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i picture you, and my life is like ink

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It's the start of something when Ningguang guesses Beidou's favorite color on her first try.

"If I had to guess, your favorite color would be red," the Tianquan says one day over dinner, a seemingly offhand comment with Ningguang's typical, nonchalant delivery as the she had idly picked at her food. "It suits you."

Two simple sentences, deceptively casual, and were Beidou anybody else, she would dismiss her lover's words entirely as something unimportant.

“Oh, does it?”

But she's not anyone else— she is Captain Beidou of the Crux Fleet, and she has been in love with Lady Ningguang of the Liyue Qixing for as long as she can remember. She's spent days alongside the elusive, charismatic lawmaker, and even more hours spent agonizing over every carefully chosen word that leaves Ningguang's lips. It's something Beidou secretly prides herself on: her special ability to understand the Tianquan like no other, and she means no other— not even Yelan nor Keqing nor Ganyu can understand Ningguang like this.

And perhaps that's why Ningguang's words linger in the air this time; why Beidou finds herself pausing for a breath, chewing over Ningguang's words with care.

If I had to guess, your favorite color would be red. It suits you.

"I suppose I do wear a lot of red," Beidou supposes.

"You cover your eye with red," Ningguang adds, appearing amused.

"Ah, I do, don't I?"

Because it's never just words, right? Ningguang has always been more than just words. Sometimes, she is quiet determination or loud perseverance. Other times she is steely indifference or sly white lies.

This time, Ningguang is a cadence of confidence brimming with surprising surety, as if there's no way she could possibly be wrong— childish, freeing, gorgeous on her in a subtle way that Beidou is thoroughly unprepared for but enamored by all the same.

And in truth, Beidou doesn’t have a favorite color nor has she ever seen a reason to have one. 

Your favorite color is red.

But how could she possibly ignore that?

"Beidou?" Ningguang calls from across the table, rescuing the captain from drowning within her own mind. "Are you okay?"

"Hm?" The captain blinks, then smiles apologetically. "Ah, yes. I'm good, sorry for blanking out there for a moment, Ning."

"Where have you been?" Ningguang asks softly, reaching out to graze her fingers along Beidou's temple before tracing the seam of her eyepatch. Beidou likes this quiet, soft Ningguang— this Ningguang who arises only when it's the two of them together.

"Nowhere too far," Beidou promises with a smile, like she always does when she gets lost in her thoughts. “I was just reflecting.”

“On what?”

“On how you managed to guess my favorite color on the first try.”

"Oh!" Ningguang's eyes flicker with a hidden, pleased surprise, and she looks so hopeful that maybe Beidou's heart will give out. "Did I?"

"Yeah." Beidou smiles, and rises from the table. She holds her hand out for Ningguang to take, suddenly eager to pull the other woman in for an embrace— one that Ningguang happily sinks into, that Beidou envelopes her in because this is what she always misses the most when she's out at sea. "You know me best, after all."

It's probably the first time she's ever lied to Ningguang, and the only time she has ever wanted to, really. If she can fib something like this, something as inconsequential as a favorite color, all to see Ningguang's smile— well, that's worth it, isn't it?

Beidou doesn't have a favorite color, but maybe red can be.

(She never sees red the same again.)

Beidou swears she didn't used to see red this often.

She didn't used to pay too much attention to colors at all, actually, but the next day she departs from the newly reconstructed Jade Chamber and suddenly, the color red is everywhere.

It's like she's hyper aware— the roofs of houses and shops, the umbrellas pedestrians use to hide from the sun, the balls children play with in the street, the leaves on the trees, red, red, red.

Hell, even the sail of her own ship and the clothes on her back are their own shades of red.

It's impossible to ignore, as if every shade of red has suddenly increased in vibrancy and Beidou is at the root of it all— no, that's not quite right, actually.

Because Ningguang is at the heart of everything. She always is, and Beidou has a nagging feeling that this new disposition of hers to this singular, particular color has something to do with that insufferable woman she loves far too much.

