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a star

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I.

The new boy that his father found, who had a curious star for an eye and a tragedy wrapped under soiled bandages, is skittish. Impossibly so. He jumps at the slightest of sounds or movement, always keeping that bright star pinned to his surroundings, a meteor watching out for signs of nonexistent danger with bone-deep wariness. 

He also keeps to himself, more than anyone Diluc knows; and he knew quite a lot of people who liked to stay quiet, like Investigator Eroch and the Sisters during confessions. But Diluc’s never seen nor felt anyone’s presence physically fade into nothingness before -- the boy would be a firm body next to him in one moment, and completely gone the next; nobody would even know he’d disappeared because he just.. blended so well into his surroundings. 

Like he doesn’t want to be anywhere near them. 

It hurts, because Diluc’s never had someone close to his age stick around before. Elzer was his father’s apprentice, learning the ropes of the winery early so he can support Diluc in the future, so he was never in the city manor for long and Adelinde was a maid-in-training who spent more time scrubbing floors and running about than Diluc spent learning about etiquette and how not to tell someone their sense of fashion was dumb. 

In a sense, the boy is also Diluc’s first encounter with someone completely unrelated to him. Not a servant, his father had made that very clear, not a family aid, and certainly not one of his father’s friends or anyone from the noble and upper classes. 

He looks lonely, in a manor bustling with so many people. 

Diluc hasn’t even heard the boy introduce himself, and it’s been almost a week since they first met! 

He tried to shake the boy’s hand, the most appropriate way of interacting with new people (apparently), but was met with a frightened squeak and a shattered star. He tried giving a polite smile and introducing himself as just “Diluc”, not “Diluc Ragnvindr, son of Crepus Ragnvindr and heir to the Dawn Winery and its ventures” because announcing titles indirectly forms a barrier between him and everyone else, but the boy had shrunk further into himself and only stared at him with a blatant look of please leave me alone. 

He even tried sharing a slice of sunsettia pie! But the boy had shook his head profusely, foreign phrases tumbling out of his lips as he plastered himself against the wall in a frenzy. 

His father says that the boy is shy, and has been through something really, really bad. That the boy’s father is missing and he’s not from Mondstadt, so he’s very confused and scared as well. Give him some time, his father said, don’t force him to do anything. 

Diluc’s very good at not forcing people to do anything, so he nods and promises not to back the boy into a corner during future interactions. He doesn’t know any other way to keep the boy in his sight, but he feels guilty about making the boy more terrified than he already is. 

His father also said that the boy’s name is Kaeya. 

Diluc thinks it’s the prettiest name he’s ever heard. 

‘Kaeya,’ he repeats, several times over, because it really is a pretty name. ‘Why doesn’t Kaeya sleep at night, father?’ He likes saying Kaeya’s name, but he doesn’t think he’s supposed to ask anything like that because his father’s face does something both funny and saddening. 

His father sighs, a false smile on his face, and requests that he makes sure Kaeya is comfortable and safe. 

Diluc swears he’ll be able to make Kaeya feel safest and most comfortable.

-- and the first step to that, naturally, is to find the best blanket. Because one is safest and most comfortable when they have the best blanket! 

 

The next day, he knocks on Kaeya’s door, which is right next to his, with the single thought of going to the tailors’ with him and feeling every piece of fabric until Kaeya finds the one he likes best.

When the door goes unanswered after five minutes, Diluc starts to worry. Was Kaeya still asleep? Was he being annoying and overly-invasive again? Had Kaeya disappeared for good? 

The last option sends a tremendous wave of panic through him that threatens to knock him over. Kaeya isn’t allowed to disappear before he introduces himself properly! 

Diluc pushes the door open, ignoring his tutor’s lessons about privacy, and is greeted with an empty bed. Empty. 

As in, no Kaeya. 

A window is wide open, blinds fluttering with the wind. Kaeya had-- he-- 

Diluc rushes to the window, peering down into the already bustling streets of Mondstadt at (eugh) half-past ten in the morning, but sees no sign of a head of twilight bobbing through stone and cobble streets. 

He has half a mind to shout for the maids or any of the manor’s stewards, stomach curdling at the four-storey drop beneath him, when someone taps his shoulder from above him. 

