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String Quartet Op.59 No.1

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“This….this is a bad idea. A really bad idea.”

Jack rolled his eyes, waving off Will’s stressed words and open anxiety. “It’s one event, a meeting of who’s who of the FBI. I just want you to show up, drink some champagne, and shake a few hands. I’m not asking you to look at anything gruesome.”, Jack said smoothly, trying to make light of what he was actually asking of the sensitive empath.

“Apparently you have forgotten my outlook on social interaction altogether then. I think I would prefer a murder to an evening of people feigning at being civilized with one another.”, Will snapped, stress biting painfully at the nerves behind his eyes again at the very thought of being in a room full of people he would have to talk to and act ‘normal‘ around.

Wincing, Jack continued to press. “One hour. That’s all I’m asking. Just show up and let yourself be seen, just you can say you were there. You can leave after that.”

“So you’re showing off your weird pet to your bosses, is that it? Do you want me to do a trick for them as well, Jack?”, Will sneered, his tone sullen and hurt. He had expected more from the man before him, or at least dared to hope so. Bedrock his ass.

“No, I am going to be introducing a valuable and unique asset to my team.”, Jack snapped before reigning himself in. “Will, if you still want to do what you do and go out into the field, we knew support from the higher ups. Your process can be only called unconventional at best, but you get results and catch the killers that usually get away from us because they’re just too damn weird or crazy for normal methods of investigation to track down. Not everyone is a fan of your way of thinking though. We have our cynics and critics, people who want nothing more than to put you in a padded room and throw away the key. Letting them have some face time with you would go along way.”

“Yes, I’m sure my lack of eye contact and abrupt manner will endear me to them.”, Will sighed wearily, rubbing his tired face with hands that seemed to keep the scent of copper in their pores no matter how many times he tried to wash them clean.

“Then take someone with you for moral support.”, Jack suggested, refusing to let this go now that he saw Will was beginning to crack under the pressure. “What about Alana?”.

“We….Alana and I….It’s…..complicated.”, Will stammered, their ill fated kiss slamming to the forefront of his lobe. It had been soft and lovely like the woman involved. It had also been ruined and ill fated like the man involved. There was no way Will could bring himself to ask Alana for this kind of favor, not when he identified her with mostly painful confusion and sickening embarrassment now with a lingering bitterness between them. That left him with very few, as in, no options.

“Well man up, find someone uncomplicated and bring them. Hell, hire an escort for all I care. Just be there with your game face on.”, Jack intoned before stalking off. Will let him, knowing that Jack liked to get in the last word and any excuse at this point would be futile.


After mulling over his problem, Will found himself where he more often than not now when some issue lingered in his head longer than was healthy. Hannibal’s office was beginning to become as familiar as a second home to Will. He wondered if he should be worried about that as he spun around slowly the doctor’s caramel colored leather chair, the elegant piece of furniture not making a sound as it did so. The owner of said chair was looking less than amused about Will acting like a petulant teenager while mistreating his expensive furniture.

“Was there something you wished to speak with me about?”, Hannibal asked, using his ‘physiatrist’ voice on Will. It had the effect he wanted, the empath arching a brow at him back, Will knowing the difference in the doctor’s placid tones between ’I wish only to help you in your time of need’ and ‘you are really starting to try my patience here, you little shit‘. Hannibal was pleased to see that Will looked a touch ashamed of himself as he came to a stop so Hannibal felt he could afford to be gracious now that Will had realized the gravitas of his error.

“You appear to be upset but not overly agitated. What sort of killing ground does Jack have you looking at now?”, Hannibal mused. It was not any of his own making, that much he knew. Decent fare for his cuisine had been few and far between of late, but only perfection would do for his kitchen and palate. He was picky but it always paid off in the end.

“Killing ground.”, Will chuckled dryly as he turned the words over in his mouth, quirking a quick smile at the doctor, “Strangely fitting for where I am going.”. Hannibal gave him a placid look in answer, waiting patiently for him to clarify.

