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this mattress is a desert island

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Since Wei Wuxian arrived at the Cloud Recesses for the guest lectures, he’s already been through two heats and several phantom ones.

 

Wei Wuxian is used to heats. He's been getting them since he was a freshly presented omega, cooped up in his room at Lotus Pier, drinking bitter herbal tea to lessen the pain alongside his Shijie’s lotus root and pork rib soup. 

 

During that time, his heats used to comprise just a mild fever, heavy sweating, awful cramps, and napping whenever he could. There was very little of the omegean sexual desperation he ended up developing within the years. 

 

Ah, and also, he nested.

 

Not every omega enjoys nesting. Even though it’s a natural instinct that is magnified during heats, it isn’t meant to be a sexual act only for mated omegas. Wei Wuxian has been nesting since he was a small, frightened boy, new to Lotus Pier. 

 

He hadn’t even known he was an omega yet; he picked up the habit from his mom. At the time, it had been his prime source of comfort and protection. So, as soon as he had been given a bed of his own, he had gathered all the blankets he could and made a small nest, cocooning himself inside whenever he felt like he needed it.

 

Unsurprisingly, he presented as an omega. He got his first heat just a while before his fifteenth birthday, then every 3 or 4 months after that. His nesting increased and he spent the entire duration of his heats inside of it.

 

Back at home, his little den consisted of old blankets from his childhood, robes he had overgrown, gifted stuffed toys and some spare robes from his parents that had been stored at Lotus Pier. The items were familiar and comfortable, coated in his spicy scent already, and there was nowhere in the world he would rather be in moments of distress. 

 

And now, several months into his stay at the Cloud Recesses, he has a very good nest, even better than the one at home. It has something special, something his nests have never had before. 

 

An alpha’s scent. 

 

Wei Wuxian supposes that maybe he should be a little embarrassed about it, really, but he just can’t bring himself to regret the amazing feeling it brings him. There’s something about that specific scent that makes him float, his brain clouded with comfort and home, even though he is several li away from Lotus Pier’s warm halls.

 

He thinks back to how this came to be.

 

The first time was an accident.

 

✿❀○❀✿

 

A few months into his stay at the Cloud Recesses, Wei Wuxian finds himself with a sore back, heading to the cold springs.

 

The moment he steps on the narrow stone path leading to the entrance of the pond, his knees wobble as he catches a strong scent in the air. He has smelt this before—there is no doubt about who it belongs to—but the sheer intensity of it is what surprises him.

 

Wei Wuxian has caught a whiff of Lan Zhan on several occasions, especially during his days annoying him in the library pavilion, trying his best to get closer to him and get his attention, but it has never been this strong.

 

Gusu alphas are known to have very powerful scents and instincts. However, all Lan sect disciples are taught since young to have impeccable self-restraint. After presentation, they wear special robes to suppress their scent, believing that flaunting their odor to others around them is a sign of discourteousness. 

 

This special fabric used to make the Lans' clothes is embroidered with unique threads and spells that make the person's scent stay contained inside of the garment. Some also drink medicinal teas to decrease its intensity.

 

However, this tea must not be to Lan Zhan’s taste. He seems to rely only on his robes' spell. Now that he’s stripped down to the waist, soaking himself in the cold waters, the strong aroma of sandalwood is spreading unfettered into the surrounding area. He must be here for the same reason that Wei Wuxian is. 

 

Wei Wuxian gleefully composes himself and descends the pathway, coming closer to the springs. 

 

The alpha should have sensed Wei Wuxian from afar, considering that he doesn’t bother with scent-supressing robes, but he seems to be deep in meditation when Wei Wuxian approaches.

 

"Lan Zhan!" he calls out, wearing his usual bright grin.

 

There is surprise on Lan Zhan's usual stoic expression. He frowns minutely then hurries to grab his outer robes and cover himself, dimming the smell of sandalwood in the air. Wei Wuxian makes his way to the border of the water and leans onto a bamboo pole. 

 

“Lan Zhan! This is a great place,” he exclaims before pouting. “Why haven’t you told me about it? Aren’t you my friend?”

 

“How did you get in?” Lan Zhan squints at him. 

