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Been A Son

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Will Graham was, in some ways, a fairly typical Alpha. Hannibal observed this as he watched the man fidget in his seat, his scowling face refusing to focus on the perceived lesser Alpha before him, an arrogance that was common for his gender. Annoyed at having to be there, Will left the comfort of his seat to pace Hannibal's large office, the dim light masking his expression as it put Hannibal's various books and artefacts scattered within it into long shadows. The small, unobtrusive fireplace was lit, the light reflecting off the white mantle, and while it was supposed to offer a feeling of calm, the flames licked furiously against one another, igniting the quick of Will Graham's temper that was always lurking just beneath his surface. Hannibal pretended to make notes and then, when he caught Will grimacing at him as he heard the pen hitting paper, he gently placed the pen onto his side table and closed the black notebook, placing it on top of the manila folder Will had brought with him. Will stared at the volume in Hannibal's lap with angry suspicion.

He said nothing, the silent argument spewed forth in Alpha pheromones of latent aggression that Hannibal shielded himself from with a fierce measure of self control. It displayed itself in a mask of bland calm, one that he'd found could hide all manner of instinctive reactions, and in this case, the rolling, fearful tug of submission that his body's chemistry insisted on creating. The intrusion was annoying, and Hannibal further hid it with a small click of displeasure with his tongue against the roof of his mouth at Mr. Graham's reticence. If he felt Hannibal's unspoken opinion was worthy of acknowledgement, Will likewise hid it as he crossed his arms and stared out the office window and into the bleak, dimly lit streets of Baltimore, the contours of his messily bearded face obscured by a darkness that seeped into him from the night.

"Trusting people is impossible when you can figure out exactly how they are lying to you." Will turned, slightly, and Hannibal watched him carefully, every micro movement a hint of the possibility of revelation. But Will Graham was too embroiled in metaphor to see things plainly, and it was this that Hannibal used to his advantage. Obscurity meeting clarity.

"Trust must be earned. Does this ability to so easily see the lie make you feel like a thief?"

"I feel like my anger is justified."

"Some truths are deeply personal and the obfuscation with lies a necessary evil. You cannot take personally that to which you are only a voyeur."

Will sighed and crossed his arms. "Jack Crawford thinks I'm his bloodhound, and him making me come here is my leash. Tell me how that truth is not supposed to make me angry."

Hannibal quietly contemplated this, allowing a cool moment to pass long between them. Animosity would not help his cause, and he needed Will Graham on his side. "Jack Crawford feels that you are an asset in his hunt for the Chesapeake Ripper, that your gifts of empathy will eventually prove to be the killer's undoing. What he doesn't understand is that you are not as single minded as he is in his perceptions. He wants you in the killer's mind and no one else's, yet he expects you to be amongst the burden of the crowd. Working crime scenes requires a considerable amount of teamwork. I imagine this is becoming increasingly problematic for you."

Will grimaced at this and moved away from the window, and Hannibal inwardly chided himself for enjoying the way his firelight lit upon Will's movements, bringing his large, expressive eyes into dark relief. Scruffy and unkempt, Will Graham was that most rare of Alphas, so carelessly dismissive of his own skin that he didn't care what his outward appearance said about him, his mind too busy with higher things to waste on petty gender politics. His hands were loose in the pockets of his black trousers, a wrinkled white cotton shirt peeking out from beneath the knit hem of a fisherman's sweater, one that was probably almost as old as the man himself. He was messy and earthy, a sharp contrast to Hannibal who was suddenly very aware of the cut of his own expensive suit and the outward perfection the lines of it suggested. He found he rather liked Will's rumpled imprint upon the world, especially since it was born of a deep seated need to push others away, content as he was in his own company.

"Jack thinks I'm some sort of broken teacup, an old mug." Will shrugged. He was still pacing Hannibal's office his fingers alighting on the tips of a white ceramic sculpture of a stag, the pad of his thumb teasing the tips of the barbed antlers. "He doesn't know me at all. I don't like being around people because they are distractions from my tasks, they always want more than I'm willing to give. I can see so clearly into them, it's overwhelming to me, all their petty squabbles and stupid beliefs in what is and isn't the proper way of being."

He said the last bit of his sentence with a dripping amount of scathing venom, the scowl that was ever present deepening. "I don't get how being the top of the pack is supposed to mean I like going to parties and mingling and flirting with Betas for an easy lay."

"You don't consider yourself personable?" Hannibal asked, and not without amusement.

"I'm not 'sociable' enough for people." Will grit his teeth, and Hannibal crossed his legs, not liking how that little spark began rolling around in his belly once again. "It's exhausting, being forced around them all the time, being constantly asked when I'm going to just settle down and get myself some fluffy little Omega to sink all my aggression into. I'm judged all the time for it, and it doesn't matter when I try to explain that I can't do it, that any relationship just falls apart because I can *see*, I can get into a person's head and know all their secrets and lies and history and it's too unsettling for me to handle. I long ago gave up trying to explain it. It's just easier being on my own."

Hannibal contemplated this, watching Will carefully as he continued to pace, like a caged tiger in his office, his steps moving back and forth across the open window, the breeze creeping in through it pulling the dark sheers into Will's influence as they billowed alongside him. As a criminal profiler who the FBI consulted with, Will Graham was considered too unstable to become a full agent, though Hannibal had to wonder what societal prejudices had been in play in this regard. He was a nervous man, yes, with unexpressed aggression that had much to do with his prickly nature. His empathic abilities, though useful, were wildly untamed and had the potential to make him lash out in uncontrolled, unpredictable ways, both physically and mentally. Getting into the minds of killers was a type of clairvoyance Hannibal knew was a rare trait and not one usually found in Alphas. For Will, his empathy was a tool used to hunt, not to find genuine connection or understanding. Feelings were to be pulled out and brought into his vicious grip to be devoured and savoured over. His empathy brought him the very souls of killers, and Hannibal was pleased to understand that this made Will Graham the most rarest of predators. Will hungered for killers because their motives satiated him.

"A fluffy Omega does not interest you?" Hannibal said, and gave Will's darkened glare a crooked smile. "I suppose you have some sort of family history to fall back upon to explain why this is."

Will raised an impatient brow at this. "Really? We're going to discuss my childhood? Not exactly an original starting point."

"You don't feel that's where you were shaped into the man you are now?"

"I feel that sometimes history has nothing to do with the present." Will sighed and collapsed back into the chair across from Hannibal, who felt relieved Will had finally stopped his aggressive pacing. "I have no interest in starting a family with some passive mate that society forces on me just because it's expected of me. That kind of easy company means nothing to me, I like to be challenged and Omegas are practically trained from birth to be sweet and submissive, traits that irritate me." Will drummed his fingers on the arms of the chair, and the cool breeze teased the flames in the fireplace, lighting them higher. "I know what you're about to say, that I'm not limited to Omegas, though for Alphas like me they are considered ideal, that I could find a nice, happy Beta to do the whole family package with. Settle down. Bring in the bounty of children and all that good for the soul crap we're fed since birth." Will's large eyes roved around the confines of Hannibal's office, taking in all of the vast learning and pomp that he had cocooned himself in. "You're an Alpha of some status yourself, Doctor Lecter, do you feel a bland Beta is someone you could spend an eternity of your pillow talk on?"

"I believe you are making a sweeping generalization," Hannibal said to him. "I have met a few feisty Betas in my time."

"Yes, but you didn't bond with any of them, did you?" Will narrowed his eyes on Hannibal, and the psychiatrist knew he had to deflect Will's attention before it became too uncomfortable.

"I have used my supposed Alpha determination towards education and the advancement of my career, all admiral traits that are worthy of our gender. However, like you, I have also come to the conclusion that partnerships unworthy of my intellect and drive are not feasible. This is not to say I am not social, but I do derive most of my pleasure from my work and my personal hobbies."

Will raised a brow at this. "Hobbies?"

"I like to cook. I'm quite good at it."

Will laughed at this. "Ours could be quite a congruous friendship," Will observed. "I like to hunt."

Hannibal smiled. "Camaraderie can be an acceptable compromise. Do you have many friends, Will?"

"Of course I don't," Will quipped. He gave Hannibal an impatient, sideling roll of his eyes. "I suppose you think you can fill in that blank."

"Friendship has its merits. As you know, Jack has not assigned me to officially be your psychiatrist but in a capacity much as yourself, as a 'consultant'. In this realm, friendship is not out of the question. I would not be averse to it."

"So we're to be 'friends', doctor?"

"I should think we are already."

Will laughed lightly at this, and to Hannibal's great delight relaxed more comfortably in his chair, his ankle crossed over his knee. Much of his work involved putting his patient at ease, and if this ruse was what best got under the thick layer of Will's insecure, uneasy self preservation then so be it.

Will slid his glasses further up his nose, his eyes fleetingly meeting Hannibal's before falling away again, a strangely submissive gesture that he had a habit of repeating. It could easily be misinterpreted as flirting, but Hannibal understood that Will was doing all he could to avoid the aggressive stance his steady gaze would generate. "Though I admit I enjoy my own company a great deal, it would be wrong of me not to say that at times it is a little...Isolating. I'm not an easy person, Dr. Lecter. Friendship with me might be more daunting than you expect."

Hannibal pursed his lips at this, watching as Will's mental form again retreated into shadows as the fire began to lower. "There is a difference between solitude and loneliness. I do hope you don't mind my candour in saying that we are both suffering a certain malnourishment in spirit when it comes to the enjoyment of another's company. For myself, I find my peers often lacking in insight and their self congratulation over their efforts tiring. Working steadily amongst other Alphas will do this."

"I would have thought there would be more Betas in the field of psychiatry," Will said, frowning. "They tend to be more helpful than the average Alpha."

"Psychologists and low level therapists, yes, but the medical field of psychiatry is quite cutthroat. One is only as good as one's last published paper and most of those are too flimsy to be used as kindling. I understand you have a pack of dogs at your house in Wolf Trap, do you find their company more satisfactory?"

"They're all right," Will said, shrugging. "I live in a wooded area, pretty isolated. People get tired of their dogs and they dump them in the forest. The excuses are the usual, mundane cruelties. Maybe the dog pissed on a rug or bit a kid who was hurting it or got too old to love. People do things like that. It's very easy to be discarded. People do that dogs and they do it to each other. Friendship still has limitations." Will clasped his fingers together in a tight knot over his lap. "That's quite the arrogant stance you've taken against your peers, Doctor Lecter. A tad bitter, don't you think?"

"The truth is bitter." Hannibal reached for the small manila folder that Will had placed on the side table and that was now laying beneath the large black notebook. He would be sure to pen his impressions in it later, after Will had left. In future sessions, he wouldn't bring the book out at all, and would lock it in his desk drawer, a precaution that was necessary. Will did not get deflected easily.

"I took the liberty of looking over the details of your latest case before you came to see me. Jack appraised me of it." He noted the way Will bristled at this, the thought of Jack leashing him still sitting ill within Will's gut instincts. He tucked that reaction away for use later, and opened the manila folder in his lap, the pictures from the crime scene particularly brutal in their gory detailing. Hannibal shook his head, and clucked lightly at the poor angles of the photographer, though he hoped Will sensed a projected feeling of disgust that was, most definitely, false.

Will took one of the photos out from the pile and held it up. "I didn't feel bad about these guys being dead either," he admitted, and Hannibal felt a pang of recognition hit deep inside of him, that little seed in his belly hopping all over the place and that had to quashed immediately lest Will Graham's keen perception find it. "Not when I found out the truth of these so called 'victims'."

"You have no empathy for their plight?"

Will shrugged. "I feel worse for the ones they made suffer. This is more about...Justice."

Interesting. Hannibal shuffled through the various photographs in his lap, the long notes made in Will's small but scrawling script a plethora of impressions and concepts that had little to do with any actual evidence found at the scene, but more often than not led to it. The murders were, of course, Hannibal's own handiwork and he was especially proud of the aesthetic he had managed to display, and even more so when he glanced over Will's notes and discovered the misanthrope of an empath had read the message Hannibal conveyed with an almost wistful clarity.

'...They are to be punished for what they have done, the world will now be a better place without such souls within it. Note the removal of genitals and hearts, as though the two were too intricately combined to be of use to either. These were primal Alpha males, self seeking in their appetites and cruel in their pursuits. The first victim, Robert Allen, was a recruiter for a modelling firm in the Baltimore area and was known for hiring female Omega models whom he ritualistically deflowered and left unbondable when he fired them after their contracts were finished. His business partner, Salvo Cortez, supplied him with the Omegas, often promising their unwitting parents large sums of money and modelling contracts that never came to fruition. The result was a stream of young, innocent Omega females with no future left open to them as they are now perceived by most in the Alpha realms as 'spoiled goods'. Twelve of the twenty Omega girls used this way have since committed suicide....

...They make promises and delight in the lies they tell, and now they are strung up, shown to be what they are. No lies left. The Ripper kept the bodies hung until they partially rotted before putting them on display. Now they themselves are spoiled meat. In place of their missing hearts, there are razors, the cut of their cruelty that they used to wound deep. These were evil men. They came to an evil end. The Chesapeake Ripper is not moralistic, but pragmatic. Allowing such men to remain alive would result in the beauty of Omega models to diminish as they would be fearful of taking on that kind of work. There are few avenues of respectful employment for Omegas and model work is one of them. The Chesapeake Ripper would prefer they remain visible. Art demands it..."

He was mostly right, save for the flippant understanding at the end of his analysis, which Hannibal forgave Will for. He was an Alpha, after all, and though empathic he was still at the mercy of his sex, incapable of certain subtle perspectives. He was far removed from the plight of the least of those in the sexual castes of their society. Omegas were meant to be the trophy wives of the most elite of the Alphas, their ethereal, almost alien beauty one that was prized above all others and that misguided Betas often tried to emulate. But there was a great price to be paid for such exaltation and it came in the form of imprisonment, a bonding to an Alpha that would not be permitted to be broken. Alphas and Betas could divorce at will, and an Alpha with an Omega he or she lost interest in could take on Beta lovers and even move them into their family home. The bonded Omega had no such freedom, and regardless of the compatibility of the union, the Omega was to be sequestered, hidden from public view unless there was a public event where they were to be put on display. Abuse was rampant, and one might even say it was sanctioned by their supposedly progressive society. There was no higher suicide rate than that of bonded Omegas.

Thus, any kind of work that would offer an Omega some control over their destiny and delay bonding was something to be cherished and the cruel wrenching of this by Allen and Cortez was a crime that could not be left unchecked. He was looking forward to seeing the pale form of Victoriana Alcott, his young Omega patient whose parents had brought her to him after several unsuccessful suicide attempts. She had made him aware of the abuse she'd suffered at the hands of the two men, her livelihood and independence stolen from her before she'd even been photographed. Her parents were not wealthy and they were relying on Victoriana's successful marriage to a wealthy Alpha to help get them through retirement. This was now no longer feasible.

The first visit had been one fraught with tears and overly submissive postures, her tiny, pales lips unable to do much more than quiver over a soft voice that could barely find words. She was a pale and bone thin ghost without the advantage of death. For the past month he had been working on building her inner strength, moulding her spirit into a fiercer form instead of the domicile creature her parents had believed she was set to become. Victoriana was not only a survivor, but now the Chesapeake Ripper had vindicated her. She was ready for the next step in her development, her mental armour prepared. It was his hope that one day she would be strong enough in her power to join him in his war. From the practise cuts she had inflicted on the screaming body of Salvo Cortez she was already showing some true talent with a knife.

"Some people may feel that justice has nothing to do with this, that this is the result of an angry parent who is upset that their Omega child will no longer fetch a wealthy Alpha who will support the extended family financially. How are you so certain this is the work of the Chesapeake Ripper, with such obvious suspects in the background?"

Will gave Hannibal a look that was tired, as though he'd been explaining this exact point over and over in another, perhaps brighter room. The lab and amongst the forensics team, then. It suddenly clicked why Will was so determined to discuss his need to be alone and how much he hated working in a team. His belief it was the work of the Ripper had been challenged and rather than ferociously fight back in a way that could have easily ended in assault charges, he had internalized his aggression instead. 'I believe it's the Ripper because I know him, I'm in under his skin." Will's jaw shook, his eyes piercing into some unknown place within himself that he found distasteful. "He's...He's progressive, in a way. But proud, overly so, believes himself to be above others. He likes to fool people, to be the lie and to expose lies. He's vain, fond of performances."

"Alpha, obviously," Hannibal added, and was surprised when Will didn't instantly alight on this.

"I think so. There's just...Something isn't quite right about him, though. That seems too obvious, maybe he's a wishful Beta, taking extra hormones to up his levels, but it still doesn't fully explain the impression I get when I see his work..."

"His work?" Hannibal smiled at this, doing all he could to keep it from being bright. "Is that how you see his murders?"

"There's always a message within it. He wants to educate, to bring the best of what is possible out."

Hannibal really was amused by the turn of his conversation. He allowed his gaze to rove over the contours of Will's body when he wasn't looking and dared to lick his lips in anticipation of his answer. "What is it he is longing to bring out, Will?"

Will's head shook, his eyes narrowing behind the large frames of his glasses as he tried to focus inward, on his uncomfortable thoughts. "It's like he's hiding himself in plain view. It's such an Alpha thing to do...But I don't know...If I didn't think it was crazy, I'd say he was an Omega but there's no way that's possible. You might as well say these murders are being committed by my dogs."

Hannibal carefully placed the photos and notes back into the manila folder they had come in and closed it, wordlessly putting it on the small table beside his chair. "A truly ridiculous train of thought," he said, his voice cold.

"Maybe there's an Alpha who is bonded to one, and he's going out committing these crimes as a way to assuage his guilt for what he's doing. You know as well as I do that male Omegas aren't much more than sexual slaves to those creeps. The Alpha could be a family man with a Beta wife and a couple of boring Beta kids on the surface, doing all kinds of deviant things to his male Omega chained up in the basement. Isn't that how most of those arrangements end up?"

"Urban legends at best, Will," Hannibal said, lightly chastising him. "Male Omegas are extremely rare. You'd have a more logical argument saying the Ripper was easing his guilt over killing a unicorn."

"Maybe," Will said, frowning. He rubbed the back of his head with his palm and stood up abruptly from his chair, his hand held out to Hannibal, who didn't shake it but instead gave the manila folder back to Will. "So what's the verdict, am I allowed to keep working for Jack or is this to become an even shorter leash after this session?"

"I have no intention of putting you on a lead, Will." Hannibal rose from his seat and followed Will to the door of his office. "I do, however, feel our conversations will prove to be fruitful, if you allow them to continue. I will be willing to sign your papers saying you are stable enough for work, but you must promise me that you will be open and honest with me when we converse."

Will shrugged. "You haven't given me a reason to be obtuse about how I feel."

Hannibal smiled at this. "Do I dare ask it?" Hannibal lightly pursed his lips. "Do you trust me, Will?"

Will frowned, his gaze meeting Hannibal's in a fleeting shot of worry and then quickly flicked away again. "Yes. Yes, I think so."

"Good. I will see you again soon. Shall I pencil you in for Tuesday?"

"A couple of days from now?" Will chewed on the immediacy of the meeting, slightly taken aback only to acquiesce. "I...I guess so. Sure. Tuesday."

Hannibal was satisfied with this answer and shook Will's hand as he left the office, his jacket thrown on as he made he way out of the small sitting room and down the steep stairs of the Victorian era building. He waited until Will's car was brought into life and the headlights of his old Ford beater slid out of the parking lot and into the Baltimore night, heading for the long trek to Wolf Trap, Virginia.

Hannibal licked his lips and thought on the evening, the flutter in his stomach difficult to ease. He knew it was a momentary physical reaction to an Alpha and nothing more, and he forced it to quell as he grabbed his own coat, shutting down lights and ensuring there was nothing incriminating remaining in his quiet, earnest domain. The fire in his hearth had died out with Will's exit. For some strange reason, it seemed a fitting congruence.


Hannibal's home is just as much a museum as any other space he lives in, the true spaces within it that he finds solace hidden deep from view. He walked through his foyer and its plethora of antique fixings, including a rather dour samurai display that he inherited from Lady Murasaki, and walked past it as he headed straight for his kitchen. Hunger hit him and he longed for the heart waiting in its gentle wine and ginger marinade, a throwback to an Asian influence that never truly left him. Accompanied by a delicate frisse of rocket, goat cheese and juniper berries with a lemon poppy seed dressing, and tempura root vegetables, slices of the heart were seared quickly in a shallow pan before being drizzled with a reduced sauce of soy, brown sugar and garlic and gently sliced green onions. A twirl of cooked soba noodles completed the dish and Hannibal sat at the head of his table, eager to begin his late repast.

The heart was, of course, human in nature, and was rich in Alpha hormones, the meat cooked rare to ensure the enzymes continued to mask his scent. It was delicious paired with the tempura and soba, and made a most satisfying meal, especially when accompanied with a warmed sake. He didn't use chopsticks, but no matter. Lady Murasaki would still be proud.

He sighed in pleasure as the iron taste of the meat hit the back of his tongue and the blood slid down, a pleasing protein his body craved. The taste of an Alpha could sometimes replace the need for sex, and it was this that Hannibal enjoyed most, for human appetites were complex things and Hannibal had been intelligent enough to supercede them. Not for him the pulsing need of a body to satiate him, Hannibal had this, the once beating heart of a cruel cretin who had only served upon this earth to cause harm. It felt good to take his blood, knowing it had been spilled for such a worthy cause. He wasn't always this lucky, some of his victims had been, unfortunately, in the wrong place at the wrong time and Hannibal was in need of the proper hormonal sustenance to continue his ruse. But this was an especial treat, and he rolled the near raw meat along the centre and sides of his tongue, eager to take all of its available flavours in.

He cut into another slice of the heart and for some reason his thoughts began slipping towards his evening meeting with Will Graham, the angry, nervous Alpha FBI profiler who had been thrown into his care with rather haphazard abandon by Jack Crawford, who was all too eager to have what he deemed a secret weapon in his employ who could take down the Chesapeake Ripper. Hannibal couldn't help but smile at the bitter taste of the irony, the trust Will was willing to place in him a sweetness that cut through it and melted on his tongue. Jack Crawford was a fool, yes, but just how long could Hannibal keep Will Graham closed out of his own little secret rooms, where blood and screams dwelled so fervently within their confines? He imagined that Will would eventually figure the puzzle out, and what would he do then? Escape, he supposed. To Europe or other reaches of the world where what he was did not have the same dire consequences. The isolation would be stifling, Hannibal thought with some displeasure. There were no opera houses in northern Siberia, the last he looked.

His meal thoroughly enjoyed, Hannibal brought his empty dish to the sink, carefully washing it and the pans he had used to cook with and putting all of it away before turning in for the night. Though Hannibal owned a very spacious, lovely home filled with rooms that were brimming with every manner of expensive antiques and works of art, he was most comfortable in his little drop cellar, where his needs were secreted away beneath the creaking floorboards under his massive oak dining table. He crept beneath it, careful not to snag his expensive suit on the underbelly of the table, and hooked slender fingers beneath the round, metal hook of the hidden drop cellar door and pulled it open.

He slid beneath the floor, his steps careful as he made his way down the stairs into the near darkness, the light below ground dim at best, but not unpleasant. Harsh light for those like himself was particularly difficult to deal with, and he often suffered headaches after being forced to endure Jack's office in Quantico.

The house above had never been a place where he found his true comfort, that was for the game he was forced to play, the gaudy life of a successful single Alpha who had decided for whatever reason to opt out of a mate and put all of his vast amounts of extraverted, shining energy into his career and the prestige that came with it. How simple and stupid people were in their expectations! A few works of art and a silk pillow or two and maybe a piano and everyone truly believed you were a creature of great refined taste and style, one to be envied. Trappings, all of it. If the house burned to the ground tomorrow all he would miss of it would be the soft blanket he curled against in his secretive little basement bedroom lair and the matching warm pillow he pressed his body against every night.

Sighing, he made his way into the low light of the room, the amber glow from his bedside lamp casting it into orange shadows. He paused at the refrigeration unit just outside of the small enclave, pulling open the steel doors and checking on his supply of hormones, the little bottles in neat rows of thirty along the inside of the refrigerator door. He had enough to last him another six months and figured he would bulk order more before the five month mark, citing as he always did that he was operating a free clinic looking to aid Alphas against unwanted pregnancies from pushy Betas trying to entrap them. The hormones were mild enough to not cause any severe side effects other than muting his scent, and for this he was grateful. He took one of the vials out and checked the date, and when was satisfied it had not expired, he reached for the small bag containing sterile needles and got to work.

The hormones were pink in colour, some paler than others and he knew that the contraband he'd picked up was of an uneven dosage, but there was little be done about that. Synthetic Alpha hormones were a glut on the black market at present, especially since some of the more insecure Betas had realized they could pass for an Alpha for a night on the town or two, earning a few trysts from unwitting other Beta partners in the bargain. It was also used as an Alpha contraceptive, though this was also severely frowned upon, for Alphas were supposed to be more than happy to spread their seed wherever they found fertile ground, be it in a pushy, sweaty Beta or a demure, submissive Omega. When it came to Alphas it was all about the babies. Make them healthy, make them strong.

Such a depressing raison d'etre.

Being that rarest of creatures, a unicorn as he'd dared to call himself, and he smiled at the memory of baiting Will with the imagery, as a male Omega Hannibal had much to rue about Alphas, and it was a sore spot for his pride that he was forced to emulate them in order to survive. No matter, life was full of tribulations and he had not succumbed to any of them yet and thus felt a certain absolution in this. He would take his medicine and eat his fill of their precious flesh and no one need know of his little side hobbies, his influence upon the soft, broken Omega females that sometimes drifted into his practise, and who left with far more steel in their grip.

Hannibal took out one of the small vials and rolled it back and forth between his thumb and forefinger. He jostled the pink contents before he smelled the bottle, seeking a clue as to where it had been manufactured. There was a distinctive paprika scent lingering around the tiny bottle. Hungary. Selections from that region tended to be trustworthy.

Satisfied, Hannibal took out one of the needles from the black bag situated on the top shelf of the refrigerator. Cortez's heart was vacuum sealed beside it, ready for another meal. It would do well in a stew, Hannibal thought, with red wine and perhaps a hearty french baguette made in an artisan style to soak up the rich gravy. Pommes anna and blackened red peppers would be a good accompaniment. Salvo Cortez was an overweight Alpha, and fairly sedentary. His enlarged heart would be too much for Hannibal alone, and he felt a thrill at the thought of having someone share it with him. Perhaps Will Graham. Yes, he would do.

Taking 3/10 cc's of the hormone and injecting it into his hip, in an area as calloused and bruised as a diabetic's, Hannibal pushed the plunger of the needle in with his thumb and wondered how it was that Will Graham kept creeping into the periphery of his thoughts. He discarded the spent needle and wiped the small dot of blood away from the injection site with an alcohol swab and likewise threw it away. He slid out of his expensive, silken suit trousers, liking the way the fabric felt on his skin as it moved, and draped it over his arm as he headed for his wardrobe on the far side of the cellar, where his bedroom enclave was. He grabbed a hanger and began undressing, each item carefully placed in its rightful position, a full suit ensemble at the ready for the next time he chose to wear it. Tomorrow, he would wear something brighter, the bold beige suit perhaps with the large blocks of brown plaid that had a svelte seventies throwback look to it. His fingertips brushed the sleeves and he smiled at the softness of the fabric and the silky way it slid across his touch.

Part of his adoration for such things was his nature, he knew this, his skin far more sensitive than Alphas and Betas, nerves too acute and easily over stimulated. A scratchy wool sweater was, to an Omega, a garment made of broken glass that felt as though it was tearing apart their skin. Expensive suits were not just for vanity, though they did please his aesthetic sensibilities.

Stripped down to silk boxers, Hannibal stepped out of these as well and tossed them in a nearby laundry bin as he headed for the comfort of his bed. The velvet softness of the coverings blanketed him in a warmth he always found alluring. The heavy, lumpy pillow beside him was a sad representation of a mate, something he most definitely had no inclination for, and yet the shape of it spoke to a physical need he was neglecting and he found himself curling against it and thinking, again, of Will Graham.

He was a fascinating Alpha, rare in his own right thanks to his introversion and his rather progressive views against societal normatives. He had empathy and yet preferred to use it in a mostly negative connotation, to wind his mind inside of killers and pick away at the little psychotic needles that made their minds tick. Jack Crawford had insisted the work Will was invaluable, that they were saving lives, and while this was usually true he had forgotten that in the scheme of it all, Will's Alpha nature was set to cause conflict. He was unmated, wild and headstrong, the very picture of an FBI recruit who would be steadfastly denied entry into the force. And yet there he was, shoved onto the field without any personal safeguards to keep himself sane, a wide open book of rage and killing instinct that wanted to run with other predators. Will had said so himself, he openly wanted to be challenged.

Hannibal licked his lips thinking of Will Graham's eyes and their confused, but aggressive, piercing into the flames of Hannibal's fireplace. He had calloused hands from doing hard labour--working on boat motors, maybe, or some other manual work that occupied his time a great deal when he wasn't teaching. Hannibal thought about those hands, dirty, rough, oil still clinging beneath his fingernails, and how warm they were, almost clammy as they slid along the tops of his thighs, his dark pants absorbing their moisture. Hannibal thought about what it would be like to press his tongue in the centre of that sweating palm and lick the dirt and salt of Will's world into his mouth.

A trickle of slick between his legs marked arousal, and Hannibal slid uncomfortably to his other side, pushing the heavy pillow away from himself with a nudge from his foot. The need was unexpected and for a fleeting moment Hannibal wondered if the hormones weren't working as expected after all, that the dosage was way off, and he was going into a sudden heat. But the little flutter in his belly at the thoughts of Will Graham were mild, and he calmed himself with fingers tracing around his cock and then his opening, the image of Will Graham's face looming in the darkness, a rather benign Alpha threat in an old sweater and a pair of thick framed, cartoonish glasses. Hannibal imagined Will Graham watching dumbfounded as Hannibal pleasured himself and that thought made the slick pulse out of him with a lot more fervour, fingers stretching and diving deep, tickling that inner nub that swelled and made his breath catch as it was coaxed into ripeness.

Will Graham. Hannibal rolled onto his belly, groaning now into his velvet pillows, every muscle in his lithe body attuned to what was happening between his legs. He wondered if this would be enough, else he'd need a toy to finish himself off and it would be a restless night without sleep, his half conscious thoughts constantly reverting back to the way Will Graham had held that haughty tone to his voice and said, with a bold assertion that made Hannibal drip at the memory, "Easy company means nothing to me...I like to be challenged..."

He pressed his face into his pillow as his orgasm built, senses on high alert and his muscles tensing in anxious anticipation. He imagined Will Graham, mouth half open and slack, moving slowly up the inside of his legs, rough beard rubbing against the tender underbelly of his skin, a low Alpha growl sighing out of him the closer he got to Hannibal's hot, wet centre.

Hannibal cried and bit into his pillow, slick spilling out from him as his cock followed suit, a twinned orgasm that left him reeling in confusion against his thick velvet sheets. He curled his body inward, his fingers still buried inside of himself, not quite wanting to let the fantasy go. How ethical would that be considered, him thinking this way of a patient, masturbating to memories of his analysis? Perhaps it happened all the time, it wasn't like one's thoughts could be policed. Ethics tried, but it relied on one's own sense of guilt to work properly and Hannibal had long divested himself of that pointless virtue.

He slid onto his back, his palm cupping both his sexes, fingertips still teasing the damp entrance. A residual tension coursed up and down his body, one that would have been far more violent without the suppressants. The hormones drugged his system down, muting his physical desires. But the release had been enough. Hannibal closed his eyes, thoughts of Will Graham still in the forefront of his mind while sleep threatened to fully take him.

It was biology that said it, Hannibal knew. It wasn't his mind or his soul that watched Will staring into the flames of his fireplace and knew, with instinctive purpose, that Will Graham would be a man to throw himself onto the white hot coals should the one who captures his heart desire it.

"You think it's going to be you?" a derisive voice echoed within Hannibal's head. His own voice.

"Friendship will suffice," Hannibal tersely replied, aloud, doing all he could to make the lie the truth.


Chapter Text

chapter two

Jack Crawford had a terrible habit of showing up at Wolf Trap far too early in the morning. He was that special brand of Alpha, overbearing, like a drill sergeant even in his civilian life, a rolling beast of a man who faced every obstacle with the full intention of smashing it out of the way rather than wait for the time to push it. He rammed his huge fist on the screen door, sending Will's pack cowering into the kitchen at the back of the little house.

Will groaned, and rolled on his side, not wanting to get out of bed. He could hear Jack shouting his name and cursing when he wasn't getting an answer. He'd break his damn door down by this point, and Will wasn't about to let his property be destroyed by Jack's Alpha impatience. "Just hold on a minute!" he shouted out his open bedroom window, and the pounding on his door thankfully ceased.

Will tossed the covers to one side and grabbed a pair of grubby jeans that he'd dropped on the floor the night before, along with an equally dirty t-shirt. He was half asleep as he staggered down his stairs, the outline of Jack a thick shadow against the thin curtains of his front window. He was still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes when he opened the door and silently bid Jack to come in.

"Not a morning guy, I'm guessing," Jack said.

Will yawned. "Not on my days off, no."

He didn't bother asking Jack what he was doing at his home because Will already knew, it was in evidence in Jack's steely gaze, his firm posture and the way he refused to take off his wool coat. It was a balmy winter day, but not an overly cold one and Will was already stoking his fireplace back into life. Jack was overdressed, uncomfortable, ready to fight. Alphas like Jack liked to stay well and above their subordinates, and Will knew this was no friendly visit.

"I want to talk about the Ripper case." Ah yes, there it was, predictable and pushy. Jack stepped closer to Will, his wide nostrils flaring as he took in Will's crossed arms and aloof, bored attitude. "We need to solve this and fast. I was on the phone with Purnell this morning and she's on fire thanks to a meeting with Governor McBain. The death of a couple of Alpha creeps who deflowered Omegas isn't usually worth caring about, but the Governor is making this a part of his 'Make A Family' campaign."

It was too early in the morning to feel sickened by politics. "Purnell is backing that guy?"

"She doesn't have a choice right now, and the politics are irrelevant to the FBI. She doesn't want to waste manpower on his future plans either, but he's the one set to win in the next election and we got to go where the money is."

Will shrugged. "How are his policies any of the FBI's business?"

"As you know, his platform is to crack down on Alphas who keep using Omega wives for sex instead of babies. He wants to make a mandatory minimum three child per household law. Guess who will be enforcing that."

Will groaned again and padded into his kitchen, pulling out a ragged looking box of orange juice. It was the only item in his fridge. He drank from the carton in front of Jack and wiped his mouth with the hem of his t-shirt. "Governor McBain is a whack job."

"Yes, and right now he's responsible for sending cheques to our department. I know he's an idiot, Will, but if we make him happy we can make Purnell happy which makes me ecstatic and you..."Jack helplessly shrugged, unable to figure out just what, exactly, happiness was for Will Graham. Will couldn't blame him, he wasn't sure himself. "We'll be saving lives, it's a win all over."

Will fought the urge to roll his eyes. He had to wonder what Governor McBain would think if he knew the man who was destined to take down the dreaded Alpha killer known as the Chesapeake Ripper was an unbonded Alpha who had no intention of impregnating anyone. He certainly didn't want to make more little miserable versions of himself and if McBain got his way and the new law was passed, Will would be mandated to at least have a couple of kids outside of bonding just to meet the Alpha quota. It was a huge breach of personal freedom, and its purpose was equally grim--a misguided attempt by the current pundits in power to create more Alphas within their population.

Right now the statistics were heavily on the Beta side, with female Omegas at five percent, and Alpha females at ten and male Alphas at fifteen percent. The rest were all Beta, save for the tiniest of slivers that were male Omegas and were so small in the equation they barely counted towards the statistic. The current government was aiming to have at least half the population have the Alpha phenotype, and half of that quote to be pure Alphas. Quite a busy task for the average Omega female to achieve, she'd have to be pumping out babies like a factory manufacturing paper clips.

The whole ethos was depressing and ignorant, with studies from other, less progressive countries showing evidence that this kind of tampering only tipped the scales in favour of Betas even more and in some cases upped the tiny percentage of barren, male Omegas. The vanity of an Alpha Nation, however, didn't care to hear the voices of scientific reason. There were even clinics getting set up to ensure all Alpha and Beta unions created Alpha babies and prevented recessive Betas through gene therapy. A little bit Alpha was better than none at all.

The whole thing sat sick in the well of Will's stomach, and here was Jack Crawford, telling him to just bring down the Chesapeake Ripper already and make the whole world a happy, bouncing baby Alpha place.

Jack must have discerned the permanent scowl on Will's face had little to do with the murders themselves and more about the political motivations behind the need to have it solved. He straightened up and gave Will's little nest of a home a good once over, taking in the messy, dog hair strewn couch, the stains and cobwebs on the walls. As he breathed in he grimaced, his nose wrinkling at the unpleasant funk of Will's lingering body odour and old, dirty laundry. Will's home was a fetid place of neglect, a hovel he only slept and occasionally ate in and didn't really derive any kind of grand pleasure from. Get him hunting or fishing, however, and he was into the woods like he was made of leaves, the earthy elements swallowing him up and making him a faun in the reeds along the shore of the lake behind the house. He was so at home in the outdoors the forest practically handed him a lyre. A growling, scowling Pan.

"You know, Will, you do live a pretty isolated life out here," Jack said, his grim assessment of Will's lifestyle saying all the other words he didn't dare speak, like 'You're one stinky Alpha, Graham. Could it kill you to swipe a broom around the floor once in a while? You should get an Omega in here, fix up the place, make it a happy little home. Maybe she could cook a meal or two for you so you'd stop looking like a sick twig with muscle. What's with all these damn dogs? Unstable. That's the kind of Alpha who lives in filth like this. Look at that, there's a sock on the floor. Will Graham needs help.'

Suddenly self conscious, Will snatched the errant sock from the bottom of the stairs and tossed it in the large pile of dirty laundry near the front door. "I like my own company," Will tersely replied. He pushed his large glasses up his nose, avoiding eye contact with Jack. His hackles were going up and he didn't want a confrontation that would end in blows...or worse. "You didn't come here to see if how I lived would fit the cover of Style At Home Magazine. I've given you what you need so far on the Ripper murders, it's all in my notes if you've forgotten so quickly."

Jack ignored Will's barbed response and rubbed his gloved hands together as though he felt a chill. "How did your assessment with Dr. Lecter go yesterday?"

Will narrowed his eyes at this, a small pace beginning behind Jack at the question. "I guess it was okay. I'm seeing him for another, what did he call it? 'Meeting' tomorrow."

"That's good to hear." Jack raised a brow, a semblance of being friendly that Will definitely didn't feel. "I'm glad to hear you two are getting along. It's not always the case with two Alphas in a confined space."

"You mean like right now?" Will quipped.

Jack heavily sighed at this. "Will, I'm not your enemy here. I just need to know if this guy, if Dr. Lecter, has was it takes to help you and the only person who really knows that is you." He placed a hand on Will's shoulder, and Will bristled at the touch. "I need you to be strong, Will. The way you're meant to be."

He didn't get it. Jack never did. He didn't understand the latent urges that bubbled just under the surface, his need to pursue murderers more out of a personal fixation than a need to help his fellow man. Frankly, Will could care less about other human beings, they were presumptive and always trying to get into his personal space. The longer he spent around the team he was forced to interact with, the more he wanted to lash out.

Still, Dr. Lecter had been an oddly calming influence and he found himself looking forward to seeing him again, no small feat right there. He was a muted sort of person, Will thought, a being comprised of impressions more than actual solidity. Dr. Lecter gave off a slightly Alpha scent, which suggested to Will he was no purebred like he himself was, some of his pheromones mixed heavily with an unknown influence which, to Will's keen sense, was artificially chemical in composition. Dr. Lecter probably used pheromone supplements as an Alpha contraceptive, which Will found interesting. He didn't detect any Beta hormones lurking around suggesting an affair, just that weird non-scent, but it was clear Dr. Lecter had enough Alpha in him to pass, and maybe it was this that made Will take pause, the lack of scent something his instincts wanted to investigate if solely for the novelty.

"How long have you known Dr. Lecter?" Will found himself asking.

"I don't," Jack said. "It was Dr. Alana Bloom who suggested he'd be a good match for your specific needs. She studied beneath him at the University, he was her professor."

That familiar angry crawl began snaking its way up the back of Will's head yet again. "What 'needs' are you talking about, Jack?"

"Will..." Jack sighed, and Will could tell the Alpha was becoming impatient with him, his scent morphing with his growing frustration. "The last time you were out in the field you attacked a police officer--you broke his nose and gave him two black eyes and fractured his jaw. Dr. Lecter is there to be your marker when things get out of control in your head. He's kind of, I don't know, a guide for you."

Will's spoke through clenched teeth. "That police officer contaminated a crime scene. I couldn't get a handle on the killer's perspective as a result. It made me a little testy."

"You were out of control," Jack said, his voice dark. "Dr. Lecter is meant to be your key so that won't happen again."

Fat chance of that, Will thought, for he knew himself better than anyone and once he immersed himself in the murderer's salacious thoughts he wasn't truly responsible for the casualties that might happen when people didn't respect what he did and ignorantly invaded his space.

But Will knew he couldn't tell Jack this, and if he wanted to believe that Dr. Lecter was his magic pill against any future unstable Will Graham episodes, well the good doctor could be the one to clean up this de'pouille. So instead of arguing the point, Will cricked his neck, and plastered on a small smile he thought looked more genuine than menacing and turned it on Jack. "It'll be good to know someone's there to watch my back."

Jack smiled back and nodded at this, his hand coming down unbidden on Will's shoulder. Again. "That's what we're there for, Will. We're glad you're on the team."

He couldn't get away from these early mornings. He could hear his cell phone buzzing beside his ear and he rolled onto his side, the dream he'd had still clinging to him in aching tendrils that tugged at his spine. There were long antlers embedded in his back, he thought, and he sleepily tried to touch them, and was surprised to only find damp skin, In the dream his skin was ripped as the antlers jutted out of his back, blood seeping out of the thick wounds. In a half awake daze he realized he'd been sweating through another night, and there was a vague recollection of a large black stag pacing along the back of his skull. His t-shirt and shorts were soaked through, evidence of spontaneous, nocturnal arousal. He'd have to change the sheets.

He was still thinking this, half conscious as he answered his cell phone and mumbled an obligatory "Hello?" into it. There was silence for a long moment, and Will almost hung up before a familiar, sharp and clearly wide awake voice found its way through.


Not 'good morning'. Not 'how's it going'. Not even 'hey, you lazy asshole, get up'. Just 'Will'. Like his name alone was already too much weight on his tongue. Will huffed loudly and slid onto his side, a feeling of deja vu overtaking him as he thought on how similar this was to how he'd awoken yesterday, when Jack Crawford had come for his impromptu visit and nearly slammed his door off of its hinges. Will rubbed his sleepy eyes with the heel of his hand and blearily stared at the clock at his bedside. Six-thirty in the morning. What the hell was wrong with everyone, didn't they believe in life after eight a.m.?

"It's..Early..." Will replied.

"And so the early bird gets the worm," the chipper, accented voice on the other end cheerfully replied. "Jack has requested both of us to be present at the lab at Quantico in a couple of hours. As I am situated in Baltimore and am currently heading in your direction, I will pick you up."

Will was still half asleep. He could hear dogs snoring and he wished he was one of them. Perhaps he was, his tongue felt hairy enough. The whiskey had gone down easy last night but it had woke up rough. "You don't have to put yourself out, Dr. Lecter."

"It is of no inconvenience to me, I insist. I have also taken the liberty of making us breakfast. Protein scramble and a thermos of coffee. Nothing starts the day better."

Will sighed as he sat up, Winston giving him a dirty look as Will's movements disturbed his sleep. The dog tossed his head back down onto the mattress as Will got up and headed for the bathroom. "Yeah. Sure. Breakfast."

"Not a morning person, I take it."

"You sound just like Jack."

"Heaven forbid."

Will let out a little chuckle at this. He frowned, his bare feet padding across the sandy wooden floors of his little house, the tap at his bathroom sink turned on with one hand while the cell phone still lay plastered against his cheek with the other. "I can hear traffic. Are you driving here right now?"

"I am already pulling into your driveway."

Will let his cell phone drop to his side as he cupped the running cold water and swallowed, his dry tongue still clinging to alcohol and sleep. He turned off the tap, his mind not quite registering the headlights illuminating the gloom of his house on an early winter morning. He didn't even have time to wipe his face let alone shower, and in curious question he made his way down the stairs to the main floor, where his lazy dogs raised their own heads and thought about barking, only for Will's sharp look to be enough to prevent them from starting their usual din. He heard the slam of a car door and then the long, even steps up his front porch as Dr. Hannibal Lecter made his way through the unlocked front door, a thermos of coffee and Tupperware in hand, as promised. He was as perfectly put together as the first time Will had met him, not a hair out of place, his expensive suit just as pressed and clean, his winter Burberry coat hanging with long lines on his elegant frame and not a wrinkle to be seen. The whole ensemble, the pieces put together this splendidly, hit Will as an almost OCD tendency with the man. He had to have got up pretty damned early to become this perfect, it took over two hours to get to Will's house in Wolf Trap, Virginia from Baltimore.

Will took the thermos of coffee from Dr. Lecter and couldn't help the small wince over the jolt of electricity that suddenly sparked up his arm as his fingers lightly touched the doctor's wrist. If Dr. Lecter felt it, he didn't react, his eyes strangely cold and impassive as he looked down at Will. He held out the Tupperware container, as though it were a challenge.

"I believe a good morning is in order. This will need reheating. I am not partial to microwaves and would prefer to use a double boiler stovetop method that is far more effective. You look flushed, Will, as though you've run a marathon in your sleep. I assume dreams keep you busy, it is no wonder you are not an early riser."

Will raised a brow at the doctor as he began rummaging for pots he could use to reheat breakfast to his specifications. Really, the fussy pomp of it was overtly aggressive, and it took Will all he had not to just wrench the container open and start digging into it with his fingers, eating it cold just to see how Dr. Lecter would react.

"I did have some weird ones last night," Will cryptically replied. He shook his head and smiled. "You know, Dr. Lecter, this whole thing is not necessary, we could easily have picked up breakfast along the way to Quantico."

"I am very particular about what I put into my body. As I had mentioned to you in our initial meeting, I am a very good cook. Roadside nutrition holds no appeal." He put a small amount of water into one pot and then snugly fit another of similar size above it before spilling the contents of the Tupperware container into it. He affixed a pot lid on top that Will didn't even know he owned before tackling the thermos of coffee. Will held out his hand, bidding Dr. Lecter to stop.

"I'm pretty sure I can manage pouring coffee, Dr. Lecter."

Will earned a warm smile at this, the cold sheen in the doctor's maroon gaze equally thawed. "I am overstepping. This is your home. I take my coffee black with two sugars. Will, please...Call me Hannibal."

Will opened his cupboard doors and took out a couple of sad looking mugs with chipped handles. He ran them under hot water in the sink to shake out the dust that had accumulated in them from disuse. "I don't exactly get a lot of company," he said, by way of apology. He ran his fingers through his still damp hair before unscrewing the cap of the thermos. "If I'm a little slow on the social graces, you're just going to have to forgive me." He didn't have any sugar, other than packets he'd stolen from gas station coffee on the way into work. He tore open a couple and stirred it into Hannibal's coffee before shoving it along the counter towards him.

Hannibal was a tad too close behind him, and Will wasn't sure why the proximity bothered him, especially since he instinctively knew there was no Alpha posturing threat behind it. But he was definitely in Will's personal space, and wasn't exactly moving out of it, the feelings such a closeness generated confusing. He heard a sharp intake of air against the back of his neck and what sounded like a halted, surprised sigh. Will frowned, the spoon still idly stirring the sugar in Hannibal's cup of coffee.

"Did you just...Smell me?"

Hannibal hesitated. Will could feel the cold absence as the psychiatrist straightened up and quickly moved away from him. "I have highly tuned olfactory senses."

"Most Alphas do," Will reminded him.

"Yes, but mine is keenly attuned to a body's chemistry. You've had night terrors, Will. I can smell the lingering fear of it on you. How long has this been going on?"

Will sipped at his coffee, which he took black. "Since I've started working the Ripper case. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't getting under my skin in a pretty deep way. I keep wanting to understand him, to get into his head space and frankly, it's my subconscious that does the best work for that. But there's staying power every time my mind goes there." Will stared into the black depths of his coffee, his own reflection dark within it. "Going to the lab will be difficult. What I see in my dreams tends to spill over into the immediate reality and it kind of freaks people out. Lab work has never been my forte, I'll be seeing the bodies out of context and that's the last thing the Ripper wants. It mutes his vision, and it's his anger at this I'll pick up on." Will sighed and took another gulp of his coffee, glancing at the stacked pots on his stove. "Is it ready?"

"I believe so. Do you have plates, Will?"

"A couple of old plastic bowls I use for camping, will they do?"

"In a pinch." Hannibal continued to smile as he portioned out breakfast, ensuring Will had a very ample amount. He grabbed a fork from Will's cutlery drawer and handed the small, blue plastic bowl full of steaming eggs, red bell peppers and wedges of sausage to him, all of it lightly seasoned in mouth watering goodness. "I make the sausage myself," Hannibal proudly proclaimed. "It's a recipe I find compliments this dish quite well."

Will took a few bites and he couldn't help but agree. His stomach hungrily ached for the meal, a feeling he hadn't had for a very long time, since he was a kid in Louisiana, living in poverty on the bayou and getting fattened up by his grandmother, an Omega with a distinctively pioneer sensibility when it came to homesteading on the swamp. Will took large bites and couldn't stop the hum of bliss that erupted from his throat. "This is really good," he said.

Hannibal beamed.

"The fact that you enjoy it makes my efforts all the better for having brought this to you. I have noticed you have a certain lack in your personal care, notably your diet, and I hope you don't find it presumptive of me to take care of it."

Will smiled as he wolfed down the last few bites, the scrambled eggs buttery on his tongue, mingling with the smoky flavour of the sausages in perfection. "You can take care of me all you want if it means I get meals like this." Will swallowed his last bite and frowned over what he'd just said, the awkwardness of saying something like that to a fellow Alpha not lost on Hannibal. He gave Hannibal a sidelong glance, not meeting his steady, rather amused, gaze that held hints of red within it. "That came out all wrong, sorry. I...I guess the conversation I had with Jack yesterday is still sitting on my mind like a big, fat rock. Jack told me his superiours want the investigation ramped up due to Governor McBain's political interests in the case."

Hannibal's tone was serious. "From what I understand, he wants to make mandatory bonding for Alphas and Omegas a federal law, eliminating choice. A rather problematic stance for confirmed bachelors such as you and myself."

"Governor McBain can kiss my ass," Will asserted. "It's thanks to ignorant idiots like him that I'm forced to constantly justify why I'm not spewing out dozens of sprogs with my happy little Alpha seeds planted in some unhappy Omega. You'd think as a species we would have evolved past the functions of our naughty bits by now. This is such a throwback for our society, it's going to make the plight of bonded Omegas even worse." He put his empty bowl in the sink and made his way back to his stairs, hauling his damp t-shirt over his head in the process and tossing it in the laundry bin near its base. He stood only in his shorts and scratched at the back of his head as he caught Hannibal staring at him from the entrance to the kitchen. He had that same, oddly cold stance again, his eyes glinting near black in the half light of the morning that was slowly creeping into a brighter wakefulness. Will's nails traced along his neck and down the centre of his chest, absently scraping at the dip where his heart beat in a quickened rhythm, inwardly noting that Hannibal took every slight movement of Will's scraping fingers along his own flesh in. Will shook the voyeuristic feeling off and climbed up the stairs. "I'm heading for the shower. Thanks again, for breakfast. I'll be back down in a few minutes."

"Any time, Will," Hannibal replied, and Will wondered if the man was coming down with something. His voice sounded hoarse.


The bodies had lost all of their artistic appeal for Will as he looked on them, spread out and hollowed on twin stainless steel gurneys. Beverly Katz prodded at the razors in Robert Allen's chest cavity, a gaping hole where his heart was supposed to be. She picked the razors out one by one with a pair of tweezers, her eyes squinting at each of them in turn, trying to find clues hidden on the little blades. "These are all new, they've never been used. The killer must have bought them especially for this, it's the same brand as the ones we found in Cortez." She lined the razor up with the others, a dozen in total for Robert's corpse, the same number as for his business partner. "I can't help but wonder if the brand used has any kind of significance."

"The Ripper is obsessed with details, of course the brand counts," Will snapped. Beverly gave him a warning glare through her yellow face shield and he shrugged in response. As an Alpha herself, Beverly Katz had no problem taking Will Graham, and sometimes Jack Crawford himself, down a peg or ten.

"All right, big shot, you're the one with the amazing mind reading capabilities, tell me how these are significant." She picked up one of the razors with the pair of tweezers, holding it aloft for Will to inspect. "They're too small for scraping off Alpha beards and my leg stubble. These are ones for downy types, like Omegas."

Will felt his head shake slightly as he looked on the razors, an uncomfortable understanding winding its way within his chest. "It's a proclamation of power." He frowned, and shook his head at the thought that instantly came to him, the implications too strange. "And elevation for the least of us." He bent low over the empty cavity of the corpse and to the shock of Beverly and the other forensic members of her team, he breathed in the aroma buried within it. "There's an Omega scent in here," he said, confused. "Female. But she's not the only one, the stringing them up, the display, the *idea*...This came from someone else..."

"What are you saying, Will?" Hannibal asked, his lips pursed. "That the Ripper has an Omega accomplice?"

"Wouldn't be totally out of the range of possibility, Omegas are meant to do what their Alphas want, after all. It does mean we can narrow down our suspect list a little, now that we know we're looking for a bonded Alpha and Omega pair." Beverly Katz gave Will a cheerful wink. "Good work, Graham. We'll get some scrapings of the heart cavity, see if we can get any alleles off of that Omega scent. The chromosomal fragments aren't nearly as good as solid DNA but we can narrow down the Omega perpetrator to regional type."

Jimmy Price, who had been busy matching brands to the razors on the computer screen in front of him, immediately pounced on this. "The genetic markers won't be as complete as they are with DNA, but we'll be able to figure out where the Omega was born thanks to the Genetics Bank in Minnesota. That can narrow down Omegas who are in the immediate area pretty quickly. Might take a while, though, the Bank is backlogged with Bonding Permits. All those jerks jumping on the McBain compulsory system getting a head start before the law gets pushed through. His party's offering huge tax rebates to anyone who meets the Alpha kid quota before the law goes into effect."

"Sickos," Beverly muttered as she stood up, snapping her gloves off and tossing them in a nearby trash can. "You'd think we'd have evolved past all this make believe evolutionary bullshit by now."

Jack Crawford's heavy steps could be heard echoing down the corridor leading into the forensics unit, his face one of grim determination. He pointed at the two corpses with the heel of a manila envelope. "Any progress?"

"We think he has an Omega accomplice," Hannibal blandly said.

Jack scoffed at this. "I can't go to Purnell with a detail that ridiculous, you'd better have something with more meat to it than that. I want to start interviewing the parents of the Omegas these creeps abused, see if they had any kind of connectivity between them."

"I can provide at least one," Hannibal replied. He stood beside Will, who kept him in his peripheral vision, Will not missing the strange inflection in his voice that sounded just that tiny little bit smug. "Two of the Omega victims are my patients."

Jack ground his teeth at this. "Would have been nice to have known that sooner, doctor."

"It did not have true significance before. Besides, I am bound by patient and doctor confidentiality, an ethic I may have already broken by simply telling you about them." Hannibal stepped back slightly as Jack advanced on him, putting himself again into Will's personal space, until their hips were nearly touching. Again, that tiny spark that left a shiver along Will's spine but he was loathe to allow it to diminish this time. Hannibal was right about his obligations to his patients, and Jack was, as was his habit, stepping all over other people's professional lines.

"The alleles Jimmy's getting analyzed through the Genetics Bank will help further pinpoint the suspect, Jack. Before we start re-traumatizing families and accusing their ruined daughters of murder, maybe we should make sure they have at least *some* measure of guilt first."

Jack clearly wanted to argue the point, but he stood down, realizing his impatience was getting in the way. Will knew the reason behind it, or better yet the person. Jade Purnell, his supervisor and over all ball buster, keen to put money in the shallow pockets of the FBI and to keep them on the right political side to ensure they got the deep end of the funding pool. It wasn't an easy tightrope to walk, the line between justice and sustainability, and presently Jack was strangled by it.

"I want to be the first person you call when you get those results," he barked at Price.


Hannibal's roomy Bentley was a joy to ride in and Will was happy his psychiatrist had opted to drive him home from the lab at Quantico. The car was filled with that subtle non-scent he had already come to understand was Hannibal's, likened to crisp air on a winter's day, calming and freeing. He found it easier to talk to him as a result of it, the usual pacing around a fellow Alpha discarded as conversation wound its way between them in a pleasant, easy banter.

The current conversation was based on art, and it became very clear to Will that though he was a doctor, this was Hannibal's great passion. 'I am not so partial to modernist pieces so much as those of the early renaissance," he admitted, after a long discussion about the merits of Francis Bacon's study of Velaquez's portrait of Pope Innocent X. The screaming Popes had captured Hannibal's admittedly more grotesque leanings in art, and Will found that they had at least this in common. He couldn't be the man he was, getting into the minds of killers and watching their horrors like it was his own memory, without holding a fascination for the gore.

"Bosch's 'Garden Of Earthly Delights' is my own favourite," Will said, and liked the way Hannibal hummed his approval. "I like to think that Hieronymous had a similar condition with his empathy, that he suffered like I do. The details in that painting are like memories within memories, each nightmarish fragment leading into a whole. I can see the plateau in the same way he must have, the vista of his waking dreams filled to bursting with the impressions he couldn't shake from outside of himself." Will shivered and ran a slightly shaking palm across his jaw, the thought of another's madness matching his own and transversing hundreds of years an empathic link that made him reel. "Do you think it's possible, on some level, that we are the sum of a collective memory, that our DNA is often overloaded with it?"

"Perhaps," Hannibal said, pursing his lips as he mused on it. "But it is more like an imposition of our own will upon the past, for what other filter do we have than that of our own perception?"

Will smiled slightly at this. He cast a long study over Hannibal as he drove, noting the precise motions of his limbs, the tense angles of his slender shoulders. Smooth lines and elegance. "What work of art do you perceive represents you?" Will asked.

Hannibal didn't hesitate. "'Judith Beheading Holofernes' by Caravaggio." He smiled at Will's shocked expression. "I hold no fascination for still life."

"Your choice belies a very passionate nature," Will said, his words slowly delivered, tasted on his tongue.

"I am a man of many passions."

"Yes," Will said, turning in his seat, liking the way he could tease along the circumference of Hannibal's words. "Dark leanings. A sense of power in blood. Is that who you are, Hannibal? Someone just itching to test the periphery of violence while you ride on this wave of cool facade."

"Are you suggesting I am consumed with murderous tendencies, Will?"

Will laughed at the very thought. "Judith seduced Holofernes before killing him. I'm guessing you're a bit of a lecher under that stuffy suit of yours."

"You're thinking of what's under my suit," Hannibal said, amused. There was a mischievous spark in his maroon eyes that glinted red as they left the road to meet Will's in fleeting recognition. "Are we still talking about art?"

"We are still on the topic of art being representative, and yours is especially passionate."

"Judith cut off Holofernes's head, is that the kind of desire you are talking about, Will?"

"That depends on whether it's actually my head you're considering cutting off, and that's a damned sensual expression of one's zeal."

Hannibal crookedly grinned at this as he turned down the side road leading into Wolf Trap. "I do like the shape of our conversations, Will, they are unusually oblong. Tell me, this little game we just played, is this a hint of your powers of empathy?"

"I..." Will's smile faltered, darkening the closer they got to his home, the dogs bouncing out of the back door to run for the car, eager to meet their master. "No, I wasn't using my empathy on you, that's not really how it works." Will frowned, turning it most definitely on himself, analyzing why he'd said what he did, his face reddening. "I...I actually think I was *flirting* with you..."

He grimaced as he turned away from Hannibal, extremely confused by his actions, for yes, that most definitely *was* what he had been doing and it made a sick little pool well up in the bottom of his stomach. Hannibal wasn't just his psychiatrist, he was another Alpha. That sort of thing just didn't happen, it was chemically impossible.

"It's all right, Will," Hannibal said, doing what he could to ease the profiler's discomfort. "I am your psychiatrist---your *friend*-- and feelings like this are common. I am flattered, and please don't concern yourself. It is natural to crush on a person with whom you share your most secreted thoughts with. Such intimacies are usually between lovers. You cannot be blamed for what your biology misinterprets."

"I'm not doing that, I'm not..." Will pinched the bridge of his nose and got out of the parked Bentley in a hurry. The cold air hit him like a slap and he revelled in it, liking the way it made his overly acute senses focus on other things than how warm and sweet Hannibal's proximity was against the soft leather seating. He leaned his arm against the open passenger window, feeling like the world's biggest fucked up loser. Maybe Jack was right after all, he really *did* need to get laid. "I'm sorry. It all just came out wrong, I didn't mean anything by it. I warned you that friendship with me isn't easy."

"I would have been disappointed if it was," Hannibal said, and gave him an understanding smile. "I would suggest my coming in so we could have our scheduled meeting, but it seems we have already had it on the drive back here."

"Yeah, I guess so," Will said, not sure why the sight of Hannibal's delighted face sat ill with him the way it did.

Hannibal drove away and Will watched the Bentley until it turned left off of his property, heading back in the direction of Baltimore and Hannibal's home. His dogs pooled around him in mute question and he gave each of their wagging welcome quick pats on the head for acknowledgement before heading back into his house. Dusk was creeping across the horizon, putting the bare trees into a skeletal relief against the purpling sky. He stumbled, tired, towards his refrigerator and was surprised to discover it wasn't empty as he'd suspected, there was another Tupperware container waiting for him. Will frowned as he picked up the small yellow post it note stuck onto the lid:

Dear Will,

I have taken the liberty of providing you with an evening repast as well. Liver with demi glacee accompanied by potatoes rosti and a caramelized onion salad. Liver is an excellent source of iron, and as your pallor suggests an anaemic disposition I am sure your body will thank you for the rich nutrients it provides. Bon appetit!"

He must have put it in the fridge while Will had been showering in the morning, anticipating a rough day devoid of steady meals.  Though he appreciated the effort Hannibal made, Will didn't have the appetite. The day had worn him down and all he really wanted to do was sit in front of the fire with his dogs and have a few fingers of whiskey, which is exactly what he did, ice clinking in the tumbler as he collapsed onto the worn couch, the fire brought back to life and a pile of dogs happily sleeping in front of it. The fire of the whiskey burned as it slid down his throat and into his belly, leaving a residual heat throughout his body. He closed his eyes, resting the tumbler on his chest, and wondered how it was he'd survived a day with that much posturing interaction. Alphas were damned exhausting.

He opened his eyes slowly and discovered he was in a wooded area, seated in one of Hannibal's office chairs, while the man himself was seated directly across from him, as though they were having a therapy session. Will frowned at the chilled mist that overtook them both, the tangle of gentle, dark green ferns and peat moss strangely soft beneath Will's bare feet. Across from him, Hannibal's feet were likewise nude, and Will had to bite down on the laugh rising within him at the juxtaposition of bared feet and a suit that cost more than his car. The mist felt pleasantly cool, and it spun through the night like a muffling blanket, giving Will the impression the air had turned to velvet.

He sat, staring across the small distance at Hannibal, who was carefully poised in his chair, his head turned with a sultry grace that made Will's breath catch. Maroon eyes met his own and Hannibal shifted in his seat, shrugging off his expensive suit jacket and draping it carefully across the forest floor in the space between them. Will dug his fingers into the leather padded arms of his chair as Hannibal began to unbutton his waistcoat, slipping it off and placing it on top of the suit jacket.

Will watched the graceful roll of Hannibal's shoulders as he slowly unbuttoned his white cotton shirt while his tie remained snug against his bared neck. He slid it off of his arms in languid movements that began to stir a specific interest in Will, one that spread a heat through his groin and made his cock twitch. The cotton shirt met the rest of the clothes on the ground between them, and Will could feel his breath begin to quicken as Hannibal undid the button and zipper of his trousers and slid them off, the expensive fabric laying on top of the pile. A pair of tented silk boxers along with the tie were all that remained, and Will felt his hips roll in his seat as he licked his lips and hungered for the elegant, beautiful creature sitting across from him. For Hannibal really was a delight to look at, all clean lines and perfect muscle, like a proud deer primed for the hunt.

As if in answer to Will's observation, white antlers rose behind Hannibal's chair, tangling in a thick, sharp tipped bundle that glowed bone white beneath the moonlight. Hannibal was enthroned among them, and the silk boxers were slid off, revealing his nakedness for Will's gaze to drink in.

Will was compelled to explore. Wearing only a t-shirt and knit boxer briefs himself, he slid from the chair and onto all fours as he headed for Hannibal, his knees and his palms crushing the fabric beneath them into the soft moss, ruining them. He travelled up the length of Hannibal's body, his hand tight around Hannibal's exposed, erect cock, pumping him lightly as he stole the pursed, expectant lips that were so ready for Will to ravish.

He liked the flavour of him, the one he only ever got the smallest hint of and seemed to be made of ocean air. His tongue lapped against Hannibal's own eager exploration, tracing along his teeth before pulling away, and leaving a trail of kisses along his bent neck. It was a pose that was decidedly demure and submissive and it sent a pang of want through Will's body, his fingers shaking as he moved up and down Hannibal's shaft, only to cup lower, and lower still, finding the damp centre that opened like a willing, wet hot flower beneath his touch.

Hannibal gasped and tried to pull away, and Will yanked him back by a sharp tug of the tie that was still snug around Hannibal's neck. Will wrapped the long end around his fist a few times, and pulled him close for another kiss, Hannibal sinking as Will dominated him with his silken leash. Will used it to guide Hannibal out of the chair and onto the ground, his tongue still exploring that delicate mouth as he smeared Hannibal's gorgeous suit with mud and streaks of green from the sprouted moss.

His hands on Hannibal, the man panting and whimpering as the little fruit within him began to swell, like a plumped up grape, and Will slid his slicked up fingers along Hannibal's hips and across the soft flesh of his stomach. Hannibal tried to resist Will's attempt to spread his legs, and Will tightened his grip on the tie, an action that made Hannibal gasp and moan and fall boneless beneath Will's dominance, his body opening up and allowing Will in.

He tasted so good, and his slick made entry easy, taking Will in all the way up to the base of his cock, leaving Hannibal to writhe and whimper beneath him, his head tossed back as pleasure overtook him. Will revelled in it, in the taking of him, messing up that perfect facade and making Hannibal roll in the muck, his calm demeanour forgotten as he clawed at the earth, his cries more determined now as he built up to orgasm.

Soft earth and hot flesh melded as Will draped himself over the writhing body beneath him, a collection of limbs that were his own and Hannibal's entwined in a complex knot. He cried out into the shudder of his own release as Hannibal lay spent and melted beneath him, small moans riding on an orgasmic aftershock.

He kissed him, soft and light and filled with a promise that many of these days were to come because Hannibal was *his*. He *owned* him. No one else was to set eyes on him, no one else was to touch him or interact in any way, for this beautiful flesh and bone was for Will alone to conquer and he had done so. Will Graham was king.

To Will Graham the spoils.

He slid his palm along the side of Hannibal's face, taking in the dark glint that stared back at him in seeming satiation and adoration. And it was when Will bent down to deliver another lust filled kiss that Hannibal pulled out the slender blade that was hidden beneath the layers of clothes and moss and swung its sharp edge across Will's neck in a single strike, beheading him.

Will awoke with a strangled cry, his hands on his neck as though holding his head onto it, breath coming in heaving, wheezing gasps. He was in his bed, in Wolf Trap, and a quick inspection of his belly revealed this particular nightmare was a wet one.

He'd dreamt Hannibal was an Omega and he fucked him into a forest floor. Oh, no, he won't be bringing up *that* dream in therapy! First flirting and now this? Hannibal was an Alpha, and Will's subconscious was clearly not getting the point. There was something seriously wrong with him, maybe he'd better schedule a clinic visit, make sure all his levels were right. Some cancers messed with hormones, didn't they?

Will ran his hands over his clammy face and took in the time. Five in the morning and he was wide awake. Yet another day with the sun rising up after him. A time for worms and all that.






Chapter Text

chapter three

Jack Crawford stood beside Will, his hands deep in the pockets of his wool overcoat, his face shadowed beneath a black fedora as he took in the scene. Jack shook his head. "Hell of a thing."

Hell was the right word, Will thought, as he looked up at the man strung up on a pole in a mockery of a crucifixion, fully dressed in a conservative but expensive grey suit, his body cavity pulled wide open and pinned in place with carefully woven wires, the hole in his chest filled with pig hearts. The corpses of the swine were arranged in a perfect circle beneath where his feet would have been. Bloodied stumps halfway up his calves were all that remained of that extremity, and it was clear from some of the dead pigs beneath the victim that they had been the instruments of his death. A few of the boars still had pieces of flesh in their mouths.

"Uncastrated, Alpha boars," Will said as he gingerly walked amongst them, carefully to mind to the forensic markers. "They're especially aggressive this time of year, we're very close to heat season. Our victim bled out, I see. The pigs, they were slaughtered after they'd done their work, he'd systematically killed them one after another, quickly and with more mercy. He cut out their hearts and stuffed them into the victim's body." Will nudged at one of the swine corpses with the edge of his shoe, the fat, pink body rolling with unnatural ease. "I take it the human heart is missing."

"And the liver," Jack said. He stepped closer, just shy of the ring of dead pigs, his breath slipping out in a cold mist that met the back of Will's head. "Just tell me it's the Ripper."

"Of course it's him." Will sighed and stared up at the agonized death mask of the man strung up on the pole. "Who is he?"

"His name was Galvin McDermott, and he was Governor Jeb McBain's PR manager. He's the one responsible for McBain getting all that controversial commercial air time during the last Superbowl match, along with handmade signs from planted fans in the bleachers." Jack's cell phone buzzed, and he took it out of his pocket as though it were an annoying afterthought. "Those ads must have cost him enough to take care of the national debt. They eclipsed the half time show, and the bastard even got a plug from the performance. Damn Kid Rock, saying he was all about 'fattening up his Omega'."

Jack held his cell phone to his ear, already visibly annoyed. "Yeah, this is Jack Crawford." He nodded, though his expression was one of extreme distaste. "Yeah, I get it, but the facts are, we need to process the scene and...These things take time, I can't predict if it will be an hour later or the rest of the day. I know your employer has a schedule, but forgive me for saying so--You can't rush the FBI."

