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What Pride had Wrought

Chapter Text

We fight, we fall
Duty calls, it calls
Say we choose
But it’s no choice at all
Duty calls it calls

~"Noble Blood" (feat. Fleurie) // Produced by Tommee Profitt
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Will knows something is off the moment a lanky haired servant girl comes stumbling into the palace’s Royal Gardens. She looks flustered and red-faced, like she was turned about while on the search for him. He can't really blame her; the gardens are almost a maze he admits to himself begrudgingly. But this was confusing because almost no one would be looking for him — or should be anyway. Except perhaps his father or brother. Will sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose, standing near a patch of moon flowers.

Their glow is bright tonight as both of Altea’s moons show their faces and spill their pale light across the garden’s courtyard. Unfortunately that means that the light baths him as well and the servant’s eyes brighten as she finds him and quickly strides forward. Will’s hand drops from his face as he stands straighter, bracing himself.

“Your highness, the King and Prince Xander request your company in the throne room’s parlor,” she said breathlessly as she stops a couple paces away from him. It’s very obvious to him now that she did get lost in the gardens. Her plain Altean marks are bright, meaning she doesn’t come from off world- from one of the moons. Her eyes however are looking at him like he was going to pick a fight. Will doesn’t want to disappoint.

“You mean my father? What would he want this time of night?” Will says plainly, sounding a bit bored with. “Tell him that I’m busy.” Will really shouldn’t disregard his father's request, after all his father is still the King. The servant girl’s lips purse into a thin line.

“Your Highness, the King and Prince said it was urgent and they must speak to you immediately.”

Will half wonders if she wants to grab him and bodily drag him to the parlor. She can’t really touch him though, and for that he’s partially thankful. Will, also, wholeheartedly dislikes the fact that both his father and his brother are requesting him. Almost nothing good comes of it.

“Did they honestly give you no reason as to why they decided to summon me.” Will almost wants to pinch the bridge of his nose again and completely ignore this girl. He won’t however. He’s not going to be that cruel to someone who is only doing their job.

“No, my prince, they did not.” She starts to look a bit nervous, like he’s going to continue to stall while she still has other duties to attend to. Will decides that he needs to actually go see what his father and brother want of him and get it over with.