“Jack wants me to go to this formal FBI meet and greet thing. Show me off to his bosses. Do tricks for them. Sit, stay, roll over, play dead, be dead.”, Will muttered, wondering if it was too much to ask of the universe for a really gruesome murder, one that would call for all of his utmost attention. Part of him noted it was sad he related more to the shredded corpses of victims than actual living people. At least for the most part, the dead kept their damn opinions to themselves and didn’t judge him for being different, for being broken.

Of course, Hobbs was the exception, the evil bastard, with his clouded eyes and sardonic half grin, always there and always leering like he knew a secret that Will did not. Perhaps he did…

“I understand. Social interactions are not your forte.”, Hannibal nodded, “With your particular abilities, I can understand why it is be a challenge for you.”.

“A challenge? That’s a nice way of putting it. A challenge suggests character development with some sort of payoff emotionally, physically, or spiritually at the end.”, Will snorted, “Try slow torture instead, a far more accurate term. I have no desire to be stared at like some sideshow freak or asked inane questions about what I can do and how I do it and if I can guess anything about them, like I am some for of children’s magician there to perform for their amusement.”

“Most do not understand your gift. Or choose not to and you resent them for it.”, Hannibal supplied smoothly in the gap of Will’s rant.

“My gift.”, Will spat out the word like it was bile souring his mouth, “If they are not confusing empathy with psychic ability, it’s condemned to being a mere parlor trick, like I can chose to do it, turn it on and off like a switch. Like I would ever chose to be like this.”

“You are what you are. You should strive to embrace that part of yourself, not abhor it.”, Hannibal said evenly, “It is what makes you unique. Makes you special.”

It almost sounded like Hannibal meant more than what he was actually saying, almost like he was complimenting him. Flushing hotly at the prospect, Will chided himself for thinking such nonsense as he shifted his gaze elsewhere quickly away from Hannibal. He had gotten better about looking at the doctor, though still never in the eye, the empath memorizing Hannibal‘s tie patterns and noting his choice of favored knots. Will still didn’t care for paisley but he could appreciate the doctor’s unique sense of style. “I would much rather be boring and normal. At least that way I could sleep at night.”, he sighed, spinning the chair again. Will was never very still for long. Even exhausted, he still tended to fidget.

“There is no such thing as ’normal’, Will, only society’s usually misguided perception of it. I will also remind you that even boring men have difficulty sleeping at night.”, Hannibal sighed, gently catching the back of the chair to still it, looking down at Will in warning.

“Are you calling your patients boring, Doctor?”, Will asked, the corner of his mouth turning up at the thought. He found his posture slumping into the chair in correlation with Hannibal’s positioning. For one reason or another, it reminded Will of a raven considering the freshness of a corpse’s eyeballs.

“Most of them are. Many are the sole source of their own misfortune and woe, their complaints repetitive and trite at best. I rarely come across maladies as refreshing as yours.”, Hannibal admitted with a slight smile to take the sting out of his words. He watched in amusement as Will got up out of the chair, the empath moving to put the desk and some distance between them while trying not to be too obvious about it. Clever little mongoose.

“Glad I can provide you with some entertainment but like your other patients, I come seeking some direction and answers. What do you suggest for my current problem?”, Will ventured, ignored the noisy mess of mixed urges and instincts that were screaming at him, bouncing off the inside of his skull. He ignored the mental racket, blaming and cursing his social anxiety for his inability to let others get close to him, making that the cause. Luckily, Hannibal didn’t seem offended by it. Will counted himself fortunate that the good doctor was so understanding and tolerant of his quirks.

“A distraction.”, Hannibal supplied, drumming his fingers against the back of the chair to give the impression that he was considering the idea though he had already made his decision in this matter a long time ago.

“Explain.”, Will was already beginning to like the sound of this, finally a viable answer to his dilemma.

“You need to take someone with you who will draw attention from yourself and keep it away.”, Hannibal expanded, enjoying Will reaction to the suggestion. When the empath trusted the company he kept, his expressions were so wonderfully open and easy to read. Will’s genuine face was beginning to become Hannibal’s favorite piece of literature to peruse.

“That could work.”, Will admitted, “Someone attractive who can cover for my lack of social graces. So, do you know anyone with the patience of a saint who would be willing to put up with me for an hour and make meaningless small talk with a roomful of the FBI‘s bureaucracy? A tantalizing prospect in boredom and trying one‘s patience.”.

