“I love you lots, Kaeya.”
Back when they were still young and reckless, his brother, Diluc would tell him those words with a naïve smile upon his face. He’d often utter them so affectionately whenever he had the chance to – be it when they were playing outside together, or when they were reading books in their shared bedroom before bed. Back then, Kaeya could only react with deadpan silence, before skillfully switching the topic. He knew that his so-called brother meant well, and simply wanted to welcome him as a part of the family.
It wasn’t that Kaeya didn’t enjoy his kind brother’s company, or despised him. It was that the lone boy felt that he never belonged in his so-called new home, no matter how hard he tried. He hadn’t forgotten his purpose - his true identity, his “mission”, and the last words of his biological father moments before abandoning him outside of Khaerin’ah. He was not, and would never be in a position where he could relish in the affection and warmth given by the Ragnvindr family. And thus, all young Kaeya could do was to maintain the facade of a normal child, and play along with whatever this “familial gesture” that was thrown at him.
He could only long for the day where he’d be able to answer to those heartfelt words – one way or another.
Time had passed since that day. With the existence of time comes the inevitable change. Just like how the color of the sky would change throughout day and night, how the gentle breeze slowly transitioned into cold snow between seasons, the relationship between the two had evolved into something more.
Sure, there had been a fallout and some disputes between the two, with Diluc technically disowning Kaeya as his brother after the death of their father, straining their relationship for good. But alas, the two of them cared about each other the most. No matter how many insults they’d throw at one another, no matter how many harsh remarks they’d say about one another behind each other’s backs, they’d always have each other’s backs and support the other behind the scenes. Just like how Diluc rushed into the domain and saved his sworn brother from the Abyss mage that one time, and how Kaeya was always secretly watching over his sibling’s activities as Mondstadt’s one and only Darknight Hero.
Suffice to say, one could come to a conclusion that their daily banters were, in and of itself, their gestures of love.
Kaeya did not remember exactly when he professed his words of love towards his brother for the first time, nor how it went – though it did take a lot of courage for him to cross the boundary of a normal sibling relationship. He was prepared to be faced by rejection, and had braced for the worst. As expected, even Diluc himself couldn’t take the so-called confession seriously...
...At least, that was what he initially thought, before seeing how serious the other man was. There was neither the playfulness in his voice, nor any of the usual pleasantries present - it was a short, sweet, straight-to-the-point “I love you”. Seeing how naturally bashful the other man was at that time, the feelings he chose to lock deep within finally resurfaced after so long.
Diluc felt the same way. He had always felt the same.
There was a part of him that felt that, as someone who always insists on doing things the “right” way, the most obvious course of action was to deny the advances made towards him – to draw the line and maintain the status quo. Still, would things turn for the better if they had remained as brothers instead? Even to this day, Diluc would sometimes question if he had made the right choice.
Kaeya was never the type to care about how others perceived him, as long as he got what he wanted. Diluc, however, was the complete opposite. The tanned man knew that very well, and as selfish as he was, he would never desire to drag his love interest down, or force him to choose him over everything else.
Diluc, too, knew Kaeya like the back of his hand. He knew whatever option he chose, the latter wouldn’t mind. Even so, Diluc chose to throw away all logic and common sense. He took a step forward and accepted all whatever repercussions he may face, with no hesitation. If Kaeya was prepared to be damned, then he would gladly take the same path and fall with him.
And thus, he took the Kaeya’s hand and firmly grasped it with his own, smiling.
The two had started seeing each other for a while now. Things had stayed relatively the same, for the most part, which is a good thing for the two – especially Diluc. Then again, just because they were now dating, it didn’t mean that things would be smooth sailing from here on out.
Because despite everything, they were still brothers, after all.
It was difficult to imagine how things would unfold if they were to bring their relationship into light. Thus, they chose to go on about their days as usual, pretending that nothing significant had ever happened between them. Ironically, there was neither a mutual agreement nor any discussion held in regards to how they should act in front of others. Hiding their relationship was almost like an unspoken rule, commanded by their conscience.
Even when the couple finally left with some private time together, nothing seemed to be different. They’d have the same conversations, do the same things, and bicker just like any other day. Perhaps, it was because neither of the two had made another move on each other, for various reasons. Maybe they were simply waiting for the other to make the first move? One could only speculate.
