Will Graham had long since come to terms with his fate – he’d remain unmated for the rest of his life.
He was fine with that. Really, he was. In fact, he preferred it that way. As a male omega, the chances of finding a suitable partner were already very slim. Most alphas preferred female omegas, and Will couldn’t really blame them for that. Offspring was something that a lot of people prioritized, after all, and it was something that Will would never be able to offer.
Will often found himself wondering why and how his own gender had come into existence, because from a purely biological perspective, male omegas didn’t really seem to have a purpose. They couldn’t bear children the way females could, the sperm of male omega was almost always low motility – which meant that even if they somehow managed to seduce a female partner, although statistics showed that male omegas were typically drawn to male partners, the chances of producing children were slim to none – and, as much as it pained him to admit it, the physique of a male omega was rather fragile in comparison to male alphas and betas.
Will couldn’t help but to wonder why nature had designed male omegas in the first place, instead of gradually sorting those genes out and eliminating the male omega gender from the human species altogether, considering how little they must’ve contributed back when people were still living in caves.
Then again, omegas only made up roughly ten percent of the population, and only two percent of all omegas were male. In other words, male omegas were indisputably the rarest gender. Perhaps the natural selection was already in process. Give it another millennia or so and the male omega would perhaps be completely extinct.
Will didn’t particularly mind his gender. He’d learned to deal with most of the hazards it entailed. What bothered Will wasn’t the biological issues; it was how the general public treated male omegas. Given their more or less barren state, male omegas were mainly used for pleasure; as easily discarded human sex toys. It was cruel. Male omegas typically craved life partners and stability as much as female omegas did. Suicide amongst male omegas was therefore not uncommon. Others went into prostitution for an easy buck, even if it resulted mental and emotional harm - and sometimes bodily.
Mother nature seemed fond of irony. While male omegas were rather useless when it came to reproducing, their pheromones were much stronger than female omega pheromones. And that said a lot, because female omegas were virtually designed to attract and seduce partners; the pheromones a female omega released during a heat would alert alphas and betas within a very wide radius that she was fertile and ready to be mated.
Whoever got to her first would claim the omega, and if that someone was an alpha, he’d enter a state known as rut, which rapidly increased sperm production - meaning, he'd be able to ejaculate multiple times in a short period of time - which practically guaranteed pregnancy by the end of the mating. They’d fuck for the duration of the omega’s heat, make babies, the end. It was all very effective and, in Will’s eyes, unbearably primitive.
The pheromones male omegas released during a heat typically only affected alphas, but were nearly twice as potent in that perspective. That meant that the alpha’s rut sensation became twice as intense. And this was precisely why many alphas enjoyed using male omegas for sex, because apparently, mating whilst in a rut induced by a male omega in heat was the epitome of carnal pleasure; a sensation akin to being high.
Will didn’t see the appeal – rut was a very raw form of arousal that, according to what he’d heard and read, made some alphas snap and lose all sense of logic. In Will’s mind, the idea of being at the mercy of an out-of-control alpha, who could potentially harm him if things got out of hand, seemed both frightening and off-putting. Of course, most omega, both female and male, would disagree with him – mating with an alpha was supposedly an intensely pleasurable experience; it’s what they were naturally programmed to crave and seek out.
Not that it was an issue for him. He’d been taking suppressants ever since he entered puberty, and while he still suffered minor heat symptoms when it was his time of the year, he’d trained himself to suppress his instincts. Arousal was a foreign sensation, one that he hardly ever experienced, and Will had very little interest in sex. Or rather, he despised the idea of succumbing to his nature. He was an intelligent, self-sufficient man and certainly had better things to do than spreading his legs for some horned up alpha every time his hormones demanded it.
The unfortunate side-effect of his suppressant-lifestyle was that Will was in a near-constant state of fatigue. This, however, hadn’t stopped Will from reaching success in his field. He taught forensics at the FBI and often assisted in investigations, and although his work took a serious toll on him, he thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of being useful.
Will, like many omegas, made up for his lack of physical strength with intelligence. He’d also been gifted with a keen sense of empathy, which, as it turned out, came in handy when chasing serial killers. He knew how to enter that special state of mind that allowed him to not just think like a serial killer, but to feel like one as well. It was unsettling on many levels, but it hadn’t been a problem. That is, until recently.
Entering that state of mind wasn’t the problem – it was exiting that proved difficult. Will couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept a full night without waking up from nightmares, bathing in his own cold sweat. When he’d told Jack Crawford, his FBI commander, what he was going through, the man had simply shrugged it off and told him that most agents experienced nightmares on a regular basis, that it was an occupational hazard, and that he shouldn’t worry about it too much.
After that, Will hadn’t worried - until he started having hallucinations during the days. That’s when he’d really started to wonder if maybe he should take a step back.
Still, Will was too stubborn to complain. If the other agents could handle it, then by God, so could he. He had to. He’d hidden the fact that he was an omega ever since he’d first started working for the FBI, and he feared that if he was forced to undergo a physical examination, his true gender would inevitably be exposed.
It certainly wasn’t prohibited for omegas to work, but he was fairly certain that people would look at him differently if they knew that he wasn’t actually a beta. Some might even question his capability as an FBI agent.
Despite the equalist social climate and the politics that strictly stated that omegas had the exact same rights as the other genders, omegas were still first and foremost perceived as highly sensual beings; male omegas especially so. Will knew that there were plenty of conservative bigots who opined that omegas were good for one thing, and one thing only – mating. He couldn’t risk exposing himself to people he hardly knew. Especially since the majority of his FBI co-workers consisted of alphas.
Losing his mind didn’t scare him as much as the idea of being seen as a lustful fuck doll did.
Which was why it had miffed him that Alana Bloom, a beautiful beta, a successful psychologist and one of the few people Will considered his friends, had alerted Crawford of his wavering state of mind after catching Will teaching a class to an empty room, thinking that it was full of students. Will had slept very little that week and even he had to admit that things were perhaps going a bit too far if he was hallucinating an entire auditorium full of people, but he still felt a bit betrayed by Alana for going behind his back.
She was, of course, worried for his wellbeing. He knew that. Couldn’t stay angry with her. But he wished she’d talked to him first. Because after her interference, in an effort to ensure that Will remained useful, Crawford had assigned a psychiatrist to observe Will. Initially under the guise of assisting with cases, probably because Crawford knew how much Will despised the idea of being psycho-analysed, but Will saw through it almost immediately.
Hannibal Lecter was going to assist with cases, yes – but his primary job was to watch Will and make sure his head stayed intact. Will had protested, of course, to no avail. Lecter was not just a psychiatrist – he was also an alpha, and a very imposing one at that. Tall, broad shoulders, articulate, highly intelligent and the tone of his voice was as calm as it was firm. Everything about him made Will uncomfortable.
Will tended to avoid meeting people’s gazes as a means to keep his instincts at bay – eyes were distracting and they had the frightening ability to convey attraction – but with Lecter it was different. Will felt as though it’d be downright dangerous to meet his gaze. So he didn’t. Hadn’t.
Until one morning, Will was woken up by knocks at his door and he, already sleep deprived and cranky as hell, responded to the rude awakening by tearing the front door open and snarling out an angry-
He found himself staring straight into Hannibal Lecter’s intense brown eyes for several shocked seconds before finally lowering his gaze, feeling as though he’d just been seen naked.
“Sorry, I didn’t know it was you.” He leaned against the doorframe and crossed his arms over his chest, uncomfortably aware of the fact that he was only dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. “What are you doing here?”
Lecter didn’t seem put off. He held up a bag that carried the pleasant aroma of warm food.
“I made you breakfast.”
Will couldn’t help but to send Lecter a confused scowl.
“Yes,” he said with a polite smile, “typically known as the first meal of the day. Your surprised tone indicates you rarely eat breakfast, meaning I was correct in my assumption. So I made you some. May I come in?”
Will nodded without saying a word and disappeared into his cabin to collect his bath robe. Once he’d covered himself up, he re-joined Lecter in the kitchen, where the man was already setting up the table. Will marvelled at the scent emitting from the food containers that Lecter placed in front of him and felt his mouth begin to water.
“What is it?” Will asked and peered curiously into the bowl. “Sausage?”
“Impressive. I usually get take-out. Can’t be bothered to cook.” Will gave a stiff, crooked smile in an effort to be polite, seeing as Lecter had gone out of his way to make Will breakfast.
“Cooking isn’t a bother. I rather enjoy it,” stated Lecter and watched patiently as Will took his first bite. “Well?”
“It’s delicious. Thank you,” Will said and sent Lecter a quick glance only to immediately drop his gaze once more, focusing instead on the food. It really was delicious. The sausages were made of a meat that Will couldn’t quite place, but it reminded him of pork. Along with the sausages, there were fried eggs and buttery bread. Lecter had indeed been correct in his assumption – Will rarely had the time or the energy to eat breakfast in the mornings, opting instead to drink copious amounts of coffee on his way to work. It woke him up alright, but it also made him jittery and the caffeine often left him with gruesome headaches.
With proper food in his system, Will found his energy replenishing faster than it normally did. Gratitude swelled in his chest. But the random act of kindness still had him suspicious. Lecter was meant to observe him, that much he understood, but bringing him breakfast? That was teetering on inappropriate.
“Is this going to be a regular thing with you? Bringing me food, that is?” Will tried to keep his tone light, but Lecter saw through it. He smiled gently.
“Not if it makes you uncomfortable.”
“Not uncomfortable,” Will lied and shrugged. “It’s just a bit…”
Will looked up, suddenly worried that Lecter had taken offense to his ungrateful attitude, but Lecter merely reached for his glass of water, calmly taking a sip. Will gave a grimace and looked down once more, stabbing a piece of egg with his fork.
“I didn’t mean-“
“Don’t worry, I know how it comes across.” Lecter’s voice carried the trace of a chuckle, which made Will relax a little. “Let me assure you, I don’t normally do this for my patients, but then again, you seem different from my ‘normal patients.’ It’s intriguing. I think you and I could have a more profound relationship.”
Will froze with his fork half-way to his mouth, trying to ignore the wave of dread that crashed over him at what the man was suggesting. Lecter didn’t wait for him to work up a reply.
“That is, I was hoping we could be friends.”
Will took a steadying breath, relieved at the clarification, and shoved the fork into his mouth, desperately hoping that Lecter hadn’t noticed his discomfort.
“I don’t find you that interesting,” Will muttered, suddenly keen on keeping the doctor at a distance. Lecter didn’t seem to care.
Hannibal Lecter had never really considered the prospect of finding a lifelong partner. It was expected of him, as if was of all alphas, and he wasn’t against the idea, but felt he was in no rush. Being an alpha, he could more or less choose freely from the myriads of betas and omegas who yearned for his dominant nature.
Of course, an omega would be preferable – mainly because Hannibal rather liked the idea of being an Alpha and Omega couple, which, traditionally speaking, was the ultimate combination – but also because omegas were vastly more fascinating. Not to mention, they were quite rare compared to the far more common betas, and Hannibal liked rarities.
Unfortunately, however, with alphas making up twenty percent of the population while omegas only made up ten, the frustrating reality was that many alphas would never get to mate permanently with an omega.
Hannibal had had his fair share of sexual encounters in his lifetime. Mostly betas, but there you go. He’d mated with a few omegas, but never during a heat, and he’d never granted anyone – beta or omega – his bite. No, for Hannibal to actually mark his mate, thus claiming him or her as his life partner, it would have to be someone truly special. Someone who understood him – if such a creature existed. He was starting to doubt that.
Not that it bothered him. Hannibal was what he was – a psychiatrist, a socialite, a hunter. He had enough on his plate, literally speaking, and remaining single and on the prowl was a lifestyle that suited him well. He needed to maintain a healthy distance to most people, because those who got too close – those who saw what he was – inevitably ended up on Hannibal’s dinner table. It was just too troublesome.
So he kept people at bay. Impersonal glamour suited him fine. He maintained his charade flawlessly. No one suspected a thing. Exactly the way he liked it.
Thus, the fact that Will Graham still refused to meet his gaze for more than a second at a time shouldn’t have bothered him as much as it did. Hannibal had that effect on many people, given his naturally formidable aura, and he’d never considered it a problem. In fact, Hannibal greatly enjoyed the respect and the awe that he inspired in others. He fed on that energy until it filled him up and made him want to feed on their flesh, too. It solidified his own conviction that he was, in fact, someone to be feared – a predator, the truest form of an alpha.
He couldn’t for the life of him figure out why Will Graham’s reluctance to look at him frustrated him so. Will was a rather ordinary-looking beta. Nothing about him stood out. He had bad posture. His skin was so pale it almost looked grey. He clearly didn’t know how to use a comb. And he was very skittish. All qualities that Hannibal rather disliked.
Truthfully, Will was everything that Hannibal didn’t look for in a partner – or even a friend for that matter. And yet.
No answer. Hannibal clicked his tongue and crouched down to get a better look on the younger man’s face. Will was seated on the sidewalk, staring blankly ahead. The blood splatter on his cheek had dried and darkened, making it resemble ink.
Behind them, the house in which Will had just been forced to shoot Garrett Jacob Hobbs was surrounded by police officers and forensic investigators, while the blue flashing lights from several police cars and ambulances swivelled through the air, casting dancing shadows.
“Will?” Hannibal pressed and placed a hand on the man’s shuddering shoulder.
The only response Will gave was a twitch in his fingers, a quick inhale. Hannibal scowled slightly, irritated with the man’s lacking response. Hannibal wouldn’t stand for being ignored, even when it wasn’t done on purpose.
“William,” he said, using a tone that normally made people unable to disobey him. “Look at me.”
Finally, Will seemed to snap out of his shock and slowly turned his head to look at him. It nearly startled Hannibal when Will’s impossibly wide eyes met his, because for the first time since they’d met, Will didn’t look away. He looked straight into Hannibal’s, unblinking, pupils mere pinpricks. Clearly still in shock, then.
“You had no choice, Will. You know that.”
Will said nothing. His intense stare seemed to convey something other than fear or shock, Hannibal realized. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it. There was something like a request in those pale blue eyes. A desperate request.
Begging? No. Demanding. He’s demanding something from me. Demanding what?
“H-he’s… dead. I-” Will finally mumbled, looking as though he wanted to vomit. “I killed a man. I… killed a man.” Shaking hands reached out and tugged at Hannibal’s coat. Will’s face scrunched up in horror as he leaned in a little closer. “I killed a man, doctor. What am I supposed to DO? TELL ME!” Will tugged harder on the fabric, forcing Hannibal to slump forward a bit, steadying himself by placing a hand on the asphalt below. “TELL ME WHAT TO DO!”
Hannibal could only stare back at Will. Those furious eyes. The pain in them. And that goddamned unspoken demand. Hannibal’s chest gave an odd twinge at the sight. Almost as if…
Hannibal nearly flinched back when it suddenly occurred to him.
Before he could make any further attempts at calming Will down, or addressing his new theory regarding Will, a pair of paramedics walked up to them and draped a blanket around Will before proceeding to calming him down, eventually coaxing the panicked young man into their ambulance. Hannibal backed away from them, too deep in thought to be of any assistance anyway, and covered his mouth with a gloved hand.
Could it be?
Jack Crawford suddenly appeared by his side, looking oddly sombre.
“Are you worried about him, doctor Lecter?” He asked, nodding towards the ambulance where Will was resting up.
“He’s in severe shock,” Hannibal commented and put his hands in his pockets, adopting a more relaxed stance. “I’m in charge of assessing his mental well-being, so of course seeing him in this state worries me.”
“I don’t blame you,” Jack said, frowning bitterly. “I’m worried, too. Will has never killed anyone on the job before. I didn’t think he had it in him. You know about his previous work, right? He used to be a homicide detective.”
“Yes, I read the file. He lost his job because he repeatedly failed to draw his gun, no?”
Jack nodded, expression tense. “He hated the idea of shooting someone. His reluctance to using his weapon in dire situations endangered his missions and his co-workers, so they let him go. That’s when we snatched him up to teach our future agents… And then he started working cases with us. Solved a lot of them, too. But sometimes I wonder why he’s in this line of work, considering how negatively it affects him.” He turned to Hannibal with a quirked eyebrow. “Don’t get me wrong - his special abilities make him an excellent investigator. It’s precisely why I want him on my team. It’s just a shame that he was forced to carry out this deed. He’s fragile, even for a beta.”
Hannibal said nothing. Felt it was best not to, because unlike Crawford, he didn’t feel it was a shame at all. He’d orchestrated this, after all. Not only to help out a fellow hunter – because that wasn’t really it – but also to see how Will would react to the chaos that would undoubtedly ensue. Hannibal knew from the very moment Hobbs hung up the phone on him that the man would panic and do something unnecessarily drastic, realizing that he was about to get caught. Hannibal had expected this, because that’s what most hunters did when faced with the prospect of getting caught.
He hadn’t, however, expected Will to be strong enough to pull the trigger.
Hannibal suspected that if it hadn’t been for Hobbs cutting the throat of his own daughter, Will would never have shot him. Hobbs had virtually forced Will’s hand the moment his blade slid across her throat, blood spraying everywhere, which was apparently the last straw for Will – it was where he drew the line for what someone could get away with right before his eyes. Taking an innocent life.
The girl hadn’t died, however, which was probably for the best. If Will was this torn up over killing a dangerous criminal, Hannibal had to wonder how Will would’ve reacted if Abigail Hobbs had in fact passed away from her wounds – if Will hadn’t been able to save her. Perhaps he would’ve lost his mind completely. Hannibal didn’t know Will Graham well enough yet, but perhaps Jack was right: Will was fragile.
But fragility wasn’t always a synonym to weakness.
Hannibal smiled softly to himself and turned away from the house, the police cars and the stench of stress, fear and death in the air. His car was parked just down the road and since Will would likely be taken to the hospital before being sent home, Hannibal decided to retreat for the night. There was no need to rush things.
He’d have plenty of time to get to know Will Graham better from now on.
I'll be drawing inspiration from the original storyline, but I'll be doing some minor (and major) changes here and there. Hope you're all cool with that and that it won't be too confusing. The main focus of this fic is their relationship, but I will be including scenes from their respective work lives as well - it just won't be exactly the way it is in the TV series. Obviously, with this being a fanfic, perhaps that goes without saying, but I still wanted to clarify what I'm about to do here.
Also, I know I spent a lot of time detailing their society and the relationships between the different genders, not to mention the biology of the genders, but it's because I find that a lot of Alpha/beta/omega fics that I've read differ slightly from one another. The same rules don't always apply, so I just wanted to make sure you all know how this particular society is built.
Hope you enjoyed this first part. If you're intrigued, feel free to drop a comment.
Chapter 2: Therapy
First of all, let me just say I’m deeply humbled to have received such positive feedback on the first chapter. I’ll work hard to meet your expectations.
Alright, let’s keep going.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Eight days had passed. It was Tuesday and a fairly grey one at that. Will watched as the raindrops that hit his kitchen window trickled down, fusing with each other to form watery threads across the glass.
The cup of coffee he’d made for himself twenty minutes earlier was still untouched and he suspected it was probably already too cool to be enjoyable. With a heavy sigh, Will got up from the chair, its legs scraping against the floor. He grabbed the blue cup and made his way over to the sink to pour the stale coffee out before heading to the bathroom.
Not even caffeine appealed to him. The mere thought of ingesting anything – liquid or solid – was enough to make him feel sick. He blamed it on nerves.
Today was not going to be a good day. In fact, he’d been dreading it even since the week prior.
Killing Garrett Jacob Hobbs had, despite his best efforts to stay calm, hurled him straight into an erratic panic attack. It had taken the paramedics nearly two hours to subdue him, and when his anxiety returned full-force at the hospital later that night, the doctor had given him strict orders to take time off from work. At least for a few days. To gather himself. Rest. Come to terms.
“Preferably with the help of therapy, once you’re strong enough.”
How fucking convenient then, that a psychiatrist was already appointed to him.
Will scoffed and shoved his toothbrush into his mouth, aggressively moving it around as memories from last week flashed before his inner vision.
He was ashamed of himself.
He’d known right from the start that his job as an FBI investigator could potentially lead to having to take another person’s life. He’d known. He was issued a goddamned gun. He knew how to use it. He’d spent countless hours practicing his shots. They weren’t perfect, but they were good enough, and his certificate had made him feel confident – like he was prepared for anything.
But he hadn’t been prepared at all. Instead, he’d panicked.
Will bent over the sink to spit. As always, tiny specks of blood were mixed in with the white foam. His gums ached. He turned on the tap and rinsed his mouth. Straightened up. Glared at himself in the mirror.
Will was so very ashamed of himself.
None of the other agents would’ve reacted that strongly. Even first-timers maintained a sense of calm – at least on the outside. Will had seen agents take down criminals and not even flinch. Agents who remained focused, stone-cold, professional, even when faced with ugly death. It was their job.
But Will, the genius profiler and forensics expert, had completely lost his shit. Lost every ounce of composure, like a goddamned child.
No. Like a goddamned omega.
He closed his eyes, pressed the heels of his palms against his lids as salt began to sting behind them and took a slow breath. And then another one. And another one. Until his chest stopped aching and his head stopped spinning.
Hating himself would have to wait. For now, he needed to get dressed and head into town. His first therapy session with Hannibal Lecter would be starting in less than an hour and Will didn’t want to show up late. It was bad enough that Lecter had been there that night, witnessing Will’s undignified reaction to the whole ordeal. Will had clung to him and screamed at him and the memory of that made Will’s face heat up from humiliation. The thought of seeing Lecter again made him cringe in discomfort.
Whatever façade of capability that Will had hoped to maintain in front of the psychiatrist had crumbled right there on the sidewalk, and now, he was forced to go to actual sessions. Simply being under observation was no longer the issue – active therapy was now obligatory.
Every Tuesday and Friday, until Lecter deemed him stable enough to go back to work. If he refused to attend these sessions, Jack would have no choice but to suspend him – indefinitely. Will couldn’t have that. No, he’d go, and he’d prove to Lecter that he was more than capable of doing his job.
As he got dressed, Will wondered what he should say to Lecter once they met again. He desperately wanted to make a more serene impression on the psychiatrist. Wanted the man to know that he was far from the mess he’d seen that night; that he was stronger than that. Wanted to somehow convince him that that night had been a fluke – an exception to the rule. A one time thing. But how? What could he possibly say?
“Seeing her throat cut open must’ve flipped a switch in me,” Will said to his own reflection in the bathroom mirror as he buttoned his shirt, briefly attempting a smile, but stopped immediately as he realized that the topic didn’t really call for smiling. Instead, he opted for a more serious look. “I just wasn’t prepared. I never thought he’d go so far as to try and kill his own daughter. The shock made me…” Will trailed off, sighing heavily as he realized that Lecter probably wouldn’t buy it. Heck, Will couldn’t even convince himself.
The bitter truth, though he still found it difficult to come to terms with, was that Will’s strong reaction was probably linked to his gender.
Omegas weren’t meant to take lives. If anything, they were meant to produce them. Male omegas lacked the required anatomy, sure, but they still had the instincts.
Ironically, those very instincts were what had led to Will joining the police force in the first place. He’d felt that if he couldn’t create life, the way his female counterparts could, then he could at least try to save lives.
Sadly, however, Will had encountered far more death than life in his line of duty. It followed him home. Corrupted him. Gave him nightmares. It had been that way from the start. Maybe he’d been naïve, thinking that he could go on that way forever.
It was possible that he’d pushed himself too far this time. Perhaps he’d crossed a line the instant he pulled that trigger. No matter how many pills he took or how much self-restraining meditation he did, he’d never be able to change what he was. He’d defied his very nature by taking Hobbs’ life. No wonder he was a mess. Killing wasn’t in his blood.
But then, why…
Will paused with his hands hovering over his necktie and gazed into the mirror. Searched his own eyes for any traces of the shadows he felt lurking just beneath his ribcage. He saw none. The soft blue of his irises was as innocent as the sky.
He shook his head and proceeded to tie the silky fabric into a knot that was far from perfect, but completely passable. It looked neat. Lecter seemed fond of neatness. His neckties were always impeccably tied, iron-coloured hair always in perfect place, and he wore three piece suits on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, Will often went to work with his collar unbuttoned, wearing ill-fitting pants and with his hair sticking out in unruly angles. To put it bluntly, he was the opposite of Hannibal Lecter in every way imaginable. It was almost amusing how starkly they contrasted one another.
Since Will wanted to make a better impression on Lecter – possibly improving his chances of going back to work soon – he decided to spend a few minutes extra on his appearance that morning. Showing up looking like he just rolled out of bed wouldn’t help his case.
Will rarely invested time or money into his looks. Beautifying rituals were utterly redundant, seeing as Will was perfectly happy being unappealing. That wasn’t to say, however, that Will didn’t know how to polish himself up and look representable when he needed to.
First, he trimmed his beard. Shaving it off completely was out of the question, but he didn’t mind trimming it a bit, just enough to make sure it didn’t look scruffy. Then, he gently scrubbed his face with a warm, damp towel to achieve a rosier hue, well aware of how sickly his complexion normally looked. He then proceeded to drag a rarely used brush through his brown locks until he’d created a nice side parting. It didn’t look nearly as glamourous as Lecter’s slicked back hair did, but he did look much more put together this way.
Finally, Will sprayed himself generously with his favourite perfume, which carried the scent of pine and sandalwood.
Améliorer was a Canadian brand that produced pheromone enhancing body sprays, perfumes and aftershaves primarily for betas. Many betas suffered from weak pheromones and had difficulties finding mates because of it. The perfumes added a nice fragrance, while simultaneously enhancing the beta’s own pheromones, allowing for more successful romantic pursuits.
As it happened, these perfumes also worked wonders for repressing omega pheromones, which worked out well for Will. The perfume was his armour. It made him invisible. It had been his salvation for several years.
He regarded himself in the mirror for a second before sighing with contentment, his refreshed appearance having a strangely positive impact on his mood.
I can do this.
He popped a mint into his mouth and grabbed his car keys, said good bye to the group of dogs currently resting by his fire place, and left.
The very first thing that happened as Will made his way to his car was a gush of wind messing up his hair. He then proceeded to step in a puddle of cold, muddy rainwater. Once he finally reached his car, water had already seeped through the soles of his shoes, wetting his toes. Finally, he dropped his keys in the mud next to the car.
Will stared at them in contempt for a second before bending down to retrieve them. The mud made its way in under his fingernails and he had no choice but to wipe his hand on the side of his jacket.
He flung open the door to the driver’s seat, hopped in and slammed the door shut. He sat in total silence for almost a full minute, resisting the urge to punch the steering wheel, before putting the keys into the ignition.
Once he was on the road, Will finally opened his mouth to let out a string of the most extreme profanity he could think of. It helped alleviate some of his irritation, but his good mood and confidence from earlier had completely abandoned him. As if on cue, the rainfall intensified and Will cursed himself for neglecting to bring an umbrella.
For the duration of the trip into town, he merely focused on driving.
Today was not going to be a good day.
It took every ounce of self-restraint that Hannibal had in him to not grimace in disgust as his patient, a thirty-four year old beta named Franklyn, noisily emptied the contents of his nose into the tissue that Hannibal had offered him.
The man suffered from high neuroticism and was prone to crying due to his fate. Neuroticism could never be fully cured, since it was a personality trait rather than a discrete disorder, but there were measures one could take to loosen the neuroticism's grip on the patient, allowing for them to lead a more or less normal life – whatever that meant.
Unfortunately for Hannibal, one of the most effective ways to counsel someone who suffered from high neuroticism was to talk about the patient’s feelings – over and over again – until the patient came to terms with them.
Franklyn, who had already seen several psychiatrists before he was handed over to Hannibal, was not very receptive to this kind of therapy. Though the man did enjoy talking, he was constantly talking about the wrong things, despite Hannibal’s efforts to keep the man on track, only to eventually end up crying over his unfortunate, unrelenting state of mind.
Hannibal caught himself checking his wrist watch much more frequently than he usually would; Franklyn’s voice reduced to white noise in the background as Hannibal counted down the minutes.
Will Graham would soon be there; he’d be sitting in the chair currently occupied by the heaving beta, having his first session with Hannibal. Unlike Franklyn, Will was the kind of patient that Hannibal genuinely looked forward to shrinking.
Putting Will’s unusual aptitude for empathy aside, Hannibal sensed that Will was weighed down by more than that – there were shadows lurking beneath the bland surface, and Hannibal wanted to lure them out of him. Wanted to see what kind of darkness existed within the young profiler - wanted to see if it matched his own.
But most importantly, Hannibal had a specific theory regarding Will’s identity that he wanted to confirm. He couldn’t be certain of it yet, and he wasn’t going to confront the young man about it until he was.
“-hate being this neurotic!” Franklyn sobbed, burying his glistening face in his palms. Hannibal shifted his focus back to the patient and let out a sigh.
“If you weren’t, you’d be something much worse, Franklyn,” he gave a reassuring smile. “You’ve done excellent progress.” Well, that was a stretch, but with neurotic patients – who tended to get anxious very easily – stretches were sometimes necessary.
The timer he’d set on his phone rang and Hannibal stood, straightening his tie in the process.
“That’s all the time we have today,” he said, bracing himself for the protests he knew were coming. Franklyn sent him a disappointed look and swiftly wiped his teary cheeks with the same tissue he’d used to blow his nose earlier. It was nauseating to behold.
“Every time our sessions end, I feel like you can’t get rid of me faster,” he complained. “Am I really that much of a nuisance to you?”
“Of course not,” Hannibal lied, keeping his smile soft enough to be friendly, yet steely enough to be firm. “But I have other patients to tend to. You know that.”
A series of tentative knocks interrupted Franklyn, who sent an indignant glare towards the door that led to the waiting room. Hannibal couldn’t help the surge of exhilaration that coursed through him.
“We’re done for today Franklyn. I’ll see you again next week.”
Franklyn frowned bitterly as he headed to the door and reached out a hand to open it, but Hannibal beat him to it. The beta sent him a confused look, which Hannibal chose to ignore completely. The door swung open to reveal a rather dishevelled Will Graham.
The man didn’t look happy. His hair was soaked from the heavy rain outside, the upper part of his coat was glittering from the raindrops that clung to the fabric, and his shoes were covered in mud. His tense shoulders were trembling - shivering from the cold, no doubt. All in all, he looked a mess. Hannibal quirked an eyebrow at him.
“You should have brought an umbrella.”
Will’s upper lip twitched in irritation, as if Hannibal had just touched a nerve.
“That’s very astute of you, doctor,” he muttered and walked past Hannibal into the study without waiting for an invitation. Franklyn followed Will with his gaze, looking as though he’d just been forced to eat a raw lemon.
“What a rude guy,” he commented, voice hushed, and sent Hannibal a look, clearly hoping for Hannibal to agree with him. “I feel kind of bad leaving you with him.”
“Don’t,” Hannibal said. “I’m sure I’ll manage.”
He then proceeded to close the door in Franklyn’s face, giving the man no further opportunity to argue, and headed back into his study, where Will was waiting for him. The younger man was standing in the middle of the room with his dripping coat tucked under his arm.
“There’s a coat hanger right over there, if you’d like to hang it up,” Hannibal said and gestured to the glossy pole designed to resemble a tree behind his desk. Will said nothing as he walked over there to hang his coat on one of the curved branches before turning back to Hannibal with an expectant expression.
“Let’s begin,” Hannibal said and took a seat in his chair, stretching his hand out towards the one placed across from him. “Please, take a seat.”
Will did as he was told. He sat with a straight back, hands placed neatly on the arms of the chair, looking as though he was about to get electrocuted. His facial expression was reluctant and grim. Hannibal felt the corners of his mouth twitch in amusement.
He really doesn’t want to be here, does he?
“How have you been?” He asked and crossed his legs, bringing his fingertips together as he awaited Will’s response. The younger man lifted one eyebrow at him.
“We’re not meant to focus on me, Will.”
“Just making small talk,” Will sighed, his gaze wandering all over Hannibal’s study. “Let’s get this over and done with. I want to go back to work as soon as possible, so I’ll be cooperative and everything. Though you should know I'm here under vehement protest.”
“Jack Crawford seems to share your sentiments,” Hannibal commented. “He was displeased with this arrangement.”
“And yet, here I am,” Will said with a dry smile. “Just waiting to be shrunk.”
“For what it’s worth, I’m glad you came - even if it's under protest.”
Will looked unsure for a moment before his stiff back seemed to ease back into the chair a bit. Keeping his gaze firmly on the floor, Will started drumming his fingers against the armrests.
“I’ll admit I’ve been… feeling a bit off lately.”
Will’s gaze flickered up to meet his for a brief second before dwindling down to the floor once more. He hesitated for a few moments before clearing his throat.
“You know I’ve suffered hallucinations, right?” Will said and crossed his arms defensively over his chest. “I mean, that’s why they brought you in in the first place.”
“Correct. Are you saying they’ve been getting worse?”
“Not exactly, it’s just…” Will trailed off and turned his face towards the tall windows. Uncrossed his arms to resume the tapping of his fingers against the arm rest. The rain tracks on the glass cast odd shadows on Will’s face, almost making it look like he was crying. “After what happened last week, the hallucinations have changed. All I see is him.”
Will nodded, still facing the windows. The drumming of his fingers intensified.
“I see him in my dreams. And sometimes when I’m awake.”
“Does he appear to be alive? Or do you see him as a corpse?”
Will let out a shuddering laugh and brought his left hand up to rub at his cheek – probably just to have something to do with his hands. Difficulties sitting still was common amongst those who suffered from trauma.
“Both, I’d say. He appears as a rotting corpse, but he… he talks to me. Mocks me.”
Hannibal narrowed his eyes, scanning the man’s appearance and body language. Will was clearly trying to act calm, putting on a brave but undeniably fake smile. Hannibal could tell that he found the ordeal disturbing. Not that he could blame him.
“Your reaction to ending Hobbs’ life that night was very strong,” he pointed out and took notice of how Will immediately tensed up. “Is that something that bothers you?”
“I guess,” Will muttered, crossing his arms over his chest once more – tighter this time – and gave a shrug that was probably meant to look nonchalant. “It’s a bit embarrassing… I don’t know what came over me that night. Maybe it was just the, uh, shock. You know? Seeing her throat cut open like that, right before me.”
Will’s right knee had started bobbing. He was still stubbornly facing the window. Hannibal interpreted this as stress – potentially brought on by lying.
“Do you think it’s possible that your feelings of embarrassment is reflected through your visions of Hobbs mocking you?” Hannibal suggested. “Jack tells me you’ve never taken a life before. Do you feel inferior to your co-workers?”
Will said nothing for almost a full minute before he suddenly got up from the chair. Hannibal did no move to follow him, opting instead to observe Will from his seated position.
“You said you were hoping we could be friends,” Will said as he walked over to Hannibal’s book shelves, hands tucked neatly behind his back, as if he was taking a stroll through a public library.
“I did,” Hannibal said, curious to see where Will was trying to lead the conversation. Will stopped in his tracks and cocked his head to the side to better read the titles. He then reached for one of the hardbacks and pulled it out without asking permission to do so. Hannibal’s fingers twitched.
Had it been anyone else, Hannibal would’ve been furious. Possibly even placed them on his black list. Oddly enough, Will’s actions didn’t stir up any such feelings in him. Instead, it urged Hannibal to walk over to him and see what title Will had picked out – out of curiosity rather than anger.
“After what happened last week, are you still interested?” Will said with his back facing the study, unaware that Hannibal was approaching him from behind. It wasn’t until Hannibal’s shadow appeared on the shelf that Will realized their close proximity and whipped around to face Hannibal, clutching the book in his hands.
True to his nature, Hannibal towered over Will in a way that he was sure Will found intimidating. A shiver of glee ran up Hannibal’s spine as he took in Will’s guarded expression. Still so stubborn. He leaned in closer to read the title of the book in Will’s hands.
Between Seduction And Inspiration: Man by Jean Laplanche.
He sought out Will’s eyes, waited patiently until the younger man finally looked back at him, and noticed the minute but very distinct dilation of Will’s pupils. Again, Hannibal felt a surge in his chest – the same odd feeling that Will’s panic attack had prompted in him just last week.
He was sure of it now.
Hannibal didn’t comment on it, however. Instead, he took the book from Will, put it back on the shelf and reached for another book, higher up. He placed it firmly in Will’s hands and smiled. The younger man looked a bit scandalized, which further amused Hannibal. Realizing he hadn’t yet replied to Will’s question, Hannibal gave a nod.
Yes, Hannibal is VERY interested. ;) Poor Will, you have no idea what you're in for.
Feel free to drop a comment, regardless of whether you liked it or not! :) I welcome feedback in every form. (But if its negative, please go easy on me. My ego is fragile as fuck.)
Chapter 3: Progress
Again, thanks so much for all the encouragement! I know we’re all just waiting for them to GET IT ON – but rest assured. These first few chapters will serve as the segue to a much more action-packed story and, eventually, Will’s journey into the darkness. (Plus, slow burns are fun! ;))
I present to you; chapter 3.
(Which was a fucking BITCH to write, by the way. Man, I had to edit and re-edit a bunch of times. Ugh. I’m so looking forward to writing chapter 4. Shit is going DOWN in chapter 4.)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Will was thoroughly pissed off when he returned home. Nothing had gone as planned that day, and his therapy session with Hannibal had been particularly disastrous. Despite the mental script he’d prepared for himself, so that he’d know just what to say in order to get himself off the hook and convince Hannibal that he was of sound mind, Hannibal had somehow managed to turn the tables on him.
He couldn’t blame Hannibal entirely, though. He was the one who readily admitted to hallucinating about Hobbs. Hannibal hadn't even pressured him – the words just slipped out before Will even had the chance to reflect on them. He’d only barely managed to rein himself back in by offhandedly bringing up Hannibal’s wish for friendship, hoping that it’d give him some kind of upper hand. But it hadn’t. Instead, Hannibal had cornered him, locked him in place with a mere look, unfazed by Will’s manipulative attempts. It was humiliating on a number of levels.
“God-fucking-damnit,” he muttered under his breath as he kicked his shoes off aggressively, proceeding to throw his coat on the floor in sheer frustration. This act only served to make him feel like a child throwing a tantrum, however, so he immediately picked it up and hung it up by one of the hooks on the wall, grumbling to himself.
His dogs greeted him happily as he entered the living room and Will flopped down on the couch, exhausted despite the early hour – it wasn’t even noon yet. He begrudgingly reviewed the session in his mind. Aside from his failed attempt at gaining ground, the rest of the session had been surprisingly uneventful.
Hannibal seemed to have noticed how uncomfortable Will was feeling and therefore kept his distance following the awkward incident by the book shelf. They’d discussed the night Hobbs died, Will’s subsequent nightmares and his feelings of inferiority – and all this was regularly interrupted by Will’s efforts to derail the conversation by, for instance, pointing out that the curtains adorning Hannibal’s office were nice, or commenting on the gruesome weather. Hannibal hadn’t seemed impressed, but then, Will wasn’t there to impress him. He was there to convince him that he was sane.
Will was still extremely reluctant to sharing his thoughts and feelings with another individual, and if Will had to psycho-analyse himself, he’d say it probably had something to do with the fact that no one had ever fully understood him before and he just didn’t see why Hannibal would be any different. What made him so goddamned special?
Some inner demons are not to be shared – with anyone. The reality of this had dawned on him when he was still only a child, and he’d lived by that rule ever since.
Still, it seemed a part of Will wanted to trust the psychiatrist. A part of him wanted to open himself up and reveal who he was, spill his dirty little secrets, perhaps just to see how Hannibal would react – a notion as terrifying as it was tempting. Will found himself toying with the idea, disturbing as it was.
But in the end, Hannibal was an alpha, and alphas – even those who worked as psychiatrists – could never fully understand omegas. Hell, Hannibal didn’t even know that that’s what Will was. For all he cared, Hannibal could keep guessing. He’d play along until Hannibal had no choice but to release him back into the world of crime and death, where he belonged.
It felt so much safer to just keep lying, like Will had been doing every day for the past decade.
He looked down at the thick hardcover that Hannibal had lent him, resting innocently in his hands.
True Nature: An Anthropologic Journey, part I
Alpha, Beta, Omega – The Roots
Will frowned at the title, wondering – not for the first time that day – why on earth Hannibal had seemed so insistent about it, going so far as to take the book Will had picked out himself and replacing it with this one. It wasn’t just a display of alpha dominance, or done on a whim – Hannibal wanted him to read it. But why?
Yawning lazily, Will sank deeper into the couch as he browsed through the pages. He stopped when he reached a chapter named; Betas – the labourers
Will spent the next minute reading about the first generations of betas and the theories regarding the necessity of their existence. They were the gatherers of their flocks. They were the ones looking out for predators at night – though the task of fighting said predators usually befell the alphas – and watching the fire. They were responsible for building huts and carving weapons. They were the docile, hardworking drones of the early human species.
Will sighed with boredom. It seemed the entire chapter was dedicated to demonstrating how important betas were for the survival of their species. Alphas and omegas weren’t mentioned much, but Will assumed there were plenty of other chapters describing in great detail how omegas were the designated breeding machines and babysitters, while alphas probably ran around hunting deer and wrestling bears all day long. He’d learned all that crap in school already – why would Hannibal think Will was interested in this?
Perhaps he thought Will needed to be reminded of how significant his gender was, despite lacking the strength of alphas and the sensuality of omegas? Maybe he thought it’d serve as a kind of confidence boost, after everything Will had gone through? How ridiculous.
Will closed the book and threw it to the other end of the couch, utterly disinterested and too tired to read anyway. He settled in against the soft pillows and turned the TV on. Re-runs of some old soap opera from the 90s’ didn’t exactly spark his interest, but he took comfort in having the sappy dialogues break the silence, keeping his mind from wandering too far. The minutes stretched on and Will found himself growing more and more drowsy, until suddenly-
The gritty voice came from the right, but Will couldn’t bring himself to turn his head. As usual, none of his dogs reacted to this intruder, despite being trained to do so.
“Ignoring me? That’s cold.” It came from the left now, much closer to Will’s ear. He gritted his teeth and directed every ounce of his concentration to the TV – but when the screen turned black and only offered a distorted reflection of the living room, ignoring the intruder became so much harder.
“Will?” The intruder sing-sang and let out a garbled snicker that sent a violent shudder down Will’s spine. “Look. At. Me.”
“I don’t want to,” he replied and immediately wanted to slap a hand over his mouth, groaning inwardly at his own stupidity. Speaking to the intruder, thus acknowledging its’ existence, made it stick around longer. The intruder laughed once more.
“Oh, I’ll bet,” the intruder said. “I wouldn’t want to look at me either. But I don’t like being ignored.”
The rotting face of Garrett Jacob Hobbs suddenly appeared right in front of Will, who flinched back and barely managed to contain a howl of dread. Hobbs’ skin was discoloured and mouldy, his eyes were turning gray, and the tongue that snaked out between his cracked lips had taken on a disturbing black shade. Will wanted to vomit, but all he could do was stare back at the corpse.
Hobbs cocked his head to the side and leaned in close.
“See?” He whispered. “It’s not so bad, really – facing your fears. And it was worth it, wasn’t it?”
“Worth it..?” Will breathed, trembling from the tension in his muscles.
“You know what I mean.” The corpse leaned in so close that their noses almost touched. “The night you shot me…”
“What?” Will gulped as he resisted the strong urge to get up and run. “What happened that night?”
