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*

It's a terrible idea. It's the worst idea he's ever had. It's suicidal.

Dr Chilton lets him in with a smile that's too shark-like to be pleasant. Don't reach through the bars, don't touch the bars, don’t hand him anything. We'll be watching.

Will hates these places.

It seems like the longest walk of his life, under painful fluorescent lights. If he closes his eyes he can imagine himself trapped here, clad in the drab grey jumpsuits, hands bound as two guards escort him to his cell-

"Will."

He hadn't even realised he'd reached the end.

Will blinks the images away, feeling off-guard and unsteady as he stands in front of the cell. "Dr. Lecter."

This is a terrible idea.

Hannibal moves forward, close to the bars, voice quiet. "I didn't think I would see you again."

He looks unusual out of a suit. It's really the first thing Will notices. His hair isn't as carefully styled but Will supposes it must be difficult without access to the levels of comfort to which Hannibal is accustomed. It sits wrong with him, seeing Hannibal like this; the difficulties of equating friend and killer. It makes his stomach churn.

"Are you alright, Will?" Quiet concern that’s too familiar.

Terrible, terrible idea. "Why'd you do it?" It's perhaps not as even, or calm or quiet as Will planned, can feel the quick breaths in his lungs, the racing of his heart.

Hannibal doesn’t respond. "You feel betrayed."

"Don't psychoanalyse me." Will snaps, "This isn't a therapy session."

A moment of silence. "My apologies. Please, sit." Hannibal gestures to the folding chair nearby. “We can talk properly.”

"I'm fine."

They stand like that in silence until Will can't take it anymore. Wordlessly, he turns his back and leaves.

*

Dr. Chilton, to his credit, doesn't say a word when Will turns up at 7.30 the following week.

Session time.

Will's not sure why he's doing this to himself. Alana tried to talk to him yesterday, something vague, garbled about bad choices, trauma or PTSD; Will wasn't listening.

He doesn’t bother with pleasantries. "You killed those people."

"Yes." Hannibal says, standing and moving close to the bars. “Good evening, Will.” Gently chiding.

Will ignores the last part, shifting agitatedly on his feet. "What was I supposed to be then? An alibi? Someone to sabotage evidence? Were you going to kill me too?"

"Of course not."

Will laughs bitterly. "But you did stab me." He points out.

Hannibal just inclines his head in acknowledgment. "An unfortunate casualty. You were going to kill me."

"Perhaps I should have."

"Perhaps you should have." Hannibal echoes. "You were not a pawn, Will. Simply someone I found interesting. A friend."

Will paces, riled up. “I’m not exactly an expert on friendship, but as I understand it, generally you don’t feed other humans to your friends.”

Hannibal remains silent for a moment. "We're very similar." He says. Non-sequitur.

"I'm nothing like you." Will says, cold and harsh.

He leaves.

*

Jack must've said something because Chilton's more reluctant to let him in this time.

"You came back." Hannibal says, standing smoothly. "At our usual time." Will frowns. There are no clocks. "I have an excellent sense of time." Hannibal says. "I admit I am a little surprised to see you after our last meeting. What brings you back?"

Words clutter on Will's tongue. "To find answers."

"Answers to yourself or to me?"

Will can feel his shoulders settling from where they've been hunched, tense and wary, this familiar back and forth settling him in his skin a little better. "Both, I suppose."

"Please, sit."

"I'm fine."

"Very well." A silence. "How's Jack?"

Will scoffs, "His wife's dying and his consultant turns out to be the killer we're looking for, how do you think?"

Hannibal watches him for a moment, unreadable. “I think it’s understandable.” Another pause. “How are you coping?”

“Are you seriously asking me how I’m coping, when it’s-” He breaks off, runs a hand over his face, “This was a stupid idea. I shouldn’t have come.” He turns his back to leave.

“Do you still see the stag?”

“Always.” His voice is quiet, broken and he stops in his tracks, turning back to face Hannibal, “I don’t know what it means.” And for a moment, just a moment, he forgets why they’re there and what Hannibal’s done, allowing himself a moment of stupid vulnerability, “I think I’m going to end up in one of these places myself, one of these days.”

“Listen to Alana, Will. She’s very good,” A small smile, “Not as good as me, but one of the best.”

Will looks at him properly for the first time since he started these visits, precious eye contact. “I think I’m done with psychiatry.” he says, self-deprecating and a little mocking. And he turns and walks away.

