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“Another Death After Noon,” Kaeya says with a grin, slamming his mora down onto the bar counter. Diona sniffs and rolls her eyes but slides the mora into her hand before bouncing away to make his drink. He guesses he can’t fault her, it is his third of the night and he’s feeling fairly buzzed.

 

The man next to him is still working on his own glass of wine. Though he’d introduced himself to Kaeya as Childe, the cryo user knows through his intelligence network that the ginger man goes by a number of names. He’d shown up that morning as part of an unannounced Fatui convoy, and Kaeya had been drafted by Jean to be his guide (and watchdog). 

 

Kaeya had shrugged and compiled, less because he’d been ordered to, and more because he knows that if any trouble is going to arise in Monstadt it will be the fault of this man, and he wants to be the first to hear about it. Regardless, so far Childe is exceeding his expectations of a Fatui harbinger. 

 

After a full day of being shown around the city, poking into shops and eating the local delicacies, Childe had asked Kaeya if there’s anywhere good to go drinking in Monstadt. Kaeya is surprised that the Fatui man would be willing to let his guard down around a practical stranger, but agrees to take him to a place. So they’ve wound up in the Cat’s Tail Tavern. There’s no way Kaeya is taking a Fatui agent into Diluc’s place. He gets his head chewed off enough by the fiery redhead as it is.

 

Speaking of Diluc, Kaeya turns to Childe and says, “By the way, I wanted to apologize for that man who confronted you earlier. The snarky redhead? He’s got a history with the Fatui, don’t take it personally.”

 

Childe responds with a twinge of surprise, “Oh, so you do know him? I thought so at first when he called you by name, but it doesn’t seem like you two get along? No hard feelings though, I’m used to it. The Fatui aren’t popular in most places outside of Snezhnaya.”

 

Kaeya sighs, pulling his new drink in closer to look down into it. He contemplates how much to reveal, but he figures his pining after his ex-childhood-friend isn’t exactly a secret. All Childe would have to do is ask around Monstadt to find out about it. 

 

“It’s a long story,” he starts hesitantly. “We used to be closer than anyone, but the shit hit the fan and now we’re...well, like you saw today. He hates me,” Kaeya finishes with a self-deprecating laugh and a long pull of his drink.

 

Childe gives him a sympathetic glance. “Ah, so it’s the old ‘I’ve got it bad for him, but I fucked up and now he won’t even look at me’, is it?” He leans in closer to Kaeya, and lowers his voice to a whisper. “Just between us, that’s practically the same reason I’m here now.”

 

Kaeya lets out a startled laugh. “Aren’t you here as part of that Fatui convoy? I know it was unannounced, but what does that have to do with one-sided feelings?”

 

Childe gives a long sigh of his own. “The convoy was already on its way to Monstadt when I hopped in at the head of it in Liyue. They couldn’t tell me no, because of my rank. But actually, I was just trying to get away from my own set of problems there.”

 

He swirls the remains of his drink in his glass before downing them. Kaeya waits for him to continue. “There was someone special to me there, and I fucked up too. I was supposed to be tracking down the geo archon’s gnosis, you know, the one who fell from the sky?” Kaeya nods, already having heard about the events with Liyue’s archon through the grapevine. 

 

“I found the body, and tried to get the gnosis. Had a little run in with a friend of yours, actually,” Childe continues with a small smile. “But eventually I realized it wasn’t there. The thing was just a shell. And then I got called in to see another harbinger, and my special someone was there. Turns out, I got played by my own people,” he says bitterly.

 

“The guy I was in love with? He was the geo archon all along, and I didn’t even fucking know it. And he’d already cut a deal with the Tsaritsa, I was just a pawn. But I’d already tried to steal his gnosis. The one he just handed over to Signora like it was nothing.” Childe laughs, and this time it sounds a little maniacal. 

 

Kaeya lets out a low whistle. “No shit?” he says, his tone sympathetic. “That’s pretty heavy stuff. I feel a little better about my own fuck-up” he finishes with a chuckle. 

 

“Yeah, he won’t give me the time of day now. I mean he’s as infuriatingly polite as ever, but when I try to get him to give me more, he just sends me this look, and says in his stupid deep voice, ‘Hm, are you trying to manipulate me for your own ends again Tartaglia ?’” Childe shudders.

 

“I just want to fuck him, is that so much to ask?” Childe whines, and Diona gives him a look of disgust from the corner where she’s polishing glasses. Kaeya tries his most winning smile, which she ignores, and attempts to change the subject.

 

“I don’t know, it sounds like you could talk it out if you tried,” Kaeya says, trying to sound reasonable. “Probably better than I could, in my situation.”


Childe looks up from his arms, where he’d flopped dramatically down on the bar counter. “Yeah? You fucked up worse than trying to steal your six thousand year old boyfriend’s god powers?”

 

Kaeya puts a hand on his chin, thoughtful. “I guess it depends on how you look at it. In my case, I’m originally from Khaenri’ah, and I was taken in by his family when I was small. We were inseparable, best friends, and we really did love each other. But right when he’d become a Captain and everything was going perfectly, there was an attack and his dad died. Neither he nor I could save him.”

 

Kaeya takes a deep breath before continuing. “I don’t know what I was thinking, his dad had just died in his arms, it wasn’t exactly an opportune time. But I went to him that night and came clean about a lie that I’d been keeping from him since we met. He was angry, we fought, and he drove me off. And then, he left the country. Ran off and didn’t come back for years. Won’t give me the time of day now either,” he finishes with a smirk. 

 

Glancing down, Kaeya realizes that he’s letting his emotions get away with him. There’s frost crawling up the sides of his glass. He takes a deep breath, then slowly exhales. Childe breaks the silence. “It sounds to me like we’re a pair of morons. Hot morons,” he allows with a pointed nod at Kaeya, who snickers at the irony, “but morons.”

 

Sitting up, Childe continues, “Gods I just wish I could get Zhongli to look my way again, like he did before everything went to hell. I wouldn’t have tried to steal his gnosis if I knew he was the geo archon.” He turns to Kaeya with pleading eyes. “You know I wouldn’t have right?”

 

Kaeya doesn’t believe it for a moment. Childe is a Fatui harbinger after all. But he nods sympathetically, and agrees, “I know. I wish I could get Diluc to smile at me the way he used to. Now when I talk to him he just tells me to fuck off and get out of his bar.”

 

Kaeya sighs and rests his chin on his hand. After a few minutes, the two men’s quiet contemplation is broken by Diona abruptly announcing, “Closing time! Get out. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

 

Childe laughs, and Kaeya shakes himself, downing the rest of his wine before getting unsteadily to his feet. Turns out he’s a little drunker than he’d thought. “I’ll walk to you back to your room at the inn,” he tells Childe, who’s looking just as wobbly as Kaeya feels. Childe agrees wholeheartedly, and slings an arm around Kaeya’s shoulders as the two stumble out of Cat’s Tail.

 

They’re halfway down the street to the inn when they turn a corner and almost collide with a flash of red. Stunned, Kaeya reels back and feels the blood rush entirely out of his face as he realizes that the person they’d almost run over is Diluc. 

 

Diluc, who is presumably not drunk, has already recovered, and is taking in the scene before him with a look of growing horror. Kaeya doesn’t know what to say, so he just stands there, obviously drunk, with Childe’s equally drunk form swaying into him.

 

“What the fuck are you doing drinking with a Fatui harbinger, Kaeya?” Diluc finally asks, his icy tone at odds with the fire Kaeya knows he’s capable of summoning at a moment’s notice. “You know they were to blame for my father’s death. I guess you just don’t care anymore about honoring his memory?”

 

Kaeya is still standing in stunned silence at the rapid downhill turn things have taken, so Childe takes it upon himself to make everything worse. “Ah, I’m sorry about dragging him out, you two are friends right?” Kaeya bites his tongue, he knows that the Fatui man remembers everything he’d told him about the tension between him and Diluc. He doesn’t want to add oil to the growing fire though.

 

“Aaaactually,” Childe continues, drawing the word out in a teasing tone, “I’m not sorry at all. It’s better if he knows, sweetheart.” Kaeya feels like a bucket of ice water has been dumped down his back, and from Diluc’s paling face he’s feeling the exact same sensation. 

 

Childe perks up and pulls his arm tighter around Kaeya’s shoulders. “You see, Kaeya actually decided he prefers a different redhead. He was just taking me back to my room at the inn, so we could...hmm...you know ?” He winks and Kaeya tries not to heave his last Death After Noon back up onto the cobblestones. 

 

Diluc has progressed past paling, and his face is getting redder and redder by the second. It matches his hair, Kaeya thinks somewhere in the back of his brain that’s still processing thoughts. Whatever part of his brain controls everything else is still offline, which is why when Childe turns and starts dragging him back down the street toward the inn, he lets himself go without saying anything.

 

Diluc is still standing stunned, but roars once more before they disappear through the inn door, “Kaeya Alberich! What! The actual! Fuck!!!” Childe pulls Kaeya in and shuts the door behind them.

 

Luckily Childe’s room is on the first floor, because Kaeya’s not sure he’d have managed going up stairs. Once they make it there, Childe unwinds his arm from around Kaeya’s shoulders and goes to sit on the bed, while Kaeya finally loses whatever strength remained in his legs, and slumps to the floor against the door. 

 

Holding his head in his hands, Kaeya hisses at Childe, who is eyeing him from the bed. “What the hell was that about? You know ? Now he thinks we’re fucking!”

 

“First,” Childe starts, holding up a finger, “I cannot help but create chaos everywhere I go. That’s literally my job. But second,” he holds up another finger. “I’m helping you! What’s the point in pining and doing nothing? You two clearly have issues you need to talk out. I’m just...being a catalyst. Besides, he’s obviously jealous. I think you have a real chance if you get over yourself and actually go apologize to him.”

 

Kaeya can feel a nasty headache coming on, and he’s not usually hungover until the morning after drinking. This is what I get for letting my guard down around a Fatui, he thinks. Fucking Snezhnayans.

 

“You,” Kaeya starts, pointing an accusing finger at Childe, “are a menace to society. And I am never going drinking with you again. I can’t even tell Diluc that you were joking, because he probably won’t believe me.”

 

Childe shrugs, “If that’s the case then you may as well milk it, right? I’m happy to play along. I’ve got nothing better to do since I don’t actually have an assignment in Monstadt.” He kicks off his boots and lays back on the bed with his head resting on his arms. “Are you going to sleep down there?” he asks curiously when Kaeya makes no move from his position by the door.

 

Kaeya groans loudly, earning a knock from the shared wall with the room next door. Childe grins, “already starting work on our fucking alibi, are you?” Kaeya wishes he had something nearby to throw. 

 

Shaking himself, Kaeya pulls himself to his feet with much effort. Pointing at Childe again, he says, “I am going home to sleep in my own bed, without you. Unfortunately I have to come back in the morning since you are my assignment, but I don’t have to like it. And I hope your hangover sucks,” he adds as an afterthought before he throws himself out the door, slamming it behind him. He can hear Childe’s cackling even through the thick wood as he strides down the hallway.

Chapter Text

Kaeya groans in the morning as the sunlight stirs him from his fitful sleep. He doesn’t feel rested, and there’s a gentle throbbing pulsing through his skull. He curses Chide again as he stumbles his way across the room to splash cold water on his face, which does make him feel a little bit better at least. He pulls on his eyepatch and dresses, then leaves his small lodging to hunt down the man who is the root of his problems.

