“Okay Childe, repeat after me: I will not fuck this up.”
“Fuck’s sake, I will not fuck this up,” Childe groans, causing Signora to yank him by the hair. “Ow, ow, ow! What the heck, ‘Nora!”
“Tsaritsa did you a huge favour by giving you this client, you know. If you end up bringing her shame then don’t even think about sleeping with your door unlocked ever again,” the white-haired woman hisses, her eyes narrowed.
“Okay!” Childe whines. “It’s just a wedding for the richest woman in the country and some pirate that’s broken every maritime law in existence, how hard could it be?”
“I hope you’re asking that rhetorically.”
“Do I look like I want to be punched in the face?”
Signora snorts. “I always hear ‘punch me in the face’ when you’re speaking, but it’s usually subtext.”
Childe groans again. “If I hear one more BBC Sherlock reference from you again, I’m locking you out of my Netflix account.”
“Oh, you can try! I have my ways of getting back in!” Signora cackles as she saunters out of the office, leaving behind the clacks of her heels echoing into the hallway.
“Just get your own goddamn Netflix subscription,” the young wedding planner mumbles, before turning back to his work. He was in the middle of contacting his new client before he was so rudely interrupted—
A certain bowl of navy blue hair pops in through the doorway, and suddenly Childe’s day has gotten a whole lot worse. “Oh wow! Look who landed the big assignment!”
“…Well, well, well, look who it is.”
And it seems that Childe’s day has just gotten undeniably worse, because Scaramouche is like King Midas, in a sense, except instead of gold, everything he touches turns to shit.
“You plan all these weddings for hotshots, but when are you gonna get married, big man?” Scaramouche cackles, and the younger is almost tempted to take the Inazuman by his giant sombrero and fling him straight out the window. Why does it seem like all his coworkers are out to make his life hell today?
“Whenever you stop getting ID'd at bars, shrimp,” Childe bites back with a smile, before realising that that implies that he will basically never get married. Lovely.
The shorter male’s face flushes red as he hisses, “I’ll fucking kill you!”
“Then get out! I have work to do!”
Scaramouche looks like he wants to argue back, but out of whatever remaining dregs of kindness he still has in his non-existent heart, he decides to shut his mouth and leave.
But not before flipping Childe off one last time.
Beidou, as he finds out, is actually pretty chill for a pirate. Not that Childe expected a Jack Sparrow-type swashbuckling, rum-drinking outlaw with hooks for hands and feet and maybe a bounty on her head for good measure, but Beidou actually seems… pretty normal. The eyepatch is definitely cool though, Childe should get one of those.
“Sooo, what do you think about some skeletons here and there? Should really bring out the ambience of the event, yeah?” Beidou points to the corners of the grand hall of the Jade Chamber, eyeing the existing jade-carved statues with a critical eye.
Childe nods sagely, writing notes down on his clipboard because he is a traditional man at heart and still prefers the feeling of holding a pen with the added bonus of having a self-defense tool on hand if need be.
“How much would a single plastic skeleton be?” Beidou asks, a hand on her chin.
“Why plastic?” Childe asks back, twirling his pen in his hand. “Locally sourced, all natural skeletons are better for the environment.”
“Aha! You’ve got a point!” The taller woman shoots him an open-mouthed grin. Childe can almost see the exclamation mark hovering over her head.
“What about some fake blood splattered over the walls too?”
“Sounds good. Hey, what about a Christmas tree behind the altar?”
“Might as well go for a mistletoe hanging from the ceiling then, and we could have a—”
“…I see you two are hard at work.”
To say that Childe jumped would be an underestimate. It would be more accurate to describe it as his soul having been violently flung into the stratosphere for the briefest moment of time, before being slingshotted back into his body through the mouth and jolted back into reality.
“Ningguang!” Beidou — a grown woman almost two metres in height sporting battle scars and an eyepatch and biceps wider than Childe’s thighs — honest to god squeals and runs to embrace her fiancée, lifting Ningguang into the air and spinning her around a few times as if casually manhandling the most powerful business tycoon in the region was a normal thing to do.
