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Lifelong partners does not mean lifelong friends, Childe

Chapter Text

Liyue is a land of rocks. And cliffs. And mountains. And ravines. And by god, if he saw another cliff he had to scale he was going to jump off it or destroy it, Childe resolved to himself.

“Childe, look,” Zhongli said, apropos of nothing. “A rock.”

Yes, Zhongli, Childe wanted to say. There is a rock. There are, in fact, many rocks all around us.

A whole fucking mountain, in fact.

Zhongli tilts his head slightly, looking at Childe’s face as though he was trying to read his thoughts. And Childe wasn’t sure whether that was one of Rex Lapis’ abilities or not, but he was not about to let himself be intimidated.

“What’s up?” Childe asked casually, his smile just as easy as his eyes curved up.

Zhongli’s eyes glanced up.

“The sky.”

Come get your god, Childe thought to himself, more than a bit hysterical, he’s not ready for the world yet.

Childe ended up laughing because otherwise, he would be crying.

Zhongli does that confused smile of his. Slightly tilting his head as he takes in Childe’s laughter with his usual grace, a mix of bemusement as he gentle petted the rock beside him.

Like it was a dog.

Someone, Childe begged, come get your god, please.

Zhongli’s smile widens slightly, as though bolstered by Childe’s laughter.

“The clouds are also up,” Zhongli said, a slight cheer in his normally serious voice. “And the mountaintops.”

Zhongli’s glance moved upwards once more.

“There are also qingxins up at the top, they like to grow there,” Zhongli explained. “Although it is a bit lonely, for them.”

Are you the god of dendro, now, Childe thought, his laughter dying down.

“Well, we ought to visit them, then,” Childe said easily, his eyes curving up into crescents again.

Zhongli smiles back just as easily, as he always does. Even when his smile was not as wide and his eyes never as curved. “Okay.”


“That’s not how you pet qingxins,” Zhongli said kindly. And that was the exact summary of what this outing had been.

“How,” Childe replied, on the tethering edge of breaking out in laughter again. Managing to save the very not rhetorical question and turning it into a statement instead. “Do you pet qingxin.”

Zhongli then proceeded to pet the qingxin.

“Like this,” Zhongli answered. Giving Childe a small smile and a ‘go ahead’ nod as he gestures towards the qingxin.

How, Childe thought again, having seen but not understand. How do you pet the fucking qingxin.

Childe places his hand over the qingxin as he tries to imagine it being a cute dog with his nonexistent third eye.

“You’re doing it too gently,” Zhongli chastised. As Childe was petting a literal flower.

“What,” Childe said aptly.

“They aren’t delicate flowers, you know,” Zhongli chastised again.

As Childe literally pets a fucking flower.

“So what are they?” Childe asked back, his smile a tad weaker than before from the mere mental exhertion of trying to keep up with this man.

“Qingxin,” Zhongli answered easily.

“Qingxin,” Childe repeated, again, his voice weaker than before because Zhongli. “A type of flower.”

“They are indeed,” Zhongli said, nodding in approval at Childe, then pointing at the flowers. “Very beautiful ones.”

“Yeah,” Childe agreed softly, because they were. And soft, too.

Zhongli, as though reading his mind, nodded. “Soft.”

“Well, I’m glad something can be soft and pretty upon these stiff cliffs,” Childe joked lightly, patting on the hard surface below him.

Zhongli seems to pause for a moment, staring at him and the qingxin before he nods. “Yes.”

That word felt profound, almost.

“The rocks of Liyue may be hard,” Zhongli started, after a moment of silence, apropos of nothing. “But with a steady stream, all stones soften, eventually.”

Childe raised an eyebrow as Zhongli turned his face away, opting instead to look at the blinding sun.

“That’s bad for your eyes, you know,” Childe commented helpfully, trying to start a conversation of some sort, after that nonsequitur.

Zhongli merely grunted.

Childe laughed, as he does, and he can see Zhongli’s small smile, even if the man was faced away from it.

It was a bit, cute- if Childe were to dwell on it.


One day, on one of their dinners where Zhongli never tires of adjusting Childe’s grip on his chopsticks, Zhongli hands him a book.

“What is this?” Childe asked, a smile already playing at his lips.

“A book,” Zhongli stated simply.

“It is,” Childe agreed, laughing softly. “On customs and traditions.”

Zhongli nodded, taking a sip of his tea.

“So why did you give it to me?” Childe asked, knowing that otherwise, Zhongli would assume that Childe knew why, even if he didn’t say a goddamn thing.

“I thought you might appreciate it,” Zhongli said. Taking another sip of his tea.

“Okay.” Childe laughed, hand moving through his hair. “I’ll read a bit of it.”

Zhongli smiled, gently, and Childe knew that he was going to read more than a bit of it.


“In volume fifteen,” Zhongli commented. “They talk of marriage.”

“Okay?” Childe couldn’t help but let the questioning tone leak from his utter confusion at the cut in towards the topic.

Zhongli glances away for a moment.

“You might be interested in that,” Zhongli said, apropos of nothing, as he usually does.

“I’ll read it all, don’t worry,” Childe reassured, already fourteen volumes deep.

It might’ve been his imagination, but, Zhongli’s ear seems faintly red.


Time passes like water, even if it were in Liyue.

Another day, another dinner.

“I find myself quite intrigued by Mondstat,” Zhongli commented. “With their dandelion wine.”

“Sounds fun,” Childe said.

“Indeed.” After having said such, Zhongli proceeded to pull out several jugs of wine. “Do you want to try some?”

Childe lets out a guffaw as he stared, wondering from what dimension did Zhongli pulled those from.

“These are…?”

“Dandelion wine,” Zhongli said. “My friend got them.”

“Friend, you say.” Childe played with the chopsticks. “How interesting.”

Zhongli nodded. “He flew all the way over here to give them to me.”

Zhongli, please, Childe thought.

“How?” Childe choked out.

“With his wind,” Zhongli said simply.

Zhongli, please, Childe thought again.

“Anyways, wine,” Childe said quickly. Because someone had to rescue this man.

Zhongli poured wine in his and Childe’s cup with practiced ease.

Childe took a sip.

“Well, it is good,” Childe complimented. Zhongli’s smile appearing again as he takes his own sip.

“Only the highest quality.” Zhongli nodded. His glances moving to and fro between Childe and the cup. And his ears a faint crimson.

“Childe,” Zhongli began. “You… read volume fifteen, already, yes?”

His voice sounded hesitant, almost.

“I did,” Childe replied with cheer in his voice. “Once again, it was very interesting.“

Zhongli seems to gulp, then, as he slowly pulled out some rocks and a multitude of flowers, once again, some interdimensional space. As there was no way those fitted inside this man’s nonexistent pockets.

Zhongli very unsubtly cleared his throat.

“For you.” His voice seems to be wavering. Different from its usual rock steadiness.

(In Liyue, Childe seemed to remember reading. An offering of nine things: cor lapis, noctilucous jade, jueyun chili, glaze lilies, silk flower, violetgrass, qingxin, starconch, and, last of all, a core crystal from a geo crystalfly represented-)

“Are you sure?” Childe asked.

(- a desire to be lifelong partners.)

Or, as Childe understood it: lifelong friends.

Offering to be forever friends with your Fatui foe doesn’t seem to be the smartest or wisest of choices, and vice versa. Childe was sure, somewhat, that there must be a rule somewhere about making friends with the archon you're supposed to take down.

Zhongli nodded. His ears a faint shade of crimson. And his face carrying a slight flush, not from the wine, Childe was sure.

Archons are not friends, Childe thought to himself. Especially not to a Fatui.

There are many other thoughts, but as Childe looked as Zhongli. Earnest and fumbling with his rocks and flower and chili-

“Okay,” Childe said, reaching over to grab the things.

“You are sure?” Zhongli asked, his eyes wide.

“Gimme,” Childe replied. Grabbing onto the things as he smiles, slightly crooked.

Zhongli smiled then, like all things good. And Childe might probably be very drunk because his heart decided to stop for a moment.

Zhongli refilled their wine cups. His hands were a bit shaky, but his smile stayed true as he finished by tying a red string between the cups.

He mixed some honey along with it, something he didn’t do before, and held up a cup to Childe.

Childe took a sip as Zhongli takes a sip of his own, then, Zhongli, in an odd gesture, switched their cups. Looking softly at him as he downs the rest of Childe’s cup.

Childe remembered reading about this, or so he thinks. He wasn’t sure, since he was drunk.

On Zhongli, his brain decided to state. And Childe, because he did not want his brain to work anymore, downed the cup.

Because fuck you, brain, he was definitely drunk on wine and an alcoholic.

Zhongli set down his cup, smiling softly at Childe.

“We are now bound for life,” Zhongli said softly. Setting his- once Childe's- cup down with grace as he smiles. A faint glimmer in his eyes.

“Yep,” Childe croaked. Once again drunk.

Life long friends, Childe thought to himself.

Husband, Zhongli thought fondly.

Chapter Text

Childe woke up with a blearing head. His brain very much not light like the dandelion in the wine he drank yesterday.

Childe recognizes, distantly, that he was not in his own bed. The pillow underneath him far too hard for the usual comfort of his own and the blankets too stuffing.

Childe was never one for the heat, having grown up in the cold all his life. With the stifling winter to be expected of Snezhnaya.

“Good morning,” said the pillow right next to him.

“Morning,” he said back drowsily before his brain could catch up to his mouth.

Childe turned his head slightly towards the right.

“Zhongli,” Childe said. His voice a dull thing, from having to contain his utter shock.

“Childe,” Zhongli greeted, a small smile playing at his lips.

Right next to him on the bed.

Childe blinked, wondering what the exact protocols were to waking up next to your archon target.

“Hi.” He was pretty sure a croaked greeting wasn’t it.

“Hello,” the archon target replied back smoothly. His voice surprisingly clear of drowsiness.

“What’s… up,” Childe drawled slowly.

“The roof.” And yeah, no, this wasn’t a dream. Childe can confirm from the familiar feeling of laughing as he’d be crying otherwise welling up. And he was pretty sure his dreams can do better than that.

Zhongli then sat up slowly, revealing that, yes, the business clothes stay on and that, no, Childe didn’t bang a god within the last few hours.

Childe, too, sat up. The assortment of items falling from his chest as though he’d hug them to sleep.

That would explain the smell of chili, Childe’s brain helpfully inputted. And rocks.

“Thanks for letting me use your bed,” Childe said smoothly, winking at Zhongli. “Very comfortable.”

“That’s good,” Zhongli replied, smiling faintly, a faint red on his ears. Making Childe wonder if the alcohol was still running through his system. “You’ll be sleeping here for quite a bit, after all.”

Reasonable enough, Childe thought, after a moment of consideration.

Forever buddies probably drink together a lot, right. And so it’d be reasonable if Childe had to crash at Zhongli’s place a few times.

Childe was sure that there was something against sleeping side by side with another man, those of Liyue tended to be more… traditional than most. But, well, he and Zhongli were forever buddies, weren’t they?

“The pillow could be a bit softer,” Childe commented idly. “But I’m sure I can bring my own pillow.”

Onto your bed, was left unsaid. And Childe felt that niggling sense of, ‘ah, that was probably overstepping.’ Because crashing on your friend’s bed after one too many drinks is an accident, but bringing a pillow for it is simple premeditation.

“Quite reasonable,” Zhongli replied. Nodding sagely as he rearranged the hardass pillows. Almost rock-like, if Childe were to be truthful.

There was a hint of a flush on Zhongli’s cheek as he glances at Childe, almost waiting for him to do something.

Oh, Childe realized.

Childe quickly got off the bed and migrated towards one of the very nice chairs in Zhongli’s- probably Zhongli’s, right?- room.

Zhongli blinked at him then, like a lost puppy.

It lasted only for a mere moment, though, before Zhongli nodded sagely towards himself.

“What’s on ya mind?” Childe asked casually, resting his head on his fist. Being an admittedly curious man, with really nothing in his way to stop him from asking.

“The gradual processes of life,” Zhongli said. “Just as one does not start off by sprinting, I must also learn to walk, before I can run.”

Cryptic, those words were. But Childe finds a certain charm to them, almost.

“Neat,” Childe said, a smile playing on his lips. “Wonderful philosophy lesson, too.”

Zhongli stood up to make the bed, then. The motions were fluid, as though he had done this for thousands of times. Smoothening over the creases that had formed with a steady hand.

Zhongli then straightened his back, turning around to face Childe. Sitting down next to Childe. Zhongli reached out his hand towards the teapot, gracefully pouring a cup of tea for them both.

The tea was warm, Childe noted. Making him wonder how exactly Zhongli had done it so. The man didn’t have a pyro vision.

“I made it this morning,” Zhongli said lightly, setting down the teapot. Having read Childe’s thoughts with whatever brainpower he managed to loan from the sun. Almost like photosynthesis, Childe thought hysterically, except with brainpower instead of sugar. Except Zhongli would be a rock and therefore can’t photosynthesize, and therefore no brain cells made from that. “Maybe ten minutes before you awoke. Though, I made myself some two hours before as well.”

Childe, as a reasonable human being. Had deduced that Zhongli was sleeping alongside him until he woke up.

“Oh, you were already awake?” Childe asked, his voice a bit faint in confusion.

“I was,” Zhongli nodded. “I enjoy watching the sunrise.”

Ignoring his brain noting the information of Zhongli being a morning bird aside, that really didn’t explain why Zhongli was right next to him when he woke up.

“You should’ve woken me up,” Childe said teasingly. Wondering if he can fish for more information.

Zhongli tilted his head slightly, taking a sip of the tea. “Why?”

“Well, I’m taking up part of your bed, aren’t I?” Childe shuffled the items in his arms a bit before leaning down to take a sip of tea. Pausing once he remembered he didn’t have hands.

“Oh, is that all?” Zhongli set down his own teacup, moving to lift Childe’s cup up to his lips before he could set down the items in his arms.

Childe took a sip of the tea, regretting the decision as it burnt his tongue.

“Yep,” Childe said through the pain.

Zhongli set the teacup down quickly, although not harshly. Leaning over towards Childe, a slight frown etching itself onto his serene face.

“Was the tea too hot?” Zhongli asked softly, his eyes staring into Childe’s own. Vibrant and intense. The glow of the divine and earth.

“Nothing too bad,” Childe answered, trying to laugh Zhongli’s concern off. “Had worse. For example, that spicy dish down at-”

Zhongli tuts gently, then, something he’d never done before as he leans closer still.

His eyelashes are long, Childe noted. Very nice.

“You ought to not…”

His nose was a noble kind, Childe also noted. Somehow. It was a Zhongli kind of nose. Also very nice.

“... the next time…”

Zhongli’s hair was slightly mused, Childe’s brain noted. Slightly out of place compared to the previous times he had seen him. Although Zhongli would look nice with any hairstyle, Childe would think.

“... hot tea is not a…”

And his jawline was nice, too. Childe’s brain noted. Almost like it was chiseled from stone with how sharp it was. But he was sure that if he were to touch it, it would not, as Zhongli’s body is made of soft skin and warm blood. Not the marbled cold that exudes from his statues.

“Childe,” Zhongli said, recalling Childe back. “What are you thinking of now?”

“How handsome you are,” Childe said bluntly before his mind could catch up. When his mind did catch up, about a second too late, Childe realized that that didn’t feel quite right to say to your archon enemy. “Objectively speaking, I mean.”

Zhongli didn’t reply, therefore confirming Childe’s beliefs that no, this was a very not archon and Fatui enemy thing to say of him.

“I mean, not objectively speaking. To me, yeah.” That didn’t sound quite right, either. “That’s not to say that you aren’t handsome to me, because I’m pretty sure you are. I mean I’m not pretty sure, no wait- I mean that I-” Take a deep breath and try the fuck again before you end this forever friendship on day one, Childe. “I mean, that I’m certain that you are handsome, to me. Because that is my opinion.” Good assurance, Childe patted himself on the back for that one. “But you look like a traditional… kind of handsome, too, you know. The ones that would be made statues of and stuff.” Hah. “All chiseled and stuff. The- the statue I mean, not- not- um- yeah. Statue chiseled, haha.” Ha. “Yeah. structurally.”

There was a moment of silence as Zhongli sat back down in his chair.

“So, yeah,” Childe continued. Wanting to shut himself the fuck up.

“Okay,” Zhongli said faintly. His face an interesting shade of red.

Almost like he was mad.

It was a cute look, Childe thought. The red, not the mad part.

“Next time,” Zhongli said faintly, almost like he was saying it through gritted teeth out of anger. “I would appreciate you not burning your tongue on hot tea.”

“Yep,” Childe said awkwardly. “Will do.”

“And, also, about the matter of the bed,” Zhongli said carefully. “It is as much yours as it is mine.”

Presumably from how much they would be partying it up, Childe presumed. Reminded once again of Zhongli’s generousness.

“And, finally,” Zhongli said quietly, turning even redder. His lips curving up in a smile that was no doubt a threat of some kind. “I’d appreciate a… warning before you do… that, again.”

That, presumably the terrible ramblings of a hangover man, Childe presumed. Warning Zhongli so he could promptly shut Childe the fuck up before his mouth decides otherwise. Childe shot Zhongli a sheepish smile. “Will do.”

What a wonderful start to the first day of forever friends, Childe thought sarcastically. His face burning more than his tongue.

My husband is a bit too bold, Zhongli thought. His face burning as his lips curves up.

Chapter Text

There wasn’t much to say, after that. As Childe sat there half in shame and a half in humor and Zhongli sipping his tea, none too peacefully as he would like to portray. The slightly red ears and a fleeting smile are a testament to that.

“Well,” Childe started, leaning his head down and having Zhongli lift the cup up to his lips again. “I should go back now, yeah.”

Those were not the most eloquent words Childe had said in his life thus far, but he was barely awake and trying to stave the shame off his cheeks at the same time.

Zhongli nodded smoothly as he took a sip of his tea. His eyes flitting towards Childe frequently.

“What’s… is there something on my face?” Childe asked, laughing as close to casual as he can. Opting out of his usual question as he didn’t want to be juggling feeling both amusement and embarrassment at the same time.

“I…” Zhongli said before stopping, his gaze moving back to his tea as his ears grow redder. “You…”

“Mhm?” Childe tilted his head slightly. His embarrassment abating temporarily.

Zhongli shook his head, a small movement that could’ve been easily dismissed if Childe wasn’t a perceptive man.

“It is nothing,” Zhongli said finally, standing up. “I shall accompany you to the exit.”

Childe smiled. “Why, thank you.”

Zhongli gave him a small smile back, and Childe inquired no further.


As they were nearing the streets, Zhongli pulled out an ornate box.

Out of nowhere, again, because Zhongli didn’t fucking know that humans did not have interdimensional pockets to store their things in.

“Oh, another gift?” Childe eyed the box curiously. Appraising it as something that would fetch a fair price at a local auction. More than fair, probably, since it was Zhongli’s.

Zhongli paused in his movements temporarily, his brows scrunching up in an answer to Childe’s question.

“It’s a nice box,” Childe said instead, trying to unfurrow Zhongli’s brows.

“Thank you,” Zhongli said slowly. “I do not have another gift for you, yet.”

Zhongli pursed his lips at the end of that statement, making Childe even more set to turn that frown upside down and whatever not.

Because, again, they were forever pals.

Not just because Zhongli looked better when he was smiling, no.

“Oh- you already gave me some,” Childe reminded cheerfully, endeavoring to transfer some of it over to Zhongli’s gloom. “Look, all of these.”

Zhongli sighed, although less gloomy than before. “That is a different matter, Childe.”

I wouldn’t mind hearing you say my name more, Childe thought as he glanced away slightly. His mind wandering towards how Tartaglia would sound like on Zhongli’s tongue. With his unique intonation and drawl. Gravely in a way that contrasted to his airheaded ways, more often than not. And the way he’d look at Childe as he’d say it, too, intense and serious, Childe was sure. The normal default for Zhongli, really. He can already imagine it-

“Childe?”