Hobbs leaned back a fraction, appearing to search Will’s eyes for a moment. He then gave Will something that could only be described as a sympathetic smile.
“You killed me, Will. You killed me, and…” Hobbs leaned in close to whisper the rest in his ear.
Will jerked back to reality with a choked gasp that made his dogs turn to stare at him, whining anxiously as they picked up on their master’s obvious distress. As he desperately fought to catch his breath, Will scanned the room with wide eyes and was filled with staggering relief as he reassured himself that it had only been a nightmare. He must’ve dozed off at some point.
He got up and made his way to the kitchen on shaky legs. It was empty. So was the bathroom and his bedroom. Finally, Will threw a glance towards his backyard, which lead to the forest. Everything was still and serene.
He was alone.
As dizzying as the relief was, the horror lingered and the onslaught of adrenaline made him feel sick. Will almost thought he could smell the rot in the air as he made his way back to the couch. Pepper, his collie, jumped up on the cushion next to Will and settled against his thigh, likely sensing his need for comfort. As the dog tenderly licked his knuckles, Will couldn’t help the lump that formed in his throat. He sent Pepper a quivering smile and stroked his hand over the dog’s head as he settled against the pillows once more, praying to whatever deity that might’ve been listening in for a dreamless nap.
Hannibal stared at his visitors, fighting hard to hide his dismay. He’d known from the very moment he’d turned the radio on while he was driving to work that morning that they’d be stopping by.
Jack Crawford and Alana Bloom, two opposing forces of nature, both of them equally blind to everything that went against their own laws of ethics, highly respected in their respective fields, were now squabbling like two hissing cats on the other side of Hannibal’s work desk.
Earlier that morning, two teenage boys that were out on a nightly adventure had made an absolutely horrifying discovery; several dead bodies – many of them with severe injuries, some of which indicated torture pre-mortem – in the cellar of an abandoned factory on the outskirts of town.
Hannibal’s interest had been piqued by this, prompting him to make mental notes for himself as he listened to the newscast.
The FBI have no suspects so far. Forensic investigation still on-going. Crime scene cordoned – investigation team urges the public to keep their distance from the crime scene and the surrounding area until further notice. Victims unidentified.
With this information, Hannibal concluded that Jack would likely be paying him a visit within the early hours of the day to demand Will’s early return to the force. He also knew that Alana Bloom would draw the same conclusion and therefore show up to stop Jack.
The fact that he knew all this beforehand didn’t help, however. Hannibal was in no mood for their childish spat.
“This is a matter of life or death, doctor Lecter. We need Will back on our team,” Jack insisted.
“It’s a matter of Will’s life or death, too, Jack! You can’t make him join the investigation when he’s already in such bad shape. I wasn’t there that night, but I know what happened, and I know that Will’s not strong enough to deal with it yet.” Alana’s hands were firmly planted on her hips as she fixed Jack with one of her more intense glares. “He was on the verge of a break-down before any of that happened! And you want to force him out on the field again? It hasn’t even been two weeks!”
“No, it’s irresponsible!”
“He’s our best profiler, Alana!” Jack bellowed, returning her glare. “This lunatic has already killed five people. Who knows how many more lives he’ll take while we’re waiting for Will to come back to his goddamned senses!”
“Do you hear yourself?” Alana demanded, eyes wide with anger. “Jesus, Jack, you have an entire platoon of trained FBI agents at your disposal! You’re telling me you can’t do your damned job without stringing Will along like a puppet, even though he’s barely keeping it together as it is?”
“We have a serial killer on our hands! Will’s health is an important issue, but so is making sure that the killer ends up behind bars before he kills again!”
“Oh my God,” Alana scoffed, bringing her hand up to rub at her forehead in exasperated frustration. “This is absurd. I can’t believe we’re having this discussion.”
“Neither can I,” Jack shot back, clearly agitated. The two stared angrily at one another for a moment and Hannibal took the opportunity to clear his throat.
“May I remind the both of you,” he said, keeping his tone calm despite the irritation sizzling in his veins, “that I have only had one session with him so far?” He sent them both a steely look. “I need more time.”
Alana sent Jack a triumphant glance. Jack looked displeased.
“I’m desperate, doctor.”
“Will needs to heal, Jack-“
“I’m not making any promises – to either of you,” Hannibal clarified and quirked his eyebrow at Alana. Her satisfied smirk faded rapidly as she took in his words. “While I agree that Will is dire need of therapy and guidance, during our first session I didn’t get the impression that Will is so far gone that he can’t assist in investigations.”
“Will is stronger than you think, Dr. Bloom,” he said, voice firm. “That being said, I need more time before I can make a founded assessment of his mental and emotional state. Our second session is scheduled for today. If it goes well, I’ll let you know,” he said and sent a pacifying nod to Jack, whose back straightened as he nodded back. “I would also like to remind you that this decision isn’t for us to make – when all is said and done, Will is the one who decides whether or not he’ll return to the field.” Hannibal’s voice hardened as he continued. “Frankly, I find it a bit ludicrous that you two are discussing his future within the FBI when the man in question isn’t here to offer his own views on the matter.”
The silence that followed was tense and uncomfortable. Jack cleared his throat.
“You’re right, doctor,” he said with an expression that was probably supposed to resemble remorse. “I apologize. I hope you’ll do what you think is best for Will.”
No, you’re hoping I’ll do what you think is best by pretending to submit to me.
Hannibal resisted the urge to scoff. Jack was the kind of alpha who was used to getting his way by raising his voice – manipulation wasn’t a talent of his, though he probably liked to think it was. Hannibal played along by offering Jack a gentle smile.
Alana shrugged and gave a reluctant nod, clearly feeling undermined. As a beta working in an alpha-dominated sphere, she was used to being underestimated and having her opinions dismissed. Hannibal felt sorry for her, but not so much that he’d take her side on this. He had his own principles to adhere to.
“Fine,” she bit out, voice chilly. “But if he ends up hospitalized – or worse – I’m blaming you. Trust me, I know how to file a report and I’m not afraid to do it.”
With that, she turned on her heel and walked out of the room with quick, angry steps. Jack sent Hannibal an uncomfortable smile and nodded politely in adieu before he followed her out.
Hannibal sighed heavily as he leaned back in his chair. Interacting with normal people was exhausting. They were so controlled by the bondage of their own emotions and their crippling morals and their ridiculous view on right versus wrong. Their worlds were so black and white.
Hannibal sometimes found it overwhelmingly difficult to relate to them.
He straightened up and stretched his neck out by slowly leaning his head forward, checking his wrist watch in the process. Will’s session would be starting in less than ten minutes. He had time for a cup of tea.
Hannibal was just about to get up and retrieve his thermos when he heard a creak. He glanced towards the waiting room. The door wasn’t closed all the way. Jack and Alana had used Hannibal’s private exit when they left his study, which meant they weren’t responsible for the gap. Hannibal squared his shoulders and suppressed a smile.
“Will?” He called out softly. “You can come in if you’d like.”
He heard the door swing open and, after a few seconds, soft footsteps approaching. He turned his head and smiled as Will emerged from the shadows of the hallway. He looked about as happy as the last time Hannibal saw him, but instead of the blatant hostility from Tuesday, Will’s face was now settled in cold resignation.
“I was just about to have a cup of tea,” Hannibal said, keeping his tone light. “Would you like some?”
Will glared at the floor for a few seconds before giving a brief nod. Hannibal turned away from him and started preparing two cups of freshly brewed tea for them. Will’s mood was making the air toxic around them. Hannibal found his shoulders tensing up. Without turning to look at Will, he spoke.
“How are you feeling today?”
For a few moments, the clinking of teaspoons against porcelain were the only sounds breaking the silence.
“Fine,” came the dispassionate answer. Hannibal glanced over his shoulder. Will was, yet again, strolling by his book shelves with his head cocked to the side. Hannibal smiled and turned back to his task.
“Would you like some sugar?”
“No,” Will replied, and then, “you know… I was going to say this the last time I was here, but you seem to own a lot of literature on omegas. Mind if I ask why?”
Hannibal started making his way over to Will, leaving the cup behind so as to let them cool off a bit.
“I find them fascinating,” was Hannibal’s honest response. Will, who appeared to not have learned his lesson from last time, kept his back to Hannibal and let out a scoff.
“Of course you do,” Will sighed, voice dry and disapproving. “You’re an alpha, after all.”
“Is that an issue?” Hannibal questioned, positioned right behind Will. He noticed that the fine hairs on Will’s nape stood up and Hannibal couldn’t help but to lean in just a little bit closer and inhale the air around Will. This finally earned him a reaction from the younger man.
“Did…” Will slowly turned to look at him, eyes wide with disbelief. “Did you just smell me?”
“Hard not to,” Hannibal smiled innocently and immediately backed off, knowing how much it bothered Will to have his personal space invaded. “Sandalwood, right?”
“… Yeah,“ Will reluctantly admitted and brought a hand up to rub at his nape, as if he could still feel Hannibal’s breath against his skin.
“It’s a pleasant fragrance,” Hannibal said – though truthfully, he was displeased. None of Will’s natural scent came through. It didn’t take a genius to figure out why Will would douse himself in chemicals every morning, but now wasn’t the time. Hannibal gestured to the chairs in the centre of the room with a disarming quirk of his eyebrow. “Now, how about we get started?”
Will nodded uncertainly and took a seat. Hannibal retrieved the steaming cups and offered Will one. The younger man brought the cup up to his nose and his expression twisted in confusion at the aroma.
“What kind of tea is this?” He asked, clearly suspicious, as if he thought Hannibal was trying to poison him. Hannibal couldn’t help the amused grin that formed on his face.
“I make it myself, using herbs from my own garden,” he explained. “It has soothing effects, which is why I sometimes bring a thermos to work.”
Will continued to appear doubtful but ultimately brought the cup to his lips to take a brave sip.
“Well,” he said and offered Hannibal a softer look. “It tastes better than I thought it would, I’ll give you that.”
“Much obliged. I take pride in my teas.” Hannibal assumed his position as psychiatrist and leaned back in his chair. “Let’s not waste any time. How much did you overhear?”
Will flinched at the uncomfortable change of subject, nearly spilling his tea. After taking a deep breath, Will placed the cup on the side table and leaned back in the chair, hands clasping together between his thighs.
“Everything following Alana saying I wasn’t ‘strong enough to deal with it.’” His voice was laced with bitter resentment. “I never realized how weak she thinks I am.”
“She’s concerned for your wellbeing,” Hannibal said, treading carefully. “Is that something that bothers you?”
“The fact that she’s concerned isn’t what bothers me,” Will muttered. Hannibal waited to see if Will was going to elaborate. When he didn’t, Hannibal decided to do it for him.
“But rather the fact that she perceives you as someone who’s in need of her protection?”
For a brief second, to Hannibal’s surprised delight, Will’s face twisted into an enraged snarl. It was a magnificent sight, gone with the blink of an eye.
“I’m… glad that she cares about me,” Will bit out, but the affronted tone of his voice betrayed him. “I just don’t appreciate being looked down upon. I don’t need her to coddle me.”
“I agree,” Hannibal commented, taking a sip from his tea. Will sent him a brief glance, face warming with gratitude.
“Yeah, I heard. You stood up for me. Thanks.”
“No need to thank me. I didn’t say any of that as a favour to you – I said it because it’s what I genuinely believe,” Hannibal stated and placed his cup on the small side table. “You don’t need to be coddled, because you’re not weak.”
Will’s cheeks reddened slightly upon receiving Hannibal’s praise.
“Great. Now we just need to convince Alana,” Will mumbled, a humorous glint lighting up his eyes. Hannibal nodded and smiled back.
“Perhaps we need to convince you, too. Do you think you’re weak, Will?”
Will hesitated. Crossed his arms over his chest, just like he did the previous session – a subconscious attempt to protect himself.
“Define ‘weak’,” he said eventually, giving Hannibal a crooked, uncertain smile.
“How about you give it a try?” Hannibal suggested. Will sighed heavily and his gaze darted around the room as he appeared to collect his thoughts.
“Alana’s idea of weakness seems to be…” Will swallowed. “Being unstable.”
“Right. But what do you think?”
Will shrugged. A ghost of shame and fear dragged over Will’s features.
“My idea of weakness is giving up… or giving in.”
Hannibal narrowed his eyes. Now that was an interesting notion.
“Giving in to what?”
Will’s jaws pulsated with tension. Hannibal could see it clearly despite the distance between them. The younger man reached for his cup, but appeared to change his mind and put the cup back. He dragged his hands against his thighs, up and down, and cleared his throat. Clearly stalling. When he finally raised his gaze to meet Hannibal’s, Will looked incredibly torn. His voice trembled from withheld emotion once he finally spoke.
“I… enjoyed killing Garrett Jacob Hobbs.”
Heavy silence filled the room. Hannibal kept his face neutral as he waited for Will to gather himself. The impact of having admitted something that must’ve weighed heavily on him for nearly two weeks was hitting the younger man hard. Will breathed quickly as his face got increasingly clammy with cold sweat. Hannibal took pity on him.
“I suspected that was the case,” Hannibal said, keeping his voice low and firm. Will let out a shaky scoff and gave an agitated shrug.
“Oh, of course you did,” he sneered. “You know, maybe you should just work as a psychic instead, since you seem to magically know everything about me. Or maybe you’re just full of crap.”
If only you knew what I know about you.
It was obvious that Will took offense to Hannibal’s claim. It must’ve hurt, being told that something he tried so hard to keep hidden had already been figured out. But Will didn’t know Hannibal that well yet. He didn’t know what Hannibal was. Which was why Hannibal chose to remain calm and ignore Will’s harsh words.
He leaned back comfortably in his chair and crossed his leg over the other as he reached for his cup. He took his time, taking slow sips from the calming concoction, all the while keeping eye contact with Will, who seemed to be too upset to remember how much he disliked looking into other people’s eyes. Once Hannibal sensed that Will was calm enough to listen to him without lashing out, he continued.
“You’re accustomed to death, Will,” he stated matter-of-factly. “Your job revolves around it – you face death all the time. Your unique method of looking at crime scenes from the perspective of the perpetrators should have benumbed your sensitivity long ago. Therefore, even though I’m sure taking a life for the first time would be harrowing, it shouldn’t have provoked you, of all people, the way that it did.” He paused and leaned forward in his seat. “You’re a man of strict morals. I theorised that the only thing that could trigger such a profound reaction in you was if those morals were challenged.”
Will’s chest shook as he laughed joylessly. His body slackened against the chair and he threw his head back – probably to avoid facing Hannibal.
“And here I thought I could just bullshit my way back,” he mumbled, voice raw with emotion. “I knew you were good, but I didn’t realize you were this good.” He clapped his hands together in a lazy manner. Hannibal dismissed his juvenile display.
“Your hallucinations are a product of your subconsciousness,” he continued. “I’d say the real reason you’ve been so ashamed of yourself is because you feel that you’re the same as Hobbs – you enjoyed killing a man who enjoyed killing those girls. That’s why the Hobbs you see in your visions is mocking you – you subconsciously feel that’s what you deserve. That enjoyment – that thrill of power you felt when you ended his life – defied every single code of conduct in your head. Every pillar of principle and moral that your psyche relies on was torn down that night.”
Will slowly lifted his head. His eyes were glossy, as if he’d suddenly come down with a fever, but they no longer held any hostility. Hannibal blinked slowly and met Will’s anguished gaze head-on, trying to convey a sense of comfort.
“It’s no wonder you reacted the way you did. Your entire state of mind, your image of self, probably shifted the very moment you pulled that trigger.”
They sat in total silence for a few minutes minute. Hannibal heard cars go by outside the windows. Birds chirping. Will appeared to fight hard to wrap the situation around his head. He leaned forward in his seat, pressing his chin into his clasped-together hands.
“Am I…” Will croaked and paused to clear his throat. “Am I going insane? Should I be locked up?”
“Not at all,” Hannibal stated and smoothed his tie out. “I was actually thinking that you could start working again, if you want.”
The incredulous stare Will sent him was priceless. He looked as though Hannibal had just suggested moving to Mars. He opened and closed his mouth several times before he found his voice.
“Now that we’ve resolved the issue, I see no reason why you shouldn’t be permitted to work with the FBI again, under my guidance of course, if that’s what you wish to do.”
“Resolved the…” Will gave an upset scoff. “Resolved the issue? We haven’t resolved anything!”
“Of course we have,” Hannibal argued. “You’re no longer in denial. Your Hobbs-hallucinations should cease after this, as well. That’s definitely progress.”
“But it doesn’t change anything!” Will exclaimed, face twisting in disgust. “I took pleasure in killing a man!”
“No amount of therapy will ever change how you felt about taking his life,” Hannibal pointed out. “It’s in the past. Now that you’re aware and honest about your feelings, we can move forward.”
“But…” Will bit his lip in hesitation before he continued. “I don’t want to feel that way. Ever again.” He looked up, eyes resolute and stormy. “I’m scared that I’ll-“
“You think you might snap and start killing people at random?” Hannibal couldn’t help the way the corner of his mouth quirked. Will noticed and didn’t seem amused.
“Is it so weird for me to be worried about that?” He muttered. “Considering what I do for a living… What if Alana’s right? What if I’m so unstable that I’ll lose myself and become the very thing I hunt?”
“The fact that you experienced a rush of power and ecstasy from taking down a man who killed several innocent teenage girls doesn’t make you a madman, Will. Nor does it make you a criminal.”
“Maybe not,” Will mumbled, though he still appeared doubtful. He looked exhausted by now. Colour was returning to his face, but his shoulders were slumping and his voice was hoarse from fatigue. “I want to return to the force, I really do. I just want to be sure that I won’t… go off the grid.”
“Will,” Hannibal sighed and leaned back in his chair. “I’m not saying we should terminate your therapy. I’m saying I’d be willing to let you assist in investigations – so long as I’m permitted to continue visiting the crime scenes with you and act as your counsellor on site. I’ll be discussing the details of this arrangement with Jack Crawford momentarily, but seeing as he’s desperate to get you back, he’s not likely to protest. We’ll be continuing with our scheduled sessions for the time being.”
Will gaped at him, seemingly at a loss for words. Hannibal sent him a comforting smile.
“Would that arrangement be agreeable to you?”
“Oh God, yes!” Will exclaimed hurriedly, relief and gratitude bleeding into his voice. He gathered himself and cleared his throat. “Yes, completely agreeable.”
“Let me be clear on one thing, though,” Hannibal said as he made his way over to his desk to collect his phone. “I’m not going to tell any of your co-workers what we’ve discussed here today. Neither should you.” He sent Will a grave look. The light in Will’s eyes flickered, but his face settled into an expression of determination rather than one of concern. He nodded.
“That works for me.”
“Good,” Hannibal turned his back to Will and dialled Jack’s number. “You’re free to go. I suggest you take the opportunity to have lunch while you still have time. I have a feeling you’ll be called into work soon.”
He brought the phone to his ear and waited. In the background, he heard how Will gathered his things and started making his way towards the exit. When Will’s footsteps paused, Hannibal turned his head to look at him.
For the first time since they met, Will granted him a soft, genuine smile. It made the blue in his eyes shine.
“Thank you, Hannibal.”
Hannibal savoured the way those words made his chest ache with contentment.
Long chapter, I know. I'll admit my thoughts were all over the place when I worked on this. Still, I hope you guys enjoyed.
And also - I wasn't kidding about shit going down in chapter 4. Seriously, stay tuned.
(Now that I've got you all pumped up for the next chapter, I should probably mention that I can't promise a fast update. I'm a university student, and despite my undying love for fanfiction, my education is my number 1 priority. It sucks. :') Anyway, now that classes have resumed, I won't have as much time to write fanfiction, so it'll probably take a little longer to get chapter 4 up. It'll be worth the wait. ;))
Chapter 4: Tolerance
Thank you so much for all the support I’ve received so far. It means SO much. <3
Also, I’d like to thank you for being patient. I really hope this chapter will make up for the wait. (If you have time, please read the end note where I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts on this chapter.)
WARNING: this chapter contains some pretty explicit scenes. (To be more precise – they visit a crime scene and I won’t be holding back on the details.)
Please tread carefully. Especially those of you who’ve suffered sexual violence in the past. <3
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The familiar sensation of cold dread mixed with heated anticipation blossomed within Will’s chest when the crime scene came into view and the car slowed down. Hannibal had insisted on driving them there.
Will had barely even made it out of the building where Hannibal worked when his cell phone rang, letting him know that he was being summoned. Lunch would have to wait. Hannibal soon joined him on the parking lot, car keys at the ready, and Will didn’t see the point in putting up a fight.
He certainly wasn’t going to complain. Not when Hannibal was going out of his way to make sure Will’s return to the field would be safe for everyone involved. But he did feel a sting of shame at the prospect of entering the crime scene with his psychiatrist tagging along like some babysitter.
As they approached the crime scene, however, Will was struck by how the flashing lights, the bright yellow barricade tape criss-crossing the area and the heavy atmosphere brought him back to that night, and he was instantly filled with a begrudging sense of relief that Hannibal would be by his side – not that he was about to admit it. He discreetly looked over to the driver’s side, taking in Hannibal’s profile. The psychiatrist looked mildly interested in what was going on ahead of them, but his body language was as calm and relaxed as always. Somehow, the sight made Will ease up a bit, too.
Right. This is my job. It’s just another crime scene.
He released a tight breath and unclenched his fists, slowly but steadily entering a more confident headspace. Hannibal gave Will a brief side-glance, appearing to have noticed the shift in Will’s mood.
“Are you feeling alright?”
“Yeah,” Will nodded and cleared his throat to ensure his voice wouldn’t betray him. “I’m okay.”
Hannibal parked the car next to a couple of police vans and before Will could exit the car, Hannibal reached over to plant his hand firmly on his shoulder. Will paused, but he didn’t turn to look at the older man.
“Will, I trust that you’ll take advantage of my presence here,” Hannibal said. “I’m letting you partake in this investigation because I know how important it is to you – and frankly, getting back up on the horse is only going to be a positive step forward, as long as you don’t try and overreach. Look at me.”
Without thinking, Will obeyed. The older man’s gaze was intense and steady, the sunlight reflecting in his brown eyes made them look like glowing ambers. Will couldn’t look away.
“I need you to promise me you won’t force yourself. If you feel you need to take a break, you take a break. If you feel you need to get away, you tell me. Understood?”
Will nodded slowly, trying to ignore the way Hannibal’s gloved hand on his shoulder made him feel.
“I understand. But I need you to promise me something as well.” He paused briefly and lowered his gaze. “You’ve never really seen me in action, have you?”
“What do you mean?” Hannibal’s hand retreated. “I was there the night you shot Hobbs.”
“I know, but that time was different. I wasn’t investigating a crime scene that time,” Will explained in a flurry, feeling stupid for not having briefed Hannibal on this beforehand. “The way I operate is complicated. I immerse myself completely in the personas I detect, it’s almost like a state of hypnosis, and…” he paused, feeling his heart beat heavily in his chest, “I need you to piece me back together once I come out of it.”
Tense silence settled in the cramped space. Will offered Hannibal a bleak smile before he opened the car door, hoping his vague words somehow made sense to the psychiatrist.
“You can do that, can’t you?”
Hannibal didn’t get the chance to reply before Will exited the vehicle, but if he was at all disturbed by Will’s odd request, he hid it well. They walked towards the scene together in silence and were soon greeted by Jack Crawford, who wore a grim, concerned scowl as he emerged from the building where the bodies had been found. A deputy lifted the yellow tape for Hannibal and Will to duck under and as soon as they were inside, Will felt as though he’d entered a separate universe – one where only death and fear existed. It made his skin crawl.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Jack told Will earnestly and reached out to plant his hands around Will’s shoulders in a gesture of welcome, only for Will to lean away from the touch, not quite managing to keep his unwillingness from his face. Jack noticed and immediately withdrew his hands with an apologetic look on his face. “Sorry, I keep forgetting-“
“What do you know so far?” Will interrupted and effortlessly slipped into his role as profiler as he looked over the building, sniffing slightly from the chilly autumn air. Jack followed suit and dug around in his pockets to retrieve a note pad.
“Not much, except that the perpetrator is most likely an alpha,” he explained. “Five bodies were found inside, all of them in varying stages of decay. Blood loss from several severe cuts seems to be the cause of death, but we don’t know for sure yet. Some of the victims seem to have sustained injuries that don’t follow any specific pattern.”
Will frowned. “You mean, some of the victims were treated harsher than others?”
“It would seem that way,” Jack nodded. “Only one of the victims has a broken leg, for instance. Another one has a pretty severe burn.”
“That’s odd,” Will mused. “It’s possible that some of the victims fought back harder which made the perpetrator retaliate and inflict injuries on them that he or she hadn’t initially planned. But a burn? That’s a strange irregularity.”
“It is – unless they had a specific reason for using different methods,” Jack pointed out and sent Will a grim look. “I’ll leave the profiling to you, of course, but my guess is that the killer tortured them in varying ways because he knew them beforehand and chose his methods based on his relationship with them.”
“What makes you say that?”
Jack hesitated, gaze darting back and forth between Will and Hannibal. He put the note pad away and gave Will a thin, joyless smile.
“You’ll see what I mean once you’re down there,” he muttered, as if he was too appalled by the scene to discuss it in detail. He gave Will a concerned frown. “Look, I know you’re still recovering, and truthfully, I feel bad for dragging you into this. It’s a pretty gruesome scene, Will. I need you to prepare yourself. I also want you to know that we have a paramedic team on standby if…” He trailed off with an uncomfortable look on his face. Will understood.
If I need them to take care of me afterwards.
He glared at the ground for a second as a coat of shame crawled over his back, searing his skin. He’d wanted to think he was prepared for the inevitable special treatment that was awaiting, but for Jack of all people to treat him like some loose cannon? It strung more than Will had anticipated.
Suddenly, a secure hand landed on Will’s shoulder once more, forcing a startled flinch through his upper body.
“No need to worry, Jack,” Hannibal’s deep voice stated from Will’s left. “Will is making steady progress. We’re as prepared as we can get. He just explained the nature of the methods he’ll be using. Should anything unexpected happen, I’m here if he needs me.”
Under normal circumstances, this manoeuvre would likely have pissed Will off. Will absolutely hated being ‘handled’, like some petulant child – or rather, he hated being patronized, and what Hannibal just did came dangerously close to that. But when Hannibal gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze, Will got the sense that Hannibal was trying to handle Jack rather than him, which had a much more invigorating effect on his mood.
The rush of confidence helped Will straighten his back, and his sense of duty took over. After taking a deep breath, he started walking towards the building – without sparing Jack so much as a glance. Hannibal followed a few steps behind and the sound of his shoes against the gravel granted Will a sense of comfort – his presence was like a safety line that Will could reach out for and grab onto if things went south. Will had never had a safety line before.
As he approached the old factory and peered into the opening that led down to the basement, Will’s chest tightened slightly. The dread from earlier made itself known, but he wasn’t about to walk away. He paused just outside the entrance. Two forensic investigators emerged – looking pale and distressed. They walked past Will without acknowledging him, discussing their findings with one another in hushed tones.
Will turned to look at Hannibal, who watched the forensics shuffle past him with a raised eyebrow and, oddly enough, a quirked lip. Almost as though the psychiatrist found their behaviour amusing. Hannibal hadn’t participated in many investigations, and certainly not this up-close before. It was possible that he, as a psychiatrist, observed everything that was going on around them through a lens of curiosity. When Hannibal looked up and met Will’s gaze, his untroubled smile remained intact. Considering their location – not to mention their purpose for being there – it was an odd sight to behold.
Maybe he’s trying to maintain a sense of calm for my sake?
It wasn’t impossible. Regardless, Will had no time to mull over Hannibal’s behaviour. He had more important things to worry about.
“I’ll be going down now. I normally prefer to be alone when I observe,” he admitted, hoping Hannibal wouldn’t take offense. “Having you beside me would be distracting, so…”
“I’ll wait here,” Hannibal said and gave an understanding nod. “Just call out for me if you need any assistance.”
Will nodded gratefully and turned back to the entrance. It felt as though he was about to descend into hell. Swallowing tightly, Will took his first few steps into the building.
The crummy staircase that led down to the basement was immersed in darkness, but he detected a light source ahead. Once he was a bit further in and his eyes adjusted to the dimness, Will was suddenly struck by the immensely unpleasant odour of decay.
He recoiled and reached out a clammy hand to support himself against the wall as he gathered himself. The stench was familiar to him, but for all the years he’d spent working for the FBI, he still wasn’t completely accustomed to the uglier sides of his job. And truthfully, the smell of rotting corpses wasn’t something that he ever hoped to get used to.
Once he’d collected himself, he proceeded into the spacious basement, keeping his eyes on the ground as he stepped inside. This was a neat trick he’d taught himself – get in first, then look. Never the other way around; never when it came to crime scenes. Because once he was inside, there was no going back.
Bile rose in his throat and Will clenched his jaws tightly, forcing himself to keep his gaze steady and forward.
Five bodies, all of them female from the looks of it, each one haphazardly positioned – one was discarded in a corner, another one was splayed out in the middle of the floor. This told Will that the killer felt no remorse for his actions. He’d killed the women one by one and then left them in whatever position they died in; like a child who couldn’t be bothered to pick up his toys after he was done playing with them.
Jack’s team had already done a thorough job – the bodies were outlined with tape and there were number tags all over the floor, each one representing foot prints, blood stains and other signs of potential evidence. The room was dimly lit up by several large black lights, adding to the ominous atmosphere.
For a brief second, Will regretted telling Hannibal to wait outside. He debated with himself over whether or not he should call for the older man, but decided against it. He didn’t need Hannibal to hold his hand. Not for this. This was his job.
Will forced himself to enter a different headspace – a colder, observant, professional headspace, one that made it easier to shut out his personal feelings and just look.
Will walked up to the body closest to him – a thin, female body, facing the wall. Her brown hair had previously been tied in a braid that was coming apart. The body was naked and bruised. Will crouched down beside it and cocked his head to the side. Frowning slightly when he noticed a bitemark on the neck. It hadn’t healed, which meant that the killer probably bit her shortly before he killed her.
Will’s eyes strayed further down her body, fighting the repulsion that welled up in him as he took in the state of her nether regions. A glass bottle had been violently inserted in her rectum, and judging by the battered state of the orifice, the perpetrator had likely inserted various other sharp objects before plugging her up, using the bottle like a cork. Will resisted the urge to wince – if she was alive throughout the whole ordeal, which was likely the case, she must’ve been in excruciating pain.
Whoever we’re dealing with is a sadist with some serious anger issues. He took his rage out on these women.
He released a slow breath and straightened up. Took a few steps back and closed his eyes. Focused on his heartbeats. The stench. The mournful atmosphere. His playground.
The rhythm of his pulse slowed down as the image of different man took shape within Will, filled him, and finally, took hold of him. He opened his eyes.
The pendulum swung once.
Blood stains disappeared from the body he’d just examined.
The pendulum swung twice.
She was now alive and staring at up him from the floor, tears flowing down her cheeks. The panic in her wide eyes made something deep within him purr in delight.
Yeah, that’s right, sweetie. Fear me.
“You’re not special to me, we’re not related,” he said, raising his knife in front of the crying woman to intimidate her. “I brought you here because I’m confident no one will disturb us. I picked you because you represent something…” He turned to the other bodies in the room, the ones he’d already killed and left to rot. “As do the rest. You all have something in common.”
“P-please,” she pleaded, “I won’t… tell anyone…” her voice was so deranged by horror that it almost made her sound like a wailing animal. He found it both amusing and appropriate. “Let me g-go…! I’ll do whatever you want!”
He grinned, wider than he normally would, and crouched down in front of her, slamming his fist against the wall just above her head, making her jerk away.
“Oh, but see – you had your chance. You had your chance to please me and you let me down. You disrespected me. So now,” he paused to lean in closer, “you’ll suffer the consequences. You need to learn your place, omega.”
This is my design.
He grabbed onto her shoulder and shoved her down, pressing her upper body against the floor, and positioned himself above her trembling form. He dragged his tongue over his teeth, enjoying the feel of the sharp canines, the rush of power and adrenaline, before he leaned over her, opened his mouth wide and sunk his teeth into her smooth, sweaty neck. Marking her. Stealing her away. As was his right.
The scream she let out was like music – it burned deep inside his ears. He soon grew tired of it, however, so he silenced her by grabbing a fistful of her hair and repeatedly slamming her head against the concrete floor, knocking her out.
He paused momentarily. Looked around.
His eyes landed on a dusty plastic bag full of rusty nails that had been left behind by the workers of the factory when it closed down. It was only half-full, and the white plastic around the bag’s opening was cleaner than the bottom, indicating that the bag had been recently opened. His intentions became clear.
“While you’re unconscious, I’ll fill you with these and destroy you from the inside. I’ll make sure you know the pain of being disrespected. They all disrespect me,” he mumbled, voice teetering on hysteria, as he grabbed fistful of the rusty nails and brought them between her legs. “But you’ll never disrespect me again.”
Her body shook as he ripped her open, but she was still not fully conscious. Not that he minded – the scream she let out earlier was still ringing in his head. The nails were rusty but still sharp and pointy enough to tear through her flesh and ruin the muscles that kept her intact-
Pleased with his work, he regarded her for a second. Just to make sure the nails wouldn’t fall out of her, he grabbed a nearby bottle from the dusty floor, and shoved it inside. He heard how the glass made contact with the metal inside of her, and it crunched-
Will jerked back – mentally and physically. Dazed with disgust and horror from what he’d just endured, he took a few staggering steps back, eyes glued to the dead body in front of him. Slowly, his gaze slid over to the other dead bodies and he instantly knew that they’d received the same treatment.
On wobbly legs, he turned away from the scene and started heading back towards the stairs, desperate to get up and out – only to freeze in his tracks as he noticed the message spray-painted in huge, clumsy letters on the wall right next to the exit.
It had been almost twenty minutes and Hannibal was getting tired of waiting. Tired of answering Jack’s intrusive questions. Tired of the weak coffee he’d been forced to drink – from a paper cup, no less. Tired of standing still, pretending to be perfectly happy to do so.
He was itching to go down there; itching to see what had evoked such a profound reaction in these men and women. If the basement had been in such a state that even Jack Crawford – famous FBI hot shot and self-proclaimed veteran – was at a loss for words, it must be a sight to behold.
He was just about to take a step closer to the entrance and peer into the darkness when Will suddenly came stumbling out, nearly smashing into Hannibal in his hurry to escape the building. Hannibal quickly took a step to the side to give Will some room, but when he saw the younger man’ face, he instantly felt the need to get closer to him.
Will face was disturbingly pale, even by his standards, and covered in a fine sheen of sweat. His eyes were firmly planted on the ground, but he didn’t seem to be looking where he was going. Hunched over, breathing heavily. Erratic movements. Will was having another panic attack.
“Will.” Hannibal took a careful step closer, but immediately retreated when Will struck out with his arm in an effort to keep him away, shaking his head wordlessly. Hannibal opted instead to try and calm the younger man with his words. “Will, breathe. Remember where we are. I’m right here.”
Piece him back together.
“You can do that, can’t you?”
Hannibal wasn’t sure that he could. Not when Will so vehemently opposed to his support – his very presence. The rejection smarted, but he didn’t back down.
“Calm down. You’ll be fine. Would you like to sit over there?” Hannibal suggested and gestured to the main entrance of the factory a few feet away, where there weren’t as many people around. Will remained mute, now slumping against the wall as he appeared to try and gather himself. His gaze was still lowered and unfocused.
“Will!” Jack practically roared as he came rushing from somewhere behind Hannibal. “Did you put together a profile?”
Hannibal reacted on impulse as he barricaded Jack with a single step to the left, fixing him with a stare. Jack stopped and gave Hannibal an affronted look – which rapidly faltered as Hannibal glared down at him, failing to maintain his calm exterior.
“Not now, Jack.” The blatant disapproval in Hannibal’s voice was enough to keep Jack from arguing. Instead, the man took a step back, appearing to assess the situation. “He needs space.”
The sound of Will vomiting violently reached his ears and Hannibal threw a look over his shoulder, chest clenching oddly at the sight of Will supporting himself against the wall with both hands as he emptied the sparse contents of his stomach on the ground.
“Actually I think he needs a bucket,” Jack mumbled humourlessly, earning himself a quirked eyebrow from Hannibal.
They waited patiently for Will to calm down. His breath was slowing down to a steadier rhythm and eventually, he pushed away from the wall and turned to face them – looking like he’d been through hell and back. Dark curls clung to his damp forehead, and his body shook from a never-ending series of violent tremors. Hannibal kept his distance, knowing full well that Will would reject him if he acted on his own.
It wasn’t until Will looked up, gaze locking with Hannibal’s, that he moved. Hannibal was practically pulled forward by the haunted look on Will’s face, his slumping shoulders, the guarded agitation in his posture. And the demand in his eyes.
The need to soothe overtook Hannibal. The need to protect, to support. Just like last time, on the sidewalk. Only this time, Hannibal was aware of what it was – and didn’t hesitate.
He reached Will in just a few long strides, positioning himself right next to the trembling profiler. Jack followed suit but kept a respectful distance, forehead creased with concern.
“Are you alright?” Jack asked, eyes darting carefully between them. Will nodded jerkily and took a shivering breath.
“They’re all omegas,” he muttered, voice hoarse and uneven. Jack nodded.
“Yes, we figured as much,” he sighed. “So what are we looking at? Some rogue alpha gone mad? It’s not a crime of passion, is it?”
“No, it isn’t,” Will shuddered and wrapped his arms around himself, struggling to remain upright. “And the perpetrator is not an alpha.”
Jack blinked with surprise. Hannibal shared his sentiments, but he maintained a more neutral expression, patiently waiting for Will to elaborate. Jack didn’t possess the same patience.
“It’s not an alpha? I’m… sorry, but I find that a bit hard to believe. Are you sure?” He seemed extremely doubtful.
“Yes,” Will cleared his throat. “The killer is a beta who thinks he’s an alpha; who wants to be an alpha. He could be suffering from a psychosis, or possibly schizophrenia-“
“But are you sure?” Jack took a small step forward and jabbed a hand in Will’s direction, clearly sceptical of Will’s theory. “Because the teeth marks on those necks clearly indicate that an alpha is behind this. I don’t need lab results to tell me that.”
“I know,” Will groaned impatiently, “those teeth marks are too pronounced and he signed the message on the wall with an A… Everything points towards an alpha. But it’s not, Jack. The person you’re looking for is a very confused, very sick beta.”
Jack hesitated, taking his time to wrap Will’s words around his head. The tension in his shoulders didn’t ease up, and the creases in his forehead deepened. He wasn’t convinced.
“What’s his reasons for doing this?”
“He’s frustrated,” Will explained around a shiver. “He's somehow convinced himself that he’s an alpha, so when the omegas he encounters don’t treat him as such, the illusion is broken and he lashes out. He feels that it’s within his rights to demand respect, perhaps even adoration, from omegas… and to punish those who don’t live up to his expectations.”
Jack didn’t take notes. Instead, he frowned bitterly at Will as the silence stretched out uncomfortably. Will’s agitation increased.
“You seem sceptical, Jack.”
“Frankly, Will, I am sceptical,” Jack admitted, shoving his hands into his pockets. “It seems like one hell of a reach.”
“Not like it’s the first time I’ve had to think outside the box for you,” Will retorted, voice teetering on a snarl. “And I’m always right.”
Something pleasant ran up Hannibal’s spine at Will’s daring display of confidence. He glanced down at the younger man and marvelled at the tired but heated glare Will was directing at his commander. Jack, however, didn’t seem to appreciate Will’s defiance.
“We both know that you haven’t exactly been at the top of your game lately,” he fired back and sent a pointed look Hannibal’s way. “There’s a reason Dr. Lecter is here, after all.”
“Oh, I see, so you just wanted me to confirm your theory, and now that my assessment doesn’t match yours, I’m suddenly too unstable to be taken seriously?” He snapped, voice gaining volume with each word. Jack took an aggressive step forward.
“That’s enough!” He barked, eyes wide with anger. “Go home. Clearly, having you return this early was a mistake.” With those harsh parting words, Jack turned and walked away from them.
Will stepped forward in a thoughtless attempt follow the other man, but ended up wobbling dangerously on his feet, still dizzy from his previous episode. Hannibal reflexively shot out a hand and placed it on Will’s back, pressing his gloved fingers gently against the soft curve of the younger man’s spine.
To his pleased surprise, Will immediately relaxed into his touch, lower back arching contently. The sensation of Will’s muscles straining against his hand – welcoming his support – was one that Hannibal savoured like a fine wine.
It dawned on him that Will, albeit unwittingly, had been rejecting Jack’s touch all day – while tolerating Hannibal’s. The realization of this made his chest swell possessively, desire heating his veins.
Will seemed to ease into a calmer state of mind, and instead of chasing after Jack, he remained by Hannibal’s side – apparently too deep in thought to take notice of how his body behaved. Not that Hannibal particularly minded. It wasn’t until Will sighed in defeat and suggested that they leave that he discreetly withdrew his hand, not wanting to give Will the chance to reject him.
“Do you agree with him?” Will asked quietly as they slowly made their way back to Hannibal’s car.
“If by that you mean, do I think you’re too unstable to do your job? No. I don’t.”
Will looked at him, eyebrow raised, mouth curving into an incredulous smile.
“You seem to have a lot of faith in me.”
Hannibal smiled back.
“That’s because I see a lot of potential in you, Will.”
“That’s just swell,” Will sighed and opened the door to the passenger’s side. “Alana thinks I’m weak. Jack thinks I’m crazy. But you? You ‘see potential in me.’” He hopped into the car and Hannibal soon joined him. They slammed their doors shut and for a few seconds, they merely enjoyed the odd tranquillity that filled the small space. Will turned to look at Hannibal. “Can you promise me you’re not just saying what I want to hear because you’re my psychiatrist?”
“Can you promise me you’ll believe me if I say yes?” Hannibal retorted with an amused smirk and started the engine. Will gave a tired chuckle, which had a wonderfully softening effect on his face – ridding him of some of the haunted shadows from his earlier activities.
“Guess we’ll have to take each other’s words for it.”
I hope you enjoyed this chapter as much as I enjoyed writing it. Or, well, I enjoyed it once it was starting to come together.
I also really hope that I didn’t go overboard with the graphic depictions. Considering the source material that this fic is based on, I felt it was important to go “all in”, so to speak, and not hold back. What Will does for a living IS harrowing. It IS graphic. And maybe some of you felt it was totally within reason. Perhaps some of you feel that I could’ve taken it even further and that I’m being silly for worrying. But there may also be a few readers out there who felt I went too far, and those are the readers I’m concerned about.
I just want to be sure that I didn’t upset anyone, because that wasn’t my intention. <3
My reasoning behind this chapter was to put Will in a situation where he, as a male omega, reacted in a way that would not only trigger Hannibal’s protective instincts, but also Will’s comfort-seeking instincts. (He has them, whether he wants to admit it or not.)
I felt it was important to create a scenario that would force them to rely more on their natural instincts, rather than try to resist them. Particularly Will, who fights so desperately to keep his inner omega at bay.
What are your thoughts on this chapter? I’d be delighted if you let me know in the comment section.
Chapter 5: Contemplation
I continue to be in awe of how much love and support you guys are giving me. Thank you so much – I’m so thrilled that chapter 4 was received well. ^^ I hope you’ll enjoy this chapter, too.