 

When he gets to Childe’s room, he uses his cryo powers to make an ice key (a handy trick he’d picked up while tracking the treasure hoarders over the years), and roughly opens the door. Childe is still out for the count, sprawled shirtless and face down on his inn bed. Kaeya tuts, and thinks sloppy to himself.

 

Summoning an ice mist, he lets it hover over Childe’s sleeping form for a moment until it condenses into water. And then, he lets it drop. Childe lets out a shriek and shoots up in the bed as a literal deluge of ice water is dumped on him. He lets out a string of curses that starts with “Gods” and devolves into what Kaeya assumes is his local Snezhnayan dialect. 

 

“Time to wake up, asshole,” Kaeya says with a cheerful grin. “I hope you got your beauty sleep, since you obviously need it.” 

 

Childe shivers on the bed, and he flinches at the sunlight when Kaeya strides to the window and throws the curtains open. “It’s a beautiful day,” Kaeya drawls, “so where shall we start, Mister Fatui Harbinger? Breakfast?”

 

Childe finally gathers his senses and uses his hydro powers to remove the water drenching him and his bed, dumping it in the basin across the room. Aggressively rubbing sleep from his eyes, he glares weakly at Kaeya and accuses in a gravelly voice, “You’re even more of a sadist than I originally thought.”

 

Kaeya’s grin spreads wider. “I get that a lot. Between the two of us, Diluc always seems like the grumpy one. But really, he’s a gentleman, and I’m the rabid wolf.”

 

Childe grumbles more under his breath as he gets up to wash his face and get dressed. Kaeya perches on the corner of the dresser to watch, at least feeling vindicated at how haggard the other man looks. Childe doesn’t perk up until he’s dragged to a cafe across the street and is handed a mug of hot black coffee. Kaeya can at least relate to that, taking a deep swig of his own.

 

“So,” Kaeya asks after they’ve made a start on breakfast, “where to today? It feels a bit stupid to be acting as your tour guide, but in the end you are the most dangerous thing in this city. I can’t just let you wander around unsupervised.”

 

Childe grins, “I’m glad you can see sense at least. I was thinking about the cathedral to start? I saw it on my way in, since it’s hard to miss, but I want to take a closer look.”

“Sure, sure,” Kaeya says, waving a hand dismissively as he takes another sip of coffee. “Where you go, I go. At least until you get the hell out of my city.”

 

After breakfast, Childe puts his happy go lucky facade back on and they trek up the many flights of stairs to reach the cathedral. Kaeya nods to the few knights he sees on the trip, making sure that he’s at least getting credit for this shitty assignment. 

 

They get to the top of the last flight of stairs and Childe whistles at the sight of the back of the giant Barbatos statue. “It’s even bigger up close,” he says with a wink at Kaeya, who rolls his eye at the innuendo. Childe skips forward to get a better look at the statue from the front, but stops so suddenly that Kaeya runs into him.

 

“Hey!,” Kaeya complains, rubbing his nose where he’d smacked into the back of Childe’s hard head. Peering around the hydro user, Kaeya looks to see what’s startled him, and is surprised to see Barbatos himself at the foot of the statue. He’s standing next to a taller man with golden glowing eyes, which are wide with shock.

 

“Sir Kaeya!” Barbatos grins, with a cheerful wave. Kaeya nods in return, unsure if the archon wants to be called by name in the open like this. The man next to him recovers, crossing his arms and his face assumes a stern expression. “Tartaglia,” he acknowledges Childe with a nod.

 

Ah. Given that this man is in the company of Barbatos, and Childe’s reaction, this must be the infamous former geo archon of Liyue. Interesting, Kaeya thinks with a private smile to himself.

 

“What brings you two here?” Kaeya asks casually, slinging an arm around Childe’s shoulder. He can feel the other man shifting uncomfortably beneath him.

 

Barbatos looks at the former god - Zhongli, Kaeya remembers Childe calling him - who answers for him. “I am visiting my old friend, now that my duties in Liyue have been relinquished. We were just discussing his rather...ostentatious...statue.”

 

“Aw, Morax, I didn’t build it for myself!” Barbatos protests, smacking an arm roughly against Zhongli’s side. The geo user doesn’t budge. “The people of Monstadt did it all on their own! Who am I to tell them it’s too big? This is this City of Freedom!” he finishes with a wide grin.

 

Zhongli ignores his friend’s appeal. In a deep baritone, he asks, “And you, Tartaglia? I was unaware you had even left Liyue. To find you in Monstadt is a surprise indeed.”

 

Childe shakes himself from his reverie and waves a hand dismissively. “Ah you know, I go where the wind takes me. Or the Tsaritsa’s orders, rather. I had to head up a convoy on short notice. Sorry I didn’t let you know before I left!”

 

Childe glances sideways at Kaeya, daring him to call out his lie. Kaeya shrugs internally. He has a better idea for revenge. 

 

“Mm, I’m glad this one stopped by when he did. I was getting lonely, it’s been boring around here since Stormterror was subdued! But we made up for it last night, didn’t we sweetheart?” Kaeya gives a wolfish grin to the two before him before he places a large open mouthed kiss on Childe’s bare neck. 

 

Childe shudders and stiffens. Ah, sweet payback, Kaeya thinks. When he looks back at their companions, Barbatos is giving an amused but wry smile. Zhongli, on the other hand…

 

The former geo archon already gave the impression of an immovable spire of rock, but now Kaeya can feel his gaze burning him. Kaeya wonders vaguely if he’s about to be smited, but he figures that the chances are low as long as he continues to cling to Childe. 

 

“Well, we were on our way to see the cathedral, don’t let us keep you from catching up!” Kaeya announces, as he begins to guide Childe away from the scene of his crimes. “See you around!” he shouts over his shoulder before shoving a still-stunned Childe through the doors of the cathedral.

 

As soon as the doors shut behind them, Kaeya releases the other man from his firm hold, and bends in half cackling. When he takes a break for air and glances up, Childe’s face is crimson. Hmm, redheads really are similar, Kaeya thinks, still grinning. 

 

“I would ask what that was for, but I already know it was you paying me back for last night,” Childe says stonily. He crosses his arms and sighs gustily.

 

“Rabid wolf,” Kaeya reminds him with a smirk, pointing to himself. “Besides, I’m helping you,” he says, imitating Childe’s whine from the previous night. “Didn’t you want your geo boy to look your way again? Don’t you think he’s jealous now?”

 

Childe waves his hands dramatically. “Maybe he would be, if he wanted me like that! But he’s already made it clear he doesn’t, and now he thinks we’re together or something!”

 

Kaeya rolls his eye. “Maybe you should’ve thought of that before you did the same thing to me in front of Diluc last night. Also, you’re full of shit if you think he doesn’t want you. I was afraid I was going to get a meteor dropped on me out there just for touching you.”

 

Childe does a quick turn and exclaims, “Really?! You think so? I mean his eyes always glow, but he did seem a little worked up, right? Maybe?”

 

Kaeya shivers, and says, “scratch that, forget I mentioned it. I’m not discussing whether Rex Lapis is horny for you in the middle of a church.” He turns on his heel and begins to stride up the aisle of the cathedral.

 

Childe follows him more slowly, with his hands behind his back to take in the sight of the cathedral around them. “We have these in Snezhnaya too, a different style though. Being in here really reminds me of home! It’s been a while since I’ve been back…” he trails off as they reach the front of the cathedral. 

 

“It’s a cathedral of Barbatos, but I wonder if I said some prayers, the Tsaritsa would hear it?” he mumbles almost to himself. Kaeya shrugs. He’s not a religious man, and even if he was, Barbatos isn’t his god anyway. He’s Khaenri’an, and his god lives far from here. 

 

“If you do, put in a good word for me. Cryo vision and all,” he taps his temple knowingly, then leaves Childe to do what he will as he goes to take a lap around the inside of the cathedral.

 

Later, as they’re making their way back down the stairs to the rest of Mondstadt, Kaeya inquires casually what Childe had prayed for. He’s not sure what a Fatui Harbinger would ask the gods for. Success in battle? World domination?

 

“Ah,” Childe says with a small laugh as he scratches the back of his neck with uncharacteristic awkwardness. “Just asking for protection for my family. I’ve got parents and siblings back in Snezhnaya. I do what I can for them by staying in the Tsaritsa’s good graces and sending plenty of money, but it can still be a harsh place to live at times.” He shrugs and doesn’t elaborate further. 

 

They end up in the Knights of Favonius headquarters. He points Childe to the library, and pokes his head into Jean’s office to give a quick update brief. He knows Lisa is perfectly capable of managing Childe around the books, and will put him in his place if he sticks a toe out of line.

 

When he gets to the library, Lisa is just finishing reading the rules to Childe, and he’s nodding with a serious face. Kayea stifles a chuckle, he’s well aware that the expression is a mask. Lisa points Childe to the unrestricted section, and the two men leave to peruse the shelves. 

 

Kaeya has spent plenty of time here, researching problems that arise in Monstadt, so he’s just browsing for show. After a few minutes, Childe sighs and says quietly, “Zhongli would love it here. He adores books, and knowledge. He knows so many random facts, and he never shuts up about them…” he sounds a little dreamy as he trails off, and Kaeya fights back a gag. 

 

He puts a hand on Childe’s shoulder, and says with a deep sigh, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, because your infatuation is disgusting, but you could always invite him here? As a date? The library is accessible to the public as long as you have an invitation from a Knight of Favonius. Which, I suppose, I’m extending.”

 

Childe turns to him, big fake tears filling his eyes, and Kaeya is immediately seized with regret. “You really do care!” he exclaims dramatically, pulling Kaeya into a crushing hug, Kaeya wiggles violently, trying to escape. “Stop, stop, I take it back, privilege revoked, stop touching me-”

 

Childe laughs loudly, until he spots Lisa glaring, and complies. “No take backs, Mister Knight of Favonius. You wouldn’t go back on your word, now would you?”

 

“Often, actually,” Kaeya replies wryly, adjusting his askew clothing. He turns, and is surprised to see Charles, the bartender of Diluc’s tavern Angel’s Share, approaching them both. Charles doesn’t usually speak to Kaeya outside of the tavern, even though they’ve known each other for years. 

 

Charles extends a letter to him, sealed into a creamy envelope with the Ragnvindr house crest in the wax. Kaeya stares at it blankly, so Charles brandishes it again until he takes it. “Master Diluc asked me to deliver this before I headed to Angel’s Share for the day. Dunno what it is, but he said I could find you here.”

 

Kaeya looks at him in confusion. “How does Diluc know where we are?” Charles shrugs, and replies, “Told me he’s got a friend here that keeps tabs for him. That’s all I know. Either way, message delivered, I’ve got to be on my way now.”

 

Kaeya stands reeling, not sure what’s blindsided him more: the fact that Diluc is sending him a hand-delivered sealed letter, or the revelation that Jean apparently notifies Diluc the second he steps foot in Knights of Favonius headquarters. What the hell?!

 

Childe is snickering quietly into his hand at the expression on his face. “Well? Are you going to open your love letter ?” he asks, drawing the last two words out sickeningly. Kaeya manifests an icicle and tries to stab him, but he dodges, and Lisa hisses a warning at them to take it outside.

