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and the rain fell

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Kaeya, for all of his obscurity and eccentricities, was a simple man.

On some mornings, like this one, he took a little something extra in his coffee with his paperwork, and he dragged his feet when going to run drills with the younger Knights later in the morning. He let himself take things slowly, because there might come a day when nothing could be done slowly at all. He would take a late lunch, and then take his horse for a patrol through Springvale in back—a short one, though. The sky had been gray since noon and it wasn’t looking any prettier as the day went on.

Maybe, just maybe, he’d treat himself to an early drink at the Angel’s Share, and see if a certain sourpuss would be working the bar. If he remembered right, there was a good chance of it—it was Charles’s anniversary.

The first crack of thunder echoes in from beyond the city’s walls just as Kaeya returned from what may have been the most uneventful patrol possible, and by the time he stabled his horse, a spattering of droplets were leaving dark circles on the stone roadways. The drizzle wasn’t unbearable, but it was enough to chase the people of Mondstadt off of the pathways and make most shops close up early—and give the bars an early rush as well.

The Angel’s Share was moderately busy by the time he ducked in, damp and appropriately chilly, thanks to the Vision at his hip that always kept things a little cool already. Much to his passing delight, Diluc was working the bar, and Kaeya took what he had affectionately claimed as his seat for just such nights—front and center bar, his grin already tugging at his lips. It grew a little when he noticed a smudge of maroon on the corner of his well-pressed white vest, something he knew Diluc was usually very good about preventing.

“You’re in for a treat on your way back to the Winery, tonight. It’s supposed to storm for hours,” Kaeya mentioned on a hum, already expecting Diluc’s grimace before he receives it. The look makes him laugh, reminded of times when Diluc would make the same face when he’d tasted something particularly awful. “Don’t bite the messenger. I just made it in before the torrent.”

As if on cue, another rumble of thunder shook the glasses hanging on the shelf behind the bar. Though there had been a solid crowd lingering from the storm, the noise seemed to make plenty of them reconsider staying for long. No one wanted to get caught when the sky truly started to open up. Already the lingering bustle of patrons were starting to head out as quickly as they had arrived. For once, Kaeya considered packing it up early with them.

Not before at least one drink to warm him, though. Diluc was good for that already, setting a glass in front of him before finally deigning to speak. “I’ll stay upstairs tonight, then. Thank you for the heads up.” For a moment, something akin to genuine delight blossomed in Kaeya’s chest; since their return from the Archipelago, Diluc had been… subtly more willing to be genuine with his words. To think he took Kaeya’s warning at face value was refreshing.

Slowly, things were mending between them, and that was all he could truly ask for.

“In good faith, I won’t keep you for too long tonight, then,” Kaeya promised with a grin, sipping his drink to the dregs while he caught another group leaving from the corner of his gaze. Soon, the bar really would be empty, each lingering patron filing out with their coats lifted over their head to beat the sustained drizzle outside.

“Only one?” Diluc asked, skeptical as Kaeya slid the empty glass forward. It had done enough to warm him, and with a gracious gesture of leaving his Mora—plus tip, even if Diluc didn’t really need it—on the counter, Kaeya’s smile softened to something a little more genuine.

“Just one for the night,” he agreed, turning to leave Diluc in place behind the now-empty bar.

As he stepped through the door, he couldn’t quite shake the sensation that he was being watched; it was a feeling he could have easily attributed to Diluc watching his back, but it didn’t stop even after he closed the door behind himself. It was, however, a short-lived feeling.

Someone had been waiting for him under the awning of the building across the walkway. They were the owner of a pair of eyes that he felt, oddly enough, like they could see through the walls he’d been on the other side of, and coupled with the mask almost lingering over one, he felt his stomach drop to the pits of his torso. Kaeya did not approach, not yet, but Dainsleif did not need to wait for him to do so.

The rain was heavier now, a shower that dimmed even Mondstadt’s street lamps in the darkness of early twilight. When the blond spoke, his voice was clear enough to echo over the drizzle. “You’re needed.”

