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Eye of the Beholder

Chapter Text

 

The Kade Gallery

503 North Charles Street

Baltimore, Maryland

 

Will Graham stood with the group of his admirers, only half listening to what they were saying. There was a lot of talk of summer plans and vacation homes and trying to one up one other. Will ducked his head, staring at the scuff marks on the white marble floor, mentally rolling his eyes at the asinine competition taking place around him. People didn’t really talk to him, but at him. They liked being seen with him, especially when the society photographer for the arts and culture section of The Washington Post came by to take his picture, but no one really cared to get to know him.

 

It was a game and Will understood his role and how to play it. But in reality, he found them lacking and tedious. He kept to his act, though, displaying the public persona that he and his manager, Beverly Katz, had meticulously crafted together. William Graham was an up and coming artist in the Washington DC metro area, an aloof and media-shy Omega who broke the mold with his darkly beautiful paintings. He smiled demurely as the photographer snapped a series of pictures.

 

The Alphas and Betas loved his act. They cooed over him, delighted in making him blush, flirted outrageously with him, and probably would’ve tried to pet him if Will allowed them to touch him.

 

“You need to shave, Will,” Beverly said, giving him a look over with a critical and merciless eye. “And you need to keep growing out your hair so that it’s curlier.”

 

She reached over and slipped her fingers into his hair, gently stretching out a curl and watching it spring back.

 

“Seriously?” He said, in disbelief. “What the hell, Katz!”

 

“Shit. It does just bounce back,” she said, shaking her head. “I helped you create this image so I know just how false it is, but the Alpha in me can’t help myself. You’re really fucking beautiful, Will.”

 

She reached out to play with his hair again and he knocked her hand away, scowling at her.

 

“Do I really need to look like I’m a kid? I’m a thirty-five year old Omega, Bev. A little facial hair won’t kill my reputation.”

 

Beverly narrowed her eyes at him. “No, but it goes against the public persona. Everyone expects you to act and look a certain way. We signed up for this. Now, go shave and put on your glasses.”  

 

He sipped his champagne, wishing he could have some goddamned whiskey instead but an Omega didn’t drink hard liquor in public, and politely excused himself from the group and walked to the other end of the gallery where it was quieter. He pulled off his eyeglasses - they were more prop than necessity - and allowed himself a moment to just be himself. He watched as Beverly and the gallery owner, a no nonsense woman named Kade Purnell, put on their own show as they talked about Will’s accomplishments and his paintings.

 

“When Will worked for the FBI, he challenged traditionalist beliefs that an Omega was too fragile to work in law enforcement. Will’s service opened the way for other Omegas to work in careers that were, historically, unattainable to them.”

 

Will frowned at that; Beverly was making him sound like he was some kind of leader or advocate for all Omegas; just complete and utter exaggerated bullshit. It was a matter of public record that Will was quietly retired as a homicide detective in New Orleans because he couldn’t shoot someone to defend himself from a savage knife attack. He probably set back Omegas ability to work in law enforcement by decades and left Louisiana with his tail between his legs after he was discharged from the hospital.

 

He met up with his dad in South Carolina and spent a few weeks with him, helping him do maintenance work on yachts and fishing trawlers.

 

“Not an easy thing, holding a weapon on someone and having to make that decision to pull the trigger,” his dad said, out of the blue.

 

“It’s not that I was unwilling,” Will said, scrubbing down the side of the boat. “I have something in me...that if I let it out, I don’t know if I can put it back inside.”

 

His dad didn’t say anything for a long time. “You got a strange gift, son, and you’re smarter than most of us. Being smart spoils a lot of things, doesn’t it?”

 

Will nodded, because he had no reason to lie to his dad.

 

“All of your teachers said that you were intellectually gifted. And you can read people; and you can pull a long con. Maybe it’s time for you to do something with all of your gifts. I got some friends up north, in DC. They owe me some favors. I’m sure that you can get into a good school and find a good job up there.”  

 

He ended up earning his Masters in Forensic Science and used his dad’s friendship with an old fishing buddy to get a teaching post at the FBI Academy. He was an instructor, and on a few occasions, he was asked to consult. But it wasn’t like the Alphas and Betas showed him respect. They questioned his profiles, they questioned his ability to understand the criminal mind, and they questioned his teaching methodology. They thought he was weird and rude because he refused to bend over for them. He was tired of arrogant Alphas and ambitious Betas using him to further their glory, but he couldn’t let Beverly talk about his past service to try and fabricate glory for him.  

 

“His artwork reflects that darkness that he saw in murderers. His current series takes us to some of the darkest, most secret parts of the human psyche - sex and sadism and the supernatural. It’s amazing that an Omega created these paintings. There’s no one like him in the art world. A hundred years from now, we’ll still be talking about Will’s work. You’re not just buying a painting, you’re owning a piece of art history.”

 

Kade was putting it on a little thick, but it was obviously working because the Alphas and Betas were lapping it up. As if an Omega was incapable of having a dark thought; as if an Omega couldn’t kill someone in cold blood. Will caught Beverly’s attention, rolling his eyes.

 

He had eight paintings in the gallery, six were already marked as sold, and he knew that Beverly would ensure that the last two would be purchased before the night was over. After paying his fees to Beverly and the gallery, Will knew he’d probably clear about $300,000 from tonight’s party.

 

“Hannibal!”

 

Will turned to see Ellen Komeda walk towards the gallery entrance, causing a small commotion that reverberated throughout the gallery patrons. A tall man with broad shoulders entered the gallery, dressed in a tailored three-piece suit and his gray-blond hair impeccably combed back. Will thought he was handsome with high cheekbones and full lips. Ellen greeted the newcomer warmly and personally escorted him into the gallery, like she was welcoming royalty.

 

Of course Will knew exactly who it was that had walked into the gallery. Hannibal Lecter was an Alpha in his prime, and according to the society pages, he was related to an Old World royal family and he was one of the most eligible bachelors in the city. Apparently, he was also something of a straightlaced prude and an Alpha traditionalist.

 

It was too bad that he was a traditionalist, Will thought, looking him over. He might have been fun to play with.

 

Kade, Beverly, and a few other people headed for Hannibal and Ellen as well. The society photographer circled around them, taking even more pictures as various people attempted to be included in the picture. Will watched the tasteless proceedings, thinking that people were as dumb as sheep.

 

He turned back to look at his painting. It was the only one in the gallery that wasn’t for sale and it was Will’s personal favorite, on loan to the gallery. It was one of his largest canvases standing at six feet by six feet, and created with dark, muted colors, earthy deep reds. Hidden in the shadows was the ravenstag, a creature of his own design that was part man and part stag, with thick antlers forming from the head and black as night raven feathers on its shoulders and arms. Even after all these years, it still sent shivers down Will’s spine; and if he let himself think about it for too long, it got him hard and wet. He would never be able to tell anyone that the ravenstag represented the serial killer known as the Chesapeake Ripper; his true identity was hidden in the shadows, but Will was drawn to the darkness and drawn to the elusive killer.

 

Since he first unveiled it, he had received multiple offers from curiosity seekers and pretentious art collectors. The last offer was at $500,000 but Will would never sell it. Not for anything or to anyone. It was too important to him to let it go to someone who wanted it as a trophy because an Omega had painted it. It was one of the first paintings that Will created, back when he was working for the FBI, when he was teaching and consulting as a profiler on the Chesapeake Ripper murders. It was the last profile he worked on before he quit the FBI. He’d told them that he had gotten too close and he wasn’t going to live with the Ripper in his head anymore.

 

In truth, he did let the Ripper get into his head and he did get too close. His empathy disorder had shown him the killer. Not a name or face, Will wasn’t a psychic no matter what people said about him, but that Will understood the Ripper’s designs, saw the pure beauty in the horror, and he refused to be the one to bring the Ripper down.

 

“Will! Will, darling, there you are,” Ellen called, walking towards him with her hand curled around Hannibal’s elbow.

 

He finished off the rest of his now flat champagne, handing the empty glass to a nearby catering waiter with a polite whisper of thanks. Will made sure to go back to his public persona, to be the reserved and modest Omega. He put on his eyeglasses, letting it fall down the bridge of his nose so that the upper rim hid his eyes. He knew Ellen wanted him to meet Hannibal and it was obvious she had an ulterior motive, busybody that she was.

 

This wouldn’t be the first time that Ellen introduced Will to eligible Alphas. She wasn’t an Alpha traditionalist, but she harbored some outdated ideas that Omegas could only be happy mated and married to an Alpha. He knew it was a privilege of her class and her status as an Alpha that entitled her to keep those old beliefs; but Will grew up as a poor Omega from the wrong side of town and he knew that his fate was in his own hands. Unfortunately, their world hadn’t progressed as much as it should, and being a male Omega, Will used every bit of street smarts that his old man, a Beta, had taught him.

 

“There’s no shame in being an Omega. Don’t let any of those assholes make you feel different. You’ve got just as much smarts, if not more, than most Alphas and Betas. You keep your life in your own hands, son, make it your own design.”

 

“Will, I want you to meet a very good friend of mine. This is Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Hannibal, this is the artist, Will Graham.”

 

Will caught Hannibal’s eyes briefly, then dropped his gaze primly as he held out his hand. The Alpha was more handsome in person. Will liked the sharp angles of his face and the full upper lip curled in a smile of self-satisfaction. But there was something about the way he held himself in total control that made Will wonder if this presentation was a public persona for Hannibal as well -- this image of a polite, harmless gentleman of wealth and taste, as the song went -- and just what kind of person was hidden underneath the mask.  

 

“Hello, Dr. Lecter, thanks for coming tonight.”

 

A warm hand grasped his in a firm shake. Will was surprised by the calluses on Hannibal’s hand. He didn’t strike Will as the type of man who used his hands for anything rough.

 

“Good evening, Mr. Graham, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

 

“I’ve been trying to get the two of you in the same room for months,” Ellen said, smiling widely as she looked at Will and then at Hannibal. “Hannibal is an avid collector of art. I believe he already has one of your pieces in his collection, Will, so I just had to find a way for you two to meet.”

 

He sighed, internally, and thought, great, another rich Alpha who wanted to add Will to his trophy collection.

 

Outwardly, Will acted flustered by the attention, giving her a small smile. “Ellen is my patroness, so she’s a little biased when it comes to my work.”

 

“I’ve known Ellen for many years. When it comes to her impeccable taste in the arts, there is no one else that I trust more,” Hannibal said, his sibilant accent and voice warm and friendly. Will almost believed it. Hannibal was definitely playing the game on a whole other level. Will liked challenges and liked his own games, but even he understood that Hannibal Lecter needed a wide berth. It would be better not to attract his attention.  

 

Ellen preened, giving him a pleased smile. “Oh, Hannibal, you always know exactly the right thing to say.”

 

“I’m only speaking the truth,” Hannibal said, nodding his head to her in acknowledgement.

 

Will knew that an Alpha of Hannibal’s stature wouldn’t be interested in the wiles of an Omega, so Will determinedly stuck to his public persona. If he could use his act to put Hannibal off, then it was worth the humiliation of showing submission. He ducked his head and glanced up at Hannibal, keeping his gaze leveled at Hannibal’s necktie.

 

Jesus, it was some kind of paisley monstrosity, Will thought, hilariously.

 

Ellen grinned encouragingly at Will, patting him on his arm. “Well, why don’t the two of you get to know each other. Will, Hannibal is very interested in adding to his collection. You’ll have to invite him to your studio to show him your latest series.”

 

Will nodded to her, watching as she moved away, giving them some privacy.

 

“Not fond of eye contact, Mr. Graham?” Hannibal said, trying to catch his eyes.

 

He fiddled with his glasses, letting his hands twitch with nervousness. He briefly met Hannibal’s eyes and realized that Hannibal clearly saw through his act. He wasn’t amused, but he was too polite to say anything.

 

“I don’t like the attention,” he said, shrugging. “Which one of my paintings do you have?”

 

“I believe you named it number fourteen,” Hannibal said, a small smile playing on his lips.

 

Will nodded, frowning slightly. He remembered every one of his paintings and knew the one that Hannibal owned. It was a smaller piece, the beginnings of the ravenstag. Will hadn’t gotten the full picture back then. He could only see impressions, just the formation of the antlers at first, the shape of its body.

 

“These are amazing, Will,” Ellen said, her sharp eyes examining the three paintings. “My God, these are incredible. I’ve never seen anything like them before. Why haven’t you shown these to Beverly?”

 

Will sat on the floor of his barn, leaning against the wall. “I can’t sell these, Ellen. They’re not finished. They’re too...personal.”

 

“Darling, you know I adore you and I support your work, but your other paintings aren’t capturing anyone’s attention yet. You need to show these three paintings. Trust me, they’re going to sell as soon as they’re on the market. You can use them as a gateway to selling your other pieces.”

 

Will always regretted having to sell off his early ravenstag paintings. There were three total - two he bought back from the previous owners using private buyers - and Will hadn’t known who owned the third one until now.

 

“Remarkable,” Hannibal murmured, his voice low and full of admiration.

 

Will looked up to see him staring at his ravenstag painting. “What do you see?”

 

“It reminds me of the painting that I have at home,” Hannibal said, inhaling deeply. “But it feels like number fourteen was immature, still in the early stages of becoming. And now this painting, it has come full circle. It has fully become what you envisioned. What do you see?”

 

Hannibal turned to meet Will’s eyes and Will sucked in his breath, his lips parting. “Sometimes, I feel like I’m looking into a mirror.”

 

“It’s glorious, Mr. Graham. Is it for sale?”

 

“No,” Will whispered, taking a step back and shaking his head. “Never.”

 

Hannibal’s eyes dropped to Will’s mouth and then met Will’s eyes again. “No, of course not. You would never part with this painting. I’m surprised that you parted with the one that I have in my home. I’ve heard through the grapevine that you’ve bought back some of your earlier works.”

 

“I needed the money. Being a starving artist is such a cliche,” he said, shrugging. He looked away, recovering his public persona and pushing up his eyeglasses. “You wouldn’t happen to let me buy back my painting, would you?”

 

Hannibal smiled, tilting his chin up in challenge. “I would no sooner sell my painting than you would sell this one.”

 

Will ran his hand through his hair. “Look, um, it was nice to meet you, Dr. Lecter. Enjoy the rest of your evening. Excuse me.”

 

He gave him a nod and stepped around Hannibal, completely baffled by the fact that Hannibal had given him a polite bow. He practically ran, heading to the back of the gallery. Beverly knew that Will had a limit to how much socializing he was willing to do before his public persona act started to break down. The gallery had provided him with a small room in the back, a place where he could decompress and not be surrounded by people. He escaped to it now, needing to put himself back together. He had revealed too much to Hannibal Lecter; but he thought that Hannibal had revealed something of himself to Will.

 

It was the first time that someone had seen Will’s art and understood it; that Hannibal had felt the same thing that Will did.

 

Will slumped on the small couch and closed his eyes, working on his breathing. He was surprised to find that he was trembling and felt a little out of control. He was damned if he let an Alpha like Hannibal Lecter get under his skin like this.

 

There was a soft knock on the door and Will took a deep breath, turning his head to look at the door. “Yeah?”

 

“Will, it’s Matthew, can I come in?”

 

“Yeah, come in,” he called, relaxing into the couch.

 

The door opened and Matthew came in, giving him a concerned look. “Saw you run back here. Was that Alpha giving you trouble?”

 

Will laughed, shaking his head. “No. I just didn’t feel like socializing. Needed a break.”

 

Matthew smiled, settling on his knees in front of Will and pushing his legs apart. He ran his warm palms up and down Will’s thighs and then leaned against Will’s chest, covering him with his body. He reached up and ran his fingers through Will’s hair, trailing the back of his fingers down the side of Will’s face.

 

“I like it when you’re clean-shaven like this,” Matthew murmured, stroking his jaw.

 

Will closed his eyes and let Matthew stroke his hands down his neck and over his chest. He opened his eyes when he felt Matthew’s hand caress his neck, his wrist brushing against Will’s skin.

 

“Want me to help you relax?” Matthew said, a sly grin on his fox-like face. He licked his lips as he moved his hands down Will’s chest.

 

Will was very tempted. Matthew Brown was a good friend, and sometimes, they were friends-with-benefits. Everyone knew that Will only took on Betas as lovers; he didn’t want anything complicated and a handful of his lovers had become actual friends. Will liked sex, he liked getting fucked, but he didn’t like being controlled.

 

“I know what you’re doing,” Will said, giving Matthew a chiding look. “There’s no need to scent mark me like this. I don’t need protection against an Alpha.”

 

“Ahhh, you caught me,” Matthew said, completely unapologetic about it.

 

He reached down and ran his hand through Matthew’s dark brown hair, smiling at him. He traced his thumb along Matthew’s bottom lip, chuckling softly when Matthew nipped it gently. He was very tempted. Matthew had a talented mouth and knew how to get Will off in minutes. It wasn’t his preference, he liked to take the time to savor it, but Matthew liked making him come in shortest amount of time as possible and Will didn’t have a better reason to deny him.

 

There was a knock on the door and Will laughed in disappointment, dropping his hand from Matthew’s face. “Yeah?”

 

Beverly opened the door and stepped inside, raising her eyebrow as she saw Matthew on his knees between Will’s legs, sprawled all over Will.

 

“Will, for God’s sake,” Bev said, closing the door quickly. “What the hell are you doing?”  

 

“We’re not actually doing anything,” he said, chuckling.

 

“Brown, get out of here,” she ordered, glaring at him. “Now.”

 

“See you later, Matthew,” Will said, watching as Matthew got to his feet, brushing off his knees as he grinned at Beverly.

 

“Ms. Katz, gorgeous as ever,” he said, giving her a polite nod. Will chuckled when she growled at the Beta. Matthew wasn’t fazed by it, his smirk deepening at her obvious disapproval. Then he turned to Will and blew him a kiss. “See you tomorrow, babe?”

 

“Sure,” Will said, smiling up at him. He let out a loud sigh, sitting up as Beverly looked him over, suspiciously. “We really weren’t going to do anything. I do have some sense of propriety, so you can quit giving me that look. Besides, you’re not my Alpha.”

 

“No, but I’m definitely your keeper,” she said, sharply. “Come on, people are starting to leave. Your timeout is over.”

 

“Fine,” he said, getting to his feet and straightening his suit jacket. “Let’s finish strong and get out of here, Katz.”


“Jesus, you stink of that Beta,” she complained, hissing at him. “I’d mark you myself, but then I’d smell of him. Shit. Let’s just hope everyone’s too drunk to notice.”   

 

Will closed his eyes and took a deep breath, putting his public persona back on, and followed Beverly out of the room, a demure smile on his lips. He spent the rest of the evening shaking hands and thanking people for attending his gallery showing. People left him their business cards or their phone numbers and Will collected them, blushing. He usually handed them off to Beverly later and she’d take care of any future contacts.  

 

“It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Graham.”

 

He offered his prettiest smile. “Thank you for coming.”

 

“I very much admire your work,” he said, holding out his business card. “I would like to invite you to my home. You can tell me if I’ve displayed your painting properly.”

 

“Yes, what a marvelous idea. You must invite Will to dinner,” Ellen said, smiling smugly. “Hannibal’s food is to die for and watching him cook is truly a performance.”

 

Will took the business card, adding it to his collection in his pocket, and smiled at Hannibal. “It was good of you to attend tonight, Dr. Lecter.”

 

Hannibal bowed his head slightly and then cocked his head, inhaling discreetly. Dark eyes flicked up at Will and narrowed slightly, but his face maintained his mask of congeniality.

 

“Goodnight...Mr. Graham.”

 

“Goodbye,” he said, meeting Hannibal’s gaze head on, shameless and smug. It really was too bad, Will liked a good game, but Hannibal was too dangerous and out of his league.

 

Will felt his smile curl into a smirk as Hannibal’s handsome face finally cracked and showed his clear disdain. It was obvious that Hannibal smelled Matthew on him. Will couldn’t care less if Hannibal thought he was the kind of man who’d sneak off for a quick sexual encounter.

 

Well, fuck you very much, Will thought, looking away and ignoring Hannibal Lecter. He didn’t find the Alpha all that interesting anyway.

 

Ellen gave Will a hug and kissed his cheeks. “Oh darling, you did so well tonight. We’ll have lunch later this week, okay?”

 

“Of course. Goodnight, Ellen.”

 

“Meet Hannibal for dinner, Will,” she whispered against his ear. “An Alpha of his stature doesn’t come along often. He could be a longtime patron of your work and his influence in the art world would be incalculable.”

 

Will nodded, but didn’t say anything. It was probably too late. There was no way that a stuck up Alpha like Dr. Hannibal Lecter would ask him over for dinner now, not after getting a whiff of a Beta all over him. Best not to make any promises that he wasn’t going to keep. Will was an Omega, but he wasn’t going to be a breeder for a traditionalist Alpha.

 

When the last of the gallery patrons left, Will pulled off his glasses and let out a deep sigh.

 

“Thank fuck, it’s over,” he said, the relief obvious in his tone.

 

Beverly wrapped her arm around his shoulders and laughed against his head. “We sold all eight of your paintings tonight, Will. Congratulations.”

Chapter Text

Will Graham Studio

6000 Commercial Drive

Alexandria, Virginia

 

It was his psychiatrist who recommended that he pick up a new hobby.

 

He had just started consulting on a high profile serial killer called the Minnesota Shrike and gone into the field for the first time in years. This time, Will didn’t have any problems using his weapon, and shot the killer, Garret Jacob Hobbs, ten times in the chest.

 

Jack Crawford was the Alpha of Alphas and the Director of the Behavioral Science Unit. He was worried that an Omega was the shooter and sent Will for mandatory psychiatric evaluation.

 

“Jack, I’m not some fragile little teacup that you only bring out for special guests,” he complained, bitterly. “If I’m going to be out in the field, then I’m going to do what I need to do.”

 

“You emptied your entire clip in Hobbs, Will,” Jack said, staring at him.

 

Proving that an Omega could make the kill, but he couldn’t say that to Jack.

 

“I was cleared by the FBI Internal Inquiry Board,” he said, frowning. “They said that my use of deadly force was justified because Hobbs had killed his wife and daughter and he was coming after me next.”

 

Jack sighed, putting his hand on Will’s shoulder. “That kind of use of force would be hard on anyone. It’s my duty to ensure that you’re taken care of. I put you in the field and I didn’t give you adequate backup when I sent you after the Shrike. That’s on me. I know what happened in New Orleans. You didn’t have the stomach to pull the trigger then, but you pulled it ten times now. I just need to know you didn’t get too close to the darkness.”

 

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

 

Because he wanted to just get it over with, he asked a colleague named Dr. Alana Bloom to do the evaluation. He should’ve known better than to think she’d rubber stamp him and let him off the hook. After spending eight painfully soul-baring sessions with her, she finally cleared him for field work again.

 

“Are you sure you don’t want to meet Hannibal Lecter? He was my mentor at Johns Hopkins and I have so much respect for him. I think he could be someone that you could talk to.”

 

Will shook his head. “I’m not going to talk to another psychiatrist.”

 

Alana gave him a resigned smile. “Well, never let it be said that I didn’t at least try. I’m glad to have gotten to know you these last couple of months, Will.”

 

“Now that the sessions are over, maybe we could have dinner,” he said, smiling shyly at her.

 

She was such a lovely woman, compassionate and smart. She had shown him that not all Alphas saw him as some weaker version of himself, that she respected him as a man and as an Omega. He had wanted to kiss her since he met her. She was very kissable. And more importantly, there was nothing about her being an Alpha that rubbed him the wrong way. In fact, it was the first time he considered being with an Alpha, even though he thought she was probably too good for the likes of him.

 

“We wouldn’t be good for each other. I wouldn’t be able to stop analyzing you because I have this professional curiosity about you,” she said, meeting his eyes. “I do have feelings for you, Will, but I can’t just have an affair with you. It would be reckless.”

 

Will stared at her. “You have feelings for me, but you don’t want to be with me. Are you telling me this to confuse me?”

 

“I’m trying to be honest about how I feel. I don’t want to mislead you.”

 

“Then don’t tell me that you don’t want to be with me because of professional curiosity.”

 

Alana took a deep breath and held his hand. “It’s because I think you’re unstable and you won’t take my recommendation to continue your therapy with another doctor. So until that changes, I can only be your friend.”

 

“I don’t like ultimatums, Alana.”

 

“It’s not an ultimatum,” she said, shaking her head. “I would be worried about you and I would use my position as your Alpha to force you to submit and change, and you would resent me for it.”

 

Will stared at her for a long moment and realized that she was being as kind and as honest as she could in this situation. He nodded and looked away. “Thank you for not lying.”

 

He appreciated her honestly, even though the rejection still stung his Omega pride.

 

“Can I offer you one last piece of advice as your soon-to-be former psychiatrist?”

 

He laughed and shook his head. “I’d rather you give me advice as my friend, Alana.”

 

“I think you need a hobby.”

 

“I have a hobby,” he said, smiling at the unexpected advice. “I go fishing in the river near my house.”

 

“I’d like for you to find a more creative outlet.”

 

Will scratched his beard, thoughtfully. “Designing and tying my own fishing lures isn’t creative enough?”

 

“It is,” Alana said, hurriedly, reaching out to gently touch Will’s arm. “But how about finding a different type of creative outlet. You said that you have a piano in your house. Have you thought of going back to music?”

 

He laughed, shaking his head. “The only things I know how to play are bawdy bar songs that I learned from my dad.”

 

“Please,” she said, meeting his eyes. “Give it a try. I believe that your pure empathy has less to do with personality disorders than a very active imagination. But your consulting work for Jack is going to take its toll on you -- physically, emotionally, mentally. I want you to use your imagination for something that will challenge you in a less invasive way and allow you to create a safe haven in your mind to focus on something positive. Can you do that for me, Will?”

