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the final rose

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“I just can’t believe they’re all here for me,” Diluc says. Kaeya very nearly laughs in his face. It’s a phrase he’s heard before, certainly, but hearing it from the platonic ideal of a man is a little hard to swallow.

It’s three AM and they’re both drinking coffee. Diluc doesn’t drink alcohol, so he’s been sipping cola all night and his hands are shaking ever so slightly from all the caffeine. They’ve got a bottle of sparkling apple juice on ice for his champagne toast which, if they stay on schedule, will happen at five in the morning.

Night one is hell, Kaeya will tell you that much for free.

Diluc’s had to stand on the driveway for hours, greeting twenty-six contestants of varying eligibility, with several breaks so that they could hose down the drive so it stayed glittering wet under the flood lights. After which, he’d been buffeted around the mansion like a puppet on a string, talking to contestants, being interviewed by producers, doing his best to smile the whole time.

Production’s side of things isn’t much better. You try corralling twenty-six single, horny, drunk people, half of whom are so desperate to be on TV they’re fabricating the most outlandish excuses to yell, cry, take off their clothes, or all three at once. At least as the host Kaeya doesn’t have to wade into the worst of it.

Now, as the night winds down, they’re sequestered in a room upstairs for Diluc to make his choices for the first rose ceremony, while downstairs the contestants are being shepherded through their talking head interviews. On the coffee table before them are large, glossy head shots of each contestant, helpfully labeled with their names in sharpie.

“Look, these twelve,” Kaeya gestures at the pictures, “Have been selected as front-runners by the producers. We’re confident you’ll like them, and we’d like to see them go far,”

Diluc stares at the headshots blankly. “Okay,”

“Great,” Kaeya leans over to indicate another four pictures, moving close enough that he gets a whiff of Diluc’s cologne, which smells like woodsmoke, citrus, and his wildest fantasies. “These four we’d like to stick around until it’s time to leave the mansion. That leaves you with ten people, out of which you need to eliminate three. Not so bad, eh?”

Diluc smiles faintly. “Any advice?”

Pick me! Kaeya smiles in return, “What did Thoma tell you?”

Thoma was last season’s bachelor, who production brought up to the mansion yesterday for Diluc and him to shoot hoops and talk the bizarro world of the bachelor. His fiancé’s here too, they’re going to lead a group date for week three.

Diluc stares at him intently. “He said he knew the first night,”

Kaeya blinks. Thoma never told him that— all season Ayato had felt a bit like an underdog, too sly to be a fan favourite, too brusque to make any friends among the contestants. The man came within an inch of getting a villain edit until Thoma had undressed him with his eyes during his proposal.

“Really? Well, that does happen,” Kaeya hedges.

“Often?” Diluc asks, softly. At some point he’s leaned in and Kaeya never moved back. They’re very close.

“I’m not so sure,” Kaeya says, barely above a whisper. It’s taking all his willpower not to stare directly at Diluc’s mouth. “But… stranger things and all, right?”

“Right,” Diluc’s gaze flicks down then back up. He clears his throat. “I think maybe I know,”

Kaeya straightens. Right. “Great! Then let’s make those elimination picks,”

Diluc is frozen for a moment before he sighs and turns back to the table. “Let’s get this over with,”

-

Kaeya met Diluc three days ago. He unfolded from the limo that had picked him up from the airport, a look of mild bemusement on his face, his hand hot and firm when he shook Kaeya’s.

His gaze was steady, assessing. There was something about his presence that was immediately striking, something that made Kaeya want to both straighten his spine and crack a joke to see how he’d react. Not to mention, he was built like a fucking wet dream.

“Nice to finally meet you, Diluc,” Kaeya said, warmly, trying not to appreciate too obviously the way Diluc’s shoulders stretched his shirt. “Kaeya Alberich, I’m hosting this season. We’ll be spending a lot of time together,”

Diluc’s face was composed of hard lines, a jaw strong enough you could snap a stick over it, straight brows, eyes the size of kumquats. His lips had quirked into a sincere smile and he said, “That’s the first bit of good news I’ve heard since all this got started,”

And Kaeya was done for.

-

Kaeya likes his job, and his position is precarious enough without him slobbering over the bachelor on TV. He’d originally been hired partly because he’d gotten engaged on a spin-off show and the franchise is always trying to convince its audience that “the process” works. But they’d broken up after two years and only the fact that it happened in the middle of filming The Bachelorette at the time saved Kaeya from the axe. It’s a miracle that he’s back on set. It helps that fans like him, think he’s funny and charming, and the other producers like how good he is at talking to the contestants, but a host with a failed engagement? Not exactly the sparkling ideal of the franchise.

But Kaeya managed to get his contract extended for another season, so here he is, already at risk of being fired just because he refused to move to Minnesota for a lifetime of lectures from Dainsleif, now also inappropriately head over heels for the bachelor.

It’s fine. It’s going to have to be fine, because no matter how charming and beautiful and considerate Diluc is, Kaeya likes his job.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not going to twist the knife.

 

“Bungee jumping,” Diluc mutters, directly into Kaeya’s ear as he helps him into the harness. A violent shiver wracks his body at the touch of Diluc’s breath to the shell of his ear.

“It’s a crowd pleaser,” he says, thinly, running two fingers inside the harness' belt to test the fit. There’s an intern around somewhere that’s meant to do it, as if Kaeya would trust them with Diluc’s safety. His knuckles skim along Diluc’s abs and he has to take a steadying breath before he can tease, “Don’t tell me you’re afraid of heights,”

Diluc huffs. “Not really. It’s just…”

Kaeya lifts his head to look him in the face. “It’s what?”

Diluc’s eyes are large and soft and endless. Kaeya feels like he’ll drown if he looks into them too long. “Juvenile,”

Kaeya snorts and drops to his knees, “Some would call it thrilling,”

Diluc stares down at him, expression unreadable, as Kaeya begins to adjust the thighs straps. He feels the flex of his thigh muscles beneath his hand as he tightens them, his hands brushing past his crotch and, oh, if they weren’t mic’d up, if there weren’t six cameras pointed in their direction— fuck that, actually, if only Diluc gave the slightest indication he was interested, Kaeya would unhinge his jaw and swallow his cock whole, anaconda style.

He has to force himself back to his feet when all he wants to do is nuzzle in along the faint bulge in Diluc’s pants. He makes himself meet Diluc’s eyes and pats his shoulder. “All set.”

“Thank you,” Diluc murmurs. He’s a bit red in the face, probably because the makeup intern forget to slather him in SPF before they drove out to location, again. Kaeya smiles and shoos him off towards his date, who looks a fair bit more nauseous at the thought of bungee jumping. Seriously, when would contestants learn to lie about their greatest fears?

Kaeya retreats to the shade of the production tent, where they can watch the footage on a series of small monitors. Aether’s coaching one of the cameramen closer to the edge of the platform overlooking the gorge to ensure they get a good shot of the drop, while his sister reviews the audio feed.

“Need a snack?” Lumine asks, waving a protein bar in Kaeya's face.

He swats her away. “No thanks,”

“No? I could’ve sworn you looked… hungry,” she says, meaningfully. Kaeya pulls a face and flips her off. Laughing, she pops her headset back on and kicks her feet up on the empty chair across from her.

Kaeya settles in to watch the date. Diluc and Keqing talk on the walkway, he adjusts her helmet, she pretends like she’s not afraid to jump. Once they have the all-clear from the camera crew, the couple steps up to the platform. “Do you want to flip for it?” Diluc asks, and Keqing throws herself over the ledge. Okay, maybe this woman is more ballsy than Kaeya gave her credit for.