Yeah, he can already hear it, although less of a question, probably. And more of a finality about it, as a god should have when addressing a mortal. Or maybe not- since they were forever buddies now and-

“Childe? Can you hear me?”

His imagination really needed to stop interrupting his thoughts, Childe thought to himself. Because that was rude-

“Childe-”

His voice really did sound good, though, Childe thoughts admitted to himself. Because fuck you, brain.

A cold touch landed on his cheek as Childe is drawn back to reality and starkly realized that, one, the voice earlier was probably not his imagination, and two, Zhongli’s hands were- as his brain puts it- within good handholding size.

“Hi, Zhongli,” Childe said, smiling as though he hadn’t a clue why Zhongli was peering at him in concern, already leaning towards him. A mere box and the items in Childe’s arm separating them.

“Hello, Childe,” Zhongli replied, once again reminding Childe why he was in this situation in the first place. His small smile was really chaining Childe back to reality, though. “Are your ears alright?”

“Mhm? Yeah, probably,” Childe sputtered out as Zhongli’s hand reaches to touch behind his ear, which set off things inside Childe’s brain.

Friendship things. He nodded to himself. Yeah.

Zhongli does a little head tilt, a specialty of his. “Oh, that’s good.”

“Yeah, my mind was just… distracted,” Childe reassured, trying to smile and not flush at the same time.

“By?” Zhongli raised a quaint eyebrow, his hand staying where it was as Zhongli tapped against the back of Childe’s ear, almost like he was beckoning Childe for an answer. Which was, once again, doing things.

Friendship things. He nodded to himself again. Our bond is strong just as our skinship.

“Uh- things,” Childe said, less confident than he’d hope because his throat got stuck. For reasons unknown. Maybe due to an overload of friendship feelings, he assumed.

Zhongli seemed to pause for a moment before nodding, his hand moving to leave Childe’s ear, which was a good thing for Childe’s heart, but also a bad thing for Childe’s heart.

However, just as he thought it was over. There was a slight pinch to his ear as Zhongli peered down at him minutely, his ears once again red.

“I would rather you… be distracted by,” Zhongli seemed to almost waver in his voice, almost- because Childe wasn’t sure if those pauses were from Zhongli or from his brain not being able to function.

Fucking long eyelashes at it again, Childe thought haphazardly.

“Not by things, but…” Zhongli paused again, as though unable to say his next words due to reason unknown as his gaze continued to burn into Childe’s face.

As though he was fucking angry as fuck.

“By me,” Zhongli said quietly. His face serious and his eyes sharp, a faint glow to them, as they stared into Childe’s own. His voice, though quiet, was all the more resounding.

Childe’s throat felt strangely dry. As Zhongli pinched Childe’s ear again, as though to emphasize his point. Although that was wholly unnecessary as his point had already emphasized itself into Childe’s mind with just his eyes alone.

So this was how Zhongli is towards his forever friends, huh, Childe thought absentmindedly.

“I-” Childe choked out before his throat decided to promptly shut down in face of the staredown by Zhongli and his pretty eyes.

“Forgive me for being… forward,” Zhongli said quietly, the words existing for a mere moment in the tiny space between them before it dispersed.

“No- nope- not at all-” Childe started, hearing his own awkward laughter in his ears. “I- yeah- I was already thinking of- of ya-”

Zhongli’s eyes widened for a moment before it crinkled as he gives Childe a smile, the smile.

It did things to Childe’s heart, he must admit. Very, very much did things.

Friends, huh, Childe thought, hysterically.

“Good boy,” Zhongli said quietly, a slight drawl to his words and more but Childe couldn’t quite process more as his brain melted due to reasons.

Being friends with a god sure feels different, Childe thought before his brain cease to function.

Ah, maybe this is too bold, Zhongli thought.

Chapter Text

Childe’s brain was admittedly still deep-fried when Zhongli decided to open the ornate box in his hand and began to arrange the items in Childe’s hands into the box instead. There was a quiet happiness about him as he closed the box and handed it to Childe.

“Thanks,” Childe said, smiling. “Suppose it wasn’t really practical for me to carry all of it around like that.”

Zhongli nodded sagely. “Indeed.”

Childe scratched at his nape in disquiet for a bit. As he was sure this was normally the part where he’d go ‘Alright, see you’ and leave. But that felt too casual, he thought. More like they were just friends rather than what they became last night.

Though, what did forever friends say as their goodbyes?

The books didn’t say anything about that, Childe was sure of.

And as Childe mulled over it the more confused he was about the whole ordeal.

“See you, pal.” Once again, too casual.

“It was great hanging out with you, but I’ll be leaving now, yeah.” Too generic, not unique enough. And also, too casual.

“I got stuff to do, see you later.” Too dismissive.

“I’ve got Fatui harbinger things to do, yeah.” Too suspicious.

“I feel like a mess and I want to clean up because I feel like an even bigger mess when standing next to you. So I want to freshen up.” Too honest there, Childe.

A gentle touch to his ear and Childe jolted back to reality.

“What are you thinking of now?” Zhongli asked, his intense gaze bearing into Childe and oh-

Childe’s heart went ‘bang’ and his brain went ‘boom’ and Childe went. “Uh.”

You, Childe thought. But that wasn’t really the right answer, now, was it. Technically, Childe was thinking of a proper farewell for his forever friend. And this time, he wasn’t thinking of how his name would sound like on his forever friend’s tongue either.

“Just thinking about saying goodbye, that’s all,” Childe said. Wishing that he could just go back in time and say one of those other goodbyes because this wasn’t it.

“And you were lost in thought for that long?” Zhongli asked, his eyebrow quirked up.

“It was hard,” Childe explained, a quiet whine to his voice.

Zhongli paused for a moment as if to possess his words before a small smile appeared on his face. A veneer of amusement, almost, peaking through as Zhongli laughed softly.

“Well, I can, ah, accompany you back to your place of residence,” Zhongli said, at last, a bit of humor in his voice. “It won’t be so hard to say goodbye, then.”

His voice was a soft thing beneath his slight humor, and so were his eyes. Unfitted for the geo archon and Rex Lapis, Childe was sure. But wholly fitting on the face of Zhongli.

There was an inherent misunderstanding there, probably with Zhongli thinking that Childe was struggling to part with them rather than struggling with thinking of a farewell.

It was a beautiful misunderstanding, Childe thought, so he said nothing of it.

“Please do,” Childe said instead, smiling in return. His voice a smidgen of the softness of Zhongli’s.

But that was enough, it seemed, as Zhongli brighten up slightly. Closing the door behind him as he makes way towards the bustling morning street.

Childe laughed softly, following after Zhongli. “Do you know where to go?”

“Of course,” Zhongli said, a smile appearing once more. “I know where to go for everywhere in Liyue.”

“Reliable, aren’t you,” Childe teased, finding quiet delight in the way he was able to speak so casually to Zhongli.

“Of course,” Zhongli said again, glancing at Childe. “Always.”

What that said, Zhongli bumped his hand against Childe. Their back of their fingers touching, almost, as Zhongli glanced at him before looking away. A slight cheer to his somber face.

Childe bumped his hand back slightly. Meeting soft skin instead of marbled coldness, making him marvel slightly.


As they made their way through the bustling street, Childe suddenly realized, beyond how Zhongli’s hand was soft, that they were being stared at. It wasn’t the normally hostile or wary stares thrown his way by the locals either, as he was plenty familiar with that. But rather a sort of curiousness and wonder, almost. Even the usual old couple that normally gave him a dirty look as he passed them was looking at him with a slight curiousness. His ears unable to pick up on the soft whispers here and there as he continued to march on, wondering just what the fuck was up with Liyue today.

It wasn’t long before the equilibrium was broken.

“Congratulations!” the merchant said, her voice light and bubbly as she looked at them.

Both he and Zhongli paused as they glanced at her.

“Uh, thanks?” Childe said, trying to abate off the stares and the way the merchant was staring at them intently.

“It’s not every day we see such a wonderful union,” the merchant said. “Would you like to buy some of our specialty wine to celebrate, sirs?”

Something was clicking inside Childe’s brain, but before he could craft up a reply Zhongli nodded and promptly said, “I’ll take your entire stock.”

The merchant blinked whereas Childe only resigned himself to pulling out his wallet. Not a moment sooner Zhongli blinked as he probably realized his lack of money.

“I’ll pay,” Childe said, his wallet already opening.

“Wonderful union indeed,” The merchant looked between them, a sly glint in her eyes as she smiled. “Ah, is today the first night, sirs?”

Zhongli seemed to stiffen, almost. Out of anger, perhaps?

“Nope,” Childe interjected, his smile not quite reaching his eyes.

The merchant caught the slight hint of his displeasure then, as she smiled placatingly. “Oh, well, since you’ve bought our entire stock and since it is a much special event, there will be a discount.”

“Why, thank you,” Childe said. “Feel free to send it all to Wangsheng Funeral Parlor.”

The merchant blinked before smiling again, slightly less tense as she nodded towards Zhongli. “It is a pleasure to do business with the infamous master Zhongli.”

“Infamous?” Zhongli asked, tilting his head slightly.

She mere laughed softly. “Congratulations, and I’m glad you brought your wallet today, sir.”

Zhongli merely blinked as Childe laughed, with none of the humor as he waved before departing. Not liking the glint in her eyes as she looked at them both- more specifically Zhongli.


Somehow, it appeared as though suddenly that was the floodgate to all the merchants to began their onslaught on the Fatui and their funds.


“Congratulations, sirs!” another merchant said. His eyes already glancing towards Childe’s wallet. “Would you like some swords to celebrate?”

What, Childe thought.

“Naturally,” Zhongli said. Already looking appraisingly at some, no doubt, very expensive blades.

And that was another two swords added to Wangsheng Funeral Parlor.


“Congratulations!” said another merchant. “Would you like some flowers?”

Zhongli blinked.

“Oh, you,” the merchant said before regaining their professionalism. “Well, I doubt you’d want glaze lilies today, master Zhongli.”

Zhongli merely grunted.


“About these ores-”

Childe, prepared to his wallet was halted by Zhongli as he said. “Oh, I can make ores.”

“He means mine- he’s a miner,” Childe said quickly before pulling Zhongli away.

“But he’s-”

“He mines for a hobby, yeah, have a great day.”


“How about some jewelry, sir?”

Childe’s wallet already out as Zhongli shook his head and pulled them away.


“Oh my, master Zhongli,” the saleswoman said. Standing in front of her perfume shop that was regarded very dubiously before by Childe and all of his subordinates. “Congratulations on your union.”

“Thank you, Miss Ying’er,” Zhongli replied, a small smile appearing once more. Childe taking a step closer to Zhongli as he bumped the back of his hand against Zhongli’s once more.

“Would you like to place an order of my specialty?” the saleswoman- Ying’er- asked, smiling sweetly. “I’m sure it’ll lead to quite an adventure for you both.”

Zhongli cleared his throat quietly and Childe already knew enough to take out his wallet.

“My, so eager,” Ying-er commented, laughing softly. Zhongli seemed to clear his throat again, frequently glancing at Childe.

“Uh- sure?” Childe replied, more puzzled by Zhongli’s behavior than anything else as Zhongli’s eyes grew slightly wide.

“How honest,” Ying-er said, her voice almost amused. “I’m sure master Zhongli enjoys that.”

“I’m sure he appreciates my honesty, too,” Childe said, his winning smile on display.

“Especially for more… curious adventures,” Ying’er continued, her eyes curving up slightly. “I’m sure a partner who is honest about their wants is vastly appreciated.”

“Yeap, that’s me,” Childe said, pretty sure he was honest about how much his legs hated the cliffs of Liyue on their regular excursions.

Zhongli raised an eyebrow, almost amused as Ying’er laughed.

“Quite a partner you have there, master Zhongli,” Ying’er said. Laughing behind her hand quietly.

“Indeed,” Zhongli replied, a quiet pride in his voice as his back straightened, Childe, feeling inclined to do the same, smiled.

“Yep, we’re lifelong partners,” Childe said. Swinging his arm around Zhongli’s shoulder. Finding that the term lifelong friend to probably be too casual.

“Indeed you are, showing it so boldly, too,” Ying’er agreed, gesturing towards the box. “That’s quite a traditional way of putting it from a pair so bold with their status.”

Traditional? Childe pondered for a moment, was friends the right way of putting it, then?

“But, well, there’s no shame in that,” Ying’er continued. “It is also quite charming to hear ‘lifelong partners’ instead of-”

A crash resounded in the background as Ying’er makes a soft sound. “Oh my, it appears that I must check on my coworker.”

Childe nodded, his hold on Zhongli’s frame tightening after the crash.

Zhongli, for his part, was looking remarkably calm if it weren’t for the ground rumbling beneath slightly, as though ready to spring up if they were really in danger.

“Well, I hope you two will get a good rest tonight,” Ying’er said, her smile returning. “You won’t be in much of a mood to rest when my perfume arrives.”

Childe, confused, only smiled.

Zhongli face stayed passive, but there was a hint of humor on his face.

“Or perhaps not,” Ying’er continued. “Maybe you’ll get a headstart on that deep exploration today.”

“Maybe we will,” Childe said, still confused but finding that he wouldn’t mind exploring more of Liyue with Zhongli tonight.

Zhongli hummed softly, considering. Perhaps already mapping out the course of their exploration for the night.

Liyue perfume is sure impressive, Childe thought, able to keep adventurers up all night like that.

I must still be bolder to match my husband, Zhongli thought, nodding to himself. Thank you, Ying’er, for your enlightening words.

Chapter Text

Childe didn’t exactly know why Zhongli looked to be in deep thought after Ying’er went to help her coworker with the debris of the no doubt destroyed glassware. But it was probably more of Zhongi thinking upon some abstract thoughts and ready to lay it all upon Childe if he were ever in need of a philosopher to set his life straight.

“So, Zhongli, never knew you’d be interested in perfume,” Childe started, all too aware of the warmth of Zhongli’s body against his arm.

Having thought so, Childe pulled Zhongli slightly closer because- well, it was only right for forever buddies to share their warmth.

“Well, it is a tradition,” Zhongli said, having broken out of his reverie. Taking his silence and the fact that he was not moving away from Childe’s arm as a silent acquiescence, Childe was all too happy to tug him slightly closer.

A slight pushing against what was now acceptable skinship between friends into forever friends, as Childe was sure that he didn’t quite have the closeness to pull this in public before. But since all of Liyue- apparently- knows of their status, it’d be fine- right?

“Oh?” Childe asked, partly out of intrigue as he soon got lost in the slight hint of humor in Zhongli’s bright eyes and all intrigue was soon a secondary matter.

“A tradition for partners to, ah, spend the night making merry with the perfume to add to their mood,” Zhongli said, nodding as he started to walk away from Ying’er’s shop. “I’m quite sure the perfume will be… exquisite.”

There was something strange flashing through Zhongli’s eyes at his last sentence, His words sounding, if Childe dared to think, sultry.

Sultry, now that was a word that he didn’t think would ever be used to describe Zhongli. But he found that it was the only word fitting for Zhongli’s voice at that moment. Low and smooth, and oddly intense.

“I’m sure,” Childe repeated, his voice nowhere near the sheer marvel of Zhongli’s- but it would do for now.

Zhongli seemed almost amused at his dry voice and gulp as he smiled. “Mhm.”

“So- where to next, partner?” Childe asked, an almost childish- hah- glee about him as he shifted his arm to show the box in it more clearly to the world.

Zhongli, having a pleased air about him, smiled again.

“Well, perhaps we should feed you,” Zhongli said.

“We?” Childe asked, raising an eyebrow in humor.

“Yes, we,” Zhongli said, almost as though forgetting who was the only bearer of the wallet.

“Well, then, where should we go?”

“I was considering Liuli Pavilion,” Zhongli said simply. As though he weren’t proposing a restaurant that was infamous for its long wait time for even a table. Not to mention a private room that was to Zhongli’s standards.

Not that it was a problem for him, Childe thought as he walked towards the restaurant. Tugging Zhongli closer slightly just in case Zhongli forgot where Liuli Pavilion was.

Then Childe would have to go find him and maybe then have a reason to stick closely to Zhongli the next time they go on an outing as forever friends. Because, well, Zhongli’s dear forever friend doesn’t want him to get lost and be hungry.

Childe considered the scenario for a moment and found that it wasn’t too bad.

But to think of it, would Zhongli even be lost in the first place?

That was unlikely, Childe thought in hindsight. Meaning that there would be no Zhongli to help with directions and thus no Zhongli to stick close to.

But the crowd was pretty dense today so Childe doesn’t want Zhongli to be swept up in it all.

Ergo- leading to Childe making a show of finding Zhongli after dispensing some of the new Fatui recruits just in case the crowd wasn’t too dense. Maybe toss in some skirmishers too to really get in that bulk.

Though Zhongli can probably make his way through the crowd with a simple ‘excuse me’, Childe thought in hindsight.

But not if Childe very nicely suggested his Fatui men not to.

But then, wouldn’t it be suspicious if the only ones standing in Zhongli’s way were his men?

So Childe dismissed the plan in his mind. It wouldn’t do to inconvenience Zhongli regardless.

But still, what if he got jumped by more merchants and ended up buying their whole stock only to come up with an empty wallet?

Childe considered the scenario for a moment.

Then wouldn’t that mean Childe would come to his rescue again? Maybe stick even more closely so that Zhongli wouldn’t have to forgo his wallet. Finally be able to throw his forever friends title around and have a reason to leech off more warmth off Zhongli.

Childe pondered this and realized that this scenario wouldn’t be too bad.

And not to mention, wholly possible.

“Childe?” Zhongli asked. Tilting his head slightly.

“Yes?” Childe asked back, giving Zhongli a harmless smile.

Zhongli stared at Childe for a minute, almost amused before he pointed in front of them. “We’ve arrived.”

Damn, Childe thought. Plot foiled.

“You seemed displeased about something,” Zhongli queried, his eyes faintly downcasted as though he were worried that he was the one at fault.

“No, not at all,” Childe said quickly. “I mean, I’m not displeased at you.” Just at my crushed plans. And knowing that Zhongli would question further, Childe continued. “I just wanted to take a longer walk with you.” Then I could’ve actually pulled my plan off. “But I’m happy that we arrived here so quick.” Since now we can eat together.

Zhongli seemed to reach an epiphany as his eyes curved up, a quiet smile playing at his lips. “I see.”

“Yeah, that’s all,” Childe reassured, happy that Zhongli was no longer displeased. “Anyways, one private room, thank you.”

The Liuli Pavillion attendant nodded, having long recognized the Fatui and the, apparently infamous, funeral parlor man. “Right this way, sirs.”

She bowed shortly before leading them into the restaurant, her steps light and quiet. Childe had no doubt, from the confidence in her posture and turns, that she was well versed in the layout. A good employee, Childe concluded.

Zhongli tugged gently on Childe’s collar, glancing down at him for a moment.

“What is catching your attention?” Zhongli asked. Staring intently at the attendant’s head.

“She’s a good employee,” Childe replied, smiling casually. “Or at least, just with directing guests, I wouldn’t know about anything else.”

Zhongli mulled over Childe’s words for a moment.

“I helped direct the Traveler for the rite of parting.”

“You did,” Childe acknowledged.

“I directed them very well,” Zhongli continued.

“You did,” Childe acknowledged, nodding.

“From Mondstat to Liyue,” Zhongli recounted. “I directed them very well.”

“You did,” Childe acknowledged again, nodding.

Zhongli pursed his lips slightly as Childe blinked.

The attendant stopped in front of a door, her eyes shining slightly as her lips quivered. As though she were amused by something.

“The room you requested, sirs,” she said, her voice trembling slightly. “Feel free to call for a server when you have decided what to order.”

