Hannibal has always strived to maintain a strict schedule in regards to his appointments. He works during very specific hours of each day and does not accept walk-ins. Recently, it has become even more restricted to referrals since his involvement with the FBI has increased.
Even with these new consultations clogging up his time, Hannibal schedules his clients and appointments so that Thursday afternoon is always free. This is especially prudent when he plans on his extravagant dinner parties. The Thursday and Friday leading up to such a night is the most important, and ensures that everything is prepared so that guests are not exposed to the less savory side of fine dining.
So, it is aggravating to see Jack's name flash across his phone as he's closing up his office, at two p.m. on a Thursday afternoon in early January. The cold is biting and the wind chill is so bad that people are being warned about the risk of frostbite on exposed skin after thirty minutes outside. Hannibal likes this time of year to hunt, contrary to what others might advise – those that do brave the cold, in times like this, are often sturdy.
"Hello, Jack," he says, hoping to maintain a pleasant demeanor. It is important to keep a good relationship with the people that would do him the most harm. Jack is shrewd, just the wrong kind of suspicious.
"Doctor Lecter, I hope I'm not interrupting," Jack replies. His voice sounds strained and muffled, like he has his hand cupped over the phone. Hannibal crosses the sidewalk and heads to his vehicle, which is parked under a small awning so that his windshield doesn't catch any snow.
Hannibal slides his hand into his pocket and the car chirps as it unlocks, and then starts with a soft, chittering rumble from the remote. Hannibal ducks back inside of his office while he waits for his car to warm up. It wouldn't do to comprise his hands in the cold if this conversation carries on too long.
"I was just leaving the office. You're not interrupting. How may I help you?"
"I -. Was wondering. You wouldn't happen to have any Neutral injections at your office, would you?"
Hannibal pauses, straightening up. His reflection catches his eye, challenging, a flash of red passing through his eye like the hi-beams of an oncoming car, before it's gone. "Yes," he replies after a moment. "I believe I do. Where are you?"
"I'll text you the address. Please be here as soon as you can," Jack says, and Hannibal hangs up and enters his office. There is a second room, where he stores refrigerated medication that he prescribes. Among these things, among the adrenaline shots and ephedrine and anti-psychotics and sedatives, are the Neutral shots.
His phone chimes as he takes a few of the preloaded syringes – Neutral, like epi-pens, usually come as one-shot spring-loaded items – and he sees that Jack has texted him the address of a hotel on the North side of Annapolis.
Once he has the syringes loaded in his bag, he exits his office, locking the door behind him, and goes to his now-pleasantly warm car. The whirr of the engine is the only noise as he pulls out onto the salt-white streets and heads East.
Thanks to the cold, there are not many people on the road, and Hannibal arrives at the hotel location within half an hour. There are several police cars gathered around, their blue and red lights reflecting garishly in the windows and on the snow still clinging stubbornly to the sidewalk.
There is an ambulance, but it looks like it is already on the way to packing up and leaving. There are three black FBI trucks – one, Hannibal recognizes, is for the coroner to move the body. The other two are the standard, official SUVs.
He parks next to one of the police cars, near the line of yellow tape, and gets out of the car.
Almost immediately, a sharp scent hits his nose hard enough that he stumbles. His keen sense of smell has always been a double-edged sword but now it feels like a curse. The stench of blood and meat is, as always, present, but other that, pervading the air and making it hard to concentrate, is something else entirely. It's sharp, cutting, and smells almost like a rutting Alpha except if that was the case there would definitely be more panic showing in the faces of the agents and forensic experts gathered.
He spies Jack by the ambulance and walks over, his bag in hand. The wind is not as bad here but still bites at Hannibal's cheekbones and around his eyes where his hair and his scarf do not protect him. Jack is shivering, rubbing his thickly-gloved hands together, and gives him a nod of greeting as he approaches.
"Doctor Lecter, thank you for coming," he says. "Did you bring it?"
"Yes," Hannibal replies, tapping on his bag. Now that he is closer to the building itself, the smell has gotten stronger, but changed in tone. Like adding red to a color already purple, it's warming and mellowing from the cool feeling before. He resists the urge to lower his scarf so he can scent the air. "What's going on?"