Things did change, however.
The changes were subtle, whether they noticed it or not. Whenever the Cavalry Captain’s hand accidentally brushed his partner’s hand, one could notice the light blush upon the tips of his ears. Whenever their eyes met, they would just stare longingly at each other, even for a brief moment. The two would slowly find themselves leaning towards each other in no time, fingers intertwined as the gap between them closed itself. Kaeya was cold to the touch, and Diluc’s warmth made the temperature between their hands just right. Eventually, both of them would be close enough to the point they could feel each other’s breaths, before pulling away and getting flustered in the process.
Love doesn’t always need to be conveyed in spoken words, nor be made known. It was easy to tell that these two men were hopelessly in love with one another.
Too easy, actually.
To the point that people around them had started to take notice of it.
For instance, the regulars in the tavern had noticed that Diluc had mellowed out lately. The young master was generally nice and welcoming towards his guests – a basic etiquette taught by his father since childhood. Even so, though he always wore a warm smile when interacting and serving the guests, there were times when his smile would momentarily turn cold and empty. Yet, his emotions felt much more genuine as of late. He was warmer, not to mention more expressive – like a fire had finally melted his stone-cold heart. Customers of Angel’s Share could only wonder what had happened to cause this change in mood.
As curiosity of the locals continued to grow, asking eventually became inevitable.
It was one night when one of the old men who showed up that day to drink had raised this question. Diluc just so happened to be taking over Charles’s job that day. The young man had brought the drinks ordered over to one of the tables on the first floor. He was about to return to the counter when a poke on his shoulder suddenly brought him to a halt.
“Pardon me, Master Diluc. But…”
“… Yes?” The young man turned to face his guest.
“Did something happen recently?”
Diluc was puzzled.
“You seem to be in a good mood recently. So me and my pals here are discussing how you might have gotten a girlfriend recently.”
“Of course, we didn’t mean to intrude! We’re just glad that you’re somehow back to your old self.”
Indeed, this would seem like a good change to those around him. It was only natural for them to celebrate whatever that had caused this positive change.
Diluc should have been happy too, for himself. But instead, he felt the complete opposite – such as fear and remorse – as if he was being threatened for messing up.
Suffice to say, no other conversations were made that day.
It has been a while since Kaeya heard the words “I love you” coming from his lover. Not that Diluc was the type to express his feelings openly in the first place, but something felt amiss regardless.
Kaeya could only keep these things to himself, and simply observe from afar.
Everyone had their own issues and secrets to keep, and Kaeya was not the type to pry into them.
And so, he closed his eyes – pretended to be unaware. All while masking the aching pain in his heart.
Countless days had passed since then, without any of them speaking a word to one another. It was only natural that both of them had noticed that something was out of place. Something was wrong. Yet, the problem was never brought up during conversations.
At the same time, Diluc’s attitude had changed. He had grown cold and distant, perhaps even avoidant - or at least, that was how it felt to Kaeya. Although this treatment wasn’t new to him, it still stung pretty bad.
Kaeya was having the time of his life drinking with his pals at one of the tables in the bar – part of his daily routine in Angel’s Share. Diluc was acting as the bartender for that night, entertaining his guests and initiating small talk. Nothing out of the ordinary.
At least that was how it looked like at first.
“Diluc, can we get two more glasses of beer?” one of the men from the Cavalry Captain’s table spoke out, raising their hand.
The young bartender’s eyes drifted to the source of the voice. He then took out two large empty glasses from the rack, carefully but swiftly filled them with alcohol to the brim, before taking them to the group of men. It was then the redhead took notice of the numerous empty mugs piled up and gathered into one spot, near a certain someone.
What a sight.
Diluc could only watch his brother quickly chug the liquid from the mug he was holding, observing the bits of beer froth left all over the tanned man’s lips. Even for someone who was rich in melanin, the redness on his face was obvious.
Concerned, Diluc looked at the drunk man’s companions and asked, “Are these orders..?”
The old men nodded slightly, looking at their friend’s sorry state.
“He’s… never had this much alcohol before. It’s a bit worrying.” one of them spoke.
