The last place Childe expected to find Lumine was in a tavern.
No, that wasn’t true. He had seen her in a tavern before. There was the time before their first fight at the Golden House, when he had insisted (pestered, really) her to have a drink in order to “unwind after a long day.” Even after the Golden House fight, he had seen her, albeit briefly, in the tavern. Hell, after one of their weekly spares, they had gone into a tavern together to share a drink as they nursed their wounds.
The tavern didn’t surprise him. It was her inebriated state that caused him to raise a brow. It didn’t take much to figure out that something was causing her to drink, given her body language. Childe had been watching her from the corner of the tavern, resisting the urge to go up and tease her relentlessly. Had he not been there for a business deal, he would have.
Instead, he watched absentmindedly as she swayed back and forth in her chair, a depressed look on Paimon’s face as she watched her companion. His business partner continued speaking but the words weren’t registering with the redhead. He wanted to know why Lumine looked so upset and why Paimon seemed to be comforting her. What had happened? Did it concern her brother? That was the only plausible explanation.
When his partner cleared their throat, Childe shifted his attention back to them. Once the deal was done and Mora was exchanged, Childe could focus on Lumine. He tapped his foot impatiently as the conversation carried on. Within a few minutes, but what felt like hours, a bag of mora was in his hand and his partner was on their merry way.
Wasting no time, Childe got up from his corner and moved swiftly across the tavern. With a wide smirk, he slid into the empty seat across from her.
“Fancy seeing you here. Does that mean it’s time for our rematch?” He teased as he motioned to the bartender for another drink.
There was a pause as Lumine's eyes drifted up towards him. Childe felt like he had been punched in the gut. Normally, her eyes would be narrowed yet amused with his antics. Without missing a beat, she would have replied with a witty response. The pause left him nervous.
“Maybe another time,” Lumine finally said. “But I could still kick your ass.” Even in this state, was implied. She gave him a lopsided smile before taking another swig of her drink. “What are you doing here? Shady business deals?” The more she spoke, the more pronounced her slurring got.
Childe chewed the inside of his lip. This wasn't like the Lumine he had grown accustomed too. The banter was half-hearted. She normally held herself with confidence and now appeared to be hunched over and shielding herself from something. It caused his stomach to drop; it made him worried. He cleared his throat in an effort to push the worry to the side.
“Must you always think so little of me that my business deals are always shady? Sometimes it’s easier to talk business in a tavern.” He held up his glass. “Plus, the wine is pretty good.”
“You mean it’s easier to talk here because nobody can overhear you!” Paimon spoke, which caused Childe to snort. Paimon had a point, not that he would acknowledge it.
Lumine's hands wrapped around the stem of her wine glass. When it had been her, Paimon, and a glass of wine, she had been fine – expect that was a lie. Fine included a lot of close calls, where she almost started crying, but she hadn’t caved in to her emotions. Sitting with Paimon in a busy tavern helped her not think about the outside world, about Aether, about Dainsleif. It was all too much.
And then that stupid ginger came down and sat across from her.
Luminie bit her lip as she forced herself to look at him. He had siblings, ones he loved dearly. Could she tell him? Could she tell him the truth about Aether and what he was doing?
No, you can’t. Don’t even think for a second you can.
The nausea bubbled up in her stomach and she sighed. A sorry was on the tip of her tongue but the apology disappeared before she could speak. The sounds around her were starting to fade out as her focus shifted back to the wine glass. Her vision was starting to get blurry. She wasn’t sure if it was from the tears or the alcohol. Probably both.
“Are you going to tell me what happened or do I get to get creative? Did you see Zhongli naked? I would be distraught over that too.”
It was the first joke to come across his mind and he was kicking himself for it. He could make out the familiar green monster that was forming in the back of his mind at the thought of her seeing another man naked. He sipped on his wine and tried to push the jealousy to the side.
“It’s nothin’ like that,” Lumine replied.
He could make out how she spoke slowly and how her eyes started to blink. She was either about to cry or trying to keep her vision focused. It was a look he recognized well. Should he get her out of here before she made a fool of herself?
Lumine’s tone was not one Childe recognized. He had heard her swear, yes, but it didn’t sound so distraught. Even when she was pissed at him with the Golden House, her words were conveyed differently. This was sadness. This was depression .
He blinked in realization as he tried to replay what had happened. Lumine had attempted to take another drink of her wine, missed her mouth, and sloshed it down the front of her dress. Childe watched with mild fascination as her white dress turned red. A faint blush spread across his cheeks as he realized exactly where he was staring. Since when did he get embarrassed by staring at a woman’s boobs?
