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Convention was easy to chase after, to trace the lines blindly like blood through veins but Yifan had never felt the need to trail through the given paths. He wanted to be Robert Frost, to tread that overgrown and weed strewn path that could lead him absolutely nowhere. There was a pull in his head that tugged him far away from what society dictated, his life not running in tempo with everybody else's and pertaining to the structures set up around him was not an obligation he was willing to follow. He willed for an existence to dig its way under his skin, settle in to his fine membranes and let it season until he couldn't live without it. He desired to be a part of something that would be forever, an entity that he could clutch at until he everything else faded away. In his mind, that meant finding a mate, somebody for him to live his short existence with and let them leave every room with his entirety in their hands. He wanted somebody to trust him with their heart enough to let it hang around his neck, like a pendant that he could curl himself around protect upon any kind of impact.

He didn't quite follow the beat, the dripping tap of life didn't seem to resonate with him and he found himself as an oxymoron nobody could quite place. He was neither promiscuous, prudish or completely devoted. He followed his love for fashion and art while focusing in on sports and science in the other half of his life. His domineering Alpha status was subdued by his laid-back attitude and nonchalant demeanour. He was nothing of what anybody expected. However never minded that, he was something that refreshed his own life. Or, at least he used to.

In recent times, since earning his honours degree and qualifying for a doctorate, he had found himself lagging in keeping his mind like a palace. He was focused yet distracted, his mind often drifting to how many of his friends finding their other halves while he was focusing on being able to place two letters before his name. Yifan knew that he could edge his mind away from whatever plagued him but sitting in the class of second year Chemistry students had his mind swimming in visions of romance, the rosy haze that clouded his vision and tinted everything in shades of Orchid. His senses ran free with the rushing scent of bluebells and willow, his nose picking up on the mouthwatering smell that coated the lining of his windpipe and stuck itself there until he could taste nothing else. He didn't know who it belonged to, he only ever scanned the room from his seat at the edge of one of the back rows, he wasn't there to do anything but be a presence. The Omega professor struggling to keep her Alpha and Beta students under control and Yifan was there to intervene when necessary. His age, height, general size, strong scent and pure Alpha status making him somebody that not even the most cocky Alphas in the class would think of going up against. He barely ever had to raise his eyes from the study materials he had on his desk, although every so often something would catch his attention.

The day Yifan's existence hit the refresh button in the most life changing way was when he caught the overwhelming tangle of quickly angering Alpha and distressed Omega hit his consciousness and registered in his brain. He peered up to see one of the quieter students of the class speaking with the most distraught expression to one of the more autocratic thinking ones, Yifan immediately registering what was going on. The Omega, Yifan could recall, sat in the same seat every time there was a lecture. He sat in the fourth row from the front and four seats in from the left. It was an unspoken rule that it was his seat, Yifan knew it and he was almost certain that the cocky Alpha currently occupying the cushioned chair knew it too. He cast a glance down to the professor, her eyes already on him with a nervousness that told him that she was unwilling to be amongst the fray of amplifying pheromones being released by either student. He rose up, some of the students sat close to him peering around to watch him make his descent, a few other eyes flicking and murmurs echoing as students cleared out of his path until he stood behind the younger men. They both cast him a cursory glance, the Omega's lips parting slightly as his chest rose with his breathing and Yifan knew that the smaller male was the source of the scent that had him dazed for days.

He looked away, to the Alpha he recognised as one of the newer members of his basketball team, "Just move into another seat."

"Why? It's not like there's a seating plan," the other retorted quickly, as if he had armed himself with the excuse before Yifan had even begun speaking.

"You can see he's getting upset over it, don't be the dick Alpha that enjoys making Omegas cry in front of classes full of other people," Yifan let more power seep into his voice, watching how the flicker of confidence in the other's irises fade to nothing more than a ember. "Move seats and the lecture can start. You're here to learn, not cause a scene, so quietly shift into another chair and this can all be over."

He observed the student move his eyes between Yifan and the Omega, who appeared a little more calm but had a slightly blank look on his face, before sighing and collecting his things. Yifan stood in the small walkway until the Alpha moved to the end of the row and the Omega stayed to watch Yifan for a few seconds. The elder wondered if his scent appealed to the younger too, if it was attraction that had him looking for that period of time. Much to his disappointment, the Omega merely frowned before taking his seat. It left Yifan feeling a little crestfallen, that he didn't appeal to the other and resigned himself back to his own desk. He could barely concentrate with the knowledge that his body was responding to somebody so beautiful, the smooth and pale skin that stretched across sharp cheekbones, all softened by the slight indent of a dimple, and the wide deep brown eyes that melted him in a single look. The auburn hair on his head reflected the light in shades of blond, the golden strands fading into dark ashen tones and Yifan had wanted to bury his nose so deeply into the straightened strands, to pick up on every hint of slight scents that lingered at the root.

Yet, the lack of response from the Omega had Yifan recoiling a little, he wished the younger man noticed him. Nevertheless, if the initial moments of attraction weren't shared, he wouldn't pursue it.

 

###

 

Yifan hadn't wanted to dwell, his mind providing him with subconscious images of parted lips and gold, the visions crept up behind his eyelids before he slept and stayed there until he felt his mind fading in and out. There was something that he couldn't shake about the Omega and he found himself not minding the lack of sleep, not when he saw the subject of his imagination the next day.

He sat at his usual desk, his laptop open and fired up with his typed notes on the screen to jot down on flashcards, when he saw the Omega. The other's shorter legs drawing them closer together as he approached and Yifan righted himself in his chair, half expecting a small act of gratitude from the other for what he had done the day before but he merely stopped still in front of the gloss veneered chipboard desk. The Omega was looking slightly blank, his plump lips folded seriously and his eyes were neither determined or enthralled. He looked like a page Yifan couldn't read or ever hope to translate.

"May I smell your neck?"

The Alpha's face dropped, shock ricocheting out from his chest and into his limbs. Nothing could have prepared him for that question but he knew that the Omega must be easily perturbed, given what had happened in the previous lecture. There was no other answer in his educated brain other than to give in to the request. He tilted his head back, giving a small noise of approval before the Omega stepped forward with a strange confidence and pressed his nose beneath the lobe of Yifan's left ear, right where his jugular vein pumped his scent out most strongly. He could hear the happy hum come from the throat of the other, the Omega instincts finding a sense of calm in Yifan's sea of tranquility. It was strangely intimate, the younger taking his time with deep and long inhales, his breaths out caressing over the sensitive skin of Yifan's throat. Not that he could bring himself to fuss over that.

