When Hannibal enters the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, he is calm. His hands do not shake, his pulse does not rush in his throat; his heart remains steady, beating in double time to his slow, unhurried footsteps. He follows Chilton down to the cells, winces at the stench of Alpha that floods his nose and mouth as he crosses through the gate at the end of the hallway.
In front of him stretches a walkway, wide enough to house several men abreast. On each side, thick iron bars and glass separating each resident from the guards and visitors, though Hannibal thinks the second type of party is seldom seen in a place like this.
Chilton meets his eyes, when Hannibal looks at him. "He's in the last one on the left," he says, and Hannibal nods, pressing his lips together, steeling himself for having to walk past all the other caged and collared Alphas within this place. He is prepared for the jeers, the catcalls; prepared, to see the Alpha he has come to visit.
These cells are for the particularly dangerous, he has been told. The murderers. The serial rapists. The ones that hold no hope of rehabilitation.
This is necessary – if he does not do this, his pack will be overcome. He needs the alliance, needs the help of the dogs that live on the east side of Baltimore and spread to Northern Virginia – right now, leaderless, barely held together since their pack Alpha has been down here the last several months.
He stiffens his shoulders when the first resident, on the right, throws himself against the edge of his cage and howls for Hannibal, grins wide at him as he passes. "Hey there, slicker," he hisses, showing his sharp canines, his eyes so red Hannibal cannot tell what the original color of his iris is. He ignores the Alpha, and keeps walking. "Come on, pretty boy, don't walk away from me!"
He sighs through his nose.
He keeps walking.
Another Alpha, on the left, grunts and snarls as he passes, teeth gnashing together and fingers pressing through the bars, trying to reach, and grab. The stench of Alpha in rut is overwhelming, for a moment, makes Hannibal want to gag. His nose, cursed with oversensitivity, burns at the smell of the other man.
He keeps walking.
There is a chair, placed at the end of the walkway. Hannibal pauses beside it, lifts his head, and looks into the last cell on the left.
Inside is a single man, curled up with his eyes closed, on his bed. His heels are drawn up, his arms folded over his knees, his chin tilted so that, if his eyes were open, he'd be staring at the ceiling. Unbidden – for he was prepared for this, surely he was – Hannibal's breath catches. His hair has gotten longer, falls in wild curls around his face and hides part of his neck. His cheeks and jaw are covered by a thin layer of scruff. His knuckles are bruised – old bruises, no fresh blood in the lines of them – but evidence of past, fairly recent violence.
He sits, and straightens. The Alpha in the cell breathes in, his brow creasing, nostrils flaring wide. He tilts his head as though listening to a whisper at his shoulder.
His voice, when he speaks, is breathy and soft. "Hannibal?" He opens his eyes, and their gazes lock. Will's eyes are just as lovely as ever – bright, a brilliant blue like a summer sky, ringed thinly with red around his pupil.
Hannibal smiles at him, and Will's fingers curl.
"What are you doing here?" he breathes.
"I came to see you," Hannibal replies. Will's eyes tighten at the corners, and he turns his head away sharply, glaring at the opposite wall. "You're looking well."
Will's fingers curl to fists, and he presses them against the tops of his thighs, rutting them up to his hips, and then down to his knees. His lips part, showing the tips of his canines, and his teeth snap together with an audible click.
"What do you want?" he demands softly.
Hannibal presses his lips together, and sighs, looking down at Will's feet. He brushes an errant, invisible speak of dust from his own clothes. "Can't I just want to visit an old friend?" he says mildly.
"We're not friends," Will hisses, snarling without direction. "The light of friendship won't touch us for a thousand years."
Hannibal's brows lift. He tries not to pay attention to the tight, shivering cold that resounds in his chest at Will's declaration – Will has always been cruel, it's why he was so good at what he did, but that cruelty has never been Hannibal's to bear, until now.
He presses on; "I need your help, Will."
"My help," Will snaps, and Hannibal feels the weight of his gaze again. Meets his eyes steadily, watches as the red in Will's iris flares and widens, thickens, in the wake of his anger. Omegas normally cannot hold eye contact with an Alpha for very long, but Hannibal is not a common Omega.
Will stands, prowling to his feet in a motion so graceful and feline, Hannibal's breath catches again. He tilts his head up, keeps his seat, as Will approaches the wall of his cage. Will doesn't have bars, just glass, thick and unyielding, with holes at waist height for air circulation, and a small tray through which food and correspondence can be passed.
Will presses his hand to the glass, and tilts his head. Snarls; "What, my dear friend, do you need help with?"
Hannibal stands, as well – he was prepared for Will's anger. It's justified, really. "Your pack is leaderless," he says, and Will lifts his chin, eyes flashing in visceral outrage, fingers curling as he fights not to let his reaction show on his face. As pack Alpha, Will has always been fiercely devoted and protective of his pack – a trait Hannibal often admired in him. Will is loyal to the last. "Mine, fierce though they are, is too small to maintain my territory. We are at risk of being overrun."
Will blinks at him, slowly, and frowns.
