Archons, it’s incredibly late-- or early depending on your view-- in the land of Mondstad. The night has come and nearly gone as the moon starts to prepare to trade places with the sun. In the same tone, he uses on Klee when she’s done something she deems horrible and unredeemable Kaeya says, “Albedo I see you’re still here.”
The man snaps to attention. Looking over his newest convoluted experiment he blinks blankly at the Cavalry captain who leans nonchalantly in his doorway.
“Sir Kaeya,” he mumbles and reverts back to focusing on pouring a vile of yellow liquid. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“You haven’t been sleeping,” Kaeya states. “It’s worrisome. I know you’re an unstoppable machine when you want to be but rest is important.”
Albedo resists the urge to chuckle. He hasn’t any need for sleep, it was merely cosmetic. It kept his face youthful and his eyebags gone, nothing more. “I don’t sleep. You know that.”
Albedo picks up another beaker and measures out a new substance. “Do I look tired to you Sir Kaeya?”
“You can drop the title my dear alchemist,” Kaeya teases as he steps into the room and closes the door. “And honestly? You’ve looked better. You know, exhaustion is the death of beauty.”
“Did you come here just to insult me?
Wryly Kaeya asks, “Do you feel insulted?”
Pouring another glass, this time filled only a quarter of the way with a clear substance Albedo asks a question. “What do you want?”
“For you to take a day off.”
“I did,” Albedo insists. “I took a day off the night I came home.”
“Do you hear yourself,” Kaeya asks with mirth. “You did not take the day off you took exactly 12 hours— a night— off before you went back to work. That hardly counts as a break. It’s a miracle you haven’t dropped dead by now”
“You forget yourself,” Albedo says with the rise of a brow. With Kaeya he always finds himself becoming more expressive, for better or worse. “I don’t tell you as the cavalry captain how to run your side of the operation. I aspect you to give me the same courtesy.”
A laugh poorly muffled by his hands comes from Kaeya. “I’m not telling you to rest to be a pain in the ass.”
“No,” he says and grabs the beaker out from the Chief alchemist's hands. The clear liquid spills onto the table causing a hissing sound to which Kaeya pays no mind to.
Albedo exclaims with horrified eyes, “Sir Karya be careful--”
“Take a break Albedo,” he replies seriously. “You are worrying Sucrose sick with all your hard work. She personally asked me to come and remove you from your lab one way or another and I’m not about to let the little lady down.”
Folding his hands Albedo scoffs. “She has no need to be concerned. I assured her I was fine.”
“There is an acidic hole gnawing through the table right now.”
“You put it there.”
“You were too slow and let me actually snatch your equipment. That never happens my prince.”
Albedo opens his mouth for a rebuttal but promptly snaps it with annoyance as he knows the captain is correct. Normally Kaeya wouldn't lay a finger on his equipment without finding the blade of the alchemist's sword to his neck as a playful but very real warning.
Reluctantly he asks, “If I take an hour or two off will she be pleased?”
“A whole day Albedo. You need a whole day to just relax.”
He blinks. “No. No way. That’s much too long. Do you know how much scientific progress could occur in the span of twenty-four hours?”
“No,” Kaeya responds without missing a beat, “And I don’t care. Now are you leaving your office with me on your feet or will I need to carry you out?”
He narrows his eyes a fraction. “You wouldn’t.”
“Wouldn’t I,” Kaeya smiles as he hops over to the other side of the table to sweep Albedo off the ground bridal style.
“Put me down,” Albedo says with no bite as he watches Kaeya maneuver around him to get a better grip. With careful and slender hands he avoids Albedo’s shoulders and lower back, focusing support on his middle back and legs. Always the gentleman it seemed, never too far from the equator.
“No I don’t think I will,” Kaeya laughs, walking around the table and towards the door. “Besides if I hadn’t thought to pick you up we’d still be fighting about how long you need to take a break, am I right?”
Not dignifying the other with an answer, Albedo glares off to the side, his eyes unable to meet the other knights who watch on in mass confusion as he is carried throughout the halls like some sort of mangy kitten.