*

Will's taken the chair this time. They sit in silence.

Will’s not stupid, he knows his time is limited; Alana's fighting to have Will's access to the hospital cut off, Jack's concerned. Will knows this isn't good for him but can't quite stop.

The evidence is irrefutable; He knows that Hannibal has admitted to the murders. But he still can’t quite reconcile the man sitting across from him with the crimes of the Chesapeake Ripper. Not with the same man who listened and helped Will solve a dozen other crimes. Who accepted Will into his home after nightmares and sleepwalking. A man who Will came to consider a friend and perhaps something more.

“Why do you eat people?”

“Are you trying to understand me, Will?” Hannibal asks, a disparaging tone. “Psychoanalyse me? I thought you were done with psychiatry.”

“No.” Will says, thinks about it for a moment. “Maybe.”

Hannibal looks disappointed. “I’m not like other killers.” He says. “You can’t profile me.”

“I don’t want to.” Will says, truthfully. “I just,” He takes a breath, all anger deflating, “I just want-” He sighs, shoulders slumping. “I don’t know.”

“How’s Abigail?”

Will looks surprised by the turn of conversation. “I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to her.” A little bitter, “Alana recommended against it.”

“I’m not surprised.” Hannibal says.

“She misses you.” Will says, keeps his eyes downcast. It doesn’t make a difference, he knows that; Hannibal can read him anyway. He deflects, “Was it fake? Your concern for her?”

Will can feel the burn of Hannibal’s stare on his skin. “Not at all.”

“For me?”

“We are but two sides of the same coin, Will. There’s no need to be afraid.”

Will doesn’t know what to say to that, so he leaves.

*

"Do you hate me?" Its not really what he means to say, but the words are out before he can stop them. “For putting you in here?”

Hannibal doesn’t hesitate. "No."

"Why not?"

"You were simply doing your job." Hannibal says. A pause. "Do you hate me?"

"Yes." Will snaps. Falters. "No. Maybe. I don't know."

Hannibal’s tone is reassuring, "It's normal." He says, and Will’s not entirely sure how to cope with this whole bizarre conversation. “I betrayed your trust.”

"You're not my therapist, Doctor." He says, prickly.

"Aren't I?" Hannibal’s eyes are piercing.

Will stares at the bars, fidgety and uncomfortable, “Not anymore.” He’s so confused, there’s a million questions he wants to ask, a million more he doesn’t want to know the answer to. This is his last chance. "Do you remember that dinner-" He starts. he breaks off, shaking his head. No, he doesn't want to know.

"You kissed me." It shouldn't surprise Will that Hannibal followed his train of thought. Two sides of the same coin. "I invited you around for dinner." A small smile. "You cut yourself. I tended to it and you kissed me."

Will flushes, embarrassed. "You kissed me back." He points out, trying to regain even footing.

"I did."

"Why?" It’s bothered him since it happened.

"I wanted to." A pause, the unspoken why did we stop hanging in the air. “It would have been unethical to continue.” Hannibal says. “You weren’t officially a patient. But, you relied on me.”

Will stammering over the words. "I was - I-" He can't quite make himself finish.

"I know." Hannibal says. Will can’t read the expression on his face, looks away. He's sure his own face says everything. "I'm sorry, Will."

Will doesn't ask why. Hannibal doesn't offer.

"This is the last time. I can't come back." Will says, ducks his head as his voice breaks a little. He clears his throat. "Jack's making sure I can't come back."

"You asked him to." It's not a question.

“This isn’t good for me.”

“No, it’s not.” Hannibal agrees. Hesitates. "Come here." It's really the first time Hannibal's acknowledged the bars between them, gesturing Will towards them.

Will takes an aborted step forward. "Why?" He asks, suspiciously. He can’t afford to forget who he’s dealing with. Hannibal Lecter. The Chesapeake Ripper

"Come. I have no interest in your death, Will." Hannibal says, as impatient as Will’s ever heard him.

It's like his feet are on strings, and Will moves before he can think about it. Like this, with only a few inches between them, Will can smell him; the faintly spicy scent that's so familiar that it hits Will in the gut, closing his eyes against a sudden surge of loneliness.

Fingers on his face startle him and Will flinches instinctively. He opens his eyes, Hannibal staring straight into them. He pulls Will forward, just that small distance, their lips meeting between the bars. It’s gentle, chaste. "I'll see you again, Will."

Will meets his eyes for a second, nods and turns away.

*

END