Diluc jumps after her, his hair fluttering out from under his helmet like a banner, and Kaeya’s heart is in his throat until he’s back on solid ground. Kaeya leaps out of the production tent to meet him, Diluc’s laughing, looking exhilarated, and when he spots Kaeya his face splits into a heart-stopping grin.

“Juvenile, huh?” Kaeya teases. Diluc’s face is wind flushed, his eyes bright. He can’t stop grinning and it’s infectious; Kaeya can feel himself smiling stupidly in reply.

Diluc claps him on both shoulders and for a moment Kaeya thinks he might do more— might embrace him or—? Diluc’s expression shifts, intensifies, as he focuses on Kaeya. He’s pinned in place, heart and half-hard dick throbbing in time, unable to think of single thing to say.

“Hey, Ragnvindr! We need you over here for your talking head,” Lumine calls out. Diluc blinks, his expression beginning to shutter. Kaeya bites his lip and Diluc’s gaze drops. “Now, please,” Lumine insists. Diluc releases his grip on Kaeya who very nearly chases the warmth of his hands. But he doesn’t, that’s the important thing, even if he sways unsteadily forward.

 

There are other opportunities to touch Diluc. In fact, if Kaeya didn’t know better, he’d think this show was designed to torment him specifically.

At a pottery studio Diluc’s sleeves keep unrolling and Kaeya keeps fixing them so they don’t get too muddy, fingers lingering on the toned muscle of his arm. Diluc asks him to check his stirrups during a horse ride and Kaeya spends six whole minutes running his hands up and down Diluc’s calves and ankles (he has no idea how to ‘check stirrups’), thinking that maybe the Victorians were on to something after all.

And then there are the endless, everyday opportunities: Diluc’s mic needs constant adjusting, there’s lint on his shirt or a smear of sunscreen on his cheek that needs to be wiped away before shooting his talking head, during cocktail parties Diluc’s taken to sticking out his tongue so Kaeya can place breath strips directly in his mouth. It’s meant to be a ‘fun’ ‘inside joke’, probably, not an ingenious new method of torture. Kaeya always does it, either way.

Because Kaeya, bumbling idiot that he is, keeps putting his hand on a hot stovetop and acting surprised when he gets burned.

-

It’s bad enough that Diluc is the most handsome man Kaeya’s ever seen in his entire life, he’s also genuinely fun to be around. That’s how Kaeya knows he’s well and truly fucked. He usually spends his time during filming drinking on patios on the company dime and staying up late reviewing footage with the other on-site producers, laughing at the rushes and crushing energy drinks to stay awake. Now, he’s on set almost every day. And almost every day he manages to ‘steal Diluc away’ for brief snippets of time.

They’ll chat during filming breaks or eat lunch together, Kaeya’ll tell jokes while Diluc’s in hair and makeup until he’s laughing so much that Barbara shoos Kaeya away. And sometimes they’ll hang out in Diluc’s suite late in the evening, no cameras, no mics, just the two of them. Diluc tells him about his bar, Kaeya recounts his time on the spin-off show. Once, well into the morning after a rose ceremony when they’re too strung-out on caffeine to sleep, they swap stories of fathers with high expectations.

The truth is, Kaeya’s job is pretty cushy. He rocks up to the rose ceremonies to step in front of the cameras and announce the final rose. He chats with the bachelor/ette in between dates, trying to get a sense of their mood, and offers advice when the whole dating-twenty-six-people thing gets overwhelming. Before this season, it was the chatting with the lead bit that was actually hard. Some of the leads were absolutely wooden, others looked to him to tell them exactly what to do, and making their conversations on camera look natural took all his focus and charm.

But Diluc is neither wooden nor lost. He trades dry jokes with Kaeya, and laughs quietly when Kaeya teases him. Half the time he starts the conversation by asking how Kaeya’s doing, to which the answer’s been, for six weeks, ‘absolutely terrible because I’m ass over tea kettle in love with you.’ Not that he’s said that. Usually he just says he’s fine.

The thing is, Diluc really is a catch. The producers were so stoked when they cast him. He’s inherited exorbitant wealth (rich), but still works a day job in customer service (humble), he’s got muscles like he was chiseled from stone and eyes like a Renaissance painting (beautiful), he’s easy to talk to, with a dry sense of humour and raptly pays attention to every word you say (charming). Kaeya wishes they had cast literally anyone else.

It’s bad enough he spends an appalling amount of time shirtless—production has him shower no less than four times on camera. But it’s genuine torture watching Diluc go on ridiculous, lavish dates with what at times feels like half the population, taking on all the absurd activities they throw his way with bemused good-humour, kissing all his dates sweetly, slow dancing to live country music, and worst of all laughing.

Diluc’s laughs are few and between, hard won, and all the more precious for it. Kaeya hordes each one he’s earned jealously. The way his eyes crinkle, the way he throws back his head, the rich sound itself. There is nothing worse than watching the contestants wheedle laughs out of him.

“Kaeya, can you tell Diluc to put his hands on someone’s ass? It doesn’t matter who, just whichever contestant he locks lips with next,”

Okay. There is something worse.

Kaeya’s going to vomit. “I, uh, no? Why can’t you?”

Venti, the lead on-site producer, gives him a look. “You two get along, he might not take it so bad coming from you,”

This is the most bizarre backhanded compliment Kaeya’s ever received. Oh, you know that man you’re disgustingly in love with? You have great chemistry! Please use that to convince him to grab the ass of the next person he sticks his tongue down the throat of. Under no circumstances can that person be you.

“Why does it matter? Maybe he’s not an ass man,” Kaeya protests weakly.

“This is a show about sex,” Venti declares, contrary to the franchise’s careful branding but no less true for it, “It’s hard to sell Ragnvindr on sex appeal when he kisses like a sixth grader. He held Minci at arm’s length in the hot tub for Christ’s sake,”

Kaeya snorts despite himself. It had been kinda funny. Lisa has the kind of tits teenagers cry themselves to sleep over and Diluc showed an appalling lack of interest in seeing her in a swimsuit. Kaeya’s not even attracted to women and he wouldn’t have passed up the chance to cop a feel. Diluc had acted like the hot tub was full of eels.

“But—”

“No excuses!” Venti brandishes a rolled-up shooting schedule at him like a sword, “I want to see at least one palm on one butt cheek tonight,”

Kaeya drags himself to Diluc’s ready-room like a man walking to the gallows. It’s a small room on the second floor of the mansion, cluttered with the detritus of hair and makeup, hairspray thick in the air, a fleet of batteries plugged into the wall. Diluc looks up when he enters and a soft smile breaks across his stupid handsome face.

“Hey,” Kaeya croaks, “How’s it coming along?”

“Nearly ready,” Barbara replies, combing product through Diluc’s curls. He’s sitting in front of the mirror, basically glowing under the light rig. The man is already obscenely attractive, spending thousands of dollars to improve his appearance is just downright unfair. Kaeya waits until she’s finished, and then waves off Lumine when she approaches to mic Diluc up.

“Hang on, we need a minute,” he says. He can feel Diluc’s gaze burning a hole in the side of his head. Lumine frowns skeptically. “I gotta pass on a message from the boss,”

“Fine, you have three minutes before we’re behind schedule,” Lumine says, shoving the mic pack into Kaeya’s hands, “I need to talk to Rosie about the lighting, anyway,”

Kaeya nods and waits for her to close the door behind her before turning to Diluc.

“What is it?” He asks, softly, gazing up at Kaeya from beneath his lashes and in what universe is this fair? Alone in a glorified closet with the physical embodiment of lust and if he lays a single finger on him, he’s fired?

