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Nor ever, Neither never Goodbye

Chapter Text

The playground had been secured by yellow tapes warning off civilians to stay clear of the area.

 

Still there was a considerable crowd gathered curiously across the road, few of the more daring and those simply curious of having found something different than the monotony of their lives lingered nervously around the fringes, trying to chat up the police who stood ground stoically.

 

The forensic team was only just wrapping up their equipments, some of them talking in agitated gestures. The snaps of a few cameras clicking furiously nearby made Will startle out of the inane thoughts that he was lost in and he looked up in alarm to see a flash of bright red near his periphery. He grimaced in distaste, tonguing his cheek as if there was a foul taste hanging off his palate and he shifted his eyes towards where he could see the sharp, stocky figure of Jack Crawford barking off orders to his agents.

 

He tugged on the hood of his blue raincoat so that it hid half of his face. Even though it had long since stopped raining the sky overhead was cast with angry sullen clouds that drifted in muted annoyance. Or maybe he was just projecting his own feelings. It was probably just that.

He felt the presence behind him first than he heard the measured footsteps drawing closer. He didn't turn back or gave any indication that he had heard him but the tightness in his chest loosened incrementally and he consciously let go off the coat he was bunching on his sides and drew a deep breath.

"If you are feeling under the weather we can return to my car. You are under no obligation to be here on your much needed vacation, Will. Jack will have to understand."

He shook his head, eyes straying to the brightly coloured swings that was still marked by the blood of the victim, appearing haunted and still ; as if it were stunned by the violence that took place before it and was forever changed because of that. He wondered if it would have been easier for him to connect with non - inanimate objects witnessing the crimes than the victims themselves. Perhaps he'd be little less marked by the horrors of their last moments when they didn't have to feel human emotions.

"I want to be here, Dr. Lecter. You know I can help."

"Of course. But the cost at which your help comes is too detrimental to your mind and your body. I only wish you would think about helping yourself just as much."

He fought off the grin that wanted to break out on his face, knowing it would further aggravate Dr. Lecter. He tilted his head slightly in acquiescence but walked determinedly towards Jack. He heard Dr. Lecter sigh softly, almost imperceptible if one weren't looking out for it, but he was and he did grin then.

He had been cooped up inside Dr. Lecter's morbidly lavish house in the upper creme of Baltimore residents and even if he had been taken by the gothic interior designing of his house and his odd choice of decorating his dinning room with disturbing pieces of art, he had soon found himself staring out of the frosted windows for hours on end. Dr. Lecter was a busy man -- a very important man, and he already took up so much time and space of his private life that it was almost criminal to ask anything from him.

So he was excited, shamefully, when he saw Jack's number flashing on his phone. But it only lasted for a woefully short time until Jack told him who the victim was.

A ten year old boy.

"Ah, Will." Jack said when he saw him approaching. He waved away the agents he was talking with who took off in relief and trained his intense stare on Will.

"The body has already been taken to the lab. It was a bloody circus by the time we came here. The local police were at their wits end, seeing that something of this nature had never happened in this small town. There were nearly a dozen footprints running amok before the they sealed of the place properly. The scene was...well, it was as shocking as you'd expect when a child is involved. The body was found there," Will followed the line of Jack's finger and saw the bloodied left swing which still had gory bits stuck to the chains on either sides, "the forearms and hands were stitched with the chains to keep the body upright. The perp used metal wires to hold --"

 

Will began to convulse.

Blood spurted and then gushed in short rapid bursts from his throat as he clutched at it, gasping and wheezing. His legs slipped under him and fell but he wasn't aware. He was terrified. He was so terrified. It was all pain and fear before when he was grabbed, but now it only burnt. He tried to see the man who was crouching before him but his sight was getting blurry. He was burning and he couldn't breathe. He tried to reach out but his hand slipped in air and he choked in his own blood. He didn't understand what was happening but he was scared, he was scared, he was ---

 

"Will. Will, what do you see?"

That voice.

He knew that voice. Not the 'him' who was a child but the 'him' that was he. He had to focus on that voice. What did it say?

"Will feel my hand on your shoulder. There. You are here. With me. What did you see?"

Will shuddered. The coppery tang was filling his mouth. He spat and tried to breathe.

"He -- he was taken from his way back home. Maybe he was -- he was returning from a shop or, or I don't--" he coughed. "He didn't know the man. It - it was a man. Mid to late 50s. Bulky. Sweaty. But I --"

He wheezed and spluttered, his breath finally becoming even.
He blinked back the tears and stared straight ahead. He took in lung ful of breath, grateful for this.

"Are you dead Will?"

Will nodded jerkingly. "Y-Yeah. I am dead." He shivered and wrapped his hands around himself. His raincoat was heavy with his own blood even though the wound on his throat was disappearing. He looked up and saw Dr. Lecter's face only inches away from him, his arms holding him steady. Will quickly averted his eyes, leaning back into his warmth but wincing about his blood ruining yet another expensive suit of his.

"I um, the victim. He didn't see the face. Maybe he was hiding his face or something. I'm, I'm sorry. There's not much I could see."

"It's okay Will. It is not your fault that the victim couldn't see his murderer, and if they hid their identity."

"No. No I don't think the killer was wearing a mask or something. I could see his face but it was not...it was blurry. Confused. I think the killer was waiting for the boy to come out of the store. He snatched him up and drove him here. It must not be far away. I didn't feel it was too long. He quickly killed the boy as soon as he brought him to this place. And then he..." Will trailed off, not wanting to think anymore about the fate of the child.

"I hope that this would suffice for your investigation, Jack." Dr. Lecter informed not taking away his arms from around Will.

Jack looked discomfited by the rather disconcerting scene before him. No matter how many times he watched Will getting brutalized in the same manner as the victims and then being completely unfazed by it afterwards, he still couldn't help but to be apprehensive about his unique set of constitution. Perhaps more bizarre than his soulmate link was the ability that came with it.

"Yes. It will be more than enough Dr. Lecter. I apologise for calling Will in even when he was on his vacation. Cases like this demands all the help that we can get and Will's ability will help us locking away the son of a bitch faster. Will, you doing okay?"

He nodded as he stood up. He cringed at the crusty feeling of the blood and turned away from them, walking towards the side of the road where Dr. Lecter's Bentley was parked. He contemplated if he should get inside the car. He did remember to bring his wallet with him. He could just call a cab. Though he had to explain a lot in that case.

"Will."

Dr. Lecter's otherwise neatly combed hair was looking slightly out of place, a tuft of his sand - white hair falling over his maroon eyes that shone with worry.

Will still couldn't believe how he ended up being so lucky after everything that happened. How he wasn't cursed to a life damned to blood and pain and being alone.

"Are you cold Will? Do you still hurt?"

"I'm fine Dr. Lecter. Just a little too much blood drying in uncomfortable places. I ruined your suit. Again. I'm sorry."

He stepped closer and the refined sandalwood musk of his perfume filled Will's head in familiarity. His large long - boned hand hovered above his own, but he went for the door of the car and opened it up as the gentleman he was and Will felt horrified at the heat that crept up his neck.

"Let's go home Will."

Will met his eyes then, green - blue eyes reflecting in the depthless maroon eyes. The unrealized bond between them strumming with heat.

"Yes."

 

-----------------------

Chapter Text

Will's mind space wasn't as magnificent or as striking as the Sistine Chapel at Palermo.

 

 

Dr. Lecter had been polite enough to teach him the useful techniques to store and retain memories of the things and people he came across and deemed important enough to remember. But the reason why he wanted a mind space was to carve out a niche in his own mind, where he could keep all the dark thoughts and memories that were to unpalatable for him to digest safely. There were things that his mind saw. Things that weren't there and those that his mind warped into something ugly and nightmarish. They used to keep him up at night when he was a boy. He didn't worry about monsters lurking under his bed because he knew who the monsters were and they wore a friendly smile.

 

 

The people he usually came across had a disturbing tendency of either getting themselves killed or worse, killing themselves in his vicinity. His father used to crack jokes in good nature when things became too overwhelming about how Will attracted the dead like bees to flowers, but then one day he almost choked on air as his mother drowned herself in the bathtub upstairs.

 

His father never laughed again after that.

 

But nonetheless, one of the happier memories that he had of his time spent with his father working on motor boats in Louisiana was the toolshed his father had built for their run - down shop. It was more of a shack than anything else but his father had taught him most of what he knew in those days.

 

His mnemonic structure was the toolshed with racks upon racks stacked up systematically which were filled with boxes containing the bits and pieces from the people he had come across. He kept them within him, after he sensed their reliefs and quietly visit them on bad days, to remind himself where and how he was. Alive.

 

His eyes flitted to Dr. Lecter who drove with an air of casual elegance that was both enigmatic and ridiculous. He had never seen another man so well put together and meticulously presented. If he didn't know any better, Will would have chalked him up to be snobbish stuck - up and never given him another thought. But he knew that this persona of a highly sophisticated and cultured intellectual that Dr. Lecter wore around like a armour was just as much a part of who he was as were his other selves that he'd very rarely catch a glimpse of.

 

A person was seldom a single entity and Dr. Lecter had taught him that foremost. Even he must have so many selves to go around in different situations. All of us carrying our own personalized closet of person suits wherever we go. Being naked for the world to see must be such a scandalous affair.

 

"You are lost in your thoughts, Will. What has you thinking so loudly."


Dr. Lecter never really asked questions, only posed them as such with an air of openness that lured you in.


Will played with the end of his raincoat, looking outside of the window at the blurring green giving way to houses and shops.


"Did Jack really apologise to you or was I hearing things?"


He didn't have to look to know the not-quite-there smile that was playing on Dr. Lecter's lips.


"Uncle Jack was more disturbed than usual with the present case. I had heard of a similar crime being committed in another town not very far from there. Though it happened nearly a decade ago, but the circumstances were odd enough to Jack that he mentioned it to me."

 

Will sat up straight frowning slightly at Dr. Lecter.
"You talked with each other before bringing me in?"


"I had consulted with them on that particular case years ago as the child murdered was related to one of my patients."


Will folded his arms a little sullen. He had thought Jack had finally realized that he was mature enough to deal with these sort of things without the permission from Dr. Lecter. Sure the cases he was brought in for could get rough but he was useful to them far more if he was actually present at the crime scene. And when he had got that call asking him to come there, he thought that maybe he was ready for the work that he found himself good at.


"So you persuaded Jack into letting me come there. And he didn't throw a fit?"


"I knew how upset you were becoming at the house. When the situation presented itself I wanted to make sure you were ready before you valiantly jumped into the fire."


Will scoffed.


"And Jack was desperate."


Will didn't really want to smile but he did, his fingers absently trailing up to the soft skin under his left wrist, circling the soul-mark that was mirrored at the same place on Dr. Lecter's hand.

 **************

 

 


By the time Professor Sogliato's lecture on Dante wrapped up, Will was close to tears.

He had almost fallen asleep twice in the class but somehow managed to feint attention long enough that he survived through the class. He spotted Beverly down the hall and he made his way to her.

She was talking with a couple of girls in her class and when she saw him coming over, she quickly bade them goodbyes and turned excitedly towards him.


"So, guess who survived the family reunion?”


“Not you of course.”


“Smartass. But whatever. I didn’t think it was possible. By the time they reached the part where I had taken up criminal psychology and the very weird questions that they were asking, I was out of the door and inside my car. But then I decided that I was actually going to be a badass about it and survive it!”


Will chuckled softly, knowing how strung up Beverley’s extended family could be sometimes.


“But enough about me. Did you inform Dr. Smooth about the summer gala that Miss Bloom invited you to?”


Will could feel his ears burning but he tried not to react too much. But given that Beverley knew about his helpless crush on Alana, she grinned ear to ear.


“You sly dog! Did something happened between you two? Am I actually going to be a part of some smouldering teacher-student action in college?!”


BEVERLEY! God, could you at least be a little quiet about these ridiculous things! And no. Why would anything happen? She is married and has a son!”


“So? Affairs are a thing, you know.”


Will sighed. “They are soulmates Bev. You know those sort of things are almost impossible to do with the sort of connection mated – pairs share. And anyway, there’s nothing happening between us. It was just that the last time I talked to her she had – um,”


“What? Hey, don’t jam up on me!”


“She um, had a mark...on her...” he trailed off, now truly blushing and ducked his head remembering the dark bruise that was sitting inconspicuously on the base of her throat and he had only noticed it because he had been admittedly staring at the neckline of the shockingly red formal dress that she was wearing and her hair had been swept away by a gush of wind when they were walking outside in the parking lot.
Beverley whistled as they walked into the canteen and shook her head.


“Your crush on her is cute if not a little sad. Okay, a lot sad. But you’re a looker underneath the grumpy and messy sassiness so you should be fine before the event rolls around.”


“Well I might swoon from all this praise being thrown at me.”


“Your deadpan voice is seriously concerning. But no. Seriously Graham. You can’t let this opportunity go. The best of the bests would be attending the gala and the sharpest and most brilliant minds would be in attendance. I know how conscious you are about the paper you wrote even if it’s unofficial but it got Bloom's approval and if you actually went out there and socialized like a true human being then it would mean a heck of a lot for your resume. You don’t need me reminding you of that.”


Will didn’t say anything but mulled over it well into the next classes.


He knew that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and given his weird constitution was a secret, he only had his scholarly skills at his disposal. And he was good at profiling, he wasn’t modest about the truth, but that kind of exposure would go a long way for his career. And if he really had to prove how capable he was to Dr. Lecter, then he had to do it all on his own.
Will wasn’t stupid enough to ignore the risks of being involved in the type of cases Jack asked him to look into. How he had kept Freddie from running her mouth out into the open world, was beyond him but he suspected that the anonymous tips and certain confidential citations that Freddie claimed in her recent articles, were to be of any indication, Jack seemed to have struck a bargain with the devil. But he knew how much Freddie’s promises are of worth. And even if he did help people both living and dead doing what he did, the physical aspect of his constitution was becoming more taxing the more he did it. Being stigmatized in the same way as the victims were killed didn’t leave him with any lasting injuries and any and all blood that he did lose was always replenished by an hour at most.


However it was becoming increasingly troublesome to distinguish between which memories were his own and which were borrowed. Dr. Lecter noticed, of course he did. But he was content to let it hang and grow between them until Will took the first step and came out with it to him. But Will was more than comfortable to skirt around that topic as well, only talking about it in long – winded and highly philosophical jargon but he enjoyed that as much as he enjoyed those quiet days were they never spoke any words, moving along with each other in the house, each doing their own work and aware of each other’s presence.


Will was also content to never bring up the topic of them being soulmates after that one time. The only time Will was scared of Dr. Lecter.


But he was getting ahead of himself.


He had to do something which was, not even indirectly, depended on Dr. Lecter.


He'd write back to Alana telling her that he was interested in the gala. The only thing left to do was finding a plus one for the event.


And wasn’t that the most easiest thing to do.

 

**********

 

 

 

“But what if the constitution I get was something twisted? Like – like developing a fetish for cheese and it ruins cheese for me for my whole life?! Would you ever forgive yourself if you were suddenly attracted to cheese just because your soulmate is a – an affineur!”


Hannibal easily reached forward to grab the box of tissues kept on the study desk beside him and held it out to the blabbering, sweating man sitting in front of him. His hand stayed just out of the reach of Franklyn Froideveaux, calculated to make the man go out of his way to get the box without being too discourteous. The man grabbed the box gratefully, and Hannibal didn’t miss the way his fingers tried to touch Hannibal’s so he had kept them out of reach.


Franklyn blew wetly on a wad of tissues and Hannibal watched in mild distaste as he crumpled the tissues into a ball and kept it on the table. Hannibal’s eyes darted between the ball of snot laden tissues on his immaculately cleaned and arranged table and then to the man suffering from a severe neurosis in front of him and languidly wondered how much tissues it would take before he choked on it and died.


“I rarely eat anything that I will come to regret Franklyn. I’m very particular about the things I eat.”


Franklyn gulped nervously and then sniffed loudly. “ Well...I too only eat the best kind of cheese out there Dr. Lecter. I’ve discovered something new about me just now. Cheese is my passion.”


“Having a passion will definitely help you feel more grounded to reality and give you something useful to focus on. And as for the matter of twisted constitutions : the phenomena of finding a soulmate and then connecting to them in a manner where certain traits of your personality gets triggered and amplified is a topic which is less understood by the cold logics of the scientists and very much discussed by the philosophers. It is far more complicated and intricate than simply sparking off recessive character traits or even hidden fetishes that might speak of the kind of personality your other half is suppose to have. It is much profound than that.”


Franklyn nodded his head sincerely, soaking up all the words that Hannibal spoke like a sponge.


“You are right of course, Hannibal. May I call you Hannibal? I’ve found that you have been a much better friend to me than the one I call my best friend.”


“You may not, and I am not your friend Franklyn. I am here to help you navigate the troubles you face in your life on your own. To defeat the monsters you perceive to be haunting you.”


Franklyn's face fell and his already jittery leg crossed at the knee started jerking in anxiety.


Hannibal did not look at the offending leg.


“But why? I...I can be a good friend, Ha- Dr. Lecter. Is it...is it because of my neurosis? Is it because of that?”


Hannibal leaned back candidly, giving a pointed glance down at his watch and uncrossed his legs.


“If you weren’t neurotic you’d be something far worse. You have to believe that weaknesses you perceive are preys you can overcome easily. There are no monsters trying to bring you down but only those you allow. Trust me Franklyn, you will know when there’s a real monster in the room.”


Walking Franklyn to the door and being done with the patients he was seeing for today was something he was looking forward to. But he was pleasantly surprised to see Will waiting outside when he opened the door.


Will turned around and opened his mouth before he was interrupted by Franklyn who held out his hand to Will which was promptly ignored.


“Will, this is a private exit for my patients.” Hannibal chided softly.


Will ran his hand through the supple locks of his hair, the blue tee shirt that he wore accentuating his eyes.


“I’m sorry. I was impatient. I’ll- I’m going.”


And then Will was out in a rush.


“Who was that Ha- Dr. Lecter?”


“I believe it is almost time for my last patient to arrive Franklyn. I will see you again in next week.” Is what he said to him but his mind called out persistently ‘My soulmate'.


---------------

Chapter Text

 

It was raining incessantly from yesterday night.

 

Will was looking blandly out of the window of his small room, sitting cross-legged on the crammed up suitcases that served as furniture. The outside was painted grey, the trees standing out strikingly as the deepest green they ever seem to be. There was a brook some yards away, hidden by the dense undergrowth and brambles, tucked neatly off to a side at a distance of a three minutes walk. He could see it sometimes if the sky was clear and he had the patience. But in the downpour, everything melded into each other: a buzzing black and white interspersed with green that seemed grateful for the relief after such a harsh summer.

 


He didn’t open the window, stared at it through the glass, sometimes following the many trails as rain splattered against it. Sometimes imagining a stray droplet making its way down to the side of the window, down the wall along the pipeline and then disappearing into the ground. He hadn’t been enrolled in a school yet. They had just moved here and it had only been a week. His dad had found a job at a nearby factory and the pay was good enough for them.

 


It was a Sunday but he hadn’t heard his dad downstairs and he didn’t feel like going down just yet. He yawned and rubbed at the left over sleep in his eyes and blinked owlishly at the rain.

 


A knock at his door startled him and he scrambled off the suitcase and launched at the bed. Pulling up the covers up to his chest he answered back.


His dad peeked inside opening the door slightly. His eyes first went to his son, looking dishevelled and decidedly at rest on the bed, and then to the window to the right, the curtains of which were drawn back. He sighed through his nose and stepped inside, settling at the foot of the bed and awkwardly kept his hands to himself.

 


He cleared his throat, giving a battered smile at his son and was relieved to see it returned. He had been worried slightly, if Will would be alright with the hasty move form the previous town. It had been good for them. But as good things were ought to, it came to an end quite suddenly, no doubt spurred by his own mounting debts and the bills that only grew.


“Mornin' champ. You feeling good?”


Will nodded, dragging the covers upto his neck and very consciously not sniffling as he breathed.


“Were you burning up durin' the night? I had kept the pills on your desk. Did you find it?”


“Yeah, Dad. And no, the fever didn’t come back.” Will said, his voice sounding a lot less cracked and sickly than it had been for the past two days.


“Good, good.”


They sat there for a moment longer, each grappling for things to speak about.


Will finally decided to break the silence, he had grown to develop a dislike for it.


“Should I make breakfast?”


“No, no. No need. I’ve made it already. Pancakes. With honey. Just bought it in the mornin'.”


It was one of those days, Will thought with a tentative happiness. One of those increasingly rarer days when his dad would wake up and didn’t feel the need to fill his belly with half a bottle of whisky. He must have seen the look in Will's face, he still hadn’t perfected the art of masking his anxiety under a wall of prickly temper and sharp tongue, and his dad knew him well. He was the first of the people who actually bothered enough to know him. So he knew what Will was thinking, just as Will knew how desperate he was to make it up to Will for tearing him away from the semi – settled life in Georgia because of the people he owed money to had started showing up at Will’s school.

 


He gave the Graham smile that was something of a special brand of his family. His dad had told him his pa had got it from his father. It was a mix of a dry charming tilt of one corner of his lips, only showing a silver of teeth which was coupled by a deep exhale, and tired, guilty eyes which were a must for this kind of smile. Will hadn’t yet perfected it. But he would.


“You wanna eat first and then do somethin’ interestin'?”


Will perked up at the sound of it.


“Are we going to your workshop?”


His father chuckled dryly and shook his head. “Not so fast champ. You’re hand still needs to recover from the mallet you took to it and there’s nothin' for me to fix now. I was thinkin' if you were feeling up to it, we could, dunnow, go down by the brook for some fishin'. Rain is good for topwater bait and I have plenty of time today. What do you say?”

 

Will nodded enthusiastically and his dad ruffled his hair.


“Get ready and come down, yeah?”


