Will Graham had long since come to terms with his fate – he’d remain unmated for the rest of his life.
He was fine with that. Really, he was. In fact, he preferred it that way. As a male omega, the chances of finding a suitable partner were already very slim. Most alphas preferred female omegas, and Will couldn’t really blame them for that. Offspring was something that a lot of people prioritized, after all, and it was something that Will would never be able to offer.
Will often found himself wondering why and how his own gender had come into existence, because from a purely biological perspective, male omegas didn’t really seem to have a purpose. They couldn’t bear children the way females could, the sperm of male omega was almost always low motility – which meant that even if they somehow managed to seduce a female partner, although statistics showed that male omegas were typically drawn to male partners, the chances of producing children were slim to none – and, as much as it pained him to admit it, the physique of a male omega was rather fragile in comparison to male alphas and betas.
Will couldn’t help but to wonder why nature had designed male omegas in the first place, instead of gradually sorting those genes out and eliminating the male omega gender from the human species altogether, considering how little they must’ve contributed back when people were still living in caves.
Then again, omegas only made up roughly ten percent of the population, and only two percent of all omegas were male. In other words, male omegas were indisputably the rarest gender. Perhaps the natural selection was already in process. Give it another millennia or so and the male omega would perhaps be completely extinct.
Will didn’t particularly mind his gender. He’d learned to deal with most of the hazards it entailed. What bothered Will wasn’t the biological issues; it was how the general public treated male omegas. Given their more or less barren state, male omegas were mainly used for pleasure; as easily discarded human sex toys. It was cruel. Male omegas typically craved life partners and stability as much as female omegas did. Suicide amongst male omegas was therefore not uncommon. Others went into prostitution for an easy buck, even if it resulted mental and emotional harm - and sometimes bodily.
Mother nature seemed fond of irony. While male omegas were rather useless when it came to reproducing, their pheromones were much stronger than female omega pheromones. And that said a lot, because female omegas were virtually designed to attract and seduce partners; the pheromones a female omega released during a heat would alert alphas and betas within a very wide radius that she was fertile and ready to be mated.
Whoever got to her first would claim the omega, and if that someone was an alpha, he’d enter a state known as rut, which rapidly increased sperm production - meaning, he'd be able to ejaculate multiple times in a short period of time - which practically guaranteed pregnancy by the end of the mating. They’d fuck for the duration of the omega’s heat, make babies, the end. It was all very effective and, in Will’s eyes, unbearably primitive.
The pheromones male omegas released during a heat typically only affected alphas, but were nearly twice as potent in that perspective. That meant that the alpha’s rut sensation became twice as intense. And this was precisely why many alphas enjoyed using male omegas for sex, because apparently, mating whilst in a rut induced by a male omega in heat was the epitome of carnal pleasure; a sensation akin to being high.
Will didn’t see the appeal – rut was a very raw form of arousal that, according to what he’d heard and read, made some alphas snap and lose all sense of logic. In Will’s mind, the idea of being at the mercy of an out-of-control alpha, who could potentially harm him if things got out of hand, seemed both frightening and off-putting. Of course, most omega, both female and male, would disagree with him – mating with an alpha was supposedly an intensely pleasurable experience; it’s what they were naturally programmed to crave and seek out.
Not that it was an issue for him. He’d been taking suppressants ever since he entered puberty, and while he still suffered minor heat symptoms when it was his time of the year, he’d trained himself to suppress his instincts. Arousal was a foreign sensation, one that he hardly ever experienced, and Will had very little interest in sex. Or rather, he despised the idea of succumbing to his nature. He was an intelligent, self-sufficient man and certainly had better things to do than spreading his legs for some horned up alpha every time his hormones demanded it.
The unfortunate side-effect of his suppressant-lifestyle was that Will was in a near-constant state of fatigue. This, however, hadn’t stopped Will from reaching success in his field. He taught forensics at the FBI and often assisted in investigations, and although his work took a serious toll on him, he thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of being useful.
Will, like many omegas, made up for his lack of physical strength with intelligence. He’d also been gifted with a keen sense of empathy, which, as it turned out, came in handy when chasing serial killers. He knew how to enter that special state of mind that allowed him to not just think like a serial killer, but to feel like one as well. It was unsettling on many levels, but it hadn’t been a problem. That is, until recently.
Entering that state of mind wasn’t the problem – it was exiting that proved difficult. Will couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept a full night without waking up from nightmares, bathing in his own cold sweat. When he’d told Jack Crawford, his FBI commander, what he was going through, the man had simply shrugged it off and told him that most agents experienced nightmares on a regular basis, that it was an occupational hazard, and that he shouldn’t worry about it too much.