 

They do, Kaeya shooting an apologetic glance at Lisa and a glare at Jean’s closed door on the way out. Professional integrity is dead, he bemoans internally. He and Childe sit on a bench as he slices open the top of the envelope with a dagger. Kaeya angles the paper away from Childe to read, and the other man allows it even though he keeps shooting him curious glances.

 

As Kaeya unfolds the thick, expensive-feeling parchment, he realizes that it’s not a letter, it’s an invitation. He reads the scrawling calligraphy, which he recognizes at once as Elzer’s:

 

To: Cavalry Captain Sir Kaeya Alberich

 

You, and your plus one, are cordially invited to dinner at the Dawn Winery at the behest of Master Ragnvindr. The invitation is for 7pm on the same date as your receipt of this notice, and your presence will be expected unless we are informed otherwise. We request that you wear formal attire. Please alert us if your companion has any dietary concerns.

 

Our Kindest Regards,

The Household of Sir Diluc Ragnvindr

 

Kaeya lets the invitation flop into his lap, where it’s snatched quickly by Childe. Diluc is inviting him...to dinner? With Childe? Why ? He hasn’t been welcomed into Diluc’s home since before his father died. And he would’ve bet his sword that Diluc would rather die than invite a Fatui harbinger into his home without an ulterior motive.

 

“So are we going?” Childe’s voice interrupts his thoughts. “What?” Kaeya asks, startled.

 

“Are we going to your boyfriend’s dinner party?” Childe asks, amused. “Isn’t this what you always wanted, to get him home, take him to bed?”

 

Kaeya glares, “I don’t just want to have sex with him, I love him. But yes, I guess we should probably go. Do you think you can handle not being a gremlin for a few hours? I can always just leave you behind.”

 

“I will be on my best behavior,” Childe says solemnly, holding up his right hand. “I wouldn’t miss your hilarious mutual pining for the world. And I promise I have plenty of fancy dinner experience from the Snezhnayan court. At least I only have to worry about two people potentially stabbing me here,” he cackles.

 

Kaeya considers the relative merits of poisoning Childe’s wine over dinner.

Chapter Text

Kaeya pulls on his gloves and straightens his suit in the mirror. He’d gone home to grab his change of clothes, but then headed back to meet Childe at his room in the inn. The two men had agreed to catch a ride to the winery together. 

 

Childe is wearing a silver colored suit with a red vest and tie. He looks more put together than Kaeya was expecting him capable of, though he’s still wearing his silly Fatui mask on his head. Kaeya’s own suit is white, with a grey collar and a black vest beneath. He’s thrown a blue rose on the lapel of his jacket for the occasion. 

 

Childe gives him a once over and frowns. “Aren’t you going to wear a tie? The invitation said formal. Also, no offence, but you look a bit like a playboy.” Kaeya glances down to where his shirt collar is open, down to the second button.

 

“Good,” he grins, “that’s my aesthetic. Also I hate ties. Too constraining,” he finishes with a tug on Childe’s own tie, and the other man bats his hand away.

 

“Well,” announces Kaeya, turning to the door. “Should we catch a cab? You’re paying, by the way. Consider it your entrance fee for the ‘hilarious mutual pining’ as you put it.”

 

“Fine,” Childe agrees as they head to the main street and hail a carriage. “And it’ll be money well-spent.”

 

The ride to Dawn Winery from Monstadt proper is uneventful, and Kaeya tunes Childe’s chatter out as he watches the scenery pass by the window. He can count on one hand the number of times he’s been there since before Diluc left Monstadt and came back a changed man. And all of those visits were on Knight business, not by invitation.

 

Lost in thought, Kaeya doesn’t notice that they’ve arrived at their destination until Childe cracks the carriage door open and hops out. As they approach the large wooden front door of the winery, Childe loops an arm through Kaeya’s elbow. At the cryo user’s raised eyebrow Childe gives him a wink and whispers, “time to play the part!”  

 

Childe raps his knuckles on the door, which opens almost immediately inward. Adelinde, Diluc’s head housemaid, stands there stoically. “Master Kaeya,” she nods at him and he feels his eye widen slightly in surprise. Turning to Childe, she continues, “and Sir Tartaglia, I presume.”

 

Childe grins at the name. “The very same!” he concedes. Adelinde gestures them through the door and asks them to follow her across the foyer. Kaeya notes with interest that she’s leading them to the private dining room rather than the large one used for banquets and business dinners.

 

They reach the door to the room, and Adelinde opens it with a small bow. As the two men enter, Kaeya realizes that not only is Diluc already seated at the head of the table, they’ve got more company. To his left is another guest, one whose golden glare immediately latches on to the pair of them, arm in arm. Zhongli sits at the table, back ramrod straight, wearing the same suit he’d been in when Kaeya last saw him. Kaeya wonders if the man, being a former god, simply doesn’t own any other clothes.

 

Diluc turns at the sound of the door, and gestures toward the pair of them. “Ah,” he intones with a hint of condescension, “it seems the rest of our party has finally arrived.” Kaeya can feel Diluc’s eyes burning into him, and considers the possibility that he may be about to actually burst into flames. 

 

Childe has stopped moving at the sight of Zhongli, so Kaeya gives his arm a tug and leans in so close that his lips are nearly touching the other man’s ear. “Time to play the part,” he whispers under his breath, with a smile that could pass as flirtatious to the observer. Approaching the other two, Kaeya sees Diluc’s eyes roam over him and settle on the stripe of skin at his chest as he grimaces. “Classy,” he mutters sarcastically to himself, and Kaeya grins.

 

After they seat themselves across the table from Zhongli, a butler arrives and asks them what they’d like to drink. Kaeya requests wine, naming a vintage he knows Diluc has in his father’s stash, but which he doesn’t distribute publicly. He makes pointed eye contact with the pyro user as he does so, challenging him to refuse the request. Diluc rolls his eyes but gestures his approval to the butler. 

 

Childe asks if they have anything harder than wine, and Kaeya snickers under his breath. Zhongli makes a few polite inquiries to Diluc regarding the vintage that Kaeya had asked for, and then draws the redhead into a surprisingly deep conversation regarding the winemaking operations at Dawn Winery. Kaeya isn’t sure if the dark haired man is trying to hide nerves behind conversation, or if he just can’t help himself when it comes to discussing technicalities.

 

At least with Diluc’s attention occupied, Kaeya is free to discreetly ogle him back. Diluc is wearing a black ensemble with a striking white jacket, which Kaeya recognizes from his days in the Knights. His hair looks soft, even pulled back into his usual low ponytail, and Kaeya’s eyes fall to his plush lips as he speaks with Zhongli. 

 

Childe elbows him in the side, and Kaeya jerks his head toward the Fatui man. In a hushed tone, Childe hums into his ear, “Look, you’re wearing matching color schemes. Like a couple.” 

 

Kaeya doesn’t deign to give that comment a response, but does take the liberty of stomping hard on Childe’s foot under the table. The hydro user manages to barely even flinch, which Kaeya respects.

 

When he’s given his glass of wine, Kaeya swirls the deep crimson liquid in his glass and takes a small sniff. It’s just how he remembers it, a favorite of Diluc’s father, who had let him and Diluc try small sips on special occasions growing up. Kaeya fights down the wave of nostalgia as he takes a mouthful now.

 

“So,” Kaeya interjects as the conversation between Diluc and Zhongli lulls. “Was there a reason why you invited us both here? I’m just dying to know what changed your mind about me and the...ah...Fatui harbinger being welcome in your home?” he gestures between himself and Childe, who is tactfully taking a swig of his drink to excuse himself from contributing.

 

“Oh, Sir Kaeya,” Diluc retorts, mock wounded. “Why would I need any other reason besides wanting to see my old friend? And of course I want to get to know the man who has so captured your...affections. How did you two get together?”

 

Kaeya sees Zhongli’s eyebrow twitching and ignores it. “Hmm,” Kaeya makes a show of pondering, feeling the tension creep toward him from across the table. “Well, there’s not much to tell. I was simply assigned to escort Childe when he arrived in Monstadt, and we got along so well that it escalated from there.” It certainly has escalated, Kaeya thinks, as he fondly remembers dumping ice water on the Fatui man that morning.

 

He reaches over behind Childe, dragging his hand through the short hairs on the back of his neck in a brief caress as the Snezhnayan chokes on his drink. Kaeya turns to him in feigned concern, patting him firmly on the back and feeling the weight of the other two men at the table glaring daggers at him. Childe wheezes, “Sorry, just went down the wrong pipe, hahaha...”

 

Zhongli’s voice comes from across the table, polite but flat, “I confess, I too am unsure why I was invited here tonight? Though I am of course grateful.”

 

Diluc turns to Zhongli, gesturing welcomingly with an arm, “you are an honored guest, of course! Barbatos let me know that you were visiting when you arrived. He seemed to think you would appreciate a dinner invitation.” 

 

Childe snickers from Kaeya’s right, but he manages to turn the sound into another cough. Luckily, their dinner arrives and the conversation is disrupted with the soft clinking of cutlery and china. Kaeya can at least appreciate a good meal when it’s served to him, particularly a free one. He knows the Ragnvindr household can afford the best, and he isn’t disappointed. 

 

Their glasses are kept full (even Kaeya’s), and Kaeya can sense Childe growing looser beside him. There isn’t much energy for serious conversation between them as they eat their fill, so Kaeya prompts Zhongli and Childe to tell them all about Liyue. He can see the harbinger’s expression getting more and more infatuated as the former archon rambles on about the beauty of various spots in his home country. Kaeya smiles into his wine, laughing internally that the redhead is lucky the object of his affections is too engrossed in his own story to notice.

 

Kaeya glances over at Diluc, who is looking at him and wearing a sour expression for some reason. It figures, he thinks as he sets down his mostly-full wine glass, his stomach turning. Why would he look at me any other way?

 

He’s startled when Diluc’s hand shoots out, without warning, and grabs Kaeya’s glass. He stares at the other man, wide eyed, while he downs Kaeya’s entire remaining wine without breaking eye contact. Oh no, Kaeya thinks.

 

“Just wanted a taste,” Diluc tells him, as he delicately sets the glass back on the table. Kaeya vehemently waves off the butler who approaches to try and refill it. “I thought you didn’t drink, Diluc?” Kaeya says, a note of exasperation in his tone.

 

“Hmm, maybe for you I do?” Diluc says, the end of the sentence turning into a question. He places his chin in his hand, and Kaeya can already see his eyes glazing over. What did he think was going to happen? Kaeya wonders, feeling strangely fond despite his frustration.

 

Zhongli is still rambling about lilies or something, so Kaeya cuts him off mid-sentence. “Ah, I believe Sir Diluc is ready to retire. Please don’t feel the need to end your night early on our behalf though. I’ll make sure he’s put safely to bed.”

 

Standing and turning to Zhongli, who’s looking at him in confusion, he implores, “Could you possibly see Sir Tartaglia back to his inn for me? I’m going to be otherwise occupied and I’d appreciate you accompanying him.” And supervising him, I hope, Kaeya prays silently to any god listening.

 

Childe waves him away before Zhongli can answer. “That’s fine, that’s fine, we’ll just have some dessert before we go. I hope you and Sir Diluc have a pleasant evening,” he gives an unsubtle leer, which Kaeya ignores.

