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exodus 20:3: you shall have no other gods before me

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Usually Childe prides himself on being a reasonable person, a meticulous person, and in general a person who has some pretty darn good self control.

To be fair, this is currently not exactly a ‘usually’ sort of scenario.

“You are drunk.” Zhongli points out, his lips pulling taut disapprovingly. “I think that is enough for this evening.”

“Nooo…” Childe whines, swatting Zhongli’s hand away when the latter tries to take the pint glass away from his sluggish hands.

“Yes.” Zhongli mutters as if he were talking to an actual child. “I will escort you back to your accommodation to ensure your safety.”

“You ain’t drunk yet.” Childe retorts, and for good reason too, because he’s been counting Zhongli’s drinks ever since they started and soon lost count once the tally reached into the twenties, when the alcohol started to seriously catch up to the Snezhnayan.

It wasn’t even weak alcohol, either. The owner of the restaurant had loudly and obnoxiously proclaimed on their arrival that they served the strongest, best tasting alcohol in all of Liyue. And Zhongli drank probably enough to tranquilise an elephant.

The ‘strong’ part sure held up its part of the promise, Childe thinks. He can’t really feel his taste buds anymore, but it doesn’t stop him from reaching over to the jar for more. His fingers don’t even graze the clay surface before Zhongli catches his hand in mid-air and stares at him disapprovingly.

“No more. Consuming this quantity of alcohol within such a short time frame cannot be sustainable for your body.”

He pouts in response, but shrinks back into his seat bonelessly. “I dunno how much longer I’m gonna be here for... Might as well make the most o’ it.”

Because in truth, he really does have an attachment to Liyue Harbour. Even if he gets suspicious looks everywhere he goes, the food is good, the people are (relatively) friendly, and, for Tsaritsa’s sake, sometimes maybe he just wants a little break from the depressingly tedious nature of the Snezhnayan landscape, both in the political and environmental sense. Contrary to popular belief, being a Harbinger doesn’t automatically equate to deadfast patriotism.

Really though, who is he kidding? All these reasons pale compared to the biggest one of all, who just so happens to be standing right next to him. 

Childe feels himself being heaved out of his chair like a sack of flour (where does Zhongli get all this unreasonable strength from?), and Childe has half a mind to act as unhelpful as possible by pushing his weight down as hard as he can onto Zhongli’s shoulder. But he doesn’t, because he prides himself on being a reasonable person, but more importantly because it will just be a complete waste of dignity and effort and Zhongli will just stay as immovable as the ‘trees’ of Huaguang Forest like he always has, and always will. 

“Owner,” He hears Zhongli say as they exit from their small private dining room, “We are finished for the night. Thank you for your service.”

The owner, a short, loud, balding man with a shuffle to his walk smiles nervously. “Oh yes, it is our pleasure! ...About payment-”

Zhongli stills. “Ah.”

Childe goes as rigid as an icicle as Zhongli pauses in thought, then proceeds to twist him around to access his money pouch stowed in the folds of his jacket.

Bastard, he thinks half-heartedly, but how can he complain when he gets to feel Zhongli’s breath against his own, in such close quarters, because of it? 

It’s warm. Way too warm. The alcohol has Childe feeling all fuzzy and numb, and, fuck, okay, maybe he’s getting a little turned on. But who can blame him when Zhongli’s the one with his slim, pale fingers roaming around the inside folds of his (admittedly complicated, theft-proof) jacket? 

Zhongli finally, finally finds Childe’s mora pouch (much to the latter’s simultaneous displeasure and gratitude) and hands it to the owner, whose eyes almost burst out his head when he sees the quantity of its contents. 

“Sirs... this is… too much.”

“Please consider the excess as a tip.” Zhongli smiles genially and Childe barks out a laugh, because Zhongli doesn’t seem to recognise that the amount in there is almost equivalent to the value of booking out the whole of Wangshu Inn for a week, it seems. That, and the fact that he’s talking as if he didn’t just mug Childe in plain sight a minute prior.

A few more customary exchanges of ‘I cannot take this’ and ‘please accept it’ between Zhongli and the poor old man later, they finally make it out of there and into the cool, crisp air of nighttime Liyue Harbour. The temperature, thankfully, kills Childe’s not-quite-there boner.

“Let’s take you home,” Zhongli says to the red-head, completely oblivious to their small peanut gallery of passersby whispering and pointing because a. Childe is apparently a foreign and comedic sight of a piss-drunk Fatui, and b. Zhongli, a grown man, practically has Childe, another grown man, slung over his shoulder like a sack of rice.

“Don’t… don’t wanna…” He slurs. He slides off Zhongli slightly and the rush of blood to his head brings with it all the alcohol content in his entire body, making him dizzy with vertigo.

He feels like he’s going to puke, but spending one of his last days in Liyue yakking over the clothes of the person of his interest probably isn’t the brightest idea, so he tries to keep it down as best as he can. 

Zhongli scowls, realising something is wrong and quickly moves to put Childe down on a nearby bench, much to Childe’s relief, and sits next to him for support. 

He smells divine, Childe thinks in a startling, but not exactly unexpected moment of revelation. Like fresh silk flowers, like earthly violetgrass, the peaks of the tallest mountains and the deepest grooves of the valleys. 

Against his better judgement, he leans into Zhongli and chases the scent. Zhongli luckily happens to, or pretends to, not notice at all. 

“I’ll call a rickshaw.” Zhongli declares after a minute of stillness. “Stay here.”

Childe groans as the other man stands up, before he slides down and spreads himself bonelessly over the wooden bench. 

