“It’s probably buried ten feet under the snow by now, but sure… We can discuss it later when we’ve gotten out of here.“
There is little conversation, after that. Diluc stays silent because he doesn’t want to step on another conversation landmine, and Kaeya doesn’t seem interested in small talk either. They walk down the mountain, passing barren trees and old crumbling stone ruins. When they reach the end of the sloping path, Kaeya picks up his speed and points them to a nearby cavern.
Diluc ducks inside after Kaeya, and finds a tent neatly set up, complete with food crates, emergency supply packs and a cooking pot. A rest stop for adventurers, he assumes.
By then Diluc was familiar enough with the territory - having ventured here with Aether and companions before - to know that they were near the adventurer camp, at the northern border of Dragonspine, but far enough that a rest was a good idea before forging on.
“Hold on. I’ll let you down.” Kaeya unsheathes his belt knife and cuts the ties on the harness. Diluc slides down and does a careful stretch, careful of his muscles cramping after hours of being in the same position. He presses his fingers to his skull gently, trying to soothe his headache. Parts of his hair are stiff - dried blood? He frowns. Even if he asked Kaeya to check his head, the lighting in Dragonspine wasn’t optimal… But at least it feels like the bleeding has stopped.
Kaeya bends down and opens the lid of the cooking pot. Satisfied by what he sees, he closes it and stands up. “Light the fires, would you? I’m going to see what food I can scrounge up from around here. Maybe cook something to fill our bellies a little before we continue our trek down.” He wanders further into the cave, prying open crates with his knife and humming to himself.
Food, huh… Diluc’s traitorous stomach takes that opportune moment to do a little growl. He scowls and shoots a glance at Kaeya, who, thankfully, doesn’t seem to have heard.
He walks further away from Kaeya, just in case his stomach decides to make a repeat performance, and summons his claymore. Enveloping it with fire, he swings at the nearest torch.
Diluc scowls and swings his flaming claymore again. And again. Once more… It takes him four tries before he finally lights the damn thing.
“Having trouble?” He hears Kaeya’s teasing voice from behind him. Dammit.
“Dawn,” Diluc growls, and sets the rest of the torches ablaze with a giant flaming bird.
He turns around and stomps over to Kaeya at the cooking firepit, glaring at Kaeya as if daring him to say something about it.
Sometime during Diluc’s strugglings, Kaeya had set out bedrolls for the both of them. He’d taken off his boots and socks, and was now warming his feet by the fire. Thankfully, Kaeya had found a way to light the firepit himself - he’d probably found a box of matches somewhere - so there would be no repeat of his embarrassment. On the fire, the cooking pot is merrily bubbling away, filled with the ingredients for a meaty goulash that smells wonderful.
Diluc sits down beside Kaeya. Following Kaeya, he removes his boots and outer gear, and sets them aside to dry. Beside the bedroll, Kaeya had placed eating utensils and water canteens. Diluc picks up one of them and opens it. The insides are filled with snow.
“Clean?” He asks. Kaeya nods. He brings the canteen to his lips and breathes Pyro into it. Slowly, the snow melts into water, until he can see curls of white vapour rising up from the water. He takes a good, long drink - for the first time in hours. He leaves about half, then passes the canteen to Kaeya, who takes it wordlessly and finishes it.
“You know,” Kaeya says after putting down the canteen, “When I followed you on your quick visit to Dragonspine, I didn’t expect it to turn into a disaster. If our first date turned out like this, imagine what our honeymoon vacation would be like.”
Diluc glares at Kaeya. “Stop that. Deflecting won’t work on me. Show me your injuries.”
Kaeya gestures to his injured arm. “Nothing much to say, unfortunately. Just the one arm. Oh, and I was shot too, but that’s not important.”
“By a Pyro-slinger bracer.” He taps the bottom right side of his abdomen. “The bullet went straight through. Cauterized itself as it went, so there’s no need to worry about the bleeding.”
He pauses mid-tap and stares at his clothes, where a red patch was slowly spreading. “Huh. I guess it must have opened up sometime while we were walking.”
“Don’t just stare at it!” Diluc snaps. “Take off your clothes, now!”