"You're distracted," Yelan states, a single eyebrow raised, beguiled, and Beidou is suddenly shaken back to the present at her interruption. "I must admit, I'm rather surprised, Captain. It's not every day you let your guard down around me."

"I'm not!" Beidou insists immediately. Her fingers tap against the maple table top, skimming the files Yelan had laid out in front of her. "There was just something on my mind. Sorry."

Ah, this behavior won't do. Mentally chastising herself for her incompetence, Beidou twists her expression into something more neutral, focusing. She's meeting with Yelan for crucial intel on Ningguang's next job for her— it won't do if she's distracted, even if her eyes do wander over to the new red cord wrapped around Yelan's wrist, right beside her usual blue bracelet. Without a doubt, this cord has to do with a certain white-haired woman raised by adepti, but Beidou’s thoughts can’t help but wander over to a certain Qixing individual instead.

"Sorry, before we actually start," Beidou bites the inside of her cheek, "I just have to ask. Did you always have that bracelet?"

"Hm? This?" Yelan seems mildly surprised at first, but it quickly melts away into a fondness that Beidou isn't used to seeing on her, but it looks good nonetheless. "No, it's new. This was a recent gift from a friend."

 "I see." Beidou nods. At least that makes sense— it's normal to notice new attire, right?

"It's new," Yelan repeats for clarity's sake, but she peers at Beidou suspiciously. "Why do you ask?"

"No reason," Beidou says innocently, ignoring how Yelan turns smug.

She doesn't offer any other excuses for her distraction— it would definitely sound pathetic if she were to admit that a mere color alone has the power to direct all cognitive thought towards a single platinum-haired, very busy individual.

Yelan doesn’t look convinced, and her smug expression is subtle yet present nonetheless, but the blue-haired woman shrugs and continues with her debrief anyway.

“I had a few leads,” the agent says, gesturing towards the papers before pointing at one particular file. “These are all individuals Ningguang had asked me to investigate. All turned up relatively clean except for this one in particular…”

Beidou listens intently as Yelan describes the actions of Wu Yuxuan, a prolific gambler who had recently worked his way into Liyue Harbor’s trade economy within the span of just a few months. Apparently, his meager rise in success had overlapped just enough with a sudden appearance of Snezhnayan fabrics among the common folk to warrant suspicion.

“Sounds like he’s done a lousy job covering his tracks, if you ask me.” Beidou clicks her tongue. “Prolific gambler or not, no one just finds success in trade without having some sort of backing. One of his old buddies mentioned he used to be in debt?”

Yelan nods. “That’s right.”

“No wonder the Fatui took advantage of him,” the captain chuckles. “If you’re gonna participate in something illicit, at least leave Liyue’s potential enemies out of the deal.”

“Don’t you speak from experience?” Yelan raises an eyebrow.

Beidou grins broadly. “Wouldn’t you say the same? You’re not even in the registry for the Ministry of Civil Affairs.”

“No wonder Ningguang keeps both of us around.” Yelan laughs. “It’s almost time for Lantern Rite. Think she’ll hand us, faithful helpers, some red envelopes?” Then she smirks, unbelievably satisfied with herself as she crosses her arms. “Or will I be receiving one from the both of you this time?”

And against her will, Beidou feels the blood rush to her face, flustered. She and Ningguang still haven’t quite made their relationship public— not even to their closest friends yet. The idea that she’d been so obvious that even Yelan, a woman of few words, would comment on it is almost mortifying.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she mutters, despite her thoughts suddenly abound with prospects of handing out hongbao amongst their friends during the holidays.

Beidou loves being out at sea, but there’s something special about waking up in the Jade Chamber, looking out the nearby open window, early morning light pooling in like the tide, and just seeing boundless, open sky.

What’s even more special is the feeling of warmth that floods through her when Ningguang stirs at her side, languid and catlike but regal all at once, and Beidou is yet again overcome with the feeling that she’s in love with a goddess and somehow, unbelievably, this goddess has decided to love her back.

Their nightwear couldn’t be any more different— Beidou, with her underclothes next to Ningguang, adorned in a white nightgown with simple gold trimmings. And maybe there’s something different about today, but she swears the gold seems to shimmer around Ningguang like a veil on this particular Saturday morning.

