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This Dark Heart

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Turning from a high definition image of a severed tongue marking the page of a Bible, Will addresses his rapt audience.

‘The Chesapeake Ripper kills in sounders of three,’ he says, watching the concentration on their faces from behind the safety of his glasses. ‘He did his first victims in nine days. Annapolis, Essex, Baltimore.’ He uses his remote to flick through the slides as he speaks, highlighting each point with another gruesome image. ‘He didn’t kill again for eighteen months, then there was another sounder of three in as many days, all of them in Baltimore.’

He keeps his back turned to the class; they can hear him just fine, and he wants to concentrate on the images, the tongues, the mutilated bodies… The art of the killings…

‘I use the term “sounders” because it refers to a small group of pigs,’ he says. He finally turns, and, seeing a few of them frown, explains, ‘That’s how he sees his victims. Not as people, not as prey. Pigs.’ The silence settles, heavy and uncomfortable. Will swallows, ignoring the way his dark shadow purrs at the unease flickering through the students. ‘Eleven months after the sixth victim, there was a seventh. Two days later, the eighth is killed in his workshop.’ He brings up the slide with the Workshop Wound Man. ‘Every tool on the pegboard where they hung was used against him and, as with previous murders, organs were removed. The removal of organs and abdominal mutilations means someone with anatomical or surgical know-how. There… is a distinctive brutality.’

Will pauses when he catches Jack’s scent; heavy Alpha musk laced with bitter anger. He glances over to the door, and there he is, watching him with shadowed eyes. Will’s heart falters but he has to keep going; it’s important that as many people understand the Ripper as possible. That way, they have a better chance of catching him. His dark shadow whispers sweet nothings to him as he clicks to the next slide and meets Jack’s eye; it is a copy of Miriam Lass’s FBI ID.

‘An FBI trainee named Miriam Lass was investigating private medical records of all the known victims when she disappeared. She’s believed to be the Ripper’s ninth, but no trace of her was found until recently, two years later, when her severed arm was discovered.’ Warmth flutters in Will’s belly and his shadow coils like a snake, making him smile. ‘Only because he wanted it to be,’ he adds, a distinct note of pride in his voice. He can’t tell if the tightness to Jack’s jaw is from guilt or because he’s uncomfortable with Will’s admiration for the Ripper’s work. Perhaps both. Will doesn’t really care.

‘True to his established pattern, the Chesapeake Ripper has remained consistently theatrical.’

And I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Jack doesn’t stay until the end of the lesson. Will turns to pace behind his desk and when he looks back to the door, the Alpha has gone. It’s eating away at you, isn’t it, Jack? The guilt… The loss… What will happen when you lose me?

Will shakes his head to clear the dark thoughts. Jack’s not going to lose him. He’s fine. In fact… He smiles as his phone flashes, signaling the end of class. Dismisses everyone and packs up quickly, his stomach quivering in anticipation of the evening ahead. He’s better than fine. He’s great.

Hannibal is taking him to the opera tonight.

Driving home as fast as the dark country roads allow, Will lets the dogs out, feeds them and then showers off the day’s Beta spray and sweat. He washes his hair with a new shampoo – the cedarwood scent reminds him of Hannibal’s aftershave – and stares deep into his gold-ringed eyes, his hands trembling when he leaves the pheromone spray untouched. Hannibal asked him not to hide his true scent for one evening, and Will is confident that he won’t run into anyone from Quantico rubbing shoulders with Baltimore high society. Besides, next to Hannibal nobody will notice him. Still, it will be the first time in years that he’s gone out without the safety of the spray... He feels almost sick, his belly fluttering even as his dark shadow pulses with excitement.

He’s rented a tuxedo for the occasion, and he takes his time dressing, checking the sharp lines of silky fabric, picking off stray dog hairs and then growling to himself when he realizes he doesn’t actually know how to tie a bowtie. The Alpha will be here any moment and he’s stood there with a strip of black silk around his neck like an idiot teenager late to the prom.

Fuck… What the fuck am I doing?

His ears prick to the crunch of tires over gravel outside and Winston barks at the sound of the Bentley’s engine. Will gulps, his throat bobbing against the tight shirt collar, and he hurries downstairs to open the front door before Hannibal can even knock, let alone wait in the cold.

‘Hello, Will.’ Hannibal smiles at him, dark eyes raking over Will’s suit. So handsome… His lips twitch into a wider, amused smile when he sees Will’s attempt at a bowtie, and he steps closer as the Omega blushes and bows his head in embarrassment. ‘Allow me?’ he asks, cupping Will’s chin with a finger to lift his head and placing a gentle kiss on his lips.

Will moans at the touch, reaching up to hold Hannibal’s hips. The Alpha is tall and regal in his tuxedo, wearing a burgundy silk scarf and long black coat to ward off the chilly night. His blond hair is combed back from his face and he is wearing the silver cufflinks that Will jokingly picked out for him when he discovered the Alpha’s dresser full of accessories at the weekend. Breathtakingly handsome; he is easily the most impressive person Will has ever seen. He wants to call the evening off in favor of staying at home and fucking, but Hannibal really wants to share this with him, so he won’t suggest it. We always have afterwards, he thinks, giving Hannibal’s hips a final squeeze before stepping back so that Hannibal can sort him out.

Hannibal parts his lips, tasting the thick, sweet musk of Will’s desire as he deftly knots the smaller man’s bowtie. Will’s hair holds a lingering trace of cedarwood, and his natural Omega scent is, for once, unimpeded by the sour taint of Beta chemicals. He smells delicious; warm and welcoming, like long-forgotten summer days, the thrill of the chase and wild sex, all crashing together in glorious symphony.

‘Perfect,’ he murmurs, holding Will’s cheek for a moment longer, savoring the warmth of him, appreciating the sleek, well-fitting suit tapering in at Will’s trim waist and flowing down toned thighs. ‘You look perfect, Will.’ He dips his head closer and brushes his nose across Will’s forehead before dropping a kiss to his hairline. ‘Perhaps I need to take you to see my tailor; you look good in a suit.’

Will huffs a laugh but he doesn’t pull away. Instead, he leans closer to the Alpha, knocking their shoulders together, and turns his face so that Hannibal will brush his lips in a final kiss before they part.

‘I have suits,’ he murmurs. ‘I just don’t wear them. And I don’t think I can afford your tailor.’ He adjusts his jacket one last time and then grabs his coat and scarf from the banister. ‘Ready?’

I would much rather take you home and undress you in my bed; lay you bare and tease you until you come screaming, Hannibal thinks, but he nods because he has the tickets now, it reflects well on him because it is for a charitable cause, and the Chairwoman of the Baltimore Philharmonic Orchestra invited him personally. Besides, he thinks, smirking to himself as they get into the car; we have afterwards.

‘What should I expect?’ Will asks, breaking the companionable silence halfway towards the city. He starts tapping his fingers on his knee, his typical series of five and then a pause. He’s nervous. Hannibal can smell it rolling from him and he can see the tension tightening his shoulders. His stomach clenches in response because he wants to protect him, and he reaches over to enfold Will’s hand with his own, giving it a comforting squeeze.

‘I’m afraid you’ll have to endure a great many stuffy Alphas,’ he says, smiling when Will snorts a laugh. ‘Most of them are bonded, of course.’ He gives Will a coy smile, his eyes glinting. ‘No doubt you’ll find yourself the object of fascination for the evening.’

Will can’t stop the panicked whine that slips past his lips, and Hannibal chuckles at the look of horror on his pale face. He squeezes Will’s hand again, lifting it so that he can brush his lips across the Omega’s knuckles.

‘We shall have to leave them wondering,’ he says softly. He releases Will’s warm hand to reach inside his breast pocket, withdrawing the bottle of heat suppressants. ‘It’s time for your evening dose.’

‘Thank you,’ Will whispers, taking the bottle and shaking a tablet loose. Hannibal nods; they both know he’s grateful for more than just the medication. There is an unspoken promise of protection between them; Hannibal will shield Will from any unwanted attention, allowing him to be himself without fear.

‘I think you should keep them,’ Hannibal says, nodding down to the tablets. ‘Wouldn’t want you to miss a dose.’

‘Thought you couldn’t trust me,’ Will replies, smiling as he pockets the medication. Hannibal grins at him.

‘I think you’ve learned your lesson,’ he replies.

‘Oh, so it was a punishment?’

‘Of course.’ Hannibal winks at him and Will snorts a laugh, shaking his head and returning his gaze to the window.

Hannibal smiles to himself. What Will doesn’t realize is that he has taken the opportunity to swap the heat suppressants for something much more important; scent suppressants. They will need a few days to take effect, allowing him to enjoy Will in his entirety this evening, but very soon nobody will realize that the Omega is fast approaching heat.

‘I have some new Iris Inhibitor drops for you to try, as well,’ he adds, glancing at Will after a few minutes of quiet. ‘You said the others were not as effective as you’d like.’

‘Just don’t want to risk getting caught,’ Will mumbles. ‘Thank you.’

‘You’re very welcome.’ Hannibal smirks to himself. He’s not one to change plans halfway through, but he must evolve as his relationship with Will changes. An even more extreme detox will hurt Will, maybe even injure him, but his mate is strong enough to survive it; of that, Hannibal has no doubt. Will doesn’t need the libido enhancers; he has proven more than amorous enough without added stimulants, and his gold eyes, whilst attractive, could prove dangerous if the wrong people notice them. Hannibal will provide strong Inhibitor drops and trust himself to know when Will is lost to prodrome, when he is most susceptible to his persuasion.

They pass the rest of the journey in companionable silence; Hannibal listens to the radio and Will checks his phone for any last-minute messages from Jack. The Ripper hasn’t struck, and hopefully won’t this evening. He turns the cell off as Hannibal parks, following at the Alpha’s heel as they ascend the steps inside the hall.

Oh god… The moment he steps inside and sees the crowd of well-dressed Alphas, the odd Beta and bonded Omegas, Will’s stomach fills with an icy knot. He swallows hard, his heart stuttering in his chest. Several Alphas turn, scenting the air for the source of distress, their eyes flickering red when they spot him. Will clenches his hands into fists so tight his nails cut bloody half-moons into his palms; he can feel himself shrinking closer to Hannibal, seeking his safety, but he refuses to be so pathetic. He squares his shoulders and clenches his jaw, meeting the eye of any Alpha daring to look him in the face. Fuck you. Fuck you all.

Hannibal’s chest warms with pride as he watches Will feed his fear to the dark shadow of his anger. He is gloriously defiant, blue-gold eyes flashing a challenge to any Alpha foolish enough to look at him, his lip curling back from his teeth in disdain when they look away.

They are not worthy of you, he thinks, stepping closer to dip his head to scent Will’s curls; it is a gesture designed to both soothe his Omega and send a clear signal to the watching Alphas that Will is taken.

