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Playing People, Not Poker (it's only polite)

Chapter Text

There were people everywhere. Whipping around the lobby in a tornado of humanity that threatened to blow away what little sanity he had at the moment.

It was almost worse than the Monte Carlo airport. Because at least there, the throngs of people were mostly tourists, normal people carting around the picture-perfect families of four to a random place with a cool name that they saw on the travel channel.

Here, in this hotel lobby, with its’ steep price point and reputable high-stakes casino, practically everyone reeked of tragic backstory and black money; it was enough to make his delicate mind dance the fucking cha-cha on a cliff right above the sea of instability.

“Hello, sir. Checking in?” The perky woman’s bright smile matched her glinting nails, which shined blue and silver in the bright light of the chandeliers.

She was young, new by the glossy name tag reading ‘Isabelle’. Smart, yet almost certainly hired for those bright grey eyes and long, curly caramel hair, just like the plush-lipped, blonde man working the computer next to hers; their positions were less function and more for appearances sake.

Will looked down at those inch-long, shiny, blue things, wondering why would anyone subject themselves to carrying those around with them only to-

Ten streaks of pain slowly cut their way down his back.

Those egg-shell blue nails dug into his back, raking themselves down his skin like small razorblades; her preferred method of praise. The pain completely evaporated Will’s arousal, but she couldn’t give a damn.

His pain was her pleasure, and-

“Sir?” Her bright voice cut through the hallucination, the same way she sliced open his back-

 “Y-yes,” Will stammered, trying to get a hold of himself.

“What’s the name?”

Breathe in.  Please don’t give yourself away as an unstable disaster wrapped up in cute curls and glasses on the first day- leave something to work up to. Breathe out.

“William Holmes.”

Will’s sense of humor when sleep-deprived knew no bounds, because why not keep your first name, and have your alias be the last name of a famous detective to hide the fact that you’re a world-famous detective?

Well, profiler, not detective. And, maybe, world famous was a bit of a stretch- excluding the psychiatric community, of course, in which he was basically their version of a fandom favorite.

“Very good sir,” Isabelle gushed, as she poked his name into the keyboard, effortlessly maneuvering around her nails, “Ah, yes, Mr. Holmes. You’re in room 2847 on floor 19… Here’s your room key, which will also get you into the casino. Have a good day and please feel free to contact our desk for any assistance.”

Will suppressed a shiver as the tip of one of her nails scraped his finger as she handed him a purple keycard.

When she gestured at the elevators behind him, will mumbled a ‘thanks’, heaved his carry-on over his shoulder, and made his trek through the scourge of humanity milling about the lobby, taking care not to touch anyone.

Despite the light crème suit he was wearing, the empath still felt woefully out of place, practically feeling the eyes of the crowd on his skin. Like they knew he didn’t belong, that his Versace suit was rented and his FBI badge was hidden deep in his luggage.

He pressed the button on the elevator and waited, desperately trying to remember why he signed up for this stupid idea anyway.

“Will- CIA’s asked us to send a profiler to a casino in Monte Carlo. They’re trying to corner a, an, accountant or something during a poker game, and have the idea that a profiler in the area would be helpful in picking apart poker faces.”

“Okay? So?”

“They specifically asked for you.” Jack’s tone is a strange amalgamation of apologetic and commanding, but that was hardly anything new coming from him.

“Why me? Were they specifically looking for a mentally unstable, unqualified for field work, professor?” Will asked, knowing that he was fighting a hopeless battle.

“You’re the best, Will. This man… He directly cares for terrorist money, hundreds of millions… Bombs, Missiles, Drugs. All bought from the money this bastard keeps safe. You can’t tell me that you want this guy roaming free?”

Of course, Will couldn’t tell him that, yet at the same time, a sharp, vicious part of him shrieked that his mental health was more important, who cared about potential lives saved, versus the very real concept of his own sanity.

He could hardly handle being in Quantico for more than 8 hours before he began imagining brutally murdering his students. God knew what would happen to him in an unfamiliar country.

“You’d save countless lives, Will.”

Morals he knew he should have-

A gentle tap on his shoulder shattered the memory.

The elevator was here, and likely had been here a while, if someone was alerting him to it.

“Mr. Holmes? The elevator’s here.” An accented voice stated from behind him, it’s tone was completely blank, but lacking the monotone that usually accompanied masked words.

It was enough to kick up his heart rate.

Will whips his head over his shoulder, only to find his fucking target, Le Chiffre, looking at him.

Le Chiffre. Real name: Hannibal Lecter. Accountant to a dozen armed insurgent groups, three international mafias, two terrorist groups. Keeper of billions of dollars in blood money. 