To them, maybe. What a pair.
...He would be lying if it didn’t make him a little bit jealous. Even just the other night, the first thing his parents asked him as soon as they picked up the phone was, predictably, ‘have you found a wife yet?’
Childe is by no means too old to wed anytime soon, but with him being the only one of his siblings living away from home, the expectations on him to find a quote unquote ‘stunning Liyuen wife’ were, well, pretty high, to say the least. It’s even become a bit of a running joke amongst his siblings.
“How are you, my dear?” Ningguang hums once she’s back on solid ground, not a single hair out of place. “I hope that everything is coming along well?”
“Of course!” Childe says suddenly, ripping away the top piece of paper on his clipboard to reveal the actual plans underneath; pages upon pages of non-spooky decoration plans, logistics, schedules, and more. He’s going to miss the organic skeletons, though.
Ningguang takes his clipboard and flicks through it, her expression discerningly neutral.
“Hmm,” she says, and Childe isn’t sure if that’s a good or bad sign. “This is fine. Have the members of the orchestral ensemble come see me though, I’d like to meet them in person first before the day.”
“Certainly,” the ginger-haired male says with his certified customer service grin to try and hide his nervousness, because although Beidou is chill, Childe is pretty certain that Ningguang has the movie industry eating out of the palm of her hands, and Childe has pirated enough sappy rom-coms to open up his own rent-a-movie business. He’s too young to have a lawsuit on his hands, or so he likes to think.
“Oh, by the way, I’d like you to meet someone,” Ningguang tells him as she hands him back the clipboard.
It’s only then that Childe realises that there is another person behind the esteemed businesswoman— this newcomer is tall, elegant, calm, all long legs and fancy overcoat and red-lined golden eyes.
Childe does not stare. He absolutely does not.
The man smiles with all the grace of an angel fallen from heaven, and Childe finally remembers to breathe again when the former begins to speak. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Zhongli.”
“My name is, um,” very smooth, great job, “call me Childe.” He takes Zhongli’s hand and shakes it, gripping firmly. Zhongli raises a perfectly curved eyebrow and tightens his grip as well, not breaking eye contact at all.
For such a pretty pair of hands, they sure have some strength behind them. Childe would be lying if he didn’t grimace just a little.
“Zhongli here will be working with you to ensure that the wedding will be a success,” Ningguang says, putting her hand fan against her chin. “Although I am sure that as someone the Tsaritsa personally appointed to oversee the occasion, you will not fail to deliver. This is just extra insurance in the case that I am busy with work.”
“Of course, Miss Ningguang. It’s not a problem at all.” He laughs.
Zhongli smiles at him again, and Childe thinks that he needs to go for a checkup soon because he can feel his heart jumping in his throat and this pulse can’t be normal. “It is a pleasure to work with you, Childe.”
“Well then, what do you have in mind?”
“Ningguang requested a nondenominational ceremony, but I was thinking that we could still keep a bit of a traditional Liyuen theme, especially with the colours and deco,” Childe explains, tapping his pen against the clipboard. “I ran the idea by her and got her approval, but she told me to sort out the specifics with you.”
“An excellent idea,” Zhongli nods. “What does Beidou think?”
The wedding planner scratches his cheek. “Actually, Beidou was kind of just ‘whatever’. All she wants is for there to be a dancefloor and booze. That’s what she told me.”
The older man crinkles his eyebrows. “I sure hope she is not asking for something extravagant like DJ music and strobe lighting. The most we can do is install a disco ball above the hall.”
“Yeah, I told her that.”
“Well,” Childe sighs, “I was going to visit the florist today with Beidou to sort out the bouquets, but it seems like she skipped off somewhere without a care. So…”
“I will go with you,” Zhongli volunteers quickly, and the way he says it makes it seem like there’s little room for argument. Not that Childe was going to refuse, anyway.
“Welcome! How can I help you two gentlemen?” chirps the young florist as they enter the store, a heady floral perfume pervading through the air. There are lush bursts of colour spread out around the tiny space, everything from golden daffodils to blooming sunset hibiscus to vines of neatly pruned wisteria vines creeping across the wooden ceiling beams.
