"I think we've finished. Thank you, Aether." Kaeya thanked him gathering all the documents neatly and lifting them up. Once comfortably placed between his forearm and chest, he ran a finger through the sheets to check that he had taken everything: "Really, without you I couldn't make it. What time is it? "He asked almost speaking to himself:" I could go to have dinner at Sara's restaurant."
But moving his gaze from the window, overlooking a panorama with the sky already reddish for the late time, he noticed Aether's dejected expression and slowly his extroversion turned into discomfort. "Would you... like to come with me, since it's your birthday? Are you tired? I didn't mean to-"
"Ah, no! I'm fine! It's- It's not your fault... at least." Aether bit his lip, knowing that Kaeya's insight would make him understand that something was wrong. By then they had been considering each other best friends for years, drinking and adventure buddies. Since they both lived in Mondstadt, they spent their days together when Aether's boyfriends had business to attend to in Liyue. He knew him better than anyone else.
Kaeya sighed, knowing what that was about. Zhongli and Childe. He'd never really liked them. Even though he had been the happiest and most supportive about Aether's announcement of his new relationship, he still didn't like those two. They were older than his Aether, and their age gap was often noticeable. They were much busier, less carefree, and less and less often came to see him. And he suffered.
"You three have been together for months, but this is actually your first birthday with them. Maybe they don't know it's today." But Aether, in response, crouched on the table, hiding his face in his arms. It wasn't working.
"They know, they know. But... they told me they couldn't make it for today."
"I don't know. I guess."
Here's what made Kaeya angry. What were Aether's feelings to them, a toy to play with!?
He walked over to the table, not trying to hide his spontaneous concern.
"I know I've already said this, but I think that those two aren't the right ones for-"
"Please, leave me alone."
His tone seemed broken, almost ready to burst into tears. Kaeya's eyes widened, taking a few steps back.
After some seconds of awkward silence, Aether tried to reassure him: "Sorry, I... I'm just a little bit sad. We will meet tomorrow, ok? I passed a great birthday with you, even if we've worked almost all day. Thank you."
And then total silence, only accompanied after about a minute by Kaeya's uncertain footsteps leaving the room, and before closing the door he turned one last time to watch that figure crouched on the table about to cry.
Once Kaeya sat at the table at Sara's restaurant and ordered the first thing that came to his mind, he began to look at the sky resting his head on his elbow. Did he do the right thing leaving Aether alone? Perhaps he should have insisted more on inviting him.
The sky was so beautiful that evening. The orange that was gradually darkening more and more in really reminded Kaeya of the color of Aether's eyes, that since he got his Geo vision for the first time took on a warmer hue, and year after year he just seemed to grow more and more. Every so often he thought back to their first meetings how young and carefree he was, and yet much shorter than him. Now the gap in years was less and less noticeable, and Aether knew how to take care of himself.
However, his malinconic thoughts were interrupted by numerous people rushing to the main gate. What was happening? A guest? It seemed so.
Without the slightest intention of getting up, Kaeya tried to reach out to see who it might be from afar, and when the crowds slowly began to disperse he couldn't help but snort loudly, understanding who it was. Childe. That piece of shit. What was he doing there, anyway? He had already fucked up enough things that day.
However, as soon as he noticed Kaeya's figure, his face seemed to light up, and he ran to meet him.
"Good afternoon, Captain." He bowed to him with an almost mocking smile at formality.
"Childe." Kaeya blurted out, finally with the dish he ordered being placed in front of him.
"Where is Aether?" And Kaeya enjoyed slowly the first bite on purpose, absolutely not in a hurry to answer him.
"Why should you care?" He said, avoiding eye contact.
Childe in response grinned, almost amused by the treatment he was receiving.
"What, do you like being insulted? Get the fuck out of here and go back to Liyue."
"Woah woah, calm down. I mean no harm. I'm just here to pick Aether up."
"And that's exactly what I'm trying to prevent." And at that response, Childe partially lost his enthusiasm.
"What do you mean? Why should you care instead?" Kaeya felt the blood boil in his veins and, banging his arms hard on the table, stood up, almost tipping the dish in front of him.
"I've been his best friend for years! Why do you think I'm trying to protect him?" And he approached the other menacingly, raising his index finger to point it near his face. "He asked me to leave him alone in tears because you two don't give him the attention he deserves!"