It purely made Yifan think of when he would be mated in the future, a smaller figure finding comfort in his scent and falling asleep nuzzled into the soft skin of his neck. His mind produced scenes of the Omega currently nestled there doing such things, his warm eyes and dimple making Yifan want to hold the younger closer in but he knew he couldn't. Not when the Omega pulled away from him with the same deadpan expression he wore while he had been advancing towards the Alpha, and Yifan could only watch as he made his way back to his normal seat. It was impossible to focus on anything other aside from the unknown Omega, his MacBook and rectangle cards discarded on his desk as he watched the younger student concentrate on his class.

In the subsequent days, the Omega would scout Yifan out to inhale at his throat, making the Alpha fill with dribbles of frustration as he tried to work out what the rarely speaking student wanted from him. It was out of the norm to seek the scent of another so openly without the intent to mate, yet the Omega never spoke a word to Yifan and the Alpha found it difficult to articulate anything at all with the swamp of bluebells and willow around him. There was a thickness in his throat that drove him almost insane when the younger would pull away, when he wouldn't look Yifan in the eyes as he migrated to his seat with his items placed neatly on the desk. There was no way the elder could pluck up the courage to reach out to the other, no matter how much he felt his muscles twitch beneath his skin when the younger was within grabbing distance. Still, he didn't know the other's name and knew it would be inappropriate to clasp an un-mated Omega like that. There was a wish lingering in his mind where he would finally grasp at some of his instilled Alpha confidence and speak.

A full week, that's how long it took Yifan to discover that the Omega's name was Zhang Yixing, that he was somewhat of a loner amongst the large crowds of students and that there was something a little different about him. Much like Yifan, he didn't live in the same measures as most others and that intrigued the Alpha even more. He would watch more intently, noticing small things like the fact that Yixing would have his equipment set out in a regimented way that always remained the same and he would see how Yixing would often frown when a joke was made amongst the other students. It was as if he couldn't understand and comprehend his classmates' playful banter, nor did he ever participate. It didn't appear to be a sad existence, as he often spied Yixing slipping out small smiles when everything flowed with normalcy and there was something strangely endearing to see somebody take the simple things so seriously.

The ninth day, and after the lecture had finished, when Yifan's body moved on its own accord, stretching out to touch Yixing but he stopped himself short from clasping at the thin flannel shirt the other was wearing but that seemed to have the desired effect. The Omega gasped with a shocked jolt and stared at Yifan's face, his expression a little shocked and the Alpha was happy to have drawn out a different expression from the smaller male.

"Yixing," Yifan spoke and the other's eyes fell to the Alpha's lips immediately, watching his mouth move to spill the two syllables and Yifan could feel the concentration in the gaze without it meeting his own. "Are you okay?"

He could see the other still, as though his thoughts stopped moving and he remained blank, not answering as he moved his body forward to let the tip of his nose edge against the tender flesh under his ear. The Omega took in one long lungful of his scent before pulling back, a slightly confused pull on his brow. "I feel well."

Yifan wasn't entirely sure how to respond to what he said, his mind blanching as he watched Yixing's plump lower lip move to carve out the words and he was relieved when the other didn't move from where he stood by the side of Yifan's desk. They watched each other for a few moments, the only occupants of the room being them and the professor and Yifan looked past Yixing at her, registering that she was trying to sort something out on her computer.

"What I mean is that what you're doing to me is something you do with somebody you want to mate," Yifan sighed out in relief when his voice didn't crack or waver as he spoke, the strong undertone which he hoped would comfort the other seemed to be void as the Omega tilted his head in confusion.

"Mates?" He asked to verify, making Yifan nod slightly and he took a beat before he continued on. "I like how you smell and say it is a mate thing, what if I just like how you smell?"

"Yes, I mean you seem to actively look for me to breathe it in and that's a sign that your instincts view me as a prospective mate," Yifan spoke slowly, being sure to shift his body language into a more receptive stance in hopes of coaxing more out of the younger. "Do you not think the same?"

"I don't know, I only know that there's a part of me that tells me that my day would be better if I could smell you," Yixing's facial appearance didn't change from his focused frown, "It's a urge I feel like I have to fulfill."

"What does that feel like?"

Yixing looked lost for a few moments, his whole countenance appearing nerve filled and he wanted to use his thumb to rub over the small crease that was appearing just above the Omega's nose. "Like I'm going to be sick."

Masking his shock was difficult, having never heard of somebody likened the pull of attraction to wanting to throw up, but Yifan understood to a certain extent. The weight that settled in his abdomen felt like the firm grip he would have just before bile began to rise, though he guessed that was because the feeling of being with a prospective mate was supposed to be more positive than being apart, though the younger male didn't seem to be picking up on that notion.

"That's normal," Yifan reasoned, his voice moving a little lower as the younger watched him carefully, "For you to feel things in your stomach until you are around the person who alleviates that, it's a natural response to your Omega senses responding to my Alpha ones, does that make sense?"

"It seems illogical," Yixing rebutted, his voice firm and Yifan could smell the slight distress coming out in his inclining pheromones. "That would disrupt things, I am sure."

Yifan felt lost, completely unaware that there were people who found finding a mate to be something of a hindrance and he could feel himself bracing for rejection, his whole body internally coiling up but he didn't let his outward appearance show that. "Finding mates isn't illogical."

"I know that," the Omega looked at Yifan as if he had said something utterly stupid and the Alpha felt that way, seeing as he seemed to have lost the thread of the conversation. "It is this feeling which is illogical, it shouldn't be so difficult to decipher. It should be obvious. It should be different to every other feeling."

Yifan wanted to argue back that he had never felt anything like it, that no other sensation was comparable to finding a top candidate for mating and he wanted to tell the Omega such things but he took a deep breath in instead. He found the bluebell and willow scent helped to relax him, making him feel a little more tranquil in his mind and he wanted to show Yixing the same thing, that he could calm him into thinking that these things were logical. That these steps to draw them together were in sequence to enable people to recognise those who were the best pairing for them.