Will had gobbled down the pancakes with a healthy amount of honey in a record time. Even taking two servings and his dad had laughed good naturedly. He had grabbed his blue raincoat and already gathered the poppers and rip cord, and a large basket by the time his dad had got ready.

 


They trudged through the small field which opened up to the undergrowth. When they finally arrived at the shallow ledge of the brook the rain had picked up pace again. They found a good spot and set up their tools on the muddy ground. After everything was set up, they waited for their baits to turn up fishes.

 

“The rain gives them more energy and they are restless with all the commotion that the droplets cause on the surface of the water. That’s why they become more aggressive, and the nutrients deep under the water are pushed upwards, attracting shoals of them to the surface. That’s why you need not do much with the baits, but be alert and have patience.” His dad instructed and Will listened carefully. His dad burned a smoke and took a long drag. Will had missed these days, when he actually found his dad so close to him. And they didn’t have to speak into the silence necessarily. There was a understanding that grew from suffering together. He cherished that kinship.


“Your ma never liked goin’ out in the rain.” He began, surprising Will because it was the first time in two years that he actually spoke directly about her.


“She didn’t like getting wet and hated mud getting inside her shoes. She preferred staying indoors and watching any drivel on tele than going out on a day like this. Scared of all kinds of bugs that’d come out during this time. But sometimes she’d offer to come with me. She said it was to keep my morale when I’d turn up dry but I think she just enjoyed watchin’ me have fun after a week of work.”


Will dared not speak. He felt a tug on his cord and he reeled it back, grinning when he saw he had caught one.


His dad greeted him with a wink and Will laughed, feeling giddy.


“You...you are a lot like her. In your quietness. In the way you watch but never say. I see her in you, as you grow older.”


Will's laugh froze on his face and he became stiff. The joy he felt for having caught a fish disappeared and he sat there, refusing to look his dad in the eyes.
They didn’t speak after that. They fished until late afternoon, by the time rain finally let on, they had a bucket full of fresh water fish. There was a certain kind of stiffness in their conversations after that, though no one spoke about it. They had grilled fish with herbs that smelled heavenly and was just as delicious. If Will saw his dad lounging in a wooden chair in front of a static tele fingers deep in a tumbler in the evening, he pretended that the day had ended at the side of the brook, his father and him looking out at the rippling waters, grateful in each other’s company.

 ****************

 

 

“Good morning, Will.”


Will startled out of his stupor and sat up quickly. Too quickly because he had a creak in his neck and his head felt like it was stuffed with wool. He still had papers strewn across the glass table, with all of his references and books haphazardly scattered about. He didn’t realize when he had fallen asleep on the couch, and didn’t even know when Dr. Lecter had returned from his conference in Minnesota. He quickly wiped away the half-wet drool cooling on his cheek absolutely mortified and praying to any gods who listened to not let Dr. Lecter notice it.


He scrambled to stand up, but on his haste, dropped a folder full of drafts on the floor and hurriedly gathered it back inside.


“I’m- I’m terribly sorry Dr. Lecter! I didn’t realise when I had fallen asleep. My paper is due today and I was – I’ll clear all of it away in 5 minutes.”


As he began to pile up the things accordingly, Dr. Lecter walked up to the couch, his bare feet against the softest and lush carpets of the floor burning the image of it into Will’s mind and he paused momentarily to take in the slender and arching bones of his feet. They were just as beautiful as the rest of the man, and somehow more elegant ; as if it belonged to a ballet dancer or a gymnast. Thoughts of Dr. Lecter in tights gracefully nailing a fouette filled his mind and he missed to pick up the markers thrice that had fallen down to the floor before he finally did and vindictively stuffed it inside the case.

 


“It’s alright Will. This is as much your home as it is mine and you will not be punished to have dozed off in the couch instead of your bed. Though I do wonder if you found something lacking in your room.”


Will had just woken up and his sleep – addled mind was certainly not ready for the good doctor’s deep voice uttering ‘punished' with the alluring accent of his so early on. But he whipped back the reins of his mind cruelly and held on to it for dear life. He was not going to make a fool of himself in front of him. He wasn’t a hormone- driven teenager anymore, for gods sake!

 


“No. I just couldn’t concentrate. When did you come back?” He stood up and felt his heart constricting painfully in his chest. Dr. Lecter was dressed in his most casual attire he had ever seen him in : a red turtleneck sweater that accentuated his collarbones underneath the material, so cozy that Will wanted to reach out and touch to feel its softness , and a brown loose trousers that hung just about the hips so masterfully that Will swallowed dryly.


God!


He must have taken a shower because he smelled strongly of sandalwood and rosewater and there were dews at the skin of his neck that peeked out of the sweater delectably. If Will didn’t know better, he’d almost accuse Dr. Lecter for torturing him to death by being so carelessly desirable.


“Just over an hour ago. The conference concluded sooner than I had expected and I took the next flight available.”


His eyes were light and there were creases at the corners of his eyes that spoke of his quiet amusement. Will narrowed his eyes.


“What?”


Dr. Lecter brought his hand up to the side of his right cheek and the small skin that met his ear and his thumb grazed tenderly on the stubble that grew over in the two days he had been busy with the paper.
Will had almost forgotten to breathe. He didn’t care that he was only wearing a faded t-shirt that had too many holes and threads coming away from it, practically falling apart at the seams, and just his boxers to hide his dignity. He lived for these moments of equal parts kindness and a special brand of cruelty that only Dr. Lecter could conjure. He knew how tactile he was, always touching the back of his shoulder to reassure Will, a light touch on his elbow as they passed each other in the kitchen when he stayed over in this house, always standing so close to him that he could breathe in his warmth. But Dr. Lecter was careful with the direct touches he’d allow himself. They were always reserved for when Will was having a Bad Day, or when he was dying for a case Jack had brought to them.

 


So Will was completely taken by Dr. Lecter’s gesture, hating himself just a little for leaning into the touch and just strong enough not to close his eyes with how great it felt. Will’s eyes bored into Dr. Lecter’s and he was greeted with his own reflecting back. He hated how he couldn’t quiet see what Dr. Lecter really thought, his eyes never giving anything away. It was also a blessing for those days when Will needed a paddle to ground himself to reality, to only see what he was and nothing more.

 


Something quick and dark passed over in Dr. Lecter’s eyes and Will’s lips parted in response. The good doctor’s eyes tracked his movement and Will inhaled sharply.

 


But then the moment passed and Dr. Lecter drew back, as he always did. Will felt decentralised and he fixed his stare on the cuffs of his sweater.

 


“You had missed a spot.” Dr. Lecter said with a smile in his voice and Will winced.


“Thanks a bunch.” Will doled out dryly and made for the washroom to hide from the embarrassment.


“Would you like some coffee, Will? I’ll be making scones too.”


Will turned, frowning. “What’s the time?”


“2 : 45 in the morning, I believe.” Dr. Lecter replied airily.


“You don’t have to go through so much-“


“Making food is never a chore, Will. Not when you have the pleasure of a good company. And it’s never too late for coffee, I’ve been summarily informed.”


Will grinned. “ Yeah? Who ever told you must be smart.”


Hannibal returned it with a slight tilt of his head. “I defer to his finer observations.”


He felt his ears catching fire and ducked his head while pointedly walking easily to the washroom. Will shut the door behind him and rubbed the bridge of his nose in frustration. Things were becoming much harder to ignore and avoid. He didn’t know how he should broach the subject with Dr. Lecter. For gods sake he couldn’t even call the man by his name without turning a shameful shade of red due to his teenage years fantasizing of all the ways that name would sound when he’d call it out as his soulmate would be so deep within him that they’d be inseparable.

 


Dr. Lecter never really had shown any interests in him apart from the teasings and occasional looks that would burn him down to his core only to rebirth him from those ashes. He would be so polite and formal in the next moment that Will would worry if he was losing his mind and had just dreamt up those moments of intensity that promised sinful things to him. He didn’t know if he dated. Wouldn’t be wrong if he did. Will knew that being soulmates didn’t mean you were right for each other. It just meant that you were compatible in certain ways that’d make you a good team. In his line of studies, he had come across various cases where soulmated couples broke up, or chose to live differently because things that were different between them turned out to be more pressing than those that were optimum. He knew acquaintances who were soulmates but decided to remain good friends. And on his way of becoming a forensic professor, he knew that the highest rate of homicides were between soulmated pairs.

 


Will wanted to believe that Dr. Lecter did all of this out of the kindness of his heart and because he knew his dad from childhood. But his stubborn heart couldn’t help but argue that a man just being a good friend and a philanthropist didn’t have to do as much as Dr. Lecter did for him. He practically gave him his own damn house to live in! Paid the debts to release his actual home in Wolf Trap, and gifted it to him on the promise that he would allow Will to pay it back it to him once he was comfortable. Why did he went out of his way to make things so easy for Will if he didn’t expect anything in return. Why did he make Will so important, cancelling his lecture at Stanford just so he could take care of Will when he had fallen ill. He didn’t understand Dr. Lecter though he would bet he knew the man more than any of his snivelling and attention seeking colleagues who'd wax poetic about Dr. Lecter’s cheekbones if the former didn’t find such blatant and crude praise so distasteful.

 


All these thoughts had finally managed to calm his blood down from steaming point and he looked down gratefully to see the bulge subsiding. He turned on the sleek golden faucet and peered into the mirror and froze in horror.

 


His messy hair resembled a crow’s nest in the way it was sticking out in knots every each way. There were sleep dust glaringly evident in his red, beady eyes and a mortifying white track at the side of his mouth. He groaned loudly and wanted to disappear inside the ground and never come out. No wonder Dr. Lecter didn’t show any outright interest in him. He was already a mess without all of that drama.

 

***************

 

 


A chill wind blew past him, messing up his already troubled hair and Will ducked his chin inside the floral scarf that sat snug and warm around his neck, breathing in its clean scent. Dr. Lecter had bought it for him in the previous Christmas all wrapped up in important and expensive black box with a name that he could hardly pronounce. In spite of its tag, the thing was actually very useful to have around, being comfortably thick and fluffy. Not that he really enjoyed fluffy but lately he had developed a liking for soft and comfortable things. He had taken the bus today because his car was in need of repairs and he still had some more savings to do to take it to a shop. He had got off a stop early because he couldn’t function properly like a human being until he had a healthy dose of run-of-the-mill coffee. He ordered his regular black coffee with two sugars and took one extra with some whipped cream for Beverley and was on his way to walking towards the campus when he sensed something ominous.

 


He stopped and turned around to see a petite woman in a brown coat and curly red hair putting something away hurriedly in her side bag. Will could feel a migraine coming his way and he only hoped that what he was dreading wasn’t actually true. He picked up his pace and marched towards the gateway that was only a couple of yards away when he heard the unmistakable clicks of heel on gravel gaining ground behind him.

 


“Hey! Excuse me, hey! Graham? You’re Will Graham right? I’m Freddie Lounds -"


“Oh, I know who you are.”


He really should walk on. He had a ID and she didn’t.

There was no way she could come inside the campus.


His legs paused mid stride and he chugged on the coffee so that his tongue burnt.


She rounded him and have him what he was sure one of her best weapons : a mouthful of shimmery smile.
She was a striking woman, what with her uproarious hair and the way she dressed that decidedly didn’t make her blend in with the normal crowd, Will knew that she was only bad news because he had literally read some of the worst and misinformed pieces of ‘news' on her blog that made him frown until his eyes hurt.


“Colour me surprise. What are the odds that I’ll stumble across one of the hottest topics of my recent article when I was out scouting for more clues.”


“They are certainly slim when one has a rather unfortunate penchant for following people into places which isn’t a part of their business.”


Freddie Lounds gave a smile which was all teeth, arching a thin brow and narrowing her eyes.


“You know, you were very hard to find out. Jack Crawford had tucked you away like a fine piece of china that he only takes out when very important guests show up. Tell me, Will. Is the one who sew a child into the swings of a local playground a very important guest?”


Will really shouldn’t say anything. He really should just walk away. But the way Freddie uttered each word dripping with sickly sweet smugness and disdain made Will want to say something shockingly horrible to her. To shake her out of the poise that she so prided herself in.


“No comment.” He tried to walk past her but Freddie blocked his path, looking into her bag and taking out a picture and holding it out to him to see.


“It’s a pretty neat photo, I must say. That raincoat of yours really brings out your baby blue eyes.”


He clenched his teeth. It was taken at the crime scene, he was just staring off to a side, the swing wasn’t actually visible but a portion of Jack’s grim face was frozen just behind Will’s shoulders looking towards the place where the murderer had poised the boy.


“You can tear it off but I’m sure you know people have digital copies of such things.”


“You can be arrested for trespassing into an active investigation and on a count of obstructing justice Miss Lounds. I’m sure you know that is considered as a binding offence.”


Freddie gave him a wide-eyed innocent look as she kept the photo back into her bag.


“I really want to wait patiently for when Jack wants me to run the exclusive scoop on this bad boy. But you know how...sensational a case of this magnitude is. Children are just something so pure and vulnerable, we want to protect them from any danger and at any cost. My viewers are very eager to know just what happened back there and what the Head of the Behavioural Science had to say about the perpetrator. Just imagine their shock when they’ll learn that the FBI had allowed a criminal psychology major to run around in his cute raincoat playing detective when they ought to be doing their jobs.”

She stepped closer, tilting her head up and fixing Will with a dare that he resolutely denied to acknowledge, instead focusing on the people ambling their way inside the campus behind her. “As a journalist, it is my duty to deliver the truth and nothing but the whole truth to my audience. Otherwise, I’d just be another money-grabbing clickbait on the second page of a google search.”


“I didn’t know they called the things you do journalism. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go attend a class on psychoanalysis.”


He had already walked away from Freddie when she called out, “I know the kinds of things you do.”


Will paused, his coffee forgotten as he slowly turned back.


Freddie gave him a confident smile. “People have loose lips if you just know how to pay them right. I’ve heard the wild guesses you make. And the other...yet unconfirmed rumours about the magic you perform. You have a unique constitution without an apparent soulmate. A very troubled past, with what your mother committing suicide and your father ghosting you out of a blue when you were what...15? I don’t really have to do much to make your life irksome Mister Graham. All I’m asking for is one hour of your time with exclusive right to your story. And how you failed the screenings for a field agent because of your...mental instability -- can just remain words spoken between us.”

 

 

There was a white sound ringing in his ear. He couldn’t say what it was, just a sort of not- there beep that wouldn’t stop ringing.


He walked towards Freddie and a part of him, a deep and dark part of him that he never, never allowed to fully wake up, purred in satisfaction when he saw her smile faltering and a questioning look dawning on her pretty face.


He stood inches away from her, his otherwise lanky form looming over her short stature.


He snarled which was just on the edge of being polite enough to pass as a disconcerting smile. Oh, if she had claws then he’d show her his teeth.


“You know Miss Lounds, it isn’t very smart to antagonize someone who can get inside the minds of killers to know just what makes them tick. If I were you I’d be worried about which path I’d take through the woods.”


Will had to give her credit because Beverley had reliably informed him that he looked intimidating when he tried to be social or was otherwise in a black mood, and now he had been channelling all his distaste for everything he found wrong about yellow journalism into his glare but after that first few moments of uncertainty, Freddie recovered soon enough to shoot him a cocky grin, the deep red of her lips bleeding across her unblemished face.


Will stalked off, cursing himself for falling for the trap Freddie laid out for him. If he was lucky, he’d actually get through most of his classes before Jack rightly chewed off his ears for blabbering to Lounds. But he wasn’t too hopeful about that.

 

 ******************

 

 

 

After the entire Tattle Crime debacle in the morning, Will had been in a very sour mood.

 

To top it off, his professor was absent today and even if he was suppose to submit the papers due today, his TA said that he’d be taking it himself on next week. Will and Beverley conversed in tired grunts and monosyllables because the end of the semester was near and they had shit tonnes of things they still had to finish. The coffee that he had brought for her had gone too cold and he had to chuck it into a trashcan.

 


He and another girl were the only occupants of this section of the library when a sudden commotion outside of the building drew his attention. He watched as the librarian sprinted out of the hall, confused and worried students looking up from what they were doing and began speaking in hushed voice. He walked down a few shelves and stopped when he saw a gaggle of students had gathered in front of the series of windows.

 


A pool of something terribly wrong began to sink into his stomach. His hands itched by his sides and he could feel sweat breaking out on his forehead. He could hear professors and staffs hurrying down the hallways, shouting for someone to call 911. There were indistinct chatter and loud cries. Will pushed through the crowd of people, making his way to one of the larger windows as his guts sank deeper.
He willed himself before turning to the window and asking the person in front of him to shift slightly so that he could see properly.

 


“Someone jumped!”


“God! Did you see that?”


“I wonder who that is. There’s just so much blood!”


“Hey! Hey, you there! Someone call for help this guy here is convulsing!”

 


Will was already lying in a pool of his own blood, the wounds taking shape on his sides and limbs. There was deep gash at the back of his head, and he gasped for breath. The pain was blinding. He didn’t know when it’d end. It felt like his senses were on loop, carrying the pain signals over and over again. He had fallen to the ground the way the girl was lying outside the building.

 


He thought of Dr. Lecter’s burning eyes as his brain finally stopped.

 


____________________________

 

Chapter Text

He never believed in the conjectures and fantastical elements that surrounded the notion of soulmates.

 

 

His parents were not a bonded pair, but they suited each other perfectly. His father had been a solemn but a giving man, always preferring to spend the time he would get from his busy schedule with Mischa and himself. Hannibal couldn’t say if he admired his father, he always thought he was far too gullible for his own good but he liked that his sister, his world, loved him so.


His mother was every inch a well-bred aristocratic heir to a sprawling business empire. She was poignant and commanding. Her smiles, when she’d offer them, were a little too rehearsed but he didn’t fault her for not loving him the same way his father did. The staff of his house had been wary of him since childhood. He was said to have a mean temper that didn’t exploded into a raging tantrum but something far sinister. He’d patiently wait with his dark, ungiving eyes, never taking them away from the one who had wronged him until they cowered in defeat. And if that didn’t work, strange accidents in the kitchen happened every time.

 


Hannibal was a prodigy, a genius in the making. His father boasted about him to his acquaintances while his mother preferred to keep a watchful eye on him. Discreetly, of course. Wouldn’t want Mischa to know. She was so very protective of her elder brother.

 


But Hannibal never believed in the romance of the soulmate phenomena because he was no longer capable of opening whatever remained of his heart to another human being after his Mischa. Mischa.

 

That wrinkled and desiccated part of him was stowed away far into the reaches of his mind, buried under the floors of his mind palace, never forgotten but cursed. He couldn’t even reach it when his mind was set ablaze by the quite storm of his beloved aunt's eyes. Oh how they had trapped him in an inferno of their own, one in which he willingly climbed down, and forsake all the guidance to come back out. Hannibal was loathe to admit but he was quite disarmed when it came to the matters of heart. Even though he had successfully pried away the affronting organ from his being, its echoes were loud enough that it still could be heard.

 

No. He didn’t believe in soulmates but he believed in Will Graham.

 


It was fate that brought them together on that day. Who knew a well-placed kick to his car by one flailing pig could land it to Will's father who ran a small, unflattering repair shop down the road which he never intended to take but had to because of the unnecessary attention the squealing had garnered. He was quite out of his element that day, he’d admit that, but couldn’t be more thankful for it because that was what brought him to Will.

 


He was sure he’d carry on his life just as well without ever knowing the enigma that was his soulmate, but now that he did, he couldn’t ever imagine a day in his absence. It was truly quite herculean to be what good Will needed : a source of stability and assurance, an unlikely though trustworthy friend, a mirror that only reflected everything that he was meant to be.

 


Now, that Will was so close to his own objective in life, Hannibal feels a certain...loss.

 


Will was never truly an outspoken boy. He never voiced his wants and readily accepted what was given to him. In all these years of staying together, Will had only ever asked two things from him. The latter was to allow him to pay Hannibal back for his desolate house in Virginia, and the former. Well, he was still adhering to it wasn’t he. Because Hannibal was nothing if not attentive. And dear Will deserved the entirety of his attention.

 


But there were the little things, negligible things that Will looked up to him for.


He’d wait shyly in the early mornings downstairs at the kitchen for Hannibal to come and make coffee and scones. It had become a routine for them, after the first couple of nights when Will woke up screaming and shaking. Will had a sweet tooth that he was extremely cautious about. He would help rounding up the papers and documents in his study when he returned home, even though he really didn’t need the help and preferred to work alone. But Will’s company was a welcome intrusion, and they often talked about the nature of time and mortality, Hannibal finding it surprising but not shocking that Will had a inclination for philosophy. Even though he wasn’t honed enough to enjoy the subtleties of good art and orchestra, he still had the eye to appreciate it.

And was eager to hear about it when Hannibal explained to him.

 


Those quite evenings when Will would lean against the doorway watching intently and listening to every note that Hannibal’s fingers eased out of the harpsichord were amongst his favourites. Will never asked about what he played or even after when it was time to retire and he’d gradually grown aware of how the younger man's eyes bore into his. Because that was what he was now. A man. Well on his way of coming into the magnificent skin that Hannibal had just envisioned but not realized.


But he was a patient man. And just as those light brushes against his hand on the way upstairs, Will's little gestures spoke volumes and it was nearly the time to cultivate the urges he had seen into the inspirations that they truly were.


He would not say that he missed Will's wide-eyed naivety when he was enrolled in to the best educational institution, or the pleased relief in his smiles when Hannibal acknowledged the milestones he achieved. He didn’t really miss how Will would wait for Hannibal to feed him the best dishes exclusively procured and lovingly made because he adored the soft exultation falling from his lips as he ate, knowing that he could provide Will what he needed.