 

Again, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

 

When he was a teenager and he and his dad moved into a new town, Will always found a way to adapt in order to blend in. He hated being a stranger in a strange land. But being a stranger and a male Omega in small towns didn’t make adapting easy. So he had to use his imagination to find a different way to survive. His dad called it playing the long con and taught Will how to observe his surroundings, read people, and use his empathy to gain acceptance. Chuck Graham wasn’t evil or out to get anyone, he was worried that his unusual Omega son wouldn’t make it into adulthood.

 

“People have good intentions, but they’re flawed. You can’t trust them, son. You have to protect yourself from good intentions. When you put on your persona and play the long con, that gives you some protection from people.”

 

He knew, deep down, that he couldn’t have a relationship with Alana, or, not with anyone normal anyway. So he let her go, keeping her safe.

 

Will learned a lot from his dad, everything from fishing to fixing engines and boat motors, and he learned what to hide and what to show. As much as he respected Jack, Will would only let him see what Jack needed to see. And as much as he liked Alana, she would never be able to accept Will as he truly was. She was untainted by darkness, and Will’s moral compass didn’t always point to True North. There were parts of himself that he could never share with her. Not with anyone.

 

So he took her advice and he found a new hobby.

 

He had moved his boat, The Nola, out of the old barn behind his house, and converted the barn into a well ventilated studio. He didn’t know anything about painting, so he spent a lot of time at the local craft store buying a bunch of art supplies and blank canvases. Will didn’t know why he chose painting as his new hobby, but he took out his rage and frustrations on a number of canvases, slicing them up after he finished a painting. Then one day, something clicked in his head, and he started to see something in his mind that he wanted to translate onto canvas. The beginnings of the ravenstag. The Chesapeake Ripper.

 

Now, five years later, he had built up a new career from the ground up, made more money than he could spend, and finally, leased a large space in the warehouse district that he used as his official studio and front room. Will liked the space because it had a loading dock bay in the back where he could transport his larger canvases. Plus, the other warehouse residents closed up by five o’clock, giving him plenty of privacy to work on his canvases late into the night.

 

Sometimes, being a somewhat successful artist had it’s benefits.

 

He pressed his cheek against the wall and arched his back, groaning as the head of the hard cock pressed against his prostate. Hard hands gripped his shoulders, shoving him into the wall with every thrust.

 

“Fuck, you’re so tight. Always so fucking wet and tight. Dirty little Omega slut.”

 

Will laughed, low and amused, reaching down to wrap his hand around his cock, his thighs trembling as he held the position.

 

“Don’t laugh at me. Don’t ever fucking laugh at me.”

 

The sudden, sharp slap on his ass made him clench around the cock slamming into him and they both moaned loudly. Will closed his eyes, stroking his cock, feeling the rush of pleasure burn throughout his body.

 

“Come on,” Will whispered, urgently. “Hurry up. I’m going to come.”

 

“I’m going to lick you open, suck out my come and your slick until you’re hard again, and then I’m going to fuck you again, on your knees, on the floor, you slut, make you beg for me.”

 

Will groaned, pushing his hips back as he felt his balls tighten. He gripped his cock, just under the head, and shuddered as he came, spilling his come on his fingers and dripping to the concrete floor.

 

“Oh God. Fuck. Fuck!”

 

The grip on his shoulders tightened even more and Will knew that he’d have bruises everywhere on his body, but he didn’t care. Endorphins and adrenaline rushed throughout his body and he nearly collapsed as his lover came, pushing his cock as far inside of Will as he could get.

 

“Wrap it up, boys!” Beverly shouted from the other side of the wall. “I’ve got business, so hurry it up.”

 

Will opened his eyes and laughed, feeling his face heat up in embarrassment. “Jesus, Bev, you couldn’t just stay outside for five minutes!”

 

“I went to Starbucks half an hour ago to give you time to finish. Come on, chop chop.”

 

“I fucking hate you, Beverly.” Will’s lover called out to her, leaning heavily over Will’s back, catching his breath.

 

She laughed. “Is that Dimmond? Your dirty talk is seriously offensive.”

 

Will moaned as Anthony pulled his softening cock from him and then let out a contented sigh, leaning against the wall. Sex always made him hungry for more. One of the best things about Omega biology was that he could go again and probably even one more time before he felt truly satisfied.

 

“God, Bev, you have to stop walking in on me like this,” Will said, chuckling. “This goes beyond our professional relationship.”

 

“You’re telling me,” she said, snorting unladylike. “How do you think I feel having to come to your place of business and listen to some really offensive Beta sex!”

 

“Is it offensive, love?” Anthony asked, his handsome face flushed, his sweaty bangs sticking to his forehead.

 

“It’s charming,” Will said, rolling his eyes. He pushed Anthony away and reached down to pull up his boxers and his jeans. “Get cleaned up and go. I need to talk to Bev.”

 

“No goodnight kiss, then?”

 

Will smirked. “Do you need one?”

 

Anthony shrugged, pulling on his pants and zipping them up. He gave Will a smug look, dark eyes moving up and down Will’s body. “Let’s have dinner later this week, yeah?”

 

“Sure,” Will said, grinning widely. “Do your walk of shame.”

 

He followed Anthony around the alcove into the studio area. Beverly was sitting on the old couch, her smartphone in her hands as she was texting someone.

 

“Beverly, always a pleasure,” Anthony said, giving her a little bow.

 

She made a face at him and rolled her eyes. “Goodnight, Dimmond.”

 

“Bon soir,” Anthony called to Will as he headed out of the studio.

 

Will ran his hand through his sweat-damp hair and sat down on a stool, smiling sheepishly at Beverly. “Sorry, didn’t know that you’d be coming over tonight.”

 

“I brought you a coffee,” she said, pointing to the Starbucks cup on the counter.

 

“Thank you,” he said, taking a long drink of the hot drink. “You’re the best, Bev.”

 

And she really was the best. Ellen had introduced Will to Beverly Katz and it was the strangest friendship he had ever had. She was his first real friend, even though she was an overbearing and bossy Alpha who didn’t have a problem telling Will exactly what was on her mind. And maybe that was why he liked her and trusted her; she was intelligent and street smart, and refreshingly straightforward. When he looked under her mask, he was pleased to see that she didn’t have a hidden agenda, she was very much what you see is what you get, and Will appreciated that about her.

 

She gave him a tetchy look and cocked her eyebrow. “What do you even see in him? He’s so English and sleazy.”

 

“He’s uncomplicated,” he said, shrugging. “And he can be really sweet when he wants to be.”

 

“I suppose he’s one of the few who follows all of your weird rules.”

 

“They’re not weird,” he said, softly. “And yeah, he follows my rules. They all know what happens if they misbehave.”

 

Beverly smiled, tossing her phone on to the cushion next to her. “The gallery is going to cut you a check on Friday.”

 

“Did you get your fee?”

 

“Yes,” she said, looking at him. She was all business now. “I got a few requests for private showings. I’ll agree to them because I think you’re ready to start showing your new pieces to private buyers and give them a chance to look around your studio. You know how they all like getting that inside access.”

 

Will crossed his arms in front of his chest and nodded. “Okay, that works. Do me a favor? Can you give $100,000 to Ellen Komeda’s Foundation? She won’t take any money from me, but I owe her, so I want to make a charitable donation to her Foundation.”

 

“That’s smart. And tax deductible. I’ll take care of it.”

 

Beverly got to her feet and she walked across the studio to look at the four new canvases that Will had leaned against the wall to dry. He was working in dark blues in this series.

 

“What do you think?”

 

“They’re going to sell fast.”

 

He huffed out a laugh. “No, I mean, what do you think of them?”

 

“They’re beautiful, but they’re dark. I think you’ve moved away from the supernatural themes into something more realistic. There’s a hint of the ravenstag but there’s a new presence there,” she said, turning to look at him. “Something’s got your attention.”

 

Will smiled at her ability to read him. “Do you remember the Minnesota Shrike case?”

 

Beverly nodded, walking towards him and leaning her hip against the counter’s edge. “What’re they reflecting? Is it you?”

 

He met her eyes and nodded. “Yeah.”

 

She didn’t say anything for the longest time and Will felt his hands trembling, the adrenaline rush from before seeping out of his system now. He took a deep breath and got to his feet, walking to the couch to grab his flannel shirt, pulling it on over his damp white tee-shirt.

 

“Are you okay? I know it’s a stupid question, considering none of us can possibly be okay, but are you okay?”

 

He rubbed his chin, giving her a curious look, wondering how far she could see beyond his mask. “Why do you ask?”  

 

“Because you’ve been acting a little different lately,” she said, smiling. “Well, you’ve always been a little different. But I can tell the difference, Will.”

 

Will met her long gaze and wondered if she had any suspicions about what he was. They had put together his public persona using her Alpha perspective to shape him into the kind of Omega that Alphas and Betas desired. If anyone saw under his veil, Beverly would be the only one.

 

“I really am okay,” he said, reassuringly.

 

“Are you getting enough sleep? Are you still sleepwalking?” She said, walking to the couch and picking up her phone. “I’m going to make an appointment for you to see some specialists - maybe even a neurologist.”

 

“Bev--”

 

“Shut up, Will, I don’t want to hear it,” she said, narrowing her eyes at him. “I don’t give a shit about artistic temperament and the fact that you’re seriously lack self-preservation instincts. You’re my best friend and you’re an Omega. I’m always going to butt into your business and your life.”

 

“Jesus, fine, make the appointments,” he said, rolling his eyes.

 

“Good,” she said, smiling triumphantly. “Oh, by the way, Kade called me this morning. You have a serious offer for that ravenstag painting in her gallery.”

 

He shook his head. “No, no way, Bev, it’s not for sale.”

 

“The private buyer made an offer of $1 million for it.”

 

Will scoffed, shaking his head. “That’s ridiculous. Who is it? I’m not going to sell it, but I’m also not ever selling to another anonymous buyer ever again.”

 

“Will--”

 

“Do you know who bought number fourteen? Hannibal Lecter. That Alpha that came to the gallery showing that everyone was fawning over. I asked him if he would sell it back to me and he flat out told me no. And then he wanted to buy my ravenstag painting.”

 

Beverly’s lips twitched as she looked at him. “Well, you might want to rethink that because Hannibal Lecter offered $1 million for it.”

 

Will froze, his heart beating frantically in his chest. He sat down on the stool again, taking a deep breath.

 

“Fuck.”

 

“You know, Hannibal Lecter has a lot of influence in the art world. And not just here in the metro area either. He’s an international art collector and he’s well known at the big auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Apparently, he owns a castle somewhere in Europe that’s worth a small fortune of some of the most famous pieces of art in the world -- stuff that museums can’t ever get access to without his permission. He could do a lot for your career.”

 

“Too late now,” he said, snorting. “He scented Matthew on me and looked at me like I was some disgusting thing at the bottom of his shoe. I doubt he’s going to be interested in helping me with my career.”

 

“Then why did he offer $1 million for your ravenstag painting?”

 

Will frowned, looking at the floor. “Because he’s an entitled Alpha asshole who wants to own a trophy that no one will ever get.”

 

“Just out of curiosity, how much would you ever sell it for?”

 

“Never! You know that, Bev!”

 

“Just hypothetically, Will, how much?”

 

Will frowned, shaking his head. “I don’t know? Ten million dollars? I think it’s ridiculous that people even have that much money to begin with, let alone spend that much or even more to buy a stupid painting.”

 

“Of course they do, Will,” she said, walking towards him. “Art isn’t just about painting pretty pictures and money. Art is political, it’s power, it’s always been about perceived value and status. People with that kind of wealth use art to trade for favors and power. It’s all part of the game. I thought we talked about this. I know you’re not this naive--”

 

He glared at her. “Don’t talk down to me, Katz.”

 

“Then you should know that this isn’t just about money. You grew up as an Omega from a working poor background, and even now, with all the money that you’ve made these last few years, you’re still trapped in that working poor mentality. You know there’s no moral dignity in being poor and you’re doubly disadvantaged growing up poor and an Omega. But listen to me when I tell you this, Will, your work is more valuable today than it was five years ago. And in five years, it’ll be worth ten times more than it is now. There’s power in that, Will, power that a normal person would never be able to sustain without being inside this world.”

 

“You play, you pay.”

 

“We all do,” she said, the corner of his mouth tipping into a sardonic smile. “Now, what do you want me to tell Hannibal Lecter?”

 

“Thank him for his generous offer, but the answer is still no.”

 

“And what if he meets your $10 million minimum?”

 

Will shook his head. “He won’t. He doesn’t think I’m worth it.”

 

She gave him a sly look. “You’d be surprised by what some people find valuable, Will.”

 

“Just...keep him away from me, okay?”

 

“I’ll do what I can, but business is business,” Beverly said, tucking her phone into the back pocket of her jeans. “I’ll talk to you later.”

 

“Hey, Bev, one more thing.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“At the gallery showing, you were talking about my past work in the FBI and law enforcement like I was the first Omega to lead the way or something,” he said, making a face. “Can you stop saying those kinds of things about me?”

 

“Why?”

 

“First of all, it’s not true. I’m not some Omega symbol of freedom. And second, my career record is public information. I don’t want to disrespect the people who are in those fields.” He met her eyes head on. “I don’t want you to use that to try and sell me like that.”

 

Beverly nodded, her expression serious. “I’ll work on something a little more realistic and respectful.”

 

“Thanks, Bev,” he said, letting out a deep breath. He smiled at her, cocking his head slightly. “You know that I appreciate everything that you do and that you’ve done for me, right?”

 

“You pay me more than enough so I figured that was why,” she said, smiling at him. “Go home and get some rest. I’ll text you about your medical appointments. Don’t make me drag you to them because you know I will.”

 

“Fine,” he said, walking her towards the front entrance. “Have a good night.”

 

“Goodnight,” she said, giving him a quick hug and then jumping quickly away, making a face. “God, you need a fucking shower, Will. He’s worse that Matthew.”

 

Will laughed, shaking his head. “Be nice to my friends, Bev!”

 

“You don’t pay me enough to be nice to your Beta fuck buddies!” She shouted from her car.

 

“Jesus, really! Tell the whole fucking world!” He shouted back, laughing loudly.

 

He watched as she drove off and walked back into the studio, locking the glass door and pulling down the security gate. He walked to the security pad and pressed in his six-digit passcode, setting the alarm for the front part of the studio space.

 

It was too late to start working on another painting and he didn’t want to crash on the couch overnight, so he picked up his messenger bag from the floor and looked for his tablet, finding it on one of the counters. He turned it on and opened the bookmark on the Tattle Crime website. There was always a lurid crime story on the blog’s main page, but nothing new on the Chesapeake Ripper.

 

Before Will quit the FBI, one of the things that always eluded Will was trying to find a pattern to the Ripper’s timeline of kills. He was difficult to predict because Will could never determine what triggered him. Will suspected that the FBI didn’t know about all of the Ripper’s kills so he didn’t have a definitive list of Ripper victims. It wasn’t unusual that there were long moments of inactivity between kills. After the first “sounder” of three, the Ripper wasn’t active for 18 months. Then, there was another sounder of three and then no activity for 11 months. This type of intellectual psychopath wasn’t simply driven to kill. It was like the Ripper needed to be inspired to create his theater -- but what was the trigger? Will could never see it.

 

It had been over 20 months, the longest break in the timeline, since the Ripper’s last sounder and Will hadn’t heard of anything suspicious in the news or on any crime blotters. He shut down his tablet, putting it inside his bag. He felt a deep sense of disappointed; and he was reluctant to admit that maybe the Ripper, for whatever reason, seemed to have lost his inspiration and just stopped.

Chapter Text

Cruz Sports Bar

901 Denver Road

Arlington, Virginia

 

Will could spot a dive bar in any town. He preferred these types of back street establishments. The drinks were either domestic beer or liquor, no fancy umbrella cocktails here, and the people usually left each other alone. No one cared that Will was an Omega. He had been coming to this particular bar for a few years now and was friendly with the owner, a gruff older Beta named Sam Cruz, and the three people who kept the place running. He always sat at the bar counter and whoever was tending the bar would switch one of the small TV screens to a fishing channel with the captions on.

 

He was working on his second glass of whiskey when he saw the Alpha aggressively hitting on the Beta woman. She looked like she was taking care of it, so Will left it alone for the moment, but kept an eye on the Alpha.

 

“You seen him before?” He said, motioning his head towards the Alpha.

 

The bartender, Jeff, nodded to Will. “Guy’s been coming in here for a few weeks now. He likes to hit on Betas. I’ve had to give him a warning before.”

 

“Quit it, jerk!” The woman shouted, trying to push off the Alpha.

 

Will turned on his stool. “Hey! Knock it off!”

 

“What?” The Alpha laughed, letting the woman go. “We were just dancing and having some fun.”

 

Will didn’t like assholes and he particularly didn’t like Alphas who were assholes. It didn’t matter if the Alpha was rich or poor, they were cut from the same sense of entitlement. The rich Alphas just had better lawyers to get them out of trouble. The few years that Will worked the beat in New Orleans, he’d broken up more than one altercation of an Alpha trying to take what wasn’t his or hers to have.   

 

“Just trying to have a good time, that’s all!” The Alpha sauntered up to the bar, giving Will a leering look. “What’s a pretty little Omega like you doing off your leash? You by yourself, sweetie?”

 

“Maybe you ought to drink some water and take a cab home and sleep it off,” Will said, calmly. “You don’t really want to cause any trouble here, do you?”

 

“Don’t mess with him, man. He’s a regular here and the owner likes his business,” Jeff said, warningly.

 

Will finished off his drink and pulled out a couple of twenties, tucking them under his glass. He nodded his thanks to Jeff and then looked at the Alpha in the eye, getting a good read on him. Will could see that this Alpha was used to a lifetime of going unchallenged. He used his heavy bulk and his strong sense of entitlement to intimidate people that he saw as weaker than him. Like it was his right to take whatever he wanted, simply because he wanted it.

 

“Have a good night,” he said, politely, and headed out of the bar.

 

He went to his car and popped the trunk, pulling on a pair of plain work gloves. He cut a few feet of rope and wrapped it around his arm, strapping it in place. He pulled on a black knit cap, covering his head and tucked his loose hair underneath it. He grabbed a few other supplies, putting them into the pockets of his canvas jacket. Then he closed the trunk and locked his car, moving into the shadows to wait.

 

Will didn’t call what he did a public service. He wasn’t in denial over what he did; didn’t shy away from the reality of his actions. He just didn’t like abusive Alphas. The world was full of them so it wouldn’t miss another asshole. Sometimes, an Alpha needed to be brought down low in order to learn a lesson.

 

About an hour later, the Alpha made his way out of the bar, lighting up a cigarette. Will watched as he crossed the small parking lot to a his car, an older model Mustang. Will followed and quickly took action, curling his arm around the Alpha’s neck, choking him expertly, and covered his mouth and nose with his other hand. The Alpha struggled wildly, arms flailing ineffectively. He was too drunk and too stupid to go up against a well trained Omega like Will.

 

It only took a few minutes for the Alpha to pass out. Will dropped him on the pavement and dug through his pockets, retrieving his car keys. He got the Alpha into the backseat and Will looked around, checking his surroundings, and then got in the driver’s seat, taking the Mustang out on the street, mindful to drive within the local speed limit.

 

There was a wooded area nearby and Will drove the Mustang into the grove of trees, hiding the car as best as he could. He hefted the Alpha over his shoulder and looked at the trees, finding one with a good sized trunk. He dropped the Alpha on the hard ground, hearing a low moan coming from the man. Will didn’t have much time as the Alpha was starting to come around.

 

Will’s work was not particularly special. He wasn’t theatrical, he wasn’t trying to make an elaborate statement. He strung them up by their feet and cut their throats because it killed them quick, the blood draining out of the body. And he cut them across the belly, disemboweling them because it represented his disgust at them as a human being.

 

He stepped back, looking at his work, feeling righteous and enormously pleased. He remembered every one of his kills, catalogued them perfectly in his mind. This Alpha would have his own place in Will’s memory, allowing Will to return for inspiration on a future painting.

 

Will didn’t linger for long and go back into the Mustang, driving it towards an abandoned lot. He threw the keys into the car and reached into his pocket, pulling out a small can of lighter fluid, spraying down the driver’s side and the back seat, intent on destroying any potential evidence. He tossed the can onto the seat and then pulled out the book of matches. He made sure that it didn’t have any defining brands or logos, then lit the matchbook and tossed it inside the car.

 

The car ignited, a warm blaze of orange and red flames engulfing the driver’s side, quickly moving to the backseat as well. He stared at it for just a moment and then left the area quickly, ducking his head and moving along the street, looking like a working man who was heading home.  

 

It took him about forty minutes to walk back to the bar to collect his car. There were still a couple of cars in the lot and Will pulled off his work gloves and knit cap, and got behind the wheel of his station wagon and headed home.

 

***

 

Will Graham’s House

10003 Whitevale Lane

Wolf Trap, Virginia

 

The first thing he noticed was that the dog had a rope around its neck, dragging along the gravel as it ran alongside the road. He frowned, wondering if the dog had gotten loose somehow or lost, but this far out past the towns, there weren’t many residences around. It wouldn’t surprise him if someone drove the dog out into the country and left it to die. He didn’t see a collar and from the state of its matted and dirty fur, the dog must’ve been out on his own for a few days. The dog ignored him, continuing to trot along. Will appreciated a strong sense of survival.

 

Will slowed down and rolled down the window. “Hello.”

 

The dog stopped, and Will hit the brakes, putting the car into park. He got out slowly, hands open and wide, trying to approach the dog as non-threateningly as possible. The dog seemed to examine him for a long moment, letting him get a little closer, but then trotted away, uninterested.

 

Will watched for a moment as the dog started down the road again. Well, he was going to have to give the dog a better lure. He got in the car and headed back into town. He knew there was a McDonald’s that was still open.

 

Twenty minutes later, he was back on the same stretch of road, and saw the dog wandering along the road. He parked the car in the middle of the street and got out, pulling out the meat patties from the bag.

 

“Hey,” he called, gently, tossing a small piece of meat towards the dog. He watched as the dog backed off, but the smell of the meat was too much for it, and the dog sniffed the meat and picked it up gingerly with his teeth, then swallowed it enthusiastically.

 

Will offered more, sitting on the back bumper of his car, smiling as the dog approached him with more confidence now, fluffy tail wagging slowly.

 

“Come on, I’m not going to hurt you,” he said, offering more of the meat to the dog on his open palm.

 

After a few moments of building trust, Will was able to get the mangy dog into the front seat. He strapped the dog in, buckling the seat belt across its chest, and drove the short distance to his home. He couldn’t tell what kind of breed the dog was and he looked over to check on the dog, finding it staring at Will with an intelligence in its eyes.

 

“So I guess you’re going to live with me now, huh?” He said, smiling to himself. He had never had a pet before and he had always wanted to have a dog. He didn’t know why he hadn’t thought to adopt a dog before. “You know, I’m really glad to have the company. I think we’re going to be good for each other.”

 

The dog just continued to stare at him and Will felt something loosening inside of him, filling him with a new sense of warmth.

 

Before the dog could come into the house, he needed a good scrubbing. Will didn’t have anything, so he just made do with what he could cobble together. He got the dog as cleaned up as possible, brushing out the tangles and cutting off parts that were too matted, and got him dried.

 

“You’re a good looking boy,” Will said, smiling at him. “I’m going to call you Winston.”

 

The dog’s ears perked up, long tongue lolling out of his mouth.

 

“Winston,” Will said, looking at the dog. “That’s your name now. Winston. You’re going to be a good boy, aren’t you, Winston?”

 

The dog remained calm, letting Will finish cleaning and drying him.

 

“This is going to be the start of a beautiful friendship,” Will said, chuckling to himself. “Yeah, I’m not all that surprised that I’m the type of person who talks to their dog.”

 

Later, he and Winston sat on the porch, and looked out at the quiet darkness surrounding his property. He drank his whiskey slowly, enjoying the taste, and smiled.

Chapter Text

Will Graham’s House

10003 Whitevale Lane

Wolf Trap, Virginia

 

There it was again, that muffled pounding noise. Will opened his eyes and looked around his living room, the morning sunlight filtering into the room. Winston padded up towards him, nosing at his hand, making a gruff noise and looking at the front door. Someone was knocking on his door.

 

Will threw off his blankets and walked to the door, opening it.

 

Hannibal Lecter stood on his front porch, a warm smile on his face. Will scowled, giving him a puzzled look, not comprehending what was going on. It was too early for this shit.

 

“What’re you doing here?”

 

“Good morning, Mr. Graham,” Hannibal said, meeting Will’s eyes. He held up the large insulated bag in his hand. “I thought we could have breakfast and talk.”

 

Will stared at the bag and then looked at Hannibal again. His ash blond hair was perfectly combed to the side and he wore a tweed jacket, sweater, and dress shirt. This was probably his idea of dressing casual.

 

“May I come in?”

 

He considered the request, wondering just how rude it would be to shut the door on Hannibal’s face, and realized that even on his worst day, Will couldn’t be that intentionally cruel. He left the door open and walked into his living room, watching as Hannibal stepped inside, closing the door behind him.

 

“How do you know where I live?”

 

“Ms. Katz was kind enough to share your home address with me when I spoke with her the other day,” Hannibal said, looking at Will. Dark eyes took in Will dressed in one of his white tee-shirts and light blue boxers. He looked away politely. “She felt that I should make the drive down to talk to you directly.”

 

He was going to have a serious talk with Beverly about what “keep Hannibal Lecter away from me” meant. It certainly did not mean “let him surprise me on a Sunday morning at my house in my boxers!”

 

Will sighed, walking to his bed. “Just let me put on some pants.”

 

He pulled on his jeans and turned to see Hannibal standing nearby the fireplace on the other side of the living room, examining the books and various knick knacks on the bookshelves.

