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This Dark Heart

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Violence hums in the air. It stings his skin, scours his nostrils and slides down his throat to choke his lungs. Acrid and bitter, it is an unseen poison coursing through his veins.

Will Graham stands apart from his colleagues, trying to control his breathing, ignoring the pain of his prickling flesh and steadying his heartbeat so that he can do the worst thing; imagine himself as the killer. Let himself become the killer.

Omegas are typically sensitive, but Will’s ability goes beyond that. It is a gift, or so he’s been told. As he fights to keep the bile from rising in his throat, he realises that, once again, his biology is being used against him. Only this time, he’s doing it to himself.

Resonances hang in the room, syrupy thick, sweet as rotten fruit. Will closes his eyes, his ears pricking to the crackle of static as he lowers his defences and allows himself to feel the killer. To become him. He sinks lower into a warm river, riding the current and then…

He’s there. Darkness surges inside him, overwhelms him. He doesn’t see red, but whispers of white that spark from the shadows.

Mrs Marlow is alive, so futilely and pathetically alive, walking back and forth to the kitchen, tidying up after dinner. Her face is bright with laughter. So beautiful… So much potential

He waits in the front yard, coiled like an adder in the grass. Looks down at his right hand, knuckles white and shaking around the handle of the gun. He has to do this. Has to. The need is calling him, a siren song too strong to resist.

And then it’s time. Something clicks in his brain and he explodes into action. Kicks open the front door, shattering the lock and sending a shrill cry into the air as the alarm begins to wail. Mrs Marlow screams but she can wait.

A big man comes running downstairs; her husband, a useless sack of rotting meat encased in wrinkled flesh and coarse black hair.

Will raises the gun, his lips twisting with disgust as he fires.

‘I shoot Mr Marlow twice…’

He hears his own voice cutting through the scene and it jolts him apart from the memory. Will is a shadow of himself, lingering in the edges of his own body as his mind continues to act out the murder. He describes it to himself in calm detail, detached and clinical, looking for evidence that can point the FBI in the direction of the killer.

When he reaches the intercom, he pauses.

There.

With monumental strength, Will wrenches himself away from the scene. He is sweating and shivering, as cold as the time he fell through the ice as a child. Turns to the CSI officer and speaks in a flat, monotonous voice. A dead voice.

‘I need the incident report for the home security company,’ he says. Only he’s not really there… Not really… anywhere… Not yet.

The current pulls him at him, swirling around his legs and whispering silky caresses across his face.

The line was tapped. An officer confirms it. Will dips back into the stream, his eyes darkening as his pupils expand, sucking in all the light from the room until there is nothing but shadow left.

He knows what happened next… The darkness inside him purrs, a rumble in his chest as claws tickle the fine hairs at the back of his neck. They scrape through his hair, across his scalp and he fights down a shiver. Of what? Fear? Desire?

Staring down at his victim, Will feels his lips curve into the barest ghost of a smile. He wants to let go. He wants to give in to the whispers, to the urges…

‘And this is when it gets truly horrifying for Mrs Marlow,’ he whispers. He can feel the pull of the undercurrent threatening to dismantle him, eager to drag his mind away into an endless maelstrom of blood and pain…

And then he blinks and it’s six weeks later. It’s a memory. Nothing more than a topic on a PowerPoint slide and his voice is echoing throughout the silent lecture theatre; his students enthralled by the brutal accuracy with which he describes the violence.

Will nods to himself. Good. They should be shocked. Murders are supposed to be shocking, even to the FBI.

‘Everyone has thought about killing,’ he says, surprised that his voice is so steady. No one will ever know. ‘Be at your own hand, or the hand of God. Now, think about killing Mrs Marlow.’

He sees the unease ripple through the room, fear sighing from student to student. Will smiles again and the dark thing inside him flickers, scenting the air. Not yet…

‘Tell me your design,’ he says, ending the class as the timer on his phone flashes a warning. His hour is up. ‘Tell me who you are.’

The silence hangs for a moment, fragile as spun glass, and then shatters as a dozen chairs scrape across cheap tiles and students get to their feet. The energy snaps and there’s a general sense of relief. A breathy laugh that catches and turns into light-hearted chatter as the students pack their books away.

Will releases a breath he doesn’t know he’s been holding and looks down at his shaking hands. Is that from the memory of that night, or from the pills he’s taking?

Hard to tell. Knowing him, probably a bit of both.

An unpleasantly familiar scent flows over to him and Will stiffens. An Alpha, and a strong one, too, from the heavy, musky aroma barely concealed by the sort of aftershave bought at a local department store.

Will closes his laptop and dips his hand into his jacket pocket for the briefest of seconds, closing around the bottle of Beta spray as though its very presence can protect him from being discovered. As an Omega, he has no legal right to a job, let alone one within law enforcement. As an unbonded Omega, his situation is even more… tenuous.

He refuses the use the word vulnerable. Vulnerable implies a degree of weakness, and Will refuses to see himself as weak. Weak, scared, dependant, needy… He associates himself with none of the typical words used to describe Omegas.

He glances over, dodging the Alpha’s eyes with his own, knowing that the FBI agent will immediately spot the gold rim around his irises. The unmistakeable mark of an Omega. As if his slim frame, soft lips and large doe-eyes weren’t enough of a give-away. He hates how fragile he appears. Does everything he can to stop it being true.

‘Will Graham,’ the Alpha calls, big booming voice and broad shoulders making him feel even bigger than he is. He radiates power and authority, creating a circle of space around him wherever he goes. The students, most of them Betas of various rankings, scurry around him whilst surreptitiously glancing at him, some with curiosity, others with outright awe and wonder on their young faces. Will wants to smack them for being so pathetic. Wants to smack himself for wanting to fall to his knees in the presence of such a strong Alpha.

‘Special Agent Jack Crawford,’ the Alpha continues, reaching over the podium to shake with him. ‘I head up the Behavioural Science Unit.’

Will flinches and then tries to hide it by putting his laptop into the bag, giving it a tug as though it’s giving him trouble. He hesitates but Jack persist and he ends up glancing away before nervously shaking. Oh God… What if Jack can tell what he is by the feel of him? What if he can smell the Beta spray and recognises it for what it is…? It’s supposed to be good; he paid enough money for it to know that it’s good, and he knows it works on lower level Alphas, but he’s not tried it around one as strong as Jack Crawford… not this close before, anyway.

Will pulls his hand back as soon as he’s able, hating the way his skin tingles and his cheeks threaten to flush at the feel of the Alpha’s hot, firm fingers on his. He isn’t attracted to him – if for no other reason than because Jack isn’t attracted to him – it’s just a bio-chemical response to the pheromones leaking out of the Alpha’s pores. But still, it’s unnerving and could blow his whole cover if he’s not careful.

‘We’ve met,’ Will mutters, continuing to pack up so that he can escape as soon as possible.

‘Yes,’ Jack agrees, smiling down his nose at him, despite the fact that Will is stood on the raised platform and therefore standing slightly taller than Jack right now. Fucking Alphas. ‘We had a disagreement,’ Jack continues. ‘When we opened up the museum.’

Will feels a flare of guilt, followed by a surge of anger at his own stupid instincts. He has nothing to feel guilty for; he’s perfectly entitled to disagree with the concept, even if it’s an Alpha’s design. It’s nothing more than social brainwashing to make Omegas pliant and submissive to Alphas…

‘I disagreed with what you named it,’ Will says, determined not to back down or seem uncertain. He still can’t bring himself to actually look at Jack, though…

Jack, however, doesn’t seem to mind Will’s stand-offish behaviour. Just nods, tucks his hands into the pockets of his long black overcoat and paces back and forth before him.

‘The, er, Evil Minds Research Museum,’ he says.

Will fights the urge to bare his throat. Instead, he roughly buckles up his satchel, plants his feet apart and straightens himself all the way up, locking gazes with the Alpha.

Please don’t let the gold show, please let it be dark enough…

‘It’s a little ‘hammy’, Jack,’ he says. He wants to say more but his throat closes up and he falters. Sweat breaks out and he turns away, nervous and hating how much his body is betraying him again. He can feel the tingle of anticipation crawl up his spine, settling as warmth in the back of his neck, right where his crest would be if he were bonded.

Jack narrows his eyes, sensing his submission, and allows a satisfied smile to curve his lips. However, to Will’s immense relief, he doesn’t make a big deal out of it. Just nods and moves the conversation swiftly on, motioning instead to the projector screen behind Will, where the dead body of Mrs Marlow is still displayed in gruesome HD.

‘I see you’ve hitched your horse to a teaching post,’ he says. And then he does something that sets the alarm bells off in Will’s mind. He leans over and tries to catch Will’s eye again. Speaks softly, as though wary of frightening him… ‘I also understand that it’s difficult for you to be… social.’

Will’s heart begins to beat very fast. He flicks his eyes down again, desperate to escape, aware that he can’t outrun the Alpha, that the corridors will be choked with people and that he is, in essence, trapped in here, in this room, with him… The thought makes his chest almost too tight to breathe.

The perception that he is socially anxious started life as a malicious rumour from a spurned colleague, but one that Will actively fostered into its own explanation for his idiosyncrasies. The avoidance of eye contact, the dislike of being touched… All things that an anxious Beta would do. The perfect cover… Apart from fucking Alpha sense of smell.

He can tell that Jack expects an answer, is waiting for him…

Does he know? Does he know?

It’s all that Will can think about, but he gives a half-hearted shrug before replying,

‘I’m just talking at them; I’m not listening to them… It’s… it’s not social.’

He can feel himself begin to shake now, and the bottle of Beta pheromone spray is burning a hole in his pocket. God, how he wants to escape into the men’s bathroom and douse himself until his skin is on fire with it.

He tries to take a breath, tries to look anywhere but at Jack… But the Alpha is staring at him so intently, so tenderly… so… what, Jack? What is that look on your face? Why are your eyes soft like that?

‘I see,’ Jack says softly. ‘… May I?’ And then he reaches out, still with that same gentle look on his face, a soft, sad look of understanding and… what, sympathy? His warm, soft fingers brush across Will’s cheekbone, cupping the side of his face in a shockingly intimate gesture that sets every nerve in Will’s body on fire.

No, no, no, no!

Because, in that moment, when Will looks at him and their eyes meet, he knows that his eyes are ringed with gold and that all the Beta spray in the world can’t mask the wave of Omega pheromones that have just poured out of him.

And Jack is responding the way any Alpha should; he is protective, nurturing and worried. He straightens Will’s glasses and gives him a little smile before releasing his cheek.

It’s over. Jack Crawford knows that Will Graham is an Omega.

But Jack just nods, as if confirming suspicions to himself, and tilts his head in consideration.

‘You’re not bonded, are you?’ he asked quietly. ‘And you’re taking heat suppressants.’

Will doesn’t trust himself to speak so he just nods dumbly. Realises that maybe he’s giving mixed signals because he should have shaken his head for the first question but it’s too late now.

Jack doesn’t seem to notice. It’s as though he wasn’t expecting much of an answer, anyway. Just nods to himself again and sighs.

‘And you can empathise with narcissists and sociopaths?’ he asks. Will frowns at this; of all the questions, he wasn’t expecting this one.

‘I can empathise with anybody,’ he snaps, surprised that his voice is clear and strong. He was expecting more of a hoarse croak, given how shaken he feels. He returns to fumbling with his bag, desperate to be out of here, away from Jack and his prying eyes, his pitying eyes, and his overbearing presence. It’s too much right now; Will feels as though he’s about to cave in on himself. Become… other…

He jerks his tie from around the collar of his plaid shirt and stuffs it in with his laptop and books. ‘It’s less to do with a biology disorder and more to do with having an active imagination,’ he says.

Jack’s eyebrows climb at hearing Will describe being an Omega as a biology disorder, but doesn’t say anything. Just tries a different tactic. Alphas are nothing if not persistent.

‘Well, then… Can I… borrow your imagination?’ he asks, lowering his head and looking Will straight in the eyes again. Will hesitates, gold-rimmed eyes flicking up and down, to and from the Alpha’s intense gaze.

He can feel his shadow-self slither up through his ribcage, coiling around his chest, quivering in anticipation at the prospect of being inside the mind of more murderers.

He should say no. Will knows his gift is too unstable, too unpredictable… He could end up lost in whoever he has to become…

He sets his jaw and steels himself to meet Jack’s eye again.

‘Yes.’

***

Walking across campus from the lecture halls to the building housing the Behavioral Science Unit, Jack fills Will in on the details of the case.

‘Eight girls abducted from eight different Minnesota campuses, all in the last eight months.’

‘I thought there were seven?’ Will checks, frowning at the Alpha beside him. Jack sighs.

‘There were.’

Will’s heart sinks, and a shiver runs down his spine.

‘When did you tag the eighth?’ he asks, and Jack quirks an eyebrow.

‘About three minutes before I walked into your lecture theatre.’

‘You’re calling them abductions because you don’t have any bodies,’ Will guesses, hurrying to keep up with Jack’s longer strides.

‘No bodies, no parts of bodies, nothing that comes out of bodies. Nothing,’ Jack growls.

‘Then those girls weren’t taken from where you think they were taken,’ Will says, ducking after him as Jack turns a corner and heads inside.

‘Then where were they taken from?’ Jack demands, but Will just shrugs.

‘I don’t know. Someplace else.’

‘All of them abducted on a Friday so they wouldn’t have to be reported missing until Monday,’ Jack continues, slowing as they near his office. ‘Now, however he’s covering his tracks, he needs a weekend to do it.’ He stops outside his door and gestures for Will to go in ahead of him.

Will pauses at this; he can’t help but glance at the Alpha because they normally insist on leading the way, especially with an Omega. From the set of Jack’s jaw, Will can tell he’s waiting on purpose, and that it’s difficult for him, so he ducks his head in a quick show of submission and goes in without comment.

The room is sparsely furnished; functional without being emotional. The far wall is dominated with an evidence board; a large map of the states, framed by photographs of the missing girls with string tying them to where they disappeared, and photographs of the scenes.

Jack grimaces and hands Will a thin paper file. The Omega opens it, his stomach churning as he stares down into the pretty, smiling face of an inevitably dead girl.

‘Number eight?’ he checks, and Jack nods.

‘Elise Nichols,’ he replies. ‘St Cloud State on the Mississippi. Disappeared on Friday; she was supposed to house-sit for her parents over the weekend, feed the cat… She never made it home.’

Will removes his glasses; he doesn’t need them as much when he’s not using the Iris Inhibitor drops to darken the gold in his eyes, and, because he doesn’t find anyone else particularly appealing as a potential mate, he hasn’t had to use the drops since Alana Bloom stopped visiting him at lunchtimes.

‘One through seven are dead, don’t you think?’ he mutters. ‘He’s not keeping them around; he got himself a new one.’

Jack nods, his mouth set in a grim line.

‘So we focus on Elise Nichols.’

Will looks up. Stares at the board, at the seven dead girls smiling at him from their pictures. His shadow croons to him; such potential…

He swallows the bitter taste in his throat.

‘They’ve very, um… Mall of America,’ he says, taking a step closer and pinning Elise underneath number seven. ‘That’s a lot of wind-chafed skin.’

‘Same hair color, same eye color; roughly the same age, same height, same weight… So, what is it about all these girls?’

Will’s darkness slithers up his spine, wraps around his neck and licks his ear. He shakes his head.

‘It’s not about all these girls,’ he says softly, feeling the warm current pushing against his legs. ‘It’s about one of them. He’s like Willy Wonka; every girl he takes is a candy bar; hidden in amongst all those candy bars is the one true intended victim, which, if we follow through on our metaphor-’ He shrugs at Jack. ‘- is your golden ticket.’

Jack frowns at the board.

‘So, is he warming up for his golden ticket or just reliving whatever it is he did to her?’ he asks.

‘The golden ticket wouldn’t be the first taken, and she wouldn’t be the last,’ Will says, earning himself a puzzled look from the Alpha. He explains, ‘He would, er, hide how special she was.’ His shadow purrs and Will feels heat crackle up his back. He turns away, ready to go back to class. ‘I mean, I would; wouldn’t you?’

Jack looks at the board again.

‘I want you to get closer to this.’

‘No; you have Heimlich at Harvard and Bloom at Georgetown,’ Will says, grabbing his bag from the couch and hurrying towards the door. He knew, he knew this would happen. Fucking Alphas. ‘They do the same thing I do.’

‘That’s not exactly true, is it?’ Jack points out, turning to face him and squaring his shoulders in a show of dominance. ‘You have a very specific way of thinking about things.’

Will snorts a bitter laugh.

‘Huh… Has there been a lot of, er, discussion about the specific way I think?’

‘You make jumps you can’t explain,’ Jack says softly. Reverently. ‘Even more so than other Omegas.’

‘No, no,’ Will snaps, shaking his head, hating the way his voice is starting to shake. ‘The evidence explains.’

‘Then help me find some evidence,’ Jack says, and Will grits his teeth. He looks at the door; it’s barely three feet away but it might as well be on the moon.

‘That may require me to be sociable,’ he warns, but the Alpha merely looks at him, and waits for the inevitable. For Will’s shoulders to slump and his head to come down, baring the side of his throat in surrender.

Jack’s won. Again.

***

The Nichols live in Duluth, Minnesota. A big, suburban house set back from the street behind a manicured front yard. Both parents are Betas, their faces lined with worry as they wait for Jack to say something.

Will keeps his back to them; their energy is distracting. It scratches at his back, flicking his ears and making them ring… Instead, he stares at the photographs on the dresser, listening to the memories of the house… Something dark, something beautiful… It’s faint but it’s there…

‘She could’ve gone off by herself,’ Mr Nichols mumbles. A desperate attempt to bely the truth that they know but can’t accept. ‘She… she was a very interior young woman…’ His wife nods, spilling tears down her cheeks. Jack nods back, but he doesn’t say anything. There’s nothing he can say.

Mr Nichols tries again.

‘She… she didn’t like living in her dorm… I can see how the pressure of school might have gotten to her…’ He looks up, begging the Alpha with his eyes. ‘She likes trains… Maybe she just got on a train and –’

‘She looks like the other girls,’ Mrs Nichols interrupts, her voice wobbling. Jack nods.

‘Yes; she fits the profile.’

‘Could Elise still be alive?’ Mr Nichols asks, his hands shaking around his untouched coffee mug. Mrs Nichols looks at Jack, waiting, her faint glimmer of hope fading from red-rimmed eyes when he sighs and says,

‘We simply have no way of knowing.’

Staring with unseeing eyes at a photo of Elise, Will feels warmth flare in his belly and he frowns.

‘How’s the cat?

Mrs Nichols frowns, her mouth parted in confusion as she looks from Jack to the strange, detached young man asking about the family pet when her daughter’s life is at risk.

‘What?’

‘How’s your cat?’ Will repeats, turning and approaching Jack, who can barely suppress a grimace at how unsociable the Omega is being.

Will hunches his shoulders, avoiding eye contact by looking at the table, at the walls, anywhere but at them, his hands shoved deep into his trouser pockets with one fist clenched tight around his can of Beta spray.

‘Elise was supposed to feed it; was the cat weird when you came home?’ he persists. ‘It must’ve been hungry; it didn’t eat all weekend.’

Mr and Mrs Nichols share a look, raising their eyebrows at each other, and then Mr Nichols shrugs.

‘I didn’t notice,’ he says. Will nods. He knows; he knows… He needs Jack, needs to tell him, but he can’t, he can’t in front of them… His throat catches around a sound and he hugs his elbows, dipping his head towards the Alpha for help.

Jack nods to the Nichols.

‘Could you give us a moment, please?’ he says quietly, and leads Will into the back room, rubbing at the sweat on his forehead, wondering if this was such a good idea…

Will swallows the lump in his throat.

‘He took her from here,’ he whispers. Jack sighs, and Will knows he needs to explain, so he adds, ‘She… she got on a train, she came home, she fed the cat… Then he took her.’

And Jack nods, his face dark because he trusts Will. He presses a button on his cell phone and lifts it to his ear, his voice ringing out when he speaks.

‘The Nichols’s house is a crime scene. I need ERT immediately. I want Zeller, Katz and Jimmy Price… Yes, and a photographer.’

Elise’s parents go pale and Mrs Nichols holds her hands up to her mouth; half prayer, half denial.

‘Why is it now a crime scene?’ Mr Nichols demands. Jack doesn’t respond immediately, and Will is the one to look over, his shadow dancing in his eyes.

‘Can I see your daughter’s room?’ he asks. Mrs Nichols shrugs, helpless, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. Mr Nichols swallows.

‘Police were up there this morning…’

Will pulls on a pair of blue latex gloves and leads the way upstairs, following the sickly sweet resonances. They’re getting stronger… thicker…

The cat paws at the underside of the door, trying to get into Elise’s room. Will tilts his head and reaches for the handle, but Mr Nichols gets there first – he can’t smell that Will is Omega, he’s just protecting his daughter, even though she’s not there.

‘No; I’ll get that.’

Will pulls up short, his darkness snarling at the Beta in his way.

‘Mr Nichols, please put your hands in your pockets and avoid touching anything,’ he says, trying hard not to snap. Mr Nichols frowns, but he doesn’t look angry, just lost.

‘But… we’ve been in and out of here all day,’ he says. Will shrugs and gestures to the pet.

‘You can… hold the cat, if it’s easier,’ he suggests, and the Beta does, lifting the feline into his arms and hugging it close.

Will pushes the door away from him and his shadow roars to life. Yes.

She’s there. Elise; perfect, sweet, dead Elise, lying in bed as though sleeping. But too perfect for sleep; perfectly still, perfectly cold…

Mr Nichols jumps forwards at the sight of his daughter’s body.

Elise!

Will grabs him, fighting to hold him back, to keep him from contaminating the scene.

‘I need you to leave the room,’ he growls, clenching his jaw to keep from sinking his teeth into the Beta’s throat.

Mine; my beautiful girl… Stay away from her…

The shadow is too strong; too heavy. A thick, musky scent fills the room. It’s everywhere. It’s in him… Will can feel himself start to shake and heat shivers up his spine, tickling across the back of his neck.

An Alpha did this. The killer is an Alpha

He calls for Jack, shoving at Mr Nichols to get the Beta out of the room. The cat jumps down, meowing for Elise to wake up, and Will shouts for help again. Staggers when Jack pulls Mr Nichols off him, his hands shaking and mind whirring as he turns back to the bed.

Mine… My beautiful girl… My girl…

‘Alpha,’ he whispers, his throat tightening around a whine of – what? Longing? He can’t… He’s not…

He can’t think clearly with all this noise. He pulls himself back into the corner of the room and waits for Jack to sort out the situation.

Forty minutes later, Jack touches his upper arm to get his attention and Will blinks, coming back to himself and the room with the poor dead girl, the room with the heavy, tangy musk of a rutting Alpha…

‘Take your time,’ Jack says, dipping his head to speak softly into Will’s ear. Soothing him. Protecting him. ‘When you’re ready to talk, you talk. If you don’t feel like it, you don’t talk. We’ll be downstairs.’ Jack shields him from the doorway, keeping him out of view. Will feels very small next to him, just because Jack is all hulking shoulders and furrowed brow; he’s designed to look threatening, to keep everyone else at bay.

‘You let me know when you’re ready for us to come in,’ Jack continues, and he slips away before Will has to nod.

My girl…

The memories sing to him, just out of hearing, just out of reach… Will approaches the window, sucking up the smell of cool night air… Change of the season; autumn sliding away into winter… He looks out beyond the net curtain, past the flashing lights to Mrs Nichols in the back of an ambulance, wrapped in blankets but still shivering, unable to breathe despite the oxygen mask on her face.

I waited on the balcony…

Will dips into the current. It rises, warming him… He’s there; Friday night… He watches Elise sleep… She’s so beautiful… So precious… His darkness pulses in time to his heartbeat, filling him, oozing through his pores to seep into the very air around him…

I have to do this…

The tightness explodes in his chest and he lunges at her, a knee to the gut, his hands around her throat. Elise wakes but she can’t even scream, can’t cry or fight or do anything but stare up at him with wide, blue, terrified eyes.

I squeeze the life from you…

She’s dying. Slipping away. It’s nearly time… So close… Will’s shadow licks at something deep inside and then –

‘You’re Will Graham.’

A female voice shatters the reconstruction. Tears apart the memory. Will comes back to himself with a shuddering breath, drenched in icy sweat. He’s been ripped from the current and he has no idea where he is… who he is…

He blinks rapidly, clearing the black fog from his eyes until he can see her. He knows her; Beverly Katz. Slim, Asian, with glossy black hair and a fragrant musk… She’s an Alpha. She’s also the one who spoke to him. The one that, right now, his shadow is snarling at.

‘You’re not supposed to be in here,’ he gasps, his voice quivering with the force of his shaking.

Beverly ignores him, her face lit up with fascination as she considers him; Will Graham in the flesh.

You wrote the standard monograph on time of death by insect activity,’ she says. She grins and nods, impressed.

Will can only stare; he can see where he would bite, where he would tear out her throat or wrap his hands around it and choke the life from her…

He’s being swept away. He needs to find his feet, get his bearings again. Ground himself, but Beverly is talking again and he can’t concentrate on anything but her silky voice.

‘Found antler velvet in two of the wounds,’ she says. She looks down at his belt, clocks his ID badge and frowns. ‘You not real FBI?’

‘I’m a, er, Special Investigator,’ Will replies. He tries to swallow, his voice hoarse. Please don’t see the gold… Please don’t let it show…

Beverly raises her eyebrows at him.

Never been an FBI agent?’

Will looks away, down, away again, his eyes darting from side to side, looking for an escape. Beverly’s scent is subtle; she’s mated, but mingled with the smell of rutting Alpha from the bedroom… His skin is crawling.

‘Um, s-strict screening procedures,’ he mutters, and Beverly nods.

‘Detects instability.’ She grins at him. ‘You unstable?’

I…

Will swallows. Releases a breath when he senses Jack come up behind him; the taller Alpha is focused on Beverly, coming to stand between her and Will so that he can protect the Omega.

‘You know you’re not supposed to be in here,’ he says, but Beverly ignores the rebuke.

‘I found antler velvet in two of the wounds, like she was gored,’ she replies. ‘I was looking for velvet in the other wounds but I was interrupted.’ She watches as Will turns away, her dark eyes sparkling with interest.

Two Betas enter the room – Brian Zeller and Jimmy Price; they work with and for Beverly. Will turns his back on them and returns to the window, distancing himself from their scents, from the noise they push into the room around him… They disturb the current, the memories… everything swirls and catches, muddying the water until he can’t tell what he’s supposed to feel anymore…

‘Hold on, excuse me,’ Zeller says, looking down at Elise’s body. ‘Deer and elk pin their prey, okay; they put all their weight into their antlers and suffocate a victim. That’s how they’d kill like a fox or a coyote.’

‘Elise Nichols was strangled, suffocated, her ribs are broken…’ Jack huffs in confusion.

Will looks over his shoulder at them.

‘Antler velvet is rich in nutrients,’ he says. ‘It actually promotes healing; he may have put it there on purpose.’

‘You think he was trying to heal her?’ Jack doesn’t bother keeping the disbelief from his voice.

Will sighs, blinks, frowns against the headache squeezing his temples. Alpha…

‘He wanted to undo as much as he could,’ he sighs. ‘Given that he’d already killed her.’

‘He put her back where he found her,’ Jack says, shaking his head in confusion. Will shakes his head. He can feel it; the current tugs at him again… He knows

‘Whatever he did to the others, he couldn’t do it to her.’

They both stare at the dead girl; she could be sleeping. So beautiful…

‘Is this his golden ticket?’ Jack asks, and Will looks at the floor, at the bed; considers his answer before he speaks.

‘No… no, this is an apology,’ he murmurs. He glances up and sees everyone staring at him, Jack frustrated, Beverly still impressed, Price with a puzzled frown and Zeller with his hands on his hips, disbelief etched into face.

The breeze floats the killer’s musk across his face and Will swallows down an itch in his throat; is that a whine his body wants to make?

Alpha…

He blinks, his eyes stinging from the headache slicing across the top of his skull. He needs a hot shower and a handful of heat suppressants, which he left in his car at the airport. For now, painkillers will have to do.

‘Does anyone have any aspirin?’

***

Driving back through the dark roads of Wolf Trap, Virginia, Will steadfastly ignores the churning heat in his stomach. His headache has retreated to the back of his head, right above the nape of his neck, and he’s decided that he just has acid reflux from taking heat suppressants on an empty stomach. It’s got nothing to do with the musky, smoky smell of the Alpha who killed Elise Nichols… Nothing to do with the aching, empty feeling in his gut, deep in his core…

He brakes as an animal comes into view of his headlights. A brown collie-cross by the look of it, running along the side of the road trailing a piece of frayed rope… Will’s chest tightens and he whimpers before he can stop himself. People dump dogs out here all the time…

He rolls down his window, slowing the car to a crawl so that he can call to the stray.

‘Hello.’

The dog drops from a canter to a trot, and Will parks up just ahead. Gets out and waits near the bonnet, holding out his hand for the dog to sniff as it approaches. It’s wary; ears down, tail tucked between his legs… He’s been hit before. Hurt by humans…

‘Hey, hey… it’s okay…’ Will reaches for him; he’s so close, but then the dog bolts and he’s left alone again on the country road in the middle of the night.

Fuck.

It’s late, and he needs to sleep… Will squeezes the nape of his neck, trying to relieve some of the tension, hating how smooth and soft his skin is, and then scrubs at the stubble on his cheeks. Driving home, he grabs a collar, lead and fresh beef, and half an hour later, he’s back on the road, emergency lights on and sat on the edge of the boot, enticing the dog closer with the meat. It takes a while, but eventually his new pack member takes the food from his hand and licks him in return. An hour later, Will’s kneeling on his front porch, scrubbing fleas and dirt from his new pet’s coat, murmuring comfort and praise to the dog because he’s allowing the Omega to bath him.

When he’s done, and he’s just as soggy as his dog because the stray shook water all over him seven times and then pressed his sopping body up against him when he was scared of the hairdryer, Will changes into a t-shirt and pajama trousers, pouring himself a glass of whiskey even though he’s already so tired he feels drunk. Maybe the alcohol will help with the nightmares…

Sighing to himself, Will takes a sip and closes his eyes as he feels the last of the night’s tension finally, finally begin to slip away.

‘Winston, this is everybody,’ he says softly, speaking to the dog in the crate at his feet. ‘Everybody, this is Winston.’

The pack barks and whines a greeting, and Will hushes them so that they don’t scare their new brother. He sits back in the dining chair he’s brought out with him – the porch chairs are laced with frost – and Buster, his little terrier, jumps up to share Will’s sandwich with him.

I don’t need an Alpha, Will thinks, watching his pack sniff around the crate, getting used to Winston. He clenches his teeth against the stab in his gut and drinks more whiskey. I don’t need anyone.

***

Whispers fill his ears, slither inside his skull, tickling up and down his spine until he’s humming. The heater is on and Will can tell his cheeks are flushed. Are the dogs too hot? He glances over but they’re all quiet, curled in their beads around the fireplace, fast asleep.

He doesn’t remember waking up, only that he is… But...

Rolling his head to the side, his heart climbs up his throat when he sees the dead body of Elise Nichols next to him. Her eyes are scuffed marbles in her skull, her lips blue, skin waxy… As he rolls onto his side, reaching for her, she rises up, her head falling back, limbs hanging as her abdomen rips wide. Claws rake him from the inside, something dark and twisted fighting to get out from inside him, fighting to kill…

No!

Will jerks awake, dripping with sweat. He’s shaking, shivering like he’s cold but his skin on fire. He sits up, his teeth chattering, pathetic little mewling sounds bubbling up from his throat as he calls for an Alpha that isn’t there. For a mate he doesn’t have.

I’m fine; I don’t need anyone. I don’t need a mate. I don’t want a mate…

As much as he forces himself to think it, right now he can’t make himself believe it, and the cries get higher, more painful to hear. His shoulders cave in on themselves and he struggles to breathe. Will peels his soaked t-shirt from his body, hissing in pain when it scrapes over the tender skin on the back of his neck.

Alpha…

Half-falling into the bathroom, he grabs two of his softest towels. The damp cotton of his bed is scraping him, rubbing him raw. He lays one towel down on the wet mattress and pulls the other over him, tucking it up to his chin because that’s as close to a nest as he’ll allow himself right now… After all, the nightmares wasn’t that bad… Not like…

No. He’s not thinking about that.

Will curls up on his side, staring at the endless empty space where there is no dead body, where there is no body… No bodyNobody… No Alpha, no mate…

I’m alone…

Will bites his knuckles to keep from keening. Screws his eyes tight shut and waits for sleep to return. Waits for this feeling to go away. For the fear to subside…

Alpha…

***

The heating is never right in the Quantico buildings. It’s always either too hot or too cold. Today, it’s too hot.

Will dunks his face into a basin of cold water in the washroom, feeling it against his eyelids, up his nose… Blood seeps into him, filling him… He can never wash this feeling away…

He opens his mouth to scream, to drown the whimpers out of him but all that happens is air bubbles and then he’s upright, dabbing the wet from his cheeks with a paper towel and avoiding his reflection in the mirror because he knows what he’ll see – pallid, drawn, tired…

Jack strides in before Will’s even had a chance to recognize his scent. He suppresses a flinch, but barely; the Alpha is furious, and the air around him crackles with tension, stinging and slapping at Will’s skin like splinters.

‘What are you doing in here?’ the Alpha demands. Will sniffs at the tone and dries off his hands.

‘I enjoy the smell of urinal cake,’ he quips, ducking his head to avoid Jack’s intense eyes. The Alpha plants himself squarely in front of him and crosses his arms.

‘Me too. We need to talk.’ Another FBI officer walks in, already unzipping his fly, and Jack rounds on him. ‘Use the ladies’ room!’

Will braces himself back against the sink, trying not to laugh at the look of horror on the Beta’s face at being snarled at by such a big Alpha. He’ll probably never use this bathroom again.

‘Do you respect my judgment, Will?’ Jack asks, frowning at him as he paces back and forth. Will’s mouth twists unhappily but he nods.

‘Yes.’

‘Good,’ Jack says. ‘Because we will stand a better chance of catching this guy with you in the saddle.’

Will nods again, but he’s chewing his lip. He can’t lie to Jack; not to an Alpha.

‘Yeah, I’m in the saddle,’ he says shakily. ‘Just, um… confused which direction I’m pointing.’ Jack huffs and rolls his eyes at him, and Will’s dark shadow roars to the forefront of his mind, giving him the strength to explain it to the Alpha. ‘I don’t know this kind of psychopath. I’ve never read about him. I don’t even know if he’s a psychopath; he’s not insensitive – he’s not shallow.’

‘You know something about him,’ Jack insists, his eyes sparking red as passion deepens his voice. ‘Otherwise you wouldn’t have said “this is an apology”. What is he apologizing for?’

‘He… he couldn’t honor her!’ Will says, blurting out the thought that’s in his head, even if it doesn’t make sense. He paces back and forth, his neck aching with tension, his eyes itching as the gold band spreads from the outer ring of his irises. ‘He feels bad!’

‘Well feeling bad defeats the purpose of being a psychopath, doesn’t it?’ Jack retorts, and Will scoffs, two bright spots of color high on his cheekbones.

‘Yes, it does!’

‘THEN WHAT KIND OF CRAZY IS HE?!’ Jack bellows, and Will flinches back, hands on his hips but head bowed; a submissive, appeasing gesture designed to remind the Alpha that Will isn’t a threat; that he’s vulnerable to him, even as his veins pound with black anger.

‘He couldn’t show her he loved her,’ he says quietly. ‘So he put her corpse back where he killed it; whatever crazy that is.’

‘You think he loves these girls?’ Jack says, his face twisting with disgust at the idea. Will starts to pace again – he needs to move, needs to do something… Needs to get away from Jack… He rubs at the fresh pain throbbing in his forehead and his hand comes away wet with sweat. His hair is darkening with it and he can feel his shirt clinging to his armpits.

‘He loves one of them,’ he says, fighting the obscene urge to cry. ‘And, by association, yes, he has some form of love for the others.’

‘There was no semen, there was no saliva; Elise Nichols died a virgin,’ Jack snarls. ‘She stayed that way.’

‘That’s NOT how he’s loving them!’ Will yells, and he can feel his eyes flash bright gold as he challenges the Alpha standing over him. He’s backed up against the sinks again, trapped, his chest heaving and heart thundering behind his ribcage. ‘He wouldn’t DISRESPECT them that way!’ He can’t stop now that he’s started; the rage is pouring from him like dam waters. ‘He doesn’t want these girls to suffer; he kills them quickly and –’ He cuts off, swallows what he was going to say and instead says, ‘To his thinking, with mercy.’

Jack nods, taking it in. His eyes are deep red; he’s fighting every instinct that tells him to slam Will down on the ground and pin him, to prove that he is not to be challenged so easily… Will trembles, and waits for the blow.

‘Sensitive psychopath,’ the Alpha says, his nostrils flaring as he thinks. ‘Risked getting caught so he could tuck Elise Nichols back into bed.’

‘He has to take the next girl soon,’ Will says, the gold slowly shrinking from his eyes as fear replaces anger. ‘‘Cos he knows he’s gonna get caught… one way or the other.’

***

The lights of the forensic investigation lab are bright. Clinical. Glaring. Will looks away as Zeller, Price and Katz unzip Elise Nichols from the black body bag. He hugs his elbows, his skin aching from the residual violence in this room. So much death…

‘Okay… Tried her skin for prints, of course, nothing,’ Price says. ‘We did get a hand spread off her neck.’ He looks over at the monitor. None of them look at Will, but the question hangs in the air, unspoken, between them. Why are you here? Why won’t you look?

‘Report say anything about nails?’ Beverly asks. It’s Zeller who replies,

‘Fingernails were smudged when we took scrapings; scrapings were from her own palms when she scratched them – she never scratched him.’

 ‘Piece of metal is all we got,’ Katz says, voicing everyone’s frustration.

Will ignores the whispers stroking at his cheek, trying to get him to look, to look at the body…

 ‘We should be looking at plumbers, steamfitters, tool workers…’ he says, speaking to them without ever moving his eyes to them. Zeller and Price raise their eyebrows at each other. Nobody speaks.

Look

Heat flares in the base of his skull, sliding, molten, down his back. Will’s shadow purrs, twining between his legs like a cat and he sighs.

He can’t resist. He looks. Stares into the darkness of the autopsy hood, at the blackness covering Elise’s face and he knows… He knows what happened because he did it. The memory… It’s so strong. So real…

From very far away, Zeller’s voice reaches him.

‘Other injuries were probably, but not conclusively post-mortem, so not gored.’

‘She has lots of piercings that look like they were caused by deer antlers,’ Beverly says, and she scoffs at him. ‘I didn’t say the deer was responsible for putting them there.’

‘She was mounted on them,’ Will says, his grim voice cutting through the quiet. Everyone turns to him, but he’s not seeing them; he’s not seeing anything… ‘Like hooks… She may have been bled.’

‘Her liver was removed,’ Zeller says, returning to the job at hand. ‘See that? He took it out, and then… yep, he put it back in.’

‘Huh…’ Price squints at the body. ‘Why would he cut it out if he’s just gonna sew it back in again?’

My girl… I’m so sorry; I couldn’t honor you…

Will takes a breath, fighting nausea.

‘There’s something wrong with the meat,’ he says quietly, and Zeller looks at him in shock.

‘She has liver cancer,’ he confirms, his finger on one of the tumors. Katz and Price look at Will, too, their faces identical masks of puzzlement and awe.

Will nods, his shadow dancing in his eyes. He presses his lips together to keep from baring his teeth in a snarl. In a smile.

I know your design.

‘Yeah, he’s um… he’s eating them.’

***

Of all his patients, Franklyn Froideveaux is simultaneously the most insufferable and yet pathetically charming, and Hannibal Lecter does not give such high praise easily.

An overweight Beta with too much money and mild anxiety carefully twisted into a handful of delightful neuroses, he is Hannibal’s regular Monday and Thursday morning appointment. He is currently sobbing in the armchair facing Hannibal, reaching for him with a sweaty, pudgy hand as tears leak from his eyes.

‘Please…’

Hannibal allows his upper lip to curl into a faint sneer of disdain – Franklyn likes him mean, after all – and waits for a long moment before holding out his box of tissues. He makes no effort to lean forwards and Franklyn nearly slides out of the seat as he pitches forwards and plucks two from the offering.

‘Thank you,’ he snivels. He blows his nose and dabs at his cheeks. ‘I hate being this neurotic.’

Hannibal suppresses an eye roll. Instead, he says,

‘If you weren’t neurotic, Franklyn, you would be something much worse.’

Franklyn sobs again and then drops his dirty, crumpled up tissue onto the spotless glass table beside him. It takes every ounce of self-control not to narrow his eyes and bare his teeth; Hannibal merely feels his jaw tighten as he notes the defamation of his office.

‘Our brain is designed to experience anxiety in short bursts,’ he says, choosing to distract himself with writing a note in his book, instead of carving Franklyn’s face to pieces. ‘Not the prolonged duress your neuroses seem to enjoy. That’s why you feel as though a lion were on the verge of devouring you.’

Franklyn cries into his remaining tissue. It’s… tedious.

‘Franklyn,’ Hannibal says, and the Beta immediately looks up, desperation carved into his pudgy, sweaty face.

‘Yes?’

‘You have to convince yourself the lion is not in the room,’ Hannibal says, and Franklyn takes a deep, shaky breath., ready to argue.  

Hannibal feels his darkness swell as he sits forwards in his chair, and he allows the very edges of his irises to pulse red as he purrs,

‘When it is, I assure you; you will know.’

***

Sitting in Jack Crawford’s office on Friday morning, Will feels like he’s lost a fight to a bulldozer. He can’t get the violence out of his head; it swarms him, consumes him… He can’t eat, he barely sleeps… And now Jack has invited another Alpha to help with the case. Another strong Alpha; maybe even stronger than Jack.

‘Tell me; how many confessions?’ Dr Lecter asks, his European accent caressing each word before he speaks them.

‘Twelve dozen, last time I checked,’ Jack growls. He’s stood with Hannibal by the evidence board, his hands on his hips, Lecter with his hands in his trouser pockets. ‘None of them had any details. Until this morning,’ he adds, returning to his desk and sinking into his chair. ‘And then they all had details.’

Will tries not to stare at him, but Hannibal Lecter has such force of presence that he fills up the room, making it hard to breathe and impossible to force his eyes anywhere but on his sharp-cut suit jacket and expensive leather shoes. Even dressed casually, he looks impeccable. Will’s sensitive nose twitches, detecting a hint of cedarwood and cloves; a subtle cologne designed to enhance the Alpha’s natural scent, rather than cover it. He hates how the back of his neck is tingling, as though invisible fingers are brushing up and down the sensitive skin there, waiting for it to flush red in preparation for a bite…

‘Some genius in Duluth PD took a photograph of Elise Nichols’s body with his cell phone, shared it with his friends, and then Freddie Lounds posted it on TattleCrime.com,’ Jack says, and Will frowns.

Tasteless,’ he mutters. He hasn’t fully realised that he’s spoken aloud until Dr Lecter turns, scorching him with his full attention as he stares down at Will.

‘Do you have trouble with taste?’ Hannibal asks, the words flowing over and around him, making Will work hard to suppress a shiver.

He swallows, staring fixedly at a coffee stain on Jack’s desk, wishing to God he’d kept his mouth shut because he doesn’t want – he can’t have – another Alpha realize what he is. He can feel the tension thrumming through him and sets his jaw against any errant teeth chattering.

‘My thoughts are often - ’ He chews his tongue, trying to find the way to phrase it. ‘Not tasty.’

Dr Lecter examines the board again, reviewing the map where the girls have gone missing.

‘Nor mine,’ he agrees. ‘No effective barriers.’

‘Well, I build forts,’ Will says, covering the quiver in his throat with a swig of bitter black coffee. Jack never remembers to give him sugar.

‘Associations come quickly,’ Hannibal says, wandering across the room to take the seat beside him. He acts like he owns the place; a stalking jungle cat, all long limbs and sharp planes of his face, his eyes laying Will’s soul bare before him…

‘So do forts,’ Will growls, dumping the mug back on the desk. He really needs to get a grip. He’s taken a new dose of heat suppressants, and doused himself thoroughly in Beta spray. There’s no way Dr Lecter can know what he is… And why does he care so much, anyway?

Beside him, Hannibal clasps his hands over his knee. He eyes Will with great fascination, curious as to why Special Agent Jack Crawford of the Behavioral Science Unit at the FBI wants a psychological profile of the man sat across from him, and why he is so concerned about him. Perhaps there is more to Will Graham than meets the eye?

He is certainly an intriguing character, Hannibal reflects. Will has acute empathic abilities that allow him to take on the thoughts and feelings of another person, completely, even someone whose point of view disturbs or sickens him. A fascinating gift, one that Hannibal is certain young Will feels is a curse.

He hides a smile behind his own cup of vile coffee. How he would enjoy delving into such a sensitive mind, exploring its depths and tasting the inevitable darkness waiting there. To take on the thoughts and feelings of so many killers… Will’s mind must indeed be a wicked and tormented place. Such potential, as well; to strengthen Will’s most vicious desires and see what unfolds…

And yet… This close to him, Hannibal’s sensitive sense of smell is assaulted by cheap aftershave – the sort that comes in a bottle with a ship on it – as well as sharp chemicals masquerading as…

He controls himself, stops his eyes from widening and his mouth from curving into a predatory smile as he realizes the truth about Will.

He is an Omega. Unbonded, as well; of that, Hannibal is certain. Why else would Will avert his eyes so fastidiously, except to hide the tell-tale glimmer of a gold rim, bright in its innocence?

Hannibal takes a slow, deep breath, categorizing and discarding the chemicals until he can place Will’s own scent, little more than a faint whisper of allure crushed beneath layers of artificial pheromones. The nape of Will’s neck will be pale and creamy, smooth over his vertebrae and unmarred by the bite mark of a claiming Alpha. Once bonded, Omegas develop a crest, ridged skin in varying shades of burgundy, depending on their maturity, heat cycle and strength.

Hannibal idly wonders why Will isn’t bonded – how can he stand to be alone when Omegas are built for an Alpha pairing – and then if he might get to see Will’s nape one day. To see such a vulnerable and private part of an Omega’s body…

He tries to look into Will’s face, to read the expression on his gentle features, but the younger man ducks his head and looks away. His movements are jerky, like a puppet on knotted strings. He is in pain from being in the killer’s mind; the connection has left his body with unseen bruises.

‘Not fond of eye contact, are you?’ he says softly. He can feel his own Alpha urges rearing up; to protect Will, to calm him, but Will is far too fascinating in his current state for Hannibal to give in to such baser instincts. Will is a litany of paradoxes: fear and courage, rage and calm, desire and disgust… At what?  His own biology? How interesting it could be to take Will’s mind and break it open; to allow him to experience his emotions and feelings without restraint. How powerful he could be…

‘Eyes are distracting,’ Will spits, fiddling with the paper file in front of him. ‘You don’t see enough, you see too much…’ He turns to scowl at the Alpha, and, as he speaks, he makes the mistake of looking into his eyes. ‘And it’s hard to focus when you’re thinking “oh, those whites are really white”, or “oh, he must have hepatitis” or “oh, is that a burst vein?”.’

He stills, struck by how very dark Dr Lecter’s eyes are. His pupils glint like obsidians, set against the dark brown of coffin dirt, ringed with the barest whisper of blood, and they sparkle when he smiles. Oh fuck, he thinks. He’s really handsome

Hannibal keeps the gaze constant, grinning at the blushing Omega. Traces the sensuous curves of Will’s face with his eyes, drinking in and committing the details to his memory. The furrowed brow in a constant state of concern; shadowed eyes begging for sleep and the unhappy turn of his mouth… Gentle nose, sharp jaw strengthened with a beard, soft lips and high cheekbones… He’s a work of art.

Heat floods him and Will has to swallow the lump in his throat.

‘So, yeah, I try to avoid eyes whenever possible,’ he finishes hoarsely. Turns back to the other Alpha for help. ‘Jack?

‘Yes,’ Jack says, returning when Will calls him. He sits down as Will leans forward, but Hannibal speaks again before Will can distract himself with the case.

‘I imagine what you see and learn touches everything else in your mind,’ he says, and his soft, earnest tone draws Will in again, coaxes him to look into his face.

Alpha…

‘Your values and decency are present, yet shocked at your associations. Appalled at your dreams.’ Hannibal tilts his head slightly closer, his lips curling into a tiny, conspiratorially smile as red warms his eyes again. ‘No forts in the bone arena of your skull for things you love.’

Yes…

Will frowns, his eyes threatening to flare gold as panic claws at his throat.

‘Whose profile are you working on?’ he whispers, and then he bares his teeth at Jack. ‘Whose profile is he working on?’

You’re a clever boy, Will, Hannibal thinks, sitting back and adjusting his jacket, repressing the urge to purr at how adorable the Omega is when he’s nervous.

‘I’m sorry, Will; observing is what we do,’ he says. ‘I can’t shut mine off anymore than you can shut yours off.’ He takes another sip of coffee. Hides an admiring smile when Will leans forwards and growls, with an extraordinary show of strength, at Jack.

‘Please, don’t psychoanalyze me. You won’t like me when I’m psychoanalyzed.’

‘Will…’ Jack says, trying to soothe him, but Will is already jerking to his feet, more than done with this discussion and desperate to be out of this room, away from Dr Lecter before a wave of fucking Omega pheromones come pouring out of him because there is just something about him that’s unsettling and getting under Will’s skin already…

‘Now, if you’ll excuse me,’ he snaps, grabbing his jacket and briefcase. ‘I have to go and teach a class... about psychoanalyzing.’

He misses the raised eyebrows shared between Jack and Dr Lecter in his haste to leave. Almost barrels into a field officer returning from another crime scene on his way down the corridor, and barely mumbles some sort of apology before stumbling into the elevators and seeking refuge inside the steel box.

Christ… What is it about Dr Lecter? He was in the room with him for barely ten minutes but he’s exhausted as though he’s spent hours running. His skin is tender; he has been stripped raw under such avid attention.

The elevator trundles down to the ground floor and Will escapes out into the cool afternoon air to cross the campus to the lecture theatres. He gets into the empty classroom early and, when he catches sight of his reflection in the glass of the door, he is surprised to see twin spots of color on his cheeks and a light sheen of sweat on his forehead. His eyes are burning bright gold around the edges and Will swears under his breath at how obvious his body is being.

He has some eye drops in his desk drawer, somewhere. Shoves aside pens and scraps of paper, wincing as he impales the tip of his finger on a staple, and then grabs up the little bottle.

He hasn’t had to use these drops in months

Will sighs and removes his glasses. With the ease of practice, he deposits two drops into each eye, huffing out the only sound of pain he’ll allow at how much it stings. However, when he checks his eyes again, the gold rim has darkened to little more than a coppery brown, undetectable once again.

Will shakes the bottle, testing how much is left. Not much. He’ll have to go easy on it, and try to stay away from Dr Lecter if his body is going to react in such a ridiculous way around the other man…

Perhaps it was a one-time thing. As Will hides the drops into the back of his drawer again, he tries to ignore the sinking feeling that he’s going to be using a lot of them over the next few weeks.

***

Death has a particular odor, Will thinks, stuffing his hands deep into the pockets of his ratty old jacket and huddling down against the sharp autumn wind and aggression lingering in the air.

The body is impaled on a stolen stag’s head, center stage in the middle of a field. Crows are pecking out chunks of dead flesh, cawing their indignance as Zeller drives them off with wild, flapping gestures.

Will frowns at the tableau, a nerve underneath his eye twitching because it just doesn’t feel right. The brutality, the callousness… It’s like smashing two jigsaw pieces together at the edges and hoping they’ll make one image.

It’s wrong.

Minneapolis Homicide have already made a statement and are calling the killer the Minnesota Shrike. Jimmy Price, birdwatching being one of his many hobbies, happily explains that it’s a type of hunting bird known for impaling its prey on twigs and thorns, ripping out their organs and storing them in a little ‘birdy pantry’ for eating later.

The dark current rises inside him and Will’s shadow swells with it. He follows the pattern in the air, the memory, the resonance, something smoky and rich and… elegant. He’s powerful. An apex predator; master of his kingdom. And yet…

‘He wanted her found this way,’ he purrs, tilting his head as he picks up on something else. Almost snorts a laugh. ‘It’s… petulant.’ He comes to stand over her, over her naked body, out there for everyone to see… ‘I almost feel like he’s mocking her…’ He shakes his head, more of an irritated flick because his neck is prickling, as though there are nails dragging their way down his scalp. Crouches by the girl’s face, enthralled by the blue tinged lips, mottled purple bruises and the single blade of grass on her eyelashes. ‘Or he’s mocking us.’

‘Where did all his love go?’ Jack murmurs, gazing mournfully at the dead Beta girl.

‘Whoever tucked Elise Nichols into bed didn’t paint this picture,’ Will mutters.  

‘He took her lungs.’ Zeller sounds choked, like he’s fighting down sickness. ‘Pretty sure she was alive when he took ‘em.’

Will shakes his head, his eyes prickling gold as he stares up at Jack. He has to make him understand. He has to.

‘Our cannibal loves women,’ he says. ‘He doesn’t wanna destroy them, he wants to consume them… to keep some part of them inside.’ He stands up and tries to shove at the heavy resonances sticking to his arms, to his gloves… to his mind. No forts in the bone arena of your skull… ‘This girl’s killer thought she was a pig.’

Jack frowns, considering this.

‘You think this was a copycat?’ he asks, sounding skeptical.

Will, dizzy and sweating from the sheer amount of pain around him, starts to walk away. He needs to sit… to be alone for a while. He needs to breathe.

‘The cannibal who killed Elise Nichols had a place to do it and no interest in…’ He shakes his head. ‘In field kabuki.’

You’re not the killer. You’re something else.

Will stops, throwing out the knowledge that his shadow whispers into his ear because, now that he’s seen what it’s not, he knows more about Elise Nichols’s killer.

‘He has a house, or two, or a cabin… Something with an antler room…’ He pauses, and it clicks. I understand… Fear tickles his heart, making it skip a beat. ‘He has a daughter. The same age as the other girls… Same hair color, same eye color, same height, same weight… She’s an only child…’ My girl… My beautiful girl… ‘She leaving home,’ he whispers, tears welling in his eyes because his chest hurts at the thought of not seeing her. ‘He can’t stand the thought of losing her.’ He huffs. ‘She’s his golden ticket.’

He turns to leave – his head is pounding and his scent is rising, thickening to a sweet musk. His Beta spray is either wearing off or it’s not enough to deal with the Omega pheromones pouring out of him because he’s distressed. He has to get out of here. Now.

‘What about the copycat?’ Jack asks, and Will pauses, sighing because he can’t just run away like he wants to, and he hates that he even wants to run away.

‘You know… an intelligent psychopath, particularly a sadist, is very hard to catch,’ he says, his voice shaking too much to control. ‘There's no traceable motive, there'll be no patterns. He may never kill this way again.’ He sees Jack open his mouth to respond and turns away, tossing his final, cutting, comments over his shoulder. ‘Have Dr Lecter draw up a psychological profile. You seemed very impressed with his opinion.’

He doesn’t wait to see the flash of guilt, possibly hurt, on the Alpha’s face. Just ducks beneath the yellow crime scene tape at the edge of the field and skids his way down the slope to where his car is parked. Dives into it and slams the door shut against the world.

Fuck…

What the fuck is he doing? This is why he teaches. Why he stays in a classroom.

Will stares at his reflection in the review mirror, watching the shadow battle with the gold in his eyes. His hands are shaking and his knuckles white from gripping the steering wheel. When he starts the car, he jumps at the sound of the engine catching.

He can’t help but feel like someone is following him. Like some thing has crawled inside his skull and nestled there, latched onto him and is slowly poisoning him… He drives back to his motel and, when he gets there, goes straight into the bathroom.

He strips out of his clothes, biting back a wince even though he’s alone because he refuses to show any sign of weakness. He’s exhausted but he’ll be lucky if he gets an hour or two between the nightmares. His body is battered and tender. He climbs stiffly into the tub and turns the dial on the shower to boiling in the hopes that he can burn away the feel of the murder.

One more day. He only has to spend one more day here, and then he can go home. To his dogs. To his normal life. To his own smells and his own bed… To the comfort of the familiar.

As the hot water thrashes his eyelids, Will’s calloused fingers ghost over the planes and ridges of his body. Water catches on his sharp shoulder bones, creating a fine mist around him. His brown curls are plastered to his skull, dripping over his forehead. He could melt into the shower and be washed away with the Beta spray and the memories of the stag’s head…

A raven stag watches him. It’s a beautiful thing, really. Majestic and dangerous. Sharp antlers and gleaming obsidian eyes. Feathers mingling with the fur of its neck… When it moves, they catch the light and warm it through with red. With blood.

It lowers its head, watching him. Ever waiting. Ever knowing.

Calculating

A series of knocks on his motel room door jerk him from sleep. Will blushes at the startled whimper he knows he made, and desperately tries to untangle himself from sweat-damp sheets. Rubs his eyes and stumbles his way through the dark room to tell whoever is disturbing to fuck off.

Only, when he unlocks the door and pulls it towards him, Will is bathed in the musk and cedarwood scent of Dr Lecter. He squints against the harsh grey of the overcast sky. Tries to ignore the way his stomach tightens into an uncomfortable knot at the presence of the other man. And then feels his mouth go dry as he realizes that he isn’t wearing his Beta spray. That he is, essentially, naked before the Alpha, smelling of sweet Omega musk…

Fuck.

Dr Lecter knows. Knows he’s an Omega, and, from the way Will just felt his eyes flash bright gold, also knows he’s unbonded.

Fuck.

‘Good morning, Will.’

Hannibal speaks with a deliberately brisk and cheerful tone, inwardly delighting at the warring emotions on the younger man’s face. Panic, certainly; Hannibal has surprised him, not allowing Will time to bathe in that hideous Beta spray and aftershave he is so fond of. His brown curls are sleep-tousled and unruly, strands clinging to his forehead as vestiges of nightmare sweats. Hannibal is curious what Will Graham has nightmares about.

However, despite the panic in his gold-blue eyes and the tell-tale fluttering of his pulse in his silky throat, Hannibal can also tell that Will is curious as to why he is here, perhaps even… grateful?

He smirks.

‘May I come in?’ he prompts, but to his surprise, Will stands his ground and continues to block the doorway, uncomfortably shifting from foot to foot in his cheap white t-shirt and thin boxers.

Will flicks his gaze past Hannibal’s shoulder, his heart thundering in his chest. If he looks at the Alpha’s eyes, he’ll never escape.

‘Where’s Crawford?’ he asks, more sharply than he meant to but… He’s nervous around Hannibal.

Hannibal gives a delicate shrug.

‘Deposed in court,’ he says, not sounding at all sorry about it. ‘The adventure will be yours and mine today.’ He allows his smile to touch his lips as he says this. He can see the spark in Will’s eyes, making the gold flare just a little brighter at the idea of spending time with an Alpha. That’s it, Will… Give in… He inclines his head, a little more pointedly this time, and repeats, ‘May I come in?’

Will holds out for a second longer, but he knows it would be rude to turn Dr Lecter away, and he has no good reason for that… Except that he’s an Alpha and you’re an unbonded Omega, he thinks to himself, but he can’t exactly use that as a justification.

So, he shrugs and steps back from the door, inclining his head in a nod of submission to Dr Lecter’s indomitable will.

Hannibal feels a rush of adrenaline when Will turns his back on him – a part of him trusts him already, even though he doesn’t know it – and he catches a brief look at the pink flush creeping up the nape of the Omega’s neck.

You like me, Will.

Hannibal narrows his eyes at the confirmation – it could be very useful, after all – and steps into the dingy little motel room. It is a sad place; peeling floral wallpaper and stained floorboards. He hides his grimace at Will walking around barefoot, and makes sure that he is the one to part the curtains because he doesn’t want Will touching anything in this room that he doesn’t have to.

‘I’m very particular about what I put into my body,’ he says, lacing the words with innuendo and receiving a broken breath from Will in response. ‘Which means I end up preparing most meals myself.’

He sits them at the little table before the window, the weak sunlight slanting through the gap in the net curtains and lighting up the Tupperware bowls of scrambled eggs, tomatoes and sausages he has made.

Will sits across from him, his stomach roiling at the fact that Dr Lecter – an Alpha – has made and delivered him breakfast… And is now sitting down with him to eat…

Is he… Courting him? Or is this normal behavior for… what? Friends? Colleagues? What is Dr Lecter playing at?

‘A little protein scramble to start the day,’ Hannibal says, handing Will’s breakfast over to him. Steam wafts into the chilly bedroom air, carrying with it the mingled scents of meat, eggs and the herbs complementing the dish. Despite his confusion, Will’s stomach rumbles its appreciation and his mouth waters in anticipation of the taste. He hasn’t eaten such lunchtime yesterday, when he bolted a miserable cheese sandwich on the way to the crime scene. He forgets to eat when he’s alone. He knows that many Alphas would use that as an excuse to bond with him, so that they can take care of him. Will isn’t sure if Hannibal is taking care of him because he’s an Omega, because he’s him or if Hannibal is just… socializing.

To save himself from his wandering thoughts, Will spears a chunk of sausage and begins to eat as he tips the rest of the food onto the plate Hannibal provided. The sausage melts onto his tongue, seasoned to perfection and grilled until it is firm and juicy. Will’s senses jump into overdrive – Omegas are, after all, hedonists – and he really tries to make himself chew it several times before swallowing.

‘Mmm, it’s delicious,’ he says, and, despite his lingering anger at Dr Lecter, he really does mean it. And, despite the fact that he does not like the man across from him, he goes feel grateful that someone – an Alpha – is taking care of him. ‘Thank you.’

He offers him a tiny smile, more a twist of his lips than anything nice, and then drops his eyes back to his plate.

In spite of the anger adding a smoking tone to Will’s scent, Hannibal experiences an odd tingle in the base of his spine at the sight of the offered smile. Careful not to push the Omega, sensing his nerves, he simply nods and keeps his expression and tone neutral.

‘My pleasure.’ And it is. To see Will’s lips curve upwards, even for a moment… It brings Hannibal pleasure.

Will, however, is obviously still smarting from Hannibal’s comments to him yesterday, and there is a wall of tension between them.

‘I would apologize for the analytical ambush yesterday,’ Hannibal says, lifting a forkful of fluffy scrambled eggs to his mouth. ‘But I know I will soon be apologizing again, and you'll tire of that eventually, so, I have to consider using apologies sparingly.’

Will stabs at a chunk of egg, hating the way his hands are shaking and his forehead is beading with sweat. Hannibal’s scent is creeping over the table, smothering him, enfolding him in a cocoon of safety and all he wants to do is stare at him and open himself up until Hannibal says those fateful words… You’re mine.

He glares at him between shoving food into his eager mouth and reaches for his coffee. It’s rich, aromatic and sweet – perfectly suited to an Omega’s tongue.

‘Just keep it professional,’ he snaps, ignoring the way his heart is hammering in his chest at standing up to an Alpha. God; the pheromones must be pouring off him. He can’t help but glance to the side, to the can of Beta spray and bottle of heat suppressants stood on his bedside table, nestled alongside his hunting knife and 9mm automatic. Just a typical Omega’s belongings…

‘Or we could socialize, like adults,’ Hannibal persists, allowing himself to gently rib Will, now that his shoulders have lowered somewhat. ‘God forbid we become… friendly.’

‘I don't find you that interesting,’ Will lies, staring at his drink so that the gold in his eyes can’t betray him. His heart skips a beat when Hannibal pauses for a moment, and he wonders what will happen to him when he pushes the Alpha too far.

Hannibal, however, is enjoying Will’s little show of defiance. It’s adorable, really. The boy is trying so hard to deny the effect Hannibal’s scent is having on him. Perhaps, next time, he should do a work-out before coming to see him, build up a sweat and then ride with him in the elevator. He would be curious to see Will’s reaction.

He dips his head and smirks at Will from beneath his lashes. Cannot resist one last bit of flirtation.

‘You will.’

There is no mistaking the way Will’s breath hitches in his throat, and he looks down at his food, taking his time chewing a mouthful of egg and sausage as Will fights to control the trembling in his hands.

‘Agent Crawford tells me you have a knack for the monsters,’ Hannibal continues, and Will abandons his food to lean his elbows on the table.

‘I don’t think the Shrike killed that girl in the field,’ he says, and Hannibal mimics him by also leaning forwards, offering him his undivided attention.

‘The devil is in the details,’ he agrees. ‘What didn’t your copycat do the girl in the field?’ Tell me, Will; how did I make the scene different for you? ‘What gave it away?’

‘Everything,’ Will whispers, and he scrubs his cheeks because he’s worried his face has just lit up with excitement – he can share this with Hannibal; the Alpha gets him. ‘It’s like he had to show me a negative so that I could see the positive.’

He sighs and rubs his face again. He’s too eager… Dr Lecter is a shrink, after all – if he seems too pleased by a murder then what does that make him?

‘That crime scene was practically gift-wrapped,’ he explains, and Hannibal returns his attention to his food so as not to risk any trace of emotion on his face. So you did like the gift… You’re welcome.

‘The mathematics of human behavior,’ he says. ‘All those ugly variables.’

Will pulls a face and tops up his coffee as the Alpha continues to speak.

‘Some bad math with this Shrike fellow, huh?’ Hannibal looks up at him, driving the words in deep. ‘Are you reconstructing his fantasies? What kind of problems does he have?’

Will sniffs bitterly and speaks before taking another gulp of his new favorite drink.

‘He has a few.’

Hannibal is quiet for a moment, satisfied to see the Omega savoring his coffee, and then picks up more food as he asks,

‘Ever have any problems, Will?’

Will rolls his eyes and grins, pointing to his own chest with a charming amount of sarcasm.

Me? No.’

‘Of course you don’t,’ Hannibal teases, and he grins back. ‘You and I are just alike.’ More than you’ll ever know. ‘Problem-free. Nothing about us to feel horrible about.’ He watches as Will eats another piece of sausage and then adds, ‘You know, Will, I think Uncle Jack sees you as a fragile little teacup. The finest china, used for only special guests.’

The words sting but Will fights a flinch, and Hannibal’s darkness purrs in self-congratulation when the Omega breaks into a full laugh, sitting back in his chair, arms to the side, legs open in an unconscious show of submission and accepted vulnerability – all his organs on display. Will’s face lights up at the idea of someone else, an Alpha no less, knowing that he loathes being treated with the typical gentle caution and over-protectiveness of most Alphas around Omegas, and Hannibal’s gut clenches at how very attractive Will is when he smiles, when he laughs. He has to pause for a moment whilst his heart finds its way back down to his ribcage. Makes a decision, then and there, to make Will smile for him more often.

‘How do you see me?’ Will asks, the question leaving his lips before he’s fully realized how dangerous the answer could be. He sees Dr Lecter grow still, holding his gaze, and something hangs there between them, heavy with possibility, fragile in its vulnerability.

Oh Will, Hannibal thinks, allowing the Omega to see a flicker of red in his own eyes. To see past his own fort to the darkness sheltered inside. You don’t want to be protected, do you? You want to be feared… You’re dangerous, like me…

‘The mongoose I want under the house when the snakes slither by,’ he says, and he watches as his compliment has the desired effect. Will’s eyes burn bright gold and his cheeks pinken in a delightful blush as his scent sharpens with the first hint of slick. Hannibal feels an ache in his groin and he has to fight down the purr threatening to rumble in his throat.

Will can’t breathe; he can smell his scent thickening with desire, a sweet, smoky musk, all the stronger for his open legs and thin boxers. But he can’t seem to make himself move, to close his thighs, and, to his abject horror, he’s sure his body has decided that now is the best time to remember how to make slick; the slippery, clear wetness adding a sugary aftertaste to his scent.   

Fuck.

Because Hannibal must be able to smell it, and a male Omega making slick without neck manipulation only means one thing; that Will really likes him, and that he’s more than willing to take his knot…

Fuck.  

But Hannibal, ever the gentleman, doesn’t comment on it. Instead, he merely smiles an apology at his own Alpha instincts and gestures with his knife and fork to Will’s plate.

‘Finish your breakfast.’

When he picks up his own knife and fork, Hannibal has to check that there is no tremble or sign that he is anything more than politely intrigued by the man within touching distance, despite the tightness coiling in his belly and the heat flooding at his chest.

So much potential…

It’s been years since he met anyone with a shadow to rival his own. Will could prove more entertaining yet, and he doesn’t appear to resent Hannibal giving him the odd instruction. He watches, satisfied, as the Omega returns to shoveling food in his mouth, making the odd, unconscious little sound of pleasure at the taste and texture of the food Hannibal has provided him with.

This could be dangerous, Hannibal thinks, taking a sip of his own coffee and adding the flavor to the meat residue on his tongue. I shall have to keep an eye on you, Will.

‘So, how often do you travel for work?’ he asks, looking to distract himself from his awkward thoughts. Will glances up from his plate and shrugs.

‘Um, when Jack asks for it,’ he says. ‘I don’t get involved in that many cases.’

‘Only the complex ones,’ Hannibal suggests, and Will nods.

‘Yeah… I’m actually just a teacher.’

‘Never just a teacher,’ Hannibal replies, grinning at him. ‘Educating young minds and broadening horizons.’

Will raises his eyebrows at him, scoffing at his description of his lectures and the blank expressions on many of his students’ faces.

‘Something like that,’ he mutters. Decides to ask his own questions. ‘Do you cook a lot?’

‘It’s one of my many passions,’ Hannibal replies, gathering up a tomato to accompany the forkful. ‘And you?’

‘Do I cook?’ Will snorts. ‘Er, no, not if I can help it.’ He thinks about it and then frowns. ‘Well, I cook for my dogs.’

‘You have dogs?’ Hannibal feigns interest, but seeing Will smile is worth it, and he forgets to eat for a few minutes as the Omega tells him about his collection of strays, gesturing with both hands, his face lit up and eyes sparkling as he describes their various personalities. Omegas are, after all, naturally nurturing.

‘- a lot of people dump them in the area,’ Will explains, reaching for the coffee again. Realizes it’s running low and hesitates. ‘Um, do you want…?’

‘Help yourself,’ Hannibal says, gesturing for him to take the rest. ‘And your latest…?’

‘Winston,’ Will says, and grins again. ‘Yeah, he’s settled in well. Really well, actually. I don’t think he’s been out on his own for long.’

‘What you do is very kind,’ Hannibal says. ‘Do you find new homes for them?’

Will grimaces, but it’s ruined with a smile that belies how he truly feels about being surrounded by dogs.

‘Um… Not as often as I should,’ he admits, and Hannibal huffs a laugh.

‘You must appreciate the company,’ he says. Let me in, Will… Tell me about yourself.

Will sits back in the chair again and shakes his head. His plate is nearly empty, Hannibal notes, and smiles to himself.

‘I like the quiet,’ the Omega says. ‘People are… complicated.’

‘So many emotions,’ Hannibal offers, and Will stills when he realizes that the Alpha is referring to his Omegan empathy. He frowns and stands up, turning away from Hannibal, who takes the opportunity to glance down and admire the curve of Will’s buttocks in the thin cotton.

‘I have to get ready,’ Will says, moving to the dresser. ‘I’ll be out in a minute.’

‘Take your time,’ Hannibal says, his eyes narrowing just slightly when he sees Will pick up the foul Beta spray from his bedside on his way into the little bathroom. He hears the lock click and, a moment later, the shower.

Safe from the Alpha, Will sinks onto the toilet seat and buries his face in his hands. What the fuck is he doing? He shouldn’t even be entertaining the idea of spending time with an Alpha, let alone someone like Dr Lecter…

He squirms and grimaces at the damp patch on the back of his boxers. God; it’s been years since he’s felt that, and it’s a hideous reminder of –

No. He’s not thinking about that.

Will jerks to his feet and rips his t-shirt over his head, kicking off his boxers and then climbing into the shower to get ready. He has a job to do.

He washes himself thoroughly in the hopes that his body will get the message and stop making anymore slick, and, as he does so, reasons that Hannibal is just being friendly, nothing overt, and nothing like typical Omega courting.

He’s not interested in you, he thinks, adding an extra layer of Beta spray to his skin and hair, just in case. And I’m not interested in him… So there’s nothing to worry aboutEverything’s fine.

***

Pulling up outside the site office, Will can’t help but scowl at the grinning Alpha beside him. Hannibal’s scent has filled the car, settling on his skin, in him, making the back of his neck itch and burn. It’s making him… irritable.

‘What are you smiling at?’ he barks, jerking the parking brake and cutting the engine. Hannibal continues to smile, as pleased as a child out to the zoo.

‘Peeking behind the curtain,’ he explains. ‘I’m just curious how the FBI goes about its business when it’s not kicking in doors.’

Will huffs and frowns out at the construction site before them. He’s warm, and the late autumn sun is slanting down into his eyes, giving him a headache.

‘You’re lucky we’re not doing house-to-house interviews,’ he replies. Then, to explain why they’re here, adds, ‘We found a little piece of metal in Elise Nichols’s clothes. A shred from a pipe threader.’

Hannibal looks out past the windscreen as well, schooling his expression to neutrality.

‘There must be hundreds of construction sites all over Minnesota,’ he says, and Will sighs.

‘Certain kind of metal, certain kind of pipe, certain kind of pipe coating…’ He shrugs. ‘So we’re checking all the construction sites that use that kind of pipe.’

Hannibal takes this in, and then leans closer, looking into Will’s face just to see the gold flare.

‘What are we looking for?’ he asks coyly, and Will’s breath hitches.

‘Um, at this stage, anything, really… But mostly… anything peculiar.’ He glances at the Alpha, ducks his eyes and then hurries out of the car into the safety of the fresh air. Watching him go, Hannibal allows a faint smirk to touch his lips when he smells fresh slick from the Omega.

Oh, Will… You can’t help it, can you?

Going through the construction company files is indeed tedious, but Hannibal is enjoying being close to Will, savoring the changes in his scent as his dark shadow lifts its head, tasting the air and then dismissing leads as the Omega flicks through files. He pauses when Will stops on a name, and his own darkness shifts in response to the sudden smokiness deepening Will’s musk.

He’s found something.

Will doesn’t know why, but the paper he’s holding… There’s something

‘Garrett Jacob Hobbs?’ he asks, directing the question to the annoying woman hovering around them.

‘He’s one of our pipe threaders,’ she replies. Sulkily adds, ‘Those are all resignation letters; plumbers’ union requires them whenever members finish a job.’ She glares at them and then hisses into the phone she’s holding, ‘I’ll call you back.’

Will nods, tilting his head at the way the paper whispers to him. He’s not sure… There’s just… Something… A scent, perhaps? A memory?

‘Er, does Mr Hobbs have a daughter?’ he asks. The sulky woman shrugs.

‘Might have.’

‘Eighteen or nineteen, wind-chafed skin, plain but… pretty? She’d have auburn hair, about this tall?’ He gestures to his jaw, and Hannibal glances at him. His darkness has its own scent; a rich, earthy smoke that blends beautifully with Will’s natural vanilla… I could breathe that in all day.

‘Maybe; I don’t know,’ the woman replies, being as unhelpful as possible. ‘I don’t keep company with these people.’

‘What is it about Garrett Jacob Hobbs you find so peculiar?’ Hannibal asks gently, prodding Will to examine his shadow, but the Omega merely shrugs.

‘He left a phone number, no address.’

‘And, therefore, he has something to hide?’

Will blows out his breath at Hannibal’s cynicism and turns to explain,

‘The others all left addresses. He also missed work for days at a time.’ Looks over at the unhelpful secretary again. ‘Do you have an address for Mr Hobbs?’

You’ve found him, Will, Hannibal thinks, keeping his eyes lowered on the file in his hand because he can feel them pulse red with delight at Will’s talent. What will you do if he’s waiting for you? If he knows you’re coming for him?

***

The chirrup of birds fills the air. It’s warm; the sun has burned off the last of the morning’s chill and left a fresh day in its place. Now, as the afternoon wears away, there is a ripple of anticipation in the air. Hannibal savors it, revels in the set of Will’s shoulders, the shadow in his eyes and the knife-sharp energy filling him with purpose.

I’m going to watch you kill.

Will cuts the engine and sits for a moment, staring up at the house of Garrett Jacob Hobbs. The shadow in his chest is restless, pacing and growling, anticipating blood.

He’s in the right place.

A twinge in his forehead reminds him that he needs to take another heat suppressant. It’s a balancing act – stay on the pills for too long and he’ll likely die of liver failure from a toxic buildup of hormones in his system. Come off the pills and not only will he suffer with migraines and hallucinations as he detoxes, but he’ll go into heat, strong and fast and utterly uncontrollable. If he isn’t with an Alpha during it, he knows there’s a good chance he won’t survive. And if he is – because, let’s face it, any Alpha within a fifty-mile radius will be able to sense him if he gets to that point and they’ll come running – then he’ll emerge afterwards, bonded and owned. No longer free to be himself. To have a job or a life or…

His hands tremble as he pops two pills from the bottle. He doesn’t even think about the dose; just knocks them back and swallows them dry.

Refuses to look at Hannibal, who has raised an eyebrow at him. He kicks the car door open and heads up the path.

I’m in charge of my own life.

Left behind, Hannibal glances down at the offending bottle of heat suppressants. He’s going to have to get rid of them.

A problem for another day. Right now, he’s curious to see how Will fares against Garrett Jacob Hobbs. This house is owned by an Alpha – he can smell it. He’s curious to know whose shadow-self is stronger – Garrett’s or Will’s.

Which of them is going to die?

As Will nears the door, Hannibal hears scrambling footsteps. It opens and Hobbs flings his dying wife out of the house, distracting Will for long enough that he can withdraw back inside.

The woman’s throat has been cut; a gaping slit pulsing blood from the severed artery. She is already dead; her body just needs to realize it. Hannibal stays back, watching as Will bloodies his hands as he tries to hold the flesh together, desperate to save her even as the light fades from her eyes.

No!

Will’s darkness roars up, overwhelming him with its fury. Venom makes him bare his teeth and Hannibal quivers with excitement as the Omega draws his gun and smashes open the door.

That’s it, Will… Hunt him down… Kill him

‘Garrett Jacob Hobbs! FBI!’

Will keeps the gun up, acid pounding through his veins as he follows the Alpha’s rut-rich scent to the kitchen. Hears desperate whimpers and a growl rumbles in his throat.

Outside, Hannibal pauses to consider dead Mrs Hobbs. There is no elegance in her death; no meaning, just a scared Alpha with no care for his mate.

Will enters the kitchen and sees Garrett with his daughter in his arms. He’s behind her, holding a knife to her throat, ready to take her life if it will save his own. He points his gun at Garrett’s head in warning. His eyes flash gold and he can feel his shadow pulling his finger on the trigger.

Kill him… Do it now…

Protocol says he gives him a chance. He has to disable him… He can’t kill unless a life is in danger…

And then Hobbs drags the blade across his daughter’s creamy white throat and her skin splits, spraying gouts of blood across the room as she gasps and chokes.

I can kill you now.

He’s firing before he’s even finished the thought. He’s not himself, not really. He’s nothing. No one… Just darkness…

Garrett takes a shot to the shoulder and that’s enough to knock him back a step, but the Alpha is in full rut, his eyes blazing red, and he goes for his daughter again even as she falls to the ground. And Will’s killing him, pumping round after round after round into his chest, coming after him until the clip is empty and Garrett’s chest and abdomen are riddled with bullets.

Hannibal wets his lips as the taste of copper fills the air. Hears gunshots and steps into the doorway to see Hobbs in the corner of the kitchen.

‘See?

The Alpha’s sibilant whisper is the last thing he says, and Hannibal watches as his head drops. He’s dead. Killed by an Omega. A powerful and unique Omega.

But Will is distressed. Shaking with the effort of not crying. Beneath the choking Beta spray. Hannibal can smell the waves of Omega pheromones coming from him, laced with gunpowder and blood. He’s crouched on the floor, cradling the split neck of Hobbs’s daughter.

Hannibal considers them for a moment. He cares nothing for the girl, but there is something desperate, pleading, in the way that Will is trying to save her. The Omega is not yet ready to know himself, to accept that he can take great satisfaction from taking a life, irrespective of saving a life.

I shall have to convince you, Will.

Hannibal approaches and drops to his knees, heedless of the blood soaking into his tailored trousers. He pushes Will’s hands away and cups the girl’s neck to stem the flow.

He doesn’t speak. He doesn’t have to. He radiates a sense of calm authority and Will responds to it. Submits to it. Thanks him for it.

Hannibal’s darkness reaches out for Will’s, tenderly caressing it in the broken silence between them. Will is a fledgling monster, curled between the legs of a mighty dragon, and Hannibal locks eyes with the Omega, giving him a small nod, swallowing when it is returned.

You are mine, Will, he thinks. You just don’t know it, yet.

***

After giving his statement and going back to his hotel room to change, Will returns to the hospital. He needs to see her… He needs to see… He just needs to know.

Abigail Hobbs, the daughter of the man he killed. He’s responsible for her, now.

Born in blood.

His heart is racing. His breath comes in short bursts. His body hums as though there’s a live wire beneath his skin. He sees the number; the open doorway… Hears the blip of a steady heart on the machine.

And then, cutting through the tang of antiseptic, of metallic blood and Abigail’s Beta scent, is the smell of cedarwood and musk. It fills the room, warming it. Will stops at the end of the bed, releasing a long, slow breath when he sees him. His Alpha…

Oh

Hannibal is asleep in the chair beside Abigail, holding her hand. She’s unconscious, on a ventilator, her heartbeat slow and steady. She can’t feel it, but the message – I’m here, I won’t leave you. I’ll protect you – is clear.

I want him to hold me that way

Will can feel his heart constrict and he sinks into the chair on the other side of the bed because he knows… It’s not for Abigail… Hannibal’s protecting her for Will.

A lump forms in his throat and Will struggles to swallow at what this means… At what this might mean…

You… like me…?

He looks over at the sleeping Alpha, his lips and fingers tingling. Hannibal’s face, normally so guarded, is soft and vulnerable. An odd mixture of sharp angles and thin lips, he shouldn’t be so handsome, but he’s breathtaking. His sandy hair falls over his forehead and Will wonders if it feels as soft as it looks…

How would it feel to run his fingers through it? To wrap his hands in it and hold tight as Hannibal’s body moves on top of him, holding him to a broad chest and…

His breath catches and he feels a trickle of slick dampen his boxers. Heat crawls up his spine, settling, iron hot, at the nape of his neck.

Fuck.

I like you, too, Dr Lecter…

***

Chapter Text

Shell casings clatter to the floor. The revolver jumps in his hands, bruising his palms and jarring his elbows. Will pumps round after round into him, but Hobbs keeps coming. Blank, dead eyes staring into him, teeth bared in a vicious smirk, air whistling through shredded lungs.

See? See?

The whisper gets inside him. His shadow uncurls, swelling until it fills his chest. Oozes through his veins, trickles into the spaces between his thoughts until it’s all he sees. All he is.

See?

Will wakes with a jerk, his neck cramped and jaw tight from grinding his teeth. Jack knocks again, leaning down and staring into the car as if he can wake Will with the sheer force of his gaze.

‘We’re here!’ he booms.

‘Here’ is Garrett Jacob Hobbs’ hunting cabin. The forensic team stay outside, gathering samples and dusting for fingerprints. Jack leads Will inside, latex-blue hands casually turning over and tossing aside useless evidence.

Will’s skin prickles. Something very bad happened here. Several somethings. Violence leaves an imprint on a place, like a stain, and Will can see the spatters and smears across the chipped wood floor and up the walls. It pinches and slaps at his skin until he feels beaten. Why isn’t he bruised on the outside, too?

The stairs creak under his weight as he ascends. The loft hums with residual emotions and, for just a second, Will falters. Sways and his head spikes with pain as his stomach roils. It’s too much… And yet…

He picks his way across the floor, drawn to the antlers. Anger… Hate… He expects to pick up on these lingering feelings from Hobbs… But somewhere in the middle of the swarm of darkness, Will can sense… love. He loved these girls… Even as he was killing them. Honored them…

A sound behind him, a musky Alpha scent and Will is wrenched from his mind. Jack comes up behind him and Will moves away, hiding a shiver.

‘Could be a permanent installation in your Evil Minds Museum,’ he says. He can’t help it. Jack’s presence is annoying him today. Sets his teeth on edge. He wants to be here with… Alone. He wants to be here alone. If he has to be, that is.

And the self-righteous Alpha just has to point out that what they learn here will help them catch the next one like Hobbs.

He’s right. Will knows he’s right, but he’s just… tense. He hasn’t been sleeping. Not surprising, given that he’s spending every night in the hospital with Abigail. And then Will, who has only had one ear on the conversation, realizes what Jack just said.

‘Abigail Hobbs is a suspect?’ he scoffs.

Jack pierces Will with his stare and Will shifts, uncomfortable under the scrutiny. Does he know Will’s been watching over Abigail? Knowing Jack he does, which would concern him… And this is his way of voicing that concern. Another twinge of anger and Will can feel heartburn starting to creep up his throat. He isn’t some damn Omega who needs coddling.

‘We’ve been conducting house-to-house interviews at the Hobbs residence, and, at this property also,’ Jack says, still inspecting Will for – what? Will doesn’t know. ‘Hobbs spent a lot of time here… Spent a lot of time with his daughter here… She would make the ideal bait, wouldn’t she?’

It’s too much. Will needs fresh air. He needs out of this conversation. He needs Ha-… He needs some space. He bits his lip, rolling his eyes at Jack’s persistence.

‘Hobbs killed alone,’ he snaps, wildly casting around for something, anything that he can give to Jack to distract him. A long, curling red hair on the floor catches his eye and his chest swoops. Yes! ‘Ah…’ He crouches down and gently lifts the hair from the dusty floor, holding it up to his flashlight. ‘Someone else was here…’

And fifty dollars says it’s Freddie fucking Lounds.

***

He can do this. He can do this…

Will’s hands are damp and shaking. He adjusts his glasses, giving himself a moment and taking a deep, calming breath before walking into his lecture theatre. Almost immediately, the room erupts into a thunderstorm of clapping and Will tastes bile. His shadow rears up, slashing through him at the praise, and he has to use all of his willpower to keep it at bay. He doesn’t like how it makes him feel… How hungry it makes him. How proud.

‘Thank you… Please, stop that.’

The order comes out sharp and many of the students’ faces fall as their applause dies off and they sit back down. Will ignores the muttered grumblings. If they knew they’d just been clapping for an Omega, they’d be furious. As it is, they think they’re clapping for the heroic Beta who stopped Garrett Jacob Hobbs from murdering any more innocent victims.

They’re clapping because Will murdered Hobbs.

Will presses his controller and the first slide pops up on the screen.

‘This is how I caught Garrett Jacob Hobbs,’ Will says. He slips one hand into his pocket, closing tight around the little can of Beta pheromone spray, and turns to his captive audience. ‘It’s his resignation letter. Does anybody see the clue?’

Several students raise a hand, some with unfounded confidence. Will bites back the derisive snort he wants to make and settles for a small frown, hoping his eyes don’t flash bright gold with anger.

‘There isn’t one,’ he says coldly. ‘He wrote a letter; he left a phone number, no address. That’s it.’ Click. The next slide is a photo of Hobbs, shot dead with ten holes in his chest in his kitchen. Will doesn’t turn, just leans back against his desk. ‘Bad bookkeeping and dumb luck.’

Several of the students emit quiet huffs of amazement. Their awe is cloying; it sticks to Will’s skin like a bad aftershave and makes him want to scrub himself raw. They have no idea who he really is. What he really is. What he’s capable of.

Something about the image catches his eye. He turns. He’s there, in the kitchen, hands slippery with blood as he tries to stem the boiling flow from Abigail’s neck. Her flesh splits away from him and he can feel her thumping artery against his finger. He can’t do this. He can’t do this alone. He needs help. He needs –

Will turns back to the class. They are silent again, waiting for him to say something undoubtedly profound.

He needs to keep talking. Presses his controller again. Click. A safer slide. One of the family photos. Hobbs and Abigail on a hunting trip together. Bright-eyed, smiling. An all-American dream.

‘Garrett Jacob Hobbs is dead,’ he continues. ‘The question now is how to stop those his story is going to inspire.’ Click. The last slide. ‘He’s already got one admirer. A copycat.’ He can’t keep the disdain from his voice, and finally turns to look up at the blasphemous display. Jarringly wrong. Brutal… And yet he can’t help but see a kind of elegance in the way she is displayed. The flow of her limbs and the way her head looks thrown back… Lost to pleasure…

Will turns to his notes on Hobbs’ profile and gives himself a mental shake to clear away the perverse thoughts.  

He has work to do.

***

At the end of the lesson, a student with cropped hair hovers at his desk, trying to catch his attention. Will busies himself packing away, thrumming with tension but exhausted. He feels ripped in different directions, and all he wants to do is sink into a hot bath and then fall into bed and sleep for weeks. He keeps his head down and ignores her until she sulks away and joins her friend on their way out.

A familiar perfume tickles his nose and he glances up as a Beta woman dressed in a red skirt and monochrome blouse stops before him. Will glances up and feels his shoulders drop an inch. Dr Alana Bloom, an old colleague and friend, smiles at him. She is the Beta responsible for buying his pheromone spray and she helped him get the job at Quantico in the first place.

She’s beautiful. Tumbling brown hair, clear blue eyes and delicate features. Though, right now, those features are arranged into an expression of careful neutrality. Will knows that look and continues to pack up so that he can escape before she tries to offer him comfort or, even worse, therapy.

‘Hi.’

‘How are you, Will?’

Shit. He can’t do it. He can’t lie to her or fake it. His body caves in on itself and he ends up giving her this sort of half-choking sob of a laugh, his smile more of a grimace as his eyes betray him, sparkling gold behind his glasses.

‘Heh… I have no idea,’ he laughs, hating how much his voice shakes when he says that. But Alana has always been able to see right through him. Until Hannibal, she was the only one who could…

Alana looks uncomfortable, and for a split second, Will thinks it’s his fault. Then she speaks, and she sounds guilty.

‘Well, I didn’t want you to be ambushed…’

‘This is an ambush?’ Will teases, but Alana ploughs on.

‘Ambush is later. Immediately later. Soon-to-now.’ Over her shoulder, Will sees an all-too-familiar Alpha striding towards them, all furrowed brow and hulking shoulders. Alana’s words tumble over each other in their haste to get out. ‘When Jack arrives, consider yourself ambushed.’

‘Here’s Jack,’ Will says, and gives a small shake of his head as Jack frowns at Alana for tipping Will off.

‘How’s class?’ Jack asks, moving his head to direct the question at Will at the last minute. Will begins packing up again. He is not in the mood for an Alpha-intervention right now. He needs to get home. Feed his dogs. Scrub Garrett Jacob Hobbs from his retinas…

‘They applauded. It was inappropriate.’

‘Well, the review board would beg to differ. You’re up for a commendation.’ Will meets Jack’s eye just long enough to show how not interested he is in such bullshit. ‘And they’ve, er, okayed active return to the field.’

So, this is the real reason why he’s here. Will doesn’t have a response, but Alana is already jumping in, so it doesn’t matter right now.

Question is, do you wanna go back to the field?’

Does he? Will doesn’t know. To be regularly exposed to anger and violence… To become a target again…

I want him back in the field,’ Jack says, turning to Alana and drawing himself up to his full height to intimidate her into submission. Will quirks an eyebrow at the steely expression on Alana’s face. For a Beta… Well, she may as well have been born an Alpha for her ferocity, especially with regards to Will’s wellbeing. Before Alana can reply, however, Jack speaks again. ‘And I’ve told the board I’m recommending a full psych eval.’

His remark kicks Will in the gut. He can’t catch his breath. Panic claws at his throat and all he can think to choke out is,

‘Are we starting now?’ Because that would make sense; Alana is a psychologist. She knows him well… Has she been evaluating him – spying on him – all along?

‘Oh, the session wouldn’t be with me,’ Alana says quickly. It’s like she’s scared of upsetting Will. Poor, fragile Will. Vulnerable, emotional little Omega.

‘Hannibal Lecter’s a better fit,’ Jack says, heedless of Will’s discomfort. ‘Your relationship’s not personal.’

At this, Will’s heart constricts. Again, it’s like a kick. Not personal?

Of course it’s not a personal relationship. Why would it be? Why would that thought even upset him…? Because, the shadow whispers, you like Hannibal.

Does he? Or was that the fleeting thought of an emotionally-ravaged and exhausted Omega looking for comfort in the wrong place?

Jack is still speaking. ‘But if you are more comfortable with Dr. Bloom –’

‘No.’ Will glares at them both. He doesn’t even care if his eyes are rimmed with gold right now. ‘I’m not going to comfortable with anybody inside my head.’

But the thought of Hannibal… Should he accept? Does he want to see him again?

‘You’ve never killed anyone before, Will,’ Alana says. She’s speaking gently. Trying to reason with him. Trying to gentle him. Speaking to him as though he’s being a bad-tempered Omega. ‘It’s a deadly force encounter. It’s a lot to digest.’

Will grips the handles of his briefcase tight, willing some semblance of control back to his body. He has to go. This isn’t a good conversation to be having at the end of the day, when his spray is wearing off and he’s due another dose of suppressants. He can feel his gut churning, a trickle of heat irritating the back of his neck.

‘I used to work Homicide,’ he points out, making a beeline for the exit door. Jack jumps on this straight away, and turns after him.

‘The reason you currently used to work Homicide is because you didn’t have the stomach for pulling the trigger. You just pulled the trigger ten times!’

Alana flinches at the way he’s raising his voice, but Will is proud of the fact that, although he stops dead in his tracks and turns to face the Alpha, he doesn’t lower his head or bow down in submission. Instead, he latches onto something in the way Jack said that.

‘Wait, so a psych eval isn’t a formality?’

Jack grimaces at being caught out, but he’s not one to back down. Just takes it in his stride and keeps coming.

‘No, it’s so I can get some sleep at night. I asked you to get close to the Hobbs thing. I need to know you didn’t get too close.’ He knows. He knows about the shadow, Will thinks, panic gagging him again. Jack tilts his head. He knows he’s got him. Will can see the gleam in his dark eyes. ‘How many nights did you spend in Abigail Hobbs’ hospital room, Will?’ Jack asks, soft but deadly. Alana’s blue eyes flick from Jack to Will. She looks… sad…? Disappointed?

Fuck you, Jack, Will thinks, glaring at him as he grinds his teeth together. Fuck. You.

Out loud, he deflects with his typical, ‘Therapy doesn’t work on me,’ and bows his head, avoiding eye contact and feeling the weight of Jack’s disapproval bear down on him as the Alpha steps right up into his personal space and dominates the air around him.

‘Therapy doesn’t work on you because you won’t let it,’ Jack says quietly, his breath shifting Will’s hair with how close he’s standing. It’s a dirty tactic; Will can’t help but inhale his scent, his pheromones, and this close it’s all he can do to stay upright. All he can do to keep from sniffing and nodding and giving in to what Jack wants, and ask for a hug, a touch, any small measure of comfort afterwards.

‘And because I know all the tricks,’ Will mutters, rasping the words out past the submission clogging his throat. His tongue is heavy; he won’t be able to speak again until he’s washed Jack’s scent off him. Once again, being betrayed by his own body.

Jack glances back at Alana, looking for support.

‘Well, perhaps you need to un-learn some tricks,’ he says, shrugging one shoulder. Alana, perhaps sensing how close Will is to surrendering, knowing how angry and betrayed he’d be, jumps in with one final reasonable request. A good little Beta, acting as a go-between for an Alpha and a stroppy Omega.

‘Why not have a conversation with Hannibal?’ she asks, her voice deliberately soothing. ‘He was there. He knows what you went through.’

He doesn’t know. He can’t know. He’s not an Omega, Will thinks desperately. He can feel tears pricking his eyes. No. No, he can’t cry. Not here. Not in front of Jack. Not in front of Alana. He has to go. Lock himself inside a toilet cubicle until this feeling goes away. This feeling of needing to be held, needing to be protected.

Jack breathes out and Will wrenches himself into action. Ducks his head even lower and strides as fast as he can away from the furious Alpha. As he rounds the corner, he hears Jack shout after him,

‘Come on, Will. I need my beauty sleep!’

Will breaks into a run and darts into the first toilet he can find. Locks the door with shaking hands and falls onto the toilet seat, his legs going out from under him and arms like jelly. That was too close. Far too close.

Fumbling to pull the can of Beta spray from his pocket, he holds his breath and gives himself a liberal coating. Shakes the aerosol and swears under his breath because it’s running really low and that means he’ll need to ask Alana to buy him some more.

He stays there for a while, resting his sweaty forehead against the cold tile wall, waiting for his racing heart to slow down. For the strength to returns to his muscles.

‘Fuck you, Jack,’ he whispers, clenching and unclenching his fists. Jack always gets what he wants because he’s an Alpha, and Alphas always get what they want because, in the end, Omegas are biologically designed to please them.

Will pinches the bridge of his nose, his head pounding and stomach churning. Is he excited or nervous?

He’s going to see Hannibal again.

For therapy.

***

Hannibal’s office is exactly as Will expects; all dark wood paneling and a high ceiling, tall windows flanked by long curtains and a grand fireplace dominating the far wall. The floor is buffed to a high shine, an ocean of grey wood circling thick rugs. Hannibal’s desk rises from the center of the room, pristinely neat and unmarred by sentimental clutter. There is a simple brass lamp, books, tissues and a clock. All functional; useful. Earning their place in Hannibal’s presence. The leather chair sits empty; Hannibal stands apart from his furniture, face upturned so that he can track Will’s movement on the mezzanine library.

Will knows he’s lurking. Hiding. He tries to distract himself by examining the rows of leather-bound journals and psychology textbooks filling the shelves; as far from intense gaze and inscrutable expression as he can be. Has Hannibal read all of these, he wonders, tracing the gilded letters marking a first edition of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams. It wouldn’t surprise him to find that he had.

Everything about this room is as elegant and sophisticated as Hannibal himself, and Will feels despicably shabby with his uncombed hair, cream cotton pants and plaid shirt shedding dog hairs with every step.

He hasn’t seen him for days. Not since the hospital. He’d woken with a start in the afternoon, flushing when he realized his head had tipped back and he must have been snoring. Hannibal’s coat had been draped over him, acting as a blanket to ward off the chill of the room, but there was no sign of Hannibal himself. The monitors around Abigail continued to beep, gently lulling him back into a fitful doze, and when he’d stirred again in the evening, both Hannibal and his coat had gone.

Garrett Jacob Hobbs had spent every night since whispering in Will’s ear, honeyed words slithering inside his skull as his shadow pulsed to the beat of his heart. He’d dreamed of the deer, the black stag, lowering its antlered head to consider him with its obsidian eyes…

A rustle catches his attention. Will turns, hands deep in his trouser pockets, and sees Hannibal looking up at him with a piece of paper in his hands.

‘What’s that?’ he asks.

‘Your psychological evaluation,’ Hannibal replies, voice as calm and smooth as ever. ‘You are totally functional, and more or less sane. Well done.’

Despite his unease and frustration at this whole situation, Will finds himself wanting to grin. Is Hannibal teasing him, or is he serious?

‘Did you just… rubber stamp me?’ he asks. He has to be sure. Hannibal’s small smirk and the quirk of his eyebrow sends a strange swoop through his chest. Makes him need to clear his throat and shuffle his feet.

‘Yes,’ Hannibal says. ‘Jack Crawford may lay his weary head to rest knowing he didn’t break you, and our conversation can proceed unobstructed by paperwork.’

Will fights a snort and abandons the books to pace the length gallery, trying to walk off some of his nervous energy. He’s never felt so off-kilter as he does when he’s around Hannibal. The other man still wants to talk to him? Why? And why does that thought make his neck tingle?

Jack thinks that I need therapy,’ he drawls, allowing some of his anger to add a bite to the words. He’s still angry about Jack’s underhanded way of getting him here. He hates that he’s so powerless against him.

‘What you need is a way out of dark places when Jack sends you there,’ Hannibal replies. He slides his report back between the pages of a notebook and returns to his scrutiny of Will. The Omega is clearly uncomfortable. He feels vulnerable for having slept in Hannibal’s presence, despite the fact that Hannibal had slept in his. Will’s scent is choked by an unusual amount of Beta pheromone spray today, and the tremble in his hand suggests that he has been taking his heat suppressants too frequently. Hannibal wonders what Will is trying to hide from him; why he has put so much distance between them since the hospital.

‘Hm. Last time he sent me into a dark place, I brought something back,’ Will says, more to himself than to Hannibal. He scuffs his boot on the carpet, his mind drifting away from the office, across the city and into Abigail’s hospital room. Hannibal’s voice grounds him again.

‘A surrogate daughter?’

At the odd turn of phrase, Will frowns at him. Hannibal puts his hands inside the silk-lined pockets of his suit trousers, mirroring the younger man’s stance. He rests his weight back, feeling the muscles flex in his neck as he stares up at the fretful Omega. Will may be taking heat suppressants, but his body is made for reproduction; how will he respond to such an insinuation, he wonders. Will it spark in him something nurturing, or will he deny it as he does all of his other instincts?

