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Auld Lang Syne

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The first snow of the year in Liyue falls the day after the truth comes out. It’s early in the season by the southern nation’s usual standards. He sits on the roof of the bank, silent, and watches its descent. The stray tabby that hangs around there—Garum, he’s called it, after that awful fish sauce Skirk always used in her cooking—makes for quiet company. 

Were he a more superstitious man, perhaps he would take it as some sort of sign from Her Majesty—congratulations for a job well done, or a quiet apology for the role She made him play in Morax’s script. She would never apologize outright, after all. But if life has taught him one thing, it is this: the gods are not so omnipotent and ever-present as their devotees may think. In fact, most of them are just regular, boring people who happen to be unfathomably powerful and remarkably old. Some are warriors. Some are poets. Some are scholars. Some are law-keepers. Some are liars. Some are living in the shadows of those before them. And some, well. Some are all of the above.

So the snow is just snow, ordinary and coincidental, and when the cold of it begins to numb his fingers and his cheeks, he thinks not of his Tsaritsa, but of ice fishing with his father. He hasn’t been home in more than a year and a half now.

 

*

 

It’s over a month before he sees Morax again, December nearly on its way out. He’d spent weeks avoiding him, telling his employees to send him away if he ever came looking, going back and forth between quietly fuming for days at a time and telling himself that he didn’t mind any of it at all, actually, what happened was completely fine. By this point, it feels as though their reunion should be something explosive. 

It isn’t. 

It’s early morning. The sun is just barely creeping up on the harbor, the air seeming to glow white the more it rises. He’s leaning back against the railing of the bridge between the Northland Bank and the upper floor of Heyu Teahouse, cooling down after a morning run, when he hears him call from below.

“Childe.”

He swallows. Keeps his face impassive, though he doesn’t look yet. 

Zhongli once said that he noticed, several months into their friendship, that the more comfortable Childe is around someone, the less he smiles and the softer he speaks. When Childe questioned his logic, he said, “I must assume you were once of a quieter disposition. Your role as a diplomat requires you to adopt a much more overtly amiable persona, but when you are not attempting to convince anyone of anything, you can dispose of the need to keep up appearances, and you revert to who you are most naturally. Is that correct?”

Childe just clicked his tongue and shrugged. “Hmm.”

From the way Zhongli smiled then, Childe could tell he knew he was right. “Then I am honored by the level of trust you’ve granted me,” he said, dipping his head.

At present, Childe sighs. Ah, his naivety. At least now he knows to play towards the opposite of his usual go-to when observing niceties: keep his face neutral and his tone low, and Morax will have nothing to be suspicious of. It isn’t hard work not to smile at him anyhow, he supposes.

He turns around, slowly. “Huh?”

“Are you enjoying the colder weather?” Morax calls up. He has one hand cupped beside his mouth, as if to amplify the sound. A pointless act—Morax’s voice will always carry in Liyue, no matter what he does.

Childe shrugs. “I suppose. Even so, it’s nothing like my homeland.”

“Do you miss it?”

He blinks a few times. Sighs. Hauls himself over the side of the railing, forming platforms out of solid Hydro in a spiral to serve as steps all the way down, until he’s back on street-level. 

Morax is wearing a scarf and a pair of warm boots; the latter fact Childe only notices because Morax is taller than him now. He smiles helplessly when Childe touches down beside him, as if he’s still terribly endeared. He probably is. Childe’s thought about that—Zhongli wasn’t the type to do things without purpose, even if that purpose was simply enjoying himself. He doubts Morax is either. In all likelihood, he genuinely considered Childe a friend and still does, oblivious to Childe’s upset. The fact that he’s tried to contact him so many times in the past few weeks is enough of a giveaway. 

Childe supposes he is not the only one who was naive as to where they stand.

He breathes in, then cuts off anything he might have said, rolling his eyes and shoving his hands in his pockets. In light of the December morning chill, he’s actually bothered to button his coat all the way and roll down his sleeves—Liyue’s cold is nothing to Snezhnaya’s, certainly, but being Snezhnayan, he also knows better than to leave his skin exposed when it’s the season for snow. At the moment, rather than a respite, it feels suffocating. Something beneath his skin itches with what he has come to recognize over the years as the burning desire to instigate a fight; in this case, more specifically with Morax. 

But he’s not a dumb kid anymore, and he’s learned how to snuff out that impulse rather than give in. Instead, he huffs out a slow breath. “Come on, old man, let’s see if Xiangling has anything warm for breakfast,” he says, quieter than he meant to.

