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Lost & Found Life

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NOTES: This story contains fictionalized versions of real people. I am borrowing names, a few background details, appearance, etc. Everything else is entirely made up and I am not implying any real world knowledge of these people. And I don't own the rights to anything or anyone I'm putting in here, except the intellectual property that is my words. So pretty please no suing.

Lt. Frost is my own creation, a leftover from a story under one of my previous profiles on another site. She's a badass. Imagine Beverly if she were Bedelia's age.

Note for the opening chapter: you have NO idea how much I wanted to make Chilton the guy who knocks Will up and drops him... if only for what happens later. But I grudgingly realized the best analog to the character in the movie was Matthew so... there ya go. Chilton still makes an appearance though.

Also one minor note about Matthew. He's what I'm referring to as a demi-alpha, which I know isn't really a thing, but I needed him to be able to get Will pregnant without being... too much of an overall threat. He's dangerous because he hates people not taking him seriously. You have alphas and betas and omegas and capital A ALPHA of the Alphas like Hannibal. Matt is like a half-step above a beta, technically alpha but just barely. He's kind of like the outcome of alpha and omega twins who merged: slight, emotional, a little pretty but not as pretty as a pureblood omega, and strong but weaker than a true alpha. Everyone confused? Good. Let's go.


It's a beautiful day in Baltimore. The sun is shining, and the church is lavishly decorated. Father Brian Zeller is waiting calmly outside, chatting with the groom's mother - Grace Lecter, a lovely and bold Omega unwithered by age - as they usher in last minute arrivals and wait for the cue that the ceremony is about to begin.

An unpleasant whine like a wounded animal breaks through the conversation, and they look as a somewhat battered Crown Vic pulls to a stop at the curb. There's someone in the backseat, but their focus is quickly drawn to the pair walking towards them with intent, dressed in matching 'government issue' suits, trench coats, and solemn expressions.

The beta (lovely, creamy skin, dark almond-shaped eyes that have the telltale signs of having seen too much in their life) flashes a badge - Baltimore PD - and her partner, a solid looking alpha male with beautiful cocoa skin whips out his Moleskin notebook and a cheap ballpoint.

"Hello, Father. Sorry to interrupt."

The robed beta replies, affable as always. "Quite all right. The ceremony isn't underway yet, my child."

"I'm Agent Craw - sorry. Detective," the alpha amends with a rueful smirk. "Too many years in the FBI. I'm Detective Jack Crawford, this is my partner Lt. Chelsea Frost. We'd like to talk to Mrs. Lecter."

Grace glances at Father Brian and tilts her head in a questioning posture that leaves no question as to her authority. Frost thinks they should have her teach a class; that is a useful look to master.

"That would be me."

Now it's the officers' turn to regard each other, and Jack refers to his notes. "Mrs. ... Shannon Lecter?"

"He is my daughter-in-law. And about to be again."

Perpetually averse to conflict in any measure, Father Brian jumps on the obvious next question, desperate for answers and normalcy and the sweet buttercream icing on the cake at the reception when this is all over. "Excuse me, but what is this regarding?"

Lt. Frost speaks up. "The murder of Matthew Brown."

There's a pause, barely the space between two heartbeats, and Grace squares up and tilts her chin to a borderline defiant angle. "Then you will want to speak with me."

"And... why is that?"

Her smile is small, barely a quirk of lips in the corners, zero teeth. Yet there is something indefinable in it that makes both detectives just a little nervous.

"Why... because I am the one who killed him."

 

Oh, boy. Matthew Brown. That's a name Will would rather forget. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's go back to the beginning. 

Chapter Text

Will Graham had grown up in a cute little house on a Louisiana backwater with an Omegan father named Bill. His mother Shannon, an alpha with a heart too weak for all the love she carried, had died a week shy of her 40th birthday when the landlord's son got drunk and came over at 1 in the morning demanding more rent. The landlord made a deal that they could live rent free if they kept their mouths shut while he bundled his kid off to rehab. Will had been 3.

His father recovered slowly if incompletely, and taught his son everything he knew. For Will's 10th birthday, the landlord's wife gave him a computer and a gift card for some new clothes. He offered to pawn them, but Bill put his foot down. Will used the computer to get his GED at 15, and started taking online courses at the local college while the school would still pay him to earn credits.

3 weeks before Will's 18th birthday, he got a bachelor's degree in education, and Bill closed the boat repair yard and took them out to celebrate at Caro's Crawfish Cabin. They talked about where Will might apply, if he'd get a student teacher slot or have to wait another year, and maybe even get a job at Tulane one day. The next morning, Will found his dad quiet and cold in his lounger, a peaceful smile on his face.

He informed the parish LEOs, buried his dad in the marsh next to his mom, and used the gift card he'd saved to buy a sturdy bag, some clothes and a few books. With one exception, he sold everything of value in the house and bought a bus ticket to New York City, sewing the rest of the money into the lining of his coat and the bottom of his new bag.

Around his neck on a cheap leather cord, he carried his mother's locket - the only tangible memory of her he had, the only thing he couldn't bring himself to sell. One side held a photo of Shannon Louise Latcherie-Graham, the curve of her stomach less of a giveaway that she was carrying Will than the curve of her smile. The other held an engraving: "Destiny awaits you. All you must do is find it."

Hence New York, the city of Fate - or so Will thought. Arriving on his 18th birthday, emerging from the subway terminal like a second birth, the first thing he decided to do was get something to eat.

Stingy Lulu's was a place to do that, and relatively cheaply, and as Will was counting coins and a few crumpled bills left over from the trip (not wanting to break out his emergency stashed cash) a guy a few years older slid into the seat across from him. In no time, he'd learned it was Will's birthday, inciting him to pay as long as they could go out to celebrate.

Matt took Will home that night, swaying slightly from the pitcher of Bayou Beer he'd insisted they share, and chastely tucked him in with a dry kiss on the forehead.

A week later, Will's first heat hit and Matt helped him through it, keeping him hydrated with Gatorade and feeding him granola bars and beef jerky from the bodega down the street. And Will stayed, winter to summer.

Matt didn't give him flowers, but Will had his pick of stolen car stereos and designer knockoffs, and the guys liked him as a mascot who could fix up the radios to bring in more cash and bring them snacks while they worked. The strapping demi-alpha took care of his little omega, not bonding because he knew Will didn't want it, not asking for too much in return. 

At least that's what Will told himself when he woke up in the middle of the night, half-pinned under Matt's sweat-soaked form, thighs chafed and coated in drying slick and semen as it dribbled out around Matt's smaller than average knot, slowly being deafened by his snores.

But if this was supposed to be destiny, Will couldn't help but want a little more. Sliding out from under Matt, he headed to the bathroom to clean himself up and get a drink of water. The moonlight through the wavy glass bounced off Will's locket, and he slipped it off to look at the knowing smile of the woman he hoped to be like someday.

"C'mon, Mom. I'm starting to get a little antsy here. Can you gimme ... I mean, I don't know if it's against the rules, but I'd appreciate a sign. Just one, so I know I'm... where I'm supposed to be." He pressed the locket closed and kissed the smooth metal before sliding it back over his head and going to sleep.

5 weeks later, he got a sign. It was little and pink and way more of a surprise than it should've been. All Will could say was "whoa."

He should've known better.

He stuck his head into the hall and called Matt, who was meeting with his boys about the spots they were gonna hit that night. Matt begrudgingly came, only to stare blankly at the test in Will's hand. Due to his nature, the demi-alpha sometimes got confused, so Will decided to help him out.

"We're gonna have a baby, babe. Isn't that great?"

"Oh, and I suppose you're gonna tell me it's mine?" If he'd backhanded him, Will couldn't have been more surprised.

"Of... course it's yours. I mean... I've never. Who else would it be?"

Matt's hand struck with the speed of a viper, gripping a handful of Will's curls and dragging him into the living room. He drove him to his knees on the small carpet by the coffee table, ignoring the omega's yelp of shocked pain. Even half-crouched on the floor, Will stood corrected. He absolutely could be more surprised by the heretofore unknown depths of Matt's assholery. 

He interrogated his guys for a few minutes, demanding one of them own up to screwing the omega, Will watching through a stinging blur of tears as they all looked at their mascot, helpless to do anything more for him but deny it.

Eventually Chill, (whose real name Will knew was Fred Chilton, kicked out of med school for cheating and blackmail) a sleazy fence who thought he was way cooler than he was, copped to 'giving the little bitch a tumble' out of boredom while he'd waited for Matt the month prior. Will remembered the visit. He'd let the man in, grabbed a book and hunkered down in the bedroom with the door locked until Matt came home. Chill had never appreciated Will blowing off his advances, and usually tried to add 'alone time' with the omega into their negotiations until one of the guys hit him with a look that made him back off.

Apparently Chill didn't forget or forgive such slights to his nonexistent character. So Matt agreed to 10% less on the next few shipments, and Chill got to say he'd knocked up Will.

Will had fled to the bathroom while negotiations were going on, stomach protesting the situation with acidic fervor. One of the guys came in to "pee" and handed him a sleeve of smooshed Saltines without looking at him, and Will crawled to the bedroom to start packing, nibbling on stale crackers while he shoved everything he owned into his bag. There was money in the wall safe but Will didn't dare touch it; if Matt was gonna let him go, he'd go with only his stuff.

He made it as far as the front door before Matt caught him, demanding to know what he was doing. He tried to grab Will's bag, but Will held on like a mongoose, tiny fangs bared, a hiss escaping his throat. "I'm just taking my stuff. I didn't take anything of yours. I just wanna go, Matt. Leave me alone and let me go." Wrenching the bag out of Matt's grasp sent him stumbling back a few feet and while he concentrated on not losing his footing, Matt snatched up his coat - formerly Will's dad's, the only thing of Bill's he'd kept besides a small toolkit. His knife was slashing the lining before Will could move.

"That's mine! Matt, don't!" A handful of bills, maybe $140, fell to the floor like dead birds. They both reached, but Matt got to them first, shoving Will back another step.

"Consider it slut tax. I knew you had something in here, the way you'd never let it out of your sight. And you got more. I know it. Now gimme the bag." Will's fierce grip on the bag redoubled, and he hissed again. "I said gimme the bag, you little tramp!" Will's eyes flashed to the guys standing in the kitchen doorway, watching the exchange like they had money on it. Jackson, the guy who'd handed Will the crackers, made a noise to draw Matt's attention. When he wheeled to tell them all to shut up, Will used the bag like a blocking dummy and knocked Matt off balance, grabbing what cash he could and fleeing down the hall.

He ran to the street, past the bodega, and down the nearest subway tunnel. He hopped the turnstile like an Olympian clearing a hurdle, and slid into the train just as the doors closed. Keeping the bag against his front like a kid in a carrier, Will tried to hold himself up using the pole despite shivers that seemed to intensify with every rattle of the car. Unable to focus enough to filter and block, Will's gift (pure unfiltered empathy) ran rampant in the car, gauging everyone in his vicinity for threat. He babbled about unearned midterm grades and cheating husbands until an elderly Beta woman pried his hands off the pole and sat him beside her on a hard plastic chair.

She spoke in some foreign language Will didn't understand while she dabbed at his tears with a handkerchief, fed him cookies and a little meat pie, and made him drink some of her tea. No one bothered them. The little woman took Will home with her, feeding him a plate of hot food and patting his head like a puppy til he cried himself to sleep on her couch, and was completely unsurprised when he was gone before the sun rose.

Chapter Text

Will found himself talking to the baby as it grew. He sang when it was restless, usually some classic rock like Bowie and Creedence, lyrics he knew by heart as he rubbed little circles over his stomach. He scored a 6 month room at the Center for Omegan Welfare and worked as a waiter at an omega-friendly restaurant (helpful given his nearly chronic craving for tater tots dipped in ranch during the second trimester) until he couldn't fit the uniform anymore. Being on his feet all day was killing him anyway, even if people tended to leave bigger tips to an expectant mother. His degree lingered in the back of his mind, but he dismissed its occasional whispers. No place would hire a knocked-up Omega only to have to let them off in a few months.

A job as a fake psychic lasted over a month, glad his 'gift' could at least be put to some good use. But the owner grew unscrupulous, pushing Will to make bigger predictions to keep people on the hook longer, so he quit.

He blew the last of his money on luxuries like food, socks and toothpaste. His time at the Center ran out and he was facing a scary prospect: his first night on the streets. He couldn't risk another Matthew, but he didn't know what he was going to do.

The sky had been threatening all day when he ended up by the bodega, belly distended under a faded Grateful Dead shirt from a donation bin and his last clean flannel buttondown. He didn't want to but if there was a chance Matt wasn't the complete douchenozzle he'd seemed when Will had run, for the baby's sake he had to try. He buzzed the apartment twice and stepped back to wait for Matt's head to appear at the window. 

"What the hell do you want?"

"I'm about to have your kid in the gutter. Thought you might wanna come watch."

"You don't want me to come down there, Will. I'm warning you."

The omega snarled. "Oh I want you to come down here, Matt!"

He quailed a bit at the retort, then rallied. "I will."

"Come on then!" Will squared his shoulders as best he could.

Matt's bravado instantly failed. "I'm not coming down there! Are you nuts?"

"I musta been to take up with you! But you owe me, man. I got no place, I got no money." Realizing the need for a change in tactic, Will drew a deep breath and tilted his head, framing his neck in a submissive gesture of appeasement. He softened his voice, stowing the angry rant to fix Matt with the doe eyes he always claimed to love. "You always said we understood each other when no one else did. C'mon, Matty... Please?"

It seemed to have an effect for a few seconds, until a noise behind him in the apartment broke the spell. His face contorted back into a vicious sneer and he flicked something metallic to the pavement by Will's sneaker.

It was a quarter.

"Go find a payphone and call someone who gives a shit." With that he pulled his head back inside and slammed the window. Will started to walk off, then turned back with a sigh to scoop up the coin. He could use all he could get right now.

The heavens parted as though his mother and all the angels were weeping for his predicament, and while Will appreciated the support, he didn't appreciate the soaking of his clothes. He ducked under the awning of the bodega to dig out his umbrella, a broken thing left by one of his customers and jerry-rigged to function with duct tape, wire and perseverance.

"Will?"

He flinched but turned anyway, bumping right into Jackson, wide-eyed and holding a bag of Mexican takeout. Will was temporarily distracted by the greasy aroma of Spanish rice and seasoned meats until Jackson ducked to catch his eyes.

"You okay, man?" Will shrugged,  too tired and drained for much social interaction. "You... got big." Again, Will gestured rather than speak. "You, uh... got a place to stay tonight?" The hope that flared in Will's eyes must've been like a beacon because Jackson's face instantly paled. "Oh, no. Sorry. Matt'd kill me if I took you home. But... here." He handed the bag off to Will and dug in his pockets until he produced his wallet and a pale blue flier. "There's a shelter on the West Side. My sister works there sometimes. They're a little preachy but they always have a bed for an omega in need."

He liberated the bag and pressed the flier and a $10 for fare into Will's hands. He started to walk away, but at Will's genuine (and exhausted) thanks, he turned back and added a hefty burrito to the pile. Off Will's look, he shrugged and gave a tiny smile. "It's Chill's. Dude never even says thank you. Screw 'im." He waved off Will's awed thanks and headed off again.

Will shoved the paper in his pocket and devoured the burrito in tiny quick bites to make sure it stayed down. Carne asada, guac, tomatoes, beans and cilantro rice; it was the best thing he'd tasted in days. The bodega owner brought him a cup of agua fresca on the house, warning Will he might want to move as Matt and the boys would be on their way down soon after dinner. Taking a minute to study the map and rub his momentarily sated stomach, he shrugged his pack a little higher on his shoulders, put up the umbrella and headed for Grand Central.

Chapter Text

Will made it to the terminal in record time, trying to find the right subway to take him crosstown to the shelter. The crush of people swirled and swarmed like the eddies in the creek behind his home, and after a while he was picked up off his feet and carried along like a cork in the current. He tried to turn or get down, but it was worse than trout trying to swim upstream. He had no choice to but go along for the ride.