He was standing less then a foot away. 

The accountant had an earnest expression so fake it gave Isabelle’s nails a run for their money. The genius’s posture was relaxed, hands in his pockets, looking completely at-ease, despite that he'd be playing for his life at the poker table tonight. 

He looked exactly like Will knew he would: high cheekbones, ashy-blonde jelled hair, 6 foot frame, athletic posture with a tapered waist, expensive suit cut from plaid grey fabric, un-calloused hands with nimble fingers.

Yet, despite being shown so many pictures of Le Chiffre that Will had started to see the accountant’s face when he closed his eyes; there was something jarring about being right next to him. Gleaming intelligence writhed in his gaze, cold in the striking sky-blue eye and calculating in the scarred, frosted-over eye, both equally unsettling in a way that a camera could never hope of capturing.

That scarred eye, with a delicate red line running through the skin above and below, had completely taken over his presence in a photo; in person, however, it was little more than a side note.

The intimidating presence of the man himself was much more overpowering.

“T-thank you,” Will nods, turning away, silently wondering just how fucked he was.

There’s a soft hum that follows him as he steps inside the elevator, letting him know that Hannibal had followed him inside. A moment later, the elevator doors closed, trapping him with the international criminal.

Will reached out to press his floor number- only to have Le Chiffre press number 19 before he could.

Why can't I have One. Good. Day? Or even a mildly okay day? 

Leaning against the wall of the elevator, Le Chiffre glanced at him with the same fake earnest expression. “Sorry, I heard the receptionist say your floor number, I hope I’m not scaring you, Mr. Holmes.”

That bloody accent- Lithuanian, CIA had told him- slithered around Will’s head, leaving blood and ink in its wake.

“Or, is it Mr. Graham? I’m a bit confused.”

Well. I'm fucked.

“Either one works,” Will replied, stalling with sarcasm, feeling irritation bubble up in his chest.

At that, Hannibal gives a soft laugh, that’s an adorable attempt at trying to stall but I’m still going to kill you, little boy.

The cool metal of a gun presses against Will’s left temple, not firing yet, but it will any moment now, and Will is going to die in an elevator because while Le Chiffre wasn’t a killer, money was a Jerusalem that he’d fight crusades for any day-

"You know I can’t let you into that poker room, Mr. Graham,” the mathematician sighed, like he was the one inconvenienced by Will’s upcoming death, “A profiler in a room of poker faces really wouldn’t be a good fit- you understand, of course?”

Will blinked, reeling for a moment, before the words fell from his tongue with a challenging confidence that came from the overall zero fucks that he gave at this point, “Am I really the best use of your two remaining allotted homicides?”

Le Chiffre allowed his confusion seem into his face. “Excuse me?”

Will slowly pushed himself up from the elevator wall, slipping the duffle bag from his shoulder, and taking a definitive step towards the man. “Your back up plan, if you can’t get the 500 million from this Hail-Mary poker game, is to run back to the very governments chasing you. Offering information in exchange for safe haven.”

Will smiles, a slow, seductive thing, that’s inspired by the lingering presence of razor-nailed Isabelle ghosting over his thoughts, but completely supported by the dark shadowed part of his head that grinned at crime scenes.

But, there’s only so much  those governments will forgive you for, democracy is stupid like that. You’ve already killed, or paid to have killed, two Interpol officers yesterday. Balance of probability gives you two more, before deals are off the table. And quite frankly, a teacher with a penchant for hallucinating is hardly a good use of a slot. Especially considering there’s at least four more agents in the hotel at the moment.”

Processing the information, Hannibal stared at Will, curiosity and strategy clearly scrawled across his handsome features, mixed with something that Will could have sworn was interest.

Will was likely going to regret giving away the ‘good guys’ like that later, but right now, all he could feel was a vindictive pleasure from startling Le Chiffre with some cold hard logic of his own.

You aren’t the only one with some statistics, bitch.

The elevator doors dinged, and Will couldn’t stop the sassy click of his tongue as he broke eye contact to grab his luggage.

As he walked out of the elevator, Will called over his shoulder, “Room 2847, if you decide to kill me.”

Yep, definitely regretting this later, Will decided as he walked down the hall, looking for his room.

Chapter Text

 

Will walked into his hotel room, already feeling bubbles of guilt-Why would I say that? - only to freeze.

There was a person in his room.

An African man with a short frame, warm eyes, and ill-fitting suit, who jumped in surprise when Will opened the door.

“William Graham?” he asked, already getting up to shake Will’s hand.

Honestly what was the point of an alias if no one uses it?

“That’s right.”

“Richard Dell, I’m your CIA contact.”

