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   When Cyno visits, he brings the desert with him. He tracks sand across the forest floor and scatters the smell of dusty wind in the air. He comes loudly with footsteps that land too heavy, too used to the desert sand to silence his movement. On these occasions Tighnari can feel him approaching from halfway across the woods, just because all the animals scatter at his presence—warm, foreign, glowing from sunlight that never dwindles.

   More often than not, Cyno arrives with some kind of concerning wound that's been bleeding for four days, and Tighnari will have to tend to it while he insists that he's fine. He tells tales of massive dust storms that roll across the sky in bloody red waves, of buried pyramids with chests of gold and fossils of creatures long gone. He gives Tighnari souvenirs from the desert and his quiet companionship, and Tighnari enjoys it more than he should.

   Tighnari likes him a lot. Maybe a bit too much.

   It's been a long time since Cyno last came. Long enough that the heat he carries with him is unfamiliar enough to scald Tighnari's skin, long enough that the shock of it jars him into opening his eyes—and there Cyno is, a dark silhouette standing in his doorway, jackal ears flapping with his hood in the gentle night breeze.

   "Hey," Cyno says. He's holding a small bundle of flowers, pretty pink things with delicate petals. It's dark, but his eyes smolder in the shadows like miniature suns. "It's been a while."

   Cyno, Tighnari thinks, and every nerve in his body lights up. He sits up and kicks the covers back, immediately alert. "I'll go get Collei," he says.

   "No," Cyno blurts, so vehemently that Tighnari flinches. "I mean, yes, but—just wait a moment, will you?" And before Tighnari can reply to that, Cyno crosses the room to his side and pulls him into a hug.

   Tighnari's tail wags and thumps against the mattress, and he leaps to pin it down with both hands, his face burning. Cyno simply clings to him as he jolts backwards—he even laughs, and all Tighnari can do is sit there, every muscle straining to stay in place as Cyno chuckles into his skin. "I missed you," Cyno breathes, his words barely audible. "Missed you a lot."

   "Ah," Tighnari says. Cyno's flowers tickle the back of his neck, and he resists the urge to shy away from the touch. "I missed you too, Cyno."

   And he has missed Cyno. Because Collei is always there for him, and she's his friend, but Cyno is the one who really understands him. They've learned together and fought together, and somewhere along the line, Cyno became irreplaceable. Cyno has made him soft, and Tighnari should hate it, but he doesn't.

   "Someone's happy to see me," Cyno says, patting Tighnari's tail. He smiles wide enough for Tighnari to feel, laughs a bit more, and Tighnari forces himself to uncurl his toes and take one slow breath after another, trying to slow his heartbeat jackhammering against his ribcage. "Sorry for visiting so late."

   "You can come any time you want," Tighnari says, choked and mumbled, like the words dragged themselves off of his tongue. And they might as well have, because he would never dare to say something like this during the day. Now he's drowsy and muddled, and Cyno is here, and he still hasn't quite registered that fact—but there's just something so wonderful about being held like this, something he hasn't felt in a long time, and it makes him stupid.

   Cyno pulls away. Tighnari's heart drops for a fleeting moment before it barrels right back up into his mouth at the lightest touch on his forehead. And Cyno stands back up, all cool and nonchalant, but Tighnari knows there's no mistaking what a kiss feels like. "I'll be back in the morning," Cyno says, gentle as he brushes his knuckles against Tighnari's cheek. "Good night, Tighnari."

   Tighnari swallows a squeak. He nods mutely.

   What the hell.

   Cyno is gone before Tighnari can say anything, leaving the lingering scent of night dew and rainwater hanging in the air. He's dropped his flowers in Tighnari's lap—desert roses, his mind helpfully supplies. They're beautiful. They're probably for Collei.

   He holds onto them anyway.



   Tighnari wakes up to Cyno singing quietly. The other man is perched on his desk, flipping through the reports Tighnari left out the previous night. It's an undeniable confirmation that Cyno is here—that last night wasn't a dream. Tighnari's hand flies to his forehead, then the empty space at his side.

