In his first few days at the Ragnvindr household, Kaeya was shocked by the warmth of Diluc’s hands.
It wasn’t that Kaeya had never held anyone’s hands before; he had, but there was always a purpose behind it and nothing more, as if the only thing that drives any form of human connection was the need to achieve a result. Their goals were all that mattered, and there was nothing else they could hope for, nothing else they should hope for, before those goals were realised.
None of it could compare to that shocking warmth emanating from Diluc’s hands as they cradled Kaeya’s own. It was a warmth that seeped through his skin and into his very heart, reminding him that he had one in the first place.
It came as a surprise, how easily Diluc took his hand in his. That very first stormy night Kaeya arrived at the steps of the Ragnvindr mansion, as he would later tell, Crepus Ragnvindr opened the doors of his home for him and young Diluc Ragnvindr led him by the hand, away from the cold rain, into a home.
Kaeya settled into his new life with relative ease. Master Crepus was a busier man than Kaeya thought he’d be, but with the schedule Diluc had and Kaeya now followed, his absence was hardly noticeable.
“Kaeya, no!” Diluc prodded Kaeya with the blunt end of his wooden practice sword. “That’s not how you’re supposed to do it. Look!”
Kaeya furrowed his brows. This was the third time Diluc was showing him this move, but he still didn’t get it. There was just something about the angle that he couldn’t get right.
“Come on now, young master Diluc,” their instructor interrupted gently. “Don’t be so hard on poor Kaeya, he’s got much less experience than you do.”
“I know,” Diluc huffed. “Still.”
“It’s okay, sir.” Kaeya offered a sheepish smile. “I’m the one slowing Young Master Diluc’s progress down.”
Crepus had asked him if he wanted to join Diluc’s lessons a few weeks prior, to have something to do instead of holing up in their library, Kaeya supposed, but it also seemed that Master Crepus was not so generous as to hire another set of tutors and instructors for Kaeya alone to catch him up to speed. Although he did say that it would be good for Diluc to have someone to work and compete with.
Diluc fixed Kaeya with a strange look that Kaeya couldn’t read. He put down his sword and walked up right next to him. “…I’ll show you again.”
At once, Diluc’s hands were on his, moving them into the right position. Kaeya almost jumped at the contact, and he tensed on reflex, stopping himself from making any drastic moves. One of Diluc’s hands settled on his forearm.
“You need to relax, Kaeya. This is why you can’t get this move right. You just hold the sword like this, take a step forward, and thrust.”
“…Okay.” Kaeya could never get used to this. The weight of Diluc’s hands and their accompanying heat slowly sank into Kaeya’s bones as they worked through the steps. The eternally gentle breeze that blows through Mondstadt cooled his head off, but Diluc’s touch writes itself into Kaeya’s memories unbidden. And Kaeya can’t forget.
The people of Mondstadt think the two Ragnvindr boys got along immediately, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. Kaeya didn’t know where he stood in that household, and while Diluc had etiquette lessons drilled into him from a young age, nothing could stop his true feelings from showing on his face. Especially not when Kaeya, in his lack of experience, got in his way.
There was once, during a festival, when Crepus shooed the two boys off with a bag of mora and a laugh to explore the city on their own. The barely familiar roads of Mondstadt had become unfamiliar once again with the stalls set up for the festival and the excited crowds of people participating in the games, watching shows and lining up for street food.
It didn’t take more than Diluc running off to get in line for something and Kaeya not being able to catch up for them to be separated. Kaeya squeezed through the gaps between people, the noise of the stall owners calling out to passers-by to take a look at their shops and the festival-goers responding in kind beginning to get a little too much for him.
He didn’t know the layout of the stalls, and he couldn’t see Diluc through the crowd, and Master Crepus was busy, and he shouldn’t return to bother him—
Was this what he should be doing?
Was this where he really should be?
What if this was all a futile attempt and this was the end of the road—
“There you are!” Diluc’s voice cut through all the noise and straight to him. “I was beginning to think you had run off!”
