The long walk to the final high security cell did not grow easier with time although Will reasoned he should have grown used to it. Another uncomfortable reminder of the handful of familiar faces from the months he had spent as an inmate at the Baltimore State Hospital still remained.
“Ah Will, so good to see you again.”
Will resisted the temptation to roll his eyes as he looked up at the familiar reeling voice.
“Frederick.” He could see how the other man still clung to his cane as he walked towards him down the stairs that he was still suffering somewhat from the damage Gideon had left behind. A small consolation. “What are you doing here?”
The beta took some time to answer, making no attempt to hide the way his eyes lingered first on the fresh bruises and healing bite marks visible above Will’s open collar and then the stack of files clutched under his arm.
“This is my hospital, Will.”
The older man blushed angrily but recovered quickly.
“Have you been assigned to the Buffalo Bill investigation?” Chilton’s eyes widened in interest even as he smirked to try and disguise it. “Surely that’s too far outside acceptable protocol even for Jack.”
“You would know about that wouldn’t you.” Will interrupted. The man’s pompous, greasy manner raised memories of the weeks he had spent under his supposed ‘care’, the man’s negligence almost leading to him losing his child.
With effort the older man managed to keep pace with him as he started walking again, still prattling away.
“You would have seen that my latest book came out this week? I would have given more attention to your side of the story if possible but since you declined to be interviewed-”
“And you managed to get a lot of information from only one session with Hannibal.” Will stopped abruptly just before the guard’s station, throwing Chilton off. “He agreed to an interview on the condition that you would leave my daughter and me out of it.”
He remembered all too well the first volume of Chilton’s ‘biographical’ text on his mate released the previous year, filled out with details of his own speculation as the truth escaped him. Pages of the followup book promising a closer focus on the killer’s adult life and scandalous involvement with the FBI, had been left tacked to his office door.
Chilton laughed with a smile that was probably meant to be fatherly. “That would remove most of the story after all, the whole business surrounding your incarceration is one of the endearing areas. Who doesn’t love an alpha prepared to murder for his mate to save them from the death penalty, even if he was the one who put you away in the first place.”
How had this foolish man ever been accepted into even subpar academic fields?
“I’m not talking to you Frederick, about this or anything else. And since you were relieved of your position here four months ago I don’t see any reason why you should still be skulking around.”
Flustered Chilton turned on his heel and Will allowed a quiet sigh of relief as he kept walking.
“You should keep an eye on her, Will,” Chilton called after him. “One of the most telling early signs is mutilating animals but I’m sure you know the rest.”
Will refused to look back or falter in his step through that jab even from a useless source still cut as deeply as it had the first time when Freddie Lounds had taken it upon herself to speculate on his daughter.
He nodded through the safety protocols the orderly rehashed, speaking only to confirm he understood as he was more than familiar with the rules.
“You okay, Mr Graham?”
Will glanced up from the nursing textbook bookmarked by a large dark hand to the orderly’s face. “I’m fine Barney, thank you.”
There were only a handful of maximum security prisoners and Will ignored the jeers from the caged alphas as he walked down the corridor to the end, the large glass and metal cage isolated from the others. After Hannibal’s request for Audrey to be brought along for a visit on her second birthday had been flatly denied Hannibal had spent the afternoon whispering to the occupant of the next cell. The following morning the man was found dead having swallowed his own tongue and Hannibal was moved to a different portion of the prison, deemed to dangerous to have neighbours. That misstep had finally been enough to remove Chilton from the hospital.
Hannibal smiled as the familiar scent of his mate reached him through the vents in his glass cage, savouring it for another moment before setting aside his drawing. The recreation of his mate and daughter, then only three months old, asleep together on the small sofa in his home office was incomplete yet coming along nicely.
“Will,” he said warmly as the omega came into view. “Tell me, why is it that you have been allowed to visit me again so soon?” Hannibal paused, breathing in the sweetening scent before continuing. "You are not due for at least three days."
“This is more a business meeting I’m afraid.” There was a sour note in Will’s voice and he blushed slightly at the vague mention of his heat.
Hannibal pursed his lips as he noted the thick file clutched under his arm.
