In consideration of many successes in his honourable career, Will Graham was considered an unstable, yet indispensable figure in the investigative environment; treasured for his insight, if not entirely accounted for. Handled with delicate care and a fair share of wariness to match his bold temperament, which notoriously encouraged colleagues and associates to keep their distance.
Crawford had never treated him as dangerous. Upon his unfortunate encounter with a cornered werewolf and its irretrievable consequences, the situation should have changed to accommodate Will’s upcoming transformation. Those dark, disruptive impulses lurking around Will’s mind would eventually elude his discipline, were Will to physically relinquish control over his inner creature.
“I’m capable of reining you in, Will,” Jack dismissed his concerns, assuming a tighter stranglehold on his subordinate would bear any significance in the grand, daunting scheme. “When you doubt yourself, you don’t have to doubt about me too.”
According to FBI records, Garrett Jacob Hobbs was neither infected nor a native werecreature.
When Will crossed the threshold of his inconspicuous residence, stepping over his lifeless wife and shouting his own credentials, Will wasn’t thinking about his superior’s encouraging speech about better chances of success and respect of judgement, which had cost Will dearly.
In fact, Garrett managed to pounce on Will and bite him, ruinously, irreversibly, before his survival instinct prevailed over his moral encompass to pull the trigger on an arguably unarmed man.
It was not unheard of, but rather remarkable, for a werewolf to succeed in concealing his nature to his social circle, particularly while maintaining a full-time job as a pipe threader and occasionally hunting young girls on the weekend. Such behaviour spoke of meticulousness, of diligence, of vibrant self-awareness.
If Garrett hadn’t been a werewolf, as well as an intelligent psychopath, Will might have never caught him. Jack had been sensible to request him to mount the proverbial saddle; unfortunately for Will, Jack wouldn’t be the one to deal with the dire consequences of his decision.
“It’s quite simple, Mister Graham. You insert it in your mouth before going to bed and remove it in the morning,” Doctor Sutcliffe explained, handling the plastic print of Will’s palate with reassuring gestures. “Nothing to worry about, hygienic maintenance aside. We’ll schedule some monitoring appointments.” He adopted the same lackadaisical attitude of an unphased surgeon intent on outlining a routine procedure.
His speech seemed prepared, crafted as were his dental restrains, if admittedly with a different purpose. A complacent display of expertise to soothe an apprehensive patient. Will glared at the nocturnal device. “Will it become uncomfortable while I sleep?” Will asked, deliberately omitting his rest was already disturbed by night terrors on a regular basis.
“The mouth guard prevents your mandibular growth from passing unnoticed, it is designed to get uncomfortable when your cyclical warning signs manifest.” And Will just couldn’t wait for that to happen. “Moon phases aren’t reliable anymore to estimate an accurate biological clock, every werecreature has its own quiet period. With time, you’ll learn your own as well.”
He smiled amicably while gathering his documents in a nondescript folder, before ushering Will to the door, patting his shoulder on the threshold. “I know this sounds complicated at first, but I can guarantee it works like any other dental braces,” the doctor reassured Will, who felt miserable enough to accept his commiseration. “In a week it will become perfectly natural, Mister Graham.”
Will certainly hoped it would, but anticipated with scepticism an improvement in his life. If nothing else, he could be thankful that Doctor Lecter promptly referring him to an expert to monitor his situation.
“Are you getting on with him?” Alana inquired, unobtrusive. Light conversation with her was often veiled with gentle, non-professional apprehension, the kind that Will both craved and deliberately avoided.
“We didn’t exactly rub cheeks at first,” Will answered, thinking about his past meeting with Doctor Lecter in Jack’s crowded office, his elegant wording to describe Will’s distorted perspective. “But we adjusted to one another a bit since then,” Will admitted. He conceded fleeing their interaction hadn’t been his best move. “Sometimes I feel like he’s the only one not treating me any differently after...” Will traded off.