 

“We share similar tastes in literature,” Hannibal said, pleased.

 

“Dining room’s this way,” Will said, feeling the hairs on his arms rise as he realized that there was an Alpha inside of his house.

 

Hannibal seemed delighted to be inside Will’s house, looking with proprietary interest at Will’s old stand up piano, the dresser drawer by the front door, and particularly focused on the messy unmade bed next to the window. He followed Will into the dining room and set the insulated bag on the table as Will walked into the kitchen to collect clean plates and utensils, and to get the coffee pot going. He needed the moment to try and wake up, to clear his head. He knew instinctively that he needed to be clear-headed for this meeting. Even though Hannibal was in his house and his territory, Will felt that he didn’t have home field advantage. He tightened his hand into a fist and then let it go, his eyes falling on the knives hanging on the magnetic strip near the stove.

 

Let’s see how this plays out, Will thought, making the decision to see it through. What does Hannibal Lecter want with me?

 

“I’m very careful about what I put into my body, so I made us a simple protein scramble. It’s hearty and filling,” Hannibal said, setting out two large containers on the table with a lot of cheerful eagerness. “The sausages are home made.”

 

Winston looked up at Hannibal, sniffing around him. Will watched as Hannibal offered his hand, letting Winston sniff it. He stroked Winston’s head gently and Will was a little less annoyed, seeing him being friendly with his dog. Winston sat down next to the table, his tail wagging gently on the floor. He gazed up at Hannibal in a calm, but curious manner. In the week since Will adopted the stray, Winston had proven to be a relaxing presence in the house, protective, and already so loyal.

 

“Your dog is well behaved,” Hannibal noted, looking at Will. “What is his or her name?”

 

“His name is Winston,” Will said as he set the plates and utensils on the table, sitting down on his chair. “He’s a good boy.”

 

“May I use your sink?”

 

“Sure,” he said, opening the lid to one of the containers and smelling the warm food. It was scrambled eggs with sliced sausages. He speared one of the sausages with his fork and ate it, and let out a soft moan as the flavors burst on his tongue. It was meaty and well seasoned, just a hint of spiciness.

 

Hannibal washed his hands and used one of the hand towels to dry them thoroughly, then folded the hand towel neatly and left it on the counter by the sink. He sat down across from Will and watched as Will dumped the whole container of food onto his plate. Will glanced up to catch the look of disapproval flash across Hannibal’s face.

 

Now what had triggered that reaction , Will thought, bemused. Probably doesn’t like my table manners.

 

“It’s delicious. Thank you,” Will said, eating enthusiastically. He wasn’t one to turn down a good meal, especially if he didn’t have to cook it himself.

 

“I’m glad to provide and to see you enjoy it,” Hannibal said, his lips curled in a self-satisfied smile. “I’m curious, Mr. Graham, that you seem to live on the first floor of your home. From the exterior view, the architecture of your house appears to show a second floor, but yet you choose to sleep in your living room. May I ask why?”

 

Will chewed his food and swallowed, frowning slightly. “Are you trying to psychoanalyze me in my own home, Dr. Lecter?”

 

“I would never presume to be so disrespectful,” Hannibal said, slightly offended. “I was merely trying to start a conversation with you on the unusual layout of your home.”

 

“I like being near the front door in case something unexpected happens,” Will said, giving an honest answer and looking up at Hannibal, watching him for his reaction.

 

“I see,” Hannibal said, nodding, taking a bite of his food. “It does seem practical, especially since your home is quite far from other properties.”

 

“Yeah, I like the solitude out here,” he said, getting up to go into the kitchen. He found two clean mugs in his cabinets. “How do you want your coffee?”

 

“Just black, please.”

 

Will poured the coffee into the mugs and brought them out, setting one in front of Hannibal.

 

“Thank you, Mr. Graham.”

 

He sighed, taking a sip of the hot liquid. “You might as well call me Will since you’ve come into my house and brought me breakfast. Seems kind of overkill to keep the formality.”

 

“I would like that very much. I’m pleased to return the sentiment and I hope that you’ll call me Hannibal.”

 

“Sure, Hannibal,” he said, trying out the name. “ Hannibal. That’s quite a formal name, in and of itself. Do you go by a nickname?”

 

Hannibal gave him an amused look. “It’s an old family name, going back fifteen generations. And I do not have a nickname and I would not acknowledge any bastardization of my name. I would find it incredibly crass.”

 

Will felt the corner of his mouth tick into the beginnings of a sneer, but he just laughed softly and drank his coffee. “Hannibal it is.”

 

“I would appreciate it.”

 

“So now that we’re on a first name basis, are you going to tell me the real reason why you’re here?”

 

Hannibal gazed at him for a long moment. “You seem so different now compared to the evening when we met.”

 

Will gave a coy smile, ducking his chin. He raised his eyes and let his bangs fall down his forehead. “Oh? How so, Hannibal?”

 

Hannibal pressed his lips together, a look of distaste crossing his face. “Direct. Less skittish.”

 

“I’m not a fan of socializing,” he said, dropping the act and meeting Hannibal’s eyes.

 

“I understand the need to create a public persona,” he said, softly. “One must find effective ways to keep people at a distance. You’ve built quite a fortress around yourself.”

 

Lovely show of vulnerability , Will thought, studying Hannibal. A little quid pro quo. He shows me some vulnerability with an expectation that I would show mine.

 

There was that control again; each action deliberate and without any excess of movement. He even ate his food in a controlled manner, taking small bites, each forkful a careful balance of the egg and sausage.

 

“I don’t give people anything I don’t want to give.” Will leaned back in his chair and continued to scrutinize Hannibal. “So, what do you want from me?”

 

“Are you averse to the idea that I want to further our acquaintance to something more meaningful?”

 

“Are you saying that you want to be my friend?” He said, chuckling playfully. “What if I don’t find you all that interesting?”

 

Hannibal’s lips pursed into a pleased smile. “You will. I think we have much to offer each other.”

 

Will gave him a sardonic look, raising his eyebrow. “Don’t play me. Tell me the truth, please.”

 

“I assume that Ms. Katz made you aware that I made an offer to the Kade Gallery for your painting.”

 

“Yes. It’s not for sale, Hannibal. I was pretty clear that night at the gallery and I haven’t changed my mind.”

 

“I’m prepared to meet your minimum asking price and I’m open to negotiating higher until you are satisfied.”

 

Will set his mug on the dining table. “Ten million is a lot for a single painting.”

 

“It would make you a very rich man.” He glanced, pointedly, at the state of Will’s home.

 

He scoffed, shaking his head. “Don’t insult me, Hannibal.”

 

“There are some works that are for pure pleasure alone and has nothing to do with an artificial valuation in its commerciality.”

 

Will laughed, chewing on another sausage and waving his fork at Hannibal. “You’re still playing me.”

 

“I find your art...alluring. I am helplessly drawn to your work. There is a rawness in your paintings that is both playful and brutal. I’m attracted to the aesthetics of your design,” Hannibal said, simply. “Ms. Katz tells me that you’re not formally trained.”

 

“Yeah, I don’t know about aesthetics or schools of thought or color theory,” Will said, lifting his chin defiantly as he met Hannibal’s eyes. “I paint what I want.”

 

“Then it is even more incredible that you’re able to create such beautiful works from sheer natural talent,” he said, smiling slightly. He looked at Will with possessive ardor. “I can only imagine what your pure empathy allows you to see and feel. The types of cognitive and affective empathetic associations and connections you make to the darkness that is within us and surrounds us.”

 

Will dropped his fork on his plate and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “What is this? Have you been looking into my background? Are you profiling me?”

 

“Alana Bloom consulted with me on your case--”

 

“What!”

 

“Please, do not be alarmed, she was extremely discreet and only sought my professional advice on generalities, not anything specific about you, Will. Alana would never break any of her patient’s confidentiality,” Hannibal said, reassuringly. Will was not reassured at all, his face flushing at the thought of Alana betraying him like this. “I believe she offered to refer you to me to continue your therapy, but you refused.”

 

“Yeah, I wonder why,” he said, sarcastically.

 

Hannibal took a deep breath and stared at Will with a calm expression on his face. “Then for the sake of continued transparency in our new friendship, I must admit that I have worked on your profile, Will. Agent Jack Crawford asked me to consult on your psychological profile. He was very concerned about an Omega going into the field.”

 

Will glared at him. “I’m something of a curiosity in some psychology circles. I guess you and Alana can write your case study about me now. Congratulations.”

 

“Alana and I have no interest in publishing anything about you, Will.”

 

“I think you should leave,” he said, losing his appetite.

 

“Will--”

 

“Thank you for breakfast and for going out of your way to drive all the way here,” he said, getting to his feet. “But I would like for you to leave now. And as for your request to buy my ravenstag painting, the answer is no. It will always be no. I don’t want your money. I don’t want anything from you, Dr. Lecter.”

 

“I apologize for upsetting you, Will,” Hannibal said, gathering his containers and putting them into the insulated bag. He got to his feet and gave Will a regretful smile. “It was not my intention to offend you. I truly have wanted to meet you and to get to know you better these last few years.”

 

Will didn’t look at him, but acknowledged his apology with a short nod.

 

“Shall I take my plate into the kitchen?”

 

“Leave it. I’ll take care of it.”

 

“Thank you for meeting with me, Will. I’ll show myself out,” Hannibal said, softly. He picked up his insulated bag and walked across the room to the front door, leaving quietly.

 

Will walked to the front window and watched as Hannibal got into his shiny black sedan. The engine started and Hannibal turned and looked at Will, then expertly backed out of his driveway and drove down the street.

 

He let out a sigh and walked back to the dining room, sitting down in his chair. Winston moved closer to him and placed his chin on Will’s knee. He reached down and stroked Winston’s head, feel drained and exhausted...and angry. He was so fucking angry. There was so much rage boiling under Will’s skin -- anger at Beverly, at Alana, at Jack -- all of them Alphas; all of them wanting to take care of him like he was some helpless Omega who couldn’t control his own destiny.

 

And Hannibal Lecter...he was the most manipulative Alpha that Will had ever encountered. He was right the first time he met Hannibal. That Alpha was dangerous and should be left alone. He was infuriating and charming and Will knew exactly what Hannibal was doing, winding him up against all of the people -- all of the Alphas -- in his life. He probably wanted to see what Will would do next.

 

“You’re such a bastard,” Will said, exhaling deeply, releasing some of the rage.

 

He had been so magnificently played by a master. Hannibal had found his vulnerable spots and exploited them ruthlessly. It was deep and brutal and cut him with surgical perfection. There was something beautiful and irresistible in being so well manipulated, and Will bit his bottom lip, trying not to smile in anticipation.

 

Will was an excellent fisherman who crafted beautiful lures to catch the fattest fish.  

 

“I’ll show you exactly what I’m going to do next and you’re not going to see this coming.”

 

He knew exactly how to play Hannibal’s game now; he knew what he needed to do to lure Hannibal in. There was no doubt that by the end of this game between them, they would deal each other some major battle wounds.

 

“Oh hell,” he muttered, looking down at Winston. “I shouldn’t get involved with him. He’s dangerous.”

 

***

 

Will Graham Studio

6000 Commercial Drive

Alexandria, Virginia

 

It took a week to convince Kade Purnell to let him take the ravenstag painting from her gallery, making countless reassurances and promises that he was not going to sell it without her. Will liked Kade because she gave him a chance when none of the other galleries would show his work. Now, all the local galleries tried to entice him away, but Will remained loyal to Kade. He wasn’t going to cut her out of a major deal; but he also wasn’t going to sell his ravenstag painting. He hadn’t even told Beverly that he was taking the painting out, but by the time she found out, it would be too late. He needed all the Alphas in his life to just stay out of his business for the next few days. He drove up to Baltimore and boxed up the painting, strapped it down on the roof of his station wagon as Kade and her gallery staff watched in horror, and drove it back to his house.

 

Also, in that time, he received a letter in the mail from Hannibal Lecter. The letter was beautifully handwritten on expensive heavy-weight paper, embossed with Hannibal’s name and what looked like the Lecter family crest -- so fucking pretentious. He sat in his armchair in the smaller side room where he kept his fishing tackle and worked on his lures, and read the letter multiple times.

 

Dear Will,

 

It is rare for me to make such a tactless and intolerably discourteous error in judgment. I cannot apologize enough for the hurt that I have caused you with my presumptuous and uncivil manner. I would like to request a second chance to prove to you that I hold you in the highest esteem and that it would be my honor if you were to count me as someone worthy enough to be part of your life.

 

Forgive me.

 

Your friend,

Hannibal Lecter

 

I have enclosed my private number in the event that you would like to call me. I look forward to hearing from you soon. I would be more than pleased to see you again.

 

Tel: 443-555-0159

 

Jesus, who did that sort of thing in this time and age? If there was any indicator that Hannibal Lecter was an Alpha traditionalist, then this was a clear example. There was so much to unpack in that brief letter, where every word used was carefully selected to create an emotional reaction in Will. It was a brilliant stroke, designed to show Hannibal’s apology and vulnerability in an offer of genuine reconciliation, to carefully appeal to the Omega to giving the Alpha a second chance. It had put the decision in Will’s hands, possibly knowing that Will would feel a sense of social obligation to forgive and to open a way for Hannibal to return.

 

But why did Hannibal care so much? What was in it for him? Will brooded on that for a long time. He wasn’t so exceptional that he attracted this kind of attention or energy from anyone, let alone Alphas. And most Alphas, once they got to know him, lost interest altogether.  

 

Will wondered what Hannibal would do if he just ignored Hannibal’s letter altogether? If he denied Hannibal any opportunity for a second chance. To what lengths would Hannibal go in order to secure Will’s forgiveness? He was curious what Hannibal would do next.  

 

He tossed his paintbrush on the table and glared at the canvas on the easel. All he had created was a big blue mess. He got up off his stool and paced around the studio, running his hand through his hair in frustration. The Minnesota Shrike wasn’t as clear to him now, he’d lost the memory of Hobbs. He was too distracted by Hannibal Lecter; the Alpha was slowly getting under his skin and Will didn’t want him there. He didn’t want Hannibal to have any place in his memory. He walked back to his easel and pulled the stool away a few feet and sat down, staring at it again, looking for a way to fix it.

 

“Do you feel something from the painting or is it a mirror of what you are feeling at the time?”

 

Will clenched his teeth and turned to look at the Alpha in his studio.

 

“Hello, Jack.”

 

Jack Crawford walked through the studio, looking around slowly. Will watched as Jack peered at the finished canvases leaning against the wall, the numerous attempts relegated in a disorganized pile in the corner. He looked at the the stack of narrow wood beams and cutting tools at the far end of the room, next to a large bolt of untreated canvas.

 

“You cut your own frames?”

 

Will got to his feet because he didn’t like having an Alpha behind his back. He crossed his arms and turned to face Jack.

 

“Yes. I stretch my own canvases, too. I like being able to design the size of each canvas,” he said, leaning against the counter and frowning at Jack. “What brings you by, Jack?”

 

“Maybe I wanted to pick up something for Bella?”

 

Will laughed, shaking his head. “I think Bella has better taste than this.”

 

Jack smiled, deep and genuine, at the mention of his wife. He approached Will slowly and carefully, letting Will see that he wasn’t there to cause any harm. Will raised his eyebrow and cracked a smirk.

 

“The truth is, I need your help.”

 

“You need my empathy and my imagination, but I don’t do that anymore.”

 

Jack’s eyes moved to the paintings against the wall. “Those tell a different story.”

 

“Art therapy goes a long way,” he said, shrugging. “If you remember, my psychiatrist recommended it.”

 

Jack reached into his inner jacket pocket and pulled out a number of black and white photographs. He set them down on the counter, fanning them out.

 

“I think we’re dealing with a new serial killer, Will,” he said, keeping his voice low and soft. “We haven’t gone public with this information. It’s better that we don’t give this killer any media attention.”

 

Will glanced at the photographs and then turned to look at Jack. “I can’t do this anymore.”

 

“Just look at the photographs. I’m not asking for anything more. I’m not asking you to visit the crime scene. I’m not asking for you to get into this killer’s head,” Jack said, stepping closer, dark eyes gleaming with anticipation. “I’m just asking you to look and to tell me what you see.”

 

This was how Jack started, how he always hooked Will, reeling him in slowly until Will realized it was too late, that there was no escape: just take a look, come see the scene of the crime while it’s still fresh, what do you see, get into the killer’s head, Will.

 

Will spread out the dozen or so photographs on the counter. All of the victims were male. Their throats were cut and their stomachs were slashed open. Even in black and white, there was something horrifically beautiful in the spilled blood and the organs. It was fascinating to see his kills like this -- impersonal and indifferent -- whereas in Will’s memory, each kill had a deep and intense emotion connected to each victim. It was their special communion. He was tempted to ask to keep the photographs, but he knew that would attract Jack’s curiosity, and worse, his suspicion. Will turned away, pulling his shoulders down, appearing distraught.

 

“If you’re here, you must be desperate, which means that this new killer hasn’t given you anything. No evidence, no motive,” Will said, a ball of excitement forming in his belly.

 

Jack gave a frustrated sigh, shaking his head as he looked at the pictures. “Nothing. There’s nothing tying the killer to the victims, and nothing we could find that ties the victims to each other. I’ve come to a dead end, Will.”

 

He nodded, glancing at the pictures again. “The killer isn’t going to stop. They’re very confident. They’ve gotten a taste of it now and they’re just going to keep going.”

 

“But why this victim profile? How is the killer choosing them?”

 

“What do the victims have in common? There’s got to be something.”

 

Jack stared at Will for a long moment. “They were all Alphas.”

 

“You’re looking for a white male, Alpha, 18-40 years old, possibly with hunting experience from the killer’s MO.”

 

“That’s it?” Jack said, narrowing his eyes slightly.

 

Will met his eyes. “That’s all I can see from the photographs.”

 

“Okay,” Jack said, nodding slowly. “I can get you access to files. You’d have to sign a non-disclosure waiver and I can get you back on consultant status--”

 

“No.”

 

“Will--”

 

“I said no, Jack,” he said, firmly. “You remember what no means, don’t you? I’m allowed to say no.”

 

They stared at each other for a long moment. Will wondered how hard Jack was going to push him.

 

“There was a time when you cared about saving people’s lives.”

 

Will gritted his teeth, taking a deep breath. “Don’t put that on me, Jack. That’s not my job anymore.”

 

Jack collected the photographs, tucking them into his pocket again. “Look, Will, come down to Quantico for one day and take a look at the evidence. You would be an immense help to me.”

 

“Why don’t you ask Dr. Hannibal Lecter to do the profile for you? He seems to be your go-to-guy when it comes to doing psychological profiles.”

 

He took secret delight in seeing the flinch cross Jack’s face.

 

“If you expect me to apologize for wanting to keep you safe, then you’re in for a long, long wait, Will. I’ll never apologize for doing what I could to keep you from the darkness.”

 

“And yet, here we are,” he said, twisting the knife just a little bit, now that he knew where it would hurt Jack the most.

 

“Dr. Lecter has reviewed all of the evidence, but he’s come to a dead end as well,” Jack said, quietly. He exhaled loudly and shook his head. “His profile of the killer was controversial.”  

 

Will frowned, cocking his head. “How so?”

 

“Dr. Lecter believes that the killer is an Omega.”

 

He closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Jack, you need to be more open to the fact that Omegas are capable of these types of acts.”

 

“Do you think Dr. Lecter’s profile of the killer has merit?” Jack said, looking intrigued.

 

“In this case, no, the killer is an Alpha,” he said, sighing. “Jack, I left all of this behind. I’m not coming back.”

 

Jack gave him a tired smile, patting Will’s shoulder. “If you change your mind, you know where to find me.”

 

Will gave him a tight smile, neither agreeing nor refusing. “Thanks for coming by, Jack.”

 

“It was good to see you again. I’m happy for you on all of your success, Will,” Jack called, walking out of the studio.

 

Will waited until Jack was out of the studio, his car driving past the studio’s windows. He leaned against the counter, turning on his tablet and opening his bookmark on the Tattle Crime website. He wasn’t surprised to see an article about the Alpha that he had killed. Local Virginia police didn’t have any suspects, but they did connect the burnt Mustang found in the empty lot to the victim. The crime blogger, Freddie Lounds, must have informants in the police department and FBI. She proposed that the latest murder was possibly connected to a dozen other murders. Ms. Lounds was the first to suggest that these murders were the work of a single serial killer.

 

He was surprised that Hannibal Lecter had correctly identified the killer’s Omega status. An Alpha traditionalist believing that an Omega could commit such crimes -- what game was Hannibal running on the FBI? He cracked a small smile, imagining the outrage that probably reverberated through the halls of the FBI on that one. It wouldn’t surprise him if they laughed Hannibal Lecter out the door.

 

But, Will was curious about the evidence that the FBI must have on his kills. A part of him wondered if Jack hadn’t visited him because Hannibal’s profile pointed to Will. He didn’t think so, but Jack was clever. The Academy trainees didn’t call him the “Guru” for nothing.

 

Will tapped his finger against his upper lip, scrolling through the few posts that she had written about him. Jack was smart to keep the media spotlight off of the killer, keeping the focus on the victims instead. Will might be a borderline psychopath, but he wasn’t narcissistic enough to want to be a headline.

 

He pulled out his phone from his pocket and sent a text message to Hannibal Lecter’s number.

 

This is Will Graham. Thank you for your letter. If you are interested in hearing my proposal for the ravenstag painting, you are welcome to visit my house this Saturday at 3 PM.

 

He wasn’t surprised to receive a text from Hannibal so quickly.

 

Hello, Will. I am glad to hear from you. While I am highly interested in your proposal, I’m more pleased for the opportunity to see you again. I will be at your home on Saturday by the appointed time.

 

There was no turning back now.

 

***

 

Will Graham’s House

10003 Whitevale Lane

Wolf Trap, Virginia

 

Will watched as the black sedan drove past him and turned onto his driveway; he checked his watch. Of course Hannibal Lecter was on time for this meeting. He raised his hand and motioned for Hannibal to come towards him, standing in the middle of the empty field next to his house. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and Will stood on his property in just a white tee-shirt and jeans, tucking one hand in his front pocket.

 

He spent the whole morning setting this up and he was going to finally enjoy the fruits of his labor. He had built a large fire pit to contain the fire that he was going to create. In the pit was one of his large easels -- a worthy sacrifice -- and on the easel was the ravenstag painting. He sprayed down the painting and easel with the small can of lighter fluid as Hannibal approached him.

 

“Good afternoon, Will.”

 

He looked over his shoulder and grinned, seeing Hannibal’s puzzled expression. “You’re right on time for the show, Hannibal.”

 

He tossed the empty can into the fire pit and pulled out the book of matches from his pocket.

 

“What are you doing, Will?”

 

Will smiled at the painting. He had already spent the last few days saying his goodbye to it. The painting would live on in his memory for as long as he lived. He didn’t need the physical painting to see it in his mind’s eye. “It really was my masterpiece. I thought you might want to have a final look at him.”

 

“I’m sorry, Will, but I don’t understand what you mean by final look,” Hannibal said, standing beside him. His tone was worried as he stared longingly at the painting in the fire pit. There was no doubt that Hannibal knew exactly what was going to happen. “May I make a suggestion that we return to your house and talk?”

 

“No,” he said, laughing. “We’re beyond talking now, Hannibal.”

 

He opened the book of matches and pulled off one the matches, a strong hand grabbing his wrist.

 

“Will,” Hannibal said, his stoicism cracking for the first time. Will got a chance to see under his mask -- something dark and desirous looking back at Will. Beneath the impeccably tidy public persona with the polite indifference and polished manners was a dangerous animal, a predator, and it wanted Will.  

 

“Get your hand off of me,” Will said, glaring at Hannibal.

 

“I cannot allow you to do this.”

 

Will smirked, narrowing his eyes. “It’s mine to do whatever I want.”

 

“Please, let me make amends, Will. I will pay any price you require,” Hannibal said, his grip unrelenting and strong.

 

He attempted to light the match, but Hannibal’s grip tightened around his wrist bones, the sharp pain and sudden numbness forcing Will to drop the matches before he could light them. Will let out a grunt of pain and met the hard look in Hannibal’s eyes, dark brown eyes showed his determination to stop him at all costs. Will struck out at him with his an arm to Hannibal’s chest while he twisted his wrist, forcing Hannibal to lose his grip.

 

“Will! I don’t want to do this,” Hannibal hissed, grabbing Will with his arms, holding him tight.

 

“Then maybe you should let me go,” Will hissed back, kicking out with his foot and slamming the heel against Hannibal’s shin and a hard elbow into his diaphragm to disable him.

 

He was deeply pleased to hear Hannibal make a loud exhalation of pain and anger, but then they were both down on their knees on the hard ground. Instead of letting Will go, Hannibal had tightened his grip on Will and dragged them down.

 

“Fuck!”

 

“Will! For God’s sake!” Hannibal breathed against Will’s ear, causing Will to shiver, part in fury and part in arousal. Hannibal was so strong, his cleverly cut suits must hide his upper body strength. He grabbed a handful of Will’s hair, jerking his head back.

 

“No. Don’t!”

 

He caught Hannibal’s intent gaze, something animalistic in the way that Hannibal stared at him, his eyes lowering to the arch of Will’s bared neck. He was afraid that the Alpha was going to bite Will. He groaned, relaxing his body against Hannibal, surprising the Alpha with his submission.

 

“Will,” Hannibal whispered, running the tip of his nose behind Will’s ear, inhaling deeply.

 

That was all that Will needed. He twisted around in Hannibal’s hold, using his legs and momentum to push them backwards, knocking Hannibal on his back. He broke free of Hannibal’s arms and turned around to punch him in the face. But Hannibal saw it coming and jerked away, Will’s knuckles only glancing off of Hannibal’s jaw. Dark eyes narrowed dangerously as Hannibal threw himself bodily at him and forced Will on the ground on his back, throwing his leg over Will’s hips, sitting down on him hard. He growled and grabbed Will’s wrists, pinning them down on the ground by his head, using his full weight to keep Will still.

