“Kaz, hold my hand.”
Inej and Kaz had been dating for months now, and they were progressing, sure. They’d held hands before, which is why she wasn’t surprised to feel the familiar leather glove cupping her hand not even seconds later. But she promised Kaz she would either not have him or have him without his armor, which meant it was enough with the gloves for now.
They both had problems with touching others. Kaz, who wanted to throw up at every reminder of his dead brother’s body, refused any skin-on-skin contact, and Inej, who had been working in the Menagerie since she could remember, hated anything that wasn’t a friendly touch. They had both freaked out when Kaz tried to kiss her that one day on their mission, so they just decided to slow down. They started with head pats, actually.
Kaz was sitting down at this desk, working on how to scam a few more members of the Merchant Council into giving him more Kruge than he would originally ask for. He had one hand buried deep into his dark locks, leaning on the papers spread everywhere the eye could see. He hated paperwork; why couldn’t he just go kill someone instead and call it a day?
He’d noticed Inej hiding in the shadows of his office long before she spoke up.
“Someone’s thinking again.”
He immediately changed his expression, not wanting to be mocked because of his “scheming face” again, a face apparently everyone in his crew knew well. Everyone but him. He didn’t want to see himself ever , especially when he was planning.
“Brekker, go take a break-er.”
He felt his cheeks warm up slightly. Since when did Inej make jokes? And why was the first pun he’d ever heard her make based upon his last name?
Dammit, she pulled the “love” card. Oh, well, no working anymore. He was weak for her, and that was the only thing both of them could think about when he dropped his pen and looked up to the direction of her voice.
Inej was in her usual work clothes, her head turned out his window. For some reason, she looked more stunning than usual. Probably the way the moonlight hit her face, he supposed, but whatever it was, he wanted more of it.
“Get out of your chair, Kaz, let’s go get some food.”
And she started gliding out the door of his office when she heard his chair scraping the floor, stopping ever so slightly to rustle his hair on his way out.
No one had ever touched him like that, so pure, so affectionate.
Saints, Kaz Brekker was in love.
“Kaz, darling, I meant without your gloves this time.”
“Kaz, are you even listening to me?”
“Kaz.” She stopped walking with him now, dropping his hands and putting hers back into the pockets of her coat.
“Inej, darling,” he said after a few seconds, “are we not going to continue our walk? We’re almost at the docks.”
“Kaz, darling , I’m not going anywhere until those gloves go anywhere else but your hands.”
“Please, Kaz,” she stepped toward him again, closing the distance between them, taking his hands into hers again, gently tugging on the leather, “I know you can do this.”
“Inej,” he slowly retracted his hands, “one second.”
She thought she could hear his deep breaths from a mile away, and she saw him anxiously looking around the abandoned street. Pfft, as if anyone was going to find them in this part of town at 2 AM.
She wasn’t surprised that seconds later, Kaz Brekker started running away from her.
From her . Inej Ghafa. As if she couldn’t catch him without even trying. He knew she was the best spider in town, and he still tried his chances.
Well, no wonder Jesper ’s the one who’s known as the gambler in our group , she thought as she started to climb the rooftops around them.
She caught up to him in seconds, but she gave him a minute or so, that he would think he won this round. After the time passed, she jumped in front of him, stopping him from running forward by slamming him into the nearest wall.
He didn’t struggle. Inej took that as a good sign. Kaz could easily break her arms right there and then, and he would have, but she was Inej. He loved her almost as much as his money, which meant he wanted to lose her as much.
“Hey, Brekker boy.”
“Boy,” he scoffed, “I’m older than you, miss.”
“You sure don’t act like it.”
She leaned closer to him and put her hands inside the pockets of his jacket, slowly forming a plan of her own. Kaz was the schemer, so she hoped he wouldn’t assume she was the one scheming this time.
“Who’s the baby now, huh?” He said, scooting closer to her, his hands subconsciously drifting to his pockets to hold her hands.