Faintly he hears whispers as he passes. They all seem astonished Albedo has left his lab. Everyone assumed he lived there and didn’t have a home outside of the headquarter building. Well, jokes on them he did in fact have a house he just found it lacked the proper tools for his scientific endeavors!
“Do you have the same address,” Kaeya asks as he carries the alchemist out the door and into the waning moon-light.
Albedo mutely nods.
“Great,” Kaeya says and for the rest of the trek, they walk in a comfortable quiet.
Albedo is put down at his doorstep and takes out his keys. “Yes, well I’m glad you and I could have this little adventure but I suppose it’s time for you to head out, no?”
“Will you sleep?”
“Yes,” he says quickly. Too quickly. As Albedo moves to shut his front door between them, Kaeya nudges his foot in the way, not even wincing as the door hits him.
“Somehow I find myself not believing you. I think I ought to stay.”
Petulantly Albedo groans. “And what? Shall you watch me until I fall asleep? How ridiculous.”
“I could take a nap as well.”
Albedo shakes his head. “And where would you lay? My couch?”
With a flicker of a suggestive smile, Kaeya says, “How about your bed?”
Failing to keep his annoyance off his face, Albedo blinks deliberately and glares at Kaeya who wears an absolutely shameless grin. Damn bastard.
“Fine,” he says after a moment.
“I said fine. We can share my bed. It's big enough. You’re lanky, I highly doubt my couch would benefit you, and you haven’t slept at all tonight have you?”
It’s not a true question. Of course, Kaeya hasn’t slept. They were both work-a-holics at heart.
All Kaeya can do is stare in disbelief. He takes a moment to regain himself as Albedo walks past him and towards his bedroom.
“You know if you wanted to get me into bed you--”
“Save it for some woman at the Angel Share,” Albedo says with a side-eye that could kill a lesser man. “I’m merely offering you a bed to share. Don’t read into it or you will find yourself outside my house.”
“So cold, my dear alchemist.”
Albedo’s already beginning to change when Kaeya walks in behind him. It’s nothing new, they were both training to be knights around the same time, and yet Kaeya still feels the need to look away as Albedo removes his stockings.
“I didn’t realize you were capable of blushing like a maiden,” the alchemist teases.
With a grimace, he says, “It’s called being courteous Albedo.”
“Sure. Will you be changing out of your needlessly complicated wardrobe?”
Albedo spys the spiked gloves and jagged jacket his co-worker wears. “Yes,” he decides. “I’d rather not share a bed with someone who could impale me at any moment. You should at least have an undershirt underneath all of that, correct?”
When the two finally get out of their labyrinths known as character designs and into bed Albedo puts a pillow between them to which Kaya scoffs at.
“Is this a barrier?”
“Yes,” Albedo says like it's obvious, and really it is.
“I can just take the couch,” Kaeya says getting ready to get up. He has no intentions of making Albedo uncomfortable; he just needs to ensure the alchemist actually goes to bed.
“No, you won’t fin on the couch. You’re much too tall.”
“This is clearly an uncomfortable situation for you my dear alchemist. I have no qualms about sleeping outside in your living room. There is no need to push yourself out of your comfort zone for me.”
“I would be a bad host.”
“I invited myself in,” he reminds.
Albedo insists, “I’m not uncomfortable sharing a bed with you.”
Kaeya blatantly doesn’t believe him but puts himself back under the covers. “You can kick me out at any time. Say the word and I’ll go to the couch.”
Albedo doesn’t respond as he puts the pillow barrier back up. The wall doesn’t last long, in fact, Albedo is the one to tear it down in his sleep. Hours pass and slowly the men go from opposite sides of a king-size mattress to meeting in the center.
Teal eyes blurring open Albedo tries to gather himself. Warmth surrounds him as he feels the light breathing of Kaeya behind him. Strong, tight arms envelop him with a sense of security he hasn’t felt in years. Vaguely he wonders if this is the infamous cuddling he’s heard so much about.