“Okay, I think we need to get you home,” Childe said as he stood up from his seat. While he would have normally encouraged someone to drink to this point, everything about this situation was wrong. He didn’t want her to do something she would regret, which meant they needed to get out of there fast . Childe could hear Paimon fussing in the background but his attention was solely on the blonde in front of him. He cleared his throat as he tried not to focus on her chest (which was almost impossible, considering how it was wet and stained red and s-)
“It’s fine! Another drink!” Lumine moved her hand to wave at the bartender but Childe was quicker. He gently guided her hand down to stop drawing attention to herself. “Hey! ‘S ok, I want another drink!”
Childe shot the bartender an apologetic look and shook his head. The bartender narrowed his eyes at him and then back at Lumine. He recognized the look well; it was time for them to go. If she stayed any longer, she would become a hazard to the tavern and herself. Hell, she was already at that point with her dress.
“Hey, let’s go home, princess.”
In that moment, everything broke.
Lumine’s blood ran cold as her body slumped back into the chair. ‘ Princess’ hit her like a pile of rocks. Images of the ruins she had been in a week or so before with Dainsleif flashed through her mind. She could see the Abyss Herald, how Dainsleif’s body went still, and the shape of Aether stepping through the portal. Her vision narrowed and the drink in front of her was replaced by Aether, the sword in his hand.
“So we need not rush, sister. I have more than enough time to wait for you. We have always had enough time.”
The tears she had been holding back finally spilled over. Her whole body started to shake as she sobbed. After a week or so of pushing it to the side, she finally succumbed to her emotions. Lumine gulped as she struggled to breathe. This was too much; she had to get out of here.
Childe remained still as he watched her. He could guess what word had set her off but decided not to press the issue. It didn’t matter what caused her to cry. All that mattered was getting her home and into a bed, where if she wanted to cry, she could cry. She would be crying in peace and nobody would whispering about it behind her back. He clenched his hands at the thought. He had to get Lumine out of here now .
“Hey, take my hand, let’s get you home, okay?” Childe turned his attention to Paimon's. “What the hell happened?”
Paimon blinked before shaking her head. “Nope! Paimon isn’t telling you. Don’t trust you.”
He fished a handful of mora out of his pocket and placed it on the table after capturing the bartender's attention again. Once the drinks had been paid for (overpaid for, he was sure, but that was an issue for another time) he moved towards Lumine and gently wrapped his hand around her shoulders, pulling her close.
Lumine’s body stilled at the touch. She hadn’t been expecting it. She could barely make out the world around her and knew Childe had been speaking to her. With a shaky breath, her vision started to return to her. She was back in the tavern, even if it was blurry and she felt sick to her stomach. Lumine tilted her head up towards Childe. Was that a concerned expression on his face or was she that intoxicated?
“Okay,” she muttered softly, not fully sure what she was saying okay too.
“Good.” Childe pulled her closer and tried not to focus on how she smelled like sea-salt. He didn’t want to admit how calming, how intoxicating , her smell was. “You’re not staying anywhere, are you?”
“No.” They had walked into Liyue Harbour earlier in the day and had no intentions on staying the night. “Didn’t think we would be here that long.”
They had come to the harbor for a commission. It has only taken a few hours. The goal had been to head back to Mondstadt, to go back to the library and continue to read. It had been the first time she stepped out of the city since Aether and the thought of going back scared her.
For a brief time, she had forgotten the world around her. Thinking about a place to stay meant she had to think about reality, think about the future.
“Good thing I know a place.”
“Please don’t let it be a dungeon.”
The response was quick and took her by surprise. Since Childe had sat down, Lumine had been doing her best to forget the world around her. It was working until then. Their normal banter was bubbling at the surface, which she hadn’t been expecting. Even in her sad state, she felt comforted by his presence. Despite their past, she knew that he would protect her and keep her safe.
“The only dungeon I’ll take you to is a sex dungeon,” Childe teased as he lead her out of the tavern. The smirk on his face fell to a soft smile as he saw the blush on her cheeks. “I have a place not too far from here, maybe five minutes walking. Think you can do that?”
Lumine took a step forward, her body swaying. After a moment of trepidation, her foot hit the concrete. Had Childe decided not to wrap his hand around her waist for support, he was sure she would have fallen on her face. As amusing as the thought was, Lumine was intoxicated and in need of help. He would prefer to see her fumble and fall when they were engaged in battle, not emotional distress.
“Ta-da!” She exclaimed, proud of her accomplishment of staying upright.
Her smile was blinding. The blush reappeared on his cheeks as he stared at her. Despite the twinkle in her eyes, he could make out her sadness. The corner of her eyes were wet and her mouth tilted downwards into a frown. She was slightly hunched over, even as she leaned onto Childe for support. Despite the sadness, she was still beautiful.
With a small chuckle, he pulled her closer into him. Lumine curled into his chest as she wobbled next to him. The apartment wasn’t far from the tavern and Childe had mastered the ability to weave in and out of the streets without being seen. Thankfully, it was late enough in the night that they could blend in. Lumine wasn’t the only one drunk and using a companion for support.
