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scents and sensibility

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"Tell me, Ganyu, what should I expect from my afternoon meetings?" Ningguang asked, idly twirling her pipe as she sat at her desk and waited for her secretary's report.

Ganyu cleared her throat and began. "The Snezhnayan ambassador smells nervous. I know he's always nervous, but there's normally an edge of smugness and confidence that's not there this time. Dongsheng is covered in perfume, maybe because he realized I can smell his emotions, but if so, he really shouldn't have doused himself in exactly the perfume we suspect him of smuggling, so maybe there was just a mixup. And after that, Baishi wanted to see you; she smells—"

"I can guess how Baishi is feeling," Ningguang said, rolling her eyes and taking a hit from her pipe.

Ganyu smiled and nodded. Most of Liyue thought her main advantage as a half-qilin secretary was her longevity and the perspective it gave her, but other aspects of her unusual heritage came in handy, too. Her heightened senses, for instance, let her tell what emotions people were experiencing with a surprising degree of accuracy. She didn't talk about it much, but Ningguang had deduced it almost immediately, and it wasn't long before Ganyu was using this ability on Ningguang's behalf.

"Thank you, Ganyu," Ningguang said. "Now, do you have time to do me a favor? I have some reports I need delivered to Keqing." She slid a stack of envelopes on her desk toward Ganyu.

"It would be my pleasure," Ganyu said, stepping forward, but before gathered up the reports, she added, "Um, Lady Ningguang?"

"Yes?"

She reached into a pouch and produced a small bundle that she placed on Ningguang's desk next to the reports. "Here. It's some dried fruits and nuts. It's not a full meal, but, well... you seem hungry..."

Ningguang took the bundle, opened it, and popped some of its contents into her mouth. "Thank you once again," she said, a genuine smile on her lips. "Don't tell me you can smell hunger now, too?"

Ganyu smiled and shook her head. "No, but I can hear your stomach gurgling long before it makes sounds anyone else could hear." She gathered up the rest of the papers, bowed, and took her leave.

If Ningguang had the half-adeptus's sense of smell, she would have been able to tell that Ganyu was feeling apprehensive about something, and if she was paying attention, she would have noticed that it started the moment she mentioned Keqing's name. Ganyu's relationship with the Yuheng had always been strained, and while they had been working better together in the months since Rex Lapis's death—a fact that still shocked Ganyu; shouldn't they have been driven further apart by their different views on the tragedy?—she still walked on eggshells around the other woman, terrified that one wrong word would shatter their fragile harmony.

She worried the whole way to Keqing's office, grinding her teeth and rehearsing her brief speech in her head. Hello, Lady Keqing. Lady Ningguang asked me to deliver these reports to you. Is there anything I can do for you while I am here? She repeated the words over and over again, determined not to mess anything up.

Finally, after dozens of repetitions, she reached Keqing's office. The door was open, as usual—having to knock on, open, and close it was horribly inefficient, in the Yuheng's eyes. There was no greeting as Ganyu stepped inside; Keqing's face was buried in a book, probably looking up the precise wording of some budget item for the paperwork scattered across her desk.

Ganyu took a moment to admire Keqing's work ethic before she cleared her throat to announce her presence.

"What?" Keqing snapped, looking up with a glare. "Can't you see I'm—oh, Ganyu! How can I help you?" Her voice and eyes softened when she realized who the source of her distraction was.

"H-Hello, Lady Keqing," Ganyu began. "Lady Ningguang a-asked me to deliver... to d-deliver..." She trailed off, distracted by the sudden surge of emotion she felt coming from Keqing. When she entered the room, Keqing was calm, as expected. When she cleared her throat, she caught a spike of irritation coming from Keqing, which she had also anticipated; nobody liked having their work interrupted, least of all Keqing.

But when Keqing saw Ganyu, all of that went away and was replaced with a little bit of anxiety, a little bit of satisfaction—she must have been expecting those reports—and a little bit of... excitement? Maybe she's been looking forward to these reports all day, Ganyu rationalized. That wouldn't be too unusual, coming from her.

"Ganyu? Are you okay?" Keqing raised an eyebrow, and her concern was strong enough to overpower everything else Ganyu had sensed from her up to this point.