“But of course.”, Hannibal grinned slyly, moving in for the kill, verbally speaking. “That is why you will be taking me with you.”

“D-doesn’t that break some sort of ethical doctor patient rule?”, Will stammered, taken aback. It was too good to be true and utterly confusing on so many different levels.

“Not at all. You are technically not my patient.”, Hannibal countered, looking far too pleased with himself for anyone else‘s good.

“Ok. But why?”, Will asked stiffly, not wanting to come off sounding ungrateful or rude, but this was all extremely disconcerting. Hannibal felt… He was more than just mere ‘moral support’ to him. The doctor was his rock, his mooring to fragile sanity, his anchor keeping him from becoming adrift.

As it was, Will always came to Hannibal, seeking out refuge with him, creating a shelter with his accented words and elegant mannerisms. Should he dare find out if this sort of sanctuary was transferable? Should he risk tethering himself to another human being, especially one he held in such high regard? His friends were few and far between, most of them having fur and paws. Beings of the more human persuasion could be counted on one hand, and even that was a tentative number at most times.

“Are we not friends?”, Hannibal said softly, as if picking up on what Will was internally debating.

“Yes, but why would you want to be seen out in public with me?”, Will sighed in defeat. It seemed like he was losing a lot of arguments lately. He gestured down at himself and his worn, thrown together outfit of baggy clothing before motioning over to Hannibal’s suit and tie which were as immaculate as always, like their contrasting appearances alone stated the blatantly obvious.

Hannibal arched a brow at Will instead of answering him out loud, urging him to continue.

“Much less have people assume that we are in some sort of relationship together. They’ll think that you could do so much better than someone who sweats constantly and flinches at hand shakes.”, Will joked lightly to an answered frown, the empath blinking in surprise at the doctor’s sudden severe change in expression.

“You need to stop selling yourself so short. I would be honored to accompany you in whatever relationship you want to present.”, Hannibal told him in a serious manner, one that was aimed to convey his sincerity on the matter. Will found his resolve to detour the doctor from this matter beginning to considerably falter.

“Only if really you want to. I don’t want to put you out.”, Will said weakly, still trying to leave some escape routes open. For exactly who was anyone’s guess at this point, Will finding such means dwindling away quicker than he would have liked.

“I would not have offered if I felt inconvenienced.”, Hannibal said briskly, already in motion as he started moved forward to look Will over with sharp eyes. Though the height difference between them was not that great, Hannibal still seemed to loom over Will as he circled him slowly, light fingers touching here and there- hem of jacket, edge of shoulder, frayed collar.

“What are you doing?”, Will asked, licking his dry lips nervously. He was being studied intently, but not in a way he was used to.

“I believe it will be safe to assume that you do not have acceptable clothing for this occasion.”, the doctor’s assessment was more statement than actual question, the man finally coming full circle to start tapping his chin in deep consideration with long, elegant fingers.

“I would say that’s a pretty safe bet.”, Will snorted humorlessly.

“Then you are in luck. I know an excellent tailor who can work miracles.”, Hannibal nodded to himself on whatever matter he was considering, which if Will had to guess, was the poor state of his apparel and lack of personnel style. Hannibal was going to be in for a world of disappointment if he thought Will was about to start giving a damn about his clothing now.

“But your patients…”, Will gambled, already knowing his feeble hand was weak as the doctor finished straightening a few items on his desk and pulled on his coat.

“I have no more appointment for today and you are attempting to delay the inevitable. I assure you that it will not work.”, Hannibal grinned, the expression almost feral looking, a flash of white sharp teeth that made Will feel uncomfortable. Strange fear and stranger arousal mixed noxiously together in Will’s gut, warming him as it gutted him from the inside out.

“Damn it.”, Will muttered, wondering how the hell he had gotten himself into this mess. “Let’s get this over with then.”

“It is a suit, Will. Not an execution.”


If he wasn’t seeing it for himself, Jack would have never believed it. Will Graham had just entered the room with Hannibal Lector, the pair looking strangely in tandem with one another. Someone, more than likely the good doctor, had made Will shave and tussled his soft curls about in an artful manner. Will was dressed up to the nines in a tailored black suit that fit his trim form like a glove. Though well made and extremely tasteful, the empath’s attire was a basic affair, nothing out of the ordinary or had any noteworthy distinction to it to separate him from others. He had been made to blend in with the rest of the crowd, lost among the other dark suits that filled the hall.

