Chapter 1: Collecting Strays
It's not easy living with Frederick Chilton.
Not that Will expected it to be, but he wasn't expecting it to be this hard either.
The man was insufferable.
However unpleasant he may have seemed at the hospital, in a domestic setting he was ten times worse. He was impatient, demanding, arrogant, paranoid, and easily offended. He complained about everything, literally everything, and every day that Will Graham had to listen to him mention how the bargain brand bar soap on the bathroom counter made his hands dry out was another day closer to Will Graham cheerfully handing him over to the FBI. It wouldn't exactly be justice, but it might just make his headache go away.
It was the middle of the day when Dr. Frederick Chilton arrived on his doorstep, panicked and wide eyed and covered in other people's blood. Surrounded by dogs, he had politely requested to use Will's shower.
It was the polite request that threw Will off. Had his help been demanded, or begged for, he wouldn't have been surprised, or compelled to do anything of the sort. But the collected, professional, “May I use your shower, please?” disarmed him. He found himself saying yes.
The dogs seemed to approve, at least.
The collected professionalism lasted as far as the porch.
Chilton rambled while he got undressed, tearing at his bloodstained clothes almost as soon as he crossed the threshold. The jacket of his checked grey suit, which Will was sure cost more than everything in his closet combined, was removed so violently that one of the sleeves ripped at the shoulder. Chilton tossed it away from himself, mumbling about dry cleaning and security deposits, and kicked off his shoes with difficulty. He was unbalanced, Will noted, without his cane. A white-knuckled hand gripped the back of a wooden chair to steady himself. The mob of dogs around his legs, relentlessly sniffing and pressing against him certainly wasn't helping.
“Upstairs, first door on the left,” Will said without prompting, when Chilton managed to wrangle his tie over his head and stood holding it to his chest, for the first time seeming to realise how unfamiliar his surroundings were. The doctor nodded curtly. He opened his mouth, blinked once, and closed it again. Will watched him turn on his heel and set off in the direction he had pointed. The stairs creaked under his stocking feet.
Will waited until he heard the shower running before getting the phone.
Call Jack, his mind was telling him. Call Jack right now, before everything goes to hell.
He punched Jack's number into the phone, and didn't hit send.
Winston was sitting in front of him, head cocked to the side, looking up into his face. Will looked at the dog, and looked back to his phone.
Jack won't listen.
His thumb hovered over the button.
If Jack thinks he's the Ripper, he'll kill him.
Upstairs, Will could hear Chilton crying in the shower.
He put the phone down and rubbed a hand over his face. Winston, still staring, tilted his head in the other direction. Will Graham stared back at the dog and sighed.
“This is a very bad idea.”
He carried Chilton's bag upstairs and left it outside the bathroom door while he went looking for a spare set of sheets.
The guest room, which technically should have been the master bedroom, had sat untouched for years. Will had used it, briefly, when he first moved in, but eventually got tired of constantly stomping up and down the stairs in the middle of the night to let the dogs in and out. He rarely bothered to clean it. The pillows were lumpy and the floor length mirror in the far corner was dusty, and a fine layer of dog hair and dandruff coated every surface. He tidied as much as he could, quickly, opening the curtains and making sure the bulb in the bedside lamp still worked. There was an old fashioned alarm clock in one of the end table drawers that was three hours behind, but it still ticked. Will left it out. He decided to leave the blankets and fitted sheet for Chilton to fumble with. Maybe it would help him settle in.
He heard the water shut off while he was moving old boxes into the closet. There was a familiar creak as the bathroom door tentatively opened, and then immediately close again. When he glanced out into the hall, the bag was gone. Three dogs, including Winston, sat guard outside, and swiveled their heads to look at him when he stepped out. He couldn't help but smile.
When the bathroom door opened again and Chilton's footsteps padded down the stairs, Will was ready.
Chilton's voice was higher than usual. Will didn't even have to see him to know that his eyes would be red-rimmed.
“In here,” Will said from the kitchen. “How do you take your coffee?”
“M-my what?” Footsteps approached from behind, rounding the corner and stopping. Will turned around with a mug in each hand.
Chilton's hair was still damp, falling oddly around his forehead without gel to keep it in place. His face was flushed and drawn, blotchy from too hot water and crying. Will forced a small, reassuring smile onto his face.
Without waiting for a response, he set both cups on the kitchen table and sat down himself. Chilton lingered uncertainly in the entryway.
“I can't stay here,” he blurted, his voice still high and thin, and cleared his throat. “My house, additional FBI agents will have arrived by now, they will have found-”
He stopped. His throat worked in a way that made Will suspect he was swallowing back bile.
“This was his plan all along, was it?” His voice was louder this time, closer to its normal pitch. “The Chesapeake Ripper. Hannibal. He wasn't going to kill me, he was going to frame me. I'm his- his patsy.”
He laughed, but there was no humour in it. It reminded Will of the sound a wounded animal made, when it had run itself to exhaustion, and the jaws of its pursuer were will snapping at its heels.
“We have the same profile,” Chilton continued, taking a step into the kitchen, wobbling slightly without the support of the wall. “The profile I provided! And what he did at my house, what he did to me, they're going to believe all of it, aren't they? They're going to think I did it. That I killed all those people, that I did all those things, to you, to that girl. Jack Crawford, he's going to believe it, he's going to-”
Chilton cut himself off again and paled. He turned to Will with wild eyes.
“I need to leave. Now.”
“You'll look guilty if you run,” Will said, holding his mug between both hands and leaning back in his chair. He tried to seem casual, non-threatening. Chilton scoffed, and didn't seem to notice.
“You didn't run, and you looked plenty guilty. You didn't see what he did in my house. In my kitchen. All you did was throw up an ear.” He patted his pockets, then looked around for his other bags. “I need my keys.”
“No, you don't.”
“Well I can't exactly drive without them, or are you suggesting I hot-wire my own car?”
Will took a long sip of his coffee. It was black, and still too hot, but it felt like the right thing to do. A beat. He hadn't exactly figured out what it was he wanted to say yet, how to explain without the whole thing coming out wrong. He didn't want Chilton to think he was a prisoner, or that he was being held. But now, in the time that it had taken him to arrive and clean himself up, whatever mess Hannibal had left at his house would have been discovered and his picture would be circulating every law enforcement branch in the state. If he ran, he would be caught and Jack would crucify him. Or, he would become an inconvenient liability and Hannibal would hunt him down and fry him up as a main course. If he wanted to live, this was his only option.
“You don't need your keys, because you're going to stay here,” Will said, after too long of a silence. Chilton stood frozen, staring at him. For a moment, Will thought he was going to bolt for the door.
But he didn't.
“Here?” he asked, smiling the smile of someone who doesn't quite get the joke. “Why would I stay here? I've got plenty of money with me, my gas tank is full, all I have to do is pick a direction and go. The nearest airport is half an hour away.”
“Air ports have a lot of cameras, doctor. And security personnel.”
“They also also have planes, one of which I intend to get on and fly very far away. From here, from the FBI, and most especially from Hannibal Lecter.”
“You're not going to get on a plane, Frederick, you're going to stay here.”
The switch to his first name seemed to draw Chilton up short. He narrowed his eyes suspiciously, squaring his shoulders. Ready to run, again.
“Because it's the only place in the world Jack Crawford won't tear apart trying to find you.”
Chilton stood very still. Will could see his throat working, the stillness of his chest. He was holding his breathe, waiting for the punchline. Waiting for Will to smile and say “no, just kidding, run for your life.” Waiting for Jack himself to come tearing up the driveway for all he knew. Will stopped his eyes from glancing down at his phone, where Jack's number was still punched in. He forced himself to look at Chilton, to really look at him. Eye contact was always going to be hard for him. But he could manage it when it counted. And right now, it counted very much.
After an uncountable number of seconds passed by, Chilton deflated.
“Why?” he said again, faintly, arms falling loosely to his sides. “Why would you do that for me?
Will's coffee had cooled now to just the right temperature. He broke eye contact, turning his gaze to the dark liquid in his half empty cup. Its match, untouched, still sat across from him at the table. As he watched, from down the hall and down the stairs, the dogs began to filter in.
Winston, always the wisest, the most sensitive, approached Chilton without hesitation. He pressed his cool, wet nose into the man's hand, startling him, and licked at his fingers. Chilton stared at the dog, just as wide eyed as he'd been when he arrived. He didn't strike Will as a dog person, but he certainly didn't try to pull away, or shoo Winston off. Slowly, more dogs approached. They crowded around him, tentatively sniffing and licking and rubbing against his legs. No different than when he'd shown up on the porch, stinking of blood and fear. Buster, after yawning widely, collapsed heavily and sat on his foot. Chilton looked incredulously up at Will, and Will couldn't stop himself from smiling.
“As you may have noticed,” he said, pausing to take another sip of coffee before setting the mug down, “I have a habit of collecting strays.”
Chapter 2: Doubt
I'm taking some liberties with the layout of Will's house okay, just go with it
Will Graham had made a mistake.
He shouldn't have let him stay. He should not have let him stay. It was as simple as that. He should have thrown him out when he had the chance, handed him over to Jack or let him run off and get caught on his own. That's what he should have done, and that's exactly what he didn't do, and now it was too late.
Because now Frederick Chilton was sitting on his sofa, wearing a pair of slacks and a turtleneck at seven in the morning, loudly and incredulously complaining about the lack of wifi.
“How can you live like this?” he asked for the third time that morning. His voice had gotten steadily higher over the course of his rant, and the dogs were starting to get agitated. And they weren't the only ones.
Will sat at the small table by the front door of his house, covering his face with both hands while his cereal got soggy in front of him.
“Alright, I can understand not having wifi, considering you live in the complete middle of nowhere,” Chilton was saying, staring at him from over the back of the sofa with alarming intensity. “But to have no internet at all? No computer? Not even cable? I don't see how you can do it.”
“I have a radio,” Will said from behind his hands. Chilton spluttered.
“And that's it? Is it at least a satellite radio?”
“No. No, of course not. Why would it be?” He laughed to himself, which turned into a heavy, long suffering sigh. “Well, then, what do you do all day? What am I supposed to do all day?”
“The tv works just fine, you know.”
“'Just fine,' as in 'it has basic cable'. Which is 'just fine' if I wanted to watch public television all day.”
“Read a book?”
While his houseguest made vague noises of indignation, Will looked down at his bowl of cereal. There was no saving it now. A bowl of soggy, beige mush stared back at him, only half eaten. The handle of his spoon had fallen into the milk. He sighed and stood up.
He could still call Jack, he reasoned on his way to the sink, bowl in hand. It had only been a day. Sure, he'd be angry, but he'd get over that quick enough. He always did.
He'd called last night, to tell Will about what he'd found at Chilton's house. Two dead FBI agents in the kitchen, one disemboweled and the other used as a pincushion, and a carved up Abel Gideon in the guest room. Chilton himself had described the scene to him with shaking hands not an hour earlier, but Jack's description, cold and clinical, was much more visceral to Will. Or maybe it just the anger in his boss's voice.
Jack asked Will if he'd heard from Chilton, and Will told him no while the doctor stood trembling in front of him, hanging on to every word he could catch. He told Jack he didn't know where he would go. He told Jack he'd keep an eye out. He told Jack that he was wrong. Jack had hung up on him after that last part. Will knew he didn't want to hear that right now, but he had to try.
He could try again. If he called Jack right now, told him everything, he'd have to at least give him the benefit of the doubt, wouldn't he?
Will poured out the contents of his bowl, rinsed the milky sludge down the drain, and thought about the gentle, muffled sobs that had drifted down from his guest room all night long.
“I can pick up today's paper if you'd like,” he said loudly, cutting Chilton off mid-hysterics. The other man was standing now, too, hands held aloft mid indignant gesture. He let them drop awkwardly and closed his mouth. He swallowed.
“Should I expect to see my own face staring back at me from the front page? “The Chesapeake Ripper, On The Run?””
“I doubt Jack would have released a statement just yet,” he said, drying his hands on a greying dishtowel. “Unless Freddie Lounds got a whiff of it, you're secret should be safe with the FBI.”
He held up a hand, smiling, as Chilton made ready to protest.
“It was a joke, Frederick. Relax.”
Will had noticed yesterday that the use of Chilton's first name seemed to subdue him, or at least throw him off long enough for others to get in a word in edgewise. It was no different today. He closed his mouth again and sat back down, turning away from Will and the kitchen. A dog immediately jumped into his lap.
Smiling at the doctor's noise of distress, Will headed back up the stairs to finish getting himself ready for the day.
“I want him found.”
All eyes were at the front of the room. Agent Jack Crawford stood with his hands on his hips, imposing as ever, taking the time to let his own dark eyes meet those of everyone else in front of him. His brow was furrowed, his mouth set in a thin, harsh line. When it was Will's turn to meet his gaze, it was all he could do not to flinch away.
A picture of Chilton's face was tacked to the cork board, bearded with chin held high. It was the same photo from his ID badge at the hospital. Will had always found it easier to stare at the image rather than the man himself during their sessions. But it wasn't easy now. Pinned all around it were crime scene photographs of the interior of Chilton's home. White walls splattered with red, surprisingly clean and neat surfaces covered in viscera and gore. The horror of Abel Gideon, what was left of him, splayed out like that in the guest room had turned even Will's stomach. He was grateful Jack hadn't taken him to look in person. It was one thing to see strangers like that, to view their final, agonising moments through they eyes of their killers. To objectively observe himself as he killed them. He didn't think he could do that with someone like Gideon. Someone he'd known.
“I want him found today,” Jack thundered, loud enough to draw Will out of the corners of his mind. “I want cell phone records, credit card receipts, internet search history, last known whereabouts. I want CCTV footage of his car every step of the way to his destination. I want to talk to everyone that he's talked to in the last three days, including his patients at the hospital. I want a thorough background check, find me anything you can that stands out or looks suspicious, anything that would give us a hint of where he might go, and I want it on my desk by the end of the day. No one is going to talk to the media, am I clear?”
He stared at three agents in particular, all of which had the good sense to lower their eyes.
“Not one word of this is going to be in the newspapers when I wake up tomorrow, or there will be consequences. We need evidence. We need concrete facts, witnesses, we need anything but a press conference. Do I make myself clear.”
A chorus of uneven “yes, sirs” filled the room. Will kept his mouth shut.
“And if I so much as hear the name Freddie Lounds mentioned around me,” Jack continued, and Will watched his hands clenched into tight fists at his sides, “I'm going to start docking pay and handing out suspensions. Why are you still here?”
The room erupted into a flurry of movement as everybody made a beeline for the door, no one wanting to be the last one out of the room. Will could hear the muttering break out as soon as they crossed into the hall. The confusion, the double checking, the just-making-sures. He lingered by the back wall in his usual spot, watching Jack turn his back on the chaos to stare at the wall of photos behind him. Will waited until the room had emptied completely before clearing his throat.
“Tell me I'm wrong,” Jack said without turning around. “Tell me I didn't miss this.”
“You're wrong,” Will said, pushing his back off the wall and walking slowly to the front of the room. He stopped next to Jack, close enough for their elbows to bump. “You didn't miss this.”
“Are you saying that because you believe it, or because I told you to?”
Jack didn't laugh. Will didn't expect him to. In silence they stared at the corkboard, at the bloodstained countertops and lifeless bodies and the smug, arrogant face of Frederick Chilton that stared back at them. Jack rubbed a hand over his eyes.
“I don't know if I can go along with this, Will,” he said tiredly, turning to face the younger man. “This doubt. This plan that you have. After this-”
He waved his hand vaguely at the board, not needing to elaborate.
“I just don't know how you expect me to think it wasn't him.”
Will was silent for a long moment. Collecting his thoughts. He had to phrase everything just right, just so. What he needed was for Jack not necessarily to believe him, but to doubt the images in front of him. To doubt the pictures of guilt that were laid out so prettily before them. Jack needed to see what wasn't there as much he needed to see what was.
“Do you think Dr. Chilton killed Cassie Boyle?” Will asked quietly, not looking at Jack. “Or Dr. Sutcliffe? Or Marissa Shurr, or Georgia Madchen? Do you think he killed Beverly, Jack?”
Will nodded, backing off. He waited a beat, as long as felt appropriate, before continuing.
“You've met Chilton. You know him. He's not a killer, Jack, it doesn't take a behavioral specialist to see that.”
“He fits the profile. The same profile that he provided in court. He fits it down to a T.”
“So you think he went up on the stand and described himself? Does that sound like an intelligent psychopath to you?”
Jack pressed his lips together in a deep frown. Will was pushing his luck now. It was dangerous to push Jack Crawford at the best of times, and even more dangerous now. But Will had to try. He had to push. He might not get another chance. If that shred of doubt left Jack's mind, hell would freeze over before Will Graham or anyone put it back again. And that would be the end of it.
“Do you think he did it, Jack?” he asked softly, wetting his lips. “Any of it?”
“What do you want me to say, Will?” The weariness in Jack's voice, the tired caution, was exactly what Will needed. He faced the man fully, forcing himself to meet his eyes.
“I want you to tell me if you think Frederick Chilton cut out a girls lungs while she was still using them. I want you to tell me if you think he burned Georgia Madchen alive. Chilton may be arrogant, he may be narcissistic and unethical and manipulative, but he's not cruel, Jack. He's not a psychopath. Do you think he could kill anybody? Do you think he killed the judge at my trial, cracked open his skull and removed his brain and strung him up from the rafters of his own court room?”
“Matthew Brown killed that judge,” Jack said sharply. Will could have kicked himself.
“Not according to him,” he amended swiftly. “But do you think Chilton is the one who framed me? Do you think he planted evidence in my house and shoved an ear down my throat? Because I don't.”
“What do you believe, Will?” Jack exploded. “Should I just ignore all of these bodies in his house? Should I ignore the two dead agents whose families I had to call in the middle of the night? I can't just put aside the evidence, and you know that, so don't even ask me to try, because I can't.”
“There was plenty of evidence against me, too, Jack,” Will reminded him gently.
Jack stared at him.
Some minutes later, after Jack Crawford had walked away from him shaking his head, Will let out the breath he didn't know he'd been holding.
Will was driving home, the winter sky already dark at five PM, when he remembered to buy a newspaper.
He pulled over to the first gas station he saw, letting the tank fill up while he headed into the convenience store. The papers were sitting on a rack by the counter, but Will decided to look around for a minute first. He had time.
On a whim, Will picked up a couple crossword, word jumble, and Sudoku books from the shelf, setting them ungently on the counter top. By the time he paid, put his change away, and walked outside, his tank was full. He dropped the bag of activity books into the passenger seat and drove away.
The house was dark when he pulled up the long driveway. Normally the porch light timer would have come on by now.
As he approached, Will could hear the dogs whining and scratching to be let out. They shot past him into the yard as soon as he opened the door, the littlest ones barely able to keep their heads above the snow. He clicked on the outdoor light and shrugged off his coat.
“Doctor, are you here?”
The house was still, and too quiet. He took a step into the living room, stopping when his boot squished against something wet. He looked down.
A dark stain had puddled on the corner of the rug, almost black in the limited light. Not far from it was an overturned glass, and a few sheets of paper that had been knocked from the table. Will reached for his gun.
Chilton yelped and nearly fell over backwards when Will swiveled to face him, gun drawn and pointed straight at his forehead. Will lowered his weapon and stared.
“What are you doing in the basement?” he asked, walking over to make sure the man didn't fall down the stairs. Chilton waved his hands away and clung to the railing.
“I heard a car coming,” he said, as if this explained everything. “The dogs started going crazy, and I didn't know if it was you or someone else, I couldn't see out in the dark so I- I hid.”
“In the basement?”
“I thought it was a closet. Why do you have your gun out?”
Will hastily stuffed the thing back into its holster.
“You must've knocked over your drink when you pan- When you hid.” He gestured back to the floor, where the cup lay. “I thought something might have happened.”
An awkward silence hung in the pause between them.
Will held out his arm, the plastic bag of activity books still clenched in his fist, and cleared his throat.
“I bought you some stuff,” he said unnecessarily. “You know. To do.”
Chilton took the bag with hesitation, peering inside suspiciously while Will went to go turn on a light. The dogs were finished with their business by now, and were staring to filter in one by one. Winston was first, as usual, sitting by the door and watching his fellows shake the snow out of their fur before coming in. Will made sure everyone was inside, safe and sound, before closing the door and clicking the deadbolt into place. When he turned around, Chilton was flipping through the newspaper with a look in intense concentration on his face. Will knelt down to unlace his boots.
“You won't find anything in there,” he said. “Not about you, anyways. Jack has issued a very strict No Press Release policy on this case.”
Chilton scoffed and didn't look at him.
“As if that's ever stopped anyone from talking to the press before. I just want to make sure.”
Will nodded understandingly. He glanced around the living room, at the overturned glass and puddle of what now, in the light, looked like orange juice. He frowned.
“Have you eaten anything today?”
“Hm?” Chilton appeared engrossed in an article. Will shucked off his boots and straightened up.
“I asked if you've eaten anything yet today.”
“No,” he said drily, drawing the word out. “All you have in your fridge is milk and salsa, and something in the crisper that probably didn't used to be grey. I figured it wouldn't kill me to starve for a day.”
“I'll go shopping tomorrow. Anything specific you want me to get?”
“I'll make a list.”
Chilton didn't look up from the paper as he turned around and walked up the stairs, carrying the bag of activity books with him. Will watched him go, not moving until he heard the bedroom door shut. Sighing heavily, he looked at the spilt juice on the carpet, which the dogs were now sniffing and lapping a curiously. Gloria, a little white thing with a curly-cue tail and a truly unfortunate underbite, turned her nose up at it and jumped onto the sofa. Will smiled at her.
“Guess that means I have to clean it up myself, huh?”
Chapter 3: Rice and Beans
hey look actual character developement
“This is not a shopping list,” Will Graham said out loud.
He was alone in the car, sitting in the parking lot of the grocery store, staring at the piece of paper in his hand in absolute disbelief.
Chilton had handed him the paper on his way out the door that morning, and he had folded it and stuffed it into his pocket without looking at it. That had been a mistake. He didn't know what half of these things were, and now he had no way to ask.
There were a lot of vegetables, which he should have expected. Chilton was still on a restricted diet as far as he knew. Carrots, onions, lettuce, tomato, standard fare salad stuff were written first. A few things starting with 'soy' were on the list, and the words 'NO TOFU' were underlined at the top of the page. But almost everything else was completely unknown to him. Three different types of mushroom were listed. Something that started with a q was circled halfway down the page. He didn't know which aisle to even start looking for that on. Will pushed his hair off of his forehead and exhaled slowly through his nose.
This was ridiculous.
“What the hell does he want plantains for?” he muttered as he opened the car door and got out, slamming it shut behind him.
The total came to well over a hundred dollars.
This time Chilton wasn't hiding when Will pulled up to the house. The dogs rushed out to greet him as usual, jumping up and trying to sniff the contents of the two bulging paper bags he held in each arm. He barely managed to get the door open without dropping them.
“Okay, everybody, calm down, it's just vegetables.”
He set the bags heavily on the kitchen counter, patted the head of the nearest, largest dog, and wandered back into the living room to look for Chilton.
The man was relatively easy to find, sprawled out on the couch as he was, with a word search book open on his stomach. Fast asleep, with his arm dangling over the side. He almost managed to look peaceful. And probably would have, if his mouth wasn't wide open. Will was tempted to take a picture.
As quietly as he could, he returned to the kitchen and put away the groceries. Unsure of exactly what needed to be refrigerated, he stuffed as much of it as he could into the fridge and left the rest out for Chilton to deal with. Will was very careful not to wake him. He was almost positive that the other man hadn't slept a wink since he arrived. For the last two nights Will had fallen asleep to the sound of crying, though neither of them had brought it up yet. The doctor had also been up and dressed long before Will managed to drag himself of If he'd passed out on the couch, so be it. He could only imagine the nightmares that plagued the mind of Frederick Chilton. To be honest, he didn't really want to. Will had enough nightmares of his own to manage.
Groceries away and dogs accounted for, Will tiptoed up the stairs to the bathroom and turned on the shower.
He did something he'd never done before, and that was to shut the door while he got undressed. Normally it wouldn't matter. Will had always lived alone in this house, except for the dogs, and he didn't think they minded the sight of his pasty ass as he climbed in and out of the shower. But now, with an unpredictable houseguest to worry about, it was better to be safe than sorry.
Will showered quickly, as he always did. Put soap on, wash soap off. The water barely had time to get hot before he was done. He stepped out, dried off, wrapped the towel around his waist, and stood in front of the mirror to get a good look at himself. He turned his head from side to side, tilted his jaw up and then lowered it. He turned around and looked over one shoulder, then the other. Satisfied, he opened the top drawer The first thing he reached for was a comb.
The second thing was a pair of scissors.
When Will opened the bathroom door twenty minutes later, dressed and freshly shorn, it was to the smell of something being cooked in his kitchen. That was a new experience for him. Whatever it was, it smelled spicy. And delicious.
The dogs that had gathered outside the bathroom followed him down the stairs, almost tripping him in their haste to get ahead. The rest of them were already sitting in the hall, all neat in a row, patiently waiting for something to fall on the floor so they could eat it. He rounded the corner into the kitchen just in time to see Chilton carefully spoon something brown out of a pot and into a bowl. Will raised his eyebrows.
“Mm hmm,” Chilton said without turning around. “Well, I tried to. You apparently don't own a rice pot, so I had to make due.”
“I think there's one out in the shed, actually.”
“Out in the shed doesn't help me in the house. And you bought the wrong kind of potato, by the way. I wanted the little red ones, not the yellow kind."
He spooned something from a different pot into another bowl, carefully took a bowl in each hand, and turned around. His mouth fell open.
“You cut your hair.”
“Mm hmm,” Will said, parroting him. “Tried to. Something I hadn't done in a while. How does it look?”
“Fine,” Chilton said, just a touch too loudly. He closed his mouth, then tried again. Will could have sworn there was a faint pinkish tinge to his cheeks. “It looks ni- Fine. It looks fine.”
Chilton turned around abruptly, setting the two bowls side by side on one side of the table. He returned to the counter, presumably to dish up more. The dogs shifted anxiously, all seven pairs of eyes fixed on Chilton's every move.
“It smells great. What is it?”
“Moors and Christians.”
Will, who had been halfway to the table, stopped in his tracks.
Now Chilton was definitely blushing.
“S-sorry,” he stammered, “I mean- it's just rice and beans. My family- growing up we called them-”
“'Moors and Christians, right. Wow. That's a new one.”
“It doesn't mean- It's not- Never mind. Let's just eat.”
Will had seen the doctor flustered before, but not like this. He seemed genuinely embarrassed, and it was all Will could do not to crack a smile. He used to live for the days he could make Chilton squirm at the hospital. They were one of the few comforts he took in that place. He took a seat at the table, and Chilton awkwardly sat across from him, avoiding eye contact. Will looked down at the food in front of him.
The rice and beans were each in their own separate bowls, set on either set of yet another bowl. He was given one spoon, and Chilton had apparently found some napkins because they were laid out as well. Unsure how to proceed, Will glanced across the table to see what Chilton was doing. The trick, it seemed, was to scoop some of the rice and some of the beans out of their respective bowls and to them together in the other, empty bowl. And then mix them up. Will followed suit. He lifted a bite into his mouth.
“This is pretty good.”
“No need to sound so surprised, Mr. Graham,” Chilton said tartly. “However, it is just about the only thing I can make reasonably well. At least by my mother's standards.”
“It's a little salty,” Will conceded. “But definitely not bad.”
“Well. Thank you.”
They ate in silence for several minutes. Will looked more closely at his food during the next few bites, recognising some of the ingredients he'd purchased. There were little diced chunks of something that he was pretty sure were mushrooms, along with over-browned onions and what might have been garlic. He decided that yes, there was definitely too much salt in it, but it was fine. It certainly wasn't the worst meal he'd ever eaten.
“So, where did you grow up?” he asked conversationally. Chilton halted in his movements for half a second.
“Delaware,” he said tightly. Will glanced up at him.
“So, 'Moors and Christians?' That's a Delaware thing?”
“No, actually.” He took another bite, chewing more aggressively than Will thought was strictly necessary. “Moros y christianos. It's a Cuban thing.”
“Oh. Is that where your family is from?”
“My mother's family, yes.” Chilton looked up from his bowl to lock eyes with him. “Is that a problem?”
Will was taken aback.
“No, of course it's not a problem. I was just trying to make conversation, I didn't mean- I was just trying to talk.”
Chilton squinted suspiciously at him for moment, still chewing. Will dropped his eyes reflexively, wondering if he'd crossed a line he didn't even know was there. It was several more minutes before anyone spoke.
“Where did you grow up?” Chilton asked, when there were only a few bites left in their bowls.
“Louisiana,” Will said automatically. “But we moved around a lot when I was a kid. Finally settled in New Orleans when I was about sixteen. Before that, though, it was wherever the water took us.”
“You lived on a boat?”
“Might as well have,” Will smiled. “Dad worked on shipyards, fixing diesel engines.”
“And your mother?”
“Never knew her.”
There was a familiar spark in Chilton's eye, which he quickly covered by scraping another bite onto his spoon. Will knew when he was being psychoanalysed, and he didn't appreciate it. Especially not over dinner. He opened his mouth to say something, but Chilton beat him to the punch.
“My father was a trauma surgeon at Johns Hopkins,” he offered, twisting his mouth into a rueful smile. “Which is what he intended for me to be as well.”
“He wanted you to go into medicine?”
“Very much, yes.”
“And what did you want to do?”
Chilton hesitated. “Not medicine. Didn't stop me from going to medical school, though. However, I found that my talents would be more appreciated in the world of psychology.”
Will found hard to keep a neutral expression.
“I'm sure they were, doctor,” he said wryly, and was not disappointed by the scowl on Chilton's face. He scraped the last bit of beans out of his bowl and stood up, grabbing Will's bowl out from out in front of him and putting it in the sink. The water started running, and Will stood up as well. He stretched, feeling very full, and looked at the clock that hung over the refrigerator. Six thirty-five. Cutting it pretty close.
“I'm gonna go and get ready,” he said to Chilton's back, turning and preparing to head up the stairs.
“For what? Are you going out again?”
“I have an appointment with a doctor.”
“If that's your way of telling me my cooking is terrible, I don't appreciate it.”
“My appointment is with Dr. Lecter, Frederick.”
Chilton dropped the bowl he was scrubbing with a loud bang.
He was still very still for a moment, then turned off the water. Will didn't move from where he was standing. Chilton slowly turned to face him, visibly paler than he had been moments ago.
“You're going to see him?” he said, with a strain to his voice. Will nodded. “Why?”
“Because I'm going to catch him.”
Will worked his mouth into something that resembled a smile, inhaling a deep breath through his nose. He stared at a point above Chilton's left ear rather than meeting his eyes, and exhaled.
“By using the right kind of bait.”
Chapter 4: Six Days
hey look, even more character development
It had been a week and a half since Frederick Chilton arrived on Will Graham's porch. Eleven days since Will decided give the man a chance and let him stay.
Eleven days of hell.
By the fifth day, Chilton was bored out of his mind. Will knew this because he heard it said at least seven times, in the morning while he was putting his shoes on and in the evening when he was letting the dogs run around out in the yard. He'd completed all the puzzle and activity books Will had bought for him, except the Sudoku one, which was lying against the baseboard behind the TV where he'd thrown it.
He complained loudly about the quality of Will's collection of books which, admittedly, were mostly fishing guides and instruction manuals on how to fix various models of boat motors. He bemoaned at great lengths the lack of cable and internet, and spent the entire evening telling Will about the wonderful nature documentary he'd watched on public television. Will gave up and left the room when Chilton started telling him everything he'd learned on that day's episode of the Antiques Roadshow.
On the sixth day, Will didn't get home until much later than he expected.
Chilton was in a panic.
As far as Will could tell, he had hunkered down in the basement and transformed it into an extremely makeshift survival shelter. Most of the blankets were down there, including the ones off of Will's bed. A lot of the food he'd bought only days earlier had been carried down, dumped into the old non-working fridge that had been sitting down there for years. Every glass, jar, and vase that Chilton could get his hands on had been filled with tap water and strategically placed on the floor of the basement, both for drinking purposes and to trip up intruders.
Fortunately, Will did not fall into this cunning trap. Chilton was in the middle of collecting toilet paper, and things that could be used for toilet paper, when Will pulled up into the driveway.
“I thought something had happened,” Chilton said desperately, clutching the rolls of paper towels and napkins to his chest. “I thought maybe Hannibal- I thought- I thought you were never coming back.”
Will had spent a solid minute and a half just covering his face with his hands. And that was before Chilton showed him the basement shelter. They spent the rest of the night shaking spiders out of blankets and throwing out food that had gone bad from being unrefrigerated. The next morning, when Jack commented on the dark circles under his eyes and the tense set to his shoulders, Will told him a half truth: he'd taken in a new stray with separation anxiety.
On the seventh day Chilton was back to himself, mostly. He apologised profusely for his panic response, but also made very clear that if something were to happen to Will that he would be left completely in the dark, and practically helpless should Hannibal or the FBI come for him. He was also still bored.
So Will made him a list of chores.
Nothing too complicated, nothing he thought outside of the good doctor's skill set. Sweeping, dusting, do a load or two of laundry, wash out and put away all the glasses he'd filled the night before, fill up and dog bowls, and vacuum. That was the initial list.
The secondary list came about after Chilton started complaining loudly about the dog hair, the dog dander, the dog drool, and the dogs in general. Will amended the list to include washing the dogs, taking them out for a walk, and going over all the furniture with a lint roller to get rid of all that pesky hair he hated so much.
Will took the list, stuck it on the fridge with a magnet in the shape of a fire hydrant, and told Chilton he expected everything to be done when he got home. Then he walked out the door and went to work.
Predictably, not a single thing on the list was done..
On the eighth day, Will snapped.
“No one is making you stay here, Frederick!” Will had yelled, after listening to Chilton ridicule his plans to catch Hannibal.
“No one would stop you if you left. By all means, go, if you hate it here so much, I certainly won't run after you. The way I remember things, you showed up on my porch as a fugitive and begged me for help and cried in my shower, and I let you stay because, let's face it, we both know you don't stand a fucking chance on your own. So now that I've saved your life, and actively continue to save your life by working day and night to catch the man that did this to you, all you do is sit around and bitch at me! You sit in my house all day eating my food, driving up my electricity bill, harassing my dogs, and throwing a fit whenever things are even mildly inconvenient for you.”
Chilton, by this point, stood aghast. His hands fell heavily by his side, and his mouth hung open so wide his jaw might've unhinged. But Will didn't stop. Will couldn't stop.
“I have literally no reason to help you, Frederick. None at all. You made my life a living hell for months. You hounded my sleep, denied my meals, gave me drugs that messed with my head, and subjected me to unethical treatments that I did not give consent for. You are rude and insufferable and a very, very poor psychologist. Frankly I can't imagine why Hannibal didn't try to kill you sooner. And I am completely unsurprised that the first place you thought to come was to me, because I genuinely cannot imagine someone as unpleasant as yourself having a single person consider you as their friend. It baffles me how you can live with yourself. Because I can't. If you want to continue staying here, fine. If you want to leave and try to survive on your own, fine. I don't care. I really don't.”
Will took a deep breath and steadied himself for the killblow.
“I am completely indifferent to your existence.”
When he was finished, Will didn't take the time to look at Chilton's face. He didn't want to see whatever it was that was there. He walked calmly to the front door, whistled for the dogs, and stepped outside.
By the time he came back into the house, nearly an hour later with fingers and toes nearly frozen out of stubbornness, he half expected Chilton to be gone. The sound of the shower running upstairs, however, told him otherwise.
On the ninth day, when Will came home, every single thing on the list had been crossed off.
On the tenth day, Will apologised.
And on the eleventh day, Will pulled up the driveway to his house to find that Chilton had accidentally locked himself out.
