Technically, facilities like this are not illegal, any more than breeding pens for animals or adoption agencies are not illegal. The ones sanctioned and supplemented by the Government are some of the most immaculately kept and run organizations in the country.
It's a simple matter of solving an underpopulation problem. It's referred to by historians as the Cull, though that implies there were active measures taken to reduce the population. It was not a plague, not a direct consequence of a war through which many of the young perished before having children.
Hannibal's generation was the last not to be affected. He started hearing about it when he was in his teenage years – new omegas were being born barren, without viable wombs. Betas were almost unheard of these days. Alphas became plagued with a sickness, that completely ruined their ability to maintain stamina and the potency necessary to impregnate an omega during heat. Omegas stopped going into heat as often.
Now, there's almost a seventy percent chance that a new baby will be born infertile. That is why these centers exist, now – the omegas that are able to have children are brought here, and inseminated, either through I.V.F. or the natural way, if there happens to be a virile alpha of breeding age around. The children, if they are not viable to continue the population growth, are sold off to families and mated pairs with the desire and means to care for them. Since so many cannot have children, it's hard to keep up with the demand.
Hannibal is lucky, in a way. He's of an age where he is not considered genetically capable of siring more children, though he is far from past his prime. He's also a foreigner, not an American native, and the Nationalists who run the program prefer to have pure American blood, like that means anything anymore.
He enters the facility without much flare, but nevertheless is met by a small, smiling alpha, his eyes gleaming as he takes in Hannibal's expensive suit and the luxury car he came in. "Good afternoon," he purrs, and holds out his hand. "I'm Doctor Chilton. I run this establishment."
Flattering, that the director himself decided to greet Hannibal in person. He smiles, and shakes the man's hand. "Good afternoon," he replies.
"Are you here to purchase a pup?" Chilton asks.
Hannibal shakes his head. "No," he replies, and the other man blinks in surprise, his brow creasing in confusion. "I'm interested in purchasing one of your omegas."
Chilton blinks at him again, and shakes his head instinctively. "I'm sorry, Mister…?"
"Doctor Lecter," Hannibal corrects.
"Doctor Lecter," Chilton amends. "All of the omegas in our care are property of the state, and not available for purchase."
Hannibal sighs. He expected to hear something like that. "I have a newborn at home," he says flatly. Chilton's eyes widen. "Unfortunately my wife died shortly after childbirth. I've already had the child tested – she's not a viable breeder. But there is the case of feeding her."
"There are formulas perfectly tailored to -."
"Doctor Chilton, I understand your concern, I simply don't care to hear it," Hannibal says. "Surely there is one who has fulfilled their obligations, that you can part with for a short time. At least until it's safe to breed them again."
Chilton's eyes narrow. "So you…want to lease one?" he asks, sounding incredulous.
"If that will make you more amenable, then yes."
Chilton's eyes flash, gleaming with intrigue. He smiles, his demeanor at once melting back to that of a salesman. "I think I have one that will suit," he purrs, "if you don't mind an omega with a…somewhat spirited nature."
Hannibal smiles. "Lead the way."
His name is Will Graham. Unfortunately, he is of the generation that still bred fertile omegas, and was born when the Government just began to panic. Hannibal doubts he has known much except life in the facility, being impregnated and giving birth every year since he came of age. It's clear he has recently given birth; his scent is sweet with the natural softness of a mother.
He's quite lovely, if a little skinnier than Hannibal anticipated, especially for an omega who has just been pregnant. There's very little excess fat around his stomach and hips, he's more muscular than typical waif-like omegas these days. Of course, Hannibal has little interest in him except for his ability to lactate and feed his child.
He's allowed into Will's room, which looks more like that of a hotel, fully stocked with amenities, a small bed and a paltry attempt at a nest to soothe those instincts tucked into a corner. Will looks up as Chilton leads Hannibal into his room, his eyes flashing a pretty blue, laced with gold to turn the iris green in places. He swallows harshly. "I can't get pregnant again so soon," he snaps, glaring at Chilton. Hannibal gets the impression this is something he's had to deal with numerous times.