Unfortunately, at the last minute the group bypassed the clamshell terminals for Metro cards and went down yet another flight of steps towards a train. Like a real train - gleaming silver metal striped with fast red splashes and sleek black lines. A real train that was not a subway and that $10 absolutely would not cover a ride on.

Before he could break free, the swell of people bore him onboard. He was released as they suddenly scattered like tadpoles - just as the doors slid shut with a hiss.

Ohhhh, shit.

He was almost knocked sideways as the train lurched and he headed down the aisle looking for a way out or off that didn't involve jumping. An older alpha in the aisle seat was irritated by his protruding stomach when he stumbled over a bag strap until she glared at him.

"Uh. Sorry." She snapped her paper back in front of her like she was cutting the interaction short, and didn't quite hide the roll of her eyes when Will spoke again. "Scuse me, ma'am? But where's this train going?"

She regarded him a moment, then let her eyes drop to his belly before she answered, "Baltimore. Maryland," in a softer voice than he'd expected. He mumbled a thanks and shuffled on his way. Okay. There were worse places to end up and start over than the nation's capitol; all Will had to do was make sure he didn't get caught before he got there.

Will spotted the conductor just before he would've heard him. "Tickets!" The snap of his puncher sounded like a metallic alligator, like a beartrap trying to spring closed. "Tickets!" People around him were shuffling, pulling out pieces of paper that proved their right to be here. Will was pretty sure they didn't just chuck people off moving trains anymore, but he did know he was not in possession of that magic little slip that would let him stay.

He turned and started fleeing up the aisle as fast as his swollen stomach and stuffed pack would allow, letting the crush of people act as a fluid barrier between him and the conductor. Occasionally he pleaded quietly with a passenger, but everyone here must be a goddamn beta or already mated and therefore unaffected by the rising scent of omegan distress and the beads of sweat along Will's brow and neckline. He tumbled backwards when someone stood up suddenly - and fell right into the arms of the conductor. The man - definitely a beta from the null aroma that lingered under the scent of starched wool and authority - righted Will and held out a hand. 

"Tickets?"

The man who'd stood so abruptly met Will's eye, giving him a glimmer of hope... before handing over a single fare to be punched and shoving his way to the toilets. If he weren't so stunned he could've used the distraction to run a little farther - but as it stood so did Will, eyes stinging a bit from unexpected tears. He jumped as high as his increased size allowed when a hand landed on his arm. 

"Tickets?" The conductor asked again, kind but firm. Will made a token dig through the outer pocket of his bag, giving what he hoped was a convincing 'no luck' expression. 

"Uhhh, my... erm... husband must have them. Honey?!" He looked over the conductor's shoulder and used his turn to look to scuttle through the nearest door... and bumped right into a very handsome man standing by the crowded bar in the club car. Under the stench of body heat and strange people and alcohol and processed food, he caught an intoxicating Alpha scent (autumnal forests and moonlight with a hint of leather) and his knees went watery with relief. The man caught Will as he faltered a little, giving him a smile to indicate no harm done as he set the omega back on his feet. Unable to help it, Will cataloged the man in a minute. Alpha, married, slight overbite giving him a very charming smile, decidedly foreign, well educated, kind eyes, dancer, former gymnast. Estranged from his family, tense relationship with his father. Pregnant mate. But he seemed... nice.

Especially compared to the conductor who barreled in a minute later. 

"Tickets!" His voice was demanding for a beta, clearly pissed that Will had bolted on him.

The beautiful man gave Will a hidden wink under the fall of indescribably metallic hair across his forehead and reached for his wallet. "I have our tickets, sir." His voice was accented and lyrical, acoustic guitars on a summer night. He pulled out two slips of paper that might as well be printed on gold for their worth to Will, and handed them over to be punched. Unable to look away from his knight in striped wool sweater, Will didn't realize his mouth bypassed his brain until he heard his voice, quiet but a little snarky.

"Told ya I had a husband."

"Well, naturligt he has a husband. Look at him!" Then the man stepped in and looped an arm around Will's shoulders, pulling the slight omega close into the shield of his body and flashing the gleaming silvery band on his finger. "Or were you implying something about my wife?" His tone frosted a little as he plucked the tickets from the conductor's hand, watching him stammer an apology before sending him off. Will's rescuer waited til the conductor was once again swallowed by a wall of people to relinquish the omega and put the tickets away with an adorable smirk.

"Thanks for that. Ummm..." Wil fidgeted with the strap on his shoulder. "We're... not really married, are we? I've had a rough couple of..." Days, weeks, months. Life. "It's been a time."

"Well, then you need this more than I do," the man answered, passing over a sweating glass of iced bubbly liquid which Will sipped at gratefully. Taking up a damp bottle of cool water, he guided Will with a gentle hand between the shoulder blades and they headed back a few cars. Though he'd normally never go off with a stranger, something about this man spoke in soothing rumbles to Will's inner self. It whispered of safety and a lack of danger, so tempting a notion that Will let himself be swayed.

"I did not realize it would be so crowded. But I forgot about Spring Break. Very big with you Americans, is it not?" 

"Well, Dane-Lithuanian background and studies in Denmark aside, you still grew up here." The man stumbled and turned to Will with wide dark eyes. They flashed from mahogany brown to a bright amber, like sunlight trapped in a glass of his dad's whiskey. Well, in for a penny, he reasoned, and drew in a deep breath, tasting the Alpha scent on the roof of his mouth. "Y-y-you said naturligt. Could've been German but it's Danish. Right?" The benefit of the cultural mishmash of clientele he'd had in New York was he'd learned to identify things fast, so as not to give offence. "It was out before you could stop it so you speak it - and probably think in it too - on a regular basis. Maybe with your mate? But your accent is tempered, like you grew up here learning from native speakers. And the last name on your ticket. Lecter. That's... Lithuanian. Right?" The man's jaw dropped a little more, then snapped shut, giving him a slight pucker of consideration as he stared at Will.

"How... could you know all that?" Will dropped his gaze and managed a noncommittal sound around another small sip, clearly not wanting to talk about it. The man regarded him carefully, then sighed with just a touch of resignation. "Very well. Story for another time. So long as I hear it." And he turned and directed Will to follow him once more.

He was focused on counting the stripes on the guy's hand-knit sweater as they continued down the hallway, and so didn't notice he'd stopped until he almost collided with the man's broad back. Then a door opened and Will was ushered into a compartment.

The first thing he noticed was the way the place smelled. So sensitive in the last few months to the smell of everyone and everything around him, scents had become overwhelming at times. This room was awash in the unmistakable (if not entirely familiar) aroma of... love and security. Tears prickled behind his eyes. He wanted to bottle it like perfume and use it to make everywhere smell like this.

"Now... where is my...?" The man mused as he shut the door behind them and opened his water, downing half in one go.

A blonde Beta exited the bathroom, stopping nearly pregnant belly to pregnant belly with Will with a surprised "Oh!"

"Hanne!"

"Mads." She kept Will in her peripheral as she sidled close and offered her cheek to her husband. "Did you get my drink?"

Will gestured with the almost empty glass, ice clinking. "I think he gave it to the pregnant omega he picked up."

"I like him better than you." Hanne gave him a slight swat on the shoulder and Mads caught her hand, kissed it, and gave her a blindingly affectionate grin. "Alright I'll go get you another one. Who knows? Maybe I will get lucky again. Play nice, you two." Fortunately a beta and omega were capable of just that. 

Hanne gave Will some dry clothes and helped him towel his damp curls, and they chatted with relative ease for people with little in common but the biological. She was a few inches taller than him but Will welcomed the extra length that covered his fingers and toes, making him feel cocooned and safe and grateful that everything mostly fit. 

He learned Hanne was a dance instructor, the orphaned daughter of a choreographer and an investment banker who'd spent her life in Denmark. Mads had been a dancer with her company for the past 5 years (using his middle name instead of the family title) and she'd found him an intriguing blend of ex-pat and neighbor. Tucked in the lid of her suitcase was a black and white shot, clipped from a newspaper, showing the startling beautiful pair after a performance.

After the finale this last season, a relatively whirlwind romance had led to a borderline elopement, and Mads had opened up about his family. It merely added to the pile of things she loved about the man. So she'd taken his real last name and left her life behind for love, convincing him to take her home to reconnect and introduce their unexpected child to a new world. Will was her very first American conversation. He apologized, and she gave him a squeeze as she giggled. 

Will gave sparing details about his own short life, but his 'Omega alone in the world' status was clear despite the dissembling. Between sympathy and soothing pets Hanne couldn't help but bestow on him, they helped each other into clean socks and slippers, bemoaning how big fingers and feet swell when expecting. Just as they sat down again, Hanne flexed the glittering ring on her finger trying to get some relief. Without warning, the ring went flying in a flashing arc before bouncing out of sight across the carpet. As instantly as their bellies allowed, Hanne and Will were on the floor feeling around for it.

"Oh no! He will murder me if I lose it." Both of them jolted as the door opened, revealing a bemused but smirking Mads leaning in from the hallway.

"Dear Penthouse, I worried it would be a long and... lonely train ride." Twin brows bolted on identically unamused faces as they looked up from the floor, and Mads held up a staying hand. "My apologies. There is a free table in the dining car, and if we go right now, we can sit down to eat. So come along. Yes?" The prospect of food made them both perk up.

"Of course, mylimasis. We will be just behind you." Hanne's smile lasted until the door closed behind her husband. "Ah gud, o Dieve!"

"Hang on." Will closed his eyes a moment, letting a pendulum swing to slow the world down on replay. He saw Hanne's face, her hands, how and where the ring would've bounced. A minute later, his fingers were closing over smooth metal and cut stones. "Got it!" He clambered back to his feet carefully, marveling at the diamond-studded surface. The overhead light played over the inside of the band, and Will turned it a little more to read the inscription. Mads & Hanne was etched in elegant swirling cursive with the ampersand resembling intertwined hearts. "Oh wow," Will breathed. "That is so... beautiful."

"Try it on," Hanne suggested as she gracefully regained her stand.

"Isn't that... supposed to be bad luck?"

"Lille en, I am married to the man I love, who loves me back, about to pop with what will hopefully be our first child, and we are to meet his family... whom I have every faith are going to love us. I could not have bad luck." The grin on her face was so full of hope and light Will couldn't resist. The band slid snug over his knuckle and for a moment he just absorbed the sight of a beautiful ring on his finger and the things it represented. "But... we probably should go."

Hanne grabbed Will's bag by the handle and walked to the door.

Will immediately tried to ease the ring back off his finger, hoping it wouldn't go flying again. But it wouldn't come off. He tugged and pulled and twisted as he waddled towards the door, eventually sucking the knuckle into his mouth to wet it. It was just starting to give when there was a rumbling crash and the floor began to shake under their feet.

Luggage tumbled and Hanne fell through the open door into the hallway with a scream. Will tried to reach her but was flung off his feet into the bathroom and smacked his head on the mirror. Metallic screeching blended with human shouting in a cacophonous chorus of misery. The door wouldn't budge and the noise was getting louder by the second and the lights were flashing like Morse Code and the world was vanishing like someone drawing a shutter on a lens. 

Will couldn't think of anything to do but coil protectively around his belly and let the growing darkness cradle him.

Chapter Text

Will woke to light. Too much light. Sunlight streaming through tall windows, bouncing off white walls and clean sheets and the void of memory.

Something in the corner of his mind insisted on its importance, annoyed it had been forgotten, pressing gently against his consciousness like a tiny questing foot -

Will's hands flew to his belly, already somehow aware of nothing there. His stomach was far too flat, the space beneath it far too still. There was quiet where he wanted none, a semi return to fitness far too soon to make him happy. Tears stung at his eyes like a furious clawed thing trapped in his head, and he let them come, pressing hard against the searing pain he found instead of the rounded lump of his lost child. He became vaguely aware of high-pitched keening, an unnatural layering of it, mechanical and organic alike. Then he realized the noises' origins. His monitors were screaming his state of distress, backed up with ear-splitting, heartbreaking confirmation by his Omegan call. 

Medical staff and patients alike suddenly logjammed in the doorway to his room, all trying to reach the distressed omega and soothe his piercing cry. The beta medical team tried to corral saddened omegas and protective alphas and get them back to their own rooms, lest posture fights or worse break out. Had the windows been open and the sound allowed to carry, it could have caused multiple MVAs and an influx of patients to the ER. 

A tiny dark-haired omega slipped the tangle and rushed to his side, gathering him close and squeezing with all the strength of her little body. It helped, long enough to quiet Will's audible distress beacon, and she was allowed to stay while the med staff looked him over and checked his slowly normalizing vitals.

He rocked in the omega's arms, inconsolable, staring without seeing at endless shifting white, like snowdrifts, like sand dunes in the wind. Touches made meaningless without his brain to contextualize made him think he was standing in a rainstorm, the way he had that night. Then he realized he was crying; they both were, gentle warm drops of natural saline anointing his skin like a baptism. Even some of the nurses were sniffling. Two words spilled from his lips like a mantra, unheard and unanswered though they quietly grew in volume unnoticed by the Omega uttering them.

'My baby, my baby, my baby...'

"Fine."

Will blinked, stunned back to reality like he'd fallen off a cliff. "What?"

The kindly beta nurse nearest his elbow gave him a smile and repeated herself. "I said, your baby's fine, hon."

Silence reigned a few moments longer, then the omega at his side let out a mini squeal of delight and hugged him tighter. "That's wonderful! Can we... I mean can he... see it? Him, her, whatever?"

The med staff exchanged glances and hedged a bit until Will flat out demanded his baby right this Goddamn minute! and everyone jumped a bit and left him alone. The little omega had to leave too but promised she'd be back to visit, and once again Will was on his own.

Then a nurse pushed in a little plastic cart holding a little pink bundle and Will stopped breathing, or thinking, or seeing anything else except the incredibly tiny thing being placed in his arms. Oblivious to anything else, they were left alone to just stare at each other, blue eyes looking into blue eyes as though plumbing the reflected depths of the ocean. He untucked her carefully and counted fingers and toes, marveling at her little tummy and the scent of her head. His gaze started making a circuit of the room and he noticed large bouquets of bright flowers, and a big teddy bear, and a basket full of baby things in the corner. 

Trying to figure out if this was the train company making nice or just the most generous hospital ever, Will was lifting his slightly fussing daughter to settle against his shoulder when a pop of pink caught his eye. A laminated bracelet around her ankle emblazoned in capital letters proclaimed he was holding BABY GIRL LECTER. 

Lecter? Will puzzled. Lec- why do I know that name? ... The couple on the train! Hanne! Aww damn it. They brought me the wrong baby. Will grabbed the call button and punched it like he was on Jeopardy! 

"Kind of a shame, kiddo. You're a nice one." He kept pressing until he noticed a similar bracelet around his own wrist, stamped with - among other things like blood type and genders - the name H. LECTER. 

What? 

He was still absorbing that when he dropped the call button and a flash of light caught his eye. A glittering band winked from the third finger of his left hand.

Ohhhh.... shit.

A doctor carrying a clipboard and an air of authority walked in with the nurse who'd brought in the baby. "And how are you feeling, Mrs. Lecter?"

All Will could manage was a stunned squeak. "What?"

"Oh I'm sorry to assume. Do you prefer Mr. Lecter?"

"No. I mean, yes. I mean, it doesn't matter. There's been a mistake."

The medicos shared a conspiratorial glance. "Well it wouldn't be the first time. Now. Do you remember the accident?"

Will snapped to attention at that. "I was in a train wreck. Who's gonna forget a train wreck?"

The doctor made a noncommittal noise."You'd be surprised."

Will suppressed an eyeroll. Barely. Save it for the Reader's Digest, doc. "How long have I been here?"

A quick consultation of the chart before him, and the doctor replied, "About 8 and a half days."

"Holy shit!" His brain struggled, an engine needing fuel and grease to process correctly and tragically short on both. "Wh-where's here?"

"You're at Penn Presbyterian in Philadelphia, Mrs. Lecter. Everything's alright." But Will was already shaking his head against it, ragged curls swishing like leaves in a breeze.

"No, it's not. Something's really, really wrong. See, there was a lady on the train. Another pregnant lady."

