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CH1

 

Will feels restless , or at least, that's the only word to describe the incessant itching of his skin and what feels like molten lava bubbling dangerously at his core, lurking, waiting for the inevitable eruption. The heat burns throughout his upper body and trickles its way down into each individual limb. It's far more intense than his usual bouts of nighttime anxiety, that's for certain. This is something of an entirely different nature.

 

Will tosses and turns in anguish, every which way, until the sheets are twisted up into one chaotic heap and he's adrift within the coarse, 200-thread count sea of grey.

 

The dogs know better than to share his bed. Winston is the only one stubborn enough to try. Will’s leg twitches, an automatic response to the cold, wet nose pressing against the heated skin of his thigh. The dog shuffles around for a while, prodding and pawing, until eventually deciding to prop his furry snout upon his abdomen, curling around him in an affectionate attempt to soothe the agitated omega. Will’s not sure how Winston manages to put up with all the nocturnal trashing on such a regular basis, but he appreciates it, nonetheless. The dogs are the only true omegan comfort that he permits himself. He’s found that his little makeshift pack is more than enough to sate the deeply rooted longing for a family and his foolish nurturing instincts; both things that have been biologically coded into his DNA since birth.

 

Will smiles to himself, despite the discomfort, bringing one hand down to ruffle gently at his furry companion’s head, until the rapid beating of his heart has slowed to an acceptable pace, and finally, he succumbs to the weighted fluttering of his eyelids.

 

*

 

Will’s able to squeeze in anywhere from at least an hour to two hour’s worth of relatively blissful and undisturbed sleep. That is, until the chiming of his ringtone slices through the peaceful quiet of the bedroom in a grating loop - it’s one of the default tones, #13 maybe, he’s never bothered to change the damn thing. Will groans, flopping over onto his side, toward the glow of the display, and reaches for his cell phone. It goes silent, buzzing once to notify him of the missed call. Will scrubs the sleep from his eyes with his free hand and sluggishly taps in his passcode.

 

4:46 AM: 2 Missed calls. All from Jack Crawford, of course. Who else?

 

Will yawns and as he is about to return Jack’s call, he pauses midway, finger stuck hovering above the screen, becoming increasingly - alarmingly- aware of how much sweat he’s covered in. A disgusting pool of sweat. It’s everywhere, from head to toe; the sheets, the pillow, his clothes. He’s completely drenched . Even his curls have gone flat, plastering themselves to the back of his neck and forehead, the thin white shirt he’s wearing clings uncomfortably tight against his scorching skin; his underwear feel like they’re in even worse shape - a gross, sticky mess.

 

Will pushes himself up into a sitting position and cautiously rubs both thighs together; ashamed at how easily they slide together, how indecent it feels. It's his father’s heavily accented voice that bounces around inside his head: omegas are nothing more than filthy whores . In this brief moment of weakness, he struggles to bite back the pathetic whimper that nearly spills from his throat, forcing down the pitiful lump with a harsh bob of his adam’s apple, and it’s so stereotypically omegan of him, that he can’t help but toss his phone down in self-disgust; watching as it bounces and lands near the foot of the bed. He lets out a shaky breath, brushing his curls back, and away from his brow, as he rises from the bed, careful, so as not to disturb the dogs. Winston shifts at the movement, and regards him with a curious tilt of his head, but, sensing no immediate threat, decides it best to stay put for the meantime.

 

Will makes his way into the small bathroom where he finds himself standing in front of the sink for what feels like hours, staring down into the dark, rust-colored tunnel of the drain until his vision has gone blurry. The cool porcelain gripped painfully between both hands, supporting his full weight, and the soles of his bare feet upon the chilled tiles come as heavenly relief to the liquid fire that continues its rapid descent throughout his body. Somewhere, far away, the phone continues to ring. Faint, faint, loud, loud, until it’s suddenly too loud, like someone's twisted the dial in his head from one and straight to twenty. Will nearly jumps out of his skin.

 

What the hell is wrong with him?