“I’m cold. Shut up, Brekker.”
And they stayed like that for quite some time, resting in each other’s embrace, until Kaz realized Inej took off his gloves. For a pickpocket, he should have been sharper on picking up when someone stole something from him, but he realized a bit late, as Inej was already running away from him this time.
Kaz couldn’t stop staring at Inej’s hands that morning at their meeting.
She was displaying them proudly to everyone at the meeting, while Kaz only kept his hands in his pockets. She took his gloves, and she was wearing them instead of him.
He pulled her into a corner not much later, furious.
“Inej, give me my gloves back.”
“Umm,” she pretended to think by putting a gloved finger on her cheek, “sure, love.”
She teasingly took off the gloves at the slowest possible pace, carefully slipping leather off each finger. After taking them off, she put the gloves into her soft palms and clenched her fists.
“Go ahead, Kaz. Take your gloves.”
It took Kaz little to no time to figure out Inej wasn’t joking, and that he couldn’t escape her trap without touching her.
Kaz turned his back on her. “I was planning to get a new pair anyway.”
Inej stomped up the staircase to her room before he could even step on the first stair, her playful demeanor gone, clearly the one furious now.
Hours later, Kaz still not used to the feeling of touching his papers with bare hands, still gloveless, he slowly cracked the door of Inej’s room open.
Even though the smell of her room -her smell- shook him to the core, he had to continue searching for his gloves.
Goddamit, I’m lucky for once , he thought as his ears took in the noise of a running shower. His mind immediately began forming images of Inej’s gorgeous dark hair soaked, the shampoo running down her neck and onto her chest-
Stop it, idiot! , he told himself. Imagining what his girlfriend looked like while showering would have to happen at a different time -now he had to find the gloves.
It took him only a few moments before he saw them on her desk, lightly discarded, his precious armor just sitting there. Kaz Brekker was sympathizing with gloves.
Only as he had slowly -but very excitedly- started to tiptoe back toward his bedroom did he hear her sobs.
Oh, it felt like Kaz was about to sob himself, too. Just hearing Inej cry made his heart shatter, and he would gladly give gloves up for the rest of his life if that would make her happy.
He made (what he thought to be) an obvious decision of staying in her room instead of getting Worst Boyfriend of the Year AwardTM, even though he was closer to getting that prize than not, regardless of what he did now. But he was still going to wait, his body turned from her bathroom door.
He heard the shower stopping and the door screeching open minutes later. He slowly closed his eyes, just in case.
“Kaz…?” He’d never heard Inej sound so… vulnerable. She was the stronger one in their relationship, but he’d really have to make it up to her - and now he had the chance.
“Love, I’m right here,” he comforted her, “I promise, I won’t turn around until you tell me, okay?”
She scurried to her closet, clearly flustered at the thought of Kaz being in her room while she was changing. She put on her most comfortable PJs, as she could sense it was going to be a long night.
She softly dropped onto her bed, her hand resting on Kaz’s clothed bicep. “Kaz, I’m done.”
Kaz turned around swiftly, panic visible in all his features. All from the way his posture wasn’t perfect, the way his hair wasn’t correctly styled, to the way he was looking at her.
He swept her into a warm embrace, and Inej’s first thought was that he found his gloves again. His hands freely roamed around her back in a rhythm, and Inej was too closer to falling asleep than she should have been.
“Baby,” he whispered into her hair, “why were you crying?”
He hummed, and one of his hands found her braid and started untangling it, her hair now slowly falling apart in layers of waves.
“Sorry I was so loud today.”
“Oh, Inej, my treasure,” he was desperately holding her closer to him, slowly moving her into his lap, “the only thing you have to be apologizing for is stealing Nina’s waffles this morning.”
He was waiting for at least a chuckle from her (everyone loved waffles, and Nina for that matter), but instead he only heard her breaths speed up, felt her chest hitting his.