Richard’s hand was limp in Will’s hand, and the empath wasn’t sure how he felt about being the dominant one in the situation.

Recognizing the name, Will nodded, “Right. They said they’d send someone to fill me in on anything else I needed to know.”

Richard nodded, but it was more of a happy bob to silent music than confirmation.

A newborn baby was screeching in Richard’s arms. Will watched as the CIA agent cooed at and bounced the swaddle of white linens, looking down with large awed eyes.

He was happy, so happy. He loved little Janine, more than he thought possible. He missed her fiercely, being halfway around the world, but at the same time, being a father was enough to keep him cheery.

After all, it was nice to give life instead of taking it-

“Yep, I'll try to give you the important highlights, if that’s alright?”

Will nods.

“Alright, great. Let’s have a seat.”

The man proceeded to explain Will’s role in this. Will was simply expected to sit at the bar, and discreetly watch Le Chiffre, processing his actions for any tells.

If he saw something that could be helpful, Will would inform the CIA agent playing at the table, during the allotted one hour breaks. If it was urgent, Will had a signal, which would call another agent over.

Basically, he was expected to be a hidden spectator. It wasn’t the worst job in the world, all things considered.

“Le Chiffre won’t even know you’re there, I promise,” Richard assured.

Too late for that.

Will briefly considered telling the agent about the incident in the elevator, but quickly decided against it. After all, he had basically pointed a gun at his own team mates… Which wasn’t image Will wanted to present of himself.

“Anything else?”

“TI-84.”

Will blinked, “That was my high school calculator. Is that supposed to be an innuendo? Don’t let Le Chiffre plug in his numbers?”

Richard shakes his head, a soft laugh escaping him as he digs around his briefcase for a file; he opens a beige manilia folder, pointing to a picture of an elegant blonde, white woman, 35-ish years of age, walking with an umbrella in her hand.

“Bedelia de Maurier. Le Chiffre’s right hand. She’s known at TI-84, or T.I. Bedelia handles daily maintenance and regular meetings. She used to be Le Chiffre’s own accountant, before he recruited her. She’s staying with him in the apartment suite on floor 28.”

Will inspected the photo.

It was easy to see what Hannibal saw in her.

There was a timeless grace in her features: soft, blonde hair, arching eyebrows, high cheekbones, slim lips. Yet, despite that beauty, all Will could see was her tense shoulders and careful, measured steps. Her heels were high, but they just drew attention to the way her calves were toned and taut.

The picture was taken, when Bedelia had been scanning her surroundings. Her face was smooth with a brittle strength that reminded him off glass shards. In her icy eyes, there was a numb look that sent a shiver down Will’s spine.

No question, Bedelia de Maurier was a rifle, awaiting Hannibal’s orders but definitely able to fire on her own. Hannibal might have been the boss, but there was no doubt in Will’s mind that Bedelia was definitely not to be messed with.

"Alright. I’ll make sure to keep an eye out. What else?”

BEEP.

Richard glanced at his phone before going pale.

“Sorry, but we’ll have to continue this later,” he said, as he quickly grabbed his coat and briefcase, “An MI6 agent is here.”

"Okay. Um. Bye, Richard.”

 "Bye, Mr. Graham. I’ll come back in 5 hours, so 4 in the afternoon.”

 

- IN ANOTHER HOTEL ROOM--

 

Bedelia raised her eyebrows, unsure if she should be amused or terrified, as she watched Hannibal stare into space with a small smile on his face.

The boss had walked into their hotel suite, a glazy dazed look on his face; it was such an unusual expression to see on Hannibal that Bedelia had actually jumped to attention, expecting orders to call an ambulance or hitmen, or both.

Instead, Hannibal looked at her and said. “2847.” His tone was serious and completely unhelpful.

Bedelia pulled out her phone, trying to figure out what path of action was expected from her. “Twenty-eight… Forty-seven… That’s Will Graham’s room,” she remembered, speaking out loud in hopes of getting more information from the man.

Instead of answering, the criminal sat down on a plush couch, and stared out into the distance, a smile slowly loading on his lips.

“Hannibal?”

Hannibal didn’t move.

“Hannibal?”

No answer.

Bedelia waited another two minutes, waiting for Hannibal to get up and tell her what to do; he didn’t move, just sitting there with a dopey smile.

It was unprecedented.

Hannibal was the king of conversation. He always had to have the last word, always had something to say, though he might imply it, rather than say it. He enjoyed twirling long drawn-out metaphors around Bedelia until she had a noose of confusion and manipulation strung around her neck.

He’d never just sat there, unresponsive, unopinionated.