He hung the cell up and tossed it deep into the side pocket of his overcoat. "Mason Verger has lawyered up, they want us to process the scene quicker so he can get back to business as usual. Stands to reason he's nervous having us on his property, especially with all the rumours circulating about him."

They were hardly rumours, Will wanted to say, but he kept his mouth firmly shut, concentrating instead on the scene. Muskrat Farm was owned by the Verger family dynasty, and their main business was pigs. The were the prime pork suppliers for all of the Eastern coastline and with the love for bacon trumping salad at every table, the Vergers were billionaires, comfortable rubbing shoulders with the precious one percent. The patriarch of the clan had recently died, leaving his son, Mason Verger, in charge of all operations, a decision that was ill advised at best. Mason Verger, with countless lawsuits and accusations of pederasty behind him, was hardly a worthy figurehead for a successful company, and though he knew him by reputation only, Will figured calling Mason the king of pigs was insulting to swine.

That had to be the reasoning behind this setting, Will thought, for the Ripper most definitely was thinking about pigs when he had strung up Galvin McDermott and turned him into food for ham. The scene had been meticulously staged, the man tied to the pole in the small pen of hungry pigs, his legs coated with a substance that would have begun the feeding frenzy. Will trained his Alpha nose onto the bloodied stumps, ferreting out the lingering aroma of chemical pheromones which had spurred the pigs into action. The scent of Alpha was near overpowering on the remnants of skin, too strong to be anything other than a chemical composition. The pigs would have considered such a strong scent a threat, and would have retaliated in brutal ferocity.

Will straightened up from his bent posture. "Did forensics take samples from just above the wounds? There's a very strong Alpha chemical here, I'm sure it's what spurred the pigs on." He dared to place a gloved hand into the body cavity, fingers teasing the surface of the pile of pig hearts and bringing the tips to his nose. His body reeled at the sudden, blatant shock of it. "An Omega handled these," Will said, frowning. "Female, I'm sure of it. The Ripper's accomplice, only..." He bent low and sniffed again, not entirely sure he understood what the scent was telling him. "There's something off. This female is different, she's not innocent, there's a bonding aroma lurking around it. She's the mate of an Alpha, has had children."

Jack raised a brow. "You can tell all that with a whiff?"

"I'm a purebred Alpha, Jack, I'm hardwired to sniff out an Omega and know their chemical compositions. Don't you know, it's all about making the perfect babies for us bastards." He smiled at Jack's derisive chuckle at this. "The Alpha who helped her string this guy up is not her mate."

Jack frowned at this. "Careful, Graham, now you're really veering off into science fiction. There's no way a bonded Omega could be running off with some other Alpha, committing murder in between dress shopping. Her Alpha mate would have picked up the scent, and you're missing an even bigger piece of this puzzle just suggesting it."

Will took out one of the pig hearts, which was small in size, fitting into the cup of his palm. They weren't very efficient organs for a pig, Will surmised, and he wondered if this was the result of too much inbreeding to make them palatable for food and not for longevity. "What am I missing, Jack?"

"That no bonded Omega would be able to run off with another Alpha, it's chemically impossible."

"They aren't lovers," Will said, frowning over his shoulder at Jack. "This is more about a common goal, a feeling of shared ideology." Will nervously shook his head, adjusting his glasses higher up his nose as he began to focus inward. "This is about war."

He gave Jack a silent nod, and the officer waved the rest of his team off, Jack's bellow echoing across the sounds of snuffling pigs housed in small pens that seemed to stretch into infinity. "Clear the scene! Let the man work!"

Will could feel his eyes grow heavy, his lids sinking shut like a cellar door, the pendulum swinging behind his mind and wiping all preconceptions from the scene. The police and forensic personnel disappeared first, followed by the corpses of the pigs and then the body itself, leaving behind an empty pole. It was night, and there was no patrolman. He didn't come in on Fridays. Will knew the Ripper was aware of this and it was a detail he kept tucked away.

You are a blight upon this earth, fashioned out of lofty ignorance and made to create torment against that which you know nothing. You believe in money and power and nothing else, and could care less about the suffering you will ultimately cause. For this, you will learn. You will be made to suffer the physical torment of constraints, you will know what it is to be whittled away thanks to your bindings.

I have a helper, and she is nervous, but she is a part of my growing army. She will make sure the knots are tight, she is far stronger than you think and even more resolved. It is she who paints your legs with the Alpha pheromones, sending the pigs in the adjoining pen into a furious frenzy, their squealing screams longing for your blood. I release them as soon as she steps out of the pen, and your tortured cries are music to us both as your feet are devoured, your screams ripping your throat to ribbons.

You are still alive. It is her duty to kill the pigs, and she needs the practice since killing isn't inherently part of our nature. She uses an air gun pressed against the centre of their skulls, quickly falling them. I hand her my knife and she gets to work on removing their hearts. She puts them aside, and she has the honour of cutting open your sternum, a pair of small bolt cutters separating bone and allowing access to your still, slowly beating heart. She pulls it out with proud victory and she nearly takes a bite, only for me to take it from her, for I have far better uses for it.

I fill you with the hearts of pigs because that is what you are. A pig in a human casing. They are arranged in a worshipful circle beneath you, for you are their saviour, the base appetites you encouraged having destroyed them. I take your liver as an additional prize, and I consider your sweetbreads, only to leave them in as an afterthought. I want nothing of your small, animal mind.

I stand back and we both look at our handiwork, proud of the statement we have created. She is in full understanding of our commitment, she will not fail me, nor I her. Though strange to admit it as such, we are a sisterhood.

And yet, amidst this violent death, I place my hope upon it, that I may not be so alone despite its advantages, regardless of how it feels in some ways like defeat. I close my eyes, briefly, and when I open them again it will be in the sweet grip of desire. I have left a secret gift for one who knows me. It is small and precious, like a sapphire and far more rare. I hope he understands the significance of the gesture. I have never hoped to give it to anyone else.

Will opened his eyes, blinking away the images that were still lingering in an after burn on the back of his mind. He shakily approached the corpse, and with deft hands began emptying it of the pig hearts, digging through the body cavity until he found the anomaly, near hidden beneath spoiled blood and tissue, near the back of its spine where the heart would have been, pinned there on a tiny silver hook attached to a dangling pearl earring.

"A pearl among swine," Will said to himself as he further inspected what the earring pierced, a tiny blob of flesh affixed between the vertebrae. He pulled it out and placed it in the centre of his palm, red smears tidily dotting the surface of his beige rubber gloves.

"It's a little heart," he said to it, frowning. "Like a sparrow's."

"Not a sparrow, Will," a familiar voice said at his ear. "A wren."

Will turned slowly to find Dr. Hannibal Lecter standing beside him, his face flushed from the cold that had suddenly dipped in the air around them. At the opposite end, the front door to the barn had been swung open, allowing in the frigid air, and the pigs, restless against the discomfort, squealed and complained against this intrusion. In the distance, he could see the outline of a young woman gently pacing the opened entrance, her body a long, thin line silhouetted against the backdrop of thick, white snow that blanketed the farm.

Will brought his sights back to the man beside him and felt a strange jolt within him at the red hue of Hannibal's neck, his thoughts going to so far as to feel embarrassed by it. "Cover that up with your scarf," he thought. "You shouldn't be out in public with your throat exposed and red like that, it's obscene."

But it wasn't. Hannibal was an Alpha, and the colouring had nothing to do with desire. He was cold. What business was of it of Will's if his neck was such a blushed hue, accentuating what it must be like when Hannibal was in the throes of passion.

Uncomfortable thoughts. Stop it, Will Graham.

Will shivered and brought the small heart closer to Hannibal for his own inspection. "How can you tell the difference?"

"I can't," Hannibal cheerfully admitted. "I'm afraid my expertise is more human than ornithological. But considering the detailed composition of this scene, I have to doubt that this is the heart of a common sparrow. A wren is known for its highly complex songs, sometimes entwined with a lover's duet. An interesting message. What purpose does this heart serve?"

"I think the Ripper is asking me to sing with him."

"What do you think he wants to hear? A victory cry? A lament for the fallen in battle?"

Will nudged the tiny heart in his palm with the tip of his forefinger, the four valves clearly visible as the blood dried. "It's a love song."

Will grabbed an evidence bag and carefully placed the heart and attached earring within it, labelling it with a black marker from his inside pocket. He turned back to Hannibal as though seeing him for the first time. It was always hard to reorient himself after he'd slipped into that other, maddening perspective and though he was loathe to admit it he was happy to have Hannibal's grounding presence beside him, reddened neck notwithstanding. It was warming up into a pinker shade, Will was happy to see, though he still couldn't understand why it had jolted him the way it did. "I guess Jack called you to help monitor me during my working of the scene. You were a little late."

"I have an outstanding appointment with a member of the Verger family." Hannibal nodded towards the thin figure Will had noticed at the opposite end of the barn. "Margot Verger, Mason's sister, is my patient." He gave Will's squinting curiosity a small smile. "She can't come closer. She is an Omega and as you know it is close to heat season."

Will sighed, wondering what kind of torture it must be to have that gender and be stuck with a monstrous Alpha prick like Mason Verger as a brother. "She'll have to be questioned. The victim wasn't quiet while being murdered, that's a guarantee, someone must have heard the screams." Will narrowed his eyes on her, making her slender form nearly disappear in his sights. "There was another Omega accomplice. We'll need some DNA samples from her to eliminate her from the suspect pool."

"The sooner the better, Margot is an especially sensitive young woman and just the thought of being involved in something like this will upset her a great deal." Hannibal waved to the slight figure in the distance and earned a cautious one back. "I suspect you've heard about her brother's proclivities. It interests me that the killer chose this venue for his display. Perhaps there are many layers of reason for this."

"Calling Mason Verger a pig is an insult to swine."

Will grit his teeth as he heard a bellowing shout, high pitched and squealing, similar to the din already cascading through the barn. "Someone shut the door! There's no point letting all the little piggies get a cold, is there, Margot? You ought to be more thoughtful about that, after all they do bring home the bacon. Wouldn't want a pneumonia outbreak to take out some pennies from the family coffers--out of your allowance, of course, one must make sure that the consequences fit the crime. Did you hear me, Margot? Shut the damn door!"

A tiny curse echoed across the expanse of the barn, and Margot quickly shut the barn door and her brother's intrusive presence out of her sight. Mason Verger, a small, sweaty man with a stocky build and thick glasses that hid tiny, cruel eyes approached Will and Hannibal. Jack had slipped back into the barn and walked in behind him, his stern concentration on the back of Mason's head making Will wonder if the man wanted to put a bullet in it. Mason gave a mock shudder at the corpse in their midst and a rather rueful shake of his head at the dozen pigs scattered around it.

"Such a shame. But it's not so bad, really, I wasn't exaggerating about the pneumonia. Some of the sows have contracted it--viral diseases, close living space, it's to be expected. We're looking at a hundred head cull, nothing too drastic. This helped me out, at least I can knock a dozen off the list using some more creative insurance. Poor little piggies, always full of colds and flu. They remind me of children. All pink, tears and snot."

Mason took off his glasses and wiped them clean on his scarf before putting them back on, fixing both Will and Hannibal in his sights as though they were finally brought into proper focus. "The thing about pigs, and children, is that they have good memories. If there's a murderer in their midst, they'd quickly point him out." Mason laughed, and it was like a thin squeal. "Of course, given how opportunistic they are, they can be bribed with treats."

"Just like children?" Will darkly added.

"Yes," Mason said, smiling with a slippery eel's mirth. "Just like them. A bit of chocolate and all the sad stories go away. Doctor Lecter, is it? I'm assuming you know that Margot has been waiting on you this morning, and it really is such a treat to be able to meet you. She's said nothing at all about you to me, even when I've tried to persuade her, so I'm guessing you must be one hell of a great therapist." Mason gave Will's scowl an eager grin. "I'll admit, I was a little worried leaving her alone with an Alpha, you know how it is with these messy Omegas, always ready to pounce on opportunity with the next fresh meat available. Luckily, my sister prefers the familiar sex, if you know what I mean. I blame boarding school. Though I'm sure that wouldn't have stopped a more aggressive Alpha--Not that I have any worries of that from you, of course, Dr. Lecter, for an Alpha you're very benign. Having her in a room with you is like worrying about a eunuch. Just not much of the Alpha in you at all, kind of weird, really, but who am I to judge those pesky recessive Beta genes?"

Mason was leering, itching for a reaction, and Will didn't like it. His empathy gave him a fiercely accurate portrait of the man, as detailed as the painting of him above the fireplace mantel, which was the first thing one saw when entering the main foyer of the Verger estate. The massive portrait of Mason Verger, holding a baby pig in his arms, their eyes matching in both animal intelligence and wit, was a study of an overblown ego pumped up with money and ignorance and a generous helping of cruelty. He was the worst kind of Alpha, Will thought. Pushy without reason and eager to bully his way past all of semblance of virtue in order to selfishly revel in vice.

He wondered why Margot Verger had to have home visits from a psychiatrist only to recognize that Mason probably gave her plenty of reasons.

"I'm afraid I'm not comfortable discussing Margot's therapy with anyone but Margot." Hannibal clasped his hands in front of him, not meeting Mason Verger's impolite, aggressive stare, blocking an instinctive fight. Mason clearly wanted to tempt one out of him, and was delighted in how uncomfortable it made the small group of Alphas gathered around Hannibal.

"Such a shame though, isn't it? No heir to the throne from Margot, not when only the girls will do. Unless she gets herself a particularly purebred Alpha female, though I hear they're just as rare as Omega males. That's an interesting cologne you're wearing, Dr. Lecter, such a clean scent. Like laundry soap."

He didn't know why he did it. Mason Verger kept stepping closer and closer to Hannibal, the suspense it created inside of Will unpleasant. When the slimy man tried to go so far as to raise a taunting finger at a button on Hannibal's coat, Will shoved himself between them, earning a hard poke in the chest.

Will could feel his own Alpha hackles rising quickly to the surface, and he didn't avert his gaze from Mason Verger's blunt scrutiny, going so far into his own aggression he forced the man to back down. He was a purebred Alpha, as Will was, but he was no match for Will's fierce independence and street strength. Mason hadn't had to fight to get his own way, while Will was familiar with this particular dominance battle. Eyes locked. Teeth grit.

"Well then," Mason said, slinking back. Will could feel Jack's eyes on him, frowning in likewise question. "Sorry. Didn't mean to try and pet your kitten."

Will clasped and unclasped his hands into fists, standing firm in his spot in front of Hannibal.

Mason clapped his hands, the silent confrontation already dismissed. "So, what do we have here? Oh my, what mess, and I believe that is Galvin McDermott? He did a lot of work for us during that e. coli scare a few years ago. We had some cleaning issues at the processing plant, but thanks to Galvin the public assumed it was due to the groundwater in the area. Such a shame, he was great at spinning blame."

Jack let out a low, impatient growl behind Will and Hannibal and he placed a large hand on Will's shoulder, pulling him to one side. "Are you finished here?" he asked, and Will nodded. He handed Jack the evidence bag containing the wren's heart.

"There was an additional message. The Ripper, wanting me to hear his love song."

"'Tis the season for it," Jack said, grave. Making sure he was out of earshot of Hannibal and Mason, he practically snarled at Will. "What the hell was that back there, Graham? I'm pretty sure Dr. Lecter can hold his own in a fight, and yes Mason was being creepy as hell, but you stepping in between them like that, dominating the conflict out of nowhere?"

"It was a momentary lapse," Will said, and it wasn't a lie.

"Just make sure you don't do it again," Jack warned him, and waved for his team to come back to finish processing the scene.

Will walked away and Hannibal followed him, their shoulders nearly touching as their steps were in sync. "Quite the freak, aren't I, Dr. Lecter?" Will said. "Sorry about that, back there. I just didn't like him getting that close to you."

"I admit a certain surprise at how protective you were of me, but I am not going to say it wasn't appreciated. Due to my professional relationship with his sister, I am unable to retaliate against Mason's posturing. I know that such actions will result in serious repercussions against her, and possibly the withdrawal of my services in regards to her therapy."

Will felt sick at this. "Have I inadvertently harmed her myself?"

"No." Hannibal gave him a warm smile and dared to place a hand on his shoulder. Unlike the unwanted touches he often endured under Jack, he could accept this. Hannibal's palm was warm, his grip strangely soft. When he took his hand away, Will longed for him to put it back. "You have no direct relationship with Margot so the ire would serve no real purpose. I must say, Will, I thoroughly enjoyed your act of defiance. Be warned, however, it's piqued Mason Verger's interest in you. He will tempt your dominance again."

"He's a maggot," Will said, and spit on the ground outside the barn. He caught Hannibal's raised brow at this blatant, rude gesture, a small performance of disgust usually reserved for a mate being won over a rival. Surprised at himself, Will shook his head and dove his hands deep into the pockets of his jacket. "Are you heading to the lab after your session with Margot Verger?"

"I am planning on it, yes." Hannibal checked his watch, his movements as precise as a dancer's. "It is presently a quarter after eleven in the morning. I will be there by one o'clock."

"Good," Will said, nodding. He wanted to say more, but the words dried up on his tongue, because saying them would only cement another layer of madness in him that he wasn't willing to share. He watched the doctor head towards the area where Margot Verger was sequestered, a place far from the main house and designed with her Omega needs in mind. Soft lights and furnishings, very little in the way of clutter, more natural hues for a calming effect. Omegas were sensitive in more ways than one, their heightened senses often at the mercy of a harsh environment that did little to accommodate their needs outside of their homes. This was the third Omega Will was aware of that Hannibal had in his patient list and he had to wonder if he was some sort of specialist, brought in to take care of emotionally wounded Omegas. If so, his practise had to be booming, for there was no shortage in their society of those. Hannibal definitely had an advantage, his muted Alpha scent would be a welcome balm to their heightened senses, while his Alpha nature would offer some much needed comforting.

He wondered if Hannibal gentled his patients, placing those long, thin fingers along the backs of their necks, easing them into a hypnotic sense of calm that Omegas craved. Omegas loved to be petted, Will had been told, in life experience and through sex ed in high school. He remembered their bald, chubby coach confidently telling a roomful of Alpha boys and girls the secret to making an Omega yours forever was all about the touch. They were hungry for it, even needed it. A lack of touch could seriously harm the well being of an Omega, who would resort to using inanimate objects to cuddle against at night, along with other tactile obsessions, like preferring softer fabrics and avoiding heavy perfumes.

Heat was an especially painful experience for an untouched Omega. It used to be a form of torture back in the medieval days, where a bonded Alpha would be imprisoned next to his Omega mate and would be forced to endure his or her screams, unable to comfort them with the simplicity of a caress. "Chilling, isn't it, to think that sort of vicious cruelty could be inflicted on someone," his coach had said. At the time it felt to Will that it was the world's worst understatement. When he was in New Orleans, working homicide just a few years later and bore witness to the corpses of trafficked Omegas, he had a better understanding of just how cruel humanity could be.

He'd heard stories, unsure of their truth, of unmated Omegas going mad during their heat, so hungry for touch they'd let any Alpha or Beta passing by to do what they wished with them. Such stories sounded more like rape fantasies to Will, for the few heats that he'd witnessed were benign in their discomfort at best. Granted, his Louisiana grandmother, an independent matriarch who lived on the swamp, would tell him tales of men visiting who she entertained during 'tough times' and this was well after his grandfather had died in his early fifties.

Memories of his grandmother gave Will pause, for she was unlike any Omega he had ever known, but then, she was from a time when survival meant more than what was fun between the sheets. The back country was still like that, stubbornly egalitarian in its poverty, the gender lines divided stronger amongst the wealthy in the cities. It didn't matter what you were born as in the swamp, poor was poor and everyone had to eat. Truly, there were some days when he walked the busy streets of Baltimore, Will felt a pang of dissidence with his environment, like he was an alien plummeted into a universe he'd have no hope of truly understanding.

Perhaps it was this that was the greatest barrier to meeting someone, for there were few who understood his perspective, who knew what it was like to move from one place to another, never making friends, always poorer and living a life code that had been forgotten a hundred years ago. Hannibal had enquired about his family history and he'd brushed it off, but really, it did have a huge impact on who he'd become, the life he led with his Alpha father not always easy, the man prone to arguments that too often ended with Will stomping off into the woods, heedless of rattlers and alligators. He'd always end up on his grandmother's doorstep, and her calm, easy presence would smooth over all of the fury welling inside of him, the constant flame that boiled just beneath the surface of what he understood to be the self. His mother had been an Omega, but she was gone long before Will could remember her.

"Your mama drowned," his grandmother said, her rocking chair creaking on the front porch of her damp little shack, a mossy shawl strewn over her shoulders. She liked it in the deep woods, where the trees muted the sunlight and the earth was soft and pliant. "She tried, she really did, but it's hard now, they want their Omegas sitting at home, staring at the walls, and we ain't made for that, mon cher. We ain't made to be bonded like that, with no purchase in the world. Your mama drowned under all that weight. You keep that in mind when you're of age, you're a full on Alpha, you're our own loup garu. Life won't be easy on you none, no it won't. Keep in mind what the weight of someone else's will is on your own. It's crushing, mon cher. It'll drown you, too."


Will rolled back and forth in the wheeled chair in Jack Crawford's office, the images from the crime scene spread out in a circle around him on the carpet. He rolled the chair to just the very edge of the white border on the photograph, and then brought it back into the tight circle, the wheels squeaking beneath him. Jack was busy in the lab and Will had opted out for now, waiting until Hannibal showed up before going in there and dealing with a pack of pushy Betas and Alphas. He was feeling punchy after his near altercation with Mason, and he didn't trust himself to be around any measure of aggression at present.

The images were telling him a story, Will knew, adding more layers to the impressions he'd garnered at the scene. Those who didn't understand his empathy thought it was like a magic trick, that he could just turn it on like a light switch and instantly everything they were thinking, hiding, the very essence of who the victim of his concentration was--that this was how he divined their souls. But the facts were far more mundane and there was no magic involved save for the intense concentration of his imagination, fuelled by memory and an ability to make quick connections. He fed these gifts with information, spearing it from every angle, until finally it coalesced into a clear picture, one he could readily describe when the words decided to co-operate.

He stared, now, at the image of the wren's heart, pierced by a dangling pearl earring. He was reminded of art, of the famous tronie by Vermeer, Girl With A Pearl Earring. Fresh faced and looking over her shoulder, her almost three dimensional image compelled the viewer to make up their own story simply from her expression. Was that what the Ripper wanted him to do? Make up his own story, create a fiction upon reality?

Will reached to the floor and picked up the image of the heart, the four valves clearly visible now that the blood of the victim had dried and left the rubbery organ behind. The tiny heart was drenched in so many layers of symbolism Will was set to get lost trying to navigate it, and his challenge was to discard the less important information it conveyed and to get deep into its central thesis.

For some reason an image of Hannibal came to mind, and Will sat back in his chair, rolling back and forth on its creaky wheels, annoyed with himself. He had committed an embarrassing display of dominance and he still couldn't figure out exactly why he'd risked it. Mason Verger was a foul man whose farm the Ripper had used as a cunning backdrop, yet another layer of filth for Will to wade through, and he couldn't understand his sudden fury at the man. Even now, the thought of him with his pudgy, piggy finger outstretched, ready to poke in a halfhearted challenge, nearly touching Hannibal--it made Will sick to his stomach.

"What am I seeing that I'm not seeing?" Will said aloud, and rocked the chair on its hinges from side to side, a see-saw motion that made his head slightly dizzy. "What are you really trying to tell me?"

Will frowned, the creaking of the chair stopping as he slowly began to piece a large chunk into the puzzle. For any play to begin, for any performance to find its wings, it must first find the perfect setting.

The stage itself had to be perfect.

Muskrat Farm was not a place chosen at random, there was an unnatural rot at its base and the Ripper was more than keen on Will discovering it.

He stopped, and stared at the image of the tiny heart, the little, perfect, rare pearl nagging at his understanding. When it hit him, it clicked so loud in his mind he practically heard the pop against his skull, like a little firecracker, a gunshot inside of his dreams.

He pushed violently out of the chair, sending the metal wheels careening over the crime scene photographs and nearly hitting the far wall. He tore open Jack's office door and practically ran towards the lab, the heel of his hands banging on the glass enclosure, which earned him odd looks from Beverly and Brian.

It was Jack who opened the door, a question on his lips, but wisely not asking it as Will shoved his way in, the photograph nearly crumpled in his hand as he marched over to the prone body now on display on the metal gurney. "You need to check his sexual history. He's got assault charges in his past, he's...He's got something hidden--Get a hold of his lawyer and tell him to spill it, or get on the radio and ask for people to come forward. He was put on Muskrat Farm not just because he was a pig but because he's like Mason Verger, he's a sick, perverted predator..."

Jack let out a near growl at this. "Will, you're talking about the PR man for one of the most prominent politicians in this country. There's rumours McBain is aiming for the presidency and we'll see that happen in a couple of years, I guarantee it. You're telling me the guy in charge of his image is a pederast."

"He's a rapist." Will's body shook with revulsion. "It's buried but if you look, you'll find it. He was charged and it was later dropped--Probably an Omega, maybe more than one..."

"It's not that easy to hide those kinds of crimes, we won't be needing to strongarm his lawyer." Brian Zeller was already on it, and though they rarely got along and mostly tolerated each other's space, right now Will was thankful for his help. "I'm putting his name through the database, and I know I won't get any hits the first time," he explained. "But people change their names, depending on spouses. Galvin was a Beta, so I'll use both his mother's maiden name and his grandmother's..." He grinned as a fingerprint and image suddenly lit up on his screen.

"I'm stealing your phrase, Bev--Gotcha!"

"Only because it was easy, Zeller."

He ignored her dig. "Galvin Fernando, and that's his mother's maiden name. That's him all right, after shaving off a decade and a half." Zeller's happy face fell as he began reading the charges, and Will already guessed he was looking at a long rap sheet detailing the grand adventures of one sick fuck. "Oh man, this is...Public masturbation charges, interference with a minor, coercion of an Omega, heat rape of an Omega, battery and confinement..." Zeller shook his head as he went on to read the police reports, the pages a never ending cascade of depravity.

"The guy was caught with an unknown Beta female he had locked in a secret room in his condo. Says here when the cops found it in behind a closet, they found a nude Beta female on a mattress in the middle of the room, the walls painted black. She was so full of drugs she couldn't remember her name and she'd been puking for a while, she was pretty much on the verge of an overdose." Zeller shook his head. "That was twelve years ago, and the girl refused to press charges, she was too scared he was going to come after her. She kept telling the cops they had to save the Omega, that Galvin had a friend who was helping him out and the creep took the Omega. There's no real details past that, they never found this other person."

Zeller sat back in his chair, and ran his fingers along the bottom of his lips, deep in thought. "The year rings a bell with me," he said, and not waiting to explain further he hunched over his computer, typing in the address to Tattle Crime. He gave his groaning co-workers an eye roll.

"Seriously, Zeller? This is not the time to go picking through the garbage, Freddie Lounds is hardly a journalist with integrity." Beverly crossed her arms and gave Jack a knowing sigh as Zeller kept typing. "There is nothing there worth knowing, I would have thought you'd be smart enough not to be a fan of this crap."

"Actually, that's where you're wrong," Zeller said, and with a final click called up the page he had been searching for. He leaned back in his chair in triumph, his arms crossed, bidding his team mates to check out his find. "Freddie's not the only journalist on Tattle Crime. She might run the main headlines for the recent stuff, but she's got a criminal historian on her team who has a whole section dedicated to cold case files. I read those articles fairly regularly, Lilly Rush knows her shit and she doesn't get bogged down in opinion like Lounds does. Just the facts, a forensics dream."

Curious, Will began to read over Brian's shoulder, and he understood right away what he was talking about. The clipped, clinical voice of someone who had worked these cases for years seeped through the words on the screen, and Will took them in, fascinated.

"...On May first, 2004, the body of an unknown Omega male was found in an abandoned Philadelphia warehouse on the west side of the city. Initial reports listed the cause of death as asphyxiation, though this was later amended since it couldn't be determined if the Omega had first died of his extensive wounds, namely lacerations to the upper torso and deep cuts along the back of his thighs. There is speculation the asphyxiation was a form of sexual abuse. Evidence of deep cuts that had partially healed, along with bruising and improperly set broken ribs numbers four and three and a poorly set right arm that healed crooked, causing a permanent deformity. The coroner ruled that the victim was undoubtedly a victim of illegal poaching and trafficking of Omega males, and was possibly not from this country but was sold from an overseas dealer. Investigation into the victim's DNA revealed they were Russian in origin, but no identification has been made..."

"It stuck in my mind because of the Russian thing," Brian said. "This case caused a big stink overseas, celebrity involvement, social media justice crusaders, Anonymous, all of it all demanding the laws get more involved in protecting them. Russia cracked down big time on Omega trafficking, and you hardly hear about it now. If you're caught trying to sell off an Omega, in Russia you automatically get a death sentence. Half of their police force monitors and catches these creeps, and they're still doing it, even with the threat of death looming over the traffickers. Tells you how much the demand is over here, it's always Western buyers."

"Alpha, Alpha everything," Beverly muttered, and visibly shuddered at the implications.

Jack Crawford stood beside the body of Galvin McDermott, aka Galvin Fernando, and gave its presence before him a heavy, world wearied sigh. "So he's a sick creep and we're all glad to see he's gone. What does this have to do with our case, Will?"

"Location, location," Will said, backing away out of the room, eager to call it a day. His head was pounding and the images the article Zeller had brought up were already forming ugly truths within his skull, the screaming of a rare, male Omega echoing inside of himself, the din making him swallow back bile. "We need to look into Mason Verger, right down into his chromosomes. He's hiding a lot more than the occasional grabby hands."


Chapter Text

chapter four

"What really surprises me is that there aren't more corpses getting strung up on our farm. Mason knows how to make enemies. Is it true it's the work of a serial killer?"

"The Chesapeake Ripper. You may be earning a visit from journalist Freddie Lounds as a result. I suggest you avoid her."

"Oh, I know all about Freddie, she guts my brother in her exposé articles and tempts him into lawsuits whenever she can. I actually like her."

Margot Verger picked at the scabs on her wrist, making them bleed anew. She observed the new, glistening hue of blood that seeped from the wound, and quickly covered it back up with the gauze bandage she had hidden it beneath. A crimson stain erupted fresh across the white fabric, and she braced her arm behind her, ashamed of revealing this tiny weakness in front of Dr. Lecter.

There were many things being hidden this morning, Hannibal thought, for though the artwork he had fashioned with a young, talented Omega who suffered a neglectful Alpha mate was now being dismantled, there were still secrets lurking, and not all of them his own. Will Graham's confusion was delightful, and he revelled in the blush of his cheeks as the nervous profiler stammered his way through conversations, never sure of why he felt this underlying tension growing between them. Hannibal wondered what he could do with this, his primary aim of course always being the furtherance of his cause, and if Will Graham was feeling a lurking attraction he would encourage it. An Alpha male falling for another Alpha male--That chemical misfiring alone was indication of instability and should Will Graham make connections enough to discover Hannibal's murderous activities, well, one couldn't trust the opinion of a fellow Alpha who wooed with lovestruck lust his very reluctant psychiatrist.

He would be remiss, however, to not admit that he himself developed a few unsavoury habits. Recently, he'd spent late hours curled around Will Graham's dirty grey t-shirt, the fabric well and truly raped as he sank into its Alpha scent, his body eagerly responding to the eroticism Will's dank sweat generated in his dreams. He'd stolen it from Will's pile of dirty laundry when he had picked him up from his home in Wolf Trap, and the past three nights had become a dreamscape of calloused hands, soft curls and wet moans that left Hannibal's body shuddering in want. He'd found himself waking in morning, still kissing the soft fabric, an ache within him that couldn't be cured without sultry rubbing and a toy that had gone through so much use in the past few days he'd just about wore out the motor. Always, in his mind, were the strong limbs of Will Graham as he moved above him in wiry aggression, taking him with fevered impatience. Seductive imaginings that were unexpectedly pedestrian assailed Hannibal's mind and he hated the fact he had descended into romantic tropes to put imagery upon his desires. Always the usual, Hannibal would pull away as Will tried to kiss him, make him work for it if only to watch the dew on his lips as his mouth lay half open, dying to taste him. Will would bite out of frustration, and Hannibal would return it, and the night would be a collection of opposing limbs, Hannibal's reluctance meeting Will's determination. Sometimes, in these wild thoughts, Will would kill him, in others it was Hannibal tearing out his heart with his bare hands, taming the Alpha with death. He well understood this violent game. That was the Alpha mindset. Subdue. Conquer. In his dreams, Will did not find either easily.

The whole scenario was painfully, typically Omega/Alpha dynamics in nature and Hannibal hated himself for being tempted by it.

He could blame his eager fantasies on the season, humans weren't immune to the effects of a winter heat and Hannibal could sense his own was about a week away. He had already scheduled time off, and his basement was well equipped to deal with this particular biological routine. Twice a year for three days he would sequester himself and hope he didn't go mad. There was no relief for him, not even with the pheromone injections, which did nothing to alleviate his symptoms. Most unmated and unbonded Omegas took suppressants to ease their way through those difficult days, but Hannibal couldn't risk the hormones involved since they could counter affect the Alpha pheromones. Thus, he spent three unbearable days per heat beneath ground, locked in his cellar, in excruciating pain. Toys helped the physical symptoms, but he was wary of his own emotions, his deeply buried torments rising to the surface, the dungeon doors of his mind palace cruelly wrenched open to allow all manner of horror to march through. The second day was always the worst, where he could feel and hear the clank of the iron collar at his neck, the pinch against his skin as it was cruelly locked. Bile rose within him at the very shadow of that memory, and he found himself seeking comfort from the small square of fabric he had cut from Will Graham's t-shirt and shoved into his suit jacket pocket before leaving for Muskrat Farm in the morning.

His fingers were playing with the piece of gentle fabric now, as he watched Margot get up again and pace, a cigarette lit in the gloom of her living room, the ember tip following her like a pet flame. He crushed the fabric in his palm, not entirely sure why it offered him so much comfort, and released it back into the prison of his pocket before bringing his hands before him and clasping them over his knee. "Your concerns are valid, Margot. He has injured you before, you would be wise to consider the option I have presented to you."

"I've already taken a near overdose of suppressants and I still can't be within shouting distance of him. In case you didn't notice, he's especially attuned to every bit of hormonal shift around him. He's a walking crusty penis."

Hannibal grimaced slightly at this blunt description, for it was gruesomely apt, especially considering what he knew of Mason Verger's more sordid activities. It made his pity for Margot all the more poignant and with that vile picture in mind he repeated his stance on the matter. "You do realize that the best solution to this problem is obvious. I have told you many times before, Margot--You need to kill your brother."

Margot let out a long stream of smoke at Hannibal's words, her voice ash. "I do that, I lose everything, I've told you this. I have no hope of finding an Alpha willing to be the turkey baster to my womb and frankly, if Mason gets his way, I'll be keeping the next heir to the throne in the family, if you get what I mean." She tossed her cigarette into the fire in front of her long, antique velvet couch and collapsed into the curved corner, surrounded by softened, straw stuffed cushions.

Hannibal was seated on the opposite end, his legs still crossed, though his tactile attention was on the silky feel of the couch, the bits of straw worn into a near sawdust consistency, the old fabric retaining an earthy scent, a treat for the olfactory senses. The couch was an early Edwardian construction, possibly Scottish in origin as those craftsmen were known for their specialization in Omega furnishings and were popular during a time when Omegas had more control over their immediate environments. It was of a similar construction to his bed at home, and with the surrounding muted shades and forest colours Hannibal felt calm and relaxed in Margot's little abode and thus ensured that he made house calls for most of their appointments.

Hannibal traced a nail along the velvet, pulling the colour into a taut, dark line. "Is Dr. Alana Bloom visiting you next week?"

Margot tersely nodded. "She's moving in tomorrow. Mason has already started complaining about having a pushy Beta moving in on the family property, but Alana herself has made it clear he has no legal claim on who I can receive as a visitor during the heat cycle. She shouldn't pose a threat to him, it's not like we're making babies." She crossed her arms and stared into the dying embers of her fireplace. "Of course, having her here makes sure he can't attempt it. She's quite the cockblocker, my girl. He still has the scar on his forehead from when she went at him with a poker during the last heat cycle. No charges, of course. There never are. It's all 'Alpha rambunctiousness'."

"Quite," Hannibal said. Margot's tense posture remained immoveable, and shaking, well manicured fingers deftly touched tears from her lashes, capturing the dew of them beneath her nail. Hannibal knew he had to choose his words with extra care and he licked his lips over them, eager to know how they tasted. "I take it Mason is unaware of your past precautions?"

Margot choked down a small sob that threatened to erupt, only to put on her warrior's mask again. It was one that Hannibal knew well amongst his fellow Omegas and he was hopeful that Margot would be open to joining his army and bathe the world in Alpha blood. But she was currently involved with Dr. Bloom, who was a female Beta and a rather dogged one at that with an infuriating strict moral code. He was sure Margot hadn't revealed she'd been encouraged by him to kill her brother, but if she did Hannibal knew exactly what to say to deflect blame. His words were taken out of context, he would say to Dr. Bloom. He was speaking metaphorically, encouraging Margot to envision a world where her brother did not hold such power over her.

Dr. Alana Bloom was empathetic and kind. She would like that excuse.

"If you're talking about the abortions after he'd raped me during heats, most of those were spontaneous thanks to how much he messed up my insides when we were kids." She bit her bottom lip and shuddered. "No, he doesn't know. He figures I'm barren, which I guess I am. Thanks to him." She blinked back her tears and set her jaw, grinding her teeth as though she was chewing up the very soul of her evil brother and finding it distasteful. Hannibal wouldn't make the attempt, Mason Verger's organs were rancid, ugly things not worth consuming. "Alana doesn't know about that. If she did, you wouldn't have to keep telling me to kill Mason, she'd do it herself."

"Then why not tell her?" Hannibal said. "Between the two of you I'm sure an excellent plan could be hatched. Dr. Bloom is an exceptionally intelligent Beta woman, and her determination in protecting you would be paramount."

Margot frowned, tears traded for incredulity. "What makes you think she would be so eager to help me?"

"Because she loves you. Love knows no limits."

Margot closed her eyes against the strange advice and sighed, a tiny frown marring her delicate, doll-like features. "You are not like any other Alpha I have ever met, Dr. Lecter. Most of them just want to comfort me, and offer a listening ear that only halfway hears me. The rest of the time they spend wondering how to get into my pants when heat season rolls around. But you don't have any interest in that at all. I barely get a hint of Alpha off of you, and when you leave my house your scent doesn't linger, it's like you were never here."

"The spectrum of our sexual biology is more diverse than grains of sand in a desert. I admit, the one drop of Alpha rule can be a tad disingenuous, and I perhaps have more in common with Betas. But the law is the law."

"A drop of Alpha is still considerable enough," Margot reminded him, still frowning.

"Perhaps you are right. When Alana stays with you during your heats, do you find her company eases your discomfort?"

"If you're asking whether or not she satisfies me during my heat, the answer is yes, and I take it all back, that is a very perverted, intrusive question and very typically Alpha."

Hannibal gave her a disarming smile at this. "I thought it would be."


The corridor leading to the lab at Quantico had fewer lights than other sections of the building, a fact Hannibal was thankful for. The lab itself was awash in harsh fluorescent lighting and he wasn't looking forward to suffering beneath them, the stark brightness hurting his eyes and giving him a headache that would take hours to alleviate. He couldn't take over the counter medications, a typical Omega sensitivity where something as simple as an aspirin would give him stabbing stomach pains. He braced himself as he turned the corner, ready to endure an environment that was anathema to his genes.

He was surprised instead by the rising voice of Will Graham who was deep in argument with Dr. Frederick Chilton, the head psychiatrist at the Baltimore Hospital For The Criminally Insane. Will's voice rose as Hannibal approached them, and he could feel the unpleasant fury that wound from the Beta towards the Alpha, impotent against Will's ire.

"I am only suggesting it may be a good idea to consider wider possibilities and to lean on my expertise," Dr. Chilton said. He inched closer to Will whose fists were clenched tight, a stupid move for a Beta to make and one an Alpha would immediately consider a challenge. Of course, as a Beta, Chilton had the advantage of ignorance and could easily claim a lack of interpreting aggressive signals if it came to blows. As a psychiatrist, however, missing those signs would paint him what he really was--A fool.

"It is obvious to me, from what Mr. Crawford has shown me of the case files, that this is the work of a solitary Beta with aims at becoming an Alpha. He is clearly self medicating, with illegally obtained pheromones and his agenda is clear--He wants to obliterate what he perceives are Alpha rivals."

"That is not the case at all," Will snapped. "This is about justice, about...about war, the sentries getting prepped for battle. The Omega scent..."

"Is a ruse," Chilton finished. "Really, Mr. Graham, the very thought an Omega could be involved in a crime as vicious and bloody as this, it's a ridiculous notion at best. Mr. Crawford was wise to ask my second opinion on the matter and frankly, I am a little disturbed by your need to bring Omega dynamics into it. This says more about your state of mind than you may realize. I understand you are unbonded and unmated, and with your Alpha status that can be problematic psychologically."

Will's dark features deepened in fury. "Why does everyone have an opinion about my bedroom?"

"Basic needs fascinate us. I have myself written several papers on the subject of Alpha sexuality and am happy to see that measures are being taken by the current political hopefuls to put an end to such abstinence. Hopefully, they will put the law through immediately--Someone such as yourself will benefit from it, that is a guarantee."

This was a pushy, misguided blow, even for a Beta, and Hannibal moved quickly to stand beside Will, the heel of his palm gently smoothing down the length of Will's arm. Will's fists instantly relaxed and he looked up at Hannibal as though in a daze, his rage so consuming he'd been lost inside of it. Hannibal held out his hand. "Dr. Chilton, it is good to meet you. I am Dr. Hannibal Lecter, an associate of Will's."

Dr. Chilton took the offering, his hand clammy and weak in Hannibal's cool grip. "I understand you are here to monitor Mr. Graham's stability. That may be quite a feat for a fellow Alpha to achieve on a regular basis, and I have to wonder at your decision to take on the challenge." Dr. Chilton gave him a near sneering smile, filled with self importance. "Of course, *I* would have been a better candidate, simply due to my experience with the more aggressive Alpha mindset. However, far be it from me to be stepping on the toes of another professional peer's therapy. I have to ask you, Dr. Lecter, what do you think of Mr. Graham's theory? Surely you can understand the problematic nature of it, and can convince him to see the crime in far less fantastical visions."

Hannibal masked himself in cold effrontery. "I believe Mr. Graham is an expert in what he does and I trust his analysis. Thus, I'm afraid I cannot extend that courtesy to you, Dr. Chilton." Hannibal gave Chilton's pique at this insult a bland smile. "I do believe I have read some one of your papers, Dr. Chilton, specifically 'Latent Alpha Aggression In Paranoid Schizophrenics'. Fascinating reading, though it was based on an older theory already in small circulation from the late 1930's. Word for word, in fact. It was a gesture of goodwill on your part to include the name of the original author. Eventually."

Mention of his early academic misstep reddened Dr. Chilton's cheeks and he stepped back from both Will and Hannibal, his chin tucked tight against his chest in a protective gesture Hannibal found highly amusing. No, one didn't like to have one's dirty laundry aired out in public, especially in front of a couple of Alphas.

"I believe I know your work as well, Dr. Lecter. 'The Study Of Revolutionary Submissives'. Riveting reading, if one likes to peruse the daily lives of peasants and hard working Omegas, whose real contribution to the great ancient wars is suspect at best..."

"There was extensive annotation," Hannibal reminded him. "Though I suppose no matter what proof history offers, it will forever be at the mercy of those who dismiss it."

"As I recall your paper caused quite a bit of controversy among our circles," Dr. Chilton replied, and Hannibal noted the disdain lurking in his features. He really was a small minded man, putting on airs of academic understanding without ever truly learning a thing.

"Controversy?" Will said, raising a brow at Hannibal. "Sounds like an interesting read."

Fully defeated now, Dr. Chilton huffed his good-byes. "I will be seeing you in future," he warned Will. "It is always good to get a fresh perspective, so please come to me if you feel the need to bring in a narrower focus. Good day, Dr. Lecter."

Will leaned against the grey concrete wall, watching Dr. Chilton's clipped march as he left them alone. Will was exhausted and Hannibal stood closer, as though ready to prop him up. "That man is as draining as a sieve. If it isn't in front of his face he can't see it, and even then, it's like he has common sense blindness. What a pompous, snobbish bastard, I pity his patients, he's the kind of asshole who lords himself over others and isn't above making ones who annoy him suffer."

"Your empathy is showing, Will," Hannibal said and Will nearly growled at the jibe.

"I'm done at the lab, I probably should have texted you to let you know, but I guess you were on your way anyway." Will gave him an abashed, tired shrug. "Lunch? There's a fancy enough looking tapas bar in town near your office."

"Hunting for adequate dating sites, Will? I appreciate your efforts to maintain my aesthetics, but I have warned you before, I am not partial to eating out." Will was about to protest and Hannibal cheerfully interrupted before he could start. "I have, however, taken the liberty of bringing lunch, for both of us, with me. It's in a lunchmate cooler in the trunk of my car and will be an adequate repast, though if you are averse to the venue we can arrange something different."


"The basement cafeteria. Unless you don't want to overhear conversations about insect casing analysis over a meal?"

Will grinned at this. "I think I can manage that. Besides, I want to pick your brain about a few things, I like having you to bounce off of."

"I have already expressed to you how interesting I find our conversations. Just be warned that your concepts tend not to bounce so much as pummel."

Will laughed at this, and picked at imaginary lint on Hannibal's shoulder, the near touch sending an electrified jolt through him that he had to fight to suppress. "I couldn't possibly harm you," Will said, still smiling, though the sentiment had a layer of confusion beneath it that left his cheer stumbling. "Not with words. Not in any way."

"The art books were my grandmother's. I spent more time with them than I did my actual schoolwork." Will took another bite of his slice of french batarde, finishing it and moaning in delight over the pate smeared over its surface. "This is really an outlandish spread for a simple afternoon meal, Hannibal. You should have brought a silk tablecloth, some candles and a bottle of wine to accompany it, forensic corpse talk be damned."

"I do have a bottle of wine in my trunk, a delightful malbec of exceptional quality, but it is frowned upon to drink it in a Quantico cafeteria. It's been my experience that FBI agents are notorious teetotallers, an anomaly in law enforcement, I assure you." Hannibal topped up Will's wine glass with sparkling water before putting the squat green Perrier bottle down and picking up his own bubbling glass. "To your health," he said, and clinked the rims of their glasses together.

As a simple faux wine and cheese arrangement for two it was perhaps a tad too genteel for nosy cafeteria goers, though Jimmy Price made sure to invade their space and comment on the quality of a good blue cheese. "Maggots," Jimmy asserted with grave certainty. "The best Carzu Muzu I ever had was crawling with them. They're mostly cut off before sale of course, but what's a little extra protein amongst immune strengthening mold? Is that Roquefort?" Jimmy had helped himself, along with a generous amount of the batarde. "Mm, delightful. Though I have to admit, I'm more of an unpasteurized Stilton man."

Having effectively put Will off the cheese, Jimmy returned to his spot in the cafeteria with Brian Zeller, who gave the lunch a raised brow and a playful, gagging pantomime. Hannibal took the ribbing in stride and was happy to see that Will tucked into the liver pate instead, and with the accompaniment of a mixture of olives, and the slices of batarde that were from an organic bakery not far from Hannibal's office, he would dare to call their little meeting a success. The liver belonged to McDermott, of course, and it had just the right amount of fatty deposits as all alcoholics sported to make the pate the creamy consistency desired.

"Your grandmother was a patron of the arts as well as a swamp maiden." Hannibal smiled as he sipped the sparkling water from his glass, his lips pursed in mischief. "Your words, Will, not mine."

"She was," Will said, slowly nodding. "Don't let my talk of mystery meat and algae encrusted walls fool you, my grandmother was obsessed with art. She picked up massive reference books from library discard sales and used bookstores, she must have had at least a hundred of them, all lined up proudly in her living room, begging for guests and strangers to sneak off to the couch with one of them and educate themselves on the merits of Gainsborough. She didn't have a favourite style, or era, art was a place of magic for her." Will continued to smile as he gently twirled the base of his wine glass in a slow circle on the surface of the table, making a damp spiral beneath it. "I remember coming home from school one day, and I'd had a fight with a couple of the bigger kids who were a few grades up from me. Stood my own, but I earned a black eye and a foul mood and all I could feel was angry. And there was my grandmother, handing me a shot of swamp liquor, and a book full of Japanese prints from the Jazz Age she'd picked up at a foreclosure sale, and didn't she talk my ear off about blocks of colour and simple lines being complex and how culture can be so progressive it infects the way a whole other country sees itself. Before I knew it my black eye was a thing of the past and the bullies I had to deal with were just wisps of mist on the water. My head was full of geisha girls dressed like sloppy flappers and Omega males in full make-up. Bare nipples and limpid eyes. I had good dreams that night."

Hannibal fought to keep the delighted grin he felt from being too apparent, for he was sure Will didn't notice how often he slipped into his Louisiana drawl when talking about his grandmother, his mouth chewing on Cajun phrases that snuck through when he was feeling especially comfortable. "A formidable woman," Hannibal observed. "And yet, as an Omega, a non-person in the ways of our world at present. What we have gained in wealth we have lost in social equality. Human beings are obsessed with cages, it seems. We forever lock up those things we believe are precious only to abuse and neglect them."

Will's rocked back in his chair, his mood serious. "How was your visit with Margot Verger?"

"Strained," Hannibal said. He thought about picking up another piece of the batarde, only to put it back down, his appetite quashed. "I was relieved to hear Dr. Bloom is moving in with her this week and will be staying with her for a protracted period of time." He gave Will's blank look at this information a small grimace. "It seems I may have said too much. You weren't aware they were in a relationship."

"It's not my business, I only know Alana on the periphery of my acquaintances," Will said, shrugging. His empathy was pulling him into Margot's place of suffering, Hannibal noted, watching carefully as Will's shoulders slumped, his mood taking on a striking similarity to the one Margot had projected in her cottage home as she stared with blinking, inwardly crumbling rage into the dying embers of her fireplace. "To have to live with a disgusting piece of shit brother like that...Alana has her job cut out for her. I take it Margot is nothing like him."

"She is an unbonded, sullied Omega, Will. I am pleased that she has found such a strong ally in Dr. Bloom, though I do fear there are times when the ugly grip of depression suffocates even the hottest flame in one's heart. It is a far too common affliction in my practise. The world has forgotten there were Omegas like your grandmother, who forged their own paths and were not given special treatment that has only served to imprison them. Margot Verger is an intelligent, vibrant woman despite the abuse she has endlessly suffered, and hers is not a singular story. There is so much waste of potential, Will. It is a painful thing to understand at times."

Will pressed his lips into a thin line at this. "There is *no* understanding it," he spat. The venom with which he said this took Hannibal aback, and he distracted the ire by packing up the remains of their lunch. "There is no *nice* portion to this tale, Dr. Lecter. No *polite* way to talk about it. Our world is messed up, it's full of inequalities that have nothing to do with natural law or human reason, it is simply punching bags meeting fists and there is *no* other purpose for it."

Will earned the stares of various Quantico staff members at this outburst and Hannibal enjoyed the growing discomfort that had overtaken the large room. "So what do you propose to do about it, my dear Will? Shall we expect you to go on an Alpha killing spree alongside our Ripper to even out the tide?"

"I have no argument with the Chesapeake Ripper," Will said, and Hannibal felt the little flutter in his stomach hammer against his ribcage, making it hard to swallow and breath. He masked himself in calm, but it was not what he was feeling, which was a sudden rush of heat that he felt right into the heels of his feet. He half wondered if he was going into his season, but this sensation was sparked by emotion, not physical need. He wasn't sure what it meant.

"The Chesapeake Ripper has a clear and concise agenda," Will said, his voice too loud for this sort of conversation, but Hannibal wasn't about to stop him. "He wants to create an equal world, to toss off the silk veils society has been hiding behind and reveal the revolting, naked denigration beneath it. He has very good reasons for killing Alphas, and his use of Omega accomplices is not sexual in nature, but one of a comrade in arms. This is political, and it is not a platform I am in disagreement with. If I could string up Mason Verger by the tendons of his neck and slowly watch him suffocate as he dangled from them I wouldn't hesitate to do it."

Brian Zeller dropped his cup of coffee and Will glared at him as he picked it up and tossed it into the waste bin before turning back to Hannibal. Hannibal, however, had already long noted that Zeller and Price had been eavesdropping on their conversation, curious about how two Alphas were so friendly for such an extended period of time in each other's company. There was usually aggressive posturing by now, and they were keenly listening, feeling out the beginnings of Will's fight.

"Don't worry, Dr. Lecter, you have not breached any confidentiality in regards to Margot Verger. I have already figured out the kinds of horrors that she's been through. My question is, what do you believe needs to be done about it? I think the Chesapeake Ripper took a serious misstep in leaving that bastard alone and going for his college days crony. I have to wonder why." Will's anger bubbled on the surface of his soul and Hannibal understood that there was more at play here than a criticism of his psychiatrist's effectiveness. He was seeking out a like minded revolutionary, one who would not find it strange that an Omega grandmother could have such a profound influence on an Alpha. He'd never asked about Will's mother and he never mentioned her. The pain of that absence was clear to Hannibal and he had seen it before in his practise, that usual sadness and it's inevitable end. She had died by her own hand. He wondered what method she used.

It was suddenly obvious to Hannibal that Will Graham was as much an alien in this landscape as he himself was, and the thought sent a signal deep into his belly that fluttered like a trapped sparrow inside of it, one that he clenched his abdominal muscles against in a vain attempt to crush it.

"What do you suggest she do, Dr. Lecter? People hire psychiatrists to hear good advice. In her situation, with no hope of escape, what great survival plan are you capable of giving her?"

"The most obvious one," Hannibal said, knees crossed, hands clasped benign on his lap, his head held high. He was the very image of proud, cold, professional calm.

"I told her to kill her brother."

Will slumped back in his seat at this, his mouth opening and closing in a shocked gasp that finally ended in a highly amused grin. "You didn't."

"I most certainly did."

"You don't expect her to go through with it."

"Sadly, she will not. She is a profound victim of her brother's will and as such shall find extracting herself from his overbearing power over her near impossible. I do admit, the advice is unorthodox, but it is not without substance. Fantasy can fill in what the body cannot perform. The seed of imagination has been planted, and though she has not admitted it, I am sure she readily envisions the various ways in which she murders her brother. A tapestry of inner strength is being built as she slays her demon over and over."

Will raised a brow at this and shook his head, chuckling over the information. "You've filled her mindscape with blood and that doesn't bother you. But I get it, it's better to put all that anger outside of yourself instead of allowing it to destroy you."

Hannibal was delighted that Will so quickly took his side in this therapy, though he of course really did want Margot to kill her brother, the insufferable little monster needed a good lesson and who better to inflict endless torment than one's victim. He had strung McDermott up on the Verger property as a warning that his piggish ways were about to catch up with him, and in the usual Mason style he had been too busy trying to pick a fight with who he perceived was the weakest Alpha in the pack to notice the telegram of destroyed human flesh.

They were alone in the cafeteria now, Price and Zeller having hustled back to the lab, while the rest of the stragglers moved on back to classrooms or offices to pursue justice in far more officious looking spaces. The white expanse was uncomfortable for Hannibal who preferred smaller, cozy rooms, but at least where they were sitting the glare from the fluorescent lights didn't reach them. He'd chosen a table beneath a burnt out bulb and the small section of greyed space was a welcome balm against the rest of the building's white out glare.

"We got some history on McDermott that was pretty unsettling." Will drummed his fingers on the surface of the table, his hands framing the small lunchmate canteen Hannibal had packed their lunch in. Will seemed reluctant to talk about it, his brow furrowing deep as he focused inward, the haunting images wanting to come out to play. But what he'd discovered had hit Will in ways that weren't the usual admiration for style and substance. Hannibal was curious what had brought revulsion instead of envy out of Will, and he waited with grave patience for him to continue.

"Have you ever met a male Omega?" Will asked, surprising him.

Hannibal licked his lips and didn't meet Will's gaze, focusing instead on how quickly he could open the lunchmate and snatch up the knife. He calculated how long it would take for Will to bleed out, just a few minutes, and figured severing the main artery in his neck would be best. He'd make the cut deep enough to slice into his trachea as well, might as well be extra cautious, wouldn't want him screaming for help in a building full of FBI agents.

"Why are you asking?" Hannibal wrapped his hand around the handle of the lunchmate and pressed the button that would release the lid.

"McDermott was involved in the death of a male Omega about twelve years ago. It was pretty gristly, enough that just the description of the crime scene photos in the cold case article is already ghosting the back of my skull. They figure he was a trafficked male Omega from Russia before the political crackdown pretty much killed the industry from that end. He was sold to someone here, they always are, and whoever bought him had ample cash." Will fumbled with his fingers as though not knowing what to do with them. He sat rigid in the uncomfortable plastic seat, a bead of sweat seeping from his brow. Hannibal cocked his head, taking this reaction in with interest.

"Why would this Omega's death affect you so profoundly, Will? I can see that you are upset and yet the display of McDermott's body did little to disgust you. A description, is that all you heard?" Will nodded. "And here you are grinding your teeth and sweating over it. Explain it to me. Why is this case, in your mind, worse?"

Will took in a long, shaking intake of breath, letting it out in an equally trembling gasp. "I don't want to be in that killer's perspective," Will said, and he swallowed as though a foul taste had met his tongue. "He's rancid. That Omega wasn't even treated like cattle, there's more kindness for meat. This was an innocent, wrenched from his home, a human being bought and sold to be tortured for someone's pathetic whim. What they did...First they..."

Hannibal felt the pinch of metal against his neck, his inner dungeon opening ever so slightly. He reeled against the onslaught and the words were out before he could stop them. "Will. Please. Don't."

Will frowned and clamped his mouth shut, his eyes darting all over Hannibal as though taking all kinds of micro expression cues and determining just what it was that had made the man suddenly beg off a description of a crime where he'd been so analytical before. "Male Omegas are extremely rare," Hannibal said, as though it was an explanation and he was unhappy to see that Will didn't find it to be one. "I deal with the Omega perspective a considerable amount in my practise. I fear I may be overloaded with their challenges at present."

Will's confusion softened into an expression of genuine sympathy. He left his seat to stand behind Hannibal, and without warning placed a warm hand on Hannibal's shoulder and gently massaged it. Will had a strong grip, the exact pressure of which Hannibal tucked into his memory palace, committing to the forefront of his mind the differing depths of fingers against muscle, the unrelenting Alpha strength that was poised along the long arm that wonderful, hot hand was attached to.

"I forget you have a job outside of here sometimes," Will said. His hand was still massaging Hannibal's shoulder, and it took all of his inner resources not to curl into the touch, and beg of Will to slide both of his strong hands over him. Will's hand finally left Hannibal's shoulder, only for his nails to absently scratch along the line of Hannibal's back, shoulder to shoulder across the expensive fabric of his suit in an absent gesture that had little to do with ardour and was simply Will utterly lost in thought. "The first suspect that comes to mind is Mason, of course, he's the kind of person who gets his rocks off with this kind of sadism. But I can't help but get the feeling there's something bigger under this. Always, just that nagging, relentless...*something* that I'm not seeing."

His touch was dangerously close to the nape of Hannibal's neck, a pleasure zone that was highly erotic for Omegas, especially when stroked by a passionate Alpha. Will, hopelessly lost in the case, continued to prattle and trace his fingers back and forth, and every time they passed the centre of his shoulder blades Hannibal fought to keep a needful shudder at bay.

Of course, he could just stand up. He could move away from Will's touch and Will's hand would fall to his side, completely clueless as to the erotic storm he was tempting inside of Hannibal. But he was immobilized by how pleasant it was, and when Will's thumb grazed that sensitive spot at the base of Hannibal's neck he couldn't stop the heady sigh that escaped him.

"...And I was thinking, if Jack's going to be getting Chilton involved in all of this, he's got another thing coming. I am not co-operating with that self indulgent ass, he can write a paper about that, The Empath Who Wouldn't. You feeling okay? You look a little pale." Will's hand finally fell away though he remained standing behind Hannibal, who felt glued to his seat, unable to turn. "It really has been a rough day for you, and here I am being a selfish prick and trying to push you beyond your limits. I should be more understanding considering how often Jack does it to me and I don't like it. You're so tense, your muscles are all knotted up, have you ever thought of going to a masseuse? You seem feverish, damn I think you are coming down with something." Will put the back of his hand on Hannibal's forehead, and he might as well have given him a lobotomy it was so electrifying. "Do you want a glass of water or something?"

"I want to give you my heart," Hannibal weakly said. He was wound far too tightly, he realized, he had to bring himself back down from that Heavenly sphere that held Will's touch and descend into his cold calm. It was a difficult task when the man creating his inner chaos was now standing beside him. "Couer du beouf," Hannibal clarified and his shoulders relaxed as Will stepped fully in front of him, looking down at him in mute question. "I am inviting you to my home for dinner tomorrow night. Is eight o'clock acceptable?"

Will was puzzled, but he agreed. "Is this a new kind of therapy we're trying out?"

"It is friendship, Will. I like your company."

"We do have..Interesting conversations." He watched as Will pondered the concept, rolled it carefully around in his imagination, wondering why the air between them had taken on this strange intensity. Hannibal couldn't answer him. He didn't understand it himself. It wasn't heat, that wasn't happening until well into next week. If there were pre-season symptoms they would be too mild to rise above the scent of Alpha his body exuded.

"Couer du beouf, hunh?" Will nodded. He gave Hannibal a smirking grin. "Sure. I'll take your heart and eat it."


Chapter Text

chapter five

"I made a new one yesterday, got into an Art Nouveau mood and went all Aubrey Beardsly. Do you want to see it?" Chloe Dupre was draped crossways on the long couch near the window, the tip of her medium length, jet black hair trailing against the floor, her long, thin legs and bared feet high above her, heels pressed against the window. Hannibal was in an upside down focus and considering Chloe's habit of looking at situations in unconventional ways, it was a fitting posture for her. "That was tons of fun, our little field trip to the piggie farm. When are we doing that again?"

Hannibal looked at the long, rectangular bandage on Chloe's calf, her beige, loose linen pant leg bunched around her knee thanks to gravity. As an Omega bonded to a wealthy Alpha in the music industry and the mother of two lovely Alpha children (a boy and a rare girl), Chloe was part of the upper echelon in coastal city society, though she was rarely paraded out for events. Chloe was outspoken and highly unpredictable. She was driven every other day to Dr. Lecter's appointments due to her habit of escaping her enclave, going so far as to scale a smooth outside wall. Outside his office, on the street below, a limousine patiently waited for her, just as it had the night they'd murdered Galvin McDermott. The driver was a large, Russian man who had lost his Omega daughter to bonding traffickers in the early 1990's. When he learned of McDermott's crimes the wall of a man was just as passionately committed to their cause.

Chloe's troubles started due to her fierce need for independence, as many Omegas struggled with. She'd scaled the walls of her bonded mate's large property on the outskirts of Baltimore and had subsequently been found at an after hours night club, drunk and draped over a couple of Betas in their early twenties. She'd shanked a bouncer with a screwdriver when he tried to shove her into her mate's car, screaming for someone to help her. The judge ordered counselling and thus, here she was, and a good thing too, because Chloe was very skilled at knifework and did not shy from butchery. Part of her mainland upbringing involved prepping meat, and she was exceptionally quick when cutting out the hearts of the carnivorous pigs.

Her Alpha mate insisted on pills to make her more docile and Hannibal pretended to comply, with TicTacs masquerading as lorazepam.

Like Will Graham, Chloe's upbringing was poverty stricken and full of coarse mainland sensibilities. Her father had been a mainland blues singer who toured the delta region and beyond for a good portion of his life, bringing his small family along with him for the ride. Chloe and her mother had followed him down every conceivable stretch of highway that intersected across the interior of the United Main and like most in the near empty mainlands and along the Mississippi Delta, they were poor and survived on scraps, often paid in meals instead of cash. Chloe's mindset had a lot in common with how Will was raised, and Hannibal often thought that if the world could tip itself out of its overly taut, gender bindings the two would become friends.

But, like most Omegas, friendship was not to be, for Chloe was a bonded Omega and was thus hidden away from the world in a vast, Alpha castle, with her own little section of it to reign while her selfish king went through Beta after Beta lover and completely ignored her once the children were born. "He only had me during two heats," she told Hannibal during their first meeting. "I'd think he didn't have a dick at all if it wasn't for the Betas. But really, what do they know? They love his money. They don't bother asking how he got it."

Like many Omegas from the mainland, her bonding was only borderline legal. Chloe's Alpha father was fiercely protective of his Omega daughter, her hardened edge moulded from poverty and her father's boxing lessons. She'd been quite good in the ring, had won middle weight fights in several states in between her father's gigs, a side business that took in enough to keep gas in the car. She had been gaining a reputation herself amongst the poor mainlanders, but it was all to come to a screeching halt when her father was approached by Malcolm Dixon, who decided to step in as her father's manager. He was a nightclub owner in New Orleans, a town that was only just beginning to find its own brand of big city envy and had been slowly adopting the more civilized version of societal structure found in the immensely wealthy coastal cities. He promised her father he'd get him a million dollar record deal within the year. The old man had scoffed at this, he'd been in the blues game long enough not to care about these sorts of promises. He hadn't expected Dixon to have teeth.

While Chloe's father sang the blues about having no home and the one he came from being broken, Dixon secretly handed Chloe off to a record producer from Philadelphia and before she knew it she was bonded to the creep and her dad's first album went platinum.

Money doesn't mean much to people who did just fine without it, especially when it comes wrapped in chains. Chloe's father spent every dime he made trying to get his daughter back, hiring lawyers and petitioning courts and demanding that someone release his captive daughter. But the law was the law, and a bonded Omega was the property of the Alpha who performed the ceremony, and it didn't matter if it was done under duress or subterfuge or any manner of false promises. Bonding was permanent.

Chloe hasn't seen her father in over fifteen years. She'd managed to sneak messages to him through servants in the house who understood her plight and did what they could to keep an underground communication going. But her father was heartbroken, too sad to find comfort in the agony of the blues. He gave up music and crawled inside of bottles in dank New Orleans bars. The last she heard of her mother, she was busy cleaning houses for elderly mainlanders in exchange for room and board. She was always on the move, and contacted her own bonding partner once a year, just to make sure he was still alive.

Her father's legacy was infamous enough that Hannibal often heard commercials using Chloe's father's songs. The last one, a fervent lament on the loss of family, was used for laundry detergent. Chloe's Alpha mate made millions on the usage rights. At the rate her father's music was being sold, he was now the king of the jingle instead of king of the blues.

It isn't easy, being the sequestered princess of a musical legend. He imagined her Alpha was especially proud of himself for capturing her in his trap, and Hannibal felt a great deal of sympathy for Chloe's plight, and there were many times he felt the weight of that iron clasp around his neck as she bitterly bemoaned her fate He would tug on his shirt collar, in a vain effort to alleviate its haunting pinch.

"There is a specific pace that must be maintained in order for our cause to be fully appreciated. Too many deaths in succession will be wasteful, we want the issue behind the murders to be foremost in the public mind. We must guide them through our art, opening the collective consciousness in a graduating series of lessons. This is the only way a society is capable of learning. You must remember, Chloe, we are fighting against an ideology that has a significant amount of advertising. To counter it, our messages must be of high quality and unforgettable."

"I doubt anyone is going to forget what he was full of any time soon." She crinkled up her nose and snorted. "Oink. Oink. That Tattle Crime writer had a great time with that one, she picked up on the humour of it right away. Did you read her latest article? It's a real hoot, you'll laugh, she's got a whole 'greatest hits of the Chesapeake Ripper' thing going on in it. Her headline slayed me: The Culling Of The Pigs. The article picked apart every one of your Alpha victims, man, those guys were real chunks of pus. I think we have a fan in Freddie Lounds." Chloe leaned up and tore at the bandage on her calf. "Come on, you want to see this, I know you love my work."

This was true, he was forever fascinated by Chloe's method of self adornment, a collection of tattoos she designed and pierced into her skin herself, the ink a replacement for a bad cutting habit she'd developed after bonding and her subsequent lack of freedom. Chloe was a woman who had never been allowed to bloom and her reactions to the world around her remained childlike, the same sixteen year old girl in a thirty year old woman's body. The tattoos were progress reports. To Hannibal, it was as if she was marking up her skin with as much ink as possible to destroy the natural beauty of it, to mar that unhealthy idealization that had ruined her family. Battle scars weren't all red lines or badly healed wounds. Chloe had a warrior's skin, full of contrasting colours and magical talismans.

She was an exceptional artist. The Beardsly tattoo did not disappoint, the clean lines of Salome with her twin plates in hand bleeding a black puddle of ink against Chloe's ankle. One didn't need the image of John the Baptist's head to know how neatly it had been severed.

Hannibal felt a swell of pride rise within him at how quickly his army was pulling strength from its vast collection of darkness. Soon, the blood would flow upon the world and nothing could be caged again. He licked his lips at the thought, liking its iron willed flavour.

The house was more castle than living space, Will thought, and he felt small on the front step, the bottle of wine in his hand weighing heavy against his palm. He wasn't a huge fan of fermented grapes, preferring whiskey and beer, but he'd done his best and opted for a merlot since Hannibal seemed to him to be more of a red man.

He hesitated slightly as he searched for a doorbell and found none, the older Victorian estate stubbornly adhering to an old fashioned knocker instead. Will curled his grip around the cold metal and stomped the feeling into his feet, sending tendrils of snow that had collected on the concrete into a powdery flurry. He knocked three times in steady succession and hoped Hannibal wasn't too far in the recesses of the massive home not to hear him. Such a large space for a single man, Will thought, and he had to wonder just how wealthy Hannibal was. He had a king's mindset with a place like this.

Hannibal opened the door and smoothly bid Will to come in, the bottle of wine offered which Hannibal graciously took from Will's hand and gave his thanks. Will stood in the foyer of the home with a sense of overwhelmed wonder, the large oak door shutting of its own accord behind him with an audible click that sent his nerves instantly on edge. Excess and elegance were the words for this evening, and Will's wide blue eyes drank in the large chandelier that sparkled from where it hung in the ceiling of the foyer. Vast, bevelled oak archways led into equally ornate rooms filled with antique treasures, and a grand set of stairs led to upper floor bedrooms of which there had to be many, the oak polished and gleaming and overpowering in its stately place in the centre of the foyer. Will could easily envision heads of state with demure, beautiful Omegas draped on their arms descending the wide steps, a collection of high society at its base, clapping in approval of their regal presence.