Kaeya raises an eyebrow. “Lewd,” he says, but obeys Diluc. He unbuttons his shirt - it was weird, Diluc thinks, seeing him like this without his cape - and pulls aside his undershirt.
Underneath his clothes, Kaeya’s body is well-toned and beautifully defined. Diluc doesn’t know what he expected, but then again, he hasn’t really had the opportunity to lay eyes upon naked torsos of other men… not since he left the Ordo Favonius anyway. Diluc has bunked in with nine other men in the barracks. You don’t go away from that kind of thing unscarred.
Under the firelight, Kaeya’s skin glows a rich, dark bronze. Diluc slides his gaze away from the old burn scars on Kaeya’s arms, all too familiar with them, and focuses on his stomach. Blood oozes sluggishly from the bullet wound, dark and foreboding in the flickering firelight. The skin around it is patchy and red, though he can’t tell if it’s a result of inflammation or something more serious. Diluc has no idea what the signs of an infection are, but if it was one thing his three years spent living on the run from the Fatui had taught him, it was how to bandage wounds.
“Did you find bandages in the emergency kit?” He asks, and when Kaeya shakes his head he clicks his tongue in frustration. He looks around, and his gaze lands on his outer shirt, lying beside the fire to dry. He grabs his shirt, and, without hesitation, rips it apart, tearing it into strips to serve as makeshift bandages. He has too many layers on anyway… he could survive without the damn thing.
He crawls into Kaeya’s lap and places his fingers on the slightly heated skin. Beneath him, Kaeya inhales sharply. “Um. Diluc,” he says, squirming in his seat. “I can do it on my own, you don’t need to-”
“Just shut up and let me do you,” Diluc snarls.
Kaeya flushes and shuts up.
Oblivious to his own wording, Diluc continues. “Honestly! How could you be so… so careless!” He presses a folded cloth square against the wound and secures it with another strip around Kaeya’s waist. “If you’re going to follow me up Dragonspine mountains, at least make sure you can take care of yourself before you start worrying about others!”
Never mind that he himself was the more deadweight of the two, his brain unhelpfully adds. He scowls at that thought and ties the last knot on the bandage a little too tightly.
He puts his hands on his hips and huffs. “You idiot. Imagine the number of people that would cry for you if you bled to death because of a stupid accident!”
A warm hand grasps his wrist gently.
Diluc looks up, which is a mistake, because Kaeya is - Kaeya is looking at him tenderly, with that solemn, clear blue eye of his, and it is hard not to get lost in that gaze, not when it is directed at him with such force and intensity of emotion that even Diluc forgets how to speak.
“And you?” He asks. “Would you cry for me if I died?”
Diluc blinks once and swallows, because, well fuck. He hasn’t exactly said it to Kaeya before hasn’t he? Because he never found the right timing to apologise to Kaeya (Sorry for drawing my blade on you, Sorry for burning you, Sorry for taking the soul that you bared to me and crushing it under my foot and leaving it out there in the rain to die) , because what if Kaeya listens to all of it and at the end just laughs one of his fake laughs and says, Ok, I forgive you but didn’t really mean it? A false sense of comfort, finding solace in forgiveness that was not given freely? That was the last thing he wanted from his brother.
But, as much as he wanted to run away, as he did for three years and then another two… he owed it to Kaeya to try.
And so, Diluc Ragnvindr swallows down his pride and looks into Kaeya’s eye, and he says, in a quivering voice, “Much as it sounds hard for you to believe, Kaeya… Yes. I do, in fact, care about you.”
And then Kaeya grabs him by the lapels and kisses him.
His brother’s mouth is hot and inviting, and most of all, forceful. Diluc is caught off guard, so stunned by the sudden forcefulness that he does not do anything but bring his hands to Kaeya’s waist to anchor himself. He parts his lips in surprise, and something wet slides over his lips and oh, that was his tongue, Diluc dimly registers, as Kaeya swipes his teeth with his tongue and then retreats to his lower lip, gently nibbling and sucking and evoking the most embarrassing squeaks out of Diluc.
