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This Dark Heart

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Mine.

The bond warms his chest, and Hannibal smiles as he watches Will’s shaky attempt to leave the bed the next morning. He props himself up on an elbow in the mound of pillows, smirking when his Omega stumbles and catches himself on the bathroom doorway. Will looks good naked, his hips strung with a belt of fingermarks, his back slashed by teeth and nails. He laughs when Will sticks his middle finger up, grinning when the Omega stubbornly kicks the door shut to prove that he can be apart from him, despite his biology.

Hannibal lies back, content to wait for his mate’s return, and admires one of his own wounds from the other man; a particularly vicious bite that drew blood from his forearm when he used it to gag Will. Hannibal turns his hand from side to side, watching the light from the gap in the curtains change the color of the bruise. It looks good, but not nearly as good as the marks he left on Will.

He can still taste his Omega’s blood and slick in his mouth, and Hannibal lifts his fingers to his nose, relishing the tangy musk trapped beneath his nails.

All mine.

Alone in the bathroom, Will has to fight to keep from calling for his Alpha. He braces his back against the door, forcing himself to keep it closed. To keep his distance from Hannibal for five minutes, at least. He’s read about Omega bonding, of course; he knew it would be intense, but no amount of research could ever have prepared him for it.

I’m not just me, anymore, he thinks, clenching shaking hands into fists at his side. I’m half of a whole.

He feels weak. Some of that is tiredness; every time Hannibal tried to pull out of his body, Will had cried for him until Hannibal fucked him again, filling him, knotting him, biting him. Over and over and over, ripping the crest again and again until Will had had to beg him to stop because it hurt too much, no matter how much he needed it. And then it hurt all the more because Hannibal wasn’t biting him, and he couldn’t stop shaking unless the Alpha’s lips were around the ridges, sucking and licking until he just couldn’t come anymore, until his body gave up and he had to sleep.

He’s lucky it didn’t trigger an early heat…

How scarred am I?

He wants to know, but the idea of seeing it, of knowing, once and for all, that he’s no longer a free man, freezes him in place. Will buys himself as much time as possible, but eventually he has to abandon the toilet and go to the sink to wash his hands. He braces himself, breathes in deep, and slowly lifts his head to his reflection.

He starts when he sees himself; he’d expected to be pale and clammy, ill-looking and fragile. What he sees instead is a picture of vitality; glowing skin, pink cheeks and sparkling blue eyes, the irises edged with copper. He looks good.

His arms are still raw from Tobias’s attack. Will runs trembling hands up and down the scabs, wondering which ones are going to scar…

But they aren’t the marks he really wants to see. He takes another deep breath, his mouth going very dry when he pulls out the three-way mirror and angles it to show the back of his neck.

‘Ohhh…’

He can’t help the tiny sound he makes. He’d expected something ugly, something swollen and purple, by the way it’s throbbing. But his crest is neat. It’s attractive. A thin line of scar tissue forming five symmetrical ridges running down the middle of his neck, right at the top of his spine. It’s only slightly raised, and, when he reaches over his shoulder, his breath catches as how soft it still feels.

The crest flares deep red, burning his fingertip, and Will gasps because it feels good. Really good.

There’s an answering clench deep inside and he feels slick dampen his ass cheeks. Will watches his reflection as he brings his fingers to his mouth and tastes himself. The crest sweat is sweet and spicy, laced with copper. His scent thickens, rising up as heat rolls through his body. It’s changed; he carries Hannibal’s musk inside as well as out, now. His Alpha’s sweat and spit is all over him, and Will smiles at the memory of how his nipples came to be ringed with suck bruises.

Yours.

Turning from the sink, he finds his legs more stable as he hurries back to bed. Hannibal looks up from assessing his injuries when he climbs back under the covers, smiling and shaking his head at the way Will presses himself fully up against him. Will can’t stop purring as he nuzzles Hannibal’s collarbone and stubbled jaw, even if his mate is chuckling as he strokes his hands up and down his back, leaving goosebumps in their wake.

‘Are you mocking me, Dr Lecter?’ Will asks, reaching down to cup Hannibal’s balls. He squeezes slightly harder than is comfortable, and Hannibal gasps another laugh at the warning.

‘I wouldn’t dare,’ he replies, proving his point by holding each side of Will’s face and kissing him deeply. He moans into the Omega’s mouth, pushing forwards until Will is lying on his back. The smaller man allows him to settle between his legs, one arm still pinned between them, stroking and tugging the Alpha’s hardening length, the other sliding through his silky blond hair. Hannibal rocks his hips into the touch, sinking into the taste and feel of Will’s mouth, their lips moving and meeting in perfect harmony. They part for air, share a breath, and then kiss again, and Hannibal slides his left hand behind Will’s neck to squeeze his crest. Will arches beneath him, breaking the kiss in a hiss of pleasure, his hips jumping up against Hannibal’s weight.

That, that, oh, that…’ Will forgets to move his hand, forgets to do anything but cling to Hannibal’s shoulder as white pleasure crashes through him. It’s so pure, so clean, so right… He’d been turned on before but this…? God… ‘Hannibal…

He can’t think through it. Can’t breathe through it, and Hannibal is grinning, dark eyes sparkling as he works out exactly how to manipulate the crest to hold Will at the tipping point.

‘What does that feel like?’ he purrs, bracing himself with his right hand so that he can look down into Will’s flushed face, at the parted lips, the glassy, sightless eyes, copper rings flaring bright as he finds just the right point to flood Will’s body with heat hormones. He dips his nose to catch the sweet musk of his mate, rasping his tongue across Will’s jaw and then biting into the tender flesh of his throat, right over his windpipe, growling and shaking his head to prove his dominance over the Omega.

Will can’t help but whimper, his eyes slipping shut and spilling tears down his cheeks as he rolls his head as far back as Hannibal’s hand on his crest will allow. He spreads his legs wide, dropping his hand from Hannibal’s hair to the pillow, shuddering from the shockwaves burning him alive, his brain sparking with a thousand gold lights in the dark.

Please,’ he whispers, because he knows that’s what Hannibal wants to hear, and he’s so close to coming that it’s all he can think about. All he cares about. He just wants a release, something to spill the flood gathered up inside him, to let the tightness flow from his abdomen, his balls, everything

But Hannibal just won’t let him. The Alpha purrs, releasing his throat with a lingering kiss, releasing his neck to grab the hand between them and pin it up next to Will’s head. Will stares at him, begging him with his eyes, and Hannibal’s stomach clenches with excitement at the power he has over the other man.

‘Tell me how it feels,’ he says. He kneels up, wincing at the flare of pain from his thigh wound, and hooks Will’s knees over his elbows. Forces the Omega to curl his body up when he leans over him, nudging and teasing his entrance, humming a low sound of pleasure when hot slick dribbles onto his aching length.

‘Hannibal…’ Will shakes his head, clenching his hands into fists on the pillow. He can’t move them because Hannibal put them there; he’s as good as tied, and he turns his face away, feeling himself blush under his Alpha’s scrutiny.

Hannibal rocks against him, rewarded with a gasp and shudder from Will, who bucks up in a vain attempt to get him to give in, even though he knows him better than that.

‘I can do this all day, Will,’ the Alpha says, and Will groans, shaking his head in frustration. Hannibal chuckles, earning himself a snarl from his Omega, and he begins to kiss and suck at Will’s inner thighs as punishment, blowing cold air over his twitching, swollen length.

Fuck,’ Will gasps, growling at him. He tries to squirm away, to gather his thoughts for a second, but Hannibal is too strong, and he can’t do anything but submit. If it was anyone else, he’d keep fighting, but he doesn’t really want to fight Hannibal, and the moment he decides to give in, to do as he’s told, he can sense Hannibal’s amusement, his anticipation of Will’s description of the pleasure he’s feeling, because Hannibal knows just how to push him, how to build the perfect bond; mind and body.

Will lets himself sink into the current tugging at him, drifting on the waves lapping at his insides. His jaw loosens and, after releasing a slow, shaking breath, he relaxes his hands to show his surrender.

‘It feels warm,’ he says, locking eyes with his Alpha. ‘It feels tight and empty at the same time. Giving in to you feels… comforting… I want to lie back, close my eyes and never think again.’

Hannibal tilts his head. He releases Will’s left leg so that he can reach over him and hold his crest again, lowering his face to his mate’s so that all Will can see is Hannibal, all he can smell is Hannibal; all he knows is Hannibal.

‘And how does that feel?’ the Alpha whispers, running his fingertips up and down the ridges of the crest.

Will shudders, sweat beading on his forehead as his pupils blow wide.

Good,’ he gasps. ‘So good… Hannibal… Alpha- Fuck… Hannibal, please…

‘Are you going to come for me, Will?’ Hannibal murmurs, and Will nods, baring his teeth as his vision explodes with white and his orgasm finally, finally, rips him apart. He cries out, grabbing at Hannibal’s shoulders, yanking him down against him as he spills pearly white across both of their stomachs, sticking them together even as Hannibal lines himself up so that he can enter the Omega’s pulsing body.

‘That’s it,’ Hannibal whispers, releasing Will’s crest to stroke his hair and face as he pushes deep inside him, groaning at the burning hot vice suddenly stroking every inch of his length. His fingers catch the tears falling from Will’s eyes and his own breath falters as he loses his rhythm, his balls jumping up, pleasure crackling along his spine and winding as tight as a spring in his chest. He stills, waiting for the climax to wane enough that he can move again, and purrs when Will whines at his restraint.

‘I know,’ he says, capturing Will’s swollen lips in a bruising kiss, releasing his other knee so that Will can wrap both legs around him and hold him tight, freeing him to slam in and out of the silky smooth body around him. He feels his stab wound tear but he barely notices the pain. He’s close… any moment now…

Will grabs hold of Hannibal’s face, reaching up to kiss him as they match each other move for move. The sound of skin slapping and breath rasping fills his ears. He rolls his hips, squeezing and bearing down as Hannibal begins to come, pulling in as hard as he can so that his body takes the knot as deep as possible. Hannibal grabs him by the back of the neck and they come together, white and gold and red, and Hannibal’s arm goes out from under him as his breath leaves him in a sound of pleasure that Will can feel is so sharp it’s almost pain.

He hugs Hannibal close, so full that he can’t remember how to exist without his Alpha inside him.

‘I’m yours,’ he breathes, stroking Hannibal’s hair as the other man trembles on top of him. He kisses Hannibal’s forehead, his temples, any part of his face he can reach until Hannibal lifts his head and meets his lips with his own, soft and lazy and gentle, enjoying the taste of each other as they bask in the afterglow.

‘And I’m yours,’ Hannibal promises, pressing the words into Will’s mouth. ‘If you’ll have me.’

‘I already do,’ Will whispers, rubbing the pads of his thumbs over the creases in the corners of Hannibal’s eyes.

Hannibal hums, tilting his face into the touch, but he doesn’t want to argue semantics. Will has enough of him, for now. Their bond is strong; a good foundation for the work he needs to do on his mate’s mind. Will can already sense some of his thoughts and emotions, just as Hannibal can sense some of the Omega’s, and that connection will develop over time. Eventually, their shadows will merge, and when that happens… He quivers in anticipation, and Will whimpers at the movement of his knot inside him.

‘Move with me,’ Hannibal says, and he hugs Will close as he kneels up, turning and twisting so that he can sit back against the headboard. It takes a few attempts to shove the pillows up but eventually they settle with Will straddling Hannibal’s lap, still sealed together, both breathing hard from the near-cramping pleasure of the adjustments.

‘Just crush me next time,’ Will teases, resting his burning cheek against Hannibal’s shoulder. He snuggles close, making himself as small as possible so that as much of his skin can touch his Alpha’s, his body radiating enough heat that Hannibal can feel sweat trickle down his spine.

They lie quietly for a while, enjoying the feel of each other, wandering hands stroking and rubbing at pulled muscles and bruised skin. Will’s breath deepens as he drifts off, exhausted from last night’s bonding, but Hannibal fights his own heavy eyelids. He wants to stay awake to appreciate his mate’s vulnerability, his trusting and open face, soft in sleep. He strokes Will’s hair and, as he does so, imagines his fingers coming away red with blood. Imagines it sliding down Will’s face, over his cheeks, staining his lips, gathering in the well of his throat and his navel…

I want to show you who I am… I want you to see me. All of me; will you stand by me?

A pair bond is not infallible; Hannibal knows this, and he hugs Will close, resting his chin on top of the Omega’s head so that every breath fills his nose with his sweet, smoky musk. His mate’s loyalty is still divided; he believes that Jack Crawford and the FBI are there for him; that they are his family.

They will turn on you the moment they suspect the truth about you.

Hannibal kisses Will’s temple because their betrayal will hurt him, and he doesn’t want to cause his mate that much pain, but it is a necessary part of Will accepting who he really is. Shedding the bonds that cage his darkness, just as a snake must shed its own skin to grow.

‘I will do anything to help you,’ Hannibal whispers, pressing his promise into Will’s hair, into his sleeping mind and open heart. ‘Anything.’

***

Five days later, Will is on a frozen beach in Grafton, West Virginia, knocking back a couple of aspirin because his head is pounding and Jack Crawford has already been waiting for him to arrive for over an hour.

It’s bitter cold; everyone is wrapped up in layers of coats, gloves, hats and scarves, their breath steaming the air before their faces.

Ice wraps the totem pole corpses in lace, mottling the decaying skin and setting blood like rubies in the sand. It is equally impressive and grotesque; twenty feet of death circled by seven empty graves.

Will sighs when he sees it, his skull lined with razors and his crest stinging because he’s a long way from Hannibal and even though he’ll be going home to him tonight, it still hurts to be apart from him for more than an hour.

Especially when I’m around another Alpha, Will thinks, keeping a distance between him and Jack.

‘World’s sickest jigsaw puzzle,’ Zeller says, lining his camera up to get good shots of each victim.

‘Yeah, but where are the corners?’ Price replies, and Zeller wrinkles his nose at him.

‘What?’

Jimmy Price gestures to the totem pole with his notepad and pen.

‘My mom always said, “start a jigsaw with the corners”,’ he replies, and Zeller cranes his neck to look up and down the display again.

‘Er… the heads are the corners, I guess?’

‘We got too many corners,’ Beverly says. ‘Seven graves; way too many heads.’

Will circles the totem pole from the other side, scanning each piece of the monument as Jack gets him up to speed.

‘The headpiece appears to be the only recent victim,’ the Alpha says. ‘The others are years, even decades, old.’ He gestures with a leather gloved hand to the empty graves around them. ‘And we know that seven of the bodies were buried out here.’

‘Whoever dug them up knew exactly where they were buried,’ Will says, his lips twisting in distaste as he looks around the beach.

‘I guess it wasn’t enough for him to kill them once; he had to come back and defile his victims,’ Jack growls, but Will shakes his head. He looks up to the top of the totem.

‘These graves weren’t desecrated Jack; they were exposed.’