Still, even with this admittedly brief inspection, Will's empathy began to dissect what he saw, and the perfection of the house put cracks in its comfort. He couldn't shake the feeling that the mansion was nothing more than a museum, its rooms too cold and impersonal and filled with the history of strangers to truly be a place Hannibal would call a home.

As though sensing Will's initial thoughts, Hannibal guided Will to the left of the grand staircase and towards an area nearer to the back of the house, where the light was slightly dimmer. The garish, pastel hued baroque furnishings were now traded for familiar earth tones, and Will didn't quite understand why this instantly gave him a sense of relief, as though he'd been worried he'd have to fight the chaos of Alpha over-ornamentation for the night. As he was guided through a clean and impressive but not overly ostentatious kitchen, Will understood that the rest of the house was exactly what his first impressions had suggested, and it was nothing more than a ruse for snobbish guests to exclaim over. Without him saying a word, Will knew that Hannibal didn't truly live in other areas of the house, and he wouldn't be surprised to discover he had a cozy cave within it somewhere that held his messier habits, where he walked barefoot and at ease in rumpled, drowsy comfort. The image made Will inwardly smile, though he was sure Hannibal would take issue with seeing him as anything less than perfect. "You have a lovely home."

"Thank you. I admit, it is a tad overly grandiose for a single man, a fact I'm sure you have already tucked into your assessment. I do like the finer things in life, and one must indulge in them when one can." He raised the bottle of wine Will had brought with him in an exaggerated flourish. "I do believe this is one of them. A taste before dinner, to bring ease to the palate."

Two wine glasses were set on the kitchen island before Hannibal and he deftly uncorked Will's offering, his movements precise and graceful as though he were performing. In a way he was, for Will got the impression Hannibal didn't get many intimate guests like this, and playing host was one of his passions, though he rarely had someone he genuinely wanted to perform for. The glasses were clinked in a proper toast and Will sipped at his wine, forgetting to circle it as Hannibal did, sniffing its heady aroma before delicate, soft lips upturned to take a drink. Hannibal's eyes closed in seeming bliss over the wine, his tasting ending in a small sigh that did strange things to Will's nerves. "A delightful selection," Hannibal breathed, the tiniest droplet of wine still clinging to his bottom lip and Will's breath caught when the tip of Hannibal's tongue escaped his lips and lapped it up.

He could feel it, the creature staggering in a confused jumble at the back of his mind, the black feathers of the great stag tickling his consciousness. The black stag had visited his dreams with alarming frequency in the past week, his inward visions full of thorny crowns of antlers that grew with prehistoric largesse the more he thought on the Ripper's crimes, obscuring the brutality from view. The subject of natural remedies had come up in the lab earlier that week, and without prompting Price had told him that deer antlers had medicinal properties, that they were reputed to have a calming effect and cleansed the blood. Will kept the coincidence of Price's discussion of antlers and his own dreams well out of the conversation. Will figured his veins must have a lot of poison in them for the stag's crown to be wrapping him up so tightly in its bony cage.

"It smells delicious in here," Will said, his mouth watering as Hannibal opened his oven door, rich meaty aromas wafting out of it in waves.

"Beef heart, stuffed with mushrooms and spinach with a reduction obtained from the heart's rich juices. Please, my dear Will, have a seat in the dining room, there is a setting waiting for you. I will continue to add the finishing touches and will only be a moment."

He said it with such pleasant gentility that Will had to bite the inside of his cheek in an attempt quell his laugh. Hannibal was treating the meal with a formality befitting a three Michelin star restaurant and while there was no doubt the food would be of the same quality, he couldn't help but be amused by the theatre of it. He brought his glass of wine with him into the adjoined dining room, taking in the wall of potted herbs and the rich, forest colours, breathing in the feeling of being outdoors though one was inside, in a warmth that Will was finally able to relax in. This was one of Hannibal's favourite rooms, Will noted, and he could easily see the man spreading his notes and papers across the vast, oak dining table, revelling in the natural space and its organic ambiance. Just beyond the dining room was an atrium, a veritable greenhouse filled with exotic potted plants that nearly obscured the curved windows above them. In the corner an ornate harpsichord lay in wait, its prominence in the room suggesting Hannibal often stroked its keys, and Will wondered what sort of music was brought to life in that equally beautiful space. He wouldn't be surprised to learn Hannibal composed pieces himself, he was simply that brand of man, so immersed in talent and brilliance that to expect anything else would be insulting. Chef, surgeon, psychiatrist, composer, artist--Hannibal's sketches had earned him a scholarship to John Hopkins--it was unlikely anyone in the world matched his perfection. His Alpha drive no doubt had shaped him into this mythical being, the muted scent of Hannibal's gender a ruse that Will was wise not to underestimate.

The meal was brought out in a theatrical flourish, thin slices of perfectly cut stuffed beef heart artfully arranged on his plate along with a quick, easily forgotten explanation of its accompaniments, all of them complex and tasty, the food a testament to Hannibal's patient skill. They sat in near silence as they enjoyed the meal, with Hannibal closing his eyes and revelling in each tender bite while Will carefully watched him. He really was lovely to look at, Will thought, and his chin collapsed into a tic at this, his gaze rambling along the walls, the thin lines of near black grooves in the oak table, the glint of light on his fork, anywhere but on the deer-like countenance of Hannibal, who when he turned to Will and gently smiled appeared delicate and soft enough to melt should Will dare to touch him.

'And why would I dare?' Will thought, confused again by the emotions he couldn't catalogue churning inside of his gut.

"I think some people deserve to die," Will said instead.

The bluntness of his opinion startled Hannibal, whose knife and fork took a tiny misstep upon his plate and clanked against the white ceramic. "That depends on who you have in mind, Will. Do you have a list prepared? Are you planning on a killing spree against those whom you deem unfit for this world? I'm curious as to how you would define them."

"I'm sorry," Will said, frowning and hoping he hadn't spoiled dinner with the strange outburst. "I'm not much for small talk."

"Nor am I," Hannibal cheerfully replied, and he picked up his glass of wine, taking a sip to cleanse his palate before returning to his meal. "It is one of my favourite things about our friendship. I appreciate your straightforward discourse."

"Some people find it rude."

"Politeness alone does not make for good manners, Will. A great deal of gauche concepts can be hidden behind pleasant words. Please, feel free to be open with me. What is on your mind?"

Will sliced and took a bite of the heart first, chewing on his thoughts and descending into the absolutely delicious offering Hannibal had given him. He swallowed and closed his eyes, his body grateful for the sustenance against the unsavoury nature of his conversation. "I was thinking about your advice to Margot Verger, about how she should kill her brother and I couldn't help but feel a resonance with that. McDermott had to have been involved in the death of that Omega, there was a witness, and having that knowledge makes what was done to him almost...I don't know...Too *easy*."

Hannibal contemplated this. "Really? I should think the display was fairly detailed in execution."

"It was, and the message was loud and clear, that this was a pig who needed to suffer. That's where I'm having a problem with it." Will took a large gulp of his wine. "The Ripper shouldn't have stuffed his corpse with pig hearts. Once a person is dead there's nothing left to hurt. He should have left McDermott there to hang for days, until his wounds were full of maggots." Will glanced over at Hannibal who had paused over his meal. "Sorry. My thoughts aren't exactly palatable."

"His crimes can inspire extreme anger in anyone, though perhaps you are especially sensitive due to your background. It has been my experience that mainlanders, though poverty stricken in the material sense, have a far more reaching understanding of human needs. The supposedly progressive coastal populations tend to be far more conservative and hoarding in their sentiments, and it is always a source of surprise to me that the bulk of the United Main's settlements are ones with an ocean view. A harkening back to ocean trade routes, I assume, though the mainlands are not lacking in resources. I imagine it is the conceit of the eighteenth century still shaping our perceptions--Only the privileged are granted a view of the sea."

"The gorging of the coast, isn't that what the historians call it?"

"I suppose the lifestyle of our coastal cities appeals to our base, selfish nature. Would you like more wine?"

"Yes. And I agree with you, but it's just so strange to me, how after all this time mainlanders still have difficulty here. They can't...Adapt." Will frowned, struggling to find the words that fit his experience and coming up painfully empty. "I mean, it happened to me, I left the mainland and got into the police academy and ended up on the force in New Orleans, moving up the ranks to homicide within a couple of years. Maybe it was that kind of quick promotion that did it, I never had time to really think about where I was living, about how different the culture was. It bothers me still how much I have to just sit quiet while the elephant in the room keeps sitting between everything."

Hannibal took the last bite of his meal before finishing it off with a healthy sip of wine. He placed his knife and fork on the top of his plate, and Will, who was also finished, did the same. "What elephant would that be, Will?"

"The Omega one," Will said. He shook his head as Hannibal took away his plate. "Thank you, that was a lovely meal. Honestly, I've never had something so delicious, but then, I admit I'm all hot dogs and flapjacks when I'm left on my own."

"An unfortunate, unhealthy habit I must break you of, Will, and you must come to my home to share meals with me more often. As for Omegas, it is an issue that pervades every waking moment of our lives at present, thanks to the Ripper, and as an Alpha yourself I have to wonder why you find such empathy with the killer. You yourself have opted out of mating with a suitable Omega, and yet their plight is at the forefront of your mind at all times. As though you have a deeply personal stake in it."

Will sighed as Hannibal cleared their plates, quickly placing them in the sink before returning to his guest with the rest of the wine. He generously poured for both himself and Will. "I have made dessert, though perhaps we can wait on it. I've found the heart rather heavy."

"My mother was an Omega," Will said, taking up his glass, and losing himself in its dark, red hue, its resemblance to blood unsettling him. "She wasn't a mainlander, she was from a wealthy coastline family from New York and she was highly educated. She met my dad during a summer vacation trip with her family who thought it would be fun to see how the swamp people lived. I guess my dad was a real charmer back then." Will laughed at the very thought, and it wasn't the first time he wondered what his soft spoken, keenly intelligent mother had seen in the rough and tumble man who fixed boats for a living and survived on squirrels and shrimp. "Her family disowned her when they bonded, called her a whore, accused her of insanity. That tends to run in the family, I guess. Her father tried to get it annulled, said she could blame it on heat madness. She refused. Her own mother told her educating her was a huge mistake, it was a waste, and she should have been bonded off to someone more suitable at sixteen like the rest of her friends. She was in her twenties when she met my dad, and she told me the Alpha suitors stopped calling around the house because they assumed she wasn't virginal. Sullied Omegas aren't high on the bonding list."

"I imagine she felt quite adrift in this new, more inclusive world. Omegas are highly sensitive."

"No. I know it hurt her the way her family treated her, but when I see her in my memory I remember how she'd laugh, how she'd dance with my father in the muck, the black slime staining her up to her knees while she helped him haul out a stuck boat. She loved working with him, and the people in my grandmother's community loved her to pieces. We were always going to some celebration or other, someone getting bonded, or a baby being born. Even funerals were excuses to celebrate. Always a cause to have a party, that's the mainland way, and everyone is expected to attend. You don't have much to give, except yourself." Will closed his eyes and sadly sighed. "The work dried up, like it always did, and with me approaching school age, dad felt it necessary to provide for his family with a steadier paycheque. The only way to do that was to settle along the coast and, well, the freedom my mom had in the swamp disappeared overnight. Dad got a job in an auto plant and we had a little house on the sand on a Florida beach and there were lots of rich people who vacationed there who knew her parents. If they caught her sunning herself on the back porch, they'd report it and my father was threatened with jail time if he didn't keep her properly hidden. Omegas aren't to be seen at all in public according to Florida law, it's to 'protect' them from the possible violence of unbonded Alphas. I've never seen any evidence of that in my career, it's always the mates who do the most harm."

Hannibal clasped his hands beneath his chin, mulling over what Will told him. "That must have been a very difficult adjustment, to go from having limitless freedom to find oneself caged again."

"She got depressed," Will said, nodding. "She home schooled me, but she was smart and needed so much more. She stopped laughing. She completely shut down. One of my clearest memories of her is watching her sit against her bedroom window, staring out into the field behind our house. Never at the ocean. Her mind was desperately trying to get back to the land." Will's head shook. "One day, she stepped out of the house across the sand dunes and into the high tide. They found her body almost a mile down the coast. My father never forgave himself. He quit his job and hauled me back into the swamp and never looked back. When I told him I was going to New Orleans to become a cop he damned near disowned me himself and accused me of being in league with the murderous pricks who killed my mother." Will could feel his Cajun drawl seeping out of him, the bayou pulling on his memories, luring him back. "I sometimes wonder if he wasn't right. The world is so different here, I don't fit into it at all. I was hungry more times than I can count, but I miss that damp liberty."

"You aren't limited, Will," Hannibal reminded him. "As an Alpha you have full status in any portion of society."

"That's the biggest lie we tell ourselves," Will bitterly shot back. "The facts are we're only as good as the next Alpha babies we manufacture. The message from the Ripper is one about revolution, and I guess in many ways you and I have become sympathetic to that."

"Then why do we waste our time here, Will? Shall we pack it all in and head for the swamp, or the arid deserts, spending our days slicing open cacti for drinking water? The empty, vast prairies are calling us, Will. We shall pitch tents in the mountains."

Hannibal's playful dig at the unpopulated areas of the United Main earned him an eye roll. "I've managed to keep some of my origins alive at Wolf Trap. It's isolated enough, and the scarce locals are Appalacian expats who hate the coast. I'm mostly keeping myself out of this world of excess, Hannibal, and doing what I can to create a balance so I can do my job. Believe me, it's not easy to maintain, and I tend to slip more into mainland mentality than is comfortable for our friends at Quantico."

Hannibal smiled at this, and Will felt a sudden urge to ask probing questions, to demand to know of Hannibal's own background and how it came to be that someone as open minded to the culture of the mainland could come from such obvious old money. What he knew of the man was highly limited and based on the scant information he'd gleaned from Hannibal's office. He'd been born in Lithuania, to noble parents. He was orphaned at a young age and there a wide gap in his history appeared, though at some point he'd ended up in a boarding school in Paris at seventeen and then quickly earned his scholarship to the United Main. He once told Will he had a twin sister, named Mischa, and from the way Hannibal's eyes had misted over in wistful remembrance, Will edged away from further discussion of her, sensing the deep sorrow her loss had etched into the man.

But now he was curious, and with his own revelations placed in plain view, he made the fateful decision to plunge deeper into Hannibal's murky waters and asked, with his usual bluntness, "Why did you come here?"

Hannibal gave Will a warm smile at this, aimed over the rim of his wine glass. "Opportunity, of course. I have already a expressed a love of fine things, and the United Main offers the best method to obtain them. I am of noble birth, as you know, but it is not the crux of my wealth, I came here with nothing more than a determination to make my education work for me. Lithuania's economy had collapsed during my family's hasty exit, and though the Lecter castle remains, I have heard it has mostly descended into ruins."

"Coming here wasn't about money," Will said, knowing well that Hannibal was of that class where such things weren't spoken of, that it was crass to mention nickels and dimes. "The truth is, you have no interest in any of the objects you have accumulated. You enjoy them for the temporary gifts they are. If this house burned down, you wouldn't rescue a thing."

Hannibal grinned widely at this, revealing the small, sharp teeth that were usually hidden beneath his soft lips. "Is it your turn to analyze me, Will?"

"An observation," Will carefully said. "You didn't come here to be a success, your exodus was solely based on survival."

They were leaning close to one another, the dim light of the dining room accentuating the deep, almost feminine lines of Hannibal's cheeks and the shape of his face, making Will's own scraggly beard and unkempt hair all the more feral in the half light. Hannibal, at the head of the table and Will, close beside him to his right, their knees nearly touching. In this close proximity, Will could see the small, red line, the scar an inch in length and near the centre of Hannibal's throat. Curious, Will touched it, the rough texture of it proving it had been an especially cruel cut, one that had healed over and had been reopened more than once.

His uncertain, darting gaze met Hannibal's steady, concentrated scrutiny, his maroon eyes betraying something akin to fear. His lips were partially open, and Will could feel the heat of his breath on his cheek, a shivery, fragile thing. How easy it would be, Will knew, to just lean that tiny millimetre closer and steal that uneasy exhale with his mouth...

"It's time for dessert," Hannibal said, hastily pulling back and dispelling the strange moment, leaving Will feeling disoriented. If it had made Hannibal uncomfortable, he was polite enough not to show it and he was cheerful as he escaped into his kitchen, proudly describing the dessert they were about to enjoy. "Poached pears in mulled wine with creme fraiche and a swirl of raspberry confit. A delightful way to enjoy the fruits of summer during the harsh misery of winter. It is a reminder, that pleasant days are set to return." He placed the bowl with gracious pomp before Will and then settled with his own. "Please, Will," Hannibal said, bidding him to take note of it. "Enjoy it."

Will blinked and shakily took up a spoon, digging into the soft pears with a distracted air that belied his sudden shock at himself. It was sweet and aromatic, the cloying aroma of cloves lurking on his tongue after every bite.

"Are you familiar, Will, with Caravaggio's 'Sisyphus Bonding Death'? It is an especially poignant piece, given what we have been discussing as of late, the myth offering an oddly comforting message. As you know, the myth states that King Sisyphus avoided death by seducing and bonding himself to him, only to be punished by Zeus for the unkindness of his treachery, who removed the bond and ordered Thanatos to kill him. But Thanatos loved Sisyphus, and refused to bring him to Hades. So Zeus, citing paternal love for the needs of Thanatos, allowed Sisyphus his eternal life but forced him to live out eternity pushing a boulder up a massive hill only for it to roll back down in an infinite exercise in futility."

Will nodded, knowing the art piece he was referring to well. "The myth further says that Sisyphus is given a reprieve twice a year to satisfy the longing of Thanatos, which is easily interpreted as his heat cycle. As the god of death and as a male Omega, he does not have the ability to create life. Their periodic union is equally futile."

"Barren, apparently, though there is modern evidence this may not entirely be the case. Male Omegas have perfectly functioning uteruses. They have significantly higher rates of miscarriages, however, giving the misconception that they are unable to be impregnated."

"In any event, they're not having children. It's an adequate punishment for such a brutal king," Will added. "Sisyphus murdered guests, committing a serious crime against xenia. I have to feel sorry for Thanatos, however, who doesn't seem to be getting much out of that bargain." Will raised a brow and his wine glass to Hannibal. "Sisyphus was a misanthropic asshole."

"I wouldn't say that is true of Thanatos at all," Hannibal said, digging into the pears by slicing them with the edge of his spoon, and devouring its sweetness before continuing. "The god of death can hardly hope to find a mate, and yet Thanatos has made an arrangement in his favour. The imagining of Caravaggio is that twice a year Sisyphus gains his reprieve, and how much more pleasure can there be than to cast aside one's burdens in order to entertain the needs of a willing lover. One wonders how often Sisyphus must think of those times of year when he no longer need push that boulder up the hill, to lose himself instead in warm arms embracing him. In that context it is no longer a myth describing futility. It becomes an allegory of endurance meeting reward."

"So is that a hint as to why the United Main held such an interest for you, enough to immigrate here? You align yourself with the brutal King Sisyphus, who suffers in vain, and you gain this temporary reprieve on foreign shores." Will frowned and took a sip of wine, liking how the sour notes rolled past the sweetness still lingering on his tongue. "Or are you more Thanatos, forever surrounded by destruction until you can take leave of it, and allow a brute like Sisyphus to ravage you?"

Hannibal licked his lips before taking up his glass of wine and emptying it. "The painting is currently on display at the Baltimore Opera House, on loan from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. I have not yet had an opportunity to view it."

Dessert was finished and Hannibal took away their empty plates, leaving them discreetly in the sink to be washed up later, and quickly dismissing Will's attempts to help clean up. It had been, despite the small social faux pas on Will's part, a highly pleasant evening and one that he was eager to tuck into that happy place of memories, somewhere in between fishing on the river on his Wolf Trap property and rainy days spent pouring over his grandmother's art books. Hannibal bid Will to accompany him into the atrium, where the harpsichord waited with a benign, opulent patience for Hannibal to sit on the bench and stroke its smooth, white keys.

"The harpsichord can be highly disharmonious in the wrong hands," Hannibal said, and fussed through several sheets of music until he settled on one that Will recognized had Hannibal's careful calligraphy inked on it. He bit the inside of his cheek again and tried not to let his mirth show. He really did have the man pegged.

"Your own composition," Will said, shaking his head. "There's nothing you can't do."

"I am sure you are not lacking in talents, Will. Do you play any musical instruments?"

"I do," Will said, and Hannibal gave him a curious look at this. "The piano. My mother was quite the talent, but I'm afraid I'm limited in my classical repertoire. My grandmother was a ragtime fan and most of my practice involved Scott Joplin over Beethoven."

"I would love to hear it."

"Scoot over, and I'll prove it."

Amused, Hannibal shifted to the other end of the bench, and Will sat close beside him, his own calloused fingers arranged over the keys in suspenseful readiness as his arm brushed against Hannibal's chest. Their close proximity sent a sense of calm through Will, and he found he wasn't embarrassed by his talents as he usually was when a spontaneous performance was demanded of him. "I don't imagine the person who made this harpsichord ever expected it to be abused in this way, but...Here goes..."

He launched into a rendition of 'Pineapple Rag' which turned out better on the harpsichord than he'd anticipated, the shivering notes of the instrument complimenting the usual out of tune timbre of the pianos that ragtime was typically performed on. Its infectious, upbeat tune sent a wave of good feeling through the more serious space, adding a layer of confidence to Will's playing that made him hit the notes in jerking playfulness, his shoulders rolling with the cheerful rhythm. Hannibal laughed as he finished the piece with a tinkling flourish, and insisted Will must visit again if only to bring such unexpected life into the grateful harpsichord, which was only now remembering its baroque leanings. Will assured Hannibal that he would bring his grandmother's old playbook, and he'd bang out a few cakewalks.

Hannibal leaned over him to reach for his own music sheets that were set on the edge of the harpsichord. He didn't know why or how it had happened, only that his body was working of its own accord and before he was conscious of his actions he slid his arms around Hannibal's waist and pulled him close, kissing him deeply.

In reflection, Will could still feel how light and hollow Hannibal's bones felt, the sinewy muscle tense beneath his touch. But those lips and that mouth, so sweet in how they tasted, and Will was still hungry as he explored them, taking great pleasure in the way Hannibal melted beneath him, his tongue tentatively searching along Will's ravishment.

He let out a small gasp as he pulled away, shocked at what he had done. Hannibal was speechless, his eyes wide, that beautiful mouth panting slightly in mute surprise. Will tore himself away, horrified with himself for having ended what had been a perfect evening between friends like this, and that was what Hannibal was, that elusive thing that had been so difficult for him to find, that deep and loving *friend*...And this was his self destruct button going into overdrive, destroying that which made him happy, because Will Graham wasn't supposed to find happiness, Will Graham was a miserable, poor, angry Alpha mainlander with a dead Omega mother and the world didn't fit him, not even a little.

He kissed another Alpha. His chemistry was seriously messed up. He'd fucked up this friendship, it couldn't be repaired after a stupid, stupid stunt like that, he was sure of it.

"Hannibal...I'm...I'm sorry. I'm so sorry..."

Hannibal's voice was weak, as though he couldn't catch his breath. "Will..."

"I...I'm going to go."

Will grabbed his coat and practically ran out of Hannibal's house, the door slamming behind him, his hands shaking as he jumped into the driver's seat and put the key into the ignition. He peeled onto the main road, eager to get back to Wolf Trap and away from this night, away from the vibration of that kiss still haunting his lips and away from the nagging, insistent and utterly wrong memory that Hannibal, a fellow Alpha, had *returned* it.


Chapter Text

chapter six

Janine Avion is a pale, meek Omega of twenty-one years who was sullied at sixteen years old by a Beta boyfriend when she was at band camp, making her an unbondable social pariah. She is as thin as onion paper and just as transparent, every emotion plain on her tiny features, and her hands shake as she wipes the tears from her eyes with a piece of silk cloth Hannibal gave her for the purpose. Tissues aren't soft enough for her delicate skin, and tend to leave red splotches on her cheeks when she tries to wipe them dry. Janine rarely speaks when she's in her therapy session with Hannibal and when she does it's in a voice so tiny it's a struggle to know she's capable of moving her mouth at all.

"They send me here because they think you'll be fooled into bonding me," she whispered.

Hannibal smiled fondly at her at this, ensuring her that there was to be no recrimination for this belief. "I have no such temptations from you, my dear girl. Your parents are overbearing social upstarts who are disappointed their ticket to fancy society engagements has been compromised and are hoping I am desperate enough, as an Alpha of a *certain age*, to take what I can get to start a family--even an unfortunate sullied girl who is exceptionally pretty. I have no such designs."

Janine looked perturbed and relieved. Her fingers knotted together, her hands shaking.

"What I am planning to do is build you, like one builds a castle, to make it an impenetrable fortress that no enemy can overtake. It will have walls made of thick rock that no gun nor spear can penetrate. The battle is coming, but you are safe, Janine, do you know why?"

Janine silently shook her head, blonde hair so fair it was nearly white falling in wisps across her equally pale face.

"Who lives in castles, Janine?"

Janine shrugged. "Kings?"

"Yes. And queens. But these people come and go and are weak when they are on their own. Supreme rule does not mean supreme power do you understand what I am telling you?"

Janine shook her head, refusing to allow her gaze to meet his and kept her chin tucked hard against her chest, too terrified to speak. Hannibal sighed in genuine sympathy and placed his hand beneath her chin, forcing her to look up at him. She did so with fearful submission, her large green eyes like emeralds in her pale, round face.

"Warriors live in castles, Janine. It is they who protect the kings and queens, who are themselves weak, helpless even, without them. You are not to blame for the whims of your heart, and as a warrior what you do with your body is exclusively your business. It has nothing to do with the will of your parents, or the laws of society, or what a foolish, hormonal Beta boy thinks of you. Warriors have scars, Janine, and you already have a few on your heart." He leaned closer to her, unable to keep the oddly maternal feelings welling within him, a latent Omega trait that signalled his heat was approaching soon, probably within the next couple of days. It was one of the clearer signals, this sudden need to nurture, a feeling that made him pause at every cherub faced child he happened to meet and remark, without a shred of irony, "I could eat you up!"

He ran his palm along Janine's round, pale cheeks and cupped her face in his hands. Such a delightful child, one in desperate need of love and understanding, the lack of both having left her a shell of her potential. Janine had been forced into a tiny, quiet life, and was patiently suffocating within it. Hannibal was looking forward to bringing the glint of her sword to the surface, breaking that still glass caging her soul with a shattering battle cry.

"This boy took something from you that was precious and he knew the consequences of that," Hannibal assured her. "Tell me, is there something precious that he has right now, that he dotes on and adores and gives a love that he refused to give to you, despite his taking?"

Janine's voice was a tiny, barely heard whisper. "His car."

"Of course it is," Hannibal said, and he let his hand fall. How like his dear, twin sister Mischa she was, he inwardly remarked, so soft and nervous, wide eyes filled with an innocence that remained even in their captivity. He would give her the tools to protect it, he would hone her innocence into a powerful, steel edge. Saints made the best warriors. They were relentless in holy zeal.

"Destroy it," Hannibal instructed her, and she shivered in confusion when she met his gaze, nearly backing away from the red pinpricks in evidence deep within it.

"H-How?" she whispered.

"My dear child, in any way you wish. If you burn it and he happens to still be in it, all the better. Gasoline and a match is a simple solution, though I believe you are a far more creative girl than that, I've seen all of your paintings. It's why your parents sent you to me, they were concerned about your obsession with painting rotted hearts."

She had noticed, of course, that Hannibal had placed one of her more disturbing works on his office wall, behind his desk, the image of a spoiled heart pierced with fingers spread wide, tearing it to pieces. It held all the elements of hyper realism, her careful shading adding a three dimensional effect that made it appear as if the heart was genuinely dripping black blood out of the frame, the fingers dug into it ready to reach out and tear the organ from the viewer. Her mother, with tears in her eyes, called Janine's work 'macabre'. Hannibal knew better. Like the precious young woman who created it, it was beautiful.

She became slightly more animated as their meeting went on, eagerly taking in Hannibal's advice on how to best destroy the car, and perhaps even a cut break line would not be out of the question, though it would be hard to manage the specifics of the victim. Her porcelain cheeks held more colour in them when their session was over, and Hannibal promised to bring in some paint supplies and they would forgo the next few sessions so she could create in peace and without judgement. He was sure there were far more violent musings beneath that forced quiet, and he was eager to draw them out. Strength, once recognized and released, was difficult to put back into chains.

After sending her back to the stifling discomfort of her family home, and giving her a few pointers on how to deal with it ("Simply imagine all the fun you will have when you set fire to your mother's bedroom curtains, for practice. They will accuse you of being a pyromaniac, of course, but the flames, my dear girl, they are positively *cleansing*...") Hannibal was free for the rest of the morning to go over his patient notes--he hesitated to call them 'battle plans', though this is exactly what they were--and with this rather ample amount of free time his mind wandered to the events of the previous evening.

Will's attraction to him was evident, and while he wanted to remain the aloof and unrequiting psychiatrist, shocked by his patient's amorous transference and proof of Will's instability, the facts were becoming far too complex for his liking. Will had kissed him and he'd liked it, going so far as to lean into his touch and part his lips wider, allowing Will further access. If it had continued, there was no doubt in Hannibal's mind that he would have lured Will into his basement lair, and after a heated exchange of dominance versus submission, where they'd engaged in all the commonalities of his recent fantasies, Hannibal would have been sated and riding on the high of an orgasm as he killed him.

That would have been unfortunate, for he was growing very fond of Will, and this was no mean feat for Hannibal placed exceptionally few people in that realm. He was surprised that a scruffy, angry little FBI profiler who was perpetually dog scented had been the one to breach that particular barrier and wondered what this said about himself. Upon reflection he genuinely enjoyed Will's earthy scent, slightly musky and tainted with motor oil from years of fixing fishing boats and a pervasive, forest flavour to him that Hannibal's keen memory brought rushing back to his tongue. He licked his teeth, as though tasting a morsel of Will that remained, and was disturbed by the jolt of longing that shot through him, slightly swelling both his sex organs and leaving him feeling feverish.

There was more than physical attraction at stake, Hannibal understood this, and in the past month he had forged a strong friendship with Will Graham, one that was mutual and that eased their combined loneliness. He truly did enjoy the man's company, and if he felt an ache when he couldn't see him due to outstanding appointments or conflicting schedules, it was due to that familiar emptiness creeping back, one he was sure Will suffered as well. Their closeness sometimes led Hannibal to believe that Will was that rare creature who would be permitted to see him, who could be let in and not in just the metaphorical sense. The very idea made Hannibal's stomach flutter.

A clink of iron and the scar at Hannibal's neck pinched and he recoiled from the thought, pushing the memory of Will Graham and his tender, questioning touch away. Such a foolish notion, thinking an Alpha would do more than take, for it had been his unfortunate experience that this was their prime function, to bully and shove themselves on the submissive. He'd been forced into that role enough to know the cruelty of that game. Fascinating as Will Graham was, he refused to play it with him.

Playing Alpha was always an uneven subterfuge, and he had no envy for the gender other than its usefulness in survival. By the time he had been plucked from the orphanage he had already suffered the loss of Mischa and his own innocence, the brutality he endured sometimes reeling him with flashbacks that left him howling in horror and pain. Lady Murasaki had been the one to rescue him, had walked into the orphanage and instantly recognized not only that he was of the Lecter clan, but also held that royal lineage's special gifts.

"A male Omega is the greatest proof of royalty," Lady Murasaki had told him once, when he was sixteen and suffering through his first heat. "In Japan they were the children of samurai, did you know that? The samurai appreciated not only the beauty of the male Omega but their cunning and strength. Alphas and Omegas traditionally fought alongside each other in battle, as passionate equals. Who would not fight to the death for the one they love? I am sorry that you have come into a world that has no understanding of your precious gifts. They are afraid of your intelligence, they want you to submit without acknowledging your strength. So many lies surround you, tangled half truths that are meant to destroy your significance. They will tell you that you go mad in your desires. That you cannot bear children. That you are meek ornamentation."

He can still see her, sitting at her dressing table, draped in a dark green silk kimono, her posture one of exotic grace, a cup of green tea at her elbow. The tea steamed out of a traditional Japanese tea cup, tall and cylindrical without a handle, meant to be cupped in the palms as one contemplated its simplicity and warmth. But there was nothing simple about that conversation, as evidenced when she opened the drawer of her dressing table and took out a very old and well weathered photo album. She opened it to a specific page and pointed to the various images of two samurai, one clearly an Alpha, the other a transparently male Omega. They were both in full armour, their expressions grim and battle weary, the comfortable way they held their swords belying the constant use they once made of them. By the time this picture had been taken, however, the Meiji Restoration had all but abolished the samurai as a class, thus rendering the image into a playful shadow of the truth. In other pictures, the Alpha male was decked in a highly western styled formal black uniform, showing his true status as a proud member of the Tokyo police force, the majority of whom were former samurai.

"These pictures were taken in 1910, during the last few years of the Meiji Restoration. There were very few samurai left, even then, the tradition was beginning to wane. Modern warfare was not conducive to the strict samurai code and in the Restoration the samurai lost their social standing, and were forced to take work as government officials, accountants and, in the case of your great-grandfather, police officers." She placed a pale, graceful finger along the edge of the ancient photographs. "That is my great-grandfather on the left, and his chosen mate, my great-*kaika*, is on the right." Her red mouth upturned in a tiny, delicate smile at Hannibal's shock. "In Japan we have a special word for such maternity, *kaika shikyu*, which means 'flowering womb'. It is called this because these *kaika* have a limited window in which to bear children." She proudly pointed to another picture. "My great-*kaika* managed to do it twice."

Hannibal looked at the image of the samurai and the two small children balanced on their knees, their posture oddly candid for a turn of the century photo. Lady Murasaki's great-grandfather was laughing, her great-kaika distracted by the happy infant who was slightly blurry in the sepia photo, unable to keep still. She pointed to the restless baby. "This is your grandmother. She met your grandfather during a visit to Japan in the late 1920's. As you are aware, the royal lineage of the Lecter clan has always been made of either Alphas or Omegas. The joining of the Lecter clan and the Murasaki lines was a cause for great celebration between the two families." She had placed her cool, pale hand on Hannibal's cheek, then, in much the same way he had comforted his patient, Janine. "In our world, who and what you are has always been a source of pride for us."

He felt the pinch, then, the clank of iron clasping tight around his neck, the pain of what happened afterwards an unbearable echo. Bile rose in his throat, burning it, and he fought the urge to gag. The reality of the present slowly coalesced around him, but he could feel the fever pitch of that malignant fear still cling to him.

His cell phone rang and he jolted at its intrusion. He forced calm into himself as he answered it, forcing his fear into his belly, where it cruelly twisted inside of his gut.

"Will," he said.

"Never a 'hello' with you, huh?" Will coughed and his voice sounded muted, the din of others moving around and speaking behind him invading the conversation. Hannibal could hear Jack's low, booming voice, making unintelligible complaints. "There's been another murder. Jack wants you here."

He didn't say it, but Hannibal could feel it. What Will really said was, '*I* want you here.'

Hannibal paused at this information, because he was quite sure that the murder wasn't one of *his*, for it was unlikely one of his Omega warriors would strike out on their own accord, not when they had pledged loyalty to his guidance. For a moment, he was worried the murder was committed by Chloe, who was close to snapping and killing her Alpha husband if only to alleviate her tedium. Curious, he forced a smile into his words and perhaps answered Will with more lightheartedness than he had intended. "I shall be there within the hour, though I'm disappointed you did not request that I pick you up first. I would have cancelled my appointment and brought you breakfast."

"I'm glad you didn't," Will said, and the heaviness in his voice concerned Hannibal. "And for your own sake, I suggest you skip lunch."


Early that morning Will sat across from Dr. Mindy Singh, his lips pressed tight together in nervous anticipation. She went over the results on the papers before her again with meticulous precision. Will nodded, his eyes darting over her credentials, which were proudly framed and displayed on her office wall. They seemed official enough and he inwardly chastised himself for these paranoid doubts. He felt increasingly uncomfortable. The tape securing the small cotton ball in the crook of his arm from where she'd taken blood pinched his skin beneath the sleeve of his sweater, and he moved his arm in an effort to loosen it. Though a patient usually had to wait for results, he'd pressed her to rush it, urging her to use the lab next door, otherwise he'd be getting the forensic techs at Quantico to do it and since she surmised it would probably be better to hear the bad news in her office rather than in front of a half dissected corpse, she complied. The results took half an hour, and Will had waited impatiently, his knee bouncing at the sight of every lab coat that dared to cross her examining room door. He checked his watch. Nearly ten o'clock now, he'd been here almost three hours. If he had to be locked up in this confined space one minute more he was going to go crazy, he was sure of it, he was going to start tearing apart the walls.

"I need you to be sure."

She looked up from the papers, and gave Will a worried frown. "I'm sorry, Mr. Graham," she said. "The results are still the same. You *don't* have cancer."

Will stared at her, blank. He cast a worried glance over his shoulder and leaned closer to her, fearful someone would overhear even with her office door closed. His breath felt shaky, his lips chapped. "I told you what's happening. I keep getting 'attracted' to an Alpha at my work, and there's no way that's possible...You're going to need to do those tests again, obviously you followed a faulty procedure..."

Annoyed now, Dr. Singh slapped Will's results into a manila envelope and handed them to him. "Mr. Graham, I put you through a very rigorous testing regime, at your request, and I got your results immediately--under duress, I may add. You have a much higher chance of obtaining false positives in a lab that is not familiar with this kind of testing. Your hormone levels are normal. Your white cell counts are normal. You are a healthy, fit, thirty-eight year old Alpha male who has no sign of cardiovascular disease or cognitive impairment." Dr. Singh sighed at Will's obvious distress. "Have you ever thought to consider that maybe this problem isn't you but perhaps the Alpha you are 'attracted' to? Maybe it's his chemistry that's all off--there's been an increase in Betas using Alpha hormone supplements to mask their gender in order to gain promotions at work, maybe that's what's going on."

"He doesn't have the usual Beta traits," Will said, shrugging. "He's not bossy, he's not approaching me with that usual 'cater to the Alpha mindset' stance or halfhearted challenges to my dominance. Besides, he doesn't need to mask himself for gain, he's transparently brilliant."

"Then what you really need isn't another slew of useless tests, Mr. Graham," Dr. Singh said, evenly. "You need a psychiatrist."

Will's cell phone erupted over his confusion and he took it out of his jacket pocket, fumbling over it as Dr. Singh left her desk and opened the door of her office, bidding him a polite, but firm, good-bye. She was still angry over his remark that she'd made a lab error, and Will gave her a sheepish apology before leaving, one she didn't quite accept. He didn't call Jack back until he was in his car, the manila envelope tossed beside him on the passenger seat.

"Graham," Jack said, voice clipped and instantly putting Will on edge. "We've got a crime scene."

He knew something was up when he arrived and the forensic team was still pulled back on the scene's periphery, hesitant to move in. Beverly caught Will's questioning gaze the minute he approached and she held up a rubber gloved hand, holding him back behind the police tape. "Here's the deal. I'm an Alpha, so are you, so is Jack. I'm leaving the processing on this one to the Betas, it's still an ugly job but at least their hormones aren't going to get in the way." Beverly put the back of her hand to her mouth, her knuckles stifling in a disgusted choke. Will stared at her in mute alarm. Beverly had guts like a steel drum, this was one bad scene.

"It's an Omega male," she said, confirming his suspicions. "Not sure what age yet, but he was definitely in heat when he was killed, the pheromones are pretty ripe. I can give you a mask to help filter out the scent, but I can't guarantee it's going to be a hundred percent affective. I just cried for ten minutes in front of Price and Zeller, and you know how these Betas are, they don't get how strong Alpha emotions get dredged up around Omega victims, they think we're being dramatic." Beverly sniffed, and moved away from the scene, but not before handing Will an imposing looking gas mask usually used on biohazard sites. Will refused it.

"I have to be receptive to what the killer experienced, this mask will dull my senses too much to get an accurate reading on the scene." He thumbed the filters, the skull-like construction of the mask disturbing him. "A male Omega? You're sure?"

Beverly didn't answer him. She was too rattled and he could feel her nerves shaking along his perception, her steps uneasy as she began tearing off her forensics jumpsuit and heading for the comfort of the front seat of the van. Jack Crawford waved him over at the back of it, and Will gratefully left behind the police tape to approach his superior officer, who was stamping out the cold with rough claps of his gloved hands.

"It's a hell of a thing," Jack said, and Will sagely nodded. A harsh breeze attacked them, making the tips of Will's ears smart. "The good news is, Zeller and Price tell me the cold froze the body, so there should be ample evidence preserved in and around it. The bad news is what Beverly already told you. A male Omega, probably the victim of illegal poaching and as its unlikely he's from the United Main, the second best guess is Malaysia, that's the most recent skin route. Whoever the sick son of a bitch is who did this they picked a hell of a time to do it. The heat season will be on us full force in a few days, and this one started early. I can't even stand at the police tape, I can smell the poor thing's fear and you know what that does to bastard Alphas like us."

Will gave Jack an understanding nod. There were few things that made an Alpha more prone to aggression than a frightened Omega in heat. The instinct to protect would override any sense of self preservation and Alphas had been known to throw themselves in front of bullets and hungry bears to protect vulnerable Omega mates. They also killed perceived threats, including rivals, the instinct so strong that Alphas were given lots of leeway within United Main law should two Alphas fight to the death over an Omega in heat. It made the murder all the more perplexing, and Will was fearful of what strutting around in that kind of twisted perspective was going to do him, especially since his own mental chemistry was feeling way, way off.

"I'm calling Dr. Lecter," Jack said, and didn't give Will a chance to argue. "You aren't going near that scene until he gets here."

"I'll call him," Will quickly said, and took out his cell phone. He didn't think Hannibal would tell Jack why he'd be reluctant to come to the scene, but one couldn't be too cautious, especially in an environment like this, with the terror laced corpse of an Omega poising half of the team on the verge of violence.

He warned Hannibal of the scene as best he could without giving him details and then waited with Jack at the back of the forensics van for him to arrive. Beverly remained in the front seat and while he wanted to comfort her, he understood her need to be alone with her own inner rage. Alphas needed long cool off periods, and it was one of the big advantages to living at Wolf Trap. After a particularly bad nightmare, he could wander the periphery of his property for hours, confident he wouldn't run into anyone who might tempt his ire. Will shoved his hands in his pockets, grateful for the relentless, icy winds that slipped between Jack and himself. The dump site for the body was a stretch of river not very far from Wolf Trap. In spring he often did his fly fishing at this exact spot. The dumping of the body here felt like a violation on his sacred space and that familiar anger was already crawling up the back of his neck and into the lining of his skull.

"Who found the body?" Will asked.

"Some guy with a plough business in town name Aaron Nestle. He was duck hunting and he was out with his dog, an old Labrador retriever. She kept whining and barking and wouldn't leave the body alone until he came up to see what she found. Local forces contacted us right away when they saw what they were dealing with. They thought it was the Ripper."

"It won't be the Ripper," Will assured him. He shivered and it wasn't just from the cold. "I know Aaron, he ploughs out my driveway. He's a good guy, I'm sure this affected him pretty badly."

"He was still puking when the local P. D. showed up."

This wasn't a reassuring detail. By the time Hannibal's car pulled up, Will was well and truly frozen, his shoulders hunched inward in a vain attempt at warmth. In his typical prepared style, Hannibal stepped through the snow drifts with the ease of a deer picking through dead brambles, steaming cups of take-out coffee in a paper tray. He was underdressed for the weather, and Will wondered if he'd rushed over, heedless of the need for a proper coat and hat, and especially proper footwear. Hannibal exuded calm warmth as he handed a coffee to Beverly, through the open window of the van and then walked to the rear, handing one to Jack and lastly, one to Will. "I didn't know how everyone took their coffee, so I opted for cream and sugar across the board. Except for you, Will. Black, two sweeteners."

"Thanks," Will said, and sipped it gratefully, his hands already stinging from the warmth the cup provided.

Hannibal stood next to him, their shoulders nearly touching and Will had to fight the urge to haul the man off to some quiet corner of the forest and beg forgiveness, ask him to punch him in the face, anything than to be feeling this miserable and awkward around the one person he'd dared to call his friend. Hannibal gestured to the crime scene with his coffee cup. "I trust this is not the usual work you've had as of late. A fan of the Ripper, adding to the repertoire?"

"The victim is a male Omega," Will said, and didn't miss the slight flinch of Hannibal's body at this. "I don't know how much use you're going to be for me, seeing as how you're an Alpha yourself. Just keep in the background, I'll work the scene on my own and if you got a dart gun ready that might be useful. I'm going to be feeling pretty angry after this and I might come out of it swinging."

"I won't need to dart you into submission, Will," Hannibal said, and gave Will a smile that had more bemused empathy than Will was expecting. Hannibal gestured again to the police tape. "Whenever you are ready."

Will braced himself, shook off the cold, and headed for the scene of the crime.


You are my toy. My rare prize that I have captured to play with. I both exalt you and denigrate you, the two happening in such quick succession you don't know where to put your desires and your terror. In the end, it is fear that wins, and you cower beneath me, begging me to stop, telling me it hurts. This only thrills me, your cries fill me with unnatural fury at myself and then at you.

My nature is perverted, turned in on itself. That which should repulse me only gives me joy. I want to feel your fear, not your desire. I feed on your pleas for mercy.

I have purchased you at a high price, one I would gladly spend again. Your survival is not the issue here, it is your rarity that I wish to exploit and destroy, my fury at your beauty enough to make me want to rip it apart. I like watching you cry, I like seeing you writhe in pain regardless of how much your body screams for my sex...

I am not bogged down by dogma.  I approach my horrors with the base simplicity of a hungry animal.

This is my design...

Will stepped out of the empathic perception and staggered back from the partially frozen, nude body, and with his hands clasped tight around his stomach he made it to the edge of the river and collapsed onto his knees before vomiting into the fast running, icy water. He heard his name being called and a protest from Jack, but long, determined steps crunched through the snow as they made their way towards him. He was still on his knees on the frozen shoreline, and he grabbed a clump of clean snow to wipe the bitter bile out of his mouth and to wash his face. He braced his hands on his knees, bent over far enough to see Hannibal's ankles in his line of sight.

"You should have worn boots," Will chided him, taking in the expensive black leather loafers.

Hannibal held out his hand and helped Will back to standing, the effort making him dizzy. An instant need to lash out flashed within him, but Hannibal placed a cool hand on the back of Will's head, the touch calming him. "I think this is a foolish request for Jack to make." Hannibal brushed snow off of Will's shoulders in curt strokes of his gloved hands. "Hormonal chemistry and high emotions are not a good mixture. Are you well?"

Will stepped closer to Hannibal, liking the heat that seemed to radiate from him, and he was relieved when Hannibal didn't step back. "The person who did this is less than an animal. He is obsessed with his own desires, his own needs and will do anything to bring his perverted pleasure relief. He is the worst kind of monster, Hannibal. He has no goal but his own self gratification and he revels in the torment of innocence." Will could feel the body laying in wait behind him, as though clinging to him from out of the depths of its lonely pain. "This was done by an Alpha. A very sick and twisted Alpha male, I can smell the after burn of his knot, it's making sick."

Will swallowed back bile and turned his head over his shoulder, only now realizing he hadn't even given the body a proper inspection, had only ridden the wave of the victim's fear and the perpetrator's elation in it. He felt a new tremor of nausea hit him, and Hannibal pressed his palm against the small of Will's back, his brow furrowed in concern. Will braced himself by placing a hand on Hannibal's shoulder, the touch more soothing than it was supposed to be.

The body was nude, and if this was a male Omega as Price and Zeller had attested, there was little left to it to reveal that fact. Animals had torn the Omega apart as he laid exposed to the elements, the death mask of his torment a gaping wound where his face once was. There were still signs of his gender evident, in the smooth contours of his body's shape, the small amount of hair and the perfect complexion of his skin that not even latent bruises could destroy. He was tall and lithe, not overly muscular but retaining a softness that would have rendered him unmistakably androgynous. He was young, maybe eighteen, possibly younger. Most traffickers of poached Omegas sold them in their prime.

"Whoever purchased him has a great deal of expendable money, especially since he was bought solely to be tortured and killed. It's highly unlikely he was a virgin, I have a suspicion if he was the torture would have lasted a lot longer."

"Not the work of the Ripper, then," Hannibal said.

Will made a disgusted face. "What kind of observation is that? Of course not, if anything, the Ripper will be just as keen as I am to find who it was who did this and to put his own brand of justice on them. Don't even ask it, you know as well I do that I wouldn't stand in the Ripper's way. Free pass all around, as far as I'm concerned."

"This Omega was in heat," Hannibal sniffed the air around Will. "You are reacting to it. It's filling your heart with overflowing fury. What do you want to do with your anger, Will? Your heart is weeping for this poor fallen creature and it beats solely to avenge it. You know nothing of this victim but his suffering, and through your empathy you superimpose those you care about upon the blank canvas of who he was. You feel the ill tempered rage of your co-workers as they stand in the distance, unable to come closer and leaving you fully exposed. Your empathy for the plight of the victim is the memory of those you love upon him. Your mother, her vibrancy chained. Your grandmother, independent and yet never to be an equal. Your father's guilt." Will's fists were tight as Hannibal stood in front of him, blocking his reaction from the view of the team in the far distance. "Who is it you see when you look upon the victim, Will?"

Will raised his fist and Hannibal stood his ground, his maroon gaze cold and unreadable. Will's fist relaxed, and he brushed his knuckles against the sharp line of Hannibal's cheekbone, and back against the nape of his neck, his fingers splayed wide, thumb grazing the small scar at Hannibal's throat.

"I see you," Will said.

Hannibal remained immobilized, but Will could detect it, that tiniest, unexpected tremor rolling through him, held on with every grip of his self resolve, and Hannibal had a great deal of it, Will realized, an almost superhuman amount. If his reaction was in anger, fear or love, Will couldn't tell. He let his hand fall away, worried about causing further harm. "Why would I see that?" Will asked him, shaking his head. He could feel emotion clawing at the back of his throat, tears forming that froze as they slipped down his cheeks. "Hannibal...About last night..."

"This is not the time to discuss it, Will."

"I can't lose your friendship," Will said, and it came out like a plea, and he hated the way it made him feel weak. "I...I'm sorry I did that, I don't know why...It's weird, I know, and I even went to a doctor this morning trying to figure it out and got tested and..."

"You went to a doctor?" Hannibal asked, frowning.


"Did you mention my name?"


Hannibal seemed suddenly relieved at this, a fact Will tucked away, wondering what it meant and keen to examine it further later. Hannibal gave Will's shivering worry a warm smile and closed the already too close gap between them, their shoulders now touching in an easy intimacy that other Alphas would quickly misinterpret. "What was her diagnosis?"

Will let out a long sigh at this. "That I need a psychiatrist."

Hannibal chuckled. "You most certainly do."

"Hannibal, the thought of you being hurt in any way...To see you on the victim...It fills me with so much rage, of a kind that frightens me and I don't know what I'm capable of..." Will felt his mouth go dry, his hand wiping at it as though hoping the feeling of red hot fury that was boiling within him could be so easily appeased. "If I find him before anyone else does, I'll kill him, and it won't be for this victim, it will be for a very wrong, very unnatural reason. I'll be killing that bastard for you." Will sucked in a cold breath with a sibilant hiss. "Just the thought of that prick hurting you, even breathing the same air as you, I don't know why I'm feeling like this, Hannibal. It's wrong, I can't be reacting to you this way, if he so much as brushed a shoulder or looked at you, the things in my head that I've got planned for him--they frighten me..."

"Will." Hannibal whispered his name, his forehead pressing against Will's in a gesture that was both intimate and reassuring. "I am right here. And I am perfectly safe."

"No. You're not." Will's head shook beneath the subtle embrace.

"Why do you believe that?"

"Because I kissed you."

Hannibal straightened and pulled away from him, then, and to Will it felt as painful as an amputation. "I liked it. I did. I keep thinking about how you tasted, the feel of your tongue against mine and...It's absolutely insane." Will gaze was imploring as he looked on Hannibal, and if he could have gone on his knees and begged for this to be the explanation he needed, he couldn't be more pathetic. "Have you slept with an Omega recently? Please, Hannibal, tell me the truth, it's important..."

"I haven't," Hannibal quickly replied, and Will didn't doubt him. "Will, I have already explained to you what you are feeling. This is about attachment, and it is perfectly natural. Our friendship has broken a few necessary boundaries, but I am also reluctant to pull back on it, for I understand that this connection is something we are both in dire need of."

Will's head shook. He stepped back, nearly toppling the cup of coffee he'd set on a flat rock at the shore of the river, and he turned away from it, his stomach churning. "If this connection, as you call it, is harming our friendship in this way, we need to start pulling back. I need to be away from you for a little while, just so I can get my head back into perspective."

Hannibal frowned at this, his head cocked to one side as though Will had just spoken to him a language he didn't understand. "On the contrary, Will, it is imperative that we determine our boundaries and the only way to do that is through constant contact and communication with one another. I suggest we explore this dynamic further and not to hesitate in its execution. My dear Will, I have an extra ticket for the opera tonight, and I would be delighted if you would accompany me."

Will's confusion was spiralling out of control, the scent of the dead Omega wafting between Hannibal and himself, the fervent, almost fruity scent of heat pervasive between them, to the point Will just about wanted to tear into Hannibal, though he still wasn't sure if he wanted to bite or kiss him or embrace him or outright fuck him. "I'm going insane," Will said, and nodded fervently. "I can't allow that, Hannibal, not with what's at stake. That poor Omega, I can't see something like that again. Please, you need to help me."

"I am helping you, Will," Hannibal assured him, his position one of cold analysis, and the very poise of the man made Will want to strike him, his first instincts be damned. "Meet me at the Opera House in Baltimore at seven o'clock tonight. I will be waiting for you on the front steps. Should our friendship be tested by the needs of the physical, I will be able to determine those triggers that are bringing you to these uncomfortable conclusions. My dear Will, I am not so daunted from our friendship by a simple kiss from a person routinely under desperate duress such as yourself. There are basic reasons as to why it happened, and we will determine how it began together."

"I.." Will's head shook. He clasped his arms tight around himself, as though holding in his soul as well as keeping out the cold. "I don't really like the opera. I don't even own a proper suit."

"You can't claim to dislike something you have had no actual exposure to," Hannibal tutted. "As for a suit, wear what you like. You are going to the opera with me, and if I haven't judged you for your choice in vestments by now I hardly think I will tonight."

"Hannibal," Will frowned, trying to piece all of what was being said to him together, his Alpha anger and the hormones surrounding the air making Hannibal's suggestions almost hypnotic. "I think...You're making me go on a date with you."

"Two friends go to the opera." Hannibal shrugged. "I see no force being applied here, Will, you can always say no. Is that what you want to do?"

"No," Will said, and frowned, because he didn't know how he'd answered, really, because it could be taken both ways. From the way Hannibal smiled, it was definitely the more positive route, and not the one Will was travelling along.

"I will see you at seven," Hannibal said, and grinned with his little shark teeth.


Chapter Text

chapter seven

Maybe this wasn't such a bad idea, he was going to get to see Hannibal in an element he was comfortable in, and it was a public place as opposed to the intimacy of his atrium. Will smoothed down his tie and hoped the small oil stain on the back of it hadn't seeped through. He'd given his wrinkled shirt a quick steaming by hanging it in the bathing room while he took a shower, and the dog hair on his black trousers took a generous roll of duct tape to wipe the various shades and lengths of hair off. In the end, he was as scrubbed and perfect as he was ever going to be, and a quick sniff of his armpit made sure he wasn't bringing any unwanted angry Alpha nastiness along. Heat season always made him a little gamey. There was nothing worse than being stuck around another Alpha's pit party. He doused himself in a bit of Old Spice to make sure and then checked his watch. He had a two hour drive to make, in the snow, and it was too damned late to back out of it now.

He slipped on his tweed suit jacket in the full knowledge it was inappropriate, but he wasn't about to wear his ill fitting court suit to a night out. Besides, the dark blue fabric brought back disturbing memories of court with it, and every pinch of its darts under his arms reminded him of sitting in the witness stand, his expertise viciously scrutinized. The last thing he wanted to feel was that he was on display.

He stood in front of his grandmother's antique mirror, giving himself a proper inspection, and not particularly liking the rumpled condition of his trousers or the missing button at the end of his shirtsleeve. The mirror itself was imperfect, tarnished from over a hundred years worth of use, the edges rusted and casting Will into shades of grey that made him look medieval. He felt a thick, heavy, regular thumping at his calf and he glanced down to see Winston staring up at him, his tongue lolling happily out of the side of his mouth as the equally scruffy dog smiled. "I don't know why you're so approving, I trimmed the beard. You hate it when I do that." Winston whined and trotted away.

Will sighed and gave himself another cursory glance, remembering the last time he had stood in front of this mirror and gave himself a similar inspection. He was in his uniform then, the newest member of the New Orleans P.D., and his grandmother had placed a gnarled, but strong, hand on his shoulder. "So proud of you. You're the fighter for the ones that need protecting now, mon cher. That's what you're supposed to do."

He didn't feel like he was very effective at that, lately, the haunting image of the dead Omega still fresh in his mind, the smell of his fear a lingering cancer that Will couldn't shake. The fact the body had been dumped so close to home was a factor, he was sure, and that someone he knew was the one who had discovered it. He couldn't quite get a handle on whether it was a grisly telegram meant for him or not, after all, the killer had to know there was an FBI profiler living nearby--he had Freddie Lounds to thank for making that information public. But there was no personal message for him at the scene. An Omega in full heat, tortured, the method of death not yet determined, it was an out of place murder for someone like Will, no effort put into display, no artistry. Price and Zeller were having a hard time getting a handle on the cause of death since animals had destroyed a lot of the physical abuse committed pre-mortem. If there were ligature marks, they'd been chewed off by coyotes, and the broken bones were possibly post mortem, though there was some evidence of rudimentary healing in the delicate cartilage in the wrists. Unlike the Ripper, the corpse itself held no fascination, the message it conveyed sparse. But there was still a warning in it, and Will got the distinct impression it wasn't one for himself or Jack, or any of the people on his team. Regardless of its gruesome components there was that pervasive, rotten feeling that a message was being sent, a flagrant taunt that happened to be tossed in Will's direction. Whoever was supposed to get it was too far out of Will's range at present. It left him feeling unsettled. Unfinished.

His cell phone buzzed and Will answered it. "Hannibal," he said, flat but not without humour. Two can play at ignoring tiny social niceties. No 'hellos' needed.

"I've realized that I have been extremely selfish with you, dear Will. This has been a very taxing day for you and perhaps a long drive into Baltimore is far too difficult for you to manage. I have no qualms against picking you up, though it may mean we arrive an hour into the opera, a tardiness that cannot be helped."

"I'm actually leaving right now," Will said, grabbing his parka and heading out the door, keys jangling and sending his dogs into worried whining. "I appreciate the offer, but actually, I think this might end up being a nice diversion. It'll be nice to see and talk about something other than maimed corpses for a change."

"I have found there is nothing more positively challenging to one's senses than a well executed aria. Music therapy is a well known practise amongst psychiatric circles, a component I have been considering adding to the therapy of a few of my patients."

"That's very well and good, but I'll have you know that since you're dragging me to the opera, pretty much kicking and screaming, I'm going to return the favour." Will grinned into his cell phone at the slight hesitation on the other line at this. "You'll be coming with me to a dive bar on the outskirts of Wolf Trap to hear some good old fashioned bluegrass, and you're going to drink beer, and you're going to like it."

"I will have to get my overalls dry cleaned."

Will laughed. "You do that."

There was a protracted silence at the other end of the line, and Will was ready to break it, only for Hannibal to get there first. "I look forward to seeing you, Will."

"Yeah," Will said, but Hannibal had already hung up. No good-byes, either. Will stared at the cell phone in his hand for a long moment before sliding on his parka and heading out the door, the screen softly closing behind him. The night felt full of unspoken notes already.


It wasn't right that the man could stand to one side of the entrance, in what would usually be an inconspicuous spot, and yet be the main focus. At least, it seemed that way to Will, who was admittedly awestruck by the lithe perfection that stood at the top of the stairs of the Baltimore Opera House, Hannibal's dark, formal suit understated and immaculate, placing him in a perfect geometrical symmetry that would make a mathematician's mouth water. Will averted his eyes, desperate not to show any hint of his lurking, unwanted attraction and made his way up the wide steps with meek invisibility. Middle aged women in sequined gowns and pastel hued gossamer silks lay draped on the arms of Alpha and Beta mates, though there was a decided lack of Omegas due to the heat season.

Will approached Hannibal with his hands deep in his pockets, his underdressed state painfully obvious to him. He passed a large billboard with a highly artistic rendering of Aida displayed on it, some not so subtle advertising that felt out of place with the rich snobbery of the setting. Hannibal's long, wool coat lay draped over his arms as he bid Will to follow him inside, his steps so typically graceful and careful it was like watching a deer gently pad its way through underbrush. They checked their coats, Hannibal giving Will's crinkled parka a raised brow, and Will shrugged in response. It was the only winter coat he had, and it kept in the warmth. Function over fashion, any day.

"The opera is not set to start for another fifteen minutes," Hannibal said, quickly checking his watch, a vintage Rolex that probably cost more than Will's car. "Ample time for us to view the Caravaggio. I am delighted that this opportunity has presented itself, seeing as how we had such a detailed conversation about it only last night."

"Last night was full of revelations," Will warned, and Hannibal merely smiled in acknowledgement, a missive that stung.

Hannibal directed Will away from the entrance to the opera house theatre, detouring towards a lobby that held a small bar and a small amount of people in formal wear milling about with glasses of champagne. This was a tucked away space amidst the opulence, Will noted, the front entrance boasting of three full chandeliers and two wrought iron staircases that led to the upper balconies. The floor of the Opera House was covered in a classical, rich red carpet that was befitting the soles of royal feet that had undoubtedly walked over it. The thickness of it was rather surprising and Will had to wonder if they changed the carpet every year, ensuring not a single wear mark ever marred its perfection.

This room, however, was not so garish and had lower lights, the artistic pieces carefully spaced apart and lit by single, unobtrusive lights that were specially designed not to fade the paint. Hannibal's long strides were eager to approach the Caravaggio, and Will had to wonder if the opera was his real focus, for it seemed that if Hannibal had been given the option of standing in front of this painting for a couple of hours instead of hearing the endless warble of sopranos, the Caravaggio would have won hands down. Will followed behind him with a meek sense of caution, far too aware of his surroundings to be as comfortable as Hannibal clearly was, his hands clasped behind his back, his head cocked to one side as he took in every minute detail. "Sisyphus Bonding Thanatos," Hannibal said, and his voice was oddly wistful in the dim space, the shadows seeming to enclose them in a private viewing. "Not one of his most accessible paintings, and nothing like 'Judith Beheading Holofernes', but I would argue this is Caravaggio at his most passionate. Thanatos, the god of death, forced to submit to the desires of King Sisyphus and grant him eternal life. You would think such a subject would be offered up in darker hues and yet Caravaggio has opted for bright contrasts. Flowing reds and powder blues, rich and vibrant colours leaping from the canvas, full sunlight upon them both. Sisyphus is bonding Thanatos with a thin veil of silk, wrapped loosely around his mostly exposed neck. Such a blatant image of arousal caused quite the scandal in Caravaggio's day."

Will could easily understand why, for Thanatos's neck was blushed a fervent pink, signifying Omega heat. His head was turned to the side, fully exposing his throat to the ravishing need of Sisyphus, who seemed reluctant to hide his mate's obvious desire, the transparent silk accentuating rather than obscuring it. "In most paintings of the time, a bonded Omega's neck is bound in muslin, with the traditional french knot at the base, a not so subtle signifier of Alpha fertility." Hannibal gave Will a sidelong glance. "The piece is charged with eroticism. What do you think, Will?"

Will studied the painting, taking in the sinewy muscles that melded into each other, the darker skin of King Sisyphus in heavy contrast to the pale nudity of Thanatos. Caravaggio left little to the imagination, even going so far as to depict the beginnings of Sisyphus' knot, and Thanatos's slick glistening along the inside of his spread thighs. Caravaggio had been threatened with beheading and was imprisoned for a short time over the blatant pornographic imagery of the painting, and for hundreds of years it was hidden away in the private chambers of kings, where it provided artful inspiration for the continuation of the royal lineage. If one needed erotic fantasy fodder, the half lidded gaze of an enraptured Thanatos, head tossed back and body tensed in want for the rather exaggerated hard length of Sisyphus was ample inspiration for king and queen alike.

"I think it's a rather strange thing to be showing someone who keeps thinking about his uncomfortable attraction to you," Will said, deadpan.

"Is that what this image inspires in you?" Hannibal asked, and Will turned his head away from him, unhappy with how Hannibal had him trapped. Hannibal seemed to find the whole thing incredibly amusing, a fact that made Will's Alpha nature take note and rise to test him. "Do you still want to kiss me, Will?"

"Right now I'd love to do nothing more than hit you."

"A highly typical Alpha to Alpha response. I dare to call this progress. Perhaps goading is more suited for our conversations." He playfully grinned as he stepped away from the painting and into the gloom, and it was then that Will noticed they had been quite alone, and if anything was to happen it was then. But he found he had no desire at present to touch Hannibal, nor kiss him, not with the curved lines and naked honesty of desire laid out obvious and wanton in the painting behind him. He had to give Hannibal some credit, this excursion seemed to be working, and he went so far as to risk feeling at ease in his friend's presence, his hands loose in the deep pockets of his trousers as he followed Hannibal back into the lobby.

"The opera will be beginning at any moment," Hannibal said. "Our seats are on the second floor, the middle section. I do like a good view of the stage."

They were near the far right staircase leading up to the balcony when the front door of the lobby opened and a young Beta woman stumbled in, balancing a folded umbrella stroller and diaper bag in one hand and a fussing infant in the other. Curious, Will looked past the tinted windows of the main lobby and saw that a gale snowstorm had drifted in, covering the stairs in a thickening white blanket. Noting her difficult balancing act, Hannibal immediately came to her aid, propping open the door and bidding her to come in. She let the diaper bag and stroller drop, the swaddled baby perched unevenly in the crook of her arm and wailing with little lungs that could rival the diva's. "We got caught in the snowstorm," she said, with quick apology as though she were trespassing. "I was waiting on a cab, it should be here soon. It's just so cold. We needed shelter for a moment."

The music began to swell and the opera doors were quietly closed as the performance began. Will stood at the base of the stairs waiting on Hannibal who, for reasons Will couldn't understand, was entrenched in the young woman's plight.

Or, rather, the baby's. "Please," he heard Hannibal nearly beg of her, his arms outstretched. "I will hold her while you sort yourself out."

"Oh could you? Honestly, she's been such a fusspot. She's cold and tired, in case you can't tell. The cab will be here any moment, I promise."

But it was as though the mother disappeared, Will observed, and Hannibal's long arms suddenly draped around the baby with a natural protective warmth that practically exuded maternal affection. Everything was forgotten in that moment, the Caravaggio and its seductive promise, the lilting tones of the orchestra as the opera sang into life, the ill mannered, unkempt man who stood at the base of the stairs, silently watching. He witnessed Hannibal kissing the infant's angry, red face and whispering to it in a language Will couldn't interpret, the press of his cheek against the infant's brow soothing enough to stop its crying. Hannibal cooed over its remaining whimpers, studying it with that same, wistful gaze he gave his favourite work of art.

Will held his breath as his mind sprouted long, white antlers out of Hannibal's back, the thick branch of bone stretching into a tight cylinder around him and the infant in his arms, a halo of velveteen tipped spikes surrounding them, daring any enemy to come near. Will tried to discern the image of Hannibal within this fortress, to see what he was hiding as he held the infant in his arms. But the antlers were stubbornly meshed, refusing entry to even his closest friend. Will was not allowed to see this, and he'd borne too much witness already.

When the young woman remarked that her cab had arrived, Hannibal allowed her to take her baby back with a sad reluctance. Hannibal kept watch as they got into the cab, a mittened wave from the mother offering him a hasty, well worn thanks. When he turned to Will, there was a poignant longing hidden beneath the cold black gaze affixed to a secret point in Hannibal's inner horizon. Will stepped away from it, the darkness it looked into lined with fierce, sharp antlers designed to prick the inner skin of whoever dared to steal a peek.

They were guided to their seats amidst dirty looks and Will felt worse than ever over his dishevelled appearance, though Hannibal was nonplussed by the snobbish scrutiny. They were two rows back from the very front of the central balcony and, as always, Hannibal was right, this was a good view of the stage. Drapes in dark orange and navy blue accented the vast Sphinx placed in the central focal point, an overtly obvious allusion to the opera's Egyptian setting and a tad cliche for both Will and Hannibal's taste. Will didn't speak a word of Italian, and the English synopsis handed to him upon arrival was overly complex and filled with useless annotation, the tiny script a struggle to read even with his glasses perched long down his nose, and he remarked to Hannibal that it should have come with a magnifying glass. Hannibal, being the detail man he was, loved it. Will tried to follow along and found his mind wandering halfway through reading the details of the first act, where he managed to understand that Aida was in love with an officer of the Pharaoh named Radames and she suffered a rival for his affections in the Pharaoh's daughter Amneris. There was conflict and war and lies and broken hearts and in the end, of course, there's the finality of death for the young lovers Aida and Radames. So much for steering clear of corpses.

The music held Hannibal captive, his concentration on the notes so deep and personal Will had to fight to keep his eyes on the stage, and not on the statuesque posture of his friend, whose emotions were brought rushing to the surface, his black gaze glassy with tears. Though it could easily be blamed on his passion for beautiful music, Will couldn't help but believe the emotion Hannibal was feeling had nothing at all to do with the opera. There was another tragedy beneath the delicate notes, one wholly unrelated to the story Will saw unfold before him and that only peripherally held its soundtrack. Hannibal's tears were about a young woman getting into a taxi cab with a placated baby. The tears were an inexplicable yearning that was left behind in Hannibal's heart.

By the time the lights came up for the intermission, Hannibal was in a decidedly more sombre mood. The audience milled into the lobby to stretch their legs and partake of champagne and stronger refreshments, and though the crowd was still pressed around him, Will found some relief in finding a space near the stairs that had a few feet of breathing room in a wide circumference. His scowl kept people from coming closer and if he used his Alpha dominance to this small advantage he wasn't about to feel guilty about it. Hannibal stood by his side, two glasses of champagne in hand, and a warm smile that still held that hint of sadness that made Will want to beg of him to tell him about it.

