reincarnation au but when Ajax reincarnates it isn't with mental memories of the past life, but physical ones.
When Ajax was younger, he was the liveliest person in his family. These days, he still is, only it's a lot harder than before.
He gets diagnosed when he's 14, after three days of constant aches in his back, and chest, and legs, and arms- radiating throbs and aching that made it hard to stand on a good day.
It's chronic pain with no clear cause.
The doctor recommends exercise and pain medication
and Ajax wonders why he almost feels like it's deserved.
He moved to Liyue after college, because the cold of Shnezhnaya makes the aching worse, and at least Liyue is warmer and the climate doesn't aggravate his body.
Bad days still happen.
He met Zhongli a week after moving in, offering to pay for the other's purchase at a bookstore. The man is tall, and pretty, and not actually a man, but they laugh off Childe's apologies with a gentle smile in their eyes.
They don't get mad when he can't work his hands
enough to hold his chopsticks steady, or seem annoyed when he needs to cancel an outing because the pain radiating from his back makes his head dizzy.
They just come over to his apartment and watch movies with him, or help fix his grip, or offer to ask for different utensils,
like they know that Childe is too stubborn to ask himself.
They don't laugh when he asks if they'd mind him borrowing a long blue skirt they saw hanging in their closet the last time he was at their house.
They do his makeup and lets him try and do theirs.
Zhongli makes the bad days better.
Childe hates ruining plans, he's been doing it all his life, ever since his stupid pain made him unable to go out to events, or move from bed on the really bad days, and leave disappointing looks on his parent's faces.
So he hates when he text's Zhongli one night, that he can't make it to their date.
(their dating- did he mention that? He wasn't sure how, or why- when he was, well, him, and Zhongli was almost ethereally gorgeous- but he knew he was lucky so he kept his mouth shut-)
Zhongli replies that it's okay, they can look for another date when the aquarium is doing the dolphin show they were going to see- but Childe has tossed his phone away onto the other side of the bed and curled up as best he could, heavy with an exhaustion that
came from more than just his aching joints.
He wakes up to the feeling of a warm hand brushing the hair from his face.
He is so tired.
Everything aches, but the hand on his face is soft and familiar, so he opens his eyes.
Zhongli smiles down at him,
and it's too dark to see what look is in their cor lapis eyes.
"There you are, baobei," they hummed, thumb brushing across Ajax's cheek.
"Can't exactly leave," Ajax murmurs, though it sounds questioning, even to his own ears.
They huff out a small laugh.
"You never change," they murmur, fond, and Ajax is too tired to wonder what they mean.
Zhongli is gentle in their care, in a way that Ajax's parent never were, mostly because they simply didn't know how to handle his pain.
Zhongli treats him like they have always known
exactly what they needed to do.
Sitting up is slow, but necessary. Zhongli murmurs about their plans for the night, dinner and a movie, perhaps a few more, their voice a soothing lull and their hands gentle but firm. They ask if he took his medication today, and Ajax
admits he didn't, not aware today would end up being so... bad.
Zhongli gets him some water and the pain pills, and waits for him to take them before they start to massage his back, where most of the aching resides.
"I'll work on getting you an appointment next week," they
hum, though Ajax barely registers it, too caught up in the slow easing of the worst of the pain.
Zhongli had brought them dinner from their favorite restaurant, and though Ajax protests (albeit weakly-), they insist on feeding him themselves.
They settle into Ajax's bed together, Zhongli having brought a little portable projector so they could watch movies in Ajax's little apartment bedroom. It was necessary, when moving to the couch simply wasn't feasible that night.
And as Ajax rests against Zhongli's chest, their arms wrapped around him lazily as he slowly drifts off from a belly full of food and the absence of aching across his body....
He thinks that he might be the luckiest guy in the world.
- zhongli is not reincarnated! he's vibing out, old as fuck
- Zhongli remembers how to best take care of Ajax due to Childe's own pain issues in his past life
- the switch from Ajax to Childe to Ajax in this was 100% intentional: when Ajax is Childe,
he is very guarded and unsure. When referring to himself as Ajax, he is more vulnerable, and associates that version of himself with his younger age and with his most vulnerable and open states
- Zhongli gave up on gender. they just gave up. mortals got too confusing
and they just wanted to wear the new fashion stuff without anyone asking. people still ask, they do not care.
- i feel like in this little universe, Ajax is male but gender non-conforming, or at least starting to experiment with gender cause Zhongli is his partner
can u tell I love this au? I love this au.
(also pls let me know if the depiction of chronic pain is wrong, i do not have chronic pain but I did try and research it, however i know every case can vary-)