A comforting hand was laid on his bicep. "Did you know her?" The past tense caught in his ear like a fish hook.

"Did?! Oh, God. Oh, no!" On autopilot, Will settled the baby in his lap and clutched at his head, trying to make sense of everything. "This is terrible. I... I need..." Inspiration struck like a lightning flash. Mads! "Where's Mads? I gotta talk to Mads!" A look passed between the medical professionals, and Will's heart took an express elevator to the floor. "NO! He's not dead, too, is he?" Will's fingers grasped the doctor's lapels and tugged him in, unaware of his panicked strength, unwilling to let go. "Tell me he's not dead!"

The nurse moved in and gently collected the baby, who'd begun to cry from its mother's distress, and set her back in the wheeled cart. Will's confusion kicked into overdrive and butted heads with his sudden intense maternal instinct. Without completely letting go of the doctor's coat, he reached for the baby and shouted, "Where are you taking her?! What the hell is going on? Tell me Mads isn't dead!!"

The doctor looked at the nurse, who nodded and wheeled the cart out of the room, and tried to disengage himself while calming Will. "Mrs. Lecter, please - it's going to be alright." 

His head whipped back and forth like a viewer at a demented tennis match. "No it's not! Not if he's dead! Where are you going with my daughter?! And stop calling me that!" The nurse reappeared with a needle and inserted it in the IV. Every urban legend he'd ever heard screamed in his head. "What is that? What the hell is this?!" But Will's protests weakened as a wave of drug-induced relaxation swept over him. The last thing he remembered before the wave closed over his head was asking the nurse if she wanted onion rings with that...

Chapter Text

The next time Will awoke, he started formulating an escape plan. He tried to avoid the needle-happy nurse as much as possible, who seemed determined to "calm him down" any time he tried to sort things out. It was more of a feat than he'd intended, with no papers of his own and no other way he could think of to prove who he was; even the beautiful clipping from the paper had been shredded in the crash, only half of Mads' face left intact. So Will taped the black and white snippet beside his mother, and he let himself answer to the wrong name while being poked and prodded and drained and tested for the better part of a week. He would get out, and no one would find him, and that would be that

Three days later he was ready to go. Hopefully the hospital wouldn't mind overly much if he helped himself to a few necessities for the baby. Then again, he was skipping out on what was probably a substantial as hell bill, so minor theft was incidental at this point. 

He was as clean as he could be thanks to the en-suite shower, and had a stuffed diaper bag for the baby, but as all he had of his own were the underwear he'd come in wearing and his battered Chuck Taylors, he decided it couldn't hurt to borrow from Hanne's stylish clothes - especially since it was that or go naked. His bag had gone with Hanne into the hall before the wreck, and if it had stayed close enough, the best he could hope for was that the typo on his ID papers would work in his favor. Willia S. Graham could rest in peace somewhere while Will forged a new life for himself and his daughter wherever they landed, and did his best to honor the woman whose name he would temporarily bear and whose clothes he would temporarily wear. The height difference was (almost) negligible, and he was grateful she preferred undershirts and boyshorts instead of bras and panties, though at this point he'd wear a Hefty bag and stilettos if it got him out of here.

On a good day (like when his stomach wasn't a dead giveaway) Will could pass for beta, so the distinctive and somewhat androgynous detailing of a beta's wardrobe would still suit an omega until Will could get neutral clothing of his own. How he'd manage any sort of job without proper ID was a bridge he'd jump off when he came to it.

Right now he had to jet.

Just as he'd gathered everything and was about to slot the baby into a carrier, his phone started ringing. He ignored it since no one knew him or that he was here... did they? Two steps later he heard the nurse calling him from the station down the hall, threw his stuff in the closet and dashed under the covers just before she popped in to investigate why he wasn't answering.

"Aren't you going to answer the phone, Mrs. Lecter?"

Will forced a cheery smile of relief onto his face and silently ordered his heart to calm down from jackhammer intensity. 

"Oh... is that what that is? Thank goodness. I thought my ears were ringing again." They made an overlapping grab for the receiver and Will yanked it firmly to his ear, eyeing her squarely until she left him alone before he answered.

"Hello?"

"...Hello." A smooth female voice that instantly both settled Will's nerves and made him unaccountably anxious came through the line. "This is Mrs. Lecter."

Will's heart did a double somersault and tried to leap out of his mouth. "What?!"

"Mads' mother." His heart rate slowly returned to normal, about the time he realized he should've responded somehow. "Hanne?"

"I'm sorry. I feel... so awful about all of this."

"I know, dear. We all do."

"Yeah. I mean, no. I mean... jeez this is difficult." All the explanations he could offer were tumbling around his brain like lottery balls, and he sat helpless, waiting with tempered hope that he might draw the winning combination to save his hide without hurting anyone.

"I wanted to come up and see you but the doctors prefer I not travel such a distance at present." Will had no answer to that, wondering what he could say that wouldn't risk killing this nice lady. "You do not have to talk now, dear. I know that you do not have any family now, so I wish you to consider our home your home."

"Oh," Will tripped. "That's very nice of you, ma'am but-"

The woman on the other end of the line made a dismissive noise far too elegant to be considered a snort or even a pshaw. "Nice has nothing to do with the matter. We are family, and you cannot argue with family. Besides, that is my grandchild you have there."

"Well..." Will began meekly.

"Now, I have sent a car to collect you."

"No you can't do that!" Will protested, but the connection on the line was growing crackly with static, and all he could make out was 'expecting you soon' before it disengaged.

Damn it. Now really gotta get outta here. He bolted out of bed and grabbed everything including his daughter, easing out into the hall a few minutes later and looking towards the nurses' station before slipping down the opposite direction... whereupon he bumped right into a blond male beta in a stylish black uniform, watching him with a quizzical smile.

"Mrs. Lecter?"

Will shifted the bags in his grip and tried to edge past. "... Nope. Sorry."

The man simply reached for his wrist and read the bracelet still wrapped around the joint. "That's what it says."

"Yeah well, don't believe everything you read." He tried again to slip by, but found himself relieved of his bags and forced to follow the man lest he forget the need for stealth and make a scene. When they reached the parking lot, Will spotted a classic looking vehicle in polished chrome and gleaming chocolate brown that practically screamed money.

"Whoa," Will breathed. "What is this?"

"This is a Rolls Royce," the beta informed him, opening the suicide-style rear door to load his bags.

"Wow. That's like the Cadillac of automobiles, huh?"

"No. The Bentley is the Cadillac of automobiles. This is a Rolls Royce." His serious tone was at odds with the twinkle in his eye, and Will was left uncertain if the beta was joking as he collected the baby and deftly secured her into a carseat that wouldn't look out of place on a space shuttle. Will shuffled and tugged uncomfortably at the hem of the soft blue sweater he was wearing, for lack of anything more useful to do with his suddenly empty hands. 

"Look... I gotta explain something..."

The man tutted as he straightened again, cutting off Will's feeble attempt. "You don't explain stuff to me. I'm just Jimmy. Price, but no one actually calls me that." His warm brown eyes sparkled again with mild humor, and Will found himself smiling in spite of his unresolved nerves. "You have anything to explain, you explain to Mrs. Lecter." Handing Will into the back, he closed the door, giving him a toothy smile from the open window. "Okay, Mrs. Lecter?" Sliding into the front seat, Jimmy started the engine up with a jaguar-esque rumble and off they went.

They'd been driving in semi-awkward silence for almost 20 minutes before Will felt the need to say something. Anything.

"So, uh," Will began brilliantly, trying not to fiddle with all the knobs and buttons in the back seat. "Am I... what you expected?"

Jimmy's eyes met his in the rearview until Will lost his nerve and started picking a loose thread on jeans he could've sold for rent back in New York. Intentionally distressed, my ass.

"To be honest... no." The reply was gentle, merely honest. It raised Will's curiosity instead of his hackles. "Mads usually went for the 3 B's - blonde, beta, beautiful." Never mind. The hackles were up, along with an eyebrow. "Not that you're not- I mean, you're- in your own way... Omegas can be very appealing-" His backpedaling was cut off by a well-timed wail from the baby. Both grownups in the car let out a sigh of relief that faded like heat lightning as the cry grew in volume and intensity.

"Do you want me to pull over?" Jimmy offered.

"No. I... I got it." I think. Shushes were having no effect, so Will considered holding the baby to his chest to soothe her. But the carseat and its 9000 safety buckles looked a little daunting.

Unsure how to unlock so many straps, Will was about to ask for a knife to just slice the kid out when he hit on an idea. Easing down as carefully as his few lingering bruises and aches allowed, he laid his head on the baby's stomach and his curls under her nose, and started to sing softly. "Didn't know what time it was and all the lights were lo-o-ow, so I leaned back on my radio-o-o..."

The baby got a whiff of its mother's scent and felt the vibrations from the familiar voice on their belly, instantly beginning to calm. Tiny fists held handfuls of soft curls as their ears heard the story of the Starman, and by the second time all the children were boogieing she was fast asleep. He finished the song anyway, gently easing his hair out of her lax grip and sitting up, rubbing his hand over her tiny head and just watching her. He felt Jimmy's gaze and let his eyes flash up to the rearview, fully expecting some kind of judgmental smirk. But the butler's eyes were... kind. Unexpectedly warm. A little misty. Will offered a tentative smile before Jimmy turned his attention back at the road ahead.

The comfortable silence lasted almost a mile before a voice threaded from the front seat. "I can see why he liked you." 

Too stunned to reply, Will managed companionable quiet for the remainder of the drive.

Chapter Text

Will drifted off about 50 miles from their destination and woke to Jimmy gently shaking his shoulder. He blinked the sleep out of his eyes and waited til Jimmy had unfastened the baby before gathering her up and stepping out, wondering why he couldn't see any neighbors. He walked a few feet away and looked down the winding tree-lined drive that led up from a wrought-iron gate set into a brick wall at least 500 yards away. His eyes followed the sloping manicured lawn in reverse to where they were standing. 

Then he noticed the house.

"Holy shit," he breathed. The place was massive. 3 sweeping weathered stories of buff-colored stone, with different architectural styles for the windows on each floor. A tiled roof in rich mahogany sat atop stylish pitches and gables, trimmed in matching dark wood. The car was parked under an arching wood and stone cover that connected to the house, some throwback to the days of carriages so people didn't have to deal with inclement weather. Jimmy was standing there watching him with faint amusement, calmly waiting despite being laden with Will's stuff and the overflowing diaper bag. "Sorry."

"Happens all the time. Don't sweat it," Jimmy reassured him as he opened the door and gestured Will inside. The foyer was just as imposing as the edifice, particularly the antler and crystal chandelier hanging over his head like the sword of Damocles, and Will took it all in with a slack jaw.

"Hello, Hanne." Will's eyes flicked up to find a beautiful and elegant older woman posed on the staircase that wound down from an upper floor. Her eyes were an intelligent, changeable amber, her rosebud mouth quirked in one corner, silver-streaked auburn hair neatly styled, makeup flawless. Her coloring was offset by the rich black outfit she wore - mourning by Chanel. Her jewelry was understated pearls and platinum - earrings, a few rings, a bracelet, a lovely twisted freshwater strand at her neck. Everything from stance to sartorial choice bespoke wealth, poise, status. As she stepped down like a goddess descending, Will caught a trace of her delicate dessert-like Omegan scent (warm sugar and lilies) under a soft cloud of Dior perfume.

This wasn't right. He had to tell her. 

"Something terrible has happened."

"Yes dear, I know." 

Oh, God. "No, I mean... your terrible thing and my terrible thing are two... different... terrible things."

"Well, naturligt. You lost a husband, I lost a son." Will found himself too stunned to form an immediate response. God damn it, this was gonna be hard. "Hanne-"

"Shannon."

"Excuse me?" One elegant brow arched up, and Will swallowed hard before replying, having come up with a semi-plausible explanation on the drive over if he wasn't going to be able to get out of this anytime soon.

"My name is... Shannon, ma'am." Middle name, but it still counts.

"Odd." A tiny furrow appeared near her forehead. "I could have sworn Mads said... but then intercontinental phone connections being as they are..." Her brow and tone smoothed out. "Shannon it shall be, then."

"Thanks," Will said with a blush, neatly covering his relief. As long as he never had to take off the band on his finger, he just might pull this off til he could figure out an exit strategy that was as painless as possible for all concerned. In the meantime, his daughter could act as an olive branch, and he delicately offered her. "Do you... wanna hold..."

"My granddaughter." The elder omega took the baby in the cradle of her arms, looking as if she'd been born to it. "Ohh... It has been an age since last I did this."

"You're doin' fine," Will reassured, marveling at the softening effect his daughter was having on this woman. Those topaz eyes were smiling and bright, if slightly misty, and her mouth was curved with delight.

"Did you decide on a name yet?"

It almost seemed a joke, given the 9000 other things he'd been dealing with. "Not... really. No."

"Have you thought about Maddie? Spelled after... Mads. She looks so like him."

Will cast a beseeching look to Jimmy, still standing in the foyer, laden with stuff. The beta smiled, shrugged, and gave a tiny nod.

"Okay. Sure. Maddie it is." Nice enough, and if nothing else it would work with his real last name.

"Mother!" A familiar voice floated down slightly ahead of an elegantly dressed man, and Will looked up just in time for his heart to thud into his shoes. It was Mads! He was here. How was he here?! This was good! This wasn't good. He'd explain everything. Oh God he'd explain everything! Will didn't think he'd really done anything wrong yet, but it felt like he had, and his inner omega was keening in fear at the prospect of angering an Alpha. Or breaking the heart of such a charming woman as the Omega still holding his daughter. Whom he had to grab and get the hell out of here NOW.

"Okay. That's enough." He quickly collected Maddie and struggled to get his bags away from Jimmy and over his shoulder. "We gotta go. It was very nice meeting you." The scent of Alpha was getting closer, and Will's heart rate was spiking with every second. Mrs. Lecter's expression went from stunned to hurt to calmly confused as she spotted her son entering the foyer.

"Did Mads not tell you he had a twin?"

If this were a cartoon there would be a sound effect of screeching tires right about now. Will stopped trying to open the doorknob with his knee and turned slowly. A twin. Not Mads. And suddenly every difference between them was highlighted in slow motion: same accent but cold and clipped. Short, perfectly styled hair instead of Mads' longer looser locks in casually charming disarray. Eyes the same unusual shade but wholly devoid of humor and light. Same fascinating mouth but tightly compressed instead of warm and smiling. A patterned suit/shirt/tie combination that should not work, but seemed made to by sheer force of the man's elegance and indomitable will. Mads' worn jeans and soft sweaters would never don a man so completely in his own skin while wrapped in a three-piece suit. Under a subtle expensive cologne, only his scent was the same, though the leather was more polished and the forest all the darker for the moonlight straining to filter through.

But Will was supposed to be speaking right now. "Uh. Yes. He did. But I didn't know he was identical." 

Mrs. Lecter loosened, settling a hand on Will's unladen shoulder. "Well of course, Shannon. That must have been jarring. Anyone with half a brain would be sensitive to that."

"Thank you, Mother," the twin stated in a calmly sardonic tone. "I am Dr. Lecter, Hannibal. It is nice to meet you." He extended a hand, and Will offered a pinky for him to shake... which he did, following a prompting glance from his mother. Unable to quite meet those hauntingly familiar eyes, Will noted a minute flare of the Alpha's nostrils, as though he was a predator scenting the air. "Though I wish it were under more pleasant circumstances."

Will's eyes once again cast over the high ceilings, the stunning artwork, the sumptuous furnishings visible through the numerous doorways leading further into the house, the strange inclusions of horn and bone amid rich fabrics and warm woods. "This is okay."

"I meant before the accident," Hannibal stated after a moment, slightly chastising him for the lapse. The omega's face crumpled into wrinkled unease, and his eyes hit the floor.

"Oh. Right. Of course." The omega's already alluring scent took on the piquant tang of cinnamon and roasted spice when he was upset; Hannibal found his mouth unexpectedly watering just as the smaller man's eyes hit him full-force. "Would you like to hold... your... niece?"