Now he had friends, a part-time job that he loved, a career well on its way of becoming a reality and plans to move out from Hannibal's home to Wolf Trap, Virginia. He wasn’t the only one Will went to share his troubles to. He was aware of Beverley Katz and what she meant for him. A first good friend that he had in decades of growing up. He appreciated what she had done for Will. But he couldn’t help but relish in the fact that no matter how close they grew, Will would never truly open up to her. Or anyone for that matter. He was a highly private individual and it had taken Hannibal careful, meticulous attention to get Will talk about the dreams that he was the most possessive about. If Will had something that he despised sharing, it was his dreams. Will had only ever confided to him about them on very rare occasions, times that he had carefully hung in the galleries in his mind palace, vibrant and exuberant.
It only seemed natural for Hannibal to nudge certain things in a specific way that would help Will out in the long run. He was nothing if not helpful.


“Loin served with Cumberland paste of red fruits.”


The swell of the classical music filled the dining room with expectant energy. Hannibal spread the thick red paste delicately on the slices and satisfied with his artwork proceeded to pour the same on his own.


“Loin, uh – what loin?” Jack asked already impressed by the theatricality of the meal laid out before him, the delicious smell that wafted out churned the hunger deep inside of him.


“Pork.” The good doctor replied.


“Ah. Well, I’ve never really had the opportunity to eat home-cooked meals. Both my wife and I work and as much as I tried not to, I ended up marrying my mother.” Hannibal shot a quick smile and donned on his suit jacket.


“Your mother didn’t cook?”


“She did, she did.” Jack took a healthy bite and immediately groaned in pleasure.


This. This is very good Dr. Lecter.”
Hannibal smiled.


“Next time, bring your wife with you Jack. I’d love to have you both for dinner.”


Jack nodded in acquiescence and took another bite.


“When I was small my mother would feed me one of her own recipes : she’d call it ‘oriental noodles', it was mostly made of spaghetti, ham and a lot of greens. I was quite thin when I was young.”


Hannibal smiled around his mouthful, carefully taking time to relish in the burst of flavours and washing it down by the burn of his wine.


“Have you looked into the documents I’ve send to you?”


“Yes. Your notes on the former patient of yours is quite helpful. Though the case was officially solve, it is undeniable that the murder committed in Parkland has some rather troubling similarities with the string of three murders 10 years ago. There is a possibility that another crime in a town just a few miles over might also be connected with this.”


“And you plan on taking Will there?”


Jack chewed the thought over his next bite, his eyes doubtful.


“When people have the sort of constitution that Will has, it becomes all too difficult to distinguish between wakefulness and nightmares. I do understand that Dr. Lecter. You yourself had stated that he naturally has too many mirror neurons, an empathy disorder. It already makes him vulnerable to the darker machinations of troubled minds. Will believes in his ability to do good and so do I. But the things he has too see, to feel... it changes a person. And I know how Will is. He will never let anyone know the things that goes inside his head. And after the Shrike, I am...wary about his mental health.”


“You are quite correct to worry Jack. What happened four months ago, its echoes still haunt Will in his waking hours. I have done everything short of professional requirements to help Will come to terms with that trauma. Even though he wilfully denies to being bothered about everything that transpired that day, he is deeply shaken by it. But not changed. Will...is made of a sense of morality that even I find unique. He believes in something with every inch of his being and he never relents. To him, the world is not divided into black and white but what shouldn’t be done and ought to be done. Even if he suffers under the nightmarish visions, he will always find his way back to the shore.”


Jack took a long sip from his glass and nodded.


“But his lack of experience leaves him open. He looked more shaken than usual last time, Dr. Lecter. I’ve seen him tortured and I’ve seen him in pain. But the moment he resurfaced from enacting the death of the victim, he was confused. It was as if he didn’t know who he was. You’ve seen it.”


“I have.”


“What does it say about Will then?”


“You think you’ve broken Will. Is it because you find it difficult to trust in his mental stability or is it that you fear you will lose him to the right cause?"


Jack paused, fixing Hannibal with a inscrutable look and Hannibal leaned back in his chair, chasing the taste of accomplishment with the wine.


“Are you asking if I have lost someone to this work, Dr. Lecter? Yes – I have. But you being the official guardian of Will on account of being his soulmate, I need to be transparent with you. What I do, bringing Will to ongoing investigations without him being legally qualified for it is tremendous risk. Even when he consulted via the crime scene photos, I was putting my neck on the line. I need it to be perfectly guaranteed that Will will not break under the strains of this case or the next that would come after. Do you think Will should be kept on this case, Dr. Lecter?”


All the pieces were falling into places where they were supposed to. Jack Crawford had willingly walked into the trials and it was only a matter of time if he would be hailed for the sacrifices he made at the altar, or persecuted.


Hannibal’s fingers imperceptibly clicked on the stem of the glass as the music reached its crescendo and he had to close his eyes to contain the unnamed emotions that blossomed inside his chest. It was finally time, when the curtains rose and the show began.


Will you see me Will, the way I see you?”


He opened his eyes, shining with a glean of unshed tears and his lips parted in the anticipation of it all.


“Will is the mongoose I want inside my house when the snakes slither by, Jack. He is more than a fine piece of china, not as delicate as you fear him to be. I’m confident in his abilities to see the innocent children involved in this heinous crime to justice. He’s just as much a broken pony as you consider yourself to be.”


Jack chuckled, the tension in the room dissipating in the soft tinkling of the cutlery as they ate together.
“I’ve already had my psych eval, Dr. Lecter.”


Hannibal’s eyes shone in the subdued atmosphere of the dining room. If Jack was a wise man, he’d see the shadows that played across his face as the foreshadows that they were. But Jack was not a wise man. He was a good man.


“Not by me.” Hannibal raised his glass and Jack laughed, raising his in return.


And the game begins

 

 

 ****************


His feet were sticky as he struggled to keep pace.
He couldn’t look down, he won’t look down, he must reach the safety of his house as fast as his straw legs could carry. The weight in his hands, cradled so lovingly -- so possessively -- to his chest, was heavy and unmoving. He didn’t think about it. The outdoor light shone like a beacon promising warmth, security and healing. That was all he wanted. Everything would be fine once they reached inside. The balmy chillness of the summer night wouldn’t be so obstructing. The sky overheard was bruised and blackened. He was disappointed there were no stars. She’d love to see the constellations.

Grasses and bushes ate at his feet, some reaching up to his knees. The wetness of his clothes spread alarmingly but he still didn’t look down.

Suddenly there was a long bang and Will flinced. His steps faltered and he looked around himself to finally realise that there was nothing but darkness. The house he thought he could see before him was no longer there. And the weight in his arm disappeared.
He let out a noise that was suspended perpetually in between a scream and a cry. He looked down and all that remained were small bones, few of them had been gnawed on down to the marrow.
There were more bangs and he did scream then, falling to his knees.
Something splashed across his face and he stared wide-eyed at the unseeing face of a girl with dirty blond hair matted with blood and brain matter. A sharp sting on the side of his head drew his attention and he reached there with his hand. Fingers stained with blood and fleshy chunks dripped from them to the endless abyss.
Oh!
His throat closed up. He choked. His eyes watered. Everything was pain. Everything was pain.
The girl's murky eyes stared into his own and her blackened mouth opened in a horrible maw.
SEE. SEE
DO YOU SEE?”

 

He gasped awake, his lungs fluttering inside his chest like caged birds. His vision swam and he had to take large, gulping breaths to even begin to get his erratic heart to settle. The first thing he noticed was the steady beep coming from his side. The walls were of a neutral colour, and there were machines flickering with different light, whirring softly. Tubes came out of his arms. He flexed them slowly.

 


The hospital room strongly smelled of medicines and cleaning detergent and it alone made him nauseated. He hated hospitals with a burning passion. There were all too many eyes desperate to seek searching ones and way too many people counting days on their fingers for him to relax.

 


But he was all too preoccupied by the fact that the head on the bed was no others but Dr. Lecter's. He was crouched over to the bed, the chair drawn as close to it as it would allow. The position must be awkward and uncomfortable but Dr. Lecter seemed to be deep asleep. How long was he here? What actually had happened?

Oh.

He remembered. The girl.

His fingers felt stiff and the IV was not a joy to have, but he wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass.

 

His fingers found the soft bangs of his ashen blond hair, Will almost in disbelief that he was truly touching the older man. His heart raced and not to catch his breath this time. He ran his fingers carefully through the hair, satisfaction blooming into his chest when he felt the man lean into the touch.
But the position must be too uncomfortable because Dr. Lecter moved and then promptly sat back. His eyes were not the cold, indifferent facade he was so used to. Will was surprised that Dr. Lecter chose to let his mask slip just so. There was worry easily discernible in them. But even more so there was a glint of something else. Something that he couldn’t quite grasp at but which made knots to form in his stomach.


“Will,” Dr. Lecter breathed and the tension that Will didn’t realise he was holding in finally found a fissure.


“Dr. Lecter.” He croaked out, his fingers clutching on air. The older man's hand quickly wrapped around Will's and held tightly.


“You had a long nap.”


Will frowned.


“You’ve been asleep for almost 18 hours. I came as soon as I was informed.“


Will blinked owlishly. 18 hours? And he still felt as if he’d been thrown off a roof.


He paused. And sighed.


“It never took so long before. Almost 30 to 40 minutes max. Have the wounds sealed?” Talking felt like so much effort but he had to drive his attention somewhere other than the disturbing dream he just had. More so than the usual really. He couldn’t think back to the last time his dreams were short of nightmare fuel stuffs. He supposed he should call them nightmares. But he had grown so used to them by now that if just felt like regular stuffs. But not this dream. He didn’t feel like himself. But he could feel the person be was suppose to be. Taste the desperation and madness like honeydew in the air. He couldn’t fathom the intensity of the tempest that raged on inside the head which wasn’t his own but it was all so achingly familiar that he hurt only by remembering it.


“You’re bleeding again.”


And he was. The wounds on his head reopened and blood started pouring down. The hospital drab that he was wearing quickly soaked through and Will groaned.


“I’ll get the nurse.”


Will’s hand wrapped around Dr. Lecter’s like a vice. The man paused, halfway up the chair, his eyes calculating but soft.


“Don’t. Stay here.”


Will had scrunched up his eyes in an effort to breathe through the pain of dying all over again and could on hear the chair dragging across the floor to know that Dr. Lecter had sat down.


“I’m right here, Will. I will not go anywhere.”


He nodded his head. Or tried to at least. This time it was taking too long to recede. The effects of the victim’s death only took an hour to two to fade away completely. And within three to four hours he’d be fine, his body gaining back the blood that was lost.


“Don’t worry Will. This is slightly unusual, yes but not completely out of bounds. Deaths like this have always been more challenging for you to recover from. I’m sorry that you had to be there. But it will pass.”


Will fell quiet. He listened to the droning of the machine, the constant whirring of their metallic parts working in tandem to remain efficient. He wondered if his insides too sounded somewhat similar. So many soft, squishy parts working systematically to keep each other functioning. Never taking a break.


“I met you before.”


Will didn’t look up from the patch of wall to his left where his eyes were trained. The hand within his remained tight.


“When do you mean?”


“My mother died two years before we came to stay at the city where you were staying. Before he decided to take me to you for...for my instability, I must have seen you before. And you me. Because the day she died, that was when my constitution manifested.”


In those earlier days when Will was still wary of Dr. Lecter, he’d entertain himself letting the older man stew as he kept his mouth shut whenever he’d ask prying questions. He understood that Dr. Lecter was curious about him. Everyone was, until they heard Will scream out nightmares that would curdle the thickest blood and peer into the secrets that were best left unearthed. Then he’d become a freak. Unnatural. Loony.


He didn’t mind. Not really. It meant that people stayed away from him and after he performed his trick publically once, no one wanted to have anything to do with him. But Dr. Lecter had been persistent in a way that was slow to brew. He didn’t force Will to talk about his past but would make sure that he had Dr. Lecter’s undivided attention whenever he’d spare him bits of his past. And knowing as he did how neglected Will had been throughout his life, the idea of anyone listening to whatever he had to say would be nothing short of a blessing. But Will hadn’t survived so long by being naive.

 

 

After some time of failure the good doctor seemingly gave up on encouraging Will to speak about his father or his constitution. It became particularly a favourite topic for avoidance when Will had thrown himself at Dr. Lecter begging him to take him and to make him his so that the ghosts in his head would finally stop haunting him.

 


He was 17 and drunk and at a very low point in his life then. He didn’t regret calling the man by his name then, but he only wished that he’d remember his reaction afterwards because he had agreeably passed out soon after. Dr. Lecter didn’t speak about ir or gave any indication that anything untoward happened. Will almost assaulting the man was forgiven and the burning need he had seen with in Dr. Lecter to know about Will's past had taken the back seat. For which he was grateful.


But lately he’d been thinking about his constitution a lot, and how that it only appeared once you’d come into contact with your soulmate. But Will didn’t ever remember meeting his soulmate before. He would remember if he did. But he didn’t .

 


Suddenly the door to the room slammed open and Beverley stumbled inside with a flurry of coat and bags. She stopped, her eyes going from Will who stared at her equally shocked and then to Dr. Lecter who offered her a kind smile.


“Heya Dr. Lecter.” She managed to say while trying to be calmed about everything. Will's blood soaked clothes obviously didn’t help.


“Miss Katz. Hope your sister is no longer getting into trouble.”


Beverley laughed and waved her hand. “God, no! Your advise does work miracles Dr. Lecter. She was genuinely afraid I’ll take away her collectibles.”


Dr. Lecter looked between Beverley and Will amusedly. Then turning towards Beverley he asked, “Would you like some coffee? I was just going to pour Will one. Though I have left the cups in my car, I’m afraid.”


“Oh. If it’s not too much trouble, then sure.”


“None at all. Will, I’ll also call the nurse on my way out.” And then he leisurely walked out of the room, leaving an apprehensive Will and an annoyed Beverley together.

 


A constitution?!


Will sighed. He wanted to sit up but he feared he’d get blood all over himself if he did so he laid back.


“And one that makes you bleed the way that anyone dies near you?! Will! When were you going to tell me this?”


“Possibly never if it could be helped.”


Beverley wagged a finger at Will, her brows furrowed in righteous betrayal.


“I was always talking to you about crime scenes, and serial killers and all the while you didn’t think it would be wise to let me know that you might begin to bleed on me if I ever showed you any of the victim’s photos? Is this why you failed the screenings?”


“Yes.”


“Will,”


“What Bev?”


“...Are you okay?”


Will sighed again and motioned for her to sit in the chair beside him.


“I’m fine Bev,” Will began “these wounds would stay only for a couple of hours. And the blood I lose is easily replenished. I’m okay. Don’t worry about it.”
Beverley levelled him her ‘I know you’re bullshiting but I’ll let it pass' glare and then sighed, gingerly taking in the blood that still drizzled slowly from his side.


“God, Graham! You’re a mess. Do I even wanna know who your soulmate is? It’s not Chilton is it?”


Will probably would’ve renounced Beverley from his friendship if it weren’t for the fact that she was the same shade of green speaking it as he was.


“No. I’ve been spared that pain, thankfully.”


“You ought to sacrifice to the old gods and dance around naked on a full moon to thank them for it. Chilton would’ve loved to have his sweaty hands all over your pretty head if it were the case.”


“That’s why I’m an orphan. It was the price that was demanded from me. Also, I didn’t have to get butt naked.”


Beverley rolled her eyes so hard Will worried if it wouldn’t be stuck that way.


“You’re such a little shit Will.”


“I try. But Bev, there’s something I want to ask.”


“What is it?"


“Who was the girl?”


“Will...I really don’t think I should tell this.”


“Please. I have to know. It feels...there’s just something off about the entire thing.”


“I don’t know a lot, but her name was Georgia Madchen. She was in her class, quiet and reserved. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her speak.”


The name didn’t ring any bell but Will couldn’t shake off the feeling that there was something off about the whole situation. He suddenly felt very exhausted. His limbs felt leaden and he let out a soft groan.
“Will? Are you not feeling okay?”


“No..I-um. I guess I just need to sleep more.”


“Yeah. You should. I’ll come visit again tomorrow. I’ll bring glazed donuts for you if you behave.”


“Thanks Mom.”


“Eat shit Graham.”


“Mmm"


“Tell Dr. Lecter I’ll grab that coffee next time around. I really have to go and pick up my sis from school.”


“Will do.”


Beverley left and ten minutes later the nurse came in, clicking her tongue in distaste and quickly helped him change and dressed his wounds. Dr.Lecter walked through the door just when the nurse was done and Will raised a brow at him. He shot a charming smile and a pleasant thank you to the nurse whose bad mood disappeared instantaneously. Will didn’t scoff at all.


Dr. Lecter returned a mischievous quirk of his lips and handed him a steaming cup of home brewed coffee.


“Miss Katz left?”


“Yeah. She had to pick up her sister. Said she’ll grab it next time around.”


“I see.”


“You could’ve stayed you know.”


“Of course. But you needed to talk with her without my presence looming over you.”


Will grinned around his mouthful of delicious coffee. “So you agree you loom.”


“Caught red handed. But I’m afraid you must keep yourself awake for a while longer. Jack wants to speak with you.”


Shit.


Will took the phone proffered to him and held it to his ears.


“’It isn’t smart to antagonize someone who can get inside the minds of killers to know just what makes them tick.”’

 


Shit.

 

______________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

What were you thinking Will?!”

 


Will was suitably chastised sitting sullenly before Jack as he stared down at him across his desk.


They were in the Quantico office, and Will might have been elated at any other time about being able to step inside the place where he dreamed of working as a teacher, but Jack's disapproving eyes were enough to drill a sense of abject embarrassment into Will for not having enough self restraint. And what was even worse that he had an audience to witness the embarrassment first hand. He couldn’t understand if it was better that Dr. Lecter was here as well or if it only made everything that much worse.

 


He had stopped bleeding long enough for him to actually wear clothes without ruining them and the wounds were mostly gone, leaving behind only phantom stings of unease. Jack had left no room for any objections after the doctors cleared that Will was fit to go. While on the drive here to Quantico, Will couldn’t help but to feel this suspicious nagging that Dr. Lecter was secretly amused by the blunder Will had done. He didn’t shoot a sidelong glance at the good doctor sitting to his right lest he angered Jack any further.


“You were supposed to feign ignorance and walk right into your classes Will. Not stand there and give ammunition to a sensational journalist!”


“I did try to dodge her but she was persistent Jack.”


“Well your trying wasn’t good enough evidently! What we do here is not a common knowledge Will. And if the news of your involvement with the cases get aired out in the public, it is not only I who will have to face consequences. Dr. Lecter, were you aware of this?”


“He’s not in charge of me!”


“Please, Jack. You may call me Hannibal. And I believe that Will has the insight to know what is and isn’t best for him.”


Jack narrowed his eyes and leaned forward. “You enabling this kind of recklessness in Will is counterproductive, Hannibal.”


“Fine. Then I’ll be leaving seeing how you’re content talking about me without needing me here.”

 

Sit your ass down Graham!

Gentlemen,” Alana smiled wryly turning in the chair to face Will. She gave a reassuring smile, her face brightening with that little movement and Will ducked his head feeling his ears catching fire. “Let’s not become children. I understand that Will has made a miscalculation with Miss Lounds but I believe that she’d have published this article with or without your blessings Jack. It’s already obvious that she has wormed her way inside your team to know things that weren’t meant for her to know. I suggest you look into that as soon as you can.”


Jack wasn’t pleased by that but he was hardly going to argue with Alana Bloom when she looked at you in the way that promised retribution if not acceded. And Jack knew when to push beyond what was needed and when to stop. Alana's soft grin was all the indication that was needed to see that she had won this round. It didn’t help that she was particularly annoyed at Jack when he decided against her advise to bring Will into active crime scenes. But he had assured her that Will wasn’t going to stray too far under his protection. And he had Dr Lecter as the cushion if anything were to happen.


“I believe Alana is right Jack. Miss Lounds seemed to be aware of his constitution. And that was hardly a piece of information you let her have.”


Will did look up then and found him glancing between Jack and Alana with a merry smile on his face.


God. He was actually amused by this. That bastard.


Jack shot an unimpressed glance at Alana and then to Will, sighed and chugged the glass of amber liquid kept aside.


“There’s been another one in County Falls. The victim was 11 year old Nathaniel Darren. He was found poised under a sycamore tree in the backyard of his own house.”


“That’s gutsy. And no one heard a thing?” Alana asked, disturbed.


Jack shook his head. “The child wasn’t supposed to be at the house. He had a sleepover with another boy a couple of blocks down. There were no blood on the crime scene. No sign of any forced entry, no broken windows or door. The same goes for the friend’s house. They didn’t even realize that the boy was gone until Nathaniel’s mother called them in the next morning after discovering...him.”


Hannibal hummed. “He’s already moved on. Became more confident in his trade, so much so that he felt comfortable bringing back his victim to the place which was supposed to be secure and safe.”


“But that’s too soon.” Alana said, sitting upright in the chair. “If the murder at Central Park was his first then he shouldn’t have escalated so quickly. Perpetrators who generally go for victims who are physically weaker than them mostly act out their aggression and to kill the child and then being him back to his home requires a level of methodical planning which must be absent given he is just trying out his hands.”

 


“Then this wasn’t his second time.” Will murmured not looking up from his hands clasped in his laps. A little boy tucked carefully under a tree just outside of his home. He was returned to his home and not his friend’s because... “The killer knew Nathaniel. He knew him well enough to know that he was having a sleepover with his friend. Why not bring him back to the house that he found him in if not for the fact that he knew it wasn’t his house.”

 


Jack looked on impassively, his brows bore down heavily on his weathered face.


“I’ll sent Zeller to hand you over the case files. I want you to look through them carefully for any clue which might give us anything to find this son of a bitch. Pardon my French.” He added dryly, and Alana raised her brow.


“And what reason do I serve on this evening Jack.” She asked, uncrossing her legs and then crossed them on the opposite side, the elegant arch of her calf peeking out of the deep maroon dress she wore sending nervous flutters inside Will’s stomach and he pried away his gaze and fixed it on the paperweight resting on Jack's desk.