“We need you to grab some ass,” Kaeya says. Very smooth. Diluc blinks, head snapping back.

“You what?”

Kaeya throws himself into the chair beside Diluc with a dramatic sigh. “I’m sorry! But you kiss like you’re worried your mom’s gonna interrupt, and the show needs at least one steamy shot for the promos,”

Diluc is silent a long time. Kaeya fiddles with the mic pack, not trusting himself to speak.

“Right,” Diluc says, at length, his voice cold and hard, “Of course,”

Kaeya does his best to hide his wince. “If it’s something you’re really not comfortable with you don’t need to force yourself…” he mumbles.

Diluc stands. “Will you mic me?”

Kaeya takes a moment to curse every deity he can bring to mind, then pulls himself upright and slaps an easy smile on his face. “Sure thing. Can you unbutton your shirt for me, love?”

Diluc’s gaze is smouldering as he does so, staring hard into Kaeya’s face. He’s probably angry with him, and embarrassed. Who’d want some guy to tell them they don’t kiss sexy enough for TV? But oh, Diluc could kiss Kaeya however he likes. Prudishly, with his lips sealed, or he could fuck his tongue into his mouth, leave him gasping and desperate. Fuck. Kaeya really cannot get hard right now.

Kaeya attaches the mic pack to Diluc’s belt as quickly as he can, doing his best not to actually touch him, which slows down the process quite a bit. Diluc’s breath is loud in the silent room. Kaeya runs the wire up the back of his shirt, fingertips skimming his spine, and Diluc shivers.

“Sorry,” Kaeya murmurs as he tucks the mic under the shirt’s collar, “Cold hands,”

Diluc takes a slow, steadying breath, his eyelids fluttering closed, before swiftly rebuttoning his shirt. He shrugs on the suit jacket and adjusts his sleeves. “Am I good?”

He’s a vision. The black suit makes his pale skin seem nearly to glow, his mane of hair improbably red as it tumbles down his shoulders.

Kaeya swallows thickly. “You’re perfect,”

 

An hour later Kaeya’s set up in the command room with Aether, watching Diluc chat with Childe on a couch in the gazebo. The cocktail party’s gone well so far; one of the contestants cried about not getting enough time, two of the men had a weird poolside stand-off, and Diluc had a good heart-to-heart with Jean.

Childe’s telling some boring story about nearly drowning while ice fishing with his family, one hand precariously high on Diluc’s thigh. Childe isn’t a producer favourite of any kind, as far as Kaeya’s aware, unless he’s slated to appear on Paradise. He’s got a kinda weird vibe, one moment chipper as all hell, the next emitting a threatening aura like a haunted doll. It’ll probably make for good TV.

“You must really love your family,” Diluc is saying, his voice loud and clear in Kaeya’s headset. Childe hums, skimming his hand even higher on Diluc’s leg. Kaeya’s teeth grind together hard enough to be audible.

“They’re everything to me,” Childe says, easily, then clambers into the bachelor’s lap. For a moment, Diluc stiffens, his expression flat, almost hostile. Childe cards his fingers through Diluc’s hair, undoing at least ten minutes of Barbara’s hard work.

“This okay, hot stuff?” Childe asks, settling his weight solidly on Diluc’s thighs. Diluc’s expression tightens even further for a split second, and then he smiles thinly.

“Come here,” he rumbles softly, his words picked up by his mic with frightening fidelity. Kaeya’s dick twitches as if he’s the one being addressed.

Childe closes the distance and kisses him. Diluc lifts his hands and places them on Childe’s waist, steadying him as he opens his mouth to the kiss (the mic also picks up the wet sounds of their mouths meeting with frightening fidelity). Then he abruptly places both hands on Childe’s ass and pulls him in flush.

Childe breaks the kiss with a startled sound, sitting back to stare down at Diluc. The camera catches most of Diluc’s face over Childe’s shoulder, his expression is unreadably flat.

“Huh,” Childe says, after a beat, then dives back in.

Kaeya removes his headset and turns away from the screen. He needs to scour his brain. Or, at the very least, throw back a handful of antiacids.

 

Diluc seems to take Kaeya’s request seriously, rest in peace Kaeya's stomach lining. Over the next couple weeks of filming he suddenly becomes an ass man. He kisses Jean in a vineyard and smoothes a hand down her spine to rest suggestively at the swell of her rear. Zhongli corners him after their hot yoga session and Diluc obligingly cops a feel. Outside a glass-blowing studio, beside a rooftop hot tub, inside a race car, during a mountainside picnic, Diluc’s hands find their way each and every time to his date’s ass.

Venti thanks Kaeya for his timely intervention. Kaeya considers stabbing a pen through his own eye.

The only thing is, Diluc’s mood seems to worsen with the weeks. Kaeya’s almost a hundred percent sure he isn’t projecting. Most bachelors have a minor breakdown shortly after they take production on the road, so he’s definitely due. Kaeya’s not looking forward to that conversation, how’s he meant to convince Diluc to keep dating these clowns when all he wants is Diluc to himself?

Then producers urge Keqing to follow Diluc back to his hotel room after a group date, and Kaeya is brought along in case he needs to play mediator. He’ll probably be physically sick if he has to watch Diluc touch someone else’s ass one more time, so when Keqing’s visit ends with Diluc escorting her to the limo to be sent home, the relief he feels is so dizzying he’s very nearly sick after all.

Kaeya goes to Diluc’s room, sits with him on the couch, and has a nice heart-to-heart in front of two producers, three cameramen, and (eventually) all of America. He’s just so relieved Diluc didn’t grab Keqing’s ass he doesn’t even really mind talking him into sticking with the show instead of eloping with him.

Afterwards, Diluc mostly returns to kissing with the modesty of a nun, but Venti doesn’t give Kaeya shit for it so he supposes they’ve got enough ass action in the can. Thank god.

-

But of course, that’s not the end of Kaeya’s suffering. Because once they’ve regrouped from the logistical nightmare that is hometowns, there are only three contestants left. And that means fantasy suites.

Diluc is going on three one-on-ones, each of which will end with Diluc handing his date an invitation from the host cordially inviting the couple to forsake their individual rooms for a night of (implied) sex away from the cameras. Naturally, Kaeya never actually writes the notes, just as naturally the included iron-wrought keys are unsuitable for opening hotel rooms that use swipe cards.

But this time around, Kaeya decides he will write the notes himself, actually. It’s suggestive, on a subconscious level, isn’t it? Diluc reads the notes in Kaeya’s handwriting, he thinks of Kaeya, he thinks of sex, he thinks of sex with Kaeya.

It’s not until Jean’s opening the envelope Diluc has demurely slid across the candlelit table to her that Kaeya realizes this was a shit plan.

Jean reads the invitation aloud, then pulls out the key from the envelope and says, “Yes, if you want to, I’d… very much like that,”

She looks up at Diluc shyly, who’s currently glowing at her with an almost incandescent happiness.

Kaeya’s going to be sick.

 

He hardly sleeps at all that night, his mind running in frantic circles, wondering what they’re doing. Are they using the time to hash out the logistics of their life if they get engaged? Are they discussing religion, politics, all the forbidden on-camera topics? Are they— are they— oh god, they can’t have sex. Kaeya won’t survive it.

The crew returns in the morning to film Diluc’s departure. Kaeya watches with itchy eyes and a clenched jaw on a tiny monitor some feet away, clutching a double espresso to his chest. Aether tried and failed to convince him to eat anything more substantial. If Kaeya’s going to throw up, he’d rather it be all liquid, thank you very much.