After that, Will hadn’t worried - until he started having hallucinations during the days. That’s when he’d really started to wonder if maybe he should take a step back.
Still, Will was too stubborn to complain. If the other agents could handle it, then by God, so could he. He had to. He’d hidden the fact that he was an omega ever since he’d first started working for the FBI, and he feared that if he was forced to undergo a physical examination, his true gender would inevitably be exposed.
It certainly wasn’t prohibited for omegas to work, but he was fairly certain that people would look at him differently if they knew that he wasn’t actually a beta. Some might even question his capability as an FBI agent.
Despite the equalist social climate and the politics that strictly stated that omegas had the exact same rights as the other genders, omegas were still first and foremost perceived as highly sensual beings; male omegas especially so. Will knew that there were plenty of conservative bigots who opined that omegas were good for one thing, and one thing only – mating. He couldn’t risk exposing himself to people he hardly knew. Especially since the majority of his FBI co-workers consisted of alphas.
Losing his mind didn’t scare him as much as the idea of being seen as a lustful fuck doll did.
Which was why it had miffed him that Alana Bloom, a beautiful beta, a successful psychologist and one of the few people Will considered his friends, had alerted Crawford of his wavering state of mind after catching Will teaching a class to an empty room, thinking that it was full of students. Will had slept very little that week and even he had to admit that things were perhaps going a bit too far if he was hallucinating an entire auditorium full of people, but he still felt a bit betrayed by Alana for going behind his back.
She was, of course, worried for his wellbeing. He knew that. Couldn’t stay angry with her. But he wished she’d talked to him first. Because after her interference, in an effort to ensure that Will remained useful, Crawford had assigned a psychiatrist to observe Will. Initially under the guise of assisting with cases, probably because Crawford knew how much Will despised the idea of being psycho-analysed, but Will saw through it almost immediately.
Hannibal Lecter was going to assist with cases, yes – but his primary job was to watch Will and make sure his head stayed intact. Will had protested, of course, to no avail. Lecter was not just a psychiatrist – he was also an alpha, and a very imposing one at that. Tall, broad shoulders, articulate, highly intelligent and the tone of his voice was as calm as it was firm. Everything about him made Will uncomfortable.
Will tended to avoid meeting people’s gazes as a means to keep his instincts at bay – eyes were distracting and they had the frightening ability to convey attraction – but with Lecter it was different. Will felt as though it’d be downright dangerous to meet his gaze. So he didn’t. Hadn’t.
Until one morning, Will was woken up by knocks at his door and he, already sleep deprived and cranky as hell, responded to the rude awakening by tearing the front door open and snarling out an angry-
He found himself staring straight into Hannibal Lecter’s intense brown eyes for several shocked seconds before finally lowering his gaze, feeling as though he’d just been seen naked.
“Sorry, I didn’t know it was you.” He leaned against the doorframe and crossed his arms over his chest, uncomfortably aware of the fact that he was only dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. “What are you doing here?”
Lecter didn’t seem put off. He held up a bag that carried the pleasant aroma of warm food.
“I made you breakfast.”
Will couldn’t help but to send Lecter a confused scowl.
“Yes,” he said with a polite smile, “typically known as the first meal of the day. Your surprised tone indicates you rarely eat breakfast, meaning I was correct in my assumption. So I made you some. May I come in?”
Will nodded without saying a word and disappeared into his cabin to collect his bath robe. Once he’d covered himself up, he re-joined Lecter in the kitchen, where the man was already setting up the table. Will marvelled at the scent emitting from the food containers that Lecter placed in front of him and felt his mouth begin to water.
“What is it?” Will asked and peered curiously into the bowl. “Sausage?”
“Impressive. I usually get take-out. Can’t be bothered to cook.” Will gave a stiff, crooked smile in an effort to be polite, seeing as Lecter had gone out of his way to make Will breakfast.
“Cooking isn’t a bother. I rather enjoy it,” stated Lecter and watched patiently as Will took his first bite. “Well?”
“It’s delicious. Thank you,” Will said and sent Lecter a quick glance only to immediately drop his gaze once more, focusing instead on the food. It really was delicious. The sausages were made of a meat that Will couldn’t quite place, but it reminded him of pork. Along with the sausages, there were fried eggs and buttery bread. Lecter had indeed been correct in his assumption – Will rarely had the time or the energy to eat breakfast in the mornings, opting instead to drink copious amounts of coffee on his way to work. It woke him up alright, but it also made him jittery and the caffeine often left him with gruesome headaches.