At Hannibal’s closeness, Will releases a slow breath. He closes his eyes, trying to block out the buzz of emotions around him. Turning to the Alpha, he nuzzles closer, resting his cheek on Hannibal’s shoulder for a moment as he soaks up his comforting scent. He has to force himself to step away; it feels like ripping skin and he swallows a few times before he trusts himself to speak.

‘You owe me for this,’ he says, trying for a light, teasing tone. Hannibal smiles at him and deftly reaches for the tray of champagne flutes passing by, held up by a smart young waiter. He hands Will a glass and holds his own up to toast.

‘Then I shall work hard to repay you,’ he says, his eyes sparkling. Will’s breath catches at the implication and the gold band thickens until there is barely a rim of blue left. Hannibal purrs, low enough that only his Omega can hear it, before sipping his wine. Will watches the Alpha’s throat move as he swallows and he steps closer; he wants to lick it, kiss it, bite it…

‘Hannibal; do tell us who you’re hiding.’

The interruption of a woman’s voice sends a shock of embarrassment through Will’s skull, settling like a razor on the nape of his neck. He flinches and pulls back, instinctively putting Hannibal’s shoulder between himself and the Alpha who has just interrupted them. More handsome than beautiful, she offsets her sharp black haircut with a low-cut velvet gown and bright red lipstick.

‘Madam Chairwoman; a pleasure,’ Hannibal says, turning with a smooth smile, all charm and no trace of irritation. ‘Allow me to introduce my companion; Will Graham.’

Will forces himself to shake with the overbearing Alpha; at least she is wearing black silk gloves to her elbows, so he doesn’t have to touch her bare flesh. Her dark eyes rake over him with hungry abandon and she smiles at what she sees.

‘An unbonded male Omega,’ she murmurs. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen one so old. Wherever did you find him, Hannibal?’

‘We work together,’ Will says, his voice sharp with anger at being spoken about rather than to. The Alpha’s eyes widen in surprise, and then she giggles.

‘You work together…?’ She looks at Hannibal for confirmation, which only angers Will further. He can feel black tar pumping through his veins and it takes everything in him to hold still; to keep from clawing her throat open. She is exactly the kind of Alpha that he hates.

‘Yes; Will teaches criminal psychology,’ Hannibal says, surreptitiously placing himself further in front of Will and directing the Chairwoman’s attention to himself. ‘A fascinating subject, though hardly the topic for an evening such as this.’ He begins to steer her towards the inner doors. ‘Are you looking forward to the performance?’

Thank you, Will thinks, gulping down his champagne in an attempt to calm his jittery nerves. He follows close behind, handing his empty glass to a waitress as soon as he can. The Chairwoman is three rows ahead of them, and Hannibal gives him a conspiring grin when they take their seats. It seems she is overbearing with everyone. The thought is somewhat soothing, and Will manages to return a flicker of a smile, pressing his outer thigh against Hannibal’s as the lights dim in anticipation of the show.

The Alpha reaches down and laces his fingers with Will’s, holding his hand on his knee. Tilting his head down, he brushes his lips over the shell of Will’s ear, his breath warm against the Omega’s skin.

‘I’m glad you’re here, Will,’ he murmurs, taking a long, slow breath to enjoy the way Will’s musky scent deepens and becomes rich and smooth as he relaxes under the touch, sweetened with the first hint of slick. An Alpha behind them shifts and clears his throat; he is clearly reacting to Will’s pheromones, and Hannibal pulls back so as not to trigger a pack rut. He keeps hold of his Omega’s hand, though, and Will seems perfectly content to sit quietly beside him as the orchestra warms up and the first wavering notes drift over the few remaining people taking their seats.

Hannibal tracks Will’s reaction to the crowd and the music throughout the first act, but it is difficult not to become overwhelmed by the soprano’s skill and natural ability. Her voice is rich and smooth, ringing from the stage as she sings of love, loss and triumph. He forgets to holds Will’s hand after a while, absorbed with savoring each perfect sound, the sum of it a breathtaking performance that squeezes his heart and snatches his breath.

Watching the emotion on Hannibal’s face, feeling it pouring out of him as the aria rises to its climax, Will’s chest tightens until he’s sure it’s about to burst. Tears that only brim in Hannibal’s eyes trickle down his cheeks; he tries to wipe them away without drawing attention to himself, but the way Hannibal leans closer and squeezes his knee says that the Alpha has noticed. Will gives him a wobbly smile and tries to control his breathing; he doesn’t want to make more of a fool of himself than he already has, especially when he’s sure there is a Beta in the back row staring avidly at them.

Hannibal, however, doesn’t seem to find Will embarrassing, or notice his admirer. He is entirely captivated in the music, a true hedonist enjoying life’s pleasure, and, when the show is over, he is the first to rise, leading the standing ovation as the soprano bows, gracefully accepting the compliments.

‘I can see why you wanted to bring me,’ Will says, standing closer so that he can speak into Hannibal’s ear over the thunder of applause. ‘You really do have a passion for the opera.’

‘You’ll find that I am passionate about a great many things,’ Hannibal replies, smiling down at him.

Will chews his lip, hesitating at the idea of kissing him in public. As much as he wants to, he doesn’t want the Alphas around them to think he’s just another lovesick Omega worshipping the ground on which his mate walks… though the idea that he is altering his behaviour because of what they think also riles him… He jumps when Hannibal gives his shoulder a squeeze, and rolls his eyes at him when Hannibal grins.

‘How I would love to get inside that head of yours,’ the Alpha murmurs, cupping Will’s cheek and stroking his thumb across his cheekbone. It is one of Will’s favourite gestures, a simple but tender show of affection, and he tilts his face into the contact.

‘Thought you were already inside my head, Dr Lecter,’ he replies. Hannibal’s eyes gleam.

‘I can assure you, Will; when I am in your head, you will know.’

Before he can say anything else, the Chairwoman corners them again, bringing with her a trio of silver-haired Alpha males, two with docile, decorated little Omegas on their arms. Will refuses to look at them for fear of snarling; they are the epitome of well-bred trophy wives, all glossy hair and gentle smiles, their glittering necklaces cut low at the back to show off their crests. They stand close to their mates, staring up with adoring expressions as the Alphas casually drape possessive arms around their bare shoulders. His stomach clenches and he gulps down a second glass of champagne, ignoring the way his skin itches to be closer to Hannibal. Stupid, weak biology.

‘It’s been too long since you’ve properly cooked for us, Hannibal,’ Madam Chairwoman says, earning a general flutter of agreement from her companions. Her tone is teasingly scolding, and Will can see the amusement on Hannibal’s face. He’s toying with these people. The realisation is a sharp jolt, though Will isn’t sure why he’s surprised. Hannibal is the perfect gentleman… But there’s something else… Something… Darker… A wolf among the sheep, Will thinks. He can see it in the way that Hannibal holds himself, guards himself; never giving away his secrets. He can’t truly be himself around them.

I want you to show me who you really are…

‘Come over and I will cook for you,’ Hannibal says, wrapping an arm around Will enough to stroke between his shoulder blades. Will buries his face in his champagne flute to hide the blush and whimper that wants to betray how much he enjoys the touch.

Madam Chairwoman places her hands on her hips.

‘I said “properly”; means dinner and the show.’ She turns to the other Alphas. ‘Have you seen him cook? It’s an entire performance.’

Will glances up at Hannibal; he’s seen him cook and been hosted by him several times now, but this sounds special. His eyes gleam at the idea of Hannibal impressing the snobs here before dismissing them and fucking him, brutally hard and fast, with teeth and nails and blood, in front of the fireplace in the dining room.

Hannibal takes a long drink of champagne to distract himself from the tang of slick sharpening Will’s scent; he smells good enough to eat, good enough to fuck here in the middle of Baltimore high society. He wants to yank him close and devour him… Wherever could the Omega’s mind be wandering to…?

‘He used to throw such exquisite dinner parties,’ Madam Chairwoman continues, raising her eyebrows at him when Hannibal feigns ignorance. ‘You heard me. “Used to”.’

Hannibal smiles at her persistence.

‘And I will again, once inspiration strikes,’ he says. The Chairwoman smiles, but it fades to a pout when Hannibal adds, ‘I cannot force a feast; a feast must present itself.’

‘It’s a dinner party, not a unicorn,’ she whines. Will is surprised she doesn’t stamp her foot, but Hannibal merely shrugs, dipping his hand lower to settle in the small of Will’s back.

‘Oh, but the feast is life,’ he says. ‘You put the life in your belly and you live.’

Will feels his own stomach tighten, even as heat rolls through him. Life in my belly means a baby… His heart skips a beat at the idea, but it’s not as terrifying a thought as it used to be. He drinks more champagne as he tries to understand when his aversion to having children changed… Certainly recently… Since Hannibal started fucking him? Would I have a child with Hannibal…?

The Chairwoman relents with a chuckle and turns instead to the Beta hovering at the edges of their group.

‘I believe this young man is trying to get your attention,’ she says, though this is a gross understatement, since the man is fidgeting, almost pushing at them with nervous excitement. The collar of his tuxedo dampens with sweat and a big grin lights up his plump face when he is noticed. Will frowns, dragged from thoughts of family; he’s the same person who was staring at Hannibal throughout the show, leaning over his taller companion to catch Hannibal’s attention.

The taller man sends a chill down Will’s spine. He is an Alpha, and there is an air about him that vaguely reminds him of Hannibal, though he has none of his warmth; his eyes are like chips of black ice ringed with red, and he stares with unashamed hunger at Will, causing Hannibal’s shoulders to tense. Will can feel himself shrink under the intensity of the gaze, even as his dark shadow hisses, writhing at the unspoken challenge. This man is dangerous, and he is a threat that Will wants to eliminate.

Hannibal shifts himself slightly in front of Will, shielding him from the Alpha, and offers the excited Beta a polite, neutral, smile.

‘Hello.’

‘Hi. It’s so good to see you,’ the Beta gushes, almost falling over himself to shake with Hannibal. He gestures to his partner. ‘This is my friend, Tobias.’

Despite his wariness, Will almost snorts – friend. They are clearly partners, and Tobias doesn’t look best pleased at being referred to as a friend, especially when his Beta is flirting shamelessly with another, stronger Alpha. Because Hannibal is the stronger Alpha; he’s perhaps the strongest Alpha in the room. As an Omega, Will can sense the power radiating from them all. Hannibal is tall and lean; there are others far bulkier, but none of them have within them the same maelstrom of passion and power that his Alpha does. Will’s darkness croons for it to be released, to rage wild and free… He lifts his free hand and mimics his partner’s stance by placing it on the small of Hannibal’s back, comforting him and continuing the contact because Hannibal has to release him to shake with the newcomers.