 

“Get off,” Will growled, warningly. “I will fucking kill you.”

 

“Stop this, Omega ,” Hannibal commanded, leaning down to stare into Will’s eyes.  

 

Will panted, staring up at Hannibal in furious disbelief. A part of him was so stupefied that Hannibal would fucking dare to call on Will’s Omega instincts to submit. He had Will pinned properly -- and where the hell had the prim and proper Dr. Hannibal Lecter learned to fight -- so Will gritted his teeth, breathing heavily. He waited to see what Hannibal would do next.

 

“Please, Will, submit to me now,” he said, roughly, but his tone of voice was so reasonable and polite. “ Please . I don’t want to hurt you.”

 

There was only one thing left to do. Will closed his eyes and took a deep breath, nodding his defeat and acquiescence. He knew Hannibal wouldn’t be fooled for a second time with him playing possum, so he laid still, his body as lax as he could make it. He felt Hannibal’s hands loosen on his wrists, but Will wasn’t done. He had seen the hunger on Hannibal’s face when he brought Will down to the ground and held him under him. He knew the Alpha liked it when Will submitted to him.

 

Will leaned up and kissed Hannibal on his mouth.

 

Chapter Text

Hannibal inhaled sharply against Will’s lips, and then moaned, tilting his head slightly as he took over and kissed Will deeply. His tongue swept into Will’s mouth, tasting every part of him as he hummed a low growl in his throat.

 

Shit, this was a mistake, Will thought, jerking his head away to pull out of the kiss.

 

Will stared up at the look of surprise on Hannibal’s face morph into open desire and unflinching determination. He had challenged the Alpha emotionally and physically, and he wasn’t going to be allowed to deny Hannibal his response.

 

He let go of Will’s wrists, wrapping his hands behind Will’s shoulders and pulling him up in a sitting position, holding him close against Hannibal’s chest. One hand slid up Will’s back and into Will’s hair, fingers gently gripping his hair. It wasn’t like before; Hannibal’s fingers caressed the back of Will’s head, touching his hair with careful indulgence.

 

Will braced one hand against the ground, holding himself up, as his other hand grabbed the lapels of Hannibal’s suit jacket, pulling him down and staying close against him. He lifted his chin of his own volition, taking his kiss from Hannibal.

 

This was such a bad idea, such a stupid and impulsive miscalculation on Will’s part. He had seen the violent lust on Hannibal’s face and thought to use it against the proud, overbearing Alpha, but it only dragged Will further down those depths, calling to the wickedness within Will with the tantalizing promise of satisfying his own dark desires.

 

“Oh, Will,” Hannibal murmured against his lips, kissing him again.

 

This close, Hannibal smelled terribly good. His clean scent, mixed with his cologne and that earthy musk all Alphas seemed to have, triggered something in Will’s Omega brain, lighting up his body with the allure of pleasure from the Alpha.

 

This is just part of the game, Will told himself. Don’t get caught in your own stupid trap.

 

Hannibal’s hands cupped Will’s face, holding him gently, as he brushed kisses against Will’s lips, soft and teasing. It was downright sweet...it was quickly bordering on becoming something other than a violent and sexual power play.

 

Will pulled out of the kiss with a sharp gasp, and pushed Hannibal off of him, scrambling to his feet.

 

Hannibal remained sprawled on the hard ground, his hands bracing his weight against the grass and his knees bent. He met Will’s gaze with an unwavering look, and Will enjoyed seeing the Alpha on the ground while he was standing over him. It was the first time Will had seen Hannibal looking so dishevelled. His carefully combed bangs were loose and falling over his forehead, giving him a soft and vulnerable air. His immaculately pressed suit was wrinkled where Will had gripped it with his hand. And there was the beginnings of a bruise along his jaw from where Will had knuckled him in his poorly attempted punch.

 

He closed his swollen hand into a loose fist, feeling the echoing soreness on his knuckles. He watched as Hannibal’s eyes focused on Will’s hand, and then rose slowly to his feet, meeting Will’s eyes.

 

“You should let me take a look at your hand, Will,” Hannibal said, softly. “I wouldn’t want you to suffer any long-term nerve damage that would prevent you from painting.”

 

“Maybe I should report you for assault,” he said, narrowing his eyes.

 

Hannibal turned his head slightly to show Will the bruise on his face, eyes still on Will. “It is your prerogative and I would not stop you. However, between the two of us, I am the one wearing the evidence of an assault. You’ve worked in law enforcement, Will. You invited me to your home. Your hand is bruised as is my face. You, as an unmated Omega, can understand how law enforcement would view this situation. Our society is rife with inequality because of our genders; and pardon my saying so, but as an Alpha of my status, I would emerge unscathed.”

 

“Did you just fucking gaslight me?” Will glared at him and shook his head. “Unbelievable.”

 

Hannibal gave him a sympathetic nod of his head.

 

Will turned and marched towards his house. “Get off my property, Lecter.”

 

He entered his house, letting the front door bang close behind him, as he paced around his living room. Winston sat up in his large doggy bed near the fireplace, watching Will with dark, keen eyes, ready for Will’s commands.

 

Winston followed him as he walked down the side hallway towards his fishing tackle room. He poured himself a glass of whiskey and paused, staring out the side window to see Hannibal carrying the painting towards the side of the house.

 

“What the hell is he up to now?”

 

He watched as Hannibal picked up the garden hose and turned on the external water spout. He carefully adjusted the water pressure to the lowest spray and then carefully cleaned the painting, washing off the lighter fluid.

 

Will took a sip of his whiskey, letting the first swallow cleanse him of the taste of Hannibal’s kiss, and sat down in his armchair, his swollen hand caressing Winston’s head gently. He heard the water shut off and the sound of Hannibal’s footsteps moving to the front of the house. A few moments later, the front door opened and closed. Winston’s ears perked up in interest and he looked out the doorway, turning his body towards the potential threat.

 

“It’s okay boy,” Will whispered, petting Winston’s head. “We know who it is, don’t we?”

 

The steady tap-tap-tap of Hannibal’s dress shoes on the hardwood floor echoed throughout the house, getting louder as he came closer to the side room. Hannibal loomed in the doorway for a moment as he looked at Will.  

 

Will took another sip of his drink.

 

“I attempted to clean the painting, but I suspect that the painting took some minor damage,” Hannibal said, taking a seat in the chair across from Will, uninvited.

 

“Do you find it less desirable now?”

 

“On the contrary, I find it even more rare and beautiful for having survived a threat to its very existence,” Hannibal said, his tone utterly sincere but with a hint of amusement.

 

He watched Hannibal impassively, the edge of his lip curling slightly. “Didn’t see that coming, did you?”

 

Hannibal gave him a small smile of enormous pleasure. “No, I hadn’t predicted this outcome at all. You’ve surprised me in a way that I am rarely surprised by people.”

 

Will let out a derisive laugh, taking another drink. “Well, we must all endeavor to surprise and entertain you, shouldn’t we, Hannibal? Dance to your tune. Play by your rules. Hannibal Lecter, the great puppet master behind the veil.”

 

Hannibal smiled, seemingly charmed. “Do we not all play by your rules, Will?”

 

“How long have you wanted to meet me?”

 

“Since Jack Crawford asked me to profile you,” he said, bluntly. “I have never encountered anyone with your mind or your unique gifts -- and to find them in an Omega...you must know by now that my interest in you is not at all academic.”

 

“To me, you’re just another Alpha, full of entitlement...and bullshit, pardon my French.”

 

“Perhaps you’ll allow me to prove otherwise.”

 

Will snorted. “I don’t think you can help yourself, Hannibal.”

 

Hannibal got to his feet slowly, looking around the tackle room, his eyes taking in the neat row of fishing rods standing in their rack along the wall, and to the table against the window, where Will was working on his latest fishing lure. He walked towards the table and looked through the standing magnifying glass, examining the lure and the fly tying tools with a private, delighted smile.

 

“If you believe that I am only my gender, then what does it say about you?” Hannibal said, softly. “We all have the same human desire to be known and seen for who we really are, Will. I am no different.”

 

Tread carefully, he thought, watching Hannibal intently.

 

He carefully pick up one of the finished lures, holding it up to the window light to get a closer look at the details. He pressed the pad of his thumb against the hook tip until a bead of blood appeared. Will breathed deeply as his heart started to race, his hand clutching the glass as he watched Hannibal bring his thumb into his mouth, sucking on it slowly as he gazed at Will.

 

“These are beautiful,” Hannibal said, setting the lure on the table. “You must feel enormous satisfaction to create the perfect lure to attract your prey. The amount of patience it takes to stand for long hours in the stream, providing temptation to the unknowing prey to take your hook, and then to gently reel it in towards its inevitable death.”

 

Will frowned. “I’m a good fisherman.”

 

“A fisher of men,” Hannibal said, chuckling softly. He stepped towards Will and reached down to stroke Winston’s head gently and then looked up as Will watched him. A warm hand slid over Will’s shoulder, thumb pressing gently against his neck to feel the frantic thumping of his pulse. “I’ve left your painting to dry on your front porch. You don’t have to sell it to me, but I beg you not to destroy it. You’re right, it is your masterpiece, and I would feel its loss deeply.”

 

Will swallowed, pushing Hannibal’s hand off of him. “I’ll consider your request.”

 

Hannibal straightened up and smiled. “Don’t forget to ice your hand. It was good to see you, Will. Perhaps you’ll join me for dinner soon. I would very much like to cook for you.”

 

Will sat in his chair for a long time after he heard Hannibal’s car leave his driveway. He looked at his swollen hand, knowing he should put some ice on it to get the swelling down. He finished his whiskey and sat in the chair as the late afternoon light turned to early evening darkness. There was much to think about and much to plan.

 

***

 

Will Graham Studio

6000 Commercial Drive

Alexandria, Virginia

 

Beverly stormed into the studio, long black hair whipping behind her. “William Graham! Did you sell that painting to Hannibal Lecter without telling Kade or me about it!”

 

Will cleaned off his paintbrush on his small towel and grinned at her. “Hello, Beverly.”

 

“Don’t play games with me, Will, this is business,” she said, sharply. Her Alpha was strongly present and it ruffled Will’s instincts in an unpleasant way.

 

“As you can see, I haven’t sold the painting to anyone,” he said, pointing to the ravenstag painting on another large easel. “I just brought it in for some touch ups.”

 

She didn’t need to know that he had tried to burn it. And he didn’t think that Hannibal would be so indiscreet to share that with her. Luckily, the lighter fluid and the water hadn’t caused major damage. There were a few spots that Will managed to paint over to repair and he did have to take the canvas off the old wood frame and put it on a new one. Other than that, it was ready to go back to the Kade Gallery.

 

“I will never sell this painting, Bev,” he said, firmly. “Not for ten million, not for a hundred million.”

 

Beverly closed her eyes and squeezed the bridge of her nose. “For fuck’s sake, Will, what is going on?”

 

“Oh, thanks for giving my home address to Hannibal Lecter, by the way,” he said, sarcastically. “What the hell was that about? And why didn’t you even warn me?”

 

She gave him a curious, excited look. “Did he actually show up at your house?”

 

“Yeah.”  

 

Beverly bit her lip, trying to hide her grin. “And what happened when he visited?”

 

“He woke up me early, brought me breakfast, we had a fight, and then I kicked him out.”

 

“He’s very into you, Will,” she said, kindly.

 

“Do not try to set me up with him or anyone else for that matter,” he said, warningly. “I don’t need an Alpha in my life.”

 

“Will, having a patron like Hannibal Lecter can--”

 

“No,” he said, angrily. He met her dark brown eyes and held her gaze. “No.”

 

Beverly exhaled noisily and then nodded. “Fine.” She closed her eyes and leaned her head back, exposing the long length of her neck to Will. He knew this was her way of apologizing, to show him her most vulnerable points. “This is such a mess.”

 

“Just stick to our plan, Bev,” he said, softly. “It’s a good plan. We’ve put so much into it now, I don’t want us to risk it for something that may not even have a long-term payoff. Someone like Hannibal Lecter might find my work interesting now, but that doesn’t mean that he’ll be interested a month from now.”

 

Beverly opened her mouth to say something but Will stopped her.

 

“Look, he wants to fuck me. He’s an Alpha traditionalist and he wants what they all want -- to fuck an Omega into submission. I don’t want someone like that as a patron. That makes me sound more like a paid whore than an artist.” He wiped his hands clean and tossed the towel on his counter. “And if I’m going to be a paid whore, then it’ll be on my terms.”

 

Beverly frowned, knowing that that would trigger all of her Alpha protective instincts. She wouldn’t let Hannibal Lecter 10-feet of Will now, let alone anywhere near his career. He smiled at her, waiting for her to get it, and laughed when she punched him lightly on his arm.

 

“Well played, Graham,” she said, rolling her eyes.

 

“Beverly, this is so cool,” the tall Beta said as he walked into Will’s studio, carrying a large cup of Starbucks coffee. “I didn’t know that this was back here.”

 

Will raised his eyebrows at Beverly, giving her a curious look.

 

“Will, this is my new assistant, Brian Zeller. Zeller, this is Will Graham,” she said, giving Will a warning look. “Behave!”

 

“Hey, it’s great to meet you, Mr. Graham,” Zeller said, shaking his hand with a warm smile on his face. “Oh, this is for you. Beverly said that you liked a plain black coffee. It’s dark roast.”

 

“Thank you,” he said, taking the coffee cup and smiling at him. He turned to look at Beverly. “You didn’t tell me that you were getting an assistant.”

 

“Zeller, meet me back at the office,” she ordered, giving him a look. “Get going.”

 

“Oh sure, no problem,” he said, agreeably. “Hey, Mr. Graham, nice meeting you. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of each other soon.”

 

Will smiled, raising his coffee cup in acknowledgement. “Sure.”

 

They both waited until Zeller was out of the studio and Will smirked, raising an eyebrow. “He’s cute. Is he single?”

 

“Shut up,” she said, glaring at him. “Keep away from him. The last thing I need is a sexual harassment lawsuit from him because you can’t keep it in your pants.”

 

“You never let me have my fun,” he protested, chuckling.

 

“Are you kidding me? Everything I do is about letting you have your goddamned fun,” she said, growling at him. “I mean it, don’t fuck with Zeller. He’s turning out to be the best assistant I’ve ever had. All of my clients like him and he’s so...enthusiastic about everything. Jesus, stop laughing at me, Will.”

 

“I promise, I won’t do anything,” he said, shaking his head.

 

She gave him a mean, narrowed eyed look. “If you would just date an Alpha, you’d finally get to experience sex where you wouldn’t need your revolving door of Beta fuck buddies. After having walked in on you a dozen times, I can tell that you’re not being satisfied.”

 

He blinked, his mouth opening. “That’s sexist, Bev! Not to mention completely demeaning! I don’t even know where to start!”

 

“But I’m not wrong, am I, sweetie?”

 

Will couldn’t meet her eyes, knowing his face was probably flushed a deep red.

 

“Why are we friends?”

 

She laughed, patting his cheek. He swatted her hand away. “Because no one else talks to you like I do and you love it.”

 

“I wouldn’t go that far,” he said, sheepishly.

 

“Okay,” she said, smiling at him. “Get back to work. Zeller and I will be back later this week to inventory your paintings for the catalog and to put together an invite list of people that should visit your studio.”

 

“Sure,” he said, nodding. “Let’s keep it under 25.”

 

“No more than 50,” she said, staring him down.

 

“All right, fine,” he groused, shaking his head.

 

He walked her to the door and waved his hand when she was in her car.

 

***

 

Will Graham’s House

10003 Whitevale Lane

Wolf Trap, Virginia

 

He flung his head back into his pillow and moaned, his hands clutching slender hips. She rode him masterfully, strong tireless thighs from years of horseback riding, holding him in place while she undulated her hips in a steady, perfect rhythm over him. He tried to sit up, bucking his hips so hard that they would both have bruises later, but she dug her nails into his chest in warning as she pushed him down. She clenched around his cock as she ground down on him and Will tried to bite back his whimpers, collapsing on the bed, and letting her have him any way she wanted.

 

She liked to be on top and she liked it when he submitted to her.

 

“Please, Margot,” he said, chuckling softly. He lost all track of time; didn’t remember how many times she had taken him to the edge, only to pull him back last minute, riding his cock slowly.

 

“Good boy,” she murmured, reaching down to push her hand through his sweat damp hair, petting him affectionately. Will shivered helplessly, turning his face into his pillow. He couldn’t help himself; he was hard wired to love praise. “Good boy, just stay right there and give me what I want. That’s right. You’re such a good boy, Will.”

 

Will opened his eyes, looking at the pleasure crossing her beautiful face, long dark hair falling down over her shoulders to her breasts. He panted breathlessly as he imagined, for just an instant, that it was Alana Bloom grinning wickedly down at him.

 

“Good boys get to come,” Margot said, but Will heard Alana’s voice in his mind, dark and teasing.

 

Will closed his eyes and groaned. “Fuck.”  

 

Margot swept her long hair off her face and reached for the small purple vibrator on the bed, turning it on and holding it against her clit. The sustained low buzzing sound was like a trigger for him as he felt his cock harden inside of her.

 

“Mmmmmmm…” she moaned, arching her neck and thrusting her hips. “Will!”

 

Will sat up and held her in his arms, feeling her body jerk against him from pleasure. Her muscles fluttered and pulsed around his cock, and he rubbed his face against her chest, sucking on her nipples, and then moaning against her breast at the feel of her warm, wet pussy tightening around him again and again.

 

Margot clutched him with one arm as she came, a short high-pitched whimper vibrating in her throat as she gave a full-body shudder against Will. He groaned, wrapping his arms around her and hands curled over her shoulders. He fell on his back, pulling her down with him, and raised his knees to anchor his feet against the mattress, thrusting his cock into her roughly until his muscles clenched beneath her, coming inside of her with short, intense bursts of pleasure.

 

He could feel the vibrator buzzing between them, against his lower belly, making him shiver from over sensitivity. He reached between them and pulled it out, turning it off and tossing it on the bed. Margot was a warm and sweaty dead weight over him and he smiled, wrapping his arms around her, holding her close.

 

Mmmmm ...that was lovely, Will,” she said, turning her head on his chest to look up at him with doe-like eyes. “Maybe this time.”

 

Will chuckled, stroking her head gently. “We’re both Omegas, Margot...and I don’t have what you need to satisfy your natural proclivities.”

 

“It’s a shame,” she said, unbothered by anything he said. It wasn’t anything new between them. “You and I would have such beautiful children. Your curly hair, my green eyes, your ears--”

 

Will laughed, staring up at the ceiling. “God forbid they end up with my elf ears.”

 

“Your compassion...our survival skills,” she said, stroking his chest, fingers brushing over the thick scar near his shoulder.

 

He met her blue-green eyes and tucked her hair behind her ear. She really was a lovely woman; soft and kind and a survivor like him. She had even more scars than he did, her lithe body a map of pain and brutality.

 

“Are things getting worse with Mason?”

 

“My brother is a sadistic psychopath,” she said, sighing softly and laying her head back down on Will’s chest. “There’s no cure for someone like him. Trust me. I’ve been in therapy for nearly all my life.”

 

Not a cure, but maybe a solution. He would have to think about that for a long time. Mason Verger required very careful planning.

 

Margot sat up and smiled at Will. “I need to get going.”

 

He grabbed her hand. “You always have a safe haven here, Margot.”

 

She gave him a sad smile and leaned down to kiss his mouth. He turned on his side and watched as she got dressed in her pretty green dress. She gave him a teasing look as she slipped on her black lace panties and her black heels.

 

“Did you get my invitation to the Verger Foundation Gala?”

 

“Margot--”

 

She placed her hands on her hips and scowled at him. “Will, you promised to attend. It’ll be a coup for me to have you there. Will Graham, the reclusive artist, at my little party. Everyone will talk about it all season.”

 

“Is it still black tie?” He asked, amused. He was pretty sure that Beverly had already accepted on his behalf.

 

“Of course it is,” she said, victorious. “And I expect to have a couple of dances with you, too.”

 

“Am I expected to bring a date to this thing?”

 

Margot cocked her head and smiled. “Do you have someone in mind, Will?”

 

“God, no, I was just asking since you’re probably in cahoots with Beverly.”

 

He sat up and picked up his boxers from the floor, tugging them on and got to his feet. He walked her to his door and opened it for her, letting her out.

 

“Good night, Margot.”

 

“See you later,” she said, heading to her car. He stood in the doorway and waved to her as she drove off his driveway.

 

He closed the door and walked to his bed, picking up the vibrator and walked to the kitchen sink to clean it. He dried it carefully and then walked back to the living room, pulling open the dresser drawer with his neatly folded white tee-shirts and set it under the shirts, closing the drawer.

 

The bed was a wreck but he’d change the sheets later. He fell back on his pillow and threw his arm over his eyes, exhaling deeply. He heard Winston’s paws padding back into the living room and he pulled his arm back to watch Winston settle down on his doggy bed, looking at Will with his tongue lolling out of his mouth.

 

“Don’t judge me, Winston,” he said, laughing softly to himself, covering his eyes with his arm again.

 

He didn’t want to examine the reasons why he thought about Alana. He was usually present with his lovers and didn’t drift into other fantasies. But his conversation with Beverly replayed in the back of his mind. He did have lovers -- he refused to call them fuck buddies -- and he did like sex. He liked it quite a lot; he liked it even more when it wasn’t complicated by feelings or romance or a social construct that presented Omegas as the ultimate sexual trophy. It was why he stayed away from Alphas. Even the most progressive and liberal Alpha couldn’t deny their own natures. They could no more suppress their need to dominate, especially during sex, than their need to breathe.

 

He moved his arm down and starfished on his bed, looking up at the ceiling. It wasn’t that he was unsatisfied ...he liked sex with his Beta lovers and he liked the softness of being with an Omega. He suspected that the biological sciences weren’t wrong when they wrote journal articles on the sexual compatibility between Alphas and Omegas.

 

Giving himself over to an Alpha like Alana would feel overwhelming, but he would be reassured that she wouldn’t let him make that fall into the abyss alone. He suspected that she would be gentle but demanding, wanting his emotional submission more than his physical one.

 

And an Alpha like Hannibal...would spell disaster for Will. He had no doubt that Hannibal would be gentle with him, but the price of that gentleness would be paid in kind by Hannibal’s savage and unrelenting hunger to know Will. He would change Will and enslave him, mind and body, until he was raw and broken and remade...becoming what Hannibal wanted him to be.

 

The thing was, he wasn’t afraid of any of that. It was intoxicating to Will that Hannibal would crave him like that.

 

“We all have the same human desire to be known and seen for who we really are, Will. I am no different.”

 

Will groaned in frustration and rolled onto his stomach, shoving his face into his pillow. He really needed to take a shower and to change his bedding. He hugged the pillow and exhaled slowly, drifting off on the heady scent of sex.

 

He dreamed of the ravenstag, holding him close and stroking his face with its black clawed hand. And when he looked into the face of the ravenstag, Will would see its dark brown eyes staring back at him, looking right into the soul of him.

 

There was something right there , just at the edge of his consciousness, that Will was unable to reach. Whenever he tried to hold the thought in his mind, it became intangible and disappeared. The Chesapeake Ripper was giving him a tantalizing glimpse of his true self, but Will couldn’t see him yet. He could only see the ravenstag.   

 

“Beautiful boy...I would eat your heart,” the ravenstag said, lovingly.

 

Strange how its voice sounded like Hannibal Lecter.

Chapter Text

Will Graham Studio

6000 Commercial Drive

Alexandria, Virginia

 

On occasion, Will allowed himself to go on a real hunt. He wasn’t a mindless killer; although he did enjoy giving law enforcement nothing to go on as his kills seemed random. If anything, most of his kills were crimes of opportunity. He relished the opportunity to be righteous, in the moment. There were many times when he had to give up his kill, lest he create needless attention to himself or get on Jack Crawford’s radar.

 

There were a few times when Will took on the characteristics of an organized killer. He carefully selected someone to hunt and tracked them for a number of days -- sometimes weeks -- in order to establish his target’s patterns of behavior. Most people were set in their ways and once Will was able to see the pattern, they were predictable, and ultimately, easy to catch.

 

His profiling skills came in handy; it allowed him to see his target clearly, and it forced him to examine the evidence to justify the kill. People were predictable; and an asshole would always be an asshole. All of his hunted targets were Alphas, and it felt so good doing something bad to bad people.

 

Will sat on the couch in his studio, the tablet balanced on his knee, as he read through various police reports that were available online. He switched over to Tattle Crime and frowned as he read the latest post about an unusual murder. A woman named Sarah Craber was strangled, found dead, and sewn up in the belly of a dead horse at the Blackbriar Stables in Stafford. A man named Peter Bernardone was questioned as a person of interest, but no suspects or arrests were made.

 

Without more details of the murder and the case, Will couldn’t make a clear determination. The strangulation felt like an Alpha killed her. An Alpha would want to be close, to feel her die by his hands as he looked into her eyes, knowing that he was the last person she would ever see. But there was also something Omegan about the murder. There were many cultures that believed the horse was a divine animal; and to place the woman inside its womb signified a divine rebirth, uplifting her in death after her life was taken from her.

 

But why was she killed? And then why was she given this rebirth? Callousness and then regret? That didn’t fit any killer’s profile. Will thought, scratching his bearded chin. It’s almost like there are two killers here.

 

He was thrilled by the idea that an Alpha and an Omega could have committed the murder together.  

 

Will did a quick Google search of Blackbriar Stables and of the animal sanctuary where Peter was employed. He tapped his fingers on the edge of the tablet. He would give Peter Bernardone a visit.

