i bet jiang cheng, like, studied for the cloud recesses salute ceremony. this earnest little teen sect heir who just wants his daddy to love him was probably like, "i am going to get a good grade in saying hello to lan-xiansheng, something that is both normal to want and possible to achieve," and i bet he practiced what he was going to say in front of a mirror, complete with choreography, for fucking weeks before they came to gusu. and then after all that hard work, what happens during the actual salute ceremony? he goes last, and who should stroll in just when he's getting started but wen fucking chao, who immediately steals the spotlight, insults his shige, and provokes everyone to draw their swords, in a hall of learning, on the first day of school. like some kind of hooligan! then after lan xichen calms everybody down with his sword-charming, does jiang cheng get to resume his salute? no he does not! wen qing jumps in with her own salute and gift, after which lan xichen declares the ceremony over. but jiang cheng never got a turn! nobody accepted his gift!! how is he supposed to know if authority figures approve of him if the other children don't let him show off the authority-figure-pleasing skills he has worked so hard to acquire???
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I see your Zhongli begging and raise you: Kaeya begging. Oh it would be delicious to see any of the boys reduced to that (well, bennet and razor don't deserve that), but Kaeya? He doesn't beg, who do you think he is? He lost two fathers and a brother and still goes on smiling and drinking and making merry, he would Never stoop so low. Until, one day, his jokes go a little too far (jokes he tells to prove how unaffected he is by your presence, "you're not that special" he tells himself). (1/2)
(2/2) A comment a little too mean, a dig a little too personal. Suddenly your face crumbles, tears are welling up, and his knees hit the floor before he's processed anything, past how badly he's fucked up.
Oooh, that's a fun little scenario. All the better if you don't express your anger/sadness to him viscerally. You just blink back tears- tears that he is at fault for, tears that are restitution for his inability and unwillingness to let you in the way the both of you want- and grab your things. He reaches for your shoulder and, for the first time, you shake off his touch. He stares at his hand and then at you like you've struck him, his sapphire eye round and dark with fear.
"I, uh, I want to be alone for a bit," you whisper, not turning to look at him.
Your words hit him like a sledgehammer because, as gently as you try to put them, all he hears is his truth. The truth that has haunted him from the very first moment you became more than just a fleeting face. A casual encounter.
You don't want him anymore.
It feels like he's drowning. Feels like he's been dropped in a pool of ice water and he's flailing. The very thing he's feared has come to pass and the only person he can blame is himself.
Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no. Nononononono.
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