The man came staggering around the side of the house, shivering uncontrollably with his chin tucked down to his chest and hands tucked firmly into his armpits. Two dogs followed after him, Winston and Maxwell, the large white shepherd. Will could hear the others barking from inside the house.
“Jesus Christ, Frederick, are you alright?” he asked, pulling off his coat and slinging it around the other man's shoulders. Chilton's teeth were chattering too hard for him to speak. Will quickly unlocked the door and hurried him in.
He got Chilton situated on the couch, grabbing the nearest blankets and making sure he was all bundled up with no exposed extremities. The dogs helped, too. The two that had been outside with him stayed the closest, while the rest just piled on top of one another on the sofa. Will went into the kitchen and put some water on to boil. When he came back to the living room, it was to the sight of seven dogs plus Frederick Chilton huddling for warmth on his couch.
“What were you even doing outside?” he asked, taking a seat across from them in one of the armchairs. Chilton was still shaking, but the chattering of his teeth had subsided somewhat.
“W-was let-ting the dogs r-run around,” he managed to grind out. “Didn't-t want to l-let the h-h-heat out. Didn't kn-know it was locked.”
“How long were you out there?”
“D-dunno. Was around one when-n I w-went out.”
“You've been out there for three hours?”
Chilton shrugged and grimaced. One of the smaller dogs climbed into his lap and pressed their nose into his cheek. He flinched away, then laughed. Will blinked in surprise. He'd never heard him laugh before, not genuinely. At least, he assumed that's what that squeak was.
“Why didn't you just break a window?” Will asked incredulously. Chilton looked at him in a way that suggested he'd never even considered that as an option. From the kitchen, the kettle was starting to whistle.
When Will came back with two steaming mugs of hot chocolate, he found that Chilton had moved to a horizontal position and was literally covered in dogs.
Buster and Gloria had taken up residence on his chest with the little Bichon, Louis, on his stomach. Maxwell had wedged himself between Chilton's side and the back of the couch, resting his head on the doctor's hip. Two of the largest dogs were on his legs and feet, effectively immobilizing him. Winston, with nowhere to fit, sat lay dutifully on the floor by his head. Chilton opened his eyes when he heard Will approach. He looked at him with terror in his eyes.
Will almost spilled the cocoa from laughing so hard.
Frederick had warmed up quickly, with the help of the dogs. He'd complained about the lack of marshmallows in his cocoa, but drank it all the same. Once he was allowed to sit up, of course.
Will had lent him a pair of sweat pants and an old sweater, since he'd exhausted his wardrobe a few days ago.
Casual clothes looked out of place on him. Until now, Will couldn't have pictured him in anything other than a well-tailored, ludicrously expensive suit. Admittedly his appearance had been toned down during his time at Will's. He'd lost that garish golden ring that Will had immediately hated on sight. His tie clip, the only one he seemed to own, lay on his bedside table. He'd stopped wearing ties by the third day, for which Will was thankful. It made him feel under-dressed in his own home.
“I hid a spare key out back,” he said between bites. They were eating simply tonight; box macaroni and cheese with a side of potato chips. “Under the big flowerpot on the porch. Just in case.”
“Thank you, Mr. Graham,” Chilton said, with a faint blush to his cheeks. Will still wasn't used to that. He spoke again before they could lull into silence.
“I appreciate you letting the dogs out during the day. I always hate leaving them cooped up.”
“They seemed restless,” Chilton shrugged, talking around his food.
The voice that was not his own was haunting him again. It had lingered in his mind like a shadow while he was incarcerated, filling his head in his darkest hours with even darker thoughts. As his head got clearer and he began to come back to himself the voice had faded. He'd almost managed to replace it with his own again. But that, of course, didn't last for very long.
“Are you alright?”
Will's head shot up. He realised he'd been staring at his food without touching it.
“Hm? Fine. Yeah, I'm fine.”
Chilton was peering at him intently. It was a look Will was painfully familiar with, having been subjected to it for hours at a time during his stay at the hospital. He quickly looked away, peeved, and focused on getting the individual noodles onto his fork. But he could still feel Chilton's eyes on him. The other man cleared his throat.
“How are your visits with Dr. Lecter?”
Damn it . That thought, at least, was definitely his own.
Will shoved a large amount of macaroni into his mouth to avoid answering immediately. When he did answer, all he said was, “Fine.”
Chilton was not satisfied.
“The man is a cannibal and a psychopath,” Chilton said slowly, leaning back into the sofa and falling into an easy posture that Will recognised all too well, “Who has manipulated you, induced and enabled your illness and psychotic episodes, framed both of us for murder, and you would choose to describe your sessions with him as “fine?””
Will shoved another bite into his mouth and swallowed. “Yes.”
Chilton narrowed his eyes.
“You are truly fascinating, Mr. Graham.”
“I've already got one psychiatrist, Frederick.” Will stressed the use of his first name. “I don't need another one.”
“Never stopped you before.”
“Is that bitterness I detect, doctor?” Will smirked, loading another forkful. Chilton shrugged.
“Dr. Lecter is not the only one guilty of manipulation,” he said vaguely, “Or of using people to achieve their own ends.”
“Are we talking about me or you here?”
"I had nothing but your best interests in mind while you were under my care, Mr. Graham,” he said hotly. “You were my patient. I was trying to help you.”
Will laughed. Oh, that was rich.
“Help me? Frederick, you were trying to dissect me for a research paper that would propel you into psychiatric circles beyond your station. You had absolutely no interest in helping me whatsoever. To be honest I'm still surprised you let me walk out as easily as you did. For a minute I thought you would hold me there indefinitely, to be poked and prodded at will.”
“You were entrusted to my care by a court of law, Will,” said Chilton, his voice rising, “Because you were accused of murdering five people.”
“Which I didn't.”
“I know you didn't, but the evidence was there. You pled insanity, for Christ's sake! You threw up a human ear! It was my job, as your psychiatrist and as an official consultant on your case, to figure out whether or not you were mentally sound to stand trial. It was my job determine if you were sane and conscious when you murdered those people or if your plea of unconscious insanity stood up.”
“I didn't kill anyone!” Will shouted.
“Neither did I!” Chilton yelled back. Buster jumped off the couch, startled, and scurried up the stairs. The doctor didn't seem to notice. “But that's not the point! The point is that the evidence told a different story than you did, and one of you had to be lying, so Jack Crawford tasked me with finding out if it was you while he explored the alternative.”
“Jack didn't believe me,” Will spat, feeling the bitterness rising in his throat like bile. “Nobody believed me. Except for Beverly. And she only went after Hannibal because I asked her to, not because she thought I was telling the truth.”
“I believed you.”
Will stopped. He must have misheard.
“What?” he said, blinking. Chilton swallowed hard. When he spoke again, it was with much more volume control.
“I've worked in psychiatrics for almost twenty years, Will. I know a psychopath when I see one. You may not think much of me as a psychologist, and I will admit that not many do, but contrary to popular belief I do actually have some idea of what I'm doing. I knew there was something wrong with Hannibal Lecter the moment I met him. Something off. He was too charming, too perfect, too - and you'll get a kick out me saying this - too pretentious. No one is that put together and meticulous without having some sort of disorder. Or several. So when you starting pointing fingers at Lecter, your psychiatrist, the only person besides yourself to have unrestricted access to your mind, I listened. Admittedly I may have taken some liberties with your treatments, but my goal was always to get to the truth. I consulted on the Ripper case with Jack years ago, I read the files and the reports, I've seen the pictures. I know exactly what he's capable of. I know his profile. I wrote his profile. And Hannibal Lecter fit it more perfectly than I ever could have imagined. So yes, Will, I believed you. And I tried to make Jack Crawford believe you, and believe you were innocent. Just like you're supposed to be doing for me.”
Chilton paused, reaching for his glass of water on the coffee table and taking a long sip. His eyes gleamed coldly in the lamplight.
“How's that going for you, by the way?”
Chapter 5: Sweet Dreams
sorry for the delay on this one, and it's not as long as i initially planned it to be. i'm still messing around with the timeline
Chilton was having a night terror.
Will could hear him upstairs, thrashing and whimpering and occasionally crying out. This wasn't the first time. But so far, it was the loudest.
The first few nights in Wolf Trap, Chilton had cried himself to sleep. Low, sad whines and choked sobs that echoed through the silent house, keeping Will up until they either stopped or he managed to block them out. He never mentioned it. He didn't need to. It was something he'd done often enough himself, and he wasn't callous enough to bring it up solely for Chilton's embarrassment. Even though part of him knew the man wouldn't have extended him the same courtesy.
The night terrors had come later.
On about the fourth or fifth day the sounds coming from the upstairs bedroom changed. Sobs were replaced by mumbling, and the occasional shout. At first Will thought Chilton was on the phone with someone, and headed up to yell at him for being so fucking unbelievably stupid. But when he got closer to the door, he recognised the familiar sounds of a person lost in the horror of their own dreams. Unsure what else to do, Will had gone back downstairs and tried to go back to sleep.
Tonight sounded especially bad. Will stuffed his pillow over his head to try and block out the worst of it, but all that did was make it hard for him to breathe. Sighing heavily, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up.
“Stay,” he said softly. A couple of the dogs had perked up at the sound of his movements. It would be better if they didn't follow him up, he reasoned.
With his toes dragging sluggishly across the hardwood floors, Will navigated up the stairs as quietly as he could. He winced as the boards creaked underfoot.
As he drew closer to the guest room, the sounds became louder. Chilton was definitely talking, pleading, but it wasn't until Will was right outside that he could make out was being said.
“No... No, please... Please... No me hagas daño... please, don't...”
Will took French in high school, but he knew enough Spanish from his days as a cop to understand what was being said.
Don't hurt me .
Cautiously, he turned the doorknob and pushed the door open wide enough to stick his through.
The curtains were open, letting in enough moonlight to see by. Chilton was flat on his back in the middle of the bed, arms above his head, legs tangled in the blankets that he had apparently tried to kick off. He was thrashing slightly, almost gently, turning his head from side to side like he was trying to get away from something near his face.
“Stop, please,” he whimpered. “Please...”
Will pushed the door open all the way and stepped inside.
“Frederick,” he said softly, drawing closer to the bed. “Frederick, wake up.”
“No... No, don't...”
“Frederick,” Will tried again, a bit louder. He reached out and lightly touched the sleeping man's arm. “Can you hear me? It's just a dr-”
Chilton's hand, curled into a tight fist, shot out and slammed into the side Will's face with surprising force. Will staggered back, tried to grab onto the end table for support, but managing only to drag it down with him. The table, lamp, and clock crashed loudly to the floor. Chilton sat straight up.
“What the fucking- wh- Will?”
From the floor, Will groaned.
“Oh my god. Oh my god, Will, are you okay? What happened?”
Seeing nothing but stars, Will felt something brush against his face.
“You're bleeding,” Frederick said, suddenly closer than he'd been before. “Did- did I hit you?”
“Must've,” Will mumbled, trying to sit up. He swore as his hand came down on a piece of broken glass. Also swearing, Chilton carefully padded over to the light switch on the wall and flicked it on. That only made things worse.
“Do you have a first aid kit?” he asked, his voice coming from Will's right.
“Bathroom, under the sink,” Will told him. His eyes were screwed tightly shut against the bright overhead light, which only made the pain in his face worse. He could feel the blood dripping down his cheek and reached up to feel the damage.
“Don't touch that,” Chilton chided. “Here, give me your hand. No, your other hand that's not bleeding. Come on, up.”
Still blinded, Will allowed himself to be hauled to his feet, carefully steered away from the broken glass of the lamp, and led out into the hall. Frederick's hand was on his shoulder all the way to the bathroom, and only left it when he was safely seated on the toilet. When he heard him rummaging around, Will tried to open one of his eyes.
“You said it was under the sink?” Chilton asked, kneeling to pull the cupboard open.
“I think so, yeah.”
“I don't see it.”
“Ah. Got it.”
Will sat there blinking while the other man came to sit beside him the edge of the tub and told him to tilt his head back.
“This is going to sting.”
He pressed something damp to Will's forehead area, and Will's face felt like it was on fire.
“Fuck!” he yelled, jerking back. Chilton tutted.
“I warned you. Your brow is split, Will, I need to disinfect it.”
“Jesus Christ, where did you learn to hit like that?”
Will tried to squint at Chilton to see if he was being serious or not but his head was being tilted back by his chin and the stinging rag was pressed to his brow once more. He bit his lip to stop from yelling again.
“This might need stitches,” Chilton commented casually as he cleaned the wound, not letting go of Will's chin.
“You think I should go to the hospital?” Will asked through clenched teeth. He felt rather than heard Frederick shrug.
“You could. Or I could do it.”
“I told you I went to medical school, Will,” he snapped.
“I've read your file, Frederick. You dropped out of medical school.”
“Not before I learned how to do a proper suture,” Chilton said, dabbing the peroxide soaked swatch a bit rougher than necessary. “Sutures were about the only thing I was good at, actually. And I have the supplies right here. It really does need stitches, though. What were you even doing in my room?”
“You were having a nightmare,” Will said, doing his best not to flinch away from the cotton swab poking at his brow. “It sounded worse than usual, so I went up to, I dunno, get you out of it.”
“I woke you up?”
“Kept me up, actually. Usually I can get to sleep after a while, but, um... not tonight.”
They didn't speak while Frederick finished disinfecting the wound, and Will didn't complain when he used a tiny pair of scissors to trim his eyebrow. It wasn't until the needle was being threaded and Will's nerves started acting up that he spoke again.
“What happened in middle school?” he asked, eying the needle and thread warily. Frederick hesitated for half a second.
“I was a very small boy, Mr. Graham,” he said tightly, “With very few friends, as I'm sure you'll be unsurprised to learn.”
“You were bullied?”
“Relentlessly, actually, yes. I liked books instead of football and I took art instead of woodshop. The other boys, with their brains already addled by fetal alcohol syndrome and too many blows to the head from their high-school dropout fathers, decided that I was an easy target. I was, to be honest, and I didn't like that. So I learned how to hit. Tilt your head back a bit more.”
Will complied, and did his best not to wince as the first stitch was made.
“Wow,” he half hissed. “And they left you alone after that?”
“No. Then they wanted to fight me. All of them. At once.”
“So I learned to hit harder.” Chilton leaned in closer, squinting, to get a better look at what he was doing. “There was a boy named Gavin McNamara about a year older than me, one of those big, stupid kids who doesn't know how to be anything other than a walking brick, who just loved to pick on me. He loved it more than football, and more than trying to look up girl's skirts, and even more than he loved to torture cats behind the dumpster out back of the school. Which he loved to do quite a lot, much to the neighborhood's dismay. Many a family pet fell prey to his demented little mind. To be completely honest I'm surprised he hasn't ended up in my hospital by now. Now that would have been fun... But no, I was his favourite toy. And all his little meat-headed friends did whatever he told them, and most often he told them to beat the tar out me at lunch. They never hit where any of the bruises would show, and they knew I was too stubborn to tell on them, so this was a fairly regular occurrence. But just because I wouldn't tell didn't mean I wasn't tired of it.
“So one day, in between being kicked and being pushed, I asked him if he was so strong and tough why didn't he just hit me himself? Why did it take five other boys to hold me down and kick me to get the job done? Surely one punch from his ham hock of a hand would do me in. So the idiot lets me stand up and we squared off, and he came at me.”
“And?” Will hadn't even noticed the pain while Chilton was speaking. He was too caught up in the easy, matter of fact way the man spoke about his childhood torment. Will had never been bullied, only ignored. He couldn't imagine facing that sort of harassment day in and out as a child. He was quickly forming a mental image of what Chilton must have been like as a child.
A scrawny, watery-eyed boy with a backpack that weighed more than he did and the sort of open, perpetually curious expression on his face that told the other children to keep a wide berth around him. He imagined a lonely boy eating a homemade lunch by himself, nervously glancing over his shoulder for the sound of approaching bullies and unkind teachers. He wondered how many times Chilton had been called a teachers pet, or a know-it-all. He remembered the way Chilton had tensed the first time Will asked where he was from, the sharpness in his voice when he asked if it was a problem, and wondered if he had been called much worse.
“I dodged and he missed,” Chilton said brightly, breaking Will away from the image of his younger, imagined self. “And I hit him square in the face. Broke his big ugly nose, did his dentist a favour by knocking out his two front teeth, and gave him a concussion when he fell back and smacked his head on the pavement.”
The pride was evident in his voice and the smile on his face as he snipped the loose end of the thread. Will couldn't help but smile himself.
“Did you get away with it?” he asked, cautiously flexing his face to make sure the stitches held. Frederick laughed.
“Oh, no, of course not. I broke three fingers and got suspended for a week. But it was worth it. None of them ever touched me again.”
Will didn't know why he'd said that. Chilton apparently didn't either, because he was staring at Will with his eyebrows raised. Will looked away quickly, reaching up to both scratch his head and to conveniently block his eyeline. That was when he remembered his hand was still bleeding.
By time Will was completely patched up it was getting light outside. There was no point going back to sleep. He had to get to work early, anyway, for a lecture that he was supposed to be giving to the impressionable young minds of the academy. He wasn't entirely sure why he was still allowed to teach. But if Jack said it was alright, which he did, then Will didn't really have much else to say on the matter.
Frederick was washing the dishes from their breakfast, which he had also prepared. Will's left hand was so bandaged in gauze that he could hardly move it. Explaining his injuries to Jack would be fun, he just knew it. He still hadn't come up with a good excuse.
“I'll probably be home late tonight,” he said loudly over the running water. “Do you need anything from the store?”
“We're out of milk again.”
“Milk, okay. Anything else?”
“It wouldn't kill you to buy some better shampoo, would it?”
Will smirked. “I'll add it to the list.”
“Really? Oh. Thank you.”
Frederick turned the water off and started toweling off the plates. Will drained the last of his coffee and stood up to finish getting ready. A glance at the clock told him he was dangerously close to being late.
“I've got an appointment with Hannibal tonight,” he said carefully. “Which means I probably won't be hungry when I get back. So you can make whatever you want for dinner, okay?”
Frederick hadn't turned around and was still facing the sink. He nodded to show that he had heard. It wasn't until Will had shrugged his coat on and had his hand on the doorknob that he spoke.
Will stopped and looked back expectantly. Chilton swallowed.
“Be careful. With him. Be careful with Hannibal.”
Will opened his mouth to respond, and then closed it again. Frederick was still standing there when he closed the door behind him.
Chapter 6: For Men
i chickened out writing hannibal, i'm not smart enough for all his metaphor bullshit, but i tried
“Will. Come in.”
Stepping into Hannibal Lecter's office used to feel like a breath of fresh air to Will. A haven, where the deepest intricacies of his mind were free to wander unobstructed and unopposed. This was a place where he didn't have to hide anything from anyone. Or from himself.
What he failed to realise, until it was much too late, was that the danger lay not in what he let out, but in what he let in.
The man sitting across from him was immaculate as ever. Impeccably dressed in a suit and tie that probably cost more than most of the things in Will's house. His light hair was combed neatly to the side, held in place by willpower as much as by skill. Will himself had tried to emulate the style without obviously copying it. He was the mirror to Hannibal's reflection now. His own unshaven cheek a contrast to the smoothness of the other man's. Before, when his hair still hung in his eyes and his clothes were lopsided and ill-fitting, Will Graham had felt like a shabby fool, a peasant in the presence of the gentry. But now he was approaching the stance of an equal. Now, after everything that had happened, he finally understood the game they'd been playing all along. And he looked the part.
“You are injured,” Hannibal commented, his dark eyes lingering on the fresh stitches on Will's brow, and the thick gauze wrapped around his left hand. Will flexed it as much as he could, not grimacing despite the ache.
“I slipped on my porch last night,” he lied easily. “They patched me up in the emergency room, but I still have to go back in a few days.”
Simple. No unnecessary elaboration. Facts. Hannibal nodded, accepting them. Jack had accepted them too, going only so far to ask if any dogs were involved.
“If the sutures were done correctly they ought to be healed fairly quickly. I could see to them, if you like.”
“I appreciate the offer.”
In the beats of the silence that passed between them, Will could hear the ticking of a clock from somewhere above them. It was a familiar sound, in a familiar place. But he was still getting used to seeing things in this new light. In clarity.
“I've been thinking about what you said during our last visit,” Will said, breaking the silence. His first move. “About responsibility. About blame.”
Hannibal tilted his head slightly, waiting. His notebook sat untouched on the table beside him, as usual. Will couldn't remember seeing him ever take a single note during their sessions. He thought, unbidden, of Chilton, who had furiously scribbled down every word he said during his therapy. The differences between his two psychiatrists were vast and irreconcilable. One was a cannibalistic serial killer...
...and the other was living as a fugitive in his house, complaining about the kind of bread he bought.
“You are responsible,” Will said carefully, focusing on the task at hand, weighting each of his words, “for what happened to me. What was done to me. You're responsible for my meltdown, and for my incarceration. You're responsible for no one believing me. For Jack turning his back on me. For Alana giving up on me.”
For Beverly's death.
“You're responsible for so much of the pain that's been inflicted on me, Dr. Lecter. But I don't blame you.”
Hannibal lifted his chin, almost imperceptibly, waiting for Will to continue. When he didn't, the doctor took his cue.
“If I am responsible for all these things, all of this strife you have experienced, what do you feel if not blame?”
Will wet the corners of his lips with his tongue, and the motion did not go unnoticed.
“I feel a sense of... appreciation.”
From across the room, in the low light from the single lamp on the desk, Will could see the way Hannibal's eyes flickered. The way the light in them dimmed and brightened without moving, without blinking. He had him.
“You are also responsible,” Hannibal said, moving nothing but his mouth. “For my attack. For my near death.”
“Do you blame me?”
You did as expected.
“I didn't understand, at first, what was happening,” Will said, settling further back into his chair. “And then I didn't understand why it was happening. I spent so long trying to figure out why you would do that to me. How had I wronged you to be worthy of such punishment. What did I do to make you hate me so much.”
“I do not hate you, Will,” Hannibal interjected. “I have never hated you.”
Will nodded, conceding.
“I know that, now. But at the time, sitting in a cell, having my sleep monitored and my mind probed, having all the people I thought were my friends walk away from me, hate was the only possibility I could could up with. A person would only subject someone to that if they hated them, I reasoned. I thought you visited me to gloat. To get a look at your handiwork. To make sure my punishment was being adequately carried out. Every time you professed your friendship seemed like a mockery. A slap to the face. How could friends do that to one another?”
Hannibal sat silent, waiting. Will was getting better at reading his expressions, at picking up on the minute twitches and unconscious spasms of of muscle. He hadn't been paying attention before. Avoiding eye contact had caused him to miss a lot, and it was a mistake he wasn't going to make twice.
“But it wasn't hatred. Or mockery. I understand that now.”
The watching paid off. Something rippled across the older man's face, to quick and subtle for Will to read. But it was there. It was working.
“What do you understand, Will?”
“That you were only trying to help.”
The hour long session ended late, as it often did. Hannibal didn't take any appointments after eight, allowing the lobby to be blissfully empty when Will left. He didn't have to fear running into any waiting patients on his way out. Didn't have to feign the courtesy of a smile, or carefully avoid eye contact. He simply said his goodbyes to Hannibal, confirmed his next appointment, and walked out the door.
The breath of crisp, winter air on his face was euphoric.
He was halfway home before he remembered that he was supposed to go to the store.
A poorly executed u-turn and ten minutes later, Will Graham stood in the health and beauty section of the nearest department store. A wall of shampoo faced him, immense in both scale and variety. Bottles of every shape and colour were arranged neatly, side by side, in neat and orderly rows. Every bottle was clearly trying to outshine the one next to it, by use of both colour and punctuation.
On the very bottom shelf, near the end of the aisle, Will saw his brand. It was cheap, with a generic name, and it cleaned his hair. That was all he knew about it, and it was all that he needed to know about it. It was shampoo. That's just what it did. Unfortunately, he suspected Frederick might disagree with him. Will went to rub his hand over his face, then winced when he remembered the bandages.
He grabbed a bottle off the shelf at random and examined it. It was blue, in a clear plastic bottle, with a sleek, stylized font advertising it as both “deep cleaning” and also “for men.”
A quick look told him that every single bottle in both direction had the words “for men” stamped prominently somewhere on the label. He sighed heavily and put it back.
The next random pick turned out to be a dandruff shampoo, that “rejuvenated the scalp.”
Chilton didn't have dandruff. At least, Will was pretty sure he didn't. And his scalp didn't look like it needed rejuvenating, whatever that meant. He put the bottle back and reached for yet another one, this time from a higher shelf.
This one looked more promising, at least. A squat green bottle, again with “for men” blazoned across the front. Everything else was in lower case, including the words “mint clean,” “mint fused technology,” and “invigorating.” Will stared at it, then carefully unscrewed the cap and took a whiff.
Yep, that was mint, alright.
Will glanced back at the shelf where it had come from. There was several other bottles just like it in various colours. The white one caught his eye with the word “retaliate” - retaliate against what? - and he picked up carefully with his bandaged hand. The label said it was for thin or thinning hair, which Frederick definitely didn't have. The man's hair was extremely thick, though Will hadn't really noticed until he'd seen it without all the gel and styling product in it. Whatever Chilton put in it before he went on the run had made his hair sleek and sculpted. Will used to pass the time during the sessions watching to see if it actually moved when Chilton moved his head or it was just solidified in place. It was a little wavy, too, and curled a bit the longer it got. But it certainly wasn't thin, and showed no signs of thinning any time soon. Maybe a haircut would be nice, though.
Will realised he was thinking about Chilton's hair too much and put the retaliate bottle back on the shelf. The mint one would have to do. It was expensive and it smelled weird; Frederick would love it.
“Mint? You bought me mint shampoo?”
Chilton took another look inside the plastic bag Will had handed him.
“And matching conditioner. Also mint. Wow.”
“I was in a hurry,” Will muttered, miffed. “There was a lot to choose from.”
“It's fine,” Frederick said, smiling slightly as he examined the finer print on the bottle. “It's a good brand. Just... mint. Haven't tried that before. It'll probably make me smell like a candy cane.”
Will blushed, and he didn't know why.
Fortunately the other man was too distracted by the groceries to notice. Will swallowed, confused with himself, and walked over to the fridge. He pulled the door open and peered inside.
“Are there any leftovers from dinner?”
“No. You said you were going to eat at Hannibal's.”
“Well, I thought I was too, but I didn't. He didn't bother cooking tonight, which is unsurprising. Jack hasn't had a case the last couple days.”
Behind him, Frederick scoffed.
“If you're hungry I'll make you something,” he said, starting to unpack the couple bags Will had brought in. “It's a little late for it though. How about I just fry some eggs or something?”
Will raised his head to look at Chilton over the top of the fridge door. “Breakfast for dinner?”
“It was just a suggestion.”
“No, no, it's fine. That sounds good actually. And I bought more eggs. Are you gonna eat too?”
“If I'm cooking, I don't see why not.” He tsked suddenly. “You bought the wrong kind of bread again, Will. Now I have to eat this entire loaf of crusty, dry white bread before it molds. Thank you. No, don't touch that, it's fine, I've got it. Just sit down, okay? I'll start the eggs in a minute."
Will, who had been reaching to turn on the stove top, dutifully withdrew his hand and slunk over to the table to wait for his food. In the doorway, Winston and Amelia sat side by side, staring at him with brown, knowing eyes. They tilted their heads in unison. Will felt himself blushing again.
And he still didn't know why.
Chapter 7: Not Such a Stray Anymore
thus begins will graham's big gay crisis
Frederick was right, the shampoo made him smell like a candy cane.
Unfortunately, it also made Will smell like a candy cane. And already running late for work, there was no time to take another shower and get rid of the smell. Instead, he sprayed on as much cologne as he dared and hoped for the best.
Living with Frederick Chilton was slowly becoming less of a nightmare.
Will had gotten used to the sounds of another person being in his house. The footsteps, and the quiet rustle of clothing, the squeaking furniture, the soft, unconscious noises a person made as they went about their day. He'd gotten used to waking up to the smell of breakfast, or the sound of the toilet flushing, or the shower running. He'd even gotten used to the sound of the TV playing in another room, which is something he'd never been able to do before. Frederick seemed to spend most of his days in front of the thing, flipping between nature documentaries and sleazy reality shows. He liked to watch Jeopardy in the evenings, and Will was surprised at just how good he was at it. He got excited when he knew the answer, which was almost always, shouting it out and slapping his hand on the arm of the sofa. If he was right and the contestant got it wrong, he would let out the ugliest, most triumphant sounding “ha!” that Will had ever heard.
Will had gotten used to the dogs treating him differently as well. They were no longer solely dependent on him, so while they were all still very loving and comforting, they weren't quite as clingy as they used to be. They treated Frederick as their primary caregiver now, which annoyed the man to no end. Frederick repeatedly professed that he was not a dog person, and yet there he was, with at least one dog touching him at all times. While Will was at work, he was the one filling their bowls and getting them fresh water and letting them out to do their business and, most recently, getting them used to the small, scrawny, cream-coloured cat that had been discovered huddling under their porch.
Frederick promptly named it Butterball and wouldn't hear any other suggestions about it.
Will had almost gotten used to the cat. It was fussy and skittish and clawed at the dogs if they got too close. It had laid the back of Frederick's hand open when he tried to pick it up the first time, but now he was the only one it would respond to. Will had to make another trip to the store to buy cans of tuna and cat food for it. He even bought a little collar with a bell on it, which was quickly discarded and lost in the snow. Butterball was sitting on the kitchen table when Will woke up, but by the time he left for work it was nowhere in sight.
In a little over a month, Will Graham had gotten used to his life being turned completely upside down. But he would absolutely, under no circumstances, ever be used to this.
“Jesus Christ, Jack.”
“This is just-”
“I know. That's why I called you. I'm a loss here, and so is Dr. Lecter. This is what you're good at. It's what I need you for. So do whatever you have to do to get ready, because I'll be there to pick you up in twenty minutes.”
The line went dead at Jack's end. Will put the phone down, stared at it for a moment, then ran a hand over his face.
“New case?” Frederick said, from the chair where he had been eavesdropping. Will nodded mutely. “What can't Agent Crawford figure out on his own this time?”
“There was a woman inside of a horse.”
In the moments of silence after the words left Will's mouth, he wondered what normal people talked about during breakfast. Their plans for the day, probably. Going to work, picking up groceries, maybe picking up kids from school. Normal people didn't start the day with a phone call from the FBI. Normal people didn't have fugitives living in their houses, adopting stray cats. Normal people didn't have to think about what Will graham was thinking about. And for that, he envied them.
Frederick had been staring at him with his mouth open, spoon full of cereal and hovering halfway to his face, for at least a whole minute.
“There was a what inside of a what?”
Will didn't turn around.
“A woman,” he repeated, “inside of a horse.”
“Oh my God.”
“And that's not even the worst part.”
“Oh, no. You've got to be kid-”
“There was a bird inside of the woman.”
“Oh my God.”
“And it was alive.”
“Oh my God.”
Will rubbed his face with both hands.
“Jack's bringing the file over in a bit. Which means I need to go and make myself presentable.”
Frederick's spoon clattered back into his bowl.
“Here?” he squeaked, standing up so fast he almost knocked the chair over. “Jack's coming here? Will, are you out of your mind, he can't come here! I'm here!”
“He's just coming to pick me up, Frederick, relax. I'll meet him in the driveway, I'm not going to invite him in for a tour.”
Will was in no mood to deal with another of the doctor's panic attacks. He turned around abruptly, placing his hands on the other man's shoulders and staring him down.
“Frederick,” he said calmly, “It's going to be fine. You are going to be fine. Jack Crawford will come here, and then he will leave, and will never know or even suspect that you're here. You're safe.”
Frederick stared at him aghast. His mouth hung open slightly, soundlessly mouthing words that Will couldn't understand. His eyes were wide with shock. Will had never noticed that they were green.
He let go just as suddenly, taking a step back. Chilton remained where he was, still staring, until Will felt compelled to look away. He walked out of the kitchen and into the living room, silently shrugging on his coat and pulling on his boots. Winston followed him out when he opened the door to wait on the porch for Jack.
Today's session with Hannibal had been very... productive.
Will had laid all of his cards on the table.
...You nearly destroyed me...
...Don't lie to me...
...With my hands...
...I finally find you interesting...
The words tumbled from his lips likes maggots from a bloated corpse, writhing in his lap with the sickening stench of truth. They were bait. Chum in the water. And Hannibal was eating them up.
Will could see it written in the lines of his face. In the gleam of his eyes, the subtle flash of teeth in a barely contained smile. The hook had been set. Will could almost see it, pierced through the thick flesh of the psychiatrist's hollow cheek, too sharp and pristine for him to even know it was there.
Will Graham was a damn good fisherman.
Hannibal's hand was on his shoulder as he led him to the door, his grip light and authoritative. His fingers tightened slightly as they reached the threshold. Will heard his breath by his ear, a slow, steady inhalation.
“You changed your aftershave?” Hannibal questioned, his mouth still very close by. Will turned fractionally.
“Shampoo, actually. Ran out. Thought I might try something different for a change.”
It was not an appreciative sound.
Will could still hear it vibrating through his skull when he got into his car and checked his phone. There was a single text from Jack.
Frederick was unusually quiet over dinner that night.
It was another Cuban dish, Will assumed. Small baked potatoes covered in a sour, orange sauce. The potatoes were a little too dry and well done, but the sauce itself was delicious. He wanted to ask what it was called, but hesitated to break the cool silence that Chilton seemed intent to maintain.
He had his own reasons for keeping silent as well.
The corpses of sixteen women in various states of decay floated behind his eyelids. Sixteen young lives cut cruelly short. Sixteen bodies dug out of the cold ground, with no one to keep them company but each other. And it all would have begun with one. A single body rotting in the dark, helpless as her sisters were buried around her, another life taken, another empty shell to join the pile. Even to a corpse, Will thought it must be terrible to be all alone.
Not all alone, though. Never alone.
A shadow hovered over them. A dark, incomplete shape that lingered over the mass grave like a fine mist. It was in the ground with them, too. Taking up what little space they had. Seeping inside them, violating their peace even in their final resting place. They were uncovered now, brought out of the dark and into the cold, harsh air of the world once more. But still the shadow lingered. It would linger on them in the morgue where their bodies would be identified. Sixteen bodies of sixteen young women, sixteen daughters and sisters and friends. Sixteen people that would be reunited with their families not in an embrace, but a coffin. And still the shadow would be there.
“I met a man today,” Will said between mouthfuls. Frederick looked up, startled. Will didn't look at him as he sliced a potato in half with his fork. “You may be interested to know that there is someone out there who is even worse about collecting animals than I am.”
Frederick raised his eyebrows, a smile twitching at the corner of his lips.
“Forgive me if I find that hard to believe, Mr. Graham.”
Will frowned slightly. Why was he Mr. Graham again?
“It's true,” he said, determined to lighten the mood. There was enough darkness in his head for one night. “I only collect dogs. And now the occasional cat, I suppose, thanks to you. This guy has dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, a monkey. I think I even saw a skunk in one of the cages. And there was a horse outside.”
“Please don't tell me there was another person inside of it, I'm trying to enjoy my food.”
“The horse was empty,” Will smirked. “At least as far as I know. I didn't really check.”
Chilton stabbed at a chunk of potato and pushed it around his plate, gathering more sauce on it before stuffing it into his mouth. Will did the same, the two men chewing in silence for a minute. This time Frederick was the one to break the silence.
“So who was this man with the menagerie of animals?” he asked, briefly glancing up. “Why were you meeting with him?”
“He's a possible suspect in the case. He used to work at the stables where the body was found, and he knew the victim. Jack and I went to interview him.”
“Does Jack think he did it?”
“I don't think so. Otherwise he would have hauled him in for questioning.”
“Do you think he did it?”
Will scraped the last bite of his meal onto his fork, making sure to gather as much of the sauce as he could before putting in his mouth. He chewed thoughtfully, enjoying the citrusy tang on his tongue.