 

“Zewu-Jun gave me permission!” Wei Wuxian says and proceeds to take off his boots and socks. He rests Suibian on a nearby rock and steps into the water, hissing at the frigid temperature. 

 

Despite that, he has to admit it’s also nice. Giggling, he flashes another smile at Lan Zhan, who is watching him from across the pond. He wades through the water and comes to a stop next to him, squirming and rubbing his own sides in a hopeless attempt to diminish the freezing sensation.

 

“Lan Zhan, it’s too cold!” he complains, even though he has no intention of getting out. 

 

Lan Zhan turns his body around to face him and purses his lips. “Don’t move too much. Use your golden core.”

 

“I know, I know! But I feel like if I stand still, my blood will be frozen and I will die with stiff limbs,” Wei Wuxian exaggerates as he tries to move even closer to Lan Zhan.

 

But Lan Zhan takes a step sideways in the other direction, deliberately avoiding him, and he seems to be taking slow and shallow breaths. Wei Wuxian doesn’t think too much about it, gazing at him with an incredulous expression on his face. “Aiyah Lan Zhan, how could you do this?”

 

Lan Zhan looks away, ignoring his question, and Wei Wuxian—oblivious to the problem he’s causing—grabs for his sash, intending to get rid of the layers between his sore skin and the curative waters.

 

As soon as he notices the movement, Lan Zhan’s eyes widen comically and he asks, “What are you doing?” 

 

Wei Wuxian just grins and answers, “Removing my clothes so I can heal, duh!”

 

He is only able to finish taking off his outer robe, exposing his collarbones, before Lan Zhan spins to face the opposite direction. His ears are blushing. How cute! Wei Wuxian stops disrobing and says as much, chuckling as the redness darkens even more.

 

“Aw Lan Zhan, are you embarrassed? Have you never swam with anyone here? We do that in Yunmeng all the time. My face has gotten thicker within the years—you should come visit sometime! I’ll show you all the best places. I can even buy you loquats!” 

 

Lan Zhan hesitates a little, but speaks, “If Wei Ying wants.” His voice is low, as if he is unsure about the seriousness of Wei Ying’s words.

 

“Really?! Lan Zhan you are the best!”

 

His smile grows as Wei Wuxian registers Lan Zhan’s agreement. He didn’t think  Lan Zhan would say yes, but he basks in the thrilling prospect of having him in Lotus Pier and hanging out with him. He could show Lan Zhan that piece of himself, the place where he spent most of his childhood. The idea of it makes his stomach flutter in foreign and riveting emotions.

 

Wei Wuxian steps closer to him again. “Hey Lan Zhan, you can turn around now, I’m decent! I won’t undress anymore.”

 

Lan Zhan actually turns around, but pins Wei Wuxian down with a soft stare. “No.”

 

“Ehh? What do you mean?” Wei Wuxian asks.

 

“Stay. Undress and heal. I need to go,” Lan Zhan responds, and nods his head in farewell.

 

Wei Wuxian won’t let him go without teasing just a little, so he makes his voice as flirtatious as he can and says between giggles, “Ah, Lan-er-gege, already? You won’t even take a little dip with me?” 

 

Lan Zhan turns his head, as if resisting rolling his eyes. “Shameless.” He walks away, following the same path Wei Wuxian came from. 

 

Wei Wuxian watches him retreat with a smile. The vicinity still smells of sandalwood, and he enjoys it a little too much, taking a deep breath and shivering.

 

He then does as he was told, stripping to his trousers and using spiritual energy to regulate his body temperature. He takes turns floating and resting against the rocks, the simmer of the water’s healing properties working on the bruised skin of his back. After a while, he feels much better, and decides he’s had enough, so he gets the garments he had laid out earlier to dry and redresses.

 

Wei Wuxian has just grabbed Suibian from its resting spot when he notices the white cloth folded neatly on the other side of the pond. He frowns and leaps across the water, landing there. There’s no mistaking who it belongs to when he picks it up and unfolds it. It’s an underrobe made of silk, faint lines of blue spiritually embedded thread running throughout the inside. It smells deliciously of Lan Zhan, and he smiles. 