If it is, he has to agree it’s the superior form of human contact.
He listens to the rhythm of Kaeya’s breathing, the steady pumping of his heart throughout his chest, and hums. Albedo lacks a constant heartbeat. He can replicate the thumping of a pounding heart just as he can manually force himself to inhale and exhale.
But more often than not it’s too much of a hassle so he forgoes the process. If anyone in Modstad has noticed they say nothing. He suspects they’ve never bothered to check-- merely assuming he had to be human because what else would the brilliant alchemist be?
He blinks away the thoughts and suddenly has an epiphany as he feels the rise and fall of Kaeya’s chest on his back. Oh.
“You're awake,” he says without a doubt and for a moment Kaeya stiffens.
“How did you know?”
“It was too shallow. You were breathing like when you were infiltrating. It was too quiet. Not natural.”
“Do you make it a habit to know all your fellow Knight’s breathing patterns or am I special?”
“So I am correct? You’re breathing was off, yes?”
Kaeya shifts behind Albedo and pulls an arm from underneath him. He looks down at the blond with a peculiar expression. “You’re incredibly observant. And here I thought it was my job to know anything and everything about the people of Mondstad.”
Albedo flicks his eyes up to meet Kaeya’s and thinks for a moment about how wonderful the view is. Long, unkempt navy hair drapes over his darker frame as stares with his full attention on Albedo.
“Hm, well it doesn’t matter much. How long have you been up? What time is it?”
“Time is unimportant, Kaeya shrugs him off easily. “How are you feeling?”
“The same I was feeling before I took a nap. Fine.”
“Sure,” Kaeya can’t help but roll his eyes. “What I’m asking is if you feel well-rested, Albedo. Come on and play nice, won’t you?”
Close. Their faces are close. Oh, Archons he had forgotten just how close they’d be when he agreed to finally take a rest. Damn that pillow barrier, it's failed him!
The space could be closed without hassle all it would take was a nudge in the right direction. Albedo wondered if he had the ability to love like that. If he did, why hadn’t these thoughts come to him earlier?
What changed? When did it change? Could he go back?
Kaeya blinks a few times waiting for a response and treacherously Albedo's mind thinks about how beautiful Kaeya's blue eyes are. Actually, Albedo notices Kaeya’s whole face is the epitome of gorgeous as he stares, clearly riveted.
Kaeya notices the change in the way he looks at him. “My dear alchemist?”
“Hm,” Albedo mumbles, not quite done studying the other man’s face. Perhaps he should actually paint a proper picture of Kaeya instead of the quick, stupid little sketches he gives to Klee.
“I asked if you were feeling better.”
“Oh,” Albedo sounds surprised. “Right. I feel fine Sir Kaeya thank you for staying with me.”
A gracious grin forms. “It was my pleasure, my prince,” he says. “I could stay longer if you’d like.”
He raises a skeptical brow. “Whatever for Sir Kaeya? Your mission has been accomplished, no? I have slept just as Sucrose asked and you have ensured I left my lab for at least a few hours.”
Kaeya’s grin drops for a mere second before perking back up. “I don’t know, you could always be up for more relaxing.”
Albedo glares at him. “I’ve wasted enough time as it is,” he says and moves to get up off the bed but is tugged back down by Kaeya in an instant.
“Sir Kaeya,” he begins with a voice as calm as a still lake. “Do you wish to find yourself with the tip of my blade at your throat? If not I suggest you unhand me.”
“Albedo,” Kaeya warns, “You shouldn’t threaten me with such a good time. Anyway, you haven’t wasted any time taking mere hours off. Stay a little longer. It would reflect poorly on me if I could only manage to persuade you to do the minimum.”
“I suppose your ego will have to suffer.”
“You’re a cruel and cold-hearted prince, you know that?”
“Let me go Sir Kaeya.”
“Stay a little longer,” he all but pleads. “There is nothing so important that it can't wait.” Kaeya waits for a beat to see if the blond will attempt to get up again and then wraps his arms around him once more.