 

Dissociating in his bathroom at -  what, four something in the morning? Underwear stuck to his ass in what he hopes to god is sweat and not slick - because, honestly, at this point he's too afraid to actually check. ‘ There’s a word for that ’, his uncooperative mind supplies, ‘ Denial. ’ The thought did occur to him, the most obvious conclusion would be his… his heat? No. He knows it isn't the beginnings of pre-heat sickness. Can’t be. And, besides what appear to be the symptoms of a mild fever, he doesn't feel the telltale stirrings of arousal whatsoever. Plus, it'd be physically impossible, for the simple fact that he's never gone a single day without his suppressants.

 

Christ.

 

He was severely overthinking this, wasn't he? It could just be the flu or something. One of his students could have passed it onto him. Simple as that.

 

Yes, the flu. That has to be it.

 

Please be the flu.

 

Will shakes his head, muttering to himself, “Will Graham, get it together.” His voice echoes softly in the stillness of the bathroom, as he swings open the old, paint chipped medicine cabinet. There are various bottles of medication, there’s no particular order to it, a few brands of painkillers, some first aid essentials, and three bottles with the same offensively bright yellow warning label slapped onto them:

 

Hormone Suppressants (Maximum Strength). Take one tablet once every week.

 

Warning: for Omegas only.

 

Will takes one look at the boldly printed letters and scoffs, grabbing the nearest bottle of painkillers, along with the suppressants, as he shakes the pills out onto his clammy palm. He downs the both of them, twisting on the faucet and chasing them down with a couple of handfuls of water, making sure to splash some onto his overheated face as well. And in another bout of frustration, he slams the cabinet door shut and purposely avoids meeting his reflection in the mirror. He feels awful, doesn’t need the mirror to prove it.

 

After Will spends a minute or so practicing deep breathing exercises and debating whether or not now is a good time to return Jack’s call (doesn’t know if he can stand to put up with Jack’s unnecessary alpha posturing), he decides, instead, to take a quick, much-needed shower. It’s obvious what it is that Jack wants from him, it’s the only reason he ever calls him, and he can’t exactly go around crime scenes reeking of sweat. Even worse, omega sweat. The cool stream of the water does help to ground him - calms his rapid breathing, brings relief to his fevered body, and caresses his overly tense muscles like a soothing balm. By the end of it, he almost feels normal - his definition of normal, anyway. If only he could get rid of the dull, throbbing pain in his sinuses.

 

Will leaves the restroom, toweling down his damp curls as he walks, and picks up his phone from where he’d tossed it in an, admittedly, somewhat embarrassing fit. He massages the bridge of his nose in preparation and, before he’s able to change his mind again, the guilt finally overriding (people are dying and he’s at home whining about the damn flu), hits the call button next to his boss’s name.

 

It connects on the second ring.

 

“Will,” shouts the man on the other line, his voice comes out harsh and tinny through the speaker of the phone. Will cringes, slightly. There’s a brief pause, followed by muffled voices that Will recognizes as belonging to Zeller and Price, no doubt in the midst of some ridiculous argument. “About damn time you answered the phone. We’ve got another murder, another unfortunate couple - we think it’s the work of the Sweetheart killer. I’m gonna need you down in Baltimore as soon as possible.” Jack certainly wastes no time.

 

“Right, sorry.” Will sighs, phone pressed against one shoulder, as he sprays himself down with beta cologne. The script is always the same between the two of them. “I’ll be right there.” He brings both his wrists up for a quick sniff at his pulse point, then his armpits, making sure that none of his natural scent has managed to sneak through. It is awfully paranoid of him, but you can never be too certain, and hell, it’s a tough habit to break.

 

“Good,” says Jack. “I already texted you the address.”

 

There’s another burst of shouting that follows, but thankfully none of it is directed toward him. Still, Will can feel Jack’s ill mood practically radiating through the end of his shitty, work issued, blackberry.

 

The back of his nape tingles with displeasure, as the line goes dead.

 

*

 

It takes him a bit over two hours to make it into Baltimore, thanks to the early morning rush. In truth, Will’s not sure if he was entirely conscious for the half of it. It comes in blurs, shifting images, colors and shapes melding together into one giant kaleidoscopic mess. Time is fragmented, shattered into tiny, painful shards of glass; impossible to gather them back into one complete whole. He’d been sitting in his car at a red light one minute, the ruby haze of the stop light illuminating the outer edges of his vision, melting, no, dripping onto the pavement below in a crimson pool, both lovely and menacing, and the next thing he knew he was -

 

He’s not in his car anymore, that much is obvious. Nor is he still within the safety of his cozy little home in Wolf Trap, Virginia.