“Fine. Take me to them.” Will sighs out as he looks around one more time at the greenery. The servant girl clicks her tongue at him. He follows.

~~~~

The halls leading to the throne room are grand looking affairs. All have towering arches, detailed with gold and cream colors. They’re open with no windows so you can feel the breeze and smell the flower scented air if you're close to one of the many gardens. The juniper flowers are starting to bloom at this time of season and Will is looking forward to it. But he digresses.

The servant girl keep glancing at him from out of the corner of her eye, something that he remembers a lover once did quite a bit, and Will is reminded with a sudden pang of longing for Molly. With her blonde hair and sweet smelling scent. Molly was an omega like him and came from a low-born house to be a servant. Molly and him we’re only together for a short while, a fling in all reality, but it was sweet and filled with slight exploration. Will ended at it quickly. Molly was risking a lot by being with him and he didn’t want to see her hurt. She was sent to a noble's house a few weeks later. Will hasn’t seen her since.

Fortunately, the servant girl looks nothing like Molly, all lanky, long black hair pulled into a ponytail by a brown strip of leather cord, her skin a deep tan from the sun.

Will has walked these halls all his life. They’re all he’s ever known; he’s rarely left the palace. They approach the doors to the throne room and servant stops and tugs them open. He steps inside.

“They’re in the parlor room, Your Highness. Blessed day,” she said matter-of-factly and then she’s gone, scurrying away to her other duties, leaving him alone in the vast throne room.

There’s pillars holding up the high ceiling, blue tapestries with the Royal crest of a sword with juniper flowers winding around the handle hang proudly, and the King’s high back white ivory throne. The only burst of color out of the blue and white is the red carpet leading up to the throne. All of it shot through with gold.

Will hates this room. It’s where his father holds his court, his parties, his game, and almost always subtly shows him off. Men and women, generals and powerful nobles, and almost all of them alphas. Maybe his father is hoping to marry him off and fool an unlucky bastard into bonding him.

Will turns to his left and walks the short distance to the door of the parlor. He hears a quiet conversation through the door and his father’s barking laugh when he turns the handle.

His brother’s eyes are the first to find him, tracking Will from he stands with a heavy bottomed glass two fingers full of an amber-colored liquor, his expression tentative. Will senses the tension spike in the room, his blue eyes watch both his father and brother closely. Xander is a beta and commands five dreadnoughts in Altea’s military. Xander, as well, is also his adopted brother. Will’s aunt was murdered when Xander was just a baby, along with her mate, and Will’s father took him in. Will grew up with Xander all his life. But it doesn’t mean that Will has to like him.

His father turns to him.

“William, my son, I’d thought you ran off and would never join us. Come sit.” It was a gentle order, but an order nevertheless. His father was tall, broad shouldered even in his elder years, and an alpha of high caliber. His father would always look at him with a certain sadness. Will reminded him of his mother, all dark curls and blue eyes. An omega just like her. The beloved queen of Altea that was killed by a servant who slipped poison into her tea. That servant was later found and publicly ripped apart by dogs. Ladies of his father’s court would all whisper behind their hands saying the House of Graham’s beta women and omegas are cursed, that it’s just a matter of time before history repeats itself.

Will eyes them both as he sat on the loveseat with decorative pillows, the teal fabric creasing under his weight. Will’s father slowly sits across from him and signals Xander to as well. Xander looks to the bottom of his glass and knocks it back. Will wishes that he can have a stiff drink too for whatever they’re about to discuss. Has a feeling he’ll need it.

Xander opens his mouth and Will already knows it’s going to be bullshit.

“As you already know, William, the title of Black paladin is now held by Hannibal Lecter. He’s a high-ranked General in Altea’s military.”

“It’s Will,” Will corrected.

“Wha-” Xander looks momentarily confused.

“It’s Will, not William. And I was there Xander. I know he’s the Black Paladin. I watched as he took the title that you were meant to have,” Will plainly states.

Xander’s face goes red and he sputters as he opens his mouth.

“William,” Will’s father admonished as he cuts off Xander.

“Father,” Will shoots back.

“Let Xander say his piece, boy.” The king sighs in exasperation as Xander collects himself.

“Will, we are in a perilous predicament. We need you to do something for the sake of the kingdom.” Xander slides forward and cups one of Will’s hands, his eyes seeking but Will’s eyes only make it to his eyebrows. “It’s something only you can do.” It’s said quietly, but it hits Will like a barb.

“No. Absolutely not.” Will recoils and rips his hand away. He stands sharply.

“William, calm down and sit-“ his father starts, his hand coming up in a slow gesture.

“No,” Will hisses, “I will not sit down! What the both of you are suggesting is that I take Lecter as a mate. I’ve only interacted with him once and it was a single conversation! You would have me intrinsically bonded to a man that I hardly know!”