 

Wei Wuxian doesn’t want to admit it to himself fully, but he’s been interested in Lan Zhan’s scent since the first time he managed to catch a hint of it, back on the roof when they clashed swords—he had been astonished by the beauty of the other man, and also elated to find someone who could match his skill. 

 

Although Wei Wuxian is used to being around his alpha shidis and shimeis, none of their scents have ever attracted him, nor have any of them ever made him feel things like this.

 

He had enacted a plan of action to get closer to Lan Zhan, maybe find out why his scent was so good, crack that icy facade, become friends with him, smell him more, maybe get him to scent his neck–

 

Okay, maybe Wei Wuxian thinks everyday about being properly scented by Lan Zhan. He aches for it, a continuous thirst for how he can feel that alluring scent of sandalwood, as if that even makes any sense. 

 

He often imagines how it would feel if Lan Zhan nuzzled his scent glands, nipped at his wrists, made everyone that crossed paths with Wei Wuxian know who he belonged to; he would feel so protected, so owned.

 

At a first glance, Lan Zhan is aloof and distant. Well, Wei Wuxian has always liked a challenge. He doesn’t want to be a lovesick fool and think too much into it, but Wei Wuxian can’t help but think he’s succeeding in some aspects.

 

There is a particular moment that Wei Wuxian remembers fondly. It happened while copying rules in the library pavilion under Lan Zhan’s supervision. One afternoon, Lan Zhan had been summoned somewhere else in the Cloud Recesses, leaving Wei Wuxian alone with strict orders for him to continue  transcribing, despite how he had been mostly slacking off even in the other’s presence.



Wei Wuxian has been in the Library Pavilion all day, so no one can blame him for being a little sleepy. Even more so considering the absurdity of the Lan routine of rising with the sun. Without Lan Zhan there to wake him upand glare him down for ithe decides to take a nap. He rests his head on his folded arms on the low desk and falls asleep within minutes. 

 

He’s awoken by his shoulder being gently shaken and a soft voice calling his name. 

 

“Wei Ying,” the voice calls.

 

Well, this Wei Ying is not at all interested in abandoning his position, even though he’s asleep on the floor and hunched over a low table. He hums and keeps his eyes closed. The hand keeps trying to shake him awakemaybe even pets his hair?but that’s probably just his sleep-addled brain projecting. 

 

Soon enough, he gives up on his precious sleep and opens his eyes, taking in the warm glow of candles around himis it already dark outside? Then he realizes that the Second Jade of Lan is sitting beside him, posture perfectly straight and a hand resting as a warm weight on Wei Wuxian’s shoulder, previous movements stalling as he notices that Wei Wuxian is now awake.

 

“Wei Ying,” he says again, voice low. “It’s late. You have missed dinner.”

 

Wei Wuxian looks up and blinks at him, eyes heavy and eyelashes glued together by sleepy teardrops. His stomach curls at the mention of food and he pouts, pulling himself upright and leaning onto Lan Zhan’s hand. 

 

“Lan Zhaaan, is it that late already? I copied so many rules, you can’t scold me for falling asleep,” he complains, already mourning the lost meal, even though the Gusu Lan diet is not one of his favorites.

 

He doesn’t get an answer. Instead, Lan Zhan graciously gets up from the floor and fetches a tray from another nearby table, putting it in front of him after moving aside the papers and brushes. 

 

“Eat,” he says.

 

Wei Wuxian ogles him, and for once is deemed speechless. He can’t even think of a teasing remark to use. If he didn’t have his mouth hanging open in shock, one would almost think he'd been hit with the Lan silencing spell. 

 

Realization of the current circumstances comes slowly to him, as does the smell of food. He looks between Lan Zhan and the dishes, then manages to let out a confused, “Aah?”  

 

He tries to go through everything on his mind. First of all, he missed dinner. Second, Lan Zhan noticed that he wasn’t at the dining hall with the others. Third, Lan Zhan somehow brought food for him. But… did he ask for an extra portion in the kitchens? Did he fly down to Caiyi Town just to buy these dishes? That would probably explain how red some of the plates are. Did he make them himself? No, no, that’s ridiculous. 