Again, sorry for the wait – still super busy with classes and work. *exhausted sigh*
Also – I just want to point out that I’m not familiar with the geography of the city (nor the state) where this takes place. I’m legit google-mapping these places and I’m probably fucking it up. :’D I just want to apologize beforehand.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Will groaned irritably as he, for the umpteenth time that night, found himself staring up at the ceiling. The nightmares wouldn’t let him sleep for more than an hour or so at a time – and they kept getting worse. Naked, dead bodies encircling him and suffocating him in his sleep.
Reminding himself that he wasn’t alone in the house, and that his loyal canines were asleep downstairs, didn’t help. Will felt uneasy and the adrenaline that rushed through his system made it impossible to relax.
His sheets were now thoroughly soaked by his sweat, clinging uncomfortably to his skin, chilling him to the bones. His muscles were sore and stiff from his constant shivering and eventually, Will decided he’d had enough. He unclenched his fists to release the iron grip he had on his blanket and sat up.
He looked over to his nightstand, where his digital alarm clock resided. The crimson digits let him know that sunrise was still several hours away, which soured his mood further. It was barely half past two and the thought of getting up to carpe the diem in the middle of night seemed absurd, but the idea of trying to go back to sleep despite his many failed attempts seemed even more idiotic at that point, so he swung his legs over the edge and pushed himself off the mattress, swaying slightly on his legs before taking a few staggering steps towards the bedroom door. He reached behind his back and pressed his knuckles against his spine with a wince.
The nightmares weren’t the only thing keeping him up. Two days had passed since he’d been summoned to the crime scene with the butchered omegas and ever since then, he’d been experiencing odd tremors in his back. An impatient, tickling sensation – similar to a shiver – that would blossom just above his tail bone and then spread until it reached the base of his skull, where it eventually subsided and dissipated. While it wasn’t painful, it did serve as a distraction – and Will hated distractions.
He chalked it up to sleep deprivation, possibly combined with the stress and frustration that came with his job. Mainly because that was the only theory he could think of that made sense – after all, the phenomena had begun bothering him shortly after Jack rejected his theory and dismissed him from the scene. Will’s confidence and sense of purpose had taken a major blow that day, and it wasn’t impossible that his anxiety was manifesting itself through physical symptoms. He hadn’t told Hannibal about it. He supposed he should – but only if it was still an issue by Tuesday. He desperately hoped it wouldn’t be.
He sighed dejectedly and made his way down to the kitchen, deciding he needed coffee if he was going to stay up for the rest of the night. He found the familiar sound of the floorboards creaking under his feet oddly comforting. Wolf Trap wasn’t exactly a dream vacation resort and his wooden house certainly wasn’t a castle, but it was his home; his sanctuary.
The dogs stirred as he walked past them in the living room, where they were curled up together on the floor, and he quickly let them know that it was him by giving a low hush, clicking his tongue once. Just because he couldn’t get to sleep, it didn’t mean his dogs had to suffer the same fate.
The last few weeks hadn’t been easy on them either – Will’s vivid hallucinations and his subsequent breakdowns had been keeping them on edge, anxiously unsure of how to help or soothe their master. Will’s heart ached at the sudden wave of appreciation and affection that washed over him as he watched them settle back down on the floor. He smiled softly and headed into the kitchen, where he flicked on the light switch to the small lamp above his dinner table, filling the room with a warm, comforting glow.
Once Will had prepared the coffee and collected a box of cereal from one of the cupboards – since he couldn’t be bothered to prepare a sandwich – he grabbed the iPad that was resting on the kitchen counter and took a seat by the table. His eyes were stinging as a result of insufficient sleep and his muscles were still cramping up from cold shivers, but the coffee warmed him up from the inside and gradually made him feel a bit better. He activated the pad and immediately went for his preferred news site, shoving a hand down the cereal box to retrieve a fistful of sugary oat puffs.
As he chewed, he scrolled past the headlines he deemed uninteresting until he finally reached one that piqued his interest.
Omega Killer on the loose –
police urges the citizens to be on alert
On October 14th, two boys (aged 15 and 16) made a horrifying discovery in an abandoned factory building – previously belonging to Johnson & Thomson Woodwork, a construction firm that went bankrupt in 1998 – located by route 83, Bentley Springs. Five bodies – all confirmed to be omegas – were found in the basement. The boys immediately alerted the authorities, and the FBI are now searching for the culprit, currently believed to be an alpha.
- Considering the nature of this crime, we do believe that an alpha is behind these murders, states Jack Crawford, lead investigator.
- The victims have all been bitten by the neck. The teeth marks further indicate an alpha killer, as the canines seem to be significantly larger than those typically found in a beta. We’re still awaiting lab results to confirm this theory. I’d advice the good people of this city to be on alert – especially omega citizens. This does appear to be a series of biased crimes.
Will scoffed to himself and popped another puff into his mouth.
At least you got that part right, he thought dryly. Even a toddler could’ve figured that out.
He closed the article and scrolled down, looking for related news when he suddenly came across a blog headline. Normally he would’ve scrolled past it – blogs rarely captured his interest – but this one made him curious. He pinched his eyes and clicked the link. The blog appeared to be run by a true crime enthusiast, who rambled on about the authorities covering things up for several paragraphs and then – at the end of the post – linked to yet another site with the caption: “Here’s what the FBI doesn’t want you to see!”
Will clicked the link – only to immediately regret it.
TattleCrime was a notorious tabloid blog run by a woman named Freddie Lounds. He’d heard of her – and her questionable sense of ethics – but never personally crossed paths with her before. She appeared to have crossed paths with him, however.
The latest post featured a large, unflattering photograph of him and Jack Crawford – apparently in the midst of the argument that led to Will being dismissed from the crime scene. Will regarded the photo with rapidly building anxiety. He knew he’d been in bad shape that day, but seeing his own face in the photo – greenishly pale and with his hair sticking to his sweaty forehead – made Will wonder how on earth he’d been able to stay on his feet, let alone have a verbal fight with his alpha commander, when he looked as though he was about to keel over at any second.
Lounds seemed to wonder the same thing, because what she wrote about them – Will in particular – was scathing.
What you see here, dear readers, is a brilliant example of the unorthodox methods the FBI will use when faced with a grand-scale issue such as the recent case of the Omega Murders. Will Graham, the man who appears to be suffering from a bad case of the flu, is a “special agent” (I have yet to find an exact definition of his position) who – despite currently undergoing therapy for his mental instability – is assisting with the case.
Approximately three weeks ago, Graham took the life of Garrett Jacob Hobbs, now confirmed to have been the Minnesota Shrike, by firing no less than nine bullets at Hobbs. Nine! One has to wonder why Graham felt it was necessary to fire so many shots. Witnesses from the scene say Graham was visibly distraught following the execution and had to be taken to the hospital.
His therapist (click here for image) can actually be seen accompanying him to the crime scene, which in itself seems like a gross overstep of boundaries, but even so – as you can clearly see – Graham is in no shape to be assisting with the investigation.
Graham has received some acclaim due to his supposed ability to empathize with criminals, thereby making it easy for him to profile perpetrators, but I say – it takes one to know one.
The image above shows him having a heated argument with his commander, Jack Crawford, and clearly not handling it well. What are they fighting about, one might wonder? Perhaps captain Crawford is coming to the realization that Graham is in fact so unstable that he can no longer preform his job? Graham seems to be taking extreme offense – a testament to his mental issues, perhaps? Take a look at that enraged face and decide for yourselves what you believe.
The question remains – with such an uneven team of misfits, are the FBI truly capable of handling this case? Can they ensure the safety of us, the citizens? Or are they merely playing a guessing game led by a mental patient who is suspiciously skilled at understanding the minds of killers and psychopaths?
(Click here for more images from the Omega Murders crime scene.)
Against his better judgement, Will clicked the link, which in turn activated a slideshow of pictures clearly taken with a low quality digital camera – many of them were taken from odd angles, leading him to theorise that Lounds must’ve held her camera in such a way that no one at the site would realize what she was doing. Some of them were even taken from inside the basement, but thankfully, Lounds hadn’t gained access to the premise until after the bodies were removed. Maybe that was intentional. Will wasn’t sure how low Lounds was prepared to stoop for her sensational pieces, but he sensed that snapping photos of naked murder victims was a bit too distasteful, even for her.
She had, however, snapped several photos of the spray-painted wall and captioned them with questions regarding the intended message and the identity of the killer, urging her readers to share their own theories in the comment section.
Will felt sick. She treated the case as if it was some sort of event – like a game for people to partake in and enjoy. Like it wasn’t real.
He had been there. He’d seen the bodies, felt the atmosphere of death and decay, smelled the rot.
What this woman was doing was wrong on so many levels, yet she was receiving so much praise from her admirers – people who thought of themselves as anarchists, activists, special people with special minds. Lounds made them feel extraordinary – perhaps even superior – with her sensational pieces, inviting them to discuss matters that were usually kept confidential, behind the safety and comfort of their computer screens.
The problem with letting ordinary citizens partake in criminal investigations – or rather, the very reason behind keeping certain details strictly classified – was that those not in the know tended to come up with the wildest theories, egging each other on, until the case was so completely distorted and blown out of proportion that the truth was forever lost in translation. Sometimes, in extreme cases, this led to witch hunts and innocent people getting harmed.
Jack was well accustomed with Lounds – he’d take care of her if need be. Will wasn’t part of the investigation any longer and had no real obligation to assist, not even with matters such as this one. That said, Lounds had smeared Will on a rather personal level and openly questioned his abilities. He had every right to feel violated.
At three in the morning, however, there really wasn’t much Will could do about it. Instead, he took the opportunity to look at the pictures from the crime scene and play with the many theories in his mind. Not because it was his duty, but rather because he couldn’t leave it alone.
Will hated to admit it, but Jack had been right – he hadn’t been at the top of his game that afternoon. While still utterly convinced that a deranged beta was behind the murders, Will had been too shaken up to consider the smaller details – and those were often the most important.
He’d terminated his empathy session in the basement much sooner than he normally would – too horrified by what he was experiencing to stick around. It was therefore highly possible that he’d missed something; overlooked certain details. And now that Jack had dismissed him from the case, he no longer had access to crime scene photos, lab results or forensic evidence. He had nothing to go on – except the photos on Freddie Lounds idiotic tabloid blog.
He sighed bitterly and studied the pictures one by one, hating himself for even bothering. The photos weren’t very helpful and none of them provided any real clues, what with the bodies missing and all, but Will did find that they triggered his memories – brought him back to the scene, allowing him to at least get a sense of the basement. The sound of dripping, the heavy air that made it hard to breathe… The smells.
Smells. More than one.
He scowled with concentration. The odour of decay was extremely prominent and he’d been too affected by it to take notice of the other palpable notes cutting through the air. A strange, burnt, metallic scent. A remnant of the spray paint? Unlikely, but not impossible. If only he could talk to someone from the forensic unit…
Immense frustration welled up in him – he hated being kept away from an investigation as important as this one. Especially when he knew Jack’s faulty theory would only point his team in the wrong direction. Will scrolled angrily through the crime scene photos, finger pressing harder against the screen than necessary, until he finally came to an abrupt stop.
He stared at the screen in confusion for a few seconds, racking his brain to remember the moment captured by Lounds crappy camera. His efforts were futile.
The photo was taken from a distance, but it still offered a very clear view of Will combing his fingers through his sweaty hair – he did remember that part – and Hannibal’s gloved hand firmly pressing against the curve of his lower back.
What the hell?
The picture appeared to have been snapped just before they headed back to Hannibal’s car. Will remembered the minutes leading up to that moment. Jack had been yelling at him. Will had wanted to yell back, but he’d been too weak and too upset to walk properly. So instead, he’d stayed by Hannibal’s side until they decided to leave. That was all he could remember.
Will gaped at the screen, drawing a complete blank.
He hadn’t even been aware of Hannibal’s touch. How was it even possible to not notice someone’s hand pressing up against his back? It seemed especially out of character for him, who absolutely hated being touched – and by an alpha, no less!
As if on cue, prickling warmth pooled at the small of his back – just above his tail bone – and wandered up his spine, forcing him to arch his back slightly, until the tremor reached his neck. Hissing through his teeth, Will scrunched his eyes shut and waited for it to end. Once it did, he reluctantly refocused on the screen. Studied the way his photographic self appeared to lean into Hannibal’s support – completely oblivious to his own actions.
Sickening shame crawled over Will and heated his face.
It was common knowledge that the lower back was a sensitive area to most omegas, and although it wasn’t necessarily an erogenous zone, it was still undeniably intimate.
While it was entirely possible that Hannibal was merely propping Will up due to the fragile condition he’d been in at the time, it still looked too much like an alpha supporting his omega and it made Will incredibly uncomfortable.
Hannibal must have known what that touch implied. The man wasn’t oblivious and while it was true that Hannibal grew up in another country with different customs, he had always been a perfect gentleman – a well-mannered picture of grace and courtesy. For him to be touching Will in such a familiar manner seemed almost too bold for him.
Then again, Will reminded himself, he remained a beta in the eyes of those surrounding him – Hannibal included. To anyone else looking at the photo, Hannibal’s actions would appear innocent. They probably were. And yet, Will’s mind couldn’t help but to wander off to his darkest, deepest fears.
Does he know?
The sudden, unbidden thought startled him. Will’s breath locked in his throat at the prospect. Cold panic seized his chest. If Hannibal did in fact know, it was possible – albeit unlikely – that he’d tell Jack about it. And if Jack found out, it was only a matter of time before everyone else knew.
If that happened, Will wasn’t sure what he’d do. Uproot his entire life? Move elsewhere? Start over?
The mere idea was exhausting. Not to mention melodramatic. That said, Will couldn’t bear the thought of being outed to his co-workers after working so hard to keep his gender under the radar for so long. He’d rather move to Canada and become a preschool teacher.
Will forced himself to take a deep breath.
Stop. You’re being crazy.
Will had been in poor shape that day. If Hannibal hadn’t been there to support him, he would’ve likely fallen over and passed out on the ground. Hannibal was a professional, a man of integrity, and the whole reason he was at the crime scene in the first place was to make sure Will remained well and healthy – or, well, as healthy as he could be, given the circumstances.
Furthermore, as far as Will knew, Hannibal wasn’t one to keep secrets. He’d always informed Will of the things he knew about him, to the point where it actually irritated Will. The man had some impressive deductive skills and wasn’t afraid to show them off. If Hannibal did know about his gender, it seemed unlikely that he’d keep it from Will. Unless, of course, he had some hidden ulterior motives.
Will scoffed amusedly at himself.
There you go, being crazy again.
He sighed and leaned back in his chair, rubbing his hands over his face in an effort to chase some of the fatigue away. He felt as though he was coming apart at the seams. Mind reeling and emotions flying. He decided to blame it on the ridiculously early hour. Perhaps a warm shower would do him some good.
He turned the iPad off and stretched his arms up, groaning at the pleasant ache of his muscles loosening up, and cast a quick glance out the window. Paused. Turned back to the window and squinted his eyes.
He scanned the area surrounding his house carefully. It was dark, but he could still make out the silhouette of his car and the trees on his front yard.
After a few moments of concentratedly staring out the window, he scratched his nape and gave a shrug.
Yep. Definitely going crazy.
For a split second, he could’ve sworn he saw a black stag walking up his driveway.
“You seem distracted today.”
Hannibal looked up and quickly rearranged his face into a carefree smile. Bedelia, as usual, did not look convinced. She remained impassive, studying him carefully from her seat, hand folded in her lap. Sometimes Hannibal wondered if it had been a wise decision, asking for her to be his psychiatrist. The woman was sharp and, for the most part, immune to Hannibal’s charms. Female alphas were terrifying creatures that way.
“I suppose I am,” he replied with an apologetic grin, hoping she’d buy his humble approach. “I find my mind wandering off lately.”
“Where to?” She gave him a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. Hannibal regarded her for a moment.
Her silvery blond hair cascaded over her left shoulder in a series of elegant curls and the makeup framing her eyes was flattering in its’ subtlety. Hannibal couldn’t for the life of him understand how someone so intelligent and pleasing to the eye remained unmated. Female alphas typically preferred the company of betas, but since betas were a generally good natured and light-hearted gender, it was highly possible that Bedelia’s intimidating personality scared off any potential suitors. What a curse to live with.
“While it’s true that you’re here specifically because of your work, I have never known you to be a man whose mind wanders off – especially during your sessions with me,” she pointed out with a slight tilt of her head. “What happened? A new patient proving difficult to handle?”
“I’d say it’s the other way around,” Hannibal admitted. “Handling him takes finesse, I’ll admit, but I find myself enjoying it. I purposely seek out reactions from him, even when it’s uncalled for. While I don’t feel particularly guilty about it, because ultimately, my goal is to help him, I do feel that…” He paused and turned to the window. The refreshing glow from the morning sun lit up Bedelia’s study, clearing his mind. “He captivates me.”
For a few moments, they said nothing. The clock on Bedelia’s wall was the only thing breaking the silence. Eventually, she readjusted in her seat.
“Hannibal,” she started, “to be perfectly frank, it sounds to me like you’re becoming enamoured – and I don’t just mean that in a professionally curious sense. As psychiatrists, we can’t help but to feel drawn to the patients that intrigue us. I’d even go so far as to say it’s in our nature. But if you feel that you’re perhaps getting too invested in him, you know what you have to do.”
Hand him over to someone else.
Hannibal couldn’t help the way his fingers twitched in agitation at the prospect and he clenched his fist in an effort to hide it. The thought of directing Will to another therapist, terminating their sessions and being deprived of seeing the younger man, was unpleasant to say the least. Bedelia was right, of course, and had he been in her position, he would’ve recommended the same thing – but that didn’t mean he was going to take her advice.
“I’m unsure of whether my feelings for him exceed those that I normally harbour for patients,” Hannibal lied and flicked away an imagined speck of dust from his knee. “Truthfully, it’s been a long time since I worked with a patient as unstable as him. Perhaps it is merely curiosity.”
Bedelia blinked slowly, lip curving into a polite smile.
“The fact that you aren’t sure is rather damning in itself.”
Hannibal struggled to keep his smile intact, but he was sure Bedelia took notice of how his shoulders tensed up. She leaned back in her chair, chin raised daringly.
“Calm down,” she said, eyes chilly. “I’m not telling you what to do. I’m merely suggesting.”
“Noted. But I maintain that it’s too early to say whether or not I’m about to cross any lines.” He forced himself to relax. “I haven't had the chance to treat anyone with issues as severe as the ones he’s exhibiting in years. It’s possible that I’m captivated by his behaviour rather than his persona. As a fellow psychiatrist, can you really blame me for that?”
“I suppose not. You have always been a man of principle,” she said with a hand gesture that suggested a shrug. “I respect you for that and I do think it’s unlikely that you’d take advantage of a patient. But as your therapist, I will not hesitate to go over your head if I suspect that you’re about to break your oath.”
“As is your duty,” Hannibal conceded.
“It’s also my duty to ask uncomfortable questions,” she proceeded, clasping her hands over her knee. “Is this patient an omega?”
They stared at each other in tense silence for a second.
“I believe he is.”
She quirked an elegant brow.
“You believe he is?”
“He appears to maintain a beta alter ego,” Hannibal explained. “I’m still unsure as to why this is, but I believe it has to do with his line of work – it’s highly alpha dominated. It seems plausible that he feels more at ease pretending to be a beta under such circumstances.”
“I understand. But if you don’t mind me asking, what led you to believe he’s an omega?”
Hannibal clamped his jaws shut, taking his time to work up a reply. Bedelia didn’t like to be kept waiting, however. With each second of silence that passed, his credibility diminished.
“To be honest,” he said, “it’s just a feeling.”
Even as he said it, he knew it was the wrong thing to say. Bedelia’s gaze hardened.
“A feeling? Or instinct?” She questioned. “I don’t have to tell you what it means for an alpha’s instincts to be triggered by an omega. A male one at that.”
“I’m aware,” he said, voice sharpening to match hers. “But as I said – it’s just a feeling.”
They sat in uncomfortable silence for a minute. Bedelia leaned back in her seat with a heavy sigh and shook her head softly.
“You’re playing with fire, Hannibal.”
“I’ll maintain a safe distance,” he said, turning his gaze back to window. The damned woman was too skilled at reading him. He’d definitely made a mistake in requesting her for his therapist.
“You say that now,” she said, voice carefully subdued. “Just remember what happened to Icarus.”
The timer she’d set on her phone went off, ending their session.
Yeah, dude, remember Icarus.
Thus concludes the first chapter in which Will and Hannibal don't interact at all, but I hope you enjoyed it anyway. I promise that they'll be interacting a whole lot more in chapter 6. ;) I had fun introducing Bedelia in this chapter. (Goddamn, that woman gives me the chills. <3 Wifey material right there!) Bedelia won't be taking up too much space in this story, but I do feel it's important for Hannibal to have someone to ventilate his thoughts to - even though he often ends up lying.
Also, isn't it fucking endearing how naive Will is? :'D
Please, drop a comment and let me know what you thought of this chapter. <3
Chapter 6: Error
As always – thanks SO much for the continued support. <3 You’re all amazing.
Alright, my lovelies. Here’s a chapter I’ve been seriously looking forward to writing. *grins* Enjoy.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Hannibal couldn’t remember the last time he felt so agitated he couldn’t even enjoy the breakfast that he’d painstakingly prepared for himself, using some of the finest pieces of meat he had left in his freezer. What a stupid waste.
The last few weeks hadn’t been uneventful. Ever since Will came into his life, his mind had been so preoccupied with figuring the younger man out that Hannibal hadn’t found the time – nor the motivation – to go hunting. Strange, considering how much he normally enjoyed that particular activity.
He imagined Will wouldn’t approve. A small part of him couldn’t help but to wonder if that was the reason he felt no desire to restock his freezer. Perhaps he was in fact becoming so… enamoured with Will, as Bedelia had put it, that he was unwittingly refraining from doing things that he suspected Will wouldn’t like. How disturbing.
Truthfully, however – he should have seen this coming. He should have known. Prepared himself.
Why didn’t I?
Hannibal’s vision shifted, focusing on his reflection in the window rather than on the parking lot outside. The lines framing his eyes were deeper than normal. Jaw tense.
Bedelia was a woman of wit. She never made needless assumptions – most of what came out of that woman’s mouth was unadulterated truth; the blunt, painful kind. Deep down, Hannibal knew she’d been right. He was playing with fire – already felt the heat on his skin. If he got any closer to Will, he’d burn.
He turned away from the window and walked over to his desk, intending to get started with today’s work, to distract himself from any unwanted thoughts – and to pass the time. Franklyn, who normally visited him every Tuesday morning, was bedridden; sick with the flu.
Will’s session was scheduled in less than forty minutes, and he’d be damned if he couldn’t keep the man out of his head until then. He picked up a small, black remote control and directed it towards a CD player that was discreetly placed at the bottom of one of his many shelves.
The soft melodies of Wagner filled his study and while the soothing music wasn’t enough to chase the tension away from his shoulders, it did have a calming effect on his mood.
He tried to concentrate on the stacks of documents awaiting his scrutiny and signature, but after he found that he’d just re-read the same sentence four times – and still failing to make sense of it – he gave up. He reached into his suitcase and grabbed his thermos, craving a cup of his herb brew.
He unscrewed the plastic plug, inhaled the pleasant aroma of rose and camomile, and picked up a white porcelain cup from his side table. Suddenly, a tremor ran through his hand and made him drop the cup on the floor. It shattered.
Hannibal stared at the sharp pieces on the floor, still gripping the thermos tightly in his other hand.
He wasn’t a superstitious man, yet he couldn’t help but to feel like this was a bad omen – a sign of some sort.
Hannibal directed his gaze to his empty hand, studied the way his fingers twitched in dismay. He hadn’t expected things to escalate this quickly. Admittedly, it had been careless of him to offer Will a hand of support that day. In hindsight, Hannibal knew it’d been a mistake – like opening a can of worms – but right then and there, it had felt right. He’d been acting on instinct, rather than making a conscious decision. Perhaps he needed to practice some self-restraint.
The more he allowed himself to get swayed by Will and his frustratingly innocent demeanor, the harder it got to remain passively observant. His very core responded to Will – pulled him to the younger man, enticed him, like a cat to a mouse. While Hannibal had known right from the start that this was a possible outcome – he wasn’t so conceited as to believe he was immune to omega pheromones – he hadn’t expected himself to get pulled under so easily. For all his experience, knowledge and sturdy confidence, Hannibal found himself unsure of how to proceed.
It forced him to re-evaluate his intentions; what was he thinking? What exactly did he want from Will?
Initially, Will had presented himself as an object of curiosity – a rare being to examine and experiment on. Hannibal had encountered male omegas in the past, sure, but Will was different in many regards. Aside from the fact that he’d kept his gender a secret for several years – which was no small feat, really – Will was unmated and seemed highly reluctant to rely on anyone other than himself. It inspired a begrudging sense of respect in Hannibal.
Unlike many other alphas, Hannibal had never considered himself a necessity to an omega’s health. Omegas were capable creatures, perfectly able to care for themselves if need be, but for an omega to choose to be alone? Virtually unheard of. And there was no shortage of alphas in the eager pursuit of an omega partner, so it wasn’t as though it’d be difficult for Will to find someone, should he ever want to. But then again, male omegas were generally treated differently than female ones. He couldn't blame Will for keeping a distance.
He recalled the feel of Will’s back moving under his hand – how the muscles had stretched and arched before settling against his palm, quietly accepting his support. Whether Will had been aware of it or not, he’d accepted Hannibal. He’d allowed Hannibal’s touch. The thought sent a shiver down Hannibal’s spine.
For Will, who at first glance appeared so utterly ordinary, to have such an immense effect on him... It was as intriguing as it was infuriating.
He curled his fingers into a tight fist, released a breath and placed the thermos on his desk before crouching down to collect the pieces, which he then placed on the side table.
Just as he reached out for a new cup, there was a knock at the door. Hannibal checked his wrist watch. Will’s session was still a half hour away, and yet, Hannibal found himself hoping that the man had decided to show up early. When another knock came, however, he realized it came from his private exit. Will never used that door. Hannibal walked over to open the door and was met with Jack Crawford’s troubled scowl.
“Jack,” he gave a greeting nod. “What brings you here?”
Jack invited himself into the study and Hannibal decided to allow it, not in the mood for any childish displays of alpha dominance.
“No client this morning?” Jack pondered and sent Hannibal a questioning look.
“I had a cancellation,” Hannibal explained and took a seat behind his desk, waiting for Jack to announce his reason for visiting him.
“I see,” Jack sighed and gave a slow nod, looking uncomfortably unsure of what to say. The atmosphere turned awkward fast – after all, their last encounter hadn’t been overly pleasant, what with Hannibal witnessing Jack and Will’s heated brawl and all.
“How can I help you, Jack?” Hannibal urged gently, leaning back in his chair. Jack gave a quick, polite smile and put his hands in his pockets, attempting a more relaxed stance.
“I’d like to first apologize for how I behaved the last time we saw each other,” he said with a grimace of remorse. “I was overly harsh on Will and it must have put you in an odd position.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, I mean,” Jack looked even more uncomfortable, “you were there to be his anchor of support, so I’m sure you must’ve felt torn watching us fight.”
Hannibal struggled to keep from grinning with amusement. Jack seemed to be under the delusion that Hannibal had wanted to take his side over Will’s. Oh well – might as well indulge the other man. Hannibal had nothing to gain by making Jack Crawford his enemy.
“I suppose,” he said with a reassuring smile. “But rest assured, my opinion of you remains intact. I’m sure it was a difficult situation for you.”
“It was,” Jack nodded and took a seat on the wooden chair in front of the desk. “To be honest, I still feel guilty for bringing him back on so soon. He clearly wasn’t ready for it.”
“So it would seem.”
“Do you think I made it worse? I mean… Did I put too much pressure on him?” Jack seemed genuinely troubled. “Alana will have my head if she finds out I brought him on, only for him to… well, lash out the way he did.”
“Will’s goal was always to go back to work as soon as possible – he told me so during our very first session,” Hannibal said, fixing his face into a more contemplative look. “He’s very dedicated that way. I had hoped that an early return to the job would be good for him – maybe I was hasty in my assessment. Perhaps he does need more time. But I don’t blame you, Jack. Will is a crucial part of your team, after all.”
“Yeah…” Jack scratched his chin thoughtfully. “But as much as I hate to admit it, Alana was right. Will needs to heal. I think it’s clear that his head isn’t in the right place yet, and until it is, he’s of no use.”
Hannibal said nothing, opting instead for a neutral smile that Jack could interpret any way he wanted.
“But it leaves us without a psycho-analyser for now,” Jack continued, giving Hannibal a look. “Which is why I’m here. I was actually hoping you’d be willing to fill Will’s shoes for a while – just until he gets better. After all, you were originally brought on to assist with the cases.”
That wasn’t entirely true, but since it was apparently what Jack needed to tell himself, Hannibal appeased him with a nod.
“I see,” he said. “You need me to help you put together a profile?”
“Yes,” Jack confirmed. “Don’t get me wrong – the BSU agents at my disposal are skilled in their respective fields, but we’ve been relying heavily on Will ever since he joined the team. We could really use someone with a keen eye for the psychological aspects.”
“Criminal minds do fascinate me,” Hannibal admitted, “but I feel obliged to point out that it’s not my official area of expertise.”
“I’m aware,” Jack said with a complying grin. “It’s not my intention to put you in a difficult position. I just thought I’d ask. If you decline, I’ll have to ask Alana instead, and frankly,” he paused to make a grimace of unwillingness, “I’d rather not.”
“I’d be willing to assist in any way I can,” Hannibal said, and then – feigning innocence – he added, “but I thought you already had a theory to go on?”
A nerve in Jack’s eyebrow twitched at this, but he made an admirable attempt to appear untroubled.
“Oh, we do,” he said, lips stretching into a thin smile, “but so far, all we know is that we’re most likely looking at an alpha. We know little to nothing about his mental state, or even what kind of life he leads outside his more… unorthodox interests. That’s where you come in. We need you to help us look for any clues that might lead us in the direction of who he is, outside of his killer persona. What he does for a living, where he lives, possible motives for the murders… That sort of thing.”
A hot twinge of irritation blossomed in Hannibal’s chest. Jack’s words had an unexpectedly agitating effect on him. Hannibal couldn’t say for certain that Will’s theories were correct, but for Jack to completely throw them out, only to immediately seek Hannibal’s advice instead? All because of Jack’s pride? Disgraceful.
“I understand,” Hannibal said and managed a graceful nod. “But honestly, Jack, I can’t promise I’ll do a better job than Will.”
“But maybe you’ll do a better job than the Will we saw last Friday,” Jack said and gave Hannibal a pointed look. “You have to admit that he wasn’t exactly… clear-headed.”
Another twinge of irritation made itself known, making it increasingly difficult for Hannibal to keep his facial expression under control. He gritted his teeth, barely noticing how his fingers dug into the arm rests of his chair, before finally regaining some self-control. He tipped his head back and gave a contemplative hum.
“Can you blame him?” He asked, voice subdued. “You seemed awfully distressed by that same crime scene, and Will was still learning how to cope with the guilt of having taken a man’s life. It’s no wonder he reacted the way he did.”
“I certainly don’t blame him. I agree with everything you just said,” Jack said, tone indignant. “And that’s precisely why I want him off the case. He’s already unravelling, and I’m sure as hell not going to put pressure on someone who’s…” He paused, struggling to find the right words, and then sighed in defeat. “I shouldn’t have asked him to return that soon. It was my mistake – and I’m a man who learns from his mistakes, doctor. If Will breaks permanently, I’ll have lost one of my finest agents.”
“Careful, Jack. The way you’re speaking right now makes it sound as though you consider Will a damaged object,” Hannibal observed, sending Jack a chilly look. He swivelled in his chair, turning back to the side table to retrieve a new cup. His gaze landed on the pile of broken porcelain pieces. “You might want to reconsider how you address your subordinates.”
“I assure you,” Jack said, voice trembling ever so slightly from withheld anger, “that I’m perfectly capable of dealing with my subordinates. What happened with Will last week was due to an error of judgement, one that I regret deeply, but let me remind you that I sought your advice beforehand, and you said he could handle it.” Jack jabbed a finger in Hannibal’s direction. “I will not have you question my ethics because I made a mistake. I have the utmost respect for my agents – including Will. But right now, he’s unwell and, as such, unfit for duty. For God’s sake, doctor, he’s your patient. You of all people should understand.”
I do understand. Will can handle it. He did his job and you didn’t like what he had to say. Yet another error of judgement that you’re too proud to see.
The urge to punch Jack Crawford was almost unbearable. Somehow, though, he managed to restrain himself. Took a deep breath and forced himself to relax. Reminding himself that it’d be better to be Jack’s ally rather than his enemy, Hannibal pulled back.
“You’re right. My apologies.” Hannibal gave Jack a humble nod. “Perhaps my own error of judgement is eating away at me. I do, after all, carry some of the weight of what happened to Will last week.”
Jack leaned back in his seat, clearly appeased, and cleared his throat.
“Right. Well. No harm, no foul. We’re all under a bit of pressure.”
Hannibal gave a rueful smile and nodded, focusing on keeping his breathing even. Some day, he hoped he’d have the pleasure of roasting Jack Crawford’s loins and serving them to Will. Perhaps with a nice ensemble of spinach and baked potatoes. Garlic cream. And a sauce made of shallot and red wine.
“So do we have a deal?” Jack asked, ripping Hannibal away from his brief daydream. “Or am I going to have to seek Alana’s advice instead?”
Hannibal blinked slowly, releasing a tight breath through his nose. Jack was already agitated and on the offense. If Hannibal refused, their current semi-friendly relationship would likely be tarnished. Hannibal couldn’t have that. Having the BSU commander on his side was invaluable.
“We have a deal,” Hannibal conceded and reached out his hand. Jack grasped it and gave a firm shake. “I’ll help you profile the culprit in Will’s stead.”
“Terrific,” Jack said, looking pleased. “Well then. I’ll give you a call if we need assistance.”
He headed for the door through which he’d entered earlier, but just as he was about to reach out and grab the knob, he sent Hannibal a careful glance over his shoulder.
“Might be best if you don’t tell Will about this.”
“I agree,” Hannibal said, “but if he asks, I won’t lie.”
Jack heaved a deep sigh, as though he’d expected Hannibal to say exactly that, and gave a slow, begrudging nod. He opened the door and exited the room without another word. Hannibal leaned back in his chair, irritation simmering just beneath his skin.
What a goddamned farce. Jack Crawford wasn’t looking for a proper profiler – he was looking for someone who’d agree with him. Someone who’d confirm his theories and stroke his ego. And now, Hannibal, of all people, had been given that unpleasant task. No wonder Jack preferred him over Alana – she’d just give him a hard time. Jack absolutely hated it when others disagreed with him. This meant that if Hannibal wanted to keep Jack on his side, he’d have to make sure not to disagree with him.
A shudder of furious reluctance ran up his spine. Hannibal Lecter wasn’t some incompetent yes-man, so the fact that Jack would likely be treating him such – and the fact that he’d have to tolerate it – was enough to make him feel sick to his stomach.
Deciding he needed something stronger than tea, Hannibal got up and walked over to his drinks cabinet. He was half-way there when he idly glanced towards the dark hallway and stopped dead in his tracks.
The door leading to the waiting room was open, and while the waiting room was dark, it wasn’t empty. Will leaned tiredly against the door frame, gaze low. For a brief second, Hannibal hoped that Will had only just arrived and thereby missed his conversation with Jack, but when Will slowly walked into the study with stiff, deliberate steps and an angry scowl forming on his face, that hope abandoned Hannibal rather swiftly.
“Will.” Hannibal forced himself to smile calmly. Perhaps he could convince the younger man that nothing was amiss if he acted as though that was the case. “Didn’t expect you for another fifteen minutes.” This was an error on his part. After all, this wasn't the first time Will had arrived early. It wasn't even the first time he'd overheard a conversation held in Hannibal's office. Hannibal cursed himself for not being more cautious.
“Clearly,” Will seethed, speaking through tightly pressed together teeth. “After all, you wouldn’t have a secret meeting with my boss if you thought I’d be standing just outside, hearing everything.” Will stopped a few short steps away from him and finally raised his chin, eyes locking with Hannibal’s. The glare Will was producing was impressive in its intensity. “Would you care to explain to me what the hell just happened? Did you just steal my job?”
“Technically, it was given to me,” Hannibal replied. Will released a shaky scoff, smiling incredulously at him.
“Fucking technicalities,” he laughed joylessly. “And here I thought you were on my side. When I realized that Jack was here, I actually thought that you’d…” He paused to shake his head, narrowing his eyes. “I thought you’d called him to talk him about what happened last week. I thought you’d try to convince him that I was right and that I should be allowed to work the case. Because technically, you said that you thought I was right. I asked you, and you said that you didn’t think I was too unstable to work!”
“Will, calm do-“
“So imagine my surprise when I realized that the reason Jack was here was to convince YOU to work the case instead, since I’m so goddamned ‘unfit for duty’! And you actually agreed!?” Will’s chest heaved, breathing quick and angry. His eyes were wide with fury, the blue of his irises in stark contrast against the reddening whites. Hannibal’s head was starting to hurt.
“I didn’t have much choice,” he said, to no avail. Will took an angry step forward, baring his teeth.
“Don’t give me that bullshit! We both know that there are plenty of psychiatrists and profilers out there! Jack said so himself – he’d ask Alana if you turned him down! So I’m going to ask you again – did you just steal my job? Did I just get replaced by my own therapist?”
“Jack asked for my help and I saw no reason to turn him down,” Hannibal argued, struggling to keep his tone calm. The ache across his skull increased. “It’s only until you get better. He values you deeply.”
“Right, he just has a funny way of showing it.” Will dragged an agitated hand though his hair. “And what do you mean, ‘until I get better’? You were the one who said I was ready to go back! Was that just a lie? Did you say that just to make me feel better? Just how unstable do you think I am? Fuck, Hannibal!” The look Will gave him was as hurt as it was angry. “I trusted you.”
“Will, I know this must be difficult,” Hannibal started, took a step towards Will and reached out a hand, hoping to soothe him – to remove the pain in his eyes. “But it’s not-“
Will slapped his hand away with an aggressive growl. White noise filled the inside of Hannibal’s ears, making it difficult for him to hear what Will said next. He stared at his hand. Four days ago, Will had accepted that hand. Tolerated its' touch. Leaned into it. Now, it had been rejected. Hannibal had been rejected.
The world turned red.
“Spare me!” Will snarled, eyes glowing with rage. “I’m so goddamned sick of you pretending to know everything about me. You smug, condescending son of a bitch. You’re just like the rest of them. You don’t know shit.”
Hannibal’s gaze snapped back to Will. Any notion of wanting to soothe the younger man was replaced by something else – something stronger. Darker. It made his back straighten, shoulders squaring. He took a calm step towards Will, and then another one. He said nothing. Will’s eyes flickered uncertainly. He backed up, towards the bookshelves.
Once Will’s back collided with the shelves, his eyes widened in something akin to fear as he snapped his head back to glare defiantly at Hannibal. Slowly, Hannibal extended his arms and placed each hand on the sides of Will’s head, effectively trapping the younger man.
“You never learn, do you?” Hannibal mused out loud, sending Will a soft smirk. The tendons in Will’s throat moved as he swallowed, nostrils flaring in uneasiness. “What exactly is it that you think I don't know?” He leaned in closer, made sure to tower over Will in a way that would either force Will to bend his neck to look up at him – or bow his head in submission.
When Will chose the former, Hannibal had to grit his teeth to suppress the heated shudder that danced across his skin.
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” Will muttered, bravely looking straight into Hannibal’s eyes. Hannibal studied the way Will’s pupils rapidly increased in size. Revelled in how Will’s breathing turned heavy.
“Is there, now?” Hannibal challenged, minimizing the gap between himself and Will by taking a small step closer – their frames a mere inch away from one another. Suddenly, Will tensed up. His gaze broke away from Hannibal’s as his breath hitched and he pressed himself closer to the shelf, ducking his chin. Hannibal took notice of the way his shoulders trembled and stiffened. Shivering.
On instinct, Hannibal brought his hand into the gap between the shelf and Will’s back, running his fingers up the younger man’s spine. This coerced a fascinating response. Will threw his head back, eyes scrunched tightly shut, and let out a shaky sigh. His hands snapped up to push at Hannibal's shoulders. Hannibal licked his lips and leaned in closer. Will's throat clicked loudly as he swallowed and his voice was husky when he spoke.
Before Will had the chance to say or do anything else, Hannibal rubbed his jaw against Will’s cheek. Will’s natural scent still didn’t cut through the artificial smell of sandalwood, but Hannibal relished in the knowledge that his own scent would be mixed in there – that Will would carry his scent, at least for a couple of hours. Will stilled completely against him. His breathing was shallow and rapid in Hannibal’s ear. Hannibal’s hand was still firmly pressing up against the curve of Will’s spine – even through the layers of clothing, the touch was warm. The muscles clenched and unclenched under his fingers, until finally, they gave in.
Will’s back arched beautifully, curved towards him, pressing their chests together. Desire made his blood boil. Hannibal’s hand pressed tighter, pulling the omega closer. A silent whimper escaped Will, who appeared to still be struggling against the embrace – to no avail. The omega trembled against him. Hannibal smiled cruelly against his sweaty temple.
“I really wish you’d stop wearing this cheap beta perfume,” he said, leaning back just enough so that he could look into Will’s panicked eyes. “It doesn’t suit you at all.”
With surprising strength, Will shoved away from Hannibal, forcing the alpha to take a few staggering steps back, which bought him enough time to dash through the hallway and out the door.
Hannibal stared after him in bewildered wonder. The sound of Will’s rapid footsteps down the stairway brought him back to reality and he cursed himself for his lack of self-restraint.
Should I go after him?
No. Opting to give the younger man some space – sensing that his presence would be far from welcome – Hannibal fixed himself a drink and took a seat behind his desk, ignoring the way his hand still prickled from Will’s body heat and the smouldering arousal coursing through his veins. He sighed heavily and pinched the bridge of his nose.
Will rushed across the parking lot, glancing over his shoulder a few times to make sure Hannibal wasn’t following him. Once he reached his car, it took nearly a minute for him to unlock the door, hands shaking too much to hold the keys steady.
Once he was inside, he put the keys into the ignition and was just about to fire up the engine when he froze. The sensation was so foreign that he hadn’t realized what it was until now. Hadn’t stopped to consider it, getting away from Hannibal being his main priority. But as it dawned on him, there was no escape.
“Oh no. No, no, no…” He mumbled, closing his eyes in denial.
Will’s breath hitched in panic as he reluctantly peered down, taking in the state of his crotch. The tent just beneath his zipper was rather telling in itself – but erections weren’t as alien to Will. They occurred with regular intervals whether he liked it or not. More often than not, he ignored the problem until it went away. But this was decidedly different.
Will took a steadying breath and focused on steering the vehicle until he reached the main road. He stiffened in horror as the heat in his groin reached the next level, sending sparks of arousal down his legs. He swallowed tightly, trying his best to ignore the way his face heated up. His pulse was still thundering away, heart thudding heavily in his chest.