The omega offered the baby gently, despite Hannibal's sudden rigid discomfort over being handed a small child. The baby was placed in his arms over his mute protests, and he managed to not drop the girl despite an awkward hold. Alpha and infant regarded one another silently, his mother looking on beatifically as Jimmy moved to take the bags back, until Hannibal sought to restore his equilibrium.

"Fortunate for her, she looks nothing like us." From his peripherals, he was aware of matching looks of disapproval from the pair stood before him, and his mother wordlessly moved to reclaim the child, directing the other omega to follow her. Hannibal stood there calmly, hands clasped behind his back, sure he'd been in the right. Then Jimmy walked by with the bags and other things, clucking his tongue at the man in quiet 'I raised you better than that' admonishment, allowed because of his history with the family as well as the genuine affection Hannibal bore him - a truly rare gift offered to a number of people so small it could be counted on one hand with fingers to spare.

He stalked off to the study, fingers itching to sketch in his journal a while to relieve the sudden tension beneath his right scapula and the myokymia threatening in his left eye. In the back of his mind, he heard a voice distinctly whisper Be careful, Dr. Lecter. Your Alpha is showing.

Chapter Text

It was nearing the dinner hour. With luck their newest addition would be be making his appearance shortly but until then the Lecters were content to pass the time with a drink. Aperitif, always en vogue.

As Hannibal stood at the bar with the cocktail shaker blending his carefully measured libation, his mother entered the lounge, fresh as a lily and just as effortlessly beautiful in black and white striped Dior. She settled herself with a delicate sniff, feet clad in peau de soie slippers crossed at the slender ankle, and instantly launched into a cherishing dissertation on her beautiful grandchild and newly acquired daughter-in-law. Hannibal allowed it long enough to doctor a glass and pour out.

"Consider, Mother. Where did Mads find someone like that? Where could they possibly have met?"

He approached his mother on her reclining sofa with a tray containing a freshly mixed martini for himself and a tumbler of cool clear water for her. The various medications prescribed to her (the final doses of which would be taken with or after dinner) were not to be taken with alcohol, a reality his mother seemed determined whenever possible to ignore.

"What do you mean?"

"Well he is hardly in our..." He broke off, suddenly aware what the next word out of his mouth might sound like.

"Class?" Leave it to his mother to pull exactly what he wished to keep hidden to the fore.

"Frankly... yes." He bowed forward to present the tray a little nearer so she would not have to stretch, swiftly maneuvering the tray when her fingers went after his cocktail like a booze-seeking missile. "The water, mother." Resigned, she snatched the glass and Hannibal straightened, walking back to the bar to set the tray down. "I mean, you must admit, there is just a little bit of white trash around the edges, would you not say?" The noise his mother produced was suspiciously close to what the swine would refer to as an 'ugh' though of course they themselves were far too well-bred for such a thing.

"How did I ever raise such a snob?"

"It is a mystery, Mother." He took a long sip of his frigid martini and blithely spoke as he passed to the dining room. "Let's ask the servants."

Grace Lecter sprang up with an alacrity that belied the delicacy of her age and headed for the bar. She quickly dumped the water in her glass into a potted orchid and reached for the cocktail shaker, covering the telltale rattle of ice with a louder than normal retort. 

"I demand that you at least give him a fair and sporting chance." The clear liquid looked enough like water pouring in.

"I apologize," Hannibal continued from the room beyond, in a tone that said he was doing anything but. "Does it sound as though I prejudged him?"

"Hmm. 'White trash'? No, no." She replaced the cap to the shaker with a decisive tap of her palm and exited the room with her doctored drink.

One feathery brow smoothed into an arch approaching his hairline in an expression of pseudo innocence. "Is that considered a derogatory term?"

"I am serious, my darling." Her tone was nearly as icy as the libation he was attempting to savor, and the unexpected force in his mother's veiled command was threatening to sour it.

"By the gods... Fine. Perhaps he is a perfectly wonderful, down-to-earth little Omega. But what do we really know? Hmm? Nothing! Except that Mads supposedly picked him up and was bringing him home after a half decade abroad and incommunicado, expecting us to welcome them both into the fold with open arms." He slammed the last of his martini back like a common barfly and gritted his teeth against the refined burn traversing his esophagus. "Admit it, mother! Were he not already dead, you would be screaming your head off at him."

Her fingers tightened elegantly around the cut crystal, and her tone could've chipped diamond. "By the gods, you can be insensitive sometimes."

"Only sometimes?" She went to take a sip and he extracted the glass with surgical precision. "I must be slipping." 

The little huff of aggravated defeat he heard behind him was less satisfactory than he had hoped.

***

The small assembly at the dinner table were nothing if not well-mannered. A delay of over a quarter hour while they waited the meal on their recent guest was passed with freezing politeness between the Lecters and determined attempts at lightening the oppressively civil atmosphere from their dining companion, Father Brian Zeller. The jovial beta was the only child of the former housekeeper, raised with the twins as a socializing influence. Grace Lecter had personally sponsored him through seminary and championed his appointment to a suitable post in the city. He was essentially family, and dined with them on occasion.

"You know what you need?" A voice preceded the omega himself arriving at table, and both Lecters perked up with interest at what the little one considered necessary in their home. "Some of those 'You are Here!' maps." Father Brian let out a muffled snort, and Grace looked similarly amused. Hannibal felt his face tighten at the uncouth suggestion, but schooled his expression to aloof neutrality by the time the omega joined them, his daughter cradled lovingly in his arms.

He took a moment to absorb the rich indigo wallpaper, the massive black wood dining table, the sparkling white table linen glowing under warm electric light, a centerpiece of fresh flowers and exotic fruit arranged in a ceramic bowl around gnarled twigs and what looked like a jawbone, the odd green wall that might be made of something growing and alive.

Everyone else took a moment to absorb the sight of him. Omegan beauty highlighted by the sconces, a finely featured face carved in skin pale as marble, interrupted with dark slashes of brow and huge sapphire eyes with hidden depths of emerald and a pert berry stain of a mouth. Riotous dark curls cascading almost to his shoulder, clipped back into a low ponytail. Fingertips peeking from the sharp-edged sleeves of a beta-tailored blouse in a verdurous green that played up his eyes, the androgynous structure suiting him well while still pronouncing his delicacy. Two buttons beneath the high collar were open, revealing a tease of clavicle and an inch or two of the graceful column of his throat, around which hung some manner of cord. Dark jeans tattooed with embroidery completed the ensemble, whose hems sat a few inches under the heels of his ever-present sneakers, though only Hannibal noticed.

From her spot at the table head, Grace directed him to the space on her right, directly across from her son. Introductions were made, though the omega already seemed to know the Father. Jimmy's idea of taking his side, no doubt, Hannibal thought with an unwelcome trace of acerbity.

They managed the soup and salad courses calmly enough, settling the baby in a plush basket beside Shannon as Grace and Father Brian regaled the omega with tales of the boys' childhood foibles. He laughed, a slightly rough sound like an unoiled gate, while Hannibal cringed inwardly and fought the urge to roll his eyes at the reminder of his all-too-human past. All was well until they were awaiting the main course and sides, whereupon Shannon reached over to neatly bisect a ball of salted cream butter - and promptly dunked the trailing edge of his sleeve into the thick sauce that had been brought out in advance of the meat.

"Oh no! Man, I'm so sorry," he said, clearly embarrassed as Mrs. Lecter dabbed at his sleeve with cooing reassurance. "The clothes don't quite fit. After the baby, I forgot I might lose a little..." He set his elbow to the tabletop and rotated his wrist to examine the damage.

"Height?" Hannibal offered in a bitingly civil tone, coolly wiping the corner of his mouth. The omega flicked a startled glance tinged with annoyance his way, and the little pat of butter he had collected on the edge of his knife hit the highly polished tabletop with a muted plop.

Silence reigned over the table a few painful seconds, until Father Brian cannonballed into the awkward void threatening to yawn wide in the conversation. 

"A lot of Omegas prefer Beta clothing. It's... comforting, or something like that, right?" Shannon offered a small grateful smile and nodded. A set of tiny silk-covered toes connected with Hannibal's shin beneath the table and he recalled himself, forcing his lips into a convincing if predatory curve. 

"Mother informs me I was perhaps a bit rude and unfriendly when first we met."

Shannon avoided the Alpha's eye as he spread the recovered butter with a laser focus Hannibal rarely saw outside a surgical theatre. 

"You weren't rude," he managed under his breath.

"...Just unfriendly then? Oh good. I despise rudeness and that..." Tired from injecting a pleasantness he did not feel, he reached for the sobering influence of his wine. "That gives us something to build on."

"Don't worry about it," the Omega muttered again, making Hannibal strain to hear him. "Just keep it... professional."

Grace, in a burst of uncharacteristic optimism, suggested they could try socializing like adults. "Gods forbid, you could actually become friendly."

Shannon's eyes screamed his incredulity at the suggestion. "No offense, Dr. Lecter, but I don't find you that interesting."

Hannibal halted again, a neat piece of roll halfway to his lips. Their eyes met and locked a moment with a nearly audible click like magnets.

"You will."

Before the tension could swell again, servants arrived bearing silver salvers piled with food, and began moving around the table from Shannon's side. He collected a small serving of roast vegetables and fingerling potatoes, then attempted to pass the platter across the table to Father Brian. The servant resisted until Grace waved them off, resuming their circuit around the table after the Omega seemed to recognize his faux pas.

"Sorry about that," he said, blushing quite prettily in a manner Hannibal found unfairly alluring. "Dining's just... so much less formal in Denmark."

"Yes, everyone just eats pastry at every meal." His mother flashed him yet another look and smoothly transitioned to a safer topic.

"So. Florence must have been ideal for a wedding, Shannon."

"Huh?" The younger omega startled a little, setting the cut of flawlessly cooked beef he'd just selected onto his plate with a rasping clink of serving tong on china. The tray continued on its way and Shannon began toying with his fork to avoid eye contact. "Oh. Um. Yes. So... ahem... Italian."

"Tell us about the wedding," Grace urged.

Shannon paused in his careful dissection of the meat on his plate. "Well... it was beautiful," he replied with a soft smile.

When no elucidation was forthcoming, Hannibal gave in to a slightly sadistic urge to press. "Could you elaborate?"

Shannon instantly shot him a glare.

"Real beautiful." Those stormy eyes then turned to Grace, instantly calming, and Hannibal felt an irrational surge of annoyance, undercut with a nagging twinge of loss. "Right there in Florence, Italy. Which is... really beautiful, y'know? Que bella." The foreign language dripped off his tongue like crystallized honey, and he popped a forkful of food in his mouth, chewing with deliberation. Grace was regarding him with a gentle wistfulness, as though he had painted a full picture rather than a bare thumbnail sketch. 

"I would have been there had he bothered to pick up the phone."

Recalling Hanne's story and feeling the need to protect Mads from even delicate censure, Will hastened to explain. 

"Ohhh. Well... it ended up being sort of spur of the moment. We practically eloped... once we decided to... y'know... do that."

His mother's hand alighted on the other omega's wrist with the delicacy of a butterfly. "I do not blame you, dear. I think he simply did not think about it."

Hannibal watched as Shannon's expression softened further, undercutting his already striking beauty with a sweet tenderness wholly unfamiliar to the Alpha. He set his cutlery aside and turned his attention fully to the elder omega, cradling his chin in his palm.

"I know he didn't always think and that may have looked like thoughtlessness, but to me - and I know I knew him such a short time compared to all of you..." Ain't that the freaking truth? "To me, there was a kindness to his actions that was so much sweeter because it was so thoughtless. He was the one of the only people I'd ever met who was kind without a reason. Not because he wanted something, but just... because. You know?"

Hannibal's voice was soft and introspective, laced with a razor-thin edge of pain. "You understood him. I never did. I always assumed there would be time to... figure him out, know him better."

An imperative beyond the mere biological urge to appease an Alpha made Will ache to soothe Hannibal, to spare him pain and see his beautiful uneven smile. And it would've scared the hell clean out of him if he'd realized what was going on. 

"You know, he talked about you all the time." Hannibal incrementally straightened, and his face smoothed into a gentle 'oh really?' expression, disbelieving but clearly trying to be appreciative of the effort. Will forged on. "He used to say 'we look just alike, that's why we have to act so different'."

The expression seized, clouded, then shattered. "I thought he didn't tell you we were identical."

Shannon froze and started, like an animal that realized a step too late it was in danger. "Uhh. He did. Of course he did! It's just... when I saw you it completely slipped my mind." Those small pale hands were fluttering like agitated doves.

"Of course it did, dear. And we understand," Grace concluded, pinning her son with a look that dared him to contradict her show of soothing support. She needn't have bothered. Hannibal Lecter was not stupid.

He was, however, very stubborn.

"But why lie about it?"

The Omega's eyes flashed wide and swiftly filled with tears, much to Hannibal's shock and horror. "I'm s-sorry," he breathed, gathering the sleeping child into his arms and rocking it in a self-comforting gesture. "It's just... when I saw you... I was so confused... and this house... I'm sorry, I- I have to lie down." The baby remained blissfully unaware of its parent's distress as he raced out of the room, tears glistening on his cheeks, trailing denim making uneven flumps against the carpeted hardwood.

"Shannon, wait!" Grace called after him. "Where are you going?"

"To my room..." A sob almost obscured the tag end of his reply. "If I can find it."

He was halfway up the stairs when she whirled on her son and threw down her napkin like a gauntlet, a dangerous glint in her eyes.

"Just what in the name of seven hells did you think you were doing?!"

"His answers were not consistent!"

"This is neither a psychiatric session nor a cross examination in court, Hannibal! The poor boy has been through hell!"

"He is covering something up. I mean look at him!" A Lithuanian expletive he had not used since university slipped the leash to express his disbelief. Recalling their company, he spat out an acknowledgement that was at least half sincere. "Apologies, Father. But he is hiding something. I can smell it!"

"Hannibal?" His mother rose with a finesse worthy of her name and planted both hands firmly on the table, issuing challenge with her gold-edged glare. "Knock it off." His mother had resorted to colloquial slang; he scented danger in the air. "He is Mads' widow and has just given birth to my grandchild under 200 tons of twisted metal. Now I do not care if he turns out to be a cannibalistic serial killer! I am going to help him all I can." She leveled a finger in his direction like a witch threatening a hex. "And if you do not start treating that nice boy with some respect, I will take you over my knee and spank you. And do not imagine for one minute that I cannot do it." She broke off, calming instantly, the thread of weighted humor delivered in the final sentence pulling tight around him like a noose. He turned to Jimmy who was standing by the sideboard with a water pitcher.

"Jimmy?" He implored softly. The kindly blond butler just let out a tiny snort.

"Hey, my money's on her."

Chapter Text

Following the demi-disaster that was the dinner party, Hannibal took himself back to his life in Baltimore and relative quiet reigned in the house... for 4 whole days before society intervened. The need to mourn was well understood, but so was the need to share and celebrate more joyous happenings. So Grace Lecter used her not inconsiderable clout and stature to pull together a christening in a mere 48 hours. It was, quite simply, an Event. 300 people who would not know the omega from Eve crammed the pews of Father Brian's church to get a glimpse of the latest Lecter heir.

Hannibal, stoic in a slate three-piece with blue on blue shirt and tie combination, watched as his mother guided the little omega through the ceremonial paces, aided by a smiling Father Brian. Shannon was attired in clean classy casual - hair pinned back, a snowy button down with subtle white embroidery under a forest green velvet jacket that hugged his torso before flaring to his knees, dark jeans rolled to avoid trips. The semi-terrified expression he'd worn through most of the service was even a little charming, as was the blush that appeared when he named the Lecters as godparents and handed his fidgety child over to Hannibal.

Then Maddie Leigh Lecter had the nerve to settle down, smile at him and try to gum the end of his tie. It was more adorable than it had a right to be, and he found himself almost resenting the little twist his lips had adopted as he stood looking into the impossibly blue orbs the child had inherited from her mother.

He was a charming little thing too, Hannibal mused to himself as he sauntered through the ground level of the house after the service - even if the Alpha still suspected something more was going on than that which initially met the eye. The object of his wayward thoughts suddenly appeared as though summoned, daughter snoozing adorably in his arms.