 

***

 

Animal Sanctuary  

85 Churchill Lane

Fredericksburg, Virginia

 

The animal sanctuary was a large ramshackled structure, possibly an old barn, out in the middle of the Fredericksburg countryside. There was one lone covered truck, an older model, and quite beaten up. It would be a good transport vehicle to move a body. It wouldn’t attract attention; it was forgettable. Will parked his station wagon and stepped out of his car, taking a look around. It was quiet and peaceful. There was a beautiful black horse canting around in the fenced in area near the barn.

 

Will opened the door and knocked gently, looking at the dozens of animals reacting to his presence in a loud and shrill manner.

 

“Peter? Peter Bernardone?”

 

He walked further into the barn, smiling at some of the dogs that he saw in large cages. All of the animals looked well cared for. It wasn’t a fancy place, but it was definitely the domain of a man who loved each animal. A medium sized white and brown dog caught his eye and Will couldn’t help but smile as he slipped his fingers through the cage, letting the dog sniff and lick his fingers.

 

“Hello,” he said, softly. “Oh you’re so friendly. Hi there.”

 

He was a mutt, maybe a terrier and something else, but he was friendly and Will wished he could take him home. He looked around at all the dogs, wishing he could take them all with him.

 

From the corner of his eye, he saw a short, lean man wearing a brown cardigan over a plaid shirt, pacing behind a row of caged birds.

 

“Peter?”

 

“Yes,” the man said, keeping his head low and continuing to pace. Will stood still, waiting for Peter to come to him rather than chase after the skittish man.

 

Peter Bernardone looked weathered and very thin. His brown hair looked kind of wild, sticking up around his head. Will noticed the long scar that started at his forehead and moved into the side of his head, just above his ear, where there was a clear dent in the side of his head. He could tell that Peter was an Omega, and that he was a gentle but troubled soul. Was he one half of a murder duo? Where was the Alpha?

 

“Peter, my name is Will,” he said, keeping his voice soft. “May I speak to you?”

 

“Are you my new social worker?” Peter said, his voice trembling. There was a tone of hopefulness that pulled at Will’s Omega instinct to protect him.

 

“No,” he said, kindly. “I used to sort of be FBI, but I’m not anymore.”

 

That seemed to get Peter’s interest. “Then what are you?”

 

Will gave a small chuckle. “I guess I’m still trying to figure that out. These days, I paint.”

 

“I already talked to the FBI,” Peter said, softly, tapping at his forehead. “But they...weren’t patient with me. They think I’m brain damaged. Dumb, you know, up here.”

 

“You’re doing okay with me.”

 

“My brain is damaged, but I’m not dumb.” Peter looked at him for a long moment, taking his measure of Will. He must have seen something that he liked because he smiled. “You like animals. I can always tell when someone likes animals.”

 

“I do. I found a stray dog near my house a few weeks ago and brought him home with me. His name is Winston.”

 

Peter gave a shy smile. “He’s lonely, by himself. You should give him a friend. Someone he can be with.”

 

He spoke with a soft stutter, as if he knew the words but had forgotten how to say them.

 

Will smiled. “I think you’re right.”

 

“Lots of nice dogs here,” Peter said, touching his head. “They’d like to go to a good home.”

 

“I saw a little white and brown dog, the terrier mix?”

 

Peter stood still, soft brown eyes looking at Will. “He’s a good dog. He liked you. I always know.”

 

Will knew he couldn’t be distracted. He was there for a reason.

 

“Have you ever been to the Blackbriar Stables?”

 

Peter nodded and touched the side of his head again, slender fingers moving along his scar,  self-conscious now. “Worked there. Not anymore. I was kicked by a horse. But I don’t blame the horse. It was my fault for forgetting. I came up behind him and scared him. He was just protecting himself.”

 

Will walked a little closer to Peter. He stopped when Peter startled, skittering away from Will. He held out his hands. “It’s okay, Peter, I’m not here to hurt you. I just wanted to ask you a few questions. Is that okay with you?”

 

He waited as Peter made a decision, watching the other man nod.

 

“Did you know Sarah Craber?”

 

“I knew who she was, but I didn’t know her,” Peter said, simply. “She was always kind to me.”

 

“Do you know what happened to her?”

 

Peter’s lips trembled, but he turned and met Will’s eyes. “I didn’t kill her. I didn’t kill any of them.”

 

Jesus, more than one victim, Will thought, taking a deep breath. The police reports didn’t have anything about multiple murders. Whoever did the interview with Peter did a crap job.

 

“I don’t believe that you did either.” He approached Peter again, keeping his hands where Peter could see them. “But you know who killed her. Them. All the others.”

 

Peter made a pained whimper, closing on himself protectively. “I wanted you to find me.”

 

Will paused, puzzled. Could Peter have a split personality? Did he think he was an Alpha to make the kill and when he was an Omega, he helped the victim transform?

 

“I don’t understand.”

 

“Because if you could find me. You could find... him .”

 

He could see it now, how Peter’s pain and grief ran so deep. “It’s someone you know. Someone that you believed was your friend and you were so happy that you weren’t alone anymore.”

 

Peter whimpered, nodding. “I saw him. His inside.”

 

“You saw him for what he really is.”

 

“He...he’s a monster.” Peter raised his head and met Will’s gaze. “No one will believe me. He’ll make sure no one will believe me.”

 

“I believe you,” Will said, stepping closer to him. “Tell me who killed them.”

 

“My social worker,” Peter said, his voice full of grief. “It was my social worker. Mr. Ingram. I...I hate him. He deserves to die. He--he killed so many of them. But I couldn’t give them all the same--same rebirth.”

 

“Is that why you put Sarah Craber in the horse?”

 

Peter nodded. “I--I know the police are smart. They can see her. Find where Mr. Ingram buried her. And the others. There’s so many others. He--he put Sarah in the ground. Like she was nothing. No one should die like that.”

 

Will closed his eyes. Mr. Ingram had strangled Sarah Craber and then dumped her body in a field grave. There would be other bodies buried there. Peter had witnessed it and then dug her up, putting her inside of the horse to give her a dignified release.

 

“But...they found her. Mr. Ingram is going to know that it was me.”  

 

Will nodded, putting his hand on Peter’s narrow shoulder. “You don’t have to be afraid anymore, Peter.”

 

There was no doubt in Will’s mind that Ingram would come after Peter to silence the only witness to his crimes.

 

“Is there somewhere you can go for a few days, somewhere safe?”

 

He shook his head. “I can’t leave the animals. They need me.”

 

Will would need to take action sooner than later, if to just protect Peter from Ingram’s retaliation.

 

“Do you live here or have a place?”

 

“I have a room in a house,” Peter said, touching his scar. “With people like me. Damaged.”

 

“Okay, Peter, he’s what I need you to do for me. Just for the next few days, go right home after you feed and water the animals. Stay home and don’t go anywhere else. Don’t let Mr. Ingram take you out of the house alone. Do you understand?”

 

Peter nodded, wiping his face with the sleeve of his cardigan. “Okay, Will.” He sniffled a little and then gave Will a small grin. “Do you want to take the dog home with you now?”

 

He let out a laugh, patting Peter’s shoulder. “Yeah, Peter, I’d like to adopt him. I promise to give him a good home and a good life.”

 

“I believe you, Will.”

 

Will spent the next hour chatting with Peter and learning more about the animal sanctuary. He was pleased that the sanctuary was a no-kill safe haven, that Peter went to local kill shelters and adopted animals that were on the kill list. The sanctuary received some state funding, the rest were donations, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

 

“If there was more money, I could create a better place for them,” Peter said, looking at the barn, a sad smile on his face. “I would make them a paradise.”

 

“I have a little money,” Will said, leaning against his car. “Could I help you make your paradise?”

 

Peter gave him a kind smile. “You’re my friend, Will, I don’t want to take advantage of you.”

 

Will chuckled, sticking his hand into the window on the passenger side, petting the dog on his soft brown head. He rubbed the soft ear flap with his fingers and then scratched under his chin, making his back leg jiggle. Will and Peter laughed softly, watching the dog’s antics.

 

“What’s his name?”

 

“Buster,” he said, looking at the dog. The terrier mix cocked his head, ears flopping around. It was a good fit. Will trusted his gut when it came to naming his dogs. “Hey, Buster.”

 

“Buster. It’s a good name for him,” Peter said, letting out a deep sigh. “Will you come back to visit?”

 

“Yes,” he said, shaking Peter’s hand. “We’re friends now. And you have my number. So if you meet any new dogs that should come home to Winston and Buster, you’ll have to call me.”

 

“Okay, Will.”

 

“Go right home, Peter,” he said, firmly. “If anything happens, if you get scared, call me right away.”

 

Peter nodded. “Okay, Will.”

 

He got into his car and waved to Peter as he drove slowly off the property. He pulled out his phone from his pocket and called Beverly.

 

“Yes, Will?”

 

“Hey, Bev, can you do me a big favor? I need for you to look up information on an animal sanctuary in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Find out everything you can about it and how the sanctuary manager, Peter Bernardone, is employed there. I want to make a significant donation to the sanctuary.”

 

“Seriously?”

 

“Give it to Zeller,” he said, turning off onto the main road. “Let me know what you find.”

 

Beverly gave an exasperated sigh. “Fine. I’ll have Zeller give you a call in a few days.”

 

“Thanks, Bev,” he said, ending the call and tucking the phone into his shirt pocket. He reached over and stroked Buster’s head, smiling widely. “You’re going to like your big brother, Winston. And I think Winston is going to like having someone to run around with while I’m out hunting.”

 

There were going to be some long days and nights coming. He was going to learn everything there was to know about Mr. Ingram.

 

***

 

Will Graham Studio

6000 Commercial Drive

Alexandria, Virginia

 

Will watched as Beverly and Zeller looked over all of the paintings that Will had completed. In the end, they selected 20 paintings that Will would show in the studio front room as well as get photographed professionally to create the catalog.

 

They sat at the large counter table, writing down the names of potential guests. Beverly was ruthless as she looked through her phone’s contacts list, scratching off names from the list and adding new ones. After two hours of Will trying not to pull his hair out, they finally put a list of 50 guests, and Will was done.

 

He crashed on the couch and threw his arm over his eyes. He exhaled defeatedly, knowing that he wouldn’t hear the end of it.

 

“Add Hannibal Lecter to the guest list.”

 

Beverly laughed. “What changed your mind?”

 

“It would be rude otherwise,” he said, scowling.

 

“Oh! You know what else we need to do? We need to include a picture of Will in his studio to the catalog,” Zeller said, excitedly, sitting on the floor so he could pet Winston and Buster. “And maybe on flyers and invitations, too. Bev, are we doing postcard invitations or traditional invitations?”

 

“Postcard,” Will said.

 

“Traditional,” Beverly said, overriding him.

 

“Okay, so no picture needed for the invites, but we still need one for the catalog. And maybe we can get one that’s really large and get it framed, hang it in the studio, too.”

 

“No,” Will said, sullenly. “We can just use the photo of me from before.”

 

“That’s like three years ago,” Beverly said, chuckling. “Okay, Zeller, this is your project. Get the photographer to come in and take pictures of all the canvases. And get the photographer to take a portrait of Will. We’re going to have an open bar and catering. Just appetizers.”

 

“Fine,” he said, sighing, peeking over his arm at her. “As long as I get to drink whiskey at my own damn party.”

 

“You get one small glass,” she said, narrowing his eyes at him.  

 

“I just had a great idea. We can get Winston and Buster in the photo, too! It shows that Will is nurturing and a total softie. It contrasts with the dark imagery in his artwork.”

 

Jesus, Zeller really was enthusiastic about everything, Will thought, his lips curving into a small smile.

 

“Excuse me, but do I get any say in this?” Will said, moving his arm down to glare at the two of them.

 

“No,” Beverly and Zeller said at the same time.

 

“You’re both jerks,” he complained, rolling his eyes. He got off the couch and moved to sit on a stool at the counter. If decisions were going to be made about him, then he was going to have some damn say. “Don’t use my dogs as props.”

 

Beverly grinned. “I can’t believe you adopted another dog. You really are just a big old softie, Will.”

 

Zeller gave him an amused smile, leaning closer to him and looking him over. “Hey, Bev, do I have a budget to work with? Can I hire someone to come in and do something with Will’s hair?”

 

Will frowned, giving him a dirty look.

 

“Not that there’s anything wrong with your hair, Will,” Zeller said, grinning. “Just a little trim to clean up the edges. Maybe a little bit of styling.”

 

“Keep the curls,” Beverly said, smirking.

 

Zeller’s hand started to reach for Will’s head, but he gave the Beta an incredulous look and backed away out of reach. Zeller dropped his hand and gave Will an apologetic smile.

 

“Definitely keeping the curls,” Zeller said, chuckling softly.

 

“I’ll give you the company credit card. Max limit is two thousand. You can hire a stylist. Have the stylist bring in a few different outfits - something in a suit and something casual. Make sure he shaves. He doesn’t need to wear the glasses, but they should be used as a prop or something. Maybe we can drop the glasses altogether, tell people that Will got Lasik surgery,” Beverly said, nodding to Zeller.

 

“You got it, boss.”

 

“This is fucking ridiculous,” Will said, making a face. Just what he needed, two of them to gang up on him now.

 

“And we should update his bio,” Zeller said, pleased with getting his own project. “We should write about how he loves dogs and he’s helping to renovate an animal sanctuary. He’s an artist with a social conscience.”

 

“I don’t want that to be public,” he said, mostly because he didn’t want to be connected to Peter and through Peter to Ingram. “It’s important to me. I need something where I can just be myself.”

 

Beverly nodded. “Will’s right. He deserves to have his privacy.”

 

Buster picked up his toy and bounced towards Will, his front paws pressed against Will’s leg. He reached down and stroked Buster’s head, reaching into his pocket for a doggy treat. He held it out for Buster who immediately dropped his toy to take the treat in his mouth. Winston walked towards him as well and stared at Will expectantly. Winston had too much dignity than to beg, but Will gave him a treat, too.

 

“I think it’ll be sweet to have the dogs in the photograph,” Beverly said, looking at him. “They’re your pack. And when you look at them, your smile is genuine. It’ll resonate with the guests who are coming to your studio.”

 

Will smirked at her. “How is this reflective of me as an artist?”

 

“It’s reflective of you as a human being and as an Omega,” she said, firmly. “You’re so unapproachable and reclusive. Some might even go as far as to say you’re a prick. But for some reason, people want to know you. So we can manage what they get to know or we can leave it alone. At the end of the day, people buy art from a person.”

 

“I’ll think about it,” he said, watching his dogs fondly.

 

“I know a really great dog groomer,” Zeller said, tapping on his laptop, grinning widely.

 

Will groaned, dropping his forehead against the counter. “I hate you both.”

 

***

 

Route 29

Stafford, Virginia

 

Charles Ingram. That was the name of Peter’s social worker. Will had spent two days and two nights getting to know Charles Ingram’s habits. He knew where he lived. He knew where he worked. He knew the route he took. It was just enough information for Will to go on his hunt.

 

Disabling Ingram’s car was easy enough. Will had pushed a long nail into the wheels on the passenger side of the car. With a little luck, Ingram wouldn’t notice the slow tire leaks. Will took off a couple of lug nuts from both tires and used heavy duty industrial strength glue to glue the lug nuts back on. No amount of leverage would allow Ingram to change his flat tires.

 

Then, it was just a matter of time, which Will had in abundance, to set his plan in motion.

 

“Peter, it’s Will,” he said, into his phone. “Please call Mr. Ingram and ask him to meet you at the sanctuary tonight. Tell him you saw what he did.”

 

“But Will...he’ll hurt me,” Peter said, softly.

 

“No, he’ll never hurt you or anyone again,” Will told him, keeping his voice firm but kind. “You’re going to stay in your room at the house tonight. Lock yourself in. You’re not going anywhere and you’re not doing anything. Please call Mr. Ingram now and ask him to meet you. Can you do that for me, Peter?”

 

He could hear Peter’s anxious breathing over the phone, and a soft voice. “Yes, Will.”

 

“Okay, thank you, Peter,” he said, gently. “Please do it now.”

 

Will ended the call and felt only a little guilty for asking Peter to do this, but he knew it was the only way to lure Ingram out to the long stretch of a country road that went to the animal sanctuary. He sat in his car and breathed slowly, and then redialed Peter’s number.

 

“Will! He--he was so angry,” Peter said, whimpering.

 

“You’re okay, Peter, you’re safe,” he said, reassuringly. “Did Mr. Ingram agree to meet with you tonight?”

 

“Yes. At the sanctuary,” Peter said, softly. “Don’t let him hurt my animals, Will. Please .”

 

“He won’t. I promise,” he said, smiling at the anticipation of the hunt. “Don’t answer any calls from him, okay? I’ll talk to you later.”

 

“Okay,” Peter said, softly.

 

Will kept his eyes on Ingram’s vehicle and saw the east elevator doors to the parking garage open, Charles Ingram walking out and heading for his car. Ingram looked furious, harried, and Will smiled. Peter did a good job and gotten Ingram riled up. He would be less observant of anything around him now, emotionally compromised. He watched as Ingram started his car, backing out of his spot with a squeal of rubber, and speeding for the exit.

 

He started the engine and followed as well, giving Ingram plenty of time to make his exit. As he drove to the exit gate, he saw Ingram turn right, heading towards the highway.

 

Will followed Ingram, keeping to the speed limit as Ingram drove aggressively, passing cars and changing lanes excessively.

 

He even drives like an asshole, Will thought, amused.

 

By the time Ingram exited off to follow Route 29 West towards the sanctuary, the rough country road was finally doing real damage to the tires.

 

Will was about half a mile behind Ingram, but in the darkness of the country road, he could clearly see that there was a car pulled over on the side of the road, hazard lights blinking. He drove carefully past Ingram, seeing that he was using the jack to try and loosen the lug nut.

 

Good luck, asshole, Will thought, amused.

 

Ingram stood and waved his arms. “Hey! Hey!”

 

Will stopped the car and then backed up slowly to stop next to Ingram’s car. He rolled down the window and looked at him.

 

“You got some car trouble?”

 

“Two flat tires, if you can believe it,” Ingram said, his tone too friendly.

 

“I can take a looksy and take you back into town,” Will said, looking him over, giving him a suspicious look. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

 

“You know, I’d really appreciate that,” Ingram said, nodding to him. “I tried calling AAA for a tow, but couldn’t get a good signal out here.”

 

“Yep,” Will said, chuckling, pretending to lower his guard. “It’s why most of us live out in the countryside.”

 

He moved his car and parked it in front of Ingram’s vehicle, and then got out. “Which tires are busted?”

 

“Both of them are on the passenger side.”

 

“All righty. Can I see your flashlight?” Will said, crouching down and holding out his hand.

 

Ingram gave him the flashlight as Will looked at the lug nut. “I think you stripped it when you were trying to get it off.” Will stepped to the back tire and used his flashlight to look at the wheel barrel. “Yeah, this one’s probably stripped, too. I better drive you back to town so you can call someone to help you out.”

 

Will stood up as Ingram gave him a relieved smile.

 

“Thanks. I really appreciate the help.”

 

“Sure,” Will said, making a move to hand the flashlight back -- and then whacked it against Ingram’s face, cracking the metal against his cheekbone and jaw. There was a good chance Will had broken his jaw and some teeth. He watched as Ingram stumbled backwards, eyes wide with shock as he tried to catch himself against the car door. Will stepped forward and whacked him on the other side of his head, knocking him out completely.

 

There was some blood splatter on Will’s canvas jacket and jeans, but he could always burn it when he got home.

 

Ingram was unconscious on the ground and Will walked past him to open the trunk of his station wagon. He had lined it with a heavy duty white plastic. He tossed the flashlight into the back and then went back to grab Ingram, dragging him towards his station wagon. He dumped Ingram in the trunk and closed the door.

 

He drove a few miles down the road until he came to an isolated, wooded area. Out this far, there wasn’t any residences around, just the animal sanctuary. Will parked the car and pulled on his work gloves, and got out. He opened the trunk and dumped Ingram onto the road. Ingram let out a pained moan, but this time, Will wasn’t in any kind of hurry. He grabbed the rope, putting it into his pocket, and grabbed Ingram by the ankles and dragged him into the forest.

 

Tying him to the tree took some effort as Ingram was a big man and probably outweighed Will by about sixty or so pounds. Will made sure he was secured and reached into his pocket, pulling out his knife.

 

He leaned down, pressing the clean blade against his throat, and paused.

 

“Hey,” he said, slapping Ingram lightly on the face, getting him to come around. “Hey, wake up.”

 

Ingram’s eyes fluttered and he groaned. “What--what’re you doing?”

 

Will didn’t talk; there was nothing to say. He had judged Ingram and found him guilty. And now he was going to give him the taste of death that he must’ve loved giving others. He slit Ingram’s throat expertly, listening to the man gurgle as he screamed.

 

It’s different when they’re alive, Will thought, darkly. He stepped back, watching as Ingram struggled, every beat of his heart pumping blood from his neck.

 

He thrust the blade into his gut and pulled hard and fast, watching guts and blood pour out of him. Will stepped back, observing as Ingram screamed wetly. It was an ugly, cruel, and painful death. He didn’t think he was a sadistic killer, but gutting Ingram while he was still alive felt powerful.

 

“Son, that darkness that you got in you, it’s not something that’s going to go away,” his father told him. “You got to manage it, let it out once in awhile, and then put that darkness back inside of you and let it sleep. Maybe one day, when you’ve had enough, it’ll go to sleep for good and give you some peace.”

 

Will nodded, standing on the dock as they watched the sun go down, an orange haze across the horizon. “Compartmentalize.”

 

Chuck Graham put his hand on the back of Will’s neck, squeezing it gently. “I know you’re a good man and you’re driven to do some godawful things. You are what you are. Plenty of bad people out there in the world, Will. If you have to spill blood, then spill theirs.”

 

“Blood looks black in the moonlight,” he said, softly, listening to the gagging sounds coming from Ingram.

 

It’s beautiful, he thought, smiling.

 

***

 

Will Graham’s House

10003 Whitevale Lane

Wolf Trap, Virginia  

 

When he got home, he cleaned his trunk meticulously and stripped off his clothes, wrapping them in the white plastic sheeting. He walked to his barn and dumped it into a metal drum. He would burn everything tomorrow night. He washed off the broken flashlight with the garden hose by the side of the house, and then wiped it clean. He pulled on a new set of work gloves and dismantled the flashlight, tossing it into the trash can.

 

After a long, hot shower, Will couldn’t settle. He always felt a deep, rewarding sense of pleasure after his kills, but killing Ingram unleashed something desperate and reckless inside of him. Killing Ingram and watching him suffer as died made Will feel like God.

 

He held Anthony roughly against the bed, fucking him hard and fast, gritting his teeth as he groaned at the feel of Anthony’s wet, tight ass clenching around his cock. He could feel the pressure building and building in his balls, his hands tightening on Anthony’s shoulders as pleasure shot through his cock.

 

“Shit,” he hissed, breathlessly, collapsing over Anthony’s back. “Fuck. Give me a sec, Anthony.”

 

Will caught his breath and moved shakily off of Anthony, moving up to his knees and gently pulling his cock out of Anthony’s ass. He turned Anthony on his back and put his mouth on Anthony’s hard cock, wrapping one hand around the base and sucking the head into his mouth. He made a pleased sound at the taste of him, stroking his hand slowly up and down his length, his tongue curling around the head.

 

Anthony moaned, reaching down with one hand to push his fingers into Will’s hair. “Yes, love, go faster. Don’t tease me. I’m close.”

 

Will slipped his middle finger into Anthony’s lube-slick ass, stroking the hard nub of his prostate. He felt Anthony trembling, his hips thrusting as Will followed his urgent rhythm with his mouth.

 

“Yes. Fuck!” Anthony said, letting out a loud, heaving shout.

 

Will swallowed, looking up to see pleasure cross Anthony’s face, and he stroked him through it until Anthony shuddered, pulling on Will’s hair to stop. Will pulled off gently and licked him clean, pulling another moan from Anthony. He fell on his back on the mattress and let out a sigh.

 

“You were so aggressive tonight, love,” Anthony murmured, dropping his hand on Will’s head and stroking him affectionately.

 

“Did I hurt you?”

 

“No,” Anthony chuckled, softly. “Just unexpected. You don’t usually like to top.”

 

Will stared up at the ceiling. “I guess I just had to work through something in my head.”

 

Anthony sat up and looked down at Will, touching his chest. “Don’t take this the wrong way, darling, but I think you should consider therapy.”

 

Will snorted, amused. “It was that bad, huh?”

 

“The sex? No, it’s never bad with you,” he said, smiling at Will. “It’s just that, I enjoy hooking up with you for a mutual release of pleasure, but fucking me isn’t a substitute to work out what’s got you so tied up up here.”

 

He tapped Will’s forehead and then leaned down to kiss the spot he had tapped.

 

“You’re right,” he said, meeting Anthony’s eyes. “I’m sorry. I won’t do that to you again.”

 

Anthony’s handsome face broke out into a smile. “Oh no, love, you should fuck me hard like that again. My ass is quite something, but it’s not therapy.”

 

Will cracked up and shook his head.

 

“You know I care for you,” Anthony said, getting to his feet and stretching his arms over his head with a satisfied moan. “I’ve been in therapy for a few years now and it’s done wonders. I’m happy to recommend him to you. He’s really well regarded in his field. Used to be a surgeon at Johns Hopkins before he opened his practice.” Anthony wandered around the living room, collecting his various pieces of clothes and putting them on. “He must be filthy rich from the way his office is set up. There’s art and statues all around the room. I think he must actually own the whole building -- the whole second floor is his office space.”

 

Will tucked his arm under his head, frowning slightly.