Will doesn’t know what to say. He stares down at Hannibal, thrown back to that first night, when he’d walked into Abigail’s room to find Hannibal dozing in the chair, holding the girl’s hand to protect and comfort her. He feels sweat prick his forehead as he remembers the emotions that overwhelmed him as he sat and stared at Hannibal’s sleeping face…

I like you…

Hannibal can see the cogs whirring in Will’s mind. He is trying to quell the physiological response at the use of the word ‘daughter’. Interesting. To give Will a break, Hannibal turns to his desk and begins to busy himself by tidying it up. He continues to speak, however.

‘You saved Abigail Hobbs’ life. You also orphaned her. That comes with certain emotional obligations, regardless of biological disorders.’ Referring to Will’s Omega body as a disorder makes Hannibal’s throat tighten, but he suppresses his instincts for the sake of playing along. For now. As expected, Will responds favorably to this term.

‘You were there. You saved her life too. Do you feel obligated?’ he asks.

Hannibal takes the opportunity to look up again, tracing the sharp line of Will’s jaw, the dark eyebrows and wide, searching eyes. So much vulnerability in that face, and yet Hannibal can see traces of Will’s darkness even now. He chooses to be honest with him.

‘Yes,’ he replies. ‘I feel a staggering amount of obligation. I feel responsibility. I’ve fantasized about scenarios where my actions may have allowed a different fate for Abigail Hobbs.’

Will’s breath catches, and he can feel the irregular rhythm of his pulse at his throat. Hannibal’s voice, normally so calm and controlled, is quivering with restrained emotion. He reminds Will of a storm – fury and beautiful violence locked up behind dark eyes and an unsettling smile.

Why does he feel calmer? Why does he want to climb down the ladder and sit with Hannibal? Talk with him until the hour is up.

He’s speaking before he even realizes he’s voicing his thoughts out loud.

‘Jack thinks Abigail Hobbs helped her dad kill those girls.’

Hannibal considers Will. Smiles to himself as he asks a question to get under Will’s skin.

‘How does that make you feel?’

As expected, Will reacts to this stereotypical line of questioning. However, he seems to think Hannibal is teasing him – perhaps a part of him is – and he smiles, throwing the question back at him.

‘How does it make you feel?’

The wall is still there, but Hannibal can see a hint of a crack. Will needs him to be honest with him first. Needs Hannibal to be vulnerable first, so that he can trust him.

I will make you trust me, Will.

‘I find it vulgar,’ he says.

‘Me too,’ Will replies.

‘And entirely possible,’ Hannibal adds. Up on the gallery, Will shakes his head.

‘It’s not what happened.’

Hannibal lifts one shoulder in a small shrug. It does not matter to him.

‘Jack will ask her when she wakes up, or he’ll have one of us ask her.’

God. The idea of Jack sending Will to Abigail’s hospital room, to shake her awake and immediately ask her if she helped her father kill and eat a half dozen girls her own age… He leans on the balustrade to support himself.

‘Is this therapy, or a support group?’ he asks, huffing out a nervous laugh.

To his surprise, Hannibal takes his question seriously, and gazes intently up at him. There is a strand between them, quivering and golden; understanding. Acceptance.

‘It’s whatever you need it to be,’ Hannibal murmurs. Will nods to himself, surprised that the thought of having ‘whatever he needs’ sessions with Hannibal to be… comforting.

He can’t. He shouldn’t.

Hannibal speaks again, shutting Will out of his thoughts before they can consume him. He wants Will’s full attention on him.

‘Will, the mirrors in your mind can reflect the best of yourself, not the worst of someone else.’

Will stares down, his heart squeezing an extra, painful, beat into his chest as Hannibal speaks directly at the shadow in him.

You know me.

***

Shots ring out. The target sways in the breeze caused by the bullets, but most of them miss. It’s not a dream this time. Will’s palms are aching but his grip never falters. With the headphones on, he can’t hear the clack of approaching heels, but his visitor hangs back until Will empties the clip and removes his mufflers.

When Beverly Katz speaks, her voice sends light shivers up and down Will’s spine. She’s an Alpha, but she has a calm, quiet energy that doesn’t rattle him the way Jack’s does. It helps that she doesn’t know he’s an Omega – Jack hasn’t shared that with anyone – so her concern for him is because she thinks he’s a socially anxious Beta. He prefers it that way.

‘I’m pretty sure firearm accuracy isn’t a prerequisite for teaching,’ she says, coming up behind him and crossing her arms to review his work as Will lifts the barrier and calls the target towards him.

‘Well, I’ve been in the field before,’ Will says, speaking absently as he frowns at his shoddy gunmanship.

‘Now you’re back in the saddle. Yeesh.’

Will snorts a small agreement.

‘Yeesh indeed. Took me ten shots to drop Hobbs.’

Beverly grins, watching as Will removes the used target and replaces it with a fresh one.

‘Zeller wanted to give you the bullets he pulled out of Hobbs in an acrylic case, but I told him you wouldn’t think it was funny,’ she says. Will smiles at her over his shoulder.

‘Probably not.’

‘I suggested one of those clackin’ swingin’ ball things.’

Will considers. Imagines it on Hannibal’s desk, and then smirks, giving a little half-shoulder shrug.

That would’ve been funny.’

They both slot their headphones back over their ears, blocking out the surrounding sound. In the vacuum, Will can only hear his breathing, in and out, and the steady thud of his heart. He lines himself up again, adjusting his weight, planting his feet apart and raising the gun. Beverly considers him, narrowing her slanted eyes, raising her voice so that Will can make it out through the protectors.

‘You’re a Weaver. I took you for an isosceles guy.’

Will hears the way his heart skips a beat at that. He swallows, his Adam’s apple bobbing nervously.

‘I have a rotator cuff issue so I have to use the Weaver stance,’ he says, his voice shaking. He flinches when Beverly squeezes his shoulders, either side of his neck, his neck where the skin is perfectly smooth until the spot right between his shoulder blades, where it’s severed by a jagged line of scar tissue…

‘You are tight,’ she says, giving him a quick massage.

Will swallows again. Hates the way his grip on the gun falters. He can smell concrete dust and motor oil. The heavy, musky scent of an Alpha, sour with sweat and whiskey…

‘I got stabbed when I was a cop,’ he mutters. Tremors run down his body, but Beverly is either oblivious or she’s ignoring it.

‘Yeah?’ she says, her hands still softly holding him in place. ‘I got stabbed in the third grade with a number two pencil. Thought I was gonna get lead poisoning.’

Her teasing eases some of the tension from him. She’s treating him like a normal person. Nothing special. Nothing vulnerable. Will wets his lips, testing his voice again, relieved to find it works, just scratchy.

‘Uh, no lead in pencils; it’s graphite.’

Beverly moves him into an adjusted position and steps back.

‘See if that helps with the recoil.’

Will flexes his neck, takes a breath and then unloads the clip, round after round after round after round, into the target. Seven of the shots hit true and he smiles with relief when he lowers the guards again.

‘That was better. You come all the way down here to teach me how to shoot?’

Beverly smiles up at him, catching his eye. Will keeps his visor on; the yellow will counteract his gold rims.

‘No,’ the Alpha says. ‘Jack sent me down here to find out what you know about gardening.’

***

The forest air of Elk Neck State Park is heavy with the sweet, sickly stench of rot. Will swallows the urge to gag, picking his way across the mulch as Jack leads him to the mushroom garden. He can feel the rhythm of the killer, a slow ripple through the air, whispering between the leaves overhead. The forest should be peaceful – all the yellow tape, officers and forensic investigators are polluting it.

‘So, Lecter gave you the all-clear,’ Jack says, a hint of smug satisfaction in his gravelly voice. ‘Therapy might work on you after all.’

Will grinds his back teeth, concentrating on where his boots are sinking into the damp earth.

‘Therapy is an acquired taste,’ he mutters. ‘Which I have yet to acquire. But it served your purpose. I’m back in the field.’

They stop before the row of unearthed bodies, each in varying states of decay, and Jack’s preliminary comments about the perimeter give way to Price and Zeller trading thoughts with Beverly Katz. They’re both Betas, so there’s always an undertone of quiet respect for the more senior Alpha, but Will knows that Beverly has worked hard to earn that respect – it’s not just because of her biology.

Jack lets Will skate his eyes over the disturbed bodies and then, when he senses the Omega’s energy change, a subtle tightening of his shoulders, a coldness to his blank face, he ushers everyone else away. Will’s becoming the killer… He needs space.

A hush falls over the forest. Will can feel the killer’s memories humming in the air. He backtracks, retracing his steps to the edge of the garden and then closes his eyes. Listens to the heavy thud of his heart. Feels the way the breeze caresses his hair…

He’s no-one. Someone. Not him… The current rises, a warm river that drags his feet out from under him until he slips away…

The garden is perfect. Undisturbed. He has dug a hole and placed his most recent source of nourishment inside. Skin mottled blue with cold. Pale lips. Shriveled genitals. The perfect host.

‘I do not bind his arms or legs as I bury him in a shallow grave.’

His voice is flat. Empty. He’s not really there – not anywhere. A conduit for the memories, nothing more.

His shadow slithers through his veins, winding itself like a snake around his heart, growing with every beat.

‘He’s alive,’ Will continues. ‘But he will never be conscious again.’ He shovels earth onto the body, the rich smell filling his nostrils. Beautiful. ‘He won’t know that he’s dying. I don’t need him to. This is my design.’

His shadow swells, constricting his lungs. Choking him. Will stares down into the grave, into the milky white eyes of Garrett Jacob Hobbs. He’s burying him. He shot him, tore up his body with tiny pieces of metal, and now he’s going to transform him… See?

The image flickers. Fades. The fungus-coated body jerks awake, wild eyes flying open as a lipless mouth opens wide in a silent scream. Will falls back, his shadow exploding into pale wisps as fear overwhelms him. He can feel the victim’s pain, his confusion… His body is a twisted web of spores, his organs sucked dry and muscles torn as the mushrooms force their way through him.

An officer runs over.

‘Don’t touch him! Oh my God! Oh my God!’

Will scrambles to his feet and backs away, wiping mud onto his jeans with shaking hands. His eyes are aching, hot with tears he knows he can’t cry. His skin is crawling. He feels electrocuted. He needs to be at home, dragging blankets and sheets into a nest on the floor, curling around his dogs and waiting until Ha-… Until he feels better.

He hurries from the scene, shaking his head in response to Jack’s questioning look.

He can’t do this.

***

Striding into Hannibal’s office that evening, Will thrusts the psych eval onto the desk.

‘This may have been… premature.’

His voice is wobbling, but he’s proud that he managed to speak at all. During the drive over here, he tried to imagine how he would tell Dr Lecter that he wasn’t ready; that it was too painful.

I’m not strong enough.

Every time he tried to take a breath, sharp pain would seal his throat and he would have to settle for tightening his hands until the steering wheel creaked, his knuckles white under thin skin.

Hannibal’s office is warm; a fire crackles in the hearth, casting dancing shadows across the walls. Will crosses his arms, leaning back against Hannibal’s drawing table and putting distance between them. A flush creeps up his neck, coloring his cheeks. He is creating a wall of space.

Hannibal’s brows flicker into a momentary frown and then he smooths out his expression again. Calculated neutrality. Will is upset – he tries to hide his fear with defensive anger, but he is shaking and his breath catches in his throat. As deadened as his scent is – he must be bathing in the Beta spray now – Hannibal’s sensitive nose can pick up traces of salty and spice – an Omega in distress. He evaluates his own body’s natural response; the urge to wrap Will in his arms and hold him tight, make him feel small and safe and protected…

Will’s suppression of every instinct is intoxicating – Hannibal finds himself staring into the Omega’s face, urging him to look up. To meet his gaze.

‘What did you see? Out in the field,’ he asks.

‘Hobbs,’ Will says, his voice trembling.

‘An association?’

‘A hallucination,’ Will admits. He slips his hand into his pocket, closing around the spray until he’s certain he’s dented the can. ‘I saw him lying there in someone else’s grave.’

Hannibal tilts his head, considering him for a moment. Will turns his head away, his jaw clenching and unclenching as he waits to hear how fucked up he is.

‘Did you tell Jack what you saw?’ Hannibal asks quietly. He hopes not. He wants Will out in the field – unstable means breakable, and breakable means malleable. He can be influenced to accept the darkness inside him; embrace it and nurture it. Who knows what will be unleashed?

No.’ Will confirms Hannibal’s suspicion. The Omega feels a great sense of guilt for the murder of Garett Jacob Hobbs; not for killing him, but for enjoying it. An excellent start. Aloud, Hannibal says dismissively,

‘It’s stress. Not worth reporting.’ Then, to tug at the barb in Will’s heart, he takes a step closer and adds, ‘You displaced the victim of another killer’s crime with what could arguably be considered your victim.’

Will’s head snaps up and his eyes flash bright gold with anger. Hannibal feels a tingle low in his gut – satisfaction at provoking Will’s dark anger. He closes the gap even more, until his throat gags at the bitter taint of chemical pheromones choking Will’s delicate aroma.

‘I don’t consider Hobbs my victim,’ Will snaps. He clamps down on the darkness seeping through him and gets up, moving across to the other desk to put fresh space between them. Having Hannibal so close… It’s fogging up his mind. All he can smell is Hannibal’s musky scent and cedarwood cologne – all he can see are Hannibal’s shoulders and his long, lean legs encased in a sharp grey suit… He doesn’t like the way heat chases itself up and down his spine. Doesn’t like the way his scalp is tingling.

‘What do you consider him?’ Hannibal asks, following after him, blocking his escape. A thrilling taste of the hunt.

Will huffs a laugh.

‘Dead?’ he offers. He looks away again. Hannibal is so close… Too close. Why is he staring at him so intently?

‘Is it harder imagining the thrill somebody else feels killing, now that you’ve done it yourself?’ Hannibal asks. His words, softly spoken, bury deep inside Will’s chest. His shadow hisses its approval, but Will feels sick. He can’t answer. He closes his eyes, his jaw working furiously.

Flaring his nostrils and wetting his lips, Hannibal tastes the air for Will’s scent. He is very distressed. He could push him further, but his Will is not yet ready to know himself. To know either of them.

‘The arms,’ he continues, steering the conversation back to safer waters. ‘Why did he leave them exposed? To hold their hands? To feel the life leaving their bodies?’

Relief floods Will’s body and he feels muscles grind as his shoulders relax. He even glances up into Hannibal’s face – when did he gets so close again? – before he frowns and considers his killer.

‘No, that’s too esoteric for someone who took the time to bury his victims in a straight line. He’s more practical.’ He speaks absently, thinking aloud. Hannibal leans on the back of a chair, drawing Will’s attention to his face.

‘He was cultivating them,’ he suggests.

‘He was keeping them alive. He was feeding them intravenously.’ Will glances down again, folding his arms, but it’s more of a thoughtful stance this time. Hannibal’s questions and softly spoken statements loosen the cogs in his mind, opening doors to possibilities he hadn’t thought of before. He feels a thrill of excitement as be begins to understand.

‘But your farmer let his crops die,’ Hannibal says. ‘Save for the one that didn’t.’

‘Yeah, and the one that didn’t, died on the way to the hospital. Though they weren’t crops; they were the fertilizer. The bodies were covered in fungus.’

Hannibal calls forth his knowledge of biology, skimming through the remembered pages of an article read decades ago.

‘The structure of a fungus mirrors that of the human brain; an intricate web of connections,’ he says, offering an idea and watching with fascination as Will’s eyes begin to light up with realization.

‘So, maybe he admires their ability to connect the way human minds can’t…’ Will glances up and catches Hannibal’s eye. He feels a jolt and liquid heat pools in his belly as Hannibal smiles at him.

‘Yours can.’

There’s something so intimate about the way the Alpha says it – as though he thinks Will is special somehow… Will finds himself blushing and coughs out a laugh, his hands shaking as he struggles to find what to do with his arms. All of a sudden, he feels very, very small, very boxed in and very grubby, standing in Hannibal’s plush office with fungus-encrusted boots and mud-smeared jeans.

‘Um, yeah, not physically.’ He’s nothing special. Just an empathic Omega. They can all do it, right? He’s not unique.

When Will Graham smiles, his entire face lights up, and Hannibal drinks in the sight and savors the beauty of the bashful young man before him.

I will make you trust me, Will.

He steps back, releasing Will so that the Omega can breathe freely. Too much pressure too soon and he will bolt.

‘Is that what your farmer is looking for?’ he asks, pitching his voice low so that Will has to pay close attention to hear him. ‘Some sort of connection?’

Will quivers, nervous eyes darting to and from Hannibal’s serene face. Is it just his imagination, or is Hannibal referring to more than just their farmer when he says connection like that?

He pushes up from the desk; he needs to get home, feed the dogs… Take a shower… Glances back at Hannibal again and wants to… What? Go to him? Hannibal hardly strikes him as the sort of Alpha inclined to touch, let alone hold him. And why would Will even want that? He doesn’t need comfort. He’s not weak.

‘Have a good evening, Will,’ Hannibal says, halting the tirade in its tracks. Will nods and slips out of the side door, pressing his back against it and closing his eyes as he takes a long, shuddering gulp of air. What’s happening to him? Why can’t he control his emotions around the Alpha?

He fumbles for his bottle of heat suppressants, dry swallowing a tablet. He’s probably taking too many, but he needs to get his hormones under control. He can’t keep letting Hannibal get to him like this.

One last deep breath and then he runs his fingers through his hair, trying to clear the lingering scent from his nose. Cedarwood and cloves… His stomach jumps and he feels a twitch inside, something he’s not felt in a long time. A hunger that he’s kept under control for years. Until now.

What are you doing to me, Hannibal?

***

As a dinner guest, Special Agent Jack Crawford is both complimentary and vulgar; heartily tucking into the gourmet cuisine crafted by Hannibal with the same bullish obliviousness with which he treats Will Graham. Jack works in brutish strength and overt dominance. There is nothing elegant or refined about him. An open book, as they say.

Hannibal’s eyes tighten a fraction as he serves the main course, but his hands are steady as he drizzles blood-red sauce over the meat.

‘Loin, served with a Cumberland sauce of red fruits,’ he explains. Moves away and takes his seat across from the other Alpha. Watches with dark satisfaction as Jack cuts a piece of loin and holds it up to his lips, inhaling the delicate scent.

‘Mm, loin. What kind?’

‘Pork.’ The lie trips off his tongue, and Jack is chewing in an instant. Hannibal is more careful with his meal; he takes his time with every bite, complementing the tart sauce with a sip of wine. Perhaps Will would like this dish… Idly, Hannibal wonders if he prefers red or white wine.

‘Wonderful,’ Jack says. He is trying to savor the delicious food; Hannibal can see his concentration. ‘I don’t get many opportunities to, er, eat home-cooked meals. My wife and I both work, and, er, as hard as I tried not to, I did wind up marrying my mother.’ He chuckles at his own joke, and Hannibal suppresses an eye roll. He needs Jack; needs him to care for Will, and to provide him with more information about the object of his interest. Therefore, he feigns interest and glances up over his fork.

‘Your mother didn’t cook?’

‘She did, she did,’ Jack says ruefully. ‘I only wish she didn’t. There was this meal she used to prepare. She liked to call it “oriental noodles”. Spaghetti, soy sauce, bouillon cubes, and spam. I was raised thin as a youngster.’

Hannibal’s throat tightens and his stomach turns. The meal sounds positively vile – such bad taste should surely warrant a one-way trip to his larder? Aloud, he cannot resist a private joke.

‘Well, next time, bring your wife. I’d love to have you both for dinner.’

Jack smiles, oblivious to the threat, and takes another bite of loin.

‘Thank you. Mmm. Lovely.’ He washes it back with a swig of wine, wiping glistening lips on his napkin before abandoning polite conversation and getting straight to business. Typical Jack. ‘So, why do you think Will Graham came back to see you?’

Hannibal contemplates the answer. Allows his mind’s eye to wander back to Will’s face, the high cheekbones, vulnerable eyes and soft lips… He cuts another slice of meat and chews thoughtfully before answering.

‘I’m sure he recognizes the necessity of his own support structure, if he is to go on supporting you in the field,’ he says, offering impartiality.

Jack’s eyebrows come down; he looks every inch the stereotypical macho Alpha. Not the answer he was expecting, or hoping for. Hannibal feels himself bristle at the display of dominance from the other Alpha, but he calms himself. Now is not the time.

‘Well, I believe that a guy like Will Graham knows exactly what’s going on inside of his head, which is why he doesn’t want anyone else up there,’ Jack says. There is the heat of anger in his voice, betraying the sharp note of fear. Ah, yes. Hannibal can see it clearly now.

Jack Crawford feels guilty for treating an Omega so badly. Worries at what he could be unleashing on the world. Have you also seen the shadow inside Will, Jack? Does it scare you?

‘Are you not accustomed to broken ponies in your stable?’ Hannibal speaks lightly, skewing a vegetable and crunching it as he watches his dagger cut deep. Jack’s frown darkens; he abandons his meal to clasp his hands in front of him, leaning forwards with his elbows on the table.

‘You think Will Graham’s a broken pony?’ he rumbles.

Hannibal quirks an eyebrow.

‘I think you think Will is a broken pony,’ he says. Leans in slightly. ‘Have you ever lost a pony, Jack?’

The other Alpha stiffens at the insinuation, and Hannibal smirks to himself.

‘If you’re asking me whether or not I’ve ever lost someone in the field, the answer is yes,’ Jack snaps. ‘Why?’

The moment he has been waiting for. Hannibal sets his cutlery down and clasps his own hands together, low down but equally intense. Come on Jack; tell me what you really think about my Will.

‘I want to understand why you’re so delicate with Will. Because you don’t trust him, or because you’re afraid of losing another pony?’

Oh, how he prays for the former. For Jack to have seen Will’s shadow in his eyes, the same way Hannibal has seen it. To know that Will is dangerous, and not just some weak little Omega to be used up and discarded.

Frustratingly, Jack simply laughs and begins eating again.

‘I’ve already had my psych eval.’

‘Not by me,’ Hannibal persists. However, he can sense when his hunt is futile, so he smiles and allows the tension to dissipate. He never passes up an opportunity to understand his prey’s vulnerabilities. ‘You’ve already told me about your mother. Why stop there?

Jack laughs. He has no idea…

‘Oh, great,’ he chuckles. ‘All right.’ Another bite of loin, washed down with wine. Hannibal settles himself in for a long, tedious evening. ‘Mmm…’

***

Later that night, after driving too fast to get away from Hannibal’s office, showering himself raw and then gulping down a bowl of lukewarm soup as his dogs tuck into their food, Will is lying flat on his back in bed, staring up at his ceiling and trying to sleep.

He listens to the thump of his pulse. The faint rasp as he breathes in and out. The creak of tree branches outside and the hoot of owls. The steady breathing and occasional snore of his dogs, lying on the floor around him. Protecting him.

Why can’t he sleep? Why can’t he stop thinking about Hannibal?

The glowing blue numbers on his clock refuse to change. The night is eternal. Will grips his hair tight. His shoulders are aching with tension. He can feel it, crackling like a current underneath his skin.

He needs to come.

Can he? It’s been a while since he last tried… Omegas aren’t made for solitary orgasms… The last time he managed to come on his own, he ended up depressing himself to the point of tears.

But he needs this…

Will bites his lip to muffle his moan as he slips his hand under the waistband of his boxers and touches himself. His balls are aching, hot and heavy against his body, and he’s half hard before he’s even got a good grip on himself. His breath hitches when he rubs his thumb over the leaking slit at the tip of his cock; the bundle of nerves firing and sending hot pleasure up his spine to settle, iron-hot, in the back of his neck. Is the skin flushed red? Aching to be bitten…

Alone in the dark, slowly stroking the wetness up and down his length, Will’s mind wanders back to his last conversation with Hannibal. The words are forgotten; he pictures Hannibal’s hands, long fingers and strong thumbs. He can see Hannibal; sharp features, thin, cruel lips curving into a hungry smile, dark eyes sparkling and feather-soft, sandy hair falling over a high forehead…

Will arches his back, his hand moving faster now, rubbing himself roughly on the way down, gently up. He slides his free hand around to cup and squeeze his balls, shocked from the fantasy by how wet they are. His body is responding in the way an Omega male should – getting ready to be fucked. To take an Alpha’s knot. He’s slick; his thighs are wet with it, oozing out of him.

Shame is like a bucket of ice water. Will starts to shake, but he can’t let go of himself, and the jerking movement is too much. He can imagine Hannibal right in front of him, leaning over him, obsidian eyes boring into him, one hot hand roughly jerking him to completion, the other clamping down on his throat, pinning him.

‘Pleasure is the only antidote to pain, Will,’ the imagined Hannibal says, silken words flushing Will’s cheeks red as his balls tighten up against his body. ‘Are you going to come for me?’

‘Yes,’ Will whispers, shaking as he stares up into Hannibal’s face. Into the molten, starving eyes., at the lips hiding teeth that want to rip into him, tear into him. Devour him… Claim him…Yes!

He comes hard, spilling hot, sticky cum all over his hands and stomach. His back arches more sharply, grinding his ass down into the damp mattress. He rolls his head back, baring his throat in total submission to his imaginary Alpha, breath coming in sharp, ragged bursts as the last of the white pleasure soaks into his bones.

‘Fuck… Fuck…’

Will lies there for several minutes, hands still holding himself, sweaty skin cooling him down as he waits for his heart to slow.

He’s never come so hard on his own before… Maybe he can do this… Maybe…

He smiles sleepily to himself. He’s totally relaxed now, melting into the sheets, not bothered by how scratchy they are as his eyelids grow heavy and pull down. He’s sinking into darkness, riding away as whispers caress his hair and promise violence…

Will finally lets go of himself and rolls onto his side, his hands coated in his own scent, cuddling up to the spare pillow as though it’s Hannibal.

Maybe, if he’s lucky, he won’t have nightmares tonight.

***

He knows it’s a dream, but it doesn’t stop the fear from seeping into him, freezing him in place. It’s a memory; his last night in Homicide…

I should have pulled the trigger… I should have killed you…

‘Police! Samuel Coby – you’re under arrest!’

They burst into the fourth-floor apartment, guns up and ready to fire, just in time to see Coby slash his victim’s throat with a hunting knife. The stolen Omega falls in a sea of crimson, choking on her own blood, panicked hands scrabbling at the wound. Will dashes forwards, holstering his gun in his rush to stem the arterial flow.

‘Stay with me!’ he gasps, trying to squeeze the folds of skin back together, their gold-rimmed eyes locking together. Denise’s face registers a moment of shock at seeing another Omega and then she’s gone, the light fading, leaving behind a blank, glassy expression.

Most of the officers with him are Alphas. They dither, overwhelmed by the violence against an Omega – it’s abhorrent… Some of them are crying.

Samuel Coby has bolted. They hear the crash of breaking glass as he escapes through a window. Will’s shadow bursts through his chest, dragging him to his feet, and he finds himself darting after him, even as the others shout for him to wait.

Coby’s footsteps clatter down the metal fire escape. Will races after him and then vaults the railing, his stomach lurching as he drops like a stone. Pain zings up his legs when he lands and his knees buckle. He falls with a yell, rolling to the side and bouncing off a dumpster, his ears ringing from the impact as he takes off after the killer.  He has to catch him. He has to kill him–

Stop him. He has to stop him.

‘Coby!’ he yells, firing a warning shot against the brick wall above Coby’s head. Samuel ducks, bringing his arms up to shield himself from raining shards, and ploughs on through the back streets, heading for the train tracks and factories beyond. Will growls under his breath – he could take the shot from here, but he can’t – and he pushes himself faster, ignoring his burning lungs. ‘Coby, stop!’

They skid their way over the rough ground and Coby disappears into the shadow of a warehouse. Will slows, his breath steaming the night air before him, holding his gun out before him, hating the way his red-stained hands are shaking. His bullet vest and trousers are still damp with blood, and his sweat soon makes him shiver.

Straining to hear past the thundering of his heart, Will opens his eyes as wide as possible, trying to see into the shadows, trying to catch a glint of Coby’s knife or a flicker of movement. He keeps his back to the walls, ducking through a maze of packing crates, adrenaline sharpening his senses until he’s sure he can hear the creak of his muscles tightening.

The air is thick with Coby’s musky scent, and Will swallows hard. The other man is an Alpha. Heat sizzles through him, settling in a tingling swarm at the base of his skull. Will rolls his shoulders, fighting his body’s response to the pheromones leaking from Coby’s pores. He’s safe; he’s taking the heat suppressants. Nothing’s going to happen. It can’t.

A noise catches his attention. Will stills, peering around a forklift for a glimpse of Coby. Hears another sound, this time behind him, and turns to see Coby barely three feet away, brandishing his knife. Will raises his gun… Pauses… He’s right there… Shoot him… Take him down…

But he can’t do it. He can’t shoot him. It’s too… Impersonal. His shadow hisses at him. Better to stab. To feel the life seep through his fingers…

Coby sees his hesitation as weakness. His face splits into a grin and he leaps forward, barreling into Will’s chest and knocking him back into the vehicle. A shot goes off but the bullet hits air. Pain explodes across Will’s skull and he tastes blood. His legs go out from under him and he slides to the ground, his gun clattering away from numb, useless fingers.

Coby grabs him again, curling his fists around the straps of Will’s bullet vest, and he hauls him upright. Blazing red eyes – rut-red – lock with his own fiery gold and Coby’s mouth forms an ‘oh’ of surprise, before a slow smile curls his lips.

‘My, my… darlin’…’ the Alpha purrs, drawing out the word in a low, Southern drawl. Somehow, the sound of his voice makes Will tremble with fear and something else, something far more disturbing. His insides twitch and his neck prickles. He shakes his head, but he can’t clear the fog creeping in.

Coby drops him and Will sprawls at his feet. The Alpha crouches in front of him, reaching out to stroke a damp curl away from Will’s bleeding forehead. Black seeps into the edges of Will’s vision but he fights it, tears of pain pricking his eyes when he tries to shake his head clear. He wants to knock Coby’s hand away – bile scratches his throat at the idea touching him – but he can’t make his body respond.

‘Easy,’ Coby murmurs,  his nostrils flaring to savor Will’s scent. ‘Easy, darlin’. M’not gonna hurt ya.’

Will tries to speak. He wants to snarl at Coby, to tell him that he’s the one who’s going to hurt him, but his voice has been struck away. All that comes out is a strangled little whimper, which just seems to excite Coby even more. His eyes light up and a slow, hungry smile spreads across his pockmarked face as he shuffles even closer. Will manages to turn his face away, clenching his teeth as Coby sniffs hungrily along his jawline.

‘You smell so good, little Omega,’ Coby growls, hot hands clawing at Will’s vest. ‘So good… I need ya, darlin’. Need an Omega of my own.’

Will feels the tide pull out in his head, slipping in and out of consciousness as Coby fumbles with his shirt buttons, but at the touch of calloused fingers on his nipples, rolling and pinching the sensitive nubs, he snaps his eyes wide open.

‘N-!’ His shout is cut off with Coby’s bitter lips. He’s pulled down, flipped so that he’s on his front. Coby kneels behind him, clumsy hands trying to undo his belt.

‘Gonna take ya… Gonna bond ya, darlin’. All mine… You’ll be all mine.’

Will shakes his head again, using the pain to stay awake. No. No, this isn’t happening. He can’t… Not like this.

Cold air hits his lower back and he squirms forwards, groping for a pipe, a shard of glass, anything on the dirty, oil-stained floor in front of him. His tingling fingers close around an empty bottle and he swings it back blindly. Feels the impact and then hears it smash over Coby’s head. The Alpha grunts, falling back as glittering shards rain down on him.

Will twists, coming again, jumping on him, his hands closing around Coby’s throat. There’s a moment where he thinks he’ll do it, be able to strangle him, but then Coby’s face darkens in anger and he shoves Will up and over his head and he’s just so strong, and Will’s world tilts as he’s flipped onto his back.

He lands hard, knocking the breath from his lungs, and he wheezes out a gasp of pain as Coby pins him again, a knee in the gut doubling him over. There’s a flash of steel and then the hunting knife is in his shoulder. Coby’s sweaty palm muffles his scream as the Alpha gives the blade a vicious twist, severing the tendons and rendering Will’s right arm useless.

‘You’re gonna regret hurtin’ me, darlin’,’ Coby snarls, leaning down into Will’s face, all trace of his gentle nature gone, replaced with ugly hate. Will’s heart skips a beat and then begins to trip double time, battering against his ribcage. He’s whining, unconscious little sounds to placate the Alpha, but Coby doesn’t seem to be responding. Will tilts his head back, baring his throat, letting his legs fall open. Everything in him is crying, begging for Coby not to hurt him. His shadow self is on the edges of his vision, watching with dark fury as Will’s body become soft, pliant… Everything a good Omega should be.

He can’t fight.

Coby lifts him and shoves him on his front again, driving the knife into his body even deeper. Will chokes on his own breath. He’s shaking now, bitter cold and numb everywhere except for his shoulder and the back of his neck. The stab wound is screaming agony. The nape of his neck is stinging with heat. How can part of him be enjoying this?

And then Coby’s strong hand is on his neck, thumb and fingers finding his pressure points, and heat explodes through him. No! Not like this…

Will cries out, sweat plastering his hair to his scalp, his body tingling with a thousand volts. No…

He’s slick. He can feel it dampening his thighs. His nose is full of the smell of Alpha musk; heavy, choking, thick in the rut. He’s still whining, clawing at the concrete floor, his nails broken and bleeding, but he’s pushing his hips back and Coby’s hands are all over him.

The Alpha is grunting with excitement, panting with it. He jerks Will’s trousers down, dipping his head to take in a lungful of Will’s smell even as he rasps his tongue through the slick.

Please… please, no… Don’t bite me… Don’t bond me…

It’s all he can think about. It races around his head, almost a prayer. Will can hear the way he’s gasping. He’s never felt so vulnerable, so weak… He’s making this strangled little sobbing sound, his lips trembling because all he wants is for Coby to protect him, like he’s supposed to.

‘Don’t… please… Samuel… don’t…’

‘Police! Stop!’

Footsteps come thundering through the factory. Flashlights zigzag in the darkness, slicing through the scene. Shouts ring out, a blur of confusion and horror.

‘What the…?’

‘Coby! Let him go!’

‘Someone get a neutralizer!’

‘Who’s…?’

‘Oh my god, is that Will?’

‘He’s an Omega!’

‘He’s hurt!’

Coby is wrenched off him with a strangled roar, three officers holding him down as a fourth plunges a needle of neutralizing hormone into his neck.

Will falls forwards, curling around himself, sick and shaking at how exposed he is. At how helpless.

One of the Alpha officers drops to his knees beside him, wrestling out of his jacket and draping it over Will’s shoulders, careful of the knife. He shields him from view and Will can’t stop the tears pouring down his face at the comforting presence. Can’t stop the fresh bout of whines that are pitched low to encourage an Alpha to protect him.

‘I’ve got you, it’s okay,’ the Alpha murmurs, trying to cup Will’s cheeks and lift his face up to look into his eyes. ‘Hey, Graham, right? Will Graham?’

Will lowers his eyes in submission. Nods. His teeth are chattering. His skin is crawling. He can feel more slick leaking out of him and it’s making him dizzy. When the Alpha opens his arms and invites him up for a hug, Will falls forwards against his chest, nuzzling under his chin and holding tight as though he’s drowning.

‘It’s okay; it’s gonna be okay,’ the Alpha murmurs, reaching up to check for a bite on the back of Will’s neck. Gasps when he finds its smooth. ‘Did he… rip your crest off? Where’s your Alpha, huh? Let’s call him.’

‘Don’t have an Alpha,’ Will mutters, shaking his head against the officer’s vest. ‘Not bonded.’

He feels the Alpha stiffen. Withdraw. He looks down at him with a new hunger in his blue eyes. Will’s jerking like a puppet on strings, trying to pull himself away. The hands are too tight; the Alpha is holding onto him. Pinning him… His face morphs. Coby leers at him again, crimson eyes blazing with a feral hunger.

‘Oh, darlin’…’

Will jerks awake, kicking out at the sheets binding his legs. He’s drenched with sweat but shaking with cold, his teeth chattering as he sits up.

One of the dogs gives a low whine, crawling closer and trying to lick at his bare legs, offering comfort. It’s not what he needs, but it’s all he has, and Will sits forwards, hunched over his knees as he cries into his hands.

It’s been a long time since he dreamed of Coby.

It feels like forever until the tears run out. He’s drained. Exhausted, but too scared too sleep. He can’t go through that again… He can’t.

Will gets up and creeps into the bathroom, locking the door behind him and sinking to the floor. He scrubs his hands through his greasy hair, cringing at how sticky his thighs feel. Without getting up, he gropes for a washcloth and wipes himself off before crawling to the bathmat and curling around himself. Grabs all the towels from the rail above his head and drapes them over him, being sure to cover his head. It’s a poor excuse for a nest, but it’s all he can manage right now.

Maybe it will be enough to make him feel safe.

***

The next morning, the shadows beneath Will’s eyes are darker than usual. Price and Zeller join Beverly in commenting on how tired he looks, but Will ignores them, pinching the bridge of his nose in a vain attempt to shake off his throbbing headache. They are under the harsh lights of the autopsy suite, examining the mushroom infested bodies.

‘What were they soaked in?’ he asks, trying to concentrate through the pain.

‘A highly concentrated mixture of hardwoods, shredded newspaper, and pig poop; perfect for growing mushrooms and other fungi.’ Price almost sounds excited about this – at the very least, slightly awed. Will hazards a guess that, in addition to bird watching, Jimmy Price is also an avid amateur gardener.

‘It was not the mushrooms, though,’ Zeller says, not to be outdone by Price. ‘They all died of kidney failure.’

‘Dextrose in all the catheters,’ Beverly says, glancing at Will as she speaks. ‘He probably used some kind of dialysis or peristaltic to pump fluids after their circulatory systems broke down.’

His shadow stirs, and Will moves away from the door, further into the room. He’s interested.

‘Force-feeding them sugar water?’

‘You know who loves sugar water?’ Price asks excitedly. ‘Mushrooms. They crave it.’

‘Recovering alcoholics,’ Zeller suggests. ‘They crave sugar. Uh, don’t take that personally, buddy.’ He gives Price a playful nudge.

‘Oh, I’m not recovering,’ Price says, grinning at the joke.

‘Feed sugar to the fungus in your body, the fungus creates alcohol… So it’s like friends helping friends, really,’ Zeller says, nodding. Impressed.

Will chews his lip.

‘It’s not just alcoholics who have compromised endocrine systems,’ he murmurs, thinking aloud. ‘They all died of kidney failure?’ Beverly and Zeller nod, and Will sighs. His headache lessens a fraction as the final piece of the puzzle clicks into place. He knows. ‘Death by diabetic ketoacidosis.’

Beverly looks at her team.

‘Did you know they were diabetics?’

‘We don’t know they were diabetics,’ Zeller says, rifling through his reports for confirmation.

‘No, they’re all diabetics,’ Will insists. He’s feverish now; he knows. He knows. This is his design. ‘He induces a coma and puts them in the ground.’

‘How is he inducing diabetic comas?’ Beverly asks, looking straight into Will’s face. Will avoids her eyes, looking down and to the side.

‘Changes their medication,’ he mutters. Then, louder, ‘So he’s a doctor or a pharmacist, or he works somewhere in medical services.’

Beverly nods. Turns away, to stare down at the fungal victims.

‘He buries them, feeds them sugar to keep them alive long enough for the circulatory systems to soak it up.’

‘So he can feed the mushrooms!’ Price gasps.

Zeller looks along the row of corpses, his face twisted into a nauseous grimace.

‘We dug up his mushroom garden.’

Will’s shadow rumbles in his chest, growing and spreading tendrils out through his veins.

‘Yeah,’ he growls. ‘He’s gonna want to grow a new one.’

***

It doesn’t take them long to realize that The Farmer is Eldon Stammets, floating pharmacist and fungi-fanatic. Jack bursts into the pharmacy, flanked by armed FBI officers, but Eldon has fled. Will’s stomach twists again – he can feel someone’s fear, slipping away as they lose their grip on consciousness – and he grabs for Jack’s arm.

‘Is his car still in the parking lot?’

The victim is still alive, but barely. The manure reeks, and Will knows he’ll be scrubbing his cuticles for weeks just to get the smell out of his skin. Hannibal won’t want to be anywhere near him… Will pops a couple of aspirin. The headache seems to be coming from grinding his teeth, which he does whenever he has a stray thought about Dr Lecter. He needs to stop.

Price comes jogging up to them, flushed and shining with sweat at the exertion.

‘Jack. We just checked the browser history at Stammets’ work station.’ Something in his voice makes the fine hairs on Will’s neck stand to attention. He looks at Jack, who scowls at the forensic analyst.

‘Am I gonna wanna hear this?’ he asks.

‘No,’ Price warns. ‘And yes, but mostly no.’

They head back inside and find Zeller and Beverly hunched over a laptop at Stammets’ desk.

‘Freddie Lounds. TattleCrime.com.’ Zeller reads the blogger’s name and website title in disgust. Falls silent when Beverly begins to read the article aloud.

‘“The FBI isn’t just hunting psychopaths, they’re headhunting them too; offering competitive pay and benefits in the hopes of using one demented mind–”’ Her voice falters and she glances at Will before falling silent.

Jack scowls at her.

‘Keep going,’ he orders.

‘It’s about Will,’ Beverly says. Will feels a rush of gratitude towards her; even if she doesn’t know what he is, she wants to spare his feelings anyway. He bows his head as Jack draws himself up to his full height.

‘Go on.’

Beverly swallows and tries again.

‘“One demented mind to catch”… She goes into a lot of detail.’ She sounds apologetic. It’s odd, coming from an Alpha. Will’s stomach twists and he has a moment of mouth-watering panic as he thinks he’s going to be sick.

Beside him, Jack’s leather gloves creak as he balls his big hands into fists.

‘Son of a bitch.’

***

Sitting back in his leather desk chair, Hannibal scrolls through the latest article on TattleCrime.com, his calm expression betraying nothing of the anger raging inside him. He told Miss Lounds not to write about Will. He gave her fair warning, and yet here it is, a page of vulgarity about him, too close to the truth for comfort.

He is going to eat her for this. Saw open her skull and fry her brain in butter. Perhaps Will can join him; he would surely feel some satisfaction in watching her die. After all, she is responsible for telling the world about his dark secret. He might even enjoy the taste of her. Hannibal’s lips curl into a small smile.

He could feed Will her tongue. It would be poetic.

The photograph is shocking. Will’s inner shadow hardens his face. He looks intimidating, stood over the graves of The Farmer’s victims. His eyes are focused on the bodies, but to Hannibal’s sharp eyes there is still the glint of an Omega-gold rim in the photo. How long before Freddie discovers what he is? Something must be done about her.

‘You are naughty, Miss Lounds.’

***

He’s not sure why he’s at the hospital again. It’s not like Abigail is due to wake up anytime soon; she may never wake, in fact. But there’s something about her room that makes Will feel… quiet.

But, when he arrives that evening, it’s empty. Will pauses in the doorway. The air shimmers… He smells the forest… The current rises, tugging at him… Claws whisper through his hair…

He turns to the nurse’s station, opening his mouth to speak just as his cell starts ringing. He holds up a hand in apology at the interruption.

‘Sorry. Hello?’

Jack’s voice comes through the speaker, tinny and crackling.

‘It’s Jack. Are you at the hospital?’

Unease flickers in his belly. Tendrils reach out, caressing his arms… Will frowns.

‘Yes, I am.’

‘Stammets knows about Abigail Hobbs.’

He’s here.

The current grabs him. He’s in the garden, shoveling earth. His mind opens, shadows twining and branching out.

Will hangs up and leans over the desk, right into the nurse’s space, his heart racing with panic.

‘Where is she? Abigail Hobbs, the girl in 408. Where is she?’

The nurse looks shocked. She sits back in her chair, words tumbling over each other in her hurry to answer him.

‘They took her for tests.’

‘Who took her?’ No, no, no! Will’s shadow consumes him. He has to find her. ‘Who took her?!’

‘I don’t know!’

Will throws her a look of disgust and takes off, sprinting down the corridor. Stammets needs to get Abigail from the hospital; he’ll have a car in the underground parking lot. He’ll be wheeling the bed towards the basement…

Wrenching open the door to the stairs, Will readies his gun as he races down the concrete stairs. He throws himself through the door on the ground floor, tearing down a service corridor, just in time to see Stammets wheeling Abigail’s bed around a corner.

Kill him. Do it now.

Will doesn’t even hesitate. Just pulls the trigger. The shot rings out, jarringly loud in the small space, and the bullet hits Stammets in the shoulder. Not fatal.

Stammets drops his gun and Will kicks it away as he reaches them. Holds his gun out, pointing the muzzle right into Stammets’ face with one hand, reaching back to check Abigail’s pulse. Alive. She’s still alive.

‘What were you gonna do to her?’ he snarls, glaring down at the wounded man on the floor, his belly twisting at the sight of blood soaking through stolen scrubs.

‘We all evolved from mycelium,’ Stammets says. ‘I’m simply reintroducing her to the concept.’

Will’s chest tightens. Abigail’s fragile body, pale skin bursting with mushrooms? No.

‘By burying her alive?’ he growls.

‘The journalist said you understood me!’ Stammets whines. Bile rises in Will’s throat. He could do it; he could pull the trigger again, tear the life from his body…

‘I don’t,’ he spits. Stammets nods, an ugly look crossing his pudgy face, watery blue eyes fixed on Will’s gold-bright ones.

‘You would have. You’re special.’ Stammets looks dreamy. ‘If you walk through a field of mycelium, they know you are there. They know you are there. The spores reach for you as you walk by.’

Will’s shadow reaches out, his tendrils caressing Stammets’ own darkness. He can see it. The structure. The connection…

His darkness is reaching for someone.

‘I know who you’re reaching for,’ Stammets whispers. ‘I know… Abigail Hobbs. And you should have let me plant her. You would have found her in a field, where she was finally able to reach back!’

Will stares down at him. There are running footsteps now. The police are coming. It’s too late.

It’s over.

I’m not reaching for Abigail, Will thinks, watching as Stammets is cuffed and led away. I’m reaching for Hannibal.

***

He doesn’t go home afterwards. He can’t. He can’t stay at the hospital; the room is tainted. Can’t go to the office – Jack would be insufferable right now.

There’s only one place he can go.

Will keeps his back to Dr Lecter, staring at the crimson-slashed curtains of his office.

‘When you shot Eldon Stammets,’ Hannibal says, unperturbed to be speaking to Will’s back, even if it is hidden from view by a hideous blue plaid shirt. ‘Who was it that you saw?’

‘I didn’t see Hobbs,’ Will says quietly. There’s a void inside him; a deafening silence that he doesn’t understand. He feels… empty.

‘Then it’s not Hobbs’ ghost that’s haunting you, is it?’ Hannibal says. ‘It’s the inevitability of there being a man so bad that killing him felt good.’

He makes it sound so simple. Will’s shadow purrs its agreement, slithering between his ribs.

Yess…

Will shakes his head, a single jerk.

‘Killing Hobbs felt just.’

‘Which is why you’re here; to prove that sprig of zest you feel is from saving Abigail, not from killing her father,’ Hannibal says, summing it up and seeing through the bullshit so clearly that all Will can think is fuck you.

‘I didn’t feel a sprig of zest when I shot Eldon Stammets,’ he snaps. Why doesn’t he feel angry at Hannibal? Why doesn’t he feel anything?

‘You didn’t kill Eldon Stammets,’ Hannibal reasons.

‘I thought about it,’ Will admits. He grimaces. He should feel sick. Dirty. Why doesn’t he? Why does it feel so warm in here? As though he’s in a warm bath…

He ducks his head, exposing the nape of his neck.

‘I’m still not entirely sure that wasn’t my intention when pulling the trigger,’ he confesses.

Hannibal controls his breathing so as not to startle him. Will is perfectly still; perfectly calm. He has his head dipped forwards, baring the vulnerable skin between shirt collar and his hairline, an exquisitely erotic view that makes Hannibal’s eyes prickle with the urge to turn red.

That’s it, Will. Open up. Let me see you.

Hannibal stands, moving a fraction closer so that the air shifts with his scent, carrying it closer to the trembling Omega. He wants Will to associate his smell with a feeling of safety.

‘If your intention was to kill him, it’s because you understand why he did the things he did,’ he says. ‘It’s beautiful in its own way; giving voice to the unmentionable.’

Will’s shadow quivers. You know me

He turns. Glances at Hannibal and manages a wobbly half-smile. This is so fucked up. He is so fucked up. He shouldn’t be so relaxed in this man’s presence. He barely knows him.

‘I should’ve stuck to fixing boat motors in Louisiana,’ he says, sinking into the deep leather chair behind him.

‘A boat engine is a machine, a predictable problem, easy to solve,’ Hannibal says. He loosens the bottom button on his suit jacket and takes the seat opposite Will, both of them sitting forwards, reaching for each other. ‘You fail, there’s a paddle. Where was your paddle with Hobbs?’

‘You’re supposed to be my paddle.’ Will’s voice is wobbling, barely more than a whisper, his eyes bright with fear, brows furrowed in doubt. He searches Hannibal’s face.

Please… Please don’t leave me alone with this.

‘I am,’ Hannibal promises. ‘It wasn’t the act of killing Hobbs that got you down, was it? Didn’t you really feel so bad because killing him felt so good?’

The tension hangs between them, thick with everything unspoken. Will’s shadow reaches out, searching for Hannibal’s darkness, moving his own arms before he can stop it. He twists his hands together, catching himself before he grabs the other man’s hands, and takes a shaking breath before speaking the ugly truth.

‘I… liked killing Hobbs…’

Pride blossoms in Hannibal’s chest. His dark dragon rumbles its approval and he allows himself to reach for the younger man. Locks eyes with Will as the Omega stares at him in shock when Hannibal laces their fingers together; a bridge across the empty space between them.

‘Killing must feel good to God, too,’ he says softly. Will’s hand is calloused but soft, and so hot… ‘He does it all the time. Are we not created in His image?’

Will’s body is charged; electric. Hannibal’s hand is warm and soft, the grip firm and confident. I’ve got you, it says. It soothes him, calms him… He’s safe here.

He snorts a half-laugh.

‘That depends who you ask,’ he replies.

‘God is terrific,’ Hannibal says, staring deep into Will’s eyes, allowing a hint of red to warm the color around his pupils. ‘He dropped a church roof on thirty-four of his worshippers last Wednesday night in Texas, while they sang a hymn.’

Will shivers. Molten heat is pooling between his legs, an uncontrollable ache. He can barely remember to breathe, but the dizziness isn’t from lack of oxygen. He needs… this… He needs… more

He shifts forwards until he’s perched on the very edge of the seat. Forgets to be uncomfortable in Hannibal’s presence; forgets that he feels small, dirty and too ordinary for someone like Hannibal. He just needs to be closer to him.

‘And did God feel good about that?’ he whispers thickly. Hannibal’s burgundy eyes have stolen his voice; he’s falling into them, drowning in his darkness, weightless as heat sears him.

Hannibal allows a tremor to run through him. Will’s scent is strong; it flows from him, heady and powerful. Hannibal feels drunk with it. He wants to stand up, drag Will from the chair, walk him back towards the ladder or the desk and claim his mouth with his own, dip his tongue inside the other man’s mouth until he has tasted every part of it, owned every part of it, and then dip lower, tearing away the ugly clothes to reveal the porcelain perfect body beneath.

‘He felt powerful,’ he breathes.

The promise hangs between them, the same golden thread as before. Barely a whisper. Something so young and tender that it has yet to form.

Potential.

Will holds his breath, desperate to ask if he is imagining this, or if there really is something more between them. He's not felt like this in a long time... and never for another man...

'Hannibal...' His voice catches and Will bites his tongue. Shakes his head, giving up, and looks down. He jumps when Hannibal stands, drawing him up with him.

Hannibal pulls Will closer, step by step, until their bodies are pressed together. A simple hug, but for the Omega, a lifeline.

He’s shaking now. A sheen of sweat glistens on his forehead. Will can hear the soft rumbles escaping his throat, but he can’t stop them. He’s purring.

Hannibal smiles to himself. To hear an Omega purr, such a subconscious sound, sparks a fire in him. He cups the back of Will’s head, rubbing his thumb across his neck to feel the vibrations. Dips his head and presses a feather-light kiss to Will’s hairline as he wraps his arms tighter around him.

Will melts against Hannibal’s chest, his arms coming up to hug tight around Hannibal’s waist. He sighs, closing his eyes at how good this feels. Tingles chase each other around his body. The insides of his thighs are damp but, for once, he doesn’t care. The nape of his neck is iron-hot, flushed and itching to be bitten. But Hannibal doesn’t push his advantage; just rests his cheek on top of Will’s head, giving him simple comfort, and Will quivers at the restraint of the Alpha, a the respect he has for him as Hannibal strokes a finger up and down his spine. He closes his eyes, savoring the feel of hard muscles and soft fabric against his face, breathing Hannibal’s scent in deep.

I trust you.

Hannibal closes his eyes, relishing the power he has over Will. As much as the baser part of himself wants to shove the Omega down and bite him, tear the flushed nape of his neck into a swollen crest of ownership, waiting is its own form of exquisite pleasure.

Soon, he promises, allowing his intention to flow through his fingers and into Will’s trembling body. I will break you and then, when you are ready… I will save you.     

Chapter Text

After four nights without nightmares, Will feels unusually good, and he takes a greedy breath of frosty morning air as he opens the front door to let the dogs out. It’s a fresh, clear day. Birds chirrup and the sun kisses his cheeks. The dogs race down the porch steps, all skittering claws and wagging tails.

Will smiles. His body has finally recovered from the last couple of assignments. He feels calm; the bruises from so much pain and violence have faded to scars in his psyche.

He’s wrenched back to reality a second later, though, when he steps onto the front lawn, and realises that the dogs are gathered around Alana Bloom. She greets them all and then straightens, smiling an apology at the way his shoulders go up and his guard comes down at the intrusion.

‘Morning,’ she says, her blue eyes twinkling as she takes in Will’s thin t-shirt, loose boxers and ratty old slippers. Only an Omega could make such a mismatch of clothing look good.

As they walk towards each other, Alana can feel the resentment coming off Will at being seen before he can spray himself in Beta pheromones. He has no idea how nice he looks and smells first thing in the morning; all tousled hair and sweet Omega scent. Even to a Beta, he is appealing.

‘Didn’t hear you drive up,’ Will grumbles. Was he really so out of it this morning that he didn’t notice an engine outside?

‘Hybrid,’ Alana explains. ‘Great car for stalking.’ She wishes she didn’t have semi-bad news for him. He’s adorably grumpy, but that will soon sour into a real bad mood when she tells him why she’s here.

Will nods and then shifts, painfully aware that his boxers leave nothing to the imagination.

‘Um, I’m compelled to go cover myself,’ he mutters.

Alana shrugs. She wouldn’t mind him staying exactly as he is.

‘I have brothers,’ she says. Will frowns, turning to head back into the house.

‘Well, I’ll put a robe on just the same. Do you want a cup of coffee and, more immediately, er, why are you here?’

‘Yes, and Abigail Hobbs woke up,’ Alana says.

It’s like a kick in the gut, and Will stops dead, turning to look back over his shoulder at her, his eyes flashing gold in the sun.

‘Huh… Well, you sure know how to bury the lead,’ he mutters.

‘Want me to get you a cup of coffee?’ Alana asks.   

No, I wanna get my coat,’ Will replies. He doesn’t like the way Alana is holding back; like there’s more. He just wants to get to the hospital and make sure Abigail is alright, especially if Jack wants to interrogate her.

Alana fixes him with a stern but gentle look.

‘Let’s have a cup of coffee,’ she insists, striding forwards to steer him into the house. Will take a breath, ready to argue, but Alana’s jaw is set and he knows he won’t win. Sometimes, he wishes he could be more dominant. Stronger. But he isn’t, so Alana just shepherds him inside and fixes them both a strong black coffee, heaping two large sugars into Will’s and placing it in front of him on the table.

They don’t talk at first, but Alana seems to expect this. She’s giving Will time to gather his thoughts. She just sits there, fighting a shiver at the draft leaking through the ramshackle old house, warming her hands around her mug. How can Will stand such a cold place? She’d always read that Omegas liked warm places and soft, comfortable furnishings, but it was as though Will deliberately sought out the very opposite of what his body craved.

The landline rings, shattering the silence. Caller ID pops up: Jack Crawford. Will drinks his coffee and ignores it until it stops.

A moment later, his cellphone starts to buzz across the table. Will frowns at Alana.

‘Is he gonna keep calling?’ he asks. Alana lifts one shoulder in a tiny shrug.

‘Jack wants you to go see her,’ she says. Will glances into her blue eyes and then drops his gaze.

‘And you don’t,’ he replies, his heart squeezing out an extra thump. He needs to see Abigail. Please don’t stop me.

‘Eventually,’ Alana says. Will scoffs at her.

Jack thinks Abigail was an accomplice to her father’s crimes.’

Alana sits back in her chair, considering him – and her next words – carefully.  

‘I don’t want to get in the middle of you and Jack, but if I can be helpful as a buffer –’

‘Oh, I like you as a buffer,’ Will confirms, offering her a quick, dark smile. ‘I also like the fact that you rattle Jack. He respects you far too much to yell at you…’ He huffs a laugh. ‘No matter how much he wants to.’

‘And I take advantage of that,’ Alana agrees, smiling back at him. It’s always been them against the world, ever since…

She stops herself before Will senses anything from her, but it may be too late. A sadness has come across his face; he doesn’t look at her again, but lowers his eyes to the table.

‘Abigail Hobbs doesn’t have anyone,’ he says, his voice shredded with guilt. The sound of it cuts at Alana, but she swallows down any thoughts of pity and says what Will needs to hear.

‘You can’t be her everyone.’

Will doesn’t respond; he just sits there, looking sad and lonely and lost. Alana rolls her eyes at her own thought.

‘When I said what I was going to say in my head it sounded really insulting, so I’m going to find another way to say it –’ she begins, but Will uncoils like a snake, cutting her off with how precise it is. She glances into his eyes and they are dark; the gold dances around his wide pupils. For just a moment, he looks… dangerous.

‘Say it the insulting way,’ Will growls. Alana takes a breath. He’s right, and he appreciates honesty above all else.

‘Dogs keep a promise a person can’t,’ she says softly.

It’s a low blow and she can see it cuts right to Will’s heart. She’s referring to the string of failed relationships over the years; Will’s dogs see the darkness inside him but love him anyway. They accept him for who he is. What he is. Unconditionally. They don’t demand that he bond with them; give up his life, his passion… Don’t ask that he change.

Will swallows. He considers his answer and speaks deliberately. He needs Alana to understand him in this.

‘I’m not collecting another stray.’ She’s more than that to him. To Hannibal, too, he thinks. They have a bond. A connection.

Alana sighs.

‘The first person Abigail talks to about what happened can’t be anyone who was there when it happened. So that means no Dr Lecter, either.’

‘Yeah, much less the guy who killed dad,’ Will says bitterly, his eyes fixed on the table. Then, almost because he has to, he adds, ‘Jack’s wrong about Abigail.’

Alana tilts her head, considering him. He’s not ready; she can see how raw he still is, after taking a life. He may think he’s healed, but he’s far from recovered.

‘Let me reach out to her in my own way,’ she suggests. Will glances at her and Alana sees the darkness in his eyes… Watches it fade as he agrees to wait.

She won’t lose him to it.

***

Will paces back and forth in front of his desk, his voice ringing out through the silent room as he clicks through the slides accompanying his lecture.

‘Garrett Jacob Hobbs, the Minnesota Shrike, abducted and murdered eight girls over an eight-month period. Each of them had the same hair color, same eye color, same age, same height, same weight, as his daughter, Abigail.’

The victims flash through, one after another. Will can feel the pity seeping from the Beta students; the tingle of anger from the two Alphas in the room.

‘There was a ninth victim,’ he continues, coming to a stop at one side of the room. ‘Who also fit Abigail Hobbs’s profile, but Garrett Jacob Hobbs didn’t murder her.’ He clicks again and the stag’s head with its impaled body, comes up on the screen. ‘The killer who did, wanted us to know he wasn’t the Minnesota Shrike.’ He moves to stand directly in front of his desk, planting his feet squarely in defiance of Jack Crawford’s scent invading his classroom. Glances past his bulky shoulder and feels his stomach drop out when he spots Hannibal following close behind. He hasn’t seen him since…

Will swallows. Feels the ghost of Hannibal’s fingers stroke up and down his spine. He can imagine Hannibal’s low voice, lips brushing his ear as the taller man dips his head to murmur for him to continue.

When he speaks again, he’s not surprised that his voice isn’t steady; the quiver comes from being watched by two such strong Alphas, one of which is Hannibal, and because the stag’s head display makes him feel… uneasy.

‘He was better than that,’ he says. ‘He is an intelligent psychopath. He is a sadist. He will never kill like this again. So, how do we catch him?’

Hannibal leans closer to Jack and drops his voice to a murmur so as not to disturb Will’s flow.

‘Giving a lecture on Hobbs’s copycat?’

‘Well, we need every good mind we can get on this,’ Jack says, by way of apology. Hannibal schools his face to calm, hiding the anger at how brash Jack is being with the Omega in his care. Even from here, Hannibal can detect the pain souring Will’s scent. It’s covered well; it’s doubtful anyone else can even detect a second scent beneath the artificial one, but Hannibal has been cultivating his senses so that he can quickly separate and discard Will’s attempts to hide. The result is a feeling of dark satisfaction; knowing that he, and he alone, can see behind the mask that Will wears with the rest of the world.

I will know you better than anyone, Will, Hannibal thinks to himself, watching as the Omega paces back and forth, trying to fight the tension in his body with movement. Better than you know yourself.

‘This copycat is an avid reader of Freddie Lounds and TattleCrime.com,’ Will continues. His eyes skate over Jack and Hannibal, never settling on anyone or anything. Hiding behind his glasses. Another mask. ‘He had intimate knowledge of Garrett Jacob Hobbs’s murders, motives, patterns… Enough to recreate them and, arguably, elevate them to art.’

Hannibal’s eyes gleam in the darkness. My, my, Will. You do understand.

‘How intimately did he know Garrett Jacob Hobbs?’ Will asks, casting the question out like a fishing line as he changes the image behind him to the hunting photo of Abigail and her father. ‘Did he appreciate him from afar, or did he engage him? Did he ingratiate himself into Hobbs’s life? Did Hobbs know his copycat as he was known?’

Watching Will, Hannibal can’t keep the corner of his mouth from curling into a faint smile as he swallows the purr rumbling in his chest. So clever.

Will clicks onto the final image – Mrs Hobbs, her throat slashed, painted in blood.

‘Before Garrett Jacob Hobbs murdered his wife and attempted to do the same to his daughter, he received an untraceable call.’

Hannibal feels a jolt down his spine. He is rapt, his eyes prickling red as he absorbs every word Will speaks.

Will perches on the edge of his desk as exhaustion overwhelms him. He feels like he’s run a marathon. The restful few days were for nothing; he’s as tired as ever.

‘I believe, the as-yet-unidentified caller was our copycat killer,’ he says heavily, thus ending the lesson.

Hannibal allows a single purr to rumble deep in his throat.

That’s my boy.

***

The walls of the Port Haven Psychiatric Facility are painted in calming blues and creams. There are several Omega nurses around – caring being one of the few professions where they are encouraged to participate – and Will closes a trembling hand around the can of Beta spray in his pocket. Please… please don’t let them realise…

Hannibal flares his nostrils, picking up a faint sour note of concern from Will. Without breaking his stride, he reaches down and laces their fingers together, giving them a gentle squeeze. Will pauses, glancing at him in surprise, and then the corner of his mouth twists into a tiny smile before he returns the pressure.

They walk, hand in hand, until they reach the corridor where Abigail’s room is, and then Hannibal releases him. Will pushes open the door and step inside ahead of him, briefly wondering if Hannibal finds it as difficult as he does; typically, an Alpha would enter first – to scope the location for danger before exposing an Omega to it. But Hannibal clearly trusts Will to look after himself… He feels a flicker of warmth in his belly, and a smile tugs at his lips.

The momentary happiness disappears, though, and he clenches his jaw when he realises that there is a sharp perfume overlaying a rich, Alpha scent in the room already. They can hear a low voice, deceptively soothing given the snake it belongs to.

‘… A man named Will Graham. Works for the FBI, but isn’t FBI. He catches insane men because he can think like them.’ Freddie Lounds hears Will behind her and looks over her shoulder. She has a resigned look; she knows she’ll be told to leave, but when she speaks, her voice is steady. ‘Because he is insane,’ she finishes, stabbing at Will with her words.

Will holds himself tall; he can feel the emotions buzzing within the fiery-hared journalist; anger tainted with fear, frustration… an overwhelmingly cloying sense of smugness. She got here first; she got to speak to Abigail first. She’s planted that seed of doubt in her mind…

Even though he applied the gold-dulling eyedrops in the car on the way over here, Will can’t bring himself to meet Freddie’s steely-blue eyes; he fixes his hard stare on the air near her shoulder.

‘Would you excuse us, please?’ he asks coldly. Then, approaching the end of the bed, he offers Abigail a tight-jawed smile that is both a greeting and an apology. His skin hurts from Freddie’s intense dislike of him. ‘I’m Special Agent Will Graham.’

Hannibal remains in the doorway, his coat folded neatly over one arm, considering the female Alpha with detached interest. An Omega nurse hovers in the doorway, naturally trying to soothe the tension in the room with her calming presence.

Freddie sizes Will up, holding her ground by the bedside and turning fully to face him. However, when she speaks, she tosses the words back to Abigail, pitting herself in the middle of them.

‘By Special Agent, he means not really an Agent,’ she says. ‘He didn’t get past the screening process.’ And then she looks right into Will’s face, tilts her head ever so slightly as though considering him, and adds, ‘Too unstable.’

Will is trembling now. His dark shadow growls at him to attack Freddie, to slam her up against the wall and hold her by her throat, squeeze until the life dims from her eyes, leeching the fake care from her face. Hannibal, sensitive to changes in Will’s scent, tastes the sharp, rich tang he has come to associate with Will’s dark rage, and steps up to intervene.

‘I really must insist you leave the room,’ he says, gazing down into Freddie’s face, dominating the space with his presence. Freddie, accepting Hannibal’s greater dominance, subconsciously tilts her head to show a hint of creamy white neck as a show of submission, and reaches one black-gloved hand into her handbag, withdrawing a business card.

‘If you want to talk –’ she begins, one last attempt to subvert Abigail. Will strikes, fast as a cobra, and snatches the card from Freddie’s fingers before she can place it on Abigail’s bed. He shoves it the breast pocket of his jacket and swallows the dry lump in his throat, waiting until Freddie has left the room to remove his glasses. He doesn’t want to hide from Abigail; she deserves to find out what he really is. If she reports him… so be it. It’s the least he can do, after everything he’s taken from her.

‘Abigail…’ Will takes a deep, shaky breath and gestures to Hannibal. ‘This is Dr Lecter.’

At the introduction, Hannibal takes another step closer, placing himself between Will and the girl. Her scent is choked by harsh chemicals – antiseptic and cleaning spray – making it difficult for even his sensitive nose to detect. He parts his lips to catch her pheromones on the roof of his mouth and notes the lack of anger. She is frightened, certainly, but also… curious.

‘Do you remember us?’ Will asks, hesitant. Wary of rejection. So much obligation, Hannibal muses.

‘I remember you,’ Abigail says, her brow creasing into a little frown. She waits for a long moment, as though considering what to say, and then her lips tighten. ‘You killed my dad.’

Her sadness hits Will in the chest and he can feel his eyes sting as the gold pushes past the dulling liquid, burning through the blue. He blinks tears away, his jaw working furiously. He stares down, his shoulders heavy and pain sliding across his forehead. She’s right. She’s right. I’m a killer.

‘You’ve been in bed for days, Abigail,’ Hannibal says lightly, refusing to look at Will, to acknowledge the way his fingers are twitching into fists. ‘Why don’t we have a walk?’

***

Abigail dresses in dark jeans and emerald green coat, winding a scarf around her stitched throat to hide the bandage. Hannibal and Will wait outside until she’s ready; they don’t touch again, but Hannibal stands close enough that Will can feel his warmth and brush their shoulders together when he rests his weight on one foot. Will keeps his head bowed, unconsciously displaying the side of his neck to Hannibal, hands twitching in and out of fists at his sides.

When Abigail appears, shaky and hesitant in the doorway, he offers her his arm. His stomach clenches when she accepts; he’d braced himself for rejection, but this wary acceptance is almost worse. Abigail leans on him as they make their way, torturously slowly, down to the greenhouse garden at the back of the hospital. Port Haven is a converted mansion, and the greenhouse is a tribute to Victorian gothic elegance; a curving iron framework and panes of delicate glass laced with moss.

Will takes a deep breath as they enter the garden room, trying to find comfort in the rich smell of dirt and the soft perfume of late-blooming flowers. He can’t; Abigail is hurting too much, which means he is hurting too much – their necks throb, they’re drained and Abigail’s chest is a gaping black hole of grief.

‘I’m sorry we couldn’t save your mother,’ Will mutters. The silence is choking him. ‘We did everything we could, but she was already gone.’

He spots a stone bench and guides Abigail over to it. Exhaustion has leeched the colour from her face, and she wobbles as Will guides her to sit down. Hannibal comes up to stand on the other side, ever-watchful. He doesn’t offer to help; this is something Will needs to do, and besides, he is curious to see how Abigail will keep up her pretence now that she is tired. 

‘I know,’ Abigail says, folding her hands in her lap. ‘I saw him kill her.’ Her mouth twists in unhappiness. ‘He was loving right up until the second he wasn’t. Kept telling me he was sorry; to just hold still.’ She glances up, her blue eyes bright with pain, pushing it into Will’s until she can see the gold burn bright. ‘He was gonna make it all go away.’

Hannibal glances at Will; he can smell the sour note of self-hate spoiling his scent. Guilt and anger are such a delightful mix on Will – dark chocolate and blood – but when that rage turns inwards, Hannibal wants to kiss him until he sweetens again. His boy needs training; he needs to accept his darkness as the inspiration that it is.

‘There was plenty wrong with your father, Abigail, but there's nothing wrong with you.’ Will’s voice trembles; he tries to swallow but his throat isn’t working properly. Abigail’s gaze is piercing him, locking him in place. His back screams agony from the tension running down his spine. ‘You say he was loving; I believe it. That's what you brought out in him.’

He needs her to understand this; needs her to understand that he believes in her. That he’s there for her, even after taking everything away from her.

A shadow crosses Abigail’s face but she doesn’t look away.

‘It’s not all I brought out in him.’

Hannibal considers her. She’s good; manipulating Will’s empathy and turning it into sympathy. Clouding his judgement so completely that he would do anything for her. Anything to help with her pain. She furrows her brow and allows fear to sharpen her scent, flooding Will with her emotions.

‘I’m gonna be messed up,’ she says, chewing on her lower lip. ‘Aren’t I?’ She glances up at Will. ‘I’m worried about nightmares.’

Clever girl, Hannibal thinks, flicking his own dark eyes towards Will’s trembling form. Nightmares are common among Omegas exposed to violence. It will strike a chord in Will whilst simultaneously adding to his sense of guilt.

Not trusting his knees not to buckle, Will sinks onto the bench beside Abigail. He keeps a distance between them, but the Beta doesn’t flinch away; for all her grief, she trusts him not to hurt her.

Hannibal closes the gap, positioning himself closer to Will.  

‘We’ll help you with the nightmares,’ he says.

Will bows his head; he feels flayed. This is harder than he thought it would be. He’s glad Hannibal is here with him; standing over them; guarding them, keeping them both safe.

‘There's no such thing as getting used to what you experienced,’ he says, glancing sideways at Abigail. ‘It bothers me a lot. I worry about nightmares, too.’

Abigail looks at him, her breath catching as she chews at her lip.

‘So… killing somebody, even if you have to do it… It feels that bad?’

Hannibal considers Will carefully – after his confession the other day, about enjoying killing Hobbs, how will he answer?

Will ducks his head, his face twisted with pain. He screws his hands together, picking at his thumbnail to hide the shaking.

‘It’s the ugliest thing in the world,’ he whispers.

A moment passes, and then Abigail looks up at Hannibal for permission.

‘I wanna go home.’

***

Stepping out into the chilly air on the hospital steps, Will shakes himself free of the last vestiges of Abigail’s pain, scrubbing a hand through his hair to clean it of antiseptic smell. His head is throbbing and his stomach is bubbling with acid, but he ignores it in favour of popping another heat suppressant.

Determined to associate his touch and smell with comfort, and wean Will off his heat suppressants, Hannibal reaches down and gives the Omega’s hand another brief, gentle squeeze. Will returns the pressure, offering a crooked, bitter smile, and then lets go to walk beside him towards Hannibal’s Bentley.

Before they’re in sight of it, however, Will’s shoulders tense back up as a jolt of anger zaps up his vertebrae. Freddie Lounds straightens up from the bonnet of her car, her eyes snapping blue fire even as she paints on a gentle expression.

‘Special Agent Graham.’ Freddie holds out a hand to shake, but Will ignores her in favour of ducking his head to slide his glasses back on. Please, he thinks, grinding his teeth at the caustic aftertaste in the Alpha’s scent. Please let the lenses hide the gold…

‘Are you trying to salvage this joke from the mouth of madness?’ he growls. Freddie adopts an air of apology.

‘Please,’ she says. ‘Let me apologise for my behaviour in there. It was sloppy and… misguided, and hurtful.’

At the growl building in Will’s throat – barely loud enough for Hannibal to hear – he decides to step in; an attempt to distract the journalist and give his Omega a breather.

‘Miss Lounds; now is not the time,’ he warns.

Freddie considers him, and then dismisses him in favour of addressing Will again.

‘Look, you and I may have our own reasons for being here, but I also think we both genuinely care about what happens to Abigail Hobbs,’ she says.

‘You told her I was insane,’ Will snarls. Freddie accepts this.

‘I can undo that.’

Will huffs a scornful laugh.

‘You help Abigail see me as more than her father's killer, and I help you with online ad sales?’ Will’s tone is acid, and Freddie barely holds back a flinch.

‘I can undo what I said,’ she replies. Her tone sharpens. ‘I can also make it a lot worse.’

Hannibal can smell the change in Will’s scent as his shadow-self uncoils, propelling Will forwards to loom over Freddie. The air around him crackles with tension, and he bares his teeth in a snarl, squaring his shoulders as he draws himself up to his full height.

‘Miss Lounds; it’s not very smart to piss off a guy who thinks about killing people for a living.’

That’s my boy, Hannibal thinks, the corners of his mouth twitching into a small, self-satisfied smile as his own darkness croons to Will’s monster.

Freddie tilts her head, narrowing her eyes before visibly backing down. She holds a hand up in surrender and turns away, hiding her dark smirk. Will Graham is going to regret saying that.

The fire burns out of Will in an instant, leaving him swaying and shaky. He glances up at Hannibal, his lips twisting into an unhappy grimace.

‘I lost my temper,’ he mutters, scrubbing at the back of his head. His belly is aching and there’s a sharp headache building behind his eyes. He has a sudden, irrational urge to ask Hannibal for a quick shoulder rub, or a squeeze on the nape of his neck, but that’s a ridiculous thought – that’s only something an Alpha would do for their bonded Omega. Touching such a private and sensitive part of Will’s body otherwise would be… inappropriate.

‘Perfectly understandable,’ Hannibal says, pardoning the outburst. He unlocks his car and catches himself before he tries to open the door for Will. He is is far from useless, even when diminished with regret. ‘Few people respond well to threats, no matter how feeble.’

Will huffs a bitter laugh and searches his pockets for the bottle of suppressants. A headache means he’s due another dose. He can’t even remember when he was on a regular schedule with them.

‘I doubt any of Freddie Lounds’s threats are feeble,’ he says, dry-swallowing a couple of tablets. He pulls his glasses off and grinds the heels of his palms into his aching eyes. ‘Jack’s going to be furious.’

Hannibal hums a non-committal sound and starts the engine. I look forward to it, he thinks.

They drive in silence for a while, Will staring forlornly out of the window, his eyes stormy-blue from the overcast sky. Hannibal gives him his silence, using the time to continue his analysis of the Omega in his presence, and to conceive a plan to mould and condition Will’s mind to accept his darkness as the true gift that it is.

It’s all there; Hannibal can see the black fire inside him whenever Will stands up to Jack Crawford or Freddie Lounds. He has the instincts of a killer, which is why he can so easily take on their personas. What Hannibal now wants to explore is Will’s own personality. To help him make his own kill. Garrett Jacob Hobbs was a good start, but defence of a life is a shield that Will desperately clings to, as though it can dam the dark waters within him.

There are several pieces that Hannibal needs in place beforehand; he can guide and manipulate to a point, but he needs to turn Will’s Omega biology against him if he is truly going to set him free.

‘How long have you been taking the heat suppressants?’ he asks, breaking the quiet.

The sound of Hannibal’s voice makes Will jump. Dragged from thinking over his conversation with Abigail and his attack on Freddie, again and again as if he can erase the more damaging memories by sheer repetition, it takes him a second to understand the question. When he does, his heart skips a beat and his palms tingle with sweat. He squints a frown down at the hands nervously twisting in his lap.

‘Um… Why?’

‘As your doctor, it is imperative that I have full knowledge of your medical history,’ Hannibal says, the lie flowing from his tongue.

Will frowns at him, as though doubting the answer. Hannibal doesn’t look at him – he knows Will wants him to, so he can check for the truth in his eyes, and he will not give him that. Will has to earn his attention.

When Hannibal refuses to give in, and the pause drags into an uncomfortable silence, Will clears his throat and hangs his head. Hannibal’s right; as his doctor, he does need to know. What difference does it make, anyway? He curls his hand into a fist and taps it on his thigh, trying for a regular pattern but faltering every few knocks.

‘Almost five years,’ he admits quietly. He flinches when Hannibal turns his head towards him – on anyone else it would a dismayed gasp, followed by a desperate plea for him to come off the tablets and let his body experience a natural heat cycle.

Hannibal, however, merely looks, narrows his eyes in displeasure and then returns his attention to the streets of Baltimore.

‘It is not advisable to take heat suppressants continually beyond three years,’ he says. ‘Prolonged use increases your risk of neurological symptoms and organ damage.’

‘I know,’ Will snaps. He can’t help it. Guilt is making him flush and squirm. He wants to get out and walk the rest of the way back to the office. To be anywhere but trapped in this steel box with Dr Lecter’s disapproval.

Hannibal allows another silence until they reach the FBI parking lot. Then, before he cuts the engine, he reaches over and places a soothing but firm hand on Will’s knee.

‘There are other Iris Inhibitor drops available,’ he says, looking directly into Will’s gold-ringed eyes. ‘Perhaps we can find some that do not cause your vision to blur.’

Will’s forehead creases into a tiny frown.

‘How…?’

‘Your glasses,’ Hannibal says, rewarding Will’s eye contact with a small smile. ‘You wear them more frequently when using the eye drops, and I noticed that they cause your sclera to become bloodshot. An adverse reaction, I’m afraid.’

‘Just one more thing my body doesn’t like,’ Will mutters. He glances down at the Alpha’s hand, still resting, hot and heavy, on his leg. ‘Dr Lecter…?’

‘Yes, Will?’

‘I… don’t want to go into heat this year,’ Will says, lifting his chin defiantly, ready to argue Hannibal down if the Alpha tries to insist. His belly swoops and a cold lump forms in his chest when the other man merely nods and pulls away, leaving him exposed and trembling. When he’s tired, like that night in the hospital, he has moments of weakness, but now… He can’t. He can’t.

‘I understand,’ Hannibal murmurs. He watches as Will gives a shaky nod, taking his comment as acceptance, and fumbles to get out of the car.

Cutting the engine, Hannibal allows himself a brief look in the rear-view mirror, checking that there is no tell-tale red in his own eyes. Satisfied that they will not betray his emotions, he climbs out and follows Will into the building.

You may not want it, he thinks to himself, drinking in every detail of the smaller man’s hunched shoulders and stiff legs. Always defensive; ready to attack first. But you will go into heat for me. I’ll make sure of it.

***

Standing up to Freddie Lounds is not smart. It’s been less than three hours since their confrontation outside Port Haven, but her latest article is already up on TattleCrime.com and drawing an unfortunate amount of attention.

Jack’s voice tears at his skin, and Will bows his head against the Alpha’s anger. He clenches his teeth until his jaw aches and his ears ring, wondering how in the hell Hannibal can remain so poised, so calm, in the face of Jack’s rage. Dr Lecter relaxes in his chair, one long leg crossed over the other, casually propping up his chin as he considers Jack with mild interest. Is he feigning it, or does Jack’s fury really not bother him?

Jack’s tantrum is laughable. Hannibal lets the words wash over him, part of his mind wandering across the city to his recipe box for a spice-rubbed brisket – the other Alpha’s chest is broad and heavy with muscle, marbled with fat, and would go perfectly with bright pops of Piccolo tomatoes and garlic courgettes… Another part of his attention is fixed on Will, monitoring his mood, constantly tracking his true scent beneath his Beta fog. The Omega feels guilty, afraid and angry; a heady mix that reminds Hannibal of cognac and dark chocolate.

‘I'm just happy the story wasn't about Abigail Hobbs,’ Alana says, ever the buffer between Will and Jack, trying to soothe the raging Alpha.

Jack refuses to be appeased, however, and when he decides to allow Abigail to return home, using Hannibal’s proposal that it could prevent denial of the events, it is like a physical stab to Will’s gut. He can’t speak, though; Jack’s scent is too thick and his presence is too strong. It stops up his throat and pins his eyes to the floor in a show of submission. Even Alana struggles to look at him. Hannibal alone meets Jack’s gaze head on, and holds the contact until the other man blinks.

‘We have no way of knowing what's waiting for her when she goes home,’ Alana says, but her warning falls on deaf ears and she is left to mutter a curse under her breath as they leave the room.

Hannibal waits until he is alone with Will in the elevator before giving the Omega’s bicep a quick squeeze. The gesture is one of comfort and praise – Will pleased him in there – and Will responds as he hoped; closing his eyes and bowing his head, baring the nape of his neck to Hannibal for a brief, tender moment. The skin flushes red, blotchy in its hesitation, and then Will clears his throat and steps away.

‘I’ll let Abigail know about Jack’s decision,’ he says, his voice thick and unsteady. As soon as the doors ping open, he jumps out into the safety of the corridor and begins to walk towards his office, talking over his shoulder in his hurry to put distance between them. ‘See you tomorrow, Dr Lecter.’

Hannibal smiles to himself at Will’s attempts to cover his growing attraction. The Omega’s hormones will be all the stronger for his overuse of suppressants; unlike the neutralising compound used to pacify rutting Alphas, Omega suppressants merely wall off and squash the chemicals produced in heat. One of the reasons for the usual three-year-on, one-year-off pattern is that the resulting heat following the use of suppressants is longer and stronger than normal; draining for both Omega and Alpha in the pair. As far as Hannibal is aware, unbonded Omegas typically avoid suppressants in favour of experiencing uninhibited heats until they mate with an Alpha; it is unpleasant and requires isolation until it passes, but tolerable.

Will’s body must be a raging inferno of frustrated desire. Hannibal feels pressure build behind his eyes again, his irises eager to glow red. He imagines denying Will any further chemical barriers to the blaze of pure, uninhibited passion that is an Omega in heat, and his pulse quickens.

He needs to destroy those pills.

***

Abigail is quiet on the way to the house. Will can feel her raw, stinging pain when she sees the graffiti on the garage and front doors.

Cannibals.

It’s true – her father would have honoured every part of the girls. The FBI is never going to find them.

Hannibal keeps a close eye on Abigail as she leads Will through the house. When asked if she recognised the voice on the phone, the one warning her father that he had been discovered, her lie is perfect. No eye contact with him. No hesitation. Their little secret.

But she is clumsy in her second attempt at manipulation. When she suggests that they role-play the murder, that Will be her father and Hannibal be the man on the end of the phone, Alana looks concerned. Hannibal steers the conversation away, grateful for the distraction by the appearance of Abigail’s friend, Marissa.

When she and Abigail slip outside, Alana uses the time to check in with Jack. Hannibal holds out a hand to Will, offering to help him up, blinking in surprise when the other man accepts. He had expected a rebuff, but it seems that Will’s exhaustion is catching up with him.

‘How are you feeling, Will?’ Hannibal asks, pitching his voice soothingly low. Will takes a shaky breath and rolls his shoulders. He rubs a hand across the base of his skull, squeezing the nape of his neck. He is seeking comfort, but he cannot satisfy himself.

‘I think, sometimes, a part of me hates Jack,’ he admits softly. He glances at Hannibal, chewing his lip in regret. ‘I didn’t –’

‘Our little secret,’ Hannibal promises, offering him a dark smile. ‘Tell me; what dose of heat suppressants are you taking?’

Will flinches. As many as I can before I throw them up, he thinks. Out loud, he sighs and moves his hand to scrub at his stubbled cheeks.

‘Er… About 80mg, I think.’

Hannibal hums. A lie, and one he will not tolerate for long. But now is not the time.

‘And your local physician is responsible for the prescription?’ he checks. When Will ducks his head and avoids eye contact, it confirms his suspicion. Will has been floating between various doctors so as not to raise the suspicion that he is taking the suppressants continually.

‘Very well,’ Hannibal says heavily. ‘From now on, I will be responsible for issuing all of your medication.’ Will jerks his head up, his eyes flashing bright gold in anger and fear, but Hannibal holds his gaze, his face coldly blank. ‘This is not a negotiation, Will.’

They stay like that, gold-blue blazing into endless darkness, until Will’s fire burns out and he sags. The fight leaves his shoulders and he caves in on himself, making himself seem smaller. A tiny, half-formed whine catches in his throat, and Hannibal has to fight very hard not to close the distance between them and pull Will into a hug. He has to move slowly. Precisely.

Fuck, Will thinks, his throat bobbing around the pathetic little sound that just came out of him. He hates the way his body responds around the Alpha. Hates his lack of control. He ducks his head, glaring at Hannibal’s polished shoes, and forces himself to give a single nod of agreement.

Hannibal rewards him with a single purr. It’s low and deep in his chest, barely audible, but it slides like a drop of molten heat up Will’s spine to settle at his nape, flooding his body with endorphins until every inch of him tingles and he can feel himself getting slick. Distracted by the way his body is overreacting to a simple sound of praise, he barely hesitates when Hannibal requests the tablets. As their fingers brush, Will jumps with the snap of tension between them, something inside clenching and drawing up, his lower belly aching with need. Drawing back, he shivers at the goosebumps rising across his flesh.

He’s never felt so vulnerable.

‘You seem to be due more tablets, Will,’ Hannibal says, holding the bottle up and reading the label in the faint light from the window. ‘I’ll be sure to make up a new batch for you this evening.’

He considers the abhorrent medication for another few seconds, drawing out the torture for Will, and then hands the bottle back. He needs Will’s complete trust in this, after all. Will offers Hannibal a twisted smile of thanks, pocketing the tablets in an instant. He takes half a step closer, taking a deep breath in. Hannibal’s aftershave flows into him, cedarwood and cloves, caressing his nose and the glands on the top of his mouth with the aftertaste of the Alpha’s scent. Hannibal is pleased with him.

‘Thank you,’ he murmurs, and he really means it. I can trust you. Hannibal will look after him.

Hannibal holds very still, allowing Will to come to him. If he moves now, tries to cup the side of his face the way he wants to, Will is likely to panic. So, he forces his hands to be still at his sides and smiles to himself when he feels the smaller man press up against his chest. Will rests his forehead against Hannibal’s collar, the tip of his nose brushing Hannibal’s coat, almost nuzzling him.

This is a bad idea, Will knows it is, but he can’t seem to make himself stop. The silence between them is fragile, and Will is sure that his pounding heart is about to shatter it. Please… please… He’s not even sure what he’s asking for; if he wants Hannibal to hold still or move to hold him, wrap a strong arm around him or touch his forehead, stroke his back again…

And then he feels a prickle of cold, and he knows somebody else is here. He pulls back and turns to look outside. Abigail and Marissa are at the bottom of the leaf-strewn back yard, facing a strange young man. Marissa pulls her arm back and throws something – a stone perhaps.

‘Shit.’ Will takes off for the back door, Hannibal at his heels. They hurry down the slope, slowing as the intruder ducks away into the forest bordering the property. A woman comes up from behind and overtakes, her voice shrill with anger as she calls for her daughter to come home.

‘Can you stop being such a bitch?’ Marissa snaps. Hannibal narrows his eyes at her; she is a rude, insolent brat. He turns to watch as her mother escorts her away; perhaps another tableau is required…

Will gives Abigail’s arm a reassuring squeeze and checks that the stranger has gone. He misses the blood-stained rock – Marissa’s aim was true – and Hannibal uses his distraction to cover it with leaves. He doesn’t want the FBI tracking the man down. He will be back, for Abigail, and Hannibal wants to see what she will do when she has to defend her life.

A family together, born in blood. He will give Will a daughter, one way or another.

***

It’s a dream. He knows it’s a dream because the stag is there, watching him. It lifts his head, ebony feathers ruffling on its neck.

‘I’m sorry, okay?’ He gasps the words into Abigail’s hair, his nose filled with the salty sweet scent of her fear. ‘This will all stop. Please.’ He wraps his arms more tightly around her, holding her still even as she struggles against him. ‘I’m gonna make it all go away…’

He slides the knife across her throat, her flesh parting for him like butter. The stag tosses its head back, dark eyes flashing in pain, and then it staggers, stumbles and falls. It’s so beautiful

Will wakes with a start, drenched in sweat and shaking hard enough to rattle his teeth. The alarm is beeping at him, shrill and demanding. Where is he? Who is he?

Reaching out, Will slaps the clock silent. God… His body hurts. Swinging his legs out of the damp sheets, the cold morning air stings his flesh. He hunches over himself, trying to scrub the dream from his retinas. He feels dirty – polluted by the darkness of his own mind.

All he wants to do is curl up in a nest of soft blankets and pillows, soaking up the warmth of an Alpha’s chest behind him. But he can’t do that; he has to drag himself up, get showered and dressed and go out into the harsh world to Garrett Jacob Hobbs’s hunting cabin. It’s going to be painful; Abigail will be hurting, and there was so much violence there that the air will still be razor sharp with it.

Hannibal… I need you… I can’t do this on my own…

Will growls to himself at the pathetic little mewling sound bubbling up from his chest. He jerks to his feet and wrenches his t-shirt over his head. Is he hot or cold? He can’t tell. He grabs up the new heat suppressants that Dr Lecter brought round last night, and swallows his morning dose before ripping open the curtains in an attempt to banish the shadow from tickling up and down his spine. Claws stroke through his curling hair, scratching at the tingling heat on the back of his neck. He could just let go… Fall into the warm current and let it drag him down. Become someone else… forever…  

Will braces himself against the window, staring up at the cloudy sky. His palms must be hot – his touch leaves a foggy outline on the cold glass. He squints against a headache building behind his eyes, his mind drifting back to the moment yesterday, when he leant against Hannibal’s chest and felt peaceful...

He swallows the lump forming in his throat. He has to get ready.

***

Climbing the stairs to the loft to find the source of the blood dripping onto Abigail’s forehead, Will knows he should have listened to his screaming gut when they first entered the cabin. His heart falters when he sees the body, bruised and bloody, impaled on a pair of antlers and displayed with gruesome callousness. This was humiliation. The killer was angry with her.

Abigail’s scream tears at him.

‘Marissa!’

His lips tingle and the ground comes up to meet him as Abigail’s emotions swamp him. Fear, breath-taking sorrow and icy guilt. Will has to hang onto the wall for support, even after Alana has escorted Abigail outside to calm her down before driving her back to the house.

When Jack arrives, scowling to show his displeasure, Will draws closer to Hannibal and brushes his fingertips across the Alpha’s coat sleeve. It’s not much, but he’s not sure he can do without it right now. He doesn’t know if Hannibal notices; if he does, he allows it without pushing for more.

‘You brought Abigail Hobbs Back to Minnesota to find out if she was involved in her father's murders, and another girl dies,’ Jack growls. He squares his shoulders, looming over Will as he leaves Hannibal’s side to check between Marissa’s blue-stained lips.

‘Yes; he scraped his knuckle on her teeth. There's foreign tissue and what could be trace amounts of blood…’ He tries to ignore the way Jack is humming with fury, but the Alpha’s scent is strong and smoky, thick with anger, and Will can feel himself start to shrink.

‘You said that this copycat was an intelligent psychopath, Will. That there would be no traceable motive; no pattern. He wouldn't kill again this way.’ Jack’s voice is like acid. ‘You said it.’

‘I may have been wrong about that,’ Will mutters, trying not to look too closely at Jack’s rage-red eyes. Please, please just leave me alone, he thinks.

Yes,’ Jack says coldly. ‘Because Garrett Jacob Hobbs never struck his victims. Why would the copycat do it?’

‘I think he was provoked,’ Hannibal says, stepping in to draw some of Jack’s attention to himself. Will is trembling; he looks close to tears. Or anger. His emotions are a maelstrom behind his gold-ringed eyes. ‘Nicholas Boyle murdered this girl and his own sister.’ The lie is smooth; Hannibal can see it take root in Jack’s fertile mind. He is so ready to find the killer; influencing him is laughably easy.

‘With or without Abigail Hobbs?’ he asks.

‘Without,’ Will says firmly. Leave it alone, Jack. For once in your life. Drop it.

‘Well, do you think that Abigail Hobbs knew Nicholas or Cassie Boyle?’

‘No.’

Jack turns back to Will, scenting the air and honing in on his distress.

‘You don't think she knew them, or you don't want to think that she knew them?’

It’s too much. Will can feel his resolve start to crumble. To his horror, a small, submissive whine slithers out of his mouth and he’s hanging his head, baring his neck before he can stop himself.

‘She said she didn't know them,’ he whispers. It’s a pitiful response, and they both know he’s lost to Jack’s stronger character.

‘Dr Bloom says that Abigail has a penchant for manipulation.’ Jack steps even closer, towering over Will and flooding him with his scent. When he speaks, his voice is soft, but there is a sharp undercurrent that makes Will flinch. ‘Is she manipulating you, Will?’  

Enough. Hannibal barely restrains a growl at the way the other Alpha is threatening his Omega. He cannot appear too protective, not at this stage, but he will not tolerate this behaviour for a moment longer.

‘Agent Crawford,’ he warns. He straightens his back, squaring his shoulders and drawing himself up to his full height. Fills the loft with his presence, suppressing the itch of red in his eyes. He has to remain in control of his emotions if he is to prove his dominance over Jack Crawford, and as a source of stability for Will.

Jack sighs but he accepts Hannibal’s greater dominance, visibly backing down and stepping away from the Omega.

‘Look, he said he was wrong about the copycat killer. I want to know what else he's wrong about,’ he says, trying to sound reasonable. Justifying his exploitation of Will’s biology.

‘Whoever killed the girl on the field killed this girl, I'm right about that,’ Will says, working hard to keep his voice steady. All he wants to do is go to Hannibal and curl up against his chest, tuck his head under Hannibal’s chin and bury his face in the cedarwood smell of his coat. Instead, he forces himself to keep looking at Marissa’s corpse. ‘He knew exactly how to mount the body. Wound patterns are almost identical to Cassie Boyle. Same design. The same… humiliation.’

She deserved nothing better, Hannibal thinks, allowing himself a fleeting moment of fantasy in which, one day, he can share his craft with Will. Aloud, he says,

‘Abigail Hobbs is not a killer. But she could be the target of one.’

His warning has the desired effect, and Jack clears his throat.

‘I think it's time that Abigail Hobbs left home permanently,’ he says. He turns to the other Alpha. ‘Doctor, would you be good enough to collect Abigail, and all of her belongings, and escort her out of Minnesota, please?’

Hannibal slides his eyes to Will, barely parting his lips but catching the tang of the Omega’s distress. His stomach clenches with anger at the situation – he cannot refuse Jack’s request without an argument, but Will needs him to stay.

He catches himself. Will needs him? His own instincts are getting the better of him. If he is to unlock the dark potential in Will’s mind, it is necessary for Will to be vulnerable. Upset. Abandoning him on Jack’s order is the perfect opportunity to further damage his psyche. To make the cracks that will allow his darkness to consume him. Free him.

Hannibal dips his head in a brief nod and slips from the loft, barely a whisper of footfalls on the stairs. Will’s heart skips a beat and he takes a step after him, but Jack blocks his escape, red-ringed eyes boring holes into him.

‘Not you, Will,’ the Alpha growls. ‘I want you here.’

***

Sitting on the step of the ambulance, Will feels numb. Nicholas Boyle attacked Abigail. Knocked Dr Bloom unconscious and struck Dr Lecter on the back of the head. Alana doesn’t remember anything more than a blur out of the corner of her eye.

Will’s shadow-self paces behind the bars of his ribcage, rumbling, demanding blood be shed.

He hurt Hannibal.

He will hunt him down, track him through the woods and bleed the life from him for what he’s done. An eye for an eye.

‘Where’s Abigail?’ Alana asks, interrupting his dark fantasy. Will swallows, tasting the salt of an imagined throat torn open beneath fangs and claws.

‘Er, Lecter took her back to the hotel,’ he mutters. He can’t bring himself to say Hannibal’s name. Not now. Not when it’s all he can do to keep himself from taking his gun and shooting his way through anyone between him and Nicholas Boyle.

You hurt my Alpha. The whisper is hypnotic. It kisses his lips with promises of violence. I’ll kill you. I’m going to find you, hunt you and destroy you.

He’s standing before he’s even realised what he’s doing. Jack frowns at him.

‘Where are you going?’ he asks.

To kill Nicholas Boyle. To find Hannibal. To…

Will sags. He is empty. Drained. Too tired even to breathe.

‘I wanna go home,’ he croaks, begging Jack with gold-rimmed eyes. He needs this. Needs to be in his nest, surrounded by his dogs, comforted by their familiar scent and gentle licks. His whole body screams please, have mercy on me, and he’s certain there’s a soft whimper catching in his throat.

Jack’s expression softens and he nods. He can’t justify keeping the exhausted Omega any longer. Will swallows again, offering a twist of his lips as thanks.  

On his way to the car, he pops his last suppressant of the day. Slumping down behind the wheel, he rolls the little bottle around his palm, considering Hannibal’s insistence at managing his medication. You want to provide for me, he thinks. It warms his chest and tugs at the corners of his mouth. Be careful, Dr Lecter; your Alpha is showing.

The engine starts with a rasping turn and Will fiddles with the dial on the heater. He’s hot but cold – his body is confused, swinging wildly between goosebumps and sweat. Maybe he should ask Dr Lecter about it…

It’s an hour or so to the airport, and then a red-eye to Virginia before he can drive home. His fingers brush over his phone, again and again, as he considers and dismisses the idea of calling Hannibal’s cell.

Finally, after returning the rental car and realising that he’s got to wait at least forty-five minutes for his flight, he gives in.

Hannibal answers on the second ring, as composed as always but sounding pleased to hear from him. 

‘Hello, Will.’

The moment he hears him, Will finds himself falling over his own tongue. He just wants to sit down and be with Hannibal; not talk, just rest. But he can’t; they are miles apart and he needs to have a reason for calling.

‘How’s Abigail?’ he asks, his voice quivering.

‘She’s coping well; all things considered.’ Hannibal speaks calmly and precisely, and Will flounders again. He sighs, turns and scrubs at the back of his head.

‘… Good… That’s… good…’

‘You sound tired, Will.’

‘Yeah.’ Will huffs a laugh of agreement. Sinks onto a sticky plastic chair and drops his bag between his feet. ‘I might get some sleep on the plane.’

‘You’re going home.’ It’s not a question, but Will still nods and hums confirmation.

‘When will you be flying back?’ he asks.

‘Tomorrow evening,’ Hannibal says. ‘I imagine you will already be curled up in a nest of soft blankets and warm throws by the time I am boarding my flight.’

Will’s stomach flips and he imagines snuggling up next to Hannibal on the plane, falling asleep with his head on the other man’s shoulder, breathing in deep to savour his scent of musk and cloves.

‘I, er, don’t have a nest,’ he admits quietly, looking around to make sure he’s not going to be overheard. ‘Just a bed. Normal. Like everyone else.’

There’s silence for a moment, and then Hannibal speaks.

‘You fear the things that make you unique,’ he murmurs, his syrupy rich voice flowing down the line to settle, molten hot, at the nape of Will’s neck. ‘Why do you not have a nest, Will?’

Will gulps. He’s sweating now; he can feel beads prickling his forehead and his shirt is clinging to the base of his spine.

‘I don’t need one.’

‘Hm.’ Hannibal hums a neutral sound. Neither agreeing or disagreeing. Will isn’t sure how he feels about that. He taps his fist against his thigh and bounces his knee.

‘Anyway, I have to go,’ he lies. ‘They’re calling my flight. I just wanted to check on Abigail.’

‘Of course. I’ll see you soon,’ Hannibal says, accepting the excuse. Then, to add a sting to his words, he adds, ‘I hope you sleep well in your bed, Will.’

Will hangs up and stares down at the black screen. Sleep well… The words taunt him. Both he and Hannibal know that one of the reasons he has nightmares is because he doesn’t feel safe at night. A nest would help with that, but Will sees it as a failure; as giving in to his biology disorder.

God. He wipes his hands over his face, scratching at his stubble. He should go and spray himself before he boards the plane.