“Thanks,” Childe replied, smiling. Wondering why it was that the normally apathetic attendant was suddenly humored.

Zhongli, on the other hand, seemed less humored as he stared pointedly at the attendant.

The attendant only smiled back politely. Her lips quivering further.

“Well, we will call for our server later,” Childe said, giving her his winning smile before shuffling him and Zhongli into their room.

The attendant closes the door behind them quietly. Her eyes still shining as her lips curved up.


Once they were settled in the room, Childe reluctantly let go of his hold on Zhongli’s shoulder.

Making his way towards the lavish table, he pulled out a seat for Zhongli as he smiled. Zhongli blinked before nodding as he sat down. Childe continued to smile as he sat down in the seat across from Zhongli. A move that served to only make Zhongli blinked.

“What is it?” Childe asked as he picked up the menu.

Zhongli hummed quietly for a moment before nodding to himself. “I suppose this is more proper.”

Childe, as always, had no idea what Zhongli was pondering about.

Not a moment later, however, Zhongli reached across the table to hold Childe’s hand gently.

It was Childe’s turn to blink as his heart started to rebel against his brain’s wishes to beat normally.

“May I see the menu?” Zhongli asked, leaning over slightly across the table as Childe’s hand moved by itself to turn the menu slightly so that both of them could read it.

Zhongli hummed quietly as the table felt too narrow at that moment. When Zhongli was partially leaned over. His hair falling a certain way into his eyes, the rest trailing behind his back. Gazing into the menu as though it were gospel.

Childe felt compelled to do the same. It was probably what he should do since they were ordering soon. His eyes, on the other hand, decided to be a traitor with his heart and refused to avert from Zhongli’s face and a sliver of his collarbone that was showing itself as he leaned forward.

It was just a rare sight, Childe thought. It wasn’t as though Zhongli’s collar ever dipped down enough to have his collarbone be in clear sight.

Maybe that shirt should do that more often, Childe’s brain thought, apparently deciding to join the rebellion.

“Well, I have my orders,” Zhongli said as he nodded to himself before sitting back in his chair, his collar back to where it was and his collarbone disappearing beneath it.

There was a tinge of regret in Childe’s heart.

Zhongli raised an eyebrow at Childe, and Childe could already hear the question in his ears.

Childe promptly hit the bell to rang for the server because he didn’t know how to explain wanting to see more of Zhongli’s collarbone in a way that would actually make sense yet.

Yet, because Childe was going to explain it eventually, just not today.

The server, as expected from Liuli Pavillion, arrived quickly. A notebook in hand and pen in the other as he quickly trotted down enough dishes to be considered as a banquet.

The usual, by this point, for Zhongli and Childe’s group outing.

The server nodded before walking away, closing the door behind him quietly as the room fell into silence.

It was a comfortable thing, though. As Zhongli reached over to pour tea for both himself and Childe.

Childe smiled as a thank you before he took the cup gingerly, this time making sure to blow on it gently for it to not burn his tongue like last time.

Although he wouldn’t mind being chided if it were anything like the last time.

Childe promptly snapped out of it before he burnt his tongue again.

Zhongli took a sip of his tea, not even pausing to let it cool before it touched his lips. Well, not that Childe would expect much else. Zhongli glanced at Childe briefly, almost as though making sure that Childe didn’t burnt his tongue again, which he didn’t, and then nodded. It was a pleased nod, the sort that makes Childe relaxed.

He was glad he didn’t follow his rebellious brain and its thoughts towards wanting to be chided, of all things.

Waiters and waitresses broke their calm silence as they entered with bountiful delicacies in their hands, laying it down on the table in a neat and orderly fashion. Although they were keen on leaving a small gap of space wherein Zhongli and Childe’s arm occupied.

Which was strangely touching, Childe supposed, but it also brought a slight flush to his ears.

After said arrangements were done, they quickly bowed and exited. Leaving behind dishes that made Childe’s appetite rear its head. Childe’s hand reaching over towards the chopsticks quickly.

However, it was at this point that Childe suddenly remembered that one of his hands was occupied.

This brings up the dilemma of: how will Childe pick up his chopsticks now.

First, was the option of simply removing his hand from Zhongli’s. Which was a viable strategy.

Second, was the option of eating with a spoon. But that would involve calling the waiters back as there were no spoons within the general vicinity.

Third, was the option of asking Zhongli to remove his hand because oh god Childe was an incompetent man with incompetent chopstick skills.

One of those options was clearly biased.

So Childe promptly crossed out option one, because that was clearly akin to retreating from a battle. And Childe doesn’t do retreats.

The second option was akin to declaring to your enemy troops of your incompetence. And Childe doesn’t do that either.

And the third option was honest, but at the same time would lower his forever friend’s opinion of him.

Childe squinted in concentration.

“Ah.” A tasty piece of meat was placed in front of his eyes, moving back and forth to catch his attention.

Zhongli had leaned forward further in the slight time that Childe was distracted. Revealing more neck than ever. As he holds the chopsticks up.

It was at this moment, that option one, two, and three promptly got slaughtered.

Nice neck, Childe’s brain thought desperately before it, too, was slaughtered.

Is this not how you do it? Zhongli wondered desperately, poking Childe’s lips gently as he tried to feed him.

Chapter Text

It was only to the knowledge that one, he probably looks dumb as fuck in front of Zhongli right now. And two, he didn’t want to look dumb as fuck in front of Zhongli, to which Childe finally forcefully activated his brain.

“Uh-” Childe started before a piece of Tianshu meat was promptly, and neatly, delivered into his open mouth.

The meat, Childe noted. Was still quite steaming even with the slight pause that his brain went on.

Childe’s mouth started chewing, thankfully. Biting into the soft meat carefully as Zhongli moved to bring another piece to his lips.

“Uh-” Childe started again before another piece of Tianshu meat was delivered straight into his mouth.

“Ah,” Zhongli said seriously. Already moving to pick up another piece of the delectable Tianshu meat.

“Ah?” Childe copied. Zhongli looking proud as he promptly moved that piece of Tianshu meat into Childe’s mouth for the third time in this weird and bizarre fever dream.

I must’ve died, Childe thought. Or something.

Cause of death by my brain overheating, Childe thought. That’s sure to be a first in Harbinger history.

“Ah,” Zhongli repeated again, seemingly intent on stuffing the whole dish down Childe’s gullet.

Was this the overwhelming consideration of friends? Childe thought. Considering as he chewed the meat carefully as to truly treasure the meat that was fed to him.

“Ah,” Zhongli said again, leaning forward slightly as he fed Childe a piece of the jade parcels.

Was this perhaps Zhongli trying to show him the wondrous delicacy of Liyue? Childe thought as he absentmindedly chewed on the dish. Tasting the gentle flavor of lotus seeds upon his tongue and gently biting down on it. Finding that the slight hint of Jueyun chili mixed wonderfully with it.

“It’s good,” Childe commented. To which Zhongli nodded.

“I’d expected you’d enjoy this dish,” Zhongli said in return, slight curvature to his lips.

“Are my tastes that obvious?” Childe jested, finding that Zhongli had already delivered the next bite into his open mouth.

“Perhaps,” Zhongli said neutrally. Childe taking the time to chew slowly as Zhongli carefully brought another bite of the parcel to his lips.

Childe wondered distantly if he could one day handle chopsticks that skillfully as he opened his mouth obediently.

Zhongli seemed to notice his gaze as he smiled faintly. “Do you like these chopsticks?”

Childe blinked, his mind puzzling over the question for a brief second before he smiled.

“Oh, do you want me to buy them?” Childe moved to grab his wallet.

Zhongli prodded Childe’s closed lips with a bite of the parcel. “No need.”

Well, that was a surprise. Childe thought and his expression showed as much.

Zhongli seemed amused as he fed the bite into Childe’s waiting mouth.

“These are not a dragon and phoenix pair, after all,” Zhongli said simply, his eyes a gentle thing.

Childe smiled, his mind buzzing that there was something to be said about dragon and phoenixes and Liyue.

But all he could think of was the visage of a dragon with glowing eyes- akin to the spark of fireflies within the summer nights of Liyue.

“I like dragons,” Childe said and smiled.

Zhongli laughed softly. “I like them, too.”

“What a coincidence,” Childe said, nudging the chopsticks towards Zhongli’s lips instead.

“Mhm.” Zhongli did not say much in lieu of raising an eyebrow.

“Ah,” Childe said with a teasing smile. Pushing the bite closer to Zhongli’s lips.

Zhongli froze momentarily as though he was processing Childe’s action. It was a quiet moment and Childe suddenly became all too aware of Zhongli’s hand over his. The gentle weight of it suddenly becoming heavier than before- not to an unbearable degree, no- but certainly noticable.

Childe's heart on the other hand- felt unbearable somehow as Childe’s heart squeezed unto itself.

Zhongli noticed Childe’s gaze as he moved his hand slightly as though to move it away.

Childe quickly moved to grab Zhongli’s hand before he could fully pull it away.

His hand moving much quicker than his brain ever could, Childe thought distantly as a familiar heat seared to his cheeks.

Zhongli eyes widen slightly before he laughed softly. The pleasant chiming of bells.

“It- it’s more convenient if you kept your hand here,” Childe blurted. His mouth beginning its excellent attempt at improv. “The whole table’s full, anyways.”

“Mhm,” Zhongli acknowledged. A smile wounding upon his lips.

“And besides- Liyue’s quite cold around this time, don’t you know?”

The cicadas chirped outside the room as though to mock Childe as the light of the sun burnt itself into his retina at that moment.

“I mean- even though it’s summer, and stuff,” Childe continued. “And near noon.”

“Mhm,” Zhongli agreed.

“And you probably know this,” Childe answered his own question. “So-”

It was at this moment that Zhongli promptly intertwined their fingers, Holding Childe’s hand closer than before as their palms came into contact. Gloved it be, Childe still felt the firmness of Zhongli’s palm and the elegance of his fingers as they curve to gently press upon the back of his hand.

“I do know,” Zhongli said quietly, an almost sly note to his voice.

His hand, no doubt, would be calloused beneath those gloves. Childe thought. From long-fought battles and harder fought wars.

The thought of it stirred a warm heat within Childe. Imagining those hands once wrapped around a deadly weapon to only now be intertwined with his.

He could probably tear through my skin without a thought, Childe thought. And gulped.

Was that a good thing? Yes.

Did Childe want that to actually happen? Maybe.

But ‘Damn, I want you to make me bleed to personally feel how strong you are’, isn’t something usually said to one’s friend.

Or was it?

Zhongli then opened his mouth. Childe thought that perhaps Zhongli had heard his thoughts.

Instead, all Zhongli did was lean his head slightly downwards and eat the bite of the parcel that was presented to him before.

The way Zhongli ate was graceful- if Childe had to describe it within one word. As though he ate thousands of meals before and is all the more experienced with the art of eating, and he has, probably.

“What were you thinking about?” Zhongli asked after chewing quietly, already moving to tear apart another piece.

“Mhm?”

Zhongli gently pulled Childe’s hand closer to his, as though to remind Childe.

“Oh, that,” Childe said then laughed sheepishly. “Just some random stuff, probably not good to discuss while eating.”

Zhongli raised an eyebrow and his fingers pressing further on the back of Childe’s hand as though to beckon him to continue.

“Dunno, I-” Childe started and really wondered if he could say what he was thinking. It was a bold thing, for sure. But surely Zhongli wouldn’t ditch his friend over a weird request. And Childe was sure that Zhongli wouldn’t judge him too bad, since, well, he was Zhongli. “Would you like to make me bleed?”

Zhongli blinked. His chopsticks freezing in midair.

“Childe,” Zhongli said after a moment. Adjusting faster than Childe would have thought. “You want me to hurt you?”

“Maybe?” Childe said, maybe too honest.

Zhongli arched an eyebrow. “Maybe?”

“Okay, yes,” Childe admitted, not one for lies. “I’d like to feel your strength.”

Zhongli arched an eyebrow again, a familiar tick of his at this point.

“Well, I’ve only ever heard about it,” Childe continued. “Not much for feeling it personally myself.”

Zhongli hummed softly, oddly considering.

“So, I just want to see how powerful you are, that’s all,” Childe said casually. Feeling slightly awkward at the nonresponse as he leaned forward to just take the bite from Zhongli’s chopsticks. “It’s odd, I know.”

Zhongli hummed softly again. “Not odd, no.”

Childe hummed softly, nibbling on the parcel.

“I understand,” Zhongli said after a quiet moment. Making Childe wonder exactly what did he understand. “I had dabbled in such matters before, though my knowledge might be a bit… dull from time, but I’ll be sure to satisfy.”

Well, that was easier than expected, Childe thought. Finally getting his duel.

“Only if you want to,” Childe said. Not wanting to force his forever friend into a duel, even though he’d love to fight him.

Zhongli laughed softly, gripping Childe’s hand closer.

“With you, I want everything.” Zhongli’s smile was sharp then, almost ravenous.

Great, Childe thought distantly. The duel was a go.

“Yep, great,” Childe said in return. Finding that he was getting a bit too stuffy underneath his scarf.

“Well, I’ll begin to catch up starting now, then,” Zhongli said seriously. “If there is something that dissatisfies you, or makes you uncomfortable, please do inform me.”

It was at this moment that Childe realized he might’ve awakened something.

Fighting instincts, perhaps, Childe thought. And merrily continued eating.


After the dinner came to a close, with Childe’s wallet thousands of mora lighter, they both stood up. Their hands still intertwined as though it were glued together. They maneuvered awkwardly around the table for a bit before coming to stand side by side.

Zhongli, Childe noted. Was as calm as ever as he started to walk towards the door.

He found that Zhongli was lagging behind him by several paces. An odd thing, he noted, but maybe he was too full.

Just as Childe was about to reach the door, his hair was tugged upon. It was a rough thing, that tug, Childe thought distantly, feeling the familiar gloved hand upon his scalp.

“Uh- Zhongli?” Childe asked, his throat strangely dry.

Zhongli pulled him closer back towards himself, his gaze a sly thing as he tugged slightly harder upon Childe’s hair.

Childe did not speak as he merely stared up at Zhongli, finding that his throat was getting dryer by the second.

Zhongli merely stared at him for a few moments before tugging him closer before leaning down. Childe could feel the edges of Zhongli’s teeth grazing his ear.

“You ought to fix your scarf, Childe,” Zhongli whispered quietly before leaning back and letting Childe’s hair go.

Too bad all Childe could register was the fact that Zhongli was whispering in his ear with that voice of his.

Was this a Liyue thing? Childe thought distantly as his scarf was then promptly fixed by Zhongli. To politely remind your friend of their disheveled state in the hottest way possible?

Perhaps I am too rusty, Zhongli thought as he deftly fixed Childe’s scarf.

Chapter Text

Zhongli seemingly found nothing odd after doing whatever the hell that was. Childe would deign to think that this was normal to Zhongli.

Not normal in the sense that he would do it to other people, no. Because one, Childe hadn’t ever seen or heard of such actions before from his mild friend. And two, the thought of Zhongli doing such to some random citizen stirred something unpleasant, so Childe dismissed the thought entirely.

Having thought so, Childe’s hand was grabbed very casually by Zhongli. And once more, Childe can only hope that this certainly wasn’t the norm for the man.

He’d prefer to feel a bit special, thank you very much.

Childe gripped Zhongli’s hand, feeling the firmness of it and deciding that, yes, he feels very much special right now.

As they bumped shoulders within the busy street of Liyue, the citizens crowding the streets in a rush during the peak business of the midday market. With the familiar drawl of shoppers started their haggling and the steady clinking of mora being exchanged hands readily. It was a comforting thing, now, that Childe was used to it. Somewhat like the steadiness of the snowfall in Snezhnaya.

He remembered being somewhat overwhelmed prior. Lost amidst the crowd and their chatter. Having to push his way through the thick of it to get to his destinations, guided by a weathered map with a warm welcome written on it.

Even now, Childe struggles to move with the crowd. Though it was not akin to the previous bumbling.

Never would he be like Zhongli, he thought absentmindedly. Who moves with the ebb and flow of the crowd as easily as a fish would swim within the streams.

A gentle tug here and a gentle pull there as Childe narrowly avoided bumping into several Liyue citizens.

Somewhere in the back of his mind Childe knew that he had the means to avoid them. Even while he cannot move as steadily within the crowd, he was used to avoidance and this was no challenge.

Perhaps there was a thing to be said about Childe and his knew found liking for being pulled into Zhongli’s rhythm.

Or perhaps it was the gentle “Be careful” spoken next to him as his shoulder was pressed flush against Zhongli’s for a brief moment.

Nevertheless, Childe smiled all the same.


They parted as they neared the entrance of Northland bank. The daytime guard spotting him but only giving a simple salute before going back to his normal folded arms. His eyes drifting into the skies once more even as his body stayed tense.

“Well, I guess I’m here,” Childe said, gripping Zhongli’s hand once more before letting it go reluctantly.

“I suppose,” Zhongli drawled, a familiar humor within his voice.

“I guess, I’ll be seeing you later,” Childe said. Partly wondering if this was an overstep. Perhaps he should’ve tacked it on more as a question.

Zhongli smiled then, and Childe suddenly thought that maybe this wasn’t an overstep after all.

“Feel free to knock whenever you’re free,” Zhongli said. His steps light as he departed.

Childe feel his cheeks lifting up as he watched Zhongli’s back grow farther away. Their eyes briefly meeting as Zhongli turned back amidst the crowd to give Childe a small wave.

Childe waved back.


The receptionist greeted Childe politely as he entered.

“Looks valuable,” she commented softly.

“Mhm?” Childe raised an eyebrow. Seeing her gaze directed towards the antique box within his arms. Childe gave a small laugh. “Oh, this? I’m sure.”

“Did you get it at an auction, sir?” she inquired.

“No,” Childe said. Tracing the intricate carving on the outside of the box. “It was a gift.”

Ekaterina looked at the box, her gaze oddly considering.

“I see.”

Childe wondered what exactly did she saw.

“It’s pretty, sir,” Ekaterina concluded after a moment’s pause. A small smile upon her lips.

“Isn’t it?” Childe agreed, patting the box lightly. A quiet joy in the motion.

Ekaterina laughed softly. “It is a wonderful gift, sir. Be sure to keep it out of Kliment’s view. Lest it be auctioned off elsewhere.”

Childe only rolled his eyes at her jest. Finding a quiet comfort in it.


Childe didn’t so much as knock on Zhongli’s door as he did bump into the man. Zhongli standing upon the harbor looking out into the sea. His figure a stark contrast to the few sailors that were still moving about that this hour.

“What are you looking at?” Childe asked. Zhongli humming quietly, head tilted up slightly.

“The sea,” Zhongli replied. An odd tone to his voice.

“Yeah?” Childe raised an eyebrow slightly. Wondering what it was about the sea on this night that drew that particular tone out of Zhongli.

Zhongli gave a faint nod. His gaze carrying a faint trace of dust.

Childe wished he could see what Zhongli saw.

“This harbor was once the site of a battle,” Zhongli started, a hand placed behind his back. “Or so some stories say.”

“Is that so,” Childe said carefully, looking out at the night sea.

“Perhaps,” Zhongli said quietly. “Or perhaps not.”

Childe stayed silent. Quietly listening to the soft exhale of Zhongli and the steady flow of the currents beneath.

“History is in the hands of the people,” Zhongli started once more. “It was created by the gods, but in the end, it is shaped by the people.”

The scent of the ocean was carried to them by the wind as it flew past.

Zhongli exhaled quietly once more, his gaze cast far ahead.

Towards a sight that Childe’s eyes cannot see. But know all the same.

Childe grabbed his hands then. Those hands which once cast spears that slain gods.

Childe was not a man who could offer much comfort with just words. Instead, he simply held onto Zhongli’s hand.

