Sanguine eyes followed the tense form of the empath as Will walked in, forgoing his usual place before Hannibal’s bookshelves to stare out one of the large windows of his office. The Baltimore’s overcast sky cast a pale light around the profiler, making his unruly dark curls a halo of sorts. It created the illusion of a renaissance angel with all soft angles and pale skin lit up from within.
“You seem tense.” Hannibal observed as he memorized the finer details of the scene presented to him. It was worthy of his attention and time to sketch later on.
“When am I not?” Will scoffed, shifting from one foot to the other with anxious energy, “Jack’s got me wound so tight around the Ripper case I’ve all but stopped sleeping. Even when I do, it’s never for long,”
Will ran shaking hands down his weary face, scruff rough against his palms as he tried to rub out some of the mentioned fatigue along with the grit from his eyes, “And I don’t think I’ve had a decent meal that wasn’t provided by you in over a month” He admitted ruefully, sending a crooked smile over in Hannibal’s direction. It was his subtle attempt at gratitude, because words were really hard at the moment for him. He could feel them sleeping on his tongue, groggy when he forced them to emerge from his mouth.
The good doctor inclined his head in consideration. This sort of news was nothing new to him. Keeping close tabs on it, Hannibal was more aware of Will’s declining health, both mentally and physically, than anyone else. It was a result of Jack’s constant pushing, insomnia, and general lack of appetite, Will‘s body was unable to recoup the energy it was expending. As time wore on, the price of Will’s overworked mind was becoming more prevalent in his physique as it wilted, making the man appear almost gaunt when presented in the right light. Beneath the layers of cheap flannel and cotton Will chose to dress himself with for comfort, Hannibal was certain there were more sharp contours of bone and lean muscle starved thin.
Eventually something would have to be done about Will. It was a shame really. Though Hannibal deeply enjoyed winding Will up and watching him go, he had long since realized that Will was quite possibly the only one capable of understanding him for who and what he was. Where Jack had floundered about for years trying to seek out him out as the Ripper, Will was the only one capable of being a true threat to his freedom.
Like an apprentice might study his master’s work to learn his techniques, Will had dissected his kills to find the meaning and motive behind them. He had skillfully painted his own picture of the Chesapeake Ripper when others were still dabbling in finger paint. Whether Will realized it or not, there was admiration and even a touch of awe in his voice whenever he described the Ripper to Hannibal who quietly preened when Will used such descriptors as ‘art’, ‘elegance’, and ‘grace’. It was enough to make Hannibal want to hold Will beneath him by the throat and own him.
“Tell me, Will, what is it you’ve been doing to separate yourself from the monsters Jack sends you after once your work is completed?” Hannibal asked, already knowing the answer. If it didn’t pertain to dogs, Will was inconsistent at best about his own personal needs.
Hands in his pockets, Will stared out the window at the clouded sky rather than answering right away. Though Hannibal couldn’t see the profiler’s face, he knew Will’s eyes would be unfocused, gaze locked onto the distance of nothing in particular.
“Working for the FBI isn’t the same as teaching. I don’t have the amount of free time I did before…” Will answered honestly. His voice fell for a moment as he thought back to what he liked to do with his evenings when they were his. Such a simple question but it made him stumble over his words. Lately he had been losing himself to the inner details of cases even while working on his fishing lures and boat motors. There truly was no rest for the wicked, Will mused to himself before attempting to expand further on the topic. “Drinking mostly…playing with the pack.”
Shoulders tense from his confession, Will shuffled his feet, refusing to look over at Hannibal. He knew he would find no approval there within his unofficial therapist about the drinking, not when the alcohol was being abused to take the sharper edges from his nightmares. Such practices brought the spirit too close to the gateway to alcoholism, and Will was well on his way to paying the ferryman for a permanent vacation of cheap whiskey.
“Will, I think it is time you found something to lose yourself in after your day has come to its end, something that will pull your thoughts away from the killers who linger within you. At the very least, you must force your body to physically relax. The mind will soon follow.” Hannibal said to hear the profiler openly scoff. “You don’t believe that such an activity exists, but I assure you there are plenty of activities to choose from. I myself enjoy cooking, amongst other things, to lose myself in after work.”
“I’m not much of a cook Hannibal. Never have been.” Will said, already losing interest as his gaze settled again somewhere along the horizon “My mind doesn’t un-focus so easily either. If and when I cook, and I stress the ’if’ here, I’m not chopping vegetables. I’m taking off fingers or slicing throats. I‘ve been chasing after too many cannibals of late. Meat is no longer an appealing concept to me.” By the end, his words were being spat out. Will felt constantly betrayed by his own mind, his anger like a venom that seeped through him, leaving the man weak and shaking.
