone whom she trusted so much and who betrayed her so badly, this was the least she could get out of it.
Kai had agreed to meet her after he was done with work (she was free that day, which was lucky,) and she opened up to him. Turns out he actually was a pretty good listener. Without really realizing it, Jinora quickly found a friend after breaking off the engagement. She wasn't ready for anything serious, of course, but that didn't mean they couldn't hang out.
After that fateful first night in the bar, Jinora made it a staple to go back there at least once a week. This time around though, it was to see him, not to drink herself silly again. Should be noted that she didn't get drunk again after the whole incident, she instead kept it one glass of wine at most, usually just drinking a few sodas and chatting a few hours away with him, which was surprisingly easy.
And then, one Friday night, Jinora learned that Kai, aside from being very handsome, could also be very charming. He handed off his bar shift to someone else, Jinora had a few wines because she didn't need to teach the next day anyway, and the next thing she knew, they were in his bed, having simply amazing sex.
She was straight up with him directly afterwards that she didn't want it to be something serious. If he wanted to turn it into a friends with benefits-thing, she'd be open to that, but no commitment for now. Truth be told, Jinora had kind of said this with an eye on the future, because she did mean it when she said 'amazing sex'. Kai was good in the sack. Couldn't hurt to have that as an ace up her sleeve.
Unsurprisingly, he agreed to this. Didn't really look like he was looking for something very serious either, so this was fine for now.
And that's how it went tonight. She had called him, he was up for it, and now it was an hour later, there were a bunch of clothes spread around the room, and they were both sitting against the headboard of Kai's bed, neither one caring enough to get dressed. Jinora was still slightly out of breath, but Kai was in better shape. Good enough to reach over to the drawer of his bedside table and take something out.
"What are you doing?"
"Working my way off a bad habit," he said and turned back to her with a cigarette in his lips and a lighter in his hand.
Jinora was a little confused. "We've been doing this for three months, and you've never smoked afterwards."
Kai chuckled and threw her a handsome smile. "I know. I've been dying to do it every time but never dared to." He took a content drag and blew the smoke towards the open window. "Figured that by now, you'd forgive me a small flaw."
Jinora laughed as well. "Yeah, I guess that's true. Mind if I bum one?"
This made Kai laugh out loud. "Am I already having that bad of an influence on you? Next thing you know I'll be taking you to a tattoo parlor."
She just smiled as she lit a cigarette as well, coughing slightly from the first drag. "I have been to college, you know. Some habits die harder than others, and I usually smoked after sex. Had to drop it, though. Skoochy..." She trailed off. Skoochy couldn't stand the smell, so she quit it altogether. Wasn't very hard either, she didn't want to smoke in her day-to-day life anyway, and it was easy enough to ignore the urge, if she could call it that.
"He didn't like it," Kai finished for her.
Jinora just nodded, as she felt kind of bad for bringing him up. She absentmindedly finished her cigarette before crushing the butt in an ashtray Kai had placed between them. "Mind if I spend the night here?" she asked with a small voice.
"Not at all."
This brought a slight smile to her face, and she slid down into the sheets, breathing in the smell of smoke. It felt comfortable and familiar, reminding her of a time when everything was simpler. Before long, she fell into a dreamless sleep.
The following morning, Jinora felt sick. Violently so, even. She hadn't felt like this since... Well, since the morning after she walked in on Skoochy and Ikki. But because Kai hadn't prepared for her this time around, her only option was to make a sprint for the toilet, which she thankfully reached just in time.
It was gross and left her wondering what it was. Perhaps it was time to lay off smoking after sex permanently, but that would be weird. She'd never reacted to it like this before, but then again, it had been at least six years since she last did it. Alcohol, perhaps? Unlikely. She'd only had two glasses last night, and it wasn't even strong. She had taken her time with both and had a proper meal before, so it was a bit of a mystery.
"Jinora? You alright?" Kai stepped in, having slipped into a pair of boxers while she was sitting butt-naked in his bathroom.
"Yeah," she said, which was kind of true. Jinora still felt a little sick, but it was a lot better now. Kai very kindly went out to get her a glass of water, just so she could rinse her mouth at least. By now, they did have a bag of toiletries at each other's places, given how it wasn't that uncommon for the other to stay the night.
She decided to brush her teeth, dress herself, eat a light breakfast, and then head home. By the time dinner rolled by, she'd forgotten about it.
But then it happened again the next morning, and now Jinora started to worry. What was this?
Unfortunately, she didn't have the time to give it a lot of thought, because she had to get ready for class again. It was Monday, after all.
After school, she had to do a bit of paperwork on her pupils, when a knock came at her door. It turned out to be Suyin, the dean. "Jinora? Do you have a minute?"
"I hear you've been feeling a little sick lately."
Jinora smiled. She had very briefly mentioned it because she was a bit on the late side this morning. "Oh, that, that's nothing to worry about. Just in the mornings, but I feel fine now."
Suyin smiled. "Ah, like so. My first trimesters were exactly like that, but it went away soon enough."
This had Jinora puzzled. "Trimester?" And then the light went on. "Oh no..." she muttered. "No no no no no no NO!" Without even acknowledging Suyin again, she grabbed her purse and keys, and headed straight for the nearest pharmacy. She bought what she came for and drove home, full of anxiety.
Ten minutes later, her world collapsed.
"3+ weeks," the display on the pregnancy test read.
It was quite a bit later by the time Jinora stood up again. She had been staring at the pregnancy test, internally debating what to do.
Luckily, she'd only been with one person, so it was undisputable that Kai was the father. The bad news was, she didn't know how; she made sure that they always used a condom and never had one broken. She'd have known about that. Kai also didn't seem like the type to force her hand like this, poking holes in condoms or something creepy like that.
She should have seen the signs though: Her period was late, even though it wasn't too extreme just yet. The morning sickness, though in fairness, that just started. The fact that her breasts were slightly tender... The signs were all there, even if they were subtle.
That still left the question of what she was going to do next. Obviously, she had to tell Kai. But when? And how? And did she have to tell her parents that her fuck-buddy had gotten her pregnant?
Of course she did. Even though she'd been living on her own for a couple of years now, she still had regular contact with her parents, even before the break-up with Skoochy.
But first things first. She knew that pregnancy tests weren't 100 percent reliable, and even though the signs were all there, she still wanted to know for sure. Jinora quickly made an appointment with a doctor the following afternoon, who confirmed what she already thought: she was six weeks pregnant.
Now there was no escaping it. She really had a child growing inside of her, and she had no idea what to do next.
Actually, she had a pretty good idea of what to do next, she just wasn't looking forward to doing it.
With a sigh, Jinora picked up her phone and dialed Kai.
"Hey, Jin, what's up?"
"Umm, listen, I need you to come by my place later. Can you do that?"
He was silent for a moment. "What's going on? Are you okay?"
"I..." She hesitated. "I'm fine, but it's urgent. Can you stop by my place later tonight? I'll cook us some dinner."
"There's a first," he chuckled. "Alright, I'll be there when I'm done with work."
Sure enough, Kai showed up, though there was something of a worried frown on his face.
"We need to talk," Jinora said.
"What's going on, Jin?" he asked, his frown deepening.
She took a deep breath and jumped into the deep end. "Kai, I'm pregnant."
With a shocked expression on his face, he staggered back a few paces, until his knees hit her couch. He fell on it, his disbelief almost tangible. "You're... Are you sure?"
Jinora slowly nodded. "Went to the doctor this afternoon for a blood test. Those are pretty conclusive."
He opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, trying to find his voice again. "Is... is it mine?"
"You're the only one I've been with since Skoochy, so yes, it has to be yours. Six weeks along, according to the doctor."
Kai only seemed to be more confused by this. "But... We were safe! We always used protection! How..."
Jinora sighed. "It's my fault. I'm on the pill, but it's not in my system. Skoochy and I had been talking about children, and I stopped taking them a year ago. Got back on them after we broke off the engagement, but I sometimes miss a few days, which makes them ineffective. The doctor told me condoms aren't foolproof, so I guess we just had really bad luck." She let herself fall on the couch next to Kai. "It's all my fault," she reiterated and buried her face in her hands.
It surprised her when she felt Kai's hand slide into hers, pulling it in closer. Jinora looked up, seeing his massive green eyes on sincere. "Hey, it takes two people to become pregnant. I'm just as much to blame here." He pulled her into a hug, which was slightly awkward because of how they were sitting, but comforting nonetheless. "Have you decided yet what you're going to do with it?"
"I don't know," Jinora sighed honestly. "I mean, I've always wanted children, but I don't know if I want them like this. I can't just end it because of that, but I also don't know if I'm ready to handle this." She fell silent for a moment as she could feel the tears well up in her eyes. "I'm scared, Kai."
He pulled her in a little tighter. "I know," he said. "So am I. But we have to do this together, okay? Whatever 'this' is going to be."
She relaxed into his strong embrace, feeling the comfort of his arms around her and his hand gently stroking her hair. "Thank you for being so calm about this."
"Of course. Panicking won't do anyone any good."
Jinora smiled, knowing that it would probably work out.
During the first break at school the following day, Jinora was pulled out of her thoughts that were primarily with her and Kai by a voice she only semi-expected. "Jinora, can we have a word?" It was Suyin, and she and Jinora decided to stroll out into the yard. The kids were playing, but because of that, they'd be able to talk in peace. "Judging by how you ran out the other day, I take it you didn't know."
Jinora scratched the back of her head. "Yeah... sorry about that. Look, it's not planned, I'm not even together with the father. I didn't know, never really saw the signs. I still haven't quite figured out how to feel about it."
Suyin smiled. "It's scary. I was engaged when I first heard I was pregnant, but I never felt so scared in my life. I can't imagine how you're feeling. Who is the father?"
"A man named Kai. We're sort of friends with benefits, nothing too serious. He's a nice guy and all, but whether or not it can actually be something, I have no clue." Jinora sighed. "I don't know what to do. I have some stability in my life, and so does he, but it's nothing amazing for either one of us."
They walked in silence for a bit while Suyin thought it over. "So it's bad timing?"
"Well... not the worst, but not something I'd have chosen."
Suyin nodded. "Look, if you want my advice, I'd say that you need to get an ultrasound first. That way, it becomes tangible, and it can prevent you from making a mistake you're going to regret for the rest of your life. It's normal to have one at ten weeks, how far away is that?"
"About four. Are you sure that's a good idea?"
"Absolutely," Suyin clearly stated. "Meanwhile, no drinking, no smoking, no heavy lifting."
Jinora chuckled. "Thanks for the advice."
Telling her parents was going to be very awkward. She hadn't told them about Kai, because why should she? Her sex life was none of their business, and up to this point, it hadn't been important. Sure, the notion of grandchildren had come up a few times during her engagement, but when it broke, that was out the window as well.
But this threw everything out of whack. The doctor told her that it was probably best not to tell everyone just yet because the chances of the baby surviving complications in the first trimester are very slim.
Still, her parents weren't just 'everyone'. If it turned out she did have a miscarriage, she didn't want them to only know until after the fact.
Jinora had invited herself over to dinner at their place, and unsurprisingly, Rohan and Meelo were home as well. Only Ikki wasn't there, which was probably for the best. She waited until the three of them were alone, as she didn't want any prying ears with this. Pema had made them all a cup of tea, and they were now sitting in front of the television.
"Mom, Dad, I have something important to tell you," Jinora said and muted the TV.
They both looked up. "What is it?" her mother asked, a bit of worry in her voice.
Jinora took a deep breath, preparing herself for the worst. "I'm pregnant."
Tenzin promptly choked on his tea, and Pema's eyes grew wide. After a very bad coughing fit, her father's eyes were red yet still filled with disbelief. "Pregnant?!"
She couldn't bring herself to face them. "Yeah," she muttered, staring at the floor. "Six weeks. Doctor confirmed it with a blood test." When she finally had the courage to look up again, her parents were stills staring at her in awe. It would have been very funny, were it not for the seriousness of the situation.
"Are you seeing anyone already?" Pema asked, finally having found her voice again.