What am I saying with you?

His shadow licks at his ears, his eyes, his tongue, and Will smells his scent thicken. Over the last few days, Hannibal has taught him how to recognize when the current rises within him; it’s no surprise that Jack straightens up and claps his hands to get everyone’s attention.

‘OK, everybody, let’s go!’ he booms. ‘Let’s clear the scene!’

Nobody argues; they dip their heads in submission and dutifully tramp to the edges of the beach to await the go ahead to return. Will walks some of the way with them, following the trail of something in the air. He stops when it falters, turning back to the beach, to the waves, the current bubbling up inside him.

His crest flares with heat and Will removes his glasses. I don’t need these to see you.

The rims of his irises flare bright gold but he is already closing his eyes. Whispers in the dark, a heartbeat…

I can feel you…

Resonances, sickly sweet, rotten… He’s falling back, slipping into the stream and then…

He’s not himself. He’s not there

He takes a deep breath, cleansing his lungs, and opens his eyes.

It’s dawn. Still dark. The tide is in but it doesn’t come this far up the beach. The pole is half formed already; he’s been working on this all night and his limbs are aching from lifting and strapping the bodies to the trunk.

Will steps closer to his supplies, his cold voice cutting through to the edges of his mind where part of him is waiting. Always waiting.

‘I planned this moment, this monument, with precision. Collected all my raw materials in advance…’ He grabs a torso and heaves it onto the trunk, strapping it down with rope. ‘I position the bodies carefully, according each its rightful place.’

He’s warm now; sweating from the effort of so much heavy lifting. It soaks into his hat, drips down his spine, gathers in the base of his back…

Peace in the pieces disassembled.’

It’s true; he does feel calm. He’s in control here, after all, and his Alpha is waiting for him.

A muffled cry catches his attention. Draws him back to the memory. He looks over at the male Beta, a dumpy, pallid looking man, bound and gagged several feet away.

‘My latest victim, I save for last,’ he croons, returning to the ropes he weaves and ties around iron pipes and broken bones. ‘I want him to watch me work. I want him to know my design.’

And then it’s time.

Mine

He draws closer, hunting knife at the ready. The blade winks in the first grey light of day. Your last…

He kicks the man onto his back and stands over him. Bitter rage courses through him, giving him the strength he needs to finish it. He bares his teeth at the man, at the abomination, and shoves the blade deep into his chest, splitting the bone and piercing his heart.

The dying is slow, and painful, but eventually the light fades from his eyes. Will gets up, looking down at his victory, watching the blood seep into the sand around the cooling corpse.

Now, for the finishing touches.

He breaks the body. Manipulates it. Folds it in half to create the top of the totem pole. Hours and hours of work today; years of preparation…

‘This is my resume,’ he purrs, looking up at everything he has created. ‘This is my body of work. This is my legacy.’

He stares up at the totem, at his success, and his breath ripples the air in front of him. Heat spirals out from his belly, singing in his veins, and slick dribbles down his thighs even as boiling blood drips onto his cheek…

He’s safe.

Will blinks once, twice, frowning when he realizes he’s no longer on a frozen beach in West Virginia. He’s…

He looks around; he’s in Hannibal’s waiting room…

What the fuck?

How did he get here? What…?

He hears the door open behind him and turns. Hannibal is on his way out of the office, pulling on his coat at the end of the day, but he pulls up short at the sight of him.

‘Will; I wasn’t expecting you.’

Will’s throat catches around a whimper. He can’t catch his breath; he can’t stop shaking. He feels weak; his clothes are sticking to his clammy skin and his ears are ringing. Panic claws at his insides, making his heart throw itself against his ribs.

‘Come in,’ Hannibal says, reaching for his mate’s hand to comfort him as Will stumbles forwards. But Will shrugs him off because he needs to move; he wrenches his hat and gloves off, throws them on the couch and then strides to the other side of the room.

‘I don’t know how I got here,’ he says, his voice catching in something dangerously close to a sob.

Hannibal ignores the tightness in his own chest and merely removes his coat, pitching his voice to be low and comforting as his mate works through his fear.

‘Your car is outside, so we know you drove,’ he says.

‘I… I was on a beach in Grafton, West Virginia, I blinked and then… then I was waking up in your waiting room, except I wasn’t asleep!’ His throat slams shut and Will claws at his hair, trying to dig out the terror buzzing around his skull.

This can’t be happening… This can’t be happening… Please say this isn’t happening….

‘Grafton, West Virginia, is three and a half hours from here,’ Hannibal muses, folding his coat over the back of his desk chair. ‘You lost time.’

You were in prodrome, Will. If you weren’t on scent suppressants, you most likely would have started a mass rut.

‘There is something wrong with me,’ Will whispers, clenching his hands in and out of fists, moving back and forth, back and forth, his eyes darting around the room as if he’s locked in.

Hannibal considers him. Considers the fractures he is creating; widening until Will’s concept of reality snaps.

I will do anything to help you.

‘You’re disassociating, Will,’ he lies. ‘It’s a desperate survival mechanism for a psyche that endures repeated abuse.’ He follows Will as his mate tries to walk away from what he’s saying.

Will throws up a hand to ward off his Alpha’s words.

‘No, no, I’m not abused!’ he cries.

‘You have an empathy disorder, not a biological one,’ Hannibal insists, stalking after him, crowding him so that Will has no choice but to listen, to hear and accept what he is telling him. ‘What you feel is overwhelming you.’

‘I know, I know, I know,’ Will mutters, shaking his hands at his sides, his pacing now limited to in front of the couch.

‘Yet you choose to ignore it,’ Hannibal says, playing on Will’s sense of guilt. ‘That’s the abuse I’m referring to.’

Will scrubs his face and then glares at Hannibal with red-rimmed eyes.

‘What? Do you want me to quit?’

‘Jack Crawford gave you a chance to quit and you didn’t take it,’ Hannibal replies. ‘Why?’

‘Um…’ Will tries to control his breathing but it’s erratic; he feels like he’s drowning, fighting for air that’s too thin to support him. ‘I save lives,’ he gasps.

‘And that feels good?’ Hannibal asks, raising an eyebrow at him.

‘Generally speaking; yeah,’ Will replies, trying to walk some feeling back into his numb legs.

‘What about your life?’ Hannibal asks, and that gets Will’s attention. The Omega turns, frowning at him.

‘Huh?’

Hannibal holds himself very tall and still, lifting his chin so that he’s looking down his nose at the Omega. A dominant stance, radiating power and authority.

‘I’m your mate, Will,’ he says, and he knows he has Will’s undivided attention when he continues, ‘I don’t care about the lives you save. I care about your life, and your life is separating from reality.’

The position, the tone, even the flicker of red he allowed in his eyes; they have the desired effect and Will sinks to the couch, dropping his face into his hands in defeat of his mate’s argument. He can’t fight Hannibal; all he can do is ask for help.

I will do anything for you, Will…

Will tries to control the sickness churning in his gut. Slides his hands across his stubble and stares, sightless, across the room.

‘I’ve been sleepwalking…’ He swallows bile. ‘I’m experiencing hallucinations… Maybe I should get a brain scan.’

‘Will!’ Hannibal sharpens his tone and watches his Omega flinch at the reprimand. He moves around his desk, allowing his scent to flow through the air and settle on Will’s skin, encouraging him to accept him. ‘Stop looking in the wrong corner for the answer to this.’

Will huffs a sigh and sits back, wiping sweaty palms on the thighs of his jeans. Hannibal comes to a stop close by and looks down at him, withholding physical contact so that Will’s fear continues to feed the thoughts he is planting in the Omega’s mind.

‘You were at the crime scene when you disassociated,’ he says. ‘Tell me about it.’

Will grimaces but he answers his Alpha without hesitation.

‘It was a totem pole of bodies.’

Hannibal considers this, his hands in his pockets to keep himself from hugging his Omega. He adopts an air of relaxed, casual conversation to soothe his mate; Will can always find the calm he seeks when he embraces his darkness. When he thinks about killing.

‘In some cultures, crimes and guilt are made manifest so that everyone can see them, and see their shame,’ he suggests, and Will shakes his head, drawn in so that his shadow can feed him the answers.

‘No; this isn’t shame, this is celebration; he’s marking his achievements.’

Hannibal sighs, making sure not to look into Will’s desperate, pleading gaze.

‘And, faced with this killer’s achievements, your mind needed to escape and you lost time,’ he says sadly. And then he waits, just for a moment, for the inevitable.

For Will’s shoulders to sink and for him to nod because Hannibal is his Alpha, his mate, and Will trusts him, completely.

‘Yes,’ Will whispers, the fine hairs rising on the back of his neck as he finally admits it.

Hannibal is quiet for a moment, still turned away, still denying Will comfort. Flayed alive in order to live. This is, after all, only the beginning of the descent. It will be worse for Will, yet; Hannibal has to stay strong for him.

‘I’m worried about you, Will,’ he says. Another layer of doubt. Another seed of confusion. ‘You empathize so completely with the killers Jack Crawford has your mind wrapped around that you lose yourself to them.’ He looks down at his silent Omega, at the pale and pinched face of his mate, and tilts his head. ‘What if you lose time and hurt yourself? Or someone else?’ He waits for Will to blink and look up at him, waits to see his shadow lurking behind wide, blue eyes, and then puts the last piece in place. ‘I don’t want you to wake up and see a totem of your own making.’

And Will trembles, because he believes it’s a possibility. He believes his Alpha, believes that Hannibal would never lie to him in such a way, and Hannibal mourns the fact that he has to do this to help him. That he has planned much worse.

‘Let me take you home,’ he says gently, finally offering Will his hand. Will grabs on tight and holds it to his face for just a moment, tears slipping down his cheeks when he closes his eyes.

‘I’m sorry,’ he whispers, pressing a kiss to Hannibal’s knuckles. ‘I’m sorry.’

Never be sorry, Will,’ Hannibal replies, his heart skipping a beat at the guilt in his mate’s voice. Guilt that shouldn’t be there. Fear, certainly, but not guilt.

He pulls the Omega to his feet and wraps him in his arms. Cradles Will’s head to his shoulder, rubbing his nose back and forth over his brown curls, soaking up the smell of salt and death and Will; sweet, smoky musk and tangy slick.

Mine.

‘I don’t want to be alone tonight,’ Will mutters. He can’t lift his face to look at Hannibal; he’s not sure he’d survive the rejection if Hannibal wants him to try sleeping by himself again, and he half-sobs with relief when he feels his Alpha nod.

‘Of course,’ Hannibal says, though he makes no move to pull away. ‘I’m here for you, Will.’

‘I know,’ Will sniffs. He forces himself to step away from the taller man, from his warmth and comfort, and scrubs his face again. ‘Can we… I mean… You were on your way out when I got here, right?’

‘We can go now, yes,’ Hannibal replies, and Will manages a tiny, crooked smile of thanks. The Alpha returns to his desk and gathers up his coat, watching carefully as Will picks up his hat and gloves and shoves them into his pockets before waiting by the door. Hannibal goes first, and leads the way outside to the car, even holding open the Bentley door for him, surprised when the Omega doesn’t resist.

He reaches over and places a hand on Will’s knee during the drive out to Wolf Trap; his mate is subdued; his shoulders hunched and head lowered, still except for the occasional tremble. Hannibal can sense enough to know that Will is buried in a sea of doubt and misery, and he chooses a suitably somber lament from the opera Dido and Aeneas to fill the silence, leaving Will to his thoughts.

The dogs bound out into the snow to greet them when they arrive, and Hannibal is pleased that Will cheers a little to see them. His Omega drops to his knees on the porch to greet them, one by one, as they return from exploring the yard. Hannibal offers one a pat on the head, but his attention is on his mate, and the dogs quickly lose interest in him, which is perfectly fine by him because he has no particular interest in them, other than their positive impact on Will.

He waits inside, removing his coat and draping it over the back of an armchair, followed by his suit jacket with the cufflinks stored safely in the pockets so that he can roll up his sleeves, ready to cook. Switches the lamps on as he walks towards the kitchen, and Will takes the increasing light as a cue to follow.

‘Come on, everybody,’ he calls, beckoning the dogs to him and stamping snow from his boots. He closes the door and meanders towards the kitchen, looking up at Hannibal from under his brows as he hovers in the doorway, adorably uncertain even in his own home. Hannibal smiles and reaches for him, drawing him in for a slow kiss as he pushes Will’s coat from his shoulders.

‘I don’t have much food in,’ Will apologizes, his stomach twisting with embarrassment at the idea of Hannibal trying to salvage something, anything, from his cupboards. They normally cook at the Alpha’s house and bring meals with them to Will’s; he has meat for the dogs but his human supplies are pitifully limited.

‘I have every confidence that I will find something to use,’ Hannibal assures him, and Will sniffs a laugh before resting his forehead against his Alpha’s shoulder because he’s very tired and really, all he wants to do is try to sleep. But he can’t; he asked Hannibal to come over, so he should at least try to pay attention to him. He jumps when Hannibal cups him under the chin, forcing him to lift his head and look at him.

‘Will, we’re bonded; this isn’t a date,’ Hannibal murmurs. ‘Sleep if you need to. I can take care of myself.’

Will’s heart skips a beat and he has a moment of uncertainty before he feels a warm rush of appreciation for his Alpha for knowing what he’s feeling.

‘Still not used to this emotional connection,’ he mutters. He sinks into one of the dining chairs, his elbows on the table, head in his hands. Groans when Hannibal comes up behind him and begins to massage his tight shoulders, dipping forwards and baring his crest for his mate when Hannibal encourages him down. Silence falls between them again, and Will listens to the house breathing around them; the creak of wood shifting, the click of the boiler and the trickle of water in the bathroom…

He realizes his eyes are starting to slip shut and clears his throat.

‘Mmm… You’re really good at that,’ he mumbles. ‘But you should stop…’

‘Why?’ Hannibal asks, digging his thumbs into a particularly stubborn knot between Will’s shoulder blades and eliciting a wincing groan from the other man. ‘You’re enjoying yourself, and I want to make you feel good.’

‘I didn’t peg you for being altruistic, Dr Lecter,’ Will teases, and Hannibal leans down so that his breath ghosts over the ridges of Will’s crest, barely an inch from touching. He purrs when Will shudders, the Omega’s scent suddenly thickening, and brings his hands closer and closer to Will’s neck, teasing at the very edges of the crest…

‘Very observant of you,’ Hannibal murmurs, placing a chaste kiss to the soft skin just beneath Will’s ear. ‘The better you feel, the better you smell and the better you taste,’ he explains. ‘I want to taste you, Will; therefore, I want you to feel good.’

‘Don’t want me wallowing in self-pity,’ Will says, and Hannibal hugs him from behind, pressing his cheek against Will’s cheek.

