“ow, ow ow ow…” you winced sharply upon zhongli pressing down the alcohol-soaked gauze onto your skin, the wound fresh from fighting a mitachurl earlier. it managed to do a number on you, for you were caught off-guard from the damn thing charging into you with its axe. there was a pained look on your face, trying to not react to the sting that came with patching up wounds (but very much failing, no matter how strong of a front you struggled to put up). your partner simply sighed at your reaction, only focusing on the huge gash on your hand alongside the bruises littered across your skin.
“i suppose you ended up using those bandages you gave me, hm? i told you i wouldn’t have a use for them.” zhongli said with a gentle tone, trying to lighten up the mood a little - he knew you were not having a great time sitting here and getting fixed up, the scrunched up expression telling him volumes about how happy you were right now.
“i guess so,” you pouted, as zhongli patted down gently the bandages that covered your new wound. “you’re too good at not getting hurt. i still have a lot more to learn.”
it was zhongli who saved you from a potential fatal attack at the end of the battle, with you suddenly feeling a huge rumble from the ground and lost your balance. you felt someone pick you up before you could tumble on the dirt, and when the dust dissipated you were being held tightly by zhongli, a dangerous glow to his eyes and a stone stele impaling the mitachurl that almost killed you. there was heavy breathing coming from the both of you, with his almost animalistic-like while yours struggled to keep even as you were bleeding out. it took your weak tug against his suit that he finally snapped out of it, with a crumpled, frail you in his arms.
(you looked just like her back then. ethereal, fragile, but there was strong resolve in your eyes. he was so scared, scared that you looked too much like her right now, and he needed to move, move, move before-)
“i suppose it’s because of experience that i’ve become a seasoned warrior. i would prefer to avoid violence when i can, at least,” there was a hum in zhongli’s voice as he took a warm towel and cleaned away the blood ( your blood, he noted, and how he wished that he took that attack instead of you) that was on your face. you almost seemingly melted into his touch, your eyes closed as you leaned against the towel he had placed on his palm. rubbing soothing circles against your cheeks, eyes, you finally opened them when zhongli cleaned the dried blood on your lips.
(that look reminded him of her again. everything reminded him of her. he doesn’t know if he can move on.)
you pulled away from his touch, with the feeling of his hands still lingering on your body.
(you wish you could’ve stayed a little bit longer.)
“thanks zhongli, i really needed that.” you stretched a little in order to relax your body, but accidentally put too much strain on a wound and basically doubled over again in pain. zhongli immediately stood up to help you, hand on the small of your back and the other holding tightly onto your hand. you fought the tears away from your eyes as your face emerged from looking down, and zhongli felt his heart swell wholly.
(were you a god? mortals were frail, but you seemed especially fragile to him despite showing that you were an experienced fighter as well. did he have to protect you? would he have to?)
(what would he do without you?)
“maybe you still need my guidance,” your partner stated, and hooked his hands below you so he could carry you against him again. you flushed immediately, protesting verbally but clinging tightly onto his clothes so you won’t fall.
“you don’t have to, you know…!” there was that redness again, the shyness he loved so much. he loved how you were a living paradox. you’d say stuff like that but do exactly what you actually want. zhongli parted his lips as if about to say something, but closed it promptly and instead chose to carry you upstairs to your shared quarters.
“hey, you can’t just pull the silent treatment to me! i can walk up!” you tugged on his clothes again, acting stubborn as per usual. a sigh parted his lips, but it was betrayed by a small smile. “can’t i at least dote on you once in a while? you’re hurt, and bubu pharmacy isn’t always going to help us out with the funds again.”
the grip on his clothes relaxed, and so did the weight he was carrying. the walk up towards your room was quiet as you laid there, contemplating. zhongli finally settled you onto the bed you both slept on together, and covered you with the silken sheets. your eyes were on him the entire time as he helped you settle, and when his own met with yours he noticed the mischievous glint that sparkled under the starlight.
“what is it?” he asked, eyes glinting with curiosity about the look you were giving him. your grin was akin to the blossoming of glaze lilies, your arms stretching out as if to reach out to your lover.
“kiss me better?”
zhongli’s eyes widened.
you were not her. you were never her. somewhere in there, zhongli had a realization.
she is the past - you were the present.
she was hope - you were love.
she would not have wanted him to be stuck in a time that was no more - you were there to bring him back to the importance of right now.
the good luck of right now.
so he descended upon you, lovingly and gently, joining you amongst the messy sheets. his kisses littered everywhere against bare skin, followed by the laughter of his acts of adoration.
and he was there for it.