Morax smiles and offers his arm. Childe figures it’s better not to make a fuss and takes it. When their arms loop together, Morax reaches across with his other hand to grip Childe’s arm with it as well, as if to maximize their points of contact, just as Zhongli used to. 

 

*

 

“My birthday is in a few days.” 

Morax drops this out of nowhere as they sit at their usual table in Wanmin Restaurant, halfway through splitting their third order of xiao mian. Talking around a mouthful of spice is something Childe has come to enjoy the challenge of, though it isn’t much of one anymore. Once, Zhongli told him that the broth of Xiangling’s specialty boiled fish is not to be consumed directly, spicy as it is. Of course, Childe drank down the entire bowl. Zhongli had looked disgruntled and fond all at once.

Childe frowns. “You have one?”

“Doesn’t everyone?”

Childe cants his head towards Morax.

“Even I have a date at which I came into the world, Childe,” Morax says chidingly, chuckling.

“And what date was that?” He wonders why Zhongli never told him last year. 

“December 31st.”

Something about that very nearly makes Childe laugh. “The last day of the year. But of course,” he says. Time of departing indeed. 

“Is it so surprising?” Morax tilts his head.

He shrugs. “Why are you telling me this?”

Morax blinks. “Typically, the day of one’s birth is celebrated with friends. I merely wanted to know if you would partake in this tradition with me. I would like to have you there.”

“I’m awfully busy these days, Zhongli,” he sighs. It’s a lie, of course, and it tastes like bile in his mouth. All he’s done in the past month is work that’s beneath his rank in a pathetic attempt to stave off boredom. Liyue Harbor is a beautiful city, and it makes a beautiful prison. 

Morax frowns. “I suppose if you cannot find the time, that is alright. It is only that I wish we could see each other more. I’ve dearly missed your presence. Is there any day at all that we could plan to meet again?”

Childe turns away and licks his lips. “How would you feel about fighting me today?” he says in lieu of answering. He’s been meaning to ask anyway.

“Fighting you,” Morax says, but he doesn’t mind the non sequitur. “I will not hurt you on purpose.”

“What makes you so sure you could if you wanted to?” Childe asks, defensive. 

Morax raises an eyebrow. 

Childe shakes his head. “We don’t have to seriously injure each other. Just… fight. You know, spar.” He gestures vaguely with his hands as he speaks. “Casually.”

Morax looks at him consideringly. When he keeps staring a moment too long without responding, Childe starts to glare.

“Alright,” he relents, finally. “If that is what you want, then I accept.”

For the first time that day, Childe smiles. “Excellent.”

 

*

 

They’d had a conversation once about Childe’s time spent staying at Zapolyarny Palace over the years, and somehow, the topic had turned towards the ballroom at the heart of it, a room that has seen little use in five centuries. Nonetheless, Childe had taken the time to learn of and master the practice within two weeks of his arrival, when they were first preparing to declare him a Harbinger, spurred by boredom and a desire for athleticism in any form. 

Zhongli’s eyes lit up. “You know ballroom dances?”

Childe nodded. “Do you?”

“No,” Zhongli said quickly. “Though the intricacies of the practice do intrigue me, balls in the Snezhnayan sense are not typical of Liyue, so I know little about them, in honesty.” He paused, looking considering, then said in a rush, “Would you teach me?”

Childe smirked teasingly. “You want me to teach you to waltz? All pressed in close, holding each other, swaying together? Why, Mr. Zhongli, surely you’re not just trying to covet my yet-unearned affections?”

Zhongli smiled lightly, eyes glimmering. “Oh, never.”

And Childe pulled him in to dance, laughing and grinning all the way. 

This fight feels much like that night’s dance. 

They’re on top of the peak overlooking Qingxu Pool. It’s barely a fight, if he’s honest. They’d agreed not to hurt each other, after all, and Childe had started out pulling his punches, but by now, he’s found he need not bother—try as he might, he’s simply not strong enough, not fast enough, to ever really hurt Morax. The traveler was right; he is absolutely no match for him. He laughs, unbidden. It is frustrating, it is exhilarating, and in a sense, he feels almost as though he is fighting alongside Morax rather than against him. Like this, it is easy to get lost in the feeling, doing something he loves with someone he—well. 

Perhaps this is dangerous. They are starting to feel just a bit too much like Ajax and Zhongli when this was intended to be Tartaglia and Morax. 

