The first time it happens, the interaction is so quick that Kaeya doesn’t think twice about it.
It’s the evening, and Kaeya heads to Angel’s Share with a heart full of hope and a thirst waiting to be quenched. He’s been dreaming of Diluc’s Death After Noon all day long.
Looking distracted, Diluc doesn’t acknowledge him when he enters. He’s at the counter already, despite the early hour. The rest of the tavern is not very full, for once. If Kaeya remembers correctly, Jean had something planned with the Knights tonight — that must be it.
“Good evening, Master Diluc,” Kaeya exclaims with glee. “Fine night we’re having, hm? Death After Noon, please.”
Diluc doesn’t even lift his head, gaze stuck on the glass he’s obsessively cleaning. In fact, he doesn’t move in the slightest — not to prepare a Death After Noon, not to walk away to avoid him, and not even to throw him out immediately.
Kaeya raises an eyebrow. What’s up with him? Usually, he would at least get some hint of anger. “Master Diluc?”
No answer. Diluc looks up but doesn’t meet his gaze, instead staring over his shoulder and at the entrance door. There’s a downward tilt to his lips.
Kaeya gets the hint. “Oh…? You want me to leave?” Despite the striking pain in his chest, he smiles widely. “You could at least say it to my face, Master Diluc,” he says, unable to keep the bitter words to himself.
Diluc doesn’t answer to this either. He glances at the clock, then back at the door. He seems… nervous about something.
What is it? Is he waiting for someone? Ah… That must be it — he’s waiting for someone, and he doesn’t want Kaeya to be there for when they come.
“Alright, I get it,” Kaeya says with a pout. “And I was looking forward to a Death After Noon all day long, too! I won’t bother Master Diluc any longer, though.” He gets up and quickly gathers himself, sending Diluc a smile over his shoulder. “Good night, Master Diluc!”
“…” Diluc doesn’t blink an eye.
Kaeya turns around quickly to hide his scowl. Before his heart can shatter any further, he leaves quickly.
After licking his hurt ego for a few days, Kaeya finally heads back to Angel’s Share.
As he enters, greeting the other Knights with enthusiasm, Kaeya does his best to remain in high spirits. No matter what happened last time — Diluc can’t be this angry, right? Kaeya doesn’t even know why he was angry! He’s sure Diluc’s had the chance to cool down by now.
Yeah, it’ll be fine.
So, with a smile, he heads to the counter. “Master Diluc, good evening! May I have a cup of Death After Noon, please?” To prove his willingness to be good and obedient, he even makes sure to be polite.
“…” Diluc doesn’t answer. He’s leaning against the counter, gaze lost somewhere in the distance. What is he thinking about so deeply that he can’t hear Kaeya?
Kaeya exhales with displeasure, barely keeping from scowling. “Master Diluc, can you hear me?” He tries to keep a teasing tone, rather than show how much this indifference game hurts him. “Hm?”
“…” Diluc sighs and deliberately turns his head away. Ouch.
“Alright, alright, I’m in the wrong,” Kaeya says with a smile, despite still not knowing what angered Diluc so much. “I apologize, Master Diluc. Can you look at me now?”
“…” Instead of answering, Diluc moves away from the counter, looking towards where Charles is serving the bigger cluster of Knights. He gives the bar a once over, then sighs. “Charles, I’ll be heading out for now.”
Charles walks over with a confused look. It quickly morphs into his ‘Master Diluc is being ridiculous but I can’t badmouth my employer’ face. “Of course, Master Diluc. I wish you a nice evening.”
Looking lost in thoughts, Diluc nods shortly. “Thank you. You too, Charles.” He pauses. “…Tell me if anything of note happens.”
“As you wish, sir.”
Diluc quickly gathers his coat and leaves through the backdoor, not even glancing at Kaeya — who is left gaping at the whole spectacle.
Charles meets Kaeya’s gaze with a sheepish smile. “Please excuse Master Diluc’s attitude, Captain Kaeya,” he says, lowering his voice. “He’s been in a bad mood recently…”
“Do you know why?” Kaeya blurts out. If he can at least figure out what he did wrong, maybe he can fix this — whatever this is. He’s never seen Diluc act this childish for this long before. “Since when is he like this?”
“I believe his bad mood started a few days ago. He had an unfortunate encounter,” code for Diluc beating up some Fatui members as the Darknight Hero, “that put him into a foul mood. It’s strange though, I believed that seeing you would have made him more… Never mind.” He chuckles. “Sir Kaeya, what shall I get you?”