"Whoa! Hi!"

"Ah. You found the secret passageway. How... clever of you," Hannibal said, hands folding themselves behind his back in a deceptively casual pose.

"Oh... Is that what that is?" Shannon regarded the now seamless join of the door he'd just walked through where it blended perfectly into the paneled wall. "Thank the gods. I thought I was lost again."

"Yes. Well." Hannibal noted without intention the removal of the omega's outer layer, the pleasant softening effect its absence had on his overall appearance, the curls that now lay loose in delightful disarray about the hidden column of his graceful neck. The silence between them shivered like a cold beast breathing in the corner until Hannibal shattered the tension with surprisingly congenial small talk. "Are you ready for the party?"

The omega instantly paled, which was a feat in itself. "P... p-party?"

"Yes. We are having... a few people over to celebrate the christening. Mother must always have her little parties." Hannibal strode off in the direction of the French doors that led to the sloping lawns, leaving Shannon and his child to follow or not as they chose. All he heard was a soft response to no one in particular, as though the omega were reassuring himself.

"I guess I can handle a few people." 

Oh, dear.

Hannibal almost felt sorry for him.

Almost.

***

This was not a few people. Will took one step past the doors and found himself staring down the fully loaded double barrels of a crowd. A veritable swarm of strangers milled about, sipping cocktails and nibbling hors d'oeuvres. He briefly wondered if he could outrun them, or maybe sneak back inside before anyone spotted him and tried to engage him in conversation. Dissection under the guise of civilized chatting. Ugh. He'd rather have his brain mapped without anesthesia.

Unfortunately Mrs. Lecter chose that moment to notice him and sweep in to usher him out on her arm, mindful of the baby now wide awake and absorbing everything with her solemn blue eyes.

She introduced him to friends and acquaintances of varying age and social status, trying to find a nice fit for him, daring anyone to challenge her sponsorship. Will tolerated it as long as he could, losing even the small defense of his daughter when Mrs. Lecter carried her off to show around and coo over. 

Attempts at conversation were disastrous, as Will didn't know this so-and-so, didn't care about that scandal. A trio of bitchy betas had cornered him under the guise of a 'friendly' chat, asking who did his hair and wherever had he gotten the "bold" idea to pair that watch with those shoes.

He reached for a passing tray of something sparkling and knocked a few crystal glasses over with the awkward attempt. Stifled laughter and undisguised scrutiny wore on him until he spotted Hannibal some distance away chatting with the stunning brunette hanging off his arm. His body language was tooled to indicate social nicety, not heady lust and undying affection, and Will took a moment's solace that the Alpha might be almost as miserable as he. Then their eyes met across the crowded lawn and Will's heart tripped over itself for a few beats like a newborn fawn. The Alpha started to move as though he might head over before the woman on his arm reeled him in with a dazzling smile, a flash of cleavage and a kiss to the cheek. She cast a look over Will like a trapping net and let out a brittle-sounding laugh following whatever observation she was whispering in Hannibal's ear.

Jaw setting into a tight teeth-aching grind, Will made a beeline for his non-mother-in-law, retrieved Maddie and stormed into the house, leaving a trail of cinnamon-scented fury in his wake.

And Will was furious. He felt like a fool, like a hick. He paced up and down the thick carpet, the awe he'd felt when he first arrived and saw the lavishly decorated rooms just for him nowhere in sight.

He wanted to scream; he couldn't, given the horde of socialites less than 50 yards from his windows. He wanted to throw something; he didn't dare, as even the knickknacks in the room were antique heirlooms. People with this much money just didn't have tchotchkes.

He settled for collapsing onto the thick coverlet, dropping his head into his hands, plowing his fingers through his ragged curls and giving a firm yank of frustration. They were too long, his clothes didn't fit, everything was wrong. He was wrong. He didn't fit. 

Just as the telltale prickle began in his nose, there was a knock and Mrs. Lecter appeared in the doorway, something akin to an apologetic expression on her face.

Will drew a deep breath and straightened up, pinning a smile on his face.

"Mother Lecter, hello." The elder omega own small smile developed a rueful twist.

"Hmm. That was what I called my mother-in-law when I met her as a young bride. She seemed so cold and distant."

"What did you end up calling her?" Will asked, suddenly curious.

"Mother Lecter. She was cold and distant."

"Oh," he replied, fighting a giggle.

Mrs. Lecter stepped into the room and gazed down at Maddie, who was propped up against hand-embroidered pillows in her bassinet and reaching for the plushy dog mobile as it spun over her head. Then she settled on the long blue sofa in front of the fireplace and gestured Will over to sit beside her. He haltingly complied.

"I had these brought out to embarrass Mads with during your visit."

3 beautiful leatherbound albums he had assumed were encyclopedias or a showy matched set of novels were stacked on a side table. Mrs. Lecter drew the top book off the stack and began flipping the pages. Will caught glimpses of the boys as baby twins, trying to suss out which was which. They were held up by their parents as they balanced on their toes on the front lawn, then shown climbing Jimmy like a playground device, then riding bikes over the massive drive. 1st, 3rd and 5th birthdays showed matching cake-smeared smiling faces, while their 10th showed one in a tailored suit as the other posed in jeans and bare feet, using their father's arm as a balance bar. Despite the miniature carbon gazing up at him from his right, the older man's eyes were fondly drawn to the boy hanging on his left.

Another book opened with a shot of the boys as early teenagers, arms slung around one another as they hung off the side of an indoor pool, the fraternal closeness evident. By the time they were graduating high school (Hannibal with a notable abundance of ribbons and stoles around his shoulders, Mads with his gown unzipped to show off a dance academy shirt and board shorts) the start of the cracks between them were subtle but visible. Fewer shots existed of the twins together; now they were either solitary or surrounded with people as they crafted new spheres to move through.

Hannibal attended science camps and culinary school and drawing class. Here he posed in a pristine white coat over a lab experiment, there smugly holding up beautifully crafted plates of food or solemnly displaying charcoal sketches that showed breathtaking promise. Will's heart squeezed at a candid of him in a museum, a strange peace in his features and sunlight illuminating his hair as he looked up.

By contrast, Mads always seemed to be in motion. Dance classes and fun group shots and acrobatics, performance shots of him leaping far above a stage or mid-flip or hanging upside-down from aerial silks like a mischievous angel. A photo of him vaulting one-handed over a kitchen island at a party was so perfectly timed Will half-expected it to start moving and show him landing neatly on the other side with fluid gymnastic grace.

"Now Mads was especially embarrassed by this one of him naked. Except for the cowboy hat and holster." Will tactfully averted his eyes and tried not to blush. She elegantly rolled her shoulder, seeming not to notice. "Still, one is only in college once, I suppose."

A few more pages turned, a few more glimpses were given into the light & shadow history of this family and she suddenly clapped the book shut and set them both aside. Her mouth opened, closed, pursed, then opened again as she turned to look at Will, one tiny hand resting gently atop his.

"I do not have the strength to cry anymore." The stark honesty in the quiet statement almost hurt Will to hear, but he determined to return her open gaze and frankness, turning his hand and giving hers a small squeeze of solidarity.

"Neither do I." Though for very different reasons. A beat lingered between them, as his sort-of mother-in-law tipped her head and considered whatever it was she saw in the depths of his soul.

"Call me Grace," she offered softly.

"Grace," Will breathed, testing the weight and flavor on his tongue. "Is that where Hannibal's name came from?"

The delighted surprise in her vibrant eyes melted away the few fine lines residing in the corners and took about a decade off her already indeterminate age. "Not many would catch that. Yes, it is. Mikkel named Mads after his brother and himself - Mads Mikkelsen Lecter - and I named Hannibal, my little grace of Ba'al." She regarded him closely, and Will fought the urge to squirm. "You see the world in a different way than most, don't you, Shannon?"

Shrugging in lieu of a vocal response, Will plucked at his jeans again and fidgeted with a button on his overlong sleeve. "Doesn't help me fit in."

"Not that you are required to fit in, my dear, but who said you do not?"

Will jerked his chin towards the window to indicate the assembly that lay beyond. "Everyone out there. They were all thinking it. I could... tell."

"And why should you care what people think?" The answer seemed of great import to the elder omega.

"Because!" Will exploded, then instantly quieted, checking to make sure Maddie wasn't about to cry before turning his gaze back to Grace. "Because... you're Mads' family, and... I don't want to reflect badly on you."

Grace's voice was surprisingly gentle. "Whatever made you think you were?"

"Grace..." His voice was a bemused plea. His hands shot out - too-long sleeves nearly smothering his fingers, beta cut appealing but not quite right for him - before sweeping down him in a gesture that directed her eyes to the rolled cuffs of his jeans and the battered state of his perpetual sneakers. "Look at me!"

"I am looking at you. And you are fine."

Tamping down the urge to roll his eyes, Will pushed to his feet and tromped over to the standing mirror in the next room. He glared at his reflection, aware of the misery clearly visible on his face.

"This? This is fine?"

Grace followed him, wavering between confirmation and correction, little touches and comments as she adjusted this or suggested that. Then her eyes met Will's in the silvered surface and she allowed a momentary flicker of 'appropriately chastened' to subdue her expression.

"I apologize. I never had a daughter."

Will's heart melted a little. "It's okay. I barely had a mother." He watched as a calculating flash lit in her eyes like summer lightning, and couldn't decide if he was scared by it or not.

"Come to my room after breakfast Monday, will you?" Will gave a hesitant nod. "I have an idea."

Chapter Text

Monday morning saw Will reluctantly keeping his promise to let Grace get her hands on him and try to change what he saw. After handing Maddie off to a gleeful maid named Beverly, the elder Omega set Will beside her in the car and directed Jimmy to her salon in town. It was an establishment that radiated class, from the uniformed stylists and hammered chrome sconces to the cappuccinos and petit fours on plates that set off the Mediterranean blue tile floor. The staff made appropriate fuss over Will, shampooing his locks with organic lather and conditioning with luster-promoting product, trimming his raggedy curls into a bold shorter style that suited his bone structure and showed off his eyes.

Hair dealt with, they went for manicures and moisturizing facials, the bevy of beta consultants all cooing over his beautiful skin and healthy (if slightly chewed) nails. That done, Grace took him to a couturier who dressed him head to toe and all points in between with well-fitting, Omegan-tailored clothes - though he firmly kept the man out of the changing room, thank you very much. He stood in front of the 3-sided mirror and for the first time in a long time really liked what he was looking at. He was clad in a suit of sorts, but definitely pleasure not business. A sort of refined omega twist on the "ladies who lunch" vibe, though it would work in a range of scenarios. The rich blue brought out his eyes, the cut showed off his figure and the swanlike grace of his neck, the quality made him seem a little mature, and the overall softer image it projected set him at ease. Checking himself over in the mirror with strange fascination, Will had to admit he looked pretty good. Even if Grace was spending way too much just to make him presentable. Outfit after outfit was acquired and packed up, making sure most could be mixed and matched to suit, and finally Will convinced her enough was enough.

He helped Jimmy pack the trunk, then settled in beside Grace, finally allowing himself a sigh of relief. Thinking they were heading home, Will wasn't paying much attention until the car rolled to a stop in a quiet commercial district. He looked at the building in confusion before registering the sign that stood out against a flawless rhododendron hedge.

 

Hannibal Lecter, M.D., Psy. D.

Psychiatric Consultation

 

The painted wood of the sign was the pale cream of a formal invitation, the lettering all fluid script in deep red bordered in pinstripe-thin black. Unexpectedly, Will thought of trailing drips of blood sliding down a sink basin; he shook his head like an etch-a-sketch to clear the gruesome flash.

"What are we-" But Grace had already taken Jimmy's hand and was stepping out, leaving Will no choice but to follow.

"Come along, dear."

He meekly trailed after Grace as she swept past the unoccupied reception area and burst (if such an elegant entrance could be considered bursting) into Hannibal's office. And by the gods, what an office. Will's eyes absorbed every detail like a starving man at a feast. 

Huge windows set into the linen-colored far wall were spared too much revelation by rolling shades flanked with heavy drapes striped in red and grey. An angular Freudian couch the color of a murky pond sat before them on a large area rug, torn between invitation and intimidation. Another sofa - this one plushly upholstered in powder blue fabric that shimmered like Versailles in candlelight - sat perpendicular to the first against a blood red accent wall. An impressively sleek open-front wood desk most CEOs would get hard over stood on a matching rug facing the windows, covered in neat stacks of papers and color-coded folders and writing implements lined up with military precision. On the bare chalky floor of the no-man's land between the carpeting was a facing pair of squashy retro-flavor chairs in grey leather, the sort you could sink back into or perch on the edge of. Heavy wood furniture stained to match the desk hunkered like sullen sentries around the room, holding books . Framed artwork and neat sketches dotted the walls - a museum of Hannibal's tastes from Asian to anatomical, though Will couldn't make out more than faint impressions of most of them from the door. A small brass stag stood on a pedestal to his left, nobly rigid but carved with a hint of motion as though it would not hesitate to impale hapless interlopers on its rack and hoist them high as a warning prize if its domain were threatened. There was an honest-to-goodness dark marble fireplace that yawned behind Hannibal's desk like the mouth of Hell, ostensibly providing warmth on cool autumn evenings and frigid winter's nights. A ladder dared the unworthy to risk the climb up to a mezzanine level which wrapped around 3/4s of the room holding floor to ceiling bookshelves crammed with textbooks and hardcover periodicals and blackbound volumes that Will somehow knew would contain handwriting, neat bands of notation and diagrams and impressions and dissections of the minds that sought to be under the guiding hand of the Alpha psychiatrist.

It was a space of someone's design to make one open up and confess their darkest secrets, via submission or a sense of security or the subtle seduction of relief, and Will worried at his odds of resistance with repeated exposure.

While the omega had been absorbing his surroundings, Hannibal looked up from the hushed conference he was having with the icily beautiful woman by his desk, a slight twitch in the corner of his mouth the only indicator of his surprise.

Before he could manage a word, Grace Lecter had crossed the small span between them, focus firmly on the woman at his side.

"Bedelia, my angel. How are you?" Grace presented her cheek to the lovely Alpha, who smiled and inclined her body to press a markless kiss to the smooth skin.

"Very well, Mrs. Lecter. And yourself?" The woman's voice was low and smooth and cool, like a glass of iced lemonade on a summer day... if one had doctored it with a splash of vodka first.

"Oh, well as ever. I shall outlive the lot. And hello to you too, my darling." Turning to her son, she presented the other cheek for similar treatment, which he offered with appropriate deference.

"Mother. What brings you by?"

"Well we were just out and..." She suddenly blinked at the empty space beside her and cast a sharp look around, beckoning to the young man solemnly fidgeting at the threshold. "Come in, my sweet." He did so with admirable reluctance.

Hannibal turned, finally locating the source of the warm sweetness he'd detected on his mother, and noted the vast improvement in the omega's looks with raised brows. The shortened hair, the tease of throat, the buffed nails, the delicately scented hand cream, the fitted suit, the rich brown leather boots. All of it complimented the wearer and presented a very pleasing picture of confident maturity tempered with innocent charm. It was much to Hannibal's liking. 

Perhaps a little too much.

"Hello, Doctor Lecter." Gods above, but even the young Omega's voice had grown more self-assured.

"Shannon." 

They might've gone on regarding one another indefinitely but his mother (by virtue of being herself) drew his attention again as she walked to one of his chairs and arranged herself on the edge, knees together, ankles elegantly crossed. 

"Are you free for lunch?" Hannibal's eyes met Bedelia's, who wordlessly indicated that he was. He barely suppressed a groan, trepidation filling him like a viscous liquid, though he could not wholly say why. Before he could reply either way, his mother continued. "Well you are not now. I want you to take Shannon out and show him around the city."

His extreme empathy notwithstanding, if there was one thing Will was sure of, it was that Hannibal Lecter definitely did not want to take him to lunch and play tour guide. He managed not to trip over his toes as he moved to stand by Grace, feeling the eyes of both Alphas studying his back with varying degrees of interest.