 

Kaeya turns to Diluc, whose chin is still resting on his propped hand, but who now has his eyes closed. Kaeya gives the other man’s shoulder a small shake, cursing internally when there’s no reaction. Diluc is going to kill me in the morning, he thinks as he sighs and wedges an arm under Diluc’s to haul him bodily from his chair.

 

Diluc rouses once he’s on his feet, and slings an arm around Kaeya’s waist. Kaeya hopes he’ll keep quiet until they’re upstairs so he doesn’t embarrass himself further in front of Childe, who will absolutely gossip about it. With a nod goodnight to the other two men, Kaeya guides Diluc up the familiar route to his bedroom. He tries not to make it obvious that he’s supporting the majority of the pyro user’s weight himself.

 

Once they’re far enough up the stairs that they’re out of sight, he gives up and hoists Diluc into his arms. Diluc protests a bit at first, but then wraps his arm around Kaeya’s shoulders and nuzzles his nose into the crook of his neck, sighing. Kaeya can feel his pulse speeding up rapidly, and reminds himself that Diluc is clearly drunk and has no idea what he’s doing. He hurries toward the other man’s bedroom to deposit him there as quickly as possible.

 

They’re nearly to the door when Kaeya hears a strange sniffing noise coming from below. Glancing down, he’s horrified to see fat tears rolling down Diluc’s face. The pyro user is looking up at him with an odd expression, and doesn’t seem to register them. “Diluc, sweetheart,” Kaeya swallows hard at the pet name, but he’s trying to be gentle for other man’s sake since Diluc is clearly in distress. “Why are you crying? Do you not want me to carry you?”

 

Diluc shakes his head, and buries his face back into Kaeya’s neck, where he mumbles something. Kaeya fumbles for the latch on Diluc’s bedroom door, trying to juggle the other man at the same time, and warns, “you’re going to have to speak up love, I can’t hear you if you talk into my neck.”

 

Diluc pulls his face free as Kaeya finally gets the door open. “I said,” he mumbles softly, “why do you like him and not me? Is it because I’m not pretty?”

 

Kaeya has taken a few steps into the room, and manages to close the door behind them with his foot, but now he freezes. “What?” he asks numbly as he peers down at Diluc. The other man’s face is a little red, and he’s averting his eyes from Kaeya’s gaze. 

 

“You were looking at him and smiling. Why won’t you look at me like that?” Diluc asks in a pleading tone, voice still soft, almost as though he’s talking to himself. Kaeya can feel his arms start to tremble, so he sits down hard on the bed to prevent himself from dropping Diluc on the floor. This doesn’t improve the situation much, since now he’s holding a crying drunk Diluc in his lap. How had he gone from hostile glaring to begging for Kaeya’s attention within the span of ten minutes? Kaeya curses Diluc’s lack of alcohol tolerance.

 

“Diluc?” Kaeya says tentatively, which the redhead ignores. “Sweetheart?” he tries again. This time he gets a glance and a frown. Kaeya sighs. 

 

The Knight fixes his gaze on the ceiling of the room, trying to focus himself. He absentmindedly rubs circles on Diluc’s warm back. The other man remains silent. 

 

After a few minutes of internal screaming, Kaeya finds a well of resolve deep down that he was previously unaware of. “You know...I love you...right?” he asks, haltingly. He still can’t bring himself to make eye contact with Diluc, but the redhead doesn’t react. Kaeya barrels ahead, the speech he’s been carefully planning for years getting thrown to the wayside in his fluster. 

 

“I love you, I think I always have, and I’m sorry for lying to you-” he cuts himself off, biting his tongue before he ventures into dangerous territory. Kaeya finally drags his head down to meet Diluc’s eyes and realizes...Diluc is dead asleep. The pyro user’s head is lolling onto Kaeya’s arm, and as the blue haired man shifts he mumbles incoherently.

 

Well that was a lot of stress over nothing, Kaeya tells himself sardonically. He lifts Diluc gently and deposits him directly onto the bed. After a moment of studying the sleeping man’s face, Kaeya realizes that he should really help him out of his formal clothes. For Diluc’s comfort only, he tells himself, trying to be reasonable.

 

Kaeya eases off the smaller man’s shoes, then his white suit jacket, gloves, and tie. He considers, and decides to leave the rest well enough alone. He doesn’t have a death wish, which is essentially what Diluc waking up naked after Kaeya carried him to bed would amount to. He does reach behind the sleeping man’s head, and gently untie the ribbon holding his hair in place. Kaeya can’t help himself, massaging gently at the back of Diluc’s scalp where the hair had been gathered. Diluc sighs in his sleep, and turns to the side, nuzzling his nose into Kaeya’s wrist, making the cryo user halt until it becomes clear that the redhead is still entirely passed out.

 

Considering his options, Kaeya wonders if he should leave. He could go home, he supposes, though he’d have to beg a ride from Diluc’s staff. The carriage he’d arrived in earlier is long gone, and Childe and Zhongli have surely departed by now too. Looking down at his sleeping childhood friend, Kaeya finds he doesn’t want to go. In his unconsciousness, the scowl that Kaeya has become accustomed to seeing has melted from Diluc’s face. He looks far more like the Diluc of his adolescence than Kaeya is willing to dwell on.

 

Taking a deep breath, Kaeya resolves to stay, and begins to remove his own clothing for bed. At least if he’s here Diluc won’t have to wake up alone and hungover, he reasons, though he knows it’s a weak excuse. Diluc wakes up alone every day. At least I hope he does, Kaeya ponders with his lips pursed, pulling off one shoe then the other.

 

Tugging the bedsheets out from under Diluc’s sleeping form, Kaeya slides in next to the man. The redhead wiggles closer, resting his head on Kaeya’s bare chest with a sigh, his heated breath ghosting over tan skin. It’s just as warm as Kaeya remembers from the times he’d climbed into bed with Diluc in their younger days, to ward off nightmares or just for the pleasure of the other boy’s company. Kaeya distinctly remembers brushing his fingers delicately through downy crimson hair, and he can’t help the way his hand moves to do it now through sheer muscle memory.


Old habits die hard, he thinks as he joins Diluc in sleep.

Chapter Text

Childe sticks another spoonful of chocolate pudding into his mouth, and stares unabashedly at Zhongli. The former archon stares back silently, taking more delicate bites of his own dessert. Childe is grateful for his companion’s elegance. He’s not sure he’d be able to handle it if Zhongli made more of a show of sucking things into his mouth.

 

While Childe is happy for Kaeya (the bastard), he’s become acutely aware of the buffer effect their dinner companions were providing now that they’re gone. After Kaeya had all but carried his little redhead crush from the room, the butler had brought Childe and Zhongli delicate crystal bowls of chocolate pudding. Apparently Childe alone isn’t enough to coax Zhongli back into his explanation of subspecies of glaze lilies, so the two now sit in heavy silence as they eat. 

 

Well we can’t have that, now can we?, Childe thinks to himself, swallowing his bite. “So, how long will you be in Mondstadt?” he asks, trying to crack open the thick layer of ice between them. Zhongli hums to himself in thought, soft and low. The noise brings Childe back to the last time he’d heard it, when Zhongli had had something more sensitive than a spoon nestled between his lips. Gods I need to get laid, Childe realizes desperately.

 

“I believe,” Zhongli intones, “that will depend upon the hospitality of Barbatos. As I have very few mora in my possession, and no longer hold the means to create more, I will only be able to retain lodging for as long as he is willing to host me.”

 

“Oh no!” Childe replies, his concern barely faked, “So you’re low on cash then? Do you need help? I’d be happy to negotiate an arrangement with you.”

 

Zhongli averts his eyes, and Childe isn’t sure if he’s ashamed or he’s avoiding Childe’s own enthusiasm. “I would prefer to avoid troubling you,” he says slowly, “as I believe we’ve already paid back the dues to which we were bound. I would not wish to impede your time in Mondstadt, or your relationship with Cavalry Captain Alberich.”

 

“Oh, it’s no trouble,” Childe waves his concerns away, trying to sound deeply sincere. “You know I’ve got plenty of funds, and Kaeya’s only showing me around the city. What I do in my own free time is my decision.”

 

Zhongli frowns slightly, eating a few more bites. “Very well,” he allows, “what terms do you propose?” Childe scrapes at his pudding bowl, trying to hide his delight.

 

“Hmm,” Childe thinks aloud around his spoon. “You need money for food and such, and a place to stay, yes? Would a million Mora be sufficient, with the option to negotiate more in the future if needed? As for lodging, my room is at the best inn in Mondstadt, and there’s plenty of space in it. Why don’t you just stay with me, to cut costs?” He mentally pats himself on the back for his ingenuity. 

 

Zhongli’s face is blank, giving away no reaction. “And in return, what would you expect from me?” he inquires.

 

Childe tries to think of a sufficient answer, since there’s very little Zhongli could provide for him that he actually wants to take from the golden-eyed beauty. They’re interrupted from their discussion by Adelinde, who wants to know if they’ll be needing a ride back to their lodgings. Childe accepts for them before Zhongli can tell her they’re not actually staying at the same place. If he gets his way, they will be after all.

 

They move to the foyer to wait for the groom to bring Diluc’s carriage. Childe continues the conversation, trying to wind his way around to an appropriate answer. “Well, from the look of it, I think Sir Kaeya may be occupied until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest. I’ll need a companion while I take in the city, since it would be boring all by myself. Besides, I’ve received an open invitation to the Knights of Favonius Library, and who better to be my second pair of eyes as I unearth their secrets than you? You know everything!” he finishes with what he hopes is a flattering and inviting smile. 

 

Zhongli scoffs, arms crossed. “I do not know everything,” he protests. “I have simply accumulated more knowledge in my six thousand years of existence than a human could hope to obtain in their relatively miniscule lifespan.”

 

He continues in a dry voice, “However, while the terms you have laid out are more than satisfactory to me, I do not see how they are to your benefit. You could simply ask for a replacement guide from the Knights of Favonius if you do not think Sir Kaeya will be available. I am loath to enter into contracts with disproportionate terms, even if I am the one receiving the benefits. It creates a debt that must later be repaid.”

 

Childe ponders, and decides to go for broke. “Then, you could sweeten the deal for me? Since you can’t pay me back with the usual currency, what about with...physical favors? Only if you want to of course, I’m not going to force you into doing something unpleasant.”

 

Zhongli gives him a glare that could turn rock molten. “You have an engagement with Sir Kaeya, and I refuse to be a vehicle for infidelity.”

 

Childe backpedals hastily, holding up a hand, “Ah, no, it’s not like that! Whatever’s between Kaeya and I is, shall we say, an open relationship. I swear on the Tsaritsa that he won’t mind no matter what we do. Unless it’s burning down the city or something, hahaha.”

 

Childe sends up a prayer that his explanation will hold. It’s been so long since he had his hands on the man in front of him, and he can feel the craving increase now that the opportunity is being dangled tauntingly in front of him. 

 

The former archon does not look impressed, but it’s at that point that the carriage rattles to a stop in front of them. The groom greets them cheerfully and closes the door behind them as they step into the vehicle. The interior is plush red velvet, and Childe can see the old money of the Ragnvindr family on display. He’s surprised Diluc would let him anywhere near it, but he guesses the head of the house is most likely indisposed at the moment.

