Warm...it was so very warm here, in his arms, tucked against his chest. He ached slightly from lying at an awkward angle but it was worth it. It was so warm here in bed with another, the cramped and bent at an odd angle to accommodate for the other's sprawled limbs; he snuggled closer, groaning softly, pawing down the length of another body. Nuzzling into curled hair that smelled of sweetgrass and the spring breeze; perhaps he could drift off again, sleep late basking in the warmth, forgo his morning ritual just this once in favor of a lazy start.
The bedroom door burst open, causing the young Adeptus to lurch up and meet the irritable eye of Childe who looked particularly frazzled. Xiao had forgotten today was auspicious, no one would be sleeping in or relaxing on a day like today.
"The Adepti of Jueyan Karst are here." He stated plainly, earning a soft groan from Xiao who thwomped back into the pillows and sheets.
"Tch, I feel ya. I get that Haihai's 100th day is important and all that but…" Childe ran a hand through his hair, bracing his body against the door frame,
"Did we really have to let the Adepti plan it? No offense but they already want me dead…" Xiao rolled his eyes but silently agreed with the Fatui boy. The Adepti, while familiar with Liyue traditions and customs, were the last beings anyone would expect to plan the celebration of Zhongli and Childe's hatchling and let alone they come down from their mountain abode to do so.
"How quickly do I need to be downstairs…?"
"Well, Zhongli has already let them in the house much to my displeasure. Haihai is refusing to finish breakfast because of the new scents in the house." Childe grumbled,
"Great…" Xiao croaked tiredly as he propped himself up on his elbows.
"I'll be down in a few minutes, soon as I can get this one around." Xiao nudged the warm body beside him and Childe waved dismissively,
"Take as long as you need, I certainly would…" the ginger slid from the frame and closed the door behind him, allowing the two Anemo wielders their privacy.
"Sounds like today's going to be interesting." Venti grumbled from beneath the covers, scooting into Xiao's space and trapping him under lanky limbs.
"You do not even know the half of it…" Xiao murmured, Venti pressed a chaste kiss to his shoulder with a soft hum,
"I think you're catastrophizing. Today is supposed to be fun like the baby shower."
"Jinhai was still an egg inside Zhongli's womb and the only invited guests were humans and partial Adepti that weren't capable of separating Childe's head from his body." The Anemo Adeptus grumbled sourly.
"Uh...you're quite capable of doing just that…"
"But I won't! Childe is precious to Zhongli and father of my- our niece. The other Adepti might not look at the situation as critically as I have." Xiao huffed and Venti cooed,
"Aw, if Childe heard you worrying over him, he might faint."
"Please don't tease, that dumbass could be in real danger is his misspeaks even once."
"I think you need to give your Adepti friends way more credit, they're thousands of years old. Surely they wouldn't have his head for a slight offense."
"...this is Childe we're talking about. Former Harbinger that tried to sink the Harbor by summoning Osial, destroyed Guizhong's Ballistas with his men, and forced the Tianquan's hand into dropping the Jade Palace." He stated bluntly causing Venti to blink slowly before managing an awkward smile,
"Ok. So maybe we keep an eye on him today."
"Agreed." Xiao kicked back the covers and rolled from the bed earning a loud whine from Venti who burrowed under the sheets again.
"Cold!" Xiao smirked ever so slightly, delighting in his boyfriend's antics so early in the morning.
The two finally managed to get downstairs, only after a few stray kisses and Venti insisting they could spare a few more moments in bed, having dragged the Adeptus back under the sheets and covers for a leisurely cuddle. Xiao paused at the last step before entering the foyer, a clear view of the sitting room causing a ball of nervousness to form a lump in his gut.
All three Adepti were whispering amongst themselves in the sitting room, all three adorned with swatches of rich, red fabric for the celebration to come. Zhongli had placed tea out for them and was no doubt in the kitchen trying to coax Jinhai to finish breakfast,
"It reeks of the Abyss, I didn't believe Ganyu when she first told me."
"It's hardly an appropriate mate, I don't know what Rex Lapis is thinking letting that creature near his young."
"His tastes have certainly changed, it barely has any manners let alone restraint."
"Good Morning, it is grand to see all of you faring so well." Xiao cut in awkwardly with a bow, they turned to greet him with soft smiles or what could be considered soft smiles when it came to the animal Adepti.