"Would you like to see me more? If that feeling is making you feel uncomfortable," he decided to take the route of being something a little more serene, to not force the other into anything that he wouldn't want to and he allowed the question to settle with the younger, smiling when he saw Yixing nod. "I'll write down my phone number, then we can meet up and talk about that sick feeling, okay?"

Yixing looked apprehensive as Yifan scribed the digits out onto the page but accepted the slip of thin card easily in his hands, bringing it up to his nose and making a sound of approval when he figured that Yifan's scent was covering the page. The Alpha watched as the other made his way towards the exit, no goodbye leaving his lips while he still had the card held beneath his nostrils. Yifan was going to return back to his note taking in wait for the next class to start when the professor spoke up.

"You know he has Asperger Syndrome, right?" She asked without any preamble, making Yifan look down to where she had settled at her laptop.

"What?"

"Yixing, he has Asperger Syndrome," she explained, gesturing to the door where the Omega had left through without looking up. "He doesn't understand a lot of social constructs and if you're going to pursue him then you should do some research because you could get yourself into something you don't completely understand. Which wouldn't be healthy for either of you."

Yifan could feel the click in his mind, the realisation of Yixing's confusion appearing clearer to him and he wasn't unsure whether or not the relief he felt was justified. Though, he had a name and means of reaching out to the other male.

 

###

 

Anticipating a text message from Yixing over the weekend was difficult for Yifan, his eyes wandering to his phone that he kept out in front of him and he counted the minutes pass between the times when the screen would light up with every kind of notification other than the one he was waiting for. He felt himself grow agitated as Lu Han's name covered the screen, his urge to scratch away those taunting characters overwhelming him. Nevertheless, he knew he would see Yixing two days later when he sat in on his Tuesday lecture, one of his own exams overlapping with the second years' Chemistry class. A part of him knew that he wouldn't receive anything from the Omega, his persistent research into Asperger Syndrome teaching him that normalcy and regiment were an integral part to the person in question feeling as though they could function.

It wasn't difficult to see that he would be a disruption to that. He would break up routines and make life hard for Yixing in the initial weeks and months, until he got used to having Yifan's presence there with him. Though, Yifan could read that he may have to do the legwork at the beginning, to be something comforting and easy for Yixing to understand. He wouldn't mind moulding his whole being around Yixing's schedule, if it meant he could get to know him and be a steadfast presence in his life. There was no contest if Yifan had to decide to wait for Yixing to be at his wits end and contact him or if he would be the one to put his foot forward and make a change. It would be natural for him to be the one to change things, if he could be the one who could handle a change of pace and be decisive in his actions.

Yifan could easily morph himself around Yixing's structured life, he was always flowing from one thing to another and, much like water, he could fit himself into the corners of the boxes Yixing's syndrome would lay out.

He hadn't anticipated to have been pulled out of his exam on the Monday morning, the invigilator taking him into an office where he could immediately pick out the most terrifying smell; Yixing seemed to be releasing the most distraught rush of pheromones. Yifan felt his whole mind shift from bewilderment to complete worry for the Omega, he opened up the office that he knew was the faculty head's. It was a shock to have a body bounding straight into his own, his neck being dragged down to where it would be pulled in line with Yixing's nose and he could feel the jittery breaths Yixing was letting out almost immediately.

"Are you okay?" Yifan asked dumbly, his mind not computing that something was clearly wrong with the younger.

"You weren't there, the feeling didn't go," was all he said, Yifan's instincts kicking in to make him want to draw Yixing into his arm and hold him there. Though, he knew it was best not to. "It was different, I didn't want that."

"I had an exam," was all Yifan could say, dumbly reaching out for ways to explain his absence to Yixing, something which probably wouldn't have bothered the other in weeks before. "I had to take it."

"But you weren't there, you're supposed to be there," Yixing's words triggered guilt, his whole body curling as much around Yixing's as he could without touching him too much, while the younger took in his scent. "You've made everything go wrong."

He wasn't sure whether or not to feel insulted by the brash words but decided that he may have deserved it, especially when Yixing scenting him seemed to have become routine. Yifan should have been able to pick up on that, he should have recognised that his sudden absence would make things difficult for Yixing. Especially when he had expressly said that the way he felt seemed illogical, that it was disruptive.

"Do you want to go home?" Yifan suggested, looking up at the clock and working out that the lecture was probably half done already. "Would that make you feel better?"

"I don't know, this hasn't happened before." Yixing stepped back, his eyes not red or watery. He looked placid, Yifan knew he hadn't cried but was possibly feeling more unsettled than anything. He dreaded to think how Yixing would have reacted when he realised Yifan wasn't in the lecture hall, to think of how much his scent would have changed in front of such a large number of people.

"Is there anybody I can call for you?" He asked, his instincts failing him in making Yixing feel better as they stood awkwardly in front of each other. It seemed as though only he could pick up on that tension, as Yixing looked completely unfazed by the atmosphere.

He could see Yixing concentrating hard on something, his eyes checking down his body as his hands came to rub against his stomach. Yifan could only wonder if Yixing was testing to see if the pull from his stomach had gone already. The Omega seemed to ponder it for a while, his body appearing a little more relaxed but Yifan couldn't help his worry. He didn't feel as though he had done anything productive.

At least Yixing wouldn't feel worse by knowing that he had made Yifan feel entirely useless, as Yifan knew that he wouldn't know how to ease that pain anymore than the current distress that Yixing was going through.

"There is no need, my mother is on her way," Yixing took a seat at the desk that appeared to have his textbook opened out on it and Yifan couldn't help the feeling of rejection from settling in, lingering by the door until Yixing turned around again, "Don't you have a test you should be taking?"

Yifan could only nod dumbly as he left, the Omega's easy ability to brush him off made dampened his confidence a little and he could only leave himself to convince himself that he helped to make Yixing feel somewhat better than before. Even if it was all his fault.