“He would be a good fit for you,” Xander grits out.

“You would use me as cannon fodder,” Will snaps. He turns and stalks towards the door.

His father’s voice dips lowly into an alpha tone stops him, but he doesn’t turn.

“That man currently has the power to snatch the crown from where it hovers over Xander’s head. Besides, I already spoke to him. He’s interested, William.” Words layered with desperation come from his father.

“He could destabilize everything. Please Will, sit down.”

Desperation coming from his father? It didn’t belong when it came to him, the man always so self-assured in his game and despite how Will and his father butt heads, he still loves him. Also,he is the firstborn son of the king and having no desire to rule himself, couldn’t anyway because of the fact that he’s an omega, and he supports Xander’s ascension to the throne despite disliking him so very deeply. Will was so sure he’d done everything keep himself out of the game, from being used as a pawn, but in the end this is how they choose to use him. Using the love of his kingdom against him, because if he doesn’t do it for the both of them, he will sure as hell do for the kingdom, his people.

Will should’ve made himself a damn drink.

“I’ll do it.” It’s said softly.

“Oh that’s wonderful news!” Xander exclaims, obviously relieved, the bastard.

“But not for you.” Will fumes sharply and glides away before they can utter another word.

~*~*~

The air is cooler than it was in the morning, Will muses. A pleasant breeze ruffles through Will’s curls from where he’s leaning against the balcony, the sounds of music and chatter from the party going on behind him. The circlet that rests on his head feels lighter today; it can so unbearably heavy at times. But, Will snorts a laugh, that might be because he’s a little tipsy. Will doesn’t think the servants could blame him as he kept coming back to the bar. He hates parties. His father will scold him later — or maybe one of the Noblewomen, if they have certain archaic ideas about how an omega should act. He would rather his father scold him.

The thin gossamer-like sleeves and the open back of his formal party wear are bit more fancy than he would’ve liked.

No, that wasn’t it.

Will’s problem with it is the fact that you could see the markings that wind down his back, across shoulders, and arms. The marks of royalty that have been there since his birth. Cornflower blue. Will could pass as an ordinary Altean if he tossed the circlet and put on a long sleeve shirt, and like almost everyone else that lives on Altea, his marks are bright. Yes, he could do that but it is required of him to make sure some of his markings are visible. At least for formal parties.

There’s a clack of boots behind him and Will white-knuckles the railing.

“I noticed that you’ve been out here for quite a while,” a smooth-accented voice calls to him and Will glances over his shoulder to the man that has interrupted his internal musings.

“Would you like some company?” the stranger asks. He’s holding two wine glasses.

Will doesn’t respond but he inclines his head in a nod. This man brought alcohol. The stranger walks to his side in a leisurely gait and holds out a wine glass to him by the stem. Will takes it slowly as to not let their hands touch. Will carefully catalogs the stranger’s appearance. He’s tall and broad shouldered in a tailored suit that tapers slightly at the waist. Blonde hair slicked back and high cheekbones with thin purple Altean marks; they’re not bright. His eyes, however, are the most unique color he’s ever seen, red like dried blood but they seem to glow, with flicks of gold. An Alpha certainly. A thoroughbred perhaps? Whatever he is, he’s clearly the result of careful breeding.

Then Will returns to his gaze back out into the night. Will and the stranger stand there side-by-side in silence for a few blissful seconds.

“Forgive me for being rude, but I couldn’t help noticing your marks. Are you from House of Graham?”

Will groans inaudibly. If a royal advisor were here they would state Will’s entire title and and give this stranger a firm warning for not recognizing or addressing Will properly. Small mercies.

“Yes,” Will replies grudgingly, “the Prince…”

“Then I apologize, your Highness. I did not realize that I was speaking to royalty.” They give him a deep bow. Will shutters a cringe.

“Please don’t do that, and stand straight, Sir. Also I'd prefer if you would just call me Will, none of that 'Your Highness' business,” Will remarks haltingly. This has never happened to him before; even if people knew he was the prince he’s never been bowed to. Strange.

The Alpha’s eyes glint like embers.

“Just Will?” The way the stranger says this is entirely mischievous, his accent rolling over his name in a pleasant purr.

Will is tense and visibly unnerved. They’re on uneven footing, and he doesn’t even know this man. This isn’t normal for him, to correct strangers into using his preferred name.

“I don’t know what you’re trying to do but I’d prefer it if you don’t.” Will is deeply suspicious. His lips are dry and his tongue darts out to wet them. The stranger’s eyes follow the motion.

“Whatever do you mean?” the stranger questions, entirely amused.

“It’s rude not to offer your name.” Will bristles.

“I’m Hannibal Lecter, a general in Altea’s military, your Highness. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

Will’s eyes narrow shrewdly.

