Not Beta Read.
As Hannibal took his reserved seating at the Auction, he reflected to himself on the antiquated and near barbaric aspects of his surrounding, the tradition of the Auction still alive and well even in this shiny modern age. Omegas were as rare as they ever were, creatures of the highest beauty and value, the poor damn victims of their own biology and society's limited view of their gender and capabilities.
Some of the crueler aspects of their handling had improved over time. Laws had been set into place to protect omegas from abuse and provide support to ones who had experienced it. Branding, which was once common place, was looked down upon, having been replaced with the modern method for proof of ownership. The more merciful choices of collars and electronic tagging were quite popular, though tattooing was also in vogue right now for the more artistically minded and adventurous. While there were a few exceptions, for the most part when an omega reached the age of maturity or experienced their first Heat, they were sent to the Auction to be sold to the highest bidder, usually to the alpha that would bound and breed them for life. Only after they were mated did an omega have any notable rights. Omegas that consistently failed to sell were returned to their families, or the person, whether it be alpha or beta, in charge of them to do what with they will.
Not that it was considered fair in this modern age of science and new ideas. No, not at all but unclaimed omegas were in for a life of misery without the protection and support of an alpha in some aspect of their life. Heat suppressants and birth control made them less prisoners of their own bodies for the few and far between who remained unbred and unbound, but none of that was meant to be taken for long term use. It was only putting off the inevitable of Heat and from that necessary bonding. Agreements of personal freedom and debates of equality aside, the sad truth was that an omega needed another being to exist healthily and happily. An omega left too long by itself tended toward self destruction and loathing, eventually ending in death, usually by their own hands.
At Auction, female omegas went first and brought in the most revenue, being actually able to breed and produce offspring. While the female side of this gender could at least look forward to a relationship, a home, and children to keep them company, the truly pitiably creatures were the male omegas who experienced and suffered from all the effects of a Heat- slick, pheromones, sensitivity, desire, helplessness- but all without the gift of being able to create life. A male omega could only look forward to becoming someone's plaything, usually bought by brothels for this sole purpose or as kept as a secondary partner, one used for pleasure. Rarely to be bonded or considered seriously, they were truly damned. It was almost a mercy that they were so uncommon.
It hadn't always been like this, all cold transactions and the moving of meat, something almost akin to sex slavery. Few knew or bothered to remember that the origin and point of the Auction was to find one's other in the hopes of becoming truly bonded, and even perhaps discover a soul mate, though such occurrences were rare now. Any couple involving an alpha, an omega or both could be bonded at some level to their partner, whether emotionally or physically, two betas in a relationship being the exception to this. The soul mate bond was at a deep spiritual level though and was very difficult to put into words or explain in its entirety, making it the fodder for trashy love novels, long dead romantic poets, and modern day topical debate alike.
If he had not seen it for himself with his own eyes in his own dearly departed parents, Hannibal would have dismissed the notion of a soul mate entirely as flights of romantic fantasy. It was almost worse for Hannibal that he had witnessed it because he wanted it for himself, a rarely acknowledged part of him longing for some sort of connection with another being. That was an unlikely notion, considering who and what he really was but the idea, the lingering dream of it, still glittered in the back of his mind and Hannibal was not one to deny himself possibilities, even one as farfetched as a soul mate. He doubted that he would find it here though. Hannibal attended the Auctions purely for social reasons, with no purpose other than to be seen and admired.
A nobleman of Lithuanian descent but one who rarely used his title of Count, Doctor Hannibal Lecter was in a category all to his own. Growing up, he had ignored his titles and all the privilege that came with them, deciding to study medicine, earning accolades of his own making.
He was a pure Alpha, a thoroughbred, one built faster, stronger, smarter, better than others of his gender. Even worse, Hannibal knew it. In the quiet moment while he was cutting out other people's organs for his sadistic pleasure and their punishment, Hannibal wondered if him being so unique, so pure, so rarified genetically were contributing factor to his 'hobby', a biological need to separate the wheat of society from the unwanted chaff of its filth. That he had been born a predator with a purpose. The evil of men and the horrific deeds they brought with them combined with the loss of a beloved sister brought out the best and worst of his being into the light. The world had never been the same since.