Instead, he took the offered champagne and sipped at it, grimacing over its overly sweet taste. "I still don't like the opera," he admitted.

"I myself am finding this evening rather tiring," Hannibal said. "Such is the problem with anticipatory desires. Once we get what we want, the struggle given to have it often eclipses our enjoyment of it. I have been looking forward to this performance of Aida for quite some time, and am happy that we were able to view the Caravaggio, but I am finding an exhaustion creeping into our enjoyment that is difficult to shake. It has been a long day."

Will nodded in agreement, though he didn't really feel it. What he desperately wanted to do was inundate Hannibal with questions, the most obvious one being, 'What is troubling you?', a turnabout on Hannibal's own words and one Will was sure the man wouldn't appreciate. He was about to suggest they part ways, and thus leave the night open for their own separate reflections which would leave them stronger by morning, but his words fell into the ether before he could utter them. A clammy hand met Will's shoulder, and he fought the knee jerk urge to sucker punch the creature it belonged to.

"I must say, it's no surprise to see you here, Dr. Lecter, but I'm a little shocked at your choice of date. A bit of the rough rider, are you? Alphas, hanging out like besties, as if that's not one for the books. Good thing we can barely smell you, am I right, Dr. Lecter? A passive Alpha among Alphas, but you know how it is, that one drop rule. We can scent it out of a blade of grass. Right Mr..uh...Damn if I can remember your name..."

"Will Graham," he said, and Mason Verger grinned as though he'd said the right answer on a game show.

"Right!" and he clapped Will on the shoulder as he inched closer into his personal space. "Will Graham of the Eff Bee Eye. Tell me something, that fellow you found on my farm, was he in any kind of trouble that I should know about? Simply out of curiosity, you understand, it's not like we Vergers are able to stay out of controversy, but I'd kind of like a heads up if there's any, oh, nasty things going on his background. Like certain bad habits that might inadvertently be lumped in with mine, which are not the same, not at all..."

"I don't know, Mason. Have you murdered any Omegas lately?"

Mason Verger was especially slimy this evening, Will thought, taking in the man's brocade smoking jacket and his high fashion laced shirt beneath it. Combined with the dark green velvet trousers, the ensemble made him look like a boudoir pimp. Mason checked his watch, which was held inside of his matching brocade vest on a long chain. Will had half a mind to ask him if he was searching for a white rabbit. "I'm all about the Omegas when the season fits, just like any Alpha my good man, but I am hardly one to seek out that which I don't need the rest of the year. That's for the real perverts. Mind you, I've been known to rub myself off on a sow or two if she shows the right kind of pink. Makes for happier relations in the selective breeding pens, oddly enough. I do say, Dr. Lecter, your neck is looking particularly rosy this evening. I have to wonder if you're coming down with something."

Turning his attention on Hannibal was a big mistake, one Will was determined to make Mason Verger pay for. As he had that morning on Muskrat Farm, Will placed himself between Mason and Hannibal, Alpha pheromones powerfully coursing between them. Usually this was enough to make most Alphas back down, but for some reason Mason was on high alert, his little pig nose sniffing the air, his small pig eyes widening as he took in Will's attempt at dominance. "You really wouldn't attack me here, would you?" he asked, only pretending to whisper. "I know he doesn't have much, just a drop of Alpha, really, but that doesn't mean that pretty bitch behind you can keep this little tiff between us from getting weird. Stand down, Mr. Graham. *Your* deviance is painfully obvious."

Will's rage grew to renewed heights at this, the memory of the dead Omega rushing to the forefront of his thoughts and obscuring all sense of reason. He indulged in that moment, skinning Mason alive with the sharpened tips of white antlers, tearing apart his face until only muscle was left and helpless, lolling piggy eyes...

"Dr. Lecter, it's good to see you."

Will's head shook as he stepped back from the intrusion into their standoff, and he hated the way Mason Verger continued to smirk at him, as though he was in on a joke Will hadn't heard yet. He kept himself as a barrier between Mason and Hannibal, not at all secure in the thought of leaving his friend exposed to the creep, a feeling that seemed to be mutual if the stance of the young, brunette woman standing beside him was any indication. "Dr. Alana Bloom," she said, holding out her hand. "We haven't yet met. I'm an old acquaintance of Dr. Lecter, he was my mentor at the university.'

He took her well manicured hand and shook it, remarking inwardly on the fierce grip she had. There was an angry determination in her, too, and it dawned on Will that this was Margot Verger's mate. Mason didn't seem to pleased to see her, and he stepped away from the confrontation, his Alpha challenge deflating in the face of a rather fearless Beta who could care less about such hormonal posturing.

"Bit of a surprise to see you here," Mason said, and he rolled impatiently back and forth on his feet. Will gave them a frowning inspection. Red cowboy boots, with a good two inches added to the heel for height. And Will thought his scruffy outfit was out of place, yet Mason wasn't the one getting judgemental glares. He shook his head at how money made every ridiculous whim acceptable. "Shouldn't you be at home sewing buttons with Margot? She's in heat last I peeked in. Really, you didn't need to board up the windows like that, can't get a ray of sunshine in the place if you tried as it is."

"Keeping an eye on you is one of the things I've decided is an important part of my relationship with Margot," Dr. Bloom said, and she flicked her long, brown hair over her shoulder, her bottom lip jutting out in aggressive determination. Will got the distinct impression this was not a woman one would dare to cross. "Mr. Graham, do you see that scar on his forehead? That was a mistake on my part." Alana sipped at the glass of champagne in her fist, downing it like a beer. "I went at him with a fireplace poker. I was aiming for his eye."

"Dr. Bloom, I am not entirely sure it was advisable to leave Margot alone if she is in heat," Hannibal evenly said to her. He moved away from Mason Verger to talk to her more privately, and Will was happy to follow him. Alana's posture was rigid as she walked, unused to the high heels that turned her clipped, angry march into heavy stabbing in the red carpet.

"Always a pleasure to see you, Dr. Lecter!" Mason shouted after them, and it took every ounce of willpower in Will's resolve not to turn around and tear into the bastard's throat with his bare hands.

"Margot is safe because *I* make sure of it." Alana whipped around, glancing at Mason's piggish scrutiny before turning her anger on Hannibal. "You're her psychiatrist. Surely there's some way you can get the law involved, get them to have her moved to a safer location at his expense, far away from Muskrat Farm and him."

"I have tried, Alana, but the problem as you well know is one of inheritance." He set down his champagne glass on a passing tray, and Will did likewise. Alana held hers in an iron grip so tight Will worried she was going to snap the stem. "Mason holds the purse strings of the Verger empire, Margot has no autonomy. Even if she left it all behind, as her only direct living relative she is an unbonded Omega and he has legal privilege over her. He can force her to live on the family property, he can bar her from entering other coastline cities. Until she is bonded to an Alpha mate, she is at his mercy."

"That's not going to happen," Alana said, and Will felt the anger and fear and misery over Margot's plight as if it was his own. 'Dr. Bloom loves Margot,' Will thought. 'She'll do what it takes to make her happy.'

Hannibal stood closer, his height looming over her, his cold stance one of an infinite, black grace that washed over the conversation in a drowning ink. "I have told Margot what she has to do."

Dr. Bloom nervously looked past Will Graham's shoulder at Mason and then turned away. "We can't do that."

"Betas and Omegas have formed legal bonds in the past, though they are not as absolute as the bonding ritual between Alphas and Omegas. Without going into a long, protracted treatise on the nature of Beta and Omega dynamics, I will tell you this--Should Mason Verger come to an unfortunate end, your legal recourse would be to have a civil bonding with Margot and to have an Alpha child. The handling of the estate will then be your responsibility, though the child will be its ultimate inheritor. You may not have the present resources to make that happen, Dr. Bloom, but there are many clinics appealing to your exact predicament." Hannibal hesitated. "Of course, the real problem is how you will obtain the donation. I have a feeling Mason is not at all keen on having an unfortunate drunken tryst that ends in pregnancy with *you*."

"God forbid," Dr. Bloom said. "According the maid, his sheets get the most action. He makes me sick." She closed her eyes and sighed, helpless in the face of Mason Verger's twisted grip on his small family. A tyrant in cowboy heels with the mind of a boar, Will thought. Small minded, insecure and dangerous.

The orchestra was beginning its practice notes and the crowd that had milled in the lobby was now re-entering the theatre, Dr. Bloom put her champagne glass on the rim of a garbage can, keeping Mason Verger in her sights. "I have to go back in. I'll talk to you later in the week, Dr. Lecter."

"Of course, Dr. Bloom. Please give Margot my regards."

Still on fire, Will watched as Dr. Alana Bloom hunted her prey, admiring the tenacity of her approach. "Mason won't get away with a thing with her around," he said. "Has she been called in for questioning concerning the McDermott murder?"

"I'm not sure. Frankly, that murder is the least of both her and Margot's worries, as is evidenced this evening." Hannibal let out a tired sigh. "I'm afraid that interaction has fully quashed any remaining enjoyment for tonight. Are you ready to leave?"

"I can't get my coat fast enough," Will said.

After obtaining their coats from a bubble gum chewing coat check girl who was more keen to check her Twitter account than if their tickets matched, Will slid on his parka while Hannibal kept his coat draped over one arm, his scarf lightly slung across his neck. He did seem oddly out of sorts even before the altercation with Mason Verger, and Will had to wonder if he was feeling ill. As they stepped out of the theatre and into the stinging cold of a winter's night in Baltimore and Hannibal still hadn't put on his coat, Will was convinced the man was suffering a flu.

"You really didn't need to take me here if you weren't feeling well," Will said to him, feeling a growing fondness that usually had a dangerously intimate component to it. For now, he was able to keep a handle on it.

Hannibal smiled at this as he headed down the wide steps, mindful of the ice that had built up on the concrete. He reached out and braced himself by clasping a hand on Will's shoulder. Will had naturally worn more sensible shoes with good grips. Will lightly chuckled at this. It was nice to know the man wasn't always such an absolute expert when it came to organized perfection. "I admit a certain selfishness. I was very keen to see the Caravaggio."

"You weren't feeling very well after you held that baby," Will said, and Hannibal's foot took a wider misstep, nearly toppling him. Will gripped his arm, propping him up.

Hannibal reached the bottom of the steps with a forced sense of poise, Will slowly following him and keeping his grip on Hannibal's arm. "You were very sad after you held her," Will said, and Hannibal remained tense in Will's grip at this, near pulling himself away. Will released him, and Hannibal let his arm fall to his side, his shoulders pushed back and his cold aura taking over.

"I had a sister," he said, all emotion drained from him. "Her name was Mischa, and I was the one responsible for her care.." He shivered and slid on his coat, then reached into the pockets to take out his leather gloves to quickly put them on. "She died when she was very young."

"I'm sorry."

"It was a long time ago. There are times, such as when I held that delightful little baby, that I am forced to realize that Mischa was my last and only chance to be a...Well, let's just say certain avenues have been permanently closed to me."

They walked along the quiet stretch of sidewalk, devoid of people and shadowed in the partial light of evenly spaced street lamps. The area they were in was meant for daytime strolls, the evening reserved solely for opera goers and summer tourists who would walk the docks of the nearby marina. It was deserted at this time of year, and with the way the snow was still falling and closing them into its white blanket the solitude of it was comforting.

"Did you always want a family?" Will asked.

Hannibal stopped, then, just outside the light of a street lamp, keeping them both in the shadows. His Bentley was nearby, and he was already fumbling in the pocket of his long, wool coat for keys. "Closed doors, Will. What I wanted has no bearing on the present."

Will stepped in front of him, blocking his way to the Bentley. "Do you want me to kiss you now?"

Hannibal gave Will a small, controlled smile at this. "Has my therapy failed you?"

"Only one way to check," Will said, grinning. Still smiling he leaned forward and gave Hannibal a soft kiss on his lips. It was nothing like the night before, it held only an amicable, but bland feeling, like paper over a steaming cup of tea. Will felt a bubble of mirth rise within him at this, because in an instant he felt foolish, his fears attacking him for naught. "Definitely not what we had last night. Much to my relief."

"I am glad, Will," Hannibal said, smiling back. His maroon gaze met Will's raised brows and wide, open, ocean blue eyes and it was then that Hannibal's smile began to falter, his mouth going slack, his breath quickening as he moved with that graceful stealth. He was much too close as he bent down just that tiny amount, that tilt of his head, and without warning Hannibal stole all of Will's breath from him in a kiss that was definitely *not* like the one last night. This kiss was full of fire. This kiss was longing and hungry and it licked its way right into the very bottom of Will's resolve and destroyed every fragment of it.

Hannibal tried to pull away and Will wouldn't let him, he pressed his palm against the back of his head and sought deeper within his mouth, his tongue sliding across those little sharp teeth, tasting iron and an indefinable flavour that held something sickly sweet within it. It was very different from how Hannibal had tasted last night, and Will felt an overpowering need to explore it. Will wanted to know it. He wanted to bury himself in it, it tasted so good. Hannibal. It was Hannibal who tasted like this, like wine syrup, sour and strange and lovely.

A tiny whimper escaped Hannibal's throat and the very vibration of it drove Will mad. He placed his hands on Hannibal's neck, stroking it with his fingers, his palm pressing along the base of his spine and sending another one of those little trills out of Hannibal's throat, a deeper one this time, one that started in the hollow of his chest.

"How is it you're so beautiful to me?" Will lapped at his tongue, hands roving needful through Hannibal's hair. "I can't care anymore. I don't have it in me to give a damn. I need you, Hannibal. I want you..."

"Will...I...I can't..."

With a tight groan, Hannibal managed to push Will away, leaving him dazed and alone beneath the lamplight. His head swirled in dizzying remembrance of Hannibal's tongue, his body aching to respond. But the Bentley's lights went on and it took too long for Will to come back to himself, to recognize that it was Hannibal, this time, making his escape.

Will nearly collapsed, his hands bracing his knees. He tried to tell himself it was all about stress, it was all about the leftover heat of the Omega making them do and believe strange things. This whole ridiculous scenario was a side effect of his damned job.

Or maybe he was going crazy, and putting Hannibal there too. Crazy was all about chemicals wasn't it? This was the end game of his mind, his head full of antlers scraping along the inside of his skull. Jimmy Price had mentioned that in Asia, ground antlers were considered an aphrodisiac. He suddenly found this half remembered fact incredibly funny. He grabbed the white antlers crawling up from the concrete that threatened to overtake him and he shook their cage as his hysteria found root. He broke free of them and laughed all the way to his car, and by the time he got back to Wolf Trap his throat ached from frustrated screaming.



Chapter Text

chapter eight

Hannibal managed to park his Bentley crookedly in his driveway and stagger up the front steps into his home, slamming the door and locking it behind him. He pressed his back against the heavy door and slid down it to the dark oak floor in pained relief, unable to catch his breath. He had a vague understanding that he'd taken a terrible risk driving himself home through the snow squall and more than a few times the tires of the Bentley hit patches of ice, its high speed nearly sending it careening against the rails of the highway. His cell phone buzzed angrily in his coat pocket and he took it out only to turn it off, knowing who the caller would be. He let it drop to the floor as another painful wave overtook him and he grit his teeth against it, lines of sweat coursing down his back, his white cotton shirt sticking to his damp skin.

He was in heat. Full on, relentless heat, and though he wanted to blame the kiss he placed on Will's lips as the final trigger, the truth was far more disturbing. It was after he'd held the baby, going so far as to cuddle and fuss over her, the melancholy when he had to give her back hitting every biological button within him. Such a foolish decision, one that left him silently weeping during the first act of the opera. Even now his arms ached for that familiar little weight to be held within them, to brush away its tiny tears with soft kisses, the rightness of it culminating in the gentle sink of his body into the warm strength of Will Graham's fingers as he gently stroked the back of his neck.

His pants felt wet, soiled with slick, a spasm clenching his abdominal muscles, sending out another gush as he shifted against the back of the front door. This was going to be a particularly bad heat, and he'd already made a number of poor decisions to exacerbate it, not the least of which was kissing Will Graham. Surely the man wasn't so dim an Alpha that he didn't recognize the taste of heat on Hannibal's tongue, and it wouldn't surprise Hannibal at all to find Will Graham pounding on his door, demanding entry to sate his inexplicable lust.

Hannibal groaned at another shockwave that coursed through his body and waited until the initial tremors stopped before attempting to stand. His knees felt weak, but he managed it, his long, wool coat slid off of his shoulders and dumped onto the floor on top of his shoes. His skin was clammy, permeated with the sickly sweet scent of his heat, Omega hormones diving deep into the fibres of his suit. He'd have to burn it along with his coat.

His mouth felt dry, and he swallowed, his throat sandy and tight. His Omega nature was in full form tonight, poisoning every action with fear and opening dark doors that he desperately tried to keep shut. The crushing, recent memory of Will's fingers along his throat, his tongue open and exploring did little to calm the panic rising within Hannibal's gut. He managed to make his way into his kitchen with great difficulty, unbidden whines erupting from deep within his chest, an instinctive plea from an Omega to their Alpha. He was surprised at the involuntary sounds leaving him, though perhaps it was only natural for him to be calling on a possible mate. He was relieved that Will was not here to hear them, the weakness it suggested disturbing. Will Graham was getting far too close, and Hannibal's plan of deflecting the profiler, pushing him away just enough to reel him in again later should any question of gender arise, had been destroyed the second he'd captured Will's lips and practically begged the man to ravish his mouth.

There was still that musky taste of Will on his lips and Hannibal persistently licked them, sucking the insides of his cheeks in a vain effort to devour more. The places Will touched him, along his shoulders, his neck, the back of his head, they held the ghost of his strong hands, their absence leaving behind a hollow feeling that made Hannibal's body want to collapse in misery. He desperately needed that touch again, his memory chasing after it and still falling short in its effectiveness against the reality.

He would get through this. He had suffered through plenty of heat cycles in his life, and this was just one of that number, regardless of its severity. He would take to his bed in his little cozy cave and keep the lights low and he would have his toys to take care of the more insistent cravings. He would stagger up into his kitchen three days later, hungry and dehydrated, his mind crystal clean in its perceptions. Slick soaked sheets would be tossed into the heavy duty cycle of his washing machine while he'd shower for over an hour. He'd inject himself with a double dose of Alpha pheromones and eat generous amounts of Alpha liver and life would continue on, as it always did. He had the challenge of morphing Will's lusting desire into Alpha guilt when he re-emerged into the world. He was looking forward to it.

With fumbling, blind hands he managed to grip the countertop in his kitchen and open a cupboard door, fingers clumsily knocking down a glass which rolled and smashed onto the slate floor. Bracing himself with his grip hard on the edge of the marble counter, he forced himself to take deep, cleansing breaths before reaching up and taking another glass. He managed to fill the glass with lukewarm water from the tap, his dry throat stinging as he drank it before dropping the glass into the sink.

There was a cold breeze moving through the air in his kitchen like a definable line, and Hannibal stood up into its path, the cold a balm against his damp, feverish skin. Some more rational portion of his mind told him there was danger here, that he hadn't opened any windows. An intruder was in his house.

He didn't have time to react to the hunter's dart that sank with painful precision into the side of his neck, just missing the jugular. He sank onto his knees, the broken glass on the floor cutting through the soiled fabric and into his skin. A hefty dose of xylazine, Hannibal recognized. It was one he'd used on many an Alpha meal himself.


He hid in the last stall and hoped no one else would come into the clearly abandoned washroom, the grey walls and concrete floor thick with mildewed dirt, the mirrors above the two rusted out sinks cracked down the middle. Hiding himself in the stall was a pathetic subterfuge, for any idiot could see the blood seeping out in a wide puddle onto the floor, and the knees of the man crouched against the toilet, his heaving, pained sobs punctuating the echoing silence. He picked up his pager and frantically typed in Donald's number, getting it wrong twice before it finally buzzed through. He hoped he would think to check the washroom they'd agreed upon for such an emergency, and that he understood that Hannibal calling his pager was indicative of disaster. Otherwise, he'd be at the mercy of the law, which held no kindness for citizens of Hannibal's type, his rarity a thing to be studied rather than exalted. He'd be thrown into an asylum for gender subterfuge and treated like a lab rat for the rest of his life, a cruelty that, thankfully, a kind Beta like Dr. Donald Sutcliffe couldn't stomach.

The door to the washroom opened, and Hannibal gripped his scalpel. He couldn't be found out, not when his life was just about to begin, his career as a surgeon so close to his reach all he needed was another inch to grasp success and force it into his clenched palm. He was one month from completing his medical residency at John Hopkins and obtaining his license. He was already on the short list for board certification, and whoever it was that was stepping closer and closer, Hannibal had his future's protection ready and he steeled himself for the inevitable murder.


He relaxed his grip on the scalpel in his lab coat pocket and fell back against the steel walls of the stall into a sense of tired, frightened relief. He unlocked the stall door and allowed Dr. Donald Sutcliffe access. Donald quickly got to his knees and checked Hannibal's vitals, though the more problematic issue would require a bed. "I warned you about this, you are too high a risk," Donald said, but not without sympathy. Hannibal let out a small sob at this and Donald pressed his palm against his friend's cheek, forcing down his own panic into a professional calm he definitely wasn't feeling. "There's a mostly empty storage room not far from the old morgue, they put the broken beds in there. I'll get you set up and I'll come back and clean up the mess before I get back in there to examine you. I think there's some ancient wheelchairs in there too, do you want me to wheel one out for you?"

Hannibal shook his head, and he leaned on Donald for support as he stood up. The cramping had finally subsided, a fact that made his heart drop like a heavy stone into his stomach. With weak arms he braced himself over Donald's smaller, slighter frame, and limped his way out of the washroom, the carnage his body had left behind enough to make a seasoned obstetrics resident like Donald retch.

The corridor was deep in the bowels of the hospital, in a section that had been abandoned a decade ago when the new surgical wing had been built. There was little risk of them being discovered, though it was hardly an adequate space for emergency surgeries. Hopefully, nature had done most of the dirty work for him, and if there was any residual placental tissue Donald could perform a simple dilation and curettage to prevent further bleeding.

An overwhelming sense of nausea hit Hannibal as he was eased onto the uneven, cold plastic mattress of the bed, a broken wheel giving its steel frame a warped appearance. He fought the urge to vomit and began undressing, his soiled clothes tossed into a nearby biohazard waste bin that Donald had provided. He put on the thin, blue cotton patient's robe that Donald had kindly provided and lay back onto the bed, his body trembling in shock.

At twenty-four years old, this wasn't how he'd expected his life in the United Main to turn out. At the young age of seventeen, his scholarship to John Hopkins was secured by his artistic prowess and he'd passed the entrance exams with ease. He was now fully qualified to work here, as evidenced by his consistent moonlighting work and his residency performance. If he'd had to mask his Omega status in order to achieve that success, what did it matter? The United Main was not to be a permanent home for him anyway, he had plans to move to Japan within the next few years to take advantage of their more inclusive lifestyle. Wealth would hardly follow him, however, not with how Japan like many other countries bore the brunt of the United Main's prejudicial bullying tactics through economic stalemates. Omega owned businesses were often shut out of the strong United Main markets, making it difficult for such companies to expand. Japan had a glut of them.

All he'd wanted was to make enough money to go to far more distant shores with ease, and a good wage treated frugally could purchase him a pretty condo along one of the country regions outside of Tokyo. Lady Murasaki had often told him about the stretches of near tropical forest, where shrines dedicated to Omegan forest dwellers could be found, little statues of rabbits, deer and koi dotting the landscape. Japan was a poor country, left destitute by the lack of investment by the United Main after the World Depression, and the dollars he earned here could go far. His current, unexpected condition would not have prevented this. He had hidden his gender this long, he was confident he could have kept the maternity and lineage of his child a secret as well.

His absently touched the small scar at his throat that still hadn't fully healed. The pinch of the scab made him wince and he let his hand fall away from it.

Could have. Life was full of desecrated possibilities that left cruel evidence in hindsight. He could have had his twin sister, Mischa, at his side right now, helping him through his lowest point. He could have avoided this altogether with her help, for if she had survived that terrible winter he would have always had an ally. First Mischa, now this. Was there any hope more barren?

Hannibal felt the tears fall, hot and furious and he shivered as he waited alone on the broken bed for his frightened Beta acquaintance to come back to him. Perhaps he had been abandoned, and he was to bleed out here, forgotten, as easily discarded as the soiled material shoved into the biohazard bin beside him. He knew, clinically, what was set to happen to him in the approaching months, how the hormonal sadness would assail him, placing him into a realm that shared its emotional borders with depression. This didn't make the sudden emptiness easier for him to bear, and he curled into a tight ball on the broken bed, his skin sticking to the rubber mattress, dried blood flaking and filling his senses with iron. Death had seeped inside of him. He clutched his bloodied fist to his mouth and bit down on the scream he wanted to allow escape.

When Donald finally came back into the dusty room he was wheeling a steel tray full of the surgical instruments of his discipline and several blankets which he hastily draped over Hannibal's shivering form. "For fuck's sake, Hannibal," Donald said, near terror creeping into the timbre of his voice. "It's not too late to go to the police. I have some friends in law school, they could petition the judge..."

"You're a fool if you think it's that easy," Hannibal said, cutting the conversation off at its root.

Donald placed a warm palm on Hannibal's forehead, caressing his damp hair from his brow with a tenderness that Hannibal had never before experienced. So many simple touches that everyone else could take for granted. He couldn't stop himself from sighing into the comfort of it.

"What was done to you was a crime."

"One I will forever pay for," Hannibal curtly reminded him. "Donald, I am appreciative of your help, but I am also fully aware that nothing comes without its price. You are no exception. I know you are here due to your own curiosity and I will not judge your for it, I only ask that you give me the same professionalism you give your regular patients. I understand the uniqueness of this opportunity and please know that were I in your position I would feel the same."

Donald frowned, his hand still cupping Hannibal's brow. "I don't understand what you mean."

"I think it should be obvious, Donald. I am quite possibly the only male Omega you will ever have the opportunity to examine in your entire obstetric career."

Donald stared at him, aghast and tore his comforting hand away. "Do you seriously think I'm that cold of a person? Hannibal, I consider you my friend. As an obstetrician, believe me, I'm keenly aware of how ridiculous the United Main's gender laws are. Please, Hannibal, don't mistake this for one more added cruelty." He kissed Hannibal's perspiring forehead, his lips cool against hot skin, the gesture wholesome in its concern. "I just wish you'd tell me who did this to you so I can kill the bastard myself."

Donald softly petted his hair, the action soothing, causing Hannibal to instinctively relax. He didn't entirely feel safe with Donald, but as a Beta he wasn't a threat either. Suddenly tired beyond his endurance, Hannibal rolled onto his back and turned towards Donald's angry and worried face.

"I don't want you to do what I am meant to," Hannibal said. He tilted his chin up in shivering pride, the scar at his throat opening anew. He could feel a fresh trickle of warm blood seep down his neck in a stinging, thin line. "I am borne of warriors, Donald. This is my war to wage."

Hannibal awoke on a cold, concrete floor, his body nestled amongst sawdust. He heard the clink of chains before he saw them, and he sat up with effort, the manacles at his wrists tight and bruising. Nausea from both his heat and the residual tranquilizer threatened to overcome him, and he tried to focus on the dark, small space he'd found himself in, the shape and arrangement of it oddly familiar. The ceiling was too short for him to stand, and the top of his head grazed the metal surface. He leaned against a wall constructed of steel and realized he was enclosed in a perfectly square metal box, not so much a prison as a small, mobile pen, one probably used for transporting pigs. He could hear voices through a thin slot cut into the metal door to his right and he strained to hear the conversation, his muddled, heat strewn mind doing what it could to make sense of the words.

"...I got a half dozen already starting to grow. It's just like watering a garden, really, I'm confident this method is going to be much more effective. Sows have their use, but when it comes to the bulk effort, you can't beat the test tube..." There was a low chuckle at this, and Hannibal blearily stared out the slot, trying to determine who the stranger's voice belonged to. It had an overly confident cadence to it that Hannibal instantly disliked. "Of course, the payment need not go through until there's at least preliminary proof of success. You must understand that no matter what, this is a highly experimental procedure..."

"I don't doubt your abilities at all Dr. Doemling, and I agree that Miss Piggy still has some potential with careful monitoring. I'm just looking to get as much out of my little bargain as I can. Get some bangs out of our buyer's bucks if you get my meaning. My oh my, this one has ripened up quite a bit in the last few hours, it's a pity you're an olfactory challenged Beta, Cordell, you can't imagine the incredible flower of that scent."

If Hannibal was feeling ill before he was outright sick now. He recoiled from the sound of Mason Verger's voice, the chains clanking as he moved towards the further reaches of his metal cage. The shackles were bound on both of his wrists, the length of the chains long enough to allow him full range within his confines, which were cramped and poorly ventilated. There was a painful burning on the lower right side of his back, and he tested it with a featherweight touch. Bits of sawdust had gotten into the wound, a blistered branding from the stinging feel of it. It was circular in shape, and Hannibal realized it was the one used on Verger swine, specifically the breeding stock. His nudity alarmed him, but he was still in full heat, a fact that told him he had not been abused in that sense, at least not yet.

Small, piggy eyes framed in thick glasses suddenly blocked what little light came into his cage and Hannibal remained immobile, masking himself in calm as best he could despite the involuntary shivers that wracked his body. "Looks like Sleeping Beauty has finally woken up! Hello there, Dr. Lecter, hope you got yourself a nice bit of shut eye. You know Cordell," he turned to the man in the white lab coat behind him, the one had referred to before as Dr. Doemling, "I didn't doubt it for a second. I wasn't a hundred percent sure until last night, when that little FBI turd stood in front of him. You could practically taste the Omega off the air, then. Don't know how the little scruff missed it, but then, these solitary Alpha types are weird dogs anyway."

Hannibal gritted his teeth at this, and fought the urge to lash out, instead forcing his rage into a simmering calm that would only mask the building fury within him.

"Listen, Dr. Lecter, Cordell, or as he likes to be known as 'Dr. Doemling', he found some pretty interesting information after he inspected your ladybits. Seems you're not the virginal old thing at all, and he's wondering where the little Dr. Lecter is." Mason smiled and leaned back, turning with a knowing look to Cordell. "Ah, I can sniff that off him, too, that tiniest little whiff of Omega Wants Her Baby longing, used to smell it off of Margot every time she lost one of those unfortunate mistakes. Isn't it funny, how long that lasts. No matter, the buyer's not that picky, and I'm sure he'll be thrilled to get himself a little collectable piece like this one." He turned back to Hannibal, his mouth upturned in a wide grin that met a malicious mirth in his small eyes. "I'll bet he'll like how *feisty* you are, especially with all that Alpha aggression practice over the years. You took a good chunk out of Cordell's arm last night, even while you were knocked out. How's that for instinctive reflexes! I'd try out the goods myself, of course, but you're a little older than I usually like--Okay, make that a *lot* older--But you know how Alphas are, always wanting to be the first ones to play with the toys out of the box. Gotta keep the customer happy!"

He leaned back to get a better view into the cage, a thin amount of light streaming against the far wall. Hannibal was keen to remain in the shadows. "Where's your dog now, Dr. Lecter? What's wrong, not going to bare your teeth at me without him around to protect you? See, Cordell, just the mention of him gets the juices going. He's got an itch that only Will Graham's knot can scratch. Forgive the crude observation, Dr. Lecter, please, it's just a statement of fact."

Mason left Hannibal, then, concentrating instead on his business with Cordell, which Hannibal gave his full concentration as he listened in. "Quiet, isn't he? Most of them are howling by now, rolling all over the floor and begging for any kind of relief."

"He's struggling," Cordell assured him. "Just give him by the end of the day, he'll just as much of a mess. If anything, I would suggest he be sedated, I wouldn't want to him to harm himself in an attempt to escape, especially after what he did when he was unconscious." Hannibal noted the large bandage on the man's arm and it was then that Cordell finally came into full view. He was a sweaty, slightly overweight man who was a head taller than Mason, in his mid to late thirties and balding. He wore a white lab coat that had a mustard stain on the sleeve and his stethoscope was draped over his neck, the nozzle cracked. Not a doctor so much as a man desperately wanting to be believed as one. He probably did have some rudimentary knowledge, but his application was too sloppy. He'd been a failure. A dropout.

A sense of genuine calm washed over Hannibal at this for if the man was tardy in one respect, he would be in many others. Cordell was a confident man. The easiest enemies to smite always were.

From what he could discern, the cage was in a brightly lit room, and it held an antiseptic aroma. He was in a lab, and from what he remembered of the Verger estate this was Mason's little genetics pet project where he hoped to develop meatier pigs. He'd had some success in the past, according to Margot, but the resulting swine had been deformed, so burdened with flesh they couldn't move and thus died within a few hours of being born. Mason always fancied himself a bit of a gene splicer. With a lackadaisical scientist like Cordell on his side, all manner of sick experimentation could occur. Hannibal was extremely happy at that moment that he was not a pig.

From what he could determine, the room and his cage were situated in the basement of the Verger estate, on the far reaches of the property, directly beneath the pens. He knew there was a set of stairs that led directly upwards into them, in an empty pen just to the far right of the barn doors. Old man Verger was a paranoid man, convinced that he needed escape routes should any of his enemies--usually envisioned as some fictitious branch of the United Main government--come seeking him out to destroy him or, more importantly, steal all of his money. Hannibal had made a point to go over all of the original architectural plans, circling and memorizing the secret rooms and routes that criss-crossed the entire property. He'd managed to bar entry into Margot's cottage this way, cementing shut the trap door in her sub basement. Mason was rumoured to have pouted over this for weeks, though he never revealed he knew about it, of course. Margot was tickled at his misery.

A small slot was opened at the bottom of his cage door and a tray of food was shoved through it, sawdust sliding into a set of runny sunny side up eggs. They sat, slimy and cold on a ceramic plate decorated with tiny pink flowers around the edges. How precious. Hannibal smiled at the offering, grateful for it.

Old ceramic plates were much like teacups. He tapped it hard against the ground, liking the way it easily broke into pieces.

"Just because you're in heat doesn't mean you shouldn't eat," he heard Cordell's viscous, overly friendly voice say to him. He watched carefully as Cordell waved goodbye to Mason whose ear was already plastered to his cell phone as he left Cordell alone, business trumping pleasure. It wasn't until Mason was well and truly out of the lab, that Cordell slid up to the small window and pursed his lips in thought.

"Now, he thinks selling you off to this guy is going to be a nice little turn of profit, but I'm thinking Mr. Verger just isn't seeing the big picture here. I mean, the last one we sold him ended up in the river on Will Graham's property, I mean, why not just point a beacon on us and be done with it, right? Not very smart. You've been branded, too, Mason's silly idea of putting a label on his merchandise. This guy is just too out there for things like that, he's sloppy and stupid and he's going to have us hung before the week is out when they find your corpse in Will Graham's dumpster." Cordell tapped the side of his nose. "I'm always thinking, though. It's why I'm the brains of this operation. Got a long plan going that I think is going to be very profitable for the Verger family and I think I have a better solution for you that will be especially profitable for me."

Cordell leaned closer to the small window to show Hannibal his cell phone. "I've been emailing this drug cartel guy in Romania. He's been looking for some Omega candy and he's real interested in what you got to offer. Sent him a pic while you were out, so he thinks you're more docile than you are. He's offering a good ten thousand more than the creep who will just kill you off, kind of unusual for a foreign market, but I'm not complain..."

Hannibal took that moment to take a shard of the broken ceramic breakfast plate and shoved it deep into Cordell's eye and well into the underside of his brain. Cordell screamed, immobilized by pain and brain damage, while Hannibal calmly reached through the slot with his plastic fork and deftly lifted a set of keys out of the front pocket of Cordell's lab coat and pulled them back through the slot, dropping them into his open palm.

It took a few moments to figure out which keys belonged to his shackles and when they were finally undone he reached through the slot and unlocked the deadbolt, earning a set of nasty scratches on his arm as a result. Freed, he stepped over the writhing torment of Cordell Doemling, and picked up his cell phone before snatching up the fake doctor's stethoscope and wrapping it tight around his throat. It took a good few minutes of hard adrenaline and determined muscle, but Hannibal managed to cut off the 'doctor's' air supply with its rubber hose pulled taut around Cordell's windpipe. The body violently thrashed and blood spurted from behind the nearly fully embedded piece of ceramic in Cordell's eye, a little pink flower teasing around the area where his pupil used to be. The overly bright room was awash in Cordell's death, splatters bathing Hannibal's bared chest in an unwelcome warmth. He squinted through the harsh light, letting the stethoscope drop.

Since Cordell was well and truly dead, Hannibal turned on the cell phone's camera and took a picture of his gory corpse. He checked the emails with the Romanian Cordell had been negotiating with, only to realize the foolish man had been duped. Hannibal had seen such correspondence before in Will's Omega case file and had extensive communication with officials in Eastern Europe. Cordell was offering to sell a male Omega to a Russian sting operation pretending to be based in Romania, a joint effort between the countries cracking down on Western traffickers and poachers. How very amusing. He sent the official who had been baiting Cordell a picture of his corpse along with a suggestion, in perfect Russian, as to how to use it for an anti-trafficking campaign poster. He was confident it would send the right message.

His escape plan was not secured yet, and he had a very small window of time left to implement it. He quickly dialled his quiet and meek patient Janine, who answered on the second ring, her voice painfully groggy. He checked the time. Five o'clock in the morning. Poor Will, he was set to have another early start.

"Hello, Janine," Hannibal said, and his voice was as warm as heated honey. "I hope you are doing well. The burns on your hands are healing? Very good, and not to worry, your mother can buy a new bed. A new couch set too? Ah, you were able to blame that fire on a back draft from the gas fireplace, very clever girl. I'm proud of your ambition. I am calling right now, my dear Janine, to make a very serious request of you. I need you to call the FBI. It's a matter of some urgency."

After giving her strict instructions as to what she was to say and do, Hannibal hung up the cell phone, leaving it in a puddle of Cordell's blood but not before taking the padlock off of his cage and slamming its rounded edge onto the cell phone's surface, crushing it. He grabbed a lab coat hanging on a nearby hook, slipping it on before grasping under the arms of Cordell's corpse and dragging it down the small corridor that led to the late Mr. Verger's escape route. It was hidden behind a incomplete partition in the drywall, and Hannibal deftly stepped into the arid space, Cordell's body tucked in along with him. He carefully put the partition back into place in case Mason happened to stop by during his escape, though at this early an hour he was sure the current Verger patriarch was back in his crusty bed, visions of Hannibal's 'ladybits' at the forefront of his vile mind. Hannibal shook the horrid imagery off and dragged Cordell's body down the secreted corridor, hefting it up and over his strong shoulders as he climbed the steep iron stairs leading up to the empty pen in the barn.

The trap door took a good shove to push open and it was Cordell's body that went first, plopped roughly onto the planks, face first into pig shit and shovelled fully through it as Hannibal pushed the corpse up by its knees over the edge of the opened trap door. He followed it immediately afterwards, closing the trap door behind him and covering it with straw before kicking Dr Cordell Doemling's corpse over onto its back.

It was still dark at this early hour and he could hear the distant wail of police sirens and he knew that with Mason Verger already on the FBI radar that Jack Crawford would waste no time getting a team onto the scene. He pulled the thin lab coat tight around him in a vain attempt to fight off the cold. His feet were still bare and he inwardly cursed as he took a look at Cordell's shoes and realized they were far too small to be of any use. He would have to track through the snow barefoot.

Shuddering against the cold, it was only now that his adrenaline crashed, taking him out of his sense of calm and releasing him to the painful ravages of his heat. A sudden spasm in his abdomen sent him doubling over in pain, and the release of slick put the intact boars several pens over in a furious state of panic, their screaming violence so loud it filled the barn with their aggressive din. Boars began to tear into one another in Alpha dominance, breaking the confines of their pens in order to get to each other and tear their rivals to pieces. The noise was going to alert someone on the Verger estate soon, this was not a safe place to hide.

With his senses overly attuned, every sharp wind cut through the thin lab coat like razors, his slick freezing to the inside of his thighs. Walking through the snow in his bare feet felt like stepping on shards of glass, but he struggled through the pain, stopping every few steps to clutch at his stomach and fight the angry scream that tried to rip itself out of his throat. Every nerve ending in his body felt like it was tipped in fire and dousing it with the cold only made it burn hotter.

The responding local P.D. were on the property now, and Hannibal managed to slip to the back end of the barn, in an area they wouldn't investigate and one which would give him a good vantage point.

Will. He needed Will.

Only Will.

He pressed his cheek against the large, plastic water dispensary meant for the pigs in temperate months which would be filled with rainwater starting in early April. Right now its contents were frozen solid and leaning against it offered no respite nor relief. At this rate, he'd die of exposure before finding any hope of rescue.

He curled his knees up against the twisting spasms tearing apart his abdomen, and he half wondered if he was having a seizure this time, if his heat was actually going to kill him. An old wives tale, of course, but he well understood where the idea came from, especially with pain this relentless and all consuming. A low whimper escaped him, and he tried to comfort himself with positive images from his memory palace. The incredible performance of The Sorceress by opera diva Cecilia Bartoli, the warmth of his hearth fire as he sipped a particularly good selection of well aged Glennfiddich. Will, playing ragtime on his harpsichord. Will, chiding him for not wearing the right kind of shoes. Will, his confusion and delight, his lips so warm and soft and needful, his touch so very strong and pleasing...

And just like that all the dungeon doors of his mind palace flung open, his inner horrors drifting out of them and onto the snow, rotting mind monsters that clamoured to be heard. He could feel Mischa's breath, sweet and temperate on the back of his neck, and he could hear her tiny voice asking him, for the hundredth time, 'Brother, what can we eat? I'm so hungry. Hanniska, I'm so cold.' and he had nothing for her, nothing but the cold and the long, thin grip of death on an endless field of snow. It took her tiny body despite all of his efforts to keep her safe. He should have just laid in the snow and followed her into her endless sleep, he never should have fought his way to the road, where he was rescued by the Soviet soldiers who had just celebrated a victory over the militia insurgents who had burned down Lecter castle. He should have covered his twin's small, slight corpse with his own and forgotten about this cruel thing called life. He should never have accepted the hot coffee from the laughing soldiers who bid him to drink, and praised him for being such a brave Alpha lad in the midst of such bloodletting. He should have crawled beneath the ground to be Mischa's grave, and he should have wrapped his arms around her thin, nine year old body and kept her corpse warm.

He could feel Will's touch against the side of his face when he closed his eyes, the very thought offering him comfort. He could feel the heat of Will's breath at his ear, whispering into it, "Why do I find you so beautiful?"

Hannibal's teeth chattered, his knees drawn up tight against his chin. "I don't know," he whispered back. "My dear Will, all I am is pain and hurt. It hurts, dear Will." He tucked his face into the ice cold space between his knees. Will Graham was set to arrive on the scene. Will Graham was Jack's bloodhound and Will Graham would recognize Hannibal's distressed scent.  

Will Graham had to hurry the hell up.




Chapter Text

chapter nine

Will Graham stood at the feet of the corpse of the balding man dressed in a doctor's lab coat, a long shard of ceramic shoved into his left eye and a stethoscope tied so tight around his neck it had crushed his larynx. It was speculation at this point as to what the cause of death was, but if Will was in the betting pool he'd take strangulation over stabbing, even if the latter would have caused considerable brain damage. Zeller and Price were already working the scene, and Zeller inspected the piece of ceramic with a pair of tweezers, gently pushing it into better view. "Royal Dolton Canton dinner plate, pink peonies print." Zeller looked up from the shard to find surprised looks from the crew greeting him. Zeller was the kind of guy who ate his TV dinner straight from the box, preferably with a plastic spoon, so this sudden knowledge was ill placed. "What? My grandmother had these plates."

Will felt Jack slide up next to him, his large, meaty hand clasped tight on Will's shoulder and he fought the urge to angrily shove him off. Jack sipped at his coffee, staring wordlessly at the scene, a feeling of blank inevitability exuding from him, as though it was perfectly normal to be finding a second corpse on the Verger property.

"Hell of a thing," he finally said, without conviction. Jack checked his watch and winced at the early hour. For once, their leader was feeling the effects of a dark morning, which was only now beginning to lift its bruise into bright sunlight. They'd been here for just over half an hour and Will was already keen to leave. "Have you got a hold of Dr. Lecter yet?"

A psychic punch hit him hard at that question and Will took out his cell phone, hoping Jack couldn't guess that he'd called the man obsessively since last night, and there were easily dozens of frantic, pleading messages left by Will. He'd almost driven to Hannibal's house in the middle of the night, the endless swirl of his emotions taking over all sense of reason as his desire to be with him became a need. He longed to talk this weirdness that occurred between them through. Even here, at the crime scene, Will could still taste Hannibal on his tongue, all of his senses and thoughts keenly attuned to what had happened outside of the Opera House. He hadn't slept, he'd called Hannibal's home phone, his office, his cell. If they couldn't get a hold of Hannibal, it was because he'd turned off his phone, and with good reason.

With that unresolved issue laying thick in the forefront of his mind and refusing to let anything else in, Will knew his expertise was going to be useless this morning. He had no clue how he was going to explain it to Jack, who seemed completely oblivious to Will's agitated state, no doubt chalking up his pacing and nervous, angry darting inspection of the scene as a method he was using to start up his empathy magic trick. Will didn't want to empathize with anyone this morning, he wanted some of that elusive virtue turned on himself for a change. He was an Alpha in love with his Alpha psychiatrist. There was no way to rubber stamp that kind of crazy.

The best he could do would be to go over the scene with what information was already there, and hopefully extrapolate a scenario. The winds had picked up and thanks to the not so helpful local P.D. any scent that might have lingered at the scene was scrubbed out by the rush of an icy polar vortex sweeping through the barn and causing a great deal of discomfort for the hundreds of chilly pigs. Will pulled his toque down over his ears, grateful for the stinging warmth of the stretchy black cotton. He approached Price and Zeller who made moves to leave so Will 'could do his thing', only for Will to stop them with a raised hand encased in a grey wool mitten. "You don't need to go anywhere. I just need to get a good look at the scene. What have you guys got so far?"

Zeller and Price leaned back, allowing Will full access to the corpse. There were small splinters embedded in its cheeks and smears of swine excrement all along the front of the body. Frowning, Will kicked aside thick layers of straw and found a drag line that mysteriously disappeared beneath a sliver of wood along the pen's floor. "Who called this in?" Will asked Jack, who was now leaning on the corner post of the pen. Will kicked more of the straw aside, the drag marks more pronounced.

"Anonymous tip," Jack said. He yawned and gulped at his coffee, the bright sunlight that erupted through the ceiling windows of the barn doing nothing to bring wakefulness into him. "Some girl, probably a maid who doesn't want to get too involved. I got Beverly questioning the Verger house staff right now."

"Do we know who this guy is?" Will asked, and Jack nodded.

"Cordell Doemling. You know how they say birds of a feather, flock together? Meet Mason Verger's bestie. Guy's got a pedophile rap sheet the length of this barn. Don't let the lab coat fool you, he's not an actual doctor, he dropped out during his residency at St. Barnabas Hospital in New York and went for a general sciences bachelor specializing in genetics instead. Dropped out of that, too. He's been on the Verger payroll for the past four years, helping Mason Verger develop new higher meat production strains of pig. I tell you, Graham, thinking of someone like Mason Verger messing with my bacon makes we want to turn into a vegetarian."

Will kicked off the last remnants of straw, careful to keep the piles in the pen for forensics in case they held evidence, but what was more important at present was where the body had come from. "He wasn't killed here, obviously," Will said, frowning at the loose planks lining the bottom of the pen. He bent low to the ground and began prying at the wood, specifically the spot where the drag marks suddenly began. To his surprise, the wood began to give way, and the forensic team and Jack stood back as a trap door squeaked open, revealing a steep set of metal stairs leading into a dank basement.

The smell was overpowering, and both Will and Jack staggered back from it. Omega heat. Male. And, to Will, strangely familiar.

"That's quite all right, gentlemen! That will be all! Can't go sticking sticky fingers into people's pies without permission, can we? Might find ourselves in a bit of a political pickle!" Mason Verger, dressed in a red brocade bathrobe and a pair of striped flannel pyjamas came marching towards the crime scene, a couple of stone faced men in dark suits in tow. "I have my lawyers with me, and while I'm still suffering the sorrow of the death of my dear, wonderful friend and colleague, Dr. Doemling, I'm also forced to ensure the sanctity of the Verger corporation's trade secrets. You can't go down there, gentlemen. Not without a big, fat warrant."

Will near growled at this and he pulled Jack aside, the forensic team paused in their work as they waited for the go ahead to continue. "The warrant is going to take too long, Mason is going to scrub clean whatever is down there. We need to process as much above ground as possible and quick."

Jack's determined face was hooded in shadow. "Agreed. Mason has deep connections to the McBain political arena, as you know he's got a lot of public backing. With the elections coming up four months from now McBain has got lots of time to secure his spot and he's already the one that's the biggest name in the polls. A buddy like Mason Verger is inconvenient, but he's got the money to keep the momentum of his campaign going. He's not going to let that cash cow go to jail."

They were interrupted by a small exclamation of happy surprise by Jimmy Price, who had peeled back a large bandage on the forearm of Cordell's corpse. "Jackpot! A nasty bite, and from the shape of it, definitely human in origin. Not sure if it's from our perp but we can put whoever got a taste of this guy on our suspect list. We'll be sure to get DNA samples from the saliva and the lab can process those, we won't have to wait on Minnesota. Can you believe they still haven't processed those Omega allele markers we gave them a few weeks ago? It just goes to show, you need a job done right, you have to watch it carefully, from inception to completion."

Jack stood close to Will, his mood darkening further. "Plate in the eye. Strangled with a stethoscope. Chunk taken out of his arm like some kind of human shark. What are we looking at here, Graham? Is this the work of the Ripper?"

Will hesitated due to the fact he hadn't been able to give the scene a proper, in depth analysis with his empathy, but there was enough surface forensics to point heavily in that direction. He gave Jack's intense waiting a slow nod. "This wasn't a planned murder," Will added, frowning. "There's a lot that doesn't fit his pattern, and there's no accomplice this time. There's no organs missing, for one, and the method of death is missing a certain overblown creativity that I've come to expect from the Ripper. But I still get the impression that it's a part of his repertoire." Will frowned, and shook his head, the idea taking root and refusing to leave him. "He did this under duress. If I didn't know any better, I'd say this was an act of self defence."

"That's a pretty strange leap, Graham," Jack warned him. "The Ripper doesn't strike me as the kind of killer who allows himself to get into the grips of people like this. In the ranks of his usual victims, Doemling is a low level slug, not to mention a Beta. From all the evidence I've seen the Ripper only kills Alphas." Jack eyed the trap door, which Will had closed, if only to preserve the scent that still lingered in the dark space beneath it. "The male Omega we scented out of there...Do you think it's the last remnants of the one killed yesterday morning? Would make sense, given Doemling and Mason's rap sheets, they're perverts enough to do something like that. Would tie into why the Ripper would choose to kill a Beta for a change, though why he left Mason alive is an omission I'm not ready to forgive him for."

"I don't know," Will said, shaking his head. Unbidden, an image of Hannibal came into his mind, the angles of his face blurred into soft contours, his mouth partially open, eyes closing in sultry want as he leaned in to kiss..."We'll be able to get more information back at the lab," he gruffly replied, coughing nervously into his fist.

"Are you boys just about done here? I do have a business that needs tending to, and I'm getting a tad tired of becoming body dump central." Mason Verger kept his distance, his lawyers ushering him away lest he blurt out incriminating sentences he couldn't claw back. "How about you let your little pet the Chesapeake Ripper know I'm not very happy about this sort of vandalism. I mean, that's who did this, am I right?" Mason nervously laughed at this, and Will caught a genuine note of fear within the slimy man's countenance. He frowned over it, taking every nuance of Mason's posture and expressions into a cohesive whole. Mason was rattled and not just by the death of his colleague. He was involved in some way, and the retribution terrified him. As well he should be scared, Will thought, the last thing any Alpha with legally dubious perversions wanted was the Chesapeake Ripper on their scent. Mason had a bulls-eye tacked onto his forehead, and he was now well aware of it.

"I tell you, man, this is really putting me off the Sunday ham." Will turned to see Zeller had wandered away from the crime scene and had his hand held at his mouth as he looked on a select pen of boars. He waved Will over and pointed at a small group of the intact Alpha pigs, their tusks curled up tight beside snuffling, squealing snouts. They were covered in cuts, and one had a good portion of his flank ripped open, revealing the white gleam of ribs. The pig shuddered as it walked and another boar tore into the injured section of flesh, sending it screaming. The wooden boards of the pens separating them from each other was broken and Will had to wonder what had put them into such a frenzy that they had attacked each other with that kind of aggressive venom. The gory wound was fresh, it had happened that morning.

Will shivered and gave Zeller a friendly pat on the back before leaving. "Let me know if you find anything new. Tell Price to call me when he gets those DNA results from the bite wound." He shoved his freezing hands deep in the pockets of his parka and shrugged his shoulders up, a vain effort to keep out the near arctic cold that was still winding its way into the large, heated space. Mason Verger and his lawyers left through the main doors, and Will watched as his stocky figure marched back to the main estate, his lawyers near jogging to keep up with him. Mason, vainly searching for an escape.

Will left Jack and the rest of the team behind, and took his keys out of his pocket, the draw of Wolf Trap a balm of calm he desperately needed and he couldn't wait to hop in his car and get back to the warmth of his solitude. He took off his grey, wool mittens, the ice cold air biting into his knuckles as he opened the door and got into the driver's seat, instantly putting the key in the ignition and...Pausing...

The engine turned and hummed into life and Will slammed the driver's door closed, his body tense and waiting.

Omega. Male. In full heat. And in his car.

Hannibal clamoured from the back where he'd been hiding and into the front passenger seat, buckling himself in with trembling, frozen fingers. His body shook as he sat beside Will, out of heat induced submission or trauma, Will couldn't properly tell. In shock, he wordlessly pulled out of the driveway leading to the barn and began what was now going to be a highly uncomfortable ride off of the Verger property and back to his home. With a quick assessment, Will took in the thin lab coat Hannibal was wearing, noting he was nude beneath it, his wrists bruised and various superficial cuts lining his arm and along the circumference of his knees. His extremities were blue from exposure to the cold.

Will pulled onto the main road, the connections snapping into place in an uncharacteristically slow pace. "It was you. You killed Cordell Doemling, you..." Will's breath was heaving in panicked gasps as Hannibal's heat became suffocating within the confines of the car, his focus on the road difficult when all of his concentration was suddenly pooled into his hardened cock. "You're a fucking Omega. You're a goddamned, fucking Omega..."

A spasm wracked Hannibal's body, and he turned away from Will to curl into the pain, a low whine leaving him that made Will nearly pass out at the wheel. He slammed on the brakes and brought the car to a screeching halt at the side of the road, the rough growl he let out through clenched teeth matching the roar of burned rubber. With the car parked at an angle, Will stormed out of the car, heedless of the sudden cold enveloping him in fierce gusts, his coat open as the wind and snow tore at him. He paced in front of his headlights, hands on his hips as he took deep breaths, forcing himself out of a heat induced rage. It took a few minutes for him to properly cool off, and by the time he looked back through the windshield at the shivering, frightened form of Hannibal he was able to handle the situation with a far more reasonable perspective. Will closed his eyes and ran frozen hands over his face, warming him enough to get him moving.

He unlocked the trunk of his car and dug through the fishing and hunting gear until he found what he was looking for, pushing his fishing knives aside to get to it. He shook it when he took it out, inspecting it to make sure it would be effective for what was needed, and then slammed the trunk closed. He didn't miss the involuntary jump of Hannibal in the passenger seat.

He opened the passenger door and, taking in Hannibal's pathetic state, he draped the blanket over him, tucking it tightly around his shivering, hypothermic body. "It's faux fur and hardly as warm as the wool one I've got back there, but I know how sensitive Omega skin is, especially when in heat." He grabbed his wool mittens, and snatched up Hannibal's hands, heating the near frozen fingers with his breath first before encasing them in the warm fabric. Hannibal was in convulsions, his panic so severe Will could feel his pulse jump through the thick, padded mittens and against his grip.

Crouching lower, Will pressed his forehead against Hannibal's, the resulting whimpers putting an ache low in Will's belly, making him involuntarily growl. He embraced him closer, warming him and calming him with soft strokes along the back of Hannibal's neck.

"You made me think I was going crazy, you goddamned son of a bitch." Will embraced him tighter, Hannibal sighing in relief into the touch. When his breathing stopped heaving in tortured hitched gasps and took on a more natural rhythm, Will gently pulled away and closed the passenger door. He waited a few moments to cool off some more before getting back into the driver's seat.

He kept one hand on the wheel and one on the back of Hannibal's neck, the steady rhythm of his touch keeping him calm. When a particularly bad spasm wracked through him, Will tightened his grip, the firm pinch instantly loosening Hannibal's tense muscles, the relief sending out an automatic gush of slick that the Alpha in Will instantly responded to, his cock straining against the confines of his jeans. The car was filled with Hannibal's erotic scent, its hypnotizing aroma sickly sweet and burning into him. Thankfully, Wolf Trap was only half an hour away, and if he hit the gas a little too heavy he'd make it there even faster.

"So how did you do it?" Will asked, and Hannibal turned on his side to face him, his eyes closed in bliss as he buried his cheek in Will's hot palm. "Alpha pheromone injections, obviously, but they might not have been enough to keep the scent hovering. That was quite the scene back there, Hannibal, and I'm guessing killing is something that's become quite natural to you over the years. That little wren's heart and that little pearl earring you gave me at the McDermott scene, that was a nice touch. I love how you made sure I knew what kind of bird it was. Yeah, that was real cute." Will's grip on the back of Hannibal's neck involuntarily tightened and he forced his fingers to relax when Hannibal whined against it. "A pearl among swine. Is that you how think of me? You were crushing on me even then, weren't you, planning on seeing how far you could make this Alpha fall. You think you're real clever." Hannibal's knees rose to his chest as he shuddered, and Will pulled him closer, as much as the seat would allow, driving one handed as he draped his arm around Hannibal's shoulders. He swallowed, and tried to focus on the road ahead. Wolf Trap was only ten minutes away, now. The goal was keeping him sane.

"How did you hide it this long?" Will said through clenched teeth as the final turn onto his property finally came into view. "Did you kill them because they found out, is that how you determined who lived or died? It wasn't enough just to kill them, you had to make them your artful, revolutionary thesis statement, you took trophies, you took livers...Hearts...." Despite the agony of his arousal, Will felt bile rise in his throat, his mouth twisted in a furious grimace. "You ate them. Those organs are chock full of Alpha hormones, you could make it seem more natural that way. Oh my God, you fucking son of a bitch. You had me over for dinner, you fed me the heart of one of your victims...." Will's face twisted into disgusted misery. "You bastard. Like it was some kind of metaphor, the two of us sharing the heart of your enemy. You were going to let me go crazy by falling in love with you, you were going to discredit me when I got too close to figuring out who you really were...You manipulative bitch, how many lies was our friendship made of? Is there any moment of sincerity? Any at all?"

He pulled the car into his driveway at Wolf Trap and it was still rolling to a stop when Hannibal jerked the passenger door open and practically leapt from the car, well head of Will as he opened the front door and escaped inside. Will cursed and turned off the engine, tearing out of the car with equal fury, his steps bounding over his front porch and through his door and into his living room. Seven dogs stared blearily up at him, tails thumping in vague question at this strange intrusion of their master into their slumber. There was no sign of Hannibal in his kitchen or living room, and he was about to see if he'd made his escape through the back door when the sound of water running made him pause. He circled his living room, his gaze turned upward towards the ceiling of his house, an ancient long, brown stain outlining a support beam.

Hannibal was upstairs, taking a shower.

He wanted to hate him, he really did. But Will's memory kept assailing him with the connective tissue of empathic facts, that Hannibal had chosen *his* car to dive into and to wait for him instead of simply stealing it. He had been shivering and alone in that miserable cold for who knew how long, risking death by hypothermia as he waited for Will to finish processing his crime. He had cuts all over his body, and cruel bruises on his wrists.

He'd lied and manipulated to keep himself hidden, and Will really wanted to hate him for it, he really did, but instead frustrated tears left him, his fists curled tight in a rage that was not at all directed at Hannibal but at everything that created him. Hate fought with understanding, for hadn't Will himself harboured murderous thoughts, at times so eager to act on them he often felt like a psychic accomplice. That death of the Omega male had left him reeling with violence, and a renewed sense of rage overtook him as he thought of Hannibal, likewise bound and possibly tortured, the state of Doemling's corpse not enough to sate his vengeful fury.

He was also the Chesapeake Ripper, and if Will really wanted to turn on some uncomfortable introspection he'd know just exactly how in tune he was with the killer's cause. He didn't hate the Ripper, he admired him, and now knowing it was a rare male Omega who committed the crime, that awe multiplied tenfold. Death had become a revolutionary work of art in his hands and Will would be lying to himself if he hadn't resonated with it.

Will closed his eyes, and forced deep breaths into himself before turning and making his way up the small flight of stairs to the second floor. There were certain practicalities that had to be taken care of first, and he wasn't like these ignorant coastline people who he had to interact with on a daily basis, who didn't truly understand the give and take of need. He walked past the bathing room, steam escaping through the gaps of the closed door, and headed for his bedroom.

He quickly took his rumpled, sweaty sheets off of his bed, and tossed them in the laundry bin in the corner. Bracing himself, he opened the closet and pulled out a large box, its corners yellowed with age. 'Hudson's Bay Fine Omegan Furs, 1932' in embossed, gold script decorated the lid, and Will paused over it, listening to the sounds of Hannibal in the shower. He hoped Hannibal appreciated the gesture and understood Will was simply trying to do the right thing. He braced himself, closing his eyes first before diving into decision as he took off the lid and pulled out the thick collection of vintage fur blankets.

He was still putting the bed together when he heard the shower turn off, and he hastily added the last finishing touches with a couple of fluffed up matching fur pillows and closed the curtains to keep the overly bright sunlight out of the room. The blankets were a patchwork of dark browns and patches of white and they held a slight, clean perfume smell, indicative of special dry cleaning techniques used for Omega customers. They were his great-grandmother's passed down to his grandmother on her wedding day and he hoped her spirit didn't mind their current use.

When Hannibal took too long a time to come out of the bathing room, Will wondered if he'd had a seizure and, worried, went to check on him. There was a sudden, awkward meeting in the hallway as they near collided, Hannibal trying to escape and Will slightly dancing in his path, preventing it. Hannibal had borrowed Will's cotton bathrobe, which fit him better than Will would have expected. He didn't miss the unspoken longing still present in Hannibal's eyes, and he avoided them, gesturing instead to the open door of the bedroom. Cautiously, Hannibal entered the room, his head constantly turning to see if Will was following him, fear and desire making a deadly combination that tugged at Will's empathy. Hannibal stopped when he entered the room, confusion evident, and Will placed himself in front of him to give him a proper explanation.

"They were my grandmother's," he said, kicking the empty box back into the closet. "A bit more traditional than usual, I know, and as far as I know no one gets fur wedding sheets any more. The set is a mixture of rabbit and mink, in case you were wondering. Look, I know it's weird, but you're an Omega, and you're in heat, and I want you to be comfortable. My cotton sheets are too scratchy, especially right now." He opened the top drawer of his antique dresser and rummaged around the back of it, taking out a small padlock and key into his fist. He turned back to Hannibal and took his hand, still warm and damp from the shower, and placed the padlock and key into his trembling palm. "You can lock yourself in, if you want. If that makes you feel better."

Hannibal's eyes glinted black in the grey light of the room, and despite his heat his expression was stone cold. "You hate me this much," he said.

Will's head darted in a confused tic at this, and he frowned at Hannibal's reaction. "That's not it...I..." He closed the small space between them, the key and lock a barrier that Will wasn't sure how to jump. "I know you aren't sure of what you want. I'm giving it to you because I need you to know that I would never hurt you." He couldn't stop himself from caressing Hannibal's cheek, his other hand smoothing down the back of his head in soft affection. Despite his cunning escape, Hannibal was currently fragile, Will knew, and he'd been treated roughly while he was highly vulnerable. If the murder of Cordell Doemling was especially vicious, for Will it was a sign of just how much he'd deserved it. The shivering person standing before him now was completely devoid of fight and knew all he had left to survive was Will's mercy, a gift Hannibal seemed confident he was not going to receive.

"Will," Hannibal said, his voice a tremulous whisper. "I value our friendship more than you can know. Please, believe me when I tell you that I have always been sincere in my interactions with you." Hannibal moved closer, the padlock and key held in a loose grip. "Circumstances have exposed my greatest fears to you and you now see me for who and what I am. Yet, you do not run from me, your anger against my subterfuge is not so much as to destroy me, though perhaps you are merely waiting for your chance. You have not yet struck me, nor have you put me shackles, for the FBI to cage me. Shall I dare to believe it, my dear Will--Are we still friends?"

Will stroked Hannibal's hair, his feelings rushing through him with a fervour that had little to do with heat and far more to do with the presence of this man, who he'd kissed and desired well before the advent of a biological need. White antlers sprouted like flowers through the floor around them as Will pulled Hannibal tight inside of their spiralling, spiky circle, the room filling with their bleached bones. He wanted to be inside of that hidden space, caged within Hannibal's experience and allowing it to overtake him. Will pressed his face against Hannibal's, holding him in a tight, warming embrace against his chest and easing the tremors that still continued to course through his anxious, traumatized body.

"I love you, Hannibal," Will kissed into his ear.

Hannibal's bones slid from him as Will kissed him, his flesh easily yielding to Will's touch. The key and lock fell to the floor and Hannibal was the one stepping back, guiding Will towards the bed behind him. They fell together onto the softness of fur, Hannibal practically purring into the feel of it, a reaction that made Will chuckle as he nuzzled into Hannibal's neck. He captured his gaze, pulling those unreadable maroon depths into his own and kissed him lightly on the lips before teasing at the knot of his bathrobe, undoing it. He slid Hannibal out of it like he was a precious package, the terrycloth wrapper tossed to the floor and Hannibal's nakedness lay fully revealed beneath him. With the furs silky and soft beneath his skin, the relief of comfort made Hannibal shudder, and he let out a low whimper into Will's mouth, tongue reverberating that need deep into Will's throat.

The taste of him was so good, like sweet wine with only a hint of sour notes, his body yielding to Will's hands as they explored over his skin. There was a slight hitch in Hannibal's breath when his hand brushed the tip of his cock, a stiffening of his spine beneath him as he seemed to brace himself. Saddened by the fear Hannibal had suddenly expressed, Will brought his hand back up to the back of the Omega's neck and gently stroked it until he was fully relaxed once again.

"I won't do anything you don't want," Will assured him.

Hannibal shuddered anew at this, a tiny whine caught in his throat as his eyes went glassy with moisture. Trembling fingers eased Will's sweater up and over his head, then worked the button and zipper of his jeans. Will slid out of them, tossing them both onto the floor before taking off his underwear and socks. Naked, and in obvious arousal, he pressed against Hannibal's own erection, the friction between their sexes as he slowly moved over him making a cry escape Hannibal's surprised mouth, one that Will quickly devoured. He could feel Hannibal's slick against his thighs, viscous and thick. He palmed near that other, more elusive sex, taking up some of the natural lubricant. He slid his slick covered grip over their cocks, pressing them together, his thumb grazing the tips of both their penises. Hannibal's was slender and long, while Will's was thicker, its girth an Alpha hint as to what was to come later.

He kissed him long and languidly, Hannibal's hands stroking Will's back in uncertain circles, his body moving in time with Will's friction, panting mouth open and keen to take when Will offered his tongue. Will couldn't get enough of the taste of him, and he paused in his movements, kissing Hannibal's chin and moving down, slowly, past his throat and down the centre of his chest, his mouth working the softness of Hannibal's belly before licking that slender length in its entirety, pausing only to kiss and push aside his small scrotum before diving just that little bit further. There, that little flower opened up and pulsed for him, the little round fruit inside ripened enough for Will to dive his tongue in and pleasure it with the circling of its tip.

Hannibal moaned and spread his legs wider, his breath coming in quicker, shocked gasps. "Will...Will..."

Hannibal's body undulated, fingers digging into the fur sheets and clenching the wrinkles tight. His thighs quivered as Will continued to explore this hidden piece of him, getting drunk on slick and pleasure. When Hannibal's moan became more pained than joyful, Will knew it was enough, and he slid upwards, his stomach stained with the evidence of Hannibal's spent cock and buried his face in Hannibal's chest before he leaned up and braced himself over him. Hannibal, silent and aware, stared back up at him, at the open question that lay between their bodies, and it was then that he gave his answer, turning his head and arching his blushed neck in unbearable, erotic submission.

Will wanted nothing more than to sink into him right then, roughly taking him and pounding his cock into the opened petals of that dew kissed space. But he held back, opting first to tenderly take the offering before him, and delicately, softly, kissed Hannibal's neck, his mouth suckling on the pulse points of his jugular but never enough to bruise. He didn't want Hannibal to feel pain, the only marks he wanted to leave on his body were ones of sensual remembrance.

"Will..." A plea, tragically uttered inside of desire. Will stopped his smooth ravishing of Hannibal's neck, his thumb pressed lightly on the pulse point. Hannibal braced Will's face in his palms, long, elegant fingers diving into Will's unruly, dark locks. "The last time I did this..."

Will hushed him and pulled Hannibal's hand away. Will brought his bruised wrist to his lips, kissing the ugly marks with a tenderness that made Hannibal gasp. "I told you, I won't do anything you don't want. I can still give you the padlock and key, if that's what you need."

Hannibal stared up at him in an expression of extreme confusion, which morphed delicately into a feeling that Will's empathy snatched up inside of himself, the rich warmth of it encompassing them both within that boned cage. He could feel all of it, all the hurt and suffering, the unbearable loneliness, the desperate need to be more than what was permitted, the constant weary battle of it. The ache for Will's heart was unbearable, and as he kissed Hannibal again he made sure he knew that he had it, for Hannibal was the victor here, and this Alpha king was the one on his knees in worship of him, begging Hannibal to spare him his life.

Hannibal shifted his hips beneath him, spreading himself wider. "Will..."

He could feel his knot beginning its first ripple, and as Will slid inside of that tight, pulsing heat he embraced Hannibal tight into his arms, the need to protect him so paramount he damn near wept into his neck. His knot pulled him in tighter, the feel of that soft wall around his cock yielding to him, the intense, feverish emotions it brought with it nearly blacking him out. Hannibal arched his back and moaned, and Will held him tighter still, rocking into the shudders that collapsed and rose within him.

Oh God, he loved him. To have so many years alone and then to be given this gift--How was it possible that this could be so easily discarded? How was it that some thought enforcing it as law was the same as this fiery ignition of his heart?

