They’re not friends, it’s just that Will treats Hannibal Lecter with the respect every living creature deserves, and he seems to be the only one. The crimes the man committed are… atrocious, to put it mildly. But he was serving his time behind bars, living out his life sentence with nothing but stone walls and prodding, fumbling therapists to greet him every day. Will had only been at the Baltimore Hospital for the Criminally Insane for several months, as opposed to Hannibal’s several years, and the monotony was already making him stir crazy, and he got to go home every night.
Every aspect of Doctor Lecter’s life was dictated by a board of psychologists who thought they knew what they were doing, and a truly sadistic, egocentric warden.
Will figured the man was suffering enough without him acting like a complete twat.
The first time they speak to each other is only Will’s first week on the job. He is, however, a little over qualified for his task as a psych ward guard and is unsurprised when Chilton decides he’s ready to take on a post usually reserved for senior guards. Will has twelve years as a New Orleans cop under his belt, seven of which he spent on homicide going back and forth between helping his own precinct, and giving the FBI his “insights” on the serial killers that plagued the United States.
So he isn’t worried the first day he steps foot into the high security ward that held people like Abel Gideon and a certain (infamous) Hannibal the cannibal. He’s dealt with hardened criminals before, and back then he didn’t have a wall of steel bars or Plexiglas between his person and theirs.
There are fourteen cells in the block Will is assigned. Not all the patients he walks by that first day are lively. In fact, a lot of them are so whacked out of their minds on anti-psychotics Will suspects they wouldn’t even move if their cells were to suddenly release them. Will doesn’t pity them so much as he feels sympathy toward their predicament (like he can help it). He puts himself in their shoes (as his mind often wont to do) and sees his worst nightmare staring back at him.
Of course, not all fourteen men are so pliant. Especially, he learns, those like Miggs.
“Oh you’re a pretty one aren’t ya?” he hisses from the corner of his bed, licking his lips lewdly as Will makes his first round down the corridor, “Pretty, pretty, pretty.”
Will is careful not to empathize with him.
When he comes to the end of the hall, the last cell on the left, Will does not find a drooling mess of a patient or an aggressive (sexually or otherwise) thug snarking at the glass. Instead, he finds a lean, stoic man sitting straight at a desk, felt-tip pen in hand but not moving, halted mid stroke. Will is careful, as always, not to make eye contact, though the man seems to make it a point to do the complete opposite.
Will stops before the cell as the man regards him with rapt attention, and Will, socially inept as he is, senses that something should be said in the silence to the man who has not thrown insults or innuendos at him, and that is coherent enough to sit upright.
“Um,” he mumbles, unsure, before nodding his head in acknowledgement, “Good morning, er—” he refers to the clipboard in his hand that has his schedule on it, along with all the patient names in his block and where they are situated, “Doctor Lecter.”
Hannibal smiles then, sincere as far as Will can tell, and returns his greeting. Will senses slight surprise from him, but the doctor keeps his emotions off his face well. He eyes Will’s plated name tag.
“Are you new here, Mister Graham?”
“Yeah. Got hired about a week ago,” Will replies, even though he’s not sure about conversing with a cannibalistic serial killer. Still, it seems rude not to answer, “Just got assigned this block this morning.”
Hannibal hums with interest, “This is a rather quiet part of the hospital,” he says, before gesturing to the cells down from his own, “Unfortunately Miggs can get a bit noisy from time to time, and Gideon does enjoy mocking the guards, but most of the patients on this block are… well medicated, and will not cause much trouble.”
Will blinks, he’s not sure what he was expecting from the man, but a quick rundown of what he should expect from the cellmates he would be watching wasn’t it. Still, it was more than he got from his fellow guards when he’d inquired about what he was getting into this morning when he was posted.
Will blinks, takes in Hannibal’s neat cell: how his bed is made, how his art work is hung just so on the walls, how his books are organized, and at how clean his uniform is. He locks his gaze on the older man’s sharp cheek bone.
“And you, Doctor Lecter? Do you cause much trouble?”
Hannibal smiles at that, “Perhaps not for you, Mister Graham. Welcome to the high security wing of Baltimore’s Hospital for the Criminally Insane.”