Hannibal though, took the room’s attention and held it to him like an eclipse. The doctor was dressed in an oxblood red suit and vest, the rich material holding a particular gleam to it that caught the light as he shifted and moved. His outer attire was paired with a dark charcoal gray silk shirt that was an accenting matte note, making the red seem deeper and glossy, similar to congealed blood in visual texture. An almost obscene pale blue and silver paisley tie was coordinating with a chased silver pockerchief that shouldn’t have worked as well as it did, rounding out the look.

Like a king holding court, Hannibal swept in regally, every aspect of himself poised, his gestures and manners aristocratic in nature. He greeted and chatted with anyone and everyone he was introduced to while Will hid in his shadow, becoming part of it in his dark suit and tie as he never left Hannibal’s side.

Jack watched as Will managed not to became a wallflower but was never the center of attention either, being passed over and flat out ignored in most instances with Hannibal easily taking the lead. For all intents and purposes, Will could have been made of cellophane while standing next to Hannibal who dazzled others with ease, charming a smile out of all even the director of the FBI, a dour old man Jack had never seen crack an expression other than various shades of disdain in all his years at the bureau.

Sidling up next to them, Jack nudged Will to get his attention, the man practically falling asleep standing up while Hannibal regaled his audience with some sort of witty anecdote. The empath jolting, breathing in deeply upon reflex and confirming Jack’s suspicion that he had been dozing. Will glared at him for the wake up call, but stepped away to speak with him in relative confidence.

“Really, Will?”, Jack huffed into his drink.

“You know I haven’t been sleeping well.”, Will shrugged, still not exactly sure how he had gotten to this point in the evening. His head was still spinning, having been pulled in and out of so many shops, small intimate places with no price tags on the merchandise. The last stop had belonged to a small wizened old man who had quick, skillful hands and sharp, meticulous eyes for details. There was no time to make a suit from scratch but as promised, had done miraculous things with alterations in a short time period. “You said to bring someone.”

“So you picked Lector?”, Jack growled, his disapproval evident in his tone. He didn’t dislike the psychiatrist. Hell, he deeply respected the man and his insights, an honor that was difficult to earn from Jack. Something about Hannibal and Will having a relationship though other than patient and doctor didn’t sit right with him. It felt off to Jack for some reason and he didn’t know why.

“No. He invited himself along actually and all things considering, he’s a better choice for this than your suggestion of an escort.”, Will shot back, his own tone acid. It wasn’t like Jack had given him any real choice in the matter and now had the audacity to criticize about the outcome. It was like a summary of their entire relationship if he really thought about it.

“I don’t know how to feel about this.”, Jack grumbled, giving voice to his growing concerns.

“Then don’t. You wanted me to come. I came. Don’t complain about the method when the results are so clearly in your favor.”, Will seethed through clenched teeth, trying to keep himself in check. Now was not the time to go off on Jack or his ridiculous expectations of him, especially with so many other important people around them

“You also have no say with whom Will decides to spend his free time.”, Hannibal said, making both men jump as they were reminded that they were not alone or even really speaking in private. Neither had heard the doctor come up from behind them.

“This crosses some very impressive boundaries of ethics, Doctor.”, Jack arched a brow at Hannibal who returned the gesture in turn.

“It might be but as I, and even yourself, have stated many times before, Will is not my patient. I am not his doctor. We are merely having a series of conversations that he finds helpful.”, Hannibal said smoothly, seemingly unperturbed by Jack’s judgment as the doctor moved to stand beside Will, so close their sides touched. Will noted as their shoulders brushed together, of the warmth seeping through the layers of expensive fabric. He didn’t even react when Hannibal’s hand alighted upon the small of his back. It should have made Will feel uncomfortable, offended by the intrusion in personal space and nervously vulnerably about the intimate contact. Instead, the light touch grounded him, left him breathing freely for once.

