Dr Quentin Sharpe was not a man to be fooled by falsities. He knew which academics were not as accomplished or cultured as they liked to appear. He knew when laughter should be faked to appease the speaker, and when it should not. He could dance and sing and paint and write and recite. He knew who could not. He sought out the diamonds in the rough, and chased the rough from the diamonds. Quentin Sharpe only dealt with the worthiest of companions. He was not alone in this, of course. Many of the highbrow in society were the same. Many of them were simply quieter about it than Quentin.
This evening was no exception; surrounded by friends and acquaintances, at a party hosted by the magnificent socialite Sienna Ramone. The cream of the crop was in attendance, and the conversation and rich wine was flowing freely.
Quentin had never felt in finer company. He said as much to Sienna Ramone.
She sent him a sly smirk, “It will be even greater company before too long, my dear. The esteemed Dr Radcliffe will soon be joining us.”
Quentin was elated. Dr Radcliffe was a new acquaintance, but a grand, imposing character that had passed every test Quentin had subtly thrown his way upon their first meeting, with a quick mind and quicker wit. “How marvellous, Sienna!”
“More marvellous still,” She nudged him playfully with her elbow, “His husband is apparently joining him.”
“Oh?” Quentin asked, his interest piqued further.
On the few occasions Quentin had met Dr Radcliffe in the past month, the Doctor had only once made mention that he was married, but in that same instance, had revealed that he had taken great pleasure in introducing his husband to all the great works of art that Venice had to offer and that they had left a piece of their heart there.
Quentin, of course, had not leapt on to this revelation of Dr Radcliffe having a husband, and preferred instead to prod other people for further information to the ‘Mr Radcliffe’ in question. He had had little success. The Radcliffe couple appeared to keep their secrets to themselves, which was admirable. Quentin had lost all of his secrets to people like Sienna Ramone, but had gained many in return.
Quentin had wondered what kind of man would attract a great, admired man like Dr Radcliffe. The Doctor was certainly handsome, European in appearance and of accent, and oh, he could turn a phrase and carry any language like a dream. His recitals at the meet a week previous had been a pleasure to the ear. Quentin looked forward to meeting the man worthy of Dr Radcliffe, and kept one eye fixed upon the door, eager for the arrival of Dr Radcliffe and his husband.
He did not have to wait long for their arrival. The doorbell rang, and Sienna made her exit from the furnished guest room. When she returned, she looked positively gleeful. A step behind her was Dr Radcliffe, as composed and immaculate as ever, in a well matched dark suit and burgundy tie. And beside him walked…well…
“Everybody,” Sienna announced enthusiastically to the room in general, “For those who have not met these gentlemen previously, this is Dr Dorian Radcliffe and his husband, Graham Radcliffe.”
As a man who could make a swift yet accurate assessment of a person and their character, Quentin was more than intrigued by Graham Radcliffe. The man was not quite what Quentin had expected, but was by no means a disappointment. In fact, at first sight, he appeared more than adequately endearing. Graham Radcliffe was shorter than his husband by only a few centimetres, but his slightness, and the way he held himself, made him appear much smaller beside the Doctor. He was younger by some years, with a boyishly handsome face, highlighted by light stubble, and brown loose curls upon his head that looked expertly and carefully messed. He wore a matching suit to his husband: dark tones and expensively fitted to his slighter frame, but where Dorian’s tie was burgundy, Graham’s was a deep forest green.
Dr Radcliffe sent Sienna a charming smile upon their introduction and his hand settled comfortably on Graham’s waist for a moment, drawing him close to his side, before urging him forward and into the room.
Naturally, Quentin was the first in line to greet them.
“Dorian.” Quentin held out his hand for Dorian to shake, already feeling acquainted enough with the Doctor to skip the formalities. “It is good to see you again.”
"Likewise, Dr Sharpe."
"Quentin." Quentin corrected.
Dorian gave him a quick flash of a smile, before turning himself slightly toward his husband, who hovered at his side, “Graham, this is Dr Quentin Sharpe. Quentin, this is my husband Graham.”
Quentin noted that Graham had not made eye contact with anyone since entering the room, but his eyes flickered up to Quentin upon his husband’s prompt, “It is good to meet you, Sir.” And then they dropped again.
“Please, Graham, may I call you Graham? There is no need for ‘Sir’ here,” Quentin was actually secretly preening at the title, “Call me Quentin.”
“Quentin.” Graham looked back up at Quentin and held his gaze a little longer, a small smile tilting his lips. It was clear that Graham was shy and possibly a little self-conscious. There was no need to be, of course, the man was undeniably handsome. Even more so, Quentin believed, than his husband. But now that Graham was closer, Quentin could clearly see a scar marring Graham’s cheek, which was a shame, to have such natural beauty spoiled.
Quentin noted how Dorian was looking down at his husband, a fond softness to his eyes that Quentin had not seen in them before. “Graham is still something of a novice to social functions.” Dorian explained, and even his tone of voice was fond, his hand remaining on the small of his husband’s back, their sides pressed almost completely together.