 

Zhongli rests his head on one hand, looking out the window, which Childe knows from experience is his version of being moody. “I will accept your terms as long as my duties only extend to companionship. Physical intimacy is off the table while you are otherwise promised to another. I do not believe your assertion that he would not care.” Zhongli turns to him, and Childe can feel a heat trickle through him from head to toe as the dark haired man gives him a once over. “Were it me, I would certainly care.”

 

Childe fights down a shiver, feeling flustered, and wonders what to do. He’s happy Zhongli is willing to humor him as far as spending time together is concerned. But he wants more. He says a silent apology to Kaeya, and braces himself for his own confession.

 

“Ah, Zhongli,” he waits until he sees that he has the other man’s full attention. “I’m not actually in any sort of relationship with Sir Kaeya. He’s just my guide. He wouldn’t even be with me if he wasn’t commanded to by his Order. There’s nothing between us, I swear!”

 

Zhongli eyes him warily, which is not the reaction he was expecting. Slowly, he answers, “I do not believe you. The display from today, at Barbatos’ statue, was quite pointedly a show of possession. And you were both too overly familiar at dinner for you to be disinterested parties. You have lied before to reach your own ends, and I have no confidence that this is not another such situation.”

 

Childe feels a pang in his heart hearing the depths to which Zhongli’s trust in him has sunk, though he knows it’s deserved. He tries once more, taking Zhongli’s large warm hand in his own. He can feel it twitch at the contact. “Yes, I’ve lied before,” he allows. “I’m a Fatui harbinger! I’m required to, there’s no way around that. But I wouldn’t lie about something like this. First, because there’s no reason to. Why would the Tsaritsa need me to lie about my personal relationships? The only reason Kaeya did that today was for revenge because I did the same thing to him in front of the guy he likes. Sir Diluc, if it wasn’t obvious.”

 

Swallowing, he continues. “Second, because I want to earn back your trust in me. I want to put our issues from Liyue behind us. Will you let me apologize for that, at least?”

 

Zhongli is quiet, and Chlide can hear his heartbeat loudly throbbing in his ears as he waits. “You need not apologize,” he says solemnly. “I do not hold your attempt at obtaining my gnosis against you. It would never have succeeded even if your intel was good.”

 

Childe takes the hit to his pride in stride, and lets Zhongli continue. “However, I do not know that there is any way for me to trust your words until you show you truly mean them. I will not fully believe there is nothing between you and Sir Kaeya until he tells me so himself. Until then, we will not be physically intimate.”

 

Childe laughs and pats Zhongli’s hand, though he can still feel his heart straining inside his chest to burst out. “Fair enough, fair enough. For now, though, we have a deal. You’ll stay with me and I’ll pay your way in Mondstadt. Agreed?”

 

Zhongli nods, and it feels like some of the tension between them has been relieved. It’s only then that Childe realizes he’s going to be sharing a bed with his former lover, and he’s not allowed to do anything that isn’t strictly platonic. I’m being punished for my hubris, Childe laments with a shake of his head. If he survives the night, though, he’s determined to make Zhongli his once and for all. 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Diluc wakes to the sun streaming daggers through the thick glass window panes of his bedroom. And they do feel like daggers, embedding directly into his skull when he opens his eyes. He clenches them closed again and moans softly into his pillow. Diluc is no stranger to pain from injuries, or migraines from lack of sleep. Hangovers are certainly their own brand of misery though. He feels like a steaming pile of mitachurl dung.

 

Why in Teyvat had he drank alcohol last night?! Diluc tries to shake the cobwebs off his memories from the prior evening, which are fuzzy at best. He’d gotten dressed...welcomed that former geo archon when the man had been ushered into the dining room by Adelinde...ah yes, and then Kaeya and his lover had arrived. Diluc grimaces. Kaeya had been wearing that godforsaken white suit, chest bared for anyone to see, and he’d been arm in arm with his Fatui harlot. That explains the alcohol, though Diluc can barely recall drinking it in his conscious memory. After that is a blur. He remembers feeling sad, but then he was rocked to sleep. That doesn’t track, Diluc thinks with a frown. Who had done that? Certainly not his staff, though there have been occasions in the past when he’s had to be carried unconscious to his room for recuperation after a night of facing difficult enemies. 

 

Diluc rolls onto his back, arm shielding his eyes from the sun, and freezes. He’s surrounded by an overwhelmingly familiar scent of calla lilies. Fighting his own self-preservation impulses, Diluc forces his eyes open and hastily takes in his own bedroom. He’s alone in the bed, and nothing seems to be amiss, though he realizes that he’s still wearing most of his clothes from the night before. Then, he does a double take as he notices one of his bedroom windows open. 

 

With apprehension, Diluc staggers his way out of bed and to his feet, gingerly shielding his eyes with his hand as he approaches the window. A playful breeze comes through from outside, causing his thick velvet curtains to sway. Poking his head out the window, Diluc isn’t sure what he expects to see. In the courtyard below, one of his staff members is reading a newspaper over her morning cup of coffee. The sky above is blue and nearly cloudless, promising a balmy day.

 

Diluc almost returns to bed, closing the window behind him, when he hears a small cough from above. Whipping his head up, wincing at the pang from inside his skull, he realizes that there’s a foot dangling over the edge of his roof. What in the name of Barbatos? Diluc curses internally, quickly ducking back inside. Hastily, he looks around, spotting his claymore against the wall next to the door where he’d left it before heading down to dinner. Hefting it in one hand, he unlatches a window on the opposite side of the room, trying to be as silent as possible. Then, he swings himself up on the roof, ready to turn and bat the intruder straight into the courtyard below.

 

The sight of cobalt hair stops him in his tracks, and he freezes with the claymore gripped tightly in two hands. What in the blazes is Kaeya Alberich doing on his roof, sitting nonchalantly with his face turned toward the sun as he quietly hums a tune Diluc doesn’t recognize? He must make a noise, because Kaeya’s head whisks toward him in surprise, and the two are left starting at each other in confusion. Diluc tamps down hard on the urge to swing the claymore anyway, his hangover irritating him even more than the sight of Kaeya’s face usually does.

 

“Well?” he demands, ignoring the gravelly way his voice comes out. “What the fuck are you doing on my roof, Kaeya?” The cryo user looks a little sheepish, and warily eyes the claymore. 

 

“You took an unexpected nap at the table last night,” he says in a level voice, “so I helped you get to bed. I figured I’d stay over just in case you wanted to talk things out in the morning, but I woke up a bit earlier than you, so I came up here to watch the sunrise. It’s been a while since I saw the sun rise at Dawn Winery,” he finishes with a grin, and Diluc isn’t sure why, but he feels like Kaeya is using it as a mask, trying to hide something beneath it. In their younger years, he would’ve known exactly what Kaeya was thinking, but he’s since lost that ability.

 

“What do you mean, talk things out? What things?” Diluc asks suspiciously, squinting through the bright morning light. Kaeya averts his eye, and Diluc knows he’s right. He is hiding something.

 

“Why don’t we go inside, and talk there?” Kaeya asks. “Do you need help getting back down? Why did you bring your claymore onto the roof?” his tone turns teasing. 

 

“No, I do not need help,” Diluc snaps, though he does go to the edge of the roof to comply, because gods is it bright out there. “I brought the claymore in case I needed it to defend my home against the ruffian squatting on my rooftop.” He swings himself down, claymore in hand, and lands squarely on his feet back in his bedroom. 

 

Silently, Kaeya follows, and Diluc is reminded that the man before him was once trained in assassination. He pushes that thought far into the back of his mind, and sits on the bed with his arms crossed. Kaeya stands in front of him, hands clasped behind his back, and Diluc raises an eyebrow to urge him on.

 

“How much do you remember of last night?” Kaeya begins, his eyes focused on one of the bedposts rather than Diluc. The redhead frowns, considering. “Everything through when I finished your drink. Is that why you stayed?” he asks, balking. “All this because you wanted to know why I drank your wine?”

 

This startles a laugh from Kaeya, which makes Diluc’s heart give a sudden thud. “My...my wine?” Kaeya asks in disbelief. “Why would I care about that? It was your wine to start with anyway, I just happened to be drinking it. I was referring to what happened after you drank the wine. Do you remember that?”

 

Diluc shuffles through the fragments of his memories, and draws a blank. “No,” he admits slowly, “what happened?”

 

Kaeya draws in a long breath, scrubbing his hand over his face. It’s only then that Diluc realizes Kaeya is also in his shirt and trousers from the prior night. That can’t have been comfortable to sleep in, he thinks absently, especially since the damn things are too tight on him to start with. After a moment in which Diluc assumes Kaeya has gathered his thoughts, the blue haired man tells him, “I think...that if you don’t remember, that might be for the best. I don’t think you’d want to know.”

 

Diluc can feel a sense of horror seeping into him. “Was it that bad?” he asks hesitantly. Surely he can’t have done anything nearly as ostentatious as Kaeya’s own drunken shenanigans. As an occasional bartender for the best tavern in Monstadt, Diluc has seen his share of debauchery, though he’s never had to experience it from this perspective before now.

 

Kaeya is still avoiding eye contact with him, and Diluc realizes startlingly, Oh gods, I must have come on to him. Diluc can feel his blood rushing into his face without his consent. Since he’d left Monstadt after the death of his father, he’s kept his unconfessed and unrequited feelings for the man before locked deep, deep down. Apparently in his drunken state, he’d decided to throw that effort to the wind, and flirt with a man who is not only uninterested in him, but happily coupled with another person. A person who had been at his table last night to witness everything.

 

Diluc sucks in a breath, feeling his eyes widen. “Where did your consort go? Your...ah...Tartaglia, isn’t it?” The name feels foreign in Diluc’s mouth, and he can see Kaeya twitch at it. Strange.

 

“Oh, he was happy enough to leave me behind, that Zhongli man took him back to the city. I imagine they’re both safely tucked into bed there as we speak,” Kaeya tells him, a little absently. Diluc frowns. Kaeya has made it sound like the relationship he has with that Fatui harbinger is not as monogamous as Diluc had expected. The thought crosses his mind that perhaps there’s room for Diluc in Kaeya’s interests after all, before he slaps it soundly away.

 

Kaeya is fidgeting where he stands, and it’s making Diluc nervous too, so he snaps, “oh, sit down would you?” with a gesture toward the other end of the bed. Kaeya does, and the faint scent of calla lilies engulfs Diluc again. He must’ve slept in the bed with me, Diluc realizes with a shock. He loathes that he wishes he was awake to remember it.

 

Rubbing his temples, Diluc ponders how to fix the awkwardness between himself and Kaeya. Unfortunately it stems from deeper roots than just what he’d done the night before, but Diluc figures that it’s as good a place to start as any.

 

“I’m...sorry,” Diluc hesitantly offers, though he wishes he could avoid this entire conversation and skip ahead to the part where they return to being coolly distant. “I should not have drank your wine last night, and I apologize for whatever I did or said while I’d taken leave of my senses. I hope you don’t take it to heart…?”

 

He can feel Kaeya scrutinizing him and fights down a shiver. Even the man’s gaze gives him chills. Diluc has no idea why Kaeya had spent the night in his bed, unless he really did care that much about an apology, and now he’s received it. Diluc hopes it was satisfactory enough to convince Kaeya to leave him alone to lick his wounds in peace.