“Peter's not a killer,” he said after a moment's thought. “He doesn't have the temperament. He was kicked in the head by a horse a few years ago, which is why he stopped working at the stables. He's got a scar across his head and permanent neurological damage that makes it difficult to function, difficult to handle information from more than one source at a time. But he didn't sound like he harboured any resentment to the horse, didn't sound like he blamed it. When I told him about the bird in the woman's chest, the first thing he asked was “was it alive?””
“How could he have known that if he didn't put it there?” Frederick asked, cutting him off.
“I didn't say he didn't put it there,” Will clarified, “I'm saying he's not the one who killed her to do it. He may very well have been the one to put the body inside of the horse, to put the bird inside of the body, but he didn't kill that woman. He didn't kill any of them.”
“Any of them? There were more?”
“Sixteen.” Their bodies floated up behind his eyelids once more, looming and desiccated. “Sixteen women, all buried together, all strangled to death and stripped and put in the ground like a- like a memorial garden. Grouped together so their killer could visit them again and again, so he could add to the pile. Peter Bernardone didn't do that. He couldn't have done that. Physically, he couldn't, but mentally as well. Their deaths were slow. Personal, but not intimate. They're just notches on a belt. Peter's not vicious enough for that. A man who collects animals, who rescues them and rehabilitates them and takes care of them, he can't just stop seeing humans as human. Because even if he did see them as animals, as lesser beings, he still wouldn't hurt them. It's not in his nature.”
Will looked up in time to catch Frederick staring at him with open fascination on his face. His eyes widened, realising he'd been caught, and a faint pink blush tinted his cheeks. He looked away, abashed.
“S-sorry,” he stammered, hastily refolding his napkin. “Old habits..”
“Were you analysing me?” Will asked, amused by how flustered the other man was.
“No! I- Well. Maybe a little. That's not why I asked about the case, not entirely, it's just. May I speak plainly? And will you promise not to throw me out to the wolves when I'm done?”
Well this sounded promising. Will made a sweeping gesture with both hands. “By all means, doctor. Go on.”
Frederick leaned forward and wet his lips, excitement etched into every inch of his frame. Will wondered if he was going to regret giving him the floor.
“We have established that my treatment towards you was less than, shall we say, standard,” he began, and immediately he had Will's interest. “I admit, I may have pushed, may have taken advantage of my authority while you were in my care. Even before you were my patient I made attempts to analyse you, to bring you in for testing. That was wrong of me, and impolite, but can you really blame me, Will?
“Do you know how many papers I've read about your condition? How many anecdotes, I've chased down, how many irrelevant conversations I've inserted myself into just to hear someone tell about the time they spoke to someone who'd spoken to you maybe once? Not just you, of course, but people like you. People whose mental functions are outliers and deviations on the spectrum, people who have such a different way of seeing the world that the rest of us can barely hope to one day understand them. You collect dogs, Will. I collect, or collected, unexplored psychoses. And what you do, your ability to place yourself in the mind of another, to essentially become them- it's extraordinary. Absolutely extraordinary. I've never seen anything like it, and believe me I have looked. I would have killed for an ability like that during my residency. To know someone, to know their motivations and passions and personality all at once without having to dredge through repetitive interviews, endless questionnaires, unreliable second-hand accounts, all of which may turn out to be lies in the end, sounds like an absolute miracle.”
He sat back slowly, regarding Will with something he found uncomfortably closer to wonder in his eyes.
“You have a gift, Will Graham. You are gifted. I don't know if you believe that or not, but I want you to know how truly, truly remarkable you really are. And how truly sorry am I for not seeing that as clearly as I should have when I had the chance.”
“I don't feel remarkable,” Will said softly. The smile slid from Frederick's face. There was a stream of words perched just under Will's tongue, and he knew if he opened his mouth again they would all come pouring out whether he wanted them to or not. Words that had been building up inside him over the course of his life, all the things he'd ever wanted to say to all the smug, adoring faces that told him what he did was a gift. Unfortunately for Frederick Chilton, his smug, adoring face would have to be representative to the lot. Will licked his lips.
“I feel raw,” he started, and neither of them had moved an inch. “I feel... like an old glove. Something that other people find and pick up and put on and take off and put back where they found it. It's not- what I do, it isn't- I don't see myself from the outside, it's not like watching a play. I become them. The murderers and the victims and the witnesses, the bystanders and the aid workers and the body on the slab. I fill their shoes. Whenever Jack Crawford tells me to. Sometimes when he doesn't. Sometimes I can't help it.”
Will shuddered slightly. The memories of all the times he couldn't stop it, couldn't pull himself out of the scene bubbled up from the base of his mind where he'd tried his hardest to bury them. Across the table Frederick was still perched forward, staring at him with wide eyes, unable to keep the hunger out of them.
This was what he'd been after all along, of course. Some insight into the damaged mind of one Will Graham. Will suddenly hated him for it. Hated him all over again, hated the way he would stare and poke and prod and fumble around with his brain, clumsily picking at the knots he thought looked easiest to unravel. He looked up finally, locking eyes with the man across from him, and laughed. It was a heartless sound.
“All my life people have told me special I am,” Will spat, and Chilton jolted as if he'd been shocked. “People like you, people like Jack. Who don't even see me as another person, just a tool at worst and a curiosity at best. Something that's useful. And you don't get it. You just don't fucking get it. There's nothing special about this. It isn't an illusion or a parlour trick, it's something that lives inside of me and happens to me and I can't get away from it. Do you think it made it easier when I was working homicide to understand why a man beat his wife's head in with a tire iron? Do you think it helped to know exactly how justified he felt when he killed her? Or when an eighty year old man dragged three young girls into his basement and drowned them, again and again and again in his bathtub, because he thought that if he baptized them enough he could make them into angels? I don't go to crime scenes and watch a scene play out, I'm a part of it. It was me holding their heads under the water, pressing the fluid from their lungs, reviving them just enough that they could die again. That's not remarkable, Frederick. It's ugly. It is an ugly, ugly part of me that I would cut out like a cancer if I could. What I do- what I've done... that's not something I would want for anyone. Not even Hannibal.”
Will stopped speaking. The words had run dry. There were more of them, he knew there was much more that he wanted to say, but all of it was stuck to his tongue like thick peanut butter.
Frederick was still in the same position he'd been when Will started, though there was a distinct pallor to his skin now. Will could tell he wanted to say something, too, but whatever the words were they wouldn't come out. Will blinked and looked away. He took a deep breath and started to stand up. Frederick lurched forward in his chair, reaching out and grabbing Will's arm from across the table.
“I'm sorry,” he blurted, then swallowing as he took a moment to compose himself. “Will, I'm sorry. I- I didn't know.”
Will looked at the hand that was gently clasping his forearm, and it occurred to him that this was the first time Chilton had actually touched him. Even when they'd first met they hadn't shaken hands, and the doctor had kept a careful distance during his therapy. Will frowned slightly, and finished standing up. Frederick's grip fell away limply. Will didn't look at him.
“I know you didn't. You weren't supposed to.”
Frederick remained at the table while Will took their dishes and placed them in the sink. He started the water, and then turned it off.
“Do you want to help with the dishes?” Will asked, as casually as he could muster. Frederick turned around to face him with eyebrows raised. Will forced something he hoped was a smile onto his face. “I'll wash, you dry?”
“Sure,” the man said faintly. He didn't actually move, however, until Will had turned back around and let the water run again. They worked together in a methodical silence.
Will still didn't find a moment to tell him how good the sauce had been.
Chapter 8: Something Real
i guess technically THIS is the beginning of will graham's big gay crisis but whatever
“It's his social worker, Jack.”
“And you know that how, exactly?”
Jack Crawford sat behind his desk in his office, hands folded powerfully in front of him. Will, by contrast, was standing. Still in his coat, hands tucked securely into his pockets. His face was still flushed from the cold as well, having come directly to Jack's office from out on the campus. No reason for him to go anywhere else.
“I went to see Peter Bernardone again today, asked him about Sarah Craver and the other women. He knew where to find them, where they were buried. He knows who killed them.”
“And he named his social worker?” Jack asked, frowning. Will shook his head.
“No, he didn't name him. He's scared of him, but he knew how to get our attention. He said “I knew if you could find me, then you could find him.””
Jack's frown deepened.
“That's not a definitive accusation, Will.”
“It's enough to bring him in for questioning.”
“You're sure about this?”
“I'm sure, Jack. Bring him in. And let Alana talk to him.”
“You think he'll talk to her?”
“I don't know about talk, but he'll definitely react to her. You'll see.”
Jack sighed, reaching for the phone on his desk. He looked up at Will from under his brow as he punched in a number.
“He's going to go after him,” Will said quietly into the receiver. “Peter's not safe.”
Will was standing out on the porch of his house, Winston ever by his side, to lessen the chances of Frederick being overheard in the background.
“Have you told Jack of your suspicions?” Hannibal asked just as softly from the other end of the line.
“Jack needs more than my suspicions right now, doctor. It was a trial just getting him to agree to bring Clark Ingram in. He won't send anyone.”
Hannibal paused. Will wondered if he was licking his lips, as he often did in moments of contemplation.
“What are you suggesting we do, Will?”
“We go after him,” Will said, barely able to stop his voice from shaking. His heart was beating fast in his chest, hammering with the implications of what he was suggesting. “I want to make sure Peter Bernardone is safe. And that Mr. Ingram learns his lesson.”
He could feel Hannibal's smile through the phone.
“Will you drive or shall I?”
“I'm going out again.”
Frederick looked up from the crossword puzzle he was squinting at.
“Now? Will, it's the middle of the night.”
“It's eight thirty, Frederick.”
What are you, my mother? Will didn't say. Not that he really needed to.
“Well, where are you going?”
“Out,” Will said evasively. He realised just how juvenile the whole exchange sounded and clarified. “Hannibal is picking me up. We're going to visit Peter Bernardone, make sure he's safe.”
Will heard Butterball mewl pathetically as Frederick dislodged her from his lap, sputtering incoherently.
“Hannibal? Hannibal Lecter is picking you up? He's coming here?” Frederick was on his feet now, tightly holding the cat to his chest. Despite the late hour he was still in his day clothes, as was Will. A familiar look of panic was solidifying itself on his face. Will let out a long suffering sigh.
“Are you going to do this every time someone comes to the house?” he asked, patting his pockets for his keys.
“Do what?” Frederick huffed, “Fear for my safety? Yes, I think I will. Jack Crawford was bad enough, seeing as he wants to arrest me and throw me into my own hospital, but this- Hannibal- he kills people, Will! He killed people in my house. He's the whole reason I'm here in the first place, and you're just going to let him waltz inside and have a look around while I do what, exactly? Cower in the pantry?”
“I'm not going to invite him in,” Will said, irritated. “I'll meet him in the driveway, just like I did with Jack.”
“But where are you even going?”
“Out, okay?” Will shouted, more out of frustration than actual anger. The noise upset the cat, which squirmed its way out of Frederick's arms and took off down the hallway. Will watched her go, and looked up to find Frederick glaring at him. He looked away quickly, biting his tongue before he said something that would make the whole situation even worse, and yanked open the front door to go wait on the porch. As the door slammed shut behind him, he tried not to think about how this was becoming a habit.
Will had calmed down completely by the time Hannibal arrived.
He didn't give the doctor the chance to so much as kill the engine before he was striding across the lawn and pulling the car door open. He settled into the heated seat, kicked the excess snow off his boots and closed the door. It felt like sealing himself into a tomb.
Some sort of classical music was pouring softly from the speakers. Will looked over at Hannibal expectantly.
Will's hands were shaking as he slid his key into the lock, trying to turn it swiftly and smoothly before Hannibal could see the state he was in. He turned the key, turned the knob, opened the door, pushed back the dogs that rushed forward to greet him, stepped inside, closed the door, turned the lock again, and waited. He stood there, holding onto the doorknob, forehead pressed against the glass, until the tail lights of Hannibal's Bentley disappeared down the driveway.
He exhaled slowly, his breath fogging up theglass in the door.
Frederick's voice came from behind him, soft and timid. Will didn't know how long he'd been standing there. Hopefully not long enough for Hannibal's headlights to catch sight of him through the windows. Will didn't respond to him. His fingers were still clenched tightly around the doorknob.
“Will?” the man tried again, louder. The sounds of his bare footsteps on the hardwood floors padded closer. Will took a step back and forced his fingers to let go.
He didn't look at Frederick as he turned around, heading to the desk against the far wall and yanking open the bottom drawer. There was a half empty bottle of whiskey, the good stuff he saved for emergencies and special occasions, lying underneath sheets of loose paper. Tax invoices and bill receipts. Will grabbed it, twisted the cap off, and took a swig straight from the bottle. It burned as it went down, sliding past his heart like fire. Will gasped from the shock of it, then took another drink.
“Will, are you alright?” The dogs had followed Frederick into the room, two of them now sniffing and lapping experimentally at the dark stains on Will's boots, and the cuffs of his jeans. The doctor followed their path with his eyes, which widened almost comically. He took another step into the room toward Will.
“Oh my God. Will, is that- you're covered in blood.”
“It's not mine.”
What sounded reassuring in Will's mind came out as anything but. Frederick stopped midstep, staring wide eyed. Will took a third swig of the whiskey, wincing as it carved a new path down his throat. The burn was duller this time, but still there. He cleared his throat and tried again.
“It's horse blood,” he explained. “It's fine.”
“You're getting it on the carpet,” Frederick said weakly. Will looked down and laughed despite himself, then frowned. He was right. But that didn't matter right now.
He brought the bottle with him as he pushed past the dogs, sitting heavily near the middle of the couch. Frederick stayed where he was, watching him warily, glancing between the blank expression on Will's face and the blood on his boots. Will took another, longer, drink.
“I almost killed a man tonight.”
Normally Will would have waited for some sort of reaction. Some sort of sign that Frederick had understood and comprehended what he'd said, and expressed his feelings on the matter. Will didn't do that this that. Will didn't care about Frederick's feelings tonight. All he cared about was that his hands hadn't stopping shaking since he'd gotten into Hannibal's car, and the way his heart was pounding, pounding, pounding against his ribs to the beat of war drums he couldn't hear, and the fact that the fire burning inside of him, scorching and threatening to consume his innards, may not be from the whiskey after all.
“I had a gun in my hand, and I held it up to his head,” Will said calmly, resting the bottle on his leg. “He was on his knees in front of me, on the ground, with his hands up. He kept saying please. Asking me not to. But I didn't want to stop. I wanted to pull the trigger. I wanted to blow his brains out of the back of his skull, I wanted to watch his collapse, wanted to see the little lights go out of his eyes and shrink into wherever the fuck it is people like him go when they die. I wanted to kill him. But I didn't want to kill him.”
There was a beat of silence.
“What?” Frederick asked. Will lifted the bottle halfway to his lips before lowering it again. He stared into the dark of the empty chair across from him, picturing the smug, calculating face of his therapist staring back at him. He took a proper drink this time.
“I didn't want to kill the man on the floor. I wanted to kill the idea of him. I wanted to kill what he represented, what he had done. I wanted to kill what he was- what he is.”
“What is he?”
Frederick was still standing at the base of the stairs hold his elbows, arms crossed awkwardly over his stomach. He was in his pajamas, which consisted of his own dark t shirt and a pair of old sweat pants that Will had loaned him. Will wondered if he'd woken him up coming in the door, or he'd been awake and waiting for him to get home. He motioned with the bottle for Frederick to join him on the couch. The man hesitated. When he did sit, it was as far from Will as possible. A long silence hung between them, swelling like a bubble. It was Will who burst it.
“The man I almost killed... his name is Clark Ingram. He's the one who murdered those women. The who left them to rot in the ground in a field, unnamed and unmarked and unmourned. He's Peter's social worker. He went there to frame him, and I went there to stop him.”
“Peter... is the man who collects all the animals, right?”
“Peter is an innocent. He's vulnerable. Ingram was in a position of authority over him, he was supposed to be a protector, a guiding force. He was supposed to help him.”
“Like Hannibal was supposed to help you,” Frederick said softly. Will looked at him sharply. He could make out the other man's features in the dark; his creased brow, the sharp jut of his nose, the reflection of the porch light in his eyes, the shadow of the beard that he was attempting to regrow. His expression was a familiar one that Will had grown accustomed to seeing from between the bars of his cage. But this time there was something different about it. There was a distinct lack of coldness in his eyes. No fervent studiousness or curiosity. It almost touched on genuine concern. Will stared at him for a hard moment before letting his gaze fall away.
Will lifted the bottle again, but before it could meet his lips Frederick had reached out and taken it from his hand, setting on the far corner of the coffee table and out of his reach. Will wanted to hit him as much as he wanted to thank him. So he did the next best thing.
He grabbed the front of Frederick's shirt and pulled him forward, pressing their mouths together with enough force to bruise. Frederick let out a squeak of surprise, muffled by Will's lips on his own, and tried to pull away. Will held him close, fist still balled tightly in the fabric of his shirt.
Will Graham had never kissed a man before. He had never wanted to kiss a man before. In truth, so far it wasn't that much different than kissing a woman, only a bit rougher than he was usually comfortable with. But this wasn't about wanting to kiss anyone. For Will, this was about need . He needed to feel something real, something physical, something that didn't exist just in his own head. He needed to feel something that wasn't manufactured by chemicals or planted against his will. He needed something he could touch, and right now Frederick Chilton was the closest thing in arm's reach.
Frederick put both hands on Will's chest and pushed hard, shoving him back into the cushions. For a brief moment Will thought he'd gone too far, that Frederick was going to yell at him or storm out of the room or even try to leave the house. That didn't happen. To Will's surprise, the other man climbed on top of him, one leg between Will's knees and the other straddling his thigh. Frederick kissed him again, just as roughly, all teeth and tongue, the flat of his hand pressed firmly against Will's shoulder. Not holding him down, but certainly making it difficult to move. He was stronger than he looked.
Will was breathing hard, his head swimming. Frederick's tongue was in his mouth now, hot and wet on the inside of his cheek. Will was rapidly losing control of the situation. He grabbed Frederick's arm with the hand that wasn't pinned between his body and the back of the couch. The other man nipped at his lower lip experimentally. Will groaned despite himself. But he could feel himself sobering up, and feel a cold, tight knot forming in his stomach. Frederick's other hand was on his hip now, and Will could feel a distinct bulge growing against the top of his thigh. Frederick's lips moved from Will's mouth to his jaw. Will felt his stubble scrape across the underside of his chin. His eyes flew open.
“Stop!” he gasped, pushing the other man away from him and scrabbling to sit up. Frederick jumped back as if he'd been shot, unbalancing himself and nearly falling off the sofa.
“What? What's wrong?” he asked, steadying himself. Will ran a shaking hand over his face, unable to look at him.
“I can't,” he said, trying to even out his breathing. “I can't do this, I'm sorry. I'm- I'm not-”
Will didn't finish. He didn't need to. The silence that rang between them was deafening enough in its implications.
“You kissed me, Will,” Frederick said, sounding hurt. Will winced.
“I know. I know I did. I'm sorry. I sh- I shouldn't have done that.”
“No, apparently, you shouldn't have,” Frederick said icily, standing up. He picked up the bottle of whiskey and returned it to Will's desk, setting it down much harder than necessary. He stomped back across the living room, clearly intending to return to his room. But Will heard him hesitate at the base of the stairs. “And for the record, I'm not either.”
When the door to the guest bedroom slammed shut, Will allowed himself to collapse.
He fell backwards, resting his head on the back of the sofa, arms falling limply at his sides. He stared up the ceiling, then jumped, startled, when a dog leapt into his lap. Buster sniffed him affectionately, licking at the salty palm of his hand. Will smiled at the dog and sighed. He let his head drop backward again, and took a deep, calming breath.
Chapter 9: It's Fine
lots of awkward stammering in this chapter enjoy
Will Graham woke up painfully sober.
He was still laying on the couch where he had fallen asleep, instead of walking the twenty feet to his bed in the next room. There was at least one dog curled in the space behind his knees, but he didn't try to see who it was. At the moment, he was more distracted by the small yellow cat that was sitting on his coffee table.
Will had never liked cats. They were too independent. Too hard to read. A dog had everything about them written on their face, all the trust and love in the world that they were just waiting to share with anyone who came along. Cats were tricky. Their faces all looked the same, all the time, never betraying their intentions to the unwary. If a dog rolled over and showed its tummy, it's because it wanted it rubbed. If a cat showed its tummy, there was a fifty-fifty chance of either touching the softest thing thing in the world, or getting the shit clawed out of your hand. No warning, no discernible way to tell the difference. It just depended on the cat.
This particular cat, with its cream coloured coat and amber eyes, was starring at him with a look that Will could only describe as accusatory.
I fucked up , was Will's first coherent thought of the morning.
He attempted to push himself into a sitting position, which was a mistake. Something twinged in his neck that didn't feel healthy at all, and angle at which he lifted his head allowed a beam of sunlight streaming through a crack in the curtains to hit him straight in the face. He groaned and dropped back down. No moving for right now. Just for right now. That would be fine.
I really fucked up .
As Will lay with his face squished into the sofa, a dog by his legs and a cat glaring at him, he tried to piece together exactly what had been going through his mind last night. Why, exactly, he had done something so incredibly fucking stupid. He could only blame the whiskey up to a point. He could blame the stress to another point. He could blame his strategic isolation and manipulated emotional state at the hands of Hannibal Lecter to yet another point, but that still left what Will reckoned was a solid point and a half unaccounted for. And that point and a half was really fucking with his already aching head.
From upstairs, he heard the shower turn off. He hadn't even noticed it was on, but the sudden lack of running water left a vacuum of silence in the house. Will held his breath opened his eyes wide and listened.
It was several minutes before the bathroom door opened. He heard Frederick, probably in a towel, fussing at the dogs that had congregated outside the door to wait for him, before shuffling across the hall and into his room, where the door was closed again. The antsy click-clack of dog nails on hardwood floors carried down the stairs.
Will waited, not moving, for the door to open again.
Butterball was staring at him intensely, as cats often did, and he was starting to feel uncomfortable. He avoided eye contact as best he could, but it didn't help. The cat didn't move, and it didn't blink. It didn't so much as turn its head when Frederick finally emerged from his room, stepping softly down the stairs followed by Will's small army of dogs. Even the one behind Will's knees, which turned out to be Buster, squirmed his way off the sofa to chase after the man in the kitchen. Will heard the fridge open, took another glance at the relentlessly staring cat, and decided it was time to sit up.
Frederick closed the refrigerator door just in time to see Will's head rise over the back of the sofa.
“Hey,” Will said lamely.
Frederick blinked at him, once, then turned around without a word and reached for a box of cereal. Will sat very still, watching him, and startled when Butterball leapt across his lap and vaulted over the couch. He watched as the cat smoothly climbed into a chair, then onto the table, gracefully jumped onto the kitchen counter to rub her head on Frederick's arm. The man responded by gently scratching the back of her neck, and neither of them paid any attention to Will Graham, who was struggling to stand up. He ached in what felt like very major joint in his body.
Will lifted his arms over his head and stretched, sighing loudly in relief as his back popped in four different places. He relaxed, straightened his clothes as best he could, and walked toward the kitchen.
He hesitated awkwardly in the doorway.
Frederick appeared to be purposefully ignoring him, grabbing a bowl from the cabinet and pouring himself a healthy helping of corn flakes. Will stared at the back of the man's head, wholly unsure of what, if anything, he should say.
Sorry for kissing you and then panicking when you kissed back didn't exactly seem like a good jumping off point.
Chilton had clearly shaved, as evidenced by the razor burn on the side of his jaw. His hair was still damp and uncombed, curling a bit around his ears and the back of his neck. He was still wearing his pajamas, despite the fact that he'd showered. The black t-shirt had clearly been shrunk in the wash, and Will found himself staring at Frederick's back, and the muscles of his arms. He remembered suddenly how strong the man had been the night before. How quickly he'd responded, and how eagerly his mouth had sought Will's own.
Will shook his head and cleared his throat.
“Good morning,” he said weakly.
Frederick did not turn around. He stared determinately out the kitchen window while he shoved a spoonful of cereal into his mouth. For a moment the only sound was of him chewing, and than swallowing.
“How, um, how did you sleep?” Will offered, cringing internally.
This is not going well , said a voice in his mind that he was pleased to find was his own. You sound like an idiot .
Frederick spooned another bite of cereal into his mouth and still didn't look at him. Will waited a good, long minute before trying again.
“Look,” he started, running a hand through his hair, “The way I see it we can either talk about this now and resolve it, like adults... or... we can not talk about it and let it stew and fester and sit in the background of every conversation we have until we eventually stop talking all together.”
“Is that how you see it,” Frederick said flatly, and it wasn't a question. But it was a response. Will would take what he could get at this point. He ran with it.
“What happened last night shouldn't have happened,” he said directly. Sugar coating and beating around the bush would get them nowhere. “It was- it was sudden, and impulsive, and out of line, and it was a mistake. It won't happen again. It shouldn't have-”
Will put a hand over his eyes and tried to collect his thoughts.
I was drunk and you were there.
I didn't know what I was doing.
I reacted badly to stress.
I was emotionally compromised.
Excuses, every one of them, unacceptable and irresponsible. Will opened his mouth.
“I'm sorry,” they said at the same time.
“What?” he asked, confused. Frederick dropped his head and braced both hands on the counter top. He took a deep breath.
“I shouldn't have done that,” he said quietly, and Will's confusion only deepened. “What I did, pushing you down like that. You were drunk, and I was- that was wrong of me. I didn't meant to- I don't know what came over me, I just- I shouldn't have done that, Will. It was wrong, and I am very, very sorry.”
Will stared, opened mouthed, and tried to process what he'd just heard.
Was Frederick apologising for being too rough with him?
The laugh was out of his throat before he realised just how badly it could be misconstrued. And it was. Frederick whipped his head around with a terrible expression on his face, somewhere between hurt and outrage, and Will clapped a hand over his mouth.
“Oh, God, no, I didn't mean-” he stopped and attempted to compose himself. Nothing he said would come out right if he giggled halfway through, and something told him he wouldn't get the chance to say anything at all if he didn't say it fast. The other man's face was starting to redden, his hands curling into white-knuckled fists on the counter. Will's brow twinged painfully in memory of what those fists were capable of. He inhaled sharply.
“Frederick, wait, I wasn't laughing at you, I promise, I was just, um, surprised. I didn't expect- when I said we needed to talk about this, I didn't mean that you- you didn't do anything wrong, okay? I didn't come over here expecting an apology, and I'm not upset with you. I'm upset with myself. What happened last night was all on me, it was my fault. I was apologising for what I did. You have nothing to be sorry about.”
Frederick blinked at him in confusion, wearing much the same expression Will had been a minute ago. His hands unclenched, but the red in his cheeks didn't entirely go away. Will continued before his thoughts got away from him again.
“Last night, when I k-kissed you,” he stumbled over the word like a bashful teenager and felt a flush start to creep up his own neck as well, “I didn't mean it as, um, as a thing. As a kiss. I wasn't trying to- to do anything, I just- After what happened, what I almost did, I needed... I needed to feel something. I needed to know that I was real, that I was really living in that moment and dealing with that. I needed closeness. I needed to connect with something, anything, and right then you were the closest person in reach. I lashed out and latched onto you, and things got out of hand. But you did nothing wrong. You were good. Fine, I mean. You're fine. It's fine.”
Will shut his mouth. He could feel his ears burning, and wished his hair was still long enough to cover them. Frederick's eyebrows had shot up during that last part, but the only thing he said was, “Oh.”
Will looked at anything but his face. Seconds of silence ticked past like years.
“Did you, um, want to talk?” Frederick asked at last, casually pushing Butterball away from his cereal.
“I thought we were talking.”
“I meant about what happened. The other thing that happened. You still have blood all over you, by the way.”
Will looked down at himself, at the dark, crusty stains that had started to set into his jeans, and swore.
“Oh. No, I, uh, I'm fine now. About that. And the other thing, too. I should probably go change.”
“Did you leave any hot water?”
“Great. Thank you. The cat's in your milk.”
He could still hear Frederick scolding the thing when he was halfway up the stairs.
Will had nothing to do for the rest of the day. Jack hadn't called or left any messages, and they were all full up on groceries, so he had no legitimate reason to leave the house.
There really hadn't been much hot water left at all, which made his short shower even shorter, and left him smelling strongly of mint. He tried the conditioner on a whim and it was a mistake. Like most of his decisions lately, to be honest.
You were good .
The words haunted him as he pulled on a clean shirt, and he wanted to hit himself. You were good. What the hell was that.
Well, it wasn't not good, his mind told him. He remembered, vividly and against his will, the firm weight of the other man's hands pressing him down in the couch, gripping at his waist. The way he smelled of mint and sweat, and barest trace of the absurdly expensive cologne he complained about running low on. The way he tasted, of toothpaste and lemon water mixed with the whiskey from Will's own own mouth.
Will used more mouthwash than was medically safe and pretended he didn't see the pink creeping into his cheeks in the mirror.
He spent most of the morning scrubbing the bloodstains out of his jeans. They'd already started to set, but were still fresh enough that he could loosen them with enough scrubbing. He did the same with his boots, and shined them for good measure. They were long overdue for one as it was.
Frederick, for the most part, stayed out of Will's way. They worked in rotation of one another. If one of them entered a room the other would suddenly find a reason to leave it and continue with what they were doing somewhere else. The dogs didn't seem to care who they were following, taking turns trotting after one or the other. Butterball followed Frederick exclusively, however. Hot on his heels wherever he went, mewing at him until he either picked her up or gave her food. Will passed him in the hallway, cat tucked under one arm and a stack of half-completed newspaper crossword puzzles in the other hand. Now they had yet another reason to avoid eye contact.
The air had been cleared. What needed to be said had been said, but it was still awkward.
Winston, seeming to sense Will's distress, followed him dutifully around the house as he sought ways to occupy himself. The dog rested his head in his lap as he tinkered with the fishing lures he hadn't touched in months. He lay on his feet while Will consulted the water stained manual for the busted freezer in the basement. Everywhere Will went Winston was with him. For that, Will was grateful. He wasn't sure he wanted to be alone with his thoughts at the moment.
Frederick was cooking again. Will could smell it as soon as he stepped into the house, having been out organizing the shed for a large portion of the day. He sniffed the air as he kicked the snow off his boots, unsure if he was actually smelling what he think he smelled.
He heard Frederick swear and peeked into the kitchen.
The other man was standing in front of the stove, frantically waving his hand trying to fan the smoke away from whatever was in the frying pan. All of the dogs were in attendance, even Winston, sitting patiently and ready to pounce for any scraps that happened to drop. Will cleared his throat to announce his presence.
“Is that meat?” he asked, referring to the smell.
“Well it was when I started,” Frederick grumbled, moving the pan off the burner. “I'm not sure what it is now. Hopefully still edible.”
“I thought you couldn't eat meat.”
“I'm building up a tolerance. I can't stay a vegetarian forever, my mother would kill me. And there are only so many ways one can enjoy eggplant. Fuck, could you- could you stir that? I have to- shit!”
Will rushed over to the boiling pot Frederick had gestured to while the other man scraped at the smoking substance in yet another pan. It was hectic for a few minutes, steam and smoke and coughing and swearing, until eventually the smoke alarm went off and Will had to stop stirring to fan at it. The dogs scattered in all directions, nails scrabbling for purchase on the linoleum, adding to the cacophony.
It was during all of this chaos that the phone rang.
“Hello?” Will said, holding the receiver in place with his shoulder.
“I need you to come in,” said Jack Crawford's voice from the other end. Behind Will, Frederick burned his hand on the pot handle and swore loudly.
Both men froze. Frederick clapped a hand over his mouth, staring at Will with wide, terrified eyes. There was a beat.
“Is someone there with you?” Jack asked, and Will could practically see the suspicious squint on his face.
“No, uh, that's just the TV.”
Spanish! he mouthed at Frederick, waving his hand for emphasis. Yell in Spanish!
Frederick, to his credit, got the message. He opened his mouth wide, speaking so fast that Will couldn't understand a word of it, but damn was it loud.
“What the hell is that?”
“Soccer,” Will said, then shrugged helplessly when Frederick glared at him. “I'm watching soccer.”
“Um. Well, the, uh... they're wearing green.”
“You have no idea what's going on, do you?”
“Not a damn clue. You said you needed me to come in?”
Will gestured at Frederick to tone it down and quietly shuffled out of the room. The other man continued to speak in rapid, unintelligible Spanish, but at a much lower volume. Will was almost impressed. He swapped the phone from his shoulder to his hand and waited for Jack to explain.
“There's been an attack,” Jack said grimly. “It's the second one this month. Authorities thought it was an isolated incident, a wild animal and someone who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. But this is different. There were footprints at the scene, along with animal tracks. The victim was a forty two year old truck driver. He was mauled. Another driver found what was left of his body and called it in. I need to know what I'm dealing with, Will.”
“You said it was animal attack, Jack, what's that got to do with me? I'm not a dog whisperer, I don't care what Zeller says.”
“This isn't about the animal, it's about who's controlling it. A wild animal on its own wouldn't do this sort of damage, and it wouldn't just disappear without a trace. I think it has a master, and I want to understand what the hell that master is up to. Look, I know it's late, but I need you to meet me out here and see this for yourself. I'll give you the address.”
“H-hang on, let me get a pen.”
Will hurried over to his desk and rummaged around for a working pen. He glanced at the bottle of whiskey still sitting where Frederick had put it the night before, a bit more empty than Will wanted to think about. He told Jack when he was ready, and wrote out the address as it was read to him.
“Got it. I'll be there in a bit.”
“Thank you, Will, I appreciate this. Sorry to make you miss the rest of your, ah, game.”
The line went dead. Will stood in the hallway blinking for a few moments before wandering back into the kitchen. Frederick was still talking to himself, but the stovetop situation seemed to have handled itself. He was scraping something black and brown onto a plate, and didn't look up when Will came back in.
“'Soccer?'” he asked, glancing over his shoulder. “That's really the best you could do?”
Will cringed slightly.
“Sorry. I was- I panicked. What were saying, anyway?”
“I thought you spoke Spanish?”
“Not when it's that fast I don't.”
“Hmph.” He returned the pan to the stove and took a scoop of the contents from the pot on the back burner. “I was reciting my doctoral thesis, actually.”
“You have your thesis memorized?”
Frederick shot him a look that plainly said “you don't?”
“So what did Jack want?”
“He's got a case for me. Wants me to drive out and check out the scene while it's fresh.”
“Now? But... I made dinner...”
Will looked pointedly at the heap of burnt sludge on the plate, and then back at Frederick. The man flushed.
“Well. I tried to.”
Will couldn't help the small smile that snuck onto his face, quickly hiding it by turning around and going to get his coat. He didn't know precisely why he was smiling, though. And he didn't feel like thinking about it just now.
“I don't know what time I'll get home,” he called into the kitchen, struggling with his zipper. “Jack might want me to come back to the lab with him, so don't wait up.”
“I'm not in the habit of waiting up for you, Will,” Frederick sneered. “Do you think the dogs would eat this? Should I put it down for them?”
“Not unless you're trying to poison them?”
“Oh, fine. See if I cook again. Tell Jack Crawford I said hello.”
“Funny. And I mean it, don't feed that stuff to our dogs.”
Will had been driving for five minutes before he realised what he'd said.
Chapter 10: A Missed Opportunity
it's short and not that great of quality but chilton's in a towel and hopefully that makes up for it sorry
(also did you notice the new character introduced in the tags oh yeah we're going there)
“What did you see?”
Hannibal's voice was barely more than a whisper, but his words resonated with the memory of a gunshot in Will's mind. The hunger in his voice was undisguised. Will stared into the dark eyes across from him, tasting copper in his mouth.
“A missed opportunity,” he said softly. “To feel like I felt when I killed Garret Jacob Hobbs. To feel like... like I felt when I thought I'd killed you.”
A missed opportunity to kill you myself.
“And what does that feel like?”
“I felt a quiet sense of... power.”
