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An Ageless Dance

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His hiding place had been discovered. What the hell was he going to do now? Well, if there was anything that could be said of Hannibal, him being a coward was not one of them. He pressed a finger up against his sister’s lips so that she’d know to be quiet, and then placed a quick kiss to the side of her forehead before shimmying out from under the bed.

Two men stood there, both armed with knives, and Hannibal stared up at them coldly. He silently prayed that Mischa would stay silent and remain undetected while the men were distracted with Hannibal’s presence. “Who are you, and why are you in my home?”

One of the men laughed. “Oh, it looks like we have found a brave little warrior. Maybe if you can entertain us, we will be convinced that you don’t need to be killed right away.”

Hannibal kept his face perfectly blank, and his voice completely level despite how easy it would have been to start shouting at them. “I’m not some dancing monkey. I don’t perform tricks on command.”

The man poked the blade of his knife into Hannibal’s shoulders, pushing just hard enough for Hannibal to feel the point without actually breaking through his shirt. “Well now, I don’t remember asking your opinion on the matter, did I, little warrior?” He glanced back at his buddy. “This kid-”

As soon as the man was looking away, Hannibal reached up to snatch the knife out of his sloppily loose grip, and then raised himself up onto the tips of his toes to jam it into the side of the man’s neck. He pulled it out immediately so that there would be nothing stoppering the blood flow. He knew that Mischa had to be freaking out from under the bed, but she was smart enough to stay there until it was safe to come out.

The second man went on guard and ran forward to swing at Hannibal. Hannibal shoved the dying man towards the other, which caused him to stop and stumble for a moment as he caught his friend. But then he must’ve realized that there was no chance of saving him, because he let the man tumble roughly to the ground while he leapt forward to face Hannibal.

Hannibal let out a primal sounding growl, as he held the bloody knife tightly in his hand. The slickness of the blood was making it difficult to keep a steady grip on the weapon, but there’s no way Hannibal was just going to let go of it now. It was currently his only chance at keeping both himself and Mischa alive. He had no idea what fate his parents had met, but had already accepted the idea that they might very well be dead right now, which meant Hannibal was the only one left to defend their house, regardless of the fact that he was only thirteen years old.

He waited for his enemy to charge towards him, and then ducked out of the way at the last moment, watching the man stagger forward when there was suddenly no target in front of him. Hannibal used the opportunity to swipe at the back of the man’s legs, bringing him down to his knees. While he was there, Hannibal slashed at the backs of the man’s ankles. He wasn’t sure if he got the right place or not, but he’d read once in one of his father’s medical textbooks that the Achilles tendon would seriously hamper movement if severed.

But Hannibal hadn’t entirely thought this plan through. Bringing his foe closer to the ground meant giving the man a better look at what was under the bed, and spotting Mischa under there. Before either of the children could react, the man snatched her by her arm, which looked far too fragile in his grasp, and yanked her out from under the bed, scrambling back so that she was pulled up against his chest, the knife pressing hard enough into her neck to make little beads of blood drip down.

Mischa let out a whimper of pain and fear, but Hannibal couldn’t say anything to comfort her right now. He couldn’t ask her to trust that he’d protect her until he’d proven it to her already. He needed time to think this all through, but his mind kept returning to the thought of losing his most precious sister, and he wanted to scream.

Of course Hannibal was well aware that he was more intelligent than any of his peers, but in the end he was still a kid, and he was still scared in this situation. He didn’t know what he’d do if he lost Mischa. He wished that there was some way to turn off that rising sense of panic, though, because he really needed to be able to just focus if he didn’t want his fears to actually play out right in front of him.

And then he froze as he heard the sound of the front door of the house slamming open, and several sets of footsteps pounding in. “Police! Freeze!”

The man holding Mischa must have heard it too. It’s not like the police were trying to be subtle. The man had to know that he was trapped. The police would enter the room any moment now, and they would not let him get away with threatening the life of a four year old. His eyes flicked over to the bedroom window for a second, and Hannibal could practically read the man’s mind. If he could escape through the window, he could get away. But with his ankles cut like they had been, he wouldn’t be able to recover from the jump down, which meant that keeping a hostage would be his only logical course of action. Besides just surrendering, of course, but clearly these criminals weren’t very intelligent if someone had managed to get a call through to the police about them.