“What are you doing then, Lecter? Do you have a goal or are you playing the game?” Will demands “You can hardly gain anything from me if that’s the case I do not involve myself in my father’s affairs.”

“I have no ulterior motive, your highness. I simply thought we could socialize like adults. Goddess forbid we become friendly,” Hannibal replies. Will doesn't believe that for a second, Lecter is way too interested. Will has learned well not trust easily because many will try to use you for their own gain. Will has played the game a few times and every time it has left him drained. That's why he withdraws from the King’s Court. Will just wants to be left alone.

“I don't find you that interesting,” Will grunts snarkily.

“You will,” Lecter responds unambiguously, like it was fact.

A servant appears a moment later.

“Your highness, the king wishes to introduce you to someone,” the servant calls. Will sees the opportunity for an out and grabs it by the coattails.

“I'll be there in a second.” Will gazes at Hannibal one last time and brushes past him as he follows the servant, all the while aware of the eyes burning the back of his neck. The wine glass remains completely forgotten.

****

Hannibal Lecter came to the soirée on a whim. He received the invitation from a timid young woman who darted away the moment the letter left her fingers. Thick parchment and a standard invitation from the king.

Yes, a whim indeed.

A pompous man in front of him is obnoxiously speaking about something that Hannibal could hardly care about. Probably complaining about how the servants aren’t pouring the wine faster. Tedious and rude.

“What say you Hannibal? What do you think?” the posh man practically snorts at him.

“I really couldn’t say,” Hannibal replies inscrutable. This man is truly a pig.

“Really!? Well…” The man sputters and Hannibal fixes on a sphinx-like smile. The man tries to start up again but the look on Hannibal‘s face must’ve shut him down a bit. Then he gets uncomfortable and waddles off somewhere, possibly to complain to someone else equally unimportant. Hannibal in the meanwhile just attracts more people like flies to honey. The irony hits him uniquely, as it seems he’s holding court within the King’s court.

Many people surrounding him are playing the game. It’s supposed to be intriguing, meant to entertain the nobility and usually a form of political chess when there is no war to be fought and won. Peacetime. You’re supposed to use yourself or others to propel your image forward and it doesn’t matter whether a few lives get destroyed in the process, not that it happens often, as many here have played for years. Only the weak or brash get crushed underfoot nowadays. But just as there are many people that are playing the game, there are people that are not and are genuinely there to enjoy themselves. Doesn’t matter to Hannibal, as he is always playing a deadlier game than them — one with a thousand years worth of his people roaring for justice and blood staining their hands. This court is nothing but sheep.

The music has now died down as another dance ends and Hannibal’s eyes flit across the crowd, picking them apart one by one until a crowned head of curls catches his eye.

The crowd is still circling but then, in a single moment, they part and there stands a man. An Altean, with his back on full view, that Hannibal is sure he will never forget. He will burn it into his brain if he has to. The sprawling utterly beautiful marks of royalty, of majesty, spiraling in delicate lines down to the curve of his back, across his shoulders, and down the arms. Bluer than the ocean. All of them framing lithe muscles and the soft swell of sinful hips that call to Hannibal like a siren song. A man born to be worshiped and adored by thousands. The man turns his head slightly and Hannibal is rewarded with a view of full lips, strong clean-shaven jaw, and a lovely pair of eyes that could be blue, gray, or even green depending on the level of light framed by long dark lashes.

Hannibal thinks he just found a man worthy of razing empires to the ground for.

The man in question has just ended his conversation with whoever he was talking with and cuts through the crowd like water. Perfectly practiced grace. He stops for no one as steps outside to one of the balconies. Hannibal mingles within the crowd for a few more minutes and when the mystery man has not made an appearance he excuses himself with a curt apology and strides in the direction of the balcony, scooping up two glasses of wine from a nearby servant.

They speak, however briefly, and Hannibal has several revelations within that precious span of time. Firstly, the man who is so thoroughly caught his attention is none other then the firstborn prince of Altea, Prince William of house Graham, who has corrected him into his preferred name of Will. Secondly, Will is rude, but surprisingly even Hannibal himself, who abhors any and all rudeness, finds that he doesn’t really mind. And lastly the revelation that pleases him the most, Hannibal almost growls, is the beautiful fact that Will is an omega. It wouldn’t have mattered to Hannibal in all reality if Will was an alpha or even a beta, as Hannibal would have pursued him anyway, but Will is an omega, someone who he can lock down at his side and who can swell with children, his children. A mate.

And if fate decides against it, Hannibal will mold it to his will by force. Hannibal makes an addendum to his plans at breakneck speed within his mind palace.

Oh yes, William will be his, Hannibal muses as he stares up at the stars, wine forgotten and a plan evolving into a symphony.

