Chapter 1: A copycat killer, a disgraced psychiatrist, and an empath walk into a bar.
It's Saturday night and the rain is lashing against concrete, forming broad ripples in puddles and Will Graham isn't cold. He stands, silent, arms crossed close against his chest, eyes open yet distant. His hair is soaked, sticking to his forehead but he makes no move to brush it away.
"So?" Crawford asks, pointedly looking away from the body.
Will doesn't look away. The man - Harris Lee Fitzgerald, aged twenty - lies a few feet above, arms splayed across the branches and holding himself upright. His chest has a vertical incision, heart and lungs at his feet and a knife impaled firmly in his throat.
He's so loud, he's screaming for someone, I don't like it - my knife, where the hell is my knife? - here, it's here, I have to hold him down, he's struggling, God, this is so messy-
An image of the victim flashed before his eyes, pinned underneath body weight and a knife wedged in his larynx. Will almost staggers at the onslaught of emotion - proud, confused, unsure, I did this, this is me, this is who I am, it has to be - and he inhales sharply.
"Will." Crawford says, and his hand is on Will's arm, pulling him away and suddenly the rain isn't in his eyes. His gaze snaps up. Katz is besides him, her umbrella forming a shield against the sky and he blinks, suddenly thrown back into the present. "Are you with us?"
"He doesn't know what he's doing." Will mutterd, voice sounding distant and it felt as though it wasn't from him. "He's lost, and - he doesn't know who he is."
"So he's assuming someone else's identity." Crawford finished off for him, eyes narrow. He glances back at the body, pales, and snaps it back to Will, who nods in confirmation. "Damn it. Katz, has forensics found anything so far?"
Katz shakes her head. "I read the reports of who he's copying, and it's like he wears a hazmat. Of course our perp is going to follow this helpful little detail."
"How the hell are we going to catch him?" Crawford scowls, glancing up at his own umbrella. Katz shrugs, arching an eyebrow as though Crawford already knew what he had to do about it. Will knows, too; he exchanges looks with Katz, who looks less than impressed. Crawford was waiting on one of them to suggest it. Neither speak, so Crawford sighs heavily, voice strained with a sudden exhaustion. "We're going have to visit the original."
"Who's going on the school trip?" Katz asks. "No offence, but I don't think my mom will sign the permission slip."
"Me and Will." Crawford says, not reacting to her comment. Will groans, uncrossing his arms to fix Crawford a deep frown. "We need you, Will. Chances are, Lecter has been contacted by his copycat for advice. I need you with Lecter."
"Great." Will deadpans, less than enthusiastic. "Teatime with a cannibal."
"Better you than me." Katz shrugs, unsympathetic. Crawford looks at them, glances between them with a frown. In response, Katz smiles, lowering her umbrella sharply to soak Crawford. He yelps, recoiling, but the pensive, almost mournful look is gone. Katz doesn't look bothered. "You always look so tired, it isn't good for your health. That goes for both of you."
"Visiting a serial killer isn't exactly in top ten lifestyle tips." Will points out. Katz hums in agreement.
Crawford, however, sighs, looks at Will. "Tomorrow."
Crawford was soundless, hunched over the steering wheel, eyes fixed on the road in front of him. Will allowed the quiet to wash over him, shoulders tensed. He had been driving for over an hour, soon approaching two. Occasionally, Crawford would attempt to start small talk, but trailed off whenever Will would refuse to answer or his answer would be strained, stilted.
The awkward drive was thankfully halted when they arrived, but despite his impassive Crawford was brimming with anxious energy, which meant Will was, too. Under strict regulation, his car was parked far back from the building, which lead to a five minute walk equipped with Crawford grumbling under his breath. Their identification was placed under close scrutiny - Will's causing the officer to pause and glance up at him in suspicion - but when they passed, Crawford breathed out a shaky sigh.
It wouldn't be seemly to visit guests without the fine china. Will grimaced at the thought. They were promptly lead through the building by an orderly who didn't introduce himself or speak to them asides from curt orders and directions. During the walk, Crawford cleared his throat to get Will's attention.
