One found what they truly needed when they stopped obsessively thinking about finding it.
And Will had found him.
He was tall, carrying himself like a prince, dressed in patterns that shouldn’t be near each other on a design table let alone in the same outfit. A visitor’s badge hung from his lapel, and he carried his coat folded over his arms as he waited in line for coffee, and he was radiant.
Will walked into the corner of a table in his distraction and spilled his own drink over himself with a loud yelp of surprise. When he looked up, the man was looking at him, head tilted to the side, curious and amused. Will’s cheeks were on fire but he couldn’t help but smile, shaking his head and flicking sticky coffee from his fingertips.
“Sorry,” he muttered. No one else had seemed to notice his particular display of gracelessness, and the coffee was nothing more than dirty water at the FBI cafeteria anyway so it was hardly a loss.
“No apology necessary,” the man replied. He had an accent. Will had to swallow down the sound he was about to make. He didn’t know what other sound to make, though, to keep those eyes on him; there was no way to continue this conversation without being invasive, without delving into the horror of small talk that Will usually avoided like the plague.
“Getting coffee?” Will offered helpless, cringing at his own pathetic attempt. If the other felt any displeasure at being spoken to, it didn’t show on his face. Instead, he inclined his head.
“That was the idea.”
Will shook his head. “I wouldn’t recommend it,” he said. He grabbed a few napkins from the holder at the counter as he stepped nearer and patted himself down. “Didn’t even leave a stain,” he said, pulling his shirt taut out in front of him. “Nothing to it but the smell.”
The man hummed, eyes down to the wetness on Will’s clothes. Will was in dark flannel today, there was no way to see if the coffee stained or not. Neither seemed to care.
“Have you another place you can recommend I go?” the stranger asked instead.
Will wanted to lick his lips. “I have a few favorites,” he said. “If you have the time.”
The man gave a thoughtful hum, glancing down at his watch. He gave a regretful sigh that made Will’s shoulders tense.
“I’m afraid I’ve a meeting to attend,” he said. “A rain check, perhaps?”
It wasn’t a no, though in Will’s experience, it was a good way to politely brush someone off.
But then the man pulled a business card out of his pocket, his number prominently emblazoned on the front. “Doctor Hannibal Lecter,” he said, holding out his hand for Will to shake.
Will gripped his hand, surprisingly soft, with calloused fingertips. Just that small touch was enough to have his heartbeat pick up. This close, Will could smell cologne, sandalwood.
Hannibal’s grip tightened minutely, and then he smiled. “I’m sure we’ll see each other again very soon.”
Will could only nod. What else could he say? He’d been rejected -- politely, but rejected nonetheless -- and in effect sent on his way, but his feet felt rooted to the ground. In the end he cleared his throat, gestured unnecessarily to his shirt, and forced himself to put one foot in front of the other until he was far enough away from the man -- Doctor Hannibal Lecter -- for the spell to break.
Or at least ease.
Will changed in his office, checked the clock, and sat behind his desk, foot bouncing, as he let his mind replay the scene all over again.
It had been less than two minutes altogether, from the moment he spilled his coffee to the moment he stepped away, but it had felt like time stood still. Will had never believed in that whole romantic nonsense, he’d never felt that tug to be with someone, anyone, as long as he wasn’t alone. This was novel, this was almost frightening. It should have been frightening. Will felt like he was losing his mind.
Will didn’t like people, people were too complex and wanted too much. But this man… Will wanted to unfold this man like an origami crane, peek inside and learn everything about him. Worse, Will wanted to let Hannibal Lecter do the same to him.
Will looked at the business card he’d been given and ran his fingers over the name and number on it. He touched it until the cardboard felt warm like skin and the flat of his fingers felt numb. Then he picked up a case file and deliberately set it on top, hiding the card away. He had reports to write. Jack hadn’t called him to the scene for the Hobbs case, but that didn’t mean that Will hadn’t been knee deep in the investigation from day one.
