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It was on a sunny, sleepy Saturday morning that Hannibal Lecter realized he would need to kill his omega.

 

Will liked to chat, when they mated. Not that they did so very often--the first two years of their marriage, Hannibal had been content with forehead pecks and the occasional embrace. After that, Will seemed to warm up a bit to him, perhaps realized that despite the arranged nature of their marriage Hannibal had no intention of enforcing traditional roles, and in the end came to Hannibal of his own accord. He preferred to be on top because of "claustrophobia" (Hannibal suspected phobia was less likely than trauma, but Will insisted he never psychoanalyze him) like he was currently, riding Hannibal's dick leisurely as the morning sun lit up stripes on their bed.

 

". . . and he could have picked Miriam Lass, he was thinking about it," Will was saying as he slowly sank back down, "But Agent Crawford approached me instead."

 

"Mmm," Hannibal nodded, not one for multitasking himself.

 

"So I'm on the Ripper case now," Will laughed, bouncing a little harder on his cock. He picked up the pace then, breathing harshly and putting a hand on Hannibal’s chest to steady himself against the fast rutting. "I'm going to--find--the Chesapeake--Ripper."

 

Hannibal groaned and came.

 

After Will quickly finished himself off they snuggled, Hannibal scenting his dark curls and thinking. He'd let his mate enroll in the FBI Academy, knowing he would hear about Hannibal's art one way or another. But he hadn't understood then--still was only beginning to understand--just how good Will was at it all. But of course Jack Crawford singled him out. Of course he wanted him on the Ripper case, the hottest unsolved case in the area and, dare Hannibal boast, the whole country. Because Will was his, and everything that was his was the best.

 

Hannibal had allowed this all to happen. And now he would have to pay the consequence.

 

"You're thinking so loud my head is hurting," Will grumbled, shifting around in Hannibal's arms. He met his alpha's eyes with a contented smile, scent marking Hannibal's neck briefly before whispering, "I love you."

 

Yes, Hannibal would pay for his mistakes, he thought to himself as Will fell back asleep against his chest.

 

But that didn't mean his mate needed to.

 

--

 

Strangulation. The cleanest method, really, and one of the least undignified. Hannibal's omega certainly wouldn't be subjected to indignity, even if he'd been the worst mate possible. Will was his .

 

But, of course, Will was the perfect mate. Beautiful, for certain--but more important than appearance-wise, it was his mind: beautiful, unique, complicated, surprising. Everything Hannibal never knew he wanted.

 

So yes, strangulation, but only after administering a strong sedative. His Will wouldn't feel a thing, Hannibal decided while cradling his sleeping mate.

 

He planted the seed over breakfast, asking, "Bad dreams, last night?"

 

Will characteristically frowned. "Why? Was I . . . ?"

 

"You seemed distressed again," Hannibal replies smoothly, "tossing and turning, shrinking away when I tried to wake you. It . . . seems, to be a growing pattern again, at night." The comment wasn’t unfounded--though Will had slept peacefully enough of late, he was prone to night terrors. His father had warned Hannibal of the problem long before the marriage was settled.

 

Will looked down at his omelet now, solemn. "I suppose it could be all the Ripper crimes I'm studying. I hadn't noticed--I'm sorry."

 

"No need for apologies," Hannibal smiled graciously, reaching out to refill Will's cup of freshly squeezed orange juice. "Only, I hate to see you in distress."

 

Will nodded and quicky changed the subject, which Hannibal allowed, planning to bring up the need for sleeping pills later that evening.

 

"Our anniversary is coming up," Will pointed out, "and I know you always have something planned--but I was hoping to surprise you, for once. Would you be willing to let me plan something? Keep March 14th free on your calendar?"

 

Hannibal's plans for Will's end immediately backtracked a couple of months. He couldn’t miss whatever Will had in store for them--or else Hannibal would spend the rest of his life wondering. 

 

"For you, Will," he told the man, "Anything."

 

--

 

The night of their anniversary, Hannibal decided.

 

He would leave for Florence after and start a new life. Certainly a life no better than he had right here, with Will at his side, but a life nonetheless. Something he would never have behind bars.

 

As Will continued to study the Chesapeake Ripper, Hannibal knew it was the right decision.

 

“So their theory, then, is that he’s a Beta,” Will scoffed as he and Hannibal sat in the lounge, nursing whiskey and wine, respectively. Hannibal hummed, so the omega continued, “Just trying to get Jack’s attention. The fact is, the Ripper is an alpha male through and through--just because it isn’t newsworthy doesn’t make it untrue. The man might as well paint a big ‘ALPHA’ with his victim’s blood on each crime scene, if that wouldn’t ruin his art .”