"Come inside," Jack says, and gestures for him to enter the hotel. Hannibal nods and follows. There is another line of tape around the entrance and they duck under it and enter the hotel. Hannibal sees the large bloodstain on the floor and cocks his head to one side.
"Another visit from the Ripper?" he asks mildly, looking around. There is no body remaining, so the crew standing around are sparse, mostly photographers. Hannibal catches Beverly's eye as she's gathering a sample of dirt from a footprint on the floor and gives her a polite nod of greeting.
"Hard to say, so far," Jack says. Now that they're indoors, the natural flush of heat is making the layers almost unbearable. Hannibal sets his bag down and slides off his scarf and gloves, folding them neatly and putting them in a pocket each. "That's not why I called you here."
"No, I hardly think your dead man is rutting," Hannibal says. Neutral is a fairly new drug, only becoming common use in hospitals and emergency response teams within the last five years. It works similarly to a sedative, but is specifically engineered to release neutralizing chemicals in Alphas to calm them down from the mental effects of a rut. It is the answering hormone that Omegas produce when in heat, and provides the same satisfaction an Alpha might get from knotting an Omega, rendering them calm enough to move or contain as necessary.
Jack huffs. "No." He shakes his head and sighs, eyeing the bloodstain. "Not the dead man."
Hannibal looks around again, the corners of his mouth tugging in displeasure before he schools his expression. "Who am I here for, Jack?" he asks.
Jack's mouth twists. His eyes are threaded with red and his scent is sour with worry. "Will," he says.
Hannibal can't stop the blink of shock. "I…am confused," he says, attempting to keep his voice mild. "Will is an Omega. By that extension he is physically incapable of rutting."
"I know," Jack says. "But he is."
Hannibal presses his lips together and sighs through his nose. "Bring me to him."
Jack nods and leads the way towards the reception desk at the front of the hotel. As they pass, Hannibal smells the low roll of anxiety from the Alphas gathered. He meets Beverly's eyes again and she shakes her head, looking back down. Clearly, whatever happened, it is enough to put all of them ill at ease.
They pass into a hallway leading to the elevators and gym, and Hannibal stops when he smells it. It is the same scent from outside, bitter and sharp, dark chocolate and lemons. He recognizes it immediately as Will's, but perverted. Will smells uniquely like the wild, mint and water and lemongrass and, of course, his dogs. It is not uncommon for Omegas to keep pets, especially when they life alone.
But something has changed in his scent, when Hannibal tilts his chin up and scents the air. He opens his mouth, lets the flavor of Will soak onto his palette, and follows Jack down the hallway towards the gym. The doors and wall are glass so Hannibal can see right into it.
He spots Will immediately. He's trembling, soaked to the bone in sweat despite the fact that it's cool in this hallway and he's only wearing jeans, boots, and a t-shirt. His hair is flat and dark against his face, his clothes black with stains. Despite this, he is not flushed, but pale and clammy-looking.
He jerks and opens his eyes, finding Jack and Hannibal, and he bares his teeth. He's sitting on the floor behind a treadmill and when he tries to move, to lunge at them, his arm gets caught. He's been handcuffed to a hot water pipe at ground level, leading to the sauna.
Hannibal wants to growl. Throughout his life, his excellent sense of smell, his status, and his hobbies have honed his opinion as a prime Alpha to a fine point that a needle would be proud of. And, as a lot of Alphas are unfortunately prone to do, he knows that during their therapy sessions he has bonded himself in some way, however small, to Will. He is possessive of Will, he understands that about himself.
The fact that Jack so cavalierly treats his possessions like feral animals brings up thoughts of how he'd slow-roast Jack and feed him piece by piece to Will and Bella.
Will's eyes are bright and gold, driven entirely by his id as Omegas in heat and Alphas in rut are prone to do. He is pulling on the handcuffs, snarling at both of them, clawing at the rotating surface of the treadmill and peeling it from its platform.
Hannibal tuts, folding his hands in front of him. "Now I've seen everything," he says. Jack hums, the joke eliciting no reaction from his eyes or mouth. "How long has he been like this?"