Kaeya looked up to see Diluc holding a skewer of fried radish balls, looking very much like a miniature version of Master Crepus when he talked to the winery employees, with one hand on his hip.
“Are you crying?”
Kaeya hadn’t noticed the tears welling up in his eyes until Diluc pointed it out, and all of a sudden, he was trying—and failing—to keep them at bay. His cheeks burned in embarrassment. He didn’t mean to cry! He’s been through worse; he shouldn’t be crying at this.
Gentle hands pried his arms away from his face and brought out a handkerchief to wipe his tears away.
“Hey, hey, I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to be mean. Here, you can have the rest of my radish balls, don’t cry any more, okay?”
Kaeya hiccupped at that and slowly shook his head. He raised his arm to wipe at his face and put it back down immediately. The shirt wasn’t his.
“Um…” Diluc paused. “How about this, I’ll hold your hand, so you don’t get lost any more.”
With that, Diluc took Kaeya’s hand in his and didn’t let go.
The scratch of pen on paper filled the room as Kaeya and Diluc worked on their homework, sprawled across the floor of their shared room. There were perfectly usable tables in their room, but Kaeya had flopped onto his bed trying to come up with answers for the assignment, and Diluc followed. Then they rolled off their beds. And onto the floor.
A rare scowl graced Diluc’s features as he concentrated on printing his letters neatly and legibly onto the paper. As Kaeya spent more time with Diluc, he had come to learn that Diluc hardly, if ever, frowned. He pouted, sure, as most children do when they are trying to get their way. And if Kaeya paid really close attention, he could pick out the way Diluc tensed in his jaw when he was upset about something but trying to keep his face neutral. An actual frown? That almost never happened. Diluc Ragnvindr was not someone who frowned. He was truly suited to be a knight.
But homework. Kaeya was stuck right now. Mondstadt history was not a topic that he was very familiar with, and he couldn’t think of what to write. He let his head drop onto his arms as he watched Diluc try to wrestle his handwriting into something neater than it usually is. It would take years before Diluc’s handwriting matured into a beautiful cursive script, and for now, it was just the barely legible chicken scratch that a child’s hands could muster. Unless he tried really hard.
A bit of ink smudged against one of Diluc’s fingers. Diluc didn’t notice, and rubbed at his face with that very hand, transferring some of the ink onto his face. They were all only human, but when he thought about how people would react upon seeing the heir to the Ragnvindr family with a streak of ink on his face…
Diluc immediately looked up from the paper before him. The valley between his brows smoothened out within a second, as he cocked his head and asked, “What’s so funny?”
“Ah, nothing, nothing.”
“Come on, Kaeya, you always say that then mean something.”
“No, it’s really nothing, I promise!” Kaeya raised one hand in a mock salute.
Diluc returned to his homework.
Kaeya returned to watching Diluc do his homework.
The way Diluc gripped his pen was harder than how he gripped his sword during their training sessions. The knuckles on his left hand were turning white from the force. Kaeya was convinced that if Diluc could physically wrestle with words instead of having to think through them and write them down, he absolutely would. It’s almost a pity that words could not magically jump off the page and spring to life to challenge Diluc to hand-to-hand combat. But somehow, Kaeya barely manages to do better than Diluc when words were concerned. For how much he preferred holding a sword rather than a pen, Diluc had absolutely no trouble wielding words when needed.
A passing thought embedded itself within Kaeya’s mind.
“Hey, Diluc,” Kaeya said, his voice barely above a whisper. “Hold out your hand.”
Diluc heard him, as he always did.
Kaeya pressed his hand against Diluc’s open palm. Diluc’s hand was just ever so slightly wider than his, his fingers just ever so slightly longer. Warm as always. Kaeya had never seen or felt a hand so soft.
“What are you doing?” Diluc watched as Kaeya fiddled with his hand. He couldn’t read Kaeya when his face was completely blank like this, he didn’t know what Kaeya was thinking, and he didn’t like it.