Truth be told, Doctor Lecter’s impersonal detachment gratified Will with a sense of stability, for which he had an acquired taste. Will was intimately grateful for it, more than he could ever be for Jack’s fragile teacup attitude, nor Alana’s latent need to comfort and protect him, blinding herself to his real self.
Considering the embarrassing, ever-increasing number of stray dogs fostered under Will’s care, it was expected that the solitary profiler would make his excruciating acquaintance with a werewolf sooner rather than later. Some of his acquaintances had warned him, vehemently highlighting their concerns; some seemed to be morbidly waiting for such an unfortuitous encounter to occur.
Neither were consequential for Will’s proclivity, since Will was perfectly capable of distinguishing between feral werecreatures and straight canidaes.
“My dogs never seemed bothered by my turning,” Will remarked, absently pacing around Doctor Lecter’s mahogany desk. “In fact, they probably like me even more, now that we have so much in common,” he admitted with a hint of stinging self-deprecation.
“I feel inclined to compliment your attitude towards your dogs,” his unofficial therapist responded, hands poised under his chin in a contemplative display. “It is common for dog owners to see their authority questioned, when their handler undergoes biological changes such as yours. However undomesticated they are, your strays must hold you in very high regard,” he praised.
“I guess my training paid off then,” Will offered, brightening at his kind comment. As a matter of fact, Will had feared there would be an imminent imbalance with his pack; his transformed self could become far less suitable company than his strays. “I think Buster has developed an inferiority complex, I think he’s disturbed by my smell lately,” Will noted conversationally.
Doctor Lecter exhibited interest at that, a private smile gracing his thin lips. “Buster could adjust to your natural scent if you introduced a finer aftershave,” he retorted, subsequently averting his eyes to conceal with little effort their mischievous glint.
Changing his shaving lotion with a ship on the bottle for an unfamiliar scent randomly selected didn’t fall in Will’s immediate priorities, not for Buster’s offended nose nor for Hannibal’s emphatic endorsement. Will’s attention was rather focused on understanding his mandibular region and its sharp, brand new appendages. Their expansion needed surveillance, which hardly increased his hours of sleep at night.
As announced by Doctor Sutcliffe, the earliest days had been the toughest. His tongue would turn and investigate his mouth guard incessantly, before slumber reached his tired limbs. When Will finally persuaded it to stick on his palate, in a seemingly comfortable position, other usual issues resurfaced.
Relentlessly dreaming of murder weapons and crime scenes hardly ever promoted proper rest; however much Will had compromised with his internal muzzle, his nocturnal thrashing would still result in a hideous mess of sweat and tangled sheets. Tossing vigorously in his bed while biting on instinct his control device left him tired and frustrated, leaving Will to often wonder why even bother.
Certain mornings, to his utter dismay, Will would wake up to the disheartening sight of his mouth guard. It would lay on his nightstand, on his pillow, sporadically on the floor; Will would stare at it with absolutely no recollection of having removed it.
Predictably, his infection didn’t affect only his sleep. Will started craving more red flesh in his diet, which Hannibal felt compelled to supply on a regular basis. Under one pretext or another, he would often provide a plentiful, delicious supper after their unofficial sessions.
“You shall refund me with the pleasure of your company, which I suspect is reserved to very few,” his psychiatrist observed with enviable candor when Will had lamely tried to extricate himself from his generous invitation. “I don’t indulge in unnecessary guilt for extorting it from you with my own cooking, nor in false modesty for claiming your appreciation doesn’t flatter me greatly.”
He always seemed rather content to witness Will’s appetite over his own rich table, Will noticed. His lips curled softly in a pleased line, contentment enhanced his eyes with an enigmatic delight. It could be pride; could be fulfillment by proxy. It could be something else entirely. For his part, Will felt nourished inside in a way that couldn’t entirely be attributed to their oddly savoured meal.