Minnesota Shrike, killer of young women, and eventual family annihilator. Death by cop. No remorse, no regrets, nothing left behind.
She was dark haired, blue eyed. There was a bandage over her throat, over a mark that would scar.
Abigail Hobbs stared up at Will from her hospital bed, eyes red from crying. The photo made her look even smaller, tiny frame dwarfed by the huge bed, rails drawn up to keep her from rolling out.
Will had photos from before she woke up, when she’d been kept under to let the wound heal a little. But it was this one he kept coming back to.
She was only two years old. Two years old, and the center of her father’s world, so much so that he began to wind up tighter and tighter as she learned to explore the world, as she went to daycare and made friends, and became more and more independent. He hadn’t wanted to share her with anyone, but he hadn’t wanted to hurt her, either.
Not even when he did.
Garrett Jacob Hobbs had killed entire families to keep himself from killing and keeping his own. He’d consumed young girls so he could keep a part of them with him, always, in the way he couldn’t keep his own daughter.
But in the end, when he’d been caught, he’d tried to take her with him.
Will looked at the photo again. Red-eyed from tears, but stony-faced. He’d never seen a toddler look so closed-off.
His phone beeped. Jack.
Meeting, my office.
Will hummed, eyes on the little girl in the photograph for a moment longer before he closed the file.
Will had never sought a partner for life, but he’d long wanted children. Not biological ones, he had enough going on in his head that he knew that particular burden wasn’t one he needed to share, but someone to care for, to guide and watch them grow.
Little Abigail’s eyes were burned into the back of his mind as he made his way down the corridor towards Jack’s office. He knocked arbitrarily before pushing the door open with his shoulder, and shoved his glasses up his nose to just the right spot so that he wouldn’t have to meet Jack’s eyes.
Jack’s office wasn’t much different from Will’s own, only it was a little larger to accommodate for the inevitable meetings endlessly held there. One wall was covered in cork boards, filled with pictures of FBI’s top ten most wanted, newspaper articles, business cards, christmas cards from friends, wonky children’s drawings from nephews and nieces he never talked about. Beneath those was a water cooler, a shaky table that held a coffee machine and a couple of chipped mugs.
Jack’s coffee was at least stronger than the shit in the cafeteria.
Jack’s desk held court in the middle of the room, more boards behind it with active cases, boxes of files, a coat stand with spare changes of clothes. The desk itself was littered with all manner of office debris. Jack had his hands folded over the worn wood, and freed one to gesture for Will to sit down.
It was only then that Will noticed another person was in the office as well.
Elegant posture, garish patterns, sandalwood.
He didn’t even hear what Jack was saying until he uninterrupted him. “Dr. Lecter.”
Jack blinked. “You’ve met?”
Will shook his head, shrugged, nodded. “We’ve been through the wars.”
“Mr. Graham advised me against the cafeteria coffee earlier today,” Hannibal added, a small smile curling his lips. Jack grunted.
“Wise,” he agreed. “Well, good, makes my life easier then. Will, Dr. Lecter is a psychiatrist, and a friend of the FBI. He’s helped the bureau before, and the BAU in particular. I’ve called him in for help with the Hobbs case.”
“We’ve solved it,” Will reminded him, eyes still on Hannibal, hands trembling incrementally in his lap.
“Yes,” Jack drew the word out, “but certain cases take an emotional toll on those working it. I’ve asked Doctor Lecter here not as a consultant but as a doctor.”
Will stiffened. He felt almost betrayed, although Hannibal had made him no promises and could not have predicted how intensely interested Will had become after only one meeting.
In a way, it was good that Hannibal was a psychiatrist. He would be intelligent, able to follow topics Will suggested. He would understand Will’s work, and the way it impacted him.
It didn’t make Will any happier about being forcibly mandated into therapy.
“We need only meet the once,” Hannibal said, “unless you request more.” There was a knowing quirk to his smile, one that rekindled the warmth in Will’s belly. Will turned his ire on Jack, the one truly deserving of it.