"Nothing is going to happen to you," Will promised, his kisses fervent and deep, heedless of Hannibal's inability to hear him, so lost inside of their physical union there was nothing left of him but sensation.


Afterglow held no less pleasure in their exhaustion, and Will sighed in happiness as Hannibal ironically placed a chaste kiss on his lips. He was especially delicate now, long limbs and sated heat putting him into a fairly typical Omega phenotype, his androgyny suddenly more pronounced. Graceful and majestic, a rogue deer in the forest plotting its own path. "You are beautiful," Will reminded him for the hundredth time and Hannibal smiled at this, and Will's heart just about split at the truth of it.

"We don't have much time."

Will kissed him, easing such foolish notions aside. "Right now we have forever, Hannibal."

"I will be discovered," Hannibal said, tracing his fingertips along Will's face, scratching lightly at his dishevelled beard. Will rested his palm on Hannibal's neck, his thumb grazing the pink scar at his throat. Hannibal sighed, and closed his eyes. "There will be DNA in the bite mark. There will be enough markers in it to identify me. The Genetics Sentry will be here, enforcing the law."

Will groaned at this. To him, the very idea of a branch of the law cracking down on gender subterfuge and gender based social mores seemed alien and strange. They had no such cause for that kind of enforcement in the mainland, and he'd grown up thinking of them as half formed bogeymen who couldn't possibly exist in reality. He'd been corrected of this when he was child, when they'd come to his home and threatened his father with jail time for not keeping his Omega mate hidden from public view. They were cold and judgemental against his father's protests, and they treated him like he was sub human hillbilly for not paying more careful attention to what was, to mainlanders, a fabricated law.

"Some of their offices are backlogged and lazy, it was easy to get rid of the allele markers from the Minnesota genetics office, all it took was a phone call to a distracted clerk and she was convinced the samples were contaminated and destroyed them. Unfortunately, immigration DNA sampling is controlled Federally. I tried to erase the original data years ago, but the United Main has more safeguards in its gender identification systems than it does military strongholds. Of course, not everyone makes use of it, it's another level of red tape that many prefer to avoid. Obtaining my scholarship and getting into John Hopkins had been easy. I just ticked the box marked 'Alpha' and they never bothered to check. After this, I imagine that oversight will be rectified."

Will frowned slightly and propped himself up on his elbow. He stroked Hannibal's hair, liking the way the gesture made him sigh in pleasure, his maroon eyes half lidded in contentment. Will had never seen him so relaxed, his body boneless and easy beneath the fur blankets, every touch bringing out what seemed to Will were soft purrs of satisfaction. "No one is taking you from me," Will assured him, and Hannibal lightly laughed at this.

"Of course they will. Much as you want it to be true, your Alpha tinged reasoning is hardly the reality we live in. You must know, dear Will, before they knock on your door to come and imprison me, I have never allowed another so deeply into who I am than you. You've stared at my soul in unflinching intensity. You must understand, Will, that scrutiny is one I have given you, too. I stand at the precipice of your heart and I am likewise in awe of what I've found there."

Will pulled him in, a comfortable embrace that their tangle of limbs easily locked into. "Why are you talking to me as though you are getting ready to say good-bye? If I have to say it a million times, I will. I won't hurt you. Nothing is taking you from me."

"You say that with such conviction."

"Because it's true." Will kissed him. "I love you."

"Love is an inadequate word for how I feel about you. I am lost in you, Will. Such a realization gives me something I have only felt during heat and all the dungeons of my mind palace are flung open, releasing ugly demons from their cages."

Will continued to stroke his hair, liking the way the silky fronds slipped between his fingers. Hannibal closed his eyes as though he were about to fall asleep. "What do you feel?" Will whispered to him.

Hannibal smiled and shifted his head on the fur pillow until his lips met Will's warmed palm. If they could lie here for the rest of eternity there couldn't be a better outcome. He was going to remember this moment for the entirety of his life, Will realized. The culmination of hearts and blood that was forever entwined within him, antler bones scraping along his veins, pulling Will deep into the abyss.


Will kissed his forehead with a lingering tenderness that Hannibal sweetly sighed into. "Get some rest," Will suggested, and though he was loathe to do it and would have much preferred to spend another entire day and night within Hannibal's grasp, there were certain other needs that had to be met. "I'll make you breakfast."

"Flapjacks and hot dogs," Hannibal groggily replied.

"And what's wrong with that?" Will grinned. He slid out of the bed, his body still sticky and crusty with slick and sweat, the evidence of their lovemaking a topical he wasn't willing to wash off just yet. He tossed on a t-shirt and a pair of shorts before heading downstairs, his dogs leering at him as he passed them and made his way to the kitchen. The dog flap in the back door swung open and closed as several of his pack scrambled through it, seeking out their own breakfast, which Will gave, with strict orders not to eat until he was finished pouring their portions into bowls. When he gave the nod, they practically inhaled the food, and one particularly feisty jack russell tried to snatch more out of his older, docile companion's bowl. Will gave him a shove with his foot and ordered the little dog away. The sulking canine slid back out through the dog flap and into the snow, and there was no doubt he was looking to supplement his appetite with a rabbit.

Will thought about Hannibal sleeping in his upstairs bed and the smile that erupted over him spread to every sinew and bone within him, his dirty little house in Wolf Trap suddenly seeming more home than hiding spot from the oppressive coastline. He rummaged through his cupboards trying to find something worthy to give him, only to discover sad instant coffee and wrinkled sugar packets. The refrigerator didn't offer much either as it was bare save for a couple of fish he'd caught through the ice a few days ago that were still waiting to be gutted and scaled. He considered a Cajun fry-up, but he wasn't sure if Hannibal's Omega palate could stand the heat of the spices. In the end, he opted for oatmeal and Coffee Mate. Vaguely nutritious and hopefully not too gross.

His cell phone was face down on the kitchen counter and he picked it up only for the screen to instantly alight, signalling he'd had several calls and messages. Curious, he unlocked the screen and found six calls from Jack and several texts blinking in panicked, blue fury.

He opened his messaging program and felt a sick stone drop through the centre of his gut.

*will hannibal is an omega the united main dna database has him on file price put the sample through and the whole fucking thing lit up like a christmas tree if you know where he is for fuck's sake warn him*

*goddammit will they sent out the sentries for him youd think he was a serial killer they way they are acting if you know where he is keep him hidden*

*will they are heading for wolf trap*

He could hear the scream of the sirens before he could even react to the text, his dogs worked up into snarling frenzy well before the first slam of fists hit his door. The wail of an ambulance howled its way onto his property and Will grabbed his gun, making sure it was good and loaded and pointing at the head of whoever finally slammed his door enough to cave it in.

"Get the damn dogs!" he heard someone shouting and it was near enough to make him start shooting.

"Will Graham! Genetic Sentry Forces, we want to know if Hannibal Lecter is in your home." Pounding fists met his door again, splintering the wood. "Mr. Graham! Open this door! We need to speak to you about Omega Hannibal Lecter!"

The back door caved in, surprising Will, and he whirled around, his gun facing the centre of the forehead of the GSF officer who barrelled his way in. He held up his hands only to nod at the front of the house, where the door had been taken off its hinges, a half dozen GSF with semi-automatic assault rifles pointed at his chest and head, the tiny red dots itching to make their mark.

"He's not here!" Will shouted, though he knew the falsehood was easily seen through, especially with the scent of Omegan heat and mating all over him. He stared above the shoulders of the GSF officers, gaining a good view beyond his porch of the grey car careening onto his property. Jack. The car skidded to a halt, nearly hitting one of the armoured GSF vans, and the engine was still running when Jack stormed out of it, his large bulk running clumsily towards the front door, his FBI badge held high.

"That's an officer of the law you are harassing!" Jack shouted, heedless of the needlepoints of red light that were now turned on him. "He works with me! You can't just barge into his home!"

"Tell your officer to stand down or we shoot!" The GSF officer closest to Will shouted back. He couldn't tell what any of them looked like, they wore black armour and black tinted helmets. The GSF attracted the worst kind of power hungry assholes, and since they didn't often get an opportunity to scent their territory they couldn't wait to piss all over Wolf Trap and Will's freedoms. "Hannibal Lecter, we are aware you are in here! If you do not wish for your mate to be incarcerated, show yourself. We have an ambulance waiting, you will not be harmed."

"Bullshit!" Will shouted.

"Stand down, sir, and put down the gun."

"Get out of my house!"

"That is MY officer! Will, you don't have to listen to them! He has the right to defend his property, he is an officer of the law and you are not going by proper procedural channels..."

The GSF officer lunged for Will and he let a warning shot go wild, his bad shoulder aching from the ricochet. He aimed again, only to be tasered from behind, the jolt of electricity forcing him to drop his gun and collapse to the ground, his muscles violently seizing. He lay helpless on the floor of his house as half a dozen GSF officers held him down, pinning his legs and arms, his dogs barking and growling in fury outside as they were corralled into cages by GSF. He felt a puddle at his back, nausea hitting him as he realized the jolts from the tasers had released his bladder.

He growled and grit his teeth as he saw Hannibal wearing nothing but a clean pair of Will's flannel pyjama bottoms being escorted out of the house by medical personnel. He slammed the back of his head against the wooden floor, screaming and gnashing his teeth, every muscle in his body poised to fight and rip apart the bastards holding him down. He saw Hannibal's hand outstretched, fingers wide and searching for his comfort and he couldn't give it and the very idea made Will's heart tear into shreds. All he needed was one arm free and he'd grab one of those machine guns, he'd kill them all, he absolutely needed to. Some asshole was telling him to stop slamming his head against the floor, shouting at someone else to make him stop before he really hurt himself.

"Will!" Jack pushed his way past the BSF and crouched down to him, gloved hands holding his head in place. "They're sending him to BHCI, Dr. Chilton insisted on it. I tried to warn you, you son of a bitch!"

If Will could have punched Jack in the face he would have. Tears flowed from frustration, and he fought to bring his tensed, angry body back into his own power and buck off these pricks, despite the fact it was already too damned late.

"...Chesapeake...Ripper..." Will managed to choke out.

"What about him?"

Will grimaced, holding in his rage. He told him he'd protect him, he promised him he'd be safe.


"Of course not. That's not why they're taking him there, no one believes that, not even Chilton. I don't know why he insisted, that's something we'll take up with Chilton later. As for the last murder...We couldn't get the warrant for Mason's basement, nothing but a big stalled wall. We've gone through the evidence we already have, and it's like you said it yourself, it was self defence, made to look like the Ripper. If I was Dr. Lecter, I'd have done the same thing. Being an Omega doesn't stop a person from self preservation, and I'm sure Doemling had the same designs on him as that last crime scene. Sick fuck."

Jack sighed and rolled back on his heels as he remained crouched beside Will's immobilized body, his Alpha rage rendered impotent as the GSF officers released him and quickly exited his house, kicking at his broken door for good measure. "I guess you helped him through his heat, huh? The two of you are fucking idiots, I'm sure you know that now. Dr. Lecter, one of the best on my team, a goddamned Omega. Hell of a thing."


Chapter Text

chapter ten

Some cages were easier to bear than others. This particular cage was especially uncomfortable, and though his wrists were free of shackles his body was under a renewed assault, thanks in part to the ignorance of Dr. Frederick Chilton. First, the lights were far too bright, and the heavy glare currently shining down on him in his interview cage was piercing the backs of his eyes like tiny revolving points of glass. Chilton's guards had mistaken his watery eyes for weeping, and highly unwelcome kindnesses were given to him as a result. A young male Alpha orderly had taken it upon himself to welcome him into the BHCI with curious wonder , and he was overly sweet and soft spoken, his patronizing care making Hannibal's hackles rise. He wondered how nice orderly Matthew Brown would think him if he leaned forward just that little bit and took a chunk out of his neck and spat his chewed flesh into his face. It was bad enough he was showered and newly violated in examination before being forced to wear a jumpsuit made of overly starched cotton that scratched against his skin, now he had to endure fawning whispers and kind smiles. The BHCI never had a male Omega behind its walls before and it was painfully obvious in his treatment, with nurses checking on him on the hour, with Matthew Brown in particular constantly sniffing out his scent and trying to pet him. His stay here was set to be fraught with these sorts of dangers, the small treats offered gradually morphing into frustration as Hannibal constantly refused them, Alpha dominance stepping well past the hospital's patient boundaries. He would end up forcibly bonded before the month was out, and then he would disappear as a person completely and would be like his patients, forced to live beneath the yoke of a hated Alpha's will. He couldn't think of a worse fate.

The hospital itself was an archaic throwback to far more decrepit days in Baltimore's history in caring for the insane. Very little had changed in its design since the late 1920's, as evidenced by the interview cage he was currently housed in, a small box of metal that held an uncomfortable plastic seat that was hosed off periodically. Some of the more disturbed patients liked to defecate on them. Hannibal's keen olfactory senses took in all manner of unpleasant aromas, from spent blood to the bittersweet saccharine of schizophrenia, the lingering chemicals of the disease permeating every surface. Such an assault on the senses was enough to make Hannibal gag. It was the main reason he had avoided ever walking the BHCI corridors and had kept the realm of his practise well away from it.

There had been talk many years ago of shutting it down and demolishing the old building since it had fallen into such crumbling disrepair and had little left by way of reputation. Patients often died behind its walls, and abuse was rampant as it was perpetually understaffed and underfunded. The last administration had been held accountable for four patient deaths directly linked to decisions made by the head of BHCI, Dr. Morgan Pritchard. Dr. Pritchard was an elderly man suffering the early stages of dementia and his haphazard, confused management of the asylum had left it disintegrating. Dangerous patients were set free, benign autistic residents were given unnecessary shock treatments, prisoners were crammed ten at a time into cramped, filthy cages, some so far gone into their psychosis they could only smear excrement on the walls and rock blindly back and forth on their heels. Overworked orderlies used to sneak food in to feed starving residents. The inevitable expose by newcomer investigative journalist Freddie Lounds created such a public outcry the building was targeted by arsonists and nearly burned down twice, with all of its patients and staff within it. There is a certain telling mentality in that public reaction, Hannibal thought. Burn down the sick. It fed into the Coastline ethos of power and beauty above all else, where embarrassing and precious things were locked away with the same vicious fervour.

By the time Dr. Frederick Chilton took over nearly a decade ago, the foundation of the BHCI was so cracked it seemed the only hope for it was a bulldozer. Chilton had been accused of taking a position on a sinking ship solely to have the status of captain, but Hannibal had to concede that despite his arrogance and ignorance of certain gender dynamics, Dr. Frederick Chilton had made large strides in making conditions at the BHCI better. Strict nutritional guidelines were put in place, the electric shock therapy machines were destroyed and discarded, and most importantly heavy renovations began in the low risk section of the building, where cells were rebuilt and rusted bars were replaced with clear Plexiglas. The cold steel slabs that served as beds were replaced with soft foam encased in easily washed rubber and the walls were reinforced with fresh concrete painted in softer pastel hues, some even fashioned as little homes with wainscoting along the walls and other small decorative touches. Such detail was strangely incongruent with the pompous, overly self assured man Hannibal had met, and he wondered where these uncharacteristic little notes of professional kindness came from.

Hannibal had been placed in one of these newer rooms, and though he was sure Chilton was proud of his accomplishments, and for the most part should be, it was the wrong setting for a creature such as Hannibal. As always, the lights were too bright, the pastel hues garish and reflecting it along every wall, offering no escape from the glaring onslaught. As for the bedding, the rubber foam mattress held an unpleasant chemical smell that burned Hannibal's throat. Better for him to be in one of those dark, damp cells with their black stone walls and a far more pleasant earthy, mossy scent. He could taste the remains of fresh drywall on the back of his tongue and his stomach recoiled at all the poisonous flavours of paint, dust and cleaning products that his new home was saturated in.

"Well, now, this is interesting. So fine and precious and yet put in a such a dirty little box to await your fate." Dr. Abel Gideon rested his arms on the square metal bars of the interview cage situated beside Hannibal's. There were half a dozen in all, in a straight line, an ancient meeting place for prisoners to meet guests and to engage in therapy with their psychiatrists. Hannibal wondered why they were still in use since it was hardly likely there would be more than one prisoner at a time here, the criminally insane weren't exactly good candidates for group therapy. Dr. Gideon remaining here was simply an oversight, his meeting with his psychiatrist was long finished and he was simply waiting on the group of guards to collect themselves into a proper gang strong enough to safely move him back into his high risk, dangerous offender cell. Dr. Gideon was an especially volatile patient and last year had brutally blinded and crippled a nurse in the infirmary where he'd been recovering from a mild stroke.

Dr. Abel Gideon was a transplant surgeon who killed his wife and her entire family during a Sunday dinner and cited his reasons as "The ham was too salty." If Hannibal sought the definition of a narcissistic madman he need not look further beyond his elbow, for Dr. Gideon was a proud, articulate man dedicated to his own self analysis, who periodically claimed to be the Chesapeake Ripper--A suggestion Dr. Chilton wisely considered ridiculous, and was quoting as saying so by Freddie Lounds herself. This hadn't stopped her from drumming up a conspiracy theory around Dr. Gideon and the Ripper mythology, of course, readers like a good villain. Gideon, with his careless words and need to be revered, had placed himself in that endless stream of suspects that flowed with a tide's ease within Lounds' columns, the theory of his being the Ripper long disproved since there were several murders committed since Gideon had been incarcerated--Hannibal had even made sure of it early on in Gideon's claim. But as was the case for so many things, it was emotion and not facts that garnered the most public interest. Dr. Alana Bloom, who periodically worked with Chilton, had told Hannibal that Gideon got bags of fan mail every week.

"You look a little ill, dear thing."

Hannibal closed his eyes and tried to shut out the harsh light above him and Gideon's intense, Alpha stare. The ones who wrote him had to be sad, lonely Betas completely lacking in perception, Hannibal couldn't imagine an Omega seeking out such attention.

"This is not a place for you, but maybe that's just as well. Gender subterfuge, that's the rumour. Hardly a crime, really, and easily fixed with enforced heavy duty anti-psychotic medications, massive cocktails of the stuff, followed by electric shock therapy. You'll be pissing yourself and drooling for the next few years until you figure out a way to die, that's been my observation in these cases...Of course, you didn't end up in a GSF facility, so maybe you have a bit of luck helping you there. You must have some seriously profound friends to be placed here instead, and no matter how uncomfortable you are, there are definitely worse nightmares in wait just beyond the doors of this palace." Gideon heavily sniffed in the air around Hannibal's cage and he actually wished Chilton was more hasty to show up to start his assessment, he didn't particularly like Gideon's company. "There's an Alpha on you," Gideon said, frowning over what he'd scented and giving Hannibal a confused, sidelong glance at this. "Fresh meat, I'd say. Call me crazy, but I'm just wondering what you're doing here with that all over you. Where is he? Did he make himself the instrument of betrayal? Such a typical thing for an Alpha to do, we're all such anxiously angry people, always searching for that little bit more to get the heart pumping. We discard what we value so easily. We debase our most precious things."

"You murdered your family," Hannibal reminded him. "You are thus proof of such inclinations, Dr. Gideon."

"Yes, and I take full responsibility for that, though to be clear, it was my *wife* and her family, and that ham was brined in the Dead Sea, it was so very salty. They were all mired in that mineral, as I recall." Dr. Gideon frowned, and leaned his forehead onto the bars of his small cage. "I may be a man of uneven temperament, but I have to say, I have grave concerns for you, dear thing. Chilton may have made the dungeon lighter and this is worlds better than a GSF facility, but it's still a nasty place for someone like you. He's a Beta, he doesn't understand the challenges you're going to face, especially when that second spring heat cycle starts up a few months from now. I'm curious to see if he knows how to keep you safe from the likes of monsters like me. Us Alphas are pushy when we want what we want. Does Dr. Chilton understand that? Hard to say. He's rather altruistic when it comes to his safeguards, a dangerous thing for a man responsible for keeping society's demons under lock and key. Tell you what, the next time that young orderly gets a little handy, I'll chop them off for you and shove them down his throat, that way you won't have to hear all those sweet nothings he keeps trying to whisper to you. Seems only right."

Heavy steps met with clipped, marching echoes could be heard behind them, and Hannibal turned in his seat, surprised to see Jack Crawford and Dr. Alana Bloom enter the visitor's arena. Alana was well ahead of Jack, her determined mouth a thin, angry pressed line as she stood in front of Hannibal, her arms crossed. She was dressed in a simple, flowered dress, one that hugged the curves of her body and made her seem demure to those who didn't know her. Hannibal knew the only person who earned Alana's softness these days was Margot Verger. Jack followed close behind, casting a curious glance at Dr. Gideon in the cage beside Hannibal before turning his attention back to the former psychiatrist. "Will told us to come here as soon as we could. I don't want you thinking you're going to be stuck here, Dr. Bloom and I have been discussing ways of getting you out of here. The GSF can kiss my ass if they think they can break up my team, you are one of the most important members of my crew. If those bastards think they can step into *my* arena they better toss off the gloves because I'm ready to fight dirty." Jack held up a piece of official looking paper. "This is a direct order from Jade Purnell stating that you are to be released. The GSF is already protesting it, so it might be a week before we can get it into effect and the drawback is that it's temporary, only good for a month at the most and then you'll be shunted back here. The good news is, it'll give me time to work on something more permanent."

Hannibal shut his eyes at Jack's misguided help, knowing that he believed he had far more power than he actually possessed against the orders of the GSF. The Genetic Sentry Forces was a strangely fascist branch of the United Main's law enforcement, one that clearly stepped around the boundaries of law and picked and chose amongst citizen freedoms. Gender subterfuge of any type was a serious crime, and Betas trying to emulate Alphas had earned long incarcerations, though they didn't make the bulk of the population since GSF facilities were mostly filled with Omegas dumped there by Alpha mates who wanted to free themselves from their forcible bonds. Omegas couldn't be divorced but they could be abandoned, left to suffer and waste away in a GSF facility by unscrupulous Alphas. Jack's plan could easily result in Hannibal's incarceration in such a place when he was returned to captivity. As he listened to Jack continue to argue for him, his own Alpha papa bear anger rising to the fore at how roughly his team had been treated, Hannibal still couldn't shake the need to have Will in Jack's place. He had been abandoned, that was much was clear, regardless of what Will had believed at the time--clearly those feelings had been heat induced--and instead of facing the shame of what had happened between them he had sent his dogs in his place. It was an unfortunate reality, but one Hannibal was set to accept and he moulded his heart around it, cementing it into even colder stone as he carefully watched the guards who paced the corridor.

He thought about what Gideon said concerning Chilton's possible lack of safeguards and he scoped the windows of the room and the rusted state of the ancient interview cages, formulating in his mind a bloody and violent escape that he genuinely hoped Jack and Alana would survive. He rather liked both of them.

"Watch yourself, I'm turning this thing off."

This realization was multiplied tenfold when Alana, fed up with watching him squint, stood up on her plastic chair and using the thick heel of her shoe smashed the light bulb that had been assaulting Hannibal for what felt like hours. The small shards of paper thin glass fell into his hair and he shook them out, letting out a sigh of relief even as he secreted one of the small shards into the sleeve of his jumpsuit. It might not be thick enough to cause real damage, but some creative manoeuvring could create discomfort. He could use it to pierce the soft belly of a tongue, the panic it created enough of a diversion to get to his real prize, the stun gun of a shocked guard.

He was carefully inspecting the bolts of his cage for loose connections as Alana was talking, raging as she was against the conditions he was left in, that this was wholly unsuited to Omega physiology and she had half a mind to bring Chilton up on abuse charges. He felt that was a tad over the top, especially considering he hadn't been too badly treated and it was merely ignorance that was at fault here not genuine malice, a fact that still irked him.

"Dr. Lecter, I am not going to let them keep you here and I'll be damned if they even whisper about tossing you into a GSF facility, I'll chain myself to the front doors and go on a hunger strike if I have to." She fretted in her seat, full of so much energy and outrage if anyone glanced sideways at her they'd think she was an Alpha. He knew much of her outrage was based on her own challenges with Margot and she was superimposing her frustrations onto his own.

"I want to bring charges against Mason Verger," Jack said, choosing his words with precious care and leaning closer to Hannibal, putting him in his confidence. "I know you've refused to talk to the GSF about it and to the staff here, and I think that was wise of you. I want that son of a bitch's head on a platter, and if there's things that happened in that basement that can help us put him away for good..."

Hannibal liked the way Alana bristled at this, knowing she was on the same page he was, that Mason Verger didn't deserve to be locked up in a cushy little cell decked out in his money and still managing the family business from some gold lined brick alcove. Incarcerated kings only earned enforced holidays before a team of lawyers managed to spring them free upon the world, especially Alphas who expressed keen interest in making more of their kind, no matter in how perverse a fashion. No, Mason Verger needed to be dead. He gave Alana a small smile at the unspoken agreement, and her face reddened in inward fury over what she wanted versus the inevitable unsatisfactory outcome should Jack Crawford get his way.

An unmistakable scent hit Hannibal like a punch and Dr. Abel Gideon, fascinated by the little show he was allowed to witness, raised a brow and said, with some surprise, "Well now, what's this? Ah, your knight in shining armour is here, ready to take on the battle. He's looking especially grim, my friend. My, my, look at you, all alive like a dog expecting a rare treat. No surprise there, it is his bones you want, after all."

Ignoring Gideon's taunt, Hannibal carefully watched every move Will made as he entered the room, Hannibal desperately seeking eye contact and not earning it. He stood up from his seat, his fingers curled around the metal squares caging him in, his forehead pressed tight against the stained steel.


Will ignored him, nodding instead to Jack and Alana, listening with distracted interest as Jack began his tirade, how he had gone to Purnell and Alana butted in saying it was a terrible plan, that Hannibal could end up in the hands of the GSF at the end of it, and Jack, begging her to tell him what better solution was there, then? Hannibal watched them argue back and forth, with Will on the debate's periphery, not talking to either of them, not acknowledging them, standing aloof and cold. If he'd doubted Will's stance, it was clear to him now. The abandonment was unbearable, it would have been far easier had Will taken out a pair of scissors and slowly cut Hannibal's heart out, the flesh yielding in jagged clumps. Will turned his head and Hannibal clamoured for his attention. "Will, speak to me. Please...Will..."

The air around Will Graham changed, and he stood in front of Hannibal's cage, pacing in a small circle around it, Alpha rage building with every step. Jack and even Alana noticed the sudden act of dominance, Will's low growling accentuating the very clear signals that his rising hormones were riding on. They backed away, Jack frowning in question at Will's sudden turn, the air charged with a fight set to happen between Will and a highly vulnerable Omega who in his current state had no hope of fighting back.

Dr. Gideon lightly chuckled, in on a joke Hannibal didn't know how to interpret. Will's fury all but consumed him and when he turned his stare on Hannibal, he felt an immediate need to turn his head, not meeting the boiling rage behind Will's eyes. What had happened in the time since they'd been together that morning that had changed Will's love for him so much? Hannibal felt torn by it, his soul further rendered by this man who had claimed to know him and was now clearly set to using that knowledge against him. There was only one explanation for this angry posturing, Will was about to tell Jack the truth, that Hannibal was the Chesapeake Ripper. The revelation would ruin all of his carefully set plans, and he bit the inside of his cheeks until he tasted blood. Thanks to this, he was to spend his life to rot in a far less optimal place than BHCI if the courts of the United Main had their way and his Omega warriors would be left adrift. Will Graham, FBI profiler and monstrous betrayer was the victor who had played an exceptionally cruel game and he was ready to destroy him.

"Will, are you even listening to me?" Jack was saying. "I told you, I have a signed release form from Purnell and..."

"Jack, I need you to step back."

Will snarled the order, and Jack, not sure of what had gotten into his best weapon, complied, acknowledging Will's overbearing dominance. Will turned his fury back onto Hannibal and stepped closer to his cage, close enough that Hannibal could reach through the bars and embrace him or strangle him, he still wasn't sure what the best solution to this strange stand-off was just yet.

Will's eyes had morphed into a dull grey and they were a swirling perfect storm of dominance, his face worn and braced for a deadly battle that he was set to win. Alpha pheromones exuded from his every pore and Hannibal felt his knees involuntarily tremble at the power of it, hating the way his Omega instincts wanted him to sink and submit. Will came closer to the bars, his lips nearly grazing Hannibal's perspiring forehead. Hannibal was still standing, his arms shaking as his hands gripped the bars, holding him up.

"Hannibal," Will whispered, his voice like a precious aria caressing Hannibal's ear. "I'm sorry. Forgive me."

Will pulled a long, richly embroidered swatch of near transparent white silk from his jacket pocket and Hannibal instantly recoiled as he understood its significance.


But such protests meant nothing in the letter of the law, and as Will lunged forward and plunged his arms through the bars he slid the silk around Hannibal's neck in a tight vice. Hannibal was forced to endure it. He swallowed, fear overwhelming him as Will tightened it, wanting Hannibal to submit. "Will. Don't do this..."

"Hannibal Lecter, I bind you to me."


He tried to pull the silk off, only for Will to tighten it further, nearly choking off his air supply. Will moved both his arms and spun another layer of silk around Hannibal's neck, the ends rolled tight in his fists. The pain and threat was nothing compared to the unbearable need to appease him that rose up within Hannibal, his knees quaking as he fought to stand. He couldn't meet Will's stern, steady glare, full of Alpha purpose. He kept his head turned, his neck exposed in submission, hoping it would be enough to make him stop. It wasn't.

"I am Will Graham and I bind you to me so that no other can have you. No other can have sway over you, no other can command you but me. The only law you obey is my law. The only words you hear are mine. Your body is my body." Will slid another loop around Hannibal's neck, and he choked against it. "Submit to me. Be bound to me on your knees."

He could barely say it the silk was so tight, he could barely breath. He had to make him stop, this couldn't happen, he was set to lose more than his freedom with this, Will was forcing him to lose himself. "Will..."

"On your knees, Hannibal."

"What the hell is going on?"

Dr. Chilton, marched into the interview room with his guards in tow, his steps turning into a run when he witnessed what Will was doing. He dropped his manila folder his haste, one that held all of the notes he'd already made on Hannibal's case, the GSF logo and 'Approved Guardian Only' stamped in wide, red letters on the outside of the folder. He reached out for Will as though to tackle him. "You can't do that here! Stop!"

Will let out a fierce growl at this and Hannibal felt a gush of slick leave him, his knees nearly giving way. "Jack," Will said through gritted teeth and the other Alpha was at his side in an instant. "I have a bonding permit in my left pocket. Take it out and show it to him."

Jack complied, though he was cautious, uncharacteristically timid, a side effect of being a bonding witness. Alana stood frightened and unsure beside him, forced into the same role as Jack and socially paralysed from preventing it. Jack opened the permit and read it over himself, bidding Alana to do so as well before brandishing it to a flustered Dr. Chilton, who snatched it from him. His eyes scanned it quickly, reading it over at least four times. "This is uncalled for," Chilton admonished them all, shaking the paper at them, his guards standing down as they knew what it signified. Hannibal's file earned thick footprints as the guards moved to the opposite side of the room, wanting no part of a bonding ritual--even compliant ones were uncomfortable at best and usually done in private. "In some more civilized societies bonding an unwilling Omega is considered assault!"

Chilton's protests meant nothing to Will, whose raging Alpha dominance was becoming impossible to resist. Will leaned close to the bars, his grip wrapped tight on the ends of the silk that were now just about choking the life out of Hannibal, his breath a thin wheeze. "Hannibal...." Will's voice had changed, had become softer, making Hannibal's tense muscles turn to jelly. "Hannibal, look at me."

Forcing himself to turn his head and break the submissive posture of his exposed neck proved more difficult than standing. Hannibal braced his knees against the solid metal at the base of the interview cage, his head slowly turning as he met Will's gaze. He shook violently as their eyes met, raging dominance battling with a tender longing that was locked in a tight spiral within those blue depths.

Will's empathy rode over his dominance and Hannibal could see it, as transparent as blue glass, the deep longing and affection and overall need to possess entwined in bloody thorns that pierced the inside of Hannibal's heart. Will's gaze terrified him, for inside of it was everything he'd wanted laid out bare and open for taking, asking him to answer with fear.

"On your knees, Hannibal." Will whispered, the Alpha fury softening, just that ever bit so slightly, into a desperate plea.

His body melted, slick and urine released as he fell to his knees, a whining cry leaving his bruised throat in such a sorrowful mourn Alana covered her mouth in shocked horror against it. He felt Will's palm, hot and clammy against the back of his head, his fingers deftly loosening the tight silk around his neck and gently winding the rest of its length around it until it was completely covered from the soft underbelly of his chin to just above his clavicle. Will held the binding in place with a loose knot at the base of Hannibal's throat, and lightly caressed his covered neck, making a point to press his knuckles against the back, along the base of his skull and the tense knots of his spine in a vain attempt to calm him. Hannibal leapt from his touch and pounded his fists on the cage, rattling it enough to send bolts flying. He screamed in rasping protest, his throat raw, his knees and feet kicking at the cage holding him prisoner. Will needed to be thankful for that, for all Hannibal wanted to do was to get out of his cage and leap onto Will, his teeth bared, ready rip his skin off and tear into his pulsing Alpha neck in animal choler.

He'd stolen him. He'd snuck in here, into the BHCI, and with a swath of silk managed to thieve the very essence of Hannibal's autonomy, masking it in the guise of love. Will had full power over him now. Hannibal was officially what he'd always feared of becoming, a non-person who others would see fit to use like one would use cutlery.

"I'm taking him home," Will said to a dumbstruck, horrified Dr. Chilton who was loathe to see his new favourite prisoner go free. "He's a bonded Omega now, there's nothing you can do to hold him here."

But Dr. Chilton wasn't done with Will Graham. He roughly gathered up the papers he had dropped and shoved them into the manila folder before slamming them against Will's chest. He stood nose to nose with the Alpha, heedless of the dominant pheromones still lurking after the bonding ceremony, his own anger rising well over the tide of Will's spent rage. "You are revolting," Chilton spat. "These notes belong to you. For now."

The tense moment was broken by low clapping from Dr. Abel Gideon, the steady slap of his palms echoing through the large room and hitting its mark in all manner of unpleasant ways. Hannibal, his fight spent, sank into the plastic seat, wincing against the state of himself. They'd be soaping this down and spraying the hose on this particular cage later.

"Congratulations to the bonded mates, may they forever have their pieces of each other. My, it's a messy business, isn't it, and not in just the relationship sense, which I'm thinking is a tad damaged after this. All that airing of dirty laundry in public." Gideon waved for Dr. Chilton's attention and shouted to him. "I'd suggest you let the dear thing get cleaned up and get him a new jumpsuit first, Fred, it's the very least you can do, considering the circumstances."

"Cut the crap, Abel!" Chilton shouted back, but it was clear he was rattled. "Of all the people to be witnessing this, that man is a menace." Chilton turned on Jack, shaking his head in mute disgust. "You should never have allowed this when you saw him take that silk out of his pocket!"

Jack shrugged. "Who am I to stand in the way of nature?"

Chilton marched up to him, then, his chin raised high in haughty moral superiority. "There was nothing natural about what happened here."

"Come on, Fred, not everyone has the same vanilla life you and Diedre enjoy. Your wife wouldn't dream of going on her knees for you. My, my what a cruel thing love is." Dr. Gideon tutted over the scene and he wasn't insincere in his pity. "Try not to be so upset, dear thing, it's not so bad. You can't be bonded alone, after all, and you're luckier than most, this one actually cares about you. Your knight came to your rescue, just like you wanted him to. It's silly to be angry that he used his sword."


Freshly showered and in a new, equally starchy and itchy jumpsuit, Hannibal sat miserable in the passenger seat of Will's beat up Ford and contemplated methods of murder. He kept picking at the rows of silk that hid his neck beneath it, the feel of it smooth and warm on his skin, no doubt carefully chosen by Will to ensure it. He had to wonder if this was another family heirloom, but he wasn't about to give the quiet, morose man at his side the satisfaction of a question that could engage them in conversation. He had cooled off from his initial resentment and had begun to formulate plans to return himself to his free state once again. Killing Will was an inevitability he hadn't anticipated and it pained him a great deal, but there was no possible way he could allow him to have reign over his movements like this. He would slit his throat tonight and make his way overseas and he could guide his army from a foreign shore, possibly from Russia where they were developing far more favourable laws for Omega protection. What Will had done at the BHCI was illegal in Moscow and would have earned him a lifetime imprisonment, a rather karmic measure of justice that was rare to find in action.

"Are you going to sulk and think of ways to kill me all the way home?" Will asked. "Don't give me that look, you don't have to be an empath to figure out just how pissed with me you are. If you want me to just drop you off at your house and I'll head back to Wolf Trap that will suit me just fine."

"It's not my house, not anymore." Hannibal rolled his lips together tight, trying to ease the bad taste of the words out of his mouth. "Everything I once had is now yours. I can't so much as buy a coffee without your permission."

"So staying imprisoned in an insane asylum was a better solution?"

Hannibal shifted his shoulders, hating the little label in the back of the jumpsuit and how it kept picking at that sensitive nub at the base of his neck, scratching his skin and leaving a tiny, but tortuous, lesion. He tried to rip it out but it was sewed on in a square block that made it impossible for him to get a grip on it. The thread felt stiff, liking fishing line. He gave up and clenched his fists against his knees, helpless.  The brand Mason Verger had burned into his back was also paining him thanks to the stiff fabric brushing against it.  He tried to ignore it, memories of Will kissing it and telling Hannibal in long detail of the terrible things he had planned for the torture of Mason Verger a brand of pillow talk that had nearly caused him an orgasm.  The studied, clinical and overly sympathetic inspection of it at the asylum infirmary was one memory he planned on tucking away forever and never revisiting.  "I had a plan I was ready to implement."

"Which involved killing everyone," Will said to the road.

"Not everyone. Just a few select people. I was anticipating some survivors."

"This may come as a shock to you, but murder is not always the answer. In fact, I'm going to go so far as to say that my method not only had less casualties, but is far more conducive to your needs than you think." Will gave Hannibal's reticence a long suffering sigh. "I'm from the mainland, remember? I don't care about how things are done here, I'm not going to tell you to not go to work, I'm not going hide you away. You're too brilliant not to have purchase in the world, though maybe cutting back on the killing jar of Alphas you got going on would be a good idea, especially since you don't need the hormones any more. No one wants you locked away. Let's face it, the only reason Jack didn't stop me from bonding with you is because he can't wait to have his dream team back. And yes, that means you, too."

"They have revoked my license," Hannibal reminded him. "I am no longer able to practise psychiatry in the same capacity as before and I am uncertain as to how my client base will react to the news of both my gender and my bonding. Nothing is as it was, Will, no matter how pretty a picture you are trying to paint for me."

They pulled up into the driveway of Hannibal's stately home, Will's sad Ford beater a sharp contrast against the gleaming Bentley. Will sighed as he killed the engine and he turned to Hannibal with weary resignation. "How about instead of killing me outright we just see how this thing goes between us for a while? If you want to take off and find your freedom elsewhere, I'm not going to stop you, Hannibal, you don't have to stomp over my corpse to do that." He stroked Hannibal's cheek, his touch moving with deft, slow movements down his neck, and he let out a contented sigh at how Hannibal seemed to relax into it. "I know you don't believe it, but I did what I did because I love you."

"That sentiment falls out of you so easily." Hannibal instantly regretted saying it, taking in Will's hurt reaction at his bitterness, his head slightly jerking in that familiar, anxious tic, his eyes roving everywhere but in contact with Hannibal. Still, he wouldn't apologize, he would allow the hurt to fester if only to wound Will for pain that had little to do with him.

They got the front porch and Hannibal reached under a large flowerpot, taking out a spare key.

"Flowerpot? Really? It's a miracle you haven't been robbed."

"Those who tried mysteriously disappeared."

Will was quiet a long moment.

"Are you telling me you left a key there on purpose as bait?"

"Statistics show it is usually young, disenfranchised male Alphas seeking to prove dominance who break into homes. Their livers are especially ripe in Alpha hormones as are their thalamus glands. The ones I killed tended to have long assault records, though I'm not going to pretend I knew that at the time. I did once let a hungry, unemployed Beta go, he only broke in to steal food." Hannibal unlocked the front door and allowed Will to enter first. "The master arrives to take over his estate. I imagine I should give you the proper tour this time, one that includes my secrets of which there are no longer any between us."

Will closed the door behind him as they went in, his coat slid off and hung on the rack near the door. "Does that bother you? You've lived with secrets for so long, Hannibal, it must be a strange feeling having someone to share them with."

Hannibal led Will to the kitchen, his steps sure and graceful despite the bulky fit of the jumpsuit which hid many of the slender lines of his body. "On the contrary, I am finding a mixture of relief and excitement at the prospect." He paused as they entered the dining room, and Hannibal whirled around, a hand braced against Will's chest. Hannibal could feel the steady thrum of Will's heart in the centre of his palm, and he held his breath for a short moment, enjoying the strength of it. "You may not like what you see. I have very specific needs and I have attuned my lifestyle to fit them. You were correct when you stated that the rest of my home is a showcase. I never use the rooms upstairs, nor do I partake of any other places in the house other than the kitchen, this dining room and the atrium. The great bulk of my time is spent here." He pushed the great oak dining table to one side, revealing the trap door beneath it. Hannibal stood back and gave Will the honour of opening it, which he did with silent trepidation, constantly looking back at Hannibal as though he were still a threat. He began his descent and Hannibal followed him, bringing the lid of the trap door back down, hiding them both underground.

"It's hard to see down here, but I guess that's because of your photosensitivity," Will said. He nearly hit his head on a low lying ceiling lamp and edged his way around it as he found solid ground. He raised a brow at the simple surroundings, the grey stone warmed into amber hues by low light lamps scattered throughout the space. Hannibal's butchery table and stainless steel refrigerator were given a cursory inspection, while the wine cellar's stock was whistled over as Will was impressed with the vast selection available. He opened a door and discovered an ornate white washed bathing room complete with a deep antique shower and lion's claw bathtub. The light here was also dim, casting the porcelain and silver fixtures into a watery, grey hue. "It's like the underside of a lake," Will observed. He closed the door and made a quick sweep of the rest of the surroundings, taking in the final room, where Hannibal's bed and study were combined in a cozy space that had low lying ceilings and seemed to be carved into the earth like a baroque cave dwelling. The large, four poster bed's spires scraped against the rounded ceiling, and Will sat on the edge of the sinking mattress stuffed with fine sawdust, his hands teasing along the soft velveteen sheets Hannibal preferred.

"It's chilly down here," Will remarked. "I can bring you my grandmother's furs if you'd like."

A heady memory of what had gone on between those wondrously cozy blankets sent a long warmth through Hannibal's belly, and he gave Will a demure nod at the suggestion. "I would like that."

Will leaned his head against the bedpost, closing his eyes in spent exhaustion. Hannibal wasn't sure what hour it was, but it had been well into the evening when they arrived here and he was feeling the tug of sleep himself. An errant lock of hair fell in front of Will's eyes and Hannibal tucked it back behind his ear as he stood before him, his touch hungering to caress as he traced his long fingers through Will's tangles. Will rested his hands loosely on Hannibal's hips and pulled him towards him until his knees were nestled between his legs. "I'm guessing you haven't taken care of yourself at all today. Are you hungry, dear Will?"

Will eyed the knot of silk at Hannibal's throat, his gaze uneasily drinking him in. "Yes," he said, but it wasn't in answer to what Hannibal was suggesting. Will closed his eyes and sighed, his hands moving up to Hannibal's waist, lightly squeezing, his touch sending a now familiar thrill through Hannibal's body. "But it's okay. I can sleep upstairs."

Hannibal pursed his lips at this, confused. "Whatever for?"

It was Will's turn to share in the confusion. "Because it wasn't fifteen minutes ago that you were planning on killing me. Dr. Chilton was right, what I had to do to free you was...It was against your will, Hannibal, I broke my promise to you. I told you I was never going to hurt you and bonding you to me has done just that."

"You performed the ritual with nothing but my interests and safety at heart, Will. The harm is, admittedly, perhaps more about ego in this circumstance than fact." Hannibal coursed his fingers through Will's hair, liking the way he leaned back, his throat exposed, lips half open as though expecting a kiss. Unable to resist such a temptation, Hannibal gave him one, tasting the exhaustion and elation he found there. "Surely, you do not mean to harm me further, Will, by denying me the one perk of being bonded?"

Will frowned. "What perk would that be?"

"I should think it's obvious." Hannibal leaned in, pressing against Will's groin and taking a far more searching, hungry kiss. He smiled into the breathless sound Will made when he broke free. "Sharing my bed with you."

"I'm not so sure about how great a perk that is, considering that you snore," Will said.

Hannibal instantly straightened. "I do no such thing."

"You snore and you *drool*." Will stood up, his hands roving up Hannibal's waist and along his back. "It's okay. I forgive you, even if you do leave a puddle of spit on my chest."

"And so we have devolved already into a universe of collective domesticity. How slippery a slope this is, Will. Soon we shall be engulfed in couple oriented ennui, such as endless household renovations and long discussions about linoleum." He cocked his head to one side, preventing Will from capturing his mouth. "Are you still hungry?"

Will teased the knot of silk at Hannibal's throat with the pad of his thumb before hooking his finger into a loop and releasing it. Hannibal's breath caught, his body shuddering in response to the not so subtle eroticism charging the action. "I'm starving," Will said, stealing away Hannibal's tongue and lips as he guided him into bed.




Chapter Text

chapter eleven

Hannibal's knuckles were bone white as he clutched the headboard of their bed,a thin sheen of sweat causing Will's palms to slide with silky purpose across his waist and up the tight contours of Hannibal's back. Will's fingertips descended again, teasing the faded outline of Verger's branding, now healing into a dark red welt that would hopefully fully disappear in time. The mark held no purchase on Hannibal, who was riding Will's cock in quickening determination while Will slid a hand towards his bonded mate's belly and then, tortuously, slowly, and completely out of sync with Hannibal's hidden sex, he stroked Hannibal's hard length. The lazy strokes accentuated the more powerful sensations coursing through Hannibal as he rode him, muscles tensed and clenched tight over Will. Hannibal could feel the crest of his orgasm riding along the wave of the other sex, his thighs quaking as he cried out, nearly there but determined to wait. He could see that Will was likewise ready, his mouth slack and panting, his hips bucking to slam deeper. With his fist clenched tight on Hannibal's slender cock, he leaned forward, capturing Hannibal's shuddering body above him in a tight embrace as he came deep inside of him, Hannibal's seed spilling soon after. Hannibal released his death grip on the headboard and fell back onto the bed in a tangle with Will, his heart hammering so hard he could feel its pulse point against Will's chest. Will wouldn't let him catch his breath, opting to steal long kisses that travelled the length of Hannibal's tongue and swirled around it, getting a proper taste. By the time he let him go they had softened enough to become languid in afterglow, and Will nuzzled the rough contours of his beard into Hannibal's smooth neck, prickly kisses stolen along his throat.

"I think we might have won at the same time," Will said.

"No." Hannibal was sure. Still breathless, he pressed his forehead against Will's, liking the slick sweat dripping from his brow. "I wasn't fully finished until after you." He laughed at the way Will kissed into his grin. "You won fair and square, dear Will."

Hannibal leaned over and snatched the set of keys sitting on the second shelf of a small bookcase close to Will's side of the bed and dangled them over Will's open palm on the mattress. "To the victor, the spoils," he said, dropping them, and Will's fingers closed over the keys like a Venus flytrap capturing supper.

"Not sure how much of a win this is. Much as I love driving the Bentley, we're set to get stuck in campaign traffic. McBain is halfway down the Atlantic coast already, he'll be in town by Friday and the roads are already full of parades, billboards and bullshit."

He sank into the way Will embraced him, his mouth captured in searching kisses that rode along the satiated ache that could easily be reawakened. Such pleasures were common in their shared bed, an omission that Hannibal had to concede made for a far emptier feeling in his memory palace, a lonely stretch of his life before Will that he hadn't recognized without the comparison. They were both so touch hungry they spent every night in fervent exploration, and for Hannibal he wasn't to be satisfied until he'd fondled every molecule in his mate's body. Will Graham was an exceptionally talented and creative lover, and even now as they lay spent, still catching their breath in a mutual gratefulness for the softness of their bed against their nude flesh, Hannibal felt he couldn't get enough of Will if he'd devoured him in his entirety. He buried his face in Will's chest, a low hum leaving him as Will stroked the back of his head, pressing down in an ever so pleasant tease of hot fingers along the sensitive points of his neck. The feeling of another warm body with him, the security of his touch, both of these always sent a relentless calm through Hannibal, one that at present was lolling him back to sleep.

Will softly kissed the top of his forehead. "We have to go to work," he reminded him.

Making a moue of annoyance, Hannibal rolled onto his back as Will slid out from between the fur covers and out of the bed. He was exceptionally messy in the morning, a scruffy Alpha covered in the scent of his Omega, an aroma Hannibal was happy to note never quite left him, not even after showering. He himself was probably likewise marked, but it was always a source of indelible pleasure for Hannibal to gently scent the back of Will's neck after he'd showered and dressed, ready to leave, and find hints of himself so deeply embedded into the Alpha's chemistry.

This easy bliss was now into its third month, and Hannibal found ample evidence that being bonded had a very positive effect on Will. Gone was the gaunt sallow of his cheeks as Hannibal ensured he ate a proper three meals a day. Gone was the canine halo of dog hair that had perpetually followed him, replaced with his own, unmistakable woodsy scent. The dogs had found ample space in the backyard of Hannibal's home and they traded time between the massive house in Baltimore and Will's sprawling property in Wolf Trap. Hannibal was fastidious in their grooming and upkeep, and this was reflected in the far more scrubbed version of Will Graham. Gone were the unkempt, wrinkled shirts and slacks that were his usual wardrobe, Hannibal always made sure they were now carefully pressed and spotless. Gone were the dark circles that lined sunken blue eyes constantly seeking sleep, for with an Omega at his side every night Will had no reason to toss and turn with restless, angry anxiety. Gone was the rougher edge of his perpetually bad mood, and it was not uncommon to find Will joking with Beverly in the crime lab, his posture relaxed and sure, hands loose in his pockets. His skin was no longer tight, pockmarked in red splotches like ink on paper, his flesh was now smooth, an alabaster health exuding from it that had much to do with adequate exercise and ample stress relief.

There were also changes within himself, some attributable to his discontinuation of the Alpha pheromones he had used since he was eighteen years old. The loss of body hair was a little disconcerting as his Omega hormones gradually morphed back into normal levels, and by the end of the first month he no longer needed to shave. His skin, always sensitive, was now far more easily bruised and was hyper reactive to the fabrics and chemicals used to wash them. He found he had to discard some of his shirts and matching suits, the material suddenly too uncomfortable to wear. The bright lights of the forensics lab at Quantico were unbearable, as was the light in Jack's office, to the point of causing actual pain instead of mere discomfort. Beverly was kind enough to lend him red goggles as a courtesy when he was in the lab, and Jack Crawford always shut the curtains and turned off the overhead fluorescent fixtures when having meetings in his office when Hannibal attended. Other physical attributes in alignment with Will's were in evidence, he'd gained a bit of weight as well, his belly softer, the outline of his muscles slightly less defined. Arousal happened much quicker than before, as he discovered even just thinking about their acts of lovemaking could leave him slicked and swollen with need, resulting in it not being all that uncommon for Will to show up for lunch at Hannibal's office and be given a highly sexually charged workout instead.

There were, as there always are in such unions, some contentions. Will was not happy about the contents of Hannibal's cellar refrigerator, for one, and they'd had a heated argument over the use of leftover offal. Hannibal insisted it wasn't right to allow it to go to waste and it wasn't like Will hadn't had a taste of the charred human body anyway, but Will was adamant. Eating the pheromones of another Alpha was tantamount to courting a rival, and he physically couldn't tolerate it. Irrational as it was, knowing Hannibal was devouring another Alpha in a very literal sense made Will go into an Alpha rage that he found difficult to control. When Will put his fist through a plate of balsamic liver and split open his knuckles, Hannibal had enough. He tossed the contents of the cellar refrigerator that had been his aid in freedom for half of his life and replaced the human body parts with dairy products. Large wheels of blue cheese manufactured by Benedictine monks and logs of organic Omega goat cheese amongst other rare varieties aged in a perfectly temperate environment. There was even a variety of cheese that was packed in human excrement. Jimmy Price would be enthralled.

Domestic life was far easier to bear with two rather than one, Hannibal discovered, much to his pleasant surprise. He had revealed most of his secrets to Will, though there were still those little locks meant to be kept hidden, a bolted door against his soul that barred all Alpha entry, even the one he'd chosen. The bonding ceremony still sat ill within him, and though he had enough perception to understand why Will felt the need to perform it, there was still a barrier constructed as a result, one that Hannibal was confident would remain in place until he took the wall down himself. When he did it would be Hannibal's power that would remain in its place and from that moment Will would have a choice of either destruction or creation. Broken teacups could not be put together perfectly. The best of all worlds would be to put an entirely new one in its place.

"Why did you become the Ripper?" Will had asked him, not long into their union, his voice a rasping, whispery thing in the darkness between them as they lay beneath animal furs, the perfume of sex and angora surrounding them. "I mean, I get that you needed to hide your gender, but you could have easily passed as a Beta, you didn't have to go the riskier Alpha route. No one would have found you out."

"Why should I suffer the debasement of my talents, my intellect, and place it under a lesser title? My dear Will, I do not believe myself to be something 'less than' in any sense of the word, and it is not ego that makes me know this, it is simply the construction of who I am. The answer you seek has many layers of complexity, but it is not a case of a pauper looking to become king, rather a king deposed, seeking back the throne."

Will stroked his hair, fingers slung through silk, his breath hot and cascading over the tendrils of fur that lay thick between them and Hannibal sought out his skin, liking the way he could feel Will's blood pulse in a different rhythm from his own. "You've put yourself on quite a pedestal," he warned. "Kings get overthrown."

"A divine birthright should be exalted. You would deny me the right to it?"

Will smiled and kissed his lips before nuzzling against him, noses touching as they talked. "There are many kings and queens in the world, Hannibal, but there's only one of you. That uniqueness tells me you're missing the mark."

"I am not to be king?"

"You are not a man. You definitely aren't a woman. And yet you're both." Will shifted and Hannibal sank against him, liking the way their pieces of their bodies fit together so perfectly. He could lose himself inside of Will's skin, he could wear it and dive within him into that swirling mass of empathy that pulled him along the current of his hot blood, his soul pressed against the deep rocks of Will's foundations. When Will opened his eyes, he would know what to look for when he saw himself. "There's no throne for you, Hannibal. The power you have is too strong for that."

He'd closed his eyes against the hand that stroked his face, kissing Will's palm and slipping into that gentle eroticism he had come to expect from his mate. He pulled the fur blanket over their heads, a cave of animal scents. "Every Alpha I met treated me like meat," Hannibal whispered into the perfumed dark. "I deemed it fitting to return the sentiment."

Will swallowed, deeply at this, and traced a shaking thumb along the scar at Hannibal's throat, his whispered words carrying more weight with them than he would ever hope to know. "What happened to you?"

Simple questions are the hardest to answer. There are no equations with enough analysis to pinpoint the exact causes of one decision over another when the vast variables of hurt are piled so deep any number of chosen pieces out of it could fashion a monster from them. He felt the pinch of iron at his throat as the shackle was snapped shut, and he shuddered when Will traced the outline of the Verger brand still open and sore on his back, his nail digging slightly beneath a scab. Neither event had much to do with the other, save for the eventual outcome. Hannibal kissed Will and opted for a blander version of his choice.

"It was a professor of ethics, if you can believe it. He was my first victim. The chemical Alpha pheromones weren't as effective as I'd needed them to be and I realized through my studies that it was direct Alpha hormones that would supplement what the pheromones couldn't do, especially when taken in organically." Will continued to touch his throat, small kisses placed in a ring around the scar, making Hannibal's breath catch as he released his carefully chosen confession. "He persistently made disparaging remarks about Omegas and I knew he had an Omega daughter. I felt that ridding the world of him in order to elevate an Omega such as myself was an irony that could not be missed. I lured him to an abandoned basement section of the hospital with the promise I had found a rare plaything for him to try out, I even made him think he was paying a hefty transaction for the experience. Quite simple, really, he had no ethics at all and I have to wonder about the study of it, it seems to attract such types. That which we profess to know we aim to learn. It's why madmen like psychiatry."

"So you killed him," Will said.

"With a scalpel to the jugular. He bled out into the drain of an old operating theatre rather like a butchered pig. I dismembered his body after taking my preferred organs and tossed the pieces into an organic waste disposal. It was still lined with lye, the professor's body dissolved in less than a week."

Will bit the inside of his cheek at this. "I guess you were an expert right from the beginning."

"Murder wasn't always necessary, though it was a natural recourse, yes. By the time I was in residency and practising surgery, it was an easy thing to allow certain Alpha patients to die and secretly harvest their organs. Of course, a surgeon cannot keep up such a ruse indefinitely, there will eventually be questions as to why the survival rates of your patients have some unexpectedly skewed statistics. Thus, after practising surgery for only a few years I went into psychiatry and was forced to revert back to my killing jar methodology, as you so succinctly put it."

Will had been quiet, then, his hands still softly roving, his sighs far too benign for the disturbing conversation they were having. "You still aren't telling me everything," Will said, and Hannibal felt his mouth go dry, for Will was diving far too deep and Hannibal was worried he'd crush beneath the pressure of what Will might discover on that black ocean floor. "You don't have to tell me," Will said, and Hannibal could feel the pressure release, Will bones click back into place as his soul found a more buoyant place to rest upon his heart. "When that story needs telling, just know I'll be ready to hear it."

The sound of the shower echoed through the cellar and Hannibal frowned into the fluffy down of his pillow, realizing he had fallen back asleep. He sighed and rolled onto his back, alone now in the bed, and waiting for Will to be finished. He supposed he could join him, but he liked his showers more tepid than scalding and he didn't want Will to suffer in shivering cleanliness. Instead, he would lie in bed and patiently wait for Will to be done, enjoying the taste of his newly scrubbed, steamed flesh when he left it. He was delightful at those moments, Hannibal thought with a sensual smile. He never told Will, but there were times he was so very tasty a morsel it was all Hannibal could do not to take a hungry chunk of the muscle near his rounded shoulder and eat it.


"...The campaign trail is well underway, with Maryland hopeful Governor Jeb McBain leading the polls and taking his message of family on a tour of the Coastlines, starting with the entirety of the Atlantic Regional Main and ending in the upper Pacific Regional Main in the far northwest section of Washington. With the brutal murder of his PR representative, Galvin McDermott, Governor Jeb McBain's personal security has been questioned, especially with concerns of his Mainland travels as he cuts across Upper Louisiana through Texas and then across the desert dead zone to Arizona.

'The swamp areas can be pretty treacherous just from a traveller's point of view.' Jeb McBain's voice erupted through the Bentley's speakers, the Coastline prettiness of it offering a balm of normalcy to the bulk of his voters. 'Don't get me wrong, I know the Mainlanders are an odd bunch, but they are part of the United Main, like it or not (laughs). It's my hope, as you all know, that we can bring the Mainlanders into the same ethos as the Coastline. That's what the 'Make A Family' campaign is all about. There is a lot of untapped resources waiting for us within the belly of this fine country, and though their world view is as different as any foreign shore, we have to find a way to breach that ignorance and bring the Mainlanders into the twenty-first century. Concentrating on becoming a strong, Alpha centric nation is what's going to keep our shores safe from economic decline. The Mainland has a lot of challenges: unbridled poverty, unbonded Alphas not producing more Alpha offspring, prehistoric concepts of family units, Omegas allowed to walk freely and getting assaulted and murdered. It's just not what the United Main should be about..."

"Can you believe this shit?" Will said, incensed. "That asshole hasn't got a clue. I never heard of an Omega murder in the mainland. *Never*. The first time I witnessed the aftermath of an Omega assault was when we were living on the coast in Florida. He's just piling on the urban myths to get a cheap, ignorant vote, the prick. This shit won't fly in Texas, those guys are crazy mad about staying out of the Coastline economy, they'll kick his head in for just suggesting it."

Hannibal sighed at Will's erupting fury and turned the radio to his preferred classical station, filling the Bentley with the far more soothing sounds of Bach. Will gave him a sidelong look and ran his fingers along the silk hiding Hannibal's neck in slender, layered ribbons, ending in a french knot at the base of his throat. This binding was pale blue in colour, in a hue that went well with the blue plaid evident in the sheen of his perfectly tailored suit. Will pinched at the silk fabric layer, slightly separating it but not revealing skin. "A little old fashioned, don't you think? Most bonded Omegas just wear a loose scarf."

"My nature may have been forced out into the open, but there is no reason I should not take pride in my status as a bonded mate, especially to you." Hannibal pushed his shoulders back, his head held high as they approached the building holding his office. "Besides it makes me far more visible should I dare to venture across the street to Demeter's Cafe to get take out coffee and a slice of their exceptionally delightful napoleon. They make the mille-feuille in house, not a common practise of even the most high end bakeries in the region." Hannibal frowned slightly when the radio broke into static, marring his enjoyment of the Bach. Will cursed as one of the usual streets they turned off of was blocked by a marching band, the participants shivering in the cold and snow and off tempo as a result. Will took the long detour around it with a scowling mutter. "The binding prevents unwanted advances," Hannibal added. "It's a useful discovery, though the taunting and scandalized glares that I've ventured in public without my Alpha is perhaps just as irritating."

After zig-zagging his way through a dozen more streets, Will finally pulled into the driveway of the Victorian home housing Hannibal's office and parked, his mood significantly heavier than when they'd left their home together that morning.

"I hate that this is life for you," Will said.

He'd said it with such mournful sincerity Hannibal couldn't help but cage Will's face into his hands and pull him in for a kiss. He kept Will in the embrace, reluctant to leave him feeling helpless. "My dear Will, you have found more solutions for me than any other would have. The fact I can even leave my home is a miracle I would never have dreamed possible, the severity of that imprisonment an issue I see in my practise daily. I have to wear my bond as a source of pride and steal what small freedoms I can lest I allow society's law to completely shackle me. I need to be a positive example for my patients. Small protests also hold great significance, do you understand?"

"I think so," Will said. Still worried, as he always was, the weight of Hannibal's own societal burdens empathically made his own, Will leaned in and gave Hannibal a fairly chaste kiss. "Call me if you need anything. I'm going to be in Jack's office for most of the day, going over that last Omega case. He's pissed you haven't given a statement, he wants Mason Verger in jail."

"I'm confident the results found on Dr. Doemling's body were statement enough," Hannibal said with curt finality. "Don't eat out, I know you've been sneaking fast food on rushed breaks, and there is no point sliding back into ill health thanks to Jack's relentless schedule. I packed the lunchmate for you, it's in the trunk. A grilled fresh turkey sandwich on rosemary foccacia with cranberry, goat cheese and rocket, along with other palatable accompaniments."

Will stopped his exit from the parked Bentley with a firm hand on Hannibal's shoulder. A stroke of his thumb along the silken fabric of his suit turned it into a caress.

"I love you." Then, frowning, that burdened weight pushing him down again into black depths, Alpha concern for his vulnerable Omega rushing through every cell in Will's tightly wound body. "If there's any problem, no matter what it is, I don't care if it's small, I'll be here right away."

"I'll be fine." Hannibal gave Will a small smile and gently squeezed the hand on his shoulder before getting out of the Bentley and waving good-bye. Will made sure he was safely inside and the door shut behind him before driving away. It was a gesture Hannibal considered unnecessary, after all, he'd proven he could protect himself and the facts were if there was a serious altercation, Will would merely get in the way by trying to prevent murder or some such silly interference. Still, it was rather sweet, that Alpha paranoia creeping in, ensuring he was lurking on Will's mind for the entirety of the day.

He made his way up the narrow stairs to the second floor, where his practise was, giving a bland wave in greeting to the two lawyers of the small legal firm who took up the ground floor. This lately earned him a shake of their heads and rude stares, but he hadn't yet determined if this was due to malice or shock. He checked his watch and noted he didn't have much time before his first two appointments. He would have to convince Will to drop him off earlier, so he could go over his patient notes and encrypted battle plans with a more relaxed mindset.


Cindy Blackstock was a pleasant, chatty Omega who was bonded to a gay Alpha male who had used their union to hide his romantic relationship with a Beta male his parents did not approve of. As loveless unions went, this one was far more amicable than most, and it was difficult to discern who had the most unhappy arrangement in this marriage. Cindy possessed a great deal of freedom since her own parents died in a car accident twelve years ago, and her inlaws were too busy keeping tabs on their son's movements to care about hers. She often drifted out in public without her neck covered, pretending to be a single Omega and took frequent trips into the Mainland--for excursions Hannibal knew would earn her incarcerations in a GSF facility should she ever be discovered.

She pointed to her own, bare neck and nodded at Hannibal. "I like the colour. I guess it's congratulations? You never really had me fooled, you know. It's a side effect of having to watch someone spend their life in a closet."

"I'm glad to know I was so transparent." Hannibal crossed his legs, annoyed with Cindy's flippancy over his situation. Her own freedom was one earned by chance and she had never truly understood the significance of it. Her rage was comprised of compassion, the long nights she spent consoling her bonded mate who only wanted to be with his Beta boyfriend and whose parents insisted he forget that particular misguided romance and concentrate harder on making Alpha heirs. Quite an impossibility, Cindy had told Hannibal, since just the thought of sex with a woman made her mate dry heave. Cindy used contraceptives when on her heat induced trips to the Mainland where she had an Alpha who 'helped her through tough times' as Will's grandmother used to say.

"He's getting suicidal again." She wrung her hands in sympathy, her elbows balanced on her knees. Cindy was tall and thin like the usual Omegas, but there was little elegance attached to her, and she spread out in the chair before Hannibal like a loose-limbed spider. "His mother cut off his money when he was on a business trip in Cairo. She found out Brandon had gone with him and shit hit the fan in a big way. When he came back, she sent him to the GSF for a week for electric shock therapy to 'reset his balance'. He lost time, he has no memory of Cairo at all or two of the months before that. It's hurting the management of his business, he's going to go bankrupt if this keeps up." Cindy's knee bounced as she clasped her hands in front of her. "I need to know your plan is going to work. I'll make sure he's not there, but I want his parents front and centre, I want them to suffer for what they've done to him."

"My bonding to Will Graham has not put the plan into danger, that I can assure you." He gave Cindy a cold assessment, wondering how much use she was going to be in the long game of things. She would be adequate for the current battle, but she was strangely self assured for an Omega female, and he worried she would over think the situation, miring it in a sense of indignation that she, with her near limitless freedom, had no right to feel. Still, she had a measure of care within her that could easily be exploited, and Hannibal considered a group therapy session of his Omega warriors might be a good idea. Hearing the torment of her compatriot's lives might make Cindy open to more creative expressions of sympathetic rage.

Their session ended with some dull advice on how to assist her Alpha mate's distress, which mostly involved sneaking his Beta boyfriend into the Blackstock mansion without the watchful eye of her inlaws detecting him. What's a week of lovemaking gone when a passionate night can be placed above it? She was unsure of this plan, but she promised to implement it anyway.

It was just after his lunch hour and Hannibal was about to give Will a call and ask if he wanted to leave Quantico early in order to pick up his dry cleaning and perhaps go over his latest findings in the Omega murder. He liked the way talk about it always incited Will's Alpha rage, sparking a blood soaked tirade against Mason Verger wherein Hannibal vicariously lived through Will's imaginary murder and torture of the monstrous little worm. For the past three months, Hannibal had allowed Will's creative, complex mind to form its own story of what had happened to him in that Verger basement, the bruises, cuts and branding melding with the additional indignities he made sure to tell Will he'd suffered at the BHCI, and the not so subtle reminder that it was Mason Verger's fault he'd ended up there at all. Will's white hot rage would be terrifying to anyone else, and Hannibal knew that all he had to do was whisper to him to cut Verger down and Will would run to Muskrat Farm, eager to test out all of his torturing fantasies. They were delightfully elaborate, at times even artful, though Hannibal had to wonder why he had such a strange fixation on goring Verger with bleached white stag antlers, a rather phallic symbol in his opinion, he would have much preferred if Will would simply flay off his skin with a carving knife.

There was a knock on his door and Hannibal frowned, as he had no further patients pencilled in for the rest of the day and was going to spend the majority of it sketching his latest battle plans along with finishing his anatomical study of Will. Annoyed by the intrusion, the feeling was further exacerbated when he opened the door to his office and found a twitchy Dr. Chilton standing in its frame, alongside a rather demure, blonde haired woman with an ice cold demeanour and blue eyes that matched. "Hannibal," Dr. Chilton said, and he pointed to the new sign Hannibal had placed on his door. "So you dropped the 'Dr. Lecter, psychiatrist' and replaced it with 'Holistic Therapist'. Very clever method of sidestepping regulation, I see." He stepped into Hannibal's office without invitation and Hannibal made a move to block him.

"You do not have an appointment, Frederick," Hannibal said.

"No, but you most certainly do." Dr. Chilton handed him an envelope which Hannibal cautiously took. "It's a decree by the GSF that you are to have mandatory out patient therapy and since I know the sorts of goings on that happen in those GSF quack factories, I made a point to step in for you and forced them to allow a qualified psychiatrist of *my* choosing." He nodded to the slight, rather stiff and uncomfortable ice queen standing beside him who was shrouded in pastel hues and a mask of non-personhood. "This is Dr. Bedelia DuMaurier. She is an Omegan specialist, and I do believe..."

"I am not a specialist," she made clear.

Her sharp high heels clipped through the carpet as she walked further into Hannibal's office, taking in the careful decor and professionalism with an unreadable absorption. Dr. Chilton, of course, continued to prattle on, and Hannibal sighed as he motioned for both of them to take a seat, one on the chaise in front of the office's long, thin windows, and one directly across from him, his patients' chair. Dr. DuMaurier picked the chaise, her back rigid as she sat gingerly on its edge. Hannibal watched her carefully, the way one predator might assess another, but it was a painfully uneven fight. A tiger versus a house cat and both seeking the same bird to eat.

"You were able to stonewall this for months, and I have to say, it's quite a thing to put up that kind of barrier against the GSF. Of course, being bonded has been the main crux of that matter, they don't like to interfere in family matters. Most other psychiatrists would have left you to your Alpha and washed their hands of you, but as I witnessed the forced bonding myself, as well as the distress of your capture, I could not in all conscience leave you adrift. You need therapy, Hannibal. It is my professional duty to make sure you get it."