 

Hannibal choked on his wine, coughing as it went down the wrong pipe. He quickly recovered, though not quickly enough. Their dog, Winston, moved from Will’s side to Hannibal’s, nosing at his knee as if to see if he was alright.

 

Will laughed. “It’s okay, Winston, Papa just can’t handle his liquor.”

 

“I apologize,” Hannibal said, clearing his throat, ”please continue. You were saying, his--art?”

 

“Oh, yes,” Will nodded, smiling as he watched Hannibal scratch behind Winston’s ears. “The Ripper is refined. Once you get used to the blood and gore, it’s obvious. He’s taking unworthy material, and elevating it into something worth looking at. In his mind, I mean.”

 

Hannibal was too fascinated not to press further: “And what is unworthy material, to him?”

 

Will shrugged, eyes going distant. “Everyone, to some extent.”

 

Not you, Hannibal thought as Will took his sleeping pills for the night and, later, drooled a bit on his pillow. Not you.

 

--

 

Carotid restraint. Unconscious in 30 seconds or less--though Will would already be unconscious when Hannibal applied the hold. A few minutes, and the omega would sink peacefully from sleep to death without any knowledge of the fact. It would be Hannibal’s final act of love.

 

When the night came, however, Will was not very interested in sleeping.

 

“Come here,” he said, breath enticingly sweet. In fact, he’d been so sweet-smelling all day, as they enjoyed fine wine, good music, and each other’s company on the river boat. Hannibal attempted to lick the taste from his mouth, now. “Your last surprise, see?” He took Hannibal’s hand, currently at the small of the omega’s back, and slid it down the waistband of his briefs to finger at his underwear.

 

It was practically soaked through.

 

Hannibal gasped, leaning back. “But your suppressants--”

 

“Went off them, a week ago,” Will said, laughing breathlessly. “I was sure, with that nose of yours, the surprise would be ruined.”

 

Will had only been in heat one other time, and it’d been a disaster. Hannibal never expected his mate to try again. “You smelled delectable the entire day,” he admitted, “I just didn’t realize what my nose was telling me. But are you sure--”

 

“I was barely 20, last time I tried,” Will said, slowly walking them to bed. “This time I’ll stay above you, and I’ll know you as more than just the alpha my father sold me to. You’re my mate , Hannibal.”

 

And so the next two days were a blur of slick, come, and sweat.

 

“I’ve been thinking,” Will said over breakfast in bed, the following morning, “the Ripper is probably mated.”

 

Hannibal paused in the midst of cutting his pancake. “Oh?”

 

“Mmm,” Will nodded, slinking over to lean on Hannibal’s shoulder, nosing at the new, tender bite mark on his neck.

 

“And why is that?”

 

Will sighed, leaning back. “He has something to curb his nature, I’d say. He works in sounders of 3--a binge, or spree, you could say--then returns to normal life for months or years without killing again. I don’t see his signature hidden in any other crimes I’ve researched. It’s like he goes out, releases that primal part of him, then returns to domestic bliss.”

 

Hannibal swallowed too soon around his bite of pancake.

 

He couldn’t delay this, any longer.

 

“Today the riverboat stops at New Madrid, Missouri,” Hannibal changed subject. “Perhaps we should spend some of our vacation out of doors?”

 

“In the south, we’d say New Ma drid,” Will grinned, and kissed Hannibal on the cheek when he grimaced before finishing off the rest of his pancakes.

 

--

 

The day was beautiful, if muggy, and ended far too soon. Hannibal nearly had to force himself to say, that night, “I admit I am rather exhausted, after helping you through your heat,” and watched the lovely color that flushed Will’s cheeks. “I might take a few of your pills tonight, if you would not be opposed.”

 

“No, I should too, probably,” Will nodded, yawning.

 

It was too easy.

 

He filled a glass for his mate, shaking out two pills from the container in their luggage, and handed both over to Will, who smiled sweetly in thanks. He tilted his head back, revealing that long, still unclaimed throat--another thing Will didn’t prefer, in bed--and tipped the pills from his hand, washing them down quickly with the water.

 

“I’ll make sure to set an alarm,” Hannibal said, watching as his beloved nodded absently and snuggled into the pillows.

 

It took less than a minute for his breathing to deepen, mouth slack and brow lax. Hannibal sat at the edge of the bed and stroked the back of his hand over the other man’s face, rememorizing each feature as if he hadn’t already saved it perfectly in his mind palace. 