After what feels like an eternity, Kaeya withdraws, licking his lips. His eye roves over Diluc’s face, dragging down his bare neck, his collarbones, the sliver of his chest where he’d left three buttons undone, and finally, to his arms where they were placed on Kaeya’s slim waist. There was a certain, raw hunger in his gaze, as if he were undressing Diluc with his gaze alone, and Diluc, still dizzy from the shared kiss and all too aware of his swollen lips, does nothing but blush at the lewd thoughts racing through his mind.
Then Diluc realises like a lightning bolt striking him from the Celestia plains that Kaeya had just kissed him.
Wait, what? How the fuck did it go from a heartfelt confession that yes, he actually has lingering emotions left in his heart to begin to feel for Kaeya again to that?
“You. Uh. What?” Diluc stammers, half-annoyed and half-confused that the only reaction Kaeya has right now is to smirk, that four-pointed star in the pupil of his eye dilating further in- what? Interest? Amusement? Lust? While Diluc is sitting here having a mid-life crisis about his brother kissing him passionately in the middle of a cave in the snowy mountains and oh, fuck him, he is not in the right state of mind right now to deal with this.
Yet, the next thing that comes out of his mouth is, “That was my first kiss.”
Kaeya’s smirk widens, and Diluc feels an increasing urge to punch him in the face. With his lips or with his fist? Both, his mind supplied.
“Well,” Kaeya drawls in that annoying, leisurely way, “I can’t offer my first kiss as a tribute to you, because I wasted it on someone else - a bloody damn mistake, I assure you, but I was young and pining and stupid - but if it makes you feel better, you are my first and only love.”
“Your first- Your what, who says things like that.” Diluc leans away, flapping the air around his heated cheeks like a scandalized maiden.
“Cute… very cute.” Kaeya says. He places a hand to Diluc’s cheek and smiles at him like Diluc was the moon and the stars and the whole world and it all rested in his palm, and fuck if that wasn’t the most romantic thing he’s ever thought to himself. Diluc flushes and turns away.
“That was my first kiss, you ass, and I just sat there and took it!” He says petulantly.
“Oh, so you want a redo?” Kaeya says, smiling even wider, and Diluc realises that, fuck, he’d walked straight into that one, didn’t he? as Kaeya continues, “What was that you said just now? ‘Just shut up and let me do you’, was it?”
“When did I ever say that?” Diluc says, blushing even harder now. “No, wait, don’t answer that. I don’t want to fall into another one of your traps. Let’s just- eat, and get out of here, and we can talk about it once we’re safe.”
“But what about your redo?” Kaeya says in a soulful voice, obviously fake and extremely, extremely sickly sweet, “Do you really want your memory of your first kiss to be forever remembered as that time you sat there and-”
“I’ll kiss you once you’re better, okay?” Diluc hisses, and immediately covers his burning face with his hands. “… Just kill me now, please.”
Kaeya laughs, but withdraws his hand. “I guess that’s enough for now. But playing hard to get… You’re such a cruel person, brother.”
“I’ll kill you first, then kill myself,” he amends.
Kaeya hums pensively. “Like a lover’s pact? But you’ve already tried that before, and we’re still alive, aren’t we? You really need to find a better threat, sweethear-”
Diluc claps both hands to either side of Kaeya’s face and before he can chicken out, kisses the bastard.
Their second kiss is wet and sloppy. However, Diluc always has been a quick learner, plus, whatever he lacks in experience, he’s sure he can make up for with his enthusiasm.
Beneath him, he hears Kaeya make a small gasp, and he takes the chance to slip his tongue into the opening like Kaeya did before, except he goes all the way in, sliding against Kaeya’s tongue and Kaeya, Kaeya fucking moans, and there’s heat that settles down in his stomach and makes his pants tighten because he did that, he made Kaeya sound like that, and when he leans away and sees Kaeya unravelled before him, a dark thrill of satisfaction runs through his chest at the thought that Diluc did this to Kaeya. Made him look like that, panting with his cheeks flushed and his hair all messed up in a debauched but sexy way.
Diluc swallows, and Kaeya follows the motion of his throat with his eye and swallows in tandem. It’s as if he’s forgotten how to speak, Diluc thinks, and he feels the sudden urge to bite Kaeya’s neck to see how well he would scream. But he tamps down on that urge, and wipes the remaining saliva off the corner of his mouth with the side of his hand.
