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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 of his patients 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 understands this one better than the rest, yet he doesn’t. Talking with him is both an exercise in restraint and a puzzle for the mind. It’s almost friendly. It’s a shame the boy is so young, that friendship with him would be inappropriate, even if they weren’t already patient and psychiatrist. It’s a shame, Will thinks again absently, 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. 

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

Supposedly, he's addicted to sex.

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 this 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, determined not to pass judgment. It’s curiously easy.

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 a dark, muddy maroon, with mesmerizing specks of bright red whenever the light hits them 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. “Please, Hannibal, continue.”

“He thinks I’ve been unfaithful.”

“And have you?”

Hannibal looks at him expectantly. “Yes.”

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

“We’ve discussed him before.”

Will’s mouth feels dry.



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. There were 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 apparently 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.”

Hannibal has his full attention now, just as he wanted. Will purposefully turns away, facing forward, hands resting politely in his lap. He waits. “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 to be seen. He crosses one long leg over the other, and Will keeps his eyes on Hannibal’s to avoid looking at his thighs, how the fabric hugs well-toned muscle. “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. My education is more important, she says.”

“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. Surely he has a plethora of companions to choose from to keep him company. It won't need to be Francis.

“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 sure? You look a little flushed.”

Who knows 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 also good at disguising his hurt. But Will isn’t blind to the relief visible in Hannibal's body language when he walks through that door, shrugging off the heavy weight he carries, 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. 

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

“God willing,” Hannibal quips cheerfully, rising to stand. Will rolls his eyes good-naturedly, secretly reveling in the delight flashing in Hannibal's eyes. He walks to the patient exit and reaches for door handle, and suddenly a hand covers his own. 

Hannibal’s fingers burn with heat where they touch, and they are touching well. Warm and smooth. Will forgets how to breathe, inhaling sharply from the unexpected contact. 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…is it want? He’s close, he’s much too close. He smells like fire and his eyes are searing. Will blinks hard and looks away. His hand is cold and lonesome when he shakes Hannibal off without a word, turning the knob and opening the door for his patient, his patient, stepping back to let him through.

Will is overwhelmingly disappointed to see Murasaki Shikibu on the other side. She stands and reaches for her nephew with open arms. 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 him with soft eyes and adoring glances, and the intimate way she touches him is unsettling. Will doesn’t like it. It isn’t familial. He can’t decide if he’s upset because she’s supposed to be Hannibal’s guardian, or because she’s Will’s age. It does nothing to help his shame, because he's being hypocritical and he knows it.

But if she has touched him, before he was of age…Will makes himself reel his suspicions 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, ever-pleasant. She smells divine, as usual. 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. 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 like this, I don’t understand.”

Hannibal has the decency to look sheepish. Mildly amused, Will imagines Hannibal fussing over himself in the parking lot, adjusting his clothes and his hair in the side mirror, freezing his ass off, all for the attention of his psychiatrist. It sounds about right.

“I’m taking my nephew out tonight, as a farewell. He has behaved himself, earned it I hope?” Murasaki shares a knowing look with Hannibal, prepared to scold him if she must. 

“Of course,” Will all but grumbles, not playing along. He isn’t inclined to tell her much of anything. Hannibal is an adult.

He shoves his hands in his pockets. He wishes he hadn’t opened that door, and he wishes he had opened it sooner. He avoids Hannibal’s searching eyes and bids them a polite good night, and puts the barrier back in place where it belongs. Leaning against the closed door, he rubs at his face and knocks his glasses askew. He folds and tucks them away, takes a few calming breaths, cracks his neck, and shakes it off.

He won't think about Hannibal touching him, but he does dream 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 hopefully he’ll never know it. Hannibal often visited Will in his dreams after they met, in flashes of color and sound. It’s more tangible these days, and Will sincerely wishes it wasn’t. He doesn’t like sitting in his office, meeting Hannibal’s eyes, and remembering what he dreamed the night before or two nights ago, or the week before that. It started innocently enough, merely conversations or brief glimpses of skin, but his unconscious thoughts escalated the more Hannibal taunted him in the waking world. He was curious what sort of sounds Hannibal might make, if Will could just…but he can't.