Will stopped looking after a while. With his charming manner and contagious complicity, Doctor Lecter had gradually become Hannibal, with all that entailed. Will cherished their conversations, their pregnant silences, their quiet, reciprocal understanding. They were establishing an addicting interaction, the traits of which Will recognized fairly well.
Sexual behaviour in small packs as his own wasn’t so complicated as it was difficult to manage. After a number of unbecoming episodes, Will had decided that bitches and relative litters were arguably easier to give away than to fit in his group of sole male adults.
The evident lack of ovaries never deterred his dogs from releasing their pent-up frustration with alternative partners, without resorting to castration. They dealt with it. Will had behaved similarly so far, surrendering himself to an inconsistent romantic involvement, but he knew his solitude was merely self-imposed. His animalistic instinct would resolve to change that impasse, when his cycle approached. By that point, his partner wouldn’t be required to be handsome; coincidentally Hannibal was.
Brushing his teeth and cleaning his mouth guard in front of the mirror, dogs blithely frolicking at his feet, Will reasoned he had every reason to fear for the wellness of their own engagement. His eventual rut would upset whatever increasingly intimate relationship was developing between Hannibal and himself, which Will, against his better judgement, still struggled to label.
Their mutual unspoken bargain to maintain the vague boundaries of their elaborated friendship in order to continue reaping its benefit substantially resembled Will’s interaction with Abigail Hobbs, whose bleeding neck Will had held with trembling hands.
Reflecting her fears and anguish while the light abandoned her father’s feverish eyes, Will would inevitably bond with Abigail on a visceral level, heedless of the high likelihood that she had been hiding her own nature before their first meeting. Confident about Will’s complicity and her own tentative manipulations, she would blend in her social environment discreetly, accepting Alana’s defence, persuading Jack of her own innocence. Hobbs would have taught her to pass unnoticed while hanging out with her friends, as well as covering her tracks while hunting.
On full moon nights like the present, Will couldn’t help wondering whether her father’s spectrum haunted her, reverberating in its beams, watching her with misty eyes; whether Abigail was afraid to betray her own little secret with a careless grimace, a guttural howl, an instinctual snap. She had been infected sooner than Will, but left without guidance before her due time. Will wasn’t in a much better condition, but he felt paternal towards her all the same.
The morning after, instead of waking up to Jack’s insisting call or a persistent nightmare lingering in his subconscious, Will awakened from his restless slumber because of an intense migraine and unspeakable exhaustion. His chilling feet covered in mud, his scarce clothing sodden with rain, his skin burning to his own touch.
His mind provided him with no reasonable explanation for facing his home instead of occupying it, as Winston whined close to his bare heels; Will figured Jack would spare him for the day and Alana ought to cover his classes. Since his little mishap with Hobbs, his lectures at the Academy had been occasional at best anyway.
Will didn’t wait for his monitoring visit to report his worrying episode. With Hannibal’s aid, Will had ascertained his dogs and neighbours hadn’t been injured during his sleep, but Will couldn’t risk it again.
“I’m sure your experience shocked you, Mister Graham,” Sutcliffe began, uncertain. “Wandering unconsciously in this cold weather couldn’t possibly have been pleasant for you,” he conceded, averting his eyes, lowering his tone. Fiddling with a stylish pen to feign composure. “But I assure you, it’s not uncommon for recently transmuted werewolves to abandon their places in favour of more rural environments. We should be glad your house is already surrounded by nature.”
Indeed Will was greatly affected by his recent time loss, but the doctor’s placating words and his apparent unperturbed attitude, contradicted by his nervous posturing, hadn’t convinced Will that his situation was to be expected; even lovelier than most cases.
Instead of elaborating on his unreliable speech, Will concentrated on Sutcliffe’s tight shoulders, his gesturing hand, his elegant pen. It was a tasteful Mont Blanc, fairly inconspicuous design, subtle embroidery on its handle. Something that would appeal to Hannibal’s good taste for a present; in fact, it was practically bearing his signature.
