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“Shit,” Wei Ying says, slumped where he sits, cradling his head in his hands. When Lan Zhan nods empathically, Wei Ying repeats the curse with more vigour on his behalf.

“The wedding is in two weeks,” Wei Ying says. “It doesn’t matter right?”

Lan Zhan raises an eyebrow at him. “Do you truly believe so?”

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying sits up to look at his face, “it’s my fault.”

“It is not,” Lan Zhan sighs. “I should have known–“

His words die in his throat when Wei Ying takes a hold of his wrist, the sudden pressure on his sensitive scent glands making him gasp. His fingers relax involuntarily and only then does he realise how tightly he’d been pushing them into the flesh of his thigh.

Wei Ying relaxes his own grip and lifts Lan Zhan’s wrist to his lips, pressing a small kiss where his veins tint green beneath the delicate flesh. It’s an absurdly intimate gesture, one that has Lan Zhan’s ears burning. Even after all they’ve done, this is what manages to render him speechless.

“I won’t leave your side,” Wei Ying promises and Lan Zhan believes him.


4 months ago

“Your father requests your presence in his study,” Qin Su, his father’s secretary, informs Lan Zhan as soon as he steps foot into his family’s estate.

Lan Zhan nods, knowing he cannot delay this any further. Fed up of his work excuses, Lan Zhan had received a pointedly empty schedule directly from his father (cc’d to his secretary). It was a summon as good as any and he has resorted himself to whatever awaits him behind the heavy mahogany doors.

“You have finally decided to grace me with your presence,” is the first biting remark to come from the poised man seated behind the desk. “Take a seat.”

Lan Zhan obeys silently.

“I expect you to keep up with the ongoings of our family,” he starts, “so I assume you have heard of the merger between the Wen and Xue families.”

“Yes.” Lan Zhan doesn’t let his confusion show. Up until this moment, he’d been sure that his father called him in to discuss the ‘futile’ expansion of his own business.

“It is time to make our move,” his father says. “You will be marrying the Wei heir you were promised to this fall.”

Lan Zhan’s heart halts and he blinks at his father. He hasn’t heard his father talk about his betrothed since he turned sixteen and presented as an omega. Objectively, he knows that it was only a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ but it still catches him off-guard.

“Is there an issue?” his father asks.

“No, of course not,” Lan Zhan says. “Is that all?”

His father nods and Lan Zhan stands up to take his leave.

“Your little perfumery,” his father says just seconds before he can make a successful escape, “will need to go, of course.”

Lan Zhan takes a second to gather himself before he turns around, posture ramrod straight.

“What does it have to do with the wedding?” Lan Zhan asks.

“You are an omega of high status and wealth,” his father seethes. “It does not suit you to run a business so uncouth.”

“It is a perfumery.” Lan Zhan struggles to maintain his composure, “a medical one at that. I am helping–“

“That’s enough.” His father raises a hand to silence him. “You will shut it down before your wedding.”

Lan Zhan’s anger climbs and he wants to take it out in quite irrational ways, such as knocking over the expensive vase by the door that he knows his father will miss. Instead, he pauses and takes a deep breath.

“Is that the Wei family’s request?” he asks.

“Their family is primarily comprised of alphas, do you really think they will take pride in their son-in-law running a scent business?”

“So it is not their request,” Lan Zhan rebuttals.

His father presses his lips together and Lan Zhan knows he has angered him.

“In a few months I will no longer be a part of this family,” Lan Zhan pushes on despite his instincts telling him not to. “I think it would be wise to consult my future mate before requesting such things from me.”

His father slams his hand down on the table so hard that the sound reverberates off the walls of his unnecessarily large office. Lan Zhan doesn’t stick around to hear what he has to say after that.


“You truly are getting married then,” Lan Xichen says.

They’re sitting in the gazebo situated in the small botanical garden to the east of their family’s estate. It’s a place both brothers associate with their late mother, a warm embrace amidst the coolness of the stone structure that makes their home.

“Yes,” Lan Zhan replies, setting his tea down.

“You have heard about him, I presume?” Lan Xichen asks, tone carefully neutral.

“Heard what?”

Lan Xichen visibly struggles, most likely torn between his aversion to gossip and the need to get whatever he is thinking off his chest.

“He is an alpha.”

“I am aware,” Lan Zhan replies, a little amused. As if his family would allow anyone other than an alpha to mate him.

“His family is just as traditional as ours but he gets more leeway than an omega would,” Lan Xichen says seriously.