Hannibal rolled his eyes and demurely crossed one leg over the other, keeping careful watch of Dr. DuMaurier in his periphery. Dr. Chilton immediately took out a notebook, pen eagerly poised above blank paper which he began scribbling on before asking a single question. Hannibal had to wonder what the dim man could possibly have seen in these simple interactions to warrant that much ink. "I would like to start off this assessment with a fairly direct question, if you don't mind, Hannibal. I've noticed you've dropped the 'doctor' prefix in front of your name, why is that?"

"Because as you well know, Frederick, my license has been revoked."

Dr. Chilton leaned forward in his chair, his pen poised and his gaze one of pushy intensity as he fixed it on Hannibal. "And how does that make you *feel*?"

Hannibal gave Dr. DuMaurier's silent observation a calculated once over. "Considering you have a mass murderer in custody in your asylum who still retains his professional title I would ask in turn how *you* would feel about that."

"This is not about me, Hannibal," Dr. Chilton reminded him. "This is about you." Dr. Chilton turned towards Dr. DuMaurier and gave her a knowing look. "He is very obtuse and will constantly try to deflect your questions and efforts to get to a clear answer. He can be quite infuriating."

"It is impolite to talk about a patient when they are in the room, Fred, or have you lost that bedside etiquette in the asylum?"

Dr. Chilton let out a long suffering sigh. "Hannibal, much as you want to believe it, I am not the enemy here. I recognize your adjustment to this new lifestyle is something that will not come to you easily. You went from Alpha to bonded Omega in an expanse of less than twenty-four hours, that is a massive upheaval of all you know and believe of yourself. This is a highly traumatic experience and one that I fully comprehend is set to have considerable fallout."

"I imagine you believe that to be true, however, I can assure you I am adjusting and have been fortunate enough to bond with someone who is not so draconian as to fully decimate my independence. That appears to be your job with this unnecessary and uncalled for investigation into my coping skills. I am sure it will make quite the academic paper when you submit it. If you want, I can write it for you and you can just sign your name to it, a harkening back to old habits."

Dr. Chilton became red faced at this, and he closed up his notebook with a loud snap. "I am not here because I want to advance my career with you. I know you don't believe it, but I actually consider you a worthy peer in my profession and I am disgusted that as a qualified psychiatrist you can have your entire life revoked in this way. I know that if I was in your shoes, I would be suffering. You know it yourself, you read the same textbooks I did, you are at high risk of depression, suicidal ideation and possible psychotic episodes. Having your life uprooted in this way is traumatic, and regardless of how much your Alpha mate permits your freedoms, the facts are you went from hero to zero in a big fat mushroom cloud and there's no way you came unscathed from that kind of fall. Did you ever ask yourself why you ended up in the BHCI and not in some cesspit of a GSF facility? Because *I* insisted! *I* went to bat for you and did what I could to protect you because you are my *colleague*!"

Hannibal remained unmoved. "So I suppose this is the part where I fawn over you in thanks for such a delightfully pleasant incarceration. If you are expecting me to celebrate your altruism, you will be sadly disappointed. The facts are, the courts believe I committed a felony and you eagerly put me under glass."

"The United Main is the only country in the world where gender subterfuge is a crime, and I am not so ignorant as to leave you hanging for it!"

Hannibal shrugged and turned his head to the side, and avoided looking at Chilton altogether. "They shall be making saintly icons of you to put up on the walls of the BHCI and lighting candles in your honour. I'm sure your acts of good will make for wonderful banter at the round tables of professional conventions and amongst peer review boards. Move over Mother Theresa, Dr. Chilton's elbowed you out of your angelic seat."

Dr. Chilton was incensed. "I am not having this fucking pissing contest with you, for God's sake! Please, I am not the enemy here, Hannibal, I am genuinely trying to help you, you pompous bastard!"

Dr. Chilton's red faced shouting was placated by the pale, slender hand of Dr. DuMaurier on his knee. "Fred," she said, her voice like cold water. "You need to step outside into the waiting room and let me finish the former Dr. Lecter's assessment myself."

"He's still a goddamned doctor, don't kid yourself! I don't give a damned what the GSF and their schizophrenic quacks have to say about it!" Chilton gathered up his notebook and pen and leapt from his seat, turning on DuMaurier. "I'm giving you twenty minutes!"

He stormed out of the office, the door slamming hard behind him. Hannibal glanced at his watch, ready to time Dr. DuMaurier's visit. He had no intention of saying one word to her.

Dr. Bedelia DuMaurier remained where she was perched on the edge of the chaise and tilted her head to one side. "Don't worry, I have no intention of psychoanalyzing you, *Doctor* Lecter. I think you're coping with this whole upset just fine. Fred is a man of short fuses and poorly lit matches, burning bright only to sputter out." She gave him a shadow of a smile. "We will be sitting here together for some time, I would not be averse to a glass of wine if you care to offer one."

Such a novel idea, and he was loathe to resist it. Hannibal rose from his seat and headed for the small decanter he kept in an antique cupboard near his sprawling desk. He returned with two deftly poured glasses of a heady merlot, one that would chase out the chill Dr. DuMaurier was marinated in. She took hers with careful, artful grace, long fingers balancing the rounded glass and avoiding the stem.

"If you would permit me, there is only one question I would like to ask."

Hannibal considered it, and the politeness of her request and his own curiosity bid him to give her a small nod. "You may ask it."

"The binding you have chosen to wind onto your neck is very old fashioned. I have to wonder...Is it uncomfortable?"

Hannibal swirled his wine and gently sifted it before taking a delicate sip that slid past his tongue in thankful bitterness. "What bindings aren't?" he replied, and took a second, larger, gulp.

Will Graham is not a man who can put his obsessions to one side and pretend he does not long to push its boundary. After dropping Hannibal off at his office, Will Graham did not go to Quantico, he had no meeting with Jack Crawford, he had no classes to attend to, no lab work to fuss over with Beverly, Zeller and Price as they handed him evidence and asked him to wrangle his empathy into photographs of wounds. Will Graham had a fixated mission in mind and he didn't want his bonded Omega mate to know about it.

Will Graham wanted to kill Mason Verger.

He'd openly fantasized about it for months, his empathy digging into all the small omissions Hannibal left him when he'd asked what had happened in that Verger basement and Hannibal remained reticent about telling him. He noted the way Hannibal would flinch in his sleep when he'd touched the brand, a fire burning through his throat as he longed to growl and tear into the monster that would be so damned audacious to think he could touch his mate without recrimination. Will's aggressive Alpha instincts increased daily, to the point that Hannibal was constantly on his mind, the unresolved crime a torment he wasn't about to let fester unpunished.

So, for the past three months, Will had staked out the Verger estate and memorized Mason Verger's habits and movements, surprised by how meticulously predictable he was. Mason was an early riser, mid morning napper, and from the research Will had put into his hunting, he knew Mason slept like the dead. The best time to kill him would be in mid-morning when the house staff dwindled down to only a single maid and a limousine driver, who wasn't too attentive when it came to security. He'd scaled the back fence with ease, and even went so far as to cut himself a hole in it that he could easily travel through and bind back up again. It would be a while before anyone found that broken link in the fence. He'd travelled the long hallways of the Verger estate, investigating eerie rooms full of sex toys and stuffed animals, most of which weren't presently in use. The children's playroom was situated next door to Mason's bedroom and he had a large two way mirror installed so he could watch them like one does animals in a zoo. It creeped Will out that people would drop their kids off here, but then desperation and poverty did terrible things to one's perception of right and wrong. This was the Coastline way, no one helped one another here.

Will parked the Bentley off of the property and onto the main road, walking by foot down the long stretch of forest that led into the back end of the property and the hole he'd cut in the fence. He slid through it, the snow crunching beneath his feet. There was a light snowfall beginning which made his heart sing since this would obscure his footprints.

He entered the massive estate via a small broken window in a forgotten pantry near the main kitchen. Since the house operated on two people during this time of day, he could travel through it freely, his mind quickly mapping out the areas where he knew Mason could be lurking. At present, he knew where he was, he was sleeping in his large, circular bed, snoring into his sheets, his hand wrapped around his spent cock, his room stinking of aged semen. That poor maid deserved hazard pay.

He passed the large portrait of Mason in the main foyer, his piggy eyes following Will as he bounded up a couple of sets of stairs to the third floor, where Mason's bedroom and the children's playroom was. He passed the playroom which was full of unsupervised kids, toys strewn everywhere, children laughing and crying as they roughly played, and not always nicely. There was a four year old howling mournfully in the middle of the room, her nose bleeding. A slightly older child comforted her. Another child knocked on the door, begging for help, but of course, no one was going to answer. There wasn't going to be a daycare worker present for another four hours. They were basically children in a fish tank.

Will tested Mason Verger's bedroom door and held his breath as the lock gave and allowed him access. He pushed the door open a tiny crack, getting a good view of Mason in his bed. He was a lump slug of a person, snoring, loudly, his eyes reduced to pinpricks when they were closed in deep sleep. Will slipped inside, his bag of tricks ready to use. His fingers itched to clasp around the handle of his knife.

He'd spent many a night describing his potential kill to Hannibal, revelling in the way his mate would listen, enraptured to the flow of blood that spilled from Will's lips. Hannibal would offer his own suggestions, such as cutting out his tongue so he couldn't speak and irritate Will with his ignorant discourse. Eyes could go next, for nothing hurt more than not knowing where the next blow was going to come from.

Will crept closer to the bed, Mason's snores catching in his thick throat and then messily coughing up a plug of phlegm as his breathing regulated again. Will reached into the pocket of his black jacket, one he'd bought for this purpose and ready to be discarded when he was done. He pulled out his hunting knife, ready to get to work...


He whirled around, and was shocked to find Alana standing behind him. His eyes widened further still when he saw how she was dressed--all in black with a pair of goggles over her balaclava, her hair tied up in a tight bun and hidden beneath the black toque. The best part, though, was what she held in her hand. A two inch linoleum knife ready to tear into flesh.

Dr. Alana Bloom had just walked into Will Graham's attempt at murder and didn't scream or ask him what he was doing or rail at the amorality of it. She didn't because she had come here to do the exact same thing. Rid the world of Mason Verger.


Chapter Text

chapter twelve

Will chose a coffee shop well on the other side of town, away from Hannibal's office just in case he was spotted by him. Having an ally to his cause changed everything, especially since Will wasn't keen on leaving witnesses to his sick act of violence. The fact this particular witness was a psychiatrist placed an even bigger kink in his plans. Alana meant well, but she was no killer, that was Will's job. He knew her residual guilt over taking a life would eat her up until there was nothing left and before long she'd be tattling to Jack Crawford about how she'd witnessed Will do the most *terrible* things. There would weeping and apologies and heartfelt pleas that Will Graham needed help. The only help he truly needed was to hide Mason Verger's body after he'd destroyed it, but he doubted that was Alana's line of thought. Her participation was a liability and besides, he needed to do this alone. This was a gift for Hannibal, he didn't want a group project.

"Margot told me what he did to her when they were kids," Alana said over her coffee, and the flash of fury that washed over her made Will wonder if he'd been all wrong in his assessment, the righteous indignation she exuded trumping all sense of moral expectations. But she had backed down when Will confronted her in Mason's bedroom and had agreed that killing him in that moment wasn't possible. She had seemed relieved, then, and that was when Will knew how a murderous future would play out in Alana's perception.

He reached across the small table and took her hand in his. "He's going to pay for what he did, I can promise you that, Alana. You just need to keep out of my way."

"What he did to her, that son of a bitch..." Tears welled in Alana's eyes, and she crossed her arms and slammed her back against her seat, frustrated with herself for not going through with her careless plan. "The money, the business, none of that matters anymore. I need to get Margot away from all of that Verger poison and the only way to do it is if he's dead. If she ends up penniless, so what? We'll figure it out, I got some savings--hardly the millions she's used to, but we'll get by. She doesn't have a clue what life can be like living free, away from that monster's influence." She wiped away tears with the heel of her hand, slightly smudging her mascara. "I need to give that gift to her, I love her too much to leave her in that snake pit."

She composed herself with difficulty, the coffee shop crowded with people, most of them McBain supporters looking for a quick, warm fix out of the cold. The winter was morphing into spring at a painfully slow pace, as though the coast couldn't let go of that long, protracted death, refusing to allow renewal in. "I know exactly how you feel, Alana," Will said, and he stared into the black contents of his mug, two empty sweetener packets beside it. A rousing chant of 'Make A Family' coursed through the small coffee shop, earning a few curious glances into the corner where an ever growing group of McBain supporters were gathered. Some had placards, folded in half to make room as they sat in their cramped seats. Will could see the shadows of some of the letters. 'Make Alphas, Not Whores.' A not so subtle sentiment that Omegas existed to further the Alpha baby factory cause. Sex had a very specific purpose according the McBain creed, it needed to result in children...Alpha children. The ethos practically called for genocide on male Omegas, there were no lines to read in between.

He could hear their inane, ignorant chatter, getting louder, chanting over and over 'Make A Family!' like it was a religious mantra. Will hugged his cup of coffee closer and Alana did the same, the atmosphere in the coffee shop becoming charged with more threat than comfort. The cashier behind the counter gave the large group in the corner dirty looks, but she wouldn't dare kick them out. The media was lurking everywhere, and there were few voices of dissent among them, the whole 'Mainland problem' poised to be solved by an ass who hadn't lived there, and had no clue about their traditions and had nothing but prejudice towards a lifestyle that had sustained them for hundreds of years.

"Tell me what to do, Will," she begged of him, and he felt a deep sorrow for her, his doubts over her eternal happiness away from the Verger yoke multiplying along the chanting of the McBain campaigners. She was in the same situation he was, attached to an Omega who was incapable of bearing any children. The public tide was becoming increasingly intolerant of such unions, and he had to wonder what kind of future was about to sprout around them. The entire world felt like it was under threat.

"We don't have enough evidence, but we're confident that Mason Verger is involved in a series of Omega murders." He paused at Alana's sudden pallor at this, her hands caged around her mouth in horror at the prospect that this was farther into darkness than she'd thought even Mason Verger was capable of. "I won't go into details, you don't want to know them, believe me. Three months ago, Hannibal was kidnapped by Mason's associate, Dr. Doemling. Hannibal was in heat, and from we have been able to piece together he was held in a basement, possibly a lab. I've broken into the property and gone down there a few times, trying to put more of the story into perspective, but that area where they held him has been scrubbed clean and there's little for my empathy to go on. There's a single, locked door on the far wall and every instinct in me is telling me that what I need to know is behind it." He squeezed Alana's hand harder, making her wince. "He had a cage down there, Alana. A small steel pen, similar to ones used for transporting cattle. There was a metal ring soldered to the wall and I know that's where the chains were attached. I know that's where he locked up Hannibal, that's where the bruises on his wrists came from, they were from the manacles, and the very thought of those two disgusting pieces of shit *touching* him..." Will bit down on his rage, the tremble it wracked through his body visible to people in the cafe, some of whom turned in their seats to warily stare at him. He was an Alpha set to go out of control, their frightened glances told him and they weren't wrong in that assumption. He closed his eyes and forced even breaths into lungs, morphing his jagged gasping into a more natural rhythm. His fists were clenched so tight he could feel his nails digging painfully into the centre of his palms.

It was Alana's turn to steady him and she placed surprisingly strong hands onto his arm, holding the tremors of his tensed muscles in. "You can count on me, Will. I know how hard it is to be in the dark about the hurt of someone you love. I'll get in there, I'll find out what you need to know."

Alana's intensity was a physical presence between them, and Will knew that if there was anyone on this Earth who could pick apart Mason Verger right to his bones, it was her. Will calmed himself with his knowledge of this, and he was grateful he'd been interrupted in his act of revenge. How far sweeter it was going to be to take down Mason Verger with all of his crusty little cupboards of harm exposed. Will salivated over the torture he could inflict with every gradual revelation.

"How is Hannibal?" Alana asked, knowing it was an open sore that still hadn't fully healed. "He's been to see Margot for their usual appointments, but he's requested that no others be present during her sessions, meaning me. I imagine it's been a difficult adjustment for him."

"It's been..." Will rubbed the back of his neck nervously, unsure of how to answer her. Though they were open in their relationship and Will loved the man beyond all human reason, there was still a barrier set between them that Will knew he couldn't climb, not yet. Every attempt resulted in Hannibal taking huge steps back, his smile losing its warmth and becoming a pasted on facsimile that made Will's blood turn into an icy stream. Often, it took days before Hannibal would forgive the silent transgression enough to let Will back into his warmth, and each time Will wanted to actively destroy the reason Hannibal had built such walls in the first place.

Then there was the constant inability to know what to do in public with him, tiny, minuscule freedoms he'd taken for granted suddenly full of overblown significance. Like was he allowed to show Hannibal affection in public? Was it wrong to let him cross the street without his Alpha at his side? He'd had a poor idea of social protocols on the best of days and he didn't know what was he supposed to do about the blatant, shocked stares at Hannibal's neck. Walks they'd enjoyed together became complicated, often ending in rude questions by passersby, where they'd ask what it was like to have a male Omega, was it as good for his health as McBain said, and why did he chose this one when it's obvious only a child bearing Omega should do. Hannibal would be standing right beside him and he was treated as though he was less than a dog on a leash. Hannibal refused to show his hurt at this kind of ostracizing, but Will knew that his pride had been damaged and he didn't know how to repair it. Usually, he simply lashed out at the ignorance, and occasionally wondered if a fist flung too hard against its mark might one day result in assault charges, Alpha rage be damned.

"Have you read the latest article in Tattle Crime?" Alana asked him, and Will sighed, pushing his coffee away. He hadn't touched his lunch and it didn't look like he was going to eat it after all. He'd have to sneak it into the garbage on the way home lest Hannibal have a shit fit over making the effort and Will cruelly ignoring it. Hannibal's tantrums only seemed benign, he wouldn't be stomping or breaking things or clenching his fists, Hannibal would simply become cold and aloof, and not even the heat of their bodies in bed would thaw him out.

"I haven't read it," Will confessed and Alana looked at him as though he'd committed a cardinal sin.

"It's about Hannibal," she said, and Will frowned at this. He grabbed his cell phone out of his pocket in a near panic and turned to a young woman sitting next to him, her laptop open.

"Excuse me," he said to her. "Do you know the wifi password to this place?"

"123BanMcBain," she replied without looking up and Will thanked her.

"Will." Alana grabbed his hand as he connected to the coffee shop's WiFi and frantically typed into his search bar with his thumbnail. "The article was sympathetic, but you need to know, there's a lot of backlash. With the McBain campaign gaining momentum around here, it's bringing out everyone's inner ultra-conservative demon. Dr. Lecter has done so much for Margot, and while his gender subterfuge was wrong, I do understand why he felt the need to do it. I'm a psychologist, I know how difficult it must have been for him, hiding it all these years, unable to have deep relationships as a result. Will, you are now the only thing standing between him and the lions that want to rip him apart in the arena, you need to be more proactive in your protection of him. He can't be going to his office during the McBain campaign, it would be better he took a hiatus until this whole 'Make A Family' political mess blows over."

He was barely listening to her. "I don't care about Freddie's opinions, she misses the mark more than she hits it and I don't care about the backlash of her conservative readers, either. My problem is that she is very sloppy with people's privacy." The article sprang into view and Will swallowed back a breath, his head shaking. There in full black and white letters was the headline:

Omega Psychiatrist Has License Forcibly Revoked By GSF Bullies-- In a rare case of male Omega gender subterfuge, Dr. Hannibal Lecter has had his license forcibly removed for a crime that is nothing more than a result of Alpha centric post pissing. How long will this razing of Omega freedoms continue? Dr. Lecter, a world renowned psychiatrist and consultant with the FBI (you read that right!) was arrested three months ago on charges of gender subterfuge, a crime that only exists in the United Main. The concept of gender subterfuge as a punishable offence is considered a crime against humanity by the Worldwide Human Rights Commission, and Europe specifically has been requesting severe economic sanctions against the United Main as a result.

How's that for creating economic instability, Governor McBain? Dr. Lecter, pictured above at his office near downtown Baltimore, has been forced to continue his practise under the guise of 'holistic therapist' despite the fact he is a highly qualified doctor. Dr. Lecter recently bonded with his Alpha mate, Will Graham, (congratulations fellas!) who is a profiler for the FBI. Graham has been working on the recent Omega murders, which this reporter believes is a cruel backlash against the Alpha murders committed by the infamous and elusive vigilante, the Chesapeake Ripper..."

"Dammit," Will said, and he showed Alana what his worst fears had already told him. An image of Hannibal with take out coffee from Demeter's was displayed in full colour and it didn't take a genius to figure out where his office was. The image was kind enough to even offer up the name and number of the street that was affixed in gold letters above the entrance to the building. '42 East Main Blvd.' Every whacko in the city would now know where the rare male Omega, Hannibal Lecter, worked and that his Alpha was too busy hunting down human predators to protect him, and one of those predators in particular could damn well show up on Hannibal's doorstep. "This is really bad," Will said to Alana as he slid on his coat and made his way out of his seat. The image of Hannibal in front of his office burned into Will's retina, and he couldn't stop himself from tracing the plain, beige silk he'd bound his neck in, Hannibal's expression one of stoic calm as he'd walked back across the street with a cup of coffee in his hand, oblivious to the fact he was being photographed. He glanced over at the group of McBain supporters in the corner, their loud boisterous voices filling the small space of the coffee shop with infuriating ignorance.

"Yo, Marcus, you hear about the male Omega that got killed? I hear the Alpha did it because he got pussy whipped by his dick, heheh."

Will grabbed his coffee and without warning threw it at the young McBain supporter, staining his white jacket and smashing the mug against the far wall. His friends rallied up, ready to fight, but there was pure murder in Will's aura, and they instantly backed off from his Alpha infused rage, especially when they got a glimpse of the gun tucked in the back of his pants. Will stormed out of the coffee shop, ignoring the stunned silence of Dr. Alana Bloom, who wisely didn't attempt to follow him. He really understood it this time, and that fact festered like a piece of rotten fruit within his soul, the thoughts sickly sweet and needy. He knew what Hannibal had felt when he'd heard that ethics professor saying derogatory remarks about Omegas. He knew if he hadn't of left that coffee shop when he did, he would have pulled out his gun and started shooting.


Though he was concerned for Hannibal, Will knew he couldn't stake out his office without being detected and it would be a serious breach in the uneasy trust Hannibal had placed in Will's assertion of his autonomy. He wanted Hannibal to have his independence, but it clearly came at an anxiety laden price.

He pulled into the driveway of their home and sat in the Bentley, idling it for over ten minutes as he stared at the front door before finally shutting down the engine and getting out. He pulled out his cell phone and quickly texted Hannibal, hoping to get a quick response. 'Hey. Just thinking about you and wondering how your day is going. Love you. X.'

He was still staring at his cell phone as he made his way into the house when a car he didn't recognize pulled into their driveway. He paused on the front step as a slender blonde woman dressed in an immaculate peach and beige pastel hued pantsuit slowly got out of her parked Volvo, her heels tall enough to be a weapon. "Mr. Graham," she said, a statement rather than an introduction. She held out a cold, pale hand gloved in skin tight black leather. He took it and shook it once, not liking the strange absence she left behind when her hand broke free of his grip. "My name is Dr. Bedelia DuMaurier. Do you have a moment to talk?"

"I don't think so," Will said, instantly defensive and he grimaced at her. "I'm not so inclined to talk to random strangers these days, especially considering the political climate at present."  His cell phone buzzed, and he glanced at the screen.  'As well as can be expected.  I do so look forward to having you with me again, dear Will.  I wouldn't mind, if you are inclined to allow it, to go on my knees as you sit on the chaise near my window.  I'd like to contemplate the beginning of your lap.'  Will roughly coughed, and turned off his cell.

"A wise reticence but I assure you it's one that is not needed." She stood two steps beneath him on his porch, seemingly on purpose to appeal to his Alpha nature. She was a Beta, that was clear, but she had certain familiar aspects to her personality that could be in line with an Omega. A vague, manufactured fragility. Will stepped back, not at all sure he liked this rather manipulative stance, her heels clipped hard against the ice, far too steady and confident they wouldn't slip. "I am the psychiatrist assigned to Dr. Hannibal Lecter. He will be in therapy with me twice a week."

"Hunh, and to think we thought the GSF forgot about us.  Fat chance of that," Will said, and he still hadn't opened his front door or invited her in. He turned around, not at all willing to have her on their home turf, in fact he found her intrusion here to be highly unprofessional, even a little pushy. "What do you want with me, then?"

"You are Dr. Lecter's Alpha," she said, her voice freezing the ice in the air before her. "I felt it was important that I speak with you in terms of his therapy and to enquire if there are any concerns I should be made aware of before I continue forward."

She had an air of professionalism about her that Will easily saw she used as a cloak to hide her true nature, which was still hidden beneath bland colours and a lack of adornment, a subtle, forced delicate shape to her being that Will couldn't help but find disconcerting. He didn't trust her, and he wasn't so sure he wanted this person to be the one talking to Hannibal and seeking out his secrets. "I don't have anything to add and if I did I certainly wouldn't tell you," Will told her. "The fact he's being forced into therapy is a good way to make sure he won't be co-operative. Get ready for some meditative silence twice a week, Dr. DuMaurier, Hannibal doesn't give himself up so easily."

She smiled at this, as though he'd told her the answer to a question she hadn't asked yet. "I don't wish for you to view me as the enemy, Mr. Graham, but it must be made clear--you are not upholding the expectations in this relationship and you will be held accountable for them." Her heels clicked on the concrete as she stepped closer and Will braced himself against the front door, hands deep in his pockets, barring her entry into his own and Hannibal's sacred space. "As an Omega, and a resident of the Coastline, Hannibal Lecter is at constant risk of being assailed by the various Alphas who cross paths with him. I am quite surprised you are allowing him to still see patients alone, this seems to me to be a very careless risk."

Will shrugged. "Most of Hannibal's patients are Omegas."

"I noticed a takeaway coffee mug from the cafe across the street from his office. Is he in the habit of going there alone throughout the day?"

Will's mouth was a taut line. "I'm not putting him in a cage, if that's what you think I should do. He can cross a street for fuck's sake...'

"There are strict rules on the Coastline, Mr. Graham, and I suggest you begin studying up on them." She paced her way slowly back to her car. "I suspect you are not aware of them because you are not a true citizen of this part of the world. I find it quite interesting that a man as cultured and brilliant as Dr. Hannibal Lecter would deign to choose an Alpha mate who has such little understanding of how much danger is persistently lurking."

Will was annoyed now, and tired of this unspoken insistence that he read between every sentence she spoke. It was an exhausting exercise. "When you talk of dangers, just what kind do you mean, exactly? If you're referring the GSF, go ahead and report me for allowing my Omega to go to work at a profession he is fully qualified for and has been exemplary in for over a decade. He is not in public, and a walk across the street barely counts, or should I put shackles on him while he's in his office, chain him to his desk lest he get thirsty or need to go to the bathroom, would that be adequate Alpha supervision enough for the GSF?" Will shook his head, disgusted, both at her and at the system she came from. "I don't care what you people want, I am not putting him under lock and key, he is not a my prisoner."

"Oh?" Bedelia tilted her head in coquettish amusement, and gave him the very blandest of her smiles. "I think he is very much aware of just how much your prisoner he is, Mr. Graham. Dr. Hannibal Lecter does not seem to me to be a person who takes to captivity very well." She turned and walked away, pausing as she opened the driver's side door of her Volvo before turning back to Will, who was now shivering on his front porch. "I think he understands that you genuinely care for him, but be warned that given the opportunity to even the balance between you, he will take it. You need to take heed, Mr. Graham. Dr. Hannibal Lecter is dangerous."

He closed his eyes as she got into her Volvo and left his driveway and he waited until she was well out of sight before sliding the key through the lock of the front door and going inside. What a load of shit, as if some porcelain mannequin needed to stop by and tell him what he knew already. She may believe she knows Hannibal and perhaps garnered a few key points, but she didn't have the depth of understanding that Will knew he had. Of course Hannibal was dangerous, it's why they were together in the first place. One predator seeking out the affections of another, both in the physical and cerebral.

He found it highly ironic, and no doubt Hannibal would get a good laugh out of it, that she had uttered that warning to a man who had snuck into a tyrant's bedroom that very morning with every intention of skinning him alive.

He shut the front door behind him and locked it before heading to the trap door leading into their cellar lair. He had to change back into the clothes he'd worn that morning and maybe add some wrinkles to it so it looked like he'd been under Jack's thumb for the entirety of the day. Considering he hadn't accomplished anything he'd wanted, specifically Mason Verger's death, it was a feeling that wasn't hard to fake. He checked his watch and saw he had an hour before he had to go and pick up Hannibal from his office, and he thought about those napoleons Hannibal had mentioned. He could always stop by the cafe, pick up a slab for him as a treat. Little gifts, they had meaning. In this case, it was to ease his own lurking fear of Hannibal causing chaos enough to land him into a GSF facility thanks to an impulsive killing spree while getting a cup of coffee.

Not that he wouldn't be justified...But still, Will had to insist on some measure of self control.


The parade was in full swing by the time Will got to Hannibal's downtown office and the traffic was a winding excursion through crowded side streets and frequent stops for frightened pedestrians. He careened past a group of young men and in women in their early twenties sporting 'Make A Family' signs, and they had made up a little song to go with it, something to do with zygotes and Alpha sperm and all of it made Will want to vomit.

Will's worst fears were realized when he pulled up in front of Hannibal's office building and saw graffiti spray painted across the Victorian era oak door in red, blue and black, the tribute colours of the Coastline. The two lawyers who occupied the ground floor were shaking their heads over the vandalism, and one of them was furiously pointing at one of the two small front windows, the glass smashed in the corner and a neat hole in its epicentre. Those who didn't know better would say it was a bullet hole, but Will knew what a rock and a slingshot could do, he'd used them enough when he was a kid knocking frogs off of rotted logs in the swamp. There was a police officer on the front step, looking harried and taking copious notes as the lawyers angrily shot information at him, and Will tried to stay out of it only to be pulled into its vortex by an accusing, gnarled finger.

"None of this would be happening if this one followed the law like he's supposed to and kept a more watchful eye on his Omega! This is his bonded Alpha mate right here, you tell him we want something done about this! This can't go on!"

Will braced himself as the police officer shook the two lawyers off and approached him. The lawyers, two elderly men in their late sixties dressed in cheap suits with buttons missing from the sleeves, stood off to the edge of the front porch of the building, muttering with each other over property law and Alpha liability and perhaps they should press their neighbour to get some additional insurance, maybe even force an eviction if this sort of thing didn't stop. The police officer took out a standard issue notepad, one that Will knew well from his time as a cop in New Orleans, and began asking clipped questions that were supposed to be devoid of emotion but still held a rankle of irritation deep within them. "Name, sir."

"Will Graham. Look, this isn't necessary, I work for the FBI, I just left Quantico to pick him up..."

"Are you in the habit of leaving your Omega unsupervised, sir? You do realize bonded Omegas are not permitted in public without their mates present, and this could be seen as a violation of that law." The officer tapped his pen on the notepad, giving Will a glaring look full of a judgement that was uncalled for.

"Look, he's inside his office, I drive him here and I pick him up, he's not traipsing the streets of Baltimore. The furthest he goes is to that cafe right there, across the street..."

"Yes, Mr. Graham, we're aware of that." The officer sighed and gave Will a grimacing frown past hooded eyes. "There was an altercation there earlier, involving a group of young McBain supporters and it got a little out of hand. Normally, I would be calling the GSF in a matter like this, but it was pretty clear to me that your Omega has been under some stress lately, and with you not being as attentive as you maybe should be..."

"What?" Will shook his head, panic beginning to rise within him. He tried to push past the officer to check on Hannibal, to make sure he was okay but the monolith of a man wouldn't let him pass. Will's heart hammered in lightning quick beats that pumped more oxygen than he could take in. He turned to the elderly curmudgeons at the end of the porch, and he must have looked such a misery they actually put their grievance aside for one moment to say, without apology, "Your Omega makes one hell of a mess everywhere he goes and he's been doing it since he opened up his practise. Tell him to get more insurance or we'll putting in a petition to shove him out."

The officer loomed over Will, and if he didn't know any better he'd swear the man was ready for Will to make one tiny, wrong move and he'd put a bullet through the centre of his forehead. "He's upstairs and he's fine. No thanks to you, asshole." A thick, sausage shaped finger pressed hard into the centre of Will's chest, nearly toppling him off the concrete steps. "I don't care if you're FBI, GSF or fucking CIA. Letters mean shit to me. Treat him right, or you're going to be answering to me, you got me, asshole? I will fuck your shit up." He slapped his notebook closed and pocketed it and stood to one side to allow Will access. He watched every step he took up the stairs to Hannibal's office, burning into him with hooded eyes beneath an impossibly thick Neanderthal brow. Will kept getting the feeling that threat of getting shot was still there, and this officer was keen to put a bullet into him before the day was through.

Confused, Will knocked on Hannibal's office door. "It's me," he said.

"Of course, my dear Will, come in."

Will entered the office and gently shut the door behind him, knowing that the officer at the base of the stairs was attentively listening for any sign of domestic struggle. "Hannibal, what the hell is going on?" He caught sight of Hannibal at his desk, hunched over his sketches, the one he'd been working on as a simple body study of Will now morphed into a complex miasma of thick antlers and streams of realistic blood that pooled beneath the bared feet of Will's nude figure.

Hannibal was poised and graceful, but his appearance was marred by a thick coffee stain along the blue silk at his neck and down the front of his white cotton shirt, which was now ruined. "I went to get coffee at Demeter's and there was a large crowd there ahead of me. It seems my binding was a source of amusement for them, and one of the young men in particular took it upon himself to spill coffee on me. It wasn't hot, he didn't mean to scald me, he merely wanted an excuse to grab napkins and cop an unwanted feel, as did his friends. So, I broke his wrist." Hannibal shrugged as though the matter was of no consequence. "It will be hard for him to hold a cup of coffee for quite a while, plaster casts are cumbersome. Now he has a real reason to be careless."

Will chewed his bottom lip for a long moment. "So...The graffiti..."

"Retaliation from his little group of knuckle draggers. Of course, Lloyd and Lloyd, the lawyers, had to call the police, and luckily they are too burdened managing the crowds and preventing riots to send more than one officer."

Will frowned as he sat on the corner of Hannibal's desk, eyeing the large cake box off to the side of his sketching. "What's this?"

"That? It's a napoleon pastry, my favourite. Neil was nice enough to purchase it for me."


"Officer Neil Brogan." Hannibal paused in his sketching to look up at Will with smirking amusement. "I may have had to spin a bit of Omega fragility his way to avoid an assault charge. I even managed to make my eyes water a little, it proved very effective in evoking his sympathy and his Alpha nature pounced on it." Hannibal return to shading one of the pointed tips of the blood soaked antlers. "I may have told him you were a controlling brute who denied me every small pleasure in life. He believes I'm forced to go to Demeter's as my one solace, to obtain a tiny treat once in a while, secretively of course because you cruelly deny me them. This was not a request from me, dear Will, I didn't think he would buy me an entire slab of very expensive pastry. I wonder what he would have gifted me if I had actually let a tear fall."

He wasn't surprised, but he was damned if he was going to be happy about Hannibal manipulating a kind hearted officer. Hannibal raised a brow at Will's scowling. "That's perfect, dear Will. Keep that expression as we leave and make sure he sees it. I'll be sure to get coffee and cake all week."

"You are an asshole," Will said, and handed Hannibal his coat, which he took as he left his desk and dove his long arms into it, shrugging it into place on his wide shoulders. Still, he couldn't stop himself from teasing a small circle pressed lightly into Hannibal's back with a caress of his palm, Hannibal carefully turned off all lights and tidied his desk before leaving with Will, ensuring he locked his office door with two keys this time as he'd added a deadbolt a month ago. Hannibal walked down the stairs and Will followed him, holding the box of cake. He didn't miss Hannibal giving Officer Neil Grogan a small smile and a pantomimed 'thank you', a small flirtation that made Will's blood boil and thus give him that awful expression and the exact excuse Officer Grogan would need to do a 'well being' check up on what the Alpha considered an at risk Omega. Smooth, Hannibal, Will thought. Real smooth.

They walked down the narrow stairs leading to the front porch, and Will winced at the scrawled slurs destroying the beauty of the nearly two hundred year old building. In red, blue and black--DickCunt. SlickPrick. Whore. Hannibal glanced at them, not reacting and instead holding his head high as he approached the lawyers Lloyd and Lloyd. "My dear gentlemen, I am truly sorry about this unfortunate incident. I will naturally have the door replaced, obtaining one of a suitable vintage and wood. I will have the graffiti removed at my own expense. Considering the current influx of violence we seem to be experiencing as of late, I don't believe a security camera is out of the question. After all," he gave Will a warm smile, "there are those in my life who need to keep watch over me."


The ride home was near impossible, the collection of people gathered on the streets a constant barrier that forced Will to stop and start the Bentley at nearly every street corner. "When is this shit over with?" he moaned.

"Governor McBain is delivering his official campaign speech at the Baltimore Convention Centre on Friday. Four days of this suffering and then it's done. The placards shall head for dumpsters and belief in him will seep into the ignorant ether, never to be mentioned again."

Will drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, his head nodding at the silent decision he had made within himself. "I appreciate you being honest with me back there," Will said, and he sighed uneasily, the stream of cars pressed tight against the Bentley making him claustrophobic. "It's only right that I'm honest with you." He stopped at a light and turned towards Hannibal, who seemed more interested in the herringbone pattern in the icing of his napoleon. "I didn't go to work today."

'Oh?" Hannibal said, breaking off a corner piece of the pastry and slipping it onto his tongue. He closed his eyes in sensual bliss over the sweet taste and Will nearly missed his exit off the side street, so absolutely edible in that moment was Hannibal himself. "What did you do instead?"

Will concentrated on the traffic in front of him. "I went to Muskrat Farm and nearly killed Mason Verger."

"I see." Hannibal closed the lid back over the napoleon. "You attempted and were not successful?"

"No, I didn't get a chance to kill him at all, it was...I just wanted to be honest with you about it, it didn't feel right keeping it from you, not after all we've talked about. I'm just really frustrated with how he's still able to be a part of the world and you're....I want that fucker dead, Hannibal. Did he touch you? Honestly, please, Hannibal, you need to tell me...I want to kill him. The things I want to do to him are..." Will swallowed, his throat rough like sand. "Evil. What I dream about doing to him...There's no other word that describes it better."

A headache was brewing behind his eyes and he pinched the bridge of his nose with his forefingers, blinking his way back into focus as he turned down a street that led to a highway. "Dr. DuMaurier stopped by today, she said she's your new therapist."

"Ah, I was wondering if she would pay you a visit, though she was probably hoping you weren't home so she could snoop through our little castle." Hannibal chuckled at this. "She finds me to be a bit of an anomaly, I should think. A puzzle she's not sure she wants to complete. Dr. Chilton accompanied her for the visit, and it went as you may expect. Poor Fred was mired in charity, it's an odd quicksand for him. He's too earnest and prone to buffoonery. He won't get much money for the BHCI until he learns to appease egos instead of consciences."

"Dr. DuMaurier thinks you are dangerous," Will said.

Hannibal smiled widely at this. "What do you think, Will?"

Will sighed heavily and as their house came into view he reached over to Hannibal and undid the knot at his neck, his fingers deftly peeling off the silk binding around Hannibal's neck.

"I think whatever you have planned in that incredible mind of yours, I'm on board with it," Will said.

He parked in their driveway and tossed the coffee stained silk to the floor of the Bentley, his hands stroking Hannibal's exposed neck, pressing all those erotic points that made him throw his head back and moan into Will's touch. He writhed in his seat, the scent of slick heady as Will put the cake box onto the back seat and began lustfully mouthing Hannibal's jugular, suckling that throbbing vein and getting hard at the small, whimpering noises Hannibal made as he dug through layers of clothes to stroke him. "Whatever you are a part of, Hannibal, I am too. You are the Ripper, and so am I." Will dove down, taking Hannibal into his mouth while his fingers worked through his sweet slick. The sudden cries coming out of his Omega were a pleasure Will revelled in. He'd taken Hannibal by surprise and left him incapable of speech. How's that for an unexpected treat.



Chapter Text

chapter thirteen

Wednesday. Hump Day and the campaign trail was in full swing, with bands playing and streets closed and the threat of protest all around as an army of police in full riot gear lined the sidewalks in an intimidating wall of might. The simmering, anticipatory mood was beaten down by the tired masses who barely paid attention to any of it. Right now, the opinions of a scant few had the time to be heard and the duty of these Baltimore residents on this mild Coastline early spring day was to call into radio talk shows and thread conspiracy theories into Omegan ovaries. 'Good Morning Baltimore' , the billboards for the current show plastered on every public transit bus throughout the city, had an entire segment dedicated to the Make A Family campaign and the issues surrounding the platform. As is always the case in open forum public discussion, the moron with the biggest mouth always got to the loudspeaker first.

"This is Good Morning Baltimore, with your host, Sally Hassein. I'm here with Governor McBain's current representative, Donald Trevor, who is taking your calls. Governor McBain is currently at Sherwood Gardens and would love your support, so drop on by--just mind that crazy traffic heading into St. Paul, it's bottlenecked all the way to the West University Parkway! We'll take our first caller. On the line now is Bobby Darwin--interesting name--How are you Mr. Darwin?"

"I'd be just fine if these Mainlanders would quit with their high and mighty attitude when it comes to how we do things here on the Coast. It's scandalous the way they treat their Omegas, like they're free to just walk around and they are terribly promiscuous, never know whose kid is whose. Always got a pile of them, big mix of Betas and Omegas and only a few Alphas among them, real waste of resources, I say. They got no filter when it comes to sex, those Mainland Omegas, they just go with whatever suits them and it's a damned shame to see that kind of amorality rampant in our country, a damned shame.."

"I agree, Mr. Darwin," Donald Trevor responded. "And let me be the first to say that when Governor McBain gets elected these problems are of the highest priority and his solutions will be brought to congress. The United Main needs to be a place where the law is uniform for all of its citizens and implementing it puts those most at risk under its safe blanket. We are a strong country and we need to stay that way, and that can only happen if Alphas are given the birthright they deserve, and let's face it, Omegas are a part of that. Regulation of Alpha children ratios to Alpha and Omega bonding must be enforced as soon as possible in order to..."

A shaky hand slapped at the radio, forcing it into static. In the garage of the Graham-Lecter home, a Bentley sat idling, its windows covered in spring thaw steam that beaded along the interior. Several handprints smeared the dew along the rear windshield, the steam filling them but not enough to hide the shadows of figures writhing behind them, loud panting and curses in Lithuanian filling the roomy interior of the back seat. The disorganized rhythm of these sounds gradually morphed into steady, more harmonious cries that conjoined in an increase in tempo, the press of a forehead against the back window met with hot breath against the glass, and grasping hands that reached forward, knuckles dragging long lines through the opaque damp. A loud, shuddering moan that quickly turned into a pleading, escalating chorus broke free through this groaning music followed not long afterwards by a breathlessly intoned, "Fuck...Hannibal..." and an answering, high pitched whine.

Will collapsed against the passenger door in the back seat, Hannibal's chest heaving from exertion as he sat directly across from him. Diving his feet in, Will slid his trousers back up, zipping and buttoning himself back together while Hannibal retrieved his pants from the front seat after cleaning himself up first with a pair of Will's underwear, which Will had discarded earlier and didn't bother putting back on. "You're right." Will was breathless as he watched Hannibal slide his long legs into the trousers of his expensive, colourful plaid suit, the shimmering fabric giving one the impression of opalescence. "It's a lot more fun to decide who's going to drive when we're already in the car." He tossed the keys to Hannibal who caught them with one hand and then moved back as Hannibal rather inelegantly climbed from the back of the car and to the front driver's seat, stealing a playful kiss from Will along the way. Hannibal's suit was significantly rumpled, and his perfectly coiffed hair didn't quite go back to its smooth geometry, but for once he didn't seem to mind the mess he'd made of himself.

Will slowly inched his way into the passenger seat beside him, and buckled himself in after he turned off the radio, putting the Bentley into a blissful silence free of white noise. "Jack said it's a pretty bad scene," Will warned him. He watched as Hannibal picked up the beige silk he'd lain on the dashboard and began winding it around his neck in a careful herringbone pattern, though it was an awkward effort in the cramped confines of the car. Will took the two ends of folded silk from him and wove the pattern himself, he'd seen Hannibal perform the simple layering enough times to know what to do. Two layers up, one layer down, not too tight, but not loose either.

Hannibal was silent as Will worked the silk, the moment charged with meaning as Will realized the last time he'd done this it was to force Hannibal to submit to him and become bonded. Now, it was Will performing an act of gentle persuasion, mindful of Hannibal's comfort and keeping a great deal of contrition in the way he handled the silk. There was an unreadable tension in Hannibal, and Will braced himself against a cold onslaught of Hannibal induced protest, but instead he was surprised by Hannibal's caress at his neck, his thumb grazing Will's cheek as he bid him to make eye contact. Will shakily complied, and he leaned closer, the ends of silk hanging loose as it was wrapped around his fingers.

"You are a remarkable creature, Will Graham," Hannibal said, and the air between them was charged with that indefinable energy that not even sex could cure. Hannibal raised his chin in seeming pride, but it was more out of reverence for the feelings swirling in symbolic chaos between them. "If I told you I loved you, it would far miss the mark of how I truly feel. There is no word yet invented for what your influence in my life does to me. There is so much I long to give you." He slid his hands around Will's wrists, caressing them softly as he bid Will to finish the knot, which he did with stumbling, trembling fingers. "That which should have been yours has forever been stolen." Hannibal leaned forward when Will was done and lightly kissed him, his gaze still holding onto that strange, unreadable depth that Will wasn't sure what to do with. "I sometimes fear that what we offer each other in these moments will not be enough. Where are we going, Will? Did uncle Jack give us our co-ordinates?"

Shaken back into the present moment and the reason they were in the car together in the first place, Will broke the embrace and checked his cell phone, the GPS app brought into life. "It's in a wooded area just off of I-95, just before we get to Wolf Trap, actually. I'm not going to see this as a coincidence, I'm convinced there's a message in this murder, only I don't think it's for me." He frowned in twitching nervousness as Hannibal started up the car, graceful fingers punching in the area Jack had given them into his own GPS on the Bentley. "He didn't give me much details, but I know you haven't been actively killing anyone lately, so this must be our Omega murderer." Will gave Hannibal's stoic posture a tentative once over. "It won't be one of yours. Right?"

"It's not," Hannibal assured him, a fondness at Will's concern mired in amusement. "Which leaves us to conclude one thing--Our Omega murderer has decided to start up his favourite hobby again after being silent for three months. Considering the state of the last corpse he left us, I am quite sure we will be forced to witness a scene of equal brutality. He is not much for subtlety, our killer. I must admit a certain trepidation, this is not something I am particularly looking forward to, especially now that my gender has been fully revealed. I hope my biological commonalities with the victim do not impede the investigation, the forensic team may find it difficult to separate my own experiences from the scene."

"Experiences, meaning your kidnapping and killing of Doemling, which you still haven't talked to myself or Jack about." Will gave him an exasperated sigh. "I can't force you to give a statement, for once the GSF laws are in your favour, but it would be in our interest in catching this creep to know what happened."

"You have put enough of a picture together, Will, you do not need a Polaroid. The killer is unskilled and sloppy and yet he avoids capture. He is also foolish enough to scrawl a quick sentence upon his crimes via where he discards his victims. A geographical post it note." They pulled onto the main road heading for the highway, and Hannibal gave Will's quiet contemplation some food for thought. "He is not sending you the message, that you are sure of. But he leaves them for you in places close to you, so he is seeking to send the message to someone who stands beside you."

Will frowned. "So what are you saying?"

"I think it's obvious, Will." Hannibal pursed his lips as he smoothly pulled onto the highway. He was a far more careful driver than Will, his control of the Bentley as easy as his own graceful steps. "He is sending the message to the Chesapeake Ripper. The murders are telegrams directed at me."

Will felt a bullet of understanding hit the bottom of his heart and he stared, wide-eyed at Hannibal, his fists clenched tight in his lap. "That means he knows who you are." Will shook his head, his lips moving over words he couldn't quite form. Inside of himself the white bones of the stag's antlers clawed around his guts, tearing into him until his insides were nothing but tissue rendered into a meaty confetti. "Hannibal, if there's something you know about this guy, you need to tell me, he could come after you at any time and thanks to Freddie Lounds he knows where you work. Listen, even if he is nothing more than some base bottom feeder he could really do some damage to you." Unbidden, an image of the last male Omega victim erupted into his mind, the white antlers sprouting from his chest cavity into the dense blue sky above his corpse into a twining infinity. Blood pooled from the splits in the ice, the river he found sanctuary in tainted with threat. Will shuddered. "I can't live with that. I can't let him do that."

Hannibal glanced over at Will, the Bentley gently turning down the exit that would be a direct line to his home in Wolf Trap. "It was only last night that you confessed to me that whatever I deem necessary, you are willing to follow me. The sentiment was sincere at the time, but has it waned in the light of morning? What I am truly asking, Will, is a question that is far more difficult to ask because of the implications should the answer be abused." Hannibal's hands were light on the steering wheel, his driving gloves accentuating his slender fingers, making them appear like accessories upon a sculpture of fashion and flesh.

"Do you trust me, Will?"

The white bones of antlers were creeping over them from the back seat of the car, pointed tips grazing against the back of Will's neck, hoping to draw blood. They obscured his view, covering the windows in a thick lace of dangerous spikes, aiming to invade him. Hannibal continued to drive blind, the antlers covering the entirety of the front windshield. He could see nothing but Hannibal and the dangers he represented, that which he didn't know could easily turn its obscurity onto Will, and destroy him.

"Yes," Will said, and placed a firm hand on Hannibal's strong thigh. Hannibal's lips twitched in a tender smile at this, his head bowed in the tiniest gesture of demure gratitude.

By the time the GPS announced their arrival at their destination, the atmosphere in the Bentley had become one of absolute calm. Will napped against Hannibal's shoulder as he drove, his mind thankfully a blank as he drifted in and out of consciousness for the nearly two hour ride. Hannibal parked the Bentley beside Jack's grey Impala and turned off the ignition. In the distance, forensics were huddled over what looked to be two figures laying in the spring muck, marble skin reflecting the morning sun's rays. Lately, the sun awoke with the perpetual promise of death, Will realized.

Will had brought galoshes to slip into and they were waiting for him in a plastic bag in the back seat. He bit the inside of his cheek, hiding his grin as he knew Hannibal had, yet again, wore highly inappropriate shoes to the crime scene.

Jack was already waving at them before they got out of the car, his bulky figure blending in with the thawing earth surrounding him and the forensics crew in rich tones of brown, grey and receding white. Will cricked his neck and let out a deep sigh, bracing himself before unbuckling the safety belt and leaving the Bentley, Hannibal following close behind. Jack approached them, his coat open, the wool hem caught in a teasing temperate breeze. "We got two of them this time," he said, and all of Will's worst fears were instantly realized. "Two Omega females, both in their late teens or early twenties. Jimmy says the time of death is two days ago and he's confident they died close to the same time. It's not a scene like the last one, the brutality is missing but I've got a hunch about it, there has to be some sign of this guy's signature. There's another big difference, these girls weren't anonymous. They were reported missing by their parents over a week ago."

Will walked quickly to the scene, not giving Jack time to finish. The killer had chosen to dump the bodies in what was usually a heavily wooded area, though at present it was easily penetrable thanks to the husks of naked trees that lined the highway for miles. The two young women were face down in the mud, exposed to the elements and from the silence and sombre motions of the forensics team, it was clear the lonely melancholy of the crime was in stark abundance as it had been in the last one of a trafficked Omega with no friend in the world. Beverly stood up beside the young Omega female she was crouched near, and gave Will a curt, angry nod. "I don't understand any of this," Beverly said, taking in the barren landscape and the unnatural pose of the dead young Omegas face down in its midst. She turned away from the bodies, tears threatening to spill. "It's not hormones this time, whatever Zeller and Price think. These poor kids could be Betas or Alphas, the fact they are Omegas means nothing right now. They were just girls, Will. What kind of prick thinks he has the right to do something like this?"

Will placed a strong hand on her shoulder and Beverly silently nodded at the strength his touch tried to give her. She sniffed loudly and braced her shoulders as she got ready to leave and allow Will his solitude to give his empathy play. "Do you need a rundown of our findings?" she asked.

Will grimaced and shook his head. "I'm sure I'll find it all out as I go along."

Beverly gave him a look that had enough sympathy to flatten him. No one wanted what he had, and it was clear that Beverly didn't envy his abilities when it came to these kinds of cases.

He waited until she was well past the yellow tape before letting the pendulum swing.

...They are alone, bereft of family and friends, and I have orchestrated it. I have given them a promise of sanctuary and they believe me because I am a figure on the fringe, they have an uneasy friendship with me. They recognize me, the one with red hair has family ties to me, and she considers me an old friend. They are young and easy to fool. When I send them off to their Fate, my pockets are lined thick and I am free of what happens next. I am not their murderer. This is not my design.

The killer is happy with his purchase and they don't understand what has happened, yet, they think he is doing a favour for a friend.

I am the killer. I purchased these girls and pretended to be their ally. This one, with dyed red hair and skin so clear it could be made of marble, she is innocent and pure and I want my fun with her, but it was cut short by this other, this viper with strong muscles and a brute strength I did not expect. She tore into me with her bare hands, attacking me as an animal, and I still bear the scars of how she wounded me. She was likewise killed quickly for she wasn't easy, she didn't allow me my base pleasures, she fought too hard and I'm not used to this kind of prey. She tore at me like she could kill me herself. This is not what I understand. This is different and yet familiar. I am frightened by her power, and I shoot her point blank in the centre of her forehead, killing her instantly. That wasn't my plan. I wanted my fun and I didn't get it, not by a long shot. Two bodies to dispose of now, and I thought I was going to be able to sate my needs for a while. This one stole that from me. Such a waste.

For this transgression, both she and her friend's bodies will be tossed into the muck, naked. Her body is free of my usual cuts and bruises, my common torture adornments. I am nervous as I leave this calling card. Will the person I am trying to communicate with know? I don't want him to, and yet, I feel a perverse need to tempt that unexpected danger again. My curiosity wants to pull him out of the earth. Look at me, damn you. Look at my design and weep, you bitch...

"They were runaways, and chances are their parents are looking for them. I think they might have been in a relationship, I can't know for sure. They had a plan in mind and they were heading for the Mainland when they met someone they recognized, someone they thought they could trust because of his social status." Will opened his eyes, his head shaking slightly as Hannibal stood beside him. "She put up a real fight," Will said, not seeing him, his hand blindly seeking him out behind him and finding the lapel of his wool coat. "There's going to be plenty of evidence under her nails, and I'm betting she bit him. She was vicious. Relentless. It's why he had to kill her quickly, along with her friend."

The lapel of Hannibal's coat broke free of Will's grip as Hannibal collapsed to the ground, a low sob escaping his throat. Blinking into the confusion of the present reality, Will searched for him, finding him on the ground beside the dead Omega female and he half wondered if he was still trapped in that empathic dream, visions swirling before him that made no sense. Hannibal had turned her over, and Beverly was shouting at him from the distance as she ran towards the scene, begging him not to disturb evidence. Hannibal had collapsed to his knees in the mud, his legs soaked in earth, his gloved hands covering his mouth as loud cries left him, a howling sorrow that cut deep inside of Will's heart, leaving him reeling at the power of its despair.

"For fuck's sake." Brian Zeller got to Will first, his hands open and helpless at this near destruction of key evidence. "We haven't even taken the photos yet, he's messed this up. *This* is why Omegas don't belong at a crime scene..."

Will couldn't stop himself. His fist went flying before the thought did, and when his knuckles hit Brian Zeller's cheek with a satisfying crunch, knocking him to the ground, it was a heady satisfaction that coursed through Will, not vindication.

Hannibal could read the signs by now, and he knew as he dove beneath the yellow police tape that Will's inner pendulum had stopped spinning and his envisioning of the crime scene was nearly complete. He gingerly stepped over the various puddles and mud patches, careful to place the heels of his Bally's leather drivers onto clumps of dead leaves. He had done a fairly good job of keeping himself free of wet earth and he stood behind Will, liking the way Will didn't turn around but instead searched for him by touch alone, gaining purchase on the lapel of Hannibal's wool Burberry coat. Hannibal sighed and glanced down at the corpse at his feet, bemoaning the fate of yet another unfortunate Omega, and he felt a sadness rise within him that he hadn't been able to get to them first and recreate them into agents of his divine army.

He frowned as he looked upon the young Omega female, laying face down in the muck, the set of her shoulders and the small mole at her neck sending a knowing chill through him that he hadn't experienced since his inner dungeon worthy moments. With Mischa whispering in his ear and the clang of the iron shackle snapping shut as it cut into his neck, Hannibal raised the body slightly with the toe of his shoe to get a small look at the face that was so cruelly smeared into the earth.



The sound of water dripping in a forgotten, basement washroom, blood pooled thick around him.


He sank to the ground on his knees and gripped her shoulders, turning her over onto her back. He cradled her head in his lap, her neck stiffened at an unnatural angle as he tearfully wiped the mud from her face, tearing dead, grey leaves from her small, once timid lips, knowing he was never to see them smile at him in secretive pride again. He felt the sobs crumbling him but he couldn't stop them, he couldn't hide the trauma of this behind his cold facade when he had so carefully birthed her, this precious warrior who he had promised would do battle with him again and become a glorious victor. He had given her strength, had fashioned her into a creature of unmitigated power who knew nothing of fear. He'd dried her tears and turned them into laughter as she wielded her knife, cutting into her tormentors. She was his child, and she had been stolen from him.

There was an altercation going on behind him, but Hannibal could barely hear it and didn't care to know it, his mourning taking all central precedence. He hugged her cold, stiff body close and kissed her icy cheek before finally releasing her back to his lap, where he stroked her dry hair, picking leaves from the knotted locks.

A thick hand met his shoulder, and Hannibal was roused enough to look upwards, the outline of Jack Crawford standing beside his kneeled form, his fedora put into a dark cameo with the blinding sunlight blasting behind him. "Dr. Lecter, you've contaminated the scene," he gruffly said. "You know better than this and I'm not going to the let the whole Omega hormones bullshit fly, you have never been anything but a cold assessor, you weren't even moved by the male Omega the last time and that one was in heat..."

"She's one of mine," Hannibal said, fighting to keep his swirling emotions under control, this lapse such a serious breach of his decorum he couldn't stop the choke that broke through. "Her name is Victoriana Alcott, and she is eighteen years old. She was my patient. She was one of the young Omegan women sullied by Robert Allen and Salvo Cortez." His eyes filled with tears again as he smoothed down her hair from her forehead, remembering how gleeful she was when she sank the knife in for the first time and proved herself strong enough to fight through Salvo Cortez's screams. He cast a glance to the other victim, a friend he knew nothing about. "Her favourite colour was red."

"Dr. Lecter, you need to let her go." Jack's voice was strangely soft, and Hannibal wasn't sure he wanted to allow this parting, not when it was so obvious that this was his child, she had been in his care and he was the one responsible for her.

"Her parents only sent her to me because they thought I was a desperate unbonded Alpha who would take what he could get. They knew I was wealthy, they were hoping for a windfall for their retirement." A wet tear hit Victoriana's ice cold, grey cheek and he quickly wiped it away with a gloved thumb. "No one is going to properly mourn her, Jack. No one but me."

He felt a deep pressure against the back of his neck, calming him before Will's arms slid down his own, parting him from Victoriana's body. A familiar, unbearable wave of sadness hit him, and he shivered as he stood up, every molecule in his body set to stone and slowly bringing him back into his usual cold person suit, one that buried all these hurts deep within it. He braced himself and tried to avoid the glare of Jack Crawford at his back as Will steered him towards the yellow police tape and beyond to the Bentley, his usefulness for the day clearly spent. He frowned as he passed Brian Zeller who had a cut under his eye and a growing bruise in a thick halo around it. Will stroked Hannibal's cheek, bidding him to look at him, and all Hannibal really wanted to do was sink into his arms and suck every ounce of warmth from Will that he could.

"Wait in the car. I can drop you off at home, and go back to the lab after, I don't mind the drive..."

"I will go with you to Quantico," Hannibal said, and he wouldn't allow an argument on the matter. He was going to give Victoriana Alcott the respect her death deserved. She was his child, the warrior he had fashioned. Such divinity was not to be unduly tarnished.

Jack Crawford watched Will intently as he slammed the door shut on Hannibal, enclosing him safely within the privacy of the Bentley. Hannibal's sorrow threatened to spill anew, and he could still feel the weight of Victoriana in his arms, his precious warrior, her death rendered meaningless by the coward's method that had killed her. Instinctively, he pressed his hands tight against his abdomen, the hollow feeling he couldn't shake echoing his cries within it. He leaned against the steering wheel and closed his eyes, his arms wrapped around his stomach.

There was a knock on the passenger window, startling him, and he turned to see Beverly Katz looking down on him, her forehead pinched into a deep frown. She opened the door and slid into the seat beside him, concern wafting off of her like perfume. "Hey, you okay?"

Hannibal could see Will and Jack arguing in the distance, not far from the crime scene. Zeller had joined them, his faces inches from Jack and from what Hannibal could see it looked like the trio was about to come to blows. He couldn't hear what they were saying to each other, but it was clearly volatile.

"The victim was my patient," Hannibal said to Beverly, and she slid back against her seat, utterly defeated. She punched the dashboard, cursing. Hannibal knew Beverly was having a hard time with these murders herself, and he had to wonder if she was having flashbacks of the male Omega's body, that particular scene traumatizing her so much she couldn't process it. "I'm sorry I contaminated the scene," Hannibal evenly said. "I should have been more professional."

"Jesus Christ, Dr. Lecter, we're just human beings." Beverly sighed and leaned back in the passenger seat, the back of her head resting on the cushioned pad. She closed her eyes as though willing all of the death and murder on that thawed, wet horizon away and Hannibal found he desperately wished she had the power to do it.

"We do this job thinking we can handle it, that it's just like any other, we go in and do what we need to do and go home." She opened her eyes and turned to Hannibal, her frustrated expression belying a sense of failure. "We look at the evil that people can do to each other and we're not supposed to be affected by it. I wouldn't be any better than the monster that did that to those girls if that were true. Shit like this, it puts its hooks in us. It makes victims of us, too." She grabbed Hannibal's arm and squeezed and he found he appreciated the honesty of her touch. "Sometimes, when we're in that lab and I have to dig through the guts of yet another murdered kid, I see myself on that table. There's been days that image is so clear in my head I have to leave the room and pretend I need to get a coffee. But I don't. I just need to get the hell out, away from the stink of death and fear." She shook her head as she bitterly laughed. "The nightmares don't leave, but I'm guessing you already know that. Every crime is one more horror waiting when I close my eyes at night. When morning comes, we all pretend everything is fine and we pop aspirin, get a cup of coffee and keep going. As the Alpha of the team, I'm expected to just push it all aside and bulldoze my way through the work. If that prick McBain gets his way, I'll be mandated to pop out Alpha babies, too, one more stress to add to the pile." She shook her head at the very thought. "Maybe other people can compartmentalize better than I can, but this job is getting close to breaking me, Dr. Lecter. I don't know how much more of this I can suffer, I'm seriously thinking of leaving the field."

The heavy weight of emotions in the car were the same as Victoriana's as she lay in his arms, and Hannibal fought to keep the burden of Mischa's frozen corpse at bay as well as that other leaden anchor, tiny but unbearable, the memory pressed against his chest ready to smash him as easily as one shatters a thrown teacup. "Can I see another's woe, And not be in sorrow too? Can I see another's grief, And not seek for kind relief? Blake said it best, we are compelled to enact compassion when it is begged of us. Monsters have no place in his poetry, which is a fact I take great comfort in. Not for them is the beauty of this world. Those who seek to destroy shall never know the realm of love, be it from one stranger to another, a father towards his injured child..." Hannibal inhaled deeply, forcing equilibrium onto the darkness rising to the surface within him and masking it in his stoic calm. "Or a mother for her weeping infant. It takes courage to love, Beverly, and what we fight against are acts of terrified cowardice against that power. The strength we possess comes from the ranks of generals."

Beverly pondered what he'd said, a light frown etching her features into a fierce intelligence he couldn't help but admire. "You talk like we're at war."

"Are we not?"

Will and Jack began heading back to the road, and Beverly took that as her cue to go back to work. The sombre posture of the two men gave Hannibal pause, and he decided now was the time to surrender, and it would be to Beverly, who was desperately needing a rung of that professional ladder to cling to. "When I was held prisoner by Cordell Doemling I overheard him on his cell phone with a potential buyer. It seems any Omega is worth putting on the auction block, including middle aged professionals steeped in chemical Alpha hormones." He gave Beverly's stricken look a bland one in return. "I suspect these victims came from a similar transaction."

"You've never talked about what happened, Jack is pissed you never gave a witness statement and hid behind being bonded to Will to avoid it. Hannibal, you need to tell Jack..."

"I'm telling you," he said, curtly cutting her off. Will was still far enough away to not see his actions, and Hannibal shifted in his seat, pushing his coat and jacket aside to lift the hem of his white cotton shirt. He turned in his seat, giving her a glimpse of the faded outline of the Verger brand on his skin. He pieced himself together again quickly as Will approached. "You will find similar brands on the bodies. They're different from the ones he uses on his pigs, of course, but the reasoning is the same. We were part of his stock."

Beverly held her hand to her mouth as though she was going to be sick. "That goddamned son of a bitch."

"Please, Ms. Katz. Don't tell Will. He is very protective of me." Hannibal kept his focus on the steering wheel in front of him. "There's no telling what he might do to avenge my honour."

Will stepped up to the Bentley and opened the driver's side door, bidding Hannibal to step out and giving curious looks to Beverly who practically dove out of the car from the passenger side, her hand still caging her mouth as she marched back to Zeller and Price, ready to take over the scene. "You're not driving," Will said to him, and held out his hand, seeking the keys.

Hannibal slammed the driver's door shut and remained where he was, pouting over the steering wheel. He'd won this privilege fair and square and no amount of Will's sighing concern was going to take that small victory from him.

The drive to Quantico was tortuous, filled with a tension Will didn't know how to dissipate. He tried to gentle the back of Hannibal's neck and felt it like a slap when Hannibal winced at his touch, his shoulders twitching in discomfort. It was such a contrast from what they enjoyed that morning Will felt like they had suffered days instead of a couple of hours in the interim. "Jack thinks having you on the team is becoming a liability if you can't keep your emotions in check," Will informed him. "He's being a hotheaded asshole, and Brian even called him out on it. Brian apologized, admitted he was way out of line and Jack accused him of pandering to your 'Omega sensitivity'." Will laughed at this, though Hannibal didn't share in the mirth. "Jack can't see he's the only one afflicted by over-reaching hormones getting the best of him, he saw you upset and went into full on Papa Bear Alpha mode. His instincts to protect you run a lot deeper than I thought, he thinks you're the most vulnerable member of his pack and maybe he's right, at least on the surface. You'll note he didn't come tearing into you about messing up a crime scene, he left all that fury for me." Will sat rigid and unhappy in his seat, constantly stealing glances at the stoic, cold form of Hannibal as he concentrated on the highway in front of them. "I've never seen you lose it like that before. I know she was your patient, but I can honestly say I've never seen you like that, it was like someone ripped a large piece out of you that was fragile and precious." Will choked on his words, his head shaking slightly as unwelcome memories came roaring back and the sight of Hannibal on his knees at the BHCI crawled through the white antler bones lurking in wait within his skull. "The only time I've heard you make a sound like that was when you submitted and became bonded to me. This time it was protracted, a released echo, your cries a malignant sorrow that's long festered."

Hannibal braced himself at the steering wheel, his cold persona drifting over him in icy sheets. "I have to wonder, dear Will, why you believe that turning your empathy on another is devoid of consequence. Perhaps it is not wise to go picking through another's mind like you are harvesting a crop, especially when that person is not willing to till a very ugly garden."

"I can't stop myself from going there any less than you can stop yourself from manipulating situations to your advantage. You lost it back there and I need to know why and either I figure it out and pick at your bones until they gleam in my mind, fully exposed, or you can make it easier on the both of us and simply tell me." He forced a firm hand on the back of Hannibal's neck, the pressure making Hannibal sigh and his eyes slightly roll back in sensual response, his gloved hands tight on the steering wheel. There was the honk of a horn as a car speeded past them, Hannibal nearly veering into the side lane. Will was heedless of the danger he was courting. "Hannibal, talk to me."

His breath uneven, Hannibal put on his signal light and smoothly moved over two lanes to get off the road and bring the Bentley to idle at the side. His grip was still tight on the steering wheel as they remained parked, the silence cutting into Will as easily as one of Hannibal's kitchen knives.

"I had a twin sister," Hannibal said, and Will felt the stag's antlers piercing every vein in his body, shards of it breaking off as they painfully coursed through his bloodstream. Hannibal pursed his lips, the memory lurking behind them reluctant to come out. "Her name was Mischa and she was an Omega, like me. As her brother, I was responsible for her safety, a duty I took very seriously. Lithuania was in the midst of a civil war at the time. Its economy had collapsed and there were looters, mostly made up of people from the larger outlying cities who had more weapons than sense. They rioted and burned down entire neighbourhoods, and when they arrived at Lecter castle they burned it to the ground, leaving behind two orphans and charred ruins. My father and mother died in those flames, though whether or not they were shot first is a constant fluctuation in my imperfect memory of those moments. Sometimes I hear the gunshots, sometimes it is only their screams. I was nine at the time, so allowances must be made for childhood fabrication." Hannibal let out a bitter chuckle at this. "They thought we were wealthy, but old money holds onto titles, not riches. The looters were quite disappointed to discover there was nothing of real value in the castle, it had all long been auctioned off to support its upkeep."

Will wasn't sure he needed to hear this story, it was a convenient one full of sufficient horror, he was sure, but he knew in that way that his empathy dug into the all the crevices he now understood within Hannibal's deep ocean crags, this memory was a rock placed at the edge of that endless abyss. "What happened then?" Will asked, raising a brow and trying not to show his impatience with Hannibal's deflection.

"Mischa and I fled, into the snow. We were both children and the elements were against us. We lasted four nights before she finally succumbed to hypothermia, despite my best efforts to keep her warm. We couldn't light fires, you see, lest the looters discover us." Hannibal's mouth pursed into a good show of repressed emotion, and while Will knew the history did have an echo inside of Hannibal's inner memory palace dungeon, it was not the only thing causing him torment now. "I had to leave her body behind. Within less than half an hour, soviet troops discovered me and rescued me. Mischa had been dead twenty minutes." Hannibal tapped his fingers along the circumference of the steering wheel, as though measuring out notes. "I was responsible for her, as I was for Victoriana, and they are now both dead. As you can imagine, I find it a difficult trauma to revisit."