"No," Jinora answered. "It's from a friend of mine. It's nothing serious, but I don't know how it happened. We used a condom, but..."
She was cut off. "Thank you," her father said, raising a hand. "Don't need to know the details." It briefly fell silent. "What are you going to do next?"
She leaned back in her chair and sighed. "Haven't decided yet. I've told Kai - the father - and he said that he'd support whatever decision I'd make." A long silence fell between them. "I don't want a kid just yet, but I also don't want to give it up or end it just because it's bad timing."
"Jinora, this is a child. It's not just a project you take on and do on the side. It's going to determine the rest of your life," her father said.
"I know," she replied with a small voice. "But I don't like the idea of just sticking a needle in it and ending the whole thing. If it's a normal pregnancy, it'll be a person. So far, it's going normal, and I do think of it as a person. It's going to be hard, but I don't think it's beyond my means, especially with Kai's help."
Tenzin didn't look impressed. "Who is this Kai fellow anyway? You say you think he can help you, but you haven't even known him for very long."
Jinora sighed, because that was a valid point. Of course, she knew Kai well enough to know that he was dutiful, but there was legitimacy to her father's argument. To explain it, she quickly recounted how she met him, skipping all of the details to spare Tenzin. "He's a graphic designer, and he has plans. He's more ambitious than Skoochy ever was." This was true, and also a large part of the reason why her parents were kind of opposed to the idea of Jinora dating and later marrying Skoochy. He was turning into a slacker, not very interested in getting a job as soon as he was out of college.
Pema had been following the whole conversation closely but hadn't really spoken up yet. "Jinora, are you sure you want this?"
This was the question she had been afraid of, because she wasn't. "No, I'm not. But I talked with Suyin this morning, and she made a good point that I should consider every possible option before I make a move."
"That's very prudent, but there is a limit to how long you can do that before the choice is made for you. You're going to have to make a decision in the not too distant future."
"I know," Jinora softly admitted, facing the truth she didn't like. It was going to be her choice, and she had to make it soon.
The evening continued, and the atmosphere between them remained a little tense. Tenzin and Pema were not big on the idea of Jinora having the child of a man they didn't know, but they also knew to respect their daughter's autonomy. In the end though, she had to go back home, and it was her mother to walk her to her car. "By the way, your sister called."
Jinora's face hardened. "What did she want?" she asked, pretty snappish.
"To seek redemption, I guess." Pema briefly paused. "She was very apologetic about what happened, and was trying to excuse what she did to us. I told her that she should be apologizing to you, not us. She also said that you have been ignoring her calls all this time."
"Yeah, I was too busy pulling her knife out of my back to answer her calls."
Her mother chuckled. "Jinora," she berated but not really hiding the fact that she found it funny. "She's your sister, I believe her."
"Mom, she slept with my fiancé. Do you expect me to just brush this off?"
"Of course not, but she has made the first move. It's been nearly half a year, don't you think you should give her a chance again?"
Jinora sighed because there was something to that reasoning. "Fine."
"That's a start," Pema said, not entirely convinced. "But please don't wait too long. After all, she is your family. I hate to see it torn up like this."
At this, Jinora could do little more than nod, so she just got into her car. "I'll think about it." And with that, she was off.
To say that Jinora was nervous as hell was an understatement. The gynecologist was about to start the ultrasound and determine whether or not her baby was healthy.
The only good thing so far that she could think of was that Kai was right there with her. He was sitting on a chair next to the bed, holding her hand as gel was applied to her bare belly. That the gel was cold wasn't really what bothered her, it really were the nerves.
"Alright, Jinora, let's see what we have here," the gynecologist said. She pulled up a screen with the traditional black and blue mess that only people who know what to look for have any semblance of an idea of what it is. She had to look for a while, but then she smiled. "Ah, there it is."
Both Jinora and Kai peered at the screen, but to both of them, it all just looked exactly the same and sure as hell not like a uterus with a baby in it.
"You don't see it, do you?" the gynecologist asked with a chuckle.
"No clue," Kai admitted, wanting to spare Jinora.
The gynecologist laughed again. "That's okay, most parents don't see it for themselves the first time around." She pulled the screen a little closer. "Do you see this kidney-shaped blob here? That's it, that's your baby."
There it really was. Jinora smiled, as this felt like what really was the first time that she had real proof of her baby. This was it. It was true, everything she'd been hoping for and worrying about at the same time. "Wow..." was the only thing she could say.
The gynecologist chuckled. "Let me just..." She pressed a few buttons on the device, and a rhythmic whooshing sound came from it. "That's a healthy heartbeat. It sounds a little fast, but that's how it's supposed to be because it's only so small. It'll gradually get slower as your pregnancy progresses." She shut the device off again after a while. "Well, everything looks normal. If it keeps going like this, you're going to have a healthy baby."
Jinora smiled again, and she could feel tears prick in her eyes. She didn't even know why.
"This is for you," the gynecologist said, handing her a Polaroid picture of the ultrasound. The kidney-shaped blob that was her child was pretty clear on it, and Jinora ran her fingers over it. It was real, and for the first time in weeks, she knew exactly what she had to do. "Why don't you get dressed again, and you can be on your way."
Back outside, she was still staring at the picture. It just felt right.
"Are you alright?" Kai asked.
She took a deep breath. "I know what I'm going to do. I'm keeping it, Kai," she said with a steely determination. "I know it's going to be hard, but seeing this and what the gynecologist said, I can't give it up." Jinora looked up to her friend, tears building up in her eyes. "What do you think?"
Before saying anything, Kai pulled her in for a hug. "I said that I'd support your decision, and this is it. I'm with you all the way, Jin."
The ringing of her bell pulled Jinora from her thoughts. That was Ikki, whom she'd agreed to meet with today. After a lot of ignored calls, Jinora finally picked up when her little sister called. It started with an apology, and then she asked if she could come over to do it in person. This was probably for the best, as Jinora kind of hated doing this over the phone. On the other hand, if Ikki had just shown up out of the blue, she'd probably have told her to fuck off.
But now, here she was. Jinora was dressed in a simple black T-shirt and jeans, which unfortunately wouldn't fit anymore very soon. It also did an astonishingly poor job of hiding the fact that she A) was three months pregnant and her baby-bump was starting to show and B) had gained at least 15 pounds due to unquenchable salt cravings. Even though the gynecologist, her mother, and Suyin had all told her that was normal and even good for the baby, Jinora wasn't proud of it.
"Hey, sis," Ikki said with a small voice as Jinora opened up.
"Hey." Three words. That's all they could exchange before an awkward silence fell. They used to be able to yap endlessly about everything and nothing, and now they couldn't make it past greeting each other. "You want to come in?" Jinora ultimately asked.
Ikki nodded and walked after her sister to the living room. "Jin, I'm sorry," she started. "I shouldn't have slept with Skoochy."
"Gee, you think?" She hadn't meant for the reply to sound so bitter, but there it was. Worst part of it was probably that Jinora didn't even mind that much. "I know what he's like and would imagine he was very charming to you."
Again, Ikki nodded, albeit somewhat bashfully. "He was. It hadn't been going on long."
"Ha," Jinora scoffed. "You should have thrown that on top." After this, it fell silent again. "I guess on some level, you did me a favor, because you were careless enough to get caught before my wedding."
Ikki stared at her sister again. "What do I have to do to earn your trust again?"
Jinora sighed. "I don't know if you can. Not just like that, anyway." Ikki looked both devastated and surprised by this. "Ikki, you slept with my fiancé. I don't care how charming he was, you're my family. Aside from the fact that you knew he was involved with someone else, that should have been your first thought. How the hell did you think it was going to end?"
"I don't know," she replied with a small voice. "He got me drunk the first time. It started out pretty innocent, a quick flirt here and there, but as the bottles became emptier, he became more pushy. I didn't fully realize what he was doing until we were having sex. After that night, he kept on being charming. I guess he liked the sport of it."
"Or maybe he realized that you were an incredibly easy lay."
Ikki sighed. "I guess that's true. When I asked him what the hell we were doing, he said that you two had an open relationship, and that you were doing it with others too. Don't even know why I believed him, but I did. Guess part of me didn't want to get caught."
"That is a lousy excuse, and you know it."
"I do. But I also meant it when I said that I'm sorry." It fell silent for a while after that. Jinora saw that her sister was being sincere but still couldn't quite get over how badly she'd been betrayed here. There wasn't much more to say about the subject anyway. Ikki could keep on going with apologies, but those wouldn't make any difference. Jinora could keep on being cynical, but that wouldn't solve anything either. They were at a stalemate, and probably the only thing to do now was to give it some more time. "So..." Ikki cautiously tried to restart the conversation again. "You look... good?"
Jinora scoffed. "Yeah, right. I gained 15 pounds over the last two months. Flattery won't bring you further."
"15 pounds? What happened?"
Now it was Jinora's turn to be surprised. Surely their mother would have told Ikki, right? "You mean you don't know?"
Jinora sighed. "Ikki, I'm pregnant."
Ikki's eyes flicked up and down, from her sister's belly back to her face and down again. "Oh. OH. Ooohhhh... Yeah, that's awkward."
"Relax, it's not Skoochy's. If it were, I'd have probably already gotten rid of it. My friend with benefits, Kai, is the father."
Ikki chuckled. "So what, end of the friendship?"
"No, he's been pretty cool about it." Without going into too much detail, she quickly explained the rest of the situation, before another awkward silence fell. This time though, Jinora decided it was probably a good time to put an end to this little visit. "Look, Ikki, I still have some work to do. Mind if I..." It was only partially true. She did have some work left, but it was next to nothing, and she probably wouldn't do it until tonight.
"Yeah, I get you," her little sister said, probably half-aware of Jinora's lie. "I should be going."
Jinora did walk her to the front door, where she stopped Ikki before she walked through. "So..." she sighed. "Let's not beat about the bush here: this was awkward as hell."
"Look, the simple fact is that you slept with my fiancé, which is a big deal. It's not going to be solved over one quick conversation."
Ikki sighed. "I didn't expect it to, but we have to start somewhere."
"True." Jinora looked her sister in the eye and, for the first time, felt a hint of the old bond they once had. "I do appreciate you making the first move. Let's just agree to build from there, okay?"
At this, a sincere smile appeared on Ikki's face. "Deal."
It was a relaxing time of the year. An early winter day, crisp but with blue skies. It was the kind of day Jinora loved. Her pupils were quietly drawing, well, what passed for quietly. There were some hushed conversations going on, but as long as the work got done and she didn't have to raise her voice to make herself audible, Jinora was fine with that.
She was about four months along now, and it was starting to show. She tried to hide it a little bit, helped by the fact that she inevitably gained some weight, but that time was definitely over.
At some point in the near future, there would be questions, and Jinora was still trying to think of ways to answer those.
This wasn't helped when she was roused from her thoughts when Kai tapped on the window next to the door, a big smile on his face.
Everyone looked up, and Jinora had to calm her class back down. "Alright everyone, just keep going. I'm going to step out for a moment, but I expect you to keep working like you are now." Most of the time, her class this year was pretty quiet. She'd had classes that were much more of a handful, but she could leave this one alone for a moment. "What are you doing here?" she asked Kai once she was outside.
"Hello to you too," he said with his trademark smirk. "I got off work early, figured I'd pick you up to go to the gynecologist."
This warmed her up inside, the notion that he cared enough to take a massive detour to go here while he didn't need to be. Jinora was already kind of counting on the fact that she'd have to go alone, so the fact that Kai showed up here to take her there was heartwarming. "That's really sweet of you," she said with a small voice, slightly guilty over the fact that she'd been a touch crass over him coming into the school.
"I'd wait outside, but that looked a bit... predator-ish. Don't want to be in jail while you're in labor."
Jinora chuckled. "Look, I have twenty minutes left in my class, so why don't you wait in the teachers' lounge instead? Down the hall, red door on your right. Help yourself to a cup of coffee."
She didn't even really realize how natural it felt to have her hand slipped into his until he gave it a gently squeeze. Hell, she hadn't even really noticed that he was holding it in the first place. "Alright, see you in a bit."