“Once,” he said slowly, “and if you make a habit of springing psychiatrists on me, I’ll quit.”
“You won’t,” Jack said knowingly. He was right, the bastard, but Will refused to give him that confirmation.
This could be good. More time with Hannibal, alone in a room together. Time to get to know him, to let infatuation fan itself into a fervor.
“Once,” Will repeated, but this time he looked at Hannibal, brow raised. “I’d hate to waste your valuable time on unnecessary psychoanalysis.”
“I assure you, our time together will not be a waste,” Hannibal replied. Will could have immolated on the spot.
Jack took a few moments to arrange an appointment, ticking his own boxes for the higher ups, before letting Will go again. Hannibal, to Will’s displeasure, did not get up to leave with him. He’d be meeting everyone on the investigative team, apparently, poor man.
Regardless, Will had an appointment for Thursday next, seven o’clock, at Hannibal’s office in Baltimore.
The week passed in a blur, the appointment sitting at the back of Will’s mind like a light at the end of a godawful tunnel. He wrote his reports, he gave his lectures, and he started the arduous process of filing for adoption. Will had decided long ago that this was the year he’d finally become a father; he’d worked towards it, interviewed with all the appropriate legal bodies, submitted his earnings, allowed countless police checks. He’d even had Jack vouch for him as an employer and the head of the BAU as to his capability.
But it was a hard road for everyone, for anyone. And Will was a single male with no other family to speak of but a retired father far off in Biloxi.
Some agencies didn’t allow single parent adoptions to begin with. Others were technically not discriminatory, but in practice were likely to pass him over in favor of fuller, more traditional families.
Blue eyes haunted Will’s dreams.
It would be a long road. Perhaps months, maybe well over a year. Will felt impatient from the moment he signed his name to the very first sheet.
It was difficult to put it out of his mind, but his meeting with Hannibal held just as much of Will’s attention. Will had looked him up. No children, no spouse. An occasional date to the opera, immortalized in the society pages, but when asked he’d always denied romantic entanglements.
It was possible he wasn’t gay, but unlikely. Will knew how to read people; he could tell when he’d drawn someone’s interest. Doctor Lecter was definitely interested.
Will dressed carefully when the day came. He could not, and would not wear a suit and tie as Doctor Lecter always seemed to, but he ironed his shirt carefully and slicked his hair back until it almost resembled a style.
He rarely brushed off his dogs’ fur from his pants when he went to work, this was making an effort.
And he arrived on time. He was in the lobby of Hannibal’s office -- no secretary, he noticed -- seven on the dot, and smiled when the doctor opened the door himself to welcome Will inside.
“It’s good to see you again, Mr. Graham.”
“Will,” Will told him, hanging his coat up on the coat rack as soon as he entered the office. The place looked like something out of a fantasy novel; it had a goddamn mezzanine filled with books, with ladders leading up to it, and more on that floor itself, allowing people to climb to the highest shelves. One wall was just windows, floor to ceiling, with drapes that still somehow managed to pool effortlessly on the floor.
A wide desk. A chaise lounge. Statues and sketches and framed certifications. Two chairs with side tables with far too much space between them.
Will sat down in one and crossed one leg over the other, waiting for Hannibal to join him.
“How has the week been for you, Will?” Hannibal asked him, working open the second button of his suit before taking a seat across from him.
“I’ve been excited for our meeting.”
“I got the impression that psychoanalysis was not your cup of tea,” Hannibal pointed out, amused. Will snorted.
“Isn’t,” he confirmed. “But I think you are.”
Hannibal tilted his head to the side, eyes searching Will’s face before he blinked languidly at him.
“Your interest is flattering.”
“And not unwelcome,” Will said, asked almost.
Hannibal’s expression warmed. He cleared his throat softly. “No,” he agreed, “not unwelcome. However, it is surprising.”
“You’re an attractive man,” Will said. “Intelligent. Driven. Not many pursue more than one specialty in the medical field.”
“You’ve done your research.”
