AN: Before I get to the fic, I'd like to thank my gang, Eight for a Kiss. You guys have been so much fun to work with. I've enjoyed looking at your art and working with you to make a great fic. Each of you have made this Big Bang so special for me. Thank you all! You did a truly magnificent job. Congratulations on a great Heist Your Etherealki, Night


Kaz scrubbed a hand across his face and breathed in the salty air. Even from the Crow Club, he could smell the nearby ocean.

He'd been working on paperwork for most, well, all of the day and he didn't want to see any more numbers for a week.

The coffers weren't following the normal numbers for the time of year. He'd personally picked his people – they weren't skimming. They knew Kaz would take their hand for that.

No, the Crow Club wasn't getting the customers. Spending customers. So either people weren't into gambling anymore or another gambling hall was getting the business.

He knew it wasn't the first option. There were always tourists and natives alike willing to throw away their kruge for the idea that they may be able to make more than they lost. Kaz had seen it time and time again. They were always wrong. They lost and the Crow Club made more money.

Except this year.

Kaz watched people filter past in the street.

Most of the people wore the bright colors associated with Barrell. The tourists were easy to spot.

They looked up at the crumby buildings with looks of awe. All they saw was the neon paint on the buildings and heard the music coming from inside the gambling halls.

They didn't see the peeling of the paint and the grime that climbed from the building supports to the rotting roofs. They didn't see the true Barrel, only the glorified version.

Kaz had improved the Crow Club with the money he earned from the Ice Court heist. It didn't look like it was about to collapse from a single good gust of wind anymore. In fact, now it was one of the best gamling halls in the Barrel, if not the best. It was Kaz's gambling hall.

As the sun sank below the buildings and the sky turned variegated shades of orange and purple, the crowds became denser. People didn't come to the barrel in the day. Most of them did not want to be recognized.

No, the barrel got most of its business at night, when everyone out was too busy committing their own crimes to care about another's.

The sound of a fist hitting flesh caught Kaz's attention. It was a sound he was used to, but it wasn't supposed to be coming from the alley beside the Crow Club. He kept it as brawl free as he could. Tourists didn't appreciate being interrupted by a fist fight.

Kaz walked around the building, cane thumping against the wet ground.

Even in the low light, he instantly recognized the mop of blond hair and slight frame. Wylan.

He didn't come around much, not as often as he did in the months after the Heist, but when he did he had a knack for running into problems. It was probably why he got along with Jesper.

The person hitting Wylan was a Razorgull. Kaz knew of him, but only had a few interactions with him. Andrik, a lieutenant of the Razorgulls. He was built like Matthias, but taller. Taller than Kaz.

Wylan was bleeding already and it took everything Kaz had to keep the rage that the sight sparked in check.

He'd seen people in his gang take a beating, sometimes at the hands of other Dregs, but he didn't tolerate it from other gangs. Not if they wanted peace with the Dregs. Peace with Kaz.

The Razorgull grabbed Wylan by the front of his shirt and forced his back against the wall of the alley. Kaz saw a knife in Andrik's hand, the blade pressed to Wylan's neck.

The Razorgull did not even notice Kaz. Not until Kaz swung his cane and the weighted crow head connected with the back of the man's leg with enough force to break bone.

The Razorgull howled and dropped the knife. He let go of Wylan and turned to Kaz. Shock, anger, and pain warred in the man's eyes.

The man didn't hesitate.

Kaz dodged the first punch the man threw, the second caught him in the ribs. It wasn't the worst punch he'd taken. The Razorgull was all muscle, he didn't have the skill to throw a good punch. Kaz knew of people smaller than the Razorgull that threw a more painful hit.

Kaz was one of them.

He slid knuckles onto his right hand and didn't stop punching until the Razorgull was on the ground. It didn't take long.

Once he was sure the man wouldn't stand up as soon as Kaz walked away, he turned to Wylan.

He held out his gloved hand and pulled Wylan to his feet.

His face was already beginning to swell, and he favored the left side of his body. Wylan had been in the Barrel for three years now and he still dressed like a mercher's son.

As far as Kaz could tell, Wylan didn't appear to have any major injuries.

Kaz looked away and started for the back door of the Crow Club.

He heard Wylan following behind him.

"What happened?" Kaz asked, not turning around.

"The Barrell happened." Kaz waited for Wylan to elaborate, but he didn't. "Thank you, by the way. For having my back."

Kaz glanced over his shoulder at Wylan. He gave a slight nod that he wasn't even sure Wylan saw.

He opened the door and ushered Wylan in.

It was dark through this route. Boxes were stacked to the ceiling and the only light came through the grime-covered windows.

Kaz didn't come by this route often. Only when he didn't want to be seen or was smuggling something in that the customers couldn't see without risking the success of a heist.