He takes a deep breath. The air is tinged with the trademark scent of the ocean, and it relieves his drowsiness just a bit. The air back in Snezhnaya was always cold, always stung slightly if you breathed in a little too quickly. Childe’s hydro vision made him especially vulnerable to the climate there. A hydro vision in a cryo country.. he must’ve been conceived as a joke from the gods.

“How are you feeling?” Childe barely registers Zhongli’s voice. He grunts as he shifts himself into a presentable position and sees the other man with the promised ride in tow. 

“Terrible.” He groans as they board the rickshaw. 

The ride is probably around twenty minutes, but really, it feels like an hour, no thanks to the fact that the lack of passenger space meant that both men were squished together with little to the name of personal space; Childe had gotten on first (albeit almost slipping and cracking his head open in the process), which meant that Zhongli has to sit with half of his body sitting on Childe’s lap in order to fit.

Tsaritsa, help me, Childe thinks in a drunken daze, with the sudden urge to place his hand on Zhongli’s thigh, slide it inwards… upwards...

He’s strangely proud that he managed to keep his hands to himself for the entire trip. 

 


 

“Here, water.”

Childe groans in acknowledgement from where he lays spread-limbed like a starfish on the king bed. 

The Fatui own a block of property on the outskirts of Liyue to accommodate visiting diplomats. Childe, who is pretty much in charge of the Liyue side of operations thanks to Northland Bank and his Harbinger status, was naturally offered the biggest chambers, with the most luxurious furnishings.

“Thanks.” He mutters, dragging his muscles against gravity to sit up and take the glass. He can feel the telling signs of a soon-to-be migraine start to hammer at his skull. 

At least after what has probably been an hour since dinner, he finally feels more sober. The flip side is that soberness always comes at the cost of feeling more like shit. 

Zhongli takes the opportunity to inspect what is essentially Childe’s bedroom, which is almost the size of the entire restaurant they were in earlier. Childe follows his gaze as he downs the rest of the water.

He points to a collection of books on a shelf. “I suppose those aren’t Liyue academic texts.”

Childe chuckles. Zhongli walks over and plucks a book off the shelf, scrutinising the cover.

“‘The Troupe’s Collection of Commedia dell'Arte, Volume One.’” He reads aloud, mangling the foreign diction beyond recognition with the confidence of an intoxicated sailor. 

Childe wheezes, beckoning Zhongli to give the book to him in between hiccups of laughter. 

“I’ll give you an ‘A’ for effort,” He chokes out, “And enthusiasm.”

Zhongli frowns, and Childe’s eyes latch onto the way a precious little crease forms at the tip of his eyebrows, the way his thin lips delicately press together, and, oh, suddenly Childe isn’t laughing anymore.

“There is no ‘A’ in ‘effort’.” He says hesitantly, like he knows that there was a joke in the exchange that he missed. Childe allows himself two seconds to think how can he be this cute before he mentally smacks himself.

“Don’t worry about that.” He says. “Come here, I’ll tell you about the Commedia dell'Arte.”

They spend the next hour diving into the world of theatre together, Childe explaining all the lore and intricacies of the art to Zhongli, while the latter sits next to him in attentive stoicness.


 

 

“Who is this character?” Zhongli points to an illustration of a slim, bland actor.

“His name,” Childe grins, “Is Tartaglia. Contrary to most of the other characters, he doesn’t wear a mask.”

“Why?”

“Because he’s a romantic character. Love is a virtuous concept, thus it’s only appropriate that it’s portrayed openly and vulnerably.”

Zhongli frowns again, and Childe wants to kiss that little wrinkle away, lift up the corners of his lips—

“He reminds me of you.”

Childe blinks. “Oh?”

Zhongli nods, crossing his arms. “The Fatui generally all wear masks, but I do not recall you ever wearing one.”

Childe raises his eyebrows. “I do have a mask,” He taps on said mask sitting haphazardly amongst the birds nest that is currently his hair, “Right here.”

“On your face.” Zhongli clarifies, “Similar to the other members.”

Childe’s familiar guarded smirk slides back onto his face. “For my rank, I’m able to break the protocols here and there.”

He can see that Zhongli isn’t satisfied with the answer, but he accepts it anyway. 

After a beat, Zhongli asks, “Are you a romantic?”

The question is so sudden, so innocently curious, that Childe’s grin instantly freezes in place. 

“Maybe.” He answers vaguely after a moment of silence.

Zhongli stares at him expectantly, and Childe greedily drinks in the rich amber of his irises, the hues of gleaming cor lapis, of late autumn vespers.

Then he shifts his gaze away from Childe and towards the Snezhnaya-style grandfather clock in the corner. 

“Perhaps I should leave,” He says as he rises, straightening his attire, “It is quite late now, and I must be present at the parlour early tomorrow.”

“Wait.” Childe grabs the other man’s sleeve before his brain can catch up to his body.

Zhongli tilts his head as a cat would, and Childe can’t help but think that he’s just as flighty as one. 

He clears his throat. Ah shit. Think, think. “You owe me mora. From dinner.”

He cringes internally. Smart move, he thinks sarcastically, because Childe’s ‘lent’ tons of mora to Zhongli before. He’s never asked for any of it back, so it’s not a good look for him to do so now when they both know that Childe won’t be in Liyue much longer.

But he doesn’t care about the mora, really. Not when there’s something (someone) far more precious that’s slipping through his fingers like liquid gold.

Zhongli blinks, once, twice, and turns around to face Childe. Childe lets go of his sleeve reluctantly.

“I do not carry any mora to repay you with.”

Of course he doesn’t, and Childe expected that. But his scheming mind is already working to see that maybe...just maybe, this situation could be turned towards his favour.

He’ll have to take a little risk, but it’ll be worth it.