 

“And he’s always in the society pages,” Anthony said, pulling on his slacks. “I don’t think I’ve ever met an Alpha quite like him before. He’s so elegant and cultured. I think he has the perfect temperament to be a psychiatrist. He’s always in such...calm control.”

 

Fuck, Will thought, closing his eyes. I know where this is going.

 

“What’s his name?” Will said, biting his lip.

 

Please let me be wrong.

 

“Dr. Hannibal Lecter,” Anthony said, sitting down on the edge of the bed to pull on his socks. “He doesn’t take on new clients without a referral. I’m happy to pass your name to him if you want.”

 

“Therapy isn’t for me,” he said, simply. “Too many years working on profiles, I know all their tricks.”

 

He watched as Anthony finished dressing, standing by the bed and smiling at Will. “Are you okay. Will? You look...disturbed.”

 

Will smiled, shaking his head. “I think it’s the drop in adrenaline. I’m sorry for being so moody.”

 

“I’m quite fond of you,” he said, his eyes looking down the length of Will’s naked body with an appreciative smile. “I’ve always known what you wanted from me and I’m not under any romantic illusions that this isn’t exactly what it is.”

 

“And you’re still okay with that?” Will said, concerned. “If it’s not what you want, then we can be friends and not bring sex into the mix.”

 

Anthony reached down and stroked Will’s face with the back of his fingers. “You’re a lovely fuck and I don’t have the willpower to resist you.”

 

Will grinned, snorting softly. He inhaled sharply when Anthony leaned in closer, pausing slightly as he met Will’s wide eyes. He grinned and then pressed his lips against Will’s mouth. It was chaste and felt...intimate. Will blinked up at him in surprise.

 

“Goodnight, love,” Anthony said, looking at Will. “I’ll see myself out.”

 

“Night,” he said, turning on his side to watch Anthony walk out the front door. He waved and blew Will a kiss as he walked past the window by the bed.

 

Will licked his lips, tasting Anthony’s come, and he let out a deep sigh.

 

So...Hannibal Lecter was Anthony’s therapist. Will didn’t believe in coincidences, not when it came to Hannibal. It was finally becoming clear to Will that this was all part of Hannibal’s design.

 

Everyone in Will’s life had a connection to Hannibal Lecter.

 

Alana, his former student and colleague. She had talked to Hannibal about Will and she wanted to refer Will to Hannibal to continue his therapy.

 

There was no doubt that Alana had recommended Hannibal to Jack to work on Will’s psychological profile.

 

Jack had handed over Will’s file to Hannibal. He knew about Will’s gifts. He knew the cases that he consulted on. He will that Will had the highest closing rate during the year that he worked for Jack. He also knew that Will couldn’t sustain it and he quit the FBI for good. Will had no doubt that Jack probably talked to Hannibal about the horrible screaming match Jack and Will had over his quitting.

 

Beverly knew Hannibal as a major patron of the arts. Beverly trusted Hannibal enough to give him Will’s home address. She knew Hannibal well enough to ascertain that he had a thing for Will.

 

Ellen and Hannibal were old friends, and she introduced Hannibal to Will, someone she had wanted Will to meet for a long time.

 

Hannibal owned one of his paintings. He knew exactly who Will was when he bought it.

 

And Hannibal was Anthony’s therapist. Will concluded that Anthony was narcissistic enough to talk about his casual relationship with Will in his therapy sessions with Hannibal.

 

Christ, did Anthony talk about fucking Will? Will thought, shaking his head, feeling his face blush in embarrassment.

 

It occurred to him that if he asked Matthew and Margot if they knew Hannibal Lecter, he wouldn’t be surprised that the answer was yes.

 

He closed his eyes and used his insight to consider that Hannibal’s interest in Will went back nearly six years, and he only met Will face-to-face just a few weeks ago. How deeply was Hannibal embedded in Will’s life? Six years was a long time to nurture an obsession -- and it was an obsession. Will didn’t have many friends, but he cared deeply for the few people in his life. He knew that they wouldn’t knowingly betray him. They were just as manipulated by Hannibal as Will.

 

“Jesus, six years, what the hell, Hannibal,” he said, letting out a exasperated moan. Hannibal had manipulated all of them to this point; his influence and reach was deep and long. It was obsessive and possessive on a whole other level.

 

And Will knew, it wasn’t just for sport. He knew he was being lured by a pure predator, but to what end? For sex? A fuck? Will considered what he knew of Hannibal, and no, not just for sex or a fuck. As he so proudly said, Hannibal was an Alpha of a certain status, he could get sex and a fuck from anyone he wanted. He could have any Beta or Omega in the metro area competing for his attention.

 

So it wasn’t just sex -- or it wasn’t what drove him. All those years of Hannibal learning about Will, through his work, his profiles, his friends, and his lovers -- all those years waiting patiently in the shadows, seamlessly manipulating his way into Will’s life, what did he hope to gain?

 

What had triggered Hannibal into finally meeting Will now ?  

 

“What’s your endgame, Hannibal?” He whispered, staring the ceiling, completely befuddled.

 

The only way to find out was to play the game, to actively join Hannibal on whatever long con he was working on. It had to be from the inside; Hannibal was too smart to believe anything less.

 

Will got off the bed and walked into the kitchen to get his phone. It was just a little after 10 PM. He was pretty sure that it was too late, and Hannibal would find it rude to receive a text so late, especially if it wasn’t an emergency.

 

However, Will knew that rule didn’t apply to him. There was probably a good chance that many of Hannibal’s rules didn’t apply to him. He sent the text; he could imagine Hannibal’s displeasure at being disturbed, but when he saw that it was from Will, the Alpha would probably be pleased...and maybe even a little suspicious.

 

I’ve given it some thought and I would like to see you again.

 

A moment later, Hannibal texted his response.

 

It would be my pleasure to invite you to my home for dinner. Would next Saturday night be convenient for you? 6 PM.

 

Will bit his lower lip and sighed. This was it, no going back now.

 

Sure, sounds good. Thanks.

 

Hannibal was quick to respond again.

 

My home address below. I look forward to seeing you again. Good night, Will.


Will dropped his phone on the counter and rubbed his face with his hands. Game on, Hannibal Lecter, game fucking on.

 

Chapter Text

Hannibal Lecter’s House

5 Chandler Square

Baltimore, Maryland

 

Why am I not surprised , Will thought, standing in front of the fireplace and looking up at the painting.

 

The perversity of the painting in the dining room must serve as a form of gallows humor for Hannibal. Will cocked his head and pursed his lips, looking at the painting of the naked woman and the swan with its beak near her sex. The artist had painted her as an Omega, explicit in all of her glory. Will didn’t think that Hannibal did it as a form of titillation or shock value. He thought Hannibal would find “shock value” unsophisticated and crass. Will’s experience of Hannibal’s house showed a man who coveted beautiful things and the wealth to own them. The display of each item was for Hannibal’s aesthetic pleasure and enjoyment.

 

They’re trophies to him , Will thought. Priceless, beautiful trophies that only Hannibal found meaningful.

 

But there was something a little off about Hannibal’s home. It was beautiful as a museum, but it was also just as impersonal, too picture perfect in its cold, aesthetic beauty. It wouldn’t surprise Will to know that Hannibal’s house was probably photographed in the society pages or in those glossy magazines that Will saw in waiting rooms -- designed and staged for outsiders to see a certain type of man, inimitable and untouchable.

 

It was a fucking trap , Will knew, frowning slightly.

 

He took a sip of wine and bit his lower lip, thinking about why he had willingly walked into Hannibal’s trap, and reminded himself to keep his wits about him. The meaning of the painting was pretty obvious to Will: Hannibal was an Alpha with no compunction to take what he wanted, much like the swan taking the girl.   

 

To have it in the dining room, of all places, showed Will that Hannibal delighted in his own sense of humor, as well as indulging all of his senses. Between the pornographic painting and the ostentatious herb garden wall on the other side of the room, the dark masculine colors, and the warmth of the fire -- it all reflected Hannibal’s inner world.

 

Hannibal walked into the dining room holding two plates. Will turned and returned to his seat, his back warming from the small fire in the fireplace behind his chair. Hannibal set one plate in front of Will, turning the plate just so, so that he could see the full beauty of the food.

 

“It looks incredible, thank you,” Will said, politely.

 

“Filet mignon topped with foie gras pate and black truffles in a red wine gravy,” Hannibal said, his voice full of pride. Will nodded, looking at the plated food, and acknowledged that it was exquisitely done. “I hope you enjoy it, Will.”

 

“I’m sure I will,” he said, softly, placing the cloth napkin on his lap.

 

Hannibal took his seat across from him. “Do you know the story of Queen Leda of Sparta and Zeus? It’s the subject of the painting that you were regarding.”

 

Will gave a small smirk. “That Zeus turned himself into a swan and seduced her?”

 

“That is one interpretation,” Hannibal conceded, lifting his wine glass and giving the liquid a gentle swirl. He paused to smell the fragrance of the wine before taking a small sip. “It’s true that Zeus did turn himself into a swan and, in escaping the claws of an eagle, he sought refuge with Leda and gained her affections.”

 

“Seduction through manipulation,” Will said, picking up his utensils and cutting into the flesh of the meat. It was a lovely shade of bright pink inside, perfectly cooked to a medium rare. The marbling through the meat looked lovely, a very lean cut of a healthy piece of beef.

“Isn’t the start of any relationship based on seduction and manipulation? Both require a high degree of empathy towards the person so desired.”

 

Will laughed, looking up at Hannibal. “Not everyone wants to be pursued through seduction and manipulation alone, Hannibal. And when that fails, what other tools do you have? Honesty?”

 

“One cannot seduce and manipulate without honesty, Will,” he said, the corners of his lips lifting in delight. “A keen understanding of the self is needed before it can be applied to another in such an endeavor.”

 

“Is that what Zeus did to gain Leda’s affections? Do you believe that a God of the pantheon has that level of empathy and self-awareness towards a mere mortal?”

 

Hannibal grinned, meeting Will’s eyes. “Are you teasing me?”

 

“Yeah, just a little bit,” he said, chuckling to himself.

 

“Do you have family, Will?”

 

Will chewed slowly, taking the time to finish eating his food. It gave him a moment to consider where Hannibal was going with this line of questioning.

 

“I’m surprised you don’t already know. You seem to have a connection to a lot of people in my life,” Will said, keeping it honest.

 

Hannibal gave a serene smile. “Some things are best shared over a good meal.”

 

“Then you don’t deny it?” He said, curiously. “That you know a lot about me?”

 

“Why should I? I’ve been quite forward with my interest in you.”

 

“My father, Chuck, is a Beta and lives in South Carolina. He moves around a lot, depending on the season, fixing boats and fishing trawlers. He goes where the work is.”

 

“And your mother?” Hannibal asked, keeping his tone innocent.

 

Will laughed. “That’s a bit cliched, isn’t it, Doctor? Alana already did my psych eval. Do you want to talk about that, too?”

 

“If you wish,” he said, pleasantly. “I would very much welcome knowing your thoughts.”

 

“They’re not all that tasty,” he said, dismissively. “Also: Hard pass.”


He watched as Hannibal gave him a small nod; he knew that Hannibal’s formal and polite society manners wouldn’t let him cross a line when it was so clearly drawn between them.

 

“The last time I visited you, I saw that you have a boat on your property.”

 

“Her name is The Nola . I’ve been working on her engine to get her seaworthy by summer.”

 

“Do you plan to travel in your future, Will?”

 

Will sighed with amusement, leaning back in his chair as he considered Hannibal. This entire conversation was comical in its attempt at normalcy. As if they were just two people trying to get to know each other; that this wasn’t some layered game between them, gauging which of them would fold first.

 

“What about you, Hannibal? Do you have family? Quid pro quo , Doctor Lecter.”

 

Hannibal gave him a contemplative look. “I was orphaned at a young age and I was raised by my father’s brother and his wife in Paris.”

 

Will nodded. “That kind of loss changes a person.”

 

He watched as Hannibal held up his fork, examining the meat on the tines with a small look of pleasure on his face. “No, Will, I changed myself.”

 

***

 

Good manners, and the fact that Will couldn’t just sit at the dining table alone while Hannibal cleaned up, dictated that Will helped to clear the table and followed Hannibal across the hall into the open kitchen, carrying the used dishes, glasses, and utensils to the sink.

 

“Thank you for dinner,” he said, calmly. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a homemade dinner like that. Helping you clean is the least I can do.”

 

“You’re my guest, Will,” Hannibal said, watching avidly as Will rolled up the sleeves of his dress shirt to reveal his forearms. “I have no expectation of putting you to work in my kitchen.”

 

Will gave him a look. “Just give me a drying towel and tell me where to put the dishes, Hannibal.”

 

It was fascinating to watch Hannibal work, his large hands carefully washing each dish, methodically and delicately, mindful of the china, the silverware, and the glasses. It took longer than Will thought it would to do dishes, but there would be no hurrying Hannibal in his cleaning. Hannibal handed each wet dish to Will and watched like a hawk as Will diligently applied the drying towel to removing every single water spot to Hannibal’s obvious high standards of cleanliness.

 

Will leaned against the edge of the counter as Hannibal put together their dessert. “You really do take a lot of pride in this, don’t you? The cooking and everything.”

 

Hannibal smiled, focused on the finishing touches of placing the freshly sliced strawberries on top of the tart mousse. “I find it enormously satisfying. I have a taste for using my hands and my mind on creative endeavors, whether it’s food or music or art.”  

 

“People would say that it’s an odd hobby for an Alpha, especially for a traditionalist,” Will said, giving him a challenging smirk. “I didn’t think a traditionalist Alpha even knew what the kitchen was for, except for a Beta or an Omega to toil away long hours in it, all in the service of their Alpha.”

 

Hannibal turned to look at Will. “I am an Alpha, but I’ve never claimed to be a traditionalist. That is your assumption of me.”

 

“Everything about you screams traditionalist , Hannibal,” Will said, chuckling in disbelief.

 

“Or perhaps you’re only willing to see me in such light because of your natural prejudices against most Alphas.”

 

Will narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips. “My experience with most Alphas have shaped my understanding of your gender.”

 

“I’m not often in a position to defend myself, but I feel that you’re intentionally misunderstanding me and it makes me wonder why,” Hannibal said, softly.

 

Hannibal leaned past Will to reach for the crystal serving platter, his arm accidentally brushing against Will’s side, causing him to inhale sharply. Hannibal stopped, dark eyes flicking to Will’s mouth before meeting his own, a small crease forming between his brows. He could tell that Hannibal was curious about Will’s reaction; and he leaned closer, pressing gently against Will’s side, gently holding Will against the counter so that Will could feel the firmness and warmth of his body. Hannibal’s breath warmed his cheek and he --

 

The doorbell rang.

 

Will let out a nervous laugh. “Saved by the bell.”

 

“Do you need saving, Will?” Hannibal grinned when Will didn’t reply, but he pulled away, putting the polite distance between them again. “I’m not expecting anyone at this hour. Please, excuse me for just a moment.”

 

“Sure,” he said, glad to have the breathing room. Being in close proximity to Hannibal was...conflicting.

 

All evening, Hannibal had been on his best behavior, attentive to Will, the perfect host. There wasn’t any obvious Alpha posturing and Hannibal had shown a measure of vulnerability that made Will feel like a jerk at times. They were both suspicious of one another, wanting to know what the other was planning, but there were moments when Will found himself enjoying Hannibal’s company. He was certain that Hannibal enjoyed his as well.

 

And Hannibal had...pressed against him, but it wasn’t aggressive or threatening.

 

Focus, damn it, Will reminded himself, sternly. This isn’t a date! It’s seduction and manipulation.

 

Will looked at the perfection of the dessert as he listened to Hannibal open the front door and the sound of male voices.

 

“...afraid it’s not a good time…”

 

“...sorry to barge in on you but…”

 

“...have a dinner guest and it would be rude to interrupt…”

 

“...minutes of your time. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t urgent.”

 

Will frowned, recognizing the voice. He walked out of the kitchen and down the hall towards the front of the house, standing in the doorway to see Jack Crawford and Hannibal by the doors.

 

“Jack.”

 

“Will,” Jack said, clearly surprised to see him in Hannibal’s house as the mysterious dinner guest. Will watched as Jack and Hannibal exchanged looks, and Jack smiled, looking at Will again. “I apologize for interrupting, but I could use both of your assistance.”

 

“Hannibal, you might as well invite him in,” he said, with a wry grin, and then strolled back down the hallway to the dining room.

 

Will took a seat at the table and watched as Jack and Hannibal walked in. Jack sat down in an empty seat and opened the file in his hand.

 

“I need to know if this is a Ripper kill,” Jack said, spreading out the black and white photographs of the victim.

 

“Jack, would you like a glass of wine? Perhaps some dessert?” Hannibal said, solicitously.

 

Jack exhaled, tiredly, and smiled up at Hannibal. “I would love to have some dessert, Hannibal. Thank you.”

 

Will stared at the photographs, frowning at the picture of the crime scene. It was a young man, probably in his 20s, with dark hair. He was obviously tied to the trunk of a tree. Upside down.

 

“We’ve identified him as David Collins, Alpha, age 26. He was found by hikers earlier this evening, but his death occurred about 48 hours ago. He’s missing his right leg and liver.”

 

Hannibal returned to the dining room carefully balancing three small plates with a slice of the tart on each, fruits carefully arranged, and holding dessert forks in his hand. He placed the dessert plates in front of them and leaned over Jack’s shoulder to look at the photographs.

 

“It’s been over 20 months since the Ripper’s last sounder,” Will said, staring at the display of the body. “What made him kill again after all this time?”

 

“Curious,” Hannibal said, quietly. “Jack, wouldn’t you say that this victim is displayed in a similar fashion to the social worker that was recently found in Fredericksburg. The Alpha...Ingram, I believe.”

 

Jack rubbed his forehead and Will lifted his eyes to look up at Hannibal. He couldn’t read anything from Hannibal, though.

 

What did he know?

 

“That was a hell of a mess,” Jack said, dropping his hand to the table. “Charles Ingram was responsible for the murder of 16 women. We were able to match the soil found in a victim’s mouth to the burial site. That’s where we found the remains of the other 15 victims. We talked to a person of interest, a mentally disabled man named Bernardone. At first, we thought he killed Ingram, but he weighed like 90 pounds and he’s an Omega, and we weren’t able to match Bernardone to the other Alpha murders.”

 

Will kept his face carefully neutral, annoyed by Jack’s dismissive attitude of Omegas, but pleased that the families of all the murdered victims would be able to bury a lost daughter.

 

“So do you think it’s a copycat?” Jack said, tapping his fingers on the photograph. “Or has the Ripper partnered up with Ingram’s killer?”

 

Will remained silent and watched as Jack picked up his fork and began eating the tart. He always liked that about Jack; that he could separate his work from the daily necessities of life. Will met Hannibal’s gaze and saw the crack in his mask. The pleased smile that was on his lips had nothing to do with the dessert on his plate.

 

Hannibal was the Ripper.

 

Will inhaled deeply and turned his eyes to Jack.

 

Hannibal knew that Ingram, and all the others, belonged to Will. Hannibal knew!   His latest victim was displayed like one of Will’s intentionally.

 

“The Ripper has always worked alone and killed alone. He sees most people as pigs to be slaughtered. The butcher doesn’t befriend the pig, Jack.”

 

“I concur,” Hannibal said, setting the fork down on his plate, but he held it loosely against his fingers. “The Ripper is a sadistic narcissist who would never deign to copy another killer’s methods. I believe he would find it demeaning and beneath him. Therefore, if this is a Ripper kill, then I believe it’s more of a formal introduction.”

 

Jack made a face and closed his eyes. “Jesus. It’s a love note.”

 

Will nearly choked on his breath. He stared at Hannibal again, then looked at Jack, wondering what would happen if he told Jack everything. He watched as Hannibal’s fingers curled around the fork. It was small, but the tines were deadly sharp and could be used as a weapon.

 

“It’s late,” Jack said, quietly. He collected the photographs and placed them into his file. He got to his feet and Hannibal stood with him, polite as usual. “I’m sorry to have disturbed your dinner. Thank you both for your time.”

 

Will gave him a nod. “It was good to see you again, Jack.”

 

“Don’t be a stranger,” Jack said, smiling at him. “Come see me soon, Will.”

 

He didn’t respond, but he gave a nod of acknowledgement. He watched as Hannibal followed Jack out of the dining room and into the hall.

 

Will got to his feet and crossed the hallway into the kitchen. He looked around, looking for something to use as a weapon, and he pulled out a large stainless steel knife from the knife block, breathing thickly and preparing for a fight.

 

He could hear Hannibal’s unhurried footsteps along the marble floors, coming closer and closer, pausing in the dining room and then crossing the hall into the kitchen doorway. Hannibal’s shadow fell across the floor and he stepped fully into the kitchen, calm and poised. Dark eyes watched Will with curious wonderment, his lips tilted into a smile. Will stood behind the stove, keeping it between him and Hannibal, holding the knife in his hand.

Chapter Text

 

Hannibal smiled, his eyes looking at the knife in Will’s hand. “I assure you, Will, that is unnecessary.”

 

I just ate a human being , Will thought, horrified.  

 

“God, the filet and the liver pate,” Will said, his voice trembling. “The reason why you kill in sounders within a few days is so you can keep the meat fresh. To make tonight’s...dinner.”

 

He watched as Hannibal gave a small nod of his head in acknowledgement and satisfaction. So much fucking satisfaction . Will knew that Hannibal wouldn’t deny it. He could see Hannibal’s design clearly now.

 

“I’ve waited for you for a long time, Will,” Hannibal said, looking at him with a greedy gleam in his eyes. “There were so many times when I wanted to approach you, but I knew I had to wait until you reached your true becoming.”

 

“And what do you think I’ve become?”

 

Hannibal took a few steps towards him and Will moved away, keeping the knife low but his grip tight. He raised the blade in warning and Hannibal conceded with a polite smile, standing still.

 

“The only one to see through the veil,” he said, his voice a low purr.

 

And lived , Will finished, staring at Hannibal warily. For now.

 

“You don’t have to be afraid of me, Will. I would no sooner lose you now after waiting for you for so long.”

 

“You weren’t going to reveal yourself to me tonight.”

 

“Jack’s interruption only sped up my time table, but I much rather have it out in the open now,” he said, eyes bright with eagerness.

 

“You’re the Chesapeake Ripper.”  

 

Hannibal gave him a proud smile. “You held all the pieces in your wonderful mind. You were only missing one piece to make those final connections.”

 

“Am I going to make it out of your house alive?”

 

“Of course, Will. You may leave at any time.” He turned, motioning with his hand to the kitchen doorway. “Would you like to finish your dessert before you go? I would be a terrible host if you left my table unsatisfied.” Hannibal gave him a playful grin, his eyes moving to Will’s hand. “You are welcomed to bring the knife along with you.”

 

Hannibal walked through the doorway and Will skirted around the kitchen, keeping the dining room entrance in his sights. He knew he should leave...he should run the hell out of the house and never look back, never look at Hannibal again.

 

“Hannibal, walk where I can see you,” he called, firmly.

 

Hannibal appeared on the other side of the table, his hands placed on the top of the dining room chair back, the same chair that Will had sat in during dinner and feasted on David Collins, his head cocked slightly in amusement. Will kept his eyes on Hannibal and stepped into the dining room, keeping his back close to the wall of herbs.

 

“Sit down in your chair and keep your hands flat on the table,” Will said, stepping slowly towards the open doorway, sliding against the wall and jostling one of the paintings on the wall. They circled the large, rectangular table in slow, measured steps, until Will was behind his chair. He watched as Hannibal sat down across from him, his elegant hands resting on top of the table.

 

Those were the hands of the Chesapeake Ripper , Will thought, gritting his teeth.

 

“You fit my profile of the Ripper,” he said, bluntly. “Hiding in plain sight; consulting for Jack and the FBI on your own murders.”

 

“Your monograph on the covert intelligence of psychopaths was ahead of its time,” Hannibal said, casually.

 

“Did you enjoy watching us make fools of ourselves?”

 

“No more than you,” Hannibal said, meaningfully.

 

Will kept his eyes on Hannibal; he knew better than to underestimate him. He stopped next to the fireplace, maintaining his distance.

 

There were so many questions, Will didn’t know where to start. Hannibal watched him with fond regard, and Will didn’t know how to process all of his feelings -- disgust, horror, anger, fear, curiosity, desire -- so he just tried to catch his breath and slow his heart, all the while keeping his eyes on Hannibal.

 

“You could’ve walked away from everything,” he said, frowning. “No one would’ve known it was you.”

 

“No one, but you.”

 

Will shook his head. “Why?”

 

Hannibal sighed and clasped his hands together, looking up at him. “When Jack asked me to work on the profile of the killer whose victims were all Alpha males, I realized that it was an Omega, and even more extraordinary, that it was you. You left your distinctive scent on your sixth victim.”

 

Will scoffed, making a face. “How could you possibly connect that to me?”

 

“You and I are each gifted with unique abilities -- you with your pure empathy and I with my keen sense of smell.”

 

He stared at Hannibal for a long moment, trying to see the truth of it.

 

“I discovered my sense of smell as a young man. I was aware one of my teachers had stomach cancer before he did,” Hannibal explained, tilting his chin upwards and taking a deep breath. “You’ve recently collected a second dog; but your after shave is still atrocious.”

“That’s a neat parlor trick.”

 

“I made the connection because I read your original case files and reports. Your scent lingered on the documents,” he said, smiling slightly. “So you can imagine my... delight ...when I encountered your scent on your kill.”

 

“Who else knows?”

 

“That you have killed fourteen Alphas?” Hannibal said, leaning back in his chair. “You and I are the only ones who share the knowledge of our true selves.”

 

“What do you want from me, Hannibal?”

 

“What I have always wanted,” he said, softly. “The opportunity for intimacy with the only one who sees and knows me as I am; someone I can see and know as well.”