“Xiong-zhang,” Lan Zhan sighs, “I do not know him and neither does he know me. He owes me no loyalty. If he has had partners in the past then so be it.”

“How can you accept that so easily when you–“ Lan Xichen takes a sharp breath– “it isn’t fair to you.”

“It is not like I am celibate by choice,” Lan Zhan says evenly. “And what can I do about it anyway? Ask father to revoke the betrothal?”

Lan Xichen sips his tea in tense silence.

“Would other alphas be any better for me?” Lan Zhan asks. “If nothing, Wei Ying and I at least share a similar upbringing.”

“I suppose so,” Lan Xichen concedes. After a moment, he sighs. “You’re right, I apologise. I just... I suppose I just want you to be happy.”

Lan Zhan is touched by his brother’s concern but doesn’t dare to mention that it is ultimately unfounded. Unbeknownst to their families, Lan Zhan has warmed Wei Ying’s bed countless times since he turned twenty. Originally a mutually beneficial arrangement proposed by his intended alpha– just something to get the edge off every once in a while– their escapades have only increased in frequency over the years. It shouldn’t be a big deal, they are arranged to be married and mated after all; but things are never that simple with how their families operate.

Betrothals are commonplace in their social circle but the true purpose they serve (mergers and takeovers) is always screened behind pretty words of virtuous unions. It’s this kind of elitist posturing that keeps them rooted in traditions long abandoned by the rest of the world, including but not limited to spending heats and ruts alone until marriage (with a heavy emphasis on abstaining from sex altogether); and avoiding unsupervised contact with your intended.

Wei Ying and Lan Zhan have broken both of these rules as thoroughly as possible, fuelled both by spite and their unmet sexual needs.

“You need not worry,” Lan Zhan reassures his brother. “I am sure Wei Ying will be kind to me.”

Lan Xichen offers him a smile. “I hope you’re right.”

“How is father?” Lan Zhan asks after a while.

He has actively been avoiding the man since their argument two days ago; skirting along the corners of their home that he knows his father doesn’t visit and even flying out to Milan for a few days to meet with Wei Ying.

Lan Xichen’s smile dims. “He is angry.”

Lan Zhan nods, he figured as much. His father is not easily angered but his business has been a point of contention between them for far too long.

“I will speak with him when he is calmer then,” Lan Zhan concludes.

“Uncle will be here next month,” his brother says, “perhaps it will be better to have that conversation in his presence.”

“He’s coming home?” Lan Zhan asks, surprised.

“You’re getting married, of course, he will come.” Lan Xichen refills their teacups.

After that, they drink in silence.


6 months ago

Lan Zhan and Wei Ying only ever text through their secondary network providers registered under fake names. It’s probably unnecessary since neither of them believes their families would go as far as to check their phone records, but they’ve always opted to be cautious.

It’s not as if they’re forbidden to see or interact with each other altogether– they attend the same events, it’s kind of inevitable– but they are expected to maintain their distance in such instances. It’s considered a show of great admiration and respect for your intended to do so. This is why Lan Zhan and Wei Ying have a well-established system in place.

Wei Ying calls him a week before they’re scheduled to attend a charity ball.

“I booked us a trip to Hawaii,” he says as soon a Lan Zhan answers the call.


“Lan Zhan,” concern laces Wei Ying’s voice, “you sound sick.”

“Sorry,” Lan Zhan clears his throat and shifts around in bed, “I just finished my heat.”

Wei Ying makes a sympathetic noise. Although they’ve broken other rules of their families, Lan Zhan and Wei Ying have never spent their ruts or heats together. It’s a rough time, made even worse by them not being virgins, but it’s not as if they can refuse the rut and heat rooms provided to them in accordance with their cycles without sounding suspicious.

“Did you eat something?”

It’s such a simple question and such a caring one coming from the person whom Lan Zhan’s omega perceives as his alpha that it makes his heart expand with warmth.

“Mn, I did,” Lan Zhan answers, sounding more pleased than he normally would. He likes to be coddled post-heat, a horrifying fact he’d come to realise not long after he’d started seeing Wei Ying regularly the past two years.

“Did you miss my knot?” Wei Ying teases.

Lan Zhan lets out a groan in response. “Do not test me right now.”

“Okay, sorry, sorry!” Wei Ying laughs. “You must still be sensitive, huh? Poor baby.”

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan warns.

“Let me see you this weekend then,” Wei Ying says, voice pitched low. “I’ll make it up to you, what do you say?”