Back inside, Jinora could instantly tell that there were a lot of kids (especially girls) bursting with curiosity. "Go ahead, ask" she smiled to one of them.
"Who was that man?"
"He's my friend."
Five more hands shot into the air almost immediately. "Why was he here?"
"I need to go to the doctor," Jinora said. "He's going to take me there."
"Are you sick?"
That was the question she'd been dreading, but there was no getting away from it now. "No. You see... I'm pregnant. There's a baby growing inside of me."
This was met with silence. Well, at first. After a few seconds though, all hell broke loose. "But you're not fat! Who put it there?! How'd it get there?! Is it a boy or a girl?!" Every kid in that classroom was firing off questions, making it impossible to answer any of them. "Everybody!" Jinora called out, trying to calm them down. "One at a time!"
Eventually, she managed to quiet everyone down again. "Alright, pack up your things, and then I'll explain everything."
This got them working; quickly but quietly every one of her pupils started packing away their drawing equipment while Jinora was considering how much to tell them, because most of them were only eight years old. Luckily, it wasn't a very conservative school, so she could actually tell them things, but only within reason. Not too much detail for now.
Before she knew it, everyone was eagerly waiting with their desks empty and their eyes hopeful.
"Alright, who here has already been told about the birds and the bees?"
It was a busy twenty minutes but worth it. Jinora hadn't gone into too much detail, but enough to make it clear that she still had five months left.
Kai was waiting for her in the teachers' lounge, just like he said he would, sitting next to a cup of coffee and was reading something on his phone.
He poured her a cup of tea, secure with the knowledge that they had some time before their appointment. "Say... we've never really discussed this, but what are we going to do when the doctor asks if we want to know if it's a boy or a girl?"
Jinora took a sip of the watery machine tea. "Well, I don't know about you, but I think it's given us enough surprises. I say we just let her tell us."
He chuckled. "Sounds like a solid reasoning."
"Look, if you don't want to know..."
"Nah, you're right. Besides, I am pretty curious." Kai took a quick sip of his coffee. "So what's it like telling a bunch of eight-year-olds about the birds and the bees?"
Jinora scoffed. "What do you think? Lots of giggles and cooties. Hopeless, in a word. Still, I suppose it's a bit late to back out of the whole 'I'm gonna have children someday'-thing now, though."
Kai laughed, and once again, Jinora realized just how easy the two of them got along. After a bit more talking about their day, they both finished their drinks and were just about set.
"Ready to go?" she asked.
"Born ready," he smirked.
"Oh, hehehe," Jinora mocked, though she couldn't suppress a smile of her own.
The drive over was pleasant enough, Kai opting to take the wheel of Jinora's C30, and soon enough, she was half-naked under the sheet with the echo-device on her belly.
"Right, let's see what we have here," the gynecologist said. "Have you felt the baby kick yet?"
"No, not yet," Jinora admitted. "Should I have?"
The doctor shook her head. "That differs, but generally, that should start right around now. It's going to feel a little weird, and it will also become progressively more noticeable as you go on." She focused back on the screen for a moment, where the now-familiar shape of her baby was forming in blue. Unlike the first ultrasound, it was now clear as day that it was a baby, with the head easily distinguishable from the rest. "Ah..." the gynecologist said. "Have you discussed whether or not you want to know the sex of the baby?"
Jinora looked over to Kai again, as if to say 'if you're certain, say it now', which he did. "We want to know."
"It's a boy."
Truth be told, Jinora had no idea how to react to that, she just dumbly smiled at Kai, who apparently had the same problem. "That's great," she ultimately just said to break the brief lapse in conversation. "Are you sure?"
The gynecologist smiled. "Well, it's a little early, but if you look here," she said, pointing at the screen, "that little nub there is definitely a penis. So yes, a boy. Congratulations."
"Thank you, Doctor," Jinora said, though she didn't really know if she meant it.
It wasn't until they were back in the safety of Jinora's car that they actually brought it up again. "Say, was it just me, or could you also not really think of a way to respond to it being a boy?" she asked.
Kai looked like he was mulling it over. "No, I couldn't. I mean, I don't have a real preference, I suppose. I'm just happy everything is going so well, both for him and for you."
"I guess..." Jinora muttered. "I just thought there'd be more to it from my end, like it would hit a little harder, you know?"
Even though he was driving, Kai reached over and took her hand. "Hey, it's a 50-50 chance, you knew that all along. The coin just finally landed, that's not really huge, right?"
Jinora didn't say anything and just stared out the window. She felt like it should be big news, but somehow, it wasn't. Or at least, it didn't feel that way to her. It was confusing to say the least.
A gentle squeeze in her hand pulled her from her thoughts, and she looked over to Kai. "Hey, don't go shutting down on me now. We just have to look forward. I'm gonna buy a big can of blue paint for the nursery and while we're painting, we can start thinking about names." He chuckled. "I'm not picky, as long as you don't opt for 'Kai Jr.'."
Jinora laughed. "Yeah, no, I'm not for that one, no offense. We can do better than naming him Junior."
He looked over, as they were at a red light anyway. "That's the spirit. Forward, okay?"
"Forward," she nodded and smiled. Kai smiled back, but then Jinora pointed up. "I mean that. The light's green."
"Kai, I'm afraid I have bad news," Jinora opened over the phone.
"What?! What happened? Are you okay?" His questions were coming at machine-gun speed, which was kind of her own fault.
Suddenly, Jinora started thinking that maybe she should have worded it differently. "No, no, it's nothing like that. I just talked to my parents, and they decided that they want to meet you."
It was fairly obvious this relaxed him a little bit. "Jesus, don't scare me like that. Though on the other hand, I guess that does pretty much mean I'm screwed."
"Why would that happen? They'll love you!"
Kai sarcastically chuckled. "Yeah right. I got you pregnant out of wedlock just a few months after you broke things off with your fiancé, and we have no concrete plans for what to do once he's here. You have a respectable job, but I barely make enough to support myself, let alone you and our boy. Like I said, I'm screwed."
Jinora sighed, because he was kind of right. Even though Kai could be a good friend, he wasn't exactly the perfect son-in-law. "I dunno. Let's just go for it, and see where we land. Even if they don't like you, they still have the right to know you, and I also think that you should know them. They are the grandparents of your son, after all. And hey, this might give us a chance to start raiding the attic for stuff for the nursery."
"What's that last bit?"
"Well, I was thinking that we don't have to buy everything new for decorating it," she explained. "My parents kept all of the stuff from when my brothers were still babies, so I'd bet you any money there's a crib and a cradle and all that stuff gathering dust in their attic. I'm sure they wouldn't mind me taking it."
Kai thought for a moment. "Yeah, makes sense. That stuff isn't cheap either."
"My point exactly, but for that to work, you need to at least pretend like you're making an effort. My mom has invited us over for lunch tomorrow, so I'll be right there with you. If they are going to burn you, they'll have to do it in front of me."
A very audible sigh came over the phone, making her smile. "Alright," Kai said, though it was very reluctant. "Text me the address, I'll get there myself. At least make it look like I'm not a freeloader."
And that's how simple it really was. The next day, Jinora was waiting in the living room of her parents' house, the chair closest to the door. She had to make sure that she was the one to let him in, not her siblings, or worse, her father. When the bell rang, she almost leapt up, letting him in as soon as she could.
"Hey," she said upon opening the door. "Good of you to actually come."
"Well," he said, chuckling as he did. "At least it's lunch, so I had time to pick a casket and headstone this morning."
Jinora chuckled and took a step back, glad that he put some effort into his attire. He had really taken his time shaving this morning, something that he occasionally omitted, and even though Jinora thought it made him look handsome in a rugged kind of way, this was probably better for her parents. And instead of the T-shirts he normally wore, he'd had the sense to wear a black button-up for now. "Well, come in," she said.
"Jinora, is that him?" Pema called out from the kitchen.
"Yes, Mom, it is," she called back. "Well, ready to face the music?"
Kai took a deep breath and stood up a little straighter. "Yeah."
They walked from the hallway into the living room, where all eyes were immediately on Kai. Her father stood up, already with a disapproving scowl on his face, just like Kai had predicted. "Sir," he opened, holding out his hand.
Tenzin reluctantly shook it. "So you're the one who knocked up my daughter?"
"Dad!" Jinora turned to Kai, seeing that he was probably prepared for a question like that.
"I am. And you're the grandfather of my son, so I guess it's nice to meet you."
Mortified, she looked back at her father, who could only squint. The silence that fell there was really awkward and fortunately broken when her mother came out of the kitchen.
"Ah, you must be Kai," she said, holding out her hand as well. "Pema Gyatso," she said and shook Kai's hand.
"Nice to meet you, Mrs. Gyatso."
"Oh please, call me Pema. Jinora, he's gorgeous," she said, turning to her daughter. "I don't blame you for sleeping with him so easily."
"MOM!" Jinora's cheeks went bright red, because even at age 28, that is not something you want to hear from your mother. "Do you really think that little of me?"
Pema shrugged. "Well, you're carrying the evidence with you, so it's pretty hard to deny. Anyway, the soup is nearly done, so how about we all take a seat at the table?"
As always when they had guests, Pema had gone all out with the lunch. First, it was going to be Japanese miso-soup, followed by a Mexican bean salad. It was promising to be good, even if it was vegetarian.
Jinora positioned Kai and herself strategically, making sure he sat next to her, she next to Rohan, and her father at the head of the table, about as far away from Kai as possible.
Things with Ikki still weren't ideal, even after they had tried to make amends two months ago. The younger woman was directly across from Jinora and was trying to avoid locking eyes at all costs.
Pema placed the steaming pan of soup on the table where an awkward silence had fallen, hoping to liven the conversation up a little bit. "So Kai, what do you do for a living?"
"I'm a graphic designer. Actually, I'm about to get a promotion."
This caught even Jinora off guard. "Really?" she asked before anyone of her family even could.
Kai nodded. "Well, it only came up recently, and it's not solid yet, but it is in the home stretch."
"Well, congratulations," Pema offered up.
After this, it fell silent again, which was really just symptomatic of the tension hanging between Jinora and Ikki, as well as the one between Tenzin and Kai. It was just the rattling of spoons against bowls, virtually no other sound. They probably should have put on some music or something.
"So..." Jinora decided to try again.
"Say, Mr. Gyatso, I've been meaning to ask," Kai started. "Do you own a gun?"
Tenzin didn't look the least bit pleased by this. "Of course not. I believe guns are barbaric tools that don't belong in the hands of ordinary people. Why do you ask?"
"Oh, peace of mind, mostly."
Now it was Jinora's turn to look over to Kai disapprovingly, but Meelo and Rohan definitely thought it was funny. Still, it was better than listening to the spoons scraping the bottom of the bowls, even if it did make Tenzin's eyebrow twitch in that way Jinora just knew spelled bad news.
Surprisingly enough, he didn't blow up and instead announced that he was going to put up some classical music to break the silence.
"The soup is excellent, Mrs. Gyatso," Kai politely commented.
Pema smiled. "Thank you, it's a really simple recipe. But I told you, it's Pema. You're about to become family, we can use first names."
"Well, not legally," he quickly remarked.
Tenzin scoffed. "Better not," he mumbled under his breath as he took his seat at the table again.
Pema immediately threw him a disapproving look, and Jinora was starting to wonder if this whole thing wasn't a big mistake. They weren't even halfway through the meal and it was already tense beyond measure. "Kai, you are the father of our grandson, that makes you family, whether the law sees it that way or not."
Kai just smiled, as playing it cool was what he was good at. "If you insist."
"I do insist," Pema replied, though not without throwing a warning look at her husband.
Jinora was mortified. Even though her mother seemed to take a liking to Kai, her father, rather like she expected, didn't. The main course was just as stiff and uncomfortable as the soup had been, even when Kai was trying his hardest to be polite. He didn't even slip up too often, but Tenzin wasn't making it easy on him.
After lunch, they retreated to the sofas, where Pema made them all a cup of tea. Jinora knew that Kai wanted to get out of there, but he also couldn't make it look like he would split at the first chance he'd get. That would make a really bad impression. She'd made a wordless agreement with him to get out of there together after they finished their tea.