“We’ll run some tests, take some blood samples, provide you with another guard,” Sutcliffe said, looking Will straight in his unblinking eyes. Accommodating tone. “Everything is perfectly under control, Mister Graham.”
In Will’s accredited experience, repeating someone’s name in conversation was often performed as a form of manipulation; it inspired an emotional reaction, it diverted the attention. Ultimately, it changed the whole asset of sentence and meaning.
It irked his nerves. Just as Jack had dismissed his legitimate concerns, Sutcliffe poorly assuaged him with inadequate remedies. Will knew he couldn’t trust his vague explanation, when even the doctor wouldn’t trust himself. All that remained for Will was to trust Hannibal himself.
“I heard you lost your, uhm,” Abigail frowned, stumbling over her own words. “Hannibal had called it nocturnal control device, which sounds like a mouthful.” She sought Will’s confirmation, unsure of her prying.
“My mouth guard, yes,” Will supplied, lenient, if a bit uncomfortable about her knowing. Hannibal had taken the liberty of informing her without informing him; Will wasn’t sure he appreciated the initiative, although he could ideally understand Hannibal’s attempt at including her in their lives; Abigail had in fact nobody else to include in her own. “I’ll have to cope for a week without it, while I wait for a replacement,” Will added.
His admission seemed to strengthen her confidence. “I’m sure you’ll survive. I’m glad you’re fine,” she amended, mollifying. Her smile a precious, rare gift. “My father was always on edge when his cycle approached, he felt the urge to go hunting even in dire conditions,” she confided, timorous to disclose even as much. Her assessing eyes laid on Will’s hidden canines. “He sought solitude, watched me more intently,” she remembered. “After a while, I understood it was part of his way to express his love for me, leaving for some time.” She sounded sorrowful.
Will noticed her insecurity, faked only partially. Her long sleeves covered her fingers, her hands sheltered in a protective manner. Her eyes darted to Will’s own, enquiring. “I also finally got what you meant when you told me transforming would feel awful.” Will could tell Abigail had pondered her wording for quite some time, meaning to confront him on the matter. Will briefly averted his eyes, suddenly meek under her watchful gaze. He hadn’t been entirely honest with her that first time, if admittedly for her own sake.
“I thought there was something wrong with me, because I didn’t feel bad when I transformed,” she continued intently, undeterred by his culpable silence. “I felt good. It was who I was meant to be,” she declared, seeking sympathy with pleading eyes; Will knew her ache intimately.
Extending his hand to collect her own in a fond touch, Will succumbed to his inner desire to grant her answers. “It took me a while to change back into my human shape, after your father bit me,” Will confessed. Questionably appropriate as it was for her therapy, Will wouldn’t deprive her of his own version of that fateful day. Abigail had been yearning to hear it since waking up in her hospital bed. “I was terrified.”
Will had been a stranger in his own furred body, incapable of expressing himself, of formulating coherent thoughts, of interacting with his surroundings. “My entire world had been reduced to an unbearable sensory overload, I was disoriented. I took off running.” His legs had been faster, his breath lighter, his figure leaner. “For a long minute, I thought I could run away from everything.” In hindsight, neither Abigail nor himself would ever get away from her father’s inheritance, but in that moment Will had enjoyed an unexpected, thrilling freedom. After a lifetime of feeling bad, Will had finally felt powerful.
Abigail shares his inebriated stupor. Her misleading doe eyes glimmering with recognition.
During their forced separation, Will acknowledged his morbidly tender feelings for Abigail, which he presumably harboured in virtue of her father’s bite. Will’s instinct to foster strays had been exacerbated after Hobbs’ death, as well as his previously nonexistent paternalistic drive. He wanted to form a pack, purposefully including her in his distorted picture. Unflattering as it sounded, Will adopted strays, and Abigail by that point kind of was.
