Part One: Warrior
Graham. [grey-uh m, gram] Surname. Anglo-Norm dating back to as early as 1127. From Grantham (Lincolnshire) in the United Kingdom. Clan Graham (Clann Greumach), a Scottish clan, possessed territories in both the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands. Clan Graham fought at the Battle of Dunbar in 1296. At that battle, Sir Patrick Graham of Kincardine was the only man who chose not to retreat and instead fought to the death.
William. Means strong-willed warrior.
William Graham (the name printed in neat letters on his intake form) does not feel like a "strong-willed warrior" when he checks himself into the psychiatric ward at Bethesda Naval Hospital. He doesn't feel much of anything except tired; he hasn't slept in a long time. Every time he closes his eyes, his eidetic memory ratchets itself into high gear and he's sent back to Hobbs who's slashing away at his daughter's throat. Except that, in his mind, he has become Hobbs, feeling the supple flesh give way underneath the shard of metal grasped tightly in his fist. The Minnesota Shrike. A shrike being a predatory songbird that feeds on the weak, impaling them on thorns or even barbed wire fences. The butcher bird.
Shrikes are strongly territorial.
This Shrike seems to have made itself a nest in Will Graham's mind.
Will is not like the other FBI agents at the Bureau. That becomes apparent from his first day on the ward when he tucks himself away in a corner of his room, resting his head against the cool chalk-white paint of the wall. He obliges them by consuming the plastic medicine cups of Jello that they bring to him but otherwise, he doesn't move, doesn't speak, doesn't give any outward sign that he's alive. Jack Crawford stops by on occasion to see how he's doing.
Doctor's prognosis: Not good.
After about three weeks, Will manages to get himself together enough to leave the corner. He's a greasy mess of dirt and grime by that point but at least he's walking around. By the end of the month, he's functional enough to leave the psychiatric ward and return home. He spends a few more months slouched on his couch, not-watching reruns of half-hour sitcoms. He tries to disengage with his mind -- his gift, as Crawford likes to call it sometimes. It's his good friend Alan Bloom who pressures him into therapy.
Upon first introduction, Will doesn't think much of Hannibal Lecter.
Perhaps because he can already tell that Hannibal Lecter does not think much of him.
Their session passes in a dreadfully tedious game of "getting to know you." Hannibal feigns interest in his patient's life; Will feigns commitment to improving his mental health. Both of them are aware of the other's sense of obligee. In reality, Hannibal thinks of his patient as another mortgage payment on the suburban mock-tudor home that he's recently purchased. Will thinks of his doctor as a way to get the Bureau staff out of his business.
They part with civility, scheduling an appointment for the following week.
If one were to look at William Graham's file, the one meticulously inserted into the metal cabinet in Dr. Hannibal Lecter's office, one would see a diagnosis of Aspergers' Syndrome. It's not that Will is especially inept during his interactions with Hannibal; it's more that Hannibal senses a general detachment. It's as if Will is not quite in the room with Hannibal -- like he's somewhere distant, removed, other. Upon their first meeting (and based on extempore conversations with Will's alleged friends), Hannibal interprets this detachment as some sort of social maladaptation.
During their second meeting, Hannibal's diagnosis stands. Aspergers' Syndrome. In fact, he's even more certain of his assessment. Will refuses to make eye contact, struggles to keep up with the conversation, and makes blunt interjections. "I find that interesting," Hannibal lies -- pretending to care about the inconsequential minutiae of Will's daily life.
"No, you don't," Will responds.
Hannibal momentarily wonders what his tongue would taste like cooked in an apricot sauce, something light and fruity for spring. Perhaps served with a chilled glass of white wine.
If only he wasn't an FBI agent . . .
During their third meeting, Will finally says something of interest.
They are discussing the Minnesota Shrike, specifically the scene that Will interrupted: Hobbs slitting his daughter's throat. Will describes what he saw but there's nothing detached about this. Usually when Hannibal speaks to FBI agents, there's a barrier between them and the criminal that they're dissecting. The litany of facts issued forth upon the examination of a crime scene: "White male, ages 30-35, lives alone, possible history of child abuse," et al. But Will embellishes the crime scene with poetic flourishes, detailing the color and scent of the blood that pours out of the teenager's throat by the pint.
And then Will begins detailing the feel of the blood all over his hands.
"You mean the feel of her blood through the towel, Agent Graham?"
"I read the case file. You shot Hobbs -- multiple times -- and then covered his daughter's wound with a towel, applying pressure to stop the bleeding. You are talking about the feel of her blood through the towel, correct?"
Will pauses, momentarily taken aback.
Hannibal debates whether or not to call Will out. He decides to keep quiet. That evening, he crosses out "Aspergers' Syndrome" with one slash of a ballpoint pen. After thirty minutes of deliberation, however, he realizes that there's nothing to write on that line. There's no diagnosis for someone like William Graham. Extreme empathy perhaps? How do you label someone who has the type of imagination that allows him to become a murderer in his own mind? Someone like that, well, perhaps they would choose to be an FBI agent or something of the sort. But it's only because they're a few small steps away from becoming that which they attempt to chase down and capture. Will knows that, though he pretends not to. It's why he checked himself into the psychiatric ward, why he enrolled in therapy.
Because he's afraid of becoming the very thing that he's hunting.
Perhaps Will notices the shift in Hannibal's interest because he seems to open up a little bit after that. As if he's seeking out Hannibal's approval, whether consciously or not. Their therapy sessions go from once a week to twice a week (subsidized by the Bureau, of course). They discuss topics of mutual interest frequently -- psychology, criminology, forensic science, et al. (Hannibal doubts that Will would be much good in a conversation about literature or aesthetics.) Will tries to avoid discussing specific cases that he's worked on whenever possible. He prefers to speak in hypotheticals, conjectures, abstracts. Because these allow him to ignore the fact that he's slipping down a rabbit-hole of infinite depth from which there's no return. William Graham doubts that his sanity will hold out much longer. William Graham questions his capacity for goodness. William Graham sees no limits to the depravities of his imagination.
What he doesn't realize is that it's only a matter of time before his own therapist pushes him over the edge.
William Graham might be a strong-willed warrior -- but Hannibal Lecter threatened to overtake Rome.
In this sixth week, Hannibal convinces Will to stay for dinner. Hannibal prepares the meal himself. The loin of a particularly insufferable art critic who eviscerated an exhibition by Ruzhuo at the Baltimore Museum of Art. (While not Hannibal's style, the artist certainly did not deserve the scathing review that littered the pages of the Baltimore Sun.) The art critic was not quite as loquacious when Hannibal was eviscerating him. Hannibal watches while Will spears a piece of Mr. Roderick with his fork and chews him slowly, obviously pleased with the taste. He looks up at Hannibal from underneath the thick black frames of his glasses.
The most praise that Hannibal's likely to get. He nods once, curtly, and goes back to his plate of Roderick and his glass of Bordeaux.