“Death After Noon, please,” he says with a vacant smile, mind running after Diluc.
What is going on? And, more importantly… how can he fix this?
Over a week has passed since then.
Kaeya has gotten used to Diluc ignoring him every night. It’s only when Charles is in service that Kaeya is able to get his Death After Noon. The other Knights have begun to notice; but, well aware of their tense relationship, they haven’t said anything yet.
It’s not often that he gets to witness Diluc in broad daylight. Usually, he is far too busy with either his estate matters or his more… vigilante-type activities.
So when Kaeya sees Diluc strolling down the street with a determined expression, he doesn’t hesitate to step in his way.
He slides close to Diluc and matches his fast pace, plastering on a big smile. “Master Diluc! It’s so rare to see you at this time of day — what has got you in such a hurry?” Inside, his heart is beating with the excitement of finally being acknowledged.
As is becoming usual, Diluc doesn’t answer.
He doesn’t slow down his pace and doesn’t quicken it either. From a closer perspective, his expression is not just ‘determined’ but rather ‘worried out of his mind and looking for a solution.’ It’s a familiar expression.
Still no answer. Well, color Kaeya impressed! He wasn’t expecting Diluc to be so bold as to ignore him when any citizen may see.
“…” Kaeya scrambles for words. “Perhaps I could help out with whatever is troubling you?”
Instead of an answer, Diluc abruptly stops in his tracks. “This is useless,” he mutters, then whirls around and paces back the way he came from.
Kaeya stays frozen, staring at Diluc’s back with a wide eye.
What is useless?
Is he talking about Kaeya’s attempts to talk to him?
What is it? What is going on? Did he finally snap?
Is this actually happening?
The hope in Kaeya’s heart shatters. He stumbles back into a wall, leaning against it hard, body numb from emotion.
All this while, even through each of those recent lonely nights… Kaeya nonetheless held out the hope that this was temporary, that this was just Diluc being angry with him and that soon — soon everything would turn back to normal, and Kaeya would be able to cling onto the last few vestiges of their previous brotherhood.
He breathes slowly, refusing to break down in the middle of broad daylight like this.
So this… this is the way everything ends?
What is Kaeya supposed to do? Can he fix this?
No, this was a long time coming — he should have expected this.
Right. Rather than being sad over the current state of matters, Kaeya should be rejoicing that it took Diluc so long to come to this point. He should be grateful that he got anything at all — that Diluc was kind enough to grant him anger and disgust at first, instead of instant dismissal.
It’s just… so hard to convince himself. He should be glad, but…
But knowing that he might have lost his brother for good…
Kaeya tries to control his breathing, turning around quickly to stalk back to his duties.
There’s no way he’s going to give up now.
Diluc has been mad at him many times before, and for way longer too — and Kaeya didn’t give up then, so why should he give up now? Kaeya tries to hype himself up on his way to Dawn Winery, but his heart isn’t in it. Even before arriving, he already has an idea of how things will turn out.
Surprisingly enough, none of the workers stop him. A few of them even greet him with big smiles. Kaeya tries to feel reassured by this.
When Adelinde opens the entrance door, she only quirks up an eyebrow at his unexpected arrival. “Master… That is, Sir Kaeya? How can I help you?”
Kaeya allows himself to be less uptight. “Is Diluc here? I need to talk to him.”
Strangely, her face relaxes into a smile. “Truly? Master Diluc is not at home at this moment, but he should be coming back— ah, I believe that’s him.”
Kaeya glances over his shoulder to find Diluc’s figure coming into the manor’s courtyard. He’s staring at the ground with a difficult expression, body language tense as can be. He hasn’t looked this troubled in a long while — is he encountering issues with his Darknight Hero activities?
“Master Diluc, welcome home,” Adelinde greets warmly.
“Master Diluc, good afternoon,” Kaeya says, tone more subdued than he would normally allow.
Diluc only looks at Adelinde, nodding at her. “I’m back, Adelinde.” He sighs as he removes his coat. “I still haven’t found anything.”
Adelinde’s expression grows strange. She glances at Kaeya like she’s trying to throw hints at Diluc. “You, um, you haven’t, Master Diluc?”
“No.” Diluc’s lips twist down. “I’ll return to Mondstadt tomorrow, so please continue to take care of the estate in the meantime.”