Suddenly there was an officer standing in the doorway of the bedroom, holding out his gun. He quickly took in the whole scene, including the dead body on the floor, before he was looking at the intruder with thinly veiled disgust. “Put the knife down, and let the girl go. There’s nowhere you can go from here. At least if you cooperate, there’s a chance of some leniency. And medical help.”

The man scowled. “You’re insane if you think that I’m stupid enough to fall for that! The second I let the brat go, you’re just gonna shoot me! I know how you people work! I refuse to be a victim of-” he had started to pull the knife back further into Mischa’s soft throat, but there was a loud bang that echoed in Hannibal’s ears, and then the man was slumped back, dead with a bullet hole in the center of his head.

Hannibal ignored the officer to rush forward and grab Mischa, tugging her away from the corpse and into a hug. She pressed her face against his shoulder and started sobbing loudly. “Shh, shh, you’re okay. We’re safe now. Everything’s going to be alright.”

The officer knelt down next to the children, and was staring at them with wide eyes, and as Hannibal peered over the top of Mischa’s head, he was slightly taken aback by what had to be the most beautiful colored eyes he’d ever seen before. Then he berated himself for getting distracted from Mischa. When the officer reached forward, Hannibal wanted to snarl at him to stay back. But then he realized that the man was just gently prying the knife out of Hannibal’s hand and setting it down on the floor. “Are either of you injured?”

Mischa pulled away from Hannibal, looking shyly at the stranger before reaching up to point at her neck. “He cut my head off!” she wailed loudly. Hannibal tried shushing her some more, but it didn’t seem to work to make her feel any better.

The officer gave her a small smile. “We’ll have to fix that up right away, then. A princess needs her head, after all.” He reached into one of the many pockets in his pants, and pulled out a bandaid. “I wonder if this will do the trick.”

Mischa shook her head. “That’s just a regular bandage!” and she kept crying.

The officer frowned thoughtfully. “You’re right, that just won’t due. Luckily for you, I know how to turn it into a magical bandage.”

That seemed to get Mischa’s attention, and her crying slowed down just a little bit as she looked at the man curiously. “You do?’

He nodded. “Yup.” He reached into a different pocket and pulled out a thin black marker, and pulled the cap off. “What’s your name?”

“Mischa,” she boldly answered.

The man nodded again. “Perfect.” He wrote her name out on the top of the bandaid in neat letters, and then drew a couple of stars around it. Then he cupped the bandaid between both hands for a couple of seconds. “I pray that all the magic in the world will unite to create a way to restore this princess to full health so that she may survive her coming days.” Then he took the tabs off the bandaid, and carefully stuck it onto Mischa’s neck. “There, how does that feel?”

Mischa reached up to cautiously prod at the bandaid, and then turned to look at Hannibal. “I have a magic bandage!” she told him with all the enthusiasm with someone who had already apparently forgotten the trauma they had just faced.

With Mischa more calm, other people began to enter the room, apparently having been waiting just outside in the hallway while this officer worked his magic on Mischa. It almost made Hannibal feel a little jealous, since he was normally the only one who could calm her down when she was truly upset, but he was mostly just grateful that she didn’t look so upset anymore.

The next few hours seemed to pass by in a massive blur. Some paramedics checked over Hannibal and Mischa to make sure that they were actually alright, and then they rode in the back of an ambulance with their mother, while their father was strapped to a stretcher and being worked on the entire time they moved.

At the hospital, their mother pulled them both close to her, and wrapped her arms around them protectively. A few police officers showed up, though not the one with the magic bandaid, to ask about what had happened. Hannibal was promised that he would not be arrested for killing one of the intruders in self defense, and he found out that his father had done the same. Apparently there had been four of them to begin with.

After some of the excitement died down, Mischa ended up falling asleep with her head on their mother’s lap, and their mother leaned over to kiss the top of Hannibal’s head. “I love you so much. I’m so sorry for what you had to do, but I’m so proud of you for protecting yourself and your sister.”