“So you consider this healthy?”, Jack shot back, noting Will practically leaning into the doctor’s side, letting the other man take his weight. He wondered if Will even realized he was doing it and why Hannibal was letting him.

“Because what you have him do for you is beneficial?”, Hannibal pointed out, keeping his tone light to keep attention away from them. Tempers were beginning to run high and the doctor had plans for this evening that he would prefer were not cut short due to Will‘s social anxiety or Jack‘s control issues. “I think one night of meager fare, bad wine, and dancing will hardly damage our dear Will…..”

“Woah, hold on. Dancing?”, Will interrupted, shooting Hannibal a filthy look. He would have moved away but the hand on his back moved smoothly to his side, keeping him firmly in place. Ignoring the fidgeting man pulled flush to him, Hannibal smiled back placidly, amused that that was what the empath took from this entire situation and his weak attempt at escape. “I am not dancing.”.

“Oh but I am afraid to inform you that you are.”, Hannibal pointedly ignored Jack to turn his full attention upon Will, smiling down at him.

“No. Absolutely not.”, Will glared. He looked over at Jack for some sort of help or support but the man was looking for too amused about the situation for Will’s benefit. Jack took his revenge by leaving their presence without another word and Will to his fate.

“Would you really deny me this one simple request? After all that I have done for you?”, Hannibal infused just the right amount of hurt into his tone, knowing it would have the effect he was aiming for.

“Really? Emotional blackmail? How crass. I thought you would be above such methods of persuasion.”, Will groused, looking especially vexed that the doctor’s obvious tactics were working.

“I do what I must to achieve my objectives, even if I have sink to base levels to do so.”, Hannibal smiled, already scenting victory in the air. Will smelled sweetly of defeat.

“I can’t dance.”, Will protested weakly, already feeling his resolve starting to crumble.

“Then I will teach you. I have been told I can be quite light on my feet.”, Hannibal said, already guiding his victim to the dance floor, couples moving to the classical music provided by a string quartet.

“Of course you are. You’re probably perfect at that too.”, Will grumbled as his hands were positioned on Hannibal’s lower hip and upper shoulder. Of course the doctor was taking the lead.

“Well, I do not like to brag…”, Hannibal said, choosing a simple waltz to teach Will who picked up on the basic three count box step pattern easily enough.

“Yes, you do.”, Will countered to an arched brow, the doctor’s expression almost incredulous in nature. “ You do. You just choose to do it quietly.”, Will told him out right.

Hannibal huffed good naturedly in answer, neither confirming or denying the accusation. He was too busy savoring his victory and the spoils of war. Dancing was intimate, no matter how casually executed it was between partners. Personal space was invaded and shared, a tangible closeness that was felt by both participants, warmth bleeding into the spaces between as bodies shifted in time to music that was beginning to only be perceived at the edge of their senses now. The strings’ laments were fading out to the more natural music of breathing and heartbeats, Will’s own drumming loudly in his ears, the tempo drowning out all the other noises in the room expect for the ones coming from Hannibal.

It was starting to make Will feel dizzy and light headed though he did know if it was from the sudden closeness of another human being in his space or if was due to the fact it was Hannibal himself occupying it. This near, Will could smell Hannibal’s cologne and it most certainly did not have the picture of a ship on its bottle. It was heady and light, similar to that of sandalwood but with subtle yet complex notes of spice and musk as well. It had a lingering delicate cleverness to it, one that drew Will to its source.

It was the only plausible reason that Will could give himself on why he looked up, straight into Hannibal’s eyes.

Will hated eyes, despised most that looked back at him, giving too much away of themselves so freely. They were unlocked open windows Will climbed through whether he wanted to or not, feeling more kidnapped than thief. Hannibal’s own were no exception, Will falling forward into their deep layered depths. Will fell, not hitting bottom any time soon as his sense of self left him and he became other.

Eyes were liquid gems, multifaceted. Hannibal’s eyes were smoky garnets, those rare orbs disturbing in their actual color. Coffee, chocolate, and hazelnut notes of brown shifted, revealing their hidden red notes, like rubies being washed out of mud. They glittered and sparkled against the snow and night of the eye, cold and void as either.

