Chapter 1: Chapter One
A back alley in downtown Baltimore was a disgusting place to die.
Here, amongst the rotting food waste of the varied chain restaurants and the acrid stench of urine. Rainwater from the previous night’s downpour made everything dampen to a slime residue, glossy in the sterile glow from the streetlamps along the busy main road of the city centre. It sharpened the shadows, put the dumpsters and the slumped form of a young woman into sharp relief.
She couldn’t have been more than eighteen years of age, still a child in the eyes of society, and yet… and yet here she was, in such a place. She wore a tight dark blue sheath dress that did little to hide her protruding rib cage, the tiny spaghetti straps slipping off of her bony shoulders. The inelegant sprawl of her bare legs made the shortness of the dress seem obscene, one high heel sliding to reveal a bare foot. Dirty blonde hair spilled over her drawn face, dark red lipstick smeared across her cheek.
Her eyes were open and unseeing, what would have been blue eyes were now clouded over with a milky film that didn’t belong in the eyes of a fresh corpse. The skin was paper thin and deathly grey, sucked of all colour and any remaining traces of life . She looked like she was ageing right in front of their eyes.
Will Graham took it all in with a look of blank indifference. He’s seen it all before, there was nothing new to this picture of death. He’d seen it all since Jack Crawford of the FBI had walked into his classroom eight years ago and offered him a job as his team’s Empath for the more sinister of cases.
Will bent his knees and crouched by the body, taking a deep breath and breathing out slowly. The world around him began to fade to the background, Jack shooing the other agents away to give him some space. The blue flashing lights of the police cruiser blocking the alleyway entrance so the more bold onlookers couldn’t make a bid for the grisly scene and snap a picture. Will’s eyelids flickered for a moment before finally shutting, her life story playing out in his mind like the turning pages of a book.
Her mother had named her Emma before she had succumbed to complications during the pregnancy. Her father had felt fatherhood was a little like too much hard work and he let welfare take her without so much as a backward glance. Her childhood consisted of being bounced from one temporary home to another, a wild girl with fire in her eyes and bitterness in her soul. Her anger consumed everything she touched, bled out of her until she felt nothing but a gnawing emptiness. She could never forget the shame of wearing hand me down clothes from other unwanteds like her, could never forgive the other children with the parents and a home who laughed and called her names in the street. She became numb to the insincere apologies of would-be mothers who told Emma’s case workers that Emma “Wasn’t a right fit for their family”, while their husbands visited Emma’s bedroom and did things to her that no adult should ever do to a child. She grew up with a hate for the world and the clawing desperation to escape.
Emma’s escape was the unfortunate addiction to drugs of all kinds. The pills with the funny cartoons on them, the line of white dust on a silver tray, the liquid form of sweet oblivion. And the new drug of choice: Fae parties, or more specifically, Dark Fae parties. It was like courting violence, the thrill of brushing up against beings that seemed to be made out of sin. Thrill seekers frequented these parties, outcasts of society, the desperate, the dying, the broken.
Emma was no different, she followed that particular white rabbit to the glamoured decadence of the Dark court’s clubs, the haunting music that reverberated in her chest that didn’t make her feel quite so hollow, dancing with the supernaturally beautiful Fae that revelled in the attention of the Humans. It wasn’t only their attention that the Immortal revelled in. It was their desire, their excitement, their awe, even their deaths.
Will was instantly catapulted from Emma’s subconscious into something darker, something with malevolent intent. They watched Emma as she came out of the women’s toilets into the dimly lit back corridor of a club, hands shaking from the adrenaline and the drugs. They watched with an incredible hunger that gnawed at their very insides, the anticipation of the hunt as he followed his prey.
There was no thought in that rancid mind, no sign of any intelligence but the hunger and the devouring need for human life.
Wraiths worked like that, a flesh mechanisation for hunger.
Emma didn’t have a chance to scream, to struggle. He had her in his grip, opening his mouth wide and sucking the very life from her into his own body. It was like drinking from a cool spring after days without water in the Sahara. It took nothing more than a fleeting moment before the human’s hummingbird of a heart was silenced. Once he had his fill, he dumped her in the trash a few blocks away where she would easily be found.
Will pulled his mind free from the lingering memories of the murder, forehead drenched with sweat and he panted for breath. It left a nasty taste at the back of his throat and shadows behind his eyes. He felt unclean, in need of a long hot shower to wash the darkness away.
As if it were ever that easy.
He opened his eyes and focused again on Emma’s body and noted the change in her appearance. Her eyes were now glossed over in a milky white, her blonde hair was slowly turning grey and brittle and her skin was creasing and sagging. She was ageing in front of them.
“What,” Jack Crawford said, once again beside him and looking down at the body with narrowed eyes. “The hell is this?”
Will forcefully bit back the sarcastic retort he wanted to reply with and focused on the girl- now looking like a sixty year old - in front of them. “A Wraith attack.” He finally said, voice roughened. “One of the Dark Fae court. It sucks the life out of its victims from the mouth. Takes a person’s essence from their very cellular level so that they can stay young and alive.”
Jack looked like he wanted to pound somebody’s face in. “The Dark Court, of course it is.”
“The victim’s name is Emma, a ward of the state. You won’t be finding a grieving family left behind. A Fae junkie, she was here as a glamour reveller.”
“Was she killed here?” Jack asked with a painfully hopeful tone in his voice.
Will rubbed at his forehead, feeling the distant throb of a headache starting around his eyes. “I don’t think so,”
Jack raised his eyebrows. “You don’t think so?”
Will shrugged. “I- i didn’t get much of an impression of her surroundings. She was in a corridor, a back corridor, with music muffled. A Fae club of some kind.”
Jack bent down and, with gloved hands, carefully lifted her arm and turned it to show the inside of her wrist to the poor lighting. With a soft blue incandescent glow, there was a stamp on her skin with the symbol of stag antlers. The antlers were the symbol for Phantasia , the most prominent Dark Fae clubs in Baltimore. “Well, I think we can start the search at Phantasia, at the very least.”
Jack cursed and Will was inclined to agree. Phantasia’s proprietor was notoriously guarded when it came to both the local police force and FBI. Getting in to see if Emma was killed at his club was going to be frustrating and time consuming. Impressions left at crime scenes faded over time.
Jack grunted and put her arm back down and stared at her face. “I’ve never seen a Wraith take this much life force from someone before. Were they in a frenzy?”
“Not exactly,” Will Said.
Jack’s eyes cut sharply to Will. “Not exactly?” The impatient tone was unmistakable, he hated when Will was being cryptic with his answers.
“It wasn’t an energy frenzy, Jack. I didn’t feel that type of hunger. Lingering memories of that kind is like seeing through a red mist.”
“And this wasn’t the case?”
“It was controlled. A wraith is nothing more than its hunger, its power to kill. There isn’t intelligence there, not like we know it. The only way it can function in Fae life is by having a Master to control it.”
Jack looked down at Emma with new eyes. “Was the Wraith off its leash?”
Will let his breath out in a whoosh before answering. “There’s no way i can answer that with any certainty. It didn’t feel like the Wraith was conscious of doing anything wrong, of disobeying its Master. Emma could have been targeted by the Master, or we have a Wraith who no longer answers its Master’s call.”
“I don’t know which is worse,” Beverley Katz said as she stepped up beside them, staring down at the body with a disgusted frown. “A powerful Fae Master that would have it out for a human or a Wraith wreaking havoc in downtown Baltimore.”
“When you talk about Masters, what exactly are we talking about here?” Jack asked, finally standing.
“There is a hierarchy to the Dark Court in terms of its members.” Will turned away from the body, locked down the alley to the small crowd they had attracted. “You have the lowest level of the hierarchy, the foot soldiers that act as the eyes and ears of the Court. They can pass off as human the best. Middle level are those with more strength, have survived longer and are supporting Lords and Ladies who offer both protection and spoils. Then you have the highest level, the aristocracy. They are usually prestigious Fae families called Houses. The most powerful and bloodthirsty of their kind, not to be messed with on pain of death.”
“You do not want to mess with the Houses, boss. These guys have lived for thousands of years killing each other for the top spots at Court. There the only ones strong enough to control a Wraith.” Katz said, writing notes down on her clipboard. The ensuing silence made her glance up and pull a face at them. “What?”
“How the hell do you know that?” Jack demanded.
Katz rolled her eyes. “Not everyone is married to the FBI, boss. I have hobbies, like read the Tattler for funsies.”
“You mean you read it for gossip sensationalism garnished by bad policing and unethical journalism.” Will pointed out with a small smile.
Katz shrugged, hip checking Will playfully. “Sounds about right. Makes it more interesting to read, you should try it sometime.”
Will made a face back at her. “I think I’ll pass, thank you.”
“If it's not a rogue wraith then the Master, a member of the Dark Fae aristocracy, is to blame.” Jack cut in. “Why would they have a grudge against a teenage girl?”
Katz sobered. “It could be anything. Fae have a strange sense of manners. She could have offended them and lost her life for it.”
Will considered the possibility. “Or it had nothing to do with her at all. The killing could be impersonal but the message…”
Jack looked troubled. “What message?”
Will shook his head, feeling the throb of his headache ring with the movement. “To humans for being so fragile. Some Fae are bitter about having to live alongside us when we should be prostrate at their feet. Or a message to another Fae, perhaps she was special to someone. Owned by someone as glamour revellers often are. I don't know for certain. I need to see where she died to get a better picture of it.”
“When we get her back to the lab i can scan her for traces of glamour, see if anything comes up.” Katz put forward, eyes growing distant as she began to prioritise all tests in her head.
“Do it,” Jack said.
She didn’t need to be told twice. Katz and two EMT’s carefully took the body and laid her out on a hospital gurney and took her away to the waiting ambulance.
Will watched it drive away before speaking again. “The Dark Court aren’t going to like the idea of human FBI working on this to catch one of their own, especially one so high up the pecking order. They could potentially freeze us out, close ranks and we’ll never get to the bottom of it.”
Hunger, so much hunger, need to feed-
Will shut his eyes at the uninvited intrusion into his thoughts.
“A murder of a human makes it our business and well within our jurisdiction to investigate,” Jack growled. “They are not shutting us out. We’ll get a Fae liaison if we have to, but I’ll make it clear to them that they will follow our lead.”
Will nodded absentmindedly, his mind unable to concentrate with the full force of a migraine now in full effect. Jack took notice of Will’s drawn face and clapped him gently on the back, softening.
“Go home, Will. Get some rest. I’ll see you in the morning with your report.”
Will let a federal cop drive him back to his home and after downing a cocktail of painkillers with a glass of water, he pulled his black out curtains across the windows and fell into bed. Pure darkness surrounded him, comforted him, as he sank into sleep.
He dreamt of animal reflective eyes in the shadows and a slash of a feral grin.
“I don’t work with the Fae,” Will said for what felt like the hundredth time that morning. “I don’t work well with people at the best of times, how can you expect me to work with a damn Fae?”
They were in Jack’s office, Will pacing the floor in his agitated state. Jack watched him from his seat behind his desk like someone would a zoo animal. It put Will’s teeth on edge and he forced himself to stop his jerky movements, his hands fisting at his sides. “Don’t ask this of me.”
“What are you so afraid of?” Jack asked, his own hands spread wide on the table in front of him.
“They don’t think like us,” Will answered, already resuming his pacing. “It’s like their minds have no boundaries, it sucks me in and i-”
I’m afraid i’ll be sucked right in and i can never get out, he thought without having the will to voice it out loud.
Jack seemed to understand what Will wasn’t saying anyway. “It’s the only way, Will. Hannibal Lecter won’t allow us on the premises without his direct involvement. Without working with him, the FBI won’t get a look in.”
Will shook his head with a sound of disgust. “He can’t do that.”
“The Dark Court can. We are hunting one of theirs, Will. They have the right to shut us out and deal with it on their own. There is no Victim’s family to compensate, they can do what they like. But Lecter is willing to make a concession for us, with stipulations.”
“Stipulations,” Will intoned. “Like having direct knowledge of the investigation so that the Court has its own little spy.”
Jack shrugged, the tense muscles in his shoulders belying the careless gesture. “I don’t like it anymore than you do, Will. Hannibal Lecter has given his word that he won’t harm you or get in the way of the investigation. That goes for no glamour and no Fae tricks. You will be safe with him, i promise you.”
“Safe with a Fae?” Will said, pouring all of his derision into the words.
Jack sighed. “Do you trust me?”
Will gave a sharp nod.
“Then put your trust in my judgement. Hannibal is our way into the Fae world and its dealings. Our only way.”
Will was at war with himself. He did trust Crawford, to an extent. He was loyal to his team, stood with strong morals and a dogged determination to bring justice to those who thought themselves above the law. But that determination could often mean pushing past the breaking point for results.
Will couldn’t help but wonder if there would come a time that Jack would step over that line of no return.
“Come on, Will,” Jack coaxed. “You want to put Emma’s killer behind bars, don’t you?”
Will’s eyes narrowed. “That’s a dirty move, Jack, and you know it. Katz would be better at this, she knows more about the fae than i do, is more personable than i am-”
“Not possible,” Jack interrupted. “I need her in the lab. And besides, Hannibal Lecter asked for you personally.”
That drew Will up short and he stared at Jack in confusion. “He asked for me?”
Jack shrugged. “He asked to to have the Empath profiler working the case with him, which i agreed to. He seemed quite taken with the idea of an Empath, asked endless questions about your process of recalling memories.”
That didn’t sound good at all. “And this didn’t raise any red flags with you?”
“It’s not illegal to have a fascination with Empaths, Will.”
“It is if he’s the killer and is thinking i may have ID’d him,” Will returned.
“I get the feeling that he wouldn’t have let the FBI in if it wasn’t for you, so now we get to find out. Whatever the reason, keep him interested for as long as possible, answer all of his questions about empathy without compromising the FBI’s stand.”
Will shook his head in disbelief. “Are you pimping me out to a Dark Fae?”
Jack grinned. “On behalf of the FBI, thank you for your services.”
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
I have no knowledge so i beg your pardon for the inaccuracies to buildings etc.
Phantasia turned out to be not what Will had been expecting. He had expected a stereotypical nightclub that was indistinguishable from any other bars that lined the street in Downtown Baltimore, with their alcohol-tacky floors and lust-drenched revelry. The presence of Fae would be a bonus, but Phantasia…
Phantasia was not a regular seedy nightclub. In fact, Phantasia wasn’t even a nightclub. Will stood outside, staring up at the building with trepidation. It had once been the old Townhouse, built sometime in the early eighteen hundreds with its dark brick structure and tall windows that spilled soft welcoming light out onto the street. Will felt the building’s age thrumming through the stone like a heartbeat, the faint warmth of so many souls having passed through the doors like each one of them had left an invisible thumbprint.
Underneath that energy was the unmistakable sense of otherworldliness that followed the fae wherever they went. It made Will’s breath catch in his throat, made something low in his stomach twist pleasurably as if someone had reached out and trailed their fingertips down his spine. Will couldn’t have stopped the shiver it produced if he tried.
Jack moved past Will to ascend the stairs to the door that was manned by two men in crisp dark suits. He flashed them his badge. “Jack Crawford and Will Graham to see Hannibal Lecter. He’s expecting us.”
One of the dark suits nodded. “Follow me, please.”
The other suit opened the doors for them and Will didn’t look down at the floor fast enough. He caught the eye of the doorman who smirked at him in return. Will watched the human veneer peel away from the man’s - no, Fae’s - face. The white teeth sharpened to needle like points, the pupil of his eyes turned to slits like a cat’s and an eerie gold glow eclipsed the once blue eyes. Will struggled to keep his face impassive as he followed Jack and the suit through the door.
Now inside, Will’s attention was immediately caught by their surroundings. It was a seamless blend of classic period features with the tasteful modernism of crystal and clean lines. Phantasia was designed for the affluent in mind, with high ceilings and hanging chandeliers, rich dark wood tables and crystal cut champagne flutes, soft melodious music flowing from a raised stage where a pianist played and waiting staff flitted between exquisitely dressed drinkers, silver trays expertly carried aloft.
This was no seedy nightclub that Emma often frequented. It was so far removed from anything Will had envisaged that it gave him pause before his feet started forward again. Will caught Jack’s eyes and a silent communication passed between them. How exactly did a girl like Emma with her background get through the doors to a place like this?
They followed the doorman to the opposite side of the room, Will making note of people’s heads turning in their direction, pinched expressions on their face as they took in Will and Jack’s less than perfect attire. Will kept his eyes straight forward, not wanting to sneer back at them and cause a scene.
Will didn’t need to reach out with his empathy to read what type of people these were. They were the rich, the bored and the unsatisfied souls of their class. Their superiority complex to others around them made them search for something more thrilling, something that can only be bought with ‘good breeding’ and a vast amount of wealth: the chance to rub shoulders with Dark Fae royalty.
That time Will really did falter, the word royalty zinging through his subconscious and making him look around with clear eyes. Could this really be an establishment belonging to one of the Dark Fae court? One of Fae royalty?
Will watched as a woman in a dark red sheath dress tip her head back in delighted laughter as a male Fae whispered something in her ear. They were sat at a booth, an obscene parody of intimate lovers as he trailed his hand through the loose curls of her blonde hair and the other hand reaching across the table to spear a morsel of fruit from a tray. He brought the fruit piece to her mouth, painted her bottom lip with its juice, until she opened her mouth wider and bit into it. She groand in pleasure, a sound he couldn’t hear from this far away but Will sure as hell felt it.
The Fae’s seductive smile grew wider with satisfaction, his eyelids drooping to half mast as he watched her swallow. He knew exactly what the Fae was thinking. Food and drink held meaning to the Fae. If a human took any of it from one then they would be in the creature’s thrall. That human would be a slave forever more to the court. No human food, drink or company would ever be satisfying to them again. Food would be like ash in their mouths, no drink would be able to quench their thirst and no lover would satisfy their lust like the touch of a Fae.
Will didn’t pity her. She knew what she was getting herself into when she entered the club. They all did. The Fae may be incredibly beautiful to human eyes, everyone’s most ardent wish wrapped in flawless flesh, but they weren’t anywhere human. Humanity was a foreign concept to them and they revelled in depravity.
And now Jack and Will were about to enter an elite member of the Dark court’s territory, where rules meant nothing and Will wasn’t sure he could get them both out of there unscathed.
They reached the other side of the club where a pair of double doors opened onto a wide corridor with deep red carpets and art pieces hanging on the walls. Will knew next to nothing about the art world but he would bet that each piece cost more than his home in Wolf Trap.
The doors shut behind them and the sound from the other room was silenced completely. It was disconcerting and the line of Jack’s shoulders were tense. Good , Will thought. At least he wasn’t the only one who felt it.
“Mr. Lecter will see you in his private office and will be joining you presently,” the doorman said to them as he showed them to the furthest door along the corridor. “Will you be wanting refreshments while you wait?”
Jack opened his mouth to reply but Will hastily cut in. “No food or drink, thank you.”
The doorman led them into the room and shut the door behind them, leaving them alone. Jack raised his eyebrows at Will in silent question.
“Don’t accept food or drink from the Fae, Jack. Trust me on this,” Will said as he perused the room they were now in.
It was just as ostentatious as the club, with dark panelled walls, plush leather sofas with a glass table between them and the biggest desk Will had ever seen. Behind it was floor to ceiling bookshelves. Will got closer to read the spines but found them to be in languages he couldn’t decipher.
Jack followed him at a slower pace. “What are you thinking?”
Will gave a minute shake of his head. “It’s hard to say at this point. This isn’t a regular Fae establishment, it smacks of someone very powerful. As often with power, there’s money to go with it and Emma doesn’t fit the type of patron belonging to this club.”
“She could have attached herself to a group, got in that way,” Jack mused.
Will snorted. “Hardly. The dress Emma was wearing was clearly store bought. Did you not see the people in the club? They know money when they see it and Emma was definitely not from money. They would have treated her like she was a leper. No, she was invited in by a regular patron to this place. Someone the doorman wouldn’t say no to.” The owner, perhaps? No one would ever say no to a member of the Dark Fae court.
Jack nodded. “They’ll have the doorman on duty at all times, one of them must have let them through, seen -”
Jack was interrupted by the door opening and a man entering. Will turned and breathed in sharply at the sight of him. Standing around six foot in height, he cut an impressive figure as he stood in the doorway. He had light brown hair that was brushed back from his forehead, dark eyes and plush lips. He had what Will considered a classical face, it belonged on the stone bust of a Grecian warrior or perhaps that of a Holy Roman Emperor.
It was a handsome face, an open face, but Will knew differently. There was something dark behind those eyes, something that took a cursory disinterested look at Jack before it fastened on to Will with a heavy intensity that took Will’s breath away. It raised the short hair on Will’s arms, made his pulse quicken in fear. Will felt like he was frozen beneath that gaze, instinctively aware that is he showed any weakness, any desire to flee, it would be seen as an invitation for the dark fae to give chase.
The man, with his congenial smile and exquisitely cut suit that invited admiring glances and a stranger’s trust, was nothing more a facade that slipped over something more animalistic. Will wasn’t fooled. Jack, on the other hand…
“Mr Hannibal Lecter I presume,” Jack walked forward, offering his hand out for the fae to shake. “My name is Jack Crawford, FBI. My associate here is Will Graham.”
Hannibal took Jack’s hand in a firm handshake, his eyes finally leaving Will’s face to speak with Jack and Will used the time to compose himself.
“I am to understand that the FBI believe a woman died on my premises,” Hannibal said and Will swallowed convulsively at the low cultured tone of his voice.
“Murdered,” Will corrected, his own voice far softer than he would have liked it to be. He cleared his throat and tried again. “She was murdered on your premises, Mr. Lecter.”
Will’s remark brought the profiler back to Hannibal’s attention and Will wanted to squirm. “You must be the FBI’s empath.” Hannibal moved closer, extending his hand for Will to shake. “I have heard a lot about you.”
Will stared down at the preferred hand for a long time. He knew that, without really understanding how, that if this Fae touched him skin to skin, Will would be lost. Will had never felt such contained power from one Fae before, it took everything he had not to drift forward and be as close to Hannibal as he could get.
With an obscene amount of effort, Will turned away from the hand. “I can’t imagine what you would have heard about me,” he said instead, knowing without looking in Jack’s direction that he was frowning fiercely at Will’s slight to the man that could throw them out on their asses.
Instead of being affronted by Will’s behaviour, Hannibal seemed delighted by it. It set Will’s teeth on edge. Hannibal let his hand drop. “All good things, I assure you. Things that had me very interested in meeting you face to face.”
It wasn’t so much the words that had Will meet Hannibal’s gaze, but the sentiment behind them. It sounded so earnest that Will was at a loss as to how to respond to it.