Paimon had disappeared by the time Childe pulled the key out to unlock the door. He was glad; the last thing he needed was the little twerp yelling at him as he got Lumine to bed. As soon as he shut the door and locked it behind him, he guided Lumine to the bed. Without hesitation, she curled up underneath the covers.
“Do you need anything?” Childe asked softly as he watched her struggle to get comfortable. “I have a shirt that would run big on you; it would be more comfortable than your dress.” He didn’t give her a chance to respond before pulling the shirt out of the dresser.
“That would be nice,” Lumine mumbled. She readjusted her position on the bed and sat up, already missing the warmth, and took the shirt from Childe. Her head was starting to pound and she wasn't sure if it was from crying or the alcohol. Probably both. “Don’t look.”
Childe placed a hand over his heart and sighed dramatically. “Have some faith in me, girlie. I’ll only get you to undress in front of me when you want too,” he teased, half serious. The thought of taking Lumine to bed had crossed his mind on more than one occasion. “I’m going to be heading out anyways, so I will leave you to it.”
Her response was instant and harsh. Her gaze drifted towards him, the tee-shirt long forgotten. The idea of Childe leaving, even if it was just to go to another room, was unbearable. She sniffled and bit her lip, hard enough to draw blood. Aether had already left her. She didn’t need another person to.
“Please stay. Please. Don’t leave.”
Childes features softened as he sat down on the edge of the bed at her request. “I knew I would get you into bed sooner rather than later, girlie.” He shifted his gaze towards the door to give her privacy to change. “Truly honoured that you want me around that badly,” he added with a snicker.
The room fell silent, minus the rustling of fabric as Lumine changed. Taking his own advice, Childe quietly pulled off his boots and pants. He placed his jacket on the bedside table as he listened as Lumine continued to struggle. A comment about helping her out of her clothes was on the tip of his tongue but disappeared as he felt her hand on his shoulder.
“Thanks,” Lumine said as she gently pushed on his shoulder. He took the hint and turned to look at her. “Really don’t want to be alone.” Despite the slur and delay in her words, it was the most confident he had heard her all night.
Without thinking, Childe finished rotating, leaned in and pressed a kiss to her forehead. She smelled like a mix of the ocean and pine. It reminded him of home. His heart tugged at the thought.
Of course it smells like home, she reminds you of home.
“Let’s get you some rest,” Childe muttered against her hair as he guided her down on the bed. He pulled the covers over her before wrapping his arm around her waist, pulling her close. He tried not to think about how perfectly she fit into him. “You’re going to wake up with a hell of a hangover.”
“Mhmm.” Lumine grabbed his hand that was wrapped around her stomach and interlocked their fingers. “Cozy.”
Childe chuckled quietly as he pressed another kiss to her hair.
“Sleep well, princess.”
Her body stiffened but relaxed quickly. With Childe next to her, perhaps that word wasn’t so bad.
It was too damn bright. Lumine squinted as she rolled over in the bed. Her head was pounding and her throat was parched. What had happened last night? How much did she have to drink? Where was Paimon? There were so many questions and very little answers.
“I’m never drinking that much again,” she muttered to herself as she forced her eyes open.
A rainbow caught her attention from the corner of her eye. Upon further investigation, she realized it was a glass of water. The rainbow was coming from the way the light hit the water. Placed underneath the cup was an elegantly folded letter. There was a ginger doll to the left.
Memories from the night were starting to come back. They were hazy but she could make out a familiar smirk as his face came to view. Lumine groaned as she grabbed the letter. She was wearing a shirt that was way too big for her and smelled like Childe. Did they sleep together? No, she knew they hadn’t. She remembered asking him to stay and them cuddling in the bed as she fell asleep.
Sighing, she opened the letter.
Don’t worry, we didn’t sleep together. Did you know you snore in your sleep? It’s adorable.
Have some water. Get some greasy food. But I’m sure that’s not what you’re looking at!
That wasn’t necessarily true. The doll had caught her attention but the letter had been more important. Lumine reached out, her brows furrowed, and held the doll in her free hand. It had red hair, blue eyes, and a blue necklace.
I commissioned a doll for Tonia, so she wouldn’t be lonely. I commissioned one for you, too. Now you have your own personal Childe with you wherever you go. You’ll never be lonely again!
- xoxo Childe
(P.S: if you think you can chuck this out the window, you can’t. It’ll just magically reappear again.)
Lumine placed the letter down and stared at the doll. She snorted as the plastic blue eyes stared back at her. Even the damn smirk on the doll's face looked like him. The urge to chuck it out the window was overwhelming.
Yet the longer she stared at it, the butterflies started to appear in her stomach and the smile on her face started to grow.