 

Diluc jolts as he feels a hand on his shoulder, shooting a questioning glance at Kaeya. The other man is peering at him with an inscrutable expression. If he didn’t know better, Diluc would call it longing, but that’s simply not possible. “I just want you to know,” Kaeya starts, and then swallows. “You didn’t do anything that you need to feel ashamed of. There should be no hard feelings between us, at the very least with regard to last night.”

 

Diluc nods in agreement, feeling a rush of relief that at least Kaeya is letting him down easily. He hates feeling like he’s being pitied, it gives him hives. Diluc stands brusquely, knocking Kaeya’s hand off his shoulder, and straightens his clothes. Composing himself, he tells Kaeya, “Thank you for your assistance, then. I’ll see you to the door.” He yanks open his bedroom door and looks back to where the blue haired man is still sitting on his bed, looking at him with a pained expression. Diluc fights down nausea, though he’s not sure if it’s the result of the hangover or the situation. 

 

Kaeya stands, and slowly gathers his sparse belongings from around the room, then follows Diluc downstairs. His staff discreetly avoid them, for which he is immensely grateful. At the door, he asks Kaeya if he’d like a lift back to the city. It’s the least he can do, after the fiasco of yesterday. But Kaeya declines, saying he’d appreciate the exercise and time alone to think. Diluc doesn’t want to know what he’s planning to think about, so he says a terse goodbye and shuts the door behind the other man. 


As Diluc strides back to his bedroom quickly as possible, he considers making his best attempt at drowning himself in his wash basin. Gods, that was terrible, he thinks as he shuts the door behind him and slides down it to sit on the floor. Holding his head in his hands, he tries to plan out a way to never have to face Kaeya again.

Chapter Text

Kaeya makes it home in the late morning and decides that his Fatui charge can wait to be found until after he’s had time to clean himself up and get a bite to eat. Hell, the man will probably thank him for it, since he’d most likely latched his claws into the former geo archon the night before. Kaeya grabs a sunsettia, removes his eyepatch and allows himself a few minutes to lay on his bed and contemplate where he had gone wrong while he consumes it.

 

He’d tried to talk to Diluc about whatever is between them, but he’d been pushed away, literally out the door. Kaeya hadn’t wanted to tell Diluc about his crying or his confusing questions, because he didn’t want to embarrass the other man (there’s nothing more aggressive than an embarrassed Diluc, in Kaeya’s experience). Plus he isn’t even sure if Diluc had seriously meant anything by his drunken mumblings, and he doesn’t want to try to unpack something that isn’t there. 

 

Still, he thinks back to how Diluc had seemed to fixate on Childe for part of their short conversation, and frowns. Even if Diluc’s feelings don’t mirror his own, Kaeya doesn’t want to keep drawing out this charade. It’s to no one’s benefit. But he’s not sure how to draw the curtain on it either. As he’d told Childe before, just explaining to Diluc that there is nothing between them is likely to get him called a liar and a philanderer. 

 

Frustrated, Kaeya smacks his bed uselessly with a fist and gets up with a sigh to finish changing out of his clothes from the previous night. Once he’s suitably washed and dressed, he goes to hunt down his Fatui pain in the ass. A quick check with the innkeeper of the establishment where Childe is staying tells him that the man and his dragon had left together earlier that morning. Kaeya thinks quickly and decides there’s only one place in Mondstadt where Childe would’ve taken his companion.

 

He swings open the door to the Knights of Favonius library and looks around for the redheaded bastard. Kaeya sees his target sitting at a table with Zhongli, a little too close to be platonic, with their heads bent over a book they seem to both be reading. He approaches silently as snow, and throws an arm around Childe’s shoulder. The Fatui man jumps.

 

“Sorry to interrupt,” Kaeya says with a fake smile and a chill tone. “Can I talk to you? Privately? ” He makes it clear that he’s demanding, not requesting. Childe babbles something to Zhongli about how he should take his time and enjoy the library, while the dark haired man takes in the scene with a blank face until Kaeya hauls the hydro user off.

 

As they make it to the street, Kaeya is aware of curious eyes passing over the two of them, and tells Childe that they should go back to his room at the inn. The man looks longingly back toward the Favonius headquarters but agrees, trudging mournfully behind Kaeya. The blue haired man sends up a prayer to an unspecified deity for patience.

 

When they reach the room at the inn, Kaeya locks the door behind them. Childe flops dramatically on the bed, scooping up one of the pillows into a tight hug and inhaling. Nutcase, Kaeya thinks with a grimace.

 

“He slept here last night,” Childe informs him over the pillow, which does not make Kaeya feel any better. “He was right next to me in the bed and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it because he wouldn’t let me,” the Fatui harbinger sighs forlornly and Kaeya feels his eye roll in exasperation.

 

“You have to tell him we’re not together!” Childe implores, fixing Kaeya with what would be considered puppy dog eyes on a non-murderous individual. Kaeya scoffs.

 

“And where would that leave me? You really threw me to the wolves by pulling Diluc into this scheme of yours. I already said he’s not going to believe me, let alone you, if we tell him none of this was real. No, I’m not going to fix your problem for you until you fix mine.”

 

“Well, how am I supposed to convince Mister Ragnvindr then, if what you say is true?” Childe asks, making a wide helpless gesture with his arm. The only problem is that Kaeya has no idea either. Their conversation is interrupted by an insistent knock at the window. The two men exchange glances, and Kaeya sees Childe summon his shitty water bow out of the corner of his eye while he goes to open the window.

 

To his surprise, when he unlatches it a small figure swings in through the frame in a rush of green. Before Kaeya can draw his sword, he realizes they’ve been blessed with the presence of Barbatos himself.

 

“Good, you’re both here,” the tiny god says with a nod, as Childe looks at him in confusion with his bow half drawn. “Oh, put that away,” he tells the Fatui crossly, and Childe does after a nod of approval from Kaeya. 

 

“Sir Kaeya,” Barbatos acknowledges with a nod. “....Mister Fatui Harbinger,” he gives Childe a less polite nod and a frown. “I regret to inform you that Morax is moping. Again.”

 

“Eh?” Childe makes a noise of surprise. “Zhongli? Why? And what do you mean again? ” Barbatos gives a long sigh, his hands behind his back as he paces across the room. 

 

“Because of you, moron. Look, I’m not saying you have to marry him or anything (though that would be ideal), but can you at least take him back to Liyue? And put this farce with Sir Kaeya to an end? Do you know how pathetic it is when dragons mope? I need peace and a few barrels of wine or I’m going to snap and unleash a tornado just to put an end to my misery.” Barbatos finishes with a flourish of his cape and a tiny spiral of wind for emphasis. 

 

Kaeya looks on with interest as Childe’s face goes from pale to red. “M-marry….what?! What do you mean moping? He’s the one who didn’t want anything to do with me, even though I asked him to...you know…”

 

Barbatos massages the wrinkle that’s developed between his eyebrows, and Kaeya would fear for Childe’s safety if he actually cared about it. “Do I have to spell it out for you? Morax wants you, but he’s a good and reasonable old man. He’s not going to take you if you belong to someone else,” he gestures toward Kaeya, who’s struck with sudden inspiration.

 

“All we have to do is convince everyone we’re not together right? Easy. We end it the same way we started - we fake it. All we have to do is have a fight and pretend to end our relationship publicly.” 

 

Barbatos claps his hands together soundly, making his cape swirl behind him from the gust. “Excellent idea! Perfect! Let’s do it immediately, I’ll even help.”

 

Childe shakes his head in amusement. “Fine. We should help Kaeya too, though. If it’s peace you want, he and Master Diluc need to get past their differences and fuck out some of that tension.”

 

“Hey!” Kaeya yells in protest, but Barbatos nods in assent to the Fatui. “Well spotted, young harbinger. We may as well take care of that business in the same go. I’ll bring Morax so he can see the falling out, and then afterwards I’ll take Sir Kaeya to Angel’s Share and act as a second witness to the event so Master Diluc knows it’s the truth. Sir Kaeya can pay me back with the wine I’m owed for services rendered.”

 

Kaeya’s head is spinning at how events are unfolding, but the question he blurts out is, “how do you know Diluc will even be at Angel’s Share? Usually Charles is the one bartending. Diluc stays at Dawn Winery.”

 

“Ah, Master Diluc always relieves Charles on Thursdays,” Barbatos says with a knowing look toward Kaeya and a tap to the side of his nose. “He knows you usually work the night shift then, so he can avoid seeing the object of his pining. It’s a good thing your temporary assignment is about to be dumped on poor Morax to look after, isn’t it?”

 

Kaeya reels in silence. The reason he can never catch Diluc at his tavern is because the man avoids him? And how does Barbatos know that? As he pulls himself back from his internal crisis, he sees Barbatos shaking hands with Childe. 

 

“We’re all in agreement, then,” the anemo god says as Kaeya stutters. “I’ll go get that useless dragon and meet you two for the show. I’ll bring him by force if necessary, though he should come easily enough if I tell him Mister Harbinger will be there. Now where’s a good place to go…”

 

Barbatos contemplates for a moment, then brightens, “Ah, in front of the cathedral should work! It’s nice and open, public, and there should be plenty of witnesses to spread the word.”

 

Kaeya feels a little doubtful. “You want our fake public break up to be in front of the cathedral? Isn’t that a little inappropriate?”

 

The god looks offended. “It’s my cathedral, Sir Kaeya. I can use it for whatever I want, and what I want is to unload my oldest friend onto this Fatui fellow here.”

 

Kaeya shrugs and supposes that’s the truth. “Good,” Barbatos nods approvingly. “I’ll be at the plaza with Morax in half an hour. Don’t be late, but don’t start too early either. I want him to walk in for the climax hehehe.”

 

With that, the little green-clad bard swings himself up onto the window frame and gives them a dramatic salute before leaping out. Childe makes eye contact with Kaeya and says, “I guess we’d better get going then. Let’s plan out our performance on the way, shall we?” 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

As it turns out, Kaeya’s never been romantically involved before and neither has Childe, so it turns out to be total guesswork as they plan their break up on the way to the cathedral plaza. Kaeya has a bad feeling about the whole thing that only intensifies as they reach the top of the stairs and Childe unexpectedly sprints toward the statue of Barbatos. He breaks into a run after the other man, but by the time he gets there Childe has bounded straight up the statue’s robes and is crawling into its outstretched hands.

 

“What in Barbatos’ name are you doing?” he shouts up at the red haired man who’s laughing gleefully as he stands in the hands of the statue. They’ve certainly got the attention of everyone present, who are largely standing frozen and staring with shocked expressions at the foreigner who’s debasing their beloved statue. Monstadt may be the city of freedom, but at least they’ve got respect.

 

Kaeya feels anger and admiration warring within him at Childe’s ingenuity and shamelessness. He’s certainly ensured that everyone in Mondstadt will be talking about this. Drawing his sword, Kaeya shouts up, “get down here, or I’ll come up and throw you off myself!”

 

Childe laughs a little maniacally, summoning a hydro sword. “Make me then, Sir Kaeya! If you even can!” Kaeya sighs internally. It feels like Childe is doing this less for their charade and more because he just likes it. But if that’s how the game must be played, he’ll do it.