Will placed the stack of papers in the food tray and pushed the drawer back through though he made no move to retrieve them or spoke again until Will had sat down. Standing from the small desk with all the predatory grace of a big cat Hannibal leaned against the barred door of his cell, threading his arms through the bars as he looked down at the omega.
Physically he still looked in good health though there was an air of sadness about the omega that vexed Hannibal. His mate needed him, the comfort and security his mind and body would be craving and he was unable to provide it in fortnightly visits from either side of a cell wall and although dulled by medicated scent blockers the sweet fertile note that hinted at recent heat still reached him.
“Has Jack finally lost faith in you?” Hannibal asked surprisingly curtly. “Or does he think I would be unable to refuse you , even acting on another alpha’s orders in my absence? Sending you to me less than a week before you are due to go into heat? It would not be the first time he has made foolish blunders. "The alpha shook his head, amused. “Unless you plan on seeking alternative arrangements I will not be much use either.”
Will blushed furiously but before he could respond Hannibal continued.
"I thought we had decided that you would stick to your classroom from now on.”
“I’m not officially working this investigation no, though if you recall my mind didn’t start to wander off because of the work last time,” Will said quietly, reminding him. “That was undiagnosed encephalitis.” That the disease that had grown slowly from years of suppressing his body but carried on to do almost fatal damage for the sake of Hannibal’s curiosity hung in the air between them.
Will had never really left the bureau even after his mate was sentenced for multiple counts first degree murder. As the alpha had insisted from the beginning that his omega knew nothing of his crimes he had managed to divert any blame from Will and the omega had not disappointed in the days following, reacting as they had agreed he must. His continued teaching position at the academy seemed more, in Will’s words, an unorthodox way to keep track of an ugly tool that may still be needed and a way to keep tabs on him for those who still expected him of playing a part in his alpha’s crimes.
Hannibal inclined his head in quiet acknowledgement but made no move to take the file.
The news reports on the serial killer Buffalo Bill had been fairly mild and avoided details that may be deemed unsettling as often was the case when victims were omegas with the exception of the print version of the tabloid TattleCrime. Four omegas, early to mid twenties, all abducted from within spitting distance of their homes and dumped several days later partially flayed. The fifth was still listed as missing although after almost a week that was more a formality than anything else. He could not deny that he had been curious and saw potential for opportunity.
“I do not want you to get involved when I am unable to protect you.”
“Then help me catch this one and it will be over with quicker.”
Over not so long a time Will had moved from reluctantly tolerating the alpha’s actions to condoning, and finally acceptance under particular conditions, a transition and growing, beautiful darkness that Hannibal alone had been privy to.
What game are you playing now my love?
Hannibal relented and accepted the file. Returning to his desk and reading quickly he caught Will’s gaze for a moment over the page in his hand, eyebrows raised in a question Will would recognise but the security camera would not. Will had not done field work for months, not since his own arrest and while he could imagine Will’s heart being swayed by the thought of those young women, adducted, tormented and skinned, there had to be another reason for his accepting now.
“I will help you, Will, but my services to the FBI are not free.”
Will rose to his feet, arms coming to cross over his chest. “I don’t have the authority to offer you a deal and no one is going to extend one until you give us an idea of what you can contribute.”
Hannibal smiled, placing the file back in the drawer and pushing it back to the other side.
“No, I think not. Alana is a better administrator then the previous one but she hasn’t quite forgiven me, cruel in petty ways that no one would expect of her. I think she may feel guilty about not realising for so many years, that or just embarrassed she didn’t see,” Hannibal paused with a small smile as if pleased by that result. “This place bores me and I have not seen my daughter in almost a year.”
“You forfeited that right.” He blinked, looking back to see the alpha had moved silently to the glass. Almost within touching distance if not for the clear barrier.
Will didn’t flinch, remaining determinedly on his feet. The corners of the alpha’s eye crinkled in amusement as he stepped back the lean against the edge of his desk, movements lazy and so very misleading.
“In exchange for what?” Will breathed through gritted teeth.
“I will offer insight, that is all.”