Will had run through the dense woods until his lungs burned and his muscles ached, as far as his enhanced sight could reach and his slender legs could lead him. A visceral, ravenous hunger tracing his way, feral growls reverberating after his own, as his nose followed the scent of ripped flesh and warm blood.
“I shed my burdensome human shell.” After a lifetime of fighting the urge to release his untamed nature with claws and teeth, unleashing it into the wild sent shivers of euphoria down his spine. He thrilled and reveled in his newfound freedom. A creature of darkness and brutality, of solitude and death. “I struck terror upon those unfortunate, inferior creatures crossing my path, fed on their dismembered limbs, fangs deep in their succulent offals.”
Part of him recognized the flavour from a splendid banquet by candlelight. Part of him swore to avenge his unfair confinement, to never dress his human skin again. Neither regretted the unholy, beautiful bloodshed. “This is who I am. I don’t think I can stop myself. This is my--”
“Will,” Hannibal’s firm voice drew his attention, distress thinly disguised in his tone. “Wake up,” he insisted. “Will, I need you to focus.” His condensed breath caressed Will’s stubbled cheek in the gentlest cloud of steam. His mouth close to Will’s muffled ear.
Will’s consciousness slowly replaced his fading drowsiness, he realised his own state of undress. His bare limbs freezing under a thick blanket, Hannibal’s unwavering hands keeping it against his thrashing. “Calm down, Will,” Hannibal insisted, sustaining his exhausted body in an inescapable embrace. “You’re hyperventilating,” he explained.
Will panted and shivered helplessly, waiting for his clouded mind to grasp reality, searching for reference points to determine his location. He frantically looked around, barely recognizing his surroundings, awash with the first light of dawn. His visits had always occurred in the evening dusk until then. “We’re at your place,” Will noticed, marveling at his own words, since he couldn’t spot his station wagon parked in close proximity. “How did I get here?” he asked, bewildered.
An intense dizziness began upsetting Will’s delicate balance, causing his head to sway against Hannibal’s shoulder. His sensitive nostrils caught at once many different contrasting smells, which sickened him and abruptly compromised his ability to stand. Will buried his overstimulated nose in Hannibal’s overcoat on impulse, preferring the dark note of his blessedly subtle scent to damp asphalt and decomposing leaves. Whimpering, he learned, didn’t help his cause.
Careful, comforting fingers cupped his nape, lightly running through his hair in hypnotic circular motions, eliciting an undignified moan from Will’s twitching lips. Deft digits massaged his scalp, fondled his too long curls, leisurely bringing some behind his wet ear, measuring his pulse on his neck. Will couldn’t remember when was the last time he enjoyed such an amount of tactile stimulation, even before his transformation. It tore him apart in an entirely different manner than his temporary hyperosmia.
“I know this may sound singularly forward of me,” Hannibal whispers against his temple, “but I suggest you come inside and accept a warm, long bath before starting the day.”
Will would have laughed at his neutral tone, even considered retorting Doctor’s order? to lighten the mood. “Will you tell me what happened if I do,” Will asked instead, clinging to Hannibal’s solid arm, fleeing from the coppery smell of blood surrounding them.
“Eventually,” Hannibal conceded. Will couldn’t tell if Hannibal was being reticent about disclosing information about its origin, or merely savouring their unexpected glimpse of intimacy.
“Please consider wearing my aftershave, if your olfactory distress increases,” Hannibal urged him kindly, before Will entered his bathroom. His arms finally regaining sensibility, fingers still numbed by the cold outside.
“Spoiling my palate, refining my nose,” Will joked, not expecting Hannibal’s subsequent comment about not wanting his training to go to waste.
Soaking in Hannibal’s lavish bathtub, soft light filtering in from an open window, clothes in his size on the dresser, Will realised with disarming clarity that Hannibal was entirely familiar with taking care of him.