Kaeya looked up at Diluc’s question and his expression morphed into a cheeky grin, one that Diluc had come to associate with Kaeya once again coming up with some stupid joke or excuse that the both of them knew wasn’t an answer to anything.
He fixed his eye on Diluc. “I thought you’d have daintier hands since you’re so pretty but look! They’re slightly bigger than mine.”
He slipped his fingers between the gaps of Diluc’s own, slowly curling them over the back of Diluc’s hand. As quickly as it appeared, that cheeky grin of his fell away into a smaller smile. In the gentle sunlight that filtered through their blinds and into their room, Kaeya seemed to glow, and Diluc was for a moment at a loss for words.
Heat radiated from where their hands touched and made its way onto their faces, and Diluc itched to get up, to take a walk, to move. He just had to do something. But he didn’t. He stayed there. Kaeya stayed there. He picked up his pen with his right hand instead.
Neither of them said a word about it. Neither of them moved their hands away.
By the time Kaeya and Diluc had the freedom to work together as they wished in the knights, they had already developed a style of their own through their years of training together and sparring against each other.
It was experience born from practice that allowed them to act as if they could read each other’s thoughts on the battlefield, and there was no other duo more suited to each other than Diluc and Kaeya. It didn’t matter that Diluc was a captain and Kaeya was not, nor did it matter that Kaeya preferred to act as Diluc’s support rather than his equal. When their efforts were combined, Mondstadt could not find a more capable pair.
A clang rang out across the training grounds as Diluc bore his entire body weight down on Kaeya. Kaeya never seemed to tire in their sparring sessions, but Diluc’s sheer physical strength could easily gain him the upper hand.
As expected, Kaeya let his sword drop and made to evade, but not before Diluc stuck a leg out and caught him as he jumped backwards.
They both tumbled to the ground, Diluc landing on top of Kaeya, with one of his legs trapped underneath Kaeya’s.
“Ow ow ow, I yield, I yield, Diluc.” Kaeya raised his arms in defeat. His sword landed on the ground with a dull thud.
Diluc grinned at him from above, his ponytail falling over his shoulder and brushing against Kaeya’s chest. “That’s 37 wins for me.”
“And 37 losses for me.” Kaeya feigned a sigh as Diluc scrambled up from the ground, kicking up a cloud of dirt in the process. “Why is it that you’re always just a handful of wins ahead of me?”
“You just don’t want to go all out.” Diluc snorted and grabbed both their swords. He knew Kaeya was more capable than he tended to let on, but Kaeya knew that he knew, too, and there was no need to call him out on it. He held out a hand towards Kaeya. “Come on.”
Kaeya let Diluc pull him up. Their hands fitting together perfectly, just like everything else. “And try to match that crazy strength of yours? No thanks.”
There wasn’t a need for him to, anyway. He was content where he was.
Kaeya was more than familiar with Diluc’s burning pyro, but this was a different heat. This threatened to consume them both from the inside out and burn each other’s silhouettes into their very souls.
“Luc, Father is waiting, he’ll notice,” Kaeya murmured into Diluc’s ear as he grinded down against Diluc’s lap.
“Then you’ll just have to keep quiet,” came the retort.
Diluc loved when Kaeya tried to maintain propriety in his words but his actions betrayed his intentions entirely. His hands slipped underneath Kaeya’s waistband and a quick stroke was already enough to get Kaeya covering his mouth with his hand to stifle a moan.
Kaeya buried his head in the crook of Diluc’s neck and Diluc shuddered when he felt Kaeya suck at a particularly sensitive spot behind his ear. He clenched his fist around nothing, for fear of wrinkling the shirt that Kaeya was wearing.
“Kae… no visible marks.”
Diluc worked Kaeya’s pants down to his thighs. Good enough. His hands immediately returned to their positions on Kaeya’s cock. Occasionally, Diluc would feel as though Kaeya was somewhere far away, somewhere he couldn’t reach, but he couldn’t possibly feel closer to the boy in front of him when he had him in his hands and at his mercy like this.