“Ah…” Adelinde agrees slowly, glancing in between the two men with wide eyes. Kaeya is glad at least someone is sharing this horrible feeling of disbelief. “Yes, Master Diluc…”
Finally noticing her behavior, Diluc pauses. “What is it?” It’s hard to tell whether he is truly angry or not, but the frown stays on. He glances briefly at Kaeya with a blank look in his eyes but then focuses on Adelinde instead — cementing the fact that he knows Kaeya is there but simply doesn’t care.
Realizing this too, Adelinde meekly lowers her head, knowing better than to get in between the two not-brothers. “Nothing, Master Diluc.”
Diluc nods shortly and leaves without another word.
Kaeya and Adelinde remain in incredulous silence, both of them staring at Diluc’s back as he goes into his office with the same complicated face. With each step he takes, Kaeya feels his stomach drop.
“It’s… It’s OK, Adelinde,” Kaeya says, voice suspiciously wet. He tilts his head down to hide the heartbroken expression that’s undoubtedly appeared on his face.
Archons, is this really how it ends?
“I… That is why I came here in the first place, haha… Adelinde, do you perhaps know why… why Diluc suddenly…”
He doesn’t finish. Adelinde continues to watch him, frowning in worry. Her previous cheer has completely disappeared.
He closes his eye. “…Never mind. I guess I already know why,” he finishes softly. “I… Thank you, Adelinde. I won’t bother you any longer.”
“Master Kaeya… I’m sure this is only a misunderstanding—”
“It’s alright,” he says, putting more force into his voice. “It’s alright. I should have— well, it was a long time coming—” He bursts into nervous laughter. “I really should leave.”
“Please let me talk to Master Diluc first,” Adelinde pleads without much conviction. “Earlier, he was talking about you and—”
He doesn’t want to hear it! It’s already heartbreaking enough like this, why would he want to hear how much his not-brother hates him?
“Adelinde, don’t bother Diluc—… I mean, Master Diluc with this nonsense anymore, alright? It’s my bad. I shouldn’t have come here.” He smiles. “Don’t mention this to him, otherwise I fear you’ll make him really angry.”
Despite him giving her his best smile, she doesn’t look comforted at all. “Master Kaeya…”
He nods once more, then turns around. “Have a nice day, Adelinde.”
“…” She lowers her head. “Have a nice day too, Sir Kaeya.”
After that miserable encounter, Kaeya decides to avoid Diluc entirely.
He no longer goes to Angel’s Share, avoids each of Diluc’s haunts, and even avoids going near Dawn Winery if possible. It’s such a striking change from his usual routine that he’s sure at least half of the city has noticed. Thankfully, no one has tried to talk to him about it. Yet. He’s sure Jean will attempt something, once she notices how bad it’s gotten.
Not that anything will change. Kaeya respects Diluc’s choice.
By that point, it’s been a month since Diluc last talked to him. Kaeya is desperately trying to make his peace with it.
The next time Kaeya sees Diluc, it’s completely unexpected.
He’s sitting down at Good Hunter with Klee, completely wiped out after a day of looking after the little miss. She’s adorable (and a soothing balm on his aching heart), but Archons can she be energetic. Kaeya must be getting old — he doesn’t remember being this excitable at that age…
“Fish-flavored pie again, Klee?”
“Yeah!” Klee swings her legs, not an ounce of tiredness on her. “Mister Kaeya, do you know how to make pie fish?”
“I could learn. Do you want me to?”
“Yes! I love Mister Kaeya’s cooking.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
His smile drops as he lifts his head, only to find a familiar figure stalking closer.
He’s got his usual dark expression — the one he usually… that is, the one he used to reserve for Kaeya. Nowadays, he doesn’t even look at him, so Kaeya had started to forget this familiar face.
Sensing his distraction, Klee looks over. Her enthusiasm dims as she sees Diluc. Poor dear, she’s always been a little afraid of him — he can relate.
Surprisingly enough, Diluc heads to them directly, gaze fixed on Klee. What? He usually avoids her, knowing she’s afraid of him. What in the world could motivate him to talk to her?
Klee has grown a little pale by the time Diluc reaches them. “M-mister Diluc…” she greets weakly.
“…” Diluc has that pinched look that says he’s at peak awkwardness. “…How have you been.”
Intimidated by the harsh tone of his voice, Klee sends pleading eyes to Kaeya, but there’s really nothing he can do about this. He already knows Diluc won’t even pretend to hear him.
“Um… Klee has been OK…”
“I see. I’m glad to hear that.” Diluc is clearly not satisfied by that answer. Finally noticing the expression on the little girl, he lets out a sigh. His shoulders slump down. “And… anything noteworthy happening lately?”
