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the me now and the me then

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Kaeya stares down at the young boy in front of him. 

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Kae and I are going to help you guys make up,” Luc repeats, patiently.

“Yeah, about that...I don’t think so. I’m gonna head home. Sorry.” He tries to leave, but he’s stopped by small hands tugging on his coat.

“Kaeya,” Luc whines.

No. Kaeya is not going to look at him. He knows he’ll cave the second he sees those red eyes and pouting lips. He does not need to deal with this at 3am.

But Luc is insistent. Arms wrap around his waist to prevent him from moving.

Sigh.

“Look Diluc, it’s pretty late don’t you think? I should really go home and get some sleep. You should be asleep too. We found big Diluc and little Kaeya. You can stay with them until we figure out how you two got here. I’ll come back tomorrow to see you.”

He tries to unlatch Diluc's grip, but it only tightens around him.

“No! Don’t leave me!” Luc begs. “Can’t we at least try?”

He stares up at the sky and debates whether or not it’s worth risking to look at Diluc because he’s a weak, weak man when it comes to him. Fuck it, he decides. He gently pulls at Diluc’s arms and the boy reluctantly lets go. Kaeya kneels to level his height, urging his heart to remain strong before looking up. He will not fall for the eyes. He will not fall for the eyes.

“I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but some things in life can’t be fixed, Diluc. You’ll understand that more when you grow older.”

Luc frowns, eyebrows furrowing and lips falling further into its pout.

No. No no no, no.

“We haven’t even tried yet. How do you know it can’t be fixed?”

He hums thoughtfully before replying, careful in his answer. “Okay, why don’t we look at it this way. Say you have a plate.”

He forms a simple plate with cryo and gives it to Luc who takes it in his hands, confused.

“It’s your favorite plate and you treasure it very much. But one day, you aren’t careful. You accidentally drop the plate and it shatters.” 

He knocks the plate out of the boy’s grasp and it falls to the ground, breaking immediately on contact and causing Luc to gasp in shock.

“You’re completely devastated. It was your favorite plate after all.”

Luc bends down to try and pick up the pieces, but Kaeya grabs his arm to prevent him from doing so, not wanting him to get hurt. 

“Now say sorry to the plate.”

Luc looks up at him, head tilting cutely.

“Go on,” he gestures.

“Sorry..."

“Did the plate go back to the way it was before?”

There’s silence and Kaeya almost thinks Diluc doesn’t hear him until tears well up in the boy’s eyes and he shakes his head, voice small. 

“N-no.”

“Do you understand now?” he asks softly. “Why some things can’t be fixed.”

“Yes, b-but I didn’t mean it,” Luc sobs, arms hugging tight around Kaeya’s neck. “I’m sorry plate. I’m sorry Kaeya. I didn’t mean to drop it.”

Kaeya holds him, hands rubbing soothing circles on Diluc’s back in an attempt to console the boy. But he’s also close to breaking down himself.

Archons, please protect him. He’s too good for this world. 

Kaeya is so close to caving and doing anything Diluc wants of him that it takes every cell in his body to remain strong. He won’t allow the walls to come down. He mustn’t.

“I know, Diluc. I know you didn’t mean it and it’s not your fault. It was me who was careless. I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry.”

“It’s okay. Don’t b-be sorry. I forgive you,” Luc cries into his neck.

A small crack appears.

He lets out a shaky laugh, tears falling unwillingly. “Thank you, Luc. But that’s not for you to give. Big Diluc needs to make that decision on his own.”

Feeling wetness from above him, the red fluff against his neck moves slightly, pulling away just enough for small hands to wipe away his tears.

“Don’t cry,” Luc pleads.

Kaeya smiles sadly. “You’re crying too.”

“Only because I don’t want to lose you,” Luc sobs. 

A larger crack.

“You won’t lose me silly,” he says, forcing a smile. “I’ll always be here for you even if we’re not together.”

