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How To Save A Life (The Cannibal-Friendly Handbook)

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It’s weird (or maybe not, he’s not really sure of what is and isn’t socially acceptable anymore), but Will kind of expected that the second he threw one foot precariously over the guardrail, he’d be hit with a moment of clarity. That his brain would suddenly realise that yes, this is what he needs to do, without question. Instead, his mind conjures an image of blood gently washing down the river below. Of course, it’s too dark at night for him to possibly be able to see actual blood, but the thought is comforting.

It shouldn’t be comforting, he reminds himself sharply. But well, he’s going to die soon anyway, why not go into his mind one last time? It’s not like he’ll have any opportunity to act on it when he’s becoming a part of the river. He closes his eyes and imagines a victim. A redhead. The killer he’d read about in the paper today had focused exclusively on redheads. Her face is obscured by her messy hair and her hands are bound behind her back. She’s trying to resist him -

- there’s a splash- No. There’s no water here. He’s in a small apartment building. There’s music playing. He pushes the woman forward and she drops like a sack of rocks. She’s got a strong survival instinct, she tries desperately to pull her body away from him, but he just has to grab her legs and pull and she’s -there’s another splash - on antlers, the final altar for her body to be honoured upon. He takes her - splash - arm and inserts an IV. She’s not dead but she won’t ever be - splash - angels to watch over him while he - splash - opens up the throat to reveal the vocal - “Damnit,” Will curses, opening his eyes and pounding his hand against the railing in a show of frustration before realising that fist plus metal equals fucking ow. He’s actually shaking as he realises that it was something disturbing the water below that was interrupting his fantas- imagination. He’s not entirely sure who he is thanks to his brain skittering through all the latest killers he’d read up on. That’d be the last time he’d be reading tattle crime dot com before bed. He laughs then, because this is the last time he’ll be doing anything.

Clutching his throbbing hand, he slowly comes back to himself enough (but not enough because the urges are still there) to look down to the river bed. Where there’s a man looking up at him. Who has clearly been distracted from - Oh. Throwing limbs into the river. Human limbs. Lovely, he thinks sarcastically. Then he thinks it again because it actually is kind of lovely. The man looks confident. At ease with what he is. He’s kinda hot, too. At least, from what Will can make out. He’s not even conscious of what he’s doing until he’s realised that he’s just waved at a man dumping a body. It’s slightly more alarming when the man throws the last couple of pieces into the water and then heads for the opening of the bridge.

For a moment, he panics and considers leaping into the water before the man gets to him. Then he realises that worst case scenario is that this guy kills him, which would actually be quite agreeable to Will, so he just waits patiently sitting on the rail. He looks below him and considers whether he should kick his shoes off before he jumps. It just kind of seems unnecessarily proper to wear shoes when you’re about to off yourself. He never liked shoes anyway. Too constricting. He kicks his left shoe off and smiles when it splashes. The sound is faint compared to that of chunks of human being dropped in. His body will be louder still when it drops down.

A throat is cleared and Will jumps slightly, startled by the interruption to his thoughts. He looks to the left and oh, it’s just the serial killer. No big deal. “Lovely evening for bodies,” he says, conversationally. He takes a moment to appreciate the other man’s suit. It looks expensive. Will kind of admires the man for doing what he was doing in a suit. As if it’s just an errand one completes on the way home from work.

“Apparently so,” the man says, his voice carrying the low vibrations of an accent. European, Will thinks. It also has the advantage of being unfairly sexy. “Do you make a habit of sitting on the edge of bridges?”

He sounds alarmingly like Alana when she’s telling him that it’s okay to keep saying no to Crawford. “Oh, God. You’re a psychiatrist.”

The man looks unruffled, but Will imagines that he’s taken aback, deep down inside. “Have we met?” he asks.

“Not until now. I’m Will Graham and I’ll be making my first - and hopefully last - suicide attempt this evening. Stay tuned to see how it all pans out.”

The contrast of the man’s silence to Will’s not-quite-hysteria only makes him feel all the more unstable. Which really, in a fair world, the guy who kills people should be more unhinged than the guy who just thinks about it. He doesn’t know what prompts him to continue speaking when he asks “So, you’re a serial killer? How’s that working out for you?”