 

But, indulging himself a little, he could pretend that Lan Zhan is courting him. An alpha personally giving food to an omega is known to be a cliché wooing technique, after all. As soon as the thought crosses his mind, he forces himself to shake it off and move. What would Lan Zhan think if he knew what was going through his mind? 

 

Wei Wuxian takes a deep breath and turns his head away, breaking eye contact with Lan Zhan, who has been staring this entire time. It’s very nice to have Lan Zhan’s gaze on him, even though it makes him squirm and scream inside. He hopes Lan Zhan hasn’t noticed how much he’s blushing because of this simple thing.

 

He grabs a spoon from the tray and gulps down some of the soupdefinitely not made by the tasteless cooks of the Gusu Lan secttaking a break to sip at the tea that had also been poured for him. ‘Ah Lan Zhan, what am I supposed to do with you?’ he thinks. 

 

Having eased his hunger somewhat, Wei Wuxian looks at Lan Zhan and smiles. “Lan Zhan, thank you. You… You didn’t have to.” He reaches out to rest a hand on the other’s knee. Although physical affection isn’t difficult for Wei Wuxian, he finds himself overthinking such a small touch, hand tingling from the warmth emanating off Lan Zhan through his white layers of clothing.

 

Lan Zhan visibly swallows and nods in acknowledgement. “No speaking during meals,” he says without the usual bite.

 

Wei Wuxian smiles from ear to ear, withdrawing his handgiving a last affectionate squeezeso he can resume eating.

 

Seated as close as they are to each other, Wei Wuxian breathes in feeble whiffs of sandalwood from the other, who can most definitely smell him too. If Lan Zhan’s long strands of hair weren’t covering his ears right now, Wei Wuxian would have noticed how red they became. But what he does notice is the faint, barely there smile on the other’s lips, and that makes his heart beat just a bit faster in his chest.

 

It doesn’t stop racing until he falls asleep much later that night.



Back to the present, he checks his surroundings just in case, and when he’s sure he’s alone, he brings up the fabric to his face and inhales, a rush of adrenaline running through him as if he were doing something forbidden. ‘How good would it be to smell it from the source?’ he wonders. 

 

Since Lan Zhan is probably already too far for him to catch up now—and probably busy, as he said that he needed to go—Wei Wuxian decides that it’s for the best if he waits until the next time they see each other to return it. Wei Wuxian tucks the cloth into his qiankun pouch and heads for his guest room, determined to keep it safe for Lan Zhan. At least, that’s what he tells himself.

 

✿❀○❀✿

 

A few days later, Wei Wuxian wakes up with a low grade fever. He doesn’t think too much about it. Maybe he caught a simple cold—the temperature in the mountains is much lower than the usual in Yunmeng, not to mention the freezing waters of the springs in which he had bathed—but his golden core should take care of it by sunset.

 

It isn’t until the next day, just after lunch, when the fever persists and he feels the first cramp in his lower abdomen, that he realizes—these are his pre-heat symptoms.

 

Wei Wuxian is baffled. It’s way too early!  His last cycle was around two weeks before coming to Gusu, so the next one should be due in about a month. What could possibly be going on with him? 

 

He is just too dense to connect the dots.

 

The day after he found Lan Zhan’s abandoned robe in the cold springs, Wei Wuxian brought it back to his room and left it draped over a privacy screen. He just needed to remember and bring it with him to class the next day so he could return it to its owner.

 

That was not what ended up happening. At all.

 

Wei Wuxian just kept forgetting every morning to bring it with him, and when he returned to his quarters in the evenings, he’d take a look at it and…sniff it. Maybe snuggle with it a little bit. Maybe rub it into his neck so he could go to sleep reeking of sandalwood. It just smelled really good, okay? And then he would tell himself to return it on the next day, but when the morning came, he would forget about it all over again. 

 

Over those days, whenever he saw Lan Zhan, the alpha didn't mention the lost robe. He ignored the issue completely, and Wei Wuxian didn’t bring it up either. Judging from the wealthiness of the GusuLan sect, and how prim and pompous they dress, Lan Zhan must not lack any amount of clothing. What harm would it do to keep it?