"He's a psychopath." Crawford informed him, voice lowered. He glanced around, as though someone was able to pick up on his voice. Will resisted the urge to roll his eyes - it wouldn't do well to antagonize Crawford when he had a two hour ride back with him. "He's going to be charming and charismatic, and I need you to be careful. It took the forces over three decades to find him because he blended in so well. An upstanding citizen."
"An upstanding citizen with the unfortunate habit of eating people's faces." Will said flatly.
Crawford shot him a sharp look. "I think it's best if you hold back those remarks. At trial, it was revealed that everyone who was killed had done something like swear in public."
"It's a wonder half of the country wasn't wiped out." Will mused. Serial killers who matched Lecter - levelled, calculated, constantly in control - would rarely go on mass killing sprees, which was probably why the numbers were barely over one hundred despite the time. Crawford looked at him, evidently disapproving at his phrasing
Will turned away, promptly closing off the conversation. He opted to watch the walls as they passed, trying not to grimace at the constant, uniformed grey and scent that was sharp and clean, completely lacking personality or signs of inhabitation. Clinical, cold and detatched. Will wasn't sure why he expected differently.
A quick glance at Crawford informed him that he wasn't the only one uncomfortable. They stopped at a door. The orderly stepped back, unlocking it, then glancing expectanly between them. Before Will could enter, Crawford held him back by his sleeve.
"I'm not risking you yet." He said firmly. "Lecter and I are going to talk. If I think he needs persuasion, I'm sending you in with me."
"Great." Will sighed. He crossed his arms against his chest, tapping his foot against the floor. "What should I do while you're in there? Think of knitting patterns?"
Crawford didn't rise to his bait. "If that's what keeps you busy, then yes."
Will thinned his lips. He didn't bother trying to argue with Crawford - all it would give him was a headache and a sore throat. Wordlessly, he gave a sharp nod. Crawford hesitated by the door, seemingly about to speak before he turned. The door was opened, and Crawford left.
When the door closed, it shut out Crawford's hesitant greeting - soundproof, then - which left Will by himself, the orderly having followed Crawford in. Will checked his phone (nobody messages him, so it was pointless to do so) before taking in his surroundings.
Pale, white walls. Footprints echoed yet Will could see nobody approach. The corridor was broad and stretched for roughly one hundred meters but despite this, there was only one door. It made Will's nerves prickle uneasily.
Roughly twenty minutes passed before he was called in. Crawford lowered his voice, sounding vaguely pained. "He refuses to discuss anything about the murder. We spent five minutes taking about tea."
Will tried not to look too smug. "Earl grey or-"
"Will." Crawford expressed, brows furrowed. He held the door open, wide enough for Will to enter. Will hesitated, considering pushing further, before deciding that he would rather have Crawford as an ally when in a room with a known cannibal.
Will inclined his head in agreement, holding the door so he could walk through without assistance from Crawford. He kept his face blank, calm, but he wasn't sure how convincing it was.
The room was divided with a thick layer of glass, broken up by an additional room on the half opposite to Will. He quickly glanced around the cell, noting sketchbooks and novels and furnishings that were not afforded usual inmates. It appeared Lecter was a favourite.
"Doctor Lecter." Will greeted. His voice was thankfully impassive, giving nothing away.
Lecter's eyes were pinned on him, sharp and unmoving. Will didn't fidget under the scrutiny regardless of what was instinctive, keeping his back straight, eyes directed to Lecter's sharp jaw. He doesn't need to take in appearances - the case was a world wide scandal, images of Lecter were common for roughly a year after his incarceration, yet seeing him fleshed out and in person caused Will to want to take a few steps backwards.
"I'm afraid we haven't been acquainted before." Lecter replied. His voice was honeyed, smooth and European and holding confidence and blankness that whispered to the back of his mind - predator.
Will swallowed. Despite the glass between them, Hannibal Lecter was still a dangerous man, and Will took Crawford's previous advice into account. "I'm Will Graham. I work with the FBI."
"I see." Lecter said, and though his voice remained polite, Will could tell he was suddenly uninterested. Sharp eyes flicked across his figure, before dragging up in attempts to make. "Tell me, Will, have you been sleeping well?"
Will paused. Besides him, Crawford sighed, and he didn't need to look to know that Crawford would be staring up at the ceiling. It was clear he was going to have to do something to iniciate curiosity, so Will stepped closer, close enough to cause the orderly to shuffle uneasily.