 

Still, Hannibal indulged; he traced the shell of his mate’s ear, the tiny whiskers under his jaw, the quaint bow of his mouth. He breathed in the deep, clean scent of his curls, of his neck, of his wrists. Then Hannibal moved to lay behind his sleeping mate, memorizing the feel of their bodies flush together. 

 

After hours of it, Hannibal knew he’d waited long enough. Longer than needed, really, for deep sleep to take Will and keep him safe from discomfort.

 

Hannibal wrapped an arm gently around the omega’s neck, rolling them so his mate was lying on top of him, back to chest. Will didn’t stir. He made only the faintest sound when Hannibal began to squeeze, careful to cut off bloodflow, not crush the windpipe.

 

After a minute, Hannibal realized he was crying. 

 

He lasted no longer than that, releasing Will’s neck with a shuddering gasp as tears rolled down his cheeks. Will slumped to the side, and Hannibal frantically turned him onto his back and began CPR, realizing only after one round that Will’s heart was, indeed, still beating.

 

Then Hannibal wrapped both his arms and legs around his mate, clinging and rocking him as Will slept on, oblivious. As if nothing had happened. As if Hannibal had not just nearly ruined the best thing in his life.

 

--

 

When Will woke the next morning, Hannibal couldn’t look at him.

 

“Did you sleep at all?” Will asked with surprise, peering at his face. When Hannibal stiffly shook his head, his mate put a hand against his forehead, tutting. “It’s not a fever.”

 

“It’s alright, William,” he said stiffly, gingerly removing the hand and standing before Will could touch him further. “I think I require solitude, is all, for today. Please enjoy the boat’s festivities.”

 

Will stared at him, clearly hurt. “Alright,” he said quietly, standing and changing into his normal denim and plaid. “I’ll see you later.”

 

The rest of the vacation was awkward, to say the least. Hannibal tried to be as gracious and yet formal as possible, keeping Will at an arm’s length. When they returned home he kept it up, and Will remained subdued and quiet in response, anger evident only in his body language.

 

He was going to confront Hannibal, sooner rather than later. And Hannibal needed to end this before he did, because lying outright to his mate would only open more rifts between them. Each night he laid down as far as possible from Will on the bed--and each night, once he could be sure Will was asleep, he rocked him gently and pawed at the omega’s neck, getting closer to biting it than ever strangling it.

 

Perhaps he could take Will with him. Tell him the truth, bite and fully claim him, and then Will would have no choice but to come with as Hannibal quietly retreated from these hunting grounds. Even if Will turned out to be the unruly sort of omega, affected little by the claim, Hannibal could force him, restrain him, keep him.

 

Or perhaps Hannibal could even, by some stroke of selflessness, leave Will behind.

 

But either way, Will would hate him. And that was a future, as Hannibal nuzzled into his mate’s sleeping neck, that he wouldn’t stand for.

 

--

 

“But Bev, it doesn’t make sense,” he overheard Will arguing over the phone one afternoon, home early after a cancellation. His mate clearly hadn’t heard him come in. “I know. I just . . . he’s right here, but I miss him.” Hannibal stiffened, leaning against the door of the lounge ever-so-slightly to hear better. “No, that’s not it either. He’s not like that, he--he doesn’t . . . he wants the best for me.” Quiet, while Will listened to his friend’s reply, and then, “Maybe. Maybe you’re right.”

 

Hannibal resisted the urge to growl. What was this ‘Bev’ putting into his mate’s head about him? What was he ‘like,’ as she claimed, that he wouldn’t want the best for Will? Hannibal nearly barged the door down right then and there.

 

But then Will said, hushed, “We keep so many secrets from each other. I know him so well, but . . . I also don’t really, I guess.”

 

Will hung up with a quick goodbye soon after, and Hannibal stiffened, wondering if he should pretend ignorance or confront Will. The choice was taken from him when the door swung open, Will’s widening eyes meeting his own.

 

“You heard that,” he said.

 

“Some of it,” Hannibal allowed after a moment. Will didn’t look apologetic, though--he slumped, relieved.

 

“Good,” he said, “Come here.” And quickly Hannibal was engulfed in his omega’s strong arms, one hand fitting his head snugly into the crook of Will’s neck so he could scent.

 

Hannibal melted. “I do want the best, for you,” he whispered against his skin, and Will shivered.

 

“I know,” he said. “I’m staying off the suppressants, okay? We’ll try again next time.”

 

“What?” Hannibal pulled back in surprise.

 

Will smiled, adding, “I want a family too, Hannibal. It’ll happen--I promise.”

