Actions

Work Header

Like Calls

Chapter Text

When crisp spring began to turn to warm summer, Will sensed the turning inside him. He glanced at his father, the older omega stirring the contents of a pot over the fire, the catch of the day bobbing in the rich and flavourful stew. His beloved father had taught him what it would feel like. A heaviness in his belly, a tightness across his lower back. A pressure that foretold of an upcoming ache. It was time.

"Father..." he said carefully as he plucked two sets of bows and spoons from the nearby shelf. “I believe this winter will be my time." 

John paused and looked at his son. His face was determined, but a shadow of doubt marred his young features. Not doubt of his own self-diagnosis. No, he doubted the future before him. He was sacred.

Call it an omega’s bias, but John had known from Will’s first plaintive cry fresh out of his womb that the child was special, unlike any other omega he could ever hope to meet or conceive. Will was born with a strange loneliness that was not ideal for their gender.

He wasn’t sure how to console his son. Omegas are solitary, their futures lonely outside of brief heats, their lives centered on themselves and their occasional pups.

Will...Will was someone who felt the emotions of others so acutely, and he derived such an instantaneous and deep connection with others from the briefest of interactions, and those connections made him feel profound joys and sorrows, John often wondered if he'd lose all feeling if he became isolated. Would he, could he feel joy in those months where John wouldn't be able to visit him? Those months while he waited, possibly for nothing at all, until the spring thawed the winter away and he appeared on the other side either alone, or with pup and no alpha?

John shook his head a little at the thought. His stunning boy, blue-eyed with thick, dark locks; lean and well-muscled with softness in all the right areas. A strong boy…no, a man. A man who would bear beautiful, resilient pups after his own likeness who would weather all seasons and stand on their own feet.

His son was, beyond a doubt, a creature beyond any other Omega in memory (again, possibly a proud omega’s bias).

No alpha would pass him up, and there was no outcome where Will returned in the summer without a pup. No, what he worried about was how Will would react to being alone, for those winter months, isolated after his first act of intimacy with another.

He worried, as any father would, but this was not his burden to bear, and he could only have faith in his son.

He cleared his throat carefully. “We’ll…we’ll go to the place you chose all those seasons ago, today. We’ll begin with the logs. Once we get the amount you need, you can begin the foundation pit and I’ll begin catching for your season. Hmm? Sound good?” Will nodded slowly, looking down at his hands.

John nodded and took the bowls from the table, filling them up as he contemplated what sort of shelter Will would create, how large or small he would aim, how deep the foundation would be dug. He had no say, it was the omega’s job to build alone, but he hoped he had given advice enough before now for Will to fare well.

 

Handing a full bowl back to Will, he felt a trembling hand wrap around his wrist.

“Father…”

“Yes, my boy.”

“…Will I be a good father?” Will asked, scared eyes looking up into John’s own. John sighed and put the bowl on the table taking his son’s face into his hands, warm fingers from handling the hot food running over Will’s cheeks and drawing redness to the surface. His cheeks were losing their childish roundness, bless his heart, and John felt his throat catch at the thought of his son leaving him. But now was not the time for his own heart, he had to reassure Will.

 

“You will be” he kissed Will’s cheek

“The best” the other cheek

“Kindest” his nose

Strictest father to ever be.” He ended with a loud smacking kiss on his forehead.

 “And your pups will be all the better for it.” He added, for good measure.

 

Will chuckled. “I’d never let my child get away with what you let me get away with.” Will stated slyly. John gave a put-upon eye roll, and smiled. “Little gremlin.” He chuckled and shook his head.

 They ate in contemplative silence, the dark doubts abated for now, and left in their wake, anticipation and hope for the future.

 


  

Hannibal gazed over the pebbly beach around him, turning to look back upon his boat as the sun rose over the horizon. He had been pushed in unknown directions during the storm that had raged for the past two or three days (he had not been able to note the comings and goings of the sun through the rains and dark clouds). When the rain and clouds had subsided, and he saw the land in the distance, he had considered providence. Fate, maybe.

He had intended to leave his lands far behind him, and nothing was quite so far as a land outside of his own geographical knowledge. He had gotten what he had wanted. Assessing his surroundings, he eyed the woods nearby, and the mountains beyond; he could taste the foreignness on his tongue. Tugging his disheveled hair into the intricate braids he had become accustomed to, he took stock of his worldly possessions carefully.

A battleaxe, a machete, a long knife about half the length of his forearm and a skinning blade. He shook his ration bag. It sounded like two days of tasteless misery, if he were careful about it. He had made land just in time.

Securing his smaller knife at his side, his other more obvious weaponry was stowed out of sight (though he made sure his battleaxe was at the ready to be used), and ventured into the nearby woods, not so much as a glance back at his boat and the past that lay behind him.

Three hours into the woods, he came across a river. Taking advantage of the clear water, he filled his depleted water-skin and washed the crystalline salt off of his face and neck, reveling in the iciness it left on his skin. He was busy washing his spare tunic, which had become crusted with brine, when he spotted movement in his peripheral vision. Focusing, he realized it was an elderly woman.

She appeared to be spear fishing, her tunic tied up to her knees and her feet bare standing steady in the icy current. She positioned herself then held still...so utterly still and statuesque that for a moment, Hannibal wondered if he had indeed come across a sculpture.

Her spear arm held upright and steady for some minutes as he watched, before she struck out. The weapon broke water like an arrow loosed from a bow and she gave a bark of triumph when she drew her large catch from the water.

He wasn't quite sure why, but Hannibal found himself standing and watching as she sat on the shore and got to work on the fish. She had gotten only so far as to remove a few unwanted entrails before her nostrils flared and her dark eyes shot up to find him.

Ah...how foolish of him to forget he was upwind.

She gave a nod.

He nodded back.

Then took a few steps towards her. 

She was instantly on her feet, her mouth turned down in a grim line and her spine straight as a pole. The knife that had been slicing through the fish was now held firmly in her fist, ready to plunge if necessary. 

As he got closer, he noted her lack of scent. He wondered if she were a Witch of the Woods. They knew plants in a way few did, and often concocted tinctures that could do many things to a body. Cure ailments, increase or decrease fertility, even stop scent production. Though he had a feeling her scentless-ness was more natural than otherwise...she looked around the age for an omega to stop producing heat pheromones. 

 

“Alpha…passing through?” she asked seriously once he was close enough. He took that as a sign to pause here, outside of her...stabbing range. He was still a good 10 meters from her. He felt relief in the fact that he at least knew her tongue, if that tongue happened to be in the mouth of a woman that looked prepared to kill him. Not that he could fault her vigilance. One could never be too careful, with strange men.

The twang to her words was unfamiliar, but the words sounded like the language used by the southern tribes, along the coast, who must have populated these lands long ago.

 “I am.” He answered, relaxing his shoulders in an attempt to shrink himself, to appear less of a threat. They both knew lax shoulders wouldn’t save her in a scuffle.

 

“You pack light, alpha. You’re no trader.” she stated, eyeing his pack and likely catching the glint of his battleaxe.

“I’m a stranger to these parts. Searching for the nearest township or village. If you could point me in the right direction.” He said in response.

 

That seemed to relax her a bit, her eyes darting to his hair and attire, assessing the foreignness of his garb and credibility of his statement. She indicated to the mountains in the horizon with her bloody knife. “Towns are behind those mountains. You won’t find more than family groups till you reach there. This here, this is Wolf territory.” His confusion must have shown on his face, as her smirk widened. “You’ve no idea of the Wolves, alpha?”

 “Hannibal.” He said, which just made her throw her head back and cackle.

 “You really must not know of the Wolves.” She said, grinning from ear to ear. “If you proceed further without an idea, you may die at the hand of a stray alpha or a rearing omega. Gut these fishes while I start a fire, and I’ll let you have some while I tell you a bit more about what you might find going forward.”

 

He stared at her a moment, weighing his options.

He had no qualms about killing those who got in his way, alpha omega or scentless as this woman here. He also didn't enjoy useless confrontations brought about by misunderstandings. Rudeness was not something he tolerated, and he would hate to be the rude one in a land likely unlike his own. 

He nodded to her and she stepped aside, letting him get to the fish she had dropped on the bank, while she stoked a fire nearby. He watched as she got comfortable and watched him.

“It is gracious of you to offer me information on my journey. Most would leave me to my own devices.” he said, ripping the gills from the fish.

She chuckled and shook her head. “Not for love of you, alpha. I am gracious to the omegas in these woods. The good alphas aren’t too shabby either. No. I do this to spare them. You look like you would win...I don't want them to die for nothing.”

"Then we are on the same page. Tell me of these Wolves."

and so she did.

Chapter Text

Felling trees with an axe, John decided, was not easy work, least of all when one was at the age where you own children were entering their heats. For the larger logs at the base of the shelter, he and Will had worked together with a two-man saw. These trees, however, were for the rafters and beams, and they had made the decision to go their separate ways. Will would get started on the pit, and John would begin hunting, trapping, fishing and smoking some rations for the winter, once he was done with these last bits of material.

Aside from the collection of the materials, John would not touch the shelter or have any part in its construction.

This was Will’s house, the house where he would conceive, where he would raise his young. It was to be his world, it was to come together by his hand, and it was to be his design.

It was tradition.

And it was fucking stupid, in John’s opinion. His jaw ached from clenching when he imagined his son lugging around timber, dragging it on the ground and taking twice as long to get a task done, himself just watching because some long-forgotten somebody decided that this was how it should be.

Toiling alone to prepare for a future of toiling a lone. Building a house of your own two hands, and then building a life and the future of their kind with the same two hands in that house. Poetic nonsense. A roof was a roof, whoever put it there.

But he knew this was more than just taboos and superstition to Will. Wherever he could get something right in the eyes of norms and culture, he threw himself into it with all of his heart and soul. This was a rite of passage for him, a coming of age custom handed down from omega to omega from time immemorial in the Wolf valleys. And Will wanted to be a part of that legacy.

So John lopped another tree down, eyeing his small pile that he would have to drag back on a sled back to Will’s clearing. Yes, he would stand by and watch his son labor and groan and when the day would come to part, he would kiss his sweaty little head and bid him a warm and complete life in the house he had built. And he would wish him all the joy in the world, though it be less than what he deserved.