He’d gone to scope out Mr. Graham, threaten him, then call Steve the Strangler to finish the job.

Bedelia decided to check if the chain had been completed.

               

To: Steve (MO: Strangulation)

                Did Le Chiffre call you? – T.I.

 

As she waited for a response, she walked around the couch to face Hannibal, repressing the childish urge to wave a hand in front of his face.

“Mr. Lecter,” she repeated. Her smoky voice firm and a bit concerned, though she’d never admit the maternal affection she held for the dork.

“MmmHmm?” Hannibal hummed, releasing a gentle sigh at the end.

This could be a test.

But that would be stupid. And weird. And completely unnecessary.

So basically, Hannibal’s MO, Bedelia’s inner bitch retorts, and damn if doesn’t have a point.

               

Steve (MO: Strangulation)

                Nope, still at the pizza place, waiting instructions.

 

The ever-growing weirdness of the situation only continued to grow.

There were options of what she could do: call an ambulance because Hannibal might have a concussion, kill Will Graham, interrogate Will Graham, leave Hannibal alone, raincheck the poker game, ask Hannibal what was wrong, call off Steve, check out room 2748…

The list went on and on.

And it was impossible to know what Hannibal would want; what she did know- Hannibal would happily fuck up her credit score for making the wrong decision, which was totally not on.

I just finished getting it up, too.

So, instead of guessing, she swallowed her pride and asked, “Should I kill Will Graham?”

At the question, Hannibal appeared to jerk out of his trance.

Finally looking away from the window, with his typical alertness, the accountant looked at Bedelia with a stern expression, “No one is to touch Will Graham.”

Bedelia blinked, confused.

“Would you prefer to do it yourself?”

Her employer stood up, employing a textbook intimidation tactic, as if Bedelia would ever find him intimidating in any sense. That ship had sailed a long time ago.

“Will Graham is not to be harmed. That is not a prohibition; it is an order.”

“Okay,” she nodded, pretending like she understood. “I’ll send out a memo.”

In response, Hannibal nods, gracefully turning on his heel, moving towards the bathroom.

“Sir?” she called.

Le Chiffre stopped walking, indicating he was listening.

“Any elaboration on room 2847?”

“I’ll be spending my evening there.”

And then Hannibal closed the door, clearly signaling the end of conversation in the most dramatic way possible. Briefly, Bedelia considered letting it go, but she was far too interested to be polite.

So instead, she called through the door, “Like an interrogation session with Will Graham?”

Hannibal’s answer was sarcastic and indignant, though slightly muffled through the bathroom door. “Like a date.

“Wait. Will Graham is what had you staring out the window like an idiot?” she questioned, incredulous and a bit annoyed.

“I was considering how I would proceed. Strategy is of the utmost importance.”

Le Chiffre’s Lieutenant thought about that for a second.

“So, Will Graham asked you out?”

That seemed impossible on so many levels; Bedelia couldn’t even imagine how that conversation would happen.

“No.”

“Then, you asked him out?”

“No. Stop prying, Bedelia.”

“Well. If you didn’t ask him out. And he didn’t ask you out. Its. Not. A. Date. Hannibal.”

There was a pause. A long drawn out silence, and she could practically hear Hannibal’s pout though the door.

“We chatted in the elevator. He told me his room number. I’m going to see him. It’s a date. Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’d like to take a shower,” Immediately afterwards, the sound of water hitting the shower tile, rumbled through the door, signaling the definite end of the conversation.

Running a hand through her hair, Bedelia turned away from the door, compartmentalizing as she went back to her laptop to continue watching House of Cards.

Chapter Text

In the next few hours, Will took the time to shower and unpack. Settling into his hotel room, and taking a nap.

When he woke up, body finally stocked up on its necessary sleep, it was two in the afternoon.

TIme for lunch. Too bad, Will had no idea where to go, didn’t speak French, and he definitely wasn’t going back down to the lobby to ask Ms. Blades-for-Nails for directions.

Why did I learn Spanish in highschool?

Though that was really nonsensical complaining, considering that the only words he remembered from High School spanish were ‘how are you’ and ‘homework’.

It seemed like he’d just have to manage from google recommendations.

Will pulled out his phone, about to search for restaurants, when there was a knock at the door.

Fucking hell, Richard. What happened to ‘back at four’.

Will heaved himself up from the couch to trek to the door, ready to announce, if RIchard wanted to talk to him, he could do it over a plate of fries.

With a ‘i’m not happy’ look on his face, Will swung open the door, only to freeze. In front of his door was Le Chiffre.

Standing there. Casually. In a different suit. Slightly more close fitting, and in a dark navy. A hand in his pocket, and another hand holding his phone. Which he looked up from when Will opened the door, sleekly slipping his phone back into his pocket.