His heart beats fast as he opens his mouth. “You can repay me another way.”

“Another way?”

Childe swallows thickly. “Yeah. One of a less… monetary… nature.”

Zhongli raises a perfectly arched brow. There’s no suspicion in his voice, just simple curiosity. “Which is?”

“I want you...” Childe pauses. Last chance to back out, he warns himself. 

...But then again, he’d never been one to shy away from risks. Not when the reward is so tantalising.

“...To give me a blowjob.”

A moment passes. Childe can feel his palms sweat. A second starts to morph into a grand sum of infinitesimal doubts.

Finally, Zhongli opens his mouth.

“Okay.”

...Okay? Childe can’t help but gape his mouth like a fish caught out of water. Really?!

“I suppose I owe you many favours,” Zhongli points out as easily as if he were making a simple business deal, “Therefore it is only fair that I repay you according to your requests, regardless of their nature.”

“...I see.”

Zhongli frowns again. “But you must forgive me. I have very little experience with… sexual activities.”

Childe almost laughs because, wow, how can someone as handsome, as captivating as Zhongli be inexperienced? “You’re a virgin?”

“I… have engaged with recreational sexual interc—”

“Okay, okay! I understand!” Childe scrambles up to place his hands over Zhongli’s mouth because sweet mother of Archons if this man truly talked like this with all his prior partners then Childe is starting to see why he’s not exactly having a adequate sex life. “...So basically I need to take the lead, is what you’re saying.”

Zhongli gently pulls Childe’s fingers away from his mouth. “That would be very much appreciated.”

Childe breathes in deep, trying to ease the tenseness from his body. “Okay. I’ll need you to kneel down first.”

The taller man nods, wasting no time in following Childe’s instructions, and looks up expectantly from the floor. Childe stares back down at Zhongli, feeling his cheeks prickle with heat.

Oh Tsaritsa, he thinks in disbelief and shock and anticipation that someone as unshakable, as respected, as powerful as Zhongli is willing to get on his knees. For him. And Childe would be the biggest, boldest liar in all of Teyvat if he said that it didn’t give him one hell of a power trip.

In retrospect, this plan was easily one of the dumbest, most spontaneous ideas he’s ever had, and… what was he thinking? He must still have some alcohol in his system, because a sober, reasonable, meticulous Childe would have never tried to make a deal like this with… with…

“I will be… in your care.” Zhongli says lowly, almost meekly, and sobriety be damned, Childe thinks giddily. Alcohol is the best thing to ever exist. His fingers tremble as he works to fumble past his belt, unzip his trousers, until he’s able to finally, finally free his dick, which is starting to harden alarmingly fast in all honesty. 

Zhongli stares at Childe’s length for a long moment, seemingly entranced, before he leans in and gives a small, kittenish lick, then closes his soft lips over the tip, and, oh, Childe can feel pure lightning shoot up his spine.

“Bring your hands up. It’ll help you support yourself better.” Childe says with a nervous grin.

He catches Zhongli’s unsure hands and places them on both sides of his hips, then carefully, intently places his hands on Zhongli’s temples, carding through his hair; firm enough to guide, but not enough to confine.

“You’re doing so well,” Childe mutters as Zhongli takes Childe further into his mouth, breathing steadily through his nose. 

Childe pants as he tries to etch every little detail of the moment, every piece of sensory imagery into the surface of his mind. The feeling of his dick engulfed in a raw, tight heat, the soft downiness of Zhongli’s inky locks, the way his cheeks are dusted with pink, the way Zhongli’s mouth goes slack and his eyes unfocus—

Childe gasps, panting heavy and hard, and jerks Zhongli off his dick.

Holy shit, he almost came just by looking at the way Zhongli sucks dick. 

It’s either the months of pent up sexual frustration, Zhongli’s natural aptitude for taking things readily into his mouth, or a potent combination of both because Childe has never been this fast to come.

Zhongli makes a small noise of confusion, his eyes lidded and gaze indistinct, looking through Childe’s eyes and towards a place far from the present, his mouth half open and glossy with spit — a reinvitation, and, oh, Childe is too weak to deny.

“S-sorry,” He whispers, “I need a second.”

He slides his right hand downwards, skimming the rim of his eyes, past his cheeks, until his thumb catches onto the corner of Zhongli’s lips, slipping inside the pliant space with ease.

He opens up so well, Childe thinks, almost tenderly. So different from his usual composure…

“Again.” Zhongli says breathily around Childe’s thumb.

Childe inhales audibly. “Do what again?”

“The…” Zhongli’s eyes come back to reality, to the present, as he says almost petulantly, “When you… pulled my hair..”

Oh, Childe thinks distantly. He could certainly indulge that request.

He slides his left hand towards Zhongli’s occipital, messing up the latter’s hair along the way. His right hand slips away from Zhongli’s chin and guides Childe’s dick back towards his mouth. 

This time, Zhongli holds his mouth open while Childe slowly glides his dick back into the wet heat by gently tugging his hair forward. Childe moans, because for all the blowjobs he’d gotten in the past, none of them would be able to top the one he’s getting right now. 

Zhongli tilts his head, drags his tongue along the bottom of Childe’s dick, swirls it around the tip, and, holy shit, Childe cannot believe for a second that Zhongli has never done this sort of thing before. ‘Little experience’ his foot.

Strangely though, the implications make Childe’s stomach flip; the imagery of Zhongli - strong, independent Zhongli, on his knees, in front of another man, being touched, being held, being fucked by someone else—

Mmghf—!” Zhongli makes a noise of surprise as Childe suddenly pushes further into his mouth without prior warning. Not enough to breach the space of his throat, but instead filling his entire mouth hot and heavy. 