“After Will’s had a look into both Jeremy and Nathaniel’s files, I want you to walk him through the Johnson case.”


A concerned look fell upon her face. “Johnson? Peter Johnson? But why...you think these murders have something to do with what Johnson did all those years ago.”


“I am not yet ready to think anything at all but I want to be sure. Price has confirmed that the same type of weapon that was used to almost decapitate Jeremy was also used to partially decapitate Nathaniel. There are same lacerations on both of their chest and abdomen, and both of them have their eyes missing.”


“Jesus...” Alana breathed out.

 

Will didn’t know about the entire decapitation thing or about the eyes being gouged out. They must have been after the victims were killed. And things had been murky at the crime scene, he had been too overwhelmed by the aftershock of the death that he hadn't really seen the body.Even after slitting their throats, the killer felt the need to go at their necks again, to carve out their eyes. Why? Why did you feel that need? What didn’t you want them to see?

 


“But Jack, this and Johnson have nothing in common. I mean apart from the places that these children have been killed, there are no other similarities. Johnson strangled his victims after which he proceeded to sexually assault them. Here, these murders have been predominantly led by the intent of inflicting violence. And the killer is careful as well. He leaves no evidence behind, not a single hair, and he works silently in hours of night. Johnson was a pig headed mullet all but announcing to the world the things he’d done to those poor boys.”


Jack listened, his fingers rubbing at a rough patch of his beard. He nodded his head then, and looked at Dr Lecter.


“Will you accompany Will when he goes to see Johnson?”


“Jack!”


“I’ve already talked with Dr Chilton and he has expressed his willingness to assist us, under full disclosure, of course. But given that he can become too excitable regarding certain...topics, I’d feel relieved if you went along with Will, Hannibal.”


“I don’t think that’s a good idea Jack. Johnson is a vile man and Will deserves to stay as far away from him as possible.”


“Will needs all the pieces of the puzzle in order to give me the insight I want Alana. I know your concern for him is reasonable but he must be able to face the monsters first before he went looking for them.”


Alana leaned forward, her beautiful red lips pressed thinly and her bright brown eyes alit with indignation and anger on Will’s behalf.


“The last time you sent Will chasing after a monster ill – prepared, he almost died.”

 


Silence fell over them heavy as a fog. Alana's eyes were trained at Jack accusingly, almost daring him to spew any excuse so that she could gladly rip it apart systematically. Jack returned her stare with one of his unmoving and righteous arch of brow, the lines on his face set in stones. And Dr Lecter only looked on with keen interest disguised as mere amusement.

Will knew for a fact that underneath all his fretting when he had got his face beaten in and his mild admonishing when he tended to his busted knuckles, the older man was pleased with how that afternoon at the Hobbs had unfolded. Killing Garret Jacob Hobbs might be something that he’d probably never get over but seeing Dr Lecter’s face as he came upon the aftermath, breathless and almost unorganised, the face of his loud relief but quiet satisfaction remained clearer than anything in his mind.


He hadn’t given much of a thought to that. Slipping and shuddering through his miserable attempt at saving the bleeding out girl had occupied his mind then, and then after that, the ghost of a smug Garret Jacob Hobbs smirking with his missing teeth and bloodied face, daring Will to even think about a peaceful sleep.

 


“I’ll be fine.”


Will’s voice cut through the tense atmosphere and he breathed around the terse fit of his own skin. He nodded his head and then stood up, sure and shaken but in control.


“I am...sorry. For how poorly I handled the Lounds situation. But I’ll be careful. Now, Jack, if you’ll excuse me, I have classes to attend.”


Will walked out holding his head high. He didn’t spare any glance to either Dr Lecter or Alana. As soon as he heard the click of the door behind him, a shallow breath left him and his hands went to the side of his head, almost dreading to find blood there. But he sighed in relief when there was none. He ran his fingers through the curls of his hair, thinking about getting a coffee before he went to the academy. He had reached his car when he heard Alana calling out to him.


He stopped and turned, feeling a pleasant warmth spreading through his bones as he saw her smile back at him, a little out of breath but lovely nonetheless.


“You got a mean pair of legs on you.”


“I just don’t have a disadvantage.”


“I’ll be careful calling my heels a disadvantage, Will.” She winked.


“I’m sorry, Alana. And not for the shoes... but for...dragging you in there.”


“You didn’t drag me anywhere I wasn’t willing to go Will. And I had conversations with Johnson. I know the kind of man he is and the type of crimes he committed but he was nothing special. Not enough to inspire someone else.”


Will tilted his head in acquiescence. She stared at him for a moment and then tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear.


“I just want you to be sure Will. Jack doesn’t know what restraint is even if it smacked him on his face. You have to be sure if this is truly something you want.”


“I know Alana, but believe me. I am sure. I can help save lives doing what I do. And that’s not something I’d change.”


Alana's eyes crinkled in the way that meant she was unhappy but wasn’t going to argue further. Having known her for almost the same amount of time as he had Dr Lecter, it sometimes felt that she was more his friend than what he was to her. He forgot that she had been a student of the older man when he was at John Hopkins, even before Will had come into the scene, and she had always treated him with same variety of care and tutelage as one would their sibling. Even though she didn’t have to, she came to check up on him as much as she could to make sure he was doing fine dealing with the baggage that came when your only semblance of a family abandoned you, leaving you broke and in debts. She was kind and pleasant and beautiful. Sometimes more approachable than his own soulmate because she didn’t feel as if she were a timeless centrepiece of something primeval and powerful, unworthy of common touch.


But he had always been someone that Alana felt she needed to protect and shelter.


He was always being saved by someone whether he knew it or wanted it.


“I won’t go too far Alana. You know me. I’ll always come back.”


Alana chuckled, no doubt remembering his idiotic attempt to runaway from Dr Lecter because of a nightmare he had shortly after he had moved in.
“Along with Hannibal's door mine too is open to you Will. In fact, come over for dinner this Saturday if you and Hannibal have no prior engagements. Margot wanted to properly thank you for having introduced us to each other.”


“I’ll talk to Dr Lecter.”


“I have already sent him an invitation. I wanted to know from you.”


Will couldn’t say no when she looked at him like that.
“Yeah. Yeah, I’ll come.”


A bright grin broke out on her face and she told him the time and the type of champagne he should bring along with him before leaving him in the parking lot with a tender heart and an aching head. He knew from all the records he’d wiped the layers of dust from and from the sleepless hours spent in the archives, that soulmates were a fickle thing. They morphed and changed as the individual evolved. It was very rare that soulmates remained unchanged on the flesh. Sometimes when he was feeling reckless and rebellious, really, he liked to imagine that the name penned in a masterful cursive slant on the small of his left wrist wasn’t the name that he grew up with, but of a messier but elegant crawl of a person that he’d come to love. Eventually. There were days that he felt little more than a broken mirror, only distant echoes to be heard as far as he could hear.


Soulmates weren’t important. They weren’t instrumental in shaping up a person. But they were still an itch that could never be scratched, even when you hand the hand and the reach required to do it.
Will brought his arms in front of him. Looking at them through the plaid fabric of his shirt, he rolled the sleeves up to his elbow and wasn’t relieved to find that his skin was perfectly alright, no burns, no blemishes. He still couldn’t shake off the persistent feeling of a painful itch that fired up through his body at odd times. It’d almost feel like his skin was scabbing over some old wounds that never really healed, the skin peeling away at the barest friction.

 


He had already missed most of his classes, though he shared a handful with Beverley, he still had the rest to catch up to. He really couldn’t afford to miss anymore classes if he wanted to graduate. With that in mind Will drove to the academy.

 

 

************

 

By the time he reached Coulson and Brooks, it was nearing seven in the evening.

He had been well over an hour late and though he had let Mr. Brooks know, the taste of guilt lingered unrepentant at the back of his throat. Mr. Brooks had been an acquaintance of Dr Lecter, someone who was somehow even more European than the good doctor if it was possible, and had an accent that for the life of Will, he couldn’t place. But the man was a gentle giant, his bushy sand-peppered beard only endearing him to a young Will whose first thought upon being introduced to him had been how much he resembled Hagrid from the Harry Potter series. Only that he wasn’t a wizard, and most assuredly not a giant. He was a patient man who let Will linger well after the closing time of his book shop and Will's obsessive need to be useful had prompted Mr. Brooks to offer him a job at the shop, even though he managed just fine, and Will couldn’t have been happier. And the mild surprise on Dr Lecter’s face as he had raised a brow at Will's proud announcement only meant that he had secured that job on his own merit. Mr. Brooks was too giving for the number of hours he put in, even though the shop was a cesspool for the most haughtiest and snobiest literary curators, Will felt immensely bad whenever he became late to come at work.

 

He hurriedly hung his bag from the hooks over at the side and immediately set about rearranging the displaced books methodically around the shelves. When he had been half way through his work, he remembered he had forgotten to put on his badge. Cursing softly under his breath, he sprinted from the farthest corner of the shelf and almost barrelled into some poor man who had been unnoticeable prior to this.


“Oh god! I’m so sorry. Please, forgive me I wasn’t looking where I was going.” Will stumbled over his words, hastily crouching down and picking up the book the man was going over.


Flight of Freedom' by Kent Durden.


“It’s alright. I shouldn’t have been standing in the middle of the store.”

The man's voice was relatively young, and it lacked the upstate lilt that most of the clientele had. Will didn’t meet the man's eyes but he saw that he was hardly much older than himself, wearing a casual shirt and dress pant which had wrinkles of unkempt marring it. His shoes were pricy though. Had a nice shine and was well taken care of. He distantly remembered his father quipping about how a man's character could be judged by the way he took care of his shoes. And then Will promptly frowned hard realizing he had been staring at the man's shoes for longer than necessary.


He cleared his voice, and offered the book back to the guy. Without another word, he turned, making a show of cleaning the books on the opposite shelf when the man called out, “You won’t recommend me a book?”


Will paused, not turning just yet, belatedly realised again that he had been wiping the bones of the books with his hand and not a rug.


“I’m not sure what you mean, sir.”


“Oh, not ‘sir' please. That’s just too stuffy for me. I meant that almost everyone in every book store always recommend me about which book I should buy. I saw you looking at the title. I kind of sensed that you didn’t much approve of it.”


Will shrugged, taking out a volume of Cambridge history which was perfectly fine where it was and then set it back at its place again. “It’s not up to me to decide the kind of books you’d prefer. If you wanted to know my recommendations then you’d ask and I’d tell you the most generic kinds of books that’d suit your appearance. And you’d be dissatisfied with that choice because I really didn’t know what it was that you were looking for. Picking up a book is a private affair, I believe. You choose the one that resonates with you.”


The man chuckled softly behind him and Will let out a breath. Mr. Brooks always suggested that he pretended he couldn’t speak. That way he’d stay away from unnecessary arguments with half-witted people who only bought classical books because that made them look important. His sight was too overbearing in these kind of situations.


“That’s an unique answer. I wasn’t expecting that. My name’s Matthew Brown. May I know yours?”


Will hesitated for a moment and then turned, still not looking at the man properly but not being an ass.


“Will Graham.”


“Oh.”


Dread settled unpleasantly in his stomach. Not another psychiatrist, please.


“I’ve read your monologue on insect activity and how it helps determine the time of death. It was quite illuminating.”


“Uh,”


“Ah. Forgive me, I didn’t wish to make you uncomfortable. I always find myself interested in the forensics and try to read up anything interesting that catches my eye. I only didn’t expect such professional body of work from someone so young as you.”


“Thanks.” Will muttered, feeling trapped inside the book store with the man, Matthew.


“I’ll buy this book.” He said and Will was grateful that the line of conversation ended there.


Will took the book from the man and rang it up, packed it neatly and then handed it over to Matthew.


“Thank you for shopping with us, Mr. Brown.”


“It was a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Graham." The man walked out of the shop, the soft ding of the bell filling the space and Will sighed. Mr. Brooks was probably in the basement tending to the rarer books in his collection which were too priceless to put up here. Will took out his laptop and began working on his paper, scratching his arms every now and then.

 

 

 

***************

 

 

 

“Will, how are you feeling?”


Will looked up from his steaming bowl of silkie chicken broth and found Dr Lecter’s eyes trained on him with an intensity that was far too obvious to be causal about. He always did things quite passionately, pouring himself in every little minute action and it was surprising for Will to see how little everyone who orbited around the doctor as if he were the sun incarnate missed the intensity of his emotions. But Will also knew how adept the other man was at hiding them in plain sight. It was always rewarding to be cautious whenever he did let the mask slip, even by an increment. It only meant that Will was going to end up politely storming out until he was calm enough to talk to him again. And he didn’t really want to have an argument with Dr Lecter because the dinner was cozy and comfortable and he just wanted to soak up his presence like a starving sponge.


“A little shaky. But I’ll be fine.”


Dr Lecter gave an imperceptible nod and drank leisurely from his silver spoon.


“Alana expressed her happiness on the occasion that you ended up deciding to attend the gala next month.”


Will continued to slurp on his broth but he already felt the migraine sneaking up on him.


“Yeah. I’d be a fool not to.”


“She had also added how saddened she was that she could not accompany you to the gala as she is on the committee of the Parkinson scholarship. One, that Alana and most of her colleagues, believe that you might win.”


He liked Alana. He really did. But sometimes he wished that she was his friend and not Dr Lecter’s.


“I believe I will. It is pertinent that I do.”


The soft tinkling of the silverware against the bowl was poignant in the room. Will didn’t mind the quiet around him when he was with the other man. But now he almost fell he could jump right out of his skin. He absently scratched at the back of his elbow after keeping the spoon down, not looking up at Dr Lecter but not really casting his sight downward.


“Is there something that I have failed to provide you Will.”


The question, when it came, was so unexpected that Will’s head jerked up, his started gaze meeting the passive one of Dr Lecter.


His face was an unmarred canvas, devoid of a single wrinkle of thought.


“No. Of course not Dr Lecter. You’ve given me more than I ever needed or wanted. More than I deserved.”


“You deserve this world, Will.”

 

The quite assertion in the other man's voice was heavy with something more, something dangerously close to ‘hope' and though Will’s heart twisted with want so deeply running that the half of all the forts that he had so painstakingly build up, corroded away like it were mere plastic blocks, but there was a fissure of exhaustion and anger that wasn’t really direct at anyone or anything in particular, but the peculiar line of their conversation had made the good doctor a fine object for it.


“What is the purpose of this conversation?”


“After all these years of staying together, coming to know one another, respecting and caring for each other, you still insist on keeping up the wall that separates us into two islands.”


Will stared, his food forgotten. Something sour began to turn within him and a wicked voice inside his head urged him to hurt the man who so carelessly grasped his heart. Who held it safe and made it bleed.


“Is this about me walking out on you in Jack’s office?”


“Don’t do us the disservice to pretend you don’t know what this is about Will.”


“Stop calling me that!”


Dr Lecter looked at him in a way a collector would look at his most finest possession in his collection. He felt being scrutinised by those dark eyes, disassembled and displayed, every secret that he meticulously worked hard to tuck away, every unworded desire that he relentlessly stomped down was being indifferently being examined. Dr Lecter was literally prying his thoughts and dissecting them without ever having to ask any questions or making Will do any test. Because he was conjoined to Will. If he wanted, he could feel everything Will felt, everything he’d ever want to feel. He had verbally scarred every psychiatrist, every counsellor, every single person who wanted to solve the puzzle that Will was and here he was, his soulmate, his other half, who so easily violated his sanctity of mind because he could do it.

 


Will stood up. The bowl on the table was precariously close to tipping over but Will did not care!


“You can eat the rest of the dinner by yourself, Hannibal.”

 


Because if Dr Lecter could turn Will inside out without batting an eye, Will could unmake the man without even listening into this thoughts because when it came to Will, the good doctor was laughably easy to read.

 


Will grabbed the keys from the counter and stormed out of the house, leaving Dr Lecter with his six course meals that he was sure the man would not let go to waste.

 


_____________________________________

 

Chapter Text

He didn’t know for how long he was driving.

 

 

 

He had a vague memory of the way he could get to Wolf Trap quickly, but chose to take the more winded path, one which opened up to the highway that was usually a remote place at night. His father had been paranoid for the right reasons and chose to buy a plot that was faraway from the mainstream civilisation as possible. It was a twenty minutes drive to the nearest market, if he remembered correctly. As Will drove his mind drifted back to the olden days. He couldn’t remember much of it; even now as he tried to recall what the first day of moving out here had been like, he was only left with blurry impressions of subdued excitement, familiar exhaustion and a few crumbs of conversations that might or might not have happened. He recalled feeling free in the sprawling estate of woods and nothingness. He hadn’t ever lived in a place so spacious before, where he could run with the wind biting at his heels, carefree and open. His father had said that he wanted to keep the savings aside for when Will would need it for his studies, but then thought better of it. If Will had stayed another day in that godforsaken town he might not have made it out alive, and his father knew that.

 


Will felt faintly guilty. It wasn’t as if his dad bemoaned the fact he dried up every savings to secure this house for them, but he couldn’t help but feel if he could’ve just waited it out, bit down on his tongue till it bled and manned up.

 


Will sighed. He knew these words were poisonous. If he let them grow, they’d hijack his mind and turn it inside out. Out of everything that made up Will Graham, his mind was the only thing that was his alone.

 


He didn’t know why he reacted like that this evening.

 


Not to say that Dr Lecter was innocent in the argument but Will was usually more restrained in his reactions to the other man. But this time, it was almost as if he wanted Will to rear up from his distant aloofness, to bite back against the unfairness of the thing that he demanded of him. Because that was it, wasn’t it. The man wanted Will to be familiar with him. It must sting the older man to see that the pull of their unfinished bond throbbed both ways, but Will was more in control of how that affected him, at least in the way he wore his mask. Because only he knew how torturous it was to be able to live with the other half of you but never touch them. Dr Lecter surely had no qualms regarding that. He was an adult, accomplished and highly sought after. The nights when he assumed that Will was sound asleep, the betrayal of his actions stabbed into Will’s ears the more he listened to them. It hurt all the more because he couldn’t fault the other man. He was hardly desirable in his bony disposition and dark temperament. And barely more than a child, no less. Even though he had been sixteen when he first experienced that brand of embarrassment during a lunch, his eyes trained helplessly on the way the older man’s mouth moved around his food.

 


Will momentarily squeezed his eyes.

 


God, those days were terrible. No wonder he only viewed Will as a fumbling child. But if that were so, then he had absolutely no right getting pissed about his unreciprocated feelings for Alana. Because surely Dr Lecter had felt that through the halfmade bond they shared.

 


But it didn’t matter, Will decided. Hannibal could keep up with his uncharacteristic indecisiveness for as long as he pleased. Soulmates weren’t imperative. All Will wanted was to live a life on his own terms. As soon as his final semester would get over, he’d move out to Wolf Trap and be done with that chapter of his. At least then he could finally have a room to breathe.
It was then that suddenly something caught his eyes and he rolled the car to a stop at the side. He peeked out of the window to confirm what he saw. Killing the engine, he slowly got out of the car and walked back in the direction he came from.

 


The dog was dirty, covered in twigs and mud. It had been showering lightly and the dog looked wet. It stopped cautiously when it saw Will approaching with open arms and a reassuring smile.

 


“Hey, hey there buddy. You lost? Hey,” the dog took off before Will could pet it, trailing a leather leash behind it.

 


Will ran his hand through his hair and tried to think back to the closest pet shop he’d find out here.
Running back to his car he drove back to a fastfood joint buying a couple of everything that he felt the dog might like. And he kept some for himself as well because he was hungry too.

 


He drove pensively, worried if he might lose that dog. But thankfully he found it again, loping through the fringes of the woods off to the highway. He parked his car a little ahead, open the back of his car and sat there, waiting for the dog to run by.

 


“Hey, hey buddy. Come here. Do you like bacon? Wanna have some more?”


The dog was rightfully suspicious of Will’s intentions and didn’t approach him even though he stopped to peer at him curiously. Will could see the poor thing’s snout moving and wondered how long the dog had been running. Will moved measuredly and kept a few pieces of bacon on the side. The dog bounded over to gobble the morsel as soon as Will walked away. Warmth pooled inside Will and he patiently encouraged the dog to eat the jerky until he was eating them out of Will’s hand. He patted the rough, clotted pelt and found himself grinning down at his new friend. He ignored the slight sting in his eyes and cooed while the dog, a ‘Winston' according to the tag, ate furtively.


“Wanna come home with me buddy?”


Winston let out a small huff and his dangly tail wagged in quick succession.


“Hop on over, you wouldn’t mind wearing a seatbelt would you.” Winston tilted his head curiously, while his tail wagged up a storm.


“It’s decided then.”

 

***********************

 

 

Washing what seemed like years worth of multi layered dirt and grit from Winston was much trickier than Will had anticipated.

 


Winston was a well-behaved dog, worryingly timid if not outright traumatised. Will had been slow and careful in his movements around him. He couldn’t find any pet shops but it was necessary that he cleaned Winston somehow. He used the brand of shampoo Dr Lecter bought for him. It was pricey though natural and mild. He hoped it wouldn’t be harmful for Winston. He was going to shop for everything Winston needed as soon as sunlight broke.


While washing Winston, he had noticed few bald spots and odd wounds that scabbed over all wrong. He was also thin as a rail under the scraggly fur and Will felt a low simmering anger heavy in his heart. He praised Winston as he towelled him off with a spare shirt he had found inside his car. After he was sure Winston was dry and cleaner than before, he gave him another jerky to gnaw on and went to take a bath himself.