“You’re staring,” Ningguang mumbles after an indiscernible amount of time has passed and Beidou has yet to move. Still, the platinum-haired woman smiles, lying on her stomach and not opening her eyes. “What’s got your attention, baobei?”

"You, love." Beidou leans in to press a kiss against Ningguang's shoulder blade. "I'm always thinking of you."

"Flatterer." Ningguang chuckles, rolling over into her back so she can wrap her arms around Beidou's neck, the captain hovering over her. "And so early in the morning, too."

"The mornings are my favorite," Beidou replies, planting another kiss, this time on Ningguang's nose. Absently, her fingers find their way to her lover's silvery, platinum hair, strewn about over white sheets with the morning light staining her locks into a beautiful golden.

Ningguang is beautiful. She is always beautiful but she is especially beautiful in how she chews her bottom lip bashfully, cheeks rosy when Beidou leans in and kisses her fully on the lips.

"How did I get so lucky?" Ningguang murmurs when they pull apart. "Not even Rex Lapis was this blessed."

"Archons, Ning," Beidou says with a breathless laugh, "what I would do to steal the words from your mouth and sound as smooth saying them back at you."

"It just takes practice, my Beidou." The Tianquan remains fond, affectionate. She pulls Beidou close, letting the captain make herself comfortable, pillowing her head against Ningguang's chest. "And you're plenty good with words— how you manage to negotiate your way out of fines with my staff is beyond me. But even without all of the vocabulary I picked up from romance novels, I can always understand what you mean."

"I know you can." Beidou smiles appreciatively. "Still, I should practice. I want words like yours— golden-colored, honeyed words."

And Ningguang laughs. "That was plenty descriptive right there, no? Perhaps you're better at this than you think."

The wine red in Ningguang's eyes twinkles like the sunlight through their window; Ningguang is red and gold and beautiful, and Beidou wants to commit this sight to memory, wishes she could capture it with a Kamera and keep the photo close to her chest.

"Do you have work today? Any meetings or whatever?"

"It's Saturday, Beidou." Ningguang rolls her eyes dramatically, and Beidou grins like a child being handed a new kite. "Contrary to popular belief, I don't have the draconian work schedule you think I do."

"So what you're saying," Beidou surmises, pawing at Ningguang's nightgown, "is that I have you all to myself all day long."

The look Ningguang fixates on her is coy.

"Sundays are free as well. You know this, baobei."

And Beidou smiles before claiming the Tianquan's lips with her own.

"Perfect."

(She finds Ningguang's schedule later on at the corner of her desk. When Beidou asks if she can write in it, Ningguang – languidly lounging in bed again – waves for her to do what she wishes.

She decides to mark every weekend as free for Ningguang, red ink staining the calendar boxes, just in case.)

Days later, it is surprisingly not red that Beidou thinks about, but gold.

The sunrise is golden as she sits atop a rocky outcrop in the Guyun Stone Forest, balancing the blade of her claymore on one knee while waiting for her targets to arrive. It is gold of Mora that she sees when she launches onto the Snezhnayan ship and seizes their contraband, ignoring the pleas of Wu Yuxuan who tries to bribe her silence.

She turns them in to the Millelith soldiers and takes his Mora anyway.

And hours later, when night has fallen and there is a new gash torn in her side and she's sure her ribs are broken, it is not the red of the blood spilling from the wound that Beidou thinkss of, but rather the gold of Ningguang's signature qipao— she pictures Ningguang, adorned in gold and waiting for her at the Jade Chamber, like they'd promised.

"Sorry, Ning," Beidou mutters through grit teeth, her hands clenched around the hilt of her greatsword. "Looks like I might be a bit late to dinner."

She's faced worse, really. That's what she tells herself as she deflects the spinning blades of Fatui agents against her claymore. But it's never been like this, so close to Liyue Harbor, so close to the Jade Chamber where she'd promised to return home to Ningguang by nightfall.

