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Loving the Inferno

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Will Graham’s appointments range from chaotic to indifferent, and hardly anything else in between. He deals with patients that regularly break down sobbing and can’t stop, snotting all over themselves, like poor Franklyn Froideveaux. Will buys tissues in bulk just for him, the kind that he prefers. (He complains if the paper is too rough on his round nose.) But Franklyn has a kind heart, and Will continues to see him despite his obsessive behavior. He’s seen worse. Not too long ago, Will was confronted in the parking lot outside his office by an overly-aggressive patient. They pointed a loaded gun at his head, but he managed to dodge the not-so-metaphorical bullet. He talked to him and called the authorities after, to save himself as much as his patient. He filed a restraining order and stopped seeing him, made the conscious decision not to think about him anymore. He refused to let it affect his work; Franklyn would never hurt him. There was absolutely no reason to live in fear of other, more harmless neurotics that needed his help.

Will’s other patients keep their distance, jaws set, telling their lies and avoiding the truths they pay him to help them face head-on. Despite this, he does his best to provide guidance and a source of stability in their lives, and they get what they need from him. He’s very good at what he does. He can empathize with them completely, even if they aren’t being entirely forthcoming. It’s been both a blessing and a curse throughout his thirty-odd years, exhausting his sympathy and making him weary, testing his patience and his strength, spurring him to drink in the evening hours at home. But not today. One patient always provides an escape from his frayed nerves in the few months they’ve known each other. Their exchanges are easy, natural. Will relaxes, and the counseling flows from him quicker than normal, less tentative. He thinks without thinking. He understands this one better than all the rest, yet he doesn’t. Speaking with them is both an exercise in restraint and a puzzle for the mind. Once in a while, he gets the strange feeling that they understand him. It’s almost friendly.

It’s a shame the boy is so young, that friendship would be entirely unorthodox, even if they weren’t already patient and psychiatrist. It’s a shame, Will thinks absently, especially ashamed when he realizes his eyes are dragging and lingering over the young man’s figure as he walks. Hannibal Lecter paces the length of the dim office like a caged tiger, tight muscles moving under his dress shirt and slacks, speaking occasionally and stopping whenever he wants to stress a certain point. When they first met, he was stiffly formal. Will takes note of the freed buttons and the exposed, likely soft skin of Hannibal’s throat. It had been gradual. One button undone every few weeks. More colorful, form-fitting outfits. His posture had changed, too. Increasingly suggestive, inviting. He touches Will often. He asks invasive questions, stares inappropriately, and says equally inappropriate things. Or it would be inappropriate, if Will wasn’t his psychiatrist. Will must keep reminding himself. Hannibal shouldn’t surprise him, but he does. Hannibal approaches him in public, too regularly for it to be purely coincidence, but he’s always the first to leave. Will doesn’t know how to tell him to stop, since Hannibal ends the conversations on his own, sometimes before Will is ready to say goodbye. Will likes watching Hannibal walk away. He likes the view. He likes the sway.

That’s the whole point, of course. It’s exactly what Hannibal wants.

He’s addicted to sex.

Actually, Will isn’t so much convinced it’s an addiction as it is Hannibal doing whatever he likes, whenever he likes. He has astonishing self-control, he shows restraint—but he fucks who he feels like fucking, much to the dismay of his miserable boyfriend. And it happens often. Hannibal is aware of the problem but has no desire to fix it. He made that very clear from the start, when it came out during one of their first sessions. Hannibal doesn’t even seem to particularly like his current boyfriend. But the poor fellow won’t let him go, and Hannibal is indifferent about whether or not they remain together. He clearly keeps him around for his own amusement, which sounds cruel, but Will keeps his opinions to himself as a general rule. He avoids showing judgement. It’s curiously easy with Hannibal.

Hannibal Lecter is manipulative, regularly bored, hard to impress, impulsive, and promiscuous. He also has a great ass, and he’s kind to animals. On more than one occasion, Will has talked about his seven dogs. Hannibal thinks it’s charming, instead of insane. It makes him a swell guy in Will’s book (of course, the nicely-formed backside helps).

