"I'm sorry, but at most you have two to three weeks left to live."
Zhongli should've felt a bit more when the doctor had informed him of his condition. But he didn't cry. He only frowned and had his eyebrows furrow. After all...
Such a thing couldn't compare to the moment when he found that Childe was seeing someone behind him. The moment he found out that Childe was cheating with him, his heart broke into pieces.
It shattered entirely. And no one but him picked it up.
The moment he told his closest friends about the news, they cried. They hugged him and wept. That was the only moment Zhongli felt a few drops of tears escape his eyes. His friends also knew his situation with his husband.
Xiao was still angry at him and threatened to shank him but Ganyu had offered a better plan if he wanted to rekindle their lost relationship.
A trip around the continent of Teyvat. Sightseeing, eating local delicacies, visiting shrines, and talking with the locals.
It was a great idea , Zhongli thought.
He knew that Childe was stressed from work and that he needed a vacation anyway. It was the perfect chance to mend their relationship before he passed away. Childe had been distant as of late; always spending time chatting and talking with someone that it went late into the night.
Their kisses were empty. Childe's smiles didn't reach his eyes. His words were colder.
Maybe that trip could help their relationship.
Therefore Zhongli arranged a two-week trip around Teyvat with the help of his friends. A perfect trip for lovers, as if on a honeymoon.
Initially, Childe was hesitant. He didn't want to leave Liyue since he had work but Zhongli had convinced his boss to let him have a vacation. This is why they're now waiting silently in the airport, Childe quietly chatting with someone while Zhongli stared at the empty space in front of him.
First was Mondstadt. Zhongli had a friend that worked there, so he acted as their tour guide. It was perfect timing as well; it was Ludi Harpastum. They attended the festival but there was a distance between them. It’s as if they weren’t couples.
Zhongli looked longingly at the other couples. Their arms were linked together, smiling. He sighed.
But suddenly Childe placed his arm around his waist, holding him close. Zhongli looks up at him, eyes wide with surprise. His husband turned his reddened face away, and the latter giggled.
The first night they spent in Mondstadt, Childe spooned him in his sleep.
Next came Inazuma. Childe had a coworker who came from Inazuma, so he asked if he could be their tour guide. His friend agreed, although continued to glare in Childe's direction. Zhongli giggled at his husband and his friend’s interaction throughout their tour.
The entire nation was beautiful and peaceful. Their hotels were traditional and their tatami mats were much softer than he initially thought.
During their third night in Inazuma, Childe had initiated a makeout session with him. He pushed him down on the tatami mats, caging in between his strong arms.
Sumeru. The number of pools and springs brought happiness to them; it soothed their aching bodies after they had intercourse in their hotel room. Suddenly, things seemed fine. It felt like there was no tension between them. Childe seemed to spend less and less time on his phone.
The scorching land of Natlan gave Zhongli a tan. Childe teased at how uneven his tan was. They laughed as they toured the dusty ruins. It took Zhongli back to the days when they would endlessly bicker about the most mundane things and yet find comfort in it.
Ah, this felt nostalgic , Zhongli thought. It brought a smile to his lips. Maybe a bit of tears as well. He missed this.
Their last stop was Snezhnaya, Childe's home country. His husband was happy to finally visit his family after two years. His siblings had definitely grown taller the last time the couple saw them. Tonia had glasses now, Anthon was way taller than before, and Teucer was cuter and adorable.
At night, the cold nation never bothered them. They shared heat under the blankets cuddling. It was peaceful. As if nothing happened.
Childe held him tight in an embrace, snuggled, and whispered sweet words into Zhongli's ears. His phone laid forgotten on the bedside table, the screen constantly lighting up with missed calls and unread text messages.
Zhongli felt a sense of victory.
Which was short-lived because he was nearing the end. He could barely hide his paleness and loss of appetite to his husband. He was getting skinnier as well, cheeks sunken. He hoped Childe wouldn’t notice it and question it.
What's important is that their relationship seemed like it was back. Hopefully, it was. There was nothing wrong with hoping… right?
But the moment they returned back to Liyue, Childe returned back to his normal habits. But it worsened.
He became more distant and talked less than before. It was as if he completely avoided him now. Childe didn’t even sleep on the bed anymore.
Zhongli cried himself to sleep, missing the warmth they shared during the trip. Those days were probably the best days of his life.
In the middle of his last week, Zhongli falls unconscious in the kitchen. He was just cooking soup but then he finds himself falling to the ground, exhaustion eating him away.
Xiao finds him and gets him admitted back to the hospital. He was lucky that his friend was a block away and regularly visited him.
When he woke up, he thought:
He was nearing the end, it seems.
Zhongli quietly stared at the sunset the moment he woke up. His energy was waning. It was time to accept his fate.
He regrets not sharing one last kiss with Childe. His husband was clueless about everything that's happening. Zhongli smiled weakly. He’ll miss Childe terribly much. If only Childe loved him the same way as he did.
That night, he takes his last breath.
When the hospital called for Childe, they felt pity. The man was clearly confused. The staff couldn't even separate him from his dear husband's cold body. He just stood there, Zhongli’s cold hand in his. He just… stared. With no emotion whatsoever.
No one knew what was racing in his mind. Perhaps guilt…?
After two days, a small funeral was held. While everyone cried, Childe was quiet. He never made a noise nor cried. Everyone at the funeral pitied him. They all gave him a side glance and offered words of condolence.
Childe could feel their gazes on him. It didn’t bother him as much as Xiao and Ganyu’s. Theirs were… heavier.
Is it because they knew? Did they know of his cheating habits? Childe didn’t want to dwell on it anymore. He called it off with Lumine. He couldn’t stand it anymore.
When the funeral was done, Xiao passed him a white envelope. He’s solemn, but it’s at the same time he wanted to kick Childe’s ass. Childe couldn’t blame him. Even he wanted to punch himself for being a bad husband.
He should’ve not cheated on Zhongli. How could he do that to his angelic husband? His husband that has been with him in every step of his life, accepting all of him?
Childe laughs at himself.
Pathetic . Stupid .
But Xiao shakes him out of his thoughts with a hand placed on his shoulder.
"Don't read it until you're at home, Zhongli told me," Xiao tells him. Childe nods, eyes refusing to meet the other. Part of him feels guilty, and part of him is telling him that he deserves the treatment they’re giving him.
And so he followed what Xiao said. The moment he reached home, Childe opened the white envelope slowly and carefully as if it was glass.
It was a short letter. Filled with Zhongli's thoughts. Inside it was also the pictures they took during their trip. Regrets swirled in his mind.
But Childe's heart broke the moment he read the last words.
"It had been over for a long time, we just didn’t want to admit it. But remember that I still love you, no matter what."