And the red. The red that stains her hands, the blood that spills from her side, a crimson in the growing night—

She wants to hate it. She wants to—

But red is the color of Ningguang's eyes. Red is the color of coming home, of deep embraces late into the night, of the color of her favorite spicy soup Ningguang knows to order from Wanmin.

She could never hate red, never. Not a chance.

In the back of her mind, as she's blown back by a particularly three coordinated kicks to her ribs, Beidou bearily wonders, seeing stars behind her eyelids, if Ningguang is getting impatient.

"I was, yes. You were late."

Beidou's eyes fly open. Is that…?

"You spoke out loud, love," Ningguang murmurs, and suddenly there are soft fingers wiping the sweat from her brow as Beidou gets lowered into the grass. "You're exhausted. Rest, Beidou. I'll handle things from here."

"I must be going crazy," Beidou mumbles. Her eyes make out the outline of Ningguang's shoulders, strong and steady even as she sends several jades to jab at her Fatui foes with scary accuracy— golden meteors, streaking across the sky. "You're… here?"

"You were late," Ningguang repeats, her voice choking on her own emotion. But someone – a Fatui bastard, most likely – shouts profanity behind her, and Ningguang's mouth curls back in a snarl as she rises to her feet, summoning jades to gravitate around her hands.

And Beidou laughs to herself, breaking out into a cough midway but she can't find it in her to care.

Oh, no one will survive this.

As the Tianquan, Lady Ningguang doesn't get many opportunities to see the battlefield. More often than not, she can't, quite frankly. As someone in the public's eyes, Ningguang's actions reflect those of all of Liyue, and Beidou is stubborn but not stupid— even when she was younger, when she and Ningguang were not on the best terms, she knew a good deal when she saw one.

No one would bat an eye at a pirate with a hidden agenda. Ties to Ningguang or not, there was never any confirmation that any of Beidou's actions could be traced back to the Tianquan's own wishes.

"Isn't this a bit improper, Tianquan?" One of the agents goads, deftly spinning a blade from hand to hand. "You wouldn't want to start anything with Snezhnaya, would you?"

He's bluffing. Even Beidou, in her delirious state and fumbling for her spare bandages now that she has the space to tend to her wound, can tell that this man is stalling for time.

His mistake is that Ningguang never rises to bait— no, Ningguang has no need to rise. Not when she looks over all of Teyvat with a keen eye, especially from her golden palace in the sky.

No, when she is provoked, Ningguang does not attack, but rather, she consumes.

"You think that I am being improper?" Ningguang tosses her head back and barks out a hollow, cold laugh. The sound, somehow, makes Beidou smile. "I would beg to differ. I had no ties to this conflict before, but instead, I came here to find what is mine in your hands. If anyone is starting anything, it is you on behalf of your nation."

And so Beidou chuckles again and considers telling them to pray for forgiveness to Rex Lapis.

She doesn't, though. Because there's red on her hands where there shouldn't be— red belongs on her qipao, in the fading sky, in Ningguang's wine-red eyes. It has no business on her hands, or on the garbs of Fatui agents, and Ningguang knows this, so for once, Beidou sinks backward and lets her lover, her Tianquan, her Ningguang, deal with the fallout.

The adrenaline that had been holding her body together wears off soon enough, and whatever energy she’d been using to find humor in the situation quickly grows cold. The sound of metal against jade grates on her ears, and Beidou struggles to sit up just as she watches the Fatui begin their panicky retreat.

“Get back here, you bastards!”

“Ning!” Beidou calls, strained and breaking out into a cough, and the Tianquan immediately halts in her tracks, giving up on following the Fatui agents the moment she hears Beidou call for her. The platinum-haired woman spins on her heels, her jade screen dissipating into light before racing over to Beidou’s prone figure and dropping to her knees. “Ah, don’t do that. You’ll get your dress dirty.”

“Who cares,” Ningguang says hotly, her lips pressed into a tight line. Wine-red eyes spark with anger as Ningguang shakes with adrenaline, and forcing herself into sitting higher, Beidou groans but reaches for the other woman anyway. “Beidou! Don’t move!”