“Good afternoon,” Childe waves. “We’re here to—”
The florist — Amber, as her name tag reads, cuts him off. “Ah, let me guess!” She puts a hand to her chin and looks at the two of them. “Romantic dinner date? Engagement? Wedding?”
“Yes—” Zhongli manages to get out, before he’s cut off as well.
“How many months? Or has it been years?” Amber smiles sunnily. “No need to be shy! I can tell that you two are perfect for each other!”
Childe scratches his head, the words not quite sinking in. “Thank you… wait, wait , no, uh— it’s not like that!”
“We are here to see if you have wedding packages available, not for us, but for another couple,” Zhongli explains politely, either unaware of the near-miss misunderstanding that just occurred, or just unbothered. Childe has the sneaking suspicion that it’s the former, for whatever reason.
“Oh, then you’re in luck!” Amber winks. “Reception packages, ceremony packages, flower baskets, bouquets, buttonholes, corsages — you name it, we’ve got it!”
The wedding planner takes his phone out of his pocket. “Let’s see… we need five large arrangements for the reception, eight for the main hall, one red rose for each guest, and—”
“We will take them all,” Zhongli declares in a heartbeat.
Childe gawks. “Zhongli, think of the budget!”
“Right away!” Amber says. “Feel free to pick out the flowers of your liking, and let me know if you need any help! I’ll be at the back if you need me,” she says, before disappearing behind a beaded curtain.
“Thank you,” the brunette nods.
“Are you sure this is going to be okay?” Childe mumbles.
“Worry not. If the price goes over budget, I will cover the rest.”
Zhongli then pulls his credit card out of nowhere like a Houdini magic trick and— Childe almost does a double take.
On said card is a picture of a very tired Xiao, AKA That One Kid who went internet viral for coming first in the International Snow Eating Competition and got a clown wig for first prize. And above him, in big, bold dialogue-box style font: I’m at my limit.
That is very, very, slightly (highly) concerning.
“It’s a custom-printed credit card. My friend graciously put his face on it and gave it to me for my birthday,” Zhongli says with a smile on his face.
“Your ‘friend’ is a clown,” Childe can’t help but point out, “an actual clown.”
The taller man blinks a few times, eyes wide, before stashing his card away somewhere again (his sleeve? His coat? Some hidden anti-theft pocket on his butt?) and tells Childe gently, “I don’t mind.”
Somehow that just made him a hundred times hotter. It’s so unfair. The deities above must be laughing at him right now. Childe clenches a mental fist and cries manly tears.
“Well then, have you got something in mind for the flowers in particular?”
Childe looks around, feeling his nose itch from the scents. “Not really, no. I was just planning to order a pre-arranged bundle, originally.”
“I think it would be more sincere if we handpicked the flower selection,” Zhongli points out. “I’m sure Ningguang and Beidou would think so too.”
“Any suggestions, then?”
“Hm.” The older man crosses his arms. “Red hydrangea clusters surrounded by gold pansies, with a slight pink hyacinth overflow, representing abundance, love, playfulness respectively. Although the colour combination may appreciate some white for tonal balance, white is an unfavourable colour for Liyuen weddings, so we may have to settle for light peach delphiniums to bring it together.”
Childe stares. “You sure know a lot.”
“Ah, well, I do enjoy studying quaint trivia in my spare time,” he replies, coughing lightly into his fist. “I have been told that it makes me seem rather beyond my years, however.”
Childe nods, it makes sense, somehow. Zhongli couldn’t possibly be older than in the late-twenties, but there’s just this undeniable aura around him that does nothing but feed into Childe’s belief that Zhongli is some omniscient god who dropped out of the heavens and is simply constrained in his powers by this mortal(ly gorgeous) form that he has decided to take.
But since Childe is buying flowers with said heavenly god in a small corner flower store and has still not been smited into the ground for mentally simping over Zhongli, he’s going to count it as his win.
Amber comes back out after a few minutes, and totals up the price, sorting out the small details like dates and addresses and logistics.