It's the first time that Hannibal feeds Will something that he's likely to regret later -- but certainly not the last. It excites him, this unknowing corruption of someone who's already in the middle of a death spiral. Every time Will closes his lips around another fork full of human meat, Hannibal finds himself feeling eager, perhaps even slightly aroused.
Will smiles around a mouthful of heart.
Steals Hannibal's in the process.
Deep rollers. The dopamine-fueled pigeons who plummet towards the ground, sometimes stopping too late. Will is on the descent and there's a good chance that he'll never recover. Still, Hannibal bides his time. Will frequently stays after their therapy sessions for dinner or at least drinks. When Will consumes too much wine one evening, Hannibal finally decides that he needs to move forward with his plan. The one that he wasn't even certain that he was devising until this moment. He gently plucks the wine glass away from Will, pushing it across the table.
They dined on the cerebellum of an astrophysicist that night.
A rocket scientist. How droll.
Hannibal reaches forward to press his thumb against the indentation of Will's chin. "Oh, my dear Will . . ." he says, leaving the unspoken promise of those words hanging heavy in the air. Will, awkward to the last, remains stock-still in his chair.
"What are you doing?" he finally spits out, trying his best for affronted masculine righteousness . . . but instead only coming across as the uncertain plea of a repressed homosexual.
Hannibal leans forward and presses his lips against Will's. He tastes the rosemary flavor of his cooking and the salty-tang of human flesh. He bites down slightly, taking Will's lower lip between his teeth. Will will never be an entree on his dining room table. No, Hannibal would much rather see what happens when Will discovers the truth (as Will undoubtedly will someday discover the truth -- probably through his own deductive reasoning). Will he be filled with abject despair -- having carried on sexual dalliances with one of the sociopaths that he seeks to convict? Having dined on the gourmet delicacies of cannibalism? Or will he finally accept the path that his gift has been leading him down his whole life?
A thought. Will, covered in spatters of blood. His mouth, especially red and sticky. Scraps of flesh lying across the carpet. His victim, still screaming, half of her face mangled and torn off. Her right eyeball rolling around loose in its socket, the line where teeth connect to gum visible as she's lost the entirety of her lips. Slowly crawling across the floor towards the doorway, while Hannibal pours himself another tumbler of cognac. Will shakes his blood-stiff curls out of his face and moves towards her once again, kneels on the floor by her side and, even as she begs for mercy, buries his teeth into her left cheek. He pulls up with a chunk of flesh and sinew and muscle lodged in his mouth. Gore drips down his chin. His eyes meeting Hannibal's, gentle in the fading daylight . . . he begins to chew.
Hannibal deepens the kiss.
Will pulls back, pressing his palms against Hannibal's chest firmly to keep him at bay.
"I . . ." he sputters, eyes squeezed shut. "I think that I need to go home now."
"Really, Will?" Hannibal asks.
Will hesitates for a second.
He'll come back, Hannibal thinks as Will bolts out of the room as quickly as he can. And sure enough, Will rings the doorbell at the appointed time the following week -- looking sheepish but also a little bit intrigued. They conduct business as usual. When their session ends, Hannibal shifts to sit next to Will on the couch. "Will," he says softly, placing his hand on his patient's upper thigh. Will tenses but does not pull away. Hannibal leans in, once again pressing his lips against Will's. Without thinking, Will reaches his hand up and rests it on Hannibal's cheek.
"Come to bed, Will," Hannibal whispers, breath warm against Will's lips.
Will slowly nods and allows Hannibal to lead him upstairs.
Hannibal lets Will fuck him. Despite the fact that he's more mature, more experienced, possibly more sane, he's the one lying on his back, wrapping his legs around Will's back, letting Will thrust up into the tight warmth of his body. From a technical perspective, it's certainly not the best fuck he's ever had. Will's inexperience makes him selfish; he finishes quickly and only thinks about Hannibal after-the-fact. His fist wrapped tightly around Hannibal's cock, Will tucks his face away in the crook between Hannibal's neck and shoulder, stubbornly refusing to make eye contact. When Hannibal comes, lukewarm semen pouring out into Will's hand, Will wipes his palm against the mattress and stares at the wall for a good five minutes.
"You haven't had many sexual partners, have you, Will?" Hannibal asks. Will doesn't respond.
"You don't trust yourself around others."
"You don't think that anyone could ever be safe around you."
Will doesn't have to say anything. The way he hangs his head and hunches his shoulders slightly tells Hannibal everything that he needs to know. Hannibal rests his hand on top of Will's, momentarily startling him out of his reverie.
"You're safe with me, Will."
It's not entirely a lie. Hannibal would never hurt Will -- not physically, at least. Part of him would like to see Will, wracked with guilt, slitting his wrists in Hannibal's bathtub. Part of him thinks that watching Will as the life drained out of him would be, at the very least, entertaining. Especially if he knew that he was the one responsible. But that would be a pleasure quickly enjoyed and then discarded. Keeping Will though, now that would be something. Chipping away at that facade of goodness bit-by-bit until Will is little more than an animalistic cluster of needs. His cock begins to stiffen slightly just thinking about it.
"Sweet Will," he coaxes, pulling him back to rest against the pillows. Because it's something that Will doesn't believe but wants to hear all the same. Sweet Will. Good Will. And when Will, despite all of his obvious misgivings, curls up next to Hannibal and falls asleep, Hannibal knows that it's only a matter of time.
Part Two: Boy
Will doesn't know if he'd call it "love" per say.
There's something between the two of them -- something that keeps dragging Will back to Hannibal's bedroom. Although perhaps, Will thinks, thrusting deep inside of Hannibal and gripping his sweat-dampened shoulders, perhaps "love" wouldn't be the worst word. With a bestial grunt, he spills himself inside of Hannibal. They've never once used a condom. He likes the way that, when he pulls out, his seed dribbles out onto the insides of Hannibal's thighs. His partner -- the esteemed psychiatrist -- never cleans himself off but instead permits Will to mark him in his primitive manner, allowing Will's scent to sink into his flesh. There's something laissez-faire about the way in which Hannibal has sex. If Will were to pull out mid-coitus and ejaculate all over Hannibal's cheeks and lips, he has a feeling that the doctor would passively receive the treatment, all the while assessing Will's compulsions and peccadilloes for further research. He likes that about Hannibal. He loves that about Hannibal.
"I worry," Will confides one week, lying underneath the crumpled bedsheets.
"Worry about what?" Hannibal asks.
"I see things, feel things," Will says, fidgeting uncomfortably. "Things that don't necessarily come from me."
"The criminals that you track," Hannibal clarifies, brushing his fingers through Will's dark curls. "You feel what they feel."
"And you're worried because . . .?"
"Because of you."
Hannibal can't help the way that his lips twitch up slightly at the corners. Silly boy.
"I'm not safe to be around," Will mumbles, as if sensing that Hannibal thinks that he's being ridiculous.
"Hush now," Hannibal chides, wrapping his arms around Will's waist and pulling him closer. "There's nothing to be afraid of here."