 

###

 

Yifan didn't know Yixing was scared of the dark, not that he would have ever known had the younger not called him to tell him so. There had been a blackout, one which plunged all the buildings in the city's vicinity into utter darkness and Yixing had been frightened, his tension showing in his voice as Yifan answered the call from a number he didn't recognise. Apparently, the loss of electricity had thrown the younger so off course that he hadn't known what else to do, Yifan's presence having soothed his previous stress episode and he had needed a way of feeling that without leaving his apartment. Yixing did have a deeply structured life. He ate every day at three set times - eight thirty in the morning, one thirty in the afternoon and six in the evening - and he slept every night at eight. He had a rule of not leaving the house once he had arrived home from his classes, only ever doing so on a Wednesday when he bought all of his groceries for the next seven days. His weekends consisted of dance, much to Yifan's surprise, the younger claiming that it aided in his discipline and was something he could enjoy with very minimal social interaction.

Their call, to Yixing, ran as smoothly as it could but there were potholes of silence between Yifan's questions and Yixing's answers. It made things feel awkward and stilted to the Alpha but he knew that Yixing would have been sat with a concentrated expression on his face and his brain would have worked overtime in order to communicate exactly what he had wanted to. Patience, Yifan learned quickly, would be key in getting to know Yixing. That he would have to take his time, to fully explain why he had asked when Yixing had his breakfast and what he ate. He knew that taking note of these things would help him, that keeping them written down for reference would stop Yixing from having an episode like he seemed to have had in Yifan's absence form the class.

Colours seemed to be a running theme, with the younger having divided his days of the week up by the kinds of foods that he ate and Yifan made sure to have those things in bold on his Pukka pad, underlining things twice for ample effect. Mondays, Yixing had stated, were for red foods. Tuesdays being devoted to green, Wednesdays being both yellow and orange foods, Thursdays having pink and red foods, Fridays had brown and cream coloured foods, and then the whole weekend was green and orange foods only. While the sequence meant nothing in particular to Yifan, he knew that Yixing would take such a thing very seriously. It was part of his life's routine and Yifan couldn't impede on that, not if he was wanting Yixing to see that he could be a prospective mate.

He already had a little confidence in his chances, as Yixing had said that the sick feeling in his stomach made him feel like he should call Yifan, that something about Yifan would assuage the fear and pull. Yifan found himself wanting to be the person that would be there for Yixing unconditionally and that he would be able to give the younger the kind of understanding and caring mate he would need. The Alpha instincts backed that up, that whole side of him wanted to have a mate that would be able to pamper and guide through things, a mate who would appreciate him even if he didn't express it and then there was the unavoidable fact that Yixing's Omega side called out loudly to Yifan.

It was impossible for Yifan to ignore how Yixing's scent abided in the back of his mind even when the younger was no longer there. In very much the same manner, Yixing's voice ran in his mind almost continuously and he knew it would worsen when Yixing had finished talking to him on the phone. The quiet noises of confusion that Yifan missed in loud lecture halls rang clearly, indicating for him to explain something more, and the sound of Yixing's deadpan voice telling Yifan things which he should have felt a little embarrassed voicing. Yet, Yifan adored it.

Every moment of Yixing talking to himself aloud then clicking in disapproval randomly at thoughts he had, he found himself being enchanted by such things rather than put off. There was something impossibly charming about the way Yixing acted, both in person and on the phone and it made Yifan feel unassailable. There was something about talking to somebody who wouldn't reach out to others, to be the one they called upon and even though it was the first time, Yifan knew it wouldn't be the last. Not when Yixing fell asleep without saying goodnight, it made Yifan able to convince himself that Yixing hadn't said anything because he didn't want to be the one to end the conversation. Not because Yifan tried to keep him talking until a minute before his set sleeping time.

 

###

 

Having Yixing's phone number came with its pluses and minuses, Yifan could contact him whenever he wanted but Yifan could also contact him whenever he wanted. It seemed to be okay in the beginning, things remaining within the normal social structures that Yixing seemed to grasp, like him asking Yifan things in return and not just closing the conversation off prematurely. However, Yifan seemed incapable from typing out messages, especially when Yixing left ten or fifteen minutes between his replies. Things started out simply, their conversations flowing from one shallow topic to another but as things progressed, the fractures began to show themselves.

Yifan found it difficult to type out his explanations when Yixing got confused, Yixing failing to grasp the infrequent jokes and taking everything at face value. It seemed to have the younger perplexed as to how Yifan could possibly think he looked like a rabbit. The elder had to try to explain that it was nickname, an endearment, but Yixing couldn't comprehend how he could look like a fluffy animal when he was essentially all skin and small ears. Despite that, Yifan had found the situation adorable, even if he couldn't articulate himself as well as he could through speech.

They had been messaging solidly for around a week before the first major problem arose. Yifan's basketball practice had run over time and he had anticipated a few messages from Yixing, only to come across nothing but a screen full of memes Lu Han had sent. It made the Alpha worry, Yixing never left extended periods of time between his replies to Yifan's questions and it had been almost three hours before Yifan had left his phone in his locker. It made him worry a little more about the Omega, his Thursday night normally consisting of his college work and then sleeping. There was nothing that could shake Yixing from that routine. He immediately fished through Lu Han's streaming messages and managed to tap on his conversation thread with Yixing, his fingers tapping on the keyboard instantly.

 

From Yifan

 

Are you okay?

 

He locked his phone, sliding it into the side pocket of his bag before heading into the showers to wash away the sweat and grime, his hair clinging to his head as perspiration dripped down onto his brow. His shower, much like his teammates, lasted no longer than four minutes. He was glad he could wash himself quickly, his urge to check on his phone making him move in a more rushed manner than he ever would have before. Jerking in his motions, Yifan barely dressed himself before his phone was in his hands again. With his screen devoid of messages, the Alpha didn't care that he was around his teammates when he dialled Yixing's number and waited for him to pick up. He felt frustrated when there was n answer, the cut to voicemail driving his instincts haywire as he suppressed the urge to find Yixing and make sure that he was safe.

"Yifan," came the strung out sound of Yixing's voice on the third call. "Why are you calling?"

"Are you okay?" He asked straightaway, not minding the gazes he was getting from those around him as he sat down on one of the benches that was slightly across from his locker.

"Is something supposed to be wrong?" Yixing's voice was serious, only the tangling of confusion coming out with his words and Yifan let his head fall down, his hand catching it before he rested his elbow on his knee.

"No," Yifan reassured him at first, "You didn't reply and I got worried."