Chilton smiles at him. "That's not why Doctor Lecter is here," he says, gesturing to Hannibal. "He needs a nursemaid."
Will's expression smooths out in surprise. "Oh," he murmurs. He stands from where he was curled up in his nest, wincing as his sore muscles undoubtedly stretch and resettle from the tight ball he had been curled into. "How old is your baby?"
"Five weeks," Hannibal tells him.
Will's eyes soften, his gaze dips down, naturally deferential. "I'm sorry," he whispers. "Your mate…?"
"Deceased, unfortunately," Hannibal says. "Hence my need for someone like you."
Will presses his lips together, and nods.
Chilton turns to Hannibal. Will's choice isn't a concern, to a man like him. "What do you think? Will he suit?"
"I'd like to examine him," Hannibal says. Will winces, such a quick expression Hannibal would have missed it had he not been watching the omega so closely. "To make sure he'll be suitable."
"Of course," Chilton says with a wide smile. He gestures towards Will. "I'll be outside. Take your time."
The way he says it, Hannibal doesn't doubt Chilton expects him to be very thorough in his examination. His stomach turns, his lips pulled down at the corners in distaste. There may be some alphas these days who would enjoy the idea of taking advantage of an omega who has no choice but to spread their legs and let whatever happens to them happen, but Hannibal has never enjoyed the idea of that. Besides, there is little point – he has no intention of mounting Will, so the state of his insides is of no concern to him beyond being healthy, with no concerning damage.
Chilton closes the door behind him, and Hannibal approaches Will. Will doesn't move, except to very slightly tilt his head, exposing more of his throat to Hannibal's gaze. He's wearing a thin t-shirt and sweatpants, much too large for him as though it was purchased for him when he was young, and he was expected to grow into it, falling short.
Hannibal lifts a hand, gently running his thumb beneath Will's jaw, feeling the engorged scent glands which swell during pregnancy and birth, in an effort to bond more deeply with both his child and the alpha that sired it. Since omegas cannot be mounted after giving birth without feeling pain, they evolved an overproduction of their sweet scent to appease their alpha during the enforced celibacy.
He leans close and breathes in, deeply, testing Will's scent. He's sweet, of course, vaguely floral, like wildflowers and blackberry extract. Sugar and a slight crispness of sweat, like limes. His scent gland feels healthy, not overly swollen or infected.
Hannibal hums, pleased, and Will shivers, his cheeks colored a delicate pink.
"Take off your shirt, if you would," Hannibal commands. Will nods, pulling his shirt over his head and tossing it onto the bed. His shoulders are muscled and defined, evolved to bear an alpha's weight while being mounted. His chest is swollen, nipples tender-looking and a dark red. Hannibal makes a curious sound; "Does Chilton inseminate you artificially?"
"Depends," Will replies. "We haven't had a viable alpha in a while." Hannibal smiles at Will's phrasing, as though he has any part or any say in the breeding stock at this facility. There is a small scar on his stomach from a C-section. Male omegas, while generally considered more fertile, have trouble giving birth the natural way, since they lack the ability to stretch like females can. Unfortunately, once a C-section is done once, attempting a natural birth after is ill-advised.
"How many children have you had?" Hannibal asks, idly testing the width of Will's shoulders, the tenderness of his chest. The additional glands here are swollen, and Will shivers under his touch, turning his face away to bare more of his neck.
"Just had my fourth," Will tells him.
Despite himself, Hannibal lets out a surprised sound. He frowns. "Four?"
Will lifts his shoulders in a shrug, winces at the pull on his tender chest. He bites his lower lip, lifting his hands in an aborted gesture, before he can rub at his sore chest. "Not all of them made it," he says flatly, purposely devoid of emotion.
Hannibal hums. "I'm sorry."
"Nature of the beast," Will replies with another shrug. Whether he is truly upset over the loss of his additional children – or any of them, for Hannibal doubts he was allowed to even hold them before they were taken away – he doesn't show it.
