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I Don't Ever Trust, But I Still Choose You

Chapter Text

Kaz

“Mama! Papa!” Inej cried to her parents down the dock, her voice hovering in the tenuous place between laughter and tears.

They were rushing towards each other, Inej’s mother slightly in front of her husband. They collided in a tight embrace, first mother and daughter, then the father’s arms surrounding them both. All three were crying and clutching at each other.

Kaz followed at a more sedate pace. He felt like an intruder on the family reunion, but Inej had asked him to stay, so he would stay. Still, he stood a respectful distance away, knuckles white on the head of his cane.

Inej’s mother was crying, tears streaming unheeded down her face as she put her hands on either side of her daughters face. She spoke quickly in Suli but Kaz recognized the timber of her words as one of Inej’s prayers, a prayer of thanksgiving. Mr. Ghafa was gripping his daughter’s upper arm as if he was afraid she might vanish if he didn’t hold on with all his strength.

Kaz looked down at his shoes and took the opportunity to pull his leather gloves from a pocket inside his coat and pull them back on his hands. Eventually one of them would notice him again and introductions and handshakes would be exchanged. He wanted to be ready when that happened.

Several minutes passed, filled with tears and words Kaz did not understand. Then, with great sniffs Inej pulled away slightly from her mother’s embrace to wipe the tears from her face. She was still holding the spyglass in one hand, now thrown around her mother’s shoulder.

“Mama, Papa,” she said again, this time continuing in Kerch. She sniffling slightly. “I want you to meet my friend, Kaz. Kaz Brekker.”

Her parents tore their eyes from their daughter’s face to look at the boy standing off to the side.

“The Mr. Brekker who paid for our voyage from Ravka?” Inej’s father asked after a moment, switching languages into slightly accented Kerch.

Kaz didn’t miss Inej’s quick look of surprise before giving a stiff nod. “It’s a please to meet you Mr. and Mrs. Ghafa. I—“ Kaz cut off abruptly with a grunt of surprise as Mrs. Ghafa threw her arms around him and kissed both of his cheeks.

Kaz barely had time to stiffen and Inej to cry, “Mama!” before she released his arms and took his hand in both of hers, pressing another quick kiss to the leather-gloved back.

“You have reunited us with our daughter, Mr. Brekker. We owe you a debt that we can never repay.”

Kaz swallowed and tried to think of something to say, still reeling from the feelling of her embrace and the warmth of her hands radiating through his gloves. He was spared, however from trying to formulate a response by the intoxicating sound of Inej’s laugh.

“For Saint’s sakes, Mama. Don’t tell him that!” she said from her place in her father’s arms, a teasing glint in her eyes. “He’ll never let you forget it!”

“I assure you, Mrs. Ghafa. There is no debt between us,” he said, regaining his wits. “Any of us,” he added, looking up at Inej, so that she knew he meant it. He would not accept payment from the Ghafa’s. Not for the ship, nor their transportation, nor anything else.

Inej’s smile dimmed but it was replaced by something else in her eyes that he could not identify. It was something tender, warm and intense that he wasn’t used to seeing there.

Mrs. Ghafa patted his hand and finally released it to once again be near to her daughter. His glove still held some of her warmth around his hand.

“You must meet Wylan and Jesper too,” Inej said to her parents, still speaking in Kerch, presumably for Kaz’s benefit.

“Of course,” Mr. Ghafa said. “We want to meet all of your friends and hear about what has happened to you in the last three years. Everything that has happened.”

His voice was nothing but kindness and gentleness but Kaz didn’t miss the cloud pass over Inej’s face.

“So much has happened, Papa,” She said quietly, “I’m not sure I’m strong enough to tell the story.”

“Then we will lend you our strength.” Mr. Ghafa’s voice was deep and calm as a lake on a still spring morning, reassuring but brokering no argument. He would know what he daughter had experienced.

Inej nodded. “After breakfast.”

She took her mother and father’s hands so they flanked her and turned toward the city. They looked the perfect picture of a family. All straight-backed and brown skinned, walking into the crooked streets of Ketterdam. But they took only a few steps before she stopped again.

“Kaz?” she said, turning back to him when the familiar thump of his cane did not follow the three acrobats. Come with us, her eyes said, but Kaz didn’t trust his heart not to put words there she didn’t intend.

“You should spend time with your parents,” he said instead of following her, fighting the hints of doubt that wanted to enter his voice.

“Come with us,” she said, dropping her father’s hand to reach back to him.

He opened his mouth to argue, but couldn’t find the words. So he nodded stiffly and limped along next to her father.