Will smiles back—an awkward stretch of lips because hello, cannibalistic serial killer—before dipping his head once again in acknowledgement.
“Thank you, Doctor Lecter.”
From that very first day onward things go smoothly between the young guard and the serial killer he watched over. Will had a shift of nine to five on week days, with weekends off. Honestly, that was better than what he got working in New Orleans—as was the pay—though he would admit to missing the openness of being a detective, of being able to go anywhere in his city, of only being chained to a desk once a job was completed.
Now, he knows the walls and men that line the high security sector of the Baltimore hospital and that’s it. Sometimes he almost missed New Orleans enough to regret quitting.
Almost, but never quite.
He knew he made the right decision getting out with his sanity still intact, no matter what Jack Crawford had to say. And he had a lot to say on the matter of him quitting. A lot. But all of it was said without a care for Will’s wellbeing. He might have been a man with a lot of self-hate, but not enough to run himself into the ground, even with Crawford guilting and goading him on at every turn.
Life as a prison guard paid well, and Will had more time for his dogs and fishing. Both of which were calming and worked much better than any pill the doctors he was pushed to see while on the force could ever prescribe. In the end he had decided he didn’t need medication, he needed rest and peace. He needed to not be hounded day in and day out to see how fucked up the world was—to see people at their worst.
He needed to quit.
So he did.
And Will—well. He was content for now, and if he wasn’t in the future? He could fix it then. But as of now, nothing was broke.
“Good morning Mr. Graham,” Hannibal greets from his small table, looking up from his drawing to give the young guard his full attention.
“Morning Doctor Lecter,” Will walks idly to the food tray, opening the latch and sliding something inside, “I brought you an article I thought you might find interesting. I know you’re allowed books and medical journals, but this is from my local newspaper. I picked it up after I saw the news this morning.”
Hannibal walks to the sliding tray—always with such grace, too much for someone in a prisoners jumpsuit—and takes up the article, reading it carefully through.
“Interesting fellow, this Buffalo Bill,” the doctor says as he sits back at his chair, poised like a king on his throne, “Am I jumping to conclusions when I say it was Freddie Lounds who came up with the name?”
Will sighs irritably. He’d never understand the man’s interest in such trash journalism, “No, you wouldn’t be. She thought it up and printed it almost before the guys first victim could be bagged and tagged.”
“You find it tasteless.”
“When don’t I find Lounds tasteless?” Will huffs. He can feel irritation bubbling under his skin just thinking about the woman, but pushes it back as he regards the man in front of him, “Anyway, I just thought that’d be a little different then what the journals have been giving you.”
“It is appreciated, Mister Graham.”
“Anytime,” Will answers before he turns to walk back down the corridor. He’s not sure if he means it, but he thinks if Hannibal asked for more material on Buffalo Bill he’d probably cave. For one, the man is the only person in the entire hospital to show Will any ounce of respect. The other patients are rude at best while the other guards can be outright hostile. He was different, he knew, but they treated him like they did the patients they watched over.
(Barney Matthews is the only exception to this. He saw the man once every work day at lunch. They shared a table and light conversation. Barney was not condescending, was kind, and patient. Most importantly, he never asked why someone so overqualified was settling for a job under Fredrick Chilton.)
And secondly, Will had discovered that talking to Hannibal about other killers was a truly stimulating conversation. It wasn’t like when Will spoke to Jack, who only wanted answers as quickly as possible and didn’t care about what was needed to get them, or to the doctors his precicnt had hired to “help” him, who took in the way Will spoke about murder with poorly disguised disgust.
No, talking to Hannibal about killers like Tobias Budge or Garret Jacob Hobbs was like dissecting poetry. There was no rush against time, no pressure to get the profile perfect. There was room for imagination, philosophizing, and extrapolation—building upon theories that could be completely off course of what was truth but worth creating all the same.
So as Will walked up and down the concrete and steel corridor he thought that, yes, if prompted, Will would happily supply Hannibal with more material on the budding serial killer. He was curious to see what they could come up with together with limited access and an evolving predator.