"Excuse me, I gotta use the bathroom. Where is one?"
"Down the hall, first door on your left." Jinora watched as Kai walked out to the bathroom, waiting for him to be out of the room before talking, because there was plenty to say.
"This is not going to work," Tenzin commented when he was out of earshot.
Before Jinora could comment though, her mother came to her aid. "Maybe that's because you haven't been giving him any room to maneuver. All you've been doing is shooting him down every chance you get. Of course he can't leave an impression."
"Thank you, Mom," Jinora smiled. "Look, I know you don't like the idea of me having a child while I am single. But I am on the clock here. I'm not gonna be able to have children forever, and even if I were, I don't want to be in the retirement home when my child graduates. I think Kai is a good guy, and everything he's shown me tells me that he really can make a good father." She sighed as she leaned back in the couch. "You know what's been scaring me lately? The notion that you don't have my back. For all of my life, I've been able to count on your support, but with this, I don't feel like I can. You don't think I can raise a child," she said, gesturing to her mother, "and you don't think Kai can either," she said to her father. "Why won't you trust me?"
It fell silent after this. After a moment, her father sighed. "Because we are worried about you, Jinora. Raising a child is challenging. It's wonderful, but it is a huge challenge, and we want to make sure that you are up for it."
Now it was Jinora's turn to think for a moment. They'd had this argument before, but never so detailed, and now that her parents had a good look at Kai, they could come to a more informed conclusion. "How will I ever know if I'm up for it?" she countered. "Yes, I'm scared right now, but the same went for every - single - person - I've talked to in my situation. How did you feel when you first learned I was on the way?"
They didn't have a real answer to this, mostly because Jinora was right. "Now look, I know you aren't big on Kai, but I am. I want him there with me to raise our child together, because I can't do that on my own. That much I'm sure of."
"Do you really mean that?" Kai asked from the doorway.
It kind of spooked Jinora. "How much of that did you hear?"
"Enough." He walked back into the living room, sitting down beside her while taking her hand. "Look, I know I'm not what you probably had in mind when you were thinking up the perfect son-in-law," he said, turning to Tenzin and Pema. "My income isn't brilliant, I don't have any family myself worth mentioning, and I don't have any experience raising children. But believe me when I say that I care very deeply for your daughter. We would like your support, but with or without, I am going to help Jinora raise our son in any way that I can."
Another silence fell, this one a lot longer. It took a while before Jinora stood up. "I think it's a good moment for us to go," she said.
Kai followed her to pull on their coats, but Tenzin appeared in the hallway door before they could leave. "Jinora, wait," he said. "Kai, could you give us a moment?"
Jinora held the keys out to him. "I'll be out in a minute."
Tenzin waited for him to close the front door behind him before turning to his daughter. "What you said in there about us not supporting you, did you really mean that?"
For a moment, she hesitated. "Well... It is how it feels to me."
"Jinora, we are your parents. We love you, and we will support you, even if we're not totally behind your decisions. As long as we can help you, we will."
A smiled appeared on her face while she wrapped her arms around her father. "Thanks, Dad. That means a lot to me."
He hugged her back. "I know. Kai may not be my first choice, but if you think he is the right man for the job, then I guess I will just have to trust your judgment. But don't tell him that."
Jinora chuckled. "Don't worry, I won't."
Jinora was kind of puzzled. Kai had invited himself over for a drink, which was weird, given how he was the one living above a bar. Still, she had no reason to suspect anything was wrong. At well over six months along, it was a little late for him to back out of things now.
After a quick kiss on the cheek, he sat down on her couch and Jinora handed him a beer. Of course, she herself couldn't drink alcohol, so instead, she stuck to a cup of herbal tea.
"Jin, we need to talk," he said when it finally fell silent, the question as to why he was there hanging around like everyone was too polite to ask it.
"You sound serious." After seeing that he wasn't smiling, which was unusual, Jinora got worried as well. "Are you alright?"
Kai took a hesitant sip of his beer before putting the bottle down. "I've been thinking, Jin. I think we should move in together."
At this, Jinora was so surprised that she inhaled her tea, and, much like her father, it went the wrong way, having her end up with a massive coughing fit. "Move in?!" she yelled out.
He nodded. "Look, you're only going to get more and more pregnant. And then when you are finally going in to labor, I don't want you to have to call me and then wait for me to take the bus halfway across town to get you to a hospital. I want to be right next to you, for anything you need. Big or small."
When the shock of the whole thing finally settled down, Jinora took his proposal in a little more open-minded, because the argument he laid out was sort of compelling. Most people who do have children don't live on their own, and having the father of her child living in her house seemed like a logical option. He was strong and fit enough to help her with the goings on, and yes, it had to be said, sometimes she woke up in the middle of the night, wishing that he was there with her.
True, sometimes that was so that she'd have someone to help satisfy her mostly culinary cravings, but sometimes also just because she missed him. She wanted to feel his arms around her, to have him hold her close. It was late in winter, so the nights could still get quite cold, and having someone to cuddle with in bed was the ultimate solution to that.
And Jinora wasn't about to lie to herself; before she got pregnant, sleeping in the same bed as Kai hadn't exactly been either rare or bad for her mood. They both enjoyed it, that much was certain.
Lastly, he was the father of the boy inside of her, so if anything, he would have a sense of responsibility to take care of her.
"Alright," she said.
"Wait, what?" Kai said in shock, surprised to hear her agree so easily. "Just like that?"
Jinora chuckled at his expression. "Well, yeah. I mean, your reasoning makes sense, and I will admit, I kind of miss not having you sleep next to me." She briefly paused and looked at the ground. "We stopped sleeping over after I learned I was pregnant, and... truth be told, I'm having a hard time figuring out why."
Kai bashfully nodded. "Yeah... Guess we were just a little preoccupied."
"How would we go about it?"
"Well, I think it's best we do it here," Kai thought out loud. "We need a nursery, and your place is simply bigger. All I really need is drawer for some clean clothes and maybe a shelf where I can dump some of my work stuff."
Jinora listened to him rattle off the things they might need but was thinking ahead instead. Why hadn't they done this before? They'd been spending a lot of time together since that one fateful night in the bar, and almost all of it was positive. A few minor arguments, but nothing they couldn't handle. Still, she'd love to have him around, if only for the knowledge of having Kai next to her in case something happened.
"Jin, are you there?"
She shook out of her thoughts. "Yeah, sorry... I was thinking about something else."
Kai took her hand. "Look, we can make it as long as you want to, okay? It's our boy, I want to be there. Both for you and for him."
This made Jinora's heart flutter. "That's really sweet of you," she said and pressed a kiss on his cheek. Maybe her last trimester was going to be easier than she thought.
It had been a week since Kai moved in, and they had quickly settled into a comfy routine. There was a bus stop for a line that went very close to Kai's work near the school Jinora worked at, so that was a no-brainer. In the morning Jinora drove them to school, he gave her a quick kiss and was on his way to the studio.
He had started working on the nursery, painting it baby-blue and putting up a few shelves. Jinora had ransacked her parents' attic, finding a cradle, a changing table, and a crib, which were very helpful. She also nicked some of her mother's maternity clothes that were totally retro and worth it.
Jinora and Kai also found that sleeping in the same bed was much easier than having him sleep on the couch or something. Besides, it wasn't anything they hadn't done before.
Well, technically, they hadn't really slept together in the same bed clothed, though that was more of a detail. Kai mostly kept it polite, but it did feel familiar to Jinora. Just the whole idea of sleeping in the same bed as someone else every night was comforting.
And then Kai learned the hard way there were downsides to what he'd done.
"Kai," Jinora whispered while gently poking him in the side. "Kai, wake up."
With a groan, he rolled over, keeping his eyes shut. "What is it?"
"I feel like having a hamburger."
He opened his eyes slightly and reached for his watch on the nightstand. "A... Jinora, it's three in the morning, and you're a vegetarian."
"Are you questioning my cravings?"
He sat up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. "No..."
Jinora decided to go for the tried and true way; putting up the biggest puppy-dog eyes she could. "Please?"
Kai sighed. "Alright, I'll go. I know a pretty good burger joint not too far from here. Where are your car keys?"
"In my purse," she responded, already feeling giddy. In truth, she normally believed vegetarianism was a good thing, but the baby made her want meat for basically the first time in her life. She felt pretty guilty about it, right up until the moment her mother told her she had the exact same thing. It would probably only be temporary anyway. The taste of meat still wasn't too appealing to her, so giving it up again wouldn't be a huge sacrifice.
Jinora watched as Kai slipped into a pair of pants and a T-shirt he had laying around. "You're an angel, you know that?" she tried to cheer him up a little. After all, she did just wake him from his very comfortable sleep.
"I know," he smirked. "Don't go anywhere, I won't be gone long." With that, he was out the bedroom, and Jinora soon heard the front door closing.
He was right, the burger joint wasn't too far, and it was open 24/7.
Because of the time, there wasn't anyone there, besides the guy at the counter. Kai felt like a zombie walking in there, but he just kept telling himself it would be worth it.
"Good day, sir," the man at the counter greeted him, far too jovially for the time of night. "What can I get you?"
"Double hamburger and fries."
He just smiled as he set to work. "Feeling like a midnight snack? Haven't seen you around much either, so I'm betting your new. No worries, there's nothing strange about it."
Kai brushed it off. "It's not for me. My..." He hesitated. What was Jinora? They weren't just friends anymore, it felt like their relationship had moved beyond that. Friends with benefits also didn't cut it, though it certainly was why they were where they were now. Girlfriend also wasn't it, since they would've had a conversation on that of sorts. Lovers didn't quite work either, since they hadn't had sex in months. "My girl is pregnant," he settled for.
"Ah," the man said. "Midnight cravings?" Kai decided it was enough to nod, which apparently it was. "Could be worse. Me and the wife have three kids, she went berserk for sweets every time."
It was too early to stop him, so Kai decided it to be easier to just let him rant on. A few minutes later, the order was ready and he was quick to get out of there. The amount of coffee and Red Bull and coffee in that man must be insane.
Turns out that Jinora had indeed waited up for him, sitting at the table with an eager look in her eyes.
"Dig in," he said, putting the bag in front of her.
"That smells so good," she replied, wasting no time to get started. "You didn't get anything for yourself?"
Kai chuckled. "It's a bit early for me to think about food. But you're eating for two, so you don't have to feel guilty about it." Watching Jinora tackle the rather large burger was funny, but he was still a little too tired to enjoy the sight for long. "Well, I'm gonna go back to bed. Enjoy your meal."
Even though he was tired, he couldn't really sleep straight away. The bed felt empty without Jinora there next to him, so when he heard her in the bathroom brushing her teeth again, he felt a little more at ease.
Soon enough, she got back in bed as well, and when Kai rolled over to face her, they were suddenly lying very close together. Neither one really said anything, there wasn't anything to say. Jinora reached down for his hand, intertwining her fingers with his own. She leaned in slightly, pressing a slow and gentle kiss on his lips. "Thank you," she whispered, and he could feel her breath on his chin.
That's when he realized it.
He wanted what that guy in the burger joint said. He wanted to be with Jinora.
"Happy birthday," Jinora said while handing over his present. It was a tablet for drawing on a computer, which, while not very personal, was what he asked for.
"You're a trooper, Jin," he smirked back. "Anyone ever tell you that?"
It was fairly obvious that he wanted to play with his new toy, so Jinora decided to encourage him. "Go on, try it out. That's what it's for."
After thanking her again, Kai hooked it up to his laptop and started sketching. Jinora retreated with a pile of paperwork she had to fill out for her class, so that would keep her busy for the time being.
After a while she looked up, trying to get a look of what he was working on.
"That's a secret," he said, slamming his laptop shut.
"Come on, I want to see it. Can't be that bad," Jinora smirked.
With a sigh, he gave in. "Fine, just don't judge too harshly. Takes some getting used to."
She knew he could be quite hard on his own work, so she went in curious. Much to her surprise, Jinora saw a fairly accurate drawing of herself bent over her work. "You've been drawing me?"