"Y-yes, I am quite alright," Ganyu reassured her, "I'm just... Ningguang didn't tell me you were so excited about these reports."

"Excited? Hardly," Keqing scoffed. "I know I have a reputation, but even I have trouble mustering any enthusiasm for the Qingce census."

"O-oh, I'm sorry," Ganyu said as she quickly approached Keqing and put the reports down on her desk. "I-in that case, I will be going. I'm very sorry for the interruption!" And with that, she scurried out the doorway and down the hall before Keqing could say anything else.

Then... what was she excited about?


Ganyu paid close attention to Keqing's moods over the course of the following week. It wasn't difficult for her; even before, she would often sneak glances at Keqing when she was working (to admire her work ethic!), or stare at her as she walked (such perfect form!), or sit in rapt attention as she spoke at a meeting (her arguments were so straightforward, yet so eloquent!). All she had to do was add something else to her observations.

The results were... confusing.

She's excited to see me? But... why? We're barely even friends; it wasn't long ago that she couldn't stand the sight of me, but now every time she sees me, her heart rate picks up and she smells excited. Almost aroused, even. Did we just not spend enough time together for me to notice until now?

"Ganyu? What's wrong? Did you not get enough to eat?"

"Oh! I'm sorry," Ganyu said, blinking her eyes a few times to return to reality. She was eating lunch with Keqing for the first time, just the two of them in the Yuheng's office. "I've had plenty; I was merely lost in thought."

"Hm? About what?" Keqing asked.

Ganyu scanned her for any sign of teasing or malevolence, but she seemed genuinely curious. "N-nothing important," Ganyu evaded.

"Hmm... well, if you ever want to talk through something, you know where to find me," Keqing said. "No matter how unimportant it seems."

"Thank you," Ganyu said just as she felt a wave of fatigue wash over her. "It's almost..." she yawned, "...time for my nap..." She looked around for something, then hung her head. "Oh... I didn't bring my pillow..."

"Here." Keqing knelt on the floor next to Ganyu and patted her lap. "You can nap on me, if you want. I can do my reading here just as well as at my desk."

"A-are you sure?" Ganyu asked, taken aback by the unexpectedly kind offer.

"Of course!" Keqing huffed. "I won't have your work hindered this afternoon by a bad nap if I can help it. Ningguang would have my head."

"Th... thank you," Ganyu mumbled sleepily. She lay down, rested her head on Keqing's lap, and was out cold within moments.


Ganyu noticed two things almost immediately when she woke up from her nap.

The first thing was that Keqing's thighs made a far better pillow than she had expected.

The second—and far worse—thing was that she was surrounded by the unmistakable scent of arousal. Not the human-detectable scent described in bawdy tales and romance novels; this was something Ganyu could only pick up on thanks to her half-adeptus senses. It was the same smell she found on Baishi when she was planning Ningguang's wardrobe for the week, or on Ningguang herself when Ganyu told her Beidou was waiting for her. It was the scent of someone whose mind had drifted to less-than-pure topics, and the only other person in the room was...

"Oh, you're awake," said the only other person in the room. "Enjoy your nap?"

"K-Keqing!!" Ganyu yelped as she bolted up out of Keqing's lap and to her feet. "I'm so sorry! I must have overslept; are you waiting on someone? I-I should be going!" She scrambled to smooth out her clothes and get rid of her bedhead, panic in her eyes.

Keqing tilted her head, puzzled. "No, my afternoon is completely free. What gave you that impression? I was actually going to ask if you wouldn't mind helping me with some of my paperwork. It's more to do with the Qingce census, and your company would help ease the tedium."

Ganyu froze in place. "R-really?"

"Really really," Keqing said with a smirk.

Despite her best efforts, Ganyu couldn't come up with a plausible excuse to decline that wasn't an outright lie, so instead, she merely nodded and said, "It would be my pleasure."

They worked together in productive silence for the next few hours until Ganyu had to return to Ningguang's office, and while the arousal Ganyu detected coming from Keqing eventually waned, it never quite went away, nor did Ganyu stop thinking about it, even on her way home that evening.