Hannibal purses his lips, and drops his gaze from Will's face. He gently cups Will's swollen chest, and brushes his thumb over one of his red, puffy nipples. Will hisses, mouth twisting as his sensitive flesh is touched. Almost immediately, a single bead of milk forms against Hannibal's thumb.
Hannibal smiles. "You're certainly eager to produce."
Will swallows, and doesn't answer.
Hannibal spreads his fingers out, gently kneading at Will's swollen muscle, pleased when another heavy dribble of milk is produced. It coats his fingers, and smells unbearably sweet. Absently, he lifts his fingers to his nose, taking a deep inhale, tasting it with his tongue. It holds much of Will's scent, and the stereotypical sweetness of cantaloupe juice.
He drops his hands, and turns to retrieve Will's shirt, handing it to him. Will shrugs it on, one side immediately darkening as it absorbs the milk. If he's surprised that Hannibal did nothing more than check his milk production, he doesn't show it, but the tension in his shoulders has softened somewhat, and this time, when Hannibal looks at him, he meets Hannibal's eyes, and manages a small smile.
"I think you'll suit just fine," Hannibal replies. "Of course, assuming you consent to coming to my home and nursing my child for me."
Will blinks at him, and frowns. "If I consent?" he parrots.
"Of course. I expect there will be some emotional difficulties, both because you will not be nursing your own child, and because you will likely form some sort of natural bond with mine. Which will end, when she is weaned off your milk. I wouldn't expect you to enter into an arrangement like that against your will."
Will's frown deepens, and he huffs a sheepish, unsteady little laugh. He rubs his hand over his neck, coating it with his scent, and digs his nails into the nape of his neck, scratching roughly at his hairline. "I -. You're a different one, Doctor Lecter," he says. His smile is wider now, much more relaxed. It softens his entire face and makes him look even younger than Hannibal is sure he is.
"I try to be as weird and interesting as possible, at all times," Hannibal replies with a smile. Will's laugh is soothing, pleasant to his ear. "Do you consent?"
"Yeah, of course I do," Will murmurs, expression growing earnest. He nods. "I'll go with you."
Hannibal smiles. "Excellent. Go ahead and pack your things and I'll settle with your doctor. I'll see you outside."
Will nods again, and Hannibal leaves the room to find Chilton hovering outside like an eavesdropper. He seems surprised that Hannibal left so quickly, and there is no obvious evidence of sexual misconduct. Hannibal fixes him with a raised brow. "Shall we?"
"You're taking him?" Chilton asks.
"Yes. I think he will do nicely."
Chilton nods. "Alright. Come with me and we'll get the paperwork signed, and you can be on your way."
Hannibal leads Will to his car, an hour later and his bank account fifty thousand dollars lighter. For a lease agreement, it seems rather steep, but there is hardly any monetary limit he could put on his daughter's wellbeing, and he may have need of Will for several months, before the law compels him to return to the facility to be impregnated again.
Will whistles lowly at the sight of the Bentley. "So you're, like, Rockefeller rich," he says.
Hannibal smiles, opening the trunk for Will to put his small bag inside it. "I have enough money and means to live quite comfortably, yes," he replies. "Is that important to you?"
"I don't have the luxury of being a gold-digger," Will replies with a laugh. His entire attitude is much lighter, changing from the moment Hannibal signed the contract and they stepped out of the premises. "But it's not unattractive."
"Your circumstances are not exactly perfect," Hannibal concedes, as they get in the car. Will's eyes widen, and he pets over the soft leather seats, shivers and curls up as Hannibal turns on the seat warmers, since it's quite cold outside despite the season. "I don't suppose you've had much opportunity for socialization."
Will laughs, and rolls his eyes. "A common misconception," he says. Hannibal tilts his head. "Once I get pregnant, I'm allowed to do pretty much whatever I want, as long as I don't risk the baby's or my health. You saw my room – it's quite comfortable, as far as cages go."
"But it's still a cage."