~~~~

Will is back at the gardens. Back to where he started, standing in front of the moon flowers. Except this time he has sentenced himself to a life full of unknowns in the dead of night. It’s the stupidest decision he’s ever made in his life.

Stupid stupid stupid.

The whole planet might as well know by the morning. The moons’ colonies. The whole fucking kingdom.

So fucking foolish.

Then the weight of the decision finally buckles his knees and he sinks down to the grass in a dry heave. Will can almost smell the hot metal of the wedding earrings that will soon shackle him and pierce the tips of his pointed ears. Panic clogs up his throat, wrapping tight around his spine, in his internal organs, blooming like poisonous tendrils of horror. He is going to be bonded and married to a man that, from a single encounter, left him so thoroughly unnerved that he left the party entirely. He received a scolding afterwards but Will couldn’t have cared less, he just wanted to get away. Will dry heaves again and this time he tastes bile. He spits it out and whines. An omega whine. Will has only let one out once before this time, he thinks, and it was when he possibly found one of his pets had passed away in their sleep as a small child. Omega whines do strange things to Alphas and activates their urge to practically trip over themselves to offer comfort. Will found it vaguely hilarious as a child to see a servant, royal advisor, and five fucking nobles drop into a crouch around him and coo.

But Will doesn’t want that to happen, something so patronizing, and smothers his hand over his face, choking off the whine into a soft whimper. His other hand is clutched in the grass, nails biting into his palm. He also feels the humiliation of tears starting to form but that he refuses to let them fall. To cry.

No, he can’t do that. Not now. Not while he stands between everything he loves in his kingdom and Hannibal Lecter. Will just signed himself up for a lifetime of being the goalkeeper. Will is not entirely sure he’ll be able to do it, half contemplates disappearing into the dead of the night and finding a planet somewhere, but Will viciously stomps out the thought. Even if he did run…

No, get yourself together.

It’d be of no use to cry, not when he did this to himself, not when he was the one who signed himself up to be the pawn. Will bitterly stands, wiping the spit from his mouth with the back of his hand, and stumbles into a walk. His hands are shaking. Will doesn’t want to think for awhile.

Which is exactly what he does as he starts to calm, strolling through the gardens, past blooming fruit trees that smell like nectar and winding stone paths leading to dead-ends lit only by moonlight, out into a hallway with towering windows and gauzy curtains. Blue and white just like everything else but Will recognizes it as his part of the East wing of the palace. He speeds up, almost to sprint, when he sees his bedroom door. He shuts it quickly behind him, almost sinking to the floor, and finds a pale reflection staring at him. A full length mirror, simple in design, holds a man irrevocably uprooted within the course of a single night. Physically, Will has not changed, but his mind still reels, even if it’s calm, as to how this can still be when everything else has.

Will will not go on unmarred from this. He will not walk away unscathed, not while everyone sees him give his life away to Lecter in blood and metal. Sees him writhe and possibly scream as Hannibal Lecter tears into him and cements himself within Will’s soul, and not have a single damn clue as to why. Blissful ignorance. Will wishes that he wasn’t born a prince, to have this responsibility set on his shoulders, that he had no knowledge of the game. Will’s mother must’ve detested the game as much as him, and if she were still alive Will likes to think that she’d rip her husband apart for daring to use their son’s designation to further himself. But in all reality Will only has a select few memories of his mother. Slender soft hands combing through his curls, a whisper, the scent of dew and vanilla, and the soft chiming of bangles every time she walked.

Barely enough to fill a thimble.

Will likes to think that his mother would tell him he’s brave and he images his hands do not shake even when they do. He looks away from the pale reflection and finally lets his tears fall, in the dim moonlit sanctuary of his bedroom.

~*~*~

The King is up on a platform in polished black armor, his shoulders thrown back, the Black Lion looming behind him ominously, a crown perched upon his brow. Multiple priests fan out behind him, softly chanting in ancient Altean, a droning matra. His father’s voice booms as Will clutches his bayard. He can feel his Blue whispering to him through their connection. Soothing him.

