Zhongli is halfway down the main street of Mondstadt before he asks Childe where he wants to be taken. Childe is still hiding his face behind his hands, not that it’ll help to protect him from the curious gazes being drawn by one grown man carrying another bridal style in his arms. Childe gives mumbled directions back to his room at the inn, though Zhongli seems to remember the way just fine from his stay the prior night.
After Childe had fallen into his arms, the archon had stormed down the stairs away from the cathedral plaza, shooting threatening glares at anyone who looked their way. Childe isn’t sure what’s gotten the man so riled up. He wasn’t in any danger falling from the statue, the tumble he’d taken into the abyss as a child had been far worse. Perhaps Zhongli is just mad that he’s made a spectacle. Childe stews on the possibility of needing to apologize for that too as Zhongli pushes open the door to the inn.
When they reach the room, Zhongli sits down on the bed more gently than Childe had expected. Now sitting in his love’s lap, Childe waits for the scolding to come, but to his surprise Zhongli reaches a gloved hand up to brush the side of his face. “Why did you do something so dangerous?” Zhongli asks, an edge of exasperation in his tone.
Childe laughs. “Dangerous? That wasn’t dangerous, that was just a little fun. There’s no way someone like Kaeya could kill me, and the fall was nothing. Not that I don’t appreciate you catching me!” he backtracks a little, not wanting Zhongli to dump him off his lap. He can feel the tension pulsing through the geo user’s body, and he’s not sure how to unspool it.
When Zhongli touches him again, it’s as though he’s handling fine bone china. He places a hand on Childe’s chest, over his beating heart, and the hydro user can feel his warmth even with the layers of clothing between them. “You may be accustomed to battle, but you are still mortal. Even the most powerful among you are mere moments from death. When even the immortal gods can meet their ends, how much more terrifying it is to know that one you love exists in such a fragile state…”
Childe can feel his face reddening again, so he smooshes it into Zhongli’s gorgeous chest. He has to hunch over, since he’s quite a bit taller than the other man from this vantage, and he finds himself curled up like a shrimp. Zhongli clutches at his back, pulling him in. Childe ruminates on Zhongli’s words. What does he mean by love? Like the love a god has for all their people? Or is it something more special…?
Zhongli speaks tentatively above him, voice directed into Childe’s hair. “I apologize, for I am not yet familiar with modern human mating customs. Would it be presumptuous of me to assume that you are free from your ties with Sir Kaeya after he thrust you from the Statue of Barbatos?”
Childe snickers into Zhongli’s lapel. “Yes, Zhonya, even humans aren’t usually that indifferent toward their lovers. Now do you believe me that there’s nothing between him and I?”
He can feel Zhongli nod above him and does a silent celebration. At last they’re getting somewhere. Then, Zhongli asks slowly, “If that is the case, would it be possible for you to offer a response to my proposal?” Childe’s mind blanks. Oh god what did I miss? he wonders.
“Your...proposal?” Childe asks, pulling back to look Zhongli in the eyes. “What proposal? About you staying here with me while you’re in Mondstadt?” Zhongli looks back at him passively.
“No,” he says, chest rumbling gently under Childe. “My proposal from when we were still in Liyue. I understand if circumstances have changed now that I am no longer the geo archon, but I believe I can still be a worthy partner for you if we do wed.”
Childe’s brain feels like a pyro slime after an electric shock is applied. “W-wed…?” he trails off in confusion, pulling back to see Zhongli’s brow furrow.
“Do you not wish to? I had assumed you neglected to answer because you were considering the proposal, but I will understand if you still need more time.” Childe’s short circuiting only multiplies. He resists the urge to gently wrap his hands around Zhongli’s throat and choke the answers out of him.
“Zhongli, Zhonglik , Solntse, could you please explain what the fuck you’re talking about?” Childe tries to sound gentle but he’s failing in the face of whatever insanity the gorgeous man under him is spouting.
“I presented you with dragon and phoenix patterned chopsticks, weeks ago. Is this not the traditional way for humans to propose marriage to their mates?” Zhongli’s face is impassive, but Childe can feel a tiny tremor running through him. The hydro user feels a bit like when he arrived in the abyss, navigating a strange and unknown alternate dimension. At least it’s warm here.
“To regroup,” Childe starts deliberately. “You proposed…marriage? To me? A foreigner from Snezhnaya who knows little about Liuyan customs...using the traditional Liyuan method of gifting chopsticks (which I cannot even use), and that you made me buy myself?”
Zhongli shifts under him, and he can feel the dark haired man’s arms wrapping tighter around him. “I suppose I should have considered that the custom would be different in Snezhnaya,” he admits, sounding as tentative as Childe has ever heard him.