Kaeya had known this day would come, he had been preparing for it his entire life—but it was only in the last few years that he had started to question what his response to it would be. His lips thinned into a smile that didn’t suit his face; normally, he would be quite better at faking it. “…I’m sure, father,” he answered, his tone dry. “But I’m afraid that I haven’t truly come into the power you expected me to develop when you left me here. I won’t be able to help you.”

Satisfaction settled in Kaeya’s heart when a slight confusion furrowed Dainsleif’s brow. Both touched by the Abyss, there should have been no reason that Kaeya had not started to develop a terrifying, innate power now that he was an adult. He should have had the skill to hide it, certainly, but to not develop it at all. The fact that Kaeya was all but refusing, as well…

Dainsleif’s gaze dropped down to the Vision hanging from Kaeya’s side. “You’re being hindered. You think yourself blessed by the Gods? That is a tool used to hold you back. Give it up.”

Almost defensively, Kaeya’s fingers dropped to wrap around his Vision, the frosty surface of it a near comfort at his side now, despite the conditions upon him receiving it. “I won’t,” he answered, his tone dropping. More and more, he felt Dainsleif would make him say that he was forsaking Khaenri’ah aloud, to admit his shame. Just as he opened his mouth again, he heard the sound of a door rushed open behind him.

“Kaeya, wait, you can stay-“ Diluc’s voice started loud; he clearly expected Kaeya to be well off from the Tavern by then, likely in the rain. When he saw Kaeya standing right outside of the door, face to face with a man he had served and had rather polite conversations with a handful of times, his protest of Kaeya’s departure died down to a softer tone that trailed off entirely.

Dainsleif’s gaze narrowed, and Kaeya knew that being discovered having this conversation put Diluc in danger. Rather than go after the redhead behind Kaeya, though, Dainsleif lashed out, going for the Vision that Kaeya’s distraction had left open. Kaeya stepped back just in time to dodge the grasp, but it made him half-stumble and nearly collide with Diluc behind him. “Go back inside,” he snapped a little too quickly, for Diluc’s sake rather than his own.

But, of course, it was Diluc. He had never listened to Kaeya, not even when they were children—he was the older one, he was supposed to look after Kaeya. He was supposed to be the strong one. Diluc’s pride had never allowed anything less. “I’m not going anywhere. What’s happening here?”

It hurt a little to consider the fact that Diluc was demanding an explanation from the both of them. Kaeya didn’t have the time to offer him one, not with how fast Dainsleif was with lashing out again, making Kaeya take a few stumbling steps out into the street to reach for his sword. He didn’t anticipate that this would make Diluc follow—he expected even less that Dainsleif, upon being thwarted, would lift that corrupted arm up and grab Diluc by the throat with it.

He could see each dark finger dig against Diluc’s pale throat, a weapon built into the man before him as Kaeya froze in place. “Let him go.” Kaeya knew that before Dainsleif even spoke, he saw Diluc for what he truly was— a weakness that Kaeya had here in Mondstadt. A liability a connection. And if he didn’t want Dainsleif to kill him for that, he had to act quick. “Fine!” He snapped, desperation in his tone as he reached down to unsnap the Vision from his waist. “Take it! I’ll go with you. Do what you want with it. Just let him go.

He was regarded with some skepticism, and Diluc’s lips parted as if to mouth something that Kaeya couldn’t hear. Dainsleif all but dropped the redhead to the ground, and reached for the extended vision with the Abyssal force in the limb glowing with menace. Something forbidden, dark and dangerous and something even the Gods could not stop. Kaeya expected his Vision to shatter when Dainsleif touched it.

He did not expect for red to obscure his vision again, or for the pained little gasp of blood to bubble forth from Diluc’s lips as he stepped in front of Dainsleif, blocking him off. “You can’t-“ Diluc rasped, curling forward around the hand buried now in his chest. “That’s. It saved you from me-Kaeya didn’t understand what he was trying to say; the effect of his words were lost in the shock of Kaeya leaning forward, dropping the Vision in question to wrap his arms around Diluc instead.