Lan Zhan can never refuse Wei Ying anything when he sounds like that. “What time is the flight?” he asks.


2 months ago

The article makes headlines.

Lan Zhan has already been having a hectic week with the wedding preparations. His father seems to be taking out the frustration he has built up from Lan Zhan’s refusal to shut down his perfumery (with his uncle’s unwavering support) by assigning him even the most trivial tasks connected to the wedding. In the past few weeks, Lan Zhan has run errands nonstop, ranging from making all the bookings (wedding venue, florist, caterer etc.) to sending out personalised, handwritten invitations to over three hundred guests. He hasn’t had time to breathe let alone browse the gossip rags about the ‘wedding of the decade’ in question.

The article finishes off whatever mental peace he has hoarded and hung onto during his punishment– because that’s what it is. It’s a deliberate and cruel move on his father’s part, keeping him so occupied that he hasn’t been able to focus on his business at all. This is why the sudden halt in the wedding preparations is a big red flag.

Lan Zhan only maintains his composure for the duration of his long drive from the organic fruit farm– because they just need to have the perfect fruit salad for the wedding– to the Lan estate. As soon as he sees his family gathered up in the living room, he’s rushing to ask what has happened.

Lan Xichen is awfully quiet, jaw clenched and eyes boring holes into the beautiful painting over the fireplace. Lan Zhan notes that his father is not present but his uncle is. Surprisingly, he’s the one to sit Lan Zhan down and explain the situation to him.

There has been an exposé done on Wei Ying. Apparently, he has been coming home smelling like a different omega every other week.

“You’re not getting married,” Lan Xichen says. “I will see to it that you don’t.”

Their uncle sighs. “Xichen, it is ultimately your father’s decision.”

“Then I will change it,” Lan Xichen bites out.

“Xiong-zhang,” Lan Zhan says, his tone carefully soft.

He knows the effect it has on his brother and it works just as good as it does every time. Lan Xichen, who had presumably gotten up to speak to their father, is by his side in seconds.

“Don’t worry, I won’t let you marry such a man,” he says soothingly.

Lan Zhan shakes his head. He has to handle this as carefully as he can or both he and Wei Ying are bound to get into serious trouble.

“Do not act rashly,” Lan Zhan says finally. “Let’s wait for father to get back. I presume he’s speaking with Wei Ying’s family?”

When his uncle nods in affirmation, Lan Zhan sighs internally. Good, that means his father is trying to salvage the situation instead of breaking the betrothal.

“Wangji,” Lan Xichen says. It’s a name he rarely uses– one that only their mother ever used to call him. It must be causing him great pain, and it makes Lan Zhan feel even guiltier than he already does.

“It is a story out of a tabloid xiong-zhang,” Lan Zhan reasons. “You hate tabloids, and for a good reason. Releasing such a story so close to the wedding, do you not think it’s too big of a coincidence?”

Lan Xichen seems to seriously consider his words. It’s slow but eventually, his shoulders relax.

“I will withhold my judgement until I have more information,” he finally says.

Lan Zhan guesses that’s as good as he’s going to get for now so he falls silent. He knows that he has to pick his battles, it’s all his fault after all.


1 year ago

“Your dad’s an asshole,” Wei Ying says.

He discards the creased newspaper on the small coffee table in their hotel room, though he looks like he would like to bin it instead. Lan Zhan knows he doesn’t because it has a sudoku section that keeps him entertained during flights.

“He can be,” Lan Zhan concedes.

The past few days have been quite possibly the worst of Lan Zhan’s life. Not only had the press caught wind of him being the registered CEO of Jade Perfumeries, but his father had also publicly denounced Lan Zhan’s association with the organisation. The slew of hatred directed towards him had only doubled since then.

While their families are infamous for sticking to traditions the rest of the world has long shed, there are still taboo topics they dare not touch. Scents, an integral part of their society, is one of them. Scent is the most prominent of their senses and the core of their very being, unique to each person just as their faces or fingerprints are.

It’s obvious why a perfumery would be frowned upon, let alone one that actively assists new-age scientists in producing high-concentrate scents– scents strong enough to completely mask a user’s original one temporarily. Or in more radical terms, erase one’s identity.

“What the fuck is his problem?” Wei Ying stands up to pace their spacious VIP suite. “He should be supporting you!”

“I know,” Lan Zhan sinks back into the huge beanbag by the window, uncaring of his posture.

Wei Ying visibly calms himself down, taking a few deep breaths before sitting on the floor in front of Lan Zhan.