Nostrils flaring, Hannibal scented the air even now, like a wolf to the wind. Something had been lingering on the air for a while now, ever since he had arrived and it was really starting to bother him. It felt like the coming of rain, an electric energy lacing the air all around him, but at the same time, not. It was beginning to make his skin itch under his suit but not in a bad way. Hannibal was restless and on edge and he had no idea why.
"Is everything alright?" Bedelia asked, her controlled slight tip in head the only giveaway to her curiosity. She was seated next to Hannibal, the only other occupant allowed at the table. She was one of few who could or dared to. A colleague and fellow psychiatrist, Bedelia Du Maurier was a female alpha, rare gender but not unheard of. It made her an intriguing person to talk to and verbally spar with as well. She also happened to be the closest thing Hannibal had to a friend without really being one.
Gracefully inclining his head, Hannibal nodded, biting back a sigh as he continued to look around to see who was here this time round. The auction hall was a cavernous space of a building, old and solidly build, reminding Hannibal of an opera house he has once been in while visited Florence, decorated all in intricate tiled mosaics. The Alphas and other members of the audience were seated at numbered tables in pairs or trios based on social status, by reservation and invite only. The Auction always sold best and the brightest omegas first to the alphas and wealthier betas in private events before opening their doors to the public for larger scale sales.
Needless to say, Hannibal's and Bedelia's table was near the front of the stage, almost dead center. With their unique qualities, high personal revenue, and elite standing, they both rated solo tables but liked each other's company well enough to come to a mutual agreement of cohabitation. Neither had any intention of buying the presented stock, the two alphas here purely for the social status off of it all. The pair would often share a bottle of wine and amuse each other by adding their own running commentary on the proceedings and who would have buyer's remorse later on, the two physiatrists having unique advantages in that area.
All the who's who of the Alpha community were here, which unfortunately included Dr. Frederick Chilton much to Hannibal's amused distain. The man was a social climbing weasel who somehow managed to be boorishly annoying and utterly boring all at the same time. Hannibal was still trying to figure out how the man managed to achieve it so consistently but that would mean having to socialize with him for longer periods of time than Hannibal wished to commit to finding out. The only reason Dr. Chilton was not an appetizer(he really didn't rate a main course) was that he had enough sense and good taste to idolize Hannibal, visibly hanging onto every word Hannibal said when he deigned to be in the other man's company. For all his sins, Hannibal was not above a little flattery, even if the admiration was from a rodent with a Napoleon complex pretending to be an alpha.
Hannibal's barely there brows arched in surprise though when his maroon eyes alighted upon an unexpected sight, a person he would have never thought to find here. Alana Bloom, a lovely beta and former student of his turned colleague, was seated a couple of tables over beside a dark skinned, rather imposing Alpha. Both appeared quite agitated while making a show of trying not to show it. Hannibal could practically smell the aggression and anger rolling off of them though, who graciously excused himself from Bedelia's company, his curiosity getting the better of him.
"Good evening." Hannibal greeted, half bowing to Alana to smiled up in what looked like relief at him. Obviously, her company was not the friendly sort, the other alpha glowering at him.
"Hannibal. Thank god, I am so happy to see you." Alana rose up to meet him. "This is Jack Crawford, head of the behavioral sciences at the FBI." She gestured to her companion, who nodded gravely back, his mood somewhat lightening now that he didn't perceive Hannibal as a threat to them, common behavior in an Alpha. Possessiveness was a key word in describing any member of his gender.
"A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Crawford." Hannibal said politely before turning his attention back to Alana. "Though I must admit, I am confused about your presence here. You have often stated your displeasure for the Auction several times, quite memorably if memory serves well."