Eventually, a doctor came to give them the news that their father was stable, and that he would be alright, though he would not wake up for at least a few hours. They all took a cab to a the house of a family friend, where Hannibal and Mischa were left behind so that their mother could grab some spare clothes from their own home, as well as their car.

Once everyone was showered and changed, their mother went back to the hospital. Hannibal wanted to demand that he be allowed to go with her, but he knew that someone needed to watch over Mischa to make sure that she would be okay, so he reluctantly agreed to stay back. They were given some food that tasted bland in Hannibal’s mouth, and then tucked into unfamiliar beds to rest.

,,,

In the end, Hannibal’s parents had decided that they could not leave town, because both of them had good, important jobs that they could not just abandon. But that didn’t mean that they had to stay in the house where they’d all faced such a trauma, and soon the house was sold and the whole family was moving to the other side of town.

Hannibal had liked their old house, but he could understand the need to move, so he didn’t fight it. And when it had been time to pack up their things, Mischa had refused to go into Hannibal’s room at all, which indicated that she had been more affected by everything than she had originally let on. All four of them began to see separate therapists to deal with everything that had happened to them.

They all took a couple of weeks to rest and recover and spend time together as a family, but then it was time to go back to the real world. Mischa and Hannibal were both enrolled in a local grade school, instead of being left with the homeschooling tutor they’d had before. Hannibal thought it had something to do with his parents not liking the idea of the children being home all day without them, but the official reason they’d given was that they were both now fluent enough in English to get by in a school environment. Mischa was in kindergarten while Hannibal was in seventh grade, but the school was for kindergarten through eighth grade, which meant that they could still go together.

On the first day, their mother insisted on dropping them off, though it ended up making her slightly late to work, and the school was close enough to their new house that they could just walk there. It had taken a bit of an argument from Hannibal on their behalf, but eventually his parents couldn’t deny that he’d already proven himself more than capable of keeping him and his sister safe, so he got his way.

He made sure to hold Mischa’s hand tightly the entire way there and back so that she would have no opportunities to run off and get into trouble, though when she was determined enough, even Hannibal couldn’t stop her.

It was a couple weeks of attending their new school, where Hannibal already felt like all his beliefs about being smarter than his peers were being confirmed, when they were walking home. Mischa suddenly stopped in place, and then tugged her hand free. “Magic man!” she called out before running down the sidewalk.

Hannibal ran after her, and then slowed to a stop when he found himself standing in a little park he’d never noticed before. The police officer who had saved Mischa’s life the night of the invasion was sitting on a bench, sipping from a cheap paper coffee cup. He looked surprised to see Mischa run at him, but then recognition covered his face, and he gave her a cheerful smile. “Princess! I’m glad to see that you’re doing so well.”

She nodded. “The magic bandage healed me!” She climbed up onto the bench next to the officer. Hannibal made his way over to them, though he wasn’t too worried. He wasn’t sure why, but he just got the feeling that this man was a good one, and not seem creep who was nice to children for the wrong reasons.

Part of that could be because the officer wasn’t dressed in uniform. He was wearing faded jeans and a baggy flannel, and his hair was an unruly mess. He looked much younger than he had before. Or maybe Hannibal just hadn’t gotten a very good look at him the last time. Still, he knew that it was always best to be on the cautious side until he could know for sure what the situation was. “Thanks for rescuing us,” he said politely. “But I could have handled it myself.”

The man tilted his head, and it felt as though he was staring right into Hannibal’s soul for a moment before he nodded. “I believe you. There’s not a lot of kids out there who would be able to do what you did.”

Mischa laughed. “Uncle Robert said that Hannibal’s a psycho!”

The officer shrugged. “We’re all a bit of a psycho in our own ways. And doing what you have to do to protect yourself isn’t a bad thing necessarily. But I’m no quack, so you can take my words with a grain of salt.”

Mischa wrinkled up her nose. “I don’t like salt.”

Hannibal cleared his throat when the officer turned to say something to Mischa. “You never told us your name.”

The man raised both of his eyebrows, and then snorted. “Huh, guess I forget. Officer Will Graham. If you ever need me, I’m in the south station.”

“We moved. We’re closer to the north station now.”