He cleared his throat and turned on the radio. The generic pop music didn’t help. Breathing was so goddamned difficult. Why was the air so heavy? Will readjusted in his seat, gulping as the new position added pressure to his backside, resulting in a horrifyingly pleasant series of shudders, dancing up his spine.
His vision blurred. Will decided to breathe slowly through his nose in an effort to regain some inkling of self-control. He’d left the city behind, thankfully already driving through a large forest area that separated Baltimore from Washington, but the drive from there to Wolf Trap wasn’t short. He’d end up in a ditch if he wasn’t careful.
Shit. I can’t. I can’t drive all the way home like this.
Cursing silently to himself, Will slowed down, veering off the main road to an old forest path. Once he felt he was far enough into the forest that his car wouldn’t be spotted from the main road, he parked the car and turned the radio off.
Feeling like a complete idiot, he unzipped his pants, threw a worried glance back to make sure he didn’t have an audience, and pulled them down along with his underwear, just far enough to release his cock. He hissed as it made contact with the chilly air. The head was already turning purple, glistening wantonly with pre-cum. It was so indecent that Will found it hard to look directly at it, opting instead to close his eyes as his fingers encircled the hard flesh.
The reaction was instantaneous. His back snapped away from the seat as jolts of pleasure shot up from his groin, through his stomach and chest, down his legs until the sensation reached his feet and forced him to curl his toes in delight.
Will grunted as memories flashed before his inner vision, hand picking up speed as he recalled the way Hannibal had gazed down at him. Those intense eyes. The little smirk playing at the corners of his lips. Will gasped and held his breath as spikes of intense desire pierced through him and made his heart slam against his rib cage. His hand paused. It wasn't enough.
In a desperate, dazed flurry, Will tugged his pants down further and reclined the seat to give himself more room. With one hand still firmly grasping his weeping dick, the other hand made its’ insecure way back. Will placed himself on the side for a better reach. Once his fingers made contact with the slick, what remained of his inhibitions abandoned him completely. He reached further, grazing the puckered opening with his index finger, and pressed.
The moan he’d been holding in escaped him now. The finger hadn’t entered him – not yet – but it nearly scared him how good it felt to just touch. Will almost forgot about the hand holding his erection, giving it a few lazy strokes before his focus returned to his backside. His middle finger joined the index one, rubbing against the slippery entrance, which spasmed eagerly from his ministrations, and despite his best efforts, Will couldn’t ignore the want – the need – to be penetrated.
I hate him.
This was all Hannibal’s fault.
Squeezing his eyes shut tighter, Will pressed his fuming face into the seat and gritted his teeth as his middle finger pushed past the twitching muscle and slid inside. His eyes snapped open at the sensation, but he didn’t see anything. Everything was just white. White and blinding.
He pushed the finger deeper in complete awe.
I hate him!
“Fuck!“ He gasped, arching his back against the unfamiliar sensation. Index finger soon joined the middle one, stretching him wider, and Will hated how fantastic it felt. Only semi-aware of what he was doing, Will let go of his spasming cock, pulled his fingers out and assumed a new position – turning around to face the back of the car. He shrugged his jacket off and draped it across the seat. Pressing his chest down against the reclined back of the seat, he spread his knees as far apart as his pants would allow and firmly positioned them on the cushion under him.
Holding onto the headrest for dear life, Will reached his free hand back and penetrated himself once more, frowning in heated concentration. White sparks danced across his blurry vision as the digits sunk into him, reaching deeper with each thrust of his hand. The muscles of his back protested as they stretched and curved, sweat soaking into his shirt.
Against his will, the images of Hannibal towering over him continued to harass him. The phantom sensation of Hannibal’s hand pressing against his back made him groan with frustration.
The image turned into fantasy. Hannibal’s musky scent lingered on his skin, prominent despite Will’s strong perfume. Will’s mind provided him with a new scenario and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Wasn’t even sure he wanted it to stop. The imaginary hand that had been pressing against Will’s back was now holding him down against the car seat, keeping him in place. Firmly. Hannibal was behind him. Fucking him.
Hovering over his trembling form, thrusting into him with strong, deliberate moves, forcing filthy sounds out of Will.
I want him…
Leaning down, Hannibal would press his nose against Will’s nape, rub his jaw against Will’s slick skin, mix their scents together-
-and then he’d open his mouth to nibble at his neck and Will would submit; he’d bow his head and present his neck to the alpha, let him do whatever the fuck he wanted-
“Hanni-… ba-” Will’s pressed his forehead against the rough fabric of the seat, only to suddenly snap his head back in a silent yell as he came. Semen gushed out of him in thick ropes, splattering over the jacket he’d laid out, and he quickly reached down to grab a hold of his dick, pumping it furiously to ride out the wave. His skin crackled with energy, wave after wave of satisfaction tearing through his body, until his breathing slowed down. The fingers he’d used to penetrate himself slipped out, sending a jolt up Will’s back. The tips were pruney.
Once the orgasm subsided, Will was left feeling as though the bones in his body had turned to rubber. His legs shook from exertion, left ankle was cramping up, and Will collapsed against the car seat with an exhausted sigh.
As the afterglow left him, it was immediately replaced by a much less pleasant feeling.
“Oh god…” Will pushed himself off the seat and took in the soiled state of his jacket – the puddles of his cum soaking into the fabric. "Oh good God..." Disgusted with himself, Will turned away from the sight and managed to fold the jacket together into a messy lump that he threw to the backseat. He then proceeded to pull his pants up, movements harsh and shaky.
He had no tissues or wet wipes with him. Not even a water bottle. There was nothing he could use to clean himself up. The entire car reeked of sweat and lust.
Grunting with displeasure, Will twisted his body and managed to seat himself, wincing as his sensitive backside protested against the pressure.
And then, he just sat there for what felt like hours. Staring out into the peaceful forest. Heard the chirping of birds and the whisper of the wind dancing through the tree branches. Absentmindedly, he opened the door to let some fresh air in. Another few minutes of complete serenity passed.
Finally, a sob wrecked through his body. And another one. Salt stung in his eyes. Fuelled by rage and self-loathing, Will got out of the car. Kicked the tire, cursed loudly, slammed his hands against the roof. Kicked up a pile of leaves. Screamed. The sound of startled birds flying away. He bent down to retrieve a fistful of leaves and dirt only to throw it back to the ground with a furious, frustrated growl. Angry tears streaked down his cheeks and he wiped them away using the back of his hand.
Once he’d calmed down, he returned to the car. Started the engine. Turned on the radio. Took a deep breath. Returned to the main road. Ignored how loose and relaxed his muscles felt. Ignored how his head felt lighter. Ignored how the colours of the autumn leaves seemed brighter than before.
For the remainder of the drive back to Wolf Trap, he repeated the same mantra over and over again in his head. Eventually, he told himself, it’d become truth.
I hate him.
... Okay, I know I said I'd been looking forward to writing this - and I totally have - but now that it's time to publish it, I'm suddenly feeling real nervous. o_o I wanted to give you something a little bit... steamier... since you've been so patient and because they didn't even see one another in ch 5. So. Uh. Yeah. :D
I really, really hope you enjoyed this chapter. <3 Please, share your thoughts with me.
(Also! I know some of you are wondering about the sensations Will is experiencing in his back, and if memory serves, I said that I'd answer these questions in this chapter. Well. Uh. I didn't. :') So sorry! Change of plans! But rest assured - all will be explained in due time.)
I realize that this chapter ended on a pretty depressing note, but please stay tuned. Things are going to look up for our boys soon enough.
Chapter 7: Answers
I’m so, SO sorry I made you wait this long! I really didn’t mean to! (;_;)
As a personal rule, I’ve tried to not let more than 10-12 days pass without an update up until now, but this time I totally failed. Christ, it’s been over a month! O_O
I’ll spare you the details, but school has been KILLING me, plus I ended up catching a massive cold approximately two weeks ago and my voice STILL doesn’t sound right. -_- (sigh) It’s been hard, you guys.
As always, thanks so much for the nice feedback I received on the previous chapter! By now you all know how much that means to me.
And thanks for being patient! <3
(Please note that this chapter is unedited and probably a little rough around the edges. It's 5:30 in the morning and I've worked through the night to finish this. :'D I don't have the energy to edit this monster of a chapter right now, so there may be spelling errors and whatnot hiding in there. Sorry in advance!)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
By the time Will got back home, the reality of the situation had finally started to sink in, hitting him hard. So hard, in fact, that Will found himself unable to leave his car. Instead, he remained seated, squeezing the steering wheel so tightly that his knuckles were turning white. The stink of lust was still extremely prominent and stung the insides of his nostrils like acid. In the backseat, his soiled jacket rested on the floor. He couldn’t bring himself to turn and look at it.
Despite his painful grip on the steering wheel, Will was maintaining a forced sort of calm on the outside. He blinked slowly. Took deep breaths. Recounted the morning step by step in his head, desperate to sort his mind out and look at the situation from a rational perspective.
One; he’d touched himself – and enjoyed it – for the first time since, well, ever.
There had been times, during unusually intense heats, when his hypersensitized body would practically force him to masturbate just to keep the needy ache at bay. It was a generally mundane task, like scratching an itch, and while the act undeniably brought him a sense of relief, it didn’t necessarily feel good. Certainly not so good that he’d felt the urge to penetrate himself, nor fantasize about an alpha partner. But evidently, there was a first time for everything.
Just thinking back on it made his face burn in shame. Above all, however, he felt confused.
The suppressants he regularly took should’ve been enough to keep his instincts in check and, frankly, sex had never really been on his agenda. Will just didn’t consider himself a person who would ever need to do something like that, even if he didn’t take those damned pills. His heat was still several weeks away, which made the situation all that more confounding.
Perhaps he’d forgotten to take a pill that morning? It seemed unlikely, but not impossible. Taking his medicine was such a natural part of his routine that he never really thought about it anymore. He just popped one before brushing his teeth and that was that. Perhaps after everything that had happened over the past few weeks, combined with his lack of sleep, the hallucinations and his recurring nightmares, he really was becoming unhinged? Perhaps he really was unstable. And maybe that’s what had made his body react to Hannibal Lecter the way that it had.
It was a wildly speculative theory, but Will clung to it like a life line.
Two; Hannibal knew that he was an omega.
Inhaling sharply through his nose to beat the nausea back, Will closed his eyes and focused on the sound of his own breathing as he hesitantly, reluctantly, thought back to his earlier encounter with the psychiatrist.
“I really wish you’d stop wearing that cheap beta perfume. It doesn’t suit you at all.”
Hannibal’s clean-shaven jaw against his cheek. His natural musk that complimented the aftershave he wore and created a symphony of fragrances, a scent Will could only really describe as Alpha male. His hand on Will’s back. Intense eyes looking down at him. The irresistible need for closeness that had sparked to life within Will…
He swallowed tightly and snapped his eyes open, ignored the heat pooling in his gut and the brief blurriness of his vision. There was no doubt about it. Hannibal knew. Will didn’t know how he knew, but he did. Thinking back to the photograph of Hannibal pressing his hand up against Will’s back, it suddenly occurred to him that Hannibal may, in fact, have known about Will’s gender for some time... and kept it a secret.
Realizing he was on the verge of hyperventilating, Will scrambled to open the door and stumbled out of the car, landing with his knees on the gravel of his drive way. Panic coursed through his veins as he struggled to get up, feeling like he was moving in slow motion.
He cast a glance towards his house and realized that a few of his dogs were watching him from the windows, barking in concern. Feeling a pinch of affection blossom in his chest at the sight, he straightened and raised a hand to show the worried canines that he was alright. He leaned his back against the car and turned his face up, squinting his eyes as he gazed up into the never-ending pool of grey that was the autumn sky.
The sheer volume of thoughts and feelings he needed to sort through was overwhelming. He needed to get inside. Take a shower. Scrub himself clean. His lower abdomen was splattered with semen that, to his intense dismay, had dried up and started… flaking. He shuddered in disgust. His clothes smelled of sweat and sin. It pained him to use his hands for anything, given where they’d been just a short while ago. He’d have to give his car a thorough wash, too. And collect that damned jacket…
The nausea suddenly returned full force. Without warning, bile rose in his throat. Will slapped a hand over his mouth and forced himself to take deep breaths, swallowing hard to force it back down. No matter how hard he tried, however, he couldn’t stop his mind from racing. Images and flashbacks from the past couple of hours kept harassing him.
Will bent over and threw up on the ground.
Days passed without anything in particular stirring up the make-belief peace that Will fought so goddamned hard to create and maintain. The self-loathing followed him around like a second shadow, but there were ways that he could keep the darkness at bay. One of those ways was to consume alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol.
It was during one such alcohol-induced moment that Will finally gathered up his courage and search for answers. He took a seat by the window in his kitchen and picked his iPad up. He’d been racking his brain for explanations only to come up empty-handed. Finally, he’d been forced to admit to himself that he just didn’t have enough information to make a plausible conclusion. Something itched deep within his head - something that felt like answers - but no matter how hard he tried, Will couldn't reach it. It was like trying to remember a foggy dream after waking up. He needed the internet to solve this.
He’d been consuming the same brand of suppressants since he was a teenager. His dad had brought him the first jar, along with a half-hearted explanation that taking those pills would make his problems go away, and he hadn’t questioned it. Like an idiot. Thinking back, he realized that his father must have been just as desperate to keep Will’s omega hormones in check as he himself had been.
He opened safari with trembling fingers and searched.
Omega suppressants don’t work
Clumsy phrasing, courtesy of the whiskey, but it did the trick. The first result that came up was a webMD site, explaining in lengthy detail that different brands of suppressants varied in efficiency and that omegas who experience that their suppressant fail to meet their expectations should see a doctor and change their prescription.
That didn’t satisfy Will’s need for answers. The pills he’d been taking had worked just fine for over fifteen years, and, curiously enough, they still seemed to work just fine around other alphas. Hannibal, it seemed, was his kryptonite. Although, to be fair, he hadn’t really spent that much time alone around other alphas ever since Hannibal entered his life. But one thing was for damned certain: everything started with him.
He took another swig from his glass, further dousing his brain in sweet, hazy fog before he typed in another search.
Can omega be allergic to alpha?
He stared at his screen for a second. Despite being drunk off his ass, he understood just what an idiotic question that was. He erased it and typed in new words.
Omega aroused by specific alpha despite suppressants + beta perfume
He doubted he’d find any satisfactory results. The search was too specific and he still felt like he was asking the wrong questions, but he tapped the GO button anyway.
He resisted the urge to roll his eyes when the first two results that came up were Yahoo pages, but decided to click on the first one just to see if maybe there were others out there experiencing the same problems he did.
“I’m a beta and last week I took a few of my sister’s omega suppressant pills as a joke, and now I get super aroused every time I see my alpha teacher. Did I turn myself into an omega?”
Best answer: No, you fucking idiot. Read a biology book. Betas can only be turned into omegas by praying to Satan and bathing in an alphas jizz. Don’t you kids know anything? lol
- By: BetaBot
Will groaned to himself and went back to the result list. The scrolled down to see if there were any credible results, but only came across a few reddit pages and unrelated holistic medicine pages. Sighing heavily, he briefly wondered if maybe he should just call the hospital and have them check him out. The itch in his head was as persistent as it was irritating. He decided to type in one last search.
Can an omega become immune to suppressants?
This time, to his relief, an article from a medical journal came up at the top.
Suppressant medicine – a modern miracle
Loss of efficiency and consequences of misuse
With the introduction of omega suppressant medication in the early 20th century came new possibilities for omegas in terms of education and career choices. Of course, the early suppressants came with a series of unpleasant side effects (Known Side Effects Of Early Omega Suppressants) but over the decades that followed, suppressants evolved and improved and the standard suppressant medication available today is highly effective with minimal side effects.
What we do know is that it is possible for an omega who has been consuming the same suppressant medication for many years may experience a drop in the medication’s effectivity, but it should be pointed out that this is usually due to the omega’s own hormonal changes that occur naturally during the aging process and not an issue of overconsumption. Omegas who experience a change in how they respond to their suppressant medication should seek medical advice to find suppressant medication that suits them.
Another – more uncommon – way for omegas to become “immune” to their suppressant medication is to consume too much of it.
Will perked up and sucked in a tight breath. Could this be it?
Suppressant medication is intended for consumption during heat periods. However, there have been cases of omegas who use their suppressant medication to, for example, conceal their gender due to the social injustice many omegas face on a daily basis, or anxiety based on their gender identity. Some omegas have been known to overconsume suppressant medication for several years.
Consuming suppressant medication more often than intended is not lethal, but it might remove or reduce natural physiological elements, such as sex drive, sexual attraction, procreational instincts, pheromone production, etc.
Again, while overconsumption isn’t lethal, it isn’t without consequence. Omegas who overconsume suppressant medication may experience depression, abnormal fatigue, sluggishness, mental instability, loss of appetite, irritability, etc. If the overconsumption goes on for an extended period of time, the omega may finally find her/himself suddenly “immune” to the medication.
Often, this immunity is brought on by a sudden exposure to pheromones from an alpha (or in some cases a beta) that is genetically optimal, thus a highly suitable mate, causing dormant omega hormones to respond and surge to life – unresponsive to suppressant medicine. If the omega is being courted, i.e. if a suitable mate initiates physical/intimate contact with the omega, it is even more likely that the suppressants are rendered obsolete. This may be a shocking and frightening experience for the omega, but thankfully, it isn’t life threatening.
The immunity is not chronic, but may last for several months – or longer, should the omega not take the appropriate measures to stabilize the onslaught of hormones. Omegas who have become temporarily immune to their suppressants are advised to immediately stop taking their suppressant medication and seek medical attention. Eventually, the omega will be able to continue using suppressant medication, preferably as intended – during heat periods only.
If the affected omega is unmated, he or she may experience very intense and sometimes painful heat periods and are strongly advised to seek medical assistance during such times, or, if possible, spend their heat period with a suitable alpha.
- Dr. Sarah M. Jenkins, M.D. (link)
Will’s vision blurred.
This was it.
Will rose so suddenly that his chair fell over and rushed to the bathroom. He tore through the cabinet in search for his medicine, found the white jar and read the label. He’d read that label before, of course, but the article had made him question himself. Maybe he’d missed something.
The label told him that the recommended dose was 1 tablet every day for adults. That was the amount Will had been taking.
For fifteen years.
Will threw the jar on the floor with a frustrated growl. He then took a seat on the toilet and buried his face in his hands, forcing himself to take deep breaths. Eventually, his shoulders sagged in defeat.
Enough, he told himself. This is your own damned fault, and you know it.
The truth was, he'd always known, deep down, that this was a possible outcome. It had been staring him in the face this whole time, and he'd refused to stare back.
They taught this stuff to omega students in junior high. Granted, Will had skipped many of those classes, but he'd known, at the back of his mind, that he wasn’t supposed to take suppressants every single day. He’d known. For reasons best left untold, however, Will had rebelled against that knowledge. Convinced himself that this wouldn't happen to him.
The look in his father’s eyes that day – the look that had begged him to forget about everything he knew and do everything in his power to bury every single omega instinct in his body deep, deep down – had left him very little choice. Over the years, the knowledge he’d been shoving back to the deepest, darkest corner of his brain had finally been forgotten; blatantly ignored; thoroughly denied - along with the demons of his past.
He’d been soldiering on for over a decade popping those damned pills, and while he’d always been semi-aware that it wasn’t overly healthy – Will had experienced several of the side effects that the article mentioned – it hadn’t really occurred to him that he may end up here: immune to his suppressants and exposed to the world. What the hell was he supposed to do now?
Denial was a powerful thing – until it suddenly wasn’t. The truth came bubbling to the surface with an angry roar: Will was an omega, with omega instincts and omega needs. And apparently, Hannibal was ‘genetically optimal’ and a ‘highly suitable mate’ for him.
“I need another drink,” Will muttered to no one and stumbled towards the kitchen, feeling as though the last drop of energy trickled out of him as he sat back down by the table. His glass of whiskey still had a few sips left in it and Will chugged them all down in one go, grimacing as the liquid burned in his throat.
His primary impulse was to scream, turn his house upside down and convince himself that it was all just a bad dream, but he somehow managed to keep the rage down, allowing instead for cold calm to wash over him. He’d only regret throwing a tantrum – already feeling like an idiot for having placed himself in this uncomfortable situation to begin with by ignoring a vital piece of elementary information, he didn’t want to add to the mess by acting like a child.
Instead, he picked up his tablet once more and went on his email account. He quickly composed an email to the higher ups at the BSU stating that he intended to terminate his therapy with Hannibal Lecter and instead seek help elsewhere – and that his sick leave needed to be extended.
After that, he composed a new email.
I need you to refer me to a new psychiatrist.
- Will Graham
As he hit the ‘send’ button, Will struggled to grasp what he was feeling. Part of him felt relieved, while another part of him… didn’t. It felt like leaving things unfinished. It felt empty.
Hannibal’s scent on his skin had long since vanished. Leather, green tea, steel, bergamot. There had been times, when he’d been especially hammered, when Will had caught himself missing it, which was just all kinds of disturbing.
Reminding himself that his last encounter with Hannibal had led to him jacking off in his car, a fact so humiliating that he’d briefly considered drowning himself, Will decided that this was for the best. He couldn’t be around someone who had that strong of an effect on him – so much power over him. It made his skin crawl. Cutting ties with Hannibal was the only solution. Well, that, or drinking himself into oblivion. The former seemed healthier.
He was just about to put the iPad down and head for the bathroom to take a long, soul cleansing shower when a notification popped up. His favourite news site had published a new article. Begrudging curiosity welled up in him and he tapped the screen, promising himself that he was just going to take a quick look.
That promise was immediately revoked when he saw the headline.
Omega killer strikes again.
Hannibal was breaking plenty of his personal rules by driving to Wolf Trap that Tuesday morning. Cancelling that many appointments in one day felt like a defeat, a crack in his otherwise impeccable image. That he’d go so far for this one patient… It was unlike him. But then, Will Graham had never been just a patient. No, he’d always been so much more than that.
Hannibal was perfectly aware of what and who Will Graham was. The fact that Will himself didn’t like it mattered very little to him. It was obvious that Will was struggling immensely with his gender and everything it entailed, which admittedly granted him some degree of sympathy, but Hannibal strongly disliked the way he evaded the problems rather than facing them head-on. Especially since Will had so much hidden potential. So much talent.
All of it, wasted. Squashed beneath Will’s crippling fear and self-hatred.
Hannibal would not have it.
This was the first time in Hannibal’s life that he’d encountered an omega that evoked so much desire in him; the fierce need to protect; a possessiveness so intense it nearly brought him to his knees – and he’d be damned if he let it slip through his fingers. There was a reason that he hadn’t granted anyone his mating bite despite the many chances at doing so, and that reason, it seemed, was Will Graham.
So when he received an email from Will, unceremoniously stating that he wanted Hannibal to find him a new psychiatrist, Hannibal had come dangerously close to smashing his computer. Luckily, he’d managed to keep it together and instead clear his schedule for the day.
He couldn’t blame Will for being angry, he really couldn’t. Hannibal had failed him that day. Hell, he’d failed himself. That wasn’t how he’d intended to let Will know that he knew. And he certainly hadn’t intended to frighten Will by trapping him against the wall. By all accounts, Hannibal was in the wrong. The meeting with Jack had gotten on his nerves and his mood had taken a severe nosedive when Will lashed out at him, but it still didn’t justify his actions.
Even if Will refused to take him back as his psychiatrist, Hannibal wanted to apologize. He needed to find an anchor – something that tied them together, as friends, or even as acquaintances. Something that made it possible for Hannibal to remain a part of Will’s life. Being cut out completely was simply not an option.
Eventually, Will’s house came into sight. He steered his car up on the driveway and parked it. He detected no motion from the house. It was as though the building itself was sleeping. Perhaps Will was, too?
He exited the vehicle and took the nature surrounding Will’s house in. Marvelled at how different it was from the city. The air was cleaner and the sky seemed clearer. He understood why Will had chosen to reside there.
He walked up to the porch and gently tapped his knuckles against the door. A choir of dogs barking came from within the house. He couldn’t help but to smile. If Will was asleep and Hannibal’s knocks hadn’t been enough to wake him, those dogs surely did the trick.
Eventually, he thought he heard Will’s voice through the wood. He muttered something – probably addressing his canines and questioning their sudden outburst. Hannibal took the opportunity to knock once more. A few seconds passed, during which the dogs kept barking, and then, finally, Will opened the door.
He looked like shit, but smelled like peppermint and whiskey.
For the first three seconds that passed, Will just stared dumbly at Hannibal, briefly wondering if he was hallucinating. Then, once he got over the shock and realized that Hannibal was actually there, he immediately pulled the door shut – or rather, he tried to pull the door shut. Hannibal had a firm grip on the outside handle and refused to budge. Damn alphas and their superior physique.
“Let go!” Will snarled, voice strained from the effort. “What are you-“
“I need to talk to you,” Hannibal said, sounding infuriatingly calm, as if holding the door open was about as challenging for him as turning a page in a magazine.
“Well I don’t need to talk to you!” Will seethed but allowed for the door to swing open anyway, deeming his chances at winning the door-closing-contest abysmal. “Didn’t you get my email? I thought I made myself pretty clear.”
Hannibal gazed down at him with a concerned frown. Will hated how his eyes glowed in the morning sun.
“You did, and I’m not here to argue with your decision. I’m simply here to clear the air, so to speak. May I come in?”
Will heaved a sigh. Despite how angry he was, sending Hannibal away after the man had driven all the way out to Wolf Trap didn’t sit right with him – letting the man inside meant certain risks, though. He’d have to make sure to keep his distance.
“Make it brief,” he quipped and motioned for Hannibal to come in. His kitchen was a mess, but so was his head and he couldn’t bring himself to care. He leaned his back against kitchen counter and pointed Hannibal towards one of the chairs. The man took a seat, removed his leather gloves and placed them on the table. A few moments of tense silence went by. To Will, they felt like hours.
“Are you just going to sit there looking uncomfortable or are you going to apologize to me?” He snapped and crossed his arms over his chest. The smile playing at the corners of Hannibal’s mouth did nothing to improve his mood.
“Of course I’m agitated.”
“That’s good. Much better than blaming yourself, which I honestly feared you would.”
“Maybe you don’t know me as well as you think you do.”
“Maybe I don’t.”
They stared at each other. Will felt his gaze lock with Hannibal’s and the intensity of the older man’s eyes scared him. The way they sucked him in, devoured him, challenged him and claimed him. Will looked away, hating himself for submitting.
“If you have nothing else to say then you can just leave.”
Hannibal rose to his feet and took a careful, slow step closer to Will. It wasn’t meant to be threatening or domineering, but Will tensed up anyway.
“I’m sorry, Will. For what happened last time. I was out of line.”
“Yes. I was. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not telling you that I knew about your gender. I’m sorry for agreeing to Jack’s proposal. And I’m sorry for closing in on you like that. Truthfully, I’m ashamed of myself. I crossed a line and that was very rude of me.”
Will nodded. Hannibal’s words had a diminishing effect on his anger, but he still didn’t have the strength to look Hannibal in the eye. The closer Hannibal got, the more of his scent wafted in Will’s direction and it triggered a very distinct response in him. An urge to reach out and touch. Bury his nose against Hannibal’s chest and inhale more of that scent. Mix it with his own.
Having never experienced such desires before, the situation made him feel incredibly nervous and insecure. He deeply regretted letting Hannibal in. Hannibal could’ve just called him and apologized over the damned phone.
“Alright. I accept your apology.” He shot Hannibal a quick look. “Now leave.”
Hannibal didn’t move.
“You seem nervous, Will.”
“Yeah? Well, as we've established, you’re not my therapist anymore. There’s no need for you to try and analyse why that is,” Will said, keeping his tone sharp, “but considering what happened last week, maybe it’s not that difficult to figure out why I’m uncomfortable with your current proximity.”
“I want to ask you something,” Hannibal said, seemingly undisturbed by Will’s open hostility.
“What?” Will finally looked up, irritation trumping fear. Hannibal cocked his head slightly to the side and took in Will’s appearance, eyes slowly travelling up and down his body and face. His gaze tingled on Will’s skin. “Undressing me with your eyes isn’t helping your cause, Hannibal.”
Hannibal did smile at that. Will hated how Hannibal’s smile made something deep inside his chest stir. Contentment, he recognized. God-fucking-damnit, this was getting out of hand.
“I’m not,” Hannibal stated, face taking on a more concerned look. “But I am concerned about your current state. To be frank, Will, you look very tired. Sick, even.”
Hannibal looked far from convinced. He hummed softly in consideration and took yet another step towards Will. It was a jerk move. Hannibal must’ve realized how uncomfortable it made Will.
“See, I’ve been going over your situation in my head over and over again,” Hannibal said, “and I’ve come to the conclusion that you must’ve used suppressant medicine to conceal your gender from everyone.”
“Maybe. How about you back up and leave now?”
“When we first met, I didn’t detect any omega pheromones emitting from you at all. So you’ve been using them on a daily basis, correct?”
“Why am I being interrogated?”
“But last week, in my office, I definitely sensed pheromones coming off of you. That beta perfume did a decent job at covering it up, though.”
Hannibal was suddenly standing right in front of him, much closer than Will was comfortable with, smelling all kinds of wonderful. Will had to bite his lip to contain himself.
“So,” Hannibal’s voice was low and hushed, as if they were sharing a secret, “I was just wondering if you’re aware of how good you smell right now?”
Will’s breath turned heavy in his chest while his legs gradually lost strength. Hannibal’s scent made his mouth water and his lower abdomen stirred in interest. Hannibal’s hands came to rest on the counter, encasing Will without touching him, and while this made sirens go off somewhere inside Will’s brain, he found that he didn’t mind it that much. He swallowed, mouth suddenly dry, and mustered up the courage to look up at Hannibal.
The alpha looked down at him, eyes dark – pupils dilated. Will’s breath hitched at the sight. Hannibal lessened the space between them by bending his neck gracefully, jaw making contact with Will’s cheek, and Will closed his eyes in surrender.
Blindly reaching out to grasp at Hannibal’s woollen coat, he inclined his head to drag his cheek against Hannibal’s light stubble, sighing in relieved contentment, as if he’d been itching to do exactly this for a very, very long time. Maybe he had. Will wasn’t sure of anything right now, other than the fact that Hannibal smelled fucking amazing and that he wanted – needed – that scent on himself.
Leather. Green tea. Steel. Bergamot. Hannibal.
Will boldly pressed himself closer to Hannibal in order to bury his nose against Hannibal’s nape. He inhaled deeply, going dizzy from the explosions of dopamine and endorphins in his head, barely registering that the smouldering heat in his abdomen had spread to his groin. Hannibal’s lips and nose made contact with Will’s neck, breathing in deeply and Will’s lips parted around a sigh.
At the back of his mind, he understood that somewhere along the line, things had gone way off-track. Logically, he knew that there was something wrong with the picture – but how could something that felt so goddamned right be wrong?
Hannibal’s hands grasped onto Will’s hips, forcing a whimper out of him. Hannibal’s fingers were warm and strong and even through the fabric of Will’s t-shirt, they left his skin sparkling with electricity. Finally, one of the hands travelled to the small of Will’s back and that’s when Will snapped out of it. The touch brought to life memories of a photograph and reality came rushing back.
He placed a hand on Hannibal’s chest and shoved. His arms lacked the strength to actually push the alpha away, but Hannibal got the message. He paused and slowly retreated, taking a step back to give Will some breathing room. Will glanced up at him, already feeling humiliation burning in his cheeks, and took in Hannibal’s state. His perfectly combed hair had been perturbed by their embrace, resulting in several strands falling down over Hannibal’s forehead. His brown eyes still appeared darker than normal. It took every ounce of willpower he had in him to detangle himself from the alpha, immediately disliking how chilly the room suddenly felt as Hannibal took a step back.
“… Shit,” Will breathed unsteadily and brought a hand up to rub his face. “I… I didn’t mean for that to happen.”
Hannibal took a deep breath in an obvious effort to calm himself, which fascinated Will. He couldn’t help the smugness that sparked in his chest, knowing that he affected Hannibal the way Hannibal affected him. But where the hell did that leave them?
“Me either,” Hannibal said, clearing his throat. “Well, it wasn’t my initial intention anyway. Somewhere along the way I changed my mind – right around the time you opened your door, I’m guessing. Your scent is… truly remarkable.”
Will bit back the embarrassment and wrapped his arms around himself.
“Look, things are… difficult for me right now,” he said, keeping his gaze on the floor. “It’s just as you said. I’ve been taking suppressants every day since I hit puberty and now, I seem to find myself a bit… immune to them.”
“I suspected that might be the case,” Hannibal nodded, putting his hands in his pockets as he took another step back, as if he feared he’d lose control over himself if he stayed too close to Will. It made Will feel even more self-conscious.
“Of course you did," Will sighed. "Well, I guess there’s no use denying that you’re sort of the trigger. Apparently, I’m attracted to you. I hate it. I hate you a little bit, too, to be honest,” Will rambled, words coming out too fast in his effort to hide how embarrassed he was. “I’m really not comfortable with any of this, so if you could keep your distance from now on, I’d really appreciate it. I need to figure this out and your presence is just... too distracting.”
It took a while for Hannibal to work up a reply, which was unusual for the normally so eloquent man.
“I’m willing to accept to your wishes, Will, but only if you’re absolutely sure it’s what you want.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s what I want, Hannibal.”
“Yes, and 'pretty sure' is not good enough,” the older man pressed. “You’ve been in pain for years. It didn’t start with me or with Garrett Jacob Hobbs. You’ve been suppressing your true nature ever since you were a teen, and suffering the consequences. I just don’t understand why you’d go to such lengths-“
“And you don’t need to understand,” Will interrupted, tone firm. “This is my choice, Hannibal.”
“You’ve made yourself immune to suppressants, Will,” Hannibal said, raising his voice a little. “How are you going to get through the next few months? And your heat? You don’t even know how to live your life as an omega. You never gave yourself the chance to learn.”
“Oh, and I suppose you’re going to teach me? You’re a goddamned alpha! What the hell do you know about being an omega?”
“I obviously don't have any personal experience, but I read, Will.” Hannibal gave him a irritated scowl. “What is it about being an omega that bothers you so much?”
“As I said, you don’t need to know. Now get out.”
Will pushed away from the counter and started making his way towards the living room.
Will did as he was told, but didn’t turn to look at Hannibal.
“I may not be your psychiatrist any longer, but I still consider you a friend. Suppressing your natural instincts will only end up hurting you – or backfiring, like it has now. I have a proposition.”
Still with his back turned to Hannibal, Will replied.
“What proposition is that?”
“You’re going to be living as a regular omega for the next few months, correct? From what I understand, recovering from temporary immunity usually takes-“
“Correct," Will interrupted. "And?”
“How about spending some time with me during the time it takes for you to recover? Not as therapist and patient, but as friends. It would give you the chance to learn more about your gender, and hopefully remove some of the fear you seem to harbour towards alphas-“
“With good reason.”
“All I’m suggesting is that we spend time together," Hannibal said, tone sharper this time. "Would you prefer spending these months cooped up in here? Alone? Doing nothing?”
Will threw a reluctant look over his shoulder. Hannibal smiled and gave him a pointed look.
“Take some time to consider it. If you find that you can embrace your true nature, you won't have to go back to using the suppressant on a daily basis again. All those side effects would go away, Will. Allow me to show you what being an omega can entail, if you just give yourself the chance. Think of it as exposure therapy. I won’t initiate intimate contact without your permission. You have my word.”
Will scoffed at that, but somehow found himself smiling.
“Very reassuring. So what happened just two minutes ago was a testament to your self-control, was it?”
“In my defence,” Hannibal said, eyes sparkling with amusement, “it was my first time being exposed to your scent. I was caught off guard.”
“But you won’t be next time?” Will quirked an eyebrow.
“Cross my heart,” Hannibal nodded. He turned around to pick up his gloves, getting ready to leave. “Just think about it. That’s all I ask. You may learn a thing or two about yourself.”
“I may learn a thing or two about you, too,” Will pointed out, now leaning against the doorframe that separated the kitchen from the living room. “You sure you’re okay with that?”
Hannibal gave him an odd smile.
“I guess we’ll see.”
Mostly written from Will's POV this time around. I find myself relating much more to Will, which is probably why I tend to consider the story from his perspective rather than from Hannibal's. :)
Hope you enjoyed. Please leave a comment to let me know what you think. *passes out from exhaustion* <3
Chapter 8: Deal
Hey guys! Sorry for yet another delay, but this time it wasn’t my fault. My laptop went and broke down on me (while I was writing a super important paper that was due the next day – it was traumatic on a number of levels). Luckily, I own two backup laptops, one of which I’m using right now. A Vaio from 2012. But I mean, she’s a total granny laptop. We’re talking Windows 7, guys.
Despite her old age, she’s still mostly functional, but she’s definitely much, MUCH slower than what I’m used to, and it took fucking FOREVER to install Microsoft office. (sighs) I’m just hoping I’ll be able to finish this chapter swiftly and then hand my Lenovo in for service.
On to the story! (And thanks SO much for the feedback on chapter 7. <3 You guys are the best!)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It occurred to Will that he’d been staring out his kitchen window for nearly twenty minutes without taking a sip of his tea, which he’d already re-heated in the microwave oven – twice. It wasn’t that he was looking for anything in particular in the rapidly darkening scenery of his front yard. He just needed something to stare at while sorting out his thoughts.
Re-heating the cup of chamomile yet again just didn’t seem worth the effort, so he brought the cup to his bottom lip and took a daring sip. The beverage was lukewarm and while he would’ve preferred something warm to drink – because it seemed befitting the chilly autumn afternoon – he found it wasn’t as unpleasant as he’d feared.
His lips stretched out in a dry smile as he turned back to the window.
Not as unpleasant as I’d feared.
It was a revelation that birthed a philosophy that could be applied to other aspects of his life: stop being so goddamned afraid.
Much easier said than done, of course – especially considering his gender was prone to fear. Or, at the very least, an unhealthy level of worrying. But then, hadn’t he fought his whole life to rebel against his nature?
A shrill whine came from his left and Will looked down to discover that Winston, the latest addition to his canine family, was sitting by his chair staring back at him, head cocked to the side.
“What’s up, buddy?” Will mumbled and reached down to pet the dog. This would’ve normally sparked a playful reaction out of Winston, but instead the dog continued his whining and carefully licked Will’s knuckles, as if he somehow sensed his master was troubled.
Will frowned. The entire pack had been acting differently around him for the last couple of days and he had a nagging suspicion that it was because his pheromones were now coming off of him in big, unadulterated, omega-shaped clouds. He was off the suppressants for now and he wasn’t in the habit of using his beta perfume at his home. It just hadn’t seemed necessary. Now he considered giving himself a quick spray-down just to reassure his dogs – but he found himself struggling with the idea.
He’d already rendered himself immune to suppressants, which in itself made for a compelling case against messing any further with his hormones and while the beta perfume didn’t technically alter any of his bodily functions, using it just seemed wrong, somehow. It felt like he was on a cleanse and using the perfume was cheating. And anyway, using it for such a minor issue was just plain silly – it wasn’t as if his dogs had gone feral. More like the contrary.
Will sighed and downed the cup in a series of long gulps before he got up, left the cup on the already clattered kitchen counter and headed for the bathroom, where he ended up in front of the mirror. He still maintained his signature look of absolute exhaustion, but there was a strange glow to his skin that hadn’t been there before. A rosy hue of health glimmering beneath the pale skin.
Will gritted his teeth and opened up the cabinet to glare at the jar of suppressants still sitting on the shelf. He’d been relying on those pills for so long. Depended on them to always be there for him - to save him from his unfortunate fate. Instead they’d given him a false sense of security before ripping the rug from under his feet and throwing him to the wolves – completely unprotected. Treacherous little shitheads.
But the worst part of it all was how well Will was starting to feel. He slept better. Ate more. Worried less. It was as though his body really wanted to rub it in his face: how badly he’d messed his system up. How much better off he would’ve been just taking the pills during his heats, like he was supposed to.
Biting back the string of curses resting on his tongue, Will turned to the toilet, pulled the lid up and took a piss, pretending that everything that had gone to hell lately was down there, in the water. His suppressant immunity, his unwilling attraction to Hannibal, the very fact that he’d been born an omega, Jack refusing to listen to him…
The omega killings still weighed heavily on his mind. He scoured the news sites every day, hungry for details. But the FBI were tight-lipped and only offered basic information.
We’ve ruled out the possibility of a copycat…
Most likely an alpha…
No immediate suspects…
Superficial, unimportant, useless stuff. Will needed the gritty details in order to profile the killer – who was a beta, thank you very much – preferably in the form of photographs. The graphic, high resolution kind. But there were none. Even Freddie Lounds seemed to be having problems finding juicy material, though she still liked to write smart-ass commentary on the FBI’s apparent stagnation and theorizing on Will’s absence. Still, when he was feeling particularly desperate, he would visit her tabloid site. Just in case.
The need to search the sites once more overcame him, even though it had only been a couple of hours since the last time he checked. He zipped up his jeans, washed his hands and headed for the living room, where he’d left his tablet on the couch.
He flopped down with a grunt, earning himself alarmed looks from the dogs resting at various spots throughout the room and he gave them a dismissive wave. After a minute or so, Will had already been let down by two of the major news sites and rapidly lost faith. Reluctantly, he went on TattleCrime, mouth twisting in disgust at himself as the site loaded. When the newest post came into view, however, Will stiffened with surprise.
A slightly unfocused photo of Hannibal took up half the screen. He appeared to be having a conversation with Jack, who stood to Hannibal’s right, half-hidden behind a large bush.
The headline made Will sigh heavily.
FBI “counsellor” replaced? Renowned therapist to the rescue!
Readers, as you all know, I’ve been working hard to find out what happened to FBI former darling – Will Graham (link) – without any notable success. Whatever happened to him, it’s clear that the FBI higher ups do not want us to know. I made a startling discovery this afternoon, however – it appears as though Graham has been permanently replaced by the man seen in the photos. Hannibal Lecter is a psychiatrist based in Baltimore, renowned for his success rate in treating neuroticism and PTSD. What he isn’t renowned for is assisting in crime investigations. And yet, there he is, smack down in the middle of the latest crime scene. Just how desperate are the FBI to bring in a therapist on the case, as opposed to a well-trained agent? First Will Graham, now Lecter? Are there no qualified counsellors out there? How come the FBI condones working with non-agents in the hopes of solving this case? Will it prove effective? Only time will tell.
And where on earth is Graham?
Will didn’t let Freddie’s scornful words get to him, having already expected the article to not paint a pretty picture of him, nor the FBI. But seeing Hannibal on the scene, conversing with Jack, made something uncomfortable churn in his stomach.
He hated being dismissed from an on-going investigation, but being replaced like this – by a man he trusted to be on his side – was even worse. Hannibal was given direct access to the details Will longed for so badly. Hannibal had clearance to enter the scenes, see the bodies, sense the atmosphere. All Will had clearance to was his stupid iPad.
He chucked the useless device to the other side of the couch with an irritated huff and pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes. Wheels turned frantically in his head.
“All I’m suggesting is that we spend time together…”
Hannibal had seemed pretty adamant about it. Granted, the man was a therapist. Perhaps he was the kind who just couldn’t leave a patient alone until he’d cured him – if that was in fact what Hannibal intended to do. A whisper of distrust swirled by. Hannibal was an alpha. Alphas were violent beings. They took what they wanted, drawing blood if necessary. And he’d already crossed a line with Will on multiple occasions.