‘Good evening,’ Hannibal says, extending his hand towards Tobias. The younger Alpha grips him tight; an overt display of dominance, and stares deep into Hannibal’s eyes. Only Will’s hand on his back keeps Hannibal’s rage under check; the Omega’s scent is smooth and soft, releasing calming pheromones that put everyone at ease. The Beta looks awkwardly from Hannibal to Tobias, sensing some tension but not sure why.

Madam Chairwoman smiles, attempting polite conversation.

‘How do you two know each other?’ she asks, and the Beta immediately looks to Hannibal for guidance.

‘There should remain some mystery to my life outside of the opera,’ Hannibal says swiftly. The Chairwoman smiles, though there is a tightness to her lips betraying her frustration. The Beta leans forwards.

‘I’m one of his patients,’ he explains, and Will feels a sudden, painful kick in his gut, so strong that he pulls his hand away from Hannibal and knocks back the last of his champagne. Oh God… Am I like this man? Nothing more than a needy, over-bearing, clingy patient?

‘Oh,’ the Chairwoman says, and Will watches the interest fade from her eyes. He sees Hannibal’s irritation behind his façade and he feels sick.

Hannibal turns his attention to the taller Alpha. The loss of Will’s touch is painful; he wants to be alone with him, to soothe whatever distress is causing Will to shrink from him. Instead, he is trapped here, with these pigs.

‘Did you enjoy the performance?’ he asks lightly. Tobias inclines his head, though his cold eyes continue to flicker from his partner to Will to Hannibal. It is the Beta, however, who answers.

‘I did. I loved it. Every minute.’

‘His eyes kept wandering,’ Tobias says stiffly. ‘More interested in you than what was happening on stage.’

Will can feel the energy crackling beneath Hannibal’s skin. The Alpha is preparing for a fight, and, despite his worry, his shadow purrs its approval at the idea. Hannibal, however, accepts the comment as if it is a polite joke.

‘Oh, don’t say too much,’ he teases. ‘You must leave something for us to discuss next week.’ He turns to the Beta. ‘Franklyn, good to see you.’

And, just like that, they have been dismissed. Will can almost see the walls between them. He can certainly feel them; icy and impenetrable. Hannibal is very private, and he keeps his professional and personal lives very separate. Where do I fit, then?

‘You too,’ the Beta says, smiling sadly because he, too, can tell that his time with Hannibal at the opera is over, brief though it was.

Hannibal shakes with Franklyn’s partner again, forcing him to turn his wrist when Tobias doesn’t remove his cold, hungry stare from Will’s defiant, golden one.

‘Tobias.’

He watches them leave and slips his arm back around Will’s waist, holding him close and dipping his head to soothe himself with the scent of Will’s curls. A low purr rattles his chest and Will instinctively tilts his head enough that Hannibal can see his pulse. The submissive gesture calms him, and when he turns back to the Chairwoman and waiting Alphas in her company, he smiles genially.

‘Who’s hungry?’

The joke breaks the unease and their pleasant, if a little stiff, conversation resumes. Hannibal neatly deflects any questions about Will, keeping his arm loose around the Omega’s waist and releasing him as soon as Will steps away to use the bathroom. Alone with just the Alpha, the Chairwoman leans closer so that they can both watch Will cut a path through the crowd, and says conspiratorially,

‘He really is very impressive, Hannibal. We were all afraid you were going to be a confirmed bachelor forever.’

Hannibal smiles around a fresh glass of champagne.

‘I only hope he accepts my claim, when it comes to it,’ he says, tilting his head knowingly at the bonded Alphas and their Omega mates. The Chairwoman scoffs.

‘Of course he will,’ she says, waving a dismissive hand. ‘Why wouldn’t he? Especially at his age.’ She looks off in the direction that Will has gone, and misses the way Hannibal’s eyes tighten. ‘Personally, I wouldn’t let him out of my sight, let alone work.’ She giggles and smooths her dark hair from her face. ‘But to each their own. I’m sure you know what’s best for him.’

‘I trust Will to look after himself,’ Hannibal says simply. He turns away and places his empty flute on a passing tray before he crushes the stem. ‘However, I do believe it’s time for us to go.’

‘Of course,’ Madam Chairwoman says, her eyes glinting when Will comes back and automatically tips his head towards Hannibal’s shoulder before leaning up for a kiss. His eyes are heavily ringed with gold and he smells divine, like vanilla musk and earth. He must be due a heat, with the way he reacts so strongly to the Alpha. No wonder Hannibal is so protective. She holds a hand up so that he can kiss her knuckles. ‘Hannibal, I expect a dinner invitation soon. Mr Graham, a pleasure to meet you.’

Hannibal obliges her, inclining his head to brush his lips over the back of the silk glove. He nods to the other Alphas and takes Will by the hand. The Omega is sweating now, his cheeks flushed pink and curls darkening near his forehead and neck. His skin is feverishly hot, and he walks very close to Hannibal’s side as they leave the theatre, trying to nuzzle his shoulder to soak up his scent.

The cold night air is refreshing on his damp skin and Will lifts his face to the stars when they get outside, his breath billowing when he sighs. He feels alive and exhausted at the same time, and all he wants to do is quiet the storm in his mind.

‘Well, that was… educational,’ he says, and he forces a grin when Hannibal chuckles. Despite his concern, he can’t help but step closer, snuggling into his Alpha’s chest and pressing burning kisses to Hannibal’s jawline. ‘But I’d like to go home now.’

‘Home?’ Hannibal teases, holding Will’s chin between forefinger and thumb. ‘To Wolf Trap?’

Will’s stomach tightens with fear and he growls at him. He twists his fingers in the silky soft hair at the back of Hannibal’s head and drags him down for a hungry kiss, sucking the Alpha’s tongue into his mouth and then fucking Hannibal’s mouth with his own. He arches his spine, sweat dribbling down to settle in the small of his back as slick oozes out of him at the taste and smell of the other man.

Hannibal groans into the hungry kiss, his hips jumping when Will’s tongue slips between his teeth to explore him. He threads his fingers through Will’s thick curls, massaging his scalp and making Will moan. His Omega is upset about something, so when Will breaks the kiss to drop his head back and bare his throat, Hannibal doesn’t resist the urge to lock his teeth around the front of his windpipe in a show of overwhelming dominance.

Fuck… This… This is perfect… Don’t let me think… Will grips tight to Hannibal’s coat as he feels the Alpha’s teeth denting the soft, vulnerable skin of his throat. He whines, begging for mercy, surrendering to Hannibal’s strength and to the feelings in his body, and heat crackles across the nape of his neck.

‘Hannibal…’ he gasps, his knees wobbling when the Alpha releases him. He falls into the embrace when Hannibal wraps an arm around his waist, and returns Hannibal’s fresh kiss just as fiercely, stumbling as they make their way towards the car. Hannibal shoves him up against the passenger door, knocking the air from him, and Will spreads his legs so that the Alpha can rub his erection against his own hardness.

‘You’re mine,’ Hannibal whispers, his eyes burning red. He pushes his nose into Will’s cheek, rasping his tongue across his stubble. Will shivers, closing honey-gold eyes and resting his head against the roof of the car.

‘Hannibal…’

‘Say it, Will.’ Hannibal nibbles at his jawline, spreading one broad palm across Will’s flat stomach, sliding it lower until it’s tantalisingly close to his groin. Will whines and squirms up towards the touch, stilling when Hannibal holds him in a choke and stares deep into his eyes. ‘Who do you belong to?

Will’s heart thunders in his chest. He swallows, feeling the pressure of Hannibal’s hand, and liquid fire pools in his belly, bubbling with nerves and excitement at the hungry glint to the Alpha’s burgundy eyes. I’m not imagining this; I’m not like Franklyn. You like me, maybe something more…

‘You,’ he breathes, sliding his hands up Hannibal’s sides. ‘I belong to you…’ He waits until Hannibal relaxes his grip, satisfied with the answer, and then he grabs the Alpha by each side of his head, shoving up from the car and twisting so that the taller man is the one pinned. He slams his mouth against Hannibal’s, tasting blood when his lip splits. ‘And you belong to me,’ he growls.

Hannibal sucks in a breath when Will releases him. He stares down at the Omega, at burning gold eyes and bared teeth, and feels a thrill run down his spine. He dips his head and places a last, lingering kiss on Will’s forehead.

‘I do.’

Will presses closer, rubbing his nose into the crook of Hannibal’s throat, resting his lips over his Alpha’s stuttering pulse.

‘Take me home, Hannibal,’ he whispers. ‘Now.’

Hannibal nods, and hurries to unlock the car. Will falls into the passenger seat, grinding his ass down on the chair as his insides clench, aching with emptiness. He arches his back, sweaty fingers fumbling to undo his bowtie and unbutton his shirt. Hannibal growls at the display, driving fast to get Will home before he loses all semblance of self-control.

‘Hannibal…’ Will whimpers, sweat darkening his hair, rolling like tears down the sides of his face. Hannibal reaches over and presses a hand flat to the Omega’s heaving chest, feeling Will’s heart battering against the skin beneath. He hushes him, soothing him with low purrs as he turns onto his street. They both scramble from the car before the engine dies, grabbing at coats and jackets and shirts in a rush to get at the flesh beneath.

As soon as they’re inside, Hannibal slides his hands through Will’s damp curls, pulling him up for a kiss as he toes off his shoes. He twists the lock on the front door to make sure nobody disturbs them and then gathers Will up in his arms, almost lifting him from the floor as he swings him around and slams him up against the wall. A side table rocks as Will’s hip knocks against the edge; the Omega growls at the pain and kicks out at the offending furniture, knocking a vase to the floor. Neither of them stop at the sound of smashing china; Hannibal rips Will’s tuxedo jacket down to his elbows, pinning his arms to his sides, and nudges Will’s chin up, forcing him to bare his throat again. He sucks at the salty flesh underneath Will’s ear, deftly undoing the last buttons of the Omega’s shirt and spreading it wide so that he can slide his hands across Will’s chest and stomach.

‘Oh God…’ Hannibal’s touch is burning him, and Will struggles to breathe when the Alpha finally releases his mouth. He feels like he’s drowning but it feels so good… He wriggles to free his arms, whining and snarling in frustration when the material sticks to his sweaty skin, trapping him. ‘Hannibal, Hannibal, please…’ He thumps his head back when the Alpha drops scorching kisses to his collarbone, to the fine hairs over his chest, sucking a hard nipple into his mouth and squeezing between his teeth, just hard enough to hurt. Will closes his eyes and rolls his hips. He’s so slick, so open… He needs Hannibal inside him, now… He groans at the ache between his legs, curling his hands into trembling fists because he’s restrained, pinned by Hannibal’s roaming hands and teasing mouth, and all he wants to do is fuck until he comes, again and again and again.