“Kaz, I don’t know how she does it. She’s so beautiful, and I know she has Matthias, but even though an intimidating giant follows around people stare like she’s their property. It’s like,” a parched sob left her mouth, “like… we’re some sort of objects. And, Kaz, I-”
He let her cry into his shoulder. After all, he was Dirtyhands, and he didn’t know what he could say that wouldn’t just worsen her pain.
“Kaz, I can’t look at my body without remembering the bruises, the hickeys, the, “her voice cracked, scared, “scratches. And I can’t look at myself without imagining one of those men could be one of th-them.”
Well, goddammit. Looks like his primary murder list just got updated, as he did not even need to ask who his love was crying over. Oh, he would enjoy stabbing her “past clients”, seeing the pain they made Inej feel painted on their own faces for once.
“Fuck, Inej, baby, I didn’t know you cried every night. Punch me in the stomach, please, I deserve it. Come here, love.”
Inej fell asleep while sobbing into his shirt, and woke up by screaming into it.
“Kaz, hold my hand.”
He hesitated. Did she mind him wearing the gloves or not? Should he have already taken them off yesterday? What if he threw up right now? It definitely wouldn’t be the perfect time to get a panic attack-
He felt his instincts take over as Inej started to fall. He shifted all his weight to his bad leg and let out an interesting noise as he was lifting her back up, her body limp in his arms.
“Sorry, Kaz, I’m feeling a bit lightheaded today.”
“Inej, my treasure, stop apologizing for things you don’t have to be sorry for.”
“Damn, Kaz,” she said, resting one hand on her forehead, “you’re confusing my migraine and me.”
“What?” He chuckled. Yes, the Kaz Brekker actually chuckled.
“Love, help me stand up again before I start patting your head forever.”
He was hesitant, again. Why did both of those sound like a good choice?
“Kaz, darling, I can’t get up by myself.”
“Inej, my treasure, I never thought I’d hear you say that,” he grinned and put one of his arms around her waist, slowly shifting their combined weight away from his bad leg. He helped her to sit up on her bed, and Kaz sat on the floor in front of her.
He looked up at Inej with affectionate eyes, but only got a stare in return.
“Kaz, how long do I have to wait for your armor to fall?”
“Inej, my darling, I don’t-”
“Please, just give me an approximate.”
Kaz sucked in a breath as he placed his gloved hands on Inej’s knees. “Go ahead,“ he whispered, “take them off.”
“My pants?” Inej looked both concerned and confused.
“No, love,” Kaz chuckled again , nervously this time around, “my gloves.”
“Your gloves ?” Inej secured her hands on his. “Kaz, am I hearing this right? You’re sure you-”
“Yes, Inej”, he tried to put as much love into his tone as he could, “go on, my treasure.”
She intertwined their fingers for a moment of comfort before letting go again. “The safe word is Kruge, remember?”
She slowly started to tug onto the rough leather on his right index finger, followed by his middle one, then his ring finger, and finally his pinky and thumb. She repeated the same process for his left hand, slowly caressing his slender fingers as she finished.
“Kaz, are you sure you’re okay with all of this?”
“Inej,” he opened his eyes to look at her, and at this point, he was kneeling on the floor, right between her legs which were inches away from wrapping around his back, “I’m okay.”
In fact, he couldn’t remember when he’d been better. Inej’s warm skin on his own made felt like a fever dream. He never remembered touching anyone who was alive; and now he was touching someone who loved him. Someone who cared. And someone who he couldn’t bear to hurt any further. He slowly scootched closer to the mattress and started to rest his head on Inej’s thigh as they held hands.
She was still moving her thumbs across his palms when she bent down to kiss his hair. “I love you, Kaz. I’m so proud of you,” she whispered into his locks.
“I love you too, my Inej.”
And they stayed in her room for hours, Kaz getting more comfortable with her skin on his with every second that passed.