He will never act on these desires. 

He manages to rid his mind of Hannibal over the course of the next few days, fishing in the creek close to his house and seeing his remaining patients in the city, handing tissues to poor, neurotic Franklyn, adjusting medications and doling out exercises for coping. It's mostly uneventful.

After drinking at a local bar, and ignoring the loneliness chewing his insides, he 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 for him to have friends, without winning someone's heart in the background. 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 tending to the needs of his partners or acquaintances. Needless to say, he has few friends. Fewer are those currently on speaking terms with him.  

So, he doesn’t expect to be called at three in the morning on the weekend.

Fumbling about for his ringing phone, he sends something crashing to the floor. One of the dogs flinches, squeezing their poked eye shut. He leans over to sleepily kiss the victim’s head, before he grabs the slippery phone and holds it against the side of his head. His confusion is probably evident in his exhausted mumbling. “Will Graham? Who is this?”

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

He recognizes that husky voice, but it sounds strange.


It's an emergency. He does what he does best, and leaps to the worst case scenario. It's happened before, but with Franklyn. He had to talk him down, convince him to call an ambulance. Go to the hospital. Meet him there.

He can't even entertain the thought. “Hannibal, what happened?” He tries not to sound alarmed, but it 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’s wide awake now. “Where are you? Can you answer that for me?”

“My aunt’s house,” Hannibal says. He’s unnervingly quiet, detached. “She’s gone. It’s just me…” 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. I haven't checked. Will, please, could you come? Don’t,” he adds quickly, struggling with something, “Just you. Don't tell anyone else.”

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

“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.

Behind the wheel, he realizes he’s still tipsy from the alcohol he tossed back earlier, but he refuses to abandon Hannibal now. He has one hand firmly gripping the wheel, the other holding his phone up. He’s still listening and Hannibal has been relatively quiet, just breathing. It’s shallow, hitching once in a while. It’s worries him.

“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?”


“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, that Hannibal could easily be making this up. Will wants to believe that would be absurd, but he knows Hannibal, and Hannibal isn’t above that level of manipulation. He might want company. It's possible he couldn’t deal with his aunt leaving, couldn’t reach Frederick, or maybe strangers weren’t exciting enough to take home. Maybe he wants someone else, someone he shouldn’t have, just to prove that he can. Will clears his throat, blinking hard to focus on the road, and asks him how he’s doing. Hannibal doesn't answer. Will ends the call when he arrives, the headlights of his car cutting through the darkness and revealing Hannibal sitting on the front porch with the door swung carelessly open, forgotten. 

Will hardly believes what he's seeing.

He doesn’t remember getting out. He doesn’t feel his legs move, they simply carry him to Hannibal’s side, and he sinks to his knees, hovering over him but not touching. He’s afraid to touch. Hannibal’s clothes are stained black. Will knows it’s blood, he smells it before he feels its stickiness. He breaks past his reservations and looks Hannibal over, running his hands down his arms, searching for injury, wondering if Hannibal deliberately harmed himself, but Will can’t find any cuts. He does see, plainly, the bruises around his neck, and the broken vessels in his eyes, the whites now tinged with splotches the same color as 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 and hot anger boils in his stomach, but he keeps it simmering inside. He removes his coat and blankets it over Hannibal’s shoulders, ignoring the shaking in his own hands, and tilts Hannibal's chin to look up 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 says, 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 leans closer, feeling Hannibal press his face into his chest, mouthing into his 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 dark hair, feeling Hannibal gradually begin to stir. He hears him inhale. 

“Remember Francis?”

Francis Dolarhyde.

Will carefully pries them apart, looking down. 

“Are you hurt? Did he touch you?”

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

Will doesn't 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."