Will hums, looking out the window as Hannibal drives away from the facility. He lives just under an hour away from the site, and there are closer ones, but this one has the best reputation by far. He couldn't possibly purchase an omega that had health concerns or lived in subpar conditions, lest they accidentally harm his child.
"Thankfully, since you are not pregnant, I have no need to insist you isolate yourself to my home," Hannibal tells him. "You will have your own room, which is next to my daughter's. You may nest there, if you'd like, and take her out during the day. My only stipulation is that you take over her primary care – feeding her, bathing and changing her, and so on."
Will nods, his eyes shining with some unnamable emotion. "Who's taking care of her now?"
"I have a friend and colleague of mine watching her," Hannibal says.
Will nods. "What's her name?"
"'Father's Joy'," Will breathes.
Hannibal blinks at him, surprised. "Yes," he replies quietly.
Will smiles at him. "There's not much to do in that place but read," he says, answering the unspoken question.
"What kinds of things do you like to read?"
"All sorts," Will tells him, sitting back. "Doctor Chilton is one of those pseudo-intellectual types. I'm pretty sure I visited the library way more often than he did, but he has a lot of fancy old books. The old poets, Shakespeare, medical journals. Fancy Bibles." He makes a vague, dismissive gesture. "I've read everything in there at least twice."
"I have a library as well," Hannibal says. "You are more than welcome to make use of it."
Will smiles brightly, and lets out a happy little purr. Hannibal smiles at the sound of it, warm despite himself. His wife was an omega, but her pregnancy was difficult, and she was in almost constant pain up to the point Abigail was born. He's surprised either of them made it at all, truth be told, and had made peace with her passing long before the day actually came.
He is not one to mourn inevitable losses. Abigail survived, and she is healthy, and that's more than what he could have asked for.
Hannibal drives Will to his home, parking and getting out of the car. He retrieves Will's bag and hands it to him, and leads the way inside. Will's eyes are wide, staring up at the impressive structure, and he lets out another soft sound of awe as Hannibal opens the door.
Immediately, the sound of a crying baby cuts through the silence of the outside. Will drops his bag, a soft whine gathering in his throat. Hannibal follows the sound to the study, to find Alana shushing Abigail. She looks up when Hannibal enters, her smile relieved and strained. "She's being awful fussy today," she says in apology.
Will whines again, sharp and high. He is practically vibrating with the desire to go and take Abigail, his eyes flaring with a bright golden hue. Hannibal smiles, and takes Abigail from Alana, handing her over. Will cradles her like she is the most precious thing in the world.
"Her room is upstairs, third door on the left," he says, and gently cradles the small of Will's back. "You may go."
Will nods, hurrying from the room, his eyes only on the baby. Hannibal sheds his coat as Alana stands. She's a fellow alpha, young enough to have been stricken with the plight cursing humanity these days, infertile and unable to bear young or lactate, otherwise Hannibal would have asked her.
"So you found one?" Alana asks him. Hannibal nods, resisting the urge to point out the obvious evidence that he did. "That's good. Abigail won't take formula, I was so worried."
Hannibal nods. Alpha children are much more inclined to nurse at their mother's breast than to take anything fake. Their delicate noses and refined sense of taste do not allow them to accept anything unnatural. "Would you like a drink?" he offers.
"Please," she says roughly. He smiles at her, and takes her by the shoulders, leading her into the kitchen. The bottles of brew he makes are always kept chilled, ready to serve. He pours her a tall glass, huffing in amusement as she takes a long drink.
She gasps when she's done, giving him a sheepish look. "Thank you."
"I know it's been difficult," Hannibal says. "I appreciate everything you've done since…." He lets himself trail off, lets his voice grow heavy with a loss he doesn't truly feel. Alana is the kind of person who finds pleasure in soothing grief, and Hannibal likes her company well enough, so it's a small price to pay to make her feel better.
Alana's eyes soften, predictably, and she nods. Upstairs, Abigail's cries have fallen silent, and she lets out a sigh of relief. "That's a good sign."
"Yes," Hannibal says. "I need to get Will settled in and check on them."
