“Do you think you could ever fall in love?” Xiao asked suddenly, eyes glazed with alcohol. He already regrets drinking. He looked at the male next to him who insisted on taking him to Angel’s Share, Venti’s favorite tavern. Venti, whose braids were undone as he called for another drink (the red-headed bartender scoffed as he just gave Venti the whole bottle and made him sign something saying Venti owed him a solid 2,000 mora).
Venti giggled as he downed the bottle of dandelion wine, his favorite (well, any alcohol seemed to be his favorite) drink. “Love is like fine wine, Xiao! Just like the wine in this bottle right here.” he sighed in content as he chugged the rest of it down like something that would burn on the way down like the apple cider sold in the tavern. Venti took his hat off with a sigh, the cecilia flower placed on his hat (once fresh and bright earlier in the day) now wilting. “I fell in love once, actually. It all happened so slowly but so quickly at the same time. A wine such as this takes years to ferment, but it could take a single night to finish it. Just like...well...I’d rather not talk about it. Not right now, anyway.” Despite Venti’s (inhumane—no, not even an archon should be able to have this) alcohol tolerance, he was still absolutely susceptible to the mood swings the poison gave him. Xiao was right about such mood swings as Venti immediately regained his bright personality and slammed the empty bottle onto the table. “That was years ago though! I miss him tons, but it’s alright!” Venti laughed again as he placed his hat back on, face red even though he was only twenty-four drinks in and barely tipsy at this point.
Xiao paused mid-drink and put his cup down. “Him? Is it the him you mention all the time?” He questioned as his eyes widened slightly. Morax (Zhongli now, he reminds himself, but Xiao doesn’t care much right now) had mentioned Venti speaking of a certain “him” time and time again. He and the alleged “him” had known each other since Venti was all but a wisp of wind.
“Yeah. I loved him so much I took his form. I hope this honors him one way or another.”
He pursed his lips at Venti’s words and only nodded after a slight pause. He didn’t utter another word of this “him” and decided to go back to his cup of water. There was a silence between the both of them for the rest of that night, and Xiao left ahead of Venti, face stoic as usual. When he saw his reflection in one of Mondstadt’s fountains, he knew something was different though; he was red and his eyes—Xiao didn’t recognize his own eyes. Have they always been so wide? Why were they even wide?
Venti was beautiful, that was why.
He was invited by the archon to pick a fresh cecilia that morning. Zhongli insisted he spends time with Venti again, claiming that they could be good friends if Xiao tried (he thinks it’s just so the archon could go roam around Liyue with that odd Snezhnayan man). Xiao insisted he watches over them but somehow found himself on a cliff staring at the fresh, white flowers that had recently bloomed. Venti cheered as he gazed at one, eyes wide with wonder. How was it, Xiao wondered, that someone thousands, if not millions of years old, was so fascinated by a simple flower? What made Venti like them so much that he takes the time every morning to travel up such a steep hill and potentially trip and fall off of the high cliff for one of these flowers?
Wonder and wonder he did indeed. He wondered but had found his answer when he found a single, white flower isolated from the rest of the groups. He plucked it out of the ground carefully and came up to Venti, who was still peering at the others trying to decide.
“What about this one?”
Large, aqua green eyes made their way over to the standing figure. Xiao swore they couldn’t have gotten any wider and they did when Venti saw the flower that was held between his fingers. The flower compared to the others was wilted, not new. Part of the edge looked nibbled on and yet Venti took it, fastening it to his hat as if it were one of the most precious things in the world. “Does it look good?” Venti asked, those giant, wonder-filled eyes peering over at his again. Xiao nodded his head in agreement, averting his gaze as he felt his face heating up. What was this? It was familiar, it was strange. It was a million things at once and he would have to deal with this feeling every time that pesky little archon looked at him. It wasn’t the alcohol, Xiao realized then. He must be sick or something. He didn’t know what it was but he knows he hasn’t felt it in years.
He followed Venti as they made their way down again and he took a petal from another flower, putting it promptly in his pocket.