“Good. Remember that feeling.”
Will left Hannibal's office with shaking hands and a cold, hard knot in his stomach. He breathed deeply, the cold winter air filling his lungs to the brim, drowning him as much as it invigorated him. The sky had darkened considerably since he stepped into the building. The street lights were all on now, casting a yellow glow that portrayed a warmth it didn't carry. Will lifted his head back an exhaled. He became aware of footsteps approaching him.
“I tend to walk out of this building in a very similar state.”
A young woman with honey coloured hair stepped onto the sidewalk and into his peripheral vision. She was well dressed, and carried herself with the sort of closed grace that came with old wealth. She smiled inquisitively at him. Pretty.
“You must be a patient of Dr. Lecter's.”
“I'm sorry?” Will asked, confused. Hannibal didn't usually see patients this late. The woman tilted her head to look at him, standing just a little too close for comfort.
“You look familiar,” she said, narrowing her eyes. “I either know you, or I know of you...”
“I'm the guy who didn't kill all those people,” he said bluntly, not in the mood for a lengthy conversation with a stranger, but softened it with a smile. If she was here to see Hannibal Lecter, she'd need all the kindness she could get. Will didn't look back as he climbed into his car, and didn't wait to see if she actually went in.
Will drove home with the radio on, loud. He normally didn't listen to music, in the car or at home. To easy to get lost in the lyrics, to get lost in the beat of the drums and the sound of guitars. But tonight was different. Tonight, he didn't feel like being alone on his on head. For just a little while, just the length of a car ride, he didn't want to have to think about anything.
Unfortunately, Will Graham seldom got what he wanted.
Neither he or Frederick had mentioned his little slip of the tongue the other night.
Will had been driving when he realised what he'd said, and had almost swerved off the fucking road and driven back to the house just to correct himself. But it was too late for that. He'd fucked up.
Instead of sleeping that night, Will had laid awake in bed staring at the ceiling and wondering what all of this meant. And by all of this, he of course meant the inexplicable warmth that spread up his face whenever Frederick Chilton walked into the room, or the way Will would catch himself smiling, wondering what sort of meal he would come home to. He found himself standing in odd sections of the supermarket that he had never previously visited, such as the hair care aisle, and the best-seller book shelf, wondering if there was anything there that Frederick would like. More often than not he left empty handed and confused.
The one thing he had bought was a bottle of moisturizing face wash.
It was expensive and it smelled like cucumber, and Frederick had mentioned it a few days earlier. Will sought it out of the corner of his eyes and put it in the cart without thinking. Frederick found it while he was unpacking the groceries.
“Did you buy this?” he'd asked, holding up the bottle like he didn't actually believe it was there. Will nodded.
“Uh, yeah. You mentioned you didn't have any here. Did I get the right one?”
“Yes,” Frederick said, eyebrows raised. “You remembered what I said?”
Will shrugged, then nodded again.
“If you complain about it often enough, I can't help but remember.”
It had come out harsher than Will had intended it to be, but he couldn't think of a way to say what he actually meant. So he didn't say anything at all. The rest of the evening hadn't exactly been tense, but there was a definite dent in the atmosphere. Will spent half an hour silently chastising himself before falling asleep.
Frederick was in the shower when Will got home.
He was showering a lot lately. Sometimes twice a day. No wonder they had been running low on shampoo. Will, who generally only showered when he couldn't stand the smell of himself, had once managed to drag out a single bottle of shampoo for a whopping four months. Frederick had been living with him for a month and half and the second bottle was already halfway gone. Soon all that would remain was a disproportionate amount of conditioner, and Will would have to go through the whole process again.
He hung up his coat by the door, kicked off his boots, put his keys in their customary little bowl, and went to see if Frederick had put any leftovers in the fridge.
Will decided to take it upon himself to cook, which meant getting the chicken nuggets out of the freezer and hoping they were still good. He heard the water switch off while he was arranging them on the tray. And he put them in the oven and turned around just in time for Frederick Chilton to come down the stairs in only a towel.
Frederick froze at the foot of the stairs, and Will froze in the middle of the kitchen. Frederick was naked from the waist up, a green towel wrapped low around his hips. His hair was still dripping wet, somehow falling effortlessly into place without being combed or styled, a miraculous trait that Will could only envy. But Will wasn't looking at Frederick's hair. Not for long, anyway.
He stared, petrified, at the long, red scar running down the middle of the man's stomach.
This was the first time Will had seen it. He knew, logically, that it was there. The mark of Abel Gideon's handiwork. Thin and precise, it started just below Frederick's sternum and ran all the way down to just beneath his navel. It stood out brightly against his flesh, more red than pink, and even from this distance Will could tell that it was slightly raised. He thought, morbidly, of a seam or a zipper. And still he couldn't look away.
Frederick's voice was firm, almost scolding. Will snapped his head up to meet his eyes.
Whatever shame or embarrassment Will expected to find in the eyes of a man who had just been caught in a towel, he did not see it. Frederick's eyes were cold. Cold and defiant, and suddenly it was Will who felt ashamed.
“S-sorry,” he stammered, heat rising in his face. “I didn't mean to stare. I just- I forgot about... about that.”
Will's blush deepened.
“Frederick, I'm sorry. I didn't mean-”
Frederick didn't appear interested in Will's apology. He walked unhurriedly to the sofa, where the piles of laundry he had apparently folded earlier were sitting. He picked up a black shirt from the pile, turned around, and tugged it over his head. Will stared slack jawed at the muscles of his back and arms, and felt a quiet, confused sense of disappointment when they were covered. Frederick turned around and grabbed a pair of sweat pants off the couch, and for half a second Will thought he meant to drop the towel and put them on right there.
He did not.
Taking a moment to shoot one last glare in Will's direction, Frederick marched back up the stairs, pants in hand, and slammed his bedroom door behind him.
Will realised that his mouth was still hanging open and closed it with a snap.
Unsure of what else to do, he sat down and waited for Frederick to come back downstairs. It was several minutes before that actually happened.
Fully dressed now, with socks on for good measure, he descended slowly with a couple of dogs at his heels. They rushed forward to greet Will. Frederick didn't.
“Are you cooking?” he asked stoically.
“Just nuggets,” Will replied, learning from his mistake and avoiding looking at Frederick altogether. The man lingered in the entryway, arms folded tightly across his chest, also not looking at Will. Neither of them moved or spoke until the timer on the stove went off.
Frederick got the plates while Will got the food, both took turns helping themselves before settling down across from each other at the table. Will had a mouthful of his second nugget when Frederick spoke.
“Just say what you have to say, Will.”
Will stopped chewing.
“You're the one who said we should talk about things, like adults, I believe was the phrase you used. We're all adults here. Ignoring the fact that we are eating chicken nuggets with our hands, of course. So talk.”
Will looked at Frederick cautiously.
“I said was sorry,” he said cautiously, swallowing. Frederick tutted.
“I heard you. Anything else?”
“Uh. Well, I... Um... Does it hurt?”
“Sometimes. Not so much any more, but it used to hurt very much, yes. I could barely stand up, let alone walk. And lifting my arms over my head is still something of an achievement these days. Or did you think the cane was just for show?”
“A bit, yes,” Will confessed, and felt his ears getting red. That's exactly what he had thought. The first time Chilton had visited him in his cell after getting out of the hospital, cane tapping ostentatiously along the cold concrete hallway, Will had thought it was the most pretentious and unnecessary stick of wood he'd ever seen in his life. He thought Chilton had been acting, putting on a show of how difficult it was for him to stand and sit down. Thinking back on it, Will realised that he was putting on a show. A very good show, of not revealing just how much pain he must have been in. Will took a deep breath and sighed.
“I'm... I'm sorry for staring. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable, or feel like a spectacle, and I shouldn't have pried. That was rude of me. I apologise.”
Frederick looked at him consideringly, chewing the large chunk of chicken he had just bitten off. His gaze reminded Will forcibly, once again, of the many days spent sat in the interview cage, being stared at and anaylsed by the very same green eyes that were watching him now. It was a disconcerting comparison.
“Apology accepted,” Frederick said quietly, dropping his eyes, and the moment was broken. They finished their dinner in silence.
Chapter 11: Wrong
here, have a nice long chapter with character and plot development to make up for the disappointment that was chapter ten
“Did you hear that?”
Will looked up from the instruction manual he was flipping through, trying to program the brand new universal remote he'd picked up from the store that night. Frederick was at the end of the sofa opposite him, suddenly sitting very upright.
Frederick held up a hand, shushing him. Will listened carefully.
“I think there's a car com-”
He didn't get to finish his sentence. Gloria leapt off his lap and onto the floor, followed by Maxwell, Louis, Winston, and Amelia. As the dogs made a rush for the door, Will and Frederick locked eyes for a split second.
“Hide,” Will said, and Frederick leapt to his feet. Will grabbed his extra glass off the coffee table, setting it hurriedly in the sink, shrugging his coat on while Frederick yanked open the basement door and bolted down the stairs. The dogs were all gathered around the door now, scratching and whining. Will could definitely hear the sound of tires on the gravel driveway, and see the bright headlights of a car pulling up to his house. He scrambled to put his coat on, double checked to make sure Frederick was safely hidden and out of sight, and opened the front door.
A bright red car had pulled up next to his porch, and a woman with honey-blonde hair was stepping out of it. Will stuffed his hands into his pockets and watched as Margot Verger stepped onto his porch.
“Hi,” she said, stopping a good distance away from him. “I don't know if you remember me. We met outside of Dr. Lecter's office.”
“I remember.” He'd been hard-pressed to forget. “How'd you find me?”
She brushed a lock of hair out of her face, squinting at him.
“Well as it turns out, you are famous,” she said.
Of course his address would be out there. Freddie Lounds' work no doubt. He'd have to thank her for that.
“You're not exactly anonymous yourself, Margot.”
She smiled, a pretty smile, and stepped closer. The dogs had stopped whining behind the door, knowing they weren't going to be let out anyway. Will was acutely aware of the fact that he'd left Frederick's plate sitting on the kitchen table directly across from his own.
“Did you sneak a peek inside Dr. Lecter's calendar?”
Will hesitated. That was exactly what he'd done. When he said as much, her smile widened. She took a deep breath, rubbing her hands together despite the gloves she wore.
“It's cold,” she said, unnecessarily. “Do you have any whiskey?”
Two glasses of whiskey and forty-five minutes later, Will watched Margot Verger back out of his driveway and disappear into the dark of the empty Virginia highway.
He walked slowly over to the door to the basement and knocked.
“Frederick?” he called, trying the handle. It was locked. “Coast's clear. You can come out now.”
Will stood and waited. He could hear footsteps padding up the stairs, and the click of the deadbolt being turned. Very slowly, the door was pulled open. Frederick peered around the corner.
“She's gone?” he asked, peering behind Will like he expected to see Margot behind him, gun drawn and handcuffs out waiting to drag him away. Will stepped aside and gestured to the empty house.
“Just you and me here. And the dogs.”
Frederick opened the door the rest of the way and walked up the last few steps. Will was surprised to see Butterball tucked securely under his arm.
“Was she down there with you the whole time?” he asked, reaching out to scratch the little orange patch of fur between the cat's ears. He was pleasantly surprised when she didn't hiss at him.
“She must have followed me down,” the other man said, smiling affectionately down at the animal. “We were hunkered down under the vent trying to listen in.”
“So you heard everything?”
“Not everything. Bits and pieces. You were talking too quietly to hear anything more than that. Who was she?”
Frederick's eyebrows shot up.
“Verger as in-”
“As in the Vergers, yes. She is a fellow patient of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. She came for a character reference.”
“Oh. Is that all? It sounded like you knew her.”
Will shook his head, furrowing his brow. There was something in Frederick's tone that he wasn't quite sure how to place. Not suspicion, but... something. He realised suddenly how close they were standing and took a step back. Butterball mewled in irritation when he stopped petting her.
“She's warming up to you,” Frederick said with a smile, and Will couldn't help but smile too.
She's not the only one.
Will got home early the next day, having met with Jack that morning and Hannibal that afternoon.
Jack had previously him to meet their main suspect, a young man named Randall Tier who worked at the Natural History assembling and maintaining the fossil displays. A former patient of Hannibal Lecter's. Will knew he was guilty as soon as he laid eyes on him. Telling Jack this without the proper evidence to back up it up was just as good as not saying anything at all. So he didn't.
They spent an hour in Jack's office, pouring over old therapist's notes and medical records, discussing strategies and possibilities. They were planning both for the possible capture of Randall Tier, and for the larger, grander scheme. Hannibal was top priority.
The idea that Will had didn't sit well with Jack, and he didn't expect it to, but it was necessary. It wasn't a choice anymore. It wasn't something that could be switched off or postponed, it had to happen and it had to happen now. Hannibal Lecter was the catch, and Will Graham was the bait. If Jack wasn't comfortable dangling him out on a hook, then Will would find some way to do it himself. They were out of options, and running out of time.
The only bright side to come out of all of this was that Will had convinced Jack to lay off the search for Chilton.
“He's not guilty,” Will had said time and time again. Wearing down Jack Crawford was no mean feat. Coercion, persuasion, gentle nudging and suggesting that perhaps resources were better spent somewhere else, somewhere more productive. After all, the trail had run cold months ago. Frederick Chilton was either dead or holed up in a safe place where no one would find him until he wanted to be found. Will neglected to mention that that “safe place” was currently his upstairs bedroom. As much as he trusted Jack to be rational about the situation, he didn't think the man would be happy to learn that the fugitive he'd been hunting for months was living right under his nose, cooking Will's dinner and taking care of his dogs.
Once, just once, Will had slipped up and referred to them as “we.” As in, “we” had a rough time during the storm last night. He'd cut himself off and tried to backtrack, but no one seemed to notice. Turns out having a lot of dogs makes people a lot less suspicious of you.
Hannibal had noticed the cat hair on his clothes almost immediately. Will was very careful to shower and wear clean clothes every day, keeping the evidence to a minimum, but not much got past the watchful eyes – and discerning nose – of Hannibal Lecter.
Will told him enough of the truth to dispel suspicion; he'd found the cat living under his porch and had slowly been earning it's trust. Slow going, but he was making progress.
As evidenced by the fact that the cat was currently sitting in front of him on the kitchen table, allowing him to stroke her back and purring softly while they watched Frederick trying to stuff the little pockets of pastry dough that he'd been working on since before Will got home.
“Are you sure you don't need help?” Will asked, amused. He'd seen Frederick cook lots of things, but pastries were definitely new. The other man glared at him, plopping a hearty helping of cream cheese onto a strip of dough.
“I'm fine, Will,” he said sourly, but there was no bite to it. “I know what I'm doing.”
“That's what you said last time, when you almost set my kitchen on fire.”
Will had been trying to consciously establish boundaries. Saying my instead of our or the more vague the . Sometimes this made things sound weird. Such as when he referred to the only bathroom in the house as my bathroom which had only served to confuse Frederick, who was scoffing at him.
“That's because I was working from a new recipe,” he said, carefully stacking tiny chunks of pineapple on the layer of cream cheese before folding the dough over, pressing the edges together with a fork. “I know how to make pasteles. I make them all the time for my nieces. Well... I used to.”
Will raised an eyebrow.
“You have nieces?”
“I have three,” Frederick said, moving on to the next pastry. “Celeste is fourteen, Nita is eleven, and Lilly is eight. She'll be nine this January, actually.”
He paused, adopting a thoughtful expression.
“I was going to take her to Holiday On Ice.”
Will tried to imagine that. Uncle Frederick sitting bundled up in the stands with three little girls, all excited as the different skaters started coming out in their colourful costumes. Maybe you'll get to take them , he wanted to say. Maybe I'll catch him by then.
But Will didn't feel like making promises he couldn't keep just then.
“I didn't even know you had siblings,” he said instead, smiling at the contented, blissful expression on Butterball's face as she lay down in front of him.
“I thought you said you read my file,” Frederick taunted, glancing over at him. Will shrugged.
“I skimmed it. Parts of it. Didn't really pay much attention to the family stuff.”
“Hmph. Well, I have two sisters, if you care to know. The girls all belong to Danielle, my younger sister. My older sister, Andrea, trains show horses with her partner in Montana, where they live far enough away to not have to visit for Christmas.”
“You're the middle child?”
“And the only son, yes. Explains a lot, doesn't it?” He shot Will a smile over his shoulder, genuine and mischievous. It threw Will of guard. But it was gone before he had a chance to process it.
“It does, actually, yes,” he said, when he found his voice again. “Are you close with them?”
“With Dani, yes. I used to take care of the girls when work allowed, give her a day off every once in a while. She's an ER nurse, so God knows she deserves it. She's the only one in the family who went into proper medicine, as my father would say. He always gets what he wants in the end... As for Andrea and I... Well. She hasn't spoken to me in five, six years? Must be six. She sent me a birthday card last year though, so that's something.”
“You two had a falling out?” Will asked delicately. He was genuinely curious now. This was the most he and Frederick had spoken in days, and he found himself missing the conversation. Just talking about normal things, as normal as things could get under the circumstances, was helping to keep him grounded. The time he spent with Jack and Hannibal was starting to take its toll, and Will relished the fact that he could drop most, if not all, of that weight at the door when he came home. Frederick didn't pry. Will admired his self restraint.
“You could say that,” the man said, spreading cream cheese on the last of the pastries. “It was over something I said. Or rather, something I didn't say, and should have. She has every right to be angry with me.”
“I'm sensing a story here,” Will said carefully. “But if it's personal, I don't want to pry. I was just asking-”
“My sister is gay,” Frederick said suddenly, straightening up and turning around. “And my parents are both very Catholic. An argument arose between them, I had the chance to stick up for her, and I didn't. I kept my mouth shut to save face in front of my father, and she walked out of the house and hasn't spoken to any of us since. That's all there is to the story.”
“I'm sorry,” he said quietly. “I shouldn't have asked. It was none of my business.”
Frederick's face softened marginally.
“That's what I thought at the time, too.”
He turned around once more. There was a moment of silence while Will digested that.
“So, are you Catholic then?” he asked, immediately breaking his brand new promise to himself to stop prying. Frederick laughed.
“Me? God no. My parents sent me to a Catholic high school. There was no chance of me keeping the faith after that hell. I still go to Misa de los Pastores- ah, Midnight Mass, with my mother, but only because it would break her heart if I didn't. What about you? Are you religious?”
“Not as much as I used to be,” Will admitted, grimacing. “It's hard, in my line of work, to believe. My dad used to take me to church when I was little. We'd sit in the way back and I'd kick at the pew in front of me until he threatened to take me outside and spank me. We stopped going after about the third time we moved. I think he just lost hope.”
Frederick nodded understandingly, sealing the last of the pastries and carefully arranging them evenly on the cookie sheet. Will watched him stoop to pull open the oven, pushing the tray smoothly inside and closing it back up. He set the timer for ten minutes and turned around.
“There,” he said matter of factly. “Now all we have to do is wait.”
The pastries were delicious.
Will was very impressed and said as much, eating what was probably more than his fair share of the things but Frederick didn't complain. He just seemed happy that something he cooked turned out well for a change.
The house smelled of fresh baked dough and sweet fruit, so much so that Will was starting to get a headache. He'd never had much of a sweet tooth. He'd opened the front door a little while ago, just to air the house out, while he set about tidying up.
The dogs were going crazy. They were all gathered at the front door, pawing and barking and scratching at the screen, practically piling on top of each other to get out. Will was coming up the hallway just as Frederick was coming down the stairs.
“What's up with them?” he asked as they met in the living room. Will set down the towels he was carrying, frowning.
“I don't know. Probably a deer or something outside.”
Will pushed passed the mass of dogs and opened the screen, hoping the noise would scare off whatever was lurking in the yard. Before he could close the door behind him, Buster shot past his ankles and out into the snow.
“Hey! Buster!” Will yelled, but the little dog didn't even so much as slow down. He was running straight for the woods at the edge of Will's property, bounding through the snow that threatened to rise over his head with every step. Will took a step out onto the porch, just in time for Buster to disappear into the treeline. In the shadow of the trees, he thought he something shift. Another shadow. Darker, and larger.
Faintly, he heard Buster cry out.
Will turned around and went back inside. Frederick was standing in the middle of the living room, holding the larger dogs by their collars. He paled when he saw the expression on Will's face.
“Will? What's wrong?”
“Get in the basement,” Will ordered, walking past him, pulling his rifle out from under the desk.
“W-what are you going to do with that? Will, what's going-”
Will grabbed Frederick's arm roughly, pulling him away from the door and pushing him toward the door to the basement.
“Frederick,” he said calmly, though he felt anything but, and locked their eyes together. “I need you to go down to the basement, right now, and not come out until I tell you it's safe. Can you do that?”
Frederick stared at him, visibly pale, and nodded weakly. Will let go of his arm. Without checking to see if the man followed his directions, Will cocked his rifle and headed back out the door.
Buster's tracks were easy to follow. A bee line straight from the house and into the woods, carved in the knee deep snow. Will used is as the path of least resistance, his heart pounding as he drew closer to the woods. The trees were thinnest here, but the shadows they cast were long. Will couldn't tell what was trees and wasn't.
He found Buster a short ways in, lying on his side and whimpering. Will placed a hand on his back to comfort him. When he pulled away, his hand was covered in warm, sticky blood.
Will looked around, suddenly fearful of every shadow. Every shape in the dark took on a new danger, branches curving into the shape of claws, stars in the canopy glowing like eyes. He couldn't see anything in front of him in the darkness. But he could feel that he wasn't alone. He was being watched.
The hairs on the back of his neck were standing on end. Will gathered Buster into his arms as gently as he could, turned around, and ran.
Something was out there, in the dark, and it was real and not a figment of his imagination this time and it was chasing him. He could hear the footsteps echoing his own, the snap of twigs that weren't under his own feet. The light of his house, an island of refuge in the middle of a blackened sea, drew closer with every step but it was still so far away. When his foot hit the porch, he almost didn't believe it was real.
Will yanked open the screen and hurled himself inside, slamming both doors shut behind him. He set Buster down among his fellows and moved swiftly into action. He bolted the door. He turned off the porch light, then the kitchen light, then the table lamp in the living room.
He backed himself against a wall, facing down the door, rifle in hand. Will Graham took a deep breath.
He closed his eyes, and waited.
The noise was deafening. Breaking glass, dogs barking, things falling to the floor and smashing. For a moment, nothing moved. Will heard a gasp from the corner of the living room and opened his eyes.
Frederick was standing, petrified, by the open door to the basement, white as a sheet and staring at the monstrosity that had just smashed its way into their home. Will looked at Frederick, then at the creature, which was looking between them curiously. Through the gaps in the colossal skull mantle he wore, Will could see the cold, ravenous eyes of Randall Tier staring back at him. The moment of hesitation was all he needed.
Will whipped around lightning fast, using the butt of his rifle as a bat, striking with all the force he could muster at the stomach of the intruder.
Randall Tier buckled and fell forward and Will was on him in an instant.
He gripped the skull by its eye sockets and wrenched it off, twisting until he heard something pop. The mouth of the skull fell open. A man's face, barely more than a boy's face, stared back at him. Will drew back his hand into a tight fist, and hit.
He hit, and he hit, and he hit until his knuckles were bloody.
He hit until his arm was sore from the effort.
He hit until the face beneath him was not the face of a boy, but of a man. A man he knew well, a man who called himself his friend, a man who had changed his life so drastically since their first meeting that Will no longer knew where he ended and Hannibal Lecter began.
He hit until Hannibal's face was black and liquid, his eyes staring white and lifeless up at him. A pair of antlers sprouted from his head and Will gripped them tightly, fingers slipping from the blood on his hands, and he twisted. There was a sickening crack.
It wasn't Hannibal's face anymore.
The face was white and red, and the eyes were still wide and lifeless, but they were blue, not white. Will stared, confused, at the bloody face of the dead boy beneath him, and lowered his fist. No. No, this wasn't right. This wasn't right at all.
Frederick's voice was barely more than a whisper, so quiet it was nearly inaudible. But Will heard him. He looked, slowly, to the corner of the room where Frederick stood.
The man's arms were wrapped tightly around himself, crossed over his chest and stomach as though he thought they might shield him from harm. He was staring with wide eyes, and even in the shadows Will could see how pale he was. Will looked at him, then at the dead boy, then back to Frederick again.
“He saw you.”
The voice that came out of him didn't sound like this own. It sounded... raw. Rasping and harsh, more animal than human. Will closed his mouth, ran his tongue over the inside of his teeth.
“He saw you,” he said again, in a voice closer to his own. But Frederick wasn't looking at him. Frederick was looking at the dead boy. At the mechanical harness he wore, at the pipes and the tubes and hydraulics, at the claws and teeth and bone that held it all together. At the white, blank face of Randall Tier's body in the moonlight. Will looked at him, too. At the face that was not Hannibal's. The face that he had beaten to a pulp. The face that just days earlier he had seen for the first time, amid relics of the monsters of ages past. There was only one monster in the room tonight.
Will stood up suddenly, feeling sick.
He reeled backward, staying upright through sheer willpower, and heard Frederick gasp. Will turned to him and took a step toward him.
But the man was stepping away from him, scrabbling backward as Will advanced. Will reached for him. The blood on his hands glinted black in the moonlight.
“Don't!” Frederick gasped, flinching back from him. “Please. Please, don't-”
Will stopped. It was as though he'd been struck. He stood, letting his arms fall limp at his sides, between the dead boy and the living man in his sitting room.
“He saw you,” he said, for the third time. It was all he could think to say. All he could think at all. He saw you. I couldn't let him go. “You're safe.”
Frederick stared at him. He was backed into the corner, pressed flush against the wall, pale and trembling and staring at Will as though he'd never seen him before. In the shadows, Will could see his throat working as he swallowed.
“I don't feel safe,” he whispered.
Will's breath caught in his throat.
This is all wrong.
Chapter 12: Curiosity
"can't catch me gay thoughts"
-will graham probably
Will Graham was sitting on the floor of his living room.
Leaning against the wall with his head tilted up to stare at the ceiling, the only thing he was capable of being at the moment was numb.
The body of Randall Tier lay motionless on the floor in front of him, sightless eyes staring at the same spot as Will's, growing colder with each passing second. He hadn't been moved, or touched, since his death. Will could no longer bear to look at him. He had sunk to the floor ten minutes ago, when his legs had given out beneath him. He didn't know when he'd be able to move again.
Frederick was pacing to his right. Tight, neat circles, back and forth and back and forth in his little corner, alternating between crossing his arms over his chest and covering his face with hands. He couldn't look at the body, either. He wouldn't look at Will.
“We have to do something,” he kept saying, over and over. Exactly what they had to do was the part he never got to. He had no plan. He had nothing to offer but panic and fear. Fear of the body. Fear of being caught. Fear of Will.
I don't feel safe.
The look on Frederick's stricken face was burned into the back of Will's eyelids, like cue marks on a film reel, flashing briefly every time he blinked. The way the way the man had flinched away from him, the way he begged please, please don't in the same way Will had heard him beg the terrors that haunted him in dreams. He was scared of Will. He thought Will would hurt him.
“We have to do something,” Frederick said for the eighth time. Will couldn't take it anymore.
“I know what I have to do.”
Frederick stopped pacing abruptly. He stared at Will with the same wide, frightened eyes that he'd wore the day he showed up on the doorstep, covered in blood and ready to run. Will couldn't look at him for more than a moment. It hurt too much, and he didn't understand why. He swallowed hard.
“I'm going to need you to help me move the body, Frederick,” he said calmly. The other man stared at him.
“M-move it? Move it where?”
“Just to the car. I can manage from there.”
“The car? W-where are you taking it? Him. Where are you taking him?”
Will wished he wouldn't do that. Try to make the body human. It wasn't anymore. Twenty minutes ago, yes, it had been a living, breathing person with parents and a job and a place to live. Now, though. Now it was empty. Now it was just...
“I'm bringing him to Hannibal.”
Will could hear his own heart beating in the silence that followed that statement. He could hear the blood pounding in his ears, the air flowing in and out of his lungs. He could hear the water in the pipes of the house, and he could hear the soft panting of the dogs in the next room where they had been put so they wouldn't lick the blood off his hands and the floor. He could hear all that, and he could hear the sound of a bell going off in Frederick Chilton's head.
“It's the only option.”
“Who do you think sent him, Frederick?” Will snapped, finally turning to look at him. “Who do you think told him where I live, when I'd be home? Who trained him? Who got inside of his head so deep that they could twist and corrupt him into that?”
He pointed at the modified carcass. The thick, heavy bones. The tubes, the pipes, the buttons and levers that allowed everything to run smoothly. Frederick wouldn't look at it for more than a second. He stared resolutely at a point above Will's head.
“I don't care who he is,” he said stiffly, desperate to maintain at least the appearance of control. “I don't care what was done to him. He doesn't- he doesn't deserve what Hannibal would do with him. No one deserves that. And you- you just- you killed him, Will! You beat him half to death and then you broke his neck, and you didn't have to.”
“Yes, I did,” Will said, standing up. “I had to kill him. There was no other way.”
“Yes there was! There had to be another way, there is always-”
“He saw you!” Will bellowed, advancing on Frederick. “What the fuck did you expect me to do, Frederick, call the police? Have them come and arrest him, and take you with them? Put you on trial for crimes you didn't commit and stick you in a cell for the rest of your life while he walks free? I've been there, Frederick, I'm not going to let that happen again. Not to anyone, not even you.”
Will took a deep breath and tried to stop his heart from slamming its way out of his chest. They were standing very close now, Frederick's back nearly pressed against the wall. Will had him boxed in the corner, invading his personal space,
“He saw you,” he said, again. “He saw you, and he had to die because of that.”
“I didn't ask you to do that for me, Will.”
“You didn't have to.”
Frederick looked as though Will had slapped him.
Suddenly the distance between them was too vast, the few inches between them widening to a chasm. Will felt lost at sea, adrift and untethered, disoriented in such a familiar place as his own home. He needed an anchor. He needed to connect. He stepped forward, angling his head, mouth opening as he lowered his face-
Frederick pushed him, hard.
But not back into the wall. Not to bring them closer together, to fill the space with his own body. He pushed Will back and away, so roughly that it staggered him. Will stared at him, shocked.
“Don't.” Frederick said. His voice was quiet, almost soft, but there was an edge to it that Will had never heard before. It sent shivers down his spine, and not altogether unpleasant ones. But he could see Frederick's eyes glinting in the moonlight, see the anger in them. He raised a hand, pointing a finger squarely at Will's chest.
“Don't you dare.”
“I'm sorry,” Will gasped, stepping back. “I'm sorry, I didn't-”
What was happening to him? What was he doing? What, exactly, had he been trying to do, and why?
All these questions, and no time for answers, because Frederick was walking past him, stepping over the dead boy on the floor and stopping near his head. He bent, and Will realised what he meant to do. Frederick grabbed the dead boy's wrists and looked up at him. The anger was still in his eyes, but something else too; resolution. Frederick blinked once, and swallowed.
“Get his feet."
“I have a meeting with Freddie Lounds,” Will said, as casually as he could muster.
Jack blinked at the case file he was holding.
It was the file on Randall Tier. Pictures of the body, what was left of it, were clipped neatly in the corner. Jack had been staring at them since they got back to his office. He stared at them while Will told him what happened. Told him why it had to happen. There were things he was holding back, of course. But the truth about Randall Tier wasn't one of them.
“I'm sorry,” Jack said, closing it shut with a snap and laying it on his desk. He threaded his fingers together and leaned forward, looking up at Will from under his furrowed brow. “I don't believe I heard that correctly. Because I think I just heard you tell me you're meeting with Freddie Lounds, and I know that can't be true, because you're not that stupid, Will. I'd like to believe you're not, anyway.”
Will smiled despite himself.
“You heard right, Jack. Sorry to disappoint you.”
Jack sighed heavily and ran a hand over his mouth.
“Why?” he said bluntly. “Why are you doing this?”
“I told you I promised her a story.”
“The woman is a shark. If you slip up, one tiny slip, there'll be blood in the water and she'll be all over it. I can't allow you to do this.”
“Allow me?” Will mused, tilting his head slightly. “You went to her for help before, Jack, when I was firmly against it, but now that I want to approach her on my own terms you're not going to let me?”
Jack pressed his lips together into a tight, thin line. He knew Will had a point. And Will certainly knew he had a point. He dipped his head to hide the smirk that was threatening to tug at his lips.
“She wants to interview me about the Ripper Case. She wants to talk about my trial and my time in the hospital, she'll probably ask me about you, too. What you're doing. What you plan to do now you've supposedly caught the Ripper.”
Jack closed his eyes for a moment at the word “supposedly,” but didn't push it.
“And if she wants to talk about Abigail Hobbs?” he said quietly.
“I'm not going to talk about Abigail to Freddie Lounds, Jack.”
“She may not give you a choice, Will. Once you start with her, you may not get to decide where it stops.”
Will carried these words with him on the drive to Freddie's motel room.
She had insisted on meeting in a relatively public place, instead of her home. Of course , Will thought, it's fine for you to know my address but not for me to know yours.
Jack was right, of course. He occasionally was. Talking to Freddie Lounds was not a particularly smart move. It was a play, a strategic tactic, but the potential to backfire was staggering. Playing with Freddie Lounds was like playing with wildfire. Even the smallest spark could set off a blaze, destroying and consuming all in her path, laying bare the secrets and past shames of anyone who got in her way. Will had to be careful not to fan the flames.
He double checked his appearance in his rear view mirror, sitting out in the parking lot of the seedy motel, making sure his mask was adequately in place. It was easy to let his guard down in front of Jack. But slipping up here wouldn't do at all.
Will knocked on the door with the room number she had specified and waited.
Freddie let him in without a word.
It was a nice room, for a cheap motel. Two armchairs, a sofa, a nice queen sized bed. Not nearly as rundown as Will had expected.
He glanced around while Freddie set up her interview equipment, his eyes landing on the far wall where she had shoved the complementary desk a good ways to the left, leaving plenty of open space. The wall had been covered with newspaper articles and crime scene photos, pushpins and bits of string connecting all the relevant points of data. He didn't recognise any of the people, or any of the headlines. Directly above the desk, however, four smaller articles were taped in plain view. A candid shot of his own face stared back at him. Next to that, yet another candid shot. Of Hannibal Lecter leaving the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Freddie Lounds was talking about movie deals.
“Hollywood is a fine place for the obnoxious and wealthy,” she said, sitting back into the armchair. Will raised an eyebrow.
“You're not wealthy, Freddie,” he reminded her, glancing around the room for effect. She shrugged.
“I will be,” she said confidently. “I am a pariah among journalists because I took a different faith, but I am putting that faith in you.”
The smile on her face was evidently meant to be charming, but Will felt dirty just looking at it. Like he needed a shower to wash her corruption off of him. She tried to imagine that face stretched across a Times Square billboard, smiling like that down at the masses, grinning over them like ants who don't know what the magnifying glass will do to them. He barely suppressed a shudder. Freddie leaned forward suddenly, pressing a button on the slim, black recorder she'd lain on the table. She settled back into the chair.
“Let's talk about the Chesapeake Ripper. Frederick Chilton. Who knew?”
Will sucked in a breath of air, turning his head to hide the sudden smile on his face.
“Who knew?” he echoed, hoping he didn't sound as amused as he felt. He thought of Frederick baking pastries in his kitchen, and tried to imagine how the general masses would respond that image of the infamous killer they lived in fear of. Freddie was watching him closely.
“No one did. No one would. Not even you,” she said, narrowing her eyes. “You were so certain that the Chesapeake Ripper was Hannibal Lecter, you tried to kill him.”
“You neglected to say allegedly,” he corrected.
“No, I didn't.”
“Hannibal Lecter is your psychiatrist again. What's up with that?” she asked, as he began to meander around the room, walking behind the couch where she had clearly expected him to sit.
“I was wrong about him,” Will intoned. It was a line he had practiced many times. “That's what's up with that.”
Freddie nodded consideringly. An act, almost as practiced as his own.