With proper food in his system, Will found his energy replenishing faster than it normally did. Gratitude swelled in his chest. But the random act of kindness still had him suspicious. Lecter was meant to observe him, that much he understood, but bringing him breakfast? That was teetering on inappropriate.
“Is this going to be a regular thing with you? Bringing me food, that is?” Will tried to keep his tone light, but Lecter saw through it. He smiled gently.
“Not if it makes you uncomfortable.”
“Not uncomfortable,” Will lied and shrugged. “It’s just a bit…”
Will looked up, suddenly worried that Lecter had taken offense to his ungrateful attitude, but Lecter merely reached for his glass of water, calmly taking a sip. Will gave a grimace and looked down once more, stabbing a piece of egg with his fork.
“I didn’t mean-“
“Don’t worry, I know how it comes across.” Lecter’s voice carried the trace of a chuckle, which made Will relax a little. “Let me assure you, I don’t normally do this for my patients, but then again, you seem different from my ‘normal patients.’ It’s intriguing. I think you and I could have a more profound relationship.”
Will froze with his fork half-way to his mouth, trying to ignore the wave of dread that crashed over him at what the man was suggesting. Lecter didn’t wait for him to work up a reply.
“That is, I was hoping we could be friends.”
Will took a steadying breath, relieved at the clarification, and shoved the fork into his mouth, desperately hoping that Lecter hadn’t noticed his discomfort.
“I don’t find you that interesting,” Will muttered, suddenly keen on keeping the doctor at a distance. Lecter didn’t seem to care.
Hannibal Lecter had never really considered the prospect of finding a lifelong partner. It was expected of him, as if was of all alphas, and he wasn’t against the idea, but felt he was in no rush. Being an alpha, he could more or less choose freely from the myriads of betas and omegas who yearned for his dominant nature.
Of course, an omega would be preferable – mainly because Hannibal rather liked the idea of being an Alpha and Omega couple, which, traditionally speaking, was the ultimate combination – but also because omegas were vastly more fascinating. Not to mention, they were quite rare compared to the far more common betas, and Hannibal liked rarities.
Unfortunately, however, with alphas making up twenty percent of the population while omegas only made up ten, the frustrating reality was that many alphas would never get to mate permanently with an omega.
Hannibal had had his fair share of sexual encounters in his lifetime. Mostly betas, but there you go. He’d mated with a few omegas, but never during a heat, and he’d never granted anyone – beta or omega – his bite. No, for Hannibal to actually mark his mate, thus claiming him or her as his life partner, it would have to be someone truly special. Someone who understood him – if such a creature existed. He was starting to doubt that.
Not that it bothered him. Hannibal was what he was – a psychiatrist, a socialite, a hunter. He had enough on his plate, literally speaking, and remaining single and on the prowl was a lifestyle that suited him well. He needed to maintain a healthy distance to most people, because those who got too close – those who saw what he was – inevitably ended up on Hannibal’s dinner table. It was just too troublesome.
So he kept people at bay. Impersonal glamour suited him fine. He maintained his charade flawlessly. No one suspected a thing. Exactly the way he liked it.
Thus, the fact that Will Graham still refused to meet his gaze for more than a second at a time shouldn’t have bothered him as much as it did. Hannibal had that effect on many people, given his naturally formidable aura, and he’d never considered it a problem. In fact, Hannibal greatly enjoyed the respect and the awe that he inspired in others. He fed on that energy until it filled him up and made him want to feed on their flesh, too. It solidified his own conviction that he was, in fact, someone to be feared – a predator, the truest form of an alpha.
He couldn’t for the life of him figure out why Will Graham’s reluctance to look at him frustrated him so. Will was a rather ordinary-looking beta. Nothing about him stood out. He had bad posture. His skin was so pale it almost looked grey. He clearly didn’t know how to use a comb. And he was very skittish. All qualities that Hannibal rather disliked.
Truthfully, Will was everything that Hannibal didn’t look for in a partner – or even a friend for that matter. And yet.
No answer. Hannibal clicked his tongue and crouched down to get a better look on the younger man’s face. Will was seated on the sidewalk, staring blankly ahead. The blood splatter on his cheek had dried and darkened, making it resemble ink.
Behind them, the house in which Will had just been forced to shoot Garrett Jacob Hobbs was surrounded by police officers and forensic investigators, while the blue flashing lights from several police cars and ambulances swivelled through the air, casting dancing shadows.
“Will?” Hannibal pressed and placed a hand on the man’s shuddering shoulder.
The only response Will gave was a twitch in his fingers, a quick inhale. Hannibal scowled slightly, irritated with the man’s lacking response. Hannibal wouldn’t stand for being ignored, even when it wasn’t done on purpose.