Still, he was the one who asked for a fight, and he plans to see it through to the end. He unhooks his mask from the side of his head and pulls it over his face, calling upon the strength of his Delusion to switch things up. 

Today, he leaves the Foul Legacy locked away. 

 

*

 

On the last day of the year, Childe doesn’t go to whatever celebration Morax had planned with his friends. There probably wouldn’t have been that many people there anyway, in honesty, but he doesn’t care to risk seeing anyone who might take issue with his presence, least of all some angry adepti. Instead, he shows up at his house after the fact. He sort of hopes that he won’t be home, busy out celebrating the new year in the city with everyone else. That way, Childe can just drop off his offering, maybe with a note at best, and leave. 

He has no such luck. 

Morax lives on his own in Yujing Terrace. His house stands by itself, apart from the others in both location and size. It looks luxurious from the outside, but even so, it is clear that it is one of the lower end properties in the rich section of town. Childe wonders if Morax conjured the exact amount of mora he needed to purchase the first place he found flat-out and called it a day, or if this is truly what he can afford on his salary, no doubt with the help of the savings he must have accumulated after months of living off of Childe’s generosity. Still, at least the separation from the other sprawling estates of the city means privacy, something Childe can more than understand the value in for a man living in the shadows. 

Morax seems pleasantly surprised when he opens the door. “Ah, Childe. You came to visit after all,” he says, smiling serenely. 

“Hmm.” He walks in without asking, and Morax lets him. “I brought dinner.” It’s probably too late for dinner; nearly midnight now. He’d usually have been asleep were it not for the holiday. If he was home, he’d be sitting up with his siblings, watching imported Inazuman fireworks fly. Liyue does fireworks, too, but that still leaves one factor missing. 

Morax’s house is filled to the brim with widely varied trinkets and lavish decoration; a good portion of which Childe remembers paying for himself. He removes his shoes at the door and makes his way to the dining table in the kitchen.

“Oh? Something from Xiangling?” Morax asks. 

Childe clicks his tongue. “Would you prefer that?” he asks, chiding. “No. I made it.” He places the container down on the table. 

Zhongli smiles. “Oh, you are excellent.”

Childe looks away. “Would you get some bowls and spoons?”

“Right away.”

In a moment, they’re standing beside each other at the table, Childe serving out soup with a ladle. It’s still hot; he’d come straight after making it. 

“It’s borscht. Beet soup. My own recipe, adapted from my mother’s, since she’s not as great a cook.” She’s pretty good, actually; he only means he’s better. “Generally, it’s more of an autumn dish. Beets can survive a frost pretty well, but long periods of snow aren’t so good. Thankfully, the winters in Liyue are so mild, I had no trouble getting them to grow myself. I have a nice big window box in my apartment, so I planted them about six weeks ago just so I could make some. They were a bit diminutive, given the less-than-ideal circumstances, but they did alright.” His whole room had smelled of home as he cooked. He wishes he hadn’t needed to send Teucer back so soon. 

He hands the first bowl to Morax, who takes it, but doesn’t move. Childe looks up at him questioningly and finds himself being stared at. 

“What? Something wrong?”

Morax blinks. “Childe,” he says. “You spent weeks growing beets in your window just so you could make soup for me?”

Childe puts down the other bowl he’d been holding—a bit too hard, maybe, judging by the clattering it makes. “I was going to make the soup anyway.”

Morax smiles. 

“I didn’t even know it was your birthday until this week,” he grumbles.

He turns away as he speaks, breaking eye contact and shifting his focus back to putting soup into his own bowl, but Morax catches his face in a gloved hand, gently coaxing him to turn back, running a thumb over his cheekbone. Childe goes very still. This is undeniably intimate in a way they usually aren’t. And Morax does him one better:

He leans in, no hesitation, and gives a soft kiss to the very edge of Childe’s mouth, just at the corner of his lips. “Thank you, my dear.”

Kissing one’s comrades—on the lips, even—is a common enough practice in Snezhnaya. As a soldier, Childe is plenty familiar with that. But this is not Snezhnaya, and Morax does not know that; or, at least, if he does, he definitely doesn’t mean it like that. Childe quells the burning urge to push him into a wall and make him kiss like he means it. He blinks at him a few times, not even bothering to fake anything other than a blank expression, and says nothing, turning again to put soup in his bowl. 

Morax sits across from him. They eat, for the most part, in silence. When they are done, Morax takes the bowls without a word and cleans them in his sink as Childe sits in wait at the table, watching him work. He’s always been one to do things for himself. Perhaps that’s why, even after he knew him to be an adeptus, Childe could never quite picture him as a god. 