“Well, won’t you tell me your history?” Childe smiled, just as he always does. “Then once we get hungry, we can talk about dinner.” Childe laughed softly then. “Then, later, once we tire, we can talk over wine.”

The ocean current moved beneath them as Zhongli glanced at him, his eyes a soft ember.

“My history is quite long, and complicated,” Zhongli said quietly.

“I’m sure it’ll be quite a journey.” Childe nodded, a smile still fresh on his lips.

“And… dinner will once again be on you, I’m afraid,” Zhongli said, squeezing Childe’s hand slightly.

“Isn’t it always,” Childe said, jesting slightly. Slotting his fingers between Zhongli’s. A motion that his hands were none too used to, but nonetheless comfortable.

“... would osmanthus wine be fine?” Zhongli asked, his gaze flickering slightly.

“Of course,” Childe said easily. Gripping Zhongli’s hand tighter.

The life of a god is long and winding.

A decade is but a day. And a day is nothing more than a passing moment.

But, Childe thought. But he wants to occupy more than a moment in Zhongli’s life.

Since they were forever friends, that would be fine, wouldn’t it?

Having said so, Childe loosens his scarf slightly to swing part of it over Zhongli’s neck.

“The night in Liyue harbor is quite cold,” Childe said, feeling the familiar sting of heat racing up his neck slightly. “I wouldn’t want us to get cold on the way to dinner.”

“Mhm,” Zhongli said simply.

Childe decided that he quite like the way his scarf looked on Zhongli.

He held Zhongli’s hand closer.

Zhongli glanced at the ocean once more before turning away and looking at Childe.

The life of a god is long and winding.

A decade is but a day. And a day is nothing more than a passing moment.

But he wants to share more than a moment with Childe.

Since they were a pair, that would be fine, wouldn’t it?

Chapter Text

Supper was a warm thing, Childe thought absentmindedly as he clinked his wine cup against Zhongli’s.

Words passing through his ears as Zhongli recounted tales of old. His eyes lost in a haze of mist as though he were seeing a scene from beyond and his voice lost in the clouds. His hands made motions that were lost to time as he spoke.

Childe could almost see from Zhongli’s eyes, he thought. See the glow of the sun and the warmth of the earth. Feel the ancient ground quake beneath him as though he stood above it. Hear the steady trickle of a stream and the harsh crashing of the waterfall as it bounded for the currents below. Could see the ancient walking about, the way their hair and clothes flowed with the wind, and the way their voice resounded within Zhongli’s ears.

He could hear it all, feel it all- almost, almost like he was standing in the place of the speaker himself. The only steady fixture within the ever-changing stories.

It made Childe wondered briefly, what it would’ve been like to see through those ancient’s eyes instead.

To see the visage of a god who observed them. See what they saw, what kind of god did they see with their mortal eyes. How his hair moved about with the gusto of the wind back then- or if he was even a he at all.

Through the eyes of the god himself, however, all Childe could spy were hints of the speaker himself.

The god, Childe realized, distantly, had observed all of history, yet there was no one who could observe the man within his mythos.

Zhongli had spent all of his time observing the world around him, it made Childe wonder if he had even remembered to remember himself.

Childe intertwined his fingers with Zhongli’s then.

Zhongli gave him a gentle smile, Childe liked it, and he said as much.

Zhongli raised an eyebrow slightly and then smiled again, and Childe liked it, so he said as much.

Since the god does not observe himself, then isn’t it the job of a mortal to observe him?

Childe thought as such as he smiled again, squeezing Zhongli’s hand.

“I like your smile,” Childe said. “It’s nice.”


They wined and they dined.

Time passed like water, steady as stone.

As they set down their cups, Childe thought that he does not want the day to end.

A day is but a blink for gods, and Childe wants to spend more than a moment with Zhongli.

Having thought so, Childe grabbed Zhongli’s hand once more with newfound gusto.

As they departed the pavilion, Zhongli asked not where their destination was.

Instead, all he said was, “Are you cold?”

Childe laughed, then, feeling as though he’d heard the greatest joke of his life.

The cicadas have long quieted, and the summer heat has long chilled.

A gust of wind passed them by as Childe laughed, the taste of wine still upon his lips.

“I am, so let’s keep hold hands.”

Perhaps it was the wine, or perhaps it was the moon.

Either way, Childe reached to wrap a part of his scarf around Zhongli’s neck.

“Let me keep you warm all night, then,” Zhongli said, his eyes a warm thing.


Atop the mountains of Liyue, perhaps there was a hint of chill to be found.

Childe stood himself upon the grassy terrain, feeling the solid earth beneath his feet as he looked out beyond.

“Well, well, where have you lead us today?” Childe asked. Having a small hint.

“Mount Tianheng,” Zhongli said quietly, surveying the area below.

“Mhm, a nice place,” Childe said absentmindedly. Seeing the brief hints of Liyue’s nightlife from above.

“The god of geo stood here, once,” Zhongli began. “When contemplating the defense of his dominion.”

Childe looked below, seeing the harbor and the mountains around them.

“Were he not afraid of the threat that might arise from the sea?” Childe asked. Absentmindedly holding Zhongli’s hand closer to his.

“No,” Zhongli said quietly. “For the foe that could arise from the sea then would be of no match for him.”

Childe hummed softly, watching the crashing waves from above. Remembering a serpent of the seas.

“There used to be one, a foe,” Zhongli spoke hesitantly. “That could rival him.”

Beyond, beyond. Where the Guyun Stone Forest was.

“But that foe has long passed,” Zhongli said quietly. “And so has their rivalry.”

The god of war and the god of vortex, that must’ve been quite the rivalry, Childe thought.

“Rex Lapis detested his foe, and yet…” Zhongli trailed off, looking out. Beyond, beyond.

Childe intertwined their hands once more.

“Let’s duel soon,” Childe said, his voice casual. A smile wounding upon his lips. “If you’re good enough, I’ll take you on as a rival.”

Zhongli glanced at him, his gaze piercing.

“Or if you’d like, the traveler can fight ya,” Childe continued. “Either way, you’re gonna get a few rivals soon enough.”

Childe turned to face Zhongli, smiling once more.

“And maybe you won’t detest your rivals this time around, yeah?”

Zhongli wrapped his arms around Childe, then. His touch was a gentle thing as he leaned his head upon Childe’s shoulder. And as he spoke, Childe could almost hear a smile upon his voice.

“I can’t detest you, Childe,” Zhongli said quietly.

His words were spoken softly, gently. Almost like- like-

Childe wrapped his hands around Zhongli, dispelling his extraneous thoughts.

“With my charming personality? Of course not,” Childe jested.

Zhongli laughed then, a quiet thing.

Childe had a strange thought, then. Of staying like this for more than a moment. Of being able to wrap his arms around Zhongli later. Of this being not just a rare occurrence.

Since they were forever friends, surely this would be permitted, right?

Zhongli leaned back slightly, his expression incredibly warm within the summer night.

Almost hesitantly- he leaned closer before pausing and reaching for Childe’s mask, gently moving it over Childe’s face.

Childe had half a mind to be confused before Zhongli leaned closer again, a shyness to his eyes.

Zhongli leaned closer then, and Childe stared in rapt attention.

It was not to be- as a passing breeze and Childe’s scarf covered his vision as a moment passed.

Zhongli leaned back, then, as Childe’s scarf settled. His smile gentle as he glanced towards Liyue again, his hands no longer wrapped around Childe.

Childe wondered just exactly what he had missed within that moment.

Zhongli gently moved Childe’s mask aside again, his fingers lingering on the corners of Childe’s lips for a moment too long.

The god of geo stood here, once, contemplating the defense of his dominion, Zhongli thought.

And now, he stands, kissing his husband’s mask in place of the man himself- perhaps out of cowardice. Unbefitting of a god, he was sure.

Osial would deride him. If he was seen by it.

But Guizhong would smile, if she were to see him now. A gentle, "I'm glad, Morax."

Zhongli smiles back.

Chapter Text

Fireflies led the way to their descent of Mount Tianheng. No lanterns to speak of upon the path they chose to embark upon other than the moon bright in the sky. The lights of Liyue a distant sight as Childe gripped Zhongli’s hand closer.

What they talked about, Childe couldn’t quite remember. His mind gone hazy from the mellow night and wine still remnant on his tongue.

Childe was it was good, though, whatever they talked about.

Zhongli’s smile was a testament to that.


Childe woke up the next day with more of an inkling of where the fuck he was than the day before. And less startled about the god sleeping next to him.

It was a good start to the morning. With appropriate appreciation for Zhongli’s eyelashes.

The pillow was still hard as fuck though, reminding Childe insistently that he must replace it. Lest his brain becomes actually hard as rocks from evolution.

Childe felt strangely relaxed despite the harshness of his pillow. Laying still inside the quiet room, the barest hint of sunlight peeking through the blinds inside Zhongli’s room making for an oddly mesmerizing sight as the dust danced about.

The room, Childe noted, smelled like Zhongli. A mixture of the earth and nature. Of mornings with hints of dew upon bloomed flowers. Glaze lilies, Childe decided. Not ones grown in the pavilions of Liyue but instead out in the fields of Qingye village. And the barest hint of sweetness from berries from the wild, undoubtedly used for tea purposes lingering in the room.

Lingering on the person himself, Childe thought, glancing at Zhongli by his side. Then glanced at the teapot upon the table. It was still steaming. A weak trail though- definitely chilled before Childe had awoken.

“Good morning,” Childe said. His voice smoother than yesterday.

Zhongli cracked his eyes open then. Unrushed and graceful as he sat up. His clothing just as unwrinkled as though he hadn’t slept in them. Making Childe felt slightly more conscious about his own crumpled clothes and his scarf that was half on the ground, having been cast away during the heat of Liyue’s summer night.

“Good morning, Childe.” Zhongli smoothed out his hair. Tied neatly as it were the night before. Zhongli must’ve been quite still while he was sleeping, Childe thought. Or perhaps he redid his hair in the morning, whilst the whole of Liyue was still asleep and the sun has not yet gone to work.

“Morning,” Childe echoed. “How was your morning so far?”

“Wonderful,” Zhongli said succinctly. His hands wrapped around Childe’s gently. A weight that Childe had not noticed earlier, but suddenly quite prominent.

“Well,” Childe started, his voice half giddy. “What kinda tea are we having this wonderful morning?”

“Green tea,” Zhongli answered. Moving to fold the blankets in his lap gently with one hand. Smoothing over wrinkles. A task that no doubt took longer than it usually would.

Childe sat up in turn. His own free hand rushing to help. While Childe might not be a man concerned with neatness, he certainly had some practice with the art of making a bed for his younger siblings.

It was more uncoordinated than Childe would’ve liked. A far cry from having both his hands to work in unison.

He certainly wasn’t complaining when their hands touched, though. Their eyes soon meeting as they do so. Faint mirth was to be found in Zhongli’s and Childe was sure that his smile reflected in Zhongli’s eyes was telling enough.

After they both stood up, they found themselves sat around the table. Zhongli easily pouring Childe a cup of tea. Fast as he was, not a drop spilled.

Childe briefly wondered if his tongue was going to burn after immediately taking a sip of the tea. To his surprise, the tea wasn’t as scorching hot as yesterday.

“I suppose I won’t be needing ice today,” Childe jested. Taking another sip of the tea.

“All for the better.” Zhongli took a sip of his own tea.

More surprisingly, Childe wasn’t sure if he really would’ve minded his tongue being burnt again.

Was he even somewhat disappointed?

Childe promptly decided that, instead of thinking about it, he was going to down the whole cup and forget about it.

Once again, Childe was surprised at his own quiet disappointment at not burning his tongue by downing the whole cup.

Zhongli raised a very refined eyebrow.

“While I’m glad you are enjoying the drink,” Zhongli started, bringing up a handkerchief. “I would be happier if you were to not court choking.”

Childe laughed while leaning towards Zhongli. The handkerchief coming to dab gently around his lips.

“I enjoyed it very much,” Childe said. Grinning as he felt the fine fabric of the handkerchief depart from his face. The barest hint of disappointment dissipated as Childe’s grin widens.

Zhongli poured him another cup of tea, to which Childe downed in one gulp.

Zhongli raised an eyebrow again, and Childe grinned.

Once more, Zhongli brings up his handkerchief.


Zhongli adjusted Childe’s scarf, staring at the dirt on the edges of it with a scrutinizing gaze. Almost as though he wished to burn it off.

“I’ll wash it today,” Childe said, defending his favored scarf. A hand raising to block Zhongli’s burning gaze from it.

Zhongli nodded and Childe started to ramble before Zhongli found something else to stare into burning.

His plan seemed to work, as Zhongli only stared at him, after that.

That didn’t quite stop Zhongli from fussing over his messy hair, though. But at least he was sure that Zhongli didn’t want to burn his hair off.

Hopefully.


If there was one thing Childe didn’t expect after starting his morning stroll to the Northland bank. It would be precisely the traveler barrelling into him.

“You,” the traveler said with a pointed glare.

“Hey now, what’s up?” Childe said casually. Hands readying for battle.

“You,” Lumine said through gritted teeth. Their flying companion giving Childe the same pointed stare. “You are going to sit down and explain, Childe.”

“Wha?”

Goodbye Zhongli, hello death, thought Childe as the traveler started to physically manhandle him away.


“Knock, knock.”

“No,” Zhongli said, taking the last peaceful sip of tea. A geo contruct already forming to block the intruder.

The window opened regardless.

“Wow, so there's a new structure in your room, huh. What an interior design you are!” Venti teased, weaseling around the pillar to drop into Zhongli’s very clean room before his entrance.

I am this close to redesigning you, Zhongli thought and said as much as he closed the distance between his teacup and the table.

"But wait, that's touching-"

Chapter Text

“Hey- hey, do you wanna let up a little there?” Childe implored, having to crane his neck to make sure that his scarf wasn’t tugged too harshly.

At this rate, Childe was afraid that his scarf might not survive this encounter at all, and neither would his airways.

Paimon gave him an unimpressed stare. Clearly judging his perceived weakness.

“Seems like you’ve gotten weaker since the last time we met you,” the flying object said. Her gaze a flat show of superiority. Clearly having never her scarf be tugged so harshly by Lumine.

“That’s a bit too harsh, don’t you think?” Childe croaked, a weak smile at his lips.

Paimon stuck out her tongue, smug as can be. Childe had half a heart to thank that his little siblings were nowhere near as cheeky- or at least, not yet.

He was sure that cheeky would be a much better look on them than it would be on Lumine’s flying ball of smugness, though.

As if sensing his thoughts, Paimon gave a great scowl as she floated off to the next stand of food. Her attention caught by the scent of delicious offerings in the air. Her floating speed much greater than her usual dawdling by the traveler’s side. Though Childe supposes there really was no average speed for, well, floating compared to walking.

To think of it, was floating the same as walking for Paimon? Childe furrowed his brows at the question. Having recalled some mention of Paimon bemoaning her exhaustion when trailing the traveler as they were dashing.

Paimon, as if sensing his thoughts about the inner mechanics of a floating being, turns around to give him one of her flattest staredowns yet. Floating even faster as though to either confuse or get away from him. Or perhaps just to go faster towards her destination of that grilled fish restaurant just yonder.

Lumine, on the other hand, seemed intent on her march towards the ever-so-familiar Liuli Pavillion. Clearly having set her sights on goods much higher than that of your local grilled fish. And also perhaps also grilling Childe, too.

No one had the heart nor the will to stop the determined Lumine from her destination with one (very) fancy private room. The word “very” having been emphasized so clearly that he can already feel the weight of mora being taken from his wallet. Paimon even echoing the sentiments with her own proud crossed arms, the imposing air of the action taken out by the shimmer in her eyes at the promise of fine dining.

Having now being lead towards a very fancy private room, far away from most of the other customers, Childe counted the odds of his body being discovered before it was too late.

Not very likely, was the conclusion after seeing Lumine’s steely gaze.



“My friend-” Venti said with as much gusto as one could with only two words and not much else before having to dodge their fate of being pummelled by the ground. “Such an important occasion and you didn’t invite me?”

“That is why I didn’t invite you,” Zhongli said dryly.

“How cruel,” Venti complained. Dodging agilely and weaving his way through the numerous jagged spikes that have somehow wound up in Zhongli’s room.

Zhongli stared at Venti, non too impressed as Venti sat himself down in front of him. Bottles of dandelion wine placed between them, akin to a peace offering.

“So, what’s happening?”



“It’s been pretty nice in Liyue lately.” Childe laughed awkwardly. “Nice weather, nice people- well, that one is debatable, nice mountains, nice rocks-”

Lumine held her chopsticks menacingly.

“Uh- I guess you don’t want to know that, huh-”

“You and Zhongli,” Lumine said. ”What happened.”



“We are married,” Zhongli said bluntly. Taking some bottles of dandelion wine away from Venti



“We’re lifelong friends, now,” Childe said proudly.

The gaze that Lumine gave him was the most withering thing he had seen in a long, long while.

Childe gave back a casual smile.



“That’s cool,” Venti said, opening a bottle of wine with practiced hands. “But, have you, you know.

His eyebrows wiggled.

Zhongli’s eyebrows twitched.



“So, what you are saying, is that you two are,” Lumine looked at him meaningfully, ”Just friends.”

Childe nodded. “Yeah?”

Paimon floated around them, her eyebrows doing an odd thing as though she was trying to look investigative but instead ended up looking more like a clown.

Although, the way they both looked at him made him feel more like he was the clown.

Which couldn’t possibly be true.



“So, what you are telling me, through your silence,” Venti said, completely unprompted. “Is that thing hasn’t been going so well.”

“We held hands,” Zhongli argued.

“How scandalous,” Venti drawled. Oddly singsonged.

“You’re scandalous,” Zhongli shot back.

”You’re scandalous,” Venti copied, his eyebrows wiggling again as his voice rose higher.

Zhongli promptly took Venti’s wine away from him.

“You’re the prudest, are you happy now?”

“You’re the prudest,” Zhongli replied.



“You held hands with him through the streets of Liyue,” Lumine said. Unprompted.

“Yeah?” Childe ate a piece of the almond tofu.

“Very tightly,” Lumine said. “Shoulder to shoulder.”

“Yeah?” Childe said again.

“How very friendship of you,” Lumine said. Her eyes deader than the fish on the table.

Or was it more deaded?

“Totally,” Childe replied. “We’re very friendship.”



“So, you know, was it like that kind of handholding or,” Venti made a face. “The other kind of handholding.”

“Interlaced fingers,” Zhongli answered.

“So it was the other, other kind of handholding,” Venti said matter of factly.

Zhongli really wondered what goes on inside Venti’s mind.



“Would you hold my hand,” Lumine said through gritted teeth, as though she were being force to say it while being held at sword point by a treasure hunter. “And lead me through Liyue.”

Childe made a face between ‘ew’ and ‘I’d rather you pummel me.’

“That’s not very friendship of you, is it,” Lumine said. Less like she was being held at sword point and more like she was trying to hold him at sword point.

Childe made a face between ‘aren’t we battle comrades’ and ‘our relationship teethers on you trying to pummel me’.



“And you shared one scarf, too?” Venti snickered. “How cute.”

“It was very…” Zhongli paused for a moment. “Domestic.”

Venti mock gasped.



“You strolled down Liyue harbor while holding hands and sharing a scarf,” Lumine said. Scrutinizing Childe’s very existence.

Childe nodded, wondering if Zhongli would enjoy the almond tofu.

“And, it was also very friendship.”

Childe nodded again.



Venti appeared slightly shocked. “You actually kissed him?”

Zhongli nodded.

“That’s incredi-”

“On his mask.”

“That’s incredulous.”

“You’re incredulous.”



“-And like this wind came in just when he was leaning in and-”

Lumine looked positively the farthest thing from thrilled.



“Well, it’s kinda romantic, I guess,” Venti said with great reluctance.



“What did you think he was going to do there?” Childe pondered out loud. “Did you think I had some dust on my mask, or something?”