“Frederick suspects,” Hannibal says, finally pausing in his walking. His head tilts back and he heaves out a sigh, deflating. Will realizes he hasn't been listening.

“What does he suspect?”

Hannibal makes an amused noise. His body turns to face Will long before his eyes follow. They’re dark, muddy maroon, with mesmerizing specks of bright red whenever the light hits just right. For now, they flicker briefly with mischief. “Preoccupied with your own thoughts, Doctor? What could be more important than me?”

Will doesn’t rise to the bait. “Not at all. Please, Hannibal, continue.”

“He thinks I’ve been unfaithful.”

“And have you?”

Hannibal looks at him expectantly. “Of course.”

Will chews on the cap of his pen, catches himself, and places it inside his notes. “With who?”

“We’ve discussed him before.”

Will’s mouth feels dry.

“Francis?”

“Yes, that one.”

After their last session, Will had investigated the apparently infamous delinquent Francis Dolarhyde through vague questions sent to colleagues and whatever else he could find through a simple Google search. He didn’t like the results, even as he cursed himself for making the mistake of acting on his innate protectiveness for his patient. This particular patient. It was unethical. But fraternizing with Francis was asking for trouble, for missing teeth and worse, a lonely ride in the back of an ambulance to the nearest hospital. He caught whispers of accusations of rape, though they were eventually dropped. 

He tries to sound nonchalant, even as his stomach churns. His paternal instincts are in full form today. It only occurs with his dogs, and Hannibal. You should stay away from him, Hannibal. What happened with that boy Anthony? He was nice. He settles for a direct question. “Do you know why you engage in risky sexual behavior?”

“Don’t you?”

“I’m interested in your answer,” Will tells him.

Hannibal clasps his hands behind his back, opening his chest for a deeper stretch. “No,” he says simply. “But you think perhaps I’ve been subjected to sexual abuse, possibly by someone close to me, when I was young. It would explain the impulsive behavior, the constant desire for control, control that would have been denied to me as a child.”

“This happened? Is that what you’re telling me, Hannibal?”

Hannibal wants to laugh, it’s clear in his almost imperceptible smile, but he doesn’t. It’s hidden instead in his voice, just the slightest huff before he speaks, “No, Doctor Graham. I’m telling you Frederick is being a nuisance.”

Will sets about quietly tapping his fingers. For a moment, he had made progress, or so he thought. Hannibal had his full attention now, just like he wanted. Will purposefully faces forward, hands resting politely in his lap. He waits. He won’t look at him. “Tell me about Frederick. What is he saying? How do you feel about your current situation with him?”

Reluctantly, Hannibal settles into the chair across from him. He wants Will to see him. He crosses one long leg over the other, slowly, and Will keeps his eyes on Hannibal’s to avoid looking at his thighs, how the fabric strains and hugs his skin. “He asks me why I would do this to him, how could I, do I feel nothing for him? He cries,” Hannibal says. “He tries to kiss me. It’s pathetic.”

“What do you tell him?”

“I don’t. I let him kiss me. I let him fuck me. He stops asking questions, and I’m free to focus on more important things.”

Will allows his eyes to drift to the ceiling, searching for patience. Hiding his smile. “You told me your aunt is leaving the country soon, when will that be?”

“In a few days, visiting friends. I’m required to stay. Education is important, and all that.”

“You’ll be alone.”

“I’m always alone,” Hannibal says flatly. Not surprisingly, there is depth in that statement. Hannibal chooses to ignore it, inspecting his nails with little interest in what he finds. “Being eighteen, I’m old enough to survive a few days alone, don’t you think? I’ve been fully capable of caring for myself since I was six.”

Will takes his chance to observe the dark shadows that fall over him, how they accentuate his high cheekbones and the not-so-sharp curves over the rest of him. “I know that you technically live on campus, but you seem to spend extended periods of time at your aunt’s house, or with her. You're close. Have you thought about what you will do to keep yourself occupied once she leaves? It might affect you more than you think,” he adds, silently hoping Hannibal won’t mention Francis Dolarhyde. He could choose from a plethora of candidates to keep him company.