“What are you gonna do?” he asks tentatively.

“I will not close the perfumery down,” Lan Zhan says resolutely.

Wei Ying only stares at him with an unreadable expression on his face.

“I am sorry Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan says quietly.

“What?” Wei Ying blinks at him in surprise.

“Your family will break the betrothal,” he says. “I’m sorry that you didn’t get to share this with the person you’ll actually be married to. I promise it will remain between us–“

“Lan Zhan.” Wei Ying’s demeanour is suddenly imposing, almost intimidating. Lan Zhan belatedly realises that it’s because his scent has turned sharp with anger.

Lan Zhan shrinks into himself involuntarily, his already overwhelmed omega further distressed by their alpha’s displeasure. Their. Lan Zhan files that away to unpack at a time when he doesn’t have so much on his plate. It’s going to be one hell of a time, he thinks bitterly.

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying’s voice is softer this time, “baby. If my family wants to break the betrothal they’ll have to go through me.”

“Wei Ying.” Lan Zhan’s eyes widen and he’s surprised to find them blurring with tears.

“You know,” Wei Ying continues as he takes Lan Zhan’s hands into his own, “I don’t... I’m not with anyone else. Just you.”

“Me neither,” Lan Zhan says a bit too quickly. “Just you.”

Wei Ying gives him one of those beautiful smiles that leave him momentarily stunned.

“Not even omegas?” he teases.

Lan Zhan frowns at him. It’s probably the most unethical thing that comes out of his business, and Lan Zhan has somewhat come to terms with it, but it makes him feel especially guilty at the moment.

“Too soon, sorry,” Wei Ying apologises genuinely. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“I know,” Lan Zhan breathes out.

Wei Ying was, after all, the first person outside his family to know about Jade Perfumeries. And he had not only treated Lan Zhan’s profession with respect but actively encouraged him to reach out to more affiliate programs and researchers who might need his help.

His perfumery had initially helped unmated omegas and alphas tamp down their heats and ruts with scents imitating their counterparts; allowing them to work and live normally during such times. Now, his perfumery helps a number of health professionals and researchers with a broad range of subjects such as safely administering calming pheromones to trauma patients and people in labour; providing genetically imitated scents to those whose scents have been damaged due to long-term medication usage or radiation therapy; helping scent-sensitive people re-integrate into society; and assisting human biologists in ethical studies of scent differentiation on a molecular level.

So yes, Lan Zhan believes that his business does plenty of good. This is why he has convinced himself that he’s allowed to sometimes mask his scent in airports to avoid recognition so he can have sex with his future husband in peace. Clearly, Wei Ying is very amused by him using an omega scent each time.

”Any other scent would stand out on me,” Lan Zhan had defended himself at the time.

It doesn’t matter much in the end since Wei Ying makes him wash it off as soon as he steps into their hotel room. He’d once told Lan Zhan that he found any scent other than Lan Zhan’s unappealing and Lan Zhan always marks that as the definitive end of his control over his own heart.

“You know,” Lan Zhan tells him much later as they lay in bed, “he was my first supporter.”

“Hm?” Wei Ying asks, intrigued.

“My father,” Lan Zhan says, “he helped me set up the perfumery.”

“What?” Wei Ying’s sleepy haze vanishes.

“He’s a beta in a long line of alphas and omegas,” Lan Zhan explains. “My mother was an omega. It was a miracle, apparently, that she had accepted him at all since at the time of their betrothal it had been predicted that my father would present as an alpha. When she passed away, a lot of people blamed him. For not being an alpha. They said he couldn’t give her what a true counterpart could; said that an alpha could have probably helped her through her sickness.”

“That’s a terrible thing to say,” Wei Ying whispers.

“It is,” Lan Zhan agrees. “So when I wanted to start a perfumery he supported me. He believed that I could help omegas like my mother, so they wouldn’t have to suffer.”

“What happened then?” Wei Ying asks quietly.

“My grandmother passed away and made him the head of the family.” Wei Ying’s hand finds Lan Zhan’s under the covers and Lan Zhan takes comfort in the touch. “The family’s reputation became his priority.”

“Why did he let you continue it?”

“We made an agreement,” Lan Zhan says. “I am not allowed to use scents to help with my heat and in exchange, I can help others.”

This, Wei Ying must understand. Lan Zhan is pretty sure he’s not allowed to use scents for his ruts either. It reflects badly on their family, an egocentric mindset that fails to consider that absolutely no one cares about someone else’s heats or ruts.