 

Kaeya follows, climbing up the opposite side of the statue from where Childe stands so he’s not sniped off. He can hear the folk on the ground murmuring in disapproval, but how else do they expect him to get the harbinger down!? Feeling irritated, he pulls himself up past the statue’s wings and to the top of the head. Looking down, Childe grins up at him from the statue’s hands and quietly says, “showtime!”

 

With a great leap, Childe bounds up the statue’s head and takes a massive swing at Kaeya with his sword. Kaeya parries with his own sword, almost stepping off the statue in the process. There’s not much room to maneuver, and Kaeya curses as Childe tries to drive his knee up into Kaeya’s stomach. Of course a Fatui harbinger wouldn’t pull any punches, even for something as stupid as a fake fight. 

 

Kaeya dodges by flinging himself onto the wing of the statue, skidding to a stop right before the edge. Looking down, he sees that someone has called other Knights of Favonius to assist with the problem, but apparently none of them are brave or willing enough to climb up the statue with the angry Fatui harbinger rampaging there. 

 

Kaeya remembers just then that they’re doing this for other purposes than to stroke Childe’s battle lust. He eggs the other man on with one of the lines they’d planned for what was supposed to be a verbal altercation. Making sure his voice carries to the crowd below, he shouts, “All of you Fatui are the same! No class, no respect, not even worth giving the time of day. Get the hell out of Monstadt! I never want to see you here again!”

 

That very Fatui man allows his sword to dissolve in favor of whipping out his bow, taking a close range shot at Kaeya’s head. To the cryo user’s surprise, the arrow flies off a foot to his left. At his raised eyebrow, Childe quietly replies, sheepish, “never was very good with a bow…”

 

Kaeya scoffs, leaping back to the head of the statue to take a powerful swing at Childe’s leg. Faster than Kaeya can blink, the bow is gone and the sword takes its place again to block the sharp metal. Without thinking, Kaeya grabs the edge of the hydro sword in his hand, freezing it instinctively. With a sharp yank, he catches Childe off guard and topples him off the back of the statue. Kaeya winces, waiting to hear a splat on the stone below.

 

The splat doesn’t come, and instead he hears a winded “oof” from Childe. Peering down from the edge of the statue, Kaeya sees that the redhead has dropped right into the waiting arms of Zhongli. The former archon seems ready to sprint to the top of the statue and murder Kaeya, but Barbatos is there holding him back with hushed words and a hand on his arm. Childe is holding his face in his hands, and Kaeya can’t say for sure from this height but it looks like his face is beet red.

 

Suddenly, Barbatos is shooting up toward Kaeya on a gust of wind. The cryo user hurries to the side of the statue’s head to make room for the archon. Looking down toward the other two, the little god shouts, “You take care of him, and I’ll take care of this one, ok?”

 

Zhongli nods, and strides away to the protests of the Knights of Favonius gathered below. They seem reluctant to stop him though, his presence radiating murderous intent. Kaeya doesn’t blame them, and he’s glad he’s looking down on the scene from the distance he is.

 

“Mission accomplished, it seems, Sir Kaeya!” Barbatos says with a wide smile. “I expect those two will be off to their marriage bed in Liyue by this time tomorrow.” Kaeya shudders, hoping that the mental image that popped into his head at those words doesn’t stick. 

 

“Well, as much as I enjoy the view from up here, we do have a second act to set in motion. Shall we?” Barbatos offers his hand, and Kaeya stares at it, unsure what to do. The small green man laughs, and pulls Kaeya with him right off the statue. They’re lowered gently to the ground on a zephyr, and Kaeya is instantly swarmed by the questions of the other knights there.

 

He waves them off aggressively, telling them to let Jean know he’ll be back to her with a full report of the incident as soon as he cleans up the loose ends. He tells them to leave the Fatui harbinger to him. He doesn’t want any of them walking in on the man and his jealous god, wherever they’ve gone off to. 

 

Kaeya and Barbatos set off toward the Angel’s Share, as planned. It’s not a long walk to the tavern, and the little god seems to walk with a spring in his step. Kaeya can feel triumph radiating off of him, and he wonders how long the man in green has been waiting to see his friend settle down.

 

The two step through the door of Diluc’s establishment. Kaeya’s not sure why, but he’s still surprised to see the object of his affection there behind the bar even after what Barbatos had told him. He’s so used to the feeling of disappointment he usually gets at Diluc’s absence that the elation shocks him. It’s still afternoon, only a short time after the tavern opens for the evening, and the building is all but empty except for the three of them.

 

Grinning cheekily, Barbatos swings himself up onto one of the seats at the bar, not dissuaded by Diluc’s unimpressed stare. Kaeya feels a lot less confident than the bard seems to, but takes a seat on the stool next to him. He notices with a pang of regret that Diluc is avoiding looking at him. “A pint of dandelion wine, good sir!” Barbatos says, slapping a hand on the counter.

 

Diluc grimaces, clearly remembering the last few incidents when the god had visited. “Pay first, then drink,” he demands. The archon gestures toward Kaeya. “He’ll be paying for us both. He had a rather public altercation with that harbinger, and they’ve had a falling out. We’re here to drink his sorrows away.”

 

Diluc startles, his hand pausing where he’d been organizing items behind the counter. Now he does look at Kaeya, suspiciously. “Is that true?” he asks. Kaeya knows that he’s referring to the falling out, not the payment. He rests his chin in his hand and lets out a long sorrowful sigh as he closes his eye, as if in pain. “Afraid so. The miscreant scaled the statue outside the cathedral and challenged me to a duel to the death. If I hadn’t thrown him off, who knows what he’d have done. He escaped with the former geo archon, and now I find myself regrettably single.”

 

Diluc is still glancing between the two of them, his eyes fixating on Barbatos’ hand as he pats Kaeya’s shoulder with fake sympathy. Silently, he lays out two glasses and begins to pour the wine, at which the little god lets out a loud whoop. Kaeya takes his wine in hand, and toasts him. “To new beginnings,” he says with a swig of his drink, not taking his eyes off of Diluc.

 

The two interlopers stay for hours. Diluc helps the other customers who filter in and out of the tavern, but he always seems to gravitate back toward Kaeya and the anemo archon afterward. Kaeya chats with Barbatos, who keeps asking for play-by-plays of the fight with Childe, giggling into his wine every time Kaeya mentions a different body part of the statue. While the god drinks speedily through glass after glass (Kaeya is definitely forwarding this bill to the Knights), the blue haired man proceeds more slowly, his gaze travelling back to the redhead on the other side of the counter time and again.

 

Later, Barbatos slams his glass to the counter, newly emptied of his most recent top-up. Wiping the back of his hand across his mouth, Kaeya sees a mischievous sparkle in his eyes. With trepidation, he sees the little god beckon Diluc closer. “Ah, I’ve got some business to attend to Master Diluc. But I would be remiss to leave my dear friend Sir Kaeya alone in his time of need. Would you do me the huge favor of being his companion for the rest of the night? I believe he may need some help to get home, as well.”

 

Kaeya starts to protest, and Diluc looks a little taken aback as the god reaches across the counter and grabs one of Diluc’s gloved hands in his own. Staring into the taller man’s eyes, the god says with great magnitude, “take good care of him for me or I’ll be quite angry, young Master.” Then, he stands and says airly, “have a good night, you two!” before he swirls in a flash of verdant green out the door.

 

Diluc and Kaeya are stuck staring awkwardly at each other. Diluc makes eye contact with one of his waitresses and beckons her over, instructing her to mind the bar. He slips out from behind the counter, and puts an arm hesitantly on Kaeya’s elbow. “I guess I should...take you home, then? Archon’s orders...” Kaeya hasn’t felt this stiff since that very morning, which seems like years ago now. He nods in agreement, then stands up and wraps an arm around Diluc’s shoulder like he used to when they were young. He has to reel his train of thought back aggressively when he realizes how warm Diluc is, pulled snugly against his side.

 

Diluc silently guides him out the door of the tavern, and they walk into the cool dark evening, leaving the raucous laughter behind them. To Kaeya’s surprise, Diluc doesn’t need directions to his home, even though the man has never been there before. The cryo user supposes it makes sense that Diluc’s surveillance of him would extend to his lodgings. When they reach his place, he fumbles with the key in the lock, something he’s never done before. Kaeya hopes it just looks like he’s tipsy, and Diluc doesn’t see through him straight to his nerves.

 

The two of them stumble through the door, and Diluc props Kaeya up against the wall so he can find and light the candles. When he returns, he finds the other man trembling slightly. Diluc has never known Kaeya to feel cold before, but Kaeya knows it’s not cold that’s making him shake. Tentatively, the pyro users pulls him into an embrace, which he silently returns. It seems to do the trick, and his trembling stops. Kaeya feels a bit overwhelmed at the warmth and closeness of his beloved.

 

Slowly, Diluc leads him toward the bed, which is really only large enough for one person. Kaeya can hear his heartbeat pounding in his ears, and he feels like he might be about to pass out as the object of his affections pushes him to sit on the edge and crouches before him to help him get his boots off. At Kaeya’s awed expression, Diluc’s face flushes and he tries to explain himself. “You did the same for me, last night. It’s only right to return the favor.”

 

Next, Diluc stands and begins to fumble with the clasps of Kaeya’s many accessories. Kaeya feels like he should be helping, but his fingers feel thick and useless, as though they belong to someone else and he doesn’t quite have control over them. So he just sits helpless as Diluc removes his bracelets and gloves, his fur stole, collar, jacket, and finally his belt with its vision attached. It’s been years since Kaeya was before Diluc with so little of his armor (both physical and emotional) equipped as a shield. 

 

Diluc stops, and seems not to know what to do next, his arms hovering uncertainly by his sides. Kaeya reaches out to take one of his hands, and starts peeling off his gloves. Though Diluc looks confused, he lets him do it, but he stops Kaeya with a hand to his chest as the cryo user pulls Diluc in closer between his spread legs.

 

Kaeya looks up at him and raises an eyebrow. In a smooth voice, he teases, “I’m just helping you get dressed down too, since you were so kind as to do it for me. You don’t want to sleep in all your clothes do you?” 

 

Diluc bats his arm away. “Who said I’m sleeping here?” he huffs, a little grumpy as he steps away. Kaeya grabs him by the hand and reels him in again. Resting his hands on Diluc’s hips, he looks up at him and asks as sincerely as possible, “won’t you stay the night, Luc?”

 

Diluc’s lips part in surprise at the old nickname, and Kaeya can see him hesitate. He doesn’t push, but after a flushed moment Diluc acquiesces by resting his hands on Kaeya’s shoulders. Kaeya ducks his head to hide his grin, beginning to work on unfastening the buttons of Diluc’s bartending vest. Within moments, Kaeya’s got him down to his shirt and slacks, and pulls the pyro user down onto the bed with him. 

 

Diluc’s hair is still secure in its high ponytail, so Kaeya lifts his hands up to unbind it. He can see Diluc’s eyes taking in his face, and says nothing even though he wants to tease the other man. Kaeya doesn’t want to break the tentative peace they’ve slipped into. Hair freed, Kaeya brushes his hand through the crimson waves to smooth them out, just like he’s always wanted to. Diluc’s breath hitches, and he closes his eyes as he leans into the touch. Kaeya tries to keep his breathing even and silent, like Diluc might spook and run at the slightest sound.