“...Sorry.” Childe says rather unapologetically. He traces a thumb around the red of Zhongli’s lips, stretched around cock and is abruptly overcome with an undeniable sense of possessiveness. 

“You belong to me…” He pants, arching his back downwards to encompass the other man and leaning in so close that he can breathe in the layered fragrances of his hair; notes of silk flowers, glaze lilies, tinged with the scent of something esoteric, something archaic. Powerful.

Childe grips Zhongli’s hair, unable to restrain the small snaps of his hips, and growls, “Mine.”

Zhongli moans. The vibrations of his rich baritone voice sends shivers up Childe’s dick, into the tips of his toes and to the top of his skull.

And Childe can’t hold it back anymore, he really can’t. 

He’s always prided himself on his control; of his emotions, patience, manipulation... but for fuck’s sake, maybe for once in his life he deserves to enjoy something in the moment.

So with a sharp inhale, he places both hands in a steady grip in Zhongli’s hair, and pulls.

And, oh, Tsaritsa’s tits, the feeling is heavenly

Zhongli chokes a little, overwhelmed at the sudden pressure, swallowing harshly around Childe’s dick, and Childe has to take a few seconds to register that this man apparently has no gag reflex. And now Childe’s dick is sitting snugly down his throat, twitching at the onslaught of pulsing heat and small, muffled moans. 

He takes it so well, Childe can’t help but think in a haze of mad lust, feeling the tip of Zhongli’s nose nestle amongst his pubes. So eager. Desperate, even.

Then he makes the mistake of leaning back and looking at Zhongli and his dick twitches again.

Zhongli looks absolutely blissed out. His eyes are lidded, cheeks are red, and his mouth, so red, so red, is absolutely begging to be destroyed. Childe tears his wide eyes away from his mouth and finds that one of Zhongli’s hands has left Childe’s hip and is pushing against his own crotch, and, fuck, he’s really getting off from sucking Childe’s dick.

And that does wonders for Childe’s already ballooning ego.

“Don’t blame me for what happens,” He grins, feeling sweat beading at his brow, and Zhongli looks upwards in his daze, his eyes screaming fuck me and damn if Childe doesn’t oblige him then he might as well go shoot himself in the kneecap.

Childe wastes no time dragging out his dick, relishing in the pull of Zhongli’s throat, before he pushes back in with a newfound intensity, punctuating every thrust with a breathless moan of his own that intertwines with Zhongli’s muffled ones.

He fucks his face like this, keeping his gaze glued onto Zhongli’s eyes, his ears latching onto Zhongli’s subdued (but no less needy moans), until he can feel the heat in his abdomen rise, seethe, bubble until it reaches a boiling point.

“I’m… I— hah…!” Childe’s voice shakes as his thrusts start to stagger, his legs growing weak, “Gonna come—”

It’s all the warning Zhongli receives before Childe lets out a guttural sound and bursts, hard and intense, gripping the other man’s hair so hard that afterwards, Childe wonders how he didn’t tear any out. 

He stays still for a moment, revelling in the bliss of the aftershocks until he feels a shudder around his dick and hears a low whine from below, and realises belatedly that Zhongli needs to breathe. In a moment of panic, he pulls his dick away from the other’s mouth, dragging along with it strings of pearly white come, up and away from Zhongli’s mouth.

It’s then that Childe realises that Zhongli himself just came, judging from the inconspicuous wet patch on his dress trousers. The fact that Zhongli just came from sucking his dick… the fact that Zhongli just sucked his dick… 

Yeah, Childe’s going to have enough masturbation material for months.

Zhongli shudders, his eyes distant and mouth dripping a little with Childe’s come, and Childe can feel himself rise again in momentary interest for another round, before a more pressing sense of concern quashes the horniness, as he squats down unsteadily to look at Zhongli at eye level.

“Zhongli,” He says with a note of urgency to his tone. “Are you alright?”

The other man blinks slowly, seemingly coming back to his surroundings.

“I—” He starts, before realising that he’s hindered by a mouthful of come, closes his mouth and swallows, the line of his throat shifting to take everything in. Childe swallows as well, suddenly feeling his mouth dry up. 

“I’m okay.” He says after a moment, voice gravelly and wrecked. 

Childe gives a neutral, thin-lipped smile before he stands, reaching over for tissues to clean both of them up.





“There’s no more rickshaws for tonight,” Childe gestures at the clock. “You might as well stay.”

Zhongli has transitioned from sitting on the floor to sitting on the bed, changed into a pair of Childe’s pants (and underwear, but Childe will probably combust if he thinks any more towards that direction) and took off his extravagant overcoat. He sighs shallowly. “I believe you’re right.”

Childe puts his hands on his hips, an easy grin on his face. “We have plenty of guest rooms. I’ll call someone to set one up for you.”

“Thank you.”

“Don’t worry about it, It’s on me for keeping you back.”

Zhongli pauses, dipping his head uncharacteristically. “Not just that. I enjoyed…”

Oh. Oh.

Childe’s grin turns a bit sharper, more predatory, like an arctic fox.

“Then I think we can agree on a more… long term arrangement.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Two days before Childe leaves, Zhongli gives him a gift, and Childe collects a debt.

 

Zhongli gasps around a mouthful of cock as Childe pulls sharply at his hair, bringing him up to kiss the tip, then slamming him all the way back down. He convulses a little as Childe pushes his dick over the hill of his tongue and downwards against the soft palate, and it fits so tightly, so perfectly in his throat that Childe thinks, perhaps, Zhongli was made for this.

“So good…” Childe grins through a shudder, “Tsaritsa, You’re… nngh… so good for me…”

Zhongli tenses up, taking Childe in deeper than what Childe thought was possible, and Childe throws his head back in midst of the sparks of pleasure.