Thankfully, Zhongli does not have to cover any excess costs with his very angry credit card.
Contrary to Scaramouche’s brash claims that Childe has no friends, Childe has exactly one (1) friend.
Dainsleif is like, the ying to his yang, the night to his day, the chocolate chips to his cookie batter. Honestly, Childe has no idea how he walked into this unexpected friendship with the stuffiest, most socially awkward guy of their entire university freshman cohort, but it’s been five years since then, and, well, things are still peachy.
“What did you do this time?” Dainsleif regards him with narrowed eyes as he places his order through the Barbabucks app instead of at the counter because god forbid, social interaction.
“Don’t be like that,” Childe whines. “Why does it always feel like you’re making me out to be the bad guy in these kinds of situations?”
“Well? Aren’t you?”
“Not this time—”
“Oh? Then are you admitting to being a perpetrator in ‘all those other times’?”
“Hey, look, just because I ate your pudding once while we were rooming together in uni doesn’t mean—”
“You were the one who ate my pudding?”
“Oh shit! Anyways,” Childe elegantly steers the conversation away from that flaming dumpster fire trainwreck with his very adept conversational skills, “so you know how I’m planning a wedding for those two biggest hotshots in Liyue? It turns out that a) it’s not just a publicity stunt as in they’re seriously head over heels for each other, and b) Ningguang introduced her own personal event planner to me and he is handsome and I am fucked because he knows flower language and that’s incredibly sexy for reasons unknown... Also I am still not sure why Ningguang hired me when she already has an event planner of her own.”
Dainsleif’s brain looks like it just went into full standby mode, if his vacant stare is any indication.
“So yeah,” Childe inhales, “that happened.”
“One unicorn frappe for ‘Dainsleif’!” The short Barbabucks barista yodels from the counter.
The blonde man blinks, before he makes his way over to claim his drink, mumbling about why the baristas can’t seem to keep their voices down as if there is something inherently shameful about a working age man still drinking bright pink and blue sugary cavity catalysts.
Just embrace your inner self, Childe had once told him as he took a photo of Dain’s glorious hot pink frappe-stache, which then led to him getting three new cracks in his screen protector and an almost-sprained wrist. He still has the photo though, so it was worth it.
“Anyways, I would ask you for advice on how to hit someone up, but then I remembered that you haven’t gotten laid in like, years, since Lumine dumped you,” Childe comments off-handedly—
—before he realises that he has just made a Very Big Mistake.
Dainsleif gives him a look similar to the one he gives to poor mosquitos sucking his blood two seconds before he smacks them dead, and Childe cowers because Dainsleif hardly ever gets visibly angry but when he does it’s like unleashing a hidden beast that decimates the battlefield and reigns over his foes with blood and might and critical hits and yells kill every last one of them! Or something.
“Where would you like me to punch you,” Dainsleif asks monotonously, and Childe knows, by experience, that he is now in Deep Shit.
“Um,” he replies. “Sorry about what I said. I didn’t mean it—” Dainsleif glares harder at him, and the ginger winces. “Preferably not the liver! I’d still like to drink myself wasted and emerge the next morning alive.”
“Then, how much do you value your testicles?”
“Oh god! No!”
Dainsleif leans over then and Childe shrieks and throws his iced coffee at his best friend because apparently the fine line between ‘stupid’ and ‘brave’ is ‘self-awareness’ which Childe, evidently, has none of.
After helping Dainsleif wipe cold coffee and whipped cream off his face and coat, Childe gets punched in the left kidney. Fair enough.
“So yeah, uh, anyways, I do have another problem—” he ends up saying, after recovering from that brutal uppercut that’s going to leave him wincing for the next few hours.
“You’re the problem here.” Dainsleif tells him ungently, getting up to leave. “You know I can’t help you with it. Go sort it out yourself.”
“…Ouch. I hope you die a slow, painful death,” Childe mumbles back, chewing on the straw of his half empty iced coffee.
Dainsleif swivels back around and raises an eyebrow. “What, so you want me to stay?”
“…Okay,” the blonde settles back down into his chair, folding his arms and scowling at the other man. “Fine. What do you want me to do?”