 


He padded out of the bathroom to find Winston curled on the dusty couch, whose ears perked up as Will made his way around him. He smiled down at him and ran his fingers through his pelt. There was already a chill in the air and Will admitted to himself that he had been quite rash. The place was not in a good shape. The carpet was peeling off from the floor, the walls were patchy and there was a damp spot enormously glaring at him from the ceiling. Though the water line was still there, there was no electricity and the kitchen had honestly scared him to death. The floorboards were caved in in certain places, the counters layered in a thick blanket of dust. There was also something suspicious growing down by the window that Will dared not investigate.
He tried to remember snippets from his past as he walked around the house. There were no pictures, no memorabilia anywhere. It was desolate and empty. Impersonal. They had only been able to stay here for a couple of months before his dad finally decided that Will was not worth all the troubles. He didn’t fault him too. It must have been difficult trying to live with someone who was the cause of death for their soulmate.

 


A shiver ran down his spine as he stood near the end of the staircase. His nose was cold and he felt fatigued. He climbed each step carefully, going through the two rooms which smelled of old stale air and damp. He found a sheet in one of the cupboards collecting dust mites. He shook it away from his face as far as possible, watching a storm of dust disappear into the air. After a few more tries, the sheet was relatively free of dust. He draped that over Winston and hoped it'd be enough. He climbed up on the couch as well, moving his body around the small ball of fur so that Winston’s back was cuddled by Will's front.

 


He wasn’t looking forward to sleep. It was something that was becoming more elusive with every day. But feeling the pleasant heat emanating from Winston lulled him in a drowsy stupor, and his mind shut down in a restless unconscious.

 

 

 

He saw too much.


That had always been something he struggled with. There were times when he’d stare at his maths teacher trying to spell out a formula and notice the odd patches of discoloured skin that slithered into his view every time his sleeve would draw back. And Mr. Brooks always wore full sleeves shirt even when Will felt like his skin would melt in the sweltering sun of Louisiana. He watched how the loudest kid in his class always sat alone in group activities. He watched how someone outside a liquor shop would glance down at their phone furtively and then stuff that offending piece of gadget faraway from their sight. He had seen it being done by his dad often times to know what it meant. His mother’s disappointed frown but silent words spoke louder in the tense moments of his dad coming home from work reeking like a composting fish let out in the sun.
But his das wasn’t a angry drunk. He was worse.
He had pretended to be deaf on those quiet nights when every morsel of his dad’s pathetic begging filtered through the too thin walls. His mother was always silent. He never once heard her speak, or perhaps he did, but it didn’t matter enough to his young mind. Because it was his dad’s ugly helpless sobs that damped through Will’s mind which lingered, always assuring his mother that he would do better, be better. That she was the only one that mattered and please please please never to leave him.
He didn’t remember a lot from his childhood but he remembered the strange looks the other kids would give him. He was a shy boy, even by the standard of little children, thin and pale. His mother liked his hair long, said it went perfectly with his cherubic face, like Saint Agatha, Willy. You remind me of her, you know. And he had believed it to be true because his mother rarely spoke to him, and the only times she did, it was to comb through his luscious locks of hair.

 


He hated them.

 


And so they watched : this queer little guy, too quiet, too knowing, too seeing. He had once informed his classmate that her parents were going to divorce when he saw her bring an expensive locket with black strands tangled into its lock. Her parents were ginger through and through. She had boasted that her father had bought it for her mother and her mother was so happy that she was going to take her to buy a gift for her father. At her grandmother’s place.


It was the first time he had been hit.

 


Children have a remarkable bursts of strength and a vicious sort of cruelty in them. They are so unrestrained by their inhibitions...so raw. So pure. They need to be saved...to be coveted.

 


Will remembered coming across a carcass. He imagined it was a racoon. He couldn’t be sure. Its skin was already one with the road and there were no soft parts left, except for the stray strands of flesh that hung limply from its mangled bones.

 


His dad always joked how he found dead things.

 


When he was struck with a blinding, all consuming fire of pain that left him paralysed and convulsing on the school trip, in front of the horror of other students and flabbergasted teachers, he experienced his first ever death, and realized with a startling clarity : that he had never been so alive before. He had cackled then, tasting blood, and riding on the pain of his bones still being crunched to dust. He had cackled thinking how he missed this feeling. How he had always longed for something, to feel anything other than mundane, to feel like a human.


He had died and came back to life, with a heavy heart and a name written elegantly across the skin of his left wrist in a language that was foreign.


He took to wearing gloves. His mother didn’t protest because she rarely paid attention, too busy drowning in an acute melancholy that could only be suppressed the more she lost herself in menial works.

 


His dad noticed but never said a thing because...well, he never said, and as much as Will could see, he never wanted to violate the privacy of the only person who treated him as a real human being. But he knew...just as he knew that his mother despised him, that his dad was riddled with shame. For what, he didn’t want to know.


But children... they are so vulnerable. So very...malleable. they should always be protected...always looked after. Even a small moment of carelessness, when you think they’d be alright at night to bring a medicine that you forgot to buy, even when you think that they’ll be alright staying over at their friend’s home full of strangers because you felt like you were entitled to a little free time of your own, even when you feel like no one would come looking for them when they are locked inside a door with you, as their ---

 


A wet thud.

 


A pattering of hooves on a floor made with bones.


Antlers, primeval and wild, winding up up up into a pitchless eye all seeing, and red.


Will ' the monster calls, the moon breaks over and a girl with a slit throat beckons with open arms, and a laugh full of blood.


‘You are the one who killed my Dad, should I say thanks?’


Will '


Georgia screams but her lips are sown shut and she scratches, fingers at the wires that hold her down, keep her quiet and Will

 


Will laughs.

 

 

 

He gasped, his eyes darting frantically around the unknown place, light filtering through the thick curtains. He retched, only missing the inquisitive dog that had sprinted from before him, instead nosing at Will’s damp neck. Bile coloured his taste and he retched once more because of that. His face was wet with sweat and what smelled like Winston’s tender loving care. He had sweated through his shirt, that clung to his frame uncomfortably. He patted Winston, ruffling his hair and managing to give a tired smile for his sake.

 


He peeled off his shirt, draped it over the armrest of the sofa and took a cold bath. By the time he felt he was ready for the world, it was almost a quarter to ten. He put on his shirt that smelled slightly sour and was not completely dry. He looked down at Winston who was digging earnestly at the moulded carpet. He pensively opened his phone to see an innocuous two missed calls for Dr Lecter, seven texts from Beverley and five missed calls from Jack. He went through the texts and they were all Beverley asking why he had missed the first three classes and if he was alright or she needed to come with an ambulance.


Chuckling, he shot a quick text telling her he was alright and no paramedics were required but he had adopted a dog so he needed to buy stuffs for him. Beverley responded almost instantaneously, ordering Will to wait for her at Dancy's and then they’d go for shopping for the dog together.


>> His name’s Winston. He's a old soul


He snapped a picture of Winston chewing leisurely at the foot of the sofa and sent it to Beverley.
He was bombarded with a slew of emojis that were too yellow for his eyes.


And then he called Jack, because he might as well get it done sooner than later.


“Where the hell have you been Will?”


Ah.


“I’m at my old place. Did you need anything?”


“Did I – do you even remember what you were supposed to do? Did you even talk with Zeller?”


“I did. I emailed him. He said he’d get in contact with me after he was done with a work he was doing.”


“You call him right now and tell him I told you that those files are needed to be brought to you right now. Yes?”


Will bit back a sigh. “ Yeah Jack.”


“Good. You get me as soon as something clicks. I have hysterical parents at my back trying to know if we are any close to catching the monster. And we have to catch this monster, Will. So you have to put your shit together.”


“I got it Jack.” Will disconnected the call and plopped down on the sofa. He typed a note to Zeller asking him to meet Will at Dancy's and then after five more minutes of play wresting with Winston on the dusty carpet, they set out.

 

 

Darcy's was a relatively quaint place, a little niche but affordable, especially with the horror of students loan hanging on to his shoulder, and he was selfishly happy that this place remained under the radar of everyone else.


He walked in to the store, giving a smile to the owner of the diner who was wiping down the counter and took his usual seat by the large window at the back. Barry leaned on the counter and hollered, “The usual for you Mr. Graham?”


“Just Will, Barry. And yes, but please add another scone. With some chocolate dip.”


“Will. Treating yourself after all, huh.”


“Yeah. Just felt this day would need that extra bit."


Barry sagely shook his head, taking the confectionery out of the case and placing it on a plate.


“You work too much Will. You stare so intently and for so long at that thing, you’re glasses need a glasses of their own.”


Will laughed, scratching at his head self consciously.
He took out his laptop, feeling a little flustered, but he had to do some work and he always wrote better here than anywhere else.


Barry served him his breakfast and he shot a quick thanks. He could see his car parked off to a side. He had found a pet clinic on his way here and had done the preliminary check ups. He had also bought some treats and dog food, some of which he had given to Winston to eat in the back of his car.

Beverley had said she’d get out of the class in the next fifteen minutes so she’d be on her way.


Will worked and munched on his sweet delights. His paper was coming along nicely and he was really looking forward to submitting it. He typed until a crick formed at the back of his neck and he arched, cracked his joints and glanced down at his wrist ro see that it was almost one in the afternoon. Zeller was supposed to drop by here by eleven- thirty. He continued with his work until he felt his hands would come off. Beverley had sent her annoyed face stuck inside her car at a traffic. He kept his laptop inside the bag and thought he’d take Winston for a walk when Zeller stepped through the door, carrying a black duffel with him.


When he spotted Will, his otherwise bland face sagged in a fidgety frown, and walked determinedly towards him.


Will kept quiet about the tardiness on Zeller's part but only gave him a long look, one which the other man decidedly didn’t meet. He slid the duffel towards Will and frowned more prominently at him.


“You could’ve told me that it was Jack who told you that you had to go through those files.”

 


Will raised a brow. “I assumed it would be apparent given that I am not an actual agent and I definitely didn’t have any clearance.”


Zeller looked flustered and he stumbled over his words. “I don’t have the time to parse out the apparent meanings of things you should be clear about from the get-go. Anyways, Jack wants you to return these files by the end of this week. And I hope I don’t have to tell you that you need to keep these very safe and whatever mojo you do should be done under wraps.”


Will raised both of his brows.


“My ‘mojo'?”


“Yeah. The thing you do with the crime scene photographs, guessing and theorizing. I don’t understand why Jack gives you credit. Your people-watching habits makes you a good theorizer but there will come a time when you can’t talk your way out of the mess and then Jack will see reason."

 


Will swallowed a sip of water, Barry coming around them and asking if they wanted anything. Zeller shook his head, glaring out of the window.


Will smiled up at Barry, taking out the money and keeping it on the table, with a generous tip.


“It’s funny how you can experience the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. Theoretically you know that it’s just brain trying to connect dots and interpreting new information into neat patterns, but when that happens in reality it’s quite--"


“What the hell are you talking about?”


Will stared unblinkingly at Zeller who looked discomfited by him.


“’People-watching' is a phrase that Lounds likes to use as a throwaway term. And given that what ‘mojo' I have or not, is something which falls under the rumour category...the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon just becomes more interesting.”


Zeller didn’t react, his annoyed frown fixated on to his face. Will was mildly impressed.


“Whatever Graham.”


And then he was gone in a flurry of footsteps and slew of low mutterings.


Beverley arrived soon after, apologising profusely and shrieking at Winston for his utter cuteness, the energy of which got transferred to him and he started bounding in the parking lot while Will prayed that he didn’t regret buying a leash, first and foremost. They talked about a couple of things while they shopped for Winston. She was quiet when Will suggested that they drop by Dr Lecter’s house to grab a couple of essentials for Will, and didn’t ask anything as to why he was not-really moving into his house in Virginia – for which he was grateful. Will had strategically chosen a time when he knew Dr Lecter wouldn’t be there and so he was utterly caught off guard when the other man was chopping celery in the kitchen while Bach played in the background.


Beverley covered for a startled Will pleasantly going on about what Will couldn’t quite hear. His ears rang with the slow and steady simmering of anger mixed with embarrassment at being caught so easily. Of course he knew.


“Well, now that we have you here, surely you must be joining us for the meal that is almost done.”


Beverley surreptitiously stole glances between a mute and glaring Will who bore holes into the floors and Dr Lecter who was pleasantly looking at her with a welcoming smile.


She chose the wise option and declined. “I’m really sorry for not being able to stay long enough for your expertly made meals Dr Lecter but I just came here with Will on an errand and now that it’s, uh, complete I’ll just see myself out. I promise next time I’ll come with time and a cavernous appetite.”


“Ah. How unfortunate. See that you really do next time, Miss Katz. Will and I would surely enjoy your company.”


“Deal! Bye Will.” She half – ran, half-walked out of the house leaving Will and Dr Lecter alone.

 


Will stared intently at the expensive carpet beneath hie feet. He was sure it had some fancy name that would make him roll his eyes so hard that they might get lost in his shabby mind palace. He wanted desperately to bring Winston in, to see him shed all over the precious furniture that the older man had and to watch in dark pleasure as he’d bite into the softest and fluffiest cushions on his ottoman. Oh he was positively pleased to think the abject horror the sight of a soiled carpet would bring to dearest Hannibal. Yes, he would like that wouldn’t he. That would serve him right.

 


“If you’re quite done with Imagining certain doom on my carpet, we could perhaps enjoy a meal together.”
Will snorted, taking his eyes off the damn carpet and fixing it somewhere beyond the older man's shoulder.


“What’s the carpet called?”


The question threw Dr Lecter off kilter so much so that his confusion tinged through the half- made bond.


“Are you--"


“You don’t get to ask me that.”


Will knew that provoking the man wasn’t a good idea. He had never really seen Dr Lecter rattled or genuinely pissed off but he reckoned that it must be a sight to behold.


“Then what do I get to ask you, Will.”


Will suddenly had enough of everything. So much was happening with so little time to process and his own mood swings were giving him a headache. Not to mention the irritability and fatigue he was feeling due to not sleeping properly in weeks and the strange oddities he was experiencing ever since his trip to hospital, he just felt so donw with everything.

And Winston was journeying the whole day in his car, he needed a proper rest and a warm meal.


“I just came here to grab a couple of my things Dr Lecter. I really don’t want to have an argument right now.”


He made to move towards the stair at the back but in a synchrony of fluid motions too quick for Will to understand, Dr Lecter was there, blocking his way physically but not touching Will. His body was a long line of relaxed ambiguity that sent all the warning signs within Will to go blaring off all at once. Will unconsciously straightened his back, something which the other man mirrored effortlessly by going even more relaxed, his arms casually hanging by his sides. Will was forced to meet his eyes then, because the challenge was Dr Lecter presented him with was vulgar in a way that Will never thought he was capable of, given his sophisticated sensibilities.

But push a man too far , and he may leave his manners at the door.


Dr Lecter’s sanguine brown eyes were half-lidded, his mouth pursed in a thin line of tension, the only thing that gave the other man away.

 

 


He was as excited as Will was.

 


Will licked his lips out of force of habit, curiously tracking the way how Dr Lecter’s eyes followed the movement earnestly.


“You’re the worst at sending signals, Dr Lecter. I don’t understand you.” Will said into the growing heat that bloomed between them. Will felt pinned by the intensity of his eyes, unable to move, to run. Will wondered if the other man was as affected by Will’s proximity as he was to Dr Lecter’s. He wondered if he did run now, would Hannibal give him a chase?

 


“Don’t you.”


Will shook his head, more grimacing than smiling, “You want me to call you by your name, want me to seek you out when I’m lost to myself. You want me to rely on you fundamentally and you encourage this reliance, what some might call co-dependency. You honed my constitution to be fully developed than most other ordinary constitutions out there, always guiding me, anchoring me. Lending me your voice so that I could navigate through the clouds of death that follow after me. You want me to make you my shelter in the nights of storms, Dr Lecter...when you treat me as if I’m a child you grew up watching, looked after and feel responsible for. You treat me as if I am your ward and not your soulmate."

 


Dr Lecter watched him now with an unfathomable and inexplicable emotion that Will was too unsure to tread on. He felt like he could go on. He could craft an entire tome dedicated to the nuances of Dr Hannibal Lecter from all the things that he had seen and come to learn. He might not be able to dissect the man as he was wont to do others, Will included, he could very well flay the secrets to the surface, make them shine with the glaze of blood and knowledge as they seek solidarity.


You are alone because you are unique.’ He had told Will when he was young and still suspecting of him.


Then you’re as alone as I am!’ Will had spat hatefully, not realizing then the truth of his words.


Perhaps their half- made bond amounted to something, perhaps there was still something left to salvage because Dr Lecter’s eyes flashed with a emotion that Will knew was reflected in his own. How he knew what Will was thinking was not important. But the thin sheen of moisture that collected unashamedly in Dr Lecter’s eyes made Will speak out.


“We’re both alone without each other.”

 


He closed his eyes, all the words that could’ve been said, all the words that must’ve been said --- all suspended in that one moment of fragile silence.

 


Their relationship could be measured in silence, Will wondered incredulously as warm, too hot, hands of Dr Lecter cane around his face, cradling them with such tenderness that made Will’s knee go soft.
There was no distance left between them. Will’s front was pressed to the other man’s solid chest. Will was being drowned by the magnitude of what Hannibal was feeling. Their bond pulsed like a deprived , starving soul finally seeing the light after centuries in darkness, impatient and reverent. Hopeful.


“Tell me what you want Will. Tell me what you need.”


Will’s breath got stuck somewhere inside his lungs. He flailed with his arms as they uselessly hung beside him, finally clutching the steady forearms of Hannibal as he still held him as if he might never let him go.


“I want you to see me as I am. Treat me as I deserve to be. Can you do that?”


Will,” Hannibal’s soft exhalation sounded more like benediction.


“Can you do that Hannibal?”


Amusement glimmered appreciatively in his eyes and he brought their foreheads together, the touch of his skin on his own so profoundly more intimate than anything could ever be. Will was also thrown away by the fact that there was not a great difference in height between them, though Hannibal always felt the one towering over him.


“You cunning little boy. Do you understand what you’re asking of me Will?”


“Yes,” Will answered a little impatient, a little turned on. “I want you to see me as I am now.”


“Oh, I see you Will Graham. I see you and no one shall ever see you in the way I do. And yet you always manage to surprise me with your unpredictability, dear Will. I could only hope, and desire. I could never entirely predict you.”

 


“You’re one to talk.” Will scoffed. Hannibal offered him a smile that chased every bad thought away from his mind, leaving him feeling light and relaxed. Hannibal leaned in, kissing his forehead, and Will managed not to barf his heart out that seriously didn’t want to stay encaged within him.

 


“Now if you will join me at the table, Will. I find that I make a rather poor company to myself when you are not around.”


Will grinned as he walked behind Hannibal into the kitchen. “Is that you admitting to .missing me?”


“I will neither confirm, nor deny. However, I am curious about our new...guest you evidently have befriended.”


Ah...


“Yeah. I kinda...found him. And adopted him. His name is Winston. He’s two years old and really well behaved.”


Hannibal nodded attentively while busying himself in his work, doing several things at once, uninterrupted.


“I’ll see to it that a well-suited shelter be made for him in the backyard for Winston by tomorrow. For now, he can stay at the guest room downstairs. And only in there, of course.”


“Of course!” Will repeated solemnly, cringing at himself for thinking about the stuff with Hannibal’s carpet and Winston so childishly.


“Thank you, Hannibal. For Winston.”


Hannibal spared a indulging glance at him. “Always, Will. You need only ask.”


While Will waited for Hannibal to be done with the food and in between taking Will for a long walk down the neighbouring road, Will’s mind was filled with the thoughts of the new case and the children. He had to talk to Alana about the meeting at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane and also find out about Georgia’s suicide, the thought of which still made a sort of crawling sensation being spread through out his body. There was much he needed to do and soon. He had to be on his utmost efficiency. He didn’t want any more children coming to harm before they found out who thr killer was. As he led Winston in through the back door that led into a small passage which opened up to the guest room, Will imagined what their new dynamic would be like. He was eagerly waiting for Hannibal to see him not as a boy but a man. As someone his equal.

 

“Bon appetite Will.”


Will smiled as he bit into the carefully laid out morsel.

____________________________

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

The pendulum swung heavily in the darkness of his mind.


The single room of his mind palace dimly illuminated caught the dust that was floating off from the shelves. He saw a door appear right beside a shelf, perfectly normal. He walked through the door and into a happy backyard with well cared for trees, and flower beds adorning the place. The golden pendulum swung gravely and in one frame there was the giant ancient tree brightening the entire garden into a more lively one, and in the next, there was the body of a child with all his blood spilled on the ground staring hollowly at Will.


Will stepped towards the body, eyeing the scars around the gory sockets, the child's throat cut from ear to ear in a dastardly smile that was both revolting and shocking at the same time. Will could see the silver of his bone if he eyed the maw too closely.


I slit his throat open; vulnerable. Just how you left him. This is your doing. See what your callousness has done.


With the swipe of the pendulum the body was now cleaned, every evidence of blood clinically washed away. It now had the disinfectant purity in its absolute whiteness that stripped meticulously every hint of feature, indication, or mobility that made this stagnant body ‘Nathaniel'. Will watched the concave of his tiny stomach, the indentation of the stitches the mortician placed after examining the long controlled cuts diagonally on his abdomen, and the laceration along his chest drew his attention particularly. The body was bare in its immaturity, on the brink of morphing into a whole person, cut abruptly short. The imaginary trail drawn from the body's under chin down to the navel that was carefully untouched, stopping, just before the raise of the hip bones, delicately and fragile, was...


Tantalising.


I make these cuts, knowingly, and in control of my burning rage because this is what I am brought down to. I have to let them know that this is as much their fault as it is mine. I cut them here because after baring them so viscerally, you’d think there’s nothing more that can be done to them. You’d think, after killing them, there’s nothing more heinous that can happen to them --


Will looked carefully at the frozen picture of Jeremy, secured to the chains of the swing, wilfully binding him to his childhood...protecting their innocence. He looked at Nathaniel as he was sitting under a tree that he no doubt played with several times, looking at the corner where his parents probably had barbecue on Sundays.


The pendulum diligently swung.


Preserving the happy memories.