Alana bit her bottom lip, looking to Jack who shrugged, the two coming to an unspoken agreement about something. "I know, I know, and I stand by what I said about it, being outdated, demeaning, and cruel, but I'm here for a friend." she said, looking over at the raised stage to glare at it as if it had personally offended her.
"An omega." Hannibal said, making it more statement than question as he put on a concerned face. He hated to state obvious things, but prompting was needed if he wanted to find out the heart of the matter in a timely manner.
"Yes, and a very special one at that." Alana sighed, looking more wrecked the longer she talked about it. "His name is Will. Will Graham and he shouldn't be here."
"What makes him so different, so unique it merit's a member of the FBI's and your reluctant presence?" It was obvious that the omega in question wasn't mated, which in itself was unusual the way Jack and Alana were acting, enough so that it peeked Hannibal's interest. He didn't get the impression that they were speaking of a young relative or associate coming here after their first Heat.
"Besides the fact he's a teacher at the FBI who specializes in psychoanalyzing the criminally insane and in his mid-thirties, he's one of my best profilers." Jack told him, explaining the sense of ownership Hannibal was getting from the alpha. The omega had been in his employ and thus his responsibility.
"That seems highly improbable." Hannibal pointed out, poking the bear of this conversation to see what it did. "Especially if he is here."
"He was hiding his gender with a combination of heat suppressants and birth control." Alana explained, running her hands through her long dark hair, an old habit that Hannibal had been unable to fully break her of. "Most of which were illegally acquired. He got a bad batch of one or the other, and it made him really sick. He ended up fainting from fever while teaching a class and was discovered when he went straight into a Heat, his first one since puberty. Fortunately, he was at a hospital by then."
"So he was kept safe from any random Alpha but unfortunately they had to report him and he's here now, on sale." Hannibal finished for her. Her story was fascinating and the omega intriguing. He had never heard of, much less seen, an omega so late in age left unmated and allow to live on his own, able to manage on his own. Omegas left to their own devices too long and unbounded tended to go crazy or get so depressed they ended themselves, their body's chemicals and urges their own worst enemies. An unbounded male omega in his mid thirties that was relatively sane and more impressively functional in society was a true diamond in the rough, but one who was not only been a teacher for the FBI but a profiler as well was a thing of disbelief. Hannibal would have thought finding a winged unicorn was more likely.
The possibilities were endless though now that Hannibal's mind spun and whirl around the idea of Will Graham. The omega had to be a clever one, someone who's head was well worth looking into to. To be able to hide in plain sight for so long, under the noses and eyes of FBI in training and full fledged agents. There were layers there, the kind of which Hannibal wanted to pull back to see what lay beneath. He was willing to bet there was something worth finding, something bloody with teeth and fangs of its own. "You are here to save him then." Hannibal concluded, watching as Alana and Jack nodded their head in agreement, already beginning to have his own thoughts on the matter
"I'm already soul bonded but at least, we can get around the letter of the law. I can take Will on as my secondary and I can keep him where I need him to be." Jack explained, looking pleased about something on that aspect. Something about it didn't strike Hannibal as sexual.
"Jack! You can't keep him out in the field. It's not good for him and you know it." Alana helpfully revealed the source of Jack's true intent. As Will's alpha, Jack would essentially own him and all that he was and had. If Jack needed him to do a job, Will could be allowed to work, under restrictions of course, but it would be more than what most omegas were allowed.
"He's saving peoples' lives. I need him out there. Will going a little crazy is worth…" Jack started to fume to be cut off by Alana.
"That's not acceptable!" the beta snapped. This seemed to be an old argument between then, Hannibal looking on in amusement. He loved a free show as much as the next person, though he would never admit it aloud or how much he gleaned about a person and their motivations from observation.
"We can argue about this later." Jack growled, obviously not used to having other people disagree much less argue with him.