I don't understand, she wondered as she wandered through Yujing Terrace. What could she have been thinking of that whole time? There's nothing I can think of... unless...

It finally occurred to Ganyu that there was one constant throughout the afternoon, one topic that could have possibly occupied Keqing's thoughts throughout lunch and the rest of the work day. The more she thought about it, the more sense it made, and the more flustered she got.

I-I mean... I'd heard Beidou and Ningguang talk about it before, but I thought they were just joking... but it all makes sense now. The way she acts at work, the way she's always so happy to see me when I bring her documents... there's only one possible explanation.

Keqing derives sexual pleasure from doing her job.


Ganyu went to work the next day with one goal in mind: talking to Keqing about her... proclivities.

She didn't want to pry, of course. Ultimately, what got Keqing off was her business, as long as she didn't involve other people without their consent, and Ganyu had no reason to believe that she had been anything other than ethical. But... we're friends now, I think, and friends talk to each other about this sort of thing, right?

So as soon as her lunch break began, she marched over to Keqing's office, walked through the doorway, and took a few deep breaths to prepare for what she was sure would be an awkward conversation no matter what. She'd lived long enough that she didn't bat an eyelash at anyone's kinks, no matter how silly they may seem at first glance; she'd also lived long enough to know that she would always be horribly, hopelessly awkward when talking about... matters of passion.

Eventually, when she was as ready as she could be, she cleared her throat and asked, "Keqing, I, um... do you want to talk about yesterday?"

Keqing looked up from her lunch. "Yesterday?" she asked, confused. "What about yesterday?"

Ganyu shook her head. "No, not yesterday—I mean, not just yesterday. I've, um, been noticing some on some unusual behavior of yours for a while now, and I just wanted to... clear the air?"

"Unusual behavior? Like what" Keqing bluffed. It probably would have worked on an ordinary human, but to Ganyu, her sudden spike of fear was as clear as if she'd been blushing and trembling.

"L-like... the way you get, um, t-t-turned on when I bring you something to read over or sign, and whenever we work on something together," Ganyu said.

Keqing's jaw dropped. "H...how?" she squeaked.

"I-I should explain! As a qilin, my senses are much sharper than a normal human's, so I can..."

"...so you can smell emotions," Keqing said with a groan. "Ugh, I can't believe I didn't think of that! Of course you'd have heightened senses... you must think me such a fool."

"No! Not at all!" Ganyu hurried to correct her. "I-it's perfectly fine! There's nothing wrong with it at all."

Keqing turned her head to look directly into Ganyu's eyes, a small, hopeful smile tugging at her lips. "Does that mean... the way you've been acting... do you feel the same, Ganyu?" she asked quietly.

"Oh, Keqing... no, I'm sorry. I don't. N-not that I think there's anything wrong with you! Just... my tastes aren't the same as yours. I'm sorry if I misled you."

"Oh." Keqing's expression fell, all traces of hope extinguished from her face. "I thought that maybe..." She shook her head, and suddenly her face was a stoic, expressionless mask. "I'm sorry, Ganyu, but I would like some time alone."

"O-of course, Lady Keqing," Ganyu said, and backed quickly out of the room.

As she set off down the hallway on her way to lunch, she heard Keqing's door slam shut behind her.


Ganyu's afternoon nap ended early when someone came stomping into her room.

"Ganyu!" Ningguang shouted, slamming the door shut behind her. "What the hell did you do?"

"L-Lady Ningguang!" she said, immediately awake & alert. "How can I help you?"

"You can help me," Ningguang growled, "by telling me what the hell you did to the Yuheng."

"To Keqing? I did speak to her earlier, but I just offered her some support as her friend and cleared up a misconception she had. After that, she asked to be left alone with her, um, work."

Ningguang put her hands on her hips and glared at Ganyu. "What the hell misconception could she possibly have had? The only reason she didn't realize you had feelings for her sooner is that she's too busy obsessing over her job!"

"Feelings? For Keqing?" Ganyu asked.

"Don't play dumb with me, dammit! You're obviously in..." Ningguang slowed down as realization dawned on her. "Oh, by the Seven... you're actually this dumb, aren't you?"

"W-what?!"