"Why?" The omega couldn't have sounded more perplexed if he tried, the genuine curiosity making Yifan suppress a groan. He needed his patience to remain intact and he knew that growing frustrated would only make things worse for Yixing to understand.

"Replying tells me that you're okay, that nothing has happened to you," Yifan tried to explain, his tone level and calm as he ignored the inquisitive glances from his teammates.

"But nothing has happened to me," was the deadpan response that came through the receiver, "I just didn't want to reply, it makes me feel tired and I don't like how much time it takes. It's difficult to understand everything."

"Then tell me," Yifan replied softly, his head lifting up from his palm, "If you tell me then I can wait until you're ready to talk again."

"But that would be replying when I am too tired to. If I wanted to talk to you then I would. I don't want to talk to you, so I'm not."

"You don't want to talk to me?" The alpha sat still for a while, his eyes closed and he could hear the soft puffs of Yixing's breath through the connection. "I need to know know that so I can give you space."

"I'm trying to work and I can't concentrate with the constant buzzing." Yixing's increasingly wired tone edged through Yifan's head. "It's too annoying."

There was silence between them for a few moments and Yifan opened his mouth to apologise for wearing Yixing out, for disrupting him and seemingly being inconsiderate to the level of interaction Yixing could handle. No words came as the line was cut off, Yixing's habit of hanging up at the wrong time kicking in and Yifan let his phone fall onto his lap as he sat up properly. He couldn't believe that he had driven Yixing to be quite so annoyed with him, the younger's snappy sentences striking Yifan in an almost hurtful way, as he never thought that his actions could have had such an effect on Yixing's mood. The normally calm and logical Yixing had sounded indisputably stressed, leaving Yifan to think about how the younger's apartment would be permeating with the scent of Yixing's affliction. He hadn't ever had the other respond so coldly and it hurt that it was all while he was trying to express his concern and interest in the Omega.

"Did somebody just hang up on you?" One of his teammates asked, there was no animosity in his voice but Yifan knew that he was shocked.

"Yeah, an Omega I'm, uh," Yifan searched for the right word and settled upon the most apt quickly, "courting."

Somebody else let out a small gasp, the air in the locker room becoming thick with the different levels of interest, "They didn't even hear you out though. Honestly, I think that's kind of rude."

"He can't help it," Yifan defended by reflex, his eyes meeting with a few of the other guys around him as he muzzled his umbrageous reaction to Yixing's words. "He's got a disorder that means he can't really understand social structures and cues, he doesn't mean to offend but he can't help it."

"He's insensitive," somebody else suggested and Yifan had never rejected an idea so quickly before in his life.

"No, I'm sure that he cares but he doesn't quite know how to express it yet. I think I've just got to find ways of understanding him rather than waiting for him to catch up with me," Yifan felt like he had a slight moment of clarity, that he could finally realise how much he was disrupting Yixing. If Yifan had felt like his life had been upended by finding somebody he would want to mate, then Yixing would be struggling more than tenfold what he was.

The Omega had nothing but his instincts to follow while maintaining what he felt kept him sane. Yifan was new, a foreign entity, in his life that he would take some time to get used to. The Alpha decided on the spot that he would cool off on contacting Yixing so much, that his overzealous attitude was likely to be what was making Yixing feel stressed. A side effect he didn't want to come with their slow burning courting.

 

###

 

Yifan wasn't entirely sure how Yixing would approach him the next time he would see him, the younger having not messaged or called him once over the weekend between their previous call and the morning of their first lecture of the week together. There was no mistaking the nerves that itched in the bottom his stomach, he could only hope that Yixing wouldn't tell him that he was too tiring to consider being around. He wasn't entirely sure if Yixing would register his overbearing actions as worry or learning the boundaries of what he could do. He could only wish that Yixing would appreciate the effort and enjoy the settling period in the meantime.

The Alpha couldn't say that he wasn't shocked when Yixing walked towards him almost immediately, the younger foregoing any verbal greeting in favour of burying his nose into Yifan's nape. It was the first time that Yixing had done such a thing while the class was filing in, as the other students could see the way in which Yixing had nuzzled up against his neck and how intimate he act looked. Yifan could feel the Omega's eyelids flitting closed as he inhaled his breaths in deeper and moved his arms to balance himself on Yifan's shoulders. The elder couldn't help but feel weakened by the affectionate act, that Yixing's want to scent him was driving him to do something that would appease them both and the Alpha could do nothing but praise the Omega instincts within Yixing.

Fighting the urge to pull Yixing in closer, to hold him as their primal bond grew stronger, was next to impossible. He felt completely helpless to the smaller male and he found himself being uncaring as the small mutterings of Yixing's approval whispered across his skin. It surprised the elder when Yixing moved one of his hands to cup at his throat in hopes of drawing more of Yifan's scent in. The firm clutch of the younger's fingers on his neck had Yifan swimming in imagery of bluebells and willow, his fingers twitching as he held Yifan and Yixing stayed there for over half a minute. Yifan let his eyes slip closed as he took in the relaxed and content scent of the other for himself. He let himself indulge in what was presented to him before Yixing pulled back to find his seat before the class began, the outlines of his fingers burned on Yifan's skin long after he was released.

It took half an hour of the ninety minute lecture for Yifan to regain his composure, some of the students sat around him looking at him in slight wonder and he focused on trying to save himself by pretending to concentrate on the notes in front of him. There was a soft feeling under Yifan's skin that he could only describe as molten honey, the silky but sticky feeling layering over his muscles and there was something about the way Yixing's scent lingered on his skin. There was no way he could avoid the presence of the younger in the room when escaping his scent was impossible. Yifan couldn't stop smiling when he realised that the chances of him being able to insufflate that unique essence almost daily were increasing. Rather than deteriorating like he had thought.

The time passed quickly, Yixing taking his normal five minutes after the lecture had ended to place his things away in his bag in their set order. Yifan could hear the girl who had been sat next to the Omega complain to the professor that she had been distracted by Yixing's incessant foot tapping, a trait which Yifan knew to be one of his soothing habits in the few weeks of observing him from the back of the room. He could feel his frustration for the whining Beta crawl up through his stomach, his want to tell the girl that it was better for Yixing do that than become progressively agitated in the throng of social interaction. The chance never arose as Yixing made his way over, his face looking as though it was pulling an angered grimace whilst he held his bag. Which he was doing so tightly that his knuckles turned white.