   Cyno looks over at the movement and smiles softly, setting down the packet in his hands. "I put the flowers on the nightstand for you," he says as he sweeps the papers on Tighnari's desktop into a neat pile. "Sorry, I should have come in while you were awake. I couldn't help myself." He holds out his hands and beckons for Tighnari to come over. "Will you patch me up?"

   So those were for me, Tighnari thinks. "Sure," he mumbles. He gets out of bed and ambles across the room, still sleepy. Cyno catches his elbow as he nears, helping him into the chair at the desk. "Where are you hurt this time?"

   Cyno grins at him cheekily, and Tighnari stares uncomprehendingly until he registers Cyno's hand in his face. He has his pinky held up, and Tighnari squints for a few moments before he manages to catch the tiny cut in his skin. "I got injured really bad on the way here," Cyno says. "It really hurts, Tighnari. How will I go on?"

   Tighnari bites down on his bottom lip to hide his growing smile. "Well, dear Cyno, I think I can help you with that." He opens one of the drawers in his desk and fishes out a dwindling roll of bandages. Cyno chuckles a little as Tighnari takes his finger delicately in one hand. "I'm surprised you haven't gone and impaled yourself this time around," Tighnari says. (It would be more of a joke if Cyno hadn't shown up last time with an arrow through his hand.)

   "It was a one time thing," Cyno says, clearly recalling the incident. He nudges Tighnari playfully with his knee. "I've decided I'm done with life-threatening lacerations as well."

   Tighnari sighs and shakes his head but winds a length of cloth around Cyno's finger anyway. He feels Cyno lean over him precariously, nearly close enough to fall off of the desk. "Thanks, Tighnari," Cyno says, so quietly that Tighnari almost misses it. "You're so good to me."

   It's just a paper cut. It's supposed to be a joke, and it shouldn't make Tighnari blush, but he does. He feels Cyno smile into his hair as he ducks his head and mumbles a halfhearted "You're welcome," terrified to tear his gaze from the floorboards.

   Cyno lifts his hand away as soon as Tighnari lets go and inspects it carefully. "That's a lot better," he says, and Tighnari is halfway through laughing out a witty response when Cyno stoops down, almost as if impulsively, and presses a kiss to the top of his head.

   Tighnari freezes. Cyno must feel it, because he stops moving immediately. "Ah—Cyno—" Tighnari splutters, and Cyno lets out some kind of strangled hum. "What was that for?"

   Cyno takes a slow breath and lets it hiss out through his teeth. "Um," he says awkwardly. "Good morning kiss?"


   "Sorry," Cyno whispers.

   "It's fine."

   Tighnari scoots the chair back and Cyno hops down from the desk, all previous tension gone almost immediately. "I'll go say hi to Collei," he says cheerily, and he waves as he runs for the door. Tighnari's heart stutters at the sight, far too stuck on the way Cyno glows under the sun, radiant and beautiful and so, so alive.

   Cyno doesn't give Collei 'good morning' kisses.

   Tighnari tries not to think too hard.



   "What is that?"

   Tighnari looks up from his notebook. "I'm writing about those flowers you got me," he says. Cyno perks up and leans over Tighnari's shoulder to read the page. "I sort of bent it out of shape when I was sleeping with it, so the drawing may not look right," Tighnari admits.

   Cyno rests his chin on Tighnari's shoulder. "I think it looks great."

   "I haven't even finished sketching it yet."

   "Still looks good."

   Tighnari cracks a smile and tilts his head against Cyno's, returning his attention to the notebook. "Care to give me some fun facts about these?" he asks, tapping the pot on the table in front of them with one finger. The flowers shiver, reddened by the sunset through the windows, and Tighnari cranes his neck to watch Cyno's expression as he squints and scrunches his nose, thinking hard.

   "They're poisonous," Cyno finally says.

   Tighnari withdraws his hand immediately. "Excuse me?"

   "Oh, you'll be fine," Cyno adds. He pats Tighnari's shoulder reassuringly. "Just don't eat it or anything, and you'll be okay."

