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As black as he is painted

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Hannibal spends longer than he intended answering questions at the end of class. He ends up uncomfortably close to late for his meeting with Jack. Admittedly, his reluctance to meet the psychiatrist lined up for his psych eval doesn’t inspire him to rush.

Alana had refused to assess him herself. A conflict of interest. Instead, she recommended a colleague. Hannibal envisions Dr Graham as a clone of Frederick Chilton. Smug, arrogant and easily manipulated. He has every intention of smiling and answering questions exactly as expected so he can go on with his life with a rubber stamp approving his sanity.

He knocks Jack’s door with a quick rap and opens it with an apology on his tongue. It is lost along with his resentment and fake smile. There is a man looking over the maps of body dump sites and victim profiles for the Shrike case which are pinned to the wall. He stands with his hands held behind his back, his head tilted slightly as he parses the information in front of him. He doesn’t turn straight away but when he does, he gives Hannibal a small, warm smile of acknowledgement before turning to look at Jack.

“How many confessions so far?” he asks.

Hannibal remembers himself. He closes the door and goes to sit down. He can feel his heartbeat in his throat. He ignores the slight frown Jack throws him while answering Dr Graham’s question. He hasn’t said a word yet and it isn’t like him. He can’t trust his voice. He rubs his mouth to try and stop his hand from shaking. It is the first time he has ever been so affected by finding someone attractive.

Beauty is deeply important to Hannibal. He has often worried he cares more for aesthetics than ethics. There is a dark little voice in his mind that dismisses some murders as less worthy than others. He has felt admiration for the kills he has seen that are inventive, elegant or that are a powerful expression of the self. These are things about himself he can never tell another person or he would risk exposing himself as less than human.

None of that explains why a gorgeous face has left him lost. He has seen a wide variety of beautiful people in all shapes and sizes. Even when interested in them sexually, his admiration is largely intellectual. This is something else. Dr Graham is not objectively the most handsome man in the world. He tells himself that and knows it to be true but he can’t feel it. There is a terrible pull under his ribs that makes him feel that if this man were to walk out of his life right now, he would fall apart.

“This is Dr Graham,” Jack says, as though nothing in the world has shifted.

Dr Graham sits next to Hannibal and holds out a hand to shake. It’s smaller than his own. Pale, warm and calloused.

“Call me Will.”

His eyes skirt over Hannibal’s shoulder. He wants this man to reveal himself entirely. To disassemble himself and let Hannibal pick through the pieces. He wants to taste his bones.

“Not fond of eye contact are you?”

Dr Graham laughs.

***

“What would make this easier for you?” Dr Graham asks.

He knows Hannibal is more attached than he is supposed to be. Over the course of a few weeks, he has become essential. Standing by him and his theories. The one person who hasn’t flinched from how dark his thoughts are.

A friend.

“I don’t want to be your patient.”

Dr Graham shrugs.

“Let’s say, as far as anyone else needs to know, we retain the official status. That means anything said here can remain entirely confidential. Even from Jack. He doesn’t have an excuse to probe. Beyond that, we don’t need to follow any particular structure. It doesn’t need to be therapy but I think you’d benefit from a space to speak freely. Sort through your thoughts. Be truthful and unafraid of judgement in doing so.”

It sounds perfect but Hannibal has learnt the hard way through a childhood of trauma and loss that nothing can ever truly be perfect. He remains suspicious.

“So a conversation then?”

“It can be.”

He wants to hate that smile but he mirrors it with one of his own. Dr Graham’s smiles are so rarely genuine. They are usually polite and deferential. Part of his mask. When they are real, it seems like there is something dangerous about him.

“A conversation would imply give and take. Not simply my secrets and weaknesses exposed. Yours as well. Quid pro quo.”

“Alright. Should I begin?”

He wasn’t supposed to agree so readily but the opportunity to know him, to pick him apart is irresistible.

“Please, go ahead,” Hannibal says, reining in his excitement as well as he can. It’s probably pointless. He understands by now how Dr Graham can read people with ease. Even when he doesn’t want to.