“This is gonna sound weird— and I promise you I’ll pay you generously for it,” Childe starts, and then pauses for dramatic effect.
With each passing second, the Khaenri’ahn is beginning to look more and more concerned.
“...What?” he asks. “Just say it.”
Childe drops his voice to a murmur, “I want…”
“... You want…?”
“...I want you to be a security guard for the wedding!” Childe beams, and Dainsleif drops his head onto the sticky cafe table.
He lifts his head back up. “Childe.” He says. “I am a regular person working a regular office job with superannuation benefits and minimal paid leave. What makes you think I can get things under control if shit hits the fan? Don’t security guards need some kind of license?”
“Well, yeah, but I know you used to be a hitman for a living and— hey, don’t give me that look, you weren’t exactly inconspicuous about the blood on your clothes every time you came back to the dorms. In fact if I had a little more free time on my hands I would have tagged along!”
“Okay, okay, fine.” The older man puts both hands to his head. “Just shut up. I will work for you, just this once. Can I at least bring my ‘fuck-off’ sword to fend off uninvited guests?”
Childe grins. “You bet.”
The next time he sees Zhongli in one of the side rooms of the Jade Chamber, the latter is busy reading over the officiant’s passage, making notes on what should be deviated from the traditional exchange of vows as per Beidou’s requests.
“You’re the officiant?” Childe asks, half of him in disbelief and the other half completely unsurprised.
“I am, amongst other things.” Zhongli replies, and Childe decides that Ningguang made the right choice. Having that silky chocolate voice read out the exchange of vows would be something akin to having the pair being blessed by the universe itself.
“What else are you in charge of?”
Zhongli hums. “Dress tailoring, makeup, photography—”
“Woah woah woah!” Childe puts his hands up. “Don’t we normally have different people for all these roles? What happened to them?”
“Miss Ningguang decided that she wants to minimise the amount of people at the occasion.” Zhongli exhales. “Though I do not blame her. I can imagine that she would like to keep such a momentous event as private as possible after spending most of her life in the spotlight. A wedding symbolises a sacred union in an intimate setting, it would be a shame to ruin it with shameless paparazzi and tabloid leaks.”
“I see,” Childe says slowly. “Let me know if Miss Ningguang wants to make changes to the guest list as well.”
Zhongli looks up, then, and there is something so undeniably longing about that look in his eyes— and then Childe blinks, and it’s gone, replaced by Zhongli’s usual rock-steady countenance. “Of course.”
At a loss of what else to say, Childe decides to take a seat next to the brunette. Zhongli nods, and goes back to his passage.
A comfortable silence fills the room. In the meantime, Childe mentally ticks off what tasks he has done for today and files the rest for tomorrow. There are still flowers to be ordered, invitations to be sent, a few queries from the catering company that he has to respond to…
“Do I have something on my face?”
“Ah—!” Childe jolts, only now aware of the fact that he has spent the past five minutes daydreaming while staring at the older man.
“Sorry, I zoned out. Your face is fine,” he says. More than fine, is what he wants to say instead.
Zhongli blinks at him. “That’s a relief to hear.”
A few more seconds of silence.
“If I may,” Zhongli begins, “can I ask a question?”
“Hypothetically speaking, if you were to get married, how would you plan your own wedding?” The brunette asks, amber eyes wide with curiosity.
“Ah?” Childe blinks. “Uhm, I would probably go for a simple wedding, mostly just with family from both sides, nothing big, honestly.”
Zhongli puts a hand to his chin. “I see.”
“What about you?”
“Ah, I am still not quite sure yet. I haven’t thought of settling down until recently.”
It is at that moment that Childe, for whatever reason, decides to blurt, “I think you’d look nice in a tux, though.”
Zhongli is quiet for a moment, before he smiles back at Childe, all curved lips and full cheeks, and replies, “I think you would, too.”
The big day arrives much too quickly for Childe’s liking.