"Xiao, it is wonderful to see you. You appear to be in better health than the last time we spoke." Cloud Retainer chirped, tilting the boy's head with a gentle feather to assess his face.
"Your cheeks have a little more color, they even appear to be a bit rounder, Rex Lapis must be feeding you well."
"He is a benevolent host." Xiao smiled a bit while Venti snorted quietly beside him, the Adepti finally taking note of the other Former God.
"Lord Barbatos!" Mountain shaper gasped, poking his head in close and eyeing the Anemo Archon excitedly.
"We had no idea you had returned to Liyue so recently, Xiao told us of your initial return and departure." The three Adepti crowded into their space unintentionally,
"We are grateful to you, looking out for Rex Lapis in his time of need. We were unable to fully grasp his situation until Xiao told us but by then his...mate had already returned." Moon Carver explained in a stern tone, as if scolding himself.
"It's good to see all of you too, and no thanks are necessary! I was just doing what I felt was right, Zhongli needed support. Childe did his necessary parts too, ol blockhead finally wound down when Childe got back, thankfully." Venti preened, slinging an arm around Xiao's shoulders.
"Ah…yes, the Abyssal smelling mortal that Rex Lapis has deigned worthy of siring a generation of hatchlings…" if Moon Carver's lip could curl it certainly would have in this moment, though he did bare a bit of his teeth.
"Um…pardon?" Venti began only for Xiao to nudge him none too gently in his ribs.
"Rex Lapis' mate. We are...hesitant to accept that our former Lord would choose such a creature as a mate. Tell me, is it a...right fit for our Rex Lapis?" Xiao felt Venti shift beside him, hips cocking in a fashion that made the Anemo Adeptus nervous,
"He's a wonderful father and mate, he loves Jinhai with all his heart and spoils Zhongli rotten at his own expense. I have no troubles concerning their relationship, I trust him." Xiao blurted before Venti launched into anything that could get him into trouble with Liyue's Adepti. Moon Carver hummed lowly,
"I suppose that it is good to hear that it- he is doing right by our Lord." The deer's head turned slowly, eyes coming to rest on the ginger in question who looked partly startled, blue eyes burning a hole in Xiao's form. So much for keeping that to himself...the Yaksha groaned inwardly as Moon Carver approached the young Fatui, no doubt about to cause a scene.
"... Thank you, for making him happy." Xiao reeled and toppled slightly into Venti who looked equally surprised, two sets of eyes flying wide as the deer Adeptus bowed to Childe respectfully; the young man faltered, clearly not expecting such a turn of events.
"Uh... I don't-"
"Yes, thank you. I have not seen our former Lord smile unburdened in so long...his grief about his first born I feared would haunt him until the end of time." Cloud Retainer followed the deer Adeptus' lead, Mountain Shaper humming his agreement.
"It is good to see his smile again after all his suffering."
"Er...uh….no problem? I was just...caring for someone I love...like a good mate?." Childe offered, Moon Carver rose quickly with a snort.
"Indeed, while I still have my hesitations, we will accept his choice after all, the Guardian Yaksha spoke on your behalf. Certainly, he is a better judge than we." Xiao flushed when Childe's eyes landed on him, Venti grinned mischievously and nudged him good naturedly.
The moment was broken when Zhongli entered the room with a squirmy hatchling, shifted and dressed in a cute, red dress and matching, puffy pants. Childe must have put their hair up into the pig tails because whenever he did it there would be excess fringe that fluffed cutely. Zhongli was too methodical and if he styled Jinhai's hair it would be neat and gathering info twin buns with utmost precision.
"Forgive me for the delay, I was making sure our little one was presentable for such an occasion. Moon Carver, Mountain Shaper, Cloud Retainer, this is our hatchling. Jinhai." He held the baby in a manner that let the Adepti crowd around in a chorus of soft oohs.
"Truly a tiny wonder."
"They look so delicate, like a precious porcelain doll." The Adepti heaped praise, all taking turns at nuzzling and touching the hatchling affectionately, like a hoard of doting grandparents. Xiao snickered quietly at the image, the Adepti of Jueyun Karst in his mind's eye resembling the elderly of Qingce village as their prideful, stern image gave way to cooing and simple speak as to not confuse the baby before them.
"Mama, bird!" Jinhai called loudly, pointing at Cloud Retainer though their eyes were already trained on Mountain Shaper. Zhongli chuckled,
"That is Cloud Retainer and Mountain Shaper...can you say that? Cloud Retainer?"