“Cross my heart…”
Will scoffed. Yeah right. Hannibal could cross his heart all he wanted, Will still didn’t take his word for it. But he reluctantly had to admit that staying cooped up in Wolf Trap for the next few months, until he was well enough to resume his medication, sounded unappealing. Will had never been the social type, but even so – spending prolonged periods of time by himself had a rather negative effect on his mind.
And, if he had to be brutally honest with himself, he was indeed starting to get sick and tired of living in constant fear of being exposed or losing control of himself. An opportunity like this probably wouldn’t present itself again – the chance to spend time with an alpha who knew about his situation and claimed he wanted to help. Turning him down would be a foolish move. Especially since Will had more to gain from Hannibal’s friendship than just his health.
Giving himself a firm nod to solidify his decision, he reached for his iPad and tapped the email icon on the screen. Quickly composing an email that definitely lacked the grace in which Hannibal liked to communicate – and maybe that was deliberate dick move on Will’s part – he sent it and sunk back into the couch, suddenly feeling nervous.
No turning back now.
Hannibal couldn’t help the amused smirk that curved his lips. Either Will was coming around to his way of thinking, or he was up to something entirely different. Regardless, Hannibal was pleased to receive the email – sloppy as it was.
From: Will Graham
Subject: About your proposition
So I thought about it. You win. Make me dinner and we’ll talk more. Ok?
Chuckling softly to himself, Hannibal put together a response. It took longer than normal, since he had to type it all out using only the thumb of his left hand.
To: Will Graham
Subject: RE: About your proposition
Lovely. I will prepare one of my favourite dishes in the hopes of earning your approval.
Shall we say tomorrow, at six o’clock?
- Hannibal Lecter
It didn’t take many minutes before Will’s affirmative reply came. Hannibal was pleased. He slipped his smartphone back into his pocket and released the grip he had on the man’s throat, as the pig was already unconscious from the prolonged asphyxiation.
Hannibal stood up to regard the useless lump for a few seconds. He then crouched down to his bag to collect one of his tools. A surge of energy and exhilaration made Hannibal grin as he raised his butcher’s knife, planting it neatly just above the man’s shoulders. The metal cut through the man’s neck and separated the head from the body in one smooth slice. Hannibal appreciated its’ efficiency – the knife had been ridiculously expensive.
He waited a few minutes for the blood to leave the body before he chopped off the parts he wanted for himself, stuffing them into a large plastic container he’d brought along.
“No need to worry. You will be far more useful now than you ever were as a living creature,” Hannibal said idly, glancing to the man’s cut off head. “Tomorrow night, you’ll get to fill the insides of my intended. Consider it an honour.”
Will initially planned to show up late that evening, just to be cheeky, but somehow found himself staring at Hannibal’s front door at only three minutes past six. He’d even gone the extra mile by brushing his hair, wearing one of his finer suits and using a normal brand of cologne – not the beta kind – for this occasion. In hindsight, he regretted all of this. He worried that it’d make him appear over-eager. But on the other hand, he needed Hannibal to believe that he was willing to give this an actual try, as opposed to fighting him every step of the way.
Sucking in a breath, Will raised his hand and rapped his knuckles against the wood, belatedly realizing that there was a metal door knocker right in the center of the door that he could’ve used. His knuckles throbbed and he resisted the urge to roll his eyes at himself for the blunder. He suddenly felt the way he imagined normal people felt when they went on first dates. Fidgety, nervous, excited – but also scared shitless that anything would go wrong.
When the door swung open, it forced Will to quickly back up a step to avoid getting hit – yet another clumsy mistake – and he stumbled slightly before looking up, cheeks heating up from embarrassment. Hannibal smiled gently at him, dressed in a white button-up with the sleeves rolled up and a black apron covering most of his legs. All in all, Hannibal looked much more casual than he normally did. Will suddenly felt overdressed. He sighed inwardly and forced himself to return the smile.
“Please,” Hannibal said and gestured for Will to come inside. He stepped inside the hallway and was immediately greeted by the aroma of food. Will felt his mouth begin to water as he shrugged his jacket off and hung it up. “Dinner will be served in just a few more minutes.”
“You’re very punctual, aren’t you?” Will commented wryly and earned himself an amused quirk of Hannibal’s eyebrow.
“Is that a bad thing?”
At that moment, Will’s stomach gave an insistent growl, signaling Will’s growing appetite. The two men stared at each other for a second before Will cleared his throat.
“No, I suppose not.”
Hannibal very obviously stifled a grin as he led Will into the dining room. Will was in a reluctant state of awe at Hannibal’s home. Not that he’d expected the therapist to be living in a rugged cabin out in the woods like he did, but he hadn’t quite expected the sheer luxury that made up every inch of Hannibal Lecter’s villa either. The dining table was so smooth Will could’ve used it as a mirror, and the chairs had cushions.
If Will didn’t already feel awkward and out-of-place, he sure as hell did now.
“Take a seat,” Hannibal said and pulled out one of the chairs for Will, on the far end of the table. IF the table setting was anything to go by, Hannibal would be taking a seat at the other end. This made Will relax a little. They would be able to maintain eye contact and hold a conversation without being needlessly close to one another. He felt this was an advantage. With his hormones running amok, there was simply no telling what Will might do if he was forced to stay too close to Hannibal for more than a few minutes at a time.
Hannibal disappeared into the kitchen and Will was left alone in the somewhat intimidating dining room. While it was impressive in its’ sleek glory and size, Will much preferred a simpler interior. Worn-out furniture. Dogs yapping for scraps. China inherited from one’s grandparents.
Hannibal reappeared shortly after, with two steaming plates in his hands. He placed one of them in front of Will first, then walked over to the other side of the table, where he put the plate down before taking a seat.
Will hungrily eyed his portion. A large, juicy piece of red meat rested on one side of the plate, marinating in olive oil and plenty of spices. The other half of the plate was occupied by a fluffy pile of mashed potatoes, decorated by the unmistakable yellow of a buttery béarnaise sauce. The ensemble smelled heavenly and Will had to swallow to ensure he wouldn’t start drooling all over himself.
“This looks fantastic,” he declared, genuinely grateful for the effort Hannibal had made.
“Let’s hope it tastes fantastic, too,” Hannibal replied, giving Will a good-natured wink.
They ate most of their meal in silence, interrupted only by the soft classical music playing in the background and the clinking of their forks against the plates. Hannibal poured Will a glass of alcohol free chianti – since he was driving – and Will found it went well with the meat, which was similar in taste to the sausage Hannibal had prepared for him several weeks earlier.
“What meat is this?”
“I thought it might be.”
The silence dragged out, but it wasn’t unpleasant. Once the plates were empty, Hannibal got up to refill Will’s glass and Will found that he didn’t mind being pampered. Part of him actually enjoyed it.
“So,” Hannibal said as he sat back down in his chair, having just refilled his own glass. “Let’s discuss the topic of us interacting more frequently.”
Will’s nerves jittered to life and he reached for his glass, taking a long sip before nodding.
Seconds became minutes. Neither of them spoke. Will found this new silence unbearable, compared to the easy, comfortable one from earlier.
“What are your intentions?” Will blurted, too anxious from the awkward tension between them to stay silent. “I mean… What exactly is the purpose of us… hanging out?”
Hannibal gave a curt smile and clasped his hands together in a contemplative display.
“First and foremost, to get you to stop using suppressants. Secondly, for you to stop fearing your own nature. And third, for you to stop fearing alphas.”
“And you believe we can achieve these goals by simply spending time together?”
“I do,” Hannibal said with a slow nod. “Provided you cooperate. We need to get you out of Wolf Trap. You need to experience the world, Will.”
“I do experience the world, through my work.”
“That mostly entails dead bodies and serial killers? Never mind the fact that you’ve been suspended.”
“Technically, I’m on sick leave.”
“’Fucking technicalities’,” Hannibal smirked and reached for his wine glass. Will studied him with a frown.
“Even though you claim that you’re doing all of this for my sake, I can’t help feeling like I’m doing you a favour by agreeing to this.”
“I suppose, in a way, you are,” Hannibal replied and met Will’s gaze head-on. “I’m an alpha. Watching an omega suffer and doing nothing about it goes against my core instincts. Especially if it’s an omega that I’m attracted to. Me helping you is therefore partly based on my own selfish needs.”
“… You’re attracted to me?”
What an idiotic question, Will immediately thought to himself, regretting ever opening his mouth. Hannibal’s actions over the last few weeks should’ve been more than enough of an indicator for Will to decipher what the alpha felt towards him. He was a profiler, for god’s sake. Still, hearing Hannibal say it out loud was a startling experience – though not an entirely unpleasant one. Will had never before been told upfront that someone found him attractive. A warm thrill of excitement danced up his spine as the new piece of information sank in.
“You were so touchingly honest with me the last time we met, I thought I’d return the favour,” Hannibal replied and popped a cherry tomato into his mouth.
“So…” Will narrowed his eyes slightly, struggling to find his words, “are you looking to… court me?”
Hannibal blinked slowly, placing his chin on his clasped-together hands with a calculating, semi-sinister smirk. It was a look Will had never seen on Hannibal’s gentle features before. It made him uneasy – like he was caught in a spider’s web without realizing it.
“Court you? Would you even allow that?”
Will hesitated for a second. Flirting was one thing, but a proper courting process was a more delicate operation that ordinarily required both parties’ consent. Mainly because it relied on both parties agreeing to spend a considerable amount of time together, and – more importantly – the courting parties were considered temporarily ‘claimed’ by one another until the courtship was terminated. Scent marking was pretty much a given, among other things. Will had never been courted before, but he knew that it wasn’t something you just agreed to without giving it some thought.
“If I did,” Will said, words coming out slowly, “that would definitely count as me doing you a favour.”
Hannibal’s smirk stretched wider, as if he was pleased that the conversation had taken such an odd turn.
“You want something in return.”
“Information,” Will confirmed, holding Hannibal’s gaze. “I want you to tell me everything that you find out about the case of the omega killings.”
“That would mean breaking my oath of silence, Will. The consequences I’d face if the FBI were to find out about it would be severe.”
“Yes. And I’ll be agreeing to something that makes me exceedingly uncomfortable just to stroke your alpha ego,” Will pointed out, tone harsh. “Jack is looking in all the wrong places and omegas are continuing to die because he refuses to listen to me. I can’t just sit here and do nothing. It’s not like I’m asking you to rob a bank for me.”
“Fine,” Hannibal nodded. “How about this – for every piece of information I give you regarding the omega killings, you agree to a courting activity of my choosing.”
Will felt the blood drain from his face.
“That… depends on what you mean by ‘activity’.”
“Not what you’re thinking,” Hannibal supplied, quirking his eyebrow as if offended by Will’s assumption. “I won’t cross that line unless I get your explicit permission. I was thinking more along the lines of accompanying me to a banquet, or going to the opera.”
“Sounds agreeable,” Will sighed, relief making his shoulder sag.
“That being said,” Hannibal continued, tone stern, “you cannot expect me to court you without granting me permission to be physically near you. That would be like baking me a cake and telling me I can’t eat it. If you and I attend a gathering together, for instance, I will be expected to offer you my arm, hold your hand or treat you in other ways that implies that you are claimed by me. And of course, you’re expected to behave in a similar fashion towards me. Are you prepared for that?”
Will nodded grimly, lips tightly pressed together. He wasn’t prepared for that at all, but he couldn’t back out now. Hannibal must’ve realized how distressed Will felt.
“I do not wish to make you uncomfortable, Will. But the whole point of a courtship is to explore our chemistry. I can’t do that if you insist on keeping me at arm's length.”
“I know. It’s fine.” Will cleared his throat. “I trust you.”
“Somehow, I doubt that,” Hannibal said, lips curling into a dry smile. “But that’s alright. Your trust issues aren’t exactly news to me. And while I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t hoping for a chance to court you, I’m still aiming to rid you of some of the fears that are holding you back. I want to help you reach your full potential.”
“My hero,” Will muttered, emotionally drained from the difficult discussion. “So when exactly will this arrangement commence?”
“I see no reason to put it off. Why don’t we start right away?” Hannibal placed his elbows on the table – breaking his otherwise impeccable etiquette – and leaned forward. His eyes shone with amused excitement, as if he was playing an entertaining game of chess. “Would you like me to go first?”
Will swallowed, hands curling into tight fists in his lap. Things were moving fast, but he couldn’t bring himself to pull the brakes.
A few seconds went by before Hannibal cocked his head to the side and opened his mouth.
“The murderer uses sodium hydroxide to erase possible traces of his DNA from the bodies.”
Will stared at him, taking in the piece of information like a starved man gobbling up a piece of bread.
“What..?” He breathed, eyebrows knitting together as he connected the dots in his mind. “Caustic soda? To erase… Oh.”
The weird, burnt odour he’d smelled in the air. A reaction of the acid making contact with the victims’ blood, perhaps. The bite marks had looked a bit inflamed, and as far as bonding bites went, they were definitely on the gorier side. Will had assumed it was due to the sheer force behind them, but it was actually due to caustic soda, to remove any traces of his…
– saliva, most likely. He never raped the omegas, after all, but a bite always comes with saliva. Erase his DNA to ensure he won’t be caught? The guy’s possibly already in the registry. Or… the perpetrator doesn’t want anyone to know that he’s actually a beta. He wants the FBI to keep looking for an alpha, because that’s how he sees himself. But on some level he realizes that the DNA in his saliva would tell a different story and he can’t stand the idea of-
Will snapped his head up, dizzy from the steady stream of theories and ideas forming inside his skull. Hannibal regarded him with an expectant smile.
“Are you content with what I’ve told you?”
“Yes,” Will reluctantly admitted. “Very much so.”
“Then,” Hannibal rose slowly from his chair, causing every muscle in Will's body to cramp up in nervousness. “I suggest we call it a night.”
“Oh. Yes. Right.” Will got up and smoothed out his blazer with stiff movements. “Well then. Thank you for dinner.”
They walked back to Hannibal’s hallways, where Will clumsily managed to put his jacket back on. He turned to Hannibal, waited for the man to speak, or… do something. But the alpha merely smiled at him, straightened out the collar of Will’s jacket and then reached for the door. He held it open for Will as he walked out into the chilly evening air. Nothing happened.
Will sent Hannibal a suspicious glance. Wasn’t he going to do anything? Ask for something in return for the information he’d divulged? Will had already agreed to it, so what was he waiting for?
“Drive safe,” Hannibal said and was just about to close the door when Will’s hand shot out to grasp at the door handle.
“What are you doing?” Will asked, tone clipped.
“Sending you off?” Hannibal suggested, infuriatingly innocent. It pissed Will off.
“Are you trying to confuse me?”
“Then do something, already!” Will huffed, glaring up at the taller man. “That’s the deal! Stick to the rules!”
“Actually,” Hannibal said, “we never set any time limits for these things. I thought I’d save my first courting act for later. But if you insist..?” He stepped outside, placing himself directly in front of Will, who flushed at their sudden proximity.
“I mean,” Will swallowed, horrified at how husky his voice came out, “it’s going to stress me out if you drag it out. At least give me a head’s up or something.”
“You’re right. I apologize. Now look at me.”
Something powerful and dormant simmered to life deep within Will’s gut. Something that made him unable to disobey the alpha. He gritted his teeth and turned his face upwards, looking straight into Hannibal’s eyes. Felt himself fall into them – drown in them. Hannibal bent his neck, as if planning to scent mark Will, but paused a few inches away from him. A pinch of disappointment smarted in Will’s chest, but then he realized what Hannibal’s actual request was. He wanted Will to close the gap and initiate the contact. He wanted Will to scent mark him.
“Go on,” Hannibal teased, clearly sensing that Will had figured it out. “You were so eager to get this over and done with.”
“You’re a dick, you know that?” Will said, but couldn’t put any real heat behind the words. Hesitantly, he placed his hands on Hannibal’s shoulders for leverage and stretched his neck out in order to press his cheek against Hannibal’s.
The reaction was as instantaneous as it was startling. A fiercely possessive urge welled up inside of Will. His hands clamped down on the strong muscles hiding beneath Hannibal’s shirt as Will lifted himself higher up to bury his nose against Hannibal’s hair, inhaling the scent he was steadily getting addicted to, and then drag his temple against Hannibal’s cheek bone, closing his eyes as his mind grew foggy with sheer, utter contentment. Once satisfied with his work, Will slowly released the grip he had on the alpha and took a slow step back, head spinning.
Dazed and wobbly on his feet, he somehow managed to look up. Hannibal looked notably less composed than normal – he was breathing faster, throat moving as he swallowed.
“Well done,” he said, voice low and hoarse and full of pride. He gave Will a fond smile. “You’re not wearing the beta perfume today either. Was that for my sake?”
“Maybe,” Will mumbled, averting his gaze. This earned him a soft chuckle from Hannibal.
“It’s a tremendous improvement,” he said and casually slipped his hands into his pockets, “but the cologne you’re wearing now doesn’t do you justice. It smells like it came out of a bottle with a ship on it.”
“Sorry for the stink,” Will replied dryly, taking another step back to signal his leaving. “Good night.”
“Good night, Will.”
As Will was driving back to Wolf Trap, he went over the deal he’d struck with Hannibal in his head. The image of having made a deal with the devil popped up on a number of occasions. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but Will was fairly certain that Hannibal was hiding something. Maybe even planning something. But what?
I’ll find out eventually. We’ll be spending plenty of time together, after all.
The road was dark ahead, eerily lit up by the stark glare of Will’s headlights. Black treetops reached for the sky on each side. His skin was still tingling. Hannibal’s scent lingered in his hair, making Will feel pleasantly giddy. His mind was left to wander.
I’m… being courted.
Will released a scoff and shook his head in mild disbelief.
Christ, I’m actually being courted.
What bothered Will the most about this, was the fact that it didn’t bother him as much as it should have.
Whew! Alright! Making some progress! *dancing around* (Also, I threw in that little butcher knife scene to remind you all - and myself (lol) - that Hannibal is still very much a cannibal. I think we could all stand to see him in action every now and again. <3)
Uh, I should also point out that I'm not a chemist and that it's a miracle that I even got a passing grade in chemistry when I was in junior high. I don't know exactly how sodium hydroxide would react to human blood, but I do know that it's strong enough to erase DNA, so... that's what I went with. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Hope you enjoyed! Please drop a comment to let me know what you think! ^^
Oh, and since I probably won't be able to update any more this year, what with the holidays coming up, I'd like to wish you a very merry christmas (or chanukka or kwanzaa or whatever you may be celebrating) and a happy new year! <3
Chapter 9: Truths
Alright, from now on I won’t make any promises of speedy updates, because it’s becoming abundantly clear to me that I’m bad at keeping them. So sorry! Please know that I always aim to get the chapters done ASAP, but sometimes, life just kicks you in the balls and forces you to focus on “more important things”, like studies and paying bills. It’s totally lame.
As always, thank you so much for the feedback on the previous chapter! <3 Keeps the motivation alive!
This chapter took a loooong time to write, because the rough version was just so all-over-the-place that I had to edit, re-edit and then edit again to make it… less all-over-the-place. Which I still think it is. ^^’ I hope you’ll enjoy it anyway, and I’ll try to make chapter 10 a bit more cohesive. XD lol!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Hannibal regarded the scene in front of him with a growing sense of disdain. His general distaste for sloppiness made it difficult for him to look past the haphazard positions of the two bodies, the way they clearly hadn’t been handled with artistic care, hair messy and clothes torn off, the graffiti on the wall that looked like it had been written by a middle schooler. Bright yellow this time. It made an ugly contrast against the dirty beige cement pillar.
The scene reminded him of the chaos one might find in a young child’s play room. He struggled to keep his criticism to himself and instead settled his features in a mask of mild concern and contemplation.
“What are we thinking, Dr Lecter?” Jack placed himself next to him, shoulders drawn up in a futile attempt to stay warm. The air around them was foggy and winterly and, because the bodies had been found below a grand overpass, they were shielded from the sun.
“I’d say it’s the same perpetrator,” Hannibal replied. “A copycat – at least one looking for recognition by the original killer – would’ve tried harder to imitate the first murder, but many details in this scene differ from that. He’s not even using the same colour of the spray paint.”
“Agreed,” Jack sighed. “Same guy. Victims nine and ten. He’s already reached double digits. Unbelievable.”
“Last time he only killed three… and the first time he killed five of them.”
“Is he getting tired? Suffering from remorse? Or is this all part of some pattern we’re not seeing? Does he have a thing for numbers?”
“I can’t rule out the possibility of any of that,” Hannibal said and then, with a smile that was as polite as it was cold, he added, “but sadly, unlike Will Graham, I don’t possess the talent of entering the mindset of dangerous criminals. I’ll be needing some time to consider what the killer’s motivations are, and why the number of victims is decreasing.”
Jack gave him an openly irritated look.
“I know you aren’t happy with this arrangement, but you did agree to do the job. Keep your oblique criticism to yourself.”
Hannibal said nothing. Jack waited a few seconds before he spoke up once more.
“Speaking of Will,” he said and gave Hannibal a curious look, “I hear you’re no longer his therapist. What happened there?”
“Not sure,” Hannibal lied smoothly and returned Jack’s curious look with a raised eyebrow. “He was the one who asked for a referral. Perhaps he found out that I’m his replacement? I imagine that would’ve put a dent in his trust towards me. I didn’t ask him, though.”
“Because I don’t need to know. I believe he’s sane enough to make rational decisions for himself.”
“There you go again,” Jack sighed. “Enough already. I never said Will is incapable of-“
“Perhaps you’re reading into my words because you’re feeling guiltier about this than you let yourself believe,” Hannibal pointed out, tone light. “Given how quick you are to defend yourself, one would assume you see criticism even where there is none.”
“Your job is to profile the perp – not me.”
Hannibal sent him a silent look. Jack glared back, hands shoved deep into his pockets, before turning from Hannibal and walking away with short, angry strides. It baffled Hannibal how such a simple man could be so difficult to handle. He turned his gaze back to the crime scene just in time for one of the techs to wave him over.
The woman was dressed in a white plastic overall and removed her blue gloves as he approached her. She sniffled in the cold and gestured to the scene.
“Alright, Dr Lecter, we’re finished marking the place down. The bodies will be removed from the scene in less than twenty minutes, so you’ll have to work fast,” she explained, tone curt and to the point. “There’s an open manhole over there where that red flag is – stay clear of that, yeah? One of my assistants nearly fell in. Could’ve done some serious damage.”
“Has the manhole in question been searched?”
“Not yet. A new team will be arriving once the bodies have been taken to the autopsy lab. They’ll scour the area more thoroughly.” She then proceeded to hold up a zip lock bag, containing a brown leather wallet. “We found this, though.”
Hannibal took the plastic bag and scanned the object. The leather on the outside was shiny and looked relatively new. The zipper was rose gold. A woman’s item, no doubt.
“Have you looked inside?”
“Yep. License says it belonged to one Sarah McMillan. Now, we can’t say for sure yet whether one of these poor girls is her, but we believe this wallet belonged to victim number nine over there,” she said and pointed towards a mangled female body laying face down on the grass. “Would you care to take a peek inside the wallet? I’ll get you a pair of gloves.”
“I think Crawford is better suited for that. I’m not here to find out who the victims were,” he explained with a polite smile, handed the bag over to the crime scene tech and gave her a brief nod to excuse himself. She returned the smile and headed off in Jack’s direction.
Hannibal walked into the scene with an odd sort of excitement. It felt like he was entering someone else’s house without permission. Someone else’s playground. Keeping his hands neatly tucked behind his back as he slowly approached the body closest to him, Hannibal inclined his head to study the half-naked body below.
Victim number ten was a curvy blonde, dressed the way he imagined call girls normally dressed on the job. Or, well, she had been dressed that way, before the perpetrator struck. The red miniskirt was now hitched up, revealing her badly bruised buttocks. The once white blouse was torn and dyed with blood and mud. Hannibal didn’t care to scrutinize the state of her body more than necessary – that was the medical examiner’s job – and instead turned his attention to the message on the wall.
Is that all you have to say for yourself? You child.
Hannibal walked over to nine – the one presumed to be Sarah McMillan – and regarded her coldly through hooded eyes. He didn’t need to crouch down to see that she had been strangled. The stockings were still wrapped tightly around her neck. The bite mark, sitting just below the offending material, was morbidly fresh-looking. The caustic soda wouldn’t let the blood coagulate. Not that it mattered to her anymore.
It didn’t evade Hannibal that presumably-Sarah was dressed in a decidedly different fashion than number ten. The dark blue pencil skirt and matching blazer, the classy watch on her wrist and the flat pumps she wore led Hannibal to theorise that presumably-Sarah must’ve had a different profession.
He glanced back to number ten. Regarded the high stilettos hanging off her limp feet. The knock-off jewelleries on her wrists. The glittery black manicure decorating her fingertips. Glanced back to presumably-Sarah.
How on earth could two omegas coming from such wildly different backgrounds end up there, at the same place, executed by the same madman? How does the killer choose his victims? Where does he find them?
Jack suddenly appeared by his side once more, anger subsided. He regarded number ten’s battered body with a mournful expression.
“Poor girl,” he sighed, shaking his head slightly. “Life probably wasn’t easy for this one.”
“Liberty in death,” Hannibal provided, keeping his voice appropriately low and solemn.
“Small mercies.” Jack gave him a terse look. “Though I don’t think salvation was the killer’s intention.”
“Agreed. There’s nothing but cruelty and fury here.” Hannibal gestured towards presumably-Sarah. “This one appears to have led a somewhat different lifestyle, though.”
“Sarah McMillan works as an administrator at Baltimore state hospital. We’ll need someone from her family to confirm her identity, of course, but judging from the photo on her driver’s license…” Jack cleared his throat and averted his gaze, as if he couldn’t bear to look at the body for another second. “I’d say that’s her. Same hair.”
“I suppose we should be thankful that the killer’s motive isn’t robbery. This is the first time we’ve found a wallet, no?”
“It is,” Jack confirmed. “We believe the killer is discarding items that may serve to identify the victims. Perhaps he thinks it’ll slow us down – as if we’d pause the investigation just for that,” he released a dry scoff. “He got sloppy this time. Morning traffic probably stressed him out.”
“We’re searching for a rather naïve man, then. Someone who hasn’t committed any serious crimes before – someone with scarce knowledge of FBI procedure.”
“I leave the profiling to you, Dr Lecter.”
“Fine. Have you been able to confirm the identities of any of the past victims?”
“Nearly all of them have been ID’d by now,” Jack said. “I’ll email you a list with their personal information. We haven’t been able to establish a clear pattern yet – all the victims seem to derive from dissimilar paths in life – but maybe you’ll pick up on something we’ve missed. The only thing they have in common, that we know for certain, is that they’re all omegas.”
“Yeah – so far.” Jack gave a shrug. “Male omegas are rare, so we can’t say for certain that his preferences lean only towards females. It could be that they’re just easier to find.”
Hannibal gave a slow nod, sending the body at his feet a final glance before he turned and started walking back to his car.
“I’ll be waiting for that ID list, Crawford,” he called over his shoulder.
“And I’ll be waiting for your input, once you’ve actually got some!” Jack quipped back.
Hannibal couldn’t help but to smirk at that.
Will stepped into Hannibal’s office with tense, rushed steps, throwing paranoid glances over his shoulder every few seconds. Driving into Baltimore hadn’t been an issue, but it was the first time he was out in the open without suppressants, smelling like, well, himself. He’d been nauseated by nervousness all morning. He’d brought a life line with him, sure – safely tucked into his briefcase – but it was one that he hoped he wouldn’t have to use. Hannibal wouldn't approve.
Said alpha looked up from his desk and gave him an amused smile.
“Will. You look like you’re running away from something.”
“Sure feels like it, too,” Will commented dryly as he flopped down into one of the comfortable armchairs, twisting his neck in order to send Hannibal a mildly irritated look. “Why couldn’t we just have met up at your place?”
“Because,” Hannibal stood and walked over to the chair across from the one Will was occupying, “you need to exceed your limits – step out of your comfort zone. You didn’t forget, did you? That I’m trying to help you?” He gave Will a pointed look before he sat down, crossing one leg over the other. Will rolled his eyes at him.
“Yeah, yeah, thanks a lot, doc,” he waved his hand and sat up straighter, “so what do you got for me? I’m not here for an ambush therapy session, am I?”
“No,” Hannibal gave him a smug grin and pulled out an envelope from his inner pocket. “I have something for you.”
“What is it?” Will asked, eyeing the envelope suspiciously.
“A list of what?” Will demanded with an irritated scowl. Hannibal’s grin widened slightly, apparently amused by Will’s impatience. It made Will feel edgy – like he was playing right into the psychiatrist’s hands.
“The victims have been identified. This,” Hannibal said and held the envelope up, “is their personal information. Names, birthdates, what they did for a living… who they were. Do you want to read it?”
“Obviously.” Will crossed his legs to mirror Hannibal, struggling to hide how eager he was to read the contents of the envelope. “But on the other hand, I could just wait for the media to get their hands on that information. They’re going to, eventually. Only a matter of time before we get to see the victim’s faces on the front pages. You know that.”
Don’t underestimate me, asshole.
“True,” Hannibal said, eyes sparkling with amusement. “But then, who knows how long that’s going to take? How accurate those articles will be? Are you telling me you’re prepared to wait? To go back home to Wolf Trap and sit around, scour the news sites for scraps, when I have an envelope full of clues right here?”
Shit. He knows me too well.
Will fingers twitched with irritation, before he finally heaved a defeated sigh.
“Just tell me what you want in return.”
Hannibal produced a wolfish, self-content smile.
“For you to accompany me to a vernissage in Washington this upcoming weekend. We’d have to stay the night. I’ll cover all expenses.”
“Yes. Also known as a private exhibition of-“
“I know what it is,” Will drawled irritably. “It just didn’t occur to me that you’d have friends in the art community.”
“I don’t. I’m friends with the man who owns the hotel where the vernissage will be taking place.”
“Ah. And I’m guessing we’ll be staying at that hotel?”
“You move fast,” Will chuckled, tone dry. “I mean, we went from simple scent marking, to this. What’s next – moving in together?”
“Do we have a deal?” Hannibal pushed, ignoring Will’s sarcastic quips.
Will paused to consider the options. Waiting for the media to report on who the victims were could take a while and they might withhold vital bits of information – information that Will desperately wanted to obtain. But the mere idea of spending the night in a hotel with Hannibal made his stomach churn with anxiety. He was still getting used to his non-suppressed omega body and didn’t fully trust it to behave. Being in the same room as Hannibal was nerve wracking enough – sleeping in the same room was almost unthinkable.
“Separate rooms,” Will suggested. Hannibal inhaled deeply through his nose and directed his gaze to the window, fingers drumming contemplatively on his arm rest. Soon enough, he presented his counter offer.
“Same room – separate beds.”
Will wasn’t about to give up that easily.
“Separate beds – connecting rooms. Last bid,” he smirked and raised an eyebrow, enjoying the look of reluctant complaisance taking form on the alpha’s face.
“You drive a hard bargain, Mr Graham,” Hannibal chuckled. “Fine. I accept your conditions. But we eat all meals together.”
“Done,” Will conceded, utterly self-satisfied at getting his way.
“And,” Hannibal’s face took on a more serious look, “and aside from spending the night apart, you don’t leave my side without first letting me know where you’re going. For your own sake as well as mine.”
Will’s content smirk fell away as he felt the cold hand of dread curl around his heart. The temperature in the room seemed to drop as the reality of the situation – the reality of what Hannibal was saying – reared its’ ugly head and extinguished the budding excitement in Will’s chest. He took a deep breath and attempted a smile, lips quivering from withheld emotions.
“Right. No leaving your side. Because if I do, then…” He laughed joylessly and shook his head. “I’ll be vulnerable.”
“No, you’re totally right. I’m off the suppressants. I’m prey. An unmated omega, all alone, with no alpha to protect him... I mean, that’s just begging for it, right? Worst case scenario, I might even get assaulted.” He stared grimly at Hannibal. “That’s what you’re worried about, isn’t it? That I’ll get jumped?”
“As unlikely as that scenario is, it’d be foolish of us not to exercise a bit of… precaution,” Hannibal replied calmly.
“Great,” Will dead-panned, sarcasm dripping from every word. “That’s, wow – that’s incredibly reassuring. Definitely helps with the whole ‘stop being afraid’-project.”
“Will, I’m serious,” Hannibal replied, all traces of his prior amusement leaving his features. “You still haven’t learned everything you need to learn. Having you wander around alone, unclaimed, unprepared and with that scent of yours… It’s not safe.”
“So what you’re really saying is that I should, in fact, fear alphas?” Will snapped back, stubbornly ignoring how warm Hannibal’s words made him feel. “If being an omega means I need an alpha to constantly babysit me, then I can’t wait to get back on those suppressants.”
“That’s not what I’m saying.”
“Then what are you saying?” Will demanded, anger surging. “That you want me to be some… delicate trophy wife?” He made a disgusted snarl. “Having me to cling to your arm like a helpless child? Is that what being your omega is going to be like? If so, count me out.”
“Enough,” Hannibal raised his voice slightly just as Will was about to get up and storm out. “You’re jumping to irrational conclusions. Frankly, it’s beginning to irritate me.” Will bristled and sent Hannibal an insulted glare.
“Irrational con-“ Hannibal interrupted him by raising his hand.
“Will, listen to me.” The alpha leaned forward in his seat, placing his elbows on his knees and pressing his hands together. “My goal is, ultimately, for you to stop fearing alphas. But we’re not there yet. You’re still learning how your body truly functions. You don’t know how to control your pheromone emissions, and, because you’ve spent so many years engulfed in a cloud of artificial sandalwood, you’re still weak against the pheromones that others emit.”
Will wanted to protest, shame sizzling through his veins, but somehow couldn’t bring himself to open his mouth. Hannibal ruthlessly continued laying out the harsh truth.
“You also don’t know how to handle the way your body reacts to all these new impressions and sensations. You either freeze up, or you lash out. Both are highly ineffective.” He paused briefly. “Intellectually, mentally and emotionally, you are a grown man. But in terms of how well you know your body, you’re currently like a kid going through puberty. So yes,” Hannibal said, sending Will a stern look, “I’m worried that something might happen to you, because you still haven’t learned how to defend yourself. You haven’t learned how to take control. But you will, soon.”
“… How soon?” Will asked quietly, drained of energy and no longer in the mood for arguing.
“It depends,” said Hannibal.
“On you.” Hannibal smiled. “Have you read the book I lent you?”
Will blinked. He’d almost forgotten all about the ‘anthropologic journey’, still resting on his coffee table back home.
“I only read a few pages,” he admitted.
“Let me guess,” Hannibal grinned knowingly. “You didn’t read the omega chapters.”
“Well, I-“ Will cleared his throat and crossed his arms over his chest defensively. “I didn’t know which parts you wanted me to read. Considering how you conveniently withheld certain pieces of information, I don’t think I’m to blame.”
“You’re right, I should’ve been clearer,” Hannibal concurred with a graceful nod. “In any case, I’d advice you to revisit the book and look through the chapters referring to your gender. I think you’ll find it interesting.”
“I’ll give it another go when I get home,” Will promised.
He regarded Hannibal for a few moments, enjoying how the atmosphere in the room warmed up. The older man smiled gently at him, threading his fingers together as he leaned back in his chair.
“How did you know, by the way?” Will asked.
“That you’re an omega?”
Will nodded. “I’ve kept my gender a secret for years. I’ve worked alongside alphas ever since I enrolled in Baltimore police academy. No one has ever suspected a thing… except for you. How?”
Hannibal took his time working up a reply. His eyes were steady and warm and Will nearly forgot that they’d been fighting just two minutes ago.
“First of all,” Hannibal began, “I have a very keen sense of smell. That made it possible for me to determine that the perfume you were wearing was a mix of suppressant enhancers, as well as a concoction of… artificial fragrances.” He made a disapproving grimace and Will couldn’t help but to smile.
“You really hated that perfume, didn’t you?”
“I really did,” Hannibal chuckled. “I’m glad you stopped wearing it. Though I can still smell it on your briefcase.”
“Is that all?” Will questioned, purposely ignoring that last bit. “You figured out my perfume was a beta pheromone enhancer and just… connected the dots from there? With deduction skills like that, you should consider a career within the FBI. I mean, you’d run circles around Jack,” he laughed. Hannibal responded with a grin and shook his head.
“I appreciate your faith in me, but no. That’s not all.”
“Then… what was it?”
“The way you looked at me,” Hannibal explained and turned his gaze to the bright windows, “that night. When you were forced to take Hobbs down. You were sitting on the side walk when I got there, and you looked at me. But it wasn’t just a look, Will.”
Will stared at the alpha. What the hell was he talking about? What look?
“Care to elaborate?” He asked, earning himself a warm but brief laugh from the alpha.
“I’ll try, but I’d say it’s something you need to consciously experience in order to fully understand,” he said, expression oddly solemn. “Omegas in distress have the unique ability to… command alphas. To evoke a powerful emotional response that practically forces us to abide. It triggers an intense need to protect. It’s all subconscious – basic instinct, stemming from our early ancestors. Most of the times, omegas aren’t even aware that they’re sending out these signals and alphas tend to respond without a second thought. But I’ve felt that pull before and… It became clear to me then, that you were an omega demanding my support. It was marvellous.”
Will felt an odd tug at his heart, as if hearing Hannibal explain all of this was some kind of important declaration. Perhaps it was. Either way, Will had indeed not been aware of the effect he’d had on the alpha. Learning about this hidden power of his was…
“Yes, it truly is awe-inspiring.” Hannibal nodded, adjusted the knot of his tie and straightened in his seat, having adopted a more relaxed posture as he reminisced about that fateful night several weeks earlier. The night everything had started. He cleared his throat before he continued.
“This is also why it’s so uncommon for omegas to be victims of violent crimes. Robbery, physical assault, spousal abuse, hate crimes and so forth… you almost never hear about omegas being victimized of such acts - and when it does happen, the assailant is usually not an alpha. Unfortunately, however,” he continued, expression darkening, “alphas generally have a rather poor handle on their sex drive, and sometimes, that sex drive trumps their instinctual need to protect the omega. That is why omegas are more commonly subjected to crimes of sexual nature. Stalking. Molestation. Rape.”
Will swallowed tightly, hands curling into fists.
“… Why aren’t people talking about this? Why aren’t omegas being made aware of this?”
“Because it’s considered a pseudo-science,” Hannibal explained, a dry smile playing at the corner of his lips. “It’s near impossible to scientifically determine whether or not omegas actually do possess the power to trigger these protective instincts and, because it’s so unseemly, alphas generally don’t like to discuss their tendency to lose control around omegas. Simply put, it’s being ignored because people are afraid of what they’ll see if they look too close.”
Will regarded Hannibal for a second, teeth gritted and heart racing.
“Do you ever lose control?”
Hannibal gave him an odd smile.
“I never have and I hope I never will. Lately, though, it’s been… challenging.”
Their gazes locked. Will felt as though his entire body was engulfed in a blanket of warmth and couldn't ignore the frightening notion of wanting to be closer to Hannibal. The distance between their chairs suddenly seemed enormous, even though they were only a few feet apart. He cleared his throat, averted his gaze and focused all his energy on cooling down, belatedly realizing that his fingers were digging into the fabric on his arm rests, as if he’d been subconsciously trying to hold himself back. Hannibal appeared to have noticed, because the wolfish smirk from earlier was back and it did nothing to improve Will’s current state of reluctant excitement.
“Alright,” Will said, proud of how steady his voice came out, “With all that in mind, I understand why you don’t want me wandering off alone.”
“It’s not going to be that way forever,” Hannibal stated. “Once you’ve adjusted to your body and nature, no alpha is ever going to be a threat to you.”
Despite the convincing tone of Hannibal’s voice, Will felt a stab of doubt in his gut. No alpha was ever going to be a threat? Alphas were physically superior, more confident and fearless than Will could ever hope to be. How could they not be a threat?
“I just…” He trailed off, searched for his words, shook his head dejectedly. “I’m sorry. I just don’t see it. I don’t…”
“You will,” Hannibal said, in that same convincing tone. Will frowned sceptically, but didn’t argue. “But for now, I’d like you to first come to terms with your gender. Before you fully accept that you’re an omega, we can’t move forward. I’m hoping our trip to Washington may help with this.”
“I want to show you the other side of the coin, so to speak,” Hannibal said, eyes lighting up with enthusiasm. “From what I gather, you seem to hold your gender in low regard. Perhaps this is because you’ve only ever witnessed the downsides – the cons of being an omega. I’d like to show you the pros.”
“You think being babysat for two days is a pro?” Will smirked playfully, raising an eyebrow. “Is that your idea of ‘fun’?”
“No,” Hannibal smirked back, clearly enjoying the banter, “but there will be plenty of mated couples there. It’ll give you the chance to meet other omegas and observe their way of living for an evening. It’ll also be your first time attending an event not disguised as a beta. I think it’ll be… an educational experience.”
“’Educational’,” Will scoffed under his breath.
“People don’t respond to pretend-betas the same way they do to omegas,” Hannibal pointed out. “You told me you’ve taken suppressant since you were a teenager, meaning it’s been many years since you were even perceived as an omega.”
“I know how omegas get treated,” Will muttered, “that’s why I started taking the suppressants in the first place.”
“And I’m telling you, there’s two sides of the coin. You’ve clearly seen the dirty side – now let me show you the shiny one.”
“I already agreed to go with you,” Will sighed, definitely not in the mood for another argument. “And to that point; you haven’t kept up your end of the bargain, Lecter. Give me the list.”
Hannibal stood up and approached Will’s chair, holding the envelope up between two fingers.
“I’ll give this to you, but I’d like your word that you aren’t going to be sulky or otherwise… impervious to the people around us during the exhibition. You’ll be attending the event as my courting partner. I expect you to behave in a fashion befitting of that position.”
“Yessir,” Will made a tired mock-salute and raised his hand for Hannibal to place the envelope in. When Hannibal didn’t, he sent the alpha a sharp look. “I’ll be on my very best behaviour. I promise.”
“I certainly hope so,” Hannibal said and leaned down, towering imposingly over Will’s still seated form. Eyes intense and voice lowered, he continued. “Because otherwise, there may be consequences.”
He placed the envelope in Will’s slackening fingers. A waft of bergamot. A spark in Will’s chest. The omega purring, stirring, waking. Responding – eagerly – to Hannibal’s sudden display of dominance.
Suddenly all Will could hear was the sound of his own pulse and the rustle of Hannibal’s suit as the alpha was straightening up. His hand shot out. Grabbed Hannibal’s tie. Kept the alpha down, over him. Hannibal’s eyes widened in surprise for a brief second, but quickly regained the composed calm that Will sometimes resented him for. Mouth watering, pulse hammering, arousal simmering in his gut, he raised his chin and held Hannibal’s gaze.
Mark me. Now.
Hannibal placed his hands on the arm rests of Will’s chair and lowered his upper body further. Will’s grasp on his tie tightened – the intense need to hold and pull closer and possess nearly overwhelming – and when Hannibal’s jaw finally made contact with his own, a shuddering, blissful sigh escaped him. Hannibal crouched down before him, hands wandering to Will’s thighs, where they clamped down and remained – secure and strong, like anchors. Will’s free hand came up around Hannibal’s neck, desperate for closeness and for the alpha to not stop. He pressed himself closer, closed his eyes, buried his nose in Hannibal’s nape and breathed in.