“Today, we are here on behalf of the goddess, to let the Black Lion lay claim to a new paladin as I release myself from the position. This is a new dawn.” His father drones on and Will feels Abigail trembling from the effort to keep herself from snickering. Green is probably talking through their connection and he can't really blame her. The entire affair is entirely boring and tedious. As almost every ceremony is on Altea, it’s always procedure and grand gestures. Will stifles a yawn.

The Paladins stand to the left of the platform, all of them dressed in their armor. Margot is the closest to his father in her red armor,bayard at her hip. Her honey blonde hair in a tight bun and Altean marks a deep red set at her cheekbones. Margot’s choosing wasn’t like this, none of theirs were except maybe Will’s. When the previous Red Paladin had died from old age, the Red Lion had shown up outside of her home. She was quickly gifted the title of Red Paladin soon after. Her brother is nowhere to be seen. Good, Will thinks. He’s quite revolting.

Next down the line is Abigail, the Green Paladin, now currently cracking a smile, her black hair done up in a braid, having apparently lost the battle between her lion in her effort. Abigail comes from a forest village on the far side of Altea where she lived with her mother and father. Will has met her mother and father; he genuinely prefers her mother. Abigail inherited her mother's bright teal marks.

Next is Will as the Blue Paladin. Will feels the Blue give him a pleased purr. Will’s choosing was not surprising to many as the blue lion seems to favor the house of Graham, only ever leaving once in the history of Voltron. Blue likes them somehow, especially omegas.

Lastly there is Peter. Soft and kind hearted Peter. A true Yellow Paladin. Peter loves animals and sometimes makes it his job to take care of them. Will thinks Yellow helps Peter and Will can think of no better person to fill the role as a Yellow.

The Black Paladin has consistently been a king or queen of Altea. Always.

All together Voltron is made up of a noble, two royals, and two from the peasantry. Choosings are not controlled by the the King or the council, can't be by definition as the Loins are semi-sentient and you can’t control them unless they choose you, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t tried in the past. But once you are chosen the only way out of being a paladin is if you go through a ceremony like this or death. But the only reason his father is going through with the ceremony today is because this is essentially supposed to announce Xander’s ascension to the throne. Of his support of it anyways. Xander still has to go through the council but this would bolster him. Strengthen his campaign. Will prefers to silently support and not make his opinion of Xander even public. Never mind his disdain of him.

“With my right as Black Paladin I now release myself from that duty. May the Lion find you worthy and Goddess guide you. Let the Choosing commence!”

His father releases the Bayard to a Priest and Will feels his father's connection fade from the Black Lion. The Black Lion vibrates shallowly and then goes still, but only for a moment. The entire assembly holds their breath.

It draws itself to its full height and then kneels. But not at Xander. It is a different man for whom the Black Lion kneels to. Will feels himself go still and vaguely remembers this man that’s currently walking past them. A man that Will has only seen on a dimly lit balcony at a party. Will can’t remember his name and he shakes. The rest of the paladins have all gone deathly pale, even stony-faced Margot; they had thought Xander would be joining them. It was an almost completely assured thing. Will quickly scans the crowd for Xander and finds him. Xander looks like he’s gone into shock but then a look of pure murderous rage flashes across his face in a little twitch.

The man walks like a predator up the steps and two priests intercept him. One is holding the Bayard and the other is holding the Crown of the Black Paladin. His father's face is unreadable but the corners of his eyes wrinkle in careful calculation. Xander vaguely looks like a wild dog, ready to tear this man’s throat out. The chanting increases in tempo as the second priest lowers the crown on top of the man’s head and the first one carefully lays the Bayard in his hands. The man’s eyes flash in time with the bayard as it transforms into a long sword. The Black Lion roars triumphantly and the crowd cheers at the successful Choosing. Deafening.