There is no way he’s human, he thinks hazily. Gods… a god... he’s a god.

It’s this thought that spurs him into jerking his hips upwards, selfish in his chase for release. Because gods are supposed to be infallible, unbreakable, and perhaps if Childe believes hard enough then the notion will become reality and he’ll be able to keep Zhongli in his palm forever and all to himself—

Zhongli moans low and long, his lips glistening with spit and precome leaking from the corners of his mouth as he completely, utterly surrenders. 

And that does it for Childe; the sight of the infallible, the unbreakable, being brought to his knees… by Childe’s dick.

He groans and comes into Zhongli’s slack mouth, stars exploding behind his eyelids, and Zhongli makes a small throaty noise before swallowing it all as if it were simply water.

After that, Childe hoists a boneless Zhongli up into his lap, finishing the other man off with deft strokes of his fingers and whispering sweet nothings in the other man’s ear as Zhongli trembles to completion. 




“Rex Incognito,” Childe reads from the cover while towelling off his hair, “There’s something funny about the fact that your parting gift to me is a novel about Liyue’s most glamorised folklore. I thought you told me that fantasy wasn’t really your thing.”

Zhongli’s mouth twitches upwards, but his eyes always smile much more than his lips do. “One must occasionally venture outside the realm of their status quo,” He simply says. “And I thought you might enjoy the genre.”

Childe laughs. “I think I will. Though the way you speak so fondly about it makes me think that you did actually enjoy it.”

“Very much.” Zhongli gazes fondly at the novel. “The largely embellished recounts do not sway me in the least. Instead, I believe it is emblematic of the love that the people of Liyue hold for this country… and for their god.”

Childe puts the book down onto the table, and Zhongli follows the motion with his eyes. “Rex Lapis, huh? You make him sound like a pretty benevolent guy.”

The consultant looks upwards. “...Indeed.”

 


 

One day before Childe leaves, Zhongli invites him to tea.

 

“How long will you be away?”

It’s a tough question to answer, because it carries the implication that Childe will be back. And although he takes pride in his silver tongue, for some inexplicable reason the idea of lying to the consultant feels like taboo.

 

(Then he remembers the flush across the older man’s cheeks, the trust in his eyes, the moments within the last week where they had laid amongst the sheets after sex with their fingers intertwined, and, okay, maybe there’s a small lie by omission somewhere within the equation. 

But Zhongli never asked, and Childe never brought it up, so in his books it's as good as none.)

 

“I don’t know.” He replies.

“...I see.” Zhongli takes a sip of his pu’erh tea, and Childe watches the way his lips catch onto the rim. “Regardless of how long, I will be eagerly awaiting your return.” He smiles.

Childe pauses, his cup halfway to his lips. It’s been a long time since anyone bothered to wait for him, he thinks.

“I still owe my debts to you, as per our covenant.” Zhongli continues, and Childe almost spits out the leaf juice because, really, the few times that the other man had sucked his dick over the past few days has been so life-changing that it was probably already enough to repay Childe in full. Plus interest.

But Childe doesn’t refute him, for obvious reasons. Instead, he takes another chrysanthemum and longan slice and pops it in his mouth.

“There’s a certain phrase for this type of arrangement,” He says in an attempt to fill the empty space in the conversation, “It’s called 'friends with benefits'.”

“Friends with benefits.” Zhongli parrots slowly, rolling the words along the surface of his tongue. 

Then he smiles, and nods. “Friends.”

 


 

“There’s been a change of plans.” Childe gets told by La Signora as soon as he sets foot into a perpetually blizzard-stricken Snezhnaya.

“Tsaritsa’s orders for you are to locate the Geo Archon of Liyue,” She says, turning around to look him in the eyes, “And retrieve their elemental gnosis.”

To kill a god, Childe rephrases in his mind with a tight-lipped smile. Ambitious.

“It will be done.” He says, because if Tsaritsa believes in his potential to fell a deity, then by what right is Childe to refuse?

La Signora looks him in the eyes for a long moment — Childe’s not exactly sure what she’s searching for — before she snaps her gaze and gestures towards her meek-looking servants. Two of them each bring over a crystal goblet and a tall bottle of fire-water, and the one walking towards Childe has them balanced so precariously on the safetray that Childe is prepared to catch a faceful of glass at any moment now.

“To your success,” La Signora cocks a grin as her servant pours the gold-tinted liquid into her glass, before she raises it high into the air. “And to the glory of Tsaritsa.”

Childe holds up his own full glass in response. 

“The glory of Tsaritsa.” He echoes, but the words ring hollow.

 

Later when he gets back to his temporary quarters, the first thing he does is start to pen a letter back to a certain consultant. 

His half-empty bottle of fire-water gleams in the candlelight like liquid amber, and for yet another night Childe allows himself to feel unreasonably giddy under the pretense of inebriation.

 


 

He returns to Liyue two weeks later. The first thing he does is take a deep breath and relish in the crisp and familiar ocean scents of the harbour.

The second thing he does is head directly to Wangsheng Funeral Parlour.

“Welcome back.” Zhongli greets him, and Childe is absolutely fixated on the way that his eyes carry the afternoon light, the way his mouth curls, how his face is set aglow. Happiness looks so gorgeous on him.

He’s tempted to say I missed you, but that seems just a little too intimate for the label that he’s already stubbornly placed on this relationship. So he simply smiles widely, strides up to the taller man, and catches his lips into a kiss. 

Zhongli lets himself be caught.