"Almost an hour," Jack replies. Hannibal swallows back a sound of concern. The amount of aggressive chemicals stirring in a brain as special as Will's for so long might render it as useful as soup. Will is too reactive, too sensitive to people's hormones and thoughts.
"Do you know what triggered it?"
Jack shrugs. "I wasn't with him," he says. "I cleared the room, was lettin' him do his thing, you know. Then I heard him howling and I ran back inside. He attacked one of the EMTs. Almost ripped his throat out."
Hannibal turns to regard Jack, lips pursing as he thinks. "Perhaps there was something about this murder that triggered his fight or flight reflex. An Omega's is…particularly delicate."
"You're tellin' me," Jack mutters. He looks down at Hannibal's bag and nods to it. "You think it'll help? I didn't know what else to do. There's nothing to stop this for Omegas."
Hannibal nods. Omegas have suppressants, which prevent unwanted heats, so there has been no major drug released to stop one from happening once it starts. Conversely, since only Alphas who have created a pair bond with an Omega go into rut, there are medications to prevent one from happening in an inopportune place, but nothing for suppression.
"I suppose it will be an experiment all round," he says, smiling. Jack nods. "I think it would be best if only I were to go in there. We don't want to crowd him."
"Do you think that's wise? He might be Omega but he has teeth all the same."
"He's handcuffed and I don't need to be near his teeth to administer the medication," Hannibal replies lightly. "Besides, I trust you to save my throat if he decides to bite."
Jack scoffs, clearly not finding nearly as much delight in this as Hannibal is, and with another smile, Hannibal pushes on the door to the gym and enters the room. The air here is cool but humid, and Will's sharp scent is almost overwhelming. The normal crispness of his scent, marking him as Omega, has not been lost, but corrupted somehow, like poison does to meat. Hannibal does not like this scent on Will in the slightest.
Will snarls at him, slithering back and putting himself on the balls of his feet, one hand tucked behind the pipe and turning his knuckles pink from the heat. His other hand is curled, nails ready to rip and tear, and digging into his own thigh.
"Hello, Will," Hannibal says mildly, coming to a stop a few feet away from the treadmill. Some Omegas recognize familiar Alphas by their voice no matter their mental state. It is possible that all Will needs, as he always does, is some quiet conversation.
Will growls, upper lip curling back. There is no blood in his mouth – despite Jack's dramatic declaration, clearly Will didn't get close enough to actually harm the EMT. His lips are dark, like he's been chewing on them. His jaws part and he sucks in a deep breath through his mouth, scenting the air with ragged, panting breaths.
Hannibal sets his bag down and opens it, but doesn't remove any of the syringes. He doesn't want to antagonize Will until he must. "Jack tells me you attacked one of the first responders," he continues. Will growls, and Hannibal watches as one corner of his mouth twitches upwards. "You tried to rip his throat out."
Will makes another low sound. This time, he's definitely smiling, in the same way a wolf smiles right before it lunges. Hannibal smiles back.
He takes a step forward and crouches down, one knee to the floor. Will's eyes dart down, measuring the distance, hand around the pipe curling. He's calculating, waiting until Hannibal crawls just a little too close.
"Did you want to hurt him, Will?" Hannibal asks. He watches the flash of gold, molten in Will's eyes. Will possesses the gene in hazel eyes that lets them change color, but gold is universal for Omegas. It is triggered by the hormones released in their id-state, indicative of a loss of evolved brain function. In the same way that Alphas, when rutting, show their red.
Will curls his fingers into his thigh, bares his teeth, and growls again. "Shh -." He stutters, hissing the word. His nose wrinkles like he smells something bad and he jerks, shoulders colliding with the wall. Hannibal doesn't break his gaze and Will closes his eyes, takes in a shuddering breath. "Shh."
"Will -." Hannibal reaches forward and Will's eyes snap open. He lunges, clawing at Hannibal's coat sleeve, and Hannibal draws back, pushing himself to his feet. Will had moved fast and directly enough to hurt himself – there's blood around his wrist from the handcuff's bite.