Will shrugged. “Can’t say I blame you folks for that.” He glanced down at his watch, and then stood up to stretch, reaching his arms up over his head. “Anyways, I’ve got to head out now. It was good to see you guys again. I’m glad that you both look like you’re doing okay.” Then he wandered off without another word, and though Hannibal couldn’t explain exactly why, he felt somehow jipped by the situation.

,,,

Hannibal liked to keep the news playing in the background as he did his homework. It felt useful to know about what was going on around the world, and within their own town. He usually didn’t pay it much attention though, just keeping half an ear out. But then he heard a familiar name, and looked up to see what was going on.

The reporter was standing there, wearing the same smile she always did, no matter what tragedies she was reporting. Hannibal had even found an old news clip of her standing in front of the Lecters’ old house, telling the world about what had happened there. Right now, she was standing in front of an unfamiliar apartment building. “-Officer Will Graham was rushed to the hospital immediately following the incident, and was able to contain the suspect by handcuffing him to a lamp post while waiting for help to arrive. Well, that’s hopefully enough crime for the moment, Sal, so now back to you-” Hannibal stopped paying attention once the story shifted. But he couldn’t help feeling curious about what had happened.

Even if it had been almost five years ago now, Hannibal had a good memory, and he couldn’t so easily forget the man who had saved his sister’s life. He looked over at where Mischa was lying on her stomach on the floor in front of him, swinging her legs back and forth in the air behind her as she worked on her own school assignments. She seemed too caught up in what she was doing to have noticed the name mentioned on the news. Either that, or she just didn’t remember it as anything significant anymore. She had been pretty young at that time.

He wasn’t sure what led him to it, but Hannibal suddenly got up, tidying his homework so that it wasn’t taking up too much space on the table, and then told Mischa to be good while he was gone. Hannibal didn’t want to worry anyone by being gone too long, and he had enough money saved up, so he decided to take a taxi to the hospital. There was only one public one in town, and Hannibal was pretty sure that being a cop wouldn’t pay enough for a private place.

At the front desk, Hannibal confidently walked right up to the receptionist there. It was one of the few times he was grateful to not yet be an adult, because it would mean that no one should suspect him of just being a nosey reporter. “I’m looking for Will Graham.”

The lady peered over the desk at him. She didn’t ask him any questions, though, like what his relationship was to the officer. Instead, she tapped away at her computer, and then sighed. “He was discharged last night, a few hours after being brought in.”

Well there was no way he’d be able to convince her to just hand out a patient’s address, so Hannibal just thanked her and hurried away. He may as well just head home, but as the taxi dropped him off, he couldn’t help feeling like going inside right now would feel a bit like defeat. He decided to start walking, and went past the entrance to the little park near the elementary school.

Hannibal went in, and thought that the universe was full of almost too many coincidences for Will to actually be sitting on one of the benches. He was slumped down, with his head tilted back to stare up at the sky. Hannibal cleared his throat as he walked up to the man, though Will didn’t seem to be startled. When Hannibal moved closer, he saw that Will’s eyes had actually been closed, but at the announcement of someone’s presence, Will slowly opened them and turned to look at Hannibal.

They stared at each other for a few seconds before Hannibal felt the need to speak. “Are you okay?” He knew that if he explained exactly what had led him to this moment, it would definitely sound a bit stalkerish, but he figured that it was a reasonable question, all things considered.

Will let out a tired little laugh, and then started to reach up before wincing and dropping his arm back down. He looked like he wanted to swear, but refrained from doing so. Then he reached up with his other hand to run through his hair. “I just got stabbed and then quit my job after they offered me three weeks of paid medical leave.” He sighed, and straightened himself so that he was actually sitting upright. “I feel like it can’t be just a coincidence that you found me here. I mean, you’re that kid, right? The one who killed a guy?”

Hannibal wasn’t sure whether or not he should feel surprised about being remembered even after all this time. It made sense for him to remember Will, since it had been a traumatic moment that stood out in his memory, but Will must have saved a great deal of people over his career of being a cop. Hannibal wondered if Will remembered all of them. “I saw the news.”