 

They end up entangled on a small settee in one of the back rooms where Zhongli does most of his consultations, and Childe really hopes that the walls are thick enough to block out the inevitable sounds, because no matter how close Zhongli is with the other employees around here, Childe is not, and he has never been one for sharing.

“I want to do something different this time,” He murmurs into Zhongli’s hair, breathing in the elegant silk flower scent that always seems to pervade throughout the parlour and condense onto its inhabitants. “Something more.”

“Mm...” Zhongli makes a noise while Childe threads his hands into dark locks. “I am yours.”

Childe’s breath catches in his throat.

“...Mine,” He whispers before he dives back into Zhongli’s soft, humid mouth, snaking his hand around a thin waist and over the hill of his backside. 

First goes the coat, then the tie, then the buttons, until Zhongli is left dishevelled under him with his shirt torn open and pants undone. Childe looks no better; there’s a wild gleam in his eyes and a flush across his cheeks as he nips at Zhongli’s earring, before trailing down his jugular and sucks at the other man’s clavicles.

It’s only when Childe has a hand eagerly stroking Zhongli’s length and his face kissing against Zhongli’s chest that he realises something is off. 

He takes his mouth off the pale skin and stares. There’s a mole right above Zhongli’s left nipple and a pretty blush across the planes, but when he brings his hand up and places it on Zhongli’s left pectoral, he can’t feel a heartbeat.

“Ch… Childe…"  Zhongli whines softly, bucks his hips, and spreads his legs. Childe immediately discards all irrelevant thoughts out the window.

 

They end up fucking on the settee, making do with a small vial of conveniently located lotus oil. Childe discovers that a couch is not exactly the best place to have sex on, especially when Zhongli is taller than the furniture is long. 

He also discovers that Zhongli is, surprisingly, quite flexible. And very, very pretty when impaled on his dick.

 


 

Childe doesn’t let himself forget that he still has an objective to achieve, but he also doesn’t fight the notion of putting it off. A man has got to have priorities, he reasons, and his biggest priority for the past few weeks has always been neatly wrapped up in a bespoke overcoat and bejeweled ties.

Then Signora starts harassing him via carrier pigeon, and Childe knows his time is up.

 

My dearest little Tartaglia, Childe reads from the latest letter, and he can already feel himself throw up a little, I’ll have you know that my part of the job is complete. I suspect that you may be having some difficulties on your end, given your lack of communication back to Snezhnaya. 

He starts zoning out at that point, because he knows how the rest of it’ll go. It’s always the same thing: Signora writing the few initially personalised lines, then merely acting as a proxy for the Tsaritsa’s demands; for progress, for control, for loyalty.

You have one month remaining, the writing starts to slant towards the end of the letter, and the ‘o’s gradually begin to look more like ‘e’s. Locate the Geo Archon. We will not wait for you.

 

…It’s not that Childe has no idea where (who) the Geo Archon is, but moreso the fact that he doesn’t want to accept it. He doesn’t even want to think about it. 

It’s a thought that’s clung to him with its talons digging into his shoulders, ever since he opened that damned cover to Rex Incognito back during his last day in Snezhnaya. Childe has given some serious consideration to the idea of going around Liyue to document the colour of each citizen’s eyes... but really, he knows that it will just be a moot endeavour.

“There you are.” He hears, and immediately he smacks the pigeon off from the windowsill and crumples the letter into a ball, probably all very haphazardly and very conspicuously. Nice.

“Need me?” He turns around with a smile that he hopes is charming enough to cover for all the ‘oh shit’ness going on in his brain.

Zhongli pauses from where he stands in the doorway, his line of sight bungeeing down to where Childe is hiding one hand behind his back, then back up to look Childe in the eyes.

“I was wondering if you would join me this evening to take a stroll along the boardwalks.”

Childe remembers that he has work to do: documents to sign, Ekaterina’s quarterly reports to look through, affluent clients of Northland Bank to kiss the asses of.

“Of course.” He says in a heartbeat. Zhongli’s smile is absolutely radiant.

 


 

He had praised himself the first time he killed a person - for feeling very little and very reasonably. It was also the moment when he finally accepted the fact that there won’t be a place for him in heaven.

So then, gods, why was it so hard? One more blasphemy on top of his towering pile of sins should be nothing, he thinks.

(He knows why. The problem with this extrapolation is that Zhongli is neither human nor unwilling to offer himself up to the blade.)

 

It shouldn’t be this easy, Childe thinks as he peppers soft kisses along the length of Zhongli’s cock and watches as the other slowly gives himself up like a sacrifice at the altar. It can’t be this easy.

 

The messenger birds come and go. Signora’s writing becomes hastier by the week.

But Childe is a patient person. He knows by experience that there’s a right time to strike. 

So he waits, and waits... and waits.




Thunder rolls in across the harbour. There’s fury in the waters and frost in the air. He is running out of time.

 


 

“Childe,” Zhongli says one day in Childe’s residence with two volumes of The Troupe’s Collection in one hand and a Snezhnayan-Liyuen dictionary in another. “You are restless.”

Childe stops tapping his foot. “Am I?”

“Come here,” Zhongli shifts the dictionary to under his left arm and motions Childe to sit at the edge of the bed, “Tell me of your troubles.”

He obliges sitting next to him, but doesn’t do much more than that. Zhongli doesn’t say anything, but he looks like he understands. Childe realises it’s possible that he already knows, and the notion really doesn’t surprise him at all.

A long stretch of silence.

The consultant sighs shallowly. He places the books in his hands onto the bedside table, before moving himself to the floor and fingers at Childe’s belt.

“W-woah, what are you—”

“Repaying a favour,” Zhongli simply says as he pulls down the zip. Childe doesn’t have the heart nor breath to tell him that at this point he is the one that should be owing the favours. 