“Hannibal Lecter, high general of Altea, is your Black Paladin! Goddess rejoice!” a Priest exclaims, his shrill voice a shout. Will’s world suddenly muffles as Hannibal’s eyes lock on to his, making Will a hostage as he drowns within red and gold. Memories of this man slam into him, bashing him to bits against the rocky cliffs of his mind. Hannibal’s last words to him rattle about his body, his hindbrain screeching danger.

A warm pool of dread settle in his stomach. Like a great serpent curling its tail around helpless prey. Hannibal’s gaze is a wildfire and Will feels the heat of a fire not yet here but slowly encroaching.

~~~~

Will is horribly uncomfortable. Feels too many people present and it makes his skin itch. Beta women and omegas. The way they keep glancing at him is the worst, some younger ones stare openly with awe and wonder like this is a magical experience. Will glares at them with something like contempt until they scramble. Will almost envies their naivety but at the same time he doesn’t. They probably didn’t watch his father and mother’s bonding as they were presumably still children. Children are forbidden at that kind of event. They don’t know his mother screamed and thrashed. The ones that were there, however, the older ones, look at him with pity and fear. Will decides that he hates that even more. They shouldn’t be the ones afraid, not while Will is terrified.

A public bonding, something that’s only done by royalty, and in Will's opinion frankly horrifying. Not even the fucking Nobles do it and the rest of the people definitely don’t. It’s something that’s supposed to be done in private and preferably during a heat, something that is supposed to be gone over at great length before hand. But not for royalty, because some ancient councilman what would be a brilliant idea long ago that this would prevent false marriages for the sake of power. Whoever that councilman was Will sincerely hopes he’s in hell. And besides, it doesn’t stop them anyway. It happens all the time.

Will jumps as an elderly beta woman clips parts of his outfit together. She glances up and pats his hand soothingly, wooden bangles clacking together softly. Her gray hair is pulled tight into a high bun and her brown eyes are filled with warmth.

“You’ll be fine, dear. It’s going to be over before you know it,” she spoke, her voice a bit croaky. Will‘s eyes only make it up to her nose and doesn’t reply. She gives him knowing look and continues working on his outfit. It’s soft blue with loose flowing fabric that’s clipped together with gold, almost looking like a dress, his marks on full display with an open back. His neck wide open. Easier that way he supposes. Every soft click of buttons being clasped sounds like a death knell to his ears.

Will wants to scream as an omega woman walks to them with an elaborate wedding crown. She reaches him and the old woman almost bats her away as she retrieves the crown from the girl’s hands. The girl looks faintly offended as she turns her back on them but the old woman just tsks, turning to him. She doesn’t immediately place the crown on his head but instead reaches for the veil. It’s a long white thing that almost brushes the ground. She just gestures for him to lean down and she places it on his head along with the crown. Will audibly swallows and this time the woman grabs his hands with something like urgency and for the first time he meets her brown eyes. They are full of desperate concern and when she speaks to him her voice is dipped into a whisper.

“Listen to me. Know you don’t want this and you have no choice. Don’t think about it, just look ahead and try to smile. I wish I could help you but this is all I can offer you, my Prince. Pray that it goes fast.”

A signal goes off and people are scrambling out of the way.

Will’s eyes mist over and his hands shake within her grip. “I can’t do this,” Will warbles.

“You must. Be strong, your Highness,” she says as gently removes her hands from his and places a delicate kiss on his forehead. “Goddess be with you.”

She steps away as two servants pull the doors open. Will is momentarily blinded by the light and a sea of glittering bells. Hundreds of people have gathered. His father’s court, the nobility, and all the way to the peasantry. The Paladins are all here but are scattered within the crowd, Will can see Peter and Abigail seated next to each other. Will can’t spot Margot but he knows she’s there. None of them are in their armor. They had all been shocked when he told them about this impending bonding ceremony, their emotions all ranging at different levels of outrage, Abigail’s was so blatant that it practically hit him in the face, Peter’s was protective, and Margot looked mildly appalled. Will didn’t shed a tear then, didn’t even crack his mask. Will can faintly discern their collective concern but blocks it out to instead focus in front of him.