The silence stretched between them, Hannibal seemingly content to let it go on between them and Will getting more flustered with each passing second.
Jack finally took pity on him. “Will has been a valuable asset to the FBI’s most puzzling cases, I would be surprised if you haven’t heard of him.”
Will turned away from the praise, feeling wrongfooted for some reason. He knew what Jack was doing, putting him on a pedestal for the dark Fae to coo at and allow them to do their job. He understood it, but it didn’t mean he had to like it.
“And your empathy has led you to me and Phantasia,” Hannibal mused.
“Mr. Lecter, we are investigating the death of a human woman that occurred last night between the hours of eleven and two A.M. We have reason to believe it happened on your premises, before her body was dumped two streets from here,” Jack said. “We are asking for your cooperation in letting my team search your premises and evaluate the crime scene.”
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible,” Hannibal said in a tone of great regret but little apology. “Your tead do not have permission to enter here.”
Jack was not accustomed to being told no. “Excuse me?” He demanded.
“My people do not trust the FBI, given our shared history over the years. I have granted access to you and Mr Graham, under my supervision of course, because i trust your professionality. I have done as you asked, cornering off the staff corridors at my businesses’ inconvenience and i have pulled the surveillance tapes of the night for your perusal. But i will not have anymore FBI in my club.” Hannibal said, his tone brooking no argument.
Jack looked like he wanted to argue, but he deflated at the last moment. “My team are nothing if not professional, but if that is all you are willing to allow, I will have to be content.”
Hannibal inclined his head. “It is for both your safety and the safety of my people.”
Jack blew out a breath. “If you can show us to the back corridors, we can get this over and done with.”
“My pleasure,” Hannibal strode to the door and opened it, turning back to them with a sweeping arm gesture. “After you, gentleman.”
Will followed Jack out of the door, acutely aware of the warmth of Hannibal at his back, like a caress down his spine.
“I look forward to seeing how you work, Mr. Graham,” Hannibal said, walking far too close for Will’s comfort. “I anticipate a fascinating night ahead of us.”
Will bit down on the sarcastic retort he wanted to voice. Now was not the time to goad Hannibal Lecter, not until Will knew who exactly he was dealing with.
By the end of the night, Will had every intention of finding out.
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
The staff corridors were a world apart from the lascivious splendour of the main rooms of the club. The walls were plain white and the floors a dark wood. Simple, easy to clean, understated. It matched the flash of memory Will got from Emma’s body.
As Will walked the halls, deserted save for Jack and Hannibal following a few paces behind him, he got the distinct feeling of vertigo and deja vu once he got to the hall leading to the emergency exit at the back of the club.
“Here,” Will said as he stretched out a hand to steady himself against the wall. “It happened here.”
“Has this corridor been cleaned since last night?” Jack asked Hannibal.
Hannibal shook his head. “You called us about the incident before my staff started the clean up for the morning. I thought it prudent to leave everything as it was.”
Jack nodded. “Good.” He turned to Will. “Are you picking up on anything substantial?”
Will breathed in deeply, before letting it out in a slow rush. “Fear, so much fear.” It tasted like bile in the back of his throat, the echo of a cry reverberating through his limbs. “She fought him, what little good it did her.” He let his fingers trail down the wall as he walked further down the hall, until he came to a ‘hotspot’ and he was immediately drawn into a flash of memory.
She couldn’t break his hold, he was so strong, so strong!
Help! Please God, somebody help me - i don’t want to die, don’t want to die!
He forced himself on her, his lips like a punishing weight against her own as he prised her mouth open wide and the agonising sensation of her soul being sucked out.
From the corner of her eye, she saw the figure of a man further down the corridor, watching them. His face was too far away to see his appearance in detail, but he just stood there- why wasn’t he helping her? - when he said something, “Abira edarratae”, syllables that rolled together and made no sense to her before he disappeared from sight.
The fae’s grip tightened on her and she beat her fists against his chest, kicked out at him with the intent to cause damage but he was an immovable weight against her. She grew weaker and weaker by the moment, felt her life drain out of her until -
Will gasped for breath, yanking his hand back from the wall and almost fell over in the process. He was saved by the hands that reached out and steadied him, pulling Will closer to a hard chest. It couldn’t have been Jack, Jack knew not to touch him when Will’s mind was open and raw, it must have been the fae, it must have been Hannibal-
“Don’t touch him!” Jack said sharply, but the warning came too late and Will plunged head first into Hannibal’s mind.
It was like falling into a deep well, it seemed to go on forever until Will found himself in a dark, damp room that had one narrow slit for a window. It took Will a moment to realise he was in a cell, with bare stone walls, a stone floor and a naked huddled figure in the middle of it. The figure was crouched on the floor, his arms shackled to the sides of him by chains connected to the floor. The head was bowed, a metal collar around his neck that was attached to the floor beneath him. Long dirty hair fell forward to obscure his face, skin burning beneath all the metal.
Iron, Will thought absentmindedly. The man must have been fae for his skin to react to the touch of Iron like that.
Along the length of his back were raised red welts, some bleeding profusely, others half healed. Will winced at the sight of it, knowing them to be whip marks. They were dozens of them, covering the expanse of the man’s back, shoulder and thighs.
Before he realised it, he was stepping forward, hand raised to - touch him? Push his hair back? What? But the sound of grating metal on the other side of the cell stopped him. He wanted to melt back into the shadows, despite knowing that whatever would happen would play out around him. He was merely a spectator.
The door opened, sending bright light into the cell and making the figure flinch away from it. A man stepped into the cell, blocking out the light with his broad shoulders. He wore silver armour that shone like starlight, the breastplate had the symbol of a flowering tree carved into it. The man’s face was a picture of utter disdain as he looked down upon the kneeling man. “How low the House of Lecter has fallen.” He finally spoke.
Will heard the name with a jolt and his yes immediately flicked to the prisoner. House Lecter? That would make Hannibal an arristocrat. The prisoner - Hannibal, he now realised with dawning horror- raised his face to the light, hair falling away to reveal a much younger Hannibal, his face a picture of calm, like the pain his body was going through meant nothing.
Hannibal didn’t achknowledge the taunt, instead he stared at the man and Will noted that even at this young age, Hannibal still had the gaze of an Ancient. The man seemed just as discomfitted by it, his eyes flicking arounf the cell befre coming to rest on Hannibal again.
“Your family brought this upon themselves, Hannibal. You were never meant to ascend into the Aristocracy of the Dark Fae Court. And now your parents have paid for it with their lives, as it should be. You will be paying for it with your blood.”
“My sister?” Hannibal asked mildly. “What will Mischa pay with?”
The armoured man smiled, triumphant. “Ah, yes. The lovely Lady Mischa. I see the sad business has not reached you here.”
Hannibal’s hands flexed before going lax. It was the first show of emotion Will had seen from the man. “Nothing has reached me down here. You have seen to that.”
The stranger hummed. “My men who were sent to retrieve Mischa got a little… carried away in the Hunt, shall we say. Got caught up in the excitement of it all. Once they caught her, they rutted with her. All nine man shaped beasts, can you imagine. Suffice to say, she didn’t survive it. There wasn’t much left of her to bring home for you to bury.” The man said in an apologetic tone that smacked of insincere condescension.
Will’s stomach roiled at the implication and he waited for the inevitable explosion of emotion from Hannibal, but it never came. He continued to look on with a serene expression, as if he hadn’t been told the grusomes end to his sister’s life.
The armoured man’s face turned all the more smug with each passing second. “I thought it would be best for you to hear it coming from me. The decimation of your House will be a lesson to all of the Dark Fae on what happens to those who try to reach above their station.” He turned away to walk out of the cell.
“Vladis,” Hannibal called, stopping the man in his tracks. “When I am free of these chains, I will hunt down every single one of you and revisit upon you what you have done to my family. There will be no mercy for any of you.” A feral light in Hannibal’s eyes glowed and Will shrank back. “I will save you for last.”
The armoured man, Vladis, growled low in his throat. “You’ll never be free of those chains, Hannibal. I will personally make sure of it.”
Hannibal smiled a small humourless smile. “I will be seeing you all very soon.”
The memory shuddered around Will and he staggered, disorientated for a second. He righted himself just as arms came around his waist and lips brushed against his ear in a gentle caress. “You’re not supposed to be here,” Hannibal’s voice floated between them. “Innocent little empaths like you could come to harm in such dangerous places of a fae’s mind.”
The cell around them shuddered again, bleeding until it was nothing but a riot of colour that made Will nauseous just looking at it. It then solidified into another scene of Hannibal carrying an unconscious Will into his study and laying Will out on one of the sofas, careful of the Empath’s head. Instead of pulling away from him, Hannibal leaned forward until his lips were barely a centimeter away from Will’s lips and he whispered, “It’s time to wake up, dear one.”
And Will did.
He blinked his eyes open, expecting Hannibal to still be leaning over him but Hannibal wasn’t there. Will shifted on the sofa, turning his head on the cushion to spy Hannibal sitting on the opposite chair, legs crossed at the knee and watching him back. Jack Crawford was nowhere to be seen, Will was alone with him.
He scrambled up into a sitting position, not feeling comfortable to be in such a vulnerable position in front of a fae. It was a bad decision, the world tilted around Will and he groaned, holding his throbbing head in his hands.
“You should keep still, at least for the moment.” Hannibal advised him.
Will knew that, of course. He’s been doing this since as long as he could remember, if not longer. It was Hannibal’s fault, Will felt like a clumsy child in his presence, unsure of himself. He resented the feeling.
“Where is Jack?” Will asked once the room had stopped spinning so maliciously.
“He’s gone to check the surveillance footage for last night,” Hannibal said, never once taking his eyes off of Will. “I promised him i would make sure you were well again and to let him know when you awoke.”
But Hannibal made no move for the phone or to call a staff member in to notify Jack of Will’s progress. Instead, he leaned forward, a strange light in his eyes. “I know what memories you saw,” he said softly. “I felt you inside my head, inside of me.”
The revelation seemed to delight Hannibal, his lips parted and his breath coming faster, almost too loud in the quiet of his study.
“That’s not possible,” Will said, horrified. “It doesn’t work that way. I don’t physically get into people’s heads, i just recieve memories, i observe them.”
“Did that feel like mere observation to you?” Hannibal asked.
Will opened his mouth in the affirmative but then quickly closed it again. No, it did not. He had been right there in the memory, physically speaking. It wasn’t like flash backs being played out on the big screen. If he had touched Hannibal like he had wanted to, could he have done? It was inconceivable.
Will looked at Hannibal with dawning horror. “What did you do?”
“I did nothing, Will,” Hannibal said, “I simply touched you. You did all the rest.”
Will had to move, to be in motion. He stood up cautiously, the room staying where it should and he paced to the desk. “This has never happened before, I've never gone that deep.” He faced Hannibal, his eyes narrowing in accusation. “It must be because you're fae, it has to be. Our energies - or something - must have connected and produced this effect.”
Hannibal stood, seeming to gracefully unfold himself from the chair. “That is a possibility. This hasn't happened to you before with anyone? Not even a friend? A lover, perhaps?”
“I-” Will stopped, confusion making his thought process slower than usual. “What are you saying? “
Hannibal moved closer. “Being in someone’s head, it alludes to a deep connection between two people, or, in our case, a potential for one. I was merely wandering if such a thing could have happened between you and a lover.”
It was an incredibly invasive question, one Hannibal had no right in asking. It made Will’s cheeks colour in embarrassment. “No, never,” Will said, flustered. “That is, i don’t let anyone that close. Lovers are -” He stopped himself from digging a bigger hole for himself and turned away from those perceptive eyes.
Will didn’t take any lovers. Relationships were messy complicated things at the best of times, but having empathy made it an all the more painful experience that Will wasn’t exactly willing to go through again. He preferred the impersonal approach of one night stands, ones that were only interested in slating their desire in the night and didn’t stick around come morning. It made Will’s life more bearable and it suited him. It really did.
Hannibal made a soft, rough sound in the back of his throat. “You’ve never had any form of a connection with another person before, have you?” His voice had deepened almost to a purr and the sound of it did things to Will that no voice should ever do to a person.
“Stop it,” Will said breathlessly.
“Stop what?” There was little room between the two of them now, Hannibal had moved so silently that Will hadn’t noticed until it was too late.
“You promised Jack that you wouldn’t use any fae magick on me,” Will said, the back of his legs bumping up against the desk as he tried to put distance between them.
Hannibal moved back into his space. “Dear Will,” he said with a warm tone that made Will almost whimper. “I’m not using any magick on you. You have my word.”
Hannibal tilted his head to the side and drew his nose along the length of Will’s neck, inhaling deeply. The feeling made Will weak at the knees, his eyes fluttering closed.
“You smell incredible,” Hannibal rumbled, his hands now on the side of Will’s thighs, not exactly holding him in place but it made Will feel enclosed all the same. He wanted to let his legs fall open, press against those hands more firmly, but he didn’t. The moment was broken by the sound of footsteps outside the door, Crawford’s voice as he spoke to someone with him.
Will forced himself away from Hannibal and the desk, trying to get himself under control before Jack opened the door. Hannibal, the bastard, already looked like nothing had been going on.
Except for those eyes of his. They looked feral as they watched Will put himself to rights. “Our conversation isn’t over,” Hannibal said deceptively soft.
Will felt shaken. “Keep telling yourself that.”
Chapter 4: Chapter Four
Jack came through the door and looked pleased to see Will up and about. “It’s good to see you on your feet again, I was worried for a moment there.”
Will flashed him a weak smile. “I’m fine now. No lasting damage.”
“Good,” Jack said, getting back to business. “I’ve reviewed the surveillance between the hours of eleven and two and found nothing. At 00:22 and 00:56 the video has been wiped. I can only assume that would be our window for the murder. It’s useless to us.”
“It would be through no fault of my surveillance system,” Hannibal said calmly, like he hadn’t been pressing Will to the desk with his face pressed against his neck moments before. “I have installed the best equipment on the market for my club and had no problems with it before.”
Jack nodded. “It’s too much of a coincidence.”
“A Wraith would not have the forethought to pull the cameras for his feedings,” Will said, face turned away from them both and trying to calm his rapidly beating heart. He felt like he was having a full-body blush and one look from Jack will tell the man everything he needed to know what that happened in this room.
“I was able to pull a memory from the scene,” Will continued, “there was another presence there when Emma was murdered, further down the hall. They watched as she died.”
Will didn’t need to look in the direction of Hannibal to know that he was listening to the conversation raptly.
Jack folded his arms in front of his chest. “You think it was the Master?”
Will finally met the eyes of Hannibal, wanting to gage his reaction. “Perhaps. What does Abira edarratae mean?”
Hannibal’s face was like a stone mask for all of the emotion it showed. “It means ‘drink deeply’.”
“The third person spoke those words to the Wraith and then took his leave. Emma wasn’t able to focus on him for me to get a good idea of who he was.” Will said, never looking away from Hannibal. “We are looking for a Master letting a Wraith kill the humans he drank from. You are of House Lecter, are you not?”
Will had expected anger at the question, of accusation in the fae’s eyes, but instead Will got the impression of delight. “I am of House Lecter, yes. In fact, I am the head of my House.”
That drew Will up short. It was one thing to be part of a House, but quite another to be the Head of it. The position meant that Hannibal had to be one of the most powerful Lords of the Dark fae. Not to mention ruthless, fiercely intelligent and unperturbed in getting his hands dirty with the blood of his enemies.
Will felt a small measure of fear at being in the same room as a Lord of the Dark Court. He didn’t exude power like some of the fae do, throwing it around so carelessly. He was careful, the power concentrated on him. He kept a tight lid on his own power, went to great lengths in coming across as just a simple man, amiable, pleasant, not a threat.
That made him all the more unpredictable in Will’s eyes. Dangerous. Unquantifiable. A very real threat.
Just who the hell was Hannibal Lecter?
Jack gave Will a look at the lengthening pause before picking up from where Will left off his questioning. “Mr Lecter, I have to ask you if you have a Wraith in your employ.”
“You mean to ask me if I am a Master?” Hannibal asked and this time his eyes did darken with dislike as he considered Jack. “And that my Wraith had been used to kill a human girl.”
“You have the strength in order to control one and Emma was killed on the premises,” Will said. “A girl who could barely afford to keep a roof over her head and yet she was allowed to enter your premises. Hardly a place that would cater to those who didn’t have six zeros to their name.”
“Phantasia may be exclusive in its clientele but it does not exclude the patron’s choice in guests,” Hannibal replied. “She would have been allowed in with a regular to my club. As to my strength in controlling a Wraith, yes I imagine I could do it. But I do not have one in my employ. The practise is distasteful to me,” Hannibal began loosening the knot of his tie, before unbuttoning the collar of his shirt.
Will stepped forward, hand out to stop him from - what, exactly, was the fae doing?
The gesture did not go unnoticed by Hannibal, nor the panicked look in Will’s eyes at the pseudo strip tease. Hannibal pulled his shirt open just enough to reveal his left pectoral. “If I was Master to a Wraith, the Wraith’s magic would have made a dark mark over my heart, a direct link between us so that I could call it to me. As you can see, I have no such mark.”
Will had to tear his gaze away from the revealed tanned skin, feeling his fingertips itch at the sight of it. “How would we know you haven’t glamoured it invisible?”
Hannibal started putting his clothes to rights. “Glamour can’t hide such deep magick as a Wraith connection. Scars, abnormalities, a fae’s eye colour, teeth, but not that. You can verify that information with any fae.”
“Rest assured, Mr Lecter, we will do,” Jack said.
Hannibal’s eyes sharpened imperceptibly, the colour darkening. Will felt the hair on his arms and the back of his neck stand on end, like being touched by static. He tensed his muscles, as if to spring into action at a moment’s notice. But the moment passed soon after. Hannibal smiled but it wasn’t humourous.
“I have every confidence in your abilities, Jack Crawford. I am not worried, particularly as I have at least fifty witnesses that would place me on the other side of the city at the opera. And Mr Graham has seen the Master at the heart of the crime here.” He turned to Will. “Did that man you saw in the memory feel like me?”
Will remained silent on the question. No, it hadn’t felt like Hannibal, but once again glamour could have been used to cover his tracks.
“We’ll need a list of names for those witnesses, Mr Lecter.” Will said.
Hannibal nodded, a softer smile playing about his lips. “You will have them. I look forward to working with you in the future, Will. You know where to find me.”
It has been a long time since Will had dreamt of anything other than the grisly details of the more macabre of the FBI cases he has worked on. Waking up drenched in cold sweat, heart beating like a drum in his rib cage and his dogs whining around him, it had become a routine for him.
That night, after Will had come home to shower off the feeling of fae and then face dived the bed, he dreamt of Phantasia. Only this time he was a guest and not part of the investigation. He threaded through the crowd, soaking up the tinkling music and the electric atmosphere.
This time there was no alarm, no wariness as he watched the humans dance with the fae, only calm and the buzz of happiness to be so close to everyone. That alone should have warned Will that something was off, but it didn’t. Instead he moved further into the crowd, felt himself being pulled in one direction by some unseen force. The revellers were wearing masks of different coloured feathers, peacock blue and ruby red, crystal drops for the tear ducts and ribbons woven into their hair. Will reached up to his own face, but found it bare.
The revellers around Will suddenly parted, as if on queue, and Will looked up to find Hannibal making his way towards him. He was without a mask too, and wearing a different suit to the one Will had seen him in previously. It was a deep blue, bringing out the colour in his eyes like they had a hidden fire within.
Hannibal came to stand in front of Will, so close that Hannibal’s jacket brushed against Will’s chest. It was at this moment that Will realised just how much bigger Hannibal felt compared to himself. It wasn’t so much in height as Hannibal stood just a few inches taller, but it was in the breadth of Hannibal’s shoulders, the compact muscle in the fae’s frame compared to Will’s lithe rangy one. It made him feel incredibly vulnerable and, if he was honest with himself, aroused by it.
Which he wasn’t going to go there, not at all.
Hannibal reached up with his hand and trailed his fingers down the side of Will’s jaw with the lightest of touches. Will didn’t have the presence of mind to flinch away, he just leaned into the touch. Will watched as Hannibal’s lips parted in an indrawn breath. “I knew we would see each other again,” he said with an upward tilt to his mouth.
The sincerity in his voice warmed Will up from the inside out, like sunlight touching skin. His eyes flicked around those around the people around him, but the revellers paid no attention ti them. “What is happening?” Will asked softly. “How are you in my head?”
Hannibal drew Will closer until he was practically pressed up against the long line of Hannibal’s body, one of the fae’s hand was pressed to the small of his back, while the other held Will’s hand in his own. He started to gently direct Will in a slow dance and Will went with him.
Hannibal swept him through the dancers, the music picking up and the bright colours blending together in a whirl around them. Will felt like they were dancing on air with the ease in which they danced, in which Hannibal led him around the room. A dream, Will thought serenely. This is all a dream.
“What makes you think that it is me inside your head, Will?” Hannibal asked.
Will opened his mouth to reply only to pause in thought. Weren’t they inside Will’s head? Will had never dreamscaped anyone, he never showed the aptitude for it. Only ever shown the power for memory. But for him to have jumped his mind to a mind of a fae which was so far away should have been impossible, it would take serious power to do such a thing.
“Not impossible, I assure you,” Hannibal said softly, seeming to know exactly what Will was thinking. “You’ve already accessed my mind through touch earlier this evening. It’s only logical that you should be able to do it again.”
Will shook his head. “I don’t understand. That had been a mistake, you shouldn’t have touched me when i’m in a memory, it’s improper. But that doesn’t mean I can do it again, certainly not from this distance.”
Hannibal didn’t reply, simply spinning Will around and bringing their bodies close again. It was all very distracting, Will kept wanting to lose his train of thought.
“And- and besides, you couldn’t let this happen. It’s easy to block your mind from all intrusions. A fae of your standing will find it as simple as breathing.”
“And if I said that I wanted you inside my head?” Hannibal returned, that unnerving gaze on Will again, making him squirm.
“I-” Will didn’t have anything to say to that, other than, “Why would you?”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Hannibal returned playfully. “I find that I enjoy your company, Will. Your gift is fascinating to behold.”
Will’s eyes darted away. Right, his gift. Of course it was his gift that attracted the fae rather than anything else about him. This wasn’t new territory he had wandered into, despite it being a fae rather than a human. He should be used to it by now, but Will was surprised at the sting that revelation brought with it.
“You can find a number of empaths in America if you were that fascinated by it. I’m sure they would agree to anything you wanted to know.”
“That, of course, might be the case,” Hannibal agreed as they took another turn around the room, the music slowing down to a more romantic sonnet. “But none of them would be you. Your gift, while being a part of who you are as a person, isn’t the only thing about you that is worth admiring.” This time Hannibal’s smile turned seductive ad Will felt like he had seen punched low in the stomach.