“No,” he hissed, feeling blood spill over the torso in his lap as he drops to his knees, warmth coating his rain-soaked pants. “No, no, Diluc you idiot-His fingers scramble to cover the hole in his chest, too frantic to stop the bleeding to care that Dainsleif’s attention turned to the Cryo-blue trinket now a few feet away on the ground. Diluc was dead before Kaeya could brush the hair from his face, red smearing across his cheek. “No, nono, please, please Luc, open your eyes.”

There came the sound of something shattering, and from within Kaeya welled a vast ocean of black. It came with such force that he had little time to prepare against it, and it swallowed the grief and panic inside of him entirely. His tears ran black, black dripped from his mouth, it poured from him like a fountain. But it was power, at his beck and call.

Dainsleif had just not anticipated Kaeya calling upon all of it in his grief.

“Kaeya,” the man started, turning to him as if to reprimand him for his brief shortcomings in becoming too attached to Mondstadt. He did not expect to see the fount of the Abyss pouring from the man on his knees, the body clutched to his chest being the only thing he wanted in the world.

The Abyss gaped beneath them ready to provide its harbinger with whatever he so desired. The Abyss opened below, and around them, the rain fell.

 


Kaeya, for all of his obscurity and eccentricities, was a simple man.

A simple man with sometimes great and terrible nightmares. He lurched awake in bed, gasping on black bile that did not linger in his throat, because he was safe, in his apartment in Mondstadt. Shaking the image of death from his mind, he decided that perhaps, that morning, he would have something a little extra in his coffee with his paperwork, just to sooth his nerves. He had drills with the Knights later, and an afternoon patrol, but as he stepped out of his office, he couldn’t help but notice how gray the sky was.

It had been gray the day before, too. The day Diluc died.

Kaeya froze, shaking himself out of such a thought. It had been a nightmare. Nothing more; he was convinced that when he went to the Angel’s Share that night, Diluc would be there, behind the bar. It was Charles’s anniversary after all.

Surely this was just deja vu. Surely he had not lived this before. The days in Mondstadt passed so similarly sometimes that it would be reasonable that he’d dreamed of something like this before. He had his own fair share of nightmares too, after all.

Still, unsettled, mind wanders on his patrol that afternoon once again. The evening was uneventful; it was almost worth wishing something would happen. Anything to make it different than the nightmare that was feeling more and more like he’d really lived it. The same people sit in the Angel’s Share. The same smudge of maroon lingers on the white of Diluc’s vest. By the time Kaeya sat, even Diluc could tell that there was something haunted about his expression.

This couldn’t be happening.

The deviation began when Diluc spoke first, that time, breaking him out of a nauseated silence. “Are you sure you should be drinking? You look like something a Hilichurl dragged in.” Despite the question, he was already mixing Kaeya his favorite, hopefully to lighten the mood of whatever happened.

He couldn’t tell Diluc this. He would think he was mad, for one—thunder rolled heavy through the tavern, shaking the glasses behind the man. Every clink sounded as if he’d just heard it minutes before. “I have to go, actually,” Kaeya muttered too quickly. He’d just arrived, it would cause suspicion, but if this was happening… He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t watch Diluc die again.

There were still patrons when he stood and stumbled out of the Angel’s Share, right into where Dainsleif was already waiting. Had he been there all along? Had he been waiting from the beginning, the day before, too?

“You’re needed.”

“No!” Kaeya snapped, startling Dainsleif out of the severity of the moment. His surprise looked almost comical, if Kaeya had been in the mood to laugh. This time, when Dainsleif’s eyes dropped down to his Vision early, Kaeya could already feel the cogs working in the other man’s eyes.

For all of the pomp and circumstance of the smallest differences occurring, leaving the bar early, making the conversation go differently than how he remembered it the day before, it played out the same before his eyes.

Dainsleif demanded his vision. Kaeya refused. Diluc—sweet, foolish Diluc—tried to save him. Again.

Blood, blood, blood.

The world went black, and the rain fell.

 

 

Kaeya, for all of his obscurity and eccentricities, was a simple man.

When he woke for the third day, and heard the same sound of the bird chirp that had been negligible to pay attention to the days before, he rolled over in bed and screamed into his pillow, sure that he had had some sort of nightmare within a nightmare.

This couldn’t be happening.