Diluc’s shirtless— of course he is. He’s been shirtless for most of the filming so far, why wouldn’t he be while serving breakfast in bed to a smart, sweet, capable woman like Jean? A woman he just spent nine uninterrupted hours with, a fishbowl of condoms at their disposal? Kaeya can’t find his fucking antiacids.

Kaeya interviews Diluc for his talking head later that morning, thankfully after he’s put on clothes. Diluc is calm, happy, sure of himself, answering Kaeya’s questions and delivering lines for the camera with ease. Bile bubbles up in Kaeya’s throat as he forces a smile.

Diluc is swiftly bundled off into a car, speeding away to prep for his next date while the interns disassemble set and pack it up into the production vans. Kaeya stands for a long moment, frozen among all the activity, staring down at the updated shoot schedule in his grip without reading a single word. Then he rips off his mic and storms off the road to fist his hands in his hair and release the god-awful shriek that’s been building in his chest for the past sixteen hours.

“Kaeya, are you—?” Aether calls to him, stumbling through the brush with a bottle of water in one hand, Kaeya’s erstwhile Tums in the other.

“I’m fine!” Kaeya yells, contrary to all evidence. He has to get it together. If he falls apart now, he’ll never recover. He snatches the antiacids from Aether and throws back a handful, washing the chalky tablets down by draining the water.

“I’m fine,” he repeats, plastering a thin veneer of calm over his complete emotional breakdown. He makes for the van, not meeting anyone’s eyes. “Let’s go,”

-

The morning after his overnight with Zhongli, Diluc looks exhausted. There are bags visible under his gem-cut eyes, and he can’t stop yawning long enough for them to get a good take of him tucking into the breakfast Zhongli’s prepared them. In reality, it’s food from craft services, but Zhongli’s been asked to present it as if it’s his own. He seems very committed to the role, waxing poetic about the ingredients local to the area while Diluc blearily dumps sugar into his coffee.

Kaeya’s going to pop a fucking blood vessel. Is there a more obvious sign that the couple didn’t sleep a wink the previous night than Diluc’s sleep deprivation? Just rub it in Kaeya’s face why don’t you! Zhongli probably has a dick as long as Kaeya’s forearm! How’s he supposed to compete with that?

Diluc’s kicked out of the holiday cottage while Zhongli does his talking head, chaperoned by Kaeya and Lumine. They find a sunny bench in the garden to shoot Diluc's interview—briefly, since they can't get a single take without him yawning and Kaeya can't stop grinding his teeth—then settle in to wait for transportation.

Lumine’s on the phone a little ways away, coordinating their pick-up, while beside him on the bench Diluc fails to smother yet another jaw-cracking yawn. Despite the sour jealousy coiled around his heart, Kaeya feels a twinge of fondness.

“C’mere,” Kaeya beckons, before he can give himself time to think it through. Diluc eyes him blearily before leaning in. Kaeya loops an arm around his chest and guides him down until his head is pillowed on Kaeya’s lap. “Take five,”

Diluc stiffened the moment Kaeya touched him, but before Kaeya can regret it, he goes lax, closing his eyes with a soft sigh. “Thank you,”

“Don’t mention it,” Kaeya says, resisting valiantly the urge to bury his fingers in the soft cloud of Diluc’s hair. “It’s bad for business if the bachelor collapses of exhaustion,”

Diluc huffs a faint laugh. His eyelashes are crazy long, Kaeya didn’t notice because they’re so pale, almost white. Like this, he can see the shadow they cast on Diluc’s cheeks. “You sure know how to charm a guy,” he says, sleepily.

Kaeya wishes, fervently, that he did. “Hush, try to rest darling,”

Lumine walks over a few minutes later, distractedly swiping on her phone. “Okay, we—” she looks up and cuts herself off abruptly. Kaeya raises a brow, trying to arrange his face into polite indifference.

“Yeah?” He prompts, when Lumine still doesn’t say anything. She’s looking at him with an uncomfortably knowing look then she shakes her head and makes for the road.

So, okay, maybe Kaeya’s a little too self-indulgent. Or possibly self-destructive. But right now he can’t bring himself to care. Diluc has, for all appearances, fallen asleep, his breathing slowed, his mouth slack. Kaeya’s hand rests lightly on Diluc’s chest, where he can faintly feel the steady thump of his heart. And as long as he can resist the temptation to stick his tongue in Diluc’s mouth, Kaeya can nurse this moment a little longer, can pretend Diluc’s his.

When Diluc blinks his eyes open twenty minutes later his face is, for one breathless instant, soft and open, looking up at Kaeya with such tenderness his brittle heart nearly snaps in two. He brushes hair from Diluc’s face, he’s only fucking human alright, and says, quietly, “Showtime, baby,”

 

Kaeya pleads off of Childe’s overnight date, claiming food poisoning even though the crew all eats the same food for every meal. Rosaria just rolls her eyes and promises to cover for him. He’ll owe her big time, but it’s worth it. He just doesn’t think he could survive Childe’s smug self-satisfaction the morning after.

-

Diluc’s final two contestants are Jean and Childe. From a production point of view, there couldn’t be better finalists. They’re almost polar opposites, and Diluc’s relationship with each of them is distinct. With Jean he’s gentle, sweet, chivalrous, while sometimes he hardly seems capable of enduring Childe’s presence.

From a Kaeya point of view there is a better final option. And it’s not either of them.

The illegal production betting pool heats up significantly that last week. Usually, they actually do know who the lead will choose, but Diluc’s playing it extremely close to the vest, even with Kaeya, his production-assigned confidant. Kaeya doesn’t mind. He really doesn’t. It’s not like the suspense is eating away at his very soul or anything.

Debates range late into the night about what the potential fallout could be. On the off chance Diluc breaks Jean’s heart they’ll have the perfect bachelorette lined up for next season. When he proposes to her, however, they’re gonna have to dig a little deeper. Childe is… honestly, Kaeya doesn’t understand how the guy got cast. And Zhongli, while charming, doesn’t quite fit the brand. (His talking heads run three times as long as everyone else’s. The show literally can’t afford him as the bachelor.)

Their final location is in northern Europe, and even though it’s spring the air is still chill enough to nip at any exposed skin. Kaeya is so inconsolably upset over the rapidly approaching proposal that his mood swings between despair and a kind of manic indifference six times a day. He barely sees Diluc in the lead up to the proposal, whether coincidence or Rosaria intervening with the schedule to preserve what little sanity Kaeya still has left, he’s grateful either way.

Except then when he does see Diluc, the morning of, fresh out of hair and makeup, wearing pants cut so close to his thighs he must’ve been sewn into them, Kaeya nearly faints on sight. The cold brings a soft pink flush into Diluc’s cheeks, a sight which fills Kaeya with unholy feeling. Every time he thinks maybe he’s building an immunity to Diluc’s appearance he’s proven decisively wrong.

They’re meeting outside the cabin Diluc’s been staying in for a brief interview before splitting up on route to the proposal location. Kaeya had shoved himself into his usual plain black suit and allowed Barbara to paste over his dark circles with concealer, and he suddenly regrets not putting more care into his appearance. Maybe if he actually looked good Diluc would throw it all away to do the horizontal tango right then and there, crew be damned. Or at least Kaeya could have some semblance of dignity when death comes for him.

“Kaeya,” Diluc greets him warmly while Kaeya’s still trying to talk his dick down. He’s already reaching for the bottle of antiacids in his jacket, a near-Pavlovian response.

“Diluc,” he says, around a mouthful of Tums, “You look great,” Understatement of the century. “Ready for the big day?”