Bergamot. Leather. And then something entirely unique. Something their combining scents created. Like a strong, pleasant brew. Will could’ve cried.
Cheek dragging softly against jaw. The tips of their noses met. Breaths mingled and Will’s eyes snapped open, regaining focus. Hannibal watched him calmly. Pupils wide and deep, but calm. Will swallowed. Felt Hannibal’s hair under his fingertips, hand still clutching onto the alpha’s neck. His eyes darted down momentarily, to Hannibal’s lips. Will’s crotch pulsated. And then he felt the slick. His breath hitched in horror.
“… -don’t ever let the harlot take over, son.”
Scorching shame coursed through him, making him feel slightly nauseated. He swallowed again. Closed his eyes.
“I…” His voice came out a mere whisper, so he cleared his throat and tried again. “Hannibal, I can’t control this.”
“I know.” Hannibal’s deep voice was even rougher than normal. It made the hairs on Will’s arms stand up in worship. “Don’t worry. I won’t lose control. Never have-“
“-Never will. Right.” Will gave a quick, crooked smile and slowly eased up the grip he had on Hannibal’s neck. “How do you do it?”
“Years of practice,” came Hannibal’s reply. “You’ll get there.”
Slowly, the alpha leaned back, cold air invading their space as he put distance between them and released the vice grip he’d had on Will’s thighs. Maybe there’d be bruises. Will found that he didn’t really care.
Once they’d gathered themselves somewhat, Hannibal collected the envelope that Will had dropped on the floor. He handed it over, straightened up and proceeded to drag a hand through his hair and fix his tie. In less than two seconds, it seemed, he was back to his usual perfectly composed self. It almost annoyed Will, whose hair was still ruffled, feeling like he’d need an hour-long cold shower to calm himself down.
Sighing heavily, Will reached for his briefcase – wanting to keep the envelope safe until he got back to Wolf Trap – when a knock came from the door leading to the waiting room, effectively freezing Will in his movements. He sent Hannibal a panicked look. Hannibal returned it with a casual shrug and started walking towards the door. Will snatched his bag up and fumbled with the zipper of the outer pocket. He barely managed to pull the fragrant scarf out and throw it around his neck before he heard the click of the door opening.
He attempted a relaxed posture as he turned in his seat to see who it was. As it happened, the unexpected visitor turned out to be Alana Bloom. Her gaze was fixed on Hannibal, white teeth sparkling as she smiled, lips painted red. She hadn’t noticed Will yet. Her focus was solely directed to the alpha.
Something cold and malicious twisted inside Will’s chest at the sight.
When she finally stepped inside the office – why is he letting her in? – he forced himself to smile at her. She looked surprised, perhaps even a little bit awkward, when she saw him, but quickly sent him a smile of her own. It was strained.
“Will,” she said, stopping in the middle of the floor, hands clasping together. “Surprised to see you here. Didn’t you already terminate your sessions?”
“Doesn’t mean we can’t socialize every now and then,” Will said, realizing the harshness of his tone and struggled to soften his voice. “But I was just about to leave.”
“Miss Bloom just came by to collect the notes I’ve been keeping during our previous sessions,” Hannibal explained, turning his back to Will as he stepped over to his desk. Will frowned. There was an odd tension in Hannibal’s shoulders as he moved.
“Because I’m your new therapist,” she explained with that same strained smile. “This wasn’t how I was planning to break the news to you, but… Here we are.”
Will gaped at her.
"My new therapist?” He stood up and gave a huff of confused laughter, attempting to hide how incredibly unwilling he was. “I never- … I wasn’t informed of this. Why wasn’t I informed?”
“Because it’s not official yet. I was contacted by your supervisors at the BSU and they told me that you’d sent them an email about ending your therapy with Hannibal.”
“I did, but I never asked them to find me a new psychologist,” Will said with a scowl. Alana blinked, crossing her arms over her chest.
“They assumed that’s what you were indirectly asking for,” she explained, brow creasing in confusion at Will's obvious reluctance. “Will, you know you can’t return to the field unless you’ve been cleared by a licensed therapist. They were going to contact you tomorrow and let you know. I don’t see what the problem is. Don’t you want to go back to work?”
“Of course I do,” he groaned unhappily, “but…” He sent Hannibal a helpless look. The alpha merely smiled at him, appearing thoroughly unbothered by the disturbing turn of events – though he did send the scarf around Will’s neck a fully disapproving look.
“I think this will be good for you, Will,” he said, handing over a manila file to Alana. Will watched her open it up and look through the pages of personal information – his personal information. Information that he’d rather not share with her.
“Well, I don’t,” he declared stubbornly. “Alana, we’ve known each other for years. I’m not comfortable-“
“Oh please, you act as though there’s some big dirty secret that you can’t ever let anyone know,” she said, still sifting through the documents in the file, and released a soft chuckle – as if the mere idea of Will Graham having dirty secrets was outright laughable. “And from what I can see here, you’re suffering from a bit of PTSD. Nothing a few chats won’t fix. We’ll have you back on that field in no time.”
A few chats? Ridiculous. PTSD was a serious condition, one that in some cases required years of therapy, and the fact that she seemed to be under the impression that he didn’t know that was just plain insulting.
But that was beside the point – Will didn’t have PTSD. So why did she seem to believe he did? He glanced to Hannibal, who sent him a discreet smirk back. It dawned on Will that Hannibal had given her a fake file.
Relief, gratitude and a sort of mischievous glee filled him at the realization that he was conspiring with Hannibal – and that Hannibal was willing to lie to his colleague in order to keep Will’s secrets safe.
Immediately deciding to play along, Will heaved a defeated sigh and shrugged, pretending to give in.
“Fine. Guess I have no choice.” He collected his things, making sure to sound dejected as he was getting ready to leave. “But for the record, I’m not entirely comfortable with any of this.”
“You’re never entirely comfortable, Will,” she teased and closed the file, looking up at him with a playful smile. He gave a good-natured scoff and started making his way towards the door, but lingered at the threshold and looked back over his shoulder. The two therapists appeared to discuss something, but he didn’t care to listen in on what they were saying. He was much too troubled by something else. The cold, spiteful feeling in Will’s chest made itself known once more.
She was standing too close to him.
She didn’t normally wear red lipstick during work hours. He’d known her long enough to know when she was dressing to impress. The blouse she wore enhanced her curves. Her body was seductive - for a beta. She probably knew it, too. And apparently, she had her sights set on Hannibal.
Suddenly, Hannibal’s eyes met his over Alana’s shoulder, just as she was brushing a strand of hair behind her ear. Will didn’t look away, but instead stared back intensely.
Almost instantly, as if having read Will’s mind, Hannibal took a subtle step away from Alana, distancing himself from her. He put his hands behind his back, smirking knowingly at Will. Their gazes broke as Hannibal politely turned his focus back to the beta. Will, now appeased, left the room.
Whew, okay! Where to start with this? I know that there’s a LOT going on in this chapter, and part of me wanted to cut certain pieces out just to make the read smoother, but… they’re important pieces. I’m just hoping I didn’t confuse the hell out of you guys. :’D Plenty of emotional ups and downs in this one! First they’re all happy and then they’re fighting and then Will is sad and then he’s mad and then Hannibal gets all nostalgic and deep, and then they almost make out… and then Alana Bloom shows up??
… It was as confusing for me to write as it probably was for you to read. XD Stay with me, guys!!
Teasers for ch 10:
Will reads the list. Crazy theorizing ensues!
Will also digs into the book Hannibal lent him. Enlightening ensues!
And… Other fun stuff! <3 :’D Hope you’ll stick around!
Chapter 10: Learning
Thanks so much for the feedback on ch 9. I continue to be in awe of your support and kind words. (And the kudos count is now four-figured, which honestly has me SO chuffed and proud!)
I know I’m appallingly late with this update. All I can say to my defence is that it’s been a rough couple of weeks. I’ve been going through something like a crisis, I’d say. Life can be such a bitch, right? Anyway, I’ll try to make it up to you. :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The sound of Will’s fingers hitting the keys on his laptop filled the dimly lit kitchen, breaking the tense silence. He needed a shave, but had more dire things on his mind. He also needed a drink. That part he was willing to sacrifice a few valuable minutes for. He got up, cringing at the sound of the chair’s legs scraping against the floor, and headed for his liquor cabinet. Opted for whiskey, which he decided to mix with the coffee that remained in his cup. The result was something like a poor man’s Irish coffee – a strong, lukewarm brew, without the sugar and the whipped cream. He made a face at the taste, but enjoyed the feeling of alcohol burning down his throat none the less. He sat back down and regarded the screen with a terse frown.
Anna Howard, 29, French teacher at Baltimore language academy. Had a keen interest in tennis and cooking. Suffered from asthma as a child. Omega, unmated.
Hannah Price, 23, student (majoring in history). Volunteered at animal shelter. Enjoyed poetry readings and video games. Omega, unmated.
Emilie Donovan, 30, shopping assistant. Took ballet lessons as a teenager. Enjoyed playing the piano as well as visiting thrift stores for vintage clothes. Omega, unmated/courted by Mr. Thomas P. Richards, 34, alpha.
Rosie Andersen, 25, student (majoring in biochemistry). Enjoyed spending time in nature, going on hikes and painting. Omega, unmated.
Sofia Martinez, 27, chef. Moved to Baltimore recently (originally from Charlottesville) to assume position as sous chef at restaurant Bella Serata. Enjoyed sewing and knitting. Omega, unmated.
Sawako Koizumi, 27, librarian. Enjoyed reading as well as writing short stories. Frequently visited the gym and enjoyed weight lifting. Omega, unmated/courted by Mr. Mark Lincoln, 25, alpha.
Christina Cooper, 21, nurse trainee. Enjoyed baking, reading and going to the theatre. Omega, unmated/courted by Ms. Clara Abbott, 27, alpha.
Jane Doe, estimated age 20-25. Possibly recent immigrant, ethnicity believed to be East European. Scar tissue and traces of bruising in victim’s face as well as upper arms suggest the victim has been subjected to abuse prior to her murder. Omega, unmated (courtship status unknown).
Will looked up in alarm as a car drove by outside his house. Having classified information in his house made him exceedingly paranoid. He kept expecting Jack to burst through the door with a team of SWAT agents, which was a ridiculous notion – mainly because Jack never visited him in Wolf Trap. It was as though the man feared the countryside would devour him. Will couldn’t help worrying. He wasn’t accustomed to doing research this way. Ordinarily, all he had to do was ask, and people just gave him the information he required. Legally. He’d been pampered that way.
Once the car had passed and was out of sight, Will released a tight breath and turned back to his laptop, rolling his shoulders in an attempt to relax. The envelope Hannibal had given him turned out to contain several documents. The first one listed the victims’ names, personal ID numbers and home addresses. The remaining five documents, however, offered a much more detailed observation of who the victims were – information likely provided by the victims’ families and close friends.
Hobbies and interests. Romantic relationships. Hopes and dreams. Personal traits.
The victims suddenly seemed so alive to him. So real.
Will had decided early on to put together a summarized list of his own and save it on his computer, once he’d gathered all the information he felt he needed, excluding the bits that were of no use, and then throw away the physical documents. Possibly burn them. He didn’t want to put Hannibal’s reputation in jeopardy, nor did he want incriminating documents lying around in his home. He was already nervous enough about the whole ordeal. Saving the information on his password protected laptop seemed safer.
He took another swig from his cup, grimaced as he swallowed, and shuddered. Midnight was drawing near and every cell in Will’s body demanded sleep. He almost felt guilty for not adhering to its’ wishes. And frankly, even if he stayed up for another hour or so, it wasn’t like he’d be able to magically crack the case just from this. Having the victims’ identities – except one – was definitely a step forward, but if there was a pattern to be found, Will couldn’t see it. At least not yet. Possibly due to his increasing fatigue, but more likely because he still didn’t have enough information.
They were all relatively close in age, but that only told him what the perp’s preferences were. They must have something more concrete than that in common. Maybe they all shared a past with the perpetrator? Maybe they all went to the same school, a long time ago?
No, wait. Two of these victims aren’t even from Baltimore. Fuck.
Frustration welled up in him one more and he downed the cup in two big gulps, shivering from the excess alcohol. He’d give his left hand to be able to speak to the victims’ relatives, friends and courtship partners. Ask the questions that Jack – or whoever conducted the interviews – clearly hadn’t thought to ask. They’d only scraped the surface. Idiots, all of them.
He’d have to ask Hannibal. Perhaps he’d even manage to get another interview session greenlit. If so, Hannibal could ask the questions that Will wanted to ask them. Find out more. Hannibal could do that. Hannibal could do anything.
Will slumped back in his chair, eyelids shuttering.
Will Graham, 34. Suspended FBI agent. Colossal fuck-up, mentally unstable, obsessed with dogs. Enjoys drowning his sorrows in whiskey and neglecting his need for sleep. Omega, unmated/courted by Dr. Hannibal Lecter, 42.
Will shivered again, but not from the whiskey. He still couldn’t get used to the way his chest warmed up or how he suddenly became hyper-aware of his own skin whenever he thought about Hannibal. Much like his body screamed for sleep, it appeared to also be screaming for something else. Or rather, someone else.
Just like how Will knew that he’d eventually succumb to his fatigue by passing out on the couch, he realized that he’d soon reach a point where he’d succumb to... other bodily needs. Heck, it was already happening. His control was slipping. Just earlier that day, he had pulled Hannibal in for scenting. Willingly. Without being coaxed, without striking a deal. He’d just wanted it. And Hannibal had given it to him. Not to hold it against him, or to prove a point – but because Will wanted it. Simple as that.
Except nothing was ever simple. Not with Will, not with Hannibal.
Will leaned his head back with a sigh and dragged his hands over his face in an attempt to rid his eyes from the sting of tiredness. God, he was tired. But he didn’t want to sleep. Not just yet. Physically, he was exhausted. Mentally and emotionally, however, he was too worked up.
He stood, rolling his shoulders some more, and headed for the living room. Perhaps a healthy dose of brainless media could lull him to a calmer state. That was initial plan, anyway. But as he flopped down on the couch, his gaze landed on a book resting on top of his coffee table.
True Nature: An Anthropologic Journey, part I
Apha, Beta, Omega - The Roots
He did promise Hannibal he’d revisit the book, and while he wasn’t expecting it to suck him in the way a well-written crime novel would, it did tug on his curiosity. Hannibal had seemed so adamant about it, after all. And Will could probably stand to learn more about his gender, having spent nearly two decades in denial.
He reached for the book and leaned back against the sofa with a tired sigh, stretching his legs out on the table. Scanning the index, he quickly found a chapter named Male Omegas – Early history and flipped through the pages until he found it.
Let me start off this chapter by saying that the modern-day perception of omegas differs wildly from how omegas were perceived a mere thousand years ago. It may seem like a long time, but in the vast history of the earth and our species, a few thousand years go by in a flash. It is almost staggering to consider how society has evolved – and in some ways devolved – in such a short amount of time.
In earlier chapters, we have been comparing the Alpha gender to that of a wolf pack’s leader – simply because we find using such analogies easiest to comprehend. The Alpha gender, both male and female alphas, can be compared to a wolf pack’s leader; namely, the alpha wolf. Many would assume that this position automatically makes alpha individuals the apex gender, but of course, it is not that simple. Humans are not wolves – we are a far more complex species. This becomes especially evident when we look at the omegas. We shall be travelling back in time, to the Mayan civilization.
And instead of wolves, we will be comparing omegas to flowers.
Will’s eyebrow twitched in irritation. Alphas were compared to ferocious wolves, while omegas would be represented by fucking flowers? He was strongly tempted to slam the book shut, but forced himself to keep reading, reminding himself that he promised.
“Roses are red, violets are blue, and then there are flowers that might just kill you.” – Sarah Johnson, Midnight Verses, 1982.
Omegas – male omegas in particular – are those flowers. The Mayans (particularly those during the classic era, c. 250-900 AD) understood that, which is why there are many temples devoted to the god Chuk-ta-ra, who was paradoxically a god of both love and despair. He was commonly depicted as a male omega and was worshipped by the priests, the chiefs and the lower classes alike. It was considered good luck for a chief to have both male and female omega spouses – the female provided him with the gift of children and prosperity, while the male omega offered something that, for some reason, isn’t as highly valued in today’s society: passion. It was believed that mating with a male omega in heat would cleanse one’s soul, restore spiritual balance, as well as having a generally fantastic time.
Will couldn’t help the amused scoff that escaped him.
But there was one other thing that made male omega spouses truly invaluable: their protective instincts. While female omegas, to this day, tend to be fiercely protective of their children – which in itself is a powerful trait – male omegas direct their protective instincts towards their spouses. This was especially evident in early society, and within the Mayan society. Among other things, they were able to detect malicious intent from potential enemies, as male omegas are commonly gifted with enhanced empathy (Clarkson, “The Omega Experiment”, 1998).
Perhaps even more astounding, however, is that these omegas were (according to ancient Mayan scripture) able to use their charms as a weapon. It sounds like something someone would say to describe a femme fatale character, but it’s meant to be taken quite literally. This is where the flower analogy comes into play: Male omegas had the unique ability to use their pheromones in a way that would entrance or even incapacitate alphas who posed a threat. While pheromone control is an art that seems to have been lost over time, there is scientific evidence that suggests such a practice might actually be possible. It tickles the mind to consider what male omegas might be capable of, if they were given the chance to utilize and hone their abilities. Deceptively beautiful; potentially deadly; not to be toyed with.
Lastly, research has shown that omegas generally don’t shy away from acts of violence, despite popular belief. In fact, I’d go so far as to say betas are more likely to reject the use of violence, although there are obviously exceptions to the rule. While not as physically strong as alphas or betas, Mayan omegas certainly weren’t afraid of using daggers, speers and poison to get what they wanted, or to protect those closest to them. (A fitting example of this can even be found in the Christian bible, which depicts the story of David, who is now believed to have been a representation of the male omega, striking down the giant Goliath with a well-aimed rock.)
In summary: if properly motivated, omegas can indeed be quite bloodthirsty.
Put all these traits together, and you have a very powerful ally – not to mention spouse – at your side. The current oppression of omegas is therefor, in my humble opinion, a complete and utter tragedy.
Let’s take a closer look at…
By now, Will was utterly consumed. He was sitting with his back hunched forward, elbows digging into his knees, holding the book closely as his eyes hungrily tore through the pages. He read about how both male and female omegas in Japan were trained shinobi (while alphas were commonly recruited by the samurai), how a notorious band of male omegas served as spies for the emperors in the middle-east, male omega assassins in the Roman empire, about male omega priests, shamans, warriors and kings.
All the things he desperately wanted someone to tell him twenty years ago. The things no one had.
A full hour passed before Will finally sunk deep into the cushions of his sofa and fell asleep with the heavy book resting on his chest.
The sun woke him. He glanced at his wrist watch and learned that it was past ten. Quickly doing the math, he realized that he’d gotten well over eight hours of sleep. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept for that long without being disturbed by nightmares. Giddy from the feeling of actually being well-rested for once – albeit slightly hungover – Will stretched his arms out with a groan and looked around.
The first thing he noticed was that his dogs were still asleep. Winston and Coco were curled up by the fireplace, while Teddy had taken up the old armchair next to the couch. The rest of them, he imagined, had taken over his bed upstairs – something they tended to do when he wasn’t sleeping in it. Little rascals.
The second thing he noticed was that the book had fallen to the floor. He lifted himself up on his elbows and reached down to grab it. That’s when he noticed the third thing.
He had morning wood.
At first, he didn’t know how to react. He just stared at the tent between his legs in mild surprise, too groggy to understand what was going on. But then he did. Will sat up slowly, hesitantly reached down to cup his erection – not necessarily to touch himself, but rather to investigate whether it was actually his dick straining against the fabric. It was.
Will experienced unwanted and untimely erections every now and then, sure, but he couldn’t remember the last time he’d woken up with a hard-on. Which meant, it couldn’t have happened since he was a teen. And this wasn’t just some half-assed sort-of-erection caused by the regular swell of his vessels to ensure that his dick still functioned.
He was hard and the cupping felt good.
His hand flinched away as if he’d been burned, and the lustful intrigue budding within him was immediately replaced with nervous reluctance. His dogs were still sleeping innocently nearby and the idea of touching himself right then and there felt incredibly wrong. In fact, the idea of touching himself at all felt wrong.
He heaved himself up from the couch and tried to will his hard-on away as he headed for the kitchen, where he drank a glass of water, turned the radio on and loaded up his coffee percolator with a new filter and ground coffee beans. For a minute or two, Will was actually succeeding in convincing himself that it would go away by itself and he’d soon be carrying on with his day like it never happened. But as he thoughtlessly wiped his hands off on his trousers after filling the percolator with water, he inadvertently made the fabric drag against his crotch, sending sparks flying up his spine.
He sank down into a crouching position with a frustrated whimper, one hand holding onto the counter top, while the other pressed down between his legs.
Shit. Why now?
It wasn’t going away. If anything, it got worse. At the slightest twist of his hand, his dick jumped in response, reducing Will to a quivering mess. The coffee percolator had already started gurgling. In less than ten minutes, the coffee would be ready. Will made up his mind.
He straightened up and walked out of the kitchen, like he was on auto-pilot, headed for the cupboard next to his bathroom, grabbed the first towel he spotted and went inside. The tiles felt cold under his feet, but then – everything felt cold against his burning skin. Even the air around him. He undressed quickly, without ever looking down, and entered the shower cabin.
It wasn’t until he stood there, ready to turn the water on, that he finally gathered enough courage to drop his gaze. He felt moronic. Like a kid who hadn’t even realized that he had a dick. But he couldn’t help it. It looked so grotesque compared to what he was used to. Larger, redder, wetter.
He closed his eyes with a bitter frown and turned the water on. It was cold at first. Part of Will hoped it’d make the problem go away, like cold showers tended to do, but it didn’t. And then the water turned warm and the bathroom filled up with steam.
For a minute or two, Will just stood there, letting the spray of warm water wash over him.
The last time he’d touched himself, he’d been scared, angry and utterly gobsmacked. Everything had happened so quickly then. Hannibal, that bastard, had sent him straight into a state of total shock. It had made everything confusing and blurry. The fact that he hadn’t crashed his car on his way home was nothing short of a miracle, really.
It hadn’t felt good. Well, in a purely physical sense, sure – yes. It had been satisfying. Mind-blowingly so. But afterwards, all he could really recall was the panic and the shame. The cum stains. The smell.
Will took a deep breath. Things were different now. Weren’t they?
He glanced down.
This was happening on his terms. He’s the one who decided to do this. This was all on Will. Hannibal hadn’t forced it out of him this time. Hannibal wasn’t even there.
He reached down and grabbed himself loosely. Experimented with the feel of foreskin slipping over the head only to be pushed back to reveal the shiny, pink glans. Much like last time, Will found himself unable to look directly at it. So instead, he closed his eyes. Tightened his grip. Moved his hand up and down, the way he knew he was supposed to. Nothing really happened. It felt good, yes, but not… Not as good as he wanted it to.
He was too nervous, he realized. Too focused on the task. Too unsure of how to do this. His brows knitted together in concentration. He ought to be thinking about something, no? Some sort of erotic fantasy?
Last time, he’d thought about Hannibal – unwillingly. It had made him feel like shit afterwards. Guilty and horrible and disgusting. It seemed pretty obvious that he should be thinking about Hannibal in this situation. Even if it made him feel guilty and ashamed of himself.
But why should it?
Will slowed down and focused on his breathing for a minute. Why should thinking about Hannibal make him feel ashamed? They were courting. Having erotic fantasies about one another was… well, pretty natural, no? Even if Will had agreed to the courtship mainly because he wanted Hannibal to spy for him, there was no denying that he was attracted to the alpha. And the alpha had readily admitted to being attracted to him.
So then… does Hannibal fantasize about me this way?
His dick twitched in his hand. Will swallowed the moan that tried to climb up his throat.
What would Hannibal want to do… with me?
It was like a barrier cracked in Will’s mind. Images and scenarios flooded his senses. Later, he would theorize that it became easier to fantasize when he used Hannibal as a proxy: Hannibal was the one who was responsible for those images – not Will. That made it easier.
His fist sped up around his dick, which was now quivering with each stroke and sending marvellous jolts of fire through his gut. His legs shook. Fearing he’d lose his balance, Will sank to his knees. The tiles dug into his skin, but the discomfort was soon forgotten. Will felt like he was breathing fire, like he was leaking, like he wanted to spread himself open and…
He imagined himself pressing his body up against Hannibal’s. Their naked chests would slide against one another and Hannibal’s cock would press against his. Hannibal’s mouth would be sucking on his neck and Will would beg for him. And then – he twisted his fist and clamped his fingers down around his flesh – he’d kneel in front of Hannibal.
Will swallowed tightly, mouth falling open as he lost himself in the fantasy.
With his knees spread wide, he’d reach back with one hand to get himself ready for the alpha, and with his other hand he’d reach up and grab Hannibal’s dick. It’d probably be bigger than his. Hard. Itching to be inside him.
Will let out something like a groan. His ass clenched. He reached back, blindly, and let two fingers press against his weeping opening – teasing it slightly – before he slipped the middle finger inside. Will’s spine twitched and bent at this. It was almost painful. He spread his knees wider apart and pressed his forehead against the tile wall in front of him. The fantasy played like a filmstrip in his head. He didn’t even have to try at this point.
He’d look up at Hannibal and Hannibal would look back at him. Those brown eyes would be almost black, Will thought. The way Hannibal’s eyes turned dark every time they scented each other. Hannibal would reach down and grab a fistful of Will’s hair – not so it would hurt, but just to hold him. And Will would open his mouth and take Hannibal’s dick inside; suck on it; drool over it; let the alpha know just how badly Will wants him.
Will threw his head back with a hiss.
God. I want him.
His index finger joined the middle one. They went in deeper and started to thrust. Will saw stars.
Hannibal would yank his head away. His dick would slip out of Will’s mouth with a ‘pop’ and then, Hannibal would kneel and flip Will over, so that he’d be on all fours. Legs spread. Ass slicked and ready. Hannibal’s large hands would grab onto his hips and-
He came. Explosively.
A startled gasp tore through him. His fingers slipped in and out of him in an erratic non-rhythm while his seed splashed against the blue tile in several thick ropes. Will’s hand was still clutching his dick, even though he hadn’t actually pumped it in a while. Instead, he’d wanted to make sure he didn’t come too soon.
Chest heaving, head spinning, skin humming.
Will was a mess.
Spent and pleasantly exhausted, he slipped his eyes open. His vision was blurry, but soon adjusted. He released his softening cock and slipped his fingers out. Felt empty, but satisfied.
The cum on the walls soon washed away. The water was still warm. Will managed to stand up, even though his legs were wobbly. His breathing was still laboured and he felt his pulse throughout his whole body, thudding at a pace much quicker than what he was used to.
He reached for his shower gel and started washing himself off. Tensely.
Waited for the panic to set in. Waited for the shame to hit him.
A minute passed. Then two. The bathroom soon smelled like Brazilian papaya, rather than sweat, slick and semen. Will felt relieved. Three minutes passed. Will’s skin still buzzed with satisfaction. He felt like he’d received a long overdue massage. Every muscle in his body felt loose, and when his breathing slowed down, that came easier, too.
He turned the shower off and stepped out to dry himself off. The mirror was fogged up, so he wiped the corner of his towel over the glass to take a look at himself. Wanted to make sure it was actually him. That he hadn’t been replaced in his sleep. It was just so unlike him to feel this good.
He stared into his blurry reflection and raised a confused eyebrow. Were his eyes always that blue?
Short chapter, I know! Sorry! Like I said, I’ve been going through some… stuff. I never meant for it to affect my work here on AO3, but sadly, it has. I really hope you enjoyed this chapter, despite how short it is. <3 (Also, just to be clear, Chuk-ta-ra isn’t a real Mayan deity. I’m legit just making shit up. Though I did do some research and found out that there’s a Mayan god of homosexuals named Chin. :'D)
Chapter 11 will most likely be the normal length, though! Washington trip, baby, yeah!! *high fives screen*
Chapter 11: Sandalwood
I feel the need to explain myself – last night I published an unedited version of chapter 11. I’d been working on it all day and honestly just wanted to finish it so that I could publish the damned chapter, go to bed and be done with it.
Even as I worked on the chapter, I felt that there was something “off” about it, but I ignored it. I always get a little nervous when I write new chapters, so I sort of shrugged it off. After publishing the chapter, though, everything about it just felt so very wrong. I hated it. So, 1 hour later, I deleted chapter 11, deciding to edit and re-write certain parts before publishing it again.
I’ve never actually deleted a chapter before, so it was oddly exhilarating (lol).
Not that I intend to make a habit out of it. It’s always seemed like something we’re not “allowed” to do, and I get that it’s frowned upon… but I mean… the delete button is right there and I’m free to use it. I’m just exercising my right as an author. ^^’ We cool?
I woke up today with what I can only describe as a "writer’s hang-over." Still feeling like shit, to be honest. Trust me, I’m working really hard to get the chapters up as quickly as possible, but I can’t stand the idea of publishing crap just to save time. :/
I just wanted to apologize to those of you who were hoping for an update, only to find a blank page. <3 I didn’t mean to let you down. I just… really didn’t like the first draft. :’)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The atmosphere in the BSU headquarters was tense and hurried as Hannibal walked in. Several agents were walking around carrying files, cables and spare laptops, wearing identical expressions of irritated stress. He raised a critical eyebrow as a woman bumped into him, staring down at the document in her hand whilst biting her lip nervously, and continued walking without apologizing or even acknowledging his existence.
He spotted Jack standing outside his office, scowling as he conversed with two younger agents – one of which had red flecks of anxiety decorating his cheeks, while the other had loosened his tie and unbuttoned the top buttons of his shirt. Something was very obviously amiss.
Jack met his gaze and waved him over, muttering a swift dismissal to the agents, who scurried off in opposite directions. Hannibal gave Jack a mildly amused smile as he approached. Jack rubbed his forehead with a sigh.
“How are you holding up, Jack?”
“Barely,” Jack replied with a tired frown. “We’re updating our network security system, so we can’t access the internet. Standard procedure, we do it every year, but things always get a bit… hectic.” He gestured for Hannibal to follow him into his office. Hannibal closed the door as Jack took a seat behind his desk.
“Indeed, your staff seems to be under some pressure,” Hannibal commented and remained standing, opting not to take a seat. He’d be leaving soon, anyway. Jack chuckled breathily.
“They are,” he nodded. “No internet means physical labour,” he pointed out dryly. “Carrying files to other departments rather than emailing, reports being delayed… Everything slows down when we’re stripped of our technology, so we’re forced to work overtime. Our predecessors would scoff at us if they could see us now,” Jack laughed, though the stress remained obvious in the lines around his eyes.
“Your predecessors would surely be impressed if they knew how beneficial technology has been to your work – at least when said technology functions,” Hannibal pointed out with a comforting smile. Jack perked up and shrugged.
“Yeah, well…” He peered curiously at Hannibal. “What are you doing here, anyway?”
“I wanted to let you know that I’ll be travelling this weekend. I’m going to Washington.”
“Washington, huh? Business or pleasure?”
“Pleasure. A friend of mine is hosting a vernissage at one of his hotels.”
“That sounds nice,” Jack sighed mournfully. “Certainly beats spending the weekend cooped up here. I’ll probably spend the night on that,” he said with remorse and pointed to a stiff-looking leather couch by the wall. “My wife won’t be pleased. She’s scary when she’s angry.”
“Sorry to hear that,” Hannibal smiled sympathetically before he continued. “Anyway, I wanted to make sure you knew, in case something happens while I’m away. I won’t be able to physically come to your aid, but you have my phone number. Don’t hesitate to give me a call. I’d like to stay as updated as I can.”
“Of course,” Jack nodded. “I won’t hold back. But let’s hope I won’t have to disturb you this weekend. Enjoy your trip, doctor Lecter.”
“I will,” Hannibal said and held his hand out for Jack, who stood up behind his desk, grabbed Hannibal’s hand firmly and shook. Then he blinked. Leaned closer and inhaled deeply through his nose. A sly, playful smile formed on his tired features as he finally let go of Hannibal. Hannibal’s eyebrows knitted together slightly. “What?”
“Who is she?” Jack grinned, crossing his arms over his chest. Hannibal raised an eyebrow without saying anything. Jack gave him a pointed look. “Come on, doctor, don’t be coy. You’re being courted, right? I can smell the omega on you.”
Hannibal gritted his teeth together but somehow managed to produce an innocent smile. He hadn't expected Will's scent to be so prominent that others would be able to pick up on it yet - he'd scent marked potential mates in the past and it always took a few weeks before it became noticable to outsiders. Then again, male omega pheromones were stronger, and Jack was an alpha. This shouldn't have come as a surprise. But it did - and it was a pleasant one.
Despite the possessive pride swelling deep within in chest, however, Hannibal contained himself.
“No use denying it,” he said – because there really wasn’t. “But I’m afraid the omega’s identity shall remain a secret for now.”
“Why?” Jack grinned, clearly enjoying the gossip. “Is she famous? Do I know her?”
Hannibal sighed and opened the door.
Curiosity killed the cat.
“Good bye, Jack.”
“Are you taking her to Washington? Is it a courtship trip?” Jack called after him, glee evident in his voice. “Travelling for pleasure indeed!”
“Good bye, Jack.” Hannibal smirked at him over his shoulder. “Enjoy your weekend on the couch.”
Jack looked crestfallen as he threw a reluctant glance on said piece of unwelcoming furniture and Hannibal laughed softly as he exited the office.
Will glanced around his living room with an odd sense of unfamiliarity. It reminded him of the feeling he got when he first moved out – his old bedroom eerily empty and strange-looking as it had been stripped of the furniture and the posters decorating his walls.
He’d already dropped his dogs off at his neighbour’s farm, where they’d be spending the weekend while he was in Washington with Hannibal. Widow Johnson was well into her sixties but maintained a strong physique and a firm hand. She and her late wife used to breed German Shepherds, so she was used to handling many dogs at the same time, making her a perfect dog-sitter.
Will knew his pack would be safe with her and he couldn’t deny that he was looking forward to spending a few days away from Wolf Trap, freed of the responsibility to take the dogs out for walks and putting out multiple bowls of dog food and water every morning. Not that he didn’t love the canines – he gladly did everything he could to make sure they were healthy and happy, but man. It got to be exhausting at times.
Without the dogs, though, Will’s house seemed empty, spacious and quiet. He didn’t like it.
Hugging himself briefly, he glanced up at the clock on his wall. Hannibal would be there to pick him up soon. He went over his mental list of things he needed to bring with him once more, wanting to make absolutely sure that he didn’t forget anything. Not that it would be a disaster if he did – they’d only be gone for two days and there were obviously plenty of stores in Washington – but still. Will wasn’t in the habit of travelling and the whole ordeal made him nervous.
Pyjamas, check. (Well, “pyjamas” was a stretch – he slept in an old t-shirt and a pair of shorts.) Tooth brush, check. Two sets of clothes, check. Books, check. iPad, check. Charger…
Will snapped his fingers and hastily went into his kitchen. He tore through the many objects occupying his kitchen table until he found the charger and sighed in relief. He stuffed it into the outer pocket of his jacket.
He placed his hands on his hips and looked around once more, feeling restless and out of place.
He still had a few minutes to kill, which really didn’t seem like much time at all, but his nerves made him jittery. He wished Hannibal would just show up already so that they could leave and get it over with. He took a seat on his sofa and closed his eyes briefly. Recalled the startling moment earlier that morning, when he realized he’d packed his suppressants without thinking about it.
Will wasn’t much of a traveller, but leaving his house for more than a day without taking the jar of pills with him was still such an unfathomable notion that Will hadn’t even thought twice about throwing it into his bag, along with his tooth brush.
After realising that he’d packed them, despite knowing that he wasn’t supposed to take them, despite knowing that they wouldn’t even work, he found himself struggling with the idea of leaving the jar in his bathroom.
Washington seemed so far away.
He did, eventually, begrudgingly, put them back in the cabinet. Bringing them wouldn’t do him any good. He had, however, brought his perfume with him – wrapped up in the scarf Will had worn the other day, when Alana visited Hannibal’s office. Just in case. Hannibal’s words echoed forebodingly in his head.
“Having you wander around alone, unclaimed, unprepared and with that scent of yours…”
If it ever came down to it, Will hoped Hannibal would understand. The perfumed scarf wasn’t a means of hiding – it was a means of protection. They weren’t attached at the hip, and although Will had promised Hannibal that he wouldn’t leave his side – a promise he intended to keep – who knew what the weekend had in store for them? There weren’t any guarantees. Knowing he had an ace up his sleeve in the form of beta-perfume made him feel safer, even if he hoped he wouldn’t have to use it.
He sighed heavily and peered down at himself. He was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, wanting to be as comfortable as possible during the flight, which was a form of travelling he didn’t particularly enjoy. He could already see the disapproving expression Hannibal’s face would likely take at the sight of his garments. The jeans were too big and, in all honesty, looked dreadful on him. He laughed softly to himself. Finding ways to annoy Hannibal was turning into something of a guilty pleasure.
Then again, Will was no stranger to guilty pleasures. In fact, guilty pleasure seemed to haunt him wherever he went these days. Will flushed as he recalled his shower activity earlier that week. How good it had felt. How much he’d wanted to do it again – the urge striking him repeatedly over the course of the last few days. Will hadn’t allowed himself to give in, no matter how tempting it was. If these new compulsions were going to be a regular occurrence, Will felt it’d be best to practice some self-restraint. He still wasn’t comfortable with his desires and would much rather have them go away for good. That’d make everything so much easier.
He theorized that the sudden urges were a mere side-effect of ceasing his medication. A result of his hormones suddenly being free to run amok, after years of being pushed down and subdued by various chemicals. If that was indeed the case, Will wasn’t sure he wanted to lead a non-suppressant lifestyle. Not if it meant having an actual sex drive.
Omegas were generally viewed as excessively lustful beings. Good for a fuck, not much else. That’s what Will had grown up to know anyway. That’s what he’d been told by those around him. At some point, Will thought bitterly, he may even have shared those opinions – until he found out that he was an omega himself. Things had changed then. Everything had changed that day. The day he’d presented. His dad never looked him in the eye after that. The older man’s gaze always shifted slightly to the side – as if just looking at Will was a sin that would damn his soul.
He shook his head, squeezed his eyes shut and suppressed a shiver. He didn’t want to think about it. So he didn’t. Shoved it back, far back, deep down, until he couldn’t see it anymore.
When he opened his eyes, his gaze fell on the heavy book on top of his coffee table. The one he’d devoured in just a few days. The knot lodged in his throat eased up. Pulse slowed down. He leaned forward and stroked his hand fondly over the hard cover with a soft, barely-there smile.
Will tensed up slightly as he heard the familiar sound of tires against the gravel of his driveway. He got up and walked into the kitchen to look out the window. Hannibal’s sleek BMW was parked outside and Will felt something in his chest tighten pleasantly at the sight. Hannibal stepped out and met Will’s gaze through the window. The alpha smiled at him and gave a wave. He was dressed casually – according to his standards anyway – in an ensemble of beige chinos, a black button-up and a black wool coat. Perched on the bridge of his nose was a pair of pilot sunglasses.
Will felt his cheeks warm up, despite his best efforts. He was, to his horror, becoming increasingly aware of the fact that Hannibal was good-looking. Not traditionally handsome, but his features were regal and sharp. Combined with his tall stature, his lean build and the way he carried himself, Hannibal was an undeniably beautiful alpha.
Will woefully thought back to a simpler time – a time when he hadn’t bothered to actually look at people for long enough to know whether they were attractive or not. Oh, how easy it had been, to live in that kind of blissful obliviousness.
Will swallowed, dry throat clicking, suddenly regretting his decision to wear the baggy jeans and the sweatshirt. He’d look like an absolute mess next to Hannibal. Deciding to ignore this, he stalked over to the hallway, where he put his jacket on, threw a knitted muffler around his neck and grabbed his bag.
He made his way out of his house, locking the door behind him, and walked over to Hannibal’s car without looking at the older man even once. It wasn’t until they were both seated in the vehicle that Will threw a nervous glance to Hannibal – only to immediately burst out laughing.
Hannibal was regarding Will’s jeans with a none-too-subtle frown of dislike, upper lip twisted in aversion. Will, having already foreseen this reaction, couldn’t help his amusement. Hannibal’s frown was soon replaced by a somewhat exasperated grin.
“You knew I’d hate them, didn’t you?”
“You-“ Will gasped with laughter and struggled to calm himself. “You’re so damned predictable it’s ridiculous!”
“What’s ridiculous are those god-awful denims,” Hannibal scoffed with a pointed look, and started the engine. Will laughed even harder at that.
The flight itself wasn't a problem at all. In fact, Will quite enjoyed himself. He and Hannibal solved crosswords together, had some coffee and snacked on peanuts. All in all, a very undramatic flight. Soon enough, they landed, exited the plane, and went to retrieve their luggage.
Will had initially planned to bring his small suitcase with him into the cabin, but as they were checking in, the bag turned out to exceed the carry-on weight limit. Rather than paying the fee for extra weight, Will decided to check it in as luggage, since it was already included in his ticket.
That turned out to be a mistake.
His suitcase wasn’t the hard-shell type, and Will had packed scarcely. This meant that there was plenty of room inside the bag for his things to tumble around, and if something heavy – say, a much bigger suitcase – was to land on top of his small, soft bag, something was bound to break.
Like, for instance, a small glass flask, haphazardly wrapped up in a thin scarf.
Will’s suitcase reeked when it appeared on the baggage carousel. He reached out for it, grabbed the handle with the tips of his fingers and held it up in front of him with a sense of impending doom.
Gently putting it down on the floor, Will unzipped the top half and opened it.
Though Will had been using the perfume for several years, even he recoiled at the cloud of heady fragrance that hit him, the smell of sandalwood much more concentrated than what he was used to. Nausea instantly made itself known in the pit of his stomach and he scrunched his face up in disgust. And then he felt Hannibal’s stare prickling at his neck.
Tensely, he turned around to face the alpha.
“Uh… We have a problem,” he said meekly, gesturing to his suitcase.
Hannibal stared blankly at him.
The alpha turned on his heel and walked away. Will was left alone, still crouched down by his stinking suitcase, cursing himself for not having packed more carefully. For having decided to bring the perfume in the first place. For fucking this up. They’d both been in such a good, pleasant mood all morning. Will had actually started feeling genuinely excited about the trip. And then this happened. Of course.
Will sighed, tilting his head back, eyes closed as frustration washing over him. He anxiously wondered what the alpha was up to.
Buying me a flight ticket back to Baltimore, perhaps. Will’s throat squeezed uncomfortably.
A crisp, rustling sound suddenly came from the left and Will opened his eyes to see Hannibal having returned, with a huge white plastic bag. He gestured for Will’s suitcase.
“Help me get your suitcase into this,” Hannibal said, tone indecipherable, and Will did as he was told. Hannibal's expression was as unreadable as his tone, but for a split second, Will saw his face twist in disgust at the scent, eyebrows knitting together briefly. Will cringed and looked away.
Yeah. He’s pissed.