Silently, he screeches as he twists himself to look skywards. Vertigo hits him before the sun’s rays do and he may have overextended himself by having most of his torso hang out of the window, but he doesn’t really think about it until he feels gravity push him from the carved sills-- 

An arm, frail and thin, shoots out and he’s suddenly pulled back up with an insanely unfair strength. 

He yelps, startled, as his vision smears into watercolour ink, hands and legs scrambling to find a stable footing that would help him return somewhere safer (somewhere on stable land, preferably). Finally, his knee catches a bump followed by a relatively flat surface, and he allows himself to widen his worldview once again. 

The first thing he sees is the everblue skies of Mondstadt, cloudless and expansive. Then, a harried-looking Kaeya and his crown of midnight hair. Would Barbatos be mad if he admits that he likes the light blue streak in the boy’s hair more than the blue skies the archon has graced them with?

Kaeya makes a sound, face red.

--oh, he must have said that out loud. 

‘S-sorry!’ He shouts, flinging his body upright. They’re both sitting on the roof, overlooking a rousing Mondstadt as silence overwhelms the pair of cherries. Kaeya’s hands reach out, hovering over his knee every so often, but eventually draws back as soon as Diluc takes notice. 

He wonders what Kaeya is doing up here at all. If not to run away, then… 

‘Do you hate me?’ He blurts out, immediately regretting having said anything at all as the wide star shrinks in on itself. Slapping both hands across the lower half of his face, Diluc fervently wishes for Barbatos to smite him where he sits. 

Kaeya scrambles backwards, barely making a squeak as the loose tiles make way for him, shaking his head rapidly back and forth while his arms flail. Diluc doesn’t understand what that means.. 

He has never been a rowdy child, always listening and paying attention to the teachings of those around him and listening to instructions carefully, but a large part of Diluc wants to burst into tears and cause a racket so loud even the Grandmaster could hear it from his office right now. 

Tears gather at the corners of his vision, once again smearing the world into a giant, ugly blur as he bites his lip to stop the sobs that threaten to spill out. Even with his most valiant of efforts, tiny hiccups still manage to seep through the cracks. Muffling his hiccups seems almost impossible, but he tries anyway, using his unruly hair as a curtain to shield the stray tears that slip down his face. 

Kaeya notices anyway, the maids say that he notices almost everything, with his piercing star of an eye that sees through all pretenses and masks. Uncharacteristically, the boy shuffles forward, sun-bleached tiles clacking noisily as he approaches, but there’s still an arm’s length between them -- the gap that Diluc will never be able to close, the gap that he’s too scared to jump across -- and it sets Diluc off even more as his tantrum grows and grows.

A sob loud and scared stuns him into silence. 

He drops his hands from his face, wading through the murky view to see a blob of blue -- Kaeya, he manages to identify, because who else is up here with him right now? -- who appears to be… 

Oh. 

He rubs his eyes, ruining his new shirt with tears and snot, before blinking to stare at the sight before him. Dread replaces the hurt while guilt eats his anger away, leaving him panicked as a fresh wave of tears start building up behind his eyes--

Kaeya’s crying. Kaeya’s crying, because of Diluc. 

Oh no. 

Hiccuping, Diluc tries to shush the other boy, crowding around him without an idea on how he could calm Kaeya down. Frustrated by his inabilities and the pain that drives stakes into his still-injured knee, Diluc -- for the second time that morning -- drowns the pleasant morning with sobs and sniffles. 

 

His father finds them on the roof, clothes rumpled and expression both worried and gobsmacked. 

It’s unfair how quickly he gets Kaeya to calm down, just a few headpats and a handkerchief to wipe his face later, the other boy is the textbook definition of calm -- barring the puffy red eye and flushed face. 

Diluc wants to be able to do that too. But learning how would involve making Kaeya cry, seeing Kaeya cry overturns any possible gains so… Diluc will just have to make sure Kaeya never cries again! 

 

(Kaeya chooses the warmest, most awful looking fur as his blanket’s material. But Diluc’s taken enough lessons and knows how to keep his mouth shut, instead offering a bright smile to show that he’s happy -- and he is happy that Kaeya and he are on their way to becoming friends. 

Kaeya squeaks, star turning into a cross-slit, hiding behind his father’s legs, decidedly not looking at him. 

Diluc will have to find ways to strengthen their friendship. 

….they are friends, right…?)