Always the chained observer, even in the confines of his own head, Will noted the presence of the raven stag with them, seeing it without actually doing so, standing behind Hannibal, towering over them as thoughts and remembrances were connected together. As the stag bowed its majestic head down to breath a mist of darkness over them, Will’s mind braided all these floating threads of theory and supposition together as he became Hannibal, going in by accident and coming out the other side with a truth so bloody it left his core cold and bright as a nova.

“Oh.”, Will said ever so simply as he returned to himself, his body moving in time to the music as he was led, had been led this entire time by the man controlling his every move through suggestion and whispers in the dark.

“What is it……“, Hannibal began. They had been sharing a rare intimate moment between them, one that he had been enjoying until Will tensed under his touch as tight as steel wire, his gray blue eyes going wide with stolen knowledge, guilty as Prometheus with his fire. “Ah. I see you have figured it out. Your timing is as terrible as ever.”, he sighed, hoping that Will kept it together long enough to refrain from making a scene. It would make his escape a tedious matter.

“All this time…”, Will whispered, feeling sick and weak and so entangled he didn’t know how to even start freeing himself from the sickness the stag was enveloping him in.

“Yes, yes. Do not become predictably boring now, Will. Not when we have finally reached the zenith to our crescendo.”, Hannibal chided lightly, like Will had just stepped on his toes.

“Are you going to kill me?”, Will asked, surprising himself by voicing the words so steadily. He sounded distant, almost calm, like this was happening to someone else.

“I would prefer not to.”, Hannibal answered honestly, leaning in to touch their foreheads together. Any onlooker would assume that they were having a profound moment of intimacy. In a way, they were. “Are you going to tell anyone?”.

Breathing in, Will considered the question, part of his psyche screaming about his delay to alert anyone and everyone about the Ripper among them. The other parts though were making him look around the room, really peer at the people who moved around them.

Husbands and wives cheating….

Politicians stealing, making shady deal here right out in the open….

Promises between fake devils being made and broken, as easily as one broke bread…..

Lying on every level to one another, every soul here dressed in shades of gray and black…….

When it came down to brass tacks and the finer details, even Jack was a selfish bastard. He was working toward his own goal, or more accurately working Will to his own goal. He felt guilty about getting Miriam killed and was willing to sacrifice Will for a chance at some sort of penance or forgiveness.

“No.”, Will said softly, truthfully. His head fell forward until it hit a solid shoulder, the tired man breathing out fevered heat and exhaustion into soft material the shade of pooled blood. “How fitting.”, he thought drowsily.

“No?”, Hannibal questioned, taking on Will‘s weight as he submitted to the truth. They swayed in time to the music that sounded far sweeter than it should have, triumph making everything around him seem brighter and more potent in content.

“Fuck ‘em.”, Will shrugged, finding his own feet again as he righted himself. He wasn’t going to buckle and break, not now, not ever, not with Hannibal grip upon him like Death’s own.

“How eloquent.”, Hannibal smiled, one of those rare expressions that had confused Will in the past. Now he saw all the hidden meanings behind it and rejoiced, a prophet finding his god or his devil in the details.

“You’re the classy one. I’m just the freak in the room.”, Will chuckled, feeling oddly light as a great weight began to be lifted off his shoulders, one he had not even realized he had been carrying until now. His bones had been creaking, ready to break under the burden with Jack only adding more upon it at every turn. Will wondered what would have happened if he hadn’t discovered the truth. Would Jack have kept adding more to his burden, letting Will be crushed beneath it like his castle built on sand finally giving out to the inevitable?

“And even now, even with me in the room and in your arms, you set yourself apart.”, Hannibal noted, amused by the absurd idea of it. “Will, we can be monsters together.”

“You even do that perfect.”, Will laughed, shaking his head in disbelief.

“It just takes practice and dedication, like any other craft.”, Hannibal mused, liking the new energy in Will’s step as their movements became swift and natural, their footwork more complex, Will’s empathic ability and Hannibal’s powers of observation working flawlessly with one another as they read each other.

A thought occurred to Will as his mind glossed over the entirety of the situation again. “So, have I…..”, he asked, unsure on how he should feel about the subject matter of certain food just yet.

“Do you really need to ask?”, Hannibal mused to an answering glare for his stalling. “Yes.”