“Dove in the coop!” a gruff guard Will had never seen before hollered as he slide open the iron bars that separated the high security wing from the rest of the hospital. Will regarded him with interest. Dove in the coop usually proceeded a doctor or scheduled visitor entering the block. Will hadn’t been notified that anyone would be coming down today.
He inwardly groaned as Fredrick Chilton turned the corner, but perked up with interest when he saw a young woman close behind him. Chilton stopped just outside the block.
“—I think you’ll find him rather closed mouthed. You’re wasting your time.”
“Thank you Doctor Chilton, but I’ve been asked to try. So I’m going to give it my best shot.”
The woman makes her way past the guard and into the block. Will looks to Chilton for an explanation. The man just huffs, obviously irritated.
“Show our guest out when she’s done, Mister Graham.”
The woman walks as confidently as she can muster down the corridor to Will, stopping next to him. He can practically smell her nervousness.
“Hannibal Lecter?” she inquires.
“Uh, last cell to the left,” he says, hesitates, then moves to show her himself. He thinks to ask her who she is, why she’s here, but if Chilton led her down here, he knows she belongs. It’s not his place to ask.
There’s a procedure for when a civilian guest is in the high security block. Another guard is supposed to be posted, sent inside to stay at the guest’s side until they leave. It’s less about security and more about making that person feel secure. Will guesses the woman pissed Chilton off enough to tell the gruff guard from before that he wouldn’t be necessary. Will figures he can stand at her side in intervals instead. She’s nervous enough as is, doesn’t need to be left alone on top of whatever she’s been asked to do.
“Good morning,” Hannibal greets politely.
“Doctor Lecter, my name is Clarice Starling. May I speak with you?”
“You’re one of Crawford’s, aren’t you?” That brings Will up short, he looks between Ms. Starling and Hannibal bemused, but bites his tongue. If she’s one of Jack’s agents, she doesn’t need him by her side to hold her hand. Plus, Will thinks Hannibal would appreciate the privacy.
Will turns to walk down to the opposite side of the corridor and waits for their conversation to be done.
He isn’t surprised when he sees Clarice squirm in discomfort. He feels bad, almost, but if she’s one of Crawford’s she going to have to get used to dealing with people like Doctor Lecter (perhaps not just like, as Will doubts there’s anyone in the world quite like Lecter). At least with Hannibal, she’s safe with him behind thick Plexiglas.
As agent Starling slowly stands—most definitely unnerved—Will slowly makes his way toward her so he can escort her out. As he’s walking he hears a strange slick sound, slapping skin, and it take him a minute to piece together what it is. Miggs, he thinks, and puts his hand out for Clarice to stop.
“Ms. Starling please wait,” he says as he rushes to her. Obviously bemused she continues walking. Fuck, Will thinks and he barely stops her before she’s in front of Miggs’s cell. Unfortunately, that puts him in the line of fire, and apparently he’s enough for the disturbed man to settle for.
Clarice gasps a surprised “oh” andWill hisses in disgust when thick strands of warm come tangle in his hair and drip down his face. He feels it at his jaw and cheek bone, his temple and glasses. God it’s fucking gross.
Miggs cackles with glee from his cage and Will takes a moment to set his jaw and not snap at the man. Gideon does it for him, anyway.
“Shut the fuck up, Miggs!”
Will does his best to wipe the mess from his face before using his clean hand to escort Clarice Starling out of the cell block by the elbow.
“Sorry about that,” Will says and he has to concentrate on his walking to keep it a reasonable pace, unlike the sprint he’d rather make to the bathroom to scrub the come off his face and out of his hair, “Miggs is a little… excitable. I’m sorry I didn’t realize what he was doing before.”
His hands shake a little while he fishes the keys off his belt to open the gate, and he curses himself because that’s just what he needs Starling to see.
“It’s okay—I mean. I’m alright,” Clarice says, nerves fraying from first having a dress down from Hannibal Lecter and then almost getting marked by Miggs, “Thank you though. I didn’t understand what you were saying and I—just thank you.”
“Yeah well,” Will opens the gate and points her down the hall. He’d like to actually show her out (and find a bathroom) but he’s not allowed to leave his post, “It’s kind of my job. There’s a guards station just that way. They’ll see you out.”