“Deep breaths.” Beidou smiles weakly. The back of her hand skims over Ningguang’s cheek and Ningguang shudders, all tension leaving her body as she grabs at Beidou’s palm, pressing her lips into the calloused skin. “The bleeding stopped, it’s just my ribs now. Just send some of your own people after him so we can go home, Ning. I’m tired, I wanna go home.”

“Let’s go home,” Ningguang breathes, relief evident in her voice. In the distance, Beidou can already hear the sound of  Keqing rallying some of the Millelith soldiers. “We can go home now.”

“Can we get takeout from Wanmin? I'm craving a proper meal.”

The Tianquan lets out a shaky laugh that grows with Beidou's smile.

"Injured to hell and back but you're already thinking about food, huh? You're impossible." Ningguang's eyes are impossibly fond, a warm red glow the same color as the setting sun behind them as it touches the horizon. "Alright, I'll get that soup you like so much."

Her ribs hurt and it feels like she's just gotten trampled by the biggest geovishap, but Beidou beams nonetheless.

"You're the best, Ning."

As it turns out, Yelan personally delivers their meal to them, appearing in the Jade Chamber in the night with her lips pressed into a thin line.

“You’re an idiot,” the blue-haired woman states, dropping the paper takeout bags at Beidou’s bedside table while Ningguang busies herself getting utensils from the kitchen. “You should’ve run when you saw you were surrounded.”

Beidou hears the silent apology loud and clear— I’m sorry I didn’t foresee this.

“I’m Captain Beidou of the Crux Fleet,” Beidou boasts, still haughty despite her apparent injuries. At Ningguang’s insistence, she had gotten checked over by Baizhu, and with the knowledge that she would recover in soon due time, her spirits had risen substantially. “I never run away.”

“Sure. You’re still an idiot,” Yelan says again, rolling her eyes. Still, the relief in the slight sag of her shoulders is evident. Beidou’s eyes land on the red cord wrapped delicately around Yelan’s wrist again. The other woman keeps talking. “Stop worrying Ningguang so much. No point in putting yourself in danger if you can’t even live to see your own wedding day.”

Snapping out of her mindless thoughts, Beidou’s jaw drops.

“What? My— what?”

Yelan raises an eyebrow. “Don’t tell me you think you’re slick—”

“What’s this about Beidou’s wedding day?” Ningguang enters the room carrying plates, bowls, and chopsticks. There is amusement alight on her features, a welcome change from the way she had clenched her jaw in a panic only a few hours ago, but Beidou groans nonetheless at the barrage of incoming teasing she just knows is coming your way. “I wasn’t aware she was having one so soon! Are you planning on stealing her away from me, Yelan?”

Beidou does not know what’s worse— the throbbing of her ribs, or the pounding of her swiftly approaching headache.

“Not on my life!” Yelan scoffs, laughing as she makes her way to the bedroom door. “The captain is your mess to handle.”

“Excuse me?” Beidou barks.

“What’s this?” Ningguang smirks. “Not planning on joining us, Yelan?”

“Absolutely not. Shenhe’s waiting for me anyway.” The intelligence agent scrunches her nose in distaste before turning on her heel and bidding them farewell with one final two-fingered wave. “Enjoy your dinner, lovebirds. And Captain? Try not to get too rowdy for the rest of the night. We don’t need you breaking any more ribs.”

And then they’re alone in the room. Beidou tips her head back and lets out the largest full-bodied sigh.

“This is the worst,” she bemoans, trying to ignore the way Ningguang hides her laughter behind a well-placed paper fan. Fixing her good eye on her lover, Beidou frowns. “So much for secrecy.”

At that, Ningguang laughs louder, but she peers at Beidou so fondly, illuminated by golden light. “Oh, Beidou! Honestly, have you even been trying?”

Beidou wakes up in the middle of the night.

Beside her, Ningguang stirs, rubbing her eyes blearily while dipped silver in a moonbeam. Tonight, her nightgown is red— a glorious red, one that hugs her body and spills across their white sheets like a waterfall, and she is beautiful in ways that Beidou struggles to find mortal.