“Ya think so?” the other raised his eyebrow, before correcting the man. ”Think it’s about the way he’s drinking without any pause. He’s gonna either choke or throw up a day’s worth of food at this rate.”
Kaeya, who was finally paying attention to his brother’s presence, beamed up. ”Why, if it isn’t my lovely brother !”
The redhead clicked his tongue. “I told you not to call me that, Sir Kaeya. You’re not my bro-”
The seemingly drunk man wrapped his left arm over the bartender, to which the former flinched. He did not expect the sudden physical touch, and had almost lost his composure. Kaeya grinned at this reaction.
This bastard. He’s still sober, isn’t he? What he’s planning… toying with me like this?
Diluc could only groan. He then pushed (at least attempted to) push Kaeya off his shoulders in annoyance. He demanded in a slightly pissed tone. ”Get off. You reek of beer.”
“Tch, you meanie.” Kaeya pouted playfully, lifting his arm and thus letting his brother go easily. “You don’t have to be so cold, Diluc. Don’t you get tired of being so grumpy all the time?”
Oh, to think that he had the nerve to ask, he thought. Of course Diluc was tired of maintaining his poker face. What was Kaeya’s intention? Diluc couldn’t seem to tell.
Kaeya, who was observing Diluc’s reactions, was happy that everything’s going according to plan. Though the man was not one who’d normally let his emotions get ahead of him, he, too, has his own limits. He wanted to tease the heck out of his brother and mess with him. To see how long his brother can maintain his composure. Kaeya himself had no idea why he was doing this, but he decided to continue just for the sake of it.
Good. You better start thinking long and hard as to why I’m pissed. Because, damn… I’m very pissed right now.
In a way, this was his way of throwing a tantrum.
“See, your dear brother loves you sooooo much. But you’re always in your own world.” Kaeya acted passive-aggressive as he started going off. This time his voice was louder, and his remarks were clearly constructed and aimed to jab on one specific person. “Can’t Mr. Big Bro at least say ‘I love you’ back to his one and only bro for once? Come on, your little bro’s a bit lonely here.”
For a Cryo user, the continuing biting remarks had no chill. Kaeya resumed his attacks on the same one spot, hoping that Diluc would realize why his little brother was acting so childish and petty. But it was obvious that Diluc had no intention to entertain Kaeya’s antics. Thus, the pale-skinned man could only glare at his brother with bloodshot crimson red eyes – as if his naturally sharp and resting bitch face were not scary enough. If looks could kill, Kaeya would be dead right then and there.
Diluc desperately wanted to think of a proper comeback, countering Kaeya’s self-centered and childish remarks. He could barely think straight as he tried his best to suppress his irritation. And Kaeya clearly had no intention to let him do so.
Can you be any more insensitive? I’m thinking of other things, and here you are doing things as you please. That part of you, I…
― It was a matter of time until he snapped and burst into anger – like a ticking time bomb.
And so, everything within Diluc exploded.
He slammed the table with brute force, surprising everyone in the tavern and forcing them into silence.
“I’ve always resented you!” He snapped.
“… Can you be any more selfish? Please grow up, for the love of Barbatos. You’re seriously taking out your so-called anger on me? Don’t make me laugh. We’re not kids anymore, Sir Kaeya. Stop calling me your brother - we’re not, and never will be. I, for one, ever since that day, had never regarded you as my-”
Diluc paused, before realizing what he had just said.
“… Is that so?”
Diluc turned his face away. He didn’t want to see the expression on Kaeya’s face. Though admittedly Kaeya pretty much had it coming, Diluc still felt like a complete piece of shit. He was certain that the visitors within the premises were all staring at him in horror by now, and truthfully speaking, he felt the same.
Diluc didn’t mean it. He never meant any of the words he had said.
He said nothing, because there was nothing left for him to say. There was nothing to clear up, nothing to address – for he knew he had messed up.
“So you hated me that much, huh? … Sorry it seems that I went too far with the teasing.”
“If me being away from your sight makes you feel better, then I’ll take my leave.”
The Cavalry Captain walked past the bartender, who was still frozen in one spot. Diluc could hear the footsteps growing weaker, along with the sound of rustling and clinking of metal being placed on the counter. The last sound he heard was the wooden door creaking open, before it was then closed shut. Kaeya had left.