When he comes back, he says, “I’ve had a wonderful night with you,” his eyes warm. 

“We’ve barely done anything,” Childe points out, laughing a little. He’s certainly laying it on thick.

“Even still,” Morax says, his coattails sweeping behind him as he walks around the table to stand before Childe, “it was wonderful just for having you with me.” 

He reaches out with his right hand, and Childe grabs it, expecting to be pulled up. Instead, Morax just squeezes it and leans down, pressing their beet-dyed lips together in a lingering kiss. 

It’s not as if it’s something Childe’s never imagined before. Zhongli was lovely. He kisses back. 

Morax pulls away. “Stay the night,” he whispers against Childe’s jaw. 

And Childe has imagined that, too—suggested it, even; tried to initiate. Zhongli had always firmly refused him. He wonders why it is different with Morax. 

He laughs, soft and low. “For your birthday?”

“No, my dear,” he murmurs. “Purely incidental. Any time. Any day.”

“Then say what you mean,” Childe says. “Let’s not misunderstand each other again.”

Morax lets out a sharp breath, warm across his cheek, then leans in farther to whisper exactly what he means, his language formal and sweet but unmistakable. 

 

*

 

When he undresses, his arms are pitch-black, the veins aglow with golden light. The cut of his clothing has always made him seem long and lithe, but without it, it is more apparent how broad he is, all firm muscle throughout. Childe has never felt small next to him before—he is generally a bit taller, even—but finds he doesn’t mind it now that he does. He is a god. He is glorious. 

His hair is soft, as is his skin, as is his mouth, as are his touches. He is slow to work Childe up, then slower still to work him open, and it is only when he begins to writhe, panting and pleading, breathless and sweet, that the adeptus finally joins them and Childe gives himself over fully; the basest and most beautiful union of god and man. His tender treatment is either befitting of the wise and gentle Geo Archon Rex Lapis, or not at all of the ruthlessly brutal Warrior God Morax; but when Childe calls for him—and, oh, he does—the name on his lips is that of the humble consultant of the Wangsheng Funeral Parlor, the one he loved best of all. 

Outside, he hears the sound of fireworks being set off in the city, seeing the lights flash against the wall more than he can in the sky through the window. It must be midnight. The start of a new year. He finds he can’t dedicate much attention to it. Zhongli—Rex Lapis, Morax—is a most gracious and attentive lover, and Childe finds bliss in his care, again and again.

 

*

 

Morax places him in a chair to change the sheets, then carries him to the shower, where they sit as Morax cleans them both. Neither of them speak; there is a fragile warmth in the air that seems it would break if either of them said a word. He is thorough, going so far as to use shampoo and conditioner when he is done with the rest, combing his fingers through Childe’s hair, lightly rubbing his scalp. He tips Childe’s head back, shielding his eyes with one hand as he uses a cup of water to rinse it out. Childe’s eyes stay closed for most of the ordeal. After they are both washed, Morax runs his hands along Childe’s body, massaging out tension where he finds it (though Childe is quite boneless now), laying kisses along the same trail after his work is done. It almost feels more intimate than anything else that night—a more personal sort of care, as if they are actually lovers. 

Well—he supposes, perhaps, they are. It’s clear after tonight that Morax isn’t one for simple fucking. That wasn’t how he phrased his proposition, after all. It’s just as well; Childe has had enough roughness for his lifetime. This clearly meant something to Morax. Childe considers himself lucky that he’s too tired to decide if he still feels the same. 

When they are clean and dry, Morax carries him to bed, securing the blankets around them and securing Childe in his arms, neither bothering to dress. The skin-to-skin contact is warm and pleasant. Childe is content to limply allow all this to happen, plenty satisfied from their coupling and tired from staying up later than usual. 

“I’ve wanted to know one another like this for a long time,” Morax admits, abruptly dispersing the comfortable silence they’d been floating in. He sounds tired himself. “When you offered yourself to me in the past, I was honored by your trust. In turn, I wanted more than anything to show you my love.”

Childe grunts, annoyed. He’d been half asleep. He shifts in Morax’s grip. “What stopped you?”

There is silence for a moment, before he speaks, saying, “Remaining dressed would have been too impersonal to get the depth of my feelings across, but there would have been no hiding my identity from you if I hadn’t, so I refrained altogether.” Childe trails his finger along the glowing lines on his arms. Was it really something so trivial? “I would rather wait and allow the delay to make our union all the sweeter than get ahead of myself and do things in a way that felt crass and improper.”