“Sounds like your spouse is quite bold, too.” The wiggly eyebrows returned once more.



“I mean I wouldn’t mind if he leaned closer more often, you know,” Childe said conversationally. “He looks pretty, so I wouldn’t mind seeing his face more. And seeing him, too. But his face is him but he’s not his face, you know-”

Lumine takes in a deep breath.

“Are you sure you’re just friendship with him.”

Childe blinked. “What.”

Lumine inhales in a deep breath.

“Are you sure that you’re just friendship with him, Childe,” Lumine said pointedly. “And not wanting to be romantic with him.”

Childe was sure his brain went boom.



“All pleasantries aside,” Venti said, moving aside from a jagged stone pillar. “I’m glad you found someone.”

Zhongli hummed softly.

“A lifelong love is but a fleeting sonnet,” Venti said. “Perhaps that is why it is all the more wanted.”

Zhongli snorted, pouring more wine into Venti’s cup. “Perhaps you ought to stick to being a drunkard.”

Venti laughed.

“Perhaps.”



“Do you ever want to hold someone’s hand and lead them through Liyue under the moonlight while sharing your scarf platonically, Childe?”

Childe blinked.

Lumine sighed. “Fine, baby steps.”

“- well, I’m not a baby, I'm a Chil-”

“Think of a friend,” Lumine continued. “Any.”

Childe was sure that his… thing with Lumine was closer to friendship than whatever the fuck he has going on with the rest of the Harbingers.

“Now, do you want to hold hands with them?”

Childe pointedly makes a face.

“Okay, do you want to hold their hand and lead them through Liyue under the moonlight while sharing your scarf with them?”

The mental image of that was so far out of his realm of imagination that Childe would rather not think about it at all. For he was sure that Lumine would rather go for his throat than try to share a scarf with him and the moonlight would make for a sight for a battle rather than a stroll.

“And do you think they’re pretty, Childe?”

Childe scrunched his brows. “I do think you’re pretty, like a clean sword, you know. Very sharp and cool, that kinda pretty, you get it right?”

Lumine stared at him. Urging him to continue.

“Like very ready to battle, kinda pretty? Uh, your beauty and Zhongli’s aren’t similar, though,” Childe continued, rambling. “Like he’s more like Liyue- that kind of beauty, like he is Liyue’s beauty, you know. Like all the shiny rocks and sharp edges, and reflective streams where you can see the fish to fish up during the winter time when it glazes over with ice- that kinda thing. Like while your whole thing.” Childe gestured at Lumine. “Is sorta like a golden sword. Zhongli’s thing is that he is Liyue, you know. Like his eyes are the cor lapis and his nose is just nice and his jaw is probably godmade or something and like his hair, and like the way his lips just goes curvy like the crescent moon when he smiles-”

“Do you want to kiss Liyue’s lips, Childe.”

Partly taken off guard Childe answered, “Yeah?”

Lumine stared at him.

Childe stared back.

“Do you love Liyue, Childe.”



I do, Childe thought before promptly realizing. Holy fuck I think I might have just friendzoned myself for forever.

Zhongli half wondered how he was going to explain the drunk bard half hanging off the window to his husband when he returned.

Chapter Text

Childe sat there, stumped.

His mind as fried as the chicken on the table, though at least that chicken didn’t friendzoned itself for forever and now is pining and now doesn’t know what the fuck to do.

He wishes he were that chicken. Because at least he’d have his life figured out.

And by figured out, he meant that he’d be dead and deep fried so he wouldn’t have to realize the implications of what the fuck was going on in his life anymore.

Lumine stabbed into the chicken viciously with her chopsticks.

Childe whimpered a bit.

“No, Childe, you cannot just give up like this,” Lumine said, taking apart the fried chicken.

“I didn’t,” Childe answered. “Turns out I already gave up a few days ago.”

Lumine stared at him, unimpressed.

“Have you ever seen a race that ended right at the starting line? Actually, a race that had its racer shoot his own foot a few days before the race and he didn’t even know that there was going to be a race.”

Lumine stared at him in silence. “There’s no such racer.”

“The racer is me, I am that racer and my love life is that race,” Childe said.

Lumine scoffed, not even sparing him the dignity of hiding it.

“Do you get what this means,” Childe said, desperation lining his voice. “I’m going to be friends with the finish line for the rest of my life.”

“It’s a nice finish line,” Lumine added.

“It is,” Childe agreed, nodding.

“A very Liyue finish line,” Lumine said.

“Anyways,” Childe interrupted. “I am now adrift in my own life.”

“It’s not that bad.”

“I’ve friendzoned myself for forever.”

“And?”

”Lumine,” Childe said with the sadness of a shot racer.

Lumine sighed.

“For fovever.” Childe stressed. “Forever, like- I’m gonna grow old and withery and he’s gonna grow pretty and stronger and he’s gonna just pat me on the back one day and just ‘Hello, old friend’ and I’ll probably die from grief or something. That kind of forever.”

Lumine stared at him again.

“Forever, fo-”

Lumine set her chopsticks down to interrupt him.

“Just unfriendzone yourself,” Lumine said.

“Holy shit,” Childe said.

They stared at each other.

“How am I supposed to do that, though.”

“Seduction.”

Childe gaped.

Lumine rolled her eyes.

“Lumi-”

“Honeypot.”

Childe sputtered.

“Work that charm.”

Childe choked.

Lumine stared at him with the utmost seriousness.

“Tap Liyue’s ass.”

“It’s Liyue’s beauty-”

“Awaken Liyue’s pillar.”

“Lumine, please-”


Afterward, he was dragged back to Zhongli’s home by a very exasperated Lumine, having paid for their meal by fishing out Childe’s wallet with all too much expertise.

Childe took in a few deep breaths as Lumine stared at him with the eyes of a dead fish.

“Go in there,” Lumine said.

“Give me five more push-ups.”

Lumine prodded Childe’s cheek with her shoe.

“Liyue’s-”

Childe stood up, as fast as the wind. “Okay, okay.

After taking one more deep breath, Childe pushed the sliding door open with greater strength than he expected. Having heard a snap somewhere. But nonetheless, Childe leaned against the side quickly, placing his head to rest against his hand as his arm pushed against the frame. His other hand slotted in his pocket as he gave his most charming smile.

“Venti, no-”

“Hello, Zhongl-”

A bottle of wine promptly crashed into his chest and shattered.

There was a moment of silence, spared for the small hiccups coming from a green figure.

The green boy stared at him. “Oh, hi.”

“Hi.”

“Oh man, am I gonna,” the green boy hiccuped. “Interrupt something?”

The boy’s eyebrows wiggled aggressively.

“I will be interrupting your time left on this plane,” Zhongli said with a fierceness that Childe hadn’t quite heard before. A jagged stone pillar coming up from the ground, to be nimbly dodged by the boy.

“Well,” Lumine said quietly. “At least one pillar was awakened.”

Childe sputtered once more as Lumine shuffled her way past him.

“No, Venti, you may not wiggle your eyebrows suggestively at him,” Lumine chided. “And no, Zhongli, please don’t kill Venti for wiggling his eyebrows.” She glanced at Childe. “And being a terrible drunkard.”

Venti wiggled one eyebrow. “Hi, traveler.”

Lumine sighed. “Please ignore him, Zhongli.”

“Nooo, don’t,” Venti giggled. “I’m too cute to be ignored.”

“More like too aggravating,” Zhongli said quietly under his breath.

“Regardless of differing opinions,” Lumine said, lugging Venti onto her back. “Please do excuse us.”

As Lumine carried Venti off, she passed by him once more. Shooting him a meaningful gaze.

“Awaken that pillar.”

His guffaw wasn’t helped by Venti’s all too increasing in speed wiggling eyebrows.

Having said so, she placed a hand on his back and gave him a push.

He landed face-first against Liyue’s bossoms.

Lumine gave him a thumbs-up as Venti laughed before she ran off. The door closing behind her.

Childe grew all too aware of his own heartbeat and that of Zhongli’s. Alive and well, beating in tune with that of a human. In place of a gnosis.

Liyue’s eyes stared down at him, telling of a golden age. A warm smile tugging at his lips.

“Hello, Childe.”

“Hello, Zhongli.”

Past the haze of Zhongli’s smile, Childe became increasingly aware of his wet shirt and where his face was positioned.

Childe gave a shaky burst of laughter that he hoped was more ‘wow, that was odd’ than ‘man, that was great.’

Childe then moved to lift his head up, smiling at Zhongli in a move that he hoped wasn’t too awkward.

They stared at each other for a brief moment before Zhongli tilted his head slightly. “Ah, your shirt is drenched.”

“Ah,” Childe nodded. Glancing down at the drenched mess that was his shirt. Smelling of dandelions.

With a casualness that was entirely unfounded, Childe shook off his shirt. Unfolding his scarf beside it to dry both.

Zhongli’s breath shuttered for a moment as Childe glanced back at him.

Zhongli’s eyes, which once flitted the room looking for damages left by the wind, were now fixated on him. There was an intensity about it that made Childe’s back snap to attention. All too aware of the thin distance between them.

And before he knew it, Zhongli’s eyes flickered up to his face, tilting his head. Rather than the curiosity it usually held. There was now something scrutinizing about it, something intense and fiery.

Childe didn’t feel like a honeypot, but he was confident in his charm. So he smiled at Zhongli, halfway casual and halfway of something. It was all teeth.

Almost as though they were teetering towards something, Zhongli’s hand landed on his chest. Entirely gloved but all too warm as Zhongli hummed quietly.

“It’s still a bit wet, would you like me to fetch a towel for you?” His words were spoken closer to a whisper, a quiet rumble, like fire and thunder, to his words. Light as his touch as he traced a small circle into Childe’s chest, entirely out of idleness.

In a move that Childe wasn’t sure if out of sheer desperation or eagerness, Childe grabbed Zhongli’s hand and pressed it closer to his chest. Half a mind wondering if Zhongli can hear the pitter-patter of his heart and half a mind to say, “can you wipe it off for me?”

He smiled again, fire in his veins as he clasped at Zhongli’s gloved hand. Wanting to intertwined it with his own.

Zhongli’s eyes widen an iota before he smiled, a hint of fangs beneath his lips.

And, oh, Childe didn’t know he’d like that.

But he did, and so the fire burned. His heart entirely carrying the brunt of the whole operation. Childe’s courage fizzling out as he lets go of Zhongli’s hand. Perhaps he could pretend that this was all jest.

“Ah, well, but there’s no towel, so-”

Zhongli glanced at him, licking his lips slightly.

Childe’s mind briefly thought that Zhongli wouldn’t even need a towel.

The thought of it burning itself into his mind and refused to let him out of his grips as his heart went faster still.

Zhongli moved then, taking off his jacket with a careful deftness. Leaving behind a mere grey dress shirt. A fancy thing, no doubt. For Zhongli was adorned in wealth.

Almost as though he was reluctant to part from Childe for a mere towel, Zhongli held up his jacket towards Childe’s chest.

“Shall we get to drying you off?”

Within the Liyue summer, as they were mere hair breaths apart, a mere jacket and shirt between their bare skin, Childe smiled.

“Yep, partner,” Childe said breathlessly. His mind running with thoughts of grabbing a wine bottle and pouring it over Zhongli. Watching as his hair droop and his shirt sticking to his frame.

A moment passed as Zhongli quietly dried Childe’s chest.

Perhaps driven by some wild instinct, Childe grabbed a wine bottle and carelessly poured it over his chest.

“Woops,” Childe said, entirely too facsimile as he grinned.

Zhongli stared at him. His hands freezing in place.

Childe grabbed Zhongli’s jacket before tossing it to the side. “It’s-” He laughed a bit to stave off the growing sense of nervousness. “It’s a bit too wet, yeah?”

Zhongli’s breath shuttered once more as his eyes matched Childe’s own.

Childe grabbed Zhongli’s hand once more, “I guess you’re gonna have to use your hands.”

Zhongli stared at Childe for a brief moment before he smiled, his fangs showing through cleanly as he brings his hand up to his lips. Biting down on his glove to take it off with deliberate slowness.

“I suppose my gloves are too wet,” Zhongli said quietly, closing the distance between his hand and Childe’s chest. His smile was that of a dragon’s.

Childe briefly wondered what happens if things were to happen while they were still forever friends.

Because while that was- holy shit was he going to accidentally start the friends with benefits route.

Zhongli wondered if his husband was free tonight.

Chapter Text

It started simply enough, Zhongli’s hand on his chest. With a quiet intensity in his eyes that promised something.

Although his eyes were that of a dragon’s, his hands were of a man. Warm and solid against Childe.

Childe wondered if he could feel Childe’s heart going into overdrive at that moment. Spurred on by the smell of wine in the air.

And if he can, if he would be willing to drive it up further.

Zhongli, as though reading his mind, leaned down to place his lips over Childe’s heart. Eyes flickering up to read Childe’s expression as he gently kissed down Childe’s chest. His eyes a warm thing as Childe’s face grew flushed.

A semblance of a smile forming on Zhongli’s lips as he kissed downwards. His hand working in tandem with his lips as his hand teased Childe’s chest, Childe exhaling softly as he worked his hands around Zhongli’s buttons, working slowly to unbutton Zhongli’s dresshirt while appreciating the softness of the fabric.

“It’s a nice shirt,” Childe said, a quiet humor in his voice.

“A fine shirt,” Zhongli echoed back. Kissing further downwards as Childe laughed softly, tugging on it slightly.

“Too bad it’s there to hide all the fine stuff,” Childe teased, glancing at Zhongli’s bare skin through the unbuttoned thing as he wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Zhongli seemed faintly amused as he leaned up to kiss between Childe’s brows. “I could say the same for yours.”

“Well, it’s all off now, isn’t it.” Childe laughed again, motioning at his chest. “Can’t say the same for yours.”

He reached out to trace a circle onto Zhongli’s collarbone, thinly veiled by the shirt.

Zhongli leaned partially into the touch before smiling faintly at Childe. “I suppose we’ll have to fix that.”

Childe gulped slightly as Zhongli moved his hand to fiddle with the remaining buttons on his shirt, almost playfully.

Almost like he was teasing Childe, Childe thought, feeling arid heat burning through him.

“Come on,” Childe said, his voice halfway faint as a smirk wound its way onto his lips. “Don’t hide the goods.”

As though those were the cues he was waiting for, Zhongli unbuttoned the rest of his shirt deftly. Shrugging off his shirt with casual ease and elegance that belonged to Zhongli.

Childe knew he had seen the brief hints of a well-built body as Zhongli’s statues made no effort to hide them in all its marbled glory. But to see them in the flesh was another matter entirely.

“You’re really built, huh,” Childe said. Wondering if his throat was as dry as he thought it was.

“I am not a building, Childe,” Zhongli retorted, folding his shirt to leave it by the side.

Childe let out a startled laugh at the utter disparity between that and Zhongli’s reply. The elegance in the way he had shrugged off his shirt and the clumsy way to which Zhongli could never quite get human lingo.

It was so very Zhongli that Childe couldn’t help but lean to kiss Zhongli’s cheek. A fond gesture that left him wondering if he could kiss Zhongli’s lips, too.

Or if that wasn’t cool since they weren’t lovers.

Yet.

Because Childe has ambition, goddamnit.

An ambition that involved a lot more feelings and a-

Zhongli turned to kiss Childe instead. His lips quirking up slightly as he brushed his lips over Childe’s. It was a faint thing, that. A bare trace of warmth and touch. That left Childe wanting all the more.

And almost as though he were asking for permission, Zhongli gently nipped Childe’s lips. A gentle thing but a promise of more if Childe allowed it.

And Childe did.

Nodding with too much vigor to pretend to play coy as he pulls Zhongli closer, wrapping his arms around Zhongli’s neck as he leans in. Kissing Zhongli as though it were a fight. With all the passion and only a bit of the sting. Less like who would come out on top, but more about the give and take.

It bore the awkwardness of a teenager’s first kiss as they began slowly, exploring. Childe closing his eyes for a brief moment before opening them to lock with Zhongli’s, his eyes intense and jagged, like the very rocks of Liyue. Contrasted by his lips and tongue, which were all the more soft and warm.

And quietly, Childe broke the kiss first, taking in a breath of air before leaning back in to kiss Zhongli. Less like a teenager and more like a lover.

Someday, Childe thought. Breaking the kiss again.

Childe was always the first to break their kiss, and yet always the first to jump back into it, his hands starting to wander down Zhongli’s back. Pressed flush against it as he trails downwards, his hands sometimes groping, sometimes having his nails grazed against Zhongli’s back- a light touch, but an unspoken sample given of what was to come.

His back was another god-given thing, defined and solid. And Childe wouldn’t mind exploring it more another day. To kiss down it and appreciate it for what it was.

Another day- another day, Childe thought as his hands moved down further.

As Childe’s hands reached Zhongli’s ass, he smiled mischievously as he spanked Zhongli. Zhongli’s eyes widening slightly as the touch registered, Childe smiling back in challenge as he leaned in to kiss Zhongli again. A brief, but passionate thing.

Zhongli’s hand moved down to unbutton Childe’s pants, his hands unhurried but his eyes boring a different story. Sliding Childe’s pants off as he lets it lay to the side, crumpled as he leaned down to bite at Childe’s collarbone. Childe hissing softly before he laughed, tugging slightly at Zhongli’s hair. Challenging him to do more, to take more.

Zhongli bit down harder in response, hands reaching under Childe’s boxers to stroke at his dick roughly. Childe groaned, reaching to unbutton at Zhongli’s pants in turn to return the favor. His hands rough and fast while he bites down upon Zhongli’s neck.

Zhongli’s hand upon his waist grew heavy with his grip. Barely restrained as though he wanted to manhandle Childe do what he’d wish with him.

Childe was sure he’d like that. The thought of it spurring him to groan quietly as his hips buck into Zhongli’s hand. Stroking Zhongli faster, as though trying to drive the both of them towards a finish line of somekind.

Zhongli’s breath grew heavy by Childe’s ear as it grew hurried, his chest moving alongside his breathing. Up and down, strangely hypnotic and Childe had a brief thought of leaning down to kiss at it. Trace over it with his lips and bite down on Zhongli’s chest and nipples. To tease and mark him for all he’s worth.

As he thought so, Zhongli bit down upon his chest. A bite that was sure to leave marks amongst his myriad of scars.

Childe hissed in pain and pleasure, his hips bucking as he tugged at Zhongli’s hair. Zhongli giving a quiet gasp at that. Light and faint but still audible.

Childe tugged at Zhongli’s hair again, spurring Zhongli to bite down before giving licks at the bite. Almost apologetically as Childe laughed, a breathy thing as his hips bucking again into Zhongli’s skillful hand.

Driven by a wild thought, Childe leaned in and whispered in Zhongli’s ears.

“Don’t worry, I like it.” To demonstrate his point, Childe leaned in to bite at Zhongli’s ear just as roughly. “No worries, yeah?”

Zhongli’s breath stuttered for a moment.

“I like the pain.” Childe said casually, half worried at Zhongli’s slowing hand. “We can heal these all tomorrow-”

Childe groaned harshly as Zhongli bit down to break skin, his hand moving to smear the blood around the wound as he bites down again.

“I don’t think we will,” Zhongli said quietly- roughly. His eyes, that of a dragon.

And his fangs, those, too, were of a dragon’s.

And that was what pushed Childe over the edge, chest heaving as his cheeks grew redder still. Coming over Zhongli’s hand as the man gave nary a word before bringing his hand up to lick at the thing, utterly refined despite the clear obscenity of it all.

Childe gulped, his blood rushing south once more.

There was a moment of reprieve before Childe leaned down, licking his lips before placing them upon Zhongli’s dick. A quiet groan coming from above him as Zhongli rocked into Childe’s mouth almost out of instinct.