Diluc rotated his torso, readying himself to rush out of the tavern. Yet, after taking a few brisk steps, he was stopped on his tracks and became motionless. Something was pulling his feet – something heavy, that he could not get out of his mind – constantly gnawing on the back of his head.
Diluc knew that he was to run after his brother – no, his lover – if he were to patch things up. He knew that fully well. Despite that, he was here thinking twice about his course of action.
Goddamnit Diluc, move your feet already. What is so hard about chasing after someone?
What was stopping him, he wondered. He was sure that he was in the wrong here. That, and the fact everyone was expecting him to chase after the person who just left.
But Diluc himself couldn’t help but unconsciously think about the possible consequences and reactions he may receive if he were to listen to himself.
Is this a natural thing to do, as a brother? Won’t people question us if I were to be this affected by a “small fight”?
Diluc resented this part of himself the most.
For someone who acted like they weren’t affected by whatever his boyfriend had said and left the premises casually, what happened right after the tavern door closed was the complete opposite. Kaeya didn’t know where he was heading, but he needed to get out of that place. So, the man decided to wander aimlessly around the city grounds of Mondstadt.
It took all of his emotional and mental energy to bottle up and conceal everything, at least until he was sure he was away from everyone’s sight. He didn’t want anyone to see him, the one who was known as the casual fellow, in this sorry state.
The sky had darkened and was clouded up with grey clouds by then. Small droplets of water dropped from the sky, and trickled down to the ground. The rain fell, prompting everyone to take refuge in the comforts of their own home. Meaning that almost no one would be outside. For someone like Kaeya, the timing couldn’t have been more than perfect for him to expose his vulnerability.
Soon enough, he let it all out, for the most part. Feelings of frustration, self-loathing, disgust - everything flooded out in a, for the lack of a better word, bitter grimace. Despite that, the Cavalry Captain couldn’t allow himself to cry. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to, but he felt that he didn’t have the right to cry.
“Just like back then.”
Kaeya’s thoughts brought him back to the past, recalling his memories, and his selfishness - the ones that brought nothing but destruction in its path. An action done out of his own volition, because he desperately wanted to lessen the burden of his guilt, just to make himself feel better. A self-centered, insensitive decision that cost him the entire family.
That’s right. Just like back then, he was about to lose it all once more. And it was for the exact same mistake. And that resulted in him hurting his precious person - not only once, but twice now.
Kaeya honestly found his mistake laughably stupid. If he was in a position of a bystander, he’d have mocked the person and sneered at them as he looked at them with contempt. “Humans really are stupid” would be what he’d tell himself. However, this time the source was none other than himself. And he can’t even play it off as a joke, because he can never bring himself to do so. Not when it involves his beloved Diluc Ragnvidr.
The irony was almost funny, that the tanned man could only let out a bitter laugh. Yet, the bitterness and sourness he felt were so powerful he could only choke on his voice.
Kaeya bit his lips. He muttered to himself, ”I don’t… and I’ll never deserve him .”
The man reached his hand towards the monochromatic and dull sky, basking in the cold weather as he grasped into nothingness.
Barbatos, or any archons out there, if any of you can hear me… I beg you… all of these feelings… just freeze them over.
More and more droplets started to fall onto the ground. The drizzle gradually turned into rain, and then into a downpour. The Cavalry Captain didn’t bother taking shelter, and instead stayed under the heavy rain. He was completely drenched when drops of water, saltier than others, finally trickled down his face.
If the bitterness of alcohol won’t drown out all of these pitiful emotions, then at least… let the rain wash it all off.
Kaeya was someone who always boasted about himself and his abilities. He was constantly radiating the energy of someone with confidence and pride that it would be surprising if people found out that he had never once seen himself in a good light.
He had always hated himself, despised his existence and how he came to be. Though, there were two moments in his lifetime where his hatred peaked. Moments where he wished he could stop living – to keel over and die, and then rot in hell. One of them was due to the predicament in the present. The other was of the past – the day where he was blessed, or rather cursed, with his Vision.