Childe seemed seriously taken aback this time, probably for the first time in front of Kaeya.
"I... I think there is a misunderstanding. We sent him gifts and a letter days ago, didn't they arrive?"
And then Kaeya was the one taken aback.
The other continued: "I'm here to take him to Liyue because Zhongli and I have organized a big surprise for him. If you don't mind."
Kaeya was cornered.
Realizing he won the argument, Childe smirked, looking at Kaeya waiting for his answer.
"We worked until more or less half an hour ago in my headquarters. Maybe he's still there."
Childe nodded and took his leave, without thanking him.
'Fucking braggart', Kaeya thought again.
The room was completely silent. A few minutes before the sun had turned to the perfect angle to illuminate almost the entire room, and Aether, feeling better than before, was reading at Kaeya's table a book borrowed from one of the shelves, occasionally admiring the view outside window and whistling to himself some song of his acquaintance.
Since he had his back turned towards the door, when it snapped open he didn't think it might be anyone other than Kaeya.
Childe was about to grab him by the shoulder and greet him warmly, when Aether unexpectedly said: "Kaeya, did you forget something? I'm feeling a bit better, so if you want we can go together to have dinner."
So it was true that he had been sad earlier that day.
Childe pretended not to know anything: "What are you talking about? I came to pick you up."
Aether literally jumped in his chair, hearing that voice. He turned to him, hesitant about what to do.
Childe tried to ease the tension, opening with: "Happy birthday, sweetheart! Zhongli is waiting for us at Lilyue."
But Aether seemed not to be interested in either greeting or going with him.
"I have to go out with Kaeya already," he tried to justify by trying to sound as spontaneous as possible.
"Ah! Bullshits, he told me everything."
"You, you talked with-!"
"Come on, I'm really sorry. I promise coming with me will be worth it, ok?"
Childe's smile really managed to instill confidence and get him whatever he wanted. It didn't surprise Aether that he himself had managed to extract certain information from Kaeya, who hated him deeply.
But if it was really worth it... then he could give it a try. One way or another he had to discuss this with his boyfriends, so what better day than his birthday?
"Fine, I'll come." he sighed, closing the book.
"Great!" Childe cheered, holding out his hand: "Follow me. And take my hand, sweetheart." and pretending not to see Aether blushing.
When they passed through the square of Mondstadt, Aether pretended not to notice Kaeya at the restaurant, eating nervously and following them with his eyes.
As soon as Aether and Childe rematerialized near the Statue of The Seven in Liyue, they noticed Zhongli not far away.
Aether had not seen him for several weeks, and meeting him not far away made him forget all the misunderstandings that had occurred shortly before in Mondstadt.
He quickly ran up to him, and as soon as the older heard a rustle in the grass and turned around, he found himself on the ground with Aether in his arms.
Zhongli squeezed him tighter, smiling to himself peacefully.
As Aether pulled away to get up and held out his hand, the other put a hand behind his neck nervously almost whispering: "I- I found out just today that you didn't receive our gifts. I didn't even have time to inform Childe, I'm so sorry, I wanted-" But he was interrupted by a chaste kiss on the lips from Aether, who adorably had to get up on tiptoe every time to reach his face.
Childe giggled behind them, with a package in hand taken from who knows where.
"Hey, not fair, I deserve a kiss too." and Aether, blushing, did as he wished.
"Ah, what is this?" he asked pointing to the package.
"Luckily we preferred to keep one of the gifts we wanted to give you, to give it to you in person," Zhongli began to explain, only to be interrupted by Childe: "Wear this, we're going to Liyue Harbor!"
Aether enthusiastically leaned on a rock to frantically open the package, which revealed a dangling earring made of yellow stone.
"Is this... Cor Lapis!?"
"Yeah!" Childe grabbed his shoulders, and slowly his hand traveled down his arm.
Zhongli walked over soon after, taking his hand and offering, "Let me put it on you. It's a celebration for you achieving the Geo vision."
And as he concetrated to place it precisely, Childe huffed: "You should have seen him as soon as he found out. He was sooo delighted, he talked to me about teaching you new techniques all day."
"Hey! I'd like to remind you that you were the one who cried because of this. Twice."
Aether couldn't help but smile, finally being able to stay all three together and discuss happily.
"This song is so... lively, I like it! Is there a party or something today?" Both of his lovers grinned in unison, raising a confused expression on the younger's face.
