It was a perfect summer day, the kind neither of them could have imagined enjoying as they did now.
Inej had convinced Kaz to join her on the most recent voyage. It wasn’t his first time on the ship, accompanying her at sea, but it was the first time he had allowed himself to admit that he was going purely because he wanted to. In years past he had always kept up the illusion that traveling on the Wraith with her was for business purposes, or sometimes he simply hadn’t indulged in pondering reasons at all. This time though, it was clear that he was here because he wanted to be; to travel at her side, to visit Nina in Ravka, and most recently to visit with Wylan and Jesper in Novyi Zem, at they Fahey farm, where they had been spending the summer. That was where Kaz and Inej were at the moment. The bastard of the Barrel and his Suli saint had taken to the fields at the edge of the property, the grass rolling in soft waves with the lull of the wind. Kaz had abruptly plopped down on the ground, claiming he needed to “rest his bad leg.” Although Inej rolled her eyes, seeing straight through his bullshit, she allowed herself to fall down next to him. They spent a blissful eternity there in comfortable silence, enjoying the sun and each other’s company.
Suddenly, Inej’s daze is broken as she feels a gentle tug at her hair.
“Kaz, what-” she shifts her gaze from the cloudless blue above them to the boy perched beside her, stumbling over what to say as she finds him intricately weaving flowers into her hair. The usual suit remains, but his sleeves are rolled messily up to his elbows, his gloves cast aside. They’ve been making the trek out to this corner of the farm for a few weeks now, and slowly but surely she has seen him relax into spending time here. The gloves, which he wears less than he used to, came off first. She can sometime catch him messing with loose strands of her hair or even playing with the soft blades of grass that surround them. Today’s behavior however, is new and it takes her by surprise. Her hair, which is gently hanging over her shoulders, released from its typical tight braid, is filled with small yellow and white flowers, the kind that grow in the field. She assumes they are some sort of wild daisies. Kaz must have been working on it for a while, given his progress, she decides. His graceful lock pick fingers have successfully laced them through most of her hair. Such substantial progress, she concludes, that he must have finally tugged on her hair intentionally so she would notice what he was doing. She can feel him watching her as she takes it all in and so she finally turns to meet his gaze. He sort of freezes when their eyes lock and she swears she can see a glint of the boy he used to be, as if he’s just been caught stealing sweets. The look is gone just as fast as it appeared and his eyes return to where his hands silently continue to work.
She shifts her focus back to the sky and is about to make a joke about him and flowers when she hears him say, “My family used to own a farm.”
She takes a sharp breath in surprise at his openness and then holds it, not wanting to breath or move or speak and shatter the moment.
“I think about it sometimes, more since we’ve been here. I didn’t think I’d ever want to go back, and we sold the property but…” he trails off, leaving her wondering until he continues, “It’s actually really nice here and I’m reminded of how nice it was there. It makes the idea of returning seem less horrible.” She hums in response, still unsure of what to say. It’s been three years since he slowly started to try to take down some of his armor but he’s never talked about his life prior to Ketterdam before.
He drops his hands from her hair, satisfied with the job he’s done. She brings the palm of her hand to his cheek and gently laces her fingers through the hair just above his left ear. He’s grown his hair out a little on the sides, inspired by the discovery that she can run her fingers through the hair on the top of his head without making him flinch at skin contact. He’ll never admit it, but sitting and letting her play with his hair is one of his favorite things. It makes him want to smile even at times when the world may be crumbling down around them. Right now, he feels at peace, relatively speaking. They’ve discovered that warmth helps too, its radiation allowing her sun kissed skin to brush against his face. The heat of the sun on her skin doesn’t fully banish the waves that lap at his ankles, the memories that still haunt him, but it forces them to subside enough so that he can now lean into her touch rather than away.
It’s moments like this when he can’t believe that he’s made it this far from where he once was. The work is by no means done, a handshake on a cold winter’s day still sending him into a spiral. But sitting with Inej now he has not a single doubt in his mind that the work he’s put in, the work they’ve put into making progress, is worth every second of pain he’s endured. He also can’t quite believe she’s stuck around, returning after every trip to hunt down slavers, no matter how often he fears she’ll stay away this time. A part of him still screams to push her away, reminding him that this sense of vulnerability is dangerous. But what was once an overwhelming siren has seen slipping, slowly but surely, into a dissipating echo in the back of his mind.
They spend another hour or so lying in the field, side by side, talking and listening to each other before heading back. The sun begins to dip lower in the sky as they make their way, hands pressed gently together. He turns to her as she laughs. He’s thrown back to a vision of her perched on his window sill in the slat and then to her walking off towards her parents and the Wraith in the Ketterdam harbor. Her laugh is illuminating and all consuming, the golden glow of the sun that casts across the world right before dusk.
“That’s the laugh,” he repeats the words he murmured, which never found their way to her ears all those years ago. It wasn’t that far in the past, he reminds himself, though it feels like forever ago as she turns to him now, and smiles. Warmth spreads throughout his chest, his heart, his soul. Worth every second of pain, he confirms, worth every single second.
It’s another decade or so before he tells her as much.
I only wanted to draw them with casual clothes and then BAM highschool au with a clumsy, cute and talented Cedar who is 100% gay for her mysterious but kindness short hair half-wolf crush Cerise? u know what forget it idk what I’m writing anymore