The room was used for storage and a hideout when necessary. Most of the time, it was ignored.

Once Wylan was through, Kaz shut the door behind them.

"Why are we going this way?"

"You want to go through the front door looking like that? You look like you got your ass handed to you."

"Why do you care?" Wylan asked.

"It makes the Dregs look weak."

He felt more than saw Wylan bristle. It wasn't entirely true either. Sure, a member of a gang being beat reflected on their gang, but that wasn't why Kaz cared.

Kaz weaved through the boxes and hoped Wylan would follow the same path. The boxes were stacked poorly on purpose. One wrong hit and it would all come down. A cautious action in case stadwatch or another gang found their way in and had to be slowed down.

Thankfully though, Wylan didn't bump any of them.

"My father still has connections. According to Andrik, my father sent him."

Kaz stopped walking and glanced over to Wylan, though he could barely make out the smaller boy's shape in the dark.

He wasn't sure what to do with the information yet. Jan Van Eck had been sent to Hellgate, he wasn't supposed to be able to get to Wylan anymore. And yet, he had been able. Right outside of the Crow Club. Kaz's turf.

If it could happen outside of the Crow Club, it could happen anywhere. Wylan would be dead if Kaz hadn't been there. What if it'd been outside of the Dime Lion's gambling hall instead? What if none of the Crows had reached Wylan in time?

"You need to learn how to fight," Kaz said.

"I know how to—"

"No you don't," Kaz snapped. He wasn't sure why he was angry. Maybe it was because of the coffers. Maybe at Andrik. Maybe it was Van Eck. But all of the anger leaked into Kaz's voice. "I've watched you fight. It's what I'd expect from a schoolboy. You fight-" Kaz paused to find the right word, "-proper."

"I'm not proper."

"If you want to survive in the Barrel, you need to learn how to fight like us."

As Kaz's eyes adjusted more to the dark, he could see Wylan frowning.

Kaz reached into his pocket and took out his knuckles. They were one of many pairs he used. Scratches and dings from use covered the dull metal, but Kaz knew they were dependable.

He handed them over to Wylan.

"I don't want—"

Kaz gave him a look and Wylan didn't go further.

Once he was sure Wylan wouldn't try to give the knuckles back, Kaz turned and continued through the boxes. Wylan followed close behind.

He opened the door to a hidden stairwell that led to his office.

"Come on."

He ignored his leg protesting with every stair. He was accustomed to his leg aching, but the scuffle with Andrik hadn't helped.

He stepped into his office and spotted Inej over by his desk. She was reading the same documents he had been reading. The reports on the Coffers. He'd asked her to look at them, see if she saw something he missed.

Inej glanced up when he came in.

She wore her hair down, rather than in the tight braid she usually preferred.

Her time on her ship, the Wraith, had made her more muscled and lean. He could see the muscle in her arms, in her stance. She seemed more sure of herself.

"We need to get more—" She began but stopped when she saw Wylan. "Saints," she whispered, walking around the desk.

"I'm fine," Wylan said.

"What happened?"

"A Razorgull. Andrik," Kaz said, sitting in his chair by the desk. He sighed as his weight was taken off his knee. "He ambushed Wylan outside of the Crow Club."

Inej's eyes darkened as she turned back to Wylan.

"Why?"

They had a peace with the Razorgulls. Kaz figured Van Eck offered Andrik a lot of money to jeopardize the peace. What Kaz didn't know was how Van Eck convinced Andrik he had the money to give. All of Van Eck's money had been transferred to Wylan and people knew it.

Wylan explained to her about Van Eck paying people to kill him. Apparently, Andrik wasn't the first.

Kaz glanced over at Wylan, frowning.

"Why didn't you tell us?" Inej asked, voicing the question Kaz was thinking.

Wylan lifted his chin, but with the injuries on his face, Kaz knew it wasn't the image Wylan had hoped it would be.

"It's my problem. I didn't see a point in complaining."

"I told you when you first joined the Dregs," Kaz said, "don't hide anything from me. What would have happened if I wasn't there?" Kaz didn't bother waiting for an answer. "You are the best demolitions expert I have. Don't get yourself killed for something stupid."

"You're a part of the team, Wylan. It's not complaining. It's informing," Inej said.

Wylan didn't reply for a moment. He seemed to consider their comments before nodding.

"I need you to teach me how to fight," Wylan said to Inej. Kaz glanced up. "If I'm going to be a member of this gang, I can't be a weak link."

The confusion Kaz felt was mirrored on Inej's face. When Kaz had said he needed to learn, he didn't mean from Inej. But he saw how it made sense.

The look Inej had was quickly replaced with one of determination. She nodded.