An hour later, Will stares past his reflection in the plane window and watches the blinking lights of the airport. There is a bonded couple across the aisle from him; the Alpha tucks his Omega mate under his arm and wraps her in a fluffy blanket, placing a comforting kiss on her forehead as she relaxes against him, ready to sleep through the journey. There’s a familiar stab in his chest and Will notices that his eyes are edged with gold. He glances down, twisting his shaking hands together  in his lap.

‘I’ve got you,’ the Alpha murmurs, his voice pitched low to be soothing. Will swallows hard, feeling his throat tighten around an unhappy little sound. He takes a deep breath and looks back at the window, hating that it is easier to imagine Hannibal beside him, a steadying hand on his knee, than it is to pretend he doesn’t need him there. He closes his eyes and rests his head back on the seat, trying, and failing, to calm his heartrate down.

What are you doing to me, Hannibal? Why can’t I stop thinking about you?

Chapter Text

Sitting in Hannibal’s office, cradled in a deep leather armchair, Will feels the last knots of tension loosen out of his shoulders. Hannibal’s warm scent hovers in the air, caressing him and soothing him. He’s been looking forward to his session ever since Dr Lecter confirmed a regular slot in his diary. He spent several hours wondering what he was going to talk about – he’d gone for a walk in the dark fields to clear his head in the vain hope of getting a good night’s sleep, but now, as he looks into Hannibal’s calmly expectant face, he feels the blockage shrivel in his throat and the words begin to flow, stuttering at first and then smoothly.

‘Sometimes… at night… I leave the lights on in my little house, and…walk across the flat fields… When I look back from a distance, the house is like a boat on the sea. It’s really the only time I feel safe.’

Hannibal considers this. To feel safe when alone… adrift in a sea of darkness… Clinging to the façade of his life with the same desperation that a drowning man might cling to a lifejacket. Will wants to know his shadow self, he just doesn’t know how to ask for it.

He sits forwards, clasping his hands before him, giving Will his full attention.

‘You stood in the breathing silence of Garett Jacob Hobbs’ home, the very spaces he moved through,’ he says. ‘Tell me, Will… did they speak to you?’

‘With noise and… clarity,’ Will says, his voice trembling.

‘You could sense his madness,’ Hannibal suggests. He’s read about Omega empathy – the ability to feel vibrations in a place. He’s not sure how scientific those studies have been, but after watching Will in the Hobbs’s residence, watching his monster stir, he can believe it. ‘Like a bloodhound.’

Will swallows. Grips the armrests hard enough to make the leather creak. Invisible claws rake his hair and his darkness rumbles inside his chest.

‘I tried so hard to get to know Garrett Jacob Hobbs,’ he whispers. He can see the kitchen again. The way the afternoon sunlight streamed through the windows, lighting Abigail’s auburn hair to fire. She was so scared. He was going to make it all stop… The current pulls at him, dragging him down…

But he’s still talking; still with Hannibal. The Alpha grounds him; anchors him. Stops him from sliding away in the river of memories. My paddle.

‘Past the slides and phials; beyond the lines of the police report, between the pixels of all those printed faces of sad dead girls…’

His voice is monotonous, a flat stream of thought. He doesn’t have to pretend around Hannibal. Doesn’t have to be anything, or anyone but exactly who he is.

Garett Jacob Hobbs smiles at him, bubbling blood from between bitten lips.  

See?

The whisper is in him. It’s his shadow. His soul. An ebony stag…

Hannibal can see Will start to tremble. Sees the ring of molten gold thickening around his eyes, drowning out the stormy blue.

‘How did you feel seeing Marissa Schurr, impaled in his antler room?’ he asks softly.

Will quivers. His mind is opening up, reaching for Hannibal’s. He’s not just himself anymore. He can’t be. He can’t contain this all inside one body. He drops his gaze to the floor.

‘Guilty,’ he admits.

‘Because you couldn’t save her?’ Hannibal asks.

Do you know me, Will? You sense a connection… How far are you willing to let it go?

‘Because… I felt like I killed her…’ Will whispers. He glances up into Hannibal’s face, heat burning the back of his neck at the hungry glint in Hannibal’s dark eyes. Are they tinged with red? In the dim light of the office, it’s impossible to tell. How does his confession make Hannibal feel? He can’t read anything in that impassive face, in the perfectly still body. Hannibal is the picture of self-control. He gives him nothing; makes him beg for scraps of emotion.

I would, he thinks. You could make me beg. You could hurt me.

The darkness inside him rises like a wave, propelling him forwards, to lean towards the Alpha, baring his teeth even as he curls his hands into fists, his nails cutting into his palms.

‘I got so close to him,’ he snarls. ‘Sometimes… I felt like we were doing the same things at different times of day… like I was eating…or showering or sleeping at the same time he was.’

Hannibal keeps his lips from tightening. Will is seeking a response from him, trying to goad him into reacting. The Omega is so desperate for a mate, someone worthy of his dark power and inspiration, that he formed an emotional bond with Garett Jacob Hobbs, simply because Hobbs was an Alpha. But it is merely a shadow, a hollow imitation of the true connection he will give to Will.

How strong is Will’s urge to bond, he wonders. To check, he asks,

‘Even after he was dead?’

If Will confirms, he will show such promise that Hannibal isn’t certain he will be able to contain the purr itching to rise in his throat.

‘Even after he was dead,’ Will says heavily, sinking back in the chair. He’s exhausted, and what had started the day as a dull headache behind his eyes is escalating into throbbing agony.

Hannibal keeps his sound down, but barely. When he speaks, his voice is gravelly.

‘Like you were becoming him?’ he asks, tilting his head to examine the muscle jumping in Will’s jaw. He can see the strain around Will’s gold-tinged eyes. His new heat moderators are much weaker than before, and the substituted Iris Inhibitor drops are actually a unique blend of libido enhancers and saline. Forcing Will to detox from such a lethal dose of suppressants will not be pleasant for him, but he needs this; Hannibal will not have a potential partner poison himself. Will’s emotions will be boiling near the surface; he will experience migraines, headaches and hallucinations, and then he will go into heat, an uncontrolled and raging inferno. But he will survive. He will show the world who, and what, he truly is. And Hannibal will be there, guiding him.

‘I know who I am,’ Will growls. He glares into Hannibal’s face. He wants to get up, go to him… Hurt him? Kiss him? He settles for baring his teeth again. ‘I’m not Garett Jacob Hobbs, Dr Lecter.’

‘No, you’re not,’ Hannibal says warmly. He stands up and offers a hand to Will. A reward. The Omega needs physical contact to calm him. Hannibal will offer himself, his touch, his scent, his words, in order to create that place of safety. To foster Will’s trust in him. Training him. Conditioning him.

Will’s breath catches. He stares at Hannibal’s hand, at the strong palm and long fingers. He wants to take it, hold it to his hot lips and press damp kisses to it. Leave a glistening trail of affection up Hannibal’s arm, to his jaw, his throat…

Snatching hold of the Alpha’s warm hand, his stomach flips as Hannibal pulls him to his feet in a show of strength. Hannibal could throw him across the room if he wanted to. Alphas are strong by nature, especially when compared to Omegas. Hannibal feels exceptionally strong, and that makes Will feel very small and vulnerable around him. It doesn’t rattle him as much as it used to. When did that change?

Hannibal, however, merely guides him in closer, and wraps both arms around his shoulders. He tucks Will’s head under his chin, breathing in deep to savour Will’s sweet scent. He hasn’t refreshed his Beta pheromone spray since leaving work, and there is only a faint trace now of the chemicals on his hair and clothes. He smells wild; of the woods and rivers, of blood and sweat and the hunt.

At the feel of his cheek against Hannibal’s hard chest, soaking up the musk, cedarwood and cloves of the Alpha, Will’s throat loosens around a moan. He nuzzles into Hannibal’s jacket, lifting his arms and hugging the other man’s slim waist.

‘I wouldn’t have pegged you as someone fond of cuddling, Dr Lecter,’ he says softly. He savours Hannibal’s warmth for a minute and then steps back. Looks up into Hannibal’s face, at the tiny, dark smile and gleaming eyes. Hannibal loops his arms around Will’s neck, caging him in. He refuses to allow him to leave now that he has him so near.

‘There’s a lot you don’t know about me,’ he says, and he doesn’t miss the spark of interest in Will’s gold-blue eyes.

‘I’d like to,’ Will says, stepping closer again. He can feel the warm puff of Hannibal’s breath on his face; smell remnants of coffee and wine. All things uniquely Hannibal. ‘I’d like to know you, Dr Lecter.’

Hannibal stares down at Will’s face. At the flushed lips, the tendon rippling in his throat when he swallows and the sheen of sweat on his forehead.

Their chests are touching now. Feet alternating. They are stealing oxygen from each other. Will stares into Hannibal’s eyes, trying to work out the exact shade of brown around Hannibal’s wide pupils, hemmed in by dark red. They’re beautiful.

‘Then you shall,’ Hannibal murmurs, loosening one hand to cup the side of Will’s face, rubbing his thumb across the stubble on Will’s cheek. ‘But first, tell me, Will; why do you consider your Omega biology to be a disorder?’

Will flinches and tenses up in Hannibal’s grip. For a moment, Hannibal is certain he will pull away, perhaps even turn his back on him; cross the room and put distance between them. Then Will sighs, as though too tired to fight any longer, and bows his head to rest his forehead on Hannibal’s chest. The nape of his neck will be exposed, and Hannibal’s heart skips a beat at the idea of it. He still has a hand on Will’s back – he slides it up to rest between his shoulder-blades, then higher, until he’s almost touching the smooth, creamy skin… Even through Will’s jacket and shirt, he can feel a ridge of scar tissue, and he wants to remove Will’s clothing to see it. How did he get it? When?

‘Omegas are soft,’ Will mutters. ‘Weak.’

‘A bold assumption,’ Hannibal says. ‘One that many would argue is false.’

Will huffs a bitter laugh and bunches his hands into fists in the back of Hannibal’s suit. He clenches his teeth, holding on tight as though afraid of falling if he lets go. The silence drags on, broken only by the steady tick of the clock on Hannibal’s desk, and the faint rasp of their breath, the thud of their heartbeats. Will swallows and tries again.

‘Everything that’s written about Omegas, everything I see…’ He shakes his head, his throat tightening.

‘It doesn’t match who you feel you are inside,’ Hannibal finishes. At Will’s nod, he swallows. As much as he wants to slide his hand higher, to touch Will in his most vulnerable place, he knows it’s too soon. For now. Insteadm he slides his hand back down and settles it in the small of Will’s back. They stay like that for a while, neither of them speaking, the silence broken only by the tick of the clock on Hannibal’s desk and the thud of their hearts.

I don’t want to go, Will thinks, staring across the office, at the flash of headlights from traffic outside. I don’t want to be alone.

‘Our time is up,’ Hannibal murmurs, releasing Will and taking a step backwards. The distance between them is like ice in his veins, and Will shivers. Goes to wrap his arms around himself and then thinks better of it and shoves his hands into his pockets. He can’t bring himself to look at Hannibal; he’s never been this physically close to someone who wasn’t a lover before. How normal is this?

‘Same time next week?’ Hannibal checks, dipping his head to catch Will’s eye. The Omega is rattled; he was comfortable; relaxed in Hannibal’s presence, and now he feels vulnerable. That’s it, Will. Need me.

Will forces himself to nod. He wants to stay, but he knows he can’t. Hannibal needs to get home; he doesn’t need some overly emotional Omega getting clingy. Weak.

‘I’ll see you soon, Will,’ Hannibal says. It’s delicious; watching the turmoil create a storm of emotion in Will’s eyes. He’s looking forward to the day when he creates a different kind of storm within him.

Will nods again. He can’t seem to find his voice; as though stepping away from Hannibal has lodged a block of ice in his throat and he can’t melt it by himself, no matter how hot his body feels. Hot and tingling… He can feel the slick dampening his inner thighs, sticking his boxers to his skin, and it makes him cringe. He needs to shower.

He ducks out of the office and makes it all the way down to his car before releasing a slow, shaking breath. Grips tight to the steering wheel, and stares at the gold in his eyes, at the shadow dancing in the blue.

It wasn’t just at the hospital, he thinks, clenching a fist so tight his nails cut into his palm. I can’t stop it. I’m falling for you.

***

Another case. Two families, executed at dinner, the mothers saved for last. Jack Crawford has “borrowed” Will’s imagination again, whisking him away to get into the mind of the killer. Will has asked Hannibal to look after his dogs. He trusts him to care for his own family. Handed his keys over without hesitation.

Hannibal pulls up outside the little house and cuts the engine of his car. The sun is shining down on the flat, barren fields, casting a golden glow to the autumn leaves desperately clinging to trees in the distance. He takes with him a brown paper bag; sausages from his own larder. When he unlocks the door, he makes the dogs sit and wait before feeding them. They welcome him, greet him with happy whines and wagging tails. They accept him; he is wearing the same shirt that has Will’s scent on it, and he made sure not to wash it.

Now that the dogs have been placated, it is time to explore.

Will’s home is small but filled with belongings. Books crammed onto shelves and left to gather dust on side tables. An old piano, out of tune and forgotten in the corner. A bare-stone fireplace dominates the living area; how often does Will curl up on the rug with his dogs before crackling flames, trying to keep warm as the snow falls outside?

It is a sad and lonely house. Hannibal pulls open Will’s drawers, frowning at the rows of neatly folded t-shirts, socks and boxers. Pristine. Military.

Trying to create order out of chaos. Do you sense yourself spinning out of control, Will?

A large desk soaks up the light beneath the front window. Will’s fishing gear is stacked, somewhat haphazardly, against the wall to its left, leaving a clear space in the centre of the table for him to focus on creating his fly fishing lures. Hannibal leans down to inspect his latest creation; half-finished and clearly interrupted. Most likely by Jack.

Does this bring you comfort, Will? A sense of peace, as you create something with which to bait and kill something?

Hannibal sits. He can see how Will creates it. It is delicate and beautiful. He wants to help him with it. He also wants to add a piece of evidence; insurance, in case Will gets out of hand. Hannibal adds a piece of sausage meat to the tip, tossing the rest to one of the dogs hovering, expectantly, by his side, and then completes the lure.

How sharp is the hook? Does Will snag his fish quickly, or let them suffer? Hannibal tests it, watching, detached, at the bead of blood welling on his thumb.

I want to smear you with blood, Will. I want to watch you kill.

***

‘Tell me about your mother,’ Hannibal says, staring deep into Will’s eyes and watching the gold flare bright with fear and anger.

‘Some lazy psychiatry, Dr Lecter,’ Will says, spitting acid with every word. He can’t help it; ever since seeing dead Mrs Turner in the morgue, he’s been thrumming with tension. Snapping at everyone. ‘Low hanging fruit?’

‘I suspect that fruit is on a high branch,’ Hannibal replies, unruffled in the face of Will’s aggression. The Omega is upset; brow furrowed in pain, jaw working to grind away the headache showing in the shadows under his eyes. How many hours of sleep did Will get last night? Three, four at most. How terrible the nightmares must be. ‘Very difficult to reach.’

‘So is my mother,’ Will says, his mouth turning down in an unhappy grimace. He shakes his head. ‘Never knew her.’

‘An interesting place to start,’ Hannibal says, and it is. An Omega without a mother? Did she die, perhaps, or abandon him when she discovered what she had bred into the world? Either would hurt Will terribly, but Hannibal is more drawn to the idea that Will was rejected.

Will takes a deep breath, blows it out and rolls his neck, trying to relieve the knots that just won’t loosen this time, no matter how comfortable the chair is or how good Dr Lecter smells. He can’t shake the clinging feeling that he’s under a microscope. He can’t do it. He can’t be this vulnerable around Hannibal. Around anyone.

‘Tell me about your mother,’ he snaps. ‘Let’s start there.’

So defensive, Will. Jack has wound you tight enough to snap. Hannibal can feel his instincts warring with his dark desire to watch Will shatter the illusion of humanity. He cannot go to him, soothe him or comfort him. To do so would be like helping a moth escape its cocoon. Will must go through this pain alone, to emerge all the stronger for it.

‘Both my parents died when I was very young,’ he says simply. ‘The proverbial orphan until I was adopted by my Uncle Robertos when I was sixteen.’

Will glances off to the side, fighting with the pain raking at his chest. Hannibal might hide the grief from his face, from his still body in the check suit and white tie, but it’s there, and Will can feel it. There’s so much more to you, Dr Lecter.

‘You have orphan in common with Abigail Hobbs,’ he mutters.

‘I think you’ll discover that you and I have a great deal in common with Abigail,’ Hannibal says. ‘She’s already demonstrated an aptitude for the psychological.’ She manipulated you, Will, and you allowed it.

Will considers this for a moment. He’s tired. As much as he enjoys the banter with Hannibal, his headache is proving too distracting to keep it up. He releases a long, slow breath and tries to rub the dirt feeling from his hands onto his thighs.

‘There’s something so foreign about family,’ he says, the word tasting bitter in his mouth. He looks off across the room; he can’t stand to see Hannibal right now. To tell an Alpha that he, an Omega, doesn’t want a family is as good as saying that he’s broken. Too damaged to be repaired. ‘Like an ill-fitting suit. I… never connected to the concept.’

Hannibal takes a moment to analyse his emotional reaction to this. Will is being honest with him; painfully so, exposed and vulnerable to him. Even the way he is sitting; legs spread, hands to either side, showing Hannibal his slim chest and stomach… Hannibal is more guarded. One leg crossed over the other, hands clasped in his lap. He stares down at Will, at the reason for a drafty house in the middle of nowhere, filled with stray dogs and books but no photographs. No signs of connection.

‘You created a family for yourself,’ he says softly. Will scoffs.

‘I, er, connected to a family of strays,’ he says, and then he gives Hannibal a tiny flash of a smile. ‘And thank you for feeding them while I was away.’

Hannibal nods in acceptance of the gratitude, but he doesn’t smile.

‘I was referring to Abigail,’ he says. It hits Will; has he not realised he is forming a bond with her, as well?

The Omega is beginning to worry; Will’s scent is sharpening with distress and Hannibal decides to give him a moment’s respite.

‘Tell me about the Turner family; were they affluent? Well-to-do?’

Will’s lips tighten.

‘They lived like they had money,’ he says, somewhat bitter. Hannibal notes it; notes its weakness. You are showing me your cracks, Will. That’s good. Let me in.

‘Did your family have money, Will?’

‘We were poor,’ Will snaps back, almost instantly. He’s angry about it. ‘I followed my father from the boatyards of Biloxi and Greenville, to lake boats on Erie.’ He gives Hannibal a tiny, sad smile, but it is still beautiful.

Hannibal can see it now; a breathtakingly pretty Omega boy, trailing after his father – a Beta, no doubt – catching unwanted attention wherever he went. How many offers of mating did his father receive? How much money was Will worth to some Alphas? And how many times was his father tempted by it?

‘Always the new boy at school,’ Hannibal says, catching his eye. ‘Always the stranger.’

Another sad smile.

‘Always,’ Will nods. Always moving on before I got us into trouble with my heats, before we could afford suppressants.

‘What grudge was Mrs. Turner’s killer harboring against her?’ Hannibal asks. Will has had enough for one day. He needs to rest now.

‘Motherhood,’ Will says, gripping tight to the chair. He’s so tired. So raw. His head is being crushed in a vice and all he wants to do is lie down on a soft bed and try to sleep.

‘Not motherhood,’ Hannibal says. ‘A perversion of it.’ He lets his words sink in for a moment, lets Will absorb them and feed them to his shadow monster. This is how you will catch the killer. ‘You look tired, Will,’ he says, moving the conversation forward. ‘Have you ever allowed yourself to be Gentled?’

Will’s head snaps up and he frowns at Hannibal.

‘What?’ he whispers. ‘Why would you even ask that?’

Hannibal quirks an eyebrow.

‘Because you seem tense,’ he says. ‘And it might help you to sleep.’

Will shakes his head, short and sharp. His heart is pounding. A hug, even a cuddle is one thing, but Gentling… It’s normally reserved for a mated pair, and involves the manipulation of sensitive pressure points on an Omega’s neck, around and over where their crest would be. It requires complete trust, because an Alpha is in total control of an Omega’s body when they hold the back of their necks.

‘There are a number of techniques that you can practice on yourself,’ Hannibal persists. He had expected Will’s refusal, and accounted for it. ‘I can show you; if you’d like.’

Will hesitates. Bites his lip. He looks down at his right hand. It’s trembling, tensing and spasming against his thigh. It’s been doing that since the Turner house.

‘I, er, I don’t think that would be a good idea,’ he says quietly.

‘Why?’ Hannibal asks, cocking his head to the side. Will barks a laugh.

‘Um…’ He looks down. Grinds his back teeth. Because I’d try to kiss you, he thinks. ‘Because I wouldn’t be in control, anymore. ‘… I wouldn’t be comfortable with it.’

Hannibal keeps from narrowing his eyes, but he sits forwards, catching Will’s attention again.

‘Very well. But allow me to explain a particular move. I’d like you to try it before you go to sleep.’

Will is visibly shaking now. He shrinks back into the chair, trying to make himself small. Insignificant. As if such a thing would ever be possible.

‘Why?’ he whispers. Hannibal tilts his head and offers him a small smile.

‘I want to help you, Will.’

There is a long pause. Will is trying to think of a reason not to, but the idea of obeying Hannibal, of touching his neck before he sleeps, because Hannibal told him to, is making his insides twitch and clench. He hesitates for a second later and then nods.

Hannibal gestures for him to sit forwards as well, and twists in the chair, demonstrating the squeezing, massaging motion on the back of his own neck for Will to see.

‘Rub circles with your thumb,’ he says. ‘And here, with your fingers.’ He turns back to find Will rapt, his eyes dull gold in the low light of the office, lips parted and glistening where he’s licked them. He smiles at him, and reaches across, taking Will’s hot hand in both of his own and lifting it to Will’s neck. He makes him hold his own throat, squeezing so that Will wraps his fingers under his jaw. ‘Grip tight for support,’ Hannibal says quietly, his voice rough with the need to purr at how attractive Will looks, holding himself in a choke. ‘Squeeze to counter the pressure at your nape.’

Will can’t move. He’s holding tight, fingertips digging into his throbbing artery. The back of his neck is iron hot, tingling and prickling uncomfortably. He’s hard; his trousers do nothing to hide it, and Hannibal’s eyes flick down. The Alpha flicks the tip of his tongue out, tasting the air, and Will blushes when he feels slick dampen the backs of his thighs. He’ll have left some on the chair, he’s sure. Hannibal will be able to smell it; taste it in the air between them.

‘Could you…’ Will’s voice falters and fails him, but he can’t make himself look away from Hannibal’s face. He’s drowning in his eyes, trying to find the edges of the red and sinking into a rising pool of heat. He swallows, feeling it against his hand. He can’t let go; he can’t do anything.

‘Would you like me to show you now, Will?’ Hannibal purrs, and Will’s eyes flutter closed as a whine makes it past his grip.

‘Y-yes,’ Will whispers. He blinks, looking up as Hannibal rises from the chair. The Alpha moves quickly, taking up position behind his chair and pulling Will to sit back. With deft, confident hands, Hannibal pushes Will’s arms down to the armrests, sliding his left hand down and around the front of Will’s throat.

Will gasps, his pulse jumping against Hannibal’s thumb. Sweat beads on his forehead and he shifts in the chair, trying to lift up whilst grind his hips back at the same time.

‘Relax,’ Hannibal murmurs, placing his right hand on Will’s shoulder. ‘Are you ready?’

Will licks his lips again. Swallows. Tries to take a breath, tries to nod, but he’s not sure he’s moved. His focus is entirely on the feel of Hannibal’s strong palm against his windpipe, on Hannibal’s fingers at his racing pulse. And then Hannibal slides his right hand from his shoulder to the nape of his neck, to the flushed and sweaty skin there, and heat floods Will’s body. He gasps, his arms shaking as he grips tight to the leather seat, white pleasure crashing through him. He’s never felt anything like it before; he can’t… He can’t think, can’t breathe…

Hannibal smirks to himself at the waves of pheromones pouring out of Will. He is locked in the chair, his shoulders grinding as the muscles relax, his hips bearing down against the seat as if it can satisfy the need for a knot inside him. Digging his thumb between Will’s vertebrae, Hannibal massages the nerves gathered there, manipulating the pressure points to trigger dopamine releases and heat hormones into Will’s body.

Hannibal,’ Will whispers, his voice vibrating against Hannibal’s hand. He can see why he needs holding in place; if Hannibal wasn’t holding him up, he’s sure he would have melted by now. His bones are molten. His skin crackles and yet, at the same time, he’s so calm he thinks he could slip into sleep without hesitation.

Hannibal continues to work Will’s nape, measuring the success by the sweet musk rising from the Gentled Omega, grateful that his own hardness is hidden by the back of the chair. His eyes pulse red and he can feel a purr rumbling deep in his chest, too low for him to prevent. Will is so soft and pliant, so tender in his hands. He could squeeze the life from him and there is nothing the Omega could do to stop him.

The thought makes him twitch and he shifts, trying to ease the ache in his groin. Presses again and then slides his hands away, down Will’s shoulders to rest, deceptively lightly, on the back of the chair. As if he is unaffected by the rising scent of Will’s slick, his flushed and sweaty cheeks and heaving chest.

Will feels dizzy. His lips are tingling. The backs of his trousers cling to his thighs and his zipper is digging uncomfortably into his erection. He takes several deep breaths in an attempt to calm his thundering heart, but Hannibal is so close and he smells so good. He can feel the heat rising from the Alpha’s body and turns his face towards it. Moves faster than Hannibal can predict and presses a burning kiss to the back of his hand.

‘Thank you,’ he whispers.

Hannibal jolts. His stomach twists and his darkness swarms behind his eyes. Will is supposed to be passive, immobile; he researched the moves to ensure appropriate manipulation. But Will is thanking him… Kissing him…

He clears his throat and steps away. He needs space. Needs to cool down. He needs to regain his composure. His control.

What are you doing to me, Will?

Cold air brushes the back of his burning neck and Will shivers as Hannibal leaves him. He feels adrift; he is alone in an ocean of darkness, without even his little house with the lights on to guide him home. A soft, broken whimper catches in his throat and, to his horror, he can feel tears welling in his eyes. What’s wrong with me?

As an Omega, Will is able to make a variety of noises biologically designed to trigger an Alpha’s nurturing instincts; an evolutionary response to their vulnerability. When Will whimpers, something tears in Hannibal’s chest and he turns. He’s spoken before he even meant to. 

‘Come here, Will.’

Will’s heart trips over itself and he shoves himself up from the chair. His legs are like lead; he stumbles into Hannibal’s arms and holds tight to his jacket, lifting his head, his eyes bright gold, burning away all the blue.

Hannibal’s mind is screaming at him; he knows this is a mistake, a fatal one, but he can’t stop himself. His lip curls back from his teeth and he crushes Will in his arms, yanking him even closer, slamming their mouths together in a bruising kiss.

You are mine, Will.

Will gasps into Hannibal’s mouth, tasting blood as their teeth catch. He grabs for him, snaking a hand up and winding his fingers in Hannibal’s silky hair, dragging his mouth down so that he can deepen the kiss. He sucks Hannibal’s tongue into his mouth, tasting copper and salt and Hannibal; like meat and wine and home.

Hannibal groans into the kiss, fucking Will’s mouth as the Omega sucks him down, trying to taste every inch of his tongue. He wraps his fingers in Will’s curls, walking him backwards and pinning him up against the ladder to the gallery, covering the front of his body with his own. Their legs tangle together and Hannibal rocks his hardness against Will’s length, sparking pleasure at each whimper and moan he licks out of the other man.

God… Will’s brain is melting. He’s so hot, so tender; Hannibal is burning every inch of him with his hands and hips and tongue. He wants to drown in him; to surrender utterly and completely, be washed away in the force of Hannibal’s passion. There’s so much strength in the Alpha’s lean body, in the way his muscles bunch beneath the silk and wool of his suit. You’re dangerous, Dr Lecter. He is something… primal.

He can’t stop. He should, but he can’t make it stop. Will can hear the desperate little sounds he’s making; the whimpers and whines and plaintive little mewls that are driving Hannibal to devour his mouth, but it’s too good and he’s been alone for so long. He lets go of Hannibal’s hair for just long enough to fumble at his own shirt buttons, his fingers thick and clumsy, and then Hannibal realises what he’s doing, and he’s there, he’s helping, and the thick cotton is peeling away from Will’s quivering chest and dropping to the floor in a tangled heap of unwanted blue.

‘Will,’ Hannibal gasps, trying to break the kiss and stare into Will’s face, to salvage what little control he has left of the situation. Will bares his teeth at him and grabs Hannibal by the back of the head, dragging him in for another searing kiss even as he tears at Hannibal’s clothes. Hannibal hears fabric rip and he wraps his hands around Will’s slim wrists, pinning his arms up above his head. Squeezes hard enough to feel the small bones grind. Hard enough to hurt.

Will’s stomach tightens. He smells concrete dust and whiskey. He’s been pinned before…

Oh, darlin’…. Coby’s voice licks his ear and he shudders. Fear blows the fog from his brain and he flinches back from the Alpha.

‘Stop! Hannibal, stop!’ he gasps, lowering his hands as soon as Hannibal releases him, putting them between their chests and pushing Hannibal away. ‘I… I can’t… We shouldn’t…’

Hannibal takes a deep breath, tasting the air for the abrupt change in Will’s scent. Something has him spooked. Why?

He reaches out, despite Will shaking his head and trying to pull away, his blue-tainted gold eyes snapping from side to side, wide with panic, and cups the side of his face again.

‘Sssh,’ he murmurs. ‘It’s alright, Will. You’re safe here, with me.’

Will is shaking now, but not from passion. As much as he wants the pleasure again, wants to seek oblivion in the Alpha’s hand on his neck, he can’t let himself go like that. He can’t.

‘Here,’ Hannibal says, bending to collect Will’s shirt from the floor. He holds it out and allows Will to pull it on, even helping him with his buttons when Will seems to be struggling too much.

‘I’m sorry,’ Will mutters, looking down and away. What does Hannibal think of him? Leading him on, jumping at him and then turning him away… He’s lucky the Alpha didn’t just Gentle him again and carry on. From the smell of him, Hannibal is still achingly hard, and Will just denied him the chance to knot with him. How is he just standing there?

‘Never be sorry, Will,’ Hannibal says. He wants to know what has Will so scared, but now is not the time. Will must tell him in his own way.

He clears his throat and turns away. Reaches for his erection and, gritting his teeth at the pain of it, gives himself a tight squeeze to calm himself down. He will hunt tomorrow, and vent his frustration on a worthy victim. For tonight, Will needs him in control. Safe.

‘I should go,’ Will mumbles, shuffling his feet. Hannibal turns back to him, but he doesn’t look angry; his cheeks are still flushed and his lips swollen from the force of their kisses, but he is calm.

‘Stay,’ he says. ‘Have a drink with me.’ He quirks an eyebrow at the unhappy twist to Will’s mouth, and moves to the side table where he keeps a selection of spirits. Pours them each a generous whiskey and holds it out before Will can argue any further.

Will hesitates but it would be rude to turn it down, and he doesn’t really want to leave straight away… He sighs, scrubs the back of his head and then takes the tumbler. The rich smell wafting from the amber liquid makes his mouth water, and he takes a grateful sip, savouring the burn down his throat.

‘Thank you,’ he says hoarsely.

Hannibal nods, and inclines his own glass in a silent toast to their mutual enjoyment. Takes a drink, holding the spirit in his mouth for a moment as he considers the other man.

‘I hope, one day, you feel comfortable enough to tell me what happened tonight,’ he says.

Will hums, and takes another drink rather than answer. He’s grateful when Hannibal gives him his space, and allows the silence to breathe between them. They stay standing, each taking their time with their drink. Will leans back against the armchair, crossing his arms over his chest, not sure where to put his eyes.

What the hell happened to him? He wanted Hannibal… So why couldn’t he go through with it? Why did he get so scared? He chews his lip, frowning at the floor. Knocks back the rest of the whiskey and sets the glass down on the round table beside him and then clears his throat.

‘I… er… I really need to go.’

‘Very well,’ Hannibal says. ‘But I do want you to try the Gentling exercises before bed.’ He reaches for Will, pauses and then lowers his hand. A calculated act of hesitation, and one that Will responds to by reaching for him and linking their fingers together.

You are still mine, Hannibal thinks, giving Will’s hand a squeeze. They let go, and Hannibal shows him to the door.

‘Have a good evening, Will.’

Will scrubs the back of his hair again – he wants to give his neck a squeeze to calm down but he can’t – and pauses on the other side of the doorway. Looks back into Hannibal’s burgundy eyes and hungry face.

‘Thank you, Dr Lecter,’ he whispers. ‘I’ll see you soon.’

***

‘Come on!’ Will calls, holding the porch door open as the dogs run outside for their last sniff and toileting before bed. The house is warm and bright, every lamp glowing golden against the blackness of the surrounding wilderness.

Stepping out into the cool night air, Will takes his time descending the steps. It’s been three days since his session with Dr Lecter. Three days since they kissed. Will looks beyond the security lights in the tree out front, past the line of safety created by the glow of bulbs. To the line of trees, the empty space, the nothing.

You kissed me back, he thinks, and his heart skips a beat again at the idea. Every time he revisits that night, his stomach flutters and a smile plays with his lips, even as his forehead creases with worry.

He’d made some calls. Checked in with old colleagues and confirmed that Samuel Coby is still incarcerated. You can’t get me here.

He shouldn’t have let it get so far with Hannibal. It’s likely damaged their relationship, maybe even irreparably. He should have known better. Every time… since that night…

Will lets out a long, slow sigh. Deceptively calm. Clenches his hands in his pockets. He doesn’t want to see how much they’re shaking.

Is he ever going to get past it?

Rolling his neck, hearing the tendons grind, he thinks back to Dr Lecter’s request to practice Gentling massages on himself. He hasn’t been able to touch himself since Hannibal’s strong hands were around his throat; he doesn’t want anyone else’s hands around his throat…

His scar prickles and he reaches back over his shoulder where it starts.  I was so worried that Coby had bitten me… Bonded me…

Sinking down on the bottom step, he hugs his knees to his chest and rests his chin on them.

He’ll tell him. He’ll tell Hannibal… And maybe they can salvage whatever it is they had… Have…

Family.

***

‘Most of the time in sexual assaults, the bite mark has a livid spot at the centre, a “suck bruise”. In some cases, it does not.’

Will paces back and forth behind his desk, keeping distance between himself and the majority-Alpha students in his current lecture. The room is thick with their heavy, musky scent, and it clings to his skin like a bad aftershave. He wants to shower, to wash his clothing a dozen times and hide under his blankets in bed until his nose is clear of the smell.

‘For some killers, especially Alphas, biting may be a fighting pattern as much as sexual behaviour. Dates back to the old customs and traditions of The Hunt.’

‘OK, class dismissed!’ Crawford booms, striding into the room like a hulking, furious tornado. ‘Everyone out.’ There is a moment’s hesitation as the students try to comprehend the sudden order, and Jack takes this as defiance. He turns on them with a hair-raising snarl, his eyes flashing crimson. ‘What did I just say? Let’s go!’

Will sighs at the callous way the Alpha has just undermined him in front of a dozen students. Drops his now-useless notes and frowns at Jack, who is resting back on his desk, his arms crossed and brow furrowed. Alana bought him a new can of Beta spray, and Will holds on tight to it as he is slammed with Jack’s emotions. Fury, frustration… The thrill of the hunt… None of the old instincts ever go away, they are just channelled into more civilised outlets.

‘You’re making it difficult to provide an education, Jack,’ he says.

‘We found a match to a set of prints we pulled from the Turner home,’ Jack replies. He doesn’t turn to look at Will, just glares at the backs of the retreating students. ‘They belong to a thirteen year old boy from Reston, Virginia. His name is Connor Frist.’

‘Another kid?’ Will asks, feeling sick.

‘Another missing kid,’ Jack says. ‘Vanished ten months ago, case was never solved.’

Will removes his glasses to pinch the bridge of his nose. Already, a tension headache is crawling up from his rigid shoulders. It’s as if his body is having an allergic reaction to Jack’s proximity. Pure resentment.

‘How many kids in the Frist family?’ he asks quietly. He already knows the answer, but he needs Jack to say it.

‘Three, just like the Turner family,’ Jack says. He stands up with a resigned sigh. Turns to face Will. ‘We’re ready to go when you are, and you’re ready to go now. So, let’s go.’

Please, Jack… Don’t do this to me… Not again. Will lets some of his exhaustion show on his face – he’s already pale and the bruises under his eyes are more pronounced than ever – but the Alpha doesn’t waver.

Will swallows.

‘You’re expecting another crime scene,’ he mutters. It isn’t a question. They both know what they’ll find. And Jack’s making him go, anyway. So Will just nods, because he doesn’t have a choice, and packs his things.

How long can I keep doing this?

***

The crime scene is a chilling parody of Christmas morning. Big tree. Brightly wrapped presents and wreathes of holly. Rotting corpses, leaking foul smelling liquid and bloated with decomposition. The burned body of a child curled in the fireplace.

There’s nothing to say, so Will doesn’t even try to speak. Just grits his teeth against the waves of sadness washing over him from the other officers, from Jack, and waits for the bodies to be zipped into black bags.

The journey back is silent. Will can barely breathe past the lump in his throat. As much as he’s sprayed himself, he can’t help but notice the way a couple of Alpha officers and Jack hover around him, asking if he’s okay, offering to fetch him drinks or snacks as they wait for the plane back to Quantico. Jack even drapes his coat over him to keep him warm on the flight, and Will lets him, too drained and too tender to put up a fight.

Now, under the harsh lights of the autopsy room, Will sits on a wheeled table and watches as Price and Zeller discuss the shots that killed Mrs Frist.

‘So, who is our additional corpse in the fireplace?’ Jack asks, peeling back the sheet from the burned, shrivelled little body.

Will swallows hard, tasting bile. He can feel the way his eyes are stinging; he loaded them with fresh eyedrops before joining them, but he’s not sure they’re working anymore. So he looks up at the ceiling to cover the gold burning bright.

‘I’d say Connor Frist,’ he says, his voice quivering. ‘He’d been prepped to shoot his mother, not watch her suffer.’

The pain in the room is knife-sharp, slicing at his lungs, his kidneys, even his gums.

‘Connor couldn’t put his panic back in the bottle,’ Jack says heavily. ‘So, he got shot, too.’

Will shakes his head. He’s going to be sick, but he has to say this. They have to know. He needs them to understand.

‘Whoever shot Connor…’ He clenches his teeth hard enough to hear them grind. ‘Disowned him.’

He slides off the table and ducks out of the room. Heads straight for the nearest bathroom and locks himself inside. His stomach is roiling, his heart beating out of rhythm and cold sweat dribbling down his spine.

Your mother didn’t want you. She was an Alpha; she didn’t want an Omega son. She disowned you.

His father’s voice, not even a memory, but knowledge gained through emotions and actions over the years. Will dry heaves into the basin, sweaty hands slipping on the edge of the bowl. Wipes his forehead, trying to think past the pain splitting his skull apart.

He can’t do this. He can’t do this anymore.

***

He’s been sitting in Dr Lecter’s waiting area for half an hour when the office door opens. Hannibal pulls up short, surprise turning to a small smile when Will jumps to his feet.

‘Good evening, Will. Please, come in.’

Will almost throws himself into the room, knocking past Hannibal’s shoulder in his haste to be inside. He needs the smell and the warmth of the Alpha. Needs to not think for a while.

He throws his satchel down on the couch and shrugs out of his jacket. Will you Gentle me again? It’s the only thing he can think, the only thing buzzing around his head. He doesn’t ask for it, though; he can’t.

Hannibal closes the door and looks down at the cream and gold wrapped present that has slipped from the top of Will’s ugly messenger bag.

‘Has Christmas come early? Or late?’ he asks mildly, gesturing to the gift.

Will frowns; Hannibal spotted it already? Then, he almost smiles to himself. This is Hannibal. Of course he noticed it.

‘Was for Abigail,’ he mutters.

‘Was?’ Hannibal checks.

Will paces to Hannibal’s desk, scrubbing both hands over his face. He’s crackling with tension, shaking his head, trying to clear it. He can’t think clearly. Can’t stop his brain from whirring; stupid, useless thoughts like tyres on ice.

‘I thought better of it,’ he growls. ‘I wasn’t thinking straight; I was upset when I bought it…’ Huffs a sigh. ‘Maybe still am.’

‘What is it?’ Hannibal asks, a tingle of genuine curiosity warming his words.

‘Magnifying glass. Fly fishing gear.’

Will picks up a dagger letter-opener from Hannibal’s desk as he speaks; it’s a beautiful thing, bronzed and worn with age. His hand is trembling and his dark shadow rumbles at the idea of holding a weapon, so he puts it back down on the book where he found it.

Hannibal narrows his eyes at Will’s casual invasion of his belongings; on anyone else, that would warrant a dinner invitation, but on Will… for some reason, the casual ease with which he touches Hannibal’s possessions, moves and occupies his space… pleases him. He unbuttons his suit jacket so as not the crease the silk and takes his seat in his usual chair.

‘Teaching her how to fish,’ he says. Then, to goad a stronger reaction from Will, he adds, ‘Her father taught her how to hunt.’

Will flinches at this. Turns his back on Hannibal, but bows his head in the pretence of studying the dagger again. In reality, it sends a comforting tingle down his spine to show the back of his neck to the Alpha, especially after Hannibal touched him there. It felt so good

Hannibal tilts his head to the side, enjoying the unobstructed view of Will’s back and the curve of his buttocks. His clothing might be atrocious, but his beauty and elegance cannot be diminished even by thick cotton and plaid. Muscles ripple beneath the dingy checked shirt and he can smell the first hint of slick, sweet and sharp, as Will’s body begins to relax and respond favourably to him again.

‘Feeling paternal, Will?’ he asks softly; more gently than he meant to. Not quite the barb he had intended.

Will scoffs and turns to frown down at him. Hannibal is always so pristine; so… perfect. A dark brown and black checked suit with a bronze tie; sky blue shirt and matching handkerchief… He looks sleek and sophisticated, and, in return, Will feels shabby and inferior, in every way.

‘Aren’t you?’ he says, his words tinged with acid.

‘Yes,’ Hannibal admits. As Will comes to stand over him, Hannibal allows his eyes to drop to Will’s crotch; as much as he tries to hide himself behind ill-fitting trousers held up with cracked leather belts, he is an impressive specimen, and Hannibal allows the tip of his tongue to wet his lips at the thought of tasting him. When he raises his eyes again, he sees that Will’s cheeks are a delightful pink as he blushes under the scrutiny. ‘Our good friend, Dr Bloom, has advised against taking too personal an interest in Abigail’s welfare.’

Will turns away again, pacing back and forth. His movements are jerky and un-coordinated; the back of his neck flushes an angry red and sweat darkens his curls.

Interesting, Hannibal thinks, observing each little change in Will’s body. Anger advances your Heat. Perhaps he needs to poke the proverbial bear.

‘Tell me, why are you so angry?’ he asks, and the serene tone has the desired effect. Will wheels on him, his eyes blazing gold, teeth bared in a snarl as he swings his arms and drags his nails through his hair.

‘I’m angry about those boys! I’m angry because I know, even when I find them, I can’t help them. I can’t… I can’t give them back what they just… gave away.

He throws his arm out, flinging the words at Hannibal from across the room. A muscle jumps in his jaw and he plants his feet wide, hands on his hips. He doesn’t know what to do with himself.

‘Family,’ Hannibal says quietly, and the fire burns itself out of Will, leaving him sad and defeated, a broken shell of himself as he nods.

‘Yeah.’ He turns his back on Hannibal again; his eyes are stinging with what could be tears, and he can’t bring himself to cry in front of the other man. ‘We call them the “Lost Boys”.’ He huffs and shakes his head, leaning on the windowsill, watching the clouds descend on the city outside. It’s going to snow soon.

Hannibal knows he should press his advantage, use Will’s anger and pain to break open his mind, but there is something so achingly sad in the way Will has given up… He wants to comfort him, despite his best efforts to remain impartial.

‘Abigail’s lost, too,’ he murmurs. ‘Perhaps it’s our responsibility, yours and mine, to help her find her way.’

Family.

The thought pounds in Will’s head and he glances back at Hannibal. He wants to be close to the Alpha; if he starts something, he won’t stop it this time, no matter how scared he gets.

Will looks very young and vulnerable; blue eyes edged with gold, brown hair sticking to his sweaty neck and forehead. Hannibal swallows and rises from the chair. Goes to stand behind him and, as Will looks away, places a reassuring hand on the Omega’s shoulder; barely an inch from the nape of his neck, where Will so desperately wants to be touched. Will stiffens under his hand, sucking in a quivering breath, staring straight ahead as if afraid he’ll break the connection if he moves again. Hannibal can smell the sweet musk flowing from him, tinged with fear but not overwhelmed by it like last time. The new heat suppressants are failing marvellously, and Will’s body reacts strongly to Hannibal’s proximity.

Will can feel the throb of his heart in his fingertips. Hannibal’s cologne and the heavy, rich smell of him caresses his nose, settling like sugar on his tongue so that he can taste it with the glands on the roof of his mouth. He can feel a whine build in his chest and swallows it down. He doesn’t want to ruin this moment. He’s been waiting all week for it. For another touch.

Hannibal squeezes Will’s shoulder, very gently, testing the Omega’s reaction. Will trembles but doesn’t pull away; his knuckles are white where he’s gripping tight to the windowsill. Shifting even closer, Hannibal allows his chest to brush Will’s back, dipping his head to scent the air just above Will’s hair. Divine. Cinnamon and chocolate; blood and earth.

Will wants to ask Hannibal to Gentle him; he wants to move, but his brain doesn’t seem to be connected to his body. He can see himself in the dark window, his eyes glowing from an eerily pale face. Fragmented parts of a whole. Hannibal looms behind him, half-hidden in darkness, his eyes sparking red fire.

Please, he thinks, trying to make his expression relay his plea to Hannibal. Please touch me.

Hannibal slides his left hand up around Will’s chest, holding him close. Will releases a slow, shuddering breath, and relaxes against Hannibal’s body. He tilts his head back, his eyes sliding closed as he bares his throat to the Alpha. Hannibal’s heart judders, and he swallows hard before slipping his fingers around Will’s throat, holding him in place. Moves his right hand to the burning heat at the nape of Will’s neck and squeezes.

Will’s chest tightens with a cry and his knees threaten to give. He shudders, certain he’s only held up only by Hannibal’s hands. His heart is racing, almost too fast to feel; he’s humming with pleasure, every muscle spasming with it. Sweat beads on his forehead, sliding down his spine to soak the waistband of his boxers. He can feel his thighs and balls dampen with slick, and he flushes with embarrassment even as he squirms back against the hardness he can feel in Hannibal’s trousers.

‘That’s it,’ Hannibal murmurs, thumb and forefinger kneading the tight muscles and soft skin by Will’s collar. ‘I want you to let yourself go, Will, and just feel.’ He savours the huffing little moans and strangled whimpers bubbling up from Will’s throat; the Omega’s windpipe bobs against Hannibal’s palm every time Will swallows, and the skin vibrates with the sounds of pleasure he can’t help but make. He’s falling back against Hannibal’s body, hands slack at his sides, abandoning himself to the sensation of being gripped tight by an Alpha.

How easy it would be to snap your neck, Hannibal thinks, digging his thumb into the fluttering pulse beneath Will’s ear. The vulnerability of the hold, the trust that Will is showing him, makes Hannibal’s stomach tighten with hunger. He wants to rip into Will; devour him whole and cradle him inside his body. 

Will can feel Hannibal trembling, his breath catching as he rubs his nose back and forth over Will’s dark curls. He wants to turn and hug him, press his lips to Hannibal’s and kiss away whatever is making the Alpha quiver. And, at the same time, sink his teeth into Hannibal’s throat and suck livid bruises of ownership in the smooth skin. He is not weak. Neither of them are.

‘Take your shirt off,’ Hannibal whispers, pressing down on a combination of pressure points near Will’s spine to encourage obedience. Will is charming like this; pliant and wanton. The Omega tears at the buttons of his shirt, rucking it up from his trousers before shrugging it out of it. The wriggling movement grinds him back even harder against Hannibal’s aching length and both men groan. Hannibal rocks his hips forward, rubbing suggestively, and is rewarded by a low growl from Will.

‘Please,’ Will breathes. He can’t open his eyes; if he sees himself like this, he’ll freeze up and he doesn’t want it to stop. He tilts his head even further back, arching his spine to display himself for Hannibal. He wants to be attractive for the Alpha; he wants Hannibal to go into rut for him. To fight for him. Chase him. Own him. And be owned in return.

‘Touch yourself, Will,’ Hannibal says softly, resting his chin on Will’s shoulder, still working him with both hands, watching their reflections in the window. Will is hesitant; his hands falter at his sides, uncertain how to begin, and Hannibal adjusts his grip. He lowers his left hand from Will’s throat, wrapping his arm around Will’s chest again. Will sags in his embrace, head falling forwards at barely a nudge, hands flying out to brace himself on the windowsill as Hannibal bends over his back, pressing a kiss to the very centre of Will’s nape.

It’s too much. Will’s insides are melting; his bones are on fire. Hannibal’s lips are so soft, so cool, but they still burn on the back of his neck. He can’t breathe; he’s dizzy with it. He pants, arching back again, a strange little whine hanging in the air between them.

‘That’s good, Will,’ Hannibal breathes, and Will can hear the rasp of a rut growl in the Alpha’s voice. He shudders at the idea of being taken in a frenzied, wild bond. Reaches up and wraps his fingers into Hannibal’s hair. So soft. He pulls down, urging Hannibal to bite him, to sink his teeth into him and scar him.

‘I want you to touch yourself, Will,’ Hannibal repeats, moving his lips against Will’s tangy, sweet tasting skin. The patch where Will’s crest will be is temptingly smooth, begging to be bitten, marked, scarred. Flushed deep burgundy, it is softer than anything Hannibal has ever kissed before, made all the more tender by the rough scar arcing underneath it. Has Will been Cut before? Did he have a crest from someone else? The bright gold of his eyes would say otherwise, but there are always exceptions to the rules, and perhaps this is a darker colour for Will.

Hannibal,’ Will chokes, and it almost sounds as if he’s crying. Pleasure and pain. Hannibal’s growl snatches what little breath he’d managed to gulp and Will isn’t sure if he’s managed to nod or if he’s just sliding his hand across his hard planes of his chest and down his abdomen as he’s been told. He hesitates at his own hardness, but Hannibal hums encouragement, pressing another kiss to the core of him, and Will cups himself, caressing himself through the thick material of his trousers. It’s maddeningly frustrating, and he growls as he uses both hands to yank at his belt. The clink of the buckle is startlingly loud in the room and he flinches.

Hannibal feels tension ripple up Will’s spine and so grazes his teeth across the cluster of nerves buzzing beneath Will’s neck. Will makes another soft, pained little sound, and then Hannibal hears his zipper. The trousers are shoved down, boxers pushed aside and Will is touching himself, just as Hannibal asked him to, releasing his scent more strongly into the air between them. He wants to see; Hannibal steps to the side, narrowing his eyes at the flash of pleasure the friction causes on his own erection. Sexual gratification is often so vulgar that it is ultimately unsatisfying, but perhaps this time will be different.

Hannibal exchanges his right hand for the left, massaging Will’s neck until the Omega is panting with need. He reaches down and covers Will’s hands with his own, smirking as Will’s eyes fly open at the touch.

Oh God; it’s too much. It’s too good. It’s never felt this good before, not from just his hand. Will bites his lip, tugging and rolling slick-wet balls in one hand, roughly jerking himself off with the other as Hannibal’s hand on his nape sends white fire crashing through his body. And then he feels another cool hand touching him, gentle fingers covering his own, pushing them aside, and Hannibal is stroking him, just as he wants to be touched. A sharp stroke down, feather-light tickling back up, thumb circling and tapping at his slit. He curves his spine back, pushing his hips down towards Hannibal’s body, even as he rolls forwards to fuck his hand. Trapped. Held in place by the Alpha’s firm grip.

‘Come for me, Will,’ Hannibal whispers, brushing his lips across Will’s ear, slipping the words deep inside his skull.

It’s like white and gold fire. Will thrusts, two, three more times into Hannibal’s grip, feverish as the stroke of skin on skin strikes a match, and then he’s coming, everything is tight and wet and so, so good, and a guttural moan chokes itself out of his throat as he wrenches his head to the side, free of Hannibal’s grip on his nape to seek out his lips.

Hannibal starts when he feels Will press a hungry kiss to his mouth. Absorbed in watching his hand milking pearly strings of pleasure from Will’s body, he is surprised when the Omega manages to free himself of the paralysing hold and claim his mouth for his own. Will’s lips are scorching, and he clamps his teeth down on Hannibal’s lower lip, sucking it hard enough to bruise and melting it with blistering licks.

Hannibal tastes so good, like blood and wine. Will’s body is still raging; the release did nothing to cool him down, and he wants to consume Hannibal. Take all of him down and swallow him whole. He needs more than Hannibal has given him. He needs it all. All of him.

‘I need to taste you,’ he moans, barely breaking the kiss to grind the words against Hannibal’s teeth. He turns, facing Hannibal now, and his hands come up, reaching for the button and zip of Hannibal’s trousers. I need this.

At some point, between Will turning to kiss him and pushing his trousers down away from his erection, Hannibal realises that he has lost some of the control he so favours. Will is frantic, but his movements are deliberate. His nails scrape the sensitive skin of Hannibal’s inner thighs, catching the nest of dark hair and tugging, adding a delicious zing of pain to the otherwise monotony of pleasure. He hisses through his teeth, feeling his eyes pulsing. They will be glowing red, bright and fierce and wild. What are you doing to me?

Will sinks to his knees, feeling cool air on his slick-wet ass cheeks as the movement pulls his trousers further down his thighs. He doesn’t care; being exposed like this just adds another thrill to his already pulsing body. He can smell Hannibal so strongly now, and parts his lips to savour his thick, rich musk, laced with salt and sweat. Good enough to eat, he thinks dryly, and wets his lips. He doesn’t miss the sharp catch of Hannibal’s breath above him, and rewards the Alpha with a pleading whine as Hannibal combs his fingers through Will’s hair.

Hannibal stares down at the Omega offering his mouth before him, his heart tripping over itself. He cups each side of Will’s head, stroking his damp curls, and guides him closer, until Will’s lips part and his tongue comes out, rasping up the length of him and then engulfing him into his inferno-hot mouth. It’s been a long time since Hannibal experienced such attention, and he can’t stop a deep, rumbling purr from escaping.

He’s not done this in years. Will sucks Hannibal in deep, his eyes watering when he hits the back of his mouth. He gags and tries to pull back, his eyes snapping open at the iron-fingers suddenly gripping his head in a vice, locking him in place. He stares up, trembling, his eyes leaking tears as Hannibal fucks his mouth. A strangled whimper bubbles up, swallowed down with a dribble of salty pre-cum until it’s just another choking sound in the silent office. Hannibal is rough; he is owning his mouth, forcing Will to relax his jaw and take whatever he gives him. Will’s heart races; he digs his fingers into Hannibal’s hips, trying to leave bruises, determined not to fight him. You won’t break me.

Hannibal smiles, baring his teeth at the challenge in Will’s golden eyes. He snaps his hips again, guiding one of Will’s hands to play with his balls as they tighten in preparation for climax. Pulling Will’s head even closer, he sinks himself as deeply inside Will’s throat as he can, feeling him swallow and suffocate around him. It is a delightful imitation of his body, of how tight and hot and slick he will be when Hannibal mates with him, and he growls as Will nuzzles his pubic hair, finding comfort in the richness of his scent. Will’s fingers are damp with sweat as he plays with Hannibal’s balls; he is tentative with them, stroking gently as though afraid of hurting him, before easing his thumb behind to press the tender point on the satin-soft skin just behind. It’s the perfect combination, and Hannibal loses his breath as he spills his seed down Will’s eager throat.

God… Will swallows greedily, all but chugging Hannibal’s release. The Alpha is quivering, hips jerking as Will coaxes as much from him as possible. Hannibal’s hands are painfully tight in his hair, and he sways as Will finally comes up for air, releasing him with a final wet, sticky lick.

‘Will,’ Hannibal breathes, his voice rasping as he fights down a louder purr. Stares down into honey-gold eyes, at Will’s flushed cheeks and red, swollen lips. Swipes his thumb through the trickle of white at the corner of Will’s mouth and brings it to his own lips, tasting it slowly, just to watch the blush darken as Will comes back to his senses and realises what he’s done.

‘I… I should go.’ Will huffs a laugh, looking away. He rubs his hair, making his sweaty hair stick up in different directions, and settles back on his heels so that he could pull his trousers up and re-buckle them. ‘Um…’ He swallows again. He can still taste Dr Lecter in his mouth; still smell him on his hands, his nose, his cheeks… Hannibal is everywhere. Inside him. There’s no going back, now.

‘Thank you, Will,’ Hannibal says mildly, tucking himself away and straightening out his suit when everything is done back up. Seeing Will so fragile, so hesitant and embarrassed… He can barely keep from smirking. ‘Do you feel better?’

Fuck you, Will thinks, glaring at the wall to his left. He can’t get up; he’s not sure his legs will hold him right now. How is Hannibal so calm? Does this sort of thing happen all the time to him? Do people often just drop to their knees and suck him off?

Actually, that’s likely, he thinks bitterly, grinding his teeth to keep from making a stupid, sad little whine at the idea. Hannibal has such force of presence that it’s hard not to imagine wanting to fall to one’s knees before him.

Watching Will torture himself is an excellent pastime, Hannibal decides. He leaves the Omega on the floor and goes to the drinks tray. He has a bottle of unusually good Merlot breathing; a gift from a former patient, and not something he would usually think to try. However, Will might appreciate a moment to compose himself, and the rich, bold flavour of the wine will go wonderfully with the lingering taste of his seed in Will’s mouth.

Listening to Hannibal pour two glasses of wine, Will tries to catch his breath enough to get up. He really needs to go. Needs to get home as fast as he can, crawl under a scalding shower and… what? Cry himself to sleep in his bathmat nest? Pathetic.

Gripping his hands into fists, he rises to his feet and turns to face Hannibal, just as the Alpha hands him a glass. Their eyes meet; Hannibal’s are burgundy, the brown still tinged with red. Will isn’t sure how gold his still are; they are still tender, as if he was actually crying when giving Hannibal a blowjob, not just watering because of the way Hannibal’s cock scraped his windpipe. The heat burning through his body finally seems to be wearing off; as if, by swallowing the Alpha’s seed, it has placated that part of him needing to bond… for the moment, at least.

‘Thank you,’ he mutters, accepting the glass and taking a sip. It’s good; a strong flavour, smooth and rich with berries. It makes the salty, earthy musk of Hannibal’s scent in his mouth all the deeper, and he makes a very small moan as the wine slips down his throat.

Hannibal raises his own glass, quirking an eyebrow at the satisfaction on Will’s face.

‘Good, isn’t it?’ he teases, earning himself another blush and a scowl from Will. He swirls the wine, releases the smell and dips his nose over it to gather it up before taking his own sip. Perfect. ‘Sit with me for a while,’ he says, returning to his armchair and sinking into the soft cushions. He crosses his long legs at the knee and looks expectantly up at Will. ‘I do hate to drink alone.’

Will shifts from foot to foot. This is ridiculous. He can’t just… Not after they… He huffs at Hannibal, who merely fixes him with a serene gaze and waits for the inevitable. And it is inevitable. Will hangs his head and returns to his own armchair, sinking down and taking another sip of wine to calm his nerves. He taps the fingers of his other hand on his knee, a pattern of five knocks and then a pause.

Hannibal raises both eyebrows at Will’s fidgeting.

‘Would you like to talk about it, Will?’ he asks, making himself sound deliberately gentle so as to goad Will into another display of passion.

Will barks a laugh.

Talk about it?’ he bites, narrowing his eyes at the Alpha. ‘What? The fact that you kissed my neck? Touched me? Made me come?’ He snaps his teeth shut and looks away. Hannibal gives him a moment, and Will sighs. ‘I’m sorry,’ he mutters. ‘I shouldn’t have… done that.’

‘Not at all,’ Hannibal says. He sets his wineglass down on the side table and unfolds his legs, sitting forwards with his elbows on his knees. He wants Will’s full attention, and the uncoiling of his body has him rapt. ‘Never apologise for your passion, Will. I am honoured that you let me see it. Share this experience with you.’

Will wants to scoff, wants to refute Hannibal’s words but he’s frozen. His fingers are tingling; he’s worried he’ll drop the wineglass, so he mirrors Dr Lecter and places it on his side table. Sits further back in the chair, though, and grips tight to the armrests with each hand.

‘I’ve never been Bonded before,’ he says quietly. He knows he has Hannibal’s full attention, as well. The Alpha is pricked, dark eyes sparking with interest. ‘I’ve had relationships, one with an Alpha, but she didn’t bite me. Didn’t Bond me.’

Then why the scar, Will? Hannibal wants to ask, but more than his curiosity, he wants Will to volunteer the information. To trust him enough with his secrets that there is no barrier between them. 

‘Have you ever been with a man?’ he asks instead.

Will shifts uncomfortably, but he doesn’t break the gaze.

‘No.’ Flicks his eyes down to Hannibal’s chest, to his lap, and then up again. Licks his lips. ‘Not… like that, anyway. I’ve done… bits and pieces.’ He gives a bitter smile and resumes his tapping. ‘It never ended well.’

Hannibal nods, accepting this, storing it away. Putting the pieces together to better understand Will’s patterns of behaviour.

‘Would you like to?’ he asks. He watches as Will hesitates, staring at him, trying to read his intention through the mask of humanity he wears. Sees Will falter, the shadow flashing behind golden eyes as he senses the hunter sat across from him. And then, very slowly, he sees Will nod.

‘Yes.’

Chapter Text

Will doesn’t know when, but at some point in the night, he starts walking towards Hannibal.

He’s trying to run but his legs are too heavy. He can barely trudge through the warm, thick water pressing against him. Only, he’s on a road, not in a river, so why are his legs wet? Why are his clothes soaked through?

He’s too hot; his blood is boiling in his veins, melting his eyes. He can barely see; barely breathe. His ears are ringing.

The ebony stag keeps pace behind him. A whisper in the dark. A kiss on the back of his neck.

See?

Lights flicker in the distance. Will comes to a stop, frowning through the haze. Red and blue. That means something… He’s just not sure what.

He sways and the stag nudges his hand, silky fur and strong nose, smelling of cedarwood and earth.

It’s alright.

A siren blast announces the squad car, and Will flinches, raising a hand to shield his stinging eyes. What the…? Where…? He can’t finish a thought. Doesn’t know who… How did he…?

Two Beta officers, their scents sharp with worry, climb out of the car, flicking their torches into his face.

‘Holy shit,’ one of them mutters, pointing his light at the bright gold eyes staring out of a pale, pinched face. ‘Is that… an Omega?

‘Are you lost?’ the second officer asks, frowning at Will. ‘Where’s your Alpha?’

The words are muffled. The tide goes out in his head and Will blinks, looking around. He’s on a road in the middle of nowhere. It’s night. Sweat coats his skin, rapidly cooling in the freezing air, making him shiver.

‘W-what?’ he mutters, looking around. Where’s Hannibal? Where’s the stag?

‘What’s your name?’ the officer asks. He’s never seen an Omega before; do they always smell like cinnamon? He thinks of his wife, of the cinnamon waffles she makes on Sundays, and licks his lips. He’s never thought of another man as attractive before, but there’s something about this one, especially with the pink flush to his cheeks, and soft, kissable lips…

His name. The officer wants his name. Will nods. He can say that. He knows who he is… Doesn’t he?

‘Will Graham,’ he mumbles. He looks around again. The trees loom over them, boxing him in. He’s trapped here with the officers, but they’re not going to hurt him… are they? They’re Betas… They’re not interested in him.

Where’s Hannibal?

The first officer, the one who spotted Will’s eyes, shifts uncomfortably, checking the empty stretch of road in case Will’s Alpha is lurking nearby. The young man is sweaty and dressed only in a t-shirt and thin boxers – maybe they’re in the middle of a mating chase? He’s heard about those on a training course. The Omega smells sweetly musky; it reminds him of his grandmother’s cakes from his childhood, and he’s very pretty. Delicate and fragile; he looks scared, like he needs a hug.

‘Do you know where you are, Mr Graham?’ the second officer asks, drawing Will’s attention again. Flicks his eyes down Will’s chest, to the muscles bunching in his abdomen, and feels a strange tug in his chest.

Will looks left to right, but there are no signs on this part of the road. He shakes his head.

‘No.’

‘Where do you live?’

Will frowns. His brain is so thick; he’s burning hot but shivering from cold. His throat is sore and a headache pounds behind his forehead. He just wants to lie down.

‘Wolf Trap, Virginia,’ he croaks.

‘We’re in Wolf Trap, so that’s good,’ the second officer says. He offers the frightened Omega a reassuring smile. ‘You’re close to home.’ He raises an eyebrow at the brown collie mongrel sat at the Omega’s bare feet. ‘Is that yours?’

You can see the stag?

Will turns, but the air beside his head is empty. Rakes his eyes down until he sees the latest addition to his family, and his heart skips a beat as his chest tightens at the sight of the dog.

‘Oh, hi, Winston.’ He reaches for him, but Winston ducks out of the way so that he can remain alert to protect Will. ‘Hey…’

There’s a sharp, stabbing pain in his feet. Will shifts, his calf muscles cramping, and winces. He feels raw and bruised; everything is too intense right now. Even the lights are too harsh.

‘Can I sit down? My feet are sore.’

The officer lowers his torch to take in Will’s goose-pimpled legs; his shaking makes his thigh muscles bunch up with breath-taking definition. He’s like a living piece of art.

‘Why don’t we take you home?’ he suggests, smiling when Will nods.

The first officer drapes a thick blanket around Will’s shoulders as he sinks down onto the sticky backseat seat of the squad car. It smells of urine and anger; leaving a sour aftertaste on his tongue. Winston jumps up beside him and lies across Will’s lap to keep him warm. His fur is soft, almost as silky as the stag’s, and Will tangles his fingers in the thick tufts near his collar.

He’s so tired. How did he end up here? He just wants to go home.

The second officer leans in near the window.

‘Who’s your Alpha?’ he asks again. ‘Are you on any drugs? Medication?’

‘Um, suppressants,’ Will mutters, frowning at the stitching of the chair in front of him. So delicate… Is he even awake? His eyes can’t keep up with his head; when he moves, the world lags behind. He’s aching inside and his thighs aren’t glistening with sweat, but slick.

Hannibal…

‘You been drinking?’ the officer asks.

‘No.’ Will sniffs; he can smell himself more strongly now; earthy and sweet. When he rolls his hips down against the padding, something catches and he bites his lip to stifle a whine. ‘Um, y-yes; not excessively. I had two fingers of whiskey before I went to bed.’

It’s the only way I can sleep when I’m alone.

‘Do you have a history of sleep walking, Mr Graham?’ the officers asks gently.

Will sniffs, and wipes the back of his hand across his forehead. He’s soaked; the warmth of Winston’s body and the blanket feels good, but his belly is an inferno and the wool is scratching his oversensitive skin. It feels like a razor being dragged over his neck.

‘M’not even sure I’m awake now,’ he mumbles, his eyelids drooping as another wave of fire rolls through him. He shudders, lips parting in a whimper as he clenches around nothing, grabbing for the blanket and the dog, certain he’s about to shatter into a dozen pieces.

The officer inhales sharply as the Omega’s scent thickens. He’s heard stories about Omegas in heat, about how good they smell and look, and the influence they have on Alphas; is that what this is? He never expected to be affected himself. He grips the door tightly, mesmerised by the way the Omega’s eyes turn from blue ringed with gold to pure, molten honey.

‘Come on,’ he says softly. ‘Let me call your Alpha for you. What’s their name?’

Will chews his lower lip, rolling his head back on the seat. He feels drunk; his head is swimming and things are slipping in and out of focus. All he wants is for Hannibal to hold him. For the blanket and his grating clothes to be off…

He can’t go back to an empty house. Can’t wait until morning. He swallows the lump forming in his throat and glances up at the officer.

‘Hannibal Lecter.’

***

It takes Hannibal less than an hour to arrive. He pulls up beside the squad car and is already climbing out even as he cuts the engine. Will is sat on the porch steps, his dogs whining and pacing around his hunched, shivering form. He has a police blanket around his shoulders, though one sweaty arm is out in the cold air. Hannibal can see the steam rising from his flushed skin, and he takes a deep, slow breath to savour the Omega’s heat-rich scent.

It’s starting; Will’s detox is leading him into a prodromal phase, where he will wander and possibly hallucinate, all the while seeking the comfort of a trusted, familiar Alpha.

Hannibal.

Hiding his smirk behind a gentle smile, Hannibal crosses the yard and drops to a crouch in front of the distressed Omega. Will’s head snaps up, his eyes glowing gold, and then his mouth opens in an ‘oh’ of relief. He all but throws himself at Hannibal, and the Alpha staggers as he stands up, hugging Will close and wrapping his coat around him as Will shrugs off the unwanted blanket.

‘M’sorry,’ Will mumbles, burying his nose into the soft cashmere of Hannibal’s sweater. He’s never seen the Alpha look so rough. Hannibal’s hair is sleep-tousled and there are bruises beneath his eyes. As good as it is to be close to him, to feel Hannibal’s firm chest and strong hands on his back, to smell his rich musk, Will can’t help but feel guilty at waking him up in the middle of the night. The Alpha doesn’t seem angry; Will can only sense a faint trace of concern and, something else… Amusement? He shakes his head; he’s not thinking clearly.

Hannibal holds him close, nuzzling the top of Will’s damp hair, pressing a gentle kiss to his throbbing temple before turning to address the hovering Beta officers.

‘Thank you for escorting him home,’ he says, squaring his shoulders as one of the officers takes a step closer. ‘I’ll stay with him, now. Is there anything else?’ His tone makes it very clear there isn’t anything else, and the second officer takes a final sniff of the cinnamon-sweet Omega, looking wistful at the way he folds his lithe body against the taller Alpha. Then he shakes his head, adjusting his belt and trousers because they feel a bit too tight.

‘No… no… That’ll be all. You, er, you have a good night, sir.’

Hannibal nods, watching carefully until the officers are back in their car and it has disappeared down the road, swallowed by the darkness.

Only when they are alone again does he take a step back from Will, placing both hands on his shoulders to hold the reluctant Omega away from him.

‘Will; look at me,’ he murmurs. ‘How do you feel?’

Will glances up but he can’t maintain eye contact. That’s good; his instincts are driving him to be submissive and obedient. Hannibal nods to himself and shrugs out of his coat. He drapes it around Will, enfolding him in his scent, and Will purrs.

‘Shall we?’ Hannibal says, gesturing for them to go inside. Will hangs back, rubbing his cheek on the fine tweed, enjoying how gentle it is against his sensitive skin. Everything that Hannibal wears is silky smooth or soft; no grating cottons or itchy wool. He follows the Alpha into his house, the dogs at his heels, and tries to clear his head enough to thank him for coming.

‘I… er…’ His voice trails off when Hannibal turns towards him. The Alpha is so tall, and he has such a dominant energy that he fills the whole house. Will is suffocating; he can’t focus, can’t do anything but trail dumbly after the Alpha as Hannibal leads the way.

‘Sit,’ Hannibal says, pointing at the bed. Will was clearly tossing and turning before he began to sleepwalk; the covers and sheets are tangled, half untucked from the mattress and his pillows are lying at odd angles as if he had cuddled up to one in the hopes of finding comfort.

Hannibal’s voice cuts through the shimmering heat fog in his brain and Will obeys, adjusting the coat as cold shivers chase waves of heat up and down his spine. He’s still sweating, and he tries to keep the collar away from his clammy neck. Wriggles his wet thighs against the sheets to dry himself off; he’s already stained his bedding, and Hannibal might put him in his car and drive him to his house in Baltimore; he doesn’t want to leave a mess in the Bentley.

After watching the Omega squirm in a vain attempt to remove the slick still leaking out of him, Hannibal turns his attention to the ordered drawers. He pulls out fresh boxers and a t-shirt, socks and a pair of Will’s ugly, practical trousers. Adds a shirt and vest to the pile; knowing Will as he does, the Omega will want to cover himself with as many layers as possible once the first prodrome wears off. He will be embarrassed.

Moving quickly, Hannibal gathers together Will’s toiletries, gritting his teeth when he includes the Beta pheromone spray, scent dulling shampoo – he didn’t know Will had that – and little bottle of heat suppressants from his beside drawer. No matter; Will won’t be hiding his true self from the world forever. Hannibal can be patient; the reward will be worth the wait. He slips the tablets into his trouser pocket; keeping them on him is an excuse for Will to ask for them. Perhaps even to beg.

‘Time to go,’ he says, lifting the overnight bag and extending his other hand to help Will up. The Omega’s grip is burning hot and desperately tight, and Hannibal gives him a slightly stronger tug than is necessary, just so that he can steady Will as he stumbles.

Will clings to Hannibal, buffeted by the hormones crashing through him. He can barely find his feet, and whines softly when Hannibal lets him go to lock the door behind them. Hannibal hushes him, giving his shoulder a gentle squeeze, and then escorts him to his car, stowing a bag in the boot before slipping in behind the wheel.

Are you really here? Will thinks, blinking bleary eyes at the Alpha sitting beside him. Hannibal is so poised; so confident. He navigates the dark, empty roads with ease, speeding them through the night to the safety of his home. His territory.

Will sinks lower into the seat, spreading his legs as much as the foot-well allows. Whines again, rolling his head to the side in a feeble attempt to catch Hannibal’s attention. He needs… He’s not even sure, he just knows he’s about to burst out of his skin. Please, Hannibal. Touch me.

‘Easy, Will,’ Hannibal murmurs, allowing his eyes to take in the offering before him. Will’s cheeks are flushed pink and his chest heaves as he tries to display himself for Hannibal. He drives with one hand on the wheel and reaches over to squeeze the back of Will’s neck. The effect is instant; Will freezes in place and then relaxes, his head dropping forwards and a low, grateful moan slipping past scalding lips. ‘Rest,’ Hannibal says, digging his thumb into the nerves designed to Gentle Will to the point of sleep. Under his clever fingers, Will’s breathing deepens into an even rhythm and Hannibal eases his head to rest on the window for the rest of the journey.

Will closes his eyes as soon as Hannibal touches his nape. He breathes slowly, savouring their mingled scents. Hears a vague instruction through the ringing in his ears and then he lets go, ebbing and flowing with the tide inside him.

He must have fallen asleep because he jerks back to reality when Hannibal scoops him up from the car. He struggles, earning himself a warning growl. The sound of it paralyses him and he whimpers, letting his head fall back to expose his throat.

Hannibal presses a kiss to his chin, accepting the apology, and allows Will to stand by himself, stepping back so that Will can adjust the coat around his shoulders. As satisfying as it would be to carry the Omega into his house, throw him down on the bed and devour him, Will is beginning to cool down, and he won’t appreciate being treated so delicately. Not until Hannibal can wind him back up again, and burn away all thought from his mind.

Gesturing to the front door, Hannibal leads the way inside. He can hear Will’s fluttering heartbeat and smell the first hint of fear as Will realises where he is. I could have done anything to you, Will. You were utterly at my mercy.

He reaches back, taking Will by the hand again, and guides him forwards, across the threshold and into the hallway. He doesn’t allow for any further hesitation; apprehension is tolerable, adding a pleasant tang to Will’s scent, but he must not doubt the safety that Hannibal presents.

Hannibal’s hand is so strong and sure on his own. Will falters but then a yawn cracks his jaw as his eyes try to adjust to the dim light. He’s still not sure he’s fully awake; maybe he left his head on the pillow at home.

Everything in Hannibal’s house is dark wood and lavish furnishings, lit by the soft glow of unobtrusive lamps. Will shrugs out of Hannibal’s coat, teeth chattering as the sweat on his skin chills him to the bone. Hannibal hangs it with his scarf and begins to climb the stairs. He doesn’t wait for Will, or say anything; it is clear that he expects Will to follow.

What else can he do?

Will takes a deep breath, bracing himself on the bannister, and follows. Hesitates when the Alpha looks to be leading him into the master bedroom.

‘Um, Hannibal, I don’t…’

Hannibal turns, feigning surprise. Will blushes an adorable shade of red and hangs his head, shifting from foot to foot with embarrassment. Hannibal leaves him to fidget for a moment and then smiles, backing away towards the room. His retreat should trigger Will’s need to hunt, and it works like a charm. Will’s head comes up, his eyes flash gold, so bright they’re almost silver, and he bares his teeth. Comes after him and grabs for him as Hannibal drops the bag.

Hannibal’s arms come up around his back again, crushing him close. Will claims the Alpha’s mouth in a brutal kiss, sucking Hannibal’s tongue into his mouth and growling when Hannibal doesn’t fuck him with it immediately. The touch of the other man’s skin on his strikes a match and his body fires up again, consuming him.

‘Will,’ Hannibal pants, adopting the frantic, worried tone of someone trying to slow it down, to reason with him. As though he didn’t just trigger Will’s chase instinct. ‘Look at me.’ He takes Will’s face in both of his hands, staring deep into his eyes. ‘Is this what you want?’

‘Yesss,’ Will hisses, clawing at Hannibal’s sweater, trying to remember how to pull it up and over his head. He needs Hannibal’s skin; needs his bare chest and abdomen, needs his lips and his hands and his teeth. He needs everything.

Hannibal smiles, and helps remove his sweater so that Will can litter his collarbone and chest with damp, open-mouthed kisses. He backs up until his knees hit the edge of the bed and then pretends to fall.

Will follows, straddling his lap, squeezing his waist with slick-damp thighs. He grabs at Hannibal’s face, holding it between scorching palms, and claims his mouth in another punishing kiss. He can’t breathe, can’t think. He needs this. Needs Hannibal to be inside him, filling him, making him whole. He can’t be alone anymore.

Hannibal peels Will’s wet t-shirt from his feverish body, licking up the length of Will’s throat, savouring his salty sweat. Will moans, rocking his hips as if he’s already filled with Hannibal’s knot, raking his back with his nails.

Growling at the sting of pain, Hannibal grabs Will up into his arms and stands. He turns, shoving Will down onto the mattress, crawling up to lie between his legs as Will spreads his knees for him. He settles heavily against Will’s hardness, feeling Will’s excitement soak through his thin boxers to create a damp patch on Hannibal’s slacks.

Rearing up, Hannibal sits back on his heels and rips Will’s underwear off, revealing a glistening Adonis laid bare before him. Will’s eyes are pure gold and the flush of his cheeks spreads down to his creamy white chest, darkening the skin beneath the soft brown hair between his nipples. He is lean, his muscles sculpted and shining in the moonlight. He’s hard, quivering and twitching as the cool air brushes over him. Hannibal can smell the sweet, sharp scent of his slick and his mouth waters. He wants to taste it.

Will is beyond words. All that slips past swollen lips are whimpers and moans. He pleads with Hannibal as best he can, drawing him in with an arched spine, spreading his legs and crossing his arms over his head in utter surrender. It is instinctive and pure and beautiful, and Hannibal has to work hard to crush the urge to mate with him now. This is about manipulation; not love.

‘Sssh,’ he soothes, dropping back down to cover Will’s bare body with his own. His muscles ripple as he rocks his erection against Will’s groin, and Will lowers his arms to stroke them reverently, planting kiss after kiss on Hannibal’s lips, cheeks, jaw and shoulders.

Please, please. Will tries to pull Hannibal closer, tries to grab him by the hair but he’s falling into the fire snatching his breath. Shaking hard enough to make his teeth chatter, it’s all he can do to watch as Hannibal sits up again, steady hands undoing his slacks and pushing them down perfect thighs. He wants it. Hannibal is long and hard, begging to be swallowed.

‘Roll over,’ Hannibal growls, his voice ripping through Will’s body like a knife. Will scrambles to obey, gasping as he grinds himself down into Hannibal’s silky smooth sheets. Oh God… He could come just from that, and then Hannibal is over him again, his low growl sending ripples down Will’s spine. Will sucks in a shaky breath, bending his knees to lift his ass up, presenting himself for mating. His neck is painfully hot and he can feel tears rolling down his cheeks. He needs Hannibal to bite him. To hold him. There’s a remembered smell of concrete and oil, sending icy panic through his gut, but he buries his face into Hannibal’s quilt, sucking up his scent to calm him, filling his mind with fog again. He’s safe here.

At the tang of fear in Will’s earthy scent, Hannibal pauses. He slides up Will’s body, bracing himself on either side of Will’s trembling head to kiss him, so gently, beneath the ear.

‘Stay with me,’ he whispers. Will nods, and Hannibal smiles into his neck. He pulls back, just a little, and then he rasps his tongue over the burgundy skin on the nape of Will’s neck. Will cries out, bucking wildly, white-knuckled fists gripping tight to the covers as he comes hard, spilling himself across his stomach and Hannibal’s quilt.

Hannibal gives a growling purr. He licks Will’s neck again, sliding his hands over and around Will’s wrists, squeezing tight and pinning him down. Will whimpers, rolling his forehead forwards to bare more of his nape for Hannibal to bite, dipping his spine and tucking his knees up as much as Hannibal’s weight will allow, trying to encourage the Alpha to mount him.

‘You’re going to be mine, Will,’ Hannibal breathes, speaking into Will’s musky sweat. He can feel his eyes itching as they glow red. His jaws ache with the need to bite down, to sink into Will’s velvet soft flesh and tear a scar that will ridge into a crest of ownership. He locks his teeth around the patch of blisteringly hot skin, riding Will’s back as the Omega bucks and cries beneath him, his body wracked with wave after wave of pleasure.

Will shudders as he comes again, his insides clenching up and spiking pain because Hannibal isn’t filling him. Isn’t fucking him. Why isn’t Hannibal fucking him? What’s he waiting for? He tries to move his arms, tries to reach for the Alpha, but Hannibal’s hands are trapping him, locking him in place.

‘H-Ha-‘ He chokes off Hannibal’s name as the other man growls. Squeezes his eyes tight shut, panting into the damp sheets under his mouth. It’s exquisite torture – pleasure and pain and pleasure again, shattering him as Hannibal sucks a livid bruise without breaking the skin, lapping at his nape until his mind melts into the white pleasure blinding him. He can’t stop coming, his body opening wider with every climax, pushing more and more slick out of him until it runs like tears down his thighs.

‘Will you say it?’ Hannibal murmurs, releasing Will’s neck to speak directly into his ear. ‘Tell me; who do you belong to, Will?’

Will whimpers, flexing his cramping fingers. He twists his head, staring back over his shoulder at the blurry, shadowed form behind him. He can’t… He can’t

Hannibal bares his teeth at Will’s hesitation, his eyes flashing red in the darkness. He rocks his hips down, rubbing his length between Will’s buttocks, teasing his entrance, gathering up his slick but denying him the satisfaction of slipping inside. It would be so easy, but he has no intention of giving Will what he wants. What he needs. Not yet.

‘Who do you belong to, Will?’ he repeats, scraping his teeth so lightly over Will’s tingling neck. He tastes sweet, and Hannibal swallows hard before moaning into an open-mouthed kiss across the mark he has left.

Will shudders again, huffing out a little sob as his body tries to come again. It hurts but it feels so good… He can’t… He can’tPlease… He doesn’t know if he wants Hannibal to stop or keep going. He doesn’t know if Hannibal will stop. He can’t make him do anything.

Say it.

He bites his lip hard enough to taste blood. He shakes, flexing his legs and pushing his back up against Hannibal’s chest, gasping as dribbles of sweat tickle his ribs and catch in his armpits.

‘Y-You,’ he whispers, a broken, pathetic little sound. I belong to you.

Good,’ Hannibal purrs, releasing Will’s neck to kiss his spine. He lets go of Will’s wrists and slides lower, licking a trail through the beads of moisture gathered in the small of Will’s back, humming his pleasure at the sweet, spicy taste of him.

Will quivers, releasing a long, slow moan as Hannibal licks and kisses his way down his spine. Twists his head and rests his cheek on the warm covers, blinking heavy eyes as he tries to catch his breath. Hannibal is going to stop… isn’t he? He won’t go too low…

Resting his cheek on the twitching mound of Will’s right buttock, Hannibal breathes in very deeply and deliberately. He allows Will to feel the curve of his lips as he smiles; he’s pleased with how slick Will is, and how it smells. Minty sharp with innocence, sugar sweet and earthy musk… A blend that is uniquely Will and yet just one of several versions that Hannibal will come to know. He gives a rumbling purr and then nuzzles a little closer to Will’s glistening crack, chuckling when Will whines and squirms, a half-hearted attempt to get away.

‘Hannibal,’ Will mumbles, his cheeks burning with embarrassment. He can’t do that.

He doesn’t have long before Will comes fully back to himself. Hannibal places one last, lingering kiss on Will’s damp cheek and then slides back up his body. He lies to the side, turning Will so that the smaller man is facing away from him, wrapped in his arms with his back pressed against Hannibal’s front. It is distracting; Will’s body is still warm and open, begging to take him as deep inside as he can go, and Hannibal hasn’t had a release. But it is part of the plan, and he can wait.

‘Hannibal,’ Will says again, his voice catching in a whimper as he bows his head to bare his suck-bruised neck to the Alpha. He trembles as Hannibal pulls him back against his length, but Hannibal simply holds him close, pulling the covers up and over their naked bodies. The sheets are soft and everything smells of Hannibal’s musky scent. The quilt is thick and heavy over his shoulders, but it is lined with silk and, for the first time in his life, Will finds himself enjoying the weight of it. He burrows his arm under the pillow, slipping into warm darkness with none of the usual fear. I’m safe here.

Hannibal hugs Will close, burying his nose in Will’s sweaty curls. The Omega is purring in his sleep, and Hannibal gives him one last kiss before turning his attention to the next part of his plan. When Will wakes, he will likely be confused, embarrassed and scared. Hannibal will need to get up early and create a welcoming environment for him; breakfast in bed, perhaps, offered with a chaste kiss and then a feigned awkwardness so that Will’s guilt can fill in the blanks and make it seem that he initiated the contact. Hannibal will pin the sleep-walking on stress; a result of Jack exposing him to an excessive amount of violence. He will also explain that returning to a steady, predictable routine of heat suppressants after too many for so long may cause Will to think he is experiencing prodromal symptoms, when, in fact, they are merely normal temperature fluctuations as his body adjusts to the recommended dosage again.

As Hannibal drifts into his dreamless sleep, he smiles one last time to himself. You said you belong to me, Will. There’s no going back from that.

***

The morning, however, does not go according to plan. Hannibal wakes alone, Will’s faded scent suggesting that he had woken at least an hour before the Alpha. Pulling on fresh slacks and a clean shirt, he wraps himself in a dark blue robe to ward off the chill of the house, and then goes in search of his Omega.

He finds Will in the kitchen, showered and dressed, wearing his coat as if he has just arrived, or is just about to leave. His brown curls are fluffy, freshly washed, but when Hannibal tastes the air, he is disappointed to find that Will used his scent-deadening shampoo. At least he hasn’t sprayed himself with that obnoxious Beta spray and aftershave, yet.

Will jumps when Hannibal clears his throat, and moves away to put the counter between them. He fidgets, chewing at his lower lip and casting his stormy blue eyes everywhere except towards the Alpha. Hannibal squashes his instinctive growl and the urge to pin Will up against the refrigerator. There will be plenty of time for that. Instead, he goes to his espresso machine and sets about preparing them both a drink.

‘Although I may be, is it safe to assume you’re not sleepwalking now?’ he teases, smiling up at Will as he works the tap, filling the kitchen with the rich aroma of fresh coffee.

‘I’m sorry it’s so early,’ Will mumbles, closing his fist around the can of spray in his coat pocket. He shouldn’t have hesitated before walking out; he should be a mile down the road already. Or perhaps he should never have come in the first place. What happened last night? He can’t… He shouldn’t be here…

‘Never apologize for coming to me,’ Hannibal says, glancing up again to keep Will grounded in the kitchen and not on his worries. ‘Office hours are for patients.  My kitchen is always open to friends.’

He finishes the coffee and then remembers that Omegas like sweet things, adding a heaped sugar to the cup before handing it to Will. The other man looks drawn and pale, his eyes bruised from exhaustion. He takes the cup but doesn’t drink yet; Hannibal smiles to himself when he realises Will is savouring the smell of it. Good. You’re learning.

‘Onset of sleepwalking in adulthood is less common than in children,’ he says. Will makes an unhappy little noise.

‘Could be a seizure?’ he asks.

The little sound of concern from Will tugs at Hannibal’s chest, but he distracts himself by fixing his own drink.

‘I’d argue good old-fashioned post-traumatic stress,’ he replies. ‘Jack Crawford has gotten your hands very dirty.’ He can’t keep his anger from sharpening his voice, and from the corner of his eye he sees Will flinch as the Omega picks up on his emotions.

‘Wasn’t forced back into the field,’ Will mumbles, and Hannibal wonders if he realises he is trying to keep two Alphas happy. Still defending Jack. So loyal.

‘I wouldn’t say forced.’ Hannibal speaks down to his hands, but he aims every word at Will’s heart. ‘Manipulated would be the word I’d choose.’ I should know, Will. I’m doing it to you right now.

Will takes a sip of coffee, holding it in his mouth a moment before swallowing. It’s really good; he’s never had anything like it, but he remembers the taste from Hannibal’s lips when he kissed him, so the Alpha must drink it a lot. That thought makes his belly squirm and his neck prickle with heat, and he shifts his weight again. Hannibal is so still, so calm… Will has a current of tension humming through him and it makes him nervous. He feels so chaotic compared to the Alpha.

‘I can handle it,’ he mutters.

‘Somewhere between denying horrible events and calling them out lies the truth of psychological trauma,’ Hannibal replies. Will huffs a bitter laugh.

‘So, I can’t handle it?’ he barks.

‘Your experience may have overwhelmed ordinary functions that give you a sense of control,’ Hannibal says, offering Will a tiny shrug. He locks eyes with him, warmed by the confident way the Omega meets his gaze. The duality of Will’s personality is intoxicating. Hannibal wants Will to stare at him every time he lifts his head and, at the same time, lower his eyes in submission, bare his throat and also attack, fight until his last breath.

Will frowns, his eyes flashing gold with anger. His heart trips over itself, setting up a faulty rhythm that batters his ribcage.

‘If my body is walking around without my permission, you’d say that’s a loss of control?’ he snarls.

Hannibal allows a smirk to curve his lips. Will is rattled; the idea of losing control of himself terrifies him, yet that is precisely what heat is – the utter abandonment of control, of higher brain function. Just another example of the Omega fighting his nature.

‘Wouldn’t you?’ he says quietly, and the knife cuts deep. Will flinches and looks away. The fire fades and he settles for taking another drink of coffee. Soothing himself with Hannibal’s taste. That’s it, Will. Hannibal savours his own coffee and then deepens the knife wound in Will’s psyche. ‘Sleepwalkers demonstrate a difficulty handling aggression.’ He leans closer, offering Will secrecy. ‘Are you experiencing difficulty with aggressive feelings?’ he asks coyly.

Will sighs. He looks away, his gaze unfocussed as he paces back and forth. Hannibal’s words have struck a chord, and it’s as if the Alpha is drawing poison from a wound he didn’t even know he had.

‘You said Jack sees me as fine china used for special guests…’ He shakes his head, his throat catching around a self-pitying whimper even as black tar oozes through his veins. When he meets Hannibal’s eyes, his irises are shimmering with gold again. ‘Beginning to feel more like an old mug.’

There’s your dark shadow, Hannibal thinks, looking away so as not to reveal his emotions. Let’s aim it at Jack, shall we?

‘You entered into a Devil’s Bargain with Jack Crawford,’ he says simply, drinking more coffee. ‘Takes a toll.’

‘Jack isn’t the devil,’ Will snaps, gulping the last of the coffee.

‘When it comes to how far he’s willing to push you to get what he wants, he’s certainly no saint,’ Hannibal replies, watching as Will takes this in, nodding to himself because he can’t deny the truth of it. There is a sadness to his face, a downward twist to his mouth.

Hannibal allows the silence to grow between them as he finishes his coffee. Will places the cup down on the marble counter. Puts his hands back into his pockets and then begins to pace again. Back and forth, three steps at a time. He smells nervous, and he keeps chewing his lower lip, sucking it between his teeth to gnaw at the soft flesh. Hannibal smiles at how adorable he is.

‘Do you want to talk about last night?’ he asks, shattering the quiet. Will winces, withdrawing his hands from his pockets and wiping his palms against his thighs. He scrubs at the stubble on his face, thumbs scratching over the short hair, and then wipes his eyes.

‘Er, yeah…’ He sighs. ‘I suppose we should.’

Hannibal waits, but Will doesn’t seem to be able to say anything else. Just hangs his head and frowns at the floor.

‘Will?’ Hannibal asks, prompting Will to glance at him.

‘What happened?’ Will blurts, his chest tightening at how pathetic and desperate he sounds.

‘What do you remember?’ Hannibal counters, narrowing his eyes at Will, smiling when he sees the blush darken Will’s cheeks.

‘I, er, I remember going to bed… I was having a nightmare… And then…’ Will sighs again. ‘I’m not sure… Sleepwalking, I suppose… It’s sort of a blur…’ He locks eyes with Hannibal, setting his jaw in challenge. ‘I remember waking up with you, in your bed. Naked.’

Hannibal quirks his eyebrow, his smile turning sly.

‘Yes, you were quite insistent on removing your clothing,’ he says lightly, chuckling when Will’s blush deepens. The Omega seems to be frozen, limbs locked in place with embarrassment, and Hannibal continues to speak as he moves around the counter to close the distance between them. ‘Your body is still adjusting to a regular dose of hormonal suppressants; after so long on too many, I imagine it must have felt as if you were slipping towards heat.’

‘Yes,’ Will whispers, ducking his head in shame at overreacting. Hannibal is so close to him now; he can smell their mingled scents on the Alpha’s skin, even if he is wearing clean clothes. Hannibal must have changed to put him at ease. He doesn’t know that nothing can put Will at ease right now.

Will’s struggle is evident in the crease of his brow, the turn of his mouth and the pinched strain of his cheeks as he grinds his teeth. As different as the morning is turning out to be, the Omega is still open to his persuasion, and Hannibal presses his advantage. He moves fast, pushing Will back against the kitchen island, pinning him with his hips and claiming his mouth in a hungry kiss. Will tenses, shocked at the touch, but then he reaches for Hannibal’s arms, grabbing fistfuls of silk and velvet to pull him closer. He spreads his legs, allowing Hannibal to settle one thigh between his, adding weight to his growing erection even as he opens his mouth to suck at Hannibal’s tongue.

His Omega has quite an extraordinary mouth, Hannibal decides, cupping each side of Will’s face to hold him, tenderly, as he claims his lips again. Hot and soft, begging to be spread wide as they wrap around him, his clever tongue working every inch of him as his throat tightens and then relaxes in anticipation of his seed… But Will needs him to be gentle this morning, after being so intimate last night. Hannibal knows there needs to be a period of affection for the sake of it, so as not to scare him. He will take control, and guide Will to feel secure in what happened between them without pushing it further. A tenuous balance, but one that he is confident he can maintain.

To prove his point, he pulls back from Will’s lips and places a final kiss on the smaller man’s forehead, withdrawing just enough to make Will’s throat catch with a whimper.

‘Thank you for calling me,’ he murmurs, speaking into Will’s hot cheek as the Omega turns his face away.

Will hums, ducking his head to nuzzle at Hannibal’s collarbone. As much as the nape of his neck is tingling and he is aching and hard, he’s not sure he can bring himself to do more with the Alpha in the harsh light of day. He’s not sure what’s happening between them, but if he raises it, tries to put it into words, it feels as if it will shatter, and he doesn’t want that.

Hannibal smiles to himself as Will tucks himself against his chest, cuddling up as he seeks simple comfort from the Alpha. Will is progressing perfectly, and Hannibal rewards him with strong arms around his back, holding him close as he slips his hands beneath Will’s coat, stroking up and down his spine. He can feel Will trembling, but he remains silent, and they simply stand there, sharing warmth, savouring the feel of each other until it is time to go.

‘Thank you,’ Will mutters, averting his gaze when Hannibal pulls back. He sniffs and crosses his arms, barely resisting the urge to hug himself. He feels so cold and vulnerable without Hannibal holding him. It’s ridiculous; just another example of his weak biology.

‘The pleasure was mine,’ Hannibal replies, and Will blushes again, clearing his throat and shuffling his feet because he’s certain the Alpha did feel pleasure, but there was no seed on or in him to prove that Hannibal took advantage of him last night. In fact, he has a feeling that Hannibal made him come, though he’s not  sure that wasn’t just another dream.

Hannibal reaches over and cups Will’s face one last time, stroking his cheek as he stares deep into his eyes, checking the thick band of gold hemming in the blue. He can feel a tug in his chest, making his heart clench around a beat; hunger and affection. A dangerous combination.

‘Remember to use your drops before you go,’ he says softly. ‘Your tablets are upstairs.’

Will nods, and swallows again. There is a moment, a hesitation, and then he grabs up the courage to lean up and kiss Hannibal’s mouth, closing his eyes and allowing a single, soft whine of pleasure escape his throat at the taste and feel of the other man.

Hannibal lifts his fingers to touch his tingling lips as Will ducks out of the kitchen. He watches him go, eyebrows drawing together into a curious frown.

Did you just take back some control from me, Will?

***

Jack collects him from the office and takes him to Trenton, New Jersey, where the Angel Maker has killed and mutilated two people.

Will braces himself when he steps out of the car; the local police officers and FBI agents are upset and angry by whatever’s inside. Their emotions batter him, and he keeps close to Jack, as though the bristling Alpha can somehow shield him from their maelstrom of fury. He’d found a sense of calm at Hannibal’s house, but that is all stripped away now that he is hundreds of miles from Baltimore.

‘Room was registered to John Smith, along with every other room here,’ Jack says, nodding to an officer as he moves aside for them.

Will can’t stop his derisive snort.

‘Appalling failure of imagination.’

‘They paid with cash,’ Jack continues. ‘No security cameras on the premises. The motel practically advertises it.’

I’ll bet, Will thinks dryly. I wonder if Hannibal has ever visited such a place. Horrified by the thought, he quickly asks if John Smith is one of the victims, surprised when Jack denies it. The victims are Mr and Mrs Anderson. He pauses when Jack touches his arm, his dark shadow rearing up at the contact. Don’t touch me!

‘I need you to prepare yourself,’ Jack says carefully.

Will barely resists the urge to roll his eyes. Jack’s feigned concern is irritating. After the child-killers, what could be worse?

‘I’m prepared.’

‘Prepare yourself some more,’ Jack snaps, eyes flashing red. ‘It’s soup in there.’

‘Soup is good for the soul,’ Will mutters. He doesn’t have the energy for this. For Jack. For his… coddling.

‘Not this soup,’ Jack insists. ‘No jurisdictional rivalry here. Local Police practically begged us to take it.’

Will nods, or thinks he does, but his mind is back in bed, with Hannibal. Although he fell asleep in the Alpha’s arms, warm and comfortable and safe, he got barely more than a couple of hours, and his head is fuzzy with exhaustion. He flinches when Jack snaps his fingers under his nose.

‘Hey! Where’s your head?’ Jack asks, scowling at the distracted Omega.

‘On my pillow,’ Will growls, feeling his darkness swarm up behind his eyes. Jack is always pushing him… One of these days, Will might just push back. ‘I didn’t sleep.’

It’s not a complete lie; he didn’t sleep, not much. He has no intention of admitting what happened last night, not to anyone. It’s not as if it will happen again, anyway, so it’s not relevant.

Jack gives a cynical smile at the idea Will’s reaction to the bodies in the motel room.

‘Got just the thing to wake you up.’

***

Toxicology takes a day to come back. Traces of medication from the Angel Maker’s vomit indicates that he has a brain tumour. He’s afraid of dying in his sleep, so he’s making angels to watch over him, just in case.

Will pours himself another strong black coffee, allowing himself a single sugar to sweeten it before gulping the scalding liquid back. It’s like battery acid compared to the rich, smooth roast that Hannibal gave him the other day, but he’s not drinking it for enjoyment. He needs to stay alert; needs to solve the case.

He needs to stay awake, so that he can tire himself enough to sleep tonight. He tried going to bed alone last night, and watched the night fade, painfully slowly, into the grey light of dawn. His body is a mess of pain; his back is aching, his temples throb and there’s a constant ringing in his ears.

After pacing his office for an hour, wearing a dent into the threadbare carpet in front of his desk, Will makes the decision that going to see Hannibal is not a personal matter; he needs advice about neurology, about brain tumours and how they affect thinking patterns.

When he climbs behind the wheel of his car, he realises he’s trembling. Flushed with excitement. Then nerves slither through his belly and tie his guts into knots because he doesn’t even know if Hannibal will be at the office. He grabs for his phone, dislodging the heat suppressants from his pocket as he pulls it free, and, without thinking, knocks one back with the cold dregs of his eighth coffee as he listens to the rings.

‘Hello, Will.’

Hannibal’s voice is warm and soothing; he always sounds pleased and mildly curious to be contacted by him. Will huffs out a tiny breath and rubs the back of his neck, careful to avoid the hot, tingling skin of his nape.

‘Hello, Dr Lecter…’ He blushes, fumbling over his inelegance. ‘Um… Are you busy?’

