With the wind god still nowhere in sight, Zhongli let his eyes wander over the city he once could only watch from above. His chosen seat, right outside the popular teahouse, allowed him to have a clear view of his surroundings. He could say he was accustomed to waiting, but his old time friend would always take quite a while, justifying it over being the god of freedom. In his opinion the two concepts were uncorrelated but whenever the bard grinned apologetically at him he would just bow his head in greeting and keep the thought to himself.
That day seemed to be no different, since the anemo archon took a seat right in front of him just moments before he could become half an hour late to their meeting.
“Yo Morax, sorry if I’m late!” he exclaimed cheerfully as he rested his elbows on the tea table. At Zhongli’s nod, he shifted a little closer to playfully whisper close to his hear “hey, I know you invited me here, but would you wanna talk over a glass of wine instead?”.
The geo archon blinked at him slowly, his expression thoughtful, before replying “I brought no mora”.
The other pouted, letting his back rest on the chair with a pained sigh “should have expected as much. Soooo to what do I owe the pleasure? It’s rare for you to ask to meet up” his lips pulled into a sly smirk as he added “what, problems with the husband?”.
It was meant as a joke but as always it seemed to fly over the geo archon’s head as he took a few moments to seriously ponder over the question “not that I am aware of. I actually wanted to ask for your advice on a personal matter, since you have spent more time alongside mortals compared to me”.
Venti nodded, almost jumping on his seat in excitement “I mean, I guess. Come on, spit it out. What’s worrying you?”.
Zhongli’s eyebrows furrowed slightly, as he seemed to be looking for the right words “three days ago Childe referred to me as baby” he enunciated the word slowly, his confusion showing on his face “I did tell him immediately that I am over six thousand years old and under no definition a child, but he didn’t explain himself and just laughed”.
When he looked back at his companion he saw him bent over himself, his shoulders trembling and his face red in an expression that resembled pain, with tears almost falling down his eyes. Just when Zhongli was about to ask him if he was feeling alright he erupted in loud laughter, choking over air at some point and coughing on his closed fist.
Zhongli watched the display unsure of what to say, but fortunately the bard was the first to speak up “you can’t just dump that on me without a warning” he chuckled “I was about to die for a second there. Hem, anyway to answer your question – actually I can’t believe I’m explaining this – that’s just a pet name” he concluded, letting out a sigh as he still tried to recollect his breath.
The other archon hummed as he brought a finger to his chin, lost in thought. Then he looked back up, his expression unreadable as he said “Barbatos, I know I am a dragon but that doesn’t make me an animal”.
After another round of laughter, Zhongli finally got the bard to explain what a pet name was, nodding his head in understanding “so it is a term of endearment used between mortals. I assume there are many others then”.
Venti confirmed his supposition but before explaining anything further he showed a devilish glint in his eye that went unnoticed by the other “you know; they are very important in relationships nowadays. I’m sure the harbinger would enjoy hearing it from you. Do you want me to tell you some common ones?”
His voice sounded far too angelic to mean anything good but the geo archon was too oblivious to social clues for his own good, so he just nodded showing a slight smile “if you are sure it would make Childe happy I would not mind hearing more”.
The harbinger opened the front door of their now shared house with a sigh that didn’t slip past Zhongli’s years. He was sitting at the kitchen table, looking over what looked like a pile of documents, but when he spotted his husband coming into the kitchen he carefully placed them on the table, getting up to walk over him with a soft smile on his lips.
Childe let out another sigh, this time a healing one as he felt the fatigue slide down his shoulders at the mere sight of his lover “hey there” he said, more cheerfully than he expected from his mood just a few moments ago.
He raised a hand to Zhongli’s hip, pulling him closer for the remaining step to press a kiss on his cheek, marvelling at the slight pink that would still immediately spread over his cheekbones despite how long they had been together.
Zhongli bowed his head, resting it on the other’s shoulder “did you happen to have a bad day at work?” he asked, not letting the eye bags under the redhead’s eyes go unnoticed.
Childe tightened the grip he had on his hip, raising his other hand to Zhongli’s nape to run it over his hair as he hummed “yeah, I guess. Had to train the newest recruits” he groaned “a damn fight would have been less tiring and more cathartic than having to explain how to hold a fucking weapon right”.
The archon chuckled over his collarbone making a shiver run down Childe’s spine “they are bound to make mistakes at the beginning so I am assuming you will be quite tired for a while”.
Despite knowing it couldn’t be seen, the redhead still rolled his eyes “wow, thanks, that makes me feel a lot better”.
Another chuckle came out of Zhongli’s lips as he lifted his face and took a step back to put some distance between them “I could make you some tea”.
