Hannibal goes from a lively, friendly discussion on the merits of sourcing locally grown produce to breathing harshly as he stares at the shattered remains of his windshield. It’s fortunate that his instincts have cause his heart-rate to accelerate, his hands to tremble, otherwise his lack of reaction would most certainly be remarked upon.
And Hannibal can’t have that.
Everything is coming to him in pieces, admittedly. There’s frustration in that, unavoidable as it is. The crash happened so quickly that it might not have occurred at all, too fast for even a mind like his own to properly absorb.
In the seat beside him Alana groans, shifting with a hiss. There’s a light spray of vivid red across her cheek, several perfect droplets that gravity hasn’t had the time to drag down her face.
There’s broken glass in the road, glittering in the harsh morning light.
Vaguely he knows that first responders have arrived on the scene, but his ears are ringing almost violently that it’s impossible to judge which vehicle they’ve elected to tend to first. From his own experiences Hannibal doubts that the Bentley will be a priority, simply because it’s solid construction has done an admirable job of insulating Alana and himself from the worst of it.
The other three cars aren’t so lucky.
An old, beaten up Ford sprayed liberally with mud sits in the middle of the intersection, the front smashed in, but otherwise remarkably unharmed - he instigator of the accident, judging from it’s position.
It looks out of place there, amid the crushed glass. There's another car on the sidewalk, a vivid green, but the make is hard to discern as it's crumpled up like wadded paper at this point. Someone has thrown a sheet over the broken window, shielding the body within from view.
There’s another silver car near the ditch, smoking from the engine.
The Bentley, which had managed to survive the crash mostly intact, must unfortunately be cut open in order to extract Alana; somehow her leg was crushed between the door and the footwell. A pity, but they seem competent enough. Hopefully the damage can be repaired.
“Are you alright, Alana?”
Shakily she nods her head, afraid but displaying nothing but calm. “Yes, I’m just shaken up, I think. What about you? Your lip is bleeding.”
“I’m alright, never fear on that count.”
A face appears at his broken window, a paramedic judging by her uniform. “Your friend is going to be just fine, sir. We just need to get her out and then we’ll work on getting this door of yours open.”
Of course she is. Alana has never been one for baseless fear - once they'd explained she'd have immediately begun to worry about other things. Like the little boy shivering in the back of the ambulance, a blanket around his shoulders. The couple sitting in the back of the ambulance, holding one another and shivering in the cold.
She'd even worry about the belligerent, drunken man who had driven the Ford directly into traffic and was now arguing – loudly – with the police officers attempting to question him. It was simply her nature.
One of the paramedics had offered to take Hannibal to the hospital immediately, but he'd chosen to wait for Alana. His own injuries were minor - nothing broken or fractured, merely bruised. There was a cut on his left cheek held together by butterfly bandages, another on his nose, a few on his arms, the split lip… nothing a few weeks wouldn’t erase.
If he moved too quickly he could feel the sting of them, radiating out from the skin, but it wasn't an unpleasant feeling, merely an annoyance at best.
They’re both taken to Baltimore Memorial Hospital. Hannibal’s injuries are tended to quickly when a former trauma nurse recognizes him, and in short order he’s brought to Alana’s room where she is being treated for a concussion and having her broken leg put into a cast - a fact that twists her delicate features into a rueful expression.
Curious, Hannibal asks about the nature of her sudden discomfort. He can understand not wishing to be hindered by the necessary cast, but this seems to be... more.
"I’m grateful that no one was seriously hurt, apart from that poor woman. But I promised I'd look after... someone's dogs this week." The evasion is interesting, and uncharacteristic of her. Usually Alana is very forthcoming, no doubt because Hannibal is a fellow omega and instinctively treated as part of her pack.
"I would be more than glad to assist you, given that you can't move freely." This is the truth, though Hannibal doubts very much that anyone would think him capable of such sincerity had they known the reality of him and not the mask he wore so easily.
"I can't ask you that, Hannibal. It's too much." Her eyes flicker upward, suddenly teasing in an effort to evade his offer. Interesting . "Besides, I thought you didn't like dogs?"
"I have no particular feelings about them one way or another, and I'm happy to help you. In a way this is all my fault, after all. I insisted on an early lunch."
Their talk continues for some time before Alana relents - which is also uncommon for her, to be firm about something for so long. At this point her cast is in place and she's been given a dose of pain killers, and it’s that more than anything that appears to have tipped the scales in his favor. I wonder what has put such steel into her spine? Just who is this friend?
"Okay, I admit defeat, you can help. But I have to go with you. Will... I'm not sure how he'd handle a strange scent in his house."