"...Cwoud...Retan…?" Jinhai's brow furrowed cutely, lips pursed in an adorable pout. Cloud Retainer broke into a delightful giggle,
"Oh, they are precious! Should you ever need someone to look after them, do not hesitate to ask! They remind me of Ganyu all those centuries ago…" Cloud Retainer gushed, running her feathers along Jinhai's cheeks. The other Adepti agreed wholeheartedly that Jinhai would always be welcomed in Jueyun Karst.
"Zhongli will do just fine, Old friend." The former God corrected gently, the deer flicked his ears and nodded,
"Zhongli, we should set aside this conversation for another time, Ganyu should arrive shortly with decorations and the like. We should begin preparing for the other guests." Zhongli nodded his agreement.
True to his word, Ganyu arrived shortly after with a big smile and a crate full of red decorations as well as an array of gifts for Jinhai wrapped neatly in red-gold paper.
"Forgive me, I couldn't settle on one and wrapping this particular toy was too much hassle. I thought it's bright colors would bring a smile to their face." A Skybracer plush was tentatively held out to the hatchling, golden pupils practically glowed at the sight of the colorful blues and gold.
"Deer!" Jinhai flailed, craning their neck to look at Moon Carver before going back to the plush,
"Blue deer!" Ganyu laughed and Zhongli allowed the little one to crush the plush in their arms, purring softly.
"She has a small collection of plush toys-"
"Pff, small is an understatement Zhongli." Venti teased with his hands in his hips. Xiao smiled a bit, taking in the moment before a stray touch on his arm had his attention; Childe gestured to the front door with a few streamers in hand.
"Help me hang these?" Xiao frowned inwardly at the request but followed the young ginger outside to the front porch without complaint. Once outside and away from the bustle of the foyer, Childe turned to face him fully.
"Thank you." The Yaksha blinked, confusion painting a light scowl on his face,
"...telling Moon Carver I wasn't completely awful. Had I been in your situation the worst parts of me probably would have had something very colorful to say. You could have set the tone for today by telling them I was scum or didn't deserve Zhongli and Jinhai." Xiao didn't know how to respond to that, he had only prevented Venti from opening his big mouth and saying something stupid.
"I am indebted to you. The Adepti are...family. They are Zhongli's family, your family. It would be like if my parents were skeptical of Zhongli and my brother told them he was a terrible fit for me. They would think of him negatively." Childe explained, trying to find the right words to express what he meant.
"...it was no trouble. You're an important person to Zhongli, they needed to understand that." The Adeptus took a streamer and tossed it up high, a streak of red adorned the front entryway nicely.
"...well it's something to me. You clearly didn't like me in the beginning but...thank you for letting me be by his side." Xiao bristled and tsked quietly,
"Stop thanking me, I have no say over his actions." Childe clicked his tongue,
"But he values your knowledge and opinion. You're like...his adopted son, or something." Xiao glared,
"If I were you, I would greatly evaluate my next few words. I may look upon Zhongli with the respect and devotion akin to a father but I am still thousands of years old and will not view you equally."
"Gods no! Gross! I don't think I could even stomach you calling me anything endearing like daddy. You're like...what, 2600? " Childe asked with a slight cringe and soft gag. Xiao flushed and fixed the young ginger with a harsh stare,
"Something like that...yes."
"Right, definitely older than me. So, since I'm marrying your dad..." Childe gave a half-shrug paired with an awkward, lopsided smile.
"Where do we stand? I refuse to refer to you as anything endearing, I've outlived you a dozen times over and frankly, I'm still not fond of you." Xiao asked, tossing another streamer and glaring softly as the streak of red tangled with the high branches of a Ginko tree.
"Hmm...how 'bout acquaintances who both love Zhongli, just differently and we want more than anything to keep our family safe and happy?" Childe adorned their mailbox with a red bow and turned to Xiao with the same lopsided smile from before,
"I find that agreeable, Fatui Scum." Xiao teased with a less biting tone than normal, earning a boisterous laugh from the ginger.
"Perfect." Childe elbowed him playfully before hanging the last streamer together.
"...you know...it kinda looks….bad." Childe admitted as they examined the house; Xiao nodded, cocking his head to the side to view it at a different angle.
"..." Xiao snickered, Childe joining in a moment later as the two returned back inside.