 


 

 

Will was in a trance of repetitive action. The sun could have set by now for all he knew, and he would not have known, lost in the shoveling, shoveling, shoveling he was doing. All the advice of the ages resounded in his ears. The pit had to be about a meter deep, the soil along the edges had to be patted just so and angled just such, to make for stable walls. He measured the logs, then went back to the pit. Dug around, stomped dirt flat, re-measured for reassurance, then returned to the dirt.

He had to have been at it for hours when he heard his father enter the clearing. He kept at it till he realised the man had been standing on the edge of the pit, staring at it in silence for some time. Looking up, Will noted that his father’s face looked…concerned, and a little amused at the same time.

“What? Is it lopsided?” Will asked desperately, eyes darting the corners of his plot, glaring at their 90 degrees intensely.

“No, no. It’s perfectly fine.” And yet the man still stared.

“Is it too deep? Too shallow?”

“It’s perfectly fine.”

“Is the earth poor? Should I relocate?”

“It’s perfectly fine.”

“Then why are you looking at it like that? What’s wrong with it?”

John paused, shuffled his feet, and gave a little shrug, just enough for the rabbit and two traps slung over his shoulder to sway with the movement.

“Nothing is wrong, son. It’s just…large.” He said simply.

Will looked at the plot he had dug. When that wasn’t enough for him to tell, he scrambled out and stood next to his father, assessing it.

 

“It’s not.” Will decided testily.

“It’s certainly not average sized.”

“It will be comfortably roomy.”

“It will be cold in the winter.”

“The fire will warm us.”

“The fire’s heat won’t reach the corners of the house.”

“Then we won’t stand in the bloody corners of the house like idiots.”

 

Silence came over the clearing, father and son looking upon the large rectangular pit leaned in the shadow of the nearby stony hillside. There were a few cave systems hidden there and John had discussed the possibility of getting a few goats from a trader and treating the caves like a stable. Plans made together, for futures apart.

 

They spoke at once:

“I’ll make it smaller.”

“It’s perfectly fine.”

 

Silence once more. John placed a hand on Will’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “Forgive an old man, it wasn’t my place to criticise. I told myself I wouldn’t, and yet I did. This is what your instincts called for. Perhaps you will bear a litter. Perhaps your child will be such a hellion that it will need all that space to crawl about. Your hands made this, Will. That’s how it’s meant to be.”

Will nodded without any real agreement. Part of him wanted to begin adding dirt back into the pit and make it smaller, aiming for whatever his father considered average, because if you go by the exact steps of another, surely it would lead you to the same place. Contentment. Surely. Right?

But a small house with ‘just enough’ room wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted it overflowing. Large bowls hold more water within them than cupped hands, perhaps a larger house would call to house more of what he desired. Love, family, warmth. Companionship.

He was still thinking, when his father pointed at the farthest edge of the house. “Put the smoke house there, and the heat will reach the areas where your hearth will not. You will be warm in the winter. I was wrong.”

Will couldn’t help the smile that crept along his face at the reassurance. He grabbed the rabbit from his shoulder to clean it and said teasingly “You’re never wrong, father. Though sometimes you take the scenic route to ‘right’.”

That earned him a cuff on the back of the head, their gleeful laughter reverberating back to them off of the stone walls like a chorus.

 


 

 

Hannibal stared at the woman for a moment, trying to capture everything she had just said to him, so strange it was from his own homeland. He was used to towns, full family units, armies and kings and nobility.

This was a new world.

Alphas wandered around, living nomadically, and never set their roots down. Sometimes in the spring and summer months, they grouped with other alphas in make-shift camp sites, but the groups dispersed every winter for mating season.

Some alphas became traders, travelling over the mountains to the towns for metals and other materials that the Wolves did not produce themselves. They were the only ones trusted to approach omegas and their houses outside of a heat. Often they were treated with distrust, as there have been those who took advantage of the isolation of new omega mothers.

For that reason, finding a dead alpha lying around with an omega scent on him wasn’t seen as overly concerning. If an alpha smelt of omega on the off season, he was dealt with by the closest being with a weapon and free time. If he smelt of something younger, there was usually little left of him to be found.

Omegas lived alone or with their young. Occasionally, when the omega were aged out of their heats, they banded together for comfort and company.

No one knew their fathers.

Alphas who left home often never see their mothers again.

 

And now they were a short few months away from heat season, and he was entering at the most dangerous time for an alpha: Autumn. It was nesting season.

 

“So, during nesting season, alphas will be battling to thin the herd, and omegas will be more offensive than usual, prone to violence. Especially the parents of new omegas. They’ll be ready to rip the throats out of any alpha who approaches their young before the heat kicks in…overprotective darlings. Though, it is better to be overprotective than regretful.” She stated, taking a bite from the stale bread Hannibal had offered from his rations. She seemed wistful as she spoke of omega mothers, clearly thinking highly of them.

“Alphas know better than to approach another during this season, whether alpha or omega. Nod at one another, and be on your way. Take note of the location if the omega so interests you, but never. Ever. Take an omega before their season.”

“Was that how you knew I was a stranger? By my approach when you nodded at me?”

“Among other things. You look different. You told me your name too; that clinched it.”

That was surprising.

“Do you not exchange names?”

“There’s no need for anyone but a mother to know an alphas name. When would we use it? When would we repeat it? Why should we remember it? Irrelevant.”

Hannibal frowned down at his own bread, contemplating such bizarre practices. The complete disregard for alpha authority aside, he could not imagine it…Omegas, living without mates, mating only for breeding and nothing more. Children being raised without knowledge of their sires, born to repeat this strange cycle.

His companion watched as his thoughts played over his face. “You think we’re strange.” She said, the sides of her lips twitching upright slightly. He frowned, making her smile outright. “Ah, the alpha disapproves.”

“An omega with child, completely on their own…is…”

“Is fine. They’ve been fine, they’ll continue to be fine.” She said sharply, leaving no room for debate or discussion. He looked unsure, which made her sigh deeply in annoyance, before her expression turned rather fond.

“Your concern is sweet, alpha-”

“Hannibal.”

“Al. Pha. But the Wolves don’t need it. We take care of our own. Elders like me who cease their heats, or those born without scents, we do our part for our omegas. We travel in the late winter and early spring to help those with pup. Small things. Cutting firewood, fixing shingles, rallying the older pups from previous heats. We travel in the spring to help them give birth. We travel in the autumn to save the alphas from themselves, whenever they deign to ask for help.”

He considered her words. She was a healer, then, much like he had been back in his homeland before…Before. He wondered how the towns over the mountains thought of the Wolves. Did the find them backwards? Bizarre? Heathen? Most likely, from her quick and well practiced response to his dubious statement.

“So if I should pass through these woods, nodding and keeping my distance, I should fare well enough among the omega.”

“Yes.”

“It is the alpha I must keep an eye on?”

“Precisely.”

“Anything else I should know about?”

“You should make it through the mountain pass before winter sets in. If you miss your time, you will be trapped here in heat season. Nothing but the woods and the ocean from whence you came.”

“And if I should choose to stay? To find an omega, to breed?” It wasn’t a desire to do so that prompted this strain of questions. Sometimes, Hannibal just enjoyed getting answers.

She gave him a good look, turning her head to side and humming, eyeing him up from feet to forehead. Hannibal had never quite felt so laid bare before, but he took it without a complaint. He had posed the question, after all. Besides, he knew he was not an unattractive alpha by any means.

“You know..." she said, still eyeing him up as she did so. "Sometimes we have alpha townfolk who think they’re in for a good time traipsing over the pass just before it closes. They go looking for omega to bed, so confident that any heat addled creature would welcome them with open legs. They found quite the opposite. Omega can smell weakness…and nothing smells quite as weak as a bank teller or a scribe, out in the world for the first time, arriving empty handed and drooling before an omega's den. They end up wandering our woods, wounded and starving, usually sent limping by a disappointed omega’s hand rather than an alphas. We don’t usually take to outsiders.”

“But you…you are strong. Broad shoulders, long legs, thick hair, all your teeth in your head. Death is in your eyes, you are willing to end another who may threaten you. Intelligent, if I may take a guess, educated. Omegas would perk at the thought, I know I would have back in the day. New blood can be a good thing, if it comes from the right alpha. I shall enjoy watching your brood grow, should you stay for the season.”

“Well, with such a compliment, now I really must insist you call me Hannibal.” He insisted, passing her his last bit of bread. He would catch more food tomorrow. She gave him a look that was somehow equally charmed and perplexed, but took the bread regardless.

He couldn’t stop his grin at that, flashing his alpha fangs in the firelight as he did so. The sun had set some time during their discussions, somehow Hannibal had missed it. She grinned back at him, ripping a piece with her smaller omega fangs.

“I wish you the best on your journey, alpha Hannibal.”

“I would wish you the best on your own, if I knew what to call you. Elder? Healer? Omega mother?” he asked charmingly, receiving a smack on the arm. "You must have born such beautiful children in your day." he teased, making her smack him again, blushing and clearly not offended.

“My pups were the most gorgeous beings to walk the valley. And I’ll have you know, courting our omegas is done by providing a kill, not making compliments.”

“Duly noted…”

“Bella.”

“Duly noted, Bella."

They sat back and finished their food, settling comfortably, knowing full well that when the sun rose, it would rise over an empty riverbank, both of them on their way.

Chapter Text

Will walked through the snow covered forest, his feet sinking ankle-deep into the pristine snow with every step. Somehow, he knew his feet were bare, though not by any physical pain or biting chill from the snow, and not from any sense of touch. He couldn’t feel the crunch of the buried pine needles between his toes. He just knew in the way you know these things, when you dream.

He did not know where he was going, only that he was going there and that he couldn't stop. His mind was a haze, every sense numbed to a sluggish pace.

Which was why the realisation that someone...something... was walking directly behind him, came upon him like a creeping dawn. The feeling of anticipation built in his gut, but he could not turn, he could not run, nor could he stop. By some unwritten and unspoken law of the dreamscape, all he could do was keep walking. His eyes strained to the edges of their limit, trying to catch a glimpse of his 'companion' in his peripherals, always just out of sight.