A huff escapes Albedo as he allows himself to be practically swaddled. “I’m beginning to think you have ulterior motives rather than just helping lower Sucrose’s anxiety.”
“Of course I do,” Kaeya admits with ease. “I thought it was obvious I enjoy spending time with you my dear alchemist. Surely even someone as dense as you ought to have caught on by now.”
Albedo thinks he should take offense to that. “Do you make it a habit to insult those you intend to court?”
“Only you and only because it riles you up.”
“And here I thought you highly of me.”
“Don’t mistake my teasing for disrespect,” Kaeya says sharply, causing Albedo to flush. Archons, his voice had no right to be so close to his ears. “You are incredibly intelligent, creative, and overall an outstanding Knight despite your reluctance to be out on the field. I only have the highest respect for you as the Chief Alchemist of the Knights of Favonius.”
“Careful now,” Albedo says lightly, “if you shower me with compliments I might get the wrong idea.”
Scoffing Kaeya says, “You can’t honestly think I’m jesting, can you? I do find you intriguing Albedo and I have full intentions of courting you so long as you’ll let me.”
“Can you blame me for hesitance?” He comes out more accusatory than he means but doesn’t attempt to back-peddle. After all, there is some truth in his anger.
“You can’t wiggle yourself out of conversations by asking another question. It might work on others but I’m much too smart and know you far too well for that.”
“You think you know me,” Kaeya asks with astonishment. “That’s quite a bold thing to say.”
“I think I know your modus operandi when it comes to socialization, yes. You are a rather notorious flirt-- insatiable really. But you are so dedicated to your work I can't recall you ever having a serious relationship.”
“Do you listen to gossip often my dear?”
Albedo snorts and curls into himself, tugging Kaaya’s arms tighter around him. “That is your job, not mine.”
“I think we have established that roles matter very little here. You are the Chief Alchemist who never leaves his lab and I am the Cavalry Captain who spends his nights out finding women to warm beds with. I should think you’re not a woman and you most definitely aren’t in your lab right now. ”
They lay in silence for a few minutes before Albedo speaks again.
“You are quite touchy.”
“You are but you always know where not to touch me.”
“It's my job to be perceptive,” Kaeya reminds softly.
“No one has ever bothered to care,” he admits. “It’s a hassle to be cautious around me so most don’t.”
“Is that why you spend so much time secluded? So no one can cross your boundaries?”
“No,” Albedo says quickly but then snaps his mouth shut. That’s a...thought. “No, I just have so much work to do and so little time. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to take weekends off. ”
“Albedo,” Kaeya starts softly, “what are you trying to do?”
With an honest chuckle, he says, “Everything. I’m trying to do everything Sir Kaeya.”
“You said I was touchy right?”
“Yes, your hands wander so much…”
“How about now?”
Kaeya pushes his nose into the crook of Albedo’s neck. “I try hard to respect your boundaries and I never took you much for a little spoon but here you are underneath me and I would say you are rather enjoying yourself. So I ask, how do you feel about me touching you now?”
Albedo takes a moment to think and his face wrinkles adorably. “You are warm. You’re making me feel safe if I am to be honest. I rarely feel safe around others.”
“Really,” he muses.
“People are unpredictable,” Albedo says and fails to elaborate.
“Would you say I am predictable?”
“I did say I knew you well, yes?”
Kaeya laughs but it’s hollow as if missing something key. “You probably know me as well as you can.”
Unable to respond to that and with the warmth of another body pressing up against him, Albedo slowly closes his eyes once again. He allows himself to fall asleep, assured by Kaeya that he could spend a couple more hours in bed and everything wouldn’t fall apart.
As the wispy darkness of sleep overtakes him he hears Kaeya whisper faintly into his ear, “You don’t know me. I don’t know you. Nothing real anyway.”
Albedo thinks he might respond with, “Nothing about us is real.” But he can't be sure as he drifts off back into unconsciousness.