Will bit his bottom lip and nodded, considering what Hannibal had just told him. He leaned towards his Omega, and caressed the length of his throat, stopping just at that spot where the scar was hidden beneath the layers of silk and it was there that Hannibal suddenly shuddered, the dark abyss inside of his drowning ocean letting out a thick, black bubble of feeling.

"I know you can't tell me yet," Will said, shaking his head at Hannibal's folly. "The truth of what happened back there is going to come out eventually, it is hovering on the surface of your skin and it will break and you will bleed. You wanted me to know you, Hannibal, and this is the price you are paying for that."

Hannibal let out a huff of annoyance at Will's keen perception and turned the key in the ignition, revving the engine, blinkers on as he made his way back onto the highway and towards the lab at Quantico. Will knew, without tempting it, that the sharp white tips of the antlers had cut deep into Hannibal as well, though he refused to show Will his wounds. Whatever Hannibal had seen in Victoriana's corpse, it had far less to do with a tragic childhood death and had more in common with a crying baby getting into a taxi cab, and a mother waving her thanks. Red mittens under snow. He had no idea what that inward image meant and he kept it tucked inside of himself, not willing to allow Hannibal to know he'd glimpsed it. It felt dangerous as it swirled inside of Will's own little cage of protective antlers, secrets wailing and threatening to break free.


Chapter Text

chapter fourteen

The deaths of the two Omegas and Hannibal's reaction to discovering one of them was his patient haunted Will for the remainder of the day. Jack told them both to leave the lab early, he had Beverly's team taking care of it, and Will was thankful for the reprieve. Hannibal, for his part, seemed to have already put the incident behind him, though with careful digging Will could easily pull out that thread of sorrow and wrap it tight around Hannibal's neck. He chose not to, and opted instead for a topic far removed from the messages of madmen and innocence partially buried in earth.

"There's a special performance happening at the Opera House, by a soprano I haven't heard you mention, so I hope it's to your taste." Will watched Hannibal carefully as he moved about in their kitchen, his graceful movements mesmerizing even when making coffee. Arms strong and lean, pouring whole beans into the grinder, pulverizing them then measuring them into a spotless french coffee press while the water began to boil. He never poured still boiling water over the beans, lest they scorched and left the coffee with a burnt aftertaste. He waited until the bubbles within had calmed and only steaming heat remained before pouring the water into the press, the aroma of coffee a sudden tease for the senses. He waited a few minutes, preparing his own and Will's coffee mugs before depressing the plunger of the coffee press, the pressure against his palm stirring the grounds within. While he poured the coffee, Will took the gold envelope out of the side pocket of his jacket and slid it across the marble topped kitchen island toward Hannibal. "I decided to take the extra expense and got us one of those private balcony booths," Will added, giving Hannibal a nervous smile that belied his hope that his gift would be well received. There were lots of seats available, mainly because it was a midweek performance and the soprano was a virtual unknown. Will worried the performance wouldn't be up to Hannibal's exacting standards, but a quieter night out without the bustle of a massive crowd was a treat Will figured they could enjoy together.

Hannibal took the envelope in quiet question, his brows slightly raised when he saw they were tickets to 'The Pleas of Angels--A mixed collection of favoured arias as performed by soprano Geraldine Dupois' as indicated in delicate, gold script on the tickets. Will shrugged at the offering, unsure of Hannibal's protracted silence as he inspected the tickets, his maroon gaze never meeting Will's.

"You bought these for me," Hannibal said, a flatness to his tone that made Will cringe. He handed Will his coffee, omitting the two sweeteners and surrendering it black. Will took it without protest. Hannibal turned the tickets over, inspecting them as though he believed they were fakes. "You don't like the opera."

"No, but you do," Will said, shaking his head and frowning at Hannibal's reticence. "If you don't want to go, it's not a big deal, like I said it's a performance on the off night, and it might not be your thing. We can go for dinner at La Gourmand first, I made reservations for six o'clock, at that back table by the window."

"Cancel them," Hannibal abruptly said. "I am making dinner."

Will couldn't be certain if Hannibal was pleased or unhappy over the small gift, and the unreadable frost of his reaction was difficult to process. Will shakily picked up his mug of coffee and watched as Hannibal began inspecting the contents of their refrigerator, his mind quickly calculating what items he would need to make one of his culinary masterpieces. Will couldn't interpret Hannibal's need to make dinner as an act of reciprocity since he enjoyed making these tasty acts of creation. It was another gift, this one for himself, and Will was an afterthought amongst truffle oil and polished silverware.

"Hannibal, have I done something wrong?"

Hannibal clutched at his own mug of coffee, pure black and still steaming, his back to Will as he sipped it. "No," he said, and there was a tense strain in his voice Will wasn't used to hearing. "Far from it, dear Will. I will make a list, if you would be so kind enough to go shopping. I believe this is a night that calls for lamb, cooked in the Moroccan style with a good quality harissa and an Israeli couscous pilaf infused with fresh mint." He hesitated, finally turning towards Will, the cup of coffee poised delicately at his lips. "I applaud your choice of restaurant, Will, La Gourmand is an exceptional example of fine cuisine. But this is a private night, one infused with decision. I want to give it the proper attention it deserves."

With this cryptic response, Hannibal left Will alone in the kitchen, the small list hastily transcribed on a nearby notepad and pushed towards him as Hannibal headed back into the cellar, his steps lightly echoing upwards. Will frowned as he looked on the list, banal in its simplicity. His empathy was at a loss against Hannibal's icy front. Hannibal was hiding from him, and he couldn't understand why.

They spent the day mostly separated, with Will going over the case notes of the Omega murders, the photographs and annotations spread wide across Hannibal's former Alpha butchering table, an irony that wasn't lost on Will. The images of the young women and the butchered unknown Omega male burned into the back of his mind, and he felt an uneasy queasiness at the prospect of what this brutality meant. The Omega murderer was after power and control, and he'd earned it through the most vile means possible, upon the backs of those who had the least amount of protection in Coastline society. He was an experienced killer, even if he was a simplistic one, and the fact he had an aid in Mason Verger only made Will's rage at that pig-faced prick rise to the fore all the more. He hadn't yet heard from Alana, and he hoped her exploration of the Verger's basement hadn't resulted in her harm. He thought about sending her a text, but shrugged it off, knowing he was just being impatient. The less communication about their plans the better. Alana was good on her word, he could rely on her, she had as much at stake in taking out Mason Verger as he did.

A peeling back of his skin, that would reveal all he knew, Will thought. The hunting knife separating the epidermis from muscle, the fatty gristle beneath trimmed. He wondered how long a human being could live without flesh and he looked forward to finding out. Between screams he knew Mason would give up the name of his buyer and a well placed branding would give up even more secrets, though by then Will would have cut out his tongue. There would be no point listening to further perverted confessions when the only answer he sought was given.

His fingernail traced the close ups of the branding, in evidence on the two young women's backs and a small fragment of it left on the tattered flesh of the brutally tortured male Omega. It was the same as the one on Hannibal's back, which was finally receding into a pale pink welt that would eventually heal into obscuring scar tissue, leaving the ghost of puckered skin behind. Bile rose into Will's throat, and he forced it down, the thought of Hannibal harmed in such a way bringing all of his vengeful, murderous thoughts to the fore.

He could smell the delights of Hannibal's cooking wafting down into the cellar thanks to the trap door being left open, and he breathed them in deep. Memories of his grandmother working doughboys in her kitchen came drifting into him, unbidden, the pan sizzling hot as she fried them up, dusting them with sugar while they were still crinkling with oil. Blackened catfish and alligator stew, collard greens and sweet potatoes, all of it the standard culinary fare of his youth and weirdly exotic to the Coastliners who had no understanding of what it meant to trap, kill and butcher your own meals. As the heady spices of the harissa and charred lamb slid along the damp cool currents within their cellar home, Will had to wonder if Hannibal, too, understood that survivalist mentality. He could easily envision Hannibal gutting fish and butchering his own hogs, he'd had experience enough on human beings. It was a measure of commonality that was unexpected and that Will found himself smiling over, despite its gruesome beginnings. They both knew they had to do ugly things in order to properly survive, and that the end result wasn't always unpleasant.

Will checked his watch and noted that it was nearly time for dinner. He left the papers and photographs spread out on the stainless steel prep table and walked to the base of the cellar stairs, and shouted up at Hannibal. "I'm guessing dinner is nearly ready?"

"Yes, dear Will," was the response, and it held a certain note of pride within it that told Will he was to expect great things for Hannibal was set to make his mouth water. "It will be ready very shortly." There was a breathless tone to his voice as he fussed in his kitchen, the sounds of cutlery and steam echoing into the cellar space. "I will use the upstairs shower to get ready. Give me twenty minutes."

Will felt a little off about this, since Hannibal rarely used any of the rooms upstairs, and especially not the shower. Will was disappointed that he hadn't come downstairs to prep himself in his usual pomp, a shower partially shared and some gentle lovemaking enjoyed before the night began. He inwardly shrugged, that strange feeling that something was off winding through him again as he headed for the basement bathing room to separately get prepared. He'd bought a suit for the occasion this time, one specifically for formal functions that Hannibal would like to attend and was still getting invitations to, though it was Will they were addressed to now and Hannibal was his 'bonded Omega' accompaniment.

He could hear the pipes of the old house creak in surprise as the upstairs shower turned on, and Will hoped his own tandem shower didn't interfere with Hannibal's comfort beneath the jets of water. Temperature was always such a tricky thing to manoeuvre in the old home. He turned on the water to near scalding, as he liked it, and stripped carelessly, dropping his worn sweater and rumpled trousers to the damp floor, quickly followed by socks and underwear. He stepped beneath the hot water with a wincing readiness, the heat stinging his skin. He needed it as hot as possible to wash away the sins of others from him, to scrub off the memory of dead skin and lifeless bones. The piercing tips of the antlers that rose around him in the shower were blunted now, melting against the power of the water's cleansing. Only their rounded, cylindrical tangle remained, like bony pipes collecting around him. The surface of the antlers was thicker, Will noticed. Softer to the touch as his palms mentally glided over them.

Ten minutes later, he was finished and he shut the water off, grabbing a dry towel hanging on the rack and roughly smoothing it over his pink skin. He wrapped the towel around his midriff and gave himself a careful shaving, trimming his beard into more of an outline of his jutting jaw, his mop of hair tamed beneath a good combing and some hair gel. He looked more presentable than he had in months, he realized, and he gave his form a good once over, flexing some muscle and liking how his good health was being reflected back at him. He was never a vain man, and this was more an inspection of how life with Hannibal had changed him even on a physical level, in degrees of self care that he had normally discarded before. The purchase of the suit had been a turning point and he left the bathing room to get changed into it, feeling an unexpected anticipatory charge within him at the thought of dressing up for his mate. He borrowed Hannibal's cufflinks and one of his ties, details he was sure Hannibal would find amusing. He dressed quickly, buttoning up a starched, pale blue shirt before diving his arms into the jacket. He smoothed down the suit, giving himself a careful inspection in the mirror, noting that the shine of the navy blue went well with his complexion and the cut of it did accentuate the positives of his figure, smoothing out lines and giving him a firmer posture than his usual messy attire. His stomach rumbled as he fussed at the tie's knot, making sure the silken blue and black fabric didn't choke him. Simple black socks, a pair of good black leather shoes, and Will was ready to wind his arm through Hannibal's and mirror his elegance into the Opera House without incident, avoiding snobbish glares at missing buttons and the torn hem of an old jacket.

Will bounded upstairs, slamming the cellar door shut and shoving the oak table back over it with his hip. He was still fussing with the cufflinks, which glinted in the candlelight that punctuated the shadows in the dining room. Hannibal had formally set the table, complete with gold candles within the centrepiece of black feathers woven into a tight spiral. Will frowned. This was far more formal than he had been expecting.

Their wine, a distinctive dark red, had already been poured, but Hannibal wasn't in the kitchen or in the atrium where the harpsichord remained expectant. Will wandered down the dark hallway leading to the grand staircase and he silently stood at its base, looking upwards in hopes of catching a glimpse. He could hear Hannibal moving in one of the upstairs bedrooms, the wooden floor creaking with every step. He opened his mouth to shout up to him, only to close it again. Hannibal was fastidious in his timing, the poured drinks meaning one thing--Will was to sit at his place at the dining table and wait for him.

Will snagged the bottle of wine sitting on the kitchen island counter along the way and brought it with him into the dining room, placing it between their settings. Will was put at the head of the table, while Hannibal was seated in the first seat to his left, a cozy arrangement that Will appreciated. The dining room held a pleasant feeling of anticipation within it that was beginning to uplift Will's mood, especially with these little thoughtful touches spread throughout the experience, making it as formal and rich as any effort La Gourmand could make.


The question lingered in the air, drifting across a sultry current of darkness that moved in the gloom of the dining room. Will looked up over the golden candlelight to see Hannibal come into the room, and he nearly fell back in his chair at the sight that presented itself. Hannibal was not wearing one of his usual formal suits, trussed in a carefully ironed cotton shirt and black tie, he was, instead, attired in what was an elaborately embroidered silver and black silk jacket that hung to his calves, a matching pair of slender trousers accentuating the length of his legs. It was finery suited to Japanese male Omegas, of the kind Will had fantasized over in his grandmother's art deco books, the pale accent of his throat exposed above a plain silk black top that swept beneath his neck in an inverted crescent. His movements were his usual deer's steps, careful and considered, his long limbs draping around himself as he crouched near the ground beside Will's chair and handed him something black and soft. Will frowned as he took it, feeling the fine boning around the sides of the black lace, the thin silk ribbon a separate spiral laid in the centre of it. 'Hannibal," Will said, swallowing deeply. He grabbed his glass of wine and took a gulp before continuing. "This is a formal bonding collar, this is meant for a bonding ritual." He looked up and his breath caught at the image of Hannibal, his eyes ringed in kohl, another point of erotic reference that Hannibal had stolen from Will's past fantasies. "We are already bonded, why are you giving me this?"

Hannibal sank to his knees and Will's heart stopped as he turned his back to Will, his neck stretched and exposed, the white light from the candles dancing along the curved dip. "How we have come about entwining our lives together was committed under circumstances that were not ideal." Hannibal's profile was shrouded in shadows that accentuated his fine features, his androgyny markedly pronounced. "I am giving you my choice, Will. If you wish to bond me," he inclined his neck in invitation. "you may continue. I will not resist you."

Confusion fought within Will as he inspected the lace, harsh boning lining it every two inches in a wide circumference. "Hannibal, you don't have to do this."

"It's what I want to do."


"You promised me you would give me whatever I wanted. I want this, Will. Bond me to you."

Hannibal closed his eyes and let out a satisfied sigh when Will draped the collar around his neck, positioning it so the girdled back of it was aligned with his spine, his fingers deftly threading the black silk through the tiny, embroidered loops.

His hands were trembling, and Will noted Hannibal was calm, unexpectedly docile as he threaded the silk through in a criss cross pattern, tightening it slightly as he made his way down. By the time he got to the final loops and was ready to make a knot, he could barely find his voice. "Hannibal...I bind you to me, to Will Graham. No other will have you..." Will closed his eyes and braced himself, emotion nearly overtaking him. He pressed his lips onto the top of Hannibal's head, his silken hair smoothed back close against his skull. "We obey laws that suit us. Our words are words we exchange between each other. May your body and my body find peace within our embrace."

He hesitated, taking the time to smooth out the shape of the formal bond around Hannibal's neck.

"Demand it of me, Will."



Will held his breath a long moment before letting it free. "I dedicate myself to you. I will never harm you."

Hannibal was tense beneath his touch for a long moment. "Those are not the words you said to me at the BHCI." His voice shook and Will steadied him with a press of his hand at the pulse point of his neck.

"They're the words I wanted to say."

Hannibal's body shivered, and Will felt dizzy from the scent of slick, his cock hardening in response. The ensuing silence with Hannibal on his knees in front of him was enough to do him in, and there was nothing he longed for more than to render all of Hannibal's clothes and take him on the dining room table, dinner and opera be damned.

"Tell me." The request wavered like candlelight.

Will let out a low growl, his hand tight on the back of Hannibal's neck, his body responding to the small, needy whine leaving it. His voice rasped, a dark groaning thing in Hannibal's ear. "Are you sure?"

"I am sure, dear Will."

Will pressed his face against the back of Hannibal's head, his mouth open as he tasted the fine circumference of his skull and moved down to the base of Hannibal's neck. He could feel Hannibal's thighs tense as another gush of slick left him and Will, still seated in his dining chair, wanted nothing more than to turn Hannibal around to ravish his mouth and take him. He closed his eyes and pressed his forehead hard against the back of Hannibal's neck, the tight criss cross of silk ribbon and the surrounding boning hard enough to leave an impression on his skin.

"Submit to me."

Hannibal tilted his head back, over Will's shoulder, his eyes closed, leaving dark lines in place, his mouth slack and the scent of slick wafting up from between his legs and driving Will into an Alpha induced insanity.


Will growled loudly at this, his hands near tearing at the fabric as he took off Hannibal's silk jacket, and hastily began working at the fastenings of his own trousers. "Take off your fucking clothes," Will demanded of him, nips and kisses suckling along Hannibal's back as the slender but muscular Omega divested himself of the silk shirt and trousers, draping them over the chair next to them. He moved to unfasten the bonding collar, only for Will's hand to wrap tight around his fingers, preventing him.

"Leave that on."

Naked, save for the black lace bonding collar, Hannibal stood up and straddled Will's lap. His skin was smooth and pale in the near dark of the dining room, eagerly exposed to Will's touch. But Will was in no mood for foreplay, and with a sweep of his arm and a vicious growl he sent the dishes and candles flying off of the dining room table to crash onto the floor, raising up from his seat and making Hannibal the centrepiece in their place.

He fucked him. Deep and hard and forceful, Hannibal's cries of pleasure urging him on, until they were both on top of the dining room table, the light from the candles sputtered out as spilled over the edge, lit wax smouldering. He couldn't get deep inside enough, the white antlers glowing as they rose out of the floorboards and gleamed into the darkness of the room, caging them in within a vast halo of brilliant white spikes that were set to blind them. His cock pounded that little nub that sent Hannibal's cock into instant release, every muscle in his lithe body tensed like a tightly wound spring. He grabbed Hannibal's thighs, spreading him wider, an unexpected thickness between his legs overwhelming him. "Fuck...I'm going to knot..."

Hannibal's eyes widened as the ripples coursed inside of him, his limbs instinctively losing all muscle tone as they limply fell from their embracing, his body and mind lost to an extended orgasm that was completely in Will's control. Will wept into his neck, kissing and touching him with exaggerated tenderness. This wasn't an experience dictated in part by the biological needs of heat, Hannibal had given this to him. He'd surrendered himself completely of his own free will.

Will cradled Hannibal in his arms as his cock pulsed deep inside of him, knots holding Will in place. Hannibal was right, love wasn't a strong enough word for the bond Will felt at this moment, an entire history comprised of the past and future intertwined so deeply between them they were as the tangled roots of a tree, a nourishment for each other that coalesced into something whole. He held Hannibal's loose body tight, murmuring endearments he wasn't sure his Omega could hear. It was beautiful, this display of gleaming bone and enraptured passion. Hannibal fell and Will spiralled down into that deep ocean abyss with him.


Hannibal was definitely still riding on a protracted afterglow as they arrived at the Opera House, his maroon gaze heavily drugged with sex. Knotting had that affect on Alphas and especially Omegas, leaving them on an extended hormone induced high, and Will had tried to protest going to the opera at all since the effects were going to last most of the night, only for Hannibal to insist, his pout too sweet for a likewise hormonally drugged Will to deny. He had redressed in his sultry, Omega male geisha inspired Japanese threads, and after sweeping up the mess they'd made of the setting they had eaten dinner at the kitchen island, trading forkfuls of food and kisses between bites of a mutual plate balanced between them.

He'd been warned of this in sex ed all those years ago, the pointed, shaking finger of his coach admonishing all those hot and heavy Alphas to keep it in their pants until they were good and ready to bond. Both of them should have been more careful. The clearest thought Will could focus on was that the traffic had been unbearable thanks to all the McBain campaigning, so he bypassed the need for parking and ordered them both a taxi. Hannibal had fixed himself back into his polished perfection, though Will was a tad messier than when he had come up from the cellar for dinner, and neither were necessarily free of the stumbling steps into the waiting cab, where they collapsed in a tumbling heap into the back seat. Hannibal was in a near manic affectionate mood, constantly fixing Will's unruly locks and adjusting his tie and picking imaginary lint and smoothing wrinkles from his suit jacket. For his part, Will had his arm tucked tight beneath Hannibal's embroidered silver and black silk jacket the tiny sakura flowers shimmering in the dim cavern of the taxi. Will held him close with his arm around his waist, Hannibal nestled against his side in sighing pleasure.

The taxi driver was a grizzled Mainlander who had all the hallmarks of an Appalachian refugee, namely wiry grey hair that spun in every direction and a beard that hung past his shoulders and was in a likewise state. He grinned at them both through his rear view mirror. "Just got the knot, huh?" he asked and laughed loud enough to send his pine tree air freshener spinning. "That is nice, seeing people getting happily bonded for a change, I get sick and tired of these bastard Coastliners forcing little weeping girls off to their Alphas, like it's some kind of death sentence. Fucking crazy people live here. You're a Mainlander, you know how I can tell? Because that pretty one is happy and not afraid to show it. Ah, it is nice, go out, why not! Show those McBain bastards we know how to live just fine, right? Ah, my wife, she was like that when we bonded, couldn't stay out of my lap, so sweet. You will have very pretty children."

At that Hannibal slightly stiffened in Will's grasp, a pained expression quickly morphing across his features only to dissolve back into his nuzzling affection into Will's neck and chest. Will gentled him with fingers deftly pinching the knots of his spine at the base of Hannibal's neck, earning soft, involuntary humming whines as a result. By the time they got to the Opera House and Will had paid for the cab, giving a hefty tip, Will felt as though he was going through the motions of someone heavily inebriated. It was clear Hannibal was in worse shape, staggering with him, all sense of grace lost as they made their way up the steps. They were late and the performance had already begun, but they were able to slip into their private box seat without incident, and Will was grateful that he'd managed to obtain them, they were in no condition to be interacting with anyone other than each other.

This couldn't all be hormone induced, this strange, euphoric high that he couldn't seem to come down from. Hannibal was infected with it worse than he himself was, his body language overtly sensual and sexually confident, his limbs constantly draped over Will's frame, a persistent needful unspoken request for touch. As Will looked out into the crowd below, he could see the shining tips of their white antlers as they grew out from their collective skulls, red tipped in judgement as curious heads turned to view the two figures pressed close to one another in the box seat. The music sounded strange to Will, a kaleidoscope of sounds he couldn't quite untangle, jarring the otherwise beautiful notes. He felt disoriented, the effects of the knotting worse than after he'd had Hannibal during his heat, the theatre spinning into shreds of blood and fury, a firestorm of feeling erupting through the clanging notes enough to make his stomach lurch as he clung onto Hannibal, kissing him fervently before letting him go. Hannibal, his maroon gaze glassy, was just as unfocused as he stared at the stage, the notes making far more sense to him, speaking to him in a spiritual linguistic mantra that Will couldn't interpret and that didn't, in any reality other than Hannibal's, exist.

The Opera House was filled with more people than Will had anticipated, and had he been fully in control of his faculties he would have understood that this was because of an influx of McBain supporters who had sponsored the performance. The soprano was a svelte red haired woman in a glittering gold dress, her rendition of La Wally hypnotizing enough to dive through the chaos of Will's overly charged imagination, severing the spikes of white antlers against his skull in its poignancy. When she finished a blissful silence ensued and Will sat back in the heavily cushioned red velvet seat, thankful for the small relief against the sensory onslaught.

Piercing slaps hit him, and he opened his bleary eyes to see Hannibal standing in ovation, his hands eagerly clapping in rapture over her solo, his grin wide and predatory, teeth sharp enough to eat her should the opportunity present itself. Hannibal's manic joy should have been infectious, and Will, slouched back in a rather seductive pose in his seat, could only stare up at this statuesque, odd beauty, the slender outline of Hannibal's strong body shimmering with silver, that long, lovely neck girdled in erotically charged black lace. Hannibal, grinning widely in genuine happiness, an expression Will had never seen so openly indulged. Will felt something crack inside of his heart, and it was Hannibal that poured in. Otherworldly, even alien, that was the beauty Hannibal possessed, and Will wanted to sink to his knees and worship it, to kiss the soft underbelly of Hannibal's stomach and watch as those kohl encircled eyes fluttered shut as Will tasted that little fruit within him that was always so ripe and quivering by the time he found it. At this moment, Will Graham had even less interest in opera than he had ever had in his life, and all he really longed to do was take Hannibal back home to bed and make love to him until there wasn't anything left of either of them.

There was a strange silence overtaking Hannibal's joy, which faltered slightly, and Will frowned into it, wondering what had marred his Demeter's enthusiasm. He stared out into the bleeding collection of antlers below until they once again became people, and he realized they were all staring at Hannibal with shocked expressions of horror, as though he had wandered into their midst completely naked. Frowning, Will couldn't understand what was happening until he remembered he was in a formal setting, in the Opera House, and in such a place an Omega was not to applaud or show such emotion without the express permission of their Alpha. Will felt sick. Hannibal's delight was being shit on because Will hadn't been the one to stand up and clap first.

"Fucking bastards," Will said, getting to his feet and clapping at the crowd with angry force, and it was only then that they turned their heads back to the stage and began clapping for the soprano's performance, the glittering perfection of the elite tarnished like rust in Will's view. Hannibal sat with forced poise back into his seat, and Will wrapped his arm around his shoulders as he did likewise, his lips tracing around Hannibal's ear. "Are you having a good time?"

"I did not realize I would be feeling so...Out of control." Hannibal gave Will a wavering smile that held small notes of fear within it, and Will hated that it was the ostracizing of the crowd that had put it there. "I almost feel as though I have taken hallucinogens. I have never heard such a glorious rendition of La Wally, this theatre should be packed to bursting to listen to a soprano of such incredible talent. There is a very grave, selfish infection happening amongst those in the audience, Will, did you not witness it? Not a one stood up to congratulate her with an ovation! How very rude!"

"You gave her one," Will said, and lightly kissed him.

"Will, I admit it, I really do feel strange. I feel such intense happiness, it's overflowing inside of me to the point of pulling my body apart. It's like I've had a short circuit, and I feel impulsive and overly emotional. I need time for a reset. This didn't happen the first time we knotted, and while I understood this could be a potential after affect, I had no concept of this. My senses are overly attuned, my mind is racing with memories and want and calculations swirling inside of a black cavernous maw that only you can keep at bay. You will do that for me, won't you, my dear Will? Please, help me lock those dungeon doors again and wash an ocean over them so they can't be opened, I never want you and those horrors to ever stand in the same space. Victoriana, my precious girl, she was like my daughter, you must understand, that is how I viewed her and to see her on the ground, treated with such incomprehensible dismissal..." Hannibal's eyes were glassy with moisture, but it wasn't sorrow this time that threatened to erupt from him, but a tightly wound fury that could rival any Alpha's. "My darling, darling Will...Hold me close to you. I can't get enough of your arms."

Heedless of the crowd below, who were no doubt training their binoculars on them, Will crushed Hannibal's lips against his own, holding him tight enough to bruise. When he finally broke free, he pressed his forehead against Hannibal's and nodded. "I think we should go."

"We barely made it through one aria." Hannibal closed his eyes and braced himself against Will's embrace, until he checked his watch and nodded in terse agreement. "Perhaps we could spend a few moments in the gallery, away from the crowds. The Caravaggio is gone but there is an Edward Burne-Jones now on display in its place. 'The Beguiling Of Merlin'. It's a study of longing after that which is set to betray and destroy us. It's a fascinating piece, Will, I do think you will appreciate it. Burne-Jones went mad after finishing each of his paintings and detested his notoriety, which resulted in getting more commissions and going mad more often. This particular painting has a dual meaning--it is representative of his relationship with his mistress, which was an especially stormy tempest. She threw herself in the Thames when he refused to run away with her."

Will leaned into him, his grin touching along the periphery of Hannibal's lips. "Is that what you are set to do to me, Hannibal?" he asked. "Drive me mad?"

"That's yet to be determined, Will. If you place your hands a little lower, you may decide that going mad is perfectly reasonable."

"My hands are on your hips. Just how low do you want me to go?"

Hannibal gave him a crooked, evil grin. "In cases such as this, dear Will, is decorum more important than the rush of the furious heart?"

He definitely wanted to go mad, he wanted to slide hands down the sides of those silk trousers and tease the waistline until they hugged lower, allowing him access, where he could rub and stroke that hot flesh until Hannibal gave those bastard Coastline pricks something to really be scandalized about. Instead, he forced himself to hold back, open mouthed kisses gliding across the top of Hannibal's cool, smooth forehead. "I'm thinking if you want to know what it's like to have me beguiled you've already got a front row show."

"Will." Hannibal stole his bottom lip, chewing it thoughtfully before releasing it. "When you knotted me it was as though you took over me, my actions were no longer my own, my body entirely vulnerable to your whims. It is a shocking thing to find myself unscathed from that trust, and I hold you in wonder, that you do not take advantage, that you do not cause me harm. I am aware of how you kiss me when I am helpless, Will. It is a courtesy that I admit I don't know what to do with and I am terrified by it, it leaves me shattered and unable to piece the ceramic shards of who I am back into a cohesive whole. Will..." Dark, near black eyes met Will's dreaming blue. "Do you think you can do that to me again?"

"Oh yes," Will said, gleaming in prideful confidence as he lightly kissed Hannibal's pouting lips. "Maybe even later tonight."

Will left his seat and Hannibal followed him while the orchestra tuned its instruments during the intermission which was already ten minutes in. There must have been more, and they had missed it, so focused and drunk on each other the world was disappearing outside of their perceptions. Allowing himself to be led by the hand, Will was brought down the staircase to the main foyer where Hannibal earned rolling eyes and raised brows, the outrageous eccentricity of his attire mired in blatant sexuality. "You are the belle of the ball tonight," Will said to him, nipping at the embroidered silk at his shoulder. "If they aren't disgusted by you they want to fuck you, and none of them can do a thing about it because you are with a miserable little dog like me. I won't be afraid to go for the throat of anyone who dares to insult you."

That promise was about to be tested as Dr. Frederick Chilton suddenly marched into view, his face puffy and red with a frustrated anger that was directed at them both. "Dear God, I get free tickets to the opera and Deirdre forces me to come here and who am I running into but the two of you!  I'm cursed, there's no other explanation for it.  You'd have to be a blind man not to know what's going on with you two, this is highly irresponsible!  Honestly, Hannibal, what the hell are you doing?" He nodded for them both to follow him into the gallery, where they were decidedly alone, the conversation not one Frederick himself wanted overheard. He gestured with wide eyes at Hannibal, a wince ending at Hannibal's throat. "What the devil are you wearing? Are you wearing *eye-liner*? Make-up and a whore's corset on your neck? Are you insane?"

Hannibal raised his chin in sultry pride. "As a doctor of the mind I would assume you would have the tools to make that determination, Fred."

"You are making an embarrassing spectacle of yourself, giving an ovation without your Alpha's support and wearing a get up like this, like some World Depression era geisha, honestly! And you," he turned on Will. "You should never have let him leave the house like this! For God's sake, the two of you reek of knotting, what are you doing out in public? Any idiot can see you are both stoned out of your minds!"

Will stood back from Chilton, an uncomfortable flashback of his father admonishing him for being too aggressive with a Beta girlfriend rising to the forefront of his memory. His father had taken a bit of playful ribbing about her grades way out of context and while he wanted to superimpose that injustice on this one, he had to concede yes, his father did have a point back then, the girl had been crying after all, and yes...Fucking Chilton had one, too.

"You are a surgeon, Hannibal," Chilton said to the Omega, who was now leaning provocatively against Will, and giving Chilton a highly unabashed grin that was absolutely not sorry about anything that was happening. "You know what happens to the Omegan body during knotting, I think most grade schoolers do these days. Massive influx of endorphins, scrambling of dopamine levels, obstruction of the areas of the brain controlling impulse control and reasoning, it's a wonder you aren't having hallucinations..."

"The lights are exceptionally bright in here," Hannibal said, squinting as they passed one of the special lamps used on the paintings. "As for my attire, I did not believe you to be such a conservative, Fred, or is it that you are simply used to seeing me in threads that are more Alpha in composition? It is plainly obvious to everyone now that I am an Omega, why should I not flaunt it?"

"Hannibal of all the things I have known you to be, there is one that I have never had to put on that list, and when you have come to your senses by morning, you will be hearing this word echoing across the snobbish realms of your decorum. You are stubborn, vain, at times immoral, but you have never been, in all the time I have known you--gauche."

Hannibal openly laughed at this, and it was a truly bitchy dismissal. "Really, Fred, you need to be more careful in your discourse. I am here with my Alpha and if you want to trash talk to me, you'd best be advised you are courting rivalry."

"I am bonded to an Alpha," Chilton evenly said. "I have every understanding of what a relationship with them is like. Go home, the two of you, and sleep or fuck this off, I don't care. I don't understand it, it's like you both have no frame of reference of what it is to act like a couple in public. You can't be pawing each other, the bonding silk only goes so far and there's plenty of much larger Alphas than you, Will Graham, who would be more than willing to tempt rivalry."

He was certainly killing their buzz. Will wound his arm around Hannibal's waist, liking the way the open display of affection made Chilton's jaw clench. "Not to worry, Dr. Chilton. I'm sure you'll be scheduling lots of useless therapy by morning. What time can we expect Dr. DuMaurier to slither up to our front porch and poke at how we like playing with each other's bits?"

"I fired Bedelia."

Will paused, and Hannibal also took note as Chilton pinched at his brow with his fingertips and looked hastily over his shoulder, no doubt for his Alpha wife Deirdre who was searching for her partner. "I caught her taking bribes from the GSF, they wanted Hannibal's admitting BHCI case notes and she was going to give them up."

Will narrowed his eyes at Chilton. "You handed all of those notes into my care, that's the law.'

Chilton rolled his eyes and shook his head at Will's accusation. "I kept a copy. We've never had a male Omega before, the opportunity to go over initial findings were too tempting. I gave her the file to peruse in my presence and I caught her trying to steal them out of my locked cabinet a few days later."

"Dr. Chilton, that is highly unethical," Hannibal said, and his voice was devoid of any trace of residual knotting playfulness, and it was instantly replaced with that awful non person ice that Hannibal felt comfort in when faced with danger. Will hated Chilton for killing their beautiful high. He tried to gentle the back of Hannibal's neck and earned a flinch in response, and Will stepped back as though he'd been gored.

"It was," Chilton admitted, and he genuinely looked upset with his own weakness. "There is...information in those files..."

"I burned them at first opportunity, they made excellent kindling for the fireplace in my office."

Chilton nodded at this. "A wise decision, one I should have made myself. I assure you, the files have been destroyed and Dr. DuMaurier is no longer your therapist. I'm afraid in the interim you are going to have to suffer a session with me." He gave Will's withering glare a curt nod. "I suggest you not protest it, not unless you want the GSF involved and it's clear they want to be if they are lining the pockets of my associates. Tomorrow at noon. We can discuss your proclivities for drama then."

He stormed off, leaving them alone and heavily chastised in the gallery, all hope of having an enjoyable evening lost. Melancholy, dark and oppressive moved in place of their former joy and Hannibal pointed to his neck, grimacing down at Will. "Get this off of me."

Will complied, the thin silk ribbon coming apart easily. He unthreaded it as quickly as he could, feeling the strange panic rising within Hannibal, one that had hovering within him since the murder scene that morning. "I should have been more careful with you. He's right, I should be thinking about your safety."

Hannibal tore away from him, the lace corset at his neck breaking free. He snatched the thin black ribbon from Will's grasp and hastily wrapped it around his neck instead. "As your bonded mate, I demand of you to throw me against the rocks at every opportunity, dear Will." He pulled him into a passionate kiss that tasted him down into the floorboards beneath their feet, and only let him up for air when it was clear they were drowning. He framed Will's face in his hands, their mutual panting bringing back a more favourable understanding between them. "I expect nothing less, Will. You have me because you have already shattered me. The broken pieces you find will never collect into a whole you can truly understand. That is what you need to accept."

He marched ahead of him, out of the gallery and to the front foyer, head held high and proud, daring anyone to make a crack about his status. Will followed behind, a dutiful Alpha who was significantly less powerful in this relationship than the outside world believed. He'd wanted what they had when they arrived here, he wanted Hannibal's joy back. But that was an increasingly difficult treasure to find. He felt sick at the very real possibility that the image of Hannibal, so enamoured and happy he forgot himself and stood up to offer a standing ovation, that beautiful memory was never to be repeated. Hannibal refused to surrender the lock and key to his own demons. Will was only permitted to hear them scratch and scrabble at his dungeon door.




Chapter Text

chapter fifteen

Dr. Hannibal Lecter was in his office early the next morning, for he had much to prepare. The new security cameras had been installed, placating the elderly lawyers Lloyd & Lloyd on the ground floor and giving Will a false sense of security that still permitted Hannibal some daily freedom. He had no patients scheduled this morning and he was free to continue with his plans, most of which involved long texts of comprehensive reassurance to his army. In the lull between these correspondences he was content to sit at his large desk, his sketchbook open as he contemplated a new study of Will's torso, as viewed from the angle he'd enjoyed the night before. Hannibal felt a small jolt of pleasure dive deep inside of him at the memory, for the night hadn't ended after their unfortunate run in with Chilton at the opera. Will had such a luscious, eager mouth, one that Hannibal had dedicated several pages of his sketchbook to, the thought of the blush of those lips sending a warm ember through him at how skilled Will's mouth was at finding all of his secretive crevices in order to pluck ripe fruit.

The aria from La Wally drifted through his large office, the notes expertly interpreted by soprano Wilhelmenia Fernandez and accentuating the delightful memories and sending all negative connotations into an ether that was Will's touch. He fingered the dark, shimmering blue silk at his neck, and thought with great fondness on how Will had so expertly wound it in place, ending it in a smaller knot at the base of his throat than Hannibal would have used. He smiled at the small evidence of affection and was pleased to note that all of his plans were coming to a solid, uncompromising conclusion.

So it was with some surprise that he heard the knock on his door, insistent and harsh, knuckles comprised of delicate fingers that belonged to a woman and not a man. Hannibal could always tell by the force exerted against the wood. He gently closed his sketchbook and placed down his pencil, the scalpel hidden up his shirtsleeve in case some unexpected danger was lurking in the waiting room. He paused in front of the door, and pressed his ear to it, his lips curling into a far gentler smile, the scalpel tucked aside on a nearby shelf. He could hear Margot's gentle weeping, and he knew that there was no threat in it, she was merely here due to doubts and fears of recrimination, both things he was set to put at ease. He pasted on his facade of benign calm and opened the door, bidding her to enter and was momentarily blindsided by the appearance of Dr. Alana Bloom, who followed in behind Margot in a protective hurry, his office door closed and locked behind her.

They were both in an agitated state, which he supposed was to be expected though he didn't understand why Margot's body was trembling the way it was, like she was having a small seizure. Tears spilled and he recognized that she was holding in deep sobs, her inner turmoil leaving her deeply unhinged and ready to collapse. Dr. Bloom, placed a reassuring hand on Margot's shoulder and Margot collapsed into her, a damp embrace Hannibal was sure had been revisited several times that morning if the grim countenance on Dr. Bloom was any indication. She gentled the back of her girlfriend's neck and with a soft kiss and a promise she was going to take care of everything, she bid Margot to sit at the chaise near the window, which she did, teetering on the upholstered leather edge like it was a cliff face. She was dressed in all in black, as though in mourning though Hannibal couldn't figure as to why, this was one funeral they had both been anticipating for quite some time.

Dr. Bloom was in similar attire, though hers was oddly militaristic, complete with a leather backpack, black leggings and a pair of hiking boots that were far more comfortable than the usual impractical heels she subjected herself to. "I take it we have a crisis," Hannibal said by way of getting to the point. He bid Dr. Bloom to take the patient's seat across from him. "Please, there is nothing that can't be remedied. Is our project still safe?"

Dr. Bloom and Margot exchanged worried glances, ending it with Margot placing a shaking, well manicured had to her mouth and dry heaving into her palm. She hadn't said a word which was highly unlike her, and seemed content to leave the bad news to her Beta partner. "The original plan is fine," Bloom assured him, and pressed her lips tight together. "There's just...There are some complications, and I felt you needed to be aware of them."

Hannibal was bemused by this. He sat in his accustomed chair while Dr. Bloom remained standing, her feet shifting from one to the other in a nervous beat that did not suit her otherwise determined demeanour. Hannibal gestured to the decanter of brandy in the far corner and bid Margot to fix herself one, which she did wordlessly and without question, lunging for the amber liquid in an effort to self medicate. "No need to be selfish at this time, Margot, perhaps Dr. Bloom would like a sifter as well?"

"Dr. Lecter, you need to understand, we're not here because we are worried about...About our plan. That's going along just fine, no hitches there." Dr. Bloom bit her bottom lip and watched from the corner of her eye as Margot downed the sifter of brandy in one large gulp. She slammed the glass down on the small glass side table between the chaise and Hannibal's chair.

"Show him," she said.

"Margot, I really need to prepare him."

Margot shook her head and a tiny nag of something unpleasant began to wind its way into the back of Hannibal's skull. He regretted leaving the scalpel on that shelf, too far away for him to reach. "Like that's even possible. You can't prepare anyone for something like that, it's too awful. Just take it out and show him." Margot sighed and bit her thumbnail, not looking at Hannibal. "I'm sorry Dr. Lecter. I'd better fix you a drink."

Really curious now, Hannibal sat back in his chair in a posture of practised confidence as Dr. Alana Bloom slid her backpack off of her strong shoulders and dropped it to the floor. She rummaged it in for what seemed like an inordinate amount of time before taking out a tablet, her fingers moving over buttons and settings until the app she wanted was open. She handed the tablet to Hannibal, the display of photographs in a plentiful grid on its surface. "Start here," she said, pointing with a ruby red nail at the far right corner. "We took these pictures this morning."

He opened the first one and was greeted with a large image of what looked to be a laboratory, most likely the one adjacent to the room he had been imprisoned in. A plethora of tubes and machinery littered the interior, the arrangement of biological monitoring devices strange, and not used in methods he could easily recognize. A row of dialysis machines were hooked up to the various tubes, but he couldn't determine what they were being used for. There was an incubator, empty, in the far corner of the room, and several IV bags of a dark red liquid that was too thick to be blood strewn about in a haphazard order that was clearly the mark of the late Dr. Doemling, who with this was proven a careless faux physician at best. There were several heart monitors and stick nurses scattered throughout the room and in use, and the outline of something pink was in the background, an image he tried to enhance. He scrolled to the second photo and discovered it was a sow, her side stapled shut, oxygen and various monitors hooked up to the unfortunate animal. Whatever experiment she was, it had clearly failed from the long, flat lines that were in agreement across various pieces of equipment. The sow's pink body was already descending into the grey of decay along her upper back, and though he'd freed himself over three months ago from the clutches of Mason and Dr. Doemling, this pig's demise was recent.

It was clear to Hannibal that these were images of Dr. Doemling's last experiments, and while they were indicative of a highly unstructured approach to science and doomed to failure as a result, Hannibal had to appreciate the man's creativity. "Mason Verger's genetics lab, where he played at being a mad scientist. Animal cruelty is a terrible thing, Alana, one I myself abhor. I imagine the poor creature was left to fester after the death of Doemling. You would think Mason Verger would at least take some responsibility in taking out the sow producing his latest super pigs or find someone to take over the proceedings. A rather foolish waste of possibility, especially when he is so enamoured with increasing his bacon."

"Hannibal." Dr. Alana Bloom swayed where she stood and she closed her eyes, tears forming behind her lashes and threatening to fall. "You need to understand. He wasn't using her for breeding pigs."

Hannibal frowned, hesitating slightly as he slid his finger across the touch screen, and discovered, to his abject horror, what Dr. Alana Bloom meant. "There were four of them," Margot said beside him, handing him the brandy which he gulped down, a feeling of deep sympathy welling within him for Margot's terrible plight. This crime was one of many and it would not go unpunished, Hannibal would see to it. Margot's large eyes spilled massive tears, ones that her brother would have loved to collect and add to his cocktail aphrodisiac of misery. "None of them survived. They were about five months along."

"Margot, you must listen to me." Hannibal touched her shoulders and she quaked beneath them, her fists pressed tight against her eyes. "You are not responsible for any of this. This was a gift that was stolen from you and for that he will pay, very dearly. That I can promise you." He pinched her chin, bidding her to look at him and she did so with shaky resolve. "You are strong, Margot. Do not doubt it. You were forced to live amongst monsters and yet you did not become one yourself. There is a great deal of honour in this, and you should pride yourself on your courage. Dry your tears, the acts of such a man are steeped in poison and long to harm you and you cannot let them. As St. Agatha of Sicily presented her severed breasts upon a plate to the prefect and torturer Quintianus, such as this are you, Margot, fearless in the face of torment and ready to spit upon its face. You are a warrior, Margot Verger, or have you forgotten?"

Margot stared up at him in glassy blankness and for a moment Hannibal was confused by this, for it seemed she hadn't quite grasped the concepts he was giving her, and there was an incomplete layer to her suffering. She took his glass of brandy and refilled it , handing it back to Hannibal who took it in frowning question. Margot crouched beside him, and with a shaking fingertip, slid it across the screen.

This was a more detailed close up of the first picture he'd been shown, a plethora of clear tubes and beige machinery scattered in between two neat rows of large, ten litre specimen jars, eight in total. Pink and red liquid filled them to the brim, murky remnants of indefinable tissue floating within the opaque fluid and Margot, with her fingers pinched, spread one of the jars wide as she opened it across the touch screen, bringing the contents into further clarity. Hannibal clutched at the sifter of brandy she had given him, its surface pulsing as his hand shook. The image before him was clear, the pink outline quite unmistakable.

Hannibal opened his mouth. Closed it.

"Margot, is that a tiny human foot I see?"

She nodded, silently, her eyes glassy and unfocused as she intently took in Hannibal's reaction. She smoothed back the thick mane of brown curls that framed her face before pinching the image back into its original size. She pointed with a rounded, polished nail to the two rows of heavily monitored jars, clear plastic tubing filled with red lines that were tangled with that strange, darker liquid from the IV's their length curled along the laboratory floor.

"These aren't mine," she whispered.

Hannibal choked on the implication. Margot sat cross legged on the floor beside him, her lower lip trembling as she looked up at his horrified despair.

"Two of them are still alive."

He dropped the sifter of brandy and the tablet to the floor and stood up from his seat, holding his decorum in with his hand caging his mouth. He pushed past Dr. Bloom, a quick 'Excuse me' given to her as he made a hasty retreat into his office washroom. His knees gave way as he slammed the door behind him.

He instantly collapsed over the toilet, retching violently into it.

The last time he had been forced to his knees in such a way was for a near exact reason, the echo of that ever present memory twisting his stomach tight and emptying every portion of himself. His dungeon doors were flung open wide, the ocean floor not enough to drown those demons that had stealth enough to learn how to swim. They rose to the surface, breaking through all of his careful barriers. They howled at his torment, leaving him raw and bleeding, clutching the seat of a toilet as though it was his lifeline.

He slumped against the wall of his office washroom, the clean white tiles cold against his back. He winced as he closed his eyes, the demons working their way through his gut, into that empty space that had been made all those years ago, a space that was never to be filled again. And now it was cruelly stretched further, was pulled into an much larger cavern that Will was set to discover. Hannibal swallowed, his throat dry and gritty, and he reached into the pocket of his pale blue plaid suit jacket and pulled out his cell phone. He hesitated, bracing himself for the inevitable, and then punched in the number he knew by heart and waited.

His call was answered by the third ring. "Hannibal?" Fearful, slightly panicked, a sotto voice that perceived the threat that this communication suggested, already worried about what Hannibal was about to do. "Why are you calling me? You had your yearly checkup a few months ago, what's going on?"

"Donald, I need your help."

The quiet on the other end made Hannibal regret the request, but he had no other option for even as a surgeon he had to admit there were some specialities out of his element, and this was too important not to leave to any latent imperfections in his knowledge. He needed a specialist and Dr. Donald Sutcliffe was the best.

"Hannibal, why are you calling me? Whatever it is, I can't, I can get into enough trouble as it is if anyone finds out I knew about you, I can lose my license..."

"I need you to go to Virginia, to a place called Muskrat Farm," Hannibal said, and though he tried to keep his voice strong the small choke that left it was enough, he knew, to melt Donald's reluctance. "Please, Donald, you know I would not be calling you if this wasn't of the utmost importance. This is an emergency."

"I have appointments with patients."

"Cancel them."

Donald let out a low sigh at this, clearly weighing what his options were and discovered he didn't have a whole hell of a lot. Hannibal remained silent on the other end, waiting patiently for Donald's response, his stomach still wrenched into tight, tortuous knots that just the sound of Donald's frightened voice brought into physical flashback. So many years had passed and yet that pain could be recalled with such clarity it was as if it was happening all over again, and if Donald didn't help him, he had no hope, his heart would inwardly bleed out with nothing left for Will to patch together.

"Okay." He could sense Donald nodding an affirmative on the other end of the line. "Are you in any danger? Are you bleeding, are you in any discomfort?"

"Just get to Muskrat Farm, there will be a woman waiting for you at the gate, her name is Margot Verger. Brown, curly hair, she'll be wearing all black. She will show you where to go."

A stuttered hesitation only to end in an exasperated sigh. "Okay."



Hannibal wanted to tell him, that in all the years since that moment, when he'd lain soaked in death in an abandoned basement washroom, he had appreciated Donald's help. He wanted him to know that the yearly check-ups, performed for him in part, Hannibal thought, due to fear of discovery of illegally treating an Omega male guilty of gender subterfuge, was the closest Hannibal had ever come to having a friend.

"Thank you, Donald," he said, instead, and hung up his cell.

He crawled up from his seated position on the floor, flushing the toilet before heading for the sink where he cleaned himself up, rinsing his mouth of the foul taste that still lurked on his tongue, and splashing cold water on his face to bring him back into a collected calm. He slid his person suit on as best he could and straightened his suit jacket, brushing dust from his trousers before bracing himself and heading back into his office.

Margot and Alana were huddled close to one another on the chaise, and Alana leapt up from the seat to approach Hannibal, who held up his hand, stopping her. "I have made arrangements for a specialist to take a look at the situation. I have an unfortunate appointment I cannot get out of, but I will be at Muskrat Farm later this afternoon to go over the logistics of what we are to do."

Margot wrung her hands, the scars at her wrists still raw from where she'd picked at them. "What do we do about tonight?"

Hannibal was firm. "It continues as planned. This is war, Margot. These little skirmishes along the way do not forfeit that fact."


Hannibal checked his watch obsessively, hoping Chilton would be an eager enough busybody to want to start his therapy session early. He didn't dare cancel it lest it bring about suspicion later on, and besides, having such a meeting could be useful in creating an alibi. He was certainly feeling on edge enough to be considered erratic and it wouldn't be hard to convince the man he was too emotional to orchestrate some grandiose plan. Chilton would be all too eager to pounce on that excuse. He'd already wrongly vindicated Hannibal in regards to his being the Chesapeake Ripper and it was likely he would happily come to the rescue of Hannibal's stellar reputation again.

He hadn't yet contacted Will, the minutes ticking by long and lonely and tinged with a fear he couldn't shake as he waited alone in his office. Margot's insistence that two of the foetuses were still alive had played on his mind in a continuous loop, daring him to have hope. Along the corpses of so many possibilities what had been stolen from him could be reclaimed, but he was wracked with an inward anxiety that he had to hold severely in check lest all of his plans unravel. Hannibal sat in his psychiatrist's chair staring blankly at the patient's seat directly across from him, a mirror of emptiness that left him feeling remarkably fragile. He didn't need Chilton to come here to pick his brain and pretend to know the undercurrent of terror he was experiencing, what he wanted was Will. Hannibal placed his hands flat on his thighs, closing his eyes and envisioning Will in the seat across from him, smiling and reassuring him that no matter the obstacles, the end result would be his victory. He desperately wanted to believe this was true, but even as he thought it little cracks began to appear in Will's skin, his body crumbling in the empty seat and leaving Hannibal bereft and alone once more.

A sharp knock on his office door startled him, and he reset himself back into that cold equilibrium that hid all feeling within it. With grave effort, he left his seat and walked to his office door, opening it without questioning who was behind it first. Dr. Chilton looked up at him in surprise, his brow already furrowed in displeasure. "Goodness, Hannibal, you look a sight. Are you well?"

Hannibal gave him a terse smile. "After affects of a long night."

He liked the way the oblique reference to his sex life and his adventures of the night before sat ill with Chilton, who edged his way past him into the office, a thick, black notepad and expensive ballpoint pen in hand. It was probably a gift, given to him at Christmas, Hannibal thought. An endearment from Deidre to her idle scribbler. Chilton certainly seemed eager to get that pen scratching, as evidenced by how he practically dove for the patient's seat, bidding Hannibal to sit across from him in a rather ridiculous pantomime of role reversal. Hannibal complied with impatience, making it clear he was not going to be conducive to therapy and was more than happy to remain adversarial. "I'd offer you a drink, Fred, but I am reminded you are not here as a friend or a colleague. No drinking on the job for you. My day, however, is summarily finished after this. I have no qualms against imbibing." Hannibal clasped his hands over crossed legs, tilting his head to one side in thoughtful contemplation. "Is it unethical to fix your patient a drink? There's a mini-bar in that antique cabinet." He watched with grim amusement as Chilton uncapped his pen and started scribbling in his book. Hannibal turned his head, a gentle breeze tugging at the long curtains blocking out most of the afternoon sunlight. He waited until Chilton filled a page, before dropping his gaze and smirking at the thin line of sunlight on his chaise. "Of course, that would be something you could do if I had alcohol in my practise, which I never do. Offering you a drink is a test of your reasons for being here, for as an Omega, I can never be too careful. Such dangers that lurk for the likes of such as me. Thus, no liquor. " Hannibal smiled.

Chilton paused his pen's scratching and leaned back in his chair. He frowned at the half empty decanter of brandy in full view where Margot had left it on Hannibal's desk. "Hannibal, that is a rather blatant attempt at gaslighting, to the point it is laughable. I know you don't have a problem with alcohol," Chilton said, rolling his eyes. "I know your game, Hannibal, you're going to try and put all kinds of imaginary psychosis into this visit as a source for your own twisted amusement."

"And why would I do that?"

"Because you are an asshole."

"How astute, Frederick, that is a particular brand of mental illness I have not yet discovered in all my years of study. Tell me, how do you plan on curing it?"

Chilton shook his head. "I'm afraid in your case it's terminal." He gave Hannibal's current appearance a careful study, his pen poised in the air as though putting him into a stick figure outline. "You look far more conservative today than you did last night. Right up to that eighteenth century styled silk bonding collar of yours. What shall I surmise from this--that your comfort level with your gender is only worth expressing when you can be seen? Narcissistic tendencies, most would suspect, and I don't doubt most of the opera goers did last night, but I don't necessarily see it that way."

"Oh?" Hannibal said. He checked his watch. How long was this meeting supposed to last? He'd given Dr. DuMaurier twenty minutes, he would give less to Fred. "You are the one stating that I wanted to be seen."

"Yes," Chilton said, and he gave Hannibal a knowing smile. "By one person in particular. Will Graham." Chilton made a few more of his infuriating notes and Hannibal longed to lunge forward and snatch the pen from his hand to stab him in the neck with it. It was a pleasant thought, one he replayed over and over in his mind. "You have both made quite the universe of two out of each other. I'm guessing considering the state the two of you were in last night he appreciated you playing dress up."

"Very much so. I fashioned my appearance on his boyhood wet dreams. His grandmother had an art book filled with Japanese Art Deco prints from the World Depression and male Omega geishas figured prominently. I saw no harm in indulging in that fantasy."

"Nor do I, in fact a bit of play is healthy in a relationship."

"Oh?" Hannibal raised a brow at this. "And what do you and your wife Deirdre 'play', Dr. Chilton? I'm rather curious, does it involve bridles and saddles? I imagine she rides you all over the block when she gets a chance, you are a man who likes to be driven."

Chilton made a face and starting scribbling again. "I'm adding jackass to your original asshole diagnosis. Let's call that a subset of your mental condition."

"I do believe I may have touched a nerve. How very interesting, the way your face goes red every time I bring up your wife. Alpha all the way, is she? Very forceful, I can guess, a bit of a stickler for what she wants when she wants it, no compromise, not for you, the Beta she settled for. A brilliant woman, matched fair and square with a brilliant man, one who can't wait to push his career forward and be the captain at the helm, even if it is the deck of a sinking ship, namely the BHCI. Hero of the day, there, I see, and I imagine your altruism goes over well with your Deirdre, who can go to her corporate meetings and pull out of her hat the pleasant, sweet little Beta man she married and how lovely it is that he does so much for charity while the cha-ching of her larger salary foists you lower on her rung. A pleasing education to put upon her arm during functions, that's what you've become. I wonder, Fred, does she bother going to the professional conventions you haunt, when you're seeking funding for the asylum? Tax shelters are wonderful things, they can be made of purse strings and the connective tissue of CEO contributions and it is these that have brought the BHCI up from the ashes like a phoenix." Hannibal smiled at the beet red expression now fuming on Chilton's face. "Well, I suppose that's to be expected. When one opts out of having a family, other more dire priorities must come to the fore. Money and power are lovely twins, you must be happy with how you raised them."

Chilton sighed at this, and he pressed his pen closed as well as his notebook, clearly having had enough already. Hannibal was eager for him to leave, he would call Will immediately and have him pick him up to make the long trek to Muskrat Farm, which was at least two hours away. He didn't have time to waste with Chilton, not with all of his plans ready to blossom.

"We didn't opt out of a family, Hannibal, we did try to have children."

Hannibal faltered slightly at this. "An interesting addition to your layers, Fred."

Chilton shrugged his shoulders uncomfortably and loosened his tie with a finger swooped around the circumference of his shirt. "We had a little boy, he died when he was an infant, only a week old. It was long time ago, over twenty years now, we were only finishing up our schooling at the time and Deirdre was still a secretary with the firm. Perhaps you are right, we may have replaced our grief with ambition, it's a common enough coping mechanism."

Hannibal tried to speak.

He found he couldn't.

If Chilton had shot him point blank in the chest with a shotgun, Hannibal couldn't have felt more shredded. He could feel the demons clawing their way under his skin, up through the emptiness in his abdomen, pressing painfully against the edges of his heart. His breath caught and he could feel an acid burning behind his eyes. His nerves, his tendons, his life, pulled into little cracks that he began to spill from. Will had warned him this would happen. Hannibal brought his hand to his mouth as he looked on a suddenly genuinely concerned Dr. Chilton.

"Fred, I am so sorry."

"You weren't aware."

"If I'd known this about you, I wouldn't have said such things. That was rude of me."

"It was a long time ago," Chilton said, waving his hand as though to dismiss it and Hannibal felt slapped by it.

"It's a horrible thing to lose a child." Hannibal could feel his face twist into sorrow, the feelings that Victoriana's death dredged up now amplified as that distant other tragedy crept into the forefront of his memory, the scent of blood so thick in his olfactory senses it was as if he was marinated in it. He tried to pull his grimace back, smoothing it into a marble calm, but he couldn't prevent the harsh tears that spilled, the need to release them a physical one lest he collapse entirely. "Don't lie to me, Fred. The years mean nothing. Every day there is a recollection, a small hint of where a life was supposed to be. A life that you were prepared for, that you decided you wanted. It didn't matter how it was given, it was a gift you treasured, and it was stolen from you."

Chilton remained stewed in Hannibal's misery, unable to move from his seat, nor use his pen or open his notebook. The moment felt charged with inertia between them, the only movement permitted were the tears that fell in a straight line down Hannibal's cheek like dew on polished stone. Finally, Chilton cleared his throat. "You were given a physical when you were admitted in the BHCI. The nurses told me, there was evidence..."

"Six months. I hid her for six months before I lost her."

The memory of that phantom pain hit him and he near doubled over in his seat from the force of it, his palms pressed tight against his stomach. He turned away from the tortured expression Chilton was giving him, knowing he'd awoken a similar ache within the psychiatrist. How strange to find he had found such an understanding in Chilton, and not through commonality but through what they were both missing.

Chilton sat at the edge of his seat, poised as though to spring but it was merely to approach a topic he wasn't sure he wanted to inspect. "The father..."

Hannibal instinctively wrapped his arms tight around his stomach. He was suddenly finding it difficult to breath, and while he intellectually knew it was simply the memory of an ancient panic, the demons welling up within him and wanting purchase outside of himself, he had to keep them under his control. Chilton left his seat and reached for him as though to comfort him and Hannibal gnashed his teeth and growled, ready to snap his fingers straight off with a clean bite.

Chilton wisely stepped back, eyeing Hannibal carefully as he took out his cell phone from the side pocket of his suit jacket. His movements were exaggerated and slow, and he kept himself in Hannibal's full view, nothing hidden, easing into the trust of a tiger as he walked within its cage. "I'm going to call Will Graham," Chilton quietly said. He eyed the decanter of brandy as he pressed the saved contact with Will's name, his fingers shaking. "If you're still offering, I could use a glass of that brandy that doesn't exist."


With Hannibal, Will learned, there was no such thing as a moment not pregnant with intensity. He left Quantico the second Chilton had called him, not even bothering to explain to Jack why he suddenly had to leave. The drive into Baltimore had been a mess, major downtown roads blocked at every turn, large crowds gathered as they geared up for the major rally Governor McBain was having that night at the Baltimore Convention Centre. He fought through placards and ribbons, and he was getting so tired of stopping and starting for wandering pedestrians he was just about ready to press his heel to the gas pedal of the Bentley and start ploughing through them.

There were still crowds lining the streets in front of the Hannibal's office building and Will honked his horn for the millionth time, bidding idiot gawkers and police in riot gear alike to get out of the way. He parked the car and furiously left it, the door slammed as he ran up the steps to make his way to Hannibal's office. Dr. Chilton had sounded upset on the phone, and in between softly intoned syllables Will could detect the man was terrified, as though convinced Hannibal was about to kill him at any moment. And considering who he was sharing a small space with, that possibility was not unlikely.

So it was with no surprise that he found Hannibal in his chair, tightly wound, evidence of upset still visible to Will's empathy despite his cold, aloof exterior, which Will knew he was holding onto with tenterhooks. Will turned on Chilton first, the man holding a glass and drinking Hannibal's *brandy* of all things. "What did you do to him?"

Chilton was instantly on the defensive. "I didn't do anything! We were just talking!"

"He was fine this morning!" Will shouted at him. "You know what, Fred, you really know how to bring down the house, don't you? I'm getting really sick and tired of this interference you keep running between us, do you not get that it's not helping at all!"

"I am doing what is best for Hannibal!"

"Chastising him for finally being able to be open about himself, no matter what your aesthetics dictate, is hardly a measure of 'help', Fred, and is dangerously teetering on the edge of judgement."

Chilton set his jaw at this, incensed. "You are both professionals in very lofty careers of high responsibility and you were both *stoned* in *public*!"

Will was ready to add a fist to this fight, and Chilton looked about ready to give one back, Alpha versus Beta notwithstanding, but it was Hannibal who abruptly cut the tension between them. He left his seat, grabbing his coat and turning off the lights in his office, a quick domestic kiss stolen from Will's grimacing fury that momentarily disoriented his rage. "Gentlemen, I do believe the best recourse for this day is for all of us to withdraw. Will, Frederick has not been unkind to me, and I would appreciate if you would apologize to him for your blind accusation."

He ushered them all out of his office, leaving Will and Chilton to awkwardly confront each other in the tiny waiting room as Hannibal locked the door. "He made you upset," Will protested, and Hannibal sighed, giving Will a withering look that instantly made his conscience chafe. He gave Chilton a wavering glance that had no true remorse in it. "Sorry?"

"Hardly adequate, Will," Hannibal admonished him, but Chilton put up his hand, eager to get out of the building himself.

"I'll accept it. Hannibal, I will see you on Monday, have a restful weekend." He was eager to make his leave, but Chilton couldn't surrender the meeting on such a harsh note. "I know what we talked about was exceptionally stressful, and though I may not have shown it, you are correct in everything you said. Sometimes the most a person can hope for in such a situation is adequate methods of faking it." Chilton clearly wanted to say more, but chose against it, nodding politely in parting instead. "We'll talk on Monday."


Chilton paused at the top of the staircase, eyeing Hannibal's cold, predator posture with a wariness Will felt it was wise for him to have.

"I will not forget your understanding in this matter."

Chilton's eyes watered at this, shocking Will, and he made his leave quickly, the staircase absorbing him into its shadows as his steps echoed upwards, hard and fast, as though frightened a thing with teeth that Hannibal had let out was chasing him. Will frowned, turning to his mate, his hand instinctively moving to his neck and attempting to gentle him. Hannibal remained stone, the cold expressionless state of him so far removed from the emotions he had been steeped in as of late he seemed like another person. This was the Hannibal he had first met, Will thought, painfully guarded and unwilling to allow any display of weakness.

"Hannibal, what's happened?" It was unnatural, this devolving of Hannibal's personality, and Will a stone roll through his gut, his empathy creeping along the periphery of Hannibal's boiling blood. He could feel it, the dungeon doors were open and the ocean had caved it in. Hannibal's demons hadn't drowned, and instead they were swimming openly inside of him. Will could see the tips of their antlers, dozens poking beneath the fabric of Hannibal's suit, tearing up the man inside of it. Though he didn't show a reaction, Will knew to reach up and gentle him again anyway, smoothing his palm and stroking against the back of Hannibal's neck in a steady, regular pressure.

"We are going to Muskrat Farm," Hannibal informed him, and he slid on his coat, his driving gloves deftly smoothed over his hands as though they were poured over his fingers. He was driving and Will was not to question it.


Hannibal paused, and leaned against his Alpha as he continued to stroke his neck, the only indication of how desperately he wanted and needed Will's support. "We're going into the Verger estate's laboratory. I hope you did not have anything too heavy to eat for lunch, dear Will, this will require a strong stomach."




Chapter Text

chapter sixteen

Will's fingers dripped blood in a long line from the cellar, up the stairs and into the kitchen. He could feel the steady pulse of his heart pushing his own plasma through his veins, coursing healthy and strong throughout his body, the thrumming rush so loud it drowned out all other sensation. He couldn't focus, his vision blurred as he made his way through the kitchen and beyond into the dining room. He paused, realizing in some distant, wandering part of himself that the reason he couldn't see was because his glasses were covered in blood. His head shaking in a violent tic, he took his glasses off and attempted to wipe them clean with the hem of his cotton shirt, only to smear human tissue in a thick glob across the rounded glass. He blinked, the heel of his hand coming away wet as he rubbed at his eyes. He wasn't just covered in blood, there were pieces, tiny shreds like ground meat embedded into the fabric of his shirt and trousers.

He walked past the oak dining table and into the atrium, where monitors whirred and clicked, a dialysis machine slowly pumping waste and nutrients in a constant cycle of renewal. Suspended on a thick chain affixed to the ceiling and floor, slightly swaying thanks to a clockwork mechanism of unknown engineering, a large jar and its contents was sleeping peacefully. It was overly warm in the atrium, Hannibal had been very fastidious when it came to ensuring the room was of the proper temperature, which was clearly subtropical. This particular corner was kept in darkness, with only hints of light allowed in. A small iPod had been affixed to one of the monitors, the slender machine gauging heart rate and oxygen, and the tinny sounds of Bach drifted like a whisper through the near silence, the playful notes meant to soothe that which Will still couldn't comprehend was a living thing.

The jar had a wide, glass lid, complete with a handle and it would be no effort at all to lift it off. He placed his palm over the rounded glass knob, leaving a bloody outline of his fingers upon the surface before taking his hand away. Even in the near dark Will could see a plethora of other fingerprints dotting the cylindrical shape of the glass, streaks of graceful digits that had caressed it in relentless affection, as though the glass could easily be a substitute for skin. On the lid, just below his bloody handprint, he could see thin kissprints.

The contents of the jar shifted, and a startled Will stumbled backwards from it, his hand shakily coming to his mouth, leaving a smear of gore across his lips. The world had a far more menacing shape to it now, one that Will's imaginings took into its analysis, drawing out his inner visions and placing them in the context of what was now living within this corner. Outside the large windows of the atrium, the long, bony protruding antlers crawled out of the muck of the world and gleamed grey in the moonlight. Their tangled spikes rose high, thick as brambles that were allowed to grow wild, so unruly the antlers were pushing all sense of its own survival from it. The bones were to set to choke themselves out, eventually. Upon a landscape of spent blood they nourished themselves, unaware of the rot that was set to happen as they had been planted in such foul earth. The antlers gleamed with threat, suffocating everything that tried to grow beneath them. This is what he'd been born into. He glanced down at his shaking hands, the blood still so thick it clotted between his fingers in black chunks. This was his world's design.


--ten hours earlier--

When they arrived at the scene of the Doemling crime, Will knew that he had to brace himself. He was familiar enough with the layout of Muskrat Farm, he'd wandered its hidden hallways and staked it out too many times as he'd worked on his plan to kill Mason Verger, so when they pulled up to the barn where both Doemling and McDermott had been killed, Will knew exactly where Hannibal was heading. Without telling him, Hannibal revealed a wealth of information just on the choice of location upon the property, and Will braced himself as Hannibal brought the Bentley close to the entrance of the barn, parking it just off the side of a large puddle.

Muskrat Farm was a mess in spring, the sprawling property one of mud and dead grass, giving the viewer a feeling of hopeless decay that made the memory of the desolate winter months seem cozy. Broken fences dotted the property and there was the constant, annoying buzzing of flies lurking in black clouds, hungrily feeding on warmth and rot. Hannibal was careful where he stepped when he got out of the Bentley, and Will fought the urge to jibe him yet again over not wearing proper shoes. He was in an odd mood, Will noticed, fiercely cold and aloof, not allowing Will's empathy in and barely reacting to any attempts to soothe him, though he clearly needed it if the tight pull of his muscles was any indication. Hannibal was tightly wound, ready to spring against any perceived threat at first opportunity, and Will was careful not to let any of his own Alpha aggression tempt it no matter how much his instincts wanted to.