"Will?" Alana's face grimaces, almost without her approval, like he's uncovered a secret of some kind, but Hannibal is a patient man. He knows she'll tell him eventually, especially given that they must drive nearly an hour to said friend's house. It gives him time to wonder at the nature of her relationship with this illusive Will, and why she's taken such care to hide it from him. The mystery doesn't last long.
"Will works for Quantico, as a teacher. But he profiles too. He's probably the best there is, but I wish he wouldn't. I don't like what it does to him. I've known him for years now, but I just... I feel protective of him. The way his mind works, it makes people like me want to take him apart, so I try to stay away, and to keep people like me away. He needs the quiet, the peace." Though she doesn't say it outright, Hannibal assumes that Will is an omega. Everything she's said lines up so neatly - the extreme empathy, the need for solitude. It’s laughably classic.
He assumes this is the truth up until the moment they approach Will's farmhouse, overrun with dogs of every size and soaked in the most maddening scent Hannibal has ever encountered.
Will Graham is an alpha .
The week drifts along lazily, unwilling to be hurried.
Now that he’s been revealed, Alana has finally opened up about Will, the alpha she’s tried so hard to hide from him - from everyone - but it isn’t enough . Hannibal wants to know more, to meet this strange, unique man, and everything she tells him merely whets his appetite, makes him impatient for firsthand knowledge so that he might further glean just who Will Graham is.
Dutifully, Hannibal helps with the animals as he promised, and by the third day Alana relents and allows him to go to the little ramshackle farmhouse unaccompanied.
Hannibal spends most of the day there, carefully prying secrets from the walls, noting the strange, disjointed furniture, the dissonance between it and the few things within the home Will clearly favors. Likely he purchased the house furnished, and didn't care to change anything that wasn't important to him.
It still isn't entirely seen as socially acceptable, for an alpha to own property outright.
Typically they rent and save everything they have to put towards their future. It's omegas who create their homes, their dens. Make a place for their families. The alpha is supposed to provide security. But Will Graham has ignored this convention entirely.
According to Alana, before he moved to Wolf Trap he lived in Louisiana, and had owned a home there too. He can still hear the uncertain pain in her voice as she confided in him. 'I don't think Will believes anybody will want him enough for that kind of life. He'd rather snub his nose at it than risk the rejection.'
Will is an enigma, but his scent... Hannibal has never encountered anything like it. It's powerful, and rich, and it makes him simultaneously want to find Will and tear him down to his basest components, to consume him as he's done to so many others, to own that smell for his own.... and to also take it home with him. To wrap Will up in soft blankets, to purr for him and feed him and care for him.
It's a strange feeling, the latter. And severity of the need to have Will, to own him without ever having seen his face or heard his voice, is an uncomfortable one. But Hannibal has never shied away from his emotions before - just because these feelings are softer, doesn't mean he isn't any less greedy for them.
As Saturday evening rolls around, Hannibal is finishing up some notes in his office - decidedly not sulking, though Alana has told him Will has returned and his help is no longer needed - when his phone vibrates, quietly alerting him to a presence in the waiting room.
Ever-curious, Hannibal opens the door and is confronted with a stranger who is not a stranger at all: it's Will.
"Mr. Graham, I was told you had returned. I trust your dogs are well?" The smile on Hannibal's face is genuine, thoroughly pleased that his prey has come to him. And what a specimen he is . Wind-tossed curls, secondhand plaids and khaki pants, and the most piercing blue eyes Hannibal has ever had the pleasure of seeing.
"Uh, yeah. I um... I wanted to thank you. For helping. Alana could have just called me, or a sitter or something. I didn't mean to cause any trouble." There's a roughness to his voice, and it's delightful to watch him struggle to be polite despite his own discomfort.
"It wasn't any trouble at all, I assure you. Alana is a dear friend."
"Oh." Will seems thrown by this encounter, by Hannibal in general. But he has moved closer without even realizing it, drifting towards Hannibal like he's been tugged there. An invisible line, drawing him nearer to a scent that his alpha instincts are compelling him to take in. To know . And poor Will, he doesn't think to hide any of this, too distracted by what he's feeling to consider that Hannibal is not a man he wants to arm with such knowledge. He seems more than capable of learning that on his own. "Well, still. Thank you. I know it isn't easy to manage seven dogs in this weather."
"No, but it was a worthy endeavor, I would say, and perhaps a chance to make a new friend?" And it has brought you too me. I would have done worse things for such a chance.
Will's smile is glorious. Soft but sharp and it makes Hannibal's chest tight to witness it. To know without being told that it's a rare sight.