“An example of myself only, Will, I assure you.” Hannibal amended when the profiler fell into silence once again. “I was thinking something much more intense for you, something that would be all consuming so that your mind will not wander;”
Paused, Hannibal let a thin smile pull at the corners of his mask while Will wasn‘t looking over at him. “I believe it would be in your best interest to consider partaking in regular sexual activities.” he said, carefully presenting the intimate suggestion in a blasé manner. He delighted in seeing Will’s spine go rigid with shock.
“You want me to what?” Will yelped. It was enough to make him do a double take, turning his attention from the window to Hannibal and back again. On his part, Hannibal appeared to be impassive about the whole thing, the good doctor having already sequestered his smile back under the confines of his mask.
“I am not in the habit of repeating myself.” Hannibal answered coolly, leveling a look over at Will for being so intentionally obstinate.
“You can’t be serious,” Will said as he turned to face the man completely, though his eyes only got as far as the Winsor knot in a paisley tie. In response, Hannibal tilted his head in that ever slight fashion he was prone to when considering something.
“Have I given the impression that I am not? I am being completely serious.” Came the words Will had not been anticipated, his eyes filling with a range of intense emotions that made Hannibal wish the man was closer to him to better see the spectrum. “It is a well-practiced method of relaxation, Will, and one I believe you would benefit greatly from.”
“You want me to get laid?” Will said the words slowly and carefully, still hoping that he had somehow misunderstood something somewhere along the line of their conversation. When it appeared that he had not, Will’s final expression settled into one of exasperation.
“Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Doctor, but there isn’t exactly anyone lining up to help me out there. Not unless you count the therapists looking to write a thesis about my way of thinking. They‘re always more than willing to fuck me over.” Will laughed dismissively, the noise dark, rough, and without any trace of humor.
Rude, Hannibal thought, but knew that Will was always that way when he got scared. Fear preyed on Will’s mind too frequently, making his scent sour and sharp. Hannibal wondered what the empath would smell like when he was all warm and settled up against a lover. It made Hannibal look forward to what Will smelled like when he felt safe.
“I said you should consider partaking in regular sexual activities. I did not recommend finding a stranger on the street and bringing them home, though I believe such practices are not so uncommon.” Hannibal reiterated, nonchalantly wiping away some imaginary dust from his slacks.
“So you’re recommending that I masturbate?” Will questioned in disbelief, turning away from Hannibal to the bookshelves. “I can’t believe we’re having this conversation.”
Rising from his seat, Hannibal allowed Will a few moments of privacy to consider his words, turning his back to the profiler as he filled two glasses with a rather delightful pinot noir.
“Masturbation is a well-known method of relaxation. The endorphins give you a sense of wellbeing, and it can assist with insomnia. I believe a good night rest would do wonders for your mentality.” Hannibal said lightly as he pressed the glass of red into Will’s hand, the man muttering his thanks, lifting the glass to his lips to take a too large sip.
“Orgasm is a little hard to achieve when all you can think about is corpses.” Will sighed into the wine.
“Then perhaps you should try yourself with a partner. They could be a distraction for your mind to focus on.” Hannibal provided answer, sampling the heady aroma of the pinot noir. He enjoyed the subtle hints of floral notes in the fruity aroma before tasting the liquid silk of the wine. “Go to a bar after work, and enjoy a beer in the casual atmosphere. You don’t have to take someone home, Will. Just look for someone with whom you would like to be with. If nothing else, it will give you something to think about in the evenings instead of dead bodies.”
It was terrible advice of course. Will was solitary by nature due to his ‘gift’. A bar filled with people with their own particular desperate needs would be a fresh hell for him. More than likely if Will chose to take Hannibal advice to heart, he would be quickly overwhelmed by the bar’s patrons and would be forced to leave before any sort of human connection could be made. After such an endeavor, he would come back to tell Hannibal of his failures. It would be the perfect, carefully crafted moment for Hannibal to offer up his own services to Will while the man was feeling vulnerable and unwanted.
“You’re serious.” Will tried to confirm, even going so far as to make eye contact, his grey blue gaze searching the depths of maroon for the bad punch line to the joke of him.
“Very.” Hannibal nodded as he offered up the barest smile of reassurance. “Certainly no harm can come from the experience. It will be a simple exercise of the imagination, though a little socialization would certainly do you good.”
Hannibal was confident that Will would take his advice though the profiler’s instincts would be screaming at him to do otherwise. Will’s extreme empathy wouldn’t allow him to just take any random person home, not with Will noticing every little detail and putting together a profile about them. Even if Will somehow managed to convince himself to do so, Will’s own peculiarities would ensure that nothing would happen, eye contact or lack there of in Will’s case alone working against him.