"Oh, Grace, listen. He doesn't want to. I'll just go home with you."

"Ahh, but I am not going home, my sweet. And you..." She rose gracefully, took Will's hands and held them out, displaying him gently. "Are dressed to go out. So Hannibal, take him out. Somewhere nice."

With a kiss pressed to Will's cheek and another blown to the Alphas in the room, Grace departed, leaving nothing in her wake but stony silence and a whispering trace of her perfume. Will watched as long as he could, even after there was nothing to see. Bedelia excused herself from the room as well, and then there were two.

Hannibal was suddenly close, at his left shoulder. Will tried to calm himself with a slow steady draw of breath... only to hear as much as feel the Doctor do the same. 

"Did... you just... smell me?" He looked up as he turned and their eyes met, and held.

Why was eye contact not hard to maintain with this man? It should've been impossible - an Alpha, basically a stranger, definitely a threat. But he'd visually connected more with Hannibal in the last week than he had during his entire relationship with Matt. It didn't make sense... except that when he looked into Hannibal's eyes it was as much about what he didn't see as what he did. Of course he saw Hannibal as he could see almost anyone. Could understand in flashes the core, the heart, the dark recesses of the person's soul. In Matt and Chill, it was weakness and a bitter desperation to hide it - though in Matt there was also blood in the water and an addict's craving for respect. In certain clients, truly dangerous people, he saw darkness - boxes of pitch-black secrets buried under bloodstained floorboards. But when he looked into Hannibal's eyes? Amid the elegant isolation and flashes of lust and tender appreciation of the beautiful and rare... inexplicably, Will saw himself.

"Difficult to avoid." 

What? Oh. Right. The scenting. 

Will swallowed, his voice reverently quiet. "And why is that?"

"You smell... different. Better, if I may be so bold. That entrancing scent of yours is so frequently masked with that unfortunate... well, not aftershave. I don't believe I can recall ever seeing a face less in need of a razor than yours. But in other hands it would be and as such it does not suit you. It smells as though there should be a ship on the bottle."

Will squared his shoulders and edged up his chin a defiant inch. "It was my dad's. It's the last thing I have of his." Now.

Hannibal had the good grace to flinch at the faux pas. "My apologies. That was... thoughtless." And Will knew to the core that he meant it, despite the dent his ego would've taken to say so.

"Yeah. Well. S'alright." His gaze dropped to Hannibal's lips as a blush heated his cheeks. "Listen. If you don't want to do this, and I really think you don't..." The corner of the Alpha's mouth twitched. "I can just catch a cab." Hannibal's stare was like a palpable touch, enticing the omega's eyes to return to his. When they did, something light - small but undeniable in its presence - sparked deep within those orbs, more maroon today than amber. Drying blood over ancient stone.

"I appreciate the offer, but believe me - I would never hear the end of it." He collected his jacket, secured the office and informed Bedelia he was leaving for lunch. As he gestured Will out the main door ahead of him, the omega couldn't resist a playful jibe.

"It's nice to see a grown man still afraid of his mommy." 

The Alpha actually rolled his eyes, affectionate though it was. "Take my word. She has possessed the means to frighten since she took away my Operation game when I was 6."

Chapter Text

Hannibal chauffeured the omega in his beloved Bentley, selecting a lot downtown to secure his vehicle. They walked through the town talking, Hannibal pointing out the sights and opening up to Will to the surprise of them both. Emboldened, the omega asked what had happened between the brothers.

"My father indulged Mads in his... artistic pursuits, but always expected us to follow in his footsteps, assume some measure in the family practice. I specialized in surgery as well as psychiatrics, Mads went in for orthopaedics and sports medicine around his dance and acro classes." Will sensed the weight of dedication in such an educational pursuit, the mantle of expectation laid on the twins' shoulders like a yoke, and a niggling itch of impending dread started at the base of his spine. Knowing in advance of a story that something had not ended well did not make the listening any easier. "So the time arrived, a big important meeting of the clinic board where Father was going to officially pass the torch to both of us. We were standing in the hallway waiting for our cue to enter, and without warning Mads goes "Vent et øjeblik!" And he turned and walked out."

"And?" Will prompted.

"And he did not return!" Hannibal sighed, the exhalation seeming to come from his soul. The tighter his brow furrowed, the more Will's fingers itched to soothe and smooth it down. "Three months later, I received a postcard from Copenhagen. It said 'how did it go, brother?'"

"Sounds like you're still mad at him."

"No," the Alpha demurred. "Not mad, per se. Merely... resigned. It became clear when we were still quite young that Mads was very much his own person. I have never minded following in the footsteps laid out by our father, but it did sting at the time that I was left to bear the responsibility on my own. He slipped the trap and was allowed to live free from the burden of such obligation."

The need to defend the kindly and departed twin rose in Will again. "But he didn't always. He got somebody pregnant and married them. That's more than a lot of others might do in that position."

Hannibal regarded him with a narrowing gaze of consideration, leaving him with the sensation of being flayed with a razor sharp scalpel. "And that somebody... would be... you. Correct?"

"Yeah," Will agreed halfheartedly, the recent confidence of his gaze faltering. "Sure." His eyes flitted like a sparrow needed a place to land. Spying a vendor, he started walking over. "Hey. You hungry?"

"Ah yes. I am supposed to treat you to lunch after all." He eyed the artisanal menu with caution before directing his attention to the aproned man already awaiting their order. "Good afternoon. May we see the wine list?" Will giggled before he could stop himself. He ordered a chicken and asiago sausage on a wheat roll with apple chutney, while Hannibal opted for a sage and onion pretzel with stone ground mustard dip.

They took their leave and wandered, no real destination in mind, content to walk as long as their feet didn't stray too far from the pay lot housing Hannibal's Bentley. The beta attendants didn't seem the sort to pull a Ferris Bueller with the car, terrified as they'd looked after Hannibal left them with strict instructions and a muffled growl. They'd probably get back to find it had been washed, waxed and detailed at no extra charge.

As they walked across the Hanover Street Bridge, Will noted a small blob of mustard in the corner of Hannibal's mouth. Stepping into the Alpha's path to halt him, Will tenderly cleaned the spot with a napkin and a soft smile... which was returned once Hannibal realized what he was doing.

"Dare I ask how long that has been there?"

"Actually," Will teased, "It's been there since I met you."

A strangely light expression overtook Hannibal's features - a rueful playfulness that made him seem Will's age. "I suppose I must look rather silly."

Eyes met without hesitation, Will tipped his head and regarded the Alpha carefully, unaware of the exposure of the smooth curve of his neck afforded by the movement. "I think you could use a little silly in your life, Doctor Lecter." 

Something bloomed in the depths of the Alpha's gaze that Will felt the echo of resonating within his soul. "I think we have arrived at a point where you can call me Hannibal." 

Will's eyes flashed wide, pupils contracting then dilating like ink spilled in the ocean. He couldn't look away. He didn't want to. The moment stretched, shivering like a line of spider's silk. Hannibal's hand suddenly appeared at the fringe of Will's peripheral and he straightened with a muted gasp, shattering the moment like a teacup dashed to a stone floor. 

"Uhhh... shouldn't you be getting back?"

Hannibal's fingers curled in on themselves in a parody of a fist before he hid whatever unreadable thing was lurking behind his honeyed gaze by consulting his watch for the time.

"Actually, by virtue of the charm of your company I have... I believe the term is "blown off" my afternoon appointments. Bedelia will have rescheduled by now. If you were not averse... perhaps we could walk around some more?" It was a fair enough compromise, offered with an out. Will's lips parted, but produced no reply, sweetly startled by the scant trace of doubt he could detect in the Alpha's tone. "Or... you are too tired - I must have fatigued you with such a trek. Allow me to retrieve the car and-" He broke off at the light touch of the omega's hand on his elbow, warm even through the layers of fabric separating their skins.

"I'm not at all... averse. Just... hold on." Stepping to the sidewalk's interior, he tucked his hand in the crook of Hannibal's arm, letting his thumb brush the man's cloth-wrapped bicep. "Let's go." A nearly audible gulp was the prelude to a shy upturn of his lips. "Hannibal."

They continued to walk and talk, of everything and nothing in particular. Hannibal seemed to thaw more with every step, sharing childhood memories that made Will laugh and only occasionally want to cry. They fell into silence following a bittersweet recollection of the boys learning American history from Jimmy, a reminder of both their once close relationship and their often distant father. His fingers were getting that damned itch again.

Will dragged his eyes from Hannibal's solemn profile long enough to notice the display cases in a shop across the street.

"Oh. Can we?" Hannibal's eyes followed his point. "It's just... my mom." The omega stuck a thumb under the leather cord and tugged it out from under his shirt, revealing the oval locket dangling there. He stared at it a moment, absently caressing the smooth silver with the pad of his thumb. "Well, and Mads now, too. It was all that was left after... the accident."

A strange flood of emotion coursed through the Alpha at the expression on Shannon's face at the mention of his brother. It was genuine and sincere and gave him a small scald of shame at his previous doubts. 

"Of course," Hannibal agreed, placing a hand at the small of Shannon's back as they checked for traffic and walked across. Gallantly holding the door open, he willed himself not to react to the delicate hit of scent that suffused his nostrils as the omega scurried inside.

They were immediately set upon by Mr. Gideon, a charming Beta who pressed kisses to the back of the omega's hand and kept him tucked close as he showed off his wares. Setting him down on a high stool while his assistant brought them flutes of fresh-squeezed orange juice with pomegranate sugar on the rims, Mr. Gideon slid behind his counter and produced chain after chain like a magician. Trying this length or that style, Will finally settled on a 20 inch platinum rope, the classic style complimenting the scrollwork engraving on the locket, the weight sturdy without being oppressive or ostentatious. Mr. Gideon took the chain and locket to the back for a final buff and polish, and presented them with a grin that could only be called cheeky before writing up the bill.

Will's fingers fumbled with the tiny clasp until large warm ones covered his own. "Allow me." He started to say... something against it, but eventually surrendered and let go, lacing his fingers together in his lap to suppress the sudden tingle he felt in each digit. It was the nimble-fingered work of a moment for the Alpha, whose hands settled on Will's shoulders in a phantom-light squeeze before letting go... leaving Will trembling against a strange sense of loss.

"Do you like it?" The question left Will blinking until he realized the Alpha was talking about the chain that now hung cool against his skin. Get a freaking grip, Graham.

"It's beautiful. But it's so expensive," he breathed, dropping his voice to a reverent hush, as though money was not something discussed in polite company. And really it wasn't, but Hannibal couldn't bring himself to mind.

"Didn't Mother set you up with a checking account?"

The omega's eyes circuited in an affectionate roll. "Yes but she didn't even ask me! She just shoves this checkbook at me and says 'here!' like that's all there is to it." Granted, Hannibal was quite aware that to his mother, that was all there was to it. The word was given, the deed done and then the matter would be considered closed. He'd long since gotten used to it; the omega's reaction was almost refreshing in its naivete. 

"Well, then." Hannibal produced a fountain pen from his coat pocket, uncapped it and handed it over. "By all means, write a check. It will be your first. I shall be glad I was here for it." Shannon was looking at the pen in his long elegant fingers, and swallowed hard before capturing it in his own. The pads of their fingertips kissed and - why had he termed it thus? Kindly take hold of yourself, Lecter. Damnation, you're an Alpha, not some twitterpated schoolgirl.

"O-o-okay."

A patiently waiting (if patently curious) Mr. Gideon presented him with a small box to keep the chain in and a bill. Will dug out the checkbook and started to fill in the pertinent information. When he got to the signature though, he smiled up at Hannibal, penning his name by rote, tearing the check out and letting Mr. Gideon get his fingers on it before he realized his mistake.

Will Graham was printed in neat looping cursive, plain as day in bold black ink. SHIT.

He grabbed it back with a flustered "Darn it!" and began to reduce the paper to tiny shredded flakes. "I... wrote the wrong date," he gave by way of explanation for the bizarre move. "Lemme write another one." Mr. Gideon gave him an indulgent smile and a 'by all means' gesture, and the omega looked up at Hannibal with a plausible 'what're ya gonna do?' expression before stuffing the confetti of the former check in his pocket and setting pen to paper once more.

For his part Hannibal said nothing, letting his Zygomaticus Major and Minor twist into a convincing facsimile of a smile as he mused to himself. What will one do, indeed?

Chapter Text

Another hour of sightseeing later, Hannibal escorted the Omega back to the car and pointed them in the direction of the family home. The sky had been threatening the last few hours, a slightly overcast afternoon growing worryingly dark before the typical hour of evening, and Shannon wanted to get back to check on Maddie. They swung like a pendulum between easy conversation and companionable silence on the drive, Hannibal trying to focus on the road instead of Shannon's quiet contemplation beside him or the strange occurrence at the shop that they were apparently not talking about. As they wound up the drive, Hannibal's sharp eye spotted the Rolls being polished in the converted carriage house before being tucked in for the night, and so drove and parked under the stone cover of the entrance. Shannon made to bolt but a soft hand on his bicep halted his flight, allowing the Alpha time to exit, pocket his keys and open the door for his guest.

Not a soul was to be seen as they made their way through the ground floor, only stopping in a downstairs sitting room at the sight of a baby monitor on the chiffonier behind the sofa. It was on, and both listened, managing to catch the faint whuffle of breath over the line due to their superior hearing.

"Two patterns," Hannibal concluded.

"And they're both asleep from the sound of it," the omega agreed, exhalation coming as a soft sigh that struck the Alpha's ear like a glancing blow.

"Are you alright?" He detected no evidence of distress or discomfort, despite the unsettled feeling the sound had left him with.

"Hm? Oh. Yeah. I'm... fine." Hmm... Thorough distraction, flattened tone, unfocused stare disallowing eye contact.

"And which of us, if I may ask, are you attempting to convince?" The omega startled a little, brow folding itself into a worried furrow, finger unconsciously plucking at the platinum chain like a guitar string. Pizzicato anxiety. Then he breathed out a quietly amused huff, and left off the chain to drive his fingers through his shortened curls.

"Sorry. Not... entirely sure where my head went just then. Maybe I'm still just straddling that line to the past." His hand dropped to his side before swinging back up and indicating something over Hannibal's shoulder. He twisted his neck to glance that way and spied a framed photograph of him and his twin - one of the last taken before Mads' exodus. Unbidden, his body carried through the momentum and executed an about face, feet carrying him to the display, hand reaching with imperceptible pause to pick up the frame for closer examination.

He remembered this day. A graduation party at an upscale nightclub in Baltimore, more of Mads' overlapping social circles than his, but still ripe with the potential for diversion. After almost 2 hours apart, they'd reconnected for a minute on the carpeted lower level, Mads asking if Hannibal was having any fun. Unable to answer fully in the affirmative, Hannibal had mentioned the impending takeover, the day they both knew was coming sure as the tide, but his twin hadn't wanted to talk about it. Pressing a drink into his brother's palm, he'd wrapped a hand around the back of his neck and pulled him close enough to murmur in his ear to lighten up for the night; there was always time to be serious later.

Stepping out from the fraternal hold Hannibal had ended up in a perpendicular stance, trying to pass the drink to his brother, who simply rested a hand over the top and pushed it back down. It had been Hannibal who'd noticed the shutterfly leveling her camera at them like a sniper rifle, and his eyes and expression were trapped in the nebulous neither-zone midway between a few conflicting reactions. His lips held neither smile nor sneer, his eyes were neither wide with delight nor narrowed in warning. Mads' effortlessly beautiful features in three-quarter profile were fixed on the matching physiognomy of his brother, and the shot was somehow arresting in its frank and candid capture of the twins' unique interpersonal dynamic. Worth every syllable of the 1000 words rendered unspoken.

The girl had made sure Mads got a copy and good son he was, he'd had it framed and gifted it to their mother, who proudly displayed it beside a shaped onyx award she'd been given for civic donation. It oddly suited the image, and highlighted the wildly divergent styles of coordinating shades of black the pair wore in the photo.

"Mes visada galime būti rimti vėliau."

"What's that mean?"

"We can always be serious later. A motto of sorts for my brother," Hannibal answered as he carefully set the photo back in its place.