Hannibal grins at Will’s desperation. He drops to his knees, staring up with red-ringed eyes, nodding when Will shakes his head.

‘I want to taste you, Will,’ he says, already unzipping Will’s trousers and reaching for his boxers. He pulls them both down Will’s creamy thighs, stroking the soft hairs and pale skin revealed as the fine wool whispers down to pool at Will’s feet. His Omega is the perfect image of debauchery; clothes hanging from him, muscles tight and glistening with sweat, his cheeks flushed pink and eyes burning with gold fire. He’s so hard it looks painful, twitching and leaking pre-cum, his balls hanging heavy beneath. Hannibal licks his lips, savouring Will’s musk. It is thicker now, warmer and richer the closer he gets to heat.

Will shudders when the Alpha’s slides his mouth around his length, taking him whole and then releasing him to lick and tease at his sensitive tip. He scratches his nails against the marble behind him, locking his knees so as not to fall when he spreads his legs as wide as the trousers will let him go. Fuck… He could come just from this, right now, but Hannibal doesn’t have him down his throat and he doesn’t want to spill himself on the Alpha’s face. He gasps when Hannibal grazes him with his teeth, groaning as a strong hand cups and massages his balls, gathering up hot slick and coating two fingers. His sounds of pleasure turn into a desperate sob and he can’t help but buck when Hannibal plunges those two fingers inside him, bending the knuckles to stroke white pleasure from him.

Hannibal pushes Will’s hips back into the wall with his free hand so that the Omega can’t jerk forwards a second time, repeating the motion inside his body. He takes Will into his mouth again, sucking and licking and kissing as he presses down hard, over and over, with his fingers.

Oh fuck… oh fuck… He can’t move, can’t think, can’t breathe, can’t feel anything but Hannibal’s hot, wet mouth around him and the Alpha’s fingers inside him, brushing that spot until the pleasure is like a wave, coming closer and closer, winding him up and up until he’s going to break. And then it’s too much and he’s tipping over the edge, coming with a muffled cry, his thighs shaking when it goes on and on. It’s so good, so clean and pure and right and Hannibal is still moving inside him, swallowing his release down before smirking up at him as he digs deeper inside Will’s body because there’s just so much more that Will can give him. And Will’s eyes are open, he can see Hannibal’s burgundy gaze, see the sandy hair falling over his forehead, the pearly stain in the corner of his mouth and his smile, so proud and loving, like Will is the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen.

‘That’s it, Will,’ Hannibal whispers, staring up at his Omega, his chest too tight to breathe, his hand coated with slick to his wrist as he works the Will’s body to another climax. ‘Come for me again, you can do it.’

Will convulses, tears rolling down his cheeks at how good it feels. He can’t… he can’t… But he can. He can’t stop it, and his mind shatters as every muscle tightens. He can hear his heart, roaring in his ears, and all he can see, all he can smell and feel is Hannibal. He comes with another sharp cry, spilling himself on his stomach and Hannibal’s shoulder, falling forwards into Hannibal’s arms when the Alpha stands up, supporting him as his knees buckle. Hannibal’s strong arms come around his waist, holding him close as he shakes against him, a slick-damp hand on his quivering backside, the Alpha’s free hand cradling the back of his head.

Hannibal hugs Will tight, showering his forehead and temples with soft kisses as Will judders against him. He helps the Omega remove his shoes and socks, supporting him when Will steps out of his trousers and shrugs out of the shirt and jacket until he is perfectly naked, and then he cups Will’s chin so that he can give him a long, slow kiss. The sweet taste of him, the salty sweat and tears and the earthy, coppery tang of his bloody lips makes his stomach clench. He groans at how hard he is, how sweet the pain of the ache is, and removes his own jacket before stepping back.

‘I want you to run, Will,’ he says calmly. He doesn’t miss the way his Omega’s breath catches, and he parts his lips to savour the tang of Will’s fear. Removes his cufflinks and begins to unbutton his shirt as he speaks. ‘I’m going to chase you, and I’m going to catch you.’

Will quivers. He’s taut with nerves but humming with excitement, and he can feel his body pulse another trickle of slick down his thighs at the idea of Hannibal hunting him. He nods, keeping his gold eyes on the predatory Alpha as he backs away towards the stairs. He fumbles behind him, catching hold of the banister for balance as he begins to climb, very slowly so as not to trigger the Alpha’s urge to pounce.

Hannibal’s groin twinges and he bares his teeth, holding himself back as Will carefully retreats from him, still facing him, waiting… Any moment…

Now. Will turns his back on Hannibal and darts forwards, his heart thundering and adrenaline pumping when he hears the Alpha race after him. He dashes across the landing and throws himself into the master bedroom, slamming the door shut onto the Alpha’s arm as Hannibal catches up because he’s just so fast. Hannibal’s snarl rips the air and then his stronger body is slamming into the wood, knocking Will back, and he’s on him, grabbing him by the throat and throwing him onto the bed. The mattress sinks under their weight and all the air leaves Will in a rush as Hannibal pins him, his eyes blazing red. Fuck… It’s hot and scary as hell. Will whimpers, spreading his thighs and rubbing up to please the Alpha, rolling his head back and baring his throat. You caught me. I’m yours. Please don’t hurt me.

Hannibal can’t speak; his heart is racing, his body pulsing with fire. All he wants to do is bury himself deep inside his Omega, fill him with his seed and knot him, bite him and scar him and mark him. Mine. Mine, mine, mine.

Will grabs for Hannibal’s trousers to help the Alpha, and something rips as two sets of hands shove at the fabric until Hannibal’s length is freed. God; Will’s almost panting with how much he wants it. He wants it all. He’s dizzy with it, drunk with it. His dark shadow pulses and he scratches bloody welts into the Alpha’s arms, baring his teeth up at him when Hannibal squeezes his hips hard enough to bruise.

Hannibal growls again and flips Will onto his stomach, mouthing at the burning nape of his neck. The patch of red skin is silky smooth and spicy, begging for him to bite it, to scar it into a crest. He groans at the pain of resisting, and vents his frustration by tearing into Will’s shoulder, instead, spilling crimson blood over Will’s skin.

‘Fuck!’ Will rocks back, lifting his ass to present for Hannibal. He can hear himself crying, his breath catching with helpless little whimpers as the Alpha lines himself up and then begins to push inside. It’s so good, so tight, so perfect and the stretch almost hurts, it’s almost too much but it’s still not enough because Hannibal hasn’t bonded him. Will clenches his jaw, slamming himself back to take the Alpha’s full length, reaching behind him to stop Hannibal from pulling away. ‘No… don’t stop, please… God, don’t stop.’

Hannibal mouths at the bloody crater in Will’s shoulder muscle, sucking down the coppery taste of him as he rocks his hips, burying himself as deep inside the Omega’s body as he can. It’s so hot, so tight. Will pulses around him, rippling muscles and tingling slick coaxing him to knot. Hannibal screws his eyes shut and bites down again, deepening the wound as he ruts into Will, fucking him hard and fast. Will writhes beneath him, mewling cries muffled by the quilt when Hannibal shoves his head down, forcing him to bare the back of his neck. You’re mine, Will. Every part of you, mine.

He comes hard, blood running down his chin as he arches his back, locking his elbows and pouring his seed into Will’s body. He shudders when Will comes around him, tightening into a vice around his swelling knot, sealing them together, and gasps hard enough to spray flecks of red across the other man’s back.

Will trembles, crushed by Hannibal’s weight, grey spots dancing behind his eyelids and his ears ringing at the strength of the orgasm. Fuck… He shifts, his body so boneless and heavy that he could sink right into the bed. Pain makes him gasp, and he reaches for his throbbing shoulder, eyes widening when he sees the amount of blood on his fingers.

‘Hannibal…’

Hannibal purrs and kisses the bite mark, planting a line of kisses until he can brush his lips across the jagged scar between Will’s shoulder blades, rubbing up and down the Omega’s arms to soothe him when Will whines.

‘You almost sent me into rut,’ the Alpha says softly, his voice hoarse from snarling. ‘I’m sorry I hurt you.’

‘I’m okay,’ Will whispers. He turns his head, resting his cheek on the damp covers so that he can look back at Hannibal. He smiles sleepily, purring at the feel of Hannibal’s chest hair against his bare back. ‘Mmm… That was really good.’

Hannibal hums his agreement. He dips his head and kisses Will’s scar again, frowning when the Omega tenses beneath him.

‘How did you get this, Will? Have you been Cut?’ he asks, surprised by the fist of ice in his stomach at the idea of it; at the idea of how much pain it would have caused Will to have a crest sliced out of him… Omegas have died from the shock of it.

‘No.’ Will swallows the lump in his throat and reaches for Hannibal’s hand, twining his fingers with the Alpha and pressing his nose to Hannibal’s skin so that he can ground himself with his scent. ‘I did it to myself.’

Hannibal is quiet for a long time, and Will waits for his throat to loosen. He will tell him… he will… just… He swallows again, but Hannibal speaks before he can try to force the words out.

‘Another time, perhaps. You should sleep now.’

Will blinks through a haze of tears, his chest in a vice. He manages a quick nod and presses a shaky kiss to Hannibal’s knuckles.

‘Thank you,’ he whispers.

Hannibal leans down and kisses Will’s temple, stroking through his hair until the Omega can’t help but purr. He smiles into Will’s skin, adjusting his weight so as not to crush the smaller man beneath him.

‘We all have our secrets,’ he murmurs, resting his head near Will’s to share breath with him when they sleep. ‘Perhaps, one day, we can share them with each other.’

***

Two nights later, Jack wakes Will from dreams of concrete dust and oil to drive him to a waking nightmare. They found a victim in a hotel room bathtub, missing a kidney and chest split wide as though trying to get at his heart.

Zeller is adamant it’s the Chesapeake Ripper – there are a lot of similarities, but everything in Will’s gut screams that this is someone else.

‘We’ve got twenty-two signature components all attributable to the same killer,’ Zeller says, taking up the bathroom doorway where Jack has exiled them so that Will can do what he does, undisturbed.

Will frowns from where he’s sat, slumped on the toilet lid because the memories in the room are fresh, just like Jack promised, and he got sucked in so completely that he can feel the killer’s exhaustion. His grief and regret… You weren’t supposed to die, he thinks, looking over at the corpse in the bathtub. You just didn’t need two kidneys, and someone else needed it.

‘Twenty-two possible signature components,’ he says, pushing himself to his feet. Zeller scoffs a laugh.

‘It’s the Ripper,’ he says, huffing when Will shuts the door in his face.

Will sits back down on the toilet, his gaze distant. Jack braces himself against the wall on the other side of the bathroom. His shoulders are broad with tension, and he clenches his blue-gloved hand into a fist.

‘Are you sure?’ he asks quietly, and Will nods.

‘More or less.’

