A/N: Hey wow. So fun fact, 7 days after I uploaded the previous chapter I found out I was pregnant. I was three weeks into my Master's program and life got crazy. In the past 4 ½ years I had strayed a bit away from FF. I still got warm fuzzies when I received beautiful comments, faves and follows despite my years long respite. There's been plenty I'd love to write about, stories upon stories I've devoured but never leant myself the time to write. Granted, it's 1:45 in the morning right now but I'm here, and I'm going to try. There was a chapter 3 to this that I never got down, so here it goes.
Inej lie in the crook of Kaz's shoulder feigning sleep to beget sleep when she notices the man's breath begin to ease, heart, albeit still pounding, slowing to a more normal pace, and the tension in his entire body begin to subside when she hears it.
"I love you, Inej…" Kaz murmured into her thick hair.
Inej's breath hitched, her mind scrambled with the composure of a crashing wave and the clarity of mud. They had been making progress, yes, they had been working toward Kaz procuring and displaying his emotions, learning to be a human and quit being a closed off workaholic machine. She was by no means perfect and would be the first to admit her own trauma and baggage weighed heavily on her every interaction.
But this. This was something in this furious night that she didn't realize she was waiting for. She was waiting for Kaz to open up, to accept her with no barriers, to be comfortable with her. She knew beyond truth that Kaz trusted her, clearly with significant layers of his professional life, security, secrets, and now…this. This was something Inej didn't realize she needed.
Kaz's realization came in the way of his own cognition catching up with what apparently his brain decided to allow his mouth to release. His entire body felt like it had been plunged into the cold ocean the level of absolute terror he had just damned onto himself.
That wasn't supposed to be this way, there's no way that she's remotely close to sleep yet and between the stiff static that was sharing the same bed together to now the four small words that escaped him there was no way that he could have possibly made this night more chaotic.
Kaz didn't even think he was capable of giving love. Of giving so much of himself that he attained another entire human being to be considerate of. Moreover Kaz was simply convinced he was not worthy of receiving love. Dirtyhands had taken too much from too many people in too many schemes to be subject to something as mortal and ordinary as love.
And then enter Inej. His Wraith. His right-hand. His confidant. His rock.
It was purely business at first, or so he'd love to tell himself. He wasn't sure when he realized that Inej meant more to him than she originally had meant for him. In the beginning he was impressed with her skill set and was disgusted by the menagerie. He figured that if there was a way to help remove her from the pitiful situation, benefit himself, and secure a loyalty to a valuable asset, then why not pay up and buy out the Wraith? In the beginning it was all business. Inej was a skill to be acquired and an asset to behold.
But that was before. Before the subtleties that had begun invading their interactions. The way he began to notice her, to appreciate her for more than just a means to an end for his jobs. Her faint smiles as the crows on his ledge delicately accepted food from her—an only her. The way she treated Wylan compared to Jesper, both clearly such important people to her.
And then the way she treated him.
She was always so considerate, always noticing and mentioning and reminding. Always looking out for him when he wasn't looking out for himself. Saints only knew what she did behind his back in terms of these as well.
He knew he would have to prove to her that she would never lose him, that he would be there with her through thick and thin. The delivery however, he had meant for another time.
He didn't mean to utter those heavy words on a night already thick with noise and spent social interaction.
But yet, here we are.
Kaz decided ultimately that he would wait. Wait to see if Inej even heard him, between the thunder and rain and the fact that they were both full and exhausted, maybe she had already fallen asleep. Maybe he could give this to her, this burning core of himself, one of the few things that he felt absolutely sure of in himself that he was capable of giving, in a better way. This was not how he wanted to prove to her that he had been trying, he had been doing all within his power to meet her demands of having him with no armor. Not having him at all wasn't an option, he would do whatever it took to secure his place alongside Inej.
But he had wanted to look into her eyes when he finally uttered those words. He wanted to do it, grasping her hands in his with no gloves, looking into her deep dark eyes, and leaving nothing of himself hidden away from her.
Rather, he has mumbled these precious words out into a loud night without so much as eye contact. Kaz Brekker, was decidedly pissed at himself.
It was now or never. Feeling a renewed sense of empowerment and confidence, Inej frankly, was feeling in the mood to disrupt the status quo.