Childe nods. “The lie was more important.”

“I did not say that.”

“Yet it’s true.”

Morax makes a noise of displeasure.

“You do not deny it,” Childe says, even as he presses his forehead into Morax’s neck and presses his lips to his collar. 

His hand comes up to pet through Childe’s hair. “I could not betray my contract no matter how well I loved you.”

Childe scoffs. “You don’t truly know how to love, Morax,” he says, looking up at him. “Tell me, do you sleep with every fool who takes you for a mark?”

“No. You are the first I’ve wanted in centuries, and only on equal footing.” A frown. “I wish you wouldn’t call me that.”

Childe ignores the first part out of self-preservation. “Your name?”

He sighs. “You called me Zhongli before.”

“In public,” Childe counters. 

“When I made love to you not an hour ago,” Morax counters back. “Did I not love you well enough then?” From his voice, it is clear he already knows that he did; he only asks to prove a point.

Childe rolls his eyes and sits up to stare down at his god—not his God, but his god nonetheless, in the sense of possession rather than worship. Morax’s eyes glow very faintly in the dark, but they’ve always done that. “You did plenty well,” Childe acquiesces. “Zhongli has always done well. But you—you, Morax—you’re.” He stops himself there. He can’t find the words to go on. 

“You tell your brother you are a toymaker.”

“That isn’t the same.”

“Isn’t it? It is also a lie, yet it is born out of the desire to protect. He will likely be upset with you when he learns the truth,” that stings a little, “but that doesn’t mean you did it to taunt him, nor because you do not truly care for him.” Morax sits up as well. “I am only one person. Zhongli is not the name of some invention especially suited to trick you. I have never been much of a liar, nor am I a good actor; I find I can only accomplish it through omission, not embellishment. My love for you has always been my own.” He motions to his heart—where Childe watched him remove his own Gnosis that night in the bank. It looked painful, the way he tore it out, but Childe couldn’t remember to feel bad about it at the time, and especially not later, after the way he watched him explain it to the traveler. “If I’ve done well at loving you under any name, then a change in that name will make no difference, as there has never been an act to keep up in my love. Furthermore, your love for me when I use the name Zhongli has always been love for me as I am now. I am never anyone other than myself, regardless of the name I use.” He prods Childe in the chest when he says it. “Surely, you understand that, Tartaglia? I’m certain that must not be your real name.”

Childe stares at him in the low light. Most of it emanates from the adeptus’s own arms. When Childe lays back down, Zhongli goes with him, taking him in his arms again, pressing slow kisses to numerous points on his face, whispering of his love. 

“I at least knew you were an adeptus, you know,” Childe murmurs. 

Zhongli pauses. “Did you?”

“So you didn’t really need to wait this long,” he goes on, in lieu of further explanation. “I wouldn’t have known the difference between any old adeptal markings and Rex Lapis’s adeptal markings.”

Zhongli chuckles a little. “What gave me away?”

“What didn’t? A man so perfect and ethereal, who seems to know everything. Who can recall events from millennia ago with such detail as if he had been there. Who knows economics better than anyone, but can’t remember to bring mora to pay for lunch. I think anyone who knows you well must know what you are, Mr. Zhongli,” he says. 

“Hm. Perhaps I should work on bettering my disguise,” he muses. 

Childe laughs. “No, it’s just as well. Like you said, you’re no good at acting. And besides, I’m no regular mortal either, you know.”

“Yes.”

“Abyss-touched. Unholy.”

“I know,” Zhongli says firmly. 

There is quiet. 

Zhongli’s fingers skim through his bangs, across the single streak of blonde among ginger. Childe squints at the light his hands give off. 

“You are precious,” Zhongli whispers, pressing a kiss to the crown of his head.

He grunts. “I’m still mad,” he says. 

“I know.”

“I’m not going to forgive you just because of tonight.”

“I understand.” When Childe doesn’t continue, Zhongli adds, “You could hate me completely and I would love you still.”

Childe hums, feeling caught at a disadvantage and too tired to try speaking anymore. 

Even well into adulthood, he prefers to keep a candle lit as he sleeps, still disliking complete darkness all these years after the abyss. Tonight, he finds he doesn’t need to. All this time, underneath that well-tailored, elegant suit of his, Zhongli glowed. 