A sudden gust of warm breath prickled his neck, followed by a loud rustle, like a hefty beast shaking off the sleet and dew from its hide. It shattered the silence of the endless woods and stopped Will in his tracks. Whatever his companion was, it was huge, and it was close enough to touch. Slowly, he lifted his hand from his side, forcing his clenched fist into an open palm, and reached back, fear giving way to shock as a warm, wet nose nuzzled into his palm.

And just as suddenly as the touch came, it disappeared, replaced by the feeling of dirt in his clenched hand as he sat up from his bedding, his furs and pillow a complete mess about him.

Will's eyes flashed around the make-shift lean-to he and his father had thrown together on their first day here. John's sleeping form lay within reach, snoring softly. The cold wind buffeting the wooden barrier between Will and the sky gave him an eerie sense of an invisible presence out there in the dark...a dreadful foreboding stole into Will's heart, freezing him in place, eyes wide and gazing into the moaning darkness.

Still as a statue, Will remained, until the morning rays began to light up the world outside and John began to stir.

***

They were having breakfast outside of the lean-to, overlooking the near-finished hut nearby. All that was left was bark roofing and some mud patching, and of course, living in it. In that time, Will would make the hut truly an omega’s own den, his scent permeating every corner. His father would never set foot in it, sleeping outside (alone, Will shuddered at the thought) in the lean-to while his son stayed within. Then, it would truly be complete. John sat cross-legged a bit away from the fire, staring at the hut with a sort of melancholic smile, his thoughts probably following Will’s own, though with less fear of the unknown.

"Did you sleep well?" John asked.

Oh, boy. One would think it was a pointless question, if one didn’t read his eyes. Will hated when his father did that. He would ask the colour of the sky with his voice while his eyes asked for the world in a platter with garnish on the side.

John knew very well how the night had treated his son, he was no fool. The proof lay in Will's sluggish movements, the downturn of his mouth, and the darkness under his eyes. John was asking what demon had crept into his son's dreams to rob him of sleep.

Luckily for Will, he had developed a full-proof method of avoiding answering these penetrating queries from his father, perfected over years of living with the man.

His gaze dropped to his task, eyes going unfocused even as he avoided his father's eyes, filling John's bowl with piping-hot porridge, tossing in a handful of freshly picked berries for good measure. He kept a sideways tilt to his face to prevent any possible eye contact. This earned him a deep, warning rumble of a growl from John's belly. It was the growl of an omega father ready to take a scruff in his maw and give it a little shake. He spoiled Will rotten, beyond a doubt, but when it came to Will's well-being, no one stood between John and a solution. Not friend nor foe, nor Will himself.

"Where are you going today?" Will asked, instead of answering John's growl.
Will.” John stressed his name like a warning. If this pup thought he could dodge the question…
“Please, where are you going? I need to know…” Will asked again, passing him the bowl of porridge and briefly lifting his eyes to John’s for a fraction of a second. An olive branch, of sorts.
“Hmph…I’m going to fish. Maybe find a trader, get some more salt for curing.” John responded.
“Take your hatchet.”

That surprised John somewhat. A hatchet had little use on a fishing trip, and wasn’t sturdy enough for felling wood if that was Will’s intention. He could only have meant it as a weapon. Dread prickled John’s nape, his hair standing on end as he thought of Will’s intuition and its eerie accuracy.

“I will take my hatchet.” He said carefully, shifting where he sat, trying to shake off his unease.

“Or perhaps you could stay nearer?” Will asked carefully, sitting down cross-legged next to his father, closer than he had since his adolescence, his knee almost resting on top of John’s own. His unease was palpable, prompting John to shift closer, placing a leg on either side of his son so he was held between his knees, Will leaning back into his father’s hold like he used to when he was a child as John pulled him into an embrace. He could feel Will’s body tremble in something other than the cold.

“I’ll be near enough. The river is not too far from here. A howl and a sprint away. Do you fear for me, or for you?”
“I don’t know what I fear, or if it is fear that I feel.” Will replied. He knew his heart raced and his hands shook, but for excitement or terror, he couldn’t tell. “I just know something is coming…and we need to be prepared.”

“Perhaps it is the heat hormones. It is your first, after all.”
“Perhaps.” Will responded, though he didn’t sound convinced. “Maybe take the machete, too.” He added, which made John chuckle.
“Need to leave some weapons for you too, my love. You take the machete, I’ll take the hatchet, and if anything, anything goes off…call to me.”
They remained clinging to each other for a while longer, father and son, in contemplative and calming silence before the duty of day became too much to ignore. There was much to do and little time to do it.

 


 

Hannibal eyed the traders before him carefully. They were clearly not of the Wolves. He had run into a native alpha half a moon ago. He was silent, lithe, somber, accompanied only by what he cared to keep, his pack light and his campsite sparse. They had eyed each other for a moment before exchanging nods.

These traders were over-burdened with large packs, loud, rough, and to be frank, they smelt rank, clearly inexperienced in keeping clean while in the wilderness. Above all else, oblivious to their surroundings as well.

They had yet to notice Hannibal sizing them up from a copse near the riverbank they were currently settling into. There were four of them, though only three moved around the campsite setting it to straights. One sat back, barking orders and making jokes, though looking all the world like the weakest of the lot.

Another clear sign they were foreign. They had a leader clearly not chosen for strength or cunning. He most likely had wealth, then. Something a Wolf alpha group never wasted two thoughts on. As it were, all alpha groups would have separated by now; winter was knocking on the doors of the realm, occasional flurries of snow indicating the end of autumn, and Hannibal wondered if this group were of traders…or predators.

He felt the wind change. Within a few minutes, his scent would be discovered. Better to announce himself. He had hare skins he had no use for and water skin that needed filling at the river. Perhaps they had meats or salts he could use.

He approached slowly but steadily, waiting for them to take note of his arrival. He was roughly a yard away when the first alpha stood up straight, making note of his presence with a sniff and alerting the group with a rough grunt. Conversation died out as the three busy alphas watched his approach, the fourth seated one going about his business fiddling with a knife. It looked like a skinning knife, though daintier with an intricately designed handle. Beautiful, but ultimately useless as it would make skinning with the blade harder and more tiring.

Hannibal stopped a few feet from the camp, eyeing them up and down even as they returned the favour. “What have you for sale?” he asked in lieu of a greeting.

They didn’t move, nor look away.

The seated one spoke first.

“What’re ya hankering for?” Bizarre accent. Hannibal found himself averse to it, though it may have been the voice and the man rather than the twang.

“Salt, if you have any.”
“We’ve got boar, lots and lots of it.”
“Hides?”
“Just the meat.”
“Spices, perhaps?”
“Not for you.”
“For the omegas, then?”

The man grinned widely, flicking some dirt from under his nail with the blade tip before pointing it at Hannibal.

“You’ve got the idea.”
“No omega will approach your group.”
“We’ll worry about our sales. You worry about what you’ll trade for some boar.”

Hannibal looked from alpha to alpha, noting their hands reaching for their respective weapons. He wondered if they would be worth the mess they would cause. Wondered if he cared to stop them in whatever they planned on doing. Bella ran through his mind for a moment, her eyes bright with admiration for her fellow omega, her teeth sharp at the mention of foreign alpha who seek to take what they don’t earn.

Her teeth and the teeth of her kin were sharp. He wondered if the winds would take the scent of these ruffian’s blood to him within the day, or the week. Or if the scent of their victims would be what found him.

It wasn't his concern either way.

“Thank you, but I have no need for boar. Do you know the way to the pass?”
“Start walking that way and keep going. Can't miss it. Better hurry, it’ll close within the week.”

The statement was clear…these lot had no intention of crossing back, and they were greatly pleased with the thought of one less alpha, a strong one at that, in the fray.

He turned and walked away from the group, feeling the eyes on his neck even as the seated alpha’s laugh cut through the air like a knife. He'd fill his skin elsewhere.

 


 

Every twig snap, every rustle of the underbrush, was setting John off. Will’s anxious and fidgety behaviour that morning has put him ill at ease. He had his fishing gear was with him. Gutting knife, fish sling for bait and the catch, his long flexible wooden pole balanced on his shoulder. And at his side, a new addition to the fishing repertoire, his hatchet. It pressed upon his leg with both reassurance and foreboding, bringing to mind the fear that had been on Will's face and the tremble in his limbs. 

Over the years, he had gotten used to Will's special dreams, sometimes filled with horror other times with nonsense, but always leaving behind an air of confusion and anxiousness about the boy. After those dreams, he had started getting these hunches, huge leaps from his dream to predictions using his strange imagination. And more often than not, his hunches had proven to be worth their salt.

John hesitated to call it supernatural, but it certainly was not common. Then again, nothing about Will could be categorised as common. 

John prayed to whatever deity gave a damn about omegas, that this was just a case of hormones and a first heat. Hell, John had been petrified his first heat. His mother had passed in the prior winter and he had had to prepare alone, worries plaguing his mind with every step he took. Worries about whether or not he had gathered enough food (he had), if his house was secure enough (it had been), if any alpha would even come along and find him worth a sniff (one had), and if the alpha would be cruel (he was not).

John had always thought to himself that if there was one thing he was grateful for in his life, it was having Will. Now, he knew, if there were two things he was grateful for, it was having Will and being around to help him prepare for his first heat so that he wouldn't go through the stress John had gone through, no matter how wonderfully it had turned out in the end (he had gotten Will out of it, after all).  

But something in the dark of John's mind warned him not to hope for easy solutions. Will's body was a swirling pot of hormones, pheromones and adrenaline, but Will's mind was what it had always been...a sharp, brooding, dark thing that could foresee what few could; the hearts of man and the unknowable future. John gripped the hatchet as he walked, a thing he was starting to do every few seconds now, to remind himself it was there. 

As John's thoughts teetered dangerously into Will-esque brooding, a trace of a familiar scent brushed by on the wind, diverting his attention.

He knew those scents...it was...

 


 

 

Two omega, an adult and a child. They had passed recently. “Hardly my concern.” He whispered aloud, but the clamour of his instinct made his body taut, muscles unconsciously winding to a strained stillness, like a bow string pulled back, ready to let loose an arrow.

The child still smelt of their mother’s milk. Their fate was as good as set in stone, with the direction they were heading in…one omega, with the burden of a child, would not be able to fend off four alphas. She didn’t stand a chance. She would die failing to protect her young. She would die, just like...