Is he… Is Diluc seriously gathering information from a child?
Kaeya would be proud if only Diluc were going around it more smartly. How can you get good info if you’re scaring the poor child into submission? If you scare them, they’ll remember you more clearly, meaning word of your inquiry can spread around faster… And he’s doing it in broad daylight. And in front of Kaeya, too.
Thankfully, Klee has lost some of her fear. She blinks up at him with wide eyes. “No.”
“What did you do today?”
Klee smiles wide, cheered up at the reminder of her nice day. “Klee went flish blasting with Mister Kaeya! Oops,” she gasps, sending an apologetic glance at Kaeya. “Sorry, I’m not supposed to talk about this…”
“Why not.” Diluc blinks, then forcefully softens his tone, “I mean… Why not, Klee?” He doesn’t look at Kaeya for even a second.
“Klee,” Kaeya calls softly. “Why are you not supposed to talk about this?” Did someone put her up to this? Jean? Lisa? Albedo? Kaeya certainly doesn’t remember mentioning any of this to her.
She sends him a guilty glance, then lowers her head, staring down at her knees. “Mister Kaeya looks really sad lately. I didn’t mean to… No! Klee won’t talk about it anymore!” She crosses her arms, huffing indignantly.
Diluc’s lips twist down. “…Sad? Very well. Thank you for telling me, Klee.”
She nods, still with that adorable confident expression. “You’re welcome,” she recites. “Please stop making Mister Kaeya sad! Thank you.”
“…” Diluc lowers his head in acknowledgment but noticeably doesn’t say anything. As he turns away, not having even glanced at Kaeya once, he seems troubled. Just looking at his face brings an unpleasant feeling to Kaeya’s stomach.
They wait until Diluc’s walked away.
“Sorry, Mister Kaeya… I talked too much…”
Well. There’s no point in scolding her over this — Kaeya is already miserable enough for the both of them. “It’s alright. I’m not mad, OK? Let’s just eat.”
Considering this situation any further is useless. Diluc has made it clear what he wants, and Kaeya will respect that. Thinking about it will only hurt him, in the end. There’s truly… no solution in sight.
Kaeya takes a deep breath, blinks rapidly to rid himself of useless tears, then focuses on Klee. She’ll cheer him up.
Everything comes to a head when Diluc literally bursts into one of the Knight of Favonius meetings.
As the doors bang open, Jean, Lisa, and Kaeya all turn to stare at him incredulously. In the many years they’ve known Diluc, he’s never been this outwardly impolite.
He’s wearing the darkest of expressions, calmly looking around the room like he’s searching for something. As usual, his gaze doesn’t even falter when flying over Kaeya.
“Where is he.”
“Master Diluc,” Jean exclaims with clear surprise. She stands up quickly, putting a hand on her sword in preparation. “Is there an emergency? What happened?”
“I’ve had enough of this game,” Diluc hisses, not mellowed by Jean’s words in the least. “Where is he? If he doesn’t want to see me, at least let him say that to my face!”
“What’s with you?” Lisa asks, dropping her usual smile. “You’re making a whole spectacle out of yourself. Who are you looking for?”
“Kaeya. Where is he.”
Kaeya jolts, eye growing wide. What? Diluc is looking for him? This is the complete opposite of what he was expecting. “A-ah… Master Diluc, I’m right here?”
There’s no reaction, of course. Diluc continues to glare suspiciously at both Jean and Lisa, much to the women’s consternation. They exchange uncomprehending glances with one another.
Diluc’s clearly growing impatient, eyes beginning to light up, ready to use his pyro if they don’t hurry up and give him what he wants. “Where is he.”
“He’s, um, he’s right here, Master Diluc,” Jean says haltingly.
Seeing that they’re willing to answer him, Diluc relaxes a little. “Where? In this building? I’ve already gone to his office. He wasn’t here.”
“No, I mean… He’s literally in the room, Diluc.”
Diluc freezes. “…Where?”
“He’s standing right there?” She gestures helplessly towards Kaeya.
Diluc glances around him with a quickly darkening expression. “Where? Are you playing a trick on me? I’ve been looking for him for over a month — now is not the time to deceive me.”
“No, I’m—” Jean stands up, holding her hands up peacefully. “I’m being honest, Diluc. I wouldn’t joke about that. He’s right there.”
“Can you not see him?” Lisa asks, only to continue without waiting for an answer. Her mind always works quicker. “Master Diluc, it seems you’ve been placed under an unfortunate curse. He appears to be completely invisible to you and you only. Kaeya, you can see Diluc just fine, right?”