 

Oh God . Hannibal wrapped his arms around Will then, clinging to his omega as his mind reviewed the past, what could have been the worst mistake of his life. If Will had been pregnant, and Hannibal had gone through with it . . .

 

“W-when? When is your next heat?” he asked.

 

Will stopped scenting Hannibal long enough to say, “Next month, probably,” and then started nipping at the skin, traveling up Hannibal’s jaw and latching onto his earlobe. “Bed,” he purred, “ now .”

 

This time, as Will positioned above him, Hannibal didn’t wait for the man to sink down. He grabbed Will by the hips, bringing him down at his own pace. He fucked up into the omega’s sweet hole, Will just holding on and gasping into Hannibal’s chest hair as he was filled. Hannibal’s stamina wasn’t at its best, but the sheer force of his thrusts seemed to knock an orgasm from his omega without a single touch, Will moaning and muttering words of praise as Hannibal finished inside him.

 

“I--I think I know how to find the Ripper,” he said as they came down, completely wrecking Hannibal’s afterglow.

 

He growled, having to physically refrain from pinning Will down. Instead he said, “No work right now, darling,” shutting Will’s mouth with a kiss.

 

But Will pulled back, eyes bright. “I just thought of it, though,” he said, “He’s got medical background, I told you--what if he met his victims in that capacity before singling them out?”

 

Hannibal felt both very proud and very cold. “I will strive to be a better lover, if that’s where your mind goes when we mate.”

 

Will blushed. “Sorry. I was thinking about hospitals, at first--babies. It wasn’t until after--”

 

“Come here,” Hannibal demanded, pulling Will back on top of him. 

 

Will laughed--such a happy, carefree sound--and whispered, “Two or three alphas, a beautiful little omega--” only quieting when Hannibal silenced him again with his mouth.

 

--

 

Hannibal wasn’t sure what his plans were, anymore.

 

Two things would happen, if he didn’t end this the way he’d first decided: Will would find out, or he would not.

 

Neither would give Hannibal what he wanted, he realized while watching his mate help prepare dinner. Hannibal loved Will, though perhaps he hadn’t realized it until too late. He would never truly have claimed Will, bite or no bite, without revealing his true self to him. Neither could Will fully love him back.

 

Before Will’s next heat, Hannibal decided finally. Once that sweet, ripe smell hinted from Will’s skin, Hannibal would take him to the cellar. He would show him, and then Will would decide.

 

In the meantime, their lives continued, Will continuing to excel at the Academy and under Jack Crawford’s tutelage, while Hannibal was paid to play with petty minds. Will’s hunt for the Chesapeake Ripper continued, until it didn’t--medical confidentiatlity an unpassable byline.

 

But then Will’s night terrors grew. One night, Hannibal woke to strong hands choking him, Will’s face twisted into something unrecognizable. Hannibal quickly jabbed him in the throat, the surprise knocking Will loose from whatever nightmare he was in. As Will came to, clutching his own throat and coughing, Hannibal wrapped arms around the man’s shaking shoulders.

 

“I’m--sorry--it was--I didn’t mean--the man--”

 

“Never apologize,” Hannibal said sternly, thinking of what he would by rights need to confess himself. “It was just a dream.”

 

“But it wasn’t,” Will said in a miserable, flat tone, tense against Hannibal’s hold. 

 

“The man?” Hannibal questioned gently, sighing when his mate flinched.

 

“He had me again,” Will whimpered, “I couldn’t stop him--God, why didn’t I stop him--?”

 

It was the most Will had ever told Hannibal about his abuse, but just the simple, broken-up words lit a fire under his belly.

 

“I’ll kill him,” he swore, letting his person suit slip for a moment.

 

Will shuddered. “He’s already dead,” he said with a vicious righteousness.

 

Hannibal gently took his mate’s clenched hands, unfurling fingers one by one and kissing each tip. He hoped it said what he didn’t say.

 

--

 

When the FBI came knocking, Hannibal wiped his hands clean of dough and walked to the entryway. Will arrived before him, however, the door already open, Jack frowning on their front step along with four other men.

 

“Jack, to what do we owe the pleasure?” Hannibal said cordially.

 

Jack sighed. “I’m sorry about this Hannibal,” before telling Will, “I’m going to need you to come in for some questions.”

 

Hours later, in Jack’s office, Hannibal sat in front of multiple files, pictures laid out in front of them of multiple, varied yet gruesome deaths. “ My Will?” Hannibal said.