“What makes you think this isn’t my first?” he asks and yeah, totally a psychiatrist. Only psychiatrists have mastered the answering a question with a question skill. It’s probably a secret passed down among them.

“You’re too calm,” Will answers. “Even with a witness, you’re still calm.”

“Have you killed before, Will?” the man asks.

“Only in my dreams,” Will replies. No point in lying now. He kicks his other shoe off and watches the water welcome it.

“Is that why you plan to kill yourself?”

“It’s a little late for a psychoanalysis, Doctor.”

Unbidden, a thought rises to Will’s mind. He wonders what it would be like being able to empathise with the killer as they murdered someone - as they murdered him. There’s always a kind of disassociation from every other killer he’s empathized with. It’s never been face to face, in the moment. Leftovers, he thinks.

“Hannibal,” the man corrects him.

First name basis with a serial killer. How proud his father would be. The sun is completely absent now, Will notices. Alana will be finding his note soon. It wasn’t a suicide note, but a simple message: Going out of town. Feed the dogs for me?. She’ll still worry, nonetheless. She knows he hates going into work, let alone out of town.

“Would you like to kill me, Hannibal?” The words sound distant to Will, as if he isn’t the one speaking them. He thinks he’s not asking - he’s offering.

Hannibal pauses, then courteously decides to mention, “I’m also a cannibal.”

That’s enough to make Will look at him. They get a brief spark of eye contact before Will looks away. “Ah, I suppose you are,” he realises. Then, “You should probably avoid my liver. I’m quite fond of scotch.”

Hannibal smiles curiously, like he isn’t quite sure what Will is (that makes two of them) and offers Will his hand.

He accepts it.

-

“Nice car,” Will comments as he undoes his seat-beat, an absurd act considering he’s offered himself to be murdered and eaten, and gets out of the vehicle.

“You’re knowledgeable on cars?” Hannibal asks.

“Only enough to tell that this one was expensive,” Will says, “I’m more one for boat motors.”

Hannibal nods in acknowledgement but remains silent. It’s a comfortable silence, oddly enough. Hannibal’s house is even grander than the expensive suit and car led him to believe it would be. Will feels kind of awkward entering the place without shoes, although he reasons that food hardly has a dress code.

Hannibal leads him to his kitchen - which looks way too clean for organ harvesting, he does not want to know how much Hannibal spends on cleaning products - and turns on the lights before offering Will a seat at the counter.

“You cook your meat, right?” Will asks and Hannibal gives him a very unimpressed look.

“I am civilised, Will,” he replies.

Will shrugs. In the brightened room, it’s hard to believe that barely an hour ago Will was preparing to jump off a bridge. He still wants to die - well that’s not right, he still thinks it’s best that he dies - but this way seems better. There’s something nice about the idea of being cannibalised, like he’s giving back in death. Or maybe that’s the Minnesota Shrike talking. There are so many point of views sometimes it’s hard to tell which is his. He wonders briefly how things might have been different had he said yes to Jack. Maybe helping catch murderers would have made his moral compass a little clearer. Maybe things would have gone exactly the same, just that he would have been witnessing the crimes from their scenes rather than across the pages of the Tattler.

He watched as Hannibal flicked through what he was pretty sure was a bunch of recipes. “What are you planning on making?”

Hannibal pauses long enough to give him a considering look. “Something special,” he settles on as a reply.

Will shrugs. “It’s not everyday that someone offers himself up to the Chesapeake Ripper, I suppose.”

Hannibal gives him an indecipherable look. “What makes you think I’m the Ripper?”

“Why do you eat people?” Will counters.

Hannibal picks one of the pieces of card out and hands it to Will.

Will reads. Or tries to. The recipe is in French or something, he realises.

“Does that sound acceptable?” Hannibal asks.

“I’m not going to be eating it,” Will replies.

Hannibal seems to accept that and starts to pull things out of cupboards and drawers. “It’s not often I can discuss my meal preferences with someone,” he says.

“Or ever,” Will corrects and the other man nods. “You didn’t answer my question.”

“What question was that?”

“Why do you eat people?”

Hannibal paused in pulling ingredients from the fridge and approached Will, from the other side of the counter. “What reason do you think there is for such a thing?”