With the hand she had her fingers laced between his, Inej subtly grazed her thumb against Kaz's, who promptly stiffened, proving that her deduction was right and that he indeed hadn't meant for her to hear those words.
Both their breaths had begun to settle, so it was exceedingly obvious when Inej drew in and released a heavy sigh that she was in fact very much awake. Kaz was clearly letting her decide if this was going to be addressed or not.
Or, at least that was what Inej was under the assumption of until Kaz withdrew his hand that she had grasped and with a touch so light she almost wasn't sure it was real, he angled her face to meet his.
At this moment a static crack of lightning shot across Ketterdam and lit up the room, simultaneously startling both parties and adding to the thrumming heartbeats that had been reignited.
Before Inej had the opportunity to ask for clarity, Kaz murmured. "I-I'm sorry, this wasn't meant to happen like…this."
His words were uncertain, clearly unsure if he should apologize for saying that, how he said it, where/when he said it, something was not how he had planned and Inej's world was coming crashing down hard. She had to speak up, she had to let him know.
Breaking eye contact only to take in the rest of the features of the young man's face, Inej began to feel herself flush, so uncharacteristically herself that she had no other choice than to take it as a sign that what was happening was real.
"Kaz, I…I—" before she could finish the crashing boom of the thunder following the lightning strike erupted in the air, rattling their windows, pens in glasses on the desk, and reverberating deep in their bones.
The chaos reared an adrenaline rush through Inej and, losing all sense of tremors or nerves, met Kaz's eyes in the dim room and responded, "I'm in love with you, Kaz Brekker."
Visibly, physically, and no doubt mentally shaken, Kaz merely responded by dropping his forehead to rest against Inej's, his hand dropping from her jaw to reclaim the shaking hand that had been abandoned on his chest prior.
The suffocation tried to invade her moment, the darkness in the back of her mind that thrived on torturing Inej and preventing her from separating past from present in terms of physical proximity and environment tried to shut her down. Tried to dissociate her mind from her body, currently pressed against Kaz Brekker and being held in a way that warrants no absence. The darkness tried.
But this was her life now. This was her journey and her story. In another context in another time, Kaz had assured her of his devotion to her in claiming the most assuring statement she had ever received, up until a few moments ago, when he told her: "I would come for you. I would come for you. And if I couldn't walk, I'd crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we'd fight our way out together—knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that's what we do. We never stop fighting."
Kaz may not know it, may not consider how that statement impacted Inej and how often she recollects on it with their current situation. But truer words of the two fools had never been uttered, that's what they do, they never stop fighting.
Pressing her darkness down, Inej slowly, intently, allows herself to follow the angle of Kaz's face to meet their lips together. She won't push herself too far, and Kaz won't take more than she gives, but the relief and reckoning of herself and her body thrilled Inej. THIS was HER choice. This proximity, this environment, these hands, and now this kiss was hers. Inej felt Kaz's heart pounding beneath her fingertips on his chest and his breath hitch between their lips. Deepening the kiss ever so slightly, so as to not leave their first kiss at a simple brush of the lips, Inej inhaled slowly before releasing the pair.
Their heads lingered another moment together before Kaz stretched back to their prior arrangement of having Inej's head in the crook of his arm and chin resting on top her head.
There were no words left to be shared in this night, though Inej doubted if either party would succumb to sleep any time soon.
Not only was Kaz brimming with adrenaline of Inej's proclamation, moreover he was mentally absolutely stunned of her response to him. Her response to his invasion of her space, his leading of her direction which he tried ever so diligently to avoid guiding her to do anything whatsoever, his entirely overstepped boundaries and horror at the realization of it. Inej was not fragile, she was not a dainty damsel that had to be walked on eggshells around. But Inej had her boundaries that Kaz respected.
Tonight though, she fought them. She fought and she conquered and she won over her demons. Tonight at least, she had made their passion theirs and wasn't shackled down by the darkness inside.
It wasn't always going to be like this, Kaz knew. There would be bad days on both parties, they both had lived quite unorthodox and baggage-filled lives up to this point in the end of their teens. It was going to take time and patience and persistence and fight to reclaim that that is theirs.
And dammit, Kaz Brekker and Inej Ghafa never stopped fighting.
A/N: I hope you liked this conclusion! Thank you for reading!