Childe snorts in frustration, even as he wiggles deeper into the embrace. “It would’ve been fine if you’d at least told me, Lyubimiy. How was I supposed to know what it meant? I can’t believe you made me buy my own engagement present, some god of mora you are…”
Shooting upright and narrowly missing smashing Zhongli’s chin with his skull, the realization hits Childe all at once. “Do you still mean it? You want to marry me? I didn’t even know you liked me as anything more than a friend who’s fun to fuck. I’m annoying and trigger-happy and still don’t know all that much about Liyuan customs, but you still want to be with me?”
Zhongli’s eyes glow with amusement. “You are all of those things, but you are also beautiful and determined, like resolute sunshine peeking its way through clouds after a day of rain. You bring me great joy, and it would make me eternally happy to have the honor of marrying you.”
Childe isn’t sure what to say to that, and he’s blushing again, so instead he throws himself forward to kiss his beloved. It’s aggressive, like most things he does, but he knows now that Zhongli likes that about him. The Fatui man pushes his lover to the bed. “Please tell me that this means I can ride you,” he says, his voice edging toward a whine.
Zhongli laughs softly, his gaze heated. “Is this your acceptance of my proposal, then?” Childe lets out a low chuckle, grinding himself into the geo user’s lap in retaliation. Leaning down over his new fiancé, Childe punctuates each word with kisses to his soft neck. “Yes, yes, yes, yes…”
Childe begins peeling layers off the man below him, while Zhongli reciprocates. It’s been many weeks since he had the other man like this, and Childe doesn’t feel like being teased even if today is a special occasion. Once they’re nude, Childe grinds down one last time on Zhongli’s hard length and produces a vial of oil from his discarded clothing.
“Do you want to do it, or should I?” he inquires to the man between his legs. “You’ll have to be quick about it though, I’m impatient.” Zhongli silently reaches for the vial, uncapping it and slicking his fingers. Reaching behind the redhead, the golden eyed archon lovingly strokes his ass with his clean hand, at which Childe squirms provocatively. Zhongli parts his cheeks and wiggles a digit inside.
He continues until the Fatui man is panting and ready, then removes his fingers. Childe restlessly lifts himself into position over Zhongli, then sinks down as far as he can take it in one go. Zhongli moans low, gripping tight on to Childe’s thighs as the taller man reaccustoms himself to the feeling. “I missed this,” he admits, leaning down to give Zhongli a peck on the lips.
“As did I,” Zhongli replies, fingers twitching where they dig into heated flesh. “It is unfortunate that we ever stopped.” At this, Childe lets out a hearty laugh, squeezing around Zhongli inside him and causing the dragon to give his thigh a small slap in retaliation.
Breathlessly, Childe says, “I’ll just have to make up for the misunderstanding then, won’t I?” lifting himself up so he can sink back onto the geo user’s length. Childe begins to ride him, setting a punishing pace. He’s never been good at exercising patience before, and he’s not about to start now. If Zhongli wants to go slow next time, he’ll have to tie Childe up and do the work himself.
At least Childe can take dick like a champion, and Zhongli is just as good at being ridden as he is at everything else. The archon’s hands are under Childe’s thighs, and he uses his godly strength to help move him. By the time the redhead releases with a gasp, he’s barely even tired. Zhongli lifts Childe off his cock, pulling him down so he lays beside Zhongli on the bed. The redhead nuzzles into Zhongli’s neck as the dark haired man finishes himself off with a small grunt.
Childe’s eyes close and his mind drifts, but he lets out a complaint as Zhongli disappears from beside him. When he returns, he has a wet cloth to clean them both up. Childe whines at the coolness against his heated skin, but drags his love back into bed for a cuddle once the task is complete.
Childe is absentmindedly peppering kisses along Zhongli’s collarbone when he realizes something and giggles. The dark haired man, who is lying beneath him, gives a rumbling hum of inquiry. “It’s nothing, I just realized that I’m engaged and Kaeya probably hasn’t even made up with Diluc yet. He’s going to be so mad when I tell him,” Childe crows gleefully.
He can feel the disapproval radiating from the archon below him at the mention of Kaeya, and Childe rolls his eyes, patting him lightly on the chest. “I already told you, we weren’t even together. Stop being so stubborn. He was helping me get you back, and the poor bastard has always been in love with that pyro boy. Let’s hope they get it together, even if he is a dick, for everyone’s sake.”
Childe decides that in the morning, before he drags Zhongli back to Liyue to start their life together, he’s going to send a letter for Kaeya to the Knights of Favonius headquarters and let him know about this new development (and their departure). He did play a role in them getting together, it would only be polite to invite him to their wedding. Childe grins, imagining the look on Kaeya’s face as he reads it, and carries on with the important business of worshiping the god who now belongs to him.