Yet the day played out again, despite his growing apprehension, and for the third time in just as many days, he lost everything that night.

And the rain fell.

 

 

Kaeya had not been a simple man for twelve days, two hours, and six minutes.

It took him two weeks of reliving the same day, making the same mistakes, and being powerless to stop it all before he cracked, and fled to Jean’s office.

He spilled everything, watching the shock and ache of betrayal cross her features, as he detailed every last plan he knew of, every aspiration to plant him deep into the heart of Mondstadt. That he was a spy, that he was intended to be a traitor all along, glutted on the secrets of the nation and planted too deep to be discernible as anything other than a beloved citizen. Though it plagued him with guilt to be using his secret in such a way, he knew that it was perhaps the only way to keep the events of the day from transpiring.

Still, after all of it, Jean couldn’t help the conflicted expression she wore, and folding her hands uncomfortably on her desk, she took a deep breath. “The fact that you’re telling me all of this means that we were right to choose to trust in you, Kaeya.”

Something in his heart clenched at hearing that, to know that despite the truth being laid bare on the table, she would still trust him. The rest of him had to steel himself, though, his heart thudding painfully into his throat. “Acting Grand Master,” he began, knowing that the use of her title would at least demand consideration from her, “I have just confessed to you being a planted spy for the nation of Khaenri’ah. Favonius Regulation demands that you apprehend me and keep me under watch until the return of Grand Master Varka.”

How many times had he been trusted to sit at that desk where she was now, in her busiest of moments? How many times had he been the backbone of the Knights, just as she or Varka was? This would ruin his life. This would ruin his career.

This would, if everything went as he hoped, keep Diluc alive through the night.

He would have to apologize to her at some point, if this worked. He would have to explain everything, but he doubted she would take the news of him reliving the worst day of his life over and over as anything more than a madman’s ramblings.

When she clearly didn’t know how to answer, his voice softened, and the strain in his tone was unmistakable. “Jean. Please. I don’t want to do something that could hurt everyone here. It’s safer this way. If you trust me because I’m being honest with you, trust me when I say this is for the best.”

His plead was enough to make her reconsider, and minutes later, he watched her lock the cells kept beneath the Knights of Favonius Headquarters. It wasn’t ideal to be the one behind these bars for once, but he wasn’t sure if it was to keep him safe inside—or to keep Mondstadt and Diluc safe from him on the outside.

Until he heard that first roll of thunder through the city. It would have been when he first stepped back into town. The second would have been while he was in the Angel’s Share, and-

Kaeya could hear the sound of conflict outside of his cell, down the hall; it was undeniably Diluc’s voice, arguing with what sounded like Jean. “He’s not a threat to Mondstadt, if he was, then I would have told you so myself a long time ago.”

Beyond their voices, though, he can hear the careful click of boots that doesn’t fit either of theirs. It is a sound he has heard so many times in his last few lives that he doesn’t even have to see Dainsleif to know that the man is approaching behind them both. Kaeya didn’t even have time to grasp the bars of his cell to shout a hasty “Leave them alone-!before the sound of two bodies hitting the floor reached his ears.

Dainsleif had his Vision, confiscated at the Ordo Favo’s storage room, in his hand already. He had no idea what would happen when he crushed it upon reaching Kaeya’s cell, but Kaeya did.

 

 

Kaeya had, perhaps, never been simple.

This time, he waited for Dainsleif outside of the Angel’s Share, under the awning so the rain doesn’t catch him. “I know you aren’t my father,” he pointed out, shoulders tense when he could feel the man watching him from the shadows. “I figured it out a long time ago. You were just the person designated to plant me here, weren’t you?”

“It was necessary to encourage you to listen to me,” Dainsleif offered, and if this was not the eighteenth time Kaeya has seen him at that exact spot on that exact day, and if he had not watched Dainsleif murder Diluc at least thirteen of those days, he might have been more inclined to sympathize with the guilt in the other man’s voice.

He draws his sword, but again, Dainsleif bests him. As the man stood over him, Kaeya curled on his side, trying to protect the Vision. There is no Diluc, thank the Gods.