Will wanted to ask what else the fae found admirable but didn’t know how to ask it without it sounding like he was fishing for compliments. He decided to change the subject promptly. “You’ve willing to risk a member of the FBI knowing all of your deepest darkest secrets just because you find me fascinating?”
Hannibal smiled. “There isn’t much I wouldn’t do for fascination. Isn't that what life's about?”
Will was suddenly jerked awake by a long rough tongue on his fingers. Disorientated, he glanced down to see his arm hanging over the side of the bed and Winston pawing and licking at him to get up and make the pack breakfast.
“Better than an alarm clock,” he said, blinking up at the ceiling, the vestiges of the dream slowly disappearing with the morning light streaming in through the parting of his curtains. Will had been right. He wasn’t going to come out of this case unscathed.
Chapter 5: Chapter Five
Will was out of his depth. He felt like he was swimming in a sea of uncertainty and doubt, toes no longer touching the bottom and the waves breaking over his head. There was no land in sight, and the only help coming swam beneath the dark waters, that which would drag Will below just as much as he would offer him aid.
Hannibal was not to be trusted. Not as an FBI colleague, not as a fae guide, and certainly not as a human man. He may walk and talk like a human, but he was definitely not human. Their first meeting proved that all too clearly.
And now I have him inside my head, Will thought with a sweeping sense of foreboding. He got the impression that a fae like Hannibal Lecter was someone you just couldn’t ignore. Once he was inside you, there was no power found on this earth that could get him out. He would burrow his way to the very core of a human being, change you in ways that would please only him, and it would mean you could never find a way back to yourself.
Not without him.
How do you defend yourself from something such as Hannibal? Will could only guess at his age, but if he was head of his House, that had to put him at least a thousand years old. All of that life experience, the violence, the manipulation, the power that can bring to one person. Did Will have a hope in protecting himself from him?
I need more information, find out what i’m really dealing with here . Going to Hannibal was not an option. There was no telling what half-truths he would come up with in light of Will’s questions, what he would omit for his own sake. He needed an unbiased source, one that would tell him everything he needed to know without strings attached.
There was one person he knew and trusted who would give him that.
Will had known Alana Bloom since his teaching days at the FBI college and she had been a well respected behaviour psychologist that gave gu guest lectures there. They had had a good working relationship, a little friendlier than most, but Alana had always made sure their interactions had remained professional. Will had presumed it was because she had sensed their relationship could have grown into something more, but didn’t want to sacrifice a friendship. Will hadn’t pushed for it.
Besides, no more than a year later and Alana had met a certain fae by the name of Margot Verger and the rest was history. Alana still gave guest lectures at the College, but their interactions were kept to a minimum. Nothing had been said, but Will could figure out for himself that a fae didn’t like any competition when it come to the affections of their mate.
That didn’t stop Alana from agreeing to see him, provided it was at the Verger Mansion and in the presence of Margot.
The verger mansion was as impressive as it was intimidating, a sprawling dark red brick building sitting on acres of carefully maintained hills and woodland. It even had a stable and courtyard, the staff feeding and grooming the horses with fresh hey.
As Will was let through the black gates and drove up the winding driveway to the house, Alana stepped out of the main entrance to greet him. She was radiant in a white pant suit and a blood red blouse that matched her lipstick. She had always been a stunning woman but now she had an ethereal glow to her skin that was decidedly otherworldly. It was difficult not to stare.
“Will, i‘m glad you could make it,” She said as she stepped forward, taking his hand in hers for a friendly shake. With that touch, Will knew she was still very much human, the same Alana he had met five years ago.
Must be the benefits of mating with a fae, Will thought.
Smiling in thanks, Will said, “Thank you to you and Margot for being able to see me on short notice.”
Alana laughed. “Only for friends.” Her smile turned soft, her eyes unfocusing for a moment like her thoughts turned inward, before she turned to the door and Will was only made aware that Margot had appeared.
There was no mistaking Margot for anything other than fae. She stood tall and lithe, her long dark hair pulled back from delicately pointed ears. Her skin was like flawless porcelain, her eyes ringed with gold. She made no effort to appear anything other than what she was.
Those eyes watched her mate before they slid to Will. In that moment of calm appraisal, Will felt like she had peered into his very soul, saw everything he was, like the secrets were hers to be seen. It left Will feeling raw and shaken.
“Margot,” Alana said softly, a warning in her tone.
Margot blinked and the feeling suddenly vanished, like it had never been there in the first place. She smiled then, laughter in those eyes. “Bad habit,” she said with a graceful shrug of her shoulders. “I wanted to see the person that has my mate and the Dark Court all abuzz.”
Will’s eyebrows rose at her words. “And that required seeing inside my head?”
Margot’s lips twitched into something resembling a smile. “This offends you? As a born empath, it must be novel to have someone in your head rather than the other way around.”
“The difference is, I ask permission first before I take a nosedive into someone’s subconscious,” Will said curty, valiantly ignoring his time in Hannibal’s head. It doesn’t count anyway.
Margot tipped her head forward in acquiescence. “Of course, my apologies. It was not my intent to harm you. Please come in.”
Margot lead the way into the mansion and, after a hearty shove from Alana, Will followed until they came to a reception room draped in rich finery. Dark wood and light furnishings, Will felt positively shabby just being in the room. Will sat down on the couch opposite Alana and Margot, fidgeting in place at the discomfort in being in such an opulent environment.
“What can we do for you, Will?” Alana asked.
Will clasped his hands together in his lap to keep from gesticulating wildly. “You’ve no doubt heard about the case Jack and I are working on? The Wraith attack on a human woman in a fae club.”
Alana nodded. “It’s been all over the local news, all anyone can talk about.”
Will shrugged. “Wraith attacks aren’t exactly common, especially on a human. In order to work this case, we have a fae that is working with us as a liaison between our races, someone to protect fae interests.”
“Hannibal Lecter,” Margot interjected. “Yes, we know.”
Will paused. “How do you know?”
Margot smiled that feline smile. “Hannibal Lecter has made it known to other Fae that you are off limits. No one can touch you without risking his disapproval.”
Will frowned. “His disapproval?”
“His disapproval is legendary amongst the Court.” Margot said. “To touch you would be a death sentence.”
Will leaned forward in his seat. “Is this case likely to harm me so Hannibal is forced to protect me? Am I in that much danger for hunting a wraith?”
Margot watched Will with that passivity that fae had about them, like they were made from marble. She was perfectly human-like, serene, but it was like emotion did not touch them. “In danger?” she finally spoke. “There is always the risk of danger when mortals come to the attention of immortals. You are so breakable after all. But I doubt that was the reason Hannibal has offered his protection.”
Will felt the hair on the back of his neck rise uncomfortably. “What other reason could there be?”
Alana, sensing his discomfort, took pity on him. “You’re just as unique to the fae as you are to humans, Will. A human with a mind like yours is rare. Fae are attracted to that.”
Will grimaced at her words, hardly reassured by them.
“Hannibal is no exception,” Margot said, watching him with those eyes of hers. “He has marked you for himself. He hasn’t done that to a human for an age, certainly not in my lifetime. It’s causing quite the stir with the gossips.”
Will clenched his fingers in his lap in anger. “I’m not anyone’s, least of all Hannibal’s. I came here to find out more about him, who exactly am I dealing with here?”
Margot and Alana looked at each other, a silent conversation passing between them that Will had no hope of deciphering, even with his empathy. It was like there was an invisible wall between him and the couple. Will knew it was Margot’s power that was keeping him from reading them. It was why she never offered her hand in greeting, keeping him at a distance.
Alana was the first to speak. “I’ve only met Hannibal on a handful of occasions, at group functions but never alone. I’ve never seen a fae act like a human so seamlessly as he does. It’s like he slips on a costume and he can live that life. Make anyone believe what he wants them to believe.”
Will smiled humorlessly. “Like a person suit.”
Alana nodded. “He enjoys walking amongst humans participating rather than observing. He enjoys it better than being amongst his own kind.”
Will frowned. “Does he have a God complex?”
Some fae considered themselves on a whole other plane of existence, something that should be worshipped by lesser beings as if they were divine. They loved to forgo their glamour, show humans what they really looked like, amassed themselves fawning groupies and played the part with ever growing arrogance.
Hannibal may have the arrogance of a fae, but Will found it difficult to picture Hannibal willingly surrounding himself with devoted apostles.
“Not really,” Alana shook her head. “Hannibal considers humans less than himself but he doesn’t consider himself a God and all that entails. The very idea would probably offend him.”
“What type of fae is he?” Will asked. “What powers does he have?”
Margot tutted at him. “If you’re going to be navigating the fae world, you need to understand the rules. Rule number one, it is impolite to ask a fae what they are. If they want you to know, they will tell you.”
“I’m not exactly known for my politeness,” Will returned accerably. “What can you tell me?”
“The House of Lecter is one of the oldest Dark Fae families still residing at Court. That makes him a Prince and i’m sure I don’t have to enlighten you what he has done to earn such a title as that.”
Will’s mind flashed back to the memory he unwittingly stumbled on in Hannibal’s mind. “There was another fae House that killed members of Hannibal’s House. A sister, in particular. What happened to that House?”
Margot’s smiled was almost indulgent. “Hannibal decimated the House of Grutas, wiped it’s sigil off of the records for good.” It was Margot’s turn to lean closer. “Tell me, sweet empath, how do you know about Hannibal’s sister?”
Will was at a loss for words to reply. The experience felt too intimate to try to explain to Margot and Alana, yet lying would be completely pointless. The fae were natural born lie detectors. They could see the very best and the very worst of lies.
Before he could form a reply, Margot’s lips formed an ‘o’ of surprise, probably the most emotion Will had seen in her expression so far. One minute she was sitting by Alana, in the blink of an eye she stood over him with her hand cupping his chin so she could look him in the eye.
Her nostrils flared, as if she was scenting him, her eyes catching and holding Will’s gaze hostage. He tried to pull away but Margot’s fingers tightened with inhuman strength, her blood red nails almost digging into his flesh. “You two are connected,” she said wonderingly. “Hannibal has-”
Will didn’t get to hear what Hannibal has done. Margot shifted and pulled away from him just as Will became aware of another presence in the room.
“Well what do we have here, Margot. Are you entertaining guests without me?”
Will stood and turned to the owner of the voice and had to fight to keep his features schooled from showing his shock.
The fae standing in the doorway was dressed in an exquisite three piece suit of burgundy with a black shirt beneath it. He had a silver top cane of black wood, which he leaned heavily on. The blue eyes were smiling at them, clearly amused, but the rest of the face…
The rest of the face was mutilated, like it was savaged by a wild animal. Thick scarred skin had deformed the shape of the face, missing lips and a nose. Will knew about the healing capabilities of the fae, how they can mend broken bones, wounds so deep a human would be dead in under a minute. For this man to be scarred in such a way, the wounds must have been extensive that even fae powers couldn’t even properly heal. Will had no idea that fae could be scarred.
“Mason,” Margot said softly. “Brother. I did not expect you home so soon.”
Her words seemed to amuse him more and Will felt his muscles tighten in readiness for a fight. This was a fae that felt so wrong to Will’s empathy, his mind was like it was fevered with rage and on the very brink of sanity. Will’s own mind shied away, slamming up invisible shields so he didn’t have to feel that heat brushing against him.
Alana stepped up to Margot, shoulders brushing as they presented a united front. “Mason this is Will Graham of the FBI. He’s consulting on the wraith case-”
“Ah, yes,” Mason stepped further into the room, looking at Will like he was something new and endlessly fascinating. “Hannibal’s pet empath. Here, in my house. What an age we live in.”
“I have given my word that Will would not be harmed during his time with us,” Margot warned.
“I haven’t given mine,” Mason said, all humour wiped from his face in one moment to the next. The change was startling and Will stiffened and the threat.
“Harm me and House Verger will answer to the FBI,” Will cautioned.
Mason laughed, the sound garbled from a lipless mouth. “The FBI mean nothing to me, a nuisance at the very best.” He circled Will, eyes travelling the length of Will’s body, before settling on his face again. It took everything Will had not to turn with him, show his discomfort at having his back to the fae.
“Besides,” Mason came to stand in front of Will again. “Why harm the very human who could put Hannibal away once and for all?”
Will frowned, he couldn’t help himself to find out more. “Hannibal?”
“Of course. The girl was murdered in Hannibal’s club. Do you really think that anything happens in that place without Hannibal’s say so?”
Will didn’t have an answer to that. For the short duration Will had known Hannibal, he had come across as a very strong, very capable man with his finger on the pulse point of his territory. Could it be possible that Hannibal knew the killing had taken place?
“He doesn’t strike me as the type to be stupid to kill someone on his own territory and risk an investigation,” Will finally replied.
“Stupid? No, Hannibal is far from stupid,” Mason agreed. “But to kill for the excitement of a game? Our Hannibal does love his games.”
The last part was said so forcefully, Will could almost taste it on his tongue. He swallowed automatically.
“What end game would Hannibal have in killing a human girl?”
Mason’s eyes widened comically, as if he was surprised Will would ask such a benign question. “Why? Is there any other reason a fae does anything, except for their own enjoyment? Their own pleasure? Hannibal loves having those around him dance to his tune, It gives him no greater joy.”
Before Will can say anything to his conjectures, Mason stepped into Will’s space, the lining of his suit brushing against Will’s own jacket. It felt like there was no space between them, the air being sucked out of Will’s lungs and a burning in his throat from the unwanted proximity. Mason’s fingers came up and traced the collar of his shirt, like he was putting it to rights, the tips of his fingers brushing the sensitive skin of Will’s neck. Will couldn’t help but flinch from it.
“Who do you think did this to me?” Mason asked with a fierce hiss to his voice. “Hannibal made me this way and he did it for the simple pleasure of putting me in my place. He enjoyed every second of it.”
Mason finally pulled away with a tap to Will’s chest. “You should be careful of who you associate with, little empath. Hannibal has many enemies looking for revenge. I wouldn’t want to see that pretty face end up like mine.”
Will didn’t say anything in return when Mason turned and left the room. He didn’t have to, the threat was crystal clear to all who had heard it.
Chapter 6: Chapter Six
Will had not long left the Verger mansion when he got a call from Beverley Katz. “Where have you been? Jack’s been trying to reach you for an hour now.”
Will hadn’t bothered to take his phone in with him, opting to have it in his car. He had seen the screen flashing with six missed calls from Jack and he winced internally. “I was with Dr Bloom, i had some questions that needed answering.”
Will didn’t elaborate and Katz didn’t ask further. It was why Will felt more comfortable with her than any other of his colleagues in the FBI, he didn’t have to explain himself and she had no expectations of him but camaraderie of a macabre career.
“Bloom’s pretty solid, for a fae companion.” Katz approved. “What do you think it’s like to have a fae lover? I bet it would be awesome.”
Will’s mind instantly flashed to Hannibal and he forced himself away from such thoughts. “I’ve never asked. What did Crawford want?”
Katz immediately switched gears. “Crawford got a positive ID on one of Phantasia’s patrons who took Emma there. The name’s Frederick Chilton, a small time fae. He’s going to be questioned now, Crawford wants you to get a feel of him.”
Will nodded. “Alright, tell Crawford i’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
“See you there.”
From the moment Will stepped into the interrogation room, he knew Frederick Chilton was not their killer.
Chilton was a small, contained man with the look of a fae of middling years. Everything about him was meticulously controlled, from his dark hair styled away from his face to the perfectly pressed suit. He sat straight in his seat, legs crossed at the knee and hands clasped delicately in his lap.
This was not a man who would lose control and let a Wraith attack a girl, let alone have the power to control one in the first place. However, whether he lured her to a killer remained to be seen.
Upon seeing Will, Crawford’s bland expression spoke murderous volumes about Will’s tardiness. Will raised his eyebrows in return and he took his seat beside him without offering a reason.
Crawford started the interview. “Dr Chilton, this is Will Graham. He consults with the FBI on this case.”
Chilton’s eyes sharpened on Will’s face. “Your reputation precedes you, Mr. Graham. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
Will could only muster up a nod of acknowledgment in return. He was getting the distinct feeling he would be getting a lot of that, no thanks to Hannibal Lecter.
Crawford cut in before Will could say something he would later regret. “We are to understand that you visited Phantasia two days ago between the hours of ten and twelve PM.”
“Correct.” Chilton said but didn’t elaborate.
“Were you alone or attending with company?”
Chilton smirked. “You know I wasn’t alone. You’ve checked the security footage already. I was with a woman.”
Will frowned. “‘Woman’ is a bit of a stretch. She was no more than eighteen years old.”
Chilton raised his eyebrows at Will, managing to put indulgence and condescension all into one look. “It isn’t illegal to be in the company of a consenting adult, Mr. Graham. I’ve done nothing wrong here.”
“That remains to be seen, Dr. Chilton. After all, your date didn’t leave the club alive and you did,” Crawford pointed out.
The smug smile was wiped from Chilton’s face in a blink of an eye. “She’s dead?” he asked incredulously.
Will turned to Crawford and said conversationally, “He plays shock convincingly, doesn’t he?”
“It’s very impressive,” Crawford agreed.
“Just wait a minute,” Chilton pointed at them, his voice rising with his panic. “I had nothing to do with her death. The last time I saw her, she was very much alive.”
“Are you sure about that? It seems odd that you go to a club with a date, only to leave without her and raise no alarm as to her missing,” Will mused. “Is it because she came from a poverty stricken background? That no one would miss her?”
Chilton’s eyes eyes narrowed nastily, giving him a lupine look. “Prone to fanciful ideas, Mr Graham?”
“Answer the question, Dr. Chilton,” Crawford ordered.
Chilton sighed noisily, as if the whole process was unnecessary and tiring to him. “I didn’t raise the alarm because I had no idea she was dead. Emma wasn’t exactly known for sticking to one fae at any given time. She told me she was going to the bathroom and when she didn’t return, I figured she had found someone else more entertaining for her.”
“That must have damaged your ego,” Crawford said, playing along. “I would have been angry in your position.”
Chilton leaned back in his chair, shrugging one shoulder casually. “Hardly. Emma was a sweet girl, played the revel scene more than most. But she was hardly the most sincilating company I have ever had. When she left I easily found myself another companion to spend the night with.”
“But she didn’t find better company, Doctor. She was attacked by a Wraith who drained her dry,” Will said softly.
Chilton was unmoved by this revelation, merely triumphant. “And that proves my innocence, I am neither a Wraith or strong enough to control one. This has been a waste of all our time, gentlemen.”
“Hardly,” Crawford returned in the same tone as Chilton used. “We already knew that. What I want to know is who you supplied Emma to and how you sleep at night knowing what you did.”
“I did no such thing,” Chilton exclaimed angrily.
“Who is the House you serve for Chilton?” Will demanded. “Who has a Wraith?”
“We have no Wraith serving our House, it’s archaic and distasteful. House Lecter would not abide it.”
The name made Will’s stomach drop alarmingly. “Hannibal Lecter’s House?”
“There is only one House Lecter and Hannibal is the head of it, has been for centuries.” Chilton said seriously. “Wraith’s are not Lecter’s choice of punishment. And if you think for one moment that I would be stupid enough to betray him and serve another House, you are very much mistaken.”
“Enlighten us on your loyalty,” Crawford deadpanned.
“Not so much loyalty, more like self preservation,” Chilton explained. “Death would be a welcome blessing to what Hannibal would do to me if i were disloyal. He would eat my liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti while I was forced to watch.”
Chilton leaned forward, eyes wide and he was bitter with his terror. “Tell me, would you deliberately anger a man like Hannibal for a completely pointless murder of someone who had no real purpose to the big picture? It wasn’t me and I didn’t lure her to her death. You’ve got the wrong fae.”
There was no doubt that Frederick Chilton was telling the absolute truth. Will and Jack had taken so many cases, interviewed hundreds of innocent and guilty men and women alike. They knew when they were being lied to.
What stuck in Will’s mind was Chilton’s assertions of Hannibal’s violence. He was the second person that day to tell him how violent the fae could be.
Crawford terminated the interview soon after with a stern warning to not leave the state. Chilton’s lips thinned at the words, but he didn’t protest. He left with his back as stiff as a board and a swagger to boot.
Crawford stood up from his chair and rolled his large shoulders as if they pained him. “Once again, we are back to square one.”
Will shook his head. “Not necessarily. We now know why Emma was there, that it wasn’t simply for the Wraith’s hunger. And now we have a new possible motive.”
“A murder happened in a club that is owned by House Lecter, the victim a date to a fae belonging to House Lecter. If that is a coincidence, it’s a very strong coincidence.”
Crawford watched Will stand from his own chair. “You think Hannibal Lecter is being targeted?”
Will shrugged. “Or set up for the murders. House Lecter doesn’t seem to be popular with the other fae in the State area, House Verger especially. A lot of hostility there.”
Crawford nodded before raising his voice to the one way glass on the wall. “You catch that, Dr. Lecter? Your boy looks to be in the clear for now and I want a list of the Houses that have a problem with you.”
Will shoots Crawford a wounded look. “Hannibal was here watching and you didn’t tell me?”
Crawford returned the look with a deadpan look. “You weren’t here for me to tell you and I wouldn’t have done it in front of Chilton. Besides, we have promised full cooperation with him as we proceed. I allowed him to sit in on the interview. In return he promised not to interfere.”
“A little warning wouldn’t have gone amiss,” Will grumbled as the door opened and in stepped Hannibal.
It still felt like a sucker punch to the stomach upon seeing him, the wind knocked from his lungs. It was unsettling to be so affected by another person, let alone fae. Will wasn’t sure if he liked or loathed the feelings Hannibal caused in him.
Hannibal nodded. “Afternoon Jack, Will.” Will supressed a visible shiver as Hannibal wrapped his tongue around his name. “The list may take a while composing.”
Crawford smile sardonically. “Long list?”
Hannibal’s lips twitched up deprecatingly. “I have lived a long life, it is fair to say I have accumulated my fair share of enemies.”
“Does anyone spring to mind that might be doing this to you?” Crawford asked.
Will watched Hannibal’s face attentively for any ounce of emotion at being asked that question. Whatever he was looking for, he didn’t find it. Hannibal’s face might as well be made of stone for all that he was able to glean from it.
“None that I can recall,” Hannibal answered. “Most fae will generally challenge each other publically, make it a spectacle for the rest of our kind. Challenges are a show of prowess and status. To do so in this way seems out of character for fae.”
“What about humans?” Will asked. “Can a human influence a Prince to do the killing in their name?”
Hannibal considered it. “It is a possibility. Humans can be held in high esteem with fae royalty, as a lover or otherwise. It is not unheard of that a fae will take charge for one they consider their own.”