He cupped one hand around Kaeya’s balls and felt him jerk in his hand. Kaeya arched into him under Diluc’s attention. Diluc could picture the flush across his cheeks without looking at him and the quiet moans Kaeya let out as Diluc teased the head of his cock sent a jolt right down his own. Diluc wanted to take him so badly, hear him cry out his name as he fucked him, but they didn’t have the time, and people would hear.
“Hng, Luc, faster,” Kaeya rocked his hips into Diluc’s hand as he felt the pressure build up within him.
“Impatient ass.” Diluc smiled to himself as he dragged the palm of his hand up Kaeya’s shaft and drew a particularly choked moan from his throat.
It didn’t take long before Kaeya came messily into Diluc’s hand, head against Diluc’s chest and breaths coming out in pants. Diluc quickly scooped up as much of his cum as possible before it stained any of their clothing.
A knock on the door froze them in place.
“Diluc? Kaeya? We’ll be leaving soon.” Crepus’s muffled voice could be heard through the door. The two boys held their breaths until they heard Crepus’s steps slowly making their way down the hallway and away from their room.
Diluc and Kaeya exchanged a look and quickly smoothened out their clothes. Diluc took a cursory glance at the contents of their room and decided to clean his hand off with his own tongue.
“Oh, gods, Luc, you’re disgusting.” Kaeya hooked his arms around Diluc’s neck and pulled him in closer.
“It’s your cum,” Diluc pointed out with a hint of a smirk on his face. He wiped his hand off on Kaeya’s shirt, underneath his jacket.
“Ew. You’re washing this shirt later.” Kaeya pressed a quick kiss on Diluc’s lips, the taste of his own release lingering on his tongue after he pulled away. He grinned at Diluc. “I’ll return the favour when we get back.”
The clang of sword on sword once again rang out at the Ragnvindr mansion, in the pouring rain that sizzled before it could reach the ground. Flames danced along Diluc’s blade as he pointed it at Kaeya. The heat was palpable.
“Why?” Diluc’s voice could barely be heard above the rain.
Kaeya didn’t know how to answer him. Hurt, betrayal and anger coloured Diluc’s expression and the orange-red glow of the flames caught the shine of his tears as they rolled down his cheeks.
Diluc gave him no time to explain himself. He charged forwards and once again brought his sword down against Kaeya’s, raised in defence. “Why now, Kaeya?”
You weren’t supposed to do this. You were supposed to stay next to me. You were supposed to remain by my side.
The sheer force of the blow almost made Kaeya’s knees buckle underneath him, and Kaeya tried to take a step back out of habit.
“Don’t you dare walk away from me right now.”
Diluc swept his leg out, catching Kaeya and tipping him off balance. But this time, Diluc didn’t manage to cut Kaeya down with his sword. A wall of ice manifested itself out of thin air as Kaeya’s back hit the ground, coming between the two brothers.
Kaeya’s eye widened in shock as he looked at Diluc through the crystal-clear ice, and Diluc’s expression turned cold.
I see how it is.
Diluc drove his sword into the ground, flames dissipating where they met rain and ice.
It takes years before they see each other again.
The years didn’t bridge the chasm between the two of them when they meet again, both of them changed, different, no longer the boys they used to be.
Diluc had to look up at Kaeya now when they stood at full height. He didn’t remember ever having to do that before. But he could still read the changes in Kaeya’s body language as easily as he used to, and he brushed aside the pang he felt in his heart when he noticed Kaeya’s self-confident stance wither ever so slightly when he noticed him in the vicinity.
He brushed past Kaeya without so much as a glance.
What time does not heal, time brings you the maturity to look at it again with a new perspective. The roaring fires of his anger in his late teens slowly settled into a calm, steady burning desire to do right by his internal compass.
In the late hours of the night, business was slow, and Kaeya had his head propped up on one arm as he worked through his third drink of the night. There was hardly anyone left in the tavern by this point, and he no longer felt the need to maintain his appearance as cavalry captain even whilst drunk.
Diluc opted to ignore his presence at the bar as he took stock of what they had left before he started chasing patrons out to close Angel’s Share.