"Yours will not follow anyone but you," Hannibal adds, and takes a step closer, watches as Will's nostrils flare, his lips part to take in a greedy lungful of Hannibal's scent. Hannibal knew he would have to come here, and so he took no suppressants for a week, and is wearing nothing to deaden his scent – he can pull at Will as an Alpha, if he must, if he cannot reach Will as a friend. As whatever they were to each other before Will was sent here. "But I need them, to secure my position. An alliance between our houses will benefit us both."
"How will is benefit me?" Will snaps, sharply. "Sounds like you're the only one in real danger, here."
He's posturing – he doesn't want to reveal how much the idea of his pack dissolving puts him ill at ease. Hannibal smiles. "What if we could work together?" he murmurs, and takes another step closer. "Join our houses – our numbers, and our savagery, would be unmatched."
Will barks out a hard, ugly laugh, and drops his hand before Hannibal can match his on the glass. He shakes his head, and looks at Hannibal like he's a fool. "Have you lost your fucking mind?" he demands. "I'm not stupid, Hannibal – you're the reason I'm in here, I know it."
Hannibal sighs, but will not do Will the disservice of denying it. "Evidence planted, easily re-planted," he says. "I have friends in every layer of the justice system. I can get you out of here, Will."
Will stares at him, openly, and Hannibal doesn't know how Will can look so angry, and hopeful, and so unbearably sad all at once. "Fuck you," he says, and his voice holds no strength anymore – there is something utterly beaten in the slope of his shoulders, and the curl of his fingers. He shows his teeth. His eyes brighten, grow wet. "Fuck you, Hannibal."
Hannibal sighs. "Will -."
"No!" Will yells, snarling loudly. His neighbor, on the other side of the cement, growls in answer, instinctively riled up at the sound of Will's rage. Hannibal stiffens, and casts his eyes to one side, and steps closer to the end of the walkway, away from the other Alpha.
He swallows, and steadies his breathing. "How long have you been in here, Will?" he asks. "Five months? Six?"
Will doesn't answer.
"Let's say six," Hannibal murmurs, and meets his eyes. "Six months in here. Six months with me. Then you are free to do as you will."
Will lunges for the glass, beats his fist against it hard enough that, at the other end of the hallway, behind the gate, Hannibal sees the guard stiffen and straighten, alert. He lets out a soothing noise immediately, going to Will – he has never been afraid of Will; Will is his friend, Will has always been his friend.
Will sags against the glass at the sound of Hannibal's sweet purr, his shoulders shaking with silent sobs, his head bowed and fists clenched tight. His face, what Hannibal can see of it, is contorted into a violent, twisted mask of pain. Hannibal's heart shivers at the sight of it; his neck aches.
"Will," he whispers, and puts his hand on the glass. "Come with me. Let me get you out of here."
Will does sob, then – his lungs shatter with a broken-sounding groan, and he lifts his eyes, red-rimmed and wet. Still, Will is undeniably proud, for he doesn't yield, doesn't nod. He hisses; "Why should I? You need me, I don't need you."
Hannibal presses his lips together, and pulls his hand away. Flattens it, deliberately, over the collar of his shirt. Beneath it, old as Will's confinement, is a set of teeth marks – a scar, deep and knotted and purpled. Will's eyes drop to the motion and his expression melts into something terribly wanton; a deep, awful ache.
"I know you felt it too," Hannibal whispers.
"The last time you offered me that," Will says raggedly, "you gutted me and left me for the dogs to find."
Hannibal knows this – they have known each other for a long time. When it seemed inevitable, almost two years ago, Hannibal offered his neck to Will, and took Will's in turn. The mark of his teeth is visible, old and whited out, on Will's neck. They gave each other Voices, gave each other the unique and powerful privilege of invincibility against all others – only they have the power to wound each other now, to compel, to trick and coerce.
When Hannibal framed Will and sent him away, the separation of that bond, though it was never sealed with a knot and sex, almost sent Hannibal into a frenzy. He has never known loss like that, never felt an ache as deep as that before. He barely survived, he knows that; went mad knowing Will was away from him, that his friend, his pseudo-mate, was not there to touch him and smile for him and reassure Hannibal with his presence.
Will felt it too – felt the bond breaking. Suffered through it as Hannibal did. He knows that.
His eyes are on Hannibal's neck, wanting, wanting. "Six months," he breathes, and straightens. "What happens after that?"
Hannibal presses his lips together, and looks away, startling when Will snarls and slams his fist against the glass again. It does not break, barely even trembles, but the sound is loud. "Look me in the fucking eye if you're going to lie to me," Will demands.
"I won't lie," Hannibal replies, and shakes his head. "I never lied to you, Will. Not once in my life. I never could."
Will shows his teeth. "No," he says, soft as the slide of a knife between ribs – cutting, cruel. His eyes drag down Hannibal's body, slowly, and lifts to his face again. "Here are my terms."
Hannibal nods, ready. His hands did not shake, his pulse did not rush, entering this place, but now, weighted by Will's gaze, he trembles.
Will sucks in a breath, lowers his lashes. Pushes his palm flat to the glass and tilts his head.