‘Tell me why you’re sure,’ Jack says, staring down at the not-Ripper victim in the tub. Will swallows, choosing his words carefully.

‘The Ripper left a victim in a church pew using his tongue as a page marker in the Bible he was holding,’ he says. He chews his lip and shakes his head. It doesn’t feel the same. ‘This isn’t that; this is a medical student, or a trainee, or someone trying to make an extra buck in a back-alley surgery and it went bad. Actively bad.’

Disappointment rolls from Jack and Will bows his head because he knows how much this means to the Alpha, how much it hurts to realise he’s not going to get him today.

‘We’ll catch the Ripper,’ he says softly. ‘Eventually.’

‘Yeah, well I wanna catch him now,’ Jack growls. ‘When I do, you’re not gonna get a chance to shoot him, ‘cos I’m gonna do that.’ He sinks to a crouch beside the bathtub.

‘You can’t just jack up the law and get underneath it,’ Will says.

‘Can’t I?’ Jack asks, turning from the victim to raise his eyebrows at him. Will has his head back, trying to stretch the knots from his shoulders, but he lowers his chin so that he’s no longer baring his throat to the Alpha, and Jack sighs. He frowns at the victim and then back at him. ‘Tell me how you see the Ripper, Will.’

Will’s darkness washes through him, warm and comforting, purring through his chest. I see him as a god, he thinks, flushing with warm pride before his brain gathers up his shadow and stuffs it away inside the cage in the back of his mind. NoThat’s not how I see him… it’s not… Aloud, he says,

‘I see him as one of those… pitifulthings sometimes born in hospitals… They… feed it, keep it warm… but they don’t put it on the machines… They let it die. But he doesn’t die. He… looks normal… Nobody can tell what he is.’

He sighs. Squeezes the bridge of his nose and shrugs at Jack. He’s tired, and he just wants to go home. To Hannibal.

My Alpha. 

‘Are we done?’ he asks, and Jack sighs again.

‘Yeah, we’re done.’

Will nods, and heads outside for some fresh air. His head is killing him; he knocks back a heat suppressant, his stomach twisting with guilt as soon as he realises he’s grateful that he no longer needs to collect them from Hannibal. He doesn’t want to see him right now. After meeting Franklyn at the opera, after sensing Hannibal’s irritation with him, Will can’t shake the worry that the Alpha only sees him as a patient, that fucking him is a way of helping him, albeit an unorthodox way of treating him… Because, really, what does he have to offer him? He’s hardly mating material; too dark, too twisted… Too broken… He’s not even from good breeding stock, and he’s already said he doesn’t want a family…

He can convince himself that Hannibal wants him as more than just a patient when they’re fucking, but that doesn’t mean anything… Hannibal has this way of overwhelming his reason until he might as well be in heat, but the rest of the time…

He glares down at an oil-slick puddle between his feet, narrowing his eyes against the gold he can still see in his irises.

Why do I feel like you’re holding something back, Hannibal?

***

At twenty-eight minutes past seven on Thursday, Hannibal opens his office door to greet Will for their scheduled session. His chest tightens a fraction at the sight of his Omega; his delicate musk is deadened by the new suppressants, barely detectable beneath remnants of the day’s Beta spray, and when he turns, his eyes are a deep blue with barely a thin ring of dark gold.

Will’s heart skips a beat at the sight of his Alpha. Fuck… This is going to be hard. Hannibal looks good today; dark suit, burgundy shirt and matching tie… His insides pulse and he feels the first hint of slick dampen his ass cheeks in response to the other man’s musk.

‘Good evening, Will,’ Hannibal says warmly. He steps back, welcoming him into his office. ‘Please, come in.’

Will forces a wobbly smile and ducks inside, keeping his eyes on the floor so that he can’t be distracted with Hannibal as his Alpha closes the door, sealing them in the room together. He notices a glass of rosé on Hannibal’s side table as he shrugs out of his jacket, and frowns.

‘You’ve been drinking,’ he says, somewhat accusingly.

‘I had a glass of wine with my last appointment, yes,’ Hannibal says, taking his time returning to his armchair and watching as Will drapes his coat over the chaise lounge. His Omega is tense, his scent souring every few notes. 

‘Drinking with a patient’? Will mutters. Unorthodox… but not as bad as fucking one. 

She was drinking with a patient,’ Hannibal corrects. He sits down and crosses one long leg over the other. ‘I have an unconventional psychiatrist.’

‘Well, we have that in common,’ Will mumbles. He fidgets for a moment and then sinks into his armchair, instinctively resting back into the deep seat with his legs spread and hands on the armrests so that Hannibal can see all of his chest and stomach. Open and trusting. But Hannibal cannot take satisfaction in the position, because there is something in Will’s words, in the guarded tone, that make him uneasy.

Am I your psychiatrist?’ he asks, his gut twisting at the idea of it. ‘Or are we simply have conversations?’

Will looks at him, tension thrumming through him. A partner shouldn’t psychoanalyse me the way you do… But a psychiatrist shouldn’t fuck me…

‘”Yes”, I think is the answer to that,’ he says, clenching his jaw because he really isn’t sure exactly what Hannibal expects from him. He’s not even sure Hannibal knows what he expects from him.

Hannibal considers him – Will can sense the imbalance of power in their relationship, and he resents it, still. He may always. Is that all this is? He inclines his head.

‘Then having a glass of wine before seeing a patient, I assure you, is very conventional,’ he says, rising to fetch a second glass from the cupboard. ‘Especially for evening appointments.’

Will watches him, watches the way Hannibal’s shoulders move in his suit jacket and the way the silk trousers stroke his thighs when he walks… He shifts, his insides aching with emptiness. Tries to distract himself by looking around the familiar room.

‘How long have you been seeing a psychiatrist?’ he asks.

‘Since I chose to be a psychiatrist,’ Hannibal replies. He uncorks the wine and pours Will a small glass; he’s driving after all, and Omegas are known for having a lower alcohol tolerance. He can feel Will’s gaze on him the whole time; big eyes, vulnerable face… He gives him a small smile as he hands the glass to him. Will so desperately wants to be close to him; he can smell the sharp tang of his slick, but he is also nervous, almost as jittery as the first time they met…

‘Thank you,’ Will mutters, accepting the glass without touching the Alpha. He sniffs and takes a sip. It’s good; crisp and clean. Not like the red wine he usually drinks.

Hannibal sits again, unbuttoning his jacket for comfort. He needs to warm Will up, to get him talking about the case before he steers the conversation to their relationship. Something is clearly bothering him.

‘I read the Freddy Lounds article,’ he says. ‘The Chesapeake Ripper has struck again.’

Will shakes his head.

‘No, no, no, it’s not the same guy,’ he says, and all the tension from the crime scene rushes back into him, adding to his own electric current to propel him to his feet.

‘Maybe it’s never been the same guy,’ Hannibal suggests, watching him pace.

‘Oh, what, now he has a friend?’ Will gives a sarcastic chuckle. Great… We all have friends… Friends together, nothing more… He looks away from Hannibal to stare at the curtains; he can’t look at him right now.

‘Any variations in the murders that might suggest more than one Ripper?’ Hannibal asks, trying to ground Will in the case. In the violence.

‘Er, some variations,’ Will says.

Hannibal takes a slow drink of his wine, choosing his words carefully. He sits forwards.

‘The victims were all brutalised. What was the brutalisation hiding?’ he asks.

‘The careful, surgical removal and preservation of vital organs,’ Will replies.

Valuable organs,’ Hannibal says lightly.

Will considers, and then frowns.

‘Organ harvesters?’

Seed planted, Hannibal sits back again.

‘Jack’s looking for a serial killer he can’t seem to catch,’ he says. ‘It’s a brilliant diversion.’

Will raises his eyebrows, his eyes darting back and forth as he tries to make it stick. It makes sense, but it doesn’t feel quite right… then again, nothing feels quite right at the moment. He sighs.

‘Interesting theory,’ he says. ‘I will keep it in mind if another body drops.’ He takes a gulp of wine to settle his shaking voice.

‘Please do,’ Hannibal says, and he smiles. ‘Now. Are you going to tell me why you are so tense?’

Will scoffs and looks at him. Hannibal looks back, holding the gaze until Will gives in and shrugs, eyes lowered to the ground.

‘Nothing… the case, it’s just…’ He gives up on the lie before it’s even finished, and rubs the back of his neck, hissing when his thumb catches his nape. ‘Franklyn,’ he admits quietly, not quite daring to meet Hannibal’s gaze again. ‘He made me think… made me question…’

Hannibal schools his expression to neutrality, despite the urge to snarl, to let his eyes glow red and bite into Will until he knows, in every fibre of his being, that he is nothing like Franklyn. He is nothing like anyone, and he belongs to Hannibal.

‘What are you questioning, Will?’ he asks quietly, and his heart skips a beat at the sad, frightened little whimper that catches in his mate’s throat. He can’t go to him, not yet. Will needs to accept his claim without his judgement impaired by the cloud of heat hormones.

‘You,’ Will whispers, speaking down to his wine glass. ‘Your… intentions.’

Will is trembling now, and his scent is salty with fear. He’s worried that he’s angered Hannibal, and he is already tilting his head to the side, baring his throat in a placating gesture of submission, just in case. Hannibal sighs, but stays where he is.

‘I have only ever intended to help you, Will,’ he says gently. ‘I want you to realise your true potential.’

‘As my friend, or as my psychiatrist?’ Will mutters, eyes still fixed on his wineglass.

Hannibal represses a growl, but barely, and it roughens his voice when he speaks.

‘As your mate,’ he says. He raises his eyebrow as Will lifts his head to look at him, and the Omega flushes with desire, sweet musk pouring from him as his eyes flicker gold. ‘You asked me if that was what I wanted. I’ve given it a great deal of consideration, and I do.’ He gets to his feet and takes the wine glass from Will’s hand, puts it on the side table and pulls Will’s arms around his waist so that the Omega is hugging him. Then he takes hold of each side of Will’s face, lifting his head until the other man meets his gaze. ‘I want you.’

Will sucks in his breath, shivering at Hannibal’s words. He searches the Alpha’s face for any trace of doubt, of hesitation, but there’s only desire and something softer, something vulnerable… He swallows and nods.

‘I want you, too,’ he whispers. ‘I want to earn it.’

Hannibal smiles and dips his head, placing an achingly gentle kiss to Will’s lips.

‘I can’t wait.’

‘And when I do?’ Will asks, stepping closer so that he can rub up against Hannibal’s body. Being close to him, touching him… it feels so right. He’s missed him so much this week… ‘Will you let me see who you really are?’

‘I don’t think I’ll be able to stop you,’ Hannibal says, stroking his hands up and down Will’s back, feeling the muscles begin to relax under his touch. ‘When you’re ready, you’ll know me.’