Thankfully, however, it seems that everything is going according to plan. Apart from a minor mishap at the reception with a journalist pretending to be a guest, there have been little issues with the processional, speeches and subsequent lunch. One of the tiny flower girls with pale purple hair and sleepy eyes almost trips on the steps, but thankfully she’s still okay.
Childe sweeps the people in the hall briefly, his eyes searching for a certain brunette and a dangling earring, before he realises that Zhongli is probably busy with all the roles that Ningguang has appointed him in charge of.
...Well. He isn’t too sure why he’s looking for the other man in the first place.
He mulls in his own thoughts for a little while more, but then a distinctly smooth, baritone voice resounds through the hall—
“Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?”
And it’s at that moment that Childe lifts his head up.
Zhongli stands between the two brides, all three dressed in handsome tuxedos with touches of traditional Liyuen elements in their appearance. Ningguang and Beidou are beautiful, but to Childe, Zhongli, with his hair styled, adorned in black and gold and red accents, is absolutely stunning.
“I do!” Beidou beams.
“Ningguang,” Zhongli then turns to the businesswoman, his face serious and professional. “Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?”
“I do.” Ningguang smiles, softly glowing under the shimmering lights.
“You may now kiss the bride.”
There’s the sound of applause and cheering as the two esteemed brides kiss with surprising fervour, but all Childe sees is Zhongli, who’s bright eyes briefly flicker upwards, towards his own blue orbs, and suddenly it feels like he’s sinking into liquid gold.
We did it, it’s as if Zhongli’s eyes are trying to say, and Childe can’t help but grin back, a strangely hot, ecstatic feeling spreading throughout his chest.
After the exchange of vows finish, the orchestral ensemble shuffle up onto the stage and start tuning their instruments. There’s a girl with blonde hair and an eyepatch holding a violin, a blue-haired regal-looking woman propping up a cello, a young aqua-eyed man on the percussion instruments— and… hey wait, isn’t that guy conducting in a green beret the same twerp who served Dainsleif his unicorn frappe?
...Oh. Speaking of Dainsleif, there he is.
Childe waits as the blonde stalks up to him, his blue eyes shooting laser beams through Childe’s head.
“You have security!” He hisses like a betrayed cat, “why did you need me here?”
“Calm down!” Childe pushes his friend back, “You really think I could convince you to come if there wasn’t work for you to do?”
“…I get it now. You just want me to wingman you for that hot coworker you’ve been talking about.” Dain grumbles.
“I’ll pay you five-hundred mora afterwards.”
“This is extortion.”
“…Fine. Deal. Now go back to work. Don’t you have stuff to coordinate?”
“Mmh, from this point on, not really. After they cut the cake it’ll just be free-for-all, basically.” Childe shrugs. “Beidou demanded that we have a huge booze party and go wild for the rest of the night. See, she’s already going for the ‘champagne fountain’.”
Dainsleif watches, slightly aghast, at the way the captain of the Crux Fleet is currently grinning ear to ear and shaking a tall, tinted bottle— before spraying about two dozens of high ranking government officials with priceless Glaze Lily-infused 60-years-aged champagne, head to toe.
“Let’s get this party started!” she hollers, and what seems to be her entire Crux crew leaps up with equally enthusiastic shouts for their captain while Ningguang’s servants, on the other hand, leap up to do damage control.
Somewhere along the line, Dainsleif magically disappears, the wedding cake gets cut, albeit unevenly, and when he is finally handed his slice, he spends an obscene amount of time trying to peel all the fondant off before eating what remained all in one bite. There are guests mingling around the snack tables, lively orchestral melodies, and from the corner of his eye the Snezhnayan can spot the newly-wedded couple walking arm-in-arm, smiling happier than he has ever seen them.
Must be nice having a big day like this, he sighs, nibbling at his fork. One day. One day he’ll have a nice, simple, homely Snezhnayan wedding with friends and family, home-cooked food, with laughing and singing and dancing and a great, big Snezhnayan honey cake to share.
He supposes after seeing all these grandiose wedding celebrations, he just misses the simple things in life. He could technically fly home and do it, like, right now, but all he’s missing is just a… you know, a spouse.