He’s gotten used to the changes that Kaeya’s voice had gone through, but the sultry tone that it took on whenever Kaeya got drunk never failed to make his heart skip a beat. If he spoke now, would Kaeya notice?
“Master Diluc, you shouldn’t ignore a customer.” If Diluc turned around now, he might just catch a glimpse of the sadness that tinged Kaeya’s expression. “Could I get another glass?”
Diluc closed his eyes and sighed. There was no good reason to refuse a paying patron. He reached for a bottle on the shelf. “This is your last one for the night, Sir Kaeya. Finish it and go home.”
He placed the glass in front of Kaeya.
And felt Kaeya’s hand on his.
Diluc’s eyes flew to Kaeya’s face in surprise.
“Ah!” Sir Kaeya’s recognisable charming smile flashed in his direction. Like a mask. “My apologies, Master Diluc. It seems I’m more drunk than I thought I was.”
Diluc frowned and pulled his hand back. “Go home, Sir Kaeya.”
As he returned to his work, he didn’t see Kaeya stare at his hand as he slowly curled his fingers into his palm. Anyone else would’ve done a double-take at the look of wonder on Kaeya’s face in that moment.
Diluc’s hands were still as warm as ever.
Kaeya didn’t think they could ever return to the way they used to be. Too much has changed, too much has been revealed, and too little has been shared. Neither of them were the people they used to be, and he used to mourn that. Days stretched into weeks that stretched into months in the beginning as he went through the motions of life without truly feeling any of it. He called it boredom, the way he threw himself into his work and rose through the ranks of the Ordo Favonius. He never recognised it for what it was, for what did he have to grieve before then?
But as he felt a familiar gaze lingering on his while his back was turned, he thought, maybe they could remake what was lost.
He pushed all thoughts of what was to come away for now, he had already made his decisions those years ago on that rainy day.
They had time.
Out the back door of Angel’s Share, in the darkness of the night, Diluc and Kaeya find themselves in each other’s arms once more.
“I didn’t take you for the bold type, Master Diluc,” Kaeya said, with his face mere inches away from Diluc’s, a smug smile playing on his lips. His hands made their way down Diluc’s back. “Out here in the open?”
“Cut the crap, Kaeya.” Diluc rolled his eyes. “You know I know you better than that.”
Kaeya fell silent. He twirled a strand of Diluc’s hair around his finger, opting to look at Diluc’s collar instead of his face for fear of…
Seeing the truth in his eyes?
…And a wave of relief washed over him when he heard the concern in Diluc’s voice. He dropped his head down onto Diluc’s shoulder and the suddenness of it almost sent Diluc stumbling backwards into the wall.
“No, you’re right. You know me better than that,” he mumbled into Diluc’s shirt, mostly for himself. It felt like a weight being lifted off his shoulders.
Kaeya closed his eyes and breathed in, willing time to stop before something changed again and he left again. He had long perfected his façade; his unbreakable mask was one of his many assets and it protected him as much as he used it to protect Mondstadt. But this was never the case whenever Diluc was concerned, was it?
Across the city, a bell chimed to mark the passing of another hour.
“…Luc.” Kaeya looked back up at Diluc, scanning his face for any change in expression, anything that would tell him that he had overstepped a boundary. “Do you…?”
Diluc recognised the way Kaeya asked that question, and he could almost feel the sunlight shining through the windows of his childhood home onto him and hear the chirping of the birds that could always be found near that estate. If he closed his eyes, he would see another one of the many memories he thought he’d left behind.
“Not here.” He shook his head.
Another moment of silence passed between them. Where there was once ease, now neither man knew what to say nor how to act. Where they once fit together perfectly like pieces in a puzzle, they will have to relearn each other’s curves and edges to come together again.
But they had time.
“…By the way, Kaeya. What is this shirt?” Diluc tugged at Kaeya’s lapels in disgust. “I don’t remember you being such an exhibitionist before.”
It took Kaeya a moment before he processed what Diluc had just said, before laughter bubbled up in his throat and he doubled over, wheezing.