There was a long moment of silence before Will got to his feet. He looked pale and drawn, and his hair was stiff from unwashed sweat. “I think it’s time for me to move on from this place. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.” He laughed, as if he’d just said something incredibly funny. Maybe it was an inside joke, or maybe he was just tired and in pain. “Anyways, you should probably get home soon kid. Thanks for worrying about me.” He gave Hannibal a little smile, and then turned to walk away.

Hannibal frowned, and couldn’t refrain from calling out, “I’m not a kid!” Will just chuckled in response and kept walking.

,,,

Hannibal didn’t know why Mischa had insisted on following him all the way to Baltimore, but as much as he complained about it, he was actually quite glad to have her along. It meant that he knew at least one other person out of everyone in the entire city, and made him feel just a little bit less alone.

Of course Hannibal could have chosen to start his practice anywhere, including a million cities that were closer to home, but something about this place in particular had seemed to call to him. And finding the perfect building to serve as both a home and an office for much less money than he would have expected was only an added bonus.

Mischa had declared that she would live with Hannibal until she’d saved up enough money to move into a place of her own. It would be very easy to tell her to just go live on campus, since she had gone through all the effort of transferring to Baltimore for her last couple of semesters, but he didn’t really feel the need to kick her out of his house.

Hannibal knew that he was lucky to come from a family of privilege when it came to starting up in a new place, but planned on paying his parents back for every penny as soon as he possibly could. His pride wouldn’t allow for any other outcome. And he was confident in his ability to earn enough money to succeed. He wouldn’t let anything get in his way. He would show Mischa what it meant to be a Lecter.

And there was another benefit to Mischa’s presence, as well. He would have to be extra careful with his hobby, to ensure that she never figured out what it was. If Hannibal could stay hidden from someone as bright as Mischa while she was living under the same roof as him, then surely it would be easy enough to avoid catching the attention of any police.

,,,

When Hannibal had seen the badge of the man at his door, his first thought was to run through a list of all his past endeavors to figure out where he’d made a mistake that had led back to him. But then the man began speaking, and Hannibal relaxed when he realized that he was not the object of scrutiny at the moment. Besides, surely they would send more than just a single man if they suspected Hannibal of anything near what he’d done.

One of the things Hannibal found he disliked most about his job was that it was oftentimes quite boring. His patients seemed to all blend together into one or two different people, since they all seemed to have the same old issues with the same general causes and the same solutions.

The person Crawford was describing sounded like something different, something new. Even though he suspected that he’d just find himself disappointed in the end, Hannibal knew that he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to at least meet this person and find out more about them. And he was honored that his mentor, Alana Bloom, had been the one to recommend him. It wasn’t until after Crawford had left that Hannibal realized he’d never even gotten a name for who he was supposed to be looking into.

,,,

Hannibal arrived at Crawford’s office a few minutes early, and he waited almost impatiently for his potential patient to arrive. And then the door was opening and a man was barging in quietly, which wasn’t even a phrase that made sense in Hannibal’s mind, but seemed to perfectly describe what he was seeing.

And as soon as the man turned to face Hannibal, eyes meeting with Hannibal’s for less than a second, Hannibal recognized him. Those brilliant eyes, that messy hair, that tired look on his face. It it been nearly two decades since the last time Hannibal had seen him, so of course he looked older now, and yet for the most part, looked barely any different at all.

There was no sign of recognition in Will’s eyes as he paced around the room briefly and then sank down into one of the chairs across from Crawford’s desk. He mostly just looked tired. And by the time Will was angrily storming out of the room, Hannibal could feel the delight building up inside of himself at the thought of finding someone so interesting.

After a few minutes of small talk with Crawford, Hannibal agreed to look after Will, acting like he wasn’t jumping at the bit to do so. He was given a copy of Will’s file, though Crawford told him that it was only information available on public record, since anything else would be illegal to hand over.

Hannibal quickly returned home after that to flip through the pages, and learn everything that he could about Will Graham. The first thing that surprised him was the man’s age. He was only six years older than Hannibal was. It meant that he’d been hardly more than a child himself the day that he’d killed a man to save Mischa’s life. An event like that would have surely messed with Will as much as it had any of the Lecters. Maybe it had even been his first kill. Hannibal rather liked the idea that it was.