 

Well, there was no harm being done to Lan Zhan, only to Wei Wuxian himself, even if he hadn’t realized that specific cause. 

 

With a heavy sigh, he goes to the healers to fetch bitter analgesic herbs and ask to be excused from classes for the next few days. One of the physicians measures his temperature and sends him to his rooms after preaching all the usual recommendations he has already heard thousands of times throughout his life.

 

He fully intends to follow most of them, but first, he runs around the Cloud Recesses in search of his siblings. His shijie had been worried about him because of the weird fever, so he reassures her that nothing is actually wrong aside from the unusual timing—which he blames on the change of location, new scents, new people, ah, maybe his body is just finicky!—and tells both her and Jiang Cheng that he will be stuck in his bedroom for the heat’s duration.

 

Jiang Cheng just wrinkles his nose and complains that he stinks—from Shijie he receives head pats along with a pot of steaming soup. He bids them farewell and carefully totes the pot back to his room, keeping it heated with a simple talisman. He already has water stored and Shijie made sure he grabbed more, so he boils some of it to brew the medicinal tea and gulps the bitter liquid in one go, sitting on his bed and grimacing at the aftertaste.

 

After that, the urge to nest becomes overwhelming, a tingling feeling settling in his chest, a discomfort with how his sleeping place is currently arranged. He gets up and starts rummaging through the travel bags he brought from home, taking out most of his robes, trousers and shirts and throwing them on the bed. He stands in front of it, hands on his hips, staring at the scattered clothing, then sets into motion. 

 

He leans on the bed, rearranging all the garments into specific locations of his choosing until it’s cozy. Then he remembers that he needs to take off his current clothes and slips on a soft, red sleeping robe, shuffling and stirring the nest again, leaving only some towels out of the cocoon.

 

It’s nice, but it’s still lacking something. His eyes wander to the white silk on the privacy screen and his heart yearns to grab it and wrap around his pillow, bury his face in it and breathe in. But he fights the craving and focuses on the bundle of comfort he has just built for himself. 

 

As per usual after he finishes arranging his nest, his eyelids droop with exhaustion. He lies down and curls up into a ball, resting in the middle of the pile of fabric and hugging a pillow close, then falls asleep. 

 

When evening rolls around, he wakes up with his heat hitting him in full force. The sweating is the worst, so he sits up to shed the last lone piece of clothing on his body. It clings uncomfortably to his damp skin, not helping with the rising temperature at all.

 

He ties his hair up in a high ponytail and circles it around the base, fastening the bun with the ends of his red ribbon, tying a knot. The relief of not having the heavy locks of hair covering his neck is instant. He is glad to be the only male omega among the Yunmeng Jiang disciples that came to the lectures. His room is secluded enough that he can crack a window open. 

 

He lays back down on his stomach in the middle of the bed. His breathing quickens and he whimpers as a jolt of pain runs down his spine, a convulsion that ends with a flood of slick gushing out from his hole. He’s hard already. 

 

Lightly grinding his hips down on the bed, he starts trying to ease the edge of the arousal building inside of him. 

 

When that movement no longer satisfies his desperation, he shifts, positioning himself on his back. He shuts his eyes as he moves a hand down to grab his hard cock. The first touch makes him leak until he’s damp up his backside. 

 

Stroking rapidly up and down, the urgency for release combines with the ache in his muscles on each flick of his wrist. It takes just a few minutes for him to groan and reach his climax, a finger digging into his slit as he makes a mess of his own stomach.

 

He is still panting with need. The relief doesn’t last and he is soon hard again. Sitting up, he reaches for the water canteen he left next to the bed and gulps down half of it. His body thirsts even as it grows slicker to ease the way inside, pleading to be filled.

 

It's embarrassing how fast his mind races, latching onto the fantasy of how good it would feel if only the main object of his desires were here to help him.

 

His stomach flutters and he grabs a pillow, setting it between his legs. The fabric rubs over the soft skin of his balls and his perineum, and when he rocks his hips forward, it drags with friction over his hole. The pillow will probably be ruined by his slick, but he doesn’t care. 