Hannibal skins a student from Princeton University alive that evening. He's visiting his family in Baltimore for the long weekend. Hannibal picks him up in a local dive-bar, somewhere he wouldn't normally frequent. The student is mostly drunk by the time he stumbles into Hannibal's BMW and fumbles with Hannibal's cock on the ride back to his home. Hannibal doesn't necessarily mind the attention, especially when the student leans over and takes Hannibal into his mouth -- drooling all over his cock in his messy attempts to lick and suck -- but his pleasure here is directly derived from the student's impending death. He enjoys the irony.
La petit morte.
It takes almost a full twenty-four hours to skin him completely. He thoroughly gags the student beforehand, not wanting to alarm the neighbors. Then he picks up his scalpel and makes the first incision across his calf. He removes the skin strip-by-strip, laying the pieces in Tupperware containers to be refrigerated and then snacked upon at a later date. Something that can be easily fried up and eaten with a late-afternoon cup of coffee, perhaps served with a mint garnish. Hannibal talks throughout most of the process; it takes the student a surprisingly long amount of time to finally pass out from blood loss (left leg, upper thigh, right near the groin to be exact). He talks about his psychological practice and some of his patients, he talks about his collaborations with the FBI, he talks about his relationship with William Graham.
He lists a number of recipes that can be prepared using human flesh.
He skins the other leg before bypassing directly to the face. He wants to make sure that the student is alive and conscious for that part. With meticulous skill, he removes the student's cheeks and lips and nose (looking forward to the crunchiness of the cartilage, a texture entirely dissimilar to any of the internal organs that he usually uses in his cuisine). He makes sure to show the student each part of his face as it's removed and refrigerated for future use. He brings a mirror over at the end of the process and watches while the student heaves at the sight of his own reflection and asphyxiates on his own vomit. He expected nothing less.
Will calls and asks if he can come over. Hannibal must politely decline as he still has much work to do before what's left of the body is ready to be discarded. He invites Will over for dinner the following evening though. They dine on the tender meat found on the student's upper back. After they've finished the meal (Will asking for seconds), Hannibal strips out of his clothes, folding them neatly and placing them on an empty chair. Will fumblingly follows suit. Hannibal leads him into the lounge and pushes him down into a wingback chair, straddling him and fucking himself slowly on Will's cock. Hannibal, with his cut-glass cheekbones and his tightly-drawn lips, knows how he must look to an awkward sticky mess of a boy like William Graham. But still, he tugs gently at those dark curls and tightens his thighs around Will's hips when he starts to ejaculate inside of him.
"Will," he exhales, wrapping his arms around Will's shoulders and clenching his inner muscles, refusing to allow Will to slip out of him even as he softens.
"Hannibal, I . . ." Will trails off.
"I was wondering if you maybe . . . wanted to move in together?"
"You want to be my boyfriend, Will?" Hannibal asks, smiling lazily.
Will's jaw clenches; he knows that he's being mocked. But he manages to stand his ground.
"Yes, I do."
Hannibal pauses for a moment, taken slightly aback by Will's assertiveness. He recovers quickly though. He always does.
"There's a Stravinsky festival this weekend. Perhaps you would like to accompany me?"
Will hums his approval, resting his head on Hannibal's shoulder.
Hannibal knows that he should dispose of Will as quickly as possible. He knows that he's being drawn, slowly but surely, into an actual relationship, which will be difficult to extricate himself from. He never intended to develop feelings for Will -- but that doesn't seem to have made a difference. He lies awake in bed that night, Will resting on his chest, and wonders if there's any way that this situation can end well.
Will and Hannibal attend the Stravinsky festival at the Baltimore Philharmonic. They sit together and whisper things to each other during the intervals. They laugh. Hannibal brushes his knuckles against the back of Will's neck at one point; Will doesn't seem to mind. Will even reaches down and grasps Hannibal's hand at the top of the Firebird suite. Will -- with his thick-rimmed glasses and his dark brown curls and his social awkwardness -- watches the instrumentalists, while his thumb rubs back and forth against the knuckle of Hannibal's index finger.
Hannibal never wants these moments to end.
Of course, when they return to Hannibal's home (that suburban mock-tudor that feels just about the right size for two), there's a message from Jack Crawford on the answering machine. He's trying desperately to get ahold of Will; they've found the remains of a missing student -- skinned and disemboweled, major organs removed. Might be the work of the serial killer that they've been tracking. Would Will be willing to take a look at the crime scene, provide them with some insight? And, oh yes, Hannibal should come along as well. It might be useful to have a psychiatrist on site.
They call this one the Chesapeake Ripper.
Oh no, Hannibal never wants these moments to end. But looking at Will, eyebrows crinkled together in consternation as he listens to the recording, he wonders if they will eventually have to.
Each man kills the thing he loves, after all.
Part Three: Lover
They are the picture of domestic bliss.
Hannibal Lecter. Nordic and pristine. High-arching cheekbones and delicate fingers that flitter effortlessly from dish to dish in the kitchen. Connoisseur of fine wine, patron of the Baltimore Philharmonic, and an expert in antiquarian art and architecture. Fluent in seven languages. MD in psychiatry with a bustling practice, catering to Maryland's most high-end clientele.
William Graham. Somewhat swarthy in complexion but rather effete in features. Thick rimmed glasses and rumpled button-down shirts. Always stuck in a case file, committing every detail of a crime scene photograph to his eidetic memory. Surprisingly well-versed in literature and maritime instruments. Can fix a boat engine in fifteen minutes or less, provided he has all of the working parts needed.
They are in love.
Neither of them would ever admit that to anyone. But they are. Will stays over most nights now; the two of them take breakfast together in the kitchen, sunlight streaming in through the bay windows. Hannibal, barefoot with mussed hair, whips up plates of fluffy eggs and sausages. He's heard that he's the only one in the world who's able to make Will laugh. And Will laughs frequently now. Stripped of his defense mechanisms, laid bare and vulnerable at Hannibal's feet, Will laughs and smiles and fucks and dreams. They solve cases together and then they return home together -- for it has become "home" to both of them now, at least to some extent.
Hannibal has rented a storage bin in a lot with 24-hour access. He has a stainless steel operating table and cabinets full of medical equipment in there. He works late some nights. Research, you understand.
Will has improved in bed, Hannibal thinks as the FBI agent thrusts into him at a languid pace, nipping -- no, gnawing really -- on Hannibal's left shoulder. "Harder," Hannibal mutters, his voice semi-choked in the back of his throat. Will misunderstands him, starts fucking him more forcefully. "No," Hannibal corrects, "When you bite . . . harder."
"Any harder and you'll be bleeding."
"Then I'll be bleeding," Hannibal says, looking up into Will's eyes. "But . . . harder, please."
Hannibal feels the moment when Will's teeth penetrate the barrier of Hannibal's flesh. He feels Will's mouth twist up into a grimace of distaste as the iron-laced liquid hits his palate. Will starts to pull away but Hannibal rests the palm of his hand against Will's head, effectively holding him there. "Taste," Hannibal commands, and Will hesitates for a moment before swiping his tongue against the wound and leaning in to suck at the torn flesh. Hannibal moans -- actually moans -- and wraps his thighs tighter around Will's torso, thrusting up with abandon.