‘Just finished with a patient,’ Hannibal confirms. ‘Would you like to come over?’

‘Er, yes… Yes, please,’ Will says, his heart skipping a beat as he realises he sounds breathless. He swallows, ignoring the flutter in his belly. ‘It’s for a case.’

‘Of course. I’ll see you soon.’

He hangs up, leaving Will staring at the black screen. He frowns when he notices how gold his eyes are. How long have they been like that? Nobody else noticed, did they?

Squeezing a couple of Inhibitor drops into each eye, Will replaces his glasses and starts the car. Traffic is pretty light, and he stops to grab another drink on the way. Looking down the menu, he considers getting something for Hannibal, but it’s a roadside coffee van and Hannibal has already said he’s particular about what he puts in his body. For some reason, that thought makes Will blush, and he drops his change when he goes to hand it to the barista.

‘Sorry…’ he mumbles, grabbing to pick it up and all but throwing it at the indulgently smiling Beta, ducking his head and hurrying away before he can get any sympathetic ‘nervous little Omega’ noises from the other customers. He gives in to his craving and pours three sachets of sugar into the double shot before climbing back into the car to get to Hannibal. Why can’t he calm down?

Hannibal is waiting for at the door for him when he arrives. He smiles at Will, taking in the sheen of sweat on his forehead, the tang of agitation to his scent and the way his gold-tinged eyes dart around the office, seeking out the comfort of the familiar. Perfect.

‘Come in,’ he says, taking Will’s coat and hanging it beside his own. Will gives him a tiny smile and ducks inside, pacing back and forth as he explains the situation with the Angel Maker. Hannibal listens without interruption, and when Will is finished, he turns to ascend the ladder to the mezzanine library.

‘There’s no one-and-only spiritual centre of the brain,’ he says, searching for a particular book on neurology. ‘Any idea of God comes from many areas of the mind, working together in unison.’ Having found it, he tosses it down to Will, who is waiting patiently below.

Will flips through the pages, sighing and shaking his head because it’s still not sitting right with him.

‘Maybe I was wrong,’ he says. He grinds his teeth, squinting because he just can’t think through his headache. ‘How do you profile someone who has a tumour in their head, changing the way they think?’

Hannibal takes a second textbook from the shelves, spreading it open on the gallery railing so that he can keep an eye on Will whilst he reads.

‘A tumor can definitely affect brain function, even causing vivid hallucinations,’ he says, enjoying the advantage of an unobstructed view of his Omega. Will’s skin is cast gently aglow in the lamplight, and his jaw creates a sharp angle above the slim curve of his throat. He seems to have calmed now; Hannibal’s scent has soothed him, and Hannibal allows himself a small smile. ‘However,’ he continues, catching Will’s attention again, ‘what appears to be driving your Angel Maker to create heaven on Earth is a simple issue of mortality.’

Will snorts back down at the book.

‘Can’t beat God, become him?’

‘You said he was afraid,’ Hannibal reasons. That resonates with Will, and he pauses, glancing up at something unseen.

‘He feels abandoned,’ he says softly.

Your extraordinary empathy comes from your own sorrow and darkness, Will, Hannibal thinks. Let yourself feel how helpless you are.

‘Ever feel abandoned, Will?’ he asks, twisting the knife he dug deep last time they discussed Will’s mother.

Will gives a bitter, hollow laugh and turns away.

‘Abandonment requires expectation,’ he mutters. His words are cutting, and, for just a moment, Hannibal’s eyes itch red. You expect nothing from me, Will? However, this is another perfect opportunity to widen the gap between Will and Jack, one that Hannibal will not waste.

‘What were your expectations of Jack Crawford and the FBI?’ he asks lightly.

Will snaps the book shut and drops it onto Hannibal’s desk.

‘Jack hasn’t abandoned me.’

‘Not in any discernible way,’ Hannibal says, forsaking the pretence of reading to grip the railing and stare down at the Omega. Will’s scent is sharpening with anger now; how much of it is directed towards Hannibal? ‘Perhaps in the way gods abandon their creations.’ He narrows his eyes. ‘You say he hasn’t abandoned you, but at the same time you find yourself wandering around Wolf Trap in the middle of the night.’

Will tries to roll the tension from his shoulders. He doesn’t want to talk about Jack Crawford right now; he doesn’t want to talk about anything right now. His skin is stinging and the rough cotton of his blue check shirt is hurting him. He tries to adjust it where it is tucked into his belt, and scratches the back of his neck on the collar when he turns, fists in his pockets, to look up at Hannibal, his eyes flashing gold in challenge even as his mouth curves into a smile at how possessive Hannibal has become.

‘Well, this should be interesting,’ he snaps. ‘Please, Doctor, proceed.’

Hannibal restrains himself from sighing, barely.

‘Jack gave you his word he would protect your headspace,’ he says. ‘Yet he leaves you to your mental devices.’

Will frowns. Possessiveness and protectiveness aside, there’s something in Hannibal’s words that don’t sit comfortably with him. It reminds him of a previous partner, someone overly jealous of his time and affection…

‘Are you trying to alienate me from Jack Crawford?’ he asks, hating the way his voice wobbles at the idea of Hannibal manipulating him like that.

‘I’m trying to help you understand this Angel Maker you seek,’ Hannibal says, returning the book to the shelf. It is time to back down, to give Will space to breathe and rest and absorb his words.

‘Help me understand how to catch him,’ Will snaps. He can’t… He can’t have this conversation with Hannibal right now. Not when he already feels… conflicted.

‘If he were a classic paranoid schizophrenic, you might be able to influence him to become visible,’ Hannibal says, giving him what he needs.

‘Scare him out into the daylight?’ Will asks, leaning back against Hannibal’s desk to finish his lukewarm coffee.

Hannibal narrows his eyes at it; from the shaking in Will’s hands, it is hardly the first or even second of the day.

‘Might even get him to hurt himself, if he hasn’t already,’ he says, but Will shakes his head in frustration.

‘No… if he were self-destructive, he… he wouldn’t be so careful.’

‘Unless he’s being careful about being self-destructive,’ Hannibal suggests. ‘He’s making angels to pray over him when he sleeps.’

Will looks up at him. They lock eyes for a moment; red-ringed brown meeting blue-tinged gold.

‘Who prays over us when we sleep?’ Hannibal asks softly. He sees a shiver run down Will’s spine; is it fear or desire? Perhaps both. Adjusts his jacket and tie. ‘I’m sorry, Will; I don’t think I’ve been able to give you what you came here for.’ 

Will swallows the dryness in his throat, trying not to watch the way Hannibal’s suit trousers cling to his thighs as he climbs down the ladder. You will, he thinks. Just not for the case.

He stays very still as the Alpha approaches, his hands beside him, white-knuckled as he grips onto the desk. Hannibal’s scent is warm and smooth, and Will parts his lips to taste him on the roof of his mouth. Hannibal is aroused; Will is beginning to recognise the way the smell thickens just before Hannibal touches him, or kisses him.

‘You still look tired,’ Hannibal says, reaching out to stroke a brown curl from Will’s forehead. His movement excites the other man and Will’s breath quivers across his lips. His eyes darken, the pupils widening before shrinking under a wave of gold that spreads from the outer ring to consume the blue of his iris. ‘Is that why you’re drinking so much coffee?’

‘Can’t sleep,’ Will mutters. He can’t stop staring at Hannibal, but at the same time, he wants to lower his gaze, tilt his head and submit. The confusion is like an electric charge, locking him in place and making him shake as he fights invisible chains. ‘Not since…’ He bites his lip to silence himself.

‘Not since you called me,’ Hannibal finishes, and rewards Will with a smile. He moves his hand down to cup Will’s cheek, stroking his jawline with his thumb. He can feel the thundering pulse in Will’s throat, and the Omega’s skin warms beneath his fingers as desire rolls through him.

Will nods, hardly daring to swallow for fear of making Hannibal let go. He doesn’t want him to let go; doesn’t want him to stop touching him. In fact…

He takes a step closer, pressing the front of his body up against Hannibal’s lean chest and stomach, sliding a knee up between Hannibal’s thighs to rub at the growing hardness in the Alpha’s groin. He smiles when Hannibal’s breath falters, and he starts to draw his head back, arching his spine so that Hannibal will have to chase him if he wants to claim his mouth in a kiss.

A low rumble works its way up Hannibal’s throat and he strikes, grabbing the back of Will’s head with one hand and pinning his wrist to the desk with the other. He crushes their lips together, a bruising kiss of ownership, rewarded with a pleading whimper.

Will kisses back just as fiercely, licking at Hannibal’s teeth, coaxing him to tongue-fuck his mouth the way he likes. He slides his free hand around Hannibal’s waist, holding him close, fingers slipping on the silky wool of the suit jacket.

Hannibal growls and grips a fistful of Will’s hair. He pulls the Omega’s head back, forcing him to bare his throat, and locks his teeth into the flesh over his pulse. Will gasps as his skin breaks, sending shockwaves of heat and pleasure up his spine. Hannibal purrs as bright crimson trickles down the creamy skin, staining the collar of Will’s shirt.

‘Hannibal!’ Will gasps, bucking up against Hannibal’s thigh as the Alpha laps at the blood. He’s never been bitten before, not like this, and the nape of his neck is scorching hot, so tender it’s almost painful. He needs Hannibal there. Needs his teeth inside him there. ‘Please… please…’

‘Ssh.’ Hannibal soothes him, sucking and kissing at the bite mark, relaxing his hand to stroke Will’s hair as the Omega shudders against him. He never thought it would be this easy to play his body, but Will is so eager to mate that he reacts to the barest stimuli. He is a treat to Hannibal’s senses, and one that he intends to savour.

Hannibal holds him close, cradling the back of his head as Will melts against him. He releases his neck to kiss him again, sharing the coppery taste of his blood. Will moans into his lips, his free hand still scrabbling at Hannibal’s back in a vain effort to pull him even closer. He needs him, needs this… Needs more.

‘Would you like to come home with me, Will?’ Hannibal asks, murmuring the words into Will’s flushed cheek.

Will’s belly flips at the idea and he’s nodding before he’s even processed what that really means. He shoves up from the desk, taking Hannibal by surprise and breaking his grip. Wraps his arms around Hannibal’s neck and kisses him again, his chest vibrating with a growling purr as he sucks and bites at the Alpha’s lower lip, groaning at the taste of him, of blood and wine and musk.

Hannibal allows Will to hug him close, draping his arms around Will’s slim waist and dipping his head so that he can deepen the kiss. He slides his hands up Will’s spine and tickles his fingers over the burning skin at the nape of Will’s neck, grinning when the Omega goes rigid with pleasure, kiss-red lips parted in an ‘oh’ when Hannibal does it again.

He can’t breathe. Every time Hannibal brushes over his nape, over the stupidly smooth skin where a crest should be, it’s as if he’s about to come. Will can feel slick dribble down his thighs, but he doesn’t care. He can smell himself, the sharp, sweetness of it, inviting Hannibal to mate with him, to join their scents together, and he wants it. He’s ready. He wraps his arm tighter around Hannibal’s neck, panting into his mouth as Hannibal smiles at him and does it again, tickling feather-light touches over his most sensitive part.

Will is almost crying with the torture of it. Hannibal wants to keep him like this forever, always a moment away from bliss; he could destroy him with this. Drive him insane with it until Will is a broken shell of himself, willing to do anything to feel just a little more pleasure.

‘Hannibal, please,’ Will whispers, forcing his eyes open to stare into glinting burgundy. Hannibal is enjoying this. Will’s dark shadow wants to fight, wants to hurt him, but he can’t move except to judder as tears roll down his cheeks. He bares his teeth, digging his nails into Hannibal’s neck, rocking against him as if he can persuade Hannibal to give in to him. As if he has any power over him.

Will’s tear-stained face and the soft whimpers escaping his lips warm Hannibal’s chest. He tilts his head back and licks his lips, savouring the taste and smell of Will’s desire, and then grips him tight on the neck, massaging the scorching patch until Will comes with a sharp cry, falling against him as sweat and slick drenches his body.

‘Fuck!’ Will gasps, burying his face in Hannibal’s chest. He should care that he’s staining his expensive suit with his sweat, but from Hannibal’s deep purrs, he doesn’t think the Alpha cares. He moans, shifting his weight and grimacing at how damp his trousers are. ‘Ugh…’

‘Never be ashamed of what you are, Will,’ Hannibal says, cupping him under the chin and lifting his face up. ‘You are unique.’ He steps back, brisk and business-like, and gestures to the door. ‘Shall we?’

Will feels his cheeks warm with a blush and clears his throat.

‘Um… I have to sort the dogs,’ he says, grimacing in apology because he really doesn’t want to let Hannibal down, but the pack is waiting. ‘Could I… I mean… I could…’ He trails off, rubbing his sweat-damp curls because anything he is about to suggest would be rude. He’s either going to leave, after Hannibal gave him an orgasm, or presume he’s still welcome and invite himself to Hannibal’s house after disappearing for an hour.

Hannibal, however, doesn’t seem fazed by this news, taking it in his stride as he crosses the room to collect their coats.

‘Of course,’ he says. ‘Shall I drive?’

Will can feel his eyes widen, and he can’t help but give Hannibal a wide, genuine smile when the Alpha smiles back at his surprise.

At seeing Will’s pleasure, so innocent and pure, at something as simple as offering to keep him company while he tends to his pets, Hannibal feels an uncomfortable twinge in his stomach. Something he hasn’t felt in a very long time. He smiles back, though, and can’t resist dropping a kiss to Will’s forehead as they lock up and leave the office.

You could be my undoing, Will, he thinks. I need to watch myself around you.

***

‘Sorry about the mess,’ Will says, shoving books onto the coffee table so that Hannibal has somewhere to sit while he waits. ‘I, er, wasn’t expecting… Well…’ He grins and shrugs. Hannibal grins back, because Will’s smile is infectious. He steps aside as two of the larger dogs come running past, scattering snow from the fields outside as they race towards their feed bowls in the kitchen. Will has a need to nurture, to care for other creatures in lieu of offspring, and watching him interact with his pets is…

Hannibal frowns at his wandering thoughts. Moves to the bookshelf and studies Will’s collection of psychology and criminal profiling textbooks, crammed together beside books on fishing and hunting. Narrowing his eyes, he extends a single finger to touch the tip of a photograph peeking from spine of a particularly worn book. What do we have here, Will? Something sentimental? He makes a note to check it when he is next alone in Will’s house.

Will comes back from the kitchen, drying his hands on a towel, and frowns when he sees Hannibal near the bookshelf. Hannibal moves to the piano, opening another book to scan the contents. There is nothing to indicate that he found the photograph, and, from the corner of his eye, he sees Will’s shoulders relax.

‘Shall we go?’ he asks, and Will nods quickly. His eyes are still heavily ringed with gold, and Hannibal can smell the sharp, minty tang of his slick in the air. He wastes no time getting them back into the car, and places a hand on the Omega’s knee during the drive back to his house, giving him an occasional smile whenever Will drags his gaze away from the dark skies to glance at him and swallow.

When they arrive, Will’s nerves resurface, and he grabs for Hannibal, hesitates and then twists his hands together in his lap as he chews his lip.

‘I don’t… I mean… You don’t have to –’

‘Why so nervous, Will?’ Hannibal turns to him and crooks a finger under his chin, encouraging Will to look at him. ‘I enjoy spending time with you.’

Do you? Will’s eyes ask the question even as he presses his lips together and sighs through his nose. When Hannibal merely holds the gaze, he forces himself to swallow and nod. Hannibal releases him and they go inside.

‘Are you hungry?’ Hannibal asks, removing his suit jacket and rolling up his sleeves when they enter the kitchen.

Will steps closer to him and hums as he undoes Hannibal’s tie. He pulls one end and the silk whispers against the burgundy collar before falling to the floor. He holds the Alpha’s gaze, silently unbuttoning Hannibal’s shirt, smoothing it away from his shoulders and stroking the lines of muscle that flow from his sharp collarbones.   

‘Will…’ Hannibal’s voice sticks in his throat, and he quivers when Will leans closer, placing a hot, damp kiss to his nipple. Will licks the sensitive flesh, catching it between his teeth and biting just hard enough to send a zing of pain through the ache building in Hannibal’s groin. He sucks in his breath and releases it with a long, low groan as Will turns his attention to the other side of his chest, mirroring the licking, sucking and sharp bite.

Hannibal tastes amazing. Will closes his eyes, letting his hands and mouth wander freely across the Alpha’s lean chest and rippling abdomen, kissing a trail of kisses down Hannibal’s warm skin, spearing his tongue into his navel just to make him twitch, and then sinking down to his knees in front of him. His heart skips a beat when he hears a purr rumble in Hannibal’s throat, and he tilts his head into the hand that Hannibal runs through his hair.

This is dangerous; Hannibal’s control is hanging on by a thread and it threatens to break when Will opens his eyes, staring up with golden, glowing adoration. Hannibal swallows thickly and nods, giving permission for the unspoken request hanging between them. He trembles when Will licks his lips, holding very still as the Omega reaches up to undo his trousers.

Will takes a deep breath as he pulls Hannibal’s boxers down. The Alpha’s musky scent is thick and heavy, laced with copper and cloves. Will licks his lips again, catching the taste of Hannibal in his glands. He wants to take his time with this, but everything in him is screaming to hurry, to swallow him whole and open his throat so Hannibal can fuck himself to completion. He shivers, sliding both hands across Hannibal’s hips, staring at the offering before him. His insides twitch and he rolls his hips down as slick dampens his inner thighs. He misses the way Hannibal’s nose flares and his eyes flash red when he smells it, and gasps when the Alpha tightens his hand in his curls, dragging him closer. It sends liquid fire shooting down his belly, pooling in between his legs and deep inside him, before crackling up his spine to burn the back of his neck. He takes Hannibal inside his mouth, licking and sucking at the sharp, salty taste of him. Gags when Hannibal hits the back of his throat, tears welling in his eyes before rolling down his cheeks as Hannibal holds tight and forces him to swallow, to choke on it, before releasing him to cough and catch his breath.

Will’s lips are swollen, red and glistening with spit. He rests back on his heels and takes a deep breath before trying again. Hannibal purrs his encouragement, fighting the urge to close his eyes and tilt his head back at the hot, tight feeling of Will’s tongue and cheeks working every inch of him. The Omega is learning; he pushes through the urge to gag and keeps swallowing as he takes Hannibal deeper, his fingers digging into Hannibal’s hips as though he’s afraid to let go. Hannibal reaches down with his other hand and twines their fingers together, rubbing his thumb back and forth over the veins at Will’s inner wrist.

He’s so hot. So tender. Will’s throat feel on fire and he’s almost scared he’s going to burn Hannibal as he swallows around him again. Hannibal’s getting close; Will can smell and taste the change as he approaches climax. He scrapes his teeth ever so gently over the sensitive flesh, smiling at the resulting groan from above him, moving his head to keep up with the way Hannibal’s hips are starting to move. The Alpha can’t resist fucking his mouth, and Will wraps an arm tight around his waist to encourage it. Stain me. Fill me. Own me.

Everything tightens, waves of pleasure crashing into each other, building until he’s strung too tight to breathe. Will hums once more, flicking his tongue over the sensitive tip of his length and Hannibal comes with a sharp cry. He bows over Will’s head, breathing hard, gripping his hair tight as Will swallows every drop.

He can barely taste Hannibal’s seed. Will pulls back slowly, making sure to kiss every part of him before nuzzling him with his cheek as he licks his lips clean. He smiles into the wiry hair of Hannibal’s groin, snuffling him until Hannibal can’t help but laugh. He laughs back, though the Alpha’s strong hands under his armpits, hauling him to his feet and pinning him up against the counter knock the smile from his face. He gasps as Hannibal claims his mouth in a fierce kiss, moaning when Hannibal explores him with his tongue.

The taste and smell of himself inside Will is delicious, and Hannibal spends several minutes memorising the combination of their scents, holding the Omega in place with hips and hands. His chest is aching, his heart thundering in his ears. He doesn’t understand this feeling, this emotion burning his eyes and clawing at his stomach. He wants to devour Will, to dismantle him completely, but protect him at the same time, wrap him in his arms and save him from the cruelty of the world.

Hannibal ends the kiss very slowly, and Will whimpers when the cold air hits his lips. Hannibal holds him tenderly, enfolding him in his arms, and Will rests his forehead against his chest, listening to their racing hearts, breathing hard like he’s just won a fight.

This is all I want, he thinks, staring out of the kitchen doors to the snow beginning to drift down from the sky. I love you.

***

The Angel Maker has struck again, this time in Cleveland, Ohio. Mounted his creation on scaffolding and illuminated the design with plastic sheeting webbed in blood.

Will can smell Jack’s musk and aftershave coming up from behind, but he can’t tear his eyes away from the corpse. The Alpha comes to a stop beside him and adopts the same position; looking heavenward.

‘Why angels?’ he asks.

Will drags himself from the warm current in his mind, from the golden glow heating him from the neck down, and shivers as the cold air hits his lungs again. Pain, anger and fear. Emotions from witnesses, surrounding officers and Jack cut into him, battering him until his bones ache with it.

‘It isn’t Biblical,’ he says. ‘His angels have wings. In sculpture and paintings, angels fly, but not in the Bible.’

‘He’s drawing from secular sources?’ Jack asks, following him as Will turns away.

‘… His mind has turned against him and there’s no one there to help,’ Will says, shrugging helplessly. He misses Hannibal; misses his Alpha’s bed where they slept together last night, sharing space and heat and breath, but where he cannot lie tonight because he is three hundred miles away. He will have to try to sleep alone in a motel room tonight, surrounded by cheap sheets and rough blankets, assaulted by the harsh chemical smell of bleach designed to strip away previous scents.

‘Er, Jack…’ Zeller’s voice wobbles and they both turn to see him approaching a bloody lump on the stained mattress beneath the angel.

Price looks horrified as Zeller picks up a pair of severed testicles.

‘Are those… What are those?’ he squawks. Zeller holds them up and grins.

‘Someone got an orchiectomy cheap.’

Beverly shines her flashlight up towards the angel’s crotch.

‘Doesn’t look like the victim’s,’ she says.

‘The Angel Maker’s?’ Price asks, looking faint.

‘He castrated himself?’ Beverly grimaces.

‘He’s not just making angels; he’s getting ready to become one,’ Will says. At their frowns, he shrugs and explains, ‘Angels don’t have genitalia.’

‘So, what; he was afraid of dying and now he’s getting used to the idea?’ Jack asks, glaring at Will as if this is all his fault. His anger is unwarranted for the case and Will can feel his darkness bubble up through his chest, snarling at him to tear into Jack, gut him, drain him, make him stop.

He’s grasping at straws, trying desperately to stay grounded as the pounding of his heart becomes a pounding of pain lancing through his temples.

‘Could be he’s accepted it, or he’s bargaining,’ he guesses.

‘Some bargaining chips,’ Zeller jokes, holding up the evidence tub of testicles.

‘Does that mean he’s done making angels or just getting started?’ Jack demands. Will hangs his head, grinding his teeth and holding his breath so as not to taste the Alpha’s bitter, angry scent.

‘I don’t know.’

‘He’s not just killing when he gets sleepy,’ Jack persists. ‘How’s he choosing them?’

‘I don’t know,’ Will snaps. ‘Ask him.’

‘I’m asking you,’ Jack growls, and suddenly it’s too much for him. Will’s head snaps up, his eyes flash gold and he bares his teeth at the Alpha.

‘You’re the head of the Behavioural Science Unit, Jack. Why don’t you come up with your own answers if you don’t like mine?’

An icy silence falls over them, salty with fear. Zeller, Price and even Beverly duck their heads as Jack draws himself up to his full height, turning to bear down on Will, his eyes burning red as he growls at him.

‘I did not hear that! Did I?’ he snarls, and Will’s shoulders cave in. His vision blurs with tears and he swallows the painful lump in his throat, bowing his head and baring the nape of his neck. He only just manages to keep the placating whimper at bay until the other three scurry away, and then he lets it flow from his lips, removing his glasses to glance up and then away from Jack’s eyes as he cowers.

‘No… you didn’t,’ he mutters, tapping his glasses against his blue-latex palm and counting to three, squashing his dark shadow back down behind his hammering heart. Two warring instincts; fight and surrender. But he can’t fight Jack. He can’t. ‘I’m sorry.’

He slips past him to resume staring at the angel victim. Perhaps, if he concentrates hard enough, he can come up with the answers the Alpha needs. He can feel Jack’s eyes boring into his back, smell the faint whiff of concern because an Omega never stands up to an Alpha of Jack’s standing like that, and then he lets a single tear fall when he hears Jack’s footsteps fading away, leaving him alone with the corpse.

I wish you were here with me, Hannibal.

***

Will avoids Jack all the way back to Quantico, choosing a seat far away from him on the plane and riding with Zeller and Price back to the office. He hangs back until Jack has stormed off to his office before wandering down to the lab, and he’s been there ever since, skipping lunch because his stomach is a crawling nest of snakes and he can’t stand the idea of swallowing anything that isn’t Hannibal right now.

Beverly finds him standing over the first two victims, hands in his pockets, staring down at the ripped and mangled flesh of their backs but his gaze distant; unseeing.

‘I’ve never heard anybody talk to Jack the way you talked to Jack,’ she says, crossing her arms and leaning against the metal unit.

‘I was out of line,’ Will says, his voice still shaking at the memory of it.

‘You were out of your mind,’ Beverly says. ‘My ears rang like the first time I heard my mom use the f-word.’

Will snorts a bitter chuckle and looks away. He hasn’t taken his eye drops today and he isn’t wearing his glasses; he can’t afford to let Beverly see his eyes. See the gold.

‘Are you OK?’ Beverly asks softly, and he sighs. Misinterpreting it as frustration, she shrugs. ‘I know it’s a stupid question; considering that none of us could possibly be OK, doing what we do, but… are you OK?’

She knows… She knows there’s something wrong with me…

Will glances down, away and then at her chin; the closest he can make himself get to her eyes.

‘Do I seem different?’ he asks quietly.

‘You’re a little different,’ Beverly says, offering him a small smile. ‘But you’ve always been a little different.’ Her smile widens. ‘Brilliant strategy. That way, no one ever knows if something’s up with you.’

‘How would I know if something was up with you?’ Will asks.

‘You wouldn’t,’ Beverly says, shrugging at her own oddness. ‘But I would tell you, if you asked me. Return the favour?’

Will chews at his tongue and looks away. Price comes up to them and he backs away, shrinking against the cabinets again. They’ve identified the victims; all criminals. The Angel Maker is making angels out of demons.

‘How does he know they’re demons?’ Price asks, his mouth twisting in confusion.

Will shakes his head.

‘He doesn’t have to know.’ He offers them a tiny, knowing shrug when they frown. ‘All he has to do is believe.’

***

‘Ssh, darlin’… Sssh… Gonna bond ya… Gonna make ya mine…’

The voice echoes in his head, staining him even as he tries to wash the feel of Coby’s hands from his skin. Will scrubs until his fingers bleed, watching as crimson liquid swirls down the drain. He wants to disappear with it…

He can still feel Alpha’s hot breath on the back of his neck. Still feel his hands on his nape, squeezing and manipulating the pressure points until his body was slick and welcoming. Even the memory of the touch has his insides twitching.

Will retches, hacking up bile before resting his pounding head against the cool shower tiles. I can’t do this… I can’t… I have to make it stop…

He’s taken a beer into the bathroom with him. Will shoves the curtain back and gropes for it, his hot fingers making the bottle sweat. Gripping it tight, he brings it crashing down against the side of the bathtub, shattering glass everywhere. The piece left in his hand is jagged and sharp, perfect for slicing open flesh and veins.

He angles the shaving mirror down, positioning the shard over the nape of his neck, where a crest would be if Coby had managed to bite him. If the Alpha officer had bitten him… Where any Alpha could bite him.

Can’t bond me if I’m too scarred, he thinks, and slams the glass down into his skin.

Will wakes with a jerk, drenched in sweat and breathless with fear. The agony of cutting his nape is a memory, but bad enough that it locks him in place, flat on his back in his damp bed. His heart is racing, his fingers tingling and ears ringing as aftershocks slam through him.

He forces his head to the side, staring at the glowing blue numbers of his clock. 11.35pm. He’s only been asleep for half an hour, after taking a long walk in the cold to tire himself out. Fuck.

His fingers itch to touch the perfectly smooth skin on the back of his neck, to trail down until he reaches the rough scar beneath; the only trace of his attempted mutilation. Will holds himself very still, staring up at the ceiling. He won’t give his fear the satisfaction of checking.

Seconds feel like hours. The night is endless. Vast and empty. He’s alone, his skin scratched by cheap cotton underwear. Vulnerable. Abandoned.

Will blinks away tears, pretending its sweat, and closes his eyes again.

2.02am. His head hurts. Maybe he should take some painkillers?

5.03am. He’s burning up, his vision blurring as heat rolls through him. I miss you, Hannibal. He imagines the Alpha beside him, a comforting hand on his chest, warm breath puffing into his ear as Hannibal sleeps beside him. It’s working; he can feel himself drifting, slipping into the darkness where he doesn’t have to think anymore…

The dogs won’t stop barking. Why are they barking?

Will blinks, frowning in the grey light of an overcast day. It’s brighter than he expected; shouldn’t the curtains be cutting some of the glare?

Why is he cold? He’s shivering; a frosty breeze cuts through his thin boxers and t-shirt, raising goosebumps across his flesh.

Will comes back to himself, shock washing the last vestiges of sleep from his mind as he realises he’s on his porch roof. He stumbles back a step and the dogs whine, hanging their heads out of the bedroom window. They’re worried about him.

He stares down at his bare and bruised feet, at his blue fingers and pale legs. Swallows the frightened whimper clawing at his throat and clenches his stiff hands into shaking fists.

What the hell is happening to me?

***

It’s becoming a bad habit, but one he can’t seem to break. As soon as he’s showered the sweat from his body and dressed in an old fishing jacket and jeans, Will drives over to Hannibal’s office, waiting on the steps for him to arrive and then sitting in his usual chair while Hannibal sets up for the day.

Now, though, once the desperate need to be near the Alpha has subsided, Will can’t sit still. He paces to the window and then to the ladder, back and forth as he taps his hands against the sides of his legs and explains what happened last night. The nightmare – parts of it, anyway – the insomnia, the sleepwalking…

He knocks back a couple of heat suppressants, dry swallowing them before remembering he’s supposed to be on a schedule. His head is in a vice, though the headache has lessened somewhat now that he’s near Hannibal.

‘Careful, Will,’ the Alpha warns, raising an eyebrow at the bottle of heat suppressants. ‘You don’t want me to take them off you, do you?’

‘Sorry,’ Will mutters, rubbing the back of his neck and pocketing the tablets.

Hannibal narrows his eyes, but he doesn’t want to start the day with an argument. Not when he has Will so desperate for him.   

‘It’s difficult to lie still and fear going to sleep when it’s there to think about,’ he says. He prowls on the edge of Will’s vision, taking in his tight jaw and hunched shoulders. ‘You listen to your breathing in the dark and the tiny clicks of your blinking eyes.’

Will shivers and turns away. He can’t look at Hannibal right now; not when he feels so raw.

‘I dream more now than I used to,’ he admits.

‘Your dreams were the one place you could be physically safe, relinquishing control,’ Hannibal says. ‘Not anymore.’

There is no control, Will. You will surrender to your heat, to your nature, no matter how much you try to fight it.

Will wraps his arms around himself. He keeps a distance between them, though he knows he’s managed to choose a jacket with a low hem to show the back of his neck to Hannibal. It’s as if the Alpha is always in the back of his mind, influencing him.

‘I thought about zipping myself up into a sleeping bag before I go to sleep but…’ He huffs a dark laugh, and glances over at Hannibal. ‘It sounds like a poor man’s straitjacket.’

Hannibal considers him, his expression turning hungry when Will looks away. I could tie you up to keep you from wandering, sweet Will, or simply tire you out so that you sleep soundly at my side. Aloud, he turns the conversation back to the case. Will needs a distraction.

‘Have you determined how this Angel Maker is choosing his victims?’ he asks.

Will sighs and rolls his shoulders, the tendons grinding as the headache spikes across his forehead.

‘Er… well, he doesn’t see people how everyone else sees them. He can tell if you’re naughty or nice, or he thinks he can.’ He turns around, resuming his pacing on the other side of the chairs from Hannibal.

‘So God has given this person insight into the souls of men,’ Hannibal says. Will snorts.

‘God didn’t give him insight; God gave him a tumour,’ he replies. His gaze wanders across the office, drawn to the black stag near the door. There’s something familiar about it; something striking… He can hear his own shadow whispering to it, hissing through his veins and filling him with purpose, with calm… ‘He’s just a man whose brain is playing tricks on him.’

‘You’re not unlike this killer,’ Hannibal says, watching the way Will comes to a stop before the statue. Does he recognise the toss of its head from Cassie Boyle’s tableau? Hannibal drew inspiration from the artwork when displaying her body.

‘My brain is playing tricks on me?’ Will asks, reaching out to gently trace the stag’s upturned head. It’s a beautiful thing, really… elegant and dangerous… just like Hannibal. Where did his own dark stag go? He misses it; misses the way it comforts him.

‘You want to feel such sweet and easy peace,’ Hannibal says, resuming his own stalking of Will. ‘The Angel Maker wants that same peace. He hopes to feel his way cautiously inside it and find it’s endless; all around him.’

My dark current, Will thinks. He lowers his hand, almost flinching from the stag, and shakes his head.

‘He’s gonna be disappointed.’

‘You accept the impossibility of such a feeling,’ Hannibal says. ‘Whereas the Angel Maker is still chasing it.’ He watches carefully as Will’s eyes flood with gold. The Omega flushes, and the low whine of need escaping his throat tugs at Hannibal’s gut. ‘If he got close to it, that’s where he will look for it again.’

Will blinks, coming back to himself. His eyes fade to blue and he swallows. Had he fallen asleep for a second?  

‘I’ve tried to reconstruct his thinking; find his patterns,’ he mutters.

‘Instead, you find yourself in a behaviour pattern you can’t break,’ Hannibal finishes. He waits a moment, then adds, ‘You realise you have a choice.’

‘What is it?’ Will asks, something sweetly vulnerable in the way that he trusts Hannibal’s advice.

‘Angel Maker will be destroyed by what’s happening inside his head,’ Hannibal says, drawing closer now that Will seems to have calmed. ‘You don’t have to be.’

Let yourself go into heat, Will. Give yourself to me and this will all be over.

He dips his head towards Will’s neck, savouring the sweet musk of his scent, and smiles when Will trembles. He allows a single, low purr to shiver down Will’s spine, tracking its progress and parting his lips to taste the resulting slick.

‘Hannibal…’ Will whispers, keeping very still as the Alpha’s breath puffs over his neck. He waits, barely breathing, expecting a touch on his neck. Please… not today… I can’t…

Hannibal could reach out and touch him, Gentle him with a hand or his lips, but he can smell Will’s fear, taste the bitterness as he fights the urge to turn, to protect himself from the Alpha despite the way his body is responding to his presence. What did Will dream about, he wonders, drawing back to give the other man some space. What monsters lurk in your mind?

‘I really must introduce you to a finer aftershave,’ he teases. ‘That smells like something with a ship on the bottle.’

Will chuckles and glances back at him, pathetically grateful for Hannibal’s uncanny ability to give him exactly what he needs.

‘I keep getting it for Christmas,’ he says, and Hannibal nods. He can imagine that is true; a cheap aftershave, a simple gift picked out by an unimaginative Beta father with no interest in, or knowledge of, his son’s actual preferences. When was the last time your father came to see you? he thinks. For some reason, Will’s loneliness makes him sad. He clears his throat.

‘Have your headaches been any worse recently? More frequent?’

‘Yes, actually,’ Will says, glancing at him, frowning at the look on Hannibal’s face and ducking away. Is Hannibal… angry? Upset? He can’t tell. Why? He can’t know it’s the only gift he receives from his father; the only time Bill Graham ever contacts him. It was the first and last bit of advice Will ever received from him, written on a note tucked into the packaging, to be discovered when he unwrapped it his first night at college.

Real men wear this. Perhaps, someday, it’ll make a man out of you.

Hannibal allows him to leave, taking a deep breath to calm himself, to repress the red itching to blaze in his eyes, and schools his features to neutrality again. If he ever meets Will’s father, he might have to kill him for causing Will so much pain.

The headaches are his fault, but perhaps he can use them to teach Will a lesson about self-worth. Teach him to value himself as much as Hannibal values him.

‘I’d change the aftershave,’ he says. ‘It doesn’t suit you.’

***

The Angel Maker is a man named Elliot Buddish. Loving husband, father and religious man… Abandoned by God when his brain cells turned against him. His wife tells them everything, and then begs them to find him. To bring him home.

Will doesn’t have the strength to tell her it’s too late.

They find his body swinging in the barn of the farm where he grew up. Will stares at him, taking in the expression of peace on Buddish’s face. He almost looks as if he could be sleeping, if he weren’t strung up with his back ripped open like wings.

‘This’ll be the last one,’ he says softly.

‘It’s Buddish?’ Jack checks.

‘He made himself into an angel,’ Will says. He sighs. ‘It wasn’t God, it wasn’t man. It was his choice to die.’

‘His choice?’

‘As much as he could make it,’ Will says. He flinches when Jack steps closer. Holds his breath, trying to slow his pounding heart, and then releases it with a low whine, already trying to calm the Alpha before he says what he needs to say. ‘I don’t know how much longer I can be all that useful to you, Jack.’

‘Really?’ Jack snaps. ‘You caught three. The last three we had, you caught. You caught three of them.’

‘I didn’t catch this one,’ Will says, shaking his head, unable to tear his eyes away from Elliot’s swinging body. ‘Elliot Buddish…  surrendered.’

‘Y’know, I’m used to my wife not talking to me,’ Jack growls. He turns away. ‘I don’t have to get used to you not talking to me, too.’

Will clenches his teeth. He doesn’t want to explain to Jack – to bare his soul for the Alpha when he knows, he knows it’ll be used against him. But Jack’s forcing his hand, just like always. And by walking away, by rejecting Will, he’s manipulating him into giving in. A cheap trick.

‘It’s getting harder and harder to make myself look,’ he says, hating the way his voice cracks with desperation. Jack turns to frown at him.

‘No-one’s asking you to look alone.’

‘But I am looking alone,’ Will says, his throat catching around another whimper. He creases his brow, trying to hold back tears of frustration, loathing his pathetic he must look and sound. ‘And you know what looking at this does.’

‘I know what happens if you don’t look,’ Jack says grimly. ‘And so do you.’

‘I can make myself look,’ Will says, frustrated because Jack doesn’t understand. ‘But the thinking is shutting down.’ He shakes his head and looks at the floor. Giving up. I can’t… Please don’t make me anymore…

Jack chews his lip for a moment. Glances up at Buddish, then back at Will.

‘What is it about this one?’ he asks softly. Will shakes his head again.

‘It isn’t this one; it’s all of them,’ he snaps. ‘It’s the next one, it’s the one that I know is coming after that…’

‘You wanna go back to your lecture hall? Read about this stuff on TattleCrime.com?’

Jack’s words are like a kick in the gut, and they fill him with shame. Will can feel how disappointed the Alpha is. He’s letting him down. He’s not strong enough.

‘No, I don’t, but that may be what I have to do,’ he says, closing his eyes against the pain of it all. ‘This is bad for me.’

It’s as close as he can get to begging Jack to let him stop. His eyes are golden; he can feel them pulsing, and he’s shaking with the need for comfort now. But Jack regards him with cold indifference, as if he’s bored by Will’s theatrics.

‘I’m not your father, Will,’ he says. ‘And I’m not your Alpha. Not gonna tell you what you ought to do.’

Will swallows hard, fighting down the hurricane of emotions tearing apart his insides.

‘Seems like that’s exactly what you’re going to do,’ he says quietly.

Jack sighs, and comes closer again. Always persistent.

‘You go back to your classroom, when there’s killing going on that you could have prevented, it will sour your classroom forever.’

‘Maybe,’ Will whispers. ‘And then maybe I find a job as a diesel mechanic in a boatyard.’

Please don’t break me, Jack. I’m not yours to break.

Jack’s eyes flicker red. He sets his jaw, accepting the challenge that he sees in Will’s pale face and golden eyes.

‘You wanna quit?’ He leans closer and smiles at him. ‘Quit.’

Without waiting for an answer, he turns and strides from the barn, leaving Will alone to consider his loyalty.

***

So much pain. Raw and deep.

Will pauses in the corridor outside Jack’s office, scenting the air for the Alpha’s distress.

Something’s really, really wrong. Is it Jack’s mate? Is that why he’s been so angry this past week?

Will braces himself and then pushes open the glass door to the office. Jack’s scent fills his nose, sharp and bitter with suffering. He smells salty, like the tears he refuses to shed.

‘What do you want, Will?’ Jack asks heavily. He sounds tired; too tired to fight. A wounded beast, he has been defeated by whatever news he’s received.

Will sinks into the chair beside him. His presence as an Omega, his scent and the tiny whines he can make, they will all soothe Jack. Help him deal with his grief.

‘I’m gonna sit here until you’re ready to talk,’ he says softly. ‘You don’t have to say a word until you’re ready, but... I’m not going anywhere until you do.’

He listens to Jack’s breathing, to the tick of the clock in the stifling silence of the room, and he waits.

I’m not going anywhere, Jack.

Chapter Text

‘I’d like to take you to the opera, sometime.’

At the sound of Hannibal’s voice, Will opens his eyes. He’s lying on his front, warm and comfortable, stretched out in the Alpha’s bed with a silk-lined quilt covering him from the waist down. Hannibal is beside him, sitting back against the headboard so that he can read while Will dozes. A perfect moment of domesticity. The thought makes Will’s eyes sting and his stomach clench. He rolls onto his side, facing the other man, and pulls the covers up a little higher.

‘The opera?’ he asks, blinking to clear the last vestiges of sleep from his eyes. What time is it? What day is it? He no longer remembers; time stops meaning quite the same thing when he’s with Hannibal. ‘Why?’

‘To share something for which I have a passion,’ Hannibal says, smiling at him when Will frowns. ‘My father took me to see La Bohème when I was a young boy. That memory has stayed with me ever since; as has my love for music.’ He shifts down in the bed and reaches out, stroking a curl of hair from Will’s forehead. ‘Did your father take you anywhere special when you were a child, Will?’

Will snorts his dark, bitter laugh.

‘You mean besides boat sales and fishing lakes? No.’ His gaze grows distant; he can remember the night his father took a friend’s son to a football game, leaving him in their trailer because it ‘wasn’t safe’ to take an Omega to a stadium packed with Alphas, and perhaps because the Beta child was more of a man than ‘pretty little Will’ could ever be.

Hannibal’s brow creases at the sad look on Will’s face. He didn’t mean to upset him. Reaching out, he cups Will’s cheek, stroking his thumb over his cheekbone, and draws him in for a slow kiss. The distraction works; Will’s body ignites the moment Hannibal touches him, and he moans into Hannibal’s lips, arching his body closer despite the covers separating them. Hannibal slides his hand through Will’s hair to hold the back of his head, controlling the kiss as he deepens it. Will responds perfectly; he lies back as Hannibal rolls on top of him, spreading his legs to welcome the Alpha between his thighs, kicking at the quilt in a desperate effort to have their skin touching.

Hannibal’s breath catches at the warm, trusting expression on Will’s face. The Omega’s eyes are a perfect mixture of green-blue and gold, flashing with the winter sunlight slipping between the gap in the curtains. He looks paler than usual, in stark contrast to the dark wood and burgundy of Hannibal’s bedding; a marble statue brought to life by the gods themselves.

‘It’s rude to stare, Dr Lecter,’ Will teases, looping his arms up around Hannibal’s neck. He grins at him and pulls him down for another kiss, stroking his fingers through the Alpha’s silky blond hair, enjoying how soft it is.

‘Merely taking in the offering before me,’ Hannibal replies, murmuring the words into Will’s lips so as not to break the kiss. ‘Difficult to resist.’

Will huffs and rolls his eyes.

‘Yeah, ‘cos I’m such a catch,’ he mutters. He stills when Hannibal holds him firmly, a hand on either side of his throat, thumbs holding his chin up so that Will can’t lower his head.

‘You are,’ Hannibal says softly. He tilts his head just slightly, narrowing his eyes and smiling. It is a predatory look, and one that he has come to realise excites Will. He can feel the other man tremble beneath him, bucking his hips up as the sweet musk of his scent thickens with desire. ‘And I caught you.’

Will shivers, arms still looped around Hannibal’s neck. He arches his back, rubbing up against the Alpha’s hard stomach and chest, a low, needy whine catching in his throat. Bending his knees, he holds Hannibal closer between his thighs, trying to draw him down so that Hannibal will… what? Fuck him?

Hannibal pauses when he smells Will’s nervousness and excitement, sees the warring desire and uncertainty on his face. He braces himself on either side of Will’s head and pushes up, breaking Will’s grasp on his neck and sitting back on his heels. They have been hovering at the edge of this for the last few weeks, ever since Will called for him during his first episode of sleep walking. The closer Will gets to heat, the more he’ll need Hannibal inside him. But he needs to be conscious enough to consent, needs to be himself when he gives himself to the Alpha for the first time. Hannibal would never take advantage of his heat in such a way, and he’s surprised by the level of passion burning through his chest at the very idea of it. He is a different kind of monster, certainly, but this feeling is dangerously close to…

‘Hannibal?’

At Will’s tentative prompt the Alpha blinks, coming back to himself. He smiles, slow and hungry, and sees Will’s cheeks flush and his eyes flood gold as the sweet smell of his slick grows stronger.

‘Do you want me to knot you, Will?’ he asks softly, earning a shudder from the Omega still lying beneath him. He slides his forearms under Will’s knees, dipping his head to kiss the soft skin and dark hairs on his legs before pushing them further apart, forcing Will to curl his body as Hannibal rests his weight over him. On him; the perfect position to line himself up and –

Yesss.’ Will bares his teeth, daring Hannibal to take him, to knot him, mate him, bite him, bond him. Anything but this endless chase. He moans when Hannibal grabs his chin, forcing his head still. Glares up into red-rimmed eyes, scrabbling to hold onto the hot fire burning away his reason. But it’s fading, sputtering out, and he’s coming back to himself…

Hannibal watches as the gold shrinks to the edges of Will’s irises. Smells when Will’s scent sharpens with unease at feeling Hannibal so close to breaching him, and then leans down to kiss him, very gently, releasing Will’s legs so that the smaller man can wrap them around his waist and hold him close. He’s not ready; not yet.

And then Will speaks, breaking the kiss and forcing Hannibal’s head up so that the Alpha is looking down into his face, into his eyes, again. Blue eyes, sharp with clarity.

‘Do it,’ he says hoarsely. ‘Do it, Hannibal, please … Fuck me.‘

Hannibal stares down into Will’s face, unsettled by the warm rush of appreciation for the level of trust that the Omega is placing in him. To be his first…

‘I want…’ Will’s throat closes around his words. He turns his head and looks away, clenching his teeth as a wave of heat rolls through him, catching deep inside and spilling hot slick between his ass cheeks. Hannibal can feel it; he shivers and his breath deepens into a purr as the warm wetness dribbles across his length.  

I want you to bond me, Will thinks, rolling his head back to stare up into Hannibal’s face, trying, without words, to show him what he wants. Please… I don’t want to be alone anymore.

‘Alright,’ Hannibal whispers, stroking his thumb over Will’s cheek. The Omega moves fast and catches it between his teeth, sucking it down into his mouth, working it with his tongue, rasping up the underside and flicking over the tip. Hannibal jolts, his hips bucking forwards as the sensation. His Omega is far too good at that.

Will purrs his encouragement, eyes flickering between blue and gold. He wraps strong arms around Hannibal’s shoulders, shifting down to help line himself up. His heart trips in his chest, battering his ribcage, and he shudders again as heat floods him. Hannibal’s musky scent, his soft skin, hard muscles and burgundy eyes… It’s too much for him. He can feel the dark current inside him, welling up and dragging him down. He goes willingly, his breath rippling the air when he pants.

Hannibal takes a slow, deep breath. Will’s scent is thickening with fresh prodromal hormones, heavy and sweet, but he asked for this when he was himself. When his eyes were blue. His mouth waters at the minty tang of Will’s slick and he sits back just enough that he can swipe a finger through one of the glistening trails on Will’s inner thigh. Will quivers, sucking in a breath and holding it in tortured anticipation as the Alpha lifts his finger to his lips. Locking eyes with the other man, Hannibal very deliberately sucks on his finger, his throat vibrating with a purr at how innocent and fresh it tastes.

‘Mmm.’

Will can hear his pulse crashing in his ears. Hannibal just tasted him, tasted that… As arousing as it is, it’s not what he needs right now. Why is he taking his time? Can’t he see how much it hurts Will to wait?

Hannibal smirks as Will tries to lower his legs. The Omega wants to grind his hips down into the bedding, to ease the ache of emptiness inside. Hooking his elbows under each of Will’s knees, Hannibal locks him in place, up off the bed, unable to move, earning himself a growling moan.

Please… please… Will drags his nails over Hannibal’s shoulders, tearing at the skin, raising angry red welts across his biceps. He raises his head, biting and kissing at Hannibal’s chin and jaw, tasting their mingled sweat as the heat of him causes it to roll from their foreheads.

Hannibal endures the pain; he wants to savour this time with Will, and prepare him so that it doesn’t hurt him. As slick as he is, this is still a new experience for him. He deserves to be cherished.

‘Roll over,’ he says softly, sliding his hand up the underside of Will’s trembling thigh, over the curve of his buttock and behind the velvet soft skin of his balls.

Will shudders, going willingly as the Alpha turns him. He arches his spine, pressing his forehead down into the damp sheets, filling his nose with his own scent. He tucks his knees up under him, lifting his ass in the air; the classic mating position. His brain is screaming at him to display for Hannibal, to call for him, and he flexes his muscles, rolling his hips invitingly as desperate, pleading little whines stutter from between swollen lips.

Hannibal swallows a moan at how attractive Will looks, moving his body to entice his Alpha closer, sweet musk rolling off him as his body pulses, pushing more slick out of him. He kneels up behind him, placing a steadying hand on the base of Will’s back. Splays his other hand over Will’s crack, purring at the way Will lifts himself up even more. Then, holding Will’s cheeks apart, Hannibal brushes his fingertip over the tight, puckered entrance, rewarded with a sharp gasp from the Omega, and swirls the slick beading on the pale pink flesh.

‘Please… Hannibal, please …’

Will’s voice is a broken whisper. He’s so hot; his bones are melting with it. Everything shrinks to the feel of Hannibal’s finger, coated with slick, pushing at the tight ring of muscle. He feels another wave flow down from his tingling scalp to his toes, and he pushes out before pulling Hannibal’s finger all the way in, tightening in a blisteringly hot vice around him.

Hannibal’s heart skips a beat at how hot and tight Will feels. He can feel his own hardness throbbing, and his eyes glow red as he fights the need to slam into the Omega’s body, knot him and fill him with his seed. Instead, he concentrates on withdrawing his finger a little, hushing the panicked whimper from Will at the idea of Hannibal leaving him, crooking the knuckle when he slides back in. He repeats the movement, pushing down each time as he does, earning a hissing moan from the Omega. There’s another shudder and Will tightens before releasing more slick, wetting Hannibal’s knuckles. He purrs again, a low and rumbling sound of reassurance, and slips a second finger inside Will’s body.

Will gasps at the sensation of Hannibal inside him. It’s tight but there’s so much more that he needs. He can feel himself opening up above the end of Hannibal’s fingers; they’re not long enough to satisfy him and tears of frustration well in his eyes. He trembles, rolling his forehead on the mattress to bare his scorching neck, whining and whimpering for Hannibal to bite him. Bond him. Take him. Make him whole.

‘Easy, Will,’ Hannibal murmurs, sliding his hand from the base of Will’s back up to his nape. He presses down and squeezes tight in a dominant hold, paralysing him with a thumb digging into the cluster of nerves right behind his pulse point. He hears the plaintive little sounds slipping past Will’s lips, the huffing little breaths as he realises he can’t move, can’t do anything but let Hannibal massage his insides and stretch him until he relaxes, and the Alpha groans to himself as his hips rock forwards. His balls tighten up and he bites his lower lip to keep the pleasure at bay; he has no intention of reaching climax before he is buried deep inside his Omega.

Oh God… Will’s breath falters as Hannibal adds a third finger. It aches but every time the Alpha rubs against his prostate feels like a livewire, something burning white. He screws his eyes tight shut and bears down, curling his fists into the sheets as fire rips him apart. Hannibal’s hand on his nape sends pleasure crashing down his spine. He’s dizzy. He can’t breathe. He’s going to come. He can’t stop it. It’s too good; the fingers inside him, slipping in and out, rubbing against that spot inside him every single time... He screws his eyes shut, panting open-mouthed into the sheets, rocking and quivering. He can’t find a rhythm. It’s all too good. His balls tighten and he comes hard, his voice cracking as he bites down into the wad of fabric by his chin, tears coursing down his cheeks as he spasms around Hannibal’s fingers, spilling himself over his stomach and onto the quilt. Only it doesn’t stop because Hannibal doesn’t stop, and the tide crashes into him again. Every nerve is on fire, muscles screaming and melting as the white light coils inside his chest again.

‘Ha- Hannibal, please!’ he gasps, choking on a sob as he comes a second time. God. It’s too good… He’s oversensitive, stinging with it and spiking pleasure and pain with every judder but it won’t stop.

Hannibal watches as his fingers slip inside Will’s pulsing hole up to the knuckles. He’s ready. Holding his breath, he withdraws his hand and coats himself with Will’s slick, hissing through his teeth at the tingling heat of it. He growls, digging the nails of his slippery hand into Will’s hips to hold them both steady as he lines himself up. There’s a moment of resistance and then he’s sliding inside and Will is so hot and so tight, and Hannibal can already feel his climax gathering at the base of his spine, tingling in his balls. He takes a slow breath to control himself and forces himself to stop, half inside Will, waiting so that the Omega’s body can adjust. It’s not felt this good in years.

Yesss,’ Will pants, trying to rock his hips back, to take Hannibal whole. He fights against the hand at his hip, holding him still, fights against the hand on his nape, locking him in position. Gasps and wheezes and whines, his toes curling as he flexes his biceps and fists the sheets with shaking hands. He’s powerless; he can’t do anything to make the Alpha knot him.

Will’s scent is overwhelming. Sweet musk, like a forest river, earth and blood. The thrill of the hunt. The joy of a kill. Hannibal can hear his growls ripping the air between them as he sinks further inside the Omega’s welcoming body, embraced by tight muscles and burned with hot slick, the slap of skin on skin as Will takes every inch of him. He grits his teeth, his blond hair falling over his face and sticking to his sweaty forehead as he rocks his hips, drawing halfway out, shuddering at the way Will tightens around him, refusing to let him go.

Fuck,’ Will snarls, twisting his head and grinding his cheek on the bed when Hannibal loosens his grip on his nape. He opens his eyes, looking back over his shoulder at the Alpha behind him, at the hungry, feral look on Hannibal’s face, the rippling muscles, shiny skin, bared teeth and red eyes. ‘Yesss, Hannibal, yes. Please…’

Hannibal falls forwards, releasing Will’s neck to brace himself with a hand on either side of Will’s fists, his chest pressed flat to Will’s damp back as he fucks him, brutally hard and fast. He can’t take his time with this; it’s too good. He can feel himself rapidly losing control, slipping into rut, and he can’t afford for that to happen. He twists his hips, alternating long, rough strokes with light, teasing flicks, and Will convulses beneath him, crying out as he comes for a third and final time. He tightens almost painfully around Hannibal, muscles clenching in waves that rip Hannibal’s orgasm from him and trigger him to knot. He snaps his hips, three, four more times and then his breath is gone and he’s locked inside Will’s body and everything is tight and tender and so, so good. Gold and red flash behind his eyelids and Hannibal sinks his teeth into the muscle of Will’s shoulder, spilling blood as he tears at his flesh.

Will cries out, his body rigid beneath the Alpha, his neck aching painfully because Hannibal didn’t bite him there, even though he’s filling him, utterly and completely.

‘Will…’ Hannibal licks and sucks at the livid bruise and ring of teeth marks on Will’s shoulder, shaking with the strength of his orgasm. That was… He hums to himself as he nuzzles his Omega’s damp curls, kissing just beneath Will’s ear, enfolding Will’s limp hands in his own and twining their fingers together.

He’s trapped, locked in place by Hannibal’s knot, and Will trembles beneath the Alpha, fighting to catch his breath.

‘Why?’ he croaks, swallowing the lump in his throat. He tries again. ‘Why didn’t you bond me?’

Hannibal shifts his weight to the side, pulling Will with him so that they are spooning. He reaches down, fumbling for the quilt, and drapes over their cooling bodies. Kisses Will’s neck again, enjoying the richness of his scent where it has blended with his own. A perfect combination.

‘Because,’ he says simply, earning a growl from Will. He laughs, nipping at the Omega’s ear, wrapping his arms tightly around Will’s chest when the smaller man tries to squirm free. ‘You haven’t earned it,’ he whispers, low and seductive into Will’s ear.

Will stills immediately, his heart thumping in his throat. Earned it…? That’s not how it works. An Alpha earns the right to bond, not an Omega. He can’t….

But he can, he knows he can. He can do anything for Hannibal, and his dark shadow purrs its approval at the idea of pleasing the Alpha enough that he mates him.

Hannibal smiles into Will’s hair. Will is intrigued; excited by the idea of it. He can tell by the thrum of his body, the desire and hunger in his scent; it tastes like blood, like the wild.

Will wets his lips. He reaches down and pulls one of Hannibal’s hands up, kissing knuckles and nodding to show that he understands. It would be a partnership; each of them fighting for the right to be together.

Hannibal purrs at the way Will responds to his challenge. He rubs his cheek over his head, marking himself with Will’s scent even as his seed stains his partner’s insides. Will’s breathing slows, becoming deep and even as he drifts off, and Hannibal gives a contented sigh because everything is progressing according to plan.

Let yourself go, Will, and I will bond you. I will give you everything.

***

Jack’s phone call to Will’s cell ruins their evening. A nurse has been killed at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, in a manner chillingly like the Chesapeake Ripper. He’s coming to collect Will first thing in the morning, to take him through the crime scene.

Will sighs; it’s time to go home.

When he lowers the phone from his ear, he finds Hannibal staring at him with a peculiar expression on his face. Concern? Confusion? He can’t tell. When he frowns at him, Hannibal merely schools his features to neutrality and takes his hand, giving it a comforting squeeze.

‘I’ll be here, if you need me,’ the Alpha says, and the unspoken agreement that Will can go back to the field, can still help Jack and the FBI, that Hannibal believes he is strong enough to do what needs to be done, is like a drop of liquid courage in Will’s stomach. He nods, lacing his fingers with Hannibal’s, and draws him in for a final, lingering kiss.

‘Thank you,’ he whispers, resting his forehead against Hannibal’s chest, appreciating the feel of soft cashmere against his skin. They only showered and dressed an hour ago, having spent most of the day in bed, but he can’t stay, and Hannibal can’t come with him. His time with him is… private. He’s not ready to tell Jack that something is going on between them.

Sighing, Will pulls away before it becomes too difficult, and leads the way into the entrance hall to fetch his coat and boots.

‘Take care of yourself,’ Hannibal says, keeping step just behind him and helping him into his waxed jacket, tracking the way Will’s features tighten and his shoulders tense as he fights the urge to shrug off the uncomfortable clothing and stay with his Alpha. ‘I’ll see you soon.’

Will nods, swallowing the lump choking him. He ducks out of Hannibal’s house before he can change his mind, his keys jangling in his hand as he crosses the driveway and climbs into his car. It’s freezing, but that’s no surprise, given that it’s been parked up since yesterday when they returned from spending time with the dogs.

He can’t stop the little smile from curving his lips when he thinks about Hannibal with his pack; they’d spent a couple of hours walking over the fields and through the woods around his house, braced against the flurries of snow and bitter air. Then, so as not to leave the dogs immediately, Hannibal had attempted to tune Will’s piano whilst the Omega lay on the rug in front of the fire, fiddling with a salvaged boat engine, keeping each other company until it was time to feed the pack and leave them for the night. It had just been so…

He sighs to himself, dragging his mind away from memories to focus on the streets of Baltimore. He needs to concentrate, to get home safely so that he can work this case for Jack, get it out the way and concentrate on earning a way for Hannibal to bond him.

Whatever it takes. I’m yours.

***

Jack pulls up behind an expensive convertible at twelve minutes to nine the next morning, his sharp braking jolting him as Will adds two final drops to his eyes. He bites back a growl and settles for frowning as he slips his glasses on. He needs to talk to Hannibal about getting different inhibitors; his gold seems to be showing more since switching, or maybe it’s just since he started being intimate with the Alpha… He’s not sure.

‘Well, thanks to Freddy Lounds, there’s an unconfirmed story floating out there that the Chesapeake Ripper is already in custody,’ Jack says.

‘Unconfirmed; am I confirming?’ Will asks, and he can’t keep the disdain from his voice at the idea of doing anything for Freddy Lounds. ‘Fact-checking for Freddy Lounds.’

‘No, you’re fact-checking for me,’ Jack says, leading the way up the steps to the hospital. Will hesitates before following, his heart skipping a beat and his stomach clenching with dread.

‘Always feel a little nervous entering these places,’ he mutters, hanging back for as long as possible.

‘Why’s that?’ Jack asks, unaware of the Omega’s fear. Will offers a half-hearted shrug, trying to keep the wobble from his voice.

‘Afraid they won’t let me out,’ he admits.

‘Don’t worry; I won’t leave you here,’ Jack says, throwing a small smile back over his shoulder. Will rolls his eyes.

‘Yeah, not today.’

They sign in, receiving laminate visitor’s passes, and Jack hands over his firearm. An officer escorts them to Dr Chilton’s office, a lavish room filled with expensive furniture and what is designed to be an impressive array of books. Looking round when he enters, Will can’t help but notice that many spaces on the shelves are filled with ornaments or framed awards for Dr Chilton; there are less than half as many books here as Hannibal has in his office. Since spending more time in his home, Will has come to appreciate just how much his Alpha reads; Hannibal’s personal library is twice the size of his one at work, filled from floor to ceiling with all manner of books and scripts.

‘Dr Bloom just called me about you, Mr Graham,’ Dr Frederick Chilton says, extending his hand to shake with Will first. ‘Or, should I call you Dr Graham?’ He fixes dark, hungry eyes on Will’s face, drinking in his fine features, soft lips and the tell-tale gold-ringed irises.

‘I’m not a doctor,’ Will mutters, releasing the Alpha’s hand as quickly as possible and then hiding shaking fists in his trouser pockets. Don’t touch me. I don’t belong to you. He can still feel a twitch inside from Hannibal’s knot, and the foreign Alpha scent sets his teeth on edge.

‘You’re not FBI, either,’ Chilton says, nodding to the badge at Will’s belt. ‘That’s a temporary identification.’

A low whine tries to escape Will’s mouth and he shrinks under the scrutiny. Jack straightens his shoulders, filling more of the space to protect him, and reaches to shake with Frederick.

‘Mr Graham teaches at the Academy,’ he says, tilting the other Alpha’s wrist just slightly to prove his dominance in the situation. Chilton’s eyes widen slightly and then narrow, but he doesn’t fight it. Instead, he gives Will an indulgent smile.

‘Ah, a teacher,’ he says knowingly. Nothing untoward about a classroom environment. He smirks at Will, who fights down a shiver because the smug, hungry emotions battering him from Dr Chilton tell him that the other Alpha knows the truth.

Chilton extends his arms to the leather chairs facing his desk.

‘Please, gentlemen; take a seat.’

‘Thank you,’ Jack says, leading the way. Will follows, half a step behind, his skin crawling. He really hates psychiatrists. Well, most psychiatrists…

Once everyone is settled, Jack gets straight to business.

‘Dr Chilton, we’re going to need to see the crime scene while it’s still… relatively undisturbed.’

‘I assure you, for something so disturbing it is quite undisturbed,’ Chilton says, adjusting his suit jacket.

Without looking at the Alpha, Will asks the question that has been burning his tongue since they arrived.

‘Why was a nurse left alone with a prisoner in a high-security psychiatric hospital?’

Dr Chilton paints a look of utmost sorrow on his face, though the perfectly groomed beard and waxed eyebrows diminish it somewhat.

‘For the two years since he was brought here, Gideon behaved perfectly,’ he says. ‘And gave every appearance at co-operating with attempts at therapy. As dictated by our current administrator, security around him was slightly… relaxed.’ He fails to mention that he is the current administrator. He sits forwards, locking eyes with Will, trying to see the gold through his tinted lenses, before moving to Jack’s gaze. ‘I cannot help feeling responsible myself for what happened.’ He points at the chair where Will is sitting now. ‘He sat directly across from me and I had no idea what he was hiding. And now one of our staff is dead.’

Will suppresses a sigh at the display, but Jack seems to buy it, at least somewhat.

‘I understand, Doctor,’ he says gravely. ‘Mr Graham’s going to need to see the crime scene with as much privacy as you can provide.’

Jack… stop… Will glances at Chilton again, then lowers his eyes when the Alpha smirks.

‘Oh, yes, that thing that you do,’ he says, huffing out a purring laugh that catches Will’s attention enough that he can’t help but look into his face. Chilton’s eyes flicker red and he locks onto Will with piercing ferocity. ‘You’re quite the topic of conversation in certain psychiatric circles, Mr Graham.’

‘Am I?’ Will asks, feigning indifference in a desperate attempt to hide his growing alarm. Chilton smiles.

‘Er, yes. A Beta with an unusually Omegan cocktail of empathy, personality disorders and neuroses that make you a highly skilled profiler.’

Shit… Jack… He knows…

Will swallows hard enough to hear it catch in his throat, and there’s a quiet growl from Jack beside him.

‘He’s not a profiler, and even if he were, he’s not here to be analysed,’ he says. Dr Chilton raises his eyebrows, still baring his teeth at Will in a hungry smile.

‘Perhaps he should be.’ He winks at Jack and then resumes speaking to Will. ‘We are woefully short of material on your sort of “thing”, Mr Graham.’ He stands up and prowls closer. ‘Would you speak to some of the staff?’

‘Doctor,’ Jack warns.

‘No, no, no, not this trip,’ Chilton says, soothing him the way one might soothe a grumpy child. He comes to a stop right in front of Will, his sharp, musky scent and expensive cologne washing over him. ‘Maybe a special visit.’

Will’s dark shadow snarls behind his ribs even as fear snatches his breath and he starts to shake. He has to get out of here now.

‘Thank you, Dr Chilton,’ he manages, forcing himself up from the chair because his life, his sanity, depends on it. ‘I’d like to see the crime scene now.’

Chilton smiles when Will looks down and meets his eye; the Omega is taller than him, a rarity for their breed, and Will can’t help but tremble at the idea of being trapped with this man. What he would do to him…

But Chilton merely steps back and shows them to the hospital room. He watches hungrily when Will follows Jack inside, and takes a slow, deep breath to taste the Omega’s fear and… something else… when he sees the mutilated nurse.

Will can hear a purr rumbling in Chilton’s throat as he waits in the doorway, as though he’s proud of what Will is about to do. He has to fight down bile, and squash the urge to attack him.

I’m not yours, you smug fuck, he thinks. I’m not anyone’s… yet.

Blocking out the sound, Will closes his eyes as the room sings to him. The dark current rises, warming him, filling him with calm. He breathes deeply, slowly, as if falling asleep. He’s there… not there… not anywhere

I know how it feels to put out your eyes, Nurse Shell… How it feels to pierce your heart with a steel rod… I’m brutal with you. You’re nothing to me, nothing but flesh and bone. I’m going to make everyone see…

The memories end abruptly, and Will comes back to himself with a gasping shudder. He’s hot; his skin tingles with a thousand volts and the nape of his neck is aching. He can feel his body respond inside, tightening and then relaxing as he grows slick. Gideon was aroused by this, not me… Not me.

It doesn’t help. He’s aching and sick to his stomach, freezing cold with what he just had to do but burning up at the same time. What’s wrong with me?

He needs… He doesn’t even know what he needs right now. He can feel Jack’s concern from the doorway. Smell the rich musk of Dr Chilton’s excitement as he peers over the larger Alpha’s shoulder to watch Will at work.

He’s not going to catch his breath like this, and Jack needs answers. He’s growing impatient; Will can feel it.

‘Erm…’ He replaces his glasses and wipes away the tears dribbling down his cheeks. ‘Far as we know, it’s been over two years since the Chesapeake Ripper killed?’

‘That’s correct,’ Jack says, entering the room but motioning for Chilton to stay where he is. Will nods, sighs again. Rubs at his stubble, trying to scratch off the feeling of scum clinging to him.

‘When was Gideon admitted?’

Jack echoes Will’s sigh.

‘Almost two years ago,’ he says heavily, and they all feel it.

This could be him.

***

He doesn’t visit Hannibal that night, but after he’s walked the dogs, Will curls up on the sofa and allows himself to call him. The Alpha answers after two rings, almost as though he’s been expecting it.

‘Hello, Will.’

Will closes his eyes and smiles. There’s just something in the way that Hannibal greets him; it loosens his muscles and makes breathing just a little easier.

‘Hello, Hannibal.’

Will’s voice is so warm and grateful; sat in his drawing room at home, Hannibal smiles to himself. Perfectly conditioned. The tone and phrase must be the same every time to elicit such a response, and he has spent weeks training Will to experience comfort when he says those two words.  

‘How are you feeling?’ he asks, testing Will’s emotional resilience with such an obvious question. His Omega is tired; instead of snapping at him, Will merely huffs a laugh.

Sore,’ he admits, rubbing at his shoulders before giving up to fuss Winston when the dog headbutts him for attention again. ‘Alana and I are going back tomorrow to interview Dr Gideon.’

‘What did you see at the crime scene?’ Hannibal asks, keeping his tone mildly interested, despite the coiling snake in his gut. Will sighs again, and Hannibal frowns; he shouldn’t be quite so tired; something else must have happened. Something with the insufferable Dr Chilton, perhaps? For some reason, the thought makes him want to growl.  

‘I don’t know,’ Will says, rubbing his face again before returning it to Winston’s scruff. ‘Maybe it’s the Ripper… I’m not sure.’ He snorts. ‘Some profiler I turned out to be.’

‘Have you eaten?’ Hannibal asks, steering the topic of conversation away from Will’s faltering confidence. He needs him questioning himself, his sanity, despite the urge to build him up. That must come later, once Will has lost everything he thinks he cares about.

‘Er, not yet,’ Will admits, and he smiles when he hears Hannibal sigh. ‘I’ll have something before bed.’

‘I shall have to fatten you up,’ Hannibal says, absently turning the page of his book to the Wound Man illustration, narrowing his eyes when he thinks over the attack on the nurse. ‘Perhaps you could join me for dinner soon.’

‘I’d like that,’ Will says softly, and he really does mean it. Hannibal is completely and utterly under his skin; he’ll take any excuse he can get to be near him.

They chat for a while longer until Will realises how late it is, and then he scrambles up to let the dogs out one last time, all the while apologising to Hannibal.  

‘I’ll call you tomorrow,’ he says, before blushing and chewing his lip. ‘I mean… If you want… I can… Or I’ll see you on Thursday, anyway…’ He laughs, rubbing the back of his head at how flustered and childish he sounds. He hasn’t been like this since he was a teenager with his first crush.

‘I’d like that,’ Hannibal says, keeping his laughter from his voice. Will really is adorable when he’s embarrassed. ‘I’ll talk to you tomorrow, Will.’

‘Good night, Dr Lecter,’ Will says, forcing some semblance of control back into his voice, no matter how much his heart is pounding.

‘Good night, Will.’

Hannibal ends the call, leaving Will staring at his cell phone with a stupid grin on his face and flushed cheeks. When he spots his reflection in the black surface, he scowls at himself.

What am I doing? This is so dangerous… He fetches a beer and takes it outside, sitting on the porch steps to watch the moths flutter around the security lamps. It’s cold, but he doesn’t put a coat on, and steam rises from his burning skin. Is this normal?

Sipping the cold liquid, he stares out into the dark night, trying to understand exactly when he fell completely in love with Hannibal Lecter. And, more importantly, how he’s going to protect himself against the Alpha, because he feels so completely and utterly vulnerable to him.

Please let me trust you, he thinks, closing his eyes against tears threatening to spill. Please… Please don’t hurt me.

***

Alana drives him to the hospital the next day; they are both interviewing Dr Gideon, to compare and contrast notes. Dr Chilton’s snide remarks about Alana’s ‘more or less helpful’ notes following her interviews with Gideon make Will itch to bare his teeth at the pompous Alpha, but Alana takes it in her stride. She is far more tolerant of rudeness than Will is.

‘I’ll go first,’ she says, and excuses herself from the room. Will follows; he has no intention of waiting for his turn anywhere near Chilton.

He takes a seat in the waiting area, tapping his fingers together and idly wondering what Hannibal is doing right now, before cutting off that train of thought and counting the dark spots on the tiles beneath his feet.

After almost an hour, Alana returns.

‘Your turn,’ she sighs, and gives his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. ‘Will you be OK?’

Will nods and swallows. He doesn’t trust himself to speak yet. The Beta looks tired; if it was difficult for her down in the maximum-security cells, he can only imagine how much it’s going to hurt him.

He’s right; the buzzing of the gates, the rage and impotent frustration pouring from the prisoners is overwhelming. Will places a hand on the far wall to steady himself, fighting bile as he concentrates on putting one foot in front of the other, down the row of cells to the last one. He can hear the other prisoners whispering, muttering. Several are Alphas, and they lift their heads to scent the air, growling and purring obscenities as he passes. Claws tickle his neck, rake his scalp. He can feel Samuel Coby’s hot breath on the nape of his neck and he pauses as a wave of dizziness threatens to topple him.

He’s not here… He’s over a thousand miles away… He can’t get me… Hannibal won’t let him.

Gideon is waiting at the bars of his cell door when Will reaches it. There is a metal chair placed in front of him, and Will can smell Alana’s scent on it. He has no intention of lowering himself below the Alpha’s level; he folds his arms and keeps himself closer to the far wall.

Dr Gideon’s eyes widen in surprise, blue flashing red for a moment as his brain registers Will’s scent.

‘An Omega? My, my, what a pleasant surprise,’ he croons, smirking when Will visibly tenses. ‘And here I thought the treat of the day was going to be Dr Bloom.’ He strokes the bars suggestively. ‘As I already told her; there’s no mystery here. I did it.’

‘The mystery is whether you are who you say you are,’ Will says, pacing back and forth to relieve the tension cramping his thighs. Every fibre in his body is screaming for him to leave, to escape before it’s too late. He grabs at the spark of anger in his gut, fuelling his dark rage with it, and smirks at the surprised look on Gideon’s face when he lifts his head and stares at him straight in the eye. ‘Or not.’

‘Never liked being called the Chesapeake Ripper,’ Gideon says, leaving the bars to copy Will’s pacing. An instinctive response; if an Omega is preparing to flee, an Alpha will prepare to chase. ‘Perhaps something with a little more… wit?’

‘Why didn’t you take credit for the Ripper murders until now? Because you didn’t like the name?’

‘Just watching the goose-chase,’ Gideon replies. ‘Dr Bloom asked me the same questions, y’know. Now, she I understand; she’s a psychiatrist, after all. But you?’ He pauses, baring his teeth in a smile. ‘What is an Omega doing analysing a serial killer for the FBI?’

‘Two years of goose-chasing,’ Will says, ignoring Gideon’s question. He stops pacing and leans back against the wall. ‘You must be a very patient man.’

‘Are you just going to run the psychopathic checklist here?’ Gideon snaps. ‘I’d expect that from Dr Bloom, but from you…’ He leers at Will. ‘Well, perhaps things could be a little more interesting.’

‘Did Dr Bloom offer you a Rorschach Test?’ Will asks, and Gideon smirks.

‘Oh, yes, and I’ll give you the same answer that I gave her, pretty boy. If you’re gonna show me those pictures, you should put a blood pressure cuff to my genitals, since it gives a much truer gauge to my reaction.’ He licks his lips. ‘Or, perhaps we could just ask you, since Omegas are supposed to be empathic, am I right?’

Will swallows fresh nausea and starts to move again. The sooner he’s done with his questioning, the sooner he can leave.

‘What effect were you hoping to have by killing the night nurse?’ he asks.

‘The effect I was hoping to have was her death,’ Gideon says. He starts to pace as well, and Will can tell his presence is starting to rattle him; stirring up the Alpha’s urge to rut. Gideon is breathing more heavily than he was before Will arrived, and there is already a sheen of sweat on his forehead. ‘Mission accomplished.’

‘You brutalised her body after she was dead,’ Will says. ‘The Chesapeake Ripper usually does that sort of thing during, not after.’

Gideon growls and shakes his head, like an angry bull dislodging biting flies. He is getting annoyed by Will’s questioning. He strides to the back of his cell and sits down on the toilet seat. Creating space between himself and Will. He doesn’t want to go into rut. Lose control. How long has it been since he was exposed to Omega hormones? Has he ever seen one?

‘I do not have to convince you that I am the Chesapeake Ripper,’ Gideon says, and Will can tell by his tone that their conversation is over. He nods, only too happy to accept this, though he can’t help but glance up towards the security camera, where Dr Chilton is undoubtedly following every word.

‘It’s certainly what somebody needs.’

***

He drives to Hannibal’s after scrubbing his skin raw in the shower, walking the dogs until his legs hurt and then cooking them fresh meat as an apology for abandoning them again. The Alpha is in his drawing room when he walks in without knocking, frowning up when Will appears in the doorway, dishevelled and thrumming with tension.

‘Will.’ Hannibal marks the page in his book and gets to his feet, crossing the room quickly and wrapping the distressed Omega in his arms. ‘Is everything alright?’

Will melts against him, tucking his head under Hannibal’s chin and closing his eyes as he breathes in his Alpha’s scent, trying to soothe himself with the warm feeling of the other man’s chest against his cheek.

‘Sorry I didn’t call,’ he mutters, resting his hands on Hannibal’s hips, not quite daring to hug him in case Hannibal is annoyed with him just showing up with no warning. ‘I know it’s rude.’

‘Not at all,’ Hannibal murmurs, dropping a kiss to freshly washed curls, smelling beef and winter air over the chemicals of his scent-dulling shampoo. ‘You are always welcome.’

‘Can I just…?’ Will sighs. He fidgets, wanting to shrug out of his coat but not sure if that would be too presumptuous. Hannibal takes the decision from him by turning him and pulling the waxed jacket off, folding it over the back of a chair before leading him towards the sofa.

‘Would you like me to Gentle you?’ the Alpha asks, sliding his hands over the tight muscles under Will’s shirt. He blinks when Will turns and leans up to kiss him, both hands fumbling for the button and zipper of his suit trousers.

‘Actually, I’d like you to fuck me,’ Will says, speaking into Hannibal’s soft lips. He walks the Alpha backwards until Hannibal’s knees hit the sofa, following and straddling his hips as the taller man sits heavily.

‘Will…’ Hannibal cuts off when Will kisses him again, sucking Hannibal’s tongue into his mouth in a way that melts the Alpha’s resistance.

‘Please,’ Will mutters, abandoning Hannibal’s trousers to unbutton the Alpha’s shirt. ‘Please… I don’t want to think for a while.’

‘Alright,’ Hannibal says, removing his cufflinks so that Will can push his shirt down his arms and off, exposing his lean chest. He moves to unbutton Will’s shirt but the Omega is faster and threads snap under impatient fingers, scattering buttons to the floor as Will rips the cotton from his stinging flesh. His cheeks are warm but his eyes are still shot through with blue; this is more than just heat hormones.

Will growls because there are too many clothes between them. He can feel his boxers already dampening with slick at the memory of how good Hannibal’s knot inside him feels, and he scrambles to his feet just long enough to toe off his boots, socks, trousers and then tear at his underwear. His heart skips a beat when Hannibal’s breath catches at the sight of him, naked and hard, a pink flush creeping down his neck to stain his chest, thighs glistening with the wetness leaking out of him.

‘Beautiful boy,’ Hannibal murmurs, welcoming him back as Will climbs onto his lap. He strokes one hand flat across the quivering pectoral of Will’s chest, rolling a hardening nipple between thumb and forefinger until Will groans and rocks his hips down, then up. He can feel Will’s slick staining his trousers, making the silky fabric cling to his skin, and he uses his other hand to pull himself free of his briefs. The sweet musk of Will’s arousal has him half-hard already, and the feel of the Omega writhing against him, peppering his cheeks and chin with hot, desperate kisses makes him ache. His balls are warm and heavy, and he groans when Will reaches down to wrap a burning palm around him, fingers tickling feathery touches to the sensitive tip, gathering beads of pre-cum to ease the friction down his length. 

‘In,’ Will whispers, mushing the words against Hannibal’s mouth as though afraid to break the kiss. ‘In me, now, please.’

Hannibal cups the side of Will’s face, keeping him steady, and holds himself at the base of his shaft to help push past the tight ring of muscle at Will’s entrance. Will hisses at the ache of the stretch, tightening and relaxing in waves as Hannibal slides deeper and deeper inside him. He snarls into Hannibal’s cheek, inhaling his scent to calm himself as his stomach cramps at the invasion, at how big the Alpha is. He rises up, easing the pressure just slightly, rolling down so that every inch will brush against his prostate. White hot pleasure zings through him, stealing his breath and making him falter, half-falling against Hannibal as he grabs for his shoulders, quivering at how good, how right it feels.

‘Hannibal,’ he gasps, mouthing at his lips again because he’s forgotten how to kiss. He feels Hannibal’s strong hands on either side of his face, and he looks down into the Alpha’s feral gaze. The hunger in Hannibal’s dark eyes sends a jolt through him and his heart trips over itself. He slides his hands from Hannibal’s shoulders to his jaw, thumbs brushing the faint rasp of stubble on Hannibal’s face. I love you, he thinks, shuddering at the strength of the emotion. Warmth floods his chest and he has to close his eyes because it’s too much. He presses his forehead to Hannibal’s, riding him as slowly and deeply as he can, trying to savour every moment before the dark current washes him away and shatters him into a thousand pieces.

Watching Will seek his pleasure, feeling him pulse and spasm around him… Hannibal can barely breathe, and his heartbeat thunders in his ears as he caresses every part of Will’s face and body. With their foreheads pressed together the air between them grows hot and wet with their panting breath. Hannibal’s fingers follow a trail of sweat dribbling down from Will’s neck to the small of his back, and he massages it into Will’s soft skin before pressing a palm flat against his buttocks to feel the rhythmic clenching as Will moves up and down on him. He lifts his other hand higher, sliding it through Will’s hair. He cups the back of his head and then slips it lower, squeezing the burning nape of the Omega’s neck.

Ohhhh…’ Will’s voice fades to a groan and he arches his spine, twisting his hips in a circle and hissing with pleasure. Hannibal squeezes his nape again, two fingers marvelling at how soft the unblemished skin is. A growl rumbles between them and he blinks when he realises it has come from his throat. He grips Will tight by the back of the head and by the hip, moving him the way he wants as he snaps his hips up, brutally hard and fast. He’s getting close…

Fuck… That, that, that… Will’s mind chants his needs as Hannibal slams up into him. He squeezes with his thighs and abdomen, rocking in time with the Alpha’s curve and he can feel it coming, a wall of white heat and pleasure that rips him apart. He’s crashing into nothing, into golden bliss and all he can smell is Hannibal, all he can feel is Hannibal, all he needs is Hannibal. He comes with a sharp cry, locked rigid as every muscle tightens, taking Hannibal’s growing knot as deep as possible, clenching around him as Hannibal begins to come, milking every drop of seed from him.

Hannibal’s nails cut bloody half-moons into Will’s neck and hip as he thrusts up one last time, burying himself as far inside his Omega’s body as he can, sealing them together with his knot. Tingles chase each other down his spine and he shudders, mouthing at Will’s throat and cheek. The other man sags against him, humming at how good he feels. At how quiet his mind is.

‘Thank you,’ he whispers, resting his head on Hannibal’s broad shoulder and kissing the Alpha’s stuttering pulse, again and again. ‘Thank you. Thank you, thank you.’

Hannibal hugs him tight and turns his face so that Will kisses his lips instead of his throat.

‘Anything you want to talk about?’ he asks, brushing curls back from Will’s sticky forehead.

‘No.’ Will shakes his head, lowering his eyes from Hannibal’s penetrating stare. He snuggles closer, making them both moan and hitch a breath as the movement tugs Hannibal’s knot inside his tender body. ‘Mm… I just need this… you…’

‘Alright,’ Hannibal murmurs, kissing him again before allowing him to simply lie against him. He should feel satisfied at Will’s dependence on him, at how emotionally vulnerable he is, but for some reason, all he wants to do tonight is comfort his mate. Future mate. Hannibal frowns to himself, staring off into the crackling flames of his coal fire, hands tracing endless patterns beneath the hard line of Will’s scar.

Will breathes slowly and deeply, soaking up the warmth of Hannibal’s skin, safe in his Alpha’s arms. Gideon can’t get him here, Chilton can’t get him. Coby can never touch him again.

I’m safe with Hannibal, he thinks, his eyes drifting shut as the steady tick of Hannibal’s grandfather clock lulls him to sleep. Please let me be safe with Hannibal.

***

In the lab the next morning, Will tucks himself back against a pillar in the medical lab so as not to be in the way while Price, Zeller and Beverly examine the body of Nurse Shell. He slept well but he left Hannibal’s house before dawn so that he could return home to shower the Alpha’s scent from him and dress in fresh clothes before coming into work, and his defences seem weaker than usual. He can feel more of the emotions in the room with him, and Jack’s are brittle and sharp. He feels guilty about something… it’s eating away at him, winding him tight enough to snap. Why?

‘There’s no detectable consistency with the Ripper victims,’ Beverly says, returning from taking a swab of the lowest stab wound. ‘He doesn’t hunt exclusively within his own ethnic group; he’s killed all creeds, colours, men and women.’

‘She has the exact same wound pattern as the last known victim of the Chesapeake Ripper,’ Zeller says. ‘I mean exact.’

Jack’s growl rips through the cold lab air.

‘We never found a body for his last known victim,’ he snaps, and Beverly gives him a sympathetic look. Will frowns; he needs to refresh his memory on the case file.

Zeller looks uncomfortable.

‘Then… the victim before that,’ he mumbles.

Will casts his eyes over the body, wading into the dark current of his mind. It flows around him but there are rocks beneath his feet, catching and stabbing at him. It’s not right. It’s not… elevated.

‘I see the Ripper, but I don’t… feel the Ripper,’ he says. ‘This is plagiarism.’

‘We never made the wound patterns for any of the Ripper’s victims public,’ Jack says, and Will doesn’t have the strength in him to argue. He shrugs and shakes his head.

‘Maybe he is the Ripper, I don’t know, but if he’s a plagiarist…’ His shadow slithers through his heart, pumping into every muscle and filling him with a delicious sense of excitement. ‘The real Chesapeake Ripper is gonna make sure everybody knows it.’

He holds Jack’s gaze for a moment, savouring the line of concern creasing the Alpha’s brow. Do you see my shadow, Jack? Do you see the darkness?

He’s right; he knows he’s right, and he can’t wait to see what the Ripper does next.

***

He calls Jack.

At 2.46am, the Ripper calls Jack and plays a recording of Miriam Lass; an FBI forensics trainee that Jack pulled in to work on the Ripper case. A trainee who was a ‘gifted’ Omega, according to her file, one of the last to be allowed to enter law enforcement – with her Alpha’s consent, of course – before Article 62 banned Omegas from any contact with such dangerous professions.

Now, standing across the tech lab from him, Will understands the Alpha’s guilt. His powerless rage. I’m not the first Omega you’ve put in danger, he thinks, and a part of him hates Jack for not learning his lesson.

Beverly can’t find evidence of the call, which either means it didn’t happen, as Zeller thinks, or that the Ripper called from within Jack’s neighbourhood, creating no trace signal. Jack is insistent that it did happen, so much so that he threatens Zeller if he argues with him one more time. Will trembles under the anger emanating from the burly Alpha, and tries to distract him by piecing the facts together.

‘Then we know the Chesapeake Ripper is not Dr Gideon,’ he says, drawing Jack’s attention to himself in order to spare Zeller. ‘Because we know the call was not made from the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.’

That we would’ve been able to trace,’ Beverly agrees.

Will sighs.

‘Are you certain it was a recording?’ he asks, stepping closer to Jack, now that he is calming down. Jack frowns at him, but Will has to try. ‘Jack, you said yourself; there’s no body…’

‘Miriam Lass is dead!’ Jack snarls, his calm evaporating instantly. ‘The Chesapeake Ripper is making it very clear that someone is plagiarising his work!’

Zeller, never one to give up, tries one last time to reason with the Alpha.

‘It was 2.46 in the morning, Jack. You’re in a deep sleep, you’re roused, you’re disoriented. Might not even know you’re still asleep.’

Jack turns to him and says, with icy calmness,

‘I know when I’m awake.’

Zeller falls silent, bowing his head under the Alpha’s red-tinged glare. Will releases a long, slow breath.

I wish I did.

***

Hannibal can’t see him that night, which means he doesn’t sleep. Even cuddling a pillow, Will can’t keep the nightmares at bay, can’t stop the insomnia from making him want to claw out his eyes.

Sitting at his desk the next day, Will grinds the heel of his hand into his eyes, trying to dig out the headache making him feel sick. The lecture hall is empty, the silence bearing down on him. Expectant.

He can hear hooves. Fear tickles his spine, raising the fine hairs on his arms. Will slowly lowers his hand, afraid of what he’ll see.

The ebony stag steps into the doorway. It snorts, lowering its head to dip sharp antlers beneath the doorframe. It’s coming closer, growling at him, snarling at him, and there’s nothing he can do about it –

‘Will?’ Alana’s voice snaps him back to reality and Will blinks, rubbing sweat from his forehead as he sits up straight in the chair. ‘You look like you were dreaming,’ the Beta says, offering him a sympathetic smile. Will clears his throat.

‘I was, er, thinking about something else,’ he lies. Was I awake just then? Was it real, or am I dreaming now?

‘Well, here’s something for you to think about,’ Jack says, leaning down over his desk, dominating his vision, even as Will recoils from him. ‘We have a direct way of communicating with the Chesapeake Ripper, and we’d like to see if we can push him.’

Will frowns.

‘Push him toward what?’

‘We might be able to influence him to become visible,’ Alana says.

‘If we can enrage him,’ Jack adds, and Will’s darkness rumbles a laugh at the idea. He frowns and shakes his head.

‘Well, to what purpose, Jack? I don’t see what you’re asking.’

‘Do you think there’s a way to push the Chesapeake Ripper and focus his attention?’ Jack asks. Will’s mouth floods with bitter saliva and he has to fight to swallow it.

‘He’s already focused on Gideon as his adversary; don’t fool around,’ he begs. Don’t annoy him, Jack. You don’t know what he’ll do.

‘Gideon is just a tabloid rumour right now,’ Jack says, glancing at Alana for support. ‘We need to make him the truth.’

Will’s heart starts racing at how reckless, how selfish this is. Just because you feel guilty for failing two Omegas, Jack.

‘You might push the Ripper to kill again, just to prove he isn’t in a hospital for the criminally insane!’

‘I have to push, Will,’ Jack snarls, and Will knows, he knows what’s coming next. He sits forwards, locking blue-gold eyes on the Alpha.

‘Are you thinking about getting into bed with Freddy Lounds?’ he growls. You’re betraying me, Jack. You promised me I’d never have to see her again… You lied.

***

Seeing Freddy Lounds again is… unpleasant. But she is polite, and remains a safe distance across the table from them as Jack lays out the plan. She agrees, and the article comes out the next day.

Will is in his office when he gets the call from Jack. The Ripper was in his home; he called him from the house phone while Jack was interviewing Gideon, and played him the recording of Miriam’s last moments again.

It’s a mad rush to get there, in case they can intercept him. Will knows it’s no use; the Ripper is too careful. Too good.

Jack’s anger scours his skin, and Will hunches against the wall, battered by the Alpha’s rage.

‘In my house, in my bedroom, where my mate sleeps!’ Jack growls, his shoulders back and chest out, as if he can make himself a bigger threat than the invisible remnants of an unknown killer.

Will tastes the air in the room, but there isn’t even a trace of the Ripper’s scent. He must be dulling it somehow. The fingerprints on the phone belong to Jack, his mate and Miriam Lass. There’s a blond hair on Bella’s pillow; presumably also Miriam’s. Will frowns.

‘Did you know you were sending her after him?’ he asks quietly, and Jack sighs.

‘I sent her after information,’ he says. Will nods, accepting it as the half-truth it is. He needs Jack calm for what he’s about to tell him.

‘Whoever made that call thinks you were close to Miriam Lass,’ he says, and Jack nods, before growing still when Will finishes his sentence. ‘And… feel responsible for her death.’ Jack frowns, and Will’s shadow-self smiles at the pain he’s caused.

You do feel responsible, don’t you, Jack? Good. Because you are.

***

It’s late when they finish at Jack’s house. Everyone is quiet on the way back to the office, and they pack up ready to go home within an hour of arriving. Will hovers in the doorway; uncertain and fidgety. He doesn’t want to go home; he doesn’t want to be alone after today. After feeling Jack’s pain…

He ducks inside an empty office and is ringing Hannibal before he can change his mind.

‘Hello, Will.’

As soon as he hears the Alpha’s velvety smooth voice, Will releases a shaky breath. Tiredness is like a wave that crashes through him, as though the adrenaline of the last few hours can finally stop pumping now that he’s talking to his Alpha. The Alpha. Will frowns at the slip and rests his forehead against the doorframe.

‘Hannibal,’ he whispers.

‘Would you like to come over?’ Hannibal asks, smirking to himself as he retrieves a second steak from the larder. ‘I was just preparing dinner.’

‘Yes, please.’ Will manages to force some semblance of control back into his voice, making it sound gruffer than he meant. He clears his throat. ‘Sorry, I just…’

‘No need to apologise,’ Hannibal replies. ‘You sound as if you could do with a good night’s sleep.’

Will barks a laugh and rubs his aching forehead, squeezing between his eyes in a vain attempt to release some of the throbbing pressure.

‘Feel as if I could sleep for a week,’ he mutters.

‘Perhaps some time off would be good for you,’ Hannibal suggests, and smiles at the cynical snort that Will can’t keep from making.

‘Yeah, unless the Ripper turns himself in or gets caught, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.’

‘Well then, we’ll just have to make do,’ Hannibal says. ‘Dinner, wine, perhaps a massage.’

Will snorts again, even as his insides twitch and his stomach clenches.

‘Massage?’ he asks quietly. ‘Is that what you call it?’

‘Would you prefer to be Gentled?’ Hannibal asks mildly. ‘Or perhaps you’d like me to knot you again?’

Will blushes scarlet because he’d thought Hannibal had been playing coy, though the Alpha never really shies away from the truth of their intimacy. To hear him say it so bluntly, like that, though…

‘I… er…’ He coughs, clears his throat and swallows. ‘I’d like dinner. And wine… And…’ He sighs. ‘We’ll see what happens.’ He bites his lower lip. ‘I, er, need to sort the dogs, before, though…’

‘Of course,’ Hannibal says, feigning ignorance to Will’s awkwardness. ‘I’ll see you soon, Will.’

They hang up and Will taps the phone against his lip. Should he do this? Spend another night with Hannibal…? He doesn’t want to become too… needyweak… annoying

Dependant.

But his chest aches at the idea of sleeping alone. Of not sleeping because he’s alone.

Growling at how pathetic he’s becoming, Will digs around in his pocket for his drops, adding a couple of squeezes to each eye before knocking back a handful of heat suppressants. It’s just dinner, he thinks. Just dinner with a friend… I don’t have to stay the night every time I see him.

He drives home in a haze of headache and exhaustion. Feeds the dogs and has his overnight bag half-packed before he’s fully aware of what he’s doing. He pauses, hesitating with his deodorant in his hand, and then sinks onto the bed. Rests his elbows on his knees, gripping his hair tight enough to hurt. Fuck.

He shouldn’t have had sex with Hannibal. Will huffs a laugh at the thought. Sex with Hannibal… God. It doesn’t even come close to describing what he’s done with the Alpha. It’s so much more than sex. Being with Hannibal like that… it rips him apart at the seams, fills him with darkness and feeds him fire until he burns brighter and hotter than he’d ever thought possible. It breaks him apart and makes him strong, filling his mind with endless possibilities.

He’s going to bond me… when I’ve earned it…

Groaning to himself, Will scrubs his hands over his face. Enough. He needs to get to Hannibal’s before he ruins dinner. He can obsess over his life choices another time.

He gets to his feet and grabs the bag, carrying it down to the car without another thought. Drives through the drifting snow to the Alpha’s Baltimore townhouse and parks in front of the Bentley. Blushes at the memory of barging straight in the other evening, so he rings the doorbell and waits on the step, shivering against the bitter air nipping at his cheeks. His ears prick at the sound of approaching footsteps, and he smiles when Hannibal opens the door, releasing warm, beef-scented air over him.

‘Hello, Will.’

At the Alpha’s warm voice and gentle smile, Will’s shoulders loosen. He steps inside, shaking snow from his hair and scarf. Allows Hannibal to help him out of his coat and hangs it beside the others on the rack. Then, before Hannibal can retreat and his nerve can fail him, Will steps up to him and kisses him on the lips.

Hannibal’s stomach tightens when Will’s lips meet his. He reaches up to grasp the Omega by either side of his face, deepening the kiss before pulling away to enjoy the sight of Will’s gold-rimmed eyes and flushed cheeks.

‘Mm,’ he murmurs, brushing his thumb over Will’s cheekbone. ‘That was a pleasant surprise.’

Will purrs his agreement. He wraps his arms around Hannibal’s slim waist, tucking himself up against the Alpha’s strong body and soaking up his scent. Being close to the Alpha… it melts away his concerns, his worries, and lets him feel safe. Protected.

‘What are you cooking?’ he asks, muffling his words into Hannibal’s shirt. I could stay like this forever.

‘Sirloin with a balsamic glaze and red wine jus,’ Hannibal says, cupping the back of Will’s head to hold him close, stroking his curls. ‘Shall we go through?’

‘Mm.’ Will nods his agreement and follows Hannibal into the dining room. He takes his seat across from Hannibal’s and unfolds his napkin. Hannibal pours him a glass of wine and then disappears into the kitchen to finish plating up, leaving Will alone with his thoughts and the soft, lilting notes of Bach.

Everything is an event with him, Will thinks, swirling the wine before dipping his nose to savour its scent. Chocolate and coffee… He takes a sip, letting the thick taste coat his tongue before sliding down his throat. If you could see me now, Dad. Drinking expensive wine like I know what I’m doing.

He looks up as soon as Hannibal returns, his heart skipping a beat at the sight of the tall Alpha. Hannibal’s shirt sleeves are rolled up, though he is still wearing his tie and waistcoat. He looks effortlessly casual, his blond hair combed back from his face and clothes unwrinkled even after a day wearing them. Will brushes errant dog hairs from his knees and tries to ignore the creases in his thick cotton shirt.

Hannibal sets the plates down and Will’s mouth waters at the sight of the tender cut of meat. His stomach growls, reminding him that he hasn’t eaten since… breakfast, perhaps? Maybe even yesterday… He picks up his knife and fork and is cutting into the steak before Hannibal has even sat down.

Mm,’ he groans, closing his eyes as it melts onto his tongue. ‘It’s really good. Thank you.’

‘You’re most welcome,’ Hannibal says, inclining his head with a small smile. ‘Though I rather think I should have given you a larger piece.’ His eyes twinkle at the teasing, and Will responds by stabbing a sautéed mushroom and adding it to his half-chewed mouthful, just to annoy him. However, Hannibal merely grins, amused by his lack of table manners, and chews his own mouthful slowly, tasting every flavour in the meat.

The wine complements the beef perfectly, and Will finishes his first glass quickly. Hannibal stands to pour him a second helping, ever the gentleman, always the host. For some reason, it makes Will’s stomach clench with nerves and he lowers his knife and fork.

‘Hannibal… what is this?’ he asks quietly, his heart stumbling when Hannibal tilts his head, his jaw tight and eyes narrowing at the question.

‘What is what?’ Hannibal asks, careful to keep his tone mild and his hand relaxed on his knife. Can you taste it, Will? Do you understand?

This… Us…’ Will huffs a breath. ‘You and me… What we’re doing, it’s…’ He tries to shrug, but his shoulders are too tight. ‘I just… want to understand.’

Hannibal releases a slow breath, relief mingled with disappointment. He sets his cutlery down and buys time by taking a drink of his own wine.

‘What would you like it to be?’ he asks softly. ‘Friendship? Perhaps… something more?’

‘You said you’d bond me,’ Will says, his mouth twisting down with unhappiness even as he meets Hannibal’s gaze. His eyes are bright blue, ringed by only a thin band of gold, and Hannibal doubts the trembling in his right arm is due to nerves. He frowns.

‘How many heat suppressants have you taken, Will?’

The Omega’s blush, faltering stare and the way he chews his lip is answer enough. No wonder he is questioning Hannibal’s motivation; his hormones will be repressed, giving his mind time to clear and doubt the Alpha’s intention. Hannibal knows that Will isn’t sure how many he’s taken; knocking a handful back when he is stressed has become too strong a habit to break. He holds out his hand, palm up.

