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lilies for my beloved

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Zhongli glances at the clock. His foot taps anxiously against the table’s wooden leg as the minute hand ticks forward relentlessly. 

Childe was supposed to be home three hours ago. 

They had planned for a nice dinner at home for their second anniversary, but it seems as though something came up and Childe somehow failed to communicate. 

That was definitely a first. 

Childe was always able to somehow find a way to tell him he wouldn’t make it in time, or that he’d be going off somewhere for work and wouldn’t be home for the next couple of days. He either knew beforehand and let him know, or he sent one of his agents to find him and relay his message. He was never one to break his promises; he had a level of integrity engraved so deep in his character that Zhongli was able to acknowledge Childe’s effort in staying true to his word. 

There truly could not have been a better partner for him. 

But now, Zhongli sits at their shared dining table, two empty bowls in front of him and a hot pot seated in the center has long since grown cold. The former Archon sighs and waits another five minutes before he realizes that he is waiting for naught. Zhongli stands to lean over the table and cover their food before throwing his coat over his shoulders and making a beeline for the door. 

The Northerland Bank is as golden as ever upon walking in. The main lobby is as lavish and elegant as he last remembered it to be, and Ekaterina stands behind the counter where she can always be found. She’s one of Childe’s favorite subordinates, if he remembers correctly 

“Mister Zhongli,” she greets him amicably, “a pleasure to see you again. How can I help you?”

“Ekaterina, I trust that you’ve been well,” Zhongli smiles, placing his hands on the counter in between them, “I’m just here to ask about Childe’s whereabouts. He was supposed to be home hours ago and I worry for his safety.”

Zhongli can’t exactly see behind that mask of hers, but he sees the way her posture shifts noticeably. 

“He was tasked with collecting debt from previous clients about two hours ago.”

“Where was the exchange supposed to take place?” 

“Guili Plains,” Ekaterina answers quickly, reliable as always.

“Thank you,” Zhongli nods, tapping the counter in thanks before turning and walking out of the bank.

Despite his haste, Zhongli finds the time to stop by a standing flower shop and purchase a bouquet of glaze lilies. He buys them all on his own, mind you.

His mind wanders to the time Zhongli swore to himself to actually bring mora on his solitary shopping trips.

“Xiansheng, you have to start bringing money with you,” Childe scolds him, slightly out of breath after sprinting to Zhongli thinking he was in danger when he had called out to him for help. “I can’t always be here! I want to, but I can’t.”

“I can no longer produce mora, Childe,” Zhongli says sadly, cradling Childe’s hands in his with an ounce of remorse. He clearly stressed him out and Zhongli can acknowledge the feelings of guilt for summoning such a busy Harbinger while he was on the job. Oh, Childe is his lovely little busy bee. He feels a bit bad for enjoying and indulging his presence when Childe is clearly needed somewhere else, but Zhongli has always been a bit selfish. 

“Just withdraw from my account at the bank,” Childe says easily, tugging Zhongli closer to kiss his cheek, “I can set up a joint-account for us if you want. That way you have the authority to pull from me, and you can deposit your own paychecks there, too.”

“That would be nice,” Zhongli smiles and leans forward, clearly interested. “We would own an account together, then?”

Childe blushes at the way Zhongli looks at him like he’s hung the stars in the sky by hand. Is this his first time hearing about opening a joint-account in a bank? “Yeah, if you want.”

Because of that day, Zhongli is able to buy a beautiful bouquet of glaze lilies for his husband since he was kind enough to entrust his funds to the very man that depletes his wallet at such alarming rates. 

The former Archon struts with a newfound pep in his step toward Guili Plains, the glaze lilies keeping him company as he hums a simple song to the flora.

Zhongli wanders until he comes across Childe in the middle of a ruin. He stands a couple feet in front of the ex-Archon and towers over a group of measly treasure hoarders. 

Although, anyone with eyes could tell that Childe is clearly not Childe at the moment. It is Tartaglia that hovers over the group of rascals, intimidation easily rolling off his gargantuan form.  

The Harbinger has grown twice in size, both vertically and horizontally, and in place of his beautiful face now sits an angry crimson mask. The barrier keeps his expression unknown, further imposing an ominous energy from the monster’s form. Wild ginger hair sticks up in all directions and purple claws are buried deep within three of the treasure hoarders. Only one of them remains intact, trembling in fear and cowering in the Foul Legacy’s shadow. 

“Let this serve as an example of what happens when you cross Her Majesty,” Tartaglia’s monstrous voice rumbles, “bring me my money in a day’s time. If you try to play me as a fool again, I suggest you start digging your own grave now.”

Ah, so they had broken a contract.

Zhongli smirks. Perhaps they’ve been spending too much time together. 

“You’d best get on with it,” Zhongli says as he approaches, “my husband doesn’t like to play games when it comes to business.”

The treasure hoarder looks to Zhongli in fear and lets out a pathetic yelp before scrambling away without a second thought.

“Xiansheng,” Tartaglia retracts his claws, letting the bodies drop to the ground grotesquely. He lowers himself onto one knee so that they are level. The gesture is oddly gentle for the acts he was previously caught in, but Zhongli supposes it is that exact duality that made him fall for the Harbinger so many days ago. “What are you doing here?” 

“I’m looking for you,” Zhongli deadpans, wholly unfazed, “did you forget about our plans tonight?” 

“Of course not,” his head tilts adorably. Zhongli doesn’t think he should be looking at a monster from the abyss with such fondness, but he just so happened to be married to him and couldn’t help it even if he tried. “I just got caught up in work and couldn’t send a message home, I’m sorry.”

“Our food has gone cold,” Zhongli sighs, reaching up to adjust the mask on his husband’s face, “but I brought you these.”

He pulls the glaze lilies out from behind his back and presents them proudly. The moon’s borrowed light illuminates the pink blush that spreads across his face endearingly. Tartaglia’s heart could combust at the sight, and if he was in his human form, he’s almost positive that it would. 

“Oh, Celestia,” Tartaglia cradles the flowers gently in his hands, too scared to hold it tightly lest he ruin the beautiful lilies in his palms, “they’re so beautiful, Zhongli. I— thank you so much. I’m so sorry, let me make it up to you—“

“It’s alright,” Zhongli stops him, “you got caught up in work. I just wanted to make sure you were safe.”

“I’m alright,” Tartaglia confirms, a large hand resting on Zhongli’s waist and pulling him closer. “I love you.”

“And I you,” Zhongli presses a light kiss to the side of his mask, uncaring of the blood that might have gotten on his coat in the process. He wraps an arm around Tartaglia’s neck and lays his palm flat across his broad shoulders. “Let me hold the lilies, love. Take me home?” 

Tartaglia is quick to adjust his grip and scoop him up bridal style, depositing the lilies in Zhongli’s waiting hand.

“Hold on tight, Xiansheng,” he warns, legs bending and quadriceps flexing, “we’re going up.”