Quashing the urge to ask if he was okay was difficult when he felt the frustration rolling off Yixing in waves, a part of him wanted to know if it was what the Beta was saying about him that was bothering him but Yixing looked up at Yifan with a serious frown. "I want to cuddle with you, will you come home with me?"

"Huh?" Yifan tilted his head to the side, Yixing cleared his throat and repeated his sentence more slowly, as if Yifan had misheard him. "You want to cuddle?"

"It's something people who are mates do, right?" The smaller tilted his head to the side, as if he was searching for confirmation that his logic was right.

"It is," Yifan confirmed, his hand clasping at his closed MacBook with an energy that felt like excitement. "You want to do that today?"

"Yes, I spent my weekend researching it and I decided that it would cause no harm to try it with you," Yixing's straightforward approach struck a chord in Yifan's chest, the fact that when he had been fretting over the fact that this wonderful Omega could reject him, when said boy had been searching things about cuddling. Yifan knew Yixing would be hard to read when he had found out about his placement on the Autistic spectrum but he never figured that it could make somebody agonisingly adorable.

"If that's what you want," Yifan remarked slowly, giving the other the chance to say no if he pleased.

"We leave in two minutes," Yixing smiled slightly, his dimple denting inwards and Yifan knew there was nothing he could ever say no to if Yixing asked him that cutely.

They stood opposite each other silently before Yixing turned on his heel, walking out of the lecture theatre and Yifan was left to scramble behind him like a puppy on glossed flooring. He could feel his heart beating fast as he caught up with the Omega, his bag slung over his shoulder and he took Yixing's own out of his grip to carry for him in his left hand. Yifan offered Yixing an upturned flat left palm, an indication that Yifan wanted to hold hands and Yixing stared at the silent offer with confusion.

"What's wrong with it?" He queried, his attempt at concern made Yifan smile down at his once again intense expression.

"Nothing, I was offering to hold your hand," he explained, slowly reaching down for Yixing's fingers and lacing them very loosely with his own. He wanted to give ample opportunity for the younger to pull away but Yixing seemed to test out a few squeezes before settling into the touch. Yifan hoped that Yixing's instincts were telling him that they were doing something that was often shared between mates and Yifan could feel that honey again as Yixing began to tug him softly through the university campus.

They walked for twenty minutes once they had left the university grounds, their treading often being in sync as Yifan shortened his strides to follow Yixing to his apartment. There was a constant sense of pride and excitement lapping inside of him at the idea that Yixing was willing to let him into his place of sanctuary. Though, Yifan knew that the younger would be reluctant to go to his place, for it would be too unfamiliar even if Yifan's scent would be strong. Plus, Yifan didn't want Yixing to meet Lu Han yet, he knew the Omega would be lost in all the jokes his roommate told. Still, that didn't tarnish the affectionate feeling Yifan was getting from Yixing.

Yifan just wanted to be there, to be present for Yixing and he knew that going to his apartment was the first stage for that. It would be the slow introduction into being a permanent fixture in Yixing's life that he needed.

The younger lived on the first floor, his apartment having windows but no balcony as it looked over the communal garden, the beautifully green leaves were on eye level as Yifan looked out of the glass panes and he could see why Yixing had the apartment. It was an incredibly relaxing environment that didn't look out across a busy street, the scenery would probably remain constant until Yixing moved out and Yifan knew that normalcy was an requirement for the Omega. Arms around his waist stopped him from looking out down the entrance hallway, Yixing's smaller body drawing closer to his and Yifan was taken aback by how forward the other was being. However, he sensed slight unease coming from the younger, his arms were awkward and the whole thing felt uncomfortable, Yifan tried to shift to show Yixing how to embrace somebody lovingly but the younger merely squeezed tighter an didn't let him move. Yifan let out a nervous laugh as Yixing tried to snuggle into his chest but his auburn hair ticked at his neck instead.

"Yixing," Yifan whispered softly, "this would be a lot easier if we were sat down."

"Would it?" The younger questioned, drawing back slightly to look up with his eyes wide with innocent questioning. Yifan nodded and Yixing stepped back, his palm upturned as he stared at Yifan expectantly, the Alpha glowing inside as he joined his hand's in Yixing's to be led into his living room. He sat down rigidly on the sofa first, the elder taking the initiative to sit beside him.

"Can I move you?" Yifan asked and Yixing stared back at him blankly. "It is just to show you what to do, okay?"

Yixing didn't look convinced per se but nodded slightly, making Yifan reach down and gently place Yixing's legs over his lap. The younger watched with curiosity as Yifan drew him closer, tilting the smaller body to drape slightly over his and he released the younger to wrap his long arms around his torso.

"You can move to get comfortable," Yifan suggested and Yixing immediately started fidgeting, edging himself closer to press his face into Yifan's neck and the Alpha could feel the happiness radiating from his chest. He knew his scent would grow more potent as he grew more content, which Yixing would surely be able to pick up on. Much like how Yifan could tell that Yixing was soothed by being held by him in that way, that he was happy to be tucked into Yifan's side and that Yifan was reciprocating his want to cuddle so openly.

The Omega shifted around continually but Yifan caught himself thinking that he didn't mind it so much, as long as Yixing becoming more comfortable with him and settling on him in a way that Yifan had always imagined his mate to. There was no mistaking how elated Yifan was to have Yixing to share that feeling with, once of his hands moved to thread into Yixing's hair gently as the strands ran through his fingers. The short tresses were smooth and glossy, his fingers coating themselves in the younger's scent as if it was bathing in it. It was an unmistakable calm that Yifan wouldn't replace with anything, not when he could feel soft breaths against his neck and the steady thudding of Yixing's heart on his ribcage. Even in many years to come, Yifan knew that the memory of Yixing's eyelashes pressing on his skin would never be omitted.

They stayed like that for hours, the younger's complaints about hunger making Yifan stir slightly, as he stretched out his legs from where they had moved to accommodate Yixing as he crawled more into his lap two hours earlier. Yifan knew that Yixing would only want to eat foods that were red in colour and could only guess as to what Yixing would have, as he couldn't imagine a fruit salad being any help to the younger.