Just as I saw them, just as I want to remember them.
But they have to change because that’s the only way they’ll understand. That’s the only way they’ll learn. This is my statement.
This is my design.


Will blinked.


He rubbed at the bridge of his nose, trying to ignore the sharp throb at the sides of his skull. It almost felt like his brain had grown too big for its bony cage, and at any moment, it’d come leaking out his ears and nose. He was fortunate enough to catch a good three hours of sleep in the last forty-nine hours. He had gone through the files over and over again, poured his mind into the pictures of these children until every little detail was seared into his brain. Jack had also sent the interview logs with all the witnesses from both cases, and reports taken from the parents and families. The forensic came up dry every time Jack dropped by, the killer not leaving behind any traces, and it only added to the pressure Will felt burgeoning in his mind. He had noticed that Jack had personally gone to interview the kid's parents with whom Nathaniel was staying over that night.


Will called Jack, in a daze, not really paying attention to the time.


Jack picked it up soon enough, but his gruff voice that was gruffer than usual gave him a start and he peered at the time on his phone. It was three in the morning.


“Will.”


“Uh, Jack. I’m sorry I called you up at this hour, I wasn’t really paying attention. I can call you back a few hours later.”


“No, it’s alright. Do you have a profile?”


“Yes. I think we are dealing with an extremely disturbed person, not just mentally, but also emotionally. He is – has gone through a massive trauma that he is still processing. I’d bet anything that it’s a childhood trauma. Probably sexual assault or abuse. He...he considers what he’s doing as righteous and educational. These acts of violence is acted up on a fit of frenzied aggression but as soon as the victim dies, he channels his aggression into a means to his end, which is to taught the parents a lesson. He kills and leaves the children in the moment that stood out to him the most, something which meant the lost childhood that he didn’t get to live and so he preserves those moments. He might have internalized the trauma and feels a certain...pull towards the aesthetic of his victims when they are dead, the cuts he made are to violate that aesthetic ...punishing not only the parents who have somehow been negligent i his eyes, but also himself for wanting the things he is trying to save these children from.


“He – he’d be an ordinary man, if not too shy or reserved. He’d have a very flexible working time and must have a child of his own...probably fitting the profile of the victims. He’s acting out not only because pf the trauma he suffered but because he’s terrified of the same thing happening to his own child."


Will was looking out from the window, not particularly at anything. With every blink he could see Nathaniel staring at him, missing his eyes.


“He doesn’t want to see himself in their eyes. There’s something different about Nathaniel. I can’t put my finger on what.”


“Goddamn these psychopathic dads. Although we might actually have a lead. The playground in which we had found Jeremy, was not very far from an almost abandoned toolshed of a neighbour who didn’t really use it a lot. We found blood, tarp and a partial footprint.”


“That indicates it was premeditated to a certain degree.”


“Yes. So the killer might have known or at least stalked his victims. The Reeds and Stones had shifted to the state, a few months ago and in the previous school, there was a complaint lodged against the maths teacher behaving inappropriately with few of the children. Ted, the Stones boy, was one of them. And so was Nathaniel.”


“Where is that teacher now?”


“We are still on that. The bastard seems to have erased his complete social life and all those who knew him swear that he had just dropped from the face of the earth.”


Will nodded, then realized that he was on the phone so he articulated his response.


“And on the side note, Will. Are you holding up okay?”


Will blinked.


“Yeah, why won’t I be?”


“Well you sure as hell don’t sound like you’re well. And your face was weathered enough that Zeller commented on it.”


“Zeller talks about me to you?”


“No.” Was all Jack said. Will sighed, pinching the side his nose.


“I’m- I’m fine. Just...under the weather.”


“Hmm.” Jack said that conveyed just how much he believed Will, “You get some sleep. And leave the files by my office tomorrow.”


“Okay.”


He walked out of his room, his joints cold and stiff. It had been raining for the entire evening, the steady dirge would have otherwise put him to a deep sleep but. Well, the longer he could stay awake the better.
Hannibal wasn’t home. He was called away to give a lecture at Stanford and the only good thing about it was the chaste kiss on the forehead and a two-minute long embrace that had done wonders to settle the frizzy edges of Will’s mind. He was restless, irate and peculiarly needy. He wanted to chalk it all up to his sleep deprivation but he knew that it wasn’t the only cause. The bond between them pulsed even now. He stopped in his tracks and stared down longingly at the mark on his wrist, bringing a finger reverently and tracing it with a want so potent that Will’s knees felt soft. He wanted the older man here, with him. He wanted to sleep next to the solidness of his presence, safe and the only time he’d ever feel relaxed.


He yawned for the hundredth time and walked over to where Winston was sleeping in the guest room. Even though Hannibal had made a lovely, and expensive, home for him outside but he spent more times indoor and Hannibal had given up chiding Winston for it when he became more excited to accompany him rather than Will on certain occasions.


Winston perked up and bounded over to him. He hugged and patted his beloved friend, climbing over the bed and Winston too following his suit.
Will felt tired to the bones but he knew he couldn’t sleep. He held Winston and waited for the next morning.

 


****************

 

 

Garrett Jacob Hobbs lounges in the solitary chair watching Will as he gouges the eyes of Nathaniel Reeds with a hunting knife, grunting and panting.


“You do everything you can to give them the best that life can give you. Work tirelessly to see a smile brighten their little faces, suffer through hardships just to hear they call you by that name.” He speaks but his mouth doesn’t move. His face is bashed in, one side completely unrecognisable. He is bleeding sluggishly from his wounds, and Will feels a certain pride in the fact that he had beaten the shit out of him. Had beaten the life out of him.


“You do everything in your power to keep them safe, to keep them happy. But they all fly away, one moment here and the next – gone.”


“You deranged fucks!” Will spits as he pulls out the eyes and holds them in his hands.


There is a wet huff behind him, the sound of hooves. Garrett Jacob Hobbs disappears and in his place is the visage of a man...only something much, much more than that. It is made of darkness, the kind that traps light, suffocates it and doesn’t let it go. The man has horns that twisted and winded intricately into the nothingness above. It crouches, and watches. Listens.
Will has forgotten to breathe. His heart falls out of his chest and Will stares at it despaired.


The man who is not, darts closer, grabbing the muscled organ and burrows its fanged teeth into the supple meat.


Will feels the ache of his empty chest.


He looks down at the eyes and sees his father’s face looking back at him.

 

 

 


Will shuddered so hard he feared he couldn’t stop. His jaw was locked and he could taste stale blood inside his mouth. He got up from where he had fallen over, feeling cold to his bone, confused and scared.


Where was he?


What happened?


He looked down and saw that he was only in his boxers. And he was standing on the middle of a road who knew where. It was dark and the area around him didn’t look familiar.


He couldn’t remember. He couldn’t remember where he was or what he was doing. He had nothing on him, no phone, no watch, no Winston. Hadn’t he been playing with him in the backyard? What...


Sirens and glaring lights flashed in front of him and Will ducked his head into his arms.


A police car came to a stop before him, and he stood there, shivering and scared.


An officer stepped out, unsure and wary, one of his hand pressed to his side and the other open and soothing.


“Sir, are you alright? What are you doing here in your present state?”


Will couldn’t open his mouth. He was shuddering too badly. The man realized that and somewhat sheepishly took off his own jacket. He cautiously offered it to Will and he gratefully took it, wearing it and sighing, almost crying at the warmth that seeped into his cold-bitten bones.


“Sir is there any ID on you? Or someone you can call?”


“J-Jack C-Craw- Jack Crawford. Call h-him. Head. BSU.” Will managed to speak before the officer concluded that he was on something.


The officer eyed him suspiciously and called in the department. Will prayed that he was carried away to the station before his feet turned blue.

 

 

 

He must have fainted because the next time he opened his eyes he was in a hospital, sans any wounds but feeling no better than the times he had those.


Even more unpleasant was Jack Crawford’s grave face staring down at him with, heaven forbid, concern. Now that, certainly made Will more nervous than it should.


“Glad to see you awake,” he began gruffly. “Anything you need?”


Will shook his head trying to sit up. Jack came forward and helped him lean against the wall.


“So. Were you going to tell me that you were sleep deprived?”


“I...was just going to wait it out.” He spoke around the thorny wool in his mouth, fiddling with the IV that ran into his hand.


Jack gave him an unimpressed glare.


“You were sleepwalking at the butt crack hour of dawn , half naked in the freezing cold. If it weren’t for a concerned citizen reporting about a suspiciously naked man, you’d have died of an accident if hypothermia didn’t get you first. Does Hannibal know?”


“I don’t want to go to him with every little problem I have.” Jack couldn’t know about the giant hole in his memories. He was missing a good chunk of hours between him leaving school and then arriving at home. Before, he’d just have trouble recollecting ten to twenty minutes of his sleepwalking bouts. But he had never lost time like this. Whatever it was, it was certainly accelerating.


“Getting yourself killed while asleep is not a little problem. Look, Will. I know that ever since Hobbs, you’ve been struggling with coming to terms with it. And it’s normal. We all go through that shit. But you have more important things ahead of you and if you can’t come to terms with it on your own, then it’s not weak if you seek help.”


“Are you saying I should see a shrink?” Will said abrasively.


“I’m saying talk to Hannibal. Or someone who’s not Hannibal. I don’t get paid to be a babysitter. Or a couples counsellor.”


Will swallowed dryly. He looked away from Jack, his hand kneading the blanket.


“I didn’t mean to cause you any trouble.”


Jack sighed loudly.


He came up beside Will and sat down rigidly. After a tense moment, Jack sighed again and grabbed Will’s shoulder in what must have been a sign of solidarity.
“Look, Will. It was no trouble. You’re a good kid. And what you do is at the cost of your mental wellbeing. I know that. But I also knew your old man and when I see you, I see his hard-ass stubbornness in you, which never did him any good, nor will it do you much good. If it’s not Hannibal, I can ask Alana to --"


“NO. I mean, no. It’s alright. I’ll speak with Hannibal when he comes back.”


“Well anyways. The doctor was pretty adamant on a check- up and in order for you to walk out of here without your guardian or soulmate, you need to sit through one session with a counsellor they’d refer. Okay?”


Will sighed. “Okay.”


Jack eyed him for a moment, pursing his lips and hummed. Then giving a brisk nod, he left.


Sometimes Will found it hard to believe that the surly, no-nonsense man was once young and friends with his dad, who had been generally a comical man, with a weird sense of humour and a tendency to joke at inopportune moments. At least, that was what he told him. When they had shifted to Wolf Trap, Jack was the first person he’d called. They had caught up with one another, even dined at Jack’s place. Will still remembered how well put together Mrs Crawford was. She was soft-spoken but assertive, humorous enough to actually laugh out at dad’s sorry jokes while Jack only rolled his eyes, and knowing enough to treat Will as an adult rather than a hormonal fourteen year old. She actually listened to the answers she enquired about and was an overall wonderful person.


But then his dad went missing, and Will didn’t know what to do. Sure he had found out recently that the psychiatrist that his dad had practically begged to see him turned out to be his soulmate, but he was functionally alone, trying to come to terms with the fact that his dad never returned from work.
Jack had been the only one to believe that his dad hadn’t deserted him. With all the evidence pointing otherwise, Will still believed that his dad wouldn’t leave him alone. Months of search didn’t yield anything. Soon months turned into years, and Will never heard from him again.


But now that he thought about it, his constitution had manifested before he met Hannibal after he came to Wolf Trap. It almost showed up two years ago their final move. But try as he may, Will couldn’t remember their meeting. In order for a constitution to manifest, eye or skin contact or preferably both, was needed. After the first contact, the first signs of the constitution would start showing up, after the body had time to assimilate the changes taking place.
Now Will’s research was about soulbonds and how constitutions were often an important factor in the psychological make-up of a person, not just something philosophical or romantic. And he had come across few cases where constitutions manifested impartially through the soulbond but only because of spatial or even mental proximity, but puttering out and becoming somewhat tumorous, eating away at their confidence and more often than not, being thrown into asylums for being delirious.
But Will knew...he knew that he had seen Hannibal. And remembering why he couldn’t remember it was important.

 

 

*****************

 

Hannibal came home to Will singing in his apron, stirring something that smelled exceptionally good, lost to his own world.

 

The sight had been so rare, so unexpected in its welcome happenstance that Hannibal experienced something akin to a barrage or emotions let loose as the dams were lowered. He stopped in his track, withholding the call of the name that had become unanimous with his own in his mind, and took the opportunity to observe unabashed. Not that he ever did anything that required him to feel bashful, but he usually granted his soulmate the privilege of privacy that he found a great plaything in the cases of others, and so he watched, now, as Will slightly swayed in the melody of a song he only spoke occasionally, humming most of it, and stirring the pot passionately.


Admittedly, Hannibal wasn’t very satisfied with the results of his preliminary set-up.


He had been careful in handling Will’s capacity to withstand long periods of extreme and passive agitated condition of his mind. He was cultivating something he had only a tantalising glimpse when he first got Will under his care. He longed to see that same dive of righteous rage that swirled like a whirlwind of retribution in his eyes, his young hands around his own throat, the only one to come so close and still live, squeezing the air out of his lungs – oh! It had been a sight that kept him awake for nights on end, only lost to his mind creating vivid recreations of those short handful of moments when he had seen, truly seen, the might of Will Graham.


So when Jack called him in a rare case of panic, almost fumbling after him how a local police had found Will almost 3 miles away from his home, barefoot and functionally unconscious.


He wanted to be there when Will would first fall prey to his weaknesses. He wanted to see Will facing his shortcomings, his faults and then wait, patiently and forever with him, to realize the true potential of his being.


Hannibal had already walked up behind him, his eyes going over the effortlessly sensual line of his back.
Will whirled around and crashed into Hannibal’s chest, almost jumping out of his skin, stayed by Hannibal’s arms holding his shoulder.


“Hannibal!”


Will's ears were put aflame, his curls loosening by the surprise, his big blue eyes shining with joy and relief.


“God! You scared me. I ought to put a bell around you.” He joked, and Hannibal smiled. He stepped away to allow Will mobility in his endeavour, curiously peaking at the dish dear Will was preparing.


“No. This is my time now. You can go and fresh up. Food is ready and it’s no six course meal but you’ll love it.” Will informed him as he pushed him away from where he was mixing the meatballs with the spaghetti.


“I have no doubt about that, dear Will. But tell me, are you doing alright? Jack was quite worried when he called me.”


Will looked away, turning his back and busying himself at the stove.


“Yeah. Turned out not sleeping for weeks on row can make me sleepwalk. Surprise. But the doctors made me consult with a counsellor so that’s great.”


“A counsellor?”


“Yeah. Her name’s Molly Harper. She’s actually quite decent.” Will shrugged.


Hannibal had of course heard of her. If he remembered correctly, she was one of Alana's friend, quite ordinary in her academics but too open and had a generally positive disposition. His colleagues had quite fawned over her. However she was a specialist in cases where soulmates were either unnaturally separated or suffered severe abuse.

 


Interesting.


“I see. I am glad Will that you are seeing someone other than myself or Alana. It puts my mind at ease to know you’ll be in capable hands."


Will looked over his shoulder, his brow raised.
“You remember her? She told me you were quite dismissive of her when she was at John Hopkins.”
Hannibal, arched a brow.


“You talk about her days in school in your sessions?”


Will huffed, wagging the spatula at him. “Nope. You don’t get to judge my counsellor who’s possibly the only one who sees me other than a test subject.”


“I didn’t . I don’t.”


“That’s only because otherwise I’d break your pen if you ever attempted to box me into that.”


My pen,”


“Enough with you. Go and get fresh.”


“As you demand.” Hannibal deferred. As he passed by his room, he made a note to inquire into a distant acquaintance of his who worked at the hospital where Will was admitted. He would have to see how capable Miss Molly Harper has become. Will, of course, always deserved nothing short of best.

 

 

****************

 

 

He rearranged the books on the ‘Oa- Ps' shelf carefully, listing them according to their surnames first. It was a slow day, there were a couple of people who were interested enough to walk through the gates but not determined to buy anything. They milled about, staring impassively or longingly at the stuff, and then hobbling forward. Sometimes Will liked to watch these people to pass time. He’d try to read what their lives could have been like outside the four walls of the shops. Though it was quite insensitive, but it was better than going over the register a hundred thousand times.


Mr. Brooks was in the shop as well today. He was feeling better than the other days, strong enough to actually come down from his apartment upstairs. He was busy with some rare books, fixing any torn pages or gluing the binding together.


Will finished with his current slot and he moved to the next one when the chime of the door sounded more prominently. Will looked over his shoulder and saw that it was the same awkward but oddly intense man from before. The one who kinda looked familiar. What was his name? Something Black...


He noticed Will watching him and offered a reserved smile. Will startled and hastily turned around, his back going straight and he cursed himself for that reaction. What was he, a thirteen year old stealing a glimpse at their crush. Will rolled his eyes at his own stupidity and then turned back, gave a determined non-smile smile and walked towards the counter to get the box of the new arrivals.


The man let out a breathe and his dark eyes fixed upon Will’s every move, something which Will was keenly aware of.


“So you were right. The book wasn’t for me.”


Will busily took out the books, and piled them in columns on the desk.


“I don’t think I ever said if it was or wasn’t.”


The man, Matthew Brown – he remembered, gave a soft smile.


“But it was implied. And I guess I should be more careful with the kind of books I decide to take home.”


Will, not sure of what he should do or shouldn’t, didn’t do anything at all and only walked away carrying on with his work.


“Uh, there’s something I’d like to ask you.”


Will saw that Mr. Brooks was nose deep in the book he was repairing and there weren’t any customers in the shop, so he let out a breath and turned around.


“What can I help with you sir?”


Mathew winced and scratched his head. “I was, uh, wondering if you’d...I mean, if you’d like to grab lunch together. I know a really good place just down the street.”


Will blinked, his cheeks flaring up and stumbling over his words. That just came out of nowhere. And it never happened with Will before. What was one supposed to do when confronted with such a situation. He really wished that Beverley was here with him now. She’d laugh so hard that Will could muster up the courage to respond in coherent string of words only to make her stop.


“Or I could just—I mean, never mind. I just...” Mathew fumbled, appearing as uncomfortable as Will was.


“No. I- it’s not you. I’m—really thank you, but I have a soulmate.”


Matthew’s face went slack, before quickly being wiped off with any reaction, leaving only a furrowed brow and an unsure smile.


“Oh.” He said, and chuckled. “I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable.”


Will shook his head vigorously. “No, really it’s fine. No harm done.”


Mathew smiled, and then paused slightly. “May I ask you something personal?”


Will really wanted to go back to his books.
“I’m not sure, sir, if you-"


“Have you met your soulmate?”


Will stared, taken aback. “That really is something which is none of your business. Sir.”


Mathew nodded agreeably and then apologised hurriedly before leaving just as abruptly. Will felt odd and slightly bad for being so hard on the man, but his natural disposition to uncomfortable situations was either sass or brutal and in certain cases, both.
Will sighed and instead focused on finishing the task at hand as soon as he could. It would do no good to keep Alana and Margot waiting.

 

 

****************


“Hannibal, I’m home.”


He locked the door behind him, pulling off the blue raincoat hastily and hanging it down from the hook. He quickly ran up the stairs and into his room. After a quick shower, he drew out a pair of casual blue shirt that he quite liked and dark trousers, something Hannibal had insisted be made completely from the finest material available. Will didn’t particularly feel guilty about taking this out whenever he had to attend anything which required socializing because he had bought a pair of amethyst cufflinks for Hannibal from an year of savings and working over time that Hannibal had accepted with a genuine smile.


He wrestled with his hair for a good quarter of an hour and then admitted defeat and rushed out of his room almost barrelling into Hannibal who was—

 


Oh.

 


The older man was dressed in elegance itself , which wasn’t an uncommon sight but for the edge of something that was...risqué in the sharp cutting of the suit he wore. Or really the lack of it. Hannibal was dressed handsomely in a black silken shirt, the sleeves flowing along the lithe arms in a loose grip, held together with a shock of colourful cufflinks that was some kind of gemstone he hadn’t even heard the name of. His trousers was in sharp contrast to his shirt, white so pure and effortless that Will worried if he’d taint it with even another straying look at it. But even more shocking from than the unusual choice of his apparel was his hair. They were combed not along the side, but rather meticulously rippled back stylishly, Hannibal must’ve used some ort of gel to bring that effect but ever since Will could remember, he had never seen the man in anything out of his three piece suit or expensive pyjama suits.
Will was so lost in his shameless gawking that he didn’t notice Hannibal smirking ever so slightly at Will, clearly preening under the generous attention he was giving him.


“You are a sight to sore eyes, Will. The shirt bring out your eyes which you so adamantly try to hide.”


For the first time Will felt conscious of the black rimmed glasses that sat atop his nose, and he stopped himself before touching it, frowning at Hannibal. “We can stay here and you can psychoanalyse my glasses for the rest of the evening or we can actually attend the dinner.”


“You are looking forward to the dinner then.”


“Of course. Alana is my friend.”


“So she is. Shall we?” Hannibal offered his arm and Will flushed.


“We’re just going to the car.” Will muttered under his breath, slipping his own around the arm of the older man, who pulled him close.


“And I shall have the joy of your company. Let’s.”


They walked like that out to his car, Will didn’t mind when some of their neighbours stared at them curiously. He could finally be seen with Hannibal as not some awkward teenager with dubious motive hanging around the most desired bachelor of the society but as a man who happened to be someone whose company Hannibal actually enjoyed. And so he straighten his back, let his head held high and feel desired. Feel wanted by the man everyone desired. It was one heck of a trippy ride.