“Exhibitionist? What about you?” Kaeya made it sound as if he was offended by Diluc’s remark, but the laughter had yet to fade from his eyes. “I’m quite sure I remember there being a tablecloth that looked like that jacket of yours that you keep wearing…”
He trailed off and watched as Diluc’s expression changed from one of confusion, to realisation, to embarrassment, all while trying not to laugh. Diluc moved to punch him in the chest, but Kaeya caught his arm easily. And Diluc let him.
As he intertwined their hands, it felt like coming home after a long arduous journey.
He was wrong.
He was so, so wrong.
He’d thought they’d come for him first, for his betrayal, for his failure to see his mission through. He’d thought they’d get rid of their traitor first, before launching any other attack. He’d thought, at the very least, he would be able to hold them off until they could gather enough forces to defend themselves.
He was their trump card, their last hope, was he not?
He was wrong.
It was all a trap, and he had played right into their hands. He had gotten complacent in his knowledge. By the time he rushed back to Mondstadt with his team, the bloody battle was nearing its end. He scanned the battlefield in a rush, looking for survivors, looking for him. A flash of red enters his field of vision and he sees Diluc, on one knee, with his claymore stuck into the ground and both hands still on its grip.
Oh. Oh, thank Barbatos.
“Diluc!” Kaeya rushed over to him immediately, mind turning over a million things at once. Where were the other knights, where was Jean, how were the citizens of Mondstadt, how far have they gotten, did they win the battle? “Where’s Jean?”
Diluc heaves and a flash of pain crosses his face before being immediately replaced by a careful poker face. “She took the rest. To help the citizens. Its fine, we held them off.”
As long as they got the outcome that they wanted, that’s fine. Kaeya was quietly relieved, it seemed there was less of a need to worry after all. Next, he would have to—
Diluc stepped forward all of a sudden and brought his claymore up above his head, bringing it down on an enemy soldier that had crept up on Kaeya. A sickening crunch was heard as the soldier crumpled to the ground, and blood spattered across Kaeya’s face when he turned around just in time to see the soldier drive a sword clean through Diluc’s abdomen.
The blood in his veins went cold.
His gaze slowly shifted off Diluc’s bright red hair and the grime stuck to it, down Diluc’s pale face, his furrowed brows and the determined set of his lips… to the bloody wound in his stomach, the dead soldier’s death grip on his sword pulling it out of Diluc as he fell to the ground.
“Fuck.” Kaeya dropped to his knees before Diluc. “Oh, fuck, Diluc. Where are the healers?”
Diluc groaned and let one hand slip off the hilt of his sword and blindly groped in Kaeya’s direction. If not for Kaeya immediately propping him up, he would have landed in the dirt. He jabbed Kaeya in the nose on accident before finding purchase on his collar.
Cool cryo spread from his side and Diluc lets out a sigh of relief, but it had none of the healing properties that hydro did.
“Leave it, Kaeya.”
“How am I supposed to do that?!” Panic seeped into Kaeya’s voice as he fumbled for something, anything, to help, but there was nothing he could do. “The blood—”
“Shut. The fuck up, Kae. You’re so noisy.”
Diluc’s hand came to a rest on top of his, and where pyro met cryo, a swirl of wind blew, and it brought Kaeya back from the brink of mindless panic. It was still bleeding. Blood seeped through the gaps between Kaeya’s fingers as he tried to press on the wound to stop the bleeding, but it wouldn’t stop. It wouldn’t stop. He was trying but it wouldn’t stop.
Their hands were coated in crimson now, and the setting sun painted the sky to match. Diluc mustered up what remaining strength he had left to pull Kaeya down towards him, to look at him.
“Luc,” Kaeya’s voice cracked. “H-hold on. There has to be something—”
“I’m sorry.” Diluc smiled as he pressed a hand to his lips, then pressed that hand onto Kaeya’s own. “I love you.”
Crimson faded to grey and Diluc slipped out of Kaeya’s hands.
Kaeya had never felt so cold.