“William,” he said, using a tone that normally made people unable to disobey him. “Look at me.”
Finally, Will seemed to snap out of his shock and slowly turned his head to look at him. It nearly startled Hannibal when Will’s impossibly wide eyes met his, because for the first time since they’d met, Will didn’t look away. He looked straight into Hannibal’s, unblinking, pupils mere pinpricks. Clearly still in shock, then.
“You had no choice, Will. You know that.”
Will said nothing. His intense stare seemed to convey something other than fear or shock, Hannibal realized. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it. There was something like a request in those pale blue eyes. A desperate request.
Begging? No. Demanding. He’s demanding something from me. Demanding what?
“H-he’s… dead. I-” Will finally mumbled, looking as though he wanted to vomit. “I killed a man. I… killed a man.” Shaking hands reached out and tugged at Hannibal’s coat. Will’s face scrunched up in horror as he leaned in a little closer. “I killed a man, doctor. What am I supposed to DO? TELL ME!” Will tugged harder on the fabric, forcing Hannibal to slump forward a bit, steadying himself by placing a hand on the asphalt below. “TELL ME WHAT TO DO!”
Hannibal could only stare back at Will. Those furious eyes. The pain in them. And that goddamned unspoken demand. Hannibal’s chest gave an odd twinge at the sight. Almost as if…
Hannibal nearly flinched back when it suddenly occurred to him.
Before he could make any further attempts at calming Will down, or addressing his new theory regarding Will, a pair of paramedics walked up to them and draped a blanket around Will before proceeding to calming him down, eventually coaxing the panicked young man into their ambulance. Hannibal backed away from them, too deep in thought to be of any assistance anyway, and covered his mouth with a gloved hand.
Could it be?
Jack Crawford suddenly appeared by his side, looking oddly sombre.
“Are you worried about him, doctor Lecter?” He asked, nodding towards the ambulance where Will was resting up.
“He’s in severe shock,” Hannibal commented and put his hands in his pockets, adopting a more relaxed stance. “I’m in charge of assessing his mental well-being, so of course seeing him in this state worries me.”
“I don’t blame you,” Jack said, frowning bitterly. “I’m worried, too. Will has never killed anyone on the job before. I didn’t think he had it in him. You know about his previous work, right? He used to be a homicide detective.”
“Yes, I read the file. He lost his job because he repeatedly failed to draw his gun, no?”
Jack nodded, expression tense. “He hated the idea of shooting someone. His reluctance to using his weapon in dire situations endangered his missions and his co-workers, so they let him go. That’s when we snatched him up to teach our future agents… And then he started working cases with us. Solved a lot of them, too. But sometimes I wonder why he’s in this line of work, considering how negatively it affects him.” He turned to Hannibal with a quirked eyebrow. “Don’t get me wrong - his special abilities make him an excellent investigator. It’s precisely why I want him on my team. It’s just a shame that he was forced to carry out this deed. He’s fragile, even for a beta.”
Hannibal said nothing. Felt it was best not to, because unlike Crawford, he didn’t feel it was a shame at all. He’d orchestrated this, after all. Not only to help out a fellow hunter – because that wasn’t really it – but also to see how Will would react to the chaos that would undoubtedly ensue. Hannibal knew from the very moment Hobbs hung up the phone on him that the man would panic and do something unnecessarily drastic, realizing that he was about to get caught. Hannibal had expected this, because that’s what most hunters did when faced with the prospect of getting caught.
He hadn’t, however, expected Will to be strong enough to pull the trigger.
Hannibal suspected that if it hadn’t been for Hobbs cutting the throat of his own daughter, Will would never have shot him. Hobbs had virtually forced Will’s hand the moment his blade slid across her throat, blood spraying everywhere, which was apparently the last straw for Will – it was where he drew the line for what someone could get away with right before his eyes. Taking an innocent life.
The girl hadn’t died, however, which was probably for the best. If Will was this torn up over killing a dangerous criminal, Hannibal had to wonder how Will would’ve reacted if Abigail Hobbs had in fact passed away from her wounds – if Will hadn’t been able to save her. Perhaps he would’ve lost his mind completely. Hannibal didn’t know Will Graham well enough yet, but perhaps Jack was right: Will was fragile.
But fragility wasn’t always a synonym to weakness.
Hannibal smiled softly to himself and turned away from the house, the police cars and the stench of stress, fear and death in the air. His car was parked just down the road and since Will would likely be taken to the hospital before being sent home, Hannibal decided to retreat for the night. There was no need to rush things.
He’d have plenty of time to get to know Will Graham better from now on.