By the time they drew up near the driveway of the Verger estate, Will had began to feel jittery and the short-lived blast of confidence he felt from being Hannibal’s soulmate dulled before the oncoming rush of anxieties about meeting Alana outside of the familiarity of school, or Hannibal’s office. Home was a intimate space and Will was always stumbling his way through the tangles of intimacy all his life. He might not know Margot but he was aware that she was a purebred Verger, something like a royalty given to the sprawling meat business her brother and father had established. He knew how much Alana wanted to Will to meet with her wife, someone she claimed only met because of Will though how she never really elaborated. Will had to conduct himself with little more effort than he’d usually delegate to his socializing person-suit. He didn’t want to ruin this dinner. This was a chance as good as any to prove that he was worthy of being beside Hannibal Lecter.


A warm hand closed around his balled one on his lap.


Will stared into the calm sanguine brown eyes of Hannibal and breathed with the rhythmic pulses through the bond they shared. Hannibal gave him a smile that was filled with a want that Will no doubt reflected back only tinged with that ever pervasive doubt.


“You are beautiful dear Will. To have gotten the opportunity of spending this fine evening with you is a pleasure that I cherish.”


Will swallowed, nodded and swallowed once more for good luck.


“You’re too-" Will was thankful he didn’t fumble with his words then, “You look very...poignant.” He finished feeling like an utter idiot.


Hannibal’s lips quirked up in a devilishly handsome smile that shouldn’t make Will’s heart flutter like a suffocating bird inside his chest.
Poignant, hmm. Now that’s an adjective that’s new to me.”


“Okay, alright. We’re already here, let’s not keep them waiting any longer.” Will said, and decidedly didn’t fidget his way out of the car and into the mansion, his arm around Hannibal’s and his entire body set ablaze.


How did he even imagine that this idea was going to work out?


After Hannibal spoke through the intercom, Alana voice filtered out and she buzzed open the door.


A sharp, tall and dangerously beautiful woman with straight blonde hair in a fashionable maroon dress suit stood to welcome them inside. She wore a pretty scarf around her neck, holding a glass of wine and, Will couldn’t help but notice the slight discolouration of the skin right above her perfectly groomed right eyebrow.


“Margot, you look stunning as ever.” Hannibal greeted and Margot smiled, which Will had the impression that was something she didn’t do often, and offered her hand that Hannibal took and kissed.


“And you are as charming as you were when little Will stumbled into your care from my brother’s, and I am surprised I haven’t forgotten about your charm in all these years.”


“Charm grows with experience and practise. I hope you had the luxury of time now that your brother is busy elsewhere to finally charm the board of brutish, old men who have been giving you trouble for the past year or so I heard.”


Margot's strenuous smile tightened though she replied pleasantly, “They are not important enough to busy our heads with. And it was kind of Mason to entrust me with the ‘serious’ work while he’s frolicking with some poor bastard in a high-end brothel in some European getaway. It’s always been something I wanted.”


“Be careful what you wish for.”


“Well, it brought me Alana so I’m quite happy with how things have turned out.”


“And that’s quite enough with the passive-aggression you two. I’d think that you’d behave in front of Will, but it was clearly asking too much.”


Alana walked into the doorway, looking absolutely remarkable in a floral yellow dress, kissing Margot briefly and squeezing her shoulder and then kissing Hannibal on his cheek which he returned. She turned to Will and there was a brief flash of uncertainty before she stepped forward and pulled him into a hug.


“I’m so, so glad that you’re here Will. But I’m also so very sorry. If I had known before, I’d have apologized to Hannibal but cancelled this dinner today.”


“Alana. Is everything alright.?”


“Will-"


“It’s a surprise that brought itself here. The parting gift my brother left.” Margot remarked taking a long sip from the glass of wine she was holding.
Hannibal had gone imperceptibly quite beside him. Will wanted to ask what was going on when a man’s lilting voice called out from inside, followed by footsteps.


“Is that Caron Poivre I smell?”


A man in his early thirties strolled outside, his hair a careful mess of tousled brown hair, drinking what seemed to be whiskey and grinning lopsidedly. His gaze zeroed on to Hannibal and he drank down the liquid with a flourish, walked up to Hannibal and embraced him with a deep familiarity.


Will stood there, feeling like he vanished.


Fire, so red and quick, spread through Will’s body that he was struck dumb by it. Will couldn’t help but get flashbacks of him being seventeen and desperately trying not to physically respond to the waves of thick pleasure he felt through the bond as Hannibal and this man lost themselves to their carnality upstairs.


The man finally let go of Hannibal, still staring with sickening longing at Hannibal.


Alana cleared her throat and glared pointedly at the man who shrugged carelessly.


“Can’t blame a man losing his sense of propriety when he meets the dream of his life after what must’ve been decades.”


“Good riddance.” Margot quipped.


“Each month longer than a year.”


“You are done with your Ph.D. thesis, Anthony?” Hannibal inquired politely.


Oh yes! A hellish year it has been, beloved. Labouring under that Fell while he tried to claim my hard toiled work as his own was an endeavour I didn’t hope to complete. But I persevered, and here I am.” He spread his arms in a mocking bow.


“Uninvited and unwanted.”


“I had great expectations from Miss Bloom but it seems three years of a blessed marriage hasn’t still melted all the frigid ice from your shrivelled heart.”


Margot looked on stonily and then turned and left without a word.


“Anthony this is Will Graham,” Alana quickly interjected, “a promising and enterprising student at my academy and Hannibal’s soulmate. Will this is Anthony Dimmond, TA to one Professor Fell, a world renowned specialist on Dante.”


Anthony dragged his gaze away from Hannibal and to Will in surprise. He squinted at him for a moment before chuckling. “You’re the scrawny little lad who walked in on us that afternoon! By god, you’ve filled out deliciously. Hannibal, you’ve found yourself a pot of gold.”


“Anthony, enough.” Hannibal’s softly spoken words cut through the tense silence that Will had let to brew between them, ignoring the way that Hannibal was looking at him with an inquisitive face only made him want to punch the sliding smile right off the man’s face. He retreated his proffered hand and grinned.

“Not so keen on skin contact I see.”


“It’s difficult to know where and how a hand has been used whether that hand has seen a hard day’s worth or was naturally predisposed to cleaning out the nasal canal, I try to avoid hands whenever possible.”


Alana looked on with a mild horror on her face, she beseeched Hannibal to intervene who tilted his head and stepped up to where Dimmond was standing, assessing and then reassessing Will. Hannibal placed a hand on the small of his back and murmured, “We can continue this conversation inside, Anthony. Alana and Margot have been such a lovely host, it’ll be rude to say everything in our mind at the entrance to their home.”


Will pursed his lips, slid the glasses on his nose up and joined Alana as she ushered them inside with relief. Margot was already seated at the head of the long, dominating table laden with exotic food preparations, nursing another glass of wine that she gulped down on seeing them enter, then poured herself another one.


“He’s a funny guy, Will you’re a funny guy. No wonder Hannibal is so taken with you. I’m sure you appreciate his humour that almost always consists of puns."


Dimmond had taken the seat beside Hannibal who was sitting across Margot. Will stiffly joined Alana on the other side, facing Hannibal but not meeting his eyes.


“Really? Because it seems Hannibal has grown out of that habit of his.” Will answered.


The man shrugged, promptly taking a bite of the morsel before him and moaning unabashedly.


“Alana! I fear that your food can rival Hannibal’s on his worst his days.”


“Hannibal never has worst days.”


“And that’s just how delicious it is. And yes. I’m here on a work. I’m actually staying at a hotel until my conversation with the agent is wrapped up. It’s all very thrilling.”


Alana cleared her voice and raised a glass of clear liquid, ignoring Anthony Dimmond and instead gazing adoringly at Margot, who for the time being, had lost her hostile sharpness and instead returned the softness visible in Alana’s eyes.


“We might have met each other in an unconventional set of circumstances but we have managed to overcome every curve ball life had thrown at us. Together. You and Morgan are the best thing that has ever happened to me and I am so happy that I found you.” She then looked over at Will and he swallowed. “I know how hard and difficult it was for you when we met. Though I was a complete stranger, you trusted me to listen to you and listened to me in return, which I know is hard with all the talking that I do,” Will chuckled, he couldn’t help it. Alan’s smile was infectious. “And I know that us coming together would never have been possible if it weren’t for you. And Hannibal, thank you for being the best wing-man. I really appreciate it!”


Hannibal smiled and we all raised our glasses.


“Ah, love. I wish I could contribute with some resounding quote but I’m afraid my brain is a little buzzy. But cheers!” Dimmond tipped his glass and drained it empty, grinning impishly at Hannibal who didn’t react with anything at all.


“That would imply you had something barely resembling that to start with.” Margot retorted as Alana sighed.


Dimmond spared a languid glance at her, his posture in contrast to that of Margot's stiff and rigid countenance.


Will could feel the barb coming before the man even opened his mouth. He saw that Hannibal could feel it to, by the sharpness of his placid gaze trained at Margot.


“Margot, dear, are you still upset that I chose Hannibal over you? Honestly, you were always invited to join us. I don’t think either of us would have minded. Your brother certainly wouldn’t.”


That’s enough Anthony! Would you excuse yourself from here.” Alana spoke tersely, glaring at the man who continued to stare at Margot. After a moment of tense silence, Dimmond smiled beguilingly and the scrape of the chair sliding against polished wood filled the air. He stood up, wobbling a little but steadying himself. He gave a short bow towards Alana, then leaned down over Hannibal, an arm snaking around his shoulder. Will watched those fingers press down on his flesh, saw the soft fabric of the shirt dent around those finger tips. He l Dimmond whisper something in to his ears and watched how a sheer smile curved around Hannibal’s lips. His fingers twitched on his laps.


“Tomorrow then, dear Hannibal. It was wonderful catching up with you all. Especially you, Will. Come and join me in one of my parties. It’ll be your kind of party, no doubt. Toodles.”


He left, leaving behind a bitter and terse evening that was supposed to be pleasant.


“I... I really apologise Hannibal, Will. We didn’t know that he was coming and couldn’t get to you in time because we had to send Morgan away. He shouldn’t stay here in his presence. I’m just...terribly humiliated and sorry for everything.” Alana said.


Margot remained quiet, sipping from her glass and not really looking at any of them.


“You shouldn’t be the one apologizing Alana. Nor should Margot. Anthony was out of line and rather...crude in the way he behaved today. But this evening is still salvageable as long as you agree to join me at the piano after dinner.”


Alana blushed, laughing and waved her hand. “Oh, I couldn’t! Really, Hannibal, I haven’t been near that thing for as long as we had it here.”


“Stop being modest and agree already Alana. At least then we’ll have the silver lining we’re all looking for. Laughing at you is better than laughing at this disaster.”


“Margot-"


“I would love to hear you play, Alana.”


She looked at Will surprised.


He gave her a reassuring smile.


“Well if you all insist. But I’ll stop the moment I hear a snicker.”


“Then it’s settled.”


And so the rest of the evening went without any further incident.


And if Will slipped out of the mansion, alone, then everyone very wisely didn’t comment on it and went on with the night as it unfolded.

 

 

 

_______________________

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

He waited pensively in the cafeteria, occasionally taking a drag of the rusty warm liquid that’s supposed to be coffee and trying not to compulsively look down at the watch.


Will knew that he was asking too much of Bev. She had her own plans of getting into the special program headed by Jack which was looking to recruit the best minds the Academy had to offer in order to set up another division of the behavioural sciences but one which was primarily concerned with soulmates and bonded pairs. It was still relatively a new area of discussion in the field of criminal psychology and behavioural sciences.

Soulmates only just started to be considered as an elementary aspect in criminology as recently as sixty years ago, still only confined in the realm of speculative psychological and post-modernist cultural studies. Their mutual interest in this subject had been largely why Will and Beverley started talking to each other. Beverley decided to stay afterwards mainly when she realized how miserable Will would be in a world without her in it.


Will was grateful for Beverley.


It was after a better half of an hour when he saw the tall woman making her way through the middling crowd over to where he was sat.


“I’m sorry I got held back by Dr Bloom. What is  that that you’re drinking. I hope you’re not drinking that.”

She wiggled her fingers at the affronting half-empty Nestle cup that had long gone cold as she took her place across him. Will sheepishly slid it aside, half shrugging.


“What’s up with you anyway? You went completely white dwarf on me before spawning out of nowhere, with no explanation whatsoever. You even missed our date night.”


Will cringed at the onslaught of Beverley’s accusing eyes. He had been avoiding talking to her ever since he was cleared from hospital the first time around. He didn’t think he could handle a proper conversation with anyone with how muddled things were inside his head. Given that those phantom aches and uneasiness had passed without him even noticing it had only just amplified the feeling of something was not right.


“I’m sorry. I promise I’ll make it up to you. I was just not...feeling myself lately. It’s odd. I don’t know how to explain it really.”


Beverley was still miffed but she had a worried look in her eyes.


“Is that because of your constitution?”


Will shrugged. He didn’t really know.


Beverley shook her head, before turning and rummaging through her stuff in her bag and then taking out a file. She slid it towards him, grinning. “I don’t know about the ethics of it all but I felt like those super techy geniuses in movies when I compiled all that I could on Georgia.” But then she sobered up and looked away. “I never really knew her but with all that I could gather, she didn’t really have anyone who was barely more than an acquaintance.”
Will opened the file and flipped through the scant pages of Georgia’s footprints in the Academy. There were the official papers on her registration to the Academy, her previous institutions. There were a number of disciplinary notes about her, mostly disrupting classes and disorderly behaviour. She spent a lot of time in the infirmary and barely ever showed up for classes. She had no parents listed but there was a name of a woman as the guardian. Will didn’t know how Beverley could gather all this information , he wasn’t even privy into her personal methods, but she had a name around the students as some sort of technological wizard- sort and he was sometimes lucky to have her on his side. One thing however, stood out to him.


“These are Georgia’s autopsy reports.”


Beverley had her chin in her hand, smiling an innocent smile.


“You’re welcome.” Will swallowed. He knew she had connections, favours that people owed to her in almost every department everywhere. But he worried if she was safe doing all this snooping around. And he felt even more terrible given that it was him who asked her to get him anything that she could on Georgia.


His eyes traced the blurry image of her Facebook profile printed on the paper. It only showed half of her face, her golden hair a messy tangle around her. The wall behind her seemed to be bland. The picture was an unflattering one. There were only three people in her friends list. One of them was the one who was listed as her guardian. She hardly uploaded any pictures. There were few posts talking about inane things such as what she ate in the afternoon or the bus she missed. There were few about how afraid she was. Some were outright anxious. She believed there were people who were following her. Who lived in her house with her mother but she couldn’t see the strangers. Her last post was three months before her suicide. It was a picture of her feet on some sort of platform.


Will returned to the autopsy report. The examining officer was a Dr Price. He might have heard of that name being mentioned by Jack. It stated that Georgia’s health prior to the suicide pointed to severe malnutrition and dehydration. There were old and scabbed over injuries on her forearms, thighs, her stomach and shallow lacerations on her face, which were the freshest of the wounds she had on her at the time of her death along with a blunt force trauma at the back of her head. Though the wound had coagulated meaning that it had been inflicted some time before her jump. There were other bruises on her abdomen, arms and legs that would indicate assault. But most of the wounds sustained by her were self-inflicted. There was a note that there were prior surgeries she must have gone through, some sort of blunt trauma to the right side of her head that required stitches, as a result of an accident.


Unease settled uncomfortably inside him as he closed the file. They sat in companionable silence, Will trying too hard not to feel as isolated and lost as Georgia had felt, clearly struggling for a long time and largely ignored. Though she mentioned her mother several times in her posts, no where in the academic reports was a parent mentioned. And what was that with strangers living inside her house with her mother? Did it truly happen? Was someone really following her in real life, making her paranoid so much that her already pre-existing problems became amplified and she...


“Will,”


He looked up from the file. Beverley was staring at him sadly. “I had spoken with few of her classmates who remembered knowing her. They all had the same thing to say. Georgia was a quiet and weird girl, who wanted to be an officer. She would sometimes be lost in her daydreams but was altogether unremarkable. But there was something that a few of them mentioned. They said that Georgia was in an accident almost eight to nine months ago. After she returned she had been acting up strange. She’d become skittish, would mumble a lot to herself and kept her distance form everyone even more than what was normal.”


“And they didn’t ask why it was like that?”


“I don’t think they really knew her as a person.”


Will said nothing. He didn’t understand why he was so worked up by this. Georgia was someone. And now she wasn’t. Why did he feel so restless?


“It isn’t your fault Will. There was nothing you could’ve done.”


“I know!” Will started then closed his eyes briefly, counting to ten before reopening them.


“I’m sorry. What you did, it’s more than I could’ve asked. Thank you Bev. And I know that it wasn’t my fault. Or anybody’s I guess. I didn’t even know her until she died. And that...that I think is what is getting me so worked up.”


“Not knowing her before she died?”


Will shook his head. “Dying so alone.”


As he spoke these words the sticky and prickly sensation in his guts formed into a cohesive darkness that buzzed loudly in his periphery. He trained his eyes towards the amorphous cloud of negativity that loomed just there, drowning away the busy hub of people in the cafeteria and plunging it into a hall leeched off colours and life. The mass shifted nervously and shook terribly before splattering away into ether leaving in its place a tall, but lanky and slouching figure of a woman who was almost the same age aa him. Her white-blonde hair were clotted with blood, the side of her face completely indistinguishable. She stared at Will placidly and then jumpstarted into movements that were jerky and glitching : something out of a low-res videogame jumpscare. But Will was stuck to his seat -he couldn’t move- and only followed Georgia Madchen's ghost stockily walking out of the cafeteria.


“-kay? Hey! Will. Focus on my voice. Will!”


He choked on his spit as he tried to swallow around a dry patch in his throat. Coughing into his hands he tried to say that he was okay but Beverley wasn’t having any of that. She tried to count him down, her hand gripping his arm, rooting him down to the reality and her clear and enunciated breathing slowly, so very slowly allowing Will to finally make his lungs work. He didn’t even realize he was having an attack. Even the most basic exercise of breathing racked up a burning storm inside his chest. He was suddenly aware of the worried and curious faces that stopped to see his embarrassing spectacle. He couldn’t really get a sense of his extremities but the urge to curl into a tiny ball and wish himself out of existence was becoming pressing.


Beverley, bless her soul, understood Will’s discomfort and barked a rough statement about him being fine and they could turn on Netflix if they wanted to see dramas, promptly sending the watchers on their way. Will gritted his teeth, trying to become normal as soon as he could. He never had a public attack like this. Not in school, never in front of Beverley. Other times, there were only Hannibal and Jack to witness him losing his control like this, and the occasional members on Jack’s team who soon learnt to pretend he never existed under the brunt of Jack’s grim stare, but something like this to happen now—he was losing what little order he had in his life. Everything was falling apart, every single semblance of order and discipline he had created around him; they were cracking and peeling off all around him. Once again Will was being made a mere spectator in his own life and he had nothing to do about it.


How does that make you feel Will?


Angry.

 


When his lungs no longer felt it would shrivel up any second he shakily stood up, Beverley giving him space though she remained standing. He didn’t think he could speak. He didn’t want to see what Beverley thought. He had seen the reactions he had on people around him – intrigue, sympathy...pity. Beverley was an angel and the only friend he had for so long. He didn’t want to push her way. He knew he would if he saw her face. So he mumbled his gratitude in a raw voice and shook his head when Beverley insisted that he should see the nurse. Will walked away in a pace that didn’t border on something one could call fleeing and after that, it was a little hazy. How exactly he had reached his car was muddy. He chose not to think about it. Instead he drove to his work, focusing on the road and tried, desperately tried not to think about how he might be losing his mind.

 

 

*******************

 


He did have an inkling of guilt for rushing in and out of home leaving Winston alone. He had been so happy to see him, slobbering him with all his love and solitude and Will’s heart had cracked under the unasked love he had for Will that he became weak enough to stay back. But he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t face Hannibal when he felt so twisted and mean-spirited. The soulbond pulsed softly inside his mind and he felt it like a ringing pain. He was confused. He was afraid. He was unsure. He didn’t know what he wanted and what he perceived he wanted. If Hobbs and Georgia could so easily borrow inside him...could bleed into his reality so easily...what was to say that everything he felt wasn’t just some product of his constitution? He fed Winston and took him out for a brisk walk. After petting him for what felt like hours, Will finally scurried out of the house and drove to his appointment.


To add more into the mix of his nerves, Alana had emailed him about Chilton finally relenting and fixing an unofficial session with Johnson without the security cameras. Though he insisted on recording the session on tape for academic purposes and Jack had to give something return for Chilton’s confidentiality. Will could almost vividly imagine the excitement in Chilton’s greasy eyes if Jack had been more desperate and allowed to lend Will more than an extension to this case. He'd just  love  to have his grabby hands all over Will’s head. His constitution made him such a foil and fodder to those pencil-licking wannabes: such an unusually high level of empathy coupled with possible autistic characteristics and peculiar aversion to social situations. With a traumatic past and unstable mental state, it’s a wonder he was able to make any sort of connection at all. Oh, he knew all the medical jargon that got these people’s snickers in twist. And wouldn’t they all want to have what Dr Lecter so effortlessly possessed? Too bad. No one really wants damaged goods. Not even those who claim they do.

 

Pulling into the winding drive-way he saw the quaint cabin-like house at the end of it. The neighbourhood was quite posh though not as upstate as Hannibal’s and Molly’s house was pretty modest compared to other residential buildings in the block. Though she had let it known in one of their many tangents of conversations that she had actually purchased the entire plot along with the house and had it rebuilt in the way she wanted. With a white picket fence and a small domestic farm at the backyard where she grows an assorted variety of vegetables. She had always wanted to be a farmer, Molly had chuckled. But then she got accepted into the John Hopkins and her farming kife was taken up by another Molly in some other world.

 

He knocked three times then nervously stared at the worn out front of his favourite boots. The soles were looking much frayed. He might have to shop for another pair of boots soon. And that would require him to actually walk into a shop. He still didn’t quite get the hang of online shopping, especially when it came to his shoes or dress.