“I was raised by my father. My mother took off when I was too young to remember her. There are flashes. Her hair, her smile. Likely, I have taken those images from photographs and created false memories. Alana Bloom has implied on more than one occasion that my reluctance to accept care from others stems from my strained or non-existent parental relationships. I maintain I’m just a belligerent asshole. Now, your turn.”

He can see Dr Graham as a rail thin child. A birds nest of hair, scratched knees and dirty cheeks. Lonely and desperate for no one to notice. Feeling so much, all the time.

So similar to himself but so very different.

“My parents were nobility until they were stripped of their titles by political upheaval. They were intelligent, dignified and utterly uninterested in the dirty work of raising children. I respected them but I’m unsure if I loved them. They were killed when I was twelve. My uncle and aunt raised me beyond that time.”

Dr Graham looks as though he knows there is much, much more but he doesn’t pin Hannibal with those blue eyes or raise an eyebrow in expectation. He merely pauses long enough to be sure Hannibal has finished speaking before taking his turn.

“My father was a mechanic for the most part but also worked in factories, in shipyards, fishing boats, farms. We went wherever he could find work. All over. Originally we were from Georgia, spent time in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas... longest we settled was Louisiana. I did my damnedest to lose my accent when I started studying psychiatry.”

Dr Graham lets a Southern accent bleed through as he speaks.

“People don’t want to be prescribed anti-psychotics from a redneck but if I’m tired or I’ve been drinking, it slips out.”

It makes Hannibal feel warm and hungry. This is far more than the doctor would tell anyone else sitting in this room but it isn’t enough. Hannibal wants everything.

“Would you mind telling me where your accent originated?”

“A little like your own, it has a few different sources but I’ve never bothered to hide it. I’m not sure I could. I was born in Lithuania. My mother was Danish. My uncle lived in Paris and sounded native. My aunt was Japanese. Many influences, none of them conducive to fitting in when I moved to the States.”

“I never fit in.” Dr Graham’s eyes lower, lashes casting a shadow over his cheeks.

“As a child, I was always the new boy and a strange one at that. You’re aware of my empathy disorder. The weight of other people’s emotions can tire me. It’s one of the reasons I live so remotely. Space to preserve my energy and my sense of self.”

“And space for your dogs?”

“Did Alana tell you?”

“That you have seven.”

She had told Hannibal with a mischievous glint in her eye. It was supposed to surprise him. It was supposed to conjure the image of the pristine Dr Graham surrounded by dog hair and slobber and you were supposed to wonder how he managed. At the time, Hannibal had arranged his face to express just that. Fulfil expectations.

A pack made sense. The compassion and care needed to tend them, the authority needed to command them. It suited Dr Graham. Striding through the woods in his navy peacoat and scarf, surrounded by things loyal and loving. Surrounded by sharp claws and ready teeth.

“Although you do well to mask it compared to most dog owners, I knew you had more than one. I have an especially acute sense of smell.”

“Ouch. There was almost a compliment in there, I’m sure of it.”

Dr Graham’s face is near angelic when it is soft with laughter that it hurts. It makes Hannibal think of blood and snow and grieving.

“I think it’s fair to say that I like dogs. What do you like, Hannibal?”

He replies without much thought.

“I like opera.”

****

The foyer is packed with glittering dresses, tuxedos and champagne. Most of the smiles are fake, most of the gossip is vicious. Perhaps half the room know anything about tonight’s production.

Hannibal is in heaven. The performances between socialites, the artfully constructed personas, the ridiculousness. It is a comic art piece in itself, one that he can easily manipulate. He has already had groups of the Baltimore elite eating out of his hand. They are desperately intrigued by FBI work, flatteringly interested in his opinion on the production of Werther and a few are obviously interested in him sexually.

He extricates himself from a knot of older couples, who insist on his attending a cocktail party later in the month, in order to find Will. He’s Will tonight, despite Hannibal's arguments. The point has been made that it would seem rather strange for Will’s guest to address him formally. Hannibal has taken the point and then taken every opportunity since to roll the name around his mouth.