 

The room is dark and dingy, the layout of the bedroom is unfamiliar to him, with only a sliver of daylight seeping in through the curtained windows. There is a horrible odor permeating the place, a disgusting combination of pheromones layered on top of what he now suddenly realizes is the stench of death, so potent, that Will feels as if he's physically choking. The pain in his sinus has gone from dull to excruciating; a three to ten on the pain scale. He can’t help but gag and stumble backward.

 

His eyes dart up, searching, and that’s when he spots it. The two bodies suspended from the ceiling fan above the bed, each with a noose around their necks. Strung up and posed in someone’s grotesque vision of an embrace.

 

Alpha and Omega.

 

Sweethearts.

 

Will shakily places his hand on top of the bedroom dresser behind him and slowly pushes himself upright, he’s gasping for breath. His senses are too overstimulated, it’s too much for him, his mind feels like it’s on fire. He needs something, no, he needs someone, needs an alph--

 

‘No, no .’ Will bites his tongue. ‘ Stop -’

 

Someone grabs his shoulders roughly. “Will! Can you hear me? Snap out of it!”

 

Alpha! ’ Will’s only response is a throaty, strangled sound, caught somewhere between a whimper and a growl. His whole body jerks at the sensation of the alpha’s, large, threatening hands gripping onto his shoulders, at the wrongness of it, and he presses back, away, and into the wooden dresser. A picture frame of a family he doesn’t recognize, their faces are too blurred, warped, tips over with a crash. He crouches down into a defensive position and yelps loudly, once in distress, before letting out a low warning growl.

 

“Will, I need you to calm down,” the alpha says, approaching slowly and cautiously, as one would a wild,  frightened animal. “It’s me, Jack.”

 

It's too late. He can’t make out any of the words.

 

The door is being flung open from the other side with a loud, shattering bang and the alpha in front of him is yelling something at the others. There’s a flood of blinding light, and the strong, heady musk of alpha intensifies as they all scramble in after one another, as if mindlessly searching for the source of the distress call. Their eyes burrow into him, irises tinged with red, dangerous, it is reminiscent of the stop light flickering over the pavement on his way into Baltimore: oh, so lovely, yet menacing. The alphas all circle around him like starving wolves. Crowding him. Trapping him. Wanting nothing more than to devour him whole. The omega in him screaming, yes, yes, let’s be sweethearts, while outwardly he bares his fangs at them. At the first unwelcome sensation of hands pressing against his heated skin, and as a sharp, excruciating spasm assaults his sinuses, something inside of him snaps, pure animal instinct taking over any remaining rational thought.

 

Ripping and tearing in self-preservation.

 

Omega…? …Will... stay back…!

 

The bitter taste of iron floods his mouth.

 

*

 

Beep. Beep. Beep.

 

God , won’t Jack let him sleep in for once?

 

It’s getting exceedingly harder to explain to Jack why he’s constantly arriving at crime scenes so last-minute all of the damn time. The sleepless nights, coupled with the ridiculous and highly inconvenient routine of having to conceal his gender each and every goddamn day. Will groans and swings his arm out, blindly reaching for the surface of his nightstand, only marginally confused when instead, his arm slumps weakly to the side. Something props up his wrist and forces it back down against the bedding - it is promptly followed by an odd, rustling sound and an out of place pressure around his wrists.

 

“Winston,” Will chides, faintly. If Winston has decided to start chewing up the furniture again despite all the months of training, he’s going to be severely disappointed in him.

 

Will drifts off for one beautifully content moment, his mind blanking into warm, fuzzy darkness.

 

“Rise and shine, darling.”

 

What?

 

Will chokes out a startled gasp and with some difficulty, he tries wiggling his fingers, spreads them out against the cool sheets below, then rapidly blinks open his eyes. He squints in disorientation for a brief couple of seconds, as the harsh lights come into view, waiting anxiously for his vision to properly finish adjusting to his surroundings.

 

And it is with deep dread and a sinking feeling, that Will recognizes this voice.