Graham certainly looked like he belonged at these sorts of functions, with his handsome looks, scar notwithstanding, and his slight figure cutting a fine picture in his fitted suit. Graham looked at his husband, eyes crinkling at the corners as he smiled at him, and then looked back to Quentin with a bit more confidence, “I’m finding my feet a little better each time.” He admitted.
“I would not have known you were new to these events.” Quentin gushed.
Graham’s returning smile was small and pleased.
Quentin was enchanted.
“So?” Sienna asked him a little later over the rim of her wine glass. They stood a little apart from the crowd, watchful and judging the crowd around them; the worst dressed, the poorest conversationalist, the most intoxicated, etcetera. “What do you make of the husband? I am not sure who exactly I imagined being worthy of Dorian Radcliffe,” Their eyes fell on Dr Radcliffe and his husband across the room. “My initial impression was that maybe he was nothing more than a trophy husband, what with that pretty face of his. But…” Sienna paused, “he is not a disappointment.”
“No.” Quentin agreed, watching Graham Radcliffe as his husband spoke to Professor Stern and his wife. “No he is not.”
He saw Dorian and Graham Radcliffe not long after at a charity ball. If Graham had been uncomfortable at Sienna’s party, he seemed to possess much more confidence and grace when dancing. He still looked somewhat new to it, but was more than willing to be led by the perfected poise and steps of Dorian. Dorian’s hand was firm and leading on Graham’s waist, the other clasping Graham’s hand, Graham’s other hand in turn rested on Dorian’s shoulder. Their steps were quick and sure, in perfect unison, as a team. They made for a captivating sight.
Although their eyes and smiles remained for each other as they danced, at one point Graham caught Quentin’s eyes over Dorian’s shoulder, and rewarded him a bright smile of recognition. Quentin could not resist smiling back, which was surprising to him. Normally he liked to maintain a manner of indifference during initial meetings with people; he had even done so to Dorian, but there was something so different, yet not unappealing, about Graham Radcliffe. It was like Graham needed reassurance in what he was doing, which normally proved someone to be unremarkable to Quentin, but in Graham’s case, it was simply endearing.
When the dance ended, Graham straightened his husband’s jacket, and spoke into his ear. A moment later, Quentin found himself under the gaze of Dorian Radcliffe, and pinned there.
“What a pleasure it is to see you both again.” Quentin said when they approached him. “And in much finer surroundings than Sienna’s attempt at a party.” He smiled, “You should come to one of my parties. They cause quite a storm of jealousy amongst our circle.”
“I am sure they do.” Graham spoke before his husband could, and Quentin preened under the praise, and the fact that Graham appeared much more comfortable with speaking to him.
“And they would be even more praiseworthy with your presence.” Quentin said, if only to watch Graham’s head duck in modest embarrassment.
There were occasions after that; events where Graham had hidden himself in a corner whilst his husband made conversation; watching Dorian’s hand brush over Graham’s shoulder as he passed by or as a reassurance as he moved to leave; how he held his chair out or a door open for him; the way Dorian and Graham looked at each other with something Quentin could most accurately describe as a deep rooted awe; a stolen moment in which Quentin had followed them to a deserted corridor, and watched Dorian back Graham up to a wall, and bend his head to press a kiss to his neck, the breathy moans that Graham had made.
It was not difficult to admit that Quentin quickly became quite fixated with the pair.
And so when he bumped into Graham one cold morning on the way to the university, and Graham smiled at him from over the top of his black high-collared coat, ethereal in the morning mist, and said to him “My husband and I would love to have you for dinner.”
Well, who was Quentin to refuse?
He had been captured by Graham Radcliffe. Hook, line and sinker.
“Do you ever hunt?” Abigail had asked Will, once.
“It’s the same thing isn’t it? One you stalk, the other you lure.”
Will had seen her a great deal more clearly, then. So haunted was he in his empathetic state of Garret Jacob Hobbs, that he had completely missed that it was not just Abigail’s father whose eyes he could potentially see through. “Were you more a fisherman, or a hunter?”
“My dad taught me how to hunt.”
“That’s not what I’m asking. All those girls your dad killed, did you fish or did you hunt, Abigail?”
“I was the lure.”
Garret Jacob Hobbs had hunted. Abigail Hobbs had fished.
It had been, quite literally, a killer combination.
Will had not been able to comprehend how Abigail had helped her father. What on earth had possessed her to lure in the girls to help her father hunt.
But it made sense to Will now, as he watched Hannibal strike out of his chair with a deadly grace to slash the throat of the insufferable Quentin Sharpe with a steak knife.
Hannibal Lecter hunted. Will Graham fished.
Hannibal Lecter stalked the rude and intolerable, finding out their faults, their desires, their routines. Will Graham, when the need arose, then went fishing.
And he was getting better at it. A lost man fell into the sea. Someone else came out. The fisherman was finding his feet in a hunter’s world.
And he and Hannibal hunted best together. They killed better together.
And he had found that he was quite successful bait.