,,,

Seeing Will’s face splattered with blood after killing a man with far more bullets than necessary, Hannibal decided that he needed to have Will for himself. Will had pushed him away at first, but Hannibal knew that being an anchor for the man after everything that had happened with Garrett Jacob Hobbs would be enough to create a link between him and Will.

He quickly came to the decision to pass Will’s psych eval, since he wanted to be able to have an honest conversation with the man without that hanging over their heads. It also had the double benefit of endearing himself to Will, and putting Will back out into the field so that he could continue to get into the heads of killers. Hannibal couldn’t wait until the day that he would let Will into his own head. Nobody else in the world, probably not even Mischa, would be able to understand Hannibal as well as Will would.

,,,

The first time that Will had decided to actually accept one of Hannibal’s dinner invitations had nearly ended in disaster. Mischa had somehow been given the gift for having the worst timing, and had shown up after a night out drinking with her fiance. While Hannibal appreciated the fact that Mischa trusted him enough to talk to him about her relationship and feelings, he did not appreciate that she chose to do so at a time when Hannibal was so close to making progress.

Mischa looked at Will curiously when she saw him sitting at the dining room table. “Hello. Sorry to interrupt, I didn’t know Hannibal had company.”

Will had a strange look on his face as he stood up. His eyes moved to Mischa’s hand, where the engagement ring was resting, and then looked back up in the general direction of Mischa’s eyes. “I didn’t realize Hannibal’s wife would be home. I ah-”

Mischa interrupted him with a loud bout of giggling. “His wife? As if. I can, and have, done way better than him. I’m his sister.”

Will gulped, and Hannibal knew that all of his social awkwardness was building up, and that if he didn’t hurry to salvage the situation, Will would leave, and probably wouldn’t feel comfortable coming back here for a while, which would set back all of the progress he’d already made. “My sister who did not call ahead,” Hannibal said pointedly.

Mischa held her hands up in surrender. “Alright, alright, I get it. I’m not wanted here.” She went on her tiptoes to give Hannibal a kiss on the cheek. “I will see you later. It was nice to meet you…?”

“Will.”

“Will,” Mischa repeated.

After she had left, Hannibal managed to get Will to sit back down and try his latest dish. Hannibal had to hold back the urge to point out that the pleased moans Will was making were almost obscene. He graciously accepted all of Will’s compliments towards the food, and laughed when Will asked why he’d bothered with a million years of schooling when he could have just gone into the field of cooking and been set for life.

They retired to the living room for some drinks, and Hannibal watched with obvious distaste as Will gulped down his drink far too quickly to allow for any enjoyment of it. He wondered if Will was an alcoholic because he thought that it would stop him from seeing so much in other people. He wondered when it had started. He could probably use it to his advantage, but Hannibal decided that he would prefer for Will to be clean and healthy, even if that would make some of his less subtle manipulations more difficult.

,,,

One night as Will showed up for his appointment, somehow managing to look even more tired than he normally did, and he flopped gracelessly down into his usual seat. He reached up to rub at his face, which had several days of stubble built up. “You know, I was trying to figure out why your name sounded so familiar when we first met, and I finally figured it out. You were one of my cases in my first year of being a New Orleans cop.”

Hannibal nodded once, even though he knew that Will didn’t really need the confirmation. “Yes.”

Will sighed, and Hannibal waited patiently for him to reveal why he seemed so bothered by the idea of having encountered Hannibal in the past. It could just be because it made him automatically see Hannibal as a kid, but he wouldn’t know until Will told him. “That means that it’s twice now that you’ve seen me kill someone.”

Yes, and Hannibal loved every moment of those memories, though he knew Will wasn’t ready to hear any such thing. He needed to approach this situation carefully if he didn’t want to lose Will. “Do you believe that I see you as a monster because of it, Will?” A few seconds passed before Will shrugged with one shoulder. “In both cases, I saw you save innocent lives, Will. My sister would probably be dead if you hadn’t intervened. Abigail Hobbs most certainly would be. Most people would see your actions as heroic, so why don’t you?”