Kai nodded. "Yeah. Tried to draw something for my new tattoo that my buddy Korra from art school promised, but it wouldn't come to me, so I just drew you. Couldn't quite get you right either, though."
"Looks like I'll have to pose for you," she joked.
At first, Kai chuckled, but then he actually looked like he was thinking about it. "Would you?" he asked.
"You mean... pose for you?"
"Why not? I can bring you out a lot better if I have some control over it." He thought for a moment, trying to frame his words. "I want to capture you. All of you," he said, raising his eyebrows in a suggestive manner.
Jinora's eyes grew large at the suggestion. "You mean... draw me naked? 'Like one of your French girls'?"
Kai chuckled. "No, not like that. Well, maybe." It briefly fell silent. "Please? For my birthday."
"Kai, I'm all fat and everything."
"You're pregnant. There's a huge difference. You're not either greedy or gluttonous, you're giving life. It's the exact opposite of the seven sins. I'll do it the old-fashioned way. No tablets, no copies, just paper and pencils."
Jinora couldn't help but feel drawn to it. They hadn't really done anything sexual since she learned she was pregnant, but this wasn't per se sexual. The eroticism of the whole thing was appealing, and the way he already made her feel comfortable with the idea certainly helped as well. "Alright," she said, smiling as Kai's eyes lit up.
"Great," he said, already springing up to get his gear. "Umm, you want to... do this in your bedroom? You know, bit more privacy."
She nodded with a smile. "Yeah, good idea."
So they went, Jinora first, who undressed herself, but then slipped a robe on before Kai actually came into the bedroom. "Listen, Jinora, if you're uncomfortable with this, you don't have to do it."
"No," Jinora smiled. "It's about time I did something exciting again." She took a step back and let her robe slip off. A slight blush on her face appeared at the same time as a slight smile, because Kai seemed a touch nervous to have her standing fully naked right in front of him again. "Where do you want me?"
Kai smiled back. "On the bed." She made a mental note to follow his instructions closely, trying not to step on his moment. This was about as personal a present as she could give him. "On your knees, left hand over your breasts, right hand under your belly..." He leaned back into his chair, and eyed her up. "Brush your hair behind your ear..." He smiled again. "Look at your belly, and try not to move."
With a deep breath, he started to draw. Every so often, Jinora couldn't help herself but glance over briefly, because the sight of him hard at work was adorable. Kai was entirely absorbed in his drawing, with his eyes flicking up only every other moment. He was nothing if not professional. If anything, it was Jinora who was being unprofessional, because she had to restrain her laughing.
Also, it didn't really help that after about an hour, she had to pee really badly. Kai was probably nearly done, but he did notice her squirm. "You have to pee, don't you?"
"You have no idea," she groaned. "But I'll never get this exact pose back."
Kai couldn't help himself but laugh at this. "It's okay, go. I have the broad strokes, just need you for the details."
Jinora jumped up and didn't even bother with her robe as she ran for the bathroom, being grateful to have Kai be so flexible.
Kai continued the rough sketching realizing that he did really need Jinora there as a frame of reference, even though the image was seared onto his retinas. He really was doing pretty well with this drawing, though getting her body was the easy part. It was the face that was really killing him, because he needed to get that just right.
Also, the fact that the woman he was wildly attracted to was literally posing naked for him was... appealing, to say the least. She was already beautiful before she got pregnant, but somehow, this just brought her beauty out more. The maternal figure really suited Jinora well, he thought. Bringing that across on paper was difficult, but not impossible, and this worked out well.
When she got back, he pulled his sketchbook close to his chest as she was trying to sneak a peek.
"No peeking," he said. "You'll see it when it's done."
"How close are you?" she asked as she was retaking her pose on the bed.
"Very," Kai nodded. "Just a few more minutes, I promise." After this, he turned out to be telling the truth. He looked up and down from his sketch to Jinora a few times, brushing over it with his thumb a few times, before at last, he slowly nodded. "I like it," he said.
With that, he finally turned it around, showing her the sketch.
And it was more than Jinora could have hoped for. Even though she was pregnant and sitting on her knees, she looked vulnerable but not helpless. Instead, there was a hint of pride in her downward-cast eyes looking at her swollen belly.
It was entirely in monochrome, but it somehow looked vivid and tangible. In short, she loved it. Finally, she did feel a little exposed, so she wrapped herself in a robe again while Kai turned the drawing back around, putting a few more lines and brushes on it. "It looks great, Kai. Now will you finally stop doubting your own work?" Jinora smirked while she wrapped her arms around his neck from behind.
"Never," he smirked back, to which Jinora could only respond by giving him a kiss on the cheek because of the awkward angle. It just felt right.
Two weeks later, Jinora really was starting to feel the strain of being pregnant. Not only did she tire more easily than normal, but certain parts of her body were also starting to hurt, especially after spending a day teaching. Her pupils weren't saints about the whole thing, but they knew that she wasn't capable of everything the way she used to be.
Suyin was urging her on to seriously start considering going on maternity leave soon, and yeah, that was probably a good idea. She had 30 weeks of maternity leave, which was plenty to get started. She could even opt for a little more if she wanted to, but that would be a discussion for a later time.
On the other hand, she did really love teaching and going out of it for over half a year was weighing on her mind.
That said, the physical side of being pregnant really was starting to have its effect. Jinora had just driven home, lowered herself onto the couch and was determined not to move a muscle until Kai served her food. Lots of it. And again, she really felt like having something that used to walk around.
She flicked on the television and waited, trying to soothe her knees and feet, mostly. The back pain was there as well, though not as prevalent when compared to the other two.
It was about an hour of watching whatever happened to be on before Kai came home as well. "Hey, Jin," he said, smiling as she lay there. "Feeling lazy?"
"Hnngg" she groaned. "Sore feet... Sore knees... Empty stomach..."
This only made Kai laugh more, and he sat down at the far end of the couch, lifting her feet into his lap. "How about I do this..." he said and gently slipped her socks off, "while you order some food..." he continued, handing Jinora his phone, "and you just relax?" Kai gently started giving her a foot rub, which was exactly what she needed.
"Hmm..." Jinora contently hummed, because it was heavenly. "Have I ever mentioned that you moving in here was a great idea?"
He chuckled. "You could stand to mention it more."
Jinora relaxed a little more, before Kai roused her from her near-slumber. "Alright, time for you to earn your following back rub."
She looked up. "Kai, I'm not doing anything."
"No, you get to order the food," he smiled. "There's a great Indian place that delivers, they have the most amazing goat curry. What do you say?"
This caught her attention. "Goat, huh?"
"Yep. That is, if you still feel like having meat. They also have veggie curries, those are good as well."
Jinora shook her head, already having made up her mind. "Nah, meat sounds good." She chuckled as she let her head rest back on the pillow she'd put up. "But first more foot rubs, you're a natural at this."
After continuing to do this for a few more minutes, Kai decided to try something else. "Want a little shoulder massage instead?"
"Ooh, not gonna say no to that," Jinora smirked back. She sat up and turned her back to Kai, who started gently massaging her shoulders. His hands were surprisingly gentle, even though she knew he could be when he wanted to.
She thought back to the time when they were still sleeping together, when it actually varied. Sometimes, he was gentle, at others a bit rougher, but she didn't mind. Before then, Jinora wasn't very adventurous in bed, but Kai did persuade her to try a few new things during their friends with benefits-phase, which she surprisingly enjoyed.
She chuckled. Thinking about it like that made it seem like it was so long ago, though it hadn't even been six months.
And yet... The way he was taking care of her now made it feel so secure, so comfortable. Not just the massage, though that certainly helped, but also the fact that he was living with her, just doing basic things, like helping her clean the house, do laundry, all those really mundane tasks. Jinora also suspected that wasn't just because she was pregnant, but because he had been doing it for a long time himself and was merely struggling to shake the habit.
Once again, she allowed herself to relax against Kai's hands. "Ooh... That's the ticket..." she breathed, almost moaned, much to her own shame.
"Sounds like someone is enjoying herself," Kai smirked.
Jinora chuckled. "What can I say, you missed a career opportunity when you chose drawing instead of massaging."
"Meh, means that I get to keep this one just for you."
After a few more minutes, Jinora felt how Kai slipped her cardigan off, which would make it easier for him with more direct contact. Deciding it couldn't hurt, she herself undid the top few buttons of her blouse, slipping that down to her waist as well, leaving only the straps of her camisole and her bra on her shoulders.
His hand grew a little bolder, not only being on her bare skin but also slipping under the straps that were still left. Something that Jinora wasn't expecting was the slight sense of arousal she felt rising through her, knowing that Kai was being so intimate with her again.
They hadn't had sex in months, so it should stand to reason that it didn't take much for a spike like that. Then again... there wasn't any reason why they shouldn't be doing it. Slowly, Jinora turned around, knowing there was a hungry look in her eyes. A simple smile from Kai was all it took for her to lean in and give him a passionate kiss, and by God, did it feel good. He was quick to let her in and respond with full force, throwing in the love and lust that had been building up between them these past months.
Kai quickly pulled her into his lap while Jinora busied herself undoing the remaining buttons on her clothes, throwing them aside to make room for his wandering hands. "Bedroom?" she asked without ever breaking away from kissing Kai.
"Bedroom," he quickly confirmed.
"That was great," Jinora mumbled as she was catching her breath.
It was strange that she had forgotten just how good Kai was in bed. After all, it hadn't been that long, but there was just something about it. Jinora hadn't indulged much in her second trimester attacks of libido, at least, she hadn't trapped Kai in them because things were a little different between them back then, but this just felt like something they should have done a long time ago.
Sure, being so far along, her belly was pretty big, and that made it a little awkward and cumbersome. On the other hand, Jinora did get the idea that she was a little more sensitive, so it was more... pleasurable than usual.
Of course, she was already tired from the day and so was Kai, but that hadn't stopped them. Just one round for now, but the room did smell like sex. Once again, they were sitting against the headboard, and Jinora just couldn't repress the massive grin on her face. "That's been a while."
Kai smirked too. "Yeah, still not sure why we stopped it."
Jinora ran a hand over her belly. "I'm guessing this little guy has something to do with it."
He chuckled and put a hand on it as well. "I guess he does." Right at that moment, the baby kicked. "Did you feel that?" Kai excitedly asked.
"He's inside of me, of course I felt it," she laughed. Content with the moment, she let herself slip down, lying comfortably on her back with an arm under her head.
Kai leaned in a little more and gently laid his head on top of her belly. He didn't put any weight on it, but he was just listening. "Wow, I can actually hear his heart beating," he excitedly said.
Jinora smiled as she ran her free hand through his hair. "Better than a cigarette?"
"Way better," he said but never lifted his head.
This was what she really wanted. Somehow, this right now felt more intimate than when they were having sex a few minutes ago. It helped that they were both naked, but she realized that they could be dressed in winter coats and it would still feel like this, because it was Kai doing it. This was the feeling she wanted to hold on to, to be with him for as long as she could. He was the father of her child, sure, but in the past few months, he had become so much more than that. He was her friend when she needed him, her sounding board, her pillar, her rock.
"Kai?" she hesitantly asked.
"What's gonna happen with us after our boy is born?"
He lifted his head, and Jinora instantly felt guilty for ruining the moment. On the other hand, they were going to have to have this conversation at some point. "I just... I don't know where we are right now, and if I don't know that, how can I know where we're going?" she elaborated with a small voice.
Kai laid down on his side, and Jinora did the same. She smiled as his hand continued to gently caress the side of her belly, because it did put her slightly at ease. "Jinora..." he softly began. "Are you afraid that I'm going to leave you?"
"No!" she exclaimed, perhaps a little too loud. "No, that's not it. It's just that... We aren't parents. We're gonna be diving into this head-first with absolutely no idea how to handle it."
"Jinora, weren't you the one who said to your own folks that that describes pretty much every parent ever?"
This had her thinking for a moment. "Maybe..."
Kai was a little more optimistic. "I think we're going to be fine. Do you really want to put a label on it?"
Again, she doubted, because he had a point. Why did they really need a label? It was expected of them, mostly by her parents, but then again, people have used weirder constructions. "I don't know. Guess it might just give me a little bit more peace of mind."