"I need him focused, and you're a distraction." Jack Crawford is a boulder of an omega, rough and unpolished, but solid, like bedrock. No doubt he prides himself on that. But just now he is moving carefully through Hannibal's office, as though he has any right to be there, warning Hannibal off like he's doing him a favor . "I know what omegas want, Hannibal. Even if we all deny it, we want a mate that's strong. Who can protect us. It's built into our DNA. We need someone who is safe, and secure. Who can provide ."
He sighs heavily, as though it's a burden to him to admit what comes next. Hannibal is trying very hard not to take the scalpel sitting on his desk and ram it into Jack's eye for his audacity, for implying Will is anything but the very best of alphas. He's certainly the only one capable of seeing me as I really am, and wanting me regardless. But Jack isn't paying attention. He clearly has a speech in his head and is determined to follow it through, as though by saying all the right lines it will magically make Hannibal see reason. Condescending to a fault.
"He's not stable, Dr. Lecter. How long before you resent that? His weakness? Before three weeks pass by with him waking you up every night, screaming from the nightmares? When the police call you in the dead of night to tell you they found him sleepwalking again? How long before you'd start hating staring into his eyes, knowing he wasn't there?"
It's insulting. Every last word. Jack sees himself as the benevolent but wiser omega, telling Hannibal the truth for his own good and more than willing to smear Will's name in mud if it means getting what he wants: Will, hunting the Ripper. Because that's what this is really about. This entire tirade - it's a sham Jack is too blind to even acknowledge.
Hannibal isn't willing to indulge him. "You need him hunting, and he does that better broken, doesn't he Jack?"
The other man startles, clearly not expecting the bitterness in Hannibal's voice. "The unhappier he is, the clearer he sees everything. And he already sees so much , doesn't he? Those all-seeing eyes, it's as though he can see the screams still lingering in the air, and you need that. I think you're even proud of it, because Will was your find. You put him on the scent, like a bloodhound, and time and time again he's returned to you, quarry in hand. Never mind the blood on his skin, the wounds he wears. The important thing is the hunt ."
"He was so desperate for your approval, too. Pushing himself harder and harder, like a good alpha." Jack is frowning, a ferocious thing. He doesn't notice that they aren't alone in the room - that they were never alone. "And then he met me, and suddenly what you wanted wasn't the most important thing in Will's mind. He started to question . To argue."
No doubt angry, determined to be right, Jack is standing with his fists balled up at his side. The truth is an ugly creatures sometimes, isn't it Agent Crawford? "Now you're here trying to take Will back. Because that's how it feels, isn't it? Like I've stolen him from you. Replaced him with someone else, a changeling you can't control."
Jack's face twists up in disgust. "I have a mate, I don’t need something like Will-"
"You have a dying beta." It's a cruel barb, but effective. Jack is incandescent with rage. "Beautiful as she is, it's not the same thing. Not to the beast within." And how true that is. Jack was willing to delude himself on that account, but Hannibal has no pity for him. No mercy to spare, not as he watches Will carefully make his way down the ladder in order to join their... discussion.
"How dare you-"
"I wouldn't get any closer, Jack."
"And why's that?"
"Because I don't think my alpha likes it." The snide look on Jack's face vanishes immediately, which is rather gratifying to see, though Hannibal wouldn't admit to such petty feelings of pleasure.
Not that Will clearly doesn't see them, given the way his mouth tugs up at the edges. Not quite a smile, but it's there.
"Your..?" Politely, Hannibal pulls the collar of his shirt to the side, exposing the bloody mark on the side of his neck, just above his shoulder. It's a vicious thing that will no doubt become a rather inelegant scar - but Hannibal wears the mark proudly. It's irrefutable evidence that he's caught his monster, after all. Released the thing inside Will that was trying so hard to hide.
The look on Will's face makes it clear he isn't fooled. You aren't being polite you just wanted to rub it in his face. That I'm your alpha, not his.
"Yes." Just who Hannibal is responding to cannot be said, but Jack has become aware of Will's presence now, turning and stepping back so he can keep both men in his line of sight, finally realizing that his patronizing little talk had an audience of two .
"What's going on here?"
"Isn't it obvious Jack? You sent me on another hunt. A great big one too." The way Will moves now is calculated. Predatory. "The Chesapeake Ripper." His voice is a mockery of all the times Jack lectured him on the Ripper, forced him to focus on the blood and the pain and the death in the world. And Will soaked it up, every word.
"You wanted him so bad . You've been grooming me for years to get him. And I don't ever disappoint you, do I?" The faint smile on his face has grown teeth, now. A snarling thing that says very clearly what Jack has always denied: Will Graham is dangerous. "Well, here he is. The grand prize."
"I don't- I don't understand. Hannibal...?"
And he doesn't. He doesn't understand. But they're going to show him.