Aether’s head turns at the sound of footsteps and smiles at the sight of a freshly showered Xiao walking into the suite kitchen, no traces of blood nor grimes from his vigil to be found. "Good morning, love."
He grins at the way Xiao turns pink. "You're making almond tofu?"
"Would you like some?"
"We had almond tofu for breakfast yesterday and the day before."
"I thought you liked almond tofu."
"I do. I reckoned you'd be sick of it at this point."
Aether turns to him and, in the most serious, firm voice, says, "I'd eat almond tofu for breakfast for the rest of my life if it means starting every day with you."
Xiao flushes red at the determination and sincerity in his eyes and shifts his weight awkwardly.
It’s true that almond tofu is the only human dish he can stomach, but to think that Aether would do such a thing just to be with him, to feel appreciated and wanted... It makes him feel warm all over. No one has ever loved him like Aether does, or looked at him with as much reverence. It's overwhelming—and addicting.
"Don't... don't bother. I don't consume mortal food as you do. You need a proper breakfast."
Aether takes the dish off the heat. "A small price to pay."
"Don't be stubborn." He crosses his arms. "I will always be here in any case."
Aether nearly drops the serving plate in his hand. He catches himself, pausing as he processes the bomb Xiao just dropped on him. "You... You mean...?"
"Yes," the adeptus avoids his gaze, "I'll be joining you in your travel."
"...You're here to stay?"
Xiao scoffs. "Yes. I did say always, did I not?"
Aether launches himself at Xiao; the adeptus barely regains his footing as he nearly suffocates in a flurry of sun kissed hair. Faintly, the traveler registers a pair of hesitant arms hold his waist, only driving him to cling tighter.
When he loosens his hold to look at Xiao, the adeptus has the ghost of a small smile on his lips. The apples of his cheeks flush pink, but his eyes are those of bliss, gleaming with life.
Aether reaches to hold Xiao’s face in his hands before he could stop himself. "What makes you decide...?"
"You." The answer comes naturally. Aether is the light at the end of his tunnel, a beacon in the darkness woven from his binds. He burnt away those that chain him and blinded him in the process, but Xiao couldn’t stop staring at the supernova unfolding before him, so entranced by the sight and sound of Aether’s laugh, clear and melodic like church bells, that he realized the voices of the defeated gods had gone quiet. All that existed in the world was him and Aether, fingers brushing against each other's.
With a rush of boldness rushing through him, Xiao brushes a lock of blond hair behind his ear. "You make me forget about all the voices. You're the best dream."
Aether leans into the touch with a trembling breath, chasing more of Xiao. "Y-you…” his teeth sink into his bottom lip as he gathers himself, "...only ever see yourself as bleak and damaged. But I see you, and you outshine everyone I’ve ever laid my eyes on.”
He feels gentle fingers brush across his cheekbones, swiping away tears. Through the blur of his vision, Aether makes out Xiao’s figure, illuminated by the morning light. The blond shakes his head.
“You’re selfless and gentle and devoted, and even after everything you’re still here, you’re still you, and—” and still so capable of loving, Aether chokes on fat, hot tears, “—and yet, you still think that you don't deserve to be happy."
Xiao feels his heart ripping at the seams as Aether looks up at him with quivering lips and tears twinkling in his eyes.
"I think that you’re divine,” Aether whispers, soft voice breaking. “I think that you deserve everything and more.”
Something inside Xiao crumbles. He pulls Aether into his arms, so close that they're flush against each other, as if Aether's heartbeat could echo in Xiao’s ribs like the flutter of butterfly wings.
"I already have everything."
Aether sobs harder, shoulders shaking as he buries his face into Xiao’s nape. "Thank you. For coming home."
The latter tightens his cradle. "Thank you for bringing me home."