The smell of pig manure hit Will the second he left the car and he grimaced against the foul stench as he walked around the front of the Bentley to stand beside Hannibal, who was calmly taking off his riding gloves and folding them carefully before putting them in his coat pocket. "I believe you are aware, Will, that there are times when one is faced with an event or situation so monstrous, it defies all measure of words or feeling to properly express one's distress." He stood apart from Will, placing enough distance between them to prevent Will's instinctive Alpha need to gentle him. "In these situations, it is compartmentalization that is the best method of coping. Please keep this in mind." Hannibal approached the barn doors and lifted the heavy wooden plank, sliding open the massive, heavy doors himself with effortless ease, a small sign of his swirling adrenaline. He pushed the barn door wide open with a shove of his shoulders against the rotting wood, the stench and squealing screams of hundreds of pigs answering their intrusion into their cramped space. "Follow me."

Will glanced over his shoulder, quickly inspecting the mansion that was poised like a squatting demon behind them, half expecting to see Mason Verger and his lawyers trudging through the thawed earth to stop them. He entered the barn with a renewed sense of trepidation, Hannibal well ahead of him as he aimed for that single, empty pen that held the trap door that had facilitated his escape. Hannibal kicked aside the fresh straw that had been strewn over it, and tugged on the iron rung that was revealed, opening it into the dark staircase that led into the basement of the Verger estate. He was already more than halfway down as Will approached, and he caught the last glimpse of the hem of Hannibal's sand coloured Burberry wool coat before he disappeared from view, his steps marching and sure. Will followed with significantly less assurance, his palms sweaty as he gripped the metal railing and made his way into the small corridor that led to the holding area where Hannibal had been imprisoned. The piece of loose drywall was placed to one side and Will stepped through it and into a harshly lit white space, one he was already familiar with but which sent points of anger into white hot embers within him. He tried to ignore the large metal pen that had held his bonded mate captive, the fact it was still present and ready for use enough to make him want to burn the entire Verger stronghold to the ground.

The white door that had been locked to him was partially open and he could hear the bustle of people behind it, echoing voices that were familiar and held notes of fear. Alana, strong and forceful and the more timid intonations of Margot answering her. There was another voice, deeply frightened but professional, a stranger to Will, but clearly not one to Hannibal who was offering the deep tones of both reassurance and scientific question. Will frowned as he approached, the door swinging open slowly as he pushed the heel of his palm against it.

He wasn't prepared for the sight that met him, the various jars and tubes and whirling, beeping machinery looking like something out of a science fiction film. This was Mason's genetics lab, he realized, and with unsteady steps he approached closer to the two rows of glass jars, various tubes and lines tangled within and behind them. There were eight in all. He tried to get a closer inspection only to have Dr. Alana Bloom stand in his way, preventing him from seeing more.

"Will, it's not a good idea for you to be here."

Of course it wasn't, he wanted to say to her, none of the decisions he'd made since he'd met Hannibal had been good ones. Adding this to a long list was foolish to second guess at this point, and he shouldered his way past her, ignoring the tortured look she gave him as he headed for where Hannibal and an unknown Beta male were standing. They were deep in conversation already over one of the jars, with Hannibal eagerly inspecting equipment and the beeping output, his medical knowledge as a surgeon in full concentration upon the contents of the jar. Will frowned as he took the two parallel rows of them in, and quickly realized that all but two had machines that were still measuring oxygen and pulse rates, two large dialysis machines still pumping old and renewed blood through it. "What is this?" he finally said, and the unknown male, clearly a terrified doctor who didn't want to be there, turned to him with a nervous energy that belied both his horror and his scientific curiosity. He was a slight man, with a finely trimmed peppered beard and from the way he stood close to Hannibal it was clear they were old friends.

An inexplicable feeling of jealousy welled up within him, and Hannibal, sensing it, gestured to the man beside him. "Will, this is Dr. Donald Sutcliffe." Then, without waiting for Will to expand on his protest at this stranger being too familiar with his Omega, Hannibal added, "He is my gynaecologist."

Will was floored, his mouth hanging open. "W-What?"

Dr. Sutcliffe was suitably flustered by Hannibal's frankness. "Ob/Gyn, actually...Hannibal and I met when we were in residency at John Hopkins."

"Donald helped me through a very difficult time," Hannibal curtly added, and Will knew it was to assure him that their relationship had been one forged by tragedy and then subsequent necessity. Professional only. "There are no studies as to the long term affects of taking synthetic Alpha hormones. A yearly check-up to maintain my health is a courtesy Dr. Sutcliffe has afforded that I have long appreciated."

"Hannibal," Will said, trying to keep the tremor from his voice, and failing. "Why is he *here*?"

Hannibal didn't answer, leaving Will to further inspect the rows of jars, the contents of which were murky and mostly spoiled with layers of strange, fuzzy bacteria floating thick upon the surface of the liquid, the levels of it evaporated and leaving a crusty line across the inside of the glass. They were all stagnant save for the two jars which clearly had thriving organic life floating within them. All of the jars had small cards affixed to their lids, the cryptic, neat notes written in blue ball point pen:

F: O type: -A Donor: HL Gestation Date: February, 2---
Progress: Month 1: Cell division, embedded in the lining of the endometrium, beginning prognosis good, phenotype determined by amniotic analysis, cell organization positive

They all had the same date, one that Will was very familiar with, a fact that made his heart race and the tremors in his hands increase as he went jar by jar, until he stopped at the one Margot was staring blankly into. "M: A Type: AB Donor: HL Gestation date: February 2---"

Margot's voice was a soft whisper in the harshly lit white room. "Male. Alpha. Blood type AB. Donor, Hannibal Lecter..."

Will felt all the blood drain from his body. He held his hands up to his mouth as he staggered back from the rows of jars, Hannibal keenly watching him with such a cold lack of expression he could have been carved from stone. "Oh my God. These are...These are your *children*..."

Hannibal turned away from Will's disgust and horror, his elegant hand splayed wide on the lid of the jar he and Dr. Sutcliffe had been discussing. "No, Will. *This* is my child. You can guess who the patriarchal donor was. There is no need to discuss it. Margot, it seems to me only fitting that the statistics of this room fall into such a neat pattern. Half is mine, half is yours." He turned to Sutcliffe, who was ashen as he checked over the vitals of the two surviving foetuses, his concentration mired in scientific scrutiny. Hannibal kept his palm on the jar they had been inspecting when Will had walked in. Hannibal held his head high, his voice clear and concise within the fierce tension that lay thick over the occupants of the laboratory. "Donald, this is my daughter. I want to take her home."

Will shook his head at this, concepts forming that he hadn't ever wanted to entertain. "Hannibal, he can't do that, and besides, it's...Most of these died, you're setting yourself up for disaster."

"Actually," Dr. Sutcliffe cut in and Will could have killed him for it. "From the setup I'm witnessing here, it's perfectly clear to me that this is very much a viable process. I believe it was neglect that was to blame for the lack of success in the other samples. I must warn you, Hannibal, transport will be the trickiest part of this, but both specimens seem to be thriving and there is no reason not to believe that this isn't going to work. What the end result is of such a vile experiment, I can't tell you." Dr. Sutcliffe shrugged, eyeing the various cords with a sense of both shock and wonder. "As a human being, I am as disgusted as you are, Mr. Graham, but as a man of science...I can't walk away from the breakthrough this kind of work can reveal."

"This is.." Will fought to put it in easier terms, but there was simply no other description. "This is an abomination."

Dr. Sutcliffe gave Will's stricken face a nod of sympathy. "Though it is highly unethical, I can take some comfort in knowing it is not a process I started. In current trials, such artificial womb experiments are not permitted to develop beyond fourteen days. These two are now entering the second trimester at three and a half months old. Right now, in my view, it would be wrong of me not to respect the wishes of the mother." He glanced nervously at Hannibal, whose black gaze was unreadable. "This is Hannibal's call."

Will's nerves unwound and sprung, leaving his body shaking and the laboratory spinning as his mind quickly pieced together a myriad implications and dangers in relation to what Hannibal was set to do. He closed his eyes, trying to bring his breath into an even enough rhythm so that the ability to speak could return. He swallowed on several words, their bitter taste aching as they went down like shards of bone in his throat. "Hannibal, you really need to think about this, there is so much that can go wrong and I don't think you're prepared for that. There might be deformities, cognitive delay, this is a grade school science project morphed by nightmare, you can't predict the outcome."

"I want my daughter," Hannibal snapped at him.

There was no room for discussion on the matter. Alana and Margot stayed wisely out of it, the jar containing their own future eyed mostly with disgust. It seemed only Hannibal was the one infected with maternal feelings. Will, sick and queasy at the thought of what was about to happen, left the laboratory and walked back into the space he had visited so many times before, where he had stood in its centre, staring at that metal enclosure while he plotted and fantasized about killing Mason Verger and all of the torture his oh so rich imagination was dying to visit on him. It all paled in what he envisioned doing to that monstrous little pig of a man now, for this was an unnatural violation, an act akin to rape. Now part of that ugliness was going to come into their home, into the uneasy sense of family they were still trying to navigate, and Will was absolutely powerless to stop it.

He felt a strong, warm hand on his shoulder, and Will turned around, finding Hannibal oddly contrite before him, his eyes a black sheen that studied the pulse of Will's throat. Taking in a deep, shaking breath, Will stroked the side of Hannibal's face, gentling the back of his neck through the blue silk of his bonding ribbon with a kneading press of his palm.

Will pressed his lips together, bracing himself. He had to fight the urge to be sick as he placed his head at an angle Hannibal couldn't turn away from, forcing him to look at him. "When do we take her home?"

Hannibal's gaze lost its black sheen, descending back into a deep maroon, his muscles relaxing until he was in Will's embrace, the way he sank into Will suggesting a fragility that Will found alarming.



Her relocation had gone far smoother than any of them had anticipated. Hannibal's mood was significantly more elevated as the equipment was smoothly moved from the white transport van and through the front foyer and into the kitchen, winding past the dining room and ending in a shaded corner in the atrium. Hannibal was careful to arrange several ferns around the jar and its apparatus to keep out the harsh sunlight, and he pushed the temperature up several degrees to ensure the room held the same warmth as a human body. The ride back to Baltimore was thankfully uneventful as the McBain crowds were concentrated more on the area around the Baltimore Convention Centre where Governor McBain was set to have his rally that evening. Their stately home was on the opposite side of the city, where the roads were mostly clear. The drive up from Virginia had felt inordinately long, and Will felt every mile in his body as they drove, the silence of Dr. Donald Sutcliffe next to him only adding to the distance. Hannibal sat in the back of the van, the jar in his lap and clutched in a firm embrace. Through the rear view mirror, Will watched him carefully, how at every sharp turn and bump, Hannibal would kiss the clear glass lid and shush the slightly jostled contents with a tender affection Will couldn't help but find macabre.

Now she was in their home, Dr. Sutcliffe and Hannibal both fussing with worried unease over the various lines and equipment, recalibrating where needed and checking on vitals. Sutcliffe nodded at Hannibal, and pointed to the several IV's strung up above the jar, connected tubes floating within the clumps of tissue. Will had been the one volunteered to affix the chains to the ceiling and floor, the clockwork mechanism the chains were attached to meant to mimic the movement of the infant's mother. Dr. Sutcliffe was irritating in his positivity. "It's a good idea to donate some of your own blood for her nourishment. You will need to find more donors as she develops further, you won't be able to keep up with her nutritional needs by the time she hits the third trimester. It's unlikely she's going to go to term, but the vitals are still strong, and with the proper care I'm confident this can happen." He cast a guilty glance towards Will. "I'm going back to Muskrat Farm to monitor the progress of the male, and discuss with Margot and Alana what they want to do. Are you going to be okay on your own with this for now? Call me on the cell if there are any changes in her condition, I'll be here as soon as I can."

Hannibal wordlessly nodded, his hands splayed over the surface of the jar as he caressed it. Will stood unmovable at the far end of the atrium, next to the harpsichord, the nightmarish vision before him too surreal for even his imagination to place inside of any facet of reality. Dr. Sutcliffe saw himself out and Will flinched as though it were a gunshot when the front door slammed shut behind him.

They were alone together now, as much alone as a couple could be when there was an unborn creature simmering in its own gory juices between them. Hannibal's caresses over the jar were filled with a relieved longing, and Will shuddered as he watched Hannibal place soft kisses along the glass jar's lid.

"We are going to be a family, Will. Is there no greater gift than this?" Hannibal pressed his stomach against the side of the glass, his expression one of wistful bliss. "What are you thinking, Will?"

"I'm thinking the man who did this would disgust the devil." Tears welled unbidden, and Will clenched his teeth tight as he spoke through them. "That bastard was going to grow them like plants and *sell* them. He created them to suffer, Hannibal."

"She will only know happiness with us," Hannibal said, his promise brought smiling against the glass as he kissed it again.

In a gesture that was oddly sultry, Hannibal unwrapped himself from his growing daughter and approached Will, his hand outstretched to him, bidding him to take it. Will placed his own sweaty palm into Hannibal's dry, cool one and allowed him to guide him towards the entrance of their cellar. The trap door was still open, and Hannibal lightly kissed Will on the cheek as he bid him to follow him down the stairs and into the cool, mossy darkness. "I have something very special for you, my dear Will," he said.

Will wanted to protest, there was no way he was in the mood for lovemaking, not with that, whatever it was, sitting upstairs in the atrium, its existence hissing and pumping in a mechanized rhythm that had nothing to do with natural life. He shivered as he passed the metal prep table that still had the Omega murder file spread wide across it, post it notes and circled maps of his property additions to his theorizing. Hannibal brought him to a dark corner next to his refrigerator, an area he used as a cold room in the past for hanging his choice cuts of Alpha meat. He kissed Will softly on his lips, drawing it out with a gentleness that was the weight of feathers. With a soft sigh he broke away from Will with great reluctance, and opened the cold room door.

Mason Verger. Handcuffed to an uncomfortable plastic chair, his mouth clamped shut with duct tape. Will stared at him, disbelieving, the panic in the piggy eyes widened to just beyond pinpricks as he struggled against his bonds, the air thick with his terrified musk. Hannibal took Will's hand and placed something smooth within it, and it took a few moments for him to recognize the shape and contours of the handle of his hunting knife.

Hannibal kissed his forehead.

"Have fun, my darling."

Hannibal slipped away, back upstairs to drape himself over the hope that lay in an opaque jar, leaving Will to let his demons out to play.

Will sat on the harpsichord's bench, keeping a far distance away from the thing in the corner that continued to breath and live when every human instinct inside of him told him it wasn't supposed to. His hands had stopped dripping, the blood now congealing and thick, drying in places as it flaked off of his skin in burgundy shards. In the cold room, evidence of his Alpha rage lay in an explosion of human tissue and blood, his hunting knife lost somewhere amongst the meat that he had cut into the tiniest of pieces until it resembled ground pork. It hadn't been enough to reduce Mason Verger to this, he'd had to shatter and snap his bones, too, until near nothing was left but fine, powdery spindles. The walls were covered with him, as was the floor of the cold room, a thick wash of red and black, with bits of fat and grey matter splattered liberally within it. He'd reduced him, piece by piece and even after the screams had died down and he was obviously dead, it simply wasn't enough. What Mason Verger had destroyed had to find its proper punishment, and Will visited it with relentless skill upon his mangled corpse. There was nothing at all left in that cold room that had once resembled a human being. If he'd stuffed every single one of Mason Verger's orifices full of dynamite and blew him apart he wouldn't be as deconstructed as he was now.

All that was left now was fear brought about by the realization that he truly did have that kind of violence lurking within him, ready to pounce upon the knowledge all the murderers he'd investigated over the years had taught him. Through it all visions of the dead Omegas haunted his efforts, watching with approval as he cut and cut, the blood seeping over black concrete and showering him with its gory purification. He could see Hannibal reflected in the blade of the hunting knife, his lips slightly upturned in loving approval. He'd done what he'd been expected to do, and it took hours. He made Mason Verger hurt.

He was exhausted, his muscles aching with overexertion, and sitting on the harpsichord bench did nothing to ease it, his back bent from retribution. What he wanted was Hannibal, but he was surprised to discover that his Omega wasn't home, and Will was left to sit in the atrium alone, with that eerie thoughtform in a jar Hannibal had called their daughter. He wanted to feel the same enthusiasm Hannibal clearly felt, but he was too guarded, knowing that what lurked in that jar was tainted with Verger genes.

He closed his eyes, and let out a weary sigh. "It's not your fault," he said to it. "No one chooses to be born."

He stayed that way, breathing hard through his nose, his teeth and jaw clenched tight enough to give him a pressure headache that cracked along the back of his skull and ended somewhere behind his eyes. He frowned, listening carefully to the sounds of the beeping and whirring machines, only to discover there was another, more insistent ringing, one that he was very familiar with. His cell phone. He'd left it in his jacket pocket, the coat draped over the kitchen island when they'd arrived back from the lab.

He stood up with effort and with stiff steps he made his way past the dining room, dried blood staining the oak flooring before flaking against the slate tiles of the kitchen. He grabbed his jacket, which was still sending out that muffled ringing, knowing damned well there was only one person who would have let it ring that long before cursing and hanging up. He took out his cell phone and held it up to his ear as he answered it. "Jack."

"For fuck's sake, Graham, I've been trying to get a hold of you for the past two hours!" There was a scuffling behind the line, like a thin layer of static, and it took Will a few moments to realize that he was hearing frantic dispatch between riot police. Will slowly made his way out of the kitchen, his steps careful and uneven as he walked back through the dark, shadowy route into the atrium. There was a hum behind the crunchy static of orders between officers, a crowd of hundreds, maybe even thousands. A mob. Screaming.

"Will! Can you hear me?"

Will took careful steps towards the harpsichord's bench, he felt like one wrong move could topple him. He kept the cell phone pressed tight against his ear, the damp clots of souring blood and tissue sticking to it like jelly. "I'm here, Jack."

"You don't know what's happening, do you?" Jack cursed and shouted an unintelligible order, his breath heavy and anxious when he returned to his cell. "Turn on your goddamned TV!"

Will swallowed, tasting iron. "We don't have one."

Jack cursed again. "Fuck's sake, just use the phone then, Tattle Crime has got a live feed going on--Motherfucking firestorm and bloodbath out here it's looking like Armageddon. We got countless Alpha males dead, McBain assassinated, and fuck if the whole Baltimore Convention Centre isn't firebombed to shit! Will! Get your ass down here!" Jack shouted more curses at another officer and he was momentarily muffled by the sound of an explosion deep in the background. "Don't just stand there! The whole place is going up! Get everyone the hell out of here!" He returned to the phone. "Will! Will, we think it's the Chesapeake Ripper--You were right, he had an end game in mind, he was not a motherfucking serial killer but a fucking domestic terrorist, you hear me? A goddamned terrorist! Fucking hell of a thing!"

Will gently pressed 'end' on the cell phone, hanging up on Jack. He stared at the blank screen of his cell phone for a long time, the wallpaper of his dog, Winston, out of sync with what the cell phone usually delivered to him. He hit the Tattle Crime app, bringing up the site's live feed. A tiny image of Freddie Lounds in front her iPhone appeared, her movements jerky, and the sound fading in and out. Will turned the volume all the way up.

"...It's a shocking night here in Baltimore, as flames lick the sky and explosions continue to rock the Baltimore Convention Centre. It's unknown how many fatalities are expected, but it's safe to say that hundreds, if not thousands, of people may be either dead or injured in these blasts. For those of you just tuning in, I repeat, Baltimore Convention Centre is in flames after being attacked by what appears to be an Omega centred terrorist group. You heard that right, OMEGA centred terrorists. The explosions began shortly after the assassination of key elite Alphas from the Eastern Coastline as well as Governor McBain and his campaign party..."

Will scrolled down the page, clicking on the 'as it happened' video image and bringing the events she described to the fore. He expanded the video to fit the small screen and watched carefully as the opening ceremonies to Governor McBain's rally began. The Convention Centre was packed to bursting, the opening band one he'd never heard of but clearly one with partisan leanings towards the McBain campaign if their 'Make A Family' t-shirts and enthusiasm were anything to go on. There were several close-ups of the crowds, laughing youth and clapping, chanting people echoing the 'Make A Family' mantra in a rousing sing along that made Will cringe. Ribbons with the slogan printed on it in Coastline colours soared through the air, and shotguns of paper poured in thick chunks of confetti over the seats. It was more rock concert than politics and it was clearly a venue fit for the Coastline elite, who took up the first three rows, wealthy Alphas dressed in their conservative, shining finery while well mannered silent but beautiful Omegas sat primly beside them. By the time the opening song was finished and McBain stepped out, the crowd was roaring to its feet, hands clapping and loud whistles shouted across the din, so loud he could barely be heard.

Jeb McBain was a bland looking man, Will thought. He had that Everyone look polished to perfection, the smile as fake as plastic and his appearance not quite perfect but not ugly either, he held just enough of some inner charisma to keep his speech from sounding maudlin. He punched the air and the crowd went wild, sharing in his assured victory as they stomped their feet and shook their fists with him in unison.

McBain stepped up to the podium, and it took a good few minutes for the crowd to calm down enough to listen to what he had to say, his gleaming teeth bright in the spotlights, his hair so perfectly trimmed it could have been moulded from clay. "I want to say," and the crowd went wild again, and he held up his hands, good natured and happy but in the manner of a nice dad, telling those kids to settle down now, he had a thing or two that needed to be heard. He waited for a pause in the applause and began again. "I want to say what an honour it is to be here in Baltimore, a city of such great history and art, the cornerstone of the United Main's great cultural achievements. We are blessed to have such a great and wonderful nation within which to display our talents, and as we strive to become stronger, those talents will help us in finding worldwide stability that other nations will be forced to envy. We are a strong nation, set to become stronger with every Alpha we bring into it, our goals clear and our hearts ready to forge a path through all barriers. Other nations harshly criticize our way of life, but do they have the economic might that we do? Do they not bend to our sanctions? They treat their Omegas as equals, a mistake and a lie to the very nature of our biology. The rest of the world offers that rarer portion of our populace freedoms the wayward, docile Omega knows not what to do with. We are the nation that strives to do what's right! We keep our citizens safe!"

There was massive cheering to this display of ignorance, and Will grit his teeth, forcing himself to watch the video in its entirety.

"We need to be able to shut out the world, because we don't need outside influence, we are our own universe and we have proven we are mighty. We are a family and we need to act like one. To do that, we need to start focusing on what it means to be a United Main.

Think about that word...'United'. I plan on bringing in policies that make that word have meaning again. We need to bring the Mainland into our fold, to have laws that all of our nation, our United Main, are accountable to and follow to the letter. Their co-operation must be demanded, by military force if necessary. The Mainland is wracked with poverty, yes this is true, and I propose that to combat this we stop the over concentration of Coastline economies and consider expansion *within*. The Mainland need not be a lawless wasteland of do nothings and poorly treated Omegas. Laws will be put in place to keep all Omegas in the entirety of the United Main safe in their homes, free of abuse and harassment and keeping their promiscuous habits in check.

Clearly , what we do on the Coastline is exactly how it is meant to be done throughout the rest of this great nation. Who doesn't want their Omega child to be safe? And what fine examples we have here, these lovely young things draped upon the arms of the Alphas of our time, demure and beautiful."

The spotlight hit the first three rows, an onslaught of light that was no doubt painful for the female Omegas to endure. Will frowned as he watched them carefully, their eyes never wavering or wincing beneath the light, as though they'd been taught to fight through it. The Omegas were dressed in a strangely congruous uniform of pastel blue silk robes, the colour that enhancing their pallor and translucent skin. Glittering jewels adorned their gowns, shimmering perfectly cut crystals of a pale white hue that sent a blinding kaleidoscope of colour reflected back onto the stage. The security guards standing beside McBain blinked into them.

"Come on now, boys, don't be shy, show off those lovely things!" McBain bid the rows to stand and they proudly did, the Alpha males draped by their Omegas who fluttered next to them like flags of pale blue silk. "Aren't they lovely! This is what we do here on the United Main, folks, we make these sorts of beauties! And like all the world's most valued treasures, we keep them well locked away and cared for. Nobody wants a tarnished diamond!"

A dark haired Omega in the front row narrowed her eyes at this, a ferocious intelligence shining within them. Beneath the blue silk the outline of ink peered through, a plethora of tattoos that covered her body.

This was where Hell began.

History will say there were all sorts of ingenious methods by which the Omegas had concealed the long daggers in their skirts, but the facts are it was remarkably simple. No one expected them to be armed, they were the innocents of the time, believed to be conditioned into sweetness and docility with not a hint of aggression to their nature. The problem with never being heard is that when a voice finally has something serious to say, it will erupt into an intonation that is impossible to ignore. There was none of that simpering conditioning present when all that stretched before every bonded Omega's life was isolated suffering. History might find it surprising that a spontaneous army erupted out of this ethos, but there was no lack of organization in this. They were synchronized in military precision as they pulled free their sharp swords, hidden in the folds of silk. Razor fine edges gleamed in the harsh light as they brandished their blades with outstretched arms.

Flashbacks and conversations fluttered over Will as he watched, the smooth voice of Hannibal in his ear as he drove Will home, telling him, without hesitation, that his favourite work of art was Caravaggio's 'Judith Beheading Holofernes'.

Heads will roll, as they say.

As the Alphas fell, blood spraying thick across their Omegas' gowns, soaking them close to their lithe forms, security personnel aimed to take out the first row, only for a quick thinking Omega, the one with the hidden tattoos, to get to them first. She stabbed them both at once in the neck, skewering them like kebabs before drawing her blade back and cutting down a few more who tried to intervene. The explosions started soon after, the back entrances erupting into fire that spread in a straight line, sending the crowd into a wave of crushing panic. Screams of pain and terror coursed through the space, and all of the Omegas rushed the stage, easily felling the limp security Governor McBain had opted for.

McBain clung to his podium, unable to escape, fire all around him and surrounded by armed Omegas. A cherub faced Omega with angelic lips and sparkling green eyes approached him, taking the microphone from him and whispering into it with an echoing clarity that couldn't be misunderstood:

"The baby died."

Will saw it, then. The absolute understanding that flickered across Jeb McBain's face, that this was one personal vendetta he was not going to escape from. And in that moment, Will knew, he didn't need to turn on his empathy for this one, it was plain enough for even someone as bull headed as Jack Crawford to see, this was the man they had been looking for, this was the buyer that had lined the pockets and ambitions of Mason Verger.

Governor Jeb McBain was the Omega Murderer.

The sweet Omega's face remained angelic as she twisted her blade into his neck, severing his head completely from it and laughing as it rolled off of the podium and into the crowd where it was trampled beneath the hundreds of panicked high heels and sneakers like soft fruit.

The video ended there. He scrolled back up to Freddie Lounds' live news report but she had drifted into the periphery of the crowd, seeking eye-witness reactions to the events, the shaking heads and horror of the people on the street already creating tough political divides. "This is going to be about the Mainland, in the end," a grizzled looking man Will recognized as their taxi driver from the other night said to Lounds. He shook his head, his unruly beard tossed over his shoulder as he let out a whistle of lamentation. "Things are going to get bad all over. War's a coming, you'll see. When they write up them history books in future, it'll be that blowhard they blame."

Will turned off the news feed and saw that Jack had been trying to get a hold of him again, texting him frantically in between calls. Will turned off his cell phone and let it drop to the floor, suddenly too tired and weak to hold it. There was nothing he could now, not with how effectively Hannibal had finished him. He'd murdered Mason Verger with his bare hands while Hannibal had exacted a much older and far more reaching revenge. He closed his eyes, knowing this had all been prearranged, that he had been sent below to kill Mason as a method of distraction. He wondered how he'd ended up in their cellar and realized Hannibal had more allies than he'd originally thought. Dr. Alana Bloom would have been more than happy at this result, as would the remaining Verger heir.

Will Graham was done for. Hannibal had cut off his mate's head, too. There was no way Jack Crawford was to get any portion of his mind now, not with it so tainted with this much guilt. He had inadvertently become complicit in Hannibal's master plan. The Chesapeake Ripper had nothing to fear from him.

In the corner of the room, in the darkness, the machines ticked and whirred. Will closed his eyes and stretched his neck, his muscles aching in places he didn't realize he'd had tendons. He sighed and stood up from the harpsichord bench and approached that which Hannibal had latched all of his hope upon, a heavy weight for someone this young to bear. Will traced a fingertip along the outside of the glass, the warmth of it strangely soothing.

"Goodnight," he said to it, and left the room.


Chapter Text


Little fish, big fish, swimming in the water.
Come back here, man, gimme my daughter.
Little fish, big fish, swimming in the water.
Come back here, man, gimme my daughter.

--'Down By The Water', PJ Harvey



chapter seventeen

The sound that wails across the lit city of Baltimore is the lamentation of a spoiled child that has finally been told it can no longer wallow in its selfishness. The child cries and offers up its woeful argument, insisting that what it wants is for the good of everyone, but as is the case for those with the narrow focus of the navel, this is a lie. The selfish child only want nurture solely for itself. It does not want to share and it bullies the quiet, shy hand that reaches towards it. It kicks and hurts the weaker child, stealing from it, spreading rumours about it, making that sorry little sibling endlessly weep. The spoiled child wants what it wants without the annoyance of consequence. It is shocked when the result of its mean efforts are not what it had imagined.

Baltimore is on fire, a series of flames lighting across its horizon as looting and general chaos descends upon the city. The citizens themselves are eager to make an example of the place, the mob taking its cue from the vicious rendering of all that represents power and privilege amongst the Coastline royalty. It is mayhem that rules the Coast now, not the random, picked and chosen laws of the GSF nor its oppression with Federal might as it wandered into the bedrooms of every Coastline resident. Into the vast flames that are cast into the darkness, Baltimore has become a starting point for a larger stain, one set to spread in a long line throughout the Coastline until it is no longer habitable, until all that had made it great disintegrates into the squeezing grip of civil war.

The spoiled child weeps and points accusing fingers at the Mainland. It wants someone to pay, even if the rest of the Earth tells it to hush, and calm itself, and take a clearer look beyond its own wants to see the broken toys it has left in the wake of its constant, arrogant tantrums.

Dr. Hannibal Lecter stood with his hands clasped behind his back in front of his stately home, deep, satisfied breaths cleansing his soul and leaving an unfamiliar sense of peace behind. The success of the night was bathed in blood and fire as he had always planned it would be, and his army had been diligent and glorious in their retribution. He had never felt such pride. As he was driven to his home, the Verger limousine filled with his first wave of Omegas, he couldn't stop himself from smiling and embracing his warrior daughters, his cheeks stained with tears at their unrelenting devotion to their cause. They had done more than merely make history this night, they had destroyed the universe a charismatic monster like Jeb McBain had tried to create. This was a victory that had far more reaching implications than a personal vendetta, even if that was how this resistance had germinated.

There were more Omegas, of course, and the other twenty had already been secretively whisked away into the Mainland by sympathetic taxi drivers, most of them from the desolate deserts and expatriates from the Texas region and some from the inner dead heart. Some were Mainland Alpha rivals for his warrior daughter Cindy Blackstock's affections. Her free promiscuity had paid off, her meddling inlaws were turned into black bacon smouldering beneath the ruins of the Baltimore Convention Centre and she couldn't be happier. She was set to leave her once miserable Alpha mate behind, allowing him to live the rest of his life in conjugal bliss with his Beta boyfriend while she moved into the Mainland, enjoying whoever took her fancy. It was an envious sort of freedom that the other Omegas regarded with notes of suspicion, but he had no worries. Cindy would be sure to educate them all.

The limousine pulled away and Hannibal, proud and erect as he stood on the front step of his home, waved at the driver in thanks, earning a stern nod in response from the deeply black browed man at the wheel. Yosef, Verger's chauffeur, had lost his own Omega daughter to traffickers many years ago, and he had become an active participant in Hannibal's plans. As the driver, he'd facilitated the escape of his key Omegas, and with the memory of what one of Mason Verger's purchasers had done to his daughter, he was already itching to be the getaway man again.

Hannibal waited until the black shape of the limousine was swallowed up by the sharp curve in the road leading out of Hannibal's neighbourhood, black trees obscuring his house from view of the street. He quickly opened his front door and bolted it behind him once he was in, a habit he was going to have to get used to. He wasn't one to lock his doors as he was usually prepared for an enemy's attack, and besides, a misguided home invasion had often resulted in ample Alpha produce, rather like a home delivery service. But he couldn't take such risks now, not with his precious jewel waiting for him in the corner of his atrium, the whirring and clicking of machines drawing him closer like an infant alligator's sonnet to its mother. He didn't take off his coat, his steps long and purposeful as he strode through the corridor leading into the kitchen and then beyond into the dining room, straight past the open trap door leading into the cellar and then, there she was, waiting for him in the muffled near silence of the atrium. He felt his heart lighten as he stepped towards her with outstretched arms, his fingers dancing in anticipation of touching her. As he approached, he sensed her sleeping form within the jar, and with hands held wide he slid them along the jar's warm, smooth circumference, a relieved sigh leaving him.

The shock of how deeply she had already embedded herself within him was a source of wonder, for he had never thought it would be this easy to recollect that which he had thought lost amongst the debris in the bottom dwellings of his dungeon on his soul's ocean floor. Yet here she was, perfect and waiting, as though gift wrapped into his life, a precious addition that sent every molecule in his veins pumping with the sole purpose of giving her more, always more, until she was chubby with love. From the moment he'd seen the barest hint of her within the jar he had been hopelessly lost to her needs and he refused to falter in them.

What was this? Another handprint on the lid of the jar, a bloodied soiling that had tempted the handle, and thought better of it. Concerned, Hannibal ghosted his fingers along the glass, checking her temperature with a quick glance at one of the monitors, as well as eyeing the equipment for any signs of sabotage. He squared his shoulders, ensuring that all was well, that she hadn't been tampered with, though it was clear the temptation had been there. He fought the shaking rage as the very thought of this betrayal scraped like open blades within him, and he pushed down those inward swords with effort. Will would explain to him what this meant, and he was sure he would get a satisfactory answer.

Will. Ah yes, his darling, dear Will, it was evident he had been busy, the streaks of blood sliming the floor in the atrium and dining room an extended, answering poem to the love note Hannibal had left him in the form of Mason Verger tied up in the cold room. He was probably tired from his ordeal, though Hannibal felt energized, ready to talk until morning, his adrenaline still pumping with joy over the events of the evening. He gave his sleeping daughter a kiss beside Will's bloody handprint, and bid her a whispered 'goodnight' before taking his steps back into the kitchen. He slid off his spring coat and carelessly laid it over the marble top of his kitchen island and snatched a couple of wine glasses, along with an opened red merlot that was still languishing in their refrigerator. Humming Bach's 'Goldberg Variations', Hannibal followed the thick blood trail to the open cellar trap door and began his descent, the stems of two wine glasses tucked between his fingers as he gripped the merlot by the neck with his other hand. He had a bounce to his step as he made his way into the dimly lit space, the stench of freshly spilled blood so powerful it eclipsed the usual mossy dank of his favoured lair. Upping the tempo of the Bach against the back of his throat, Hannibal placed the glasses of wine and the bottle on top of Will's crime lab photos which were still spread over the prep table. He peered into their bedroom, but the deliciously soft fur blankets hadn't been touched since Hannibal had made their bed that morning. With pursed lips he inspected the small space, and dared to take a peek into the cold room, where he was instantly assailed by the stench of blood and bowels, not a pleasant combination by any means. Mason Verger was no more, in fact the pink putty that was smeared along every inch of the walls and floor of the cold room revealed he had been properly obliterated. Pleased, Hannibal closed the cold room door, and figured he would take a pressure hose to it tomorrow, after shovelling up the larger chunks of human debris and disposing of them first, of course. No need to make a mess of the house's plumbing.

He heard water splash, and Will's whereabouts were revealed. Hannibal let out a contented sigh as he walked into the grey light of the bathing room, the ripples of water on the surface of Will's bath reflected on the ceiling and walls of the small room. Hannibal paused in front of the tall mirror, adjusting the red silk bonding at his neck and smoothing down imaginary wrinkles in his silky black suit before turning towards Will. Will didn't look at him as he came in, his gaze affixed to the ceiling as water pinked from sloughing off the blood and chunks of Mason Verger coursed over his body in even waves.

Hannibal sat on the curved, ceramic edge of the deep bathtub, his hand testing the water and finding the temperature perfect. Will's nude body rippled beneath it as he slid his wet hand on the now dry, rounded shape of Will's knee which was poking up from the water's surface. "A late night, dear Will. You must be very tired."

"As are you," Will said, still concentrating on the ceiling. Hannibal cocked his head to one side and traced circles with his fingernail on the rounded mound of Will's knee. Will blinked and then shifted his head, his beard dipping into the water. "I killed Mason."

"I saw."

"The whole city is in flames."

"I hadn't intended for the city to plunge itself into riots over the events that happened at the Convention Centre, but one must make room for the unexpected. I see you were inspecting my daughter's home, Will, your bloody handprint is on the lid of the jar. Were you hoping to set her free prematurely?"

Hannibal braced himself, the levels of hurt he felt welling through him like the ripples in Will's bath, and though he was pained to do it, he would protect his daughter. He sought out easy items to dispatch of him with within the bathing room. A razor, that would do, slicing quick along his neck and he would simply bleed out in the bath, which made for an easy clean up besides. He could smash the mirror and cut out his heart with a shard, that would be equally appropriate seeing as how what Will had nearly done would have rendered Hannibal in a likewise state. Murder of a man he loved was a drastic measure, but Hannibal had to coldly prioritize, he couldn't risk losing her again, this was the third try and if it didn't work this time...

"Hannibal, I wasn't going to open the damn jar so stop killing me." Will groaned and eased the crook of his neck against the rounded edge of the tub. "That being said, I'm not getting attached to it. For me, it's just a fish in an aquarium, I can't see it as a person, not yet. Just give me some time, Hannibal. If she makes it, if she actually starts looking like a damn baby, well...That'll be pretty damn miraculous and we can go from there. I don't have the connection to it that you do, Hannibal, and it's not fair to judge me for it. When I'm holding her in my arms, that's when she'll be my daughter, not before."

Hannibal startled at this, his hand dipping back into the water its perfect warmth bathing his heart. He inclined his head softly, and suddenly felt an overwhelming rush of emotion at what Will had just said. "You are eager to embrace her," Hannibal said, and fought to keep his smile from being too obvious.

Will shrugged upwards in the bath, his eyes fluttering closed as the water sloshed in gentle waves against his chest. "Of course I am. She's your baby, Hannibal, why wouldn't I want to hold her?"

Hannibal slid off his shoes and then stepped, fully clothed in his expensive silken black suit, into the bath with Will. Pink water sloshed over the edge of the bath in a steady waterfall onto the black and white floor tiles as Hannibal immersed himself. He slid against Will in a wet embrace, curling against him in the warm water. He placed a cool, underwater kiss against Will's neck before resting his head against Will's shoulder, submerging his cheek.

Will's hand left the water and stroked Hannibal's hair, wetting it further. The ends of the silk bonding collar floated along the surface, like ribbons against a fierce wind. "I'm going to be a very good father."

Hannibal wound his arm around Will's waist, the wet cloth of his suit ballooning around Will's bare skin. "I don't doubt it at all. You are a man of deep insights and profound understanding. You destroyed that which had tainted her, she is solely our flesh and blood now." Hannibal nuzzled Will's neck, his face partially cut in half by the surface of the water that reflected black at that angle. He slid further up, his lips kissing the pink tinged water as he spoke. "How shall we raise her? I aim to love, first, and then bring all manner of knowledge to her, nothing shall be barred from her future. What paternal joys will you present her with? I know you will be kind, you will be a strong and solid presence she can rely on. You will read to her, and she will be mesmerized by how you wrap her so fervently in story."

"I have a lot of them to tell. But there are some that might not be wise to read." Will kissed Hannibal's temple, his lips overly wet and cool against Hannibal's warmed skin. "There's one I have ready to tell now, but I don't want her to hear it. Do you want me to tell you that story, the one that can never be whispered again?"

"Which story is that, my dear Will?"

Will combed his wet fingers through Hannibal's hair, and he closed his eyes, mesmerized by the gentle ease of Will's touch. He could lay like this forever, drowned with Will in this place where none of his demons could find a footing. Will's heart felt warmer than the water as Hannibal placed his splayed hand over it, water lapping up over his knuckles.

"It's a story about the Chesapeake Ripper," Will said. Hannibal frowned against Will's cheek, and descended once again, his cheeks submerged as he nosed Will's neck and stretched the length of his own, bidding Will to caress him. "Do you want to hear it?" Will whispered to him, and Hannibal closed his eyes, giving Will the barest of nods against his wet flesh. Yes.

"How shall I start it?" Will whispered against the dark ripples that coursed over them both, the entire room set to drown them in water and words. "Should I say 'Once upon a time'?"

Hannibal curled against him, knees drawn up to his stomach, his arm draped across Will's shoulders, the posture not unlike a child seeking comfort. Will raised his chin above the water and kissed Hannibal's forehead.

"Once upon a time...There was a brilliant young Omega with a mind as vast and deep as every ocean fashioned upon the earth and just as dangerous. He had already fought through great tragedies in his life and he was finally aiming to start a new one, this time filling it with triumphs. The chance to be a success on the shores of the United Main was within his grasp and it was an easy thing to check 'Alpha' on his application forms. With a mind and determination like his, no one doubted he was anything less. He earned a full scholarship to John Hopkins and though he was an artist he had always had an interest in anatomy and he transferred this passion into becoming a surgeon.

He was top of the class, envied and feared by his fellow students who he didn't associate with, both out of fear of discovery and an inner arrogance that he was steeped in. He didn't need anyone else, his studies kept him company and when isolation crept into his consciousness he would conjure up the image of his late sister, Mischa, who he lost at a young age. It was she who sat at his side while he studied for long hours, ignoring the ostracizing of his peers who reacted to his single mindedness with a sense of fear and in some cases, jealousy. He took hormone supplements to fool them into thinking he was Alpha for while he'd heard that the United Main was not a good place for Omegas, he hadn't realized the extent of that prejudice. He knew only a tenth of the divide been the culture of the Coastline and the poverty stricken Mainlands.

He managed to hide his heat cycles, ordering a hotel room for the purpose during the season and suffering terribly in silence. This worked well for the entirety of his education, until he was in the final stretch of his residency in John Hopkins. He was set to become a full blown surgeon, with a specialist concentration on the human heart. He was young, and beautiful and completely alone. He couldn't wait to earn the money needed to finally chuck the shores of the United Main behind him and take the skills he learned elsewhere.

He would have succeeded. He would have found himself on some beautiful shore where he could be who he was in full freedom, finally able to connect with others in ways he hadn't been permitted before. The realization of a dream, and the ghost of his late sister Mischa was so proud...

And then a heat came and he wasn't fully over it when he had to work and couldn't get out of the responsibility no matter how hard he tried. He took a near overdose of suppressants and mixed it with chemical Alpha hormones and while it masked his Omega scent easily enough from the Betas and lower level Alphas, there was one who detected it, and who had been watching him for a while.

There are a lot of questions I have for the Ripper in this instance, because there are a few variables I haven't been able to decipher. How did he capture you? Did he drug you? Did he beat you unconscious? Did someone help him subdue you? He was an arrogant Coastliner with a long list of abuses in his past, none of which he was punished for because he was an Alpha of the Coastline elite. You must listen carefully, Hannibal, because this is the part of the story that is most important, this is the part where the Chesapeake Ripper was born...So don't be frightened. It's a story, after all, and it has a happy ending. Yes, I promise.

The Chesapeake Ripper was caught and imprisoned, placed in cruelly in chains. There was a thick metal collar that was too small affixed to his neck, and it had a sharp point on it, one that cut into his skin deep enough to scar it. But this was not the scar that would wound him to his core, this was just a reminding scratch. For the second time in his life he was exposed to evil and this time on a very personal level. The Alpha meant to harm him, and he did, in the most vile way he could.

Everything was a threat after that.

He refused to allow the evil the Alpha had done to destroy his future so he suffered his way through the next few months, eager to get his medical license so he could leave this dungeon of a country and be safer elsewhere. But as time stretched on, his body warned him that his plans were not to be made alone.

He could feel her, swimming like a little fish inside of him, bumping against the confines of that tiny inner pond that was rich with life. Despite how she arrived, he wanted her, for after what he had experienced there was no way an Alpha was ever going to touch him again. Hiding her was near impossible, he couldn't take the Alpha hormones because they could potentially harm her. He had to protect her at all costs, for she was the rebirth of his sister, the second chance at hope, and he was not going to lose her. So he did what was necessary.

The Chesapeake Ripper rose from within his cage of flesh and killed his ethics professor and ate his liver and his thalamus, and probably his heart later. He realized he needed an organic supply of Alpha hormones that would nourish her and protect her home, which was in turn himself. And every time guilt tried to surface, he would pick at the scar on his neck, reopening it, reminding himself of what Alphas on this shore were capable of, and he felt justified.

He made so many plans. He was eager to get started on his new life, bringing her with him and spinning a vast mythology around the two of them, for he loved her dearly already, he spoke to her in obscure languages, he named her and was excited at the prospect of taking her out of dreams and into his arms. At each month of her growth he could easily calculate how much she would weigh as he held her in his imaginings.

Contrary to what we are taught in the United Main, Omega males are not barren. They are, however, often brutally abused by their Alpha mates thanks to a system that has sanctioned it. He was attacked again, possibly by the Alpha father, though I suspect it was another, a partner in crime who was in the early stages of his deviance. He harmed, but the Chesapeake Ripper didn't let him live. He was shocked at being murdered by someone he wrongly perceived as weak. The Ripper ate his liver and made black pudding from his blood. He was a rich source of Alpha nutrients and hormonal masking for a while.

The vile thing that had been the sire of his little fish was frightened enough by this retaliation to leave him alone after that. He skipped a few states and went into law school, with a heavy leaning on political science.

But still, the Ripper had been harmed, and her little pond had been disturbed, slowly leaking dry, and one day he awoke to discover she was no longer swimming and bumping into the reeds within his stomach, she was no longer fluttering happily against his skin. He found someone to help him, a friendly Beta who was horrified by what had happened. And he told him the truth, which the Ripper has always respected him for. That his little fish was gone, and it would be a matter of days before its stagnant pond would dry up and leave nothing behind.

Hush, Hannibal, don't cry. This story has a happy ending, remember? Don't cry.

She had been stolen, this magical koi upon which he'd placed all his hope. There was no point leaving the United Main now.

He eventually switched his career, taking up psychiatry, not because of the high statistical mortality of his Alpha patients, but because every time he opened up a patient's body cavity to operate he expected to find his little fish swimming within it.

He had a plan. He always does. His sorrow gradually turned to rage and it wasn't long before Omegas were coming to his practise, telling him of cruelties that reflected his own back. He was prepared as he watched the years slip past, and the man who had murdered his dreams gained momentum within the political miasma of the Coastline elite. He is very patient, the Chesapeake Ripper. He will make an excellent mother.

Within his Omega patients he planted the seed of revolution. He made warriors out of their sadness, pulling them into the strength of his samurai ancestors and releasing them upon the world. He chose his method of retribution carefully, for it wasn't enough to sate his own hurt, he had an army's to fulfill. There were many miraculous signs that were guideposts towards his goal, a career given him with the FBI that would obfuscate his efforts with ease, work relationships that served as deflection. Even as he was discovered he found allies hidden deep within the framework of his connections, eager to dismiss his murderous tendencies. The cruel pantomime of his past shockingly brought back that which had been stolen from him. His ocean depths were pulled to the surface, coalescing into the contents of a jar where his strong, precious little fish had returned. He was ready, for all of Fate had predestined this, and all the world was to stand up and take note of his fury.

How glorious it was, the earth cracking open and releasing his army as it rushed the weak compound of his enemy, crushing that Alpha who had so viciously hurt him and others like him. As the entire city burned to the ground he realized he had accomplished so much more than mere revenge. This was revolution. This was a declaration of war.

He stands on the precipice of it even now, victorious and shining against the carnage, so like his heritage, the echoing clap of his ancestors sharing in his battle cry. What happens now is the mythology of history, and he is its glorious epicentre."

The water in the bath was now cold, and Hannibal shivered against Will's likewise cooled body. His clothes were so saturated they weighted him down within the water, and if Will deigned to slide his face beneath it with a gentle push and never let him up again, he would be satisfied with this. He pressed his lips close to Will's ear. "Tell me another story, Will. Tell me the one about how the Chesapeake Ripper fell in love."

Will turned his head and sighed against Hannibal's mouth, their lips turning blue in the grey light of the bathing room. "You've heard this one before, and we should get out of this bath before we turn into ice cubes." Will stroked the back of Hannibal's head, his hands wrinkled and soft against the back of his neck. "It's a silly story, really.  I believe it started with a kiss..."


Will sipped at his morning coffee as he watched Hannibal fuss over his little fish, a moniker Will couldn't shake himself from using and one that Hannibal himself had already absconded and had used twice already. Dressed in a quilted, red silk dressing gown, he appeared soft and harmless in the muted light, a delicate doe with her fawn checking on her hidden form within the dense foliage. Will sat on the harpsichord's bench and contemplated that it would be a good idea to move one of the many antique couches into the atrium, for Hannibal's comfort as he tended to their daughter as well as Will's own. Hannibal was currently wiping down the surface of the glass jar with a warm, damp cloth, ridding her of fingerprints and evidence of Will's revulsion. Hannibal had been very busy this morning. Will awoke that morning alone in his bed and the remnants of Mason Verger miraculously scrubbed clean from both the killing room and upstairs. Hannibal would not tolerate such filth to be in such close proximity to his baby.

Will cell phone buzzed, and he sighed, giving Hannibal a knowing look as he answered it. "Hey, Jack."

"You don't know how to fucking call back? You left me hanging on Armageddon last night, Will." Jack cursed and Will listened to his Alpha pacing as he rustled papers on his desk. He was no longer at the charred ruins of the Baltimore Convention Centre, and Will guessed he was back in the relative comfort of his office in Quantico.

"Sorry about that Jack, we had...uh...There were some pressing issues that I had to take care of."

Jack ploughed on as though he hadn't spoken. "We tore apart McBain's campaign bus looking for connections and we sure as hell found some. We're talking some pretty damning evidence, Will. A whole photograph album, full of Polaroid of Omega victims. McBain's been doing this shit for decades and we never caught him because the GSF figured he was killing throwaways. Fucking sick prick. He dated the photos, too, the earliest one was inked in all the way back in '92, some unknowable young male Omega with an iron collar clamped on his neck. The picture's kind of fuzzy because he was trying to fight back, it'll make it real hard to identify that one, if we can at all. We handed off a chunk of these to that cold case historian Lily Rush, she's been working some of these already for a long time. There's close to a hundred, about four to five a year. Our latest Omega murders are in there, too. Can you fucking believe this? Makes me sick to think that guy could have become president, for fuck's sake."

"Yeah, it's a hell of a thing," Will said and sipped at his coffee with exhausted boredom. "Jack, I'm sorry I didn't get back to you last night, I had a bit of a family emergency here." Will paused, and chewed his bottom lip wondering how best to frame the news. "Hannibal wasn't feeling well, I mean, he hasn't been for a while and I was worried and...Let's just say he took a few tests and we got unexpected results."

"What do you mean he took tests? What kind of tests?" Jack's protective Alpha hackles were way, way up. "Is he sick?"

"No," Will said, choosing his words with the utmost care and gaining a questioning tilt of the head from Hannibal in the corner. "Let's just say we're now a trio instead of a duo."

Jack made a shocked, choking sound on the other end of the line. "You have to be joking."

"I'm not."

"You of all people. Dammit, Graham, I don't think my heart can take these kinds of shock treatments. I guess it happened during his heat, so that's what, three and a half months ago? Well, that explains his behaviour at that last crime scene. Jesus, Will, I thought male Omegas were barren, what the hell?"

Will stared at the machines as they clicked and whirred, the jar and its little fish a thing dwarfed beneath tubes and IV's hooked up to it in a clump of medical technology that made Will's head swim. "I'd say Hannibal's condition is very complicated. The obstetrician has ordered bed rest for the rest of the gestation and to say there's a lot of careful monitoring going on is an understatement."

"I don't know what to say. I guess it's congratulations, but it's quite a nasty world that child is coming into, Will. Have you seen the news this morning? Coastline GSF are gearing up and getting sent to guard the boundary lines along the Mainland. By next week we'll be in the middle of a civil war." He could hear Jack clicking a pen open and shut, as though weighing his options. "I take it this means you're on leave?"

"I can still teach," Will offered. "But you're right, with the way things are going, I can see it as clearly as you do. I'm a Mainlander, Jack, the Coastline is going to be a dangerous place for a fish out of water like me to be." He gave Hannibal's small smile at this one of his own. "I'm thinking of heading back to Louisiana. My grandmother's property is still floating on the bayou, we can be comfortable there for a while."

Jack gruffly huffed an assent. "I can't see Hannibal being suited to that kind of life, he likes his creature comforts. You sure that's what you both want to do?"

Will's eyes fluttered closed as Hannibal approached him, his elegant hands framing Will's face as he looked down at him in such naked need it was difficult to ever envision him as a serial murderer, let alone the devil himself. "I'm sure, Jack."

"You're one of my best, Graham," Jack said, his voice wistful. "Remember...You always got family here."

He hung up his cell as Hannibal draped his arms over him, placing soft kisses along the side of his head, lips searching through tangled locks of hair. The city of Baltimore was still burning into ruins as its less prosperous citizens tore through its veins in chaotic ferocity. The breakdown was going to happen quickly, Will knew, and he didn't need to be a man who studied politics to know the ricochet affect of what Hannibal had started. Long buried animosity was set to rise to the fore, international and domestic, and he was sure the rest of the world would deign to step in, offering arms to the Mainlanders to even out the fight. The Coastline would fight dirty with its economic power, but the Mainland had the knowledge of survival on it side, they weren't going to acquiesce to Coastal rule on starvation tactics alone.

"Jack says congratulations," Will said to Hannibal, who was now kneading the ache out of his tense shoulders. "They found McBain's trophies. A bunch of Polaroid in an album. Don't worry, they don't know one of them is you."

Will turned on his Tattle Crime app and wasn't surprised to see that Freddie Lounds had leaked McBain's grisly photo album of tortured Omegas, and was surprised to see she shared the byline of this particular article with former cold case detective turned historian Lily Rush. A bit of expertise into these cases could go a long way, Will guessed, and he opened the article to see a half dozen of the Polaroid plastered on the top of it in a graphically violent slide show. It was a valiant effort, but only a few would understand that the truth came in these kinds of battered, unhealthy packages. The article and McBain's obvious guilt was set to be quashed by mainstream Coastline news agencies, leaving the legacy of the man as either a monster or a martyr dependent upon political view a certainty. Freddie Lounds would be ridiculed in journalistic circles as a sad, word spinning hack. He doubted they'd be able to do the same to Lily Rush, however. Now there was a woman whose haunted life was made of ghosts.

He chose the image reputed to be McBain's first victim and studied the blurry image carefully, noting the sharp jut of Hannibal's cheekbones were still evident, as was the shape of his grimacing lips. The metal collar at his neck was thicker than he'd imagined it, an added torture in Hannibal's past that made Will's stomach lurch in a memory that wasn't his.

Hannibal buried his face in Will's hair as he slid beside him on the harpsichord's bench, and Will gently stroked the red silk encasing the arm that embraced him. "You smell different," Will said, breathing deep into Hannibal's neck and kissing the scar at his throat. "I like it, your skin has this alluring cleanliness to it, it's very calming for me. I could scent you all day and night, it makes me sleepy." Will tasted Hannibal's neck, liking the delicious way it made him sigh. "Is it because of the baby? It must be, your body is already reacting chemically to it, bringing all of those long denied maternal urges to the fore."

Hannibal fell into dreamy bliss as Will placed his empty mug of coffee onto the floor and turned his attentions to the slow, steady massaging of the back of Hannibal's slender, highly sensitized neck. "Did you really mean it when you told Jack we are moving to Louisiana?"

"I did. After the baby's born, it will be a safe place for her, I still have a lot of family ties there, they'll be more than surprised to see I finally settled down and had a little gator to add to the Graham clan. There'll be lots to celebrate--me moving back, that I'm bonded, a welcoming for you, then for the baby--we'll be partying for weeks." He shook his head at the irony of it. "My father might even start talking to me again, at least more than the usual small talk that we suffer through with each other on the phone. If we're plunged headfirst into civil war by then, my father will be the first man with a shotgun and handing me one to join him at the front of the line. He'll call it reconnecting with family."

"A reciprocal beginning," Hannibal observed.

"It seems that way." Will slid his fingers along the keys of the harpsichord, tempting them into sound. Hannibal rested his head on Will's shoulder as the strings were plucked into lazy notes. "You're going to have to kill some people. I imagine with it being war this will make that easier."

"I will donate blood religiously but I won't be able to keep up with her nutritional needs during her final months," Hannibal admitted. "I was originally planning on simply breaking into a blood lab, but perhaps more familiar methods of such sustenance are wise to implement. As war breaks out, the routine disappearance of people will become common enough. Displaying them as victims of violent skirmishes will be remarkably simple, though I will need to avoid my usual flare for the dramatic. We wouldn't want our Uncle Jack to catch on that certain corpses share a similarity in blood type."

Will lightly laughed at this, his fingers splayed across the keys of the harpsichord in a playful, but concentrated, purpose. "Do you think she would like to hear me play for her? You've been gorging her on Bach and Mozart, but if she's to be my little girl she's always going to have a thing for daddy's ragtime blues. What should I play? I know, how about something smooth, that has the lilt of a lullaby? Bethena by Scott Joplin, that will do."

Will's hands moved with a calculated grace over the keyboard, the notes pulled out with a slow and tender melancholy in remembrance of what the composer had suffered when he'd brought them to life. The great ragtime composer Scott Joplin had only been married ten weeks when his wife succumbed to pneumonia, and Bethena, his first published composition, was dedicated to her memory. The piece was a testament to his genius for it became a happy, toe tapping melody when played at a faster tempo and was a sorrowful waltz when played slower. Will opted for the latter, the notes strong and poignant.

Hannibal understood his mate's choice, his attention riveted beyond the horizon of the harpsichord's strings, to that pumping, whirring, clicking corner that held their future amassed within it. "I am uncertain of what this will bring as well, Will. Though I feel the tug of her weight within me as though I am carrying her, it is one that is admittedly more heavy with worry than joy. Is it wrong of me, even in the midst of my fervour and passion to keep her, to admit that I am afraid?"

Will paused over the keys, his hands hovering above them, leaving the ivories bathed in the slender shadow of his touch. "No, Hannibal. It's not wrong."

He recognized it, then, the vast ocean that had been thrust open, the demons set free to create their havoc upon the world, Hannibal's broken pieces placed into Will's cupped hands to hold onto. He was as vulnerable now as finely threaded silk about to be severed with a blade. Hannibal couldn't be any more raw and exposed to Will if he opened his chest cavity and asked him to kiss the gory pump-pump of his heart.

"We should give her a name," Will said, and Hannibal grinned at this.

"I already have, dear Will."

"Oh?" Will slid his fingers over the keys of the harpsichord once again, resuming his playing. The notes carried a low lament, one that soothed the gently rocking jar in the corner, a tiny human foot the size of a dime pressed against the glass the only sign that anything living was actually present. "Do tell."

Hannibal kissed Will's ear, his grin predatory, his teeth grazing cartilage as he whispered with eager, delighted persuasion into it.

"Her name is Judith."




Chapter Text

chapter eighteen--epilogue

---three years later---

Will sat across from Hannibal in a comfortable, leather chair, a glass containing two fingers of whiskey over ice in his grip. The quiet between them was temporary, and Will contemplated the expensively put together Omega across from him, Will's empathy placing an imaginary throne of white antlers looming high behind him. They gleamed in the dim light, and Will chuckled lightly at how deftly they shut out everything else that was around them. Hannibal was always good at creating spaces that were overly close.

"Is something amusing, Will?"

"You." Will put his drink down on the low table beside him, his concentration on Hannibal never wavering. "I can't believe you're really here and actually sitting down and having a beer for once. You look so out of place, you're like the Mona Lisa in a boot sale."

Hannibal was annoyed at this and he pursed his lips in pique. "I made a promise to you, and I always keep my promises. Besides, my being here is of great significance for Chloe, and provides me with an insight into her that I had only gained from her descriptions." Hannibal tapped at the armchair of his leather seat with a measure of impatience. "Have you heard from Jack?"

Will groaned at this. "You need to stop pestering them." He sat back in his seat and, seeing Hannibal's tense posture and overall sense of unease, he finally relented and took out his cell phone, tossing it to Hannibal who caught it in cupped hands. "Just so we're clear, we're talking about two federal agents, here."

Hannibal ignored him and dialled Jack Crawford, the phone pressed tight against his ear. It was answered on the third ring, and it was Bella, Jack's Beta wife, who answered, and Hannibal put her on speaker so Will could hear her as well. "Dr. Lecter! What a pleasure! Jack was just saying it's been a whole hour since you last called and he was getting worried."

Her voice was pleasantly sarcastic and Will cut in, "I've been trying to distract him."

The sound of children screaming in laughter cut through the speaker and Will gave Hannibal a raised brow and a knowing look. "I take it nothing is on fire?" Will asked.

"Just my nerves," Bella said, laughing, "Hold on, I'll get Jack. Jack! It's Will..."

There was a good natured scuffling in the background accompanied by childish giggling that dissipated as a screen door slammed shut. "Don't go digging up my flowers!" A grumbling Jack Crawford got onto the phone. "No one is starving to death, no one has exploded. I can't be answering my phone on the hour, what is wrong with you? Does this have to happen every time he goes into heat? Every single time, Graham, tell him to take a pill or deep throat you or something. You'd think after three years he'd figure out Bella and I are more than capable of babysitting your kid!"

Will took the phone from Hannibal, who was now stewing in anger, and turned off the speaker, making the call a personal one. "He's in heat, Jack, it's biology, it's got nothing to do with you."

"Yeah, whatever, just fuck the paranoia out of him, then." He heard a sharp admonishment from Bella in the background and Jack turned to another, higher pitched voice who was with her. "It was duck, sweetie! Bella, tell Judith I said *duck*!"

Will grinned into the phone as a tiny voice was collected into it. "Daddy! I think Uncle Jack said a bad word!"

"Are you having fun, Fishie?"

"I got in the pool and then Gregory ate a piece of grass and that was gross. He's not a cow, Daddy. Daddy! There's a dragonfly! And it's big, like a bird! People can't eat grass, Daddy. Gregory is gross."

Hannibal gestured for the phone and after some more intense tiny banter with their daughter, Will handed it to him. Hannibal practically melted in his seat at the sound of their daughter's voice, his conversation dipping into Lithuanian endearments as his little fish eagerly told him about her day. Hannibal was still grinning when he said goodbye and hung up the cell, after a brief 'thank-you' to a rather harried Bella. He put the cell phone in his side jacket pocket.

"See? Nothing to worry about."

"I have decided I am glad that Margot and Alana insisted Judith have a relationship with their son. Gregory is her sibling, after all, and Dr. Bloom was absolutely correct in ensuring that a connection between them remain." Hannibal primly placed clasped hands over his stomach, an uneasiness still hovering around his person. "I hope I can last through the performance, I'm not feeling very well."

Will raised a knowing brow. "We can always just go upstairs to our room and, you know, take care of things..."

"No, I told Chloe I would listen to her father play, and that is what we are doing."

The white antlers behind him faded into the background of Will's imagination and the entirety of the blues bar came into view. It was a dark and clean space, with scattered furnishings littering it rather than formal tables and chairs like one would find in a Coastline restaurant. Here, everything was made for homey comfort and donated couches, leather armchairs and glassware were scattered haphazardly between mismatched wooden dining chairs and tables. The place had been in business since long before Will had been born and it was one of Ezra Graham's favourite haunts.

It was beginning to get threadbare, however, and Will looked around, taking in the broken boards in the floor and the servings of food that were just a tad too small. The war was pinching everyone in the Mainland, but that didn't mean you left hospitality and friendship behind. The walls were lined with propped shotguns, every one of them loaded and ready for an unexpected invasion. The Coastline GSF had burned down two Louisiana schoolhouses last week, and the region was at the ready for another attack.

Still, this freedom was a far cry from what they'd had during the last months of their stay in Baltimore. The birth of Judith had been fraught with worry, as the Coastline began cracking down on Omega activities and their home was put into armed lock down, making both Will and Hannibal prisoners during the final eighth month of her gestation. They'd taken away all of Will's dogs, much against his fervent protests, and two of them were shot on sight when they tried to protect their home. He had no idea what had happend to Winston, and his cell phone wallpaper was all that he had left of his old friend. The sore point of that history was a foreshadowing of what came later. Due to the sentries at their door, Hannibal hadn't been able to hunt for her usual sustenance, and his own donated blood had reached its limit. She was malnourished in that last month, and when she started showing distress and the GSF officers posted outside their home wouldn't allow Dr. Sutcliffe in, Hannibal was prepared to assassinate every one of them, using a bow and arrow he'd secreted away in the floorboards of the attic of his stately home. He was ready to deliver a bloodbath as Judith's birthright. Luckily, it had been unnecessary. Will had taken off the lid of the jar and pulled their baby out of her murky pond, frantically breathing life into her when it seemed her tiny lungs couldn't comprehend the shock of a world outside of glass. But her whimpering protest into their lives fell them both in relief and that four pound, six ounce miracle was now a healthy, precocious three year old with enough energy to run a small city.

The GSF guards at their home in Baltimore had been unnecessary, for Hannibal had no intention of leaving it when he had Judith to tend to, and the months following her birth had been an obsession of matronly care and connection, one that Will himself was pulled into. He discovered he loved her little hands as they gripped onto his finger, the little mews that quieted the second he held her close. If there was Verger in her, he summarily destroyed it with his love for her. The imprint was made the second he'd placed his lips over her tiny, blue mouth and forced air in, his soul swallowed hungrily into her little, round belly.

Hannibal didn't want her in a damp cellar, and an upstairs room had been prepared, with heavy curtains to block out overly bright sunlight, their marital bed not far from her cradle. It was fascinating to Will, the chemical ties that wound between them, Hannibal's scent the same as Judith's, only slightly less sweet, the anticipation he had for her needs before she even had a chance to cry. They were hardly months of imprisonment, the guards outside their home kept the chaos overwhelming the streets of Baltimore at bay, and they slept easy under their careful armed watch, even if it was directed at the occupants.

But life cannot thrive under locks and when Judith was eight months old and still easily portable, they made the decision to make their escape. The Coastline was increasingly becoming a dangerous place for Omegas and their families, and it wasn't unheard of for GSF guards to suddenly raid a home and toss the occupants onto the streets, innocent Omegas hauled into custody because of a neighbour's complaint of 'revolutionary talk'. Such accusations could come about simply due to an Omega stepping past the confines of their front porch, to peek out at the world beyond the walls of their home. Such leniencies were no longer tolerated.

Was Hannibal to blame for all of this? The media, save for the now blacklisted, underground Freddie Lounds seemed to think so, with calls for the arrest of the elusive Chesapeake Ripper, a monster of talons and teeth that ripped Alpha children from their beds at night. Despite the facts that Governor Jeb McBain was a vicious murderer of Omegas and was set to start a war with the Mainland anyway, it was the Ripper who earned that distinction in Coastline politics. McBain still got what he wanted. His slaughter and that of his supporters was for naught.

The world outside of the United Main was, thankfully, not on the Coastline's side, and the long list of abuses of personal freedoms had finally caught up in international law. The Mainland received ample support, mostly from Romania and other more progressive countries, and it was due to their influence that both Virginia and Florida had been wrenched from the Coast and were now under a now far more organized Mainland power. Heroes were starting to arise from the dusty depths of the United Main's dead heart. A homesteader named John Grey from Arizona was responsible for a daring coup against a Coastline attack that would have left a large Mainland settlement in ruins. Chloe's father even composed a song about his bravery, and Hannibal was looking forward to hearing him sing it.

The bar was slowly filling up, most of them regulars who knew Hannibal and Will well. When they made their bloody escape to Louisiana in a stolen armoured GSF van, it had felt like an exodus to another world and in many ways it was. The 'shack' Will had referred to as belonging to his grandmother was in actuality a massive white mansion that rivalled Hannibal's stately home, with at least ten formal bedrooms and a myriad of rooms that had long fallen into disuse. The estate was one of old inheritance from the first years of settlement, and there were quite a few scattered throughout the Mainland, and they were far too big for single families to use. Being fairly nomadic, it wasn't uncommon for random Mainlanders to temporarily move in for weeks at a time and then disappear as suddenly as they had arrived. The massive houses were abandoned projects that rarely held roots for the people who used them, Will's grandmother being more the exception than the rule. She mostly had used what had originally been a guest house that was a small, single roomed dwelling bordering the swamp and even this earned the occasional couch crasher. Ownership was a nebulous concept here.

Hannibal was often teased for insisting on wearing his old fashioned silken bonding collar, a tradition that had never been taken seriously in the Mainland. Regardless of whether he wore it or not, Hannibal still earned polite Alpha attention, even if Will was present. It was shocking to Hannibal at first, and he was highly guarded, only to soften as the years went by and it was clear the attention was easy to dismiss. Mainlander Alphas had codes of their own, and one of them was hands off uninterested Omegas. It angered Will when one was especially flirtatious, but challenging Alphas always quickly backed down. It was a certain chivalrous form of behaviour, Hannibal noted, both a compliment to Will's choice in mate as well as an acknowledgement of the Omega's power.

Chloe's father approached the stage and Will and Hannibal turned in their seats near the bar's fireplace to watch him. Chloe was onstage as well, the song was a duet, and from the anticipatory way she held the microphone the night was set to erupt into a firestorm of large notes and mournful, throaty intonations that would echo deep into the mossy land that surrounded them. The guitar strings were plucked and the crowd in the bar began to cheer as Chloe and her father instantly tore into song, a riveting, danceable crescendo of a tune that had everyone singing along by the time the chorus rolled around a second time. Chloe's tattoos were outlined warm against the soft light of the bar, her skin an essay of suffering much as the lamentations in her father's songs were.

Will watched Hannibal carefully, and it was clear he was beginning to suffer, the clasped hands over his stomach easing the pains beginning there. When Will leaned forward and placed his warm palm against Hannibal's cheek, the Omega melted into his touch like lava. "We should go upstairs," Will whispered to him. "The room's been soundproofed, there's plenty of privacy there."

Hannibal wordlessly nodded, the tiniest shadow of an expectant smile edging across his pouting lips. The steps of a doe followed a wolf as they left their seats and ascended the stairs reserved for the 'troubled times' suites, a subtle Mainland phrase for heat season, the rooms specially designed to preserve intimacy.

The door closed behind them, in the softest of clicks, as it has done twice a year for the past three years. If someone is rude enough to press their ear against the door, they will hear nothing. A heart that beats is something felt. It's shared solely by choice.