‘Give me the tablets, please.’

Will flinches back into the chair, scowling at Hannibal’s request, but he is already reaching into his pocket to obey. He hesitates before pressing the bottle into Hannibal’s fingers, panic beading as sweat on his forehead. He is completely vulnerable to the Alpha now; if Hannibal denies him his medication, he will go into heat.

Hannibal wets his lips, tasting Will’s salty fear. The power over him, over his biology, is a thrill that settles in aching heat in his groin, but he will not push his advantage in such a crude way. He has no need to; not when it is Will’s dark mind he wants to mould.

‘I will dispense your dose from now on,’ he says quietly, pocketing the tablets and resuming his meal.

Will watches him calmly cut into his steak and chew slowly, following it down with a sip of wine to combine the flavours. He frowns at his own half-eaten meal, but his throat is closing around a lump and he can’t finish.

‘Hannibal…’ He ducks his head when the Alpha looks at him, calmly expectant, maddeningly polite. So confident and poised. Will blows out a frustrated sigh. ‘You didn’t answer my question.’

‘Which one?’

Will blushes again. Looks away and takes a gulp of wine to calm his chattering nerves.

‘I just… I don’t know what this is,’ he mutters. ‘Do you even want a mate?’

To his surprise, Hannibal grows still. The Alpha sets his knife and fork down again, clasping his hands and leaning forwards to give Will his full attention. His hair is golden blond against the cobalt blue of the dining room walls. His dark eyes hint at red, warming them under the soft light, and Will feels as if he could fall into them forever. 

‘It is hard for me to imagine finding someone worthy,’ Hannibal admits. ‘Someone with whom I can share myself, my true self… with whom I can enjoy my passions and my desires.’

Will holds his breath, afraid to break whatever is hovering between them, but Hannibal merely offers him a small smile.

‘What about you, Will? Do you see yourself creating a pair-bond with someone? Sharing your life with them?’

Will frowns. He opens his mouth to answer but Hannibal was honest with him and he deserves the truth in return. So, he closes it, and thinks about his answer before he speaks.

‘I… don’t know.’ He taps his fingers on the table, smooths them out, and rubs his fingertips together. ‘I have a history of… complicated relationships.’

Hannibal hums a non-committal noise and takes another slow, deliberate sip of wine. I doubt any of your previous partners were comfortable with your darkness… Did they turn from you, Will, when they found out what you really are?

‘Bonding’s always seemed very permanent,’ Will adds, speaking to his plate as he cuts the last bit of steak. ‘Especially for the Omega.’

‘Not necessarily,’ Hannibal says lightly, returning his glass to its setting. He looks up as Will does, his eyes glinting and a dark smile toying with his lips when he sees Will’s pulse jump in his throat. Getting closer to the truth of your scar, perhaps? You said you hadn’t been Cut; what, then? Aloud, he continues, ‘A nuchalectomy is, arguably, one of the most traumatic things an Omega can experience; physicians and psychiatrists have long since agreed that cutting out the crest given to them by a claiming Alpha is the equivalent to tearing apart one’s psyche, but it can be survived.’

Will swallows hard, his lips tingling at the casual reference to the mind-shattering pain experienced by a few very unfortunate Omegas. His own nape stings at the memory of slicing himself, and he grips his knife very tightly to keep from rubbing his scar, but he sees the way Hannibal’s eyes narrow at his show of weakness. He buys himself some time by slowly chewing the steak on his fork, and Hannibal allows it, continuing to eat while he waits for Will to be ready to speak to him.

‘I’d prefer to, er, take my time and find the right person,’ Will eventually says, and Hannibal smiles.

‘A wise decision,’ he replies. Then, to move the conversation forwards, away from dangerous waters, ‘I have tickets for the opera in a few weeks. Would you join me?’

Will narrows his eyes, and makes Hannibal wait while he takes a slow drink of wine.

‘Are you courting me, Dr Lecter?’ he asks, tapping the fingers of his free hand on the table cloth in a series of five nervous beats.

Hannibal’s smile makes his eyes gleam, and the back of Will’s neck burns with desire as his rhythm falters.

‘Yes,’ the Alpha says, watching the way Will’s eyes follow his tongue as he swipes it over his glistening lips. ‘I am.’

Will fiddles with his wine glass, sliding his fingers up and down the smooth stem. He tilts his head, brows drawing together into a half-frown.

‘I’ve never really done the whole “courting” thing,’ he says, glancing up in time to see Hannibal lift his eyes from Will’s stroking fingers to his face. His heart skips a beat at the hungry look on the Alpha’s face and heat pools in his belly.

‘Its tradition date back hundreds of years,’ Hannibal says, distracting himself with another drink of wine. ‘Once Omegas became a rarity, the violence and death inevitably accompanying traditional hunts was deemed unacceptable, and a more civilised approach was developed. Over time, it transformed into the rituals that we see today.’

‘All the banal savagery of the chase, wrapped up and tied down with bow,’ Will mutters. He shakes his head in disgust, sitting back against the chair and stretching his legs out towards Hannibal. ‘Muted and… watered down.’

‘Like blood in the water,’ Hannibal murmurs. He waits for Will to look at him again and then dips his head conspiratorially. ‘And yet the shark still senses the blood.’

Will tilts his head, agreeing, but his brow is still creased.

‘I’ve only ever dated one Alpha,’ he confesses, glancing up to check Hannibal’s interest. His Alpha’s eyes are locked onto him; he is intrigued. ‘She courted me for a while, but it always felt very…’ He sighs, searching for the right word. Benign. ‘Polite.’

‘Maddeningly so,’ Hannibal teases, and smiles when Will huffs and nods. He nudges Will’s foot with his own. ‘How would you like to be hunted, Will?’

Will’s breath catches and heat sizzles down his spine, settling as an ache of longing in his loins. He can feel his eyes itch with the need to glow gold and the table separating them is too wide, now; he needs to touch the Alpha.

‘I haven’t given it much thought,’ he says carefully, folding up his napkin. ‘But I know that, whoever chases me, needs to consider the possibility that I am luring them, too.’

His chair legs scrape the floor as Will shoves up from the table. He goes around to Hannibal and reaches for him, smoothing his hands over the Alpha’s shadowed stubble and silky hair as he bends to kiss him. His heart pounds in his chest and he can’t quite believe he’s doing it, but he needs to touch Hannibal, needs to be near him. He needs his scent on him, in him, and he doesn’t want to play this game anymore.

Hannibal recovers quickly. He stands up, pushing Will back so that they don’t knock teeth with the movement, and then grabs him by the back of the neck as he wraps his other arm around Will’s waist. Applying pressure to the nape of the Omega’s neck, he holds him close as Will shudders against him. The suddenness of Will’s kiss had sent tingles racing from his scalp to his toes, but seeing him lose control like this makes him ache with longing, and he squeezes Will’s neck again.

Heat floods him, burning away all thought and leaving him a quivering mess in the Alpha’s arms. Will can smell his scent thickening, rolling from him in waves of sweet, heavy musk. He squirms as slick dribbles out of him, tickling his balls and soaking into his boxers. Hannibal smells so good; rich and sharp, like blood and earth. He wants to nuzzle closer, to bury his nose in his neck and drown in his smell, but Hannibal’s hand on his neck locks him in place and all he can do is tremble and ride the pleasure overtaking him. It’s so good… so good… He’s so close already, hard and tender with his balls drawn up tight to his body, ready to explode at one more little touch, one more squeeze…

‘Easy,’ Hannibal breathes, relaxing his grip just enough to hold Will at the brink of orgasm. He hushes him again as Will judders and moans, grabbing at his shirt, scrabbling at his waistcoat, trying to hold on as the undertow drags him away and drowns him. ‘Stay with me, stay with me… Stay with this feeling.’

‘I can’t,’ Will gasps, tears welling up and rolling down his cheeks as Hannibal tightens his grip again and sharp pleasure crackles down his spine. ‘I can’t, I can’t… Hannibal…’

Hannibal releases him and grabs the front of his throat, holding him up for a bruising kiss. He smooths Will’s hair back from his flushed face and tickles oh-so gently over the burning, tingling skin at the base of the Omega’s skull before letting go. Will cries at the loss, a mewling whimper that tugs sharply at Hannibal’s chest. But this is about giving the Omega something better, something stronger and deeper – and Hannibal ignores the pain.

‘You can,’ he whispers, cupping Will’s cheek again. ‘You are.’

He ignores the way Will shakes his head. Takes him by the hand and leads him upstairs, abandoning the remains of their meal in favour of the banquet that Will can offer him.

‘Hannibal… God…’ Will stumbles on the stairs, the friction of walking making him sweat and nearly come. Hannibal turns, gripping him tight by the jaw, and his eyes flash red as he snarls into Will’s face.

Don’t come.

The order snatches the air from Will’s lungs, but it is only a momentary reprieve before the fire rushes back, stronger than ever. He falls after Hannibal into the bedroom and tries to kiss him, pulling his hands towards his hardness, seeking relief. Please… please…

‘Lie down, Will,’ Hannibal says, removing the Omega’s frantic hands from his own and gently pushing at his chest when Will resists. ‘Close your eyes.’

‘Hannibal…’ Will shakes his head; he can’t, it’s too much, and whimpers again when Hannibal turns away. He sits up, trying to go after him, but the Alpha moves quickly and has moved around the bed and pulled him back down with a hand on his shoulder before he can argue. Hannibal growls a warning to hold still and Will squirms, grinding down into the quilt as he stares up at the Alpha stood above him.

‘I want you to feel,’ Hannibal says softly. He unknots his tie and slides it loose, smiling when Will’s breath catches. He knows what’s coming, and he nods permission before Hannibal loops it over his eyes and tying it behind his head. It works better than any restraint; the moment Hannibal blindfolds him, Will lies still and pliant, his breath hitching and fingers trembling on the covers, frozen in place. Hannibal quirks an eyebrow; he’s read about Omegas becoming calm and passive when blinded, but he’s never seen it before. The helplessness of Will’s situation is… addictive.

‘Can you move, Will?’ he asks, leaning down to stroke a thumb over Will’s cheek, down to his jawline and under his chin.

Will’s heart skips a beat at the feel of his Alpha’s touch, and he swallows.

‘Um…’ He tries to roll his head, to lift his arms, but his body is heavy, sedated. The act of Hannibal removing his sight has robbed him of his strength, and he fights down a lick of fear. He did this to himself; he said yes to this, even though he knew what would happen… A desperate whimper catches in his throat and he can feel tears dampen the silk tie when Hannibal kisses him.

‘I’ve got you,’ Hannibal murmurs, purring at him to ease his fear. ‘You’re safe.’

Will releases a slow breath and tries to nod; he thinks he manages it, but he’s not sure. His body is humming but there’s a stillness inside him, golden and endless. He feels like he’s floating away into the darkness. And then Hannibal’s hands are on him again, removing his boots, socks and trousers, the coarse fabric rasping against his leg hairs before soft fingers and broad palms massage the sensitive skin. He moans, fingers curling into the silk cover to grip tight because that’s all he can do but he wants to arch up into the touch, lift his legs and wrap them around Hannibal’s waist, drag him down so that the Alpha will fuck him…

Hannibal smiles at the way Will’s chest heaves. His grasp on the quilt is weak, faltering, and he can do nothing to stop the Alpha from dipping his head to pepper kisses across his twitching thighs. Will’s voice catches around a gasp, turning it into a low groan when Hannibal buries his nose next to the hardness tenting Will’s boxers. His scent is strongest here, thick with musk and sweet with slick. Hannibal peels the damp underwear from him and then kneels down at the side of the bed, positioning himself between Will’s legs.

‘Hannibal…’ Will’s whisper is adorably hesitant, and Hannibal ignores him in favour of breathing warm puffs of air across his sensitive tip.

Fuck… oh, fuck… Will’s brain grinds to a halt when he feels Hannibal’s lips touch him. It’s been years since he had a blowjob, and never from an Alpha. It’s not… he can’t…

He can’t move, though, can’t push Hannibal off. All he can do is lie there and feel as Hannibal kisses up and down his length, taking his time with it, making him twitch and ache and dribble. And then Hannibal licks him, long, slow swipes of his tongue across the delicate skin, catching salty pre-cum and purring in satisfaction at the taste. At Will’s evidence of arousal. He wants to arch up from the bed, snap his spine in half and thrust into Hannibal’s mouth, and he feels dizzy from holding his breath as he holds still, hands flexing in and out of fists.

Will tastes divine. Hannibal swallows him down his throat and then releases him before he gags; he is far from experienced at this and not used to the sensation. He can feel Will’s body tightening as climax threatens again, so he abandons his length to lick and suck bruises into his creamy thighs, smiling whenever Will shudders and groans above him. He kneels up and unbuttons Will’s shirt, laying his torso bare. He swirls his tongue through the dark hair tracking from Will’s navel to his pelvis, huffing a chuckle when Will tries to squirm away at the tickling kisses and licks across his hipbones. He stands up, undressing quickly and ignoring the mewling cry of the Omega begging him to come back.

‘I’m here,’ he breathes, crawling onto the bed between Will’s legs and lifting them so that he can rest heavily between spread thighs. Tears slip beneath the blindfold and he brushes them away before giving Will a tender, reassuring kiss. ‘I’m here, stay with me.’

‘Hannibal…’ Will manages to wrench his head to the side so that he can follow Hannibal’s mouth, seeking a deeper kiss. He’s so raw, so open… He feels as if he’s about to break apart and it terrifies him. But Hannibal kisses him again, soothing him with his touch and taste and scent, and his stronger body is over him, protecting him, shielding him from the world and anyone who might hurt him. He wants to see him, wants to watch when Hannibal enters him, but he can’t lift his hands to remove the blindfold. So he concentrates on the sensation of Hannibal’s chest rubbing against his nipples, Hannibal’s warm skin on his, their coarse pubic hair rasping together as Hannibal crushes his length between their bodies. He can smell their scents mingling, a rich, delicious musk that makes his insides ache with emptiness. And then Hannibal braces himself on an elbow by the side of his head, sliding his right hand down the front of Will’s body, dipping below his balls to touch him there, gathering up the slick pouring out of him.

‘Ohh…’ Will bites his lower lip, breathing fast and shallow as the Alpha teases across his entrance, feather soft and torturous. He shudders, his mind showing him what it must look like; Hannibal’s skin coated in pearly wetness… Hannibal, please…’

Hannibal moans when Will begs, showing mercy on him by sliding his coated finger deep inside the Omega’s pulsing, burning body. Will hisses through his teeth, quieting as Hannibal crooks his knuckle, seeking out the textured flesh near his prostate. He rocks his hips down, rubbing his aching length against Will’s damp buttocks and hot, heavy balls, pausing to control himself as Will’s body pulses and opens up around a second finger in anticipation of the Alpha’s knot. He’s ready; he wants it to be tight, to be a stretch, so that it will overwhelm him as he pushes inside. Hannibal adjusts himself, bracing himself on his knees and hooking Will’s knees up over his elbows. He rubs tingling slick up and down himself, groaning at how good, how hot it feels. He lines himself up and gets as close as possible, leaning over Will’s body, his lips bare inches from the Omega’s as he rips the blindfold off and pushes inside him at the same time.

Oh… Will’s eyes flood gold and he stares up into Hannibal’s face, shaking hard enough to make his teeth chatter as the Alpha breaches him, stretches him, fills him. Oh fuck… This… This… It’s everything, everything

‘That’s it,’ Hannibal murmurs, releasing himself to slide the rest of the way in, holding his breath as Will’s body spasms around him. He wraps both arms around Will’s head, blocking his vision from anything but his shoulder, forcing his head up so that Will can bury his nose in the crook of Hannibal’s neck and smell him as he begins to move.

‘Hannibal… Hannibal…’ Will grabs for him, wrapping both arms and legs tight around his Alpha, pleasure smashing through him. Hannibal holds him by the nape of his neck again and it’s too much, it’s too good. White explodes behind his eyes and he can’t help it; he bites down hard into the Alpha’s shoulder muscle as an orgasm rips through him, making every muscle lock and judder. He can’t stop it, he can’t think, can’t breathe. It goes on and on, cresting and pulling back before slamming into him again. Hannibal doesn’t stop moving, fucking him hard and fast, pounding into him so that there’s barely a second when he’s not touching his prostate, and his hand squeezes at his nape, at the smooth, aching skin. Will can hear himself crying, gasping the Alpha’s name, over and over as he convulses beneath him, burning their stomachs with his release as he tightens around Hannibal’s growing knot.

Hannibal growls at the tight pleasure coiling inside him. He releases Will’s neck to brace himself on the bed, chasing his own climax as he swells inside the vice of Will’s body. It takes his breath away and he falls onto Will’s chest as his arms go out from under him, pumping his seed as deep into the Omega’s body as he can. He’s panting growls, rasping and purring, a jumble of noises as his hair falls over his forehead, sticking to the sweat stinging his eyes.

‘Hannibal…’ Will smiles at him when he feels the Alpha’s knot lock them together. He relaxes under him, reaching up with a trembling, weak hand to brush away the tears gathered in the corners of Hannibal’s eyes.

Hannibal stares down at him, his stomach clenching with unease. Will is so handsome, so vulnerable and yet so strong… He swallows thickly, a frown creasing his brow as he realises what this emotion is. Something he’s not felt in a very long time.

I think I love you, Will.

***

‘The last call was made to Jack’s cell from a disposable phone traced here.’ Beverly shrugs, her hands deep in the pockets of her leather jacket to ward off the chill of the foggy afternoon. ‘Or within a hundred feet of here.’

Will nods, keeping pace at her heel. He hasn’t seen Hannibal for two days and the shadows under his eyes are proof of how much he needs the Alpha in order to sleep. Hannibal sent him home with four heat suppressants, and Will knows he’ll get more tonight when he goes to see him after work, but he can already feel a headache creeping up his neck. He needs more… He needs Hannibal.

‘What was Miriam Lass looking into?’ he asks, trying to distract him. Concentrate. Concentrate on the case. A missing Omega… It’s important.

‘Medical records,’ Beverly says. ‘If the Ripper was a surgeon, she thought he might have treated one of his victims.’

Will frowns; not a difficult path to follow… How did they lose her?

‘Have they retraced her steps?’

‘The ones they could find,’ Beverly says. They start to climb the steps to the observatory, towards the brooding Alpha waiting for them. ‘She made a jump somewhere they couldn’t explain.’ She glances at him. ‘You make those jumps.’

Don’t guess, Beverly… Don’t guess… Will squashes the rising panic. He washed his hair with scent-dulling shampoo, he’s wearing Beta spray and he added twice as many drops to his eyes as usual. She can’t know. She can’t.

‘The evidence has to be there,’ he mumbles. I’m not special.

‘Every surgeon that came into contact with any of the Ripper victims has been thoroughly vetted or is currently under observation,’ Beverly says.

‘Including Dr Gideon?’ Will asks, tilting his head to bare his throat for Jack in greeting.

Dr Gideon wasn’t in my bedroom,’ Jack snaps. ‘The Chesapeake Ripper was.’ He pulls out his phone. ‘The last call left something the others didn’t. A phone number.’ He hits re-dial and holds the phone to his ear. Waits.

A phone rings, distant but there. Will frowns… It’s coming from inside the observatory…

Jack turns and leads the way inside, Will and Beverly following. Nerves and excitement feed his dark shadow and Will’s breath catches as it coils in his stomach, winding around his ribs to fill his heart with anticipation.

They follow the ringing, up the spiral stairs to the top. Through plastic-wrapped crates and desks until they find it. A cell phone, clutched in the mottled, dead fingers of an amputated arm. Jack’s growl rumbles through the cold air, his eyes flashing red as he reads the note beside the decaying flesh.

What do you see?

***

That evening, sitting before the fire sharing a brandy with Jack, Hannibal casts his mind back to the day that Miriam Lass came to see him. A bright, eager young Omega. Her scent had reminded him of his childhood summer, of wildflowers and sweet meadow hay. But there had been no potential in her; no darkness to match his own, no answering call from the shadows.

She had found his drawing of the Wound Man, recognising it from his latest victim. He smelled her fear, saw her moment of realisation before he choked the air from her, paralysing her with a grip on her crest as he compressed her windpipe.

Lowering his nose to the glass, Hannibal savours the brandy. There is something in the smell that reminds him of Will, of his earthy scent. Of the shadow that Hannibal sees in his eyes. I want to share myself with you, he thinks, savouring the burn as the spirit slips down his throat. I want to show you who I am… Can I trust you?

Chapter Text

Turning from a high definition image of a severed tongue marking the page of a Bible, Will addresses his rapt audience.

‘The Chesapeake Ripper kills in sounders of three,’ he says, watching the concentration on their faces from behind the safety of his glasses. ‘He did his first victims in nine days. Annapolis, Essex, Baltimore.’ He uses his remote to flick through the slides as he speaks, highlighting each point with another gruesome image. ‘He didn’t kill again for eighteen months, then there was another sounder of three in as many days, all of them in Baltimore.’

He keeps his back turned to the class; they can hear him just fine, and he wants to concentrate on the images, the tongues, the mutilated bodies… The art of the killings…

‘I use the term “sounders” because it refers to a small group of pigs,’ he says. He finally turns, and, seeing a few of them frown, explains, ‘That’s how he sees his victims. Not as people, not as prey. Pigs.’ The silence settles, heavy and uncomfortable. Will swallows, ignoring the way his dark shadow purrs at the unease flickering through the students. ‘Eleven months after the sixth victim, there was a seventh. Two days later, the eighth is killed in his workshop.’ He brings up the slide with the Workshop Wound Man. ‘Every tool on the pegboard where they hung was used against him and, as with previous murders, organs were removed. The removal of organs and abdominal mutilations means someone with anatomical or surgical know-how. There… is a distinctive brutality.’

Will pauses when he catches Jack’s scent; heavy Alpha musk laced with bitter anger. He glances over to the door, and there he is, watching him with shadowed eyes. Will’s heart falters but he has to keep going; it’s important that as many people understand the Ripper as possible. That way, they have a better chance of catching him. His dark shadow whispers sweet nothings to him as he clicks to the next slide and meets Jack’s eye; it is a copy of Miriam Lass’s FBI ID.

‘An FBI trainee named Miriam Lass was investigating private medical records of all the known victims when she disappeared. She’s believed to be the Ripper’s ninth, but no trace of her was found until recently, two years later, when her severed arm was discovered.’ Warmth flutters in Will’s belly and his shadow coils like a snake, making him smile. ‘Only because he wanted it to be,’ he adds, a distinct note of pride in his voice. He can’t tell if the tightness to Jack’s jaw is from guilt or because he’s uncomfortable with Will’s admiration for the Ripper’s work. Perhaps both. Will doesn’t really care.

‘True to his established pattern, the Chesapeake Ripper has remained consistently theatrical.’

And I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Jack doesn’t stay until the end of the lesson. Will turns to pace behind his desk and when he looks back to the door, the Alpha has gone. It’s eating away at you, isn’t it, Jack? The guilt… The loss… What will happen when you lose me?

Will shakes his head to clear the dark thoughts. Jack’s not going to lose him. He’s fine. In fact… He smiles as his phone flashes, signaling the end of class. Dismisses everyone and packs up quickly, his stomach quivering in anticipation of the evening ahead. He’s better than fine. He’s great.

Hannibal is taking him to the opera tonight.

Driving home as fast as the dark country roads allow, Will lets the dogs out, feeds them and then showers off the day’s Beta spray and sweat. He washes his hair with a new shampoo – the cedarwood scent reminds him of Hannibal’s aftershave – and stares deep into his gold-ringed eyes, his hands trembling when he leaves the pheromone spray untouched. Hannibal asked him not to hide his true scent for one evening, and Will is confident that he won’t run into anyone from Quantico rubbing shoulders with Baltimore high society. Besides, next to Hannibal nobody will notice him. Still, it will be the first time in years that he’s gone out without the safety of the spray... He feels almost sick, his belly fluttering even as his dark shadow pulses with excitement.

He’s rented a tuxedo for the occasion, and he takes his time dressing, checking the sharp lines of silky fabric, picking off stray dog hairs and then growling to himself when he realizes he doesn’t actually know how to tie a bowtie. The Alpha will be here any moment and he’s stood there with a strip of black silk around his neck like an idiot teenager late to the prom.

Fuck… What the fuck am I doing?

His ears prick to the crunch of tires over gravel outside and Winston barks at the sound of the Bentley’s engine. Will gulps, his throat bobbing against the tight shirt collar, and he hurries downstairs to open the front door before Hannibal can even knock, let alone wait in the cold.

‘Hello, Will.’ Hannibal smiles at him, dark eyes raking over Will’s suit. So handsome… His lips twitch into a wider, amused smile when he sees Will’s attempt at a bowtie, and he steps closer as the Omega blushes and bows his head in embarrassment. ‘Allow me?’ he asks, cupping Will’s chin with a finger to lift his head and placing a gentle kiss on his lips.

Will moans at the touch, reaching up to hold Hannibal’s hips. The Alpha is tall and regal in his tuxedo, wearing a burgundy silk scarf and long black coat to ward off the chilly night. His blond hair is combed back from his face and he is wearing the silver cufflinks that Will jokingly picked out for him when he discovered the Alpha’s dresser full of accessories at the weekend. Breathtakingly handsome; he is easily the most impressive person Will has ever seen. He wants to call the evening off in favor of staying at home and fucking, but Hannibal really wants to share this with him, so he won’t suggest it. We always have afterwards, he thinks, giving Hannibal’s hips a final squeeze before stepping back so that Hannibal can sort him out.

Hannibal parts his lips, tasting the thick, sweet musk of Will’s desire as he deftly knots the smaller man’s bowtie. Will’s hair holds a lingering trace of cedarwood, and his natural Omega scent is, for once, unimpeded by the sour taint of Beta chemicals. He smells delicious; warm and welcoming, like long-forgotten summer days, the thrill of the chase and wild sex, all crashing together in glorious symphony.

‘Perfect,’ he murmurs, holding Will’s cheek for a moment longer, savoring the warmth of him, appreciating the sleek, well-fitting suit tapering in at Will’s trim waist and flowing down toned thighs. ‘You look perfect, Will.’ He dips his head closer and brushes his nose across Will’s forehead before dropping a kiss to his hairline. ‘Perhaps I need to take you to see my tailor; you look good in a suit.’

Will huffs a laugh but he doesn’t pull away. Instead, he leans closer to the Alpha, knocking their shoulders together, and turns his face so that Hannibal will brush his lips in a final kiss before they part.

‘I have suits,’ he murmurs. ‘I just don’t wear them. And I don’t think I can afford your tailor.’ He adjusts his jacket one last time and then grabs his coat and scarf from the banister. ‘Ready?’

I would much rather take you home and undress you in my bed; lay you bare and tease you until you come screaming, Hannibal thinks, but he nods because he has the tickets now, it reflects well on him because it is for a charitable cause, and the Chairwoman of the Baltimore Philharmonic Orchestra invited him personally. Besides, he thinks, smirking to himself as they get into the car; we have afterwards.

‘What should I expect?’ Will asks, breaking the companionable silence halfway towards the city. He starts tapping his fingers on his knee, his typical series of five and then a pause. He’s nervous. Hannibal can smell it rolling from him and he can see the tension tightening his shoulders. His stomach clenches in response because he wants to protect him, and he reaches over to enfold Will’s hand with his own, giving it a comforting squeeze.

‘I’m afraid you’ll have to endure a great many stuffy Alphas,’ he says, smiling when Will snorts a laugh. ‘Most of them are bonded, of course.’ He gives Will a coy smile, his eyes glinting. ‘No doubt you’ll find yourself the object of fascination for the evening.’

Will can’t stop the panicked whine that slips past his lips, and Hannibal chuckles at the look of horror on his pale face. He squeezes Will’s hand again, lifting it so that he can brush his lips across the Omega’s knuckles.

‘We shall have to leave them wondering,’ he says softly. He releases Will’s warm hand to reach inside his breast pocket, withdrawing the bottle of heat suppressants. ‘It’s time for your evening dose.’

‘Thank you,’ Will whispers, taking the bottle and shaking a tablet loose. Hannibal nods; they both know he’s grateful for more than just the medication. There is an unspoken promise of protection between them; Hannibal will shield Will from any unwanted attention, allowing him to be himself without fear.

‘I think you should keep them,’ Hannibal says, nodding down to the tablets. ‘Wouldn’t want you to miss a dose.’

‘Thought you couldn’t trust me,’ Will replies, smiling as he pockets the medication. Hannibal grins at him.

‘I think you’ve learned your lesson,’ he replies.

‘Oh, so it was a punishment?’

‘Of course.’ Hannibal winks at him and Will snorts a laugh, shaking his head and returning his gaze to the window.

Hannibal smiles to himself. What Will doesn’t realize is that he has taken the opportunity to swap the heat suppressants for something much more important; scent suppressants. They will need a few days to take effect, allowing him to enjoy Will in his entirety this evening, but very soon nobody will realize that the Omega is fast approaching heat.

‘I have some new Iris Inhibitor drops for you to try, as well,’ he adds, glancing at Will after a few minutes of quiet. ‘You said the others were not as effective as you’d like.’

‘Just don’t want to risk getting caught,’ Will mumbles. ‘Thank you.’

‘You’re very welcome.’ Hannibal smirks to himself. He’s not one to change plans halfway through, but he must evolve as his relationship with Will changes. An even more extreme detox will hurt Will, maybe even injure him, but his mate is strong enough to survive it; of that, Hannibal has no doubt. Will doesn’t need the libido enhancers; he has proven more than amorous enough without added stimulants, and his gold eyes, whilst attractive, could prove dangerous if the wrong people notice them. Hannibal will provide strong Inhibitor drops and trust himself to know when Will is lost to prodrome, when he is most susceptible to his persuasion.

They pass the rest of the journey in companionable silence; Hannibal listens to the radio and Will checks his phone for any last-minute messages from Jack. The Ripper hasn’t struck, and hopefully won’t this evening. He turns the cell off as Hannibal parks, following at the Alpha’s heel as they ascend the steps inside the hall.

Oh god… The moment he steps inside and sees the crowd of well-dressed Alphas, the odd Beta and bonded Omegas, Will’s stomach fills with an icy knot. He swallows hard, his heart stuttering in his chest. Several Alphas turn, scenting the air for the source of distress, their eyes flickering red when they spot him. Will clenches his hands into fists so tight his nails cut bloody half-moons into his palms; he can feel himself shrinking closer to Hannibal, seeking his safety, but he refuses to be so pathetic. He squares his shoulders and clenches his jaw, meeting the eye of any Alpha daring to look him in the face. Fuck you. Fuck you all.

Hannibal’s chest warms with pride as he watches Will feed his fear to the dark shadow of his anger. He is gloriously defiant, blue-gold eyes flashing a challenge to any Alpha foolish enough to look at him, his lip curling back from his teeth in disdain when they look away.

They are not worthy of you, he thinks, stepping closer to dip his head to scent Will’s curls; it is a gesture designed to both soothe his Omega and send a clear signal to the watching Alphas that Will is taken.

At Hannibal’s closeness, Will releases a slow breath. He closes his eyes, trying to block out the buzz of emotions around him. Turning to the Alpha, he nuzzles closer, resting his cheek on Hannibal’s shoulder for a moment as he soaks up his comforting scent. He has to force himself to step away; it feels like ripping skin and he swallows a few times before he trusts himself to speak.

‘You owe me for this,’ he says, trying for a light, teasing tone. Hannibal smiles at him and deftly reaches for the tray of champagne flutes passing by, held up by a smart young waiter. He hands Will a glass and holds his own up to toast.

‘Then I shall work hard to repay you,’ he says, his eyes sparkling. Will’s breath catches at the implication and the gold band thickens until there is barely a rim of blue left. Hannibal purrs, low enough that only his Omega can hear it, before sipping his wine. Will watches the Alpha’s throat move as he swallows and he steps closer; he wants to lick it, kiss it, bite it…

‘Hannibal; do tell us who you’re hiding.’

The interruption of a woman’s voice sends a shock of embarrassment through Will’s skull, settling like a razor on the nape of his neck. He flinches and pulls back, instinctively putting Hannibal’s shoulder between himself and the Alpha who has just interrupted them. More handsome than beautiful, she offsets her sharp black haircut with a low-cut velvet gown and bright red lipstick.

‘Madam Chairwoman; a pleasure,’ Hannibal says, turning with a smooth smile, all charm and no trace of irritation. ‘Allow me to introduce my companion; Will Graham.’

Will forces himself to shake with the overbearing Alpha; at least she is wearing black silk gloves to her elbows, so he doesn’t have to touch her bare flesh. Her dark eyes rake over him with hungry abandon and she smiles at what she sees.

‘An unbonded male Omega,’ she murmurs. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen one so old. Wherever did you find him, Hannibal?’

‘We work together,’ Will says, his voice sharp with anger at being spoken about rather than to. The Alpha’s eyes widen in surprise, and then she giggles.

‘You work together…?’ She looks at Hannibal for confirmation, which only angers Will further. He can feel black tar pumping through his veins and it takes everything in him to hold still; to keep from clawing her throat open. She is exactly the kind of Alpha that he hates.

‘Yes; Will teaches criminal psychology,’ Hannibal says, surreptitiously placing himself further in front of Will and directing the Chairwoman’s attention to himself. ‘A fascinating subject, though hardly the topic for an evening such as this.’ He begins to steer her towards the inner doors. ‘Are you looking forward to the performance?’

Thank you, Will thinks, gulping down his champagne in an attempt to calm his jittery nerves. He follows close behind, handing his empty glass to a waitress as soon as he can. The Chairwoman is three rows ahead of them, and Hannibal gives him a conspiring grin when they take their seats. It seems she is overbearing with everyone. The thought is somewhat soothing, and Will manages to return a flicker of a smile, pressing his outer thigh against Hannibal’s as the lights dim in anticipation of the show.

The Alpha reaches down and laces his fingers with Will’s, holding his hand on his knee. Tilting his head down, he brushes his lips over the shell of Will’s ear, his breath warm against the Omega’s skin.

‘I’m glad you’re here, Will,’ he murmurs, taking a long, slow breath to enjoy the way Will’s musky scent deepens and becomes rich and smooth as he relaxes under the touch, sweetened with the first hint of slick. An Alpha behind them shifts and clears his throat; he is clearly reacting to Will’s pheromones, and Hannibal pulls back so as not to trigger a pack rut. He keeps hold of his Omega’s hand, though, and Will seems perfectly content to sit quietly beside him as the orchestra warms up and the first wavering notes drift over the few remaining people taking their seats.

Hannibal tracks Will’s reaction to the crowd and the music throughout the first act, but it is difficult not to become overwhelmed by the soprano’s skill and natural ability. Her voice is rich and smooth, ringing from the stage as she sings of love, loss and triumph. He forgets to holds Will’s hand after a while, absorbed with savoring each perfect sound, the sum of it a breathtaking performance that squeezes his heart and snatches his breath.

Watching the emotion on Hannibal’s face, feeling it pouring out of him as the aria rises to its climax, Will’s chest tightens until he’s sure it’s about to burst. Tears that only brim in Hannibal’s eyes trickle down his cheeks; he tries to wipe them away without drawing attention to himself, but the way Hannibal leans closer and squeezes his knee says that the Alpha has noticed. Will gives him a wobbly smile and tries to control his breathing; he doesn’t want to make more of a fool of himself than he already has, especially when he’s sure there is a Beta in the back row staring avidly at them.

Hannibal, however, doesn’t seem to find Will embarrassing, or notice his admirer. He is entirely captivated in the music, a true hedonist enjoying life’s pleasure, and, when the show is over, he is the first to rise, leading the standing ovation as the soprano bows, gracefully accepting the compliments.

‘I can see why you wanted to bring me,’ Will says, standing closer so that he can speak into Hannibal’s ear over the thunder of applause. ‘You really do have a passion for the opera.’

‘You’ll find that I am passionate about a great many things,’ Hannibal replies, smiling down at him.

Will chews his lip, hesitating at the idea of kissing him in public. As much as he wants to, he doesn’t want the Alphas around them to think he’s just another lovesick Omega worshipping the ground on which his mate walks… though the idea that he is altering his behaviour because of what they think also riles him… He jumps when Hannibal gives his shoulder a squeeze, and rolls his eyes at him when Hannibal grins.

‘How I would love to get inside that head of yours,’ the Alpha murmurs, cupping Will’s cheek and stroking his thumb across his cheekbone. It is one of Will’s favourite gestures, a simple but tender show of affection, and he tilts his face into the contact.

‘Thought you were already inside my head, Dr Lecter,’ he replies. Hannibal’s eyes gleam.

‘I can assure you, Will; when I am in your head, you will know.’

Before he can say anything else, the Chairwoman corners them again, bringing with her a trio of silver-haired Alpha males, two with docile, decorated little Omegas on their arms. Will refuses to look at them for fear of snarling; they are the epitome of well-bred trophy wives, all glossy hair and gentle smiles, their glittering necklaces cut low at the back to show off their crests. They stand close to their mates, staring up with adoring expressions as the Alphas casually drape possessive arms around their bare shoulders. His stomach clenches and he gulps down a second glass of champagne, ignoring the way his skin itches to be closer to Hannibal. Stupid, weak biology.

‘It’s been too long since you’ve properly cooked for us, Hannibal,’ Madam Chairwoman says, earning a general flutter of agreement from her companions. Her tone is teasingly scolding, and Will can see the amusement on Hannibal’s face. He’s toying with these people. The realisation is a sharp jolt, though Will isn’t sure why he’s surprised. Hannibal is the perfect gentleman… But there’s something else… Something… Darker… A wolf among the sheep, Will thinks. He can see it in the way that Hannibal holds himself, guards himself; never giving away his secrets. He can’t truly be himself around them.

I want you to show me who you really are…

‘Come over and I will cook for you,’ Hannibal says, wrapping an arm around Will enough to stroke between his shoulder blades. Will buries his face in his champagne flute to hide the blush and whimper that wants to betray how much he enjoys the touch.

Madam Chairwoman places her hands on her hips.

‘I said “properly”; means dinner and the show.’ She turns to the other Alphas. ‘Have you seen him cook? It’s an entire performance.’

Will glances up at Hannibal; he’s seen him cook and been hosted by him several times now, but this sounds special. His eyes gleam at the idea of Hannibal impressing the snobs here before dismissing them and fucking him, brutally hard and fast, with teeth and nails and blood, in front of the fireplace in the dining room.

Hannibal takes a long drink of champagne to distract himself from the tang of slick sharpening Will’s scent; he smells good enough to eat, good enough to fuck here in the middle of Baltimore high society. He wants to yank him close and devour him… Wherever could the Omega’s mind be wandering to…?

‘He used to throw such exquisite dinner parties,’ Madam Chairwoman continues, raising her eyebrows at him when Hannibal feigns ignorance. ‘You heard me. “Used to”.’

Hannibal smiles at her persistence.

‘And I will again, once inspiration strikes,’ he says. The Chairwoman smiles, but it fades to a pout when Hannibal adds, ‘I cannot force a feast; a feast must present itself.’

‘It’s a dinner party, not a unicorn,’ she whines. Will is surprised she doesn’t stamp her foot, but Hannibal merely shrugs, dipping his hand lower to settle in the small of Will’s back.

‘Oh, but the feast is life,’ he says. ‘You put the life in your belly and you live.’

Will feels his own stomach tighten, even as heat rolls through him. Life in my belly means a baby… His heart skips a beat at the idea, but it’s not as terrifying a thought as it used to be. He drinks more champagne as he tries to understand when his aversion to having children changed… Certainly recently… Since Hannibal started fucking him? Would I have a child with Hannibal…?

The Chairwoman relents with a chuckle and turns instead to the Beta hovering at the edges of their group.

‘I believe this young man is trying to get your attention,’ she says, though this is a gross understatement, since the man is fidgeting, almost pushing at them with nervous excitement. The collar of his tuxedo dampens with sweat and a big grin lights up his plump face when he is noticed. Will frowns, dragged from thoughts of family; he’s the same person who was staring at Hannibal throughout the show, leaning over his taller companion to catch Hannibal’s attention.

The taller man sends a chill down Will’s spine. He is an Alpha, and there is an air about him that vaguely reminds him of Hannibal, though he has none of his warmth; his eyes are like chips of black ice ringed with red, and he stares with unashamed hunger at Will, causing Hannibal’s shoulders to tense. Will can feel himself shrink under the intensity of the gaze, even as his dark shadow hisses, writhing at the unspoken challenge. This man is dangerous, and he is a threat that Will wants to eliminate.

Hannibal shifts himself slightly in front of Will, shielding him from the Alpha, and offers the excited Beta a polite, neutral, smile.

‘Hello.’

‘Hi. It’s so good to see you,’ the Beta gushes, almost falling over himself to shake with Hannibal. He gestures to his partner. ‘This is my friend, Tobias.’

Despite his wariness, Will almost snorts – friend. They are clearly partners, and Tobias doesn’t look best pleased at being referred to as a friend, especially when his Beta is flirting shamelessly with another, stronger Alpha. Because Hannibal is the stronger Alpha; he’s perhaps the strongest Alpha in the room. As an Omega, Will can sense the power radiating from them all. Hannibal is tall and lean; there are others far bulkier, but none of them have within them the same maelstrom of passion and power that his Alpha does. Will’s darkness croons for it to be released, to rage wild and free… He lifts his free hand and mimics his partner’s stance by placing it on the small of Hannibal’s back, comforting him and continuing the contact because Hannibal has to release him to shake with the newcomers.

‘Good evening,’ Hannibal says, extending his hand towards Tobias. The younger Alpha grips him tight; an overt display of dominance, and stares deep into Hannibal’s eyes. Only Will’s hand on his back keeps Hannibal’s rage under check; the Omega’s scent is smooth and soft, releasing calming pheromones that put everyone at ease. The Beta looks awkwardly from Hannibal to Tobias, sensing some tension but not sure why.

Madam Chairwoman smiles, attempting polite conversation.

‘How do you two know each other?’ she asks, and the Beta immediately looks to Hannibal for guidance.

‘There should remain some mystery to my life outside of the opera,’ Hannibal says swiftly. The Chairwoman smiles, though there is a tightness to her lips betraying her frustration. The Beta leans forwards.

‘I’m one of his patients,’ he explains, and Will feels a sudden, painful kick in his gut, so strong that he pulls his hand away from Hannibal and knocks back the last of his champagne. Oh God… Am I like this man? Nothing more than a needy, over-bearing, clingy patient?

‘Oh,’ the Chairwoman says, and Will watches the interest fade from her eyes. He sees Hannibal’s irritation behind his façade and he feels sick.

Hannibal turns his attention to the taller Alpha. The loss of Will’s touch is painful; he wants to be alone with him, to soothe whatever distress is causing Will to shrink from him. Instead, he is trapped here, with these pigs.

‘Did you enjoy the performance?’ he asks lightly. Tobias inclines his head, though his cold eyes continue to flicker from his partner to Will to Hannibal. It is the Beta, however, who answers.

‘I did. I loved it. Every minute.’

‘His eyes kept wandering,’ Tobias says stiffly. ‘More interested in you than what was happening on stage.’

Will can feel the energy crackling beneath Hannibal’s skin. The Alpha is preparing for a fight, and, despite his worry, his shadow purrs its approval at the idea. Hannibal, however, accepts the comment as if it is a polite joke.

‘Oh, don’t say too much,’ he teases. ‘You must leave something for us to discuss next week.’ He turns to the Beta. ‘Franklyn, good to see you.’

And, just like that, they have been dismissed. Will can almost see the walls between them. He can certainly feel them; icy and impenetrable. Hannibal is very private, and he keeps his professional and personal lives very separate. Where do I fit, then?

‘You too,’ the Beta says, smiling sadly because he, too, can tell that his time with Hannibal at the opera is over, brief though it was.

Hannibal shakes with Franklyn’s partner again, forcing him to turn his wrist when Tobias doesn’t remove his cold, hungry stare from Will’s defiant, golden one.

‘Tobias.’

He watches them leave and slips his arm back around Will’s waist, holding him close and dipping his head to soothe himself with the scent of Will’s curls. A low purr rattles his chest and Will instinctively tilts his head enough that Hannibal can see his pulse. The submissive gesture calms him, and when he turns back to the Chairwoman and waiting Alphas in her company, he smiles genially.

‘Who’s hungry?’

The joke breaks the unease and their pleasant, if a little stiff, conversation resumes. Hannibal neatly deflects any questions about Will, keeping his arm loose around the Omega’s waist and releasing him as soon as Will steps away to use the bathroom. Alone with just the Alpha, the Chairwoman leans closer so that they can both watch Will cut a path through the crowd, and says conspiratorially,

‘He really is very impressive, Hannibal. We were all afraid you were going to be a confirmed bachelor forever.’

Hannibal smiles around a fresh glass of champagne.

‘I only hope he accepts my claim, when it comes to it,’ he says, tilting his head knowingly at the bonded Alphas and their Omega mates. The Chairwoman scoffs.

‘Of course he will,’ she says, waving a dismissive hand. ‘Why wouldn’t he? Especially at his age.’ She looks off in the direction that Will has gone, and misses the way Hannibal’s eyes tighten. ‘Personally, I wouldn’t let him out of my sight, let alone work.’ She giggles and smooths her dark hair from her face. ‘But to each their own. I’m sure you know what’s best for him.’

‘I trust Will to look after himself,’ Hannibal says simply. He turns away and places his empty flute on a passing tray before he crushes the stem. ‘However, I do believe it’s time for us to go.’

‘Of course,’ Madam Chairwoman says, her eyes glinting when Will comes back and automatically tips his head towards Hannibal’s shoulder before leaning up for a kiss. His eyes are heavily ringed with gold and he smells divine, like vanilla musk and earth. He must be due a heat, with the way he reacts so strongly to the Alpha. No wonder Hannibal is so protective. She holds a hand up so that he can kiss her knuckles. ‘Hannibal, I expect a dinner invitation soon. Mr Graham, a pleasure to meet you.’

Hannibal obliges her, inclining his head to brush his lips over the back of the silk glove. He nods to the other Alphas and takes Will by the hand. The Omega is sweating now, his cheeks flushed pink and curls darkening near his forehead and neck. His skin is feverishly hot, and he walks very close to Hannibal’s side as they leave the theatre, trying to nuzzle his shoulder to soak up his scent.

The cold night air is refreshing on his damp skin and Will lifts his face to the stars when they get outside, his breath billowing when he sighs. He feels alive and exhausted at the same time, and all he wants to do is quiet the storm in his mind.

‘Well, that was… educational,’ he says, and he forces a grin when Hannibal chuckles. Despite his concern, he can’t help but step closer, snuggling into his Alpha’s chest and pressing burning kisses to Hannibal’s jawline. ‘But I’d like to go home now.’

‘Home?’ Hannibal teases, holding Will’s chin between forefinger and thumb. ‘To Wolf Trap?’

Will’s stomach tightens with fear and he growls at him. He twists his fingers in the silky soft hair at the back of Hannibal’s head and drags him down for a hungry kiss, sucking the Alpha’s tongue into his mouth and then fucking Hannibal’s mouth with his own. He arches his spine, sweat dribbling down to settle in the small of his back as slick oozes out of him at the taste and smell of the other man.

Hannibal groans into the hungry kiss, his hips jumping when Will’s tongue slips between his teeth to explore him. He threads his fingers through Will’s thick curls, massaging his scalp and making Will moan. His Omega is upset about something, so when Will breaks the kiss to drop his head back and bare his throat, Hannibal doesn’t resist the urge to lock his teeth around the front of his windpipe in a show of overwhelming dominance.

Fuck… This… This is perfect… Don’t let me think… Will grips tight to Hannibal’s coat as he feels the Alpha’s teeth denting the soft, vulnerable skin of his throat. He whines, begging for mercy, surrendering to Hannibal’s strength and to the feelings in his body, and heat crackles across the nape of his neck.

‘Hannibal…’ he gasps, his knees wobbling when the Alpha releases him. He falls into the embrace when Hannibal wraps an arm around his waist, and returns Hannibal’s fresh kiss just as fiercely, stumbling as they make their way towards the car. Hannibal shoves him up against the passenger door, knocking the air from him, and Will spreads his legs so that the Alpha can rub his erection against his own hardness.

‘You’re mine,’ Hannibal whispers, his eyes burning red. He pushes his nose into Will’s cheek, rasping his tongue across his stubble. Will shivers, closing honey-gold eyes and resting his head against the roof of the car.

‘Hannibal…’

‘Say it, Will.’ Hannibal nibbles at his jawline, spreading one broad palm across Will’s flat stomach, sliding it lower until it’s tantalisingly close to his groin. Will whines and squirms up towards the touch, stilling when Hannibal holds him in a choke and stares deep into his eyes. ‘Who do you belong to?

Will’s heart thunders in his chest. He swallows, feeling the pressure of Hannibal’s hand, and liquid fire pools in his belly, bubbling with nerves and excitement at the hungry glint to the Alpha’s burgundy eyes. I’m not imagining this; I’m not like Franklyn. You like me, maybe something more…

‘You,’ he breathes, sliding his hands up Hannibal’s sides. ‘I belong to you…’ He waits until Hannibal relaxes his grip, satisfied with the answer, and then he grabs the Alpha by each side of his head, shoving up from the car and twisting so that the taller man is the one pinned. He slams his mouth against Hannibal’s, tasting blood when his lip splits. ‘And you belong to me,’ he growls.

Hannibal sucks in a breath when Will releases him. He stares down at the Omega, at burning gold eyes and bared teeth, and feels a thrill run down his spine. He dips his head and places a last, lingering kiss on Will’s forehead.

‘I do.’

Will presses closer, rubbing his nose into the crook of Hannibal’s throat, resting his lips over his Alpha’s stuttering pulse.

‘Take me home, Hannibal,’ he whispers. ‘Now.’

Hannibal nods, and hurries to unlock the car. Will falls into the passenger seat, grinding his ass down on the chair as his insides clench, aching with emptiness. He arches his back, sweaty fingers fumbling to undo his bowtie and unbutton his shirt. Hannibal growls at the display, driving fast to get Will home before he loses all semblance of self-control.

‘Hannibal…’ Will whimpers, sweat darkening his hair, rolling like tears down the sides of his face. Hannibal reaches over and presses a hand flat to the Omega’s heaving chest, feeling Will’s heart battering against the skin beneath. He hushes him, soothing him with low purrs as he turns onto his street. They both scramble from the car before the engine dies, grabbing at coats and jackets and shirts in a rush to get at the flesh beneath.

As soon as they’re inside, Hannibal slides his hands through Will’s damp curls, pulling him up for a kiss as he toes off his shoes. He twists the lock on the front door to make sure nobody disturbs them and then gathers Will up in his arms, almost lifting him from the floor as he swings him around and slams him up against the wall. A side table rocks as Will’s hip knocks against the edge; the Omega growls at the pain and kicks out at the offending furniture, knocking a vase to the floor. Neither of them stop at the sound of smashing china; Hannibal rips Will’s tuxedo jacket down to his elbows, pinning his arms to his sides, and nudges Will’s chin up, forcing him to bare his throat again. He sucks at the salty flesh underneath Will’s ear, deftly undoing the last buttons of the Omega’s shirt and spreading it wide so that he can slide his hands across Will’s chest and stomach.

‘Oh God…’ Hannibal’s touch is burning him, and Will struggles to breathe when the Alpha finally releases his mouth. He feels like he’s drowning but it feels so good… He wriggles to free his arms, whining and snarling in frustration when the material sticks to his sweaty skin, trapping him. ‘Hannibal, Hannibal, please…’ He thumps his head back when the Alpha drops scorching kisses to his collarbone, to the fine hairs over his chest, sucking a hard nipple into his mouth and squeezing between his teeth, just hard enough to hurt. Will closes his eyes and rolls his hips. He’s so slick, so open… He needs Hannibal inside him, now… He groans at the ache between his legs, curling his hands into trembling fists because he’s restrained, pinned by Hannibal’s roaming hands and teasing mouth, and all he wants to do is fuck until he comes, again and again and again.

Hannibal grins at Will’s desperation. He drops to his knees, staring up with red-ringed eyes, nodding when Will shakes his head.

‘I want to taste you, Will,’ he says, already unzipping Will’s trousers and reaching for his boxers. He pulls them both down Will’s creamy thighs, stroking the soft hairs and pale skin revealed as the fine wool whispers down to pool at Will’s feet. His Omega is the perfect image of debauchery; clothes hanging from him, muscles tight and glistening with sweat, his cheeks flushed pink and eyes burning with gold fire. He’s so hard it looks painful, twitching and leaking pre-cum, his balls hanging heavy beneath. Hannibal licks his lips, savouring Will’s musk. It is thicker now, warmer and richer the closer he gets to heat.

Will shudders when the Alpha’s slides his mouth around his length, taking him whole and then releasing him to lick and tease at his sensitive tip. He scratches his nails against the marble behind him, locking his knees so as not to fall when he spreads his legs as wide as the trousers will let him go. Fuck… He could come just from this, right now, but Hannibal doesn’t have him down his throat and he doesn’t want to spill himself on the Alpha’s face. He gasps when Hannibal grazes him with his teeth, groaning as a strong hand cups and massages his balls, gathering up hot slick and coating two fingers. His sounds of pleasure turn into a desperate sob and he can’t help but buck when Hannibal plunges those two fingers inside him, bending the knuckles to stroke white pleasure from him.

Hannibal pushes Will’s hips back into the wall with his free hand so that the Omega can’t jerk forwards a second time, repeating the motion inside his body. He takes Will into his mouth again, sucking and licking and kissing as he presses down hard, over and over, with his fingers.

Oh fuck… oh fuck… He can’t move, can’t think, can’t breathe, can’t feel anything but Hannibal’s hot, wet mouth around him and the Alpha’s fingers inside him, brushing that spot until the pleasure is like a wave, coming closer and closer, winding him up and up until he’s going to break. And then it’s too much and he’s tipping over the edge, coming with a muffled cry, his thighs shaking when it goes on and on. It’s so good, so clean and pure and right and Hannibal is still moving inside him, swallowing his release down before smirking up at him as he digs deeper inside Will’s body because there’s just so much more that Will can give him. And Will’s eyes are open, he can see Hannibal’s burgundy gaze, see the sandy hair falling over his forehead, the pearly stain in the corner of his mouth and his smile, so proud and loving, like Will is the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen.

‘That’s it, Will,’ Hannibal whispers, staring up at his Omega, his chest too tight to breathe, his hand coated with slick to his wrist as he works the Will’s body to another climax. ‘Come for me again, you can do it.’

Will convulses, tears rolling down his cheeks at how good it feels. He can’t… he can’t… But he can. He can’t stop it, and his mind shatters as every muscle tightens. He can hear his heart, roaring in his ears, and all he can see, all he can smell and feel is Hannibal. He comes with another sharp cry, spilling himself on his stomach and Hannibal’s shoulder, falling forwards into Hannibal’s arms when the Alpha stands up, supporting him as his knees buckle. Hannibal’s strong arms come around his waist, holding him close as he shakes against him, a slick-damp hand on his quivering backside, the Alpha’s free hand cradling the back of his head.

Hannibal hugs Will tight, showering his forehead and temples with soft kisses as Will judders against him. He helps the Omega remove his shoes and socks, supporting him when Will steps out of his trousers and shrugs out of the shirt and jacket until he is perfectly naked, and then he cups Will’s chin so that he can give him a long, slow kiss. The sweet taste of him, the salty sweat and tears and the earthy, coppery tang of his bloody lips makes his stomach clench. He groans at how hard he is, how sweet the pain of the ache is, and removes his own jacket before stepping back.

‘I want you to run, Will,’ he says calmly. He doesn’t miss the way his Omega’s breath catches, and he parts his lips to savour the tang of Will’s fear. Removes his cufflinks and begins to unbutton his shirt as he speaks. ‘I’m going to chase you, and I’m going to catch you.’

Will quivers. He’s taut with nerves but humming with excitement, and he can feel his body pulse another trickle of slick down his thighs at the idea of Hannibal hunting him. He nods, keeping his gold eyes on the predatory Alpha as he backs away towards the stairs. He fumbles behind him, catching hold of the banister for balance as he begins to climb, very slowly so as not to trigger the Alpha’s urge to pounce.

Hannibal’s groin twinges and he bares his teeth, holding himself back as Will carefully retreats from him, still facing him, waiting… Any moment…

Now. Will turns his back on Hannibal and darts forwards, his heart thundering and adrenaline pumping when he hears the Alpha race after him. He dashes across the landing and throws himself into the master bedroom, slamming the door shut onto the Alpha’s arm as Hannibal catches up because he’s just so fast. Hannibal’s snarl rips the air and then his stronger body is slamming into the wood, knocking Will back, and he’s on him, grabbing him by the throat and throwing him onto the bed. The mattress sinks under their weight and all the air leaves Will in a rush as Hannibal pins him, his eyes blazing red. Fuck… It’s hot and scary as hell. Will whimpers, spreading his thighs and rubbing up to please the Alpha, rolling his head back and baring his throat. You caught me. I’m yours. Please don’t hurt me.

Hannibal can’t speak; his heart is racing, his body pulsing with fire. All he wants to do is bury himself deep inside his Omega, fill him with his seed and knot him, bite him and scar him and mark him. Mine. Mine, mine, mine.

Will grabs for Hannibal’s trousers to help the Alpha, and something rips as two sets of hands shove at the fabric until Hannibal’s length is freed. God; Will’s almost panting with how much he wants it. He wants it all. He’s dizzy with it, drunk with it. His dark shadow pulses and he scratches bloody welts into the Alpha’s arms, baring his teeth up at him when Hannibal squeezes his hips hard enough to bruise.

Hannibal growls again and flips Will onto his stomach, mouthing at the burning nape of his neck. The patch of red skin is silky smooth and spicy, begging for him to bite it, to scar it into a crest. He groans at the pain of resisting, and vents his frustration by tearing into Will’s shoulder, instead, spilling crimson blood over Will’s skin.

‘Fuck!’ Will rocks back, lifting his ass to present for Hannibal. He can hear himself crying, his breath catching with helpless little whimpers as the Alpha lines himself up and then begins to push inside. It’s so good, so tight, so perfect and the stretch almost hurts, it’s almost too much but it’s still not enough because Hannibal hasn’t bonded him. Will clenches his jaw, slamming himself back to take the Alpha’s full length, reaching behind him to stop Hannibal from pulling away. ‘No… don’t stop, please… God, don’t stop.’

Hannibal mouths at the bloody crater in Will’s shoulder muscle, sucking down the coppery taste of him as he rocks his hips, burying himself as deep inside the Omega’s body as he can. It’s so hot, so tight. Will pulses around him, rippling muscles and tingling slick coaxing him to knot. Hannibal screws his eyes shut and bites down again, deepening the wound as he ruts into Will, fucking him hard and fast. Will writhes beneath him, mewling cries muffled by the quilt when Hannibal shoves his head down, forcing him to bare the back of his neck. You’re mine, Will. Every part of you, mine.

He comes hard, blood running down his chin as he arches his back, locking his elbows and pouring his seed into Will’s body. He shudders when Will comes around him, tightening into a vice around his swelling knot, sealing them together, and gasps hard enough to spray flecks of red across the other man’s back.

Will trembles, crushed by Hannibal’s weight, grey spots dancing behind his eyelids and his ears ringing at the strength of the orgasm. Fuck… He shifts, his body so boneless and heavy that he could sink right into the bed. Pain makes him gasp, and he reaches for his throbbing shoulder, eyes widening when he sees the amount of blood on his fingers.

‘Hannibal…’

Hannibal purrs and kisses the bite mark, planting a line of kisses until he can brush his lips across the jagged scar between Will’s shoulder blades, rubbing up and down the Omega’s arms to soothe him when Will whines.

‘You almost sent me into rut,’ the Alpha says softly, his voice hoarse from snarling. ‘I’m sorry I hurt you.’

‘I’m okay,’ Will whispers. He turns his head, resting his cheek on the damp covers so that he can look back at Hannibal. He smiles sleepily, purring at the feel of Hannibal’s chest hair against his bare back. ‘Mmm… That was really good.’

Hannibal hums his agreement. He dips his head and kisses Will’s scar again, frowning when the Omega tenses beneath him.

‘How did you get this, Will? Have you been Cut?’ he asks, surprised by the fist of ice in his stomach at the idea of it; at the idea of how much pain it would have caused Will to have a crest sliced out of him… Omegas have died from the shock of it.

‘No.’ Will swallows the lump in his throat and reaches for Hannibal’s hand, twining his fingers with the Alpha and pressing his nose to Hannibal’s skin so that he can ground himself with his scent. ‘I did it to myself.’

Hannibal is quiet for a long time, and Will waits for his throat to loosen. He will tell him… he will… just… He swallows again, but Hannibal speaks before he can try to force the words out.

‘Another time, perhaps. You should sleep now.’

Will blinks through a haze of tears, his chest in a vice. He manages a quick nod and presses a shaky kiss to Hannibal’s knuckles.

‘Thank you,’ he whispers.

Hannibal leans down and kisses Will’s temple, stroking through his hair until the Omega can’t help but purr. He smiles into Will’s skin, adjusting his weight so as not to crush the smaller man beneath him.

‘We all have our secrets,’ he murmurs, resting his head near Will’s to share breath with him when they sleep. ‘Perhaps, one day, we can share them with each other.’

***

Two nights later, Jack wakes Will from dreams of concrete dust and oil to drive him to a waking nightmare. They found a victim in a hotel room bathtub, missing a kidney and chest split wide as though trying to get at his heart.

Zeller is adamant it’s the Chesapeake Ripper – there are a lot of similarities, but everything in Will’s gut screams that this is someone else.

‘We’ve got twenty-two signature components all attributable to the same killer,’ Zeller says, taking up the bathroom doorway where Jack has exiled them so that Will can do what he does, undisturbed.

Will frowns from where he’s sat, slumped on the toilet lid because the memories in the room are fresh, just like Jack promised, and he got sucked in so completely that he can feel the killer’s exhaustion. His grief and regret… You weren’t supposed to die, he thinks, looking over at the corpse in the bathtub. You just didn’t need two kidneys, and someone else needed it.

‘Twenty-two possible signature components,’ he says, pushing himself to his feet. Zeller scoffs a laugh.

‘It’s the Ripper,’ he says, huffing when Will shuts the door in his face.

Will sits back down on the toilet, his gaze distant. Jack braces himself against the wall on the other side of the bathroom. His shoulders are broad with tension, and he clenches his blue-gloved hand into a fist.

‘Are you sure?’ he asks quietly, and Will nods.

‘More or less.’

‘Tell me why you’re sure,’ Jack says, staring down at the not-Ripper victim in the tub. Will swallows, choosing his words carefully.

‘The Ripper left a victim in a church pew using his tongue as a page marker in the Bible he was holding,’ he says. He chews his lip and shakes his head. It doesn’t feel the same. ‘This isn’t that; this is a medical student, or a trainee, or someone trying to make an extra buck in a back-alley surgery and it went bad. Actively bad.’

Disappointment rolls from Jack and Will bows his head because he knows how much this means to the Alpha, how much it hurts to realise he’s not going to get him today.

‘We’ll catch the Ripper,’ he says softly. ‘Eventually.’

‘Yeah, well I wanna catch him now,’ Jack growls. ‘When I do, you’re not gonna get a chance to shoot him, ‘cos I’m gonna do that.’ He sinks to a crouch beside the bathtub.

‘You can’t just jack up the law and get underneath it,’ Will says.

‘Can’t I?’ Jack asks, turning from the victim to raise his eyebrows at him. Will has his head back, trying to stretch the knots from his shoulders, but he lowers his chin so that he’s no longer baring his throat to the Alpha, and Jack sighs. He frowns at the victim and then back at him. ‘Tell me how you see the Ripper, Will.’

Will’s darkness washes through him, warm and comforting, purring through his chest. I see him as a god, he thinks, flushing with warm pride before his brain gathers up his shadow and stuffs it away inside the cage in the back of his mind. NoThat’s not how I see him… it’s not… Aloud, he says,

‘I see him as one of those… pitifulthings sometimes born in hospitals… They… feed it, keep it warm… but they don’t put it on the machines… They let it die. But he doesn’t die. He… looks normal… Nobody can tell what he is.’

He sighs. Squeezes the bridge of his nose and shrugs at Jack. He’s tired, and he just wants to go home. To Hannibal.

My Alpha. 

‘Are we done?’ he asks, and Jack sighs again.

‘Yeah, we’re done.’

Will nods, and heads outside for some fresh air. His head is killing him; he knocks back a heat suppressant, his stomach twisting with guilt as soon as he realises he’s grateful that he no longer needs to collect them from Hannibal. He doesn’t want to see him right now. After meeting Franklyn at the opera, after sensing Hannibal’s irritation with him, Will can’t shake the worry that the Alpha only sees him as a patient, that fucking him is a way of helping him, albeit an unorthodox way of treating him… Because, really, what does he have to offer him? He’s hardly mating material; too dark, too twisted… Too broken… He’s not even from good breeding stock, and he’s already said he doesn’t want a family…

He can convince himself that Hannibal wants him as more than just a patient when they’re fucking, but that doesn’t mean anything… Hannibal has this way of overwhelming his reason until he might as well be in heat, but the rest of the time…

He glares down at an oil-slick puddle between his feet, narrowing his eyes against the gold he can still see in his irises.

Why do I feel like you’re holding something back, Hannibal?

***

At twenty-eight minutes past seven on Thursday, Hannibal opens his office door to greet Will for their scheduled session. His chest tightens a fraction at the sight of his Omega; his delicate musk is deadened by the new suppressants, barely detectable beneath remnants of the day’s Beta spray, and when he turns, his eyes are a deep blue with barely a thin ring of dark gold.

Will’s heart skips a beat at the sight of his Alpha. Fuck… This is going to be hard. Hannibal looks good today; dark suit, burgundy shirt and matching tie… His insides pulse and he feels the first hint of slick dampen his ass cheeks in response to the other man’s musk.

‘Good evening, Will,’ Hannibal says warmly. He steps back, welcoming him into his office. ‘Please, come in.’

Will forces a wobbly smile and ducks inside, keeping his eyes on the floor so that he can’t be distracted with Hannibal as his Alpha closes the door, sealing them in the room together. He notices a glass of rosé on Hannibal’s side table as he shrugs out of his jacket, and frowns.

‘You’ve been drinking,’ he says, somewhat accusingly.

‘I had a glass of wine with my last appointment, yes,’ Hannibal says, taking his time returning to his armchair and watching as Will drapes his coat over the chaise lounge. His Omega is tense, his scent souring every few notes. 

‘Drinking with a patient’? Will mutters. Unorthodox… but not as bad as fucking one. 

She was drinking with a patient,’ Hannibal corrects. He sits down and crosses one long leg over the other. ‘I have an unconventional psychiatrist.’

‘Well, we have that in common,’ Will mumbles. He fidgets for a moment and then sinks into his armchair, instinctively resting back into the deep seat with his legs spread and hands on the armrests so that Hannibal can see all of his chest and stomach. Open and trusting. But Hannibal cannot take satisfaction in the position, because there is something in Will’s words, in the guarded tone, that make him uneasy.

Am I your psychiatrist?’ he asks, his gut twisting at the idea of it. ‘Or are we simply have conversations?’

Will looks at him, tension thrumming through him. A partner shouldn’t psychoanalyse me the way you do… But a psychiatrist shouldn’t fuck me…

‘”Yes”, I think is the answer to that,’ he says, clenching his jaw because he really isn’t sure exactly what Hannibal expects from him. He’s not even sure Hannibal knows what he expects from him.

Hannibal considers him – Will can sense the imbalance of power in their relationship, and he resents it, still. He may always. Is that all this is? He inclines his head.

‘Then having a glass of wine before seeing a patient, I assure you, is very conventional,’ he says, rising to fetch a second glass from the cupboard. ‘Especially for evening appointments.’

Will watches him, watches the way Hannibal’s shoulders move in his suit jacket and the way the silk trousers stroke his thighs when he walks… He shifts, his insides aching with emptiness. Tries to distract himself by looking around the familiar room.

‘How long have you been seeing a psychiatrist?’ he asks.

‘Since I chose to be a psychiatrist,’ Hannibal replies. He uncorks the wine and pours Will a small glass; he’s driving after all, and Omegas are known for having a lower alcohol tolerance. He can feel Will’s gaze on him the whole time; big eyes, vulnerable face… He gives him a small smile as he hands the glass to him. Will so desperately wants to be close to him; he can smell the sharp tang of his slick, but he is also nervous, almost as jittery as the first time they met…

‘Thank you,’ Will mutters, accepting the glass without touching the Alpha. He sniffs and takes a sip. It’s good; crisp and clean. Not like the red wine he usually drinks.

Hannibal sits again, unbuttoning his jacket for comfort. He needs to warm Will up, to get him talking about the case before he steers the conversation to their relationship. Something is clearly bothering him.

‘I read the Freddy Lounds article,’ he says. ‘The Chesapeake Ripper has struck again.’

Will shakes his head.

‘No, no, no, it’s not the same guy,’ he says, and all the tension from the crime scene rushes back into him, adding to his own electric current to propel him to his feet.

‘Maybe it’s never been the same guy,’ Hannibal suggests, watching him pace.

‘Oh, what, now he has a friend?’ Will gives a sarcastic chuckle. Great… We all have friends… Friends together, nothing more… He looks away from Hannibal to stare at the curtains; he can’t look at him right now.

‘Any variations in the murders that might suggest more than one Ripper?’ Hannibal asks, trying to ground Will in the case. In the violence.

‘Er, some variations,’ Will says.

Hannibal takes a slow drink of his wine, choosing his words carefully. He sits forwards.

‘The victims were all brutalised. What was the brutalisation hiding?’ he asks.

‘The careful, surgical removal and preservation of vital organs,’ Will replies.

Valuable organs,’ Hannibal says lightly.

Will considers, and then frowns.

‘Organ harvesters?’

Seed planted, Hannibal sits back again.

‘Jack’s looking for a serial killer he can’t seem to catch,’ he says. ‘It’s a brilliant diversion.’

Will raises his eyebrows, his eyes darting back and forth as he tries to make it stick. It makes sense, but it doesn’t feel quite right… then again, nothing feels quite right at the moment. He sighs.

‘Interesting theory,’ he says. ‘I will keep it in mind if another body drops.’ He takes a gulp of wine to settle his shaking voice.

‘Please do,’ Hannibal says, and he smiles. ‘Now. Are you going to tell me why you are so tense?’

Will scoffs and looks at him. Hannibal looks back, holding the gaze until Will gives in and shrugs, eyes lowered to the ground.

‘Nothing… the case, it’s just…’ He gives up on the lie before it’s even finished, and rubs the back of his neck, hissing when his thumb catches his nape. ‘Franklyn,’ he admits quietly, not quite daring to meet Hannibal’s gaze again. ‘He made me think… made me question…’

Hannibal schools his expression to neutrality, despite the urge to snarl, to let his eyes glow red and bite into Will until he knows, in every fibre of his being, that he is nothing like Franklyn. He is nothing like anyone, and he belongs to Hannibal.

‘What are you questioning, Will?’ he asks quietly, and his heart skips a beat at the sad, frightened little whimper that catches in his mate’s throat. He can’t go to him, not yet. Will needs to accept his claim without his judgement impaired by the cloud of heat hormones.

‘You,’ Will whispers, speaking down to his wine glass. ‘Your… intentions.’

Will is trembling now, and his scent is salty with fear. He’s worried that he’s angered Hannibal, and he is already tilting his head to the side, baring his throat in a placating gesture of submission, just in case. Hannibal sighs, but stays where he is.

‘I have only ever intended to help you, Will,’ he says gently. ‘I want you to realise your true potential.’

‘As my friend, or as my psychiatrist?’ Will mutters, eyes still fixed on his wineglass.

Hannibal represses a growl, but barely, and it roughens his voice when he speaks.

‘As your mate,’ he says. He raises his eyebrow as Will lifts his head to look at him, and the Omega flushes with desire, sweet musk pouring from him as his eyes flicker gold. ‘You asked me if that was what I wanted. I’ve given it a great deal of consideration, and I do.’ He gets to his feet and takes the wine glass from Will’s hand, puts it on the side table and pulls Will’s arms around his waist so that the Omega is hugging him. Then he takes hold of each side of Will’s face, lifting his head until the other man meets his gaze. ‘I want you.’

Will sucks in his breath, shivering at Hannibal’s words. He searches the Alpha’s face for any trace of doubt, of hesitation, but there’s only desire and something softer, something vulnerable… He swallows and nods.

‘I want you, too,’ he whispers. ‘I want to earn it.’

Hannibal smiles and dips his head, placing an achingly gentle kiss to Will’s lips.

‘I can’t wait.’

‘And when I do?’ Will asks, stepping closer so that he can rub up against Hannibal’s body. Being close to him, touching him… it feels so right. He’s missed him so much this week… ‘Will you let me see who you really are?’

‘I don’t think I’ll be able to stop you,’ Hannibal says, stroking his hands up and down Will’s back, feeling the muscles begin to relax under his touch. ‘When you’re ready, you’ll know me.’

‘You don’t think I’m ready?’ Will murmurs, tilting his head so that Hannibal can kiss his pulse. ‘You don’t trust me?’

‘I find it difficult to trust anyone,’ Hannibal replies. He begins to unbutton Will’s shirt, still nuzzling and kissing the Omega’s jaw, cheeks and neck as he drops the ugly, checked shirt to the floor. Will shivers when cool air brushes over his burning skin, his eyes slipping shut as Hannibal spreads a hand over his stomach, the other coming up to brush past his scar, teasing at the edge of his nape until he’s so hard it hurts.

‘We have trust issues in common as well,’ he manages, gasping when Hannibal’s fingers finally touch where his crest should be. ‘Hannibal

Hannibal gives in to him and grips him tight by the back of the neck, sending shockwaves of pleasure through his body. He walks Will towards the couch and turns him, pushing him to lie face down on the padded leather. Will obeys, soft and weak as a kitten, and rolls his face to the side so that he can still see his Alpha. Hannibal purrs and Will trembles, whimpering a plea as he lifts up to present for him.

‘Very good, Will,’ Hannibal says, massaging the pressure points to make Will pliant. He releases him for just long enough to finish undressing him, stepping back to admire his Omega’s naked body. Muscles ripple as Will squirms, slick glistening between his quivering buttocks and twitching thighs. He whines for Hannibal to come back, a hand scrabbling for him and clutching tight to Hannibal’s trouser leg when the Alpha stands beside him and reaches down to pin him by the neck again.

‘Hannibal… please…’ Will isn’t even sure what he’s begging for; if he wants Hannibal to fuck him, knot him, bite him or just keep touching his neck. He just knows it’s good, it’s so good and so right and he needs this, he needs Hannibal so much…

‘Sssh,’ Hannibal whispers. He leans down and brushes Will’s hair from his sweaty forehead, checking his eyes. They are resolutely blue, but the pupils are blown wide and Will’s body is flushing a delicate shake of pink as he slips towards another prodromal phase brought on by Hannibal’s manipulation. As much as his scent is deadened, the signs are there for Hannibal to read, and he nuzzles Will’s cheek as he speaks into his ear. ‘That’s it, let yourself go. No more doubts.’

Will purrs when Hannibal speaks; he can’t really understand the words, but his Alpha’s tone is soothing. He spreads his legs, nodding his thanks when Hannibal helps him tuck his knees under him, lifting up to present for the other man. Please… please…

‘You’re mine, Will,’ Hannibal says calmly, removing his suit jacket and folding it carefully over the back of his chair. Seeing his Omega hold position, exposed and vulnerable to the world, ready for Hannibal to mount… He purrs again, fumbling with his cufflinks and placing them beside his abandoned wine. ‘Can you say it for me?’

‘M’yours,’ Will mumbles, scratching at the leather, trying to hold on despite the fire raging inside him. He whines, the cool air above him shivering as his temperature spikes, whimpering when pleasure zings up his spine and fresh slick trickles down his legs. ‘Hannibal… Hannibal

‘I’m here,’ Hannibal says, undoing his tie and removing his waistcoat. ‘I’ve got you.’

Loneliness snatches his breath. Will rolls his forehead into the sticky leather, tears mingling with sweat on his red cheeks. He can’t move; his Alpha put him in this position and he can’t do anything about it, but Hannibal is too far away from him now and he’s so helpless… He needs him, he needs his protection, his seed, his bite, his everything. He wants to rock down, to grind his erection down for some relief, but he can’t. He can only hope that Hannibal comes to him soon, touches him soon. So he whimpers and begs him with his eyes and his scent and his open body as he bites his lip. I’m yours, I’m yours, I’m yours… Please…

‘Look at me, Will,’ Hannibal whispers, smiling at him when Will immediately turns his head and gazes at him, black fighting blue as his pupils widen further. So handsome… Hannibal removes his shirt and quickly steps out of his trousers, toeing off shoes and socks so that he is as naked as his partner. Will makes a delicious sound of need, half whine, half whimper, and Hannibal grabs him by the hips, yanking him back to the end of the couch. He digs his fingers into the Omega’s soft skin; he wants to leave marks, to make Will remember what they did. He can see the bruised bite on Will’s shoulder; it flushes as his blood pulses near the surface, and Will cries when Hannibal grabs it, using the movement to haul him back against his hardness.

Yes, yes, yes… Will lifts and arches again, his body clenching and then opening, eager to take his Alpha’s knot. The pain of nails cutting into his flesh makes his balls twitch. He can feel himself leaking pre-cum across his stomach, smearing onto the couch. His scent is everywhere, mixed with Hannibal’s warm musk. It smells like a hunt, like the wild, like blood and death and home. Like potential. He growls and rocks back against Hannibal’s groin, trying to get his Alpha to fuck him now, hard and fast.

Hannibal holds Will steady and lines himself up. He wants to take Will hard enough that he feels this for days, so he won’t stretch him. Pushing past the ring of tight muscle, he snarls at the burning tight embrace of his Omega’s body, smacking Will’s hand away when he tries to reach back and pull Hannibal in faster. A stretch is one thing; he refuses to damage his mate’s body. It’s so hot and slick, smooth and tight around him, stroking tingling pleasure from the tip of his length to the root. He keeps pushing, slow and steady, until his balls slap against Will’s and he can’t go any further. His heart thunders in his chest, sweat beads across his forehead and between his pectorals. Will is scorching hot, his muted scent whispering to him. Hannibal’s eyes burn red and he growls when he forces himself to pull back, sliding almost all the way out, cold air stinging his damp, sensitive skin where it parts from the other man’s body.

Will bites into the pillow to muffle his sob when Hannibal pulls back, his cries turning to groans of pleasure when the Alpha plunges back inside him, filling him again and rubbing back and forth against his prostate. Fuck… fuck… please… It’s so right. He’s so full it almost hurts; he can feel Hannibal against his stomach and when he swallows he’s sure he can feel it nudge his throat. And then Hannibal starts to move, and it makes his eyes leak, it makes his brain melt and he can’t breathe through the heat shrinking his lungs. He scratches dents into the couch, shoving up and back in time to Hannibal’s thrusts. There’s nothing but their rough pants and the slap of skin, his whimpers and mewls bubbling up into whines and moans and gasps as Hannibal’s strength overwhelms him. Pleasure crackles through him, tightening his muscles and making his heart falter every time his Alpha pounds into him. He’s dizzy and light, filled with white fire as Hannibal lifts him even higher and gets further inside him, the angle perfect for hitting that spot again and again and again.

‘You’re mine, Will,’ Hannibal says, reaching around stroking Will whenever he pulls back. It’s difficult to concentrate, but the way Will squeezes him and the beautiful sounds of distress he makes are worth the effort. Hannibal hisses through his teeth, his balls jumping as climax nearly overwhelms him at the way Will’s voice breaks as he gasps,

‘I’m yours, I’m yours…’

God… Hannibal’s hand on his length, thumb rubbing his aching tip, gathering up wetness and spreading it over his tender skin traps him in place. If he pushes forwards, he’ll come. If he pushes backwards, he’ll come. Will shudders, his stomach coming up and head dropping, bracing himself on shaking arms as he gives himself over to chasing the pleasure.

‘That’s it, Will; let go,’ Hannibal pants, riding him hard as Will bucks beneath him, clenching and arching and thrusting into Hannibal’s hand. They’re losing rhythm, chasing their pleasure until they crash in each other and fall over the edge. Hannibal grabs Will’s hair as he comes, wrenching him up onto his knees and pulling his Omega’s head back so that he can sink his teeth into the muscle of Will’s shoulder again, ripping open the scabs and spilling flesh blood across his skin as he pours his seed into his body.

‘Fuck! Hannibal! Fuck!’ Will comes with a sharp cry, bearing down around Hannibal’s growing knot as he spills himself over the couch, his Alpha’s release scorching his insides, sucked as deep as possible by his pulsing muscles. He can feel Hannibal’s mouth on him, his teeth inside him and tongue lapping at his blood. The stinging pain only makes the pleasure that much sweeter, and he can’t stop juddering, only held up by Hannibal’s arms around him. He drops his head back against Hannibal’s chest, trying to catch his breath, his brain refusing to come down from the high.

‘Mmm…’ Hannibal releases Will’s torn shoulder with a last, lingering kiss, pressing a kiss to his Omega’s cheek just to see Will’s face smeared with blood. Such a pity it can’t be someone else’s… yet. He hums into Will’s ear, hugging him tight when Will’s purrs ring out across the quiet room, broken only by sniffs and gasps as the smaller man recovers from the strength of his orgasm. ‘Do you feel better?’ he teases, nibbling at the stubble on Will’s jaw, grinning when the Omega shivers, clenches around his knot and then gasps with new pleasure.

Will moans, still rocking around Hannibal’s knot. It feels so nice… he winds an arm up above his Alpha’s head, holding Hannibal’s face to his nape as he begins to move again, sparking fresh waves of heat every time the knot touches his prostate. God… He’s so tender, so raw… He can’t stop chasing it, can’t stop coaxing another orgasm closer, even though it hurts with how good it feels. He’s aching again and he grabs one of Hannibal’s hands, silently begging him to stroke him, to cup his balls and jerk him off as he fucks himself on him.

‘Will…’ Hannibal gasps, mouthing at the silky skin on the back of the Omega’s neck, closing his eyes against the urge to bite him. He quivers, his belly on fire as Will moves up and down around his throbbing knot. Pressure builds like a knife behind his balls and he begins to rock his hips again, again and again, closing his eyes against tears when pleasures shatters him and he comes a second time.

‘Hannibal… Hannibal…’ Will screws his eyes tight shut, convulsing around another climax, bright spots exploding over his eyelids as blood roars and he forgets to breathe. He falls forwards, pulling the Alpha with him, and barks a laugh when the taller man crushes him. ‘Hannibal

Hannibal laughs an apology and shifts to the side, stroking Will’s wet cheeks when the Omega gasps and whimpers at the movement tugging the even bigger knot inside him. He lies with his chest to Will’s back, brushing his mouth over Will’s hair and savouring the smell of him as they lie on the couch, their feet hanging over the end, legs entwined and bodies locked together. He listens to his racing heart, feeling sweat trickle between his shoulder blades, his body humming with satisfaction.

Will breathes slowly, his mind utterly silent as his Alpha holds him. He’s exactly where he belongs, filled with Hannibal’s seed and sealed with his knot, cradled against the taller man’s chest. He is protected and cherished, and the flood of endorphins makes him smile even as tears well in his eyes. He can’t quite remember how he got here, how he got from hugging Hannibal to naked on the couch with him, but as Hannibal’s chest rumbles with another soothing purr, any worry he feels dissolves and he is happy to just accepts it. Hannibal knows what’s best for me.  

‘I’m yours,’ he whispers, pressing a kiss to his Alpha’s knuckles. ‘I trust you.’

***

Winding tomato skins into roses, Hannibal can’t help but think that Will would make a better kitchen companion than Alana Bloom, but his Omega is working late again and Alana made a specific request to see him.

‘I’ve been unspeakably rude,’ he says, sliding the last rose onto the plate with its companions. ‘I haven’t offered you a drink.’

‘I appreciate beer more than wine,’ Alana says, smiling at him from her place as sous chef, chopping carrots for him at the butcher’s block.

‘It’s not what you appreciate, it’s that you appreciate,’ Hannibal says, wiping his hands on his apron and going to the fridge to fetch her a bottle. ‘A compromise? Beer brewed in a wine barrel. Two years; I bottled it myself.’ With a unique blend of Omega blood and my own seed to make you more docile, he thinks, popping the cap.

‘I’m impressed,’ Alana says, watching as Hannibal pours the beer into a glass for her. She dips her nose to appreciate the smell and then takes a sip, smiling at the flavour. ‘A Cabernet Sauvignon wine barrel.’

Hannibal smiles and returns to the kitchen counter.

‘I love your palate,’ he purrs. Alana inclines her head.

‘I love your beer.’ She takes another sip of her drink. ‘Mm… I taste oak… what else do I taste?’

Hannibal smirks. If only you knew…

‘I will only that “yes” or “no”,’ he replies, and Alana grins, blissfully oblivious. She sets the beer down to continue her prep.

‘Are you serving this at your dinner party?’ she asks.

‘No; this is your reserve,’ Hannibal says. Alana raises her eyebrows.

‘My own private reserve? Why thank you.’

Hannibal’s eyes gleam, but he carefully avoids another smirk and focusses on the delicate task at hand.

‘’I’m curious about something,’ he says, catching the Beta’s attention again. ‘Are you purposefully avoiding the subject of Will Graham?’

Alana covers her blush by gathering up chopping carrots and adding them to the bowl beside her.

‘Absolutely,’ she mutters, because she never has been able to lie to the Alpha.

‘Not on my account, I hope,’ Hannibal says lightly. ‘I’m happy to get your perspective.’ More than happy, in fact… I want you to tell me everything you know about my mate.

‘No, it’s on Jack Crawford’s account,’ Alana replies. She picks up her beer and approaches Hannibal’s counter. ‘I don’t want any information about Will that I shouldn’t have as his friend.’

Hannibal hums his acceptance of this. He isn’t interested in sharing knowledge, only acquiring it. Alana has, after all, known Will since before the Omega was in the FBI – in fact, he’s fairly certain that she is the Beta responsible for securing him his teaching position, as well as providing his pheromone spray, scent deadening shampoo and heat suppressants. Or used to be.

‘Did Jack ask you to profile the Ripper?’ he asks, glancing up when Alana shakes her head.

‘Not since I consulted on the case with Miriam before she disappeared.’

Hannibal is careful to maintain a neutral expression, despite the thrill of knowing that he is the one responsible.

‘Crawford’s trainee.’ It isn’t a question, but Alana nods as if it is.

‘Yeah,’ she murmurs. Her special reserve makes her incredibly pliant. Hannibal nods.

‘Very sad.’

They are quiet for a moment, in honor of her memory, and then Alana speaks again.

‘You had me examining PhD candidates that week,’ she says. Hannibal nods.

‘And I’m grateful that you were examining PhD students and not the Ripper,’ he replies. Otherwise, I would have had to kill you, and I am rather fond of you. He smirks. ‘You realise those candidates thought we were having an affair?’

Alana blushes but she smiles, her eyes sparkling at the idea. Her scent sweetens with arousal and Hannibal notes how much it has increased since he was her teacher. Her growing attraction to him could be useful.

‘You were already having an affair,’ Alana reminds him, and Hannibal quirks an eyebrow, casting his mind back to the handsome young Omega teacher with the dark desires… not unlike Will, but, despite Hannibal’s best efforts, ultimately disappointing. Alana shakes her head at her beer before drinking again. ‘Will does that too, y’know,’ she murmurs, and Hannibal grins.

‘What, have affairs?’ he teases. Only with me, my dear.

‘Flirtatiously changes the subject,’ Alana replies. ‘You have that pathology in common.’

We have a great many things in common, Hannibal thinks. Aloud, he decides to test Alana’s feelings for his mate.

‘Or, we just have you in common,’ he suggests, and watches as Alana’s cheeks flush pale pink. She chews her lip, her desire sharp with worry. An interesting combination. Poor Will; he really has no chance with her. Hannibal knows that his Omega still harbors feelings for the Beta, and she is one of his most stable sources of support. If Hannibal can turn her against him, Will is far more likely to embrace his darkness. ‘I recall, even before I met Will, you never spoke about him,’ he says.

Alana shrugs and sighs, betraying her tension in the clenching of her jaw.

‘Probably because I just want everybody to leave him alone,’ she says. ‘He’s been through a lot…’ She looks off across the kitchen, and Hannibal considers her. Do you know the reason for his scar? I think you do, but you would never tell me. You would never betray him like that. Not yet. He makes sure to look down by the time she turns back to him. ‘It’s not even about Will,’ she says unhappily. ‘Jack’s obsessed with the Chesapeake Ripper and he’s grooming Will to catch him.’

Hannibal times it so that it looks like he has only just glanced up at her. He holds her gaze for a moment, the silence heavy between them. Alana will assume it is worry, but Hannibal’s mind has returned to the night after the opera, when Will pinned him against the car and growled his claim into the Alpha’s mouth.

A drop of warmth oozes down Hannibal’s spine, settling in his loins, and he gives Alana a small, dark smile.

‘And I sincerely hope he does.’

***

After a painfully uncomfortable conversation about cheese with Franklyn, Hannibal is looking forward to a more stimulating discussion with his Omega. His stomach tightens in anticipation of getting close enough to breathe in Will’s earthy scent, at seeing the way the other man’s shoulders loosen the moment Will sees him… He wants to watch the way Will’s blue eyes sparkle, revealing his desire for him even when the gold is repressed. He expects to see all of these things, as certain and comforting as the sunrise, but, when he opens the door to his waiting area, it is empty.

Will’s not there.

Hannibal frowns. Will’s… late? He’s never been late before…

Unease coils like a knot in his gut and he checks his watch. Perhaps he has the wrong time…

No, it’s is exactly 7.30pm. What’s going on?

A foreign emotion begins to creep up his spine. Disappointment? Concern? Hannibal can’t quite place it. He closes the door and returns to his desk. Sits slowly, clasping his hands together on the polished wood before reaching for his phone. Should he call him? What if something’s happened?

He checks his diary, the knot tightening when he sees his own handwriting, confirming Will’s appointment today.  He’s most likely stuck at work, but it could be something more serious… Will could be in trouble.  

Hannibal frowns as he realises what this emotion is.

Worry. He’s worried about Will. About his mate.  

He has to find him.

***

It’s dusk. Will is in the fields near his home, sat at the end of a table made from Cassie Boyle’s impaled body, his shadow a writhing, living creature inside him, surrounding him, slithering into his lungs and webbing across his brain until he is nothing but darkness.

Abigail smiles at him from her place near Cassie’s head. My beautiful daughter

‘It’s better than it’s just the two of us,’ she says. Will wants to nod, but he can’t move. He’s warm and comfortable, sinking down into a hot bath…

‘Will?’

His Alpha’s voice reaches for him. Will tries to purr, his shadow opening its arms wide to embrace it, but Abigail frowns. She looks scared.

‘Dad…’

Will wrenches himself back down, back to Abigail.

‘Yes?’

‘There’s someone else here,’ she says.

‘Will?’ Entering the lecture theatre, Hannibal calls to his Omega again, pitching his voice low so that it soothes him as it draws Will out of the prodromal hallucination. He tilts his head, watching his mate sitting completely still at the head of a table littered with crime scene photos. Will’s blue eyes are vacant, shifting from side to side in a waking dream. His hormones are raging; even with the suppressants he smells of sweet musk and earth, sharp with slick that is no doubt soaking through his boxers. Hannibal smiles; he is extremely attractive like this, helplessly waiting for his Alpha to rescue him. ‘Will?’

The dream fades and he’s back in his lecture theatre, the air cold against his sweaty skin. All he can smell is himself, though he’s sure there’s a rich, cedarwood scent getting stronger. Will blinks rapidly, scrambling from the current and fighting his way back to reality.

‘I have a twenty-four hour cancellation policy,’ Hannibal says, catching his attention as he draws closer. He’s here… in Will’s classroom… why? And why does he look like he was worried only a few minutes ago? Will’s stomach flips and he wets his lips, catching his Alpha’s rich scent on the roof of his mouth. Hannibal is so handsome, tall and regal in a navy suit with white tie… You’re here… I’m okay because you’re here

But he’s not okay, otherwise Hannibal wouldn’t need to be here. He has a session with him today. Will frowns, still trying to ground himself.

‘What time is it?’

‘Nearly nine o’clock,’ Hannibal replies, and Will’s heart sinks. Nine o’clock… He stood Hannibal up… Fuck. He buries his face in his hands.

‘Oh God, I’m sorry,’ he groans. Hannibal comes to stand over him.

‘No apology necessary,’ he replies. He watches as Will scrubs his cheeks and looks around, still blurry-eyed and confused. His scent is fading, his body temperature cooling. It will be a few more weeks before he loses hours at a time to the heat, and then it will hit properly. For his sake, Hannibal hopes he’s earned a bond by then.

‘I must’ve fallen asleep,’ Will mutters. ‘Was I sleepwalking?’

‘Your eyes were open, but you were not present,’ Hannibal says, watching his mate’s brow crease with concern.

‘Jesus…’ Will pinches the bridge of his nose, fighting the absurd Omegan urge to cry. His heart skips a beat at what his Alpha is telling him; this can’t be happening… sleepwalking is one but this…? More of an absent seizure than anything else. ‘I felt as if I was asleep,’ he says, scraping his hands through his hair and rolling his shoulders. ‘I need to stop sleeping altogether. Best way to avoid bad dreams.’

And create stress on your body, which will create more extreme symptoms, Hannibal thinks. He squashes the pang of sympathy – Will needs him to be strong, to show him the way – and casts his eyes over the photographs.

‘Well, I can see why you have bad dreams,’ he says lightly. Will gives a half nod. He stands up; Jack wants him inside the Ripper’s head, and Hannibal is the best person at helping him think like a killer.

‘What do you see, Doctor?’ he asks, inviting Hannibal to review the case whilst moving closer to his Alpha.

Hannibal quirks an eyebrow at Will’s request, refusing to look at him. He knows Will is seeking comfort, but he needs to keep him on his toes just a little longer. To keep himself from reaching for his mate and hugging him, he slides his hands into his pockets.

‘Sum up the Ripper in so many words?’

‘Choose them wisely,’ Will says.

‘Oh, I always do,’ Hannibal replies. He begins to sift through the photographs. ‘Words are living things. They have personality, point of view… agenda.’

‘They’re pack hunters,’ Will jokes, though he’s so tired and so achingly empty that it comes out flat. Hannibal doesn’t seem to notice, or mind. He never does.

‘Displaying one’s enemies after death has its appeal in many cultures,’ he says. Will leans closer, his dark shadow rearing up to propel him forwards, giving him a surge of energy he doesn’t otherwise feel.

‘These aren’t the Ripper’s enemies,’ he says. ‘These are pests that he swatted.’

‘The reward for their cruelty,’ Hannibal replies, admiring one of his older works. Will scoffs.

‘Oh, he doesn’t have a problem with cruelty,’ he says. ‘The reward is for undignified behaviour. These dissections are to disgrace them. It’s a public shaming.’

Hannibal has to fight to keep from purring at how clever his mate is. Instead, he feeds his pride to his own darkness; a taste of what’s to come.

‘Takes their organs away because, in his mind, they don’t deserve them,’ he explains. He finally allows himself to look at Will, to show him the hint of red around his dark eyes, and Will stares back. He can feel their connection, even if he isn’t quite sure what it is; it’s more than just a sexual attraction, but a blending of shadows and dark, wicked minds.

‘In some way,’ the Omega says quietly.

Hannibal picks up the photograph of Miriam’s severed arm. He’s been terribly curious to know how Jack reacted to finding a piece of his precious, abandoned Omega. Now seems the perfect opportunity to find out.

‘What’s this?’ he asks, feigning ignorance. Will’s scent sours with distress and he turns away to pace off some of his tension.

‘It’s Jack Crawford’s trainee,’ he says. ‘She’s not like the other victims. The Ripper had no reason to humiliate Miriam Lass.’

Hannibal regards the image.

‘Seems to me he was humiliating someone.’

‘Yeah; he was humiliating Jack,’ Will replies. Hannibal feels a thrill, though his tone is one of careful, distant curiosity. A clinical interest.

‘Did it work?’

Will locks eyes with him, darkness swimming beneath the blue.

‘I’d say it worked really well.’

Hannibal looks at him, fighting down a smirk. He replaces the photograph before his scent can change and turns to face his mate.

‘Have you eaten?’ he asks softly. Will shakes his head. Before Hannibal can suggest dinner, though, the Omega’s eyes are drawn to the images again, and he steps closer to the table as though pulled by a magnet. Hannibal moves around the desk to stand beside him, offering his warmth and scent until Will’s dark shadow is sated. He allows his arm to brush Will’s and the Omega unconsciously shifts closer, dipping his head so that the Alpha can see the side of his throat.

‘I want you to stay with me tonight,’ Hannibal murmurs. ‘You need to rest.’ He smiles when Will nods, and twines their fingers together. ‘I’m hosting a dinner party tomorrow; would you care to join me?’

Will glances up at him, doubt etched into his frown and the unhappy turn of his mouth.

‘Who are your other guests?’ he asks. ‘Alphas?’

Hannibal offers him a delicate shrug and an apologetic smile.

‘Like words, we too are pack hunters,’ he says. Will’s breath catches and he leans in, looking from Hannibal’s lips to his eyes.

‘You’re not,’ he murmurs. ‘You’re a solitary predator.’

‘For now,’ Hannibal replies, dipping his head to brush his lips very gently across Will’s. The Omega moans but then blushes, ducking his head and wiping his mouth as though afraid Hannibal’s touch will have left a mark.

‘Sorry; I can’t…. not here,’ he mutters. Hannibal gives his elbow a reassuring squeeze.

‘I understand.’ And he does; he can smell two Alpha scents approaching, long before their footsteps sound on the carpet of the hallway. Beverly Katz and Jack Crawford appear in the doorway and Hannibal smiles as though truly pleased to see them. Will looks up a moment later, as Jack booms his greeting towards him.

‘Will, there you are.’

Almost as though he expects Will to be a faithful dog, trained to stay at his heel, Hannibal thinks. Watch yourself, Agent Crawford; you are bordering on rude.

‘And Dr Lecter,’ Jack continues, striding up to the desk with Beverly keeping pace just behind him. ‘What a surprise. We have a lead.’ He looks into Hannibal’s open, expectant face. ‘Would you care to, er, help us catch the Ripper?’ he offers.

Hannibal would laugh, but that would spoil the game, and, this way, he can keep an eye on Will at the crime scene, and escort him home to pack an overnight bag afterwards.

‘How could I refuse?’

***

Beverly tracks the missing ambulance to an alleyway, where they find Devon Silvestri feverishly trying not to kill his latest organ “donor”. Jack points his rifle squarely at Devon’s face, and bellows for Dr Lecter to take over so that he can make the arrest. Hannibal raises an eyebrow at Will – it’s quite exciting, really – and hurries forwards to analyse the situation. Will keeps a step behind him, slowing when the back of the ambulance comes into sight. It’s not the Ripper… It’s not, Jack, I’m sorry.

Hannibal climbs into the back of the van and peers down at Mr Silvestri’s appalling attempt at surgery. He doesn’t bother to keep the disdain from his voice when he says to Jack,

‘He was removing his kidney. Poorly.’

Beside him, Devon blushes, and his scent colors with shame.

‘I can stop the bleeding,’ Hannibal adds. Jack nods.

‘Do it.’

Hannibal removes his suit jacket and tosses it to the side. Rolls up his sleeves and pulls on a latex glove. He can feel Will’s eyes on him, but he needs to concentrate. He slides his fingers past Silvestri’s, reaching for the cut seeping blood, and presses down.

‘Have you got it?’ Jack asks, impatient to get the cuffs on his “Ripper”. Hannibal waits until he is certain, and then nods.

‘I’ve got it.’

Jack instructs Silvestri to exit the vehicle and moves to collect him from the side door. The officers move with him, giving Will a clear view of Hannibal. His Alpha is calm, even as he concentrates on saving a man’s life. Heat rolls through Will’s body again and his breath catches as slick trickles down his thighs.

Hannibal catches the faint musk of Will’s arousal and glances up at him. That’s my boy… I’m doing this for you, Will, so that you and I have saved a life together.

Will can’t tear his eyes away, absorbed by the way the tendons ripple in Hannibal’s arms, in the way his greying hair falls over his forehead when he leans forwards, the steely look as he calculates the precise pressure with which to suture the split artery. The Alpha always has such control, such power… His dark shadow licks at his ear, caressing the fine hairs around the burning nape of his neck as flecks of blood colour Hannibal’s arms crimson.

You look good in red.

He can’t wait for a time when it’s for a different reason.

***

Watching Hannibal cook is hypnotic, like watching poetry in motion. Will stands in the kitchen doorway, awkwardly cradling the bottle of wine he’s brought in lieu of staying, watching his mate carve roasted meat and create art out of food. But they’re not alone; there are Beta sous-chefs around them, and Will isn’t ready to make a scene in front of them.

‘I have a butcher who carries sow’s blood,’ Hannibal says, unlocking the blender from its base after blitzing the contents. ‘Centrifugate, separate the matter from the water, creates a transparent liquid.’ He pours it into a bowl and swipes his finger across the rim to catch the spill. Will’s insides quiver; he is reminded of the Alpha’s fondness for gathering up his slick and licking it. ‘Serve with tomatoes in suspension,’ Hannibal continues, glancing up at him and grinning as though he can read Will’s mind. ‘And everyone will love the sweet taste.’