Diluc looks away and shrugs, the closest to evasive Kaeya’s ever seen him, “It’s a bit nerve-wracking,” he admits.

“Yeah?” Kaeya prompts, reminding himself to be in TV mode. Diluc does look nervous, for maybe the first time since filming started. His face is ashen pale, he keeps fidgeting with his watch or patting a hand to his jacket pocket—where he’s carrying a diamond ring worth more than Kaeya’s life.

“I know I’m choosing right for me,” Diluc says, turning back to look Kaeya in the eyes, “I just hope that they choose me too,”

Kaeya’s mouth goes dry at the intensity of Diluc’s gaze. “Of course they will,”

Over Diluc’s shoulder, he sees Aether roll his eyes. Right. That’s not… that’s not exactly how he’s supposed to handle this conversation. Kaeya gathers the very last of his wits and pulls it together enough to engage Diluc in a totally professional, not at all dire, conversation about the big day. Once production’s secured a few good clips, they’re allowed to switch off their mics and drink water.

“Alright, so who do we send in first?” Kaeya asks. It’s the closest way to delicate to ask, who’re you going to dump?

Diluc stares at him for a beat, then says, “Jean,”

What? What??

“Okay,” Kaeya says, as mildly as possible. He just bit his tongue hard enough to bleed, so it comes out kind of mangled. “To be clear, first one in is who you won’t marry,”

Now Diluc looks vaguely amused. “I know that,”

He’s going to marry Ajax “Childe” Tartaglia?!

The small fragment of Kaeya’s brain that’s still professional pushes forward the thought, at least they have a great bachelorette lined up. The rest of him is confused and panicked. He thought he knew what Diluc liked, he thought he knew Diluc. What tips the balance in Childe’s favour? Sure the sex is probably great—eugh, yuck—but is that enough? Kaeya has spent more hours around Diluc and Childe than he’d ever wish to, and he knows the couple can barely hold a conversation.

Maybe their relationship won’t last to the live show, and Diluc will come crying to him— yeah right.

Diluc reaches out and grabs Kaeya’s arm. Even through two layers, the heat of his skin is palpable. Kaeya whimpers, pathetically. Diluc’s brows pinch in concern, “Kaeya, are you alright?”

“Great. Good, yeah,” Kaeya says, half-hysterical. “I’ll— uh. I’ll see you in a bit, then.” He makes a fucking break for it before he does something irredeemable like grovel at Diluc’s feet and beg him not to marry Childe. He’d like to think he has at least enough dignity not to sink so low, but he’s never been a particularly strong man.

 

Two hours later, Kaeya’s standing at his mark by the road awaiting the arrival of the first contestant, a vacant smile plastered on his face. This is his job, he likes his job. This is his job, he likes—

A limo pulls up and Jean steps out, picks her way across the gravel path to Kaeya. She’s wearing a glittering icy blue sheath dress and a fur stole around her shoulders. Kaeya thinks, unwittingly, that audiences are going to despise Diluc for what he’s about to do. Kaeya’s actually become rather fond of her. At least with her as bachelorette they’d have another season together. Something to look forward to in Kaeya’s bleak and lonely future.

“How’re you feeling?” Kaeya asks, his best poker face in place. Jean’s answering smile is absolutely dazzling.

“I’m feeling confident,” she says, simply. Kaeya grins in reply.

“Then let’s not wait,” he says, and guides Jean by the arm down to the arena.

Despite the cold, the set for the proposal is outside, on a rock plateau at the edge of a bluff overlooking the mountain valley. They’ve planted bushes of out of season flowers around the perimeter, scattered the area with antique lanterns, and laid down hand-knotted rugs on the rock. It’s the sort of absurd set dressing the show’s known for.

Standing at the far end, at a kind of makeshift altar, is Diluc, resplendent in his tuxedo, his hands clasped behind his back and a warm smile on his face as Jean approaches. The view is spectacular, but it doesn’t hold a candle to him.

Kaeya stops at the edge of the plateau to let Jean walk the final few feet alone. Diluc envelopes her in his arms while Kaeya retreats to one of the production tents and dons a headset. The couple murmurs to each other softly in greeting, and Jean says something that almost sounds like “good luck” which— which is highly suspicious. Lumine shoots him a look he can’t interpret.

They part, still holding one another’s hands, framed fantastically by the scenery, as Jean launches into her pre-proposal speech.

“Diluc, we may have only known each other a few short weeks—” Diluc squeezes her hands, gently cutting her off. Secretly, Kaeya is relieved. The whole make-an-impassioned-speech-right-before-your-rejection routine is brutal.

“Jean, may I go first?” He asks, politely. Jean nods. “Jean. I knew almost the moment we met that you were someone I would come to care deeply for. But I’m afraid I can’t ask you to marry me, because my heart belongs to someone else,”

“Oh,” Jean says. Kaeya’s impressed, she looks remarkably calm for someone who’s just been rejected by the most eligible bachelor of their generation.

“You’re an incredible woman and anyone would be lucky to have you. I hope that you know that, and I hope your soulmate finds you soon,” Diluc says, sincerity warming his voice.

Jean flushes a little at that. It’s a reference to a conversation they’d had on their first one-on-one, where Jean had confessed to believing in soulmates while Diluc maintained a skeptical position.

“I’m… I’m glad that you’ve already found your soulmate,” Jean says, going misty-eyed, “I hope he’s deserving of the man you are,”

Diluc smiles and pulls her into another hug. They stay that way a long time before breaking apart. Lumine gives him a thumbs up, and Kaeya walks out to escort Jean to the limo.

“You doing okay?” He asks, sympathetically. To his surprise Jean smiles at him with all the same brilliance she did ten minutes ago.

“It’s for the best,” she says, and squeezes his arm, “I hope you’re happy,”

With that somewhat ominous farewell, Kaeya bundles Jean into the limo for her final talking head and takes up his mark to await the second car. It’s several minutes before it comes up the drive and spits out Childe, wearing a deep blue suit and a bewildered look.

“How’re you feeling?” Kaeya asks, once again, holding out his hand. Childe clasps it in his, looking at him as if he’s recently been hit over the head.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” he says, a little wild-eyed. Kaeya chuckles as if he’s said a joke, while in reality he’s sick to his stomach. He escorts Childe woodenly up to the plateau, a rictus smile in place. When Diluc comes into view once again, awaiting them at the far side of the plateau, Kaeya can’t help but fantasize about throwing Childe over the bluff.

He’s going to do it, he’s really going to do it. He’s going to give away the man he loves to some— some— some reality TV contestant. And he’ll do it with a smile and a wink, and three months from now he’ll stand in front of a studio audience and tease the show’s ending as if the result isn’t total and complete heartbreak for him.

He’s telling himself it’s worth it so long as Diluc is happy. He doesn’t believe it yet, but he’s working on it.

Childe looks almost as ill as Kaeya feels, which is really just offensive. He’s about to get engaged to the man Kaeya loves and Kaeya has to watch it happen with a smile on his face. The absolute least he could do is wet himself with joy.

He starts for Diluc like he’s walking to the gallows, while Kaeya hesitates in place, nausea warring with an almost perverse desire to see this in person, not through a monitor. Maybe that way it’ll feel real.

Diluc steps forward to meet Childe halfway across the plateau and grips his arm. “Don’t worry,” he says, “It isn’t you,”

Kaeya freezes. What the hell is that supposed to mean? Childe sags against Diluc with such naked relief Kaeya feels a hot stab of belligerent anger.