But it wasn’t his business.

‘It wasn’t our neighbor's business, either.’

Memories of his Mischa filled his chest…her scent, so like this, muddied by blood and fear, stamped out by death, ruined by action and inaction.

He turned on his heel and picked up his pace to a steady run, following the scent like a beacon in the night.

No, it wasn’t his business, but the alphas had been just so…very…rude...what was to be done about that?

Chapter Text

Will had once fancied himself in love with Alana for four whole seasons.

 

John had watched with much amusement, and a little sadness, as his boy went tripping after the young omega woman that lived a stream away from them, who had just passed her first heat. She had been unsuccessful in conceiving, or rather, she had been successful in avoiding just that result, as she had confessed to using certain plants that are generally avoided by those who are looking forward to the wonders of childbearing.

 

Using these plants wasn’t taboo, neither was it a lauded option among omegas, but it had opened Will’s eyes to something he had never seen before.

 

An omega, choosing her own future, then taking steps towards making it come to be. She had fascinated him with her talk of her plans for having children when she wanted them. She enchanted him with her compassion and attention, something few omegas gave to those who were not their children or siblings.

 

More over, she bewitched him with her talk of one day finding an omega to settle with, raising both their children together as siblings, sharing burdens and warming lonely nights.

 

He had wanted to be that omega.

 

He had not become that omega.

 

Soon after, Alana had started appearing at the river with the heavy scent of a pregnant omega on her, a smile of pure happiness seemingly permanently etched into her face, and they had both known then that she had found the one she had been seeking.

 

Will’s heartbreak was short lived, quickly giving way to envy, followed quickly by despair as he searched himself and realised that no matter her compassion and kind words to him, Alana had never truly drawn close to him. And though he may deny it outright, he had not drawn close to her either. He had not loved her in the way she sought to be loved or the way she loved her partner.

 

He had not lost her, as he had never had her…but more importantly, she had never had him.

 

Such realisations had given way to self-deprecating thoughts that John had quickly countered best he could by listing all the ways Will was unlike (in John’s opinion, ‘far better than’) any other omega out there, most exceedingly exaggerated which hadn't made the situation that much better. He had insisted that any omega, man or woman, with a right mind would be grateful to have Will for a lifelong companion, though he hadn’t had an answer when Will had asked him if such overtly 'social' omegas were even common.

 

How does one tell one’s depressed, prepubescent son that he may have missed his chance with one of the only omegas that shared his preference for company? Silence had been his only option.

 

Shortly after Will had entered his final stages of grief over the relationship-that-never-was, John had met Alana’s omega during a short foraging trip. Will had been indisposed at that time, busy moping about the house, going through the motions of his chores petulantly.

 

She was a beautiful omega with brown hair and dark, soulful eyes. Her name was Margot, and the newborn she carried lashed to her chest was the sweetest darling John had seen in a fair bit of time. Alana and Margot became a scarcity after that chance meeting, Alana deciding to relocate to Margot’s heat hut – now a house - to raise the child.

 

That had been nearly two years ago now.

 

John hadn’t known Margot well at all, not quite as well as he knew Alana, but he never forgot a scent.

 

It was just that mixture of Margot and her child (Morgan, was she? Yes, Morgan) that was reaching John now. It was faint, but growing stronger, carried on a breath of wind laden with the smell of freshwater, sandstone and pine. She was likely near the river, then. He picked up his pace, spurred on by curiosity concerning her and Alana’s lives so far, along with genuine giddy glee at being able to interact with an infant again.

 

As he couldn’t scent Alana, he presumed she must be preparing for a heat. After all, two out-of-season omega had little reason to part when leaving their home. Perhaps he could share his catch Margot to bring as a gift to her for her time alone trapped in a hut “sitting on her hands waiting for an alpha to hurry the hell up”, as she had once put it.

 

As the sound of flowing water grew stronger, he was hit by a skin-crawling scent of unwashed alpha.

 

Musky, dirty, and almost primitive in its promise for violence. This was not the normal scent of a their alphas. This was the scent of invaders from over the pass.

 

He dropped his line and bag, and broke into a sprint. There was not a second to waste, intercepting Margot before she reached them was his best option.

 

He didn’t care for stealth now, hoping his urgent crashing through the forest would alert Margot or at the very least distract the alphas. He pushed thoughts of  consequences far from his mind, unwilling to think of the pain he was courting, only thinking that now, in the arms of an lone omega sat a child of barely two years.

 

He gripped the hatchet close at his side as the thought emerged over the din of his pounding feet across the forest floor, as clear as spoken word.

 

“Will is always right.”

 


 

It happened as these things always do. In that fraction of a moment between two heart beats, a matter of unavoidable and purposeless fate.

 

All things changed.

 

Margot had been walking slowly, holding Morgan’s hand as she did what looked like a drunken stagger across rocks and sand. She was good enough at walking on level ground, but the pebbled riverbank made for a challenge. An amusing one, if her cheerful babbling and occasional giggles meant anything.

 

The day was bright, the breeze pleasant. The river chuckled happily near them and she knew after she caught a few fish for dinner, Alana would be waiting for her at home with a warm stew of preserved venison and a kiss. Their final month before she was off to bear them a child, a sibling for Morgan to play with and love. They both hoped for a boy, one of each seemed a fair balance in things. They didn’t care whether the child be an alpha or omega, as they would be loved.

 

One beat.

 

She heard the crackle of stones not far off. She turned to see four alphas, their scents hidden by the treacherous downwind draft. They were donning clothes that looked foreign. Not so  foreign to her were the knives in two of their hands, and the sickening leers on their faces.

 

Two beats.

 

The alphas began walking towards her. She snatched Morgan up and pressed her to her chest. She thought of the river. It was far, the current was too strong, her being able to hold onto the child wasn’t assured. The woods. Far, and while the alphas were unladen, she had Morgan...but she knew paths they did not.

 

Three beats.

 

John came bursting from the woods to the left, five feet from her, breathing hard, eyes wild and clear. Margot could hardly believe his presence for a moment, so unexpected both in timing and place. He lived far from here…he should be safe at home, closer to the Three Lakes.

 

Yet here he was, heaven sent.

 

John looked to the alphas, who seemed taken aback enough by the sudden appearance of another omega to pause.

 

Then he looked to her.

 

An understanding passing between them. Simple math. Four alphas. Two omegas. One infant. There was no winning, there was cutting losses and all that mattered now was Morgan.

 

One had to stay.

 

They both knew who the one would be.


“RUN!” John bellowed, charging towards the alphas at full speed, throwing himself between Margot and the alphas. His voice had barely left him before she turned, taking off to the woods, fast across the river stones as a goat on a cliffside. She prayed that her feet would not fail her now. The child’s life depended on it, and she had John’s sacrifice on her hands now.

 


 Ye who do not like graphic descriptions of violence, turn round now. End of violence is marked with +++


 

If there was one thing John could thank the gods for in this moment, it was that alphas with ill intentions towards omegas often underestimated them.


He knew he could not win. He knew he had no way to defeat four able bodied alphas in their prime. He wasn’t a fool. But time…time would get Margot far enough to lose them in the woods. It would get her far enough that she could find a Wolf, alpha or omega, it did not matter. Or it could bring her to shelter.  

 

And slowing down the alphas was certainly something he knew he could do.

 

He watched as they bore down on him like an impending flood, two veering hard to the right to avoid him and pursue Margot, two aiming directly for him. He continued to run towards them, knowing momentum would be his greatest ally against the superior strength of an alpha.

 

The first reached him with a wild lunge, barely missing John's head as he ducked low, swinging his hatched in a low and brutal sweep, striking the alpha across the shins. He felt meat cleave from shattered bone, accompanied by the howling shriek of pain as the alpha fell to the ground.

 

The second swing from the second alpha, accompanied by a cry of vulgarity he didn’t deign to register. He barely managed to dodge the blow, but couldn’t avoid when the brute threw his arm around his waist and took them both to the ground. They took to a desperate wrestling for the hatchet, both losing it to the wayside in their struggle, setting them on a battle of stamina.  

 

The other two that swerved clear of John’s and the alpha’s flailing (and the other alpha’s sobbing figure crumpled on the ground), made a beeline for Margot.

 

“No!” John shouted after them, fury giving him strength as he kicked the alpha above him viciously in his meaty side. He was a burly beast, but a fool, releasing John’s arms in favour of grabbing his shirt and shaking him like an enraged dog.

 

John grabbed the alpha’s head with his both hands and his thumbs went for his eyes. His right thumb met its mark, digging in and holding on as the alpha bucked in agony. A cold shiver of horror ran through him as he felt the soft flesh give way and burst beneath his fingertips, bile rising up his throat at the wet sound that accompanied, but neither that nor the wailing alpha clawing at his hands to free himself loosened his hold.

 

Fighting through the nausea, he kicked off the half-blinded alpha, rolled onto his knees, grabbed his hatchet in his right and a large river stone in his left, and took off in a dead sprint after Margot and her pursuers. 

 

Margot had just reached the treeline when the steadily gaining alphas overtook her, grabbing her tunic collar and yanking her back like a dog on a leash. John’s mouth went dry, seeing one alpha grab Margot while the other seized and yanked at Morgan’s arm.

 

Margot desperately tried to hold onto Morgan, while trying to shake off  the alpha to her back, which seemed to just enrage the alpha in front of her. “Settle down, bitch!” he growled, suddenly yanking Morgan’s captive arm at an inhuman angle.

 

The soft bone popped cleanly out of socket at the shoulder, to the piercing scream of a babe’s pain, and the wail of horror from her mother.

 

John wasn’t sure what sound had come from his lips as he ran, if his scream had form or if it had been a wordless howl, but the child's scream that still echoed along the riverbank was enough set John’s hair up on their ends, his teeth stinging with need to bite. If he could just run faster…

 

In the meantime, the alpha grinned, eyes filled with a monster’s pleasure, and gave the limp arm in his grasp a rough shake, wrenching more gurgling sobs from the child.

 

The ultimatum he posed was clear.