“I did what I had to do,” Dainsleif murmured, and for a moment, he seemed pained. “I will always do what I have to do.”

Kaeya’s Vision shattered, and the Abyss bubbles somewhere in his chest again. There was no great terror, no great grief. As he was always meant to do, he would control it, like Dainsleif did. It would be used to avenge and resurrect Khaenri’ah. They would not fall to it like their countrymen had, and maybe, just maybe, they could be saved. He would leave, Diluc would be safe. This time, the Abyss lingered below the surface, as if it would stay contained unlike so many times before—until he heard one voice call out across the storm:

“Kaeya-? What are you doing, get away from him-!”

The shout was silenced, and it took Kaeya only seconds to realize that Dainsleif was no longer at his side. Kaeya screamed again, knowing that he did not even have to look to know what would happen.

Time began to unwind itself again through him, and the rain fell.

 

——

The time after that, he breaks his own Vision the moment he awakes, anguish bubbling up through him as he let it take hold of him. A vessel to the wrath of the Abyss, he tears through half of Mondstadt before the weight of his actions sink in. It is the first time that he had the chance to realize that every time his Vision shattered, it was to doom him or Mondstadt both; he never had control over the Abyss. He never would.

How many friends had he killed this time? How many innocent people? How many people had trusted him to not do the very thing he was doing now?

It comes undone when Diluc comes to face him, and the hatred in the red head’s eyes tears him apart just as much as any of Diluc’s deaths had. He did not kill him, and yet, time reset again before Kaeya even knew what was happening.

 


Kaeya, for all of his obscurity and eccentricities, was a-

 

 

Kaeya had once joked with the Traveler that the element of Cryo was much stronger in the rain—and true, fighting in it was usually a blessing.

Now, Kaeya cursed every droplet that fell from the sky, staining his face with water that he could no longer distinguish from tears by any other means other than feeling how cold they were in comparison. Days blurred together, and he lost count of when he lost count of them. Sometimes, he never left his bed, not until the cadets come to hesitantly knock on his apartment door. Sometimes they send Jean.

One time, he begged Jean to kill him, explaining everything that had happened and everything that continued to happen. She refused, though he woke up hours afterwards to the sounds of Dainsleif storming the cathedral. She had knocked him out, thinking his babbling was some sign of a stressed mental break, and had done the only thing she could think of—take him to Barbara, while calling for Diluc.

None had survive that time, either.

There’s never a moment he can separate himself from Mondstadt. The storm rages too hard, they send someone after him when he never returns from patrol, and somehow, some way, Dainsleif always pursues.

He can never be bargained with. The stubborn, obstinate, bastard of a man would have his ally in war, by will or by force. Time and time again, his Vision is cracked or crushed, no matter how Kaeya tries to insist that it will not work, that Dainsleif will doom them all.

 

 

No matter how many times he tried, he just couldn’t kill Dainsleif with the power of the Abyss, either. He was stronger. He had more control. Kaeya had raw power but it heeled at the turn of Dainsleif’s unyielding force.

All he could do is rewind, come undone, and wake the next morning to the sound of songbirds under a sky that would turn gloomy by noon.

And every single night, the rain fell.

 

 

Kaeya, for all of his obscurity and eccentricities, was a simple man.

There was one thing in Mondstadt that he could no longer bear to have hurt or destroyed. There have been dozens—perhaps hundreds of failures to save the city in his past lives by now, and Kaeya was… tired.

He woke, dragged himself out of bed like a man possessed, and takes his horse to the Winery to call on Diluc directly that morning. It was a fool’s errand—Adelinde, worried over his frazzled state, wasted no time in telling him that Diluc would be at the Angel’s Share all day, preparing stock for that night. It was Charles’s anniversary, after all.

The trip both ways took almost too long; the sky was gray in the mid-afternoon when he rode his horse hard back through the gate, leaving it with a knight there to hold until he returned. He could barely keep himself together by the time he forced the door of the Angel’s Share open after freezing the lock on it. Hearing the intrusion had Diluc already with his sword at the bar, startled when he realized that the unexpected and uninvited guest was Kaeya himself.

It was his last option. He would take Diluc and try to run.