"Yes, the auction is about to begin so I will wish you both the best of luck and good bidding." Hannibal excused himself, noticing the stage beginning to fill with nervous omegas and the auctioneer shuffling through his papers at the podium. On his way back to his seat, Hannibal overheard Chilton chattering on about Will Graham and his unusual collections of neuroses that made him such an effective profiler. Terrible, short sighted little man that he was, Chilton was already making plans for Will, seeing books and studies on the man in his future and saying as much to his captive uncaring audience. It looked as if Jack was going to have some competition on his hands after all. Most of the brothels would not be interested or make any real effort toward bidding due to Will's age despite his unique gender. They wanted pliable young meat though it made Hannibal wonder if Will was a virgin or not. For not being discovered for so long, Hannibal couldn't see him running the high risk of taking a lover.
Curiouser and curiouser. Will Graham was quickly turned from a being of myth to one that of legend. A working omega, unbonded this late in life and still a virgin? It was almost enough for Hannibal to consider bidding as he retook his seat next to Bedelia who poured him a glass of wine, red this time. Knowing his colleague's preference, it was no surprise when it turned out to be a dry Barolo, rich with the tangy aroma and taste of bright cherries. Not exactly his ideal sipping wine, but Bedelia preferred vintages with bite and it was her turn to choose.
Ignoring the proceedings going on around him, Hannibal turned his thoughts inward, his complicated processes circling around this new concept of Will Graham. Most omegas accepted their fates that society pressed upon them, spent most their lives training for what was expected of them. Their behavior was born and bred complacent, an omega having an inborn need to please an alpha or their mate. From what he had gathered and gleaned, Will Graham didn't fit the atypical profile of a docile omega at all.
It was intriguing. Hannibal found himself wanting to catch a glimpse of the man who had roused his interest, leaving off conversation with Bedelia to turn his gaze toward the stage which was full of shuffling omegas full of nervous energy, all neatly lined up. Females first from youngest to the oldest, though most were all the same age.
Will Graham was the easiest to spot among them, being the only male on stage besides the auctioneer and some security, most of which were stationed around him. He was also the only bloodied and bound omega, his eyes and most of his face covered with a heavy leather mask that circled his head and looked like it lock on the back of his neck. It was a throwback to the old days of the Auction and surprising to see that the staff had resorted to it.
In the olden days, the omegas would have been naked and masked, the idea behind it being the alpha who bought their mate was the only one allowed to look upon it first after sale. Now the omegas were allowed a simple garb, a plain white shift that covered their forms barely, the material almost sheer to better show off their assets while still giving a passing nod to decency. It was interesting to note that Will's barely there clothing was torn and bloodied, his skin marred with bruising as well. He had not been taken in easily, that much was obvious. Even while blinded, hobbled, and bound, he remained tense, his muscles standing out in strained relief against his skin like he was ready to dart first chance he was given. Dirty, wounded, and battered, he should have never drawn Hannibal's attention to him who preferred things in more pristine conditions. As others were sold and the omega drew nearer to the stage and Hannibal's table, the alpha's full focus was upon Will.
The scent, the one that had been bothering Hannibal since he had entered the auction house, was coming from Will Graham and it was quickly becoming like ball lightening in the air, making Hannibal's skin tingle like it had been struck and the finer hairs on his body stand on end. What had once been light and heady, even ignorable before, was making Hannibal dry swallow now like he was drying of thirst and gulp for fresh air as he ran the odds in his head. Too ripe peaches threatening to burst and light rain moistening earth were the scents beginning to choke all the reasoning out of Hannibal, along with his disbelief. The scent was coming from a pure Omega. Not only that, he could tell from the sweetest of the scent that this Will Graham, this strange Omega, was his mate. He knew this as fact though he couldn't say why, knew it as a truth as solid as his own bones, a secret he never knew until now that had been written on his skin and whispered in the dark behind his eyes.