And Will complies without clarification. Actually takes a small strip of flesh between his teeth and pulls, ripping it off of Hannibal's throat. It's just the top layer of skin -- nothing significant -- but Hannibal can still feel the stinging burn where he's been injured. He can still feel the blood bubbling up and dripping, warm and wet, down his neck. Will raises his head slightly to look at Hannibal. Hannibal knows that he has the small strip of flesh tucked away in the corner of his mouth. He feels that maybe he's gone too far; he's wondering what to do with the evidence in his cheek. Spit? Swallow? So he looks to Hannibal for guidance.
Which is probably the worst thing he could do.
Hannibal reaches up his hand, touching the slight swell of Will's cheek where he holds that small piece of Hannibal inside of him. Rubbing his thumb against his cheekbone, Hannibal issues the command: "Chew."
This is the moment when William Graham realizes that Hannibal Lecter is the Chesapeake Ripper. Subconsciously, at least. He won't admit it to himself for another few months. Because he's in love, you see. But he knows, somewhere in the back of his mind, that something isn't right. That when you talk about "eating someone" in bed, this generally isn't what you mean. But that doesn't stop him from taking the strip of flesh between his teeth and chewing softly, reducing the epidermis to a small lump of pulp. Hannibal's fingers run downwards towards his throat, lighting over his adam's apple and giving an unspoken command -- swallow. So Will does.
It's not his first time eating human flesh. But, of course, he doesn't know that.
The moment that Hannibal feels the constriction of Will's throat, he orgasms. Will follows soon behind -- but insists on getting right out of bed afterwards, going to the bathroom to fetch one of those bulky square bandages for Hannibal's neck. He applies it to the wound before Hannibal pulls him close and kisses him hard. He imagines that he can taste himself -- his blood, his skin -- in Will's mouth.
"I love you," Hannibal whispers.
And, in that moment, Will belongs to him.
Their lovemaking gets progressively more violent after that night. Hannibal encourages Will to bite, to scratch, to cut, to smack, to pinch. At first just with his teeth and fingers. Hannibal leaves the bed with scratches and gouges up and down the length of his back, the shallow cuts stinging brightly as Will applies antiseptic. More strips of flesh are torn away from the insides of his thighs where no one can see the resultant wounds; Hannibal makes sure that Will chews and swallows everything that he bites off. "Good Will," he prompts when he feels the swallow underneath his fingertips. And Will, so desperate for approval after all of these years of being a social outcast, lowers his head and begins shredding the opposite thigh like Pavlov's dog. Hannibal can feel Will's hesitance when Hannibal introduces a small knife into their nightly repertoire but with gentle coaxing and cajoling, it isn't long before Hannibal feels the razor-thin blade cutting down the length of his abdomen followed by the warm swath of Will's tongue.
Will thinks that Hannibal's a masochist. Because this rough treatment brings him to orgasm every single time. However, the pain isn't what Hannibal's enjoying.
It's the fact that Will's developing a taste for this kind of treatment.
So to speak.
It isn't long before Will picks up the knife himself, without any prompting, cutting a decent-sized chunk of skin from right below Hannibal's groin. He lowers his head to rip the remaining shreds of flesh apart and when he's lifts his head back up, Hannibal feels like he's seen God. Because it's the Will of his fantasies -- sticky redness staining his chin, flesh visibly caught between his teeth. As if sensing Hannibal's peak in arousal, Will presses the palm of his hand against the soaking wound and brings it up to his face, rubbing the blood over his cheeks and through his hair. He opens his mouth wide when he chews so that Hannibal can clearly see what he's doing. And, oh Will, he thinks, you've completely misjudged this situation.
Because while you're busy indulging the side of me that "enjoys pain" . . .
You're only a few small steps away from becoming the very thing that you're hunting.
Hannibal knows that Will has been primed. That he just needs to find the right excuse to push him over the edge. So Hannibal pulls back slightly in the bedroom. He locks the knife away in a dresser drawer and, as expected, Will looks almost disappointed. But, then again, Hannibal has been looking a little bit worn down these past few weeks -- bruises and cuts and gashes and wounds blossoming all over his body -- so Will supposes that he can understand. Will takes care to be gentle with him, to treat him with the care and reverence that he so clearly deserves.
Will tells him how much he loves him.
Will uses that word now: "love."
And Hannibal rests secure that the FBI will never catch him.
Part Four: Murderer
The position is difficult to fill.
Hannibal needs someone who wants to commit suicide. Someone who gets aroused by pain. Someone who wants to be tortured and perhaps even fantasizes about being cannibalized. He knows that such people exist. Just look at Bernd Brandes. But he also knows that they must be few and far between, challenging to find, especially if one doesn't want to advertise one's own inclinations. But, then again, Hannibal isn't certain that he'll need to find someone who's already come to that point on his own.
After all, Hannibal has always been very good with words.
He eventually convinces one of his patients to participate in their recreational activities. Psychotic. Suicidal. His family's wealth the only thing keeping him from being institutionalized. Hannibal's at least up-front about what will happen if he comes back to the psychiatrist's home that night. Hannibal and his unnamed partner will torture him in the most inhumane ways possible before finally eating him alive. The man, who once nailed his own testicles to a sheet of plywood and left them like that for over a week until someone finally checked up on him, thinks that this sounds like a fantastic idea. But then again, he is clinically insane.
That night, Hannibal invites one of his patients for dinner. Will thinks that this is highly unusual for a psychiatrist but doesn't say anything. By the end of the appetizers, Will is certain that this man is a few cards short of a full deck. Hannibal doesn't seem phased by this however -- nodding along with the man's delusional ramblings.
"Shall we retire for drinks?" Hannibal asks, tossing his linen napkin down onto his plate. He stands and heads out to the lounge -- his paramour and his patient following close behind. He prepares three tumblers of whiskey, drugging one of them with the same amyl nitrate that he used the week before on a privileged little pedophile. This should at least take the edge off for the patient; he somehow feels that screaming and crying would put a damper on the experience for Will.
"Can we get to it already?" the patient asks after a few minutes of Hannibal discussing a recent essay on communitarianism that he's read.
"Get to what?" Will takes another sip of whiskey. He's already slightly tipsy -- legs spread out akimbo, curls falling haphazardly into his eyes.
"What we talked about?" The patient shoots a questioning look at Hannibal. "Doesn't he know?"
"It's supposed to be a surprise." Hannibal smiles apologetically at Will. "Our friend here . . . has a request."
"I'm dying," the patient says bluntly, addressing Will. "Cancer. I have less than a month left to live."
Will scrunches up his eyebrows in an attempt at empathy. Interesting how Will feels mental kinship with homicidal maniacs but not with this pathetic young man. Hannibal knows that Will could care less about his patient's troubles but social niceties mandate that he at least pretend to feel saddened at this news.
Of course, the terminal cancer narrative is completely fabricated. The patient was coached on what to say before he left Hannibal's office. In reality, he has low cholesterol, low blood pressure, and a strong immune system; he has at least another good fifty years left in him. But Will doesn't need to know that.