“Maybe you were,” she said thoughtfully. “Maybe you weren't.”
He turned to Freddie, thinking he must have misheard. But she was looking at him, full in the face, and there was certainty in her eyes. Certainty, and a challenge. Will tilted his head.
“Dr. Chilton is the Chesapeake Ripper,” he said, as seriously as he could. Freddie rolled her eyes.
“The Chesapeake Ripper had surgical skills, Dr. Chilton did not.”
“They have the same profile,” Will said, moving to sit down. He knew he didn't sound convincing. He didn't need to. That wasn't the point. Freddie was already convinced, of something. The point was to find out what, and how deeply those convictions ran.
“Dr. Chilton was a woeful surgeon,” she said emphatically. “Dangerous, even. I've been chatting with some of his old medical school chums. They say he fled to psychiatry to avoid embarrassment.”
Will paused, halfway to his seat.
He remembered Frederick telling him how much he hated medical school, how he had been pushed into going by his father. How it was never something he wanted to do. Will had assumed he left by choice, to pursue other, more enjoyable interests. He remembered the smooth, easy stitches Frederick had sewn into his brow, the comfortable ease of practiced hands doing something they knew well.
He can't have been that bad.
“Chilton is gone. He won't risk coming back here, won't risk showing his face near Jack Crawford again. My history with the Chesapeake Ripper already has an ending, Freddie,” he told her.
Freddie Lounds was looking at him in a way that she had never looked at him before.
There was no curiosity on her face. There was no fear. Her light blue eyes weren't narrowed suspiciously, and she didn't look like she was about to call him a deranged and dangerous psychopath. She looked determined. But then, she always looked determined, sometimes disgustingly so. Slowly, she learned forward, resting her elbows on her knees and staring intensely at him. Will resisted the urge to pull away. She was close enough to smell her perfume.
“My doesn't,” she said softly. “Do you really think Dr. Chilton killed Abigail Hobbs? I don't. Even if I let this story go, I will never let that go.”
Will's heart skipped a beat.
Talk to Jack , he wanted to shout at her. Talk to him and tell him that, tell him everything you believe, everything you know. Everything you can prove. Help us catch him.
Will wanted, for just the barest of moments, to tell her everything. To tell her the plan. To tell her what he was doing, what he had done, how he was baiting Hannibal and reeling him in. He wanted to rope her in to the plot he and Jack had devised, put her to work staking out places the police couldn't go, give her immunity to let her do what she did best: investigate. At the cost of people's privacy, usually. But Freddie was a damn good detective, no matter how he felt about her as a person. They needed her on their side. They needed her to expose the truth.
But Will knew, absolutely knew, that if he told Freddie Lounds anything at all, the plan would come apart. She either wouldn't believe him and run a story on how he had tried to coerce her into crime, or should would believe him, and still write a story about how he had coerced her into crime. Jack was right. He had to be careful. One tiny slip...
Will sat back into the loveseat and leveled his gaze at her. He took a deep breath.
“Trust me,” he said with a smile he hoped would haunt her. “Neither will I.”
Will had been home for three hours, and Frederick hadn't spoke a word to him.
Will greeted him at the door and received silence in return. Will complimented him on dinner, though it was only a frozen pizza, and didn't get so much as a glance in his direction. He didn't exactly expect warmth, not after what they'd done. And what he'd tried to do. But an acknowledgment of his existence would've been nice.
After dinner, Frederick had gone upstairs and left the dishes for Will to take care of, shutting the door firmly behind him.
Will had no intentions of going up after him. In fact, distance was probably the best thing at the moment. Give him time to clear his head.
It was late in the day before Will realised that he had tried to kiss Frederick again.
That's what that was all about. That's what he'd being leaning in to do when the man had pushed him away, though he hadn't known it at the time. He hadn't known what the hell was doing, only that he needed to touch. Something, anything, anything living and breathing and absolutely real, he needed to get his hands on it. He needed to know he wasn't alone. He needed to know it wasn't a dream or a nightmare. He'd done this before, become lost and needed an anchor. Usually it was while he slept. When the night terrors took him he would lash out violently, reaching out to his surroundings, grasping for something to pull him back. That something usually came in the form of a dog. One would press their nose into his palm, or jump into the bed and lean against his back. Sometimes one of the smaller dogs would hop up and settle down in the crook of his knees. Their presence was enough to calm him down. It was enough to feel another heart beating near his. Another body breathing in time.
But in these waking fits of terror, Will didn't have the option of waiting for a dog to come check on him.
Frederick was there. Frederick was right there, so easy to reach for and hold onto and pull close, and the temptation was overwhelming. Will had let it get the better of him once, and it had almost gotten away from him again last night.
He was on the couch now, on his second glass of whiskey, sitting in the exact spot he had kissed Frederick, and Frederick had pushed him down and kissed him back.
Will had been thinking about that, more so lately. About the weight of another person on top of him. The ease with which the other man had held him down, the way his fingers had teased at the curve of Will's hip. How soft his lips had been. How good he'd tasted.
Will shifted in his seat, feeling flushed. He shouldn't be thinking about this. Certainly not in the middle of his living room. But the memories wouldn't subside, and neither would the heat in his face, or the warmth beginning to pool low in his stomach. He wondered just how far Frederick would have gone if Will hadn't panicked. What he would have done.
Will Graham was not gay. He knew he wasn't. He had never been in a relationship with a man, or even thought of other men as potential partners. He could, of course, appreciate the features of an attractive man, but he had never been attracted to them. Had he? Wouldn't he have known if he had, or would he have just shoved it down and brushed it off as aesthetic appreciation? Frederick was handsome, he supposed, glancing guiltily at the stairs. He wasn't classically handsome, not in the Hollywood sense, but there was definitely something to him. Even more so now that he'd started growing back the beard he'd wore when Will first met him. Facial hair suited him. It made his jaw look sharper, his chin stronger. Those were attractive features, right? And he had nice hair. Thick, dark hair that showed no sign of thinning any time soon. That was, well... good, Will supposed. Hair was good.
He felt like an idiot. Sitting alone in his living room, trying to decide if he was attracted to the fugitive in his house. He knew Frederick was attracted to him, at least he seemed to be.
Will knew he wasn't exactly a bad looking man. He had good teeth, big blue eyes, he was tall. A woman in a bar once told him he had the most symmetrical face she'd ever seen. And that was good, right? Symmetry was supposed to be important. And he was pretty in shape, as well. Will had caught Frederick looking at more than once, when he had just woken up and hadn't bothered to put on pants yet, or fresh was out of the shower without a shirt on.
He remembered suddenly the way Frederick had looked in a towel.
He was leaner than Will would have pictured. Sure, he had a bit of a gut, but he was by no means fat. The pinstriped shirts and checked suits had done him no favours. But without a shirt, or even in the tight black t-shirts he seemed so fond of, there was more muscle on his frame than his formal dress would reveal. Will thought of this way the muscles in his back had shifted under his skin when he slid his shirt over his head, the flexing sinews of his arms when he'd helped Will lift and drag the body of Randall Tier out to the car. The force with which he pushed Will away from him. Frederick hadn't been holding him down the night that they'd kissed, not really. Will wondered what it would have felt like if he had.
He downed the rest of his whiskey in one go, clumsily slapping a hand over his face.
Will Graham was not gay.
But he was curious.
He jumped when he heard a car door slam shut outside his house. He hadn't even heard anyone drive up. Will stood up slowly, peering cautiously out the window. The bumper of a red car was just in his field of view, parked close to the porch. He straightened up, blinking quickly.
Margot Verger was walking up to his front door.
Chapter 13: Connecting
WILL GRAHAM'S BIG GAY CRISIS COMES TO A HEAD AND IT IS GLORIOUS
(who says thirteen has to be an unlucky number?)
“What happened to your window?”
Will was standing in the living room, sipping at his third glass of whiskey of the night, watching Margot look around his house. She had handed him a bottle at the door, to replace the one that he'd been in the process of emptying himself only moments earlier. She had come in without invitation. Will poured them both a glass while she removed her coat and gloves. She'd knocked it back without a moment's hesitation. He decided to be conservative with his drink, but poured her another one.
“A stag got lost in the storm, came through there,” he mumbled, not looking at the shoddy patchwork tarp job he'd hastily put up the night before. Margot looked at him over her shoulder with raised eyebrows, looking pointedly at his bruised knuckles. Will shrugged. “Got a few scratches getting him out.”
“Are you scarred?” she asked. Will chuckled hollowly.
“Probably more than I know.”
He thought of the white, sightless eyes that had stared unblinkingly up at him. The ink-black flesh, the impossible antlers. The bloodied face of the dead boy on his floor.
Will glanced over in time to see her drain the rest of her glass, again.
She turned around, slowly, taking a step or two towards him. There was something in her expression that should have been throwing up a red flag in Will's mind, but his head was too foggy to think about that right now. She leveled her gaze at him.
“I'll show you mine if you show me yours.”
No, that can't be right. But before, she said she was...
“I don't have the right parts for your proclivities, Margot,” he said, confused.
Margot raised a hand to the top of her blouse, to the button that held the fabric together over her chest. Will reached out to stop her. This wasn't right, for either of them.
But her eyes stopped him.
There was something familiar in them. A darkness that Will was all too familiar with, particularly recently. Need. Not desire, not even want, but need. She needed this, whatever this was. She was reaching out, grasping for something to hold onto just as Will had been. He didn't know what terrors were chasing her. He didn't know why she had come to him, of all people, a stranger she barely knew, for refuge, but if there was a storm at her back anywhere near the magnitude of the one at his then it would be cruel to throw her back into it.
Maybe it was the alcohol. Maybe it was the confusion he felt about himself, about what he wanted, but Will needed this too. Maybe this was the connection he was looking for.
Slowly, and very carefully, he reached back up and popped the first button of her blouse.
Her hands reached up and did the same to him. They were shaking slightly, but so were Will's. His fingers fumbled with the third button. The fabric of her shirt fell aside, revealing the smooth, clear flesh of her chest. No scars there. Her fingers brushed over the skin of his shoulder, pushing his shirt away, finding the raised, knotted lump of tissue on his arm.
She turned as Will pulled back the collar of her blouse, facing away from him. On the top of her left shoulder was the first scar. Old and well-healed, it was a jagged line about three inches long. As the rest of her shirt dropped to the floor, more scars were revealed. Some were older, almost faded away, while others were still red and raw and fresh. There was no pattern. No structure or design. Just torment.
“Who did this to you?” he whispered, horrified.
Will recalled their conversation the first night she had come to his home. Their private carnages.
I tried to kill my brother.
I assume he had it coming?
Did he ever.
Looking at his handiwork carved crudely into Margot's back, Will didn't doubt it.
“Who shot you?” she asked, turning slightly, her eyes on the tight, round scar on his shoulder. Will caught the scent of her perfume, overpowering and achingly familiar. He leaned in.
Kissing her now, if he closed his eyes, he could almost pretend that she was Alana.
Her hands were soft, pressing against his chest, pushing him back toward his bed. The back of his knees hit the mattress while she pulled at the zipper of his jeans. He wrangled his way out of the rest of his shirt while she did the same, stepping out of her trousers and shoving him backwards. He fell slowly, almost gracefully, back into the pillows.
Margot climbed on top of him. Her thighs straddled his hips, falling forward to press their chests together. She kissed him again, but there was no fire in it. No passion. There was an urgency that he didn't understand but he felt .
This was happening.
This was happening, to both of them. This need, this compulsion had taken hold. He tasted liquor on his tongue and wasn't sure if it was from his mouth or hers. It didn't matter. It gave them both courage.
Will wrapped his arms around her and rolled.
When he opened his eyes, something was wrong.
Her hair was too dark. And too short. Her eyes were the wrong colour, her skin too bronzed. Her face was all wrong. His head was swimming from the drink, and every breath of her perfume was like a drug. Will kissed her again, squeezing his eyes shut, and rolled again. He didn't want to see her face. Didn't want see what was and wasn't there.
He pulled her back into him and she gasped.
It didn't take long.
Will kept his eyes shut, not wanting to see who he thought was in his bed. Not even sure who he wanted it to be. Margot Verger was a surrogate to him. A warm body to fill the role of... someone. Her hair was in his face, sweet and soft and smelling of Alana. Alana, who had visited his dreams on more than one occasion. Alana, with her gentle smiles and kind words. Alana's smooth skin and slight form, her red, red lips, her small hands holding his own, even through prison bars.
But even that wasn't right.
Another face kept intruding in his fantasies. Lurking between the bars, peering from the shadows. Not soft or gentle, barely even formed. But familiar, so familiar, and warm . Warm and close and strong and almost rough, clawing at the back of his subconscious, gripping him tightly, pushing him back, holding him down, pressing heavily against him-
Will came with a gasp, his fingers clawing at the sheets beneath him. A word, a name, sprung from the back of his throat and he bit his tongue to stop from shouting it. He couldn't. Couldn't say it, could barely think it.
He fell heavily to the side, his heart pounding against his ribs. Beside him, Margot sighed.
He watched her dress in the moonlight without awkwardness or offense. He'd been selfish, he knew that, but he wasn't sure she would have appreciated his attentions. He was a surrogate for her, too, after all.
She left without saying goodbye, and he didn't expect her too. Will didn't move from his position when he heard the front door open and close. He listened to the sound of her car starting, listened to the crunch of the tires on the gravel drive, disappearing down the road. Out of sight, out of mind.
As he was beginning to drift off, feeling heavy and hollow and sated, he could have sworn he heard a door close from upstairs. Sleep claimed him before he could give it any more thought.
Will woke slightly disoriented. His sheets were damp and sticky, but not from sweat. He swore, waking the small orange cat that was curled at the foot of his bed.
He stared at Butterball, blinking rapidly.
She had never approached him like this before. Not of her own accord, anyway. Though she'd been warming up to him the past couple weeks, she still kept her distance, and Will had kept his.
Now, he watched her stretch and begin to bathe herself near the lump of his feet under the blankets, not paying him any mind. It was an oddly comforting sensation, the earn the trust of a cat. She didn't even jump down when he swung his legs over the edge of the bed at sat up. Will rubbed his face, digging his knuckles into his eyes until he saw stars. His head was throbbing. Maybe he'd been drunker than he thought he was.
His boxers were crumpled on the floor under his feet. He tugged them on as discreetly as he could and stood up, glancing around for his shirt.
He peered around the corner into the kitchen, expecting to see Frederick eating breakfast at the table. When he wasn't, Will checked the clock. It was well after nine. Almost ten, actually. Frederick was usually up by now.
Running a hand through his hair, Will sighed heavily and made his way upstairs.
He took an unusually long shower, actually reading the directions on the back of the bottle of conditioner and letting it set it. All that extra time spend standing under the running water gave him time to think about the events that had transpired the night before.
It had been a while since he'd been with anybody. Even longer since he'd been in a stable relationship. Personal pleasure hadn't been very high on his list of priorities lately. Not that last night was about pleasure. Maybe, at the deepest, basest concept it might have been, but the actual act of sex wasn't the point of last night's exertions. He was sober enough to have understood that. He and Margot had both taken something from each other. He had taken comfort in the connection with another human being, and she had taken whatever she needed from him and walked out the door with it. Something told him he probably wouldn't be seeing her again. Certainly not in that capacity.
While waiting for the conditioner to set, Will's eyes landed on the bottle of cucumber face wash he'd picked up for Frederick.
It had been sitting there since he bought it, but he'd never noticed it before. A good portion of it was gone from the top, suggesting that it was definitely being used. Will picked up the bottle and frowned at it. He tried to remember how long ago he'd bought it, and if Frederick's face looked any different since then.
But thinking of Frederick had unintended consequences.
The image of the man's face swam before his eyes, foggy and indistinct, just as it had been the night before. Will knew now what he saw. He'd been too drunk to think about it, or too drunk to care, but now he knew.
Margot hadn't been a substitute for Alana. Despite the perfume, it wasn't her face he saw when he rolled on top of her. Alana didn't have wide green eyes, or short black hair, or the scruff of a beard on her cheeks. She didn't have strong, broad shoulders, or the sharp jut of an Adam's Apple in her throat. She didn't have a raw scar running down her stomach. She wasn't the one Will imagined lying beneath him, staring up at him as their skin slid together, as their bodies pressed together and became one.
It was Frederick.
Will dropped the bottle of face wash with a loud thud.
No. No, no, no. This was bad. This wasn't supposed to be happening. Not to him, not now. People didn't suddenly start to question sexuality in their thirties. Did they? That didn't seem very... no. No. He was just projecting. Frederick was the person he'd been closest to for months, counting the time spent in the hospital. It was natural to form an attachment. To- to want to be closer. He'd kissed him once already, and tried to kiss him another time, but those were just reactions to stress, right?
It's perfectly, completely natural to project buried needs and desires onto a person one was well acquainted with. It was normal to occasionally imagine them in compromising positions, consciously or not. To want to kiss them. To want to hold them, and pull them close. To imagine them in your bed. To think about the weight of their body on top of yours, and to want to feel them pressing against you. To want their hands on your chest, in your hair, on your everything. To want to hear the noises they made when you put your hands on them. It was normal.
Will looked down at the bottle on the floor of the tub, and at himself.
He turned the faucet as cold as it would go and almost fell over from the shock when it hit him. But it helped. It definitely helped.
It was Will's turn to descend the stairs in only a towel, having forgotten to bring any clothes up to the bathroom with him.
He tiptoed past Frederick's room, the door of which was still closed, wincing as the stairs creaked under his weight. To be safe, he glanced around the kitchen and living room for any sign of his housemate. Frederick still didn't appear to be awake yet. Thank God for that.
Will dropped the towel and quickly pulled on a pair of clean boxers, digging around for a pair of clean, or at least moderately clean jeans. He pulled those on as well, leaving them unbuttoned and unzipped while he sifted through his various shirts to find one that wasn't too wrinkled.
That was when the front door opened and Frederick stepped into the house with a pack of dogs at his heels.
He was wearing a heavy jacket that Will recognised as one of his own and his face was flushed from the cold. He rubbed his hands together and stamped his feet on the mat, unzipping the coat and shrugging it off and hanging back up on a hook while the dogs pranced around his legs, obviously worked up from their walk. Frederick smiled at them, leaning down to scratch Maxwell between the ears, looking for all the world like he belonged there, in Will's house, wearing his clothes and petting his dogs. He belonged.
That was when he looked up to find Will staring at him, pants open and shirtless. His jaw dropped.
“Hi,” Will said, smiling weakly. He could feel himself blushing, hit by this sudden, wonderful revelation. Frederick blinked, once, then closed his mouth. His face tightened.
“I'm surprised to see you up,” he said coldly, straightening up. “I figured you would be exhausted.”
Will's happiness was dimmed slightly by his tone.
“What?” he said, his smile dropping slightly. Frederick glanced pointedly at the crumpled sheets on his bed. He looked Will dead in the eye.
“Looks like you finally got that connection you were after.”
Will's smile fell away altogether.
“N-no,” he said, stepping forward, not entirely sure what it was that he planned to. “It wasn't like that. It wasn't-”
“It's none of my business,” Frederick said, turning around to kick off his shoes. “What you do with yourself is up to you. You may want to consider sleeping somewhere with a door, however, if this is going to become a habit.”
“I'm happy for you, really,” the man said, not paying attention to him. “She seems nice enough. Not that I really got to know her while I was holed up in the basement. She seemed to take a liking to you though.”
“It wasn't about her.”
Frederick looked up and turned around, and when he did Will was standing right behind him.
“It wasn't about her,” Will said again, wetting his lips. “It was about you.”
Frederick's eyes were wide with what Will hoped was confusion and not fear. He took another half step forward, truly entering the other man's personal space, keeping his eyes fixed on his face. He swallowed, trying to come up with the right words to say. Words that wouldn't result in Frederick either running away or hitting him. Neither of those outcomes were sounded half as good as the one he had in mind.
“I realised something last night,” he said quietly, very aware of the fact that he was still not wearing a shirt. “About me. And about you. All this time I thought- connecting with another person, I thought it wouldn't matter who. I thought I just needed someone, and you were just the closest, but I was wrong. You were close. You still are close. I just didn't realise that that had anything to do with it.”
He took another step forward and this time Frederick took one back. The back of his head collided gently with the door.
“It's you,” Will breathed, admitting it out loud, and to himself, for the first time. He laughed softly. “I didn't see it before, but it's you.”
“Will, w-what are you doing?”
Will stepped forward again, closing the gap between them, putting one hand on the door and resting the other on the side of Frederick's face. He leaned in.
“Connecting,” he whispered.
And then they were kissing.
Frederick tensed and let out a little squeak of surprise that Will swallowed whole, gently pressing their lips together, angling his mouth to get their noses out of the way. This wasn't like the kiss on the sofa. This wasn't fast and sloppy and desperate, there was no teeth and no tongue. It was soft and slow, almost chaste. It reminded Will of his very first kiss, at the front door of his date's house after a school dance. Only better. Definitely better. No one was wearing braces this time.
He moved his hand, gently cupping the back of Frederick's head, pulling him closer. He felt Frederick's hand slide tentatively up his arm, finally coming to rest on his shoulder. Will smiled slightly. This was feeling more and more like high school all over again.
His fingers curled slightly in Frederick's hair, mouth opening to deepen the kiss. Frederick's other hand wrapped around his back, settling low on his waist, pulling their bodies together. He was sandwiched between Will's body and the door, both of their hearts hammering against each other. He smelled like mint and cucumber and the fresh sweat he'd worked up while walking the dogs, and Will drank it all in. Their hips brushed, and Will remembered that his pants were still unbuttoned. He stepped forward again, placing his knee between Frederick's thighs.
Frederick gasped and pulled away.
“Okay,” he said breathlessly, blinking rapidly to refocus his eyes. “Okay, now, wait.”
Will pulled back, but didn't take his hand off Frederick's face. The other man swallowed nervously, taking a deep breath.
“This- this is nice, but we need to stop. We n-need to talk about- about this,” he stammered, a pink blush spreading up his neck. Will waited while he took another deep breath, exhaling shakily. “You said... you said that it was about me. That you needed to connect with me. I'm not a security blanket, Will.”
“No,” Will agreed, frowning. “No, you're not. I didn't mean it like that.”
“I- I didn't think you did, but I wanted- I wanted to be sure. I have no intentions of being used as one.”
Will almost – almost – asked Frederick what he would be comfortable being used as. He covered the urge with a smirk, leaning in again. Frederick turned his head away.
“Will, I said wait. I need- I need to stop, right now, please. I need... I need some time to think, okay? About all of this. I need some time.”
Will stepped back, letting his hands fall to his side. Frederick slumped slightly, losing the support of having Will pressed against him. He composed himself quickly, straightening the front of his shirt, carefully looking everywhere but at Will. He edged away carefully, looking as flustered as Will had ever seen him, stumbling as he made for the stairs. Will watched him go, amused and anxious, and waited until he heard the bedroom door close a little bit harder than strictly necessary.
Then he went to go and find a shirt.
Chapter 14: An Experience
the gay thoughts have definitely caught up to will graham and now there's nothing he can do about it
Will kept glancing anxiously at the stairs.
It was half past noon now, and Frederick had been in his room for going on three hours. Will had no idea what he was doing up there. Not that there was really anything to do. Hopefully he hadn't tied the sheets together and rappelled down the side of the house to get away from him. That would be... bad.
The euphoria had begun to wear off now, and was being replaced by a cold, tight knot of anxiety in the pit of Will's stomach. His actions, which at the time had seemed tender and even rational, now felt aggressive and forward. He'd practically backed Frederick into a corner before kissing him, and didn't really give him time to say no. The man had responded though, leaning into him, kissing him back. But he'd still told him to stop. Will didn't know what to do with that.
He made lunch for himself in the hopes that the smell of food would draw Frederick out. No luck so far. Will was sitting at the kitchen table, chair pushed back far enough to let him see into the hall while he picked the crust off of his grilled cheese sandwich.
I'm not a security blanket.
Of course he wasn't. How could he think that?
Other than the fact that the first two times Will had tried to kiss him had been during moments of extreme stress and vulnerability, there was absolutely no evidence to support Frederick's fears.
Will frowned, chewing thoughtfully.
Everything had seemed so clear before...
Despite his earlier certainty, Will wasn't exactly sure what he was hoping would happen. What would he do if Frederick came down the stairs and said he wanted nothing to do with him? How would that change their day to day relationship in the house? Could they just go back to the way they were, being friends?
Were they ever really friends at all?
Alternately, how would he react if Frederick came downstairs and said he wanted to be with him? How would that affect their relationship?
Will realised suddenly how little he'd thought this through.
He set his sandwich aside, not feeling very hungry anymore. His stomach was in knots. Maybe he'd made a mistake. Maybe he'd acted in the heat the moment, too hungover to really process what he was feeling. Maybe he should just go outside and get in his car and drive away and never ever come back to his own house. That was a reasonable course of action, right?
No. No, he couldn't do that. He had his dogs to think about.
Well maybe if he took them with him...
Was that a door opening? Was that-
Yes, that was definitely a door, and oh god now there were footsteps, Frederick was coming downstairs and Will was covered in breadcrumbs with cheese on his hands. He wiped them quickly on his jeans and tried to sit in what he hoped was a calm, collected, nonchalant pose. He was ninety-five percent sure that he didn't pull it off, but it was too late to worry about that. Frederick's feet had appeared coming down the stairs, and then his legs, and then he rest of them. He paused on the last step when he caught sight of Will. Will realised that he still had his chair pushed about two feet away from the table so that he could see down the hall. He'd forgotten that he could be seen as well. No one had even said anything yet and this was already a disaster.
“Hi,” they both said at the same time. Will bit his lip and Frederick looked like he mentally kicking himself.
What a fucking disaster.
“You cooked?” Frederick said with a distinct strain to his voice, stepping hesitantly toward the kitchen. Will nodded to the half eaten sandwich on his plate.
“Just grilled cheese.”
“Did you w- Are you hungry?”
“No, no I'm fine. I've, uh... I've been thinking?”
For three hours? Will didn't say out loud. He swallowed.
Frederick hesitated for a moment. He walked to the chair across from Will and sat down, carefully folding his hands on the table. Will scooted his chair closer to the table and waited. Finally, after a long silence, Frederick spoke.
“I think, before we do or say anything that we might regret later, that we need to talk about what's really going on here. Why are you really doing this?”
Will frowned, confused.
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“It means exactly what it sounds like.”
“What is it that you think I'm doing, exactly?”
“Will, you just pushed me up against a door and told me we had a connection, after sleeping with a complete stranger and handing a man over to be cannibalized after you killed him in the living room. I have no idea what you're doing. I was hoping you would tell me.”
Will's mouth dropped open. He wished desperately that he had a retort for that, but Frederick had a point. He had a lot of points, actually. Hm. Will closed his mouth and swallowed hard. He really hadn't thought about this enough. Frederick clearly had, however.
“Let's start with this,” the man said, leaning back slightly, settling into his chair. His tone was uncomfortably familiar, a memory dredged up from the back corners of Will's mind. That was his Doctor Voice. Will frowned again. Already he didn't like where this was going. “I am a fugitive in your home. I'm completely innocent, of course, but the law enforcement agency that you work for is still actively searching for me, and if it were discovered that you were harbouring me it would end badly for the both of us. I have been here for nearly two months. As far as I can tell, I've been the most stable source of contact that you've had with another person in that entire time. And since you are my only source of information and contact with the outside world, I have come to rely heavily upon you. Without you I would be helpless and most likely left to the mercy of Jack Crawford and his FBI dogs. Thus, I cannot say that my feelings are completely objective or unbiased. Neither are yours.”
“Are you psychoanalysing me, Frederick?” Will asked incredulously. Frederick blinked at him.
Will scoffed in disbelief.
“Well then, by all means, continue. This should be interesting.”
Frederick narrowed his eyes at him, but didn't react beyond that. Will stared at him, waiting. Frederick inhaled suddenly.
“I watched you kill a man in this house not two days ago. I watched you beat him to death, and then I helped you move his body and dispose of the evidence. If I wasn't guilty of a crime before that, I certainly am now. You have made me an accomplice to murder, and I am not comfortable with that.”
“It was self defense,” Will snapped. His warm feelings were evaporating by the second. Frederick shook his head.
“No, it was a lot of things, but it wasn't self defense. He broke in, and whatever his intentions may have been, you attacked him first. And you said yourself that you killed him for my sake. Repeatedly. But I don't entirely believe that.”
Will kept his mouth shut. He was fuming, but Frederick wasn't exactly wrong. The other man was staring at him, the same expression on his face as the one he would wear during their sessions, with Will in a cage while he sat back in his comfortable chair and scribbled things on his clipboard. Will didn't like to think about that. It was hard to connect that version of Frederick, the arrogant, conniving, manipulative bastard that made his incarcerated life a living hell, with the man that had been cooking him dinner almost every night for the past two months. Up til now there had been a distinct disconnect forming between the two. But Will was starting to remember just how much they were the same person.
Frederick looked down momentarily, his brow furrowing. When he looked up again, Will wasn't ready for the wariness in his expression.
“Will,” he said quietly. “What did you do with the body?”
It was with a jolt that Will remembered he hadn't told him.
Everyone else he'd talked to lately knew about Randall Tier. Jack knew most of the details. Hannibal certainly knew a thing or two about it, more than Will liked to think about. But he hadn't told Frederick what he'd done. He told him he was taking the body to Hannibal, but he hadn't explained anything beyond that.
Suddenly he didn't want to.
“It doesn't matter,” he said, unable to stop himself from looking away. “What's done is done.”
“It matters to me.”
“Frederick, you don't need to worry about it.”
“Well, I am worrying about it! Tell me what you did with the body, Will. Did you hide it? Did you- did you eat it? Did you and Hannibal cook it up and have yourselves a congratulatory little meal?”
“Part of it.”
Frederick sat back in his chair, rubbing a hand over his mouth. Will stared resolutely out the window. This wasn't how he wanted this conversation to go. This wasn't what he wanted at all. Neither of them spoke for some time.
“Why did you really kill him?” Frederick asked, watching him carefully. Will closed his eyes.
“I told you why. I had to.”
“And I'm telling you that's not good enough, Will.”
“Well, that's all there is to it, okay?”
“No, it's not!” Frederick laughed, an ugly, hollow sound. “That can't possibly be all there is to it. You said Hannibal sent him. Did he send him to kill you, or for you to kill him? Or- or did he just want you to fight to the death, is that it? Was this just part of the game you're playing with Hannibal Lecter, still convinced you're doing it just to catch him?”
“I am doing it to catch him,” Will snarled, slamming him hand down on the table so hard the silverware rattled. “That's what everything has been about, everything I've done since I understood what was happening was to draw him out and get him caught. Working with Beverly, playing you and Gideon, manipulating Matthew Brown, baiting Freddie Lounds, killing Randall Tier, literally everything has been with the intention of catching Hannibal Lecter in the act and putting him in a cell for the rest of his fucking life. But I can't do it if he doesn't trust me. And I can't convince him to trust me if I don't get my hands dirty, Frederick. He needs believe that I'm his, that he's got me in the palm of his hand, that whatever he was trying to turn me into during my therapy has worked. And in order to get him to believe that, I have to do what I do best, as you people keep relentlessly reminding me: I need to get inside his head and put myself in his shoes.”
Will was shouting now, on the edge of his seat. His hands were clenched into tight fists on top of the table, nails digging into his palms. He could feel the words wanting to pour out of him, all the things he couldn't say to Jack or Hannibal, all the truths and lies and half-truths that he had to keep track of. Frederick just sat there, staring at him. The unwitting witness to his testimony. And, Will realised, the only person in the world that he could completely trust.
And that was it.
That's what this was about. Not need, not connecting, but trust. It made so much more sense. Will could have kicked himself.
“Look,” he started, at a much lower volume, “Sometimes I get- sometimes it's hard for me to let go. To disengage. Not always, but when the situation is this intense... I forget. I wear a mask all damn day, have to keep it on all the time, and then I forget to take it off when I come home. That's why-”
He took a deep breath.
“That's why I need you.”
Frederick raised his eyebrows.
“You need me,” he said flatly, not registering the shift in Will's tone. He didn't understand. Will licked his lips, casting around for the right words. It was so clear, again, but only for right now.
“Before all of this, before I was put in your hospital, anyway, I didn't have anyone. I'd come home from work and it all came with me. All the death, all the pain, all the torment and evil, all of that came in the door with me. I'd come home to my dogs and I'd find a way to distract myself, but it was all still there. I couldn't clear my head. Hannibal was supposed to help with that, but... Well.”
He didn't need to elaborate. Frederick was listening quietly, waiting for him to get to the point.
“Things just got worse,” Will continued, shifting in his chair. “I couldn't- telling Jack what was going on was never a good plan. It still isn't. He pushes and he pushes and then he acts surprised when I fall over the edge, and I'm not gonna let that happen again. Jack and I have a plan, and we're working together, but there's a lot that I'm keeping from him. There's a lot that I'm keeping from Hannibal, too, and Alana is completely in the dark. The dogs have always been good company, but they can't exactly talk back. Which just leaves... you.”
Frederick lifted one of his eyebrows even higher than the other, which Will didn't think was possibly by this point. But the man didn't interrupt. That was good. That was a good sign. He pushed on before the words started to fail him.
“Frederick, I'm going to come right out and say this, but I honestly hated you while you were my therapist. I hope you're not surprised to hear that. No, wait, just let me finish. Because I have drastically revised my opinion of you since you started living here.”
Will took a deep breath.
“Having you here has been... an experience. Not all of it good, and not all of it bad, but it has definitely been a new experience for me. I haven't lived with anyone since I moved out of my dad's house, so I'm not very, um, good at it. But I've gotten used to it. I've gotten used to you being here, and I like having you here. I like coming home to someone. I like having someone to talk to besides the dogs. I like talking to you. I... I like you. And honestly, with all the stuff going on with Hannibal right now, I don't know what sort of state I'd be in without you.”
Will was blushing now. He could feel the heat in his cheeks, and the smile that was playing around Frederick's mouth wasn't helping anything. A beat of silence hung in the air between them.
“Will Graham,” Frederick said softly, and Will had to restrain a shiver at the way the man said his name, “Are you asking me to go steady with you?”
Will's entire face turned bright pink. He knew his ears would be red and his hair was too short to hide them and he must have looked completely ridiculous because Frederick was grinning at him, and that was when he realised that he had squeaked out the word “yes.”
“Do I get a pin?” Frederick asked, laughing. The tension had evaporated from the air, and Will realised he was holding his breath. He released it with a shaky laugh.
“N-no, but I think I have my old class ring upstairs,” he managed to get out. Frederick laughed louder. Will couldn't help but smile.
Maybe this wasn't a complete disaster after all.
The rest of the day was weird.
The sudden mood whiplash had left them both reeling. They'd sat at the table for a while longer, chatting and stammering, until Frederick eventually got up to fix himself lunch.
Will felt like a fucking teenager all over again, sneaking glances at his crush from across the room and flushing when he found them looking back. He and Frederick orbited around each other. They found excuses to be in the same room, but not talking, not touching, not even sitting with each other. Frederick would sit on the sofa and read while Will sat at his desk and toyed with his fishing lures. They sat in their own armchairs, watching the Antiques Roadshow in silence, except for the occasional chuckle or low whistle of appreciation. Frederick was making dinner while Will set out the plates and cutlery. They ate in silence, but it wasn't uncomfortable. Every once in a while one of them would open their mouths to say something, blush a little, and then close it again. Will made sure to keep his feet tucked under his chair, and judging from Frederick's posture he was doing the same. They were being ridiculous.
The closest contact they had was when Frederick stood at the sink to do the dishes, and Will settled in beside him, ready with a dishcloth to dry them. Their fingers brushed lightly as they passed plates back and forth, but all in silence.
The only moment of real awkwardness was when it came time to go to bed.