‘I want you to look after yourself,’ he whispers, linking his fingers with Will’s and holding their joined hands over Will’s heart. ‘I want you to see your darkness as a strength; to use it.’ He turns his head and, before Will can argue with him, catches his lips with his own, kissing him again and again until the Omega stops resisting him and simply sits, held tight and safe by his Alpha.

I can’t give in to the darkness, Dr LecterIt’s too dangerous.

Will knows what he wants to say, but he’s drowning in the taste and feel of Hannibal. Heat pools between his legs, crackling up his spine to throb in time with his pulse in his crest. He can’t help but purr as Hannibal nibbles along his jawline, and he tips his head back to bare his throat in surrender as Hannibal wraps one hand around his neck in a choke hold, staring up into burgundy eyes as Hannibal speaks down to him.

‘When we lose everything we care about, we find out who we truly are. Do you know who you are, Will?’

The words cut deep, and Will shivers. He swallows, trying to find his voice, feeling the pressure against Hannibal’s palm. Reaches back up over his head when his Alpha leans down to kiss him again, stroking through Hannibal’s silky hair, making it fall forwards onto his forehead.

You’re going to help me find out, he thinks, his shadow coiling through his ribs to settle, warm and comforting, in his heart. This is your design.

Hannibal pulls back from Will’s mouth, testing the heat rippling his breath. He’s close to another prodrome… Will whines, calling him back, and Hannibal purrs to comfort him. He straightens up, placing his hands back onto his mate’s shoulders, manipulating the pressure points around his neck to ensure compliance before he squeezes the crest tight, flooding Will’s body with dopamine.

The Omega falls forwards but Hannibal catches him with an arm around his chest, hugging him back as he continues to manipulate him. He can smell the changes in Will’s scent; the heat hormones sweetening it to the point of syrup. Then, when Will is ready, he leans down to whisper into his ear,

‘You fell asleep as soon as we got home.’

‘I fell asleep?’ Will mumbles, listing to the side in a feeble attempt to be closer to his Alpha. Hannibal nuzzles his cheek and Will purrs, wishing he could move his hands to hold him, to do more than just rest, palms up, on the table, but he can’t, because he’s not in control of his body anymore.

‘Tell me what you remember,’ Hannibal murmurs, pinching the middle ridge and then rubbing up and down the crest as Will shudders. His Omega is sweating now, his skin flushing pink as the copper in his eyes thickens to a band of gold. Hannibal can smell the slick pouring out of him and he licks his lips in anticipation of the taste. ‘Tell me, Will.’

‘I… fell asleep,’ Will manages, his head drooping when Hannibal releases him. He can’t… He’s not even…

Is he drunk? Drugged? He whimpers, calling for his Alpha.

‘Hannibal…?’

‘I’m here,’ Hannibal breathes. He pulls Will to his feet and holds him close. ‘I’ve got you.’

‘You’ve got me,’ Will repeats, reaching up to kiss his Alpha, scrabbling to undo his shirt buttons so that Hannibal can get to his body. ‘You’ve got me… I’m yours.’

Hannibal holds each side of Will’s face, kissing him hungrily, and turns his back on his reflection in the window.

This is for Will’s own good. He made him a promise, and he always keeps his promises.

I will break you, and I will save you.

***

When Will wakes the next morning, it takes him a while to recognize where he is, because he’s so used to spending the night in Hannibal’s Baltimore house. The muted walls and big windows allowing light to stream into the house and create the illusion of being part of the surrounding countryside; a fishbowl in the wilderness, and he smiles, blue eyes drifting to the dog beds scattered around the floor in front of the stone fireplace, each with a sleeping animal curled up inside…

I’m home.

His smile widens when he feels an arm around his chest and breath on his ear, and Will turns so that he can watch his mate sleep. Hannibal is lying on his side, the covers halfway down his body, one arm supporting the thin pillow under his head. He looks so peaceful, cast in the golden light of early morning sunshine. His sandy hair is a mess, making him look younger despite the grey in it. His shoulders rise and fall slowly with deep breaths, and his scent is a sweet, rich musk, laced with sweat and sex. He looks gentle, vulnerable, and Will's chest tightens around his swelling heart.

I love you.    

He must have done something to disturb Hannibal, though, because his Alpha's lips curl into a smile and he opens his eyes, looking right at him. Will can't help but smile back, and he leans in to give Hannibal a long, slow kiss.

'Good morning,' Hannibal murmurs, stroking his jaw. 'How do you feel?'

Will shifts closer, nuzzling his Alpha's collarbone. Hannibal rolls onto his back, pulling Will with him so that the smaller man can lay his head on his chest, a leg draped between Hannibal's, bare flesh warm against the other, leg hairs rasping together, ankles crossed to hold each other close.

Considering the question, Will’s sense of peace is shattered and he frowns, chewing his lower lip. How does he feel? He fell asleep as soon as they got home last night, and he must have been really out of it afterwards because he can feel that they had sex, but it’s foggy, like a dream…

‘Will?’

Hannibal’s prompt makes him sigh, and Will buries his face in his Alpha’s chest hair.

‘Um… I need to check in with Jack,’ he mutters. ‘See if he’s angry with me for leaving the crime scene the way I did.’

Hannibal twines his left hand with Will’s right, brushing his fingers back and forth over Will’s knuckles and palm. He doesn’t want Will to tell Jack Crawford his concerns; he spent a good part of last night convincing him not to trust the other Alpha, but nerves still crawl in his stomach because he can only influence his Omega to a certain extent.

‘What will you say to him?’ he asks quietly, eliciting a sigh from the smaller man.

‘I don’t know… I’ll figure something out…’ Will mumbles, watching Hannibal play with his fingers. ‘Not the truth… Not yet…’

Hannibal hums, bringing Will’s hand up to his mouth and kissing it as a reward for accepting the persuasion. He notes the way that Will snuggles closer, seeking comfort from his Alpha because Hannibal has made himself his safe place, and he smiles.

‘I love waking up with you,’ he murmurs, looking down as Will glances up. He kisses him again, slowly deepening it until Will whimpers and tries to pull him on top of him. Hannibal chuckles but holds himself up, refusing to be manhandled, reminding Will who is the stronger of them, and Will gives up with a huff.

‘You should eat before you go,’ Hannibal says, dropping a kiss to Will’s forehead when his mate whines a complaint. He gets up before Will can argue and walks, naked, towards the kitchen, snapping his fingers for the dogs to follow him so that he can let them out.

Will can't help but gaze after him, chewing his lip with pleasure at how broad Hannibal's shoulders are, enjoying the view of his toned back and dimpled ass cheeks. Mine, he thinks, burrowing his face into Hannibal’s pillow to savor his scent for a while longer. And I’m yours.

He blushes when Hannibal turns in the doorway and catches him staring. Fucking Alpha senses...

'Shower, dress and then eat,' Hannibal says, smirking at him. ‘You can take your suppressants with breakfast.’

Will sniffs a laugh and looks away, nodding. Forces himself to get up and pads into the bathroom, resting back against the door as he waits for the water to warm up. Heat curls in his chest and he smiles at Hannibal’s casual acceptance of his continued use of heat suppressants, even though they’re bonded. He’s done it; he’s found an Alpha willing to trust him with his own body, who doesn’t just want him for the children he can bear…

He doesn’t want to wash Hannibal’s seed and scent off him, but he’s not ready to tell anyone at work about their relationship yet. His darkness rages at it, hissing its displeasure as Will scrubs himself clean using his scent-deadening shampoo and Beta-pheromone body wash, but it's necessary.

For now.

By the time he emerges from the bathroom, his hair dripping and a small towel low on his hips because he hasn’t done the laundry in days, Will can smell bacon and coffee. His stomach rumbles, reminding him that he hasn't eaten since… when? He can’t even remember…

I fell asleep…

Will rubs at his cheeks. He and Hannibal had pretty rough sex last night – he has the handprints to prove it – but he doesn’t really remember it… That’s not right, is it…?

I trust Hannibal.

Will cuts off the doubt before it can creep into his mind. He trusts his Alpha. His mate. He’s just looking for the wrong things to worry about when he should be focusing on the fact that he lost time, that he dissociated at a crime scene. After all, what would Hannibal do to him? What could he do? He’s his Alpha; he protects him.

He knows me better than I know myself.

Will slams the shutters down on his wandering thoughts and hurries to get dressed. Plaid shirt and thick cotton trousers in dark, practical colors, slightly too big for his body to bulk him out.

He looks up from pulling on socks as Hannibal emerges, still naked, carrying two plates of bacon and eggs to the table. His Alpha sets them down and then slides a hand over his hard abdomen, grinning when he sees Will’s blush and growing hardness.  

Hungry, Will?' Hannibal teases, feigning innocence with his words. Will pulls a face at him and hurries over, rubbing up against his mate and kissing him, sucking Hannibal’s lower lip into his mouth and nipping it before he lets go. He lets his hands wander down his Alpha’s stomach and over his hips, eager to stroke him, touch him, pull him inside his body, but Hannibal takes him by the wrists and holds him off.

'You’re a tease, Dr Lecter,' Will growls, and Hannibal winks before leaving him and taking his seat by the window.

‘Eat,’ the Alpha says, gesturing to the plate of steaming food. ‘We both have a busy day ahead of us.’

Will huffs but he knows that steely glint in Hannibal’s eye – he won’t get anywhere by flirting, so he sinks into his chair and then notices how nice the table looks. Hannibal’s set it with cutlery, cups of coffee and glasses of orange juice, and Will’s belly flutters. Being hosted in the Alpha’s house is one thing, but this level of care in his ramshackle little place…

'Thank you,' he mumbles, stabbing at the eggs. 'This is...' His throat tightens and he can't finish, so he just shoves food into his mouth to show his appreciation.

Hannibal reaches over and squeezes his hand, making Will pause and take a shaking breath.

‘I will always take care of you,’ the Alpha murmurs, and he shakes two tablets from the bottle marked “Estrous Blocker” to prove it. Hands them to Will, who knocks them back with a gulp of juice and nods his appreciation before returning to his food.

Hannibal watches as Will takes his scent suppressants, hiding his disappointment at how bland his mate will continue to smell. A necessary part of the subterfuge, though, one that will allow Will to keep working for the FBI. And, after his heat, Hannibal can reduce his dose to allow a hint of his natural sweetness to seep through. When they’re not at work, of course, he can refuse to allow Will to wear his Beta spray, and soak up his mate’s sugary musk all he likes.

Will is clearly starving, and he clears his plate long before Hannibal has finished. He’s thrumming with tension, his blue eyes darting to the windows and front door, jumping at every sound. It’s clear that he doesn’t want to go to work, to face the world and the pain within it, but he knows he has to.

So strong…

‘I want you to sleep at my house tonight,’ Hannibal murmurs, setting his knife and fork down on his plate when he’s finished. Will jumps up and collects the dirty crockery, eager to have something to do beyond tapping his cup and bouncing his knee, and Hannibal follows him into the kitchen, standing in the doorway and watching as the Omega tidies up.

A high amount of energy and increased appetite are both good signs that his heat is due shortly; another week, two at most and it will hit.

‘I have an early client last thing this afternoon,’ Hannibal continues. ‘I’ll come by and walk the dogs, feed them… You can drive to mine straight from work.’

Will hums and nods, refusing to look at him. If he does, he’ll never let him go...

He blinks, clenching his back teeth. Whines when Hannibal sets his cup on the side and stands behind him, wrapping him in his arms and pulling him back against his bare chest. Will drops his head forwards, displaying his crest, and shudders when Hannibal drops a feather-light kiss to the burning ridges.

Don't... Please don't leave me…

'I'll drive you to your car,' Hannibal says softly, leaning around to kiss Will's cheek, stroking his jaw, his throat, his shoulders, sliding his hands down Will’s back before pulling away. 'It's okay; just let go.'

Will shivers and nods. He’s hard, his ass cheeks damp with slick and his balls hot and heavy. All he wants to do is tear his clothes off and pull Hannibal inside him, make him fuck him and fill him and bite him…

But his Alpha is walking away, returning to the bed to get dressed, and Will is alone, emptiness hurting him as he stares at his shaking hands.

‘Hannibal…?’

Hannibal pauses, halfway through doing up his cufflinks, and smiles.

‘Is something the matter, Will?’ he asks, keeping his voice deliberately light and soothing. He counts to three and then turns, seeing Will near the dresser, blue eyes locked onto him, the edges of his irises burning bright gold. Hannibal tilts his head and holds out his hand, purring when Will all but throws himself into his arms, kissing his Alpha’s jaw, his chin, his throat, any part of him that he can reach.

Please,’ Will whispers, hot, desperate hands scrabbling at Hannibal’s shirt buttons. He growls when Hannibal pushes him off, but he stills when his Alpha holds him by the throat and presses a hand to his forehead, checking his temperature. He quivers, locked in place, muscles still jumping with the need to mate, to be touching Hannibal, and he whimpers softly.

‘Stay,’ Hannibal says, and he steps back, watching as Will follows him with his eyes, tears welling up and rolling down flushed cheeks when Hannibal leaves him to move towards the front door. Will whines, keening for his mate, and Hannibal smiles before dipping his hand into the inside pocket of Will’s coat to withdraw the Iris Inhibitor drops. When he returns, he pulls Will’s hands around his hips to comfort the trembling Omega, and kisses his mate’s forehead as a reward for obeying him. ‘Very good, Will. Now, look up.’

Will tilts his head back and opens his eyes wide, staring at the ceiling. Although he flinches at the drops going in, he doesn’t blink, and Hannibal watches as the gold fades to a dull copper. He purrs and Will smiles, squeezing Hannibal’s hips because he’s happy to have pleased his Alpha.

‘Come back to me,’ Hannibal murmurs, setting the drops aside before wrapping Will in his arms. He hugs him close, burying his nose in Will’s Beta-scented curls and concentrating to catch the faintest hint of his Omega musk beneath. ‘Come back to me, Will.’

Will blinks and looks around, his shoulders tensing up when he realizes he’s no longer sat at the dining table. He holds Hannibal tight, choking down the stupid, weak sound of fear he wants to make, and sniffs, rubbing his stinging eyes as he steps back from his Alpha.

‘Did… did it happen again?’ he mumbles, looking around for a clue as to how long he was disassociating this time.

‘Only for a moment,’ Hannibal lies, reaching down to zip up his trousers. ‘You mentioned the case and then you were gone.’

Will sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. He nods, feeling sick, and ducks his head.

‘I might have to tell Jack,’ he mutters, and Hannibal pauses midway through buttoning up his waistcoat.

‘What effect do you think this knowledge will have on him?’ he asks carefully, glancing at Will from the corner of his eye. His Omega hesitates, shifting from foot to foot, tapping his fingers against his thigh. Five beats, a pause… again.

‘I… I don’t know…’ Will shakes his head and rakes his nails through his hair. His temples are throbbing with pain. ‘I just…’ He huffs. ‘You’re right; maybe I should wait…’

‘If your mental health continues to decline, you might have no choice but to tell him,’ Hannibal says, stating it in a matter-of-fact way that will make Will trust the argument. ‘In the meantime, I want you to focus on taking better care of yourself, Will. As your Alpha, I insist.’