"There's one thing I've always wanted to experience with two men such as yourselves --"
"Wait a second," Will says, turning to Hannibal in complete dismissal of their guest. "You brought one of your patients here for a threesome?"
"Well, I don't know if I --" Hannibal stumbles, not realizing that Will might interpret the situation in that way.
"Unbelievable," Will snaps, getting up out of his armchair and heading for the stairs. "I'll be upstairs."
"Wait --" Hannibal grabs him and pulls him backwards, wrapping a firm arm around his chest. "Just stay for a moment."
"It's nothing sexual. Just trust me."
Will looks like he's about to refuse, about to go upstairs and possibly even pack his bags -- but something about the way that Hannibal looks at him gives him pause. Will, making an unnecessary show of his displeasure, stomps back into the room and tosses himself haphazardly into an armchair in the corner of the room. Hannibal would normally say something -- but he doesn't want to push his luck, not when he's so close. (And despite Will's reluctance, he knows that he's so close.)
Hannibal approaches his patient, remaining as detached and clinical as possible. Without further prompting, the patient shrugs out of his button-down shirt, prompting an auditory scoff from Will. The patient isn't unattractive by any means but, then again, perhaps that's the problem. Hannibal will have to proceed cautiously; Will's jealousy could foul up even the best-laid plans. Hannibal unlocks the top drawer of a side table and removes a knife -- small with a delicate blade. Hannibal slowly crosses behind the patient, until he can smell the chemicals seeping through his flesh, and without further warning stabs the knife deeply into the patient's shoulder.
"What the fuck?" Will exclaims, jumping to his feet.
"It's alright." Hannibal draws the blade downward, splitting the flesh and spilling rivulets of blood down the patient's abdomen. "This is what he wants."
The patient's head lulls backwards and he nods his acquiescence. He can't feel a thing except for the endorphins that are coursing through his body. Hannibal could eat his cheeks right now and he'd just smile blandly. He rubs his tongue against his incisors, sorely tempted to try.
"That doesn't mean we give it to him," Will proclaims. And then under his breath, with at least the semblance of tact: "He's insane."
"Yes," Hannibal agrees, drawing the blade out and inserting it once again right below the patient's nipple. The patient reaches his arm up, grasping the back of Hannibal's neck, prompting him to push the blade in further. "He's also dying. Who are we to deny a man's last wish?"
"Sane. We are sane, rational, logical human beings. Send him home."
It's a testament to Will's love for Hannibal that he doesn't walk out the front door. He definitely does not go over there.
Hannibal shrugs and starts to remove his suit coat.
"I thought you said this wasn't sexual," Will sneers.
"It's a custom-made suit," Hannibal responds matter-of-factly.
And no, Hannibal does not want to stain his clothing. But, more importantly, Hannibal wants to give Will something pleasant to look at. He unbuttons his shirt and folds both articles of clothing over the back of a chair. The blade is still embedded in the patient's chest. Hannibal presses his thumb into the blood that's dribbling down his stomach and slowly, deliberately, licks it off.
"He probably has some sort of disease," Will grouses, arms folded across his chest. "You probably just contracted AIDS."
Hannibal rolls his eyes. "For god's sake, Will."
"I'm just saying."
Hannibal pulls down on the blade, lengthening the incision, before pulling out.
"I'm bored," the patient has the gall to say. "If I'm going to die, I at least want to go out with a bang. If you know what I mean."
Will scrunches up his nose in distaste.
"Well, I do aim to please," Hannibal responds, every inch the gentleman. He bends his face down towards the patient's shoulder and, without further ado, bites down. When he pulls up, there's flesh dangling from between his teeth. These aren't the small, insubstantial strips that Will would gently peel off of Hannibal's body during lovemaking. Hannibal has ripped off a chunk of flesh about the size of a peach. Will watches -- eyes wide, jaw dropped -- while Hannibal softly chews and swallows, looking for all the world like he's luxuriating in a gourmet delicacy. He appears slightly perplexed moments after swallowing though, as if the aftertaste wasn't what he was expecting.
"How do I taste?" the patient asks, smiling smugly.
"A little bitter," Hannibal admits. "You have an excellent texture. Extremely smooth. But the aftertaste . . . well, a little bitter."
"Sorry." The patient shrugs apologetically, prompting more blood to pour from the wound.
"Not at all," Hannibal dismisses, grabbing a napkin from the side table and dabbing the blood from his mouth.
Will, meanwhile, hasn't blinked once since Hannibal bit down. "Are you fucking serious?" he finally manages to sputter out. He looks at the patient: "What the fuck did you come here for?"
"I'm dying," the patient insists. "And if I'm dying, I at least want to choose how I go. And I've decided that I want to be eaten."
All of the color drains out of Will's face. "You want to be . . . eaten?"
Will looks up at Hannibal, silently begging him to say that this is all a joke. That none of this is actually happening. "Hannibal?"
"He's going to die anyway, Will."
"Hannibal?" More insistent now. And higher-pitched. If Hannibal didn't know better, he'd think that Will was about to start crying.
"It's consensual. He's not feeling any pain."
"Yeah. Because he's been drugged," Will exclaims, taking in the patient's dilated pupils and careless smile. "I'm right, aren't I? You drugged him?"
"Some amyl nitrate in his drink. Just to take the edge off."
"He can't consent, Hannibal! He's out of his fucking mind!"
"We discussed everything in my office. He was sober at the time."
"In your office. During a therapy session. Because he's mentally disturbed."
"Now, Will," Hannibal chides. "I hardly think that's fair. You're in therapy, after all. I don't think that makes you mentally disturbed."
Will pauses for a second. There are those who would disagree. That would attest to the fact that yes, Will Graham is (and always has been) mentally disturbed. But there's a difference between being able to empathize with serial killers and actually being a serial killer.
"You've done this before," Will realizes as he watches Hannibal bend down and latch into the patient's bicep, obviously tired of waiting for Will to come around. Hannibal looks up at him through paper-thin blonde eyelashes before bringing his head up, tearing through the sinews and muscles to rip off another chunk of flesh. Will watches as Hannibal chews and swallows, taking the time once again to clean himself with the napkin that he's tucked into the front pocket of his trousers. "You've done this before. Probably with some frequency." The puzzle begins fitting itself together. "But you're too refined to eat straight from the source. You're doing this for me; you want to show me what you are. You typically cut out the choice organs and then store them . . . and then you what? Cook and serve them? To just yourself? Or to others as well?" A moment while this question sinks in. "Have you served them to me?"
"You've never complained."
"You're him, aren't you? The Chesapeake Ripper?"
Hannibal pushes the patient down into a nearby chair (a wooden one so as not to stain any upholstery) and steps close to Will, so close that they can feel the warmth of each other's breath. "I'm your partner," he responds, reaching out and gently grasping hold of Will's hand. Will closes his eyes against the assault of information, squeezes Hannibal's hand tightly.
"What do you mean?"