He stabbed his own knife through one of Quentin’s eyes, so that they could not watch him hungrily anymore. It was not his place to be hungry.
Francis Dolarhyde had been their first kill. Bedelia had been their first hunt.
“I have been expecting you.” She had said, the moment she had opened the door to them.
“Hannibal Lecter and William Graham; missing and presumed dead.” She had said to Will whilst Hannibal was in the kitchen cooking her left leg. “Consumed by the sea, they all said.” She scoffed, “People never learn. Nothing will ever consume Hannibal Lecter.” She had watched Will with that same scrutinizing, insensitive stare, “And nothing will ever consume Will Graham but Hannibal Lecter.”
“That isn't the case.” Will had argued. “Not anymore.”
“And why is that? You are the 'husband' now, as I was the 'bride'.” The smell of cooking meat had turned her skin a sickly pallor, “And you are his most savoured of people, Will Graham. Why would he not want a taste of his greatest prize?”
Will had not given her an answer. He had only smiled at her.
For all her attempts to spook him, she would never understand.
She did not hunt. She did not fish.
She did not see what Will Graham could now see.
She did not see Hannibal Lecter as Will Graham did. She had never felt Hannibal Lecter as Will Graham did. Hannibal may have taken her to bed, but he had never given her his heart as he did so. Will had experienced that. She had not seen the powerful, bloodied beauty of Hannibal up on that clifftop, and finally, finally understood.
He had enjoyed that meal. Bedelia had not.
Will Graham had been reborn from Dragon’s blood and sea salt.
And oh, did he look beautiful. Exquisite.
Many a time, over the years, Hannibal had drawn Will Graham. And many a time, he had tried to capture the fact of him; a handsome appearance that shyly failed to grasp its allure, to realise and brandish its power. Many a time Hannibal had started to draw Will Graham in pencil, but found himself reaching for the charcoals and the blood reds and creating the image of the potential that he saw in Will. The drawings would start out appealing, but after a flourish from the right instruments, and encouragements, became something rare and striking. The night with the Red Dragon on the clifftop, his drawings had come to life. The blood looked black in the moonlight. Will had been painted with it. Evolved by it. It was all Hannibal had ever tried to show him. It was all Hannibal had ever wanted to see.
Will raised a hand to wipe Quentin Sharpe’s blood from his cheek, but Hannibal caught it in his own.
“How did I do?” Will asked him.
Hannibal drew him up out of his seat, and wrapped him in his arms. Will came willingly, as he had done ever since their fall.
“You were perfect.”
“The perfect bait?”
“The perfect fisherman.”
The corner of Will’s mouth tugged up in amusement. “A true fisherman needs water.”
“Will blood suffice?” Hannibal asked, running a thumb just under Will’s scar to collect some spots of blood, smearing it further across Will’s face as he did so.
Will considered this. “Blood or water, I suppose it requires the same patience. And the fish still ends up the same.” Will took Hannibal’s thumb between soft lips and slowly licked the fleshy pad, taking some of the blood into his mouth. Will never failed to set Hannibal’s pulse racing. He was beautiful like this. Hannibal’s compassion for Will had been an inconvenience for so many years, but now it only made them stronger, and Hannibal allowed himself to indulge, after waiting for so long.
“It requires a lot of skill.” Hannibal agreed, his lips trailing across Will’s temple. “And you cannot deny that you did not enjoy the waiting and the baiting.”
“No, I can’t.” Will agreed, he tilted his head back so that his lips brushed Hannibal’s and he quirked an eyebrow, “And you cannot deny that the hunter likes to play with his food. Radcliffe, Hannibal? Red cliff? Really? A little obvious, don’t you think?”
A little daring, yes, but Hannibal had found it amusing regardless. “Quentin appeared to have realised his mistake at the end too, when he finally recognised us. Not as quick on the uptake as he thought he was.”
“Clearly not.” Will’s eyes slid to their dinner guest, who was no longer making catty, shallow conversation. Blood was cascading down to the carpet. It was blissfully quiet. Then Will was looking back up to him, a doting desire in his eyes, “Our hunt was successful.”
Hannibal would never get tired of Will saying ‘our’. He would never grow bored of introducing Will to people and watching the approval and interest spark in their eyes, or finding someone interested in him, and knowing that Will was going to eventually expose his real self to Hannibal once again. Each time Will helped him hunt and fish and kill and cook it was new, bloody and magnificent. Hannibal could not get enough. He was no longer hungry to dissect Will, but rather to be with him, to teach him and learn from him in turn. It was a passionate hunger that Hannibal had not experienced before. He welcomed it. He was always hungry, after all. “It was less our hunt than your catch, Will.”
Will hummed, pleased with himself, and Hannibal still could barely comprehend that Will was with him, and the pride that Hannibal felt in what Will had become.
“It was my catch.” Will agreed. And then Will kissed him, slow and smooth and copper red. His dangerous, beautiful creature. “It was our design.”
“Do you ever hunt?”
“It’s the same thing isn’t it?”