Will snorts and gives him a hard look from under furrowed brows. Hannibal holds the gaze, firm and steady, and the Omega is the first to relent. Will sighs again and picks up his cell phone and ID badge from the side table, striding to the hooks by the door and shrugging into his coat.

‘We have to go,’ he says, pausing at the door and then frowning. 'Where's my car?'

'Still at my office,' Hannibal replies, knotting his tie as he speaks. 'I'll drive you.'

Will nods, and waits outside with the dogs as Hannibal finishes dressing, before locking them back inside and checking the cash for the dog sitter, following his Alpha to the Bentley.

The drive to the office is quiet. For once, Will appreciates the Bach that plays in the background, filling his awkward silence with haunting notes. Hannibal gives him his space, just like always, and, when they pull into the space beside the scruffy silver car, Will leans over to give him a firm kiss. 

'Thank you.' He squeezes Hannibal's hand and brushes his lips one last time over his cheek. 'I'll see you later.'

‘Have a good day, Will,’ Hannibal replies, and Will doesn’t hide the fact that he’s rolling his eyes at how unlikely that is to happen.

Watching him drive away, as angrily determined as ever, Hannibal smiles to himself. Will trusts him to go home later, to feed and walk his dogs, to pack a bag of clothes for tomorrow and bring his suppressants with him… To care for him.

And I am caring for you, Hannibal thinks, heading back to his own house to shower and change. Just not in quite the way you expect.

***

Will knocks quickly at Jack’s office door before entering, checking that he’s alone. Jack glances up with a ‘hey’ and then returns to the report he’s reading, not bothering to watch as Will approaches.

There’s a degree of sheepishness that he can’t hide, and Will ducks his head, rubbing his tingling fingertips against sweaty palms as he looks down at his boss.

‘Um, I’m sorry about yesterday,’ he says, waiting for Jack’s calm to explode into bellowing rage.

But Jack merely frowns up at him, jotting down a note ahead of his ten o’clock meeting, and replies,

‘Sorry about what?’

Is this a joke? Will hesitates. Tries to find the right way to word it.

‘I… I wasn’t feeling like myself.’

Jack looks bemused, and he stops writing for a moment to offer Will a puzzled smile.

‘Well, not feeling like yourself; that’s kind of what you do, isn’t it?’

‘I suppose so…’ Will huffs a laugh, and Jack smiles. Nods. Job done.

‘Yeah, okay then.’

But it’s not okay, and Will’s forehead creases with worry.

‘So… I seemed fine to you?’

Jack looks up at him and bares his teeth in a half-smile, but there’s a dangerous glint to his eyes.

‘Is there something you wanna tell me?’ he asks softly. A warning. Fear claws at Will’s throat and he quickly shakes his head, lowering his eyes in submission.

‘Er, no, no…’

Jack’s nostrils flare.

‘Well, clearly there’s something that you don’t wanna tell me,’ he says, and Will’s heart starts beating very hard and fast behind his ribs at the rasp of a growl in his voice.

‘I… I guess I just got a little lost yesterday, is all,’ he mumbles, but Jack doesn’t seem to buy it. The Alpha clasps his hands before him, dark eyes fixed on Will’s face, burning him with his undivided attention.

‘And where are you today?’ he asks.

Will swallows. Where is he today? He shrugs and offers Jack a grimacing smile.

‘It got to me,’ he admits. ‘All those bodies got to me, and… and I thought it was a little more obvious than… than it was.’ He sighs. Shakes his head.

You really don’t see me at all, do you, Jack?

Jack considers him for a moment and then sighs heavily. He’s annoyed.

‘If there’s a problem, you need to tell me,’ he says, and his tone rakes across Will’s crest, making him shudder even as he nods to show that he understands. Jack raises his eyebrows. ‘Is there a problem, Will?’

What effect do you think telling Jack will have?

Hannibal’s question, innocently curious, echoes in Will’s mind. He can’t tell him; he can’t trust him…

You don’t know me, Jack. You don’t see me the way Hannibal does.

He forces himself to smile, even though he knows it looks pained.

‘Everything’s fine,’ he lies, and he watches the spark of interest, the glint of warning, fade from Jack’s burgundy-ringed eyes.

‘Alright,’ the Alpha says, his tone very final.

Don’t complain again.

He hasn’t heard the thought from Jack, but Will can feel it. He’s sure of it, and he nods, ducking his head to show that he’s fine, everything’s fine, he’s not causing any more trouble, and then he leaves the office before he can annoy the Alpha again.

He heads down to the forensics department but the smell of death and the razor sharp feel of pain, of suffering, makes him pause in the lab doorway. Will stops and takes a deep breath, surrounded by decaying corpses and photographs of the totem pole. The air is heavy with residual energy, black and bitter like tar, stinging his skin and burning his lungs. He feels sweat bead on his forehead and his crest prickles.

Hannibal…

Squaring his shoulders, Will grits his teeth and squashes the urge to turn tail and call for his Alpha. Strides up to the autopsy table in the middle of the room, where Katz, Price and Zeller are gathered around the most recent victim.

‘How many bodies?’

‘We got seventeen in total,’ Price replies, and he steps up to the table to pull back the plastic covering. ‘Meet our freshest one; Joel Summers. Forty years old, runs a cell phone store in Knoxville, Tennessee.’ He grimaces. ‘Or did. Been missing for three days.’

‘Single stab wound to the heart,’ Zeller says, gesturing to the discolored chest. ‘Other injuries were post-mortem. Broken bones, dislocated hips, shoulders…’

Will nods, listening to his shadow whispering as it rides the current around the room, picking up the thick, rotten smell of satisfaction.

‘He was special to him somehow,’ he says. ‘He held a place of honor.’

‘Seven bodies from unmarked graves found at the crime scene,’ Price says, drawing half his interest again. ‘Earth from the body parts matches the grave sites.’

Will nods; that’s expected.

‘Blunt force trauma, stabbing, strangulation… Wrongful deaths,’ Zeller adds.

‘There are at least eight other bodies that are recent grave robbings from all across West Virginia,’ Beverly says. ‘No crimes attributed to any of them; accidental deaths.’

The shadow swells, rasping and gurgling… A laugh.

You’ll never see me, until I want you to… This is my design…

Will shakes his head.

‘They’re all murders,’ he says, and then he turns and walks away because there’s nothing more he can do here. Yet.

***

‘Anthony Lamb, 28. Fatal car wreck, 1986. Francesca Bourdain, 42. Suicide, pills, 1994. Adrian Packham, 60, massive coronary, 2001. Peter McGee, 25, carbon monoxide poisoning in his home, 2006. And seven, as-yet-unidentified bodies buried on a beach.’

Will clicks through the slides as he speaks, showing images of the known Totem Pole victims and then the graves from Grafton. Walks around his desk, his voice ringing out in the dark lecture theatre to the faces of the FBI students around him. He comes to a stop in front of the desk and leans back against it, his collar damp with sweat. It’s warm in the building today; no doubt the efforts of some overzealous janitor tired of people complaining.

‘Every death is different,’ he says. ‘Made to look like something else. No sadism, no torture… The method of these murders was less important to the killer than the simple fact that these people die.’ Click. Another slide. The top of the Totem. Will turns to look up at it.

‘Joel Summers. Killed with a single stab to the heart.’

Click. The full Totem. He turns back to address the class again.

‘Presented with great ostentation, atop a display of all the previous victims.’

Fervor lights up Will’s eyes and he leans forwards. He needs them to know. To understand.

‘This killer’s design was to remain unnoticed. A ghost. That is what excited him.’ He gestures back to the Pole and shrugs. ‘Until now.’

His shadow purrs, twining around his legs and sliding up, tickling his back, licking across the tender ridges of his crest until liquid fire pools in his belly.

‘Why is he coming out into the light?’ Will asks softly, but before anyone can raise their hand to answer, the screen goes black and Alana’s voice cuts through the silent hall.

‘Will?’

The Beta hesitates in the doorway.

‘I don’t wanna interrupt if you’re rehearsing or…’ She looks around the empty classroom, worry clouding her blue eyes.

Will blinks, coming back to himself… Realizes, with a sick feeling, that he’s alone…

That he’s hallucinating… Again…

Fuck.

Panic swarms him. Drowns him. Makes him dizzy. All he wants to do is crawl under his desk and hide until Hannibal come get him, but he can’t do that… His Alpha told him to be strong, to accept the disassociations as his mind’s coping mechanisms…

He just needs to take better care of himself…

I’m stronger than this…

Sweat rolls down his neck. Will swallows, gulping air, and beckons Alana closer. Don’t tell her. Don’t let her see.

‘No, no, no, it’s okay, it’s okay,’ he manages, watching as the Beta slowly approaches.

‘Very moody in here,’ she says softly, and Will grimaces, offering her a tiny half-shrug.

‘Well, that’s me all over,’ he quips, but his voice is weak and he doesn’t sound remotely convincing. He snorts a bitter laugh and rubs at his clammy forehead. ‘Come on in.’

He pulls his glasses off and realizes his hands are shaking. His stomach clenches up and heat flares in the nape of his neck. You smell like roses and you taste like caramel… Like someone safe… I’ve wanted you for years…

He sniffs. It’s really warm in here… God, his shirt is clinging to his back and even his thighs are sweating.

‘I, er, promise I won’t try to kiss you again,’ he teases, and Alana smiles. It fades when he can’t help but add, ‘Unless you’ve stopped taking your own advice?’

‘A doctor who treats herself has a fool for a patient,’ Alana says. She’s standing a safe distance from him, still nervous, her cheeks flushed pink because Will smells good… He’s not wearing his Beta spray and his natural scent is sweet and smoky, laced with vanilla and cedarwood… That’s new, but it suits him. He smells achingly delicious.

Will nods, but he doesn’t push it, and Alana ducks her head.

‘I regretted leaving your house the other night,’ she confesses. Will looks down. Frowns.

‘“Regretted?”’ He sets his glasses down on the desk beside him. ‘Implying that you’re no longer regretting… Or are you still in a state of regret?’

‘I’m crisscrossing the state line,’ Alana replies, and Will tilts his head.

‘What side of the line are you on now?’ he asks. Alana blushes and chews her lip, but she steps right up to him and replies,

‘I’ve got one foot firmly planted on both sides.’

Heat crackles through him and Will’s crest throbs. His chest tightens and he feels like he’s been punched in the gut.

Hannibal

He frowns, blinking because his eyes are stinging and he’s not sure why.

‘Are you telling me that to confuse me?’ he asks, because it’s not fair… He’s bonded now… She left him and he needed someone… Hannibal was there for him… He loves him…

‘No,’ Alana says. She shrugs again. ‘I’m telling you that to be honest about how I feel. I don’t wanna mislead you, but I don’t wanna lie to you, either.’

Will nods and swallows. There’s something in her tone, in the finality of it…

Do you know…? Has Hannibal told you?

‘I won’t lie if you don’t,’ he says, and he looks up at her from under his eyebrows.

Alana smiles gently.

‘I have feelings for you, Will.’ She watches the emotions warring in his copper-ringed eyes and sighs. ‘But I know you like Hannibal and I won’t do anything to jeopardize that for you, no matter how much a part of me wishes I had stayed that night.’

‘Why? Why didn’t you?’ Will asks, and he can’t keep the hurt out of his voice, even though he tries to hide it with a laugh. ‘And it is not because you have a professional curiosity about me.’

‘No,’ Alana agrees. Her smile fades and she looks sad. ‘It’s because I think you’re unstable.’

Her words are like a slap, and Will flinches. Thinks about it but he can’t form words. He can’t even try to answer.

‘Hm…’ He nods, chewing his tongue, a muscle jumping in his jaw.

‘And, until that changes,’ Alana continues, stabbing the knife in deeper with every word, ‘I can only be your friend. I think Hannibal can only be your friend.’

Yeah? Well, he’d disagree, Will thinks. But he can’t say it; Hannibal hasn’t told her about their relationship, so he grits his teeth and forces himself to nod. He looks away and then back at her, his eyes flashing with anger.

‘Well, thank you for not lying to me,’ he bites.

Alana holds her ground, her blue eyes searching his face, seeing through him, into him. She knows him almost as well as Hannibal does; she’s been his friend for years. She can see when he’s not doing well. When he’s in pain.

‘Do you feel unstable?’ she asks quietly, and it’s too much.

The kindness in her voice shatters the illusion of self-control Will has been desperately clinging to. Tears well in his eyes and he feels a lump form in his throat, threatening to dissolve at any moment. Does he feel unstable? The hallucinations, the loss of time, the nightmares... 

‘Mm.’ He nods. Doesn’t trust himself to speak. What can he say? What is there to say? He’s unstable… Unstable

Alana comes closer and, very carefully, gives him a hug. Will hesitates for a moment, his knuckles white from gripping the edge of the desk, and then he clings tight to her, holding his breath to keep from crying.

‘I’m sorry,’ Alana whispers, and Will sniffs, nodding again.

The Beta rubs between his shoulder blades, careful not to go to close to the nape of his neck. She steps back and reaches down to take his hands between her cool, dry palms, dipping her head to look into his face again.

‘Have you told Hannibal?’

‘Um… Yeah,’ Will says, his voice hoarse, movements jerky as he drops his gaze, avoiding the sympathy in her eyes. ‘Yeah… He knows.’

‘Good,’ Alana replies, and she smiles. ‘That’s good, Will. I’m sure he can help you.’

Another nod. Will feels a tear slide down his cheek. He ducks his head so that Alana can’t see him cry and she lets go of him, giving him space. Because she can’t help him. Nobody can.

Nobody but his Alpha.

***

He’s curled between the feathery legs of the raven stag, basking in the sunlight filtering down through the trees. They’re safe here, protected from the world, content to lie forever in a patch of bloodstained grass…

The stag nuzzles his forehead and Will pets it. It nudges him harder, trying to make him move, and Will frowns, pushing it away. He doesn’t want to leave…

The dream dissolves and he realizes he can feel soft lips on his forehead. Will wakes slowly, warm beneath the cover, the silk lining gentle against his tender flesh, wrapped in the smell of his Alpha. It’s the first time in months that he’s not had a nightmare, and he doesn’t want to let go of the peace filling him.

He shifts, burrowing deeper beneath the heavy quilt, hiding his face under the pillow and grumbling when Hannibal pulls it all away from him and exposes him to the cold air. His groping hand meets a warm chest as Hannibal kneels over him, filling his space so that he is the only thing Will sees when he opens his eyes, and his Alpha purrs as he smiles down at his Omega.

‘Hello, Will.’

Hannibal drinks in the sight of flushed cheeks, gold-ringed irises and sleep-tousled curls. Will smells of slick and sweet musk, and Hannibal dips his head to nuzzle along a bearded jaw, nibbling and sucking at the sensitive skin just beneath his ear. Will’s breath ghosts over his cheek and then the Omega snakes his arms up and hugs him close.