The new mental scarring would be glorious, the deepening of Will’s depression an insured thing. More importantly, the physical rejection alone would leave Will wounded and left wide open to the unethical advances of his unofficial therapist. After being dismissed for one reason or another so often by so many, acceptance would not only be overwhelming but welcome to Will. By the time the good doctor was done with him, Will would be willing to let Hannibal carve his name into the younger man’s back if it meant he could feel wanted.
There was a long pause of silence after that, Hannibal sipping his wine as he watched Will fight with himself internally, obviously weighing the validity of the advice in his mind
“Fine.” was the word to at last break the silence, Will downing the wine like it was a shot of cheap whisky before handing Hannibal the glass. Grabbing his jacket, Will was already well on his way out the door with mission in mind. “But I’m only trying this once.”
Amused and allowing himself to show it having no one left to bear witness to it, Hannibal watched him go, the door closing softly behind Will. He could have such good manners when he wanted to. With a smile sharp enough to cut glass, Hannibal regarded what was left of his wine with a deeply thoughtful yet pleased look.
“Only once, dear Will, because the rejection will break you. All the better for me to remake you into something better.”
Try as he might, Will couldn’t make it though his first drink before he decided it was time to leave. The bar’s atmosphere was too thick with aggression and a sexual buzz that carried an undertone of depression to it, all of which made him nauseous. It was far too much for the sensitive empath to handle, a headache already threatening to bloom at the base of his neck and raise merry hell there.
“What the hell was I thinking?” Will griped at himself as he hunched his shoulder. He wished he’d worn a thicker jacket to ward off the evening cold as a sharp wind blew through the thinning fabric. He had nearly three blocks to walk to get back to his car, and was now cursing himself every step of the way. On top of being aggravated, Will got to be half frozen as well. A perfect ending to his day, and one he should have expected.
Why had he let Hannibal convince him to try this foolish endeavor? Will knew himself, knew that he should have known better, and yet he’d gone to a bar, ordered a beer, taken two sips from it, and ending up leaving. Why? To say that he’d done it so that the subject of his sexual activities and social interactions would never have to come up again or be cause for concern. It didn’t make it hurt any less though.
Will knew he was a social exile. He’d known that before leaving the office, that no one would be going home with him tonight. His mind wouldn’t let him look at people that way, physically and mentally couldn’t. When he saw an individual, Will didn’t see the possibility of a social acquaintance. He saw how much they hated their job, who they were sleeping with, how many children they had and if they beat said children, etc, so on, and so forth. His empathy had never brought him anything good before relationship wise. He certainly didn’t see it helping him out now with a casual fuck.
Walking with his head down and collar up against the wind, Will didn’t see the other person at all until their bodies collided. The stranger was sent stumbling back when Will walking into him, the profiler mumbling an apology as he walked off at a quicker pace. Chilled to the bone, Will’s only real concern was getting into the warmth of his car. The hand on his shoulder that spun him around was unexpected.
”You need to watch where you’re going, you rude piece of shit.” said the man who loomed over him now as Will confronted the source of his rough handling. His training as a cop kept him upright and ready to react, but a sudden shock like a blow to the gut did a number on Will as his gaze settled on his attacker’s face. The bizarre thing that stole Will’s words and stayed his hands was that the smooth command was coming from someone who wore Hannibal‘s face and spoke with his voice. “I think you owe me a fucking apology.”
“D-doctor Lecter?” Will stammered. He hadn’t expect to find the refined therapist in this part of town, closer to the night clubs and cheap bars than the opera houses and art galleries Will knew Hannibal preferred. Yet here he was, dressed in dark jean and tan leather coat, both articles of clothing running starkly against his usual style of well tailored suits. Even more surprising still was the lit cigarette held in hand, the end of it caught between thin lips as the man pulled a long drag from the smoke.
As the name left Will’s lips, a smile that was too bold to be natural for the refined man in Will’s mind met the profiler in greeting. Brow furrowing in confusion, Will turned his eyes upward, studying the tattoo on the man’s neck before meeting maroon eyes familiar in color but not content.
No, not Hannibal. Someone else. An imposter.
“Who are you?” Will more demanded then asked, no tact applied his question as he studied the man who was not Hannibal from head to toe for answers. The most obvious one being was that Hannibal had a brother, a twin to be exact, though he had never mentioned having one before.
As unbelievable as it seemed, there was no denying those cut cheek bones or reddish brown eyes, the unique shade of which Will never thought he would see more than once in a lifetime. The hair was the same mixture of ash, burnished gold, and silver, but was kept longer and less tended to than Hannibal’s. The locks fell forward just enough to soften those sharp masculine facial features to keep them from being too hard. The man’s smile stretched thin and wide in a more relaxed greeting, the cigarette left to hang from familiar lips as the man seemed to more pose for Will rather than loom over him, though they were roughly the same height. Yet another ability the imposter shared with Hannibal.
“Nigel Lecter at your service, and you must be Will Graham. What a small world we live in. My dear brother has told me all about you.”