"Alright, then you can choose. 'Husband and wife' isn't true, because we're not married, 'girlfriend and boyfriend' sounds a little fifth-grade to me, and 'friends with benefits who have a kid and also live together' is a bit of a mouthful."
Jinora playfully shoved him in the shoulder when she saw how badly he was repressing a smirk. "Oh, screw you, I was trying to be serious here."
He laughed as he rolled back to face her again, this time a little closer to each other. He leaned his forehead against Jinora's, looking her straight in the eye. "I'm not going to leave you, okay? And soon, it won't just be you anymore. It's also gonna be our boy, and I want to be there for both of you, label or no label."
This actually did put her at ease. Instinctively, Jinora leaned in, pressing a kiss on his lips. It took them both by surprise, but neither one of them pulled away. It felt really natural, even if it did catch them off-guard.
"And what would you call that?" Kai smirked.
"Oh, buzz off," she laughed as she rolled onto her back. Jinora relaxed again, letting a comfortable silence fall over them. "You know what?" she asked out loud.
"I'm still hungry."
Kai laughed again and propped his head up on one arm. "Alright, how about I order us some of that goat curry while you get dressed again?"
"Sounds like a plan to me."
Jinora and Kai were just on their way back from the gynecologist from a routine check. She was nearly 8 months along, and like it or not, her belly did get in the way from time to time. Putting on her seatbelt was one of those things, but she still insisted she'd drive. It was her car after all.
The gynecologist was quite positive. She said everything about the baby looked healthy, and that if Jinora kept up her current streak of healthy living, she'd have her little bundle of joy in her arms in a month. The mood in the car was light, with them idly chatting away on the drive back to their apartment.
That's when the phone rang.
"Jinora, it's Dad. We just got a call from Kya, Grandma Katara is in the hospice. This may be our last chance to talk to her."
In all honesty, Jinora had been expecting this call. Her Gran-Gran was 101, so it would only make sense that she'd pass away one of these days.
Still, it hurt to hear this, especially now that she was so close to giving birth, to show Katara her great-grandson.
But that couldn't be helped. "Okay, thanks, Dad. I'm already in the car, I'll be there soon."
She hung up, and Kai put a hand on her knee, giving it an affectionate squeeze. "We go there now. Family comes first."
"Are you sure? My entire family will be there."
He smiled. "I told you we were going to do this together, and I do mean to stick with you in the hard times as well. I'd say this qualifies."
Jinora chuckled, but at the same time, she felt tears well up in her eyes. "Thank you."
She turned the car around and headed to the hospice, determined to get there quickly.
As soon as they arrived, Kai felt like he didn't belong there. Jinora's entire family was indeed there, even some he didn't recognize.
But they were close. In spite of their number, there was a still air of collectivity hanging around them. Maybe even an element that some were already getting to grips with the fact that a family member was dying.
Still, Jinora needed him. She was already an emotional wreck because of her pregnancy and really didn't need this to be thrown on top.
But it was, and now the only thing they could do was adapt. And as the cause of her emotional imbalance, it was his job to make sure she saw it through.
He helped her out of the car and, for some reason, found himself unable to let go of her hand as they walked into the hall. Jinora ultimately did when she moved in to hug her father, and Kai missed the sensation. Perhaps it was just the fact that he was standing here, and when Jinora was holding his hand, he was protected from everyone else.
"Kai," Tenzin spoke up.
"Yes, Mr. Gyatso?"
Tenzin held out his hand. "Thank you for coming."
Kai smiled as he shook it. "Of course. Anything your daughter needs." Maybe this wasn't going to be a total dud after all.
Katara was sleeping when Jinora entered the room. Even though it hadn't been too long since she last saw her, Katara had declined. Her cheeks had fallen in because she had been eating less, and she looked frailer than ever.
Jinora quietly took a seat at the head of Katara's bed, lost in her thoughts.
After a couple of minutes, she was roused from them. "Hey, Jinora," Katara said, albeit with some difficulty.
"Hey, Gran-Gran," she replied. "How are you feeling?" Stupid question, really. 'Like I'm dying,' would be the obvious answer, even if she'd never be that blunt.
"Weak. I'm gonna leave this world soon, there's no doubt about it."
This made the first tear roll down Jinora's cheek. "Just hang in there, okay? Just a little bit longer, and you can hold your great-grandson. Maybe even help me think of a name for him," she chuckled through her tears.
Katara smiled too but shook her head. "I'd love to, Jinora, but I can't. My time has come." This made Jinora cry harder, so her grandmother held up her hand, signaling her to take it. "You never met your grandfather, but have I ever told you what he said to me before he passed?"
"I don't think you did," she said, shaking her head.
"He told me not to linger. Love never dies, it is always reborn as new love. And he was right." With great difficulty, she raised her hand and ran it gently over Jinora's swollen belly. "I know you love me, and I love you. But I am an old woman. I've lived a good life, filled with joy and happiness. You were one of the things that made my life so happy. I'm lucky to have had such a wonderful granddaughter. When your boy is born, you'll know what I mean. You'll love him more than anything you've ever loved. My time is over. It's his turn now," she said, lightly stroking her belly again.
Jinora took Katara's hand, which felt ever so frail. She had to treat it like it was made of glass, or it would break. "Okay," she said, tears still filling her eyes. "But I will miss you, Gran-Gran."
"I know," Katara replied. "But remember, Jinora, love never fades. It moves from one place to the next, and when you have as much love to give as you do, there is always someone who deserves it." She drew her hand back to her bed. "I think I'd like to sleep now." She was briefly silent and saw more tears fall down Jinora's cheeks. "It's alright, sweetheart. It's alright."
Jinora smiled through her tears. "Okay," she said while standing up. "I'll let you rest." With one last look, she was back into the hallway with her family, where her mother pulled her into a hug. For once, Jinora wished she wasn't pregnant, because it was a little awkward with her belly and all.
There were more tears, and they all sat there, reminiscing on the times they had with Katara. Good memories made with her and with each other. Even though her family could be a little bit rough around the edges at times, this was why Jinora loved them so much: the bond between them was unbreakable, especially in times like these.
It should be noted that Jinora was the one to get tired first, and so it was decided that she should go home. Much to her surprise, Kai was still there, waiting for her.
He decided she wasn't fit to drive and instead opted to drive her home instead. When they were in front of her apartment, they stayed in the car for a moment. "Thanks," she said.
"You're welcome," he quietly replied. "Are you going to be okay?"
"I..." She hesitated. "I don't know. Could you help me upstairs?"
Kai smiled. "Of course."
Later that night after Jinora had to go pee again, she found Kai lying wide awake by the time she came back. He just wasn't sleeping as deep or as much as usual because he was worried for her. "How many times do you have to do this?"
Jinora chuckled. "Too often. The baby likes to use my bladder as a squeeze toy." She got back into bed, and he wrapped an arm around her. It was exactly the kind of gesture she needed right now, so it wasn't a big leap to nuzzle into it. "Thanks for being here."
"Anything you need," Kai quietly murmured and gently pressed a kiss on top of her head.
She relaxed further into his grip before falling back asleep.
The following morning, she got the call that her Gran-Gran had passed away peacefully in the night. Above all else, she was glad Kai was there to comfort her.
The funeral was a torrid affair. This time around though, Kai opted to hang back, even though he did attend the service. It felt too personal to be at the graveyard itself, which is where only family went. It was full enough that way.
He took the wheel for the drive back home. Kai had helped her into the car again and didn't let go of her hand all the way back.
But he hadn't sat around twiddling his thumbs during the funeral, it had given him time to think. Time to come to a conclusion that he would soon have to share. He helped Jinora inside, not quite sure when to bring it up. "Jin, there's something I think we need to discuss."
"Would you mind if I go take a nap first?" she asked, looking a little guilty. "I'm exhausted."
"Of course not," Kai smiled. "You're sleeping for two now."
Jinora chuckled, quickly thanked him for being so understanding, and headed into her bedroom.
It was about an hour later by the time she woke up again. Kai was doing some work from home, finishing the rough draft for an advisement of sorts.
But as soon as Jinora entered the room, he put it down, allowing him to say what he'd been thinking about. "Had a nice nap?"
She nodded as she sat down on the couch across from him. Suyin had urged her to take a day off for this, which turned out to be good advice. No way in hell could she get up and teach a class now.
"Jin, you should start your maternity leave. In fact, you should have started it two weeks ago."
Jinora perked up at this. "You really think so?"
"You walked from your bed to the couch, and you're exhausted. You have to take care of yourself a little better, because it's not good, neither for you nor our boy."
She sighed, mostly because he was right. It was the stubbornness of the Gyatsos playing up in her again. "Okay. I'll call Suyin in the morning, let her know that I'm starting my leave next Monday."
Kai nodded. "Sounds like a plan."
Her maternity leave was actually nice. They'd done some final shopping for the nursery, and it was looking nice. Jinora had decided to paint two walls a neutral shade of blue, leaving the other two white. It made the room light, but it was also definitely for a boy.
Everything was set, and her due date was only a couple of days away now. Still, as it crept closer, she also found herself to be more nervous, unsure as to how she'd handle it once their baby was actually born.
Three days away, and they hadn't even decided on a name yet. They must have been the poorest excuse for about-to-be parents the world had ever seen. They had thrown around dozens of suggestions for names, but none of them stuck and none of them felt right.
But sadly, she also knew she couldn't let it concern her too much, as A) she still had to give birth, which the gynecologist had assured her was going to hurt - badly, and B) stress was bad for the baby. So for that reason, she had opted for a nice and early bedtime tonight.
The feeling Jinora woke up to was a strange one. Her first instinct was to think that she was on her period and sneezed in her sleep again, basically painting the room red. It literally took her a couple of seconds to remind herself that she had been pregnant for the past nine months.
Second thing that she thought of was that she accidentally wet the bed, but that was crazy. She hadn't done that since she was a little girl, not even her college years pushed her that far.
And that's when it hit.
Jinora hadn't woken up from the wetness growing on the mattress underneath her but from the sharp sting that caused it to happen in the first place.
"Kai, wake up," she tried shaking him awake. "Wake up!"
Still in the haze of sleep, he kind of did. "Huh?"
"My water just broke!"
Kai politely nodded. "Great, tell the water five more minutes," he mumbled before rolling over again.
"Kai, the baby is coming!"
"Hmm, baby..." he mused, and then it actually hit him. "Baby? BABY!" Kai almost leapt out of bed in the excitement. "We have to get to the hospital! Pack your things!"
The whole thing made Jinora laugh. "Relax, we already packed, remember?"
He took a deep breath, finally calming down again. "Right. Do you need help getting down to the car?"
This was a little uncomfortable. "Could you actually help me change? It kind of feels like I wet myself."
This also made Kai eye her up a little strange, but he shook out of it soon enough. "Yes, of course I will." He reached out, pulling her out of bed a little too vigorously.
Jinora lost her balance, but luckily, Kai realized quickly he'd been a bit overzealous and caught her.
She immediately realized how she was pressed up against his chest and looked up to meet those massive green eyes. Kai leaned down a little, pressing a gentle kiss on her lips. "You're ready, Jin. You're gonna be a great mom."
"Only if you're there with me."
The drive over to the hospital was a nightmare. First of all, even the industrial-grade, pregnancy-incontinence maxi-pads weren't enough to stop Jinora from leaking amniotic fluid onto the seat, but that definitely wasn't her primary concern right now.
Second, there was the fact that while Jinora's bag was packed with all kinds of useful things, and they even brought her own pillow, Kai forgot his jacket, so by the time they hit the hospital, being down to just a T-shirt on a brisk April night was not the most comfortable arrangement.
Third, contractions in a car are spectacularly uncomfortable, even though the heated seats it came with did help somewhat.
And by now, having spent a couple of hours in this hospital bed with contractions coming and going, Jinora pretty much felt like she'd had enough of it. If the baby wanted to come out now, she wouldn't mind. The pain itself wasn't too horrible, at least, when counting what her gynecologist had told her about the actual birth, but it was mostly the knowledge that as soon as one was done, the next one wasn't far away.