Will goes to automatically answer with something righteous, ‘There is no good reason’, he thinks he’s meant to think. But he’s curious to the actual reason, so for the first time in he can’t remember how long, Will allows himself to make eye contact. To look.

“All in for Childhood trauma,” Will says.

Hannibal watches him for a very long moment, then he turns and heads back to the fridge. “You’ve been telling me things about myself all evening, Will.”

Will shrugs. “You’ve got cannibalism, I’ve got empathy. It’s my thing.”

The other man turns back to face him. “Your thing?”

Will nods, before he leans forward and whispers loud enough for Hannibal to hear, “I see you.” He’s going to die soon, he might as well be as creepy as he wants.

There’s a beat. “Do you see everyone?”

“I could if I wanted to,” he says. “If I looked close enough.”

“How close is close enough?” Hannibal asks.

“Too close.”

Hannibal pulls a few more vegetables out of the fridge before grabbing a chopping board and very sharp looking knife and getting to work. Will is just about accepting that he’ll be spending the rest of his life in silence when Hannibal speaks.

“The winter was cold and food was scarce,” he says, “and Mischa and I no longer had any parents to speak of. She was barely old enough to talk.” When Hannibal says the girl’s name, the sound is rich with emotion. Will can feel the forceful shove of love grief anger fear regret pain so strongly that he feels breathless with it. “Everything the men tried to scavenge was inedible,” he continues, skipping parts of the story that Will fills in with his mind. “She had pneumonia, they said. She would die anyway.”

“They’re all dead now?” Will asks, gritting his teeth against the sudden desire to hurt something. It’s not really a question.

Bouquet Garni,” he says, instead of the answer that they both know, as he sits aside the sauce he has made during their conversation to start picking out herbs. “is the french term for tying together a mixture of herbs for flavouring.” He looks entirely composed, as if he hadn’t just re-lived trauma and Will thinks that this is what Hannibal is. Control. Perfect control. It had been visible in the way he’d been so nonchalant for the entire evening - even when he’d seen a witness to him committing a crime, he hadn’t as much as tensed. He’s the type of man, Will thinks, that the world is forced to bow to.

Will looks at the sauce that Hannibal has made. He feels an odd longing to taste Hannibal’s cooking, to know more than just how he thinks. He wants to know how he cooks, how he sleeps, what he reads, how he finds the time to do all that and work and hunt. He wants to know everything but he never will. He decides he can at least know this, dipping a wayward spoon into the mixture and tasting. It’s an amazing sensation on his taste buds. He knew it would be. He closes his eyes so that he has a moment that entirely revolves around the one sense and he smiles.

Hannibal is watching him when he opens his eyes. “Would you like to taste?” Will asks him.

The man steps right up in front of Will and, still watching him, dips two fingers into the sauce, pausing for a moment before smearing it across Will’s neck. Hannibal leans his head forward and Will’s thoughts start jumping all over the place because he isn’t seriously about to - and yep, Hannibal sucks. Will’s eyes close involuntarily at the pleasant pressure as it makes his nerves dance in response and his hand comes up to tightly grip the back of Hannibal’s vest, pulling his body as close as humanly possible. Will tilts his neck to give the other man better access and he’s pretty sure this is going on for a little longer than absolutely necessary - not that he’s complaining at all. His brain tries to startle him at the idea that the other man might bite him, but the thought turns out to be oddly appealing and Will is pretty sure he makes a noise to express that fact although his mind is kind of short circuiting so he can’t be sure. Yeah, he’s definitely okay with being eaten if it’s getting down by this guy’s mouth.

Then, as soon as it had begun, Hannibal pulls away and goes back to chopping vegetables looking a lot less ruffled than Will would have preferred. He looks down at the rhythmic movement of the blade as his thoughts begin to catch up with him. He thinks of Hannibal’s little sister and begins to devise what happens next in the story.

“You grow up and make yourself stronger. You’re smarter, fitter, more capable. You find each of them and you let them know pain. They’ll never feel the same amount as you did, but it’s something. And then it’s done. But it isn’t. You’ve already built yourself to be exquisite at the hunt. You’ve become a true predator and a predator doesn’t just quit and turn itself back into prey,” Will says. He empathises. He understands.