“…Yes, I can see him,” Kaeya says numbly, barely able to understand what’s going on.
They both look at Diluc for a reaction, but he’s still searching around the room with his eyes. “Is he really here? If this is a trick—”
“He just talked. Did you not hear him?”
Diluc’s scowl is enough of an answer. Despite that unpleasant expression on him, Kaeya’s heart is bursting with hope. Could it be, all this time… Diluc simply couldn’t see or hear him?
He decides to take his chance, shuffling closer hesitantly. “Diluc.”
There’s no reaction. Diluc continues to glance around the room like he’s expecting Kaeya to jump out of the walls at any moment.
“Diluc…” Kaeya inches forward, slowly laying a hand on his arm.
Diluc startles, eyes going wide. He looks down at his arm, taking a step back only to go still abruptly. “What…?” He moves his arm, testing out the weight of Kaeya’s hand on him. “Is this…?”
Heart trembling with both exhaustion and hope, Kaeya shuffles closer, tightening his grip. “Diluc, can you hear me?”
“Kaeya, is that you?” Diluc’s voice is incredulous, eyes wide. His previous rage has disappeared suddenly. With far too much caution, he slowly moves his own hand until he makes contact with Kaeya’s arm — instantly, his hand clutches Kaeya’s wrist. The grip is tight enough to hurt. “Is that Kaeya?” The question is turned towards Jean and Lisa.
Both women are staring at them with complicated expressions like they don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
“Yes, it’s him,” Lisa answers, a teasing smile gradually appearing. “You should see his face. I think he’s seriously about to—”
She laughs brightly, much to Diluc’s confusion.
“He’s about to what?”
Kaeya glares at Lisa, not allowing her to talk. So what if he’s on the verge of tears? His not-brother has been ignoring his existence for over a month! He’s allowed to be emotional, alright?
Unfortunately, with his glare so focused on Lisa, Jean takes the opportunity to talk. “He’s very happy to see you, Diluc,” she says with a soft smile.
“…” Diluc looks back down at the empty space he’s holding. Hesitantly, he lets go and lifts his hand to hover around Kaeya’s body. Kaeya guides his brother’s hand to his face, before reconsidering (is this too intimate?) and guiding it to his shoulder instead. Diluc’s brows furrow, even as he grips Kaeya’s shoulder tightly. “…He’s really here?” The tone is soft and disbelieving.
Diluc’s dark expression breaks. “I thought you were avoiding me,” he admits glumly. “I asked all around Mondstadt, and they kept saying they saw you regularly. Meanwhile, you suddenly disappeared from my life.”
His eye widens. “No, I was here! I promise I won’t leave.” Even if Diluc orders him to leave (as he has done in the past…), Kaeya will stay if only to keep an eye on him.
“He promises he won’t leave,” Lisa relays helpfully. “Master Diluc, I advise you to stop for now — otherwise, you really will make Captain Kaeya cry.”
Diluc jolts, eyes growing wide. “Cry? What’s wrong?” His grip somehow gets tighter — he’s cutting blood circulation at this point, but Kaeya can’t possibly complain.
Jean smiles sheepishly. “I told you: he’s happy to see you.”
“…” A small smile appears on Diluc’s face. His grip relaxes, though it stays secure. “I see. Thank you for telling me.”
The trio exchange knowing looks with one another, bonding over having to ‘deal with Kaeya’s nonsense,’ as Lisa sometimes likes to put it.
Despite feeling left out, Kaeya can’t help his own smile. Elation from being told that his not-brother doesn’t actually loathe his guts has his whole body keyed up. Diluc doesn’t hate him! Or at least, not as much as he thought.
“I have to find a cure, as soon as possible,” Diluc says after a moment. He lets go of Kaeya’s shoulder, but only in order to find his wrist again. “Do you have any idea of what might have caused this?”
“I believe I heard about a magic spell such as this, though it was a long time ago,” Lisa muses, tapping a finger on her chin. “I’ll have to investigate. It shouldn’t take too long. In the meantime, just relax, alright? There’s a chance I’ll be needing someone to gather ingredients for a healing potion…”
Kaeya nods, absently readjusting his stance now that Diluc is no longer gripping him by the shoulder. “Right, we’ll be counting on you then. While we search, you two could—”
“Where are you going.”
They all look over at the interruption. Diluc is frowning at the space where Kaeya stands, leaning forward a little. His grip has tightened again.