Clarice nods and goes. She looks a little shell shocked but she seemed like a strong woman. Will thinks she’ll recover just fine from this ordeal. Definitely come out of it with horror stories to bring back to Quantico—and better experience if there’s a next time.
Will sighs heavily before reaching for his radio, “Station B, this is Will Graham in the high security wing. Code Yellow. Send clean-up crew. We’ll need to detain Miggs for a wash down—”
“Mister Graham,” Will hears from down the corridor. He loathes the thought of having to walk by Miggs again, but he needs to check and make sure the man is okay. Might as well go to Hannibal while he’s at it.
He walks briskly and with purpose to Miggs’s cell, peeking in only to find the man curled up on himself in a corner, naked and crying. He got like that sometimes after a fit. Will sighed, pushed his indignant anger aside, and crouched to eye level with the man.
“Miggs?” the man whimpered, wheezing, shaking, “Miggs? Come on, you’re alright.”
“No! No, no, no, nonononono, sorry, sorry, sorrysorrysorry,” He was getting hysterical, and Will wasn’t entirely sure how to calm the man down. Will was afraid he’d try to hurt himself, or the staff when they got down here.
“Miggs, it’s okay, I’m not gonna hurt you—no one is going to hurt you,” the mantra of Sorry’s and No’s continued, but as more of a whisper now. Will softened his voice accordingly, “Some nurses are coming down to get you cleaned up. I know how much you enjoy showers, Miggs, and if you’re good and get yourself dressed, I’ll let them know you can do it yourself. Can you do that for me, Miggs?”
The man sniffled and continued to cry, but he nodded an affirmative and grabbed at his jumpsuit.
“Thank you, Miggs,” Will said as he stood, moving away to the next cell to give the man some form of privacy.
“That was very kind of you, Mister Graham,” Hannibal said, starling Will. He’d nearly forgotten the doctor was there. Will turned his dirtied face away from the glass, shame coloring his cheeks.
“Just doing what I’m paid for,” he sighed out, not really in the mood for conversation.
“You are paid to keep the monsters in their cages, Mister Graham, not calm them down or coddle them when they cry. Especially not after they’ve defiled your person.” Hannibal stepped closer to the glass barrier. Will was tempted to take a few steps back, he knew how well the doctor’s nose worked—he didn’t want the man to smell him… like this. He wasn’t entirely sure why it mattered to him. Perhaps it was because Hannibal was one of the very few people to ever treat him like an equal, instead of a head case.
There was silence for a moment, until the sound of Hannibal’s tray being pushed out made Will look up.
“Unfortunately this is all I can offer you, but it’ll help some before the nurses get down here.”
Will took out the few things of toilet paper from the slide, face terribly hot with shame. He cleaned up the best he could—pulled some out of his hair, wiped off the side of his glasses, and his jaw—before turning back to Hannibal. Will made excruciating eye contact for a moment—“Thank you, Doctor Lecter”—before flicking his eyes down the corridor, where a small army of nurses and guards had come to collect Miggs.
“Of course, Mister Graham,” Will missed the smile Hannibal gave him—the look. The calculating, appraising, appreciative look. The doctor followed him with his gaze as he left to help the other hospital staff, sharp ears listening to the standard black work boots the man wore as Will left the block to a replacement guard so he could get better cleaned up. The smile lasted until Hannibal could no longer hear his Will. It slid from his face as he instead listened to the man not but a cell away from the doctor as he was dragged off for the showers, lip curling up in disgust before he turned into himself, and his books.
Will goes home at five as always, leaving the high security block in the hands of a brute by the name of Joseph Patterson: a completely unremarkable giant with a smoking and alcohol addiction. Hannibal pays him no mind, and instead, rests on his bed with his back to the cold stone wall.
“That was very rude of you Miggs,” he says, just loud enough to be heard. Miggs stirs from his cell, freshly washed and calmed down. He whimpers though, when he realizes he’s being addressed and by whom, “Now what’s to be done about that?”
Hannibal can hear the man start to shake, can smell the salt of tears in the air. He smiles maliciously to himself, and gets to work.