He finds him leaning against the bar with a whiskey in his hand.

“This doesn’t seem like something you enjoy, Will.”

Will smiles, false and tired.

“It isn’t. It’s pretty rare for me to drag myself to these sort of things but many of my wealthiest patients move in these circles. Needs must.”

“It may be easier to network if you speak to people, Will.”

“I always knew you were cruel,” he replies before finishing his drink.

“You’ll have to be my shield then.”

He hooks an arm around Hannibal’s and steers him around the face the room.

“You’ll protect me, won’t you?”

If he says yes, Will may hear just how much he means it. Instead, he just nods and takes a firm grip of his arm.

****

He can’t look at Will so he looks at the fire. The office is well heated even in these bitter winter months but the fire adds a touch of intimacy and safety to the space that helps patients open up. Hannibal had thought himself immune.

“What do your fantasies involve?”

Hannibal takes a deep drink of wine before he answers.

“I don’t think you want the details.”

“I do. And I think you’re tempted to tell me. It’s why you brought it up. You’re often motivated by burning curiosity, Hannibal. It outweighs most of your other impulses. You want to know how I’ll react.”

Hannibal swallows another mouthful of wine. He almost chokes on it and has to focus not to cough.

“I picture you… on your back. Spread across a bed. Arms over your head, pinned beneath my hands.”

“Am I clothed at his point?” Will asks. His voice is warm but polite. He could be asking how he plans to decorate his house. Hannibal takes his glasses off and looks to the window.

“No. You’re entirely bare. Your body as exposed to me as my mind must be to you. Chest hair. The muscles in you arms, tensed. Your thighs. Your…” He coughs, closing his eyes. He keeps them closed even as he recovers. The image of Will is vivid in his mind. The cords of his neck, the hitch of his breathing.

“Am I erect?”

Hannibal nods immediately, too committed to the picture to feel any more self-conscious.

“Yes. Painfully so. So eager to be touched.”

He thinks Will’s cock would be a little smaller than his own but elegant. Nearly purple with need and weeping.

“I imagine… there are times you seem so vulnerable. I think you know I respond to it.”

When Will's eyes sink to the floor mid-sentence and his dark eyelashes flutter. When his shoulders and arms are drawn in to make himself small. Those brief little instances when Will appears to doubt himself. Hannibal has wanted to hold him, protect him. He has wanted to wrench his head back by the hair and bite his neck. He has wanted to bend him over a desk and fuck him until he sobs Hannibal’s name. He has wanted to do worse. But when he takes his time, in the dark of his own bed, he pictures Will bare and aching.

“I can picture it as you twist beneath me. Lost to pleasure. Frustrated when denied. I find it hard to predict you. Would you bare your teeth, overpower me and take what you want? Or would you grow so desperate in your need that you would beg? Trembling lips and eyes overflowing with tears.”

“Which reaction do you prefer?”

“It changes. Often.”

In truth, he found it hard to picture an outcome that didn’t satisfy him. He had even pictured Will pushing him away and turning his back. Will taking his own pleasure into hand. It had been still been enough for Hannibal to reach a guilty, thrilling completion.

Will does not offer any more questions so Hannibal opens his eyes and keeps them averted. It seems a dangerous thing to look at Will’s face.

“Hannibal, please remember you can say no to this. What we do during your time is ultimately up to you but I think this would be beneficial. I want you to masturbate now. Where you are sitting.”

He can’t resist looking at Will now. He does not look any more moved than before. That only seems to encourage Hannibal’s desire. His cock has already been affected by his voicing the fantasy he relives so often. The calm, almost clinical audience makes him impatient. There is no judgment, only gentle encouragement.

“Will you… watch?”

“Yes. Open your flies, Hannibal. I want to see you take yourself in hand.”

Hannibal unbuttons and unzips but on exposing his stiff cock, grabs the arms of his chair and he squeezes. It is almost too much, crossing lines like this. Doing this in this room. Crude and animalistic. The smell will linger into other sessions.