Just as I love the sweet taste of you, Will.

‘Are you sure you can’t stay?’ he checks.

‘Er… I don’t think I would be good company,’ Will mutters, glancing to the side as a Beta moves past him carrying a plate of food. His head is pounding and he feels sick. As delicious as the food looks, he can’t eat anything tonight.

‘I disagree,’ Hannibal replies, and Will manages a small, grateful smile. He hates to disappoint his Alpha, but he doesn’t want to show him up in front of his friends, especially other Alphas and their well-behaved, perfectly socialised Omegas. Hannibal deserves better.

The Alpha narrows his eyes, sensing more than just a bad headache as Will’s reluctance to join him.

‘But, before you go; what became of Mr Silvestri’s donor?’

‘You saved his life,’ Will says. Hannibal glances up, then returns to his cooking.

‘Been a long time since I used a scalpel on anything but a pencil,’ he muses.

‘Why’d you stop being a surgeon?’ Will asks, shifting his weight because he really wants to go to Hannibal and soak up his warmth, perhaps even help him, but the foreign scents are making his back hurt with tension. Hannibal was so good at the crime scene yesterday; it’s hard to imagine anything wanting to make him quit.

‘I killed someone,’ Hannibal says simply. ‘Or, more accurately, I couldn’t save someone. But it felt like killing them.’

Will nods, but that doesn’t explain it.

‘You were an emergency room surgeon; it has to happen from time to time.’

‘It happened one time too many,’ Hannibal says, lifting the bowl to pour the contents into the sieve. ‘I transferred my passion for anatomy into the culinary arts –’ More than anyone realises. ‘ – I fix minds instead of bodies, and no one’s died as a result of my therapy.’

Will huffs a laugh. Yet. He drops his gaze; he needs to lie down in a dark room with an ice pack over his forehead. Of course, he can’t do that; Jack wants to go through the Ripper files with him again. He might as well do it tonight, since he won’t be spending time with his own Alpha.

‘I have to go,’ he says softly. ‘I have a date with the Chesapeake Ripper.’

No, you don’t, Hannibal thinks, but he doesn’t look up from pushing the mixture through the sieve.

‘Or, is that rippers?’ he asks. Will shakes his head; the idea didn’t stick.

‘Devon Silvestri was harvesting organs, but not with the Ripper,’ he says. ‘There’s no connection between them.’

‘Jack must be devastated,’ Hannibal says, his darkness purring with savage glee. Will looks away, fighting the urge to roll his eyes.

‘I imagine he is.’ He glances back and stills when Hannibal holds his gaze. His heart skips a beat and he swallows a whine. He doesn’t want to go. He wants to stay with Hannibal, tonight and every night to come… And Hannibal wants him to stay, too. He can see it; the pain this is causing him. He tries for a smile but it’s more of a grimace, placing the bottle on the counter. ‘Enjoy the wine.’

Hannibal smiles at him, accepting the unspoken apology, granting forgiveness because it’s what Will needs from him tonight.

‘Thank you.’

Will ducks his head as he turns away, shivering at the sharp twinge in the nape of his neck. His head throbs and his eyes sting with every step away from his Alpha.

I’ll come home soon, he thinks, letting himself out of Hannibal’s house and into the dark, empty night. And I know you’ll be waiting for me.

Chapter Text

Whenever he’s feeling stressed, Will fixes boat motors. It’s an old habit, learned from his father. There’s something very soothing about knowing which pieces fit where, and taking the time to put them all back together so that the machine works the way it should. Far simpler than people, there is one clear way forwards and no room for interpretation.

Stretched out on the rug near his bed, Will listens to the steady thud of his heart and the click of the screwdriver. The dogs lie around him, some in their baskets, Buster and Rudy on his bed, all of them keeping him company. They are a pack, together, only it’s not as comforting as it usually is, and he is still tense, even though he’s been working on this engine since dawn.

The house is quiet. The next few days yawn ahead of him; an empty seventy-two hours of rest until work resumes. Solitude doesn’t normally bother him, in fact, he seeks it, but today it makes him ache.

He knows why. Knows why his hands shake when he’s not focused on the motor, why he’s been having nightmares about half-eaten girls, tossing and turning on damp, scratching sheets as he dreams of an ebony stag just out of reach, waking up drenched in sweat and slick as his insides cramp around nothing.

Three days. It’s been three days since he last saw Hannibal. Three days since he touched his Alpha, breathed in his scent... It's not that long, really, but this time the separation is torture.

A shrill sound of distress cuts through the silence, chilling him to the bone. Will pauses, frowning over his shoulder to see if it’s one of the dogs. No; they’re fine. He waits for a moment, wondering if he imagined it, and then gives up and resumes digging out a chewed up screw.

The sound comes again. It’s definitely some sort of animal, and it’s in pain. Could be stuck in a hunter’s trap, or been hit by a car and left to die on the side of the road… Alone and frightened…

He can’t leave it. Abandoning the boat motor, Will gets up and grabs his coat, pulling it on as he heads outside. It’s cold but sunny; snow lingers in the shaded parts of the fields and his front yard, crunching under his boots. The crisp air feels good against his sticky skin and he leaves his coat undone to cool down as he tramps across the marshy ground towards the screams.

They echo across the landscape, making it hard to pinpoint their location. Will slows, frowning as he sweeps his gaze over the fields, towards the woods. It’s a big area, and he doesn’t want to go running off in the wrong direction.

He looks down at the ground, trying to find any tracks. Nothing…

Sighing with frustration, he turns a full circle as he waits for the calls to resume. He starts to walk towards the tree line, slowly so that he won’t get too far in case he needs to turn around. He strains to pick up any further sounds of distress, angry at the blood roaring in his ears because it’s making it difficult to hear anything, but whatever was in distress seems to have quieted.

His chest tightens and a lump forms in his throat. It’s probably dead…

He stops again, looking back towards his house, blinking in surprise at how far he’s gone. He hadn’t realized he was moving so quickly.

His breath billows in front of him when he sighs again, and Will scrubs a hand through his hair. He’s not gonna find it like this… Not by himself.

I could call Hannibal, he thinks, his belly tingling at the idea of seeing his Alpha again. Ask him to help me search

No. He can’t. Hannibal is busy, otherwise he would have called. He would have invited him over, even after Will refused to stay for his dinner party.

Unless he’s angry… or needs space… Will can’t stop the nasty little thoughts from creeping through his brain, stinging the nape of his neck. He shoves his hands into his coat pockets to stop himself from rubbing at the imaginary pain, his skin prickling and sweat beading on his forehead.

No. Hannibal said he wants Will as a mate, and he understands Will’s obligation to finding the Ripper. He was fine with Will not staying for the dinner party. The Alpha had a full life before Will came along; of course he’s just busy. Will would never expect him to drop everything just to come and spend time with him because he’s feeling needy. Clingy.

He stomps back inside before he can dwell on it anymore, throwing his coat over a chair and resolutely picking up the screwdriver.

He’s fine. He’s going to be fine. A few more days alone and then he’ll see Hannibal again. He's been perfectly fine by himself for years; he can survive on his own for a few days.

The next morning, he calls Alana and asks her if she wants to come over.

‘If it wasn’t a coyote, the coyotes probably got it,’ he says, squinting against the sun as he looks out towards the trees. The Beta picks her way towards him, not as comfortable on the uneven ground as he is. She’s wrapped up in a burgundy coat and leather gloves, but her scarf is thin and her cheeks and nose are pink from the cold. The wind is bitter today; Will's dug out an old sweater and layered up with his fishing jacket, a woolen hat pulled down to protect his ears. It’s good to wear layers; he doesn’t want any part of him exposed today.

He grimaces at his own morbid thought and mutters,

‘Probably got it even if it was a coyote.’

‘You’re not expecting to find it alive, are you?’ Alana asks, taking the lead as Will falls into step at her heel.

‘We’ll be lucky to find a paw,’ he replies, and the Beta gives him a long-suffering smile.

‘So, you invited me over to help you collect animal parts?’ she teases. Will chuckles.

‘Er, I invited you over on the off chance we do find it alive,’ he says. ‘It’s harder for me to wrangle a wounded animal by myself.’ The Beta is distracting; her scent is strong with the effort of walking through the snow, and she is upwind of Will, so he is sucking it in every time he takes a breath. Alana smells warm and comforting, a hint of flowers and caramel, like family. Not as strong or as heady as Hannibal’s, but he’s so lonely and she’s always been there for him. His insides clench and he deliberately looks out across the flat fields. ‘Did you think it was a date?’

She considers him for a moment and then looks away.

‘Honestly, it never crossed my mind.’

Disappointment is like a kick in the gut, and Will works hard to keep it from his voice.

‘Oh.’ He forces a laugh and then frowns. ‘… Why not?’

Alana raises her eyebrows at him, at how open he’s being with her, and then shrugs.

‘You just don’t seem like you date,’ she says carefully.

‘Oh? Too broken to date?’ Will grins as he presses a hand to his heart. Thinks of Hannibal, of his night at the opera with him. That was a date… Wasn’t it?

Alana smiles at him, her blue eyes twinkling.

‘You’re not broken,’ she says kindly. Will grins back, enjoying the banter, and then looks around for any signs of the animal they’re supposed to be tracking. Slips his hands into his trouser pockets to keep from reaching out to touch her. He's not even sure why he wants to, he just misses human contact. Hannibal's a very tactile partner; he's become accustomed to casual touches and strokes every so often. Dependent... He distracts himself with another question.

‘What’s your excuse?’

Alana snorts.

‘For not dating?’ She pauses when Will slows, and he nods at her before inspecting the ground again. Gives up and they keep going. ‘Why are you assuming I don’t date?’ she says. It’s Will’s turn to raise his eyebrows.

Do you?’

Alana grins at her feet.

‘… No.’ She sighs. ‘Seems like something for somebody else. I’m sure I’ll become that somebody someday, but… right now I think too much.’

Will frowns; he can sense her sadness, a hint of regret tainting her scent. Who do you regret not dating, Alana? To distract them both, he says,

‘So what are you gonna do; you gonna try to think less? Or just wait till it happens naturally?’

Alana shrugs.

‘I haven’t thought about it.’

They slow until Will comes to a stop, hands on his hips as he looks around at the undisturbed earth and gently swaying grass. There should be something, some sign of an animal…

‘Are you seeing anything?’ Alana asks, giving voice to Will’s concerns.

He frowns.

‘Er, no, actually… I’m not even seeing any tracks. I mean, except for the ones we made.’

Alana keeps her face neutral, accepting it, but Will can smell worry in her scent. Maybe she’s just sad for him… Of course, she could be concerned that they won’t find the animal, because if it is still alive, it won’t be for much longer…

He sighs.

‘We should head back,’ he says, admitting defeat. Alana nods, still looking oddly at him. Will forces a half-smile and waits for her to get a step ahead of him as they turn around. 'Thanks for helping me look, though.'

'Of course.'

They walk the rest of the way back in silence, stopping only for Will to double, triple check for the elusive tracks. All too soon, his little house comes into view. They head inside, greeted by barks and licks from excited dogs, and shed coats, gloves, hats and scarves.

'Do you want a coffee?' Will asks, calling back to her over his shoulder as he heads into the kitchen.

'Sure.' Alana waits behind and Will's gut twists as he busies himself filling the pot with water. She doesn't want to be alone in a room with him... Afraid he'll jump her?

I wish Hannibal was here.

The thought snatches his breath with the suddenness of it, and Will waits for the tremble in his hand to calm down before reaching for a pair of mugs. After he's made drinks, adding an extra heap of sugar to his own, he carries them through to find Alana sat at the dining table. Places a steaming drink in front of her and takes his usual seat next to her.

'Is everything okay?' Alana asks, piercing him with her gaze. Will swallows, fiddling with a chip in the rim of the cup.

'Yeah...' His mouth turns down, betraying the lie, and he shrugs. 'Just got a few things on my mind.'

'The Ripper?' Alana asks quietly, and Will looks up from under sad brows. Tilts his head because that's only just of many. Alana taps her nails on her mug. 'I don't like the way Jack's using you,' she admits. 'But I'm glad that Hannibal is there for you.'

Will's heart turns over in his chest. Does she know? Has she guessed, or did Hannibal tell her? They're close, after all...

'He is,' he says slowly. 'Has he... said anything?'

'About you?' Alana raises her eyebrows and shakes her head. 'No; and I wouldn't let him. I told him, I don't want any information about you that I shouldn't have as your friend.'

Will huffs a laugh and manages a wonky smile.

'Patient-psychiatrist confidentiality privilege, even if I'm not officially his patient,' he jokes.

Alana hums agreement and the silence settles between them as they each sip their drinks. After a few minutes, Will sighs and sits back in his chair, rolling his neck and shoulders in a vain attempt to loosen the knots. Rubs the base of his hairline and realizes there might be something that the Beta can help him with. Advice.

'Hannibal asked me about my scar,' he says quietly. Alana looks surprised; she knows how private Will is about that, about any part of his Omega biology and his past.

'What did you tell him?' she asks.

'I... haven't told him anything, yet,' Will replies. He drums his fingers on the table. 'But I think I want to.'

'Really?'

Will can understand her skepticism; she's assuming Hannibal still thinks of him as a Beta. He gives a little chuckle and ducks his head.

'He, er, he knows what I am,' he admits. 'He's known for a while.'

'Oh...' Alana blows out a breath and looks away. Will can almost hear the thoughts swirling in her mind. Admitting the truth to an Alpha is reckless, but it's not her place to scold him. She could get into some trouble for having helped him lie his way into Quantico, but she trusts Hannibal, completely… Such conflict.

She looks back at him, eyes gentle with concern and sympathy.

'Do you want to tell him about it?' she asks softly.

About the attack, about being outed as an Omega working in Homicide and unable to keep your job because none of your Alpha colleagues would keep their hands off you? About the nervous breakdown brought on by the pain of cutting your neck in a panicked attempt to prevent further advances?

Will stares down into his half-empty mug, at the faint ring of coppery brown just visible around his blue irises. His gut twists at the idea of being so open and vulnerable to Hannibal, but if he’s going to bond with the man, then this would a good first step. I trust him… I think…

He sighs.

'Yeah... I do.'

Alana is quiet for a moment, and Will looks at her. She's chewing her lip, clearly trying to decide what to say, or how best to say it.

'I think it would be good for you to talk about it,' she finally says, and Will breathes a sigh of relief. He stills when the Beta reaches forwards and covers both of his hands with her own. 'I really think Hannibal can be good for you, Will, if you let him in. I'm glad you feel you can be honest with him about this.'

Will smiles and nods, looking down at Alana's creamy skin. She's warm, and it feels good, even if it's only his hands being held. It's nothing like what Hannibal does to him; the Alpha's touch sets him on fire, burning away all thought and reason until he'd do anything for just a little bit more, but he can still feel heat pooling in the pit of his stomach, spreading down until he starts to ache...

Alana clears her throat, and pulls back, her cheeks tinged pink at the Omega's unconscious whine of desire. Will's scent is dulled by heat suppressants, but she can still feel herself reacting to his sweet musk, listing forwards as though she could kiss him, and this is a very, very bad idea...

'I should go,' she mumbles, standing up before Will can argue. She hurries into the front room and pulls on her coat, looking flustered as she winds her scarf around her neck. 'Take care of yourself, Will,’ she says, pausing at the screen door to look back at him where he's hovering by the fireplace. She moves as though she wants to hug him but then stops herself, and Will saves her the embarrassment by shoving his hands in his pockets, making it clear that he's fine without a hug, without contact, and that she's free to go because he'll be fine. He’s fine… He’s fine.

He watches from the porch as Alana climbs into her car and drives away, the hybrid engine silent and tires barely crunching on the road. Almost as if she was never here... He waits until she has disappeared past the line of trees and then he lets some of the pain show on his face, pressing a hand to his cramping gut because he's not fine. He’s so empty

Fumbling for his suppressants, Will knocks a couple of tablets back and pinches the bridge of his nose. Goes back inside but he can’t settle to anything. He almost wishes the animal noises would start again, so that he'd have an excuse to go outside and do something, but it's quiet and he's alone with just the dogs, who watch him pace back and forth from a half-finished lure to the bookshelf to the boat motor back to the lure.

As the sun starts to set, he ends up lying flat on his back in bed, watching the shadows lengthen across the ceiling. He'd woken up with a headache, but it had gone down when Alana was with him. Now it slams home, tightening around his skull until he feels sick. Maybe he's coming down with something...

Groaning to himself, Will brushes his hand over his cell phone. He’s itching to call Hannibal, to hear his soothing voice. Waves of heat roll through him and he whines, grinding his ass down as slick leaks out of him. It’s an unusual sensation; half-blinded with pain but achingly hard and desperate to come at the same time. Sweat oozes from his pores, soaking through his clothes until they cling to him like a second skin.

Will rolls onto his side, rubbing his pounding head into the mattress, biting on a pillow to keep from chewing his own tongue. He feels numb, but also boiling and freezing at the same time. The nape of his neck is smarting, so tender and desperate to be touched. To be broken, bitten, scarred…

The dogs whine. They’re worried about him. Will wants to comfort them, to tell them he's okay but he doesn’t know if he is... He doesn’t know how to speak, how to breathe… He’s drowning in the dark current rising within him and all he can do is tear at his clothes until he’s naked. He scrapes his hands through wet curls, pushing them back from his flushed face, his chest heaving as he fights for air. He’s burning up, his vision shrinking as blackness swarms the edges of his vision.

Reaching down, he takes himself in his hand and begins to rub, whimpering at how good it feels, and how much it hurts because it’s not his Alpha touching him. His cheeks are damp with more than just sweat, and he can’t stop the desperate, mewling sounds that claw up from his throat.

Alpha… Alpha… Hannibal… He needs him, needs him, needs him… Will hisses as a wave of pleasure shakes him apart, wincing as he spills his release over his belly and hand. His stomach convulses and spit gathers in his mouth. Oh God…

He throws himself to the side just in time and vomits onto the floor, dry heaving again and again until he can taste blood and his ears are ringing. Flops back onto the wet sheets, coughing and groaning because he’s pulled something with the force of retching. He doesn’t feel right… He’s not well…

Hannibal ... He needs Hannibal...

Exhaustion drags his eyes closed, even though he knows he needs to clean up the mess he just made. But he can’t… he can’t move. He’s so heavy, falling into crushing darkness…

See…?

The whisper is in him, licking his insides with fire. Will scrabbles for the phone, desperate to call his Alpha, but he drops it onto the floor and it skids away out of reach.

'No... Hannibal...' Will manages to roll onto his front, his eyelids fluttering as he fights shimmering grey spots. He reaches out, blindly groping at air, and then his eyes roll back in his head and he passes out.

***

When he wakes later, the headache has faded to a dull ache behind his eyes and Will can’t remember how he ended up naked in bed. He’s shivering; he must have fallen asleep with the quilt pushed down to the end of the mattress, curled around a pillow the same way he curls up to Hannibal with his head on the Alpha’s chest.

What time is it? What day is it? Will reaches for a blanket and pulls it around himself. Rubs his eyes and wipes his sticky face, frowning when he smells himself on his fingers. When did he jerk off? Why did he jerk off? He’s not done that since he started having sex with Hannibal…

Swinging his legs round, he sits up and tries to get his bearings. He’s at his house, in Wolf Trap, Virginia. Looks at his clock, at the pale blue numbers, and frowns. It’s ten o’clock at night. No wonder the house is dark and freezing cold.

The dogs must be starving. Will gets up, wrapping the blanket more securely around him to hide his nakedness, and pads across the room to let them out. He’s still tired, and he feels weak, as if he’s recovering from the flu. The last thing he remembers was… Alana was here. She was helping him search for the animal he’d heard yesterday… But she’d gone home… He’d needed to lie down because of a migraine… Well, that explains how he ended up in bed. He must have undressed to be more comfortable.

Will pulls on boxers and a fresh t-shirt from the dresser beside him, and prepares dinner for the dogs before letting them back in. He gulps down a glass of water, then another, but the idea of eating turns his stomach right now. He huffs and smiles to himself as he drains the last of the cool liquid. Hannibal is going to tell him off again for not taking proper care of himself.

Wandering through the house, he switches on all of his lamps and turns the dial of the electric heater to ward off the chill. Snow drifts down outside the windows, settling on the frame, and Will watches it for a while. He frowns when he notices his reflection in the dark glass, obscuring his view of the flakes. He's very pale, his cheeks are drawn and there are dark bruises under his eyes. He needs to put some more drops in; the irises are ringed with bright gold. Collecting them from his side table, he gives himself a double dose and then knocks back another heat suppressant because he's not sure if he took any earlier.

He rolls his shoulders, grimacing at how his t-shirt and boxers chafe against his sweaty skin. He needs a shower...

The hot water feels good on his aching muscles. Will turns his face into the spray, enjoying the way it batters his eyelids. Reaches for his bottle of scent-deadening shampoo but hesitates before he can open it. He's not going anywhere for a couple of days... There's no reason he can't use the cedarwood one, which reminds of his Alpha and might help him to sleep tonight.

He dips his nose to suck up the smell of it as he squeezes out a handful of soap, and moans softly to himself as he massages it into his scalp. It does smell like Hannibal, and it’s making him tingle and twitch in all the right places. He lathers more of it into his arms, across his chest and up the insides of his thighs. He wants all of him to smell of Hannibal. He coats his fingers and rubs them between his ass cheeks, bowing his head so that the water pounds onto the nape of his neck. The skin there is so sensitive that he can feel every drop of water, and Will hums his satisfaction as they rain down in an endless drumming pattern of lightning fast taps, again and again over the throbbing flesh. His fingers are slippery with slick and soap, and he works a couple of tips inside, just enough to tease. He’s not going to come; he’s not even going to try; he’s just putting a smell there for Hannibal to enjoy the next time his Alpha sees him. The thought makes him smile and he rolls his hips down around his hand, muscles clenching to pull up as much of the shampoo as possible.

You’re inside me, Hannibal, more than you know.

Curling up around a pillow in bed that night, Will allows himself a moment of weakness and places his cedarwood-smelling hand firmly over his eyes, blocking out his sight. It’s nothing like when Hannibal blindfolded him, but it’s enough of a reminder that his shoulders relax. He rubs at his stubble, frowning at the rasp too loud in the silence of the house.

I miss you…

Staring at the blue numbers of his clock, he forces himself to lie perfectly still, listening to nothing but the thump of his heartbeat and the whisper of air flowing in and out of his nose, and waits to see if he'll be able to sleep.

***

When Jack calls the next morning to tell him that there’s a murder and that he needs him back at work earlier than expected, Will feels an odd mixture of relief mingled with dread. He didn't sleep much - too many nightmares and a throbbing headache that made even his belly hurt - but although he struggles to speak around the lump in his throat, he’s dressed and waiting an hour before the Alpha arrives, too nervous for anything more than a cup of bitter coffee.

He flinches when Jack gets out of the car and comes up to the porch to get him, his shadow growling at the overbearing scent of the other Alpha invading his space. Hannibal’s space. He doesn't invite Jack in, just locks the door behind him and nods that he’s ready to go.

Jack’s face looks etched from stone, all hard lines and down-turned mouth, and he frowns when Will leans against the passenger door, putting as much distance between himself and the Alpha as he can in the confinement of the car.

'How are you?' he asks, glaring at his tense form. Will pulls his glasses from his jacket and slips them on; another layer of protection between himself and the outside world.

'Fine.'

‘You seem different,’ Jack persists. Will clenches his jaw to keep from baring his teeth at him. Settles for pinching the bridge of his nose, instead.

‘Didn’t sleep well,’ he mutters, and Jack nods slowly, but he’s not done, yet.

‘You’ve changed your shampoo,’ he says, prompting Will to glance over and quirk an eyebrow in question. The Alpha shrugs. ‘You smell different.’

‘Didn’t think I’d be going out for a few days,’ Will says, a dark purr inside his mind at the idea of making Jack feel guilty, even just for a moment, and hurting him with it. ‘Don’t worry; I’ve got my Beta spray with me.’

‘You don’t smell Omegan,’ Jack replies. ‘You just smell like Dr Lecter.’

‘Do I?’ Will feigns quiet surprise, muted enough that the Alpha won’t be suspicious. ‘I just like the smell.’

‘Your eyes aren’t as gold as they used to be,’ Jack continues. ‘And your scent is duller.’

‘New meds,’ Will mutters, ducking his head because he is not having this conversation with this Alpha. ‘Why the sudden interest, Jack?’

‘You don't think I was interested before?’ Jack replies. 'I'm responsible for you, Will.'

Will rolls his eyes.

‘I’m fine.’

The Alpha sighs, his leather gloves creaking as he grips the steering wheel.

‘Fine?'

Fine.’

‘Alright, then.’ Jack turns back to the road and that's that. Pleasantries over. He's fulfilled his duties as the Alpha responsible for the Omega in his care. Will fights back a snort and stares out of the window.

They arrive at the theatre, and Will is grateful that the show Hannibal took him to see was hosted somewhere else; he doesn't want to taint his memories of that night. He stays close to Jack's side, ascending the steps to the center stage as the forensics team move away. Giving him space to do what he does best. Think like a killer.

'The victim is Douglas Wilson,' Jack says. 'A member of the Baltimore Metropolitan Orchestra; brass section. Trombone player.'

Will leaves the Alpha's side to circle the body, his shadow purring at the precision with which the cello neck has been inserted into Mr Wilson's throat, perfectly balanced against the chords.

'He was killed shortly after his last performance,' Jack continues. 'Blunt force trauma to the back of the head.'

'His killer brought him here to... put on a show,' Will says, glancing up at the stage lights and the backdrop. He steps backwards, his head lowering as the dark current rises, pulling him into the memories. They are comforting... somewhat familiar... An Alpha did this... Will's throat tightens around a whine of longing as he chases the memories etched into the air, sucking them down with a slow, deep breath that smells like blood. Like life.

Jack narrows his eyes at the Omega.

'So, is it me, or is it getting easier for you to look?' he asks.

Will sighs. The moment shatters, the violence slicing at him as his shadow slips away, leaving him open to the pain, and his voice shakes as he replies,

'I tell myself it's purely an intellectual exercise,' he says. He ignores the concerned look from Beverly Katz and shakes a couple of heat suppressants out; he's getting another headache.

'Well, in the narrow view of forensics, that's exactly what it is,' Jack says. Will clenches his teeth to keep from growling at him.

'It's not any easier, Jack,' he snaps. He knocks the tablets back and dry swallows them, his stomach writhing. 'Shake it off, keep on looking...'

Jack stares at the dead man, at the exposed vocal chords and broken jaw.

'Good.' The Alpha prowls closer to Will, getting right up into his space as the Omega lowers his head in submission. Jack's breath pushes his scent over Will's face, reminding him who owns him, who's in charge here. Him, not Will. 'You shake it off. Get to work,' he says. Jerks his head to Beverly, telling her to leave. 'We'll come back in when you're ready for us.'

Will waits, alone on the stage, whipped raw and freezing. The current of violence rises around him and his shadow stirs with it, coiling up his legs and spreading across his ribs as he wades into the dark stream. Warmth trickles through him, the darkness licking his wounds, healing him, protecting him. He's not Will anymore... Not anyone... And then, he's...

An Alpha... A predator... Powerful... I can provide for my mate... I will kill for you...

Time slows. He knows how the throat was cut because he did it. He forced the neck of the cello down. He drew the bow across the chords.

My sound...

He can hear clapping, slow at first, then faster and faster. He looks up into the audience and fear licks up his spine.

Garrett Jacob Hobbs...

My first mate... my Alpha... I got inside your head, and you got inside mine...

Will swallows, his hands shaking on the bow. He can't make himself drop it, though. He wants to play, wants to show what he's capable of. How far he's come. His potential.

I'm doing this for you... I want to impress you, so that you'll bond me...

Hobbs lowers his chin, smiling as their shadows reach for each other, blending and twisting and kissing in the cold, still air between them. Heat rolls through Will's body and he shifts as slick wets the back of his boxers.

Soon...

***

'Played him like a fiddle.'

Price's voice drags Will back to the present. He's sat on a spare table, pushed against the cabinet so that he's out of the way as Beverly and her team work. They all lean over Mr Wilson, inspecting the deconstructed instrument that he is.

'Along with rosin powder, we found sodium carbonate, sulfur dioxide, lye and olive oil in the wounds.' Beverly looks round at Will as she speaks; details help him to reconstruct, so she's giving him details.

'What is the deal with the olive oil?' Zeller asks.

'Sure wasn't making salad,' Price replies, grimacing at the body again.

'He removed anything non-muscular or fatty from around the vocal folds,' Zeller continues. 'The chords themselves were treated with a sulfur dioxide solution.'

'The sulfur dioxide had the effect of hardening the vocal chords,' Price explains, following Beverly's lead and directing the facts to Will, to help him do what it is that he does.

Will nods, his mouth wet with spit as bile scratches his throat.

'Made them easier to play,' he whispers. The current washes through him and he sneers at the trombonist. 'Had to open you up to get a decent sound out of you.'

Zeller gapes at him; reconstructing is one thing, but that's as if the killer is in the room with them. Even Price and Beverly look round. Will shivers, hollow as the tide pulls back and abandons him. He ducks his head, twisting his hands together in his lap. Fuck...

'You pick it up and can't play it, he'll put you down and play you,' Beverly says, drawing the focus away from Will. He's grateful; his skull is filled with razors and every movement shakes them around. He scrubs his hands over his face, wondering if it might be worth gauging out his eyes.

'He took the time to whiten the vocal chords before playing them,' Zeller says, returning to the body.

Will shakes his head and sits back.

'It's not about whitening them, it was about, er, increasing elasticity,' he explains. My design...

Beverly nods.

'He treated the vocal chords the same way you treat catgut string.' At Price's questioning eyebrows, she rolls her eyes. 'Yes, I play the violin.'

Ignoring the pain shooting through his body, Will gets up and comes closer so that he look down at his creation. At the killer's creation.

'This takes a steady hand,' he mutters. He wants to be useful; this discomfort has to be for something, right? 'A confidence... He's killed before.'

'Like this?' Price asks, but Will shakes his head.

'No, not like this... This is a skilled musician... trying a new instrument.' His shadow purrs, winding between his legs like a cat, and he lists closer to the offering...

Realizes what he's doing and pulls back, blinking to ground himself. He needs to go. Needs to... He needs to call Hannibal. Needs to see him.

Grimacing an apology at Beverly, Price and Zeller, Will ducks out of the office. He hurries down the hall and escapes into the first bathroom he can find, locking himself in the far cubicle and sinking down onto the seat. That was too close... Katz and her Betas are worried; he can smell it in their scent, see it in the way they exchange glances when they think he isn't watching...

Will sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose to ease some of the pressure in his forehead. He's been having a lot of headaches recently, and they seem to be getting worse. He wants to ask Hannibal about them again, but his Alpha's already said it's just stress...

Another sigh, another face rub. Will grinds the heels of his hands into his eye sockets until colors explode over his eyelids. Just stress, nothing he can't handle... Everyone gets stressed sometimes; he doesn't need to be such an Omega about it.  

He lets himself out of the cubicle and fills a sink with cold water, dunking his face in it to cool down. Sweat dampens his armpits and makes his shirt cling to the base of his back. They've never been able to get the heating right in this building...

He calls Hannibal on his way to the car, and the Alpha picks up after two rings.

'Hello, Will.'

Will smiles and rotates his stiff neck, a purr slipping up from his throat as warmth spreads up from his belly.

'Hannibal.'

'Is everything alright?' Hannibal asks, careful to keep his tone mild, not hungry. Less than sixty hours... You're dependant on me, Will. Have you started hearing screams yet?

Will hums as he unlocks his car, releasing a slow breath once he's behind the wheel.

'I just, er...' He coughs and rubs the back of his head. I need to see you. 'I was wondering what you know about the cello.'

***

'Among the first musical instruments were flutes,' Hannibal says, flicking through one of his history books until he finds the illustration he wants. 'Carved from human bone.' He places the book on his desk for Will to see, and taps the page with the drawing. Will pushes away from one of the mezzanine pillars and comes closer, hugging his elbows to keep from throwing himself on his Alpha. Hannibal hasn't touched him yet, just stepped back to allow him into the office, and he doesn't know if it would be welcome.

'This murder was a performance,' he says, biting off each word through the tension locking his jaw shut. Hannibal looks off towards the fire crackling in the hearth, his hands in his pockets so as not to assume his Omega wants contact.

'Every life is a piece of music,' he muses. 'Like music, we are finite events. Unique arrangements. Sometimes harmonious, sometimes dissonant.'

Will snorts and settles for stroking his hand across the back of Hannibal's chair, the smooth leather and faint Alpha smell making his fingertips tingle. Hannibal watches him, pleased that Will is slowly marking each piece of furniture in the office with his own scent.

'Sometimes, not worth hearing again,' the Omega says grimly.

'He's a poet and a psychopath,' Hannibal says, quirking an eyebrow. A rare combination.   

'And a craftsman,' Will adds. 'He was shrinking and tanning the vocal chords.'

Hannibal follows as his mate moves around the desk, hunting him step by step, both of them circling as they work together to catch the musician.

'Like turning iron wire into musical steel string,' he says. He stops and looks over at Will. 'Was there olive oil?'

Will looks back, a frown creasing his brow.

'Yes.'

Hannibal nods.

'Whatever sound he was trying to produce, it was an authentic one. Olive oil hasn't been used in the production of catgut for over a century. It was said to increase the life of the strings, and create a sweeter, more melodic sound.'

Will considers this, but he's already moving his head to shake.

'No... I hear what he was playing behind my eyes when I close them,' he says. It wasn't melodic. It was... a mating call.

Hannibal narrows his eyes at the way Will's pulse jumps in his throat.

'What do you see behind closed eyes?' he asks softly. Will glances at him, his face haunted. Garrett Jacob Hobbs stares at him from the audience, eyes filmed with death, skin shrunken and tattered from bullet wounds.

Will swallows.

'I... see myself,' he lies. I see the killer I could become.

Hannibal waits, but Will looks away, missing the glimmer in his dark eyes. You see your dark shadow.

'You said the killer was performing,' he says, offering Will a distraction. 'Who was he performing for?'

Will frowns; the answer is just out of reach, leaving him on his toes, aching and desperate to know.

'I don't know,' he growls. 'A patron of the arts? A fellow musician? Or... another killer?'

Hannibal tilts his head, black fire snapping in his eyes. Remembers the way his rival Alpha's hungry gaze lingered on Will... I've been wondering when you'd strike.

'It's a serenade,' he says quietly. Will grimaces, drawing closer to Hannibal as his skin starts to hurt; the Alpha is unhappy, angry about something. He wants to comfort him.

'This isn't how he kills,' he says. 'Normally, he doesn't kill for an audience.'

Hannibal looks at the floor so that his anger isn't directed to the worried Omega. He must tread carefully; with Will so close to heat, he cannot afford to scare him into the arms of another.

'And you believe he risked getting caught for a serenade?' he asks. How very bold and daring of you, Tobias.

'I believe he wants to show someone how well he plays,' Will says, his shadow adding a dark purr to his voice, and he jolts as it clicks into place. 'He's courting an Omega,' he whispers. ‘Someone he thinks will be impressed by his… talent.’

Hannibal looks up, his chest squeezing painfully tight around his heart at the awe in Will's voice. Yes, he thinks, anger raging through him, lending strength to his muscles, giving him the speed and agility he needs to fight. He’s courting you, Will.

He growls, his eyes burning red with the urge to rut for his Omega. To fight for him. Kill for him.

Fuck... Will whimpers at the sound, his insides pulsing at the murderous look on his Alpha's face. Hannibal's lip curls back from his teeth and he strikes before Will can even see what's happening. He feels Hannibal's strong fingers in his hair, grabbing the back of his head, and then he's yanked forwards, crushed against a hard chest as the Alpha claims his mouth in a bruising kiss. Will melts against him, his shadow rearing up and crashing into the waves of darkness rolling from Hannibal, striking a match inside his chest and burning away all memory of the murder, the other Alpha... anything but this, the feel of Hannibal's hands on his skin, Hannibal's lips on his face, Hannibal's teeth in his neck...

'Yesss...' he hisses, dropping his head back to bare his throat as he clings to the other man's hips, rocking forwards to rub against him. 'Hannibal... Hannibal... Alpha...'

'You're mine, Will,' Hannibal says, tearing at his mate's shirt and laying his skin bare so that he can litter it with kisses, nipping and sucking until the creamy flesh blushes red. 'Say it.'

'I'm yours,' Will gasps, stumbling backwards when Hannibal pushes him towards the desk. 'I'm yours... I'm yours.' He pulls Hannibal's face down so that he can kiss him again, dizzy with the need for Hannibal to be inside him. He pushes at his belt, but he can't remember how it works, and he snarls in frustration, scratching at his own belly to get it gone. He needs it gone, needs it away so that he can be open for his Alpha, filled up with him and stained until he's owned.

'Mine,' Hannibal breathes, sliding his hands down Will's front and lacing their fingers together, keeping him from hurting himself. He stares into Will's glassy blue eyes, into his wide, sightless pupils. 'I've got you.'

'Hannibal... Hannibal, in, please... please...' Will's voice cracks with desperation, the sound of it tearing at Hannibal's chest. He pulls the Omega's boxers down at the same time as his trousers, shoving everything to Will's knees before he turns and pushes him, face first, onto the polished wood of the table. Will's nails rasp across the surface and he grinds back against Hannibal's erection, trying to get the Alpha to move faster, gasping and mewling, using every sound he can think of to get Hannibal to mount him.

Please... please... this, please... Will shudders as Hannibal's warm hand rests on his backside, so close to his entrance, where he needs his knot. He spreads his legs as wide as they'll go when Hannibal nudges them apart, and groans out a sob at the feel of his Alpha's fingers gathering up the slick leaking out of him. He needs it... needs it... please... please...

Hannibal pulls his erection free of his suit, purring at the pleasure of it as he rubs hot, tingling slick over the aching length. He lines himself up, holding Will steady with a hand on the base of his back, and begins to push, his breath hitching at the moment of resistance, the tightness and then the sudden plunge as he breaches the ring of muscle and buries himself inside his mate's body. Will shudders again, an endless stream of whimpers and sharp breaths huffing across the tabletop, each sound tugging at Hannibal's gut, every whine a kiss to soothe his ego. He takes his Omega hard, digging his fingers into Will's hips and hauling him back onto him, rutting with dark fury at the idea of anyone else touching Will, let alone bonding him.

Will grinds his forehead onto the desk, crying out every time Hannibal slams into him. It's so good, so right... His skin is bruising where Hannibal holds him but there's nothing he wants more than to see every inch of his body marked by his Alpha. So, he calls for him, flexing his shoulders, sweat rolling down to settle in small of his back, his throat tightening around a high pitched whine designed to trigger a rut.

'Will...' Hannibal falls forwards, the Omega's mating call punching through his chest and taking him by the spine, hauling him down to close his lips around the sweet, burning nape of his neck. He releases Will's hips to pin his wrists, knocking the lamp, books and pens onto the floor as the desk tilts, again and again, creaking with every thrust.

Tears roll down Will's cheeks when the Alpha touches his nape. He's coming, he's coming... Fuck... Pleasure breaks him apart, shattering him into red and gold, his ears ringing. He bears down to take Hannibal's growing knot as far as he can, muscles eager to pull his seed deep. Screws his eyes tight as he judders, locked in place, grey spots swarming because he can't remember how to breathe.

Hannibal snarls again, Will's body squeezing him almost hard enough to hurt. Everything tightens and he scratches deep welts into the Omega's forearms as he spills his release inside his body. He turns his head just in time to bite down into Will's uninjured shoulder, his growls rumbling through the silent office when blood pours from the wound. Nobody else can touch you, Will.

'Mine,' he whispers, speaking into the torn flesh before he licks it clean, kissing it and sucking down the coppery taste of his partner.

Will hums, lying perfectly still beneath him, smiling when Hannibal begins to purr. He twines their fingers together and sighs, rolling his head down to bare his nape for his Alpha.

'Yours.'

***

When Franklyn comes to see him for an impromptu therapy session two days later, he is beside himself with worry.

'Do you remember when I said that Tobias was saying very dark things?' he says, blurting it out before Hannibal has even had a chance to sit. Hannibal, however, doesn't allow his irritation to show, and merely twitches an eyebrow as he unbuttons his jacket to take his seat.

'I made note of it,' he replies, crossing one long leg over the other. Franklyn nods, sweat beading on his forehead.

'Well, he said he wanted to... cut someone's throat and play it like a violin,' he says, his voice shaking. He sits forwards, eyes bright with tears. 'They found somebody, whose throat had been cut and played like a violin!'

Hannibal regards him, dark eyes betraying nothing of the anger still burning inside at the idea of the other Alpha's display.

'So, you think Tobias killed that man at the symphony?' he asks.

'I don't know!' Franklyn searches the walls for answers, his shoulders hunching as the undeniable truth bears down upon him. He sighs. 'If I do... do I have to report it?'

'Do you have a reason not to?' Hannibal says. It would certainly make things easier if Tobias were simply arrested.

'What if I'm wrong?' Franklyn whines, so desperate to believe the best in his mate. Hannibal tilts his head, denying him the comfort.

'What if you're right?'

'I'm always wrong,' Franklyn says, giving a wide shrug. He whines and rubs damp palms against his trouser legs. 'I don't know... why would he say something like that to me?'

'Why do you think?' Hannibal asks quietly, and he watches cold realization creep over the Beta's face. Franklyn tries to wet his lips but his tongue is too dry. All he can do is stare at the floor, lost to the shadows of his mind.

''Cos he knows I'd tell you.'

And he wants me to know, Hannibal thinks. He's challenging me for Will.

***

In ancient times, an Alpha had no choice but to challenge another and fight to the death for an Omega; it was a necessary part of the courting ritual, designed to ensure that only strong genes were pass on. Despite modern society's aversion to such overt displays of violence, Alpha on Alpha killings, either as a dominance challenge or for the right to mate with an Omega, is not treated as murder. Hannibal knows this, and, as he steps up to the Chordophone strings and cello shop, he thinks Tobias might be counting on it as well.

Catching the bell over the door on the way to ensure he can enter, unheard, Hannibal pauses to listen to the lilting, swaying notes of the violin coming from the back of the shop. It speaks of longing, filled with hope and determination... Feelings towards Will, perhaps? Black fire surges in his chest, and he feels his eyes itch as they pulse red.

He moves, unnoticed, into the shop, and the music continues. His scent, however, announces his arrival, and the playing swiftly stops. The air stirs, and soft, controlled footsteps approach. Hannibal looks up to see the other Alpha in the doorway, all dark, smooth skin and sharp, calculating eyes, holding a violin in one hand, a bow in the other. 

'You're Franklyn's therapist; Dr Lecter,' he says, by way of introductions. Then, because it would be rude not to; 'Nice to see you again.'

His voice is flat; monotonous. Devoid of emotion, just as he is.

'Is it Tobias?' Hannibal asks, as if he doesn't already know.

'Yes.'

Yes, you are... Hannibal thinks. I'm going to feed Will your heart.

'Your strings are all gut,' he says, gesturing to the instruments around him.

'I also carry steel and polymer strings, if you prefer,' Tobias says, his voice laced with disdain at the very idea of playing with anything but gut. He moves to return his violin to its case by the cash register as he speaks, and Hannibal follows.

'I prefer gut,' he replies. 'Harps strung with gut still make music after two thousand years.' He plucks a cello as he speaks, its bass note ringing out in the tense, crackling silence.

'I didn't hear you ring the bell,' Tobias says. Hannibal tilts his head.

'I didn't want you to stop playing,' he says, somewhat truthfully. 'Was it an original composition?'

'Something I've been writing,' Tobias replies. He fixes Hannibal with his curious, cold stare. 'Do you compose?'

'I discover,' Hannibal says, and he begins to close the distance. 'Can't impose traditional composition on an instrument that's inherently freeform.'

Tobias narrows his eyes.

'What instrument would that be?'

'The Theremin,' Hannibal says. 'It can generate any pitch throughout its range, even those between conventional notes.'

'Hm... So can a violin, or a trombone,' Tobias replies, and his dark shadow draws its lips back to snarl. He is all but throwing it in Hannibal's face. I did it. I killed that man and left him displayed for Will to see. To understand. My gift to him.

Hannibal considers him. Considers the threat. Considers Tobias's strength and speed.

'It seems we're both comfortable playing between conventional notes,' he says lightly, and Tobias narrows his cold eyes again, because he knows that Hannibal knows, but he is also aware that they are too evenly matched.

You believe we are, anyway, Hannibal thinks, and adjusts his energy just slightly, so as not to appear overly threatening. An older, warier Alpha.

'I hear the symphony's looking for a new trombonist,' he says.

'Altogether horrible what happened,' Tobias muses, moving from behind the counter to circle Hannibal, effectively putting himself between the rival Alpha and the door. Even if he isn't quite ready to attack, he's not about to let Hannibal leave. Not yet.

'Not altogether,' Hannibal replies, turning so that he always keeps Tobias in his line of sight. 'It's an unfortunate way to leave the symphony, yes, but I can't help thinking the orchestra will be better for it.'

'At least the brass section,' Tobias quips, with a smug flick of his head, and Hannibal's darkness growls. Reckless. You could never protect my Will.

However, he forces himself to smile, playing along, and Tobias relishes in his own self-gratulation.

'What brings you here looking for gut?' he asks brightly.

'My harpsichord needs new strings,' Hannibal replies, stepping closer again. 'It's making an awful noise.' Time to extend the invitation. 'Perhaps you could help.'

***

Fifty-four hours, nine minutes, seven seconds…

Will tries to ignore the squirming, gnawing pain in his gut, hunched over his desk in front of the big window as night falls outside, creating a new set of lures for the local trout. It’s been just over two days since he saw Hannibal; since the Alpha fucked him across his desk. Since he smothered him with his scent and sank his teeth into his shoulder, tearing the flesh and marking him, seven inches too far from where he should have been bitten. Where he needed to be bitten…

The silence is oppressive; all-consuming, a deafening reminder of how very alone he is. The back of his neck prickles but he refuses to stop and check it – this part of the lure creation is delicate, and his skin is just sensitive today, the material of even his softest jersey sweater grating across his nape like a steel comb. His body can’t decide if it’s hot or cold, so he’s wearing a gilet over the top, but he’s rolled his sleeves up. The back of his hair is damp with sweat, but every now and then, a shiver wracks him.

Creating lures is normally relaxing. Some dark satisfaction in knowing that he’s crafting something that’s going to take a life. My design…

I wish Hannibal was here.

The thought cuts him, and Will has to work hard to keep his hands steady as he winds the thread tight around the end. It’s like a knife between the ribs, piercing his heart and making it skip a beat. The back of his neck screams and his insides cramp as he clenches around nothing.

Will breathes slowly, counting the number of times he winds the thread. Squashes the feelings down as he calmly reaches for the little scissors and –

A scratching sound catches his attention. He stops and looks over towards the fireplace. The dogs are all lying in their baskets around the mantlepiece, as close to the heater as they can, but the sound isn’t coming from them.

An animal chirrups. There’s more scratching. Something’s stuck… There’s an animal trapped in his chimney. The knife in his heart cuts deeper and Will gets up, stepping over the dog beds to bend under the mantlepiece, peering up into the darkness.

It’s trapped. There’s something trapped, scared, possibly hurt, and Will has to get it out. He has to. Has to.

He has to get it out, now.

Two hours later, there’s a gaping hole in his chimney breast, brick dust all over the lounge and a worried Alana Bloom hovering behind him.

‘What kind of animal was it?’ she asks, frowning at his rescue attempts.

‘It, er, might’ve been a raccoon,’ Will replies. He can’t bring himself to turn around and face her; her scent is laced with worry, adding a salty tang to her sweet caramel tone. He’s sweating from the effort of smashing open the chimney breast; he can feel his sweater sticking to the base of his back.

‘“Might’ve been?”’ Alana asks, and she definitely sounds worried, now. Will huffs a bitter laugh.

‘By the time I’d knocked a hole in the chimney, it climbed out the top,’ he explains, turning his head half towards her without looking at her face. From the corner of his eye, he sees her shift awkwardly, her hands rammed deep into the pockets of her red coat.

‘Well… at least it got out,’ she offers, and Will nods. Then he frowns and turns to look at her, fiddling with the hammer still in his hands.

‘What are you doing out?’ he asks, the itching of his eyes suggesting it’s too late to be a social call. Itching eyes must be because he’s tired, which means it must be late.

‘I thought I’d come over, make some noise… shoo away any predators at your door,’ Alana replies, watching as Will nods and wanders back towards the broken chimney breast. ‘Looks like you’re making plenty of noise all by yourself.’

Will frowns at this, at the obviousness of the lie, and carefully sets the hammer down on the dust and broken plaster-strewn mantlepiece.

‘You’ve avoided being in a room alone with me… essentially since I met you,’ he says, turning to face her and then drawing closer, a moth to a flame. Heat rolls through his body, sending tingles racing from his scalp down to his fingertips, and he can taste her scent on his tongue, on the glands in the roof of his mouth… He wants to taste her

‘You were smooth about it,’ he continues, dipping his head to move past her, forcing her to turn so that her scent rises in the air again. He wants to show her the nape of his neck; is it flushed? It feels hot and swollen… aching to be bitten…

I trust you. You could bond me… If he won’t… I need it…

Alana grins, a pale blush rising across her smooth cheeks.

‘Evidently not smooth enough,’ she replies, tracking him as the Omega closes the distance further. Does he always smell this good? Like open fields, fresh cakes and lazy summer evenings… Like home

‘And now you’re making house-calls,’ Will says, holding the back of his jeans in a desperate attempt to keep from grabbing Alana up and sucking the breath from her in a hungry kiss. She smells so good and he’s so close…

‘Just a drive-by on my way home,’ Alana replies, and Will can’t help but glance at the chimney again – I have to get it out – before he’s drawn back to the Beta, drowning in the crystal blue of her eyes, the softness of her face and the kindness in her lips.

I miss you…

‘Since you’re not my patient,’ Alana adds, savoring the sweet, vanilla musk smell pouring out of Will. She doesn’t get much of a chance to see him when he’s not smothering himself in Beta spray… He should leave it off more often… She leans closer, marveling at how bright the coppery gold is around the edges of his blue eyes, how soft his brown curls look… the heat radiating from his body… Practically edible

‘No… I’m not,’ Will agrees, his breath catching at the desire on Alana’s face.

You want me… You’ve always wanted me… You can have me… Take me…Bond me…

He dips his head, reaching out to cup the side of her face and stroke his thumb over her cheek, copying his own favorite gesture. Alana is so warm and so here; so comforting. There’s mint on her breath as they share the air in the space between them. Her hair is silky soft and smells like roses; it slips through his fingers like water, leaving a trace of her scent on his skin in its wake. I’m sorry, Hannibal…

Alana lifts her face to meet him and then Will’s kissing her, his hot lips meeting hers, his scent in her nose and his hair beneath her hand as she slides her fingers through his curls, massaging his hairline because he’s an Omega and it will feel good to him and he smells so unbelievably good when he’s aroused…

Will snatches air in the half second they’re apart and then he kisses her again; their lips meet in perfect synchronization, giving and taking in turns, heads tilting and scents rising, thickening with the musk of desire. This… this…

And then Alana hesitates, ducking her head and placing her hands on Will’s shoulders to slow him down as he sways closer, trying to touch all of her, and the pain of it makes his blood run cold. No…

‘I’m confused,’ Alana mumbles, but she can’t help but slip her hands down, rubbing her palms over Will’s hard chest. The heat is pouring off him and her gut tightens, liquid fire pooling in her belly before sliding lower, making her ache for him.

‘You need to stop thinking so much,’ Will purrs, nuzzling her forehead so that he can soak up the smell of her. He needs this… Needs a mate… Now

‘I can stop the thinking if we’re not…’ Alana mutters, her heart skipping a beat at the low whine catching in Will’s throat. ‘… but if we’re…’

‘Intimate,’ Will whispers, drawing back just enough that Alana can look into his eyes. Blue on blue; endless oceans of need.

‘The way that I am in relationships…’ Alana tries again. ‘Not that this is a relationship; it’s just a kiss – a great kiss – but I…’ She trails off as Will whines again, still stroking her cheek, trying to encourage another kiss. She swallows, guilt dampening her arousal. ‘The way that I am isn’t compatible with…’

‘With the way I am,’ Will finishes, almost growling it. Because I’m a fucking Omega.

‘I wouldn’t be good for you,’ Alana says, and the moment shatters, icy nails scratching at Will’s nape, hurting so much he has to grit his teeth against the sound of pain his body wants to make. Alana misinterprets it as frustration, and continues, ‘You wouldn’t be good for me. And I wouldn’t be able to stop analyzing because I have this professional curiosity about you…’

‘I am not your patient…’ Will growls. He can’t deal with the pain. The cold. He kisses her again, chasing the heat dwindling in his body. The touch of her lips fires him up again and he deepens the kiss, every inch of him buzzing at the touch of her tongue on his…

And then Alana breaks the touch and ducks her head again, putting space between them.

‘If I were my patient,’ she says, doubt and regret clouding her eyes when she looks at him. ‘My advice to me… would be don’t do this.’ She grimaces. ‘I have to follow my own advice.’

She can see how much it hurts him, but Will nods. Chews his lip and nods again to show that he understands; that he accepts her decision, even as a whimper claws at his throat. I need you…

‘I’m gonna go ahead and go now,’ Alana continues, her eyes bright with tears at the pain she’s causing him. ‘Goodnight, Will.

Fear locks him in place as Alana pulls away from him. Will forces himself to nod once more – he doesn’t want her to feel guilty, it’s not her fault he’s so lonely. He can’t help but watch as she heads out into the night, leaving him alone again. Vulnerable. Rejected. Unmated.

Fire chases ice up and down his spine, stabbing him in the gut, his teeth chattering as he shakes, his jeans sticking to slick-wet thighs.

He looks over at the chimney. At the gaping wound in the brickwork. The missing pieces.

He needs Hannibal.

***

‘More wine?’

Hannibal rises and moves around the dining table, picking up the carafe and swirling it to release the flavor before leaning over Tobias’s place setting and topping up his glass.

‘A late harvest Vidal from Linden,’ he explains, ignoring the way Tobias watches his every move.

‘Oh, Virginia,’ the rival Alpha says, aiming for polite, sophisticated conversation. ‘I thought it was French.’

That’s because you’re a snob, Hannibal thinks, though he merely offers Tobias a small, tight-lipped smile.

‘The Virginia wine revolution is upon us,’ he jokes, returning to his seat. Then, growing serious, ‘I apologize for being so blunt, Tobias, but I have to ask: did you kill that trombonist?’

Tobias tilts his head, cold eyes narrowing.

‘Do you really have to ask?’

‘No; just changing the subject,’ Hannibal replies. Tobias’s eyes flash red.

‘Franklyn gave you my message.’

Hannibal smooths sauce from his knife onto his fork, choosing his words carefully.

‘The murder is being investigated by the FBI,’ he says mildly. ‘They’re going to find you.’

‘Let them,’ Tobias sneers. Hannibal raises an eyebrow at him, raising his fork to his mouth.

‘You want to get caught?’

‘I want them to try,’ Tobias says. ‘They may investigate me because I own a string shop. They’ll send men to investigate and I’ll kill them. Then I’ll find Franklyn and kill him. Then I would disappear.’

Hannibal chews thoughtfully and then swallows his mouthful. He reaches for his wine, holding it up by the stem and inspecting the honey colored wine.

‘Don’t kill Franklyn,’ he says lightly, taking a drink to accompany the mouthful of crab. The flavors melt beautifully onto his tongue; he only wishes his dinner guest was someone more… pleasant.

‘But I’ve been looking forward to it,’ Tobias whines. He sits forwards, locking eyes with Hannibal, allowing hunger to sharpen his voice as he adds, ‘Actually, I was going to kill you, and your Omega.’

‘Of course you were,’ Hannibal replies. He doesn’t feign surprise; it would be insulting. Doesn’t allow his rage to show in his even tone. ‘We’re lean. Lean animals yield the toughest gut, and I’m a rival Alpha.’ He watches the way Tobias’s jaw tightens at the acknowledgement. At the lack of fear. ‘What stopped you from wanting to kill us?’ Hannibal continues, returning to his dinner. ‘Or have you stopped?’

‘I stopped wanting to kill him when I followed you one night, out of town,’ Tobias replies, and Hannibal slows eating at the unease coiling in his stomach. ‘To a lonely road… to a bus yard…’

Tobias leans forwards, his eyes burning crimson as he stares deep into Hannibal’s dark, impenetrable gaze. His shadow reaches across the table, merging and melding with Hannibal’s darkness. A snake and a dragon, coiling together…

‘I thought; if he accepts youWell… That’s the perfect Omega for me.’

Hannibal allows a growl to deepen his voice and his darkness pulls back, gathering itself in preparation for an attack. They are not alike, not even slightly, and Will is so much better than this impudent child.

‘You’re reckless, Tobias.’

‘I’m not going to tell anyone what I saw you do, and do well,’ Tobias replies, sitting back in his chair, satisfied that he’s unnerved Hannibal. He thinks he has the upper hand, which makes him cocky. He watches as Hannibal takes another sip of wine, and can’t help but add, ‘So my recklessness doesn’t concern you.’

‘It concerns me because you won’t be drawing attention just to yourself,’ Hannibal replies, rising and moving to the dresser. You’ll be drawing attention to me, and to Will, and I won’t allow that.

Tobias stands as well, tension thrumming through him until the room crackles with it; a whispered echo of a primal roar.  

‘I could use a mate. Someone who understands me,’ he says, meeting Hannibal square in the eyes. ‘Someone who… thinks like I do and can see the world and the people in it the way I do.’

‘I know exactly how you feel,’ Hannibal replies, meeting the challenge without flinching. ‘But Will is mine.’ He turns away, proving his greater strength by showing Tobias his back. I have nothing to fear from you.

‘Tell me; why did you invite me here for dinner?’ Tobias asks, baring containing the growl at Hannibal’s rebuff. ‘It wasn’t just to restring your harpsichord.’

‘I was going to kill you,’ Hannibal says simply, and Tobias immediately looks at his plate. Hannibal sniffs a laugh. ‘I didn’t poison you, Tobias; I wouldn’t do that to the food.’

The silence thickens between them. Two sets of eyes lock onto each other. Muscles tighten, coiled, ready to spring.

Any… moment… N-

The doorbell chimes, but neither look away from each other. They can’t.  

‘Expecting someone?’ Tobias asks.

‘No,’ Hannibal replies. He hears the click as the front door begins to open. That can only mean one person, and that that one person is very upset. So, he risks an attack to his flank because Tobias doesn’t matter right now, abandoning his rival and striding into the entrance hall.

Will all but falls through the front door, his coat already off so that he can shake snow from the sleeve. He’s sweating and shaking, his cheeks flushed and eyes bright. He needs Hannibal; needs his scent, needs his seed, needs his teeth.

Needs his forgiveness.

Hannibal feels a jolt in the base of his spine when he sees Will. He can taste his musk, thick with desire, heavy with prodromal hormones. What happened to him?

He doesn’t have long to wonder; Will speaks the moment he looks up and sees him.

‘I kissed Alana Bloom,’ the Omega says, his voice shaking. He’s already bowing his head, baring his throat to his Alpha in a submissive gesture designed to placate him, and he tosses his coat to the side, oblivious to Hannibal’s distaste for such mess, before going straight past him and into the dining room.

Hannibal turns, schooling his features so as not to betray his worry, despite everything in him screaming his need to protect his Omega, his mate.

‘Well, come in…’ he says, turning and following close behind, ready to defend him if Tobias is still inside. He doubts it, but one can never be too careful. Fortunately, the younger Alpha is not as foolhardy as his recklessness suggests, and has slipped away into the night, no doubt to plan his attack at a more convenient time.

Will’s insides are churning, and his nape is on fire. He can’t stop shivering, even though his blood is boiling in his veins. He can hear his heart thundering in his ears, feel his pulse in his fingertips, his throat… I need you. I need this. I can’t be alone anymore…

He slows when he sees two place setting, guilt flooding him. Fuck… I’m ruining his evening… Jealousy snaps at its heels, and he has the insane, irrational urge to spin and grab his Alpha by the throat, slam him back against the wall and bite at his face, demand to know who he was eating with that wasn’t Will.

‘You have a guest?’ he asks, glaring at the offending chair before glancing at the back door, frowning because it’s open and leaking cool air into the room. A guest that has just gone?

‘A colleague,’ Hannibal replies, slipping past him to check the garden. Empty. Good. ‘You just missed him.’

The savage beast inside Will rumbles its acceptance; soothed, for now. He tries to focus on the details of the scene, forcing his thoughts through syrup. The rich, heavy musk of two Alphas, half-eaten food, the half-drunk wine… His frown deepens.

‘He didn’t finish his dinner,’ he mutters. He feels drunk. Is he drunk? Is he sleepwalking?

‘An urgent call of some sort,’ Hannibal replies, closing and locking the doors. ‘He had to leave suddenly.’

Will nods, flicking his eyes from side to side, trying to control his racing heart. He can barely breathe… Please, Hannibal… Alpha… Please touch me. Tell me it’s okay… Tell me I’m yours…

Hannibal comes closer and offers Will a genuine, if deliberately sly, smile. The Omega smells delicious; a perfect accompaniment to the rich bread pudding and tart fruit he is about to serve. Desperation and panic looks good on Will; it brings out his vulnerability, and Hannibal is nothing if not a predator. And, he reasons, Will did allow someone else to touch him; it seems only fair that he be punished for a while. Aloud, though, he simply continues,

‘This benefits you, because I have dessert for two.’

He strides past his mate into the kitchen and the Omega whines softly as his Alpha denies him a touch. Will follows immediately and crosses his arms in an uncomfortable attempt to hug himself, keeping the kitchen counter between them because Hannibal has given no indication that he forgives him his trespass.

‘Tell me; what was Alana’s reaction?’ Hannibal asks, picking up a towel with which to carefully remove the dish of puddings from the oven.

Will fidgets, shifting from foot to foot, uncomfortably aware of his slick his thighs are, how sticky everything is from the fire raging in his belly. He’s drowning in fear; fear that Hannibal won’t care, that he will continue to be indifferent to Will’s affair, or that he will care and reject him for it. Cast him aside for a worthier mate…

‘She said she wouldn’t be good for me, and I wouldn’t be good for her,’ he says, pacing back and forth in a vain attempt to work off some of the stress.

‘I don’t disagree,’ Hannibal replies, busying himself with serving up the puddings, denying Will even eye contact. Perhaps he should enforce celibacy for a few weeks, just to enhance the strength of Will’s eventual heat… ‘Even if she could satisfy your need for an Alpha, she would feel an obligation to her field of study to observe you, and you would resent her for it.’

‘I know,’ Will frets, hands on his hips, frowning at the floor tiles as if they hold the answers. Not looking at Hannibal, because he knows, he knows what’s about to come next, and dreading it. Hannibal, of course, does not disappoint; does not shy away from his curiosity.

‘I’m wondering, then, why you kissed her, and felt compelled to drive an hour in the snow to tell me about it,’ he says, moving to fetch cream from the fridge. Will sighs, still pacing back and forth.

‘I wanted to kiss her since I met her; she’s very kissable.’

Hannibal grins; it’s true, though she’s not nearly as kissable as Will. However, instead of saying this, he merely carries the chilled bowl to the plates to finish dishing up.

‘You waited a long time, which suggests you were kissing her for a reason,’ he persists. ‘In addition to wanting to.’ He glances up at Will and waits. Were you missing me, Will?

Will hesitates, chewing his lip before answering.

‘I heard an animal trapped in my chimney,’ he admits. ‘Erm…’ Hannibal’s patient stare, paused midway through scooping up cream, is unnerving, but he can’t not tell his Alpha the truth. ‘I broke through the wall to get it out… I didn’t find anything inside…’ Hannibal adds cream to the top of the puddings, and Will continues, ‘Alana showed up, she… looked at me…’ His voice begins to shake again. Another lip chew, his brow creased with worry. ‘Maybe her face changed, I don’t know, but, um…’ He tries to swallow around the lump in his throat, feeling sweat slide down his back to soak through the waistband of his boxers. ‘She… she knew…’

Hannibal is careful not to let his face show any of the pain that Will’s fear is causing him; he keeps his eyes on his preparation when Will shakes his head, twitching with tension.

‘What did she know, Will?’ he asks softly, arranging delicate, edible flowers on top of the cream.

‘There was no animal in the chimney,’ Will says, hating the tears he can feel in his eyes. ‘It was only… in my head.’

Hannibal glances at him, watching weeks of hard work begin to blossom. The first fracture in Will’s psyche is painful to him, terrifying in its potential, but it is an essential part of the struggle that will make him so strong. So powerful. My killer… my mate. Let go of your old life, Will. Let go of everything holding you back.

He doesn’t say anything, just continues sprinkling flowers. Will shoves his hands into his pockets and comes closer, ducking his head because he’s afraid he’ll make the Alpha angry with what he’s about to say.

‘I sleepwalk… I get headaches… I am hearing things…’ His voice wobbles and drops to barely more than a whisper. ‘I feel… unstable.’

Hannibal, now silently stirring a fruit compote, looks at his mate, at the Omega who is so desperately seeking comfort from him. But he can’t, not yet. He needs to push just a little more, to widen the crack so that Will can become his true self. He must be strong for Will.

‘That’s why you kissed her; a clutch for balance,’ he says, and is rewarded by a half shrug of agreement from the trembling man. ‘You said yourself; what you do is not good for you.’

Will looks away, grinding his back teeth together.

‘Unfortunately, I am good for it.’

Hannibal finishes drizzling the sauce onto the desserts as he speaks.

‘Are you still hearing this killer’s serenade behind your eyes?’

Will huffs a bitter laugh.

‘Well, it’s our song,’ he says, and Hannibal has to fight very hard not to bare his teeth in a snarl. Instead, he simply hands Will the plate of food, his chest tickling with a purr as his mate gives a sad, tired smile of thanks and accepts it. Then, as he folds up the tea towel, he has an idea. You don’t have a song with Tobias; you have a song with me.

‘I… hesitate in telling you this,’ he begins, feigning uncertainty in order to appeal to Will’s sympathy. ‘As it borders on a violation of doctor-patient confidentiality.’ Looks up to see Will waiting, still scared, still seeking comfort and reassurance from his mate. Just a little longer. ‘A patient told me today; he suspects a friend of his may be involved with the murder at the symphony.’ He sighs, as though the decision weighs on him; in truth, he has never felt lighter. Sending Will after Tobias; knowing that his Omega will be the one to kill the rival Alpha… He suppresses a shiver of pleasure at the idea.

The murder… right… No time to wallow in his own slip towards insanity. Will puts the plate down and scrubs his face, grinding his palms into his eyes.

‘Right… erm…’ He shakes his head, trying to think through the fog. He’s so hot and the air is so thick… But he needs to concentrate… ‘Erm… what did he say about his friend?’

‘He owns a music store in Baltimore,’ Hannibal replies. ‘Specializing in string instruments.’ He watches Will’s shadow rise behind eyes, smells the smokiness it adds to his scent, and his own darkness croons to it. ‘Perhaps you should interview him,’ he suggests.

And then, perhaps you should kill him.

‘Yeah…’ Will nods, and Hannibal looks down to hide the hungry gleam in his eyes. He gestures towards the pudding.

‘Eat.’

Will snorts a laugh at the Alpha’s command, but he obediently picks up his fork and cuts through the dessert, taking a bite as instructed. The bread pudding melts onto his tongue; sweet and rich and tangy, layers upon layers of flavor, aromatic in the back of his nose so that the taste lingers even after he’s swallowed. He looks up at Hannibal, his eyes widening in surprise at how much he has packed into what seems like a simple dish.

Mmm. This is delicious.’

‘Thank you,’ Hannibal replies, inclining his head with a small, self-satisfied smile. It grows when Will takes another bite and makes another moaning sound of appreciation. After all, Will needs to keep his strength up for his approaching heat.

He leads them through into the dining room and replaces the unfinished dinner plates with dessert, pouring Will a fresh glass of wine to enjoy with the pudding. His Omega is all but twitching with the tension running through him, though he can see that Will is making an effort to eat slowly and enjoy every bite, if for no other reason than because Hannibal, his Alpha, went to the effort of cooking it. Providing for him.

He lets Will suffer for a while longer, relishing his control over him, and then breaks the silence. Sets his fork and spoon down, the sound of metal against china catching Will’s immediate attention.

‘Tell me,’ he says, clasping his hands before him and looking straight into Will’s copper-ringed eyes. The Inhibitor drops are working well. ‘How did you think I’d react to you kissing Alana Bloom?’

Will’s breath hitches and his heart squeezes out an extra, painful thump. Sweat beads on his forehead, but not from the heat ricocheting through his body. Fear snatches his words; he looks down at the demolished dessert, his hands shaking where he’s holding his cutlery. Tries to speak, but nothing comes out of his parted lips.

‘Will?’

At Hannibal’s prompt, Will glances up. He can feel himself blush, but he doesn’t let himself look away again. Hannibal deserves better.

‘I…’ He wets his lips. Swallows. ‘I wasn’t sure…’

‘You said you felt unstable,’ Hannibal says, reaching for his wine glass, taking a slow, deliberate sip of the Vidal. ‘Perhaps you were seeking stability from more than just a kiss.’

‘I didn’t do it to make you jealous,’ Will says quickly. ‘It just… happened.’ He sighs, pinching his nose in frustration. Why can’t he think? His brain is melting in his skull. Even his bones are on fire… ‘I… I wanted you,’ he confesses, and when he sighs again, he’s certain the air ripples in front of him. ‘I missed you.’

‘I know,’ Hannibal says quietly. He stands up and comes closer, allowing Will to lean sideways and nuzzle into his waistcoat. ‘And you came to find me.’

The current rises within him, sucking the tide out in his head. Is he going to pass out? Will tips out of the chair as darkness reaches for him, his hair plastered to his scalp. Sweat runs like tears down his cheeks and his insides pulse, spilling tingling slick into his boxers.

‘Alpha…’

Hannibal grabs him as the Omega falls at him. Will’s pupils are wide and sightless; the copper around his blue irises burns bright, fighting to become the gold that it should be. Will whimpers, snuggling closer, unable to find words as the prodrome takes over. His scent rises, sweet musk thick with arousal, and Hannibal groans at the idea of how good he would smell if he weren’t on suppressants.

‘Will, Will, look at me,’ he whispers, cupping each side of his Omega’s face, ignoring the way Will claws at his suit jacket, arching his spine and whining, rubbing his erection on Hannibal’s thigh as they stand up together. Hannibal purrs, stroking through Will’s wet hair, pushing it back from his face and drinking in the sight of his flushed cheeks and swollen lips. ‘Can you hear me?’

‘Alpha…’ Will forces himself to nod; if he nods, does what his Alpha wants, Hannibal will mate him. Bond him. Own him. Please… please…

Hannibal slides his hands down to Will’s throat, one hand holding him in a choke even as he squeezes his nape with the other. Will goes rigid, locked in place by Hannibal’s manipulation, panting for breath because it feels so, so good but he can’t come because it’s not the right pressure point, and his Alpha hasn’t told him he can…

All he can do is listen; listen to the dark, velvety words that flow from Hannibal’s lips into his mind, his Alpha’s breath tickling his skin and lips sending electric jolts through him every time they brush his ear.

You won’t remember this…

He’s left alone, hurting because Hannibal isn’t touching him, and he cries at the prick of a needle, but then his Alpha’s hands are on him again, his mouth is on his and it’s so good, so right and he’s crying with the need for Hannibal to be even closer. And Hannibal is there, he’s there for him, he’s taking care of him.

Will’s legs are heavy, and he stumbles twice whilst following Hannibal up to his bedroom. He purrs when his Alpha lies him down, so carefully, across the bed, crawling up to cover him with his bigger, stronger body, protecting him from the world.

‘I’ve got you,’ Hannibal whispers, stroking his cheek, unbuttoning his shirt, kissing him over and over and over until the fire is too much and the darkness is laced with gold and he can’t… he can’t hold on anymore… ‘Let go, Will. Just let go.’

I trust you, Will thinks, nodding even as numb arms come up to hold on tight to his Alpha. He sees Hannibal’s lips move again, shudders as Hannibal’s hand slips around to manipulate his neck, and then…

I’m yours…

Hannibal watches as the last vestiges of conscious thought leave Will. He continues to massage the Omega’s nape, releasing dopamine and heat hormones until Will cries with the need for release. He peels his damp cotton shirt from glistening muscles, dipping his head to kiss the drop of blood oozing up from the needle mark in his elbow, purring to reassure his mate as Will continues to whimper. Pulls Will’s trousers and slick-soaked boxers down quivering thighs, kicking off his own shoes and socks and then removing Will’s, adding everything to the growing pile on the floor.

‘You’re so strong,’ he whispers, settling between Will’s thighs so that he can rock down against the Omega’s hardness. Will’s answering whimper tears at his heart, and he rolls the tension from his shoulders, allowing Will’s arousal to wash away the regret of what’s to come for his mate. ‘You have so much potential, Will… So much greatness in you…’

Reaching down between them, he gathers up some of the sweet, smoky-tasting slick leaking from his mate’s body, licking his fingers clean to savor the change in his flavor. No longer innocent… still perfect…

He stares down into Will’s sightless eyes, into pupils blown so wide there’s barely a ring of coppery blue left around the black. His own blaze red and he snarls, the growl changing to a deep, satisfied purr when the Omega rolls his head back, baring his throat in total surrender. He nudges Will’s arms up above his head, smiling when Will crosses his wrists, arching his spine and drawing his knees up.

Mine,’ he rumbles, and the Omega nods.

Hannibal sits back and takes hold of himself, lining himself up to enter his mate’s eager, waiting body. Will balls his hands into fists, but he doesn’t lower his arms – his Alpha put him in this position, and he is entirely Hannibal’s. He isn’t aware enough to feel self-conscious of the tears rolling down his cheeks, of the wobbling lower lip and mewling sobs bubbling up from his throat as the Alpha slides inside him, torturously slowly, making him take every inch and wait. Hannibal’s gut tightens at the blisteringly hot vice around him, at the smell of Will, the sight of his submission… his helplessness…   

He moves slowly, reverently stroking Will’s hard muscles and soft hair, rasping his thumbs over the Omega’s stubble and tipping Will’s head to the side so that he can suck up the salty sweat just below his ear. He nibbles at the tender flesh as he rolls his hips, pleasure stabbing almost painfully at him at the delicious sounds his mate is making.

‘You’re mine, Will,’ he whispers, easing Will’s arms down so that the Omega can hug him, pressing their bodies flush to each other as Will wraps arms and legs tight around him, bearing down as though afraid to let Hannibal go.

‘Yours,’ the Omega promises, his voice breaking as he shudders at the feel of Hannibal inside him. ‘Yours, yours… Alpha, yours…’

‘Hannibal,’ Hannibal breathes, kissing him to soothe the sting of the rebuke. He starts to move faster, his heart racing in his chest, nose buried in the crook of Will’s hot neck as he chases the climax threatening to break him apart. So good… so right

‘Hannibal,’ Will gasps, his nails scratching welts across the Alpha’s shoulders. He’s coming, coming, coming… He convulses, spilling boiling seed across both of their bellies, clenching around the Alpha’s growing knot as Hannibal begins to come. ‘Hannibal… Hannibal…’

Hannibal’s orgasm comes slowly, washing through him like white light, filling every fiber of his body with pleasure. He groans softly at how pure it feels, still rocking his hips, spilling his seed as deep inside his mate’s body as he possibly can, boneless and content as Will continues to cling to him, too lost in the heat prodrome to feel sated for more than a moment.   

He kisses Will’s cheeks, his nose, his forehead, rubbing circles in the sweat shining between his pectorals. Over his heart. He smiles down at the blind eyes, at the raw, banal core of Will Graham, at the bared teeth and the shadow roaring its desperate need for violence… For blood.

Hannibal swallows the lump forming in his throat and kisses Will, so gently, on the lips.

‘I love you.’

***

When he wakes in Hannibal’s arms the next morning, Will can’t remember how he got there. He lies very still for a while, piecing together the last eight hours, trying not to get distracted with the silky sheets under him, or the warmth of his Alpha’s naked body pressed up against his back. Hannibal’s chest hair is soft but it still rasps against his shoulder blades; his skin hums, oversensitive as though he’s been burned, or beaten. He’s exhausted; he must have slept, because he’s woken up, but apparently it wasn’t good sleep. He feels ill. Is he coming down with something?

What happened last night? He’d been at home, just him and the dogs, in the quiet making fishing lures… He’d been thinking about Hannibal and then…

He’d heard an animal trapped in his chimney. He’d heard it and the need to rescue it, to set it free, had been overwhelming. He’d grabbed a hammer and…

Will frowns, cold fear coiling in his gut. Has to ground himself for a moment in the thick, heavy musky of Hannibal’s scent on the pillow beneath his head, on the quilt, on his skin…

It was only in my head… I feel… unstable…

Did he dream that conversation with Hannibal? How did he get here? He’d been smashing open his chimney and then Alana had shown up and something in her face had changed and she’d…

Oh God. He’d kissed Alana Bloom. He’d kissed her, when he was supposed to be with Hannibal, when the Alpha was courting him, and then… She’d rejected him. Will almost huffs a sobbing laugh, biting his fist to stifle the sound. She’d left him alone, abandoned him in the dark and he’d gone running to Hannibal, to beg his forgiveness and also to tell him…

What? That he was worried about losing his mind?

He flinches when Hannibal stirs behind him. The Alpha tightens his arms around his waist, holding him tight so that he can nuzzle at the crook of his neck, where the soft skin meets the round muscle of his shoulder. Hannibal purrs, soothing him enough that he can relax back against his mate – future mate – and curl forwards to bare the nape of his neck.

‘Good morning,’ Hannibal murmurs, dropping feather light kisses across Will’s shoulders. ‘How do you feel?’

Will hums a noncommittal answer, twining their fingers together and lifting Hannibal’s hands to kiss his knuckles. He pulls the Alpha’s hand up into a choke around his throat, whining when Hannibal doesn’t squeeze. He rolls back when Hannibal pulls him, shifting his weight and spreading his legs when the other man moves to lie on top of him.

Hannibal pushes down, testing Will’s response to the threat against his windpipe, frowning when the Omega purrs his encouragement and draws his knees up further in submission. He shouldn’t still be in prodrome; his scent is dull, barely detectable even to his nose, and his pupils are reacting to the changing light, the outer edges dark copper from the drops.

‘Will?’

At the worry in Hannibal’s voice, Will closes his eyes. He turns his face away, swallowing hard just to feel the resistance against his Alpha’s palm. Strokes his hands up and down Hannibal’s arms, massaging his biceps until he can loop his arms around the back of Hannibal’s neck and pull him down for a long, slow kiss, cradling him between his thighs so that he can feel Hannibal’s chest hair against his skin, his length against his, coarse hair rasping together and releasing thick musk into the warm air between them. Safe together.  

‘Please,’ he mutters, pressing the words into the other man’s lips. ‘I don’t want to think.’

Hannibal allows the kiss to deepen, tasting Will’s tongue with his own, sucking it down and then sliding his in and out of the Omega’s willing mouth, an ache catching deep inside and spreading like fire until he’s rocking his hardness against his partner. Will moans his encouragement, digging his fingers into the muscles of Hannibal’s shoulders and pulling him closer, trying to encourage him to push in, to take him, fill him, fuck him, own him.

‘Will,’ Hannibal repeats, breaking the kiss before he loses himself to the feelings. To the sweet musk of Will’s desire, and his own heavy arousal. He moves his hand from the Omega’s throat to the side of his jaw, stroking his cheek with his thumb. ‘Tell me how you feel.’

Will frowns at him. His chest tightens, his heart battering against his ribcage. How does he feel? Crazy? Unstable? Scared? He huffs a laugh and shakes his head. He feels… like he needs space. Like he needs to go home so he can shower and go to interview the owner of a string instrument shop because he’s probably the killer and Will has to stop him.

‘I have to go,’ he mutters, pushing at Hannibal’s chest to make him move. His gut twists when the Alpha obliges and lifts his body off, leaving him alone. Hannibal’s face is unreadable; closed and fixed in an expression of mild interest and amusement at Will’s sudden need to collect the clothes scattered across the floor. Fuck you, Will thinks, ignoring him in favor of yanking on his boxers, only to find that they’re twisted and he has to take them off to try again.  

Hannibal lies on Will’s side of the bed, hair mussed and half over his forehead, openly smirking at Will’s despicable attempts to dress himself. He doesn’t need the Omega to tell him how he feels; he knows that Will is worried for his mental health, scared by what it could mean, and embarrassed that he both kissed Alana Bloom and then confessed how unstable he feels to Hannibal, even after all they’ve shared. You still hate the idea of losing control, Hannibal muses, watching as Will growls at his reflection in the mirror, combing the tangles from his curls.

‘Will, come here,’ he says, sitting up and swinging his bare legs out into the cool air. He perches on the edge of the bed, holding out his hand to entice the Omega closer. Will hesitates, but Hannibal holds his gaze until he obeys and slinks over to him. Hannibal holds each of Will’s hands, twisting their fingers together, grinning when Will sighs at his insistence and stands between his knees.

‘I have to go,’ Will grumbles, but he makes no move to pull away. Hannibal dips his head, brushing his lips over the back of Will’s hands, turning them to kiss his palms. ‘Hannibal…’

‘Be careful when you interview this string instrument owner,’ Hannibal murmurs, looking up into his mate’s face, at the clear blue eyes and full lips, soft features framed by a dark beard strengthening the line of his jaw… He frowns at the way his stomach clenches at the idea of Will not returning to him… Why is he even thinking such things? It’s not like him to worry… He calculates, he strategizes, and each risk is balanced against the benefit. Will’s predictable actions are no different; he can survive Tobias, if he handles himself well. If not, well… He swallows. ‘If he is involved, he will be dangerous.’

‘I can handle it,’ Will mutters, his heart squeezing an extra beat because Hannibal is trying hard not to show his worry, trying not to be protective, but the crease in his brow betrays him. He leans down and kisses his Alpha’s forehead, breaking free of the gentle grip to stroke Hannibal’s hair and hold his blond head to his chest. He holds him close to his heart, bowing over him to soak up the last of his scent. ‘I’ll come back to you.’

‘I’ll be at my office,’ Hannibal replies, collecting his thoughts and reasserting control over his errant emotions. He sits straighter, his hands firm on Will’s hips. Squared shoulders, jaw up, eyes glinting. There is no doubt who is in control of their relationship. ‘Come see me when you’re finished at the string shop and we can discuss why you feel unstable, and what we can do about it.’

Will huffs a laugh and gives Hannibal a crooked smile. He steps away, scrubbing the back of his head even as he ducks it to bare the side of his throat. Typical Hannibal; just when he thinks he’s softening…

‘Yeah,’ he agrees, watching from the corner of his eye as his Alpha stands, stretches and then heads, naked, towards the bathroom. He pulls his vest on over the thin sweater. ‘I’ll see you later.’

***

He has to wait until lunchtime for a couple of Baltimore PD officers to be available to escort him the string shop. Will leads the way inside, his coat pulled back so that his badge, and his gun, is easily visible. Easily reached.

The bell above the door clangs, announcing their arrival. Will can smell the Alpha’s scent as soon as he enters; smoky and sharp, and he stills when he recognizes it. The opera…

The Alpha emerges from a back room, escorting a young boy out of what is presumably a music lesson. It’s Franklyn’s mate – the tall, dark Alpha with cold, dead eyes…

‘Special Agent Will Graham with the FBI,’ Will says quietly, when the Alpha stops and looks questioningly at them. He inclines his head, just enough to be respectful, not enough that he shows him his neck. The Beta officers mill behind him, casting their eyes over the instruments against the walls. Waiting for orders. From himIf only you knew…

Will keeps his eyes on the Alpha, his shadow whispering sweet nothings into his ear, darkness coiling between his ribs, pulsing with the beat of his heart.

He’s in the right place.

‘Are you the owner?’ he asks, and the Alpha nods.

‘Yes; Tobias Budge.’ He gestures to the boy. ‘I’m just showing one of my students out; could I have a moment?’

‘Sure,’ Will says, his attempt at a polite smile more of a grimace. He ducks his head, watching Tobias herd the young Beta boy from the shop with a final instruction.

‘Adagio, for Saturday.’ The Alpha turns to face Will and the flanking officers as soon as he’s gone. He stands calmly, his hands in his pockets, looking down his nose at them. ‘What can I help you with?’

Will turns to him, fixing his gaze on Tobias’s shoulder so as not to get lost in his burgundy-ringed eyes. Tobias’s scent is clinging to his skin, sinking into him, warming him until his brain feels thick and heavy.

‘We’re investigating the death of Douglas Wilson,’ he explains. ‘He was –’

‘The trombonist,’ Tobias says, his eyes sparking black fire. Will catches with a frown.

‘That’s right; did you know him?’ he asks carefully. Tobias presses his fingertips together, a smirk toying with his lips.

‘I was aware of him,’ he replies, and then, to offer an explanation, ‘Baltimore is a small town, and the cultural arts community is an even smaller one.’

‘Well, that’s why we’re here, Mr Budge,’ Will says. His skin is starting to prickle with heat; it feels like razors are being dragged back and forth over the nape of his neck, slicing his flesh into ribbons. He needs soothing; he needs touching… His insides clench up and sweat beads across his forehead. Is anyone else warm?

‘I hear someone cut his throat and tried to play it with a bow,’ the Alpha says, hunger making his dark eyes sparkle. Will stares at him from behind his glasses, wishing he had more to protect him than two Beta officers, a gun and his layers of clothing. Too many layers… His shirt is clinging to the base of his spine…

‘Why do you say “try”?’ he asks, and Tobias looks deep into his eyes. Their shadows whisper to each other, slithering out into the dusty air of the shop and coiling around each other. Purring, nipping… kissing…

‘The strings have to be treated,’ the Alpha replies. ‘You can’t just open somebody up and draw a bow across their innards and expect to produce a sound.’

Did you like my gift, little Omega?

Heat rolls through him, settling like an iron on the back of Will’s neck. God… He can’t think… Tobias’s musk thickens; he smells like home; like autumn leaf fires and whiskey, like resin and blood and sex. Will starts to shake, the air shimmering in front of his mouth when he breathes out, and Tobias follows him when he strides further into the shop, his nostrils flaring to savor the sweet musk rising from the Omega. Subtle, very subtle, given the heat rising from him, but there.

It’s him; Will knows it. Tobias is the killer. He’s the killer, he’s the Alpha, he left him his instrument… His message…

I can provide for you… I will kill for you… I will mate you…

God, he’s burning up. Why isn’t anyone else? Will’s brow beads with sweat and a familiar ache makes slick dampen his ass cheeks.

Alpha…

‘The vocal chords were chemically treated, similar to how catgut string is treated.’ Will can’t stop his voice from wobbling when he speaks. ‘We kept those details out of the press.’

Tobias stalks him into the back room. The Beta officers hover behind, waiting for Will’s instruction, but Will can’t concentrate. He should be more worried than he is; Tobias’s body language has changed – he is focused, his sharp eyes calculating, waiting for the chance to strike.

‘You’re looking for someone who knows how to manufacture gut strings?’ the Alpha asks, moving to the side dresser and picking up a roll of gut string.

‘Anybody spring to mind?’ Will mutters, struggling to see through the gold and black sparks flashing in the air between them. Darkness oozes through his veins, melting into his muscles from the heat pouring through him. Alpha… I need my Alpha…

‘Mine are imported from Italy,’ Tobias replies, handing the spool to Will for him to check. ‘Best catgut is. The string section of the Baltimore Metropolitan Orchestra refuses to play anything else.’

‘More authentic?’ Will asks, handing the strings back to Tobias, his skin crawling when the Alpha stares hungrily at him, into him, as if he’s an offering on display, not a person. No; he doesn’t want this; he wants Hannibal. He wants his Alpha, not this killer.  

‘A richer, darker sound,’ Tobias purrs. He looks down at the string in his hands, parting his lips to taste Will’s sweat on the gut. ‘Allows music to say what words can’t.’

His eyes flare red and a low growl, too deep for the Betas to hear, rumbles in his chest. It sparks a fire in Will’s belly and he clamps his lips shut to silence the whine scratching at his throat.

I have to get out of here…

He can’t bond with Tobias… He can’t… He won’t

I don’t belong to you…

Tires screech and an animal shrieks in pain. Will snaps his head to the side, his heart thundering in his chest. Oh God… Something’s hurt. He has to go; he has to help it. He has to save it.

Tobias frowns at him, worry softening his features at the Omega’s distressed whimper.

‘Something wrong?’ he asks.

‘Didn’t you hear that?’ Will replies, clenching his hands into fists at his sides. He looks at the officers; one of them shrugs, hands loose on his belt.

‘I didn’t hear anything.’

I have to save it… I have to…

‘Excuse me a minute,’ Will gasps, and he bolts for the door, leaving Tobias alone with the Betas.

The animal howls again; maybe it’s a dog? Has a dog been run over? Oh God…

He’s so hot… The cold air is refreshing on his damp face and his flushed cheeks. His glasses slide down his sweaty nose when he turns his face. Will pants for breath, trying to think through the fog in his brain.

Where’s the dog? Where is it?

A horn beeps. He slows, dodging traffic. He’s in the road… When did that happen? He can’t see anything… People would have stopped, wouldn’t they? There’s nothing here…

He can still hear it… He can still hear it… He needs to…

I feel unstable…

Gasping for breath, his bones on fire inside his skin, Will shakes loose a couple of heat suppressants and knocks them back. A regular dose can trigger feelings like heat prodrome… That’s all this is… He swallows them dry, forcing them down his parched throat. He doesn’t have time for this… He has a killer to catch…

Will ducks his head in apology when he gets back inside the shop, speaking before he’s realized it’s too quiet. He’s fine. He’s fine.

‘Sorry about that, I…’ The violence stings his bare skin and he pauses. ‘Officers?’ He unclips his gun, following the resonances hanging, syrupy thick, sweet as rotten fruit, through the shop. ‘Officers?’

Creeping towards the back room, Will kicks the door away from him, raising the gun up in case he has to fire. His stomach tightens when he sees one dead officer, a metal pole through his throat, blood oozing across the floorboards. Fumbles to get his cell phone out even as he dashes across the room to check for a pulse. None.

‘I need ERT at Chordophone Strings, downtown Baltimore. Officer down.’

Where are you, Tobias? Where are you… Alpha?

His shadow roars to the front of his mind, propelling Will to his feet. He’s not frightened, not even angry, really… He’s… hungry.

I’m the one hunting you, Tobias… Alphas aren’t the only ones who like to chase…

Stalking downstairs, Will raises his gun high, ready to fire if Tobias attacks. You killed my officers… I can claim self-defense when I shoot you…

His shadow tickles the back of his neck, sliding claws up and down his spine until the fine hairs stand to attention on his skin. Will tries to hear past the obscenely loud creaking of the wooden stairs, past the rush of blood in his ears and the rasp of his breath, in and out… He’s wound so tight he might snap at any moment…

Revulsion claws at his throat when he sees the jars of pickling intestines, the rows and rows of human guts in various stages of preparation… Does Tobias provide the strings for the Orchestra, too?

A clinking, scratching sound drifts over to him, louder than the trickle of water echoing against damp walls. Will turns, too jumpy for his own good. He can barely see; everything is wavering, closing in…

Alpha…

He’s whining. Is he whining? Is that noise real or in his head? It sounds like when he calls for Hannibal, when he needs him inside him…

Slick dribbles down his thighs. His palms are slippery on the handle of his gun. Will wipes his forehead on the sleeve of his coat, trying to breathe.

The sound is coming from behind privacy curtains. He doesn’t want to see, but he has to… Will grabs the nearest curtain, wrenches it to the side and… The second officer, his face sliced apart by razor sharp strings, drowned in gut-treatment water. Bile burns the back of his mouth. Will can’t smell anything but the coppery blood and tang of chemicals in the water…

He doesn’t hear Tobias behind him until it’s too late. Strings whistle through the air and Will only just manages to get his hands, and his gun, up in time to keep from being strangled. The Alpha is behind him, holding tight, the gut slicing through the meat of his flesh, spilling his blood as Tobias wrestles Will’s coat away from his neck, away from his nape. Fear freezes his insides when he realizes what the Alpha intends to do, and Will can’t stop the panicked cry from bubbling up.

No… no, no, no! Hannibal…

He struggles, squirming against the erection digging into his back. Tobias snarls. He’s too tall; too strong, and he strikes fast.

Heat blasts away all thought of fight, of distress, of anything, as soon as the Alpha’s teeth pierce his skin and Will keens, shuddering as white pleasure wracks his body. He drops his head back, grinding his hips back against the Alpha’s groin. It’s so good… so good… He can’t help it. Can’t stop it. He’s coming, he’s coming

But Tobias misses his nape. He misses the patch of blistering skin where the crest should be. Will can feel his knees buckling, and his weight pulls the Alpha off balance.

Hannibal

The gun is right by his face, but the muzzle is up… Pointing at Tobias…

Will bares his teeth and squeezes the trigger.

Pain ricochets through him. All he can hear is a whine, endless, deafening. He can’t see anything… Even his teeth sting.

Oh God… Has he blown out his eardrum? He can’t…

Tobias drops him and Will falls. He turns, bringing the gun up, firing off two, three more muffled shots as the Alpha runs, clutching the side of his bleeding head. Will staggers after him but Tobias is too fast.

Black spots swarm his vision. He’s falling into the whistling in his ears… The pain in his head reaches a crescendo and Will slides down the wall, but he has to keep going. He has to get catch Tobias, because he knows. He knows where he’s going.

He’s going to fight Hannibal for him… He’s going to try to kill Hannibal…

My Alpha. My mate…

Hannibal…

***

‘Nine.’

Hannibal looks down at his lap as Franklyn speaks, giving him a moment to deal with the shock. The chubby Beta holds up both hands, tears welling in his little eyes.

Nine times. I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve been dumped by a psychiatrist.’

‘I’m sorry, Franklyn, but I think you should see another doctor,’ Hannibal says, painting an expression of regret onto his features.

‘You’re giving me a referral?’ Franklyn scoffs, and Hannibal nods, unperturbed.

‘Yes.’

You were a referral!’ Franklyn cries.

‘I am also part of the problem,’ Hannibal insists, and Franklyn glares off to the side. ‘You focus too much on your therapist,’ Hannibal continues, meeting his gaze straight on. ‘And not enough on your therapy.’

Franklyn shakes his head, huffing his frustration.

‘You lost respect for me because I wouldn’t report Tobias, didn’t you?’

The door opens with a soft click, and Tobias’s voice drifts closer, as flat and emotionless as ever.

‘Report Tobias for what?’

Tobias?’ Franklyn rises from his chair at his mate’s arrival, his face creasing with worry when he sees the state of him. Hannibal stands as well, turning to face the rival Alpha, narrowing his eyes when he smells Will’s blood on him. It’s all he can do to keep from slipping into rut and attacking immediately. He needs to wait; he needs to know what happened to Will.

‘I came to say goodbye, Franklyn.’ Tobias has his coat over his arm sleeve. His right ear is a tattered shred on the side of his face and his eyes are almost crimson. He stinks of rut; sharp, heavy musk, bitter with pain and fear. He draws closer and Franklyn, predictably, goes to meet him.

‘What do you mean, goodbye?’ he laughs. He pales when he sees his mate’s face. ‘Oh my God… oh my God is that your blood?’

‘I just killed two men,’ Tobias replies, his voice cold. Ice forms in Hannibal’s chest, making it difficult to breathe. Even his heartbeat falters. Two men? ‘The police came to question me about the murder,’ Tobias adds, and Hannibal’s darkness pauses, considering what this means.

Will went to question him. Will is… dead…? He’s dead… Will is dead…

My mate is dead.

Franklyn gulps. He doesn’t notice the way the air crackles around Hannibal.

‘Okay,’ the Beta says, holding up his hands to soothe Tobias. ‘You have to give yourself up right now.’ Hannibal moves to stand behind Franklyn as the Beta starts to approach his mate.

Perhaps Tobias only thinks Will is dead… Perhaps he is just gravely injured…

‘This plane is going down,’ Franklyn continues. ‘Let it have a controlled descent. We can get you back up in the air again. There’s rehabilitation for everyone.’

Hannibal needs to speak to Tobias alone. He needs to think. He needs to know.

‘Franklyn; I want you to leave now,’ he says, but Tobias cuts him off.

‘Stay right where you are, Franklyn.’

Hannibal looks at Tobias. Looks into his dark, hungry eyes and lets his own shadow whisper its promise of violence.

Did you kill my mate?

‘You’ve done a horrible thing,’ Franklyn tries again. ‘And, I know that you wish to God that you didn’t, but you did… And there’s nothing you can do to change that… Only thing you can change is your future. Right?’ He glances back at Hannibal for support.

I’m going to kill you, Hannibal thinks. He offers him nothing, and Franklyn turns back to his mate.

‘Now, you’re probably scared… You probably feel like you’re all alone…’

Tobias snorts and shakes his head.

‘I’m not alone.’

The ice melts a fraction, and then stabs at Hannibal’s stomach. Not alone? Did he… did he bond Will?

Did you steal my mate?

‘That’s right; you’re not alone,’ Franklyn says, misunderstanding and seeing a window of opportunity where there is none. He looks at Tobias with misty eyes and a wobbling lower lip, his brow shiny with sweat, his scent heavy with salt. He still loves him, no matter how much he fears him. ‘Nothing has happened in our relationship that you and I can’t –’

Hannibal grabs each side of Franklyn’s fat head and twists, snapping his neck. He lets him drop, stepping back as the Beta collapses onto his front.

Hannibal looks at Tobias and quirks an eyebrow.

You took my mate. I took yours.

‘I was looking forward to that,’ Tobias rumbles, baring bloodstained teeth at Hannibal.

‘I saved you the trouble,’ Hannibal replies lightly. How he despises the Alpha before him.

Tobias throws his coat to the side, revealing a long, razor-sharp gut string in his hands. The sort of string that carves through flesh like butter, and Hannibal narrows his eyes at it. He is at a disadvantage. Tobias has a weapon; he does not. Yet. However, the other Alpha is smaller and wounded… But Tobias is in full rut; this gives him added strength because of the adrenaline, though he won’t be thinking as clearly…

Hannibal is forced to stop calculating the odds when Tobias begins to whip the string in a figure eight. It whistles through the air and Hannibal backs away a step as the rival Alpha comes closer. He flinches to the side and Tobias strikes. Misses. Hannibal feints to the right. Tobias lunges. Kicks out at him, catching him square in the gut and knocking him back. He comes again. Hannibal jumps behind the gallery ladder and shoves it at Tobias but he dodges in time.

When the gut string wraps around Hannibal’s forearm, it slices through the silk and wool of his suit jacket and his shirt, biting deep into his flesh as it snaps tight. Tobias pulls, snarling and smiling at the thought that he’s caught the other Alpha. The pain is a sharp focal point, the sort that brings tears to his eyes, but Hannibal allows the string to slice through his flesh and then jumps forwards, trying to headbutt Tobias in the face. Tobias dodges and swings Hannibal around. They stagger and Hannibal smashes Tobias into a side table, shattering glass and raining glittering shards around them. He gathers up his strength and shoves Tobias across his desk – the same desk where I fucked Will – and then leaps at him, teeth bared like fangs and nails ready to claw out the Alpha’s eyes. He can smell Will’s blood on Tobias’s breath; he bit him, bonded him, and the only way to break a bond is to kill the claiming Alpha. 

You took my mate.

They’re on the floor, cartilage crunching and skin splitting as they trade blows. Hannibal matches him strike for strike until Tobias grabs up the dagger letter opener and stabs him in the thigh. He yells and staggers, his knee buckling as the thigh muscle screams agony.

Tobias grabs him up by the throat, pinning him with his back on the desk, the dagger raised over him, ready to strike. To kill. Hannibal looks to the side, his arm shaking as he struggles against Tobias’s strength. His scalpel…

He fumbles for it, grabs it up and stabs Tobias in the arm. It’s enough to knock the other Alpha back, and Hannibal comes for his throat. Smacks him in the face, shoving him back. Tobias kicks him again and Hannibal staggers, but he keeps his feet under him. He throws a punch, takes a hit. Takes another hit, and a knee to the gut. Tobias is fast and strong.

Their snarls rip the air. They bare their teeth just as ancient Alphas bore their fangs, and then Tobias shoves Hannibal up against the ladder and Hannibal lets blood dribble down his chin, and Tobias, arrogant and unable to think clearly for all the rut hormones pumping through him, punches again.

Hannibal dodges and Tobias’s arm catches between the ruts of the ladder. Hannibal grabs his wrist and wrenches it backwards. The crunch of snapping bones is muted under Tobias’s scream of agony. He swings for Hannibal again, his right arm useless now. He misses. Swings again. Another miss.

You’re mine.

Hannibal stiffens his hand and stabs him in the throat, crushing his windpipe. Tobias staggers and falls to his knees, gagging and coughing.

It’s over.

Hannibal has won. He could leave now; call the police and have Tobias arrested. But he won’t, because Tobias bonded Will, and only death can remove the crest that will be scarring the Omega’s neck.