Did he think Kaeya was leaving, just then?
…Because he shifted on his feet?
Jean must reach the same conclusion, because she says, “Diluc, do you want to stay with Kaeya until we find a cure? I know communication might be hard to achieve that way, but—”
“…” Kaeya gapes. “Is this— whaaat?” He lets out a disbelieving laugh. “No way, did I give Diluc separation anxiety?”
“My, I believe you might have,” Lisa says, smirking. “Or maybe, he already had it.”
“What is it? What did he say?” Diluc asks quickly. “Why was he leaving? I can follow him if he needs to go somewhere.”
“It’s alright, he doesn’t have to go anywhere,” Jean says, nodding decisively. “Captain Kaeya, do you mind staying with Diluc for now? I’m sure it won’t take too long… Maybe you two can spend some time at Dawn Winery?”
“You’re deciding for me now, Acting Grand Master.” Despite his words, Kaeya shows her a helpless smile. “Sure, sure. If Master Diluc wants me to stay by his side, how could I possibly refuse?”
Jean nods. “Very well. Let’s do it that way, then.”
“He said yes?”
“Yes, you can go hide him away in your mansion now, Master Diluc,” Lisa teases. “Remember to give him back once you’re cured, you understand? We do need our Cavalry Captain, you know.”
Strangely enough, her frivolous words don’t anger Diluc. “Fine,” he says dismissively, then turns his head towards Kaeya. His eyes are still looking through him, but it’s better than ignoring him completely. “Follow me.” Without another word, he turns around, gently tugging on Kaeya’s wrist.
“I, I—” Kaeya stutters, stumbling after him. “See you later, Jean, Lisa! Good luck with the research!” he throws over his shoulder, before jogging to catch up to Diluc.
“Take care, Kaeya.”
The door closes behind them. They walk silently for a few seconds, before Kaeya bursts into speech.
“Master Diluc, won’t it bother you if others see us like this? Rumors will spread — they’ll think we’ve—” reconciled. The word feels forbidden. “You should be more careful of how others see you, you know? What will become of your reputation, if you associate yourself with me any further—”
“I’m not ashamed to be seen by your side.” Diluc continues to look ahead, speaking to thin air. “I don’t know what nonsense you’re spouting right now, but it must be something along those lines. I’m not ashamed to be seen by your side, so stop thinking that way.”
“…” Kaeya sucks in a hurried breath. “Diluc…”
One last time, Diluc repeats, “I’m not ashamed to be seen by my little brother’s side.”
After that, Kaeya stays silent.
The trip to Dawn Winery takes no time at all, in virtue of Diluc walking as fast as possible. He looks anxious to be in a safe place again, tugging at Kaeya’s wrist constantly. At one point, he even offers to carry Kaeya himself, if he’s too tired. Kaeya has no way to refuse aloud, so he jerks his wrist angrily instead. Diluc gets the message and wisely shuts up.
Adelinde is the one to greet them at the door.
At the sight of Kaeya behind her master, her eyebrows rise. “Master Diluc, welcome home…” She glances at Kaeya uncertainly as they step inside, no doubt remembering their last interaction.
“I can’t see him,” Diluc says bluntly.
“I can’t see Kaeya. He’s here, right?” He waves the hand he’s holding Kaeya with. Kaeya is forced to stumble with the movement, shuffling closer.
“A-ah… Yes, he’s here,” Adelinde says slowly, glancing in between the two of them. Her expression pinches. “So… does that mean, that day… When Sir Kaeya came here…”
“You came here?” Diluc questions Kaeya directly. “When? Why didn’t you say anything?”
“You literally can’t hear or see me,” he counters, incredulous. “What was I supposed to do?”
Adelinde’s tense posture relaxes, a smile appearing. “So you two made up. I’m glad. That day your brother came here, you really made him cry, Master Diluc. It was quite heartbreaking.”
“I wasn’t crying!”
She levels him with an unimpressed glare. “You certainly were, Master Kaeya.”
Diluc stares vaguely at Kaeya, face darkening. “…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…” He doesn’t finish, scowling. “I wasn’t trying to ignore you.”
“Well, I know that now,” Kaeya says dryly, despite the fact his eye is watering already. This whole situation has made him far too sensitive. “Adelinde, stop bothering him with this— I’m fine now, anyway.”
“He’s crying again.”
Diluc jolts, eyes going wide. “Why? Did I say something wrong?”
Adelinde, that traitor, smiles like the cat that got the cream. “I believe those are tears of happiness, Master Diluc.”