Will swallowed back his frustration. Bodies left in water for a few days make for some of the more unsettlingly corpses, he remembered thinking. One of the victims left in the river long enough to be barely recognisable and the slice taken from her skin missed until a second appeared with the same wound.
“Hannibal, this is time sensitive and four young omegas are already dead and…” There was frustration in Will’s voice and across his beautiful face as he almost begged. “I’ve looked at the evidence and I cannot find anything. I need you to help, please.”
Hannibal stepped back from the glass looking bored. “I have utmost faith in your abilities to uncover it on your own. If not strictly in time.”
“This isn’t a joke.”
“Do you trust me, Will?” Hannibal said, moving to stand against the glass. “Well?”
Will swallowed. He was distinctly aware that despite the lack of physical presence of others they were by no means alone. In the wake of and during Hannibal’s trial he had been under a lot of suspicion. The allegations he had made himself against his alpha had fortunately not been widely publicised and focus shifted instead to his stupidity.
An FBI consultant who allowed one of the killers he was meant to appended to claim him, fuck him… and had carried the madman’s child.
From a stranger’s perspective he could not fault that assessment. More fodder for the argument that omegas could not trusted in any workforce that offered potential power and stress.
“They can’t help it, just not made for it are they, poor things…”
“Mindless whores the lot of them. Better use on their knees…”
“Yes, to an extent.”
“Come closer, please.”
Will glanced back up the corridor to the guards station before taking a step closer.
The hand reaching through the bars moved quicker than he could track, latching onto his shirt collar, turning him and pulling him against the glass. Will heard the shout of a distant guard as Hannibal lowered his face to whisper in his ear.
“We don’t have much time. I am not satisfied with our current arrangements and to have no contact with the gift you have given me. I will help you catch this killer but do not think I would waste an opportunity to return to you if it arises or that there is anything I would not sacrifice to return our lives to how they should be. You must obey me to the letter and trust completely. It would be best if you appear frightened.”
Will swallowed as Hannibal’s lips brushed his earlobe, the warm breath sending shivers down his neck.
“Have a little faith in me, my love.” Hannibal withdrew his hand, gently pushing his omega forward and stepping back in compliance to the panicked guards.
The scent of his mate stayed in the air for several minutes after he had been escorted away. Hannibal savour the aged sweetness, the traces if their daughter’s floral notes and his own ripening heat and a hint of fear. Even after so much time and better awareness of his nature Will still carried fear with him.
“You’ve given up on me already. Or do you no longer wish for a child.” The words he’d spoken in anger replayed painfully in his mind without warning, bringing a stab of pain and guilt. He had promised himself to never again cause willing harm to his mate but knew he had already done so.
Looking back he was ashamed of the anger he’d felt after Will had gone back on heat suppressants three months ago though it had not been for the reasons he’d immediately expressed.
Due to the existing damage and ample health risks the omega would probably have had to go to multiple doctors before one was foolish enough to sign off.
“I’ve been asked to create a profile on Buffalo Bill.”
Hannibal didn’t reply at once, hand not faltering as he stroked up and down Will’s back.
He had been denied visitors for the past two weeks as a punishment for something or other and finally seeing his mate again for his heat had been almost overwhelming and brought him dangerously close to rut, ripping his omega’s clothing off in his haste.
The scent of heat was still strong enough to distract from the strong cleaning products clinging to the cheap bedding and general hospital. It wouldn’t be long before the need cancelled out Will’s mind again.
The discovery of a young omega woman with the skin peeled off her arms and the back of her thighs had initially be marked as a hate crime after ruling out sexual assault and it was not until another omega fitting her description was found that the man dubbed ‘Buffalo Bill’ was recognised as a serial murderer.
“Will you accept?”
“I’ve been out of the field for months.” The omega shifted to lie across his mate’s body more comfortably and curling his hands through the older man’s greying chest hair. “Jack’s scared to involve me officially but I can’t do anything if I don’t have access to the crime scenes.”
Hannibal returned to his desk as he considered the information he’d been offered. It seemed he would not be able to completely free his mate of seeking to throw himself down paths angels feared to tread in the name of faceless strangers but the omega was no fool. Perhaps he was no longer motivated by such a pure, naive agenda.