Will gives Hannibal a significant look. “Like a fae putting out a bulletin to all fae in the area not to touch a specific human?”
Hannibal’s smile turned secretive. “I imagine so, yes. But I have not wronged a human enough to make them want to exact revenge on me in such a manner.”
Will raised his eyebrows. “Really? No human?”
“None that have lived,” was Hannibal’s mild reply.
“I didn’t hear that,” Jack growled, making his way across the room and opening the door. “Keep me posted on any events, Hannibal. We want a win on this case.”
“It will be my top priority, Jack.” Hannibal replied.
Jack nodded and looked back at Will. “I will see you in the lab. Katz has some test results for us.”
Will nodded and Jack left, leaving Will alone with Hannibal. Hannibal was watching him, head cocked slightly to the side. “I did not know you knew anyone from House Verger.”
Will got the distinct impression he needed to step carefully when answering this question. “I used to work with Alana Bloom at the College. We talk now and then.”
“Ah, yes. Margot Verger’s human companion.” Hannibal took a step further into the room, closer to Will. “And my House’s history with the Veger’s came up in this talk?”
“It did, along with other things,” Will said, not feeling the need to say anymore.
Hannibal’s nostrils flared, scenting the air. “You are more than welcome to come to me if you have questions, Will. My door is always open to you.”
“The problem with that, Doctor Lecter, is I have no way of knowing if you are telling me the whole truth.” Will made to move towards the door, but Hannibal didn’t give up his spot in front of it.
“I will tell you everything you need to know if you extend the same courtesy to me,” Hannibal offered.
Will looked up into his face. “A game of quid pro quo.”
Hannibal tilted his head forward in acquiescence. “If you like. It would let me breath easier knowing you did not have to enter the den of the devil to get answers that could be freely given.”
Hannibal reached up and clasped the back of Will’s neck gently, the fingertips brushing the skin just hidden by the collar of his shirt. It sent a jolt through Will’s body, electrifying his nerve endings into hypersensitivity.
It suddenly struck Will that Mason Verger had touched him in the very same place and Hannibal must have smelt the other fae’s touch there. He was wiping the mark away and replacing it with his own scent.
It should have angered Will, this blatant show of possession. He hadn’t given Hannibal his permission but no anger surfaced in the wake of Hannibal’s fingers as they slid around Will’s neck to cup his jaw. Instead, he was fighting his natural instincts to lean into the touch.
The loud beeping of his phone was jarring in the intimate silence between them and it took a couple of confused seconds to realise the noise was his phone’s ringtone. Will hastily pulled away, needing space to get himself under control once again, before he pulled his phone out of his pocket and looked at the screen.
It was Katz. He didn’t know whether to kiss her or kick her for her timely interruption.
“Will Graham,” he answered.
“You better get your ass moving,” Katz said by way of greeting. “We have another Wraith murder.”
Will’s breath shuddered out. “Alright, i’m on my way.”
“And Will? Bring Hannibal. The murder happened on another one of his properties.”
Katz gave him the details and Will ended the call, finally looking at Hannibal. His face was closed off once again. “I take it you heard that?”
Hannibal nodded. “The address is a warehouse that I use for storage.”
Will nodded. “It seems my theory on the killer’s motive is correct, Hannibal. You are being targeted. Come with me, i’ll drive us there.”
Hannibal opened the door and held it open for Will to walk before him. “It would seem so. For whatever reason, he or she seems fixated on my House and I can’t imagine why.”
Will smiled briefly. “And I thought the fae can’t lie.”
Chapter 7: Chapter Seven
They took Will’s car to the crime scene, the drive done in quiet save for the occasional murmur of direction from Hannibal in the front seat next to him. Will had dreaded being in such a small enclosed space with the man, anticipating the overwhelming magick of the fae clouding his senses (and his judgement), but that wasn’t the case. Hannibal had dampened his presence to a low pleasant hum that settled Will’s nerves rather than aggravating them.
He found himself relaxing into the silence, his shoulders straightening from their tense hunch and his white knuckle grip on the steering wheel easing. Silences with other people were always awkward, Will felt like he need to fill them up with inane chatter, like he was forgetting a basic social que the others expected of him. But with Hannibal, the silence was welcome.
It was… refreshing.
But there was something that was growing on his mind, a question that Will wanted to ask Hannibal but didn’t know how to word it. No, that was wrong. He was too blunt not to just come out and say it, he just didn’t know how Hannibal would react to it.
As they pulled onto a long street with squat uniform buildings, Hannibal pointed to the last one. Crawford’s car was already parked outside, but no sign of him except for a uniformed officer who waved them through. He must already be inside, Will thought.
Will parked the car behind Crawford's, turning the engine off but making no move to get out of the car. Hannibal sat beside him, unmoving. He watched Will’s face, expectant but patient.
Will decided to just come out and say it. “I met Mason Verger today.”
Hannibal’s eyes sharpened at the name, focusing intently, but Will could not tell if it was because of a guilty conscience or something else.
“Congratulations,” Hannibal said with hardly an inflection to his voice. “Mason Verger rarely sees anyone outside of his circle. He is considered a recluse by the most liberal standard.”
“I imagine the face doesn’t help,” Will murmured.
This time Hannibal smiled a feline expression of dark humour. “No, I don’t suppose it would.”
“He said you did that to his face,” Will said.
“If by that you mean did I put the knife to his face, no I did not.” Hannibal cocked his head to the side, and Will was sorely reminded of a bird of prey. “I may have encouraged him along.”
Will’s breath whistled past his teeth in a long exhale at the admission. “He said you did it for the amusement. Is that true?”
Hannibal didn’t even hesitate. “Yes, it amused me. Was that not the answer you were looking for?”
Will finally looked away from those eyes. “I had thought there may have been a different reason forthcoming.” He admitted. “That Mason was just slandering your name to turn me against you. But I suppose he doesn’t have to do that.”
“You are seeing my actions through human eyes, something Mason will be counting on,” Hannibal pointed out. “What is unacceptable in human society can be common place in fae society. We are immortals, Will. It seems, for us, our lives are rife with violence and animosity towards each other. What I did to Mason was just a punishment. If I had acted in any other way, I would have appeared weak. Weakness in a fae is a death sentence, the other Houses would not hesitate in attacking me. I learnt that a long time ago and do not care to repeat the same lesson if I can help it.”
Mischa, Will thought, and felt the first pang of true understanding for Hannibal. “So Mason’s face was a punishment?”
Hannibal nodded. “Even among my kind, Mason has a twisted disposition He revels in another's humiliation and suffering, whether it is deserved or not. He thought he could test me, but only succeeded in irritating me. When I returned in kind, I made sure he understood his place and never forget that lesson. Everytime he looks in the mirror or a reflective surface, he will remember me. I enjoyed teaching it to such a person.”
Will felt a touch to his chin and he turned his head to see Hannibal’s earnest expression. “I am what I am, Will. I am capable of everything that you consider evil in the human world. But I am also capable of being good too. I give you my word I will not harm you, or your people, so long as they do the same for me. I want you to look at me and see me. No glamour between us, no lies. Just simple truth.”
Will shook his head slowly, the effort feeling oddly sluggish. “What you’re asking of me- I, I don’t know if I can do it. You’re asking me to trust you on blind faith alone.”
“Not blind faith, Will,” Hannibal said softly, fingers once more on Will’s face and Will had the sudden thought that Hannibal couldn’t stop himself from reaching out and touching him if he tried. That this was new for the fae too.
“You’ve been inside part of my mind, know what is there, seen me at my most vulnerable. Anyone else and I would have killed them for even glimpsing it.”
“You could have pulled me out before I saw anything personal,” Will said wonderingly. “But you didn’t.”
Hannibal stroked his fingers down Will’s cheek. “If you asked it of me, my mind would be your mind.”
Will was shocked to silence, eyes wide and staring at Hannibal incredulously. To share a mind, the whole mind, was considered incredibly intimate, the closest of any two people can be with each other. Even some married couples would opt out of it if one or both had mental gifts.
For Hannibal to suggest such a thing…
“You can’t possibly mean that,” Will breathed, panic setting in.
“I mean everything I say,” Hannibal returned calmly. “Will-”
Will caught a flash of movement from the corner of his eye and he turned, breaking Hannibal’s contact, to see Beverley Katz standing in front of the warehouse door, watching them.
The sight of Beverley dumped Will back to earth and he scrambled out of the car looking a lot more flustered than he would have liked. How long had she been standing there watching them?
Katz gave him a once over. “Everything okay Will?” She asked with the most serious tone of voice Will had ever heard her use.
“I’m fine,” Will said brusquely, hearing Hannibal get out of the car but turning around. “Where is Crawford?”
“Inside,” she said, her perceptive eyes now taking in Hannibal like she wanted to burn holes through his skin. “You’re both expected.”
Will realised belatedly that Katz must think that Hannibal had made unwanted advances on him and was sizing the fae up to potentially take him down if need be. Will couldn’t correct her on her assumptions because he didn’t know if it was unwanted or not. In a matter of days, Hannibal had turned Will’s whole world onto its head and it remained to be seen if it was a good thing or not.
“Beverley, this is Hannibal,” Will turned back to find Hannibal just a step behind him. “Hannibal, this is Beverley Katz, our forensic specialist.”
“A pleasure to meet you,” Hannibal said, bowing at the waist but not offering his hand in greeting.
“Hannibal, is it?” Katz said with a click of her tongue. “I’ve been hearing a great deal about you. I hope you’re treating Will as he should be treated.”
Will’s eyes darted to Hannibal’s face and his reaction at her manner, but instead of being offended as Will had expected him to be, he was simply smiling. “With the utmost care, I assure you.”
“Good,” Katz said, eyeing them both for a moment before waving them inside the warehouse.
The murder scene was immediately apparent. The warehouse was brightly lit, with strip lighting hanging from the ceiling and illuminating row upon row of tall storage shelves that were obviously storing for Phantasia. Some had furniture covered in sheets, boxes of glasses etc.
Mere steps from the entrance was the sprawled form of a man in the uniform of a private security firm, presumably the same firm hired to patrol the warehouses. He was a tall man in his late forties, thinning hair and going soft at the waist. He had the same ageing process as Emma, the eyes milky, skin wrinkling and saggy. An arm was thrown out to the side, palm upturned and the gold glint of a wedding ring on his finger.
The smiling face of a dark haired woman, laughter lines at the corner of her eyes, came to Will’s mind but he shied away from it.
Crawford stood with another uniformed policeman, cataloging details of the case. Crawford gave a short nod to them both before pointing at the corpse. “ID says this is Nathan Baker, one of the security guards working on this premises. He went out on a scheduled patrol of all the warehouses but wasn’t back to be relieved by another security guard. When searched, he was found here and it was called in.”
“Security are not allowed in the warehouses without permission from the owners,” Hannibal remarked. “How did he end up in here?”
“The security guard who found him said the door was wide open and Nathan Baker was sprawled like this.” Crawford replied. “He either heard something suspicious in here for him to come looking or whoever killed him dragged him in here to dump the body. Two bodies on separate premises, Dr Lecter. I think we can safely assume you’re the target.”
Will looked back at the entrance. “Was the lock tampered with?”
The uniformed officer shook his head. “No sign of forced entry.”
“Who else has the keys to your warehouse, Dr Lecter?” Crawford asked.
“The security firm has a key in case of emergencies,” Hannibal said, ever taking his eyes off the body. “And my head of security at Phantasia. I assure you, it wasn’t her.”
Will could readily believe it. No one in their right mind would stand against Hannibal.
“The security firm’s copy of the key is accounted for. It was never taken from the security box that all the keys were kept in,” Crawford said. He turned back to Lecter. “Dare I suggest you have a spy in your House?”
When Will looked back at Hannibal’s face, his first instinct was to step away. Hannibal didn’t show anger like humans. His anger was a still thing, more rooted. Wrathful. It was frightening to witness such emotion contained in one person.
“I have considered that as a possibility,” Hannibal said and finally turned away from the corpse to look at Will. For the briefest moment Will could have sworn Hannibal’s eyes had darkened to the colour of pitch Will blinked and the illusion was gone. “May I ask that you use your empathy here Will, and see the crime scene through your gift?”
Crawford straightened his shoulders, bristling. “That’s why he’s here Dr Lecter. To catch a killer who will be brought to justice. Human justice, not fae justice.” He emphasised. “Will won’t be used for your revenge, do I make myself clear?”
Hannibal smiled humorlessly. “Isn’t justice one form of revenge? It seeks to punish sinners.”
“I’m not going to argue semantics with you, Doctor,” Crawford said.
“Nor will I argue your accusation of my using Will for gain when I can say the same of you,” Hannibal returned.
Will cut in before it got out of hand. “While you two have a pissing match over who holds my leash, i would really like to get to work now.”
“There is no pissing contest here,” Hannibal said with an expression of distaste that had Will ducking his head to hide a smile.
Crawford raised his voice. “Alright everyone, clear out, give Will some room.” He gave a nasty look at Hannibal. “That goes for you too Dr Lecter.”
Hannibal made no move to leave. “If Will has no objection to me staying, I would remain here.”
Crawford’s mood darkened imperceptibly. “I don’t think so-”
“Jack,” Will said, getting his attention. “Were we not supposed to work with Hannibal in a show of fae-human cooperation? Plus it is his warehouse.”
Will had no idea what possessed him to allow Hannibal to stay. Maybe it could be blamed on temporary insanity, or something. Whatever it was, Will knew he would be paying for it later going by Crawford’s narrow eyed gaze.
“Well, as it is his warehouse, i’ll leave you to it,” Crawford said with the bite of sarcasm before turning on his heel and leaving them with no corpse.
“Jack Crawford is a man who likes to have it all his own way,” Hannibal murmured.
Will raised his eyebrows at him. “Wouldn’t you say the same thing of yourself?”
Hannibal’s lips twitched. “Perhaps,” he said as he glanced around the room. “Is there something you need me to do?”
Will shook his head. “Just give me some space. And no touching. We don’t want a repeat of last time.”
This time Hannibal did smile. “Are you positive?”
Will didn’t answer. He turned back to the corpse and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. From one swing of the golden pendulum to the next he was dragged through the door, fighting all the way but it wasn’t enough to break free of the Wraith.
Will caught a glimpse of dark hair, a mouth filled with razor sharp teeth before the Wraith bent to the struggling security guard’s face to feed.
Will braced himself for that oil slick feeling of hunger from the memory, the gut wrench of fear from the victim, but it didn’t come. It was like he was in a bubble of calm, nothing bad could touch him.
All the while Will felt Hannibal as a solid presence at his back, grounding him to the hear and now like nothing had ever been done before. There was no risk of getting too immersed in the memory of never finding his way out into the real world. He had a tangible line out of the rabbit hole and that was… that was… beautiful.
Will blinked his eyes open, the world snapping back into focus. Afraid to turn to face Hannibal, Will whispered, “How did you do that?”
Hannibal was a long line of heat against Will’s back and it took everything Will had not to lean back and feel the fae pressed against him.
Hannibal spoke and his breath ghosted across the nape of Will’s neck, making him shudder in delight. “Does this really surprise you? We are connected, Will. Can you not feel it?”
Of course he did. He felt it during his dreams, in his waking moments, the constant itch to see Hannibal, to think about him all the time. It should send him running for the hills, not wanting to push back and meet Hannibal half way.
If that Wasn’t a telltale sign of Will being broken, Will didn’t know what was.
Chapter 8: Chapter Eight
A day late, but i hope you guys won't be too disappointed!
The next morning, Katz turned up at Will’s house armed with strong black coffee and glazed danish pastries still warm from the bakery she had picked them up from. Will raised his eyebrows at her as he stood at his door but made no comment. Katz beamed at him before sliding past him into the house.
The dogs greeted her with a few yips, furiously sniffing the air but never jumping up at her. Will had trained them well, even against the sweet temptation of pastry.
“You want to eat it here or in the kitchen?” Katz asked, shaking the brown paper bag, sending some of the sugar everywhere.
“Probably best to eat it in the kitchen,” Will said, leading the way. The dogs stayed in the living room, the kitchen being out of bounds to furry friends.
Will got plates out of the cupboard and laid it out on the island with the cutlery. Katz distributed the food out and handed him his coffee. “Black, no sugar, just the way you heathen like it.”
“There’s nothing heathen about it,” Will said, taking a long sip with satisfaction. “It’s you that ruins the flavour by adding a mountain of sweetener.”
Katz ignored the comment. “You like your coffee like your soul: bitter.”
Will smiled into his styrofoam cup. “Is this visit business or pleasure?”
Katz took a moment to drink from her own cup, eyeing him over the rim. “What? Can’t I visit a friend without their being an ulterior motive?”
Will started pulling his danish apart with his fingers, the glaze making his skin stick oddly. “Of course you can. I just can’t seem to recall the last time you turned up at my door with breakfast before.”
Katz’s contrite smile came slow to her lips. “You’ve got me. I brought breakfast to sweeten you up.”
“Oh?” Will took a bite of the pastry, letting it melt on his tongue. “Is this going to be painful for me?”
“Not really, just a little invasive for your liking.” She shrugged. “I guess this conversation is a little business, a little pleasure.”
“Just what I like first thing in the morning,” Will sighed.
“I’ll treat it like a band aid,” Katz promised. “Get it over and done with as fast as possible so there is minimal pain and discomfort for the both of us.”
Katz had probably done him a favour by coming here so that it was only the two of them. He doubted he would appreciate her bombarding him at the lab in front of everyone. “Alright, come out and say it.”
Katz nodded. “Okay then. First, Hannibal is in the clear for the night of Emma’s murder. There were plenty of witnesses who saw him at the opera and he stayed to the bitter end.”
Will frowned, pushing his plate away. “Why has it taken so long to verify the witnesses?”
Katz rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on. You’ve been hanging out with fae long enough to know they don’t exactly like to play by the rules of us puny humans. If they can make us wait to prove a point, they will do. It’s all fun and games with them.”
Will wanted to protest at ‘hanging around fae’ as the only fae he had been willingly in contact with for longer than an hour was Hannibal but he had a feeling that argument would only somehow vindicate him even more.
“Alright, so we have the evidence to back up that Lecter is being framed for human murders.” Will mulled over the information. “Now we need to tie in motive. We’ve got a direction to move in, at the very least.”
Katz drummed her nails against the side of her cup. “That’s the business of the conversation. The personal side of the conversation is me asking you if you and Hannibal are involved with each other.”
Will stiffened in his chair, the air seizing in his chest. He was grateful he hadn’t been drinking coffee at the time or else he would have inhaled the hot beverage into his lungs and out through his nose. Thank god for small mercies.
Will tried to keep his reaction under control but failed miserably. “Well, I didn’t think you would just come out and say it.”
“Band aid,” she reminded him softly.
Will stalled for time, stirring his coffee by moving the cup side to side. “It depends what you mean by ‘involved’.”
Katz gave him a baleful look. “You know what I mean by ‘involved’, Will. I mean dating. Can you actually date a fae? How does that even work? Never mind, don’t answer that.”
“So you don’t want me to answer-”
He humoured her. “No, Hannibal and I are not involved. At least, not like that.”
Katz finished off the last sip of her coffee. “And that means what exactly?”
Will shifted in his seat uncomfortably, wondering how to word it that it didn’t make him sound completely insane and, dare he say it, pathetic. “I’ve never met anyone like Hannibal before.”
Katz pulled a face and Will shrugged. “Yes, I know, he’s fae, I get that, trust me on this. But then my empathy sets me apart from the rest of humanity too. I don’t have to shield around him and he was able to anchor me during a memory. No one has been able to do that for me.”
“And that feels good to you,” Katz surmised. “He makes you feel safe. In control of yourself.”
“Not safe, exactly. I don’t think you can ever call Hannibal safe. But he gives me some control of myself back.” Will said.
Katz nodded, like she understood. Of all of Will’s acquaintance, it would be Katz who would be the most understanding. “What about Hannibal?”
“He had made it known to me that he would like to take things further,” Will said and that was all he was going to say on the matter. There was no need to alarm her with talk of bonding and sharing his mind with someone. It was between him and Hannibal, regardless if Will chose to say yes or no.
Katz stared at him, like she was trying to see into his mind and figure out what he was thinking. “It’s your decision, of course. Just- just be careful, okay? I don’t want anything to happen to you, forcing me to kick a Prince of the fae’s ass along with his entourage.”
They had strayed into uncomfortable territory, but Will appreciated her attempt at humour. “Thank you, Beverley. I don’t make it a habit of going in to anything blind.”
Katz smiled. “Good, let’s keep it that way.”
Nothing good ever came from idleness of the mind.
Crawford was dealing with the media frenzy over the second death of another fae killing, Katz and the team were analysing the body along with his personal effects so Will was left to his own device.
He tried to keep busy by working on new fishing hooks, the careful delicacy of the work had often soothed his turbulent mood, but instead it only seemed to exacerbate his nerves. The restless energy was like a buzzing beneath his skin and the days picked up on it, whining low and sticking close to his side. Not even a long walk along the outskirts of his property seemed to calm him.
No matter what he did to distract himself his mind always inevitably led to Hannibal. It didn’t feel right to be away from him, like he just couldn’t settle, that his old comfortable routine didn’t satisfy anymore.
What was Hannibal doing now, at this very moment? Was he thinking of Will at all? He wanted so badly to know what the man was thinking, what he did in his spare time, what his interest were.
Besides, blood and murder was a fae Prince’s lot in life, wasn’t it?
Before he knew what he was doing he had the phone in his hand and he was calling Phantasia. There was no time to change his mind as an employee said in a bored tone of voice. “Phantasia, how may we help you?”
Damn it. “I need to speak to Hannibal Lecter please.”
“Is he expecting your call?” She said snottily.
Will faltered. “Well, no. My name is Will Graham, i-”
“Will Graham?” The bored tone had vanished and in its place was the frisson of fear and very eager to please. “Apologies, Mr Graham. I did not know it was you. Let me patch you through to his direct line.”
Will didn’t get the chance to reply, there was a click on the other end of the line and the warm tone of Hannibal’s voice filtered through. “Will, what an unexpected pleasure.”
Right. Will hadn’t exactly thought this far ahead had only wanted to hear his voice. “Hannibal,” he returned, trying to think of a reason for calling other than ‘I wanted to hear your voice’. “You’re in the clear for Emma’s murder, witnesses were able to verify your whereabouts for the evening.”
“Yes, thank you. Crawford informed me this morning.” Hannibal said, amusement lacing his words.
Will felt his cheeks warm in embarrassment. “I- didn’t know he would contact you.”
“I imagine Jack Crawford wanted to reinstate his authority in the case, particularly where you are concerned. He feels threatened by me.”
“It’s little wonder. You are a Prince, after all.” Will pointed out.
