Actions

Work Header

and here, you belong

Work Text:

She’s two when they meet her at the orphanage, and somehow, it makes Zhongli’s heart break all the more.

“She’s so young,” Childe’s voice trembles slightly, echoing Zhongli’s thoughts. “It doesn’t feel right for someone so young to have to go through this much.”

Zhongli only nods, his gaze never leaving the child inside the room separated from them by a large glass window. The children inside the bedroom of the orphanage are asleep, with a stray few being lulled to sleep by the caretakers. Outside, some are just playing in the sun, loud and rowdy as children are. Somehow, this just accentuates the ache in Zhongli’s heart more.

Fire, they’d told him. In the span of one night, the village that this girl with violet hair came from was reduced to ashes, with a baby whose abilities only extended as far as crying goes being the sole survivor among the embers. Of course, her survival was not attributed to any of her abilities, but from the care of those who loved her and a stroke of fortune. Whether it was good or misfortune, there was no way to tell. They tell him that the rest of the details are lost to the flames and perhaps it wasn’t in anyone’s best interests to know, anyway.

What’s happened has happened. The girl they call Qiqi is all that’s left.

Zhongli, he’d like to think that this is good fortune somehow, to see the glimmer of something that shines even when there is nothing to rejoice about. If the procedures go well, then she’ll have him and Childe.

And Childe?

“I would give anything for her,” he murmurs next to Zhongli, then tears his sights away to look at Zhongli. “You agree too, don’t you?”

The paperwork isn’t particularly arduous, nothing Zhongli isn’t well equipped to deal with, but it still takes longer than expected. She’s wide awake by the time they’re reading, wordlessly studying the two of her parents-to-be with a look that Zhongli feels like is too uncharacteristically complex for a girl of two.

Even though she doesn’t say much, she does know how to speak , the caretakers tell Zhongli before they leave with her forever off to a place that they call home.

“She can; I’m pretty sure of it because I’ve seen her do it every now and then when she wants something, but otherwise she’s usually quiet.” Watching Zhongli exchange a hasty look with Childe, they hastily add, “She’s not going to cause you any trouble; Qiqi’s been nothing but perfect behaviour!”

Outwardly, Zhongli plasters on his the most diplomatic smile he can muster. He can already feel Childe bristling at his side, a naturally defensive switch turned on. “It’s fine, we weren’t trying to insinuate anything of the sort.” He takes a graceful nod, then motions to leave. “Thank you for all your care in all these years too, for her and for all the other children.”

From the corner of his eye, he sees Childe’s grip tighten, then loosen again with the realisation that he was holding onto her tiny hand. He’s always had a soft spot for children, this much Zhongli knows, but something in Qiqi in particular makes a surge of protectiveness he didn’t know he had within him stir too.

Childe makes several attempts to get her to talk on their ride home, or even to get a reaction out of her. She’s obedient like the caretakers of the orphanage suggested, but some of this just doesn’t sit well with Zhongli. He doesn’t quite know what the sourness that coils in his stomach means, but either way, he only dares to hope that they’ll be able to give her the happiness she deserves.

By the time they’re home, she’s fast asleep, comfortably clinging to Childe. “She’s comfortable with you now, it seems,” Zhongli remarks, mildly amused.

“It’s my natural born charm,” Childe remarks with a nonchalant flick of his free hand, but Zhongli has known him long enough to know what the gleam in his cerulean eyes means.

Zhongli lets out a hearty laugh, and it dispels the uneasiness that he hadn’t realised he had been harbouring all day until this moment. He reaches out to twine his fingers with Childe’s, then whispers, “ welcome home, Qiqi.

 


 

It’s a long day , Childe winces. It’s not a long day like in the “it’s a long day” sense, but more like it is a long day, one of a kind. And Childe? He’s never been keen on things that are one of a kind. That’s more of Zhongli’s thing.

I still don’t get why you like that teapot so much, ” he remembers grumbling only just yesterday. “ It looks just like the average teapot you’d find at those fake antique vintage Chinese aesthetic wannabe shops, and if it’s really all that great with intricate designs and shit wouldn’t they just make more of them? You know, so more people can share the joy or whatever?

Fake antique vintage Chinese aesthetic wannabe? ” Zhongli parroted, quirking up a humoured eyebrow. Then, he had given him one of those all-knowing smiles, the kind that made him look several centuries older than it should. “ That’s the joy in it, isn’t it? The knowledge that comes with knowing something you possess is irreplaceable, and that it has forged a special tie with everyone it has encountered .”