...Which is all well and jolly because five seconds later Zhongli shows up by his side with another two slices of cake and slides one onto the ginger’s plate. It’s as if the universe is trying to send him a message.
(He does look nice in a tux.)
“You should eat more,” Zhongli tells him like the Liyuen grandparent he is, “you must be hungry.”
“Everyone just had lunch,” Childe points out.
Zhongli shoots him a carefully pointed look. “But you did not have lunch,” he says, as observant as ever.
A pause, and then a resigned sigh. “That’s true,” Childe replies. “But I’m not that hungry to stuff myself with just cake for a whole meal.” Especially when half of said cake consists of fondant instead of… cake.
“Aren’t you the photographer?” He then asks, confused as to why the older man seems to be uncharacteristically idle.
“Mmh. Ningguang told me to wait until Beidou is thoroughly inebriated to take some candidly humorous shots then, but I don’t foresee that time coming anytime soon.”
“In the meantime, would you care for a dance?”
“Huh? Me?” Childe asks, pointing at himself.
Zhongli tilts his head slightly. “Of course. Who else?”
“I, uhh…” Childe trails off, thinking of a way to refuse— but Zhongli is looking at him so eagerly, and Childe can’t seem to say no even though he is mentally setting himself on fire like that one flaming Elmo meme because all the bigwig CEOs and political leaders that Ningguang invited now seem to be watching their every movement and by the gods almighty Ajax Childe Tartaglia does not know how to dance.
“We can take it slow,” Zhongli tells him, noticing the younger man’s hesitation. He puts their plates off to the side and pulls the other man towards the centre of the hall, guiding Childe’s hand to support him below the shoulder while he reciprocates the gesture back. Childe swallows, looking down at their shoes, unsure how to move his feet next.
“Just like that,” Zhongli hums to the melody as he guides their movements, deep and soothing, and Childe swoons internally before almost tripping over his own left foot.
“Hey!” Someone yells suddenly. “Who put mistletoe above the dance floor?!”
Childe whips his head up; and of course, there, less than a metre above their heads, a stray piece of mistletoe dangles very unsuspiciously above him and Zhongli— and when Childe snaps his head towards Beidou in a moment of epiphanic horror, the only thing Beidou sends back to him is a toothy grin.
‘It was your idea’, she mouths at him.
“Can I?” Zhongli asks suddenly.
“Huh?” The younger man whips his head back around. “Yeah, sure—”
Childe doesn’t even have time to think about what he just said before he’s pulled forward by his tie— and then there’s the feeling of a pair of lips upon his, and Childe takes a moment to think, oh, wow, Zhongli’s eyelashes are so pretty, before the room erupts into another wave of cheers.
No way, he thinks, feeling his soul make another round trip to the stratosphere.
Zhongli kisses like how he works; methodical yet confident. Not that that’s a bad thing, Childe thinks as he snakes his hands around the other man’s waist and presses back against him, the back of his neck burning from all the stares directed at them.
When they break apart for air, Zhongli is smiling, and Childe’s heart is beating so fast that he’s going to go into cardiac arrest any moment now.
“Again?” the brunette asks softly, lips still shiny with saliva.
“Just a second,” Childe grins back, before turning his head towards a certain blonde waiting awkwardly next to them. “Dain, you know that you’re supposed to bring a partner to kiss under the mistletoe, right?” He grins. “Or perhaps… are you waiting for a kiss from m—”
“Please just shut your mouth,” Dain pinches the ridge of his nose. “Nobody wants a kiss from you.”
“I do,” Zhongli says helpfully.
“Nobody excluding your new boyfriend here wants a kiss from you.”
“But you’re supposed to be happy for us!” Childe exclaims dramatically, like the theatre kid he is at heart. “What should you be saying when your best bro has finally found true love in the middle of someone else’s wedding?”
“I now pronounce you dumb and dumber,” Dainsleif replies tiredly. “Now go get a room and stop being a hazard on the dancefloor. Shoo.”
Son of a bitch, Childe thinks with a laugh, still slightly in disbelief, before diving right back in to steal another kiss as Dainsleif slowly unsheathes his sword in the background.