Hannibal watching in something akin to horror as the Omega known as Will Graham titled his own head back, scenting the air, his bound head turning in Hannibal's direction to sightlessly stare the Alpha down. Even bound and blind, his true mate knew he was there, something deep with Hannibal beginning to rend and tear as this was all processed. Feeling oddly numb, separated while still engaged, Hannibal could hear Bedelia shifting near him, asking him a question of some sort, undoubtedly smelling the emotional cocktail coming off of him. Anger that his mate was standing injured and bound before him, rage that a roomful of alphas were staring at his Omega, and a wave, no, a tsunami of possessiveness to claim and conquer that was his threatening to spill out in the open.
Hannibal was distracted from the rooms' genocide, an effort but doable, when his sleeve was tapped by a manicured nail. "I assume it would be safe to say that someone has peeked your interest." Bedelia smirked and even that looked lovely on her, making Hannibal instantly grateful for her grounding presence. There were mutual beneficial reasons they were almost friends after all. Her intentional interference made Hannibal remember himself, the Alpha reigning himself in.
"Surprisingly enough, yes. I believe so." Hannibal smiled dryly, excusing himself to return back to Jack's and Alana's table.
"Are you aware of why he is wearing the mask?" Usually Hannibal was one for courtesy but the bidding was going quickly, and amount of omegas before Will was dwindling down fast. There was things he needed to know though before he considered certain actions on his part. "You said that Will was special. I thought you meant that in the sense that he was special to you. I am starting to believe otherwise though."
"He is…" Alana said slowly, too slowly for Hannibal's liking, one ear keeping track of the proceedings going on behind them. "….complicated. It's complicated."
"Long story short- Will's an empath. The real deal." Jack clarified. Unlike Alana and not as familiar with Hannibal, he was more interesting in watching the process of bidding that guarding his words. "He has the ability to take on and understand anyone's point of view. It's what makes him the best damn profiler I've got and the best shot I have for catching the Chesapeake Ripper."
"The Chesapeake Ripper?" Hannibal hid his amusement well under a perfectly crafted mask of confusion at the turn in conversation, coating his expression with concern and surprise that looked genuine.
"As an empath, Will catches killers by becoming them." Jack told him, growing impatient as two alphas delayed by getting into a bidding war over a petite blonde omega.
"Which is not good for him." Alana sniped, shooting Jack a sharp look. "I don't know why you can't just leave him alone. He's happy just teaching."
"He's saving people. Will Graham has caught more killers doing what he does than any other agent." Jack stated firmly, acting like that would end the disagreement. Alana's answering glare told him that the matter was still open to debate, and not over by a long shot. "He's been working with my team and I on the Ripper case. I believe he's the key to catching the bastard. I need him back."
"Ah, so that is why Frederick, Dr. Chilton, is interested in him then." Hannibal said, intentionally adding some gasoline to the fire of Jack's temper. Anger made the man careless, something that the Chesapeake Ripper noted for later.
"Son of a bitch." Jack glared at the doctor seated a few tables away from them, Chilton too involved trying to impress his table's guests to take notice.
"I presume the mask it to keep him from forming a bond then until he is sold." Hannibal mused, studying Will whose head was still turned toward him, the scent of sticky peaches soaked in bourbon still so sweet all around him. "His gift set would make it easy to form a true bond, whether he wanted to or not."
"Yes, unfortunately, that is the perception. That and apparently Will tried to bite a guard." Alana sighed, looking worried for her friend.
Losing interest having gotten what he wanted from the exchange, Hannibal was already up and out of his seat, striding across the room toward the stage, just as Will Graham's sale was being announced. Without pause, Hannibal hopped onto the stage in the smooth movement of a predator, making the auctioneer startle back away from him. Hannibal could have cared less about anyone else in the room or their opinion of him, his sole focus on the spectacular Omega before him. The attention was returned in full, Will shrinking down on his knees, an omega's defense mechanism kicking in while in the presence of such a powerful alpha, a silent plea for nonviolence and a cue of submission. Even now though the omega fought against his own body, struggling to rise to his feet, the efforts of it leaving Will shaking. Hannibal approved.