“Laws and morals were made by men. We are not born to think of such things, we are taught them,” Hannibal says. “Perhaps, these laws are what keep you chained, Will Graham. Your mind pleads with you to let it complete your desires, your needs, and yet you reject it on the rules of men. Why do you want to kill yourself?”

“Because I see too much,” Will replies.

“Why do you want to kill yourself?” he repeats, more forceful.

Will can feel his heart racing in his chest and the time between each breath shortens. His vision begins to blur and he’s about to die and yet he still can’t say it. “Because I don’t want to live knowing so much evil,” he lies.

Suddenly Hannibal is right there in front of him, gripping his shirt and part of Will is elated, actually elated, because he thinks he’s about to die and it’ll be the closest to killing he’ll ever get and- “Because I dream when I’m asleep and I dream when I’m awake and my dreams are all of murder and I see people in the street, I talk to my friends and I imagine what it would be like to run a blade through their hearts or slit their throats to watch them bleed out on the floor and I know these thoughts should disgust me but they don’t, they feel right,” he takes a deep breath and oh God, he’s choking, he’s actually going to choke to death in the arms of a murderer, this is his life, “Because one day I’m not going to be able to hold back.” He finishes with an overwhelming sense of clarity and he thinks that this is what the moment on the bridge should have been like. It occurs to him that he isn’t afraid of becoming a killer - he’s already a killer. He’s just afraid of making his first kill.

When Hannibal let’s go of him, Will loses the ability - or the willpower - to stand and he feels himself fall to his knees like it’s an out of body experience.

He’s not sure when it happened, but his breathing has evened out and he somehow knows that now is the time. He closes his eyes. “I’m ready,” he says, his voice even.

There’s no question to what he means and Will hears the slide of metal - Hannibal pulling a knife from it’s rack. “Stand up,” Hannibal says and Will understands.

“The others,” he says as he rises, “the people you’ve killed. They’re just meat. Pigs. But I’m different,” Will feels Hannibal come to stand so close behind him, their body heat mingling. “I’m the only person who has ever seen you,” one hand grips Will’s hair and pulls it back, the other holds the knife to his neck, “I’m the only person who will ever effortlessly understand and admire you as you truly are.”

He can feel Hannibal’s breath on the back of his neck.

He can feel the tensing of muscles in the arm holding the blade.

He can feel the moment Hannibal changes his mind.

“You could join me,” the offer is barely a whisper. Will shivers.

He thinks that this decision should be harder but it isn’t and for once, he doesn’t care that he is not as he should be. He thinks about how easily their lives could fall into place together. He thinks about lecturing without worrying that if he leaves one slide up for too long, he might become something else. He thinks about coming home here and being a part of Hannibal’s dinner parties in a different way than he originally intended. He thinks about drinking wine in the study and kissing Hannibal good bye before work each day. He thinks about hunting trips where he can embrace his true self.

And then he stops thinking, and starts doing. “Okay,” Will says. And when Hannibal puts down the knife, Will turns and he kisses him.

Epilogue

“Will, where are you?” Alana is saying the second he answers his mobile. He’d been ignoring it for her last five attempts or so, but the woman was nothing but persistent.

“I’m out-”

“Of town, yes, I read the note,” she interrupts, impatiently. “Two months ago.” He feels bad for how worried she sounds.

“Ah, actually,” he says, “I may have lied about that.”

“I was just at your house feeding the dogs, Will. You weren’t there.”

“No, well,” Will gives Hannibal an adoring smile from across the room. “I was going to go out of town when I, ah, met someone. Kind of a whirlwind romance.”

Oh,” she sounds carefully pleased.

“Yeah,” he agrees. “Listen, Alana, I’m kind of in the middle of something.”

“Oh!” now she sounds like she’s blushing from coming to the wrong conclusions and he smiles. That’s one alibi he supposes.

He bids her farewell and hangs up before turning to look at his partner (in-crime, a cheesy voice adds in his head). Hannibal gives him a patient smile. “Are you ready?” he asks.

Will nods.

Hannibal gestures to the body before him. “Now this, my love,” he says, “is the easiest way to access the heart without adding damage.”

Will smiles at the metaphor.