 

His mouth parts open on a moan as he frantically grinds. He’s electrified when he pictures a white thigh in place of the pillow between his legs, giving him the pleasure he so desperately seeks. His eyes unfocus, tears pricking at their corners as he chases the second orgasm of many. He can’t remember ever being this needy during a heat, insides squirming and legs straining because of the strength needed to keep jerking and grinding.

 

His hole clenches with emptiness—the drenched fabric of the pillow dragging against it teasingly—Wei Wuxian keeps moving until he gasps, back arching, cock spilling once more as his body trembles and falls forward on the bed.

 

He doesn’t realize he started crying at some point during the frenzied humping until cold air breezes across the tear tracks on his cheeks. His heart aches with need; he feels helplessly open and small, sitting there with a damp pillow smushed between his legs. He whines, the sticky sensation of his own come drying on his stomach uncomfortable. Oh, if only he had someone, a specific someone, to take care of him in this state of vulnerability. The thought strikes him and he chokes on a sob.

 

Stupid, stupid Wei Ying, he thinks, as the tears don’t stop. He rolls onto his back again and stares at the ceiling. His fingers prod at the unruly locks of hair that escaped from his bun and are now sticking against his sweaty forehead. 

 

The relief provided by his last orgasm lasts a little longer than before. While he enjoys the break, his mind wanders and runs astray, full of wishful scenarios where Lan Zhan is there with him—caring for him, fucking him senseless and giving him his knot, stuffing him full and soothing his heat by locking them together in the most intimate of ways. He wants and he wants so much. It frightens him, the range of these feelings that he had once thought of as nothing more than a simple crush and lust. 

 

Speaking of Lan Zhan. He finds strength on his trembling legs to drag himself across his room towards the privacy screen. Fuck it, he thinks, and snatches the silk robe off of it into his hands. Sandalwood clouds his senses, and he leans against the closest wall so he doesn’t just fall down on the floor, limbs jellifying and heart racing. 

 

Somehow, he makes his way back to his nest and throws himself into it, frantically rubbing his wrists on the fabric, senses only registering Lan Zhan Lan Zhan Lan Zhan–

 

He's hard again. When he touches his cock, he winces with overstimulation. All right then. With one hand, he holds the robe and starts scrubbing it on his neck, the scent glands sucking in every ounce of sandalwood it can bear. The other goes to his ass, leaking in a constant flow of slick now, crying out as the first finger slips inside. 

 

The stretch is easy and welcomed, the anguish from before satisfied by the insertion of something, finally. One finger is soon not enough; longing to be fuller, he slips another inside, angling them in search for that one sweet spot. His limbs spasm when he finds it, and more hot wet moisture runs through his fingers. His inner walls flutter around the digits as he stuffs two more inside. The sting of his hole spreading open only adds more fuel and he keeps thrusting vigorously.

 

His mind supplies the image of a cock pounding in and out of him without abandon, and Lan Zhan’s scent invading every inch of his being only spurs it on, aiding the fantasy, and he comes with a shout. His cock barely has anything left, leaking only a clear fluid. 

 

He pants, chest rapidly rising and falling. Everything is damp with slick or cum, and it should be uncomfortable, but with the robe still wrapped around his neck where he was rubbing it, he feels surprisingly soothed. It’s not like all of his desires have been fulfilled, but it helps a damn lot.

 

Exhausted, he tosses his head to the side and closes his eyes. He should probably take a bath and eat something, but he can take care of that tomorrow. For now, he basks in the floaty feeling and scent around him, and falls asleep. The heat will probably last for a few days; he needs as much rest as he can manage. 

 

He dreams of golden eyes.

 

✿❀○❀✿

 

The morning after his heat wears off, Wei Wuxian spends the entirety of his free time before classes taking a thorough bath to wash off Lan Zhan’s scent. It would be mortifying if someone were to smell Lan Zhan on him and ask unwanted questions. Or if Lan Zhan himself noticed it. 

 

He feels a little guilty about using his…friend’s...scent to jerk off during a heat but… He’s sure he’s done more shameless things throughout his life. The long-lost robe is now serving as adornment for his nest, and knowing that he will be able to fall asleep smelling it makes dealing with the guilt much easier. No one has to know. If he's careful, Lan Zhan will never find out. 