Frederick lingered uncertainly in the stairway before deciding to go up to his own room, and it took Will a good five minutes of just standing in the middle of the living room and mentally yelling at himself before he climbed into his own bed, tugging the covers stubbornly up to his chin. They'd only just talked this out. And even if they were going steady – of all the fucking euphemisms – it still wouldn't be appropriate to share a bed just yet.
Appropriate. God, Will felt like he was in the Fifties. They could do whatever they wanted. No one was there to judge them, they didn't have anyone to embarrass but themselves.
But Will stayed right where he was. He pulled the blankets all the way over his head and buried his face in his pillow, and fell asleep with a big, stupid smile on his face.
Now this, whatever this was and however it turned out in the end, would be an experience.
Chapter 15: Something New
oh good golly gosh i changed the rating whatever could that mean
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The big, stupid smile was still on Will's face when he woke up. For a moment he couldn't remember why he was smiling, but then it hit him.
His smile widened as he stretched, raising his arms over his head and groaning as his back popped. He rolled over to grab his phone off the bedside table, both surprised and pleased to see that he had no new messages from Jack. The day was off to a good start so far.
Will dressed quickly, catching the scent of bacon on the air. That meant Frederick was already up. It also explained why there wasn't a single dog in sight. Bacon was a rare treat in the Graham household. He pulled a pair of socks over his feet and made his way into the kitchen.
Frederick was under siege at the stove.
The dogs had formed a barricade around him, fencing him in and watching hungrily as he transferred the sizzling bacon from the pan to the plate. The larger ones stood shoulder to shoulder behind him and the smallest were standing on their hind legs, leaning on the counter and oven door to try and get closer. On top of the refrigerator, tale flicking back and forth in agitation, was Butterball. She mewed softly at Will when he appeared in the doorway.
“Morning,” he said in greeting to the animals as well as Frederick. The man looked up, startled, and smiled.
“Good morning. Did I wake you?”
“Nah, it was just time.” He nodded to the dogs, none of whom had so much as looked at him. “Are they helping?”
Frederick snorted, turning back to the stove.
“Hardly. One of them tried to trip me on the way from the fridge. I'm convinced they're planning a coup if I slip up.”
Will grinned as he sat down at the table, trying unsuccessfully to draw the dog's attention. They ignored him.
“How did you sleep?” Will asked. Frederick shrugged.
“Fine. How about you?”
Well, I didn't have a single nightmare for the first time in months and I didn't wake up drowning in a cold sweat. That's good, right?
“Fine. Just fine,” Will said instead.
And at that, he exhausted his conversation topics. Hello, how are you, how did you sleep, are we still, um, dating? Will couldn't say that last one out loud. He wanted to. He wanted to know if it was just a weird, strangely euphoric dream or if it had really happened. It felt real. And it felt right. But Will had been through plenty of nightmares and night terrors and thought those were real as well. Maybe his subconscious was branching out.
He shuddered, lost in his own thoughts, and started when Frederick lightly placed a hand on his arm.
“Will? Are you alright?” he asked, looking at him in concern. A fresh plate of bacon and scrambled eggs had been placed in front of him, and Frederick held another plate in his other hand. Will nodded.
“Yeah,” he said, smiling slightly. “Yeah, I'm alright.”
Maybe it wasn't a dream after all.
“This is delicious,” Will said, when they'd both settled down and tucked in to their plates. He didn't mention that the eggs were just a touch too well done for his liking. “But are you sure it's okay for you to be eating meat?”
“I told you I was building up a tolerance,” Frederick said, shoving half a piece of bacon into his mouth. “I can eat meat, just not in large portions. And not two days in a row. And not in every meal. But I'm not going to cut it out of my diet entirely. I refuse to live a life where I am unable to eat to eat bacon.”
For emphasis stuck two whole pieces in his mouth and chewed exaggeratedly. Will laughed.
The day seemed to crawl by, which was fine with Will.
He walked around in a state of strange elation, like a weight he didn't know he was dragging had suddenly been lifted from his shoulders. For the first time in a long time he sat down to watch the morning news in the living room, and Frederick joined him on the couch. The sides of their knees bumped together, but that was the extent of the contact. They made small talk about the current events and minor goings on in the world, Frederick pointing out which news stories he'd already read about in the paper. It was a light, easy conversation. A no point did Will feel like he was being manipulated, or having the wool pulled over his eyes. He didn't have to watch his words, or monitor his facial expressions, or keep track of which lies he was supposed to be telling. It was casual. It was easy. And Will was loving it.
There was a proverbial bounce in his step as he took the dogs out for a walk in the field behind his house. The smile that he woke up with kept creeping back onto his face. When he came back to the house to find that Frederick had made him a mug of cocoa, and a cup of tea for himself, Will's smile only widened.
Will was happy.
“Is there something on my face?” Frederick asked, when he caught Will staring at him from across the living room. It was almost dark outside now, and Frederick was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, flipping through one of the old activity books Will had gotten him when he first moved in. Will was sitting in his usual armchair, flipping channels, and suddenly wishing he was on the couch. He blushed.
“N-no! Well, yes, actually, but not- I mean- your beard. It looks good on you,” Will stammered. He'd been thinking it for a while, but actual getting the words out was another matter entirely. Frederick, for his part, seemed to take it in stride. He raised an eyebrow.
“Thank you,” he said simply. He walked over, took the remote out of Will's hand, and sat himself down in the middle of the sofa. Will sat gaping at him.
How was he being so calm about this? Will felt like a twitchy, nervous wreck, yet the other man was the pinnacle of composure. He had accepted the compliment with grace, and now he was sitting there somehow managing to look put-together while wearing sweat pants, one of Will's ratty grey t-shirts, and an awful, awful sweater that had been dug out of the closet in the guest room. It was almost infuriating. Will had the sudden urge to go over and ruffle him up. Just a bit. Just enough to put a few strands of hair out place, to make him look as flustered and bewildered as Will felt. That would serve him right.
Frederick was looking at him warily, and that was Will realised he'd been staring intensely at him the whole time. His eyes widened.
“Sorry. God, I'm- I'm sorry. I'm not very good at this... whatever this is. I didn't mean to stare, sorry, I was just thinking.”
Frederick pressed his lips together, frowning slightly. Then, to Will's horror, he switched off the TV and turned to face him fully.
“About what?” he asked, in an annoyingly cool voice. Will was reminded uncomfortably of his early sessions with Hannibal. Being objectively observed, watched carefully like a puzzle to be figured out. He wanted to sink into his chair and die.
“About this,” he said, against his better judgment, waving his hand vaguely between them. “About you. About, I dunno, relationships.”
That was the first time he'd said the word out loud, and took a moment to let the gravity of it sink he. He wasn't looking at Frederick anymore. He was looking at Frederick's right shoulder, because it was easier to talk to a shoulder than it was to a person with an actual face. Will had learned that lesson from an early age and it continued to serve him well.
“I've never been very good at them,” he went on, eyeline successfully broken. “They don't last long, someone always ends up bored or hurt, it just gets... it falls apart. I never know what to say, or what not to say, or what shouldn't be said, I misread signals, or read into them too much. Things just get weird until someone leaves. I'm out of practice now, which makes it worse.”
“How long has it been since you've been in a relationship?” Frederick asked, settling into a more casual posture. He looked less like a therapist now, and more like... well, Frederick. Will sighed, thinking.
“The last thing that could be called a relationship was about... three years ago? Three and half? I haven't been in a serious relationship though since I was, God, twenty-five, twenty-six? It's been a while. How about you?”
“My last relationship ended a little over a year ago, I think. Not too long ago.”
“Was it serious?”
Frederick's lips twitched into what might have been a smile.
“I thought it was. She, apparently, didn't.”
If there was ever a good time to dissolve into the furniture, this would be it. Will wanted to hit himself over the head and crawl away from this entire situation. But all he could do, without making everything ten times worse, was slump slightly in his chair and try not to look as distressed as he felt.
“I'm sorry,” he said, for the fourth time in ten minutes. “I shouldn't have- I don't remember things being this hard. And you're sitting there, calm as can be, and I feel like I'm just flailing all over the place. How can you be so relaxed? You're being so casual, and I'm trying to be casual, and I know I'm not pulling it off by the simple fact that we're even having this conversation. I just- I've never done anything like this before. I don't know what I'm doing, and I feel like I should, and I also feel like an idiot because it's only been one fucking day. I mean, I may not be good at relationships, but I know I'm better than this.”
“You're doing fine, Will,” Frederick said, and there was no mistaking a smile this time. He looked amused, too, much to Will's chagrin. He didn't want to be amusing. What he wanted was to stop feeling so helpless, but that wasn't exactly working out for him right now. He rubbed his hands over his face, taking a deep calming breath. He was being ridiculous. This wasn't a ridiculous situation, this was the beginning of a relationship. He could do this.
“I can do this,” he said out loud, for motivation, seizing the moment as it struck him. “I don't know what I'm doing, and that's fine, because I'm going to figure it out along the way. It'll be- it'll be fun. We're two good looking guys in our thirties and there's no one around for miles, it's fine. We can do this.”
Frederick blinked at him.
“Will, I'm forty-three.”
There was a beat. Will's mouth dropped open.
“Really?” he said, and was mortified when his voice came out much higher than it had been a moment ago. Frederick laughed.
“Yes, really. I thought you knew that. You keep saying you've read my file, I would assume that included my date of birth. Good to know I can still pass for thirty-something, though, thank you.”
Will was stammering for some sort of response, some way to make him feel like less of a fucking, fucking idiot, but Frederick was standing up now and walking over to him. The man stopped right in front of him, leaning down to rest a hand on the arm of Will's chair. Will immediately shut up. Frederick lifted his free hand and gently cupped the back of Will's head. Will fought the instinct to flinch back. They were nose to nose now. It was hard to keep from going cross eyed.
“I think you're over-thinking things, Mr. Graham,” Frederick said softly, and leaned in.
This was the first kiss the other man had initiated between them, and Will felt like he was drowning. His eyes closed, mouth opening automatically. This was a new kiss, too. Not rough and not chaste, just... right. Frederick's fingers were curled slightly in his hair, the scent of him washing over Will like a low tide. Warm and clean, and just a little bit heady. Mint and something else. The whiskers of his beard scraped over Will's chin, the side of his cheek, but he felt no compulsion to pull away this time. Instead, he leaned into it...
Just as Frederick straightened up and pulled away.
Will blinked up at him, confused, wanting something he couldn't quite define. Frederick smirked.
“Come on,” he said, extending a hand. “Help me make dinner.”
Will looked at the hand for a moment before he took it. Long, graceful fingers, inexplicably manicured nails, a soft, smooth palm. His own calloused hand felt rough and lopsided by comparison. But Frederick didn't seem to mind. He led him into the kitchen, dogs at their heels, and put him to work chopping onions. And even though his eyes were burning, Will couldn't keep the big, dumb smile off of his face.
It was three days before he worked up the courage to climb the stairs to Frederick's room.
Will woke up in his own bed, suddenly and without cause, and knew that something wasn't right. He reached his arms out on either side of him, finding his right side to be cold and empty, and accidentally disturbing a dog on his left. He apologised to it in hushed murmurs, scratching the back of its head, but something still wasn't right. He frowned and sat up.
The house was quiet, as usual. No sound but for the ticking of the clock in the kitchen, and the steady, uneven breathing of many sleeping animals in the room. No floorboards were creaking. Nothing seemed to have fallen or broken, since the dogs were all still asleep. The digital clock on his nightstand told him that it was three thirty-seven in the morning. What had woken him up?
Will swung his legs soundlessly over the edge of the bed, his feet resting on the cold wooden floors. He didn't bother feeling around for his slippers. He knew at least one dog would be sleeping on them, and he didn't want to wake them. He wanted to be quiet. He wanted to move in silence, and discover the source of his waking.
He padded out of the living room and into the kitchen, peering around in the dark, half expecting to see an intruder lurking in the shadows. An apparition of blood and bone. The ghost of a crime committed in darkness, rearing it's antlered head to bring judgment down upon him. But there was nothing. The kitchen was clean and empty, just as he had left it. A short trip down the hallway to the cramped little downstairs bathroom with the toilet that didn't work, and the large pantry cupboard that was stocked full of various pickled veggies and fruit preserves assured him that the downstairs was completely empty, except for himself. He turned his head to the ceiling. Maybe Frederick was talking in his sleep again.
Careful avoid the squeakiest parts, Will slowly ascended the staircase to the second storey.
He stopped at the top of the stairs, listening. Watching for signs of movement, or for something to be out of place. But the hall was silent. The small nightlight in the bathroom provided more light to see by, even though there was nothing to see as far as Will could tell. He checked the bathroom itself, delicately pulling back the shower curtain, faint memories of old horror movies creeping up in the back of his mind, making the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. But the shower was empty. No burglar or madman with an axe was waiting behind the curtain, poised to strike and chop him up. Will shook his head, feeling foolish. He left the bathroom, checking the room at the end of the hall, an old office that he never got around to using. The half-sorted boxes that had been piled there since he moved in were still and layered with dust, untouched since they'd been placed heavily on the floor and on top of each other. It was almost sad. Will the closed the door, feeling melancholic, and took another look around. The only room he hadn't checked was Frederick's.
He walked softly across the hall, stopping just outside. He pressed his ear to the wood, listening. It was silent within. Will frowned. He thought he would least be able to hear Frederick breathing, or mumbling to himself. He tried the handle. The door was locked.
“Frederick?” Will knocked softly. His whisper was loud as a thunderclap in the still house, and he winced at the sound of his own voice. He knocked again, even more softly. “Frederick, are you in there?”
Something shifted inside the room. Will pulled his head away from the door, taking a step back. He could hear something moving on the floor, heavy footsteps dragging their way across the room. The doorknob jiggled slightly, and something clicked. Very slowly, the door creaked open.
Frederick's voice was bleary with sleep. He squinted against the light from the bathroom, pulling the door open wider.
“What's going on?” he asked, rubbing a hand over his face. But Will couldn't think of an answer. He was too busy staring at the man in front of him.
Frederick was naked from the waist up, wearing nothing but a pair of loose sweatpants that hung dangerously low on his hips. The scar on his stomach stood out in sharp relief against the rest of his skin, too pale and shiny and smooth to be natural. The shadow of fine, dark hair crept up below his navel, ending just below the scar, resuming again across the top of his chest. His shoulders were slumped, and he was leaning heavily against the door frame. His hair was as tousled and out of place as Will had ever seen it, still not quite as disheveled as it should have been on someone who had just woken from a deep sleep. Will's mouth had gone very dry.
“S-sorry to wake you,” he said, taking a step forward, towards him. “I just...”
He didn't finish. He grabbed Frederick by the shoulder, pulling him forward, bringing them together. Kissing him, deeply. Frederick made a sleepy noise of surprise, which turned into a not-so-sleepy sigh of interest. His hands went to Will's waist and his arm, pulling him closer. Will's other arm wrapped around his back.
He took another step forward, shoving Frederick back and off balance. Will pushed the door shut as they entered the room, a vague concern about dogs flitting through his mind before it was quickly replaced by the sensation of Frederick's fingers slipping under the bottom of his shirt, pushing the fabric up, grabbing at the bare skin of his hip. Will gasped at the contact. He pushed forward until the back of Frederick's knees hit the bed. They fell heavily, Will landing on top of him. He barely caught himself with the hand that wasn't on Frederick's chest.
The other man's hand were moving rapidly now, tugging at the fabric of his shirt. He made little noises of impatience, pushing Will back so he could pull the shirt over his head, carelessly throwing it across the room. Will gasped for air as their mouths broke apart.
This is why he had woken up. This is what was wrong. He was alone, downstairs in his bed while Frederick was alone upstairs in his, and that just wasn't right. But this... Frederick's tongue in his mouth, their hips pressed together, hands all over, skin becoming slick with sweat... this was right.
Will was in nothing but his boxers now, and he gasped again when Frederick's fingers slipped under the waistband, teasing at his hardening cock. Will kissed him again, more roughly this time, grinding himself against the top of Frederick's thigh. Frederick's lips curved into a smile against his own.
Suddenly Will was pushed off and to the side, rolled unceremoniously onto his back. Frederick replaced his position on top, somehow still kissing him, one hand down the front of his shorts and the other pressing him back into the mattress. Will groaned as the other man stroked the length of him. He was almost fully hard now, and he he could feel the hardness of Frederick's own erection pressing into his hip. It had been a long time since anyone had touched Will but himself, and goddamn if Frederick wasn't good at it.
“I've never done this before,” Will gasped, when Frederick's mouth moved to his jaw. The other man chuckled, the noise vibrating through his chest and carrying into Will's own.
“I can tell,” he said, he murmured, his teeth scraping against the underside of Will's throat, right where the corner of his jaw met his ear. “You're allowed to use your hands, you know.”
Will flushed, realising that his arms were raised uselessly above his head, not doing anything for anyone. He remedied that quickly, one hand wrapping around the back of Frederick's neck, blunt nails scraping at his skin. The other hand found it's way to the his lower back, experimentally sliding down the curve of Frederick's ass. This was met with a low groan of appreciation. Will swallowed.
“Have you done this before?” he asked breathlessly, talking when he shouldn't be talking, when his mouth could have been doing more interesting things. “Have you- I mean, do you-”
“I've been with men before, if that's what you're asking,” said Frederick's voice by his ear. He gave Will's cock and languid stroke that left him moaning, arching his head back, exposing the flesh of his throat for Frederick to nip and suck at. His beard felt like it was scraping him raw, but Will didn't care. To be honest, he sort of liked it. That realisation sent a pleasurable jolt down his spine, which manifested in a slight twitch in his groan.
Will felt like he still wasn't doing enough with his hands. Frederick was all over him, his mouth at Will's collar bone now, his erection pressing almost painfully into the bottom of Will's stomach. He moved his hand from the back of Frederick's head, sliding down his shoulder, his chest, his stomach. He was very careful to avoid the scar, unsure how the other man would feel it being touched and too rushed to worry about asking. But his fingers hesitated at the waistband of Frederick's sweatpants. One final hurdle to work himself past.
Seeming to sense his hesitation, Will felt Frederick's hand – the one that wasn't currently wrapped around his cock – slide down his body until it found his own. Frederick guided him, slowly, to cup the bulge of him through the sweatpants.
Christ , he was hard.
“Do you have condoms?” Frederick, his mouth breaking away from its assault on Will's neck. Will shook his head. “Well, where are they? I'll go get them.”
“No, I mean- I don't have any.”
Frederick stopped. He loosened his grip and pulled his hand away, and Will whimpered at the loss of contact.
“What do you mean you don't have any?” Frederick said, staring down at him. Will was breathing too hard to think clearly. He could feel his heart hammering against his ribs, and it took him a moment to answer.
“”I mean... I don't have any. I did, but they expired. I threw them out.”
“Then what did you use last week with- with her?”
Will had almost forgotten about Margot. He frowned, swallowing.
The elastic in in the waistband of his underwear snapped against his stomach as Frederick pulled his hand away entirely, sitting back on his heels and glaring at Will in the dark. Will scrambled to raised himself up in his elbows, feeling himself flush.
“You had sex, with a stranger, without protection,” Frederick said, the sleepiness and arousal gone from his voice. Will opened his mouth, annoyed, and then closed it again. He was right. He hadn't even thought about it at the time, either too drunk or too damaged to care, but now... His frown deepened. He shouldn't have done that.
“Now what?” Frederick said, not waiting for him to reply. Will blinked, twice.
“What do you mean?”
“I'm not fucking you without a condom, Will.”
Will shivered, another electrified bolt shooting straight to his groin. Oh, God, the way he phrased that...
“C-can't you keep-” Will swallowed, taking a moment to lick his lips. “Couldn't you keep doing what you were doing before?”
Frederick's eyes gleamed in the darkness. The heavy curtains were pulled tightly shut, but there was just enough light filtering in under the door for Will to see by. He could have sworn the man was smiling.
Slowly, too slowly, Frederick reached out and slid his palm along the bulge tenting the front of Will's boxers. Will let out a choked gasp. His arms shook under the weight of him, but he didn't let himself fall. He stared at Frederick, keeping their eyes locked together.
“You mean, this?” Frederick asked, his voice barely more than whisper. He dragged the heel of his hand back down the length of Will's hardness, excruciatingly slow. Will ground his teeth together, not going to give him the satisfaction of hearing him moan, and nodded. Frederick leaned forward, placing his other hand by the side of Will's head and lowering himself until their foreheads were almost touching. He was breathing hard, too. Will could tell, even though he was trying to hide it. When he spoke, it took everything Will had not to groan out loud.
“And what do I get out of it?” the man said, his voice low, shaking just barely enough to give him away. And fuck, suddenly it all made so much sense. Will's thoughts turned unbidden back to his months in the hospital, to Frederick's attempts at “therapy” and analysis, all the bargaining and the negotiating and trading promises back and forth.
That's what he wanted. All the give and take, all the posturing and gloating, the showing off. The gaudy ring and tie clip, the flashy cane, the immaculate suits, shoes so polished you could use them as a mirror. It was a show. It was about asserting dominance. Putting the inmates, and the employees, in their place. It was about having the upper hand.
And judging from the sudden surge in his heart rate at this revelation, Will reasoned that Frederick certainly had it now.
“I could do the same,” Will breathed, hips bucking slightly as Frederick's movements stopped. Will stared up at him, his chest heaving, not daring to move a muscle. He waited, patiently, for the verdict.
“I suppose...” the man said at last, deftly slipping his hand back down the front of Will's boxers, gripping him tightly. Will cried out, and Frederick caught the sound in his own mouth, kissing him hard, grabbing Will's hand and shoving down the front of his sweats. Suddenly Will was doing something else he had never done before, and that was touching another man's cock. Fortunately, he had thirty-eight years of experience with his own to know at least sort of what he was doing. He gripped Frederick's erection by the base and pumped experimentally. And apparently he'd done something right. This time it was Frederick gasping into his mouth, biting his lip and bucking against him. And it was Will's turn to smile.
They quickly perfected their system, stroking and tugging each other in a choppy rhythm. One would speed up and the other would swiftly work to match the new pace. Will was drenched with sweat, his breathing shallow and uneven, unable the stop the little moans and groans that were slipping past his lips. Frederick was gasping into his neck, his free hand barely able to support himself. Their chests were pressed against other, slick with sweat, both helplessly grinding their hips into the motions of each other's hands.
Will came first, unable to stop himself. His release ripped through him with a shuddering groan, his fingers curling tightly in Frederick's short hair. The other man finished not longer after, coming hard with a low groan against the side of Will's throat, his whole body tensing before collapsing heavily on top of him.
They lay like that, hearts thudding dully against each other, until their breathing slowed and evened out. Will uncurled his fingers from Frederick's hair, gently stroking the back of the other man's neck. Frederick rolled off of him slowly, slumping onto his side. Will turned himself the best he could, his limbs feeling heavy and boneless. He was grinning in the dark. He couldn't help it.
“Well,” he said, his dry throat turning his voice hoarse, “that was new.”
Frederick laughed shakily.
“Maybe for you it was. It's been a while for me, but that certainly wasn't new.”
“Shut up,” Will said, scooting forward to capture the man's laughing mouth with his own. They both tasted salty with sweat, and Will swore he could taste his own aftershave on Frederick's tongue. Frederick slung an arm around his waist, pulling them closer together, insinuating one of his legs between Will's own.
They fell asleep like that. Will didn't even feel himself drifting off, but somehow he knew when it happened. All he could feel was Frederick's arm around him, and the heat of their bodies pressed together. He closed his eyes, letting the darkness take hold of him and carry him away.
He didn't dream.
For the first time in years, Will Graham, slept through the night with a clear head.
so yeah that was actually my first time writing smut
hopefully it wasn't too awful
(i also know a lot of the fandom is really attached to sub!Chilton so if you finished reading to the end and didn't crap out on me when you realised that was not where i was going with this then i really appreciate that, thanks for sticking around)
Chapter 16: Even Stevens
moving ahead with the plot now, setting the stage for future events
lots of little scenes, rather than huge blocks of conversation this time. hopefully it all fits and doesn't seem too crammed.
For a moment, Will didn't know where he was.
Why was the mattress so firm? Why was his pillow so lumpy? And what the hell was on his chest?
Will opened his eyes slowly, his vision still blurry with sleep, and came face to face with the pink, whiskered nose of Butterball.
It took a moment to focus. She was wide awake, sitting squarely in the middle of his chest. Her amber eyes stared unblinkingly into his own. Will blinked several times, not entirely sure how to proceed. If she were a dog he could have simply lifted her under the arms and rolled her to the side. But Butterball was not a dog. She was a cat, and cats were tricky. And sharp. Already he could feel the tiny pinpricks of her claws flexing into his collarbone, daring him to try and move her. It was a challenge he was extremely hesitant to accept.
Will looked around, hoping for a clue or a tool that he could use to escape, but stopped when he turned his head to the left and caught sight of the man sleeping next to him.
How the fuck does his hair still look good?
It was beyond the point of reason now. After what they'd done last night – Will felt the heat rush into his face just thinking about it – Frederick should have been a complete mess. Will was. He could practically feel the knots forming the in place of curls on the back of his head. His skin was sticky with old sweat. Thankfully he'd managed to slip out of his boxers in the night, avoiding a bigger, more uncomfortable mess in the morning. Frederick appeared to have kicked off his sweatpants as well. The blankets were low enough on his hips that Will could see the dark patch of coarse hair creeping up from the V of his hips. And then there was the scar.
Every time Will saw it, it looked darker and larger than he remembered it being. In the faint light of the morning it was a bright, livid red. Perfectly straight, neat and surgically precise. It felt wrong to think that Abel Gideon had done a good job, but he really had.
Will looked from Frederick's scar to his face.
The man was still sleeping, his arm curled up under his head, cheek squished against the pillow. His lips were parted, his warm breath lightly ghosting over Will's face. They were close enough for Will to see the fine, tiny lines at the corners of his eyes. The barest hints of silver in his hair and beard. His brow was knitted together slightly, as though he was thinking deeply even in dreams. Will wondered what he could be thinking about.
As though sensing the eyes on him, Frederick shifted slightly. The covers slipped even lower on his hips and he reached down, clumsily pulling them up to his chest. Will smirked.
“Are you awake?” he murmured softly, just in case he wasn't. Frederick grunted.
Will laughed. His chest shook enough to upset the cat laying on it. She opened her mouth and hissed at him. Will immediately stopped.
“Butter, stop,” Frederick grumbled, reaching out without opening his eyes, wrapping his hand around the cat's middle and scooping her off of Will. She mewled softly in protest, jumping down as soon as he let her go. Will rolled over onto his shoulder, wincing at the twinge in his back. He was facing Frederick now, who was still pretending to be asleep. Will scooted closer.
“How did you sleep?”
“Feel like making breakfast?”
“Why are you doing this.”
Will laughed again. He was almost giddy with sleepy glee. Any awkwardness or uncertainty he might have anticipated had failed to manifest itself. He was warm, and in bed, and lying next to someone he cared about. And it wonderful.
His laughter was cut off by Frederick rolling forward and kissing him. It was slow and sloppy, and Will was still getting used to the scratchiness, but he smiled into it. Frederick hummed against his lips.
“I slept fine,” he said, pulling away, taking a moment to stretch his arms over his head. “Better than I have in months.”
“Good. Me too.”
Will watched the tendons tighten in Frederick's throat as he stretched, the muscles shifting under his skin. The room was relatively dark. The thick, heavy curtains hanging over the window were doing their job and blocking out most of the sunlight. They glowed warmly, letting in just enough to see by. In this light, Frederick's profile was magnificent. Will stared, and kept staring.
It hit them then, really hit him, that he was in bed with a man.
A man with whom he had spent the night. A man that he had pleasured, and been pleasured by. They, two men, had fallen asleep embracing each other and now here they were, kissing each other good morning. In the back of his mind a man was yelling, in a voice that sounded uncomfortably like his father's. Will shut it out immediately. There was nothing wrong with this, and absolutely nothing that he should be ashamed of. He was safe, and he was happy. He wasn't going to apologise for that. Not to the memory of a dead man, and not to anyone.
He reached out and rested his hand on Frederick's arm, just wanting to feel the warmth of him. Frederick looked at him, his face half obscured by shadow, and smiled.
“Breakfast sounds good, actually,” he mused. “How about omelettes?”
“Perfect. You wanna shower first or can I?”
“Hmm, you go ahead. I need to feed the cat.”
To prove his point, Butterball meowed loudly from by the door. Both men laughed. Frederick flipped the blankets back and swung his feet onto the flung, groaning groggily. Will made to turn on the light.
“Leave the light off,” Frederick said, softly.
“Why?” Will asked, confused.
“Because I asked you to.”
He stood, letting the covers fall away. He kept his back carefully turned to Will, and something in Will's mind clicked.
“Is this about your scar?” he asked gently, knowing he was right when there was a hitch in Frederick's steps. “Frederick, I've already seen it. It's fine.”
“You weren't supposed to see it,” the man snapped, sounding more awake than he had moments ago. He yanked open the top drawer of the battered old dresser and pulled a shirt over his head, straightening it roughly. He grabbed a different pair of sweatpants from a pile on the floor and tugged those on as well. Will watched in silence, his hand still hovering by the lamp. Frederick glanced at him while knotting the drawstring on his pants.
“Are you going to shower or not?” he asked, his voice softer than before. Will sat up.
“Frederick-” he started, but was cut off.
“Will, don't. I don't want to talk about it right now. I want to feed the cat and make breakfast, and we can talk about it later. But not now. Alright?”
It was too dark to be sure, but he thought Frederick slumped a little in relief.
By the time Will got out of the shower the bed had been neatly made. His shirt and soiled boxers had been dropped into a hamper that he didn't remember owning, and all the pets were chowing down on the bowls of food that had been set out for them. He dressed quickly, in a nice button up and a pair of well fitting jeans. His phone was flashing at him from beside his bed downstairs. Will was reading the text when Frederick came downstairs, also washed and dressed.
“New case?” he asked, combing his fingers back through his hair. Will shook his head.
“No, it's from Freddie Lounds,” he said with distaste. “She wants to meet with me again. Go over some more details for her big story.”
“Have fun with that.”
“Thanks for the support.”
“You're the one who got involved with her in the first place, against my advice, if you'll recall. Support is about all I can offer at this point.”
Will closed the distance between them in a few short strides, wrapping his hand around Frederick's waist and pulling him into a kiss.
“And I appreciate your support,” Will said, resting their foreheads together. Frederick was blushing slightly. Not so forward in the daylight, apparently. Will smiled, and was leaning in to kiss him again when his phone went off. He looked down at it and grimaced.
“This one is from Jack.” He read over it quickly. “They found a couple bodies in a ravine, he wants me to come take a look.”
“When do you have to be there?”
His phone buzzed, again, as he was holding it. A single word filled the next message.
Will held up the phone to show Frederick, who frowned.
“I guess that means no omelettes, then.”
“Guess so. Sorry.”
“No, no, it's fine,” Frederick said, pulling away. “I'll just whip something up for myself. Toast, maybe. Use up all that disgusting white bread you keep buying. What do you want for supper?”
“Oh, um. Actually I was, uh... Hannibal invited me over for dinner, with him. And Alana. I already said I'd go, so...”
Frederick stared at him, eyebrows raised. Will shrugged apologetically. The other man looked away idly, sighing.
“Well, alright then,” he said, crossing his arms loosely over his chest. “You've got your day all planned out. I'm sure I'll think of some way to keep myself entertained. I think there's a Mythbusters marathon coming on later today, anyway.”
Will smirked, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans.
“Try not to spend the whole day sitting around,” he reminded gently. “It's not good for you.”
Frederick waved his hand dismissively, turning and wandering into the kitchen. Will walked over to the door and pulled his coat off the coat hook, shrugging it on. His keys were still in his pocket where he'd left them, along with his wallet. He tugged his boots on and laced them, then stood and peered back around the corner into the kitchen. Frederick was closing up the bag of white bread.
“I'll be back before ten, probably,” he told him. The man made a humming noise of acknowledgment but didn't turn around.
Will left feeling guilty, helpless, and more than a little worried about the day ahead of him.
The bodies in the ravine turned out to be one single body, technically. The half-decomposed corpse of a pair of conjoined twins was found in the trunk of a partially submerged sedan, stinking to high heaven and not nearly as interesting as Jack had expected it to be. The case was passed to the local PD, and Will missed out on morning-after breakfast for no good reason at all. It was still well past eleven by the time Jack let him leave. His appointment with Freddie was at one. He had time.
The truck was low on gas as he headed back to Baltimore, so he stopped at the first pump he saw. He was slotting the nozzle into the tank when he remembered something.
Will flushed bright red.
He'd bought condoms before. He'd been buying them since he was sixteen, for Christ's sake, there was no reason to be this embarrassed about it. He glanced at the convenience store. The cashier looked like a twenty-something kid, bored out of his mind and resting heavily on the counter. No big deal. Will took a deep breath and started walking before his resolve could fail him.
The inside of the store was just as grubby as the outside. The attendant didn't even look up when he walked in. Will headed straight to the aisle of interest, not going to do the whole just-looking-around routine. He could do this.
The aisle was near the back of the store, conveniently placed next to the liquor racks. Will shuffled his feet awkwardly, blown away by the sheer variety.
Different sizes were one thing, but different colours? Different flavours ? Ridged, lubed, un-lubed, ultra-thin, latex, non-latex, vibrating. What the hell where people supposed to do with fucking vibrating condoms. How did that even work? Will picked the box off the shelf and frowned at it. The words “for her pleasure!” were printed in a prominent, swooping font near the bottom on the box. He grimaced and put it back. He wasn't sure Frederick would appreciate that very much.
But what would Frederick appreciate? What would he appreciate?
I'm not fucking you without a condom.
Will blushed again, ducking down and pretending to look closer so the cashier wouldn't see. Frederick had phrased that very deliberately. “Fucking you,” as in he would be the one doing the fucking, and Will would be the one being fucked. Will didn't quite know how to feel about that. He'd never even thought about it, really, he simply assumed... Well.
A colourful box at eye level caught his attention. Will squinted at it.
A fucking variety box.
It was a fucking variety box of condoms, in different colours and flavours and all the other stuff, and it was on sale. He grabbed it and straightened up.
Okay. One thing down. Now what.
On the top shelf, a row of multicoloured bottles of lubricants stared back at him, answering his question. Will eyed them warily.
He'd had a very bad experience with one of those hot-to-cold massage gel things, one that he was not willing to repeat. He read the labels carefully, considering. A few had the words “for her” stamped on them, which ruled them out immediately. One was specifically for use with personal massagers and toys, which Will did not own, and one was the dreaded warming-cooling kind. Will shuddered as he looked at it. That left one option. It was unscented and unflavoured and that was perfect. Will grabbed it and tucked it under his arm, ready to leave and not have to think about this anymore. He'd taken a step back toward the register when he thought of something else.
Will grabbed yet another box off the shelf and headed to the front of the store. He dumped his products on the counter top and didn't look at the cashier as he payed with cash. He took the bag, shoved the receipt into his pocket, and went back to the car. Frederick better fucking appreciate this...
“You didn't answer my question.”
“No, I didn't.”
“I hope you understand that the reason you're here, specifically, is to answer my questions, Will.”
Freddie Lounds was sitting cross-legged on the sofa in her motel room, tape recorder in hand, glaring at Will from across the room. He was lounging against the window frame, staring over his shoulder at the cars driving past on the highway. Freddie was becoming increasingly irritated with him. And that was good. He needed her on edge for this to work.
“What's that supposed to mean?” she asked, tilting her head to the side. Will glanced at her without turning his head.
“You're getting a story out of this, Freddie,” he calmly. “But what am I getting out of it? Why should I just tell you everything, and trust that you'll publish my words in context without twisting them around to suit your agenda?”
Freddie pressed her lips together.
“You promised me a story, Mr. Graham. Exclusive rights to your story, in exchange for a favour. I held up my end of the bargain, now it's your turn. If you're so unhappy about it, then why are you here?”
Will shrugged, smirking.
“The pleasure of your company?”