   Tighnari shoots him a wary glance before he puts his pen back to the parchment. "Highly dangerous," he mumbles as he writes, and Cyno laughs. He trembles against Tighnari's back, and Tighnari leans against him, oddly comforted by the sensation. "How many lethal plants have you snuck into my house in the past?"

   "Just this one. The rest were all succulents," Cyno says. "Come on, you know this."

   "You brought a cactus once," Tighnari points out. "It pricked me."

   Cyno snorts. "It pricked you?"

   "I was bleeding."

   "Aw, sorry about that." Cyno brushes his lips against Tighnari's neck, just enough for Tighnari to feel his smile. "I'll keep that in mind when I choose your next gift."

   Tighnari stills. Cyno hugs him from behind and sags into his back, humming contentedly. The village is quiet enough that Tighnari can hear him breathing, slow and steady. Serene. "I'll take anything you give me," Tighnari murmurs.

   "Mm. I know you will." Cyno snuggles closer. "But I'd prefer to get you something you'll really like." He chuckles and adds, "I have to leave you with something better than deadly flowers and vicious cacti to remember me by while I'm not here."

   You're already on my mind all the time, Tighnari thinks. "I guess," he says.

   "Where's the enthusiasm?"

   "I am so glad that you are here with me."

   Cyno grins and reaches for Tighnari's free hand, lacing their fingers. "That's what I like to hear," he says appreciatively. "This is why you're my favorite, you know."

   Tighnari doesn't get much documenting done that evening.



   "Do you have to go?"

   Tighnari rolls his eyes as Cyno tails him doggedly around the room, peering over his shoulder as he tidies his desk. "It's just for the night," he says. "I have a job, Cyno. I can't slack off forever to babysit you."

   Cyno pouts and grumbles, "I don't see the problem there." He wraps his arms around Tighnari's midsection and lets himself get dragged along as Tighnari stumbles across the room to retrieve his bow and quiver from where it hangs on the wall. "Take me with you? I'll be the best Forest Ranger in all of Teyvat, I swear."

   "You'd just complain of humidity the whole time and scare all of the wildlife off," Tighnari mutters. Cyno buries his face between Tighnari's shoulder blades and groans. "Come on, you're fine on your own."

   "I'll miss you," Cyno mumbles. "I've only been back for one day."

   Tighnari softens. He reaches back to pat Cyno's head and says, "I'll be back before midnight, I promise. This patrol shouldn't take long, it's just in the area."

   Cyno pulls back and spins Tighnari around gently. As soon as they make eye contact, Cyno bumps their foreheads together, almost tentative as he holds Tighnari in place. "Wish you could stay," Cyno sighs, eyelashes fluttering. His nose nudges Tighnari's as he tilts his head closer. "Be safe, okay? I'll be staying up for you, so don't keep me waiting."

   Tighnari half-closes his eyes and tightens his hand around his bow until it hurts. "Feeling sentimental for once?"

   Cyno clicks his tongue. "I'm always like this," he says. "Just decided to indulge myself today." He kisses the tip of Tighnari's nose and backs up almost immediately, fidgety as he runs his fingers through Tighnari's hair. "Get out there now, and come back soon."

   Tighnari stares, dumbfounded. He tries not to drop his weapon as he slings his quiver over his shoulder. "Yeah," he says distantly.

   Cyno is blushing.

   (It's adorable.)

   "I'll see you soon, then," Tighnari mumbles, and Cyno forces a wobbly grin at him as he heads for the door.

   Collei is waiting outside for him, watching the forest. She looks up and smiles as Tighnari draws near. "Did Cyno keep you?" she asks when he stops at her side.

   "Who else would it be?" Tighnari says, good-natured but exasperated, and they chuckle together. "It's only been a day since he got back, and he's already managed to disrupt my usual schedule at least twice. It's nice to have him here, but he's a hassle."