Still, Wei Ying curses his family out on his behalf, angered by the unfairness of it. Lan Zhan falls asleep with a smile on his face for the first time in ages.


1 week ago

Lan Zhan and Wei Ying have made several reckless decisions leading up to this point, and there are, of course, consequences.

“You’re in pre-rut,” Lan Zhan says.

“What? No, it can’t be. My rut is not due until a month after the wedding.” Wei Ying pauses and furrows his brows. “Oh, never mind, no you’re right. What the fuck?”

“We saw each other too often,” Lan Zhan realises with a sinking feeling.

It’s another, albeit less common reason why future mates are forbidden from seeing each other closely and too frequently. For the past few weeks, they’d found themselves seeking each other out more and more, agitated by the brief period of cabin fever immediately following the article’s publication. This time, their families had actively encouraged it since it displayed a strong bond between the families in the face of backlash. It wouldn’t have been a problem if they hadn’t been having so much sex during the supposedly innocuous outings.

When they’d started this, they had been careful to leave enough of a gap between their escapades to avoid their bodies getting too used to each other. Of course, recently, they’d been slipping. At first, they’d been on a time crunch, both too busy with wedding duties; Lan Zhan barely managing to scrub out his artificial scent before they got in a quickie (hence the whole promiscuity scandal), and now this. And this close to the wedding too...

“I’ll just–“ Wei Ying moves to the furthest corner of the room, “I’ll get a rut room. Or something.”

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan rationalises because Wei Ying is already beginning to sweat, probably too feverish to grasp the full scope of the situation, “if you are in an early rut I probably will not be far behind.”

Because both his omega and Wei Ying’s alpha recognise each other as mates and probably have for a while. Adding this to their aforementioned recklessness, their bodies have naturally synced up with each other without them noticing.

“I will go into heat too,” Lan Zhan explains further when Wei Ying only blinks at him.

“Oh god,” Wei Ying’s face pales.

Lan Zhan carefully sits on the very edge of the bed and stares at his hands. They’re not trembling but it’s only because he’s actively regulating his breathing to calm himself down. Wei Ying already seems anxious, he doesn’t need to add to it.

After a few moments, Wei Ying takes a deep, calming breath as well.

“Do you have any scents on you?” he asks quietly.

Lan Zhan shakes his head. “Not after what happened last month. I thought it would be too risky to carry them, especially with how invasive the paparazzi have been.”

Lan Zhan hadn’t even worn a scent for travelling this time around. Since the wedding was so near, their families had permitted them to attend the annual Omega Alliance Convention in Prague together. Lan Zhan had been looking forward to speaking with a few important members of the committee, but that was surely out of question now.

“Should we just... spend it together then?” Wei Ying asks hesitantly.

Lan Zhan knows where the nervousness comes from, but he doesn’t think they really have a choice at this point. Them getting heat and rut rooms now would only cause another scandal and getting separate hotel rooms is unsafe due to the vulnerability of their situation.

It’s not like Lan Zhan hasn’t thought of spending his heat with Wei Ying before– in fact, his heats are unbearably painful without him. His omega recognises Wei Ying as their alpha and has for years, but Lan Zhan has thought about it outside of his heat too. It’s an intimate part of himself he wants to share with his future mate.

It goes well beyond just sexual intimacy; it’s the trust and respect, the things their families speak of in boastful tones but do not understand the true meaning of. And it’s love, the overwhelming emotion that Lan Zhan has come to feel for the man over time.

“I...” Lan Zhan chokes on the emotions welling up in his chest.

Wei Ying walks over and sits beside him and only then does Lan Zhan realise how much the distance was hurting him.

“We don’t have to.” Wei Ying puts a hand on his back gently. “If you don’t want to, we’ll get the rut and heat rooms, damn whatever our families and the rest of the world thinks.”

Lan Zhan meets his eyes and only finds a fierce kind of protectiveness in them, one that burns down his throat and warms his heart.

“I want to be with you,” he says finally. He debates saying the rest of it out loud, considering the delicate situation, but decides to take a leap of faith in the end. “I love you.”

Lan Zhan has never seen Wei Ying cry, but at that moment he does. When Lan Zhan moves to wipe his tears away, Wei Ying shakes his head with a smile.

“Wow this is kind of lame of me,” he laughs. “Leave out the tears when you tell our grandchildren about this will you?”

Lan Zhan feels a slow smile stretching across his face.

“I love you.” Wei Ying kisses him. “I really fucking do.”