He chuckled, straightening up.
“I've answered plenty of other questions today, Miss Lounds. I'm sure you can cobble something together for the next chapter in your book. If you want to write about Alana Bloom, talk to Alana Bloom. I'm not going to speak for her.”
Freddie stood up as he headed for the door, reaching it before him. She tossed him his coat, and he shrugged it on with difficulty. One of the sleeves was inside out, and cuff of his shirt bundled up uncomfortably inside of it. He was fixing the problem when Freddie started speaking.
“'One bottle of Trojan Continued Silkiness Lubricant, $18.99. One Durex Pleasure Pack, $7.95. One box of-'”
Will lunged forward and snatched the crumpled receipt out of her hand, hastily stuffing it into the pocket of his jeans. Freddie was staring at him open mouthed, eyebrows raised, and he was definitely red in the face. After a moment, her face split into a grin.
“Well, well, Mr. Graham. Looks like someone's got a busy weekend planned.”
“My weekends are none of your business, Freddie,” he snapped, angry with himself for being so careless. “And you're not going to write about this. Any of it.”
“Aren't I? The tape's still rolling.”
Will stomped over to the coffee table and grabbed the recorder from where she'd dropped it, holding it high over his head and pressing the reset button while she scrambled over the back of the couch to reach him. Too late. He smiled at her furious expression, dropping the now empty recorder into her hands.
“Now we're even,” he said nastily, backing towards the door. He closed it in her face. Whatever she shouted at him was surprisingly muffled through the thin motel door, but he didn't care. He left with a spring in his step. Anything that involved pissing off Freddie Lounds was energy well spent. It served his agenda as well, of course. But that didn't make it any less fun.
It had over a month since the last time Will had seen Alana Bloom.
She was as lovely as ever, an Hannibal's scent clung to her like a shroud. She hung close to him when they showed Will into the dining room, her fingertips light on the older man's arm. The gesture did not go unnoticed. Will watched them both, their minute interactions, and noted at the lack of jealously he felt. Maybe a week ago he would have felt something. But now...
She had moved on, and so had he.
Hannibal had pulled out her chair for her, and poured them both champagne before returning to the kitchen. Alana's attitude toward him was cool but polite. Not that he expected anything less. They hadn't spoken at all since her visit to his home when he got out of the hospital. But he knew enough about the current situation to understand where they stood.
Dinner was an interesting affair.
His mask was carefully in place tonight. The face he wore in Hannibal Lecter's presence looked much like his own, but there were subtle differences. The tightness around his eyes, and the coldness that he allowed into them. The height at which he held his chin. The set of his lips. He'd practiced this carefully, letting it sink in and become a part of him. It was easy to slip on and off during their sessions. But he wasn't just performing for Hannibal today. Alana was another witness to his false image, one that he had to watch carefully. Playing Freddie Lounds was one thing. It was another thing entirely to play Alana Bloom.
But Freddie had done exactly as he expected her to. She'd gone to see Alana, which gave Will an advantage.
“It's just hard to know where you are with each other,” Alana said, looking between him and Hannibal, her eyes narrowed. It wasn't quite suspicion. Not the way he needed it to be yet, but there was a definitely curiosity. An interest. It would take another push or two, Will reckoned.
“We know where we are with each other,” he replied, smiling. Hannibal looked at him, with the same cool intensity that had been brewing behind them since they had shared their first “proper” meal together. “Shouldn't that be enough?”
Alana looked at them, both of them, noting the significance of his words but not understanding it. Hannibal smiled, lifting his glass to his lips.
“Better the devil you know.”
Will worked very hard to keep his expression neutral.
The conversation turned idle past that point. Will asked Alana about her work, which she was hesitant to answer, and Hannibal explained that he was writing a new composition. The connection between he and Alana was obviously. From the way she leaned toward him, and the knowing glances, the attraction was blatant. It was still a wonder to Will that these things didn't bother him. She'd made her choice, and for all intents and purposes it had worked out for the better. For now.
He noticed, however, that as much attention as Alana paid to Hannibal, Hannibal was also paying to him.
Will had never paid it much mind before. Never really thought anything of it, the way Hannibal looked at him or the distance between them. Some people were poor judges of personal space. But recently, since the incident with Randall Tier, Will had been more receptive of Hannibal's affections. Letting him stand too close or stare too long. These things that had seemed out of place to him before now took on an entirely new connotation. Will was familiar with the gleam in Hannibal's eye, because it was the same way that Frederick looked at him over the breakfast table. It was a dangerous game he was playing, and this flirtation only upped the ante. It was a risk. A big risk, but one that he was willing to take. Maybe he'd be more prepared for it given his new-found relationship. It certainly wouldn't hurt.
After dinner, which was admittedly excellent, it was very apparent that Alana would not be going back to her own house that night. She said her goodbyes to Will and remained seated on the settee while Hannibal escorted him to the door.
“Thank you for inviting me over,” Will said courteously, zipping up his coat. “Dinner was delicious, as usual.”
“Please, you flatter me. It's always a pleasure to see you, Will.”
Hannibal's hand was on his forearm, a light, familiar touch. Will smiled.
“It was good to catch up, unprofessionally,” he said, inclining his head deliberately. A small, brief smile flashed across Hannibal's face.
“I was most interested to hear about your conversations with Miss Lounds,” he murmured, quiet enough that Alana wouldn't hear. He took a deep breath. “Perhaps I will take up her offer as well. It would be a most enlightening experience, I think.”
Will's blood ran cold. He smirked.
“I think Freddie would appreciate the opportunity to hear from you directly,” he lied, taking a step toward the door. Hannibal's fingers tightened around his wrist.
The man was looking at him oddly, something that Will didn't quite recognise playing around behind his eyes. Will stared at him questioningly. He didn't try to pull away or step back. Hannibal looked like he wanted to say something, but whatever it was died on his lips. He released Will's arm.
“Good night, Will,” he said, stepping forward to open the door. “I look forward to seeing you at our next session.”
“As do I. Goodnight, Dr. Lecter.”
Will left as quickly as he dared. His hands were shaking as he cranked up his car, his grip white-knuckled on the steering wheel. He thought of Frederick, of kissing him goodbye so many hours ago. Of the way Hannibal's eyes gleamed at their parting.
He smelled him, Will thought, absurdly. He could smell him on me.
He couldn't have. It was ridiculously, he absolutely could not have done that. They were careful. Will had showered, he'd worn clean clothes, he'd done everything right. No one knew anything. Frederick was safe. Nothing to worry about.
Not about that, anyway.
Freddie Lounds, however, was another matter entirely.
Will would have to make a phone call or two when he got home.
Chapter 17: Relax
Will pulled up to his house at nine-forty five. He sat in the driveway and pulled out his phone, punching in the number Freddie had given him. It went straight to voicemail. Will cleared his throat.
“Freddie, it's Will Graham. I want to apologise for today, for the way I behaved. You're right, I need to keep my end of the bargain. Could we meet again tomorrow? Since you published my address on the internet I assume you know where I live. Come by the house around noon, if you can. Bye.”
He made sure the message went through, then hung up. He hoped she would come. Rather, he hoped she would come in time. It might already be too late for that.
Alana might keep Hannibal busy for tonight, though. That would give Freddie some extra time.
Will got out and was about to close the door before he remembered the bag he'd stuffed under the passenger seat that morning. The plastic caught and tore on the underside of the seat when he pulled it, and Will had to wrangle it carefully to avoid ripping the whole thing open. He clutched it to his chest when he finally got it, feeling flushed, and marched up to the house.
Frederick came down the stairs as he was kicking off his boots.
“Hey,” he said simply, leaning against the wall. Will flashed him a nervous smile.
“How was dinner?”
“Fine,” Will said, swapping the bag to his other hand while he shucked his coat off. “Hannibal served a whole pig, with an apple in its mouth.”
“You're joking. Even he's not that pretentious.”
“Never underestimate Hannibal Lecter. I felt like I was at a renaissance fair. It was delicious, though.”
“And how was Dr. Bloom?”
Will walked forward, stopping just in front of Frederick. He didn't miss the note of jealousy in the man's voice. Alana had come up in conversation many times during their sessions together in the hospital, and Will had made plain his attraction at the time. But that was then. This was now. He leaned forward, angling his head, kissing Frederick softly on the lips without touching him. When he pulled away, he stared at Frederick seriously.
“She thought the pig was stupid, too.”
Frederick smiled, despite his obvious efforts not to.
He leaned forward himself, stepping closer and putting one of his feet between Will's own. His kiss was deeper, and slower. Will closed his eyes, hesitant to break away. He could taste the tang of orange juice on Frederick's tongue, one of his favourite before-bed beverages. He licked his lips when Frederick pulled back.
“What's in the bag?” Frederick asked, noticing it for the first time. Will blushed.
“Oh, I, um, got some stuff. F-for us. To- you know...”
He raised his arm, intending to hold it out for Frederick to inspect, but the tear in the plastic finally gave way. The contents of the plastic bag spilled to the floor at their feet. Frederick raised his eyebrows.
He stooped, picking up the blue bottle that lay face down next to his foot. He stared at it, then looked at the boxes. And then he looked at Will.
“Well, you certainly came prepared.”
Will could feel his ears burning. He was a blushing, stammering wreck five minutes after getting home. This was ridiculous.
“I didn't know w-what to get, so I just-”
Will nodded curtly. Frederick laughed. He reached forward and curled a hand around the back of Will's neck, pulling him down for a kiss that left him gasping. When their lips separated, there was a distinctive gleam in Frederick's eyes. He pressed the bottle into Will's hands and took a step back, bending to pick up the boxes on the floor. He handed these to Will as well, holding on to his hand for a moment.
“Take these upstairs and wait for me,” he said softly, not breaking eye contact. “I'll be up in a minute. Get comfortable.”
Will nodded mutely, unsure what else to do. His mouth had gone very dry, and it was all he could do not to drop the materials that had been handed to him. He hurried up the stairs, almost tripping over his own feet on the top step, and made his way to Frederick's bedroom at the end of the hall. The door was closed, presumably to keep the dogs out, and Will let himself in. It looked much as it had when he left it that morning.
God, was it only that morning? Was it only the night before that they...?
Will dropped the stuff on the bed and didn't look at it. Not knowing what to do next, he stood and wrung his hands.
Was this happening? Was what he thought was happening really happening? He and Frederick, were they really going to... to do this? What they did last night was one thing. That was just touch. But this. Oh, God.
Should I undress? Will thought, glancing uncertainly at the door, or will he want to do that? Should I lay down? Am I overthinking this?
He looked at the bottle of lube on the bed, sitting there plain as day, staring at him, and swallowed. Frederick said to get comfortable. Was he supposed to lie down? No, no, that would be too tacky. He glanced at the door. What was taking Frederick so long? What was he doing?
Will fiddled with the buttons of his shirt. If he was supposed to be comfortable, it would have to go. He took off his socks as well, for good measure, then sat down on the edge of the bed and waited.
He heard Frederick coming up the stairs several minutes later. He closed the bedroom door behind him, and turned to look at Will in amusement.
“You don't look very comfortable,” he teased. And he was right. Will was seated on the very edge of the bed, his back straight as a ruler, hands clenched into tight fists on his knees. He blinked, wide eyed, at Frederick and let out a shaky laugh.
“I didn't know what to do,” he said honestly, as Frederick came to sit on the bed beside him. The other man looked at him consideringly.
“Well, what do you want to do?”
That's the million dollar question, now, isn't it?
“I w- I don't-” He took a deep breath, taking a moment to compose himself and consolidate his thoughts. He tried to calm down, to let the tension drain out of his body. Unclenching his fists was the first step. He took Frederick's hand in his own. “I want you.”
And he meant it. This whole thing, this entire experience was new for him. And Will Graham wasn't one to ease in to things. All or anything, all at once or never at all. If they didn't do this now he'd just work himself up into a fit of nerves and anxiety and probably ending up saying something stupid and ruining it all. No. He didn't want that. What he wanted was...
He leaned back against the head of the bed, pulling Frederick with him by the hand. His kissed him, closing his eyes. Frederick settled on top of him, their bodies barely brushing together, connected only at the lips. Will moaned softly as Frederick ran a hand down his chest. He felt foolish now for having taken his shirt off. He should have left it for Frederick to do.
“Don't you want the lights off?” he asked, remembering their conversation this morning. Frederick shook his head.
“No. I want to be able to see what I'm doing.”
Will nodded, swallowing, and laid back against the pillows. His whole body was flushed and tense, and they hadn't even started yet.
“Will,” Frederick said, softly, “We really don't have to do this.”
Will opened his eyes.
Frederick was staring down at him in concern, one hand holding himself up while the other rested flat against Will's stomach, just above the waist of his jeans.
“If you're not comfortable with this, we can stop. We don't have to do anything. We can just go to sleep if you want,” he said, sitting back on his knees. “I know you're not- I know this is new for you. I'm not going to rush you into something that you're not ready for.”
Will stared at him. His heart was still pounding, but Frederick's words and the look on his face had somewhat reassured him. He sat up.
“I want to try this,” he said quietly, taking Frederick's hand in his. “I want- I want to do this with you. If I need to stop or anything I'll say so, but... I want to try.”
Frederick looked at him hard, his eyes flicking back and forth between Will's eyes. He seemed satisfied with whatever he found there.
“Lie back,” he said, and Will complied, butterflies in his stomach. Frederick leaned over him again, kissing him roughly into the pillows. His nimble fingers quickly undid the button and zipper of Will's jeans, slipping under the waist band and slowly pulling them down his hips. Will lifted himself slightly, making it easier to slide them off. His boxers stayed on for now, but just barely. He gasped when Frederick cupped him through the thin fabric.
“I need you to tell me if it's too much,” the man said, nipping at his lower lip. “Tell me what you don't like, and what you do. Can you do that for me, Will?”
Will nodded, taking a deep breath. Frederick's tone was calm and reassuring, his hand firm against the growing hardness in Will's shorts. His jeans were pulled low on his thighs. He shifted slightly, trying to writhe out of them, but Frederick was still sitting between his knees. Understanding Will's intentions he scooted back, dragging the denim with him. Will's jeans fell to the floor with a soft thump of finality. His shirt was off, though his boxers were still on, and he felt very exposed. Frederick was still fully dressed. A pair of his own slacks, and one of Will's shirts that was just a bit too small for him. He made no move to disrobe himself. He returned to his previous position between Will's legs and pressed a kiss to his collarbone.
“We're going to do this slow, okay?” he murmured, dragging his lips up to Will's throat. “You need to relax.”
Will let out a shaky breath. Frederick was right, of course. He was too wound up and tense. Everything was fine here, they were going slowly, it was all under control.
Frederick's hand moved from his hip, sliding slowly across his stomach, fingers tugging at the fabric of his boxers. He pulled them down, slowly, until the elastic was bunched around his thighs. Will was completely exposed now, every inch of laid bare to the open air for Frederick to see. He shivered slightly as the man's lips worked their way back over his jaw.
“A-aren't you going to get undressed?” Will asked, stammering as Frederick dragged his thumb over the groove of his hip. The other man chucked.
“Eventually,” he said, placing a kiss on the corner of Will's mouth. “And again, I would like you remind you that are, in fact, allowed to use your hands.”
“Mm, it's fine. Just a suggestion.”
Will put his hands on Frederick's chest and began unbutton his shirt. He was halfway down before the man stopped him.
“On second thought, maybe just don't do anything with your hands. Not yet, anyway.”
Will sheepishly let his hands fall back to his sides. Frederick pulled away suddenly, reaching back behind him. Will caught sight of the blue bottle in his hand and froze. Frederick was picking at the plastic safety seal around the lid.
“I should've opened this before,” he muttered, frowning at at. Will took another deep breath, trying to calm down. It was just a bottle. It wasn't going to hurt him. It was fine. Frederick clearly knew what he was doing. He finally got the plastic off and flicked it lazily onto the floor before popping the lid open. He squeezed a moderate amount of the thin, clear substance into his palm, then closed the bottle and set it back on the bed beside him. He wrapped his hand lightly around Will's cock. Will hissed.
“Cold,” Will said, when Frederick startled. “Just cold.”
Frederick stroked him leisurely, just enough to get him panting, before moving his hand down to cup his balls. And then, his hand moved even lower. Will's breath hitched in his throat.
“Okay, this is going to feel weird,” Frederick said, pulling back far enough to look at him, “and then it's going to feel good. But it's definitely going to feel weird first.”
Will nodded, understanding.
Frederick's finger brushed against the soft, sensitive flesh of his entrance again, then pressed firmly into it. Will bit his lip.
“How's that?” Frederick murmured, watching him carefully. Will looked everywhere but his face.
“Weird,” Will said, inhaling sharply as the finger pressed deeper. It was slicked with lube, but there was definite resistance. Frederick tutted.
“Will, you really need to relax. It'll make this a whole lot easier for the both of us. Take some deep breathes and try to calm down. I won't do anything until you tell me you're ready.”
And so Will Graham nodded and laid his head back into the pillows, sprawled out in his bed with another man's finger up his ass, and tried to breathe.
“Just go,” he said, staring up at the ceiling. “Just do it.”
“I'll get used to it as it happens, okay? Otherwise we're gonna have to keep stopping every time you move and we'll be here all night. So just- just keep going.”
Frederick looked at him dubiously. Then he pulled away entirely, yanking Will's boxers down and completely off, adding them to the pile on the floor.
“Bend your knees a little,” he said, and Will did as he was told, which had the effect of pushing his hips out. He felt very exposed like this, but there wasn't much he could do about it now. This was happening. This was happening, to him, and he was ready.
Frederick was kneeling between his spread legs, using one hand to hold himself up while the other trailed along the inside of Will's thigh. He stopped, the edge of his hand barely ghosting against Will's cock, then dipped it down and eased his finger in to the knuckle. Will bit down on his lip and whimpered.
Slowly and carefully, Frederick began to work his finger in and out, stretching and teasing at the tight ring of muscle. Will did his best to relax and calm down, taking one deep breath after another. It didn't hurt, precisely, but it did feel... unusual. And it certainly wasn't unenjoyable. The more he loosened up, literally and figuratively, the better it felt.
“See?” Frederick said, when Will let out a small sigh of contentment. “I told you it was better if you relaxed.”
“It still feels weird.”
“Hmph. Just wait. And you might want to take a deep breath.”
Frederick added another finger.
Will gasped sharply, more out of surprise than anything else. Frederick kissed him, distracting him as the two digits worked together, opening him up. Will grabbed the man's shoulder, hating that it was fabric he touched instead of flesh, and threw his head back. Frederick's fingers flexed and curled and then flexed again. They brushed against something deep inside him. A noise was ripped from his throat, a long, drawn out groan the likes of which he had never made before. Frederick smiled against his jaw.
“That, Mr. Graham, would be your prostate.”
The fingers prodded it again and Will's hips bucked uncontrollably.
“Oh my god,” he gasped. “Oh my g- fuck!”
Frederick slid a third finger inside him, twisting them, working deeper and rougher. Frederick's tongue was in his mouth, his teeth nipping at his lips, his other hand reaching down to grip Will's growing erection.
Will was panting, working his hips in tight little circles, grinding himself down onto Frederick's fingers. He let out a high, pathetic whine when those fingers were suddenly removed.
“Don't stop,” he begged, grabbing at Frederick's wrist. “Please, don't stop...”
“I wasn't going to,” said, his voice low. Will watched as his hands went to the buckle of his pants, finally, finally, moving to remove the layer of fabric the separated them.
Despite their activities the night before, this was the first time Will had actually seen him naked from the waist down. He was very glad he'd thought to buy the extra condoms in a larger size. Frederick's cock was about as long as his own, but thicker and, from the look of it, harder. Suddenly three fingers didn't seem like very much preparation at all.
“Lie back,” Frederick commanded, grabbing his hips and pulling him farther down the bed. Will let himself drop back again, fingers curling tightly in the sheets. His bottom lip was practically shredded from worrying it between his teeth. He watched, breathing hard as Frederick opened the box of condoms and fumbled with the contents. His hands were shaking, too. Once the condom was on he grabbed the bottle of lube and squeezed a generous helping into his hand, stroking himself in quick, short motions. He scooted closer on his knees, draping himself over Will, pressing their bodies together and kissing him deeply.
“Are you sure this is what you want,?” he asked breathlessly, reaching down. Will gasped as he felt something much larger than a finger being pressed against his entrance. “Are you ready?”
Staring up into Frederick's eyes, Will nodded.
He started slow, as promised, pushing forward. There was a brief moment of resistance, and then he was in. Will's mouth fell open.
He moved again, the first proper thrust that hit perfectly against Will's prostate. His back arched, fingers digging into Frederick's shoulder.
“Again,” he gasped, his voice cracking, eyes squeezed tightly shut. “Do that again.”
Frederick complied, sinking his cock deeper inside of him. The other man's head fell forward, resting on Will's shoulders, and Will could hear him swearing softly under his breath.
It didn't take long to establish a rhythm. Each thrust was a little deeper and harder than the last, and Will had figured out just the right way to angle his hips to make fireworks go off behind his eyes. They were both panting and sweating, moaning into each other's shoulders and oh, fuck, Will had never felt so fucking full.
Will's was gripping Frederick's arm hard enough to bruise, clenching his teeth to stop from crying out. He was so close, so fucking close, so close, he couldn't breathe, couldn't-
“Wait,” Frederick hissed next to his ear, grabbing Will's other hand and holding it tightly, clasping their fingers together. “Wait for me.”
Fuck. Oh, fuck.
Will turned his head, capturing Frederick's mouth with his own.
Will held on as long as he could. The pressure was building at the base of his spine, pulsing with every precise thrust, threatening to overtake him. Frederick was murmuring something against his lips but he couldn't understand it, too overwhelmed to even process what language it was in. The other man was close now too. Their foreheads were pressed together, both panting and drenched with sweat. Frederick reached down with his free hand, grabbing Will's cock at the base, pumping quickly and harshly. Will couldn't take it anymore. He came with a howl, his back arching, every muscle in his body tightening and going taut. Frederick came with him, letting out a stream of obscenities in mixed Spanish and English, falling out of rhythm as his hips jerked compulsively. Will could feel his cock throbbing inside of him.
Frederick collapsed on top of him with a groan, unable to hold himself up any longer. Will was gasping for air. His heart felt like it was going to beat its way out of his chest, and it might have if Frederick's heart wasn't trying to beat its way in. It felt like an eternity before Will remembered how to speak.
“Wow,” was what he said first. And then, again, “Wow.”
Frederick grunted something into his shoulder, where his face was now planted, then laughed. He pushed himself up onto his elbows with effort.
“So that wasn't bad,” he teased, smiling lazily. Will balked.
“Is that your professional opinion, doctor?”
“Don't call me doctor when we're in bed,” Frederick said, kissing him lightly. “You were actually my patient at one point. It's unethical.”
Will outright laughed in his face, and Frederick laughed with him. He pulled away and rolled off of him slowly, and Will gasped at the sudden emptiness he left. His come covered both their stomachs, and Frederick looked distastefully down at his soiled shirt
“I'm going to go get cleaned up,” he said, sitting up, careful not to touch anything. “And I just washed these sheets, too...”
Will watched him go with a smile, sitting up himself, wincing slightly. Oh, he was going to be sore in the morning, he just knew it. But for now... for now, he was thoroughly, extremely satisfied.
Will had woken up that morning flat on his back, staring at the ceiling that was slowly becoming familiar to him.
The weight on his chest was not a cat this time. Frederick was lying on his stomach next to him, his arm slung over Will's middle. He smiled for five whole minutes before working up the nerve to try and sneak to the bathroom. Frederick was facing the other way when he climbed back into bed. He pretended to be asleep again until Will wrapped an arm around him and pulled him into his chest, scraping his stubble against the man's ear and whispering good morning. Frederick had woken up pretty quickly after that.
They eschewed breakfast in favour of an early lunch, lazing together in bed until the dogs decided it was time to be fed.
Will had checked his phone to find a text from Freddie Lounds, confirming that she would meet him at the house at twelve forty-five. The clock over the fridge told him it that was currently twelve thirty-two.
He sat at the kitchen table, a glass of water in his hand, while Frederick put away the ingredients that had been a part of their lunch. Will took a sip of his beverage.
“Do you trust me?” he asked quietly. Frederick turned and stared at him.
“Do you trust me?” he repeated. Frederick closed the door of the fridge and crossed his arms.
“Of course I trust you, Will, why would you ask me that?”
Because this could get very ugly if you don't.
“I need you to go upstairs, Frederick. And don't come down until I tell you.”
Will took another sip of water. His throat was very dry, and there was a new weight settling in his stomach. If this didn't work, if it didn't play out just right...
“This is important,” he said carefully, looking at a point just past Frederick's right ear. “I'm sorry, I can't explain further right now. But everything's going to be alright. I just need you to go upstairs and stay there.”
“Will, look at me.”
“I am looking at you.”
“No you fucking aren't. Look at me.”
Will's eyes snapped to Frederick's. He saw confusion there, and concern, but no suspicion. No fear or uncertainty. Good. He worked a small smile onto his face. Frederick did not smile back.
“Tell me what's going on,” the man said, leaning back against the counter. Will risked a quick glance at the clock. Twelve thirty-five. Ten minutes. He wet his lips.
“It's a surprise.”
Frederick's eyebrows shot up.
“A surprise?” he said, sounding wholly unconvinced. Will didn't blame him. It was a flimsy lie, even if it was half true. “I don't know if I like the sound of that. The last time I was surprised, I ended up being framed for murder, so forgive me for being wary of the concept.”
“It's not that kind of surprise.” I hope. “No bodies in the kitchen, I promise.”
Frederick narrowed his eyes at him. Will did his best to make his smile seem, if not genuine, then at least not outright false. Whatever he did, it must have worked. Frederick sighed.
“Fine. I'll go upstairs. Should I bring anything with me? Food, or water? How long should I expect to be up there?”
“Not very long,” Will assured him, glancing at the clock. Twelve thirty-eight.
Frederick went without a fuss.
At twelve forty-six, Freddie's car pulled up in the driveway.
Will sat perfectly still as she walked up to the porch and knocked on the door. The dogs were going crazy, as usual, but he made no attempts to calm them. He heard Freddie try the door before walking over to the window. It wasn't long before her footsteps left the porch.
He stood, cautiously, and watched through the curtains and she picked the lock to his shed. It was time.
He knew hurried out the front door, careful to close it behind him before any dogs got out. He knew what she would find in there. The hydraulic fossil suit that Randall Tier had worn when he broke into his home was hanging from the rafters where he'd winched it, above the large grey tarp that covered Frederick's sports car, unused since he had arrived. He knew she would find it, and knew she would extrapolate from there. All he needed to do was stop her from getting to her phone.
She was picking the lock to the freezer when he silently slipped into the shed. He'd seen the flash from her camera go off as he was approaching. Will didn't expect her to work so quickly.
Whatever she found in the freezer – some part of Randall Tier, no doubt – made her gasp. The lid dropped, and he was standing there. Will closed the shed door while she went for her purse.
“There really is a good explanation for this,” he said, turning around. Freddie was pointing a gun at him. That, at least, he had expected.
“I don't want to hear it,” she said, her voice shaking. Will took a step forward. Her hands were shaking too. Even if she did get a shot off, the chances of her hitting him were slim.
“You're not even a little bit curious?”
“Get away from the door.”
Will took another step forward, through the sheets of safety plastic he'd hung up when he was sandblasting. Freddie's whole body was trembling.
“I can't let you go, Freddie,” he said, and her breath hitched in her throat. “Not until you hear what I have to say. I know you're scared.”
He took another step forward, slowly extending his hand toward her.
“You only have to be scared for a moment longer... Give me the gun.”
Freddie's shot sailed over his left shoulder, miles away from actually hitting him. He dived to the side, rolling over the hood of Frederick's car and hitting the floor, hard. He heard her run around the other side and pull open the shed door, scrambling outside.
Ears ringing, he lurched to his feet and ran after her. She was in heels, she couldn't get that far.
Will reached her car just as she was dialing her phone. Shit.
He drew his arm back quickly, slamming his elbow into the window and shattering it.
Chapter 18: A Damn Good Story
oh my god i'm so sorry to keep you all waiting, i don't even have a good excuse for taking this long to update
Freddie Lounds was kicking and screaming as Will Graham dragged her across his lawn, away from her car and toward the house. He had his elbows hooked under her armpits, holding her in such a way that she couldn't reach back to hit or scratch him. Her hair was in his face, in his mouth and eyes. But she was light, and the adrenaline coursing through his veins made her easy to carry. He almost stumbled when they reached the porch.
“I'm not gonna hurt you,” he grumbled, wrapping one arm firmly around her chest while he groped for the door handle. “Freddie, I'm not gonna hurt you!”
“Let go!” she kept screaming, trying to kick him. She wasn't listening. “Get your fucking hands off me!”
Will grunted as she managed to land a blow against the side of his head. He yanked the door open and hauled her inside, slamming it quickly behind him.
“Freddie, will you please just-”
“What the hell is going-”
Will and Freddie looked up simultaneously.
Frederick was standing halfway down the stairs, staring wide eyed at the scene in the living room. His mouth was hanging open, looking at Freddie, who was looking right back at him.
“Oh my god,” she said, weakly. “Oh my god, you're-”
“Freddie,” Will said, readjusting his grip on her arm, “Meet Frederick. Frederick, this is Freddie Lounds. Say hi.”
“Oh my god,” Frederick said. Will spat a lock of Freddie's hair out of his mouth and looked at her as best he could.
“If I let you go, will you listen? I've got a helluva story for you, Miss Lounds, and I'd rather not have to tie you to a chair to tell it. If I let go, will you run?”
Slowly, Freddie shook her head. She was still staring at Frederick, who was still staring at her, frozen on the stairs. Will loosened his grip. When she didn't immediately bolt for the door, he loosened his grip some more, keeping only the barest lock on her arm. She didn't run. She smoothed her jack and tossed her hair out of her face, but she didn't run. Will took a step back, and held up his hands non-threateningly. He gestured to the sofa.
“Would you like to take a seat?”
Freddie Lounds sat in the middle of the sofa, cupping a mug of hot cocoa between her knees. Will sat in the armchair to her left, closest to the window, his own mug of cocoa resting on the coffee table in front of him, mostly untouched. Frederick was sitting across from him, in the other armchair, sipping his cocoa almost religiously every few seconds, his foot bouncing nervously in front of him. Freddie was staring at him.
Will cleared his throat.
“You get three questions,” he said sternly. Freddie turned to him in outrage.
“Will, that's not fair.”
“I mean it. Three questions, no more. I didn't bring you here for an interview.”
“Then what did you bring me here for?”
She clapped her hand over her mouth, realising. Will smiled.
“You're here because I'd rather have you as a contentious ally than a determined enemy. And I admit this grudgingly, Freddie, but you are very good at your job.” He leaned forward and took a sip of cocoa, glancing at her over the rim of his mug. “Two left.”
Minutes ticked by in silence. Will could practically hear the little cogs working under all that hair, trying to think of the most efficient questions, the best way to word them to wring out as much of an answer as possible. She'd wasted one already. She wasn't about to make that mistake again.
“Do you know,” she started, slowly, choosing her words carefully and deliberately, “for a fact, that Hannibal Lecter is the Chesapeake Ripper?”
Will opened his mouth.
“Yes,” Frederick said. Will and Freddie turned to stare at him. He rested his cup on his leg, setting it down for the first time since it had been handed to him. He swallowed, and stared fixedly at Freddie.
“Hannibal Lecter killed three people in my house, and framed me for their deaths. One of those people was my patient. The other two were FBI agents, who arrived just in time for me to be chloroformed. When I woke up, their bodies were carved up in my kitchen. I'm aware of your reputation, Miss Lounds, I'll assume you've gotten your hands on the crime scene photographs. I didn't do that. He did that. He did that, in my kitchen, he packed my bags for me and told me to run. He let me go because he knew I'd likely be caught and shot on sight on Jack Crawford's orders. The only reason that didn't happen is because he underestimated my ability to think clearly while panicking. Most people do. So far it's only worked in my favour.”
He took a little sip from his cocoa and sat back. Will realised that he was smiling and quickly looked down, composing his face. Freddie had raised her eyebrows.
“You said he told you to run,” she said, glancing at Will, double checking. Asking a question without asking. He nodded, giving her a pass. Frederick grimaced.
“He was wearing some sort of plastic suit,” he said. “Like a- a hazmat suit or something, but it was clear. It covered his shoes and everything. My grandmother used to have plastic covers over all her furniture that squeaked every time you sat down. It looked like that.”
“You never told me that before,” Will said, trying to imagine Hannibal in such an outfit. Frederick shrugged.
“I didn't like thinking about it,” he said nonchalantly. “But if we're giving an interview I might as well include all the details, don't you think?
He took another sip of cocoa. Freddie took a deep breath.
“How...” she paused, thinking. “What's the plan?”
“For what?” Will asked, trying not to stare at the way Frederick's throat worked when he swallowed.
“For catching him. For putting Hannibal Lecter in jail. I'm assuming you do have an actual plan, and I'm that a part of it or you wouldn't have called me here and dragged me across your yard. Was that necessary, by the way, or just fun?”
“That's four questions, Freddie. Which one do you want me to answer?”
She glared at him. “The first one.”
Will smirked and set his cup down again, turning to glance out the window. In the distance, he could see a black SUV coming down the road.
“I do have a plan,” he said, standing up. “And you are a part of it. You have a very special set of skills, Freddie, regardless of how unlikable you and your particular brand of journalism is. You have a niche market. You also have the Ripper's attention, more so than you might realise. And you're the last person anyone would suspect me of working with. Well, the second to last person.”
He looked pointedly at Frederick. The SUV had turned into his driveway. Will straightened his shirt and took a step toward the door.
“Who's that?” Frederick asked, standing as well. Poised to run for the stairs. “Will, what's going on?”
“You said you trusted me,” Will said, turning to look at him. He didn't care what Freddie Lounds saw on his face. He needed Frederick to see it too.
“I- I do,” the man said, glancing nervously at the front door. The car's engine had stopped. “But-”
“I need you to trust me, Frederick,” he said softly. “It's going to be fine. Just stay where you are, okay? Everything's going to be alright.”
Still looking ready to bolt for the door, Frederick nodded in understanding. Outside, a car door slammed shut. Will spared one last glance at Freddie before turning and stepping out of the house.
Jack Crawford was striding across the lawn.
“What the hell happened?” he demanded loudly, pointing at the broken window of Freddie's car. Will stepped in front of him, blocking him from going in the house or seeing into the windows, holding up his hands defensively.
“Jack, I'm going to explain everything, but I need-”
“I got a message from Freddie Lounds that's just a recording of her screaming,” Jack said, cutting off. “And then you call and tell me I need to drive out here, alone, and not tell anyone where I'm going. You're damn right you're going to explain everything. Where is she? What did you do?”
“She's fine, she's inside. Jack, I need you to give me your gun.”
Jack stared at him.
“I'm not gonna use it,” Will said quickly. “I won't do anything with it, it's just better if you don't have it. Leave it in the car, leave it out on the porch, I don't care. Just don't bring it into the house.”
“Why would I do that?” Jack asked, squinting at him.
“Because if you don't then you're going to be tempted to use it, and I would really prefer if you didn't. Please, Jack, just leave it out here. You can have it back when you leave, after you've heard everything and know what's going on, but I'm not gonna trust your judgment going in. Please.”
The last word came out more desperate than he intended. A plead. He could just see it, Jack walking into the house and seeing Frederick, not even thinking as he pulled his gun from his pocket, blind with rage as he pulled the trigger. Will couldn't let that happen. Jack was a very strong man, he could hit him and probably fight both of them off if he reacted poorly to the situation, but unarmed they would at least have a chance against him. Something shifted in Jack's eyes. Will didn't know if it was trust or suspicion, but it was enough. Jack nodded. He opened his coat and pulled his pistol from its holster, presenting it heavily to Will. Will took it graciously, almost reverently, and set it on the arm of the bench by the front door. He put his hand on the doorknob, and hesitated.