“…” Diluc’s panic fades slowly. “Again? Alright. That’s good, then.”
Deciding that the conversation is done, Diluc drags Kaeya further into the mansion. “I’ll be having dinner with Kaeya tonight. Also, prepare him some sleeping clothes — and change the sheets in his room.” His room? They kept it intact? “Kaeya, I have some things to look over for the winery. As long as you sit close to me, you can do whatever you want…” He trails off, realizing he won’t get an answer. “If it gets too boring, simply drag me outside.”
“Wow,” Kaeya exhales. He sends a pleading glance at Adelinde, feeling lost. “Is he really— is this really happening? This feels like the weirdest fever dream.”
“Will do, Master Diluc,” Adelinde says with a bright smile. “Take care of Master Kaeya, will you?”
Unable to hear Kaeya’s shocked exclamations, Diluc pauses at the door of his study long enough to give her a decisive nod. “Of course.”
The rest of the day is spent quietly, mainly due to the curse, but also partly due to the inherent awkwardness of the state of their relationship.
Several times, Kaeya tries to tease Diluc, only to come to the painful realization that he still can’t be heard. So instead, he spends most of the afternoon and evening sitting close to Diluc, reading over his shoulder. At one point, Kaeya leans on him, and all of the tension in Diluc’s body disappears. Stomach melting from happiness, Kaeya obediently stays plastered to his side.
In the evening, Adelinde brings them dinner. Even though the estate has changed chefs since he was last here, the food is as succulent as he remembers and brings a faint sense of nostalgia.
Diluc watches the food on Kaeya’s plate slowly disappear with narrowed eyes. “This… This happened before. I saw this phenomenon before,” he says, after a moment. “Kaeya… Did you come to Angel’s Share?”
Kaeya scowls and scrapes his fork against his plate.
“You did, didn’t you?” Diluc’s expression darkens. “And I… I didn’t notice. This whole time, I was searching for you, and you were right in front of me…”
Kaeya leans over to lay a hand on his shoulder, saying without words ‘Forget about it.’ Diluc closes his eyes and doesn’t speak of it again.
With night fast approaching, Adelinde eventually enters Diluc’s study room to inform them that Kaeya’s bedroom has been prepared.
“Thank you, Adelinde,” Kaeya says warmly. He has yet to recuperate from the shock of learning that his bedroom still exists.
“Actually, I changed my mind,” Diluc exclaims in a hurried voice. “What if something happens during the night? I won’t be able to know immediately and will have to wait until someone else warns me. What if the curse gets worse? What if an attack is launched against us? What if—”
Kaeya tugs on his arm to shut him up, unable to keep from smiling. “We get it, Master Diluc.”
Adelinde visibly stifles a laugh. “I’m sure Master Diluc’s bed is big enough for the both of you.”
“…” The silence drags on, Diluc staring at her placidly. “Well? What did he say?”
What? Kaeya blinks. “Eh? Ah, sure.” Diluc isn’t even going to consider refusing? Wow.
“He agreed, Master Diluc.”
Diluc nods. “Very well. Thank you, Adelinde.” Then, he turns back to his work. “A few more minutes, Kaeya, then we’ll head to bed.”
“…Sure.” Kaeya shares a look with the ever-mischievous Adelinde. She really has no business looking so satisfied.
“Are you sure you’re alright with this?” Kaeya asks again, trying not to fidget.
It feels wrong to be in Diluc’s room once more, after so long. Diluc might be OK with it right now — but won’t his feelings change in the morning? Or when Kaeya becomes visible?
Diluc doesn’t answer, of course. He’s in the side room, changing into his sleeping clothes. Kaeya has already changed and is currently waiting for him.
Legs growing unsteady from the day finally setting in, Kaeya sits down on the bed. This situation is so wildly out of control, he doesn’t know what to think.
All this time… all this time, Diluc wasn’t ignoring him on purpose…
All this time, Diluc was looking for him…
Thankfully, Diluc enters the room before Kaeya can start crying again (today has been a harsh day on his poor tear ducts. And his pride too). Immediately his eyes go to Kaeya’s day clothes laying on the wardrobe then glance around the room anxiously. Kaeya is forced to stand up and grab his arm.
Diluc’s tense posture relaxes. “Oh, you’re here.” With only a little hesitation, he manages to grab Kaeya’s wrist. “Are you ready? Let’s go to bed. Don’t move too much.”