The young captain vividly remembered the day he had lost his father figure, Master Crepus, for good. He, too, clearly remembered the disgusting thoughts that ran across his mind, and the darned expression that had shown in his face, all on the same rainy day. Thoughts that reminded him that, even after all those years, he was never truly a part of the Ragnvindr household. So, he decided to come clean – to confess everything he had been hiding from the family – from Diluc, who had trusted him with his entire being.
He thought it’d be for the best for his brother to know, because he was someone who valued truth over everything else. Although he was prepared to be thrown out, a small part of him hoped that his brother would still accept him. To see him as family.
And that was exactly when he messed up.
What he believed was for the better, turned to be nothing but done out of pure selfishness, for his own self-gratification. Kaeya thought he understood Diluc well, but he didn’t. He simply was deciding things on his own accord. What his dear brother needed – what his dearest Diluc needed – was someone to console him, to comfort him when he was at his lowest, and someone who would be willing to bear the same pain as him.
Even as the two crossed their blades, Kaeya failed to properly see the expression that was displayed on the red-haired man’s face. Diluc never truly resented him. His brother was never truly “angry” at him. Had he paid attention carefully, he’d notice the underlying sadness and desperation on the other’s pale complexion, almost looking like it was begging the man not to leave him alone. Instead, what he chose to do was take what he wanted to believe and left with it.
In the end, Kaeya was thinking about nobody but himself. A spy, through and through.
A faint voice. Perhaps the alcohol was getting to him, to the point that he started hearing voices. It was only wishful thinking to have his lover chase after him when he had other important matters to attend to, after all.
“ Sir Kaeya.”
The voice called out once more. This time, it sounded far more stern and demanding, but Kaeya was not willing to entertain whatever delusions he was hearing, and sped up his pace. To his annoyance, the voice only continued to grow louder and louder.
Kaeya shouted into the air, “Will you stop being so goddamn loud? I’m having a moment he-"
Before he could finish, he was halted by a sudden force pulling his left arm. The grip was strong, akin to the grip of a well-trained swordsman. And yet, not much strength was applied to break one’s bones. Kaeya slowly relaxed and faced the person behind him.
Realizing that he had finally caught the attention of his stupid partner, Diluc slowly loosened his grip. He took a deep breath, before letting his pent-up feelings out with the loudest scream he could force out of his throat.
“Listen to me, will you!?”
Kaeya stood in silence. He was rendered speechless by the sudden emotional outburst, and thus could only watch his brother pant heavily in exhaustion as he tried to catch his breath. The now damp and humid air was surely making it harder to breathe, ever for someone who was well-trained. He noticed that the red-haired man was wearing the same bulky black coat he had donned in the tavern, now completely soaked by the rain. One could only imagine the weight the young master was carrying as he dragged his feet and chased after the stubborn captain.
“Shut up. Just give me a moment-”
Diluc grabbed his own knees and crouched. After some time, he slowly got up, trying to make sure he doesn’t stumble and fall due to the weight of his long jacket. Kaeya helped his brother stand, but the former’s hand was almost immediately gently brushed away from the latter’s shoulder.
The two faced each other, making direct eye contact and nothing else. They stared at each other in brief silence, waiting for the other to say something. The silence was deafening, or at least it would have been, if it were not for the loud background noise from raindrops hitting the ground.
Kaeya’s ice blue eyes widened. The tanned man immediately parted his lips, wanting to say something – but the words wouldn’t come out. He couldn’t seem to find the right sentences, but all he knew was that he was the one who’s supposed to be apologizing, not the other way around.
“I didn’t mean to… shout like that.” Diluc said, looking away as he frowned. “It’s just.. I..”
The red-haired man shook his head, as if clearing his thoughts. He then stared at his brother, no, lover , directly in the eye with a serious expression. He grabbed both of his significant other’s hands. The way he held the other’s palms was gentle, yet firm – a sign of determination. “No… what matters is that I was the one to blame. And for that, I’m sorry.”
Diluc was about to let go of his hands when he was suddenly stopped by Kaeya’s wet and cold palms locking on his warm (though still sticky from all the rain) ones. Diluc was taken into surprise by the tight grip and didn’t know how to react, until he felt unsteady vibrations on his palms. Kaeya’s hands were trembling.