Ningguang fixed Ganyu with a piercing stare. "You have feelings for Keqing. Keqing has feelings for you. And yet, for some reason you told her you're not into women and turned her down."

"I told her... but... but everyone knows about my relationship with Guizhong..." Ganyu protested.

"Yes," Ningguang agreed, "so you can imagine how Keqing must have felt, being turned down with an excuse you both know is a lie."

"But I didn't turn her down! And we don't have feelings for each other!"

Ningguang raised an eyebrow. "It doesn't take a half-adeptus to notice the way your face lights up whenever she's around, or the way you stare at her ass when you think no one's looking, or the way you listen more eagerly and more intently to her speeches than anyone else's."

Ganyu blinked as something clicked in her head, and when her eyes reopened, her mind had rearranged the world to fit with this new information "I... oh..." she whispered, blushing. "I didn't even realize... b-but she definitely doesn't have feelings for me. Not when she's already into..."

Ningguang leaned forward, curious. "Oh? Does our Yuheng have another lover I'm not aware of? This is news to me..."

"N-no, it's not that," Ganyu said. "She's just... she's just..." She mumbled something under her breath.

"Hmm? I'm afraid you'll have to speak up."

"She has a... p-paperwork fetish," Ganyu managed to choke out.

"A paperwork fetish," Ningguang repeated.

"A paperwork fetish," Ganyu confirmed.

"A fetish..." Ningguang began, still attempting to wrap her head around Ganyu's assertion.

"...for paperwork," Ganyu finished for her.

"Let me make sure I understand your reasoning. You noticed that Keqing was becoming aroused in your presence, and your conclusion..." Ningguang stifled a giggle, "...was that she has a paperwork fetish?"

"What else could it be?" Ganyu asked innocently.

Ningguang burst into laughter. "You really don't know?" she said, struggling to speak coherently as she continued to laugh. "You don't have any idea?" She wiped a tear from the corner from her eye. "Oh, Beidou is going to lose it when I tell her about this."

Ganyu crossed her arms and pouted. "Can you please explain to me what you find so funny, Lady Ningguang?"

Ningguang composed herself. "Ganyu. She thinks you're hot."

"Sh-she does?!" Ganyu said, taken aback.

"Yes, Ganyu, she does. She probably feels the same way about you that you do about her."

"But... when she asked if I feel the same way that she does, I said..." Finally, the pieces slid into place for Ganyu. "Oh no."

"Oh no," Ningguang agreed.

"Lady Ningguang! M-may I have the rest of the day off?"

"Yes, I think that sounds wise," Ningguang said. Ganyu started to run out the door, but before she could, Ningguang called after her, "And tell Keqing she has the rest of the day off, too."


Ganyu ran as fast as she could to Keqing's office and pounded on the still-closed door.

"Go away," Keqing shouted from inside.

"No!" Ganyu shouted back. "I have something I have to tell you!"

After a brief pause, the door opened. Keqing's eyes were red, and there were still wet patches on her cheeks from hastily-dried tears. "What do you want?" she asked. She smelled bitter and resigned.

"Can I come in?" asked Ganyu.

"Fine. Whatever."

Ganyu stepped inside and closed the door behind her. "I... I think we had a misunderstanding earlier."

Keqing snorted. "No, I think I got the message loud and clear. You hate me. I get it. It makes sense. I just thought..." She shook her head. "It doesn't matter what I thought. I was wrong. Now leave me alone."

"No!!" Ganyu shouted. "That's not it at all! I thought... I thought you were talking about something else. I didn't realize you had... f-feelings for me. Or... that I have feelings for you."

Keqing froze. "You... what?"

"I could tell that you were excited about something when I was around, but I didn't think that something was me."

"What else could it have been?"

"Th-that's not important! What matters is that I was wrong, and I have feelings for you, a-and if it's not too late, I want to apologize and maybe start over." Ganyu took a step forward, then slowly got down on the floor, folding her legs underneath herself as she sat down and lowered her head."

"What are you doing?" Keqing asked.

"It's an ancient qilin custom," Ganyu explained. "When our wrongdoings are so severe that an apology alone cannot suffice, we offer up the most vulnerable part of ourselves to show the depth of our remorse."