 

Margot let go, and the man grabbed the child by the waist, holding her recklessly like one might a doll. He had, however, let her arm go which was all Margot could hope for in that moment, giving her freedom to struggle in the grasp of the alpha behind her, bucking her head back and slithering her arms from his attempt at securing her.

 

“Hold still.” he alpha he growled roughly, giving fuel enough to double her struggling.

 

“Just stick her.” the alpha holding the child said simply.

 

His beady eyes lit up in joy as his minion did as told, blade sinking into the soft flesh of Margot’s lower belly without a moment's hesitation. 

 

"MARGOT!" John cried out in shock, feet faltering for a fraction of a second. She pressed her now freed hands to her belly silently, streams of blood seeping through her fingers like the sand in an hourglass. Eyes wide, searching, her gaze latched onto John and sent him a final voiceless plea even as she was thrown to the ground with a loud thud.

 

There were no options for John now, no way out that he could think of.

 

And so, he stopped thinking.

 

He could hear the half-blind alpha on his heels and before him, one alpha crouching over Margot with a knife and the other clutching the child with a crazed grin on his face as he looked down at Margot’s flowing blood.

 

Taking advantage of their distraction, he sprinted forward and threw himself at the alpha holding Morgan, punching at him with his the stone in his left hand, not wanting to risk an imprecise weapon as the hatchet so near Morgan’s head. As he reeled from the blow, John grabbed Morgan around the middle, wresting her from his lax clutches. He felt a thin blade slice into his arm, which he had not known the alpha had been holding till then, before he was shoved off balance and to the ground by his half-blinded pursuer.

 

 

Hopeless and without option, John rolled to his knees, curling around Morgan like a turtle's shell in the vain hope for survival. He gritted his teeth and swore on the moon that they would have to peel him away layer at a time to get to her, come what may.

 

When the blows and shallow cuts across his back began in an attempt to weaken or dislodge him, he made his peace. He gave a prayer to Alana, one of apology for not having saved her girls. To the gods, for his soul. But he found his last thoughts were for Will, grateful he had had enough time to prepare his boy for the winter, grateful that he would be safe and fed, and that he hadn’t been with John in the end of it all...that he would live on.

 

He had all but resigned to his fate when a shout of shock came from the group above, followed by a soft thud next to his face.

 

He turned his head, peeking from where he was shielding his face with his forearm.

 

He came eyes to eye with a head, lopped clean off at the neck, left eye gouged out and right eye’s shock cemented in the permanence of a sudden death. He tucked Morgan’s face into his chest to hide her from the sight, while he turned his head to see another alpha standing before him.

 

His skin was darkened beyond what one would expect for the season, from long bouts of exposure to the sun. His hair, blond with hints of grey, was woven into braids close to his scalp. He held a bag over his left shoulder, now dropping it to the ground with a measured but loose motion, calm. Steady. Confident. In his hand sat a battleaxe with a worn handle and scratched filigree, but an edge that shone with a sharpness that could cut wind. The blood dripping from it seemed to utter a silent warning, if not a promise.

 

Where these alphas were men, he was a warrior.

 

“What’re you still doing here?” One of the alphas asked.  The warrior, though of similar height, seemed to tower over them in stature. Like a bear looking down upon a quivering fox.

 

John’s breath hitched as the warrior looked upon him, head tilting to get a look at Morgan who was peeking up from under his body. Their eyes met, and as if finding the confirmation he required, he turned once more to the two  before him.

 

“I was told that the Wolves do not suffer the weak...” he spoke, his accent one John could not place. His voice was cold. “…nor the cowardly. And yet, here you are still, overstaying your welcome.”

 

“What, you’re going to challenge us for them?” The question, asked in a scoff, feigned confidence. But every living thing around could have heard the fear in the alpha’s tremulous voice, if they hadn’t already smelt it pouring out of him like sulfuric fumes. From the side, John heard a wet chuckle from Margot, weak but seething in its spiteful glee. 

 

The warrior responded with silence, giving his battle axe a shake that sent a spray of their friends’ blood along the pebbled riverbank. “You are fortunate the child yet lives.” He growled. “For that, I will make your deaths swift.”

 

It was over instantly.

 

The alpha who had stabbed Margot charged first, thinking to catch his enemy before he had a chance to heft the axe high. He underestimated the strength of the mysterious alpha’s draw, suffering for it as he swung the axe overhead and downward once more at such a speed and force, he split his assailant from neck downward to his sternum, the cleft so deep, the very branches of his lungs lay exposed and pale for all to see.

 


+++


 

 

At the sight of this, the last alpha turned tail and ran.

 

John half expected their savior to give chase, and for a moment he could see the very muscles in the alpha’s legs bunch and prepare to launch him forward on such a mission. John took that moment to stand and stagger towards Margot, child still held flush to his chest.

 

His movement called the alpha’s attention to them, and he seemed to take stock of the situation, eyeing Margot and the child, before sighing and dropping his axe.

 

“Give me the child.”

 

John hadn’t meant to be quite so brusque, especially in what could very well be a worse situation that the one he had just been spared from…but he couldn’t help the deadpan look of “Are you fucking kidding me?” he laid upon the alpha before him before saying out loud “Yes, I’ll do just that.” rather sarcastically.

 

The warrior was rather unmoved, though a twitch in a corner of his lip betrayed a possible smile, before he ducked and picked up John’s hatchet, holding it blade in hand and handle facing John. “Hold me at blade point if it makes you feel better. But I can set the girl’s arm. And I can save your friend.”

 

Something in John, the part that had just survived an attack from four alphas, told him to take the hatchet and eliminate the remaining threat.

 

The other part of him, the one that sometimes heard thunder before he saw lighting, or took aim at prey before they came into view (the one that sounded like Will) took the hatchet and handed the child gently over into steady hands.

 

The following silence was strained, as John held the hatchet at attention and the man examined the girl’s shoulder as she sat on the riverbank, eyes blank in shock.

 

“Cleanly dislocated, there is no break. She will heal well. Little girl?” she looked at him, eyes wide and trusting. “Deep breath, now. Hold it, be strong.” he said gently before a quick motion of his hand sets the bone in place, the shocked squeak from Morgan fading into soft whimpering and renewed tears. She called to her mother shakily, and the alpha obliged, picking her up and bringing her to her mother’s side, pressing her there for both their comforts.

 

John had shadowed him, grip firm on his weapon, even as the alpha moved Margot’s clothes away from her wound and examined it. She flinched from his touch instinctively, but something in his serious eyes as he took stock of her wound made her relax into the ground, reaching out to John. If this would be her final moment, it would be looking into her child’s eyes and holding her friend’s hand.

 

John knelt quickly beside her, opposite to the alpha and Morgan, and took Margot’s hand in his own. She didn’t need a guard in this moment, she needed a comrade. “I’m here.” he assured her.

“If I die-”

“You will live.” John assured her, just as the alpha said “Omega,” addressing John and making him start. “We must stem the bleeding. Are you ready?”

 

“What do I do?” he asked quickly.

“I need you to press right here…give me your hand.” he reached out as told and found his hand guided to position and forcefully pressed down at such a pressure that was sure to hurt Margot profoundly. If her moan was anything to go by, he was right. His stunned face must have spoken his fears, as the alpha assured him the pressure was necessary.

 

“We must stop her blood as much as possible. I would not cause her pain for nothing.”

 

John nodded. “What now, alpha?” he asked, swallowing down his fear.

 

“We need to suture her wound. Hold your hand steady, while I fetch my needles.”

 

The alpha moved towards his bag and rifled through it. John took the time to look down the riverbank, searching for the alpha he had struck in the legs a ways down. The man lay still, head at a strange and inhuman angle, and John knew the strange alpha must have killed him first. Which meant he had come from there and neither he nor the alphas had seen or heard his approach.

 

What sort of alpha was this? His speed and strength were the stuff to start legends and fish tales. Hell, John knew he would be sources of one such legend should Margot yet live.

 

The alpha turned to return to them, holding something wrapped in cloth, but stopped short and turned to the woods…he appeared alert and tense for a moment, before a figure shot out from the undergrowth and slammed into him, sending them both to the ground in a scattering of stones and a chorus of guttural growls of a predator desperate for blood.

Chapter Text

Will had heard the shout, and for a moment he hadn’t been sure if it had been real or a remnant from his nightmare. Loud and desperate and clearly his father’s voice though he could not make out the words. His mind went numb. He had started running before his brain could even parse the nature of the noise, or issue a command to his body. It knew without being told, his dreams having set his instincts on a knife's edge all day, ready to spring.

 

He ran in the direction of the river, not heeding twigs that lashed at his arms or his own ragged breath, tearing through the trail at such a speed that he nearly didn’t have time to stop when an alpha, covered in blood and clutching a knife, emerged from the underbrush.

 

The alpha was glancing behind himself frantically as though checking for a predator at his tail, so preoccupied he almost didn’t see the predator before him. When he turned to the front he stopped short. His pupils were dilating almost instantly at Will’s near-heat pheromones, his fist tightening on the blade, the glint of it catching Will’s eye.

 

The rusty shine of fresh blood winked back at him from the blade’s edge.

 

He sniffed at the alpha, heart filling with dread, with denial. He moved slowly forward, barely hearing the alpha calling him a ‘pretty thing’, focused so intently on the scent growing steadily stronger the closer he got to the alpha. Somewhere in Will’s hind brain, he must have registered the words, as disdain at the inadequacy of the alpha's offering curled Will's lips in a sneer.

 

All that he cared about was the scent of omega blood on his shirt and blade. A very familiar scent.

 

His father’s blood.

 

His father...

His bowl still sat on Will’s table at camp.

His furs still lay next to Will’s own back home.

His milk had fed Will, his hands raised Will, his kisses chased Will’s childhood fears away, his songs lulled him to sleep.

 

His blood stained this alpha’s shirt. This putrid, leering, pathetic, weakling of an alpha.

 

Will felt as though his senses had gone simultaneously numb and hypersensitive, spiraling into a state akin to a trance. His blood rushed through his head so fast his eyes couldn’t stay focused on the knife any longer, shifting their gaze uncontrollably between the alpha’s wrists, face, neck, chest, all the soft targets to pierce and attack and destroy. His own heartbeat crashed thunderously in his head like the drums of war.