"You miss him."

"Naturligt." He turned his head to find the omega beside his shoulder, a strange echo of the pose he and Mads held in the photograph. A swallow negated the urge to clear his throat. "Do not you?"

Shannon blinked in a manner close to a flinch, and left his eyes wide and steady on Hannibal's. "Of course I do. I just... hate that any time I open myself up, any time I let myself... l-love someone, I lose them. They're... taken away from me. My parents and..." His hand landed on the locket in emphasis. Except Mads wasn't mine to lose. And I didn't love Matt and he didn't really love me. Still... "It just doesn't seem fair. Life's hard enough as it is. Can't the gods be a little nicer?"

"In that they grant us our happiness, they must create balance in the universe by taking from us too. Though I often wonder if they do not like it, just a little."

"What? Taking things from us?" The omega stepped into further alignment with the sage Alpha, finding himself nearly face to face as Hannibal inclined his head slightly to the side in noncommittal confirmation.

"The things they take. The manner in which they do so. If a human stripped another human thus, we would call it murder - or at the least manslaughter. Yet they take with impunity. They kill and we accept, railing if we will about the unfairness of the loss but never questioning for an instant their right to deprive us."

A smooth roll of Shannon's shoulder shifted the fabric of his suit slightly offside. "The gods provideth, the gods removeth from the hand of man."

"So we are taught. But they do it all the time. Perhaps it feels good to them. And we are created in their image, so perhaps it would feel good to us," he mused, at least half to himself.

"I don't... think I could ever just... kill someone." His arms crossed themselves tightly over his torso, almost granting himself a hug against the thought. Hannibal inclined his body a little into the omega's bubble, unmindful of the possessive slant to the posture.

"You are an Omega, the best of all possible worlds- the ability to create life and the strength to defend it. My mother stands smaller than you, yet I have known full-blood Alphas to back down in her presence. It is a beautiful and terrible thing. A rare gift, Shannon, if only you would accept it. Embrace your deepest nature."

A moue of disbelieving amusement appeared on Shannon's lips. "You're saying I need to kill someone to truly be myself?"

Hannibal's own mouth quirked. "No. I would never. It is against... many laws, social and otherwise. I merely want you to admit to yourself that if it came to it, you could. You would allow yourself to defend that which you hold most precious in this world."

Will pondered that a moment and silently acknowledged that yes, if anything ever threatened his child, his family, he'd fight tooth and nail to safeguard and shield - even to the point of death.. be it the threat's or his own.

"I... concede your point." His eyes met Hannibal's again, locking in place like magnets finding their mates. Something unreadable flashed through the Alpha's golden gaze like heat lightning, gone before he could be sure it had even really been there in the first place... except for the faint glow curling low in the pit of his stomach in response.

"Good." 

Hoo, boy. And just where the hell did that tone come from?  "Be careful, Dr. Lecter," Will teased before he could think better of it, unaware of the soft dilation of his pupils and the calculating notice the other man gave the phenomenon. "Your Alpha is showing."

This was getting dangerous, the situation threatening to slide from the grip of his control. Gods damn, pull yourself together, Lecter. He likely teased your brother thus. The thought was sufficiently sobering and the rising corner of his mouth dropped to a zero degree. Straightening into a rigid line that granted him meager distance from the vexing Omega before him, Hannibal tamped down the inconvenient emotions being stirred up within him.

"Yes. Well." He applied surgical focus on the precise angle of his cufflink. "We are not all of us so fortunate in our natures as my twin."

The omega was silent a moment, then agreed in a voice soft with understanding. "He was a very lucky guy. He had you for a brother."

"That is not-" No, Hannibal. Do not look. You will lose yourself within those unfathomable depths. "For Mads, life was... uncomplicated. He never had any problems because he did not wish to have any. And the remarkable and very envious thing about it is that it worked. For him, it worked. Always. Until... until it did not."

Hannibal was standing like a masterclass in posture, and Will couldn't help but look up. And up. And up at the impossibly tall Alpha unwittingly declaring his deep need for comfort that Will desperately wanted to provide. Even when they took a clarifying step apart, Will still found his chin tilted up a fraction, unconsciously enticing with the promise of bared throat.

Hannibal, however, was entirely too conscious of it... and the effect it was having on very disparate portions of his anatomy. His fingers itched to touch the satiny looking skin on offer, his lips tingled with an urge to map it. Blood was rushing south at an alarming rate, but the organ providing it was experiencing a most unusual squeeze as well. He was touched by the regard, the concern being shown him in a vulnerable moment. He was already responding to it, and to his great surprise, Hannibal cared. He ached for this little Omega, whose name had somehow become branded across the fabric of cardiac muscle vaulted within his chest. Whose touch burned like a holy seal where it landed over the self-same region in a gesture of sympathetic commiseration. By all account, he should hate it. He should run. But he could not. And so he did not.

Instead, his arms almost of their own volition reached out and gently grasped the smaller man. Large palms cupped Shannon's clavicles, thumbs absently mapping the fabric covering the join of neck to shoulder before his hands slid down to grip at the omega's biceps. It took surprisingly little pressure exerted to pull him close to rest against Hannibal's powerful chest, trapping his hands between them and wrapping him up in strong arms and unspoken promises of protection. That enticing scent hit Hannibal's olfactory as he drew in a deep breath of contentment when the omega wriggled and tentatively returned the embrace, somehow making Hannibal feel enfolded despite his much larger size.

They stood like that for seconds that bled into millenia before Maddie's fussing became tinny wails that echoed through the baby monitor.

Will tensed but did not immediately disengage, letting himself slowly ease out of Hannibal's hold instead. Their fingertips were the last points of contact and they hovered suspended toward one another even after the touch had been broken, the spell only fully lifted once the omega turned and sprinted for the stairs.

Chapter Text

Dinner had been an unexpected ordeal, spent hyper-aware of every tiny motion and sound the omega made, including several shy smiles sent in his direction and attempts at conversation that Hannibal could not have recalled a word of if he had a gun to his head. A sudden crash of thunder and explosion of lightning behind the windows startled everyone at the table, and his mother had seized on the natural phenomenon like a devious deity to insist he stay the night in his old room. The look on her face - pure implacable geniality - left no room for argument and Hannibal grudgingly agreed to wait out the storm.

The room was the same as it ever was, as it had been since he and Mads had moved out of the shared nursery at 10: framed sketches on the wall, a drafting desk, bookshelves crammed with medical texts, journals, well-loved classics and bric-a-brac he collected and selected throughout his life. Though there were 2 drawers full of pajamas for him and a collection of dressing gowns in the closet, Hannibal felt too on edge for layers. Stripped down to boxers so he didn't have to sleep in his suit, he prepared for bed and huffed his annoyance. Following an unproductive hour spent reading without comprehending a single word on the page, then pacing until he threatened the integrity of the carpet fibers, Hannibal finally drifted off after what felt like hours of tossing and turning.

He was wading into a stream, pale petals and ruby ribbons curling and flowing in the tide. He was swept off his feet and carried along with them, thrashing violently to reach a side, any side - the far bank that held his brother, smiling with half a paper face as he stood beside a shadow, or the near that held Shannon and his daughter, the pair of them wreathed in ropes and crowns of downy white flowers. The colors of everything seemed out of proportion, over-saturated yet strangely muted. It seemed the water should have been cool, too cold for comfort, but it felt as if tongues of fire were licking his flesh.

A soft cool touch to his burning skin seemed almost unreal, and jolted Hannibal bolt upright into a semi-conscious state. Blinking the residue of dreams from his eyes, he eventually focused on Shannon, half-kneeling on the bedside, small hand caught in mid-air and mid-action. He grabbed it in his own and tugged Shannon closer, the tantalizing scent of him wrapping around like wisps of gauzy chiffon.

"What are you doing?" His voice was a low growl, and he barely noticed the omega's widening eyes as his own nostrils flared and caught... no. It couldn't be. He inhaled again, uncaring that he was none too subtly scenting the sudden arousal in the air, or that it was emanating from his dear brother's widow.

The omega's throat flexed and shivered against a hard swallow that made the Alpha's mouth water and his teeth ache. 

"I... I heard... you were making noise. It sounded like you might be... in distress or something. I w-wanted... to make s-sure you... were alright." The implausible statement was broken up by ragged inhalations and soft hitches of breath and all Hannibal could see were the shapes his damned lips were making.

"And why would you care?" Hannibal demanded softly, exerting just enough pressure on the hand he still retained to direct the omega yet closer, feeling that small extremity tremble and twitch as it landed against the sweat-slick skin that shielded his pounding heart.

"Because, I c- ... Isn't that... what family does? Look out for one another?" Shannon's pronouncement lilted with unfocused doubt and something indefinable that lay beneath, his fingertips tangling in the glistening hair that furred Hannibal's chest.

"Is it? I would hardly know," Hannibal whispered as his free hand slid to wrap around the Omega's bared neck, thumbing the pulse point that skipped and sped at the touch, over the scent gland filling the air with his delicate perfume like a diffuser. And we are not family. He placed a knuckle beneath the soft roundness of his chin and directed the omega's face up to look into his eyes, and was shocked to see the luminous blue nearly swallowed by pupils blown too large to attribute solely to the darkness of the room. "But that is not the only reason for your being here, is it?"

"N... no." The omega's lids lowered like a curtain, those impossibly long lashes becoming sooty smudges on the ripe apples of his cheeks. Then they snapped up, hitting Hannibal full-force like a klieg light. "I think I... might be starting to find you interesting... Doctor Lecter."

Hannibal's hand shifted to the front of the delicate neck of the omega before him, a wild thought flashing through his mind that it would be so easy to break. A mere reed in his fingers, a teacup easily shattered. He banished it and all other cogitation as he hauled Shannon closer and claimed his mouth. His taste... by the gods, so sweet. Ambrosial nectar, to be sipped another day, now only to be devoured and shared. Shannon's small fangs nipped at the full curve of Hannibal's lower lip and the Alpha let out a muted groan. Fingers plowed into those teasing curls, forcing his head back as Hannibal mouthed the edge of his jaw, the satin skin of his throat, tasting his pulse and getting drunk on the heady, ever-growing scent of warm fertile omega. His fangs were sliding, the points dragging over delicate skin with the fine pressure of a knife tip, controlled danger, yearning to pierce and mark.

His arms wound round the omega, urging him closer, pressing together every point he could reach. His hands roamed, palming and cupping, testing and teasing. The roundness of a shoulder, the hollow under a scapula, the firmness of a pectoral, the tapering line of a lean waist, the quivering muscle of belly and thigh, the almost lewd prominence of a hipbone, the taut globe of a gluteal.

And then there was the scent. Hannibal cursed in several languages in his mind as the intoxicating aroma, signature of the rarest of delicacies, invaded his senses and overrode his sense. His already heightened olfactory gland (adept by now at finding the threads of the omega's efflux in any room) dove deep into the stream of natural perfume, seeking out every subtle note and element like a chef laying bare the secret ingredients in a recipe. Vanilla, hot spice, cinnamon, a hit of something dark - espresso, brandy, bitter chocolate. And the sinful cream on top was the luscious musk of arousal as the omega's slick began to flow.

He was achingly erect, pheromones singing in his blood, instincts starting to bay and scratch at the firmly locked door of his composure and civility. And somehow the omega knew, just as he seemed to know everything else Hannibal wished to hide.

In a flash air was kissing the heated skin of his cock, instantly taken over by a small powerful fist working him gently but securely, a thumb trailing over the head to spread the potent pre-cum oozing from the tip before the hand dragged silken trails down the formidable length and back again. He shuddered as waves of sensation began building, lapping at the edges of his nerves like ripples in a pond kissing the shore. His body was on fire, his brain threatening to go up in flames at the sinfully skilled touch. Of course the omega would know how just to touch him, learning his body as he had likely learned his- The thought was brutally cut off by a slight twist at the conclusion of the last upstroke.

Nightshirt hanging off one smooth shoulder, Shannon quickly straddled the Alpha and hovered a moment before letting the head of Hannibal's swelling cock breach his weeping entrance. His fingers dug sharply into Hannibal's trapezius and splenius cervicis muscles, just as Hannibal's fingers gripped the omega's narrow hips and felt the adductors in his thighs tighten. By the gods but he was tight, hotter than the sun, slicker than a field of morning daisies. The Alpha willed himself to stay still as the omega moved down, sinking inch by torturous inch until he finally bottomed out, gently seated in Hannibal's lap.

His forehead tipped forward to rest on the smaller man's shoulder, marveling at the coolness of the skin against his own feverish flesh. One arm banded tight as steel around the omega's back, pulling him impossibly closer, as though they could merge into one entity if only he could will it to be so. 

He had just enough presence of mind to capture Shannon's mouth in a searing kiss and swallow down his moan of surprise before he bodily lifted the omega and brought him back down, rolling his hips in a fluid elliptical pattern, the perpetual repetition driving them both out of their minds with need. 

The omega threw his head back with a gasp, breaking the kiss and arching into Hannibal's thrusts with abandon. Shannon's small teeth nipped at his earlobe and along his jaw before those perfect pink lips that drove him to distraction proceeded to pepper every available inch of his face with tiny kisses, their delivery interspersed with tiny whispers and bit-back moans that slid down his ear like warm honey. 

The pace grew frantic and less measured as Hannibal's instinct howled for satisfaction, demanding release, screaming mate, breed, bite, fill. The blood roared in his ears like a living thing as Shannon bore down on him, hips crashing to meet his with erotic fury. Thoughts battered his flagging consciousness like breaking waves. 

This was incredible. 

This was wrong

It was so frighteningly right. 

It couldn't happen again. 

He was already imagining the next time, the omega in the center of his large bed at home, presenting for him on all fours, spine a textbook lordosis curve, hips perfectly fitted to his hands. Hearing him scream out his pleasure instead of biting it back behind those pearly whites, fingers running through that mop of sable curls and pulling just enough to draw him up into Hannibal's embrace as the Alpha drove into him. Hannibal's knot swelling, filling him, locking them together for hours, days, years. Drawing one orgasm after another out of each other, Shannon's hot clenching muscles triggering his body to spend itself within, which would send the omega over the edge, which would then drag Hannibal over again, a feedback loop, an ouroboros of sexual sensation. 

Oh gods Shannon was whimpering, tightening around him like a vise. He was - yes, Yes, YES! - he was going to- 

Hannibal slammed into wakefulness with a gasp like a drowning man breaking the water's surface. His mind, unable to stop itself, quickly catalogued the situation. Sweat coated him like a diamond wrap. He was breathing as though he'd just run down prey though miles of forest, and painfully aroused despite the ropes of spend splashed over his heaving abdominals. Shannon was nowhere to be seen... although the lingering effects of the dream made him swear the omega's arousal still hovered in the atmosphere charged with electricity and redolent with the stench of Alpha pheromones coming off him like particle waves. Every muscle in his body was tensed to leap out of bed and pursue, hunt, battle, go seek his mate and claim them before God and the universe. He had popped a knot in his sleep like some damned teenager in their first rut. 

It was a dream. You are alone. That omega is not and never will be your mate. You cannot have him. You cannot go to him. He. Is. Not. Yours.

Every curse in every language he knew flew through his head to silently vent his sudden and unholy disappointment. He wanted to throw something, break bones, set his teeth to the throat of a rival and bathe in the spurt of arterial spray. He wanted... he wanted. Gods damnation. Plowing his fingers through the soaked strands of his hair, he gripped tight in frustration, threw back his head and let out a howl that seemed to vibrate the walls themselves.

Chapter Text

After a day so unexpectedly... nice, the night was oddly subdued. While Will and Grace chatted calmly, Hannibal seemed closed off, almost walled away from the world like a princess encased in ice. By dessert, the strange tension around the table was so high everyone in the room jumped when lightning flashed and thunder clapped so loud the windows rattled in their casings. As Will cradled his screaming daughter, Grace directed a genial grin towards her son and insisted (in a sweet tone that left no room for argument) that he stay instead of driving back to Baltimore. He'd agreed with the reluctant acceptance of a man facing a firing squad, and Grace had taken Maddie with her for the night. Hannibal had murmured something in his direction before heading upstairs as well, leaving Will alone at the table with melting ice cream and a sympathetic Beta.