“Whatever the case, I am glad you called me. I have been thinking of you,” Hannibal laughed lowly.
Will closed his eyes and felt his nerves settle at Hannibal’s words. It was like they were thinking in tandem.
“Would it be an error on my part to extend an invitation to dinner at my home?” Hannibal asked into the silence.
Will swallowed. “Would you be cooking, Dr Lecter? Or do Princes of the fae have chefs to cater to their needs?”
Will could hear Hannibal’s smile in his voice. “No chef, just me. I enjoy cooking for people and i’m careful with what i put in my body. Is that a yes?”
Will shouldn’t. This had gone too far already, whatever this was between them. Will hesitated before speaking. “I know what food mean to the fae, Dr Lecter. A human eating fae food made by fae hands puts the human under a thrall.”
“It won’t be that type of meal, Will. You have my word, I will use human ingredients untouched by fae magic.” Hannibal said, sounding painfully sincere. “I find the use of human thralls distasteful at the best of times, the very idea of turning that brilliant mind of yours into nothing but vapid sensation turns my stomach.”
Will could readily believe that. He wasn’t sure what thralldom would do to his empathy and he was sure he didn’t want to find out.
Will couldn’t muster the conviction to decline.
“Then that is a yes Dr Lecter,” He finally said.
“Hannibal,” Hannibal returned warmly. “We can shirk formalities between us, don’t you think?”
“As you wish, Hannibal.”
Hannibal had given Will clear concise directions to his home and, at seven on the dot, Will drove up the driveway. He had expected a similar house as that of the Vergers but found it so very different.
Where the Verger mansion had been ostentatious and imposing, Hannibal’s home was warm and inviting. It stood at three story’s, large bay windows with rustic brick work. It was clearly expensive, a large manor estate, but it wasn’t an eyesore. It proved taste, refined, with soft yellow light shining from the windows. It felt like coming home.
Hannibal met him at the door, helping Will out of his green jacket and hanging it on a coat rack in another room. “I’m glad you could make it,” he said as he appeared again, showing him through the house to the kitchen, which was the size of Will’s house's first floor.
Hannibal pointed to the large island. “Please, sit. Would you like anything to drink?”
Will sat. “It depends on what is on the menu Would whisky go with what you have planned?”
“I think a glass of pinot noir would go very nicely with what I have planned.” He went to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of wine from the cooler.
Wine wasn’t Will’s drink of choice, but Will had the feeling Hannibal knew exactly what he was doing. “What is on the menu?” He asked as Hannibal poured poured the red wine into crystal cut glasses.
Whatever he was cooking, it smelt amazing. Will could pick out fresh spices and the scent of meat. Hannibal settled on the other side of the island, shirt sleeves carefully rolled up to his elbows. “I thought of a duck terrine with orange sauce to start with, followed by pork loin with red fruit cumberland sauce.”
Will blinked, his glass frozen halfway to his mouth before he remembered himself. “That sounds like a lot of trouble to go to for a simple dinner.”
Hannibal smiled as he started chopping up vegetables on a cutting board, the muscles in his arms flexing with the movement. “Not at all. Like I said, I like cooking. It brings me satisfaction to make art through food, to know my guests will come away from my table having tried the very best.”
Will smiled into his glass. “That is a bold statement, Hannibal. Are you that sure the good would live up to such expectations?”
“I can’t help but appreciate my work,” Hannibal admitted, no trace of contriteness. “But you’re right, you will have to be the judge of my efforts.”
Will laughed, feeling strange inside. This was a scene of domesticity, something Will thought he would never be seen with a fae. “This... feels like a date,” Will said, unable to keep quiet any longer.
Hannibal smiled, a softening of the eyes as he glanced up from his chopping. “Do you want it to be a date?”
“I-” Will couldn’t help it, he blushed. “You are very forward, Doctor.”
“Hannibal,” Hannibal corrected gently. “And i’m sorry if it makes you uncomfortable. Having lived so long, I tire of the usual games.”
“That’s quite a bold statement, from a fae,” Will teased.
“Perhaps,” Hannibal said as he checked the meat cooking in the oven. “Certain games, at least. I find our conversations most stimulating.”
“You mean quid pro quo,” Will said thoughtfully.
“Yes. The food is almost done. Shall we move to the dining room?”
Will gave him a significant look as he stood up from the chair. “A fancy meal in a formal setting. I knew this felt like a date.”
Hannibal opened the door for Will to walk in first. “Ah, you caught me.”
As Will had guessed, the food was exquisite. Never before had he tasted such rich flavours, it made his taste buds come alive and almost sing with pleasure. He had to remind himself to eat slowly, savour every bite, and not just devour it without much thought to manners.
Whatever emotion was showing on Will’s face, Hannibal was obviously gratified by it. He was watching Will eat more than concentrating on his own food.
“Quid pro quo, Doctor,” Will said, looking up from his plate. “You’ve heard what Jack and I have to say about the reasoning behind the wraith attacks. Do you think you are being targeted?”
Hannibal’s eyelashes fluttered against the skin of his cheekbones. “Considering that both murders happened on my property is a coincidence too strong to ignore. Yes, I am being targeted. The idea of me being incarcerated by human authorities obviously gives them more satisfaction than killing me as is the fae way.”
“Such a break from tradition,” Will mused, “surely that is some indication as to who it is that has a grudge against you.”
Hannibal considered him across the table. “Not as such, no. There are a great many of us that would like to break from tradition. But tradition is what the Dark Court relies on to keep its members in check. Or at least as much as you can check beings with a lot of power that get bored very easily.”
“So is that a yes or a no to my question that you know who it is that is targeting you?” Will asked after a loaded pause.
Hannibal smiled. “I think it's my turn,” he said to Will’s utter irritation. “What was your childhood like with having the gift?”
“Lonely,” Will said tersely.
Hannibal arched his eyebrows and sat silently until he was forced to elaborate. “I don’t remember my mother, she left before I was two years old. My father did what he could for me, what a single father who worked all hours of the day to keep a roof over our heads and a son doped up to they eyeballs on medication, who complained of hearing voices of those around him inside his head and screaming when touched.”
Hannibal sipped from his wine glass, watching Will over the rim. “Were you able to attend school with other children?”
Will shook his head. “I was homeschooled by one of my father’s friends, a kind woman who knew to keep her distance but was unable to organise her thoughts at the best of times. I learnt more about her cheating husband and juvenile delinquent of a daughter than i cared for. It was distracting.”
“So you were alone from the very beginning,” Hannibal said and Will wanted to turn away from that penetrating gaze. He shrugged uncomfortably. “My story is no different from any other empath. For people who feel so much from other people, we are remarkably isolated.”
Hannibal put the glass down, the clink sounding loud in the quiet of the room. “And the principal of the drugs were for schizophrenia, it didn’t do much for me at all save for living in a daze. I hated every minute of it until my father was finally persuaded to talk me off of them. After that I learnt to deal with it in my own way.”
Hannibal considered his story. “The study into empathy has only just begun in modern medicine. Unfortunately, misdiagnosing empathic individuals is not uncommon.”
“Don’t I know it,” Will said with feeling. “My turn, Hannibal. Why would they be targeting you?”
“A difficult question to answer without definitive proof,” Hannibal said smoothly. “It could be for a great many of things. They could be after my territory to add to their own. Owning territory brings great power and prestige to a fae.”
“This feels like it could be personal,” Will pointed out.
Hannibal tilted his head in acquiescence. “A more likely motive. Perhaps someone who feels I have wronged them in some way, a relative of a fae I have killed in battle. The possibilities could be endless.”
Will listened to him with an odd sense of fascination. “With all those endless possibilities, not one fae comes to the forefront for you?”
“One or two possibilities, I grant you.” Hannibal acknowledged.
“And did those names make it onto the list you gave to Jack when he asked you for your enemies?” Will asked, already knowing the answer.
Hannibal smirked like he knew what Will was thinking. “I may have left some names out,” he finally relented.
Will couldn’t understand it. “But why? Do you not want them caught? Or worse, that they grow bored of their games and just come after you?”
“I don’t have a death wish, Will.” Hannibal’s long fingers played with the stem of his glass. “That thought doesn’t appeal to me in any way. What does appeal to me is keeping our involvement with each other going a little longer.”
Will was floored. Of all the reasons to withhold information. “Are you telling me that you deliberately withheld information in an ongoing FBI investigation, just so we could spend more time with me?”
“Essentially, yes.” Hannibal’s eyes glowed with amusement. “That, and I enjoy watching Jack turn in circles.”
“He is going to kill you when he finds out,” Will breathed, already envisaging the bloodbath. “No one will ever find your body, not even me.”
“He is welcome to try, of course,” Hannibal said magnanimously. “But he would fail.”
Will didn’t want to joke about this anymore. “I can’t in good conscience let this go, Hannibal. There could be another death soon and all because you are unwilling to say their names..”
“I said I didn’t tell Jack, I didn’t say I wouldn’t tell you,” Hannibal reasoned gently. “I understand the human cost that is involved.”
Will leaned forward in his chair, eager. “Then tell me who you think it could be. Give us a direction to get the investigation moving again.”
“I can do one better than that,” Hannibal said. “I can take you to them.”
“You can?” Will asked dubiously.
Now it was Hannibal’s turn to lean forward. “Tomorrow night, accompany me to the opera to see Norma . Princes of the most prominent fae Houses will be in attendance.”
Will couldn’t help but give a glib reply. “Is it the social engagement of the season or something?”
“Opera has always been a decadent pleasure to the fae, the passion of the singers is like an aphrodisiac. I do not know of many Princes that would forgo being seen there.”
“And you believe they will be there at the opera tomorrow?” Will asked, stalling for time as he thought it over.
Hannibal nodded. “Yes. In that environment, you will be free to observe them without any suspicion.”
“Not to mention you will be seen with me dangling on your arm,” Will concluded. “The human you marked as yours.”
“For your protection, Will. There are those who disapprove of a human investigating one of their own,” Hannibal assured him. “If you are known to be mine, many will hesitate to hurt you.”
“And the eye candy doesn't hurt you either,” Will threw in. “What are the names of the fae you believe to be the ones targeting you?”
Hannibal looked at him indulgently. “I’m afraid I won’t disclose that until we are at the opera. If I give them to you now, you will decline my invitation at the last minute.”
Damn it, Will thought. “And what guarantee do I have that you’re not using this to get me to go to the opera with you merely for pleasure?”
“It will be an exercise in trusting each other,” Hannibal offered. “Go with me to the opera and we will find out if those I deem capable of it are the ones we want.”
It didn’t take long for Will to answer in the affirmative, refusing to do so would smack of stubborn pride. “Then I will go with you to the opera.”
Hannibal smiled. “I’m glad.”
When Will told Jack what he and Hannibal would be doing (omitting the fact that Hannibal had lied to Jack, Will was not having that argument), Jack would most definitely not be happy.
“Are you crazy?” He demanded, staring at Will like he had grown a second head. “You’ll be surrounded by fae with no back up to speak of.”
“I don’t think the opera house would appreciate me turning up with a whole swat team armed to the teeth with iron.” Will said sardonically as he leaned against Crawford’s desk with his hip. “I was hoping to remain under the radar.”
Jack was having none of his attitude. “Don’t act stupid, it doesn’t suit you. You will be completely alone in there. If something happened, my team and i wouldn’t be able to get to you and help.”
Will knew he wasn’t getting anywhere, so he tried for a new approach. “I know that, Jack. I didn’t just decide this lightly. All of the Houses will be there in one place. No other opportunity is going to present itself like this and you know it.”
Jack threw his hands in the air. “You’re putting yourself in danger based on conjecture.How am i supposed to condone this visit to the FBI?”
Will folded his arms in front of his chest, feeling his frustration rise in him. “It’s not conjecture. Hannibal assures me they will be there.”
It seemed that Will could not have said the worst possible thing in that moment. “Ah, yes. Hannibal,” he said with significance. “Well if he said that, it must be true.”
Will stared at him with a deepening frown. “What does that even mean?”
Crawford ignored his question in favour of his own. “You two seem to be pretty close nowadays. Arriving together at a crime scene, speaking to each other in whispers.”
Will bristled in indignation. “You made me work with him in the first place, Jack. And now that I am doing as I am told, you’re pissed at me for it?”
“There’s a difference between working with someone and being overly friendly,” Jack pointed out, his booming voice rising in antagonism. “Or haven’t you worked that human part out yet?”
Will felt himself flush red at the insinuation. “It’s not like that. You put him on this case so you could be allowed to run it how you want, i’m working with him so I can better understand the killer we are all after.”
“An exchange of information,” Jack said disbelievingly. “So what exactly are you offering him in return?”
Jack’s questions were hitting a little too close to the mark. “How about you tell me what you’re really pissed about, shall we? Could it be that you feel left out of the loop, despite being the Primary for this case?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Crawford waved Will’s words away.
“Are you sure about that Jack? Because I think you know how stupid you’re being and you’re taking it out on me to make yourself feel more in control again.”
Will stood to leave Crawford’s office, but Crawford stopped him. “You’re right, i’m sorry. I’m not used to working a case like this with outside interference. It’s upset the hierarchy of the team.”
Will didn't turn back to face Jack, his hand lingering on the door handle. “I’m aware of that, Jack. I’m doing the best that I can in the position you yourself has put me in. So get off my back.”
Crawford hummed. “Just don’t go native, is all i’m asking. I’ve known good people lose themselves to fae. I don’t want to see the same thing happen to you.”
Will didn’t trust himself to speak, so he left without a backwards glance at Jack.
It wouldn’t have made a big deal if Will wasn’t worried about the same thing himself.
I have absolutely no clue about opera, so i can't say if Norma is something Hannibal would have watched. So, er, just go with it?
Chapter 10: Chapter Ten
Chapter content warning: there will be bloody violence in the second half of the chapter.
Of course, there was one minor detail that Will had conveniently forgotten when going to something like the opera. Such places had a certain rigid dress code, a very formal stuffy dress code that required a suit and tie…
With dawning horror, Will stared into the depths of his, admittedly meager, closet space. He had shirts and slacks for his lecturing, but nothing that would be presentable for such finery as the opera house.
Groaning to himself, he fished out his phone from his trouser pocket and dialled the only person on hand that he knew who might be able to help him in such a situation as this.
“Will,” Katz said, a disgruntled growl in her tone, “It’s seven in the morning on my day off. This had better be good.”
“I need a suit to wear,” he said in a rush. “A suit for the opera tonight.”
There was a pause on the end of the line. “The opera, huh? I can see how that would be a problem. Give me an hour and i’ll be over to make you fit for hanging off the arm of one fae Prince.”
Will’s eyebrow twitched. “Who said I was going with him?”
“My mad detective skills, that’s who,” Katz said laughingly. “See you in one hour.”
After an emotionally fraught day of going into every available tailor and suit shop and trying on suit after ridiculously expensive suit, Katz finally settled on the traditional penguin attire with a red handkerchief in the breast pocket for a flare of colour. It fit well but Will was ill at ease in such clothes. What he would give for his own pair of jeans and comfortably worn fleece jumper right about now.
Katz parked her car about half a block away from the opera house and turned to look at Will. “Knock ‘em dead sweetcheeks,” she said with enthusiasm.
Will looked at the building, flooded with spotlight and large banners of the performances that will be staged there. He swallowed with difficulty. “Do you think there is still time to back out of this?”
“And waste a perfectly good suit to languish in the back of your closet? I don’t think so.” She leaned across him and pushed the door open. “Give my love to Hannibal.”
Will glared at her before stepping out of the car and watching her go, her tail lights disappearing around the corner. There were fae milling about outside of the entrance, dressed in exquisite suits and long sheath dresses, preening in front of the others like the whole thing was a fashion show. They watched each other with lustful jealous gazes and Will was becoming aware of the simmering animosity of the crowd. The polite veneer was simply that, a veneer to cover a seething mix of negative energy, what Will could only assume to be towards the different Houses in attendance.
Will experienced a spike of panic at entering the building alone, amongst such a crowd, but he needn’t have worried. He felt the gentle brush of a familiar mind and he turned to see Hannibal standing behind him. Will’s breath caught in his chest at the sight of him.
Hannibal was a keen dresser, Will knew at least that much about him, but tonight he was truely stunning in a rich blue suit of what could only be made of the finest material. He stood tall and strong, hair styled until it shone. Will’s eyes were riveted on him, like they were caught in a magnetic force. He was beginning to learn that it wasn’t fae magic that Hannibal had, it was simply Hannibal’s presence.
Yet, it seemed that Will had the same effect on Hannibal. The fae’s eyes trailed down the length of Will’s body, down to the tips of his shoes and back again. Will felt a rush of heat through his veins at the look and when Hannibal’s eyes met his, they flashed an eerie silver, like a cat’s reflective retina’s.
“I don’t think I have seen you in a suit before,” Hannibal murmured, coming to stand in front of Will. “You look beyond imagining.”
“I had help,” Will said sheepishly. “A night at the opera is not something I usually do.”
Hannibal placed a hand on Will’s lower back, guiding him through the crowd towards the entrance. “It pleases me to show you a new experience, despite your discomfort of your new clothes.”
Heads turned as they passed, and Will didn't need empathy to know what they were all thinking. To see a Prince of a House in the company of a human was something to whisper and point at. Some were amused at the sight, clearly considering Will subpar company for the likes of Hannibal. Other watched them with a peculiar sense of jealousy, at Hannibal or Will, he could not tell. Curiosity, scandal, shock, all that was easy to read and deflect.
At least, easier with Hannibal’s hand still resting at his back, at any rate.
They entered the opera house, an opulent foyer of red carpet, roman frescos and a grand staircase leading up to where the viewing boxes were. More fae lingered, drinking from flutes of what might have been champagne that waiting staff whisked around on silver trays. Hannibal took two of the flutes from a passing waiter and offered one to Will.
“I don’t drink alcohol when working,” Will said. “It messes with my senses.”
“You need not drink it, simply hold it,” Hannibal said, still holding the glass out. “It will help you look like you’re in the party mood.”
Will took it, the liquid cooling the glass against his skin. “Does my scowl give me away?”
Hannibal smiled. “It suits you. You look as if you are listening very intently to what I have to say. Particularly in regards to that gentleman to your left by the bar with the blonde woman. That would be Abel Gideon.”
Will raised the flute to his lips and pretended to take a sip, his eyes flicking to his left and landing on the fae in question. He was short for a fae, solid in stature, with close cropped sandy coloured hair, goatee and shrewd blue eyes. “I see him,” Will murmured.
“Abel Gideon certainly has the propensity for human murder, maybe even the strength to control a wraith. I know him to be a fae of middling strength, but Gideon revels in appearing less than he actually is,” Hannibal said.
Will glanced back at Hannibal. “And his reason for targeting you in this murder spree?”
Hannibal stared levelly at Will. “I would imagine it would be because I locked him in my basement for six months and fed him pieces of himself.”
Will was glad he wasn’t drinking or his mouthful would have issued forth through his nose. He watched Hannibal’s face carefully. “You’re not saying that just to see my reaction, are you?”
“I mean every word,” Hannibal said neutrally.
Will’s hand tightened around his glass, threatening to break it. “What was your reasoning for that?”
“Gideon tried to usurp my Princedom, impersonating me by changing his shape. Of all those who have tried to do the same thing, he came the closest. I punished him in such a way because I wanted to give his likeness back to him as he was trying to do to me. He took his medicine without complaint. I could have done far worse to him.”
This time Will took a large gulp of the champagne. “Christ, Hannibal. Remind me to never get on your bad side.”
“You have nothing to fear from me Will,” Hannibal assured him before taking the champagne from him. “It must seem barbaric to humans, the way we live, punish and kill each other. But you must remember that we are immortals, and that entails a great deal of power, vast healing abilities and long memories. Only the most violent acts will teach us anything, even to protect those who are under our care.”
Will opened his mouth to reply but they were interrupted by the presence of a tall black fae with disconcerting eyes. He ignored Will completely, turning to Hannibal with a smile that was nothing more than a caricature of a human expression. “I’m glad to see you attending Norma tonight. We seem to keep missing each other.”
Will’s eyes flicked to Hannibal and was surprised to see the first real look of irritation on his face at another person. “Tobias, this is Will Graham, my companion. Will, this is Tobia Budge, one of the classically talented musicians of my race.”
Tobias didn’t even turn in Will’s direction, let alone acknowledge his very existence. “Ah yes, your pet human. Hannibal,” he tutted, like he was scolding a naughty child. “I thought better of you than satisfying your base instincts in monkeys.”
Ouch, Will thought. “As opposed to satisfying his base instincts in you?” Will asked.
“It speaks,” Tobias said, feigning surprise and looking at Will for the first time. Will really wished he had kept his mouth shut when those eyes settled on him. “If you had wanted a worthy companion, Hannibal, you should have come to me. This just smacks of desperation.”
Hannibal’s look would have frozen a lesser being in place. “If I had wanted you as a companion, Tobias, I would have asked you. But I never have. That feeling will not change, no matter how many times you force yourself upon my attentions.”
Tobias stood rigid in his spot, his hands made fists at his side. Will felt the hair on his arms stand on end, a sure sign that Tobias was close to exploding his power right in the foyer of the opera house. Other fae were giving them a wide berth, the foyer emptying out and Will was starting to get concerned.
Hannibal's lip turned up in a snarl, eyes bleeding to black. “Calm yourself, Tobias.”
“Calm down?” Tobias asked in a voice tremulous with rage. “You prefer the company of a human over the company of me, your equal?”
“My equal?” Hannibal said contemptuously. “You consider yourself on the same level as me? You are a fool.”
There was no calming the situation down now. Both of the fae were squaring off against each other, fae magic bleeding into the air and making it feel as heavy as treacle.
“Yet you consider a human your equal?” Tobias demanded. “Your obsession for the human race has corrupted you, made you a laughing stock to our kind.”
Humanity was being stripped from their faces, their cheekbones standing out in sharp relief against their skin. Hannibal’s colour darkened to pitch, bone growing out through points on his forehead like stag antlers. Tobias’s mouth was full of razor sharp teeth, his fingers growing into wicked claws as long as his whole hand span.
Will took a step back, not wanting to get in the way, but instead brought himself the attention of Tobias. He smiled grotesquely, making Will flinch away. “If you won’t rid yourself of the human fascination, then I will have to do it for you.”
Hannibal blurred into motion too fast for the human eye to see and he was in Tobias’s face, his hand wrapped around the fae’s throat and squeezed. Tobias hissed, spittle flying, and raked those long claws across Hannibal’s face. Skin parted and red blood gushed. Hannibal snarled in anger and backhanded Tobias with such violence that Tobias was taken clear off his feet and sent across the room with a crash.