“Should I leave out the swearing as well?” Lan Zhan asks.

Wei Ying tackles him.



“You’re mated.” Jiang Yanli’s eyes widen.

Wei Ying’s hold on Lan Zhan’s hand tightens in response. They have to tell their families at some point but Jiang Yanli is a good start. Although Wei Ying and her are distantly related, the Jiang family holds both a respectable status and a close bond with Wei Ying’s parents.

“We’ve been sleeping with each other for three years,” Wei Ying says finally.

“Wei Ying!” Lan Zhan startles beside him.

“You...” Jiang Yanli takes a deep breath and seems to regain her composure. “Okay. Okay, so at least it wasn’t just your hormones then.”

Wei Ying and Lan Zhan nod in response.

“How are you going to explain–“ Jiang Yanli gestures vaguely– “the other thing to your parents?”

Lan Zhan flushes red and even Wei Ying seems to be unable to look her in the eyes.

“It’s not that bad,” Wei Ying says unconvincingly.

“I can’t believe you gave him a mating bite on his thigh,” Jin Zixuan, the unwelcome member to their meeting, snickers. “I’m officially the most normal son-in-law of this family and I’m not sure how to handle that.”

It’s a topic they’ve been skirting around but it’s not like it’s a secret considering Lan Zhan’s mating bite isn’t on two of the three most prominent locations of his scent glands (i.e. his neck or wrists).

Jiang Yanli sends her husband a scathing look and he immediately shuts his mouth, offering the newly mated couple a sheepish smile.

“Jiejie,” Wei Ying whines, “what do we do?”

“You have to tell your parents,” Jiang Yanli says seriously.

“They will disown me,” Lan Zhan realises as he says it.

Their son, not only the owner of a perfumery but also not a virgin and an omega mated before marriage? He doesn’t even want to think about the location of the mating bite yet.

Wei Ying makes a distressed sound beside him and Lan Zhan realises that his escalating emotions are affecting his mate.

“Let them,” Jiang Yanli sits back, every bit the proud Jiang alpha. “You are mated to Wei Ying now so it’s none of their business anyway. If his parents have a problem with it too you are welcome to cut ties with the lot of them and move in with us.”

Both Wei Ying and Lan Zhan look at her with mirrored expressions of surprise.

Wei Ying recovers faster than Lan Zhan, grinning at her with adoration then turning to Lan Zhan.

“Let’s run away,” he says with a manic delight.

Lan Zhan shakes his head with a fond smile. “I doubt that will put me back in the running for favourite son-in-law anytime soon.”

“I don’t think anything wi–” Jin Zixuan frowns at the shoe thrown his way– “that could have hit my face!”

“What a pity it didn’t.” Wei Ying rolls his eyes. “Keep being a dick to my mate and I’ll aim better next time.”

“Jin Zixuan,” Jiang Yanli interrupts before an argument can commence, “don’t agitate Lan Zhan just because you hold a grudge against him.”

Jin Zixuan gapes at his wife, betrayed.

Wei Ying leans close to Lan Zhan and theatrically whispers, “You beat him to first place for the most attractive omega last year and he hasn’t let it go.”

“It’s only because he was single!” Jin Zixuan protests. At Jiang Yanli’s unimpressed expression, he flashes an innocent grin. “Not that marrying you isn’t the biggest gift in itself,” he tells her genuinely, “but you can’t disagree that it gives him an advantage.”

“We’ll see this year then,” Wei Ying challenges.

“I really do not care,” Lan Zhan finally says. “I haven’t been attracted to any alpha other than Wei Ying since I understood what attraction was. It doesn’t matter how attractive others find me.”

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying says softly. His eyes are brimming with love that Lan Zhan both sees and feels through their bond.

“Why don’t you two stay here for a day or two?” Jiang Yanli asks with a touch of affection and a smile. “I will speak to your families and let them know. It will give you some time to get your bearings and decide how you want to proceed.”

“Yeah, that’ll be–”

“No,” Lan Zhan cuts Wei Ying off. Everyone looks at him in surprise.

“What do you mean?” Wei Ying asks.

“I am tired of hiding,” Lan Zhan says. “And I… I do not think we did anything wrong, no matter what our families might think.”

The smile Wei Ying gives him looks almost proud. “We should tell them then.”

“Mn,” Lan Zhan says, feeling more confident in his decision.

“Together yeah?” Wei Ying intertwines their fingers. “I told you I won’t leave your side.”

Lan Zhan holds him tighter, “I will not leave yours either.”