“Beidou?” Ningguang murmurs. She lies on her back now, focusing on the ceiling while still blinking the sleep from her eyes

“You called me yours,” Beidou says, breathless at the realization. “When you saved me, you told those Fatui that I was yours.”

The Tianquan smiles, chuckling softly to herself. “I did. Does that surprise you?”

“You’re really not afraid of anything, are you?”

“Ah, if only that were the case.” Ningguang hums to herself, rolling over to look Beidou in the eyes. In the lack of light, Ningguang’s eyes look a dark, meaningful red— burgundy even. Beidou could drown in her eyes, get drunk on them. “In truth, when you did not show up on time, I was scared. When I saw you surrounded, I was scared. And when I noticed the wound in your side, I was terrified. Nothing scares me more than a life without you, my captain.”

“Even at the cost of your reputation,” Beidou mumbles. Her eyelids feel heavy again, sleep calling for her once more, and she weakly paws at Ningguang’s nightgown, her fingers grazing crimson fabric. “You’re amazing.”

“You’ve stated many times that you’d run your own reputation into the mud for me. How could I not want to do the same for you?” Ningguang smiles, closing her eyes. Then she smirks, a final thought to be said before the night is over. “Although, it is hilarious when you think you’re being so secretive. I wouldn’t mind playing along with your charade a bit longer.”

“Go to sleep, Ning.”

A week passes by, and then another. Beidou heals swiftly, aided by both her Vision and the soothing healing of Bubu Pharmacy, and before she knows it, she’s back on her feet and doing her very best to annoy Ningguang amidst Lantern Rite preparations— she has no excuse other than how boring it is to be essentially under house arrest.

Her crewmates had been allowed to come and go to the Jade Chamber as they pleased while she’d been resting, and even Kazuha had appeared to entertain her for a while, but the boredom persisted and Ningguang was a hard nut to crack.

“If you’re really that eager to get some work done,” Ningguang had said in amusement, on the day of the scheduled fireworks with a cross of her arms, “then how about this— there are still remnants of the original Jade Chamber that fell into the ocean. Since you want to regain your sea legs, how about you retrieve them for me?”

And that’s how Beidou ends up here, in the Sea of Clouds, carefully maneuvering Lumine’s waverider boat around the Guyun Stone Forest, sifting through rubble and picking out the objects that remain.

“Beidou, look!” Paimon cheers, and Beidou makes her way to the back deck, where Lumine is pulling out a vase that had miraculously survived the crash from a worn wooden box. The antique gets passed to Beidou at the recognition that sparks in her own uncovered ruby eye “This must have belonged to Ningguang!”

“Oh, wow.” Beidou marvels, fingertips brushing over its aquamarine-colored finish. It’s chipped and slightly worse for wear now, but it’s the same vase without a doubt. “It belonged to Ning— Ningguang, alright. My crew was the one who gave it to her.”

“The Crux, or you?” Lumine inquires without missing a beat, and Beidou groans.

“Not you, too.”

Lumine merely grins, as observant as per usual. “You make it too easy. Anyway,” she gestures at the vase, “it’s a shame it was damaged, but I suppose it’s a wonder that it survived at all.”

Beidou lets out a low whistle. “You’re telling me. I think it’s due time I get her another one anyway.”

“Another aquamarine vase?” Paimon asks.

“Maybe a different color,” Beidou ponders, one hand on her hip. “Maybe something red. That’s my favorite color, I think.” Something to remind her of me. “Or maybe gold. That would fit her well, too.”

Lumine’s lips curve into a smug smile. “For a mysterious pirate, you’re very easy to read, Captain.”

Beidou shoots her a look. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing!” Lumine raises her hands in surrender, smile widening. Deftly, she sidesteps around Beidou to head to the helm of the waverider. “Now, let’s get moving! We need to get back before the fireworks.”

Ningguang looks nothing short of ethereal dressed in blue.

It’s Lantern Rite, the fireworks showcase has begun – Beidou really ought to thank Yoimiya one of these days – and she’s just brought Xinyan up to Jade Chamber to watch the night sky with Yun Jin. Somewhere on the terrace, she knows Lumine and Keqing are already waiting, and down below in the Harbor, she knows their many, many friends are celebrating with their friends and families.