One of the most dangerous men on the planet was right outside Will's hotel room, and with the combined money and influence of even more dangerous men at his back, Hannibal Lecter could very easily slaughter him and leave him staining the hotel carpet red, with little to no consequence to him.

And this was the moment, Will had finally realized that Hannibal Lecter has got to be the most handsome man Will had ever seen. Not precisely because of his face- the Lithuanian man didn’t have that staple rugged jaw and bushy eyebrows- but because of a strong, seductively dominant presence the man seemed to wear like a cloud of intoxicating perfume.

“Hello.”

Knee jerk reaction. Will slammed the door closed.

Only the door met hard resistance moments before it closed. Looking down, Will saw Hannibal’s shoe caught in the doorway. Will’s mind flittered, but his body stayed still, frozen in indecision.

Hannibal’s voice is chiding.

“Will, you’ve caught my foot.”

As if Will had been fishing for Italian loafers.

Like Italian loafers were an endangered species, and Will was the asshole that still fished at their breeding grounds, because fuck the rules.

And Hannibal was the eco-activist that just loved Italian loafers, because he’d had a lot of them as a kid or some shit, so he automatically hated Will’s guts and had already drawn up a petition to prevent Will from making a profit on black-marketing those Italian loafers.

Except Hannibal was a manipulative bitch, because Will was fishing in a completely legal lake, and Hannibal had tossed a shit ton of Italian loafers into the waters, knowing that Will would accidentally catch one.

The question was, why did Hannibal go through the hassle of pouring endangered Italian loafers into Will’s regular fishing space?

Or, maybe a better question is how the fuck did Will get so invested in this metaphor.

“Did you come here for a reason, Le Chiffre?” Will called through the door.

Keeping his foot firmly in the door jamb, Hannibal retorted, “Before you assaulted me with the door, you mean?”

A childish urge to repeatedly slam the door on the man’s foot bubbled up in Will’s chest.

“William?”

And that was the absolute last straw. Swinging the door back open to glare at the intolerable man, Will worked up his best glare.

“I’m starting to wonder what the point was of making an alias in the first place, if everyone in this hotel seems set on using my real name.”

A polite smile danced on Hannibal’s lips, “A bit more research on maternity websites, and a bit less humorous irony, goes a long way in creating a functional alias. Mr. William Holmes isn’t exactly the most subtle name.”

“Right. Like Le Chiffre is the epitome of subtle.”

Hannibal jerks back, like that statement literally wounded him.

“What, exactly, is wrong with Le Chiffre?”

As he puts his hands on his hips, Will’s jaw drops, part in mock-shock, and part in genuine incredulousness.

“You are kidding, right? Le Chiffre literally means,” Will throws up jazz hands, “ the number . That’s got to be the nerdiest thing I’ve ever heard, and I’m a professor.”

Hannibal’s eyes narrow, those mismatched, intelligent orbs in bloody maroon and frosty grey glinting in that masculine face, like

the accountant’s hands reached out, large palms and nimble pianist’s fingers wrapped around Will’s slim, fragile neck.

A squeeze would be enough to cut off his air supply.

A jerk would be enough to break his neck.

Instead those hands just curled around his neck, a warm support propping up a weak pillar, as sharp teeth approached Will’s-

“I wanted to ask if you could go out for lunch.” The dark look in the foreigner’s eyes was long gone, dissolved in friendly amiability.

Scoffing, Will shook his head. He was smarter than that. Taunting a criminal in an elevator was one thing. It was quite another to go to a second location with one.

Especially if the criminal in question was Le Chiffre.

The accountant had a longer kill list than some professional hitmen.

“Yah, uh- No. I’m not too comfortable with the idea of you taking me to a second, unknown location. It’s the first step of being kidnapped.”

Then feeling as if his tone was a bit too harsh.

“Thanks though.”

At that, Hannibal shifted, crinkling his nose in distaste, and deep, deep down, behind all of the barbed wire and neon no trespassing signs, Will had to admit, that nose crinkle was the most adorable expression he’d ever seen on a grown man.

“If I was going to kidnap you, I wouldn’t do it like this. That’s just amatuer.”

A smile forced itself on Will’s lips; the petulant tone in Hannibal’s voice was just too cute, and it was a struggle to remember why he wasn’t supposed to like the accountant.

He indirectly funds terrorism.

He’s a murderer.

He’s an intolerable, self-absorbed prick.

“How would you do it then? Kidnap me?”

That sounded sexual. Did that sound sexual to anyone else? What if he thought that was sexual?