But Kai was with her through all of it. He only occasionally stepped out of the room to get something to eat or when the gynecologist told him to.
"Kai, you should go home and get some more clothes," Jinora said to him, genuinely concerned. "You look like you're freezing."
"I'm fine," he casually brushed it off.
"You're nipples beg to differ," Jinora chuckled, motioning to his chest, where they were indeed clearly poking through the grey fabric of his shirt. "I'm being serious here. Go home, have a shower, and come back with enough clothes. I'm not going anywhere."
Kai chuckled too but still shook his head. "No, I want to be here for you, especially when there's no one else yet. I'll just get some tea from the machine, you want some?"
Jinora sighed. "No thanks, I'm good for now. Hey, do you remember if we brought my phone?"
"Because I need to call someone."
Kai laughed. "Can't call in here, hospital rules. Besides, what's so urgent that it can't wait?"
It made her doubt a little bit, because it was supposed to be a surprise. "I was going to call my mom, ask her if she could bring you a jacket or something like it. You know, since you're too stubborn to go and get yourself one."
Kai chuckled at this and looked through Jinora's bag, quickly pulling out her phone. "How about this: you write her a text, I'll send it for you."
She sighed. "Fine." Typing it out was simple enough, and Kai couldn't help but grin after looking it over once.
"You really are quite adamant to get me a jacket, aren't you?"
"Like I said, you look like you're freezing."
He smiled. "Alright, I'll go send this, how about you think about a name for our boy? Point is coming soon that we have to come down on one."
Jinora chuckled. "Yeah, I guess. Go on, get your tea. I'm not going anywhere."
He came back soon enough, with a cup of tea, and she actually had an idea. "How about we middle-name him?"
Kai raised an unconvinced eyebrow. "Jin, we can't even think of one name we like, you want to think of two?"
"Not per se," she chuckled. "It's a family tradition that we name our children after a grandparent, and I kind of want to continue that in a middle name."
"You want to name him after your father."
She hesitated a little, because that probably wasn't Kai's idea of a perfect world. "I know you two don't get along very well, but it means a lot to me that you're at least trying a little bit. This might win you a few points as well," she tried, because that was true. If Kai agreed to this, there was no way her father would stay mad, especially when he was sticking around like he said he would to take care of the baby.
"I suppose. But Jinora, if this is something you want, I'm fine with it, but only because you really want it, not so that I look good to your dad."
"Fair enough, but I do really want this." She briefly fell silent. "What about the last name?"
Kai thought for a moment. "Can he have yours?"
"Looked it up, that's the default, but it's common for children to get the name of the father. I wouldn't mind him being a Fong."
"I would," Kai said, much to Jinora's surprise. When she shot him a questioning look, he explained. "The Fongs are terrible at families. My father just up and left me, so I don't want to be him. And besides, I like Gyatso much better," he smiled.
Jinora chuckled. "Charmer."
The next few hours progressed much like the ones before: contractions came and went, being uncomfortable but not unbearable, and Kai kept assuring her everything would work out. She really wanted him to be right and genuinely believed that he'd have it in him to be a good father. Sure, their construction wasn't the most conventional one, but conventional is boring anyway.
Meanwhile, they kept on firing off names, a few decent ones that they both were okay about, but not really one that stood out.
There was the slight issue of sleep. Jinora's water broke in the middle of the night, so even though it was now ten AM, she was really tired. Plus, the contractions themselves being exhausting didn't really help either.
And then a knock came from her door, upon which Pema came in. "Hey, sweetheart. How are you doing?"
Jinora smiled. "Well, about as good as can be expected. I'm only at about three centimeters dilation, so it's gonna be a while."
"Doctor says you're doing great so far. Slow progress is also progress."
"Yeah... Well, I for one wouldn't mind if it was fast progress right around now," she chuckled.
Her mother laughed too. "Well, you're still going pretty fast. I was in labor for five days with you."
Jinora looked up in surprise. "Really? Was I that reluctant to come out?"
"Yes," Pema nodded. "It got easier with your siblings, but you were definitely a long birth." A brief silence fell. "Your father came with me as well, but we ran into Kai and he's taking him back to the car for the jacket you asked me to bring for him. He did look pretty cold."
This made her chuckle again. "I've been pleading with him for hours to go home and pick one up, I can manage for half an hour on my own here, but no. He wanted to be here for all of it."
Her mother smiled again. "Looks like he is really a good guy."
36 hours. 36 hours, and Jinora was completely sick of it. The gynecologist had assured her that there usually is about 20 hours between the time of the water breaking and the birth starting, but she was at nearly double that and nowhere close to giving birth.
Seven centimeters dilation isn't much, she'd have to wait for ten. And at the current rate, that wasn't going to happen any time soon.
Her parents had gone back home, heck, her mother had to get back to work. Her father stuck around a little longer, being retired and all, but that could only get him so far. But now they were both gone again, only Kai left at the hospital. They told them to call as soon as Jinora actually went into the delivery room, but that would be a while.
And then Kai came in again. "Jinora, Ikki is here. She wants to see you."
This definitely caught her off-guard, but it also lifted her spirits a little. It was unlikely that her sister would visit her while she was in labor just to argue. "Sure, send her in."
Soon, Ikki came in, and Kai could feel some tension hanging between them. "It's okay, Kai, we won't kill each other," Jinora assured him. "Could you give us a minute?"
"Sure." The women watched him leave, and Ikki smiled.
"He's sweet. I can see why you care so much about him."
Jinora chuckled. "Yes, he is. Almost makes me glad I caught you two that night."
"That's actually what I wanted to talk to you about." Ikki said while pulling up a chair at the head of Jinora's bed. "Look, I know that I got us in a mess, and I know that's my fault. But now... You're about to make our family a little bigger, and..." She sighed. "I know I don't really have the right to ask this, but I want to be there for it too. To be a part of his life as well as yours."
Jinora smiled as she held out a hand for her sister to take. "Of course you can be. I don't want our history to become my son's burden too.'
Ikki smiled back and gently squeezed Jinora's hand. "That really means a lot to me."
"I'd hug you right now, but there is another contraction coming!"
For a moment, it looked like Ikki would panic, but instead, she kept her calm, holding her older sister's hand for the next few minutes as it slowly subsided again.
"Thanks, sis," Jinora said, finally feeling like there was something of their old relationship coming back.
It was another eight hours of contractions, and even more names being opted back and forth between her and Kai. Ikki had gone back home, logical really, as it was now the dead of night. She could only get two hours of sleep at a time before the gynecologist came back to check on her, making sure both she and Kai were awake for it as well. After all, it would be kind of weird to wake up with someone's hand stuffed up her vagina, even if it was her doctor.
Measuring the dilation itself was a little painful, but after two straight days of contractions, Jinora felt like she was becoming kind of numb to the pain. And besides, the worst was still to come.
"Come on, Doc, give me some news," Jinora groaned as she felt the gynecologist pull her hand back again. "I've been at this for two days! How much longer do I have to put up with this?"
"No longer," she said with a smile. "You're at ten centimeters. We're gonna take you to the delivery room."
Jinora looked up in surprise. "Really?"
"Really. You're about to become a mom."
A wide grin crept over her face as she turned to Kai. He just smiled back and pressed a quick kiss on her lips. "You're ready, Jin."
Jinora never liked swearing. She didn't like it when other people did it, and she didn't like to do it herself. Even though she wasn't very religious, there was just something about it that felt wrong about it, and she kind of had an unwritten rule against it.
Of course, the pain she was feeling now was beyond anything she had ever felt before and was a pretty compelling reason to throw that rule out the window. "FUCKING HELL!" she yelled out in the midst of her screams. It really did feel like she was being ripped open from the inside, and she would be amazed her body was capable of handling that, were it not that her focus was elsewhere.
"Jinora, you're doing great, but I really need you to push harder." The gynecologist was very kind and very patient, but now she was also being a little bossy. Of course, she had every reason to be. "The head is coming, so push again, on three. One, two, three!"
She pushed again with all her might, though whether or not it was actually doing any good, she had no idea. Jinora was squeezing Kai's hand so tight he might actually end up spraining it or something, but he didn't pull it back. "Come on, Jin, just a little bit more, you're doing great!" he tried to comfort her, but it wasn't really working.
Instead, she reached up to his collar and yanked him down close to her face. "Tell me that again when there's a fucking baby coming out of your vagina!"
"Jinora, focus!" the gynecologist berated. "One last push, come on!"
She let go of Kai's collar and grabbed hold of the edge of the bed. With every last scrap of energy she still had, she pushed. No screams, and for just a moment, it was quiet in the delivery room. The gynecologist was busy, Jinora was in too much pain to care, and Kai was probably scared out of his mind.
That's when she heard it. It was unmistakable.
The cry of a baby.
"He's here," Kai breathed. Unbeknownst even to him, he'd been holding his breath during the last moments of the delivery.
The crying continued, but to Jinora, that was a good sound. A great sound, even. "Well, can I see?"
The gynecologist emerged from between Jinora's legs, a big smile on her face. "Your healthy baby boy," she said. Even though he was a slimy mess with his umbilical cord still attached, she couldn't wait to hold him, but there were a few things that needed to be done first. "Mr. Fong, would you do the honors?" the gynecologist asked while the assistant held out a pair of surgical scissors to him.
"Absolutely," he said without doubt. Kai quickly walked around, and from there, Jinora couldn't see what was happening. She felt exhausted and let her head fall back on the pillow, shutting her eyes for just a minute.
Moments later, Kai came walking up to her again and pressed a kiss on her forehead. "They're just going to wrap him in a few cloths, he'll be back in a second. You did great, babe."
This was true. The boy was still crying, but they had loosely wrapped him in a few white towels, and the gynecologist carefully walked over before handing him to Jinora. "And here is your baby boy," she said and tactfully stepped away.
"Hey, you," Jinora said to the crying boy. She gently cradled him in her arms, softly rocking him back and forth. He continued crying, but she didn't care. He was perfect. His skin was a few shades darker than her own though not as dark as Kai's. Kai definitely gave him his black hair though, of which he had a surprising amount already.
And then the boy finally opened his eyes, though he was staring at nothing in particular. His eyes were blue, though the gynecologist had assured them that was normal and bound to change. His cries slowly turned to whimpers, and Jinora looked up with tears in her eyes, meeting Kai's, who had the same thing. He leaned in to press another kiss on her forehead, but when he pulled away, Jinora looked up a little more and pulled him in for a slow and gentle kiss on the lips.
It felt right.
"He's perfect," Kai smiled, looking back down at their son.
He really was. Jinora was feeling a million different things right now, ranging from the lingering pain of the birth to the total and utter exhaustion from the long labor to the elation of finally being able to hold her son.
"Jinora?" the gynecologist cautiously approached. "We have to prepare you for the afterbirth."
Right. The afterbirth. Everything she had heard up to this point was true, so Jinora hadn't really been thinking about it a lot. "Could you take him?" she asked Kai, nudging their baby boy up slightly.
"Of course." He took the boy from her, and the assistant helped her out of the hospital robe. Another one took the baby from Kai, unwrapped him, and put him up against Jinora's chest.
"We can get you a sheet if you want to," the gynecologist offered.
Jinora chuckled. "Doc, I've spent the last two hours having half a dozen people stare at my vagina, I'm good." Truth be told, it was probably just the exhaustion that stopped her from caring about her nudity.
The doctor chuckled as well but turned to her assistant anyway. "Get her a sheet."
On instinct, the boy sought out the nipple he was closest to and latched on to it, though he didn't really know what to do with it yet. Jinora was hardly concerned anymore with what the doctors were doing now and was solely focusing on what her baby was doing. The feeling was weird, but having him gently wrap his lips around the teat and start to suckle down was a good one.
Someone put a sheet over her and the boy but still left his head uncovered. Kai stood next to her again and pressed another kiss on her hair. "You did great, Jin. No doubt about it." He very gently ran a hand over the baby's arm, and Jinora could see his expression shift when the boy grabbed hold of Kai's finger. His hand was so small that it didn't cover more than two thirds of one finger, but it visibly had an effect on Kai.