"How long before you kill me."
Hannibal brushes Will's curls out of his eyes, clasps his palm against the stubble growing on Will's cheek. "You? Never. You're far too important to me." And in the seconds before they kiss: "I love you."
Will tries to taste the death that must be stinking on Hannibal's breath, the carnage that must be stuck in between his teeth, the blood that must still be lying heavy on his tongue. But he can't taste any of that. He can only taste Hannibal -- spices and liquor and a hint of tobacco. The very taste of culture and refinement. And it's all so horrifically unfair that he can't help wrapping his arms around Hannibal and pulling him close.
Because Hannibal was supposed to be his to keep.
And now he has to give him up.
Part Five: Critic
Will doesn't call the FBI.
Not right away at least. Instead, he goes back upstairs and lies awake in their bed for a long time. Until he hears the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs. "Are you done?" he asks when Hannibal's standing in the door frame.
"Are we going to be having your patient for breakfast?" Will smirks. It's not funny. Nothing about this situation is funny. Perhaps that's why he cannot help but see the humor in it.
"If you'd like," Hannibal says, sitting down on his side of the bed and carding his fingers through Will's hair.
"I'd like chocolate chip pancakes tomorrow. And chocolate milk."
"I'll set my alarm and bring it up for you."
"Breakfast in bed."
Will tugs on Hannibal's arm, pulling him down towards the mattress. He notices that Hannibal's been kind enough to wash up in the first floor bathroom. His body smells baby powder clean; his skin has been scrubbed a rosy shade of pink. The lines in the corners of his eyes crinkle like weathered paper when he smiles. He kisses the side of Will's neck with his pencil-thin lips, down towards his shoulder (blood), and then across his chest (blood and flesh and gore) and down towards his groin. When Hannibal passes Will's navel, he looks up once again with those pale eyes of his before taking Will's cock into his mouth.
Will knows that Hannibal's mouth should not be anywhere near his cock. Will knows where Hannibal's mouth has been. Will actually watched Hannibal's mouth consume a sizeable portion of a man's limb earlier this evening. But that doesn't stop Will's eyes from rolling back in his head when Hannibal flicks his tongue against the sensitive patch of skin connecting his testicles. Will grasps at Hannibal's hair and pushes his cock towards the back of his throat. And it's unapologetically rude to fuck someone's mouth like that . . . but Will can't quite bring himself to care. His toes literally curl into the bedsheets as Hannibal swallows Will's cock down to the root, constricting the muscles of his throat and working his tongue around the ridges of the head.
"Oh god, Hannibal, I'm going to . . ."
And even though Will gives him more than enough fair warning, Hannibal keeps sucking and licking until Will comes inside his mouth. Watches Hannibal's hollowed-out cheeks as he swallows every drop of semen. "Oh god," Will gasps, coming down from the indescribable high of his orgasm. "Oh god, Hannibal."
Hannibal crawls back up the bed until his head is resting on the pillow and he's face-to-face with Will.
"Are you alright?" Hannibal asks suddenly.
" . . . Ask me tomorrow."
Hannibal, as a man of honor, brings chocolate chip pancakes and chocolate milk upstairs the following morning. Along with his own breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and orange juice. Hannibal, ever the dandy, has garnished all of the plates with hibiscus flower -- the bright pink standing in sharp contrast to the muted ivory of the china. The pancakes are, as always, delicious -- fluffy and moist with large chunks of artisanal chocolate. The chocolate milk has a hint of maple syrup mixed in with the cocoa powder. Say what you will about Hannibal Lecter, the man knows how to cook.
Will's on his third forkful of pancake when something occurs to him.
"We didn't buy bacon this week."
"No, we didn't."
Will watches while Hannibal unapologetically dines on the remains of his patient. The salt-cured meat from what? His back? His flanks? But god, how relaxed and peaceful Hannibal looks lying in bed -- striped pajamas and leather slippers, his straw-blonde hair falling into his eyes. He smiles casually at Will as he pops the last mouthful of bacon between his lips and reaches for another strip. Without thinking, Will grabs the strip of bacon from Hannibal and gnaws off the end. He tries to emphasize with the victim: how horrific to be eaten alive, to have your organs removed from your body cavity and stored for future meals. But all he can taste is the comfort of Hannibal's cooking -- that warmth and acceptance and homeyness of having a meal put out before you. By someone who loves you.
This must be how Hannibal feels. He must be feeling what Hannibal feels.
There's no other way to explain why William Graham doesn't pick up the phone and call the FBI. Why William Graham stays tucked into the downy warmth of their king-size bed. Why William Graham plucks another strip of bacon off of Hannibal's plate.
"It's a little bit dry," Will comments, finishing off his second strip of bacon.
"Hush," Hannibal chides. "It's perfect."
"Yeah, perfectly dry."
"Everyone's a critic," Hannibal sighs, taking a sip of orange juice. "I'll let you make breakfast next time."
"Fine. You'll be getting cereal out of a box."
Hannibal scoffs. Will rests his head against Hannibal's chest, feels the up-and-down motion of his breathing.
"I love you," Will whispers against the beating of Hannibal's heart.
It takes twelve hours for Will to finally go downstairs and pick up the phone, for him to dial in the number for the FBI, and for Hannibal to stab him in the stomach, disemboweling him.
Will looks down at his stomach, where he's grasping the slippery, lumpy rope of his own intestines in his hands. He can actually see the chunks of chocolate from that morning's pancakes inside of the translucent casing. He looks back up at Hannibal, confused.
"I thought you said . . ."
Hannibal's face remains blank, impassive, stoic.
The sound of police sirens echoes outside of the house. The edges of Will's vision have started to blur into darkness. He reaches out for something to grab onto and drops his own entrails onto the carpet. He slumps to the floor, being as careful as he can to avoid falling in his own mess. He watches while Hannibal sprints out of the room, knowing already that he won't get far. They'll have the house surrounded.
It won't be long now.
Will closes his eyes and passes out.
Part Six: Helpmeet
It takes Will a long time to recover.
Months in the hospital hooked up to tubes and machines and IVs. More months sitting cooped up in his apartment. He receives an envelope a few weeks after his release from the hospital: a key, the deed to the suburban mock-tudor home, and a brief note.
In case you need somewhere to call home.
He hires a housekeeping service to maintain the property. To keep everything frozen in those last moments before their respective betrayals. He knows that when he returns, Hannibal's copy of the DSM will still be sitting on his desk, opened to the chapter on post-traumatic stress syndrome. He knows that when he returns, his jeans will still be lying in a heap on the floor next to his side of the bed. He knows that when he returns, it will be to the half-finished charcoal drawing of him that Hannibal had been working on, to the spice rack with over two hundred jars and bottles and canisters, to the bottle of cheap tequila that Will had stashed underneath the sink.
He never plans on returning.