For a brief second, he made eye contact, and was immediately hit with information.
Intelligence, pride. Too much pride, his downfall in the end and has therefore learned to avoid underestimating. Boredom, though this was found before incarceration. This boredom was born from isolation.
Will could work with isolation. He maintained eye contact, until he could hear a distant yet distinct whisper. People cannot see my design.
Will quickly broke eye contact. He glanced down low, a conditioned habit after using empathy with a living person, and tried to regain his focus. Lecter was still waiting for an answer, all patience and good manners, and Will was going to give him one.
"Nobody sees you, Doctor Lecter." Will said quietly. There was a sharp intake of breath. Will glanced up at Lecter's shoulder, unsurprised to see him tensed. Will, sensing an advantage, continued. "They see your design as people, not undignified animals, not art. They chose to be blind."
Lecter was silent for several seconds. The gaze that was now directed at Will was sharp. With vague satisfaction, Will noted that Lecter was no longer bored, intent on playing a new game despite holding none of the pieces. When he did speak, his tone matched Will's, soft and low. "I hope you find me as interesting as I find you."
Will looked sharply at the floor, away from Lecter's shoulder. "I don't."
Lecter gave a thoughtful hum, eyes still fixed on Will, as though he could see directly through him and he was removed of his masks. It made Will feel uncomfortably exposed and Lecter promised, "You will."
"About the case." Crawford goaded, stepping forwards besides Will. He immediately sighed in relief, his defences jolting upright and fixed firmly in place from where Lecter had seemed to cut through them. "This man, whoever he is, has decided to copy you."
Lecter didn't shift his stare from Will for several seconds. Will quickly looked at Crawford, hoping that he would continue questioning, but to his surprise, Lecter spoke with deep contempt. "It's an insult. This man is unrefined and a mockery to my name."
"You know who it is." Crawford stated.
Lecter smiled, all teeth, and it did not reach his eyes. "I have my suspicions."
Crawford cast Will a baleful glance, expression clearly reading that he was sick of playing games and allowing Lecter to withhold information that he quite clearly had. "How much will it cost to hear your suspicions?"
"I'm afraid I won't be able tell you." Lecter said. He had his hands behind his back, the picture of calmness and Will stared. He wasn't able to pick up on any distinct thoughts and this had Will at a pause.
"A waste of our time." Crawford snapped. Heavy footsteps indicated that Crawford was moving to the door, but abruptly halted when Will didn't walk with him. Crawford sighed. "Come on, Will."
"However." Lecter said, and he looked entirely too satisfied at the fact that Will didn't immediately back away. "I might be inclined to let some information slip if I was around someone of interest."
Crawford didn't move from the door. He spoke slowly, as though finding a sudden realisation instead of setting it up and watching the pieces fall. "You want Will."
The tilt to Lecter's head felt rather wry, as though Crawford had done something amusingly childish. "The pleasure of his company, at least."
Will grimaced, reeling back and away from the thought of being a bargain chip. Instead of allowing him to protest, Crawford interjected, "He'll do it if you give us something to go on now."
Lecter didn't seem appeased by Crawford's promise. He looked at Will, eyes burning into his skin. Will nodded once, keeping his eyes away from Lecter's. In response, Lecter smiled - this one didn't reach his eyes, but it wasn't a threat like his previous one had been. His attention was directed entirely upon Will. "I assume you're guessing the occupation right now?"
"Yes." Will answered, terse.
Lecter continued to watch him. "What do you think it is?"
This caused him to frown. He ignored Crawford's scoff, focusing on his thoughts. A sense of artistry, regardless of how dismissable it was to the intended audience. Someone who would peruse their ideals, and a certain amount of control and awareness of forensics and how to conceal.
Research, creativity, control - it is not how I have written it to be, and therefore I will try again.
"An author." Will breathed. For a second, he forgot himself, looking to Lecter for some sort of approval or confirmation that he was correct. Crawford had stopped his complaining, leaning forward as though he might miss the answer.
Lecter smiled softly, painfully genuine. "Clever boy."