 

Gently, Kaeya pulls Diluc in closer, petting him all the while. Diluc allows himself to be snuggled into Kaeya’s chest, and the blue haired man can feel the heated puffs of his breath against his neck. Their legs tangle together, and though they have yet to talk through anything, Kaeya feels blissfully free, like he’s finally arrived home.

 

Chapter Text

Kaeya’s not sure why Diluc is letting him get so close, but he’s not about to complain. The cryo user refuses to ruin the magic of the moment and create an opportunity for Diluc to take back the leeway he’s given, so the two of them say nothing as they fall asleep tucked into each other’s arms. 

 

The light is weak and watery when Kaeya’s eye blinks open in the morning, and he sees clouds when he glances out the window. A rainy day, then. The good news is that he feels extraordinarily well-rested. For that he can thank the slumbering figure still nested between his arms. Kaeya pulls away slightly so he can take in Diluc’s sleeping face. He’s as gorgeous as ever, and Kaeya loves that the redhead isn’t able to turn away in avoidance as he takes in the sight. Diluc’s lips are parted and as Kaeya wonders what it would be like to kiss them, the sleeping man mumbles something unintelligible. Cute, Kaeya thinks in wonder before laughing at himself silently. He marvels at how deep he’s fallen into this infatuation without his consent.

 

Inching forward, he can’t help but give a small peck of his lips to the tip of Diluc’s nose. The redhead twitches minutely and scrunches it up in response, which doesn’t help Kaeya’s urge to do it again. He holds himself back, instead scanning over each individual eyelash and freckle on the other man’s face. It’s been so long since he was this close to Diluc, and he’s going to soak it in as much as possible.

 

Diluc shifts in his arms, and presses his nose back against Kaeya’s adam’s apple. Kaeya chuckles, and the redhead must feel the vibrations because he mumbles back what sounds like Kaeya’s name. The taller man freezes. Is Diluc dreaming about him? Is it a good dream or a nightmare? Judging from the way Diluc is clinging to him, it must not be terrible.

 

Incrementally, Kaeya can feel Diluc waking up. First, his body stiffens slightly. Then Kaeya can feel the fluttering of his eyelashes against the skin of his own neck. Finally Diluc lets out a low grumble that sounds significantly more awake than his sleepy mumblings had. Kaeya releases his hold on the other man as he sits up and gives a long catlike stretch of his whole body. Looking down at Kaeya, he says a little awkwardly, “Hi…”. 

 

Kaeya gives a sincere smile back. “Hi,” he returns, hoping this isn’t about to turn into some kind of screaming match. He does have neighbors. Diluc rakes his hand through his loose hair, pushing it back from his face. Kaeya resists the urge to reach out and touch it, since he’s not sure if he has permission. Without thinking, he blurts out, “want me to brush your hair?”

 

He almost claps a hand over his mouth. Why had he asked that? Diluc eyes him, curious but not angry. “Ok,” he says with a nod after a moment. Kaeya fumbles a little in his surprise, but manages to get up and fetch his hairbrush from across the room. Sitting on the bed behind Diluc, Kaeya lets out a long shaky breath, not sure why he’s being allowed this. With trembling fingers, he starts to gently brush the soft ruby hair from the bottom up. 

 

Kaeya focuses on the motions so he doesn’t get distracted by his proximity to Diluc, but before he’s even halfway finished Diluc breaks his concentration. “Do you want to talk about...your breakup?” Kaeya’s brushing slows almost to a stop. He can feel Diluc trembling under his hands, and he’s struck by a sudden overwhelming wave of guilt at all he’s put this man through, knowingly or not.

 

The cryo user continues his work, hoping maybe it’ll at least keep Diluc from turning around and punching him. “About that...hmn...well, believe it or not, he and I were never actually together?” Diluc’s head jerks under Kaeya’s hands, and the redhead lets out a quiet “ow” as his hair is pulled by the brush. Kaeya pauses but continues brushing. He doesn’t want to meet Diluc’s eyes, not yet.

 

“To clarify,” Diluc says softly, “you’re telling me that you weren’t in a relationship at all? So what, you were just fucking around for fun?” Kaeya flinches at the accusation. He knows he portrays himself as a flirt, but he’s surprised that with all of his intel, Diluc isn’t aware that Kaeya’s never actually been with anyone in that way before.

 

“No…” Kaeya says slowly, drawing the word out as he keeps brushing, trying to sooth Diluc like an enraged animal. “I’m saying that we literally never did anything. No touching, nothing. He’s not really my type, ahah..hah…”

 

Diluc is quiet and Kaeya wonders if this is finally it, the breaking point where the other man truly refuses to ever see him again. Diluc’s voice when it comes is flat and empty, “So you lied.”

 

Kaeya wishes he was mad, like he’d been on that day years ago. At least he knows how to handle a fight. “To be fair, he was the one who lied. But yes. It was stupid, I’ll admit.”

 

Diluc takes a long slow breath, in and then out. Kaeya can imagine that his eyes are closed, and he hopes Diluc is reigning in the urge to murder him. When he speaks, Kaeya can hear the pain acutely in his tone. “All you ever do is lie, Kae.”

 

Kaeya’s hands freeze where they are, buried in Diluc’s soft hair. He knows exactly what Diluc is referring to. Delicately, he sets the brush down on the bed, and reaches to turn Diluc’s face toward him. Now that Kaeya can see him, the other man looks close to tears, and Kaeya knows he needs to fix all of the wrongs that have been done.

 

“That day, everything that I told you was the truth. And look where it got me. I lost my home, my family. I lost you, the only thing in Teyvat I’ve ever loved. After that, the truth didn’t matter much to me anymore. But I’m telling you now, sincerely, you’re still what matters most to me in this world.”

 

Diluc averts his eyes. Wetly, he says, “you didn’t lose me because you told me the truth, Kae. I’m glad you did, even though I wasn’t then. You lost me because I couldn’t see straight through the red I felt over what they did to father. I didn’t leave Monstadt because of you, I left because of them. I wished every day that I could apologize to you, and have you back in my life. Did you mean it? When you said you loved me?”

 

Kaeya is not expecting this turn of events. He’s always blamed himself and his past, bitterly, for the rift between himself and Diluc. “Of course I loved you!” he exclaims, surprised Diluc didn’t know already. “I love you still. I’ve missed you every day since you left, and every day since you came back. I just want you, Luc.”

 

Kaeya wonders if it would be too opportunistic to kiss the man before him, but before he can make a decision Diluc makes it for him. He leans forward intently, pressing his lips against Kaeya’s. The warmth of his skin feels feverish to Kaeya’s own, and the cryo user gently rests his hands on the back of Diluc’s bare neck, under his fluffy hair. The redhead hums, and nips gently on Kaeya’s lower lip, making him gasp. That’s all the invitation Diluc needs to deepen the kiss and climb into Kaeya’s lap. 

 

Diluc straddles him on the bed, resting his hands firmly on Kaeya’s shoulders. Kaeya slides his hands down Diluc’s back so he can pull the redhead in closer until he’s pressed flush against Kaeya’s chest. He kisses the smaller man until he moans quietly, and Kaeya has to break the kiss off, panting.

 

Diluc’s pupils are blown wide as he and Kaeya stare into each other’s eyes. He’s just as out of breath as Kaeya is, and the blue haired man absentmindedly rubs up and down Diluc’s heaving back. Kaeya viciously fights the urge to throw Diluc down onto the bed and ravish him further. With a groan, Kaeya tells him, “I have to go report to Jean. I didn’t yesterday after the fight on the statue, and she’ll have me thrown to the slimes if I don’t go see her soon.”

 

Diluc’s face turns into a pout, which Kaeya finds utterly adorable. “Fine,” he says with a sigh, peeling himself off Kaeya. “But when you’re done, we’re continuing this. That is, if you want to…?” he finishes, uncharacteristically hesitant.

 

Kaeya pulls him down by the chin, giving his nose and then his lips a quick peck each. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world, darling.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Kaeya approaches the large crosshatch doors of the Knights of Favonius headquarters with trepidation. He knows he should’ve reported in yesterday, but seeing as how the fight had been feigned and Childe can’t actually be a danger to Mondstadt until Zhongli is done with him, he doesn’t feel that bad about it.

 

He pushes through the entrance, and knocks lightly at the door to Jean’s office. Her melodic voice bids him to enter, so he does, closing the door behind him. Jean sits at her desk, poring over some document, and Lisa stands beside her. They both look up at Kaeya, and for some reason Lisa lets out a little giggle. Kaeya feels a bolt of fear strike him.

 

“Very good, just the Cavalry Captain we need to explain this letter to us,” Jean says with a small smile. Uncertainly, Kaeya holds out his hand to take the letter in question. Scanning it, he snorts.

 

To the Acting Grand Master of the Knights of Favonius,

 

I regret to inform you that after a small incident in your cathedral square yesterday, I must depart Mondstadt with haste this morning. Though it was with the express permission of your Cavalry Captain, it seems the people of Mondstadt do not take kindly to their Archon Statue being put into the line of fire. For a further explanation of the incident, I will leave it to the Cavalry Captain in question, Sir Kaeya, to provide you with the details. 

 

Please let him know that he is welcome in Liyue any time, and that he can expect an invitation to the wedding of this Fatui harbinger and one Mr. Zhongli. I will expect him to return the same courtesy to us. 

 

Sincerely,

Tartaglia, Eleventh Harbinger of the Fatui, etc. etc.

 

“So?” Jean presses once he’s done reading. “I presume you can explain the incident, as well as this letter?” Kaeya squints out the window in the direction of Liyue, as though if he concentrates he can find the Fatui harbinger and drag him back to clean up his own mess.

 

Kaeya runs a hand through his hair and admits, “I was part of the plot that led to the incident at the statue. The fight between us was planned, though the location...was not. The harbinger and I just wanted to make a public showing of our dislike for each other, to dissuade any ideas of the two of us being...intimately acquainted.”

 

Jean hums thoughtfully. “A poor explanation, but I’ll accept it since there were no lasting consequences for your actions and the harbinger in question is now halfway back to Liyue Harbor. I must ask though, what is this bit that he’s babbling about at the end of the letter, about a wedding?”

 

Staring hard at the bookshelf, Kaeya fights down the flush in his cheeks, though he can tell he’s losing that battle. Hands behind his back, he says nonchalantly, “I believe that was a joke about my relationship with...Sir Diluc…”

 

He hears a clinking noise and turns his head, just in time to see Jean slipping Lisa a handful of coins. Lisa pockets them with a smile, and Kaeya feels like he’s just seen something illicit. At his look of confusion Jean sighs and says, “just paying off a bet. Lisa thought you two would get your act together before the new year, while I wasn’t expecting it until next summer at the earliest. I’ve known Sir Diluc for many years, that man is not an easy nut to crack.”


Kaeya’s mouth gapes in astonishment, until Jean dismisses him and shoos him out of her office. He shakes his head as he steps outside. Who knew that his and Diluc’s feelings for each other were obvious to everyone but themselves? Kaeya knows he’s getting ahead of himself, but he can’t help but think with delight about Childe’s taunt at the end of his letter. I will expect him to return the same courtesy to us. A wedding? To be bound forever to Diluc? Kaeya waves away the daydream as he heads back to his home. He knows that either way, neither of them will let anything come between them again.

 

@crystal_snwdrp