Will stands. Hannibal can hear him walk to his desk and feels him come close. He sets down a tube of hand cream next to Hannibal’s arm and he takes it.

“Not ideal but it should help.”

Will moves away, returns to his seat and Hannibal shudders out a breath of relief.

“Coat your hand and touch yourself, Hannibal.”

He does as he’s told. It’s so easy to do as Will asks. He quickly squeezes cream in his palm and warms it. The firm grip he takes of himself causes his stomach to tense, his feet to lift slightly from the floor. It won’t take long.

“You can look at me if you like or close your eyes. Let’s revisit your fantasy.”

Hannibal stares at Will. His soft curls, his sharp jawline, the trim cut of pale grey suit. Hannibal tries his best to keep his strokes long and smooth. He does’t want this to end too soon.

“I’m bare, I’m under you. You have my hands pinned. You have a little more height and weight, you could probably keep me there. Maybe not if I really struggled. Let’s say I don’t struggle at all. I’m relaxed. You’re keeping me in check so I don’t touch you. After all, you’re in charge. And a small correction to your fantasy. Despite the facial hair, my chest is naturally pretty smooth. Always has been. The curse of being boyish. Now. I’m relaxed and I’m willing. What do you do with me?”

He amends his image, the smooth skin of Will's chest all flushed pink. Soft. Easily marked by teeth.

“Talk to me. Don’t go inside.”

“I’d taste you.”

“Where?”

“Everywhere. Your mouth, your throat, your chest. Your cock. Your ass. Sometimes…”

“Go on.”

He can barely keep his eyes open, the crystallised image of Will in his head is morphing with the real man in front of him who stands and come close. The last of his inhibitions seem so petty in the force of his beauty.

“Sometimes, I imagine ripping open your ribcage and eating your heart.”

“Still hot with blood. It would stain your hands and your mouth. All yours. Touched where no one else would dare. And I’d become a part of you.”

“Yes, yes, yes…”

“Consumed and kept.”

Hannibal is entirely lost now to the sound of his voice, to the imagined copper taste of blood and the idea of keeping him. Always.

“How do you imagine it tastes?”

“Like love.”

“And how does it make you feel?”

“Like God.”

Will’s hand gently takes hold of Hannibal’s cheek and he orgasms with a sudden cry.

It’s too much. Much too much.

Violent.

Painful.

It’s perfect.

Will’s hand keeps stroking his face and as Hannibal calms down, he realises he has started crying.

“Well done, you did so well.”

Will’s lips press against Hannibal’s forehead and he can’t help but cry harder. He nuzzles against Will’s hand. It doesn’t seem like it will stop anytime soon but Will doesn’t turn away.

He smiles. He understands, utterly. 

***

Will allows Hannibal free reign of his kitchen including the contents of his freezer. Hannibal thinks of it as a treasure trove of beautiful fish. The spoils of a contests won against nature, from North Carolina up to Maine. He makes them black sea bass and turmeric potatoes in rasam broth and pairs it with a dry Viognier from the Rhône Valley that was hidden away in Will’s neglected wine rack. He does not bother considering dessert.

“Would you like to come upstairs with me?” Will asks, finishing the last of his wine.

A thrill of nerves in drowned in enthusiasm.

“I’d be happy to,” he answers. Restrained. Polite.

Hannibal does not delude himself that he can hide his emotions from Will but he can at least avoid the indignity of unveiling them entirely. He fears if Will knew the extent of his attraction, he would not entertain this at all.

Hannibal is shown into the bedroom and Will stays in the doorframe.

“I want you to strip and lie on the bed.”

Hannibal considers this for a moment before sitting on the edge of the bed and untying his shoes.

“Will you be observing or participating?” he asks.

“I would say that observation in these circumstances is a form of participation. But I do have every intention of being more hands-on than our last encounter. You can leave your clothes on the chair.”