Not trusting his voice, Will clamped his jaw shut and swallowed. Once his suitcase was wrapped up in the white plastic bag, he used the remaining material to tie a knot, making his luggage resemble a lumpy bag of trash. At least it helped with the stench.
He waited quietly, heart thudding painfully in his chest, as Hannibal retrieved his own suitcase and then followed the alpha out of the airport. Hannibal didn’t say a word. Will didn’t dare to, either.
He’d never shied away from confrontation. Wasn’t exactly scared of conflicts. Fighting with Hannibal wasn’t something he’d normally hesitate to do – but this was decidedly different. Hannibal’s tense mood rolled off him in palpable waves and the silent treatment rendered Will unsure of how to proceed.
They waved a cab over and wordlessly packed their luggage into the trunk before slipping into the backseat. Hannibal told the cab driver where to go and they took off.
Several awkward minutes went by. Hannibal remained mute as he gazed out the window on his side. Will nervously glanced at him. The cab driver must’ve sensed the tense atmosphere between them, because he refused to meet Will’s gaze in the rear-view mirror, opting instead to turn on the radio. The car was filled with soft blues.
“Hannibal.” Will waited for the alpha to face him. He didn’t. Will rubbed at his forehead, feeling the beginnings of a headache blossom at his temples. A result of being exposed to the perfume, no doubt. “Hannibal, talk to me. You’re mad, I get it.”
“Mad? Why would I be mad?” Hannibal said, voice soft as silk, but his smile didn’t reach his eyes. Will scowled at him.
“Stop that. You’re mad because I brought the perfume.”
Hannibal said nothing, but a muscle in his jaw twitched. Will sighed heavily and leaned his throbbing head back against the headrest.
“Are you disappointed in me?” He lolled his head to the side to look out his window through hooded eyes. The tense silence stretched out. It ticked Will off. The headache contributed. “God, just admit that you’re pissed so that we can fight about it, move on and enjoy the rest of the weekend,” he groaned irritably, sending a half-hearted glare to Hannibal, who refused to return his look.
“Stop the car,” Hannibal suddenly told the driver and the car slowed down and came to a full stop by a sidewalk. Will stared at Hannibal.
“What are you doing?”
“We can’t bring your suitcase with us in its current state,” Hannibal said, giving him a cool look and pointed out the window. Will leaned over to take a look. They were parked outside a dry cleaner. “Our hotel isn’t far from here, so we can walk the rest of the way.”
Deciding that Hannibal’s suggestion actually made sense, Will nodded. They paid the cab driver and took their luggage out from the trunk – Hannibal’s elegant black suitcase, and Will’s white trash bag. Humiliation burned in Will as he hugged the lump to his chest and walked over to the dry cleaner shop, trying his best to ignore the looks he got. Hannibal followed him quietly.
Five minutes later, they were back on the street. Will had been generously given a smaller plastic bag for his iPad, toothbrush and books. The books smelled, but not as bad as Will had feared. They had been tucked into a large inner pocket and hadn’t been directly exposed to the perfume. Will could only hope his iPad still worked. He’d have to check once they got to their hotel. The toothbrush was no longer usable, he deemed, repulsed by the mere idea of putting it in his mouth, and resolutely threw it away in a trashcan.
“Which way is our hotel?” Will asked, getting ready to leave. Hannibal regarded him for a moment.
“We can’t go there yet,” he said, glancing around the street.
“Why not?” Will sighed, not even trying to sound patient. “I’m tired, my headache is getting worse by the minute, and you’re being a passive-aggressive dick. I’m not exactly in the mood for sightseeing.”
“We’re not going sightseeing,” Hannibal retorted, irritation pinching around his eyes. “We need to go shopping.”
“Shopping? Seriously?” Will made a reluctant face. “Can’t it wait?”
“We’re attending an event with a dress code, Will,” the alpha pointed out, tone infuriatingly calm as he pulled out his smartphone and started typing. “Those garments are unacceptable. We need to buy you a suit.”
Will glanced down at himself and cursed under his breath. Hannibal was right.
After a minute, Hannibal put his phone back into his pocket.
“There’s a Paul Stuart store a couple of blocks away,” he explained, grabbed the handle of his suitcase and started walking with resolute strides.
Will followed him, keeping his gaze downcast, painfully aware of what an odd couple they were. He glanced up at Hannibal’s back. The man looked like European royalty in his casual-but-classy outfit. Will didn’t even want to think about what he looked like, but he imagined it wasn’t a pretty sight. The jeans kept riding down and the sweatshirt had bleach stains.
Not that Will had ever particularly cared about what he wore – as long as it was comfortable and kept him warm, he’d throw it on without thinking twice. Dress codes be damned.
But he knew that Hannibal cared about these things. Hannibal always wore his clothes like they were his armour. His uniform.
Will dropped his gaze to the pavement.
“Shouldn’t we book an appointment for fitting?” Will asked, awkwardly making an effort to show interest. Hannibal gave a soft scoff.
“We don’t have time for a fitting. We’re shopping off the rack today.”
Will jogged to catch up with the alpha.
“I thought you hated the idea of shopping off the rack?”
Hannibal didn't reply right away.
“I do.” He still wasn't looking at Will. "Paul Stuart is simply our best alternative right now, given the unfortunate circumstances."
Finally, Hannibal shot Will a look. A look that was scathing, despite the accompanying smile. Will nearly flinched away from him, but his growing irritation trumped his apprehension.
“Okay, stop,” Will grabbed Hannibal’s arm and pulled him towards a storefront, hoping it’d give them a bit of privacy from the steady stream of pedestrians. He gave Hannibal a tired glare. “Can we talk about this? The whole perfume incident? You’re obviously pissed off. I knew you’d disapprove, but Jesus, had I known you’d react like this, I never would have brought it.”
Hannibal looked down at him and appeared to debate something with himself for a few moments before he finally opened his mouth.
“I’m not ‘pissed off’, as you so eloquently put it,” he said, voice steely.
“Well, you’re sure as hell not happy,” Will snapped impatiently. “Is it because of what happened at the airport? It was embarrassing, sure, but don’t you think you’re being a bit-“
“I’m not angry at you,” Hannibal interrupted him, squaring his jaw. “I’m… agitated.”
“Agitated isn't that much better,” Will muttered, quirking an eyebrow. Hannibal brought up a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose, pushing his sunglasses up.
“I had hoped,” he began, words coming out slow and firm, “that you wouldn’t feel the need to bring the perfume at all. I was hoping that you’d feel secure with me. When I realized that you’d brought it, despite my efforts to make you feel comfortable in my company, it rattled me.” Hannibal gave him a gentler look, but still appeared displeased. "You don’t trust me to keep you safe.”
Will stared at him, utterly baffled, and was suddenly reminded of a section from one of the alpha chapters he’d recently read, wanting to expand his knowledge on the other genders once he’d devoured everything there was to know about omegas.
“Alphas of modern society are surprisingly fragile beings. The primary trait that makes them so strong is the very same trait that, in many cases, has been their downfall: their pride. Now, let’s examine what alphas generally pride themselves on. First and foremost, of course, is the ability to protect their omegas. This is a hardcoded instinct – not necessarily one that alphas actively choose to follow, but rather something that they are compelled to do. Take that away from an alpha – question this ability – and you will most likely find yourself regretting it.”
Invalidation. An alpha's emotional Achilles' heel. Shit.
“I do trust you to keep me safe,” Will said and, without really thinking about it, reached his hand out to stroke his knuckles over Hannibal’s coat. The alpha looked unimpressed.
“You don’t have to humour me, Will. I lost my composure. Deplorable behaviour, really, I shouldn’t have-”
“I wasn’t going to use it.” Will searched the older man’s eyes. “Really. I mean, not unless it was absolutely necessary. This… All of this,” he glanced around, “is terrifying for me. Going away to a city I’m not familiar with, attending this fancy party where there will be people I don’t know… I don’t think you understand how overwhelming it is. I’ve been on suppressants for years. Using that perfume for years. I just… I just wanted to know that I had it with me, in case anything unexpected were to happen. Like getting separated from you.”
Hannibal’s jaw pulsated. The muscles in his neck twisted as he swallowed.
“Will, I know that you only agreed to this courtship to get information on the murder case,” he said, voice low. “But my aim is to make you mine. Do you understand? I’m your courtship partner - your alpha. As such, I strive to make you feel confident, safe and content with me. That’s why I…” He trailed off and clamped his mouth shut with a bitter frown.
Will swallowed tightly. He could feel his palms dampen with sweat. Wasn’t sure how to react to what Hannibal was saying. His chest felt as though it was about to burst and crack open from the wave of unfamiliar emotions that welled up in him.
“In any case, I understand,” Hannibal gave a sigh and dragged a hand through his hair, “that we need to take things slow. Though I obviously want to help you exceed your limits and free yourself from all that fear… I suppose there’s no need to rush things." He paused and sent Will a softer look. "I apologize. I’m afraid I’ve shown you a rather ugly side of myself.”
Will pushed away from the wall he’d been leaning against and cleared his throat.
“It’s not that ugly,” he mumbled, shoved his hands down his pockets and started walking.
Hannibal was appalled at himself. Irritation coursed through him as he recalled the way he’d been acting earlier. Letting his instincts get the best of him, and for what? Will had every right to bring that damned perfume. Hannibal hadn’t even seen his own reaction coming. He should have seen it coming. Damnit.
Hannibal had never been the kind of man who’d let his emotions control him. If anything, he prided himself on being a man who controlled his emotions. Kept them in check, always. Never wavering, unless he wanted them to.
Enter Will Graham.
He glanced at himself in the mirror behind the counter. Noted the pained wrinkle between his brows and immediately smoothed his features out.
What the hell is he doing to me?
He was stationed by a small table displaying bowties, while Will had been whisked away by an enthusiastic female clerk. Nearly twenty minutes had passed since then, and Hannibal had spent each and every one of them wallowing in self-loathing. He needed to get a grip.
“Sir?” The enthusiastic clerk appeared behind a corner in the far back of the store, smiling brightly at him. “We’d like your opinion on something!”
Hannibal followed her into a large fitting room, adorned with mirrors and a large armchair. In the middle of the room stood Will. Hannibal paused at the sight of him.
The ugly jeans and hideous sweatshirt had been replaced by a navy-blue suit jacket, matching pants and a white button-up shirt with matt black buttons. Will gave him a nervous look and held up two neck ties – one black and one cerulean.
“I can’t decide which one’s better.”
Hannibal smiled and walked up to the younger man, scrutinizing his outfit from top to bottom, even though he knew it made Will squirm. Although the suit hadn’t been tailored specifically for Will, Hannibal was pleased to see that the smooth fabric hugged him in all the right places, flattering Will’s lean body.
He took the ties from Will and held them up in front of him. Eventually, he carefully brought the black tie around Will’s neck. The collar of the shirt was already folded up. He smoothed the silky fabric out and started tying it into a standard knot. Will’s hands came up around his.
“I can tie it myself,” he said, voice oddly timid. The man clearly wasn’t used to receiving this kind of attention; being pampered.
“Indulge me,” Hannibal said, lips twisting into a smirk when Will sent him a mildly protesting look. Hannibal finished the knot and gestured to the mirror behind Will, urging the omega to look at himself. And what a sight it was to behold.
Hannibal had always enjoyed the finer things in life. Fine wine. Fine music. Fine suits. They were things that distinguished him. Things that defined him. Showcased who he was, what he was.
Will, on the other hand, never seemed to care about what he put on his back. He was more of a “whatever works” kind of dresser. Though he did wear a (poorly constructed) suit the night Hannibal made him dinner, it couldn’t compare to this.
Will stared openly at himself, as if it hadn’t occurred to him that he could look like that. It probably hadn’t. Hannibal leaned over Will’s shoulder, capturing the other man’s gaze in the mirror.
“Not bad.” He let his chin rub gently over the seam across Will’s shoulder, earning himself a shiver from the omega. Hannibal resisted the urge to brush his lips against Will's neck. He turned to the clerk and smiled innocently. “Would you mind bringing us some tiepins to look at?”
“Certainly, sir! I’ll be right back!” She chirped and disappeared out the door.
Will twisted in Hannibal’s semi-embrace and looked up at him.
“Hannibal, this suit is… really expensive.” He pressed his lips together, looking all kinds of uncomfortable. Hannibal brought a hand up to rest against Will’s nape.
“I told you I’d cover all expenses.”
Will looked unhappy but nodded anyway – probably realizing that they didn’t have any other option. The omega brought his hand up to adjust the knot around his neck. A waft of sandalwood hit Hannibal as he did this. His dislike must’ve been evident on his face, because Will frowned at him and brought his fingers to his nose.
“Crap,” he said, poetic as always. “Some of it must’ve gotten on my fingers back at the airport. Hope it goes away once I take a shower.”
“I hope so, too,” Hannibal commented dryly. “I didn’t think it was possible for me to despise Sandalwood more than I already did. It's like I've developed an allergy.”
Will let out an apologetic but warm chuckle at that. The tense mood from earlier had been haunting them, but it dissipated entirely with Will's laughter. Hannibal felt muscles in his shoulders ease up at the sound. He regarded Will for a moment. Was now the time to tell him?
“I went to visit Jack in his office yesterday, to let him know I’d be gone over the weekend.”
“Oh?” Will raised an eyebrow. “Let me guess – he got mad? Did he give you the you-have-a-responsibility-to-Baltimore speech?”
“Not really,” Hannibal mused. “He seemed pre-occupied with the security update. Things were rather chaotic when I got there-”
“Wait, they’re updating the system now?” Will gave a confused frown. “Normally we update the systems and firewalls in January.” An irritated huff escaped him. “Christ, I’m only out for a few weeks, and already one of our basic routines has been turned over. I… Don’t like being excluded like this. It’s like they’re doing this on purpose. Like they're trying to send a message: I don’t belong there anymore.”
“Nonsense. You’ll be back on the force in no time,” Hannibal reassured him. Will responded with a doubtful smile, shoulders tensing up slightly. Still so insecure. Still not realizing what he was worth.
“Yeah… Sorry, what were you going to tell me about Jack?”
Hannibal paused for a second, not entirely sure Will was ready for this specific piece of information. He decided to tell him anyway.
“He asked me outright if I was being courted.”
“What?” Will’s eyes went huge. Hannibal nodded and leaned in closer, producing a wolfish smile.
“Said he could ‘smell the omega on me.’”
Hannibal could hear the hitch in Will’s breath. Their noses were a mere inch from touching.
“Really?” Will breathed, cheeks reddening. His soft blue eyes seemed to open up like two wells when the pupils dilated. The omega was pleased. The realization that Hannibal was carrying his scent – and, more importantly, that someone other than the two of them had noticed – was probably a new and exciting experience for him. Not that Hannibal could blame him. He relished in that knowledge, too.
“Really.” He smiled, bowing his head slightly as he leaned in against Will’s ear, lowering his voice. “I didn’t tell him it was you, of course, but I did tell him where I was going, so you probably shouldn’t tell anyone where you were this weekend. People might talk.”
He heard Will swallow. The omega was heating up.
“Noted,” came the unsteady reply. Hannibal itched to press himself against Will. Let their skin touch. They hadn’t scent marked each other in days. Soon, he’d go back to smelling like only himself again. A prospect he rejected completely.
But before he could act on his desires, an embarrassed cough came from behind him. Slowly, he leaned away from Will and glanced over his shoulder. The clerk had returned. She sent Hannibal an abashed smile.
“So sorry to interrupt, sirs. I’ve brought you the tiepins.”
Will cleared his throat and turned away from Hannibal with a flustered scowl. Even the tips of his ears were red. Hannibal couldn’t help the fondness that warmed his chest. He turned back to the clerk and smiled politely.
She cocked her head to the side and seemed to consider something, eyes alight with friendly curiosity.
“We do carry matching couples’ tiepins, if you’re interested?” She smiled. “Alpha and omega, right?”
Will seemed to choke on his own tongue at her suggestion. Hannibal’s sadism took over and he sent the mortified omega an evil smirk over his shoulder.
“Well, it can’t hurt to take a look.”
Alright. Look. I’m still not entirely content with this. I’ve re-written and edited this chapter so many times, my eyes are practically bleeding! And yes - it’s hella weird that Hannibal’s suddenly so open and honest with Will. It was even weirder in the first draft and I intended to change it, make him less OOC, but it ended up like this anyway.
Conveniently, I’m the kind of author who likes to blame this kind of BS on my characters, so I’m going to do just that: This is what the characters wanted to do, okay? I’ve tried to change it, but they won’t let me. So there. *bangs head against desktop*
(Besides, it’s kind of fun watching Hannibal struggle every now and again, right?)
Stay tuned for chapter 12. ;) Lots of fun stuff happen in chapter 12.
Chapter 12: Pain
Oh good God. It's been 2,5 months since my last update. 2,5 months of HELL. o_o No joke, life has been a struggle. Like, for real. I've not dealt with it well. Uni has taken up so much of my time and for a short while, I came damned close to dropping out. T_T
I'm not going to bore you with all the details, but my mental/emotional health has been deteriorating a bit and it's been... hard. I'm working on it, though. :)
I just need you guys to know that I didn't keep you waiting this long because I 'wanted' to. I literally 'had' to. I'll try not to let it happen again, but I can't make any promises. <3 Thanks for understanding.
Also, remember how I said "stay tuned for ch 12 - lots of fun stuff happen in ch 12."? Yeah, feel free to disregard that. This is not going to be a particularly "fun" chapter. I mean, there's a reason I named it "pain." :'D lol!
This chapter has been beta-read by Thequietscribe - I strongly recommend you check out their profile for some fantastic Hannibal ABO/historical fanfiction. Magical.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was with a sigh of relief that Will stepped into the foyer of the hotel. The weather outside was bright and warm and, because they’d opted to walk instead of taking another cab, it had left him feeling sore and dizzy. He hadn’t thought to bring sunglasses – Washington wasn’t exactly a tropical beach resort – and now his eyes ached from the constant squinting against the sunrays.
Although the atmosphere between him and Hannibal had improved dramatically during their visit to the suit shop, Will’s mood had been steadily declining since then, and the headache had been getting worse. Pretending to be fine had, somewhere along the line, turned into an enormous challenge and he didn’t think he’d be able to keep the act up for much longer. He wasn’t even sure Hannibal was buying it – though he hadn’t said anything about it.
Hannibal handled the check-in while Will waited by elevators, tense and tired. One of the receptionists sent him a glance that made Will want to walk away. He’d been getting strange looks all day and was getting increasingly sick of it. As the alpha returned to his side, however, he could feel himself relax slightly. Will gritted his teeth and ignored the spike that was digging into his skull. He wouldn’t complain. Would not.
After what felt like a small eternity, they reached their floor and Will realized that he’d been holding his breath. He exhaled as quietly as he could. Hannibal stepped out of the elevator and Will followed, rolling his shoulders while the alpha wasn’t looking. His muscles ached.
They walked down the corridor until they reached the very end – a corner suite. Hannibal swiped the card to unlock the door and held it open for Will, who took a hesitant step inside and looked around.
”It’s cosier than the exterior led me to believe, I’ll give you that.” Will commented dryly. Hannibal sent him an amused smile as he shrugged his coat off.
The hotel had, in Will’s humble opinion, made a rather sinister first impression – the tall building was completely covered in black glass panels, save for the rotating door at the front, which was encased by a robust stone arch, each side of the entrance adorned with a large Chinese potted pine tree. Above the stone arch resided a large metal plate engraved with Lynx Hotels. Five golden stars sat proudly just beneath it.
Will would have thought the dark glass panels on the outside would allow for only a small amount of sunlight to pass through, but he’d been wrong. Unfortunately, the brightness stung Will’s eyes and made it difficult to appreciate how it made the room feel airy and tranquil.
The main room contained a pair of armchairs, a spacious sofa, a marble coffee table and a huge plasma screen fastened to the wall. Along the wall farthest from the entrance was a large shelf with various decorative items, as well as a bar desk. The minifridge beneath it was, presumably, fully stocked with various snacks and liquor bottles. Will made a mental note-to-self to investigate that possibility further soon. He could use a drink. Hell, he could use several. The headache was constantly reminding him of its presence, driving the invisible spike in further.
Two doors on the left led to the bedrooms. Will peeked into the one closest to him, furthest from the suite’s entrance. The room’s interior consisted of a bed, a dark wooden desk and a chair. Dark green satin curtains framed the huge window next to the bed. He imagined the room next to it looked the same.
They’d have to share the bathroom, but Will didn’t particularly mind – he was content not having to share a bed with the alpha.
“I’ll take this room, if that’s alright with you,” Will said, gesturing to the door next to him.
“Of course,” Hannibal nodded and rolled his suitcase into the other bedroom, presumably to unpack his suitcase.
Will stepped into the room he’d claimed for himself and hung the garment bag containing his new suit on the coat hanger next to the door. The plastic bag he’d been given by the dry cleaners, containing his books and iPad, was unceremoniously dumped on the floor next to his bed – along with a small H&M bag. On their way to the hotel, Will had insisted he needed to run in and at least buy himself a fresh pair of underwear and a t-shirt to sleep in, despite Hannibal’s very obvious disdain for that particular clothing chain.
Unable to resist his curiosity, Will walked over to Hannibal’s room and peeked inside to watch the man unpack. Fascinating procedure. Will had basically only thought to bring books, deodorant and a couple of spare shirts, whereas Hannibal appeared to have thought of everything. Pressed shirts, pants, a vest, several neck-ties, a black comb, hair gel, shower gel, shaving cream, aftershave and cologne were soon laid out on the bed, followed by a laptop and a charger.
“You’re a bit high maintenance, aren’t you?” Will observed, sending a smirk Hannibal’s way. The alpha straightened up and raised an eyebrow at him.
“I prefer to think of myself as well-prepared,” he retorted with a good-natured smile and pulled out a large black garment bag, presumably containing the suit he was planning to wear for the evening.
Will regarded the items currently taking up the space of Hannibal’s bed and realized that he hadn’t brought anything that might help him look more representable for the evening. Recalling the looks he’d been receiving all day, ranging from mildly curious to blatantly disapproving, he now wished he had. If not for his own sake, then for Hannibal’s. Will was his courtship partner, after all. They were supposed to complement one another. The suit he was going to wear was nice, yes, but would it be enough? Would it fool anyone?
Anxiety made itself known in the pit of his stomach, worsening his mood.
When the hell did I start taking this so seriously?
The headache from earlier made itself known once more and he gritted his teeth to hide his pained wince.
“How many hours before we have to be ready?”
Hannibal glanced down at his wrist watch.
“Three at the most. It starts at seven.”
“Alright,” Will mumbled and headed into his own room. “I’m going to lie down for a minute.”
“Are you alright?” Hannibal asked from somewhere behind him.
“Yeah. Just tired.”
The sheets felt wonderfully cool against his cheek as he buried his head in one of the pillows and closed his eyes. The room was brighter than he would’ve liked, especially with the headache rapidly increasing in intensity, but he was too drained to get up and pull the curtains. Thankfully, however, his fatigue trumped the pain and he found himself drifting into a state of relaxation faster than he thought he would. Soon, he was asleep.
Hannibal was almost certain that Will was, in fact, not ‘just tired’, but since the omega insisted on keeping up the façade, Hannibal wouldn’t press him for the truth. At least not now. Will clearly needed sleep – actually, Hannibal was fairly sure that Will’s sleep deprivation had reached a level where the man would need to be unconscious for a full year to make up for it – and it’d give Hannibal the chance to unpack, relax and reflect.
He turned back to his suitcase and unzipped the inner pocket, in which he kept a small tube-shaped tea canister. Suspecting that the travelling might take a toll on Will, who was a bit of a hermit, he’d decided to bring some of his calming brew with him, just in case. It was a decision Hannibal was glad to have made – Will’s complexion, though it’d been rather pale to begin with, had been teetering on greenish during their earlier cab ride. And he’d been complaining about a headache…
Hannibal reached into the suitcase once more and pulled out a small jar of painkillers. Stronger and far more effective than whatever over-the-counter stuff he presumed that Will usually turned to. Not that he hoped they’d actually come in handy – the pills had a sedative effect, and he’d rather see Will recover from his headache on his own – but Hannibal did like to think of himself as well-prepared. Providing for his omega was a given – especially since the omega in question lacked any talent for planning ahead – and he didn’t like seeing Will in pain.
Well aware that Will would be too proud to interpret the gesture as anything other than coddling or downright condescending, however, Hannibal tucked the jar of pills back into his suitcase, content in knowing he hadn’t accidentally left it at home. Should Will recover on his own, he’d never even know that Hannibal had brought the painkillers.
Hannibal walked out into the main room and placed his tea canister on the bar counter, next to an electric kettle. He glanced towards the closed door that led to Will’s room. A sting of regret made itself known in his chest, their earlier argument still weighing heavily on his mind. Not because he was still upset with Will, but rather because Hannibal had gotten upset in the first place. And lashed out. At an omega. That he was courting. As much as the younger man clearly didn’t hesitate to speak his mind when he felt he was being treated unfairly – a trait Hannibal found undeniably attractive about him – Hannibal couldn’t shake the feeling of… uncertainty.
For all the years he’d spent studying omegas, reading practically everything there was to read on the subject, and having treated dozens of omega patients – which had granted him a keen understanding of how omegas tended to respond to words and actions – Hannibal hadn’t been able to foresee how being in a courtship with one would affect him. It was frustratingly destabilizing.
“Don’t worry. I won’t lose control. Never have-“
“Never will. Right.”
Will trusted Hannibal to stay in control – for the both of them. Hannibal had never doubted that he’d be able to – until now.
He would have to do better. Tighten the grip.
To that end, he decided to make himself a cup of tea.
He woke up tingling. Or perhaps it was more of an itching sensation? Will couldn’t quite tell – all he knew was that it was uncomfortable. The room was still obnoxiously bright and the temperature appeared to have risen during his nap. Groggy and disoriented – feeling as though his brain had swollen to twice its normal size inside his skull – Will got out of bed and headed for the door on wobbly legs.
“Is there water?” He asked as he stumbled out into the main room, rubbing his eyes with one hand.
Will found Hannibal lounging on the sofa watching a news cast – clad in a bathing robe. The man’s hair was wet and slicked back, indicating that he’d just taken a shower. Will suddenly became aware of the lingering scent of expensive shower cream in the air. Hannibal turned to look at him, expression tightening a fraction when his gaze met Will’s. The alpha stood and headed for the bar desk, opening the minifridge. He took out a bottle of water from it and walked over to Will.
“You look tired,” he commented, handing the bottle over. Will gave a slow nod as he unscrewed the cork.
“Yes, well, I did just wake up,” Will pointed out after taking a swig of the water, raking a hand through his hair with his free hand. “I’ll be fine in a minute.”
Hannibal regarded him quietly for a moment, eyes narrowing – almost in a scrutinizing manner. It made Will’s skin crawl, so he turned away from the man with a small cough.
“I see you already took a shower?” Will said, trying – and probably failing – to act high-spirited. The smile he produced felt stiff even to him. “Guess I should take one, too. What time is it?”
“Half past five.” Hannibal gave him an unconvinced look. “Are you sure you’re alright?”
Will raised an eyebrow at him and gritted his teeth as a spark of irritation ignited in him.
Not a second later, however, a sharp twinge of pain pierced through his skull. He reacted instinctually to this by bringing a hand up to press against his temple, hissing against the pain. Flashes of harsh light danced across his closed eyelids.
“Evidently, your definition of ‘alright’ differs from mine,” Hannibal said calmly, though Will could tell the alpha was displeased. “Your headache persists.”
“… Yeah,” Will eventually admitted, massaging his scalp with his fingertips. He didn’t miss the sigh that escaped the other man and immediately tensed up at the sound.
“Any particular reason for trying to hide it from me?”
Will glared at the floor. He held the water bottle’s neck between two fingers, letting it dangle from his hand.
“For God’s sake,” he muttered. “It’s just a headache, Hannibal. It’ll pass.”
There was more to it, of course – not that Will was about to start gushing. First of all, he still felt guilty over having brought the perfume, subsequently leading to the mishaps of the day, which included Hannibal having to spend an absurd amount of money on a new suit for Will. Complaining about a headache after all that just didn’t seem fair.
Will’s frown deepened.
“Dismissing a headache as ‘just that’ can be detrimental,” Hannibal said and took a step closer. “Furthermore, I really don’t appreciate you keeping things from me. If you’re-”
Defensive anger flared up in Will. That goddamned reprimanding tone.
“And I don’t appreciate being chastised like a child,” he snapped, with far more heat than he intended. “Why do you want to know so badly anyway? Is it so that you can step up as the big, strong alpha and make me feel better? Is that it?” He glared up at the taller man.
“Not if you’re against it,” Hannibal replied, maintaining his calm – like always – and Will wanted to punch him. “Though I did bring some calming tea with me, if-“
“Some calming tea?” The words were practically hissed at the alpha. Hannibal gazed back at him, expression neutral.
“Why the hell would you bring something like that to a five-star hotel?” Will questioned, voice low. “Were you expecting this? Maybe that’s what this whole trip was about in the first place?” He released a bitter, sharp laugh. “Were you hoping for a chance to take care of your weak little omega? Make me tea, hold my hand, tuck me in at night?”
Will knew he was being unfair. Cruel, even. He just couldn’t seem to stop himself. Hannibal said nothing, though his eyes pinched with something akin to pained concern. Will turned away from him with an angry scoff and headed for the bathroom, which still carried the heady scent of alpha, slamming the door shut behind him.
Anger knocked around in his chest as he locked the door and started undressing himself. His breathing came fast. On some level, Will understood that he’d gone overboard. He understood that there was no real reason for him to be this angry with Hannibal. The man had hardly done anything to deserve it. And yet, part of him wanted to stay angry. He didn’t want Hannibal to fix it. He didn’t want to be comforted.
Will wasn’t sure what he wanted.
Few things in life confused Will as much as the notion of desperately wanting to pull Hannibal close, while simultaneously wanting to shove the man away. Claw at him, kick him and scream at him. Cling to him, breathe him in, taste the skin of his nape.
These contradicting desires resulted in a new kind of frustration that was frightening in its’ intensity. His hands trembled as he washed himself, using the mild shower cream that the hotel had supplied them with. The lukewarm water stung against his skin, and for a brief moment of clarity, Will wondered if maybe he was falling seriously ill. Maybe something was actually wrong with him?
He stepped out to dry himself off. The towel – soft cotton terry – dragged painfully across his face. Maybe the sun had given him a sunburn? Will gritted his teeth and continued drying himself off, even though the towel felt like little razors against his skin. A quiet, angry sob may have escaped him at some point.
He wrapped himself up in a bathrobe and, with his hair still dripping and eyes stinging, left the bathroom. A cloud of steam followed him outside, where he found Hannibal waiting for him, still clad in his bathrobe, offering glimpses of skin that Will hadn’t seen before. Distracting. Attractive. Infuriating.
“What?” Will snapped. “Afraid I’ll slip and hurt myself if you let me out of your sight?”
“No,” Hannibal said, voice steely as he took a step closer, retrieving something out of his pocket. When he held his hand out, Will was startled to see a little white pill resting in his palm. “I thought the tea might help you settle down, but if you’re pain, this will probably be more helpful-“
“Oh, this is just great,” he let out an acidic laugh, though his throat snared up at the sight of Hannibal’s tight expression. “I’m being such a fucking handful, aren’t I? I must say, Hannibal, I’m disappointed. For you to rely on drugs just to get me to-” His voice broke. The spike in his head went in deeper, making his vision swim, and he brought a hand up to press it against his forehead, scrunching his eyes shut with a hiss.
“No! Just… no.” Will backed up a step, blindly holding a hand out to keep the alpha away. His head hurt so bad he thought he might throw up. Nausea made itself known in the back of his throat. “I shouldn’t have come here. I feel sick… Something’s wrong.”
“Will, calm down-“
“You think I’m not trying?!” Will snapped his head up to stare angrily at the alpha, eyes tearing up from the flashes of pain inside his skull. “I can’t calm down! Everything hurts!”
Hannibal regarded him quietly for a moment before he responded.
Hannibal took a slow step towards him. Will immediately tensed up and took another step back. His shoulder made contact with the wall behind him.
“What are you doing?” Will heard the note of fear in his own voice and immediately tried covering it up by narrowing his eyes at the man, pressing himself closer against the wall as the alpha approached.
“Something I’ve been neglecting.”
Will felt his pulse speed up. Whether it was from fear or excitement or anger, he didn’t know. The confusing clash of emotions made him want to run, but the intense headache, the desperate need for it to go away, made it impossible to move. Eventually, Hannibal was right in front of him. Will couldn’t bring himself to look away. Frantically, he tried to think of something to say, but couldn’t.
The alpha leaned down slightly, inclining his head. Will heard his own rapid pulse in his ears and he shut his eyes, hands pressed flat against the wall as he braced himself.
When Hannibal’s cheek made contact with his own, Will could barely breathe. The alpha was warm against him, though. It was comforting. Fingers suddenly sneaked around his waist and Will sucked in a startled gasp of air. Hannibal’s scent filled him up in an instant. It felt like he had been trapped in a room with no oxygen, and Hannibal was a gush of crisp winter air. Without really thinking, Will reached up and grasped at Hannibal’s robe, tentatively pulling the man closer, and pressed his nose against the alpha’s nape.
The spike that had been driving into his skull thinned and disappeared, leaving his head feeling light and hazy. For a moment, that was all Will could feel: the absence of pain.
His skin warmed up. One of the hands on his waist travelled up, fingers trailing his spine, and Will arched his back against the sensation. A relieved sigh escaped him and he couldn’t help but to press himself closer, deeper. He brought an arm up around Hannibal’s neck, fingers curling possessively around Hannibal’s shoulder to let the man know that he wasn’t allowed to retreat.
Not yet. Not yet. More.
He heard Hannibal’s deep inhale against his neck and shivered when the alpha sighed against his skin. His breath was warm. The alpha’s hands grasped tightly around his hips as he pushed Will firmly against the wall, forcing a quiet whimper out of him. Had Will been more aware, if his head hadn’t been so scrambled, he might have recoiled in embarrassment. But instead, he brought a second arm up around Hannibal’s neck, keeping the alpha close. Arousal simmered in his gut, but it was subdued – a whisper of something that wouldn’t take hold until later.
Everything inside of him loosened up. The anxiety in his chest dissipated. The anger drained out of him and was reduced to a faint, distant memory. Hannibal’s hands flattened out and dragged soothingly up and down his sides, and all Will could think to do was to savour it.
Several minutes passed. Several minutes of silence, and breathing, and feeling.
And then Hannibal started to slowly retreat. Will didn’t want him to. Struggling to catch his breath, hands still clutching onto the fabric of Hannibal’s robe, Will looked up at the alpha.
“How are you feeling?” Hannibal’s voice came out low and rough as he searched Will’s eyes, a wrinkle appearing between his brows.
Will, who was slowly coming back to his senses and thereby regaining his ability to think logically, stared back at the alpha in dumb-struck silence while his brain worked furiously to connect all the dots. Something had been wrong. Something must have been wrong.
He sorted through the memories of the day in rapid succession. The headache, the sensitivity to light, the immense fatigue and the irrational anger… The fact that this was the first time that they’d scent marked each other in several days – and it had made all of Will’s aches and frustrations go away in a matter of seconds. The sudden - unwelcome - episodes of sexual arousal he'd been experiencing...
The realization felt like a punch to his gut.
“Pre-heat,” he breathed the word like it was a terminal illness and closed his eyes in agony. “No, no, no…”
Hannibal’s hand pressed softly against his nape, before shifting over to his shoulder where it remained, giving a squeeze that was probably meant to be comforting, but instead made Will feel small and vulnerable. The worst part was that it made him want to seek comfort from Hannibal even more.
“It’s alright, Will.”
No, it really wasn’t. Struggling to keep his breathing even, Will directed his gaze to the floor. Hannibal’s slippers. The dark wood. The beige carpet.
Will wasn’t dumb. He knew this was bound to happen eventually. But over the years that had passed since the last time he was forced to endure this, Will had forgotten just how needy it made him. How irritable, aggressive and comfort-seeking it rendered him. How it robbed him of his self-control. Will Graham, former homicide detective, expert profiler, FBI consultant, seeking out the warmth and scent of an alpha just to stay sane. Make the pain stop. Calm down.
Granted, the symptoms weren’t normally this severe. He was clear-headed enough to understand that this was yet another side-effect of having relied on suppressants for too long. The next pre-heat would likely be less brutal, he’d be less aggressive, less confused. But that didn’t matter. Because he was forced to endure this now, for the first time in over a decade, while he was stuck in Washington. Far, far away from Wolf Trap, his dogs, his house. There was nowhere for him to hide away, nowhere to go. And even though he wanted to run, he couldn’t leave Hannibal. The very thought made his innards cramp up in distress. Because as much as it appalled him, he needed Hannibal. Needed him to-
Hannibal’s voice was firm and a little louder than before, and Will snapped his chin up to look at him, slightly startled. He realized that the alpha had been trying to get his attention. Coffee brown eyes bored into his own, pupils dilating rapidly, and Will swallowed. Wanting nothing more than to bury his face in Hannibal’s nape and continue breathing in that scent, wanting it so bad that he could’ve cried, Will turned away. He gave a gentle shrug to get Hannibal’s hand off his shoulder – a loss that nearly caused him physical pain – and cleared his throat.
“I should get dressed.”
Removing himself from Hannibal made every cell in his body scream at him. It felt wrong. It felt cold and dizzying and painful. And still, Will managed. Quietly, he slipped into his own room, closing the door behind him.
Will disrobed himself slowly, skin throbbing. Thoughts swirled around in his head, pulse speeding up ever so slightly. It made dressing himself a difficult and confusing procedure. He kept buttoning his shirt wrong. His fingers shook while he digested what had just taken place.
One, he was in pre-heat. That meant his actual heat was only a few weeks away. An inevitable event that he would’ve preferred not to be reminded of, especially not like this.
Two, Hannibal had managed to calm him down and subdue his pre-heat symptoms. Will knew exactly what that meant. Not because it had ever happened to him before, obviously, but because he’d recently read about it.
It meant that they were becoming attuned to one another – it meant that Will felt safe with Hannibal on an instinctual level.
And above all, it meant that their courtship was, gradually, developing into something… more.
And damn if that didn’t scare the living hell out of him.
Hannibal’s gaze followed Will as the omega distanced himself and retired to his room. The closed door felt like a slap to the face. Triggered instincts deep within Hannibal – instincts that told him to walk up to that door, open it, grab the omega and press their bodies together whether the man wanted it or not. Except that was just it. Will didn’t want it.
Hannibal knew Will Graham well enough at this point to understand that the man was, yet again, holding himself back. While the omega had been making some tentative progress in terms of embracing his gender – though not exactly any enormous strides – this was just the kind of thing that might knock Will down, push him back to square one. Will hated depending on others, and that was exactly what the pre-heat was forcing him to do. It was bound to make the man uncomfortable.
During a full-blown, active heat, unmated omegas cared very little about who they ended up mating with – so long as they had someone to mate with. Anyone would do. That blind desperation was very much the cause for various bigoted opinions regarding their gender, as well as a source of shame and self-loathing for many omegas. A physiological curse, one might say.
Pre-heat was an entirely different process, however, and arguably one that was perhaps meant to counterbalance the intense, uncontrollable urgency that came later. Aside from the more obvious aspects, it also served another purpose, and a rather important one at that.
Unlike heat, it wasn’t the fervent desire to mate, but rather an intense longing for reassurance and safety – it was the pursuit of a suitable partner, rather than ‘just anyone’. Quite a delicate operation, because if a potential suitor was a poor match, the omega would react accordingly – often with aggressive, blatant rejection.
The fact that Will hadn’t responded with rejection – quite the contrary – must have thrown the omega off.
While he understood all this, and was entirely prepared to be patient with Will, it did frustrate him that the timing was so poor. The trip to Washington was, after all, meant to have a positive impact on the omega. Hannibal had meant for it to not only give Will some time away from his reclusive lifestyle in Wolf Trap, but to also give the man some much needed insight. Meet other omegas. Spend quality time with Hannibal. This was supposed to be the other side of the coin.
They’d been in Washington for less than a day, and so far, nothing had gone as planned. First that damned perfume bottle broke, ruining Will’s luggage, throwing Hannibal off. The memory of that argument lingered and could be felt even now, despite their mutual, unspoken commitment to pretending like it didn’t. And now this?
Hannibal didn’t like it when things didn’t go as planned. There had been something off about Will all day – a slight difference in both his scent and demeanor – and Hannibal concluded that he should have foreseen this. It frustrated him that he hadn’t. But then, the sickening smell of sandalwood followed them all the way to the hotel and disrupted the omega’s scent. It wasn’t until Will got out of the shower that Hannibal realized what was going on.
Calming the omega had been immensely gratifying. Will was responding well to him. Eagerly, even – though it wasn’t necessarily willingly. But of course, Will clung to his self-control like a lifeline. And Hannibal had his own urges to restrain. Right now, providing the omega he was courting with comfort and reassurance was one such urge. But unless Will expressed a desire for Hannibal’s closeness, he’d have to keep a respectful distance. Other alphas may have barged into the smaller room and demanded to know what might be done to ease Will’s mood, which would obviously be entirely counteractive – but Hannibal wasn’t like other alphas.
The omega needed time and space to come to terms with certain aspects of his biology. And although Hannibal ached to make things easier for Will, there was, for the moment, absolutely nothing he could do. Except wait. Have patience.
Hannibal dressed himself with care. There was no rush. Not yet anyway. And if Will needed more time, Hannibal would come to peace with it. It would make them late, of course, but Hannibal would much rather show up late with a contented Will on his arm, than getting there on time – either alone, or with an omega who couldn’t even bear to look at him.
For this occasion, Hannibal was wearing a dark grey three-piece suit, tailored perfection. The button-up he’d chosen was a soft lavender, and the necktie a dark marine blue. It occurred to him, as he wrapped the silk around his neck, that he and Will – whose new suit was a dark navy – would be matching each other nicely.
It wasn’t until he was in the process of fastening his cufflinks, standing in front of a large mirror in the hallway, that the door that led to Will’s room opened behind him and the omega appeared. Hannibal gave him a quick, idle glance and then proceeded to fix his sleeves. Will’s gaze did not meet his. Instead, the omega appeared vastly interested in the floor, staring at it with a mild frown. Hannibal wasn’t going to press the man for conversation. Will was evidently still intending to go to the vernissage – he’d gotten dressed after all – which was a relief. Should Will have chosen to back out, Hannibal wouldn’t have tried to change his mind. Adding pressure to an already pressured man often had the most unfortunate, unpredictable repercussions.
Will spoke so suddenly and so quietly that Hannibal almost missed it. He turned to look at the younger man, whose gaze remained averted.
“It’s a mess. I’ll stand out like a sore thumb next to you.” Will crossed his arms over his chest, looking all kinds of uncomfortable. “And I didn’t bring any products with me.”
At first glance, it might have appeared as though Will was legitimately asking because he didn’t have any other choice. But the way Will’s expression softened around the edges, the hint of guilt in that frown, led Hannibal to understand that the omega felt remorse for having rejected him earlier and that he was trying to make up for it now. Well, that was heartening.