"Like when a dog rolls over to expose its belly..."

Ganyu nodded in confirmation.

"So the most vulnerable part of you is... the top of your head?" Keqing guessed.

Ganyu shook her head. "I-it's my horns, actually."

"Your horns? I thought those wouldn't be sensitive at all," Keqing mused. "But that's beside the point. Ganyu, you don't need to go through all of this. You made a mistake. It happens."

"If... if you forgive me, you're supposed to gently s-stroke my horns," Ganyu said nervously.

Keqing sighed. "You're going to make me go through this even knowing how I feel about uncritically adhering to tradition, aren't you."

"Mhm," Ganyu hummed.

Keqing sighed again, but there was a fond smile on her face this time. "Fine, fine... you silly girl," she said warmly. She closed the rest of the distance between herself and Ganyu, then gently, tenderly lay a single finger on the tip of one of her horns.

Ganyu took in a quick hiss of a breath, but stayed still.

"You silly, silly creature," Keqing whispered as she slowly ran her finger along the curve of Ganyu's horn. "What am I supposed to do with you?"

Ganyu whimpered at the soft touch. It had been centuries since she let anyone touch her this way, and she hadn't realized how much she missed it: the warm pulses it sent through her body; the way Keqing's voice flowed through her alongside her caresses; the feeling of her consciousness drifting off as she put her whole being into enjoying the blissful here and now.

It was heavenly.

So when Keqing added her other hand and tentatively curled her fingers around both horns in a loose grip, Ganyu didn't think to stifle her reaction at all. "Ah... Keqing..." she moaned, automatically pushing her head up into Keqing's hands. "Please, more..."

Keqing jerked her hands back. "G-Ganyu?" she asked, her voice shaking. "Is... is this okay? Did I go too far? Should I—"

"Keqiiiiing," Ganyu whined, pushing her head up further to rub her horns against Keqing's closed hands, "don't stoooop..."

After a moment's consideration, Keqing acquiesced. She placed her hands just underneath Ganyu's horns and curled her fingers up and around them in a gentle grip, then used her thumbs to caress them along the top. Ganyu responded with a long, wordless moan. "Who would have thought that our secretary was such a needy little thing?" she teased.

Normally Ganyu would have responded with a deep blush, but she was beyond embarrassment, lost as she was in Keqing's tender ministrations. She inched closer, pressing her body into Keqing's legs. Keqing took this as a sign to carry on and tightened her grip, earning a sharp intake of air from Ganyu, then leaned over to plant a tiny kiss on the end of one of her horns. In response, Ganyu moaned again, even louder and longer than before.

"Oh? You liked that?" asked Keqing.

Ganyu nodded carefully, trying to move her head as little as possible.

"I see. Then..." Keqing knelt down so her position was almost matching Ganyu's, changing her grip on the way so her palms were on top of Ganyu's horns. She let go of one horn and used her arm to pull Ganyu closer, pressing Ganyu's face into her chest. "Come closer," she whispered, and Ganyu wrapped her arms around her and squeezed her tight. "Good girl," she said, accompanying the praise with another kiss to the unattended horn. "Good girl," she repeated alongside another kiss, then another, and another, and another, down the length of the horn, then back up, using her other hand's thumb to rub circles on the underside of Ganyu's other horn.

Each kiss, each circle, each word of praise sent another pulse of warmth through Ganyu's body, chased another moan from her lips, made her tighten her grip on Keqing, until there was no way for her to distinguish one pulse from the next and she was panting, gasping for air. Whether by intent or instinct, Keqing gradually intensified her affections to keep up with Ganyu, stroking the length of Ganyu's horn with her hand, lengthening her kisses, whispering "Ganyu" and "my qilin" alongside "good girl", running her other hand up and down Ganyu's back.

Eventually, something changed, and Ganyu began moving her head in time with Keqing's hand and gasping out fragments of sentences as she was able: "K-Keqing, I—ah!—I want—oh, yes, yes, yes—you, just a little—nnnnngh—more, please—" and finally something inside her burst and she could do nothing but scream her ecstasy into Keqing's chest, her arms spasming as she tried to get closer, closer, closer to the wonderful woman who did this to her, who gave her this unparalleled joy she had all but forgotten was even possible.