Le Chiffre bared his teeth in a bright smile, somehow appearing dangerous and appealing in one fell swoop. “With all these agents swarming around you? With your intelligence and keen eyes? It would have been a long and drawn out game, dear William.”

The profiler swallowed, feeling thirsty all of a sudden.

“The first step being?”

Le Chiffre took a small step forward, calling attention to the two feet of air fizzing between them; Will found himself stepping forward, pretty much in the hallway and definitely within the accountant’s reach.

“I would have built your trust. An unneeded gesture, out of the kindness of my heart,” that accent was thick and velvety, seductively sliding across Will’s skin, “Perhaps lending you my jacket, or dropping you home. Or maybe, I’d have cooked for you, brought you lunch in an intimate setting.”

There was a warmth pooling in Will’s stomach, hot and burning, begging for Will to just do something.

“Then what?”

“Won’t you join me for lunch, Will?”

Hannibal stepped back, letting the light back in, space and air swelling the gap between them, cooling Will's warm stomach, breaking the spell; however, the odd answer to Will’s question made the profiler’s heart pound uncomfortably.

Are you implying something? Or just changing the subject?

Either way. Will was fucked, and really shouldn’t spend more time with the man. It was clear Hannibal was seducing him, sexual or no, Will was interested, and that was dangerous.

Will was an FBI agent, dammit.

Hannibal was a known criminal.

It should be easy. Just say no. Within fifteen minutes of conversation, Hannibal Lecter had completely torn down Will’s defenses; there was no way Will would survive an entire lunch conversation.

Except, Will found his mouth curling into, “Sure, why not?”

And he told himself, this is an opportunity. I’m a profiler. More context for the profile, the better.

He would try to dig for as much incriminating information as possible during their lunch conversation.

And deeper down, Will knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Chapter Text

 

After a quick couple minutes to tame his curls and change out of his sleep crumpled suit and into another FBI rental that Will couldn’t possibly afford.

Hannibal, gentleman that he was, chastely waited for Will to return in the hallway outside.

The elevator ride down had been silent, Hannibal flashing an apologetic smile, before typing out enormous calculations into his phone; Will had attempted to keep track of the numbers and how they interact, but once the numbers went into the billions- Will decided to study the ceiling instead.

Hannibal Lecter might be sexy as fuck, but even he wasn’t worth a revisit high school algebra, (or more appropriately: college-level rocket science)

Will had gotten through that period of his life with blood, sweat, and formulas written on his palms, thank you very much, and there was no way he was going back.

But, I might consider getting a calculator nickname.

Maybe.

Either way, once they made it down to the lobby, Hannibal started to move towards the desk, the concierge desk, where Lauren was.

Will was rather done with sexual sadomasochism for today.

“If you’re about to ask her for restaurant recommendations, I’m going to punch you in the face,” Will states plainly.

Hannibal stops, turning towards Will with a teasing smile, “I’m going to ask her to bring around my car.”

“I think you have to ask the valet for that.”

“The Valet is outside, WIll.”

Will aggressively rolled his eyes, and then feeling as if the effect wasn’t strong enough, he gave his baby blues another headache-inducing roll.

“What? Are you afraid of melting in the sun? Or are you so dedicated to the accountant stereotype that you refuse to exercise more than needed?”

Hannibal frowned disapprovingly at Will; lips curving back between his lips momentarily, as if to physically prevent words from leaving his mouth.  A beat of silence passed, enough to make Will feel distinctly uncomfortable, before Hannibal haughtily raised an eyebrow and explained.

You may have forgotten, Will, but I am in a state of financial trouble. Dire enough that many of my narrow-minded investors would gladly kill me off and then make attempts at scraping open my bank accounts. Hitmen, mercenaries, snipers, are all an ongoing concern at the moment. So I’d prefer to limit my exposure as much as possible.”

Guilt slowly dripped into Will’s chest cavity, the faucet typically containing his emotions gone rusty by shock, and then he realized something.

“Then why are you taking me out to lunch?”

The smile on Hannibal’s face was soft, sweet, and spoke of lewdness in the extreme.

“Because, I’m always up for a gamble if the stakes are lovely enough. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go speak to the desk about the car.”

As Will watched Le Chiffre’s slim hips sway in that plaid navy suit, blood pooled in his cheeks, because how else was Will supposed to react to statement.

Nevermind, I’ll definitely take that calculator nickname.

 

--

 

After 15 minute car ride, involving Hannibal pointing out various landmarks, speaking phrases in Arabic and French, and referring to historical incidences Will didn’t know, they arrived at a restaurant Will was not expecting.