 

Such a state he was in, that it seemed inevitable…even welcome…when a familiar phantom breath, warm and wet, stirred the hairs on his nape, filling him with anticipation.

 

As real as Will himself, he felt the dream-beast nudge him forward, a shove solid between his shoulder blades urging him to take a step forward.

Then another.

And another.

Till he was before the alpha, whose whiny babbling reminded Will of the cicadas that screeched incessantly in the summer. Reaching out a hand, he touched the fabric on the alpha’s chest, running his trembling palm along the red stain, the friction kicking up the heartrending iron scent till it blocked even the alpha’s disgusting stench.

 


 +++


 

Will and the beast breathed heaving breaths in tandem, not with exertion, no, with a pure, white-hot and untempered rage.

 

The alpha was reaching out now, grabbing Will’s neck, like he had earned it. Like he deserved it.

 

It didn’t matter.

 

His grasp on Will’s neck didn’t stop Will’s teeth from sinking into the alpha’s windpipe, and his sharp cry didn’t stop them from falling to the forest floor, Will pinning him down, the knife and his only salvation falling from his fumbling fingers.

 

The choking breaths, the dull nails clawing at Will’s face, the blood pouring down his body, down his throat and into his stomach, none of it loosened Will’s jaw. Instead, he clamped down harder, like a bear trap, grinding his teeth, yanking at the flesh while his grip held the weakening man’s head still, pulling flesh from bone till the struggling beneath him ceased.

 

Will stood up, surveying his prey. He watched the maimed alpha clutch weakly at his throat, trying in vain to stem the flow, eyes wide in fear of pain, fear of death…fear of Will.

 

Will watched almost curiously as the alpha weakly kicked his legs out, trying to move back along the forest floor, to escape the omega looming over him. With the amount of blood pouring from his wound, he had mere minutes if not less.

 

It was lovely.

 

It wasn’t enough.

 

Will eyed the knife next to the alpha, still glinting with blood, and wondered if he should use it. It would be poetic, wouldn’t it? A life for a life…live by the blade, and die by it.

 

“No.” he decided out loud, before straddling the struggling alpha’s chest and running a hand once more down his blood stained shirt. He batted away a final weak attempt at self-defense from the alpha with an scoff.

 

“No…I’ll have you, with my own hands.” his whispered, his voice soft like a secret shared between lovers, before he drove his nails down into the man’s chest, digging till be broke skin then carving his way through muscle and peeling back bones in pursuit of his quarry.

 

It was still beating when he had ripped it out, warm and shivering in his palm like a frightened bird. Seeing the light fading from the alpha's eyes, Will lifted the trembling organ to his lips and bit down, the warm flood of blood pouring down him like anointing oil.

 


 +++


 

Once the terror faded from the alpha's eyes, leaving nothing but emptiness behind, Will spit out the piece of muscle, deciding against swallowing it down, not wanting any part of this man within him.

 

Besides, the fear he had seen staring back at him had been delicious enough a fodder for the inferno in his gut.

 

Still clutching the heart in his fist, he reached out for the blade at his side and continued towards the river in search of his father (or what remained of him), and whatever alpha that got in his way would get out of his way or taste iron.

 


 

Hannibal barely had time to register, let alone react, as an overwhelming wave of pure blood-lust enveloped him, followed shortly by a tackle to his side. 

 

He crashed into the rocky riverbank, moving in time to knock a blade from his attacker's hand before it met its target on his chest in a downward plunge. He grabbed the wrists of the figure who had attacked him, who was now looming over him, stopping short of throwing him off as he smelled the unmistakable scent of an omega.

 

The aroma struck like a double edged blade, the clarion call of impending heat demanding Hannibal draw close and the stench of killing intent driving him to create more space between them or strike. His body found compromise by stilling completely, holding the omega long enough for him to get a good look at him.

 

Blood-soaked and feral, he seemed almost pleased to be disarmed; his sharp omega teeth already bloodied by another enemy, exposed in a wild snarl that promised to acquaint his fangs with Hannibal's veins. In the omega's left hand was a mangled piece of flesh of origin Hannibal could not yet determine, though he recognized it for what it was. A trophy of carnage, a badge of strength.

 

In the bloodied mess of skin and teeth, piercing blue eyes, though wild with violence it sparked with a sharp intelligence. 

 

Like a flash of lighting preceding the deluge, Hannibal saw the eyes above him go from steely determination to a wavering mess of tears, as a call cut through the clearing.

 

"Will! Stop, he's here to help!"

 

The omega wrenched itself from his grasp, Hannibal letting him go as his grip went involuntarily lax in surprise at the sudden tears filling his assailant's eyes, before rushing to the older omega.

 

"Oh, my boy..." he whispered reaching out to the omega with one outstretched arm, the other pressed firmly still to Margot’s side.

 

Hannibal watched silently as the feral omega wrapped himself around his father, burying himself in his scent by pressing his nose to the elder's neck, though his eyes remained trained with distrust on Hannibal. With every breath, Hannibal saw his eyes sharpen, his awareness returning from the brink of an animal instinct to the thoughtful nature of a man.

 

Those eyes were still distrusting, but even now, they assessed the situation. While the two omegas embraced and spoke, Hannibal gathered his suture kit, which had thankfully remained intact in its protective wrapping. He watched from the corner of his eye as the feral omega (Will?) tossed the pound of flesh aside, and when he approached, he found Will rising to meet him.

 

“What can I do?” he asked simply.

 

“We’ll need pots, blankets, cloth, a fire as well. These alphas had a camp just around the bend, where you can find theses things.” he indicated to the river bend over his shoulder. “This woman will not be able to move today.”

 

Will nodded and walked towards Hannibal, who let him pass before adding “Be careful. One of the alphas got away.” rather pointlessly, knowing full well it wasn't true.

 

Will's steps paused, looking over his shoulder at him, and for the second time since Hannibal had arrived in this land, he found himself laid bare by the eyes of an omega. Except these eyes dove deep into the depths of his soul where things lay hidden…things he wasn’t sure he was prepared to share. But he would not look away. Not from something so fascinating.

 

Something within him must have satisfied the omega enough to make him smile, because smile he did...though perhaps it was more of a smirk.

 

“No he didn’t.” Will responded with a chuckle, and left without another word, to pillage the alpha encampment for all it was worth.

Chapter Text

Will couldn’t describe the relief that throbbed in his chest when he heard his father’s voice, the tears of loss and fear finally rushing through him like a tidal wave now that he didn’t have to accept those feelings as truth.

 

He found himself wrapped in his father’s arms, breathing in the scent of blood and sweat, as well as the natural scent of his father and a babe. He could hear the child’s sniffling next to him and made his assumptions on how this chaotic scene had come to be, even as his eyes trained after the alpha he had released at his father’s request.

 

Even on sight, Will could see that he was…different.

 

Long hair where the Wolves usually kept it shorn short, woven in an intricate design. Skin darkened by sun, which the valley did not have much of this time of year. Strong, physically surely, but also in a way that exceeded his physicality. He exuded…something.

 

Something scentless and invisible, something that reminded Will of standing on the edge of a cliff, inspiring an impulse not unlike the stunned sensation felt by animals faced with a force of nature; a pause preceding fight or flight. Will was stunned. Will wanted to fight.

 

He was the greatest threat Will had ever laid eyes upon.

 

He wasn’t going to look away any time soon, even as the alpha seemingly ignored the little huddle of omegas that had formed, instead picking up his parcel and dusting it off, turning his back to Will and the others as he examined it. Will scoffed silently at the calculated move, clearly either one to display peace or overconfidence, either way accepted by Will’s subconscious as condescending.

 

His father’s pressed palm to his cheek distracted him from the alpha, looking over him and the blood that coated him with worry. Alphas could wait when his father looked so drained.

 

“I heard you cry. He smelt of you. Of your blood.” Will said simply.

“It was just a scratch. What is that?” John asked, seeing something red in Will’s grip.

 

Will looked down at his fist, within it the crushed heart. It had still been beating when he had ripped it out, now it was misshapen and unrecognisable from his rough handling. He tossed the remnant aside without a thought or glance and embraced his father once more, not wanting to worry him just yet with what Will knew must have been a ‘wrong’ action on his part, regardless of how right it had felt.

 

The alpha approached and Will found himself rising to meet him. He didn’t enjoy the thought of kneeling and clinging to his father like a child. Besides, there was work to be done to save the wounded omega next to them.

 

“What can I do?”

 


 

With bedding, rags, food and pots in tow, and even a lit torch for easy fire-starting, Will returned to a scene of barely restrained panic. The omega was trying to hold back her pained noises. The child was growing hysterical. The alpha was trying to direct John, one-handed, through assisting him with the omega’s wound while the wailing babe tugged at his other hand, desperate for attention and comfort.

 

“Will! Take Morgan, will you?” John asked quickly.

 

Will reached for the child only to receive an ear-piercing shriek of protest, quickly covering his ears in shock. His senses were growing ever sensitive the closer he got to his heat, and that scream had been like needles through his skull.

 

“She does not trust him yet. Go bring her elsewhere. He will help me with the surgery.” The alpha said quickly. He turned to Will quickly. “Make a fire, wash your hands in the river, up to your elbows. Wash the rags too. Bring back some water to boil.”

 

Will did as told without complaint, dropping everything and starting a fire near the alpha. Rushing to the river, he started scrubbing his skin clean quickly, being sure to scrape beneath his nails, rinsing out the pot and the rags he had taken from the alpha camp, and filling the pot with ice-cold river water.

 

He rushed back and prepared the pot for boiling, eyeing the alpha as he threaded what seemed to be a hooked needle, which he had seen him hold over the exposed flame.

 

“Margot, listen to me. Your wounds are deeper than they appear. The blade pierced an organ. I will have to find the rupture and stitch it with catgut before I stitch the external wound. Do you hear me?” 


The omega, Margot, nodded.

 

The alpha took the wet rags and handed a blade to Will in their stead.

 

“Put this blade in the fire, then you will need to hold her while I work.”


Will shuddered as he took the blade, knowing it would be used for cauterizing later on. He placed it on the growing embers and returned to the omega. The alpha was wiping down her wounds carefully, which were quickly filing with blood after every swipe. When the alpha seemed satisfied with the cleanliness, he dropped one of the remaining clean rags into the boiling pot.