Will wishes he didn’t.

Wills eyes follow all the way up the red carpet to his betrothed. Hannibal Lecter is like a black hole, an omen of death from which light can’t escape. He’s wearing a suit blacker than night and that godforsaken crown. Will vividly imagines a nest of antlers reaching up to the high ceiling. He blinks hard and Hannibal's eyes are fire. Completely focused on him. The small of his back tingles with phantom fingers. His father and brother stand there like guardians, each of them holding an earring and behind them are servants holding a hot piercing needle.

His legs are stiff when he finally begins to move. Will has a sudden hysterical thought that his legs will creak like squeaky hinges. Will hopes that he doesn’t look like a newborn colt. For every step he takes the people gathered shake the bells. Their collective chime vibrates through his body and it doesn’t help the fact that he’s completely high-strung on fear. Every step is his plea for a mercy that he knows he will not receive. He lifts his chin higher as his father and brother come to his side just as he reaches the stairs.

There are no words exchanged but the look in their eyes is almost enough for Will to want to hit them. He’s sorely tempted. His father looks at him like an opportunity, something to control, and his brother radiates a murderous aura that’s hardly masked. Maybe Xander intends for him to slit Hannibal‘s throat. No. He’d want to do it himself. Either way, Will is now currently just a pawn. Will stays still as his brother reaches for his crown and his father lifts the veil from his head. The crown is quickly placed back on his head as if Xander was burned by it. Will feels like he’s boiling alive.

The servants quickly come up behind him before he can say a word or even move and push the needles through the tips of his ears simultaneously. Will’s mouth opens in a silent gasp of pain and before he knows it the earrings are placed in the tiny holes left behind. His father and brother work surprisingly fast and the metal is surprisingly light. It feels like a shackle.

Will faintly sobs as his father runs a hand down his spine in an effort to discreetly calm him and takes his hand firmly to lead him up the steps. His brother stays behind and holds the veil.

They ascend the stairs and Hannibal looks displeased, a simple chair set up behind him. Hannibal holds out his hand and the King places Will’s hand into it. He gives Will away like a gift to a man that could destroy them.

“I bless this union. May the Goddess guide you,” is the last sentence Will hears from his father as he backs away from them. From Will and Hannibal.

Will is aware that he’s mouthing no and slightly backing away. Thoughts of running casually leap within his mind. It’s all stopped the moment Hannibal pulls Will to him, to his chest, and swiftly sequesters him away to a place on his knee.

“Shh, hush now William, beloved,” Hannibal says quietly as he nuzzles the underside of his jaw. Will lets out a high-pitched whine and stiffens.

“No, don’t do this to me. You can stop and we’ll never have to see each other again.” Will is babbling and knows he’s bargaining. “I can’t do this. Don’t do this.”

Hannibal ignores him and the only warning he gets before he pinches one of his glands is the subtle swipe of a thumb. And then suddenly Will feels like he’s floating but he knows it’s just hormones. Will doesn’t feel like he’s a part of his body anymore and it would be a wonderful feeling if he couldn’t still feel hundreds of eyes on his back. He melts into Hannibal nonetheless and Hannibal makes an approving noise.

Will remembers Molly doing the exact same thing to him, risking her hands if they were ever found out. He doesn’t stay in the memory long as he snaps out of his reverie. Hannibal’s grip changes and Will mind catches up a second too late before Hannibal savagely rips into his mating gland. Will screams and thrashes his body in the naïve hope of bucking him off. All it does is make Hannibal secure him tighter, a hand set firmly at his hips.

Hannibal is burning into him, carving a place out within his soul. It feels like possession. Will knows there’s no mercy with this man as Hannibal finally snaps into place within him. Hannibal’s teeth remove themselves from Will neck with a sickening sound. Will’s throat feels raw and he knows that he’s covered in blood and so is Hannibal.

He feels like the sound of when one wets the rim of a wine glass. Shrill and brittle. Breakable. Will’s last thought as he tumbles into the darkness, Hannibal catching his limp body as it falls, is that this man, this man who has bonded him, the man who he has only held one conversation prior to this, won’t let him go.

Will carens headfirst into the void and the dread coiled in his stomach tightens tenfold.