Will couldn't stop the dull flush of embarrassment and he quickly jolted back to awareness. He was looking for approval from a cannibalistic serial killer. It wasn't exactly how he planned his Sunday. He stepped back, and Lecter watched him with a slight frown.
"You'll see him." Crawford said gruffly, which swayed Will into motion. He was the first one to reach the door, entirely unnerved and he couldn't place why.
"Until then." Lecter replied.
Will felt his eyes remain on him until the door shut. Even when he had left the building, his thoughts were preoccupied and jumbled. Each time Will would attempt to pull it apart and unravel the inner workings, it would bind tighter, closer together.
"We weren't in control of that situation." Crawford muttered, surprisingly perceptive - usually, pride would get in the way of admitting something so disheartening like the lack of even footing and plans going awry. "All of it was his game and he likes it like that. He wants us to play along."
"If he breaks the rules?" Will found himself asking despite already knowing the answer.
"Then we quit." Crawford replied simply.
The second scene bounded in on a still Monday, where the skies were dry and cool, heavy clouds hooked low enough to almost touch buildings. Two bodies, side by side. Instead of their organs being removed, their legs were dismembered from the knees down and placed in a shallow, uncovered grave. Both victims - Zeeke Martin, thirty six, and Reese Lucas, fifty two - had their hands clasped together and sewed shut with inelegance and unfamiliarity.
Rushed, meaningless, and a waste of good meat - the voice of Lecter muttered, disapproving. Will stumbled back, wide eyed, heart in throat. He quickly searched his mind, tying to track down whatever part of himself had protected this thought, but it was gone.
"Will, you find something?" Katz called. She paused, glancing down at the hands. "Well, apart from the fact that the perp is obviously uneducated in medicine."
He let the pendulum swing.
The last man was weak. This was why he didn't fulfil me. I need something else with meaning. Without it, I am nothing. He was never nothing, everyone knows his name, and I must be him. I must-
"He's trying to replace the Chesapeake ripper." Will said, shaking himself out of the killer's thoughts. "He's - a fan. He would've written a book or blog during Lecter's trials, where the most publicity was gained."
"Some fan he is, trying to replace his muse." Katz groused. "Anyway, everyone was obsessed with Mr Munch back in the days, there's going to be a millon things out there. Would he have updated recently?"
"No." Will shook his head. He continued to stare at the bodies. "No, he would know not to, since it would draw attention to him."
"They never make it easy for me." Katz sighed, shaking her head. She crouched by the body, gloved fingers pushing against the neck where a ring of bruises lay. "At least with copycats, I have a chance of a slip up. Thank god I wasn't on the team with Lecter's case - I would've torn my hair out. Next time you visit him, you should ask him what he wore."
"I'm not doing that." Will replied, frowning at Katz.
"You should've seen the crime scenes..." Katz let out a low whistle, standing up and moving away from the bodies, turning so she faced Will. "Nothing. Nada. Not a hair out of place. Well, asides from all the unexplained missing organs."
"It's almost as though he was a cannibal." Will said.
Katz laughed brightly, throwing her hands up in mock defense before giving a salute. "Am I dismissed, sergeant sass?"
"Not when Jack Crawford still lives." Will replied. This caused another laugh from Katz, and Will's lips quirked up. "I should probably talk to him before he gets impatient."
"He's always impatient." Katz shrugged. "Can you imagine how difficult he would be if he had been part of the Lecter case?"
"I'd rather not." Will grimaced at the thought. He glanced at the bodies again - this is my identity, I will become who I am - before jerking his gaze away. Katz looked at him curiously but didn't speak. Will inwardly sighed, approaching Crawford from where he was fixated upon a blood splatter.
"Anything new?" He asked, staring expectantly at Will, who relayed all the information he had garnered. Crawford frowned. "Would he have contacted Lecter?"
"Yes." Will said without hesitation. "All of this is for attention - he wants to assume Lecter's identity. He knows he isn't the Chesapeake ripper, but he believes he ought to be."
"I want that son of a bitch collared and thrown in with the dogs." Crawford scowled. His lips were thinned, arms crossed and brows furrowed in frustration. "I don't like this, Will. Bad omens."