It wasn’t a hole in a wall, not by any means; it just wasn’t a five star restaurant either. It was a local restaurant, a small two story cafe with an Arabic twist, and a line curving down the block.

Hannibal made to move out of the car, but was stopped by a soft “Le Chiffre” spoken by the unknown driver. They’d been in the SUV before Will and Hannibal got in, and were hidden by the foggy grey partition separating the Bentley in two.

“I’ll be fine. I do want you to call Bedelia, inform her that I’ve changed my mind regarding our new investors.”

“Yes… I will wait in the car.” The driver’s words were softly hissed, every syllable full of double meaning, like a brooding snake’s song.

“Good,” Hannibal turned toward Will, “Shall we?”

--

After exchanges of several hundred dollar bills to three people, they completely skipped the line and were seated within minutes.

Will took one glance at the French and Arabic menu, before telling Hannibal to order for him.

The accountant looked surprised, before smiling proudly, no doubt happy to be in a position of intimate trust

It was only fair , Will decided, as he belatedly realized that he’d forgotten his wallet, considering Hannibal would be paying for him, too.

With renewed vigor, Hannibal read through the menu.

When the waiter came over, Hannibal spoke a long list of French words that had Will squirming in anticipation. After all,  except for a stack of oreos on the plane, Will hadn’t eaten a proper meal in hours.

“So, why this place?” Will asked, finally letting out his curiosity.

Hannibal tilted his head, “What do you mean, William?”

Feeling distinctly uncomfortable in directly pointing it out, he slowly said, “It’s just… This place doesn’t seem like your type.”

Wow. You sound like a jealous ex girlfriend. Can you be any more embarrassing?

“I like to enjoy proper ethnic cuisine when traveling. It’s the best way to learn the true intended taste of  cultural dishes. After all, no one makes better noodles then the Chinese.”

Will blinked at the honest explanation, completely humble and accepting in its logic.

“Learn? Do you cook?”

A proud nod. “I do. One of my few hobbies. There’s something very calming about the directions and license to creativity.”

Will tried to imagine Le Chiffre in a suit, stirring a pot of some fancy soup, and couldn’t quite imagine it.

“Do you just cook for yourself?” Will questioned, “That seems like a lot of labor for a meal of one.”

“I throw dinner parties, fairly often. Company makes for the best meals,” Hannibal smiled, “I think food is more people-based, than most people think.”

That. Will can imagine. Mr. Lector lording over a long gaudy dinner table, with a dozen people singing his praise and begging for the recipe or any information-

Information. We’re here for information.

Say it with me

In-for-ma-tion

in a foreign nation

You, Will Graham

are not on vacation

Will’s logical voice proceed to ruffle it’s Pom-Poms.

“Hmm, speaking of people, you said you were rejecting a client?”

Smooth.

“Fishing for information Will?”

Not so smooth.

“No, just wondering what you criteria for rejection is, considering you take on terrorists.”

Hannibal chuckled, “I liked it better when you were fishing for my loafers, Will.”

The teacher sent Hannibal a death glare, still very sensitive over the fishing metaphor.

“The simple answer, Will, is that they simply didn’t have the money. Eighty million dollars of black money isn’t worth the effort it takes to clean it and keep it safe.”

“Eighty million?” Will choked.

Hannibal raised his eyebrows, about to say something pretentious and probably insulting, when the waiter approached the table with a cart.

“Sir? Your appetizers and your wine. We have the…”

Will’s ears tuned out the French, chosing instead, to look at the breaded balls and dark sauce, chip-like things, and small rolls.

The waiter set the five appetizer plates down, poured their wine, and promised to return in a few minutes.

“Wow.” Will said, not comprehending the table in front of him.

“Here. This is Kalamatra Hummus. These are cucumber crostini. A true example of Morocco’s Arabic and French culture. Just dip and eat,” Hannibal explained, holding a chip in front of Will’s mouth.

Blushing, Will reached out and took a bit out of the chip in Hannibal’s hand, inadvertently brushing his lips against Hannibal’s fingers.

“What about this one?” Will asked.

“That is…”

After that, conversation seemed to flow, kickstarted by explanations about the food, followed by origin stories that always reminded Will of a story of his own, which led to Hannibal’s deep commentary, which lead to Will’s sarcastic retorts, and then the next course came, and the entire thing started all over. During the entire thing, Will found himself becoming more and more endeared by the man.

His charm was slow and curling, taking full effect over their long conversation, so much that by the time they had finished their sweet, oily desserts, Will was seriously doubting his ability to analyze Hannibal during the poker game only a few hours later.

“Let me pay the bill, and then we can go back to the hotel,” Hannibal said, pulling out a slim metal case, about the size of a thick iPhone 5, functioning as a wallet, and walking over to the cashier.