“But I want to stay with Kaeya forever,” Luc wails. “I love him. I love you.”

Kaeya can feel his heart breaking and he doesn’t know how to answer him. He doesn’t know if he can answer him. Because when was the last time he heard those words? When was the last time Diluc looked at him with anything but hatred and disappointment in his eyes? When was the last time they were honest with each other? 

But Luc doesn’t seem to expect a response. He rubs furiously at his eyes and continues.

“Before I had Kaeya, I was all alone. There was no one to play with and it was so boring,” he sniffles.

Why is Diluc telling him this?

“But then I met Kaeya and he made everything so fun. He tells me the most amazing stories and we go on the best adventures.”

He remembers. He remembers reading through Crepus’s extensive library and spinning wild tales to ensure that he would always have something new to tell Diluc. He remembers not wanting him to get bored, ...to get bored of him, so he took it upon himself to explore every crevice of the winery to ensure he could always take Diluc on a journey he would enjoy.

The first wall collapses.

“Whenever I get sick or hurt, Father and the maids would tell Kaeya not to bother me, but I always missed him lots so he would sneak into my room at night to come see me.”

He remembers. He remembers waiting until everyone was asleep before tiptoeing across the hall to where he knew Diluc lay awake. He remembers holding him in his arms and whispering fond adorations into his hair until Diluc would finally fall asleep.

The second follows.

“Soon, it wasn’t just when I was sick or hurt. Kaeya started coming in every night because we had become unable to sleep without one another. That’s when I found out that he has nightmares. Sometimes he doesn’t do anything and just sits there blankly. It scares me you know. He never tells me what they’re about, but he says it’s the same one every time. I want to be stronger so I can protect him from them.”

He remembers. He remembers the maids glancing in disapproval and Crepus saying that it’s okay, they’ll grow out of it. But they never did. He remembers sitting up in cold sweat and tears with the voices of bygone days ringing in his head. He remembers waking Diluc and seeing not anger, but worry in those red eyes he loved. He remembers falling asleep again to the soft whisper of reassurances in his ear.

A third.

“Do you still have nightmares,” Luc asks.

“...Sometimes,” he answers honestly, but the boy looks so visibly defeated that he almost wishes he lied instead.

“I’m sorry I’m not there to protect you.”

He doesn’t know what to say again. What can he say? It’s okay? I’m used to it? But Luc saves him from the choice again.

“We made a promise to be together forever and Ragnvindrs don’t go back on their words.”

He remembers. He remembers linking their pinkies in an oath. He remembers telling himself that night that he would always be there should Diluc need him. He remembers praying to every archon to not let anyone or anything take him away from his side. He remembers. He remembers. God does he remember.

The fourth wall shatters.

“So can we? Can we try just once to fix it? I know you said it won’t work, but we’re not plates, Kaeya. Maybe it can work. Maybe we can fix this.”

He’s speechless.

Ever since that night, he had believed that he didn’t deserve him. Didn’t deserve his love. Diluc was the sun in Kaeya’s world and he hated himself for being the one to extinguish his light. But here was Diluc, a younger Diluc, telling him that maybe the light had not gone dark like he thought it had. Maybe there was still a chance. He doesn’t believe that he has the right to stand at Diluc’s side again, but maybe, just maybe, he could get a chance to prove himself.

And he takes it. He falls for the eyes. 

Every single wall he had put up and every single mask he had ever worn comes down then, succumbing to the relentless red spark desperately pounding on the other side. And he lets them. He’s tired of hiding. He’s so, so tired. Maybe he can bear his heart out once more to the one person who’s owned it from the very start.

“Sure. Let’s try.”

Luc beams at him and even after all the tears, Kaeya still thinks it’s the loveliest smile he’s ever seen, and he can’t help but smile back. Diluc always shined bright, didn’t he? He will get his light back, no matter what it takes. And this time, for sure, he’ll make sure to protect it.