Far away from Mondstadt. Far away from it all.

“I need you to trust me,” Kaeya begged before Diluc could even demand what he was doing. His appearance was disheveled, and his visible eye was already wet with the frustrated tears that threatened to follow. “Please just. Trust me, and come with me, Luc. For a while.”

“I’ve got tonight’s shift,” Diluc answered, and Kaeya shook his head, hard.

“This- this is life or death,” Kaeya answered, hard. He could see the suspicion in Diluc’s gaze, but Kaeya had not had the energy to do something about his damned fate in weeks—or was it months? He wouldn’t be surprised if he had been trapped in his cycle of hell for years, at this point. But Diluc relented, pulling off the vest he’d worn for shift. It gave Kaeya the smallest amount of hope to see that it wasn’t stained yet.

“Let me get my jacket,” he noted, grabbing his claymore along the way as well. Kaeya did his best not to be obvious about how hard he breathed to restrain tears from actually falling.

It wasn’t even night, and yet somehow, Dainsleif was already waiting for them on the bridge leaving the city. Kaeya was beginning to lose track of how he could be everywhere and yet Kaeya could never find him before leaving the Angel’s Share at night on his own.

“Fuck Khaenri’ah!” Kaeya screamed already frantic to keep whatever was about to happen from unfolding, eye bright with fury, shining in the dull daylight with the storm clouds already rumbling overhead. “Fuck Mondstadt! None of it is important, the only thing that’s important is-“

He was cut off abruptly as Diluc’s blade, drawn almost silently, lifted to Kaeya’s back where Kaeya had so desperately stood between the redhead and Dainsleif. “You’re going to tell me what’s happening here, Kaeya,” Diluc murmured, sounding pained.

Kaeya realized too late that the declaration of ‘fuck Mondstadt’ fully sounded like the day had finally come where Kaeya’s true colors would be revealed. Kaeya’s frantic urge to get Diluc out of the city could only be read as one thing—a distraction to leave Mond without its Darknight Hero.

And no matter how uncertainly Diluc held his blade, he was ready to cut Kaeya down for it.

“That’s not what I meant-“ Kaeya choked, desperate for Diluc to not see the worst of him in the moment, desperate for Diluc to understand. “Please trust me. All I need is for you to trust me.”

Diluc winced, his grip tightening on his blade. “How can I ever trust you again?”

Their disagreement left Dainsleif with a full opportunity to take Diluc away from Kaeya right before his eyes once again.

 

Kaeya would never be simple again.

In the end, there is always Diluc, dead, dying, or defiant. Every time Kaeya tries to join him, fate conspires against him, forcing him to live again and again and again, no matter if his attempts are by his own hands, by Dainsleif’s, or any other random citizen of Mondstadt that he tries to push just a little too hard.

 

The rain always falls.

 

 

Kaeya could think of only one thing he had ever wanted in his entire life, and it existed in a realm beyond what he’d ever thought possible for himself. While happiness was something tucked away in memories of a world where time moved forward rather than in instances of the same day, over and over again, the more time looped, the less and less he cared about what should and should not be done.

By now, he was sure he could walk naked through Mondstadt’s streets and Dainsleif would appear, somehow with his Vision, to crush it before him. He would slip into a monstrosity, but, as he bitterly mused, it would be a very attractive and naked monstrosity. Such considerations, however, felt like child’s play when he began to confront the notion of finally doing what he wanted rather than what everyone expected him to do.

Reliving the first day how it had gone was more… difficult than he anticipated it being. He’d lived it so many different ways that he could barely remember how it had all begun.

Something extra in his coffee. Recruit training. Patrol. The little smudge on Diluc’s vest.

“You’re in for a treat on your way back to the Winery, tonight. It’s supposed to storm for hours,” Kaeya mentioned on a hum, already expecting Diluc’s grimace before he receives it. The look makes him laugh, reminded of times when Diluc would make the same face when he’d tasted something particularly awful. “Don’t bite the messenger. I just made it in before the torrent.”