At something of a loose end without his daughter to fuss over and with no one to talk to, Will climbed under the covers with a vintage copy of Hans Christian Andersen. Sometime later, he was shocked out of a restless sleep by some internal ping that something wasn't right, that someone he loved was in danger or distress. Barefoot and frazzled, he went to check on Maddie. But she was fine, sound asleep in a bassinet in Grace's suite, the elder omega's finger trapped in her baby fist.

As he walked back, still trying to shake the sensation creeping up his spine like an icy finger, he passed Hannibal's room and heard an odd noise - almost a whimper. It so unsettled Will, his brain trying and utterly failing to associate a sound like that with a capital A Alpha like Hannibal Lecter, that he reached for the door handle without thinking, only wishing to reach him and make certain he was alright.

And then the wave hit. Soft at first but growing more intense by the moment, the pheromones leaking under the door like smoke had a profound and immediate effect. Will was helpless to do anything but stand there, rooted to the spot, breathing and absorbing while his instincts woke up and demanded to be released from the cage Will kept them in, buried in the dark recesses of his mind.

Alpha! they breathed excitedly. Mate! Seed! Knot! Bite! SUBMIT! The chorus of demand grew as the noises from within took on a far more animalistic timbre, grunts and groans that Will desperately wished to feel against his skin. A sudden rush of slick surprised him, startling him to consciousness just as his fingers were starting to turn the knob. He huddled there in the hall, door handle in a white-knuckled grip, slick trickling down his thighs from the sheer intoxicating influx of ALPHA that permeated the air and penetrated every pore. He felt drunk with it, and petrified by the threat of losing control.

The last vestige of self-preserving coherence fought its way to the fore, and when Hannibal's howl deafened the universe, Will's danger alarm blared to life. He bit back a terrified whimper and fled to his room like the hounds of Satan were hunting him down.

Turning the lock and stuffing towels under the door to block the maddening scent he could almost visualize coming down the hall like beckoning fingers of steam in an old cartoon, Will grabbed another armful and laid them in bed like an absorbent nest. Quickly shedding his soiled nightshirt and soaked underwear, he laid down and bundled himself in blankets, praying to gods he wasn't sure he believed in that the night's unexpected episode hadn't triggered a heat, false or otherwise. He buried his face in his hands and forced himself to breathe and try to calm down, staring up at the painted ceiling when his fingers threaded themselves despairingly into his shortened curls. He couldn't bear the thought of another overbearing prick trying to control him, using his biology as a shackle to keep him down. And Matthew had only been a demi-alpha. A capital A  thoroughbred like Hannibal? Had to be twice as bad or worse. Right?

What with his alpha arrogance, and his frou-frou tailored suits, and his stupid fangs hidden in those too-rare smiles. That hair with the metallic gleam that made Will's fingers itch to run through it. And those strange golden eyes, all lit up like amber that threatened to seal Will inside and hold him forever. The sadness within him that spoke to Will's soul and made him yearn to soothe. The laugh that sounded like music to his ears. And the obvious muscle that came with the breed, flexing and bunching and... tightening. Glistening under a sheen of perspiration because people this rich didn't sweat. The refined salt taste on Will's tongue if he licked the defined column of Hannibal's throat or nibbled the pulse point inside his elegant wrist. The way those pillowy lips would feel against his, on his body, whispering soft endearments into his hair as he held Will close. The sensation of those fangs piercing his skin in a claiming bite, forging a bond of the biochemical and emotional, locking their souls together the way knotting locked their bodies. The rock hard thickness of his cock sliding home inside of Will, fingers tangling as his body blanketed Will's own in the traditional position, or watching his pupils dilate as Will rode him. 

By the gods... 

Not consciously noting his hands roaming over his dampening body or the way his legs spread as his mind wandered, Will was in the middle before he realized anything had begun. He bit down on his knuckle to hold back an obscene moan as his other hand worked rapidly against his sex, teasing through the still gushing slick to substitute fingers for what his body so desperately craved. This was wrong. But it felt too right to stop. His mind screamed Hannibal's name as his orgasm hit like a freight train, and his body tried hard to clench around a non-existent knot while Will slowly drifted back to earth.

He spared a moment's relief that Maddie was elsewhere for the night before the enormity of what he'd just done slammed home.

"Oh, shit," he breathed, running to the bathroom to clean up and wash his hands with scalding water and way too much soap before he collected his locket on its beautiful new chain to beseech his mother's portrait. "Mom," he pleaded, "What am I gonna do?" As before she was silent but for the first time in a very long time, Will felt hopelessly alone. He was mired, adrift in a stream of emotional reactivity, tangling himself in a web of deceit that might choke him any day. He might hurt people who cared about him, whom he cared about more with each day that passed. He hated this.

Unable to look at his wrecked reflection in the mirror, his eyes dropped back to the locket, landing this time on not his mother but its other occupant. The half face, still so beautiful, undiminished by the fact he no longer existed in this plane - a sun sealed in frozen amber. As he stared, his eyes flooded with tears, blurring the half into a whole, merging with his twin's in a recombinant dance - fluids melding in a solution to create some new substance. The face stared back, swallowing the shadows as a watery shaft of moonlight illuminated the eye that pierced Will to the soul. He crumbled, exhausted by the burden of his unexpected double life, of trying to shore up his defenses to protect this acquired family from everything that could hurt them - including himself. He wanted nothing more in the world than to be held, cradled and told that everything would be alright - including himself. A mother's embrace, the arms of his bonded beloved. He didn't have those things. He couldn't have those now.

"I'm sorry," he sobbed, feeling like his heart was splintering. "I'm so so sorry."

The morning light found him still curled on the tile, locket clutched tight in his fist, shining tracks of salt stiff on his sleeping face.

Chapter Text

The following morning, Hannibal fled the house before sunup. He told himself it was common sense that urged him away so early and not sexually frustrated instinctual panic. He had to get home, shower, attire himself in fresh clothing, get to his office, finish up patient notes before his first appointments, and check where Bedelia had rearranged his neglected schedule from the previous day. Certain of his rotating neurotics did not deal well with change; he was thinking of them. Of course. This and nothing else was the cause.

Arriving home, he took a moment to breathe in the tranquility only money could buy. He really did like this house, this street, this neighborhood. What he decidedly did not like was the feeling currently embedded in his skin and every fiber of his clothes like urticating hairs. He felt uncomfortable and... grimy, for lack of a better word, and the fact that he typically commanded a vocabulary possessed of several appropriate alternatives only served to stoke the banked embers of his chagrin. Toeing out of his shoes, he silently stalked up the stairs to his bedroom, ripping off his rumpled clothing and setting it aside to be cleaned. Grateful for the muted light filtering through the frosted skylights, he stepped into the monsoon shower and prepared to scrub away the unpleasant feeling... and the residue of tangled memories from the day - and night - before.

Shannon smiling, Shannon laughing. Shannon with his attractive new hair and imminently suitable new clothes. Shannon's fingers brushing his mouth. Shannon signing the wrong name. Shannon holding his daughter. Shannon holding Hannibal. Hannibal holding him. Arms tightening and pulling close. Nuzzling his curls to breathe in his scent. That scent overwhelming him, intoxicating him, leaving him drunk on adoration, entirely at the omega's mercy. The delicate perfume taking on a sharper edge as it blended with arousal and need and slick, coating Hannibal's skin pure and smooth as water and drowning his sensibilities. The taste of his mouth, his skin, the shivering resistance of flesh beneath teeth, fangs piercing. A claiming bite. Shannon gasping, Shannon moaning. Shannon laid out beneath Hannibal like a jewel in a case, clinging to him. Shannon keening for him as Hannibal drove into him from behind. Opening for him, taking his knot. The way he had for- 

Hannibal's eyes went wide as his balls tightened and a thick stream of ejaculate painted the steamed glass, running into the swirling water to be washed down the drain like lost evidence. What the hell was he doing?! The urge to punch one of the imported tiles until it shattered into a spiderweb of cracks was almost overwhelming. He felt his fist flexing, knuckles so tightly compressed they were threatening to pop.

Devil take it, he was not some horny teenager who thought with his knot. He was Hannibal Lecter, thoroughbred Alpha. Educated, well-spoken, handsome, cultured. A skilled and much sought medical professional in rigid control of himself and his cryptid emotions.

And the undeniable truth in the moment was that he was pathetically (and rather messily) lusting after his brother's widow.

He spun the dial until the water rained down on him in frigid spikes, purging the amatory remains from him and forcing him to focus. Emerging 10 minutes later, he toweled off with a vicious vigor and went to his walk-in, the lavender and eucalyptus mister he had installed in the doorway enhancing his calm. Sartorial selections were made with surgical caution, each piece of tailored armor applied with military ruthlessness. A few final touches - tastefully understated designer watch, bronze cufflinks inlaid with opaque horn, mirror-finish shoes, hair impeccably smooth, a last straightening of his already perfect double Windsor - and he gathered his attache, secured his home, bundled into his Bentley and plotted a smooth course to the office.

All signs pointed to a wholly unremarkable day, save the note he penned when he arrived. As he stepped out for lunch, he left it on Bedelia's desk and walked out before he could change his mind and reclaim it. That evening, as he sat doing the last updates of his patient files, his eyes strayed to the slim red folder at the edge of his desk. He knew what it contained. The answer - for better or worse - to his question. Well... one of them, at least.

Eventually, all work completed and put away, Hannibal had nothing left to do but deal with it. 

Opening his top left desk drawer, he extracted a silver case and lighter, withdrew and lit a single cheroot, and had everything cleared and stored before the first clouded exhalation. Such base indulgence was uncharacteristic of him, as was the fact he had shed his suit jacket and loosened the pristine knot of his tie, even allowing the top button to be undone as he sat perched sideways on the edge of his desk. 

An outside observer (not that Hannibal would have permitted anyone to see him in such a state of imperfection) might remark on the resemblance to a scene in a 1940s detective movie, or perhaps even a film noir. Tendrils of smoke framing a hard-edged expression, the classic twist to his clothing, the potentially explosive revelation that lay innocent on his desk, held harmless in ink and paper. All that was missing was a measure of Scotch and plaintive blues playing in the background. The idea of alcohol held some appeal; the musical suggestion and its maudlin chaotic overtones held none.

Cheroot held expertly in his lips, Hannibal pushed off the desk and gathered his things in a rush, pausing at the door to flick the switch and plunge the room (and any secrets it held) into the comfort of obscuring darkness. The clock on the mantel tick-tock-ticked the space of a minute. 

Then the lights came back on, Hannibal's things were summarily dumped in a tidy heap on his reclining couch, and he grabbed up the folder, snapping it open with a fatal noise.

 

Hannibal

 

Per your inquiry:

Willia Graham and her unborn child were listed among the victims of the train wreck.

 

- Bedelia

 

It might be enough. Then again, it might not. It would certainly require explanations, why Shannon was signing a dead woman's name. But the omega had proven much smarter than anticipated, more insightful, more... everything. His beauty was only part of his charm, though not a negligible one by any means.

Everything about the omega was breathtaking, from the distracting curls and the fascinating mind they covered to the adorable toes in those gods-awful hi-tops. The eyes that saw too much and changed too often, the mouth that quirked and frowned and teased and spouted undiluted truth. The body which had carried and born life, still held that potential, a slighter shorter frame that could seemingly support the weight of the world.

He rolled off his desk edge to the waiting chair, tilting back and setting his heels to the corner in an uncharacteristically casual display. Allowing the omega such quarter in his thoughts was dangerous territory, but Hannibal found himself unwilling to close the door on the topic just yet. Finishing his cheroot made him consider a second, but his mind elected a different brand of indulgence by replaying his intense dream from the wee hours. And intense it had been, the effects still lingering like the aftermath of psychotropics in the bloodstream. Only one instance prior had left him feeling so wholly out of control - an experiment as an undergrad where he'd ingested psilocybin from a brewed mushroom tea on camera and written a paper on the experience. It had been... a profound thing. He'd naturally received an A and a subtle warning to not attempt such a risky thing again, even in the name of research.

This new experience was similarly affecting, though far harder to quantify and understand. He appreciated beauty and even the odd satiation of his more carnal appetites, though he'd never been one for masturbatory aids and demanded obedience from his body even in the rare grip of rut. So what was this hold Shannon held on him? The younger man had slipped beneath his skin like a rabbit under a garden fence and was proving incapable of being routed or ignored with any degree of success.

Whatever the source of the unnatural attraction, it was proving a wound so deep it would undoubtedly scar.

He pinched the bridge of his nose and breathed with rhythmic focus until the migraine that was threatening to erupt in his occipital basin resolved itself.

His plan had always been to focus on his practice until such time as he desired an heir, whereupon he would select a beta or omega to mate from among the elite who matched him and suited him and complemented his life and lifestyle, using similar criteria as he would regarding any accoutrement or objet d'art he considered acquiring. They would be a source of envy, content if not precisely happy as he'd been raised to expect. He did not expect to be challenged, and he did not expect to fall in love as one fell off a cliff. As in most things, his brother had gotten that, well-matched and so glowingly happy it was obvious even over a phoneline from 3000 miles away. And the more he'd gotten to know Shannon, the more he understood. So unlike his brother's typical sort, yet so unique, so captivating that attraction made sense. Here was an omega to debate with and delight in, who could challenge and then calm their Alpha, who could thoroughly please their mate while driving them to blissful madness with their entirety.

He wanted - gods help him but he wanted the omega. For solace and companionship and those devastating smiles directed his way, for nights spent wrapped around one another in peace as well as passion. And oh but such passion as lay beneath that surface. His hands wished to map every curve and edge and angle, his ears wanted to hear every utterance, thought, gasp or invective. He could fill journals with naught but the study of his subject, committing all to paper and an entire newly constructed wing of his memory palace. Even now, the vision of the omega was so vibrantly clear it felt he could easily reach out and touch the man.

His cock swelled as the innocuous merged with the erotic. His tongue swept over his lower lip before he captured the flesh between his teeth. Hannibal's fangs itched to sink into the yielding flesh of the omega's neck and claim - and that was when his fantastic recollections halted. It was true Shannon had tended to wear Beta-tailored clothing, largely designed to hide the neck and join at the shoulders, and too big on him to reveal the details of his extremities. There was even an old joke about a Beta in a halter top. 

But the person with whom he'd shared the day previous had been absolutely clad in Omegan clothing. And Hannibal realized as his dream replayed that Shannon did in fact sleep in nightshirts, oversized things designed to be comfy and loose as anything tolerable could be during a heat. They were soft cottons and knits for baby's skin, and had a tendency to slip over one shoulder or another, the neckline extra-wide by design, as usually the only ones seeing an Omega in such a state of undress would be their bonded mates. 

And for all Hannibal's not inconsiderable mental ability, as he flashed through image after image on the walls of his memory, he noticed something. Or rather the absence of something. Any glimpse of the omega's neck he'd ever caught showed nothing but tantalizingly smooth skin. Unmarked skin. 

Unbitten skin.

Even the most private of couples displayed claiming bites somewhere, making it unmistakable that they were taken even if it was unclear by whom. He'd seen ankle bites, shoulder bites, bites in the pectoral over the heart, even wrists bitten instead of the cake at weddings... but always something findable if one were looking. Hannibal had spent considerable time doing precisely that. And though Mads' remains had been considered unsuitable for viewing, Hannibal had viewed them. Partly to see his brother one last time, partly to spare his mother the unnecessary shock of identification, partly to say a final goodbye where the only witness to his tears was the only one who should see them yet would never speak of the incident. And even through the hazy filter of raw emotion, Hannibal recalled quite clearly that his brother had had a claiming bite - small and an inch or so past the join of neck and shoulder but unmistakable in its presence.

Shannon's neck... was the neck of an unbonded Omega. Shannon's shoulder where a corresponding bite could be hiding held taut muscle over delicate bone... but no scar tissue that Hannibal's too-sensitive digits would have felt even through fabric.

Whoever the omega currently in residence at his family home and in the deep seat of his mind was... was not his brother's mate.