“Oh, thank god,” Childe says, then straightens and steps aside. He swats Diluc’s ass and says, “Go get ’em, comrade,”

Diluc eyes him for a brief moment and then strides forward, fast and with purpose, his gaze locked on Kaeya. Kaeya, who suddenly understands the phrase ‘deer in headlights’ in a very visceral way.

Diluc comes up to the edge of the plateau, stopping right in front of him. Kaeya makes to grab his arm but then lets his hand drop uselessly between them. “What are you doing?” He hisses. Diluc smiles, fleetingly, a wicked edge to it.

“I would've thought you liked surprises,” he murmurs. Kaeya is vaguely aware of the crew rushing around in the periphery of his vision, but all thoughts of the show flee his mind when Diluc drops to one knee.

“Kaeya Alberich, you have been the brightest light in my life ever since night one,” he says, staring up at Kaeya earnestly. Kaeya stops breathing. “Your kindness, sense of humour, and dedication have made these weeks both unbearable and the most enjoyable time of my life.”

“Diluc,” he whispers, hoarsely, “What—”

“I’m a better man for having known you and I just need you to know,” Diluc says, smiling almost shyly, “That I love you, Kaeya, beyond all reason,”

There’s a violent ringing in Kaeya’s ears, like he’s been submerged in water. He feels himself swaying unsteadily. Then Diluc opens the little box in his hand to reveal a blinding band of diamonds.

“The time we’ve had together hasn’t felt like long enough for how strongly I feel. I suspect even forever wouldn’t be enough. But, if you’re willing, I’d like to see what forever brings.” Kaeya opens his mouth and a noise like bending metal escapes him. Diluc’s brows pinch up but he soldiers bravely on, “Kaeya, will you marry me?”

Kaeya’s entire world narrows into a single point, the icy glitter of one diamond among many. That’s— Diluc is— huh?

“What the actual fuck?” Kaeya says.

The crew erupts into frantic action. Lumine grabs Kaeya by the arm and yanks him away, he spots her brother corralling Diluc in the opposite direction. Kaeya very nearly trips over his own feet. What in the fuck is going on?

“Did you know this would happen?” Lumine demands. Kaeya is having a genuine out of body experience, so it takes him a moment to respond.

“No,” he says, his voice faraway, “I— is this real?”

“That’s what we’re going to find out,” she mutters, shoving him into a chair.

Kaeya sits there, struck dumb, mind a riot of white noise, as the producers hustle around him, snapping at cameramen, aggressively texting, waving shooting schedules around. Several people are yelling. All at once, Kaeya realizes he doesn’t have to do this. He doesn’t have to wait around until the producers come to a decision. He’s already lost his job, there’s no way they’ll keep him on after this. The only thing he has left to lose is—

Kaeya shoots to his feet and takes off, shoves through the crew until he finds Diluc sitting on a stone bench outside the proposal arena, looking vaguely harassed. He stands immediately when Kaeya approaches, elbowing Aether rudely out of the way.

“Kaeya,” he says. Kaeya stares at him for a moment, his heart thundering in his chest. His cheeks are flushed from the cold, his eyes bright, his mouth frowning in that nervous way he has.

“You love me,” Kaeya says, like an idiot. Diluc smiles, tentatively, his shoulders dropping.

“I do,”

Kaeya launches himself directly at Diluc’s mouth. Thankfully, Diluc is 90% muscle and not easily knocked over. He catches Kaeya in his arms and kisses him back.

His mouth is hot and hard, the faint stubble on his jaw scrapes Kaeya’s palm deliciously as he grabs his face, tilting him so he can lick deeper inside. Diluc moans (moans!!!) and holds him tighter, sucking on his tongue with the kind of enthusiasm even Venti would blush at. Kaeya’s heart feels like it’s going to explode. Diluc slips a leg between his thighs for him to rock down on and they’re both already hard. Fantastic.

After watching Diluc swap spit with nearly twenty other people for the last several weeks, it’s surreal to be doing the kissing himself. Diluc tastes like toothpaste and chapstick, his body hot all along his, his hands gripping him tight. He bites Kaeya's lip and his thoughts spin-out into static.

Eventually, they have to separate for air and at that moment four hands grab Kaeya and rip him out of Diluc’s arms.

“Stop it!” Lumine chastises him harshly, “If your mouth gets swollen, we’ll have to wait ages for the reshoot!”

“The reshoot?” Diluc asks, bewildered. He looks eminently annoyed at being separated which sends an unholy thrill through Kaeya.

“The reshoot?” Kaeya repeats, in ecstatic disbelief. Lumine is doing her best not to smile, fists propped on her hips. Rosaria, the other pair of hands that dragged them apart, is doing a much better job at scowling.

“Yes, we didn’t catch any good angles of the proposal,”

“You’re going to let him propose?” Kaeya asks, his breath catching. In his wildest dreams, he didn’t consider that the show would back this.

“Let?” Diluc echoes, acidly. His eyes narrow into a glare and Kaeya shivers. Oh, he is going to do terrible things to this man.

Rosaria rolls her eyes, “Please, did you think none of us knew about you two?”

Diluc and Kaeya exchange glances, then Kaeya says, “I didn’t even know about us,”

“Jesus Christ,” Rosaria mutters, “Whatever. We need you both back in hair and makeup like, five minutes ago,”

“You’re going to make me propose twice?” Diluc asks, incredulously. Kaeya barks a laugh and claps him on the shoulder.

“Darling, you’ll be lucky if it’s only twice,”

Diluc sighs then smiles ruefully, “I’d shoot it a hundred times, as long as it meant I got to have you,”

Forget the proposal. Kaeya’s going to fuck him right here right now.

“Oh no you don’t,” Rosaria says, grabbing Kaeya by the wrist and dragging him firmly back to the production tent. Kaeya looks back and catches a glimpse of Diluc laughing.

 

They do make Diluc propose again, this time in full view of the cameras. He recites his speech a second time and Kaeya makes an ungodly shriek a second time because it still doesn’t feel quite real.

“The time we’ve had together hasn’t felt like long enough for how strongly I feel,” Diluc says, again, his voice warm, his eyes glittering, “I suspect even forever wouldn’t be enough. But, if you’re willing, I’d like to see what forever brings. Kaeya, will you marry me?”

This time, Kaeya doesn’t swear, which is good because his heart couldn’t take a third proposal. “Diluc I— I didn’t know you felt the same,”

Which was true, forty-five minutes ago. Diluc’s brow twitches and his mouth trembles with a suppressed smile. Unbidden, Kaeya begins to cry.

“I love you,” he says, which is horribly, painfully true. “I— I love you so much I don’t know how to handle it. Yes, I’ll marry you. Yes,”

Diluc catches his hand and slides the ring onto his finger, then presses a kiss directly over it. Kaeya buckles with the combined swift shock of arousal and an embarrassing sob that clogs his throat.

“I’m going to make you the happiest man alive,” Diluc promises, gazing up at him solemnly. Kaeya’s view is tremendously blurred.

“I’m going to fuck your brains out,” Kaeya tells him, fervently, still crying like a loon.

“Kaeya!” Rosaria snaps, from ten feet and ten miles away.

“Sorry,” he says, distantly. Diluc’s got his mouth back on his hand, his eyes heated. “I meant, um. Uh.” God it’s hard to think when Diluc is looking at him like that. “You already have?”

“It’s not a question,” Rosaria jeers. Kaeya’s knees finally give up and he collapses to the ground in front of Diluc. He’s abruptly thankful for the weird outdoor rug décor for softening his fall. She’s right, it isn’t a question. It’s the truth.