Kaeya bent his head down, trying to mask whatever expressions he had written on his face with his long bangs. The rain had wet his hair enough for them to barely cover up to his lips. The man finally spoke, voice shaky, “Don’t let go. Please.”
Somehow, that was more than enough for them to reach a mutual understanding. So they exchanged words, and talked things out properly. At first, it was difficult for both of them, especially for someone like Kaeya. But, in that exact moment, there was no beating around the bushes. There were no thoughts of what is considered as right or wrong. Just genuine words and sincere feelings.
It went better than both of them had expected.
“See, Kaeya. This is why you’re the younger brother in the family.” Diluc smirked as he let out a chuckle.
Kaeya rolled his eyes and shrugged, “Yes, yes. You’re absolutely right, brother Diluc. I’m Kaeya, your big baby bro.”
The two let out a loud laugh. It was so simple, and so easy. And yet, somehow, things have ended far more complicated than it could have been, all because of their refusal to be honest and talk things through.
It was just like last time. Though, this time, the two finally had the courage to put every other consideration behind their backs, and actually talk it out.
They had to wonder, what was it exactly that caused them to doubt and lose faith in one another. When did they start to lose sight of what truly mattered? When did they start assuming things and deciding on what’s best for each other?
Why didn’t they discuss and consult each other, and decide on a path together?
“We really should head back, or we’ll catch a fever.”
Hand in hand, the two started to walk. This time on the same path, on the same wavelength.
The two’s eyes met once more. Kaeya immediately understood what the other was trying to say. He tightened his grip.
“… I’m never letting go. Never again.”
The two brothers had walked back to Dawn Winery and met with the sight of the maids in the hallway. Seeing the drenched state they were in, the head maid freaked out and frantically ordered the other staff to ready a change of clothes and dry towels for them.
Diluc’s loud sneeze sound echoed across the corridor. The pale man rubbed his nose and sniffled, stopping the snot dripping from his nose from running. His efforts were to no avail, as he let out a louder sneeze instead. Diluc wrapped his hands around himself, rubbing some heat onto his shoulders.
“Even though you stayed in the rain for less time than me, you sure are sneezing very often. Like, a lot .” Kaeya remarked playfully.
“… And whose fault do you think it is?” The other man grumbled.
Kaeya twitched. Scratching his face, he sighed apologetically. “I apologized, didn’t I? I was an idiot. Sorry-”
“There you go.”
“Idiots don’t catch colds, do they?” the redhead said with a stoic tone, paired with an equally straight face. But his eyes were clearly grinning.
“You catch a cold and you still have the energy to make fun of me, huh?” Kaeya scowled. Guess he was worried for nothing. Alas, the man was glad that this meant that things were back to normal.
“You’re right, I’m your idiot brother, Kaeya Ragnvindr!” Kaeya’s lips curled up. He placed his hands on the other’s head and ruffled the pure white towel on his head, turning the red-haired man’s fluffy hair into a mess.
Diluc’s lips opened faintly to the subtle display of vulnerability. The man’s red eyes then softened as he showed a loose smile.
He, too, felt the same.
“Diluc,” Kaeya called out to his partner once more, this time sweeter and more loving. The man slowly brushed his palm across his partner's face. His fingertips were cold to the touch, but it seemed to have melted when it met the skin of his lover’s cute and delicate face, dyed by a bright pink hue by the minute. Kaeya traced his hands down to Diluc’s soft lips, rubbing it with his thumb. Staring at him with puppy eyes, the man requested, or rather pleaded, “Can I…?”
After getting an “okay” from his significant other, Kaeya moved closer and leaned for a kiss. Diluc sighed into the kiss, tilting his head as he relaxed his shoulders. The kiss was short, yet warm and sweet. It was as if time had stopped, and the world belonged to the two. Kaeya wanted more of Diluc - desired everything of his partner – but he was satisfied with what he was offered that night. That was enough selfishness for today.
Kaeya broke the kiss, parting his lips from the other. “I love you, Diluc. More than anyone else in this world.” The man gazed tenderly into those crimson red eyes as he pulled his lover closer into a tight embrace.
The redhead could only sigh and smile so slightly in return.
“… Me too.”
Diluc was a man of few words, but putting his feelings into words once in a while won’t hurt, right?
“I love you too, Kaeya.”