 

Needing to wake up earlier than usual every day just so he can bathe to get rid of the remaining scent is a small price to pay, and the reward of that small source of comfort is worth it.

 

For the following days, he manages just fine. He sees Lan Zhan in class—in which he is, incredibly, doing his best not to get punished—and keeps up with his fond teasing accompanied by the most genuine smiles he can wear. Lan Zhan still treats him in the same sweet but subtle way as before.

 

Sadly, Wei Wuxian discovers that the days of lectures he missed because of the heat were actually interesting ones, covering the story of some Gusu Lan ancestors famous for their unique spells and talisman inventions. After complaining about it aloud, Lan Zhan offers him his own notes so he can catch up. Very sweet of him. Wei Wuxian does not almost melt on the spot when Lan Zhan says it. He swears. 

 

During his studying endeavors, Wei Wuxian discovers the wonders of the GusuLan library. After finding more rare talisman-making theory books, he’s developed a habit of spending time there without the “motivating” factor of being punished, much to Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang’s chagrin, and Shijie’s knowing smiles. 

 

He also receives the wonderful benefit of Lan Zhan’s company from his efforts, and the alpha is always patient when Wei Ying pretends to not understand a subject just so he can hear more of Lan Zhan’s low, deep voice that makes the didactic texts he reads out loud for Wei Ying sound like the most beautiful pieces of poetry.

 

It really seems like Lan Zhan is treating him a little differently ever since...well, Wei Wuxian isn’t quite sure. He appears to be more comfortable with him. He flinches less when touched and allows Wei Wuxian to study sitting by his side at the library. 

 

Seeing the small shifts in boundaries, Wei Wuxian can’t help but to touch him more. Grabbing at his arm to catch his attention, or brushing their fingers while giving him something. 

 

The latest success had been leaning his head on Lan Zhan’s shoulder while listening to an explanation about the principles of the Lan’s musical cultivation—it not only sounded prettier, but also ten times more interesting coming from Lan Zhan’s mouth than Lan Qiren’s.

 

This increasing closeness grows in tandem with Wei Wuxian’s yearning. How giddy he feels whenever he manages to catch a small breath of sandalwood is still astonishing. He can touch, but he would never dare to outright scent Lan Zhan, and that makes him wish for some signal, something that would give him courage to confess how he feels. But Lan Zhan is still hard to read despite their recent closeness.

 

He wonders if Lan Zhan’s openness is just because he’s the only person who was actually brave enough to befriend him. From what Lan Zhan has hinted to him about his life, he had a lonely childhood, and he doesn’t have any close friends aside from his brother. This fact makes Wei Wuxian’s heart ache—he’s had a loud life himself, always surrounded by lots of people, a big contrast. And…Lan Zhan is truly a nice person at heart! And he smells so good. It’s other people’s loss if they can’t see the amazing qualities other than his beauty through the frozen walls front he puts up around himself.

 

He also reasons that Lan Zhan’s willingness to allow Wei Wuxian to touch him and the times he has also casually touched Wei Wuxian in return—a hand in the shoulder, a caress in the hair, a guiding hand on the small of his back—could be him making up for the physical affection he’s been lacking throughout his life. 

 

The one-hundred percent platonic affection that Wei Wuxian is now providing him, along with friendship. 

 

It sort of makes him guilty. What if Lan Zhan discovers how he feels and thinks he’s been taking advantage of him? What if Lan Zhan thinks their friendship means nothing if he can’t return Wei Wuxian’s feelings? He can’t risk that.

 

So, he still needs something more concrete before even starting to consider making a move

 

Weeks pass, and each day he feels more of the heaviness in his chest when he goes to sleep and notices that the scent on Lan Zhan’s robe is slowly fading.

 

✿❀○❀✿

 

Wei Wuxian is looking for Lan Zhan. He bets that he is in his personal rooms; even though he’s never actually been to the Jingshi, he knows the general direction Lan Zhan always goes whenever he is headed there. So, he roams around the quieter areas of Cloud Recesses and thinks about the turns he needs to make in order to reach Lan Zhan’s quarters.