His hands grabbing at Childe’s hair, a shiver running down Childe’s spine as he glanced up. Wondering if he was going to be taken and used. There was a quiet thrill in the thought as Zhongli glanced down at him, utterly divine and dominating.

“May I?” Zhongli asked, the what was unspoken because they both knew.

Childe gave his best nod while his lips were still around Zhongli’s dick. An image that was probably comical but Childe didn’t have enough time to think about it as Zhongli snaps his hips, tugging Childe’s hair roughly.

Childe gasped around Zhongli’s dick, laying there to take it as Zhongli grew closer to his release with every snap of his hips. Sharp and concise as his brows furrowed and his breath, labored. Because of Childe.

God, Childe could get off on that image alone, and he was. Feeling his dick rising once more with the tugging and the mere image of Zhongli.

“You look very wonderful, Childe,” Zhongli said, his breath uneven as his hips snap with every word. “Taking my dick so eagerly.”

Childe shivered slightly, none too prepared for Zhongli and the way he said his name.

“I wonder how you’d look,” Zhongli continued, bearing witness to Childe rutting slightly against the sheets. “Taking my dick in another place.”

Childe groaned at the thought, breathing heavily through his nose as a hand moved to stroke at his own dick.

Zhongli smiled faintly amidst his harsh breathing. “I suppose we’ll find out soon.”

The end drew near all too soon with one final snap before Zhongli came down his throat, his dick all taken by Childe’s eager mouth as Childe swallowed every drop.

Zhongli groaned as his hips slow, exhaling roughly as he moved Childe’s head up from his dick. Childe giving a teasing lick before laughing softly.

“Liked that, didn’t ya.”

Childe gasped as Zhongli pushed him down, his back press flushed against the sheets as Zhongli stroked his dick purposefully.

“You did, too,” Zhongli said, a quiet rumble to his words. “If this is any evidence.” Stroking Childe’s dick roughly.

“What can I say,” Childe replied. “I like a wild ride.”

Zhongli gave a soft laugh as he leaned down to kiss Childe again, his hand continuing to stroke Childe’s dick as he spread Childe’s legs apart with his other hand.

A soft rustle of the cabinet opening and closing as Childe kissed Zhongli back passionately. Something wet brushing against-

Childe had half a mind to break the kiss as a finger slammed into him roughly.

Zhongli glancing up at him as the finger stills, Childe giving a laugh in response as he moves slightly.

“Ya had lube there all this time?” he said breathlessly, smirking at Zhongli. “What a… a naughty consultant.”

Zhongli, as though to prove a point, inserted another finger inside Childe, making him gasp quietly.

“And what will you do about that?” Zhongli replied, kissing Childe’s thighs. Perhaps a thighs man, Childe noted.

“I wond- ah!” Childe groaned as Zhongli’s fingers brushed against his prostate. Sending a jolt of pleasure up his spine.

Zhongli smiled, normally innocuous but suddenly, within this moment as he moves his fingers to graze against Childe’s prostate, not so much.

“Hey-” Childe’s sentence was once again interrupted by Zhonlig’s third finger entering him. Childe gave a halfhearted glare as he tugs at Zhongli’s hair. “I see what you’re doing.”

Zhongli’s hummed quietly, as his fingers brushed against Childe’s prostate again. Childe groaning softly as he wraps his legs around Zhongli.

“Just fuck me already,” Childe said, tugging Zhongli’s head away from his thighs to his lips as he kissed him. Giving a choked-off moan into the kiss as Zhongli removed his fingers to slam into him.

“That’s… that’s more-” Childe gasped quietly as Zhongli moved. “Like it.”

Childe made a soft sound as Zhongli shifted slightly, glancing at Childe as he moved slowly. His dick moved to graze against Childe’s prostate slowly as Childe groaned again, his hips bucking to push himself further onto Zhongli’s dick.

With a gasp, Zhongli moved his hips faster. Finally fucking into Childe as though that was all he was waiting for. Childe wrapped his legs around Zhongli, then, his hands moving to yank at Zhongli’s hair. Unfastening the tie around them as Zhongli’s hair finally fell loose. Falling around them almost like a curtain as Zhongli fucked into him. The yellow tinted tips falling upon the sheets as Childe took it upon himself to tug at it.

Zhongli’s dick grazed against Childe’s prostate again as he stared at Childe intently, his hand pressed against Childe’s navel as though emphasizing whose dick was in him.

Childe kicked at Zhongli’s back slightly to spur him on.

“May I?” Zhongli asked again, quietly within the space between them, his lips within kissing distance if Childe tilted his head up.

And Childe did so.

“Fuck me,” Childe groaned. “Fuck me so hard I can’t walk right tomorrow.”

Zhongli moved then, moving his dick out to slam back into Childe, angling towards his prostate, drawing a loud moan. Filling Childe with his dick as he moved with a rough tempo as his teeth grazed Childe’s neck before biting down. Breaking skin once more with the effortless strength of a god as he continued to fuck Childe upon his length.

Childe’s hands which once gripped Zhongli’s hair grew loose with each thrust before they finally plopped down onto the sheets, weak and twitching just as he was. His legs drawing tighter around Zhongli’s waist as he beckoned Zhongli to fuck into him more, take him apart more, bite him more- just- more.

“You look so handsome,” Zhongli said, biting down Childe’s chest with each word “Taking my dick with your ass so easily.”

“So pretty, like this,” Zhongli’s hand once again hovered over his navel, fucking further into him as Childe’s toes curled. “Like a pretty courtesan.”

Yes, yes, Childe thought and said as much, growing louder with each pronounced movement of Zhongli’s hips.

“But you’re my courtesan, aren’t you,” Zhongli purred, with the deadly grace of a dragon that was not to be defied. “My treasured Childe.”

Yes, yes, Childe echoed, moving to fuck himself further onto Zhongli’s dick. No longer minding how his words were interrupted by Zhongli’s harsh thrusts.

“All these pretty, sluttish-” Childe groaned as Zhongli drew out to slam into him again. “- noises. They’re for me, aren’t they. Because of me.”

Childe moaned pitifully as he pushed himself further onto Zhongli, trying to push the both of them over that edge. His muscles growing tense as he closed his eyes briefly to the overwhelming pleasure. Feeling his ass being raised into the air by Zhongli’s hands grabbing them roughly to gain further purchase to fuck into Childe. Biting down at every markless spot on Childe’s skin, chasing his own pleasure.

Childe felt used, and god, he didn’t know he would like that. Finding his release at the thought and view of Zhongli fucking into him with furrowed brows and burning eyes.

Zhongli continued to fuck into Childe’s oversensitive body after that, groaning and panting as he licked his lips, his fangs out in full view as his lips stayed parted.

With a final slam into Childe, Zhongli’s hips finally stilled as he came inside him. Filling Childe up with a groan.

Childe panted quietly as Zhongli settled to nipping at his neck, massaging his ass gently.

Come spilled out of him as Zhongli drew himself out slowly, almost as though he was treasuring the moment as he smeared the come over Childe’s hole.

Childe’s dick twitched again, as though it was giving its best effort to rise once more.

“I hear you like a wild ride,” Zhongli said slowly, quietly.

And god, Zhongli was going to be the death of him, Childe thought as Zhongli took out the lube once more. And this time, it wasn’t going to be used on him.

Childe sat up, laughing quietly as his dick grew eager at the image of it all.

“I do,” Childe said, moving to sit Zhongli down on his lap. Licking his lips before he moved in to kiss Zhongli.

It was going to be a long night.


In the morning Childe wake up all the more groggy than most morning but surprisingly spritey as well.

Holy fuck, Childe thought, glancing at Zhongli next to him. We’re totally friends with benefits now. For forever.

I get to fuck that for forever, Childe thought, thinking entirely with his dick.

But only as friends, Childe’s dick thought. And that was an entirely sobering thought. It’s not the same.

Baby steps, Childe decided in the end as he laid down once more.

Zhongli wondered if his husband needed more rest.

Chapter Text

It was a quiet morning.

Childe awoke once again by the pure strength of his inner clock. His eyes opening blearily. Blinking in rapid succession at the blurriness of his sight.

Zhongli laid in front of him, his expression one of peaceful rest. His eyes were closed and his breath even. His hair falling in tresses over his shoulder and onto the sheets. Spread out between them both, akin to inky branches within a painting. The faint gold shimmer beneath his eye was nothing more than a smudge now, in contrast to its usual perfunctory appearance. No doubt smeared by something from last night. Whether it was from Childe’s overeager kisses or Zhongli’s, they’d never know.

Zhongli’s skin was peppered in marks. Entirely from Childe. Red and prominent on Zhongli’s normally unstained skin. There was a slight wonder that bloomed within Childe’s chest. A feeling of, “Oh, I did that.”

He brushed his hand slightly over one of the marks, on Zhongli’s shoulder. A bite mark. Made in passion as Childe had smiled and taken on Zhongli’s challenging gaze for what it was.

I made that, Childe thought. I made that, when I tapped Liyue’s ass.

Holy shit, Childe thought. An unrestrained thrill running through him as he smiled. That was me. Childe, god fucker.

That was a title that Childe would’ve never thought he’d gain in his life.

But, well, that was mighty impressive, wasn’t it.

Another victory over Lumine, Childe thought sagely. An achievement she’ll never be able to get.

“Awake?” Zhongli asked quietly. His eyes opening slowly. A fond smile upon his lips, and holy shit, yeah, Childe tapped that.

“Totally,” Childe croaked. Out of pure attraction to the way the word rolled off Zhongli’s tongue. “So much awake.”

Zhongli laughed quietly. Like wind chimes and bells. “I am glad.”

“Me, too,” Childe replied. Fingers moving to twirl one of Zhongli’s locks instead.

A faint rustle as Zhongli moved slightly, a hand reaching over to smooth over Childe’s hair. His gaze gentle, and so were his hands.

Childe’s breath hitched as he stared, before he, too, moved to tuck some of Zhongli’s stray locks behind his ear.

A moment passed, then two. Some native Liyue birds chirped from the outside. Reminding Childe that, yes, there was a whole world out there. Continuing to march onwards.

“You look nice,” Childe blurted before long.

The birds chirped, as though to mock him.

Zhongli smiled, gently.

“You do, too,” Zhongli said.

Childe didn’t know if Zhongli understood what he meant. It was not just in how the way he looked right now, disheveled and marked. For while that was indeed attractive- it wasn’t the same as the way Zhongli was utterly Zhongli and not some distant god. Who wore his clothes just like his armor, and whose divinity shown through even with just a single gesture.

Zhongli looked nice, like this, Childe thought. Relaxed and comfortable. Laid out before Childe in a way that was Zhongli. Just for Childe’s eyes. With marks caused by Childe, marks that stayed- like the way a human’s would. Childe half wondered, blasphemously, if Zhongli had let them stayed.

It was a fleeting thought, but a sinful one.

Childe wanted to say all of that, wanted to clarify.

But he couldn’t.

Because this Zhongli wasn’t just his Zhongli. He was Liyue’s Zhongli. And to think so would be presumptuous.

Not yet, Childe reminded himself. Not yet.

“Thanks,” was all Childe said. Half of a reply. He smiled, wide and big, to compensate for the words that couldn’t be spoken. At least not yet.

Zhongli sat up, then. His hair moving about as they now fall over his back. Strong and muscled, just as the man was. Childe couldn’t help but stare, wanting to trace the scratches upon the man’s back.

But it was the morning now. And friends once more, they shall be.

Not for long, Childe thought. Promised himself. One day.

One day he’ll be able to spend all the time dallying in bed with Zhongli and there would be nothing else anyone can do about it. Because then they’d be in love and that was what all lovey-dovey couples were allowed to do.

Childe sat up as well. Picking up the discarded clothes off the floor. Tossing them on without much care. He felt clean, thank god for Zhongli dragging them both to the showers last night- and his clothes weren’t much dirtier. He’d had much dirtier clothes, and at least these ones weren’t smeared with blood or mud.

He’d change out of them later, of course, at the earliest convenience.

Zhongli tuts quietly behind him. A sound that was once innocuous but now reminds Childe of things that were not so.

The man stood up, uncaring of the way that he was utterly and entirely naked. Childe gave an entirely nonplatonic one over of Zhongli’s body. Finding it disappointing once the man put on his trousers. Covering up Liyue’s glorious ass and legs once more.

There was a precision about the way Zhongli put on his clothes, Childe observed idly. Every fabric tucked in properly and every wrinkle smoothed out entirely. It was entirely Zhongli. And entirely attractive.

After Zhongli was done being an attractive businessman, he brought over a folded dress shirt towards Childe. It was a gray thing, its fabric rich and smooth to the touch.

“For you,” Zhongli said, half reaching to unbutton Childe’s shirt. “This is dirty.”

The word dirty, once again, made Childe’s brain go to places.

Childe supposed that this was what banging a god with a voice which was the prime example of sensuality does to a person.

“Oh, yeah,” Childe said, the unprime example of sensuality. “Totally.”

Childe wanted to ask Zhongli to unbutton his shirt but then Childe would probably be smited by the heavens itself, so instead, he shrugged off his shirt with none of the grace but all of the aggressiveness of a dancer.

Surprisingly enough, Zhongli’s shirt fitted quite snugly on Childe’s frame. Not quite like his own shirt, now. It was a bit too tight around his arms, he’d say. But well, it worked. Childe got tossed a pair of fine trousers, too. A far cry from his own which was much more suited for combat. And less for businessman things.

Zhongli reached to unbutton his pants, more like a mother hen and less like a lover, and Childe’s brain decided to quit while it was ahead.

“We’re going to get this dirty,” Childe said. “If you decided to unbutton this button, Zhongli.”

“Oh,” Zhongli said, the picture of eloquence.

“Yeah.”

Childe quickly got dressed while Zhongli’s mind was occupied. As while he did want to do the do, today would be quite an unfortunate day to explain to his subordinates why he was late while wearing the Wangsheng Funeral man’s clothes.

After putting on the fine pair of trousers, Childe had a brief moment to note that he was a bit taller than Zhongli. But overall, the clothes fit snugly.

Childe made his way towards the door. Carrying his old clothes with him in a way that he hopes wouldn’t scream suspicious.

Zhongli’s hand brushed through his hair for a moment, as though he was combing through it. Childe glanced back at him. The ever so neat Zhongli and he laughed.

“Oh, come on, I’m not that messy, am I?”

Zhongli hummed softly. “Well, you are.”

Childe gasped, affronted.

“It adds to your charm,” Zhongli said, his lips lifting up in that smile of his. “Roguish charm, I’d say.”

Childe couldn’t help but grin.

Zhongli leaned in to kiss him, then.

It felt domestic- strangely enough.

And as Zhongli pulled back, Childe wondered how different would it be if Zhongli kissed him as though he loved him.

If Zhongli kissed him like they were forever lovers.

The thought stole his breath away.


Childe got a lot of stares on this fine day.

And he knew precisely why.

He was wearing the Wangsheng Funeral man’s clothes. And the marks on his neck left no doubts upon what exactly had happened. Even his subordinates weren’t spared from the intense staring.

Childe was left wondering if he should feel proud or flustered and settled for a combination of ‘Yeah, I totally banged that. As friends.’

Lumine passed by, then, blood on her skirt and sword. Probably coming back from a commission or something.

She stared at him.

He stared back.

“Hi, Lumine-” he said, as casually as he can muster. “Operation honeypot was a success.” He winked.

“Good,” Lumine said, nodding in what was probably approval. “Congratulations on your relationship.”

Childe laughed pathetically.

Lumine stared.

Childe wheezed sadly.

“Childe, no.”

“We’re still totally friends.”

“Childe, no.”


“You banged,” Venti said bluntly.

Zhongli grunted.

“Ew.”

“I’ll ew your face.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Neither will your face.”


“When I mean honeypot, I didn’t mean just the honeypot,” Lumine stressed.

“Listen- one thing led to another and that thing led to-”

“You let your desire to tap Liyue’s ass get the better of you,” Lumine said gravely.

“You could’ve phrased that better, you know.”

“The truth never sounds pretty, Childe.”

“Well, Zhongli sure sounded pretty.”

Lumine stared at him with those dead, mournful eyes.

“We are friends with benefits now,” Childe said.

“Stop sounding so proud of that.”

“I am proud of that,” Childe whined. “I can tap Liyue’s ass for forever, forever.”

“You can tap Liyue’s ass for forever, forever,” Lumine said. “But can you do that while harboring your massive man crush on Liyue for forever, forever.”

Childe laughed weakly.

“While only kissing as friends, forever, forever,” Lumine said. “And the historians will write you two down as best friends for life who kissed platonically.”

Childe whimpered.

“Exactly.” Lumine stared at him, her eyes dead.

“But Zhongli was right there,” Childe said.

Lumine stared.

“And he was so hot, Lumine,” Childe continued. “He took his gloves off and that meant things.”

Lumine sighed.

“And I am a weak, weak man. Beholden to my desires,” Childe bemoaned. “What historians will write about us anyways?”

“I ensure you,” Lumine said gravely. “Someone will.”

Childe didn’t think she was joking.

“And Xingqiu will help them publish.”

“Lumine please,” Childe begged. “You’re not a historian.”

“I never said it will be me,” Lumine said.

They stared at each other.

“It appears,” Childe said. “That you’ve cornered me.”

Lumine grunted.

“So, uh, what do you want?”

“Go pick up all the romance novels,” Lumine said gravely. “It appears that you need a lesson in emotional honeypot.”

“So it’s emotional honeypot now, huh,” Childe said bitterly.

“It was always an emotional honeypot.” Lumine stared at him. “No one wanted you to tap Liyue’s ass without feelings.”

“We felt things.”

“As friends.”

Childe groaned.

“So it’s time you learn.” Lumine pointed at the direction of the bookstore, with her dead, cold eyes. “About emotional honeypot.”


“I’m glad you’re happy now, I guess,” Venti said, laying afloat in the air. “As ew as it may be to think about it.”

“Then don’t.”

“How can I not?” Venti aggrieved. “The evidence is right there.”

Zhongli grunted.

“You can just make it go poof, for both our benefits,” Venti bargained.

Zhongli looked at Venti with cold hard eyes.

“You’re so domestic it hurts,” Venti bemoaned. “Now all of Liyue knows you’ve tapped that.”

“Good.”

Chapter Text

Childe opened the door to Zhongli’s room once more. A rose between his lips and smile wrapped around it.

“Hey there,” Childe started before noticing two pair of green eyes looking straight at him. Very much unnerving. “Zhongli and… friend.”

He was pretty sure he heard Zhongli mumble something at that, but he wasn’t exactly sure, what.

“We’re totally friends,” the green interloper hissed, before turning back to Childe. “Greetings to you, too, Zhongli’s… friend.”

His eyebrows wiggled.

Childe laughed awkwardly before he regained his confidence, seeing Lumine’s gaze boring into his back.

Emotional honeypot my ass, Childe thought as he amble his way towards Zhongli.

“Hey there,” Childe said, in what was hopefully a flirtatiously light voice as he thread the rose between zhongli’s hair. “You come here often?”

He was pretty sure he heard the doorframe creaking as Lumine gripped it in her bare hands. Venti’s lips quivering as Zhongli glanced up at him.

“Yes,” Zhongli answered plainly. “I come here often.”

“Uh,” Childe continued, glancing down at his scarf. “Cool, cool.”

”Childe,” Lumine hissed from behind him. ”Don’t tell me you have a cheat sheet.”

Childe looked up and away from his scarf in guilt.

”Childe, no.”

“So… what do you do here, often,” Childe continued.

Zhongli’s brows does that little scrunch and Childe was sure he was in love.

“I… rest,” Zhongli said. “Amongst other things.”

“Cool, cool,” Childe said, his fingers itching.

”Don’t you dare do the-”

Childe does fingers guns to try to shoot away the awkwardness.

Zhongli tilted his head slightly. “What is that gesture?”