Keqing felt Ganyu shudder against her and helped her ride it out, lovingly, gently; when it seemed to have passed, she let go of Ganyu's horn to start stroking her hair. She didn't say anything; she just let Ganyu stay there as long as she needed, absorbed in the aftermath of... that... and trying to remember what she had almost forgotten, the last time she lay with a lover, let her stroke her horns, and had...

Had...

Oh.

Awareness came back to Ganyu like a slap in the face, the last few minutes—or more? The lack of light behind the curtains suggested it had been hours, Ganyu realized—flooding her mind and making her cheeks burn with embarrassment. Did we really just...

"It's okay, sweet rain," Keqing whispered. She must have felt Ganyu tense up, because she continued, "I... kind of figured that's where things were going. I... I hope that's okay with you?" She sounded uncharacteristically nervous all of a sudden.

Ganyu nodded enthusiastically. "Very okay," she confirmed, still hiding her face. I just won't think about where I'm hiding my face for now. "Thank you, my qingxin."

"Heh." Keqing planted a kiss on Ganyu's forehead. "I guess we both have pet names for each other already," she observed, amused.

"Pet names...? O-oh! I... I guess we do." She thought for a moment, picking her next words carefully. "Is... is there anything you'd like me to do for you?" Keqing laughed at that, not her usual derisive laughter but a soft, sparkling tone that Ganyu had never heard before. She found herself wanting to hear it again and again, for years to come.

"That was enough for me, too," Keqing said. "Can't you tell?"

Sure enough, Ganyu could sense contentment, amusement, and a quickly-fading trace of anxiety from Keqing, but not a hint of arousal. "Wait, did you—"

"Yes, I enjoyed myself," Keqing admitted. "Quite a lot, actually. But I don't need anything more from you; the act of giving is usually enough for me."

Ganyu finally pulled her face away from Keqing and looked her in the eyes. "Usually?" she asked teasingly.

Keqing stuck her tongue out. "Yes, usually."

"Well, if unusually ever comes around, I'll be ready."

"I'll look forward to it," Keqing said with a wide grin. She stood up and stretched, then looked nervously back at her desk. "I, um... I hate to cut this short, but I have a lot of work I still need to finish today..."

"Oh! You don't, actually!"

"Hm? What do you mean?"

"Ningguang gave you the rest of the day off."

"Ningguang..." Keqing scowled. "I bet she knew this would happen."

Ganyu giggled. "I doubt she knew this would happen."

"That we would fuck in my office? I wouldn't put it past her."

"Keqing!!" Ganyu shouted. "W-we didn't... we did not... have... intercourse."

"Oh yeah? Then what did we do, o wise adeptus?"

"We merely... completed a traditional qilin apology ritual," Ganyu said smugly.

Keqing whistled. "Damn! Maybe you old-fashioned types aren't always wrong about everything..."

Ganyu swatted her playfully on the back of her head. "Hey! Don't make me break up with you already!"

"Break up with me? So, we're girlfriends now?"

Ganyu's eyes widened as she realized what she had inadvertently said. "I didn't—I mean, I don't want to—I mean, I do want to, but only if you want to, but I shouldn't—"

Keqing cut off her rambling with a kiss on the lips. "Yes, I want to be your girlfriend, Ganyu."

"A-and... I would love to be your girlfriend, too, Keqing," Ganyu said bashfully.

"Then it's settled," Keqing declared. "So... what should we do now that we're official?"

Ganyu nuzzled her girlfriend's shoulder and yawned. "How about... a nap..."

Keqing smiled and wrapped an arm around Ganyu. "You can nap with me whenever you want," she said earnestly.

"Good..." Ganyu mumbled. After another yawn, she slid her head down into Keqing's lap and closed her eyes. "Wake me up... next month..."

"You're joking, right? Ganyu? That's a joke? Please?" Keqing asked frantically. "Is this a joke or a qilin thing? I can't get up to check my books with you here like this, Ganyu! Come on, you can't be asleep already. Right?"

The only answer Ganyu gave was a soft snore.

Keqing shook her head and smiled fondly, then reached for the nearest book, opened it, and started reading.