Will shifts, spreading his legs and holding Hannibal with his knees, rocking up to rub his hardness against the Alpha’s abdomen. The peace of the dream is fading and he needs this; needs more.

Alpha…

‘Will,’ Hannibal says, calling him back from the crashing darkness threatening to break him. Will kisses at Hannibal’s face and jaw, moaning when the Alpha holds him by the chin and forces him to stop. ‘Will. Come back to me.’

Will blinks, groaning as the heat pulls back from his stomach and settles in his crest.

‘W-wha’…?’ he asks groggily, rubbing his hands up and down Hannibal’s arms, shuddering at the feel of his Alpha on top of him, crushing his throbbing hardness. ‘Why’d you stop?’

‘Abigail has asked to see us,’ Hannibal murmurs, placing a final kiss to Will’s forehead. ‘I received a call from her this morning, while you were sleeping.’

Will sits up immediately, concern furrowing his brow, and he pushes at the covers so that he can jump straight out of bed.

‘What time is it? Is she okay?’ he asks. ‘What’s wrong? Did something happen?’

Hannibal smiles at him, his dark eyes sparkling at Will’s fretting. It’s adorable, and he reaches out to stroke Will’s hair.

‘It’s noon, and she simply asked to see us,’ he replies. ‘Apparently, she has something to tell us.’

Will nods, but he still looks worried. He hesitates, sat up with the covers pooled in his lap, chewing his lower lip. Hannibal stands up and holds out a hand.

‘Would you like to go now?’ he asks, and Will blushes at how obvious he is. Of course, it doesn’t help that Hannibal can sense his emotions, at least the strong ones, and even he can smell the fear sharpening his scent, cutting through the musk of his desire.

‘I just want to make sure she’s okay,’ he says, brushing his lips over his Alpha’s knuckles. ‘We’ve not seen her in a while.’

‘Not since we bonded,’ Hannibal agrees, and Will raises his eyebrows when he realizes this is true. Looks up at him and asks,

‘Do you… think we should tell her?’

Hannibal considers for a moment, and then releases Will to lead the way into the bathroom.

‘I think she would like to know,’ he says, speaking over his shoulder as his Omega follows him. ‘How would you feel if she did?’

Will shrugs. He fiddles with a towel, waiting for his body to calm down, and avoids looking at Hannibal. How would he feel? Abigail is their daughter – not only because they are her legal guardians, but because of what they went through, together – and Will doesn’t think he’s alone in imagining that the Beta will come to live with them soon. But she’s still hurting, and Will doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize the fragile relationship they have; if she sees herself as an extra to their bonded pair, will she withdraw from them?

Hannibal turns the shower on while he waits for Will to answer. He steps under the spray and then reaches for his mate, pulling him close before shutting the glass door and sealing them in the large cubicle together, letting hot water trickle over their bodies as steam rises around them.

‘I want to tell her,’ Will murmurs, squeezing out a generous helping of body wash and lathering it between his palms. He rubs it into his Alpha’s chest, encouraging him to turn so that he can massage Hannibal’s back. His Alpha groans his appreciation and Will purrs, happy to have pleased his mate. ‘After we find out what she needs to tell us.’

Hannibal nods. He turns and copies Will’s gesture, massaging the tightness from his mate’s body, spreading his hands across Will’s shoulders and kneading them until the Omega groans. Will drops his head back against Hannibal’s chest, fired up and as desperate as ever, a pink blush spreading down from his cheeks to his throat. It’s delicious, and Hannibal pulls Will round to face him, lowering his head so that he can kiss him. It starts soft, lips meeting in unison and parting to share the taste of each other, trading breath as they explore teeth and cheeks and tongues. Hannibal purrs, nudging his hardness against Will's hip, cradling his Omega's face between both hands so that he can deepen the kiss and take control.

Will groans at Hannibal's taste. He reaches up, twisting his fingers in the Alpha's wet, silky hair, holding him closer as he arches his spine, trying to press as much of his body against Hannibal's as he can. Chest hair rasps against his own smooth skin and he shivers at the pleasure of it. Flames lick their way up his spine, burning his crest until it swells, throbbing in time to the beat of his heart.

Alpha…

Hannibal breaks the kiss and picks up the shampoo.

'Allow me?' he asks, and Will nods dumbly. He faces him, holding very still as Hannibal rubs soap into his hair, humming at the simple pleasure of it. At a nudge, he tilts his head back under the spray to rinse away the suds, and Hannibal combs his fingers through Will’s curls, pressing a quick kiss to his wet temple.

'I do prefer the scent of this one,' he teases. He lowers his hands to hold onto Will's wet hips as the Omega finishes washing the soap out, his fingers settling into the fading bruises from the last time he gripped him like this.

Will's breath catches at the memory and he tilts his head further back under the spray, closing his eyes tight and baring his throat for his Alpha. Hannibal's gut tightens at the invitation and he leans in to suck at the water running down Will's neck before jerking him around and pushing his back against the tiles.

Will gasps at the sudden cold, but it is swallowed by Hannibal as his Alpha claims his mouth in another hungry kiss. He spreads his legs so that Hannibal can put a knee between his thighs, groaning at the pressure against his hardness.

'Don't open your eyes,' Hannibal whispers, placing a broad palm over the Omega's eyelids to reinforce the command. 'I want you to touch my body, Will.'

A whimper catches in Will's throat and he hurries to obey. Hannibal angles the shower head so that water runs down the fronts and sides of their bodies, adding to the sensations. Will strokes over lean muscles encased in smooth skin, spreading his hands through the soft hair on the Alpha's chest and rolling hard nipples between his fingers. He pushes his head forwards, nuzzling into the wet crook of Hannibal's neck, resting hot lips against the Alpha's pulse and inhaling his scent.

'Hannibal...' His voice is barely a whisper, and he blindly kisses along his Alpha's jaw, feeling the roughness of a night’s stubble. 'Mmm...'

He skims his hands lower, sliding one around to cup the mound of Hannibal's backside as the other strokes over his mate’s erection. He hears a low purr from Hannibal and smiles into his cheek, tickling his fingertips over the sensitive tip, gathering up slippery pre-cum and using it to ease the stroke down to the base of his length. He repeats the movement, pulling Hannibal closer to encourage his Alpha to rock his hips, moaning when Hannibal grabs his chin and kisses him again, bruisingly hard.

Hannibal devours Will’s mouth for a few moments, lazily thrusting into his mate’s grip, but he wants more. He reaches down and pushes Will's hands from him, hushing him when his Omega whimpers. Turns the shower off and slides back the door, guiding Will to follow blindly.

'Hannibal... Can I open my eyes, yet?' Will hesitates at the edge of the shower, his brow creasing in and out of a frown. Hannibal runs both hands down his leg, encouraging him to bend his knee, and he wobbles, grabbing onto the Alpha's shoulder as Hannibal pulls his leg out and down onto the floor.

'No,' Hannibal replies, repeating the movement until Will is stood on the mat with him. 'Trust me.'

Will nods, tilting his head to follow Hannibal by sound only. He leans into the hand that Hannibal places in the center of his chest, smiling around a little sound of satisfaction when his Alpha uses a towel to gently dry off his hair. It's intimate; having Hannibal care for him like this, and Will turns immediately when the other man pushes his shoulder.

Hannibal smooths out Will's curls after rubbing away the excess moisture, dropping the towel to the floor and wrapping his arms around the smaller man, pulling him back against his chest. He dips his head and places a kiss next to the burning red crest at the nape of Will's neck, earning a high-pitched whine from the Omega.

Will can't help but grind back against Hannibal’s erection, his buttocks and inner thighs coated with slick. Hannibal hushes him and drops another kiss to the other side of his neck, rolling and pinching his nipples until he squirms.

When he looks over Will's shoulder, Hannibal smiles at the sight of his hardness, at the pearly drops leaking from the tip, and he nibbles at the sensitive skin just beneath Will's ear as he runs a hand down Will's quivering belly and then lower to grip him tight.

Will bucks into the firm hold, moaning as pleasure floods his body with heat. Hannibal begins to jerk him off, squeezing and stroking his throbbing length until the ache spills over into waves of pleasure that climb higher and higher. Then, just as he's about to come, the Alpha lets go. Will tries to double over, crying at the sudden loss, but Hannibal's strong arm around his chest holds him back against his body, forcing him to stay upright, shuddering with the desperate need for release.

'Hannibal!'

'Not yet,' his Alpha purrs, and Will quivers. He writhes back against Hannibal's hips, marveling at how calm and controlled he is when Will can feel his arousal, both from the hardness of his erection and from the waves of emotion crashing into him. But he doesn't want to wait... He can't...

'Alpha… Hannibal…' he whispers, reaching back to hold Hannibal close, bowing his head to bare his crest for him. 'Please...'

Hannibal groans at the manipulation, even as his eyes itch red and his hips jump forwards. Will's good; pitching his voice just right to snap the last threads of self-control. He growls, pressing an open-mouthed kiss to the scorching ridges, reaching back down and roughly stroking him to completion because his mate needs it. He holds him close and Will comes hard, spilling himself over Hannibal's fingers as he bears down against the feeling of Hannibal's erection against his backside. His body opens, spilling tangy, sweet slick over Hannibal's length, and Hannibal shudders with the overwhelming urge to bury himself inside the hot, welcoming body.

'Hannibal...' Will reaches for him again. He needs it... Needs his Alpha inside him... His eyes fly open as Hannibal grabs him in a choke, hauling his back flush to the Alpha's chest. Pressure builds at his entrance and then Hannibal is pushing inside him, inch by inch, moving in time with Will's pulsing, clenching muscles. He groans at the stretch, at the pleasurable ache as Hannibal fills him. Owns him. He lifts an arm up over his head to hold Hannibal's hair, stroking him as though soothing him.

Hannibal holds Will tight, one hand at his throat and the other over his stomach, purring when he feels his own length moving inside Will's body. He pushes Will to his knees and follows him, fucking him hard and fast, panting into Will's ear before he fixes his lips around the irresistibly soft crest at the top of the Omega's spine. He sucks hungrily and white pleasure crashes through him as Will comes again, spasming around him and squeezing like a vice, milking his release from him in three final, jerky thrusts before he swells to a knot, locking them together.

'Fuck... Will...' He releases Will's burning neck to rest his forehead on the other man's shoulder. Sits back on his heels and pulls Will to him, wrapping his arms tight around him. 'Mmm...'

Will gives a breathless chuckle, linking their fingers together over his racing heart. He turns just enough that he can kiss Hannibal and then drops his head back, gazing, glassy-eyed, at the bathroom ceiling.

‘I needed that,' he murmured. He tries to adjust his weight on aching knees, his legs still spread around Hannibal, and hisses a laugh when Hannibal's knot pulls at his insides. 'Um... well, this is awkward.'

'Perhaps something to consider for next time,' Hannibal chuckles, grinning at him and kissing his cheek when Will laughs. 'We shall have to be patient.'

Will groans, but he makes no further attempts to move, just holds Hannibal's arms close to his heart, content to trace the Alpha's knuckles with his fingertips. After a few minutes of silence, he feels Hannibal’s wandering lips trace over the jagged line of scar tissue beneath the ridges of his crest, and he hums.

‘I never did tell you how I got that, did I?’

‘No,’ Hannibal murmurs, kissing it again, feeling Will tremble beneath his mouth whenever he draws closer to the crest. ‘Are you ready now?’

Will sniffs.

‘I was ready before you bonded me,’ he says. ‘I was going to share it with you as way of offering myself to you… To show you I trusted you.’

Hannibal hums, nuzzling his cheek. Will sighs, rubbing his cheek back and forth over the back of his Alpha’s hands.

‘I was attacked… By an Alpha… When I was in Homicide.’

His heart skips a beat at the mention of it, and the smell of sour breath and oil fills his nose, but he wants to tell his mate, so he pushes through the immediate panic, grounding himself with Hannibal’s musk and the warmth of his body against his back, of his knot inside him, pulsing in time to their heartbeats. And Hannibal lets him, holding very still and not responding to the change in his scent; the sharp, salty tang of fear and the rasping of his breath as he continues,

‘Nothing happened… He was arrested before he could do anything…’ Will shakes his head. ‘But it meant that everyone at the station found out what I was, and…’ His hands tighten around Hannibal's as he remembers the comments, the groping hands... Hot breath on the back of his neck as he was shoved up against a locker at the end of a long day...

He shrugs, trying to keep his voice light.

‘It… caused some problems. A few of them wanted to bond me…’ He swallows and rolls his head to kiss Hannibal’s neck. ‘They were very insistent and… I just wanted it to stop.’

Hannibal swallows, counting to five to control his breathing before he speaks so that his voice is even.

'You thought that if you mutilated yourself, you would be unappealing to an Alpha. Or, they would assume the scar was a crest and that you were already bonded.'

Will rolls his eyes and snorts.

‘Yeah… Only it didn’t work, because crests are the only scars that can happen there. The skin around it… Well, you can see, but that part of my neck? it healed like it had never happened.'

Hannibal holds very still, his heart beating very hard in his chest. He has the strangest sensation in his stomach, and he rests his cheek against Will's head, closing his eyes and biting his lip as his knot starts to go down.

‘Thank you for telling me,’ he says quietly, and Will hums, turning as soon as he’s free and leaning in to give Hannibal a gentle kiss.

‘You owe me a secret now, Dr Lecter,’ the Omega murmurs, but Hannibal can’t bring himself to smile at the attempted jest. He just nods, staring deep into Will’s blue eyes, and then cups his face to stroke his cheek.

Will shifts, his throat swelling around a lump at the expression on Hannibal’s face. He pulls away, softening the withdrawal with a final kiss to his Alpha’s palm, and then clears his throat.

‘We should get going,’ he says hoarsely, and Hannibal nods. They both stagger to their feet and wrap towels around their waist, and Hannibal follows Will back into the bedroom, watching from the corner of his eye as his Omega dresses in the dark trousers and ugly checked shirt he’s brought with him in his weekend bag. A dark inferno rages in the pit of his stomach and, when he thinks of Will’s younger self, of the betrayal by the people around him, and the way that history will, inevitably, repeat itself as his Omega becomes stronger, his chest aches.

I'm going to find them, Will. Whoever hurt you... We’ll kill them together.

***

Two hours later, Will is standing by the balcony windows of Abigail’s room at the Porthaven Psychiatric Hospital, his jacket draped over his arm and shirt sleeves rolled up because it’s warm in here, his heart pounding and mind whirring with disbelief at his surrogate daughter’s announcement that she’s going to work with Freddy Lounds to tell her story.

‘I’m trying to be… understated when I say that this is a bad idea,’ he says, removing his glasses so that he can rub his eyes. For all his calm after his shower with Hannibal, his head is now aching with a headache and his shoulders feel like granite.