What she’s not expecting is this: Ningguang, in a blue, flowy evening gown, pipe in hand and leaning against one of the Chamber’s pillars just waiting, her lips already twisting into something coy and teasing the moment Beidou’s sights lock on, and Beidou has to remind herself to close her jaw.

She doesn’t even remember her initial comment— the word fancy leaves her mouth, but then Ningguang is chuckling and mentioning how only a true treasure catches the eye of Captain Beidou, and something about how she’s struck gold but all the while, Beidou is awestruck.

“I know your favorite color is red,” Ningguang jokes, definitely noticing her staring as she twirls her pipe around deft fingers, “but bear with me for just tonight.”

Her favorite color is red, that’s right.

…But is it?

Suddenly, she’s looking back to a few days ago— no, she’s looking back on every other time she’s noticed a color in the world around her. Suddenly, Beidou’s looking back and realizing what the common denominator was.

“My favorite color is blue,” Beidou blurts out. She can’t take her eyes off of Ningguang’s figure, silhouetted against the sky of fireworks; couldn’t stop looking at her even if she wanted to.

Ningguang’s mouth parts in surprise.

“Is it?” Recognition sparks in wine-red intelligent eyes, Ningguang definitely recalling how their conversation had gone before, and the Tianquan almost looks apologetic as she smiles somewhat fondly upon the realization of what had transpired. “Oh, Beidou. You didn’t ever have to hide the truth for my sake, especially over something as inconsequential as—”

“But you were right,” Beidou interrupts before ducking her head, slightly embarrassed. She steps forward to join Ningguang at the edge of the platform and mentally prepares to lay out perhaps the cheesiest admission she’s ever had to admit. “My favorite color is red. But right now, it’s blue. Days ago, I woke up and you were dressed in your gold, and it was probably my favorite color right then but I didn’t want to admit it, because who gets sentimental over a color, you know?

“But a week from now, if you told me I would look good in purple, then my favorite color would be purple, too, probably. I don’t know.” She shrugs helplessly. “But after you guessed my favorite color, I never saw red the same. Tomorrow, I don’t think I’ll be able to see blue, or gold, or whatever other color I experience with you the same ever again, either.”

And for a moment, there is silence. Overhead, the fireworks continue to shoot into the sky, exploding into flurries and flashes of colors that Beidou had never even taken the time to consider. For a while, they both stand there, in this relative pause in time.

But then Beidou chances a glance to her left, only to find the look in Ningguang’s eyes softening, a hint of amusement still playing on her lips.

“Maybe I should expand my wardrobe to encompass the entire rainbow.”

“Then I’ll be able to see you in everywhere I go, in every color I see.” Beidou shrugs, chuckling at the alleviation of tension. She shifts closer, allowing their arms to brush together. “That doesn’t sound bad at all to me.”

“You’ll grow tired of me eventually,” Ningguang states.

Immediately, the captain fixes her with a hard look, one hand reaching out to curl around Ningguang’s wrist.

“I could never,” Beidou says, steady and serious. “Don’t even joke about that. I always want to see you, Ning.”

“You promise?” Ningguang asks, quiet and vulnerable.

“On my life,” Beidou swears.

And Ningguang beams then, laughs so wholeheartedly and freely, and it’s worth every word in the world, every color, and all danger and each bumbling embarrassment Beidou makes of herself.

So when Beidou leans in, Ningguang falls into step with her, the ease with which they bring their lips together a sweet and casual affair, and Beidou feels lighter than air, her hands resting on Ningguang’s hips, fingers brushing ocean blue fabric, and she knows she’ll never see the ocean the same, never again.

And with the explosions of light above the Harbor, the world continues to get brighter and brighter.

 

End.

 

Bonus:

“Yelan wanted to receive a red envelope from you this year,” Beidou comments jokingly as they follow Lumine, Xinyan, and the others to the feast down with their friends at Wanmin. “Then she asked if she’d be receiving one from both of us this year.”

Ningguang snorts. “Tell her I’ll give one to Shenhe, and they can choose how to split it.”