 

“Hold her here…you need to hold the wound open while I suture her internal wound.” Will swallowed harshly and nodded, doing as told, even as Margot suppressed a scream beneath him. The responding cry from her daughter some ways away hurt Will deeply.

 

“It’ll be over soon…” Will told her reassuringly, though he had no idea if it would be true. “Morgan…Morgan is your daughter?” Will asked quickly.

 

Margot nodded, her eyes shut tight. “She’s beautiful. She’s going to grow up to be an amazing young woman.” A small smile graced her lips.

 

“She’s going to grow up to be a hellion. She learns her bedside manner…from her…her other mother.” She answered softly, breath hitched in pain. The statement made something click in Will, as he realised whose flesh he was holding open.

 

“You are Alana’s mate?” he asked. She opened her eyes and blearily nodded at him. Will hadn’t expected the wave of affection that came with her assurance, and with the small smile on her face at hearing her mate’s name, a moment’s peace in a world of pain.

 

He found himself somehow…shamed. Ashamed that he had ever felt intimidated by her, spiteful towards her, his misplaced envy poisoning the image of her in his mind. She was a beautiful woman, and he did not mean her face, though that too was fair.

 

“We’ll get you both back to Alana. She will be missing you both greatly.”

 

“She’s busy preparing to do nothing, I’m not sure if she’ll miss us till sundown.”

 

“Getting ready for a month of sitting on her hands waiting for an alpha?”

 

Margot chuckled. “Sitting on her hands waiting for an alpha,” she repeated the favourite line used by Alana when describing her boredom during heats. Her laugh ended in a hiss as the alpha began stitching the internal wound he had found.

 

Will wanted to snap at the man, tell him to be gentler, but seeing the dexterous movements of his hands, Will knew he was doing the best any healer could. His hackles raised nonetheless as he watched them move within her belly. What seemed natural when he was gauging out an alpha’s heart seemed sacrilegious now that it was being done to an innocent soul like Margot, even with the opposite task in mind, mending flesh instead of rending it.

 

“I’ve found the cut…eight stitches should do it, but heavy lifting is out of the question for the next few months.” The alpha said as he carefully navigated his needle. He turned to Will quickly.

 

“We’re ready to seal the wound. You will need to hold her steady.”

 

Will did as told, holding Margot's body still as she twitched and jerked through the deep pull of the thick threads, trying not to hear her sobs or cries as he did so. The alpha worked quickly, wasting no time as he sealed the wound in neat stitches that held the wound tight and would be easy to cut free once she was healed. Will could already see from the alpha's grim look that cauterizing would still be on the menu. The stitches held her flesh together, certainly, but her blood kept flowing through them at an alarming rate.

 

One final knot, and they shared a look and a nod; Will took the blade from the fire and held it out, handle first, towards the alpha, and once it was taken from his hand, Will pushed his entire body onto Margot's legs, just above the knee, and pressed his arm across her stomach, above her wound. 

 

The hot blade seared into her flesh. Her scream was inhuman, and she moved like a woman possessed, trying to escape the pain with a new-found strength reserved for final plights at survival. Will was shaking through the cries, but held her firm and steady, until her cries ceased and a hand rested on his shoulder. "It's done."

 

He shook the alpha's hand off as he sat up, looking down at Margot with blurry eyes. He met her pain-clouded gaze and saw within them relief. It was done, indeed. John approached them, seeing that the alpha was cooling the boiled rag and draping it over her wound. He put Morgan down and let her run to her mother. She quickly hugged her around the neck, wanting to be close to her scent.

 

“So, how is it, alpha? Will I live?” Margot asked shakily, when she finally found her voice. 

 

“You will. But..” he turned to her carefully as he continued “...you may never bear young again.”

 

John gasped, his eyes laid on Will in pain. Will reached out and grabbed his hand. John, of all omega, understood the pain of being unable to bear more children. Will knew it was a pain his father had not dealt with fully, no matter his love for his son.

 

Margot shuddered, a silence overcoming the group. Eventually, she smiled up at Morgan’s tear-stained face, earning a small smile back from her child.

“I have all I need. And I’m glad to be around to see her grow.” 

 

Her eyes filled with tears anew as she turned to John. "Thank you. Thank you for saving her. You could have....you could have just-"

 

"No, no, Margot, don't think of such things. You are both safe. And tomorrow, we'll bring you back home." John assured her quickly.

 

"Indeed. No use in dwelling on what could have been, particularly when what is is so much better." the alpha said wisely. "Now, omega, your arm will need some attention as well. Please, sit." 

 

Will glanced at his father's arm, which was still sluggishly bleeding. The wound was already on the mend, but something about all of this, from the alpha he had brutalised, to Margot's screams and writhing, and now the sight of his father's wound, sent a wave of nausea through Will.

 

He closed his eyes tightly, trying to stamp out the fear of what could have been, feeling everything bearing down upon him. The tight cling of his clothes from his heat sweat, the scent of the blood still caking his neck and face, the phantom feeling of flesh giving way at his fingertips. It was overwhelming his senses, seemingly pulling his attention in different directions at once. His breath was coming in shallow heaves, and he found his arms wrapping themselves around himself to steady himself from the shaking in his chest.

 

"Will?"

He glanced up at his father's worried face. 

"Will, are you alright?"

 

"I need..." he paused, not sure what he needed. He felt his temperature rising quickly, feverishness taking hold of him. Whether a symptom of his heat or a result from the trauma of past events (perhaps both), Will did not know. The pause seemed to worry his father, but the knowing look sent his way by the alpha, and the fresh rush of anger and fire that rose to meet that look, decided him.

 

"I need to get clean." he answered finally, grabbing one of the dirty rags, soaked in Margot's blood. "I'll go clean at the river." he announced quickly.  

 


 

John stared as his son stalked off to the river, then all but threw himself into the icy waters. He moved to stand and shout a chastisement (it was an incredibly reckless move, considering the current), but the alpha coaxed him down with a wave of the hand.

 

“His heat-fever was hitting him, made worse by his feral episode. He may experience sensory overload. The ice will calm him, centre him.”

 

“Sensory overload?”

 

“All the senses of the body becoming hypersensitive, sending signals to his brain at once, each demanding his focus and attention. Its like having five people screaming an inch from your face, each demanding to be heard, each drowning the other out.”

“Six.”

“Pardon?”

“Six senses. For him, it would be.”

“I see. Your son is perceptive.”

John nodded, remembering that morning…god, it felt a thousand years away now.

 

“This morning, he woke up scared. Told me to bring my hatchet, wanted me to stay…he knew something was wrong.” John shivered as he remembered his moment curled around Morgan, sure that they were going to die. “I was so glad that I hadn’t brought him…that he had been spared.”

 

The alpha nodded slowly, bandaging John’s arm in silence. His movements were precise and calculated, but something in their paced measure gave him away.

 

John noticed the occasional and slight glances towards the riverbank, where Will was sitting waist-deep in the flood, furiously scrubbing his face and neck, his shirt tossed over his shoulder onto the bank long ago, leaving his fair back dazzling in the sun.

 

John would have to be blind to not see Hannibal’s interest in Will, though the interest hardly seemed reciprocated, with the distrusting glances Will was throwing at the man at any given moment.

 

There! Will shot a piercing look over his shoulder at the alpha, who played dumb and continued his ministrations on John’s arm, pretending to not feel the spikes of apparent contempt coming from the general direction of the riverbank.

 

John couldn’t help but shake his head at his son’s odd behaviour. Will was perceptive indeed, but the boy rarely saw things with clarity when he was in the moment, only in his predictions and in sad, regrettable hindsight. John wondered if the alpha’s fascination was with Will’s strength, or with his weakness, and in turn, he wondered which of those two things could be drawing Will’s ire towards the alpha.

 

While John was busy contemplating his uncanny son, the alpha finished bandaging his arm and stood slowly, eyeing the bodies of the alphas nearby. “I’ll drag the bodies further away. We don’t want scavengers approaching us in the night. Shall I bury them?”

 

“That isn’t our way. Leave them to the wolves.” John said coldly. The alpha nodded and moved to do as he said.

 

In the meantime, John got some bedding from the pile Will had brought from the alpha camp and preparing a more comfortable spot for Margot.

 

“Sorry, but it smells like them.” he apologised as he moved her gingerly onto the makeshift bed. She sighed, clearly not overly pleased with it, but as they watched the alpha dragging the mangled bodies further away from their camp, she settled down without complaint, pulling her child to her side and wrapping them both in the warm covers.

 

“I will smell it and remember that they rot and I live.”

 

John smiled at the strength in Margot’s voice, despite her fatigue. “I’ll look for some numbroot. We’ll both be needing it before long.” he said. As he left the riverbank into the woods, he looked over his shoulder and found the alpha approaching the riverbank, pot in hand, getting ever closer to Will.

 

He couldn’t help but wonder at what words would pass between them, if any would. “Let it be words and not blows.” he chuckled to himself, and began searching.

 


 

 

Will froze still as he heard the heavy footsteps approach. Too heavy. The alpha was making an effort at announcing himself. Thoughtful, but somehow Will felt resentful at being babied in that manner. He suddenly felt naked, despite his pants still being on, and he wished he hadn’t tossed his shirt to the side as he had.

 

The alpha was a few feet from him, washing his hands then filling the pot up stream from him. Will wondered if it was poor manners to ignore him and continue his scrubbing, or poorer manners to pause as he did, waiting for the alpha to leave. His back was once more turned slightly to Will, irritating the omega to no end.

 

“I’ll make a stew with the boar you brought back.” the alpha said, breaking the awkward silence.

 

Will nodded, before realising that the alpha could not see him. “There’s salt in the small brown pack, near the meat.” he responded aloud, a shiver he didn’t know he had been feeling, leaching its way into his voice, causing a tremor.

 

“Don’t stay too long in the water. You’ll catch a chest cold.”

 

“Thanks, healer.” he said snootily, but his comeback was undercut by another shiver. “I can still smell him.” he said under his breath, scrubbing beneath his nails vigorously, then rubbing along his neck for the umpteenth time, his skin beginning to prickle dangerously from the friction.