Childe’s face seemed to light up at that, bringing the hand previously holding the other’s hip to cup his cheek as he pressed a kiss to his lips “thanks, I’d love that actually”.
Zhongli showed him another gentle smile, that still made him feel like his heart would beat out of his chest “then you can go sit on the couch so you can rest while you wait. I will join you shortly”.
He nodded with a smile and walked towards the living room, flopping unceremoniously down the couch and feeling his limbs slowly relax. He closed his eyes for what seemed like a moment but was probably more, since when he opened them again Zhongli was sitting beside him holding two cups of fuming tea in his hands.
He looked a little nervous but, despite being normally observant, Childe didn’t seem to notice, having just woken up from a very short nap. The archon shifted a little closer, handing him the cup as he whispered “here you go, my love”.
He could blame it on being exhausted, really, but he could swear he had just heard his lover utter some unexpected words. He was honestly thankful he had a firm grip on the teacup or he would have gotten a bad burn from the hot tea splashing over his legs. He still chose to place the cup on the table for reassurance.
He turned towards the archon but, despite the red on his cheeks confirming his suspicions, he still wasn’t convinced. He felt the cogs turn in his brain as he gaped at him like a fish “w-what?”
Zhongli cleared his throat, awkwardly pointing at the cup in the other’s hands “the tea. Be careful, it’s hot”.
“Yes, thank you Zhongli, but what did you just call me?”
The archon looked a lot more composed in a matter of seconds, his nervousness having completely shifted to the other person in the room, who was looking like he was about to short-circuit any moment “my love” he repeated, his voice firmer than before “I met with Barbatos today and he enlightened me over the importance of using pet names in a relationship. He mentioned that it was a way to show one’s love towards their partner and I deemed it appropriate to use since I do love you very much”.
Childe groaned, covering his reddening face with both hands “c’mon, Zhongli, you’re killing me here”.
Zhongli tilted his head, looking perplexed “I can assure you my intention was to make you happy but if you find it unpleasant I can stop”.
The redhead peeked at him through his fingers “that’s not what I meant” he mumbled, letting his hands fall from his face with a sigh “I do like it” he reached out to him cupping his cheeks with both hands pulling him close.
His husband seemed to be opposed to it for a moment, making a frown appear on Childe’s face, but it immediately dissolved when he realized he just wanted to avoid spilling his tea, as he placed his cup on the table next to his. He then let his face be pulled by the other’s hands, shifting closer to him on the couch to the point where their sides were flushed together from knee to shoulder.
Zhongli let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding when he looked into Childe’s eyes, spotting a love and reverence that made a shiver run up his back “I love you too, sweetheart” he mumbled, answering Zhongli’s confession from before.
The pink over Zhongli’s cheeks was now flowing all the way down his neck, as he found himself unable to look unaffected by the other’s words. Now that he knew their meaning he could definitely understand the appeal.
Childe shifted impossibly closer as he pressed a kiss to each of his cheeks, then to the tip of his nose “oh, you like that one, don’t you?” he let his lips linger over Zhongli’s, feeling his breaths coming out short.
His thumbs softly caressed his cheekbones making the archon’s body relax completely under his hands as he brought his own up to run his fingers through the short orange hair. This was one of those rare moments where they both got to indulge in each other’s warmth, unbothered by their surroundings, by their own heavy thoughts and by, on Childe’s part, days full of bothersome work.
The redhead pulled away from his lover’s lips to place a kiss on the side of his neck, that made a pleased hum come out of his lips.
Then Childe stilled, looking like he had suddenly remembered something important “is this because I called you baby the other day?”.
Zhongli’s lips pulled in what looked like a pout, which Childe tried to convince himself wasn’t the cutest thing he had ever seen, his breath still uneven and his cheeks flushed “yes” he nodded “but I think I prefer sweetheart”.
Childe chuckled, showing him a playful smirk “I know, I noticed”.
He hummed, pulling him closer by the grip he still had on the back of his neck to press another kiss on his lips “I believe we can spend some time trying out some of the other possibilities; what do you say, my dear?” he whispered over his lips.
Childe let his head fall, resting his forehead on his husband’s collarbone to hide his heating face “you are so damn unfair”.
The following day Childe was resting in the kitchen, drinking a warm cup of tea in the morning as he felt himself slowly wake up.
He suddenly felt footsteps approaching from behind and in a moment Zhongli’s arms were around his waist as he leaned over to whisper in his ear “good morning, daddy”.
Childe choked on his tea, and as he doubled over in pain he felt the wind from outside the window growing stronger and sounding awfully close to a laugh.
That fucking bard.