 

*

 

Childe isn’t new to matters of passion, but he’s never been close enough to anyone he’s had sex with before to fall asleep next to them, much less wake up still wrapped in their embrace. Even in sleep, Zhongli holds him like he’s something delicate. Childe supposes that just makes Zhongli the best he’s ever had in yet another way. 

He’s a heavy sleeper, apparently. He turns out to be a much later sleeper than Childe, too—which is saying something, since Childe himself slept late after how long he was up last night. 

For a while, he lays still and watches Zhongli’s perfect face, relaxed with sleep as it is. Then, there is a knocking, quick and firm. Someone at the front door. 

Childe sits up and prods him. “Zhongli.”

Zhongli grunts, scrunching his face together without opening his eyes. 

The knocking continues.

“Zhongli. Get up,” he says.

“No,” Zhongli mutters. 

“Come on. You have to answer the door,” he says. “I certainly can’t do it.”

“Why not,” Zhongli says, curling in on himself. His eyes still aren’t open. 

“I can’t be seen here.”

Zhongli huffs. “Then go back to sleep,” he suggests. 

The knocking comes again, firmer this time. He thinks he hears a woman’s voice calling.

“How irresponsible of you, Mr. Zhongli. Were you not a god?” Childe says pointedly. “Fine. Then I will humiliate us both.” He climbs over Zhongli to pull on a robe that isn’t his. Anything else would take too long. 

Zhongli grabs his hand to stop him. “I’m not ashamed of you,” he murmurs. 

When Childe turns to look, his eyes are finally open, if lidded, staring up at him sleepily. In spite of everything, he leans down indulgently to kiss Zhongli once on the mouth before dressing and rushing to the door. 

It’s that Qixing secretary. The adeptus. She goes bright red and wide eyed when it is he who answers the door instead of Zhongli.

“Oh, um, Mr. Childe. May—may I ask what business you have here?” 

As if he’s not standing in Zhongli’s doorway wearing what is clearly Zhongli’s robe and nothing else the morning after Zhongli’s birthday. He doesn’t think there are any marks visible on his body, but it’s pretty clear what happened here nonetheless. Childe fights not to let himself flush as badly as she does, though he’s not sure he succeeds. “Well—look, you’re an adult. I shouldn’t have to explain this to you.”

She blinks rapidly. “Is Mr. Zhongli home?”

“He’s still sleeping.” Or lounging, anyway. Basking, even. “I can take a message.”

“Oh. Um. No need. I was here on behalf of the Qixing to wish him a happy new year and offer him gifts, seeing how much he’s helped us the past year, and given, um, a recent loss in his family, you could say, but I can… come back later,” she says. 

“Ah. Did you not celebrate his birthday with him yesterday?” He assumed all of the adepti would be involved in that. Come to think of it, she must not realize Childe knows who he is, considering her evasiveness. 

She frowns. “No,” she says, brow furrowed, turning away without even a farewell.

Oh. Well. “Have a nice day anyhow, Ms. Ganyu,” he says pityingly, closing the door as she wanders away, looking put-out. 

He stops by Zhongli’s room again to see if he’s ready to wake yet. 

He isn’t. “Come back to bed,” he requests again, voice still heavy with sleep. 

“No, I can’t sleep any longer,” he says. “Don’t you care who was at the door?”

“Sure.”

“It was Ganyu.”

“Alright.”

“She said happy new year.”

“Okay.”

“And she had a gift for you, but she didn’t want to hand it off to me. So she’ll be back later.”

“Hmmmm.” Zhongli is clearly not listening very well. 

“She’s going to tell the Qixing I was here. They won’t be happy.”

“I didn’t take you for one to care about gossip.”

Childe sighs. “Fine, fine. I’ll make us breakfast, alright?”

Zhongli smiles, eyes closing. “First dinner, and now breakfast. How lucky I am to have someone so lovely to care for me.”

“Mm. Yes, very,” Childe agrees, exasperated.

Just as he turns to leave, “Ah, wait. Childe. Come here,” Zhongli says, reaching out blindly. 

“What is it?” he says, tiptoeing back over to the side of the bed. 

Zhongli opens his eyes again and goes so far as to sit up, pulling Childe in to kiss him, slow and soft. “Good morning,” he says, and, “I love you.”

Childe swallows, nosing at his cheek. He tilts forward the slightest bit to bring their lips together again, then pulls away, hand on Zhongli’s shoulder, keeping at eye level. “I’m not saying it back right now. But. You know.”

Zhongli smiles. “I know.”