Under him, Kaeya whimpers.
He smirks, and opens his mouth. “Food.”
Kaeya blinks. “Wha-?”
“We need to eat, if we’re planning to get out of here before night falls.”
“Ah. Um. Yes.” Kaeya stammers. “Of… of course.”
Sadly, but it had to be done for the greater good, Diluc climbs out of Kaeya’s lap. He struggles not to laugh as he makes a sling out of the rest of his outer shirt for Kaeya’s broken arm, and after that spooning out the piping hot goulash and handing one to him before digging in with renewed gusto.
Diluc sneaks a peek at Kaeya, who has been curiously subdued throughout the entire meal. He kind of likes this silent Kaeya, he thinks, and clears his throat.
“About what you said just now,” He starts, and Kaeya snaps to attention. “About me being your first love.”
“What about it?” Kaeya says warily.
“Was that true?” Diluc asks.
Kaeya starts to worry at his lower lip, like he always does when he is nervous. “Yes.”
“I don’t know.” Kaeya shrugs. “Even I don’t know when it started. When I first met you and you took my hand, which felt like the warmth of a million suns? When I turned thirteen and started to have dreams about touching you? Or when you pressed your sword against my throat on your eighteenth birthday and cried because you were going to kill the last remaining member of your family and then yourself?”
“I never told you that.” Diluc says, stunned.
“Diluc, I’ve lived in the land of sinners for long enough to know what despair looks like.” Kaeya says. He rubs his eye with the back of his hand. “And I never want to see that look in your eyes ever again.”
Diluc stares at Kaeya. His chest hurts from the intensity of emotions he feels, and what Kaeya must have felt for him all these years.
He puts aside his empty bowl and stares at his hands. “I don’t know much about love,” he starts, “Or- I think I used to, but I think I’ve forgotten how to. To let someone in and bare my heart to them. So- sorry. That I can’t match the intensity of your feelings.”
He feels Kaeya’s hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay.” Kaeya says gently. “I wasn’t expecting anything when I said that. I just thought that… maybe, I didn’t want to keep it from you any longer.”
“I’m not done yet.” Diluc says, and this time he takes Kaeya’s hands into his own and stares earnestly into Kaeya’s eye.
“You’re important to me, Kaeya.” And his heart hurts when he sees Kaeya’s eye widen in surprise. “Important enough that I would drop everything for you if you ever needed me. Maybe one day will come when I will have to make that choice. Maybe the cosmic beings will drag me to the crossroads and demand I choose a sacrifice. I don’t know if I love you - if I’m in love with you - or not, but I do know this: If I ever had to choose between you and someone else, it will always be you. Because to me, you are the person that takes first place in my heart.”
Kaeya stares at him. He stares at Diluc for so long that the firewood turns to ashes and the bonfires flicker out, and still he stares.
Then, tears start falling down his cheeks.
“Huh…?” Kaeya says in a watery voice. He wipes his cheek. “That’s odd. Why am I crying?”
Diluc sighs. “That’s called human emotions, brother.”
“I only cry when I’m in pain. I’m not in pain. In fact, this could very well be the happiest day of my life. Well, ignoring the fact that my arm hurts like a bitch and I have a bullet hole in my stomach, and that we could very well die to hillichurls or the sheer cold before we even reach the adventurer’s camp. But I… I don’t know why, but haha… hearing that from you…” He pauses, and continues in a choked voice, “Well, it made me think that… even someone like me could have a right to be loved.”
Diluc’s heart clenches, and he brings Kaeya into a hug.
“Of course you do.” He whispers, burying his face into Kaeya’s shoulder, just as Kaeya nuzzles into his. “And I do.”
And they stay like that for a while.
As they pack up and get ready to leave, Diluc turns to Kaeya and clears his throat.
“I love you as my brother,” He starts.
Kaeya raises his eyebrow, waiting for him to continue.
Diluc coughs into his fist, turning bright red. “But from now on, I’ll start treating you like a man too.”
“………….Bruh.” Kaeya ends up saying.