“How many?”, Will mentally recounted every dinner he had had at the doctor’s and all the times Hannibal had come over with food for him. The number was higher than he would have cared to admit to himself.

“How often have you dined with me?”, Hannibal said obviously picking up on Will’s train of thought.

“I should be upset about this. I can’t believe….”, Will shook his head. He found that he really couldn’t bring himself to care though. To be fair, it had all been delicious.

“It wasn’t anyone you knew or anyone society would miss.”, Hannibal shrugged.

“That’s not the point and you know it.”, Will said tiredly, not feeling like arguing his point. He snorted with laughter upon remembering something though. “It must have killed you that Freddie Lounds was a vegetarian.”

“She is an exceptionally annoying woman.”, Hannibal sighed, “Useful in her own way, but terribly bothersome.”. Their pacing slowed down to swaying movements, their bodies flush to one another as the music slowed, turning to something sweeter in melody. Will was willing to bet that Hannibal knew the piece of music being played but didn’t care enough to ask. He simply enjoyed the sensation of being close to another, a rare experience for him. Hannibal seemed distracted though, his eye narrowing as his silvery dark head tilted as if he were listening to something that Will could not hear.

“You’re thinking about it right now, aren’t you?”, Will accused, his face breaking out into a grin.

“Perhaps.”, Hannibal smiled back slyly. To his surprise, he found that it was enjoyable to have someone else in on the joke.

“Don’t BS me. I know you are. So who is it?”, Will glanced around. Now that he really saw, could see through Hannibal’s eyes, there was so much potential in the room.

“Are you planning on stopping me?”, Hannibal asked, though he already knew the answer.

“With the dance?”, Will decided to be difficult.

“Do not play coy. It does not suit you well.”, Hannibal mused in turn.

“No, it doesn‘t.”, Will agreed easily enough, “I’ll stop teasing after you’ve figured out that we are past all that now.”

“Fair enough. The cellist.”, Hannibal nodding toward the musician.

“Him? But why? He hasn’t done anything, at least not anything I‘ve noticed.”, Will looked unimpressed by the doctor’s choice, which pleased Hannibal to no end. Finally some counterpoint to play off of. If Will was like this with every choice of meat, he would keep the hunt interesting.

“He keeps playing every fourth note off. It is quite annoying and it hinders the other three musicians who have to work harder to hide his shortcomings.”, Hannibal explained, “Do you disapprove?”.

“No. I just would have thought you would go after that woman wearing the god awful perfume that even I can smell.”, Will said, his nose crinkling as he caught another whiff of the nauseous odor. The woman smelled like she had bathed in White Musk.

“She is simply misguided. Such nuances in nature can be fixed with some tactful suggestion and direction. I’m afraid in matters of natural talent or lack there of, and forcing it upon others, that is a far different and more grave matter.”, Hannibal intoned, wondering what dish the cellist would make. Maybe he would have Will select the next menu for the both of them.

“So you kill people who annoy you. Bothersome little bugs that deserve to have their wings torn off.”, Will mused, not bothering to make it a question.

“No.”, Hannibal corrected, “I only deign to eat the rude.”.

Will’s head jerked back in mild surprise, a soft chuckle escaping his lips. “Wow….that is a far simpler explanation than some of the bureau’s best forensic psychologists have come up with.”, he laughed breathily. The best answer were always so uncomplicated, they were eloquent by default in their design.

“I am a simple man at heart.”, Hannibal smirked, enjoying the thrill that ran up his spine upon hearing Will laugh so light and free, like music from the imagination played from harps made of glass and strung with spider silk.

Will’s hour had bloomed fully, and withered away a long time, the pair staying where they were until tapered candles melted down low and the serving staff’s patience began to pager in time with the flickering flame. Both men were reluctant to let this moment go just yet though, their own little world held between them in their arms, held aloft in orbit by the notes of the old masters.

“So what are we?”, Will was the one who broached the question first.

“What do you want us to be?”, Hannibal offered.

“I can’t think of any appropriate label that could even begin to….”, Will began, trailing off toward the end, lost in trying to find the right words.

“Then do not. Let it flourish, grow naturally.”, Hannibal said softly.

“This will be our design.”