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The Wraith Returns

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The Wraith was back.

 

Kaz knew the moment he had woken, even before he had seen it in Berth 22 this morning.  Also because every damned Dreg that walked through his office door had that fact on the tip of their tongue.  After the fourth person, Kaz snapped at them that he was very aware. Did they think that something like that would happen and he wouldn’t know of it?

 

Poor Pim didn’t get the memo.  He was the next one in the office, the next to open his mouth.  “See The Wraith is in port,” he said conversationally.

 

Without a word, Kaz got out of his chair and walked out the door, cane in hand.  He walked down the stairs, passed the Dregs on the main floor with barely a nod of acknowledgement, and emerged onto the streets of Ketterdam.  His city, or at least his part of it. He’d have all of it one day. With every bit of business, legitimate or otherwise, he conducted, he got closer.

 

He told himself that he was inspecting Fifth Harbor.  He told himself that he was going to see the burned ruins of The Menagerie in West Stave.  Very suspicious, that fire. Luckily, everyone got out safely first. But all the opulence of the building had been destroyed.  The costumes. The beds. Everything.

 

Pity.

 

He kept making excuses as he walked, until he felt the presence he was hoping for beside him.

 

“Hello, Wraith,” he said, not turning to look.  If he looked, he might stare. If he stared, she might notice.

 

“Kaz,” Inej said.  “I heard that there was a fire in West Stave.  You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

 

“Not at all.  Though I do recall hearing that the fires were set on the second floor, in the far left room.  Tragic how fast the place went up. Almost like someone wanted it burn to the ground,” he said, his face blank, but fist tight on the head of his cane.

 

He had heard her catch of breath when he said what room the fire started in.  Her room. The room she had been forced to service clients in. Be the lynx, the exotic creature they could buy.  A room that would never exist again.

 

Her hand brushed his gloved one.  “Thank you,” she said, her voice soft.

 

He couldn’t not look at her at her touch.  It had been two months since The Wraith had left port, taking his Wraith with it.  Kaz took in her face. Her eyes seemed lighter, less haunted than when she had worked for the Dregs.  It seemed that hunting slavers was good for her.

 

Dropping pretense, he said, “You should be thanking Wylan.  He came up with the chemical excelerant so that the building couldn’t be saved.”

 

Her lips curled into a small smile.  “And I’m sure he came up with the plan, got the girls to safety, and robbed both of Heelen Van Houden’s safes, leaving her with almost nothing, all by himself.  The saints may cast down judgement, Kaz, but I feel that this was the work of someone much more mortal.”

 

“That reminds me, I had a lovely diamond brooch to give you,” he said, smirking slightly.

 

“Kaz!” Inej said, her face breaking into a full, joyful smile.  Kaz itched to pull her into his arms and swing her around, to make her laugh and blush as they rejoiced their victory against one of the demons of Inej’s past.  But people would talk if Dirtyhands, the bastard of the Barrel, acted like a romantic idiot in the middle of the street.

 

So he waited.

 

“Were you going to Wylan’s?” Inej asked.

 

“What?”

 

“You were walking when I found you.  Were you on your way to Wylan’s?”

 

Kaz hesitated a moment.  “No.”

 

“Then why-?” she broke off looking at him.  “Kaz.”

 

“Yes, Wraith?”  

 

“Why were you walking around Ketterdam, out of Fifth Harbor, through West Stave, if you weren’t going to Wylan’s?” Inej asked.

 

“Needed the air.  The Dregs were annoying me.”

 

“I’m sure.  They do tend to talk when I get back to town.”

 

He had been found out.  He kept quiet as they continued to walk together.

 

“Would you like to see my ship?” Inej asked after a few blocks.

 

“I bought your ship, Inej.  I know what it looks like.”

 

“Kaz,” Inej said, taking hold of his sleeve so that he was forced to turn and look at her.  “Would you like to see my ship?”

 

Oh.

 

“Yes, Inej, I would like to see your ship.”

 

They walked together, but separately at the same time.  They didn’t speak, just walked side by side through Fifth Harbor, down to the docks, and onto The Wraith .  Inej walked ahead of him into the captain’s quarters.  Her quarters.

 

It wasn’t until the door shut behind Kaz that she turned to him and stepped forward.

 

“Hi,” she said, running her hand up his arm, and resting on his shoulder.  It was all above his clothes. The waters didn’t come for him yet.

 

“Hello, Wraith,” Kaz said.  He didn’t know where to put his hands.  He knew where he wanted to put them. He just didn’t know how to get them there.  Or what would happen once he did.

 

Inej’s gaze didn’t leave his has she lifted her other hand and reached towards his face.  She paused, hand suspended mid-air.

 

He nodded.

 

She cupped his cheek, her thumb tracing the bone there lightly.  

 

He shivered.

 

“I missed you,” Inej said, thumb retracing its curve softly and slowly.

 

His hands slowly came up from his sides and rested on her hips.  She kept looking at him steadily, and it gave him courage. He pulled her closer, his hands going from her hips to her back, until they were embracing.

 

Her head fit under his chin and he rested there, breathing slowly, trying to make the unease that washing over him lessen.

 

“And I, you, Inej,” he whispered.  “I knew the moment you returned. Didn’t even have to seen the harbor.”

 

Her hands around his waist, Inej leaned back so that she could see his face.  “Did you sense my presence, Kaz Brekker?”

 

He let one of his hands come up and push an errant piece of hair out of her face, let his hand trace the curve of her jawline.  Let his head slowly descend until their foreheads met and breathed in, feeling the waters rise even as her scent filled his nostrils.

 

“My darling Inej, treasure of my heart,” Kaz had said it once before in jest, but now there was a hint of seriousness behind his words, “I let you sneak up on me once.  How do you think I’ve known when you were there ever since?”