 

A man, buried alive and grown into mushrooms. Another, hoisted up with the skin of his back flayed to look like an angel. And yet another man, artfully merged with the fossils of a beast. Hannibal had seen all of these on TattleCrime--he couldn’t believe, however much his heart sang at the thought of it, that these were all Will.

 

“These were the ones that got away,” Jack said grimly. “All the suspects we didn’t have enough evidence for, since Will joined my team. The killer gave them the deaths they gave their victims, for the most part.”

 

“A vigilante,” Hannibal understood, positively glowing at the thought. “But what evidence is there against my mate?”

 

Jack sighed. “Look, Will is a good man. He wants to do the right thing, even if he did--this. I’m having Alana speak with him. Looking at these killers got inside his head too much, and if I’m right--”

 

“A grave assumption, if you’re wrong--”

 

“And I’m usually right,” Jack barreled on, “he will realize this was the wrong way. I’m sorry, Hannibal.”

 

Hannibal leaned back, surveying the pictures and committing them to his memory palace. He doubted asking Jack to take copies for himself would be at all acceptable.

 

“Then I will leave you to it,” Hannibal nodded, standing and rebuttoning his suitcoat. “Though may I ask, Agent Crawford--would you tell Will something for me?” The other man nodded. “Tell him I only want what’s best for him. Thank you, Agent Crawford.”

 

--

 

Will returned home after 24 hours, looking worse for wear but still wearily triumphant. That faltered, however, when Hannibal kept his eyes down, not acknowledging when his mate entered the room.

 

“You want what’s best for me,” Will said into the silence. “What’s best for me now, then?”

 

Hannibal sighed. ‘We have kept secrets from each other,’ you said to your friend once about us,” he reminded. “And you are right. If we had not, I would have saved you from this.”

 

Will laughed grimly. “From myself?”

 

“From scrutiny,” Hannibal said.

 

“Oh, so the moment Jack Crawford points a finger, you believe him--”

 

“You return home, not arrested I presume,” Hannibal interjected, and when Will gave him a tense nod, added, “then the finger is not pointed. There is no evidence against you, just speculation. Yet, you have been dishonest with me.”

 

Will glared, walking to Hannibal’s desk. “And you haven’t?”

 

Hannibal rose from his chair, delighting when his omega did not stand down or submit. What a frightful, avenging angel he was. “I have,” Hannibal admitted. He swallowed, then asked, “Would you care to see?”

 

Will paled, looking down. “No,” he whispered.

 

Hannibal watched his mate in anticipation. “Will,” he said finally, “do I need to call my lawyer?”

 

“No,” Will said again, this time meeting his eyes. They were curiously flat. “No, I just don’t want to see. I’m afraid . . . I’m afraid I’ll need to kill you,” he whispered the last part.

 

“With that fire of vengeance in your heart, I would not be surprised,” Hannibal said, suppressing a smile. He walked slowly around the desk, putting a gentle hand on his mate’s neck. “I’ve never sought to tame you, Will.” He sighed when, after a moment, Will leaned into the touch. “When did you realize?”

 

“Who you were?” Will chuckled darkly. “Sometime after the first night you almost killed me.” Hannibal stiffened, hand freezing against his neck. Will pushed against it. “Are you going to do it now?” he asked matter-of-factly. 

 

Hannibal didn’t know how to answer. “You were awake, that night, then,” he said instead.

 

Will sighed. “I know how to fake taking pills.”

 

“And you continued to sleep beside me, every night since--”

 

“And you continued to toy with my neck, yes,” Will said angrily. His eyes were filled with a different fire, however--Hannibal gasped as the omega bit into his lip, immediately questing a tongue inside his mouth. 

 

Hannibal let himself be claimed.

 

“You implied I wanted a family--”

 

“I implied that I wanted a family, Hannibal.”

 

“You--you kept telling me about the Ripper, about who he was,” he gasped when Will’s mouth moved down to his neck. He keened at the sharp bite Will left him there.

 

“And you kept avoiding the subject,” Will growled. “Just like now. Are you going to kill me, or not, Hannibal Lecter?”

 

Hannibal was sure he would have to--Will was working for Jack Crawford, and even if no evidence could be found, he was just the type Will liked to kill. 

 

“If I tried, would you stop me now?” Hannibal said angrily, wrenching Will back to see his face. Angry, not at Will’s nature--no, but at the contradiction of it, of Will complacently allowing Hannibal to toy with the idea of killing him for so long. 

 

Then again, Hannibal had contradicted his own nature as well, for Will. 

 

Perhaps that was all love really was.

 

Will’s teeth were red with Hannibal’s blood as he smiled. “Yes.”