“I’ve considered cooking dinner,” Hannibal says. “Inviting Francis.”

Of course it would be Francis.

“How do you imagine Frederick will react?” Will asks.

“He won’t know,” Hannibal purrs, his eyes gleaming. “Unless you plan on exposing me, Will?”

“Doctor Graham is fine, please.”

“Are you? You look a little flushed.”

It’s a coin toss whether Hannibal actively trying to make him blush, or if he’s already red in the face. Will smiles a lopsided smile, letting himself fall face-first into the joke, because it feels good. It feels good to see Hannibal smile, even at Will’s expense. Despite all the pestering, Hannibal is good company. He’s hiding things, disguising his hurt expertly, but Will sees past the facade. He isn’t blind to the relief whenever Hannibal walks through the door, how he shrugs off the heavy weight he carries with him everywhere and relaxes so completely in Will’s presence. It might be the only time he does. If it's only a fraction of what Will feels around him, Will is happy for it. 

“That’s all the time we have for today, I’m afraid.” Will forces his mouth into a straight line, hiding behind formalities. “Same time next week?”

“God willing,” Hannibal quips cheerfully, rising to stand. Unless it’s for the aesthetics, Will sincerely doubts his belief. He gives him a good-natured eye roll, secretly reveling in the delight that crosses Hannibal’s face. He reaches for door handle of the exit, and Hannibal’s hand suddenly covers his own. Will didn’t even hear him approach.

Hannibal’s palm is warm and smooth. His fingers burn with heat where they touch, and they are touching well. Will momentarily forgets how to breathe, inhaling sharply from the unexpected contact. He doesn’t pull away, despite his instincts screaming for him to remove himself. He waits, eventually lifting his own blue eyes to meet crimson. They’re almost black now, pupils blown wide with want. Aren’t they? Will can feel breath on his face. He’s close, he’s much too close. He smells like fire. Will blinks hard and tears his eyes away. His hand is cold when he turns the knob and opens the door for his patient, his patient, stepping back to let him through.

He’s both disappointed and relieved to see Murasaki Shikibu stand and reach for her nephew with open arms. Hannibal was correct, he’s plenty old enough to take care of himself. His beautiful aunt Murasaki is attached to him always, dependent and fostering codependency, waiting for him after his sessions and taking his arm when they leave. She praises silently, eyes soft, and the intimate way she touches him is unsettling. Will doesn’t like it. It isn’t familial. It looks like a lover’s touch. He can’t decide if he’s upset because she’s supposed to be Hannibal’s guardian, or because she’s Will’s age. And the shame bites him, because if it were possible, he would be tempted to touch Hannibal in the same manner. He’s already tempted. But if she had, before he was of age…Will makes himself reel his suspicion back in. He can't go down that road. If it's true, it'll come out in therapy.

“Good evening, Doctor Graham,” Murasaki says, pleasant.

She smells divine, but not like Hannibal. Her scent is quieter, less overwhelming. She’s quick-witted and beautiful, with flawless skin and long black hair, and her shoulders are covered in furs. Hannibal inherits his taste from her. It’s hard to dislike her, but Will tries. Most of the time it happens effortlessly.

She tangles her fingers with Hannibal’s and smiles at him fondly. “Darling, button your shirt, aren’t you cold? Put on your coat. You never leave the house in such a state, I don’t understand.”

Hannibal has the decency to look sheepish. Withholding his amusement, Will imagines Hannibal Lecter fussing over himself in the parking lot, adjusting his clothes and his hair in the side mirror, all for the attention of his psychiatrist. Freezing his ass off, to look as provocative as possible. 

“I’m taking my nephew out tonight, as a farewell. He has behaved himself? Earned it, I hope?”

“Of course.”