‘You don’t think I’m ready?’ Will murmurs, tilting his head so that Hannibal can kiss his pulse. ‘You don’t trust me?’

‘I find it difficult to trust anyone,’ Hannibal replies. He begins to unbutton Will’s shirt, still nuzzling and kissing the Omega’s jaw, cheeks and neck as he drops the ugly, checked shirt to the floor. Will shivers when cool air brushes over his burning skin, his eyes slipping shut as Hannibal spreads a hand over his stomach, the other coming up to brush past his scar, teasing at the edge of his nape until he’s so hard it hurts.

‘We have trust issues in common as well,’ he manages, gasping when Hannibal’s fingers finally touch where his crest should be. ‘Hannibal

Hannibal gives in to him and grips him tight by the back of the neck, sending shockwaves of pleasure through his body. He walks Will towards the couch and turns him, pushing him to lie face down on the padded leather. Will obeys, soft and weak as a kitten, and rolls his face to the side so that he can still see his Alpha. Hannibal purrs and Will trembles, whimpering a plea as he lifts up to present for him.

‘Very good, Will,’ Hannibal says, massaging the pressure points to make Will pliant. He releases him for just long enough to finish undressing him, stepping back to admire his Omega’s naked body. Muscles ripple as Will squirms, slick glistening between his quivering buttocks and twitching thighs. He whines for Hannibal to come back, a hand scrabbling for him and clutching tight to Hannibal’s trouser leg when the Alpha stands beside him and reaches down to pin him by the neck again.

‘Hannibal… please…’ Will isn’t even sure what he’s begging for; if he wants Hannibal to fuck him, knot him, bite him or just keep touching his neck. He just knows it’s good, it’s so good and so right and he needs this, he needs Hannibal so much…

‘Sssh,’ Hannibal whispers. He leans down and brushes Will’s hair from his sweaty forehead, checking his eyes. They are resolutely blue, but the pupils are blown wide and Will’s body is flushing a delicate shake of pink as he slips towards another prodromal phase brought on by Hannibal’s manipulation. As much as his scent is deadened, the signs are there for Hannibal to read, and he nuzzles Will’s cheek as he speaks into his ear. ‘That’s it, let yourself go. No more doubts.’

Will purrs when Hannibal speaks; he can’t really understand the words, but his Alpha’s tone is soothing. He spreads his legs, nodding his thanks when Hannibal helps him tuck his knees under him, lifting up to present for the other man. Please… please…

‘You’re mine, Will,’ Hannibal says calmly, removing his suit jacket and folding it carefully over the back of his chair. Seeing his Omega hold position, exposed and vulnerable to the world, ready for Hannibal to mount… He purrs again, fumbling with his cufflinks and placing them beside his abandoned wine. ‘Can you say it for me?’

‘M’yours,’ Will mumbles, scratching at the leather, trying to hold on despite the fire raging inside him. He whines, the cool air above him shivering as his temperature spikes, whimpering when pleasure zings up his spine and fresh slick trickles down his legs. ‘Hannibal… Hannibal

‘I’m here,’ Hannibal says, undoing his tie and removing his waistcoat. ‘I’ve got you.’

Loneliness snatches his breath. Will rolls his forehead into the sticky leather, tears mingling with sweat on his red cheeks. He can’t move; his Alpha put him in this position and he can’t do anything about it, but Hannibal is too far away from him now and he’s so helpless… He needs him, he needs his protection, his seed, his bite, his everything. He wants to rock down, to grind his erection down for some relief, but he can’t. He can only hope that Hannibal comes to him soon, touches him soon. So he whimpers and begs him with his eyes and his scent and his open body as he bites his lip. I’m yours, I’m yours, I’m yours… Please…

‘Look at me, Will,’ Hannibal whispers, smiling at him when Will immediately turns his head and gazes at him, black fighting blue as his pupils widen further. So handsome… Hannibal removes his shirt and quickly steps out of his trousers, toeing off shoes and socks so that he is as naked as his partner. Will makes a delicious sound of need, half whine, half whimper, and Hannibal grabs him by the hips, yanking him back to the end of the couch. He digs his fingers into the Omega’s soft skin; he wants to leave marks, to make Will remember what they did. He can see the bruised bite on Will’s shoulder; it flushes as his blood pulses near the surface, and Will cries when Hannibal grabs it, using the movement to haul him back against his hardness.

Yes, yes, yes… Will lifts and arches again, his body clenching and then opening, eager to take his Alpha’s knot. The pain of nails cutting into his flesh makes his balls twitch. He can feel himself leaking pre-cum across his stomach, smearing onto the couch. His scent is everywhere, mixed with Hannibal’s warm musk. It smells like a hunt, like the wild, like blood and death and home. Like potential. He growls and rocks back against Hannibal’s groin, trying to get his Alpha to fuck him now, hard and fast.

Hannibal holds Will steady and lines himself up. He wants to take Will hard enough that he feels this for days, so he won’t stretch him. Pushing past the ring of tight muscle, he snarls at the burning tight embrace of his Omega’s body, smacking Will’s hand away when he tries to reach back and pull Hannibal in faster. A stretch is one thing; he refuses to damage his mate’s body. It’s so hot and slick, smooth and tight around him, stroking tingling pleasure from the tip of his length to the root. He keeps pushing, slow and steady, until his balls slap against Will’s and he can’t go any further. His heart thunders in his chest, sweat beads across his forehead and between his pectorals. Will is scorching hot, his muted scent whispering to him. Hannibal’s eyes burn red and he growls when he forces himself to pull back, sliding almost all the way out, cold air stinging his damp, sensitive skin where it parts from the other man’s body.

Will bites into the pillow to muffle his sob when Hannibal pulls back, his cries turning to groans of pleasure when the Alpha plunges back inside him, filling him again and rubbing back and forth against his prostate. Fuck… fuck… please… It’s so right. He’s so full it almost hurts; he can feel Hannibal against his stomach and when he swallows he’s sure he can feel it nudge his throat. And then Hannibal starts to move, and it makes his eyes leak, it makes his brain melt and he can’t breathe through the heat shrinking his lungs. He scratches dents into the couch, shoving up and back in time to Hannibal’s thrusts. There’s nothing but their rough pants and the slap of skin, his whimpers and mewls bubbling up into whines and moans and gasps as Hannibal’s strength overwhelms him. Pleasure crackles through him, tightening his muscles and making his heart falter every time his Alpha pounds into him. He’s dizzy and light, filled with white fire as Hannibal lifts him even higher and gets further inside him, the angle perfect for hitting that spot again and again and again.

‘You’re mine, Will,’ Hannibal says, reaching around stroking Will whenever he pulls back. It’s difficult to concentrate, but the way Will squeezes him and the beautiful sounds of distress he makes are worth the effort. Hannibal hisses through his teeth, his balls jumping as climax nearly overwhelms him at the way Will’s voice breaks as he gasps,

‘I’m yours, I’m yours…’

God… Hannibal’s hand on his length, thumb rubbing his aching tip, gathering up wetness and spreading it over his tender skin traps him in place. If he pushes forwards, he’ll come. If he pushes backwards, he’ll come. Will shudders, his stomach coming up and head dropping, bracing himself on shaking arms as he gives himself over to chasing the pleasure.

‘That’s it, Will; let go,’ Hannibal pants, riding him hard as Will bucks beneath him, clenching and arching and thrusting into Hannibal’s hand. They’re losing rhythm, chasing their pleasure until they crash in each other and fall over the edge. Hannibal grabs Will’s hair as he comes, wrenching him up onto his knees and pulling his Omega’s head back so that he can sink his teeth into the muscle of Will’s shoulder again, ripping open the scabs and spilling flesh blood across his skin as he pours his seed into his body.

‘Fuck! Hannibal! Fuck!’ Will comes with a sharp cry, bearing down around Hannibal’s growing knot as he spills himself over the couch, his Alpha’s release scorching his insides, sucked as deep as possible by his pulsing muscles. He can feel Hannibal’s mouth on him, his teeth inside him and tongue lapping at his blood. The stinging pain only makes the pleasure that much sweeter, and he can’t stop juddering, only held up by Hannibal’s arms around him. He drops his head back against Hannibal’s chest, trying to catch his breath, his brain refusing to come down from the high.

‘Mmm…’ Hannibal releases Will’s torn shoulder with a last, lingering kiss, pressing a kiss to his Omega’s cheek just to see Will’s face smeared with blood. Such a pity it can’t be someone else’s… yet. He hums into Will’s ear, hugging him tight when Will’s purrs ring out across the quiet room, broken only by sniffs and gasps as the smaller man recovers from the strength of his orgasm. ‘Do you feel better?’ he teases, nibbling at the stubble on Will’s jaw, grinning when the Omega shivers, clenches around his knot and then gasps with new pleasure.

Will moans, still rocking around Hannibal’s knot. It feels so nice… he winds an arm up above his Alpha’s head, holding Hannibal’s face to his nape as he begins to move again, sparking fresh waves of heat every time the knot touches his prostate. God… He’s so tender, so raw… He can’t stop chasing it, can’t stop coaxing another orgasm closer, even though it hurts with how good it feels. He’s aching again and he grabs one of Hannibal’s hands, silently begging him to stroke him, to cup his balls and jerk him off as he fucks himself on him.

‘Will…’ Hannibal gasps, mouthing at the silky skin on the back of the Omega’s neck, closing his eyes against the urge to bite him. He quivers, his belly on fire as Will moves up and down around his throbbing knot. Pressure builds like a knife behind his balls and he begins to rock his hips again, again and again, closing his eyes against tears when pleasures shatters him and he comes a second time.

‘Hannibal… Hannibal…’ Will screws his eyes tight shut, convulsing around another climax, bright spots exploding over his eyelids as blood roars and he forgets to breathe. He falls forwards, pulling the Alpha with him, and barks a laugh when the taller man crushes him. ‘Hannibal

Hannibal laughs an apology and shifts to the side, stroking Will’s wet cheeks when the Omega gasps and whimpers at the movement tugging the even bigger knot inside him. He lies with his chest to Will’s back, brushing his mouth over Will’s hair and savouring the smell of him as they lie on the couch, their feet hanging over the end, legs entwined and bodies locked together. He listens to his racing heart, feeling sweat trickle between his shoulder blades, his body humming with satisfaction.

Will breathes slowly, his mind utterly silent as his Alpha holds him. He’s exactly where he belongs, filled with Hannibal’s seed and sealed with his knot, cradled against the taller man’s chest. He is protected and cherished, and the flood of endorphins makes him smile even as tears well in his eyes. He can’t quite remember how he got here, how he got from hugging Hannibal to naked on the couch with him, but as Hannibal’s chest rumbles with another soothing purr, any worry he feels dissolves and he is happy to just accepts it. Hannibal knows what’s best for me.  