He was surprised to see that Yixing was using raw beef for his dinner, Yifan had no idea what he was making when he cut the steak up finely and placed it in pot with what appeared to be dyed red cardamom and cayenne pepper, the Omega also used butter and chili salt together to stir in together. Yifan was bemused watching him, observing how the younger had loaves of bread that were all in the different colours that he ate and found it adorable how Yixing placed his food in the centre of the table and with slices of bread to go with it. The Omega set out two plates, both in matching shades to the food and he told Yifan bluntly to eat. Though, Yixing began to smell his food rather intensely before putting it anywhere near his mouth.

The elder placed himself down, not entirely sure what he was about to eat but he began to follow Yixing's actions of spreading the meaty paste onto the bread to eat. He was pleasantly surprised to find that it tasted better than he thought, "What is this? It tastes great."

"It's called Kitfo, it's from Africa," Yixing replied without missing a beat,"I think it is Ethiopia but I'm not sure, my mother gave me the recipe before I moved out."

Yifan hummed in response, observing Yixing eat with slight nervousness and the Alpha hoped that it wasn't his presence that was putting him off of his food and he moved eyes to the food that was between them. The elder could see Yixing tapping his foot under the table, making him want to reach out to soothe it in spite of the fact that he wasn't sure how that would be received by the smaller male. Yet, Yifan discovered that he loved being so close to Yixing, his instincts telling him to get ever closer until the Omega was on his lap again. Nonetheless he knew that was just his Alpha side longing for the attention it had been getting before Yixing declared that it was time for them to eat.

Silences, the older student noted, were a lot more comfortable than they had been in the weeks before. He found himself not wanting to fill every dip in conversation with words and questions for Yixing, it was something that he saw eased the younger a lot and decided to keep his voice to himself until he was spoken to. The fact that Yixing spoke when he wanted to speak - or rather when he had the energy to - meant that Yifan didn't have to force anything at all. He wanted Yixing to be natural with him, to not care that Yixing may not understand everything about their interactions but they were both learning about each other.

Yifan had his mouth full of a thick slice of bread when Yixing spoke, his words shocking the elder into choking on his food, "Why do you want to be my mate?"

The Alpha tried to dislodge the chunk of beef covered bread from his throat but found it next to impossible, all the while Yixing looked at him expectantly. When he could breathe without any food in his windpipe, Yifan thought about how to answer the question. He wasn't entirely sure himself but he wanted to answer. There would be nothing he would like more than to have Yixing know exactly why Yifan thought that they could pledge themselves to each other forever.

He decided to go with what happened for him, how he felt when he saw Yixing with his eyes wide and his mouth parted, "It was your scent, at first, that resonated with me. I could pick it out but not place it with a person, I thought that if the owner of the scent picked out mine that we would find a way of meeting. But, a few months passed and nothing happened, other than the fact that your scent seemed to be everywhere. It was on my clothes and I didn't even know how it got there because we never touched." Yifan looked up at Yixing, who had finished eating and had his plate moved slightly to the side. "When I saw you after that Alpha was in your seat, I couldn't believe that it was you. You're the most beautiful creature I have ever seen and I think you had me without even speaking a word. I think that's how I knew, it was in the way that you didn't have to say anything to make me start falling in love with you."

Yixing sat in his seat, his brain processing everything that had been said and Yifan didn't mind the quiet, as it gave him the chance to recollect on what had just left his mouth, he couldn't believe that he had articulated something so close to what he actually felt and that shocked him to the bone.

"Have you seen all the creatures in the world?" Yixing asked, his voice breaking Yifan from his honey drenched thoughts. It was easy to shake his head and Yixing frowned, his lips making a downwards curve. "Then how do you know I am the most beautiful?"

Yifan smiled, his cheeks hurting because it had pressed open so widely, "I just know that nothing would ever compare to you, as you're the most beautiful person I have ever seen and the chances of somebody else surpassing you are very small."

"You're more beautiful than me though," the counter statement the younger provided made Yifan's mouth hang open on a hinge. "I do not feel sick when I look in the mirror but I do when I look at you."

While he was laughing, which happened much to Yixing's confusion, Yifan realised how the same thing would have insulted him before he met Yixing but he found the compliment in what the other was saying. The elder watched as Yixing looked down at his hands, his fingers twiddling nervously and Yifan felt his heart melt at the sight.

"I know I'm not normal," Yixing began and Yifan's melting heart froze in its place. "I know I am not the perfect person to be somebody's mate. I'm difficult, rude and often very selfish without even realising. I'm not good with feelings, I can barely ever express my own and I don't know how to act around other people. There is nothing wrong with me but I know there is very little that is right too. I never thought that an Alpha would take interest in me and be patient enough to move at my pace but please know that I am trying. I've been watching romance films, so I know how to act with you. I've been asking my mother about how I can say things like this without hurting anybody. I have been memorising the things you explain to not make the same mistakes twice. I am trying, it's hard but I really am."

Yifan could see his vision blurring, his lower eyelids cooling with tears as they slowly broke past his lashes, he stretched his palm out and Yixing took it quickly, "I am not going to tell you that you're perfect, because neither of us are, but I am going to tell you that you will make a wonderful mate. It would take an awful lot to make me think that you are not fitted to me, that your jagged edges don't fit with mine. You have taught me more about patience and working for something than I have done on my own the whole way through my life."

Yixing nodded, his eyes a little more downcast than usual and Yifan stood up from his place at the table, not letting go of the smaller hand in his, but crouched down in front of Yixing to press a soft kiss on his right cheek, "I know that you're trying, Yixing. Why don't we clear up and then we can go cuddle?"

The Omega perked up at the mention of cuddling and let go of Yifan's hand to start placing the plates in the dishwasher, the Alpha helped to put things away when he could but saw very quickly that he was more of a nuisance than a help - Yixing had to trail behind him and place everything where it should have been put.

They were fully settled on the sofa, Yixing playing one of his romance films on the television and Yifan was looking more at the auburn haired male tucked into his side who fidgeted every twenty minutes. He could see Yixing concentration on the film and thought it was the most wonderful thing when he saw a new idea or concept register in his mind. There was also the fact that Yixing often asked Yifan why people did certain things, as it all seemed pretty illogical to the younger male but Yifan explained that much of it was for drama. Yifan often laughing over the fact that Yixing asked whether or not people actually believed that somebody wrote letters to another person every day for a year, to which Yifan had swiftly responded with a 'no'.