He can feel his Abigail’s resentment, but he takes comfort in Hannibal’s icy anger. It is restrained under layers and layers of good manners, but knowing that his Alpha is just as against this plan as he is soothes the sting of Abigail’s emotions.

Hannibal hides it well enough; he is perusing Abigail’s belongings on the desk next to him, buying himself time to school his expression into neutrality, but Will can smell the sharp, smoky tang of rage in his scent, and, when he speaks, his voice is deceptively light.

‘Freddy Lounds is dangerous.’

‘She said she wanted me to write about you guys in the book,’ Abigail says, nerves and defiance warring in her voice, making it tremble.

Will and Hannibal exchange a look and the Omega hangs his glasses from the front of his shirt. He shrugs, asking for help, and Hannibal finally turns to Abigail.

‘You would be forfeiting your privacy, and ours,’ he says, staring down at her with inscrutable dark eyes, disapproval radiating from him.

Seeing the wobble in Abigail’s lower lip, Will tries again.

‘This… this… Well, all of this will change,’ he says, gesturing to the room, the Scrabble board on the table, Abigail. ‘Whatever you’re feeling now, that won’t last. Things change.’ Abigail looks down at her crossed arms, chewing her lip at Will’s words. Sensing an opening, Will steps closer and continues gently, ‘Things are changing for me, too… I’ve been doing some accounting in my life of what’s important and what isn’t.’

Hannibal watches him, his hands clasped before him, coat hanging over his arm as he waits to see what his mate will say next. If he’ll admit how much he cares for the daughter that Hannibal has given him.

You are important, Abigail,’ Will says, but the teenager just rolls her eyes at him and, when she speaks, her tone is like acid.

‘Just because you killed my dad doesn’t mean you get to be him.’

Her words slice at Will and he flinches, looking away to hide the tears brightening his eyes. Two spots of color flare on his cheeks and Hannibal barely suppresses a growl at her callousness.

‘Abigail,’ he warns, drawing her immediate attention, and he steps up to stand beside Will, providing a unified front and offering the comfort of his warmth, his scent, as Will tries to get his breathing back under control. ‘You’ve been through a traumatic event,’ the Alpha continues. ‘And no one more traumatized than you, Abigail, but we went through it together. What you write, you write about all of us.’

‘I don’t need your permission,’ Abigail snaps, and Hannibal inclines his head, his obsidian eyes never leaving Abigail’s face.

‘And you don’t need our approval,’ he replies. ‘But I hope it would mean something.’

Do not test me.

Abigail falters, tears welling in her blue eyes when she looks to Will again.

‘I know what people think I did,’ she whispers. ‘They’re wrong. Why can’t I tell everybody that they’re wrong?’

‘You have nothing to apologize for,’ Will says, gripping the back of the chair to brace himself against Abigail’s pain. All he wants to do is pull her into his arms and hold her, protect her from the world, but he can’t; she needs to fight this herself.

Just like me.

‘Yet,’ Hannibal warns, allowing some of his dark anger to sharpen his voice. ‘But if you open this door, Abigail, you won’t control what comes through.’

The body of Nicholas Boyle hangs in the air between them, hidden from Will; their little secret…

Hannibal’s darkness whispers to Abigail’s shadow and he quirks an eyebrow; one final warning to behave. To protect her family.

‘Are you ready for that?’

Abigail opens her mouth, but she doesn’t know what to say, so she just ducks her head again. Twists her hands together and sighs. Will frowns and transfers his coat to the chair, dropping to a crouch before her and hesitantly taking one of her hands in both of his hand. Abigail looks down at him, her chin wobbling, and Will swallows. He hates to see her so upset, so lost, but this isn’t the solution. Maybe, if he can get her to wait, she’ll realize that on her own.

‘Just… Promise me you’ll think about it,’ he says softly. ‘Take a few days… You don’t have to make a decision right away.’

Abigail glances at Hannibal, at his cold, unwavering gaze, and then nods at Will. She ducks her head, taking the sympathy that the Omega offers her, letting her hair fall forwards so that Will reaches up to push it back from her face, stroking her cheek as he does. Hannibal’s lips curve into a smile at his daughter’s manipulation, but his eyes are still narrowed at her recklessness.

I want you to be our daughter, Abigail, but I will not allow anything to threaten Will.

‘Hannibal and I have something to tell you as well,’ Will murmurs, and Abigail paints a quizzical look on her face. Will huffs a small smile and stands up, drawing the Beta with him before turning and pulling the collar of his shirt down from the crest on his neck.

Oh…’ Abigail pauses for just long enough that panic claws at Will’s throat and his mouth tastes bitter with regret. He turns back to her, but she manages a smile, even if her eyes are clouded with sadness. ‘I’m really glad for you,’ Abigail says, and she allows Will to hug her when he opens his arms in offering.

Hannibal approaches from the other side and Abigail raises an eyebrow at him. He smiles and places a hand in the middle of her back, the other on Will’s, a family together.

Born in blood.

Abigail sighs and ducks her head when Will lets her go.

‘I remember when my parents mated,’ she says, prompting Will’s hand to twitch as if he wants to reach for her but isn’t sure he’s allowed. Hannibal stays quiet, his hand still stroking between his mate’s shoulder blades, watching as Abigail hesitates and then reaches up to brush a curl of hair from Will’s forehead. ‘Are you happy?’

‘Mm.’ Will nods, managing a twisted smile. The Beta tilts her head, sharp eyes picking out the shadows under his eyes and the tension in his jaw. She doesn’t challenge his lie, though; just sits back down and picks up the bag of Scrabble tiles, giving it a pointed shake.

‘So. Are we going to play?’

***

Struggling to concentrate on the Totem Pole case, Will forces his wandering thoughts back to the diagram of victims on the wall in front of him. He crosses his arms, hugging his elbows, his skin stinging and head throbbing; he just wants to be at home, but he can’t, he has to be here, away from his Alpha…

‘The display was built in Grafton for a reason,’ he says, keeping his back to Beverly, Jimmy and Brian. ‘Totem poles commemorate special events. They tell the story of a life. If Joel Summers is his finale, then this lowest body on the pole –’ Will points to the picture. ‘– will be our killer's beginning. His first.’

‘Fletcher Marshall,’ Beverly says. ‘Murdered in 1973. Beaten to death right in Grafton. His grave was robbed five days ago.’

‘No-one convicted of killing him?’ Will asks, frowning at the photograph of Marshall.

‘Not yet,’ Price says.

‘So our guy got away with it forty years ago,’ Will mutters, and Zeller shakes his head in disgust.

‘So he kept on going…’

I don’t have time for this; I should be with my family

‘There will be a connection between Joel Summers and Fletcher Marshall,’ Will says, stabbing from the top of the totem to the bottom, but before he can add anything further, Jack’s scent interrupts them and they all turn to see him in the doorway.

‘Will; I need you in my office.’

Will’s stomach drops and sweat dribbles down his back. Does he know about Hannibal? Has Alana told him? Has she told him about her concerns? That’s he’s unstable?

He glances at the others but they only shrug; they have no idea what Jack wants with him, and the Alpha is already turning away, assuming he’ll follow.

Fucking Alphas

Will bites back a growl and trails after him, an obedient little puppy. Jack doesn’t say anything, just picks up his phone and calls someone. Will leans back against the meeting table, keeping a space between them so that Jack’s scent doesn’t get too close to him.

A few minutes later, he’s surprised when Alana and Hannibal walk in; the Beta carefully avoids Will’s eyes after an initial glance, but Will hardly notices in favor of breathing in his Alpha’s heavy musk and cedarwood cologne.

The sight and smell of his mate is like a drop of liquid fire down his spine, and Will feels tendons grind as his shoulders relax. Hannibal is careful not to look at him for more than a moment; he fixes Jack with a politely curious look, and Will manages to stay where he is, allowing Alana to stand in the middle.

Jack hangs up as Alana and Hannibal enter the room, and he’s speaking before the door has closed behind them.

‘Nicholas Boyle turned up in Minnesota. Dead.’

Hannibal tilts his head, considering Jack carefully as the other Alpha continues,

‘His body was found in the woods. He was frozen. They thawed him out fairly quickly, but they said they can't tell if he died a week ago, six weeks ago, or the night that he disappeared.’

‘How did he die?’ Alana asks, and Jack sighs, gripping the back of his chair tight enough to make the leather creak.

‘Knife wound; he was gutted.’

You butchered him, Abigail… Hannibal’s mind returns to that night, to the attack, to the Beta’s shock and disgust at her own excitement of the kill. His heart is beating very fast and unease coils like an adder in his stomach. He resents such a feeling.

What have you done?

‘I've had the body flown down here,’ Jack continues. ‘I want Abigail Hobbs to identify it for us.’

Hannibal frowns, masking his worry as puzzlement.

‘You already have a positive ID,’ he says, but Jack raises an eyebrow.

‘Not from Abigail Hobbs.’

‘You can't put her in a room with Nick Boyle's body!’ Alana protests. ‘She already has nightmares about him, Jack!’

Jack nods, but there’s a hungry glint to his eyes and his jaw is set.

‘I'm curious about why.’

Will looks over at him, hugging his elbows across his chest and frowning in disbelief.

‘You can't think that she has something to do with this?’

‘I think Abigail Hobbs is the common denominator between her father, Marissa Schuur, and Nicholas Boyle,’ Jack says, raising his voice when Will shifts and shakes his head. ‘They all go back to Abigail! My instincts tell me that Abigail has answers that we have not heard!’

Will glares at him, his eyes prickling with the urge to flash gold despite the Inhibitor drops.

‘What are the questions, Jack?’ he demands, and the Alpha huffs.

‘Let's start with where she goes when she climbs the walls of the psychiatric facility,’ he says. ‘Maybe she's meeting Nicholas Boyle. None of us know what was really going on between them.’

‘I want to go on record as saying that this is a very bad idea,’ Alana says, looking over to her mentor for help. ‘Hannibal?’

You selfish, reckless child, Hannibal thinks, fury making his eyes itch to glow red. However, he merely glances from her to the other Alpha, and says lightly,

‘Jack has the look of a man with no interest in any opinion but his own.’

‘I want you to observe on this, Alana,’ Jack says, ignoring Hannibal’s comment. Will growls and straightens up, his nurturing instincts kicking in to defend his adopted daughter. If he weren’t angry with Abigail, Hannibal would want to purr at Will’s fierceness.

‘If you're putting Abigail in a room with the body, I want to be there,’ Will demands, but Jack’s gaze is steely when he meets his eye.

‘I'm sorry, Will,’ he says, ‘I am not confident with your ability to be objective about Abigail Hobbs right now.’ He strides to the door and holds it open. ‘Alana.’

The Beta sighs, but she’s been given an instruction and she grits her teeth as she follows him out to meet Abigail in reception.

In the proceeding silence, Hannibal steps forward and releases a quiet sigh. He avoids Will’s eye because his own gaze is distant; he is considering the possibilities before him, weighing the risks and anticipating the outcomes.

You’ve put us all at risk, Abigail… I warned you…

The Omega rakes shaking hands through his hair at Jack’s pigheaded recklessness, and his voice trembles with anger and frustration when he speaks.

‘He could do Abigail irreparable damage exposing her to this!’

Hannibal, however, remains calm, and murmurs,

‘Perhaps she's stronger than we think.’

For her sake, I hope she is.

Will huffs and shakes his head.

‘She shouldn’t have to be strong,’ he growls, pacing closer to his Alpha. ‘Jack’s wrong about her. He’s wrong.’

No, he’s not, Hannibal thinks, but he simply turns and, after checking that the corridor outside is empty, links his fingers with his Omega.

Will whines softly and leans against Hannibal, dipping his head and resting his forehead against his Alpha’s shoulder, soaking up his scent, trying to absorb as much of it as possible to keep him going until this evening.

‘Did you drive her here?’ he asks, speaking into Hannibal’s suit. His Alpha wraps an arm around him, resting his cheek on the top of Will’s head, and nods so that Will can feel it.

‘Yes.’

‘Make sure she’s alright?’ Will asks, glancing up at him. ‘When you take her back? Will you stay with her?’

Hannibal nods, and then checks the corridor again before risking a kiss, brushing their lips together until Will moans and leans forward to deepen it. Hannibal groans but pushes him back before they lose themselves in the taste of each other, and Will scrubs the back of his head, shoving his hands into his pockets to keep from grabbing for his mate again.

‘I… should go,’ he mutters. ‘Have to get back to the case.’

Hannibal doesn’t say anything, just eyes him hungrily as Will stares at him, each of them drinking in the fine details of their mate’s face. A minute passes and then Hannibal wets his lips, his eyes glinting at the way Will’s breath catches.

‘I’ll see you at home, Will,’ Hannibal murmurs, and Will quivers as a blush warms his face. He turns away, hiding his smile, and nods.

‘See you at home.’

***

The drive back to Porthaven Psychiatric Hospital is quiet, and Hannibal waits until they are alone in Abigail’s room before he attempts to discuss his anger with his daughter. He imagines running his tongue over razor fangs like the Alphas of old, tasting blood, and doesn’t turn to look at her when he speaks.

‘It can be a comfort to see the broken, bloated corpse of a monster, and know it can never come back.’

He has his back to Abigail, staring with unseeing eyes at the frosted glass of the big windows, his coat over one arm, the other hand in his pocket but shoulders locked with tension and eyes itching to glow red. He has no intention of hiding the true extent of his disappointment from Abigail. After all, she has poked the proverbial bear; she deserves to know the truth.

Waiting by her bed, her shoulders hunched under the fury of the Alpha before her, Abigail blinks tears from her eyes.

‘Nick Boyle wasn’t a monster.’

Hannibal turns to face her, his eyes cold, and quirks an eyebrow.

‘Were you?

The Beta trembles, but she takes a step closer, hands clasped before her, fingers picking at the cuffs of her sweater.

‘I sometimes feel like one.’

Hannibal tilts his head, still distant, his expression unreadable.

‘Is that why you uncovered his body?’ he asks, and Abigail falters. She looks away and opens her mouth, but she can’t think of a reply.

Hannibal sighs, and turns from the window.

‘Would this be a chapter in your book, Abigail?’ he asks, his casual words slicing at her. Abigail ducks her head, taking a shaky breath, and then glares at him, hugging her elbows.

No. Neither would me killing Nick, or you helping me hide the body.’

Hannibal’s lips curl into a smile at the threat, and he glances at her.

‘There’s always an addendum,’ he replies, and Abigail lifts her chin.

‘FBI already asked their questions; I answered them. I passed.’

With Jack Crawford’s attention,’ Hannibal reminds her, pacing towards the window again. Abigail huffs in frustration.

‘You’re right; I opened the door! I can’t control what comes through it, but this time, I could control when.’ Her eyes light up and she continues, ‘I’m not afraid of them finding Nicholas Boyle anymore; he’s been found.’