Those left in the foyer were looking on with blood lust, cheering them on like they were the entertainment for the night. All of the waiting staff seemed to have vanished, clearly not wanting to get involved. Will was the only one looking on with horror and fear for Hannibal’s safety. Perhaps Will should have been more concerned with his own safety, being the only breakable human in the room with a fae who has taken it upon himself to hate the very sight of him.
The fight had reached new levels, their movements too fast for will to keep up with, but blood painted the floor in darker patches of red until Hannibal was on his back holding his split side and Tobias was suddenly in front of Will.
Will was too slow to react, he had no chance of getting away from the claws of the fae. Tobias smirked triumphantly as he stabbed Will with his claws through the abdomen and twisted them for maximum effect. The pain was excruciating and Will cried out, hands scrabbling at Tobias's arms, trying to pull away but was unable to. Tobias jerked again, doing as much damage he could as he pulled his claws out and Will sank to his knees, unable to stay standing.
Tobias looked down at Will, fingers red with Will's blood. “This is what happens to humans who try to walk with Gods.”
Hannibal appeared behind Tobias face twisted with grotesque rage. “And this is what happens to fae who seek to take that which is mine.”
Hannibal’s hands came up on either side of Tobias’s head, and with one forceful twist, he tore the fae’s head off. In a fountain of blood, Tobias’s body fell like a tree trunk to lay twitching at Hannibal’s feet. Hannibal threw the head to the side like it was trash and slid to his knees, his arms encircling Will to support him against his body.
“Will,” he said, sounding so far away to Will’s ears. “Stay with me. You’re going to be alright, just stay with me.”
Will looked up at him, feeling confused and disjointed from his body. The pain was receding and in its place was a cold numbness.
“Where else would i go?” He mumbled before promptly passing out.
Chapter 11: Chapter Elvene
Will surfaced slowly from the black oblivion of unconsciousness and in great pain. His eyelids felt like they were glued together and his tongue was like sandpaper in his mouth. Swallowing felt impossible.
It was only when Will tried to move that the rest of his body kindly reminded him how much pain it was in. His abdomen shrieked in agony and his limbs had the dull throb of over exertion. What had happened? Why was he in so much pain? He had been with Hannibal at the opera house, they had been talking - talking about Abel Gideon -- Hannibal’s punishment for the fae -- and then… and then…
-The fae had been so angry to see Hannibal with Will, had made comments of spurned advances, losing his control of his human form and attacked…-
-Attacked Hannibal. Hannibal attacking in return. Hannibal’s true form being finally revealed to Will and an audience of fae high on the blood lust the fight invoked. -
-Tobias had hurt Will. Badly. Enough to surely have killed him. Hannibal killing Tobias in turn. -
What happened after the fight? Where was he now?
He felt something soft beneath his back, his head elevated with something firmer. He tried to open his eyes, eyelids fluttering like a butterfly’s wing, but the soft light from a nearby lamp pierced his pupils like sharp lances and he scrunched them shut.
He must have made a noise of discomfort, because the softness beneath him dipped as someone sat beside him. He panicked. “Who-”
“It’s me, Will,” came Hannibal’s voice as he brushed his fingers across Will’s forehead, pushing back strands of hair from his face. “You must lie still, you’re still healing.”
For once, Will did as he was told without complaint. He sank back into what he was coming to recognise as a sofa, trying not to move his core muscles any more than he had to. “Where are we?” he asked hoarsely.
“We are in one of the private rooms of the opera house,” Hannibal replied, fingers tracing his brow. “The manager of the establishment kindly let us have some privacy until you are back on your feet again.”
Will frowned. Something about that comment didn’t add up. He- he shouldn’t be here in a back room, he should have been taken to a hospital, a surgeon should be patching him up again. “Hospital,” he croaked, licing his dry lips to moisten them. “Hannibal, you need to take me to the hospital.”
“Here,” Hannibal slipped his hand behind Will’s head to get him to lift up, a straw poking between his lips. “It’s water. Drink slowly in sips, don’t upset your healing stomach.”
Will hungrily gulped the water down, the cool liquid like a balm for his throat. After he had finished, Hannibal laid him gently back down. Will’s hand shot out and gripped the fae’s arm before he could retreat. “I mean it, Hannibal. Humans don't heal like the fae, it doesn’t take much to kill us. I’m bleeding out-”
He stopped short, his growing unease making him blink his eyes open. This time the light was only a mild irritant. He should be in crippling pain. In fact, he shouldn’t even be conscious at this moment. Will looked down the length of his body to spot a bandage from a first aid kit, and minimal spotting of blood on the white fabric.
Will couldn’t help but ask, “How long have I been out of it?”
Hannibal put the half empty glass on the coffee table next to the sofa, not looking at Will. “About two hours.”
None of this made any sense. Will reached down to the bandage and brushed along the edges, resulting in nothing more than a dull throb. “How can this be?”
Hannibal watched him carefully. “I helped you heal most of the damage.”
Will stared back uncomprehendingly. “Help heal me? What does that even mean?”
“You were dieing,” Hannibal explained. “I used some of what makes me fae to help you heal. The healing of the damage that Tobias caused has been sped up, if you will. Everything is new to it, but it will pass by morning.”
It was a lot to take in. “I’ve never heard of a fae being able to heal a human, certainly not from the brink of death. Is it a guarded secret? To keep humans from seeking you out to heal them of their ailments?”
“Not every fae has the gift of healing,” Hannibal said, offering Will the water glass again. “And those who do only do in certain circumstances. It is something that is not taken lightly.”
Will sipped from the straw. “Because it is taboo for the high and mighty fae to heal a lowly human?”
Hannibal didn’t smile at the snide remark. “Because healing means giving a part of yourself to that person as long as they live. Most fae abhor the very idea of it.”
Will’s humour dried up with those words. “Okay, now you’ve lost me. What do you mean a part of yourself?”
“It is difficult to explain.”
Hannibal bowed his head in acquiescence, a simple smile playing about his lips at Will’s impatient tone. “Fae magick has a certain resonance with the user, even when we use it we can still feel it separate from our bodies. In wards, in objects of power, in people. We are now directly linked. I will be able to tell where you are, if you're hurt. As i said, most fae do not like to use it.”
Will looked at him wonderingly. “And despite knowing this, you healed me anyway?”
Hannibal raise his eyebrows in surprise. “You thought I would do otherwise? Do you think so little of me that I would have let you bleed out on the floor?”
“It’s not like that,” Will said, hesitating to voice his thoughts, realising how stupid it sounded if he spoke aloud.
Hannibal understood him anyway. “You can’t understand why I would heal you, not because you are human, because you are Will Graham.”
Will shrugged uncomfortably.
Hannibal reached out and took Will’s hand in his, stroking the pad of his thumb over the back of Will’s hand. It sent shivery tingles along Will’s arm. “What Tobias said was untrue, he represents a very secular set of fae gentry that cannot progress past their own selves. It does not reflect my own opinion of humans. In regards to you, it is quite the opposite.”
Will felt his cheeks warm at the earnest sentiment and didn’t pull his hand away. “He seemed very adamant that you take him as your companion.”
“That is the polite way of referring to his persistence, yes.” Hannibal agreed. “But I never felt the same way. I found him tiresome and rude.”
Will grinned. “And you don’t find me rude?”
Hannibal squeezed his hand. “I find you so very refreshing. A kindred spirit, perhaps.”
“And you rip off the heads of those who try to kill a kindred spirit?” Will asked, going for light but missing by a mile.
“There are so few people I call kindred spirits. It brings out the protective instincts in me.” Hannibal said apologetically. “But if I had the choice to do it all over again, it would end the same way. Tobias would not have stopped any other way.”
Tobias’s snarling face flashed in Will’s mind and he shuddered. “No, he wouldn’t have.” A thought occurred to Will. “Will you get in trouble for killing him?”
Hannibal shook his head. “No, Tobias lost control and attacked a human under my protection. It was a lawful killing. You do not have to worry.”
The pain was abbatting as they spoke and Will marvelled at fae healing. Hannibal had said only certain fae had healing abilities in their repertoire and he was one of them. A fae who could heal others, who had skin as black as pitch and horned antlers. He had never seen the like before.
“That was the first time I saw your fae form,” Will murmured.
For the first time, Hannibal looked away. “It was not the way I had envisaged showing you. I’m sorry, Will.”
Will shrugged. “Not everyone can make a dramatic reveal, Hannibal. Though I think the fight was dramatic enough.” Will said primly.
“You have a point,” Hannibal said, still not properly looking at him. “Still, it was not how I wanted the moment to unfold itself.”
Will considered the fae’s profile. “Are you turning self conscious on me, Hannibal?”
Hannibal didn't answer right away. “I felt fear from you at the sight of us changing.”
“Violence brings that out in humans,” Will said lightly. “But I will be honest with you. The first time seeing you like that was disconcerting. I’ve never seen anything like you before.”
Hannibal shrugged. “I tend to defy being categorized.”
“I wasn’t afraid of what you looked like, Hannibal. It was actually calming to see what was under your person suit.”
“Person suit,” Hannibal mused. “It’s something that rarely slips in front of an audience unless I intended to show people. You have an unquestionable influence over me. I find it a little unfortunate.”
Will looked up into Hannibal’s face. “Are you saying that because of me you’re losing that sophisticated passive facade?”
Hannibal’s eyes flashed. “You bring out the animal in me. Now come, I will take you home to rest.”
After being driven home and the promise to call Hannibal the next day to update him on how Will was feeling, Will let himself into the house. He felt a wave of relief to be home again. Safe. The dogs welcomed him through the door, but Winston wasn’t among them. Frowning, he called out to him and Winston finally wandered in from the kitchen, closely followed by the profile of Alana Bloom.
Will froze by the door, heart rate kicking up at the sight of her in his home. “Alana, what are you doing here?”
Alana folded her hands together in front of her. “I wanted to see if you were alright. I heard you had an eventful evening at the opera.”
Will couldn’t help but be surprised by that. “Wow, news really does travel fast in the fae community.”
“Youtube, actually,” she said with a sheepish grin. “Someone filmed part of the fight on their phone and uploaded it.”
“Ah, of course. How could I forget about youtube.” Will started to relax. This was just Alana, nothing to worry about. “How did you get into my house?”
Alana rolled her eyes at his suspicions “You gave me a key, Will. To feed your dogs? I’m not about to freeze my ass off outside waiting for you when I could do it in here.”
Will smiled at her exasperated tone of voice. “As you can see, i’m fine. Just tired.”
Alana took her time examining him, a little wrinkle appearing between her brows, a sure sign of worry. “I see that,” she said carefully, not giving much away. “You look remarkably well for someone who was caught between two fae.”
Will blanched. “That part was on youtube too?”
Alana nodded. “For the briefest of moments before it was flagged for inappropriate violence and gore. You’re welcome.”
Will maneuvered himself around the dogs and fell gracelessly into the chair. “Thank you.”
Alana came to stand in front of him. “Will, what happened?”
Will shook his head. “I don’t want to talk about it. I’m fine, really. You don’t need to worry.”
“Actually, I think I do.” He bent down and brushed her hand against his cheek. “Hannibal healed you, didn’t he? His magick is all over you.”
Will touched his own face, as if he could feel it on his skin. “You can sense that?”
“Sense that?” She repeated, puzzled. “Have you looked at yourself in the mirror after the fight?”
Will shrugged. “Looking at my reflection isn’t exactly a top priority for me, Alana.” But he did get up and go to the bathroom, turning on the light and catching himself in the mirror over the sink.
What he saw shocked him. He looked… otherworldly, if a human could be such a thing. His skin was clear and vibrant, almost flawlessly so. His hair had a shine to it that it never had before and his eyes were large in his face, a luminescence that was hard to look away from.
He looked, dare he even think it, fae.
“God damn it,” he hissed through his gritted teeth. “Tell me this is going to wear off soon,” he called to Alana.
She stood behind him, arms crossed and leaning against the door jam. “After a while, perhaps. As long as he doesn’t heal you again.”
“It was for an emergency,” Will said, feeling the need to explain. “I doubt it will happen again.”
“Are you sure about that?” Alana asked carefully. “You’ve established a link with your mind to him and now he’s established a link to you through magick. I never would have thought you would have wanted the life of a companion.”
Will turned sharply to face her. “Companion? I never said anything about wanting to be a companion.”
Alana gave him a look. “Please remember who you’re talking to, a companion to a fae. I know the marks of a companion when I see them and you have definitely been marked.”
“No, that’s not possible-” was it? “He just healed me, that’s all.”
Alana looked at him with unbearable sympathy. “Will, it’s more than that. What you two are doing, what he’s been doing, is courting you. It’s an endgame, ending with you as his companion. A mate. If you don’t want this, you have to stop it, before the point of no going back.”
She reached out and hugged him, Will allowed it, standing stiffly with his arms fisted at his side. “What is the point of no going back?”
Alana pulled back to look in his eyes. “Where you become something a little different than human.”
“Like you?” He questioned.
She nodded. “Like me. Talk to him, Will. Get him to stop if you wish it. You have to know where you stand.”
With a squeeze on his arm, she left him alone with his warring thoughts, unable to figure out what was real and what was not.
Chapter 12: Chapter Twelve
Will had never felt such rage as he did the night Alana left him with the revelation of the part bond initiated by Hannibal without Will’s knowledge or consent. There was no hope for sleep, he could barely keep still let alone closing his eyes.
He had to speak to Hannibal, had to ask him if it was true, if they were really heading for a bonded link. Unbreakable. Irreversible.
Alana wouldn’t lie to him, at least she wouldn’t have done so before she mated with Margot. He wasn’t a fool, he knew Margot would come first in everything in Alana’s life, but did that mean that Alana would willingly lie for Margot if the fae wished it? Would it be in Margot’s and House Verger’s interest to force a wedge between him and Hannibal?
The unequivocal answer to that is yes. Yes, it would.
Will didn’t wait for morning before heading to Phantasia where he knew Hannibal would be, checking on his staff and patrons (and wasn’t that the killer? He shouldn’t be able to know that at all). He parked two blocks away from the club in a residential area, not wanting his car to be targeted by drunken idiots, and walked the rest of the way. The doorsman were the same doorsman as the last time Will had been here and they must have recognised him as they opened the door without so much as an acknowledgment.
The inside of Phantasia was as busy as ever, humans mingling happily with the fae and magick thick in the air. Will wrapped silence around him to protect his mind from the touch of others effectively muting the lust and the hunger.
Will went unimpeded as he crossed the large room to the doors that would lead to Hannibal’s office. Out of the corner of his eye he caught the staff giving him alarmed glances but kept at a distance. Perhaps he was projecting his ire more than he thought.
He exploded through the doors, the wood slamming against the wall and his momentum carried him along the corridor. The office door was open and Hannibal was standing there, perfectly calm and unruffled by Will’s entrance.
That calm only served to enrage Will more. Hannibal had no right to be so calm and collected. He should be rattled, cowed in the face of Will’s anger.
“Will,” Hannibal said with no inflection to his voice. “I did not expect to see you so soon.”
“Nor would you,” Will said softly as they came face to face. “But I had a visit from Alana Bloom and she had some interesting things to say in regards to an unfinished bond.”
Hannibal didn’t even react. He moved out of the doorway and gestured inside. “This is a conversation I would prefer we had in private, away from any listening ears.”
Will didn't argue. He stepped past Hannibal, keeping as much distance between them as possible. If Hannibal tried to reach out and touch him now, Will wasn’t sure what he would do.
Hannibal shut the door but didn’t lock it, making something inside Will loosen to know he wasn’t shut in. He turned to face Will with his hands by his side, unthreatening.
“Is it true?” Will demanded. “She told me that we had a partial bond, through the healing-”
“And our minds having touched, yes,” Hannibal stated simply.
Will watched him, slightly stunned. He hadn’t actually expected Hannibal to so readily agree. He had envisaged a lot of yelling on his part, Hannibal denying it all. It took the wind out of his sails for a moment and he had to rally his thoughts quickly. “So it is true? You’ve done this without my consent?”
“It’s true, yes,” Hannibal said, offering Will the sofa like this was a flying visit. Will refused it. “But I didn’t do it without your consent.”
Will was about to strongly protest when Hannibal held his hand up to stop it. “I am not lieing to you, Will. Our minds touching happened when I mistakenly touched you the first time i saw you during the wraith memory. There had been no intention then to establish any bond between us. I could not have foreseen our reaction towards each other.”
“And you healing me? There was no intent there to from any bond?” Will kept pushing.
Hannibal didn’t react to it. “My intent was to keep you from bleeding out on the floor. Or would you have preferred me to let you die then and there?”
No matter how much he wanted to argue, he couldn't do it without being a liar himself. No, he hadn’t wanted to die. Humans had a very strong compulsion to live, no matter what the cost.
Hannibal sensed Will wavering. “I admit to the very selfish need to keep you alive, for myself as well as for your own. I will not deny that my magick being a part of you was an added bonus also tempted me into action. I am fae, Will. It is in my nature.” He said without apology. “I have made it clear to you that I desire a bond with you. But I will not force you into one. Over time, with our connection not finished, it will fade into nothing.”
Will tried not to react at the idea of ‘nothing’, but his stomach swooped uncomfortably. Like strangers, he thought.
“It will fade.” Will echoed, forcing himself to say it out loud.
Hannibal stiffened but nodded. “Yes, like most things that do not receive care. You would be free of it. Free of me.”
Not possible, Will thought. Even if the bond did fade, Hannibal had touched Will’s life, inserted himself in the thick of it and Will was unsure if he could ever get rid of him.
Did he even want to?
“You should have told me, Hannibal,” Will said in a tone of tired exasperation. “You should have told me.”
Hannibal nodded. “I see that now. It was not my intent to upset you or trap you. For a fae, bonding is incredibly intimate, it is not to be taken lightly. Our circumstance is...unusual, to say the least.”
Will wasn’t sure if he fully believed him or not, but he was too tired to consider the nuances of his speech. Either way it was done now. The bigger question was whether Will was willing to consider finishing the bond or to let it die. “To complete it, how does that happen?”
“We would consummate it. Mind, body and soul.”
Will swallowed with difficulty. “Right, of course. Silly me.”
“Mating,” Hannibal reminded him. “It is all of the same. You cannot have one without the other.”
Will finally sat. “And what does a bond with a fae mean exactly? I know the obvious part that bonding is like human marriage and all that entails.”
“It’s a little more than marriage. For one it cannot be broken except for death of one partner. Even then the backlash of a broken bond often ills the other, depending on the duration of the bond. The longer the connection the stronger it is,” Hannibal explained.
“Except in regards to a human mate,” Will interjected. “A fae would not willingly bond to a species that was mortal, only for them to die when the human submits to old age.”
Something rippled across Hannibal’s face, too quick for Will to catch, but he knew it was in regards to Will’s words.
Will frowned. “What is it?”
Hannibal chose his words carefully. “A human mate is not an issue for fae. The bond would prolong human life, matching to his or her fae mate.”
“It makes humans immortal?” Will ground out after a lengthy stunned pause.
“Not immortal, no. You are still human, no fae power to speak of. It just extends life, makes you a little harder to kill. Disease won’t be a problem anymore, but everything still stands.”
“But I would live an immortal life span?”
Hannibal smiled, seemingly pleased of Will fitting the conversation into the context of their bond. “For as long as I live.”
Will stood again, unable to keep still as he took in everything Hannibal was alluding too. Many humans had grown obsessed with chasing after immortality that the fae possessed. They would have killed to be in Will’s position right now.
How many lifetimes could he live? Watch the future unfold itself in front of his eyes, see life through Hannibal’s. The opportunities were endless, there was no telling what could happen. The thought thrilled him.
But as he continued living unchanged, his friends would grow old and die, all he knew would slide into history. It would be a big cost for such a thing, would it actually be worth it?
“I need to think on this,” Will said vaguely. “What you’re asking of me, it’s…”
“Life changing. Yes, I understand,” Hannibal stood with him. “Take the time you need.”
Before Will stepped out of the room, he looked back at Hannibal. “Have you ever tried bonding with anyone before?”
“None. You are the first and, I hope, the last.”
Will considered him. “Your life must have been very lonely.”
“No more than your life has been,” Hannibal returned. “Perhaps that’s answer enough.”
Will knew the moment he got home that something was wrong. The door to his house was standing open, Winston on the porch barking up a storm at something inside.
His heart rate kicked up, adrenaline pumping through his body and almost feeling light headed with it. He had no gun on him, no weapon in which to defend himself with.
Could it be Alana again?
He immediately dismissed the thought. She wouldn’t have left the door open and the dogs wouldn’t react this way to someone they knew.
Will dialled Jack’s number on his phone, listening to the call tone click into the man’s automated message. With a frustrated breath, Will was about to end the call when he heard a clicking growl coming from the house.
Freezing in his spot, Will watched with growing fear as the shadows in the doorway writhed and out stepped a man-
No, a wraith.
It had the shape of a man, no older than in his early twenties with dark hair, bottomless eyes and a mouth that couldn’t properly close over the razor sharp crowded teeth. His body was emaciated, hollow cheeks and protruding bones beneath paper thin skin. It had the odd look of being stretched, his long arms coming to his knees, the fingertips ending in wickedly sharp black fingernails that might as well be claws.
Will was getting a little tired of fae having claws.
The wraith’s appearance wasn’t the most shocking part, Will had seen fae look a whole lot worse, it was the hunger and desperate rage that came off of it in palpable waves. Will had to fight back the overwhelming feeling to retch.
It stared at Will with those impossibly black eyes and the hunger mounted, forcing Will back a step.
Winston whined and darted away from the door, his tail firmly between his legs and head low. The Wraith didn’t even give the dog a second glance, it had bigger and tastier prey in its sights.
The Wraith opened its mouth and a distorted moaning voice issued forth. “Hhhuuunnnngggrrryyy. Massssster sssaysss mmussst eat…”
If Will was in any doubt that this was the same Wraith killing humans, he wasn’t now. And here it was, in his home, looking for him.
Will kept still, not wanting to threaten it into making good on its words. He spoke carefully, “I’ve been looking for your master. I want you to take me to them.”
The Wraith cocked its head, incomprehension plain on its face. Will inwardly cursed. It only understood the words by its master and the call of its own hunger.
And now he was out of time. The wraith had had enough of their staring contest and lunged forward with preternatural speed. Will didn’t even have enough to cry out.
Chapter 13: Chapter Thirteen
The Wraith was on him in the blink of an eye, long arms wrapping around Will in an obscene imitation of a lover’s embrace. Will tried to wriggle free, but the wraith was far stronger, his claws locking into Will’s clothes and cutting into his flesh.
Will struck out with the heel of his palm, slamming it into the wraith’s nose. There was a sickening crack and a gush of black blood. The Wraith reared its head back, hold loosening enough for Will to rip himself away.