Will doesn’t move toward him so Hannibal strips methodically. He folds his shirt and pants, sets them on the nearby chair, his socks and shoes tucked underneath. He turns back to Will who nods at his underwear. With a moment to steel his nerves, he takes them off too. He goes back to the bed and lies flat on his back.

“I’m not objecting but do you intend to keep your glasses on?”

“I’ll need them to see you.” Hannibal turns his head so he can look Will in the eye. “I want to see you.”

“There’s lube in the bedside drawer. Take it out and finger yourself open. The aim is not to put on a show. I want you to enjoy it.”

“And you’ll be hands-on after that?”

“That depends. For now, the lube.”

Hannibal retrieves it from the drawer and settles back again, flat on the bed. He keeps his eyes away from Will as he coats his fingers, bends a knee and reaches down between his legs. Knowing Will is there, calm and distant but focused entirely on him, is comforting. He pushs the tip of a finger inside himself and closes his eyes, trying to relax.

“Don’t rush. I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”

“Do you want to hurt me with your own hands?”

He hears Will chuckle.

“Would you like that? If I pull your hair? If I put you over my knee and slap you until your skin is burning and red?”

Hannibal gasps, allows his legs to fall further open and works the finger deeper.

“You do like the idea. Whether you would like the reality, we can look into another time. I thought you wanted to look at me, Hannibal? Why don’t you look?”

Hannibal turns to look but can’t bear it and looks up to the ceiling soon after.

“Too exposed. Too… vulnerable.”

“You look beautiful.”

Hannibal presses in a second finger. His eyes close again with a frown. Will’s voice sounds so much like he means it.

“You have a powerful body. Very masculine. I’ve never has a sexual relationship with a man before. I hadn’t seen the appeal. I do now. Especially with you like this. In need. Hard. A real temptation.”

Hannibal has to pour more lubricant on his hand, tries his best to do so without it seeming overeager. It’s difficult, he’s afraid Will will stop talking.

“I’ve never had anything sexual with a patient before either. I’m usually the consummate professional. What have you done to me, Hannibal?”

“Will.”

His toes curl as he brushes his prostate. If he keeps his eyes closed, he can almost pretend Will is touching him instead. He shuffles back so he can kneel propped against the headboard, curling his body forward to get better access with another finger. He grabs his cock in his other hand and slowly pulls.

“Keep talking, Will. Please.”

“You’re going to keep going. You’ll tell me when you’re close. You’ll do what I want, won’t you?”

“Yes,” he gasps. The idea of pleasing Will is the only idea left in his head beyond his own pleasure. He rides his hand as best he can, his thighs tremble, his cock leaks on his fist. The edges of his vision fade.

“I’m so close.”

“I want you to stop.”

He does. Hannibal can’t be sure why he responds so quickly except that it’s Will. He can’t disappoint Will.

“Remove your hands. That’s it. Deep breaths.”

Will finally moves from the door but he goes into the ensuite bathroom and comes back with cloth in his hand.

“Wipe your hands and lie back down. Try to relax.”

Hannibal does as he’s told. He tries his best to ignore the adrenaline still cresting inside him, his heart beating a mile a minute and the ache of his cock.

“Good. That’s good. I want you calm. Take a few minutes, that’s it.”

Hannibal’s breathing slows and he dares to really look at Will. He looks professional, still in his suit. Smiling as though they had talked through a breakthrough in therapy.

“If you’re willing, I’d like to restrict your movement.”

He produces a pair of leather cuffs.

“Are you interested?”

“I think so.”

“Arms above your head,” Will says as he closes the cuffs around Hannibal’s wrists and then hooks them to the bed frame. They’re comfortable. The pull of his arms and stretch of his body makes him feel exposed once again and it feels right. This is what he owes to Will.

“I am suggesting we use the stoplight system. It’s simple enough. If you say red, I stop what I’m doing immediately and I take the cuffs off. If you say yellow, I slow down. We can then talk about what you need. You say green only if you’re happy to keep going. Yes isn’t enough. I need you to confirm properly. I will check in with you. Frequently.”