“Uh,” Childe croaked. “It’s a… a gesture of- uh-”

“Love.”

“Friendship.”

Two voices said at the same time.

Lumine stared at Venti with those owlish eyes of her. “It’s love.”

Venti stared back mullishly. “It’s totally friendship.”

“No,” Lumine said. Slamming the door to Zhongli’s room open as she entered through it, Childe wincing. “It’s love.”

Childe wanted to combust.

“It’s totally friendship,” Venti argued. “Kaeya told me so.”

Childe was pretty sure this Kaeya fellow was going to be murdered one of these upcoming days, judging by the look of pure grievance in Lumine’s eyes.

“When,” Lumine asked. A ghastly voice that reminded Childe of the pure definition of terror.

“When Diluc did it towards me,” Venti said. “Except his was more like.” Venti does a weird slashing motions with his fingers. “That.”

“That’s just violence, Venti,” Lumine stated simply.

“No,” Venti gasped. “Not Diluc.”

“Yes, Diluc.” Lumine nodded, almost like she approved of this Diluc. And Childe noted the name, for future battle purposes.

“And I thought we were getting somewhere,” Venti bemoaned. Placing his hand upon his forehead as though he had been struck by some enormous tragedy. “Towards friendship.”

“Don’t make it sound so noble,” Lumine interjected. “You just want free wine.”

“That may be true,” Venti conceded. “But my point still stands.”

Lumine stared at Venti.

“Kaeya did the finger gun to me so it’s certainly friendship,” Venti continued.

Childe was now certain that this Kaeya wouldn’t live to see tomorrow’s morning.

“He could also be meaning violence,” Lumine stated.

As she promptly finger guns at Venti.

Venti and Lumine stared at each other.

Childe stared at his fingers, wondering just how did this all start.

“So, what exactly does it mean, Childe?” Venti asked. Deadly serious.

Lumine stared at Childe.

“Surely, you don’t want to violence Zhongli, right?” Venti asked, his eyes turning just as owlish as Lumine’s.

Lumine stared at Childe.

Childe gulped.

“Ah- I, well-” Childe cleared his throat to buy time. “I guess- uh-” Friendship would probably be the safe, nice, choice. Very neutral and unintense. Compared to whatever the fuck violence was. It should’ve been a simple choice. But it wasn’t. Because well, Childe doesn’t want to be just friendship with Zhongli and if he said it was friendship then maybe he would be demoting himself back to just forever friends and not taking a step forward towards forever boyfriend and-

“Oh, yeah, I totally mean violence,” Childe said. Having a smidgen of a second to react to his words before he threw down his gloves. “You, me, violence, Mt. Tianheng.”

That was somewhat a date, right?

He doesn’t think so but-

Childe does the finger guns again, feeling like he would rather violence himself.

Lumine pats his back. And Childe felt marginally better, like he had proven himself to a mentor of somekind.

Zhongli finger guns him back and Childe really wants to violence whiever part of his brain thought it’d be good to do finger guns.

Which was probably all of his brain.

“So,” Childe began again, “Did you fall from the sky or-”

“My exuvia did,” Zhongli answered.

Childe faltered for a moment.

“... that explains why you’re so.” Childe squinted to read the words. “Heavenly.”

“Heavenly as in dead or,” Venti began, to be quickly shushed by Lumine.

There was a brief moment of silence for Zhongli’s exuvia.

“That’s how you know Wangsheng Funeral has good services,” Childe started. “It’s very nice to... take care of the whole exuvia.” Childe tried very hard to not think of how he had stabbed his hand through it.

“Thank you,” Zhongli said, smiling faintly.

There was a brief silence, again. For Zhongli’s exuvia.

“Are you going to violence Zhongli anytime soon?” Venti queried. His eyes oddly round.

“Oh- yeah, that.” Childe, glad for a distraction, took it. “Yeah, let’s go, Zhongli.”

Zhongli stood up then, graceful as ever. Gesturing towards the door for Venti and Lumine to exit.

Unfortunately, his guests both dove out the window. Or, at least, Venti did. Childe had no idea where the fuck Lumine went.

All that was left was the two of them, within an increasingly silent room.

“So, nice day, huh,” Childe said, feeling the start of another terrible mistake as he squints at the words.

Zhongli smiled faintly, picking up Childe’s gloves.

“Oh- thank you,” Childe said. Reaching to grab them from Zhongli’s hands.

Zhongli, instead of handing over the gloves, moved to put them on Childe’s hand slowly instead.

Holy shit, Childe thinks distantly. This is like one of those-

“Which romance novel did you read?” Zhongli asked quietly. His lips surprisingly close to Childe’s hand.

Childe’s breath stuttered before he laughed awkwardly.

“Oh you know, just things,” Childe replied vaguely. “Here and there.”

Zhongli smiled faintly, his hands reaching over towards the back of Childe’s scarf. His gloved hands smearing the words written on Childe’s scarf.

Childe gulped.

Zhongli laughed quietly. A faint thing. Wind chimes and bird songs.

“I-”

“You are a bank loan,” Zhongli said quietly. “Because you have gotten my interest.”

It was possibly the worst line you could’ve said to a man who was in charge of the Northland Bank.

And yet, it worked.

“I- I supposed I am,” Childe said, smiling in what he hope wasn’t screaming smitten.

“The Rich Fatui Fell in Love with Me,” Zhongli intoned the title of a familiar novel. “It’s that one, yes?”

Childe didn’t quite know how Zhongli makes that title sound sensual, but he did.

Zhongli smiled faintly, slipping on Childe’s other glove. Their hands both behind fabrics and yet that did not deter Childe from wanting.

And god, did Childe want.

“I would recommend,” Zhongli said, his hand gripping Childe’s own. “Reading something else, next time.”

“Oh?” Childe managed to croak out.

“The Dragon Fell in Love with Me,” Zhongli answered. “I think you’ll relate with the protagonist more.”

Childe’s breath hitched as Zhongli smiled, fangs peeking through.

Holy fuck what does this mean, Childe’s brain screamed. Is this a platonic novel recommendation? Is this a hint at him telling me how to seduce him? Is this just a random recommendation? Is this telling me that our chances of romance are just fictional? Is this his way of telling me that he’s a dragon?

I suppose he likes romance novels, Zhongli thought.

Chapter Text

Lumine was standing idly under the shade of a big tree. Sharpening her sword with the professionalism that was eerily familiar to the blacksmiths of old.

Venti, for his part, was sharpening his harp.

Childe was thrilled to see an inventive usage of an instrument, although Zhongli doesn’t seem to share his enthusiasm.

“Are you going to music me into submission, Venti?” Lumine asked dully. But the sharp edge of her sword bellays her insult.

“Maybe,” Venti answered cheerfully, his eyes an eerie shade of green that once reminded Childe of trees but now was rather leaning towards dendro slimes and their malice for humanity.

“Paimon calls you tone deaf for a reason, I suppose,” Lumine said, stabbing her sword into the tree nearby with great vigor.

Venti laughed.

It wasn’t a good laugh.

“I prefer drunkard,” Zhongli interjected. Crossing his arms as his cute rock thing floats around him.

It was much less cute when it would be big and coming right at his face, but, Childe digresses.

“Now, now,” Childe interjected. “Maybe save the fighting talk for the, hah, fighting, yeah?”

Childe did a little applaud for his own word play.

Venti’s eyes bore into him. It was a dead, dead thing. Round and endless. His eyebrows unmoving.

Wow, never again. Childe thought, looking away from Venti.

“Okay, tough crowd,” Childe said after a moment, his hands stopping their clap.

Venti gave Zhongli a look.

Zhongli only stared back impassively.

Lumine also gave Childe a look. It was one of great disappointment. But what about Childe wasn’t a disappointment to Lumine at this point.

They stood around for a moment, doing nothing in particular as Lumine pulled her sword out of the tree. The thing wobbling for a moment from the pure force of it all.

Childe glanced down at his scarf.

Lumine clapped her hands loudly before he could read out the words.

“Shall we start.”

Childe nod, his attention drawn away from the scarf at the promise of battle as he marched towards Lumine’s side.

They stood around for a moment again. Childe playing with the ends of his scarf as Zhongli stood to the side. Partially closer to Venti than he were Childe and Lumine.

Oh, yeah, Childe can’t wait to get his ass beaten by Zhongli.

To distract himself from how hot that was, Childe opened his mouth.

“So, uh-”

Venti threw the harp in his face.

“Childe,” Lumine said, the loudest he’d heard from her in a day.

Childe floundered.

“That was very unfair of you, Venti,” Lumine chided. Holding up Childe’s head with one hand. Not in the cradling sense. No. Because Childe was literally held up by his head. As in, his head was gripped by Lumine’s freakishly strong hands.

“Hey- hey, now, Lumine,” Childe pleaded.

“You said start,” Venti said, batting his eyelashes coyly.

“Hey- hey-” was Childe’s token protest as Lumine’s grip grew increasingly stronger around his forehead.

“Clearly not everyone was ready,” Zhongli said pointedly, crossing his arms further.

“She said start,” Venti insisted.

“She asked whether we should start, not that we should,” Zhongli argued. “Therefore, you are wrong.”

“She said that as a statement,” Venti said.

“It was a question,” Zhongli argued once more.

“Are you really doing this to me, Zhongli.”

“We all must be fair,” Zhongli replied. Closing his eyes as he recrosses his arms.

“We are teammates,” Venti whined. “You should be on my side.”

“There is no contract such as that,” Zhongli said. “I apologize.”

That was the most half assed apology Childe has heard in his entire life. But that could be forgiven, since nothing else about Zhongli was half-assed. Especially his full as-

As if sensing where his thoughts were going. Lumine shook Childe’s body around for a bit.

“You-” Venti started before realizing that he was probably not going to get anywhere with Zhongli. “Fine, I see how it is, traitor.”

Venti pulled out a flute and aimed that at Zhongli’s head.

It was a headshot, Childe noted as it hit Zhongli square in the forehead.

“What kind of archer are you?” Lumine questioned. “To use such fowl arrows.”

“I said earlier,” Venti said with chilling seriousness for a man holding a harmonica. Holding it as he pulls upon the bowstring. “That I was going to music you into submission.”

Holy shit, Zhongli was about to get assassinated by a harmonica.

Zhongli, fortunately, summoned his shield.

Fortunately, since, well, no assassination by harmonica.

Unfortunately since Zhongli proceeded to toss his only weapon at the harmonica to stop it in its path.

Perhaps as a show of dominance for he clearly could’ve just let it collide with his shield like a rational human.

But that was hot, too, in its own way.

Lumine stared down at Childe, clearly disappointed.

Holy shit, Childe thought. Staring at how Zhongli picked up a rock and threw it at Venti’s face. Very hot.

“Use your meteor, you coward,” Venti hissed.

“I don’t need my meteor to beat you,” Zhongli said disainfully. Picking up another rock. “Drunkard.”

Venti hissed like a dying cat, taking out a clarinet.

“What happened to only starting the fight when you say that you’re ready,” Venti said spitefully, shooting the clarinet for Zhongli’s throat.

“You attacked me first,” Zhongli said simply, summoning a pillar to block the clarinet. “Therefore, it is null.”

Venti, Childe could see, visibly decided to murder Zhongli as he summoned a vortex.

Zhongli stood his ground, surprisingly enough. That was before Venti went and kicked Zhongli, taking the man off his feet as he became swept in the abyss.

Zhongli, deciding that he didn’t want to die alone, grabbed onto Venti.

And Venti, with a great scream, was dragged into his own vortex.

Childe watched it all unfold with blinding horror as the vortex started to gain instrument and pebbles that fell out of Venti and Zhongli’s clothes.

So that was where all the cor lapis went, a part of Childe’s brain commented in the ongoing chaos.

Where the fuck were all these pebbles, another part of Childe’s brain wondered.

And Zhongli, very intent to take Venti out. Summoned his meteor at that moment.

Also ready to take himself out apparently.

It was with a great crash that Venti’s screams eventually stopped. As the vortex and smoke fell away to a Zhongli and Venti that was laying upon the coarse ground. Venti looking like he had crossed over and Zhongl blankly staring up at the sky.

Lumine dragged Childe towards the two fools. Depositing him on top of Zhongli as she dropped his head before lugging Venti onto her back.

Lumine gave him a wink and-

Oh god, was that the plan?

I don’t remember this happening in the Rich Fatui Fell in Love with Me, Childe thought desperately as Lumine gave him a thumbs up and Venti wiggled his eyebrows for reasons unknown.

Childe tried to gently cradle Zhongli’s head to his lap. Zhongli giving a wince.

“Uh-” Childe started. “Nice weather.”

Zhongli glanced up at Childe, no longer staring up blankly at the sky. “I suppose.”

Childe waved around the dirt floating down to their faces. “Uh-”

They locked eyes at that moment. Zhongli’s eyes a touch brighter than usual, from a divine light. His hair in the same state as it fell to the ground.

“Do you come here often?” Childe asked.

Zhongli laughed, his eyes crinkling as his cheeks dimpled.

“I do,” Zhongli replied. Tugging Childe’s head down.

And, oh, his lips were soft, Childe thought as Zhongli laid a kiss upon his cheeks.

It reminded him, of how they were only lovers under the cover of the night.

“What about you?” Zhongli queried, grasping at Childe’s hand. “My rich fatui.”

Boom, went Childe’s heart. And all he could master was a laugh in return.

My, echoed inside Childe’s head. And it made him wonder. My, my, my.

If he was Zhongli’s, Childe thought, then does that mean Zhongli was his as well?

“I- are you mine?” Childe asked. Can you be mine?

Zhongli paused for a moment.

“My forever partner?” Childe continued. My friend- just mine.

Zhongli laughed. Windchimes and bird songs.

“Of course.”

“Neat,” Childe said. Shooting finger guns as he laughed. The heat of ‘mine, mine, mine’ running in his head and heart. Heavy as stone.

One day, Childe thought. One day.

He held Zhongli’s hand with his, intertwined them as he kisses Zhongli’s cheeks. Less like a lover, more like a friend.

“I should come here more often, then,” Childe quipped. “To meet you.”

Zhongli smiled, quaint and beautiful.

“How often?” Zhongli asked, kissing the back of Childe’s gloved hand.

“Maybe everyday,” Childe said.

“For?”

“For the rest of forever.”

Zhongli laughed. “Maybe diversify your reading, Childe.”

Childe laughed, his scarf in the wind.

Wow, my brain really remembered all those lines, Childe thought, to distract himself from the pain of friendship. I didn’t even need a cheatsheet.

I suppose I owe that drunkard a few things, Zhongli thought as he glanced up at Childe, beautiful under the light of the sun.

Chapter Text

The moment was soft. It was great. It was wonderful.

And then suddenly, the wind decided, “yeah, fuck that” and blew straight into Childe’s face with the force of a jackhammer.

And the back of Childe’s head barely missed the pointed end of a polearm by a bare hair widths.

But it was alright since Zhongli was in his lap and that view could heal any injury alone.

Probably not, but the thought mattered.

“Ah,” Zhongli uttered. Perfectly peaceful as Childe felt the rising of the curling cry of bloodlust from behind him. “Xiao.”

Childe glanced up and came face to face with a fellow mask connoisseur.

“Nice mask,” Childe said. Smiling casually.

The newcomer, Xiao, probably yaksha, didn’t give a reply. But if intense aura of murder could say something, it would probably say, “You aren’t living past today, Fatui fucker.”

And something about, “Don’t you ever talk to me or my mask ever again.”

And, well, Childe would very much prefer to live past today. But he wasn’t about to say that. Since murder will equate to a fight. And Childe and probably negotiate terms of his survival after a fight.

Hell yeah, solid plan, Childe’s brain said.

Fuck yeah, Childe’s body said.

Zhongli, however, seems entirely oblivious to the rising Intent of Murder by the new addition. Instead, taking to patting the ground on his other side. Seemingly intent on making this some sort of intensely awkward picnic or something.

Angry murder Xiao, surprisingly, sat down. His legs crossed aggressively and his dark aura of intense decapitation rising. Light sparks of verdant peeking through the intense dark mist around him.

Coincidentally enough, he rested his polearm on his knee. Slotting it between his arm as the pointed end poked at Childe’s stomach.

Cool. Childe thought. He definitely wants to murder me.

Xiao of imminent murder stared at Childe. Even while Childe couldn’t exactly see his eyes. He just knew.

Childe does finger guns.

Xiao moved a finger to slit past his neck.

Childe smiled, it wasn’t entirely teeth but it wasn’t entirely soft in nature either. More a kind of ‘yeah I know you want to kill me, and I really want to punch your mask, too, but can’t you see how peaceful Zhongli is right now.’

Mask man grunted. In what was probably, ‘yeah, Zhongli’s pretty peaceful.’

A moment of silence passes. Nothing between either of them except the smell of death in the air and the future threat on Childe’s life hanging over them both.

Wonderful.

“What are you doing here, Xiao?” Zhongli asked gently. If it were spoken by any other, surely it would sound more accusatory. But coming from Zhongli, it sounded welcoming. Like home and a hearth.

Yeah, I love this man, Childe thought. Entirely unabashed.

“Visiting you,” Xiao spoke respectfully. To which Childe would understand, since the person he was talking to was Zhongli and who could be rude to Zhongli?

Some, probably, but that was a rhetorical question since Childe would take care of their rudeness. Childe and his wallet. Or his blade, sometimes. No stabbing, since Zhongli wouldn’t probably appreciate that to Liyue citizens, but yes to showing off how nice and sharp his blades were with a pointed suggestion.

“And assessing your new partner.” The word partner was said with such vitriol Childe could practically feel the hate.

Or maybe that was the pointed edge of Xiao’s weapon slowly drawing closer to his abdomen. Either or.

“Oh,” Zhongli said. Smiling peacefully as though the word partner was said with fond affection instead. “I’m glad you took the initiative, Xiao.”

With a great harrumph, Xiao nodded. “Of course.” Though if his red ears were any indication. The compliment very easily got to his head.

“What is your first impression of my, ah, partner,” Zhongli queried. The word partner, from his tongue, was spoken with much more affection and fondness than when it came from Xiao’s.

Childe wanted to kiss him. But he had the feeling that if he did, Xiao would probably murder him right then and there or dropped into a dead faint from pure anger.

Or both.

“He’s…” Xiao glanced at him. And Childe had a distinct feeling that he didn’t even want to look at him. “... existing.”

“Why yes I am,” Childe said with great humor.

Xiao looks entirely unhappy with the prospect, though. As though offended by Childe’s mere existence.

Which, judging by Xiao’s emitting aura of unalive, was true.

Zhongli nodded, entirely soft and serious. “I am also glad.”

It also made Childe soft.

Which definitely offended all the particles in Xiao’s body.

It took Xiao a moment to speak. Either overcome by his emotions or perhaps pondering on the exact words.

“Are you… content,” Xiao said quietly. “Being by this… man’s side.”

Zhongli smiled quietly. “Of course, Xiao.”

The moment felt private, somehow. And Childe suddenly felt as though he had intruded upon it. Taking a step into a quiet moment that he was never supposed to see.

Xiao sighed cryptically before nodding.

“I’ll still trial by combat him,” Xiao said. Seemingly regaining his acidic calm from before.

Zhongli laughed. “Of course, Xiao.”

“And if he fails…” Xiao trails off ominously.

“No, Xiao,” Zhongli chided patiently, almost like a father. “I cannot just break off our partnership.”

Childe was pretty sure that Xiao promised death, but he was glad to hear Zhongli affirm that he really did want to be relationship with Childe forever.

Even if it were friendship forever.

Xiao gave a sharp click of his tongue. Drawing back his weapons slightly, and also slightly confirming Childe’s thoughts that he really did mean death.

“Cloud Retainer is… unimpressed,” Xiao said. “That you didn’t tell her.”

Zhongli nodded.