Jinora let her head rest against her pillow again. She knew everything was going to work out.
The afterbirth lasted about an hour, after which Jinora was quickly cleaned up and put into a normal room again. Her baby had been put into an incubator, where he'd probably stay asleep for a while. Jinora herself was exhausted beyond belief. Made sense really, since the amount of sleep she'd had had been minimal.
And yet she was still awake. Part of her wanted to hold her baby boy, try to feed him again, because he'd only had a little bit the first time. She smiled when Kai came in. "Hey."
"Hey." He sat down on the edge of her bed and pressed a kiss on the top of her head. "How are you still awake?"
"Thoughts keep running away," Jinora chuckled. "Too much to think about to sleep. How's our boy?"
Kai smiled. "He's asleep in the nursery. I say you follow his example."
"Can't. I just keep thinking about how much we haven't done and everything we still have to do! I mean, I've read all this stuff where it says that giving birth was the hardest thing in the world, but now that he's actually here, I have no idea what to do!"
"Relax," Kai tried to comfort her. He pulled her head into his chest, wrapping her securely in his arms. "Jin, I have no doubt that you are going to do great. The time we've spent together, this past year, you have shown me what a beautiful, wonderful person you are. You care about everyone, and that's the most important part."
Jinora wasn't impressed and could feel the tears flowing down her cheeks already. It was stupid, but she felt so vulnerable, even in front of the person she trusted most in the world. "But what about raising him? I don't even know how to keep him alive, let alone turn him into a person!" She tried wiping the tears away, but they came back just as soon as she was done. "Look at this," she chuckled. "We haven't even named him and I'm already crying about his future."
"The doctor said that's normal. Your body is raging with hormones right now." Kai leaned in, pressing a slow kiss on top of her hair before pulling back slightly to look her straight in the eye. "Hey, listen to me. We can do this. Between your brains and compassion, you can think your way out of anything. Maybe I can counterfeit some money if we're struggling at one point."
This made Jinora laugh through her tears again. "You really mean that?"
Kai smiled. "I do. If anyone can become a good mother, it's you. And I'll be there to help you, every step of the way."
This actually did make the flow of tears stop for now. Jinora slowly leaned back out of his grip, because even though it was comforting, it wasn't a good position to relax in. "Get some sleep," he said.
"Only if you get some too," she mumbled.
Kai chuckled. "When I find a bed, I will."
Jinora didn't even hear this anymore, because she was already fast asleep.
When she woke up again, she didn't quite know how much later it was, but it had to have been quite a bit, given how much the light had changed and was now shining her awake. Jinora blinked a couple of times, but then realized that she was still sore from giving birth. That would probably hurt for a while.
Her first instinct was that she wanted to check on her baby, but he wasn't in the room. Jinora thought about walking herself to the nursery but quickly decided against that. Probably wouldn't be very safe right now anyway, so she decided to use that fancy buzzer.
The nurse that came to help her was nice enough and even gave her some tips on how to do breastfeeding properly. The baby was a little reluctant to take it, but when he finally did, it felt good. Well, freaky would be a good word as well, but it was nice to know that he did know how to feed himself.
When she was in the middle of it, Kai knocked, and she called him in. "Am I interrupting something?" he asked.
"Only your son having breakfast," she smiled back. "This is gonna happen more the coming months, and it's not 1850 anymore. Come on."
He smiled as he took a seat beside her. "Slept well?"
"Sure, not like I didn't need it after all these days. Can't wait to go back home though. I have totally had it with this hospital."
Kai chuckled. "Well, give it a few days. Rest up, let the nurses take care of you. Have you had breakfast yet?"
Jinora smiled at just how caring he was being. "Yes, I've had a quick bite. Gotta keep it coming somehow," she smirked, looking back down at their boy, who was still suckling away at her nipple. He reached up, trying to grab a little firmer hold of her breast but couldn't do that because his hand was far too small for that.
"He likes it," Kai grinned.
"Do I detect a hint of jealousy there?"
"Well, you know what they say; breasts are like model trains. They're made for children, but it's usually the grown men who play with them."
Jinora laughed at this, but as she looked down again, she saw that their baby was done feeding. She quickly covered herself up, and only then saw that her boy looked a little bit squeamish. The nurse had told her this sometimes happened, and that it usually meant he needed a few pats on the back to help him burp.
When he did, Kai chuckled. "How can babies be this adorable?"
Jinora laughed again, because it was true. He really was adorable.
At this moment, there was another knock on the door, and Rohan stuck his head around the door. "Can we see him?"
Surprisingly, she really did feel like seeing her family. "Of course you can."
All five of them poured into the room and gathered around her, but not without her father snapping a few pictures.
"Jinora, he's beautiful," her mother said, and it was obvious there were a few tears building in the corners of her eyes. "Your grandmother would have been so proud right now." She was briefly silent. "Can I..."
"Of course." Very carefully, Jinora handed her baby off to her mother, whose grin couldn't be much bigger.
It really filled her with joy, seeing her mother so happy. "Tenzin, I want to keep him. We already raised four, a fifth shouldn't be a problem."
Kai chuckled. "I think Jinora and I are gonna raise this one ourselves. Nursery is down the hall if you want to steal someone else's."
The entire room chuckled, and soon came the time where Tenzin decided it was his turn to hold his grandson, and Pema reluctantly swapped him for the camera so that she could take some pictures of the proud grandfather. "Do you have a name yet?"
"No," Jinora admitted. "We've been utterly failing to think of one we both like for the past five months."
Both of her parents chuckled. "Well," Pema started. "Have we ever told you what we were going to name you if you were a boy?"
This made her look up in surprise. "No, I don't think you have. Didn't you know I was a girl?"
Tenzin chuckled. "No, we decided to let it be a surprise with you. Anyway, we thought of two names, and if you'd been a boy, we would have named you San."
Jinora looked over to Kai, who actually looked like he was considering it. Truth be told, she was considering it. And actually, it sounded pretty good to her, the longer she thought about it. "Hey, can I have him again for a moment?" she asked her father.
Very carefully, he lowered the boy back into Jinora's arms, who cradled him gently. "He does look like a San, don't you think?" she asked Kai.
At this, the baby made an absolutely adorable little cooing noise and opened his massively blue eyes again. "Oh, yeah, he is definitely a San," Kai grinned.
Jinora smiled. "I guess it's settled then. Everyone, meet the newest member of our family: San Tenzin Gyatso."
Being back home after spending a few nights in the hospital was great. First of all, the food here was much better, also, Jinora quite liked digging through her own stuff again. She missed the drawing Kai made of her pregnant self, now prominently displayed on their bedroom wall. Same went for her relatively extensive library and even her kitchen stuff.
Of course, the amount of time she had to enjoy all of these things were rather minimal, because taking care of San was a day job.
Over the past two weeks, Jinora found that she had lost some of the 25 pounds she'd put on but was still 15 pounds heavier than before she got pregnant, which was probably a problem she'd have to deal with long term. Should probably be noted that about 7 of the 10 pounds she lost were San, which was cheating. On the plus side, to celebrate her coming home, she allowed herself to drink alcohol for the first time in 8 months.
Nursing felt weird at first, and doing it 11 times a day was also a new experience. Some of these were in the middle of the night, where Kai would usually take care of it.
Overall, Kai was a big help, because even after coming home from work, he would still have the energy to help around the house, usually being the one to cook dinner for the both of them.
And right now, Jinora was exhausted. Kai had cooked them a surprisingly good pasta and cheese dish, one that was rather heavy on the stomach. They had sprawled themselves out on the couch, trying to relax and give their digestive systems the room to do what it does best.
"That was great," Jinora groaned.
"Last time I heard you say that, we were both naked," Kai chuckled with a knowing smile.
She laughed as well. "Are you angling for something?"
"As much as I'd love to, I'm too tired - both to get up and to get it up."
Jinora laughed again. It was very comfortable to be like this, both of them having a long day behind them and now just having a moment to themselves. They didn't even necessarily wanted it to turn physical. Kai was right, she was too tired as well.
But for some reason, Kai's face was contorted in the way it always was when he was thinking hard about something. "Hey, are you okay?" Jinora asked.
"Hmm?" he looked up. "Oh, yeah, I'm fine. Just thinking."
He sighed. "Nothing."
Jinora reached over and latched on to his arm while resting her head on his shoulder. "Come in, you know you can talk to me, right?"
It took him a moment before he responded. "Well, I've been thinking about what you said that night after we last slept together. Do you really think we should give 'us' a shot?"
"Yes," Jinora decisively answered.
"But what if it goes wrong? We can't do that to San."
"Then we'll just have to make sure it doesn't go wrong," she deadpanned. "Kai, you said it yourself, we've been doing great for the past twelve months now. There's no question of whether we can make it work, we already have made it work. Let's face it, we're a couple in all but name, so we might as well enjoy the benefits that brings, right?"
Kai chuckled. "Well, when you put it like that..."
Jinora rolled over so that she was now very close to him, practically face to face. "You've been saying it to me for the past nine months, so I guess it's my turn to say it to you now: you are going to be a great dad, and we are going to do it together." She wrapped her arms around Kai's neck, pulling herself up to kiss him. It felt good, finally being able to do this without guilt and secure in the knowledge that they really were in this together now.
Of course, this was also the exact moment San decided to start crying, something they heard over the babyphone.
They broke their kiss and Jinora rested her forehead against Kai's. "Ugh, great timing," he groaned.
A big smile broke over Jinora's face. "He's calling for his dad."
He laughed as he stood up. "You know that's totally cheating, right?"
Jinora smiled back. "Of course I do, but who's counting anyway?" Kai kept laughing as he walked to the nursery to take care of their boy, and Jinora relaxed as a more content smile came over her. They were going to be fine.
And there you have it. Nine months of Jinora's pregnancy and a little bit more. At first, I thought about doing this in Spur of the Moment, by boasamishipper, so if you liked this one, I recommend that one as well., but that seemed forced. Instead, I decided to write a part two to . This was heavily inspired by
Now for a few notes I took during writing: yes, pregnancy tests exist that tell you how long you're pregnant in a little display. There is a slim chance of ovulation still taking place even when you're on the pill, and the chances of that happening are higher if you don't take it very regularly. Same goes for condoms, they aren't foolproof. Many pregnant women still bleed when their first period into the pregnancy should have come. The drawing Kai makes of Jinora is a fairly common one to see of pregnant women, but I do like it, and I do think it fits the context of the story. The maternity leave is not like that in the US, it's only 12 weeks of unpaid leave, which is ridiculously little. Just imagine the story set in Canada or any other country in the world that has a better healthcare system than the US (which is virtually every Western country and quite a few non-Western ones). I've been waiting to write a scene in which Katara dies from Jinora's POV for quite a while now, and this seemed like a good opportunity. The dilation was something I didn't know, but it's simply measured by the doctor or nurse sticking their fingers in the cervix and estimating it. The eye-color thing was something that I was surprised to learn, but it turns out that babies don't get their final eye color until they are about six to nine months old. They used to clean newborns immediately after birth, but hospitals are slowly coming back on that after learning that the slime babies are covered in has some sort of antibiotic effect. Makes sense, since they have no immune system at all. Most of the technicalities of the pregnancy came from the internet. I know my biology, but I'm no expert on pregnancy. The way I described it here is how it goes in general, though it's different for everyone.
Last note: there are a few people I owe thanks to. First of all,, who sat through all of my teasing her, and in spite of me trying to keep her excited for pretty much the entire time I was writing it, stuck by me. She proofread it, went through a lot of grammar, and pitched me a lot of ideas. Second, , the artist behind the drawing of Jinora. While I was dithering about whether or not I wanted the drawing to have shorter hair or the one you see now, she was patient and stuck to my swinging back and forth. Kya, you rock! Third, , who gave the whole story an extensive and critical read, picking through even more grammar and oddly structured phrases, hopefully making it more enjoyable to read. Others who have helped me with this include , , and a few more I'm probably forgetting about. Thanks to all of you, and everyone else for reading it all the way.
For the collective works of the author, go here.