Hannibal doesn’t look at her, his face half in shadow, framed by the grey light of the window behind him.

‘You betrayed my trust,’ he says quietly. ‘You jeopardized my life, as well as your own. I deserve more than that.’

Abigail looks away, struggling to find a way to argue with him, but Hannibal closes the distance between them before she can speak.

‘I need to trust you, Abigail.’ For all his gentle tone, the warning in his voice is clear, and Abigail looks up at him. Hannibal raises his eyebrows and allows his eyes to flicker red. ‘What if I can’t?’

***

‘Joel Summers, the headpiece of our totem pole, was adopted after his parents died.’

Beverly speaks as Jimmy Price pulls the plastic sheet down from Joel’s broken, bruised body, and they all look down at him. Will’s dark shadow is still growling at Jack’s treatment of Abigail, and he crosses his arms, doing nothing to hide the radiating resentment towards the Alpha stood beside him.

After settling Abigail back into her room at Porthaven, Hannibal had gone home and prepared a chicken liver parfait, sous vide suckling pig with spiced port jus and a balsamic infused strawberry panna cotta, all of which he had brought round to Will’s house so that they could spend the night there. The meal had been plated with the same care and devotion to detail as always, and Will had teased him mercilessly about it, even while demolishing every course. But he’d been tired, and had fallen asleep with his head in Hannibal’s lap as the Alpha read one of his psychology textbooks and the dogs kept them company…

‘Guess who dad was?’ Beverly continues, and Will drags himself back to the present, to the harsh lights and chemical smells of the morgue.

‘Fletcher Marshall,’ he says, nodding at the connection between the first and last victims. ‘Joel Summers is Joel Marshall.’

Price lifts the file in his hand.

‘Er, we did a DNA comparison between Fletcher Marshall and Joel Summers; no match.’ He hands it to Will to flick through and the Omega frowns.

‘So… Marshall’s son wasn’t his son?’ That doesn’t make sense… Where’s the connection?

‘The mom, Eleanor, was killed in a car accident, four years after Fletcher was killed,’ Zeller says, and Jack raises his eyebrows at him.

Genuine car accident?’ he checks, and Beverly shrugs.

‘If she was murdered, she would’ve been on the totem pole.’

Will grimaces, tilting his head at the rasp of claws through his hair.

‘Well, unless he loved her too much to disgrace her that way,’ he suggests. Jack looks at Beverly and her team again.

‘Was anyone ever convicted for Marshall’s murder?’ he asks, and it’s the Alpha herself who answers.

‘There was a man named Laurence Wells who was questioned twice in 1973. Never charged, still lives in Grafton.’

Will considers it, frowning down at Joel’s body. His shadow licks at his cheek, slithers up his spine and purrs.

I see you… I know you… Your body of work…

‘Fletcher Marshall was a crime of passion,’ he says. ‘It had something that none of the other murders had.’

It takes Jack a moment, but then he nods.

‘Motive.’

***

Later that evening, standing in Hannibal’s kitchen after the pathetically tedious arrest of Laurence Wells, Will shakes his head to rid himself of the smug satisfaction fading to shock and pallid horror when the old Alpha had realized he’d killed his own son by mistake.

‘I never want to end up like that,’ he mutters, setting his wine glass down on the counter. ‘Alone… Bitter… No family… Or, at least, assuming I have no family…’ He huffs and grimaces. ‘Can’t imagine saying that a few months ago…’

Hannibal glances up from slicing vegetables as Will sighs. Watches as his Omega squeezes his neck, just above the crest, trying to force his muscles to soften. Will is crackling with energy; tremors run up and down his spine and his belly rumbles with hunger, loud enough for Hannibal to hear. Nearing his heat, it’s understandable that his thoughts are turning towards children, even if he was against the concept before. His body is preparing for them, although the first heat after so many years on suppressants will likely be barren.

‘Have you been giving more thought to family, Will?’ he asks lightly, returning to his preparation.

Will frowns and steals a strip of pepper, crunching it as he considers the question. He leans back against the island, near enough to Hannibal that he can see the tendons flex in his Alpha’s arms with every stroke of the knife, and his mouth waters.

‘Um…’ He clears his throat, takes another sip of wine and then huffs a laugh at his own nervousness. ‘I haven’t, not really…’ He looks up at Hannibal from under his eyebrows. ‘Still not sure I’m the best person to, er, share genetics with.’

‘I disagree,’ Hannibal replies. He glances at Will, a hungry smile making his eyes gleam, and sees Will’s cheeks flush, the edges of his irises flaring bright copper. ‘In fact, if I were to share genes with anyone, Will, it would be with you.’

Heat snaps through him, making Will jolt. He can’t help but stare at Hannibal, his heartbeat faltering at the implication of the words. He doesn’t want to breathe; to break this moment, especially when Hannibal lifts his head and looks at him, his dark eyes molten with hunger. Everything in Will’s gut tightens up and he swallows.

‘Um…’ He licks his lips, trying to get his brain to start working again, but he can’t… He can’t think… Hannibal and him? He… They…?

Hannibal sets the knife down and dries his hands on his apron, satisfaction warming his chest at Will’s dumbstruck expression. For all their conversations, for their intimacy, their relationship with Abigail, the Omega hadn’t considered the possibility of a child between them?

‘Are you sure you can’t stay tonight?’ he purrs, dipping his head and grinning at his mate. Will’s cheeks glow red and he stares at the floor, crossing his arms and then pushing his hands into his pockets.

‘Er… Yeah… I… I have an early start tomorrow,’ he says. ‘And…’ He sighs. ‘It’s been a few days since I slept by myself, so…’

‘I understand,’ Hannibal replies. He steps away from Will and goes to the fridge to fetch a dish of kidneys and a covered Tupperware bowl, which he hands to his Omega. Will takes it with a lopsided smile and makes a show of peeking under the lid.

‘What’s for dinner, Dr Lecter?’ he teases, and Hannibal grins.

‘It’s a surprise,’ he says. ‘Warm it in the oven for at least half an hour when you get home.’

‘Y’know, I did cook for myself before I met you,’ Will points out, but he holds the container close to his chest as he speaks.

Hannibal merely shrugs.

‘And yet you continue to indulge me,’ he says, moving to a different part of the counter to flour and season the kidneys. ‘For which I must thank you.’

‘It helps that you’re an excellent cook,’ Will replies. He sets the Tupperware down for a moment so that he can give Hannibal a hug from behind, looping his arms around his mate’s trim waist and snuggling up against his back. ‘Mmm… Will you be alright without me for a night?’

‘Hmmm… I’m not certain I can survive,’ Hannibal jokes, deft hands never stopping their work even when Will leans up to kiss the bare skin between his hairline and shirt collar. ‘Mm… But I shall do my best. Your independence is important to you, after all.’

‘It is,’ Will agrees, forcing himself to let go of the other man. ‘Thank you.’ He lists closer again, resting his forehead between Hannibal’s shoulder blades, and the Alpha holds very still, smirking to himself as a whimper claws at Will’s throat.

Fuck… This is harder than he’d thought it would be… Will growls at his weakness and wrenches himself away from his mate.

‘I have to leave,’ he says shakily. ‘I’ll show myself out and I’ll see you tomorrow evening.’

‘My office,’ Hannibal confirms. ‘Seven thirty.’ He turns, watching Will pick up his dinner and stride, gloriously defiant in the face of his biology, to the door. ‘Good night, Will.’

Will pauses in the doorway, his chest hurting at the idea of driving out to Wolf Trap, alone. His throat closes up and he has to wait for a moment for his heart to find its way back to his ribcage before he can speak. Hannibal looks so alone, surrounded by polished chrome and dark wood cupboards, floured hands waiting to return to cooking an elaborate meal for one…

He quivers, desperate to run back to him, but he locks his knees and nods, instead. Smiles and lets his love for Hannibal warm his eyes.

‘Good night, Dr Lecter.’

He’s trembling when he gets to his car, and shaking hard enough to make his teeth chatter by the time he reaches Wolf Trap. Will wipes sweat from his brow and grips the steering wheel tight as he fights the gnawing, stabbing urge to turn the car around and return to his Alpha.

He can do this… Being pair bonded doesn’t mean his whole life has to change… It doesn’t mean he can’t still be him. He can live on his farm, with his dogs, work for the FBI and go fishing… Hannibal isn’t controlling him, isn’t demanding that he change to be with him…

He wants to have children with me…

Will sinks to his knees and hugs Winston close as the dogs greet him at the door. The brown collie-cross licks the salty tears from his cheeks and Will slides his hands through the thick fur of his collar, burying his face near Winston’s ear and holding his breath to stop himself keening for Hannibal.

Fifty-one miles… He’s less than a hundred miles away… Less than an hour away…

Buster paws at the Tupperware lid and Will snaps his fingers.

‘Tssst!’

The little terrier backs away at the reprimand and Will stands up, wiping his cheeks dry. He shrugs out of his coat and takes his dinner into the kitchen. Hannibal said it needed an hour…

When he opens it, Will smiles down at the steak and kidney pie his Alpha has made for him, marveling at the delicate leaves and vines that the other man managed to create from pastry.

There are heating instructions tucked into the rim of the lid, and Will covers the bowl before sliding it into the oven. Then, because he has time to kill, he has a long shower while it cooks, turning the water up to scalding in an attempt to melt the ache from his bones.

He sits at the table, reading over his lesson notes in preparation for tomorrow’s lecture while he eats. But he can’t stop his knee from bouncing, and he keeps looking over at the front door as if expecting Hannibal to walk through any minute.

I miss you

The pastry is buttery and light, melting on his tongue between mouthfuls of rich filling, and Will forgets his notes in favor of enjoying every mouthful. He wants to call Hannibal, to tell him that he’s ruined him for all other food, but won’t let himself. He doesn’t need to; he just wants to hear his voice, but it’s not good to be too dependent on the other man.

Maybe he should go for a walk with the dogs…

Will tops up his glass of whiskey. Knocks it back and is reaching for the bottle again before he’s fully aware of what he’s doing. When he does, he growls at himself, and pushes up from the table to take the empty bowl into the kitchen.

Maybe he’ll go fishing at the weekend, and take trout with him to Hannibal’s…

He starts when he sees his reflection in the dark window above the sink. His cheeks are red and he’s glowing with perspiration, his wet hair clinging to his forehead. He must still be hot from the shower…

Will peers at his eyes; watching as his pupils blow wide, black fighting blue, hemmed in by bright gold. Heat flows through him and he shudders, grabbing hold of the counter to stay standing. His crest throbs and he bares his teeth at himself. He looks feral. Vicious…

He likes it.

Clawing at the buttons of his shirt, snapping threads in his haste to get it away from his burning skin, Will pushes the damp cotton from his shoulders, down his arms, and lets it drop to the floor. Watches his reflection as he runs his hands over his chest, over the fading bruises still darkening his nipples.

He groans to himself, sliding his hand lower, gathering up sweat and rubbing it between his fingers. Unbuckles his belt and slides his zipper down, shoving at the damp waistband of his boxers to get it all off him, now, because he’s too hot and it’s too much for his body to deal with.

Hannibal…

He steps out of his clothes and wanders towards the bed. Considers standing outside for a few minutes just to cool off, but dismisses it in favor of opening a drawer and removing one of the white t-shirts that Hannibal washed for him. It smells like him, like his detergent, like his house…

Their life together… Will feels a whimper lodge in his throat as he rubs his cheek back and forth across the fabric. It’s softer than normal, and he gathers up a second one to wear so that he can surround himself with his Alpha’s smell, in his hands and on his body. Pulls on boxers and then crawls beneath the covers, burrowing into Hannibal’s pillow and layering blankets and sheets over him. Around him; supporting and shielding him. Hiding him from the world.

His eyes are already growing heavy and he’s purring by the time he realizes he’s made a nest. When he does, he almost wants to shove everything away and stretch out, but Hannibal left him these extra covers on purpose, so that he’d do exactly this… So that he’d feel safe

Will rolls his eyes. Fuck you, Hannibal, he thinks fondly, smiling to himself.

Fucking Alphas…

***

‘Killing somebody… It feels that bad?’

Abigail’s face is lined with pain and tears well in her eyes as she looks up at him. Lost. Frightened. Because of him.

Will’s not asleep – he keeps slipping in and out of tense dreams– and the memory cuts him with its clarity.

‘I’m worried about nightmares,’ Abigail whispers, and Will flinches at the sting of a thousand cuts across his skin, remembering his own fear of sleeping after killing Hobbs.

Hannibal’s voice purrs from the darkness, stroking his cheek, soothing him and filling him with warmth, drenching his skin with fresh sweat.

‘We’ll help you with the nightmares…’

Will rolls over in his nest, swallowing the lump in his throat, and curls up with his back to Hannibal’s side of the bed. If he bunches up the covers and pretends hard enough, he can imagine his Alpha behind him, holding him against a broad chest. Can feel warm breath puffing across his neck as strong hands twined with his own… Hear Hannibal’s heartbeat loud in the silence. Protecting him. Keeping the nightmares at bay.

Fourteen hours, Will thinks, nuzzling the pillow and gripping the t-shirt tight in his fist. He’ll see his Alpha in fourteen hours…

I can do this.

***

He’s not sure why needs to see it, but after his classes that day, Will finds himself in the morgue, staring down at Nicholas Boyle’s dead body.

He’s exhausted, his temples spiking with a headache that won’t shift no matter how many heat suppressants or aspirin he takes, and Will closes a quivering hand around his can of Beta spray.

What are you telling me, Nick?

The air down here is cold, and it smells like antiseptic, so finding the dark current is easy. Sickly sweet and warm as bath water, it croons to his shadow as it flows around Nicholas Boyle…

Darkness twines around Will’s legs, licking at his belly before settling into his heart, making it skip a beat before it settles into a heavy, slow rhythm.

He closes his eyes, wades into the river and… He’s there.

Nicholas Boyle sits up, the grey cover sliding back from his frost-bitten, chewed up and decaying body… He gets down from the table, dressed in the clothes he wore that day he followed them to Abigail’s house…

Will can’t run. He’s stuck in place…

Please… Please don’t hurt me…

Panic claws at him. Twists his mind. He’s bringing the hunting knife up already and it just slides into Nicholas’s stomach. He grips it with two hands, fighting not to let go, and –

Abigail stares back at him. She brings the knife up and it’s in him, gutting him, slicing him open the way she’d cut a deer… She didn’t mean to, not really… She can’t have… But he wouldn’t stop coming for her…

Will jerks back to himself with a gasp, breathing hard and fighting nausea. He stares around, wild eyes swinging back and forth over the corpse on the table before him, to the empty room, the door… His heart batters his ribcage and his mind races in a desperate attempt to deny the truth of what he knows. What he understands.

Abigail killed Nicholas Boyle… Gutted him… And she lied to him about it.

Bile scratches his throat. He scrubs his palms on his trousers. He feels dirty… Because she couldn’t have done this alone…

How could I be so blind?