Most would have hesitated to shelter an unstable werecreature in their private residence, risking their relapse or more unpleasant outcomes. Hannibal hadn’t batted an eye. He had behaved as naturally as if assisting him after a rough night or offering a good meal after a tiring day.
I’ve been here before, Will realised. Specifically, in those quarters, with that very same purpose. Running idle fingertips on the large tub, Will could trace his own scratches on the white porcelain. Warm water stained with blood touched his elbow. Will had been there before and Hannibal had adjusted the temperature for him; it had taken him a while, but he distinctly remembered his nice suit, his big hands, his comforting smell.
In retrospect, Will should have known better than to trust an individual with whom he felt such an intense kinship; it wouldn’t have been difficult to intuit something equally distorted would balance Will’s idiosyncrasies.
Those dinners, Will thought with bitterness. Unreasonably, his mind associated his overwhelming emptiness with the lucid pen in Sutcliffe’s gesturing hands and the uncertain smile on Abigail’s features. Too good to be true, Will chuckled hysterically, tightening his hair with trembling hands.
His distress at apprehending Hannibal’s blatant manipulation, promising as it was, felt unbearably similar to betrayal. Will had believed it, he had trusted Hannibal unreservedly, wholeheartedly; he had fallen for his affected fondness, his counterfeit attachment. Were not Will so entirely addicted to his longing stare and tender attentions, he could have realised something was off.
Despite his disappointment, Will found himself wondering about Hannibal’s motivations. Admiring the scarred mark adorning his own shoulders, Will was curious to understand what exactly had attracted his interest. Will’s affection couldn’t be within his real aim, but his medical condition and Abigail’s heritage suddenly appeared so highly, suspiciously correlated.
Maybe Hannibal was just forming his own pack, it occurred to Will.
In the same manner as Will had experienced a paternalistic pull towards Abigail, a desire to aid and protect her, to guide her in times of need, Hannibal might have glimpsed an affinity with her interesting enough to pursue. Maybe Hannibal, in that monumental solitude they undoubtedly shared, had considered Will’s faith an adequate price to be paid, in the grand scheme.
Wrapping himself in a dry towel, deliberately discarding the assorted clothes Hannibal procured for him, Will braved his reticence and readied himself to confront his unofficial psychiatrist for one last friendly conversation.
“A little protein scramble to start the day,” Hannibal warmly received him in his dining room, fresh orange juice and steaming hot coffee on the table arranged among plates of tantalising eggs Will could hardly continue to define inviting, guessing the source of their accompanying meat, “or to facilitate its improvement,” Hannibal confided, a delicate smile plastered on his privately gloating face.
I’ve been so fucking blind, he reproached himself, barely masking his obvious shame, passing it for embarrassment at his own nakedness. It sobered him to remember Hannibal had very likely seen him in the nude already.
Approaching him with discreet sheepishness, Will sought his touch with genuine anticipation. His palm on Will’s lower back was intimate and dangerous. “Smells delicious,” Will uttered, partly expecting his affirmation to sound fake, disappointed at himself when it didn’t.
“I’m sorry for your turbulent night, Will,” Hannibal said with sincere regret, undoubtedly preparing himself to feed Will with his lies, as well as his breakfast. “I’m confident your next mouth guard will perform better than the previous one.” A lovely display of concern over perfumed evidence.
To hell with the mouth guard, Will spat mentally, nuzzling Hannibal’s neck with lucid, clear intent. His nose hidden in Hannibal’s crisp shirt in a tormenting delight. “You know, I don’t mind having free range of motion on my mouth for a chance.”
Will would have liked to witness Hannibal’s reaction at his admission, could swear Hannibal had waited for it since Will had killed Hobbs, but he preferred to sink his teeth deep into Hannibal’s bare neck, bloodying his garnement and his tablecloth, infecting him and sentencing him to Will’s own same fate. If Hannibal was so desperate for a pack, Will would gladly oblige.