Will isn’t inclined to tell her much of anything. He can’t. Hannibal is legally an adult. But he likes to think he wouldn't, regardless. He shoves his hands in his pockets, ignoring the coldness, the ghost of Hannibal's fingers. He wishes he hadn’t opened that door. He wishes he opened it sooner. He avoids Hannibal’s eyes, bidding them good night, and puts the barrier in place where it belongs. Leaning back against the closed door, he rubs his face with his hands and knocks his glasses askew. He tucks them away, takes a few breaths, cracks his neck and shakes it off. He peers out his office window and watches them leave before he goes outside, climbing into his car and driving home.

He doesn’t think about Hannibal touching him.

He doesn’t think about it. He dreams about it.

It would be impossible to purge the boy from his mind when Hannibal spends each moment in Will’s presence ensuring a long-lasting impression. He succeeds each time, but he’ll never know it. Hannibal visited him in his dreams often after they first met, in flashes of color and sound. It’s more tangible these days, and Will sincerely wishes it wasn’t. He doesn’t like arriving to his office, meeting Hannibal’s eyes, and remembering what he dreamed the night before or two nights ago, or the whole week before that. It started innocently enough, merely conversations or glimpses of skin, but his unconscious thoughts escalated the more Hannibal taunted him in the waking world. He started dreaming of forbidden experiences. He wondered what sort of noises Hannibal might actually make, if Will could just…

Will manages to successfully rid his mind of Hannibal over the course of the next few days, fishing in the creek close to his house and seeing his other patients in the city, handing tissues to poor, neurotic Franklyn, meeting other patients and assessing the situation, prescribing medications, giving exercises to help cope. So it goes. Uneventful, but it goes. He stumbles home from drinking at a local bar, ignoring the loneliness chewing his gut, and crawls into bed with his dogs. He pretends he doesn’t yearn for a warm, human body to hold. He’s never been very good at keeping one. It’s hard enough to keep friends without winning someone's heart in the background of his work. It wouldn’t be fair to them. As much as he relates to his patients, as much as he understands, he’s piss-poor at attending to the needs of his partners or acquaintances. Needless to say, he has few friends. Fewer are those currently on speaking terms with him.  

He doesn’t expect to be called at three in the morning on the weekend.

Fumbling for his ringing phone, he sends something crashing to the floor. One of the dogs flinches because he poked their eye. He leans over to sleepily kiss the victim’s head, waiting for forgiveness, for a tentative lick on his cheek, before he finds the cell and brings it to his ear, his eyes still squeezed shut. He does his best not to sound too confused. “This is Will Graham. Who am I speaking with?”

“You said I could use this number if it was an emergency. It’s an emergency, I think.”

Slowly, he recognizes the husky voice. It sounds off.

“Hannibal?” And then he realizes, it's an emergency. He leaps to the worst case scenario. It’s happened before, with Franklyn. He had to talk him down, convince him to call an ambulance. Go to the hospital. Meet him there.

No, no. He can't even entertain the thought. “Hannibal, what happened?” He schools his tone, not wanting to sound alarmed, but he feels like he’s falling.

“I’m not entirely sure, if I’m being honest with you.”

Will shoots out of bed, flicking on as many lights as he can. He tries to calm his stuttering heart. He’s wide awake. “Where are you? Can you answer that for me?”

“My aunt’s house,” Hannibal says. He’s unnervingly quiet, but detached. “She’s gone. It’s just me here. Well…” He trails off and doesn’t offer anything else.

“All right, Hannibal, that’s okay. Are you hurt?”

“I’m…I might be, I suppose, I don’t know. Will, please, could you come? Don’t,” he says quickly, struggling with something, “Just you, don’t, don’t tell anyone else.”

“If you’re in immediate danger, I have to—”

“No, the dangerous part is over. Please. I didn’t know what else to do. I feel like if you’re here, I might figure it out. Please, Will. I need your help.”

Will hasn’t heard him desperate before, and it’s breaking his heart. He tells him to wait and dresses in a rush. Once he’s behind the wheel, he realizes he’s still tipsy from the alcohol he tossed back earlier. In a split decision he shakes it off, unwilling to abandon Hannibal now. It isn’t his brightest moment. He has one hand firmly gripping the wheel, the other holding his phone against his ear. He’s still listening. Hannibal has been relatively quiet, but he’s breathing. It’s shallow, hitching once in a while. It’s worrisome.