Zhongli leans in and mouths wetly at Childe through his underclothes. Then he flicks his gaze upwards, and Childe drowns in lucid amber.

He grabs Zhongli by his tie and smashes their mouths together, relishing in each clack of teeth, every bruise that forms on their lips. Zhongli sighs into the kiss, his hands gripping Childe’s thighs as he simply accepts the other’s tongue into his mouth like Childe is the deity to be worshipped here.

He drags them both to fall back onto the bed, and Zhongli ends up straddling Childe’s hips with his long, long legs. His face is stoney as usual, but there are cracks — the crimson of his lips, the mist in his eyes. 

Childe twists their positions, shucks off their pants and tears open their clothes. He cups Zhongli’s length in his hand and he can feel it, hot and heavy with need.

He wants this, Childe thinks almost incoherently, he wants to submit... to a mortal— to the enemy. 

It’s a terrifyingly intoxicating thought: Rex Lapis has felled countless primordial horrors and levelled the fiercest mountainscapes, yet he too, just like the mortals, can succumb to such senseless debauchery.

Childe reaches over to the side of the bed and grasps the small, inconspicuous vial of lube that he’s kept there since the day after that first drunken incident. It becomes a bit of a blur after that. One finger inside Zhongli becomes two, then three, until Childe suddenly finds himself with Zhongli’s leg over his shoulder and slowly pushing into a tight, wet, heavenly heat.

He must’ve been going way too slowly in his efforts to savour this feeling, because Zhongli suddenly writhes and bucks his hips up, effectively fucking himself deeper onto Childe’s length with a sharp inhale.

Childe grins around a gasp. “Eager?”

Zhongli responds by shamelessly straightening his back and taking him in even more.

“Move.” Zhongli whispers hazily, and Childe can’t seem to deny him even if he tried.

He fucks the consultant in long, deliberate strokes, heady from the way that Zhongli tightens and jerks when Childe changes the angle every so often and rams straight into his prostate. 

“Nn… Ah... ” Zhongli moans lowly, his eyes ducking away behind the lids, and Childe thinks that it’s so unfair how even his eyelashes are ethereal. 

And then, in the midst of all the pleasure, Zhongli paws at Childe’s hand and pulls it towards his chest, shakily unfolding it so it rests flat just above the diaphragm. 

Childe’s movements slow to a halt.

He inhales. Slides his fingers up the pale valley of Zhongli’s sternum—

And feels the faintest thrum of sheer power light up beneath his fingertips.

 

(It would be so easy, he thinks, to reach in. Take, and run.)

 

Then, Zhongli’s eyes crack open like the slow fracture of a tectonic plate, and Childe’s throat fills with ash. 

A test, he realises. He presses his fingers into the bone, but not enough to breach the skin. An ultimatum.

They stay still for a long moment, just like that; Zhongli’s fingers loosely clutching Childe’s wrist, and Childe’s hand on Zhongli’s chest. He’s acutely aware of the fact that Zhongli is able to snap his forearm as easily as he breathes. But Childe knows that he won’t — the hand on the chest is absolute proof of that.

Take it, a small voice screams in the back of his mind — the one that never allows him to forget his purpose. Do it, do it do itdoit—

“Childe,” Zhongli says quietly, his eyes burning bright, “Take it.”

 

 

He doesn’t.

 

 

Instead, he wordlessly slides his hands up to Zhongli’s face and shoves his fingers into the other man’s mouth.

And then he fucks Zhongli rougher and faster than ever before, letting his bubbling anger and frustration seep through every fibre of his being, into every thrust; his raw red hatred towards Tsaritsa, towards the gods, towards this cursed, fragile thing inside the one he l—

Zhongli throws his head back and quakes beneath him— weak, pliant, open, and Childe can’t help but think that all these tremors jolting through both of them are the aftermath of a great catastrophe barely diverted. He rolls Childe’s index finger beneath his tongue and Childe is suddenly, utterly smited by the realisation that he is fucking one of the most powerful beings on the continent. 

“Zhongli,” He growls, but there’s another name — one much, much more sacred — that follows silently in its wake. 

Zhongli gasps brokenly loud around Childe’s fingers when the latter angles his hips and rams into his prostate — his face flushed wantonly and his eyebrows knotting together. He lets the overflowing saliva drip from this mouth, messily coating Childe’s fingers up to the knuckles as his eyes slide shut again.

Childe wants to desecrate him. Mark him— claim him whole, so that he loses all divine right and Celestia will deny him at its gates. And maybe then... maybe maybe maybe Childe can finally keep something good in his life for once.

He inhales, summons up a swell of strength and flips the other onto his stomach. Zhongli spasms around him and keens as his cock scrapes roughly against the sheets of the bed, his back arching like the long stretches of the Yaoguang Shoal. 

Childe is close and his thrusts are starting to stutter. Zhongli doesn’t look much better, moaning with his face half pushed into the sheets, his hands weakly clutching at the pillows and his lips agape and slick. 

Childe grips the god’s hips so hard that there will surely be bruises tomorrow. The sight makes him drunk and heady with power; the way he can reduce something so almighty into something so small, so desperate beneath him...

...but then, when Zhongli’s luminous eyes slide backwards to meet with Childe’s, he suddenly realises how little power he truly holds to the face of the sublime.

He suddenly understands, with every fibre in his being... that these lucid eyes are issuing a command.

So he sucks a deep breath, and takes a hold of Zhongli’s loosened ponytail, his fingers curling into the silken strands. 

And, in a mirroring motion to that first night, so many weeks ago, Childe pulls.