It was a quiet night in Liyue. The moon was bright and the night markets were busy. If Xiao listened carefully, he could—
“Another round of whatever you’ve got! I’ll even take leftovers!”
If he listened carefully, he could—
“Zhongli, you said this was your treat, right?”
If Xiao listened extremely carefully, he could hear nothing but the stupid man in front of him the Rex Lapis, of all creatures on the planet, called his lover.
“Hey, you’re shore, right?”
God, he hated Tartaglia.
“My name is Xiao. What do you want? Also, you do know that Zhongli is using your money to pay for this meal right? He’s just going to be handing the money over this time.” As respectful as he tried to be, Xiao just hated this guy. He was stealing Morax away from him; Zhongli, the only person he could open up to. His friend. His mentor. His father figure.
“Xiao, you have that look again. What’s wrong?” That smooth voice belonged to none other than Zhongli himself. When his eyes met Morax’s, he could see that Zhongli was nothing but concerned. “I know you well enough and I know it might be harder to say in front of Childe. I think you should try, though; despite his lack of intelligence he can occasionally give good advice.”
“Be quiet. Xiao, would you be willing to?”
The two sets of eyes were somehow comforting and Xiao took out the crumpled petal. Zhongli had recognized it right away and nodded along as Xiao explained it all: how he thought it was the alcohol and the following time he had seen Venti he felt...different.
“Maybe I’m just sick,” he thought out loud and sighed, crumpling the petal back into his hand. There was a pause, and then laughter from Childe.
He shook his head in laughter and, through grinning eyes, said that “It’s just love, comrade!” Tartaglia slammed his hand down on the table and stared at him, maybe into his soul. Xiao felt like he couldn’t move from the intensity. “Spend more time with him, see what he enjoys. If you keep on feeling that way then it’s love, Xiao. Simple as that.” His smile became warm and welcoming now as he nodded to Xiao again, “Tell him how you feel when you’re ready.”
Xiao didn’t need to look over to Zhongli for approval for this one.
Love, Xiao believes, is like fine wine but in reverse. It’s fleeting and fast and, maybe with Venti, could last for thousands of years. Perhaps for the rest of time, Xiao thinks as he’s sitting there on the same cliff months later, legs dangling off the edge with Venti next to him, legs crossed as he played the flute. He stared at the sunrise and then at Venti. “Why did you wear that cecilia that I chose?” Xiao asked suddenly. Venti put the flute down and took off his hat, taking the newer, fresher cecilia chosen for the day and making sure to tuck it behind Xiao’s ear before plucking another one off the ground and replacing it.
“You chose it, didn’t you?”
His eyes widened as he felt his face warm up again. His chest was tight. Was he dying? Oh god, Xiao felt like he was dying.
When he looked back at Venti this time though. He knew it was right. For once, that knucklehead Tartaglia was right.
He took a deep breath and stared back into the sky, leaning back onto his palms. “Do you believe in love, Venti? Even after you lost him?” Xiao felt a hand on his shoulder as he asked the question and a squeeze as Venti answered.
“He’d want me to fall in love again. I already have.” Venti followed Xiao’s movements and turned his head to the sky. Xiao could feel the smile on the other’s face, a smile full of wonder and passion and missing and remembering and full of everything Xiao could ever need in this world.
Wait, he already fell in love again?
Xiao felt himself frown. “Who is it?”
Venti’s hand turned into an entire arm around his shoulder and he laughed. It was that giggle, Xiao thought to himself, that he wished only he could hear for the rest of time. He wanted to be the reason behind it. Xiao wanted to stay next to him for as long as he could. In their case too, as long as he could be meant forever for them.
He felt himself cringing internally at his almost confession and apparent concern over Venti already falling for someone else. Well, that was until a light kiss was placed on his cheek.
“You’re a real numbskull, aren’t you Xiao?” Venti giggled again and kept Xiao close, the silence between them comfortable as they sat on the cliff and watched the sunrise surrounded by cecilias.