Will smiled, eyes narrowed. “And you haven’t? You said my interest in you was surprising. That implies you had reason to think I wouldn’t be.”
Hannibal tilted his head in acknowledgement. “I would, perhaps, have prepared for your visit, had Agent Crawford not made such efforts unnecessary.”
Will winced. Jack liked him, most days, but he didn’t mince words, and he didn’t often see Will at his best. Generally, he saw Will when he was overtired and irritated, carrying killers in his head. “What did he tell you?”
Hannibal’s shoulder lifted incrementally in a shrug. “What a concerned boss would say about an overworked employee he worries for.”
Will snorted, shaking his head. “He told you I was a headcase, didn’t he.”
“He suggested that you have a tendency to get very deep into your work,” Hannibal replied, “and sometimes have a hard time finding your way out again, and back to yourself.”
Will shrugged this time. He was sure Jack hadn’t been so cavalier about it, but in essence he hadn’t said anything untrue.
“My work takes me to places others would rather not go,” he allowed. “I become very unsavory things for the greater good.”
“Like a sin eater.”
Will laughed, nodding. “I suppose so, yes. Though I’ve thankfully avoided getting a taste for it, even all these years later.”
“But it lingers sometimes, no?” Hannibal asked, leaning forward a little, setting both feet flat to the floor and clasping his hands between his knees. “The taste of them? The vestigial echo of hatred, the sour tang of dissatisfaction.”
Will swallowed, licking his lips. He uncrossed his legs to mirror Hannibal’s position. “Sometimes.” he admitted.
“How do you return to yourself?”
“I have my dogs,” Will replied. “I have my hobbies.”
“Not yet,” Will smiled. “And you, doctor? How do you unwind after taking on the pedantic problems of others?” Will tucked his bottom lip between his teeth a moment. “We’re quite alike, you and I, aren’t we?”
“Similarities run through us,” Hannibal agreed. “I’m afraid I’m the last of my line, and no dogs to speak of. But hobbies, I have in abundance.”
“The opera,” Will suggested. “Art.” He’d seen sketches on the desk when he’d come in. Just a corner, peeking out from under a book, but Will made his living on observation.
“The arrangement of small things to create a greater thing of beauty,” Hannibal said. “I enjoy arts of all kinds. Sketching, painting. Music. I find cooking to be the most soothing of my pastimes, though.”
A man of many talents. Hannibal would make a good father; Will could already imagine him guiding little hands through careful practices. “I’m afraid I don’t get many chances to cook,” Will admitted. “I cook for the dogs at the beginning of the week, for myself even less. I do play the piano, though.”
Played. The one that sat in Will’s living room had gone too long without love; if it was still in tune, Will would be shocked.
If Hannibal asked Will to demonstrate his skills, Will wasn’t sure he’d be able to find the keys.
That could be fixed, though. He’d simply ask for guidance.
“I learned myself,” Hannibal said, smiling, “but I find I prefer the harpsichord.”
Will couldn’t help it, he laughed, immediately holding out a hand and shaking his head before Hannibal could take offense. “I’m sorry, I just… that really fits you for some reason. An archaic instrument properly appreciated.”
“It’s hardly the strangest,” Hannibal added, amused, “I play the theremin as well.”
“Fuck,” Will laughed again, snaring a hand in his hair and grinning up at Hannibal from beneath his fringe. He wanted to know him better. He needed to. Taking a breath, Will allowed it to burn his lungs before he released it. “Come to dinner with me.”
Hannibal blinked, turned his eyes to the clock on the wall before returning them to Will once more.
“I’m afraid I have to decline,” he said, raising two fingers gently when Will looked shattered. “It would be unethical of me to get involved with my patients.”
“For the next thirty-eight minutes,” Hannibal replied, amusement dancing behind his eyes. “you are.”
Will’s smile returned, so wide it hurt. “And then?”
“And then we shall see,” Hannibal said, sitting back in his chair once more. “Perhaps you’ll ask me to dinner, or perhaps I’ll offer to cook for the two of us instead.”