Will sighed again. “I don’t know.”

Hannibal tilted his head to the side. “I think that perhaps you do,” he said gently. “How did killing either of those men feel?”

“Terrible,” Will answered immediately. Hannibal arched one eyebrow as he waited for Will to be more honest with himself. “Powerful,” he choked out in a whisper.

Hannibal resisted the urge to smile at Will’s progress. “You’ve found that killing bad people makes you feel good, righteous. Regardless of the good that you’ve done, you fear that part of yourself because of it.”

Will turned his head to the side, staring off at his demons that Hannibal would never get to see. “What do you want from me, Hannibal? You probably knew about our past connection back in Crawford’s office if not before that, but you chose to go along with all of this without ever saying a word. What’s your goal, what are you hoping to achieve with all of this?”

“I believe that I already told you, very early on. I am interested in the two of us becoming friendly. I find you to be quite an interesting person, and I enjoy spending time with you.”

Will gulped, and Hannibal knew that he found it hard to believe that someone would want to be friends with him. The man in front of him was definitely a different creature than the one he’d met about twenty-one years ago. More disillusioned, broken down by the world around him. It was hard to imagine this Will Graham calling a little girl ‘princess’ and giving her a magic bandaid to make her feel better. Of course he still cared about the people he came across, almost to a fault at times, but he had more trouble showing it nowadays. “You don’t have to worry about scaring me away, Will. I’ve seen far too much in the world for anything about you to be where I draw the line.”

Well he didn’t technically say anything about Will being normal or within the appropriate bounds of society, his words did seem to serve as an assurance to Will. The man needed to know that there was at least one person who would always be on his side. And Hannibal was more than happy to take on that role.

,,,

It was at one of Hannibal’s famous dinner parties where he feared for a moment that everything would begin to crash down around him. He spotted Will somewhere in the small crowd that was scattered throughout the lower floor of the house, which was odd enough in itself. Will hated these kinds of events, and never attended them unless it was mandatory for work. The closest Hannibal had gotten was when Will showed up early to talk for a bit and hand over a bottle of wine that he’d gotten help in picking out. And if he was being honest with himself, Hannibal thought it was for the best, so that he could keep Will to himself without all those high society eyes being on him.

Hannibal excused himself from the somewhat dull conversation he’d been in the middle of, and made his way around until he found Will. He reached out to put his hand on Will’s shoulder, and Will flinched back a bit before quickly turning around to face Hannibal. There were other people in the room, but Hannibal felt like it was just the two of them there, and felt a strange flutter in his belly when Will actually met his eyes, and without the shielding of his glasses in between them. “Is everything alright?” he asked in a low murmur, not wanting to draw much attention to them.

Of course, Will didn’t make that easy, since he’d shown up in his typical work clothes. While they worked as business casual in the setting of a school, it made him look very underdressed among this particular group of people. Will gulped once, and then spoke while still meeting Hannibal’s gaze. “You’re the Chesapeake Ripper.” It wasn’t a question, and it also didn’t sound like an accusation. It sounded like Will was simply stating a fact that everyone knew.

Hannibal immediately tensed up, though he didn’t let it show, and his eyes swept around the room for the closest weapon, even as he thought about how much it would pain him to hurt Will. As they stood there, Hannibal realized that he would rather get caught then be the one to bring harm to Will. The thought felt like a punch to the gut. The only other person he’d ever even consider the idea for was Mischa, but that was different because they were family, and they had been through so much together.

He wasn’t sure what the appropriate response would be. Will hadn’t shown any evidence, so Hannibal could deny the claim. It was possible that Will was wired, and waiting for Hannibal to blunder right into a confession. But there was an oddly calm air about Will at the moment. No sign of anxiety or nervousness. “How did you arrive at such a conclusion?”

Will shrugged. “You fit the profile. You faced a traumatic event in your childhood that could have triggered something in you. I just can’t figure out what you do with the organs.”

Hannibal shrugged. “If I was a killer, I’m sure I would like to leave a signature at the scenes to make sure that everyone knew that it was me. All the missing organs are most likely rotting in a landfill somewhere.”

Will nodded once. “Ah. Well.” He clasped his hands behind his back. “You know I have to arrest you now, right?”