“I see.” Hannibal stepped into his room and retrieved a comb and small jar of hair gel from his suitcase, before he re-joined Will in the main room and held the items out for him. The omega didn’t take them. Instead, he looked up at Hannibal, finally meeting his gaze, with eyes that were stormy and vulnerable. The man seemed to hesitate for a few moments before he finally spoke.
“Can you do it for me?”
Hannibal blinked slowly, savouring the warmth that settled in his chest without his permission. A clever, deliberate move on Will’s part. It was such a small thing, such an easy task, but its effects were felt. Will was letting himself rely on Hannibal – not just for his own sake, but likely for Hannibal’s as well.
Hannibal beckoned Will over the mirror before he raised the comb to the top of Will’s head and started working on the omega’s unruly mop of brown curls. Will stood absolutely still while Hannibal worked, as if he was holding his breath. That wouldn’t do.
Subtly, as if he was simply manoeuvring his way around Will’s still form, he brushed his hand down Will’s back, letting it rest just below the soft curve of the spine. The muscles in Will’s throat contracted as the man swallowed, the ridge of his cheekbones reddening slightly. Content with the response – and not looking to make the man needlessly uncomfortable – Hannibal removed his hand and continued with his task, catching Will’s gaze in the mirror.
“How are you feeling?”
Will took his time working up a response.
“Better. Nervous. Mortified. Take your pick.” A spark of humour lit up in those blue eyes and Hannibal found himself smiling.
“And the headache?”
Hannibal nodded quietly and took a step back, pleased with what he’d accomplished. Will’s natural curls were now tamed by hair gel and swept back, away from Will’s forehead, in an elegant side-part. Will turned back to the mirror to inspect his appearance.
“Looks great,” he said, sending Hannibal a careful smile. “Thank you.”
“Happy to help.” Hannibal returned the smile and glanced at his wrist watch. “We should get going. But first…”
He turned away from the omega and collected a small black box from the coffee table. Will’s face lit up with amused recognition and he released a huff of laughter.
“They’ve been paid for,” Hannibal stated and opened the box. “It would be wasteful not to use them.”
Hannibal took a step closer to Will and got one of the tiepins out. The design was simple and sharp, a silver pin with an engraved symbol in the middle. Upon closer inspection, one would see that the symbol was in fact an intricate combination of the A and Ω letters, symbolizing the unity of their genders. Hannibal fastened it in Will’s black tie and smoothed the fabric out, before he took it upon himself to adjust the knot sitting beneath Will’s collar. It was an act of affection and possessiveness, and Will allowed it, even tipping his head back slightly to give Hannibal more room. Keeping himself from running a finger along Will’s throat was… difficult.
Once he was done, Hannibal took out his own pin, identical to Will’s. Under normal circumstances, Hannibal didn’t think he’d ever buy such sentimental items for himself and a partner. But when Will looked down at his decorated tie with a fond, barely-there smile, Hannibal found that he didn’t regret the purchase. He fastened his own tiepin and gestured towards the door.
The tone of Will’s voice was serious and low, matching the expression on his face. For a moment, Hannibal worried that Will was about to back out at the last second, but instead the omega walked up to him and raised a hand to Hannibal’s neck, thumb caressing his skin in a brief but undeniably tender move.
“I said some pretty harsh things before, back when I…” He trailed off and cleared his throat. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean what I said. I was just…”
Hannibal took Will’s hand in his own and brought it to his lips to press a soft kiss to the knuckles. Will’s breath stuttered, and Hannibal pretended not to notice.
They regarded each other for a few seconds, searching each other’s gazes, and seemed to reach a silent agreement: nothing more needed to be said. At least not right now.
Hope you enjoyed. :) <3
Chapter 13: the vernissage. ;) It's going to be fun.
Chapter 13: Vernissage I
I know. I'm late. I'm so, so, so late. I know. I'm sorry. I'm so, so, so sorry.
I won't bore you with the details, because you guys already know that this year has been a bit difficult for me. I'm trying my best to juggle work and studies while remaining mentally intact, and it's not always easy. ^^'
Anyway, I really hope you'll enjoy this chapter. :) It's a bit longer than previous ones, which I'm hoping might make up for my prolonged absence.
To those of you who received a notification for Chapter 14, I can explain: Due to technical error, many of you didn't receive email notifications when I updated this chapter on the 11th. Seeing as I'd already made you wait 3.5 months for this chapter, I wanted to make sure those of you who've subscribed to my work were notified, so I added a 14th chapter yesterday in the hopes that this would notify you of the update, because the email servers were up and running again. I've now removed chapter 14, as it was only a short message and a silly drawing of Will and Hannibal at the vernissage. :'D lol. <3
(This chapter has been beta-read by TheQuietScribe. They also taught me the word "sporks", which I thought was hilarious.)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Will glanced at his reflection in the mirrored wall of the elevator. He barely recognized himself. While he’d never really given a damn about his appearance, he had to admit there was something refreshing and encouraging about the way he looked now. The suit jacket made his shoulders appear straighter, and the curls that normally covered his forehead – giving him a somewhat boyish look – were gelled and combed back. He looked put-together and confident – even if it didn’t match the way he felt – and for that, he was grateful. Because the alpha that stood next to him looked so sharp, so sophisticated and so devastatingly handsome in his grey suit that Will felt a rush of warmth in his gut every time their eyes met.
“Is this going to be one of those ‘use the wrong fork and you’ll be banished from this establishment’ situations? Elderly ladies clutching their pearls while the waiters exchange subtle glances of disapproval?” Will said, idly putting his hands behind his back as he glanced over to his partner, humour dancing in his eyes. “You should know I’ve been known to use plastic sporks whenever I can’t be bothered to do the dishes. Which is often. It’s very messy – especially when I attempt to eat noodles with them.”
Hannibal didn’t look at him, opting instead to fix his already impeccable sleeves, but Will noticed the way the man’s lips curved into an amused smirk.
“It’s a vernissage, Will. Not a nineteenth century dinner party.”
“So that’s a no?”
“Indeed. You can expect refreshments in the form of wine and various finger food.”
“That, I’m afraid, would be bordering on blasphemous.” Hannibal sent him a raised eyebrow. “This is still a five-star hotel.”
Will shook his head softly as he looked away, smile lingering on his face, mustering the strength to say what he needed to say next.
“Got it. So… You’ll stay with me, right? I mean,” he cleared his throat, and tried for a more humorous tone, “you won’t leave me to fend for myself, will you? Because I’m telling you, I know virtually nothing about art. They’re all going to hate me.”
He added a brief chuckle there, but he slight tremble in his voice gave him away. He was nervous. Will could feel Hannibal’s gaze on him, though he stared straight ahead at the closed doors, trying his best to look relaxed. There was nothing he could do about the pre-heat situation, except come to terms with it and wait it out. So long as Hannibal stayed close, his symptoms would remain subdued and no one would know.
Ironic, really, that the notion of staying by Hannibal’s side to ensure his own safety had left him feeling so upset just a few days prior, and now he was making that very same demand.
“No,” Hannibal said calmly, “I won’t leave you.”
Reassured by this, Will nodded and exhaled the tight breath he’d been holding. He straightened his shoulders in an attempt to rid himself of some of his nerves, when the elevator came a stop with a ‘ding’ and the doors opened.
In the lobby, a rather large group of people were already waiting to be let into the dining hall, which was the venue for the evening. Several of them were couples, as far as Will could tell – subtle hints all around, various public displays of affection, hands curled possessively around waists – and he averted his gaze to the floor, suddenly acutely aware of the fact that he and Hannibal would likely be perceived as a couple, too. He wasn’t sure how to feel about that, but when Hannibal’s hand pressed softly against his back – briefly, just a brush of fingertips to escort Will through the crowd – he couldn’t deny the sense of comfort it brought him, just having the alpha close. Admittedly, Will’s brain was still jacked up on pre-heat hormones, which he was sure contributed to the sudden wave of affection that crashed over him when he looked up at the taller man – but still.
To Will’s relief, the doors to the dining hall opened before he was forced to mingle with any of the other guests. Soft jazz emitted from the large room, breaking the murmur of voices. Though, when Will cared to really listen, he realized that the jazz had been remixed with a kind of electronic beat that he was almost positive that Hannibal would disapprove of. He glanced up to the alpha at his side and stifled an amused grin when he saw the irritated wrinkle between the man’s eyebrows. When Hannibal took note of him, his features immediately smoothed out. His eyes were warm as they met Will’s.
Will took a steadying breath and raised his chin, which he hoped would make him look more comfortable and confident, despite the dread cramping in his gut. Hannibal guided him into the dining hall, which was rather dimly lit – but Will quickly understood the reason for the lack of light.
The artworks decorating the walls were all incorporated with LED lights in muted pastel colours, shedding a soft, colourful glow over the three-dimensional pieces – as well as casting interesting shadows. Pieces of tree branches, lacquered leaves, stones and dried flowers had been used to bring the artwork to the next level. Arranged to resemble faces, fields, night skies. In addition to the pieces hanging on the walls, there were also installations consisting of clay sculptures, lightbulbs and cords sitting in the middle of the floor.
Will looked around, equal parts astounded and bemused. He’d never been very interested in art, but he could see now why others were. The artwork, albeit confusing, was rather striking.
Although the dinner tables and chairs had been cleared away for the evening, there were several smaller round tables strategically placed throughout the room, not too close to the artworks, but closer to the walls than the centre, allowing for the visitors to move around freely and without hindrance. Only one long table had been left in the room, placed in front of the bar. It was filled with large plates of food, water carafes, glasses and napkins. Next to the table stood a group of waiters, equipped with large silver trays. On top of them rested filled wine glasses. As the guests moved further into the room, the waiters started making their rounds. Soon, everyone had been offered refreshments – including Hannibal and Will. Hannibal politely declined, whereas Will gratefully accepted a glass of white wine. He needed the extra courage.
He took a sip from his glass and turned his attention to the other guests. The murmur of voices filtering through the music made him feel as though he was trapped in a bee hive. They’d only been there for a couple of minutes, and Will was already feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of strangers he had to share the space with. Under professional circumstances, he could manage situations where being surrounded by other people was unavoidable. But this was a social event, and he knew that it was only a matter of time before-
“Dr Lecter! Wonderful to see you!”
-something like this would happen.
Will groaned internally before he turned to look at the elderly man extending his hand to Hannibal, who took it and gave it a firm shake. The man was shorter than Hannibal, and his hairline was receding, but he still carried himself with impeccably straight shoulders and chin raised proudly.
Alpha, Will’s nose informed him, and he immediately tensed up as the man turned to smile at him. It was a friendly smile – not at all predatory or threatening – and Will cursed the instincts that insisted he back away from the older man. Hannibal took a subtle step closer to him – suggesting he’d sensed the distress somehow – and effectively eased the tension in Will’s muscles with his mere presence. It irked Will more than he cared to admit.
“Likewise, Mr Lucas,” Hannibal said, voice warm and steady. “Allow me to introduce William Graham. He works as a forensic profiler in Baltimore.”
“I see,” Mr Lucas’ eyes lit up with curiosity. “How fascinating. I’ve always found it astonishing how you can solve crimes by looking at the smallest of details. My wife worked with the police for many years and used to tell me such incredible tales.”
Mated, then. That made Will relax even more. So much so that he managed to crack a somewhat genuine smile and meet the man’s gaze.
“Looking at the small details takes a bit of patience, admittedly, but most of the times my job is very rewarding,” he said and had to make a very conscious effort to not let his mind stray to everything that was going on in Baltimore at that moment, aware that it would only sour his mood. “It’s good to take a break from it once in a while, though,” he continued and glanced to Hannibal, just to get some sort of hint of how the other man thought he was handling the situation. He’d never been socially gifted, after all, and needed the reassurance. Hannibal appeared content with his performance, his expression settled in a sort of polite half-smile. Encouraged, Will turned back to Mr Lucas. “What do you do for a living?”
The older alpha barked a short laugh and gestured to their surroundings.
“Young man, I’m the owner of this hotel,” he explained, voice full of pride. “Though I retired from my post as hotel manager two years ago, I’m still chairman of the board and try to stay as involved as I can.” Mr Lucas gave Hannibal a pleased look. “I was honestly quite thrilled to hear you were planning to visit after all these years, it’s been far too long.”
“Indeed it has,” Hannibal agreed with a smile. “I shall have to make amends and visit more often.”
“You really should. How are you enjoying your stay so far? Well, I hope?” Mr Lucas suddenly turned to Will as he said this, clearly hoping to get some input.
“Oh, uh. Yes, very.” Will cleared his throat and tried once more. “Well. Very well.” Why were words sometimes so difficult to find? “And this art is certainly… interesting.”
“High praise,” the elderly alpha chuckled, placing his hands behind his back. “I’m glad to hear it. Miss Bright has been gaining plenty of attention over the last couple of years. Of course, I can’t be unbiased when it comes to her work. She’s my niece, you see.” He winked playfully at Will, who managed a polite nod in return.
An elderly woman – beta – suddenly walked up to Mr Lucas, slipping her petite hand into the nook of his arm and gave Will a friendly, but reserved look. Clearly, they had now been joined by Mrs lucas.
“Darling, I’ve been looking all over for you,” She said, gaze wandering over to Hannibal. Her face lit up with pleased recognition. “Doctor Lecter? My goodness, it’s been ages!” She gave her husband a playfully reprimanding look. “Did you know he’d be attending? You should have told me!”
“It slipped my mind,” Mr Lucas said, smiling warmly to his wife as he placed his hand over hers. She turned to Will again, still with a hint of calculating apprehension in her eyes, as though she was afraid Will might try and grab Mr Lucas for himself. Will became uncomfortably aware of the fact that she saw him as a threat – which was entirely unprecedented, at least outside of his work.
“And who might this be?” She asked, her voice carrying a subtle yet entirely noticeable edge. Will looked up and extended a hand towards her, trying to appear as unthreatening as he could.
“Will Graham, ma’am. Pleasure to meet you.”
Mrs Lucas regarded his hand for a second before slowly taking it in her own, eyes narrowing slightly as she shook. Mr Lucas gave a low chuckle, evidently finding his wife’s behaviour endearing. Will disagreed.
“Mr Graham is here with Dr Lecter, dear.” The tone of his voice was disarming and reassuring and when she turned to look at him, he gave her a pointed look. She turned back to look at Will, embarrassed surprise colouring her cheeks. Her gaze darted back and forth between Will and Hannibal, eyes widening in realisation.
“Oh,” she said eventually, “oh!” A somewhat relieved smile broke out on her face. “Oh, but that’s simply marvellous!” she sent Hannibal a look. “I was under the impression that you weren’t looking for a mate, Dr Lecter.”
Will sucked in a startled breath and turned his gaze away from the group, pretending to suddenly be extremely interested in the artistic display of car tyres a few feet away, while Hannibal’s hand pressed against the small of his back. It was a possessive and protective move and something only a courting alpha would ever do to an omega. Will knew that, and hell – he’d been expecting this. Still, it was as though everything around them slowed down and Will glanced to Hannibal, trying to deduce whether the alpha was actively trying to make him uneasy. He drank more greedily from his glass.
“I wasn’t, until just recently,” Hannibal explained. Will tried not to dwell on just what the hell that meant. “Will works as a profiler for the FBI.” Conveniently leaving out the part where Will was suspended for being mentally unstable, Hannibal continued. “We met through his work, actually.”
“Oh?” Mrs Lucas smiled – a much more genuine expression now than it had been before – when she turned to look at Will. “I’ve worked with the FBI once or twice in my day as well,” she said. “Though I wasn’t a profiler.”
“What were your duties, ma’am?” Will asked politely, still hyper-aware of Hannibal’s hand against him. His muscles ached from the restraint it took to not squirm under the touch. Not because it was unpleasant, but rather the opposite. And they were out in public.
“Administrative work, mostly,” she replied, waving her hand dismissively. “Not nearly as exciting as what you do, I’m sure, but still rather interesting.”
“I’m sure that it was,” Will offered.
Mrs Lucas cocked her head to the side, eyes squinting in curious contemplation.
“If you don’t mind me asking, what’s it like to be working consistently with the FBI? It’s quite rare for omegas to enter that line of work, no?”
Will had, on a number of occasions, tried to envision what it would be like – having someone comment on his gender, knowing it was bound to come up eventually. He’d practiced possible responses, ranging from polite to quippy, as well as nonchalant shrugs in his mirror. It had seemed ridiculous at the time, of course, but also necessary. He needed to be prepared, and before this, he’d thought that he was.
But Mrs Lucas’ question, innocent as it was, still came as a sucker punch. The air locked in Will’s throat and for a few seconds – which felt like hours to him – he could only stare at her.
It wasn’t that Will had been stupidly unaware that they’d be perceiving him as an omega. That was, after all, what this whole damned trip was about in the first place. But the blatant way she put it out there, said the actual word, like it wasn’t a big deal, like it wasn’t something that Will had spent his entire adult life trying to conceal from everyone around him, had a rather startling effect on him.
All of a sudden, it felt like all eyes turned to him. And he was naked. Purely omega, unhidden, out in the open. Fresh prey. A wanton little bitch. Asking for it.
He was vaguely aware of Hannibal speaking next to him. Not to him, apparently, but that was just as well. The floor had, at some point, started undulating beneath his feet and Will tried taking a step back, but ended up stumbling slightly. Hannibal’s hand pressed firmer against his back, and Will, now unable to resist his instincts, leaned in closer against the alpha. Though he couldn’t understand what, exactly, Hannibal was saying, the calm tone of his voice was incredibly effective. Hannibal was in charge. Will would let Hannibal make the decisions. Steer him. Shield him.
It turned his head foggy. Panic receding. Blind trust.
All of a sudden, Will found himself standing in one of the corners of the room, tucked away behind a large potted palm tree, with Hannibal’s hands secure on his shoulders. Will’s eyes, dry and stinging from having stared into empty space for what felt like years, finally blinked and he returned to reality. He became aware of the room once more. He became aware of the music in the background, the murmur of people. And he became aware of Hannibal’s patient eyes. Will couldn’t bring himself to look directly into them, as it dawned on him that he’d just had something akin to a panic-attack right there, in the middle of a rather crowded room. And all because of an innocent question.
Will felt himself implode slightly, wanting to press himself further into the corner, and turned away from Hannibal.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. “I’ll be alright in a minute.”
“Don’t apologize. You’re doing well.”
“Well?” Will scoffed a harsh, shuddering exhale. “Don’t patronize me.”
“I’m not. You’re allowed to find this situation uncomfortable and distressing. I was prepared for this.”
“Yeah?” Will stuffed his hands down his pockets and cleared his throat, stubbornly ignoring the instinctive need to press himself against the alpha. “Well, I wasn’t. And I don’t think Mr and Mrs Lucas were either.”
“No, I suspect not.” There was a hint of amusement in Hannibal’s voice and Will turned a tired glare to the older man.
“I’m glad you’re getting a kick out of this.”
Hannibal smiled calmly and proceeded to fix Will’s necktie with an expression that said absolutely nothing was out of the ordinary.
“While I’m sure that what you just experienced was emotionally taxing and that you likely perceived it as something monumentally conspicuous, let me assure you – hardly anyone noticed. You went quiet, your scent changed a fraction, and I removed us from the scene.” He sent Will a reassuring look. “You’re doing fine, Will.”
Will, despite wanting to argue, conceded with a tired nod. Before he could say anything else, the lights in the room changed and the music quieted down. He looked around, confused as to what was going on, and noticed that everyone else in the room had now turned to the small lit-up stage next to the bar. A young woman was standing behind the podium, hair dyed bright purple and wearing a skin-tight green dress that enhanced each and every one of her curves. Omega, most likely. She gave the crowd a shy smile.
“Thank you all so much for coming to this vernissage,” she began. “My name is Lisa Bright, and I’m the artist responsible for the chaos you’re currently being subjected to…” She released a nervous little giggle. “I suppose I should apologize for that.”
A soft rumble of laughter went through the room. Hannibal sent Will a raised eyebrow and gestured with his hand, suggesting they remove themselves from the corner. It was only a matter of time before someone took note of them – two grown men huddled behind a large tropical plant – and Will would rather not draw that kind of attention to himself, or Hannibal for that matter. They discreetly walked back out into the room, placing themselves by a table in the back. Will took a seat in one of the empty chairs, while Hannibal remained standing next to him.
As Lisa went on with her speech, Will took in the way she moved and spoke, rather than her words. As a profiler, he couldn’t really help it. There was something so confident and calculated about the way she held herself. The shyness, he realized, was only a mask. One designed to make her appear endearing and unassuming. She made a show or nervously twirling a strand of hair around her finger and patted the fabric of her dress out, as if wearing something so revealing was daunting and new. It was a fascinating display of manipulation, a near-flawless act that likely had most others fooled.
“She’s putting on a good show tonight,” Will heard someone whisper. He turned towards the sound, only to discover that there were two men sitting at the other side of table where he’d just taken a seat. One of them sipped idly from a glass of wine. Despite the dim lights, Will noticed the man’s hair was an extremely pale shade of grey – though he looked to be around Will’s own age, maybe even younger. He hadn’t spoken to Will, but the man next to him – a big guy with a dark buzzcut. Said guy nodded and stifled an amused grin.
“She sure is, the little darling. If people only knew.”
The light-haired man laughed quietly, leaning back further in his chair to cross one leg over the other. He practically reeked self-confidence, and the gold studs in his ears only enhanced it. The scents from the people around them mingled in the air, making it difficult for Will to determine his genders. The big guy was definitely alpha, though. No beta had shoulders that broad.
Applause filled the room when Lisa exited the stage, the lights turned back on and the music continued. Will gave a half-hearted series of claps without really paying attention to the artist, who was already being crowded by a group of admirers by the bar. Instead he made to stand up, only to remain seated when Hannibal’s hand came down on his shoulder.
“Stay here, I’ll get you something to drink.” With that, the alpha left.
Will, who distinctly remembered the promise Hannibal had made earlier – “No. I won’t leave you.” – gaped after him, fighting the indignation and the feelings of abandonment, but stayed by the table as per Hannibal’s instruction. Although he would’ve preferred having the alpha close – and his pre-heat hormones agreed – it was either stay put, or run after his partner, potentially causing a scene. Will had already narrowly escaped the latter and wanted the rest of the evening to go as smoothly as possible.
Besides… There was something alarmingly comforting and reassuring about doing as Hannibal said. He was already stuck in a situation that made him exceedingly uncomfortable and he found, with some amount of bemusement, that letting Hannibal call all the shots made the evening much more endurable. Hell, it made him feel safe.
Will hated himself for it.
“Would you get me something to drink as well?” The light-haired guy said from somewhere next to Will, apparently having paid Will and Hannibal some attention. Will turned to look at him, just as the larger guy stood up with a nod and directed a fond smile at the silver-blonde.
“On the rocks?”
“You know it.”
The large guy left, and Will found himself alone by the table with the silver-blonde. He suddenly found himself imagining different ways of inflicting physical pain to Hannibal for putting him in this situation. He kept his gaze averted, fiddling with his thumbs, until the guy spoke up.
“I’ve never seen you before,” he said, and this time he was definitely speaking to Will.
“No, you wouldn’t have. I’m not from around here,” Will replied, keeping his gaze directed towards the bar, where Hannibal appeared to be taking his sweet time. Asshole.
“I’ve seen your alpha around, though.”
Will shot an icy glance to the man next to him, but quickly turned his gaze back towards the bar.
“He’s not ‘my’ alpha. And when exactly did you see him around?”
“Oh, he used to come visit all the time when I was a kid.”
Will paused, eyebrows coming together in a confused frown. He turned to look at the silver-blonde, finally able to take in the soft olive eyes, the skinny nose, the golden septum piercing. Slim shoulders and the scent of nectarine. An amused little smirk rested on the man’s lips, and Will might have glared at him in return, if it wasn’t for one small but rather crucial detail.
The guy was an omega.
Hannibal approached the bar, feeling a sting of guilt for leaving Will by the table, knowing full well that the younger man wouldn’t appreciate it. Not to mention, he’d gone back on his word. It was for a good reason, but still. Hannibal didn’t like broken promises – least of all his own.
He ordered two glasses of champagne and glanced back towards the table in the back, just to see how Will was getting on. The omega, he found, was now holding a conversation with the man at the table – the one Hannibal had hoped Will would want to converse with – and he turned back to the bar, content for the time being in knowing that Will wasn’t suffering too much from the separation. He hadn’t planned on leaving the omega’s side – but when he noticed who was sitting on the other side of that table, he’d chosen to do so anyway. It was risky, but he hoped it would be a fruitful encounter.
The drinks arrived on the counter and Hannibal extended his credit card to the bartender. As he waited for it to be returned to him, Mr Lucas came up to him once more, a slightly concerned wrinkle sitting between his eyebrows.
“Is he feeling better? Did you bring him back to your suite?” The man spoke discreetly, not alerting anyone around them that anything might be wrong – something Hannibal greatly appreciated. He preferred keeping up appearances whenever possible.
“He’s feeling better. He’s actually sitting right over there,” he said, gesturing to the table in the back, where Will was now turned towards the other young man. “With your son.”
Mr Lucas looked over to the table and released a small sigh of relief. He turned back to Hannibal with an apologetic smile.
“I know you said something about a sudden migraine attack, but… Truthfully, I saw the way he reacted to Nancy’s words.” The concerned wrinkle reappeared. “He’s not accustomed to being out and about, is he?”
The two alphas’ gazes met. Hannibal hesitated for a moment, before he replied.
“… No. He isn’t.” The card was given back to Hannibal, but he didn’t return to where Will was sitting, opting instead to give it a bit more time. Mr Lucas nodded contemplatively.
“I think the unfortunate side-effect of parenting a male omega is that we don’t always realize how distressing social situations can be for others of that same gender. Sebastian has always been so confident and proud… And Nancy grew up with an omega cousin who was just as pampered and self-assured. She never thought of them as dainty or fragile in any way-”
“There’s no need to apologize for your wife, Arthur,” Hannibal said, giving the other alpha a look. “In fact, I would argue that the way she perceives male omegas is exemplary. And Will abhors the idea of being treated differently because of his gender. He just didn’t see it coming. It took him by surprise.”
“Well, I can’t say that I blame him.”
“Neither can I, sadly. Society hasn’t been kind in that regard.”
“No, it certainly hasn’t. Things are changing, though.”
“Yes. It’s just bothersome that these things tend to be rather time consuming.”
“What, societal change?” The elderly man sent Hannibal a mildly amused glance. “Would you prefer an immediate upheaval? Just think of the chaos that would ensue.”
Hannibal gave a brief chuckle and patted Mr Lucas’ shoulder.
“I have missed conversing with you.”
“Likewise, old friend.”
Twenty percent of the population were alphas.
Seventy percent were beta.
Ten percent were omega.
And of all omegas, only two percent were male.
Two male omegas, out of one thousand people. The odds of there being two male omegas attending a party of roughly seventy guests was therefore relatively small. And yet.
“You’ve been staring at me without saying anything for a good minute and a half,” the silver-blonde omega pointed out, quirking one eyebrow. “I mean, I am devilishly good-looking, so I do understand the fascination, but seriously – it’s starting to creep me out.”
“Sorry,” Will mumbled, quickly averting his eyes to the floor, frowning to himself.
It was baffling, in a way, how easily he picked up on the scent of the other omega, only for his body to respond with an entirely apathetic ‘meh.’
Will had never been particularly sensitive to others’ scents – mainly because the sandalwood perfume he’d been wearing conveniently served to block those out, which certainly came in handy when working with alphas – and training himself to not respond to the scent of betas hadn’t taken much effort. Their scents were never particularly strong.
But there had always been some reaction. An instinctive, subconscious response to the scent of another gender. Hell, he’d even responded to female omegas, simply because they were female. Not necessarily in a manner of sexual attraction, but still a gentle tug on his instincts, recognizing and registering others’ genders – because they differed from his own.
But not this time. No tugs on his instincts. No urge to back away or protect himself or even hide. Because the man in front of him was a male omega, just like Will.
It wasn’t the very first time he’d ever met one, of course. But in addition to the fact that male omegas were a rare breed, many of them leaned towards hiding their gender – at least while out in public. While Will had taken it to an extreme by using suppressants daily and lying to the entire FBI force about his gender, being a male omega wasn’t generally something one would want to flaunt. Most passed for betas by wearing colognes and perfumes, and those who didn’t tended not to go out much.
So to suddenly sit face to face with a male omega who appeared to have made no efforts what so ever to hide his gender – embracing and enhancing it, more like it – was rather unprecedented. Especially to Will, who’d chosen to become a Wolf Trap recluse and avoided going to social events whenever possible.
A sudden wave of intense kinship and solidarity welled up in him, and he couldn’t help but to glance back at the man, who kept observing him curiously, chin propped up on his hand.
“What did you mean when you said you’ve seen my alpha around?” Will asked, making an effort to sound as casual as he could, despite his previous dumbfounded stare. The silver-blonde straightened in his seat, placing his elbow on the table and letting his hand dangle.
“Hannibal Lecter is close friends with my father. He used to visit a lot when I was younger, though not as much in later years,” the other omega explained, giving Will a friendlier smile than before. “What did you mean when you said he isn’t ‘your’ alpha?”
“… We aren’t mated,” Will informed the other man, suddenly a tad uncomfortable at discussing such a private matter with someone he didn’t know. “We’re doing the whole… you know, courtship thing.”
“’The courtship thing’, huh?” There was that amused smirk again. “He’s still technically yours, for the time being. I mean, he certainly thinks of you as his, so- oh, thanks,” the silver-blonde smiled to the buzzcut alpha, who’d returned to the table with a glass of whiskey. The silver-blonde took a sip and turned back to Will with a wolfish grin – an expression Will never thought he’d see on an omega’s face. “Just lean into it. You know? I mean, that’s the whole point, right?”
Will, who at this point felt quite flabbergasted by the man’s breezy behaviour, blinked confusedly a couple of times before finding his words.
“I’m sorry, who are you?”
“Oh, didn’t I say?” The silver-blonde took a quick sip from his glass and put it back on the table before extending a hand towards Will, who took it and gave a tentative shake. “I’m the hotel owner’s son, Sebastian Lucas. Horrible combination of names, I know. It confuses the hell out of people, because it kind of sounds as though I have two first names.” He laughed at his own joke and gestured to the alpha next to him. “And this is my husband, Brutus.”
“It’s Bruce,” the alpha corrected, giving his partner a mildly chastising smile, and extended his hand to Will. “And I believe Mr. Two-first-names over here has had a little too much to drink.”
“Brutus sounds cooler, and you know it,” Sebastian commented with an amused grin, but didn’t argue when the alpha removed the glass of whiskey, placing it a little further away from him. He turned back to Will with a shrug. “This one’s always looking out for me. It’s a bit irritating.”
“Looking out for you is kind of my job, honey,” Bruce said idly, checking his phone in the process. “Since you’re horrible at doing it yourself.” Sebastian turned to him with a mild glare and Bruce smirked without taking his eyes off his phone. “Your father’s words, not mine.”
Sebastian turned back to Will with a sigh. Will couldn’t help but to find the whole exchange fascinating. There was something so casual and easy-going between the couple in front of him, despite them being on opposite sides of the traditional social hierarchy. Something that sparked a bit of optimism inside of him. Made him relax a fraction.
“I know who your alpha is, but I never got your name,” Sebastian pointed out and sent Will a demanding look.
“Will Graham. And again – Hannibal isn’t my alpha.”
“Yet,” Sebastian added and made an attempt to reach for his glass, only for Bruce to swiftly move it even further away – still without taking his eyes off the phone. The silver-blonde clicked his tongue once and settled back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. “Come on, Graham, you gotta lock that down.”
Sebastian leaned in closer towards Will, eyes sparkling with the joy of gossiping.
“Hannibal Lecter is a very coveted alpha. You have no idea how many broken hearts that man has left in his trail.”
“Yours being one of them?” Will asked before he could stop himself, and thoroughly enjoyed the look of amused surprise that spread across Sebastian’s features.
“Damn, kitty’s got claws.” He composed himself quickly, appearing to sober up a bit. “Dr. Lecter has always been a socialite. I remember banquets being arranged just so that rich, unmated omegas would get the chance to meet him. Hell, my father hosted one or two of those banquets. I’m telling you, guy’s practically royalty. And what with him being so unattainable and aloof, it’s no wonder people practically threw themselves at him.” He gave a rueful sigh. “But eventually, since the years went by and he never took a mate, people sort of gave up and collectively accepted the fact that Hannibal Lecter would forever remain a bachelor.”
“I had no idea…” Will shook his head in disbelief. “Is that why your mother was so surprised to see me?”
“Oh, you met my mom?” Sebastian grinned. “She tried, desperately I might add, to set Hannibal up with one of her best friends at the time. I think she actually took offense when Hannibal wouldn’t budge. She sulked for several weeks after that. Though I’m guessing she didn’t tell you that story, huh?”
“No,” Will confirmed, turning away from the other omega with a polite smile. “She didn’t.”
And neither had Hannibal. It suddenly dawned on Will that he knew very little about the alpha he was being courted by. It also dawned on him that he wanted to know more. He glanced over to the bar, where Hannibal was now talking to Mr Lucas, holding two glasses in his hands. He didn’t appear to be on his way back yet. Frustrating.
“I hadn’t even presented as an omega back then,” Sebastian continued, following Will’s gaze, “but man, if I had – I’m sure I would’ve thrown myself at him, too. He’s delicious.” Bruce cleared his throat loudly and placed his phone on the table, extending an arm to place it around the back of Sebastian’s chair. Sebastian sent his mate a fond, reassuring grin and placed his hand on Bruce’s thigh, fingers curling possessively around the alpha’s knee. “I’m very glad I never got the chance to do that, though.”
Bruce smiled, clearly appeased, but before he could say anything, his phone buzzed. With a muttered curse, the alpha picked the device up and rolled his eyes before pressing his thumb at the screen.
“What do you want, Devon? I told you- No. No, those haven’t been green-lit yet. Yes, and you would have known that, if you’d…” He trailed off with a frustrated sigh and sent Sebastian an apologetic look. Sebastian gave him a nod in return and the alpha walked away from the table, phone pressed to his ear.
“He seems like a busy guy,” Will mused out loud, and Sebastian gave a shrug.
“People tend to rely more on alphas under professional circumstances,” he explained, reaching for his now unattended whiskey glass, though he seemed content with merely swirling its’ contents around. “That’s why they always call him whenever there’s a problem. Even on his days off, and even though it’s not his responsibility,” he added, the last few words muttered and laced with irritation. Before Will could say anything more, Sebastian seemed to perk himself up. “Tell me, how did you and Dr. Lecter meet?”
“Oh,” Will faltered, unsure of what to say. “Uh…”
‘Well, you see, I had a minor mental break-down at work after I had to take down a serial killer by shooting him – ten times – and Hannibal was assigned as my psychiatrist and then he discovered that I was an omega despite my best efforts to hide it from the whole world, I became immune to my suppressants because I’m so goddamned attracted to him and all of this led to me agreeing to a courtship in exchange for secret forensic information regarding a case I’ve been suspended from.’
“We… met through my work,” Will said lamely. “I’m a forensic profiler and Hannibal sometimes assists with cases.”
“Really?” Sebastian leaned closer, genuine surprise evident in his eyes. “You work in law enforcement? God, I could never do that. I mean, it’s such an alpha-dominated sphere.” He made a face of aversion. “All that alpha-testosterone and inevitable power struggle in one place… Doesn’t it get tiring?”
“I manage okay,” Will lied, throwing another glance towards the bar. Why was Hannibal taking so damned long? Impatience made his skin prickle. He turned back to Sebastian to distract himself. “What do you do for a living?”
“I’m an art dealer,” Sebastian said, and winked at Will, “by day, anyway. By night I manage a nightclub my dad invested in a couple of years back. I’m having fun with it.”
Will couldn’t help but balk at Sebastian’s profession. For a male omega, it seemed even more bizarre to manage a nightclub – a place where people specifically went to get drunk and hunt for sexual encounters – than to work for the FBI. Especially since Sebastian didn’t seem to concern himself with the idea of concealing his gender, not even a little bit.
“Isn’t that a bit risky?” He asked carefully. “I mean, aren’t you ever… afraid something might happen?”
Sebastian paused in his movements just as he was about to bring the whiskey glass to his bottom lip. His gaze searched Will’s, narrowing ever so slightly, and Will knew that Sebastian knew exactly what he was thinking. All male omegas knew.
“Sure,” Sebastian said eventually, nodding slowly as he put his glass back down. “But what’s the alternative? I can either sit home and hide, blame myself for something that isn’t my fault, or I can go out there and just… fucking conquer the world.”
A languid, fearless grin lit up his face as he leaned back in his chair, gesturing with his hands as if he was a king sitting on his throne. Will couldn’t help feeling a bit mesmerized. A huff of uncertain laughter escaped him and he looked away, suddenly finding it difficult to look at the other man.
“You’re very confident, aren’t you?”
“Yep. And you aren’t,” Sebastian countered. “You gotta ask yourself why that is. You’re a bright, attractive man. And yet, I can smell the self-loathing from here.”
Will gritted his teeth, irritation stirring within. Sebastian Lucas, who’d grown up in Washington and by all accounts had had a rather luxurious upbringing, knew nothing about Will or where he came from. Who the hell was he to make judgements?
“Yeah, well… Guess we can’t all conquer the world,” he said stiffly, staring towards the bar in an attempt to will the alpha back to his side. Hannibal continued speaking to the elderly alpha without noticing Will’s gaze, and it turned the irritation into anger.
Stop ignoring me. Come back. Now.
You said you’d stay with me all night. Get the fuck back here.
“Earth to Graham.”
Hannibal finally turned to look at Will, who was now putting every ounce of irritation in his expression, hand tightly clamping down on the table as he wordlessly communicated to the alpha just how badly Will needed him by his side, furious that it had taken the man this fucking long to take note. To his immense satisfaction, Hannibal’s expression shifted into mild alarm – though he doubted anyone else would’ve noticed the minute change – and gave a polite nod to the older alpha before he started making his way back towards the table, only to be hindered by Lisa Bright.
The female artist – in her tight green dress – stopped the alpha mid-stride and placed her hand on his arm, clearly attempting to initiate a conversation. The fact that she was an omega did not help.
It was only a split second, but Will bristled. Something within him snapped, and he stood up, ready to charge at the bitch for having the audacity to-
“Hey… Will!” Sebastian was suddenly right in front of him, effectively shielding the view of Hannibal and Lisa, pulling Will back to reality and it left him reeling. Sebastian’s eyes were large and concerned as they looked into Will’s. “Shit, you’re in pre-heat. And you look like you want to strangle my cousin. Did you forget to take your suppressants?”
“They stopped working,” Will mumbled dazedly, without thinking, and sat back down heavily. His skin had started aching once more, and he brought a hand up to rub at his nape, without making it too obvious to the people around them just how uncomfortable he was. Sebastian pulled a chair closer to sit down next to him, eyes filled with pained sympathy.
“Ah. So that’s how you’ve ‘managed okay’ at work. Man… You’ve had it rough, huh?” Sebastian said, keeping his voice low. “Want me to get you a glass of water?”
Will manage to catch another glance of Hannibal over Sebastian’s shoulder, and although it was clear that the alpha was trying to extract himself from the artist, she was insistent and kept clinging to his arm in a way that would make it impossible for Hannibal to remove her without using some manner of force, and that would definitely get people’s attention. Will felt sick.
I’d rather you remove that skank from my-
“Water would be good,” Will mustered, closing his eyes in exhaustion. Sebastian gave him a pat on the shoulder and left. Will stayed seated, keeping his eyes closed – partly due to the budding headache, but mainly because he wanted to spare himself the view of another omega throwing herself at his…
Will took a shuddering intake of air and shook his head softly to himself.
What the hell is he doing to me?
The pain spread across his skull, encasing his head like a burning helmet, and Will let out a silent whimper. Skin prickled uncomfortably, nausea churned in his gut.
And then, as suddenly as it had started, it just… stopped.
A pair of hands came down on each side of his neck, fingers gently stroking his skin. A scent that Will recognized, familiar and heavenly. Bergamot. Hannibal. Steel. It anchored him and brought him back, slowly.
He cracked his eyes open and found himself dazedly looking at Hannibal’s necktie. The alpha was leaning down slightly to get a closer look, expression tight as he searched Will’s gaze.
“Are you alright?” He asked. If Will hadn’t been so out of it, he might’ve noticed the hint of rough concern in those husky tones. Thumbs caressed Will’s jawline on each side.
“What took you so long?” He managed, though it came out as a harsh whisper. Hannibal’s lips twitched in a brief smile, though his expression was still too tight for it to look genuine.
“I was detained.”
“Yeah, I saw,” Will snapped and reached up to tug on Hannibal’s tie, surprising himself with the aggressive snarl that escaped him. “Is her scent on you?”
Before Hannibal could reply, Will pressed his face into the nook between the alpha’s neck and shoulder and inhaled. It made his head spin. Comforting warmth spread throughout his body, easing the pain and the aggression away, until all that remained was fatigue and the intense desire to stay close to the older man. Hannibal’s hand had, at some point, come up to cradle the back of Will’s head, a silent reassurance.
Eventually, they separated, and Will found himself immensely thankful for the fact that the table was in the back. Nobody was looking their way. Nobody appeared to have noticed. Or perhaps it was just that unlike Will, these people didn’t think it bizarre that a courting pair would scent each other, even if they were out in public.
“Feeling better?” Hannibal asked, taking a seat on the chair previously occupied by Sebastian. Will realized that he was still holding Hannibal’s (incredibly expensive) silk tie in a firm grip, and quickly let go of the fabric, wincing inwardly as he took in the tie’s crumpled state. In response to Hannibal’s question, he cleared his throat and nodded without saying anything.
He really was feeling better. So much better. His entire body let him know just how much better he felt. Pulsating, warm, tingling. Content and safe. He looked back up at Hannibal. Took in the sharp jaw, the calm eyes. Felt something stir within.
“Just lean into it.”
Lean into what, exactly? This?
Risky. Dangerous. Disgraceful.
“Am I interrupting?”
Sebastian had returned to the table with a large glass of water and was now watching Will tensely, clearly trying to determine whether Will’s preheat symptoms were still out of control. When he looked over at Hannibal, however, he seemed to relax a bit. He handed the glass of water over to Hannibal, perhaps in a show of respect, who in turn offered it to Will.
Will wordlessly accepted the glass and drank, slowly, as he digested what had just taken place. The cold water perked him up and after a little while, Will found himself feeling rather restored – at least in a physical sense. He was still disoriented and emotionally drained after everything that had happened, however, and said nothing as he put the empty glass on the table. Hannibal seemed to pick up on it.
“Would you care to take a walk with me?” He asked, voice mild and patient, and placed his hand on Will’s knee. “Some fresh air might do you good.”
Will looked down at the hand, alarmingly aware of the sizzling heat that spread over his leg from the touch, and nodded. He looked up to meet Hannibal’s gaze. His heart pounded heavily in his chest.
“Fresh air sounds nice.”
I'm really concerned with things like continuity, because it took so long for me to finally finish this chapter... I wrote parts of it back in June, other parts in August, and I finally finished it today. *laughs hysterically* I'm a mess. ^^' Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, if something doesn't quite add up with what's happened in previous chapters, don't hesitate to let me know. :) I'm bound to forget certain details when I'm forced to take breaks like this.
Please drop a comment to let me know what you thought of this chapter. :) It means the world. <3