“One more thing,” he said, turning back to Jack, who was standing very close behind him. “Can you try to let me explain before you start yelling?”
“You think I'm going to yell?” Jack said coldly, raising an eyebrow. Will nodded.
“I know you're going to yell, Jack. Probably a lot. Just... just let me get a few words in first before you do, okay?”
Jack pressed his lips together.
“I don't think I like the sound of this, Will.”
“That's why I took your gun,” Will muttered, pushing the door open and stepping inside. Jack followed him. He looked up, and stopped.
Freddie Lounds was sitting on the sofa, still clutching her cup of cocoa, looking over her shoulder at them in confusion. Standing at the base of the stairs, which he was clearly debating running up, stood Frederick Chilton. He was wide eyed and pale, arms wrapped tightly around himself, staring at Jack Crawford like a deer caught in the headlights. Jack stared back, open mouthed.
Very slowly, he turned to Will.
“What the hell,” he bellowed, pointing a gloved finger at Frederick, “is he doing here?”
Frederick let out a strangled little yelp and took a step backward up the stairs. Will quickly stepped between him and Jack.
“He's been here the whole time,” Will said rapidly, trying to block Jack's eyeline. “Jack, he's been here since he disappeared. He came to me because he knew I was the only one who'd believe him and he needed a place to regroup after what Hannibal did to him. I talked him into staying instead of going on the run or trying to leave the country. He's not the Ripper, Jack. He's innocent. He hasn't done anything wrong.”
“He's been here the whole time?” Jack asked, taking a step forward, glaring over Will's shoulder. “He's been here, with you, and you kept him from me this entire time?”
“Three goddamn months I've been chasing this bastard and you've got him tucked away in your spare room,” he shouted, taking another step forward. Will didn't have to look back to know that Frederick was cringing. “Do you know how much shit I've gotten from the bureau for letting him get away? Do you know how many resources-”
“I tried to tell you to drop it,” Will snapped, squaring his shoulders, not backing down from Jack's onslaught. “I told you, over and over, to let it go, to focus on Hannibal, that those resources were being wasted-”
“Because you knew he was here! You had him the whole time, Will, and you didn't tell me! Why? Why didn't you let me take him in?”
“The same reason I asked you to leave your gun outside,” Will said between clenched teeth. “I don't trust your judgment when it comes to this, Jack, and everything you've said and done so far has proved that I am justified in that distrust. So are you going to sit down and hear the whole story, or do you just want to keep shouting and making incorrect assumptions?”
Will hadn't spoken to him like that since the Angel Maker case, having a meltdown in a filthy back alley while encephalitis ravaged his brain. He had no excuse now, beyond the anger and frustration coursing through his veins. He was tired of not being listened to. Tired of being told when he didn't and didn't know what he was talking about.
Jack stared at him, breathing hard. If he swung, Will probably wouldn't have time to dodge. But Jack didn't hit him. Jack straightened up and took a step back, glancing agitatedly over Will's shoulder at Frederick. He then turned his attention to Freddie.
“Have you been in on this as well?” he asked, in a much calmer voice. Freddie shook her head.
“I just got here.”
“Fine. Fine, Will. I'll hear this. But when it's done, I have the right to make my own decisions about how to proceed, are we clear?”
“Sure,” Will nodded, relaxing his posture. “What happens after is completely up to you. All I want to do is explain. Please, have a seat. Do you, uh, want some cocoa?”
Jack looked at the mugs on the coffee table, then sighed in defeat.
“Yeah. Sure. This better be a damn good story, Will.”
Frederick went first.
He told Jack everything, beginning with his “treatment” of Abel Gideon and ending with his arrival at Will's house nearly three months ago. He described what he'd found at his house, what Hannibal had been wearing, what he'd done to him, and what he'd said. His hands shook in his lap, but he didn't stop talking until he was done.
Will went next, laying out the finer details of the plan, and going over what he'd already done. He left out very little, only omitting the details he felt were best kept secret. The scope of some of his conversations with Hannibal. The night he spent with Margot Verger. The truth about him and Frederick. Jack didn't need to know any of that, and Freddie Lounds sure as hell didn't. But on that front it was probably already too late. He could feel her watching him as he talked, looking between him and Frederick, putting the pieces together, remembering the incriminating receipt she'd picked from his pocket. As long as she kept her mouth shut, he didn't care.
Jack listened quietly, letting his hot chocolate cool, taking everything in. He didn't interrupt or ask for clarification. He didn't call bullshit or try to leave. He didn't even flinch when Butterball leapt into his lap and began shedding all over his slacks. His face was an expressionless mask. Will grew more anxious with every word spoken.
His mouth was dry by the time he got to the actual point. Why Freddie was there, and how she could be of use. What needed to be done. She looked entirely too excited about faking her death, to be honest, but Will tried not the notice the way her eyes lit up at the prospect of planning her own murder. Frederick was fidgeting in his armchair, wringing his hands and glancing nervously at Jack Crawford, unsure what to do now that he'd said his bit. Will wanted to go over and reassure him. Hold his hand and tell him he'd done everything alright, that this would all be over and behind them soon. He clenched his hands into tight fists, unable to do as he wanted. He plowed through his speech. Hopefully he would be convincing enough. Hopefully Jack would agree with him. Hopefully this wouldn't end with all of them being hauled off to jail for obstruction of justice and intent to commit fraud. That... that would not be good.
“What do you need from me?” Jack asked, after a long silence, when it was all out in the open. Will could have hugged him.
“I need this to be kept under wraps,” he said, breathless, trying not to smile. “I need Freddie to be hidden and her death to be convincing. We'll probably need a body from the morgue, either an unclaimed Jane Doe or a research donation from the lab. You'll probably need to get Zeller and Price in on it, they're too good to not notice that something's amiss if you don't. Mostly, Jack, what I need is time. I need Hannibal's trust. I've almost got it, he's so close to letting me in, but this will be the final push. And it has to be perfect.”
“What about Alana?”
“Alana can't know. Not yet. We can't tell her anything. If we do, she'll reject it and blow everything, and it's all over. Hannibal's got her under his thumb. She needs to reach her own conclusions, and then we'll see about telling her the truth.”
“And what about him?”
By “him,” Jack clearly meant Frederick. He was staring at the man across the room, watching him closely. Will frowned.
“What about him?” he asked defensively. Jack took a long sip, finishing off the rest of his cocoa.
“He shouldn't be here, Will,” he said quietly, not taking his eyes off Frederick. “I believe your story, Doctor, I really do, but you're a variable in an equation that I've been trying to balance for over three years. If we bring you in, put you in protective custody but pretend that we've caught the Ripper-”
“No,” Will and Frederick said at the same time. Frederick was pale and his hands were trembling, but Will was shaking for a different reason.
“He's staying here, Jack,” he said with finality. “You're not taking him anywhere.”
Jack looked between them, eyes narrowed. He made to stand up, but Will beat him to it. Frederick stood up as well, almost tripping backwards into the chair. Only Freddie remained seated.
“I can't just let him stay here,” Jack said, towering over Will's living room. Will squared up to him.
“Yes, you can. He hasn't done anything wrong. He's safer here than he'd be anywhere else, no one knew he was here before today. I'm not letting you take him.”
“Letting me? You're not letting me? Will, I respect that you have a job to do here, but so do I, and I think you're forgetting-”
“Chilton should stay here,” Freddie said loudly. Everyone turned to look at her. She shrugged with a nonchalance that didn't entirely meet her eyes. “Will's right, he's been perfectly safe here for two months. The only reason that changed is because Will wanted it to. If you bring him in, Jack, under false pretenses or not, you're still going to ruin his life and his career. We already have a plan. A good plan, that involves me getting a vacation and a chance to crash my own funeral. I think we should do as Will says, because at this point, considering everything that's happened, he's probably our best shot of catching this bastard and putting him away for good. Which is what we're all here for, right?”
In the silence that followed, Will wondered if hell had frozen over. Freddie Lounds had just defended him. That must have had some consequences on the cosmic scale, surely.
But no fire rained from the sky, and no great chasm split the earth. Jack Crawford stared at Freddie, then at Frederick, and then turned his attention back to Will. He took a deep breath.
“Fine,” he snapped. “He'll stay here.”
Behind him, Will heard Frederick gasp in relief. But Jack wasn't through yet.
“When this is all over, though, I really do have to bring him in for a debriefing. The families of those agents deserve answers for what happened to their loved ones, and I think they've been denied that for too long already.”
Will nodded, acquiescing. Jack made a show of putting on his coat, buttoning it up and stuffing his hat back on top of his head. He turned to Freddie.
“Are you riding with me?”
She shrugged, finally standing up.
“I suppose I don't have a choice. Will really did a number on my window, after all. And I can't drive it home, can I?”
“I'll hide your car out back,” Will said, “Patch it up, make sure no snow gets in or anything. Jack can probably get you your stuff from your motel room, right?”
“I'll make all the necessary arrangements. We should go now, though, get everything set up. Miss Lounds?”
Freddie set down her mug and straightened her coat, looking very dignified for someone who'd been dragged out of a car an hour earlier.
She and Jack left without another word. Will watched her climb into the back seat of Jack's SUV, watched them drive off down the road. He didn't close the door until the car was well out of sight. He slumped heavily against the door frame.
From behind him, Frederick rested a hand on his shoulder.
“You really could have warned me first,” he said drily.
Will smiled and turned around.
Frederick was still pale, but his hands had stopped shaking, and he no longer looked like he was ready to sprint for the nearest exit. Will leaned into his touch, sighing.
“I didn't want it to look staged,” he said, leaning back against the closed door. “Convincing Jack was going to be hard enough without us reciting lines back and forth. I think it all worked out for the best, though, don't you?”
“Oh, I dunno. No one's dead and I'm not in jail. I suppose it could have been worse.”
He stepped forward, pressing Will further back against the door, and kissed him deeply. Will, though caught off guard, kissed him back. When Frederick pulled away, he pressed their foreheads together.
“Thank you,” he said quietly. Will blinked, trying to focus on his too-close face.
“What for?” he asked, breathless. Frederick kissed again, softer this time.
“For standing up for me. For letting me stay here. For everything, really.”
Will wrapped an arm around his waist, pulling him closer.
“Well, I couldn't just let them take you away,” he said, grinning. “Not when I was just starting to like you.”
Chapter 19: Midnight
so there's a lot of talking in this chapter and not a lot else
It was past midnight when Will got home again.
Frederick was already asleep, the house dark and still as Will came in the front door. He was as quiet as he could be as he toed off his shoes and hung up his jacket. He was about to climb the stairs when something caught his eye.
There was a lump in his bed.
Much larger than even the largest dogs, or even several dogs put together, he could just barely see the silhouette of it against the bit of moonlight leaking in. He took his foot off the stair and stepped closer, squinting.
Frederick was asleep in his bed.
Will stood very still. Just staring.
There was an odd feeling swelling in his chest, one that for the first time he couldn't explain. It grew and grew, rapidly, making him feel like he was going to burst from the inside out. He could hear Frederick breathing softly, his side rising and falling under the blankets. He had his back to Will, curled on his side and facing the window on the far side of the bed. Will usually slept in the middle. Until recently, picking a side of the bed had been a new concept for him. Not that he minded.
The dogs were scattered in their usual arrangement on the floor around the space heater, most not even bothering to look up as he entered the room. Silently, Will slipped off his shirt and undid his pants, stepping out of them and leaving them bunched on the floor. He carefully pulled the blankets back and climbed into the bed behind Frederick. He winced as the springs groaned under his weight, but the other man didn't stir. Will settled in carefully and pulled the blankets up to his chest, staring at the shape of Frederick's back in the darkness.
There was a good bit of space between them. Will wanted to reach out, wrap an around around the other man and pull him close. But he didn't want to frighten him. Today had been tense. The last thing Frederick needed was a hand snaking out of the shadows and dragging him backwards.
Will had been extremely lucky.
Not just about today, though that was definitely a gamble that could have ended very, very badly. Convincing Jack to go along with everything was a miracle. Convincing Freddie not to press charges was a stroke of good fortune. It had all worked out remarkably well, considering the alternatives.
Both Hannibal and Alana seemed more than willing to believe he'd murdered Freddie Lounds. Which was the point, of course, but from Alana it still stung. Jack's acting had been superb. Though Will was sure the accusatory glare in his eyes wasn't completely for show. The secret was out now. All the effort of hiding Frederick, covering his tracks, careful to leave no trace of their connection in his daily life had been thrown out the window the moment Jack Crawford set foot in the house. It was yet to be seen if it was worth it or not.
Will sighed softly, louder than he meant to. Beside him, Frederick stirred.
“Will?” he said sleepily, trying to sit up. Will put a hand on his arm.
“It's just me. Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you.
Frederick slumped back into the pillow, rolling onto his back, and yawned loudly.
“I didn't mean to fall asleep here,” he said thickly, turning his head to face Will. “I was just going to wait up for you to get home. How did it go?”
“Fine. Dinner was fine.” Will lightly laced Frederick's fingers with his own, scooting closer. “Hannibal made a pun about “slicing the ginger.” Freddie Lounds is officially an entree to him.”
Frederick snorted softly. Everything about him was soft tonight, in the limited light. He must have showered while Will was gone. He could smell the cool tang of peppermint and cucumber from across the bed. He wanted to bury his face in Frederick's neck and breathe him in, and was immediately embarrassed by the thought. He could feel the flush in his face, which only deepened when Frederick rolled to face him fully, twining their feet and ankles together. Will had never really been one for cuddling. But for now, he didn't mind.
“So, what happens next?” Frederick asked, his face close enough that his breath ghosted over Will's face. Will could see the gleam of his eyes in the dark. He sighed.
“Well, Freddie's busy plotting her own death, so we can't really do anything until she and Jack get that sorted out. After that, we have to actually pull it off. And after that, we have to deal with the aftermath. It's all up in the air right now. Alana definitely bought it, though. She's convinced I'm a murderer. Again.”
“Technically you are,” Frederick muttered. Will grimaced.
“Well yeah, okay, but not- not this time,” he said, frowning. Frederick laughed again. He leaned forward to kiss Will in the darkness, but missed, his lips brushing against the side of Will's chin. Somehow, it was even more intimate than if they had connected with their target. He pulled away slowly. Will was smiling. Frederick wasn't.
“I meant it earlier,” he said. “Thanking you. For everything.”
“You don't need to thank me, Frederick,” Will assured him, leaning in for another kiss. The other man pulled away gently.
“Yes, Will, I do.”
Will stared at him, confused. Frederick took a deep breath.
“I haven't forgotten the way I treated you, while you were under my care and before. When I came to you... you didn't have to help me.”
“It was the right thing to do,” Will said, though in his heart he knew that wasn't entirely true. It had felt right at the time. And he certainly didn't regret it. Still, it wasn't the most responsible course of action. Frederick must ave heard something to that effect in his voice.
“I wouldn't have helped me,” he said pointedly. “And I wouldn't have helped you had our roles been reversed. For a long time I couldn't figure out why you let me stay. Were you going to torment me, let me get all cozy and settled in before the abuse started? What sort of retribution would you seek? Not that I thought you could do anything worse than what A-Abel Gideon did.”
Will noticed the stammer, the way he tensed up at his former patient's name. He said nothing. Frederick was silent for a moment.
“I expected something, though,” he continued, quietly. “Those first few nights I lay awake, listening, waiting to hear if you'd creep up the stairs and kill me in my sleep. Waiting for Hannibal himself to step out of the shadows and finish what he started. I kept waiting, and waiting, convinced there was no way you'd simply let me stay here unscathed. Eating your food, lazing on your couch, petting your dogs. I was on edge every minute of every day, always ready to pack up and run, even though I had nowhere to run to. But you never tried anything. You never threatened me. You never acted threatening towards me, or even intimidating. You just... you went to work, you came home, you complimented the meals I cooked up as petty offerings of good faith. You bought me crossword puzzles and shampoo, and you didn't try to feed me to your dogs. For a while I thought it was just an act. One I was determined to crack, to chip away at and expose the rotten core I was convinced was inside. You did snap that once, and I deserved it, but even then you didn't- you didn't do anything. You yelled at me and made me feel like an ass, but I was never in danger. And I didn't get it. I didn't think anyone could be that good, that forgiving, but...”
He swallowed thickly. Will was holding his breath.
“You are,” Frederick said, with wonder in his voice. “You are that good. You were kind to me when you didn't have to be, and I didn't deserve that kindness. I still don't deserve it, really. After everything that I- that I put you through... I'm sorry, Will. I am so sorry, for everything that I've done, the things I said to you, I shouldn't have-”
Will leaned forward and kissed him, hard. Frederick let out a little “mph!” of a surprised as Will's hand snaked around the back of his neck, pulling him close.
“I forgive you,” he said breathlessly, breaking away to speak between kisses. “And you're right. You were an ass. I didn't have to help you. I didn't particularly want to help you, to be completely honest. But if I hadn't-”
He curled his fingers in Frederick's hair and kissed him again, long and slow. Frederick moaned into his mouth. Will drew away slowly, staring at him in the darkness. Their legs were entangled beneath the sheets, and Frederick's hands were on his chest, grasping at his t-shirt.
“If I had turned you in, or let you go, you wouldn't be here right now. And I wouldn't have known that, I would never have even missed you. But knowing what I know know... I don't regret it. I don't regret it at all.”
“Why did you?” Frederick asked, faintly. “Why did you let me stay?”
“I wasn't going to,” he confessed, letting his hand slide out of Frederick's hair to rest on his shoulder. “I was dialing Jack's number as soon as you went upstairs. But I, uh... I heard you in the shower. When you were crying. I couldn't dial after that. I guess I figured that yeah, you were still an asshole. You were manipulative, and arrogant, and self-serving, more than a little ostentatious-”
“Yes, I am aware of my own personality flaws, thank you,” Frederick snapped, but Will could tell he was smiling. He smiled back, chuckling softly, then sobered.
“But you were still a person,” he continued. “I didn't really think about that until that moment. You were just a person and you were scared, and you came to me. I don't know if it was because you trusted me, or if it was because you thought I was the only one who would believe you. But you believed in me, too. Long before Jack did, even when Alana started pulling away, you were there. And you listened. Eventually. You did drug me first, but it got results. You even tried to help, tried to talk to Jack, and I don't think I ever told you how much I appreciated that, so thank you. I know you didn't just do it out of the kindness of your heart. But still. You believed me when nobody else did. I thought the least I could do was give you a chance. I didn't know that- I never thought we would-”
He trailed off, blushing again. Part of this didn't even seem real to him. Laying in his bed, cuddled up with his former psychiatrist, whispering confessions into the still night air. Of all the outcomes he could have predicted when he let Frederick Chilton into his home, the two of them becoming lovers was definitely not one of them.
Is that what they were? The word, even the thought of it, sent not unpleasant shivers down his spine. It didn't seem to fit the bill, somehow. It was better than “boyfriends.”
No. Absolutely not. They were not boyfriends. That was ridiculous, they were grown men and this wasn't high school. Anything but boyfriends. And “partners” sounded too formal, too stiff. Too western. It didn't fit, either.
Whatever they were, whatever label others decided to slap onto them, it didn't matter. They were safe, relatively speaking. They were warm. They were together.
“Turn on the light,” Frederick said quietly.
Will blinked at him in surprise. The clock over his shoulder glowed in blue that it was 1:04 in the morning.
“Just- just do it.”
Frowning slightly, Will pulled away from him and rolled over, fumbling for the lamp on his nightstand. Beside him, Frederick was sitting up. The light clicked on. Both of them immediately groaned and covered their eyes.
“Oh god, that's bright,” Frederick muttered.
“It was your idea,” Will huffed. He'd thrown his forearm over his face to block out the worst of it, but it was only doing so much. He sat up slowly, keeping his face screwed shut, waiting for his eyes to gradually get used to the light. He squinted at Frederick, who was squinting right back at him. A few moments later they're eyes were open, not quite fully, but enough that they could see without pain. Will yawned.
“What are we doing?” he asked, leaning back against the headboard. Frederick wasn't looking at him now. Not directly. He was looking at Will's shoulder, an expression of determination on his face. He shifted onto his knees, resting back on his ankles, and started to pull his shirt over his head. Will reached out a hand.
“Frederick, no,” he said, more awake now. “You don't have to-”
“I want to.”
Will lowered his hand.
Frederick grabbed his shirt from the bottom and tugged it up and over his head, letting it fall onto the bed beside him. Will stared.
He'd seen the scar before, of course. Fleeting glances, or shadowed stares before the sun reached the sky. But this was the first time he'd been expressly permitted to look at it. Frederick wanted him to see it now.
It looked the same at it had before. A long, thin, straight line carved down the center of his abdomen. Surgically precise and well-healed, it gave no hint to the damage that had been done internally. It stood out against the rest of his skin, raised slightly. But smooth, not gnarled and knotted like the bullet wound in Will's shoulder. To the left of it, for the first time Will noticed another scar. It was much smaller, and faded, but it shimmered in the lamplight as Frederick breathed. Will frowned.
“What's that one from?”
Frederick looked down at himself, puzzled, and noticed where Will was looking. His lips twitched into a brief smile.
“Appendectomy, when I was fourteen. I had my tonsils taken out, too, when I was ten. The kidney wasn't the first organ to go, but it is the most sorely missed.”
He looked up at Will, brow knitted together. With his shoulders drawn back and the way he was sitting, he towered over him. He took a deep breath.
“Abel Gideon wasn't the first surgeon to cut into me, but with luck he will be the last. He certainly hurt more than he helped.”
He gestured weakly to his stomach.
“I... I will be scarred like this for the rest of my life, because of him. And, to a degree, because of my own vanity. I can admit that now. As much as it pains me to. My unwillingness to see the truth, or rather, to twist it as I pleased. And now, thanks to that, I can never go to the beach. I can't have pool parties with my nieces, or take them to water parks. I can barely look at myself in the fucking mirror. I could easily retreat into solitude, lock myself away and refuse to look anyone in the eye for fear of the mockery I constantly expect to find there, and often do. But I won't. Not anymore.
“I don't know how this is going to end, Will, this story that we've unwittingly written ourselves into, and I don't know how many pages are left. I don't think there's a lot, to be honest. And I'm not going to be a footnote. I'm not going to be a brief passage in Hannibal Lecter's unauthorized biography. Oh, no, I'm going to be there, front and center, every step of the way until his- his neat, orderly little nightmare world is pulled apart right down to the floorboards. I'm not hiding anymore. The truth is out there now, which doesn't leave me much choice, but the choice I do have will be mine to make. That cringing coward people seem to expect is not me, it has never been me, and it will never be me. I'm not going to hide from the world. I'm not going to hide from him. I refuse to hide from myself.”
His voice had been steadily rising, filling the room with a power Will hadn't expected. His hands were clenched into white-knuckled fists at his side as he stared over the top of Will's head, shirtless from the waist up and breathing hard. Will stared up at him in awe. When Frederick looked down at him, his voice softened.
“I won't hide from you, either.” He swallowed. “I don't think I could ever hide from you, not even in the beginning. Especially not in the beginning, actually. But I'm not going to spend the rest of- the rest of this with the lights off, hiding under the blankets. You let me see you, Will. The least I can do is return the favour.”
Chapter 20: Moth To A Flame
another one on the short side, but i couldn't fit everything i wanted into it without chopping it up and making it
Will Graham pulled the pillow over his head.
He was naked, and tired, and badly in need of a shower. His skin was sticky and sour with day old sweat. There was come on his thigh, and on the bed sheets. He didn't know if it was his or Frederick's – the more likely answer was both – but he knew he would have to do laundry before the day was up. But that would require getting out of bed first. And that was the last thing he wanted to do.
What he wanted was to pull the blankets up over his head and get away from the sunlight streaming in through the curtains. What he wanted was to drift back off into the easy, dreamless sleep that he'd been jolted out of. What he wanted was for that incessant banging to stop before it gave him a fucking headache-
What was the banging? Why was there-
Will opened his eyes.
Someone was knocking on the door.
Will gasped and sat straight up, looking around wildly. The clock told him that it was after noon. Beside him, Frederick was somehow still asleep, splayed on his stomach with his arms tucked up under the pillow. Will shook him roughly.
“Frederick!” he hissed, gathering the blankets around his own waist. “Frederick, wake up!”
The man lifted his head abruptly, blinking.
“Someone's at the door, you have to hide.”
That got his attention. Will cast around for his boxers, for a pair of pants, a shirt, anything, literally any article of clothing would do. Yesterdays jeans were wadded on the floor a few feet away. He lunged for them.
“Just a minute!” he shouted, when the knocking started again. Behind him, Frederick had become tangled in the sheets and fallen out of the bed. Will laughed despite himself, then clapped a hand over his mouth. The knocking only got louder.
“I said just a minute!” he yelled again, yanking his pants up. Frederick crawled around the end of the bed before getting unsteadily to his feet, the sheet wrapped unevenly around his hips. Will moved the side to let his pass, and the other man hastily tiptoed his way up the stairs. A small detachment of dogs bounded after him. Will ran a hand through his hair and threw the comforter haphazardly over the bed to hide the stains. He knew he looked like a fucking mess. He didn't care. He lurched toward the door and yanked it open.
Jack Crawford stood on the other side, fist raised, frowning. Will's mouth fell open.
“Jack,” he said unnecessarily. Jack's eyebrows shot up, taking in the sight of him. Will knew immediately that he hadn't flattened his hair enough. He also became acutely aware of the fact that while, yes, he was wearing pants, he was not wearing anything under them. Nor had he zipped them up. Not that he really could, considering they were on backwards.
Will's first instinct was to slam the door shut and hope for the best. He resisted. Barely.
“Did I wake you?” Jack asked incredulously, stubbornly keeping his gaze locked with Will's. Will nodded.
“What are you doing here?” he blurted, trying to tug his pants up a little higher and wincing when the cold teeth of the zipper scraped against his bare ass. He was never going to live this down. Jack would never speak of it again, probably, but he would know. And that silent knowing would be worse than any open mockery.
Jack held up his phone and waved it in front of his face.
“You weren't answering. I need to talk to you. Can I come in, or would you like a minute to put some actual clothes on so we can have a conversation without having to hold eye contact?”
“Yeah, uh, hang on and just- just hang on.”
He closed the door, slowly and quietly, and returned to the living room, stripping down and turning his jeans the right way around, grabbing an undershirt from the dresser and pulling it quickly over his head. He made one more last ditch effort to straighten the covers, just for good measure, before going back to the door. He let Jack in without a word.
“Where's Chilton?” Jack asked, glancing at the rumpled bed sheets, the clothes on the floor, the noticeable lack of a top sheet. Will could feel his ears reddening.
“H-He's, uh, he's upstairs. In his room.”
Jack's eyebrows were still raised, but he said nothing. Did he look... amused?
“I called you seven times,” he said, taking a seat on the sofa. “I'm going to assume that your phone is dead, or that you were too busy to answer, and not that you were ignoring me on purpose.”
“No! No, Jack, I wasn't. I-I'm sorry, I think my phone is on silent. I didn't even hear it go off.” To be honest, Will didn't even know where his phone was at the moment. Probably in his jacket, by the door, but that still wouldn't do him any good. “What did you need to talk to me about?”
Jack sighed heavily and leaned back into the cushions.
“Freddie Lounds,” he started, “has determined the manner in which she would like to die. It involves the corpse of a Jane Doe, a wheelchair, a can of kerosene, and a lot of paperwork.”
“A wheelchair?” Will asked, sitting in what had come to be “his” armchair. Jack Crawford nodded, grimacing.
“She was very specific on the matter. Price and Zeller know some of the details, they're procuring the body right now. They know we're helping Miss Lounds fake her death, but they aren't clear why. I doubt they'll ask too many questions. They're having more fun with it than I think they should.”
He frowned, staring at Will's shoulder for a moment longer than necessary. Will cleared his throat.
“So what do you need from me?”
Jack snapped his eyes back to Will's own, looking... embarrassed? What the hell was going on? No, wait. No. Will didn't want to know. Because then he would be embarrassed, too, he was sure of it. That was the last thing he needed.
“I need you to come back to the lab with me and help set everything up. You do... whatever it is you need to do to the body to make it convincing, we'll get all the fake evidence we need, talk to who we need to talk to, and figure out the timing. What Freddie wants is going to take some work, and some very, very careful planning. If any of it gets leaked before hand it's-”
Jack nodded tersely.
“The idea is to do this at night, less chance of you being seen or identified. It's past one now, and it'll be almost two by the time we get back. We need to go.”
“I need to shower,” Will said, trying not to blush and failing. The corner of Jack's mouth twitched up.
“Yes. Yes you do. I'll wait here.”
Will sat for a moment, then stood up awkwardly. As he reached the stairs, a though hit him.
“You're going to be here when I get back, right?” he asked over his shoulder. “You're not going to grab Frederick and run?”
Jack looked over the back of the sofa at him with a placid expression on his face.
“It never even occurred to me.”
Will rolled his eyes and headed upstairs.
Frederick was standing at the top of the stairs, pressed against the wall with his arms wrapped around himself. He'd dressed, clearly in a hurry, in sweats and one of Will's plaid shirts. Will kissed him lightly as he went past.
“You can go down if you want,” he whispered in reassurance. “He won't do anything to you.”
When Will got into the bathroom and closed the door, he caught sight of himself in the mirror for the first time. He groaned.
Dark red and purple bruises trailed all along his collarbone and shoulder. Hickies. Suck marks, and a few bite marks, courtesy of Frederick Chilton from the night before. There they were. Livid and clearly visible against his pale skin, standing out bright and shiny for Jack Fucking Crawford to see and not comment on. And he had definitely seen them, there was no doubt in Will's mind.
Will pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes until he saw fireworks, wanting to drown himself in the sink and not have to go back downstairs ever again.
Oh god, and he'd sent Frederick down there. With no warning, no defense. No idea that the secret was out. They were discovered. No hiding now. Not from Jack, anyways. Or Freddie Lounds. Freddie definitely knew, too. She had to.
Will turned on the shower and stepped in when it was scalding, hissing as his skin turned pink and raw. Maybe, just maybe, if he stood here long enough he would boil alive and save Hannibal the trouble of finding the perfect recipe for him. He'd be delicious. All flustered and hopeless. If fear tasted acidic, what did shame taste like? Bitter, probably. Bitter as coffee grounds and sour, like old rice.
Will laughed humourlessly to himself, and then slammed his fist against the shower wall.
He wasn't ashamed.
The water ran down his face, stinging his cheeks, dripping off the point of his nose. He shook his head like one of the dogs after a bath, spit water out of his mouth.
There was no fucking shame in this. In them. Not a goddamn fucking ounce of it.
They had nothing to be ashamed of. Whatever Jack thought, whatever his father would have thought, whatever anyone ever in the world thought, it didn't matter. It did not matter. They were wrong, not him.
There was nothing wrong with him.
He turned the water down to a less aggressive temperature and stopped trying to burn Frederick's touch off of him. He washed, quickly and efficiently, before shutting the water off and stepping out into the steam filled bathroom. He toweled off, and shaved, and combed his hair, and put on his cologne. He found a set of clean clothes sitting, neatly folded, on the toilet seat, that hadn't been there before. Frederick must have put them there. Will didn't even hear him come in. He smiled fondly as he dressed. Everything was freshly laundered. Mostly devoid of dog hair. Well fitting. Perfectly suited for the days activities. Will would have to thank him.
Will descended the stairs slowly, half sure he was going to find the house empty. Chairs overturned, Jack's SUV gone with Frederick thrown in the back. He stepped out into the living room and looked around.
Jack Crawford and Frederick Chilton were sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table.
Each of them was holding a glass that they weren't drinking from, and they weren't talking. The atmosphere was tense. Both were looking casually around the kitchen, not actually looking at each other, and they pretended not to notice Will as he walked into the room.
Will cleared his throat.
“I'm ready to go,” he said. His voice sounded too loud in the carefully crafted silence. Jack looked at him in faux surprise and started to stand up. Frederick followed suit.
“Good,” Jack said, buttoning his coat. “Let's go, then.”
“Let me get my shoes.”
Jack followed him to the front door, Frederick trailing slightly behind him. Will didn't know what passed between them while he was gone. Nothing good, judging the stiff set to Frederick's shoulders. Will would have to ask about that later.
He pulled on a pair of sturdy boots, which actually worked quite well with the rest of his outfit. He shrugged on his coat, made sure his keys were in his pocket, and opened the front door. He let Jack walk out past him and then, still in full view, Will stepped toward Frederick and gave him a light, quick kiss on the cheek.
“I'll be back late,” he said, flashing a quick smile. Frederick looked like he was about to fall over. Will smiled tightly at Jack as well, but the man said nothing, merely raised his eyebrows and stepped aside to let him out onto the porch. Will closed the door behind him.
The body Jimmy had found belonged to a homeless woman.
Younger than Freddie Lounds, but they were the same height, same build. This woman's hair was limp and blonde, bleached to the roots and brittle at the tips. He wondered what her natural colour had been, in life. Brunette, probably. She looked like a brunette.
The raw, ugly bruising around her neck left little question as to how she had died.
No one knew her name. She had no dental records, no criminal record, no photographic identification. She'd been found alone, stuffed into a garbage bag sitting next to a dumpster in an alleyway. The only reason she'd been found was that the plastic tore when the garbage tried to lift her. If it hadn't, she would be rotting in a landfill somewhere. Just a ragged pile of meat for the crows and rats to pick at.
Her body had been kept at the county morgue for two weeks, in refrigeration, while the local authorities searched for an ID or a killer. They'd reached nothing but dead ends. She was labeled a Jane Doe, a neat little toe tag listing her height and weight and nothing else. She was supposed to be cremated in the morning.
In a sense, she still would be.
Jimmy Price had called in a favour, no questions asked. He was too cheerful about it, as he as about most things. Everyone has their coping mechanisms, Will reasoned. Brian cracked jokes and hid snacks in inappropriate places around the lab. Beverly had made a game of it, hunting for clues like she was keeping score. Jimmy was a veritable fountain of trivia, mostly animal facts, and kept a small flask hidden in the second drawer of his workstation. Jack pretended not to know about it. He had one, too. Will's coping mechanism was seasonal. In the warmer months and put on his waders and stood in the middle of the stream, casting his line and reeling in whatever he happened to catch. In winter, he took his rod and his little stool and sat hunched out on the ice. Waiting. Thinking.
Will looked down at the face of the dead girl, and wondered what she was thinking about as she died.
He shook himself, squeezing his eyes shut and then opening them again. He blinked rapidly, clearing his head. This wasn't the time. He had a job to do.
“Freddie Lounds had to burn.”
Will had been silent, listening to the others discuss the condition of the body in front of them. The charred corpse, blackened and raw, its eyes and hair and skin all burned away. The smell of kerosene and cooked meat hung heavily in the air. It clung to Will most heavily. Hannibal noticed, the way Will knew he would. He'd planned it that way, when he dabbed a tiny drop of kerosene on the sleeve of his shirt.
They were all looking at him now. Waiting for his insight. His empathy. Will kept his eyes fixed on the body, but he could feel them staring. He could feel Hannibal's eyes on him the keenest of all. Will had his complete and undivided attention, though he feigned interest in the body. It was secondary. Not even a distraction. To him, Will was the center of the room.
“She was fuel,” Will said, choosing his words delicately. “Fire destroys, and it creates. It is mythical. She won't rise from the ashes, but... her killer will.”
He lifted his eyes to meet Hannibal's across the table.
His therapist was looking at him in pride. Not obvious pride, not noticeable to someone who didn't know how to look. Will knew how to look at Hannibal now. He knew how to read his face, how to catch the little flutters of otherwise imperceptible emotion across his sharp features. There were some he couldn't read. Some he didn't know what to make of, what was going on inside the mind behind the mask. But he was getting better all the time. Or maybe Hannibal was just hiding from him less.
The older man spoke to the room at large, but his gaze never wavered from Will.
“He's the one to be noticed now.”