Will was delightfully full, and watched as Hannibal paid cash for their meal, sent a quick text on his phone, and walked back to Will.

Will stood up, smiling at Hannibal, “this was really nice, thank you.”

Hannibal smiled, “I’m sure not being kidnapped is also a plus.”

Is it though? Being chained to a bed doesn’t sound so bad if it’s yours.

Wait, what?

“It is… Definitely… Is.”

“Shall we?” Hannibal motions for the door.

“Yes. I’m a bit-”

CRACK.

The sound was loud and sharp, cutting Will’s ears like a whip. The sound of shattering glass and snapping wood just background to the unmistakable sound of a gunshot.

“Down Will!” Hannibal shouted, only to tackle Will to the ground himself.

They moved just seconds before another gunshot echoed the room.

CRACK CRACK CRACK CRACK CRA-CRACK-CRA-CRACK.

Repetitive gunshots, too booming and loud to be anything but shotgun shells, rang through the restaurant, amongst the screams of customers and splintering of wood.

The most surprising part of all of this was Hannibal. He’d managed to completely tuck Will between him and the booth seat. His long legs encased Will’s and his lean arms covered Will’s head; Hannibal made himself into Will’s armor, helpless attempting to protect Will from harm.

A bullet tore through Hannibal’s back, shattering his ribs, and stopping at his sternum.

Blood poured through Hannibal’s chest and onto Will’s back, but apart from a pained moan, Hannibal didn’t move. Didn’t dare. Not till his precious cargo was safe.

After all, Hannibal had just found him, and nothing was going to take-

Another gunshot pulled him out of it, leaving Will in a state of vertigo.

CRACK.

And then silence. Ten shots. They were probably out of rounds.

Will tried to move only to be stopped by Hannibal.

“Wait.”

They stayed frozen for a minute, and then another, and only then, did Hannibal get up, look around, and finally let Will stand up.

It only took one look at the decimated restaurant, wounded customers, and bloodied corpses for Will to become overloaded at the unexpected pain. His knees weakened and a strangled whimper left his throat.

The sensitive man collapsed against Hannibal’s chest, succumbing to the only available support.

“Shhh. It’s okay. We have to leave before they come back, Will. I'm so sorry for putting you in danger. I should have known it was too dangerous. Can you walk, Will?... Will?” Hannibal questioned, worry riddling his tone.

It was struggle to nod, but Will managed.

“Hannibal?” The soft, hissing voice called out. Will looked up at a slim woman, with a dark coat and abyss eyes. “We have to hurry. They will be back.”

“Yes.”

The three of them slowly walked out of the restaurant and into the SUV. Will was promptly lifted into the car, buckled in, and tucked against Hannibal’s chest, who offered soft reassuring hums and phrases. The woman was in the driver’s seat, speeding the car down Moroccan streets.

"I am so sorry, William. I understand if you hate me after this," Hannibal whispered in a broken voice that chiseled at Will's heart.

It was a herculean struggle to push past the tiring fog blurring his senses, but Will managed to get out a, "Not your fault." 

"Thank you." Hannibal whispered, voice still so broken and worried, but Will's fragile head couldn't take anymore stimulation. It took less than a minute for Will to slip out of his traumatized state and into unconsciousness.

Hannibal kept up his terrified coos for another minute, making sure the FBI agent was sound asleep, before ceasing.

“He’s. So sensitive,” Chiyoh comments, slowing down the car to a sensible speed “Too sensitive- to be compatible.”

Hannibal smiles, brushing a thumb against Will's delicate cheekbones. His tone confident and his fingers steady; there was a complete and sudden absence of the anxious energy that the accountant had been radiating moments before. “He’s sensitive enough to understand, Chiyoh. Unbridled empathy is so very unique.”

“If understanding requires such… encouragement, it is simply, misplaced emotion.”

“Any passionate emotion is empathy, and can always adapt to it’s new placement.”

The two of them went silent, agreeing to disagree.

“Regardless- thank you. My goal was achieved and I appreciate it. I understand I didn’t give you much forewarning.”

Chiyoh clucked her tongue disapprovingly, “My shotgun did not appreciate the abuse. I require new silencers.”

“Only the best for my bodyguard,” Hannibal agreed with a smile.

“Perhaps, only the best for Will Graham, as well. For some time.”

Hannibal rolled his eyes, tucking Will closer into his chest, “I have no intention of breaking him Chiyoh. This was just some needed persuasion.”

Will’s eyes fluttered open, and Hannibal brought a desperately concerned look on his face, and Chiyoh sped up the car again.