"I'll leave," Alana says with a smile. Hannibal has always appreciated her willingness to leave him be, to avoid overstaying her welcome. She finishes her drink and Hannibal walks her to the door, holding her coat for her as she worms her arms into the sleeves and shrugs it into place. She turns and gives Hannibal a tender smile. "Let me know if you need any more help," she says kindly.
Hannibal nods, and sees her out. He takes Will's bag and heads upstairs. Will's designated room is a room before Abigail's, so he opens it and sets the bag inside for Will to find later. Abigail's door is propped slightly ajar, and he approaches, knocking gently before pushing it open.
Will looks up, and smiles at him. He's sitting in the dark blue armchair in the corner, and has pulled his shirt over Abigail's head and shoulders, and Hannibal can hear the loud, wet suckling as Will feeds her. His scent is so thick with relief and joy, and he holds her like she's so breakable and precious.
"She was hungry," he says, in a very soft, low voice, so he doesn't upset her. Hannibal smiles, approaching him. Will tilts his head up, smiles dreamily, eyes hazy and glowing gold. "She latched on right away."
"Good," Hannibal says, gently petting a stray curl from Will's face. He believes in giving credit where it's due, and a happy omega is one that will much more readily prepare milk, and rise for nighttime feedings, and be overall more pleasant company. "I've put your things in your room. There is a linen closet, as well, with additional blankets and sheets, whatever you'd like to use for a nest."
Will blinks at him. "A nest?" he echoes.
"If you'd like to build one, you're more than welcome to," Hannibal tells him with a smile. He mentioned as much in the car, but doesn't fault Will for not believing him. "You'll be here for a while, after all, given this resounding success."
Will flushes, looking down. He gently peels his shirt back from Abigail's face, revealing her thoroughly latched to his chest, happily sucking away. Hannibal isn't blind – it wasn't a priority of his, but Will and his late wife share certain aesthetic similarities. Abigail inherited her mother's bright blue eyes, the beginnings of dark fuzz on her head. Though it wasn't a conscious choice, he knows Will is going to bond harder with the child, purely because Will's instincts will convince him that this child must be his, since they look so much alike.
Will stands, careful not to dislodge Abigail. There's no bed in this room, just her crib, which he goes to, taking one of the soft blankets and wrapping his arms in them so that he can hold her within it, and swaddle her when she's done eating.
"I've never actually gotten to do this before," he says, soft with awe. "It's…not what I expected."
"Oh?" Hannibal murmurs.
"I expected it to be more like a water bottle," Will says, and laughs at himself. "Just a slow trickle she'd lap up. But she's actually pulling it out of me. It's weird."
"…Yes. Wonderful weird," Will breathes, closing his eyes. "Relief."
Hannibal nods. "I can purchase a pump for you, as well, in case she can't keep up with you."
Will smiles at his feet. "I'd appreciate that."
"Excellent. Unfortunately, I can't stay to give you a proper tour of the house, but I trust you'll be able to find your way around. There is plenty of food in the fridge, and everything you will need to care for Abigail is in this room, or in the closet with the linens."
Will nods, and wets his lips. "Thank you, Doctor Lecter," he murmurs.
"I'll return in the evening. My cell phone number is on the fridge, in case you think of anything else you need while I'm out."
Will nods again, his eyes locked on Abigail. He smiles, and brushes his thumb over her chubby cheek. "Okay," he replies, hazy, like he's barely listening. Hannibal smiles to himself, and leaves him to it. He has a patient he needs to meet, and it's just the one, since he knew he would be indisposed for the rest of the day.
It's been a while since he was able to move within his house without listening to Abigail fussing, for any number of reasons. Desperation would make her hungry enough to take the occasional bottle, but he can't fight the feeling of supreme relief he feels, hearing a quiet house, knowing that his daughter will be well-fed and taken care of by such a sweet, young omega, with evident powerful maternal instincts.
Yes, he thinks to himself, smiling as he takes his coat in hand and leaves the house again. This arrangement promises to work out rather nicely.