   "Don't lie like that, you love his company," Collei responds. It's so matter-of-fact that Tighnari flushes at her words. "I feel bad. He's probably missing you already."

   "Cyno's not a child," Tighnari says. "He can survive a few hours of boredom alone in my house."

   "I don't think it's a matter of boredom," Collei says, positively beaming. "He might just want to be with you, you know? When he came to say hello to me this morning, all he talked about was you. How you flattened those desert roses he took so much time to find for you in your sleep. He thought it was the funniest thing ever." She laughs gently, and Tighnari's heart seizes for the millionth time that day as she says, "Cyno likes you an awful lot."



   Cyno is waiting.

   Tighnari can't keep his promises—they get held up by a Withering Zone and a group of panicky Sumpter Beasts. Aggressive Rishboland Tigers ambush them on the way back. The recent rain has made the paths slick, and Tighnari has to save Collei from slipping multiple times. It's almost dawn when Tighnari stumbles back into his house, aching from head to toe and bearing more injuries than he left with. And Cyno is waiting, sitting at the end of his bed with the pot of those stupidly beautiful poisonous blossoms cupped in his hands. The weak sunlight makes him silver. He looks up as Tighnari enters and smiles, bright even with how exhausted he clearly is. "You're late," he says hoarsely.

   Tighnari swallows the blood in his mouth and says, "Sorry. I tried."

   "Come here," Cyno says, setting the flowers aside before holding out his arms. Tighnari drops his weapons by the door and all but collapses against Cyno, hugging him tight. Cyno grips him back just as fiercely, choking out a raspy "I was waiting" into Tighnari's ear.

   "I know," is all Tighnari can bring himself to say. He's drained. He's happy just to have Cyno next to him right now. "I'm sorry."

   "I thought something happened," Cyno says. Tighnari's shoulders ache as Cyno digs his fingers in and holds him out at arms length, sunlit eyes staring him down. "I thought you both might have died, Tighnari." His voice wavers, and Tighnari wants to hug him again, hold him tight until he starts to smile again, but he only manages to ball his hands into fists until his nails cut into his skin.

   "Paranoid?" Tighnari finally manages, almost a laugh, more of a sigh. "Nothing's going to happen to me."

   "Shut up," Cyno breathes, pulling him in close. "I miss you," he whispers into Tighnari's mouth as he kisses him. It's impossibly tender, so much that Tighnari feels it hurt somewhere deep in his chest. And it's short, because Cyno draws back almost immediately just to look at him, sleepy and fond in a subtle, quiet way. "I miss you," he repeats.

   "I'm right here, Cyno," Tighnari murmurs. He reaches for Cyno's hand, his bandaged finger, and holds it tight. How stupid they both are. "You don't have to miss me."

   Cyno finally smiles at him again, his eyes gleaming. "I always do," he says.

   When they kiss again, Cyno doesn't pull away.



   Morning comes slowly. Sleep washes over Tighnari periodically like waves in a pond, and he wavers, just shy of waking until he feels Cyno shift against him. He opens his eyes to blinding sunlight and Cyno's peaceful face, close enough to his for Tighnari to feel Cyno's breath against his skin.

   It's too bright. They've probably slept in too long. Tighnari struggles with the thought for a futile two seconds before he lets it go and falls back into Cyno's sleeping form. It's hot, but not stiflingly like Sumeru summers often are—the warmth is comforting. It makes him feel at ease.

   Cyno murmurs quietly and opens his eyes, squinting blearily. Tighnari tilts his chin delicately with his fingertips and kisses him softly, burning from the inside out. "Good morning," Tighnari whispers.

   Cyno blinks at him, dazed by sleep, and smiles. "Good morning," he says, his voice hushed.

   None of it is dramatic. There's something natural about waking up like this, something so bizarrely easy about spending the morning like this, lazy and slow, sharing each other's warmth in a forest that smolders all year. And when Cyno pulls Tighnari to his chest and holds him tight, Tighnari's heart swells until he thinks it might burst.

   "I love you," Tighnari says. He doesn't have to hear it to know Cyno loves him too.