"Well, yeah. It's your party today, or not?" It took Aether a few seconds to understand, but it was enough to reach Feiyun Slope to understand.
Stalls everywhere, perfumes, flowers, lanterns, children running around in elegant clothes, garlands... "What's going on?"
"Well, you have the luck to be my beloved, the most powerful Adeptus, and to be an emerging hero yourself. People don't miss the opportunity to celebrate us, if we ask nicely." Zhongli admitted satisfied.
"Our beloved." Childe growled.
"Yeah well," and Zhongli began to speak trying to imitate the other's voice: "Sorry 'Eleventh Member of the the Eleven Harbingers', but the Fatui aren't really celebrated here."
"Tsk" but the dispute quickly dissolved as Aether had already started wandering to admire the city and to receive birthday wishes from everyone.
Aether felt like a child. Was the whole city really just celebrating his birthday?
As soon as citizens met him, they approached him and some even gave him floral wreaths of Silk flower or Glaze Lilies, and after a few minutes his body and head were already covered with them.
Zhongli and Childe preferred to remain slightly distant at the beginning, to let him have carefree fun, always following him with their eyes.
As the crowd around him dispersed, he could spot two familiar figures walking not far away. "Chongyun, Xingqiu! Hello!" The faces of both, turned, lit up finally finding him.
Chongyun waved his hand weakly to signal him to approach, while with the other hand he held a popsicle in his mouth, as usual. Xingqiu had a book in his hand, incredibly closed that time, which he handed to Aether as he approached.
"Is that for me?"
"Yeah!" and Xingqiu smiled, then Chongyun gave him a popsicle.
"I also have prepared this for you."
Taking both presents awkwardly for the sheer amount of other gifts he was already holding, he managed to slip it into his mouth and start walking with them, chatting and occasionally flipping through the book that had just been delivered to him.
"I like your earring," Xingqiu noticed, running it through his fingers: "is it new?"
"Yeah! Zhongli and Childe gave me this today." Aether admitted.
"Mh, you're so lucky to have them two as boyfriends. This little guy over here barely remembers our anniversary."
And soon after Chongyun, slightly pissed, interrupted them: "We have to go, I need another popsicle." and took Xingqiu by the hand dragging him away.
He whispered to Aether, joking: "Well, at least he can be jealous sometimes."
Aether grinned with him: "Have a great evening, then!"
Zhongli and Childe took the opportunity to get closer, and Childe asked friendly: "Having fun, handsome?" and Aether nodded. "The lanterns will be launched soon, and we bought you one."
Zhongli handed it to him; it had a gold finish that appeared to have been handmade.
Before he could resume his tour of the city, a papyrus-wrapped qingxin fell at his feet, after Aether thought he noticed a dark figure swiftly pass over them from one roof to another.
Asking Childe to hold the gifts he received, he bent down to gently pluck the flower and opened the papyrus interested.
("Happy birthday, my dearest friend")
"Awww, Xiao can be just so kind sometimes." Childe admitted.
"I had birthday wishes from all my best friends, I'm so happy!"
"Come on, let's go somewhere isolated so we can lit the lantern and celebrate by ourselves."
Settled on a roof in the outskirts of the city overlooking the harbor, they sat comfortably, with Aether between the two, while the younger looked at the gifts he had received, Childe began fiddling with the lantern for the launch and Zhongli, exhausted, leaned on the Aether's shoulder, starting to rest.
Childe, not to disturb Zhongli, whispered: "Let him rest. Today while I was coming to get you he worked hard to organize everything." And passed him the lighted lantern, kissing him on the cheek: "Here, take it. It's almost time."
By then the sky was dark, the air was starting to get cooler, and even though there were still several people in the square, the earlier evening bustle was completely gone.
When they heard a loud bang that took Aether by surprise and lit up the sky with a firework that disappeared in a few seconds, they noticed the lanterns popping up from behind all roofs and corners, flying higher and higher, and while the boy raised his arms letting their lantern fly away he whispered, addressing the two: "Th-Thank you for today. I love you so much."
"We love you too." Childe smiled, putting his arm behind his back and resting it on Zhongli's cheek.
"I've almost forgot! I want to take a picture of this. I have my kamera with me."
"Mh? That sounds like a great idea."
"Ahh, this one looks amazing! Look, Childe!"
"Oh, I think that one is our lantern!"