‘I’m yours,’ he whispers, pressing a kiss to his Alpha’s knuckles. ‘I trust you.’

***

Winding tomato skins into roses, Hannibal can’t help but think that Will would make a better kitchen companion than Alana Bloom, but his Omega is working late again and Alana made a specific request to see him.

‘I’ve been unspeakably rude,’ he says, sliding the last rose onto the plate with its companions. ‘I haven’t offered you a drink.’

‘I appreciate beer more than wine,’ Alana says, smiling at him from her place as sous chef, chopping carrots for him at the butcher’s block.

‘It’s not what you appreciate, it’s that you appreciate,’ Hannibal says, wiping his hands on his apron and going to the fridge to fetch her a bottle. ‘A compromise? Beer brewed in a wine barrel. Two years; I bottled it myself.’ With a unique blend of Omega blood and my own seed to make you more docile, he thinks, popping the cap.

‘I’m impressed,’ Alana says, watching as Hannibal pours the beer into a glass for her. She dips her nose to appreciate the smell and then takes a sip, smiling at the flavour. ‘A Cabernet Sauvignon wine barrel.’

Hannibal smiles and returns to the kitchen counter.

‘I love your palate,’ he purrs. Alana inclines her head.

‘I love your beer.’ She takes another sip of her drink. ‘Mm… I taste oak… what else do I taste?’

Hannibal smirks. If only you knew…

‘I will only that “yes” or “no”,’ he replies, and Alana grins, blissfully oblivious. She sets the beer down to continue her prep.

‘Are you serving this at your dinner party?’ she asks.

‘No; this is your reserve,’ Hannibal says. Alana raises her eyebrows.

‘My own private reserve? Why thank you.’

Hannibal’s eyes gleam, but he carefully avoids another smirk and focusses on the delicate task at hand.

‘’I’m curious about something,’ he says, catching the Beta’s attention again. ‘Are you purposefully avoiding the subject of Will Graham?’

Alana covers her blush by gathering up chopping carrots and adding them to the bowl beside her.

‘Absolutely,’ she mutters, because she never has been able to lie to the Alpha.

‘Not on my account, I hope,’ Hannibal says lightly. ‘I’m happy to get your perspective.’ More than happy, in fact… I want you to tell me everything you know about my mate.

‘No, it’s on Jack Crawford’s account,’ Alana replies. She picks up her beer and approaches Hannibal’s counter. ‘I don’t want any information about Will that I shouldn’t have as his friend.’

Hannibal hums his acceptance of this. He isn’t interested in sharing knowledge, only acquiring it. Alana has, after all, known Will since before the Omega was in the FBI – in fact, he’s fairly certain that she is the Beta responsible for securing him his teaching position, as well as providing his pheromone spray, scent deadening shampoo and heat suppressants. Or used to be.

‘Did Jack ask you to profile the Ripper?’ he asks, glancing up when Alana shakes her head.

‘Not since I consulted on the case with Miriam before she disappeared.’

Hannibal is careful to maintain a neutral expression, despite the thrill of knowing that he is the one responsible.

‘Crawford’s trainee.’ It isn’t a question, but Alana nods as if it is.

‘Yeah,’ she murmurs. Her special reserve makes her incredibly pliant. Hannibal nods.

‘Very sad.’

They are quiet for a moment, in honor of her memory, and then Alana speaks again.

‘You had me examining PhD candidates that week,’ she says. Hannibal nods.

‘And I’m grateful that you were examining PhD students and not the Ripper,’ he replies. Otherwise, I would have had to kill you, and I am rather fond of you. He smirks. ‘You realise those candidates thought we were having an affair?’

Alana blushes but she smiles, her eyes sparkling at the idea. Her scent sweetens with arousal and Hannibal notes how much it has increased since he was her teacher. Her growing attraction to him could be useful.

‘You were already having an affair,’ Alana reminds him, and Hannibal quirks an eyebrow, casting his mind back to the handsome young Omega teacher with the dark desires… not unlike Will, but, despite Hannibal’s best efforts, ultimately disappointing. Alana shakes her head at her beer before drinking again. ‘Will does that too, y’know,’ she murmurs, and Hannibal grins.

‘What, have affairs?’ he teases. Only with me, my dear.

‘Flirtatiously changes the subject,’ Alana replies. ‘You have that pathology in common.’

We have a great many things in common, Hannibal thinks. Aloud, he decides to test Alana’s feelings for his mate.

‘Or, we just have you in common,’ he suggests, and watches as Alana’s cheeks flush pale pink. She chews her lip, her desire sharp with worry. An interesting combination. Poor Will; he really has no chance with her. Hannibal knows that his Omega still harbors feelings for the Beta, and she is one of his most stable sources of support. If Hannibal can turn her against him, Will is far more likely to embrace his darkness. ‘I recall, even before I met Will, you never spoke about him,’ he says.

Alana shrugs and sighs, betraying her tension in the clenching of her jaw.

‘Probably because I just want everybody to leave him alone,’ she says. ‘He’s been through a lot…’ She looks off across the kitchen, and Hannibal considers her. Do you know the reason for his scar? I think you do, but you would never tell me. You would never betray him like that. Not yet. He makes sure to look down by the time she turns back to him. ‘It’s not even about Will,’ she says unhappily. ‘Jack’s obsessed with the Chesapeake Ripper and he’s grooming Will to catch him.’

Hannibal times it so that it looks like he has only just glanced up at her. He holds her gaze for a moment, the silence heavy between them. Alana will assume it is worry, but Hannibal’s mind has returned to the night after the opera, when Will pinned him against the car and growled his claim into the Alpha’s mouth.

A drop of warmth oozes down Hannibal’s spine, settling in his loins, and he gives Alana a small, dark smile.

‘And I sincerely hope he does.’

***

After a painfully uncomfortable conversation about cheese with Franklyn, Hannibal is looking forward to a more stimulating discussion with his Omega. His stomach tightens in anticipation of getting close enough to breathe in Will’s earthy scent, at seeing the way the other man’s shoulders loosen the moment Will sees him… He wants to watch the way Will’s blue eyes sparkle, revealing his desire for him even when the gold is repressed. He expects to see all of these things, as certain and comforting as the sunrise, but, when he opens the door to his waiting area, it is empty.

Will’s not there.

Hannibal frowns. Will’s… late? He’s never been late before…

Unease coils like a knot in his gut and he checks his watch. Perhaps he has the wrong time…

No, it’s is exactly 7.30pm. What’s going on?

A foreign emotion begins to creep up his spine. Disappointment? Concern? Hannibal can’t quite place it. He closes the door and returns to his desk. Sits slowly, clasping his hands together on the polished wood before reaching for his phone. Should he call him? What if something’s happened?

He checks his diary, the knot tightening when he sees his own handwriting, confirming Will’s appointment today.  He’s most likely stuck at work, but it could be something more serious… Will could be in trouble.  

Hannibal frowns as he realises what this emotion is.

Worry. He’s worried about Will. About his mate.  

He has to find him.

***

It’s dusk. Will is in the fields near his home, sat at the end of a table made from Cassie Boyle’s impaled body, his shadow a writhing, living creature inside him, surrounding him, slithering into his lungs and webbing across his brain until he is nothing but darkness.

Abigail smiles at him from her place near Cassie’s head. My beautiful daughter

‘It’s better than it’s just the two of us,’ she says. Will wants to nod, but he can’t move. He’s warm and comfortable, sinking down into a hot bath…

‘Will?’

His Alpha’s voice reaches for him. Will tries to purr, his shadow opening its arms wide to embrace it, but Abigail frowns. She looks scared.

‘Dad…’

Will wrenches himself back down, back to Abigail.

‘Yes?’

‘There’s someone else here,’ she says.

‘Will?’ Entering the lecture theatre, Hannibal calls to his Omega again, pitching his voice low so that it soothes him as it draws Will out of the prodromal hallucination. He tilts his head, watching his mate sitting completely still at the head of a table littered with crime scene photos. Will’s blue eyes are vacant, shifting from side to side in a waking dream. His hormones are raging; even with the suppressants he smells of sweet musk and earth, sharp with slick that is no doubt soaking through his boxers. Hannibal smiles; he is extremely attractive like this, helplessly waiting for his Alpha to rescue him. ‘Will?’

The dream fades and he’s back in his lecture theatre, the air cold against his sweaty skin. All he can smell is himself, though he’s sure there’s a rich, cedarwood scent getting stronger. Will blinks rapidly, scrambling from the current and fighting his way back to reality.

‘I have a twenty-four hour cancellation policy,’ Hannibal says, catching his attention as he draws closer. He’s here… in Will’s classroom… why? And why does he look like he was worried only a few minutes ago? Will’s stomach flips and he wets his lips, catching his Alpha’s rich scent on the roof of his mouth. Hannibal is so handsome, tall and regal in a navy suit with white tie… You’re here… I’m okay because you’re here

But he’s not okay, otherwise Hannibal wouldn’t need to be here. He has a session with him today. Will frowns, still trying to ground himself.

‘What time is it?’

‘Nearly nine o’clock,’ Hannibal replies, and Will’s heart sinks. Nine o’clock… He stood Hannibal up… Fuck. He buries his face in his hands.

‘Oh God, I’m sorry,’ he groans. Hannibal comes to stand over him.

‘No apology necessary,’ he replies. He watches as Will scrubs his cheeks and looks around, still blurry-eyed and confused. His scent is fading, his body temperature cooling. It will be a few more weeks before he loses hours at a time to the heat, and then it will hit properly. For his sake, Hannibal hopes he’s earned a bond by then.

‘I must’ve fallen asleep,’ Will mutters. ‘Was I sleepwalking?’

‘Your eyes were open, but you were not present,’ Hannibal says, watching his mate’s brow crease with concern.

‘Jesus…’ Will pinches the bridge of his nose, fighting the absurd Omegan urge to cry. His heart skips a beat at what his Alpha is telling him; this can’t be happening… sleepwalking is one but this…? More of an absent seizure than anything else. ‘I felt as if I was asleep,’ he says, scraping his hands through his hair and rolling his shoulders. ‘I need to stop sleeping altogether. Best way to avoid bad dreams.’

And create stress on your body, which will create more extreme symptoms, Hannibal thinks. He squashes the pang of sympathy – Will needs him to be strong, to show him the way – and casts his eyes over the photographs.

‘Well, I can see why you have bad dreams,’ he says lightly. Will gives a half nod. He stands up; Jack wants him inside the Ripper’s head, and Hannibal is the best person at helping him think like a killer.

‘What do you see, Doctor?’ he asks, inviting Hannibal to review the case whilst moving closer to his Alpha.

Hannibal quirks an eyebrow at Will’s request, refusing to look at him. He knows Will is seeking comfort, but he needs to keep him on his toes just a little longer. To keep himself from reaching for his mate and hugging him, he slides his hands into his pockets.