When it came to half past eight, Yifan readied himself to pry away from Yixing but the younger seemed almost completely settled on his lap, his curved nose brushing against the Alpha's nape comfortingly. Yifan was sure that people were not usually so transfixed with scent but Yifan loved how Yixing did it so easily, his confidence in diving his nose into Yifan's collar was spectacular.

"I need to go," Yifan whispered, Yixing's head snapping up to look at the Alpha intently, "You're going to bed soon, so I probably should leave."

"But it's dark out," Yixing argued, his eyes casting to the window where the Spring sun had settled below the horizon, "I don't think that would be a good idea.

"I shouldn't stay here though, I don't want to put you out of your routine," he watched the Omega shake his head vehemently, his whole body following the movement.

"No, the dark isn't good," Yixing told him firmly. "The dark is worse than any changes."

"Yixing-"

"I am trying to look after you," the younger cut Yifan off and the Alpha quieted as he listened, Yixing pulling out some blankets from a basket beneath the coffee table. He left them on the seat beside where the two of them had been sat, it was no surprise that Yixing upped and left without saying goodnight.

Though, Yifan did call out for Yixing to sleep well once he saw the main bedroom light go out and small orange glows emit from numerous plug sockets around the house.

 

###

 

It was four months into their courtship when Yixing finally let Yifan use the word boyfriend, the younger having deemed Yifan as a permanent enough fixture to be given a title. There was something about Yifan committing before Yixing which helped to settle the Omega, with the most part of their relationship being based around how well Yifan could support Yixing. The Alpha having been around to deal with the intervals where Yixing would struggle more around people than normal, Yifan having been his saving grace in the times when Yixing had managed to offend somebody with a short temper and Yifan proving that he could be a constant stream of relaxing scent when Yixing needed his daily dose.

They were unusually slow on the mating process, Yifan never having let his lips touch Yixing's and the younger had never pushed the matter. They both knew that Yixing would tell Yifan outright if he wanted something, whether or not that would be anything from the last biscuit in the pack or if he thought Yifan should change. There had been times when Yifan had to remind himself that Yixing often didn't realise that telling him to shut up because he was tired of talking was not his fault. It was difficult to avoid some conflicts, Yixing often decided last minute that he didn't want to go out for dinner in the place where Yifan had organised food especially for him weeks in advance. No matter how much Yifan struggled to keep his cool on numerous occasions, he never let it slip that he was annoyed with his boyfriend, not when he knew that Yixing often viewed himself as being inadequate to be a mate.

Yixing was laying across his bed, having sent Yifan to the floor because he wanted more room to himself and he was playing with the dyed blond strands atop Yifan's head. The younger always relishing in how moving Yifan's hair released more of his scent into the room, as well as serving as a soothing habit for the younger too.

"Yifan?" He called out quietly, making the Alpha look up from where he was studying on his laptop and twist around to look at the younger.

"Yes, love?"

"Do you really love me?" Yifan could see something akin to what he translated to be nervousness in Yixing's mannerisms and he placed his MacBook on the floor, turning to face Yixing fully.

"Of course," Yifan nods, holding his palm open flat to Yixing, the younger smiling as he placed his hand there. "How could I not?"

"How did you know that you loved me?" Yixing's question made Yifan think, they both knew when Yifan started to fall in love but never had there been a definitive point when Yifan had been sure. His soft 'I love you's passing from his mouth to Yixing's ears as the younger fell asleep well before Yifan did. It had come to no surprise that Yixing had never reciprocated the words. Not that Yifan had minded, he knew that Yixing probably loved him in his own special way.

"It was when you bought me a yellow rose instead of red," Yifan said after a few moments of thought, making Yixing pout slightly and Yifan gripped a little more tightly to Yixing's hand. "There was a split second where I thought you were going to reject me and I thought my heart stopped beating. Then you saved yourself by saying you had been looking for a red one but all you could see were yellow ones, you have no idea how amazing that made me feel. Plus, it was a Wednesday, so that helped me feel a little better too." Yifan stopped for a few more seconds, considering what he could say next. "It was when you bought me a toothbrush as a gift to show that you cared about me a my health. It was when you bought me a selection of soaps and told me to use each one, then after I did you would throw them all away because they covered my scent too much. I think it is everyday when you search for me in a crowd of people."

Yixing sat back for a minute before he opened his mouth again, "I think I love you."

"What?"

"I can't imagine living without you, not seeing you everyday and not having your scent to make me feel less sick," Yixing explained, his face serious as his face contorted into an angry countenance. "I always want to see you and I have never felt that for anybody. So, if that isn't love, then I don't know what is."

Yifan wanted to speak, but his whole body was frozen in shock, he felt like he was in disarray. It mirrored the feeling he had when Yixing told him that he could sleep in complete darkness when Yifan was there with him. And only when he was there.

"I don't want to know what love is if it isn't that," Yixing looked as though he was going to cry, his eyes watering and Yifan brought himself onto his knees to brush the salty liquid away.

Howbeit, he never got to his destination because the press of plump lips against his own halted his movements instantly. Yixing lingered on Yifan's mouth for a split second before pulling back, his head leaning from let to right as the Alpha sat still with shock. Not only had he managed to receive a confession but he'd managed to be kissed by Yixing, albeit chastely.

"I thought you were saving your kiss for when you were sure you'd be with your mate?" Yifan's voice was both breathless and full of intent, his hand leaving Yixing's to hold lightly at the back of his neck.

Yixing's tone had the unwavering conviction it always had, his un-flustered way of talking and expressing himself working in Yifan's favour. "I did keep my kiss for my mate."

Yifan couldn't stop his smile as he pulled Yixing closer, letting his lips layer over Yixing's in an exquisitely gentle caress, his grip and touch was loose to let Yixing draw back at any time. It was something that Yifan had wanted since he had seen Yixing part his lips as he realised Yifan was the keeper of the scent that he loved. There was a moment when Yifan leant back and he could not help but laugh as Yixing followed with hopes of earning another kiss.