Will had barely put four feet of distance between them when the W raith was on him again, it's pain enraging it beyond any thought. Its weight forced Will to the ground, the Wraith on top of him and pinning him there like a stuck butterfly on the end of a pin.
Will couldn’t move an inch, no matter how hard he thrashed and bucked. He was completely helpless and at the mercy of the fae above him. A fae that had no conscience, was simply the vessel for revenge and set to suck the very life out of Will and leave him a husk for anyone to find. He could do nothing to stop it from happening.
The Wraith reached down with a free hand, holding Will’s jaw steady and forcing his mouth open at his pressing points. The claws dug in, leaving stinging lines of red on his cheeks, blood trickling down to his ears.
The Wraith bent its head, its great maw opening and the closing around Will’s mouth, effectively sealing them together. Will could hear the dogs barking loudly in the background and then-
Will experienced the disconcerting sensation of disembodiment, of having the tethers to his body being torn away. He tried to hold on, get some purchase somehow, but he was fighting a losing battle. The Wraith was draining him and he was growing weaker by the second.
He was dying.
People often say that the most important people or experiences to you are with you at the very end of everything. It really shouldn’t have come as a surprise that it was Hannibal’s face that flashed to the forefront of his mind with all the regret of never saying yes.
Will was losing consciousness, darkness closing over his eyes. Will was still struggling weakly in the Wraith’s grip, but it was out of instinct rather than the hope of ever being let go.
It was over and Will was waiting for the end.
But it didn’t come. The Wraith made a pained grunt, pulling away from Will and snarling at something to the side of them. Will suffered a moment of disorientation, blinking up at the night sky, before turning his head and seeing Winston had attacked the Wraith. The dog was snapping at the fae’s leg, then his arm to pull him off of Will, tearing flesh off in chunks with its teeth.
The Wraith snarled again, scrambling off of Will and swiping at Winston, connecting solidly. Winston took the blow in his side and, with a pained yelp, he was knocked off of his feet and didn’t get up again.
The Wraith turned back to Will, intent on finishing the job. Will could see it coming, knew what would happen, but couldn’t move a damn muscle to prevent it.
It was about to kneel at Will’s head, continue the draining, when there was a loud bang and it took a staggering step back. Something had impacted with its shoulder, a bullet. The Wraith roared its pain to the world and in response it took another bullet in the the shoulder, and again in the stomach, but it didn’t go down as it was expected.
Instead it charged at the shooter, disappearing from Wills limited line of vision. He could hear the shooter emptying the gun clip and then nothing but jarring silence. He wanted to turn his head, see what was happening, but he didn’t have the strength. There were running footsteps and then Jack was above him, eyes wide with concern and alarm.
“Jesus, Will,” Jack said, staring at him, hands fluttering around Will’s face like he didn’t know where to touch. “Help is on its way. Hang in there.”
Will tried to speak but it was difficult to force the words through his unresponsive lips. “Wraith.”
“It’s dead,” Jack confirmed. “It can’t hurt anyone now.”
Good, Will tried to say but couldn’t manage it. The sheer relief of knowing the wraith was dead and not killing more people was almost euphoric. Will couldn’t be sure, but he thought he smiled before he lost his hold on the world.
“- I don’t care who you think you are, you’re not taking him-”
“- A human hospital does not have the medical facilities to help him-”
“- He’s not going anywhere with you, Hannibal-”
“- He will die if you don’t let me help-”
“- We have no guarantee you won’t harm him-”
“- I am in no need to assuage you and your human petulance. I was not asking for your permission-”
“- Hannibal, stop-”
Will jolted awake, like snapping out of a nightmare. He was in no hospital room. Instead, he was lying in a bed more comfortable than his own at home, with sheets that felt like silk to the touch. The curtains were partly closed, allowing a little light to illuminate Hannibal in a chair with a book in his lap. He looked completely relaxed.
Ah, the disembodied conversation he heard now made a lot more sense.
“This is becoming a habit of ours,” Hannibal said, not looking up from his book. “That is twice I had to intervene in a twenty four hour period-”
Will shifted slightly against the pillows, feeling like he had run several marathons in quick succession. “To be fair, the first time was kinda your fault.”
This time Hannibal did look up with an eyebrow raised. “Are you blaming me for Tobias Budge?”
“I don’t think anyone could be held accountable for the actions of Tobias Budge,” Will returned amiably. “But, as your kind love to point out, I am but a puny human who got caught in the crossfire between two powerful men. Ergo, not my fault.”
“Point taken,” Hannibal acknowledged as he shut his book and laid it across his lap. “Still, I feel uncomfortable that you have come to such harm in a matter of days.”
Will shrugged. “The nature of the FBI game. It's something that happens to all of us at one point or another.”
Will felt uncomfortable speaking about this aspect of his job, so he quickly changed the subject. “How long was I out?”
Will stared at Hannibal incredulously. “Two days?”
“This time it was more than repairing damage to your flesh, Will. The Wraith had taken a vast amount of your essence before finishing the job of killing you. Replacing and encouraging your essence to grow back at the cellular level takes time and a vast amount of energy. It mustn't be hurried.”
Nothing in Hannibal’s voice gave him away, but Will could see how tired Hannibal was. There were dark circles under his eyes and his pallor was paler than before. “Have you not taken any rest during the two days?” Will asked.
Hannibal inclined his head. “Here and there. Enough to ensure you were on the proper road to recovery.”
Will felt a stab of guilt at Hannibal having to heal him for the second time, putting the fae at an inconvenience. Coming to a decision, Will peeled back the cover and patting the mattress by his side.
Hannibal hesitated and Will rolled his eyes to cover his own embarrassment. “You’re tired, i’m in a big enough bed for the both of us, it seems only logical.”
Hannibal placed his book on the bedside table and then he climbed in beside Will, pulling the covers up over them. Will felt Hannibal lie like a long line of heat at his side, barely touching, but he was so aware of the fae, they might as well be pressed against each other without any space between them.
“Ms Katz has been by to see you, make sure you were recovering nicely,” Hannibal said.
Will nodded, smiling at the thought of Beverley’s reaction to being called ‘ms Katz’. “She’s a good friend.”
“A good friend to have around. I’m glad you have someone like her to have around. She wanted me to inform you upon waking that Winston is recovering nicely from his fight and the tests came back on the Wraith and he is a perfect match on the killings.”
Will smiled at the thought of Winston. “He was protecting me. I’m glad he’s okay.” Will sobered at his thought turned to the wraith. He looked down at the duvet, his hands tracing the threads. “It seems its Master sent it after me to permanently end my involvement in the case.”
“And in doing so, they seriously underestimating you and lost their greatest pawn in the game. Now the master has to decide if they will end this feud or move on to another game to play.”
Will looked at Hannibal. “A rather deadly game, wouldn’t you say?”
Hannibal returned the look. “Is there any other game to the fae?”
“I guess not. Do you really believe the master will just end it now that the wraith is dead?”
Hannibal pondered the question. “No, I don’t believe they will. Using a Wraith in such a way as to frame me in the eyes of human law speaks of a personal vendetta. I imagine the master will not be satisfied until they have achieved their ends or my death.”
The thought of Hannibal’s death was too unpleasant to contemplate. “So the killing isn’t over.” He murmured.
“I’m afraid not,” Hannibal said. “Did you glean any memories of the Master from the Wraith?”
Will shook his head. “Absolutely nothing. I can’t tell if it's because the wraith’s whole world is hunger or his mind was hidden from me.”
“It is entirely possible that the Master has the Wraith’s memories were under a mental lock and key. Did you sense a foreign magic on the creature? Something that didn’t quite belong there?”
Will tried to think back to that night, but his mind shied away from the fear and darkness. “I-I don’t know. My own feelings have clouded the experiences. I’m sorry, it is all a blur to me.”
Hannibal reached out and placed his hand on top of Will’s, stilling his aggravated movements. “No need to apologise, Will. You’ve been through a traumatic experience. It’s only natural for you to be confused. Do not force it.”
Will wholeheartedly agreed, he would rather forget the whole thing had happened. “What about you? Have you seen the Wraith yet? Could you tell by looking at it who it belonged to?”
Hannibal pursed his lips. “I can easily recognise those that have been seen at court, but it is not compulsory for Houses to present a Wraith. Wraiths are used to punish those of the House, so some Masters don’t feel the need to show them off. The Queen of the Dark fae considers Wraiths as archaic and most of her Court has followed her example. But even if I could recognise the Wraith, Jack has seen to it that i have no rights to see the body.”
Will felt cold fury in the pit of his stomach. “He what?”
Hannibal still held Will’s hand, his thumb ghosting over the skin of his knuckles. “Jack Crawford feels I have overstepped my boundary within this investigation, particularly in regards to you. He believes I have influence over you, corrupted you, and doesn’t trust me not to ruin his case. I have essentially been refused access.”
Will could only stare. “But he can’t. If he shuts you out, no fae will help the FBI. They would be isolated.”
“Crawford is no longer interested in a mutually beneficial relationship. He feels fae input is more of a hindrance than a help.”
Will gripped Hannibal’s hand. “It’s because you took me from him to heal me. He doesn’t take kindly to interference, especially from someone he considers a threat to his jurisdiction.”
“Are you sure that is all it is?” Hannibal asked, his tone of voice clearly disbelieving. “Or is it because he considers you a pet of sorts and can’t stand it when you jump when he tells you to jump.”
Will gave him a cool look. “You know, that is actually more insulting to me than it is to Jack.”
Hannibal raised their entwined hands to his mouth and pressed a kiss to Will’s knuckles, nothing more than a brush of dry lips, before answering. “My apologies. That was not my intent. Jack seems to bring out the bitter child in me.”
Will couldn’t help but shiver at the contact. “It seems you do the same to Crawford. I’ll speak to him, get him to see reason. I haven't exactly been helpful with the tension between the two of you, letting you stay while I used my empathy. I’ve never allowed Jack or the others do that. It must look like i’m choosing you over them.”
“And do you? Favor me over them?”
“Are you fishing for compliments, Dr Lecter?” Will hedged.
“Yes,” Hannibal said without any preamble. “Does your deflection of the question mean you do favour me above your colleagues?”
“It means nothing of the sort. I find your skills very useful in a given situation that the others do not have.”
Hannibal’s eyes lit up. “I feel I should warn you that fae can sense when humans tell lies.”
Will grimaced. “Really?”
“That’s a very handy trick. Can you sense lies from other fae?”
Hannibal inclined his head. “I can on the young. As they do not have the experience in shielding themselves from the strongest of us. But it can’t be done on the rest of the Court. It is the first thing we learn to protect at all cost, our mind and our words.”
Will considered that. “That’s a shame. It could have come in handy during an interrogation.”
“That’s if Jack will let me anywhere near the investigation.”
“He will,” Will said around a jaw cracking yawn. “I’ll make sure he will.”
“You should get more rest,” Hannibal said. “The healing had been trying on both of us. Rest, Will.”
Will didn’t protest, even if he wanted to.His eyelids felt like they were being held down by invisible weights, his body practically melting into the softness of the mattress beneath him. Sleep was rapidly approaching like a wave.
“Hannibal?” He asked, before he slipped away.
“How did you know I was in trouble?”
“You called out to me. I answered.”
Ah. “You’ll stay, won’t you?” Will murmured, feeling warm, so very warm and safe.
“Yes,” Hannibal said softly. “As long as you want me to.”
Will stood on the shore of a black lake, the calm waters stretching on to a mountain skyline. He was barefooted, toes sinking into the dark silt, the cool wetness making him shiver. A soft breeze stirred the curls of his hair, like fingers running through the dark strands, the scent of Hannibal was carried with it.
“Is this your dream or mine?” Will asked, not bothering to turn to face him, still arrested by the sight before him.
“It is mine,” Hannibal said, coming to stand next to him. “A memory of a place that once held great meaning to me.”
Will finally turned to Hannibal, taking in the fae’s look of distant nostalgia. “It held meaning to you?”
“This was where I was born,” Hannibal said. “Where Mischa and I grew as children.”
Will looked upon the scene with new eyes. The sky was as clear as glass, spreading out to the peaks of snow capped mountains. It was a beautiful place, remote, and had an air of isolation to it. Lonely, Will couldn’t help but think.
He tried to picture the fae beside him as a child, running with a little girl through the grass, splashing through the water with bare feet. It was difficult to imagine such a thing. But it suited him.
“A memory,” Will mused. “We must be touching in our sleep to be connected in a memory again.”
“I wonder who is touching who,” Hannibal said, a smirk playing about his lips. “Did you reach out for me in your sleep, Will?”
Will opened his mouth to protest but stopped himself. Really, when it came to Hannibal, Will didn’t trust himself not to do something foolish. “Or perhaps it was you who reached out for me.” He returned.
The smirk turned into a genuine smile. “That is a distinct possibility. Even in sleep I search you out.”
The admission made Will’s throat close over with emotion. He wanted to shy away from it as he had done for most of his life, unused to such causal want directed at him.
But he didn’t shy away this time. He met Hannibal’s eyes and held his gaze without flinching. It sounded like a simple thing to return eye contact, but to Will the effort felt like the world.
Hannibal knew what it meant, his lips parted and his pupils blew wide. He turned his body to face Will, standing so close to each other that Will could feel the heat coming from the fae’s skin. He bent his head, the tip of his nose brushing Will’s jaw in a light caress.
“If we take the next step, there is no going back for you.” Hannibal murmured.
Will licked his lips. “Nor you.”
The nose was replaced by lips at the juncture of his jaw and ear, a soft kiss placed there. Will swayed into Hannibal, his hand reaching out and gripping Hannibal’s hip.
“That was never in question. I’ve wanted this since the moment I first touched your mind and saw what you hide from everyone. But if we complete the bond, and you change your mind, I can’t let you go. I won’t.”
Will didn’t doubt that for one second. There would be no going back for either of them. That choice was long gone, even before now.
“I wouldn’t ask you to,” Will said, turning his own face to press a kiss to Hannibal’s chin.
Hannibal let out a breath through his teeth, hands dragging up Will’s arms. “Awake,” He commanded.
The scenery changed instantly, water and mountains bleeding back to the pre-dawn light of Hannibal’s bedroom. It was still dark out, he thought muzzily, before he became aware of the body pressed against his side, the t shirt he was wearing was pushed up to his chest from moving in his sleep and Hannibal’s hand caressing his hip bone.
“Hannibal,” he whined, desperation palpable in his tone and Hannibal didn’t wait for him to finish. In one smooth move he rolled on top of Will and he used his weight to pin Will to the bed with intent.
Turning Will’s face towards him by his grip on Will’s chin, Hannibal kissed him deeply. Will made a desperate noise into Hannibal’s mouth, tried to shove upwards and into the kiss -
Only to have Hannibal drive him back against the mattress, forcing their mouths wider and their tongues to tangle together. He shifted against Will, bringing their hips into contact, their hardness finding each other and causing delicious friction that made them both sharply exhale with trembling want.
Will grinded up against the fae, hands scrabbling at Hannibal’s now wrinkled shirt. He was desperate to peel the clothes off of him and feel all that skin that has been teasing him in his dreams. Feel it against his own with no barriers between them. He wanted to run his teeth along Hannibal’s neck, his shoulder, find out what makes the fae sigh, what would make him cry out-
What exactly was stopping him now?
Will managed to extricate himself from Hannibal’s lips, the fae giving a sound of disapproval, before it turned into a low moan when Will sucked a mark just below his ear. His skin tasted like nothing he had ever tasted before. There was a light trace of cedar, something dark and wonderful, with the faint taste of salt. Will licked a path down Hannibal’s neck to where it met his broad shoulder and he bit down hard. Hard enough to draw blood and Hannibal growled and reared back until he was crouched over Will, looking down at him with pupils blown wide.
Will had that terrible sinking feeling that he had gone too far and he started to panic. “Hannibal-”
Hannibal tore at his own shirt, the buttons flying off in different directions and yanking the torn garment from his shoulders to end up on the floor. He was panting heavily, his sculpted chest rising and falling rapidly wit his breaths. He looked incredible and Will found his throat closing over with all of his want.
“Take your clothes off,” Hannibal said in a wrecked voice.
Will didn’t have to be told twice. He wriggled out of his clothes, all the while sensitive to the man above him, the fae watching him hungrily. Not long after he had steeled back in position did Hannibal blanket him with his body, a hot, heavy weight as his mouth found Will’s once again. His hands explored everywhere - up Will’s flank to his armpit, the soft underside of his arm and back again, down across Will’s abs, his stomach. His touches were light, exploratory, like he had all the time in the world to map out Will’s skin.
It was maddening.
Hannibal bit at his mouth, then started nipping his way down Will’s chin, neck and chest. Will moaned as Hannibal sucked at a nipple, the pleasure like lightning through his system.He arched his hips, trying to get better friction -
Only to be flipped over onto his stomach in a show of easy strength. Hannibal ran his hands down Will’s back and shoulders, finding the dips and divots, the knobs of his spine. His breath tickled Will’s lower back as he pressed kisses there, sending goosebumps across Will’s skin.
“I hope you plan to take off those trousers,” Will said, voice high with need and Will was too far gone to care.
“And if I don’t?” Hannibal asked languidly, teeth scraping on one side of Will’s spine before he kissed the other side.
“I would be bitterly disappointed.”
“Well, we can’t have that now, can we?” His weight disappeared and Will could hear the sound of a zipper being pulled down, fabric sliding over skin.
Will glanced over his shoulder at a now naked Hannibal and his breath caught in his throat.
Hannibal’s smile was sharp in the soft light. “The way you look at me is most gratifying,” he said as he was once again on Will, his cock pressing in the crease of Will’s ass. Will pushed back against him, his legs falling apart to give the fae more room.
Hannibal pressed close, his mouth right next to Will’s ear. “We take this step and there will be no taking it back, Will. I need to hear you say you want this.”
Will swallowed audibly. “You mean this isn’t me being obvious?”
“Your desire is obvious to me, but I still need to hear you want me.”
“I want you,” Will said, embarrassment staining his cheeks as he heard himself say it. “I want the bond.”
“As do I.” Hannibal said fondly pressing a kiss to the nape of Will’s neck.
Hannibal reached for something on the bedside table with one hand, the other continuing to slide over Will’s skin. He raked his fingernails in a long line down Will’s side as Will heard the sound of a cap being opened, then the slippery feel of a lube covered finger slipping between them to tease at Will’s hole.
“Ah,” Will hissed as his body simultaneously arched toward and away from the touch.
Hannibal went slow, allowing Will to get accustomed to the feeling before he slipped another finger in and began a scissoring action. Will found himself bouncing onto the movement, his hips grinding against the bed and back against Hannibal. The discomfort was quickly dispersing and in its wake was a slow burn of pleasure that made him start sweating and moan low in his throat.
Then Hannibal and his fingers were gone, both hands taken away, leaving Will bereft of the sensations. Christ, he was shaking.
Hannibal soon returned, a slick press of his cock at Wil’s entrance all the warning he got before Hannibal began to press in. They both moaned at the feeling and Will’s hands tore at the bedding in front of him.
They were joined. Finally .
Hannibal must have felt the same, as he began thrusting into Will, one hand gripping Will’s hip and the other holding himself up. It was gradual but forceful, making Will feel broken open and exposed to the man above him. He loved every moment of it, making helpless noises, seeming to spur Hannibal on and making the headboard bounce against the wall with obscene sounds.
All Will could do was arch his back and brace against the thrusting, twitch as Hannibal nailed his prostate with every move that sent fireworks behind Will’s eyelids. Hannibal groaned and covered Will with his body again, thigh to thigh, chest to back. He pressed sucking kisses to Will’s shoulder, rocking them both, running a hand down Will’s arm until he could tangle their fingers together.
It was too much. Will’s orgasm slammed into him like a crashing wave, complete sensory white-out, and the last thing Will remembered was Hannibal following after him with a sharp bite to the back of his neck.
Hey guys, i will be on vacation in Europe from the 13th-22nd October so there will be no update this sunday. Expect the next chapter on the Sunday after (23rd). Hope everyone has a great week!
Chapter 15: Chapter Fifteen
It was entirely novel for Will to wake up in the morning after sex and not have to do the walk of shame. He felt a stab of panic for a couple of moments when he reached Hannibal and he wasn’t beside him, the sheets cool on his side, but the smell of breakfast cooking and a warm flood of emotion through their link settled him.
Will found his boxer shorts down the side of the bed and he put them on. Glancing around the room for his top, Will’s eyes settled on Hannibal’s shirt. Without much of a debate, he put it on too and left it unbuttoned. The sleeves were a little long on him but he didn't mind. The fabric smelt of the fae and Will brought the fabric to his nose and inhaled deeply.
Last night felt surreal to Will, like the whole experience had been a dream and not just part of it. Everything had changed in that single moment. He wasn’t just Will Graham anymore, he was Will Graham, a fae prince’s consort. It was beyond imagining, Hannibal had burrowed into him and he into Hannibal. There was no getting rid of the other now.
Not that Will wanted to. If there was any doubt in him before last night, there wasn’t now. Will felt whole for the first time in his life. That sense of belonging was like a flame in his chest and now that he knew how it felt to be bonded, he wasn’t ever going to give it up. Not for anyone.
Even if that meant leaving the FBI for good?
That thought gave him pause. The FBI do not actively discourage human/fae relationships, but they do not encourage it either. People in those types of relationships were often treated with open suspicion, get passed over for promotion and are the scapegoats for poor performance in the departments.
Crawford had already made it clear what he thinks of Hannibal and he wouldn’t take kindly to Will and Hannibal’s new status. With Will’s precarious position with the FBI as a consultant, he doubted his job would last much longer past this case.
It was telling how Will wasn’t that troubled over his termination with the bureau.
Following the scent of cooking down the stairs and to the kitchen, to find Hannibal with his back to the door and flipping something on the stove. He was wearing dark pyjama pants and a comfortable looking (still very expensive) red sweater. Rich dark coffee was brewing in the coffee machine to the side, coffee mugs set out in readiness.
Will stood awkwardly in the doorway, not sure what he was supposed to do. Some of that must have fed through their bond as Hannibal turned to Will with an indulgent smile. “Coffee should be ready about now. You are welcome to the cream and sugar if black isn’t to your taste.”
“Black is fine,” Will said as he made his way to the machine and poured them out two cups, cheeks reddening as Will felt Hannibal’s pleased appreciation at the sight of him in the fae’s shirt.
He didn’t turn around until he had gotten himself under control. “What are you cooking?”
“A mediterranean omelette. It has sausage meat, potato, red pepper, onion and ripened tomatoes. Something light to get us back on our feet.”
Will’s stomach growled loudly at the sound of it. “I won’t argue with that.”
Hannibal pulled plates out and dished the omelettes out onto them. “Do you need to go into work today?”