As if on cue, another rumble of thunder shook the glasses hanging on the shelf behind the bar. Though there had been a solid crowd lingering from the storm, the noise seemed to make plenty of them reconsider staying for long. No one wanted to get caught when the sky truly started to open up. Already the lingering bustle of patrons were starting to head out as quickly as they had arrived. For once, Kaeya considered packing it up early with them.

Not before at least one drink to warm him, though. Diluc was good for that already, setting a glass in front of him before finally deigning to speak. “I’ll stay upstairs tonight, then. Thank you for the heads up.” For a moment, something akin to genuine delight blossomed in Kaeya’s chest; since their return from the Archipelago, Diluc had been… subtly more willing to be genuine with his words. To think he took Kaeya’s warning at face value was refreshing.

Slowly, things were mending between them, and that was all he could truly ask for.

Except it wasn’t.

Kaeya let his gaze drop to the glass passed his way, and he took a breath. Would it be the same, this time? He had never tried it. He had failed to save Diluc a thousand times before, so maybe he didn’t deserve to be this selfish.

But he was so tired of fighting fate.

“…can I join you?” he asked, voice dropping softly. Any sign of the grin had faded from his lips, and the hushed whisper was not to conspire, but to save Diluc’s pride from anyone who might be overhearing. The question worked enough shock across Diluc’s features, but it was not chased with the aggression that Kaeya expected to follow. He didn’t answer at all, actually, not at first. Red eyes chased across the slowly emptying bar, uncertainty dusting his expression for the first time in ages.

He had expected to be accused of aimless flirting, but the sole thread of what kept his hope alive had been what Diluc had started to say the first night his world had turned into a daily hell on repeat. Instead, Diluc held up a single finger against the bar. Kaeya remembered a similar gesture when they had been younger—particularly when they had something unpleasant to say about any of the older Knights who caused more trouble than they did good.

Not this second. Wait.

The last patron left three agonizingly long minutes after his unanswered proposition. Diluc moved after them to mark the bar as closed, locking the door and returning to Kaeya’s side instead of moving behind the bar to begin cleaning. He seemed… endearingly uncertain, his brows knitting a wrinkle between them that reminded Kaeya of Crepus, deep in thought. He’d grown handsome, some time when Kaeya hadn’t allowed himself the luxury of even looking. “Are you being serious?” He finally asked, looking as if his heart might not be able to handle it if Kaeya were simply asking for a fling, or making some particularly cruel joke that Diluc knew him to be fully capable of.

Kaeya couldn’t help the terror that chased him through the moment. Nothing had gone well in so long—nothing that had not immediately been chased by the hounds of misery. He was almost tempted to ruin it for himself, just so he would not have to face it when something went wrong this time, too.

Instead, he choked back that fear, and used it to force words out, instead.

“I love you more than anything else in the world,” Kaeya whispered, pouring every ounce of longing he had felt and every fiber of grief too inexplicably woven into him from the lifetimes of losing him so far into the words. His fingers dipped up, almost shaking when they brushed Diluc’s jaw, which he had cupped bloody and broken far too many times. They traveled up along his cheek to where they brushed a few stray curls in front of his ear, tucking them back. “Please give me one night to show you that.”

He can’t expect this Diluc to know how much he had gone through. He can’t expect him to know why his throat went dry when he pleaded. He couldn’t ask this Diluc to trust him, not fully, but Kaeya’s words were enough to convince him into pulling the Cavalry Captain into a kiss, and it almost makes him sob against his lips.

It’s everything he had never allowed himself to consider, in the frantic cycles of trying to save their lives, and he was sure that at any moment, Dainsleif would interrupt them, and he would lose Diluc again.

But he doesn’t.

Diluc dragged them away from the bar at one point—though they kiss at least four more times in the hazardous attempt to make their way up the third floor to the spare bedroom kept there for their workers and the worst of their drunk regulars alike. It took Diluc almost an hour to drag Kaeya out of the fear of the inevitably, coaxing it out of him until finally, finally, they tangle into one another, inseparable and permanent fixtures in each other’s life once more.

The storm drowned out their overdue whispers of adoration, and outside of the Angel’s Share, in a Mondstadt that might still face a thousand more days of destruction singularly through the agony of Kaeya Alberich, the rain fell.