“Alright, alright,” Kaeya agrees easily. “How about you don’t squeeze my wrist off, in exchange? Master Diluc, how many push-ups have you done to gain that much arm strength? Trying to impress someone?”
“…” Diluc stares at the empty space in front of him. “Somehow, I have a feeling you’re saying something idiotic.”
The process of getting to bed is made a difficult maneuver by the fact that Diluc refuses to let go of him, no matter how much Kaeya tries to tug away. That show of childishness only makes Kaeya smile, so he can’t exactly complain.
Soon, they’re both laying down.
Kaeya finds himself staring up at the ceiling, hyper-aware of Diluc’s presence by his side. A certain nostalgic warmth envelops his body, and before long, he finds himself is on the verge of dozing off.
Just as Kaeya is ready to fall asleep, a voice calls out softly,
Too sleepy and comfortable to answer, Kaeya doesn’t even move. Diluc seems to take that as confirmation that he’s asleep. He shuffles closer, pressing his whole front against Kaeya’s side.
Now fully awake, heart beating erratically, Kaeya makes sure not to move a muscle. Thanks to the curse, he can nonetheless keep his eye open.
Clothes rustle as Diluc moves around, though it’s obvious he’s making an effort to be as quiet as possible. “Kaeya?” he calls again. When there’s no answer, he moves: a hand hesitantly lays down on Kaeya’s chest, gently patting around to find familiar ground.
Kaeya stays quiet, trying to catch Diluc’s expression. What is he doing? Reassuring himself that Kaeya is still there?
Eventually, Diluc’s hand hits Kaeya’s jaw. Diluc freezes, then shuffles into an upward position, leaning onto his arm so that he can look at Kaeya (or rather, the empty space where he can only feel Kaeya). His expression is… ‘tentative’ is one word for it — is he nervous?
Diluc’s hand timidly maps out Kaeya’s face. As his fingers get closer to Kaeya’s eye, he’s forced to close it.
As such, he’s taken by surprise as Diluc sits up fully, both hands now cupping Kaeya’s head. Diluc brushes away Kaeya’s hair from his forehead, then pauses.
Kaeya’s agitated heartbeat, Diluc’s soothing breathing, the wind blowing against the windows… Whatever Diluc is attempting to do, it’s taking too long.
As he’s about to doze off again, something soft presses gently against Kaeya’s forehead.
Is that… a kiss?
Kaeya’s stomach melts.
In their childhood, both Kaeya and Diluc were treated with many forehead kisses by their father, often coupled with playful tickles or heartwarming hugs. After a while, Diluc adopted the little ritual too, beginning to do it with Kaeya as well — yet another way he showed he was the “Big Brother” in the relationship. At the time, Kaeya himself was too timid in his affection and didn’t have the courage to return the favor.
As they grew up, these innocent signs of affection grew rarer. Incidentally, that only made Kaeya treasure these little actions more, to the point where he has committed to memory most if not all of them. After what happened between them, he never expected he would get to feel this warmth again…
To think… To think that this would actually happen once more…
Diluc finally leans back, though he keeps a hand tenderly cupping Kaeya’s cheek.
Kaeya doesn’t dare to open his eye. He has a feeling he would start crying immediately, and then Diluc would feel the moisture.
Damn his softened heart, but— to have Diluc be so… so familiar with him…
“…There you are,” Diluc says softly, fondness coloring his voice in a way that would never happen if he knew someone could hear.
With far more confidence than before, he slings an arm around Kaeya’s shoulders, tugging him closer until Kaeya’s head is on his shoulder and nestled under his jaw. His breath blows gently on the top of Kaeya’s head.
“There you are, dear little brother… I’ve missed you so much.”
“Never leave my sight again, alright?”
Kaeya keeps his eye close, but his heartbeat picks up.
So suddenly… Diluc can see him!? Is that the cure!? The cure… the cure is a kiss on the forehead!? What kind of arbitrary cure is that!?
Hold on, is this supposed to be a ‘true love’s kiss’!?
But then, that would mean…
Now that he’s somehow found the cure (so effortlessly!? Did he know this would happen!?), Diluc finally settles down. He keeps his arms around Kaeya, not letting him roll away. Slowly, as the minutes tick by, his breathing deepens, signifying sleep.
Meanwhile, Kaeya is left red-faced and teary-eyed with excitement. This is an actual dream come true! How could he possibly fall asleep!? He was— he was—
He was just accepted as a little brother again!
Kaeya celebrates in his heart, smiles wide against Diluc’s chest, and snuggles deeper into the familiar feeling of his big brother’s arms.