Will turns on his heel and strides out of the room.

He needs to talk to Hannibal.

***

Sat at his desk, Hannibal lets the haunting sound of the choir serenade flow around him as he adds layers of graphite shading to his sketch. His night apart from Will has left him melancholy, and he is drawing a memory from his studies in Paris, the music adding to his somber mood. The endlessly content part of him, the one who simply appreciates the music for its beauty and the artistry flowing from his fingers, is still present, but Will is awakening more feelings in him than he’d expected, and Hannibal can’t help but reflect on their conversation about family.

What sort of father do I want to be? What do I want to teach my children?

He is pulled from his thoughts, however, when the office door opens and Will appears. Hannibal glances up, noting the tightness of his Omega’s jaw, his flicking eyes and rounded shoulders. He’s early; his session doesn’t start for another hour.

He’s upset.

Hannibal stops sketching and holds his pencil between both hands, giving his mate his full attention. Smells a hint of death and chemicals in the air and he understands. Will has been to the morgue; seen the body.

He knows.

When he speaks, Hannibal hears the resignation in his voice. The time for innocence is past.

‘Hello, Will.’

Will enters the room slowly, hands twitching at his sides, his head bowed because his Alpha isn’t going to like what he’s about to say.

‘Abigail Hobbs killed Nick Boyle.’

Hannibal is quiet, taking a moment to appreciate Will’s ability to understand, to see the truth. Then,

‘Yes, I know,’ he says heavily, and Will nods. His heart is beating very fast in his chest and he can’t seem to catch his breath. His voice shakes when he speaks.

‘Tell me why you know?’

‘I helped her dispose of the body,’ Hannibal replies, his dark eyes never once leaving Will’s face. He deserves honesty and respect, and he sees the shadow rear up within his mate, propelling the Omega forwards to approach the desk, his hands curled into fists at his sides. Smells the smoky tang thicken his scent and hears his own darkness purr as Will growls,

‘Evidently not well enough.’

Hannibal rolls the pencil between his fingers, considering his options.

‘Have you told Jack Crawford?’ he asks.

Will shakes his head.

‘No.’

‘Why not?’ Hannibal asks, and Will’s throat catches around a whimper as grief rakes his insides.

‘Because I was hoping it wasn’t true,’ he replies, his voice wobbling.

His pain reminds Hannibal that, as much as he sees their darkness, his Omega wants to believe the best in everyone, and he grimaces. Sets the pencil down and touches, considers and discards his scalpel. It’s not that simple…

Hannibal stands up with a sigh, moving closer to the edge of his desk as he speaks.

‘Well, now you know the truth.’

‘Do I?’ Will asks, desperate to believe him but unable to blindly trust the answer.

‘Everything you know about that night is true, except the end,’ Hannibal says, keeping the lamp and the corner of the desk between them so as not to crowd the fretting Omega. ‘Nicholas Boyle attacked us,’ he continues. ‘Abigail’s only crime was to defend herself, and I lied about it.’

‘Why?’ Will whispers, and Hannibal scoffs.

‘You know why,’ he replies, and Will looks away. ‘Because Jack Crawford would hang her for what her father’s done,’ Hannibal explains. ‘And the world would burn Abigail in his place. That would be the story. That would be what Freddy Lounds writes.’

He senses a sliver of acceptance as Will glances back at him, and takes a step closer, moving carefully so as not to startle him. When Will walks away to stare out of the window, Hannibal knows that he can close the distance, and he speaks while he walks.

‘Abigail’s no more a killer than you are for shooting her father. Or I am for the death of Tobias Budge.’

‘It isn’t our place to decide!’ Will protests, but Hannibal shakes his head.

‘If not ours, then whose?’ He comes to stand next to Will, enough that he can see the movement in his throat when his Omega swallows. ‘Who knows Abigail better than you and I?’ he persists. ‘Or the burden she bears?’ He leans closer and adds, ‘We are her fathers, now. We have to serve her better than Garrett Jacob Hobbs.’

Will quivers at this, his breath catching as he remembers their conversation from the other night. But he doesn’t say anything; he doesn’t know what to say, and Hannibal turns half away to stare across his office, his hands in his pockets. He sighs.

‘If you go to Jack, then you murder Abigail’s future,’ he says quietly. Looks at his Omega again, trying to read the expression on Will’s face. But his mate is guarded, and Hannibal feels his stomach flutter with nerves.

I can’t sense what you’re thinking…

‘Do I need to call my lawyer, Will?’ he asks, surprised by the fear he feels at the idea of Will rejecting him. Of betraying him.

Fuck…

The uncertainty in Hannibal’s voice is like a punch in the gut, and Will can’t help but turn to him. Hannibal waits for his answer; he doesn’t even realize how vulnerable he’s made himself…

Very deliberately, Will shakes his head. He can’t bring himself to say it, but he can’t, he won’t, betray family.

Born in blood

Relief floods Hannibal, but he has to make Will understand the extent of his decision.

‘We can tell no one,’ he says, and Will turns away again. Stares out of the window, the streetlamp casting half his face into shadow.

Hannibal steps up behind him and gives his shoulder a squeeze; a reward for his loyalty.

‘What we are doing here is the right thing,’ the Alpha murmurs. ‘In time, this will be the only story any of us cares to tell.’

None of us is innocent…

Will swallows the lump in his throat, clamping down on the whimper that wants to bubble up when Hannibal lets go of him and moves away. He can’t look at him… But he can’t stand the idea of not being with him…

This is so fucked up…

‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ he asks, prompting Hannibal to pause by his desk and look back at him.

‘We wanted to protect you,’ the Alpha replies, and Will nods. He waits a while longer, still staring out at his car parked outside, trying to understand how he feels, before he gives up and wanders to his usual armchair. Shrugs out of his coat, draping it over the couch, and sinks down into the leather cushions with a sigh.

‘I feel like I can’t trust my judgment, anymore,’ he says tiredly. ‘Of Abigail… of you…’

‘I want you to trust me, Will,’ Hannibal replies, bowing his head and watching his Omega from the corner of his eye. ‘Know that everything I do, I do with your best interest at heart.’

Will hums, but he doesn’t sound convinced, and Hannibal draws closer.

‘Would you have turned us in?’ he asks softly, prompting Will to frown up at him. ‘Had you known that night… Would you have told Jack Crawford about us?’

Will opens his mouth to answer but the words stick. He rubs his fingertips together and then wipes his palms on his knees, blowing out his breath.

‘Um… I… don’t know,’ he replies, and Hannibal nods. He tilts his head, studying his mate.

‘Your feelings for Abigail have grown,’ he comments. ‘What started as an obligation born of guilt for killing her father has developed into something else, just as your attraction for me has changed.’

‘I’m evolving,’ Will murmurs, and Hannibal’s eyes gleam.

You are. And I can’t wait to see what you become.

***

‘I feel terrible, Miss Lounds,’ Hannibal says, returning from the kitchen with a fresh plate of salad for his guest. ‘It never entered my head you might be a vegetarian. A lapse on my behalf.’

He places the dish before the red headed Alpha, sensing Will’s smarting resentment of her presence at their dinner table. However, Abigail has decided to tell her story, and Hannibal wants to be supportive. This meal is also a way of warning the journalist to care for their daughter.

Research always delivers benefits,’ Freddy replies, lifting a piece of lotus root to her mouth.

Across the table from her, close enough to Hannibal that their feet touch, Will glares at her. He’s freshly sprayed with Beta pheromones and, in addition to adding a dozen Iris Inhibitor drops to each eye, is also wearing his glasses. Anything to act as a barrier between himself and the journalist before him.

‘And if it contradicts a good story, hell, publish it anyway,’ he says bitterly, and Freddy smirks.

‘Are you still angry I called you insane?’ she replies. ‘The libel laws are clear, Mr Graham.’

Insinuation is such a grey area,’ Will spits, stabbing at a piece of tenderloin. Hannibal grins, barely repressing a purr at how fierce his mate is. How gloriously aggressive…

‘Insane isn’t really black or white, is it?’ Freddy shrugs. ‘We’re all pathological in our own ways.’

‘You choose the version of the truth that suits you best,’ Will growls, wishing the meat between his teeth was Freddy’s throat. ‘And pursue it pathologically.’

A delicate sip of wine covers Hannibal’s need to snigger because that would be rude.

‘Everybody decides their own versions of the truth,’ Freddy reasons, and then she smiles at the Beta sat beside her. ‘I’m here because I want to tell Abigail’s version of the truth.’

Abigail smiles and then ducks her head shyly. Will swallows, his anger burning out as he resigns himself to her decision.

‘See that you do,’ he mutters, trying hard not to make it sound like he’s pleading with Freddy.

I don’t have anything to hide,’ Abigail says lightly; a classic Beta move to appease the Alphas around her, and allay any suspicions about her. Will’s stomach drops because it’s exactly the wrong thing to say, proven when Freddy picks suspiciously carefully at her salad.

‘Hm…’ Freddy smiles. ‘Everyone has something to hide.’

Will glances up at her from under worried brows, his chest tight.

Don’t suspect… Please, please don’t know…

 He looks at Abigail, at Nick Boyle’s killer, and fear snatches his voice. Hannibal can taste the salty undertone in his scent, and slides his foot slightly closer, offering Will the comfort of his presence.

Freddy, ignoring to the wordless exchange around her, continues to forage on her plate.

But I won’t tell anything you don’t want me to,’ she says, looking at Abigail with a gentle smile.

‘You must understand our concerns,’ Hannibal says, leaning closer to her. ‘We care about Abigail. Our only thought is to protect her.’

Freddy sets her fork down, challenging Hannibal with the tilt of her head.

‘She’s already exposed,’ she says sharply. ‘Her silence until now has been taken as guilt. This book is about her innocence. I want Abigail to have a future.’

‘That’s what we all want,’ Will says, taking a sip of Malbec to wash away the bitter aftertaste of his exchange with the Alpha. He doesn’t want to ruin the delicate flavor of the meat that Hannibal has prepared.

‘Well,’ Hannibal says brightly, glancing around the table. ‘We all want what’s best for Abigail.’

Abigail looks from him to Will, her fork paused near the thin slices of tenderloin, and Hannibal smells the change in her scent as she realizes the Omega knows...

This is possibly the finest salad I’ve ever eaten in my life,’ Freddy says, adding beet to her mouthful of lotus. ‘Shame to ruin it with all that meat.’

Will meets her gaze as he lifts another forkful of loin to his lips, and Hannibal’s eyes shine as his Omega makes a show of chewing slowly.

Mmm.’ Will’s lip curls at Freddy, and then he smiles at Hannibal. ‘It’s perfect.’

Freddy narrows her eyes at him, and at the exchange between the two men.

‘I’ve always found eating meat to be unnecessarily cruel,’ she comments, and Will snorts.

‘That’s rich; coming from you,’ he mutters. Before Freddy can respond, though, Hannibal lifts up a forkful of loin, idly inspecting it as he speaks.

‘Many animals eat the flesh of others,’ he murmurs. ‘Perhaps it’s not the eating of meat that is cruel, but humanity itself. Our treatment of those in our care, and of ourselves.’

My treatment of Will is cruel, he thinks, glancing at his mate and smiling as he places the meat on his tongue, letting the flavor melt into his mouth before he chews. But I know he can survive, and that it will be worth it.

He can feel the Omega’s eyes on his throat when he swallows, and he has to resist the urge to reach over and hold Will’s hand on the table. He highly doubts that the other man wants to reveal the extent of their relationship with Freddy Lounds just yet.  

He looks at Freddy and Abigail, at the journalist’s faintly queasy look, and grins.

‘So, have you thought of a title for your book, yet?’

***

Tidying up together in the kitchen after dinner, Abigail pauses polishing a wineglass as her hands start to shake.

‘Will knows, doesn’t he?’ she asks, prompting Hannibal to glance back at her from drying plates at the sink.

‘He knows you killed Nicholas Boyle, yes.’

Abigail sniffs, and sets the glass down to pick up another.

‘What am I gonna do?’ she asks, her voice shaking.

‘He will keep our secret,’ Hannibal replies, but Abigail shakes her head.

‘You don’t know that.’

‘He will keep it, because otherwise the one good thing in his life is tainted,’ Hannibal says, wiping down the counter and then folding his towel. ‘And he will lie to Jack Crawford about you, just as he has lied to himself. You’re free, Abigail. No one will know what you did.’ He turns, watching as Abigail braces herself on the counter, her shoulders shaking. He tilts his head. ‘And no one will know the truth you’re trying to avoid,’ he says softly.

Abigail’s breath catches, and Hannibal draws closer, looking down at her. At his daughter. At the young woman with a fledgling shadow inside her, straining against the cage of her guilt and expectation… He wants to free her, just as he is freeing Will.

‘The one you cannot admit… even to yourself,’ he murmurs, and he watches as Abigail’s control slips and tears well in her blue eyes. Her breath quivers and, when she speaks, her voice is so choked with grief that it’s barely legible. Hannibal’s eyes glint like rubies.

‘I can’t hear you –’ he prompts, and a tear rolls down Abigail’s pale cheek.

‘I helped him,’ she repeats, blank eyes staring at nothing as the dam breaks and the truth comes pouring out of her. ‘I knew what my father was; I knew what he did. I… I knew…’

Hannibal waits, watching the turmoil within the young woman before him. So much responsibility

‘I was the one who…’ Abigail falters and swallows. Licks her lips. Tries again. ‘… Met the girls. Talked to them… Laughed and joked…’ She quivers, fighting sickness. ‘Found out … Where they lived… Where they were going… When they’d be alone…’ More tears splash down her face as she shakes her head. ‘Girls that looked just like me.’ She whimpers. ‘They could’ve been my friends… I… I c-couldn’t say “no” to him… I knew… I knew it was them or me…’

She turns to Hannibal and falls against his chest when he opens his arms to her. Her tears dampen the silk of his blue waistcoat but he doesn’t care; just holds her close as she sobs against him, stroking her hair and inhaling the smell of her shampoo and her smoky, coppery scent. She reminds him of Will; dark woods, hunting and the thrill of the chase… It’s exactly how he imagines his own daughter would smell.

‘I wondered when you would tell me,’ he murmurs.

‘I’m a monster,’ Abigail whispers, chewing her knuckles to keep from crying too loud because Will is in the other room, and she doesn’t want him to hear her. She doesn’t want to tell him this.

‘No,’ Hannibal says, remembering the sound that Cassie Boyle made when he ripped her chest open to cut out her lungs. The fear in her eyes… The pain Will’s eyes when he admitted that he was losing his mind… ‘I know what monsters are.’ He hugs her tight. ‘You’re a victim. And Will and I..?’

Hannibal rests his cheek on the top of her head. He thinks of his mate’s dark fury at Jack’s suspicion of Abigail, his defensive body language and the gentle musk in his scent whenever he’s around his surrogate daughter… You love her, Will.

‘We’re going to protect you.’