 

For the first time since he had approached, the alpha eyed him openly and carefully. He turned and walked along the bank, further away from Will, before finding what he was looking for, a plant Will knew had a flower that was bitter to the taste and poisonous to eat. He brought back the leaves and held them out to him.

 

“Crush them. The sap will cancel any scent. Just be sure to wash it out thoroughly once done, especially from your hands.”

 

Will look at the leaves for a moment, unsure if he should be listening to this foreigner. He was knowledgeable in medicine, that was clear from his treatment of Margot. But did he know their plants? Perhaps he was indeed a healer, wherever he hailed from. Will held his hand out hesitatingly, receiving the leaves and watching as the alpha washed his hands once more, picked up the pot, and returned to the fire.

 


 

 

The numbing took around 4 minutes, which was 5 minutes too long if John had a say. But soon, his steps grew less precise and his bones less pained. Just in time, as he reached the riverbank and saw Margot, lying next to the fire where he had left her. The alpha was busying himself over a pot over the fire. Will appeared to be finishing up his bath, which had stretched ridiculously long for the temperature of the water, but the numbroot was making John feel lenient.

 

Margot caught sight of him approaching, and he waved his conquest overhead cheekily. His sluggish movements made her laugh out loud. “My hero!” she called out. She knew the roots were hard to come by in the winter months, so that he found enough for this evening and tomorrow morning was a feat in itself.

 

“I took only a nibble, but damn do my ribs feel better,” John said cheerily, offering her a striped root, which she quickly began chewing. He placed the second root to the side.

 

He tumbled beside the fire, nearly coshing the alpha in the process with his hatchet which he had brought for safety and peace of mind.

 

“Damn! Sorry, alpha, a little goes a long way it seems,” he said with a giggle, receiving an amused smile from the alpha. “Indeed. Nimroot is quite powerful.”

“Nimroot? We call it numbroot here.”

“Very to-the-point.”

“Indeed! Wolves waste no time.”

 

John was about to point at random things about the campfire and demand what they called them where the alpha came from, when his son came trotting up to the fire in the dimming sunlight.

 

He smiled up at Will with pleasure, reminded at what he thought he would not have gazed upon ever again, just a few hours ago. His smile must have confused Will, because he started rubbing at his face worriedly. “Did I miss a spot?” he asked.

 

“No no. Just thinking… I am happy to look at you. My beautiful boy.” John replied. Will scoffed with a slight blush. “I cannot wait to see the pups you bear.” John continued, knowing just the tangent to make his cheeks blaze. True enough, the blush turned to a roaring inferno, bringing blood back up to Will’s pale face so fast, John wondered if it would knock him out.

 

Will quickly wrapped himself in one of the stolen beddings, the one which smelt the least of alpha, though it smelt overwhelmingly like boar to compensate for it.

 

“Father!” Will sounded horrified, eyes flashing to the company about them as embarrassed children do. Margot only grinned languidly, the numbroot beginning to take affect, and the alpha simply stirred the stew without looking up, though John had the feeling he had heard a chuckle a second ago.

 

“But a few hours ago, I wasn’t sure I’d live to see my grandchildren! Can’t a father boast about the beauty of his child and his future pups?”

“Boast in silence.”

“Hardly counts as boasting then, does it? Someone needs to hear it for it to be a boast. Alpha! Have you seen my son?”

“Have you misplaced him? Where did you put him last?” the alpha responded, earning a guffaw from John.

“Have you looked upon my son, alpha?” John asked again.

“I have, unless you’ve got another one hiding somewhere out of sight.” the alpha answered teasingly. He continued stirring the pot of boar stew.

“No, my Will is my one and only. Isn’t he beautiful, alpha?”

 

The alpha paused his stirring and looked up curiously. Will’s eyes seemed to dare him, though whether to agree with or deny John’s statement, was a mystery.

 

“He is.” the alpha answered simply. Will rolled his eyes, face twisting in embarrassment and discomfort. The blush remained.

“Wouldn’t he bear the most magnificent pups?”

“Father! That’s enough.”

 

The alpha chuckled and nodded. “Yes. The most beautiful pups.” he assured John who grinned up at him. “Strong and beautiful pups.” he emphasised, looking Will in the eye once more.

“And you’ll beget beasts.” Will snapped back.

Will!” John cried in shock. “Did I raise a mule?!”

 

Will shuffled, contrite. He was so dwarfed by the bedding wrapped about his shoulders, he knew he must have looked pathetic. The image of a petulant child to accompany his childish words.

 

“...I’m sorry, alpha. That was rude of me. But I don’t like being mocked.”

“Forgive me. That wasn’t my intention. I only intended to compliment you.”

“Compliments should be grounded in truth, or they risk sounding like pandering.”

“In truth, I speak. You are beautiful, and no child of yours could ever be otherwise.”

Will swallowed the lump in his throat, looking the alpha in the eyes, seeing if he could find a hint of untruth in them, but he spoke plainly enough and his eyes didn’t contradict that. “Thank you.” he said finally and walked away, to the other side of the fire where he could huddle at Margot’s feet.

 

John sighed deeply at the display. His clueless, hopeless child. “Well. Good lad.” he said and eyed the contents of the pot turning lazily about in the dim firelight, settling in his spot beside Margot’s head, the sun all but gone now. His mind turned to melancholy at the sudden silence around the fire, the pause in speech filling with thoughts of what could have been.

 

“I’m glad you are here, Will. I’m glad you came. And I’m glad you came too, alpha. From where, and on what wind of fate, I do not know. But I am glad.”

 

Will reached out and touched his shoulder gently. The alpha nodded, pulling out a couple of bowls and filling them, handing them to John to be passed around.

 

“I too am glad I returned when I did.” the alpha said simply, once every bowl had been handed out, before seating himself opposite them.

 

“Returned?” Margot asked quickly.

 

“I had met the alphas. They didn’t have much to offer me in terms of food or spices, but they pointed out the direction of the mountain pass. I was leaving when I…couldn’t ignore the obvious truth of the matter, that they were here to cause nothing but pain. So I returned.”

 

That made Will start, looking confused. “You were leaving the valley?”

John looked up at Will, his face as serious as the grave. He looked to the alpha, who was now looking back at Will.

The alpha hesitated to nod, doing so slowly. “That was my intention.”

 

Ah.

‘Was’.

 

John and Margot shared a look of bemusement. He wondered if they knew they were rather obvious. Or perhaps, if they even understood themselves well enough to recognise the odd air between them. He chuckled to himself and took a sip of his stew. It was absolutely delicious. Hearty, warm and invigorating.

 

“What’s your name?”

 

John choked. His glare was obvious, an unspoken ‘Manners!’ called clear across the fire towards Will, even though all that could be heard were splutters.

 

The alpha looked curious, obviously aware of their customs. Will felt the need to explain himself.

 

“You’re not of here, and you are not staying here. You’ve saved my father, you’ve saved an omega and her child, you’ve been elbow deep in the blood of two people I care about. Surely traditions are pointless at this point.”

“You want to know my name?”

“I want to know your name as you know mine. I don’t like being on unequal footing. Will you give it to me?”

“My name is Hannibal.”

“Hannibal…” Will tried it on for size. It was alien, but it suited well.

“And now that you have it, what will you do with it?”

“What would you have me do with it? Call it, I suppose?” Will asked back, his words had an air of provocation in them. “You’re a saviour after all, aren’t you? Will you come when I call?”

“I’m no saviour any more than you are an avenger.” Hannibal responded, seemingly ignoring the tease.

 

John did not, however, ignore it. He gave an exasperated look at Margot, who was smothering her smile in her child’s hair. “Where did he learn to speak like this?” he asked her in a joking whisper. “Instinct.” Margot whispered back with a grin. “The primal instinct of flirting.”

 

“So I am not an avenger because I avenged those who weren’t dead?” Will asked, ignoring his father whispering with Margot, though it was obvious he was the subject of their murmurings.

“And just so, I am no saviour because I saved those that didn’t need my saving. You would have killed those alphas had I not come.”

“Thank you, but I can’t be sure of that.”

“I can.”

“And yet I do see myself as an avenger, because in my mind he was already gone, I believed it to be true.”

“Then I suppose you will have to call my name and find out…perhaps, I will run to the rescue of the avenger.” he saluted Will with his bowl and shifted a bit to the side, in the direction away from Will. It coaxed an annoyed huff from the young omega.

“...You are mocking me.”

“I am not.”

“Yet you keep turning your back to me. You think me weak.”

“I only offer peace.”

“You don’t see me as a viable threat.”

“Will. You are the greatest threat I have ever met.”

 

Will froze at the sound of his name and his own thoughts being uttered by this alpha, looking into the alpha's eyes in confusion. Some moments had passed before he realised he had kept that direct gaze for an...awkward amount of time. What the alpha…Hannibal had seen in his eyes, he did not know. But he knew what he saw in Hannibal’s eyes. An all-consuming hunger like a deep, black pit with no end, a gaping maw that amount of food or water could ever satisfy.

 

“You are…interesting.” Hannibal said, snapping Will out of his dazed staring. 

Almost instantly, Will found his eyes narrowing in annoyance. “Perhaps traditions were right, I regret asking your name already…”

“Come now, we can socialise like adults. God forbid we become friendly.”

“Perhaps don’t find you that interesting, Hannibal.”

 

The name flowed as smoothly as honey over Will’s tongue, and he found himself already regretting the use of it, especially when he saw the heat that came into Hannibal’s eyes at the sound, and the toothy smile that followed.

 

“You will.” The alpha said simply. Will found himself both dreading and anticipating the eventuality.

 

“My my, what big teeth you have!” Margot slurred out with a chuckle, nearly halfway to sleep from her pain and the plant that had been administered. Will couldn’t help but snort at the quote from one of their children’s stories, meant to make them fear strangers.

 

Hannibal looked confused, but unbothered by the statement.

 

“Speak of the devil…” John muttered, staring off into the darkness with sudden alertness. They all peered along with him, eyes looking away from the flames growing accustomed to the moonlit night.

 

A distance away, a pack of wolves emerged from the woods and swarmed the nearest corpse, seemingly inspecting it before the piercing howls and throaty growls began.

 

Will looked away quickly from the spectacle, taking a deep drink from his bowl as the sounds of cloth and flesh ripping between snarling fangs filled the air.

 

It was delicious.