 

No one can blame him for getting a little distracted with the prospect of being in Lan Zhan’s rooms and ending up bumping into a poor Lan disciple on laundry duty who had been carrying a giant basket of clothes.

 

Both of them yelp as the fabric scatters on the ground around them. Luckily, the basket comes out unharmed.  

 

“Apologies, Wei-gongzi.” The disciple bows at Wei Wuxian, who quickly gestures for him to rise and bows too.

 

“Ahhh, it’s this one who wasn’t looking his way, gongzi! I’m sorry!” he answers immediately, dismissing the apology. Wei Wuxian straightens from his bow and hurries to help collect the fallen clothes. He and the other disciple squat down and start gathering the items.

 

While the disciple folds them appropriately with a patient Lan-like deliberation, Wei Wuxian does it his own way, until he notices how the disciple is giving him the stink eye and re-folding all the robes Wei Wuxian has put inside the basket. 

 

“Uhh, let me…here–” He starts simply gathering the robes and handing them to the disciple.

 

Mind drifting off, he thinks about how Lan Zhan must fold his own clothes. Probably even neater than the disciple in front of him. Of course, Lan Zhan is so perfect, he’s probably been folding clothes properly since he was old enough to dress himself. Wei Wuxian suddenly pauses his movements and comes back to reality when his hands touch one specific cloth. A deep, woodsy scent hits his nose. 

 

It smells like him.

 

He weighs his possibilities. His comfort item back at his nest is slowly losing its magical, Lan Zhan-scented properties. Lan Zhan hasn’t even noticed the first robe’s disappearance. He won’t miss another one or two, right? 

 

Wei Wuxian makes up his mind. 

 

Eyeing the disciple, he keeps moving around the clothes, and as soon as he is sure the other is looking away, focused on folding, Wei Wuxian quietly slips the robe in his sleeve. His heart starts beating faster. For all he is a troublemaker, he has stolen nothing other than Lotus seeds, and it wasn’t like the old uncle who owns the lake didn’t know he was doing it. He still can’t believe he’s committing theft— stealing Lan Zhan’s clothes because of his scent. What has become of him?

 

He stumbles upon two more robes smelling strongly of sandalwood and stealthily snatches them for himself. The disciple doesn’t suspect a thing.

 

After all the remaining clothes are back inside the basket, they bow to each other again and bid farewell. Wei Wuxian turns on his heels and marches in the direction of the omega quarters. His sleeves are ridiculously heavy and he needs to store the stolen robes safely. There is no way he can talk to Lan Zhan now, not right after doing that. 

 

A bead of sweat slips down his temple as the rush of adrenaline from his actions fades, and he attempts to not run back to his room; attracting the attention of a Lan senior is the last thing he needs right now.

 

Only a little while later, safely sitting on his bed, he searches his qiankun sleeves and pulls out the robes for inspection. One of them is a simple white lace outer layer, the fabric soft to touch, cloud patterns adorning its expanse. He can’t quite keep his mind from wandering to the fantasy of seeing Lan Zhan wearing this with nothing else underneath.

 

The other is a simple white undershirt, and it smells the strongest. The last is a pale blue robe, one he’s never seen Lan Zhan wear before, the fabric thinner than usual. All of them smell like Lan Zhan, and he happily adds them to his nest. The feeling is like nothing he has ever experienced. It’s like adding the right pieces to a puzzle. He almost purrs as he lies down and breathes in. Safe. Comfortable.

 

He really hopes Lan Zhan doesn’t notice the missing robes, or just doesn’t associate their absence with theft. But this is it, it won’t happen again.

 

It can’t happen again. 

 

For the sake of their friendship, he absolutely cannot let any of the potential scenarios of Lan Zhan finding out about his theft mishaps come true. Not if he doesn’t want to die of a broken heart!

 

Gods forbid Lan Zhan ever comes anywhere near his room, as he would smell himself instantly and be horrified.

 

Even still, none of his excessive overthinking could ever have prepared him for the invitation Lan Zhan suddenly throws at him one day after class.