"What are you…" said the auctioneer, the human equivalent of a gnat in Hannibal's ear.
"I will take him." Hannibal stated, standing before Will but very careful not to touch, not yet at least. A steely sanguine glare kept the guards in their place as well.
"But sir…." the auctioneer was wasting him time in Hannibal's opinion. His status and social standing alone gave him priority in bidding.
"I am not in the habit of repeating myself." Hannibal's words came out cold and killing.
"But there is procedure and…" the irritating man trailed off as Hannibal stared him down until the protests died on his tongue. The auctioneer obviously had the survival instincts meant for lemmings, his imminent future one of being dressed in a sauce and served with side dishes. The man who would be dinner gestured helplessly to the stunned crowd behind them. Hannibal calmly looked out upon their audience and let part of his mask go, the pure Alpha side of it that he usually kept in check.
And the room flinched back from him as a whole, with the exception of Bedelia who smiled and had the audacity to rise her glass to him in a toast. "$100, 000." Hannibal told the room with a razor tone that threatened without obviously doing so, daring anyone to challenge his bid. It was a little high, especially for an omega Will's age but Hannibal was done with wasting time. He could afford it, the amount mere pocket change to him, and would have gladly paid triple that if it meant he could leave right now with his prize.
"The bid is at $100, 000. Going once. Going twice. Sold to Doctor Lecter." the auctioneer said weakly, closing the bidding down as fast as he could. There were not other takers anyway, the gathering still stunned into a mute state of being, though Jack was seething through clenched teeth, white knuckling the edge of the table. Hannibal knew Jack had been counting on Will going for a lower price due to his age and temperamental nature. Most alphas wanted a pliant mate who would bend over any surface for them, not someone to argue with them tooth and claw to the bitter end.
Getting the keys for Will's binding from the still stammering auctioneer, Hannibal took Will by his bound hands, very careful to only touch the leather of the cuffs, leading the omega, his omega off of the stage with nary a look back.
The car ride home was quiet the entire way back, not that Hannibal was surprised or complaining about the lack of conversation. He had freed Will's arms and legs but had left the mask on, wanting to be in the safety of his home for the reveal. That and he didn't want anyone else to look at Will, not yet at least while he was unclaimed by him. Blind, Will let himself be led and seated in the car, remaining quiet the entire process of payment and purchase of collar, which had yet to be placed around his neck. It would reside there soon enough, all omegas required to wear one as proof of ownership. To Hannibal's delight, the Auction's selection was surprisingly very good, the business used to catering to the precarious whims of the rich and elite. Will's new collar was soft tooled black leather, Italian crafted and elegantly simple in design and braiding with an ornate silver clasp that Hannibal could lock.
The only noise Will had offered up was a grunt of pain when he was electronically tagged in the shoulder. Mate or not, Hannibal was unwilling to take any chances and Will was still an unknown entity to him. He might try to run before Hannibal had a chance to properly condition or claim him.
The silence between them didn't feel tense though. Will simply seemed like he was waiting for something to happen, making himself ready for it. Appreciative of the quiet so that he could think, Hannibal found himself wondering what he was going to do with Will. He essentially knew nothing about the man, other than that he was a peculiar, clever omega who was being groomed to hunt him, the darker part of his personality. His other persona was very good reason Hannibal had never taken on a mate before. His secrets ran deep and deadly, not meant for sharing. Not many would be able to handle the idea of sleeping next to a sadistic cannibalistic serial killer well, much less be mated to one. A planner and schemer of Machiavellian level, Hannibal usually never did anything so reckless, but even now, Will's scent sang to him, reminding him of the certainty that had driven him to this impulsive decision that just may end up badly for them both. The scent of nectar, warmed bourbon, and peaches so ripe they were on the verge of rot was nearly suffocating him.
They would have a lot to discuss when they got home.