Removing his blue handkerchief, Hannibal turns and picks up the stag statue from his side table. It’s heavy, and he struggles with it. He stands over his fallen opponent, his eyes blazing crimson as a growl rumbles up his throat.

For Will.

Hannibal lifts the stag high over his head and then, with all his strength, brings it crashing down onto Tobias’s head.

The Alpha’s skull cracks open, killing him instantly. The light fades from his rut-red eyes and he falls face-first onto the floor, dark blood seeping from the wound to stain the floorboards.

Hannibal drops the statue and the adrenaline abruptly stops. He sways, breathing hard. He’s hurt, but he’ll live. He needs to be strong now, for Will. Assuming he’s alive…

Please let him be alive…

Turning, Hannibal pulls the little side table over. Alpha on Alpha killings during a fight are more or less acceptable, but it will be much easier to explain away Tobias staggering and falling into the table than Hannibal lifting the stag and delivering the final blow. He doesn’t have time for Jack Crawford and his incessant questions; he needs to find Will, needs to know if he’s alive, and, if he is, if the bond with Tobias can be undone.

If… Hannibal sniffs to himself and limps to the harpsichord. If…

***

Will’s not coming back.

Sitting in his desk chair, watching the coroners zip up Tobias and Franklyn’s bodies into black bags, Hannibal resigns himself to the fact that if Tobias had bonded Will, he would have returned by now, if for no other reason than to find his Alpha. The mere thought of Will seeking out Tobias makes him queasy, but Hannibal is nothing if not practical.

However, Will has not returned, which means he is dead.

Will is dead. Tobias killed him.

If he says it enough, will it make sense?

Slumped at his desk, Hannibal rubs at his bandaged thigh. He feels… numb. And tired. How can he feel both? Emotions stir in the well of his mind, but he doesn’t understand them. Long-forgotten memories of a dark childhood, of rooms best left forgotten…

Will is dead…

He looks up when Jack walks into the room, and in that moment, Hannibal hates him. Hates him for dragging Will into this, for introducing them… For being here when his mate isn’t.

And then… A sweet musk, barely detectable over the latex and stench of death in the room. An achingly familiar face; soft lips, brown curls… Strong jaw darkened with a beard, slender shoulders… Clear blue eyes passing over and dismissing everyone else because they’re not him…

Hannibal’s mind stops. He can’t focus. He can’t breathe.

Will is here. Will is… alive

Relief floods him, so sudden and so sweet that it almost hurts. Tears well in his eyes and Hannibal’s shoulders slump.

He’s alive.

Will’s heart can’t find its rhythm as he crosses the room. He tries not to rush; he doesn’t want to startle anyone, or embarrass Hannibal, but he needs to check him. He needs to touch him, smell him; he needs to make sure he’s alright. He leaves Jack’s side and circles the desk, but he holds back when he sees how wounded Hannibal is.

This is my fault… I didn’t kill Tobias when I had the chance and now you’re hurt…

Does Hannibal hate him? He’ll understand if he does; Will failed to keep him safe. He failed to be an equal partner in their relationship.

Hannibal stares up at Will, drinking in the sight of him; the disheveled hair and bloodstained shirt, the damp trousers and pale, clammy face, and it’s all he can do to keep from grabbing him and pulling him into a kiss, or more…

‘I was worried you were dead,’ he whispers. It’s the best he can manage right now. He can’t say more; not with Jack and the FBI in the room with them. Not with Will’s all-seeing eyes boring into his endless darkness.

Hannibal’s words, his pain and fear, tear at Will, but it doesn’t hurt him. Instead, he ducks his head to hide the tug of a smile, his belly clenching and the nape of his neck burning hot at his Alpha’s show of affection. You fought for me… And you won… You have me. All of me.

Jack’s scent slaps at his skin and Will has to fight down a snarl at the interruption.

‘Tobias Budge killed two Baltimore police officers,’ the Alpha says, addressing Will and Hannibal together from the other side of the desk. ‘Nearly killed an FBI Special Agent and then, after all of that, his first stop is here; at your office.’

Hannibal sighs.

‘He came to kill my patient,’ he says, and Jack frowns over at the body bag with Franklyn inside.

Will picks up the bait; neither of them want Jack knowing the extent of their relationship just yet.

‘Your patient; is that who Budge was serenading?’ he asks. No need to reveal that Tobias was serenading Will as a mating call, and that he came here to challenge a rival Alpha for the right to bond him…

‘I don’t know.’ Hannibal frowns, pretending to consider it. Will has to admit; he’s a good liar. ‘Franklyn knew more than he was telling me… He told Mr Budge that he didn’t have to kill anymore. And then…’ The Alpha’s breath falters for a moment; the memory still upsets him. ‘And then he broke Franklyn’s neck and then… he attacked me.’

‘You killed him?’ Jack asks quietly. Sadly.

Hannibal lowers his eyes. Manages a nod. His voice breaks when he answers.

‘Yes.’

Will’s throat tightens around a whine and his voice catches because all he wants to do is take Hannibal home and let him rest, but he has to keep up the charade; he has to ask,

‘Could Franklyn have been involved in whatever Budge was doing?’

Hannibal looks down. Will’s never seen him look so defeated; he clearly regrets the loss of his patient to the rival Alpha. So much responsibility.

‘I thought this was a simple matter of poor choice of friends,’ the Alpha says quietly.

And a fight to the death over the bonding rights to an Omega, Will thinks bitterly, but he doesn’t let it show on his face.

Jack sighs through his nose and looks up. Shakes his head, frustration rolling from his shoulders.

‘This doesn’t feel simple to me,’ he growls, but there’s nothing else that he can do, nothing else to say, and he walks away.

Will moves closer to Hannibal and perches on the edge of the desk. He takes a deep breath, trying to ignore the itching prickle on the back of his neck where Tobias’s teeth punctured his skin. The cuts on his hands have already been sterilized and bandaged by the ERT, but he couldn’t tell them about his neck without revealing himself as an Omega, and his shirt collar is pulling on the drying blood. He’s ready to go home, but he’s worried about Hannibal. He’s never seen his Alpha so exhausted, and it’s all his fault.

‘I feel like I’ve dragged you into my world,’ he says softly, but Hannibal shakes his head.

‘No; I got here on my own.’ He looks up at his mate, at the man he thought he’d lost today, and smiles. ‘But I appreciate the company.’

Will manages a twisted smile back. He holds the gaze for a moment, his chest tightening at the storm of emotions raging behind Hannibal’s dark eyes. I don’t think I’ll ever understand you, he thinks, but it doesn’t matter, because what he sees is enough. Hannibal wants him. He’s not going to risk losing him again. He’s going to bond him, and Will is going to let him, because Hannibal earned it, even if he didn’t.

‘Let’s go home,’ he says softly, and Hannibal’s breath falters. He pushes himself up from the desk, wincing at the throb in his leg, looking around for Jack. Will closes the distance between them, dipping his head to bare his throat for his Alpha, and he hears a low growl when Hannibal’s clever eyes spot the blood on his shirt. He grabs Hannibal’s hand before the other man can expose the wound and presses a lightning fast kiss to his fingertips before releasing him. ‘Home,’ he says firmly. ‘Then I’m all yours’

Hannibal’s eyes flicker red at his words. At what Will means; at what he’s offering him.

All yours.

His to bond. His to bite, his to mark, his to own. He nods slowly, carefully, and watches the pulse jump in Will’s throat. Mine…

He opens his desk drawer and pulls out his car keys, dropping them very deliberately into Will’s hand. After all; he’s in no fit shape to drive.

‘Home.’

***

‘How did you kill him?’

Will speaks quietly, sitting Hannibal on the edge of the bed and dropping to his knees before him so that he can unlace and remove his shoes. The Alpha looks down at him, his cheek swollen and red, his hair falling over his forehead, his eyes still bright with pain and something else; something Will can’t identify.

‘I pushed him into the side table,’ Hannibal lies, his mind’s eye returning to the moment of pure, transcendent clarity when he decided to smash open Tobias’s skull. ‘The stag fell on him.’

Good,’ Will growls, and Hannibal’s smile makes fresh blood ooze down his chin. Will whines at the sight of it and Hannibal moves to wipe it away, but the Omega knocks his hand back and leans up to lick it instead, leaving a coppery smear on the Alpha’s skin. They both groan at the taste and feel of Will’s tongue on him, and Hannibal slides his fingers through Will’s curls, drawing him closer and deepening the kiss.

Fire licks through Will’s veins, threatening to send him spinning into darkness, but he holds on to himself, clinging to Hannibal’s shoulders to keep from drowning in the heat. He shoves at the Alpha’s suit jacket, barely breaking the kiss as he pulls it down Hannibal’s arms. He snorts when Hannibal quirks an eyebrow at the way he tosses the expensive clothing onto the floor, tracing his fingertips over Hannibal’s beaten face and then tasting the sweat, antiseptic and blood on his skin.

‘I want to see you, Dr Lecter,’ he purrs, rolling his hips down as slick tickles his thighs. He watches the way Hannibal’s nostrils flare, catching his scent, and smiles at him. He unbuttons Hannibal’s waistcoat and pulls it from him. Rises to his feet in one fluid motion and takes his Alpha’s right hand in both of his own, placing it firmly over the bulge in his trousers. ‘I want you to see me.’

‘I see you,’ Hannibal breathes, utterly captivated by Will’s sharp blue eyes and teasing mouth. He squeezes gently, massaging the hidden erection. Before he can use his left hand to unbuckle Will’s trousers, the Omega is already lifting it, kissing his fingers and licking the bloodied knuckles, sucking up the taste of Tobias’s defeat. Deft fingers undo the cufflink and it clatters to the floor.

Will swaps hands, pushing Hannibal’s left to his hardness so that he can repeat the motion and undo the right cufflink. Then, when he knows he’ll be able to remove Hannibal’s shirt, he allows his Alpha to unbuckle his belt. He fumbles with his own shirt buttons, snapping threads in his hurry, shoving the thick cotton down his sore arms and onto the floor, shivering when he hears the rasp of his zipper being pulled down.

Hannibal’s growl splits the air between them and Will freezes. He looks down, realizing why his Alpha’s eyes are suddenly blazing red. His forearms are crisscrossed with deep cuts from Tobias’s wire; Hannibal couldn’t have known how badly he was injured until he took his clothes off. His purr does little to reassure the Alpha, and he gasps when Hannibal suddenly stands and grabs him up in his arms, swinging him around and pinning him on the bed. The mattress sinks under him and he loses his breath in a keening mewl that only serves to encourage Hannibal to crawl up over him, covering his body with his own. The familiar weight and Hannibal’s rich musk, laced with cedarwood and cloves, sets his skin alight and he doesn’t struggle for long because it’s so good to have him close again. Will spreads his legs and bends his knees, holding his Alpha close with his thighs, his hardness crushed beneath Hannibal’s trouser-covered groin. He moans, arching up and holding Hannibal by either side of his face. Tries to kiss him but Hannibal pushes his arms down and drops his head to kiss each wound, reclaiming every inch of him from Tobias. Will hisses when Hannibal nips at a barely formed scab, spilling fresh blood across his skin. He’s so hard; it hurts to be this hard. He needs Hannibal inside him, needs his claim now.

‘I’m yours,’ he whispers, stroking up and down the soft, shredded fabric of Hannibal’s shirt arms as Hannibal holds himself above him. Their scents join, heavy and sweet, Alpha and Omega, laced with blood. Will’s mouth waters and he scratches Hannibal’s chest when he tears open his shirt, revealing the battered flesh beneath. He pushes up and twists, pinning Hannibal beneath him on the big bed, shoving him so that Hannibal will lie down as he’s told and let Will straddle him. He spreads the fabric from his Alpha’s lean chest, rasping his tongue across the bruised and broken skin over Hannibal’s ribs, rocking his hardness down against Hannibal’s when the Alpha groans at the pleasure-pain of it.

Mine,’ Will growls, unbuttoning Hannibal’s trousers to get at his length. He wriggles down between Hannibal’s legs, pulling the suit trousers and boxers with him, leaning back despite aching muscles so that Hannibal can bend his knees and help Will get them off. Will shoves his own trousers and boxers down, stroking himself as Hannibal watches, transfixed, lips parted and the tip of his tongue just visible between his teeth. He manages to kick them off and removes their socks, though it’s distinctly less graceful than he wants, and Hannibal grins at him. He sits up and pulls Will close, cupping the side of his face to soften the teasing, catching his tongue between his teeth and sucking it down into a deep, hungry kiss that makes them both forget how they ended up naked, only that they are.

Will doesn’t want to break the kiss, but he needs to be on his front for Hannibal to bite him. He cries at the loss of his Alpha’s lips, an unconscious little sound that happens before he can stop himself.

‘Sorry,’ he mutters, bowing his head between his elbows and arching his spine. ‘Ignore it.’

‘I’m here,’ Hannibal murmurs, placing a broad, strong palm over the base of his spine. Will shivers and writhes up into the touch, rolling his shoulders, tensing and flexing as he displays for his Alpha. His bones are on fire; every breath melts the air in front of him and he can feel the darkness pressing in, sparking red and gold in front of his eyes. From very far away, he hears Hannibal's voice.

‘You can let go, Will.’

But Will shakes his head; he clenches his hands into fists and presses his sweaty forehead to the covers, baring his neck for Hannibal. He doesn’t want to let go; he wants to be here, all of him, for when Hannibal takes him. He wants to feel it. He wants to know.

‘Tobias barely missed your nape,’ Hannibal says quietly, breaking the moment with his observation. Will looks back over his shoulder, frowning at the pensive expression on the Alpha’s face. Hannibal still has one hand on the base of Will’s back; the other is hovering near the flushed skin of his neck, just below the bite mark half an inch from Will’s nape.

Please…

Will can feel another keening whimper in his throat and, this time, he doesn’t even try to stop it. He calls for his Alpha, for his mate, pitching the cry at the right frequency to trigger Hannibal’s rut instincts. He trembles with excitement, fire pooling in his belly, his insides clenching and then relaxing, spilling boiling slick down his thighs as Hannibal’s eyes flash red and he bares his teeth in a snarl.

Hannibal…’

Hannibal closes his eyes at the need in Will’s voice. He’s so hard it’s painful; any little touch could tip him over the edge. He’s going to devour Will; going to bite him, fuck him, fill him, own him.

‘Mine,’ he growls, gripping himself tight at the base of his length and lining himself up. Will keens again, dropping his head down and tucking his knees up as he presents himself. As he submits, completely.

Hannibal holds his breath against the mind-numbing pleasure as he breaches the tight ring of muscle, digging his nails into Will’s flank to steady himself as he plunges inside the tight, hot vice of his body. God… It’s so good… White explodes behind his eyes and he can’t stop himself from thrusting, hard. Will gasps at the suddenness of the movement, at the stretch, but Hannibal is too far gone to take his time with this. He needs Will now. His Omega. His mate.  

He reaches down and grabs Will by the shoulders, pulling him up so that his back is to Hannibal’s chest. So that his neck is right in front of Hannibal’s mouth. Tobias’s bite is there, mocking him, an ugly reminder of how close he came to losing Will today.

Never again.

Will tries to move in rhythm with Hannibal, but everything’s starting to blur. All he can see is black and gold, all he can feel is Hannibal inside him, Hannibal’s arms around him, Hannibal’s hot breath on his nape… Now… Now…

Hannibal…’

His climax catches him by surprise, and Hannibal comes with a sharp cry as it slams into him, throwing his heart into a dizzying pace. He loses his breath, spilling himself deep inside Will’s body. Fights for air and then gives up because it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter; all that matters is Will, the feel of Will beneath him, around him and Hannibal can tell that his Omega is so close, so close…

‘Come for me,’ he gasps, tears pricking his eyes as the pleasure reaches a new crescendo, his knot swelling to seal his seed deep inside his mate. ‘Come for me, Will.’

And then he bites. Sinks his teeth into the tangy, burning hot skin of Will’s nape and sucks up the thick, syrupy blood that pours into his mouth. 

YES.

Everything in him roars his success; his dark dragon bellows its triumph as he tears into his mate's flesh. He comes again and again, even though he has no seed left to give. He can't stop; Will tastes so good, so good, all his, completely... With every thrust of his hips, Hannibal bites harder, deeper, ripping through muscle as his jaw locks.

Mine.

Will can’t even scream. Can't breathe. Can't think, can't see... He's not here... not anywhere... All he can feel is his Alpha inside him, teeth and knot and seed and spit, joined in blood and flesh. He's owned, so completely, so utterly... They're so connected... so together… He doesn’t end anymore… His body flows straight through to his mate's, into the dark, dangerous waters of Hannibal Lecter.

‘I’m yours,’ he whispers, wide, sightless eyes slipping closed and spilling tears down his cheeks. He drags in a shaking breath, then another. His heart thunders in his chest. He can feel his pulse everywhere, pushing blood from his ripped skin into Hannibal's mouth. 'I'm yours... I'm yours, I'm yours... Hannibal...' 

He cries when his Alpha’s teeth pull out of his skin. It hurts so much, but then Hannibal purrs and kisses him, sucks and licks at it as he pushes him to lie down on his front and he’s weightless, boneless, drifting in nothingness and Hannibal is still inside him, still touching him. Still protecting him. He's not alone; he'll never be alone again.

'Hannibal...'

Panting hard and spraying red across Will's back, Hannibal wraps the trembling man in his arms, ignoring the pain of his mate's body against his injuries. Will shudders, purring and crying at the same time, his body still shaking from the strength of coming so hard, so many times. Hannibal lies behind him and nudges Will's head down so that he can watch the bite mark begin to tighten, the skin on Will’s nape pulling in, forming the ridge that is going to be his unique crest.

Hannibal’s crest.

Hannibal…’

Will’s voice cracks. He sounds so frightened; it hurts Hannibal to hear it. The next few hours are going to be difficult for him; he will need his Alpha inside him as much as possible as their bond develops, and that scares him. His need scares him.

'Sssh,' Hannibal breathes. He kisses Will's shoulders, his throat, his cheek. Lets his breath puff over Will’s ear, twining their fingers together and placing their joined hands over his mate’s chest. Over Will's heart. ‘I’ve got you.'

Will closes his eyes, trying to ignore the gnawing, empty feeling inside his chest, even as he bears down around his Alpha's knot, the sensation making them both groan. He knows Hannibal can’t bite him again, not yet, but he needs to be even closer, so he snuggles back against him and bites his knuckles to stifle the pathetic little mewls that want to come out.

‘Breathe with me,’ Hannibal murmurs, pressing his lips to Will’s crest, parting his lips to taste the coppery tang between the developing ridges. The Omega stiffens and whimpers; a mixture of pleasure and pain. ‘Stay with me, Will.’

‘I’m with you,’ Will gasps, focusing on the feel of Hannibal’s mouth on him, on the air flowing over his skin. God... It's so... so right... He's made for this... Made for Hannibal... He needs him to say it, one more time. ‘Hannibal? Please…’

Hannibal closes his eyes at the tug in his chest. He hugs Will tight and sucks an open-mouthed kiss to the side of his throat, holding him by his chin and turning his head so he can lock red eyes with blue. He knows, without words, what Will needs. Sees the Omega's breath falter, sees Will’s shadow beg just as much as the rest of him, and he smiles.

Mine.’

Chapter Text

Mine.

The bond warms his chest, and Hannibal smiles as he watches Will’s shaky attempt to leave the bed the next morning. He props himself up on an elbow in the mound of pillows, smirking when his Omega stumbles and catches himself on the bathroom doorway. Will looks good naked, his hips strung with a belt of fingermarks, his back slashed by teeth and nails. He laughs when Will sticks his middle finger up, grinning when the Omega stubbornly kicks the door shut to prove that he can be apart from him, despite his biology.

Hannibal lies back, content to wait for his mate’s return, and admires one of his own wounds from the other man; a particularly vicious bite that drew blood from his forearm when he used it to gag Will. Hannibal turns his hand from side to side, watching the light from the gap in the curtains change the color of the bruise. It looks good, but not nearly as good as the marks he left on Will.

He can still taste his Omega’s blood and slick in his mouth, and Hannibal lifts his fingers to his nose, relishing the tangy musk trapped beneath his nails.

All mine.

Alone in the bathroom, Will has to fight to keep from calling for his Alpha. He braces his back against the door, forcing himself to keep it closed. To keep his distance from Hannibal for five minutes, at least. He’s read about Omega bonding, of course; he knew it would be intense, but no amount of research could ever have prepared him for it.

I’m not just me, anymore, he thinks, clenching shaking hands into fists at his side. I’m half of a whole.

He feels weak. Some of that is tiredness; every time Hannibal tried to pull out of his body, Will had cried for him until Hannibal fucked him again, filling him, knotting him, biting him. Over and over and over, ripping the crest again and again until Will had had to beg him to stop because it hurt too much, no matter how much he needed it. And then it hurt all the more because Hannibal wasn’t biting him, and he couldn’t stop shaking unless the Alpha’s lips were around the ridges, sucking and licking until he just couldn’t come anymore, until his body gave up and he had to sleep.

He’s lucky it didn’t trigger an early heat…

How scarred am I?

He wants to know, but the idea of seeing it, of knowing, once and for all, that he’s no longer a free man, freezes him in place. Will buys himself as much time as possible, but eventually he has to abandon the toilet and go to the sink to wash his hands. He braces himself, breathes in deep, and slowly lifts his head to his reflection.

He starts when he sees himself; he’d expected to be pale and clammy, ill-looking and fragile. What he sees instead is a picture of vitality; glowing skin, pink cheeks and sparkling blue eyes, the irises edged with copper. He looks good.

His arms are still raw from Tobias’s attack. Will runs trembling hands up and down the scabs, wondering which ones are going to scar…

But they aren’t the marks he really wants to see. He takes another deep breath, his mouth going very dry when he pulls out the three-way mirror and angles it to show the back of his neck.

‘Ohhh…’

He can’t help the tiny sound he makes. He’d expected something ugly, something swollen and purple, by the way it’s throbbing. But his crest is neat. It’s attractive. A thin line of scar tissue forming five symmetrical ridges running down the middle of his neck, right at the top of his spine. It’s only slightly raised, and, when he reaches over his shoulder, his breath catches as how soft it still feels.

The crest flares deep red, burning his fingertip, and Will gasps because it feels good. Really good.

There’s an answering clench deep inside and he feels slick dampen his ass cheeks. Will watches his reflection as he brings his fingers to his mouth and tastes himself. The crest sweat is sweet and spicy, laced with copper. His scent thickens, rising up as heat rolls through his body. It’s changed; he carries Hannibal’s musk inside as well as out, now. His Alpha’s sweat and spit is all over him, and Will smiles at the memory of how his nipples came to be ringed with suck bruises.

Yours.

Turning from the sink, he finds his legs more stable as he hurries back to bed. Hannibal looks up from assessing his injuries when he climbs back under the covers, smiling and shaking his head at the way Will presses himself fully up against him. Will can’t stop purring as he nuzzles Hannibal’s collarbone and stubbled jaw, even if his mate is chuckling as he strokes his hands up and down his back, leaving goosebumps in their wake.

‘Are you mocking me, Dr Lecter?’ Will asks, reaching down to cup Hannibal’s balls. He squeezes slightly harder than is comfortable, and Hannibal gasps another laugh at the warning.

‘I wouldn’t dare,’ he replies, proving his point by holding each side of Will’s face and kissing him deeply. He moans into the Omega’s mouth, pushing forwards until Will is lying on his back. The smaller man allows him to settle between his legs, one arm still pinned between them, stroking and tugging the Alpha’s hardening length, the other sliding through his silky blond hair. Hannibal rocks his hips into the touch, sinking into the taste and feel of Will’s mouth, their lips moving and meeting in perfect harmony. They part for air, share a breath, and then kiss again, and Hannibal slides his left hand behind Will’s neck to squeeze his crest. Will arches beneath him, breaking the kiss in a hiss of pleasure, his hips jumping up against Hannibal’s weight.

That, that, oh, that…’ Will forgets to move his hand, forgets to do anything but cling to Hannibal’s shoulder as white pleasure crashes through him. It’s so pure, so clean, so right… He’d been turned on before but this…? God… ‘Hannibal…

He can’t think through it. Can’t breathe through it, and Hannibal is grinning, dark eyes sparkling as he works out exactly how to manipulate the crest to hold Will at the tipping point.

‘What does that feel like?’ he purrs, bracing himself with his right hand so that he can look down into Will’s flushed face, at the parted lips, the glassy, sightless eyes, copper rings flaring bright as he finds just the right point to flood Will’s body with heat hormones. He dips his nose to catch the sweet musk of his mate, rasping his tongue across Will’s jaw and then biting into the tender flesh of his throat, right over his windpipe, growling and shaking his head to prove his dominance over the Omega.

Will can’t help but whimper, his eyes slipping shut and spilling tears down his cheeks as he rolls his head as far back as Hannibal’s hand on his crest will allow. He spreads his legs wide, dropping his hand from Hannibal’s hair to the pillow, shuddering from the shockwaves burning him alive, his brain sparking with a thousand gold lights in the dark.

Please,’ he whispers, because he knows that’s what Hannibal wants to hear, and he’s so close to coming that it’s all he can think about. All he cares about. He just wants a release, something to spill the flood gathered up inside him, to let the tightness flow from his abdomen, his balls, everything

But Hannibal just won’t let him. The Alpha purrs, releasing his throat with a lingering kiss, releasing his neck to grab the hand between them and pin it up next to Will’s head. Will stares at him, begging him with his eyes, and Hannibal’s stomach clenches with excitement at the power he has over the other man.

‘Tell me how it feels,’ he says. He kneels up, wincing at the flare of pain from his thigh wound, and hooks Will’s knees over his elbows. Forces the Omega to curl his body up when he leans over him, nudging and teasing his entrance, humming a low sound of pleasure when hot slick dribbles onto his aching length.

‘Hannibal…’ Will shakes his head, clenching his hands into fists on the pillow. He can’t move them because Hannibal put them there; he’s as good as tied, and he turns his face away, feeling himself blush under his Alpha’s scrutiny.

Hannibal rocks against him, rewarded with a gasp and shudder from Will, who bucks up in a vain attempt to get him to give in, even though he knows him better than that.

‘I can do this all day, Will,’ the Alpha says, and Will groans, shaking his head in frustration. Hannibal chuckles, earning himself a snarl from his Omega, and he begins to kiss and suck at Will’s inner thighs as punishment, blowing cold air over his twitching, swollen length.

Fuck,’ Will gasps, growling at him. He tries to squirm away, to gather his thoughts for a second, but Hannibal is too strong, and he can’t do anything but submit. If it was anyone else, he’d keep fighting, but he doesn’t really want to fight Hannibal, and the moment he decides to give in, to do as he’s told, he can sense Hannibal’s amusement, his anticipation of Will’s description of the pleasure he’s feeling, because Hannibal knows just how to push him, how to build the perfect bond; mind and body.

Will lets himself sink into the current tugging at him, drifting on the waves lapping at his insides. His jaw loosens and, after releasing a slow, shaking breath, he relaxes his hands to show his surrender.

‘It feels warm,’ he says, locking eyes with his Alpha. ‘It feels tight and empty at the same time. Giving in to you feels… comforting… I want to lie back, close my eyes and never think again.’

Hannibal tilts his head. He releases Will’s left leg so that he can reach over him and hold his crest again, lowering his face to his mate’s so that all Will can see is Hannibal, all he can smell is Hannibal; all he knows is Hannibal.

‘And how does that feel?’ the Alpha whispers, running his fingertips up and down the ridges of the crest.

Will shudders, sweat beading on his forehead as his pupils blow wide.

Good,’ he gasps. ‘So good… Hannibal… Alpha- Fuck… Hannibal, please…

‘Are you going to come for me, Will?’ Hannibal murmurs, and Will nods, baring his teeth as his vision explodes with white and his orgasm finally, finally, rips him apart. He cries out, grabbing at Hannibal’s shoulders, yanking him down against him as he spills pearly white across both of their stomachs, sticking them together even as Hannibal lines himself up so that he can enter the Omega’s pulsing body.

‘That’s it,’ Hannibal whispers, releasing Will’s crest to stroke his hair and face as he pushes deep inside him, groaning at the burning hot vice suddenly stroking every inch of his length. His fingers catch the tears falling from Will’s eyes and his own breath falters as he loses his rhythm, his balls jumping up, pleasure crackling along his spine and winding as tight as a spring in his chest. He stills, waiting for the climax to wane enough that he can move again, and purrs when Will whines at his restraint.

‘I know,’ he says, capturing Will’s swollen lips in a bruising kiss, releasing his other knee so that Will can wrap both legs around him and hold him tight, freeing him to slam in and out of the silky smooth body around him. He feels his stab wound tear but he barely notices the pain. He’s close… any moment now…

Will grabs hold of Hannibal’s face, reaching up to kiss him as they match each other move for move. The sound of skin slapping and breath rasping fills his ears. He rolls his hips, squeezing and bearing down as Hannibal begins to come, pulling in as hard as he can so that his body takes the knot as deep as possible. Hannibal grabs him by the back of the neck and they come together, white and gold and red, and Hannibal’s arm goes out from under him as his breath leaves him in a sound of pleasure that Will can feel is so sharp it’s almost pain.

He hugs Hannibal close, so full that he can’t remember how to exist without his Alpha inside him.

‘I’m yours,’ he breathes, stroking Hannibal’s hair as the other man trembles on top of him. He kisses Hannibal’s forehead, his temples, any part of his face he can reach until Hannibal lifts his head and meets his lips with his own, soft and lazy and gentle, enjoying the taste of each other as they bask in the afterglow.

‘And I’m yours,’ Hannibal promises, pressing the words into Will’s mouth. ‘If you’ll have me.’

‘I already do,’ Will whispers, rubbing the pads of his thumbs over the creases in the corners of Hannibal’s eyes.

Hannibal hums, tilting his face into the touch, but he doesn’t want to argue semantics. Will has enough of him, for now. Their bond is strong; a good foundation for the work he needs to do on his mate’s mind. Will can already sense some of his thoughts and emotions, just as Hannibal can sense some of the Omega’s, and that connection will develop over time. Eventually, their shadows will merge, and when that happens… He quivers in anticipation, and Will whimpers at the movement of his knot inside him.

‘Move with me,’ Hannibal says, and he hugs Will close as he kneels up, turning and twisting so that he can sit back against the headboard. It takes a few attempts to shove the pillows up but eventually they settle with Will straddling Hannibal’s lap, still sealed together, both breathing hard from the near-cramping pleasure of the adjustments.

‘Just crush me next time,’ Will teases, resting his burning cheek against Hannibal’s shoulder. He snuggles close, making himself as small as possible so that as much of his skin can touch his Alpha’s, his body radiating enough heat that Hannibal can feel sweat trickle down his spine.

They lie quietly for a while, enjoying the feel of each other, wandering hands stroking and rubbing at pulled muscles and bruised skin. Will’s breath deepens as he drifts off, exhausted from last night’s bonding, but Hannibal fights his own heavy eyelids. He wants to stay awake to appreciate his mate’s vulnerability, his trusting and open face, soft in sleep. He strokes Will’s hair and, as he does so, imagines his fingers coming away red with blood. Imagines it sliding down Will’s face, over his cheeks, staining his lips, gathering in the well of his throat and his navel…

I want to show you who I am… I want you to see me. All of me; will you stand by me?

A pair bond is not infallible; Hannibal knows this, and he hugs Will close, resting his chin on top of the Omega’s head so that every breath fills his nose with his sweet, smoky musk. His mate’s loyalty is still divided; he believes that Jack Crawford and the FBI are there for him; that they are his family.

They will turn on you the moment they suspect the truth about you.

Hannibal kisses Will’s temple because their betrayal will hurt him, and he doesn’t want to cause his mate that much pain, but it is a necessary part of Will accepting who he really is. Shedding the bonds that cage his darkness, just as a snake must shed its own skin to grow.

‘I will do anything to help you,’ Hannibal whispers, pressing his promise into Will’s hair, into his sleeping mind and open heart. ‘Anything.’

***

Five days later, Will is on a frozen beach in Grafton, West Virginia, knocking back a couple of aspirin because his head is pounding and Jack Crawford has already been waiting for him to arrive for over an hour.

It’s bitter cold; everyone is wrapped up in layers of coats, gloves, hats and scarves, their breath steaming the air before their faces.

Ice wraps the totem pole corpses in lace, mottling the decaying skin and setting blood like rubies in the sand. It is equally impressive and grotesque; twenty feet of death circled by seven empty graves.

Will sighs when he sees it, his skull lined with razors and his crest stinging because he’s a long way from Hannibal and even though he’ll be going home to him tonight, it still hurts to be apart from him for more than an hour.

Especially when I’m around another Alpha, Will thinks, keeping a distance between him and Jack.

‘World’s sickest jigsaw puzzle,’ Zeller says, lining his camera up to get good shots of each victim.

‘Yeah, but where are the corners?’ Price replies, and Zeller wrinkles his nose at him.

‘What?’

Jimmy Price gestures to the totem pole with his notepad and pen.

‘My mom always said, “start a jigsaw with the corners”,’ he replies, and Zeller cranes his neck to look up and down the display again.

‘Er… the heads are the corners, I guess?’

‘We got too many corners,’ Beverly says. ‘Seven graves; way too many heads.’

Will circles the totem pole from the other side, scanning each piece of the monument as Jack gets him up to speed.

‘The headpiece appears to be the only recent victim,’ the Alpha says. ‘The others are years, even decades, old.’ He gestures with a leather gloved hand to the empty graves around them. ‘And we know that seven of the bodies were buried out here.’

‘Whoever dug them up knew exactly where they were buried,’ Will says, his lips twisting in distaste as he looks around the beach.

‘I guess it wasn’t enough for him to kill them once; he had to come back and defile his victims,’ Jack growls, but Will shakes his head. He looks up to the top of the totem.

‘These graves weren’t desecrated Jack; they were exposed.’

What am I saying with you?

His shadow licks at his ears, his eyes, his tongue, and Will smells his scent thicken. Over the last few days, Hannibal has taught him how to recognize when the current rises within him; it’s no surprise that Jack straightens up and claps his hands to get everyone’s attention.

‘OK, everybody, let’s go!’ he booms. ‘Let’s clear the scene!’

Nobody argues; they dip their heads in submission and dutifully tramp to the edges of the beach to await the go ahead to return. Will walks some of the way with them, following the trail of something in the air. He stops when it falters, turning back to the beach, to the waves, the current bubbling up inside him.

His crest flares with heat and Will removes his glasses. I don’t need these to see you.

The rims of his irises flare bright gold but he is already closing his eyes. Whispers in the dark, a heartbeat…

I can feel you…

Resonances, sickly sweet, rotten… He’s falling back, slipping into the stream and then…

He’s not himself. He’s not there

He takes a deep breath, cleansing his lungs, and opens his eyes.

It’s dawn. Still dark. The tide is in but it doesn’t come this far up the beach. The pole is half formed already; he’s been working on this all night and his limbs are aching from lifting and strapping the bodies to the trunk.

Will steps closer to his supplies, his cold voice cutting through to the edges of his mind where part of him is waiting. Always waiting.

‘I planned this moment, this monument, with precision. Collected all my raw materials in advance…’ He grabs a torso and heaves it onto the trunk, strapping it down with rope. ‘I position the bodies carefully, according each its rightful place.’

He’s warm now; sweating from the effort of so much heavy lifting. It soaks into his hat, drips down his spine, gathers in the base of his back…

Peace in the pieces disassembled.’

It’s true; he does feel calm. He’s in control here, after all, and his Alpha is waiting for him.

A muffled cry catches his attention. Draws him back to the memory. He looks over at the male Beta, a dumpy, pallid looking man, bound and gagged several feet away.

‘My latest victim, I save for last,’ he croons, returning to the ropes he weaves and ties around iron pipes and broken bones. ‘I want him to watch me work. I want him to know my design.’

And then it’s time.

Mine

He draws closer, hunting knife at the ready. The blade winks in the first grey light of day. Your last…

He kicks the man onto his back and stands over him. Bitter rage courses through him, giving him the strength he needs to finish it. He bares his teeth at the man, at the abomination, and shoves the blade deep into his chest, splitting the bone and piercing his heart.

The dying is slow, and painful, but eventually the light fades from his eyes. Will gets up, looking down at his victory, watching the blood seep into the sand around the cooling corpse.

Now, for the finishing touches.

He breaks the body. Manipulates it. Folds it in half to create the top of the totem pole. Hours and hours of work today; years of preparation…

‘This is my resume,’ he purrs, looking up at everything he has created. ‘This is my body of work. This is my legacy.’

He stares up at the totem, at his success, and his breath ripples the air in front of him. Heat spirals out from his belly, singing in his veins, and slick dribbles down his thighs even as boiling blood drips onto his cheek…

He’s safe.

Will blinks once, twice, frowning when he realizes he’s no longer on a frozen beach in West Virginia. He’s…

He looks around; he’s in Hannibal’s waiting room…

What the fuck?

How did he get here? What…?

He hears the door open behind him and turns. Hannibal is on his way out of the office, pulling on his coat at the end of the day, but he pulls up short at the sight of him.

‘Will; I wasn’t expecting you.’

Will’s throat catches around a whimper. He can’t catch his breath; he can’t stop shaking. He feels weak; his clothes are sticking to his clammy skin and his ears are ringing. Panic claws at his insides, making his heart throw itself against his ribs.

‘Come in,’ Hannibal says, reaching for his mate’s hand to comfort him as Will stumbles forwards. But Will shrugs him off because he needs to move; he wrenches his hat and gloves off, throws them on the couch and then strides to the other side of the room.

‘I don’t know how I got here,’ he says, his voice catching in something dangerously close to a sob.

Hannibal ignores the tightness in his own chest and merely removes his coat, pitching his voice to be low and comforting as his mate works through his fear.

‘Your car is outside, so we know you drove,’ he says.

‘I… I was on a beach in Grafton, West Virginia, I blinked and then… then I was waking up in your waiting room, except I wasn’t asleep!’ His throat slams shut and Will claws at his hair, trying to dig out the terror buzzing around his skull.

This can’t be happening… This can’t be happening… Please say this isn’t happening….

‘Grafton, West Virginia, is three and a half hours from here,’ Hannibal muses, folding his coat over the back of his desk chair. ‘You lost time.’

You were in prodrome, Will. If you weren’t on scent suppressants, you most likely would have started a mass rut.

‘There is something wrong with me,’ Will whispers, clenching his hands in and out of fists, moving back and forth, back and forth, his eyes darting around the room as if he’s locked in.

Hannibal considers him. Considers the fractures he is creating; widening until Will’s concept of reality snaps.

I will do anything to help you.

‘You’re disassociating, Will,’ he lies. ‘It’s a desperate survival mechanism for a psyche that endures repeated abuse.’ He follows Will as his mate tries to walk away from what he’s saying.

Will throws up a hand to ward off his Alpha’s words.

‘No, no, I’m not abused!’ he cries.

‘You have an empathy disorder, not a biological one,’ Hannibal insists, stalking after him, crowding him so that Will has no choice but to listen, to hear and accept what he is telling him. ‘What you feel is overwhelming you.’

‘I know, I know, I know,’ Will mutters, shaking his hands at his sides, his pacing now limited to in front of the couch.

‘Yet you choose to ignore it,’ Hannibal says, playing on Will’s sense of guilt. ‘That’s the abuse I’m referring to.’

Will scrubs his face and then glares at Hannibal with red-rimmed eyes.

‘What? Do you want me to quit?’

‘Jack Crawford gave you a chance to quit and you didn’t take it,’ Hannibal replies. ‘Why?’

‘Um…’ Will tries to control his breathing but it’s erratic; he feels like he’s drowning, fighting for air that’s too thin to support him. ‘I save lives,’ he gasps.

‘And that feels good?’ Hannibal asks, raising an eyebrow at him.

‘Generally speaking; yeah,’ Will replies, trying to walk some feeling back into his numb legs.

‘What about your life?’ Hannibal asks, and that gets Will’s attention. The Omega turns, frowning at him.

‘Huh?’

Hannibal holds himself very tall and still, lifting his chin so that he’s looking down his nose at the Omega. A dominant stance, radiating power and authority.

‘I’m your mate, Will,’ he says, and he knows he has Will’s undivided attention when he continues, ‘I don’t care about the lives you save. I care about your life, and your life is separating from reality.’

The position, the tone, even the flicker of red he allowed in his eyes; they have the desired effect and Will sinks to the couch, dropping his face into his hands in defeat of his mate’s argument. He can’t fight Hannibal; all he can do is ask for help.

I will do anything for you, Will…

Will tries to control the sickness churning in his gut. Slides his hands across his stubble and stares, sightless, across the room.

‘I’ve been sleepwalking…’ He swallows bile. ‘I’m experiencing hallucinations… Maybe I should get a brain scan.’

‘Will!’ Hannibal sharpens his tone and watches his Omega flinch at the reprimand. He moves around his desk, allowing his scent to flow through the air and settle on Will’s skin, encouraging him to accept him. ‘Stop looking in the wrong corner for the answer to this.’

Will huffs a sigh and sits back, wiping sweaty palms on the thighs of his jeans. Hannibal comes to a stop close by and looks down at him, withholding physical contact so that Will’s fear continues to feed the thoughts he is planting in the Omega’s mind.

‘You were at the crime scene when you disassociated,’ he says. ‘Tell me about it.’

Will grimaces but he answers his Alpha without hesitation.

‘It was a totem pole of bodies.’

Hannibal considers this, his hands in his pockets to keep himself from hugging his Omega. He adopts an air of relaxed, casual conversation to soothe his mate; Will can always find the calm he seeks when he embraces his darkness. When he thinks about killing.

‘In some cultures, crimes and guilt are made manifest so that everyone can see them, and see their shame,’ he suggests, and Will shakes his head, drawn in so that his shadow can feed him the answers.

‘No; this isn’t shame, this is celebration; he’s marking his achievements.’

Hannibal sighs, making sure not to look into Will’s desperate, pleading gaze.

‘And, faced with this killer’s achievements, your mind needed to escape and you lost time,’ he says sadly. And then he waits, just for a moment, for the inevitable.

For Will’s shoulders to sink and for him to nod because Hannibal is his Alpha, his mate, and Will trusts him, completely.

‘Yes,’ Will whispers, the fine hairs rising on the back of his neck as he finally admits it.

Hannibal is quiet for a moment, still turned away, still denying Will comfort. Flayed alive in order to live. This is, after all, only the beginning of the descent. It will be worse for Will, yet; Hannibal has to stay strong for him.

‘I’m worried about you, Will,’ he says. Another layer of doubt. Another seed of confusion. ‘You empathize so completely with the killers Jack Crawford has your mind wrapped around that you lose yourself to them.’ He looks down at his silent Omega, at the pale and pinched face of his mate, and tilts his head. ‘What if you lose time and hurt yourself? Or someone else?’ He waits for Will to blink and look up at him, waits to see his shadow lurking behind wide, blue eyes, and then puts the last piece in place. ‘I don’t want you to wake up and see a totem of your own making.’

And Will trembles, because he believes it’s a possibility. He believes his Alpha, believes that Hannibal would never lie to him in such a way, and Hannibal mourns the fact that he has to do this to help him. That he has planned much worse.

‘Let me take you home,’ he says gently, finally offering Will his hand. Will grabs on tight and holds it to his face for just a moment, tears slipping down his cheeks when he closes his eyes.

‘I’m sorry,’ he whispers, pressing a kiss to Hannibal’s knuckles. ‘I’m sorry.’

Never be sorry, Will,’ Hannibal replies, his heart skipping a beat at the guilt in his mate’s voice. Guilt that shouldn’t be there. Fear, certainly, but not guilt.

He pulls the Omega to his feet and wraps him in his arms. Cradles Will’s head to his shoulder, rubbing his nose back and forth over his brown curls, soaking up the smell of salt and death and Will; sweet, smoky musk and tangy slick.

Mine.

‘I don’t want to be alone tonight,’ Will mutters. He can’t lift his face to look at Hannibal; he’s not sure he’d survive the rejection if Hannibal wants him to try sleeping by himself again, and he half-sobs with relief when he feels his Alpha nod.

‘Of course,’ Hannibal says, though he makes no move to pull away. ‘I’m here for you, Will.’

‘I know,’ Will sniffs. He forces himself to step away from the taller man, from his warmth and comfort, and scrubs his face again. ‘Can we… I mean… You were on your way out when I got here, right?’

‘We can go now, yes,’ Hannibal replies, and Will manages a tiny, crooked smile of thanks. The Alpha returns to his desk and gathers up his coat, watching carefully as Will picks up his hat and gloves and shoves them into his pockets before waiting by the door. Hannibal goes first, and leads the way outside to the car, even holding open the Bentley door for him, surprised when the Omega doesn’t resist.

He reaches over and places a hand on Will’s knee during the drive out to Wolf Trap; his mate is subdued; his shoulders hunched and head lowered, still except for the occasional tremble. Hannibal can sense enough to know that Will is buried in a sea of doubt and misery, and he chooses a suitably somber lament from the opera Dido and Aeneas to fill the silence, leaving Will to his thoughts.

The dogs bound out into the snow to greet them when they arrive, and Hannibal is pleased that Will cheers a little to see them. His Omega drops to his knees on the porch to greet them, one by one, as they return from exploring the yard. Hannibal offers one a pat on the head, but his attention is on his mate, and the dogs quickly lose interest in him, which is perfectly fine by him because he has no particular interest in them, other than their positive impact on Will.

He waits inside, removing his coat and draping it over the back of an armchair, followed by his suit jacket with the cufflinks stored safely in the pockets so that he can roll up his sleeves, ready to cook. Switches the lamps on as he walks towards the kitchen, and Will takes the increasing light as a cue to follow.

‘Come on, everybody,’ he calls, beckoning the dogs to him and stamping snow from his boots. He closes the door and meanders towards the kitchen, looking up at Hannibal from under his brows as he hovers in the doorway, adorably uncertain even in his own home. Hannibal smiles and reaches for him, drawing him in for a slow kiss as he pushes Will’s coat from his shoulders.

‘I don’t have much food in,’ Will apologizes, his stomach twisting with embarrassment at the idea of Hannibal trying to salvage something, anything, from his cupboards. They normally cook at the Alpha’s house and bring meals with them to Will’s; he has meat for the dogs but his human supplies are pitifully limited.

‘I have every confidence that I will find something to use,’ Hannibal assures him, and Will sniffs a laugh before resting his forehead against his Alpha’s shoulder because he’s very tired and really, all he wants to do is try to sleep. But he can’t; he asked Hannibal to come over, so he should at least try to pay attention to him. He jumps when Hannibal cups him under the chin, forcing him to lift his head and look at him.

‘Will, we’re bonded; this isn’t a date,’ Hannibal murmurs. ‘Sleep if you need to. I can take care of myself.’

Will’s heart skips a beat and he has a moment of uncertainty before he feels a warm rush of appreciation for his Alpha for knowing what he’s feeling.

‘Still not used to this emotional connection,’ he mutters. He sinks into one of the dining chairs, his elbows on the table, head in his hands. Groans when Hannibal comes up behind him and begins to massage his tight shoulders, dipping forwards and baring his crest for his mate when Hannibal encourages him down. Silence falls between them again, and Will listens to the house breathing around them; the creak of wood shifting, the click of the boiler and the trickle of water in the bathroom…

He realizes his eyes are starting to slip shut and clears his throat.

‘Mmm… You’re really good at that,’ he mumbles. ‘But you should stop…’

‘Why?’ Hannibal asks, digging his thumbs into a particularly stubborn knot between Will’s shoulder blades and eliciting a wincing groan from the other man. ‘You’re enjoying yourself, and I want to make you feel good.’

‘I didn’t peg you for being altruistic, Dr Lecter,’ Will teases, and Hannibal leans down so that his breath ghosts over the ridges of Will’s crest, barely an inch from touching. He purrs when Will shudders, the Omega’s scent suddenly thickening, and brings his hands closer and closer to Will’s neck, teasing at the very edges of the crest…

‘Very observant of you,’ Hannibal murmurs, placing a chaste kiss to the soft skin just beneath Will’s ear. ‘The better you feel, the better you smell and the better you taste,’ he explains. ‘I want to taste you, Will; therefore, I want you to feel good.’

‘Don’t want me wallowing in self-pity,’ Will says, and Hannibal hugs him from behind, pressing his cheek against Will’s cheek.

‘I want you to look after yourself,’ he whispers, linking his fingers with Will’s and holding their joined hands over Will’s heart. ‘I want you to see your darkness as a strength; to use it.’ He turns his head and, before Will can argue with him, catches his lips with his own, kissing him again and again until the Omega stops resisting him and simply sits, held tight and safe by his Alpha.

I can’t give in to the darkness, Dr LecterIt’s too dangerous.

Will knows what he wants to say, but he’s drowning in the taste and feel of Hannibal. Heat pools between his legs, crackling up his spine to throb in time with his pulse in his crest. He can’t help but purr as Hannibal nibbles along his jawline, and he tips his head back to bare his throat in surrender as Hannibal wraps one hand around his neck in a choke hold, staring up into burgundy eyes as Hannibal speaks down to him.

‘When we lose everything we care about, we find out who we truly are. Do you know who you are, Will?’

The words cut deep, and Will shivers. He swallows, trying to find his voice, feeling the pressure against Hannibal’s palm. Reaches back up over his head when his Alpha leans down to kiss him again, stroking through Hannibal’s silky hair, making it fall forwards onto his forehead.

You’re going to help me find out, he thinks, his shadow coiling through his ribs to settle, warm and comforting, in his heart. This is your design.

Hannibal pulls back from Will’s mouth, testing the heat rippling his breath. He’s close to another prodrome… Will whines, calling him back, and Hannibal purrs to comfort him. He straightens up, placing his hands back onto his mate’s shoulders, manipulating the pressure points around his neck to ensure compliance before he squeezes the crest tight, flooding Will’s body with dopamine.

The Omega falls forwards but Hannibal catches him with an arm around his chest, hugging him back as he continues to manipulate him. He can smell the changes in Will’s scent; the heat hormones sweetening it to the point of syrup. Then, when Will is ready, he leans down to whisper into his ear,

‘You fell asleep as soon as we got home.’

‘I fell asleep?’ Will mumbles, listing to the side in a feeble attempt to be closer to his Alpha. Hannibal nuzzles his cheek and Will purrs, wishing he could move his hands to hold him, to do more than just rest, palms up, on the table, but he can’t, because he’s not in control of his body anymore.

‘Tell me what you remember,’ Hannibal murmurs, pinching the middle ridge and then rubbing up and down the crest as Will shudders. His Omega is sweating now, his skin flushing pink as the copper in his eyes thickens to a band of gold. Hannibal can smell the slick pouring out of him and he licks his lips in anticipation of the taste. ‘Tell me, Will.’

‘I… fell asleep,’ Will manages, his head drooping when Hannibal releases him. He can’t… He’s not even…

Is he drunk? Drugged? He whimpers, calling for his Alpha.

‘Hannibal…?’

‘I’m here,’ Hannibal breathes. He pulls Will to his feet and holds him close. ‘I’ve got you.’

‘You’ve got me,’ Will repeats, reaching up to kiss his Alpha, scrabbling to undo his shirt buttons so that Hannibal can get to his body. ‘You’ve got me… I’m yours.’

Hannibal holds each side of Will’s face, kissing him hungrily, and turns his back on his reflection in the window.

This is for Will’s own good. He made him a promise, and he always keeps his promises.

I will break you, and I will save you.

***

When Will wakes the next morning, it takes him a while to recognize where he is, because he’s so used to spending the night in Hannibal’s Baltimore house. The muted walls and big windows allowing light to stream into the house and create the illusion of being part of the surrounding countryside; a fishbowl in the wilderness, and he smiles, blue eyes drifting to the dog beds scattered around the floor in front of the stone fireplace, each with a sleeping animal curled up inside…

I’m home.

His smile widens when he feels an arm around his chest and breath on his ear, and Will turns so that he can watch his mate sleep. Hannibal is lying on his side, the covers halfway down his body, one arm supporting the thin pillow under his head. He looks so peaceful, cast in the golden light of early morning sunshine. His sandy hair is a mess, making him look younger despite the grey in it. His shoulders rise and fall slowly with deep breaths, and his scent is a sweet, rich musk, laced with sweat and sex. He looks gentle, vulnerable, and Will's chest tightens around his swelling heart.

I love you.    

He must have done something to disturb Hannibal, though, because his Alpha's lips curl into a smile and he opens his eyes, looking right at him. Will can't help but smile back, and he leans in to give Hannibal a long, slow kiss.

'Good morning,' Hannibal murmurs, stroking his jaw. 'How do you feel?'

Will shifts closer, nuzzling his Alpha's collarbone. Hannibal rolls onto his back, pulling Will with him so that the smaller man can lay his head on his chest, a leg draped between Hannibal's, bare flesh warm against the other, leg hairs rasping together, ankles crossed to hold each other close.

Considering the question, Will’s sense of peace is shattered and he frowns, chewing his lower lip. How does he feel? He fell asleep as soon as they got home last night, and he must have been really out of it afterwards because he can feel that they had sex, but it’s foggy, like a dream…

‘Will?’

Hannibal’s prompt makes him sigh, and Will buries his face in his Alpha’s chest hair.

‘Um… I need to check in with Jack,’ he mutters. ‘See if he’s angry with me for leaving the crime scene the way I did.’

Hannibal twines his left hand with Will’s right, brushing his fingers back and forth over Will’s knuckles and palm. He doesn’t want Will to tell Jack Crawford his concerns; he spent a good part of last night convincing him not to trust the other Alpha, but nerves still crawl in his stomach because he can only influence his Omega to a certain extent.

‘What will you say to him?’ he asks quietly, eliciting a sigh from the smaller man.

‘I don’t know… I’ll figure something out…’ Will mumbles, watching Hannibal play with his fingers. ‘Not the truth… Not yet…’

Hannibal hums, bringing Will’s hand up to his mouth and kissing it as a reward for accepting the persuasion. He notes the way that Will snuggles closer, seeking comfort from his Alpha because Hannibal has made himself his safe place, and he smiles.

‘I love waking up with you,’ he murmurs, looking down as Will glances up. He kisses him again, slowly deepening it until Will whimpers and tries to pull him on top of him. Hannibal chuckles but holds himself up, refusing to be manhandled, reminding Will who is the stronger of them, and Will gives up with a huff.

‘You should eat before you go,’ Hannibal says, dropping a kiss to Will’s forehead when his mate whines a complaint. He gets up before Will can argue and walks, naked, towards the kitchen, snapping his fingers for the dogs to follow him so that he can let them out.

Will can't help but gaze after him, chewing his lip with pleasure at how broad Hannibal's shoulders are, enjoying the view of his toned back and dimpled ass cheeks. Mine, he thinks, burrowing his face into Hannibal’s pillow to savor his scent for a while longer. And I’m yours.

He blushes when Hannibal turns in the doorway and catches him staring. Fucking Alpha senses...

'Shower, dress and then eat,' Hannibal says, smirking at him. ‘You can take your suppressants with breakfast.’

Will sniffs a laugh and looks away, nodding. Forces himself to get up and pads into the bathroom, resting back against the door as he waits for the water to warm up. Heat curls in his chest and he smiles at Hannibal’s casual acceptance of his continued use of heat suppressants, even though they’re bonded. He’s done it; he’s found an Alpha willing to trust him with his own body, who doesn’t just want him for the children he can bear…

He doesn’t want to wash Hannibal’s seed and scent off him, but he’s not ready to tell anyone at work about their relationship yet. His darkness rages at it, hissing its displeasure as Will scrubs himself clean using his scent-deadening shampoo and Beta-pheromone body wash, but it's necessary.

For now.

By the time he emerges from the bathroom, his hair dripping and a small towel low on his hips because he hasn’t done the laundry in days, Will can smell bacon and coffee. His stomach rumbles, reminding him that he hasn't eaten since… when? He can’t even remember…

I fell asleep…

Will rubs at his cheeks. He and Hannibal had pretty rough sex last night – he has the handprints to prove it – but he doesn’t really remember it… That’s not right, is it…?

I trust Hannibal.

Will cuts off the doubt before it can creep into his mind. He trusts his Alpha. His mate. He’s just looking for the wrong things to worry about when he should be focusing on the fact that he lost time, that he dissociated at a crime scene. After all, what would Hannibal do to him? What could he do? He’s his Alpha; he protects him.

He knows me better than I know myself.

Will slams the shutters down on his wandering thoughts and hurries to get dressed. Plaid shirt and thick cotton trousers in dark, practical colors, slightly too big for his body to bulk him out.

He looks up from pulling on socks as Hannibal emerges, still naked, carrying two plates of bacon and eggs to the table. His Alpha sets them down and then slides a hand over his hard abdomen, grinning when he sees Will’s blush and growing hardness.  

Hungry, Will?' Hannibal teases, feigning innocence with his words. Will pulls a face at him and hurries over, rubbing up against his mate and kissing him, sucking Hannibal’s lower lip into his mouth and nipping it before he lets go. He lets his hands wander down his Alpha’s stomach and over his hips, eager to stroke him, touch him, pull him inside his body, but Hannibal takes him by the wrists and holds him off.

'You’re a tease, Dr Lecter,' Will growls, and Hannibal winks before leaving him and taking his seat by the window.

‘Eat,’ the Alpha says, gesturing to the plate of steaming food. ‘We both have a busy day ahead of us.’

Will huffs but he knows that steely glint in Hannibal’s eye – he won’t get anywhere by flirting, so he sinks into his chair and then notices how nice the table looks. Hannibal’s set it with cutlery, cups of coffee and glasses of orange juice, and Will’s belly flutters. Being hosted in the Alpha’s house is one thing, but this level of care in his ramshackle little place…

'Thank you,' he mumbles, stabbing at the eggs. 'This is...' His throat tightens and he can't finish, so he just shoves food into his mouth to show his appreciation.

Hannibal reaches over and squeezes his hand, making Will pause and take a shaking breath.

‘I will always take care of you,’ the Alpha murmurs, and he shakes two tablets from the bottle marked “Estrous Blocker” to prove it. Hands them to Will, who knocks them back with a gulp of juice and nods his appreciation before returning to his food.

Hannibal watches as Will takes his scent suppressants, hiding his disappointment at how bland his mate will continue to smell. A necessary part of the subterfuge, though, one that will allow Will to keep working for the FBI. And, after his heat, Hannibal can reduce his dose to allow a hint of his natural sweetness to seep through. When they’re not at work, of course, he can refuse to allow Will to wear his Beta spray, and soak up his mate’s sugary musk all he likes.

Will is clearly starving, and he clears his plate long before Hannibal has finished. He’s thrumming with tension, his blue eyes darting to the windows and front door, jumping at every sound. It’s clear that he doesn’t want to go to work, to face the world and the pain within it, but he knows he has to.

So strong…

‘I want you to sleep at my house tonight,’ Hannibal murmurs, setting his knife and fork down on his plate when he’s finished. Will jumps up and collects the dirty crockery, eager to have something to do beyond tapping his cup and bouncing his knee, and Hannibal follows him into the kitchen, standing in the doorway and watching as the Omega tidies up.

A high amount of energy and increased appetite are both good signs that his heat is due shortly; another week, two at most and it will hit.

‘I have an early client last thing this afternoon,’ Hannibal continues. ‘I’ll come by and walk the dogs, feed them… You can drive to mine straight from work.’

Will hums and nods, refusing to look at him. If he does, he’ll never let him go...

He blinks, clenching his back teeth. Whines when Hannibal sets his cup on the side and stands behind him, wrapping him in his arms and pulling him back against his bare chest. Will drops his head forwards, displaying his crest, and shudders when Hannibal drops a feather-light kiss to the burning ridges.

Don't... Please don't leave me…

'I'll drive you to your car,' Hannibal says softly, leaning around to kiss Will's cheek, stroking his jaw, his throat, his shoulders, sliding his hands down Will’s back before pulling away. 'It's okay; just let go.'

Will shivers and nods. He’s hard, his ass cheeks damp with slick and his balls hot and heavy. All he wants to do is tear his clothes off and pull Hannibal inside him, make him fuck him and fill him and bite him…

But his Alpha is walking away, returning to the bed to get dressed, and Will is alone, emptiness hurting him as he stares at his shaking hands.

‘Hannibal…?’

Hannibal pauses, halfway through doing up his cufflinks, and smiles.

‘Is something the matter, Will?’ he asks, keeping his voice deliberately light and soothing. He counts to three and then turns, seeing Will near the dresser, blue eyes locked onto him, the edges of his irises burning bright gold. Hannibal tilts his head and holds out his hand, purring when Will all but throws himself into his arms, kissing his Alpha’s jaw, his chin, his throat, any part of him that he can reach.

Please,’ Will whispers, hot, desperate hands scrabbling at Hannibal’s shirt buttons. He growls when Hannibal pushes him off, but he stills when his Alpha holds him by the throat and presses a hand to his forehead, checking his temperature. He quivers, locked in place, muscles still jumping with the need to mate, to be touching Hannibal, and he whimpers softly.

‘Stay,’ Hannibal says, and he steps back, watching as Will follows him with his eyes, tears welling up and rolling down flushed cheeks when Hannibal leaves him to move towards the front door. Will whines, keening for his mate, and Hannibal smiles before dipping his hand into the inside pocket of Will’s coat to withdraw the Iris Inhibitor drops. When he returns, he pulls Will’s hands around his hips to comfort the trembling Omega, and kisses his mate’s forehead as a reward for obeying him. ‘Very good, Will. Now, look up.’

Will tilts his head back and opens his eyes wide, staring at the ceiling. Although he flinches at the drops going in, he doesn’t blink, and Hannibal watches as the gold fades to a dull copper. He purrs and Will smiles, squeezing Hannibal’s hips because he’s happy to have pleased his Alpha.

‘Come back to me,’ Hannibal murmurs, setting the drops aside before wrapping Will in his arms. He hugs him close, burying his nose in Will’s Beta-scented curls and concentrating to catch the faintest hint of his Omega musk beneath. ‘Come back to me, Will.’

Will blinks and looks around, his shoulders tensing up when he realizes he’s no longer sat at the dining table. He holds Hannibal tight, choking down the stupid, weak sound of fear he wants to make, and sniffs, rubbing his stinging eyes as he steps back from his Alpha.

‘Did… did it happen again?’ he mumbles, looking around for a clue as to how long he was disassociating this time.

‘Only for a moment,’ Hannibal lies, reaching down to zip up his trousers. ‘You mentioned the case and then you were gone.’

Will sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. He nods, feeling sick, and ducks his head.

‘I might have to tell Jack,’ he mutters, and Hannibal pauses midway through buttoning up his waistcoat.

‘What effect do you think this knowledge will have on him?’ he asks carefully, glancing at Will from the corner of his eye. His Omega hesitates, shifting from foot to foot, tapping his fingers against his thigh. Five beats, a pause… again.

‘I… I don’t know…’ Will shakes his head and rakes his nails through his hair. His temples are throbbing with pain. ‘I just…’ He huffs. ‘You’re right; maybe I should wait…’

‘If your mental health continues to decline, you might have no choice but to tell him,’ Hannibal says, stating it in a matter-of-fact way that will make Will trust the argument. ‘In the meantime, I want you to focus on taking better care of yourself, Will. As your Alpha, I insist.’

Will snorts and gives him a hard look from under furrowed brows. Hannibal holds the gaze, firm and steady, and the Omega is the first to relent. Will sighs again and picks up his cell phone and ID badge from the side table, striding to the hooks by the door and shrugging into his coat.

‘We have to go,’ he says, pausing at the door and then frowning. 'Where's my car?'

'Still at my office,' Hannibal replies, knotting his tie as he speaks. 'I'll drive you.'

Will nods, and waits outside with the dogs as Hannibal finishes dressing, before locking them back inside and checking the cash for the dog sitter, following his Alpha to the Bentley.

The drive to the office is quiet. For once, Will appreciates the Bach that plays in the background, filling his awkward silence with haunting notes. Hannibal gives him his space, just like always, and, when they pull into the space beside the scruffy silver car, Will leans over to give him a firm kiss. 

'Thank you.' He squeezes Hannibal's hand and brushes his lips one last time over his cheek. 'I'll see you later.'

‘Have a good day, Will,’ Hannibal replies, and Will doesn’t hide the fact that he’s rolling his eyes at how unlikely that is to happen.

Watching him drive away, as angrily determined as ever, Hannibal smiles to himself. Will trusts him to go home later, to feed and walk his dogs, to pack a bag of clothes for tomorrow and bring his suppressants with him… To care for him.

And I am caring for you, Hannibal thinks, heading back to his own house to shower and change. Just not in quite the way you expect.

***

Will knocks quickly at Jack’s office door before entering, checking that he’s alone. Jack glances up with a ‘hey’ and then returns to the report he’s reading, not bothering to watch as Will approaches.

There’s a degree of sheepishness that he can’t hide, and Will ducks his head, rubbing his tingling fingertips against sweaty palms as he looks down at his boss.

‘Um, I’m sorry about yesterday,’ he says, waiting for Jack’s calm to explode into bellowing rage.

But Jack merely frowns up at him, jotting down a note ahead of his ten o’clock meeting, and replies,

‘Sorry about what?’

Is this a joke? Will hesitates. Tries to find the right way to word it.

‘I… I wasn’t feeling like myself.’

Jack looks bemused, and he stops writing for a moment to offer Will a puzzled smile.

‘Well, not feeling like yourself; that’s kind of what you do, isn’t it?’

‘I suppose so…’ Will huffs a laugh, and Jack smiles. Nods. Job done.

‘Yeah, okay then.’

But it’s not okay, and Will’s forehead creases with worry.

‘So… I seemed fine to you?’

Jack looks up at him and bares his teeth in a half-smile, but there’s a dangerous glint to his eyes.

‘Is there something you wanna tell me?’ he asks softly. A warning. Fear claws at Will’s throat and he quickly shakes his head, lowering his eyes in submission.

‘Er, no, no…’

Jack’s nostrils flare.

‘Well, clearly there’s something that you don’t wanna tell me,’ he says, and Will’s heart starts beating very hard and fast behind his ribs at the rasp of a growl in his voice.

‘I… I guess I just got a little lost yesterday, is all,’ he mumbles, but Jack doesn’t seem to buy it. The Alpha clasps his hands before him, dark eyes fixed on Will’s face, burning him with his undivided attention.

‘And where are you today?’ he asks.

Will swallows. Where is he today? He shrugs and offers Jack a grimacing smile.

‘It got to me,’ he admits. ‘All those bodies got to me, and… and I thought it was a little more obvious than… than it was.’ He sighs. Shakes his head.

You really don’t see me at all, do you, Jack?

Jack considers him for a moment and then sighs heavily. He’s annoyed.

‘If there’s a problem, you need to tell me,’ he says, and his tone rakes across Will’s crest, making him shudder even as he nods to show that he understands. Jack raises his eyebrows. ‘Is there a problem, Will?’

What effect do you think telling Jack will have?

Hannibal’s question, innocently curious, echoes in Will’s mind. He can’t tell him; he can’t trust him…

You don’t know me, Jack. You don’t see me the way Hannibal does.

He forces himself to smile, even though he knows it looks pained.

‘Everything’s fine,’ he lies, and he watches the spark of interest, the glint of warning, fade from Jack’s burgundy-ringed eyes.

‘Alright,’ the Alpha says, his tone very final.

Don’t complain again.

He hasn’t heard the thought from Jack, but Will can feel it. He’s sure of it, and he nods, ducking his head to show that he’s fine, everything’s fine, he’s not causing any more trouble, and then he leaves the office before he can annoy the Alpha again.

He heads down to the forensics department but the smell of death and the razor sharp feel of pain, of suffering, makes him pause in the lab doorway. Will stops and takes a deep breath, surrounded by decaying corpses and photographs of the totem pole. The air is heavy with residual energy, black and bitter like tar, stinging his skin and burning his lungs. He feels sweat bead on his forehead and his crest prickles.

Hannibal…

Squaring his shoulders, Will grits his teeth and squashes the urge to turn tail and call for his Alpha. Strides up to the autopsy table in the middle of the room, where Katz, Price and Zeller are gathered around the most recent victim.

‘How many bodies?’

‘We got seventeen in total,’ Price replies, and he steps up to the table to pull back the plastic covering. ‘Meet our freshest one; Joel Summers. Forty years old, runs a cell phone store in Knoxville, Tennessee.’ He grimaces. ‘Or did. Been missing for three days.’

‘Single stab wound to the heart,’ Zeller says, gesturing to the discolored chest. ‘Other injuries were post-mortem. Broken bones, dislocated hips, shoulders…’

Will nods, listening to his shadow whispering as it rides the current around the room, picking up the thick, rotten smell of satisfaction.

‘He was special to him somehow,’ he says. ‘He held a place of honor.’

‘Seven bodies from unmarked graves found at the crime scene,’ Price says, drawing half his interest again. ‘Earth from the body parts matches the grave sites.’

Will nods; that’s expected.

‘Blunt force trauma, stabbing, strangulation… Wrongful deaths,’ Zeller adds.

‘There are at least eight other bodies that are recent grave robbings from all across West Virginia,’ Beverly says. ‘No crimes attributed to any of them; accidental deaths.’

The shadow swells, rasping and gurgling… A laugh.

You’ll never see me, until I want you to… This is my design…

Will shakes his head.

‘They’re all murders,’ he says, and then he turns and walks away because there’s nothing more he can do here. Yet.

***

‘Anthony Lamb, 28. Fatal car wreck, 1986. Francesca Bourdain, 42. Suicide, pills, 1994. Adrian Packham, 60, massive coronary, 2001. Peter McGee, 25, carbon monoxide poisoning in his home, 2006. And seven, as-yet-unidentified bodies buried on a beach.’

Will clicks through the slides as he speaks, showing images of the known Totem Pole victims and then the graves from Grafton. Walks around his desk, his voice ringing out in the dark lecture theatre to the faces of the FBI students around him. He comes to a stop in front of the desk and leans back against it, his collar damp with sweat. It’s warm in the building today; no doubt the efforts of some overzealous janitor tired of people complaining.

‘Every death is different,’ he says. ‘Made to look like something else. No sadism, no torture… The method of these murders was less important to the killer than the simple fact that these people die.’ Click. Another slide. The top of the Totem. Will turns to look up at it.

‘Joel Summers. Killed with a single stab to the heart.’

Click. The full Totem. He turns back to address the class again.

‘Presented with great ostentation, atop a display of all the previous victims.’

Fervor lights up Will’s eyes and he leans forwards. He needs them to know. To understand.

‘This killer’s design was to remain unnoticed. A ghost. That is what excited him.’ He gestures back to the Pole and shrugs. ‘Until now.’

His shadow purrs, twining around his legs and sliding up, tickling his back, licking across the tender ridges of his crest until liquid fire pools in his belly.

‘Why is he coming out into the light?’ Will asks softly, but before anyone can raise their hand to answer, the screen goes black and Alana’s voice cuts through the silent hall.

‘Will?’

The Beta hesitates in the doorway.

‘I don’t wanna interrupt if you’re rehearsing or…’ She looks around the empty classroom, worry clouding her blue eyes.

Will blinks, coming back to himself… Realizes, with a sick feeling, that he’s alone…

That he’s hallucinating… Again…

Fuck.

Panic swarms him. Drowns him. Makes him dizzy. All he wants to do is crawl under his desk and hide until Hannibal come get him, but he can’t do that… His Alpha told him to be strong, to accept the disassociations as his mind’s coping mechanisms…

He just needs to take better care of himself…

I’m stronger than this…

Sweat rolls down his neck. Will swallows, gulping air, and beckons Alana closer. Don’t tell her. Don’t let her see.

‘No, no, no, it’s okay, it’s okay,’ he manages, watching as the Beta slowly approaches.

‘Very moody in here,’ she says softly, and Will grimaces, offering her a tiny half-shrug.

‘Well, that’s me all over,’ he quips, but his voice is weak and he doesn’t sound remotely convincing. He snorts a bitter laugh and rubs at his clammy forehead. ‘Come on in.’

He pulls his glasses off and realizes his hands are shaking. His stomach clenches up and heat flares in the nape of his neck. You smell like roses and you taste like caramel… Like someone safe… I’ve wanted you for years…

He sniffs. It’s really warm in here… God, his shirt is clinging to his back and even his thighs are sweating.

‘I, er, promise I won’t try to kiss you again,’ he teases, and Alana smiles. It fades when he can’t help but add, ‘Unless you’ve stopped taking your own advice?’

‘A doctor who treats herself has a fool for a patient,’ Alana says. She’s standing a safe distance from him, still nervous, her cheeks flushed pink because Will smells good… He’s not wearing his Beta spray and his natural scent is sweet and smoky, laced with vanilla and cedarwood… That’s new, but it suits him. He smells achingly delicious.

Will nods, but he doesn’t push it, and Alana ducks her head.

‘I regretted leaving your house the other night,’ she confesses. Will looks down. Frowns.

‘“Regretted?”’ He sets his glasses down on the desk beside him. ‘Implying that you’re no longer regretting… Or are you still in a state of regret?’

‘I’m crisscrossing the state line,’ Alana replies, and Will tilts his head.

‘What side of the line are you on now?’ he asks. Alana blushes and chews her lip, but she steps right up to him and replies,

‘I’ve got one foot firmly planted on both sides.’

Heat crackles through him and Will’s crest throbs. His chest tightens and he feels like he’s been punched in the gut.

Hannibal

He frowns, blinking because his eyes are stinging and he’s not sure why.

‘Are you telling me that to confuse me?’ he asks, because it’s not fair… He’s bonded now… She left him and he needed someone… Hannibal was there for him… He loves him…

‘No,’ Alana says. She shrugs again. ‘I’m telling you that to be honest about how I feel. I don’t wanna mislead you, but I don’t wanna lie to you, either.’

Will nods and swallows. There’s something in her tone, in the finality of it…

Do you know…? Has Hannibal told you?

‘I won’t lie if you don’t,’ he says, and he looks up at her from under his eyebrows.

Alana smiles gently.

‘I have feelings for you, Will.’ She watches the emotions warring in his copper-ringed eyes and sighs. ‘But I know you like Hannibal and I won’t do anything to jeopardize that for you, no matter how much a part of me wishes I had stayed that night.’

‘Why? Why didn’t you?’ Will asks, and he can’t keep the hurt out of his voice, even though he tries to hide it with a laugh. ‘And it is not because you have a professional curiosity about me.’

‘No,’ Alana agrees. Her smile fades and she looks sad. ‘It’s because I think you’re unstable.’

Her words are like a slap, and Will flinches. Thinks about it but he can’t form words. He can’t even try to answer.

‘Hm…’ He nods, chewing his tongue, a muscle jumping in his jaw.

‘And, until that changes,’ Alana continues, stabbing the knife in deeper with every word, ‘I can only be your friend. I think Hannibal can only be your friend.’

Yeah? Well, he’d disagree, Will thinks. But he can’t say it; Hannibal hasn’t told her about their relationship, so he grits his teeth and forces himself to nod. He looks away and then back at her, his eyes flashing with anger.

‘Well, thank you for not lying to me,’ he bites.

Alana holds her ground, her blue eyes searching his face, seeing through him, into him. She knows him almost as well as Hannibal does; she’s been his friend for years. She can see when he’s not doing well. When he’s in pain.

‘Do you feel unstable?’ she asks quietly, and it’s too much.

The kindness in her voice shatters the illusion of self-control Will has been desperately clinging to. Tears well in his eyes and he feels a lump form in his throat, threatening to dissolve at any moment. Does he feel unstable? The hallucinations, the loss of time, the nightmares... 

‘Mm.’ He nods. Doesn’t trust himself to speak. What can he say? What is there to say? He’s unstable… Unstable

Alana comes closer and, very carefully, gives him a hug. Will hesitates for a moment, his knuckles white from gripping the edge of the desk, and then he clings tight to her, holding his breath to keep from crying.

‘I’m sorry,’ Alana whispers, and Will sniffs, nodding again.

The Beta rubs between his shoulder blades, careful not to go to close to the nape of his neck. She steps back and reaches down to take his hands between her cool, dry palms, dipping her head to look into his face again.

‘Have you told Hannibal?’

‘Um… Yeah,’ Will says, his voice hoarse, movements jerky as he drops his gaze, avoiding the sympathy in her eyes. ‘Yeah… He knows.’

‘Good,’ Alana replies, and she smiles. ‘That’s good, Will. I’m sure he can help you.’

Another nod. Will feels a tear slide down his cheek. He ducks his head so that Alana can’t see him cry and she lets go of him, giving him space. Because she can’t help him. Nobody can.

Nobody but his Alpha.

***

He’s curled between the feathery legs of the raven stag, basking in the sunlight filtering down through the trees. They’re safe here, protected from the world, content to lie forever in a patch of bloodstained grass…

The stag nuzzles his forehead and Will pets it. It nudges him harder, trying to make him move, and Will frowns, pushing it away. He doesn’t want to leave…

The dream dissolves and he realizes he can feel soft lips on his forehead. Will wakes slowly, warm beneath the cover, the silk lining gentle against his tender flesh, wrapped in the smell of his Alpha. It’s the first time in months that he’s not had a nightmare, and he doesn’t want to let go of the peace filling him.

He shifts, burrowing deeper beneath the heavy quilt, hiding his face under the pillow and grumbling when Hannibal pulls it all away from him and exposes him to the cold air. His groping hand meets a warm chest as Hannibal kneels over him, filling his space so that he is the only thing Will sees when he opens his eyes, and his Alpha purrs as he smiles down at his Omega.

‘Hello, Will.’

Hannibal drinks in the sight of flushed cheeks, gold-ringed irises and sleep-tousled curls. Will smells of slick and sweet musk, and Hannibal dips his head to nuzzle along a bearded jaw, nibbling and sucking at the sensitive skin just beneath his ear. Will’s breath ghosts over his cheek and then the Omega snakes his arms up and hugs him close.

Will shifts, spreading his legs and holding Hannibal with his knees, rocking up to rub his hardness against the Alpha’s abdomen. The peace of the dream is fading and he needs this; needs more.

Alpha…

‘Will,’ Hannibal says, calling him back from the crashing darkness threatening to break him. Will kisses at Hannibal’s face and jaw, moaning when the Alpha holds him by the chin and forces him to stop. ‘Will. Come back to me.’

Will blinks, groaning as the heat pulls back from his stomach and settles in his crest.

‘W-wha’…?’ he asks groggily, rubbing his hands up and down Hannibal’s arms, shuddering at the feel of his Alpha on top of him, crushing his throbbing hardness. ‘Why’d you stop?’

‘Abigail has asked to see us,’ Hannibal murmurs, placing a final kiss to Will’s forehead. ‘I received a call from her this morning, while you were sleeping.’

Will sits up immediately, concern furrowing his brow, and he pushes at the covers so that he can jump straight out of bed.

‘What time is it? Is she okay?’ he asks. ‘What’s wrong? Did something happen?’

Hannibal smiles at him, his dark eyes sparkling at Will’s fretting. It’s adorable, and he reaches out to stroke Will’s hair.

‘It’s noon, and she simply asked to see us,’ he replies. ‘Apparently, she has something to tell us.’

Will nods, but he still looks worried. He hesitates, sat up with the covers pooled in his lap, chewing his lower lip. Hannibal stands up and holds out a hand.

‘Would you like to go now?’ he asks, and Will blushes at how obvious he is. Of course, it doesn’t help that Hannibal can sense his emotions, at least the strong ones, and even he can smell the fear sharpening his scent, cutting through the musk of his desire.

‘I just want to make sure she’s okay,’ he says, brushing his lips over his Alpha’s knuckles. ‘We’ve not seen her in a while.’

‘Not since we bonded,’ Hannibal agrees, and Will raises his eyebrows when he realizes this is true. Looks up at him and asks,

‘Do you… think we should tell her?’

Hannibal considers for a moment, and then releases Will to lead the way into the bathroom.

‘I think she would like to know,’ he says, speaking over his shoulder as his Omega follows him. ‘How would you feel if she did?’

Will shrugs. He fiddles with a towel, waiting for his body to calm down, and avoids looking at Hannibal. How would he feel? Abigail is their daughter – not only because they are her legal guardians, but because of what they went through, together – and Will doesn’t think he’s alone in imagining that the Beta will come to live with them soon. But she’s still hurting, and Will doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize the fragile relationship they have; if she sees herself as an extra to their bonded pair, will she withdraw from them?

Hannibal turns the shower on while he waits for Will to answer. He steps under the spray and then reaches for his mate, pulling him close before shutting the glass door and sealing them in the large cubicle together, letting hot water trickle over their bodies as steam rises around them.

‘I want to tell her,’ Will murmurs, squeezing out a generous helping of body wash and lathering it between his palms. He rubs it into his Alpha’s chest, encouraging him to turn so that he can massage Hannibal’s back. His Alpha groans his appreciation and Will purrs, happy to have pleased his mate. ‘After we find out what she needs to tell us.’

Hannibal nods. He turns and copies Will’s gesture, massaging the tightness from his mate’s body, spreading his hands across Will’s shoulders and kneading them until the Omega groans. Will drops his head back against Hannibal’s chest, fired up and as desperate as ever, a pink blush spreading down from his cheeks to his throat. It’s delicious, and Hannibal pulls Will round to face him, lowering his head so that he can kiss him. It starts soft, lips meeting in unison and parting to share the taste of each other, trading breath as they explore teeth and cheeks and tongues. Hannibal purrs, nudging his hardness against Will's hip, cradling his Omega's face between both hands so that he can deepen the kiss and take control.

Will groans at Hannibal's taste. He reaches up, twisting his fingers in the Alpha's wet, silky hair, holding him closer as he arches his spine, trying to press as much of his body against Hannibal's as he can. Chest hair rasps against his own smooth skin and he shivers at the pleasure of it. Flames lick their way up his spine, burning his crest until it swells, throbbing in time to the beat of his heart.

Alpha…

Hannibal breaks the kiss and picks up the shampoo.

'Allow me?' he asks, and Will nods dumbly. He faces him, holding very still as Hannibal rubs soap into his hair, humming at the simple pleasure of it. At a nudge, he tilts his head back under the spray to rinse away the suds, and Hannibal combs his fingers through Will’s curls, pressing a quick kiss to his wet temple.

'I do prefer the scent of this one,' he teases. He lowers his hands to hold onto Will's wet hips as the Omega finishes washing the soap out, his fingers settling into the fading bruises from the last time he gripped him like this.

Will's breath catches at the memory and he tilts his head further back under the spray, closing his eyes tight and baring his throat for his Alpha. Hannibal's gut tightens at the invitation and he leans in to suck at the water running down Will's neck before jerking him around and pushing his back against the tiles.

Will gasps at the sudden cold, but it is swallowed by Hannibal as his Alpha claims his mouth in another hungry kiss. He spreads his legs so that Hannibal can put a knee between his thighs, groaning at the pressure against his hardness.

'Don't open your eyes,' Hannibal whispers, placing a broad palm over the Omega's eyelids to reinforce the command. 'I want you to touch my body, Will.'

A whimper catches in Will's throat and he hurries to obey. Hannibal angles the shower head so that water runs down the fronts and sides of their bodies, adding to the sensations. Will strokes over lean muscles encased in smooth skin, spreading his hands through the soft hair on the Alpha's chest and rolling hard nipples between his fingers. He pushes his head forwards, nuzzling into the wet crook of Hannibal's neck, resting hot lips against the Alpha's pulse and inhaling his scent.

'Hannibal...' His voice is barely a whisper, and he blindly kisses along his Alpha's jaw, feeling the roughness of a night’s stubble. 'Mmm...'

He skims his hands lower, sliding one around to cup the mound of Hannibal's backside as the other strokes over his mate’s erection. He hears a low purr from Hannibal and smiles into his cheek, tickling his fingertips over the sensitive tip, gathering up slippery pre-cum and using it to ease the stroke down to the base of his length. He repeats the movement, pulling Hannibal closer to encourage his Alpha to rock his hips, moaning when Hannibal grabs his chin and kisses him again, bruisingly hard.

Hannibal devours Will’s mouth for a few moments, lazily thrusting into his mate’s grip, but he wants more. He reaches down and pushes Will's hands from him, hushing him when his Omega whimpers. Turns the shower off and slides back the door, guiding Will to follow blindly.

'Hannibal... Can I open my eyes, yet?' Will hesitates at the edge of the shower, his brow creasing in and out of a frown. Hannibal runs both hands down his leg, encouraging him to bend his knee, and he wobbles, grabbing onto the Alpha's shoulder as Hannibal pulls his leg out and down onto the floor.

'No,' Hannibal replies, repeating the movement until Will is stood on the mat with him. 'Trust me.'

Will nods, tilting his head to follow Hannibal by sound only. He leans into the hand that Hannibal places in the center of his chest, smiling around a little sound of satisfaction when his Alpha uses a towel to gently dry off his hair. It's intimate; having Hannibal care for him like this, and Will turns immediately when the other man pushes his shoulder.

Hannibal smooths out Will's curls after rubbing away the excess moisture, dropping the towel to the floor and wrapping his arms around the smaller man, pulling him back against his chest. He dips his head and places a kiss next to the burning red crest at the nape of Will's neck, earning a high-pitched whine from the Omega.

Will can't help but grind back against Hannibal’s erection, his buttocks and inner thighs coated with slick. Hannibal hushes him and drops another kiss to the other side of his neck, rolling and pinching his nipples until he squirms.

When he looks over Will's shoulder, Hannibal smiles at the sight of his hardness, at the pearly drops leaking from the tip, and he nibbles at the sensitive skin just beneath Will's ear as he runs a hand down Will's quivering belly and then lower to grip him tight.

Will bucks into the firm hold, moaning as pleasure floods his body with heat. Hannibal begins to jerk him off, squeezing and stroking his throbbing length until the ache spills over into waves of pleasure that climb higher and higher. Then, just as he's about to come, the Alpha lets go. Will tries to double over, crying at the sudden loss, but Hannibal's strong arm around his chest holds him back against his body, forcing him to stay upright, shuddering with the desperate need for release.

'Hannibal!'

'Not yet,' his Alpha purrs, and Will quivers. He writhes back against Hannibal's hips, marveling at how calm and controlled he is when Will can feel his arousal, both from the hardness of his erection and from the waves of emotion crashing into him. But he doesn't want to wait... He can't...

'Alpha… Hannibal…' he whispers, reaching back to hold Hannibal close, bowing his head to bare his crest for him. 'Please...'

Hannibal groans at the manipulation, even as his eyes itch red and his hips jump forwards. Will's good; pitching his voice just right to snap the last threads of self-control. He growls, pressing an open-mouthed kiss to the scorching ridges, reaching back down and roughly stroking him to completion because his mate needs it. He holds him close and Will comes hard, spilling himself over Hannibal's fingers as he bears down against the feeling of Hannibal's erection against his backside. His body opens, spilling tangy, sweet slick over Hannibal's length, and Hannibal shudders with the overwhelming urge to bury himself inside the hot, welcoming body.

'Hannibal...' Will reaches for him again. He needs it... Needs his Alpha inside him... His eyes fly open as Hannibal grabs him in a choke, hauling his back flush to the Alpha's chest. Pressure builds at his entrance and then Hannibal is pushing inside him, inch by inch, moving in time with Will's pulsing, clenching muscles. He groans at the stretch, at the pleasurable ache as Hannibal fills him. Owns him. He lifts an arm up over his head to hold Hannibal's hair, stroking him as though soothing him.

Hannibal holds Will tight, one hand at his throat and the other over his stomach, purring when he feels his own length moving inside Will's body. He pushes Will to his knees and follows him, fucking him hard and fast, panting into Will's ear before he fixes his lips around the irresistibly soft crest at the top of the Omega's spine. He sucks hungrily and white pleasure crashes through him as Will comes again, spasming around him and squeezing like a vice, milking his release from him in three final, jerky thrusts before he swells to a knot, locking them together.

'Fuck... Will...' He releases Will's burning neck to rest his forehead on the other man's shoulder. Sits back on his heels and pulls Will to him, wrapping his arms tight around him. 'Mmm...'

Will gives a breathless chuckle, linking their fingers together over his racing heart. He turns just enough that he can kiss Hannibal and then drops his head back, gazing, glassy-eyed, at the bathroom ceiling.

‘I needed that,' he murmured. He tries to adjust his weight on aching knees, his legs still spread around Hannibal, and hisses a laugh when Hannibal's knot pulls at his insides. 'Um... well, this is awkward.'

'Perhaps something to consider for next time,' Hannibal chuckles, grinning at him and kissing his cheek when Will laughs. 'We shall have to be patient.'

Will groans, but he makes no further attempts to move, just holds Hannibal's arms close to his heart, content to trace the Alpha's knuckles with his fingertips. After a few minutes of silence, he feels Hannibal’s wandering lips trace over the jagged line of scar tissue beneath the ridges of his crest, and he hums.

‘I never did tell you how I got that, did I?’

‘No,’ Hannibal murmurs, kissing it again, feeling Will tremble beneath his mouth whenever he draws closer to the crest. ‘Are you ready now?’

Will sniffs.

‘I was ready before you bonded me,’ he says. ‘I was going to share it with you as way of offering myself to you… To show you I trusted you.’

Hannibal hums, nuzzling his cheek. Will sighs, rubbing his cheek back and forth over the back of his Alpha’s hands.

‘I was attacked… By an Alpha… When I was in Homicide.’

His heart skips a beat at the mention of it, and the smell of sour breath and oil fills his nose, but he wants to tell his mate, so he pushes through the immediate panic, grounding himself with Hannibal’s musk and the warmth of his body against his back, of his knot inside him, pulsing in time to their heartbeats. And Hannibal lets him, holding very still and not responding to the change in his scent; the sharp, salty tang of fear and the rasping of his breath as he continues,

‘Nothing happened… He was arrested before he could do anything…’ Will shakes his head. ‘But it meant that everyone at the station found out what I was, and…’ His hands tighten around Hannibal's as he remembers the comments, the groping hands... Hot breath on the back of his neck as he was shoved up against a locker at the end of a long day...

He shrugs, trying to keep his voice light.

‘It… caused some problems. A few of them wanted to bond me…’ He swallows and rolls his head to kiss Hannibal’s neck. ‘They were very insistent and… I just wanted it to stop.’

Hannibal swallows, counting to five to control his breathing before he speaks so that his voice is even.

'You thought that if you mutilated yourself, you would be unappealing to an Alpha. Or, they would assume the scar was a crest and that you were already bonded.'

Will rolls his eyes and snorts.

‘Yeah… Only it didn’t work, because crests are the only scars that can happen there. The skin around it… Well, you can see, but that part of my neck? it healed like it had never happened.'

Hannibal holds very still, his heart beating very hard in his chest. He has the strangest sensation in his stomach, and he rests his cheek against Will's head, closing his eyes and biting his lip as his knot starts to go down.

‘Thank you for telling me,’ he says quietly, and Will hums, turning as soon as he’s free and leaning in to give Hannibal a gentle kiss.

‘You owe me a secret now, Dr Lecter,’ the Omega murmurs, but Hannibal can’t bring himself to smile at the attempted jest. He just nods, staring deep into Will’s blue eyes, and then cups his face to stroke his cheek.

Will shifts, his throat swelling around a lump at the expression on Hannibal’s face. He pulls away, softening the withdrawal with a final kiss to his Alpha’s palm, and then clears his throat.

‘We should get going,’ he says hoarsely, and Hannibal nods. They both stagger to their feet and wrap towels around their waist, and Hannibal follows Will back into the bedroom, watching from the corner of his eye as his Omega dresses in the dark trousers and ugly checked shirt he’s brought with him in his weekend bag. A dark inferno rages in the pit of his stomach and, when he thinks of Will’s younger self, of the betrayal by the people around him, and the way that history will, inevitably, repeat itself as his Omega becomes stronger, his chest aches.

I'm going to find them, Will. Whoever hurt you... We’ll kill them together.

***

Two hours later, Will is standing by the balcony windows of Abigail’s room at the Porthaven Psychiatric Hospital, his jacket draped over his arm and shirt sleeves rolled up because it’s warm in here, his heart pounding and mind whirring with disbelief at his surrogate daughter’s announcement that she’s going to work with Freddy Lounds to tell her story.

‘I’m trying to be… understated when I say that this is a bad idea,’ he says, removing his glasses so that he can rub his eyes. For all his calm after his shower with Hannibal, his head is now aching with a headache and his shoulders feel like granite.

He can feel his Abigail’s resentment, but he takes comfort in Hannibal’s icy anger. It is restrained under layers and layers of good manners, but knowing that his Alpha is just as against this plan as he is soothes the sting of Abigail’s emotions.

Hannibal hides it well enough; he is perusing Abigail’s belongings on the desk next to him, buying himself time to school his expression into neutrality, but Will can smell the sharp, smoky tang of rage in his scent, and, when he speaks, his voice is deceptively light.

‘Freddy Lounds is dangerous.’

‘She said she wanted me to write about you guys in the book,’ Abigail says, nerves and defiance warring in her voice, making it tremble.

Will and Hannibal exchange a look and the Omega hangs his glasses from the front of his shirt. He shrugs, asking for help, and Hannibal finally turns to Abigail.

‘You would be forfeiting your privacy, and ours,’ he says, staring down at her with inscrutable dark eyes, disapproval radiating from him.

Seeing the wobble in Abigail’s lower lip, Will tries again.

‘This… this… Well, all of this will change,’ he says, gesturing to the room, the Scrabble board on the table, Abigail. ‘Whatever you’re feeling now, that won’t last. Things change.’ Abigail looks down at her crossed arms, chewing her lip at Will’s words. Sensing an opening, Will steps closer and continues gently, ‘Things are changing for me, too… I’ve been doing some accounting in my life of what’s important and what isn’t.’

Hannibal watches him, his hands clasped before him, coat hanging over his arm as he waits to see what his mate will say next. If he’ll admit how much he cares for the daughter that Hannibal has given him.

You are important, Abigail,’ Will says, but the teenager just rolls her eyes at him and, when she speaks, her tone is like acid.

‘Just because you killed my dad doesn’t mean you get to be him.’

Her words slice at Will and he flinches, looking away to hide the tears brightening his eyes. Two spots of color flare on his cheeks and Hannibal barely suppresses a growl at her callousness.

‘Abigail,’ he warns, drawing her immediate attention, and he steps up to stand beside Will, providing a unified front and offering the comfort of his warmth, his scent, as Will tries to get his breathing back under control. ‘You’ve been through a traumatic event,’ the Alpha continues. ‘And no one more traumatized than you, Abigail, but we went through it together. What you write, you write about all of us.’

‘I don’t need your permission,’ Abigail snaps, and Hannibal inclines his head, his obsidian eyes never leaving Abigail’s face.

‘And you don’t need our approval,’ he replies. ‘But I hope it would mean something.’

Do not test me.

Abigail falters, tears welling in her blue eyes when she looks to Will again.

‘I know what people think I did,’ she whispers. ‘They’re wrong. Why can’t I tell everybody that they’re wrong?’

‘You have nothing to apologize for,’ Will says, gripping the back of the chair to brace himself against Abigail’s pain. All he wants to do is pull her into his arms and hold her, protect her from the world, but he can’t; she needs to fight this herself.

Just like me.

‘Yet,’ Hannibal warns, allowing some of his dark anger to sharpen his voice. ‘But if you open this door, Abigail, you won’t control what comes through.’

The body of Nicholas Boyle hangs in the air between them, hidden from Will; their little secret…

Hannibal’s darkness whispers to Abigail’s shadow and he quirks an eyebrow; one final warning to behave. To protect her family.

‘Are you ready for that?’

Abigail opens her mouth, but she doesn’t know what to say, so she just ducks her head again. Twists her hands together and sighs. Will frowns and transfers his coat to the chair, dropping to a crouch before her and hesitantly taking one of her hands in both of his hand. Abigail looks down at him, her chin wobbling, and Will swallows. He hates to see her so upset, so lost, but this isn’t the solution. Maybe, if he can get her to wait, she’ll realize that on her own.

‘Just… Promise me you’ll think about it,’ he says softly. ‘Take a few days… You don’t have to make a decision right away.’

Abigail glances at Hannibal, at his cold, unwavering gaze, and then nods at Will. She ducks her head, taking the sympathy that the Omega offers her, letting her hair fall forwards so that Will reaches up to push it back from her face, stroking her cheek as he does. Hannibal’s lips curve into a smile at his daughter’s manipulation, but his eyes are still narrowed at her recklessness.

I want you to be our daughter, Abigail, but I will not allow anything to threaten Will.

‘Hannibal and I have something to tell you as well,’ Will murmurs, and Abigail paints a quizzical look on her face. Will huffs a small smile and stands up, drawing the Beta with him before turning and pulling the collar of his shirt down from the crest on his neck.

Oh…’ Abigail pauses for just long enough that panic claws at Will’s throat and his mouth tastes bitter with regret. He turns back to her, but she manages a smile, even if her eyes are clouded with sadness. ‘I’m really glad for you,’ Abigail says, and she allows Will to hug her when he opens his arms in offering.

Hannibal approaches from the other side and Abigail raises an eyebrow at him. He smiles and places a hand in the middle of her back, the other on Will’s, a family together.

Born in blood.

Abigail sighs and ducks her head when Will lets her go.

‘I remember when my parents mated,’ she says, prompting Will’s hand to twitch as if he wants to reach for her but isn’t sure he’s allowed. Hannibal stays quiet, his hand still stroking between his mate’s shoulder blades, watching as Abigail hesitates and then reaches up to brush a curl of hair from Will’s forehead. ‘Are you happy?’

‘Mm.’ Will nods, managing a twisted smile. The Beta tilts her head, sharp eyes picking out the shadows under his eyes and the tension in his jaw. She doesn’t challenge his lie, though; just sits back down and picks up the bag of Scrabble tiles, giving it a pointed shake.

‘So. Are we going to play?’

***

Struggling to concentrate on the Totem Pole case, Will forces his wandering thoughts back to the diagram of victims on the wall in front of him. He crosses his arms, hugging his elbows, his skin stinging and head throbbing; he just wants to be at home, but he can’t, he has to be here, away from his Alpha…

‘The display was built in Grafton for a reason,’ he says, keeping his back to Beverly, Jimmy and Brian. ‘Totem poles commemorate special events. They tell the story of a life. If Joel Summers is his finale, then this lowest body on the pole –’ Will points to the picture. ‘– will be our killer's beginning. His first.’

‘Fletcher Marshall,’ Beverly says. ‘Murdered in 1973. Beaten to death right in Grafton. His grave was robbed five days ago.’

‘No-one convicted of killing him?’ Will asks, frowning at the photograph of Marshall.

‘Not yet,’ Price says.

‘So our guy got away with it forty years ago,’ Will mutters, and Zeller shakes his head in disgust.

‘So he kept on going…’

I don’t have time for this; I should be with my family

‘There will be a connection between Joel Summers and Fletcher Marshall,’ Will says, stabbing from the top of the totem to the bottom, but before he can add anything further, Jack’s scent interrupts them and they all turn to see him in the doorway.

‘Will; I need you in my office.’

Will’s stomach drops and sweat dribbles down his back. Does he know about Hannibal? Has Alana told him? Has she told him about her concerns? That’s he’s unstable?

He glances at the others but they only shrug; they have no idea what Jack wants with him, and the Alpha is already turning away, assuming he’ll follow.

Fucking Alphas

Will bites back a growl and trails after him, an obedient little puppy. Jack doesn’t say anything, just picks up his phone and calls someone. Will leans back against the meeting table, keeping a space between them so that Jack’s scent doesn’t get too close to him.

A few minutes later, he’s surprised when Alana and Hannibal walk in; the Beta carefully avoids Will’s eyes after an initial glance, but Will hardly notices in favor of breathing in his Alpha’s heavy musk and cedarwood cologne.

The sight and smell of his mate is like a drop of liquid fire down his spine, and Will feels tendons grind as his shoulders relax. Hannibal is careful not to look at him for more than a moment; he fixes Jack with a politely curious look, and Will manages to stay where he is, allowing Alana to stand in the middle.

Jack hangs up as Alana and Hannibal enter the room, and he’s speaking before the door has closed behind them.

‘Nicholas Boyle turned up in Minnesota. Dead.’

Hannibal tilts his head, considering Jack carefully as the other Alpha continues,

‘His body was found in the woods. He was frozen. They thawed him out fairly quickly, but they said they can't tell if he died a week ago, six weeks ago, or the night that he disappeared.’

‘How did he die?’ Alana asks, and Jack sighs, gripping the back of his chair tight enough to make the leather creak.

‘Knife wound; he was gutted.’

You butchered him, Abigail… Hannibal’s mind returns to that night, to the attack, to the Beta’s shock and disgust at her own excitement of the kill. His heart is beating very fast and unease coils like an adder in his stomach. He resents such a feeling.

What have you done?

‘I've had the body flown down here,’ Jack continues. ‘I want Abigail Hobbs to identify it for us.’

Hannibal frowns, masking his worry as puzzlement.

‘You already have a positive ID,’ he says, but Jack raises an eyebrow.

‘Not from Abigail Hobbs.’

‘You can't put her in a room with Nick Boyle's body!’ Alana protests. ‘She already has nightmares about him, Jack!’

Jack nods, but there’s a hungry glint to his eyes and his jaw is set.

‘I'm curious about why.’

Will looks over at him, hugging his elbows across his chest and frowning in disbelief.

‘You can't think that she has something to do with this?’