Isn’t that just something that applies to everyone? You develop a bond with everything you encounter in life anyway, say for example- ” he picked one of Qiqi’s stray crayons off the table, “ -these. We don’t get all that attached, do we?

Perhaps not, but we humans attach more of a meaning to it just from their own status of being the one and only. You do have a point, I suppose I like seeing the stories that are attached to them and the meaning that has been passed down more than I care for the antiques themselves.

Childe stared at him for a moment, then shook his head. He sighed, exasperated, but mostly fond. “You know, everytime I think I’m a bit closer to understanding you, you reveal yourself as a whole mystery again.

Now, a whole day later, he still doesn’t see the appeal of it but he’s too tired to care now. Today has been a day, and maybe he just wants to be home and to finally be at peace. 

“I’m-” he announces as he swings open the door, but before he manages to finish his sentence, a figure wraps their arms around his legs tightly. “-home,” Childe finishes in surprise. “Hello to you too, Qiqi.” He gently plucks her arms away and closes the door behind him. Kneeling down to meet her height, he asks, “Good day?”

Qiqi thinks about it, then nods her head slightly. “The day was good. But Qiqi missed you. You’re home now. Really glad.”

At this, Childe feels like his heart had combusted then piece itself back together a thousand times over consecutively. “Yes, I’m home now, love. I’ve missed you lots too, and I’m so glad it was you who greeted me at the door today,” he grins at her.

Qiqi seems to perk up at this. “If it makes daddy happy, Qiqi can do this everyday.”

“I would love that.” He stands up, then reaches a hand out to her. “C’mon, I’m hungry! Let’s see what Papa prepared for dinner.”

Before them, Childe sees Zhongli standing behind the door and watching all of this unfold. On his face is a quirked smile, and Childe gives one back in return.

“Welcome home,” he murmurs as they approach, giving Childe a quick peck on the cheek. “Long day?”

He grimaces at the thought, then gives Zhongli a knowing sigh. “You know what it’s like. But now I’m sure we’re all just hungry,” he swings towards Qiqi, “isn’t that so?”

Qiqi nods. “Qiqi smelled something nice just now.”

“It was the soup, I presume. I added extra salmon tonight, just the way you two like it.” Zhongli ushers them towards the room and beckons them towards the table. They gladly oblige and take their regular seats around the table, letting the rich aroma fill the room.

The routine that they’ve already repeated for years is more intuition than a conscious action now — Zhongli gives Qiqi a bowl of rice, then Childe deftly gives her a portion of all the other dishes around. He’s never been the best at using chopsticks, but he’s somehow learned to adapt even with the less-than-perfect posture. Whatever works works, and if neither he nor Qiqi is going hungry even with his chopstick skills that Zhongli probably secretly considers abysmal but is too nice to say, then he’s sure it’s fine. There are other more pressing issues at hand. There always is.

“Mmmm...” At a taste of the soup, Qiqi’s eyes light up.

Zhongli smiles, pride shining in his eyes. “Did you like that?”

She nods, then takes another bite. “Yes, it’s delicious.”

“That’s good to hear.”

Outside, the sun sets and takes the last of gold with it, leaving only the occasional flickering of streetlights behind. As he does the dishes and Zhongli cleans everything up, Childe wonders if they should consider calling the town council to get these old lights fixed so they at least serve their basic purpose.

“We should really call someone about these lights. Nearly tripped the other day home,” he complains to Zhongli, watching Qiqi scuttle away to work on her scrapbooking project, a newfound hobby of hers.

“I think tripping on your way home on a route you’ve taken everyday for the past few years is not a very compelling argument,” Zhongli muses, squeezing the table cloth dry and then hanging it out to dry on a wooden rack. “If it were something about community safety then the issue might get resolved more quickly altogether.”

“You are always so full of wisdom,” he singsongs in reply. Putting the last of the dishes away, he approaches Zhongli to wrap his arms around him from behind. “Do you want to do the honours of calling them, then, my love?”

Zhongli chuckles and Childe can feel him relaxing into the touch before turning around to press a kiss to his lips. “Only because you asked,” he says, bare a whisper.

 


 

I’m home now , Childe thinks.

Of course he is—this is hardly a revelation given that he’s already suffered through a monstrous bast of a day and survived until 11pm on a Friday night, and there is nowhere else for him to be other than next to the loves of his life, watching Zhongli and their daughter’s chest rise and fall in peaceful slumber as the rain falls on. But here, Childe lets the soft blow of comfort sink in, lets the waves of warmth wash through all the way to his fingertips.

He’s home now.