"You aren't superstitious." Will pointed out. Crawford didn't reply, lips narrowing further until they were thin white lines. He tapped his fingers against his arms. Will sighed, resigned. "Tuesday or Wednesday?"
"Wednesday." Crawford replied grimly. "He better stick to his word."
Chapter 2: Cannibalistic Boogaloo
To explain the title, it's basically I can rarely take myself seriously
[Ten Years Earlier]
Hannibal tilts his head in a facade of sympathy.
Directly opposed to him, Franklyn Froideveaux is hunched over a throw cushion, pressing it against his chest and drawing in great, shuddering breaths. It isn't perceivable when Hannibal's lips thin, but he is always in control, and no other micro expressions pass across his face. As though it could give any indication to Froideveaux; the man could barely see past his own life, let alone look into another. As though hearing his thoughts and proving his point, Froideveaux sniffs loudly, clutchs the cushion closer to him, leaving marks over the soft fabric.
Hannibal briefly imagines driving a slim blade into his stomach, shifting it horizontally, gutting him like a fish and just leaving him there, watching him bleed out on the floor. However, it would stay in his imagination - Froideveaux wasn't worth being incorporated into his sounders and he didn't care to waste his strength. Though, Hannibal knew he couldn't deal with this pathetic blubbering for much longer.
For once, Froideveaux decides to do something useful with his life, and finally stops staring directly at Hannibal's face before looking up dolefully at the ceiling. "He said that - that I was his tool, that I was nothing. You're not going to leave like Tobias did, right? You're - my friend. My doctor."
Hannibal's jaw twitchs, bristing against the sentiment. Though, he lowers his voice as though he was attempting to soothe Froideveaux's frayed nerves. "I'm afraid we're nearing the end of your session."
"Next Friday, right?" Froideveaux asks out of habit, getting to his feet and dropping the cusion carelessly to the floor.
Hannibal allows a brief flick of discomfort - not entirely false, Froideveaux is less than pleasant company - and he shakes his head, causing Froideveaux's face to collapse in on itself in pure, unadulterated dismay. "I apologize for not informing you sooner; it was very rushed, with someone of great interest, and I have secured a replacement."
A lie, but Froideveaux wouldn't notice.
"A... a replacement?" His lower lips start wavering, missing the implied insult that he will most likely catch later. His eyes widen, brimming with unshed tears and he moves forward, towards Hannibal, and looked seconds away from reaching out to grab his sleeve. "I can still see you, right?"
He feigns a worried frown, taking a half step back. "It would be unethical."
"Oh." Froideveaux whispers, and thankfully shock took over him, freezing his facial expressions into one of constant surprise. This leads him to be more obedient and he stumbles out of Hannibal's office on shaky legs. The expression he wore was of unwavering betrayal.
Five hours later, the phone rings.
"Dr Lecter?" The voice of a woman inquires, voice polite and smoothed. At Hannibal's confirmation, she changes her voice into something smoother, kinder. "I'm sorry to inform you, but one of your patients has been found deceased - the medication he took induced a heart failure, and Francis Froideveaux was unable to be resuscitated."
"Oh, no." Hannibal says, his voice manipulated into something alarmed and upset. "This is dreadful news."
The woman is quick to reassure him, giving several apologies offering some therapists that she insisted were specialized in grief and Hannibal doesn't remind her of his occupation.
The majority of his days since incarnation passed in a blur of monotony and questions. Chilton would make a point of visiting him once every Saturday and irritate him with rude, invasive questions that any creature with even a remote interest in psychology would never dare ask.
Though, Hannibal was nothing if not polite, and he would allow Chilton to ask his questions, though never give a straight answer. It appeased both the social and angered side in him.
A quick death, through breaking the neck. As satisfying as it would be, Chilton was hardly worth his focus.
As soon as the door opened, Hannibal was stood on his feet. The time - told by a quick glance to the clock on his wall - indicated one hour earlier than Barney would usually bring him meals, which meant one thing; visitors.
"Dr Lecter." Crawford greeted, and Will was nowhere in sight. Hannibal inclined his head in greeting, fixing Crawford with an unblinking gaze that he knew would unsettle him. "There's been another murder."
"That's what tends to happen, yes." Hannibal agreed amicably, not letting his impatience show. "I apologize for being an unwelcoming host. Normally, I would offer a drink of some description, but as you see..."
