A/N: Just a little something I've been toying with in my head today. First time writing about Six of Crows, so fingers crossed!
Disclaimer: I'm not Leigh Bardugo and I am not seeking monetary gain.
Kaz had been doing well at leaving his gloves aside when he was around Inej, so well in fact that the two of them had almost forgotten it was ever too much of a problem before.
But something recently had changed. Something drawing him back to his guarded, reserved self, away from Inej and away from the progress they had made together.
And Inej had had enough. The Wraith would not be defeated this easily. The anniversary of Jordie's death or not, it was not going to take Kaz away from her and destroy all the hope and healing they had been through together.
She mentioned it to him once, when the crisp, dank air of Ketterdam forced him to shove his glove-less hands into his coat and retrieve his leather gloves. She knew once they were on it wasn't just a brisk night-air scenario.
"Bad memories. It'll pass Inej, don't mention it again" had been his curt reply.
Bad memories. Huh, well at the very least at least Kaz was admitting he had vulnerabilities now.
Inej left Wylan's early the next morning before anyone had stirred to make her way into the posh district of the depressing city. Once there she found a tailor and made her ostentatious purchase. Inej never had been one for constraints, her tight shoes were about as constricting as she liked to be in, and even those served a phenomenal function.
These gloves on the other hand, would serve an even greater purpose than she gave them credit for. At least she hoped that is.
She crept down the rooftop of Kaz's office until she was perched on the window ledge and removed a small stale loaf of bread to scatter for the crows. Kaz would surely know she was here already, but this small gesture enticing the boisterous creatures to formally announce her presence was enjoyable to her.
Kaz appeared next to her in the small window, opened it up, and leaned against the frame.
His hands were ungloved.
Perfect, thought Inej, this is exactly what she was hoping for.
The early light of the morning lit the sky like a warm flame. Kaz knew Inej was on the window sill, she'd been coming to him with information in exchange of other information in regards to prostitution rings still rebelling against her wrath in the underground.
Well, that and, other things.
My company? Kaz thought hopefully. He'd done a lot of soul-searching these last few months, but as the days crept nearer the fogginess of the city and the clammy air of the harbor when he went with Inej was getting the better of him.
Was he right to trust her about Jordie? He'd really screwed up when he had called Jesper Jordie's name and he knew it, everyone knew it. It was that moment upon further reflection that he admitted he needed to trust someone. He needed to share this burden with someone.
Inej was that person. She had to be, after all this time, after everything they had been through together, if there was one person in all of this godforsaken city, hell this world, that he could—that he needed to—trust, it was Inej. His Wraith. No, not his, he needed to remind himself of this, he couldn't refer to her as "his Wraith". Kaz Brekker wasn't the only one getting over a cruddy past here, and with all the thought Inej had put into helping him, he owed it to her to not use possessive innuendos.
He had taken off his gloves in anticipation of her arrival. He knew that he had been slipping up recently and reverting back to his "old ways". Kaz may seem uncaring, but no one could call him unobservant.
"Morning, Wraith." Kaz murmured as he wedged himself into the open window frame.
Inej's eyes didn't leave the crows, happily cawing away as they devoured the bread she'd brought for them. If Kaz didn't know better he'd swear Inej was sleeping, her eyes narrow slits in the rising sun that painted her rich skin a color singular to her in all the world.
Inej's mouth quirked slightly, almost imperceptibly, when she replied, "Morning Dirtyhands. Fancy a drink?"
Kaz had been up for a while yet and hadn't yet had any coffee, so he agreed and leaned over to grab his cane. Inej slipped quietly through the window after blowing a slight kiss towards the birds, thoroughly distracting Kaz in a way he wasn't yet ready to admit.
They walked in silence down the stirring street to the barista and ordered two coffees and set out for the docks. Kaz's stomach churned, and not because of the sludgy tar that somehow passed as a consumable beverage. He pitched his cup and buried his fists into his coat.
Inej didn't miss a beat, she glared up to him with eyes of steel.
You're terrifyingly beautiful. "How's the ship?"