"Shh!" Will snarls, then covers his ear with his free hand. He shakes his head again.
Hannibal sighs through his nose, then turns towards his bag. "Very well," he replies. His tone is scolding and Will whines like a beaten dog. He takes out a syringe and pulls the cap off. "If you want to behave like an animal, that is how I'll treat you."
Will growls at him but Hannibal is swift, clear of thought, and has the advantage of an Alpha's strength on his side. Will lunges for him again but his movement is hampered from his position and his lock against the pipe. He catches Hannibal's coat in his teeth and bites but then Hannibal has a hand in his hair, jerking his head hard enough that Will goes limp, gasping.
Hannibal kneels, forces Will's head forward, and drives the syringe into his shoulder through his shirt. The plunger reacts immediately and Hannibal pulls it out, sliding his hand to Will's nape to keep him docile while the medication does its work.
Omegas are naturally placated by a touch to their necks. At first, Hannibal suspects it was simply a survival instinct – submitting to something bigger and stronger when it had its teeth at your throat was the only way to survive, and some animals still rely on that method of establishing dominance. Now, though, it is more than a simple case of dominance and submission. There are pressure points in an Omega's neck that trigger a feeling of calm and pliancy.
Will moans after a moment, his shoulders going lax and his head hanging. He's not trembling anymore and Hannibal slides his hand back up through Will's sweaty hair, forcing him to lift his head.
Will's eyes open, blinking blearily, the gold fading to the pretty mesh of blues and greens that Hannibal is much more familiar with. He's sweaty and smells like it, but the bitterness of his scent is fading away, much to Hannibal's relief.
Hannibal cups Will's jaw, forces him to turn and meet Hannibal's eyes. "Hello, Will," he says, when Will's eyes sharpen and focus on him.
Will's cheeks turn pink and he ducks his gaze. Naturally unable to hold eye contact with an Alpha. Promising. "Hello, Doctor Lecter," he says. He's quiet, stuttering. His entire demeanor is flowing away like water into a drain, filling back in with the naturally softer and sweeter nature of an Omega. Will's mouth quirks, his voice bland; "Did I miss our appointment?"
Hannibal manages a smile. "What do you remember?"
Jack opens the door and steps inside and Will goes tense, whining almost too softly to hear. His scent colors in shame, he turns his head and Hannibal lets him go and stands. He wipes Will's sweat on his scarf and tries to ignore the urge to press his hands under his nose.
"Will," Jack greets with a nod, voice stern. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I got hit with a sledgehammer," Will replies dryly. Hannibal smiles. "My wrist hurts."
"We had to handcuff you," Jack says. "Do you remember what happened?"
Will pressed his lips together. "Um," he says. He looks down at his bleeding wrist and huffs. "Your, ah, killer was in rut when he murdered the receptionist. He's probably mated, he's…scared. He won't live far from here."
Jack presses his lips together. "So, not the Ripper."
"Nah," Will replies, shaking his head. He swipes his thumb under his nose and sniffs, wincing. "My head is killing me."
"My advice would be fluids and rest," Hannibal says, looking over at Jack. "Now, if you don't mind, I believe my work here is done."
"Thank you, Doctor Lecter," Jack says. Will manages a weak, off-center smile. His exhaustion is endearing.
That night, Hannibal hauls the body of the rutting Alpha from the hotel into his basement. The man had been short, but beefy, like he had been trying to overcompensate for his height with muscle mass. There is wonderful marbling on his shoulders and arms, and his organs are rich with blood. His rut has given his meat a spicy aftertaste, capsaicin and cinnamon. Hannibal slices brisket from his chest and grinds up his organs into sausage.
Hannibal has only known Will for a few months. Throughout their time together, he has made a few, very careful set of observations about Will. The first is that Will, like Hannibal, is not completely honest with the demeanor he portrays to the outside world. It is easily, comically so, for an Omega to display themselves as sweet, a little naïve, a little too innocent for their own good.