He gestured around him, at the cell, with an entirely false rueful smile.
"Indeed." Crawford agreed wryly, eyes dragging across the particular frivolous items Chilton had given in attempts to appease Hannibal. His sketchbook was on the bed, closed, and safe from prying eyes. "So, the perp. He's quite quick with his movements."
"I wonder..." Hannibal muttered. This had Crawford's full attention, and his eyes brightened, as though he truly believe Hannibal had forgotten his part of the deal. "If I were able to fulfil my duties as a host, what type of tea would you have had?"
Crawford made a small, strangled noise in the back of his throat and his expression shuts down. Instead of answering Hannibal's question - rude, but Hannibal had deliberately tried to provoke a specific reaction - Crawford strided towards the door, yanking it open and hissing, "He's talking about tea again."
Hannibal could hear the amused response. "Green tea?"
"It wasn't funny the first time." Crawford snapped, holding the door wide open. Will finally graced the room, propping the door open with a delicate, pale hand. Hannibal's back straightened, focused.
"Good afternoon, Dr Lecter." Will greeted politely, eyes cast down as usual. He let the warmth of Will's voice - still cool with professionalism when addressing Hannibal, but he could change that - wash over him.
"Hannibal." He smoothly corrected. Will blinked, his line of sight jumping sharply from the floor to just above Hannibal's left shoulder.
A small frown marred pleasant features. "I..."
"I see I've made you uncomfortable." Hannibal observed. It was needless in polite conversation, but a tactic. At the very least, it would get Crawford's shoulders to tense with the urge to rip his precious toy away from Hannibal. He didn't frown at the thought, and continued. "I apologize."
"There were two victims this time." Will said, politely opting not to point out the fact that they both knew Hannibal wasn't sorry. There was a sharpness to his expression. Will disliked Hannibal lying, or at least overtly creating a front. "The killer is escalating."
"Yes." Hannibal agreed, stepping closer to the glass so he could see Will better, to see the expressions flash across his face more clearly. "Is it because he still feels the need to assume my identity?"
Disgust curled against his throat at the thought of someone pretending to be him, regardless of whether this was borne out of ill conceived admiration. He was leading Will in the wrong direction, but wasn't too worried at the potential outcomes; Will was too perceptive, too clever to merely assign one reason to a psyche.
"No." Will seemed suddenly lost in thought and Hannibal would give anything to follow him there. Crawford stepped forward, hand resting against Will's shoulder, and Hannibal briefly wondered if this was a strategic move to get him agitated. No, Crawford wouldn't - but regardless of intention, Hannibal bristled.
"Are you holding your half of the deal, or asking questions?" Crawford frowned at him, the picture of a disapproving uncle. When Hannibal remained unphased by his concern, he emphasised, "We came here for answers."
"He's giving them to us, Jack." Will muttered, still fully retreated into his mind, eyes unfocused yet vaguely aware of what was surrounding him. "Just not in the way you'd like. The first kill was an initiation. The second was out of enjoyment and an attempt to imitate you."
"Is that because of lingering identity issues?" Hannibal asked, eyes focused.
"No." Will shook his head minutely, a soft frown marking his features with consideration. He momentarily glanced up, meeting Hannibal's eyes, before seemingly catching what he was doing. "No. This is something else. He wants attention. He's recently been ignored, and feels neglected. He's acting out."
"Why?" Hannibal pressed, eyes intently watching Will's, his voice softer than he ever intended to sound. He waited patiently for a minute or so as Will left them to enter his own mind, which in turn would enter another.
Hannibal wondered what it would have been like to have met Will when he was still free. They would have met - one way or another, Hannibal would have seen to it, he was sure - and maybe they could have worked together. Will's hands, though evidently smooth and gentle in action, would no doubt have the capacity to turn into harsh yet elegant.
Hannibal would have helped with the transition, but he wasn't under the delusion that he would be the sole cause of Will's becoming.
"There's more of them." Will breathed, voice firm with conviction. Again, a glance meeting Hannibal's eyes for confirmation, before he grimaced and quickly looked at Crawford. Crawford looked as though Will had just announced the cancellation of his birthday.