He presses warm little kisses down Hannibal’s throat and his collar bone, his thumbs trailing over his nipples.

“But you can tell me a colour at any time. If something feels wrong, you must tell me without hesitation.”

“I can’t say I expected this of you, Will.”

“I can’t say I’ve ever thought of it before. The fantasy you shared was inspiring. I like the idea of you being helpless. You’re a very controlled man. Your willingness to give that up… it makes me feel powerful.”

Will drags his teeth over a nipple and asks, “Colour?”

“Green. Did you buy these for me then?”

“Especially for you. Brand new.”

He rubs his cheek against Hannibal’s chest.

“Do you trim this?”

“Yes. I prefer to be tidy.”

“I think I’d enjoy seeing you untamed.”

“I’d enjoy seeing you at all.”

Will snorts in amusement and sits up, hands dragging over Hannibal’s chest as though he doesn’t want to stop touching him. Hannibal doesn’t want him to stop touching but he hasn’t seen Will outside of a suit before.

“Your shirt. Please.”

Will slips his jacket off and casts it to the floor before slowly unbuttoning the soft blue shirt. He pulls it open just a little. A tantalisingly thin strip of flesh. Toned. Smooth. Hannibal intentionally bucks his hips up with enough force to make him bounce. Will laughs.

“Okay, okay. Not in the mood to be teased anymore.”

He pulls off the shirt properly and Hannibal bucks again. A smaller, involuntary movement. His arms ache. He tries to relax but he wants to touch him. Will would take off the restraints if he asked. The confident little smirk on Will’s face as he unbuttons his trousers is reason enough to stay put.

Will slips off of him to more comfortably strip. The teasing really is done, his boxers briefs come off along with the trousers. They’re cast aside and he gets back on to the bed to kneel over Hannibal’s hips, entirely bare.

“You look so far away,” Will says. “How do you see me, Hannibal?”

His mouth has gone dry. He has to lick his lips to answer.

The dark, thick curls. The strong, compact body. His torso is almost entirely smooth until the dark thatch of hair around his cock which is long, thick and hard. Much more intimidating than expected. He has muscular thighs and arms. His teeth reflect the moonlight from the window. There is something ancient and savage to his lust.

“A satyr of Greek myth.”

He looks powerful as he crawls forward. Hannibal arches his back and bares his throat in supplication. Will drags his teeth up Hannibal’s throat and bites his lips. His voice is low and sweet.

“I’m going to fold you in half and fuck you until you scream yourself hoarse.”

Hannibal closes his eyes with a groan. He can feel his own damp cock twitching against Will’s stomach.

“Green,” he whispers.

***

It isn’t fair.

Someone else should have seen it before now. It shouldn’t be up to him. The killings were meticulous yet brutal. Cruel and righteous. They were breathtaking.

It’s obvious now. As obvious as blood staining snow. That darkness that called to his own. How could no one else see it? Not a man but a wolf. All that time, he was smiling with fangs that have torn throats apart.

Hannibal aims his gun at Will’s chest.

“You... you killed all those people.”

Even with blood staining his face, he is beautiful. Not a satyr now, no. He looks like Lucifer. All the more beautiful for having fallen.

Alone. Tormented. Resplendent. 

He should shoot him. Will won’t go quietly, it’s not in his nature. He might be unarmed but he’s still a threat. Will's smile is soft and savage. Hannibal remembers the bloody pulp of a young man’s skull. Will had beaten him to death with his fists.

Will pushes Hannibal’s trembling arms aside along with the gun and steps so close. Confident. Unshakeable.

His hands cup Hannibal’s face and he asks, “Does it matter?”

It does. It has to. Lives lost. Families grieving. 

He thrills at the touch of his hands even bloody. Conditioned to it. This is the man who has listened to him without fear, who has comforted him in the dark. He has made him feel so deeply. His greatest friend and his lover. Will.

When Hannibal answers, he whispers. 

“No, it doesn’t.”

His head is lowered as though he can hide from God.