Instead, he's introduced to a girl through an acquaintance at the FBI -- someone who apparently hadn't heard the rumors floating around about how Hannibal and Will had been fucking during the months leading up to the capture of the Chesapeake Ripper. Or possibly he had heard the rumors and had simply chosen not to believe them. At any rate, this acquaintance introduces him to Molly Foster who's calm and easygoing and patient. And she, for some reason, is willing to overlook Will's social awkwardness and arsenal of defense mechanisms. And when he asks her to marry him, she, for some reason, says yes.
She asks once about Hannibal. He tells her that he doesn't want to talk about it.
She never asks again.
She doesn't know that Will still carries around that key on his keychain. Hannibal never sends him anything else: no letters or mementos. He never receives an apology for the scar tissue that's formed a jagged ridge across the expanse of his stomach. He's glad to be rid of him, of course. He couldn't be happier, living in Sugarloaf Key with his wife and her child. Yes, he's better off now.
That explains why he goes running back to Baltimore as soon as Jack Crawford steps foot on his property.
Who better to consult on the case than his former partner? He feigns reluctance but he's the one who comes up with the idea. So he finds himself standing in the holding area with the hospital staff briefing him on the rules. Don't get too close to the glass. Don't pass him anything that hasn't been approved. Don't you get it? Will thinks to himself as the alarms sound and the gates clank open. I shared a bed with this man, slept next to him for months. I'm not nervous about coming face-to-face with a serial killer.
I'm nervous about coming face-to-face with my ex.
As Will walks down the stone corridor, he notices a sharp dip in the temperature. Like when Virgil descended into the Inferno, into the ninth circle, the one farthest removed from all light and warmth and salvation. Cocytus. The one reserved for traitors. He keeps his eyes locked on the far wall. When he arrives at that wall and turns left, he'll see Hannibal Lecter. Just keep stepping forward, Will.
He turns left.
He sees him.
There are two things that have changed about Hannibal Lecter. First, he's wearing a decidedly unattractive orange jumpsuit. For some reason, Will had thought that he might be able to pull that off. That Hannibal's astounding culture and confidence and intellect might be able to make him look distinguished even in his prison-issued wardrobe. No, not even Hannibal can pull off the formless lump of technicolor fabric allocated to him by the state. He looks wane, disheveled, even a little bit defeated. Although that might be less the jumpsuit and more the second change that Will notices.
Hannibal might not have sent a letter. But the apology is writ so clearly in his eyes that Will realizes a letter was never necessary.
They're silent for a few minutes, simply looking at each other, remembering what their lives used to be like before.
"I missed you," Hannibal says, entirely truthfully.
Will wants to say something cutting about how he would miss him more if he'd bled out on the office floor that day. But he manages to restrain himself. "You know why I'm here?"
"The families. The Jacobis in Birmingham. The Leeds in Atlanta. You want to know how he's choosing them."
At least there was no pretense that Will was there for a social call.
"Will you help me?" Will asks.
They spend the afternoon mulling over the case file together. They both sprawl out on the hard concrete floor, papers and photographs littering the ground on both sides of the plexiglass barrier. Someone from the hospital staff probably should have come hours ago to separate them because Will's pressed right up against the glass, only a few inches away from a homicidal psychopath. Perhaps they feel secure in the bullet-proof borderlines that they've erected; perhaps they feel confident in Will's abilities as a former FBI agent; perhaps they're certain that Hannibal won't do anything to harm Will -- at least not here, not now.
Or perhaps they simply don't give a fuck about what happens to either of them.
The only pause in their work comes during lunch. The food is, as expected, horrendous. Hannibal struggles not to comment on the mashed potatoes that have the consistency of kindergarten paste and the rubbery meat that sticks behind one's teeth. "Someone told me that you're married now."
Will doesn't know why he hadn't expected Hannibal to ask him about that. But he hadn't. For a moment, he's tempted to disavow any knowledge of Molly or Willy. He can't tell if it's because he wants to keep them safe or because he's ashamed that he didn't wait for Hannibal. (Wait for Hannibal. Like Hannibal's serving some three-to-five sentence for fraud. Like Hannibal will ever be eligible for parole. Like there could ever possibly be a future for the two of them.)
"Molly? Is that her name?"
You know her name, Will thinks to himself. You probably know everything about her. Cut the formalities, Hannibal. But he just nods.
"She has a son?"
"What a coincidental choice of name."
They stare at each other for a moment. Neither of them wanting to say what they're both thinking: It should have been us.
Hannibal and Will spend hours thought-partnering on the case. Will offers to work through the night but Dr. Chilton arrives and firmly declares that visiting hours have ended. There are other inmates, after all, and they are trying to get some sleep. Will considers arguing but, in the end, he resigns himself to returning to his (empty, lonely) motel room for the night. He'll come back tomorrow afternoon, he promises Hannibal.
They find the note from the Tooth Fairy in Hannibal's cell the next morning.
Part Seven: Rival
The moment that Jack Crawford calls, relaying the coded message in the Tattler, Will's heart actually stops beating for a few seconds. "What?" he chokes into his cell phone.
"Your home address. We're getting your family out of there now."
"How the fuck did he get my home address?" Will demands to know -- but Crawford doesn't have any answers. Will hangs up and slams his phone against the kitchen countertop, shattering the glass screen. (Shattered mirrors. Inserted into their eyes. What do they see?) How hadn't he seen this coming? He thought that their reconciliation had gone relatively well. They had slipped right back into an easy partnership -- meticulously picking through crime scene photographs, charting out patterns on maps, and analyzing every last fragment of forensic evidence. Between the two of them, nothing had been overlooked.
Well, nothing had been overlooked except for the fact that Hannibal's a homicidal psychopath.
How could Will have made the same mistake twice -- especially knowing what he is? Will knows that he should go straight back to his home in Sugarloaf Key; he knows that he should comfort his family in their time of need. But he doesn't. Instead, he gets into his rental car, the seats still smelling of disinfectant, and heads to the Baltimore Psychiatric Hospital. In less than an hour, Will's standing in front of Hannibal's cell.
"You came back." Hannibal seems pleasantly surprised.
"I said that I would."
"Yes, you did."
They stand there in silence. Players at a chessboard contemplating their next move.
"Why did you do it?" Will asks suddenly. "I thought that we were getting along. Why would you try to finish me off like that?"
"What are you talking about, Will?"
"Come on, Hannibal. Your letter in the Tattler? You gave out my home address!"
"Yes, I did. However, I wasn't trying to 'finish you off,' as you say."
"What did you think would happen?" Will scoffs. "That the murderer would just come over for coffee?"
"You're not thinking clearly," Hannibal chastises. "How could I have sent him to murder you? You weren't home last night. You were here, with me, in Baltimore."
The realization hits Will like a punch to the gut. Sweet fucking god.
"You weren't going after me. You were going after my family."
"I'm your family, Will."
Hannibal stands straight and tall, chin tilted upwards in a direct challenge. Will promises himself that he will hold that image in his heart for as long as he lives.
"Goodbye, Dr. Lecter."