"My pack is mine," he says sharply. "Anything you need them for goes through me – you're not in charge of them, I am." Hannibal nods – he expected that. "We'll work out of your house – it's larger, more central, and it means I can keep an eye on you."
Hannibal smiles, at that.
"Separate bedrooms," Will finishes. His eyes drop, briefly, to Hannibal's neck, and then rise again. "No Voices. No bites. Just enough contact so that people don't question it."
Hannibal blinks at him, surprised. "I'm not on suppressants, Will," he says mildly. Will grits his teeth, nostrils flaring as he breathes in; of course, he can smell that, he knows what Hannibal normally smells like and he can taste the difference. It's one of the reasons Hannibal stopped taking them, before he came here. "I'll go into heat."
"Sounds like a personal problem," Will replies coolly, brow arching, haughty, his smile mean. "I'm not your mate – you've made it perfectly clear you don't want that with me. To pretend otherwise is…"
Will's fingers curl.
"Six months," he says quietly. "And, after, perhaps you can still claim my numbers against your enemies. But that's all I will give you."
"Are you so masochistic, so afraid and so petty, that you would deny yourself what you want just to spite me?" Hannibal argues, frowning.
Will barks out a hard laugh, gazes wide-eyed and smiling at Hannibal. He shakes his head and drops his hand. "What did I do to you?" he asks, rough and harsh; "How did I hurt you, for you to do what you did? You tried to kill me, Hannibal – then, when you could not, you framed me for murders I didn't commit. Don't talk to me about pettiness. Do not talk to me about fear."
Hannibal swallows, and looks away, down the hall. His fingers curl, and he's trying not to breathe in too deeply. He was prepared, but the stench of angry Alpha is disquieting, and he doesn't think any man could be down here for so long and not be affected by it. Perhaps, in the fresh air, Will's teeth and words and mindset will gentle, but it will not happen here.
He breathes out. "I agree to your terms," he replies.
Will nods, once, sharply, and steps back. "I suppose you have to get me out, then," he says. "I want this contract in writing."
"I can't trust your word." Will laughs, at that, and rolls his shoulders in a cavalier shrug. "When I'm out, we'll both sign it. Have it fucking witnessed, notarized if need be. I won't be hurt twice by you, Hannibal."
Hannibal did not expect that. He winces, and tries to hide the expression, but he knows Will saw. He meets the Alpha's eyes, and sighs through his nose. Lets his voice color with regret when he says; "I am so sorry, Will."
"What are you sorry for?" Will demands. "Doing what you did, or knowing that because of what you did, you need me now?"
Hannibal winces again. "Both, I suppose."
Will smiles at him. It is not a kind expression, and it makes Hannibal's stomach shiver with cold – Will, when he's happy, is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen. This smile, this way he is moving, is a mockery of that.
"Are we in agreement, then?" Will asks.
Hannibal nods, and sighs. "I will make the arrangements, and have this contract waiting for you. I'll come collect you myself."
"As any mate should," Will replies, chin lifted. He turns away so Hannibal cannot see his face. His tone, when he speaks, is bitter and sharp; "Alright, then. Run along and do what you have to like a good little Omega."
The words are sour – Hannibal wants to growl, he wants to snap his teeth and demand to know why Will would ever talk to him like that. But he knows – Will has always possessed a singular ability to incite, whether that passion is for love or outrage. It's one of the things that made him such a good leader, that grew his pack so large.
He nods to himself. "I'll see you shortly, Will," he says, and doesn't like the feeling of being cowed that sits on his shoulders, now. Will doesn't look at him, merely returns to his bed and resumes his position, curled up and staring at the opposite wall.
Hannibal walks away, towards the gate. His hands are shaking, and he tries to hide it beneath the fold of his coat. His heart is rushing in his chest; his neck aches terribly, and there's a pit of anxious warmth in his stomach at the thought of Will returning to him, but coming to him as a stranger. How could Will tuck away all of their history, like some bauble on a shelf?
He thinks of the heat of Will, the warm rush of his blood when Hannibal had gutted him, sliced his belly wide open so that he didn't have to bear the ache, the desire, to do what he had really wanted, that night. Tensions were high, there was blood in his teeth from Jack Crawford – he had come to Hannibal's home, tried to rip out the weed of his pack by the stem, by killing the leader. Will had found him as Jack lay dying and seemed so -.
Hannibal doesn't know. He never gave Will the chance to explain himself. Never tried to find out what might have happened if he'd touched Will's face, felt him melting, pressed close to him as instinct and animal-triggered adrenaline had compelled him to do. Will makes Hannibal feel raw, on the inside, makes him do drastic things.
Will went away for Jack's murder. Hannibal made sure it was so.
A small part of him wonders, if it came down to it, if he would have the strength to do it a second time.
He doesn't know the answer. He was prepared for so much, so many things, but Will, as always, has taken him by surprise. His friend is, at his core, the most unpredictable thing, and Hannibal wonders if he will simply sit meekly by while Hannibal works out his designs.
No, he decides. Will doesn't have it in him to do that. Hannibal must tread carefully.
He breathes out.
He keeps walking.