Will nodded. “There’s no reason to put it off. Besides, I would like to see what evidence they were able to get from the wraith.”
Hannibal nodded in understanding. “Once you are ready, I can take you to work.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
Hannibal brushed his hand through Will’s mussed curls. “I want to. Now, we should eat before it gets cold.”
Hannibal made good on his promise and, after going back to Will’s apartment for a change of clothes, he dropped Will off at Crawford’s office. Katz was there with Crawford, sitting in a chair and pointing animatedly at the documents in front of Crawford. When Will entered, she looked up and gave a laugh of pure relief.
“You lucky son of a bitch,” she said, standing up and giving him a tight hug. It was the first time they had been overly familiar with each other, but then until recently Will hadn’t been in many life threatening situations. She pulled away but held onto his upper arms, looking him over. “For someone who was nearly sucked into an old husk, you're looking pretty great.”
Will smiled. “Thanks, I think.” He immediately sobered upon seeing Crawford’s stony expression. “Did you get a positive ID on the dead wraith?”
Katz dropped her hands. “As much of an ID as you can get from a fae that no one knows but its master. I got it's magical signature from the bodies of the victims and it matches. Congratulations, you caught the killer. The media is hailing you as a hero.”
Will grimaced. “I’d rather they didn’t But we still have to track down the master who was behind it all. Maybe Hannibal can take a look at the body and-”
Crawford interrupted him. “Beverley, if you could leave us please.”
Both Will and Katz stared at him, at his implacable face. Katz cleared her throat and glanced at Will. “See you later then.”
She left quietly and Will was alone with Crawford and the building tension between them. It was like a physical presence in the office with them, dark, controlled and very angry.
Crawford was looking at him with an expression that Will had never seen before. “I didn’t expect to see you alive again, Will. And yet here you stand, none the worse for wear for a wraith attack.”
Will tried to calm himself. “I believe Hannibal had told you that he would heal me, Jack. It worked.”
“Yes but at what cost?” Crawford demanded. “You look different, Will. You look fae. ”
Will spread his arms wide. “I’m still human. I’m still me-”
Crawford stood up from his chair, leaning heavily on the desk with his hands. The look had decidedly unfriendly. “Are you? I find that harder to believe. I don’t know what you’ve been up to with Hannibal-”
“I haven’t been up to anything with Hannibal.” Lies, but Crawford didn’t need to know about Will’s personal life.. “We’ve been investigating the murders, as asked-”
“I have no way of knowing that as you and Hannibal have this pact of secrecy between you and everyone else is left in your wake.” Crawford boomed.
Will pulled up short, staring at Crawford with a growing sense of trepidation. “What exactly are you accusing of, Jack?”
Crawford watched him back in turn, trying to reign in his temper. “I think you’re too close to the fae. I think Hannibal has compromised you.”
“Compromised me?” Will asked incredulously.
“I don’t know who you are anymore, Will. You were so against having to work with a fae, that he was going to get inside your head, i had to practically blackmail you into cooperating. Now you’re rarely seen without him. You walk into my office looking like you swallowed a light bulb and you’re glowing like one of them. What am I supposed to think?”
“A little trust wouldn’t go amiss, Jack.” Will returned. “I’m still me, regardless of the ‘light bulb’. I’ve never compromised any case I’ve worked on and it’s insulting that you would think I would do so now.”
Crawford shook his head. “I can’t risk it, Will. I’m sorry, but I’m pulling you off the case.”
Will felt numb at his words. “You’ve pushed me to the very brink of my mind shattering and you kept me on at the FBI. Now you’re questioning who holds my leash and you’re pulling me? This has nothing to do with me and everything to do with your pissing contest with Hannibal.”
Crawford’s eyes hardened. “I would seriously rethink what you say, Graham. Any other Primary would have had you in for questioning about your association with a fae Prince.”
“Are you calling me a criminal?” Will asked softly.
“I’m saying you’re misguided.”
Will nodded. “A polite turn of phrase for implying I’m easily manipulated. You would know all about that, wouldn’t you. You’ve been the puppet master and I your puppet for years now.”
Crawford stood straighter, about to unleash his temper but Will didn't want to hear it. He turned on his heel and left the office without so much as a glance back.
Will left the FBI building in a sort of dazed shock. He was asked to leave his ID card with security at the front desk and clear his personal effects from the staff lockers. Keeping his head down and eyes averted from those around him, Will didn’t see the stunned looks from those he had once worked with as he passed them by and out the door into the sunshine.
He stood there for a few moments, unsure of what to do next. He should phone Hannibal, explained what happened, what Jack had said, but he couldn’t bring himself to. His mind was reeling over it. He had known Jack for years, had even considered him a friend of sorts. They may not spend much time together outside investigations, but Will had assumed they respected and liked each other.
Crawford chose to see Hannibal and Will’s involvement as nefarious, Hannibal a corrupting influence on Will that Will could no longer be trusted by humans. Was this true? Now that he was a companion, does that mean that all humans would look upon him with distrust?
Does it even matter now?
If Crawford knew just how deep their involvement was, he would have had Will escorted out by security, Will thought. Or arrested on the spot.
Will turned and headed down the street towards the city centre, no plan in mind save for putting distance between him and his ex employer. His mind was turning over the problem of the master, still a threat to Hannibal. He would still have to pursue them, regardless of no longer being on FBI investigator. If anything, being a companion should open more doors with the fae than-
A black mercedes with tinted windows pulled up at the curb beside Will and he stopped walking, his thoughts grinding to a halt. The back passenger windows rolled down and the nightmare face of Mason Verger appeared in the gloom, his eyes oddly bright.
“Ah, Mr Graham. So good to see you again.”
Weariness clawed at Will’s throat at the sight of him. He nodded, “Mr Verger.”
Mason made a show of looking about him, pulling an expression that Will could only guess at being surprised. “By yourself, Will? I would have thought Hannibal wouldn’t have let a pretty thing like you out of his sight let alone out of his bed.”
The comment made Will feel very unclean, like he needed to take a bath just by being near the fae. He kept his lips pressed together in a thin line, not trusting himself to reply without insulting him.
Mason laughed, a snickering sound of breath. “Come, Graham. Let me take you where you need to go. Just tell my driver the address.”
Will blanched. “Thank you, but I prefer to walk.”
“I really must insist,” Mason said as the Driver’s door opened and out stepped a barrel chested man with a sickeningly pleasant smile. He had to be human as no fae would willingly carry a gun. He kept it pointed at the ground but the threat was unmistakable.
Will had no choice but to comply. He went around the side of the car and slid into the passenger seat across from Mason, aware that both were watching his every move. The driver waited until Will was properly seated before he got back behind the wheel, the sound of the door locks loud in the silence.
“There. Now that wasn’t so difficult now was it?” Mason said, like his driver hadn’t just pulled a gun out on him.
Will turned to Mason as the car pulled away from the curb. “This isn’t a social occasion, is it?”
Mason winked at him. “Clever boy. Afraid not, Graham. The thing is, you’ve ended my game with Hannibal earlier than I would have liked.”
Will froze in his seat. Of course. “The Wraith.”
“Costly creatures, you know. But very resourceful when put to the test.” Mason said conversationally. “And you’ve killed it. I’m now one pawn down and not happy about it.”
Will licked his suddenly dry lips. “Perhaps you should have thought about that before you set it on humans.”
The atmosphere inside the car immediately turned frosty. “Careful, Graham. You maybe harder to kill now that you’ve spread your legs for a Prince, but that doesn’t mean I can’t tear you apart and leave your remains for the world to find.”
Will believed him. God, did he believe him. “What do you expect me to do about it? It’s dead, the FBI have the corpse.”
Mason waved his hand. “It’s too late for any of that. A new plan must be put into place.”
“Plan?” Will didn’t like the sound of that.
Mason’s smile (grimace) only widened. “You’ll be my new pawn. For the life of his Companion, Hannibal will come to me in your name. Then there will be blood.”
Chapter 16: Chapter Sixteen
It wasn’t easy to admit to himself, but Jack had let his temper get away from him in regards to Will Graham. He was a proud man, a trait Bella both liked and disliked about him, and Will’s continued association with the fae Prince Hannibal Lecter had wounded his pride.
There was something about Lecter that rubbed Jack the wrong way. Maybe it was his holier-than-thou attitude, looking down on humans like they were nothing more than ants on the face of the earth. Or maybe it was the way he looked at Will with those covetous eyes, touched Will like the man was already his. It would have been only an irritation if it hadn’t been for Will’s reaction to Hannibal.
Jack had expected Will to retreat from the fae, shut him down with scathing sarcasm, like he used against everyone else who got too close to him. But it never came. Instead, he lit up like a bloody christmas tree anytime Lecter was near. There was no mistaking the regard Will had for him, how easily he placed his trust and his very life in Lecter’s hands.
In a matter of days, Hannibal had supplanted Jack in Will’s confidences and undermined Jack in his own investigation. It wasn’t natural, wasn’t right, and Jack wasn’t going to stand for any of it.
Jack hadn’t intended to pull Will from the case, it was only supposed to be Hannibal, but Will had defended him and something just snapped in Jack. His temper overcame him and the words were out of his mouth before he could snatch them back.
It was a stupid mistake and now Will had retreated, probably right into the arms of the very man Jack detested. Now what?
He sat in the gloom of late afternoon at his desk, going over the case files of the victims, when he felt the prickling of a strong presence in the room with him. His hand twitched towards the drawer where his standard issue firearm was kept, but his body wouldn’t cooperate. He was literally frozen unable to move a muscle, like an immovable force prevented him.
“What have you done, Jack?” a deceptively soft voice said from behind him. “Where is Will?”
It was Hannibal. Somehow he had gotten into the building undetected and into Jack’s own office without him noticing until the fae had willed it. The thought had sent a jolt of pure fear through Jack. Hannibal could kill him right now and there was not a damn thing Jack could do about it.
“Speak.” Hannibal said, tone sharp like a blade’s edge.
Jack did. “I don’t know where he is. He left my office hours ago, he didn’t say where.”
The room around them seemed to darken even more and Hannibal chuckled derisively. “You mean to tell me you allowed Will out of your sight without direct orders? You surprise me.”
Jack almost choked on his words. “I pulled him from the case.”
Hannibal paused. “What?”
“I pulled him. We argued and he left.”
Hannibal’s mounting anger was like a brush of hot wind. “That was a fatal mistake on your part.”
Jack didn’t reply, fearful that whatever he would say would tip the fae over the edge into bloodlust. He waited, bound by invisible bonds, for Hannibal’s judgement.
“If it was my choice, i would strip the skin from your flesh and leave you here to die alone. But it’s Will’s choice. Remember that the next time you decide to go against him.”
The room lightened again and Jack gasped for air, the bonds suddenly lifted from him. He dived for the drawer, drawing out the gun in one motion. He stood and spun around, aiming it at the shadows in the corner.
Hannibal was not there.
Will woke strapped to a wooden chair, cable ties cutting into his wrists and ankles and ropes binding his legs and chest. Cloth covered his eyes so he wouldn’t see where he was. He remembered getting into the car with Mason, Mason’s grand plan to lure Hannibal to him and the sting of a needle to his neck courtesy of the driver.
Will balled his hands into fists, applying pressure to the cord. There was no give and he only succeeded in causing himself pain.
“I wouldn’t struggle, Will,” Mason’s voice sing songed from somewhere to Will’s left. “We wouldn’t want to mar that pretty skin of yours.”
Will’s heart rate kicked up, the darkness playing into his fears. “That’s a second time you’ve commented about my looks. You’re not attracted to me, are you?”
Mason laughed. “My dear, you are hardly my type. But it is interesting to know what Hannibal’s type is. It doesn’t surprise me, the man is besotted with the aesthetic.”
Will wanted to change the subject. “Is the blindfold really necessary?”
“Completely unnecessary,” Mason agreed. “You know who I am, what I look like, and you’ve been to my home. It has been my experience that, no matter the age, you humans fear the dark. The unknown.”
Yes, the dark and the unknown were greatly unnerving, Will couldn’t deny that. “I would have thought playing tricks on humans would be beneath a fae like you.” Will returned.
Will heard footsteps, the tap-tap of a cane against the floor, as Mason walked around Will, circling him. “You mistake me, dear Will. Scaring you simply for my own amusement is not the aim of this particular game.”
“It’s not?” Will asked in a disbelieving tone. “Then please enlighten me.”
Mson never stopped his circling of Will. “I imagine you haven’t reached out to Hannibal through the shared link between you, or perhaps it’s so new you do not know how. Either way, Hannibal has no idea where you are or who you’re with. Am I correct in thinking this?”
Will considered lying to Mason, but couldn’t think of any benefit in doing so. “I have no intention in doing so.”
Mason stopped in front of Will. “Now that’s where you’re wrong. You will reach out to Hannibal, either by fair means or foul.”
“Let me guess, I either do it willingly or you’re going to torture me until I do it.” Will said in a neutral tone of voice that belied his dread.
Will flinched as something sharp and pointed pressed into his shoulder, the tip of Mason’s cane, digging painfully into his flesh. “You misunderstand the very nature of such an intimate bond, Will. Powerful emotion filters through the link, whether you activate it or not. He’ll know you are in pain, will access the link and know exactly where you are. So, you see, it’s a win-win situation for me.”
Will felt nauseous. “What happened to not hurting my pretty face?”
“Don’t worry on that score. I promise to keep away from your face. It’s more than Hannibal ever did for me.”
Will didn’t need to see Mason’s face to know he was grinning at the thought of it. Before he could say anything else, the cane disappeared and there was an explosion of pain that made him scream.
Will knew the moment the link was opened and Hannibal was in his mind. Will had tried so desperately to keep himself contained, keep Hannibal safe from Mason’s depravity, but it was no use. Will’s body was alight with agony as Mason methodically used his fae gift of pain-touch to every part of his body, intercepting it with slicking Will’s skin open like tiny paper cuts.
“It’s a Chinese technique of torture, a marvellous use of knives.” Mason told him with relish. “Have you ever noticed how painful tiny cuts can be? And I don’t have to worry about you bleeding out on me.”
Hannibal’s presence was like a cool balm over Will’s frayed nerves, forcing the pain at bay. There was a brush against his forehead, like a feather-soft kiss across his brow.
Mason Verger, came Hannibal’s voice.
Don’t come here! Will entreated. He’s using me to lure you here.
Mason is smarter than i gave him credit for.
Will felt the odd sensation of his memories being read, like the flickering pages of a book. Where is he keeping you?
Please Will, this is not up for discussion. He’ll kill you if i don’t come. Do you really think he would plan for it any other way?
Then tell me your location.
...At his residence. He wouldn’t leave it to chance anywhere else.
Of course. Hang on, Will. I’m coming.
And just like that, the wheels of Mason’s plan were in motion.
“I can’t just sit here while he hurts Will,” Alana said as she marched out of the sitting room with Margot on her heels. “He’s going to kill him.”
Margot caught up to her and gripped her arm, pulling her to a stop. “You know as well as I do that Mason won’t stand for his games to be interrupted, especially from us. We are no match for him.”
There was another muffled cry from the locked room that Mason and Will were in and Alana gritted her teeth. “We can’t just do nothing. That’s Will in there!”
Margot’s eyes narrowed imperceptibly and her grip tightened. “I know he’s a great friend of yours-”
“Don’t start that again,” Alana hissed. “Not when your brother is torturing him and we are doing nothing .”
Margot shook her head. “You know I cannot stand against him. Even if I could, I wouldn’t put you in harm's way. Not even for your Will Graham.”
Alana started to protest, but Margot grew suddenly still, her head cocked to the side as if she was listening to something far away.
“What is it?” Alana asked, her tone hushed.
Margot blinked and looked at Alana, her touch turning to placating. “It looks like we won’t have to. Hannibal is already here.”
“Can he get past the wards your brother has put on this place?”
“That was my brother’s intention, for Hannibal to break the wards, he will need to use a great deal of magic, making him weaker for Mason to kill.” She looked at Alana earnestly. “If you ask it of me, I will let Hannibal pass the wards unimpeded. It will mean we could never return here again.”
Alana knew what it meant for Margot to leave her ancestral home. In a fae House, where members were practically immortal by natural means, the order of succession came down to killing the head of the family and replacing them. It really was survival of the fittest and Mason’s death had been long overdue.
“I ask that you allow Hannibal to enter unimpeded.” She said formally.
“It shall be done,” Margot intoned and they proceeded to the front door where Margot laid her hand on the surface and spoke low lilting words. Glowing shapes appeared on the door, like moonlight, before they faded entirely.
Margot swung the door open and there stood Hannibal, seeming larger than life. His presence filled the doorway, pressing in on them like a barely contained storm that threatened everything in its wake. His eyes glowed fiercely and it hurt to look into them.
Margot stood shielding Alana with her body, her shoulders straight and chin tilted up defiantly. “I have let you through the wards against Mason’s express orders. I ask in return that you allow my mate and i to leave this place unharmed.”
Hannibal barely spared them a second glance as he slipped through the doorway. “You do not concern me.”
Margot hesitated. “The grounds outside. Will there be any threat posed to us?”
“Your brother’s servants have been taken care of,” Hannibal replied.
Alana and Margot didn’t waste any time in hurrying past him and out into the courtyard, the door slamming shut after them.
“Don’t look,” Margot said, grabbing for Alana’s hand and pulling her forward.
But it was too late. All around them were the bodies of Mason’s guards he had stationed outside, twisted and torn apart like ragdolls, their blood painting the flagstones red.
“Jesus,” Alana choked, stumbling after Margot.
If anyone could save Will from Mason, it had to be that nightmare they had just let in.
Wil was pulled from his hazy pain by the sound of gunfire and screaming. Mason had pushed the blindfold off earlier in the evening, wanting Will to see his handiwork, and he blinked at Mason n incomprehension.
Mason’s face twisted into a frown. “It’s not possible. He’s tripped none of the wards.”
For the first time since Will woke up tied to a chair, Mason looked scared. Doubting. Will could only assume the wards had been important to him.
Mason caught Will staring and the emotion was wiped clean. “Well, no matter. Here is our guest of honour.”
Hannibal. Will felt his gut twist in an unpleasant mix of dread and relief. He actually came as he said he would.
“Did you doubt it?” Mason asked as he stood up from his crouch over Will. Will hadn’t realised he had spoken aloud. “Hannibal Lecter is nothing if not possessive over what he considers his own. An admirable trait, if predictable.”
“Sounds like he’s giving your lackey’s a run for their money. Was that predictable?”
Mason snarled and Will took a guess that it wasn’t. The screaming got louder, the firing nearer to the door.
“I hope you have a better plan than trying to kill Hannibal with paper cuts,” Will said with a lighter tone than what he was feeling. He kept his eyes on the door, worried that if he looked away h would miss Hannibal’s entrance.
Mason scoffed. “Have a little faith, dear Will.”
Before Will could mock him anymore, the firing abruptly stopped and there was only silence. Will strained his ears to hear anything on the other side of the door but his human hearing detected nothing, even with heightened senses.
The silence was intolerable, Will could barely sit still. Mason stood in the centre of the room, the knife gripped tightly in his hand as he stared down the door.
The doorknob rattled, turning this way and that before the wood groaned ominously and exploded inwards. Will shielded his face from the splintered wood by turning away. When he faced the room again, Hannibal was standing there, a picture of the bloody macabre.
“Did you bathe in their blood?” Will asked wonderingly.
“Murder can be extremely messy,” Hannibal returned, eyes roving over Will, cataloging every cut and bruise, before fixing his eyes on Mason. “You have been very naughty, Mr. Verger. What am I to do with you?”
“I think you have it backwards,” Mason said, eyes triumphant.
“Do I?” Hannibal asked as he stepped further into the room.
Mason grinned and pointed to the ceiling. “You’re mine now.”
Both Hannibal and Will looked up. On the ceiling was a large white circle with strange symbols marked all around it. Will had never seen anything like it before.
“What the hell is that?” Will demanded, wariness creeping in once again.
“That, Will, is a fae cage,” Mason boasted, cruel laughter ringing like silver bells in the room. “Hannibal cannot move outside of the circle. He’s now at my mercy. You both are.”
Hannibal pressed against the ward with both hands and suddenly white light, like lightning, crackled up and down his arms in response, making him growl irritably.
“Oh i’m going to have so much fun with the two of you,” Mason said, coming close to Hannibal and the circle. Now that Hannibal was trapped, Mason was full of courage. “When i’m done, no one will be able to recognise you.”
“Killing us won’t save you,” Will pointed out. “The FBI will find you. They’ll lock you up in an iron cage and throw away the key.”
Mason sneered derisively. “What are the FBI to me? They are nothing more than ants that need to be stepped on.”
“You’re right, the FBI won’t touch you,” Hannibal said, his voice deepening to an unearthly sound that made Will shiver uncontrollably. “You won’t leave this room alive.”
Mason laughed again. “Okay Hannibal, i’ll play along. Why won’t i leave this room alive?”
Hannibal smiled then and it was grotesque. “Did you really think a fae cage could hold me when you have my mate bound and bloody? You pitiful fool.”
Hannibal shifted, one moment he was a man, the next he was the antlered fae Will has seen once before with Tobias Budge. He pressed against the ward again and continued to push, the white energy sparking and hurting Will’s eyes to watch it.
The look of alarm on Mason’s face was priceless. “Stop. What are you doing-”
Hannibal didn’t stop, he put more pressure on the ward, white teeth flashing in a grimace, and the light intensified before the whole thing shattered. The impact was like a punch to the solar plexus, the breath in Will’s lungs expelled in a whoosh.
Hannibal didn’t waste any time for more words or posturing. His vengeance was quick and messy and the room rang with Mason’s screams.
Will could have looked away, should have looked away, but he didn’t. He watched Hannibal work and Will didn’t blink once.
Hannibal and Will stood on the grass of the Verger estate, Hannibal’s arm wrapped around Will’s waist to help his stand. They watched as flames overtook the house, the orange glow dancing in the depths of their eyes.
“I have been thinking,” Hannibal said musingly. “How do you feel about a change of scenery?”
Will raised an eyebrow. “When did you have time to think on the scenery?”
“I thought of it after the wraith attack,” Hannibal admitted. “What do you think of Valencia? It is beautiful this time of year.”
Will looked up at Hannibal. “You mean now?”
Hannibal tilted his head. “Once i have put my affairs in order, but essentially yes. I would like to show you so many things, what a life as a companion to a fae can offer. It’s not all death and danger, i can assure you.”
Will’s heart skipped a beat. “Good i was starting to wonder.”
Will thought about it some more. “I don’t see why not. I no longer have any pressing obligations anymore, now that the FBI has canned me. Yes, Hannibal. I would love to go to Valencia with you.”
Hannibal’s answering smile was luminescent.