“Do you want to tell me what happened?” Will asks, and he can practically see the noncommittal shrug in the silence that follows. “Okay. You can tell me when I get there. I’ll stay on the phone with you, okay? You’re fine like this?”

“I wouldn’t say I'm fine,” Hannibal says. His throat sounds sore. He’s been screaming. “I’m alive.

Will doesn’t know how to respond.

“Do you want me to call your aunt?”

“No.”

“How about Frederick?”

“Oh, definitely not, but thank you for offering.”

It occurs to him several minutes later, somewhere in the back of his mind, Hannibal could easily be making this up. Will wants to believe that would be absurd, but he knows Hannibal, and Hannibal isn’t above this level of manipulation. He might want company. Maybe he couldn’t deal with his aunt leaving. Maybe he couldn’t reach Frederick, and strangers weren’t exciting enough to take home. Maybe he wants someone else, someone he really shouldn’t have, just to prove that he can pull it off. Will clears his throat, blinking hard to focus his eyes, and asks him how he’s doing. Hannibal hums in answer, tells him alive and apparently finds it amusing. It’s starting to sound manic. Will ends the call when he arrives, the headlights of his car cutting through the darkness and revealing Hannibal sitting on the porch with the front door swung carelessly open, forgotten. 

Will hardly believes what he's seeing.

He doesn’t remember parking, or exiting the vehicle. He doesn’t feel his legs move, they simply bring him to Hannibal’s side, and he falls to his knees hovering over him but not touching. He’s afraid to touch. Hannibal’s clothes are stained with black. Will knows it’s blood, he smells it before he feels its stickiness. Will breaks past his reservations and looks him over, running his hands down his arms, searching for injury, wondering if Hannibal deliberately harmed himself, but Will can’t find any scratches. He does see, plainly, the bruises around his neck. Broken vessels in his eyes, the whites now tinged with splotches of the same color of his irises. Blood under his nails. His pants are ragged, cut. Like someone tried to forcefully remove them with a knife.

Will feels like the biggest asshole in existence for doubting him. He stares at the torn fabric. Hot anger boils in his stomach, but he keeps it inside. He removes his coat and blankets it over Hannibal’s shoulders, ignoring the shake in his hands, and tilts Hannibal's chin to look at him. Hannibal’s reddened eyes are unfocused. He’s not here, not currently seeing what’s in front of him. “Tell me what happened,” Will demands, surprised to find his voice gentled and controlled. His legs feel like jelly. He reaches for his pocket to dial for help but his phone is missing. He must have left it in the car.

He’s not going to leave Hannibal to get it.

Hannibal leans into the touch, finally returning, his eyes starting to close. Will caresses his cheek, willing to do anything, anything to provide comfort, to ground him in the moment. He can’t see him like this. Hannibal doesn’t get flustered, or hurt, this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Will clenches his teeth and after some quick deliberation, he pulls him close, feeling Hannibal press his face into his chest, mouthing into the shirt. Smelling him. Will hopes it helps stimulate his senses, enough to bring him out of the fog. He tells himself this is the only reason. It's not because he wants to hold him, protect him. Hannibal is traumatized. He needs him. Will threads his fingers through short dark hair, feeling Hannibal gradually begin to stir. He hears him inhale. 

“Remember Francis?”

Francis Dolarhyde.

Will carefully pries them apart, looking down. 

“Hannibal. Are you hurt? Did he touch you?”

“He tried.” Hannibal’s half-lidded eyes shift toward the door. “Didn’t, though.”

Will does his best not to pull away, even as terror rips through him, makes him dizzy. Not him. Not Hannibal. “It’s not your blood, is it?”

Hannibal looks up at him from beneath his lashes. “Nope.”

“Why haven’t you called the police?”

“I think you know why," Hannibal says quietly. 

No, no, no.

Will steadies himself, brushing a stray hair out of Hannibal's face.

"…Show me."