Inej was having none of his small talk, and he knew it by the intense set of her lower lip, not pouty, not upset, madly determined. She scooted closer to him against the building and turned to stand his equal next to him, slipped her slender arm out of her own pocket and let it lay resting against the wall beside him. Daring him he knew. She always knew how to push him to the absolute limits of his control, to push him dangerously closer and closer to the edge. He couldn't do this. Not here. Not right now. But what was he to do? He couldn't deny her, that would only spell disaster, but grasping another human hand, the undeniable flesh on flesh feeling that encompassed contact was too much. He was going to be sick. He was going to be sick and pass out all because this stupid water and this stupid air and this stupid city.
"Kaz?" Inej's voice was hardly a whisper. "I'm right here. I need you to do this. Please."
Kaz's breathe shook with the effort to compose himself. He had to do this. He had to do this for her.
He drew a shaking hand out of his coat and dropped it beside Inej's on the dilapidated wall.
She knew she was losing him. Fast. This blasted water and cold air was stealing him from her as it always did. Ruthless and relentless.
I will have you without armor, Kaz Brekker. Or I will not have you at all.
That was her. She had said that. It was all she could say to emphasize that he needed to reclaim this part of him that was so near hopelessly gone.
"Kaz?" Inej barely breathed, if there had been a strong wind her words would have been carried away from her. "I'm right here. I need you to do this. Please." She had added the 'Please' for good measure, to not seem as intimidating. He had no idea she was the one cloaked in armor this time.
But ruthless or not, this was her last hope, her last idea, her last glimmer of a light at the end of such a dark tunnel.
Inej almost didn't realize he had started to lift his hand from his coat pocket, too wrapped up in her own anxieties about the situation until she felt the closeness of his hand, his unguarded, unarmored hand, shaking uncontrollably, his fear beginning the devouring process of swallowing him whole.
Inej moved her gloved hand a hair's length and laid it to rest in the open, bare palm of Kaz Brekker.
Who promptly jerked away and turned his entire body to Inej. His pale face startlingly white, eyes in shocked, and breathing ragged.
"What is? What have you?" Kaz's thoughts came out in barely cohesive ramblings.
"Calm down, Kaz." Inej turned so now her body was equally framed to his, so close if she sneezed she'd give him a bloody nose.
Kaz pulled his supporting arm from the wall and took her gloved hand, gentle as if he were handling the most precious manuscript in history. His shaking, pale hands cradled her dainty gloved ones with careful precision. He interlocked their fingers and unwound them, then he pressed Inej's two hands between his and met her eyes with a force of emotion like Inej had never seen.
Kaz prided himself on seldom if ever being one-upped, out-smarted, out-planned.
But if anyone could take him by complete and utter surprise, no shock, terror, astonishment, it was the Wraith.
Kaz's bare hands folded around Inej's gloved hands. The hands he knew were there, so delicate and strong, blockaded from him by a thin layer of sheepskin.
I understand now, you magnificent, beautiful, clever godsend. "Inej…" Kaz's eyes bore into hers, a bomb could go off next to them and it wouldn't break this connection.
He pulled off the gloves and dropped them to the cobblestones below them, grasping both her small, warm hands into his. Her pulse was erratic beneath his fingertips, or maybe that was his, it was honestly hard to tell at this point.
Inej's eyes began to shine with moisture, which she promptly blinked away. "Yes, Kaz Brekker?"
"Thank you." I love you so much.
It made sense now. What he had been petrified by for the better part of his life was all wrong. This interaction, Inej's light hands in his, they pulsed with warmth, with the life of someone who cared, someone who was here, someone who was willing to go through this battle alongside him and weather the storm it brought.
He dropped her hands to embrace her shoulders, not even having to pull her to him as their bodies crashed into one another, nothing unfamiliar, nothing rough around the edges. Inej shuddered with a breath that she had evidently been holding for quite some time, her warm breathing soft on the crook of his neck as she replied, "Thank you too, Kaz."
Kaz would still wear the gloves when dealing with people. He was getting better at not wearing them at Wylan and Jesper's home. It was a work in progress, but one thing was certain, Inej would never again feel the barrier of anything between them, he would make sure of that.
A/N: So this idea just kind of came to me today that what if Inej wore a pair of gloves to get through to Kaz what it was like on the receiving end of the situation. I've just recently finished the Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom duology and it has consumed my life. Please let me know what you thought and if the characters were believable! Thanks so much for reading this—rather long—oneshot! (Or will there be more…..)