Will's sharp tongue betrays him, sometimes. His power of observation is admirable, the level of empathy he possesses is extraordinary. If anyone could be Hannibal's undoing, he is certain that it would be Will. Up until this point, he has reacted to this conclusion by treading carefully. It is almost impossible to psychologically manipulate an Omega without leaving some kind of imprint on them, either in the form of a mating bite, sexual contact, or some other coercive physical touch.
Hannibal had never considered that route because it would mean, eventually, having to end Will's life as well. He cannot possibly afford to have a mate, after all, especially one under the thumb of an Alpha such as Jack. If Will is still loyal to his pack Alpha, it would threaten Hannibal's position as head of the household and head of Will's heart. The only solution to that would be to go as far as necessary to keep Will compliant, but it is simply unsustainable and Hannibal is in no mood to humor a mate too weak to be worthy of him.
But today has shown him something – it's a sudden realization, and one he stews on for the entire time he drives the body back to his house, dissects and packages the leftover meat cuts and organs. It hits him like Will's scent had hit him earlier that day.
Perhaps Will is not so pure of heart after all. If Hannibal does this correctly, and places pressure in just the right ways, and coaxes the perfect amount, and guides Will by the neck until he's more loyal to Hannibal than his own family – well, wouldn't that just be a most delightful prize?
"How is Will?"
"He's resting, like you suggested," Jack says. He sighs and shakes his head, picking absently at piece of the rutting Alpha Hannibal killed last Thursday. "He was very distressed after I told him what had happened. He said he didn't remember anything after he'd read the killing."
"Psychological trauma is best left unscrutinized in most Omega brains," Hannibal says. "It is not uncommon for their species to simply…block out the traumatic event."
"Even so," Jack says. "It's unsettling."
Hannibal pauses, making sure he takes the perfect amount of time to chew and swallow his mouthful. "You are Will's legal guardian, are you not? With the FBI?"
Jack raises an eyebrow. "Just for the sake of professionalism," he says. Hannibal nods. Without any surviving Alpha relatives, and living out of state from his parents, Will is required by law to be signed into the guardianship of a pack Alpha until he mates. It is for his own protection as much as anything else. "Why do you ask?"
"Curiosity, mostly," Hannibal says mildly. "I think he would benefit from mating."
Jack snorts. "Yeah, well, it's difficult to talk to Will about stuff like that. Like I said, I try to keep things professional."
"I understand," Hannibal replies, taking another bite. The brisket really is delicious; the rutting hormones add a tang to the meat that he rather enjoys. He makes a note of it for future reference. "But having a pack Alpha is not the same as having a mate. I truly believe Will would improve in all aspects of his life with the stable presence of an Alpha."
"Well, unless you're willing to do it," Jack says with a roll of his eyes, gesturing to Hannibal with his fork. "I can't exactly secretly sign him up for dating sites."
Hannibal goes silent. Now that he has committed to his plan, the idea that Will would meet a different Alpha and let them put their weak, disgusting hands on him makes him bristle. "I'll be direct with you, then, Jack," he says, putting his fork down and taking a sip of wine. Jack regards him with a raised eyebrow. "I have a summer cabin on the bay. I would like to take Will there, so that he is away from the violence and horrors you regularly make him see. It would give him a chance to re-center himself. I wanted to try some other therapies with him. I believe the new environment will help this."
"Just you and him, huh? On some cabin somewhere in the woods?" Jack huffs, smiling. "You're not subtle, Hannibal."
"If I wished to be subtle, I would be," Hannibal says, smiling around another sip of wine. "I intend to mate with Will. That is, once he is stable enough, and if he accepts me. It is simply impossible to follow proper courting procedure in his current mental state."
"And here I thought you were a confirmed bachelor," Jack says, taking another bite of food and washing it down with wine. "Was this dinner invitation just to butter me up?"
Hannibal smiles. "Not my intention. But, if it has that effect, I encourage you to embrace it."
Jack laughs and raises his glass. Hannibal follows suit, gently touching the sides of the glasses together. Hannibal can smell Jack's eagerness. A guardianship of someone like Will has the potential to be financially and emotionally draining, especially since Will does not live in the house with Jack and Bella.
Jack is nothing if not opportunistic. Hannibal has always liked that about him.