“Darling,” he says, cupping Diluc’s cheek. He leans into his hand, smiling fondly. “You already have,”

-

They have to shoot a joint talking head, toast glasses of sparkling apple juice, tell the camera just how happy they are. Kaeya goes through the motions in a daze, unable to look away from Diluc’s glorious, victorious, grin.

At long last, hours later, they’re dropped off at the hotel and divested of their mic packs. Lumine slaps Kaeya on the back and wishes him the best, Venti shakes Diluc’s hand and thanks him for “taking this guy off our hands,” and then they’re alone. Really, truly alone, for the first time.

The hotel room’s been decorated by the production crew, which means it’s fairly ridiculous. Diluc takes in the petals on the bed, the one hundred and seventy-five tea light candles, the vase of fifty red roses next to the punch bowl full of condoms.

“It’s a bit much,” he says, bleakly.

Kaeya laughs. “A bit much is kinda the show’s M.O.,”

For a split second Kaeya’s so nervous he feels like he’s having a heart attack. Weeks of fantasies and surreptitious wanking come to a head in this ridiculous king sized bed, literally strewn with rose petals. But then he turns to Diluc, and he’s already looking at him, eyes warm and steady, so sure of his choice.

You love me, Kaeya thinks, sort of in awe.

Then they’re pressed flush, Kaeya’s hands buried in Diluc’s hair, Diluc’s hands tight on his waist, licking into each other's mouths like dogs at a water hose. God it’s unbelievable that Kaeya’s got his hands on Diluc right now, that he gets to kiss him and fuck him and— forever. He gets him forever.

“You’ve no idea how hard it’s been,” Diluc huffs against his mouth, “How good you look, all the time. It’s awful—”

Kaeya grins and nips at DIluc's lip. “I think I know a little something about hard,” he drawls, pressing a thigh between Diluc's to drag against his erection. Diluc's breath catches and then he grinds down eagerly against him, releasing a faint groan that lands like a hot stone in Kaeya's stomach.

Kaeya shoves the jacket off Diluc’s shoulders, who obligingly shrugs out of it and lets it fall to the floor. He makes quick work of the buttons of his shirt— which is to say, he tears it open, wardrobe department be damned, and finally, finally, puts his hands on the glory that is Diluc’s torso.

His skin is shockingly soft and sensitive, redness blooms in the wake of Kaeya’s hands. He flicks one thumb over a rosy nipple and gets a delightful hiss in response. He drags his mouth down Diluc’s jaw, enjoying the rasp of hair against his lips, and then fastens his mouth to his throat and bites down, hard.

Diluc groans, the sound rumbling in Kaeya’s mouth, as Kaeya nips and sucks his way down to his collarbone. He leaves behind a trail of reddened skin, purple bruises already blooming, marks in the shape of Kaeya’s mouth.

It’s the kind of thing that would be a hanging offence if they were still shooting. But the show’s wrapped—for now—and Kaeya has Diluc all to himself. The thought has him basically throwing Diluc down onto the bed and ripping his pants off. All that skin, miles and miles of corded muscle, soft freckles, downy pale hair.

“God you’re so beautiful,” Kaeya says, placing a hand on each of Diluc’s thighs and squeezing. Diluc flushes and Kaeya’s mouth waters. “Fuck, yes, you’re so cute when you blush,”

Diluc blushes harder and shoves at Kaeya’s shoulder. “Take off your clothes,”

Kaeya strips off his suit with clumsy speed. Sure, he’d like to come across as more suave and seductive, but mostly he just wants to feel Diluc’s skin against his as soon as possible. He can be sexy later— apparently whatever he’s been doing so far has worked well enough.

Diluc watches him undress with bright, focused eyes, his expression so hungry it warms Kaeya through. When Kaeya steps out of his underwear he makes a soft noise of approval, eyes raking his naked body. He wiggles out of his underwear to reveal his startling red cock, already fully hard, and Kaeya starts drooling.

“I know you’re fine with it either way,” Kaeya says. That was in his intake survey, under sexual preferences, a disappointingly brief section Kaeya has memorized all twenty-eight words of. “But right now, I’d really, really like to fuck you. Okay?”

Diluc’s eyes are blown black. “Okay,” he says, hoarsely.

Kaeya crawls on top of him and kisses him, running his hands restlessly over every inch of him he can reach. His skin is so hot, his chest leaps with his breath as he pants into Kaeya’s mouth. The list of things Kaeya wants to do to him is a mile long, but he’s got to decide quick before he comes from rutting against his abs.

“Roll over for me,” Kaeya breaks the kiss to say. Diluc hesitates only a moment before turning onto his stomach. Kaeya kisses his way down the knobs of his spine, licking the sweat from his skin as he goes. When he reaches the base of his spine he grips Diluc’s hips and hoists them up to lick down the seam of his ass.

The sound Diluc makes in respond nearly sends Kaeya to an early grave.

“Anyone ever done this to you before?” Kaeya asks, his voice rough.

Diluc groans, “No,”

A hot possessive greed lights up Kaeya’s chest and he bites the meat of his ass. Diluc jolts and gasps, pushing back insistently into Kaeya’s face.

Kaeya delivers several soft kitten licks to the furl of muscle, each one rewarded by a breathless gasp from Diluc. He uses one hand to spread his cheek, the other to steady his hip, and presses his tongue inside him. Diluc moans, low and reedy, and Kaeya’s cock throbs.

It’s so easy to get lost in it, the flutter of Diluc’s hole as he loosens around his tongue, the constant moans he fails to smother in the pillow, the heady desire building into an insistent pull at the base of Kaeya’s spine.

The air is thick with the smell of roses, fistfuls of the petals crushed in Diluc’s grip as he writhes beneath him. Kaeya breaks away to retrieve the lube and quickly presses a slick finger against Diluc’s hole. He slides in easily, Diluc worked open by his tongue, and leans back in to lick inside along his finger.

“Oh, Kaeya, I—” Diluc groans, shuddering beneath him. Kaeya’s answering moan is smothered against Diluc’s body, eliciting a faint cry.

Kaeya manages to squeeze a second finger in, but has to give up tongue-fucking him to allow for it. He licks and sucks at his rim instead, Diluc moaning brokenly and humping the mattress. Desire pools hot and tight in Kaeya’s navel. God, Diluc is just so reactive, it makes Kaeya feel insane.

Kaeya pulls away to add another finger, plunging into the addictive heat of Diluc’s body, greedily watching the stretch of his hole as his body adjusts. Diluc pants, grinding back into his hand. Kaeya twists his fingers then spreads them and Diluc jolts like he’s been shocked.

“No more!” Diluc yelps, squirming away, “I’m ready, shit, I’m ready,”

Kaeya removes his fingers slowly and reaches for the pile of condoms on the side table. He fumbles the packet in his lube-slick hands and then pauses. Long enough that Diluc pushes up slightly to look at him over his shoulder.

“I’m clean,” Kaeya says, all in a rush. Everyone involved in the show, all the contestants, all the producers, have to get tested before filming. “I know you—”

“Fuck me, come inside me,” Diluc gasps, and yep that’s— wow, that’s going to haunt Kaeya for the rest of his life.

Kaeya slicks up hastily and positions himself, catches the head of his cock on Diluc’s rim, shiny with lube and spit. “Did you, did you— with any of the—?”

“I didn’t sleep with anyone,” Diluc says, his hips rolling back impatiently, “I only wanted you,”

Oh god fuck, this man may very well still kill him.