‘Sum up the Ripper in so many words?’

‘Choose them wisely,’ Will says.

‘Oh, I always do,’ Hannibal replies. He begins to sift through the photographs. ‘Words are living things. They have personality, point of view… agenda.’

‘They’re pack hunters,’ Will jokes, though he’s so tired and so achingly empty that it comes out flat. Hannibal doesn’t seem to notice, or mind. He never does.

‘Displaying one’s enemies after death has its appeal in many cultures,’ he says. Will leans closer, his dark shadow rearing up to propel him forwards, giving him a surge of energy he doesn’t otherwise feel.

‘These aren’t the Ripper’s enemies,’ he says. ‘These are pests that he swatted.’

‘The reward for their cruelty,’ Hannibal replies, admiring one of his older works. Will scoffs.

‘Oh, he doesn’t have a problem with cruelty,’ he says. ‘The reward is for undignified behaviour. These dissections are to disgrace them. It’s a public shaming.’

Hannibal has to fight to keep from purring at how clever his mate is. Instead, he feeds his pride to his own darkness; a taste of what’s to come.

‘Takes their organs away because, in his mind, they don’t deserve them,’ he explains. He finally allows himself to look at Will, to show him the hint of red around his dark eyes, and Will stares back. He can feel their connection, even if he isn’t quite sure what it is; it’s more than just a sexual attraction, but a blending of shadows and dark, wicked minds.

‘In some way,’ the Omega says quietly.

Hannibal picks up the photograph of Miriam’s severed arm. He’s been terribly curious to know how Jack reacted to finding a piece of his precious, abandoned Omega. Now seems the perfect opportunity to find out.

‘What’s this?’ he asks, feigning ignorance. Will’s scent sours with distress and he turns away to pace off some of his tension.

‘It’s Jack Crawford’s trainee,’ he says. ‘She’s not like the other victims. The Ripper had no reason to humiliate Miriam Lass.’

Hannibal regards the image.

‘Seems to me he was humiliating someone.’

‘Yeah; he was humiliating Jack,’ Will replies. Hannibal feels a thrill, though his tone is one of careful, distant curiosity. A clinical interest.

‘Did it work?’

Will locks eyes with him, darkness swimming beneath the blue.

‘I’d say it worked really well.’

Hannibal looks at him, fighting down a smirk. He replaces the photograph before his scent can change and turns to face his mate.

‘Have you eaten?’ he asks softly. Will shakes his head. Before Hannibal can suggest dinner, though, the Omega’s eyes are drawn to the images again, and he steps closer to the table as though pulled by a magnet. Hannibal moves around the desk to stand beside him, offering his warmth and scent until Will’s dark shadow is sated. He allows his arm to brush Will’s and the Omega unconsciously shifts closer, dipping his head so that the Alpha can see the side of his throat.

‘I want you to stay with me tonight,’ Hannibal murmurs. ‘You need to rest.’ He smiles when Will nods, and twines their fingers together. ‘I’m hosting a dinner party tomorrow; would you care to join me?’

Will glances up at him, doubt etched into his frown and the unhappy turn of his mouth.

‘Who are your other guests?’ he asks. ‘Alphas?’

Hannibal offers him a delicate shrug and an apologetic smile.

‘Like words, we too are pack hunters,’ he says. Will’s breath catches and he leans in, looking from Hannibal’s lips to his eyes.

‘You’re not,’ he murmurs. ‘You’re a solitary predator.’

‘For now,’ Hannibal replies, dipping his head to brush his lips very gently across Will’s. The Omega moans but then blushes, ducking his head and wiping his mouth as though afraid Hannibal’s touch will have left a mark.

‘Sorry; I can’t…. not here,’ he mutters. Hannibal gives his elbow a reassuring squeeze.

‘I understand.’ And he does; he can smell two Alpha scents approaching, long before their footsteps sound on the carpet of the hallway. Beverly Katz and Jack Crawford appear in the doorway and Hannibal smiles as though truly pleased to see them. Will looks up a moment later, as Jack booms his greeting towards him.

‘Will, there you are.’

Almost as though he expects Will to be a faithful dog, trained to stay at his heel, Hannibal thinks. Watch yourself, Agent Crawford; you are bordering on rude.

‘And Dr Lecter,’ Jack continues, striding up to the desk with Beverly keeping pace just behind him. ‘What a surprise. We have a lead.’ He looks into Hannibal’s open, expectant face. ‘Would you care to, er, help us catch the Ripper?’ he offers.

Hannibal would laugh, but that would spoil the game, and, this way, he can keep an eye on Will at the crime scene, and escort him home to pack an overnight bag afterwards.

‘How could I refuse?’

***

Beverly tracks the missing ambulance to an alleyway, where they find Devon Silvestri feverishly trying not to kill his latest organ “donor”. Jack points his rifle squarely at Devon’s face, and bellows for Dr Lecter to take over so that he can make the arrest. Hannibal raises an eyebrow at Will – it’s quite exciting, really – and hurries forwards to analyse the situation. Will keeps a step behind him, slowing when the back of the ambulance comes into sight. It’s not the Ripper… It’s not, Jack, I’m sorry.

Hannibal climbs into the back of the van and peers down at Mr Silvestri’s appalling attempt at surgery. He doesn’t bother to keep the disdain from his voice when he says to Jack,

‘He was removing his kidney. Poorly.’

Beside him, Devon blushes, and his scent colors with shame.

‘I can stop the bleeding,’ Hannibal adds. Jack nods.

‘Do it.’

Hannibal removes his suit jacket and tosses it to the side. Rolls up his sleeves and pulls on a latex glove. He can feel Will’s eyes on him, but he needs to concentrate. He slides his fingers past Silvestri’s, reaching for the cut seeping blood, and presses down.

‘Have you got it?’ Jack asks, impatient to get the cuffs on his “Ripper”. Hannibal waits until he is certain, and then nods.

‘I’ve got it.’

Jack instructs Silvestri to exit the vehicle and moves to collect him from the side door. The officers move with him, giving Will a clear view of Hannibal. His Alpha is calm, even as he concentrates on saving a man’s life. Heat rolls through Will’s body again and his breath catches as slick trickles down his thighs.

Hannibal catches the faint musk of Will’s arousal and glances up at him. That’s my boy… I’m doing this for you, Will, so that you and I have saved a life together.

Will can’t tear his eyes away, absorbed by the way the tendons ripple in Hannibal’s arms, in the way his greying hair falls over his forehead when he leans forwards, the steely look as he calculates the precise pressure with which to suture the split artery. The Alpha always has such control, such power… His dark shadow licks at his ear, caressing the fine hairs around the burning nape of his neck as flecks of blood colour Hannibal’s arms crimson.

You look good in red.

He can’t wait for a time when it’s for a different reason.

***

Watching Hannibal cook is hypnotic, like watching poetry in motion. Will stands in the kitchen doorway, awkwardly cradling the bottle of wine he’s brought in lieu of staying, watching his mate carve roasted meat and create art out of food. But they’re not alone; there are Beta sous-chefs around them, and Will isn’t ready to make a scene in front of them.

‘I have a butcher who carries sow’s blood,’ Hannibal says, unlocking the blender from its base after blitzing the contents. ‘Centrifugate, separate the matter from the water, creates a transparent liquid.’ He pours it into a bowl and swipes his finger across the rim to catch the spill. Will’s insides quiver; he is reminded of the Alpha’s fondness for gathering up his slick and licking it. ‘Serve with tomatoes in suspension,’ Hannibal continues, glancing up at him and grinning as though he can read Will’s mind. ‘And everyone will love the sweet taste.’

Just as I love the sweet taste of you, Will.

‘Are you sure you can’t stay?’ he checks.

‘Er… I don’t think I would be good company,’ Will mutters, glancing to the side as a Beta moves past him carrying a plate of food. His head is pounding and he feels sick. As delicious as the food looks, he can’t eat anything tonight.

‘I disagree,’ Hannibal replies, and Will manages a small, grateful smile. He hates to disappoint his Alpha, but he doesn’t want to show him up in front of his friends, especially other Alphas and their well-behaved, perfectly socialised Omegas. Hannibal deserves better.

The Alpha narrows his eyes, sensing more than just a bad headache as Will’s reluctance to join him.

‘But, before you go; what became of Mr Silvestri’s donor?’

‘You saved his life,’ Will says. Hannibal glances up, then returns to his cooking.

‘Been a long time since I used a scalpel on anything but a pencil,’ he muses.

‘Why’d you stop being a surgeon?’ Will asks, shifting his weight because he really wants to go to Hannibal and soak up his warmth, perhaps even help him, but the foreign scents are making his back hurt with tension. Hannibal was so good at the crime scene yesterday; it’s hard to imagine anything wanting to make him quit.

‘I killed someone,’ Hannibal says simply. ‘Or, more accurately, I couldn’t save someone. But it felt like killing them.’

Will nods, but that doesn’t explain it.

‘You were an emergency room surgeon; it has to happen from time to time.’

‘It happened one time too many,’ Hannibal says, lifting the bowl to pour the contents into the sieve. ‘I transferred my passion for anatomy into the culinary arts –’ More than anyone realises. ‘ – I fix minds instead of bodies, and no one’s died as a result of my therapy.’

Will huffs a laugh. Yet. He drops his gaze; he needs to lie down in a dark room with an ice pack over his forehead. Of course, he can’t do that; Jack wants to go through the Ripper files with him again. He might as well do it tonight, since he won’t be spending time with his own Alpha.

‘I have to go,’ he says softly. ‘I have a date with the Chesapeake Ripper.’

No, you don’t, Hannibal thinks, but he doesn’t look up from pushing the mixture through the sieve.

‘Or, is that rippers?’ he asks. Will shakes his head; the idea didn’t stick.

‘Devon Silvestri was harvesting organs, but not with the Ripper,’ he says. ‘There’s no connection between them.’

‘Jack must be devastated,’ Hannibal says, his darkness purring with savage glee. Will looks away, fighting the urge to roll his eyes.

‘I imagine he is.’ He glances back and stills when Hannibal holds his gaze. His heart skips a beat and he swallows a whine. He doesn’t want to go. He wants to stay with Hannibal, tonight and every night to come… And Hannibal wants him to stay, too. He can see it; the pain this is causing him. He tries for a smile but it’s more of a grimace, placing the bottle on the counter. ‘Enjoy the wine.’

Hannibal smiles at him, accepting the unspoken apology, granting forgiveness because it’s what Will needs from him tonight.

‘Thank you.’

Will ducks his head as he turns away, shivering at the sharp twinge in the nape of his neck. His head throbs and his eyes sting with every step away from his Alpha.

I’ll come home soon, he thinks, letting himself out of Hannibal’s house and into the dark, empty night. And I know you’ll be waiting for me.