Zhongli jerks backwards — the most filthy moan Childe has ever heard — as gravity forces him to take more more more of Childe into him and Childe keeps pulling, all the way back until Zhongli is arched against Childe’s chest and his nape slots into the junction of Childe’s neck and shoulder, his mouth wide open in silent reverence, his quivering chest— his gnosis bared out for all of Celestia to see... his utter submission.

Childe buries his head into Zhongli’s neck, his thighs staggering to a halt. He chases the scent of the canyons, the cliffs, the terraces of Qingce and the falls of Nantianmen— of Liyue, in all its temporal, earthly glory, and comes harder than he has ever before in his life.






“I’m not your first.” Childe grumbles two hours later, sitting awkwardly at the end of the bed. He knows there’s no value in bringing this topic up, but he’ll latch onto any kind of distraction right now just avoid the large, archon-shaped elephant in the room.

Zhongli looks up from where he’s trying to wipe the dried come stains from Childe’s sheets. He’s wrapped in one of Childe’s Sumeran microfiber bathrobes and his hair is damp and unbound. The sight is so painfully human. 

“No,” He agrees, “You are not.”

It does sting a little bit, if he’s completely honest. But in all fairness, Zhongli has probably been around since the genesis of Teyvat, and a few hundred millennia is an awfully long time to stay a virgin. 

“Then who was?” He asks whilst knowing fully well that he doesn’t want to hear the answer. But he’s been wanting to ask this for a long time, and the question is especially burning now that he’s seen how naturally Zhongli can take dick in both ends.

Zhongli lets a small, private smile grace his lips, and Childe feels a cauldron of hot, ugly jealousy bubble up in his ribcage.

“Her name was Guizhong.” He says, and Childe almost chokes on air because he’s read enough Liyuen history books to recognise that name. “It did not last very long, but it was memorable all the same. She was very… hm… forthright, let’s say, in more ways than one.”

Childe almost passes out on the spot. 

He can already see it in his mind — an unassuming little stone slab sitting somewhere in the vast stretch of the Guili Plains, with its ancient script carved in stone: The God of Dust pegs the God of War.

The cripplingly hilarious thought of some poor historian stumbling across it one day and slowly transcribing it to modern language with dawning, visceral horror is enough for him to instantly let go of all the animosity he has ever harboured towards her. 

“But that is all in the past,” Zhongli says quietly, and, oh, right. Gods may be immortal, but they are certainly not infallible. “My contract is now with you.”

Childe blinks. Then he realises that this, currently, is the very situation that he’s been trying to dodge. 

But Zhongli is looking at him so earnestly, and Childe can’t bring himself to tell more lies.

“You’re aware of who I am.” He says. It was meant to be a question, but the inflection isn't there.

Zhongli smiles with his eyes. “Yes.”

“Then why?”

“I trust you—”

“You shouldn’t trust me,” Childe laughs, and the sound is so, so ugly. “That’s the problem. Nothing good will ever come from being around me.”

Zhongli peers into his eyes for the longest stretch of time, searching past the last rim of blue and into the black cesspool of his deepest, darkest fears.

“‘The innamorati are a stalwart feature of every commedia dell’arte.’” He finally says, and Childe immediately recognises this as a devout recitation of the section titled ‘The Lovers’ in the first volume of The Troupe’s Collection. “‘They are the epitome of romanticist ideals, and should they seek the happy ending that they desire, it is certain that they will find it.’”

Childe says nothing, and Zhongli is unsurprisingly undeterred by this passivity. In a rare moment of initiative, Zhongli takes his hand and laces his fingers into the other’s colder, stiffer ones.

“There’s no happy ending for me.” He croaks, unable to look away, and it’s nauseating now that it’s out in the air, because he’s lived his entire life thinking— knowing that there’s only so much happiness he’s allowed to have before the divine forces (— before Tsaritsa —) will laugh at him and sweep the rug from under his feet.

Zhongli gazes into his eyes. “I do not believe that.”

Perhaps if he were more patriotic, more faithful, then he would have ended the conversation here. Maybe push the other down and finally plunge his hand into his chest in a hopelessly feeble attempt at redemption.

But even then… he can see it: Rex Lapis’ intense golden orbs searing into his own, thawing out Childe’s heart as much as Childe is violating his.

“Snezhnayan fairy tales don’t believe in happy endings.”

Zhongli tightens his grip.

“But you are not in Snezhnaya.” He murmurs, and each syllable rumbles through Childe like slow, earthly tremors.  “Here, you are within my domain… and by thus, I grant my decree for your happiness.”

Childe swallows, feeling a terribly large, dry lump at the back of his throat. He breaks eye contact and gets up to snatch a bottle of baijiu that has been sitting on his shelves for Celestia knows how long — a priceless fifty-years aged distilled spirit from one of the Bank’s richest clients. But he really can’t care less. — tears the seal and flicks off the cap before chugging down three whole mouthfuls. The bitter liquid burns in his nostrils like a cold wind.

After downing half the bottle, he hiccups pitifully. “You’re not my god.” 

Zhongli smiles. “That is okay.”

Childe is absolutely lost for words, so he simply looks back down at the bottle in his hands in a futile effort to seek its guidance.

Liyuen alcohol really is stronger than anything he’s had in Snezhnaya, he thinks dimly. 

All he really wants to do right now is to completely numb his mind, so he lifts the bottle again and swallows the rest in one gulp. Zhongli makes no move to stop him.

Finally, with enough liquid courage running through his veins, he wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and asks, once again, “Why?”

Zhongli’s eyes move away to look past the morning horizon, far beyond where Childe can pinpoint.

“No matter who we are, no matter what our faith,” He murmurs, “We must never forget that we all have the same capacity for love.”

And for Childe, it is a reasonable enough answer.