He will never return to the Baltimore Psychiatric Hospital. Less than a week later, Francis Dolarhyde comes to his home and stabs him through the cheek. There's an angry wound, jagged and rough, running from the top of his nose all the way down to his jawline. His lip has been permanently split in two; a sizable chunk has been extracted from his left nostril. Molly stays with him in the ambulance en route to the hospital. She makes sure that he's safely checked into the ER for surgery. And then she leaves before he wakes up.
Will finds a note waiting for him when he returns, alone, to Sugarloaf Key.
Pity to see those boyish good looks go to waste. Please know that I'm still looking forward to seeing you again, regardless of how ugly you might be now.
Will tries to take comfort in the fact that his rejection must have gotten under Lecter's skin. Otherwise he would never send a note full of schoolyard taunts. But when he turns over in bed and catches sight of his mutilated face in the mirror, he can't help the wracked sob that courses through him.
Just because it's a schoolyard taunt doesn't mean it's not true.
Part Eight: Fugitive
When Hannibal Lecter escapes, Jack Crawford is the one who makes the courtesy call to Will Graham.
And it is simply a courtesy call. There's no offer of protection nor any request for his assistance. Will knows that he should probably relocate, travel far away from Sugarloaf Key. But every time he thinks about emptying the refrigerator or sorting through the clothes in his dresser, he shuts down completely. It seems like so much effort -- and for what? Hannibal will find him no matter where he goes. The man has always been amazingly resourceful and tenacious. (Didn't Will once cite "passion" as his primary disadvantage? Followed closely by insanity, of course.) So Will abandons all hope of fleeing from his impending demise. Instead, he actually begins to embrace the idea. He spends his hours preparing for Hannibal's arrival. He interrogates all of the sommeliers in the local gourmet restaurants. Where do you purchase your wine? What would you recommend for a dinner wine, something that would go with red meat? Something that tastes a little bit like pork, although slightly more bitter. And then, realizing that Hannibal will probably take his time eviscerating and sautéing him, Will decides that he should probably have something that would go with a light lunch. And then, just to polish off the experience, he purchases a dessert wine as well.
He learns how to cook -- marginally. Every morning, he meticulously assembles the aforementioned "light lunch" in case Hannibal doesn't have the time or inclination to prepare something himself. Chicken-cumcumber canapés. Tomato-basil bisque. Chicken-Mandarin orange spread sandwiches. Caramelized onion quiche. And cheddar cheese biscuits one day out of spite. (He's positive that if Hannibal saw them in the refrigerator, he would decide to forego lunch entirely.)
Will doesn't have many friends. Everyone in town knows him though. Whenever he ventures out of the house for grocery shopping, his neighbors watch him out of the corners of their eyes -- knowing that it's impolite to stare but, at the same time, morbidly wanting to map out every inch of his deformity. His lip pulled up a good two or three inches away from his gum line on the right side, fully displaying his off-white teeth. His nose still missing part of the left nostril -- a raw, reddened fissure in the middle of his face. He's actually seen children point at him and then call out for their parents. He usually goes to the bar after one of those episodes and downs a couple shots of tequila. William Graham has never been one for vanity . . . but no one wants to be a monstrosity.
Will spends most of his days sitting at the kitchen counter. There's a plate of hors d'oeuvres sitting next to him, a bottle of white wine chilling in an ice bucket. His iPod lulls through the opening measures of the Firebird suite. He's managed to edit the MP3 so that the music remains easy and soothing, never reaching that crescendo of destruction. He's an object at rest, never to be moved into motion again.
But still, Hannibal does not come.
He learns from Jack Crawford that there was some fiasco involving trained wild boars. Hannibal ran off with a young FBI agent, Clarice Starling. They're probably in South America together but attempts to track them have been unsuccessful. There have been rumors though; the two of them are apparently in flagrante delicto. Graham asks Crawford to email him a photograph of the young woman.
She's comely enough but nothing spectacular. Still, half of her face hasn't been taken off by a bowie knife. So there's that.
Things get progressively worse. Will starts forgetting to throw out the dishes that he creates and they pile up on his countertop. Wilting salad with browned lettuce, molding crescent sandwiches with congealing cream spreads, hardened petit fours with fondant the consistency of cement. It's not long before a cockroach infestation takes hold -- but Will doesn't seem to notice. The roaches, as large as his cell phone, scurry over his shoes, sometimes even pausing to poke their antennae at his bare ankles, but he ignores them and waits for the man who will never come to kill him.
Jack Crawford eventually comes to visit him. The moment he steps inside the front door, he's bowled over by the aroma of rotting meat and soured milk. He actually has to step back outside into the fresh air; his stomach roils and his lunch threatens to come back up on him. Inhaling deeply, he covers his nostrils with the sleeve of his suit coat and ventures inside once again.
He finds Will sitting at the kitchen counter. His clothes are soiled, like he's been wearing the same set for the past month, and there are literally dozens of dishes sitting next to him. They're all beautifully prepared -- with sauces drizzled onto the plates and spun-sugar flowers perched on the sides -- but none of them have been eaten. Instead, they've all been put aside and left to rot. Strangely enough, even though Will is surrounded by food, he appears to have lost a good thirty pounds since the last time Jack saw him.
"What the fuck is this, Will?" Jack asks as a roach pokes its head out from underneath a canapé.
"I just . . . made lunch."
"Yeah, I can tell."
Jack spends the rest of the afternoon attempting to clean Will's apartment. He calls in an exterminator to deal with the roach problem, the soles of his dress shoes caked with insect entrails from hours of squashing. But by dinnertime, all of the food has been thrown into a garbage bag and all of the dishes have been washed down in the kitchen sink. Will, however, still sits, stinking and dirty, on the stool at the kitchen counter.
"Come on, let's get you into a shower."
Despite all of his indifference, Will allows himself to be lead upstairs, stripped down, and showered. Jack tries to maintain professional distance -- especially when Will slips out of his chinos, revealing his flaccid cock, hanging limply against his thigh. However, when Will fumbles with the soap for the twelfth time, Jack steps into the shower, clothes still intact, and helps his young protégée wash himself.
"What's happened to you, Will?" Jack asks, coating his fingers in shampoo and running them through Will's hair. It takes three separate washes before he's able to work up a healthy lather.
"He's not coming."
"Who's not coming?"
Will looks off to the left, as though he's embarrassed about something. "Nothing. No one."
Will's depression has made him sloppy. It only takes a few moments -- the gourmet lunches, the wine bottles, the classical music playing on a loop -- for Jack to figure out what's going on.
"Oh, Will . . ."
"I mean, I don't want him to come, of course, but . . ."
He looks over at the photograph of Clarice Starling that he left on the bathroom counter, right below his much-despised mirror.
"It's because I look like this, isn't it."
It's a statement more than a question.
"He left me for her because I look like this. Which is ironic because he did this to me. Not directly but . . . he did this to me."
"Will, were you and Lecter . . .?" Jack doesn't even want to finish that question. But Will's indifferent shrug confirms that, yes, he and Lecter were.
"Do you think I'll ever see him again?" Will asks, looking up at his former boss.
"Will, you don't want to ever see him again. Trust me."
William Graham, the strong-willed warrior, looks out the window into the endless sea.