‘I think Abigail Hobbs is the common denominator between her father, Marissa Schuur, and Nicholas Boyle,’ Jack says, raising his voice when Will shifts and shakes his head. ‘They all go back to Abigail! My instincts tell me that Abigail has answers that we have not heard!’

Will glares at him, his eyes prickling with the urge to flash gold despite the Inhibitor drops.

‘What are the questions, Jack?’ he demands, and the Alpha huffs.

‘Let's start with where she goes when she climbs the walls of the psychiatric facility,’ he says. ‘Maybe she's meeting Nicholas Boyle. None of us know what was really going on between them.’

‘I want to go on record as saying that this is a very bad idea,’ Alana says, looking over to her mentor for help. ‘Hannibal?’

You selfish, reckless child, Hannibal thinks, fury making his eyes itch to glow red. However, he merely glances from her to the other Alpha, and says lightly,

‘Jack has the look of a man with no interest in any opinion but his own.’

‘I want you to observe on this, Alana,’ Jack says, ignoring Hannibal’s comment. Will growls and straightens up, his nurturing instincts kicking in to defend his adopted daughter. If he weren’t angry with Abigail, Hannibal would want to purr at Will’s fierceness.

‘If you're putting Abigail in a room with the body, I want to be there,’ Will demands, but Jack’s gaze is steely when he meets his eye.

‘I'm sorry, Will,’ he says, ‘I am not confident with your ability to be objective about Abigail Hobbs right now.’ He strides to the door and holds it open. ‘Alana.’

The Beta sighs, but she’s been given an instruction and she grits her teeth as she follows him out to meet Abigail in reception.

In the proceeding silence, Hannibal steps forward and releases a quiet sigh. He avoids Will’s eye because his own gaze is distant; he is considering the possibilities before him, weighing the risks and anticipating the outcomes.

You’ve put us all at risk, Abigail… I warned you…

The Omega rakes shaking hands through his hair at Jack’s pigheaded recklessness, and his voice trembles with anger and frustration when he speaks.

‘He could do Abigail irreparable damage exposing her to this!’

Hannibal, however, remains calm, and murmurs,

‘Perhaps she's stronger than we think.’

For her sake, I hope she is.

Will huffs and shakes his head.

‘She shouldn’t have to be strong,’ he growls, pacing closer to his Alpha. ‘Jack’s wrong about her. He’s wrong.’

No, he’s not, Hannibal thinks, but he simply turns and, after checking that the corridor outside is empty, links his fingers with his Omega.

Will whines softly and leans against Hannibal, dipping his head and resting his forehead against his Alpha’s shoulder, soaking up his scent, trying to absorb as much of it as possible to keep him going until this evening.

‘Did you drive her here?’ he asks, speaking into Hannibal’s suit. His Alpha wraps an arm around him, resting his cheek on the top of Will’s head, and nods so that Will can feel it.

‘Yes.’

‘Make sure she’s alright?’ Will asks, glancing up at him. ‘When you take her back? Will you stay with her?’

Hannibal nods, and then checks the corridor again before risking a kiss, brushing their lips together until Will moans and leans forward to deepen it. Hannibal groans but pushes him back before they lose themselves in the taste of each other, and Will scrubs the back of his head, shoving his hands into his pockets to keep from grabbing for his mate again.

‘I… should go,’ he mutters. ‘Have to get back to the case.’

Hannibal doesn’t say anything, just eyes him hungrily as Will stares at him, each of them drinking in the fine details of their mate’s face. A minute passes and then Hannibal wets his lips, his eyes glinting at the way Will’s breath catches.

‘I’ll see you at home, Will,’ Hannibal murmurs, and Will quivers as a blush warms his face. He turns away, hiding his smile, and nods.

‘See you at home.’

***

The drive back to Porthaven Psychiatric Hospital is quiet, and Hannibal waits until they are alone in Abigail’s room before he attempts to discuss his anger with his daughter. He imagines running his tongue over razor fangs like the Alphas of old, tasting blood, and doesn’t turn to look at her when he speaks.

‘It can be a comfort to see the broken, bloated corpse of a monster, and know it can never come back.’

He has his back to Abigail, staring with unseeing eyes at the frosted glass of the big windows, his coat over one arm, the other hand in his pocket but shoulders locked with tension and eyes itching to glow red. He has no intention of hiding the true extent of his disappointment from Abigail. After all, she has poked the proverbial bear; she deserves to know the truth.

Waiting by her bed, her shoulders hunched under the fury of the Alpha before her, Abigail blinks tears from her eyes.

‘Nick Boyle wasn’t a monster.’

Hannibal turns to face her, his eyes cold, and quirks an eyebrow.

‘Were you?

The Beta trembles, but she takes a step closer, hands clasped before her, fingers picking at the cuffs of her sweater.

‘I sometimes feel like one.’

Hannibal tilts his head, still distant, his expression unreadable.

‘Is that why you uncovered his body?’ he asks, and Abigail falters. She looks away and opens her mouth, but she can’t think of a reply.

Hannibal sighs, and turns from the window.

‘Would this be a chapter in your book, Abigail?’ he asks, his casual words slicing at her. Abigail ducks her head, taking a shaky breath, and then glares at him, hugging her elbows.

No. Neither would me killing Nick, or you helping me hide the body.’

Hannibal’s lips curl into a smile at the threat, and he glances at her.

‘There’s always an addendum,’ he replies, and Abigail lifts her chin.

‘FBI already asked their questions; I answered them. I passed.’

With Jack Crawford’s attention,’ Hannibal reminds her, pacing towards the window again. Abigail huffs in frustration.

‘You’re right; I opened the door! I can’t control what comes through it, but this time, I could control when.’ Her eyes light up and she continues, ‘I’m not afraid of them finding Nicholas Boyle anymore; he’s been found.’

Hannibal doesn’t look at her, his face half in shadow, framed by the grey light of the window behind him.

‘You betrayed my trust,’ he says quietly. ‘You jeopardized my life, as well as your own. I deserve more than that.’

Abigail looks away, struggling to find a way to argue with him, but Hannibal closes the distance between them before she can speak.

‘I need to trust you, Abigail.’ For all his gentle tone, the warning in his voice is clear, and Abigail looks up at him. Hannibal raises his eyebrows and allows his eyes to flicker red. ‘What if I can’t?’

***

‘Joel Summers, the headpiece of our totem pole, was adopted after his parents died.’

Beverly speaks as Jimmy Price pulls the plastic sheet down from Joel’s broken, bruised body, and they all look down at him. Will’s dark shadow is still growling at Jack’s treatment of Abigail, and he crosses his arms, doing nothing to hide the radiating resentment towards the Alpha stood beside him.

After settling Abigail back into her room at Porthaven, Hannibal had gone home and prepared a chicken liver parfait, sous vide suckling pig with spiced port jus and a balsamic infused strawberry panna cotta, all of which he had brought round to Will’s house so that they could spend the night there. The meal had been plated with the same care and devotion to detail as always, and Will had teased him mercilessly about it, even while demolishing every course. But he’d been tired, and had fallen asleep with his head in Hannibal’s lap as the Alpha read one of his psychology textbooks and the dogs kept them company…

‘Guess who dad was?’ Beverly continues, and Will drags himself back to the present, to the harsh lights and chemical smells of the morgue.

‘Fletcher Marshall,’ he says, nodding at the connection between the first and last victims. ‘Joel Summers is Joel Marshall.’

Price lifts the file in his hand.

‘Er, we did a DNA comparison between Fletcher Marshall and Joel Summers; no match.’ He hands it to Will to flick through and the Omega frowns.

‘So… Marshall’s son wasn’t his son?’ That doesn’t make sense… Where’s the connection?

‘The mom, Eleanor, was killed in a car accident, four years after Fletcher was killed,’ Zeller says, and Jack raises his eyebrows at him.

Genuine car accident?’ he checks, and Beverly shrugs.

‘If she was murdered, she would’ve been on the totem pole.’

Will grimaces, tilting his head at the rasp of claws through his hair.

‘Well, unless he loved her too much to disgrace her that way,’ he suggests. Jack looks at Beverly and her team again.

‘Was anyone ever convicted for Marshall’s murder?’ he asks, and it’s the Alpha herself who answers.

‘There was a man named Laurence Wells who was questioned twice in 1973. Never charged, still lives in Grafton.’

Will considers it, frowning down at Joel’s body. His shadow licks at his cheek, slithers up his spine and purrs.

I see you… I know you… Your body of work…

‘Fletcher Marshall was a crime of passion,’ he says. ‘It had something that none of the other murders had.’

It takes Jack a moment, but then he nods.

‘Motive.’

***

Later that evening, standing in Hannibal’s kitchen after the pathetically tedious arrest of Laurence Wells, Will shakes his head to rid himself of the smug satisfaction fading to shock and pallid horror when the old Alpha had realized he’d killed his own son by mistake.

‘I never want to end up like that,’ he mutters, setting his wine glass down on the counter. ‘Alone… Bitter… No family… Or, at least, assuming I have no family…’ He huffs and grimaces. ‘Can’t imagine saying that a few months ago…’

Hannibal glances up from slicing vegetables as Will sighs. Watches as his Omega squeezes his neck, just above the crest, trying to force his muscles to soften. Will is crackling with energy; tremors run up and down his spine and his belly rumbles with hunger, loud enough for Hannibal to hear. Nearing his heat, it’s understandable that his thoughts are turning towards children, even if he was against the concept before. His body is preparing for them, although the first heat after so many years on suppressants will likely be barren.

‘Have you been giving more thought to family, Will?’ he asks lightly, returning to his preparation.

Will frowns and steals a strip of pepper, crunching it as he considers the question. He leans back against the island, near enough to Hannibal that he can see the tendons flex in his Alpha’s arms with every stroke of the knife, and his mouth waters.

‘Um…’ He clears his throat, takes another sip of wine and then huffs a laugh at his own nervousness. ‘I haven’t, not really…’ He looks up at Hannibal from under his eyebrows. ‘Still not sure I’m the best person to, er, share genetics with.’

‘I disagree,’ Hannibal replies. He glances at Will, a hungry smile making his eyes gleam, and sees Will’s cheeks flush, the edges of his irises flaring bright copper. ‘In fact, if I were to share genes with anyone, Will, it would be with you.’

Heat snaps through him, making Will jolt. He can’t help but stare at Hannibal, his heartbeat faltering at the implication of the words. He doesn’t want to breathe; to break this moment, especially when Hannibal lifts his head and looks at him, his dark eyes molten with hunger. Everything in Will’s gut tightens up and he swallows.

‘Um…’ He licks his lips, trying to get his brain to start working again, but he can’t… He can’t think… Hannibal and him? He… They…?

Hannibal sets the knife down and dries his hands on his apron, satisfaction warming his chest at Will’s dumbstruck expression. For all their conversations, for their intimacy, their relationship with Abigail, the Omega hadn’t considered the possibility of a child between them?

‘Are you sure you can’t stay tonight?’ he purrs, dipping his head and grinning at his mate. Will’s cheeks glow red and he stares at the floor, crossing his arms and then pushing his hands into his pockets.

‘Er… Yeah… I… I have an early start tomorrow,’ he says. ‘And…’ He sighs. ‘It’s been a few days since I slept by myself, so…’

‘I understand,’ Hannibal replies. He steps away from Will and goes to the fridge to fetch a dish of kidneys and a covered Tupperware bowl, which he hands to his Omega. Will takes it with a lopsided smile and makes a show of peeking under the lid.

‘What’s for dinner, Dr Lecter?’ he teases, and Hannibal grins.

‘It’s a surprise,’ he says. ‘Warm it in the oven for at least half an hour when you get home.’

‘Y’know, I did cook for myself before I met you,’ Will points out, but he holds the container close to his chest as he speaks.

Hannibal merely shrugs.

‘And yet you continue to indulge me,’ he says, moving to a different part of the counter to flour and season the kidneys. ‘For which I must thank you.’

‘It helps that you’re an excellent cook,’ Will replies. He sets the Tupperware down for a moment so that he can give Hannibal a hug from behind, looping his arms around his mate’s trim waist and snuggling up against his back. ‘Mmm… Will you be alright without me for a night?’

‘Hmmm… I’m not certain I can survive,’ Hannibal jokes, deft hands never stopping their work even when Will leans up to kiss the bare skin between his hairline and shirt collar. ‘Mm… But I shall do my best. Your independence is important to you, after all.’

‘It is,’ Will agrees, forcing himself to let go of the other man. ‘Thank you.’ He lists closer again, resting his forehead between Hannibal’s shoulder blades, and the Alpha holds very still, smirking to himself as a whimper claws at Will’s throat.

Fuck… This is harder than he’d thought it would be… Will growls at his weakness and wrenches himself away from his mate.

‘I have to leave,’ he says shakily. ‘I’ll show myself out and I’ll see you tomorrow evening.’

‘My office,’ Hannibal confirms. ‘Seven thirty.’ He turns, watching Will pick up his dinner and stride, gloriously defiant in the face of his biology, to the door. ‘Good night, Will.’

Will pauses in the doorway, his chest hurting at the idea of driving out to Wolf Trap, alone. His throat closes up and he has to wait for a moment for his heart to find its way back to his ribcage before he can speak. Hannibal looks so alone, surrounded by polished chrome and dark wood cupboards, floured hands waiting to return to cooking an elaborate meal for one…

He quivers, desperate to run back to him, but he locks his knees and nods, instead. Smiles and lets his love for Hannibal warm his eyes.

‘Good night, Dr Lecter.’

He’s trembling when he gets to his car, and shaking hard enough to make his teeth chatter by the time he reaches Wolf Trap. Will wipes sweat from his brow and grips the steering wheel tight as he fights the gnawing, stabbing urge to turn the car around and return to his Alpha.

He can do this… Being pair bonded doesn’t mean his whole life has to change… It doesn’t mean he can’t still be him. He can live on his farm, with his dogs, work for the FBI and go fishing… Hannibal isn’t controlling him, isn’t demanding that he change to be with him…

He wants to have children with me…

Will sinks to his knees and hugs Winston close as the dogs greet him at the door. The brown collie-cross licks the salty tears from his cheeks and Will slides his hands through the thick fur of his collar, burying his face near Winston’s ear and holding his breath to stop himself keening for Hannibal.

Fifty-one miles… He’s less than a hundred miles away… Less than an hour away…

Buster paws at the Tupperware lid and Will snaps his fingers.

‘Tssst!’

The little terrier backs away at the reprimand and Will stands up, wiping his cheeks dry. He shrugs out of his coat and takes his dinner into the kitchen. Hannibal said it needed an hour…

When he opens it, Will smiles down at the steak and kidney pie his Alpha has made for him, marveling at the delicate leaves and vines that the other man managed to create from pastry.

There are heating instructions tucked into the rim of the lid, and Will covers the bowl before sliding it into the oven. Then, because he has time to kill, he has a long shower while it cooks, turning the water up to scalding in an attempt to melt the ache from his bones.

He sits at the table, reading over his lesson notes in preparation for tomorrow’s lecture while he eats. But he can’t stop his knee from bouncing, and he keeps looking over at the front door as if expecting Hannibal to walk through any minute.

I miss you

The pastry is buttery and light, melting on his tongue between mouthfuls of rich filling, and Will forgets his notes in favor of enjoying every mouthful. He wants to call Hannibal, to tell him that he’s ruined him for all other food, but won’t let himself. He doesn’t need to; he just wants to hear his voice, but it’s not good to be too dependent on the other man.

Maybe he should go for a walk with the dogs…

Will tops up his glass of whiskey. Knocks it back and is reaching for the bottle again before he’s fully aware of what he’s doing. When he does, he growls at himself, and pushes up from the table to take the empty bowl into the kitchen.

Maybe he’ll go fishing at the weekend, and take trout with him to Hannibal’s…

He starts when he sees his reflection in the dark window above the sink. His cheeks are red and he’s glowing with perspiration, his wet hair clinging to his forehead. He must still be hot from the shower…

Will peers at his eyes; watching as his pupils blow wide, black fighting blue, hemmed in by bright gold. Heat flows through him and he shudders, grabbing hold of the counter to stay standing. His crest throbs and he bares his teeth at himself. He looks feral. Vicious…

He likes it.

Clawing at the buttons of his shirt, snapping threads in his haste to get it away from his burning skin, Will pushes the damp cotton from his shoulders, down his arms, and lets it drop to the floor. Watches his reflection as he runs his hands over his chest, over the fading bruises still darkening his nipples.

He groans to himself, sliding his hand lower, gathering up sweat and rubbing it between his fingers. Unbuckles his belt and slides his zipper down, shoving at the damp waistband of his boxers to get it all off him, now, because he’s too hot and it’s too much for his body to deal with.

Hannibal…

He steps out of his clothes and wanders towards the bed. Considers standing outside for a few minutes just to cool off, but dismisses it in favor of opening a drawer and removing one of the white t-shirts that Hannibal washed for him. It smells like him, like his detergent, like his house…

Their life together… Will feels a whimper lodge in his throat as he rubs his cheek back and forth across the fabric. It’s softer than normal, and he gathers up a second one to wear so that he can surround himself with his Alpha’s smell, in his hands and on his body. Pulls on boxers and then crawls beneath the covers, burrowing into Hannibal’s pillow and layering blankets and sheets over him. Around him; supporting and shielding him. Hiding him from the world.

His eyes are already growing heavy and he’s purring by the time he realizes he’s made a nest. When he does, he almost wants to shove everything away and stretch out, but Hannibal left him these extra covers on purpose, so that he’d do exactly this… So that he’d feel safe

Will rolls his eyes. Fuck you, Hannibal, he thinks fondly, smiling to himself.

Fucking Alphas…

***

‘Killing somebody… It feels that bad?’

Abigail’s face is lined with pain and tears well in her eyes as she looks up at him. Lost. Frightened. Because of him.

Will’s not asleep – he keeps slipping in and out of tense dreams– and the memory cuts him with its clarity.

‘I’m worried about nightmares,’ Abigail whispers, and Will flinches at the sting of a thousand cuts across his skin, remembering his own fear of sleeping after killing Hobbs.

Hannibal’s voice purrs from the darkness, stroking his cheek, soothing him and filling him with warmth, drenching his skin with fresh sweat.

‘We’ll help you with the nightmares…’

Will rolls over in his nest, swallowing the lump in his throat, and curls up with his back to Hannibal’s side of the bed. If he bunches up the covers and pretends hard enough, he can imagine his Alpha behind him, holding him against a broad chest. Can feel warm breath puffing across his neck as strong hands twined with his own… Hear Hannibal’s heartbeat loud in the silence. Protecting him. Keeping the nightmares at bay.

Fourteen hours, Will thinks, nuzzling the pillow and gripping the t-shirt tight in his fist. He’ll see his Alpha in fourteen hours…

I can do this.

***

He’s not sure why needs to see it, but after his classes that day, Will finds himself in the morgue, staring down at Nicholas Boyle’s dead body.

He’s exhausted, his temples spiking with a headache that won’t shift no matter how many heat suppressants or aspirin he takes, and Will closes a quivering hand around his can of Beta spray.

What are you telling me, Nick?

The air down here is cold, and it smells like antiseptic, so finding the dark current is easy. Sickly sweet and warm as bath water, it croons to his shadow as it flows around Nicholas Boyle…

Darkness twines around Will’s legs, licking at his belly before settling into his heart, making it skip a beat before it settles into a heavy, slow rhythm.

He closes his eyes, wades into the river and… He’s there.

Nicholas Boyle sits up, the grey cover sliding back from his frost-bitten, chewed up and decaying body… He gets down from the table, dressed in the clothes he wore that day he followed them to Abigail’s house…

Will can’t run. He’s stuck in place…

Please… Please don’t hurt me…

Panic claws at him. Twists his mind. He’s bringing the hunting knife up already and it just slides into Nicholas’s stomach. He grips it with two hands, fighting not to let go, and –

Abigail stares back at him. She brings the knife up and it’s in him, gutting him, slicing him open the way she’d cut a deer… She didn’t mean to, not really… She can’t have… But he wouldn’t stop coming for her…

Will jerks back to himself with a gasp, breathing hard and fighting nausea. He stares around, wild eyes swinging back and forth over the corpse on the table before him, to the empty room, the door… His heart batters his ribcage and his mind races in a desperate attempt to deny the truth of what he knows. What he understands.

Abigail killed Nicholas Boyle… Gutted him… And she lied to him about it.

Bile scratches his throat. He scrubs his palms on his trousers. He feels dirty… Because she couldn’t have done this alone…

How could I be so blind?

Will turns on his heel and strides out of the room.

He needs to talk to Hannibal.

***

Sat at his desk, Hannibal lets the haunting sound of the choir serenade flow around him as he adds layers of graphite shading to his sketch. His night apart from Will has left him melancholy, and he is drawing a memory from his studies in Paris, the music adding to his somber mood. The endlessly content part of him, the one who simply appreciates the music for its beauty and the artistry flowing from his fingers, is still present, but Will is awakening more feelings in him than he’d expected, and Hannibal can’t help but reflect on their conversation about family.

What sort of father do I want to be? What do I want to teach my children?

He is pulled from his thoughts, however, when the office door opens and Will appears. Hannibal glances up, noting the tightness of his Omega’s jaw, his flicking eyes and rounded shoulders. He’s early; his session doesn’t start for another hour.

He’s upset.

Hannibal stops sketching and holds his pencil between both hands, giving his mate his full attention. Smells a hint of death and chemicals in the air and he understands. Will has been to the morgue; seen the body.

He knows.

When he speaks, Hannibal hears the resignation in his voice. The time for innocence is past.

‘Hello, Will.’

Will enters the room slowly, hands twitching at his sides, his head bowed because his Alpha isn’t going to like what he’s about to say.

‘Abigail Hobbs killed Nick Boyle.’

Hannibal is quiet, taking a moment to appreciate Will’s ability to understand, to see the truth. Then,

‘Yes, I know,’ he says heavily, and Will nods. His heart is beating very fast in his chest and he can’t seem to catch his breath. His voice shakes when he speaks.

‘Tell me why you know?’

‘I helped her dispose of the body,’ Hannibal replies, his dark eyes never once leaving Will’s face. He deserves honesty and respect, and he sees the shadow rear up within his mate, propelling the Omega forwards to approach the desk, his hands curled into fists at his sides. Smells the smoky tang thicken his scent and hears his own darkness purr as Will growls,

‘Evidently not well enough.’

Hannibal rolls the pencil between his fingers, considering his options.

‘Have you told Jack Crawford?’ he asks.

Will shakes his head.

‘No.’

‘Why not?’ Hannibal asks, and Will’s throat catches around a whimper as grief rakes his insides.

‘Because I was hoping it wasn’t true,’ he replies, his voice wobbling.

His pain reminds Hannibal that, as much as he sees their darkness, his Omega wants to believe the best in everyone, and he grimaces. Sets the pencil down and touches, considers and discards his scalpel. It’s not that simple…

Hannibal stands up with a sigh, moving closer to the edge of his desk as he speaks.

‘Well, now you know the truth.’

‘Do I?’ Will asks, desperate to believe him but unable to blindly trust the answer.

‘Everything you know about that night is true, except the end,’ Hannibal says, keeping the lamp and the corner of the desk between them so as not to crowd the fretting Omega. ‘Nicholas Boyle attacked us,’ he continues. ‘Abigail’s only crime was to defend herself, and I lied about it.’

‘Why?’ Will whispers, and Hannibal scoffs.

‘You know why,’ he replies, and Will looks away. ‘Because Jack Crawford would hang her for what her father’s done,’ Hannibal explains. ‘And the world would burn Abigail in his place. That would be the story. That would be what Freddy Lounds writes.’

He senses a sliver of acceptance as Will glances back at him, and takes a step closer, moving carefully so as not to startle him. When Will walks away to stare out of the window, Hannibal knows that he can close the distance, and he speaks while he walks.

‘Abigail’s no more a killer than you are for shooting her father. Or I am for the death of Tobias Budge.’

‘It isn’t our place to decide!’ Will protests, but Hannibal shakes his head.

‘If not ours, then whose?’ He comes to stand next to Will, enough that he can see the movement in his throat when his Omega swallows. ‘Who knows Abigail better than you and I?’ he persists. ‘Or the burden she bears?’ He leans closer and adds, ‘We are her fathers, now. We have to serve her better than Garrett Jacob Hobbs.’

Will quivers at this, his breath catching as he remembers their conversation from the other night. But he doesn’t say anything; he doesn’t know what to say, and Hannibal turns half away to stare across his office, his hands in his pockets. He sighs.

‘If you go to Jack, then you murder Abigail’s future,’ he says quietly. Looks at his Omega again, trying to read the expression on Will’s face. But his mate is guarded, and Hannibal feels his stomach flutter with nerves.

I can’t sense what you’re thinking…

‘Do I need to call my lawyer, Will?’ he asks, surprised by the fear he feels at the idea of Will rejecting him. Of betraying him.

Fuck…

The uncertainty in Hannibal’s voice is like a punch in the gut, and Will can’t help but turn to him. Hannibal waits for his answer; he doesn’t even realize how vulnerable he’s made himself…

Very deliberately, Will shakes his head. He can’t bring himself to say it, but he can’t, he won’t, betray family.

Born in blood

Relief floods Hannibal, but he has to make Will understand the extent of his decision.

‘We can tell no one,’ he says, and Will turns away again. Stares out of the window, the streetlamp casting half his face into shadow.

Hannibal steps up behind him and gives his shoulder a squeeze; a reward for his loyalty.

‘What we are doing here is the right thing,’ the Alpha murmurs. ‘In time, this will be the only story any of us cares to tell.’

None of us is innocent…

Will swallows the lump in his throat, clamping down on the whimper that wants to bubble up when Hannibal lets go of him and moves away. He can’t look at him… But he can’t stand the idea of not being with him…

This is so fucked up…

‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ he asks, prompting Hannibal to pause by his desk and look back at him.

‘We wanted to protect you,’ the Alpha replies, and Will nods. He waits a while longer, still staring out at his car parked outside, trying to understand how he feels, before he gives up and wanders to his usual armchair. Shrugs out of his coat, draping it over the couch, and sinks down into the leather cushions with a sigh.

‘I feel like I can’t trust my judgment, anymore,’ he says tiredly. ‘Of Abigail… of you…’

‘I want you to trust me, Will,’ Hannibal replies, bowing his head and watching his Omega from the corner of his eye. ‘Know that everything I do, I do with your best interest at heart.’

Will hums, but he doesn’t sound convinced, and Hannibal draws closer.

‘Would you have turned us in?’ he asks softly, prompting Will to frown up at him. ‘Had you known that night… Would you have told Jack Crawford about us?’

Will opens his mouth to answer but the words stick. He rubs his fingertips together and then wipes his palms on his knees, blowing out his breath.

‘Um… I… don’t know,’ he replies, and Hannibal nods. He tilts his head, studying his mate.

‘Your feelings for Abigail have grown,’ he comments. ‘What started as an obligation born of guilt for killing her father has developed into something else, just as your attraction for me has changed.’

‘I’m evolving,’ Will murmurs, and Hannibal’s eyes gleam.

You are. And I can’t wait to see what you become.

***

‘I feel terrible, Miss Lounds,’ Hannibal says, returning from the kitchen with a fresh plate of salad for his guest. ‘It never entered my head you might be a vegetarian. A lapse on my behalf.’

He places the dish before the red headed Alpha, sensing Will’s smarting resentment of her presence at their dinner table. However, Abigail has decided to tell her story, and Hannibal wants to be supportive. This meal is also a way of warning the journalist to care for their daughter.

Research always delivers benefits,’ Freddy replies, lifting a piece of lotus root to her mouth.

Across the table from her, close enough to Hannibal that their feet touch, Will glares at her. He’s freshly sprayed with Beta pheromones and, in addition to adding a dozen Iris Inhibitor drops to each eye, is also wearing his glasses. Anything to act as a barrier between himself and the journalist before him.

‘And if it contradicts a good story, hell, publish it anyway,’ he says bitterly, and Freddy smirks.

‘Are you still angry I called you insane?’ she replies. ‘The libel laws are clear, Mr Graham.’

Insinuation is such a grey area,’ Will spits, stabbing at a piece of tenderloin. Hannibal grins, barely repressing a purr at how fierce his mate is. How gloriously aggressive…

‘Insane isn’t really black or white, is it?’ Freddy shrugs. ‘We’re all pathological in our own ways.’

‘You choose the version of the truth that suits you best,’ Will growls, wishing the meat between his teeth was Freddy’s throat. ‘And pursue it pathologically.’

A delicate sip of wine covers Hannibal’s need to snigger because that would be rude.

‘Everybody decides their own versions of the truth,’ Freddy reasons, and then she smiles at the Beta sat beside her. ‘I’m here because I want to tell Abigail’s version of the truth.’

Abigail smiles and then ducks her head shyly. Will swallows, his anger burning out as he resigns himself to her decision.

‘See that you do,’ he mutters, trying hard not to make it sound like he’s pleading with Freddy.

I don’t have anything to hide,’ Abigail says lightly; a classic Beta move to appease the Alphas around her, and allay any suspicions about her. Will’s stomach drops because it’s exactly the wrong thing to say, proven when Freddy picks suspiciously carefully at her salad.

‘Hm…’ Freddy smiles. ‘Everyone has something to hide.’

Will glances up at her from under worried brows, his chest tight.

Don’t suspect… Please, please don’t know…

 He looks at Abigail, at Nick Boyle’s killer, and fear snatches his voice. Hannibal can taste the salty undertone in his scent, and slides his foot slightly closer, offering Will the comfort of his presence.

Freddy, ignoring to the wordless exchange around her, continues to forage on her plate.

But I won’t tell anything you don’t want me to,’ she says, looking at Abigail with a gentle smile.

‘You must understand our concerns,’ Hannibal says, leaning closer to her. ‘We care about Abigail. Our only thought is to protect her.’

Freddy sets her fork down, challenging Hannibal with the tilt of her head.

‘She’s already exposed,’ she says sharply. ‘Her silence until now has been taken as guilt. This book is about her innocence. I want Abigail to have a future.’

‘That’s what we all want,’ Will says, taking a sip of Malbec to wash away the bitter aftertaste of his exchange with the Alpha. He doesn’t want to ruin the delicate flavor of the meat that Hannibal has prepared.

‘Well,’ Hannibal says brightly, glancing around the table. ‘We all want what’s best for Abigail.’

Abigail looks from him to Will, her fork paused near the thin slices of tenderloin, and Hannibal smells the change in her scent as she realizes the Omega knows...

This is possibly the finest salad I’ve ever eaten in my life,’ Freddy says, adding beet to her mouthful of lotus. ‘Shame to ruin it with all that meat.’

Will meets her gaze as he lifts another forkful of loin to his lips, and Hannibal’s eyes shine as his Omega makes a show of chewing slowly.

Mmm.’ Will’s lip curls at Freddy, and then he smiles at Hannibal. ‘It’s perfect.’

Freddy narrows her eyes at him, and at the exchange between the two men.

‘I’ve always found eating meat to be unnecessarily cruel,’ she comments, and Will snorts.

‘That’s rich; coming from you,’ he mutters. Before Freddy can respond, though, Hannibal lifts up a forkful of loin, idly inspecting it as he speaks.

‘Many animals eat the flesh of others,’ he murmurs. ‘Perhaps it’s not the eating of meat that is cruel, but humanity itself. Our treatment of those in our care, and of ourselves.’

My treatment of Will is cruel, he thinks, glancing at his mate and smiling as he places the meat on his tongue, letting the flavor melt into his mouth before he chews. But I know he can survive, and that it will be worth it.

He can feel the Omega’s eyes on his throat when he swallows, and he has to resist the urge to reach over and hold Will’s hand on the table. He highly doubts that the other man wants to reveal the extent of their relationship with Freddy Lounds just yet.  

He looks at Freddy and Abigail, at the journalist’s faintly queasy look, and grins.

‘So, have you thought of a title for your book, yet?’

***

Tidying up together in the kitchen after dinner, Abigail pauses polishing a wineglass as her hands start to shake.

‘Will knows, doesn’t he?’ she asks, prompting Hannibal to glance back at her from drying plates at the sink.

‘He knows you killed Nicholas Boyle, yes.’

Abigail sniffs, and sets the glass down to pick up another.

‘What am I gonna do?’ she asks, her voice shaking.

‘He will keep our secret,’ Hannibal replies, but Abigail shakes her head.

‘You don’t know that.’

‘He will keep it, because otherwise the one good thing in his life is tainted,’ Hannibal says, wiping down the counter and then folding his towel. ‘And he will lie to Jack Crawford about you, just as he has lied to himself. You’re free, Abigail. No one will know what you did.’ He turns, watching as Abigail braces herself on the counter, her shoulders shaking. He tilts his head. ‘And no one will know the truth you’re trying to avoid,’ he says softly.

Abigail’s breath catches, and Hannibal draws closer, looking down at her. At his daughter. At the young woman with a fledgling shadow inside her, straining against the cage of her guilt and expectation… He wants to free her, just as he is freeing Will.

‘The one you cannot admit… even to yourself,’ he murmurs, and he watches as Abigail’s control slips and tears well in her blue eyes. Her breath quivers and, when she speaks, her voice is so choked with grief that it’s barely legible. Hannibal’s eyes glint like rubies.

‘I can’t hear you –’ he prompts, and a tear rolls down Abigail’s pale cheek.

‘I helped him,’ she repeats, blank eyes staring at nothing as the dam breaks and the truth comes pouring out of her. ‘I knew what my father was; I knew what he did. I… I knew…’

Hannibal waits, watching the turmoil within the young woman before him. So much responsibility

‘I was the one who…’ Abigail falters and swallows. Licks her lips. Tries again. ‘… Met the girls. Talked to them… Laughed and joked…’ She quivers, fighting sickness. ‘Found out … Where they lived… Where they were going… When they’d be alone…’ More tears splash down her face as she shakes her head. ‘Girls that looked just like me.’ She whimpers. ‘They could’ve been my friends… I… I c-couldn’t say “no” to him… I knew… I knew it was them or me…’

She turns to Hannibal and falls against his chest when he opens his arms to her. Her tears dampen the silk of his blue waistcoat but he doesn’t care; just holds her close as she sobs against him, stroking her hair and inhaling the smell of her shampoo and her smoky, coppery scent. She reminds him of Will; dark woods, hunting and the thrill of the chase… It’s exactly how he imagines his own daughter would smell.

‘I wondered when you would tell me,’ he murmurs.

‘I’m a monster,’ Abigail whispers, chewing her knuckles to keep from crying too loud because Will is in the other room, and she doesn’t want him to hear her. She doesn’t want to tell him this.

‘No,’ Hannibal says, remembering the sound that Cassie Boyle made when he ripped her chest open to cut out her lungs. The fear in her eyes… The pain Will’s eyes when he admitted that he was losing his mind… ‘I know what monsters are.’ He hugs her tight. ‘You’re a victim. And Will and I..?’

Hannibal rests his cheek on the top of her head. He thinks of his mate’s dark fury at Jack’s suspicion of Abigail, his defensive body language and the gentle musk in his scent whenever he’s around his surrogate daughter… You love her, Will.

‘We’re going to protect you.’

Chapter Text

TEN

 

‘Hello, Will.’

Hearing his Alpha’s voice soothes him enough that Will can release a slow, shaky breath, and he manages a tired smile as he ducks into Hannibal’s office on Thursday evening. He hands Hannibal his coat, and waits for the other man to hang it up before he leans in to kiss him, resting his hands on Hannibal’s hips before looping his arms around his waist to hug him.

Hannibal holds Will close, nuzzling his curls to soak up the scent of him. It’s dull beneath the residual taint of Beta pheromones, and he sighs, rubbing between Will’s shoulder blades to soothe him after almost two days apart – since the night they hosted Freddy and Abigail. His mate looks exhausted – there’s no rest for an isolated Omega – and his sea-green shirt hangs loose from his bowed shoulders. He’s not been eating and his body is burning through his fat reserves as it prepares for heat…

‘Please, take a seat,’ Hannibal says, guiding Will to their armchairs. ‘Would you like a drink?’

Will shakes his head. He’s tense; he can’t get rid of this need to move, to do something… He sits down as he’s told, grinding his back teeth against the headache crushing his skull, and taps the armrest, rolling his neck and feeling the tendons crunch against each other.

‘So,’ Hannibal says, undoing the button of his burgundy suit jacket as he sits. He crosses one long leg over the other, holding his knee as he looks at his mate. ‘Tell me, Will; how are you feeling today?’

Will huffs, his copper-ringed eyes flaring bright.

‘How am I feeling?

‘Yes.’

Will scoffs, pursing his lips as he thinks of a suitable answer. When he speaks, his voice quivers with anger and fear.

‘I can feel my nerves… Clicking like roller-coaster cogs… Pulling up to the inevitable long plunge,’ he says, and Hannibal quirks an eyebrow.

‘Quick sounds. Quickly ended,’ he replies.

Will jerks his head in an attempt at a nod.

‘Abigail Hobbs ended Nicholas Boyle,’ he says, grimacing at the memory of it. ‘Like a burst balloon.’ He blinks away the ridiculous urge to cry and rubs his fingertips together to keep from balling his hand into a fist. ‘She took a life.’

Hannibal controls his emotional response to the pain etched into his mate’s face. He needs to remains calm and dispassionate; a void for Will to pour his feelings into.

‘You’ve taken a life,’ he reminds him, and Will nods, a muscle jumping in his jaw.

‘Yeah… Yeah, so have you.’

Hannibal watches him for a moment, his expression unreadable, dark eyes piercing through Will’s defenses and leaving him naked.

‘You’re grieving, Will,’ his Alpha says. When Will tries to scoff, Hannibal continues, ‘Not for the life you have taken, but for the life that was taken from you.’

A moment’s confusion creases his Omega’s brow, and Hannibal explains,

‘If Abigail could have started over, left the horror of her father behind, so could you. You could untangle yourself from the madness and the murder.’

Will looks away, his eyes flickering as though seeking an escape. There’s a tightness in his throat, threatening to dissolve into tears, and he hates it. Hates the way his heart is losing its rhythm every few beats.

‘We lied for her,’ he whispers.

‘We both know the unreality of taking a life,’ Hannibal replies. ‘Of people who die when we have no other choice.’

Locking eyes with Will, Hannibal allows his shadow to mingle with the prickling red of his irises and sits forwards.

‘We know, in those moments, they are not flesh, but light and air and color,’ he purrs.

Will smiles sadly and tilts his head.

‘Isn’t that what it is to be alive?’

Hannibal narrows his eyes, considering him.

‘Do you feel alive, Will?’

The question makes him pause, and Will swallows. He wets his lips, blinking to clear the haze from his vision. Because he doesn’t… He doesn’t feel alive… He’s not himself anymore… He’s not anyone anymoreThe dark current always pulls at him, always calls for him, and even though he’s been fighting so hard to stay him, to stay whole, he’s nothing without Hannibal… Without his Alpha…

The words come out before he’s even meant them to; before he can keep his voice from cracking.

‘I feel like I’m fading.’

Hannibal nods slowly. This is to be expected; Will is newly bonded, and suffering from acute detoxification. It’s a testament to his strength that he’s doing so well – that he can remember who he is at all. 

‘Have you experienced any further loss of time or hallucinations?’ he asks, and Will looks away, his gaze distant, scared, before he remembers to nod and answer.

‘… Yeah.’

Hannibal feels a flicker of curiosity at the extent of his Omega’s neurological impairment.

‘I’d like you to draw a clock face,’ he says, rising to fetch his notebook and pen from his desk. ‘Numbered. Small hand indicating the hour, large hand the minute.’

He holds it out to Will, but his mate looks at him suspiciously, lips twitching into a smile as though expecting a joke.

‘Why?

‘An exercise,’ Hannibal replies, and Will obeys, opening the book to a fresh page. Hannibal continues to speak as he returns to his chair. ‘I want you to focus on the present moment,’ he lies. ‘The now. Often as you can, think of where you are, and when. Think of who you are.’

Will checks his watch and sighs. This is stupid. He knows where he is: he’s with his Alpha. He knows who he is: he’s Hannibal’s Omega.

He scrawls a clock face and scribbles down the numbers as fast as he can.

‘It’s 7.16pm,’ he mutters. ‘I’m in Baltimore, Maryland…’ Sighs again. ‘And my name is Will Graham.’

‘A simple reminder,’ Hannibal says, ignoring Will’s sarcastic tone. ‘The handle to reality for you to hold on to.’

He leans forwards as Will reaches out to hand him the book, and looks down at the page, at the numbers off-center and lines overlapping…

He stares at the evidence of his Omega’s suffering, right on schedule.

‘… And know you’re alive…’

***

The next morning dawns bright and cold. Ideal fishing conditions, and perfectly timed with an extra day off work. Hannibal’s coming over this evening, and Will’s been out in the river since seven. He’s caught three big trout; perfect for… whatever it is that Hannibal said he was going to make.

Will’s sweating from the walk back to the house. He kicks the kitchen door open and lets the fish rest on newspaper while he showers and gets changed into a cotton shirt and pants. The sunlight filtering through the net curtains hits his back and he feels fresh beads of perspiration tickle the nape of his neck.

Please don’t let there be a murder today, he thinks, pulling the hook from the trout’s mouth. I just want to spend time with my Alpha… I need some time alone with him

He lays the fish down on the counter and reaches into the drawer for his filleting knife. This is the messy part, but he’s hardly squeamish. He holds the fish steady and begins to slice into its belly, spilling cold, dark blood across the wood.

Alpha…

Will stills. Something’s wrong… He doesn’t feel… Doesn’t feel right…

His shadow whispers to him. Heat licks at his crest, making it tingle and throb. The current rises, pulling him down into darkness as gold flecks dance behind his eyes. He’s sinking… Disappearing into the sickly sweet stench of death…

You’re not my Alpha… You’re not my mate…

‘Oh, darlin’…’

His heart races. It’s deafening. He can’t breathe. Every gasp ripples the air in front of him. Sweat plasters his hair to his scalp and the soft fabric of his jersey top rasps across the ridges of his crest, making his eyes water with pain.

His crest… Oh God… Coby… Samuel Coby… Did he…? Is he…?

Fuck… I don’t… Is Hannibal my Alpha, or is Coby?

No… No…

Blood pours from the Alpha’s face. It’s been split nearly in two. She’s drowning. Her eyes glow red, but she doesn’t look angry; she looks… sorry. And scared. So scared…

I don’t know who you are anymore… I don’t know…

Will’s shaking. Fighting with her as she tries to push him off… As she tries to reach up for his crest –

And then… It’s gone. Will jerks back to himself, freezing cold and staring into the face of his dead Alpha.

Not his Alpha… His victim

What the…? What’s he doing here? He’s supposed to be at home… He’s…

Will drops her arms and throws himself away from the corpse. Slips in the blood on the floor and staggers against the bedroom door. He can’t breathe. He can’t think. Panic chokes him. His brain is spiraling out of control and he can’t stop making these strange whimpering gasps as he calls for Hannibal. For help.

He’s still holding the knife. Will throws it to the side and wrenches open the door. He has to get out of here. He has to… Has to…

Jack, Beverly and her team all look up, startled, when he falls out into the hallway, his arms smeared with blood, eyes wild and panting hard. He’s soaked with sweat and shivering, and Beverly’s eyes flicker red. She’s the first to take a step forwards.

‘Will?’

But Will can’t answer her. His throat has closed up, locked around his gasps, and all he can do is shake. He holds up his hands, half surrender, half plea to let him past so he can wash them, and they step aside for him to stumble his way downstairs.

Rinsing the red from his hands in the kitchen sink, Will tries to scrub the feeling of death from under his nails.

There is something seriously wrong with me.

He hears Jack’s footsteps, worryingly slow and steady, and smells anger sharpening the Alpha’s scent. He glances up, keeping enough of his back to him that Jack won’t see the crest at the edge of his sweater, and watches as Jack glares at him before storming outside.

Follow.

The command is silent, but it rings in Will’s ears, and he shivers as he dries his hands on the dishcloth. He stares at them, at the palms and fingers that he used to kill the Alpha… Sighs and closes his eyes. I didn’t do it… It was a memory

He has to talk to Jack. Explain himself. Will grabs his coat and pulls it on as he steps out onto the porch. It’s snowing, and everyone else is wrapped up in scarves and gloves. The cold air feels good on his flushed skin, but he zips himself up anyway. A layer of protection.

Jack is furious. He clenches his hands in and out of fists, his back to Will so as not to bare his teeth or show him his rage-red eyes. But Will can tell. He can smell it and feel it; sharp waves of black anger pouring off him.

‘What happened in there?’ the Alpha asks, pointing back at the house.

‘I got confused,’ Will mutters, staring down at his shoes. He does not want to deal with Jack right now. He just wants to go home… to Hannibal.

‘I’ve seen you confused, and I’ve seen you upset, but I’ve never seen you afraid like this,’ Jack argues, staring into Will’s pale, shadowed face.

Will shoves his hands into his pockets; he can’t stand the feel of them, like oil coating his skin. Tainted.

‘Well, I’m an old hand at fear,’ he bites. ‘I can manage this one, I just got… disoriented. I can go back in.’

‘I saw the look on your face when you came out of that room,’ Jack growls. ‘Now, what did you experience in there that’s got you… mute all of a sudden?’

‘I can see and hear better afraid,’ Will points out, looking out at the drifting snow, gritting his teeth to keep from snarling at Jack. ‘I- I just can’t speak as concisely.’

‘Will, you contaminated the crime scene,’ Jack says, turning towards him, worry softening the dark rage from his face. ‘You’ve never done that before.’

Will hesitates. He swallows, but he doesn’t know how else to say it.

‘I thought I was responsible for it,’ he explains.

‘What are you saying?’ Jack demands, turning fully to stare up at him. ‘Are you saying you thought you killed that Alpha in there?’

Will sighs. You don’t understand…

‘Sometimes with, er, what I do –’

‘What you do, is you take all of the evidence available at a crime scene,’ Jack says, speaking deliberately so as to remind Will that he doesn’t want any of this Omegan ‘resonances’ and ‘empathy’ bullshit. ‘You extrapolate.’ His eyes flicker red. ‘You reconstruct the thinking of a killer. You don’t think of yourself as the killer.’

‘I got lost in the reconstruction,’ Will snaps, glad that he’s on such good Iris Inhibitor drops because otherwise his eyes would be golden by now. ‘Just for a second. Just a blink.’

Jack nods slowly.

‘I know you don’t like to be the cause for concern, but I am officially concerned about you,’ he says.

Officially?’ Will can’t, and won’t, keep the sarcasm from his quivering voice.

‘Yes, that’s right,’ Jack replies, and Will nods. Descends the steps of the farmhouse as he speaks.

‘Hm. I thought the reason you had me seeing Dr Lecter and not an FBI psychiatrist is so my mental wellbeing stays…’ He narrows his eyes and shrugs, all but baring his teeth at the Alpha. ‘Unofficial.’

‘I just wanna be careful with you,’ Jack says, speaking more softly now that Will’s standing up to him. ‘We don’t wanna break you here… Is that what’s happening? Have I broken you?’

Will considers the question, considers the hallucinations, the nightmares, the loss of time… Grimaces and raises his eyebrows at Jack.

‘Do you have anyone that does this better unbroken than I do broken?’ he points out, and smirks at him when the Alpha has no good answer to that.

Jack sighs.

‘Fear makes you rude, Will.’

Guilt tickles his gut and Will has to wait for a while before he can go back inside. Jack takes himself off to calm down, so, when he can’t wait for his heart to slow down anymore, Will returns, alone, to the bedroom.

Beverly and her team have moved in and are cataloguing the forensic evidence. A camera shutter clicks, and Will hears Zeller’s voice before he sees them.

‘Her name was Beth LeBeau,’ the Beta says. ‘She drowned on her own blood.’

‘And what she didn’t drown on is all over the floor, and under the bed,’ Price says, crouched down to get a better view of the scene. He looks up when Will steps through the doorway. ‘She was trying to hide from him.’

Will shakes his head.

‘He dragged her there,’ he says, pointing to the floral covers. ‘He was waiting under the bed for her.’

‘Fought to claw her way out,’ Beverly says, picking up a torn nail from the floorboards.

‘He knew her,’ Will says, looking down at the smashed and ripped up photographs. ‘Someone who cared about her; or thought he did.’

‘He cared too much,’ Beverly mutters.

‘So, we’re looking for boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, co-workers… The guy who bags her groceries,’ Jack says, coming to stand a short distance from Will. Keeping an eye on him.

‘I’ve got a clean set of prints on the knife handle,’ Price says, holding the weapon up with his blue gloved hands and peering at it with his magnifying glass. ‘I assume they’re yours,’ he adds, looking up at Will.

‘Sorry,’ Will mutters, and Price nods.

‘Mm. There’s other dermal tissue; presumably from the killer’s. The skin is so diseased or damaged it didn’t leave any useful prints.’

‘Victim scratched her killer deep enough to pile tissue under the fingernails,’ Beverly says curiously, holding up the dead Alpha’s hand to examine the fingers. ‘Never drew blood.’

‘Why didn’t he bleed?’ Jack asks, thinking aloud.

‘After he cut up the victim’s face, looks like he was trying to pull her skin back,’ Zeller says, frowning down at the body.  

I don’t know you…

The memory tickles Will on the back of his neck and he turns.

‘Like he was removing a mask?’ he asks, and he stares down at Beth, at the Alpha… I don’t recognize you anymore…

‘Could be,’ Zeller says, shrugging.

Will nods, frowning as something teases him, just out of reach. He scrubs his cheeks and pops a couple of heat suppressants to help with the headache making him queasy, ignoring the look that Beverly and Jack exchange when they assume he won’t notice. Grits his teeth to keep from calling them on it and wanders around the room, instead, looking at the horse models, the equestrian art and the riding boots, still caked with mud, in the corner. There’s a sadness here… A loss…

I want to come home…

‘Will?’

He glances up, his heart lodging in his throat at the sound of Beverly’s voice. Did he lose time again?

‘Yeah?’ he asks warily, and relief is like a knife between the ribs when he realizes he was just deep in thought.

‘We’re gonna get the body out now; you need anything else?’ Beverly says.

‘Er… No… No, I think I’m done,’ Will says, nodding a couple of times, his eyes still searching the room.

Beverly tilts her head and looking up at him from under worried brows.

‘You okay?’

‘Yeah… Yeah…’ Will tries for a smile, but he knows it’s more of an unhappy twist of the lips, and he clears his throat, ducking his head to avoid her eyes. ‘I’m, er… I’m gonna go…’

‘Sure,’ Beverly says. ‘See you tomorrow, Will.’ She turns to watch him go, and as he reaches the door, calls after him, ‘Take care of yourself, won’t you?’

Will pauses and glances back at her. At Jack and Jimmy Price and Zeller… Swallows and tries for a final nod but he doesn’t think he manages it before he’s out of the room and hurrying down to his car.

I don’t need to take care of myself, he thinks, falling into the seat behind the wheel. I have an Alpha for that.

***

The drive from the crime scene is long and it’s dark by the time Will arrives in Baltimore. Hannibal’s Bentley is the only car parked outside, though, so he lets himself straight into the office, already speaking before his Alpha has even looked up from writing patient notes at his desk.

‘It’s getting worse.’

Will jerks his coat from his shoulders and throws it onto the hook. Scrapes his hands through his hair and strides to the window, the couch, pacing back and forth as Hannibal closes the book and sets his pen aside.

Masking his surprise at his mate’s sudden appearance and obvious distress, Hannibal rises from his chair and moves around the desk to perch against it, clasping his hands before him to keep from reaching for the other man. He can tell, from the set of Will’s shoulders and the muscle jumping in his jaw, that his Omega doesn’t want to be touched right now.

‘Tell me what happened,’ he says, and Will looks over, hugging his elbows before shrugging helplessly.

‘I… had a hallucination,’ he admits. ‘I lost time… Hours… I…’ He sighs. Shakes his head. Stares at the ceiling, fighting tears. ‘I contaminated a crime scene.’ He drops his arms to his sides and starts pacing again. ‘I was fishing, and then I went home, I showered, I changed… I was gutting one of the trout and then… I was killing her…’ Chokes and ducks his head. ‘I still have the coppery smell of blood on my hands.’ He turns to Hannibal, his throat bobbing as he swallows down the whimpers clawing up to free themselves from his chest. ‘I can’t remember seeing the crime scene before I saw myself killing her.’

‘Those memories sank out of sight,’ Hannibal says, watching him carefully, his face betraying nothing. ‘Yet you’re aware of their absence.’

‘There’s a grandiosity to the violence that I imagined, that feels more real than what I know is true,’ Will says, pointing at him with both of his shaking hands to emphasize his point. His skin is shining with a thin coat of sweat, and Hannibal recognizes his sweater as being the softest one Will owns; the one he wears when his flesh is tender and stinging. A side effect of his near-constant prodrome.

‘What do you know to be true?’ he replies, and Will’s paces becomes shorter, more frantic. A caged animal, futilely searching for a way to slip through the bars of its prison.

‘I know I didn’t kill her,’ he says. ‘I- I couldn’t have, but I remember cutting into her. I remember watching her die.’

Hannibal releases a slow breath. It will all be over soon.

‘You must overcome these delusions that are disguising your reality,’ he says heavily, and Will sighs. Taps his hand against the rung of the ladder near him. Hannibal tilts his head. ‘What kind of savage delusions does this killer have?’ he asks, grounding Will in the violence. In the darkness.

But Will shakes his head and leans back against the ladder for support, his knees weak at the memory of it. His chest is a gaping hole and he can’t think. He can’t…

He swallows.

‘It wasn’t savage,’ he says quietly. ‘It was… lonely.’ Tears prick his eyes and he flicks them away. ‘It was desperate… Sad…’ He wets his lips, and Hannibal feels his chest tighten as Will continues, ‘I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror… And I looked right through me… Past me… As if I was… Was just a- a stranger.’ His voice catches and he has to stop because the tightness in his throat is too much. Too close to dissolving into tears and he doesn’t want that.

Hannibal pushes up from the desk and moves closer, crowding Will up against the ladder, pinning him with his scent and watching Will’s pulse jump in his throat.

‘You have to honestly confront your limitations with what you do,’ he says, dipping his head towards him. ‘And how it affects you.’

Will takes a shuddering breath, leaning back and baring his throat. I’m yours. He doesn’t want to fight his Alpha on this, but he can’t help but shake his head and speak to Hannibal’s shoulder he replies,

‘If, by limitations, you mean the difference between sanity and insanity, I don’t accept that.’

‘What do you accept?’ Hannibal asks, and Will’s brow furrows.

‘I know what kind of crazy I am,’ he says, his voice cracking with desperation. ‘And this isn’t that kind of crazy…’ He pleads with Hannibal, begging him with his eyes, dipping his head to bare the side of his throat because he needs his Alpha to really listen to him. To hear him. ‘This could be seizures, this could be… a tumor? A… a blood clot…? You said it yourself; too long on heat suppressants can cause all sorts of neurological symptoms; what if it’s the medication?’

Please… Please, Hannibal… Please let me check… Please… Don’t make me do it behind your back…

Hannibal feels Will’s panic, and he knows he will lose his trust if he continues to deny him medical testing.

‘I can recommend an Omega Specialist,’ he replies, and the relief on Will’s face squeezes his heart in a fist of ice as he continues, ‘But, if it isn’t physiological, then you have to accept what you’re struggling with is mental illness.’

Will tries to nod but it’s more of a head jerk, and he watches as Hannibal returns to his desk to find the contact details. His Alpha’s mind is still mostly closed to him, and he can only sense a hint of worry from his mate, mingled with resignation; he can’t read his thoughts. Can he read all of mine, yet?

Hannibal feels Will scratching at the carefully constructed walls protecting his thoughts, trying to pick the lock on his doors, but he won’t allow him entry to his mind palace yet. Will is not ready; they still have a lot of work to do on his own shadow before he can meet Hannibal’s true self.

‘Would you like me to come with you to the appointment, Will?’ he asks, glancing back at him as he dials the number for the healthcare center. A clever distraction, and one that works; Will swallows and nods, pushing away from the ladder and closing the distance between them. He hugs his Alpha from behind as Hannibal listens to the options on the phone, resting his head on Hannibal’s shoulder when the taller man shifts and wraps an arm around him. Pliant and submissive; he’s demonstrating his gratitude at Hannibal’s acquiescence, and Hannibal smiles to himself as he toys with the idea of how else Will could demonstrate his appreciation.

Tucking himself up to his Alpha’s side, Will lets himself relax as he listens to Hannibal’s calm voice and clipped, enquiring words. He breathes in deep, savoring the other man’s rich musk and cologne. Rubs his cheek against the silk of Hannibal’s pocket square and loops his arms around his Alpha’s waist, his heart fluttering and his stomach clenching up as Hannibal makes an appointment for them to see someone called Dr Sutcliffe tomorrow.

‘Thank you,’ he murmurs, nuzzling Hannibal’s cheek as the Alpha hangs up. When Hannibal turns towards him, Will finds his lips and holds each side of his mate’s face, drawing him in to deepen the kiss. He sucks Hannibal’s tongue down, arching his back and pressing his chest up against him, sliding his fingers through Hannibal’s silky hair. He feels Hannibal’s strong hands on his hips, pulling their groins flush together, and moans into his Alpha’s mouth, rocking against the answering hardness he can feel in Hannibal’s trousers.

Devouring Will’s mouth, Hannibal runs his hands over the soft jersey of Will’s sweater, spreading his palms over his chest and then up each side of his throat, feeling the thundering pulse against his fingers. He pushes at the navy vest and Will shrugs his shoulders to help him get rid of it. They break the kiss for just long enough to yank the top up and over Will’s head, and then their lips meet again, brushing and sucking and nipping, sharing breath and spit as Will fumbles with the buttons of Hannibal’s waistcoat.

Moaning at how difficult his Alpha’s clothing is, Will abandons the suit in favor of pulling Hannibal’s tie loose, but he doesn’t get the chance to drop it before Hannibal has taken it from his hands and is turning him, walking him back towards the ladder and pinning him up against it again. His eyes fly open and heat floods him, making every inch of skin tingle when his Alpha takes his hands and puts them together, winding the silk tie around his wrists to bind him.

‘Hannibal…’

Hannibal kisses him again, soothing him as he knots the tie. He nuzzles Will’s cheek and bearded jaw, encouraging him to turn his head so that he can lick and suck at the sensitive flesh beneath his ear, and he purrs when Will whimpers, spreading his legs around Hannibal’s thigh.

‘Do you trust me, Will?’ he whispers, lifting the Omega’s arms above his head and pushing them against a higher rung. Will’s heart skips a beat and his breath catches when he realizes what’s happening; he glances up, hesitates, and then looks back at Hannibal. Looks into his dark eyes, his hungry face, and nods.

‘Yes.’

‘Tap twice if you need to stop,’ Hannibal says quietly, and he waits until Will has swallowed and nodded his understanding before looping the ends of the tie around the rung, securing him there. He steps back, eyeing his prize, and watches as Will quivers, eyes bright with nervous desire. Gives him a predatory smile when Will’s cheeks flush and his curls darken with sweat, and then slowly begins to remove his clothes.

Will can’t stop himself from pulling against his restraint, testing Hannibal’s knots, and excitement battles apprehension as he confirms that he can’t get loose by himself. He takes a deep breath, parting his lips to taste Hannibal’s scent on the roof of his mouth, and the air in front of his mouth shimmers as fire rolls up from his core. He twitches at the amount of slick that spills down his thighs, trembling when beads of sweat trickle down his back.

Hannibal takes his time getting undressed, carefully folding his suit jacket and waistcoat over the back of Will’s armchair so that they don’t crease. His burgundy eyes never leave Will’s face, and he watches as Will’s pupils widen, black swallowing blue, barely hemmed in by a ring of copper.

‘How do you feel?’ he murmurs, toeing off his shoes and socks before unzipping his trousers and pushing them down his legs. He steps out of them, adding them to the growing pile of clothes, and loops his thumbs into the waistband of his briefs, grinning at the way Will flexes his muscles and strains against his bonds.

Will whines, licking his lips at the idea of being the one to stroke Hannibal’s lean chest, imagining running his fingertips across his nipples and then down, tracing the lines of his stomach to his hips… He bucks forward, the seam of his trousers digging into his erection, and drops his head back to bare his throat.

Hard,’ he says, and huffs a laugh. Hannibal chuckles and comes closer, cupping Will through the fabric of his trousers and massaging him.

‘Good,’ he purrs, and he kisses him again, swallowing Will’s whimper at the clink of his belt buckle coming undone. He slides the zipper down, torturously slowly, and Will moans again, reaching towards Hannibal as much as his tied arms allow, trying to encourage him to move faster, to get him naked now so that he can fuck him already. But Hannibal just grins, and keeps kissing him, over and over as he pushes Will’s trousers down tensing thighs so that the Omega can step out of them. He kneels and removes Will’s boots and socks, then licks and nibbles and kisses his way up Will’s legs, striking sparks that fan the flames consuming him as Will shudders above him.

Fuck… Hannibal…’ Will closes his eyes, resting his head back against the ladder as his Alpha kisses over the bulge in his boxers. He can’t keep his hips from jumping when Hannibal buries his nose into his throbbing erection to inhale his scent, and he gasps when Hannibal pins him, gripping his hips hard enough to leave fingerprints.

‘I’m going to taste you, Will,’ Hannibal says, sitting back on his heels to look up at his bound Omega. ‘I want you to hold still.’

He peels Will’s underwear off and rasps his tongue over the lines of Will’s hips, kneading the firm muscles of his buttocks before gathering up some of the wetness and teasing at the very edge of the Omega’s pulsing entrance. His mate smells divine; sweet, sugary slick overlaying smoky musk, and Hannibal’s mouth waters as he kisses up the side of Will’s twitching length.

Will’s breath catches and he freezes in place, acutely aware of Hannibal’s lips on him, closing around the tip before his tongue laps at the sensitive flesh. He can’t stop the little mewls and gasping huffs as teeth scrape so lightly up and down the silky skin, his breath fast and shallow. Hannibal enfolds him in the warm wetness of his mouth, his groan at the taste and feel of him vibrating and adding to the sensation, and white fire licks across Will’s pulsing crest. He can’t stop the shudder that wracks him as Hannibal eases a finger inside him, and he pulls hard on the silk holding him up as his knees threaten to buckle.

‘H-Hannibal…’ he whispers, biting his lower lip because it feels so good, and he’s so trapped, unable to do anything but feel

Hannibal smiles and hums his praise as he feels Will clench around him, bearing down before pulling his finger in deeper. Slick wets his hand to the palm and he cups Will’s balls with his left, tugging and rolling as he dips his head to work his mouth and throat around every inch of his Omega. Will is shaking now, trying so hard to hold still, to obey, his body opening up around a second finger and pulsating when Hannibal crooks the knuckle and pulls against that spot deep inside.

‘Hannibal… Hannibal…’ Will’s close; he can feel it like a tidal wave inside him, drawing in with every suck and stroke. He flexes his fingers, sweat rolling down his chest, and, at Hannibal’s nudge, he spreads his legs as far as they’ll go. He can see himself in his Alpha’s eyes; wanton, beautiful and owned, giving up everything he has because Hannibal wants him to, and it tips him over the edge and he’s coming, pulsing gold light filling him, flowing through him into Hannibal as he spills himself down the Alpha’s throat and bears down around his fingers, squeezing over and over and over as if it’s a knot. He hears himself cry out before his voice breaks off into a long groan and he sags, breathing hard as he fights the dark current rising up to claim him. ‘Hannibal…’

Humming in satisfaction, Hannibal wipes the overspill from the corner of his mouth and rises. Will is shaking from the orgasm, head back and throat beautifully bared, begging to be bitten. Hannibal pushes his own boxers down and kicks them to the side before reaching out and cupping the back of Will’s head, pulling him in for a kiss that makes him strain against his bonds. Will keens into his lips, his deadened scent sharpening with heat hormones, and Hannibal brushes his thumb over Will’s cheekbone before moving his hand back, finding his burning hot crest and squeezing.

He watches as Will’s eyes fly open again, sightless and wide with innocent amazement at how good it feels. He loves seeing his Omega like this; lost to sensation, the most primal he will ever be without killing. Will bares his teeth at him and Hannibal snarls back, crushing their lips together in a bruising, bloody kiss. He shoves at Will’s legs, hooking them up over his elbows so that his mate is suspended from the ground, unable to do anything about the fact that Hannibal is about to fuck him, and Will grips tight to the ladder rung, supporting himself as he nods.

‘Hannibal… Hannibal…’

‘Push out for me, Will,’ Hannibal says, taking hold of himself, his breath hitching at the moment of resistance before he breaches the ring of muscle. And then he’s in, sinking deep until his balls slap against Will’s, and he has to wait for a moment because it’s so hot and tight and perfect… And Will is making all the right noises, calling for him as only an Omega can, pitching his voice to encourage Hannibal to fuck him hard and fast, to own him; to reassert his claim of bonding and dominance again and again. Fill him with his seed and put a child in his belly.

Mine,’ Hannibal growls, rocking his hips in slow, deep thrusts, gripping Will’s crest tight with one hand, holding his hip with the other.

Will wraps his legs tight around Hannibal’s waist, moving in time with him, breathing hard with the effort of holding himself up but achingly aroused at the way it makes his muscles contract and pulls Hannibal’s length in deeper with every rock.

‘Yours,’ he gasps, feeling the sting of the silk tie dig into his wrists as he lets go of the ladder but not caring because it’s so good and he’s so close again and all he cares about is Hannibal… Hannibal inside him, around him, Hannibal’s hand on his crest, his breath on his face, his hand on his hip and his lips on his cheek as he pants into his jaw. ‘Yours… I’m yours, I’m yours.’

‘Come for me, Will,’ Hannibal growls, and he sinks his teeth into the muscle of Will’s chest as his own orgasm rips through him, thrusting up and up as he knots inside his Omega, sealing them together with his seed safe inside. He feels Will spasm around him, the command coupled with a crest pinch and the smell and feel of Hannibal’s release sending him spinning into a second, furious orgasm. He releases Will’s crest to cup the side of his face as Will’s brow furrows at the sharpness of the pleasure, and then he kisses him, slowly and tenderly, as he reaches up to undo the knots securing Will’s bound hands to the ladder.

He hushes him when Will whimpers, and manages to carry him, without staggering, to the blue couch against the wall. Sits heavily, pulling Will to straddle his lap and kissing away his Omega’s tears from the knot pulling at his tender body. Pushes sweat-damp curls back from Will’s forehead and kisses his temples, his eyebrows and his nose as he gently unwinds the silk tie from Will’s wrists.

Hannibal…’

Will’s floating in the current; waves lapping at the edge of his consciousness, and he can feel himself swaying as he watches, from the other side of the veil, as his Alpha kisses and licks the welts around his wrists. He falls against Hannibal’s chest and snuggles against his shoulder, pressing burning lips to Hannibal’s sweaty neck as his Alpha hugs him. Feels Hannibal’s strong hands stroking up and down his back, calming him as he continues to tremble, and, when he hears the quiet instruction to let go, to sink into the darkness, he obeys without question.

Hannibal rests his cheek on the top of Will’s head, listening to his heartrate return to normal as his Omega begins to purr, lost to prodrome. He’ll need to convince Sutcliffe to conceal the truth about Will’s condition, and taking him in for any kind of medical treatment is a risk, but a small part of him is relieved that Will was able to persuade him to give in. After all, he wants a partner, an equal, and Will’s iron strength and innate stubbornness is one of the many things that attracted him in the first place.

It won’t help you, he thinks, kissing Will’s temple as he idly traces the bruises forming around his wrists. But at least I’ll know the extent of the damage I’ve done to you.

***

Noble Hills Healthcare Center in Baltimore, Maryland, has an entire unit devoted to Omega medical care. When Will and Hannibal arrive, they follow the signs for the East Wing, a monstrosity of stereotypical ‘Omegan’ décor; all pastel colors and creams shot through with gold; presumably to remind them of their eye color and therefore calm them. Will notes the way Hannibal raises an eyebrow at him as they sit down on the plush chairs in the waiting area; sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose, fighting a snarl at how cozy everything is.

‘Perhaps I should redecorate your house for you,’ Hannibal teases, and Will snorts, giving him a twisted smile and an eye roll for understanding his unspoken rage. He links their fingers together when Hannibal reaches for him, studiously avoiding the magazines on the table in front of him, the most recent of which features the headline of ‘Crest stacking: the latest trends in Omegan nuchal piercing’.

If he wasn’t feeling so nervous, the sight of Hannibal, in his smart coat, sharp suit and polished shoes reading an article about ‘The joy of nest-making’ from Omega Weekly would have made him laugh, but as it is, Will can’t do more than snort as he taps his hands together, his knee bouncing as he waits for his name to be called. God; he hates this place.

‘Will Graham?’

He’s standing before the receptionist has finished speaking, and takes a step forwards as Hannibal sets the magazine down to follow. The receptionist smiles at him and gestures to the door behind her.

‘Dr Sutcliffe will see you now,’ she says, and sits back down when Hannibal knocks on the polished wood.

Dr Sutcliffe is an Alpha, but significantly less intimidating than Hannibal, and he smiles warmly when he opens the door to greet them. He offsets his tanned skin with a light blue shirt, and his sandy beard and receding hair is lightened with blond where he’s caught the sun from a recent holiday. Clearly, being an Omega Specialist pays well.

‘Good morning, come on in,’ he says, stepping back and gesturing for them to enter his office. ‘Got to say, I was surprised to see his name on the referral, but know that you’re in good hands. Dr Lecter here is one of the sanest men I know.’

‘I would agree,’ Hannibal replies, smiling when Sutcliffe squeezes his arm in greeting. ‘Dr Sutcliffe and I were residents together at Hopkins,’ he says to Will, removing his coat as he speaks.

‘Another life ago,’ Sutcliffe jokes, taking his seat behind the desk. ‘Back when you weren’t afraid to get your hands a little dirty.’

‘I was always drawn to how the mind works,’ Hannibal says, draping his coat over the back of his seat before sitting and crossing one leg over the other. ‘I found it much more dynamic than how the brain works, no matter the caste.’

‘The projected image is more interesting than the projector,’ Sutcliffe replies, nodding to show his understanding of his friend’s decision. ‘Until, of course, the projector breaks down.’

In this analogy, I’m the projector, Will thinks. And I’m broken.

He doesn’t remove his coat when he sits; he’s wearing layers today; a sweater over his shirt, buttoned high, and his glasses, but Hannibal is kind enough not to comment on his defensive behavior.

Sutcliffe turns to him and smiles gently.

‘So, Will… these headaches? When did they begin in earnest?’

Will glances at him, his brow creased. He tries to make himself look at Sutcliffe’s face, but his gaze flickers back and forth to his shoulder. The Alpha is in his element now, and his blue eyes are piercing.

‘Two to three months ago,’ he says, unconsciously glancing at Hannibal for confirmation. His Alpha nods.

‘About the time Will went back into the field, which is when I met him,’ he adds.

Sutcliffe nods thoughtfully, leaning back in his chair, welcoming honesty from Will, swiveling to face him and give him his full attention. Showing him that he matters, even if he is bonded.

‘And the hallucinations?’ he asks.

Will’s frown deepens as he considers his answer.

‘I can’t really say when they started,’ he says carefully, ignoring the tightness in his chest; the lump in his throat. ‘Um… I just slowly became aware that I might not be dreaming.’

Sutcliffe frowns, and gives Hannibal a sharp look, which he returns calmly. Yes, I allowed it.

‘Sounds like you have quite an active imagination,’ the Sutcliffe says lightly, focusing on Will again. ‘When was your last heat?’

Will looks at his lap. Swallows hard. 

‘Er… Five years ago,’ he says quietly.

‘Five years?’ Sutcliffe yelps, and Will shrinks back into the chair, fighting the urge to whine. Hannibal clears his throat and subtly adjusts his body language, turning his chest more towards Will to comfort him.

‘I am fully aware of Will’s situation,’ he says firmly, and Sutcliffe purses his lips. ‘Will knows the risks, and he understands that he must experience his next heat. He was managing his own medication for a while, but he is under my care now, as both my patient and my mate.’

Will scowls at his lap, twisting his hands together. Glances up in time to see Sutcliffe give Hannibal another disapproving look, and his darkness rises up in a wave that makes him want to snarl at the other Alpha.

‘Dr Lecter doesn’t try to control my biology,’ he growls. ‘He respects me enough to accept my decision to postpone my estrus cycle.’

‘Be that as it may,’ Sutcliffe says, a note of warning in his tone, ‘the complications that can arise from an excessively delayed heat cycle are astronomical, especially in male Omegas. When do you normally go into heat?’ 

Will huffs and shrugs.

‘I don’t know; September, maybe October time? It’s never been that regular.’

‘Do you regularly miss heats because of suppressants?’ Sutcliffe asks, sighing through his nose when Will nods. He makes a note on the form in front of him, and then gestures to them both. ‘And you’ve been bonded to Dr Lecter for how long?’ he asks, prompting a blush from Will and an answering smile from Hannibal.

‘Er, about two weeks,’ Will says quietly.

Sutcliffe’s eyebrows climb up to his hairline.

‘And your previous Alpha? What did they think of your, er, irregular heat cycles?’

Will shakes his head, but his voice fails him and it’s Hannibal who responds.

‘This is Will’s first pair bond.’

‘I see…’ Sutcliffe sighs and scratches his beard. ‘Well… I must say, this is very concerning, Mr Graham. The first thing I want to do is run a full blood panel and get you in for an MRI. We need to see what’s going on in that body of yours.’

Wil’s breath catches, and he grips tight to the armrest because he wants to reach for Hannibal’s hand, but he won’t let himself.

‘I assume you’ll be checking liver function and for swelling in the brain with the MRI,’ Hannibal says, giving voice to the questions trapped in Will’s head. He reaches out, his palm up, and Will grabs for him, squeezing tight because Hannibal knows just what he needs.

‘Exactly,’ Sutcliffe says. ‘Bloods should give us a reading of your hormone levels and give us an indication of when you’re due your next heat.’ He gives Will a hard look, his eyes narrowed, and adds, ‘You’re aware that, when you finally do experience a heat, it’s likely to be difficult, having been on blockers for so long? You might experience two consecutively, or one intermittently… There may be other complications as well, which Dr Lecter here will need to monitor. And, of course, you’re unlikely to become pregnant.’

Will grits his teeth and looks away from them both, refusing to acknowledge the assumption that, as a bonded Omega, he’ll obviously want to bear children as soon as possible.

‘We’re acutely aware,’ Hannibal replies, giving Will’s hand another squeeze. ‘No expectations.’

Will can’t help but narrow his eyes at him; he can feel Hannibal’s amusement at his anger and he yanks his hand back from his Alpha.

Fuck you.

‘Let’s get a nurse to take you down to the Assessment Unit,’ Sutcliffe continues, lifting his phone as he speaks. ‘And we can get started.’

***

Everything in the Omega Assessment Unit is warm and gentle, and Will hates that he likes the feel of the soft gown against his sensitive skin. He turns down the offer of numbing gel before his blood is taken, sickness curling in his stomach when the Beta nurse pats his hand and tells him he has nothing to worry about, that it’ll only hurt a little and that his Alpha is right there.

And Hannibal just smirks like a fucking Cheshire cat as Will glares at him, watching carefully as his Omega’s blood flows into three test tubes for analysis. He eyes the room with carefully hidden disdain, noting the lack of posters and healthcare advice leaflets. There is nothing here that could upset or distress the Omegas; it is assumed that such difficult information would be given to the Alpha only. Only floral paintings and pleasant scenes… All childlike naivety and subliminal messaging to remain passive.

‘There we go,’ the nurse coos, taping a wad of cotton wool to the crook of Will’s elbow as she withdraws the needle. ‘How are you feeling?’

‘Fine,’ Will mutters, looking away and bending his arm up, flexing his fist to prove that having a bit of blood drawn is no big deal, even for a delicate little Omega.

‘I’ll be back in a minute to take you through to the MRI,’ the nurse says, jotting Will’s details onto the labels and then smiling at him again. Will represses the urge to bare his teeth at her, but barely, and he rolls his eyes at Hannibal as soon as they’re alone.

‘This is ridiculous,’ he grumbles, sitting forwards in the padded chair, his feet dangling up off the floor because the nurse forgot to lower it. He leans forwards and rests his head on Hannibal’s chest when his Alpha comes to stand in front of him, breathing in the smell of cedarwood, cloves and musk to soothe his frayed nerves.

‘I must admit, I hadn’t realized how patronizing the world can be to an Omega,’ Hannibal murmurs, and Will hums, looking up at him with a sad smile. Hannibal frees one hand from under the coat draped over his arm and cups the side of his mate’s face, stroking his jaw with his thumb before dipping his head to kiss him.

Will moans at the feel and taste of him, grabbing a handful of Hannibal’s suit in both hands. Before he can get carried away and embarrass himself in the thin gown, Hannibal is pushing him back and resting their foreheads together.

‘Later,’ his Alpha purrs, and Will twitches at the promise. He clears his throat and smooths out Hannibal’s jacket just as the nurse comes back in, jumping down before she can fiddle with the bed. She looks surprised at his daring, but doesn’t comment on it because Hannibal quirks an eyebrow at her.

‘If you’ll follow me,’ she says, and leads them down the corridor to the MRI suite.

Hannibal stays a step behind Will, ostensibly to shield his Omega from prying eyes, but thoroughly enjoying the uninhibited view of Will’s backside moving in the silk boxers he’s been provided. Dr Sutcliffe greets them at the door, and the two Alphas go into the monitor room to the right whilst the nurse takes Will into the scanner room through the double doors.

‘Don’t you worry,’ she says kindly, holding out a plastic case with two earplugs in. ‘Your Alpha will be just outside, and it’ll be over before you know it.’

Will hums, too distracted to notice the condescension because this is it; if the scan doesn’t show anything, then Hannibal’s right – it’s mental illness, and that’s much scarier than anything physical.

He slots the silicone plugs into his ears and gets up onto the table, adjusting the gown before lying down. Takes a deep breath as he slots his head into the rest, trying to ignore his fluttering heart.

Please find something… Please let them find something…

He wonders how many times patients have lain here and thought the opposite.

In the monitor room, behind tinted glass, Hannibal feels an echo of Will’s nerves.

‘It’s prodrome,’ he says quietly. ‘Causing swelling in the right hemisphere of his brain.’

Sutcliffe glances up from his notes, giving Hannibal the same quizzical frown he’d worn many times at Hopkins.

‘That’s your pre-diagnosis?’ he teases and Hannibal nods, deadly serious.     

‘Yes.’

‘Based on…?’

‘Nuchal manipulation combined with light therapy and estrogen injections,’ Hannibal replies. ‘The inflammation is no doubt caused by the rapid detox of suppressants.’

Sutcliffe gapes at him. At the casual tone with which he talks about manipulating his Omega’s biology.

‘Okay… Can I ask why you’re doing that to him?’

Hannibal lifts one shoulder in a delicate shrug.

‘I, too, had my concerns about the length of time between Will’s heat cycles. About the possibility of organ damage. I wanted him to stop as soon as possible. Your blood tests will show that he’s due his heat any day now.’

Sutcliffe nods carefully, but he can’t keep from crossing his arms as he asks,

‘If you knew what was wrong with him, why didn’t you say something?’

Hannibal watches as the nurse raises the scanner bed and slides Will inside the machine.

‘I don’t want him to know,’ he says. ‘Will is very against experiencing heat. But I have to be sure as to the inflammation. His symptoms began slowly and gradually worsened, and, yesterday, I asked him to draw a clock.’

He withdraws his notebook as he speaks and opens it to show Sutcliffe.

‘This is what he drew.’

The Omega Specialist puts his glasses on and nods down at the lopsided scrawl.

‘Huh… Spatial neglect…’ Pulls them off again and taps the rim on his other hand. ‘Headaches, disorientation, hallucinations, altered consciousness… It’s all the tell-tale signs… His heat should fix it…’

Hannibal nods, his dark eyes gleaming.

‘It’s so rare to be able to study the psychological effect of Prodromal Phasing on an Omega’s mind,’ he says, deliberately thoughtful. And Sutcliffe, being Sutcliffe, bites.

‘It’s more rare, still, to be able to study the neurological effects,’ he agrees.

‘A doctor has to weigh the ultimate benefit of scientific study,’ Hannibal says, and he knows he’s got him. ‘Even in these times, we know so little about Omega prodrome, and its effect on their brain.’ He looks at Sutcliffe, and his fellow Alpha looks back at him. ‘There are great discoveries to be made.’

Sliding into the scanner is like slipping into a warm bath, and Will can feel the dark current swallow him. He’s under the bed, staring at the slats, waiting… Waiting for the Alpha to come back…

The MRI whirs and hums around him. Starts to bang, and his heart thumps with it, battering his ribcage and sending his temperature soaring.

She’s coming… Creeping closer, her flashlight beam lighting up the floor…

You’re not my Alpha.

He grabs her ankle. Hauls her towards him and she screams.

He turns his head, or maybe he just thinks he does… And she’s there… Her face split in two, teeth on display… The sliced muscles of her cheeks glistening pink…

‘He doesn’t smell like he’s approaching heat,’ Sutcliffe says, looking out through the mirrored glass to where Will is lying in the scanner, waiting to hear if it’s his mind or his body that’s seriously ill.

‘Scent suppressants,’ Hannibal replies, his eyes flicking to the screen where the images are starting to come through. ‘He was taking more than a recommended dose of estrus blockers before; now, he takes pheromone blockers, and no one is any the wiser.’

‘And his eyes? Prodromal Phasing typically presents with gold irises,’ Sutcliffe says. ‘I noticed his are still blue.’

Hannibal smiles, and withdraws a spare bottle of Inhibitor drops from his breast pocket. Sutcliffe takes with a smile and a shake of his head.

‘I must say, your dedication to your field of study is… impressive,’ he says, handing the bottle back. He sits down and points to the first scan. ‘There; you’re spot on. Right side of his brain is completely inflamed. It’s a rare complication of Prodromal Phasing… Until his heat hits, his symptoms are only going to get worse.’

‘I know,’ Hannibal says, memorizing the pattern of swelling in his mate’s brain. ‘It’s unfortunate for Will.’

Sutcliffe looks at him with a mixture of amazement and nervousness.

‘What do you have planned for me?’ he asks, and Hannibal curls his lips into a hungry smile.

‘Opportunity.’

***

‘We didn’t find anything abnormal,’ Sutcliffe says, and the words stab at Will like a knife. He stares at the brain scans on the screen, at the perfectly healthy blue and green patterns of a neutral Omega brain, and he can feel something tearing inside, something breaking as the last of his hope fades.

‘No vascular malformations, no tumors, no swelling or bleeding,’ Sutcliffe continues, his voice battering into Will until he feels bruised. ‘No evidence of stroke…’ The Omega Specialist is sat in his chair, reading from the pages before him. ‘Liver and kidneys are functioning as normal… There’s nothing wrong with you, physically.’

Will holds very still, his throat closed tight around the urge to whimper. To keen for his Alpha. Hannibal is standing just behind him, but Will can’t tell what he’s thinking or feeling. It’s making it difficult to control his fear. Makes him want to cry

Pathetic. Weak. Crazy.

He forces himself to swallow, to look at Dr Sutcliffe.

‘So… what I’m experiencing is… psychological?’ he asks quietly, his voice trembling. Sutcliffe glances at Hannibal and then sighs. Looks away as he replies,

‘Well, brain and body scans can’t diagnose, er, mental disorders… They can only rule out medical illnesses, like a tumor, which can have similar symptoms.’

Will is very quiet, staring off to the side, his shoulders bowed as fine tremors wrack him. Sutcliffe’s stomach clenches at the pain on the Omega’s face and he can’t help but add,

‘Look, we’ll run some more tests. We’ll take some more blood samples…’ He puts Will’s folder down on the side and notices Hannibal looking at him, one eyebrow slightly raised. Sutcliffe swallows and finishes heavily, ‘… But, I imagine they’ll prove just as inconclusive.’

Will nods, his throat bobbing around the lump threatening to dissolve into tears, and Hannibal steps closer. Rests a hand on his shoulder and dips his head down to kiss his cheek.

‘Let me take you home,’ he murmurs, and Will nods again. Takes his coat when his Alpha hands it to him and pulls it on with numb hands, not even noticing the hospital décor as he follows Hannibal out of the Omega Unit and back to the Bentley parked outside.

‘Talk to me, Will,’ Hannibal says, catching his mate’s hand when they get outside and pulling him to a stop. ‘Tell me how you feel.’

Will tries to jerk away, ducking his face so that Hannibal can’t see the tears welling in his eyes, and growls at him when the Alpha pulls him closer, trying to lift his chin.  

Not here!’ he snarls, shoving at Hannibal and stumbling down the curb to the passenger door. He gives the handle a pointed tug and Hannibal sighs, his breath steaming the cold air. Unlocks the car and watches as Will falls into the seat, pushing his glasses off as he scrubs at his face.

Will’s brain is spinning. He can’t breathe. He can’t… He can’t do this…

I was so sure… I was so certain it was something physical…

‘You need to accept this news, Will,’ Hannibal says, climbing behind the wheel and turning to his mate. ‘Fighting the truth will only make it harder. More painful.’

‘I know,’ Will mutters, staring at his bouncing knee. ‘Can… Can you just drive, please? I want to be alone for a while.’

‘Of course,’ Hannibal says, his face schooled to neutral as he starts the engine. He’d anticipated Will’s need for solitude after such bad news; counted on it, in fact, since the isolation will widen the cracks in his psyche further, but he hadn’t expected it to hurt as much as it does.

This isn’t about me, he reminds himself, driving through Baltimore, onto the interstate and then out towards Wolf Trap. This is for Will. To help him.

I’m going to free you, Will. Hold on just a little longer.

***

Sipping brandy before a crackling fire with Jack Crawford in his office that evening, Hannibal sets the next phase of his plan into motion.

‘You knew, from the moment you walked into his classroom, that you were putting Will in a potentially destructive environment,’ he says, allowing a little of his disapproval to color his tone. As anticipated, the other Alpha responds defensively to this.

‘I had eight college girls dead in Minnesota,’ he replies. ‘Will caught their killer for me.’

‘He also caught their killer’s disease,’ Hannibal says, and Jack frowns at the fire when Hannibal continues, ‘He can’t stop thinking about what it is to take a life.’

‘Well, I’d rather he go a little mad than other innocents lose their lives,’ Jack snaps. ‘And I think he would feel the same way.’

Hannibal sighs, controlling the urge to snarl at the ignorant Alpha.

‘Will is an innocent,’ he reminds him, and Jack sighs. Tilts his head and shrugs because he knows it’s true. As an Omega, he is pure.

‘Yes, he is,’ he says heavily. Shrugs again. ‘I mean, Will is genuine.’ His eyes light with a desperate fire. ‘He’ll survive anything I could put him through. He will always fight his way back to himself.’

‘Not always,’ Hannibal replies, and raises an eyebrow at him. ‘So far.’

Jack huffs and rolls his eyes. Consoles himself with more brandy and Hannibal has to crush the urge to smash it into his smug, over-confident face.

You could never protect my mate.

‘He saw an Omega Specialist today,’ he continues. ‘They found nothing wrong with him. He was… very upset by that.’

‘You’re saying he wanted something to be wrong?’ Jack asks, frowning at him in confusion. Hannibal allows a little of his grief to color his eyes red.

‘I think he wanted an answer that wasn’t mental illness,’ he says sadly, and watches as Jack tenses.

‘You think he’s mentally ill.’ It isn’t a question, but Hannibal replies as if it is.

‘The problem Will has is too many mirror neurons,’ he explains. ‘Our heads are filled with them when we are children, Omegas even more so. It’s supposed to help us socialize and then melt away. Omegas are known for having more than Alphas and Betas, but Will held on to all of his, which makes knowing who he is a challenge.’

Jack listens pensively, lips tight and brow furrowed. Hannibal shifts, leaning closer to the other Alpha, his dark eyes locked on to Jack’s face as he pushes the word deep inside his mind.

‘All Omegas are known for their empathy, Jack; they can sense vibrations and memories in a place. When you take him to a crime scene, the very air has screams smeared on it. In those places, he doesn’t just reflect. He absorbs.’

***

He’s not sure why he needs to go back, but after feeding the dogs that night, Will finds himself in the car, driving back out through the snow to Beth LeBeau’s house. Back to the crime scene.

He parks up and switches on his flashlight as he climbs out of the car. Uses his key to cut through the police tape over the front door and lets himself inside.

The house is cold and quiet. There’s a funny smell; like death and fear… Why are you afraid?

Wood creaks under his feet as he heads upstairs, and Will moves carefully, following the beam of his flashlight. Tries to follow the resonances but they’re weak… Not faded, just… Indistinct.

He flicks the light switch on the wall in the bedroom but it’s not working. Gazes around the room, at the dresser with the model horses on top, at the rocking chair with a soft cushion and throw… Across the bloodstain on the floor, dark red against the harsh white of his flashlight, smeared from where he stepped in it… Where he did it…

Panic claws at his throat and Will feels his shirt stick to his back as heat rolls through him. He tucks his flashlight under his armpit and checks his watch. A handle to hold onto…

‘It’s 10.36. I’m in Greenwood, Delaware…’ He looks around the room again, from the net curtains at the window to the side table, onto the bed… ‘My name is Will Graham.’

And then, as the beam of light drops to the leg of the bed, he sees a face, bruised and distorted, with two amber eyes staring out at him. Will’s throat closes up and his heart flips behind his ribs. His thoughts clamber on top of each other, realization jolting him like lightning.

What the fuck? That’s an Omega… That’s the killer… But… That’s an Omega…

He starts to lean down, to check that he’s not hallucinating, and the Omega withdraws with a whimper. Then, in a surprising show of strength, she shoves up from underneath the bed, flipping the heavy double mattress down on top of him as she bolts for the door.

Will brings his arm up, the torch beam swinging wildly, and staggers back, twisting in time to grab the Omega’s arm as she runs past. There’s a sickening tug and an entire strip of dead skin comes away, stinking of rotting flesh, and Will gags, stumbling as black and gold sparks swarm behind his eyes. His vision doubles and then caves in on itself. He gasps for breath, fire roaring up from the pit of his stomach. The current snags his legs and his shadow races through him as the sweet, sugary smell of his own slick rises from between his legs.

Hannibal…

He’s…

Will gasps, jolted back to reality as snow crunches under his feet. He’s… Where is he? He’s outside… It’s cold…

Steam curls from his sweaty skin, billowing in front of his face when he gasps for breath. His heart is thundering in his chest… Not pounding just… Strong. So strong…

He turns a circle, trying to get his bearings. The woods look familiar… He’s not gone far… He can still smell the rotting scent of the Omega…

Grabbing his watch, Will whimpers as he reads the time. He’s lost hours

A handle…

His voice catches when he speaks, and he can’t stop the shivers wracking him.

‘It’s 1.17am,’ he manages, still turning, still looking for the killer. For the Omega. ‘W-we’re in G-Greenwood… Delaware…’ At least, I think we are… I hope we are… ‘And my name is Will Graham.’

And then, because he knows, he knows what she fears, he raises his voice to shout,

‘And you’re alive! If you can hear me… You’re alive!’

***

It’s a trek back to the house, but once he’s there, Will calls Beverly Katz. She answers on the second ring and, when he says he thinks he encountered the killer at the crime scene, she comes straight over, arriving within the hour.

She looks tired, and she smells of her bed; her Omega’s sweet musk is all over her skin, and Will feels a pang of guilt at having dragged her away from her mate for this.

‘I’m sorry it’s so late,’ he says, leading her upstairs, retracing his steps as though he can remind himself of everything he’s forgotten simply by being there again. He huffs. ‘Or early, I suppose.’

‘That’s okay,’ Beverly says, following carefully, her hands in the pockets of her leather jacket. ‘Just… Why did you call me? Why not Jack? Why not the police?’

Embarrassment coils like a snake in his stomach, but Will wants to be honest with her. He can trust her with it.

‘I called you because…I’m not entirely sure what I saw was real.’

He offers her a twisted smile, fiddles with the flashlight and returns to staring at the bed as Beverly sighs, putting a hand on her hip. She considers him for a moment and he wonders if she’ll tell him she thinks he’s crazy, too, before her expression softens.

‘Then let’s prove it,’ she says simply. She wants to believe the best in him, and she’ll do whatever she can to help him.

‘I grabbed her arm,’ Will says, turning and miming the action as he recalls the event. ‘And an entire layer of dead skin separated from the underlying tissue, like… like she was wearing a glove.’

Beverly nods, no disgust or horror showing on her face, which Will appreciates.

‘That’s why she doesn’t bleed,’ she says thoughtfully, and Will hums.

‘Right; there’s no circulation. Nothing alive in the tissue to bind it.’

‘What did you do with it?’ Beverly asks, and Will frowns, trying to remember past the heat that had swallowed him whole.

‘… I don’t know,’ he replies, shrugging helplessly.

‘You can’t remember?’ Beverly asks, worry and disappointment warring on her face. She sighs and turns away, shaking her head as she thinks out loud. ‘Could be a staphylococcal infection… That or leprosy…’

‘The gold of her eyes was discolored,’ Will says, pacing back and forth as heat crackles up his spine. He’s been here too long; he needs to go home… to Hannibal. But he can’t… He’s sleeping alone tonight and tomorrow… He concentrates on the case again. Distracting himself from the emptiness in his chest. ‘She was malnourished… Jaundiced. Her liver was shutting down… She was… deranged.’

‘So, she mutilated an Alpha’s face because she thought it was a mask,’ Beverly says slowly, trying to understand the Omega’s motivation. Something clicks in Will’s mind and he takes a deep breath of realization.

‘She can’t see faces,’ he explains. He sighs. ‘If she did kill Beth LeBeau, she might not even know she did it.’

‘Then why did she come back?’ Beverly asks, looking around the room.

‘To convince herself she didn’t,’ Will suggests, grimacing again. Beverly tilts her head at him.

‘Is that why you came back?’ she asks, but the softness in her tone doesn’t stop his shadow from rearing up inside him, propelling Will to advance on her with a growl.

‘If I wasn’t clear on that issue, I know I didn’t kill Beth LeBeau,’ he says dangerously. Then, when Beverly doesn’t back down, just subtly squares her shoulders to remind him who the Alpha is between them, Will relents. ‘I just wanna know who did,’ he says quietly.

Beverly looks him up and down, a moment of hardness in her face, and then she nods.

‘Me too.’

‘Yeah…’ Will releases a slow breath, willing himself to calm down, to cool down, and ducks his head. His skin is crawling from standing up to Beverly, from challenging her like that. He’s exhausted and his whole body hurts…

Beverly considers him again, her dark eyes gleaming.

‘You’re the subject of a lot of speculation at the Bureau,’ she says.

‘Oh yeah?’ Will replies, trying for casual dismissal of gossip instead of panic, betrayed by the quiver in his voice.  Do they know? Do they know what I am? ‘What are they speculating?’

‘That Jack pushed you right up to the edge, and now you’re pushing yourself over,’ Beverly says, looking him right in the eye as she speaks.

Will doesn’t know how what to say to that. He pauses, looking for the right words, and then swallows.

‘This killer… can’t accept her reality,’ he mutters. Winces and shrugs. ‘I can occasionally identify with that.’ He looks up at the damp patch on the ceiling, at the wallpaper… The shimmer in the air when he breathes out. ‘That said,’ he continues, ‘I feel… relatively sane.’

He turns and begins to walk away, taking his time, feeling the pulse of heat deep inside him, the trickle of slick down his thighs and the throb of his crest on the back of his neck.

‘We should go,’ he murmurs, speaking over his shoulder to Beverly, who hasn’t yet made a move to follow him. ‘Get some rest before work. Thanks for, er, indulging me, though.’

‘Of course,’ the Alpha says. ‘And Will?’

‘Hm?’ Out on the landing, Will pauses to look back at her. ‘Yeah?’

Beverly sighs, noting the defensive hunch of his shoulders, the closed and guarded expression on his face. Shrugs and shakes her head.

‘Just… Don’t go over the edge, okay? It’s not worth it.’

Will looks at her, at the concern in her red-tinged eyes, and feels a flicker of something in his chest. Something warm; different from the heat melting his bones… Gratitude. Because she cares, without knowing that he’s an Omega she’s biologically designed to protect. She cares about him as a person.

But she doesn’t know that he doesn’t have a choice in the matter… That the ground he’s standing on is sloped and loose… That the pit is yawning, endless black and warm, as welcoming as the grave…

But he likes her, so he nods. Offers her a shaky smile to accompany the lie.

‘Both feet firmly on solid earth. I’m not going anywhere.’

***

The rasp of Hannibal’s ballpoint pen on the thick paper of his notebook hurts Will’s ears. All his senses seem heightened; he’s wearing another soft jumper, cut low at the neck so it doesn’t touch his crest, and he hasn’t sprayed himself with any Beta pheromones because he can’t stomach the smell of them today.

It’s a relief to be in his Alpha’s office, away from the noise and stench of the world, from all the emotions battering him. This room has become one of his sanctuaries, and he can’t remember a time when he didn’t feel safe here.

Sat at the big desk, he jots down the numbers of the clock face as he speaks.

‘It’s 7.05pm. I’m in Baltimore, Maryland. My name is Will Graham.’

‘Thank you for humoring me,’ Hannibal says, tidying up as Will performs the so-called “grounding” exercise. He picks up a couple of textbooks and places them beside him as his Omega turns the notebook and holds it out for him, schooling his expression to neutral when he sees the disjointed circle, lines and numbers tumbling off the edge of the page.

Will sits back in the chair, the leather still clinging to faint remnants of Hannibal’s scent and aftershave, releasing it around him with the movement. He places his hands on the armrests, open and relaxed. As worried as he is, he can’t keep hold of the tension when he’s with his Alpha. It just… melts away, because he knows he’s protected. He can let go of everything and be completely honest.

‘I feel like I’m seeing a ghost,’ he murmurs, and Hannibal glances down at him from inspecting the clock.

‘Regarding this killer, or yourself?’ he asks, and Will raises his eyebrows.

‘Both.’

‘Well, she’s real,’ Hannibal replies. ‘You know she’s real. There’s evidence.’ He removes his pen and closes the notebook, securing it with its elastic band as he speaks. ‘When you found her, your sanity did not leave you.’

‘Time did,’ Will points out, rolling his head back to watch his Alpha move. Hannibal looks down at him, a sadness lingering in his gaze.

‘You lost time again?’

Will closes his eyes, nodding almost imperceptibly as his lips curve into a tiny, bitter smile. Hannibal moves again, slipping one hand into his pocket, the other fiddling with items on his desk as he continues,

‘I spoke to Dr Sutcliffe. We briefly discussed the particulars of your visit. Would you like to discuss them with me?’

Will scoffs.

‘There are no “particulars”,’ he replies. ‘He didn’t find anything wrong.’

‘Then we keep looking for answers,’ Hannibal says, withdrawing his scalpel and pencils from beneath his sketchbook. ‘Perhaps you would permit me to run some tests of my own.’

A thrill of fear, tainted with bitter resignation, settles like a razor on the back of his neck, and Will rubs a hand over his mouth and jaw, feeling the rasp of beard beneath his fingers. He’d always admired Hannibal’s restraint when it came to studying him and his empathy disorder; seems the Alpha may just have been playing the long game.

‘You wouldn’t publish anything about me, would you, Dr Lecter?’

Hannibal pauses, and glances at Will as he replies,

‘If there were ever anything that might be of therapeutic value to others, I’d abstract it in a form that would be totally unrecognizable.’

Will watches him, a thumb still balanced on his lower lip as if not sure whether to chew the nail or not, and then he sighs and turns away, more than done with this conversation. It makes him feel dirty.

‘Just do me a favor and publish it posthumously,’ he says, staring over at the far side of the room.

‘After your death or mine?’ Hannibal asks, not looking up from straightening his pencils.

‘Whichever comes first,’ Will replies, swiveling back to face his Alpha. He’s never seen Hannibal so tense; never seen him fiddle so much. It makes him feel guilty, because he knows it’s his condition, his illness, causing Hannibal’s distress. The thought almost makes him huff a laugh, though the sound shrivels and dies before it even reaches his throat, and his expression remains fixed in a sad, pensive stare.

You’re not the only one with a protective instinct, Alpha.

‘Have you considered Cotard’s syndrome?’ Hannibal asks, and Will looks up, curious. ‘It’s a rare delusional disorder, in which a person believes he or she is dead,’ the Alpha explains, still obsessively tidying his desk.

Will snorts.

‘Are you talking about the killer, or me?’

‘The killer, of course,’ Hannibal replies.

‘Of course,’ Will says bitterly. He sits forward, squinting through the pain of another headache as he tries to concentrate through the hot sludge in his brain. Why is this so difficult? ‘Um… She couldn’t see the victim’s face. Or she was trying to uncover it.’

Hannibal, now checking the notebook in which Will drew his clock face, speaks down to the blank pages.

‘The inability to identify others is associated with Cotard’s. It’s a misfiring in the areas of the brain which recognize faces, and also in the amygdala, which adds emotion to those recognitions. It’s more common in Omegas than anyone else.’ He leans forward, resting his hands on the desk, and looks right into Will’s eyes. ‘Even those closest to her would seem like imposters.’

‘So… she reached out to someone she loved, someone she trusted… Felt betrayed… Became violent…’ Will’s heart sinks and his eyes sting with tears at the pain of it understanding. ‘Her Alpha. God… They were bonded… She went home…’

‘She can’t trust anything, or anyone she on