“She sent me to send her… regards,” Xiao continued. “She stated how she wished to hear from you before being forced to come here to give a gift for your union.”

Hopefully, she wouldn’t try to murder him. But Childe also wanted a battle.

It was a complicated life he led.

“Mhm, I shall reach out to her,” Zhongli replied calmly. His lips lifting in a small, quiet smile.

Xiao then stood up, patting off the dust and grass off his pants. His aura of imminent murder less prominent than before. Making Childe wonder why he wasn’t facing trial by combat right now.

But his answer would come soon enough.

Xiao glanced around for a bit. Seemingly looking for something before giving up.

“Ah,” Zhongli started. “He is in Liyue, with the traveler.” There was a sly smile about him now. His posture entirely smug in some way.

Xiao’s blush reached down to his neck. And Childe sorta had a feeling of wanting to coo. Like a mother bird watching her child leave the nest.

Or something.

“I wasn’t looking for anyone,” Xiao said, half hissing half muttering.

It wasn’t as intimidating as he meant it.

“Ah, well, the wine is still in my room, if you so wish to return it to him,” Zhongli said noncommittally.

Some gears were clicking inside Childe’s head. As he starts to realize why exactly Xiao didn’t feel much like stabbing Childe today.

And as Xiao scrambled for an answer, it clicked.

Oh, Childe thought. So eyebrow wiggles were his thing, huh.

Youth, Zhongli thought fondly.

Chapter Text

The knowledge that there was someone out there who liked wiggly eyebrows was already farfetched for Childe’s mind.

Less so when the interested party was the title holder for the longest teenage rebellion phase.

“Is Xiao serious?” Childe asked curiously. Placing his hands behind his head. Looking up to the sky, then Zhongli. Perhaps wanting either one to give him an answer, and opting for Zhongli, who probably knows more than the sky itself.

Zhongli smiled faintly. “He is always serious.” As though reminiscing upon something, Zhongli quaintly placed two fingers beneath his chin, a quiet contemplation. “Especially in matters of the heart.”

That sounded fond. Childe categorized. Warm and in whatever gods have in place of a heart. Showing itself slightly in the serious exterior of a man, poking through the cracks in his stony case.

“I’d think so,” Childe said. Saying nothing about anything. “I mean, he looks serious.”

“He does,” Zhongli said. Amusedly soft. “It’s… something.”

There was another word lurking on the tip of his tongue, Childe could hear it. But perhaps Zhongli did not want to vocalize it, or perhaps he knew that Xiao wouldn’t like hearing of such things. So it goes unspoken.

Childe can hear the wanting, though. The slight push and prod in the word. Almost as though Zhongli was testing his bounds with Xiao. Wanting to get closer and yet not tread across any lines.

Childe had a feeling that if any other had tried, they would be met with a deadly pointed tip to the face.

“Something,” Childe said. A smile on his lips. “Yeah, he’s sure something.”

Something in the way of an aged adepti acting akin to a teenage hoodlum going about his way to become as antagonistic to everyone else around him.

Never to Zhongli, though. But perhaps there had been a time.

That time was probably long past.

Longer than Childe had been alive, probably.

It reminded Childe of humans and gods, of life and un-unlife.

Human lives were quick and brutal. Almost like a candle, burning brightly and then- not.

It made something build in Childe’s throat.

A thrumming of ‘what if, what if’. Images flashing through his eyes of a possible tomorrow.

Of a possible no tomorrow.

Because that was what men like him lived like. Every day could be his last. Even if that wasn’t likely. But just a nick of a blade in the wrong place- and it’d all be over, really.

Childe half wanted to clear his throat, but the other half was thrumming with the thought, ‘what if, what if.’

It was building and building, Childe noted absentmindedly. His surroundings twisting and moving. As time does. As the sun sets far beyond, beyond. And the leaves take on an orangish hue with the sun itself. As the shadows fall across their faces. A leaf blowing and entrenching itself into Zhongli’s hair. Falling off smoothly with a quiet motion of Childe’s hand. Reaching out to reach something. Something tangible and there. Right in front of him. Bathed in the hue of the sunset. Warm and earthly.

Tangible.

Childe gulped. Hearing of distant birds and windchimes.

“I-” Childe opened his mouth, his words a raw thing. “I like you.”

Like, like, more than like.

Zhongli smiled quietly in the setting sun. As though he knew and was waiting for Childe to say those words.

Like, like, do you more than like me, too?

Childe wanted to ask, but all he could muster was a smile. As he reached for Zhongli’s hand.

“Yeah,” Childe laughed, feeling himself weaken. Feeling the condemnation of the sunset upon his skin. “Like you lots, pal.”

Zhongli raised an eyebrow quizzically. Questioningly. And Childe wondered if Zhongli could hear the falsity of the pal, etched onto Childe’s tongue, and yet never more has he wanted to say something else.

It only took a moment (it never takes Zhongli more than a moment) for Zhongli to seemingly reach an understanding as he grasps Childe’s hand back.

“I like you, too,” Zhongli said whimsically. “Pal.”

The word was spoken teasingly. Almost like a quiet joke between the two of them. A joke that perhaps Childe was supposed to get, and yet he doesn’t. It frustrates him somewhat. But moreso confuses him. Wondering between the small lines and margins. Exactly what Zhongli meant.

Pal, pal, pal.

When did such a word get so complicated?

Childe wondered, if this was a romance novel, how exactly would it be resolved?

The question was utterly inane. For in romance novels, all things are confirmed with a kiss. Their fates already intertwined and sealed. Neatly packaged into a perfect marriage by the end.

Real life doesn’t have such luxuries.

Poking and proding. Poking and proding, Childe thought. The thrumming once again building within himself. He felt compulsion. He felt excitement. As though the sunset and day had taken out all of his restraint.

“I-” Childe started again. “I love you.”

Zhongli smiled faintly again. Almost as though he knew.

He opened his lips and-

“Pal,” Childe said. And laughed. As though he were telling a joke and was not the joke.

Luckily, Zhongli seemed just as amused. “I love you, too, pal.”

Childe smiled, swinging their hands. “Yeah, love.”

Great, Childe thought to himself. You’ve dug yourself into a hole.

Great, Childe’s other him thought. Now bury yourself in it you stupid fuck.

“Pal,” Zhongli said, seemingly more amused than Childe would’ve thought. “Did you learn that from a novel?”

Childe laughed the confusing question off.

“Snezhnayan things,” Childe said. “Or it’s just- I dunno, part of my vocabulary.”

Zhongli hummed. Doing an odd motion with his fingers. “Pal.”

It took Childe a moment to process.

And when he did, he laughed. A quiet and fond thing.

“It’s just one finger, Zhongli,” Childe said quietly. Doing his own finger gun. “Like that.”

Zhongli smiled back.

A quiet snap. “Pal.”

Childe laughed again. Wounding his hand tighter around Zhongli.

They continued like that for the rest of the way back to Zhongli’s abode.

And if Zhongli happened to be unable to snap.

Well, that would be between just them.


“Oh, hey, if it isn’t the guy who’s interested in wiggly eyebrows,” Childe said. Spotting the Murder Man outside. Looking conspicuously inconspicuous.

Xiao’s eyebrow twitched.

Childe wanted to laugh.

Almost.

“Hey, you two match.” Childe grinned. “Both- uh, eyebrow things.”

Xiao clicked his tongue and Childe was pretty sure that was a threat.

To his life.

But Childe digresses.

“So, how was it,” Childe wiggled his eyebrows. “Had any fun?”

“I’ll fun your life,” Xiao said through gritted teeth. Still leaning against the wall to a relatively normal restaurant.

Childe took a peek inside.

He snorted.

“You should really enter.” Childe ducked back. “Instead of standing outside like a- like this.”

“I’m not a creep,” Xiao said grumpily. Hearing the hidden words that Childe threw out.

“Sure,” Childe said, unconvinced.

“... he knows I’m here, alright?” Xiao spat.

Then why the fuck are you out here, Childe thought and said as much.

“Lumine,” Xiao said simply. A quiet respect in his words. Alongside annoyance.

“Oh,” Childe replied. Nodding. “You wouldn’t hear the end from her.”

Xiao grunted. Childe felt an odd kinship with him.

“You know you wouldn’t hear the end of it from her if she knows you’re out here, right?” Childe said. “Standing here, awkwardly, instead of talking to your crush, or whatever.”

Xiao made a face.

It was kind of cute.

Somewhat like a cat.

Too bad Childe was an octopus man.

“It’s the lesser of the two evils,” Xiao said gravely. “I’d rather be nagged than- than teased.”

“Well, buddy.” Childe took great relish in the word. Pointing to himself. “You’re about to be proven wrong.”

Xiao’s obvious distaste for the word buddy aside, Xiao raised an eyebrow. Looking oddly like Zhongli’s.

It made Childe want to coo, somewhat.

“So?” Childe leaned in conspiratorially. “Why do you like wiggly eyebrows?”

Xiao’s eyebrows twitched. Slowly scrunching up.

“Is it his eyes? His hair? His green ensemble?” Green was personally tacky to Childe, but he digresses. “His height?” Childe dodged a blow to his heart with that one. “His nice music skills?” That somewhat abated Xiao’s anger, and Childe wanted to smile at how easy Xiao was. “Is it how he murders abyss mages by tossing harmonicas at them?” Xiao flushed slightly, and god, Childe was feeling a somewhat kindred connection in finding Zhongli hot while he tossed pebbles at ruin guardians to death.

Oh god, I’m feeling a kindred connection to Tiny Murder Man, Childe thought with no little horror.

“I can respect that,” Childe said grudgingly. “Not that I’d know since my type is-”

“Zhongli,” Xiao said with surprising smugness.

“Hey.”

“Hey,” Xiao replied. Looking like the world’s smuggest murder cat.

“You’ve just met me today,” Childe reminded.

“And you’re besotted.”

Childe grunted. Unable to deny it.

“Don’t tell him,” Childe hissed.

Xiao blinked before raising an eyebrow.

It made Childe want to coo- but- priorities.

”Zhongli,” Childe whispered conspiratorially.

“Why not?” Xiao asked, almost petulant.

“What do you mean why not?” Childe made multiple hand gestures awkwardly. “I- we- we’re not there yet-”

“What.”

Childe wanted to tear his hair out.

“Listen, our relationship isn’t there yet and-”

“The relationship is married,” Xiao said simply. “Zhongli is married.” To you. But Xiao didn’t think Childe would need that part.

“What.”

“What.”

Is Zhongli’s husband stupid, Xiao thought. Before being distracted by Venti’s laugh.

Holy shit, am I courting a married man, Childe thought with dawning horror.

Holy shit, Childe thought with more horror. Am I the sexy mistress?

Chapter Text

After the most revelation revelation of his life, Childe does a little scream into his hands.

Murder Man and the foreteller of Revelations glanced at him. Probably not in worry for Childe, but in worry that Childe would alert Lumine to his presence.

Childe looked at him, Murder Man stared back.

“Holy shit you’ve just changed my life.”

“What the fuck are you talking about.” The reply was swift, as expected. And if ‘ew’ were to have a face, it would be Xiao.

Childe laughed pathetically. Xiao making motions with his hands that probably ranged from, “shut the fuck up” to “why are you the way you are”. Neither of which Childe could oblige with or answer.

“Lumine,” Xiao said through gritted teeth. A pointed warning of what was about to happen if Childe were to be any louder.

A warning of what was going to happen to Xiao if they were discovered, not Childe, so Childe was going to ignore that.

Lumine couldn’t possibly think any worse of Childe. Well, maybe she can. With Childe’s new status as sexy mistress and all.

Even those novels Childe had didn’t quite have this particular development. How the fuck was he supposed to pick-up line his way out of this? How does one pick up line and finger gun their way out of sexy mistress status? How does one even get out of the sexy mistress zone ethically? Was one supposed to get out of sexy mistress zone ethically?

Forget about being the runner and shooting his own foot, Childe was practically a runner who shot his own foot and ran in a race that already had a winner.

To be fair, no one told him Morax, geo god extraordinaire, was married.

That should’ve probably been in the history books or something. So maybe, just maybe, the traveller will have some information on the mysterious missing spouse of one Morax.

Childe didn’t exactly want to tell his new revelation of being sexy mistress in front of green harp man, though, and in turn, Xiao.

He would probably get murdered by Xiao, if Xiao were to hear, probably. Since he was, well, the sexy mistress.

So, taking that in mind, Childe pushed Xiao in front of the doorway. “Oh, wow, didn’t see you here, Xiao.”

Three pair of eyes stared at him. In varying shades of shock and murder.

Okay, just one stare of murder.

”What,” Xiao hissed. Both betrayed and murderous in equal parts.

“I hear you were looking for Venti,” Childe said loudly. Then he glanced purposefully at wiggle eyebrows man. “Oh he’s there. What a coincidence, huh.” Childe gave Xiao a very purposeful pat on the back.

Xiao looked like he both wanted to combust or combust Childe. Probably both.

Childe smiled innocently. Pretending like he was doing it for Xiao’s own good and not because he didn’t want to confess his mistress sins in front of Xiao and his wiggly eyebrow crush.

As if on cue with his nickname, Venti wiggled his eyebrows. “Oh, hey there, Xiao.” There was a fond casualness about his smile. And, yeah, Childe was pretty sure this wasn’t an unrequited crush. But he was sure that Xiao would rather die than confess.

And Childe was also certain that Xiao didn’t even know it wasn’t a one-sided thing.

Childe felt a keen sense of superiority over Xiao. A feeling that he took great relish in.

“You might want to leave soon,” Childe said under his breath. In the mood to be helpful. “Lumine’s looking awfully intently at you.”

Xiao blanched. Taking a subtle step back.

“You’re not leaving alone, though,” Childe continued, just as quiet.

Xiao’s eyes flashed up towards Childe. Warning embedded within it.

“Hey, Venti,” Childe said, his voice loud. “Xiao wanted to say something to you.” Suddenly mischievous, Childe continued. “Alone.” Just to make a point, Childe wiggled his eyebrows.

Xiao made a sound of great disgust as he jolted upright.

More than jolted, as he proceeded to jump up the roof of the establishment instead.

Childe didn’t know whether to revel in the victory or feel mildly offended.

He didn’t have much time to process, though. For, like a coward, Xiao sprinted away.

Less sprinted and more fumbled his way. His face turning exceedingly red. Childe wanted to cajole him, somewhat, since, well, it would be nice to see how red Xiao could turn if he were to call out to him to all Liyue citizens nearby. But it wouldn’t be good for Childe to antagonize the Murder Man of Revelations.

It didn’t look like Xiao would be alone for long, anyways. Venti already skittering his way past Childe with a jolly hum or two, sounding distinctly Natlan.

After the steady pitter-patter of Venti’s footsteps leaving the premise. Childe was left alone with nothing more than Lumine’s gaze boring into his figure.

“What is it, Childe,” Lumine said. Disappointing edging her voice as if she already knew that Childe bore bad news.

“Well, today I managed to confess to Zhongli.” Childe pulled out a chair, seating himself for the impending conversation. “Ended up calling him pal at the end, though.”

Lumine sighed.

“Oh, and Zhongli’s married.”

Lumine gave an impolite guffaw. “You- you?”

“Me what?”

“You actually did it?” Lumine asked. Her owlish eyes staring at him with great wonder. “You married him?

“No, I’m the sexy mistress.”

It felt somewhat cruel, to crush out the hope in her eyes like so. But Childe couldn’t just lie.

“You’re the what?

Childe pointed to himself and laughed weakly. “Oh, yeah, sexy mistress in the flesh.”

”Childe,” Lumine said. Aghast. A thousand words in her single statement. And Childe was sure that none of them bode well for Childe’s love life.

“Turns out the history book de-spoused Morax,” Childe said conversationally. “Or maybe he got married in private. In his private life, and it was all personal and cute and sweet and now I’m the sexy mistress.”

There was something raw in Childe’s words. Edging a bit too close to hurt for his comfort. He shifted slightly in his chair. Hoping to will the fraying edges of his casualness back to full form.

Fighting was easier than this. Whatever the fuck this was.

Lumine draws in a quiet breath. Consideration coloring her face in a somber light. She places her hand on his gently. A quiet comfort.

“Enough sulking, Childe,” Lumine said.

Childe knowing better than to deny her words.

“What can I do? I’m the sexy mistress.” The words were spoken with more venom than he’d like. Emotions slipping through the cracks. “And there’s the main spouse off, somewhere.”

“You haven’t seen this… spouse,” Lumine said neutrally.

“If I had, I wouldn’t have-” Childe made a sound of frustration. “If I knew.”

“I know,” Lumine acknowledged, gripping his hand. “Consider something, Childe. Zhongli’s an affectionate man, and an even more affectionate speaker. If he had a spouse, no doubt we would’ve known.”

“But, Xiao said-”

“Xiao tells the truth, yes,” Lumine forged on. Her voice an oasis of calm within the turbulence of Childe’s thoughts. “But perhaps Zhongli was married in a time long past and his spouse is... “

Gone. Like mortals do.

It softened the raw hurt, somewhat. Sobering it.

“Be assured, Childe.” Lumine’s gaze was solemn. Calm. And Childe found peace in that, somewhat. “If he did have an active spouse. We would know.”

Childe draws in a steady breath.

“Maybe I should’ve thought over it more,” Childe said, smiling quietly. Regaining his bravado with each word. “Was busy trying to figure out how to be a sexy mistress ethically.”

Lumine cracked a small smile at that.

“This is all speculation. Of course.” Lumine didn’t withdraw her hand. And even for all her stoic exterior, Childe saw it for what it was. “You’d best ask the man yourself, I’m sure he’d answer honestly.”

“Yeah, but,” Childe started. Interrupted by Lumine’s steely gaze.

“No, buts, Childe, it’ll bother you for the rest of your sad lonely life if you don’t.”

“Hey.” It was a token protest and they both knew it.

With further ado, Childe laid down the mora for Lumine and Venti’s meal. Lumine dragging Childe off towards Zhongli.


Childe opened the sliding doors with bravado in spades.

Bravado that he didn’t quite have, but the making up of one would have to do. For now.

He met with two birds, a deer, and Zhongli.

Holy fuck what did he walk into.

“Ah, Childe,” Zhongli said calmly. The red bird doing an odd imitation of sipping a cup except it was repeatedly ramming its head into the teacup.

“Is this your partner?” the blue bird said disainfully. “One is not impressed.”

Childe felt highly offended that he was being judged by a blue bird.

“Now, now,” the deer said. “He may not look the part of a great man, but surely he isn’t… bad?”

Thanks, deer man, Childe thought. Though feeling somewhat aggrieved, still. That he wasn’t quite good either just, “not bad.”

“Zhongli are these your…” animal posse? Friends? Local animal bookclub? Petting zoo?

Dinner?

As if sensing his treacherous thoughts. The red bird stared at him. Childe glanced away from its thighs in guilt.

“Ah, these are my adeptus,” Zhongli said. Smiling faintly. Childe was very glad that he didn’t verbalize his thoughts. “I didn’t think you would meet them so soon.”

Childe laughed awkwardly, feeling Lumine staring at his back.

There was a brief moment of silence and Childe realized that he was supposed to speak.

“Oh- uh, hi-” Childe said. Trying his best at a winning smile. “I’m, yeah. I’m me.”

Holy, fuck, Childe what.

“Well, uh- do you know Zhongli’s spouse?”

This was already a disaster, Childe thought.

“One hasn’t been introduced to them properly,” the blue bird said. Staring pointedly at Zhongli and Childe both. “Though one does know them, yes.”

“Cool,” Childe said, his voice cracking. “How… how are they?”

They stared at him.

“Are they, like- active?” Childe asked. “Uh- by that I mean- are they like- still alive?”

Great start, Childe thought. Let’s just get it out of the way.

Ah, is this an icebreaker? Zhongli thought, amused.

Ah, fools attract fools, Cloud Retainer thought.