The wooden door clicked open and a warm, cozy light illuminated a short brunette ushering Will inside. The inside of Molly’s chamber was just as comfortable as the person herself was. There dewy and earthy tones on the wallpapers and the draperies and curtains were ordinary but not bland. A large shelf occupied most of the room, from one corner to the other. There were no desks but two sofas and three chairs were lazily strewn about before a fireplace that was presently cackling and throbbing lively. Will took his seat on the chair closer to the bookshelf as he had got into a habit in tge three weeks he had been seeing her twice a week.


Molly plopped down across the rocking-chair and handed Will a steaming cup of chocolate with- Will had to double-check- marshmallows.


He raised his brows at her and she giggled, waving her hand and taking a hearty sip from her own cup.
“It had been so wet and bleak for days. I’ve never seen it rain so much in Baltimore. But today was fairly sunny and it’s always good to treat yourself once in a while. So I thought : why not? Cheers.”


Will curiously took a sip himself and found his rigid countenance almost melting away with the silky texture of the hot, sweet-bitter taste of the chocolate - rich and supple on his tongue. There was also a hint of something else but he couldn’t quite place it.


“Is there salt in it?” he wondered.


Molly looked quite pleased and nodded. “Just a sprinkle of it on top. And a little bit of dry cardamom powder and clover grinded into tiny bits mixed with marshmallows that came from a very prestigious Walmart. Its a secret though. So don’t tattle on me. My grandma used to make this for us when I was young. Said it’d cure any sickness of mind or body alike.”


“I think your grandma was right.”


“She always was. So Will. How’s Winston?”


“He’s great. Really energetic.” He chewed on a marshmallow and swallowed it down with some hot chocolate. “But I can’t be there for him as much as I should.”


“Oh. Why's that?”


Will mulled over what to say. But then he had asked Molly to reschedule their appointment so he might as well make it productive.


“I don’t want to see H-Dr Lecter.”


Molly allowed the words to settle between them. There was a soft, almost indistinct music playing somewhere in the house. It had a chirpy almost sunny note to it. It filled the silence nicely and Will found himself relaxing even more. The hearth only added much need heat into his weary bones.


“Why do you think that?”


“I-I guess I am still not sure about the relationship we have. I mean I know that it’s not common for soulmates to find each other and even rarer still for them to be actually compatible in their given circumstances. I know I should feel thankful for an opportunity that most people would squander their entire livelihood to have but I can’t help but feel...feel-"


Molly only drank from her cup her eyes giving room to Will’s bulging emotions to breathe.


“I don’t know how I feel. I think I do at a given moment of time but then something happens and I begin to ask myself if everything I feel is because I was supposed to feel like that as a soulmate and not because I’m a soulmate since I feel that way. Do you understand?”


Molly kept the cup down on a small tool beside her. She leaned forward and held her hands out in front if the fireplace.


“Even though serious research and enquiries have begun into looking into the science and pattern behind soulmate phenomenon nothing concrete has come out of it yet. It has been around since the ancient times. We can see it being referenced in scriptures and celebrated in some cultures. It was also considered a taboo to openly speak of it and even the practice of actively searching for your soulmate was considered a sin not too long ago. We’ve made so much progress since then and I’m still baffled with how little we actually have come to know about it. What determines two or more people to be destined to be so compatible to each other? Is it merely evolutionary feature? Simply genetic coding or is it something more than that? Is our consciousness truly attached with another’s befor we’re even born? Or does it happen after? If so, what are the requirements? Why do some people have multiple instances of having soulmarks where none ever do? If soulmates are supposed to be so perfect for each other then why are there a statistically more crime rates between bonded or expectant bonded-pairs than those without it? If we were always supposed to love this person we never knew, why do people choose to love someone completely different even after meeting their fated, and live as happily as mortal life permitted?”


She sighed, then took her cup and sipped. “When I try to answer these questions I find myself trying to grapple for some semblance of a pattern. Of something that would just click in my head and I’ll be like : of course! That’s why it’s so. And everything will be completely clear. Though I’m just starting out and have a long way to go, I think what we all make a serious mistake is in assuming people are singular. Or plural in a singular, categorical sense. People can’t really be labelled and defined in a linear, simply teleological manner. I don’t think they can. Over 400 cases that I’ve looked into and still will do in future only points out how different each individual case was. Though I can establish some similarities some differences in few of these cases, I can’t really box them into one or the other.


“Will, I know that you have a really unique constitution – one which is so dependent on the connection you share with your soulmate. And even if what you have is so palpable and tangible into the real world where most of us only get constitutions like being able to colour very well when together or eat a lot of lasagne or even be a very good marksman, yours is something which is entirely independent of what your soulmate has for a constitution. I will never ask for information you do not wish to divulge Will, but from the only two times that you’ve spoken to me of your soulmate, I think what you can do is try to know them outside of the boxes that you have drawn for yourself and for him. I think that so far you’ve only seen Dr Lecter as your soulmate. Have you ever asked how he was before you two met each other? Has he ever asked that of you? And if he has, have you ever responded?”


Will's mind was reeling. Now that every single thought was so clearly untangled and laid down before him to investigate individually, he couldn’t help but realise that it was this that was blocking him from talking with Hannibal. Ever since he had actively become conscious of their soulbond he had been so preoccupied with the whys and hows of their relationship that he had never stopped to look and see the man. Because at the end, that’s just what they were. Two men. Nothing more and nothing less.

Will had made Hannibal into something so infallible and so untouchable as an idealistic version of what he truly was that he had lost all touch with the reality of them. He wanted Hannibal to see him as a man when he himself never considered himself to be one. He had always seen himself as the pathetic teenager abandoned by his parents, left to be a burden to his new psychiatrist who turned out to be his soulmate.
But things were never so simple. Even now, though what Molly had said resonated something inside of Will that he had been stubbornly ignoring, there were still many things he had to understand and find out. But Will already felt so tired. It had been a long day and the chocolate and the heat had made his body lethargic and all he wanted was to sleep.


“It’s difficult not to be blindsided when everything and everyone around you normalizes a way of thinking from the moment you are born.”


Molly grimaced and nodded her head in sympathy. “I have people coming to me seeking for some sort of retribution for thinking about themselves for a moment and not abide by every whim of their soulmate like it was some atrocity they had committed. Even to this day. Those days are the hardest and really make me wonder if it’s too early for retirement.” She chuckled sadly.


“You’re really not like other counsellors Molly. Trust me, I’ve seen my fair share of those creatures. But you’re...you’re good. You do so much good for other people. If you did take a permanent vacation then I’d think it’s too early.”


Molly shrugged good naturedly and urged Will to finish his cup before leaving for that session.


“You can request for a reschedule anytime Will, there’s really no need to be so hesitant. Although the hours I have to give as an associate of the hospital are fixed I always try to keep my private practice schedule flexible. Problems never come by the hours so unless I’m already involved otherwise I should be able to give you an hour. So next time, just inform me minus the profuse apologies.”


“Will do. Goodnight, Molly.”


“Have a safe trip back home, Will.”

 

 

******************

 

 


After he tucked Winston into bed – which was right beside him on the right- he decided that sleep was a good option if it came to him. He had eaten the food Hannibal had left for him in neat little Tupperware, still warm and delicious as ever. His belly was filled and the rain outside poured into his mind. He opened the windows but drew the curtain. The chilly wind with a smattering of rain fell against his skin. He closed his eyes against the downpour, thankful for the peace it brought to him. He walked upto his bed, drawing the blankets over him and Winston, letting the mattress beneath him lull him to sleep.


He must have dozed off still not completely asleep when he felt the mattress dip behind him. For a moment he went still, his heart locking inside his chest; but then he felt the odd reverberating pain through his bond. It pulsed weakly and almost felt like it was moaning in pain. Will didn’t know if it was him that send those signals or if it was Hannibal’s. He didn’t move though, only lay there on his side, his arm awkwardly stuck underneath him. Hannibal must have known he was awake now. Winston’s bushy tail was wagging right onto Will’s face though he was too lazy to actually get up. Hannibal didn’t speak, so Will stayed quiet. He watched him petting Winston twice on the head, who eagerly smothered his fingers with his wet snout. If Hannibal was perturbed by it Will didn’t know. Hannibal didn’t touch him, though Will couldn’t understand his own disappointment. Was he expecting Hannibal to touch him? But why would he expect that? He was sure if Hannibal did he was going to bite more meanly than Winston ever would.


But maybe Hannibal knew that too. So he didn’t touch Will. He didn’t do anything at all. After a while even Winston was lost to sleep. Will didn’t know what it was about the older man's presence, but his eyes soon grew heavy and he felt at ease. Soon Hannibal had just become like the softly beating pulse shared between them.

 

 

 

Hannibal was gone the next morning when he woke up.


There was a tall cup of freshly brewed coffee and chocolate scones on his bedside table.


Will oddly felt guilty for a wrong he didn’t think he committed.

 

******************

 

 

Will knew the day was going to go bad when the first thing to greet him in the morning was Chilton’s too trying suave grin.


Albeit it was his hospital and he had taken a certain amount of risk, allowing a student with no necessary credentials to interview one of their most notorious criminals who had caused quite a stir back in those days. But still Will had been hopeful. He could spot Alana’s car so that was a relief. Being alone with Chilton wasn’t something he was looking forward to.
Will intentionally didn’t move after stepping out of his car, only blankly staring at the sparse trees around thr building, right behind Chilton. The other man was quite taken aback by Will’s blatant disregard for the courtesy he sure had deemed to grace Will with, but not doing well in social interactions was one of the favourite things doctors liked to write about him, and Will really wasn’t above using it for his own arguably petty gains.


As Chilton awkwardly approached Will still holding onto the smug confident smile, Will contended that he  really  wasn’t above using his own apparent diagnosis.

 


What a naughty boy you are Will. What’s to be done about that?

 

“Will. You are looking quite well today. Red is quite a bold look on you.”


“Can’t say the same thing about you.”


“Excuse me?”


“Isn’t Jack here?”


“Straight to the business. I like that about you, Will. May I call you Will? Let’s walk together since we finally have this opportunity. Hannibal finally stopped being a mother hen long enough to let you out of the nest. Would you like to see around the facility--"


“I wasn’t aware that Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane housed a entertainment gig.”


Beverley had often complained about his monotonous way of speech. He was quite grateful that it came in handy again because Chilton looked to be at a loss of words, opening and closing his mouth while they entered the building.


One thing that Will noted was the place was well guarded outside, with two sets of electronic gates opening with biometric passwords and Ids. However the more they ventured inside he couldn’t help but wonder why there were more orderlies and nurses than there were armed guards. The entire thing was under surveillance so that was one safety measure, Will assumed, too keep those inside safe from the outside world. Chilton chattered about his upcoming book that was allegedly very well received amongst his peers, how he had overhauled the entire management and security system of the place and actually expend into problem of providing the inmates with rich nutritional diets that tasted better than average. Will didn’t respond but so as to not come off as completely an asshole, he smiled to show that he was listening. Judging from the confused and disappointed look on Chilton’s face though Will inferred that his timing must have been slightly off.


When they finally reached Chilton’s office he could weep in happiness at seeing the lovely Alana greeting him with an angelic smile that rivalled Will’s sour mood.


“Will,”


“Alana.”


“So, Will. Take a seat please.” Chilton crossed his legs with a relish, leaning back into his black leather chair and resting his chin on his fingers in a manner that distantly reminded Will of Hannibal’s ‘I'm- listening-But-I'm-Disinterested' gesture.


“It’s really unfortunate, “ he began over Alana when she was about to speak, staring at Will faking disappointment. “That horrid article that got plastered everywhere on the tabloids. Whoever could have done such a petty thing behind Jack’s back, I wonder. Though it’s no secret that he is a rather  polarizing  man—he has as many admirers as he does those who’re willing to see him in a rather sticky situation. And Lounds really knew where to hurt the most. It was rather fortunate that Hannibal’s word is  so...valuable  in the community, otherwise the scandal would’ve been far more difficult to manage for Jack alone.”


“It’s a matter of the past, and Lounds is nothing if not resourceful. Also, Frederick, let us not forget that Will is professionally trained. He is as much a part of Quantico as much I am.”


“Of course, dear Alana. Will is quite a stalwart when it comes to his academics. His research paper has already created a buzz amongst us scholars. Nothing less can be expected of him. However, it was quite unfortunate that he couldn’t pass the psych eval. I had urged Hannibal to let Will see a more professionally adept psychiatrist than those two-dimensional wooden planks you find in the Bureau, but alas! Hannibal was quite adamant in his own stance.”


“Dr Chilton,” Will said fixing the man with his patient gaze. “Are we going to wait until Jack arrives or can we start with the interview right away?”


“Not needed. Frederick, I hope everything is prepared?” Jack marched into the office, arresting everyone’s attention and holding it sternly.


Chilton cleared his voice, a little put off for being cut in his attempt to make Will squirm and instead done on his professionalism and addresses gleefully.


“Indeed. Johnson was in a ‘mood' after I told him that he was getting a visitor after seven years almost. He put up a little tantrum but we had a talk and he was willing to grant our Will some of his time. However he was quite adamant that it be not a minute more than thirty.”


Jack crossed his arms.


Now, Jack Crawford was an intimidating man just by the dint of his sheer presence. But he was quite an imposing figure when he deliberately flexed his built. No man his worth could ever wear the stare down. The only one immune to it was Hannibal. And Bella, but Jack never dared to ever hold a staring contest with her.


“We had a deal Frederick. You give me an hour, I let you record the session.”


Chilton smirked. “A little correction if I may, Jack. The BSHCI is my second home. I am in charge of how and when things are run. Nothing escapes my eyes. And I am afraid that it is state policy that I can’t, goodwill, go against the inmate’s wishes if he or she doesn’t allow any interview of any sort. Now, I’ve already put my neck on line for you Jack. I can’t lend you more than that.”


Jack gritted his teeth, Will could see the inevitable chewing out that was on its way and thought better to interject now. The sooner he could get out of this damn building the better.


“Fine. Let’s go.”


“Will,”


“I know what I’m doing Jack. Johnson will either have a connection to the killer or he’ll not. There’s no other possibility.”


Jack looked from Will to Chilton and then sighed loudly. “Fine.”


“Excellent!” Chilton ringed in someone. A short, greying man stepped inside with the orderly uniform.


“Will, this is Barney. He will escort you to Johnson. And he’ll tell you the instructions as well. Do not deviate from them.”


Will threw a glance over his shoulder to Alana who gave him a pensive smile.


She was still against this entire experiment. Even though Johnson wasn’t the worst of the lot housed here, his crimes were of a graphic and brutal nature. He relished in the deviancy, in the brutality of his aftermath for shock value. Will had seen his files. He had also seen the photographs, much to Alana’s loud advice. His stigmatas were particularly nerve-wrecking, especially without Hannibal there. But he had to learn to deal with it without Hannibal.


“Stay behind the line, there’s a tool kept there for your ease. Don’t provoke him too much, do not be abusive and do not cross the line. You’ll be fine.” Barney said once we had reached the holding cells. He could see the chair kept at a distance. “He’s normally a quiet bloke. Keeps to himself. Talks about his son a lot. Might even talk to about him to you, but you don’t talk about him yourself. It’s a touchy subject. Here, I’ll let you do your job. And don’t cross the line.” Then he walked away, leaving Will in the empty but raucous corridor. Will didn’t pay attention to the jeering and jibes some inmate threw his way as he made his way over to Johnson’s cell. He kept his head straight and eyes straight ahead.


He stopped before the metal tool. Right across him was a man in his late fifties with dirty blond hair that was now more white than blond. He was not very tall but his size more than made it up for it. He had scraggly beard and, Will paid close attention, black eyes. He was currently seated on his bed far in the corner, watching Will watch him.


He struck Will as being intelligent.


“Mr Johnson, my name is Will Graham. May I take a seat.”


He didn’t react. Only watched Will in those vulture-like beady eyes of his.


Will didn’t move. It was important that Johnson talked to him. Jack had called him in the morning and informed him that they had apprehended one Mathias Clark, paranoid out of his mind and almost begging the FBI to put him into prison. He had confessed to all murders, had provided details that were not disclosed to the public. He had no alibi as he was a squatter, Jack’s men only finding him through an almost orchestrated miscalculation on Clark's part – he had been caught milling about in a gas-station joint in the perfect range of the security footage- but Jack still had a nagging sense about things not being as they seemed. Clark was too hysterical and delirious to carry out a systemic series of murders such as these.


The man across from him finally moved, gesturing with his hand for him to take a seat.


“You’re not FBI.”


Will nodded. “I’m only working with them.”


Johnson raised a brow. “They let a kid do their footwork now?”


“Mr Johnson, I would like to ask you some questions. You may or may not choose to answer them. Is it alright with you?”


“I’m not going anywhere, boy.”


“Thank you. Do you find it difficult?”


Johnson frowned. “You’ve gotta be more specific than that.”


“Is it difficult to rot away in this cell with no outside contact for seven years?” Johnson twitched. It was almost imperceptible but Will was looking out for it. He had to be straightforward with him. He had a clock ticking away behind him.


“I think I’ll sit on that one.”


“Of course. I hear that Dr Chilton takes very good care of the inmates. He did mention about the nutritious meals he provides for you. Do you think they are good?”


Johnson scoffed, his previous animosity forgotten briefly over the commonly shared jab.


“My wife could cook better shit than the abysmal drivel that little cocksucker likes to feed us. But you’re not here to talk about that. I know what you wanna know. The good men outside talk about stuff happening all around. Really tragic,  those poor children.”


Will nodded affirming. “Yes. It is indeed tragic. But you’re not too pleased with them are you. They are trying to take credit for the work you so tirelessly did. Their measly attempt at emulating the sheer shock of your crimes is nowhere to be worthy. You’ve heard about the various journals and tabloids speaking about the crime. Yours was the most scandalous in the recent years of Baltimore. It’s only a matter of time when others will begin to see the odd similarities between your work and theirs.”


“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I never did no thing.”


Will saw Johnson. He saw his hand flexing on his thigh. Saw the depthless void in those eyes. Eyes...


“They found a mansion jar filled with the eyes of your victims. All no more than 12.”


“Someone put it there,” he said. “I was a honest salary man, boy. I had a loving wife and a kid. I had everything. If it weren’t for you little fuckers I’d still have it all! I said, it wasn’t me. I did nothing to no child! I could never!”


“The new killer seems to be equally fascinated with eyes. Why do you think it is?”


Fuck you!  I don’t wanna speak no more. Get your ass outta here!”


“Why is the killer so fascinated with the eyes Mr Johnson?” The man was now on his feet, pacing and bellowing like a caged animal. His eyes were bloodshot. He was shaking with rage. Will could see in his periphery Barney and few others opening the gates. He had no time.


“What is the colour of your son’s eyes Mr Johnson? Is it the same shade of green as your victims?”


FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING CUNT! IT WASN’T ME! I DID NOTHING!”


Will stood up. “Thank you for cooperating Mr Johnson.”


Will walked away in the wake of a barrage of expletives. Some orderlies running past him while Barney escorting him outside.


“I said no provoking.”


“I’m sorry.”


Chilton’s face was drawn up in a manner as if he had sucked on a rather sour lemon. Jack was frowning at Will as he came.


“You were supposed to talk to him Graham. Not antagonize him.”


Will hummed, standing in front of a window in the office, trying to gather all his thoughts.


“Will, are you alright?” Alana asked.


“Yes,” Will said, turning back. “Where is Johnson’s son?”


“He had to change his name and move away. The entire ordeal had blown up. His mother couldn’t bare the strain. The last official records of him state that he went to live with one of his aunts. But why? Did you figure something out?”


Will bit his lip. He wasn’t so sure yet. Everything else was so neatly arranged. If what Will was thinking was true then....


“Jack I want to speak to the victims' families.”


“Will-" he began but Will cut him off.


“I think I have the clue. Not clue but ... I have to be sure before I implicate anything.”


“The families have already been questioned thoroughly Will. And I don’t think that they’d cooperate asking them to come for interrogation after such a tragedy had struck them.”


“Only the fathers Jack. Please.”


“You can’t conduct any interviews Will.”


“But Alana can.” Will argued. “I only need to be present there. Please Jack. We have to do this before the killer makes his next move.”


“You’re sure it’s a him?”


“Yes Alana. I am completely sure.”


Jack didn’t speak but only walked out of the office, followed by Alana and Will.

 


Outside, Alana stopped him before parting their ways.


“Will. I wanted to apologise for what happened that day. We really didn’t know that he was going to come. And his conduct had been so uncalled for. I’m really sorry.”


“You don’t have to apologise on other’s behalf Alana. And it’s all fine.”


“Will,”


“Hey. I’m not a child anymore, Alana. I promise you, I can take care of myself.”


Alana smiled. “Of course. I know that. I just- no. You’re right. I have to consciously remind myself sometimes that you’re all grown up now. And anyways, I had forgotten to tell you in all this mess. Abigail called me the previous weekend. She was asking about you.”


Will reined in his surprise. He had...almost forgotten about her.


“Oh. H-how is she?”


“She’s doing fine so she tells me. Though Toronto is a little too peaceful she said. Her neighbourhood was so good that it was almost boring. I was glad to know that she had made a new friend there. Oh, but I can’t quite remember her name.”


“That’s...that’s good for her.”


Alana eyed him knowingly. “You are allowed to talk to her if you want you know.”


Will smiled which was little more than a grimace. “I know.”


“She expressed that she’d like to hear from you.”


“I know.”


Alana clasped his hand, looking at Will with her flushed cheeks and kind eyes. “Abigail considers you as her friend. Trust me.”


“What about your doctor-patient confidentiality?”


Alana rolled her eyes. “Fine then smartass.”


Will shrugged but cracked a smile.

 

 

When Will was driving back to home, a conversation that he had with Jack shortly after Hobbes had been dealt with played incessantly in his mind. Even after three months, he was just as much unsure and unwilling to accept the possibility of what Jack said. But it might just be true in the present case.


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