 

Will made a face. “I don’t need a mentor or an Alpha to teach me anything.”

 

“I have no such inclination,” Hannibal said, frankly. “I would simply enjoy being witness to your full becoming.”

 

“So, what, you want to kill together now? Be murder buddies?” Will said, with a derisive laugh. “Hannibal, do you realize that you fit my victim profile? I go after Alphas like you! And you said it yourself. The Ripper is a sadistic narcissist who works alone. What makes you think I want this... this ...whatever it is that you think we’re going to be?”

 

“Simple curiosity,” he said, lips pursing slightly. “I’ve watched you grow inside your chrysalis but I have yet to be able to predict who you will truly become when you emerge.”

 

Will narrowed his eyes, his hand gripping the knife even tighter. “And if I turn you down. Then do I end up the next Ripper victim and dinner on someone’s plate?”

 

“You’ve never been prey, Will.”

 

He snorted, shaking his head, and then let out a deep sigh. “I should just kill you now and be done with it.”

 

“And then what? Turn yourself in to Jack Crawford? Confess your sins?”

 

“You can’t make me into what you are,” he said, staring at Hannibal.

 

“You are an artist of your own design,” Hannibal said, smiling. “I do not want to change you at all.”

 

Will didn’t trust him, but he had no other choice but to believe him. For now. If he turned his back on Hannibal, if he showed any sign of weakness, he knew that Hannibal would be out of that chair and on him in a split second.

 

He stepped to the table and gently set the knife on the surface. They both stared at it for a long moment, understanding the implication of Will leaving it where Hannibal could reach for it and use it, and Will met Hannibal’s eyes.

 

“I need time, Hannibal.”

 

I need to buy more time , Will thought. He knew Hannibal wanted a decision from Will; and this decision would inform what they would do to each other.

 

“I would offer to see you out as a proper host, but I believe you would prefer that I remain here,” Hannibal said, a soft smile on his lips. “Good night, Will.”

 

Will was smart enough to leave while he could.

 

***

 

Will Graham’s House

10003 Whitevale Lane

Wolf Trap, Virginia

 

He rushed into his house, letting Winston and Buster out to the yard, and then walked into his tackle room, turning on the desk lamp. He reached under the wooden table holding his lures and unhooked his hunting rifle that was hidden underneath. He opened one of the drawers and grabbed his cleaning supplies and box of cartridges.

 

“You’ve never been prey, Will.”

 

For the rest of the night, Will took apart his rifle and cleaned each part, ensuring that it would be ready to use at a moment’s notice. He carefully put each piece back together and then loaded in two shells.

 

I’m just being paranoid , Will thought, sitting on his old living room couch in the dark. Winston and Buster were snoring softly in their doggy beds on the floor.

 

He didn’t believe Hannibal would come after him, not without knowing Will’s decision first. He would find it discourteous to attack Will without cause.

 

“I would simply enjoy being witness to your full becoming.”

 

But Will was also smart enough to know that as a predator, Hannibal had a powerful instinct for survival; that as an Alpha, he was already genetically predisposed to fight and win, and as the Ripper, all of his instincts were probably exponentially stronger.

 

“You are an artist of your own design. I do not want to change you at all.”

 

No matter how interested he was in Will, Hannibal would want his freedom more. And if he believed that Will betrayed him, he was certain that Hannibal would attack his friends first and then save Will for last. They were his leverage to keep Will close.

 

There wouldn’t be sleep or rest for the next few days. He was glad to have the dogs. Beverly was right, they were his pack now, and he was theirs. If anyone approached the house, they would alert Will.

 

Will sighed and rested the rifle across his lap, his hands curled around it. He allowed himself to close his eyes and to sleep, just for a few hours. He knew his dreams would be filled with images of the ravenstag. But for the first time, the face of the ravenstag was clear in his mind.

 

Don’t be afraid. Come closer, darling boy. Come closer.

Chapter Text

Verger Mansion

Muskrat Farm

Berkley, Maryland

 

Will parked his car near the property line and walked the rest of the way down the long driveway to the ostentatious mansion, a feeling of dread rolling down his spine. He would stay just long enough to appease Margot, to be seen at her gala, and then he would leave and drive three hours back to his house.

 

Muskrat Farm was brightly lit, a long line of expensive cars and limousines parked along the driveway, a couple dozen valets wearing red vests diligently moving cars around. Will had been to the estate once before and knew that the Vergers owned 100-acres of prime real estate near the Maryland and Pennsylvania border, their backyard bumping into the Susquehanna River. Will took his time along his walk, in no hurry to make his entrance. He watched as tuxedo-wearing men and beautifully-gowned women made their way inside, their faces delighted with the beauty of the Verger home, some smug to have received one of the prized invitations to attend the social event of the year.

 

By the time Will arrived, the gala was already in full swing, with over 200 guests mingling around, laughing and drinking and waltzing.

 

Jesus, the fucking waltzing , Will thought, taking a glass of champagne from the passing waiter and drinking it down.

 

He found Margot surrounded by an entourage of admirers; she was Omega and beautiful and rich, so all of the people around her were Alphas, who looked at her with open cunning on their faces, coveting what she would one day own, and through her, what they would get to own. The Verger wealth was inherited, old money, the last of the American dynasties. Which one of them wouldn’t want to own her to gain that?

 

“Margot,” he said, smiling at her. He eyed the Alphas milling around warily, gaining some of their attention as well. He could feel them looking him up and down, noticing that he was an Omega as well, their curiosity turning into unwanted desire.

 

“Oh, Will, I’m so glad you’re finally here,” she said, wrapping him in a perfumed hug and pressing close to him to kiss his cheek softly.

 

“You look beautiful, as always,” he said, looking her over appreciatively in her stunning emerald green silk dress. “Thanks for the invite.”

 

She grinned, rolling her eyes, but blushing from the compliment. “I know you’ll stay for like 15 minutes and then ditch. But I’m glad you’re here.”

 

“They’re all sniffing around you,” he whispered against her ear, feeling protective of her and a little disgusted at their obvious display. “Their lack of subtlety is beneath you.”

 

Margot smirked and gave a pretty shrug. “I’m not the only one who has caught their attention.”

 

Will glanced at the Alphas and saw them watching him, watching him and Margot, together .

 

“Shall we give them a show to make them jealous?”

 

Will scoffed, shaking his head. “No.”

 

She laughed, knowingly, and adjusted his poorly tied bow tie. “Just do me a favor and make sure you’re seen; get your photo taken by the photographer. I just saw Beverly around here, too. Why didn’t you tell me she had a new boyfriend? He’s cute!”

 

He gave her a look, raising his eyebrow.

 

“Try to avoid my brother,” she whispered, against his ear. “He’s drunk and he’s being...his usual self. He’s already asked me twice if you were here yet.”

 

Will gritted his teeth, taking that as the warning that it was given. The last time he had visited the Verger mansion, it was for dinner as Margot’s guest. Will and Beverly attended, knowing that the Vergers could potentially be very influential patrons.

 

Half way through the main entree, Mason had turned and leered at Will.

 

“You’re an Omega, aren’t you, Will? Do you really enjoy fucking my Omega sister? How does that even work for you?”

 

Margot turned pale, her mouth opening in shock. “Mason! Please stop. I’m so sorry, Will.”

 

Mason smirked, undeterred. “Wouldn’t you rather like to try Alpha cock instead?”

 

“Mr. Verger, that is enough--” Beverly started, glaring furiously at Mason.

 

“No, I’m not partial to Alpha cock, Mason,” Will said, disinterestedly, pretending that it wasn’t the most offensive thing asked of him at the dinner table. He cut into his pork loin and ate slowly, meeting Mason’s eyes. “Your pigs, on the other hand, are delicious.”

 

“Hmmm...shame to waste such a lovely Omega ass on the likes of Margot with all of her button-stitching nonsense. You would’ve been a perfect addition to my stable,” Mason said, eating his dinner with zest. “Anyway, Margot says that you’re an up and coming painter. I saw some of your work, it’s pretty ghastly if you ask me, what with the antlers and dark colors. Papa had a great sense of humor. He would’ve loved it, so let’s put the Verger name behind it, shall we?”

 

It had taken every bit of Will’s control to not stab Mason in the throat with his dinner knife that night. He had considered adding Mason to his Alpha kills, but a man of his wealth and stature would demand a very bright spotlight on finding his killer, and Will knew that he couldn’t afford that amount of attention, no matter how carefully he planned the kill.

 

He gave her a nod and then glared at the Alphas before excusing himself and walking through the various rooms of the house. He didn’t feel guilty leaving Margot alone with them; she was smart and cunning enough to take care of herself.

 

One of the reasons why Will hated these types of social gatherings was that he always felt like he was on display. Most people knew that he was an unmated and unbonded Omega; but most people also knew that he was prickly and anti-social, so only the boldest or the drunkest made an attempt to approach him. He fended off a number of rude propositions with terse words and knocked his shoulder against Alphas as he moved through the crowded room.

 

What he wouldn’t give for a goddamn glass of whiskey.

 

“Will!”

 

He turned to see Beverly working her way through the crowd, waving at him to catch his attention. For her, he would gladly wait for her to catch up. He looked behind her to see Zeller hot on her heels. Will smirked, glad to see that Zeller was there. He’d keep Beverly occupied enough for Will to slip away when he wanted.

 

“Hello, you look beautiful,” he said, kissing Beverly’s cheek. She was flushed and wearing a long black dress with a slit up the side that showed off a shapely leg.

 

“Now this is what I call a party,” Zeller said, shaking Will’s hand, excitedly. “Bev said that there was a 70% chance that you’d be a no show, but I said that you would, even if it was to just show your face. I won, Bev, so you have to pay up now.”

 

“And you said that I was going to get the sexual harassment lawsuit,” Will murmured to Beverly under his breath.

 

She punched him in the arm and glared at him; Zeller just laughed, looking around unabashedly. Will thought he looked good in his tuxedo; looked good standing next to Beverly. But Will would gladly kill Zeller and hide his body if he hurt Bev in any way. He didn’t care if she was an Alpha and capable of handling herself in any situation.  

 

“Zeller, go get me a drink, please,” she said, looking at the Beta over her shoulder.

 

“Sure! Hey, Will, want me to get you one, too?”

 

“No, thank you, I’m good,” he said, grinning. He watched as Zeller made his way across the room and then smiled kindly at Beverly. “He seems to be a keeper.”

 

“He’s a nice guy,” she said, frowning slightly. “Don’t jinx it, Will.”

 

“Don’t boss him around so much.”

 

Beverly smirked, her brown eyes crinkling in wicked amusement. “He likes it.”

 

Will chuckled, pulling his lips down into a quirky smile and shrugging. He loved Beverly; she was good people and his closest friend. He trusted her and knew she had his back. He wanted to see her happy and Zeller probably was good enough for her. Mostly, he was glad that Beverly had someone in her life. Maybe it would distract her enough to stay out of Will’s personal life.

 

“So, look, I know you’re here as Margot’s friend, but this is also a perfect opportunity to meet potential new clients. There are a lot of people here who know you and know your work,” Beverly said, all business now. “Try to make the best of it. Some of these people will be attending your studio party next month, so smile a little bit and mingle.”

 

“I’m off the clock,” he said, chuckling.

 

“You’re an absolute terror,” she said, sighing. She smoothed down the front of his tuxedo jacket and looked over his shoulder, frowning. “Shit, I have to go rescue Zeller from Professor Sogliato. I hate that guy. He’s such a pretentious creep. He thinks he knows everything there is to about the Italian masterpieces; he’s a walking Wikipedia nightmare.”

 

Will turned to see Zeller holding a glass of champagne in each hand, looking painfully trapped as he tried to maintain his manners as the short, dark-haired man with a neatly clipped beard seemed to be standing far too close to him and speaking aggressively. He wondered, briefly, if Sogliato was an Alpha and if he was worth Will’s attention.

 

“Go get your man,” Will murmured, laughing softly when Beverly pinched his arm before departing to rescue Zeller.

 

He walked through the crowd, keeping close to the edges of the room, and snuck out through one of the opened balcony doors to the concrete veranda behind the house. It was quieter and darker, with only a few people who had snuck away for a little naughtiness. Will found a quiet spot at the other end of the balcony and poured out his champagne over the balcony. He set the glass aside and tucked his hands into his pants pockets, leaning his head back to look up at the stars.

 

This far away from the city, the stars looked incredibly bright. He found Orion and Jupiter right away, and smiled, thinking back to nights on the water with his dad, learning about the constellations and navigating using the stars. He was looking forward to getting The Nola seaworthy and taking her out on the open water.  

 

“Good evening, Will.”

 

Will felt his skin tingle at the sound of Hannibal’s voice. Of course Hannibal was at the party. The Verger’s gala was a major social event and it would be odd if Hannibal Lecter wasn’t in attendance.

 

It had been three weeks since he last saw Hannibal; since that dinner at his house. Will hadn’t made any kills and the Chesapeake Ripper had also remained silent. He pulled his hands out of his pockets, keeping them loose by his side in case he needed to defend himself. He was fairly certain that Hannibal wouldn’t try anything, but the Ripper was clever and brutally good at what he did. With over 200 people in attendance, no one would think to even look at Hannibal Lecter as a Ripper suspect.

 

“May I join you?” Hannibal said, warmly.

 

Will looked around, seeing a few people on the balcony, and he met Hannibal’s eyes and nodded. It would be rude to make a scene; he didn’t think Hannibal would appreciate the attention.

 

“Hello, Dr. Lecter.”

 

“I thought we would be past last names and titles,” he said, playfully.

 

“Hannibal,” Will said, acknowledging him.

 

“I thought you might enjoy this more.” Hannibal said, holding out a glass of top shelf whiskey.

 

“Thank you,” he said, politely accepting the tumbler, pleased to see that it was filled with a proper amount of the amber colored liquid. He made a soft huff of amusement and looked up at the Alpha. “I guess you do know me pretty well.”

 

“I was hoping to see you tonight,” Hannibal said, standing beside him. “I wanted to thank you for the invitation to your art studio party. I was pleasantly surprised. Our last meeting was...ambiguous.”

 

Will didn’t think it was ambiguous at all, but since it was more than three weeks ago and Will hadn’t contacted Hannibal with any decision, he thought it was probably too ambiguous for Hannibal’s liking. But it should’ve been pretty clear that Will hadn’t said anything; there was no FBI or law enforcement knocking down Hannibal’s front door.

 

“The invitation was Beverly’s idea,” he said, lying.

 

Hannibal took a sip of his champagne, a smile curling his lips as he accepted the lie. “I am very interested in seeing your art space and the things that you’re working on. I imagine you must be quite distracted with your art to pursue your other designs.”

 

Will took a large swallow of the whiskey and gave Hannibal a side eye. “I could say the same for you.”

 

Hannibal nodded politely to the people he recognized, and turned to look at Will, eyes bright with pleasure and good cheer. “I admit that I haven’t been inspired recently to create a feast for a deserving guest. Perhaps you’d like to help me find new inspiration.”

 

Jesus, Hannibal’s flirting with me about murder and cooking people food in a room full of society people , Will thought, clutching his glass.

 

“I’m...I’m not sure if my palate can handle your feasts,” he said, softly.

 

I wonder how many of them ate people food at Hannibal’s table? He wondered, feeling the urge to laugh hysterically.

 

Hannibal smiled, looking at him. “You handled it perfectly well before. I have a very strict rule about not telling guests what’s for dinner. It ruins the surprise.”

 

Will barked out a laugh and looked at him. There was that same secretive smile that Hannibal often wore when he was getting away with something. “You really aren’t afraid of getting caught.”

 

“I admit that I feel a great amount of amusement and satisfaction.” Hannibal said, looking up at the night sky. “One should feel pride in their work; but I believe that there is no greater feeling than being able to share it with someone.”

 

“Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me.” He said, taking a long drink of his whiskey. “I still don’t have an answer for you.”

 

“I’m not here to demand an answer,” Hannibal told him, softly.

 

“But you want an answer.”

 

Hannibal smiled, showing the fangs of his teeth. “I want many different things, Will.”

 

“I’m not sure I can give you anything you want,” he said, shrugging. That was about as honest as he could be with anyone.

 

“I’m more than willing to wait,” Hannibal said, murmuring close to his ear. Will shivered, feeling his warm breath against his skin. He could smell Hannibal’s cologne and felt the ends of his hair tickle against Will’s skin. “Are you feeling a chill? Shall we go inside?”

 

Will ignored Hannibal’s amusement, both of them knowing it wasn’t because of a chill, and he walked back into the large ballroom to rejoin the other guests with as much dignity as he could muster. He found a quiet corner and took a deep breath, feeling kind of stupidly relieved that he wasn’t alone with Hannibal on a dark balcony. He knew Hannibal was walking towards him and he finished off his whiskey quickly, swallowing down the burn of the alcohol as Hannibal took his place by Will’s side.

 

“...such a sweet Omega ass!”

 

Will looked over to see as Mason Verger drunkenly and lewdly slapped one of the catering waitstaff on his ass. He opened his mouth and took a deep breath to tell Mason to stop, but Hannibal’s hand on his arm gave him pause. He turned to give Hannibal a piece of his mind, refocusing his anger on the Alpha who dared to touch him.

 

“Stay out of it, Hannibal,” he hissed, narrowing his eyes, shaking off Hannibal’s hand.

 

“He is a contemptible pig, but this is neither the time nor place,” Hannibal said, softly.

 

Mason laughed, looking around at the astonished faces of his guests. None of them would be critical of Mason in his own home; no one spoke out on behalf of the waiter, who flushed a deep red and hurried out of the room to Mason’s derisive laughter.

 

“I guess he just wasn’t used to a real Alpha’s attention,” Mason said, loudly.

 

The guests returned to their own amusements as if nothing had happened. Will frowned, watching as Mason wandered through the crowd, demanding another drink.

 

He turned to look at Hannibal to gauge his reaction to Mason and was surprised to see Hannibal watching Mason with a look on his face.

 

“You look murderous,” Will said, somewhat warningly.

 

“Such discourtesy is unspeakably ugly to me,” Hannibal said, his eyes on Mason.

 

“Why are you here if you feel that way about him?”

 

“It is not because of Mason Verger that I’m here. I’ve known Margot since she was a teenager.”

 

Will nodded. “You’re her psychiatrist.”

 

“I’m sorry, Will, but that is not something that I can share.”

 

“No, I’m sorry. It was rude of me to say it in the first place.”

 

Hannibal nodded, accepting his apology. “Are you here as part of business or do you know the Vergers?”

 

Will stared at him for a long time, wondering if Margot ever talked about him to Hannibal in her sessions. It wasn’t like she and Will were anything more than just occasional bedmates, and they shared only a handful of those nights. He didn’t play any kind of remarkable role in her life; and the only reason that they knew of each other was through his artwork at the Kade Gallery.   

 

“Margot is my friend and one of my patrons. I’m attending this party as a favor to her.”

 

“Then she is lucky to have you as her friend,” Hannibal said, softly.

 

He turned to look at Hannibal again, saw the small, hopeful smile curve his lips. Will chuckled, looking at the floor. “You’re trying too hard.”

 

“Perhaps I am,” Hannibal said, plainly. “Please excuse my enthusiasm for desiring to know you, Will. It’s not often that I actively pursue the attentions of other people.”

 

“Yeah, I’m sure you get plenty of that kind of attention.”

 

Hannibal chuckled lightly. “Would you find it presumptuous of me to agree with your observation?”

 

Will turned and gave Hannibal a look and raised his eyebrow. “Well, I suppose an Alpha of your status gets your fair share.”

 

“I could say the same about you. As an unmated and unbonded Omega, you must also receive your fair share of attention.”

 

“All of it unwanted.”

 

“Then we have that in common,” Hannibal said, simply.

 

Will wanted to laugh in his face, but the more that he considered it, he reluctantly agreed that Hannibal probably didn’t want all that attention either. Not just because of his secret side career as the Ripper, but as a bachelor Alpha of some wealth and status, Hannibal probably did get propositioned by every available Beta and Omega who were of age.

 

He looked around the room and noticed that many people were looking at Hannibal. Most of it was in open admiration of him and a few gave subtle glances, their body language showing that they were available to engage if Hannibal were so inclined to go speak to them. Will looked at Hannibal and found the Alpha looking at him with a small smile on his lips.

 

“What are you smiling about?”

 

“I’m just pleased that you didn’t automatically disagree with me.”

 

Will laughed. “Let’s say that I agreed with you on principle.”

 

The society photographer walked towards them and gave Hannibal a polite nod. “May I take your pictures, gentlemen?”

 

“You know, you could ask me for my permission as well,” Will said, dryly. “Maybe I don’t want my picture taken. Why is that decision up to him?”

 

The photographer gave him a confused smile. “I, um, excuse me?”

 

“Of course,” Hannibal said, turning his body so that he was closer to Will. He placed his hand on Will’s shoulder, holding him gently, and Will nearly jumped out of his skin at Hannibal’s touch.

 

Will managed a shy smile as the photographer took a few series of pictures. He mumbled his thanks as the photographer walked away. Will frowned as a few people stopped the photographer, heads leaning in close as they gestured at Hannibal.

 

Hannibal chuckled lowly close to Will’s ear. “You mustn’t scare them so, Will. They don’t understand that you would like nothing more than to bite them.”

 

“Well, that’s my cue,” Will said, gently shrugging off Hannibal’s hand from his shoulder. “I’ve met all of Margot’s requirements so I’m going to head out.”

 

“So soon? It’s such a long drive back to your home. Baltimore is a good midpoint. I’m happy to provide my guest room for you if you’d like.”

 

Will blinked up at him in disbelief and then laughed softly. “If I can make it to Baltimore, then I can make it back to my own house.” He paused, sighing. “But thank you for your generous offer, Hannibal.”

 

Hannibal grinned, nodding his head. “May I walk you to your car?”

 

“Seriously?” He said, trying not to roll his eyes. “All this Alpha chivalry is nice, but unnecessary. I’m a grown man. I can walk to my car without an escort.”

 

“I just want to spend a few more minutes in your company.”

 

“It’s fine. Besides, I parked off the property along the street--”

 

“Then I find that I absolutely must walk with you to your vehicle.” Hannibal said, smiling at him in challenge. “As new friends, it would be the polite thing to do.”

Well, shit, he thought.

 

“Fine,” Will said, exhaling in defeat. It was probably just easier to let Hannibal walk with him than to stand there and continue to debate about it. “Let’s go.”

 

He could feel eyes on him as they moved through the room, but Will head up and eyes in front of him, ignoring the looks and whispers that followed. Hannibal was behind him, his hand solicitously on his back, nodding in greeting to various people that they passed. Will took a deep breath when they finally stepped out of the main front doors and hurried down the steps to the grounds.

 

Hannibal met his pace and walked beside him as they headed down the long driveway. “May I ask why you parked so far from the main house?”

 

“Easier to make my escape,” he said, humorously.

 

Why the hell did I park so far away? Will thought, tucking his hands into his pants pockets. He let out a soft sigh and slowed his pace.

 

“Ah,” Hannibal murmured. “You find it difficult to maintain social niceties. Is your lack of direct eye contact because you don’t wish to be seen or because you don’t wish to see what is behind the masks of others?”

 

Will frowned, giving Hannibal the stink eye and making direct eye contact. “I thought we agreed that you weren’t going to do any psychoanalyzing.”

 

Hannibal smiled, letting out a soft chuff. The sound echoed inside of Will; the pleased, comforting sound of an Alpha forcing Will’s shoulders to ease.

 

“Don’t do that,” he said, gritting his teeth and deliberately tensing his shoulders. “I don’t need you to manage me, Hannibal. I find that sort of thing - how did you say it - unspeakably ugly.”

 

“My apologies, Will,” Hannibal said, his voice low and humbled. “It is never my intention to insult you or to show your gender any disrespect. It is quite clear what happens to Alphas who do.”

 

“I don’t like being manipulated.”

 

“Especially by an Alpha,” Hannibal concluded, correctly.

 

Will slowed down as they neared his car and he pulled his hands from his pockets, holding out his hand to Hannibal. “Thank you for walking me to my car. Good night.”

 

Hannibal looked at his hand for a moment and then shook it firmly, his hand strong and palm warm against Will’s. “The pleasure was mine.”

 

Will released his hold and turned to unlock his car door, but Hannibal kept hold of his hand. He looked up at the Alpha with a small frown.

 

“Will,” he said, stepping a little closer. “Please allow me to formally court you. I’m happy to petition to your closest Alpha relative for the honor.”

 

“I thought you said that you weren’t a traditionalist,” Will said, his frown deepening.

 

“I rarely care about the antiquated traditions forced on both of our genders, but I feel that this formality would serve us both well. I believe that you don’t need me. You don’t need my social status and you don’t need my wealth. However, I think you would like to have me as a friend; as an equal. Someone who sees you clearly and admires who you are and what you are becoming.”

 

He stroked his thumb over Will’s hand and squeezed it gently before releasing it and taking a step back.

 

“I wasn’t expecting this,” Will said, exhaling in surprise. “I’m not sure what to say.”

 

“Have you never been courted?”

 

Will rolled his eyes. “No.”

 

“I have never courted anyone either,” Hannibal said, simply. “It shall be a new experience for both of us.”

 

“Look, Hannibal, there doesn’t need to be any kind of courtship, okay? I’ll consider your offer of friendship,” he said, unlocking his car door and pulling it open. “Just...don’t play any of your games on me and we’ll be good. Even Steven, as they say.”

 

Hannibal gave him a small smile and a nod of his head. “Then, as friends, I look forward to seeing you again soon.”

 

“Fine,” he said, letting out a bemused chuckle and getting into the car.

 

“Drive safely,” Hannibal said, stepping away so that he was clear of the vehicle.

 

Will nodded and shut the door, starting the engine. He put on his seatbelt and turned on the headlights, making sure that Hannibal wasn’t in the way. Will turned the car around smoothly and started the long drive back to Virginia.