Hannibal reached forward to gently touch the side of Will’s face. “But there are so many things that would be far more entertaining for you to be doing right now.”

,,,

Hannibal laughed at the look on Mischa’s face when she came over for breakfast and found a mostly naked Will sitting at the kitchen island. Will was wearing nothing but his boxers, and yet didn’t even seem embarrassed to be seen. “That’s what you get for barging in,” Hannibal told her when he was done laughing.

After demanding that Will go and put some pants on, Mischa waited until Will had shuffled out of the room before grabbing Hannibal’s arm. “So you guys are officially together now?” She didn’t even give Hannibal a chance to answer before continuing on. “Freakin’ finally! You two have been dancing around each other forever.” She glanced back in the direction he had gone in before looking at Hannibal with a wry smirk. “He’s definitely an impressive piece of eye candy for an older guy, I’ll give you that. Oh, stop it, there’s no need to growl at me. I’m already taken, remember?”

“And how is Elicia?”

Getting Mischa to talk about her fiance was always a guaranteed way to get her talking for a while, and distracting her from whatever else they had been discussing. Hannibal had heard all of this before, but he didn’t mind listening to how enthusiastic and loving Mischa sounded when talking about the woman she loved. He was glad that his sister had found someone who she cared about so much.

Will returned to the kitchen pretty quickly, and Hannibal nearly dropped his spatula when he saw that Will was wearing a pair of Hannibal’s pajama pants, and the shirt Hannibal had eagerly discarded last night, though Will had left it unbuttoned. Mischa recognized Hannibal’s clothes, and she shoved at Hannibal’s arm. “Better close your mouth before all the flies get in,” she teased.

They all managed to get through breakfast in one piece, and then Hannibal practically shoved Mischa out the door. There was still conversations he needed to have with Will in private, before the cleaning crew showed up. Hannibal always hired them for the day after one of his dinner parties, and he didn’t want to cancel them on such short notice.

He and Will settled in the living room, and Hannibal turned to look at Will with one eyebrow raised. “So what is next?”

Will shrugged. “I don’t know. I hadn’t really thought this far ahead. Wasn’t expecting last night to happen the way that it did. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but… I still have an obligation to uphold the law. If I just let you get away with all of it, then I’m no better than any of the other criminals that I’ve helped to catch.”

Hannibal reached out to take Will’s hands in his. “I understand,” he said solemnly. “If arresting me is what you need to do, then I will not resist.”

The surprise on Will’s face wasn’t hidden at all. “Really? Why?”

“Some things are more important than a bit of jail time.”

Will looked dubious about that, but then he squeezed Hannibal’s hands, and leaned forward to rest his head on Hannibal’s shoulder. “If you swear to me that it was all about more than a distraction, or trying to sway me over to your side, then- then we’ll figure something out.”

Hannibal reached up to rub circles on Will’s back. “I swear it,” he whispered, mouth pressed lightly against the top of Will’s head.

,,,

The first time Will went hunting with him, Hannibal had no idea how to put his feelings into words. He saw how beautiful Will looked in the moonlight, covered in the blood of fallen prey. Will pushed Hannibal back when he tried to go in for a kiss, but there was laughter in his eyes, and his pleasure with the situation was written across his face.

They worked together on the tableau, creating a piece of art that held pieces of both of them. They decided not to remove any organs, not wanting to bring Jack’s attention to it as a Ripper piece, but instead making it look like the work of someone entirely different, which is was. Hannibal did feel like a different person now that he had Will.

,,,

Waking up to the sight of Will’s sleeping face was something that Hannibal never grew tired of. When his phone rang, he got out of bed to go out in the hallway, not wanting to disturb Will’s slumber. It was his parents, who were slightly insane, considering the fact that it was an hour earlier for them, and it was already quite early here.

As they chatted and got caught up with each other, Hannibal couldn’t stop himself from thinking back to that fateful night when he’d first met Will Graham. Back then the man had saved him and his sister. Now it all felt a bit more fair, since Hannibal had saved Will as well, from Will’s own self. And now everything was perfect, and Hannibal couldn’t imagine his life being any other way.