“You have me,” Kaeya says, and thrusts inside in one long push. The hot tightness of Diluc’s body is so wonderful it's nearly enough to make him start crying again. Diluc makes the most impossible sounds, hiccupping as Kaeya bottoms out, and then immediately begins to roll his hips, urging Kaeya to move.

“Hang on, give it a second—” Kaeya wheezes, clutching ineffectually at Diluc’s hips.

“I don't mind if it hurts,” Diluc says, tensing around him in a way that makes it hard to think of anything else. “I want to feel you for days,”

Well what the fuck’s Kaeya supposed to say to that? No?

He pulls out and snaps back in, Diluc shudders and moans appreciatively so he does it again, building a rhythm just this side of too fast if he wants to last a reasonable time. Diluc feels too good, his body yielding so perfectly, Kaeya’s cock pushing the loveliest sounds from his mouth.

Kaeya buries one hand in Diluc’s hair and presses his head down into the mattress, forcing him to arch his back, chest plastered to the bed, fingers tearing at the sheets, the angle making Diluc release a series of increasingly desperate gasping moans.

Kaeya,” Diluc half-sobs, shuddering beneath him, lifting his hips to meet him. Kaeya very nearly blacks out.

He pulls out and Diluc keens which Kaeya absorbs like a blow to his solar plexus, and flips him onto his back. Diluc instantly spreads his legs, his eyes blown dark and hungry, his blush spread all the way down to his nipples.

He thrusts back inside and Diluc throws his head back, moaning thinly, clenching around Kaeya’s cock. Kaeya only has a moment to appreciate how beautiful Diluc looks, all red and dishevelled, split open on his cock, before Diluc pulls him down to kiss him. It’s sloppy, clumsy, as Kaeya fucks him with his cock, with his tongue, but it’s perfect. Kaeya’s not sure he’s ever felt this good in his entire life.

“You feel so good,” Kaeya gasps, “I’m going to fuck you until you’re ruined, alright? As many times as it takes,”

“Yeah,” Diluc says, fuck-flushed and dazed, taking Kaeya’s hand and lacing their fingers together. Kaeya’s heart tries to eject itself out his esophagus. This man, this perfect, unbelievable man.

“And then you can fuck me, okay?” Kaeya says, half-pleading, pressing their tangled hands to the bed.

Diluc laughs, low and hiccuping, and tightens his grip on Kaeya’s hand. “Yeah,” he says, “I want you every way I can have you,”

“For the rest of our lives,” Kaeya promises, his voice cracking.

“Fuck, yes,” Diluc bucks up and Kaeya obligingly thrusts harder, the slick slap of their flesh growing louder.

“You’re close?” Kaeya asks, teasing. Internally he’s grateful as all hell for Diluc’s affirmative noise. He’s been on the edge for what feels like hours. “Touch yourself baby, show me how good you feel,”

Diluc swears, flushing impossibly darker, but he does reach down to fist his cock. He’s dripping wet, precum smeared all over his abs, and when he strokes himself he tenses blindingly around Kaeya.

He only gets a few good strokes in before he stiffens, crying out as he comes spectacularly all up his front. Diluc’s expression is almost shocked, like he can't believe how good he feels, and that, more than anything, is what pushes Kaeya over the edge.

He grinds as deep as he can as his orgasm unfurls, liquid hot, burying his come as far inside Diluc as possible. Diluc tenses around him with a gasp and pulls him down into a kiss, Kaeya responds as best his can while his central nervous system has been turned to liquid honey. When he's recovered enough brain power he slips out slowly, rolling onto his side without breaking the kiss. Diluc hums happily against his mouth, tangling his arms around his neck. Eventually, they have to part, slumping onto the pillows, panting as they catch their breath.

Diluc looks astonishing, his face beet red, his hair stuck to his forehead with sweat, his lips swollen, eyes dark and dazed. Kaeya’s happy just to bask in the sight, like a lizard under a sunlamp.

Rationally, Kaeya knows they should clean up, at least a little. The cum drying on Diluc’s stomach must be uncomfortable, but he just can't be fucked to move. Not when Diluc’s curled up with him, a look of such devastatingly fondness on his face Kaeya can't imagine looking away, let alone leaving his side.

“How soon til you can go again?” Diluc asks. Kaeya fondles his dick thoughtfully, his touch sending bright pain-pleasure up his spine.

“Maybe twenty minutes?” He suggests. Diluc’s answering smile is all greedy hunger. Kaeya privately updates his estimate to fifteen.

“Love you,” Diluc murmurs, pressing his mouth to Kaeya’s cheek, his nose, eventually catching his lips in a soft kiss.

“Did you mean it?” Kaeya asks, while they're still so close he can't read his face, “Since the first night?”

Diluc draws back and brings Kaeya’s hand up between them, lips brushing the ring. His answer is devastating in its simplicity, “Yes.”

“Me too,” Kaeya admits, quietly. Diluc’s eyes light up at that, his lips curling into a smile against his knuckles. “When did— when did you realize I felt the same?”

“I had a suspicion during the pottery date in week three,” Diluc says, wryly, “I thought your glare would set Ajax on fire,”

“I hate that guy,” Kaeya says, immediate and unrepentant, “I thought you were going to marry him,”

Diluc gives him a flat, unimpressed look but still soothes him with a kiss to his temple. “But I wasn’t sure, until…”

“Until?” Kaeya echoes, breathlessly. Diluc gently tucks Kaeya’s hair behind his ear. He’s still blushing, faintly, and just for him.

“Until Portugal,” he says. Kaeya frowns, confused.

“What happened in Portugal?” He asks, wracking his brain to remember. Portugal was a series of pitchers of sangria with the twins, sending Keqing to Diluc’s hotel room after the group date (a hateful night), the jet ski one-on-one. Diluc was shirtless most of the time, and even the crew’s judicious application of 110 SPF sunscreen every hour wasn’t enough to stop his shoulders and the bridge of his nose from turning pink.

“Do you remember, after I sent Keqing home? You came to my room,” Diluc says, now, distracting Kaeya from memories of Diluc’s seasalt sprayed hair.

“Yeah, we talked about moving forward. You were beginning to have second thoughts,” Kaeya says, slowly. The details of the conversation are hazy, because internally Kaeya had been crowing with jubilation that Diluc had sent Keqing away instead of making out with her on the strategically placed day bed.

“I’d been having second thoughts since night one,” Diluc says, ruefully, “But I asked you what love felt like,”

“Comforting and exciting,” Kaeya says and Diluc smiles. Kaeya traces the shape of it with the tips of his fingers. “Someone you want to share everything with, without fearing judgment,”

“I asked if you’d ever felt that way,” Diluc’s lips brush Kaeya’s fingers as he speaks, his expression unbearably soft.

“And I said, just the once,” Kaeya’s voice comes out faint.

“And then you took my hand,”

“Did I?” Kaeya asks, dazed. He doesn’t remember that. Diluc’s smile grows. God he’s too beautiful to take in all at once.

“That’s when I thought— maybe I had a chance,”

Kaeya laughs weakly, “Love, you literally had me from hello,”

-

In three months Kaeya’s going to stand in front of a live studio audience and announce that this season’s finale is the most dramatic yet, as is traditional.

He’ll be standing in front of that same audience when Diluc grabs Childe by the arm and says, “Don’t worry,” on the large screens, and the sound of dozens of sucked-in breaths will have him grinning gleefully. When Diluc’s knee hits the ground, every audience member will start yelling all at once, and Kaeya will smirk into the camera to say “Tune in next week for the most dramatic Bachelor finale ever,” and blow a kiss farewell.

It’ll be worth the shattered eardrums because behind that camera, watching him, will be his fiancé, head thrown back in laughter.