 

He refused to check his rearview mirrors. He knew Hannibal would stand there and watch Will drive away.

 

“What did I just agree to?” He said, letting out a deep breath. He switched on the radio to any local music station to drown out his thoughts.

 

***

 

When Will took a shower later that night, he didn’t think about Hannibal touching his hand as he jerked off, pressing his forehead against the tiles, biting back his moans.

 

***

 

Marie Louise Bistro

904 N. Charles Street

Baltimore, Maryland



“I met the most delightful Alpha at my gala the other night,” Margot said, her eyes bright with new happiness. “Apparently, she’s one of your friends, too. Why haven’t you ever introduced me to your friends, Will?”

 

Will took a sip of his iced tea and made a quizzical face. “A female Alpha who is also one of my friends?”

 

“Dr. Alana Bloom.”

 

Will smiled, shaking his head. “My former psychiatrist. She did my psych eval when I was with the FBI many years ago. I didn’t know Alana was at your party. I didn’t see her.”

 

Margot grinned. “Yes, I heard that you were kind of taken with one of my other guests, an Alpha, and that the two of you snuck out to the balcony.”

 

Will blinked. “What?”

 

“There was a bit of gossip about you and Dr. Hannibal Lecter,” she said, looking at him. “That he stayed by your side the whole night and walked you out to your car. I didn’t know you knew him. He’s been my psychiatrist since I was seventeen.”

 

“There’s nothing...nothing happened,” he said, completely flustered. “There’s gossip?”

 

Margot rolled her eyes. “Just stupid society gossip, Will, don’t worry about it. You know how people like to start rumors.”

 

“Rumors?”

 

“You really didn’t know?” She said, her smile fading quickly. “Is there a problem? I mean, is he your psychiatrist, too?”

 

Will shook his head, frowning. “No, nothing like that. It’s just that...I’m usually not cast as anyone’s romantic partner in the gossip section. I think the nicest thing anyone’s ever written about me was that I was an unstable eccentric.”

 

“Exactly. I think that’s why people were so interested. You’ve always been single and unapproachable--”

 

“With good reason!”

 

“--and people admire your art. Usually, the gossip about you is that you’re non-sexual, but we know the truth, don’t we?” She said, winking at him.

 

“Jesus, Margot…”

 

“To be honest, you’re not Dr. Lecter’s usual type,” she said, smiling slightly. “He’s always in the gossip pages with some beautiful, young Beta ingenue. A lot of Omegas want him because he’s in his prime. But he’s never linked to anyone for long, and never with an Omega, so you can imagine that people are interested in him. He’s quite the Alpha, according to the grapevine.”

 

He winced, looking away. “I’m not interested in that. Him. Whatever. Just tell me more about you and Alana, please.”

 

Margot looked like she wanted to keep teasing him, but she relented, her cheeks flushing with giddiness.

 

“I invited her to dinner Saturday night,” Margot told him, sitting loosely in her chair. “Mason will be out of town to tour the factories, so I thought it was the perfect time to have her come over.”

 

“I’m sure everything will be great, Margot. I’m happy for you.”

 

“Are you?” She said, meeting his eyes. “Happy for me?”

 

He blinked, frowning slightly. “Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be happy for you? I know you want to be loved by someone who sees you as a person, not just the Verger Omega heiress. Alana’s lovely. She doesn’t put up with stupidity and she doesn’t play games. She’s one of the better Alphas I’ve ever known.”

 

“Tell me the truth. There’s no secrets between us, Will.”

 

“At one time, years ago, I might have had an attraction for her,” he said, honestly. It felt like that was a lifetime ago. He smiled, seeing the surprise on Margot’s face. “But it’s all water under the bridge now. Alana and I only know each other professionally. Like I said, she was my psychiatrist. Our relationship never crossed the line.”

 

“But you wanted to.”

 

“But she didn’t,” he said, gently. “I’m not competition.”

 

Margot gave him a coy look. “As if you could be, Will.”

 

He laughed, shaking his head. “No, I’m really not.” He gave her a long look. “As much as I enjoy seeing you, going out to lunch together isn’t something we do. So what is it? No secrets, remember.”

 

“I just wanted to ask you for a favor,” she said, taking a deep breath. He nodded for her to go on. “You’ve always been discreet about our...meetings. If things work out with Alana, I wouldn’t want her to know about us. It would be awkward.”

 

Will sighed, setting down his fork. “Margot, are you breaking up with me?”

 

She stared at him, her blue eyes widening in slowly dawning horror. “I...we never…”

 

“I’m just messing with you,” he said, chuckling softly. “Don’t worry, your secrets are safe with me. All of them.”

 

Margot huffed out an annoyed laugh. Will smiled widely and sat back in his chair, looking at her.

 

“You wouldn’t want to give it one last go, would you? Come back to the townhouse.”

 

He grinned and shook his head. “I think a clean break is better for us.”

 

“But we’ll still be friends,” she said, nodding her head. “You’ll just have to suffer through lunches with me now.”

 

“Sure,” he said, smiling. “I’d like that a lot.”

 

Chapter Text

Somewhere Off Route 619

 

Will carefully propped the Alpha upside down against the tree and secured the ropes around his feet and legs to the thick trunk. One good thing about living in northern Virginia was all the beautiful, thick tree trunks and endless number of secluded parks and forests.

 

Breathlessly, he took a step back to examine the man, his eyes fluttering as he came around to consciousness.

 

“Well, no better time than now,” Will murmured, softly, a fierce smile forming on his lips.

 

Will pulled out his knife and slit their throat and then sliced their stomachs open, easily stepping backwards as the guts spilled down the Alpha’s body. He watched as the Alpha struggled, gurgling, and coughing out blood.

 

The body was still alive and fresh, the perfect time to harvest a couple of organs for --  

 

What the hell am I thinking? Will thought, shaking his head clear.

 

Besides, there was nothing to hold the organs and keep it fresh anyway. He wondered if he could drive to the nearest store and buy some ice and a small cooler before the organs were no longer fresh enough to harvest --

 

Stop thinking about him! He doesn’t matter! Focus on your own work. Don’t be stupid!

 

The Ripper’s last kill was displayed as a “love note” to Will; a formal greeting declaring his admiration.

 

Stop it! Will thought, moving carefully away from the dead Alpha.

 

It was dangerous to play this game with Hannibal. If he were to acknowledge the Ripper, it would only bring the spotlight on Will. It would be too suspicious to Jack Crawford, the timing and coincidence too obvious. It would be better to stick to his own righteous kills. There was no reason to escalate and Will wasn’t foolish enough to be drawn in by the Ripper’s “romantic” gesture.

 

Will stayed until the Alpha fell quiet and made sure to clean up the scene, his keen eyes looking over the area for any forensic evidence that could be left behind. Due to the secluded location, Will knew it would take some time before the body was discovered, if at all, and by then, nature would have taken its course and the creatures of the woods would have eaten away the remaining flesh.

 

Not all serial killers needed public acknowledgement of their kills. It was more than enough that Will could take another asshole Alpha off the streets. The FBI had found 14 of his kills, but there were a dozen more that no one knew about. They were committed before Will realized his design; none of his previous kills looked like the ones that he displayed now, and no one had made the connection. It pleased Will to be able to keep those kills to himself. He wondered if the Ripper felt the same way. Officially, the FBI had counted approximately 23 kills to the Ripper; but Will knew that it was probably closer to 83 kills but he couldn’t substantiate his claims to anyone else. He felt it in his guts; and saw it in his imagination. The Ripper was an intelligent psychopath who was also sometimes struck by a sense of whimsy and humor. With the Ripper’s “love note” to Will, he knew now that the Ripper could adopt another killer’s methodology to suit his own purposes.

 

Will wondered, fleetingly, how Hannibal felt killing and displaying the Alpha like the way that Will did. What did Hannibal see? What did Hannibal feel? Could he feel Will’s righteous anger in the selection, kill, and display, or was the victim just another pig to be slaughtered and posed?

 

For the first time, Will was... curious about what Hannibal knew about him.

 

He walked back to his car, hidden behind an embankment of trees and bushes, and stripped out of his clothes, folding them into the thick black trash bag. He pulled on clean jeans and tee-shirt, then got into the car and turned off the internal overhead light to just close his eyes and take a deep breath, centering himself.

 

The deep joy of another successful hunt and kill thrummed through him and he was nearly vibrating from the sense of pleasure. His arms and shoulders ached, reminding him of the weight of the Alpha that he had carried deep into the woods in order to create his display, and he leaned back in his driver’s seat, working the kinks out of his sore muscles.

 

He reached for his cellphone and touched the side button, turning it on. He had gotten a text from Beverly, a text from Margot, and a voicemail from an unknown number. Frowning, Will unlocked his voicemail inbox and pressed the phone against his ear.

 

Will, I’ll be heading up north in the next couple of weeks. I’m planning to stop by for a couple of days to see you. This is my new number so keep it handy.

 

Will ended the recording and closed his eyes, letting out a deep breath. He let out a soft laugh; it would be good to see his dad again.

 

***

 

Will Graham Studio

6000 Commercial Drive

Alexandria, Virginia

 

Brian Zeller was an evil bastard.

 

He had brought a fashion stylist, a barber, a dog groomer, and a photographer into Will’s studio. After six hours of being trimmed, shaved, groomed, dressed, and photographed, Will was ready to start killing everyone around him and he was going to start with Zeller. He considered how he would display Zeller’s body - head shaved, skull open, heart shoved into his mouth, brain and guts around him - and Will felt relatively better as he let his imagination run wild.

 

He politely thanked everyone as he quickly escorted them out of his studio with a tired smile, Winston and Buster already curled up together in their doggy bed, snoring away.

 

Zeller grinned at him, leaning against the counter. “You’re looking good there, Will. I think Bev will be happy with the results.”

 

Will sank low on the couch and glared at the Beta. “I feel like I need a shower after being bad touched by people all day.”

 

“You’re unlike any Omega I’ve ever known,” Zeller said, looking him over. “Most Omegas love the attention and the pampering.”

 

“Not all Omegas follow the stereotype so give it a rest,” Will groused, closing his eyes and leaning his head back against the back of the couch. He just wanted to take the dogs home and crash. He hadn’t gotten any work done for the studio open house, distracted all day by all the people who had infiltrated Will’s peace and quiet.

 

“Jesus, Will, don’t do that in front of me.”

 

Will opened his eyes and tilted his head to look up at Zeller, looking at the guilty flush crossing his cheeks. Will was amused by the Beta’s obvious discomfort, but after the day that Will just had, he wasn’t feeling all that sympathetic.

 

“Don’t do what?” He said, innocently, and blinking his eyes in puppyish confusion.

 

“That,” Zeller said, waving his hand towards Will and looking away. “Showing off your neck like that. I may not be an Alpha but that kind of thing reads like teasing to me.”

 

Will laughed, rolling his eyes. “Don’t ever tell Bev, she’ll eat your heart right out of your chest.”

 

“Trust me, I have zero sexual interest in you,” he said, snorting, offended. Will laughed at the look on Zeller’s face. He took a deep breath and exhaled noisily. “I swear, I can’t tell if you know what you’re doing and you’re manipulating everyone around you; or if you don’t know and just don’t care.”

 

Will considered it for a long moment, a small smirk playing on his lips. He glanced up at Zeller and gave him a genuine smile. “All of the above.”

 

Zeller stared at him, his mouth falling open in confusion and disbelief, but then he just laughed loudly, meeting Will’s eyes.

 

“You’re seriously messed up, Graham.”

 

***

 

Will Graham’s House

10003 Whitevale Lane

Wolf Trap, Virginia

 

Will was in the kitchen, trying to do some cleaning, when Buster started barking excitedly at the front door. Will wiped his hands on a towel and walked through the dining room and into the living room, watching as Winston stood next to Buster, much more dignified than the smaller dog who had jumped up and put his paws against the glass of the exterior door.

 

He opened the door and walked out to see his dad’s truck parked behind his station wagon. Buster barked at Chuck Graham while Winston stood protectively next to Will, waiting for Will to react to the stranger in front of the house.

 

“Hey, dad,” he called, walking off the front porch towards the truck.

 

“Son,” Chuck called, smiling as he bent down to offer his hand to Buster. The dog was shaking his tail, wiggling in joy all over the place, while sniffing and licking Chuck’s hand as the Beta stroked his head. “Hey, there, now. Good boy.”

 

Will grinned, walking towards his dad, giving him a warm hug. “Good to see you, dad. How was your drive up?”

 

“Not bad, made good time,” Chuck said, patting Will on his back and returning the hug wholeheartedly. “You got some coffee?”

 

Will chuckled, nodding to the house. “Come on in, I just brewed a new pot.”

 

“House looks to be in good shape, but your roof looks like you’re going to get some leaks. You might want to get that taken care of before the winter or you’re going to be dealing with a big mess,” Chuck said, following him to the front porch. He saw Winston, standing as guard dog, and smiled at Will. “Looks like you’re growing your pack.”

 

“He’s Winston and the excited one is Buster,” Will said, watching as his dad offered his hand to Winston, petting him gently. Buster was still jumping around Chuck’s feet, bumping into Winston. Will gave a sharp whistle and both dogs dutifully followed Will into the house. Will pointed to their doggy beds. “Go on. Bed.”

 

Winston obeyed immediately and Buster wagged his tail, looking up at Will and then at Chuck, until Will made a sharp tisk, sending Buster to his bed.

 

“Good training,” Chuck said, taking off his jacket and hanging it on the hook next to Will’s.

 

Will walked through the dining room doorway and into the attached kitchen. He pulled down two coffee mugs and filled them with the coffee, bringing out the mugs to the dining room and setting one down in front of his dad. He sat down across from the older Beta, looking him over.

 

“You look tired. Do you want to crash for a few hours before dinner?”

 

Chuck Graham was still a handsome older man, his dark hair streaked with gray, face weathered and tanned from working under the sun. Laugh lines and crow’s feet lined his face, blue eyes showing good humor in the face of adversity. Will had inherited his good genes from his Beta father; sometimes, he wondered what he inherited from his mother.

 

“Yeah, I probably could use a couple of hours,” Chuck said, taking a long sip of his coffee, letting out a pleased sound.

 

“I got the upstairs bedroom ready for you,” Will said, smiling at him. “Where are you headed up north?”

 

“Boston, for the summer, and then probably over to the Lakes,” Chuck said, sitting back in the chair and staring at Will. “I’ve been keeping an eye on the news.”

 

Will pursed his lips and nodded. He wondered which part of the news his dad was keeping tabs on - his art or his other hobby. “I’m keeping busy.”

 

Chuck snorted, giving him a small smirk. “Yeah, I’d sure say that you were.”

 

“Is that why you came up?”

 

“I just wanted to check in on you, son,” his dad said, warmly. “But yeah, I was worried because you were escalating in the numbers. It’s not sustainable, son, for you to keep going at the rate that you’re going. Too many bodies, you’re going to get caught.”

 

Will nodded, looking at Chuck. “I was thinking about taking The Nola out for a sail along the coast, take a hiatus from everything.”

 

“It’s a good idea, but don’t make your hiatus look obvious,” Chuck told him, narrowing his eyes. “You always said that some killers get caught because their absence makes it too obvious.”

 

He grinned, fingers tapping on the mug, and looked up at his dad. “I guess you paid attention to me when I was working in New Orleans.”

 

“Boy, that’s just common sense,” Chuck said, laughing. “And you haven’t been doing a good job of keeping your work hidden. I taught you better than that.”

 

Will acknowledged his dad with a nod of his head. “They won’t find the most recent one, and it’s been a few months since my last public display. No one will think of it if I take a short trip.”

 

His dad took a deep breath and then finished the rest of his coffee, setting the empty mug down on the table. “I’m going to get my bag from the car and get some shut eye. If I don’t wake up in time for dinner, come and shake me.”

 

“Sure,” Will said, smiling at him, getting to his feet. “Want me to help with anything?”

 

“No, I got it, son,” he called, heading to the front door. “Hey, if you want to grill me a thick steak for dinner, I think I’d like that.”

 

Will laughed, nodding. “You got it, dad.”

 

***

 

Will was tinkering with The Nola’s engine in the barn shed when he saw Hannibal’s elegant black Bentley cruising down the road towards his house. Winston and Buster were playing in front of the house and they turned, watching as the car pulled into the driveway and parked behind Chuck’s truck.

 

Will wiped his hands of engine grease, walking out of the shed towards Hannibal’s car. He watched the Alpha get out, smiling as he waved at Will, and then opened the trunk to pull out a large insulated bag.

 

“Hello, Will,” Hannibal called, closing the trunk. He bent down to pet Winston’s and Buster’s heads, greeting them politely. Once they realized who he was, they ran back to the front yard to continue their play.

 

“What brings you by, Hannibal?” Will called, looking at Hannibal carefully. It had been a week since he last saw Hannibal at the Verger Foundation Gala. It was unusual to see the Alpha dressed casually. He wore dark slacks and a dark blue button down shirt, and a sports coat over it. His hair was brushed, but loose over his forehead. This informal, casual look was a little disarming; and Will knew that that was Hannibal’s intention. He wanted Will to be at ease with him, to see him not just as the Ripper and a predator, but as a friend .

 

“I thought I’d bring dinner and that we could spend time together,” Hannibal said, holding up the bag in his hand. He looked at the truck and raised his eyebrows. “But if you’re entertaining a guest, I could return another time.”

 

Will sighed, pressing his lips together as he stared at Hannibal for a long moment. Did he want to let Hannibal meet his dad? He could tell that the Alpha was feeling territorial, but he was doing a good job of keeping his curiosity at bay.

 

“My dad’s visiting for a few days,” Will said, nodding his head towards the house. “And if you want to stay, I could make something extra for all of us.”

 

Hannibal smiled, pleased. “No need. I’ve brought enough for three. I had intended for you to have the extra portion for later, but there’s plenty to share between all of us.”

 

“All right then,” Will said, sighing. “Might as well do this. Come on in.”

 

The dogs ran towards the front porch, waiting for Will at the front door. He walked into his house, holding the exterior door open for Hannibal and the dogs.

 

“Dad! We have company.”

 

Chuck walked into the living room, his expression neutral as he looked over Hannibal. Will took the insulated bag from Hannibal and waved his hand towards his dad.

 

“My dad, Chuck Graham. Dad, this is Dr. Hannibal Lecter,” he said, making the introductions. And then he ditched them both to go into the dining room.

 

“Doctor, huh?” Chuck said, shaking Hannibal’s hand. “You an Alpha?”

 

“Yes, I am, to both,” Hannibal said, smiling. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Graham.”

 

Will snorted and heard his dad echo the snort.

 

“Might as well call me Chuck. Keep things informal.”

 

“Then I hope you’ll call me Hannibal.”

 

Will unpacked the insulated bag, laying all the sealed containers on the dining room table. There really was enough food for the three of them, and probably still have some leftovers. He rolled his eyes at the charming tone of voice that Hannibal was using on his Beta dad. Like Will, his dad wasn’t easily charmed and he wasn’t susceptible to any Alpha wiles.

 

“So, what kind of doctor are you?”

 

“I was an ER surgeon, but I changed to psychiatry.”

 

Will snickered to himself; his dad knew how Will felt about psychiatrists.

 

“Huh,” Chuck said, deadpan. “Didn’t like getting your hands bloody?”

 

Will nearly choked on his tongue, turning to look out the kitchen doorway at Hannibal.

 

But Hannibal merely smiled. “Not necessarily. I’ve always enjoyed being a doctor and healing the body, but I became intrigued with healing the mind.”

 

“Dad, I’m going to set the table,” Will called from the kitchen, gathering plates and utensils. “What do you want to drink?”

 

“Give me a glass of your whiskey, son,” Chuck said, motioning for Hannibal towards the dining room. “What’s your poison, doctor?”

 

Hannibal looked past Chuck and at Will, raising his eyebrow.

 

“I got some wine,” Will said, smirking at him. “It’s not as fancy as your wines, but it’ll do for dinner.”

 

“That sounds lovely, thank you, Will.”

 

“How do you know my boy?”

 

“I’m a great admirer of his work,” Hannibal said, easily.

 

Will brought out plates and utensils, setting the table and waving for the two of them to sit down. “He’s not my shrink, if that’s what you’re wondering, dad.”

 

“Not my business, even if I were wondering,” Chuck said, sitting across from Hannibal. He started opening the containers, the delicious scent of food filling the room. “Damn, that smells good. You made all this?”

 

“I did,” Hannibal said, smiling proudly. “It’s a hobby of mine.”

 

“Cooking?”

 

Will chuckled, taking his seat at the head of his table. “Hannibal doesn’t just cook, dad, he’s a damn good chef. Everyone says that his food is to die for.”

 

Hannibal gave him a look; what the hell, if Hannibal was going to speak in puns, then so was Will. He gave Hannibal a challenging look back and raised his eyebrow.

 

“Please, allow me to serve,” Hannibal said, getting to his feet and elegantly portioning the food onto Chuck’s plate first, then Will’s, and finally, his own. “This is a pork loin in a red wine reduction sauce, with roasted spring vegetables, and fresh biscuits.”

 

“Fancy table service,” Chuck murmured, looking at Will and winking. “Must be nice to have a chef for a friend. And an Alpha at that.”

 

Will was determined not to blush in front of his father and looked at the food on his plate while Hannibal sat down.

 

“Will didn’t tell me that you were visiting,” Hannibal said, watching avidly as Chuck cut into the pork and put it in his mouth. “He said that you lived in South Carolina, and that you moved around quite a lot due to your seasonal work.”

 

“I’m heading up north to Boston and thought I’d stop over for a few days to see my boy,” Chuck said, chewing slowly. “This tastes as good as it smells, Hannibal.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

Will stared at his plate for a long moment, his fork and knife in his hands. He wondered if this was an actual pork loin or if it was some other type of pork .

 

“Is there something wrong, Will?” Hannibal said, innocently.

 

He gave the Alpha a look and cut into the meat, meeting his eyes as he placed it into his mouth. “It’s good, Hannibal, thanks for bringing us dinner.”

 

“It’s my pleasure,” Hannibal said, his eyes lingering on Will’s lips before he cut into his own food. He wiped his lips with the paper napkin, his genteel manners treating it as if he was holding a cloth napkin. “Will is quite a mystery. He very rarely talks about himself. You must share some stories of his past with me.”

 

“Oh yeah? What do you want to know?”

 

“Dad,” Will protested, rolling his eyes.

 

Hannibal chuckled, his eyes sliding towards Will. “I assume that Will developed a love of boats and fishing from you. How old was he when he caught his first fish?”

 

Chuck laughed, looking at Will. “He was about nine years old when he caught his first fish. About the size of a tadpole, but to him, it was as if he’d caught a world class marlin. Boy was so excited, he wouldn’t let me throw it back into the stream. He ended up sneaking it into his pocket when we went home. He cried when it died.”

 

“Dad!” Will said, mortified. “Seriously!”

 

***

 

Hannibal had packed a dessert - fruit tarts - and the three of them shared the sweet treat. Will poured them more coffee and cleared the table, packing away the leftovers into his fridge, and letting his dad and Hannibal get through their discussion on sailing, of all things.

 

As the evening started to wind down, Hannibal got to his feet and politely excused himself. Will had washed and repacked the containers inside the insulated bag, handing it off to Hannibal at the front door.

 

“Thanks for dinner,” he said, looking up at the Alpha.

 

“I would apologize for imposing on you, but I’m glad to have met your father,” Hannibal said, smiling at him. He looked at Chuck and shook his hand again. “Chuck. It was a pleasure.”

 

“Nice to meet you too, son,” Chuck said, patting Hannibal on his back. “Come back and see us before I leave. We’ll grill this time.”

 

“I would enjoy that very much,” he said, warmly. “Goodnight.”

 

“Drive safe,” Chuck said, waving to him.

 

Will walked Hannibal to his car. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

 

“I would like nothing more than to see you and your father again,” Hannibal said, and Will believed him. “Goodnight, Will.”

 

“Night,” he said, stepping back and waving as Hannibal backed out of his driveway, the black car heading down the street.

 

Will let out a deep sigh and walked back towards the house. He wondered what his dad was going to say about an Alpha dropping by Will’s house with a bagful of food. His dad wasn’t oblivious and while his empathy wasn’t as strong as Will’s, the older Beta had strong gut instincts. He wasn’t book smart, but Chuck Graham was smart in other ways that mattered more.

 

Chuck was holding two glasses of whiskey on the porch, handing one over to Will. “You look like you could use another drink, son.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

He sat down on the steps while his dad took the nearby chair.

 

“Seems like a decent enough Alpha, but something’s off with him,” Chuck commented, stretching out his legs in front of him.

 

“He’s the Chesapeake Ripper,” Will said, taking a healthy swallow of his whiskey, letting it burn down his throat.

 

“Well, damn,” Chuck said, thoughtfully. Will nodded his agreement. “Son, you sure know how to pick them.”

 

Will finished off his drink and looked up at his dad to see what was on his face. But Chuck was staring off into the woods past his property line, an amused look on his face.

 

“The Ripper, huh?” He said, letting out a deep breath. “That dinner he brought...that was people meat, wasn’t it?”

 

“Yep.”

 

There was a long pause and Chuck didn’t say anything for a long moment. Will turned back to look out at the woods, leaning his shoulder against the porch bannister.

 

“He’s a real good cook,” his dad said, tapping his fingers against the glass. “You don’t see that kind of hospitality in an Alpha these days.”

 

And that was the end of that. It took a lot more than Will being a serial killer and Hannibal feeding them human flesh to rattle his dad. Chuck Graham was a Beta who rolled with the punches; and Will loved his dad fiercely for that.

 

“It’s nice and quiet out,” Chuck said, softly. “You got yourself a good life here, son.”

 

“I do,” he said, smiling.